§ 3.39 P.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Greenwood
I beg to move,That, as the foreign policy of His Majesty's Government cannot arrest the dangerous drift towards war and is inconsistent with their election pledges, this House is of opinion that the issue should be submitted to the country without delay.In moving this Motion of Censure, I wish, in the first place, to refer to a matter which is of relatively minor importance, though it has important repercussions. Certain responsible newspapers have drawn attention to the fact that, on the occasion of the Debate last Thursday week, the Opposition did not divide the House. They must have known, as hon. Members of this House know, that we could not very well vote against the Consolidated Fund Bill. We did not do so on the previous day, when I initiated a discussion in this House on the economic outlook, although, on this side, we should have been only too glad of an opportunity to vote against the Government's complete unpreparedness for the trade depression, or recession, whenever it may come. Hon. Members know that, but the impression which the Press sought to create was that there is, in effect, no real opposition in this country to His Majesty's Government's foreign policy. This was an attempt to mislead friendly democratic Powers abroad and millions of people at home.
Let it be said at once that the Labour party is totally and irrevocably opposed to the Prime Minister's attitude and methods on this question. We have consistently held by the League and by pooled security as the only foundations of lasting peace. Recent events have not weakened our faith in them, as they have the Government's. Recent events have confirmed us in our view that that policy is the surest bulwark of peace. We have put down this Vote of Censure for three reasons: first, so that the democratic peoples of the world shall know that there are forces in this country which do not and will not subscribe to the betrayal of Britain's solemn undertakings; secondly—and I hope that, at least, this may appeal to the Prime Minister—we have put down this Vote of Censure so that those millions of our people who have consistently supported Britain's declared policy on the League and collective security, and who 40 in 1935 voted for a National Government, should realise that their principles are not to be sacrificed without a struggle; thirdly, this Vote of Censure is being debated to-day so that we may express our complete disagreement with and our abhorrence and detestation of the short-sighted and fatal policy which the Prime Minister is following, and, in this dark hour, also to express our deep feelings of sympathy for the people of Spain, whom the Prime Minister is to-day permitting to be butchered to make a Roman holiday, First, with regard to Spain. I would draw the attention of the House to the resolution of the Assembly of the League of Nations last September, when the Assembly affirmed thatevery State is under an obligation to refrain from intervening in the internal affairs of another State.
§ Mr. Greenwood
Irrelevancy is neither the soul of wit, nor the soul of wisdom. Further, the resolution of the Assembly of the League went on to say that the Assemblysincerely trusts that the diplomatic action recently initiated by certain Powers will be successful in securing the immediate and complete withdrawal of the non-Spanish combatants taking part in the struggle in Spain "—and then went on to say—and Britain is a party to this resolution:If such a result cannot be obtained in the near future, the members of the League which are parties to the non-intervention agreement will consider ending the policy of non-intervention.The National Government, as long ago as September last, by their adhesion to that resolution, recognised that intervention in Spain constituted a breach of Article no of the Covenant. In other words, looking at the end of that resolution, the Government recognised then that loyalty to their treaty obligations meant that they ought to give the legal Government of Spain every facility to defend itself and to preserve its territorial integrity and its political independence against external aggression.
On a previous occasion, the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer taunted me with having suggested that we should intervene in the Spanish War. My words, as recorded in the OFFICIAL REPORT, do not bear that 41 interpretation, but I would remind this House—and I am sorry that the First Lord of the Admiralty is not here. [HON. MEMBERS: "He is."] I beg the pardon of the House. The changes on the Government Front Bench are so kaleidoscopic that one hardly knows who is in a particular office. I am really referring to the Home Secretary. That shows the impression that the right hon. Gentleman makes on my mind, because I hardly knew that lie had left the Admiralty. On 5th November, 1919, the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, speaking in this House about intervention in Russia —ah! that is a different matter—said:I believe that a policy of no intervention is in principle a negation of everything that the League of Nations stands for. I believe that if the League of Nations is to develop and be a force in the world it will have to take sides between what it believes to be good and what it believes to be bad; and I believe that if…it stood aside and allowed it to be thought that there was no difference between one faction and another faction in Russia, it would be doomed …to sterility ….I do not believe that a policy of no intervention is possible. ''— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th November, 1919; cols. 1582–83, Vol. 120.] [Interruption.]
§ Mr. Greenwood
I draw the attention of the House to that admission. It is true that circumstances were different. If the League before it was born was to be a force in Europe, why should it not be now after the years that it has been in existence? The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister—and I am still dealing with the Spanish problem—on 24th March, referring to the conversation between the British and Italian Governments, said:Before these conversations were opened, the Italian Government informed us of their acceptance of the British formula for the withdrawal of volunteers and the granting of belligerent rights.I may say, in passing, that this House has no knowledge whatever of the contents of that formula:While gladly welcoming this assurance, I impressed upon the Italian Government, through their Ambassador, the necessity, if the conversations were to succeed, not only that they should lend whatever help they could along with others, in the bringnig into operation of the withdrawal plan, but that in the meantime the situation in Spain should not be materially altered by Italy sending fresh reinforcements.42 I draw no conclusions from the admission that there had been reinforcements before.It was never demanded or expected of the Italian Government that they should effect a unilateral withdrawal, and I think it right to say that, during these last weeks while the conversations have been proceeding, His Majesty's Government are satisfied of the fulfilment by the Italian Government of the conditions which have been indicated to them."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th March, 1938; col. 1411, V01. 333.]It was a week after that that Mussolini made one of his great speeches of brag, bluff, braggadocio and cowardice.
§ Sir Patrick Hannon
On a point of Order. Is it in accordance with the procedure and traditions of this House that the right hon. Gentleman should make observations of that kind with regard to the head of a friendly State?
§ Mr. Speaker
If I were to have my time taken up correcting hon. Members with regard to what they say about friendly States I should have time for nothing else.
§ Mr. Greenwood
I was not addressing any remarks to the real head of the Italian State—the King of Italy—but to one who is the political chief, so I understand. This is what Mussolini said on 30th March.
§ Mr. Greenwood
Signor Mussolini. I will call him anything you like.As for the airmen themselves, their prowess had become legendary. Hundreds of them possessed the experience gained in two wars.Then he went on to declare, the report states, what we all know to be the fact in Spain:The role of the Air Force was to break up enemy formations, to command the Air, and he added with emphasis, to weaken the morale of the enemy's civilian population.A little later he said:It was ridiculous for her enemies to pretend that her efforts in Abyssinia and in Spain, and the posting of a strong garrison in Libya, had left her weakened. On the contrary, the experience gained in these campaigns "—which meant official acknowledgment—quite apart from their moral value, rendered her armies more than formidable.
§ Mr. Greenwood
I am coming to the question of reinforcements. There is evidence—the Prime Minister may not accept this—that Italy has broken her word since the Italian discussions began. I saw less than three hours ago a person whose bona fides I am prepared to accept. He had just arrived from Spain. He brought me photostat copies of voluntarily-made declarations by Germans and Italians who had been captured by the Spanish Government. I can give the names. The right hon. Gentleman with no information, of course. would not be able to say whether I was right or wrong I can give particulars of the number of new aeroplanes—bombers and chasers—which have gone into Spain since the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) resigned his office as Foreign Secretary. I can prove this to my own satisfaction and, I think, to that of all reasonable people. [An HON. MEMBER: Give them."] I am prepared to publish them.
There has been, undoubtedly, a large accession of military strength to Franco's forces since the right hon. Gentleman and the Foreign Secretary began their discussions recently with the Italian Government. I have figures here of the numbers and the types of the aeroplanes which have gone there. I have photostat copies of German documents showing the structure of German air squadrons operating in Spain, one of which brought down and destroyed the last British ship to be destroyed. I have the names of the Germans who were in the aeroplane which destroyed that ship. They were brought down shortly afterwards when bombing a Spanish railway line. I have here a photostat copy of the identification card of an officer who makes very very serious admissions and who obviously does not speak without knowledge. I have not the time, because there are other questions which I wish to raise, to go further into that matter, but it seems to me that the evidence is abundant, and that since the right hon. Gentleman made it clear to the Italian Ambassador here, there has been deliberate and increased intensification of interference in the Spanish War.
