§ [17TH ALLOTTED DAY.]
§ Considered in Committee.
§ [Sir DENNIS HERBERT in the Chair.]
§ CIVIL ESTIMATES, 1937.
§ CLASS II.
§ FOREIGN OFFICE.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £84,956, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1938, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Department of His Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
§ 3.48 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Eden)
I am credibly informed that the Parliamentary holidays are drawing near, and it has been represented to me through the usual channels that the moment is perhaps appropriate for a survey of the world situation. That is a formidable task, but I am prepared to attempt it with the indulgence of the House. Only a few weeks ago a foreign affairs debate, initiated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) took place, and if from what I have to say to-day I omit certain parts of the world, that is not due to the fact that the Government have suddenly become disinterested in them, but because for the moment I have nothing to add to what was said only a few weeks ago. It might be for the convenience of the Committee if I were to begin with the situation in the Far East; then to say something about recent developments in the Spanish situation and make certain references which I desire to make on behalf of the Government with regard to the situation in the Mediterranean and the Red Sea; and, having referred to our relations with Egypt, to speak of the League's future, and, finally, to say a word about the European outlook as a whole.
If we may deal with the Far East first, the situation there is confused and anxious and it is difficult even to describe it in precise terms. The causes and the responsibilities for the actual origin of the 1800 first clash, which took place on the night of 7th-8th July, remain uncertain, and the course of negotiations which have been in progress locally is not fully known to us. None the less, all the indications encourage us to believe that the present situation, grave as its possibilities undoubtedly are, was not deliberately provoked by either Government. It does not make the situation less dangerous in its potentialities, but if it is right it is an important element in assessing the possibilities of a solution. I stated in the House on 14th July that certain terms which had been referred to as an agreement by the Japanese Embassy at Peking had been communicated to the Japanese authorities by Chinese representatives. The Japanese Government, I am informed, have since intimated to the Chinese Government that they expect them not to interfere with the execution of an agreement reached locally on firth July. The terms of that agreement are not known to us, but I understand them to include an apology' for the original incident, punishment of those responsible and the withdrawal of Chinese troops across the river at the actual scene of the incident. The first of these conditions appears already to have been carried out. Meanwhile, both the Japanese and Chinese Governments have assured us that they are anxious to avoid an extension of the trouble, and we have expressed to both Governments our earnest hope that the situation should not be aggravated, and a peaceful settlement may be reached.
The Committee will appreciate that there is obvious cause for apprehension in the measures repotted on both sides of the movement of large bodies of troops nearer to the scene of the original incident. Some of the Press reports of these movements have exaggerated the position, but it is a fact that considerable reinforcements have been sent to the Japanese troops in the Province of Hopei, and on the Chinese side troop movements have also taken place, bat we have been assured, in answer to questions which we have put, that these are purely precautionary and defensive, and that there is no intention whatever of starting hostilities. There is however, the Committee will agree, clearly danger inherent in the situation, and His Majesty's Government have been in communication in consequence not only with the Chinese and Japanese Governments but also with 1801 other Governments on the general situation. The United States Government and the French Government, both of them, have, I know, like ourselves, expressed their concern and their hope for a peaceful settlement. It may be that this is most likely to be reached between the two parties without attempts by third parties to intervene, beyond showing, as they must, their natural concern and interest in the maintenance of peace. None the less we have made it clear in both capitals that if there is any way in which His Majesty's Government can contribute to a solution they will be pleased to lend any assistance that may be in their power.
It is a matter of the greatest regret to us that these unfortunate incidents should have arisen at this moment, when it seemed justifiable to hope that the situation in the Far East was entering on a better phase. We ourselves enjoy very good relations with both the Governments concerned, and we do not believe that the interests of those two Far Eastern nations need conflict. We have watched with sympathy during recent years the efforts which China has been making to develop her vast resources, and at the same time we have not been unmindful of the difficulties, the economic difficulties, 'which Japan has to encounter in the problems which she has to solve.
§ Mr. Eden
Economic problems, problems of population, of trade and the rest. If it is permissible for His Majesty's Government to suggest what should be the remedy for a situation which has presented so many difficulties in recent years we would say that it is to be sought only in a change of method, in a real attempt at understanding between the two countries which would ensure a period of tranquillity affording opportunity for the development of peaceful trade and commerce. As long as the uncertain situation in North China is allowed to continue, and as long as a succession of incidents are patched up by local settlements of rather doubtful scope and validity, the situation will remain charged with danger. Is it too much to hope that both Governments will yet make a determined effort to endeavour to find a comprehensive settlement of their differences? A few weeks ago, as I told the House, we welcomed the approach made 1802 to us recently by the Japanese Government, and hope it may yet be possible to improve still further our relations with that Government, and to find a solution for the various difficulties which affect our relations. We had hoped that a further improvement of the relations between ourselves and Japan would have enabled us to contribute to a general easing of the situation in the Far East, which in our firm conviction would be to the benefit of all concerned. There is much more prosperity to be gained out of peaceful developments in the Far East than can ever be attained by other methods, and that is why we are watching present developments with a very real anxiety, and with a fervent wish that these unhappy incidents may be settled, so that the way may be open to a better and more stable state of things.
I come nearer home to deal with another country which has been so largely in our minds this last year. I do not propose to deal at any length with the Spanish situation to-day, but I want to make a brief reference to the further stages of the negotiations on the Non-Intervention Committee. A week ago the nations were at a deadlock. They were without a plan and without an agreed basis upon which to work. Now that basis exists, and it has been accepted by all. If I may translate that into Parliamentary terms, I would say that our proposals have had their Second Reading, and that they enter upon the Committee stage to-morrow. Perhaps, therefore, the moment is not inappropriate to say a word or two about the prospects of their achieving the purpose for which they were designed, to circumscribe the Spanish conflict and to leave Spaniards to decide their own destiny. Our proposals constitute a carefully balanced whole. This fact is at once an encouragement and a warning. It means that in the elements of our proposals each nation finds something that it likes while no nation finds everything that it likes. That balance must not be upset. Every member of the Non-Intervention Committee must recall that the contribution which he is most anxious to withhold is precisely that which another member of the committee is most anxious to receive. The plan, therefore, stands or falls as a whole. Any attempt to modify it except in points of detail, will upset its balance and destroy its usefulness. 1803 If this plan fails what is the alternative? None other, as we know, than the complete breakdown of non-intervention. The opening of frontiers, the competitive flow of unrestricted supplies of munitions and perhaps of men—what combatant in Spain will gain from such a state of affairs? There may be argument about that. On one thing there can be no argument: Europe would certainly lose from such a course and the nations would once again confront, and I fear in an intensified form, those dangers from which M. Blum's initiative saved them last Autumn. Let us be blunt about it. No nation wants the Spanish civil war to be a European war, yet if the nations will not now co-operate sincerely on a basis which they have all accepted, we shall drift perilously nearer to it. Whatever their difficulties, whatever their preoccupations, whatever their provocations, I pray that the nations who begin their work to-morrow will never forget the alternative. It should be their signpost to success.
We, the Government of this country, have throughout the last six months laid emphasis on the importance of securing a withdrawal of foreigners from Spain. We have done this for more than one reason. The teachings of history, I suggest, show that the victory of one side or the other in civil war, if brought about by foreign aid, is not final. Surely the least that Europe can seek to do for Spain is to co-operate so that the ordeal which that country is now undergoing be not repeated in our generation.
In that connection I would like to draw the attention of the Committee to a remarkable letter which appears in the "Times" this morning from a Spaniard who has himself contributed much in the past to international collaboration. There is just one brief passage from that letter which I would beg to quote:By a tragic coincidence this war, essentially Spanish, has 'caught on' abroad. Lured by somewhat shallow parallelisms, men, institutions and even Governments outside Spain have been adding fuel to the fire which is consuming our unhappy country. Spain is thus suffering vicariously the latent civil war which Europe is—so far—keeping in check. I earnestly hope that the more militant groups on both sides will realise that their activities are not merely dangerous—that they do see—but also sterile. Spain will never be either Communist or Fascist. Her foreign policy, determined by geo-political and economic laws, will never vary fundamentally—whoever wins 1804 —and foreign help, known to have been given for something more than its own sake, is sure to call forth deep resentment after the war in Spain, in all Spain. Here again, the best policy, and the one most in harmony with the interests of all the nations concerned, is to agree to bring about a speedy end of the war through reconciliation.That is from Senor de Madariaga. I can only say that His Majesty's Government are in complete agreement with every word that I have quoted, and there is only one sentence that I would add. We ourselves would be ready at any time to collaborate in any way possible to bring an end to this tragic Spanish war, and we believe that the method proposed by this distinguished Spaniard, were it only acceptable on both sides, would in the end be of the greatest benefit to Spain itself.
It has been stated many times with truth that this country has no desire to interfere with, no intention of interfering in, the internal affairs of Spain. But our interest in the integrity of Spanish territory is very real. It has been clearly expressed. Only a few days ago I used certain words which, since they were deliberately chosen and have the approval of my colleagues. I pray the indulgence of the Committee to repeat:But disinterestedness in this matter—the internal affairs of Spain—must not be taken to mean disinterestedness where British interests are concerned on the land or the sea frontiers of Spain, or the trade routes that pass her by.This country has every intention of defending its national interest in the Mediterranean, as elsewhere in the world. There must be no mistake about that. Yet, it is important that there should be no misconception anywhere. While we are determined to defend our own interests we have no intention of challenging those of others. That is why we made with Italy the Mediterranean Agreement of last January. We stand by that Agreement. If the Mediterranean is for us a main arterial road—and it is—yet there is plenty of room for all on such a road. If we intend to maintain our place on it—and we do—we have no intention of seeking to turn anybody else off it. Least of all do we wish to interfere with those who geographically dwell upon it. There is ample room for all. Free traffic through and out of the Mediterranean is the common interest of Great Britain and of all the Mediterranean Powers. 1805 In the light of certain reports which have reached me there is one further categorical assurance I should like to give. This country has no intention of pursuing towards any other country a policy either of aggression or of revenge. Such a possibility has never even occurred to the British people. The word "vendetta" has no English equivalent. The foreign policy of this country will never be based upon such a motive or influenced by such a sentiment, but if any apprehensions exist upon that score they should be instantly allayed. To entertain them is truly to misconceive the British character. We wish to live in peace and friendship with our neighbours in the Mediterranean, as elsewhere, for while we will defend our own we covet nought of theirs. The moment is perhaps opportune to add that what I have said about the Mediterranean applies equally to the Red Sea. It has always been, and it is to-day, a major British interest that no great Power should establish itself on the Eastern shore of the Red Sea. I need hardly add that this applies to ourselves no less than to others.
While we speak of the Red Sea I would like to make a reference to Egypt. It is now nearly a year since the signature of a treaty of friendship and alliance with Egypt. In the interval our relations have continued to grow in friendliness and to develop in confidence. The settlement of various matters which required readjustment, as a result of the treaty is proceeding amicably and with due expedition. I am confident that material advantage has accrued to both countries by the establishment of their relations on a new basis consecrated by the treaty. We in this country feel sure that, in the light of the collaboration which has taken place between our two Governments in the past year, the Government of Egypt on their part share this feeling and find nothing to regret in the close and free connection established 1?y treaty between our two countries.
I have referred to matters requiring adjustment as a result of the treaty, and I would in this context call special attention to the settlement by the Convention of Montreux of the question of the Capitulations, in respect of which we are indebted to my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hornsey (Captain Wallace). I would not wish to mention the Montreux Convention, the provisions of which His Majesty's Government re- 1806 gard as eminently satisfactory for all parties, without drawing the attention of the Committee to this instance of success attending the efforts of a number of nations to collaborate in solving a longstanding difference by mutual agreement.
I would now like to venture upon slightly different ground and to say a few words to the Committee about the economic factors and their relation to the present international situation. I find it much easier to talk in general terms about the economic causes of war than to define them, or when, having defined them, to eliminate them. But we do believe, the Government believe, that the removal of the barriers which at present impede and at times stop altogether the course of international trade would be an effective step in the removal of political tension. In this belief we are supported by the representatives of the Dominion Governments who have lately been assembled in London for the Imperial Conference. The Committee will, I hope, have in mind the terms of the statement agreed to by all His Majesty's Governments at the Conference in connection with this problem.
I would like to make a further reference to some of the steps which are actually being taken at the moment. There was, as the Committee will recall, the Three Power Declaration of last September by the. United Kingdom Government, the French Government and the United States Government, which not only laid down the basis of currency co-operation, but affirmed the importance that they attached to the progressive relaxation of the present system of quotas and exchange controls with a view to their abolition. Resulting from that agreement of last September is the mission undertaken at the request of the French Government and the United Kingdom Government, by M. Van Zeeland, the Prime Minister of Belgium, to inquire in the principal European countries as to the possibility and the practicability of progress in this direction being made.
§ Mr. Eden
I will come to that point later. In the course of these inquiries which M. Van Zeeland has made himself or through the agency of a distinguished Belgian economist, M. Frére, he has recently paid a visit to the United States, at the close of which, as the Committee. 1807 are aware, he paid a visit to London and reported to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and myself the state of the work which he had undertaken. There is another aspect of economic matters to which I would like to refer. The preliminary discussions now proceeding in Washington with a view to seeing whether there is a basis for negotiations for a trade agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom are, of course, welcomed by His Majesty's Government. It is the desire of both Governments that such agreement should be a practical contribution to the development of international trade and the movement for promoting world peace through economic agreements. In that connection, there is the work which has been done in recent months by the League of Nations inquiry into the question of equal commercial access to raw materials for all nations. This inquiry should also be of assistance, and its report will be available in September, I understand, providing both information and possibly suggestions, leading in the direction of freer trade and of economic appeasement. There are the ideals which inspired the Oslo countries, ideals which we welcomed. In these and other ways, perhaps not in the full glare of publicity, a good deal of work is being done to show practical support of recent endeavours to promote international trade and to remove potential causes of international friction. We shall persist in these endeavours, though our contribution must necessarily be limited by the fact that His Majesty's Government policy in regard to imports is clearly a liberal one, as is illustrated by the very large volume of our imports and the very steady increase throughout recent months.
I come now to say something of the League of Nations. In spite of the events of the last year, the League is neither dead nor moribund, as some people maintain.
§ Mr. Eden
Of course, some Governments which have taken more risks than ourselves are privileged to state that, but I do not know if there are any. The field of action may be restricted by the limitation of League membership and by the absence from Geneva of many powerful States, but the League still exercises 1808 a valuable political influence; particularly the settlement only a short while ago of the dispute between France and Turkey over the Sanjak of Alexandretta was an example of this. That dispute had all the elements which might, in different conditions, have led to a grave international situation. I am confident that but for the fact that it was possible to handle it by what we may call League methods, a solution would not have been found in the time and the circumstances which prevailed. It was an important victory, we think, for League principles and methods.
If we approach the question of reform, the League Committee which is charged with this subject has a difficult task, because the moment the subject is discussed, two contending theses are revealed. On the one hand, you have those who believe that the only way to strengthen the League's authority is to make its obligations more binding and to increase the implications for taking coercive action; on the other side, you get those who urge that the League can be strengthened only by widening its membership, and that in order to achieve this result it is necessary to lay emphasis on the conciliatory rather than on the coercive clauses in the Covenant. In the face of this difference of view, and there are countless shades between them, it is necessary to proceed with caution. It is not difficult to devise machinery, but no paper plan, however well drafted, is of use if the will to work it is lacking.
In that connection, I would like to utter one word of warning to the Committee. Nothing, in our view, could be more inimical to the application of the principles of the Covenant or to the restoration of the League's authority than a situation in which the world is divided into two groups of Powers, one inside and one outside the League. It must be the object of members of the League to do everything in their power to check any tendency in that direction. It must constantly he made clear that there is room at Geneva for all countries, whatever their political complexion and whatever their system of Government, provided that they desire to co-operate in the work of the maintenance of peace. It cannot be too strongly asserted that the League is an association of sovereign States. It is not an alliance for the furtherance of a particular political creed or the maintenance 1809 of a particular political system. The League cannot, as a whole, be anti-anything except dissension and war, or pro-anything except conciliation and peace.
In this connection I was glad to note the refusal of the British representative at a recent international trade union conference at Warsaw to join an anti-Fascist league for peace. I am convinced that it would be a grave and perhaps irreparable error were our foreign policy ever to be conducted upon such principles. If we will not join an international bloc against Communism—and we will not—neither will we join an international bloc against Fascism.
§ Mr. Eden
Everybody knows the hon. Gentleman's sentiments. They are unique. I submit that what matters to us is not the way a Government governs at home but the way it conducts itself abroad. That is the only thing upon which international relations can rest.
Knowing the difficulty of co-operation between nations to-day, I would like to pay a tribute to the helpful and statesmanlike attitude of the German and Soviet Governments—it is nice to be able to mention them in one sentence—who, in concluding naval agreements with this country a few days ago, of their own free will subscribed to the system of qualitative limitation and the system of exchange of information set out in the London Naval Treaty. I do not wish to enter into details about this subject which will be dealt with by the First Lord to-morrow, but I say that their readiness to co-operate in the field of naval limitation is a sure proof that, given mutual good will and understanding on both sides, even the most difficult problems are not impossible of solution.
Now I come to a reference which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness made in his speech on Thursday last. The right hon. Gentleman spoke, I think rightly, of the importance at the present time of no step being taken 1810 which would in any way affect the present excellent relations between ourselves and France. I agree. In fact, one of the facts which have enabled us to pass through the last 12 months without the major disaster of a European conflict has been the steadily growing confidence and intimacy of the relations between our two countries. Fortunately, that friendship is now nowhere misunderstood. No one can seriously hope, no one should want, to weaken or destroy that friendship. There have been periods during these post-War years, let us admit it frankly, when the French Government and ourselves have not seen eye to eye and when we have not agreed in our policies towards Europe, and more particularly towards Germany. That period is passed, never, we trust, to return. Why is it passed? Because we are convinced that the present French Government are sincerely anxious, as we ourselves are sincerely anxious, to bring about a real improvement in our relations with Germany and to seek to reach a Western agreement as a prelude to that wider settlement which must be our constant objective.
Nearly 30 years ago, Sir Edward Grey, the then Foreign Secretary of this country, wrote a private letter which was published in that remarkable biography by Professor Trevelyan. Grey wrote:Foreign Office things are always in a mess; they are not as if one were doing constructive work or writing a book or a lecture, or reading up a subject, and they can never be put aside for a day.How well those words apply to the last 12 months. They have been an anxious. and at times a tempestuous period in the international sphere. They have imposed a heavy strain upon all concerned with the conduct of foreign affairs in their respective countries, and not least, if I may be allowed to add, in Parliamentary countries.
Within a few days of the Parliamentary holiday, as we survey the world, the outlook is not wholly bad. There are storm clouds, but there are patches of clear sky. On the whole, the atmosphere is less tense and lowering than it was 12 months ago. The mere fact that Europe has endured for 12 months the strains and stresses and the sudden jars and constantly recurring crises of this Spanish conflict, without the whole of Europe being involved in its consequences, surely affords a cause of modified hope. There 1811 has been a measure of international cooperation, however uncertain its working or however incomplete its success. None of the nations, some of them violently partisan to one side or the other in the Spanish conflict, in truth desired that the flames should spread.
It may be, also, that the conflict in Spain has enforced another lesson, In modern warfare a quick victory is not to be easily won. The very fact that warfare to-day is not fought out between small, highly trained professional armies, but involves the whole population, their lives and their homes, at once widens its scope, intensifies its horror and prolongs its duration. It also increases the power of defence. No one to-day can hope to reap advantage from a long war. It would spell international ruin. And I would leave this thought with the Committee if I might. There is a further difference between the years before 1914 and to-day. In those years most people found it hard to believe in the possibility of a world war, and even those whose apprehensions were most acute greatly underrated its scope and its duration. To-day we know more of this monster, and this should aid us to control and conjure it. No man in his senses could want to see is unleashed. Therefore, though the load of international anxieties remain heavy, though there can be no lasting confidence until an international organisation with world membership is entrusted with the arbitration of our differences and the conciliation of our disputes, yet I stand at this Box to-day with a greater measure of hope than was possible a year ago that the nations of Europe will yet compose their quarrels and that peace will be preserved.
§ 4.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Dalton
I beg to move, to reduce the Vote by £100.
I think it has been fitting that the right hon. Gentleman to-day has taken a wide survey of the international scene. Although we have had many Debates in this House in recent months on foreign affairs, they have naturally emphasised one particular part of the planet, and it would therefore be well to-day to look around more widely. The right hon. Gentleman, at the close of his speech, said that in his view the outlook was not wholly black; there were storm clouds about, but the atmosphere, he 1812 said, was less tense and lowering than it was 12 months ago. Supposing that that were true, and for the moment I will not discuss whether it is or not, it none the less shows that, in his view, the scene is very sombre at this time, and no advantage is gained by pretending otherwise.
The right hon. Gentleman looked round, and I also shall try to look round at some of the places which he has visited; but I think we have also to look back and to look forward; we have to inquire what are the tendencies of the world to-day, what is happening to-day, where we stand as a result of certain past action, or inaction, and what is the likely fate ahead of us. I propose to speak with frankness, which is a quality that is more freely permitted at such times to Members of His Majesty's Opposition than to Members of His Majesty's Government, and I propose to speak with frankness for this further reason, that, if the worst should come, it will be better that we should have spoken the truth in time. Moreover, in this country, whatever may be thought in totalitarian States, we still believe that free speech may help to reveal the truth and to inform and strengthen opinion.
May I begin with the Far East? The right hon. Gentleman said that the position in the Far East was confused and anxious, and so, evidently, it is. He, no doubt, has details which the world has not. I am not going into details with regard to the Far East, but I am going to suggest one guiding principle, and that is that, in all which concerns the Far East, we in this country should work in the very closest and most intimate cooperation with the United States of America, and with them above all other States in that part of the world. In any action which it may be necessary to take in order to secure that what remains unbroken of treaties relating to that part of the world is not stir: further broken, and in order to preserve and restore peace among Far Eastern nations, we should go in step with the.. United States, not rushing ahead of anything they are prepared to do, but being prepared to go as far and as fast as they. I lay that down as a principle which I think is essential in our relations with that part of the world.
I must pause at this stage to ask: Can we trust this Government to do that? This 1813 Government has a very bad record in its dealings with the United States of America, a bad record which began long before the right hon. Gentleman became Foreign Secretary. It is well, I think, to recall these events, because they show how necessary it is, if the guiding principle which I have suggested is to be adopted, to realise that it means a certain change in attitude and in approach on the part of His Majesty's Government towards the United States. I do not speak only of purely economic questions at this stage, such as what many of us regard as the very clumsy handling of the debt question, and the Prime Minister's contemptuous reference to the Middle West; even the Middle West, he said, will perhaps understand that—a very unhappy form of words. I am not even referring here to the question of a trade pact or treaty, though I shall come to it later, beyond saying that I think the responses by the Government to Mr. Cordell Hull's proposals for a trade pact and President Roosevelt's well-known desire for it are very slow and lukewarm. But in the political as distinguished from the economic field there have been bad breaks in Anglo-American relations. There was a bad break at the Disarmament Conference, for example, where the United States made admirable proposals, which the present Home Secretary, during his disastrous tenure of the Foreign Office turned down contemptuously. [Interruption.] I beg pardon; I am referring to the present Chancellor of the Exchequer. All Foreign Secretaries who deserve ill of their country seem to creep gradually round to the Home Office. Some remain there, and some pass on.
Finally, I hope that in this part of the story—because this brings us very close to the present problem, making allowance for the changes in time and persons—I hope that the right hon. Gentleman is not going to repeat to Mr. Cordell Hull to-day the kind of words and attitude adopted by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer towards Mr. Stimson when this affair between Japan and China first flamed up in 1931–32. As Mr. Stimson has told the world in his most interesting book, "The Far Eastern Crisis, he twice endeavoured to secure effective Anglo-American co-operation in preserving peace and maintaining treaties in the Far East, and was twice rebuffed—"rebuffed" is Mr. Stimson's word. It is worth while 1814 also to recall, as part of this cautionary tale, that the "Times" newspaper, on 11th January, 1932, in a leading article which showed an amazing lack of prescience, and which should now evidently be re-quoted lest any one should believe the "Times" to be infallible, said:The British Government acted wisely in declining to address a communication to the Chinese and Japanese Governments on the lines of Mr. Stimson's Note"—in reference to the Nine Power Treaty. It went on to say:In invoking its Clauses the American Government may have been moved by the fear that the Japanese authorities would set up a virtually independent administration in Manchuria … to the detriment of the commerce of other nations. It is clear that the Foreign Office does not share these apprehensions.I suppose that that was inspired by the Foreign Office, under the instructions of the then Foreign Secretary. I hope we are not going to have a repetition of the attitude which was displayed by the Foreign Secretary of that day, or of foolish failure to foresee such as the "Times" newspaper then displayed. The question now is not whether Japan will establish an independent administration in Manchuria, but whether that independent administration will not gradually eat up all China, including its ancient capital. I do not wish to say more on this subject than that there has been an inclination in the past for the British Government, for some reason which on realistic grounds I find difficult to understand, to side with Japanese claims as against Chinese claims. I hope that that will not be repeated now. I am not now arguing on the basis of Anglo-American cooperation, or on the basis of League of Nations obligations, but I desire to bring the matter down, if that be the right word, to the plane of straight British interests, and I fail to see what British interest is served by the continuing encroachment of Japan upon the territory and natural resources of China. On the contrary, I think that, on the plane of British interests, we should desire that Japanese aggression in China should stop now rather than proceed further.
This present situation in the Far East is the logical consequence of the attitude adopted by the Government of this country in 1931–32. Their weakness at the 1815 end of 1931 and the beginning of 1932 was the first great blunder, and the first act in the tragedy of the continuing retreat from Treaty obligations that has characterised those six years, of the continuing sacrifice of British interests, and of the continuous sapping of the authority of the League of Nations. That was the first great blow struck at the collective system by our attitude in the Far East. Japan has set a successful example of treaty breaking which has been faithfully followed.
I turn now to what the right hon. Gentleman said with regard to the League of Nations. He says that it is still alive, and we are grateful for that information. I hope that in the days in front of us signs of increased vitality and usefulness will be shown from Geneva. When I speak of the League of Nations, neither the right hon. Gentleman nor the Committee will misunderstand me. I mean that collective influence which is exercised by governments through their representatives at Geneva. Frankly, I have the impression that the League of Nations has lost much of its authority and initiative and vigour. There are four things which, it seems to me, the League of Nations should be. It should be an international club, where mutual confidences may be created; it should be a regular instrument of economic co-operation between nations; it should be a court of justice for settling juridical matters and for the negotiation of peaceful changes in the present order of things; and it should be—I am not sure whether the right hon. Gentleman will agree with me in this, but I think he will accept it—it should be a grand alliance of peaceful States against aggressors.