§ Sir P. Hannon
On a point of Order. I want to ask, Mr. Speaker, for the guidance of the House, how far the right hon. Gentleman can travel outside the terms 44 of the Motion which he has moved? The Motion states that there is adangerous drift towards war and is inconsistent with their Election pledgesgiven by His Majesty's Government at the last election. There was no election pledge relating to Spain at the last election. How far can the right hon. Gentleman travel under the terms of his own Motion?
§ Mr. Speaker
The first part of the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman covers the ground of the right hon. Gentleman's speech.
§ Mr. Greenwood
I have already explained to the House that this Government has flagrantly broken the promise it made last September in a resolution at Geneva, and the purpose of our Vote of Censure is to criticise and to express our disapproval of the foreign policy of the Prime Minister and his friends. I have made a passing reference to the resignation of the late Foreign Secretary. I criticised him in this House and I shall probably criticise him again. But the evidence in recent weeks goes to prove that the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington was right in demanding some fulfilment of existing promises before embarking on negotiations for obtaining new promises. I think that the right lion. Member's case has been proved to the hilt.
I wish now to address to the Prime Minister a number of questions to which, I think, it is due to this House, and to the country and to Europe, that he should reply. Have the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary still no information about the agonies which the Spanish people are suffering? Are they still totally unaware of what has happened within the last week, published in columns and columns of British newspapers? Does the right hon. Gentleman still think that the Italian Government have fulfilled the conditions which he indicated to them? What perhaps is an even worse question for him to answer is this: Is it that the Prime Minister is prepared to sacrifice Spain, and, it may be, with it the British Empire? Is it that he is prepared to make this sacrifice as a means of buying off Signor Mussolini and Herr Hitler? Has the right hon. Gentleman any information—I am sure the answer is "No"—that the administration of Franco Spain 45 is now in the hands of the Germans completely and totally? Does the right hon. Gentleman accept now at its face value Signor Mussolini's statement that he has no ambitions in Spain? On 24th March the Prime Minister said:The Italian Government have now again asserted their willingness loyally to assist in the execution of the British plan, and, what is perhaps most important, they have repeated a declaration which they made some time ago and which was made public here at the time, to the effect that Italy has no territorial, political or economic aims in Spain or in the Balearic Islands. His Majesty's Government place full reliance upon the intention of the Italian Government to make good their assurances.''—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th March, 1938; col. 1409, Vol. 333.]Why that specific assurance was necessary if Italian forces were not there, I cannot understand. I ask the Prime Minister, does he still accept that assurance at its face value? Then I ask him, if the worse were to happen, which God forbid, and if for the time being Franco won, does he believe that Italy and Germany would walk out of Spain? Does he believe that the Germans in the north now, with a greedy eye on the iron mines there, will permit those mines to revert to their British owners? Would the German guns in Morocco be dismantled and their emplacements be destroyed? Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman is not aware that there are German guns there. But if it be so, after he has made full inquiries, does he believe that they would be removed after the Spanish war is over? Would the grip of Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini on the entrance to the Mediterranean be relaxed?
Is an alliance with Italy worth very much? Signor Mussolini has been tricked over Austria. His people know it; he knows it. The Italian people have prayed for years that Austria would maintain her freedom and independence. Signor Mussolini has submitted. His Roman Catholic people have watched Catholic Austria fall a victim into the German lap. The Italian people are not pro-German, and Italy has now no buffer State between her and Germany. It is a situation which is bound to create apprehension among the people of Italy, if not to Signor Mussolini himself. The Italian people are suffering in poverty; that cannot be denied. Abyssinia, part now of the new Roman Empire, is not yet conquered, nor is it likely to be for a considerable time. Before Signor Mussolini 46 can get prosperity for his people he has to liquidate his commitments in Abyssinia, Libya and Spain. No dictator ever suffered from such a spate of difficulties. And the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, in Mussolini's hour of weakness chooses to go to his aid.
All this business about Spain was not suddenly arrived at over-night. I shall quote from a letter by a man in very close touch with diplomatic circles in Rome. It was written on 27th January—not March, not February, but 27th January, and the date is important. This is what the writer says with some authority:Mussolini's object is to finish off the Spanish war quickly because it is so unpopular in Italy and such a strain on Italian resources that he cannot afford to let it drag out.Then later he says:On the other hand, he has committed himself so far officially and publicly in the Italian Press and in speeches, that he cannot allow the Spanish Government to win without dangerous repercussions at home. Moreover, he has been assured of the diplomatic support of Hitler, who shares his desire to finish off Spain in order to be free for other matters. Hitler and Mussolini have squared Stoyadinovitch so that Yugoslavia will observe a benevolent neutrality, whatever happens in Spain and Austria. Hitler is reported to have obtained a free hand in Austria from Mussolini in exchange for agreeing with his going ahead on his Spanish adventure.That letter was written in January. [HON. MEMBERS: "Who wrote it?"] I am not saying who wrote it. Hon. Members opposite have a very poor sense of humour. I know that they do not like this. I am pointing out that a man in diplomatic circles forecast over two months ago precisely what has happened. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister will have no information. I come back again to the question that I have put to him: In view of what clearly must have been a deeply-laid plan with regard to Austria and Spain, does he still believe in the good faith of the German Dictator and the Italian Dictator? These questions which I have put are not rhetorical questions. They are questions that deserve an answer and I hope, although my hopes are not strong hopes, that we may get an answer to each of them.
I should like to say some words in regard to Herr Hitler. Does the right hon. Gentleman, who frowned a little upon Herr Hitler a few weeks ago, still believe in the pledged word of Herr 47 Hitler? What of Austria? We cannot forget Austria. Austria's name has been wiped off the map of Europe. Let that be admitted, but Germany's shame will never be blotted out of the pages of history. On 21st May, 1935, Herr Hitler addressing the Reichstag on the conditions of world peace, and speaking about the Treaty of Versailles, several pages of which he had just torn up, said:The German Government will unconditionally respect the remaining Articles of the Treaty regarding international arrangements, including the territorial provisions, and will only carry out by means of peaceful understanding such revisions as may be inevitable in the course of time, and are ready at any time to agree to an international arrangement which will effectively prevent and render impossible all attempts to interfere from outside in the affairs of another State.In the same speech, 21st May, 1935, not three years ago, Herr Hitler said:Germany neither intends nor wishes to interfere in the internal affairs of Austria, to annex Austria nor to conclude an Anschluss.[An HON. MEMBER: "What is that?"] I am sorry for the ignorance of the hon. Member. He has got an Anschluss now. In July, 1936, a year and nine months ago, an agreement was concluded between the German Gvernment and the Austrian Government. What the details were I do not know, but Dr. Goebbels, who speaks with the authentic voice of the Feuhrer, said, in a broadcast speech:The German Government recognises the full Sovereignty of the Federal State of Austria.Early this year, when an agreement was concluded between Herr Hitler and Dr. Von Schuschnigg, particulars of which have not yet been made public, Herr Hitler, in his speech to the Reichstag, said:The terms of the agreement were within the framework of the agreement of 11th July, 1936.Where he said:The German Government recognises the full Sovereignty of the Federal State of Austria.I ask the House, what reliance is to be placed on the word of a man who six weeks ago said in public that he honoured the integrity of Austria, and has now destroyed Austria?