Is the League of Nations to-day effectively any of these things? Evidently the absence from its councils of important States, and the intermittent attendance of unimportant States, limits the extent to which it is an effective international club. So far as economic co-operation is concerned, the right hon. Gentleman spoke of the Committee on Raw Materials, where we have, not technically a representative, but where we have a member in the person of Sir Frederick Leith-Ross. We were told that there was to be a report of this committee in September. We shall await that report, but my hon. Friends and I 1816 have frequently expressed the view that these economic difficulties are fundamental and have been greatly neglected; that they have not been vigorously attacked or deeply studied by the Government; and that many deep-lying causes of international hatred and suspicion to-day are economic in their character, and could be, even within the limits of differing forms of national policy, removed or greatly attenuated. What is being done? I have read accounts of the proceedings of this Committee on Raw Materials. Sir Frederick Leith-Ross made a speech in which he proved that the British Commonwealth was a have not Power—I think he used that very phrase. It was more clever than convincing to his hearer. The Treasury, of course, are nothing if not clever; they are supposed to be much cleverer than other Departments. Whether that is true or not, there is no doubt that they are very clever. That was in the best Treasury style, but I doubt if it helped us on. Is it really useful to pretend that, if you are going to divide the nations of the world and call them by these hackneyed terms, the "have" and "have not" nations, we come within the "have not" category? We must do better than that.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke of some things that were being done. He reminded us of the tripartite declaration between ourselves, the French and the United States, admirable as a declaration and up to now applied in the defence of the franc, but not carrying us very far. He spoke of the mission of M. Van Zeeland. Its results, no doubt, will be reported more fully later. So far all that we know is that he has been travelling. We do not know whether he has had any success at all. In the third place, there was some reference, which was received with icy silence by the right hon. Gentleman's supporters, to reducing trade barriers. My hon. Friend the Member for Burslem (Mr. MacLaren) cheered loudly; the rest was silence. [Interruption.] I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman has sonic reserves that are being hurried up. There was no burning enthusiasm on the opposite side for tariff barriers to be reduced, nor indeed are all my hon. Friends old-fashioned Free Traders on this side of the House. Some of us wear our Free Trade with a difference. But, however that may be, we want to know what the Government are doing, 1817 what trade barriers are they going to reduce, and what is the plan. We were told that at the Imperial Conference, recently dispersed, the Dominion Governments agreed to certain generalities on this subject, but have they agreed to our reducing duties on goods which compete with those of the Dominions? We are passing away from the Foreign Office, and I am not entitled to expect a detailed answer, but, broadly, how far is there really the will in any Department of the Government to reduce actual existing trade barriers instead of making general statements about them?
Further than that, the fiscal question was at one time thought to be the predominant question in our politics. Some of us think it served the old parties to keep it so. But there are much deeper issues here than mere questions of tariffs and quotas. There is the whole question of the control of Colonial territories. There is the whole question whether or not the mandate system is capable, on the one hand, of geographical extension and, on the other, of change in its essential character. My hon. Friends have never made any secret of their view that it would be much better if dependent Colonies were all administered, by whatever mandatory, as mandated territories. What the Government ought to be doing, is trying to persuade other Colonial Powers to join with us in the extension of what would be, if not juridically a mandate system, at any rate its economic equivalent. I am doubtful whether the present Government is prepared to say, "We shall press the French to make the French Congo the equivalent of a mandated territory, and we will do the same to Nigeria, and we will bring pressure on the Portuguese to do it in Angola." I doubt whether the Government are prepared to go as far as that at present. If that is so, my view, which I believe is shared by my hon. Friends, is that, unless they are prepared to go that far, they are not really getting down to the root of these economic grievances between nations.
I pass from that to ask whether the Government have any plan to make the League of Nations an effective grand alliance against aggression. If this scattered and vulnerable British Commonwealth is isolated in a war, no British armaments, however great, can effectively defend it against certain possible and 1818 obvious combinations. Therefore I ask, are the Government exploring the possibility, not of amending the Covenant of the League—I do not suggest that that is the proper way of doing it; I think they had better let the Covenant alone at present—but exploring the possibility of obtaining, within the framework of the League, as the phrase goes, a pact of mutual assistance and non-aggression with a substantial number of other States? Is the right hon. Gentleman seeking, or do the Government desire, to form within the framework of the League a powerful group of this kind, open of course to everyone to come in, because unless some unified force of that kind exists you have not created a sufficient collective force to deter aggression. Is the right hon. Gentleman moving along that line at all? Of course, we all wholly agree that we desire no vendetta against any State and that there are no inevitable enemies either of this country or of peace. There are only some people who make us wonder more than others. By all means let that be laid down quite clearly. The right hon. Gentleman quoted a statement to that effect made by a political friend of mine at Warsaw, and clearly we must make any such scheme open in the fullest and the freest way for any State, however governed or misgoverned, to come in.
May I pass from the League of Nations to Spain? The League of Nations has played a very small part—that is a colourless way of putting it—in Spanish affairs. Some might say it has played an inactive and ignoble part. It has passed on all its responsibilities to the Non-Intervention Committee. We have had nine months of the old diplomacy on that committee, in which ambassadors meet and semi-accurate accounts of what transpires leak out, and there is no effective publicity and no effective secrecy, and all is gossip and surmise. Nine months of the Non-Intervention Committee has so far not produced non-intervention. The fruits of nine months of the Non-Intervention Committee are very small. The right hon. Gentleman's Parliamentary analogy on the present state of the proposals that he has submitted can be carried a good deal further. He says they have had their Second Reading and have now entered on their Committee stage. We know what a Committee stage can sometimes be, how prolonged, how full of speeches which to all 1819 except the speakers seem unnecessary and unhelpful, how long the proceedings may be dragged out, and how many Amendments may be proposed.
In the Non-Intervention Committee I presume unanimity is practically necessary, otherwise the thing does not carry. That, at any rate, is a difficulty that we do not have here. Therefore I anticipate that you will have a prolonged Committee stage. I anticipate that you will not secure unanimity. I may be wrong but, sizing up the form of the various States concerned, the utterances made and what one knows of their attitude I shall be astonished if the Committee stage is either short or unanimous in its proceedings. Meanwhile, this thing will drag on for months perhaps, while the so-called volunteers are still in Spain, their numbers still increasing and materials still going across, and the British Government will still have no official information about any of these matters.
I will therefore, put on one side the proposals that the right hon. Gentleman has made to the Non-Intervention Committee and say one or two words about the Spanish affair in its wider aspects. I lay down these propositions. First, it is beyond dispute that the rebellion in Spain was begun by some mutinous Spanish officers and disgruntled Spanish plutocrats, aided and in contact with German and Italian agents. It is also not as clear as it ought to be, because it has been deliberately overlaid by many commentators, that the Spanish Government against which the rebellion was directed was a very mild Liberal Government. [Interruption.] It is my belief, and that of others who have studied the facts, that that was the original situation. Second, the rebellion would long ago have been crushed, even in spite of all the weaknesses of the Madrid and Valencia Government, but for the entry into Spain of large numbers of German and Italian soldiers and airmen, powerfully equipped.
§ Mr. Dalton
I thought I was going to get that. No doubt there are some Russians, but very many fewer than Germans and Italians, and I believe also that they arrived rather later. Since Russia has been mentioned, I was informed the other 1820 day that the Spanish Government at the outbreak of the civil war was in the same relation to Moscow diplomatically that this country was in in the days before the late Arthur Henderson sent an Ambassador to Moscow and received one in London. In other words, there were no regular diplomatic relations between the two Governments. Since the hon. and gallant Gentleman has mentioned Russia, I offer him that piece of relevant information.
But let us suppose, if you like, that it was not Germans and Italians. Suppose it was Russians who had been sent in in great numbers. My next argument will stand just as strongly. This is a new and most dangerous technique of aggression, and we should ponder over it from that general aspect. What happens? You stir up a civil war. You send your agents, and they stir up civil war in a neighbouring country and you do everything you can—short of openly declaring war—to enable the rebels to win.
Let us reflect what will happen if this trick succeeds here. If this clever and new trick succeeds, do you not think that it will he played elsewhere? Diplomats should have regard to precedents and to the possibility of precedents being created. In more than one central European country it is quite possible for this trick to be repeated with disastrous results for the peace of Europe. In more than one country lying between the eastern borders of the Mediterranean and the borders of India, it is possible for this trick to be repeated with disastrous results. Therefore, I draw this general conclusion. Having regard to the dangerous nature of this trick, it is vital in the interests of decent international relations and of the continuance of peace elsewhere, that this trick should not succeed in Spain and that General Franco should not win. I put it thus negatively because no humane person can bar out the desirability of a cessation of bloodshed by agreement. What hope there may be of that at the moment I cannot tell. Senor Madariaga is a man of very great ability and a man with whom I have had personal relations for a number of years, but at the present time he cannot speak for anybody. He is out of it, and it appears to me for the moment that the prospects of a cessation of bloodshed in Spain are remote. But I do say that on broad interests General Franco must not win. And this trick is 1821 to be discouraged on quite other grounds. It is of vital British interest that General Franco should not win.
§ Sir Patrick Hannon
What is the trick to which the hon. Gentleman has referred? Is it a trick of the communications between the Communists of Spain and the Comintern before the outbreak of the Revolution, or is it a trick he has suggested long before the intervention of Italy and Germany, or is it a trick after the Italians and the Germans came in?
§ Mr. Dalton
The trick to which I was referring was the sending of armed forces by Germany and Italy following upon the preparation of the revolt by German and Italian agents. I sometimes wonder whether the hon. Gentleman would accept the aid of a member of the Comintern to fish him out of the water if he were drowning. It may well be that a political situation may arise one day not dissimilar from that, and then we shall see what he has to say about it. [Interruption.] Whatever we may say about them, the Comintern are no menace to this country. They are only a nuisance. What bogy is frightening the hon. Member?
§ Brigadier-General Spears
I think the hon. Member has forgotten to mention the International Brigade, and perhaps he would like to say a word about that.
§ Mr. Dalton
I am willing to answer the question, but de minimis non curat lex. I know the hon. Member will understand that, but the International Brigade was a flea bite. [Interruption.] The International Brigade compared with the German and Italian air forces, was negligible, and, moreover, the mass of equipment which has accompanied the German and Italian totalitarian units has not any counterpart in the arms available for the German and Italian emigres and other persons who constitute the International Brigade. But I am anxious at this stage to say a word about British interests, and I relate this very closely to the Spanish situation. The attitude of some hon. Members opposite up to now leads me to quote these words from a well-known authority:Strategically"…That is, from a victory for General Franco—the danger is so obvious that it is difficult to understand the eagerness with which 1822 some of the most avowedly patriotic sections of the British public have desired the rebels success. Class-sentiment and property-sense would seem to have blinded their strategic sight.
§ Mr. Dalton
Who said that? It is not Karl Marx, although the last sentence has a certain Marxian ring. It is not any follower of Karl Marx; it is the military correspondent of the "Times." In his book "Europe in arms" that passage occurs in the course of a most interesting essay on the future of the Mediterranean. I hope that hon. Members who have not read it may perhaps find an opportunity of reading it. I found it most illuminating. Captain Liddell Hart says:This is the possibility of a militaristic Spain, filled with the desire to renew its Imperial role which is already reflected in some of the interviews given by General Franco, and linked with Fascist Italy by a common ambition as well as by the sense of help received in the course of the present rising.…A powerful Spanish Air Force, supplied or constructed by foreign aid, could be a serious menace to the last lap of the Mediterranean route.In the course of his argument, Captain Liddell Hart argues that the Eastern and Central sections of the Mediterranean route are threatened by the Italian air bases, while at the Western end this last lap would be seriously endangered by such developments as I have quoted. He continues:And Gibraltar in turn might become as untenable as a base for the British fleet as Malta proved in the last emergency.He went on to speak of further dangers which might arise from the creation of air and submarine bases in various islands, not only the Balearics, but the Canaries, off the Atlantic Coast, and he says:There have been reports, formally denied, of a secret promise of these two strategic points to Italy and Germany respectively in return for help rendered. Though the denial may he expected, this does not remove the potential danger. The availability of bases in these islands for the possible use of a strong sea and air power would be scarcely less ominous than the actual cession of the territory.That is a very penetrating analysis of the situation, and in view of that, I cannot understand how hon. Members who pre-occupy themselves with considerations of the military, naval and air defences of the Empire can desire a victory for General Franco, unless indeed, as Captain Liddell Hart says, "Class sentiment and property sense" have blinded them. 1823 What is the position in the Mediterranean now? The right hon. Gentleman spoke very brave words, on the one hand, and kindly words, on the other. He said that we were not going to have any interference with our right to use this arterial road. He tells me that it should be open to the use of others, of course. We do not wish to conduct a vendetta, least of all would those of us who have other reasons for cherishing tender feelings about Italy wish that there should be such a vendetta. It rests indeed with Signor Mussolini and the future standards of policy he adopts as to whether or not the ancient Italian-British friendship can be renewed. For the moment it is badly damaged, and whether it can be renewed or not depends on that.
The British Fleet can no longer confidently claim the command of the Mediterranean. I find it difficult to believe that a mere increase in the number of vessels of various kinds in the British Fleet can give us effective command of the passage of the Mediterranean. I find it difficult to believe that, having regard to air and under sea developments. Similarly, if you pass from the Mediterranean to the Cape route, it is not only at the point of the Canaries on the south coast of Morocco, where the possibility of the formation of air and submarine bases is threatened. The Canaries are in General Franco's hands, but I am told that as you go down the African Coast and enter the Gulf of Guinea, the Island of Fernando Po, another Franco stronghold at the moment is stiff with German explorers. Whether that is so or not, it is possible that the Cape route also may be seriously threatened by General Franco's payment of his debts for services rendered. Where will you be then? If through the Mediterranean you can only pass with very great danger and a possibility of heavy loss, and if the Cape route is also threatened at the key points, then where are our Imperial communications? Hon. Gentlemen opposite will excuse me if I say that sometimes 1 am very puzzled at their reactions. I will give an illustration. On Wednesday last the First Lord of the Admiralty reported, as was stated in the "Times" on Thursday, that:It may interest the House to know that a British ship was captured attempting to enter Santander this morning1824 And the "Times" comment was "Ministerial cheers and laughter."
§ Mr. De Chair
Did the hon. Gentleman also see the comment of the "Times" leader, that the cheers were not because of the capture of the ship but were due to the justification which it gave to the First Lord for the action which he had taken.
§ Mr. Dalton
I thought that the hon. Gentleman was looking a little uneasy, but in great newspapers like the "Times"—I will say that even in great newspapers like the "Times"—I prefer the record of facts to statements of opinion. The Parliamentary report related what happened here. The leader endeavoured to distribute praise, blame and prejudice, and I am less concerned with that. What the "Times" reports is, that when the First Lord reported that a British ship had been captured there were Ministerial cheers and laughter. [interruption.] I was not in the House at the time. It does indeed bring us back again to the position, which I will not repeat, mentioned in the essay of Captain Liddell Hart.
Let me say a few words about Gibraltar. I hope that hon. Gentlemen opposite will also think that this is a joke. I base myself here upon an authority—he may or may not be accurate—the author of the "Londoner's Diary" in the "Evening Standard." a paper to which hon. Members opposite owe something. The author of this paragraph says that he himself has been to Gibraltar and seen these guns and has talked to people who have examined these guns. He says, writing on Wednesday, 14th July:More than a week ago I stated that I had seen these guns being placed in position last February, and that the authorities in Gibraltar had been told they were 12-inch howitzers of German make.Very formidable guns. He goes on to say:General Franco's batteries are far heavier than is required for the defence of the Bay against Spanish warships. As I stated last week, it is admitted in Gibraltar that they could destroy the harbour in half an hour.There is another joke. Will hon. Members opposite laugh at that, as they laughed last Thursday?Only the future will show whether the Gibraltar authorities are right in their view that General Franco will dismantle the guns if and when he wins the war.1825 This leads me to ask a question. I do not know whether it can be answered and I do not press for an answer, but I should like it to be in the mind of the Government spokesman. What reason have they for thinking that if General Franco wins this war he will forthwith forget his friends and treat us as if we had been as good friends to him as have been Germany and Italy? What earthly reason is there for supposing that? One hears, and one is inclined to believe, rumours that there is a strong pro-Franco element in the Cabinet. Very likely the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary does not belong to it, but we all know that Cabinets are never united. The report is that there is a strong pro-Franco element in the Cabinet and also in business circles. There are also rumours, and here I should like an answer if the Foreign Office have any information. There are rumours in the French Press, both of the right and the left that certain oil companies have been making large loans to General Franco, including the Royal Dutch, of which Lord Bearsted is a director. It would be interesting to know whether there is any truth in that rumour.
It is hoped by the pro-Franco Ministers in the Cabinet, by many people in business circles and by some others that if General Franco wins he will be what is called "easy to handle." It is hoped that a few diplomatic dinner parties and business talks will put things right. It is thought that although he is in the pockets of Germany and Italy he will soon climb out and forget his benefactors. That appears to me to be almost an imbecile miscalculation. The right hon. Gentleman read a passage from Signor de Madariaga about the way Spaniards resent the presence of foreigners. That may be true, but that is on a long view, or at least a middle-distance view. Does anybody believe that General Franco's gratitude to Germany and Italy will fade away within a year or so? If not, even if it only lasts a year or two, then we are entering upon a new and very dangerous stage in the European situation.
We are going to have our French friends confronted by three potentially hostile military and air forces on the Pyrenees, the Alps and the Rhine. France will be encircled on three sides. In the Mediterranean our communications from East to West will be seriously threatened. 1826 The French communications across the Mediterranean from north to south will be equally seriously threatened. British communications round the Cape will also be liable to serious threats. If General Franco wins Germany and Italy will be in a triumphant mood; they will be looking around and be ready for new adventures. That will be a new and a still more dangerous phase of the international situation than any that confronts us now. Therefore, I repeat that it is in the interests of international peace and of British interests that General Franco should not win this war, and I submit that the policy of His Majesty's Government should be directed towards seeing that he does not win this war. [Laughter.]
§ Mr. Dalton
It may mean nothing to hon. Members who laugh that British ships have been captured in the last few days by the insurgents, but the conclusion of my argument cannot be dismissed with laughter. If the right hon. Gentleman opposite does not accept the conclusion of my argument, it will be interesting to find at what point he dissents from my argument that the victory of General Franco will imperil the safety of the British Commonwealth and British communications throughout the world.
§ Mr. Dalton
Is the hon. Member impartial as between his own country and the enemies of his country? Despite the statement of the Foreign Secretary it still remains true that the outlook is very black. Looking back for six years on British foreign policy there have been a number of landmarks which one can see standing out in recent history, and it is well that we should remember and appreciate their significance. In 1931–32 there was the Far Eastern affair, the retreat before the aggression of Japan. In 1932–33 there was the Disarmament Conference, which came to wreck through a combination of causes, and one of the most formidable causes was the refusal of His Majesty's Government either to put forward effective proposals of their own or to support those put forward by other States. In 1933–34 came German rearmament, followed by the late Prime Minister's confession that he had concealed the facts about German rearmament from 1827 the country for fear of losing the election.
In 1935–36 there was the Italian aggression against Abyssinia. Perhaps the conduct of His Majesty's Government on that occasion struck a harder blow at the League as an institution and at our hopes of preserving peace in an orderly fashion than any other incident that has occurred, because not only did they fail to prevent aggression by speaking to Signor Mussolini in good time, but when aggression occurred they applied only the most mild and inoffensive sanctions. They neither stood up to Signor Mussolini nor stood clear of him. Either alternative would have been better, but they chose a policy in which we got the worst of both worlds and we got most of the discredit. Italy was alienated from us, without being hindered in her action, and from that has arisen many of the dangers of which we are now very conscious. Finally, we have had the civil war in Spain, of which much has been said.
There is this general feature about the policy which has been pursued since 1931, and that is that there has been a continued series of retreats—retreats from treaty obligations, retreats from positions hurriedly taken up and then hurriedly abandoned. The result of all these retreats has been to discourage and discredit those, whether in Japan, Italy or Germany, who have counselled prudence and moderation. You have discouraged all the people who have tried to put a brake on dictators. It was so in Manchuria, it was so in Abyssinia and it is happening again in Spain. In all these cases those in the dictator countries who were trying to restrain the dictators have been discouraged and the dictators have succeeded. That is why, as the right hon. Gentleman admits, the international atmosphere is still so tense.
Looking back over these six years we have had a series of blunders, betrayals and retreats. Looking forward, I cannot conceal from myself the view that the risk of a major war has been increased rather than diminished by what has taken place. The course of the policy which His Majesty's Government have pursued while it has often been defended as being designed to avoid the risks of war, has in fact greatly increased the risks of war, 1828 and the risks of a war fought under conditions far more unfavourable to us than would have been supposed a few years ago. In looking forward, therefore, to these increasing risks, I can only hope that the storm clouds which the right hon. Gentleman sees in the sky will not break, for I have this presentiment—I trust that war may be averted, and we shall all strive our utmost to that end—that if it does come and in such a form that we have to face it in unfavourable conditions, which are largely the outcome of the policy of the last six years, not only will all the values of our civilisation be destroyed, not only will the names of millions be blotted out from the book of life, but this British Commonwealth itself may founder in that great catastrophe. Therefore, let us all take heed while there is yet time of all these portents in the sky.
§ 5.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Churchill
We are indebted to the Secretary of State for having treated us this afternoon, very appropriately, considering the circumstances of the Debate, to a comprehensive review of the more critical aspects of foreign relations all over the world, and the official spokesman of the Opposition has followed with no less expansiveness and with very careful and painstaking attention to many details. I notice that the only difference between the outlook of the two Front Benches is that whereas my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs says that the outlook is not entirely black, my feeling after listening to the hon. Member on the Front Opposition Bench is that on the whole the outlook is rather grey. I shall not attempt to emulate either the Government or the Opposition in taking so wide a view this afternoon.
I have a rather precise and localised point to bring before the Committee. I do not at all find myself in agreement with the hon. Member opposite about the origin of the civil war in Spain. It is not true that here there was parliamentary constitutional government functioning in a normal way and that then an unprovoked rebellion was made against that Government by persons of extreme Right Wing views. It is well known that ordinary guarantees for safety and order had largely lapsed in Spain, that it was not safe for people to go out at night over large areas, that murders and outrages 1829 were rife, and that constitutional parliamentary government was being used as a mere mask, a screen, to cover the swift, stealthy and deadly advance of the extreme Communist or anarchist factions, who saw, according to the regular programme of Communist revolutions, the means by which they could obtain power. It was when confronted with a situation like that that this violent explosion took place in Spain.
As the hon. Member opposite approached the end of his speech I began to prick up my ears, first in acquiescence, then in broad assent, and, finally, in lively agreement. I was glad indeed to hear him on behalf of his party taking such a keen interest in problems of Imperial defence, our sea routes through the Mediterranean and our oil and fuelling stations throughout the world. I should like to pay him my compliments upon the strong development he has made on these points and to hope that in the future, if he has not done so in the past, he will endeavour to sustain the Government in providing the necessary military instrumentalities to enable due care to be taken of these matters. But there was one charge which the hon. Member made—it was preferred last week in much more strident terms by the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton)—that the Conservative party were ready to sacrifice Imperial interests because of their prejudice against Communism. I think the hon. Member opposite quoted a distinguished newspaper correspondent who attributed the apathy of the Conservative party in these matters to class interests and property sense. That is equally unkind and equally untrue.
§ Mr. Churchill
I say that the charge which is made, I care not where it is made or whence it comes, that the Conservative party for class interests are prepared to sacrifice British Imperial interests is not true. Resistance to Communism and to a Communist revolution—that is the point made by the hon. Member for Bridgeton—is not a class issue. Everyone knows that in a Communist or Bolshevist revolution what are called the upper classes, the nobility, the landowners, the financiers, the manufacturers, the clergy, the bourgeoisie, and the bulk of the intelligentsia, are destroyed. They do not last very long, there is not enough 1830 of them to go round, and the really successful Communist revolution, once that provender has been used up, begins killing the ordinary working classes, and I have no doubt that you could show that hundreds of ordinary weekly wage-earners have perished in Russia in the revolution for everyone of those classes I have mentioned. After they have begun killing the working classes they, of course, at the same time start killing each other, a process which I am bound to say I have always been able to contemplate with a fairly steady eye.
It is not at all true to say that resistance to Communism and violent Bolshevik revolution is a matter of class prejudice. It is much more like the reactions which the human body takes when confronted with some malignant growth like cancer. It has absolutely nothing to do with class, and I do not think it has anything very directly to do with what is going on in Spain. But it is certainly in the general interests of the country that the Labour and Socialist party and Left Wing forces generally should take a keen and vigilant interest in questions of Imperial Defence. The hon. Member opposite raised the matter at the end of his speech. It gives unity to parliamentary representations on such a point, and I rise mainly, indeed almost solely, for the purpose of drawing attention to an extremely definite matter of urgent public importance—namely, the question of these heavy howitzer cannon which are alleged to have been mounted around or near Gibraltar. The Opposition must not suppose, in their new-found enthusiasm for imperial Defence, that they are the only guardians of our interests in that matter. I can assure the Government—they know it already—that a very great deal of concern is felt on this point, and has been felt for some time, on this side of the House.
More than four months ago I myself went to the Foreign Secretary and told him all I have heard, some of it from Opposition sources, about these great cannon. The Foreign Secretary showed himself seriously disturbed. I do not mind telling the Committee where I got my information. I got it from my son, who in February saw these heavy howitzers being mounted upon the massive concrete platforms which are necessary. He saw great numbers of workers busy at the task, and he also saw several 1831 of the howitzers themselves, although not at a distance from which it was possible to gauge their actual calibre. He came home at once and told me, and I immediately reported it to my right hon. Friend. I have since heard that the War Office had already been informed by the military authorities at Gibraltar. I put this to His Majesty's Government—I think the time has come when we are entitled to ask publicly what are the facts, and what do they mean? Let us consider the nature of these enormous weapons. A 12-inch howitzer, properly mounted on a stable land platform, can hurl a projectile of a ton weight to or 12 miles, and hit a target at that range no bigger than this Chamber with certainty at least 50 times out of too. If these guns are in range of the dockyard and anchorage at Gibraltar they can clearly destroy Gibraltar and render the anchorage and the bay untenable by His Majesty's ships. Can they do so? I do not know. I ask; can they do so? On the other hand, if they cannot do that, what can they do? Are they aimed at the Straits? Can they obstruct the Straits? Can they close the Straits? We ought to know. How many of them are there? Where are they sited? We ought to know. At whose instigation and by whose agency have they been erected? Again we ought to know.
If the Government do not know I can only say that it would seem to be a very serious lapse from the high standards of our renowned intelligence serviee. If the Government do know I cannot conceive of any reason why the facts, which are undoubtedly known to foreign countries, should not be laid before Parliament, and I ask respectfully and earnestly for full information on this point. Assuming that such cannon have been mounted-I am asking for information; I am not here to make assertions—there are certain serious observations to be made. Weapons of this size and power are not required for any purpose connected with the Spanish civil war. They are certainly not wanted to drive off the fleet of the Valencia Government. This fleet of a few feeble old ships, whose crews murdered their officers without in many cases taking the trouble to find out their political views, is unable either to navigate its ships or fire its guns with any accuracy. It is 1832 absurd to suppose that General Franco, a struggling man, fighting on a narrow margin, in a life and death conflict would waste his meagre resources of money and material upon the purchase or the mounting of such enormous guns. We know that in all Spain no such guns existed before the outbreak of the civil war.
Where then have they come from? They have certainly not come from Denmark or Rumania. They have not come from Switzerland or Sweden. I should like to know, are they from the foundries of Krupps or those at Ansaldo? We ought to know. If the Government know there is no reason why we should not know. We certainly do not give away the secrets of our own defences as long as they are secrets, but when you see the world in the condition it is now, the many dangers there are, the people have a right to be informed of the main facts, the significant facts, which indicate the groupings of the great Powers and the dangers which lie around us. We do not want our people suddenly, one fine morning, to be confronted with a terrible event, and then afterwards to have explanations given of how it all came about. We live in a time, after our experiences of 20 years ago, when we should be told everything that can be told in a manner entirely inoffensive to foreign Powers, so far as the revelation of unpleasant facts can be inoffensive to some people, and of course everything that can be told without injury to our own Defences. If these cannons have come from either of these sources, not only is it clear that they have nothing to do with the Spanish civil war. but they have been put up in relation to purposes and schemes of much wider and much greater significance. We can only judge this when we know the facts.
I have tried, in following the policy of His Majesty's Government, to preserve a neutrality of mind upon the whole of this Spanish civil war. I am certainly not a partisan of either side, and I hope the House will bear with me in that. My sentiment is not for General Franco, nor is it for President Azana; it is not for General Queipo de Llano, nor is it for Senor Prieto or Senor Largo Caballero; my sentiment, as far as I have one, is for Spain and the Spaniards, not for the triumph of either faction, but that mercy should be shown to the vanquished, whoever they are, and the Spaniards become 1833 again one people. I was very glad indeed to hear the Foreign Secretary refer to the letter of Senor de Madariaga which appeared in the "Times" this morning, and which seems to strike a note, true and resonant, which I venture to believe, apart from all the savage tension of the conflict, must be finding its response in many Spanish breasts.
I was glad to hear my right hon. Friend speak resolutely about legitimate British interests and the determination of the Government to put them first and to let them weigh at their full value. But the question of these cannons is certainly a major British interest. Perhaps it is a world interest. If it affects the Straits, it is not only a British interest but a world interest; and certainly it is an interest very intimately connected with the peace of Europe. It is a major British interest which, I venture to submit, must far outweigh in our minds the relative merits or demerits of the two sides fighting in Spain. We look confidently to His Majesty's Government to see that British interests are safeguarded.
So far, I think I have carried His Majesty's Opposition with me, in the main, in what I have ventured to say. May I, then, venture to go one step further? Obviously if we are going to raise this question, we must in the first instance address ourselves to General Franco. Whether we should recognise him or not is a debatable question, but in any case we have to recognise the facts. We have to recognise 12-inch howitzers as facts. Any government, I do not care what is its complexion, which has power to mount cannons, capable of destroying a British dockyard, and what is much more important, capital ships of the Royal Navy peacefully anchored in that harbour, or of obstructing the fairway of the Straits, is a government with which obviously we have got to have relations. We have got to have formal relations; they might not always be very pleasant formal relations, but we are bound to have official representatives who can inquire about these facts from General Franco and make to him any representations which may occur to us upon the subject. To leave great ships like the "Hood," the "Rodney," the "Nelson," the "Renown" and the "Royal Oak," lolling about under the potential discharge of cannon of this calibre would be a crime against national safety. [Interruption.] 1834 Hon. Members opposite begin to laugh. I thought their party was anxious to concentrate serious attention on these events. Let us not have unseasonable levity on the matter.
§ Mr. Bellenger
If the right hon. Gentleman is referring to hon. Members on these benches, we were laughing at his rather extravagant language, and wondering how ships of the British Navy lolled about.
§ Mr. Churchill
The figure was somewhat picturesque. It arises from the idea of a large and heavy body responding rhythmically to the movement of the waves. To go on like that would be exactly the same as letting capital ships anchor over a minefield, of which some foreign Power on shore held the key. Some finger—Bolshevik, Anarchist, Nazi, Fascist, I know not which, for the purpose of which I care not—might press the electric button, and an event might occur which might seriously alter the balance of sea-power throughout the world. Let hon. Members mark this, if such an event did happen, it would not be the end, but only the beginning of a tragic chapter in human history.
Is this not the time to raise this question very directly with General Franco, who controls this area at the present time? Will any advantage be gained by waiting for a year, when perhaps he may be master of practically all Spain—[Interruption]. The hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) interrupts me. We always treat him with very great consideration, because he is a unique specimen; he represents the great Communist theory in this House, and at the same time he is perfectly tame and harmless, and he is, I may say, very well broken to the House. I wish, however, to ask a serious question: Will any advantage be gained by waiting for a year, when General Franco will be either master of Spain or, in the hazards of war, will have passed away?
Now is the time, while the Spanish civil war hangs in the balance, to talk to him about these cannons. Are they perhaps the price he has had to pay for help he has received from this Power or from that Power? I think that is a fair question. Evidently this is a period when he is much more likely to meet our reasonable wishes than later on. Our interests ought not to suffer from our not having duly accredited agents both at Valencia 1835 and Salamanca. We may lose heavily in all sorts of ways if, out of a kind of political fastidiousness, we declare ourselves to be following a policy of boycott of any powerful forces in the world which have it in their power to injure us or to help us. Therefore, it is of no use talking about a gang of mutinous generals or a crowd of ferocious Bolsheviks. We have got to watch our British interests in both camps from day to day, and we have got to make sure that our agents have the best chance of having their representations earnestly considered.
Under the Treaty of Utrecht, I believe, we have legal rights to the immunity of the Bay of Algeciras, provided we also forbid any enemy of Spain access to that Bay. There were also conversations on the subject, I remember, in 1901, which left matters in what I can only call a posture of tacit indetermination. But surely, we should not regard the mounting of these enormous guns, to menace Gibraltar or to obstruct the Straits, as dependent upon the interpretation of ancient treaties. It is a question of good neighbourliness and friendly behaviour of one Power to another. For instance, suppose the French—I take that Power because I know I shall give no offence—mounted batteries of great cannons at Boulogne and Calais which could shell London. They have a perfect right to do so; there is no treaty ground on which we could reproach them; but all the same, I am quite clear that the fact would lead to an entire alteration of our relations with the French Republic. They would be the first to admit that that would be so.
This is the aspect which I hope my right hon. Friend will put to General Franco with the utmost clarity and in the best possible manner. It is not any use our sending someone there who goes in by himself to this shameful scene and says, "Now then, you mutinous General, what about these guns at Gibraltar? Of course, we are expecting and hoping that you will soon be defeated in order that the larger quarrel between the Stalin Communists and the P.O.U.M., or Trotsky Communists, may be fought out and may clear the way for that even larger dispute which lies for the world to decide between Communists and Anarchists; but meanwhile, young fellow my lad, as you are here, will you kindly give us satisfaction in 1836 the matter of these guns? "I am sure that my right hon. Friend, with his engaging manners and the powers of personal captivation which animate his diplomacy, will find better methods than that of putting that particular issue in those particular quarters, but that it should be put, and put at once, I have absolutely no doubt, unless the Government are in a position to remove altogether the alarming facts which I have ventured to recite.
There is one other serious matter to which I wish to refer before I sit down. I wish to address to the Foreign Secretary a question on this other matter which seems to me to touch our security. Foreigners in this country have hitherto come here as individuals. They have dwelt among us under freedom and the protection of our laws. But during the last two or three years we have seen a development which has recently gained considerable proportions. We are already familiar with the Communist movement and propaganda, and have prepared ourselves by our broad political institutions and also by necessary police measures to deal effectively with that. But now I am told—and here again I am asking for information—that all Germans and Italians living abroad are bound up in regular, national, political organisations, Nazi or Fascist. There may be 35,000 or 40,000 Germans or Italians in this country at any given moment, and all of them are woven together by their respective Governments, under severe discipline. They have to report at frequent intervals to regular centres where they receive instructions as to what they should observe, and what language they should hold in moving about among our population, and what they should do in case of emergency. Actually a Nazi Minister and Department have been set up within the present year in Berlin to direct and concert the action of Nazi Germans living abroad. Nothing like this has ever been seen before and I ask the Foreign Secretary whether he considers that the time has now come or is approaching, when, in conjunction with the Home Office, on whom the administrative action would fall this matter should not be dealt with, both by representations abroad and if necessary by regulations at home.
I apologise for having pressed these matters which are more specific than the 1837 general scope of the Debate would seem to encourage. I have this feeling, that we and the nations who feel with us and our institutions, are gradually gathering strength and confidence. I feel that Parliament men and Parliamentary countries should stand together against the dangers from either side and should be vigilant in guarding their interests. I always take comfort from the rugged words of Pym when he said:None have gone about to break Parliaments but that Parliaments have broken them.Let the people of this country which was the birth-place and is still the stronghold of free Parliamentary government set an example to other countries by the vigilance and attention with which we secure the permanence of our institutions.
§ 6.4 p.m.
§ Sir Archibald Sinclair
Of the points with which the right hon. Gentleman has dealt in his interesting speech there was one with which I had myself intended to deal. That is the question of the guns which have been mounted near Gibraltar. To-day I wish to confine my remarks within the narrowest possible limits because I know there are a great number of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who desire to take part in this Debate and I feel that the right hon. Gentleman has dealt with this point with so much cogency and force, that, on the merits of the demand which he has made to the Government or at any rate the first part of that demand, there is nothing for me to add. The Committee is entitled to know whether these guns are so placed and are of such a calibre that they can bring under direct menace the units of His Majesty's Navy sheltering in the harbours and dockyards of Gibraltar.
When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) however went on to suggest that in order to transact this business it was necessary, as I undersood him to say, to recognise General Franco as a ruler of part of Spain I definitely parted company with him. His Majesty's Government at the present time are making proposals under which, on certain conditions, they would be prepared to recognise General Franco not as governor of any part of Spain but as a belligerent, which is a different and a smaller thing. They are only willing to do that if he and those Powers which have 1838 supported him hitherto in the field, are willing to abide by certain conditions. But to suggest that we are willing to give so great an advantage as recognition would be to General Franco, to any lawless Power which is able and willing to submit us to an injury or a threat of such a serious character as these guns at Gibraltar constitute, would, I think, be a very dangerous policy for this Government to embark upon and I certainly hope they will not agree to the proposal which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping has made. On the other hand, there can be no question that the Government are perfectly entitled through their unofficial envoys at Hendaye and those who are in communication with General Franco on a number of matters to make suitable representations to General Franco, and I shall await with interest the Government's response to the demand which the right hon. Gentleman has made, and which I strongly support, for the fullest possible information which the Government can give us on those points.
I wish to offer a few observations on behalf of my hon. and right hon. Friends on the masterly survey which the Secretary of State gave at the beginning of the Debate, of the whole field of foreign affairs. On the Far East I made two notes. The first was on the importance of the closest possible co-operation with the United States of America. The hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) dealt with it so adequately that I feel it is unnecessary for me to add anything to what he said, except that we on these benches attach the greatest possible importance to that aspect of Far Eastern policy. There is only one other observation which I wish to make on the Far East. When the right hon. Gentleman said that Japan enjoyed the sympathy of His Majesty's Government in solving its problems, the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) interjected, "What problems?" The Secretary of State replied, "Economic problems, problems of population and problems of trade." I hope the right hon. Gentleman's speech means that His Majesty's Government are going to take a fresh view of those problems and that instead of hampering Japanese trade and making it difficult for Japan to prosper in the world and driving her into desperate courses to obtain access to raw materials 1839 and markets, they will abandon those measures of restriction and discrimination which they have exercised against Japanese trade. The Secretary of State said that the Government welcomed the approach made to them by the Japanese Government. He spoke of the contributions which His Majesty's Government were willing to make to the solution of these problems. I hope that the Noble Lord who is, I assume, to reply to this Debate will be able to inform the Committee what is the nature of the contribution which His Majesty's Government proposes to make to help the Japanese nation in solving their problems—to use the right hon. Gentleman's own words, "Their economic problems, their problems of population and their problems of trade."
Now I turn for a few moments to the question of Spain. The hon. Member for Bishop Auckland took a gloomy view of the prospects of the Government's plan for settling these difficulties. He referred to the possibility or indeed the likelihood of long delays, and said that in the meantime the volunteers would be there and munitions would continue to arrive. The only difference I have with the hon. Member in his, I hope unduly gloomy, survey of the situation, is that I do not see what other policy there is under which these volunteers would be removed. I do not see any policy which offers any greater hope of the withdrawal of the volunteers in the near future or stopping the arrival of munitions from abroad in Spain than the policy of bringing these countries into discussion around the table of the Non-Intervention Committee. But I join with the hon. Member in hoping that delay amounting to deliberate procrastination will not be allowed. This House will be rising shortly for the Recess. I hope that when we have scattered to our homes we shall not read in our newspapers that the Government are allowing indefinite procrastination to take place while these volunteers are being reinforced and fresh munitions are arriving. I hope the Noble Lord when he replies will give us some assurance on that point.
I was glad to hear two things which the Secretary of State said in this part of his speech. The first was the passage in which he emphasised the importance of 1840 preserving the balance of the scheme. That is to say, I take it, that there will be no recognition of belligerency until volunteers are withdrawn. That to my mind is a vital point. I agree with all that the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland said about the danger of a new technique which might so easily be used in Central Europe or in Near Eastern countries or in the countries bordering on the Levant. There is no question about what the hon. Member said when he was interrupted by the hon. and gallant Member for Carlisle (Brigadier-General Spears). There is no question as to foreigners of the kind who have joined the International Brigade representing any development of a new technique. They are merely volunteers such as have gone often from this country to other countries where fights were going on for the principle of freedom—to Greece, to Italy, and to many other countries. They were individual volunteers, but these so-called volunteers on General Franco's side are organised and sent by their own governments and that does amount to the development of a new and dangerous technique.
§ Sir A. Sinclair
I know, and I was only emphasising the importance of preserving the balance of the scheme and making certain that these volunteers are withdrawn before the belligerency of General Franco is recognised because they do represent a threat to the order and peace of Europe. I would urge, too, a point which I made in a similar Debate last week, but to which the Noble Lord in his reply on that occasion did not refer. There should, at any rate, be complete withdrawal of the volunteers from the firing line and from the aerodromes before there is any recognition of the belligerency of General Franco. Particularly, they should be withdrawn from positions of strategic importance like these gun platforms outside Gibraltar and places like Majorca and Iviza. I hope the Noble Lord will be able to give us an assurance on that point. The Conservative party conference last year passed a resolution to the effect that the restoration of any Colonies to Germany was undiscussable. They would find it very difficult to maintain that resolution if in fact German and Italian troops were in occupation of gun positions 1841 commanding the harbour and dockyard at Gibraltar, if they were in Majorca, if they were in I viza, and if they had submarine bases available to them in the Canary Islands and in Fernando Po.
The other point which I was delighted to hear the Secretary of State lay stress upon was our friendship with France, and this point of making certain that the withdrawal of volunteers is effective before recognising the belligerency of General Franco is a vital one for France. It is not only the Left in France under the pressure of Communists, as I see it said sometimes in Conservative newspapers, which is pressing for this. No one who reads the French Press can maintain that. Indeed, you will find that it is the Press of the Right, the publicists of the Right, like Pertinax, M. de Kerillis and many others, who are stressing the menace of German and Italian occupation of Spain to the safety of France.
Then the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State asked, "If the plan fails, what is the alternative? "I hope the noble Lord will tell us even a little more plainly than the Secretary of State did, though I would like to say that I thought the right hon. Gentleman spoke plainer words to-day than he has spoken yet in these debates on this subject. I was delighted to hear them, but perhaps the noble Lord can make them even a little plainer. If this plan fails, what is the alternative? The alternative to nonintervention is not, as a great many hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite argue, intervention. Nobody, except possibly a very small group of Members in this House with whom I am not acquainted, suggests that we should intervene on behalf of either side in Spain, and I would suggest that the alternative to non-intervention is merely the restoration to the Spanish Government of their natural right to buy arms wherever they can and to import them, of course, at their own risk. The alternative, as the Secretary of State said, is the opening of the frontiers, and if France does decide that the time has come to adopt that alternative, I hope she will receive the full support of this country. The reason why I want the Government to make clear that they envisage this alternative is not that I want the negotiations upon which they are now engaged to break down—on the contrary, I hope and pray that they will succeed—but because, if the feeling spreads 1842 among the Powers with whom they are negotiating that if the negotiations break down or if undue procrastination is allowed, we shall again retreat, we shall recognise General Franco, we shall do anything to keep out of trouble, then you are giving an incentive to those Powers to procrastinate and even to bring about the breakdown of these negotiations.
Now I want to say a word or two on the economic factors to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. He said it was easier to speak in general terms about the economic factors than to define them or to eliminate them. The right hon. Gentleman himself has managed to speak with admirable clarity as to definition. He spoke to-day, if he will allow me to say so, with admirable clarity about the removal of trade barriers being an effective step in diminishing political tension, and he has spoken before about the central problem being to promote an increase of the exports of all countries, including those of Germany. The Government have overcome the difficulties of definition, or the Secretary of State has, at any rate, admirably, nor do they find any difficulty about elimination, because what they eliminate is any action to follow up the speeches which the Secretary of State makes.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the actual steps, to the three-Power declaration of last September. When that declaration was made at Geneva, the present Minister of Agriculture, who was then Financial Secretary to the Treasury, explained elaborately why it was impossible for our Government to follow the lead which the French Government gave us of expanding quotas and reducing tariffs. The second step to which the right hon. Gentleman referred was the Van Zeeland mission. We on this side attached the utmost importance to the mission of M. Van Zeeland, and I was shocked to see how little attention was paid to M. Van Zeeland when he returned from his important visit to the United States. There was no official reception. I can tell the right hon. Gentleman that when M. Van Zeeland went, a Belgian journalist came to see me, and he said to me, "M. Van Zeeland was passing through this country yesterday. Is it true that you attach importance to his visit? Is it only you Liberals who attach importance to it? Surely the Government 1843 do? "And he went on to say," M. Van Zeeland passed through yesterday, and there was hardly any notice taken of his being in this country." If it was desired to emphasise the importance which the Government attached to M. Van Zeeland's mission, he should not merely have been received in this House by the Prime Minister. We all know that that happened, but that is the least that could happen to a distinguished Prime Minister on a friendly visit, engaged on a mission to which the Government had at least consented. He ought to have been received with great honour. Ministers and high officials of the Government ought to have met him, and the Government ought to have expressed, in no uncertain terms, the importance which they attached to his visit.
§ Mr. Eden
I would not like anybody to think for a moment that either any discourtesy or lack of attention was paid to M. Van Zeeland, for whom we all have the greatest possible respect. What in fact happened was that he only stopped here one day, and during that day he had many hours' conversation, both with the Prime Minister and with myself. I am sure that he would be the last person to say that there was any discourtesy on our part. We did not greet him with a lot of ceremony that I am sure he does not like any more than do some of us.
§ Sir A. Sinclair
The right hon. Gentleman has misconstrued my remarks. I did not accuse him or the Government of discourtesy, as he will see if he reads the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow, but I said that there was not that effort made which was necessary if we were to impress the country, to impress the world, and to impress public opinion in the United States of America with the importance which we attached to the mission of M. Van Zeeland and with our desire to do him honour on his return from the United States of America. Then the right hon. Gentleman referred to the agreement with the United States of America to improve, as he said, the economic situation and to establish peace. We know that it has got stuck on one thing after another. We are told it is Australian raisins which are now the obstacles to this agreement, which, I agree with the right hon. Gentleman, would improve the 1844 economic situation and go far to establish peace. The Government do not give this country, and they do not give public opinion in the United States of America, the impression that they are in earnest, and it requires more than the speeches of the Secretary of Slate, though I pay my tribute to him for them and though I welcome them, to convince public opinion in this country and in the United States that the Government are in earnest over that policy.
Lastly, I would refer to what the right hon. Gentleman said about the League of-Nations. He referred to the settlement of the problem of the Sanjak of Alexandretta and I am glad he did. The newspapers never pay any attention to the successes of the League—they are not news; they are not good "copy"—and I am grateful to the Secretary of State for drawing attention to this achievement of the League. Then he went on to refer to the reform of the League, and he said that public opinion was divided between those who wished to emphasise the importance of conciliation and those, who wished to strengthen collective security. But what antithesis is there between these principles? They are both vital principles, and both should be combined in any plan for the reform of the League. The hon. Member who spoke from the Front Opposition Bench referred to the ignoble part that the League had played in the Spanish imbroglio. Of course, it is, I think he will agree, because it had been broken, temporarily, over the Abyssinian fiasco. When the right hon. Gentleman the former Prime Minister, Lord Baldwin, used to say, "If the League fails, we shall all come together and build it up." I used to say in this House that it would not happen, and could not happen, that way; and in fact, as we can all see now, the League of Nations has been fatally weakened.
There is only one way in which it can be restored. It was very nearly as low in the estimation of world opinion in the summer of 1935 as it is now, and then it was restored by what appeared to be an act of faith on the part of the then Foreign Minister, who went to Geneva and made a great speech in September of that year. Then, as the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) said, all of a sudden we found that the League was alive and vigorous. Now it can only be 1845 restored in the same way. But what we then took for an act of faith, we afterwards discovered to be pure bluff. We did not know it at the time. We thought it was an act of faith, and the world thought it was an act of faith. It is in that way, and in no other way, that the power and strength and influence of the League of Nations can be restored at the present time. That is the way to check divisions on the future of the League and the principles of the League, whether they follow ideological or national lines, and I hope the Noble Lord, when he comes to reply, will be able to give us some assurance that the Government do intend to give an effective lead to the nations of the world in restoring the power and influence of the League.
§ 6.27 p.m.
§ Brigadier-General Sir Henry Croft
I hope the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) will forgive me if I do not attempt to follow him into a discussion as to how the League is to recover from the fatal accidents to which he has referred, because I want to deal with one or two other matters. Nor do I propose to go to the Far East, with other hon. and right hon. Members who have spoken about the Sino-Japanese situation, because there again, it is a very wide subject and one which is naturally occupying all the thoughts of statesmen, but I rather doubt whether we can do much good in this House by giving our views upon that subject at the present moment. I would only like to say that I listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton), in which he referred to all the retreats which had taken place in recent years. I venture to think that it would have been better for him to have omitted that word, because I never knew a retreat anything like last Thursday's. But I agree to this extent, that I feel that since the Great War we have been inclined to be bluffed out of our position very largely in the Far East, and I believe there were occasions when, if we had put our foot down rather more firmly, not by threatening war, as is so frequently done in this House nowadays, but by making it perfectly clear that we were not prepared to clear out of Hankow just because there was a momentary Bolshevik rising in that part of the world, I think we should have been in a stronger 1846 position. But that is a long story, with which I cannot deal to-day.
The right hon. Member for Caithness also on a favourite theme, which I am very much tempted to follow but I am not going to, was telling us about the economic situation. Of course, we have to look into the whole matter. He said, referring to Japan, that she was taking desperate courses in order to secure raw material. I do not want to deal with this matter at any length, for the immediate problems that confront us are more vital at this moment, although it is an important question for the consideration of the world. I must, however, make my protest once more against the suggestion that there is any raw material in the British Empire which is withheld from Japan or any other country. The right hon. Gentleman also says that we must help Japan to solve her problems. I am certain that we want to do so if we can, but there are hundreds of thousands of persons in this country whose very livelihood is being affected by the Japanese attack on their markets, and it is more a question of helping them to survive than of coming forward with some great scheme to help Japan.
I want to come to the vital matter which is affecting the whole of the old world—the question of Spain. I entirely agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) that the question of guns facing Gibraltar is one which cannot be ignored. I look at this question, however, from rather a different angle because I have made some study of it for some years. I spent a considerable time going into the whole question with a Governor of Gibraltar, who was a friend of mine. I should have thought that it was clear to artillerists that if anyone is to make our position at Gibraltar a difficult one they would need to have the guns in the interior of the country where the ships could not blow the battery to pieces and where they could not be picked up easily by ships' guns or artillery fire. That was the case in those days. Everyone who has moved along the road from Algeciras to Tarifa lately knows that it has been done openly. The gun emplacements have been evident.
§ Sir H. Croft
I will tell my right hon. Friend. It is a reason which will appeal 1847 to him as he is a fighting man who does not sit down to be shot at without some riposte. The truth of the matter is that the battleship "Jaime I" shelled Punta Carnero twice daily, and Algeciras was shelled almost daily for a long period of time, and to suggest that General Franco was not to arm himself in resisting this bombardment with land artillery seems to me to be going rather 'outside the picture.
§ Sir H. Croft
I agree that it is a vital consideration. At the same time, my right hon. Friend knows also that if you are to have the kind of attack which was being made upon these parts of the country by battleships, you must have heavy material in howitzers and guns. When my right hon. Friend says that we must watch this question, I am of course with him. Passionate supporter of Franco as I am as an individual, I never intervened in the Spanish question until the daily bombardment from the Opposition, who have Spanish influenza with a high temperature, attempted to belittle the attempts of the Government to bring peace, and I never tabled a question until last week. If at the conclusion of the Spanish War we find any attempt on the part of either Germany, or Russia, or Italy to establish themselves in any of these territories, I would say to them, "You have got to go home." It is much better to make that clear now, and not wait until we are disarmed and then insult other countries. We must make it clear before the event and say that it is a thing we will not tolerate.