I should like to ask the Prime Minister whether he has read any more of Field Marshal Goering's speech in Vienna than 48 appeared in the "Times." Only a few days ago, since the rape of Vienna, since more German and Italian military material has been poured into Spain, while friendly conversations have been proceeding, this extract, unfortunately, did not appear in the "Times." Field Marshal Goering said:Austria is the connecting link between Germany and Italy. It is the common basis for war against the joint enemies of the two Powers, both in the East and the West. The Italian Empire is the bridge to a non-distant Africa, rich in raw materials, and to the great open seas; it is the maritime Power of Central Europe in the Mediterranean. On the land side, it covers the back and the flanks of a Central European front, which is directed against the West.Does the Prime Minister still persist in believing that the dictatorship States mean to keep the peace and mean to honour their past undertakings and any undertakings they may make in the near future? I commend to the Prime Minister an article in the "Fortnightly Review." The "Fortnightly Review" is not a revolutionary organ. It is not the kind of organ that would write to me and ask me to express my views about international affairs. Here is a short quotation from an article by the editor of that very august paper, entitled "Crisis":For months it has been an open secret that the deplorable weakness of British foreign policy, which is the current coin of discussion outside these islands, was due not to insufficiency of armaments but inadequacy of purpose, a confusion of counsel which has enabled Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini, by continued and characteristic pivotings of the Berlin-Rome axis, to put the National Government 'on the spot,' and thereby establish and confirm in the minds of the peoples of Europe this country's decadence. Time and again it has been shown that the patrician elements of our governing class are simply out of their depth in the surging tide of contemporary problems.Never were truer words written. That reference to the Rome-Berlin axis is interesting. If the right hon. Gentleman is, as he appears to be, at least part of the time, thinking in terms of the Rome-Berlin axis, he is really thinking in terms of power politics and the old diplomacy. We have not yet been informed, and this House has a right to be informed, whether the Prime Minister is engaged in a gamble to break the Rome-Berlin axis, stretching from the Baltic to Northern Africa. Is that his policy? If so, in that partner- 49 ship Signor Mussolini is not the predominant figure, and he will have to count with someone more important.
Or is it that the right hon. Gentleman still stands by his desire for a Four-Power arrangement—Britain, France, Germany and Italy? We ought to know. If so, I would put this further question to the Prime Minister. Does he desire to see financial and Fascist interests destroy the Popular Front Government in France, so as to make it easier for him to get his Four-Power arrangement? If so, the right hon. Gentleman is playing with fire. Suppose he got his arrangement. Against whom would it be directed? Who would be the common foe? Four-Power arrangements are not arranged in a vacuum. Who would be the common foe? [An HON. MEMBER: The Comintern."] I will tell the hon. Member if he will wait a moment. Such an arrangement could mean only one thing. it would mean that Britain and France had succumbed to the parrot cries of Signor Mussolini and Herr Hitler against Bolshevism—the eternal bogy, vitally necessary to those two dictators to sustain their internal power. Is that the direction of the right hon. Gentleman's foreign policy, for that could be the only end of the kind of Four-Power arrangement that he is envisaging?
If the right hon. Gentleman succeeds in telling a bewildered world that he has concluded a Four-Power arrangement, I should like to ask him what price he is going to pay for it. What price will the smaller nations of Europe have to pay for it? What price might Czechoslovakia have to pay for it? Under terrific pressure—I am not suggesting that they are likely to give way to it—I can conceive a possible situation in which Germany's jack-boot will be lifted and will cast a shadow over Czechoslovakia which might make it impossible for democratic Powers to hold their own. What price will Europe as a whole have to pay for the right hon. Gentleman's Four-Power arrangement? To what new humiliation will Great Britain and Europe have to submit? If this Four-Power arrangement is not honoured, what then? The right hon. Gentleman knows. It would mean, not for the first time, but after a new solemn agreement, that the two dictator Powers would again flagrantly break their word, and the world would not then stand for it. The right hon. 50 Gentleman might postpone the dreadful day, but he would have done so at the price of sacrificing other nations, whom he has no right to sacrifice, and to whom his obligations to the League ought to help him to defend.
I am sorry that the situation should have developed as it has. I do not believe that Great Britain has ever been so humiliated since the seventeenth century, when Van Tromp sailed up the Thames. [Interruption.] It is all very well for provincial hon. Members to interrupt, but they might talk to Londoners and they would realise what it means for a foreign Power to come up the Thames and, so to speak, "cock a snoop" at the City of London. I submit that the right hon. Gentleman's policy is not the way to peace. His conversations do not get this country and the world out of the morass into which it has sunk. Peace cannot be bought at Woolworths. [An HON. MEMBER: "Marks and Spencers."] No, or at Marks and Spencers. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about the Co-ops?"] It might be bought for a time by paying moneylenders excessive rates of interest. Peace can always be bought at the price of liberty and submission. But liberty still means something to the people of this country. [Interruption.] I like those cheers from hon. Members opposite. Today liberty in Europe is being murdered, and the Prime Minister, quite suitably, is the undertaker who is waiting to bury the corpse. To sacrifice liberty is not the way to peace.
I have drawn attention to the election pledges of hon. Members opposite in 1935, and they do not deny that those pledges were given. That is not 2½ years ago. The essention elements of the international situation have not changed since then. I come to a later date—to the speech of the Prime Minister which was broadcast on 2nd November, 1936–18 months ago. He spoken with great fervour, with such fervour as he can command, about the League of Nations; he expressed his disappointment about the United States of America not joining the League and the refusal of Japan and Germany to co-operate, and then went on to say:When Italy sent an army to Africa, and presently invaded Abyssinian territory contrary to the obligations she had so solemnly 51 undertaken, the violation of the League principles was so flagrant that the League itself was clearly doomed unless it could take more effective action to stop, or at least limit, the war. It was in those circumstances that the British Government came forward and declared that while we were not going to take any independent action "—and quite rightly—we were prepared as loyal members of the League, to fulfil our obligations in common with others in accordance with the Covenant. From that moment faith in the League revived, and the action of the Government was enthusiastically approved, not only by the great majority of the people in this country but by nearly all the members of the League.If the right hon. Gentleman's Government had in November, 1936, revived faith in the League, they have allowed it to go since. The right hon. Gentleman's reply to me when I quoted the election manifesto of the party opposite was that the situation had worsened since 1935. Has it worsened since he made his speech in 1936? How much worse is it since the National Government put its name to the resolution at the Assembly of the League last September, only six months ago? When the right hon. Gentleman made his broadcast speech in November, 1936, the Spanish war was already with us, and I draw this conclusion, that what has been wrong has been lack of initiative on the part of the British Government, who have stood waiting on events. The real worsening has come since the right hon. Gentleman himself became Prime Minister, reversed British policy, played into the hands of the dictators, helped to precipitate the rape of Austria, and helped the intensification of Fascist assistance in the Spanish war, which is to-day a great danger to the Spanish people.
It is not for me to give an alternative policy. It is for the British people to do that. The Prime Minister should know that no nation is safe unless all are safe. He has himself admitted that he may have to go to the help of France. It is conceivable, though not likely, that France might get involved in a bad war and Britain would be involved. My point is that no nation in the world is safe now, especially big nations, unless all other nations are safe. Peace cannot be won except by dealing with the causes of war. You cannot win peace by dealing with individual States. You must 52 deal with what in a fashionable phrase are called "the imponderables," which create a war atmosphere in all countries. These causes, in our view, cannot he dealt with piecemeal.
My mind goes back to the publication of the Van Zeeland report. What has happened to it? It seems to have been put, as the Prime Minister puts most things, into the refrigerator for the time being. No steps are being taken to implement it, and yet that report does offer a number of suggestions for economic appeasement. I have not the time to examine them now, nor is this the occasion, but Herr Hitler month by month is widening his economic boundaries. It is forecast in his book "Mein Kampf." I wish an unexpurgated edition of that book could be published as a White Paper, and that it could be made compulsory on all Members to read it. If economic appeasement he must have, there is a certain justification for his claim, but not that way. But the Prime Minister, when a report of that kind comes to hand, prepared after exhaustive inquiries by a very sage statesman, pushes it on to the shelf to be forgotten.
I ask him, in view of what I have said, what has so suddenly gone wrong with the League and with collective security to which practically every hon. Member in the House is pledged? The answer is that what has gone wrong is the faith of the British Government. We on these benches do not believe in the decadence of Democracy. It is a trump card of the Fascist Powers that Democracy is decadent. We still believe that Democracy, imperfect it may be in its development and imperfect it may be in its expression, is still the dominating spiritual and intellectual force in the world.