The question of belligerent rights is one which is bound to receive our consideration. I will not go into the history of the Spanish Civil War. The hon. Member for Bishop Auckland used such sentences as, "There is a new technique," and "You send your agents to stir up trouble." The technique is not so new, however. It is now many years since this technique was adopted by Moscow.
§ Mr. Dalton
Do not let us get at cross purposes. The new technique is not in sending agents. It is in sending agents first and armed forces under the control of the Government afterwards.
§ Sir H. Croft
I am going to prove that that is precisely what has happened on the part of Russia during the present Civil War. Even in the time of Lenin Spain was the next objective of Russia. Six years before the Civil War parties of Spaniards, to my knowledge to the number of 300, went to Moscow to be trained in the arts of fighting revolutionary procedure. We cannot get away from these facts. They are well known. Therefore, I say the technique is not so new. It is well known everywhere that Russia was taking this very active interest in Spain before the revolution took place. I do not think anybody would challenge the right of this country if she thought it wise to grant belligerent rights to both parties in the Spanish dispute. I think it is also agreed that the only reason we have not done so is because we, with the rest of the old world, have been trying to devise a new experiment, contrary to all precedents, by which we have endeavoured to localise the trouble. The reason none of the countries has granted belligerent rights is simply that they have been trying a sort of collective international action to localise the conflagration.
Nobody will deny that the intervention of foreign forces in Spain has added to the difficulties and has greatly ruffled the surface of European diplomacy. Under the proposed plan of His Majesty's Government there are two proposals—withdrawal of volunteers and granting of belligerent rights. One of these proposals would appeal to hon. Members on the Opposition benches, and the other would appeal to me, but it is clear that we cannot get one of them alone under the intervention plan. Therefore, His Majesty's Government have done a statesmanlike thing in propounding a plan which may conceivably be accepted merely for the sheer honesty of the proposal, because it does not take sides. Although it might be statesmanship to aim at a solution by the removal of volunteers and the establishment of belligerent rights, I want to suggest that the removal of volunteers has nothing to do with the question of the recognition of belligerent rights according to international jurisprudence. I could give several instances of it, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) interjected that even in Spain this had happened. If my memory is correct there were 10,000 Englishmen under General 1849 Lacy Evans in the legitimist war which took place in Spain, and I do not think there was any great outburst in the Liberal party at that time.
We have this paradoxical situation. The Opposition take exception to granting belligerent rights because they would be granted to the insurgents in Spain, but it must be perfectly obvious that in every Civil War there has ever been one side has been the insurgents. Does this mean that the Opposition say that in every rebellion that has ever occurred, successful or otherwise, people should not have striven for what they believed to be greater freedom or for any other purpose? They cannot carry that argument very far and remain logical. The Opposition have landed themselves in this paradoxical situation. It is not our business to interfere in the form of government of any foreign country, but suppose there were a great movement in Germany or Italy towards, say, a democratic form of Government. The whole basis of the case for the Opposition is that they could not possibly support the idea of recognition of a revolt of that character. We would have to support the existing governments at Berlin and Rome. Not only that, but, as they have said several times, we would have to supply the Government with arms against the insurgents.
§ Sir H. Croft
I will take an analogy closer home. Is not the Russian Government an insurgent Government? Was it not formed out of insurgency? It was not even against the Tsar's Government, but against the only democratic Government which had been tried in Russia for many years. It was under Kerensky, and he himself was the leader of an insurgent Government. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be careful; otherwise he will be finding strained relations with some of his best friends, because I am sure the Russian Government would not approve of our laying it down that they should not be recognised and should never have got there. If we try this argument in the case of civil war in Spain we must have a lot of exploration into the friendships which we have formed in the past.
The Opposition say that General Franco has not earned the right to be treated as a belligerent. If one studies 1850 the precedents of history it will be found that his present situation fulfils the need of the grant of belligerent rights. He has a substantial portion of the country under his control, in fact much more than one-half. He has a substantial portion of the population behind him, again obviously more than one-half. My informants from Red Spain tell me that a large number of Spaniards under the Valencia Government would hail General Franco, if he came into their territory, with great joy as the saviour of their country. Again, he has organised forces and he conducts operations according to the laws of war. These things can no longer be disputed.
Although it has nothing to do with belligerency, I must refer to something which the Leader of the Opposition said in connection with General Franco. He said that he had broken his oath and that the fragments of what was the Government of Spain at the time of the civil war are still the duly constituted democratic Government of Spain. Owing to the history of Spain the position as to the oath there is somewhat different from what it is in more stable countries. I think it may be truly said that the leaders of the popular Front Government in Spain, some of them, certainly, were guilty of a breach of their oath to King Alfonso in the beginning. In the convulsions in Spain there have been a good many disloyalties; probably the whole of the Army were disloyal at that time; but I do not think that carries us very far. The difficulty is that the word "insurgent," which I have heard so often from the Opposition Front Bench in my 28 years in this House, is no longer respectable. It is only respectable to be an insurgent if you are a real left winger, because then you are probably doing something which is right! General Franco was for many years a loyal supporter of the Republican Government.
§ Sir H. Croft
The hon. Member may know more than I do, but I venture to suggest that those who have known Franco for many years would say, if it were suggested that he had been disloyal to a great movement representing the whole majority of the nation, that that was not the fact. The fact is that at this general election, from which such sad events have come to Spain, the Popular 1851 Front secured 4,350,000 votes, and the forces of the Right 4,570,000, and the voters of the Centre numbered 340,000. That shows that the people of Spain did not demand an extreme revolutionary change in the government of their country, such as took place under the Popular Front Government.
§ Mr. Arthur Henderson
Would the hon. and gallant Member argue that a minority Government is none the less not a constitutional Government?
§ Sir H. Croft
I was not arguing that. I say that the test of noses, the counting of votes, actually showed that there was no great demand for this revolutionary change in Spain, but, as a matter of fact, from the moment that Government was elected it ceased to". govern. From the moment it came into being it broke the laws of Spain and it violated the constitution. Who are the best arbiters on that point, any Member of this House or the man who was President of Spain at the time, President Alcala Zamora, who who was a Left Republican, not a Liberal? He has exposed the whole situation, the chicanery and the jobbery with regard to seats at the time of the election, and how law and order went from Spain when that Government took charge. I could give endless quotations from his speeches, but I do not want to weary the Committee. No one was more qualified to speak than he. He was President before the election, President at the election, President for some months after the election, and he has told us how the soul of Spain was torn and how law and order ceased to exist.
Long before the civil war took place in Spain there was complete disorder. Large numbers of churches were destroyed, and hundreds of others were disgracefully disfigured. Great numbers of murders took place. In the words of the "Times" as far back as June, 1936, liberty was at the mercy of the mob. In June of that year General Franco implored the Government to restore law and order. He made his great appeal, and, more important than Franco, Calvo Sotelo, went into the Cortes and made that brave speech pointing to a terrible list of disorders and deaths. He was warned at the time by a lady member, who said "This is the last speech you 1852 shall ever make," and within a week he was murdered by people who did not even take the trouble to doff their uniforms as police. That was the situation, and everybody who has studied the question knows that revolution was due to break out, planned by Moscow at that very time, and that when General Franco saw the murder of this great and enlightened patriot, no reactionary but a great, broad-minded man, he knew that the time had come when, if he was to save his country, as he believed, he had got to act. That is the truth of what happened before the civil war, but the leaders of the Socialist party here still persist in calling the Government in Spain a democratic and constitutional Government. It split at once after the civil war into four Governments. Bilbao had a Government, Santander had a Government, Barcelona and Valencia too. Everybody knows that one of those Governments has ceased to exist, the other is hard pressed and in a corner. The Government of Catalonia is busy suppressing anarchy among its own supporters, and is utterly discounted by the fourth Government, that of Valencia. There is no unity and no harmony. When hon. Members opposite speak of the democratic and duly constituted Government of Spain, which of the four do they mean? They say that it was a Government of Liberal and Radical tendencies when it was formed. I suppose they have read the remarks of the famous ex-Prime Minister, the Leader of the Radicals, Senor Alexander Lerroux. He said:In the city and province of Valencia not only have Radical Deputies been murdered but in certain villages all the members of the Radical party have been exterminated.We should not wish that fate to befall the Radicals of this country. It is an appalling fact that an ex-Prime Minister of Spain should have to tell us that all his followers in the Cortes had been murdered.
Now I come to the question of foreign intervention, because I think it is almost the basis of the case of hon. Members opposite. Though they speak very sincerely they have probably not acquainted themselves with all the facts and do not know both sides of the question. They get their propaganda from a red angle and nobody has taken the trouble up to now—General Franco has been far too busy—to answer all the gossip and rumour which goes over the wires. For instance, I read yesterday in a respectable Conservative paper an announcement from 1853 Gibraltar that General Franco had decided to expel all the British from Spain unless belligerent rights were immediately granted. The thing is grotesque. It is a great difficulty of the Foreign Secretary that these alarmist rumours should be printed day by day, and nine times out of ten are based on no facts at all. No one will deny that General Franco's advance on Madrid was only stopped by "the heroism of the International Brigade," and yet the heroism of the International Brigade was exploited before a single organised force of Italians had landed in Spain. [HoN. MEMBERS: "No!" I Not one single organised force of Italians had been engaged in battle at the time when the International Brigade held up that advance.
Duchess of Atholl
May I remind my hon. and gallant Friend that it was proved before the inquiry held by the French Government on the three Italian aeroplanes that came down in French territory last year while on the way to General Franco that they had been ordered to join him on 15th July, three days before the insurrection broke out?
§ Sir H. Croft
I am very grateful to the noble Lady for repeating what I have heard her say so often before. But that does not alter the facts. [HON. MEMBERS "Yes, it does."]. I am not denying her statement. The noble Lady and I are old colleagues in this House, and I always accept what she says. She would never make a statement here which she does not believe to be perfectly true.
§ Sir H. Croft
The Noble Lady's evidence has been thrown into the pot. I am making a speech and the Noble Lady has chipped in with her bit of evidence. I have one or two remarks to make, because I am absolutely determined that this country shall no longer fail to have the truth about intervention. [Interruption.] I have said that I accept what the Noble Lady said. At the beginning of the civil war, even before it broke out, there were stories of aeroplanes. The whole world was humming with them from Moscow to Madrid, months before the civil war broke out. How long was it before the so-called Government of Spain had aircraft in the air? I have been rather drawn off my path, 1854 but I want to say this in conclusion: There is absolute proof that there has been no preponderance of foreign intervention on one side or the other.
§ Sir H. Croft
I am going to give it. There have been great forces in the air on both sides. There has been a very substantial force, the so-called international column. It has been very difficult to ascertain the exact numbers. The right hon. Gentleman will find it difficult to get that international column out of Spain. He may send British officers down the front line trenches where they will be liable to get bombs on their heads, but how are they going to discriminate between international communists from France, Spain or Russia if they are all dressed in no uniform at all, as is the case at present? The fact remains that there is there that very large force which played a decisive part at the beginning of the war. Even to-day, in the latest attack by General Franco, two counterattacks were made by international shock troops. They have played a very substantial part in the defence of the Spanish Government.
I come to the question of the air. Does anybody deny that there has been a large number of machines from Russia and from France? I should not want to mention these facts, but day after day charges are hurled across the Table and one must mention these other countries, though not in an unfriendly way, because we have friendly relationships with all these countries. We cannot have only one side stated all the time. The best proof of the number of foreign aeroplanes on the Spanish Government side is to be found in the number which have been brought down by General Franco's troops, the aeroplanes that are in the bag. It is said that there are only 30 or 40 French or Russian machines, but that is not true.
Let us get down to the facts. Here are the actual machines which are in the bag. Pursuing planes, Lovie Nieuport, 27; Dewoitine, 12; Nieuport model (5f), 13; observation planes, Breguet National Potez, 19; Russian bombers, Sofia, 12; Natacha, 12; Martin bomber, 13; pursuit planes, Boeing and Rata, 43; Russian and French pursuing planes not separately classified, 86; or a total of 239. I am 1855 giving the House this information which is just as definite as any information given by hon. Gentlemen who interrupt over the last few months. They can accept these facts as correct from fellow-countrymen of mine in Spain who have told me that these are the facts. [HON. MEMBERS: "Name."] If it is a fact that this large number of machines has been brought down, indicating large Russian and French intervention, are we right in pretending that this intervention is only on one side? Does anybody deny that Russian tanks have been one of the most decisive factors in this war? Russian tanks are not made in Spain, are they? They are manned by Russians, are they not? Yes. I know it is good politics, although not very good at the by-elections; but it is regarded as good politics that this Chamber should be turned into the Cortes and that instead of discussing the means test and the Special Areas we should have Spain, Spain all the time.
The fact remains that as regards tanks and planes, Russian and French intervention has been of a decisive character. When the Italian attack on Madrid, which was so much advertised, took place, they advanced 25 miles and landed up where they started from. [Interruption.] I think that the hon. Member who interrupts will agree that that was "disappointing." What stopped them was that they bumped into a large number of Russian tanks and there have been far more Russian tanks since, and during the last three weeks, in spite of all the foreign aeroplanes which have been picked up, there are still a large number of foreign aeroplanes in the air. Where did they come from? Has this night flying been only on one side? Is it more wicked to have 4,000 or 5,000 German technicians in Spain, assuming that they went of their own free will, than it is to have 1,500 Englishmen recruited by members of the Socialist party in this country? Five hundred of them have lost their lives already; I do not know who is paying their widows' pensions. If we are honest we shall admit that there has been intervention on all sides, although this Government can never have it said that it has not played the game, from start to finish. The whole world owes a debt of gratitude to His Majesty's Government. The faults are pretty equal 1856 on both sides, but that does not alter the fact that the Foreign Secretary was wise in trying to get all foreigners out of Spain. It is not going to be easy, but I beg him to persist in his scheme. The whole of Europe asked the right hon. Gentleman to press his Government to provide a plan. I hope that he will not tolerate any longer this one-sided propaganda which the whole country is beginning to realise is not based on fact.
§ 7.6 p.m.
Mr. Lloyd George
The hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just spoken has very vigorously and effectively made a strong case for the complete failure of non-intervention. He says that so far from it having succeeded, everybody has broken it. He admits that Italians and Germans have broken it. He gives us facts to show that the Russians have broken it and that the French have broken it. The whole scheme having been, according to him, a demonstrable failure, he ends his speech by appealing to the Foreign Secretary to persist in his scheme. I am not going to follow him in his account of the history of the events which led to the setting up of the Government of Spain. I will just remind him that it was an election which was declared by a Government supported by the Right. It was art election which was conducted by a Government of the Right. If there was any corruption it was the fault of the Government of the Right, because they had control of the elections, and control of elections in that quarter of the world means a good deal. The election returned a majority of Members of the Left. The hon. Gentleman says that they went on to legislate and to administer in a revolutionary sense. I have been a member of a Government of the Left and I have never seen a single legislative enactment introduced by that Government but that the hon. Gentleman and his associates denounced it as confiscation, pillage, revolution, Socialism, anarchy, and, as cue great statesman said, robbery, the end of all things.
Mr. Lloyd George
He said it after he had been sacked. Naturally you do not say very nice things about those who sack you. When the hon. and gallant Member 1857 gave reasons why the Government was not democratic, one extraordinary reason was that it had split. That is one of the best proofs I know that it is a democratic Government. As for Mr. Lerroux, the President, being a Radical and a Liberal, he is just as much of a Radical and Liberal as the Chancellor of the Exchequer, not more and probably less. But I would rather proceed to discuss other matters raised by the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), because I feel that his contribution was a very important one, coming, as I know, from one who does not take exactly the same view of the dispute in Spain as I do. I do not think that he is quite as impartial in that respect as he claims to be, but, at any rate, the contribution he made was of first-class importance. I am not going to discuss the contentious part of his speech in which he described Communism as a cancer. All that I can say is that I am not a Communist, and I am not likely to be one, but Russia, considering that it is suffering from a malignant and deadly disease—and has suffered from it for 20 years—is showing a most remarkable vitality. As a matter of fact, I had some experience of Czarist Russia. I do not know what the disease was, but the corruption ran right through its veins. There was inefficiency in transport and in all kinds of production, and there is no comparison between Russia then and now.
I will come to the other part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, which, I think, was a valuable contribution, and I would like to press on the Government the questions he has put. I saw this information with great alarm in the papers, but I was not in the least surprised. With these guns placed on the Straits of Gibraltar, at one point about seven or eight miles across, and at hardly any point so wide that you cannot fire across with a great howitzer, if you have got guns of that description there you can practically close the Straits. That is a very formidable fact. It is the thing that really alarms me most of all in the whole of this situation—the close contact between the insurgent forces and authorities and the two great Fascist States in Europe, one of them a State which has made it quite clear that it means to have the control of the Mediterranean. The ruler of that State has said that in several 1858 of his speeches; he calls it an Italian lake. It is rapidly becoming an Italian lake.
Why does the Foreign Secretary imagine that these two very astute rulers, Mussolini and Hitler, are throwing themselves with such energy into this contest? They have their sympathies; so have we all. It is not their sympathies with the political principles of General Franco that has made them send 80,000 troops to Spain, hundreds of aeroplanes, heavy guns, guns that fire right across the Straits of Gibraltar, and can block it at any time. That is not the reason why they have done it. Hitler has not gone there because the insurgents have imprisoned priests. Had they done nothing but that, would he have sent forces to support the insurgents? They are following a very exalted example. He has not sent them there because in Spain they are trying to overthrow the Catholic hierarchy. What is he doing in Germany? Exactly the same thing.
Mussolini is not sending troops there because he dislikes the way the landlords in Spain are being treated and their land distributed among the tenants. I do not think that would interest him in any way. He has done it by other methods; he is doing the same thing in Italy, in Campagna and Romagna. That is not why they are sending 80,000 men there and aeroplanes, aviators, great technical details and an overwhelming mass of artillery and ammunition which smashed through the mountains into Bilbao and beyond; such a quantity of ammunition that General Franco himself said, in a declaration the other day, that he had expended only 20 per cent. of it in an operation that took nearly three months. They are sending all those forces there for an obvious reason.
Spain is in the most vital, strategic position for us of almost any country in Europe. It commands the Mediterranean. If you have a hostile Spain, armed with the best equipment of guns, the Mediterranean is closed. More than that; it is on the Atlantic. The whole of that great coast is along the Atlantic, with its magnificent harbours. The Suez Canal would be closed and the alternative route would be imperilled. The Bay of Biscay is our highway from the East, from the South, from Australia, China and India, and you have Spain right on that route, 1859 with submarine bases and air bases, which will be much more formidable in the next war so far as the mercantile marine are concerned, than they were in the last War. They were a defensive force in the last War; our aeroplanes were used for defensive purposes. In the next war they will be an attacking force. Here is this great coast, the North Coast of Spain, looking right across France and commanding the southern ports, commanding our traffic in that direction. It will be the whole of that long coast, because Portugal is now in that combination. It has become a non-parliamentary country, which means that it has become an authoritarian state. It is working in close alliance with those people.
You have got them on both sides of Gibraltar, from Ceuta and from Tarifa to Algeciras. On the other side you have all those great ports. Although Gibraltar is the most startling and sensational revelation of what is in the mind of those very astute men—we are underrating their capacity, their power, their strength, their force and even their vision—there are the Balearic Islands right on the route between France and her North African Colonies. They are there because those people want that country with its great population, its natural resources of copper and iron and its immense strategic opportunities of fighting both France and ourselves, if there is a great struggle in the future.
In a very eloquent speech, the right hon. Gentleman said that there was a great difference between 1914 and 1937, because in 1914 nobody thought there would be a war or that it would last as long, and nobody had the slightest conception of the devastation and desolation which would be wrought by it. That is true, but there is another way of looking at it. The Great War has been fought. All those military men since then in the big countries have been reckoning up why they lost, and they know that they lost only by a margin. Let anyone go through the whole of the documents as I have done, and what appears then? It makes you shudder to think how near a margin it was—if there had not been diplomatic errors like the quarrel with the United States of America. They have been at it ever since, working it out. They are considering the possibilities of the 1860 future. They do not want war now; they are working for the future.
It is not that they want war; they want to be in a position where, without war, we dare not face them on any great issue. If Franco wins, with the support of Italian volunteers, German experts and German guns, Spain will be in that combination. I know that the right hon. Gentleman says: "Nobody can conquer Spain and nobody can rule Spain except Spaniards"; they will not make that mistake. An alliance is good enough for them, an alliance from gratitude and from interest. There will be three governments, of one mind and with one conception of how to govern: anti-democratic, anti-liberty. Signor Mussolini never disguises his dislike of liberty. He does not put it second even; he puts it right down there. The next time, there will be three countries in Europe in the vital strategic position for this great sea power. I am amazed that that does not seem ever to enter into the minds of the Government. I hope that the Government will seriously consider what that position is. That does not mean that we should intervene on one side or the other, but it means that we should see that fair play is given to the democratic forces there.
In regard to intervention, there is no doubt at all that supplies have been coming to the Government, and I am not in the least challenging what has been said on that point. I have no doubt at all from what I can gather that there are about 12,000 volunteers from other countries on the Government side and about 80,000 or 90,000 on the Franco side. There is no doubt that the advantage has been overwhelmingly on his side up to the present. Non-intervention, so-called, has operated in such a way, as far as personnel is concerned, that he has five or six times as many men from foreign countries as the Government have. He has an overwhelming superiority in guns, aeroplanes and all the mechanical appliances. Where did he get them? He has no manufactories that will turn out any of those great guns or aeroplanes. They have been supplied to him by those two great dictators, who are preparing for the hegemony of Europe and to get into such a position that no one dare make war against them because the consequences might be too disastrous 1861 The right hon. Gentleman is going to try another scheme. Three have failed. We need no better proof than the admirable speech made by an hon. and gallant Gentleman. The facts and figures are irrefutable. He showed what a complete fiasco non-intervention is—a Daniel come to judgment. Three have failed; what is your guarantee that this will succeed? Your control at the ports will not prevent aeroplanes from crossing. They have got the Balearic Islands; they are just a step across. Those are in the hands of Mussolini at the present moment, and aeroplanes can pass over to Spain. What guarantee is there? Their word? They have broken three agreements. The right hon. Gentleman talked about the importance of another pact which will include two of these Powers, a great pact for Western Europe. What is needed is the restoration of international good faith before you make any more pacts.
A treaty without faith is no more use than concrete without cement; that is what keeps it together. Here you have got, within 12 months, treaty after treaty broken. Worse than that; international perfidy has become a habit, a policy, a boast. Signor Mussolini said: "I signed an agreement not to send any arms or men to Spain. See what I have done. I have sent first-class aeroplanes, and I am proud of it. I have sent soldiers, gallant men, heroes. The names of those who have fallen will he honoured in every church in Italy." He sends congratulations. He says that it is an Italian victory; yet he signed the pact. He is going to sign this one. The right hon. Gentleman says: "See how we are trusted in Europe." See how we are sized up! The Prime Minister, in one of his week-end songs of praise for himself and his Government, chanted it at Middlesbrough: There had never been anything like it—all Europe praising, trusting us. Yes, trusting that they can take us in for the fourth time. Does the right hon. Gentleman really believe that these gentlemen, after they have signed that document, will carry it out faithfully? He does well to be silent, because in a very few weeks he will find the same thing going on. I will tell him now what is going to happen. They are now convinced that General Franco has such an equipment, such a superiority, that he can finally win. But he thought so in November of last year, and in the 1862 autumn of last year. Suppose he fails, and says, "You did not give me enough; I must have more guns, more aeroplanes, more tanks, more ammunition." Does the right hon. Gentleman believe that, if Signor Mussolini and Herr Hitler and their advisers are convinced that a little more will enable General Franco to win, to capture Spain for Fascism, to capture the Spanish ports and have guns that can be turned against us in any conflict that under God's will may come to us—does he really mean to say that they would keep faith next time?
The right hon. Gentleman asks what is the alternative. The alternative is not war. The alternative is, exactly as he himself said, to leave the Spaniards to decide their own destinies. Why not? That is the one thing that has not been tried. [Interruption.] It is idle to say that it has been tried. Do not let us go into the argument as to which of them has broken the Treaty. As far as my right hon. Friend below the Gangway is concerned, I am his humble follower in this respect: they have all broken it. There has been no trial of non-intervention, and there will not be. Why not, therefore, have a straightforward transaction like that which has taken place in every other war—withdraw your controls and let them fight it out?
Mr. Lloyd George
Certainly, as long as the Governments do not do it. That is a very different thing. My proposal is that you should substitute neutrality all round for this sham and mockery of nonintervention, which is simply operating on one side. But neutrality does not mean that Signor Mussolini can organise units and that Governments can send supplies. Throw open your market, as you have done in every other war, and let them buy the stuff where they can get it. The right hon. Gentleman talks as if that had never happened before. I will tell him why the Fascist Powers do not like it. He must have noticed how scared they were the moment France said she was going to withdraw observers from her frontier. Why were they alarmed about that? At the present moment they have an overwhelming superiority in material and men, supplied by foreigners. They would like to stabilise that superiority, and, when France uttered the only threat 1863 that is going to be effective—not a threat of war, but a threat to open her frontiers—it was then that they got alarmed.
I noticed that the Fascist Press in Germany said that France had no moral right to withdraw her observers from her frontier. When Portugal did so, she, of course, had a moral right, but when France followed the example of Portugal they said it was an immoral act. Why? Because it was the one thing they were afraid of. I put this to the right hon. Gentleman. He is going to meet these negotiators again, he is going to try to put through another patched-up Treaty. Parliament will not be sitting when the failure of this fourth attempt becomes manifest. Therefore, I hope the right hon. Gentleman then will do exactly what he has now suggested. Let us leave it to the Spaniards. Let all countries be neutral. Let us simply—[Interruption.] I am putting forward a definite proposal. Whenever we criticise, the question comes from the other side, "What would you do?" I would simply do what has been done in every war of this kind before. Instead of having this sham, which is only operating on one side, and which may lead us to a conflict, because you have to interfere with the ships of other Powers, let us say, "Hands off Spain"; let us have neutrality. I put it to the right hon. Gentleman. If he finds that this thing fails, let him try the only thing that will give the Spaniards an opportunity of showing on which side their manhood lies.