We believe that if the Assembly of the League of Nations were called together immediately, and the great non-Fascist Powers declared their adherence to League principles and their determination to mobilise all their resources for use against an aggressor who launched an attack upon another State, they would rally the opinion of the vast majority of the people of the world behind them. The Prime Minister has suggested that that would be a new balance of power, a new alignment of nations. It would 53 not. All would be free to come who cared to come and testify their faith in the rule of law. It would, in any case, be far more wholesome and, in the long run, far more effective than the Four-Power arrangement after which the Prime Minister hankers. At such a meeting of the Assembly, we would associate in an honest and sincere attempt to straighten out all legitimate grievances. And there are some. On these benches we admit them. The Treaty of Versailles left a trail of grievances behind it, and they ought to be openly and frankly discussed in open assembly before the eyes of the world, so that those grievances, which in all their grimness are now threatening the peace of Europe, could be faced and settled. We believe that in that way moral authority would again be asserted, and the aggressor would know the fate which would befall him should he again transgress.
We would rather have a peace conference before a war than have one after the next war. Then we should be compelled to have it; better have it now than then. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics have made a constructive proposal. [Interruption.] Hon. Members opposite may not like it, but it is a constructive proposal. Mr. Cordell Hull, in a restrained statement, speaking with a full sense of his responsibility, declared the faith of the people of the United States in law, order and justice. He spoke words almost identical to those which have been used by hon. Members on this side of the House. Britain so far remains silent on the big issues of the day. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister is too busy with Signor Mussolini. The people of this land, in the words of Disraeli, want peace with honour, and it is the responsibility of the Government to give our people that which they seek. The final question which I put, not specifically to the right hon. Gentleman, but to all hon. Members, is this: Shall Britain and the world submit to an uneasy and an uncertain peace bought at the cost of liberty and honour, or shall the free peoples of the world establish peace with honour? That is the question which the House has to answer.
§ 4.50 P.m.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Chamberlain)
This is the thirteenth Debate on foreign 54 affairs we have had in nine weeks. I should think that such concentrated attention upon one subject must be quite unprecedented in our Parliamentary history. I think this Debate can also stand out as memorable in one respect: I never remember before having listened to the opening speaker moving a Motion of Censure on the Government and speaking for 60 minutes without ever mentioning the Motion. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) made lengthy attacks upon the heads of other States; he sketched out imaginary and altogether inaccurate accounts of the policy of His Majesty's Government; but he kept studiously clear of the terms of the Motion, and, above all, the words General Election "never passed his lips.
On the last occasion, less than a fortnight ago, when we were debating foreign affairs, I made a very lengthy and carefully considered statement upon the policy of His Majesty's Government, and it does not seem to me that I should serve any useful purpose if I were to repeat that statement this afternoon, even though I made it in somewhat different words. On that occasion, being very conscious that we were discussing issues of unusual gravity and magnitude, I tried to make my statement as unprovocative as possible, and my example was followed by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who wound up the Debate; but we got no response from the other side, and to-day they are making this a party question, and hoping to exploit for party purposes the difficulties of the international situation. In that, I am convinced that they are profoundly mistaken, for from all the sources of information from which I have been able to draw, the policy of His Majesty's Government, as stated, has won the general approval of the whole country; and not only this country, but I may say practically the whole world, with the possible exception of Russia. Therefore, I am not disposed to think that an appeal to the country upon this issue is one which is likely to justify the Opposition's contention that it should be made. [HON. MEMBERS: "Try it."] Before I sit down I shall, of course, acquaint the House with my intentions as to a General Election, but for the moment I think I must examine a little more carefully the 55 Motion which the right hon. Gentleman rose to move but failed to develop. The Motion begins by the assertion that:The Foreign Policy of His Majesty's Government cannot arrest the dangerous drift towards war.Perhaps I may let that pass, because, as has often been said before, it takes at least two to make a peace, but one Government can make war if it wants to do so. In that sense, therefore, it is true that neither this nor any other Government can frame any policy which will prevent some other Government going to war if it has made up its mind to act in that direction. But I would say that the general impression produced by the statement of the policy of His Majesty's Government has not led to the conclusion that it is drifting to war. Perhaps I may remind the House, in support of that observation, of some words which were used by the Prime Minister of Czechoslovakia after the speech which I made. He said:The declaration of Mr. Chamberlain has certainly been a great deed for the consolidation of Europe. History perhaps will recognise in the future that he in this hour has served peace well.The Motion then goes on to charge the Government with a policy whichis inconsistent with their election pledges.I think that on that theme, at least, we should have had some evidence from the right hon. Gentleman to show us in what respects he considers that the policy of His Majesty's Government is inconsistent with their election pledges. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) looks at me in an expectant sort of way; perhaps he can supply the deficiency of his right hon. colleague sitting next to him, and tell us what it is the Opposition mean when they put down this on the Paper and cannot substantiate the charge by any evidence. I will give the right hon. Gentleman an opportunity of doing so now.
§ Mr. Greenwood
While thanking the right hon. Gentleman, I would point out that I have already read to the House the election pledges of the Government. Their policy now does not conform to them.
§ Mr. Greenwood
If the right hon. Gentleman had taken the trouble to read the speech I made on a previous occasion, he would know that I quoted the charges then; I could have quoted them to-day; and I am prepared to do so now, if he likes.
§ The Prime Minister
Very well, the right hon. Gentleman did not think it worth while, on a Motion of Censure, to repeat those charges, but he refers me to a speech which he made on a previous occasion when there was no Motion of Censure.
§ Mr. Greenwood
We might as well get the facts right. It was when I moved the previous Motion of Censure.
§ The Prime Minister
That was on the Motion on which the right hon. Gentleman was not going to divide. But we will not waste time on that. We will examine the charge which the right hon. Gentleman has made. He said that we had stated in our election manifesto that the League of Nations would remain as heretofore the keystone of British foreign policy. I would like to go on and read a few more words. As a rule, you want to get the whole paragraph before you can properly weigh up the meaning of a particular sentence. It went on to say:The prevention of war and the establishment of settled peace in the world must always be the most vital interest of the British people, and the League is the instrument which has been framed and to which we look for the attainment of these objects. We shall, therefore, continue to do all in our power to uphold the Covenant and to maintain and increase the efficiency of the League.It is still the fact that we look forward to the time when the League will be so strengthened and so revitalised—
§ The Prime Minister
—that it can fulfil its purpose, that it can be an effective instrument for the prevention of war and the establishment of settled peace in the world, and we shall do our best, as we said at the time, to increase the efficiency of the League until it is capable of performing its functions. It cannot perform those functions to-day. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] If hon. Members want to know why that situation has changed, I can give them the answer in the words of 57 my predecessor, Lord Baldwin. Speaking on this subject as long ago as 23rd June, 1936, the same year as the speech was made to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, Lord Baldwin was talking about sanctions, and he said:The ultimate sanction is always war, and unless the sanction you apply is such as to bring the aggressor to his knees, war is inevitable.He went on to say:Where there is an aggressor it would be quite impossible for the nations that wished to exercise the power of military sanctions against the aggressor or a group of aggressors to do it unless they are in a position to do it at once and together… If collective action is to be a reality and not merely a thing to be talked about, it means not only that every country is to be ready for war, but must be ready to go to war at once. That is a terrible thing, but it is an essential part of collective security."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd June, 1936; col. 1726, Vol. 313.]That was the explanation which Lord Baldwin gave of why it was not possible for the League to exercise the functions which had originally been designed for it and to secure collective security. If it be true that the League cannot properly be described to-day as the keystone of British policy, but only in the future, it it not because we have changed our policy. We are still intending to make the fullest use we can of the League within the limits which must be recognised, but we say that it is to-day in no state to fulfil the conditions which Lord Baldwin laid down as being essential to collective security. To deny that, as I understood the right hon. Gentleman to be trying to deny it to-day—a fact which has been admitted, as I quoted the other day, and stated in positive terms by the "Daily Herald "—to deny it to-day is merely a piece of wilful and transparent hypocrisy. I will deal with another alleged inconsistency between the policy of His Majesty's Government and the manifesto to which the right hon. Gentleman made no allusion to-day, but of which he has sometimes spoken before. He alluded to the passage in which it refers to Abyssinia. The passage ran as follows:In the present unhappy dispute between Italy and Abyssinia there will be no wavering in the policy we have hitherto pursued.The right hon. Gentleman has quoted that before, and it has always been received with loud cheers of derision, which 1 do not hear now, presumably because 58 hon. Gentlemen are waiting for what is to follow. If you isolate this sentence from its context, it may give an entirely wrong impression. When you speak of a policy from which there will be no wavering, it is just as well to have in your mind what policy you are referring to, and the policy was defined on this occasion in the words which follow:We shall take no action in isolation, but we shall be prepared faithfully to take our part in any collective action decided upon by the League and shared in by its Members.
§ The Prime Minister
The right hon. Gentleman is now accusing us of following a policy which was inconsistent with the words which I have quoted.
§ The Prime Minister
I am pointing out that it was not inconsistent at all, and that what we said was that we would not act alone, but that we would be prepared to act with others as far as they would go. If I may once more quote my right hon. Friend Lord Baldwin, he said that collective security had failedbecause of the reluctance of nearly all the nations of Europe to proceed to… military sanctions …. The main reason of that was that there was no country, except the aggressor country, which was ready for war." — [OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd June, 1936; cols. 1725-26, Vol. 313.]
§ Mr. Alexander
The real reason was given on 12th November, 1936—that he was afraid to tell the country the truth lest he should lose the Election.
§ The Prime Minister
I am not going into an argument as to what my right hon. Friend meant by the statement which he made. It has nothing to do with this argument, which is as to the reason why collective security failed. The present policy of His Majesty's Government is perfectly consistent with the statement of our intentions regarding Abyssinia made at the time of the General Election of 1935. The criticisms that are made by hon. Members opposite can mean only one thing. They can only mean that hon. Members opposite think that what we ought to have done was the thing that we said we would not do, namely, to act in isolation. That is a policy which is all the more remarkable in a party which 59 has consistently voted against the Estimates for the Defence Services, So much for that part of this precious Motion calling for a General Election.
The right hon. Gentleman said that it was not for him to produce a policy and I agree that, in normal circumstances, it is not part of the Opposition's function to produce alternative policies. But when an appeal is made to the public the Opposition cannot rest upon mere criticism of the Government. They have to produce a policy of their own, and if the right hon. Gentleman is going to ask for a General Election now, he has to tell us what policy he is going to propose as an alternative to the one which has been stated on behalf of His Majesty's Government, and which has received the approval of almost the entire world. I hoped the right hon. Gentleman was going to tell us, but he said very little about it. I can only assume that the few words which concluded the last fraction of his speech were intended to give an outline of the policy which is set forth at considerably greater length and with equal obscurity of verbiage in the manifesto issued by the National Council of Labour—in the drawing up of which, I think I detect the right hon. Gentleman's master hand.
I have carefully studied this document in view of the coming General Election. I have tried to analyse in what the policy consists, and if I should make any mistake in consequence of the lack of explanation by the right hon. Gentleman, I hope he will tell me where I am going astray. In this document I find four different steps recommended, and they conclude with the statement that together, they constitute a decisive contribution—not merely a contribution be it noted, but a decisive contribution—to peace, and that they will make collective security a reality. They are, first, summoning the Assembly of the League; second, uniting the peace-loving countries, particularly France, the United Kingdom and Russia to make a common stand against the aggressor; third, the promotion of general negotiations among the Powers for the political and economic appeasement of Europe, and, fourth, intervention in Spain by permitting the free supply of arms to the Spanish Government.
§ The Prime Minister
At any rate, the fourth was to permit the free supply of arms to the Spanish Government. Let us see how far those proposals justify the claim that they constitute a decisive contribution to peace. I do not think anybody could say that summoning the League would have that effect. What could the League do to-day with its very limited membership? It cannot really put into operation collective action. It can pass resolutions and make recommendations, but resolutions do not make peace and if, by any chance, it were to pass resolutions and nobody were to pay any attention to them, that would only make the League look foolish, and add further humiliations to those which have been suffered in the past.
The second proposal is, certainly, of an entirely different character. It constitutes nothing less than a proposal for an offensive and defensive alliance between France, Russia and ourselves against some other Power or group of Powers. Is that what is called collective security? Apparently the right hon. Gentleman thinks it is. The party opposite never bother to look at the mixture inside the bottle, as long as the label outside is right. When I think of all their past fulminations against pre-war alliances, which they used to accuse us of wanting, I am amazed at their being able to bamboozle themselves into thinking that if they take a pre-war alliance, and mumble these words, "Collective Security," over it, they can change its character and the consequences which are bound to flow from it.
§ Mr. Greenwood
Would the right hon. Gentleman mind correcting a misapprehension? He really has misled the House. I have this document, the authorship of which he attributed to me for no reason which I can understand, and it reads:The British Labour Movement calls for an immediate meeting of the Assembly of the League of Nations and for special consideration by the European members of the League, 61 particularly France, Great Britain, and Russia, of the steps to be taken to bring appeasement, in Central Europe and in Spain.I submit that, by leaving out the words for special consideration by the European Members of the League," the right hon. Gentleman is deliberately misleading the House.
§ The Prime Minister
I do not think so. These three Powers are to be the nucleus. It is true there is a general invitation to any other Powers, to all the other foxes to get their tails cut off, but I cannot think that it is very likely that that invitation will be enthusiastically received, and to all intents and purposes the real effect of this proposal would be to do what we, at any rate, have always set our faces against, namely, to divide Europe into two opposing blocs or camps. So far from making a contribution to peace, I say that it would inevitably plunge us into war.
As to the third proposal, for general negotiations among all Powers for political and economic appeasement in Europe, I say that that proposal is inconsistent with the second one, the one that I have just been discussing. What a pretty beginning this alliance would make for general negotiations for economic and political appeasement in Europe. It may be a good plan to call a conference of all the world Powers together to discuss political and economic appeasement, although I myself think that the method of discussions between individual Powers is much more likely to be successful in removing such causes of friction and difficulty as may exist, but one thing is absolutely certain, and that is that a world conference which was preceded by an offensive and defensive alliance of this character would not have the remotest chance of success.
The last point, which I call intervention, but which I think hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite prefer to call the abandonment of non-intervention, is the one to which they themselves attach the greatest importance of all. But what I marvel at most is the childlike simplicity of the party opposite in imagining that the removal of the embargo upon the supply of arms to the Spanish Government would at once result in the victory of the side that they favour. Is anybody so devoid of common sense as to suppose that you could confine the supply of arms to one side? If you remove the embargo 62 on the supply of arms, it is bound at once to be followed by a whole flood of arms and ammunition and men pouring into Spain from the sympathisers of each side. It would not stop there. It would very soon extend to the sea, and you would have sinkings of ships, you would have drownings of troops, you would have perhaps naval battles; and the European War would have begun. That, in my opinion, and in the opinion of my colleagues, would be the result of the abandonment of non-intervention in Spain, and we have no intention of changing our policy in that respect.
In this very brief analysis of the policy of the party opposite, I claim that I have shown that their alternative policy is both futile and dangerous. It is futile because it does not make a single constructive contribution to peace, dangerous because it would lead inevitably to war. I cannot imagine any better issue for an appeal to the country than the contrast between the policy of His Majesty's Government and the policy of the party opposite. I cannot imagine anything which would carry greater consternation into their ranks than if I were to say that I would take them at their word, but I am not going to torture them any longer with suspense. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) was right when he said the other day, just before he left for America, that after the last Debate he felt it was safe for him to go away. He knew, and so do hon. and right hon. Members opposite, that no Government with an ample majority ever went to the country at the demand of such a feeble Opposition. This is no time to disturb a country which is in the throes of its rearmament programme. The Opposition can be thankful that they are going to get off with a sound beating to-night, and that they will not just yet have to suffer an even more resounding defeat in the country.