§ 7.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I intervene now, not because I have the temerarious intention of taking on the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). My megalomania is too moderate for me to suppose that I am the appropriate Goliath for that David. But I intervene when I can, and I have one point to make, and some of the things which the right hon. Gentleman said had some relevance to that point. We were told by the right hon. Gentleman who speaks for the Liberals below the Gangway that nobody except perhaps a Communist or two wants intervention. But I cannot attach any meaning to the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, or to the words 1864 of the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton), if what they are asking for is not intervention tantamount to war. The hon. Member for Bishop Auckland told us more than once that it was vital that General Franco should not win, and he told us very frequently that he held as much as anyone else by the duty of protecting vital interests at all costs. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs suggested that he was flattering his predecessor by calling his account history. One might flatter him by calling his account geography, and I think one might flatter him by calling his logic logic. He told us that the dictators do not want war now, that they are working for the future, that they want to be in a position where they can dictate to us and where we dare not go to war. He told us that we need not intervene, but that we could see that what he called the democratic side had what he thought was fair play. I cannot understand how in logic that could be done without intervention.
The general error that I desire to point out seems to me to be an error from the point of view of international law in approaching this matter. Both the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs made it when they talked in terms of the natural general right in international law to buy arms where you can get them. I do not pose as an expert in international law, but I have some slight interest in the subject, and some special facilities for getting into touch with persons who are experts in international law, and I think that that is a completely false view of the position. A country which is fighting against rebels, which is fighting a civil war, has, it is true, a right to buy arms elsewhere, but only in a very loose popular general sense, which does not help the argument from the opposite benches. I can perhaps best illustrate my point by putting it in this way: I have a right to go across the road to the shop at the corner of Parliament Street and buy a red tie, but that is a right in a very loose and general sense. The chap in the shop would have the right to refuse. I have a different sort of right to buy half a pint of bitter in the pub two doors down from that. There there is a right to demand and to be supplied. It is only in that 1865 second sense of right that the argument used from the opposite benches would have any proper relevance, and in that sense there is no such general right in international law.
§ Mr. Dingle Foot
Surely there is a possibility of the disappearance of the first right. Someone might step in and prevent the shopkeeper from selling.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
The hon. Gentleman returns to the same logical fallacy; he speaks of interference with that right. My point is not whether there would or would not be that right; my point is that it is not a right in the sense which is necessary for the rest of his argument. If that be true in general, it is much more true in the particular case of Spain. It is very particularly true. Under our treaties with Spain, which were, I think, last reviewed and made precise only a very few years ago by an exchange of Notes, there are half-a-dozen grounds specifically laid down on which our Government is entitled to prohibit exports to Spain, and one of those grounds is with respect to weapons, ammunition and war material, and, in exceptional circumstances, with respect also to other materials needed in war. Therefore, I think there is no doubt, either in general international law or in the specific relations between these two countries, that there never has been any right on the part of the Spanish Government to claim to buy arms within the territories of His Majesty's Government.
Similarly, in international law it seems to me to be nonsense to assert that His Majesty's Government might not at any time during the last eight or nine months have recognised both parties as belligerents. Indeed, it may be argued, though I think not with perfect cogency, and it has been argued by Law Officers in Victorian times, in the sixties and seventies, that we were bound to grant belligerent rights. Certainly no one can argue that we have not been, for the last eight or nine months, fully entitled to recognise belligerency, and it would certainly have very much eased the administrative task of His Majesty's Government if that had been done, by bringing into operation a comparatively well understood body of laws, namely, the laws of neutrality. The administrative task would then have been very much eased, conspicuously, for instance, in the case put by the right hon. Member for Epping Mr. Churchill).
1866 Short of recognising belligerency, it was not possible not to recognise insurgency, because the facts compelled the recognition of insurgency. It is certain that, having recognised insurgency, in that very very inconvenient relationship there is a body of rules comparatively and absolutely much less well, understood, and in those circumstances the Government have followed a perfectly respectable body of American and English practice in the line that it has taken, that neither party in Spain can be allowed to exercise blockade or other belligerent rights on the high seas, but that within the three-mile limit either party may be allowed to stop, and even to capture, British ships carrying war materials or performing other injurious services involving a breach of the orders of those parties. I have not the arrogance to inflict my own views about the politics of this matter upon the House, but I believe that the political discussion has been very much muddled by the acceptance of ill-digested and ill-informed dogmatic statements about the international law of the matter. I hope I have not sounded dogmatic in my attempt to correct them. If so, it is not because I regard my voice as authoritative but because to quote precedents and references and so forth would be intolerably long.
§ 7.47 P.m.
§ Mr. A. Henderson
I do not propose to follow the hon. Member in his rather technical approach to the subject of Spain. I think the short answer to his argument is that, although it may be technically true that the Spanish Government has no legal right to come into the British market, or any other market for that matter, and obtain her supplies, it is equally true that, if there had not been an embargo placed upon the sale of supplies to the Spanish Government by this and other countries, the Spanish Government, being in friendly relations with the British Government, would have been entitled to come into the British market and obtain supplies, provided of course that individual business men were prepared to supply them. I very much doubt whether any business man who saw a prospect of making a profit on a business transaction would have found it desirable to refuse to enter into a contract with the Spanish Government if this embargo had not been placed upon him. I 1867 am sure the majority of the House will take the view that the case could not have been put more forcibly than it was by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George).
May I refer to the position at Santander? There, as the result of the advance following the capture of Bilbao, a bottling-up process is taking place which, unless something is done in the near future, will bring terrible hardship, misery and suffering to many thousands of men, women and children who are at present cooped up there. My information is that in normal times there is a population of roughly 80,000. To-day it is calculated that there are not fewer than 450,000 living within the confines of the city, including 50,000 children. Their position can only be described as terrible. It may be asked why this situation was not foreseen by the City authorities. The answer to that is, perhaps, that the speed of events has made it impossible for them to set up the necessary relief organisations and to take the necessary measures to deal with this excessive population. It may be asked why in a situation such as we find in the Basque country we should expect war to be humanised. Perhaps it is asking too much to expect war to be humanised, but I fail to see that that is any reason why those of us who are not immediately concerned with that terrible conflict should be indifferent to the sufferings of humanity. Is it not possible for the Non-Intervention Committee to consider the question of relief as regards Santander with a view to international action being taken?
I was very sorry to hear the colourless remarks of the Foreign Secretary with regard to the situation in China. He said the Government did not propose to do anything beyond making representations to both parties, but in the meantime what is happening? Japan is sending large numbers of troops and military supplies into the vicinity of Peking, and even the Foreign Secretary admitted that the situation was full of danger and that in the next few days there might be very serious events taking place in that part of China. What alarms me is the insistence of the Japanese authorities on what they call a local settlement. They seem deter-mined to exclude the central Govern- 1868 ment at Nanking from any part in any possible settlement that may take place. Japan is a party to the Nine Power Treaty, Article r of which provides:The high contracting parties agree to respect the sovereignty, independence, and territorial and administrative integrity of China.If North China comes within the jurisdiction of the central Government of Nanking, is it not contrary to the undertaking with respect to the administrative integrity of China for the Japanese authorities to insist on making a settlement with the local authorities and to seek to exclude the Nanking Government from that settlement? Article 3 of the Treaty provides:The high contracting parties agree to provide the fullest and most unembarrassed opportunities to China CD develop and maintain for herself an effective and stable Government.I wonder how the signatories to that Treaty can expect China to develop a stable Government if the Japanese Government first of all take action which has the effect of destroying Chinese government in Manchuria and then, assuming that they are successful, make a separate agreement with the local authorities of Peking. I wonder what the Foreign Secretary would say in the event of the Chinese Government asking the League Council to take action in this matter. After all, China is a Member of the League of Nations, and is entitled to the protection of the Covenant. What would the attitude of the Government be in the event of the Chinese Government asking the League Council to take action? Some may say that is not a very satisfactory solution because the United States, which is one of the signatories to the Treaty, is not a member of the League of Nations and Japan itself is no longer a member, but that was the position in 1931, at any rate as far as the United States is concerned. In October of that year the United States Government accepted the invitation conveyed to them by the League Council and their representative took part in all discussions relating to Manchuria.
But it is not only a question of the obligations of the Nine-Power Treaty or of the Covenant of the League. There is also the question of the Kellogg Pact. The Japanese Government signed the Kellogg Pact and a greed to a pacific settlement of all disputes in which they 1869 might be interested. Therefore, unless we are going to have the Chinese situation constituting another example of the indifference of Governments to their responsibilities and obligations voluntarily undertaken by treaty, whether it be the Covenant of the League, the Nine-Power Treaty, or the Kellogg Pact, I cannot conceive that the Japanese Government would refuse to face up to their responsibilities. Unless we are to assume that Japan is determined at all costs to dominate China, not only in the economic sense but also in the political and militaristic sense, I cannot see why it would not be possible to hammer out a reasonable agreement, preferably at Geneva or, failing that, amongst the nine Powers associated with the Treaty, with a view to preventing this constant friction between China and Japan in the future. It may be that at present China, through lack of unity, is not able to stand up to the military power of Japan, but, taking the long view, I should have thought that in the interest of the Japanese themselves, provided their reasonable interests are safeguarded, there could have been a settlement of all their outstanding quarrels with the Chinese nation.
With reference to the position in Europe, we have never yet been able to ascertain what exactly took place between M. Van Zeeland and the American Government and our own Government. All the time the situation is steadily deterioriating and it is vital that we should face up to the dangers of the situation. At the same time, I should like to ask the Government whether they have yet made up their minds with regard to the proposed reform of the League of Nations and of the Covenant of the League. The Foreign Secretary referred to the special committee which was set up in September of last year to deal with this question, but I listened to him very carefully, and I confess that I did not find him very illuminating on what the views of the Government were with regard to the future of the League. I should like to ask the Government whether they could give us some information with regard to the working of that special committee. What is the present position? Is it the fact that the committee are of the opinion that there is a number of questions which are ripe for immediate discussion, for example, the universality of the League, the coordination of the Covenant with the Pact 1870 of Paris and the Argentine Pact, and the separation of the Covenant from the Treaty of Versailles? What is the Government attitude with regard to these three questions? I hope that the Government will take the view that what we are actually concerned with to-day is, that it is not so much the reform of the League that is required but the reinterpretation of our obligations and responsibilities by virtue of our membership of the League.
What is perhaps more important than anything is that we require a definition of the scope and functions of the Covenant, especially under Articles 11 and 12. We heard during the Abyssinian episode that Article 11 was not drafted so as to permit of action being taken prior to the outbreak of war. Although we knew that for a period of approximately 12 months prior to the outbreak of hostilities in Abyssinia, the Italian Government were preparing for war, apparently the League Council were unable to take action under Article 11 to deal with a threat of war by reason of omissions in the Article itself. Have the Government any ideas with regard to Article 11? As the Foreign Secretary has indicated, there are two schools of thought, in reference to Article 16, that which desires the League of Nations to be turned entirely into a consultative and representative conciliation organisation, and that which seeks to strengthen the League in order to resist possible aggression in the future. I would like to know where our Government stand on that question? We have reason to believe that there are those in other parts of the British Commonwealth of Nations who take the view that Article 16 should be so amended as to avoid the necessity of any military action in the event of an actual aggression. Therefore, I should like to ask the Government where they stand on that question, and, what is of most importance, whether we can rely upon the Government to fulfil their obligations under the Covenant with all the determination that we are entitled to expect if the Covenant is to be made effective?
Many of us were grievously disappointed with the weak, vacillating attitude of the Government during the months of the Abyssinian controversy. We believed that there was nothing wrong with the Covenant of the League provided the Covenant of the League was 1871 applied. After all, the Covenant of the League is only an instrument which depends for its efficacy upon the way in which it is used, and it is no use our Government or any other Government at Geneva wasting time in considering in what way the Covenant should be strengthened, or in devising other interpretations which would clarify the obligations and responsibilities of those countries which belong to the League, if, as far as our own Government are concerned, they are not prepared faithfully to carry out their obligations under the Covenant. I hope that some of these questions will be answered by the Government in the course of the Debate, so that we may be able to make up our minds whether the Government are to be relied upon during the forthcoming months when the League Council meets to deal with this question.
There is one more point. The House is to rise next week for the Summer recess. The Foreign Secretary will be optimistic if he believes that a Anal agreement will be reached at the meeting of the Non-Intervention Committee tomorrow on the proposals contained in the White Paper. The Foreign Secretary said that the procedure at the Non-Intervention Committee was in the nature of the deliberations of this House, in which the White Paper might be taken as a Bill and that it has secured its Second Reading, and that it was to embark upon the committee stage. Hon. Members of the Committee know perfectly well that in his House there are many Bills of so controversial a nature that it would take a very long time to pass them through the Committee stage unless closure and guillotine methods were adopted. And while it may not be possible to apply such methods to a committee of 27 sovereign nations, I hope at any rate, that everything will be done to expedite the final conclusions of the Committee, and that in the unfortunate event of a breakdown in the Non-Intervention Committee on these proposals following the adjournment of Parliament, the Government will give an undertaking that, in the event of such a breakdown taking place, Parliament will immediately be called together.
The Foreign Secretary himself has indicated the serious consequences that 1872 might well arise in such an event, and if that be so and, with all the possible complications and results affecting peace and war in Europe, it will be of sufficient importance to justify this Committee requiring the Government to give an undertaking that in such circumstances they will immediately call Parliament together.
§ 8.8 p.m.
§ Mr. De Chair
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton), when he opened the Debate for the Opposition this afternoon, said that he found the reactions of Members on this side of the Committee somewhat puzzling. I do not think that he could find our reactions half so puzzling as are the reactions of hon. Members opposite to the conflagration in Spain. The lure of this Spanish conflagration to the Labour party is indeed almost inexplicable. We are all familiar with the phenomenon of moths flying towards the flame. It is possible to understand it in the case of moths, which are insects of an extremely low grade of intelligence, but it is more difficult to understand it in the case of hon. Members opposite, who have been returned to this House by large numbers of voters in the country. Yet their attraction for this civil war is of such a kind that, if they were in power, they would inevitably develop it into a world conflagration. I rather wish that some of them would have taken the advice of the Prime Minister, who cautioned us in a Debate on the subject of Spain not many weeks ago, that in these delicate matters it was like being in a high and tortuous ravine, when even a shout might start an avalanche. The hon. Member for Bishop Auckland was shouting at the avalanche all the time he was speaking this afternoon, regardless of the fact that the avalanche might descend and crush the people of this country, whom he pretends to represent, along with the people in Spain.
The attitude of the Opposition towards the civil war in Spain is indeed a puzzling one, and one can only suppose that the Leader of the Opposition has been standing rigidly to attention ever since September, 1935, while the world has flashed rapidly past him. Otherwise it is incredible that he should have learned nothing from the lessons that have taken place since then. Hon. Members op- 1873 posite chide us, as ardent Imperialists and defenders of maritime interests in the country, that we do not take a graver view of the capture of such ships as the steamship "Molton" within territorial waters. Surely, if repeated warnings are given by our Government to merchant ships that, if they enter Spanish territorial waters, they do so at their own risk, that quits the Government of further responsibility, and it is surprising to find hon. Members opposite, the Socialists, having such grave concern for these reckless capitalist shipowners. Are we to become naval underwriters for reckless commercial undertakings? Make no mistake: What rewards are received by these ships which penetrate into Spanish territorial waters are for private gain and I should like to know why hon. Members opposite have become so ardent in their defence.
I think that there is a danger, in considering the foreign situation, of concentrating too much upon the conflagration in Spain, and that is why I welcome the speech of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in taking a broader view to-day. If you are in a house where fire has broken out and you see the flames leaping up through the floorboards in one corner, you may very wisely play the hose-pipe upon them, but you do not want to go on doing that if you find that the floorboards upon which you are standing are smouldering and may at any time collapse beneath you. You have to take steps to deal with the whole of Europe and not merely with that single corner.
We want to look for a permanent cure for the ills which beset Europe to-day, not merely a palliative, and to apply it. We have to go to the fundamental causes of the grievances which are animating the rival Powers on the Continent to-day. We cannot deny that we made grievous mistakes in 1919 in the framing of the Versailles Treaty. It is perhaps too much to ask that English statesmen at that time, after the heat of an embittered conflict, and taking practical politics as they were in 1919, should have framed a more reasonable or a more just treaty than they did. But as soon as it became evident that they had made mistakes, and as soon as the mists of anger rolled away, they should have taken the initiative in securing a readjustment of Europe on a peaceful and a just basis.
1874 One of the most impossible conditions which we imposed upon Germany in 1919 was the exaction of an astronomical figure by way of reparations, when the claims of the Allies were put at 225 milliard gold marks, and subsequently cut down to 132 milliard gold marks, a figure which Germany could not possibly pay. When it became evident that Germany, herself trying to recover from the world War, was unable to pay these sums, a conference was called and the Young Plan was evolved whereby these payments were further whittled down to the more reasonable sum of 28 milliard marks. But in addition there was added the enormous figure of 84 milliard marks to cover our debts to the United States of America. That in itself was an extraordinary condition. You conceded that the nations of Europe could not bear the financial responsibility of paying their debts to America, and then turned round and said to Germany that, under the Young Plan, she should pay all of them. Clearly you were exacting an impossible burden and when reparations finally collapsed, they were wound up by the Treaty of Lausanne. But once you had admitted that the Treaty of Versailles in one of its fundamental conclusions was unworkable and that you had allowed it to pass away without occupying Germany or without applying any of the penalties threatened in 1919 if the Clauses of the treaty were broken, you took away at one sweep support from every other Clause in the Treaty of Versailles.
It was not too late in 1932 for us to take the initiative and so revise the Treaty of Versailles that the majority of the grievances which the German nation felt could have been met by us. Nor is Germany the only nation with grievances against the 1919 settlement. I am afraid that we have shown a cowardly acquiescence in the breaking of treaties by nations when they are powerful, but we have done nothing to redress the grievances of smaller nations with equal grievances, because they are not in a position to defy the combined might of the allied Powers. There is Hungary, tortured and twisted by the Treaty of Trianon, when over 3,000,000 Magyars were torn from the parent stock. There is a potential danger-spot of Europe. There we have the problem of frontiers causing grievances which are likely to give trouble. 1875 Those grievances ought to be remedied in a general settlement.
A great deal has been said about conditions in the Far East, and I think the Foreign Secretary was right in the attitude he adopted. I was glad to hear him say that our relations with both China and Japan are as friendly as possible, but I am afraid that they have not been as friendly with Japan as they ought to be. When Japan made an agreement with Germany some months ago Sir Austen Chamberlain said that it was an unfortunate and unnecessary thing to happen. On friendship and close relations with Japan our interests in the Far East depend. Before the War we had a Japanese alliance and we could then concentrate our Fleet in home waters and the North Sea, because we knew that the Japanese Navy was patrolling our eastern trade routes and safeguarding our interests in that quarter of the globe. I would ask my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary to repair the bridge to Tokyo, which has been allowed to collapse. There can be no doubt that Japan intends to penetrate into the larger part of Northern China, and experience has shown that we can do very little to prevent it. The hon. Member for Kingswinford (Mr. A. Henderson) referred to the failure of the League of Nations in 1931 to preserve Manchuria from Japan. That was because the people in this country and other countries in the League adopted the attitude which I think Bismarck made famous in a phrase that a dispute in the Balkans was "not worth the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier." This country was not prepared to march as far as the Far East in order to preserve Manchuria, and I do not think that we could or would march to preserve any part of Northern China from Japanese invasion.
Japan has built or is building a new great wall, a steel wall of men and arms for 3,000 miles along the frontier of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Russia, and intends to make that frontier secure. For that purpose she is building railways and roads, but she finds a difficulty. Those railways and roads cost a great deal of money in the barren and thinly populated area through which they go, with no possible return to the investors. Hence the demand of Japan that the fertile part 1876 of Northern China. with its dense population, shall be included in the sphere of Japanese influence. We have no alternative but to allow Japan to a large extent a free hand in Northern China, in return for her friendly interest and her friendly protection in regard to our interests in the Far East if we are in trouble at any future time. The Australians look with great anxiety towards Japan. I do not think that we need to worry about our relations with the Unite States of America if we form a close understanding with Japan. We had an alliance with Japan before the War and that did not prevent our having good relations with America, and it did not prevent America from coming into the War on our side at a later stage. Our kinship with America is the kinship of race rather than one of automatic military commitments, which we shall never be able to secure from the United States Government.
To come nearer home, the Foreign Secretary spoke of the Mediterranean as a great arterial road for the British Empire. I should call it a British Right of Way, and remarks which have been made from various quarters give rise to great anxiety as to what is happening at the exits of that right of way at each end of the Mediterranean. In the West, the pillars of Hercules are closing in upon us, and at the eastern end we are being crushed between Scylla and Charybdis. We have been squeezed out of Egypt into Palestine, and now we are squeezed out of Palestine presumably to sit with the water up to our chins in the middle of the Suez Canal! No doubt these matters are engaging the attention of my right hon. Friend and I hope he will find a solution for them.
Our main concern is that of the fundamental division of Europe into two rival camps. In the civil war in Spain we see the rivals wearing the masks of Fascism and Communism and giving a macabre performance in the Spanish theatre. The very real division of creeds is not in Spain but in the heart of Europe, and that is where we fear the clash may come. I know that the Foreign Secretary has from time to time deprecated the tendency to divide Europe into rival idealogical blocs, but those idealogical blocs are already here. If it is raining and you put up an umbrella, you may 1877 feel perfectly dry, but it is unreasonable to deprecate a tendency on the part of other people to say that it is raining, and that they are getting wet. Actually, we are faced with this clash of creeds in Europe, Communism versus Fascism. From opposing towers we hear mighty military nations hurling defiance at one another, and we may legitimately ask ourselves whether in the event of a clash we have any interest in fighting for either side to secure the dominance either of Communism or Fascism in Europe, both of which creeds are equally abhorrent to us.
In conclusion I would appeal to my right hon. Friend to take the opportunity to call a peace conference to consider not merely the dangerous situation in Spain—that is a matter for the Non-Intervention Committee to get on with—but the more fundamental grievances which are the potential causes of war in Europe. It is not after a war that you want a peace treaty. It is before a war that you want a peace treaty, a peace treaty that will make the war unnecessary. If the right hon. Gentleman calls that conference and brings about lasting peace in Europe on a just foundation he will be the greatest Foreign Secretary this country has ever had. If he fails to grasp the opportunity while there is still time he will enter upon the path of increasing commitments which this country will not be prepared to honour or will only honour to the disaster of this people and of the whole Empire.
§ 8.25 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Commander Fletcher
There are two or three points in the speech of the Foreign Secretary to which I should like to call attention, briefly. He said that it is a major interest of Great Britain that no great Power, including ourselves, should establish itself on the eastern shore of the Red Sea. With the great development of the air weapon, is it not quite possible for a great Power to have control of the Red Sea without actually, in fact, establishing itself on the eastern shore of the Red Sea? It seems to me that the development of the air weapon to-day has rendered that declaration of major policy rather inconclusive. There is a point in connection with the Capitulations in Egypt to which I should feel grateful indeed if the right hon. Gentleman would give his personal attention, and that is in connection with the effects 1878 which the Capitulations will have on the consular courts in Egypt. I think it will be found that the future prospects of the four banisters who have been practising for some years in the consular courts will he seriously affected by the alteration of business in these courts due to these Capitulations, and from information which has been given to me it would seem that their case merits particular consideration. There is a third point—the economic way to peace about which he spoke. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to take into consideration the possibility of setting on foot proposals for establishing an economic office at Geneva; in other words, putting the economic side of world affairs on a similar footing to that enjoyed by the International Labour Office and the League itself. I feel that there is a great deal to be said for completing the mechanism at Geneva by establishing an economic office there.
The contribution which has really overshadowed the Debate is that made by the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) on the question of the guns planted near Gibraltar. I hope that what the right hon. Gentleman said may perhaps bring the Conservative party to realise that we are now faced with a threat from General Franco which never would have been levelled at us by the Government of Spain although he overlooked the fact that we need not be supine in face of attack from these guns but can, for instance, retaliate from the air. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that we should raise the question of these guns with General Franco. In my opinion the fact that these guns have been mounted is a strong argument against granting belligerent rights to General Franco. If we did raise that question with him, what should we gain by doing so? The very fact that we raise the question would be used by General Franco as a pawn with which to bargain for the concession of belligerent rights. I hope we shall never yield to fear what so far we have refused in justice. I should like to ask in connection with these guns whether any communication has been received from the French General Staff in regard to German guns which it is reported have been mounted in the region of the Pyrenees occupied by General Franco and which are stated to constitute as serious a threat to France as the guns mounted near Gibraltar constitute to ourselves? 1879 I want to say a word about China. It seems to me that the crux of this dispute is that China wishes to raise her own standard of living by developing her own national resources, while Japan asks China to solve Japanese needs by putting Chinese raw materials at the disposal of Japan. These raw materials are mainly concentrated in the North of China, and China and Japan are, therefore, struggling for domination in Northern China. I think the serious feature of this is that so far Japan has never shown any inclination or aptitude for developing legitimate trade without at the same time trying to exercise political control. The Foreign Secretary made no very definite statement as to our policy or interests in the Far East. He contented himself with stating just what we were doing in this crisis. But are we going to act now, or going to stand aside and see the results which were achieved by the Leith Ross Mission lost to us?
What action are we going to take? The right hon. Gentleman, perhaps, may be going to recommend to the Chinese Government that the establishment of a Non-Intervention Committee is the quickest and most effective retort known to democracy with which to reply to foreign aggression and invasion, but if these events lead to war it must be understood that they are only a pretext on the part of Japan for war, and are not in themselves a proper cause for war. Japan at the moment has troops in Northern China far in excess of the numbers she is allowed to keep there by the Boxer Treaty, and she is making demands on China to which no self-respecting national Power could possibly agree. It is obvious that the time is opportune for Japan. China is growing stronger, and at the present moment there is a crisis in Europe and the Russian Army is severely shaken. I hope that Japan is not thinking of turning these events to her advantage. I think it is necessary that our Government should make matters so clear in the present conversations with the Japanese Government that Japan will not have a pretext for feeling that she is being encouraged to remedy her supposed grievances at the expense of China.