§ 5.23 p.m.
§ Sir Archibald Sinclair
The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister has so clearly enjoyed himself this afternoon that it is quite unnecessary for anybody to feel guilty about harassing him or piling too heavy burdens on his back, even if we do have 13 Debates on foreign affairs within nine weeks. Nevertheless I have expressed the opinion in private, and I 63 express the same opinion in public, that I think it was a mistake to have had this Debate; but at the same time I think, if I may say so quite briefly, that it was a mistake to have greeted the refusal of the Opposition to divide on the Third Reading of the Consolidated Fund Bill with a roar of jeering applause, which is how it was received, at the close of the Debate, and to have represented in the newspapers that it was a great victory for the Government and that the Opposition were converted to the Government's view. First of all, it is very wrong to convey a false impression of that kind to the public; and, in the second place, I think it is important to preserve those occasions, those very important occasions, in our Parliamentary procedure when we can have a discussion on great issues of public policy without a Division at the end of it. I think it is particularly important to preserve such occasions for dealing with foreign affairs, so that we can have a really frank talk in which we can all express ourselves freely in the course of the Debate without any Division at the end. I think that hon. Members, especially those who sit on the back benches, who do anything to narrow the limits of such a Debate by jeering at the Opposition if they do not insist on a Division are doing an ill service to our Parliamentary institutions.
But when the Prime Minister went on to say that, in his opinion, his policy had won the approval of the country, I can only tell him that the information which reaches me is exactly the opposite; and when he said "the whole world," I certainly consider, having read a good deal of the Press of the world, including our own Dominions— including, for example, the Dominion of Canada, and including, the Press which supports the Government in the Dominion of Canada— that his policy does not command the support either of the Dominions or of the world as a whole. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the lessons, as he regarded them, of collective security in the Abyssinian dispute. He said that others did not then co-operate. Who were those others who did not co-operate? Fifty nations of the world were co-operating with us, and the four great Powers in the Mediterranean were pledging their naval and military co-operation with us if we were attacked in the course of imposing 64 sanctions. They were all co-operating with us up to the moment when this Government took the initiative in going to Geneva and abandoning sanctions, leading the retreat from the League of Nations front against aggression in Abyssinia; and it was this Government which was the first to break that front.
The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, as I say, enjoyed himself this afternoon. He put us back into the atmosphere of cut-and-thrust party politics, but I think that the situation is a great deal too grave for the discussion of these very difficult and menacing international problems in an atmosphere of partisanship. The Prime Minister attempts to deny that the country is drifting towards war, but I do not believe that any fair-minded man who regards world events since that Abyssinian dispute with detachment can deny that there has been a progressive deterioration in the international situation since the abandonment of sanctions. I would go further than that; I would put a fine point on the accusation which I bring against the Prime Minister's policy in this foreign affairs Debate, and say that the foundations of peace, order and justice in the world are weaker to-day than they were six weeks ago, when the Prime Minister took over the control of foreign affairs from the hands of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden).
Spanish democracy is giving ground before Italian and German troops, artillery and air fleets. Austria has gone since the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington resigned. Nazi propaganda has begun to eat away at the foundations of the Hungarian and Czechoslovakian States. Boastful and menacing speeches with a new note of truculence in them have been made by Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini. That, I take it, is a fair summary of the argument of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) But it does not seem to me to support the demand which is contained in the Vote of Censure, to which the right hon. Gentleman did not refer, that this is a good moment to dissolve Parliament and to plunge the country for four or five weeks into the turmoil of a General Election. Moreover, for six weeks the Prime Minister has been in negotiation with Signor 65 Mussolini in Rome. In 10 days or a fortnight, we understand, these negotiations will be completed. Nothing, not even a General Election, can stop them now. Their results will raise issues which go to the roots of the problem of Imperial security and world peace. Opinions in this House when we come to consider those results may well cut across party lines, the lines of all parties, as it did in the Debate on the resignation of the former Foreign Secretary. Surely this is not the time, therefore, for party dogfights.
I have never concealed my own agreement with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington in the issues which brought about his resignation from the Government. I believe that the basis of these negotiations in Rome is unsound. Already we are paying a high price for any success that may be achieved. Already we are being compelled to watch Spanish liberties being crushed in battles in which Italians themselves boast that they are supplying the essential factors for victory. That was the boast of the National Directorate of the Fascist Party in Italy. They said that their legionaries were supplying "the essential factor" in General Franco's success. The Prime Minister tells us that Signor Mussolini has given him assurances that he will expect no territorial, economic or political advantages in Spain or in the Spanish islands or colonies if General Franco wins; and the Prime Minister tells us that he places full reliance on those assurances. In a single fortnight in March the Italian troops suffered 1789 casualties. They were published officially in Rome, and thousands more casualties have been suffered since. Is Signor Mussolini going to tell the Italian people that these sacrifices were made for nothing? The Italian labourer is a good workman, but, like other good workmen, he expects to receive his hire.
Six weeks ago the Prime Minister told us that Signor Mussolini had agreed in principle to the withdrawal of Italian troops from Spain. Many hon. Members were obviously surprised when the former Foreign Secretary intimated that, even if he had known that, it would have made no difference to his decision to resign his office. Now it is abundantly clear that it has made no difference to Signor Mussolini either. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield quoted from some 66 evidence which he had received from a gentleman who has recently come back from Barcelona and who brought with him a number of photostat copies of declarations made by Italian and German officers which proved conclusively not merely the fact of Italian and German intervention during the Non-Intervention Agreement, but the fact that this intervention has been continuing, and that drafts or reinforcements have been going there since the undertaking which Signor Mussolini gave to the Prime Minister. My hon. Friend the Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts) has had an interview with the same gentleman and has seen the photostat copies of these documents, and he assures me that they do indeed support the assertion that these pilots and machines have been going into Spain since the undertaking which the Prime Minister received from Signor Mussolini. I ask the Secretary of State for the Dominions, who I understand is to reply to this Debate, to tell us whether the Government will examine this material.
§ Sir A. Sinclair
I think that there is only one dossier of them and obviously it cannot be handed all round. It would surely meet the convenience of all Members of the House and would lead most quickly to action if the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield, in whose possession the documents now are, would hand them over to the Government. I am asking the Secretary of State for the Dominions to give me an assurance that if the right hon. Gentleman will do that the Government will promptly investigate them, and, if it is proved that such intervention has recently been taking place, the Prime Minister will implement the undertaking which he gave to the House at the time when he entered into these conversations with the Italian Government and break them off.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield also referred to guns in Morocco. He did not think it necessary to tell hon. Members—perhaps it is impertinent of me to do it, and, if so, I hope they will forgive me—that the fortification of the coast of Morocco is contrary to the Anglo-Spanish Treaty of 1912. 67 Information has been placed at the disposal of the Government about the fortifications on the coast of Spain and the coast of Spanish Morocco. I want to ask the Secretary of State for the Dominions whether this information is being thoroughly investigated and whether he will be able soon to tell the House the result.
§ Mr. Boothby
Do I understand the right hon. Gentleman to state that Signor Mussolini gave a specific undertaking to His Majesty's Government not to reinforce General Franco in Spain during the course of the negotiations?