Two matters might well be called to the attention of the Japanese Government at this moment, and to the attention of the 1880 Japanese Economic Mission—the real horror with which many people in this country regard Japanese attitude to the drug traffic and to the smuggling. I would call the attention of hon. Members who are interested in the matter of drugs to the last report rendered to the League of Nations by the Narcotics Bureau, where the most precise and specific charges are laid against Japan of actively encouraging and profiting by this traffic, charges to which the Japanese delegate was unable to make any satisfactory reply. There is all too much reason to feel that Japan is deliberately adopting the policy of promoting the drug traffic in order to undermine the morale of the Chinese, and if they deny that this is their purpose, it is pertinent to ask why the Japanese Government actually subsidise heroin factories at the moment. As regards smuggling, what more wicked instrument of policy could be devised than to encourage smuggling which is of course the one solid item of revenue in China.
The country, however, which has dominated the Debate so far has been Spain. Judging by the Debate last Thursday and by what has appeared in the Conservative Press since, the whole of the Opposition party ought to have come here to-day wearing sackcloth and ashes.
§ Lieut.-Commander Fletcher
That is their view. I am glad that the interruption gives point to my remark. My withers are quite unwrung by those views. The Foreign Secretary came to the. House last Thursday night in a very hoity-toity mood, and he read the Opposition in general, and my right hon. Friend the leader of the Opposition in particular, quite a curtain lecture. It was all sound and fury, and reminded me of the old saying, "A weak man never looks so weak as when he is trying to be forcible." Even the Noble Lord the Under-Secretary of State was carried away by the general atmosphere and, in a very unusual style for him, emulated the Foreign Secretary, and, as a matter of fact, I thought did it rather better although he caused me as much astonishment as I should feel at seeing a rabbit turn on a weasel. The Foreign Secretary appeared to be venting on the Opposition the irritation which I have no doubt certain members of the 1881 Non-Intervention Committee cause him. The right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary could not endure one word of criticism of his precious plan. He came to the House full of pride in his belated and unexpected paternity of a plan, evidently feeling that Europe had turned to him in its extremity and that, like Pitt, he was going to save Europe. Like all parents, he would not admit the slightest defect in the offspring of his brain, and he seemed to me to speak with a great deal of vanity.
When the Government's supporters and the Government Press are so angry with the Opposition, I think it indicates that we have touched them on a very tender spot. What was it that we did on Thursday night? What was our offence? On the eve of the meeting of the Non-Intervention Committee which was to consider the plan, we made it clear, as an Opposition, that we could not give unqualified assent to the plan, and we called attention to what are admitted defects in it. Would it have been right to leave members of the Non-Intervention Committee under any misapprehension as to how we stand on that point? Moreover, what are the grounds for the objections which we raised? They are precisely those which I understand are taken up by the French in regard to this new plan. We feel that the plan approaches far more the Italo-German proposals than the Franco-British proposals. We feel that it will give immediate assistance to General Franco, and that the provisions for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Spain must be very considerably tightened up and made more precise and definite. That is exactly what the French are saying. We are told that the main hope for peace is to keep in line with the French. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) received great commendation from the Government Benches, and was thanked on behalf of the Government for calling attention to the necessity for keeping in line with the French. That is our point of view. The objections which we raised to the plan on Thursday night are precisely the objections which the French are raising to it.
When the Government complain about our having done that, and when I think of the adjectives which were levelled by 1882 the Foreign Secretary at the Leader of the Opposition for having raised these matters, my mind goes back to 1929–31, and I remember the hunting and harrying of the Foreign Secretary of those days, the late Mr. Arthur Henderson. Did hon. Members who are now Government supporters ever show the least consideration for any negotiations that he was trying to put through or work that he was trying to do? It is very difficult to deal with Tories; they want to have it both ways. Let me remind them of the motto of the pugilist, "If you cannot take it, you will never be able to give it."
Events will show that our warnings were fully justified. A great deal of the Debate on Thursday passed in an air of utter unreality. There are two main issues that have to be faced, namely, the complete lack of good faith on the part of the two countries which are mainly concerned if non-intervention is to be effective, and the question, how can Italy and Germany possibly allow Franco to be defeated if by any means in their power they can prevent it? Dictators do not hold office as Foreign Secretaries do; they hold office on the strength of prestige, and if that prestige goes, the whole game is up. Dictators can rule only by an uninterrupted course of success. That being so, Hitler and Mussolini, who have gone so far in Spain, have now reached the point where they have to see the thing through, if they can see it through. If there is any possibility that the withdrawal of troops from Spain will mean the defeat of Franco, why should we think for one moment that, in spite of what they may say in the Non-Intervention Committee, Germany and Italy will ever consent to the withdrawal of those troops? If Franco says he wants more troops, we may be sure he will get them. The lack of good faith of those countries is well known. Even while the negotiations are going on, the cinemas in Rome are showing pictures of victorious Italian troops entering Bilbao, and orders of the day are published congratulating the "Black Arrows" on what they did at Bilbao and Santander.
It is in this atmosphere that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), in his speech on Thursday night, talked about the concert of Europe. What sort of concert is there in Europe at the present time? There is no concert. If we are to adopt musical 1883 terms, we have got to say that there is "hot jazz" and "swing" in Europe at the present moment. Sentimental baritones are out of date, and hot trumpeters are all you get now. There is no concert in Europe. There are two dictators facing two democracies, and a whole lot of small countries which, like the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping, are waiting to cheer the winner. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping, who I am sorry is not here at the moment, said that he would have followed Mussolini in the march on Rome. I can well believe it. The right hon. Gentleman has always been ready to follow anybody who could offer him office. I am sorry to have to tell him that his hero, Mussolini, never marched on Rome, but remained in Milan until he heard how things were going, and then proceeded to Rome by train. I am afraid that some of these idols have feet of clay; however, as we get older we see less and less of our feet.
Some of the statements made in the Debate were grotesque. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition was told that he had not made any detailed criticisms. The Foreign Secretary, in saying that my right hon. Friend had condemned the proposals in general lines, was unjust. Anybody who reads the Debate can see that the criticisms were detailed. The failure was on the part of the Foreign Secretary, who made no attempt to reply to the criticisms, but left that task to his Noble Friend. The right hon. Gentleman said that not one nation represented on the Committee wanted this policy of non-intervention to break down. He said, again, that the Governments of Europe knew that if nonintervention broke down the risks of a European conflict would thereby inevitably be increased. But what is the use of the right hon. Gentleman talking of non-intervention as though it were something that was actually in being and functioning? What is the use of drawing these pictures of the consequences which would follow on the breakdown of nonintervention, when we know that nonintervention has never been in being and has never functioned? It has never been anything but a cloak, a means to keep the talk going while Franco got all the men and munitions he wanted. What is happening now is that, the cloak having worn threadbare, the members of the 1884 Non-Intervention Committee out of very shame have had to meet together and try to make a new cloak.
The right hon. Gentleman pats himself on the back because Europe has confidence in him and has asked him to undertake the great task of patching together a cloak to hide the nakedness of the Non-Intervention Committee. But it is a very queer sort of confidence that Europe seems to show in our Foreign Secretary. On one day at the Non-Intervention Committee the Italian and German representatives are making accusations against him of having violated the non-intervention scheme, they call him a trickster, and then they pick on the trickster as the man to produce a new scheme. Which of these statements are we to believe? Are we to believe the representatives of Italy and Germany when they accuse this country of bad faith, or are we to believe them when they select our Foreign Secretary as the only man who is honest enough to produce another scheme of non-intervention? The right hon. Gentleman may flatter himself, if he likes, that these other nations are like 26 Diogenes who have left their tubs and gone out with candles to look for an honest man and that all have happened to light on the same one—the Foreign Secretary himself. But I fear there are other cynics who will regard them as 26 "tough guys" looking for someone to hold the baby. They remind me of cardsharpers walking along the railway station platform and looking into the windows of the carriages to select a likely passenger with whom to have a game.
I agree that the invitation had to be accepted. We cannot keep on saying that this country has great influence and prestige and ought to lead and then refuse to take the lead when we arc asked to do so. But while I agree that we had to accept the invitation, do not let us have any illusions about the motives which prompted it. read that one of the delegates to the committee the other morning when our Foreign Secretary was being congratulated on his plan asked that a window should be opened because the smell of the lilies was so overpowering. I think myself that those were very artificial flowers which were handed to the Foreign Secretary the other day. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that there are only two alternatives, that either 1885 these proposals will fail or if they do not fail that the volunteers will be withdrawn and belligerent rights will be accorded. The right hon. Gentleman will not admit the possibility of a third alternative but I believe that every effort will be directed and probably with success to securing a third alternative which would be securing the granting of belligerent rights to General Franco and then humbugging about the withdrawal of volunteers. Events have shown that humbug of that nature has succeeded in the past and I believe it will succeed in the future.
Although the right hon. Gentleman does not believe in the possibility of that third alternative he did not pretend that the air proposals in this new plan are or can be effective. But without effective control of the air, what use is any plan? The root of the whole matter is the question of the withdrawal of the foreign troops. If the foreign troops are actually withdrawn then I am prepared to agree that the grant of belligerent rights might very well follow and in that matter of the grant of belligerent rights I agree that we must be guided by law and by precedents and not by prejudice. I agree that we cannot refuse to confer belligerent rights merely because it would give an advantage in a direction which did not happen to suit some of us. But before belligerent rights are accorded, General Franco must prove that he is able to stand alone and if the recognition of belligerent rights enables him to declare a blockade, there must be no clandestine naval help from Italy or Germany in such a blockade. It is no use getting the foreign troops out of Spain, and belligerent rights being accorded, if instead of the assistance of foreign troops in Spain, General Franco receives naval help which enables him effectively to blockade the Spanish Government.
His Majesty's Government must remember that our distrust in this matter is not confined to Italy and Germany alone. It extends to them as well and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness and Sutherland himself said that the non-intervention policy of the Government had continuously operated against the Spanish Government and in favour of Franco. Our confidence has been sapped by the proceedings of the Admiralty in this Spanish crisis—by the paper blockade of Bilbao, the failure to 1886 protect British shipping, the failure to afford legitimate aid to our old allies the Basques, and the readiness of the Government to act on partial and unverified information. In the Debate on 20th April the then First Lord spoke about minesweeping at Bilbao but never revealed the fact that the mine-sweeping took place on 1st April. He read a telegram from the master of the merchantship "Olavus" about having seen a mine at Bilbao but did not reveal to the House that the "Olavus" had entered Bilbao a fortnight prior to the Debate. We had all this sort of partial information; we had denials of reports which were afterwards confirmed and always the pretence of having no knowledge. I ask hon. Members to consider for instance the evasions about the guns at Gibraltar and the statements which have been torn to ribbons to-day by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping. All these things sap confidence. The people of this country have very good instincts and they feel that there is something wrong when they read of ships of His Majesty's Navy standing idly by while British merchantmen are captured and fired on by rebel ships which have no right to fire at them or to capture them.
§ Lieut.-Commander Fletcher
At any rate, there is no shadow of legality behind the acts which they commit. The last time we had any dealings with a Spanish Navy of any sort was in the days of Queen Elizabeth. I do not imagine that the present First Lord of the Admiralty would have lasted long under that Sovereign. He would soon have parted company with his head if he had reported to her such events as he has reported to this House in the last week. In this connection I would like, as a former naval officer, to pay a slight tribute to the young officers of the Navy who have had to shoulder such a burden of hard work and responsibility as a result of these events in Spain. I think they have had to carry out orders which in some cases have not been very palatable to them. If Spain wants Franco, let Spaniards alone demonstrate that fact. It is deplorable if foreign intervention is to decide, because I do not believe in this catch phrase about Spain in the long run turning against the foreigner. That is not the history of 1887 Spain. The history of Spain is very different. Spain has over and over again shown a great capacity for tolerating foreign domination. For 120 years Spain has sought foreign aid to bolster up weak Governments at home. After Waterloo, Ferdinand asked the French to leave 50,000 men in Spain for five years. Over and over again, for long periods of time, Spain has shown herself susceptible to foreign domination, so do not let us deceive ourselves with this idea that if Franco wins, the next thing would be that the Spaniards would turn round and kick the people who had helped him to win out of Spain.
I have sat here in this House and watched the pro-Franco feeling on the opposite benches growing. I have sat and listened to things that, 'honestly, I never expected to have to listen to. The Tory party, with five Admirals in its ranks, cheer and laugh over the capture of a British ship, and they regard this treatment of British ships as a pawn in their party game. The humanitarian work which many men and women have tried to do in this country for the Basque children, even that has not escaped the criticism of certain Members on the benches opposite in pursuit of their party ends. Look at the equanimity which they showed about those guns covering Gibraltar, until the right hon. Member for Epping thrust the facts about them down their throats this afternoon. Look at their indifference about British business interests in Spain, their indifference about Imperial interests, their complete indifference about French interests, although the French are supposed to be almost our allies. Such a complete lack of understanding lends colour to the tale that the Tory party is animated in regard to this matter by class prejudice. The Tories cheer Army officers for breaking their oaths. Well, they have a record in that matter, of course, in Ireland, in the events that were led by the late Lord Carson, but do Tory Members really feel that it is creditable in military officers to break their oaths? Is that really what they feel should be the conduct of what is called an officer and a gentleman? If so, all that I can say is, thank heavens there are no gentlemen on the Government side in Spain and that the officers broke their oaths.
1888 Hon. Members opposite cheer the Foreign Secretary when he attacks the Leader of the Opposition, and they also cheer the breakdown of the Foreign Secretary's policy. His foreign policy is non-intervention, and any incident which arises in this House to show that non-intervention has broken down and that General Franco is reaping some advantage is cheered by the right hon. Gentleman's supporters behind him. The right hon. Gentleman says that his foreign policy is based upon the League of Nations, but whenever the League of Nations is mentioned on these benches there is mocking laughter from some Members opposite. The right hon. Gentleman says his foreign policy is based on collective security, but whenever do you hear collective security mentioned in this House except to the accompaniment of jeers from. the other side? I wonder how the right hon. Gentleman enjoys hearing everything that he stands for jeered at and laughed at by his so-called supporters behind him? The truth is that events in Spain have revealed a latent drift towards Fascism in the Conservative party, and it will be a disaster for this country if that drift is not checked, and the ideals of democracy are not recaptured.
We are told that this war in Spain is a war of ideas. That is a war that the Tory party will never take part in. There is no fear of their engaging in a war of ideas. They have no ideas, and they do not like the idea of an idea. Ideas are something which are bad form in the mess and in the hunting field. For 18 years we, the Labour party, have been opposing ideas to slogans. So far the slogans have won, and the result of the work of the party which believes in slogans is, as the Prune Minister said, that even a word will start an avalanche. The country has shown itself prepared at this moment to put up with slogans, and we must put up with the verdict of the umpire, but we shall continue to oppose ideas of slogans, and in the end the ideas will win.
§ Commander Sir Archibald Southby
Before the hon. and gallant Members sits down, will he answer a question? He made a reference, not for the first time in this House, to laughter from this side of the House when the announcement was made of the capture of a British merchantman. I am sure he would not wish to mislead the House in any way, but is he 1889 not aware that the laughter was occasioned by the complete discomfiture of the Members of his own party when the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell), I think it was, stated that the port of Santander was free of entry, and that there was no danger of any kind for ships going in or out, and, on that statement being made, the First Lord of the Admiralty said that in fact that morning a ship had been captured? If I may say so without giving offence, it was the faces of dismay of hon. Members opposite which occasioned the laughter from this side.
§ Lieut.-Commander Fletcher
That point has already been fully dealt with by my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton). The "Times" report shows that the announcement of the capture of that ship was followed by Ministerial cheers and laughter, and, like my hon. Friend, I am content to go by the "Times" report, and not by opinions.
§ 9.3 P.m.
§ Mr. Harold Nicolson
The hon. and gallant Member who has just sat down has wandered nautically very far afield. He took us from the drug traffic in China to the arms traffic in Spain. He pushed in his adventurous course even further. He embarked on history, and he ventured to draw a parallel between present conditions and those of the spacious days of Queen Elizabeth. That was a most unfortunate parallel. For if ever there was a Monarch who would have dismissed her First Lord of the Admiralty if he had showed the slightest sign of moving away from the policy of drift, of defeat, of retreat, of delay, in fact of non-intervention, it would have been Queen Elizabeth; and no Foreign Minister and no First Lord of the Admiralty who had behaved or conducted himself in the way in which the hon. and gallant Member wishes he should conduct himself would have lived for one day; his head would have tumbled very quickly upon Tower Green.
I have with the greatest care been trying to understand and appreciate the speeches that have been made during this Debate by hon. Members opposite on this general question of foreign policy. I have tried to rid my mind of all preconceived ideas and to get at what is at the back of the minds of hon. Members opposite and what they are trying to propose. I 1890 must say that the impression of their attitude left on my mind by the Debates of these two days has not been the impression of any organised movement. It was rather the impression of a regatta in which ships of different weight and calibre, including redwings, crossed and recrossed in panic movement without at any single moment the appearance of a sense of direction. I listened with the greatest interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton). I thought that he at least would produce some definite statement, some definite idea or principle to which the many contradictions that the Opposition have offered would be related. I listened with dismay to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). I do not think I have ever heard a speech of such magnificent portent made with such an apparatus of force which was so devoid of real logic and of any real constructive thought. The right hon. Gentleman told us that we could not rely for a moment upon the good faith of any of the countries with whom we are now trying to negotiate. He told us in so many words that the opposing Powers, those Powers which are opposed to us in many ways, have now become so strong that they will get what they want without war. This was from a man who preached disarmament; who wished us to disarm and to become impotent, and who now says, "You have done what I wanted and now they have you at their mercy:" I do not think I have ever heard a speech so magnificent in delivery, so youthful in manner and so irresponsible in content.
I regret that from other speeches from other Members opposite I have not been able, much as I have tried, to find any general pattern or principle to which to relate their policy. I agree with much that they say; I agree with many of their criticisms; I agree even with some of their conclusions. I agree, for instance, that the offer to consider the British plan was not that tremendous demonstration of international confidence which it has been represented on this side to be.
§ Mr. Nicolson
I am glad the right hon. Gentleman made no such claim himself, since among the evils which afflict this world to-day the greatest are surely 1891 vanity and untruthfulness. If it is true that this was a tremendous compliment, then the Government in making a song and dance about it were being vain; and if it is untrue, then they were being untruthful. We should not make a song and dance about something which we all know is a great and well-deserved compliment to Lord Plymouth personally, but which is not an unusual episode in international affairs. I am glad, however, that it gave to the Dutch Minister, a long-tried friend of this country, an opportunity of executing the final gesture in this diplomatic minuet; a gesture with which he leaves a stage which he has for so long adorned; a gesture which was symbolic not only of his long friendship for this country but also of his age-long devotion to the cause of international co-operation. I agree also with hon. Members opposite that the aviation control provided in the British plan is not very satisfactory and that the grant of belligerent rights to Franco should only be given when the word "substantial" is interpreted in an English sense and not in a German or an Italian sense, and when we are really satisfied that what we are doing is giving recognition to a Spanish insurgent who is a party in the Spanish civil war, and not to someone who, under the guise of being Spanish, is an agent for other countries.
I want to suggest to hon. Members that we should follow the advice of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and try to be guided in our judgments by our heads rather than by our hearts. I have tried to find in the intricacy of the statements that have been made by hon. Members opposite to what principle of foreign policy they are really adhering. I think that with all justice I can work it out like this. I think that the idea common to hon. Members opposite is that the aim of our foreign policy should be to combine with other democratic countries in defending democracy wherever it is assailed. If that is a true description of their theory, then surely it is both dangerous and unreal. It is dangerous because we cannot afford nowadays to take this 19th century conception of our duty. In the 20th century we were able to indulge in the great luxury of a missionary foreign policy since we were able, owing to our unassailability, to impose our views, our judgments, our standard of life and of 1892 conduct upon other countries. We cannot do that to-day. We are no longer unassailable. We are the most vulnerable country in the world. Therefore, I feel that it is not now a question of our being able to go out to convert the heathen. It is a question of our being able to prevent the heathen coming in to convert us. Therefore, these missionary luxuries, much as I could love them, are dangerous. They are also unreal.
What really do hon. Members opposite mean by the word "democracy"? Do they mean "government by the consent of the governed"? In that case Italy and Germany would certainly be democratic countries. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Do they mean the control of the executive by the legislature? If they mean that, then the United States of America would certainly not be a democratic country. Do they mean the right of the individual, to whatever party he belongs, from whatever class he comes, to enjoy freedom of speech, freedom of movement, and freedom of writing? If thy mean that, then under these terms Russia is not a democratic country. I cannot but derive an impression that hon. Members opposite, when they talk of democracy, mean only those countries which are governed by groups of people who share their own economic and social views. Therefore, that is a party point of view. I am not accusing hon. Members opposite only of taking a party view of this Spanish controversy or of foreign affairs in general. I think that my friends here are sometimes equally to blame. I find myself, although I have tried very hard to keep my head in control of my heart, catching myself out in allowing emotional attitudes to come uppermost. I know that in the Spanish situation I desire the Spanish Government to win. If I were to say in the House what I think about Franco I should use the most turbulent language, but I try to control it.
I cannot really believe that it is possible to understand or to appreciate the Spanish situation in terms of our own feelings, sympathies and emotions. We can only do it in terms of what is really best for Spain. It is not in terms of those conflicting emotionalisms that I would appeal to the Committee to get away from partisan prejudices. You cannot run British foreign policy from the party point of view. I know that hon. Members 1893 opposite if they were in power would not adopt these partisan policies. It is obvious that they would not be friendly with France when a Blum Government was in power and then change their policy if a Blum Government were succeeded by that of M. Flandin. It is obvious that they would not base their friendship with Portugal on the question whether they approved of its Government, or their friendship with Russia on whether they thought Stalin the greatest hero of his age or a traitor to the pure doctrine of Leninism. Of course they would not do that if they were on this side of the House. They would base their foreign policy, as the French and Russian Governments base their foreign policy, upon the essential interests of their own country, and they would interpret those interests first as the preservation of peace, and secondly as the arrangement of the balance of power—and I do not at all mind using that expression—in such a way that if peace could not be preserved the balance of power would be on our side and not on the other. That would be their policy were they in power; and that is the policy of His Majesty's Government.
I do not wish to detain the Committee many minutes longer, but I do feel very strongly that throughout these Debates we have on both sides allowed passions and feelings which are, I do not say trivial—indeed they are deep and sincere—but which are after all momentary, to obscure the fact that if the world is going to be rescued from some appalling disaster there must be that dominant flywheel of international force which we call the continuity of British foreign policy. Neither on this side of the Committee nor on that side of the Committee can we allow that flywheel to get out of its centre—or to be deflected through the emotionalism of desires, passions, jealousies and hatreds. In brief, and I do not mind saying it as the right hon. Gentleman is here, I feel that our present Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs does represent in his person the greatest possible agreement that this country in foreign affairs could hope to achieve. Some Members on this side of the Committee think that he is far too much to the Left: and some on the opposite side that he is far too much on the Right; but I believe that everybody in the House, except in moments of party passion, realises that we have in him a 1894 man of self reverence, self knowledge and self control; a man very modest and very truthful; a man of rather elderly caution; a man who rea[...]lly desires to prolong peace, as Professor Keynes said the other day, every hour, every day, and every moment; a man who holds in his hands, and I believe will be able to preserve, the possibility, the slender possibility, of peace.
§ 9.19 p.m.
§ Brigadier-General Spears
The hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton), who opened the Debate, said and repeated time and time again, that Franco must not win, and went on to develop a thesis of the strategy of the campaign. He told us that Spain in the hands of a hostile Power would be a danger to us. We all know that, and the Government know it. The Foreign Secretary has time and time again declared that that would be a position which the British Government would not accept. But both the right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland and the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) forgot another main interest of this country, and that is peace. They never mentioned that. They forgot another point. Supposing that the negotiations which are now in being fail and war should ensue, where would Spain be then? We and France would be fighting for our lives on our own frontiers. Spain would be looking after herself. So even on the ground which they have selected to base their arguments upon, there is very little to be said. Our main interest is and must remain the preservation of peace.
If I happened to be, which I am not, a keen party politician, I should have welcomed last Thursday's Debate, because it showed the complete futility of the Opposition, but personally I regretted it, for it shows that there is a section of the Committee which in an emergency is incapable of taking that high, impartial and disinterested line which the world looks for from Great Britain. The Opposition show complete lack of a sense of responsibility. They fail to appreciate, what the French Socialists certainly have appreciated, that if control should fail, then troops will pour in on either side, sent in by the backers of the two factions in Spain. That means war. The Opposition have adopted the line of the minority of the Socialist party at the Con- 1895 gress at Marseilles, which took the extreme view and demanded intervention, and was beaten.
The Socialists on Thursday opposed the Government without waiting to hear what the other nations had to say. They did what they could to wreck these proposals and never examined what the alternative to the success of those proposals would be. What is that alternative? If our proposals are not accepted, if each country resumes its liberty of action, then troops and munitions will be poured in by the countries supporting the opposing factions, and who can doubt that that will lead to war? The Opposition show the same sense of lack of responsibility over the case of the "Royal Oak," which has been bandied about so much this afternoon. What was the alternative? Would they have had our man-of-war intervene in Spanish territorial waters? If the "Royal Oak" had done that, can there be any doubt that that example would have been followed by Italian ships? Is that what they want?
The fact is that in the matter of Spain the Opposition have shown themselves completely incapable of showing any impartiality, and even unwilling to do it. They see only a distorted picture. We had an example of it this afternoon. We heard a great deal about Italian and German volunteers, but we had to jog the memory of the right hon. Gentleman to remind him that there had been such a thing as an international brigade. We hear a great deal about German and Italian plots before the rebellion broke out, but we do not hear anything about the Russian intervention before the rebellion broke out. Yet everybody knows that the pundits of Sovietism have long been watching Spain, knowing that there was a most fruitful ground for rebellions because there was misery, and Communism can flourish only in misery.
§ Brigadier-General Spears
We are told that the Spanish Government represents a great ideal to the hon. Gentleman opposite. It was described by the late head of that Government, Senor Caballero, as follows:We Socialists are tired of evolution. We will now have to resort to revolutionary 1896 methods, and the moment we do so we adopt the tactics of Communism. There is no difference between Socialism and Communism. They become one and the same.I think that Signor Caballero was speaking the truth when he said that, but that is the Government which is said by hon. Members opposite to have such ideal qualities. I have not time to develop my ideas. Sometimes hon. Gentlemen are a little unkind in the amount of time they take. But I want to put in this plea, and it is a sincere one. I myself have been a non-interventionist from the beginning. I have been terrified by these campaigns waged on either side, because I saw that they could only lead to intervention and to war. The more bitterly hon. Gentlemen opposite attack their opponents, the more violently do they take sides, the more violent becomes the opposition to themselves. Out of the line taken by hon. Gentlemen opposite, Fascism is born, and I beg them to deal with this question objectively and in the interests of this country and of Europe.
§ 9.30 p.m.
I have only a few minutes, and I want to concentrate them entirely on the working of the non-intervention scheme, the new proposals and the chances that they may be made to work more successfully. I have been a close student of the non-intervention system from the first, and I have recognised that it is a frank and genuine desire to keep the war from spreading. But from the first it was vitiated because the methods chosen were designed to keep up the appearance of non-intervention rather than to create the reality. In the beginning they flouted the League and set up a new body on which Italy, Germany and Portugal were represented but Spain, the victim of their aggression, was not. This body had no coercive powers, no machinery and behaved just as pacifists and some other people would like the League to behave. It fitted the definition of Christian charity, whichsuffereth long, and is kind;…is not easily provoked; thinketh no evil.It did not turn its own cheek to the smiter, but it did its best to ensure that Spain should do so by keeping arms out of her reach. All the countries which joined sincerely in the Pact, including Russia, stopped the supply of munitions to Spain about a fortnight before Germany, Italy and Portugal even pretended 1897 to stop them. The formal proof of that is contained in the dates of signature. But a more substantial proof lies in the well known fact that by the end of September the Spanish Government were practically denuded of arms while the insurgents were saturated with them. Just in time to save Madrid Russia took a hand after giving fair notice that she would do so, in the admirable formula of M. Maisky, thathenceforth his country would respect nonintervention in the same way that it was being observed by the other Powers.The mistake of "non-intervention by example" was repeated in the ban on volunteers. Again, Germany and Italy took good care to slip all the horses out of the stable before they attempted to shut the door. The Foreign Secretary repeatedly denied that there is any evidence of a large landing of foreign troops since 20th February. I do not think that he could deny that the number of German and Italian troops, armed and sent by their own Governments, is three, four or probably five times as large as that of the foreign troops on the other side, all of whom, except a certain number of Russian technicians, are genuine volunteers. In spite of the notorious facts, Ministers when challenged in the House have invariably insinuated, if they did not assert, that breaches of non-intervention have been equal, on both sides. The unmasking of Germany's and Italy's bad faith has been done not by their fellow members of the Non-Intervention Committee whose duty it was to see fair play, but by themselves. Signor Mussolini no longer makes any pretence of neutrality even to so guileless a listener as the right hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury). Only General Franco, seemingly a little out of date as to what is happening in the world outside, still tries to outdo the gorgeous mendacity of his preceptors by declaring that:The Nationalist Army has rejected systematically all aid from foreign volunteers, because it does not need them in its work of rescuing Spain, and because of its evident technical and moral superiority.The other great mistake of the Non-Intervention Committee has been that—true to its policy of keeping up appearances rather than creating realities—during the first nine months of its existence it set up no machinery whatever for checking breaches of non-intervention, or 1898 even for obtaining first-hand impartial information as to such breaches. Even when the frontier and coastal control system was set up in May, it placed no observers in Spain itself in ports or towns, or aerodromes. The Committee has been dependent on complaints from the conflicting parties themselves, and the Non-Interventionist Governments on secret reports from their Consuls—men not selected for such a purpose, and frequently suspected of bias. Hence, when we put in this House questions as to the reality of incidents that are reported in the Press, such as the arrival of large contingents of troops, we are always met with the reply: "We have no evidence." An instance in point is that of the guns overlooking Gibraltar, which have been so much discussed in this House. It was fully five months ago that I drew attention to these guns and, putting a question in the House, received the usual reply.
One of the best parts of the new proposals is that they will place observers in the ports, however little they will function; much better, that it is proposed to send an international commission to Spain to report upon the question of the withdrawal of volunteers. That will involve ascertaining how many volunteers there are, and for whom they are fighting. What I specially want to ask is that account shall be taken of the quality as well as of the quantity of the volunteers, because one key man on either side, a commanding officer, an aviator, a tank driver or an engineer, is worth a hundred or a thousand infantry. General Franco might well be willing to part with his Italian infantry, but he would do his best to retain and to conceal his key men. From the first, Germany had the good sense to concentrate upon sending key men; therefore, if the proposals merely deal with the quantity, and if volunteers are to be withdrawn proportionately to the number fighting on each side, they will not work out fairly if the status of the volunteers is not taken into account.
Another very important point in the working of the scheme has notoriously been the lack of control over the arrival of aircraft by air. It seems lamentable that proposals dealing with this matter in the new scheme handle it as gingerly as though it were a hot brick which the proposers were prepared to drop as soon as it burnt anybody's fingers. Of course, 1899 Franco will not want to have observers placed in his aerodromes, but he can be made to agree if that is a condition precedent of the whole scheme, just as other parts of the proposals have been made conditions precedent. The Foreign Secretary himself has admitted that this is the one vital point on which the issue of the whole war turns. Therefore, it should not be dealt with in so gingerly a manner.
In view of all this, I suggest that the Government are not justified in resenting, with an air of injured innocence, the suspicions with which we regard the proposals. If the proposals are worked courageously and impartially they might not be too bad, but the British Government have never yet shown courage, or even impartiality. They have subordinated exerything to their desire to avoid provoking Germany or Italy. In pursuit of that end they have not merely flouted the League of Nations and endangered our Imperial interests in India, a struggling democracy, and our own security, but they have smirched the honour of Great Britain in the eyes of the world. A nation is not behaving honourably if it observes strictly with both sides its own international agreements, but at the same time connives at, by glossing over, the persistent breach of international agreements by others. I find that "honour" has become an unpopular word with the younger generation, but, after all, there is such a thing, and in the minds of many of us it is a thing without which, properly interpreted, life is not worth living, either for a nation or an individual.
I would make one appeal to the Government: If they carry through the proposals, let them do so in such a way that no one will have reason to suspect them, as many of us have been forced to suspect them, of not only desiring to keep out of trouble but of being animated by a real desire for General Franco to win—whatever their motives may be for it—and of a willingness to see him win by the help of his foreign Allies. Parliament is to adjourn, and much may happen in the interval. I have very little doubt that the Government will succeed in keeping out of war. The war may come later, at a time when we have destroyed one democracy after another in Europe, compelling us either to submit—[Interruption.] We shall find ourselves confronted with war at last, at a time when the complete selfishness 1900 and lack of principle of our previous policy have left us without one real friend in Europe.
§ 9.40 p.m.
Duchess of Atholl
I wish, in the first place, to endorse two appeals made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). First, that there should be stricter regulation of foreigners coming into this country. More especially, I should like to see a stricter regulation of persons coming in under what is called the "au pair" system. His second appeal was that the Government should give us information as to this serious matter of the guns said to be commanding Gibraltar and the Straits. This has been causing me deep anxiety, as my right hon. Friend knows, for at least the last four months. I wish, however, to join issue with my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping in his suggestion which is, I understand, that General Franco should be recognised as the ruler of Spain. Any action of that kind would be knuckling down to lawlessness and an encouragement of a regime which he himself admits has brought about a situation which seems full of danger to us. I believe that that suggestion, and, in part the suggestion for recognising General Franco as a belligerent, is based upon an exaggerated belief in the extent to which he has the population of Spain behind him. It may be that General Franco controls more than half of Spanish territory, but it is important to remember that he does not control the Provinces which are richest from the point of view of industrial or agricultural production. We may also ask why, if he felt he had the people behind him, he needed not only Moors, but Italian aeroplanes with him from the moment of his insurrection, and German aeroplanes from two or three weeks afterwards.
Duchess of Atholl
My hon. and gallant Friends are quite mistaken. At the time there was no Soviet Ambassador in Spain.
Duchess of Atholl
There may have been Communist propaganda in Spain although I have no evidence of its extent. I am prepared to believe that there was some; I only say that there was no Soviet Ambassador in Spain when the insurrection broke out, so that I do not suppose the Soviet Government were concerned in it. Again, I have never seen any evidence to the effect that there were Russian troops in Spain until October, and there was no international brigade in Spain until October or November. I would also say this, which is a very important matter and is not sufficiently known, that although no doubt there was Communist propaganda in Spain before the insurrection, to what extent I cannot say, there certainly was very serious Nazi propaganda and intrigue. Over 4,000 documents were seized in a Nazi headquarters in Barcelona after the insurrection broke out, and articles summarising those documents appeared in the "Manchester Guardian" as long ago as last August. A few months later, a book, "The Nazi Conspiracy in Spain," gave full translations, and in some cases photographs, of the most important of those documents. These show that from 1930 onwards the organisation was corrupting the Spanish Press, influencing politicians, influencing officers of the army and air force. There was the smuggling in of propaganda through the consulates and embassy, and, finally, smuggling in of a great consignment of so-called potatoes in the spring of 1936, which obviously must have been arms.
It is also well known that there were Fascist groups after the election in February, 1936, which openly said that they would not recognise the results of the election, and the Fascist party greatly increased in numbers in the months between February and July, 1936. Taking that fact into account and the facts disclosed in "The Nazi Conspiracy in Spain" (a perusal of which I recommend to my hon. Friends), they confirm all that I have read as to much work by agents provocateurs in those months between February and July, and this, I believe, accounts for much of the disorder and violence. There was certainly murder on both sides. Among others a well-known judge was murdered by the Fascists. As to the figures with regard to the burning and damage of churches between February and July, to which my hon. 1902 and gallant Friend referred, I understand that those figures were shown by President Azana in the Cortes to have been very much exaggerated.
I come back, however, to my original point, namely, that if General Franco had so many of the people behind him before he begun his insurrection because they objected to Communist propaganda, why was it necessary for him to have foreign aid at so early a date? Why as the months went on did we hear less and less of the Spanish people fighting for General Franco and only of Moorish and Italian troops and of German and Italian aeroplanes? Why has it recently been stated in the "Manchester Guardian," I understand on reliable information, that since the fall of Bilbao General Franco has not felt strong enough to finish the war without applying to Signor Mussolini for 125,000 more men and 500 more aeroplanes? Sometimes it is given as evidence that General Franco has the people with him that it is not necessary for him to guard his lines of communication, but the same applies to the territory of the Spanish Government, from what I saw of the lines of communication in their territory, and I venture to express my belief that the order and acquiescence which appear to exist in General Franco's territory are due to a reign of terror which he expressly enjoined on his officers in orders published on 28th July last year, a copy of which was found on an officer who was taken prisoner in the Guadarramas. More than one person has testified to me personally of this reign of terror and it was the subject of a striking indictment given by the President of the Anglo-American Press Association in a public speech in Paris last November. In this he spoke of hundreds of thousands of men in General Franco's territory having been killed mostly by being put against the wall. Moreover, in view of what was said by some hon. Members the other night about the quiet that is said to have reigned in Bilbao since General Franco's entry, I should like to point out that so far as I know no newspaper correspondents have been allowed in the town since then, and my information is that a few days after his entry no fewer than 40 courts martial had been set up in order to try people who were opposed to him.
Another indication of the extent to which the two sides can show that they 1903 are trusted by the people is this. When in April my companion and I had an interview with Senor Caballero we asked him what would be his policy at the end of the war, if the Government won, he at once said that if he were successful he would provide for a plebiscite. On the other hand, General Franco, when questioned on the same subject a few months ago, said that that was a plan not to be thought of for some time to come. I submit, therefore, that there is evidence of several different kinds which should lead us to accept with great caution any suggestion that General Franco really has behind him the people in his territory, as some hon. Members think. This is a very serious question which should be considered before giving him belligerent rights, as they, of course, would enhance his status and his authority.
I recognise, of course, that the granting of belligerent rights is to depend on a substantial withdrawal of foreigners on both sides, but obviously it may well be a very difficult matter to carry this out, because I understand that General Franco is still trying to keep up the fiction that he has no foreigners on his side. That statement appeared in an interview in yesterday's "Sunday Times." In this connection it should not be forgotten that the Spanish Government have made no difficulty whatever about saying that they would allow all foreigners on their side to go. The German Government, on the other hand, have indicated that, while they accept the proposal in principle, they want modifications, though it is not known in what direction. Evidently great pressure is likely to be put on our representative on the Non-Intervention Committee to whittle down to the smallest possible extent the requirement that foreigners should be taken out before belligerent rights are granted. In my opinion no belligerent rights should be granted until it can clearly be shown that the vast majority of foreigners have gone, and have gone in the proportions in which they are engaged on the different sides, as we must recognise that the granting of belligerent rights will give an advantage to General Franco.
Then we have to remember that, from the wording of the scheme, it seems likely to be extremely difficult to provide any air control. I must express my dis- 1904 appointment that that paragraph has not been more strongly worded, in view of what my right hon. Friend said to me in reply to a supplementary question which I put to him about a week ago. One has only to look at a map to see that Italian and German aeroplanes can fly into Spain quite easily at night, via Sardinia and Majorca, whereas planes from Russia must come by sea and can easily be intercepted. French commercial planes, of course, can fly into Spain—I do not know if they have done so—and they can be converted into bombers, but not into fighters. Moreover, I cannot remember any correspondents having mentioned that any aeroplanes of a French fighting type have been seen on General Franco's side, whereas we have heard of many Junkers, Heinkels and Fiats—
While there is certainly no difficulty about German and Italian planes getting into Spain to help General Franco, Russian planes also have managed to get into Spain to assist the Spanish Government.
Duchess of Atholl
If belligerent rights were granted to the insurgents, it would, I fancy, be much more difficult for them to get into Spain. We all want to keep out of trouble if we can, but it seems to me to be one thing to be neutral and quite another to join in fastening on the combatants an arrangement which will act unfairly against one party, and that party which, I believe, is united by an historic friendship to this country—I mean the democratic party. It is all very well for my hon. friends to smile, but I would remind them that the hallmark of democracy is freedom of political association, whereas the hallmark of dictatorship is that only one political party is allowed to exist, as it will stand no criticism. To my mind freedom of political association and freedom of religious belief are among the criteria of democracy. Freedom of religious belief is laid down in the Spanish Republican Constitution, and President Azana, since the insurrection, has declared his intention of maintaining that article in the Constitution once the war is over. On the Government side there is indeed a multiplicity of parties, which may mean weakness in an hour of emergency, out at least it means that they are a democracy, whereas on the other side only a single party exists, 1905 which, of course, is the hallmark of dictatorship.
I wish to say in conclusion that General Franco's statement a little while ago to a "Times" correspondent that Gibraltar would not be likely to be a subject of dispute between him and this country, because it had lost most of its importance for us, seems to me to be very ominous in connection with the guns which are alleged to be in position near Gibraltar, and, therefore, I welcome warmly what my right hon. Friend said about the importance of our arteries through the Mediterranean. I only hope he will do his utmost to see that this scheme is made as fair as possible to both parties, and in particular that he will do his utmost to see that the great majority of the foreigners are withdrawn before any belligerent rights are granted, in order to ensure that one day we do not have to defend those arteries against overwhelming odds.
§ 9.55 P.m.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I think no one will dispute in any quarter of the Committee that we have had a very valuable Debate. It has covered many matters, from China to Peru. I do not propose to go again over most of the ground that has been discussed, beyond saying that I hope the Noble Lord will answer, as I am sure he will, the very specific questions that have been put to him, with much greater authority than I could command, concerning Gibraltar, the Government's plan for non-intervention, the question of belligerent rights while foreign troops remain in Spain, and the rest. I want to bring the Debate back to the principle that runs through all these specific problems of foreign affairs, the general question of armaments and war. I make no apology for doing so in a Debate of this description, because in reality there is nothing else in foreign policy that matters very much except whether we can solve this general problem of the race to war in which we are engaged to-day. It is useless to put off the crisis for a few months, or even a year or two, if in the end we are going into the catastrophe which so many people are coming to think is inevitable. If we drift on as we are drifting now, we on this side of the Committee are convinced that we shall drift to disaster. I want. therefore, to take up what the Foreign Secretary said about the present position and the future of the 1906 League of Nations, and I want to press him concerning the solution that they propose and the policy which the Government advocate in dealing with this supremely important matter.
I am certain that every Member on every side of the Committee recognises the supreme importance of this question. I believe that every Member in every quarter of the Committee shares a common detestation and fear of war. It is a subject on which feeling has become intense. On Thursday, before our Adjournment Debate on Spain, an hon. Member opposite came up to me in the Lobby and said, with passion in his voice, that on the Judgment Day the Labour party would have the fate of millions of their fellow creatures on their souls. I might have replied that there are many on this side of the Committee and outside who rarely go to bed at night or get up in the morning without thinking that the Government may have upon their souls the fate of 100,000 Chinese and Japanese, 100,000 Bolivians and Paraguayans, many Abyssinians, and hundreds of thousands of Spaniards, who might still have been alive if the policy that the Government had pursued had been different from what it was.
There are many people who think that we are driving at breackneck speed to a general cataclysm in which our civilisation may be engulfed. When our passions are aroused we are all liable to think like Dr. Goebbels, who said, "We National Socialists are convinced that we are right, and we cannot bear that anyone should maintain that he is right, for either, if he is right, he must be a National Socialist, or, if he is not a National Socialist, then he is not right." I often feel like that, and I ask the House and the Foreign Secretary to forgive me if I speak in what seems to be a didactic or a provocative tone. I want to assure hon. Members opposite that I believe in the sincerity of their desire for peace. I am convinced that they want to avert the next war. I am convinced that the Foreign Secretary is striving, with great personal devotion and with untiring industry, to avert that war by the means which he believes best calculated to do so. But everyone will agree that the desire for peace is not enough. The problem of policy is how can the danger 1907 resulting from the armaments race, from the present drive to war, be dealt with?
I believe the Foreign Secretary went to the root of the matter the other day when he said that "the world will always be at the mercy of an international incident until there is a general acceptance of the rule of law. That is a fundamental of the present situation which cannot be escaped." What did he mean? Not that it would be nice to have a Utopia where every Government would do no wrong. He meant that we should never have peace until we could establish some system by which the community of States would keep order in the same way that a national Government keeps order, within the States of the civilised nations of mankind. That is to say, we must have rules which the nations will obey; courts to apply them; machinery to change the rules by peaceful means when injustice supervenes; collective power by which the rules can be upheld if they are challenged and by which the verdict of the courts can be supported, and the reduction of armed forces in the hands of individual States, so that no aggressor can menace the community as a whole.
We believe that without such machinery we can never hope for the rule of law in international affairs. Since the end of the War that rule of law has been the declared policy of every Government of this country. Our Government played a leading part in establishing the Covenant of the League. It set up rules which govern the fundamental relations of States and which, in the Kellogg Pact and the Covenant, entirely exclude the right to go to war. It set up courts to apply those laws. It established a system of collective security and joint action to restrain a potential aggressor, and to suppress aggression if it began. And the Covenant went very far. It laid down economic sanctions which are complete and automatic. It provided, as I believe, for military sanctions if they should be required, and I think that interpretation is clearly supported by Annex F of Locarno. In any case, apart from legal obligations, it is plain that, if a Government such as ours sets its hand to such a scheme, it is common sense that it should try to make it work, that it should try to ensure that it shall be so strong 1908 that no aggressor will ever challenge it. That is why the Phillimore Committee, which in reality made the first draft of Article 16 of the Covenant, said: "We have desired to make it (the sanction) as weighty as possible. We have, therefore, made it automatic, and one to which each State must contribute its force without waiting for the others."
That system was accepted by British Governments after the War. It was restated in a resolution by the Assembly of 1927, a resolution which was partly drafted by Sir Austen Chamberlain, then the Foreign Secretary. For 12 years the Commissions which prepared the way for the Disarmament Conference sought to work out in detail how that collective system could be made a reality and the way in which the sanctions of Article 16 could be applied. That system was actually used to stop four wars, and in two of those wars, before 1931, the British Government took the lead in suggesting the use of sanctions if they should be required. Precedents were being built up. The law was coming to life, because the rule of law can be established only by building up precedents as each case arises.
Then there happened in 1931 the lamentable invasion of Manchuria, followed a year later by the Chaco, and a year later by the failure of the Disarmament Conference. Nevertheless, the British people continued to hope that this new system could be brought to life, and the peace ballot proved that there was an overwhelming demand from the people of this country. that the system of collective security, through the League, should be upheld. [Laughter.] Hon. Members laugh. It was on that policy that the present Government came to power. Remember the circumstances of the last Election. The memories of the Disarmament Conference were still alive and the people, through the peace ballot, had just demanded that the Conference should be resummoned, and that it should succeed. The Abyssinian War had just begun, and the people had demanded that it should be stopped. The Government asked for a mandate. What were their pledges? I start with that great speech made at Geneva by the present Home Secretary—a speech which many people thought heralded a new epoch in international affairs, but which we found was only the first shot in a General Election 1909 campaign. The present Home Secretary said that:In conformity with its precise, explicit obligations the League stands—and my country stands with it—for the collective maintenance of the Covenant in its entirety, and particularly for steady and collective resistance to all acts of unprovoked aggression.And a week or two later the present Foreign Secretary, in a broadcast, which won more votes. I think, than all the speeches in the Election, said, from Geneva:We cannot afford to delay, for at this moment men are being killed and homes are being shattered. Action must be swift and action must he effective if the League is to achieve that end for which it was set up.In their General Election manifesto, the Government said:The League of Nations will remain, as heretofore, the keystone of British foreign policy. … We shall continue to do all in our power to uphold the Covenant and to maintain and increase the efficiency of the League. In the present unhappy dispute between Italy and Abyssinia, there will be no wavering.Unless there should be any doubt, they went on to say:Our attitude to the League is dictated by the conviction that collective security by collective action can alone save us from a return to the old system which resulted in the Great War.I commend these pledges and others that I could read to hon. Members who laugh. I remember that the Conservative party, or some Members of it, at one time called the peace ballot a fraudulent prospectus. I venture to suggest that the pledges of the Government at the last Election were really the fraudulent prospectus, and that, as the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Burton (Colonel Gretton) said the other day, there has been too much lip service to the League. I recall the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) said before the Election that the true purpose of going to the country was to restrain the mischievous activities of Mr. Eden at Geneva. Well, he turned out to be right. I want to ask the question why it is in practice that the Conservative policy is so very different from what they preach? I say with great respect that it is because they go on living in the old world of pre-War days. They do not believe that the rule of law of which the Foreign Secretary speaks has now become the one supreme, the one real vital in- 1910 terest of the British people. They do not believe that peace is indivisible; they still believe in the mirage of safety confined to one little corner of the world. They do not believe that security is only possible by an international system; they still hope for safety by national armaments alone. The truth is that the Peace Ballot showed that at the last Election certain slogans for the last Election were required. The slogans were used; they meant everything to the electors, but very little to those who used them.
I will illustrate that by three quotations from the late Prime Minister, Mr. Baldwin. He said in 1934—and the date is important, for the peace ballot had barely begun:It is a curious thing that there is growing up among the Labour party support for what is called a collective peace system. A collective peace system, in my view, is perfectly impracticable, in view of the fact to-day that the United States is not yet to our unbounded regret a member of the League of Nations. It is hardly worth considering, when these are the facts.Five months later the peace ballot was having a remarkable success, and then Mr. Baldwin said:Collective security is a difficult subject. We do not know, we cannot tell, what form it may take, but as one who has been studying and working on this question through bad times, through many years, I am driven to the conclusion that the last way we have of ensuring peace is by some means of collective security, and to that end, inside the League of Nations, the whole of Europe must get together,and so on. Then we had the full results of the peace ballot with its overwhelming majority for the League and collective security, and in October Mr. Baldwin said:I am all in favour, and the Government are all in favour (for they see no other course) of adopting as the policy of this country, as far as the League can carry it out to-day, the policy of collective security, and I am convinced that the country is behind that policy.These quotations speak for themselves. They explain the gulf between the attitude of the Conservative party and of Members on this side of the Committee. They explain why the Conservative party, which is sincerely in favour of peace, is in favour of the League in theory, but never in practice. But if we demand that the obligations of the Covenant should be upheld, the obligations, which our Government helped to draft and by which we are bound, then hon. Members 1911 opposite always say, "You want war." In 1931 the Japanese committed a flagrant aggression. We asked for the rule of law. We asked for economic sanctions. It has been proved in the Abyssinian case that economic sanctions can be applied without war following.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
Only because they were not continued. Hon. Members opposite greeted us in this House and in the country with frenzied cries of "War, war." There came the Chaco War. We asked for the rule of law. We asked for action by the League. The Foreign Secretary proved, two years too late, that it only needed an arms embargo to stop that war. But we were told that we wanted our country to fight in South America as well as in Asia. In the Abyssinian case, in July, 1936, we asked that the economic sanctions should be kept on; we thought that they were too weak that they had allowed a lot of bloodshed which could have been prevented by an oil embargo, but we knew that they were beginning to exert great pressure, and we asked that they should be maintained. The Government, which had been elected not to waver, decided to take them off; and at by-elections the electors were told on every hoarding that the Socialists wanted to drive them into war. In the Spanish case, we are told, if we suggest the action of the League, that we want war. It remains true that in the recent by-elections Conservative candidates have still been pledging themselves to the League, still saying that they were in favour even of military sanctions, but at the same time the paid canvassers of the Tory party were telling the electors that our policy means war.
§ The Deputy - Chairman (Captain Bourne)
If the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) does not give way, no other hon. Member has a right to be on his feet.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
It is true that hon. Members opposite may say that they want League action but that the difficulties are 1912 too great to be overcome. In the Chaco there were no difficulties of any kind. In regard to Spain if we had acted quickly, directly we knew, as we did last July, that Signor Mussolini had begun aggression, there would have been no difficulty, provided that our Government had meant business. In Manchuria there may have been more difficulty; I do not deny it; but I recall that the two great Conservative statesmen, Lord Cecil and Lord Lytton, both of whom were intimately concerned with handling that dispute, for the first year of the war, were convinced that if the League had been upheld, Japan would have been restrained and all bloodshed averted.