§ Sir A. Sinclair
This is what the Prime Minister said in the Debate on 21st February:Not only did I tell Count Grandi that a settlement in Spain was a necessary and essential element in any agreement that we might make, but I pointed out to him that if we made an agreement we could not ourselves go to the League and ask the League to approve that agreement if in the meantime anything had been clone by the Italian Government in regard to Spain which had altered the situation in favour of General Franco, either by sending reinforcements to Spain or by failing to implement the assurances and the undertakings that they had given when they accepted the British formula. No intimation could be plainer than that."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st February; col. 152, Vol. 332.]The Prime Minister, too, has expressed his horror and disgust of the bombardment of Barcelona. The "Daily Telegraph" correspondent has informed us that it was carried out by German and Italian aeroplanes from Majorca while Signor Mussolini, in a speech he delivered only last week, boasted of what he described as the legendary prowess of his airmen. In a remarkable speech delivered in the Senate he told how his theories of air warfare were based on practice, and said that the role of the Air Force was to break up enemy formations and, to quote the words of the Rome correspondent of the "Times"he added with emphasis, to weaken the morale of the enemy's civilian population.He warned his hearers, who were Italian senators, to acquire homes for themselves in the country without waiting for the eleventh hour. The Prime Minister expressed his horror and disgust at the bombardment of Barcelona to the puppet at Burgos, but he continued his friendly talks with the real author and begetter of these outrages in Rome.
68 I have reminded the House of what Signor Mussolini told the Italian Senate about his preparations for war in the air. His military and naval preparations are on an equally formidable scale. There are 876 factories employing 580,000 men in manufacturing munitions. He said that valuable experience was being gained by his troops and airmen in two wars—in Abyssinia and in Spain. Naval bases were being well equipped and supplied, and he went on to say that Italy had the most powerful submarine fleet in the world. Why? When we have debates on armament Estimates I hear hon. Members ask against whom we are arming. If that is a pertinent question to ask about our own armaments, it is also pertinent to ask it about the armaments of Signor Mussolini and about his most powerful submarine fleet in the world, which is in the Mediterranean. Against whom can that be directed? Men and material, he goes on to tell us, are being prepared for a war of movement, swift and implacable. I wonder against whom? But for the Prime Minister's assurances, upon which no doubt some hon. Members opposite, but not all are prepared to rely, we might have thought that there was somthing in the contention of the former Foreign Secretary that the negotiations in Rome were being conducted under a threat.
The most sinister result, however, of the Prime Minister's control of foreign policy is that all over the world the forces of aggression and dictatorship are encouraged to ever more boastful utterance and to the assertion, in action, of the principle of force. Germany and Italy reinforce their armies in Spain with vast supplies of munitions of the most modern and diabolical character. The Prime Minister says that our policy is to restrain other countries from intervening in Spain. The only countries we can restrain are Russia and France. While Germany and Italy go to the limit in supporting General Franco, are we to restrain France from taking the measures which she thinks necessary to support the cause of democracy in Spain and to protect her own national safety? I have heard hon. Members talk about the encirclement of Germany. What about the encirclement of France? In restraining France from taking these measures the Government are accepting a tremendous responsibility.
69 The objects of non-intervention were two; One was to prevent a world war—and it is too early yet to say whether that object has been accomplished—and the other was to enable the Spanish people to settle their own quarrels without outside intervention. Not only has it failed to do that, but it is now actually furthering the aim which it was designed to frustrate. The Prime Minister in his speech just now said he was afraid that if we restored the freedom of the Spanish Government to buy arms, if we abandoned the policy of non-intervention, it might lead to war. Then why did this Government support at the League of Nations only a few months ago a resolution which stated that unless nonintervention soon became a reality it ought to be abandoned?
Even in France itself we see that the forces of reaction are encouraged by the speeches and the policy of the Prime Minister. When the Austrian crisis first broke upon the world there was a great movement in France to form a National Government, but since then politicians of the right, M. Flandin and M. Laval, have been encouraged by the Prime Minister's speeches to come forward, and M. Laval has declared that France must "imitate the realism of Mr. Chamberlain," with the result that the movement for forming a National Government there has been checked. Realism; sacrifice liberty; sell Abyssinia, Spain and Czechoslovakia— to curry favour with the dictators. Give them a free hand in the East to keep them busy for a few years. The Prime Minister referred just now to the reception of his speech in the world. He said that it was everywhere well received, but added, with a note of contempt in his voice, "except possibly in Russia." What a fatal blunder. What a fatal blunder to refer like that to the great country of Russia, about which even 20 years ago Lord Balfour had the prevision to say, "You must never leave Russia out of account when you are considering the affairs of Europe." Meanwhile the Government's policy is to rearm, and again rearm, and to go on rearming. When will it stop and how will it end? "Ah, well," they say, "sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof."
No, I believe that if we are to tackle this situation realistically and really secure peace we must tackle it in the 70 spirit of the speech of the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington made about a week before he resigned when, addressing a large number of young Conservatives, he said that we must make peace which will endure not only for us older men but for the young people who are growing up—that we must not shirk responsibilities or sacrifice principles in order to get an agreement which may not be permanent. What, then, is the use of asking for national unity behind a policy of negation? The people want, and I believe a majority of the Members of this House want, a constructive policy of peace, which will not involve using our arms to keep the ring while the dictators crush the liberties of one democracy after another as they are doing now in Spain; a policy which will preserve the rule of law in Europe, protect freedom, and dispense justice under the auspices of the League of Nations. The Prime Minister at first tried to make out—I have heard him say it again and again in these Debates—that there has been no change in the policy of the Government towards the League since the last General Election. To-day he said there was a change. Really, the Prime Minister must make up his mind. Either there has been a change or there has not been a change. To-day he declared there had been a change. He said that the League of Nations is no longer the keystone of the Government's policy. I see the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson) shaking his head. He said the League of Nations was no longer the keystone of the Government's policy, because it is not in a position to be so at the present moment. [Interruption.] He did indeed say that, and the OFFICIAL REPORT will prove me right in the morning.
§ Sir A. Sinclair
He said that he hoped it would be the future keystone, but that it is not now, because he said it was not strong enough; but it is exactly as strong as it was at the time of the last General Election. He said that it cannot fulfil the conditions which were laid down by Lord Baldwin for the functions of collective security. It is in exactly the same condition to fulfil them as it was when those pledges were given to the country at the last General Election. The only 71 difference in its constitution is a purely technical one, that Italy, against whom the whole weight of the League's activities was then being directed, has since resigned her nominal membership.
§ Mr. Radford
On the question of the League not being in as good a position as it was in 1935, surely the right hon. Member recognises that Germany is now infinitely stronger, that Italy is infinitely stronger, and that Japan and Germany have an alliance.
§ Sir A. Sinclair
The hon. Member has interrupted me with a statement which I think is a matter of opinion and might have formed the subject of a speech; but in a short sentence or two he has given as severe a criticism of the Government's policy as I have managed to do in my speech. While it is true that the dangers with which the world is threatened at the present moment are more serious than they were at the time of the last General Election, surely that is not a reason for abandoning the effort at making a system of mutual assistance in which the peace-loving Powers can help one another. Surely that is not a reason for leaving peace-loving Powers to be devoured individually one after another by these aggressive dictators. Surely it is a reason for bringing all the peace-loving Powers together and proceeding on the lines of the policy which I am now suggesting. I believe that when we neglect the League it grows weaker. Muscles grow more flabby with disuse, living organisms need exercise to gain strength, and so I say, "Call the Assembly of the League together now" before it is too late to rally the forces of freedom and justice.
The Prime Minister made contemptuous references to the League passing foolish resolutions. I am afraid that hon. Members opposite will find those references quoted against them in the constituencies. He said the policy of the League was that of a return to pre-war alliances. That is exactly the policy of the present Government. We have now an alliance with France. It is no good the hon. Member opposite shaking his head. A day or two ago the Prime Minister explained that we have an alliance with France, and even explained that we have, as it seemed to me, rather inadequate and inefficient methods of staff consultations, so that the alliance may be effective in time of 72 trouble. We want to get away from that policy of alliances—making alliances with France and Portugal on the one hand, and then hoping that by these conversations in Rome we can detach Mussolini from the Berlin axis and, perhaps, make some other alliance there which will enable us to effect a counterweight to Germany. I see that the diplomatic correspondent of the "Sunday Times," who is always very well informed about the Government's intentions, said yesterday that these conversations are being extended to Poland, so that we shall then have an alliance in Central Europe against Germany—if all goes well in Rome and Warsaw.