What about Abyssinia? We knew perfectly well that if the proper method of the League had been applied when Signor Mussolini first murdered Abyssinians at Wal Wal, if then a commission of inquiry had been set up, that dispute would have soon disappeared, because he would have known that we were determined to unhold the Covenant. Later, we could have settled it by an oil embargo in three months, as the League Committee reported. If we had been attacked, the Mediterranean Powers were ready to stand with us. We know that we could have stopped it alone. [HON. MEMBERS: "How?"] Sir Ernie Chatfield, First Sea Lord, surely an authority whom hon. Members opposite will accept, has told us that if the British Fleet had been required to fight during the Italo-Abyssinian War it could have brought that war to an end in a few months. The Conservative party are perfectly prepared to fight in certain circumstances. When Mussolini sent troops to Libya to threaten Egypt, the Government sent the Fleet to steam past Italian shores. Was not that a challenge to war? Is it not certain that if Mussolini had attacked Malta or Egypt or even the deserts of British Somaliland this Government would have replied by force of arms? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes!"] Yes. That: is a vital interest in the eyes of hon. Members opposite, but the Foreign Secretary's rule of law, the new system which is to bring peace to the world, is not a vital interest. That is the gulf between the Government and ourselves. And that is why I was profoundly disturbed by what the Foreign Secretary said this afternoon. He said that we should never have stable peace until 1913 we had an international organisation which could arbitrate on our disputes. But he held out very little hope that in his view any such organisation was possible in the early future. If I understood him aright we cannot use the League where non-member States are concerned. That is to say, we cannot use it in Europe because Germany and Italy are not, there; we cannot use it in America because the United States are not there; and we cannot use it in Asia, because Japan is not there. There is not much serious business left for the League to do; and as far as we can make out the Government have no intention whatever of making any attempt to use the League to establish the rule of law. They have no plan to do what my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) called turning the League into a grand alliance against aggression.
We submit that this policy has utterly and castrophically failed. They abandoned the League, first on one occasion and then on another, first, when it was difficult perhaps in Manchuria and, secondly when it was easy in Chaco. What has been the result? They have brought us to a condition where there has been war in every continent, where, as a direct result, Japan, Germany and Italy have left the League and the United States has returned to isolation; where the Disarmament Conference has been smashed, and the Washington and London Treaties broken up; where we have gone into an arms race far more terrible than anything the world has ever seen, in which the world is spending three times what it spent in 1932. The Government go on staggering from crisis to crisis, and have been obliged to fall back on what the Foreign Secretary calls "a policy of peace at almost any price." Peace at the price of Manchukuo; at the price of the Chaco; at the price of sending oil to help Mussolini to bomb Abyssinians; at the price of condoning Almeria and allowing Guernica to pass without a single protest of any kind.
Do not the Government perceive that they have already paid a price which makes war inevitable unless they call a halt? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) said this afternoon that the rule of law is being broken up and that the sanctity of international treaties was less to-day than ever before in history. The 1914 Government who by abandoning the Covenant have brought us to this pass have no plan. Their responsibility is greater than that of any other Government because this country is the natural leader of mankind. They have to-day no policy for ending our troubles, of re-establishing the sanctity of treaties or of removing the causes, economic or other, which may lead to war. We say that the League can still be used for these purposes, that it is still a practical policy to propose real security, real arbitration, real disarmament and real economic co-operation; that if the Government would come forward with bold proposals which would embrace Europe in a single system, with modified obligations for the rest of the world, if they would come forward with the real proposals for meeting the economic difficulties of Germany and other Powers, by the extension of mandates, of which my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland spoke, by the development of international trade, the development of international public works and co-operation with regard to raw materials—if the Government would do these things, they would find that in the League there are still 58 States who would be with them; that in the League there are 1,500,000,000 people against 350,000,000 outside; and that of the 350,000,000, 120,000,000 are in the United State[...], who would give their benevolent co-operation in many parts of the world.
I believe that they would find that such a League would have an attraction to the non-Member States, even to Germany and Italy, which the present policy cannot have. The only way of getting a settlement with Germany and Italy is to make a League of that kind, and to give them equal status and equal rights inside it. Instead of doing that, the Government go on drifting. Our policy is not a policy of war. It is the only policy which can prevent our going back to the pre-1914 system in which, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) has said, no Government wanted war, but in which they stumbled and staggered into war because they were pursuing the policy of armament competition. This policy is not Utopian; it is the only policy that is practical to-day. I know the Foreign Secretary wants a policy like that. I know he is very conscious of the forces—the forces of darkness—which are work- 1915 ing against him. I believe that if he would try, as an hon. Member said this evening, a great act of faith and courage, if he would stand up for our obligations, stand up for the rule of law of which he spoke, he would see that the miracle of 1935 would be repeated. There are countless homes where mothers are looking at their children with fear in their hearts, and where young men are asking whether it is to be their fate to destroy the heritage which previous generations have left to them. There are great forces on the side of the Foreign Secretary. Let him call upon them before it is too late.
§ 10.29 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Viscount Cranborne)
We have, I think, been fortunate in this House lately in that we have not had an enormous number of Debates on foreign affairs, and my right hon. Friend will certainly agree with me that we in the Foreign Office owe a debt of gratitude to hon. Gentlemen opposite for their restraint. Unfortunately, last week they staged a Debate on St. Swithin's Day, and I am very much afraid that we shall now be faced with one every day for 40 days. But we can say that the Debate to-day is in every respect very different from that which we had last Thursday. Then it was a very limited Debate, a Debate entirely on the Government proposals with regard to non-intervention. Though a good many hon. Members opposite strayed rather wide of the actual proposals, and indeed hardly mentioned them at all, at the same time they did not stray beyond the frontiers of Spain. To-day the Debate has been as wide as possible. It has been limited only by the confines of the globe. It has been, I think everyone will agree, a very important Debate—a full dress Debate in which some of the greatest figures of our Parliamentary life have taken part and if I may say so as a younger Member, it has been a great education to younger Members.
My right hon. Friend gave the Committee what we call in diplomatic parlance a tour d'horizon. He took the Committee with him on a survey which included the Far East, the Near East, the Mediterranean and Spain, and I think the Committee probably desired that that should be done, because it is desirable 1916 that we should, now and then, have a general stocktaking of the international situation. In the kaleidoscope of foreign affairs the relative importance of the various problems is constantly changing. Our attention may be concentrated on one country at a particular time, and we may wake up one morning and find that another country or another area occupies the centre of attraction. It is important, therefore, that we should not ignore areas even though at the moment they may seem peaceful and quiet. It is clear, I think, from this Debate, that hon. Members take a wide view. Many subjects have been spoken of apart from Spain.
One point about which I should like to say something was raised by the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) in the speech which has just concluded. He spoke of the use of the League of Nations and attacked His Majesty's Government for what he regarded as their failure to use the League of Nations, and said that the result was that the world was in a bad way. We know the hon. Member very well now. He is very sincere. He would sacrifice everything for something in which he believed. He would face the greatest dangers and the greatest difficulties, but there is one thing which he cannot face and that is an inconvenient fact. With him, anything which he does not like does not exist, and so we noticed that in his very interesting talk about the League, although he quoted all the failures, he mentioned none of the successes.
I do not think it is in the least true that the League has had the steady series of failures of which he spoke. The Saar plebiscite, the Hungary-Yugoslav dispute, the dispute concerning the Sanjak of Alexandretta—all these were very considerable successes of the League, and another very great success was the use of the League, in regard to the occupation of the Rhineland. To my mind, that was a shining example of what, I believe, is one of the main purposes of the League, and that is to achieve delay in an international crisis. [Laughter.] This is quite a serious point. Hon. Members who recall the outbreak of War in 1914 will remember how that crisis arose in a moment, like a thunderstorm. There was no machinery to cause delay. If there had been, it is very possible that hostilities might have been averted alto- 1917 gether. Last year's crisis was not dissimilar in many ways. It, too, arose suddenly like a thundercloud. Yet the machinery for delay was there, and a war was averted. That seems to me, in itself, to be a definite proof of the ability of the League in these days to preserve the peace of the world. At the same time it is idle to suggest that under every circumstance the League will be successful. The only way in which the League could be entirely successful would be if it were universal, if it had within it every nation in the world, and, of course, that is not true to-day. We have not got in it some of the greatest nations, and we all regret it. The United States, Brazil, Japan, Germany, and, I am afraid, to all intents and purposes Italy, are not members of the League at the present time, and, under those circumstances, it is inevitable that the powers of the League should be limited.
I will give an example of the way in which they are limited. Take the case of Spain, which the hon. Member for Derby mentioned. Constantly hon. Members opposite, and in particular he, have pressed for different action by the League than that which it has actually taken, but I think they really must face the facts. I do not believe the League is likely to take different action in present circumstances. If the hon. Member were to go to Geneva, he would find there that they recognise, as we all must recognise, that Germany and Italy are not likely to be present at Geneva, and they recognise too that under such circumstances action by the League of the type that the hon. Member wants would only accelerate the division of Europe into rival and antagonistic ideological blocs. We should have, as the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) said earlier, pacts of mutual aggression, which would bring the danger of war nearer and which would be bad also for the League, for on these ideological issues I am afraid we must face the fact that the League itself would be split, and that therefore there is no chance of that united action which is the basis of the Covenant. That is an example of the limitations which do exist in regard to League action, but, subject to those limitations, I still think that the League is a most valuable instrument, and certainly His Majesty's Government intend to continue to support it.
1918 Now, if I may go back to what I was saying earlier, although I agree that there are problems in all parts of the world which cause us very great anxiety, on the whole I think it will be agreed that the account which my right hon. Friend gave was fairly reassuring. I believe he struck a note of what may be called tempered optimism.
§ Viscount Cranborne
I will come to that later. Actually the account of foreign affairs given by my right hon. Friend has not been very greatly criticised to-day. Indeed, I honestly thought the reply of the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland was exceedingly flattering to my right hon. Friend. He hardly mentioned present affairs at all, with the exception of Spain. He gave us an interesting, if slightly biased, historical survey, he talked about Manchuquo and the origin of the Spanish dispute, he talked about the Abyssinian dispute, but I could not help feeling that he could not find anything to say against the present conduct of affairs by the Government, but that he had gone to the Library and mugged up a lot of old stuff, not at all pertinent to the discussion but better than nothing. At the same time, I, personally, feel that this note of tempered optimism which I still think my right hon. Friend used might properly and usefully be struck. A few years ago we always used to say there could be no war in our lifetime, and now there are a good many hon. Members who feel that war must occur at any moment.
It is true that there are very dark and dangerous problems which cause us anxiety, but there is something to mark up on the credit side. There is the Egyptian Treaty to which my right hon. Friend referred. That has regularised what was a temporary and uneasy relationship between this country and Egypt. It puts that relationship on a proper basis of mutual interest and long friendship, and it has been of real assistance to peace. There is the settlement of the problem of the fortification of the Dardanelles, which shows that an international agreement can be reached without force, which some people think is impossible. Then there is the settlement about the Sanjack of Alexandretta, which is a good example of what the conciliation machinery of the 1919 League can do. All these represent definite improvements in the international situation, and they mark also the solution of problems which might have seriously prejudiced the peace of the world.
It is true, of course, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) has said, that there are still black spots in the world. There is, for instance, the Far East. There can be nobody to whom the events of the last fortnight in the Far East have not caused the most accute anxiety. My right hon. Friend stated very fully the position as he understood it and there is very little I can add to what he said.
Mr. Lloyd George
I do not know whether the information which appears in the later editions of the evening papers is true, that the Chinese have rejected the Japanese demands and have made counter proposals which have been rejected by the Japanese?
§ Viscount Cranborne
We have not had official information to that effect yet, and I cannot answer about what has appeared in the later editions of the papers until we get it. At any rate, I think that it would be probably true to say that, as far as we know, neither the Japanese Government nor the Chinese Government wish to resort to the dread arbitrament of war. There is, of course, an immense danger that they may drift into war, but it is His Majesty's Government's sincere hope that an amicable arrangement will be reached. Their services will 'always be available to assist in such a settlement. The hon. Member for Bishop Auckland spoke of co-operation with the United States. He said, "Let us go as far as the United States, but do not let us go ahead of them." I was glad to hear him say that, because that was not the view he took about our action in Abyssinia. We always said we would go as far as other Members of the League but would not go ahead of them, and at that time we got a very different reception from the hon. Gentleman. At the same time, I assure him that we intend to move along with the United States. We have been in touch with them and shall continue to keep in touch with them.
1920 There remains much the most important question, and that is Spain. After the Debate last Thursday I rather hoped that we might have been spared too much talk about Spain, but, at the same time, no one can blame Members who have raised it, because it is a most difficult and dangerous situation and is uppermost in all our minds. There were certain specialised aspects on which points were raised, and perhaps it will be for the convenience of the Committee if I dealt with them first. There is the question of guns in the neighbourhood of Gibraltar which was raised by nearly every speaker. It was raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair), and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bishop Auckland. On this subject I would say this. I hope the House will not get into the state of mind that sees in every step taken by General Franco a menace to ourselves. They should remember this. We are dealing here with a civil war. As Algeciras was bombarded by the Spanish Government warship "Jaime I" early in the war it appears probable that these guns have been mounted as a defence against future bombardment. It is, after all, not unnatural that General Franco should take such measures. We should take exactly the same measures ourselves under similar circumstances. As to the suggestion that his guns actually dominate Gibraltar, whatever their purpose, I may tell the Committee that the Government naturally have taken notice of all weapons installed in the neighbourhood, as any responsible Government must do. But though I do not think it could be in the public interest to go into details, I will say that the only guns which command the fortress are inferior to those which could be trained upon them, and therefore constitute no present menace to it. Now that is all I can say to-night.
§ Mr. Dalton
The Noble Lord said that these Franco guns are inferior to those that could be trained upon them. Does he mean land guns in Gibraltar, or does he mean the guns of the Fleet?
§ Viscount Cranborne
The land guns of Gibraltar. That is all I have to say on that subject to-night.
§ Mr. Churchill
But that is not nearly enough. What is the nature of those guns, are they r2-inch or are they howitzers? Surely we could be told that.
§ Viscount Cranborne
I cannot give the the right hon. Gentleman the information. It would not be in the public interest to do so. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] can tell him this, and surely it is good enough for him and the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, that they are not so big as the guns which can be trained upon them. They are guns of a smallish calibre and, as I say, we are confident that they constitute no menace to Gibraltar.
§ Mr. Churchill
Then there is no truth in this story that there are these r2-inch howitzers planted on this part of the coast of Spain?
§ Viscount Cranborne
There is no truth that there are any 12-inch howitzers which dominate the fortress of Gibraltar or the harbour. That, I think, is clear. At the same time we reserve the right to take the matter up at any time in any manner we consider appropriate.
§ Mr. Dalton
We are entitled to the information. It is demanded on both sides of the Committee. The question which I ask the Noble Lord is, I think, a fair and proper question. He says, he does not deny, that they are r2-inch howitzers, the guns that are planted by General Franco on the shores of the Mediterranean in the neighbourhood of Gibraltar. He says they cannot hit Gibraltar from where they are. [HON. MEMBERS: "No !"] I ask him, Can they not hit British ships sailing the Western end of the Mediterranean and are they not still a danger to our shipping?
§ Viscount Cranborne
I was perfectly correct in what I said, that they cannot dominate Gibraltar or the harbour, and I said they constitute no menace and they could be dealt with, and that applies also to those particular guns to which the right hon. Gentleman now refers. I cannot tell him any more, and I should think no hon. Member would ask for more. He says that he is entitled to information about this and about that, but I do not think any Member of the House of Commons is entitled to information which it is not in the public interest to disclose.
Mr. Lloyd George
I should like to ask the noble Lord not for information with 1922 regard to our guns—it is certainly not in the public interest to give any information of that kind—but we are entitled to know what the information of the Government is with regard to the guns which have been planted by General Franco within firing distance of the harbour and the fort of Gibraltar. There is no detriment to the public interest in letting us know the size of these guns.
§ Viscount Cranborne
I cannot give the calibre of the guns, but I can tell the right hon. Gentleman perfectly frankly that they do not constitute a menace. I do know the calibre, but my information is that it would be contrary to the public interest to give the details. At the same time, if I give the right hon. Gentleman a perfectly clear statement that these guns, which do fire as far as Gibraltar, do not constitute a menace because they are dominated by guns of a larger calibre, will that satisfy him?
§ Mr. Attlee
The Noble Lord has not answered the other question. Do these guns dominate the passage of the Mediterranean by ships? Are ships endangered by these guns?
§ Viscount Cranborne
Yes, certainly these guns do fire over the Straits. They do not dominate the harbour, but they do fire over the Straits. Even with regard to these particular guns what I said before is, in the view of military experts, true of these guns. In the view of military experts they do not constitute a menace.
§ Viscount Cranborne
I would like to say a few words with regard to the main issue. His Majesty's Government's policy has been clearly expressed again and again. We believe in non-intervention. We believe that if it can be maintained it should be maintained, and that any alternative is too dangerous. We fully recognise that that is not the view of many hon. Gentlemen opposite. They have another alternative. Their alternative is to scrap non-intervention and allow this country to sell arms to the Valencia Government. There are many arguments both for and against this policy, which 1923 has been often discussed in this House. But in the view of the Government it would not, in fact, assist the Valencia Government. There seems to be an idea in the minds of the hon. Gentlemen opposite that in this country there is an immense pool of armaments which can be sold to anybody who wants them. That is not the truth. Any arms we have are needed by ourselves and certain countries with which we have treaties. On the other hand, the nations which sympathise with General Franco appear to have large supplies of arms. All that hon. Gentlemen opposite would achieve would be to destroy the dam and allow the full flood to come in.
The other reason, which is even more important, is that we honestly believe that to destroy non-intervention would greatly increase the chances of a spread of the struggle into an ideological conflict which would engulf the whole of Europe. If we come in on one side other nations will come in on the other side, and sooner or later there would be an incident, and a situation of the utmost gravity would immediately arise. The Leader of the Opposition has often said that if only we were to take a firm stand the dictators would retire. On what does he base this deduction? His position is one with which we are familiar in this country. In regard to the situation in Europe, the mentality of hon. Members opposite reminds me of that of a motorist who goes rapidly along a road, blowing his horn and accelerating even at cross-roads, and saying, "It is perfectly right for me to do so, because the other fellow is certain to get out of the way." In this country, as hon. Gentlemen know, such a driver
§ would make himself liable for a prosecution for careless or dangerous driving, and I really believe that if hon. Members opposite had been in power it would have been for manslaughter. In our private lives and in our foreign policy, the aim is to drive carefully and to make allowance for the other driver. It is not nearly so spectacular and dashing to drive safely, but you are far more likely to arrive at your destination.
The main purpose of non-intervention was to prevent the quarrel from going over the frontiers of Spain, and in that main purpose it has been effective. After a year of the Spanish civil war, the conflict has not extended, and that is something, very much, gained. The hon. Member for Bishop Auckland said that we had had very small results; but peace has been preserved, and I do not think that is a small result. I would remind the House of some words written by Lord Castlereagh in a situation very similar to that which exists to-day. He said:
The immediate object: to be kept in view is to inspire the States of Europe as long as we can with a sense of the dangers which they have surmounted Ly their union and of the hazards they will incur by a relaxation of vigilance.
That was the policy of His Majesty's Government almost exactly zoo years ago, and that is the policy to-day. Hon. Members opposite will say that it is a policy of caution; we say it is the policy of wisdom, and for that policy I ask with confidence for the support of the House.
§ Question put, "That a sum, not exceeding £84,856, be granted for the said Service."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 123; Noes, 265.1927
|Division No. 296.]||AYES.||10.59 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir F. Dyke||cove, W. G.||Gibbins, J.|
|Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple)||Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||Gibson, R. Greenock)|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Dagger, G.||Green, W. H. (Deptford)|
|Adamson, W. M.||Dalton, H.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'Isbr.)||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Grenfell, D R.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Day, H.||Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Robbie, W.||Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)|
|Banfield, J. W.||Ede, J. C.||Groves, T. E.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)|
|Barr, J.||Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)|
|Batey, J.||Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||Harris, Sir P. A.|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Foot, D. M.||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)|
|Bann, Rt. Hon. W. W.||Frankel, D.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)|
|Broad, F. A.||Gallagher, W.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Gardner. B. W.||Hills, A. (Pontefract)|
|Buchanan, G.||Garro Jones, G. M.||Hollins, A.|
|Burke, W. A.||George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd (Carn'v'r.)||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)|
|Chater, D.||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Johnston. Rt. Hon. T.|
|cluse, W. S.||George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)|
|Jones, Sir H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Nathan, Colonel H. L.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Naylor, T. E.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Kelly, W. T.||Noel-Baker, P. J.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Oliver, G. H.||Stephen, C.|
|Kirby, B. V.||Owen, Major G.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Lathan, G.||Paling, W.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Lawson, J. J.||Parker, J.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Lee, F.||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.||Thurtle, E.|
|Leslie, J. R.||Price, M. P.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Lunn, W.||Pritt, D. N.||Viant, S. P.|
|Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Rathbone, Eleanor (English Univ's.)||Walkden, A. G.|
|McEntee, V. La T.||Richards, R. (Wrexham)||Walker, J.|
|McGhee, H. G.||Ridley, G.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Maclean, N.||Ritson, J.||Watson, W. Mol.|
|MacMillan, M. (Western isles)||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. 0. (W. Brom.)||Westwood, J.|
|Mainwaring, W. H.||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)||White, H. Graham|
|Mander, G. le M.||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helena)||Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)|
|Marshall, F.||Seely, Sir H. M.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Maxton, J.||Sexton, T. M.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Messer, F.||Silkin, L.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Montague, F.||Simpson, F. B.|
|Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.|
|Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)||Mr. Charleton and Mr. Mathers.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L.||Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Cox, H. B. T.||Herbert, Capt. Sir S. (Abbey)|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Cranborne, Viscount||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon)|
|Allen, Col. J. Sandeman (B'knhead)||Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page||Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.||Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.||Holmes, J. S.|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)||Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Cross, R. H.||Hopkinson, A.|
|Ansley, Lord||Crowder, J. F. E.||Hore-Belisha, Rt. Hon. L.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Culverwell, C. T.||Horsbrugh, Florence|
|Assheton, R.||De Chair, S. S.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)|
|Astor, Major Hon. J. J. (Dover)||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Hudson, R. S. (Southport)|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Denville, Alfred||Hulbert, N. J.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Dorman-Smith, Major Sir R. H.||Hunter, T.|
|Baillie, Sir A. W. M.||Dower, v Major A. V. G.||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||James Wing-Commander A. W. H.|
|Bainiel, Lord||Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||Jarvis, Sir J. J.|
|Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M.||Duggan, H. J.||Joel, D. J. B.|
|Barrie, Sir C. C.||Eastwood, J. F.||Keeling, E. H.|
|Baxter, A. Beverley||Eckersley, P. T.||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R.|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Latham, Sir P.|
|Beit, Sir A. L.||Ellis, Sir G.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.|
|Bird, Sir R. B.||Elmley, Viscount||Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Emery, J. F.||Levy, T.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Emmott, C. E. G. C.||Lewis, O.|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Liddall, W. S.|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Entwistle, Sir C. F.||Little, Sir E. Graham-|
|Bracken, B.||Errington, E.||Llewellin, Lieut, Col. J. J.|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Erskine-Hill, A. G.||Lloyd, G. W.|
|Brass, Sir W.||Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.)||Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S.|
|Brocklebank, Sir Edmund||Fildes, Sir H.||Loftus, P. C.|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (Hexham)||Findlay, Sir E.||Lyons, A. M.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Fleming, E. L.||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)|
|Bull, B. B.||Furness, S. N.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.|
|Burghley, Lord||Fyfe, D. P. M.||McCorquodale, M. S.|
|Butcher, H. W.||Ganzoni, Sir J.||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)|
|Butler, R. A.||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J.||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Gluckstein, L. H.||McKie, J. H.|
|Cary, R. A.||Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C.||Maclay, Hon. J. P.|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Gower, Sir R. V.||Maonamara, Capt. J. R. J.|
|Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester)||Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)||Macquisten, F. A.|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Grant-Ferris, R.||Magnay, T.|
|Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Makins, Brig.-Gen. E.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n)||Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.|
|Channon, H.||Gridley, Sir A. B.||Margesaon, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Grigg, Sir E. W. M.||Markham, S. F.|
|Clarke, F. E. (Dartford)||Grimaton, R. V.||Marsden, Commander A.|
|Clarke, Lt.-Col. R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N.W.)||Mason, Lt.-Col. Hon. G. K. M.|
|Clarry, Sir Reginald||Guinness, T. L. E. B.||Maxwell, Hon. S. A.|
|Clydesdale, Marquess of||Gunston, Capt. D. W.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.|
|Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Hambro, A. V.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)|
|Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J.||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Moore, Lieut.-Col. Sir T. C. R.|
|Conant, Captain R. J. E.||Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)||Moore-Brabazon, Lt.-Col. J. T. C.|
|Cook, Sir T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.)||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)||Herbert, A. P. (Oxford U.)||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.|
|Munro, P.||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)||Tasker, Sir R. I.|
|Nall, Sir J.||Ropner, Colonel L.||Tate, Mavis C.|
|Neven-Spenoe, Major B. H. H.||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry) Taylor, Vice-Adm.||E. A. (Padd., S.)|
|Nicholson, C. (Farnham)||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)||Thomas, J- P. L.|
|Nicolson, Hon. H. G.||Rowlands, G.||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.|
|O'Connor, Sir Terence J.||Royds, Admiral P. M. R.||Titchfield, Marquess of|
|O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Russell, Sir Alexander||Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.|
|Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Palmer, G. E. H.||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)||Turton, R. H.|
|Peaks, O.||Salmon, Sir I.||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Perkins, W. R. D.||Salt, E. W.||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan|
|Petherick, M.||Samuel, M. R. A.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Sanderson, Sir F. B.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Pilkington, R.||Savory, Sir Servington||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Plugge, Capt. L. F.||Scott, Lord William||Wayland, Sir W. A|
|Ponsonby, Col. C. E.||Selley, H. R.||Wells, S. R.|
|Porritt, R. W.||Shakespeare, G. H.||Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.|
|Pownall, Lt.-Col. Sir Asaheton||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Procter, Major H. A.||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Radford, E. A.||Simmonds, O. E.||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)|
|Raikes, H. V. A.M.||Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Ramsbotham, H.||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Ramsden, Sir E.||Somervell. Sir D. B. (Crewe)||Wise, A. R.|
|Rankin, Sir R.||Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)||Spears, Brigadier-General E. L.||Wood, Hon. C. I. C.|
|Rayner, Major R. H.||Spans, W. P.||Wragg, H.|
|Reed, A. C. (Exeter)||Storey, S.||Wright, Squadron-Leader J. A. C.|
|Reid, Captain A. Cunningham||Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)|
|Reid, Sir D. D. (Down)||Strickland, Captain W. F.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.|
|Reid, W. Allan (Derby)||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw'h)||Major Sir George Davies and|
|Remer, J. R.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)||Lieut-Colonel Kerr.|
|Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ It being after Eleven o'Clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.