The policy of alliances is the policy which the Prime Minister is now following. We want to get away from that policy of power politics, and to put forward an effort for peace and law and justice in the world on the moral basis of the Covenant of the League of Nations. If in this crisis, and in this Parliament, we are to get any real measure of national unity, and there is nobody in this House who wants it more than I do, one thing necessary is that the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington should be recalled and put in charge of the Foreign Office again, because in the eyes of the masses of the people in this country he stands for loyalty to the causes of the League and democracy. Then let the Assembly of the League be summoned, and let us make it abundantly clear to the world that on the one hand we in this country will make our contribution to practical arrangements for mutual defence which will make the consequences of aggression plain to potential aggressors and thus avert war, and, on the other hand, that on the basis of the Covenant and disarmament there is no sacrifice in the Colonial or in the economic fields which third-party judgment may consider wise and just which we shall not be willing to make, in co-operation with others, in order to attain a lasting settlement of international disputes and to secure the blessings of peace for ourselves and our children.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Admiral Sir Percy Royds
I have been some time in this House without speaking, and, in consequence, I have listened and heard all the more. Only because of what I have heard and of the attitude of 73 the Opposition am I urged to say a few words, not following or criticising the previous speaker, but against this censure on the Government. Since I took my seat in this House I honestly have heard more about Spain and of concern for Spain, than in regard to my own country. On every occasion it has been the same story over again: nothing but good on the side towards which there is a partisan leaning, whereas the slightest rumour against the opposite side is believed, turned into a fact, and made much of, although more times than not it is but the proverbial red herring. The Government's policy towards Spain has been firmly consistent, namely, to keep us out of Spain and to keep the trouble from spreading out of Spain, and it has succeeded. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have differed from that policy and have not only shown a great backing for one side, but have taken the trouble to go all the way out there to tell them so. It is not surprising that there is annoyance in the Opposition. I have felt the same irritation myself, when, after being advised to keep off, I have backed the wrong horse in a race and have lost my money. Annoyance does not justify censure.
Take the remainder of the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, not only to our people, but the whole world; while firmly adhering to our commitments it declared at the same time that we are prepared and determined to look after and defend what belongs to us and, if needs be, meet with force any attempt to restrict or interfere with communications essential to the nation's need In my humble opinion that is a plain statement that cannot be misread by anyone. It is a statement based on the strong warning words of an old battle song:We don't want to fightBut, by jingo, if we do,We've got the men, we've got the ships,We've got the money, too.That attitude has been followed in the past by Government after Government in this country, giving us standing and respect, and bringing us friends and allies. Except in the case of Russia and the Crimean War, it kept us clear of every European nation, from the Battle of Waterloo to the Great War, a period of about 100 years. That being so, why censure it now?
74 When I hear Members of this House attacking foreign Governments, as I have heard, it makes me doubt the right of the democratic system of free speech and open Press. Without all the publicity much less would be said, and there would be more time to look after our own affairs and put our own house in order; in addition to which, after the withdrawal of these continual pinpricks, there would be more likelihood of coming to a better understanding and a closer relationship with all nations, and, above all, more chance of peace, which I am certain all parties desire. In foreign policy, responsibility is with the Government. They have made a momentous decision. Others may differ, and have a right to do so, but they have not that responsibility. Difference of opinion does not justify censure. In 1914, another momentous decision had to be taken in this House. The Liberals were then in power and the Conservatives in opposition, and the Opposition loyally gave their support and gave the country a strong united front. To-day, when a united front is equally important, the Opposition are not only opposing but are censuring. To me, a novice in politics, such party politics do no good to the party adopting them and no good to the country, and not being in the interests of the country they are received throughout the Empire with feelings of the deepest concern, surprise and regret.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Gordon Macdonald
We have just heard a maiden speech and I would desire to express, on behalf of all Members present, our sincere congratulations. Some of us may disagree fundamentally with what the hon. and gallant Gentleman said, but that does not prevent my expressing what we all feel after he has performed, what we all know from experience is the very difficult task of addressing the House of Commons for the first time. In the last few weeks I have listened to 13 Debates on foreign affairs and done so in comparative silence, but I am impelled on this occasion to say a few words from the layman's point of view. It is very unwise to let the experts do all the speaking on foreign affairs, especially when they are self-appointed experts. It is just as well that those of us who have not yet appointed ourselves experts on foreign affairs should 75 express our views on how we think things are going.
I have watched the Prime Minister very carefully since he took over the Foreign Office. It is true that he has appointed a Foreign Secretary and an Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, but there is no doubt that he runs the Foreign Office for the Government. He may condescend occasionally to telling them what he is going to do, but he has certainly taken the job into his own hands. Two impressions have been made on my mind while watching the Prime Minister. The first is his reluctance to take any initiative or joint action with other nations. Every time he speaks he tells us that suggestions have been made by other Governments that certain things should be done and that he sees no reason why Great Britain should take the initiative. At Question Time he oftens answers supplementary questions by saying: "Yes, it is a proposal worth thinking about," but he sees no reason why the Government should take action. If the initiative comes from a dictatorship country he seems indecently hasty to follow it.
A dictator may have committed a crime. I have reached the point now of noticing how these things work. First, a crime is committed by a dictator. Then a very strong and vigorous protest is made by the British Government. A suitable reply comes from the dictator, couched in nice and friendly terms. Later on, there is another crime, and another strong and vigorous protest follows from this Government. There is a suitable reply from the dictator—from the criminal. Then the criminal suggests: "Why not meet and talk things over? Can we not come to some agreement, you and I?" Then the British Prime Minister says: "Yes, we will forget the past. We will meet and discuss with you, and we will forget all about the crimes you have committed. We will even go as far as to allow you to keep the goods you have stolen." The Home Secretary sometimes tells us that he is urged by certain societies to remember that leniency is better for some criminals, because they respond more quickly to kind and sympathetic treatment. It is clear that the Prime Minister agrees with the Home Sec- 76 retary about treating criminals sympathetically.
I do not see why we should not take the initiative of calling a conference and making suggestions. That is a good thing. I see no reason why the British Government should say: "Yes, it is a good thing, but we are not prepared to take the initiative." It is to the honour of this country when we take the initiative in any direction which may lead to the safeguarding of the peace of the world. I do not see why we should be so reluctant to take that initiative. I think that the Prime Minister made a serious mistake this afternoon in sneering in the way he did at Russia. He seemed to be very upset about any sneering by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) at any of the dictators, but he went out of his way to sneer at Russia. That is not wise for a Prime Minister, who ought to be above sneers, especially at a great country. When Russia makes a suggestion and—I agree with my right hon. Friend—a constructive proposal, he says: "Yes, it may be a good proposal, but it would divide Europe." I had an idea that Europe was already divided, and I do not think that the acceptance of the Russian proposal could alter the position very much. I think the Prime Minister ought to be strong and courageous enough himself to take the initiative when proposals of a worthy kind are put to him by someone in this House.
The other thing that struck me was that he talked about the child-like attitude of the Opposition. I do not know of anything more child-like than his implicit confidence in the dictators. No matter what they do, he is prepared to accept their word. After the taking over of Austria by Germany, Goering issued a statement to Czechoslovakia that for the moment that country was quite safe. His statement was followed by one by Hitler from Berlin, informing Czechoslovakia that she need not worry; she was quite safe. The Secretary of State for the Dominions is to reply to this Debate. I rather admire the Prime Minister's astuteness in choosing him. He belongs to a party which at the moment seems to speak on this question with as many voices as it has members. I read what one of its Noble Lords said in the other House last week, and in this 77 House I listened to a speech by the hon. Member for West Leicester (Mr. H. Nicolson), which it would be well worth the while of the Dominions Secretary to read. The hon. Member reflected on Italy and its untrustworthiness, and went over the record of Italy. I wrote out a sentence from his speech, and I would like the right hon. Gentleman opposite to tell us whether he agrees with it. It was as follows:If you do open negotiations, the record of Italy for duplicity in the matter of the sanctity of treaties is so terrible that we cannot seriously sacrifice any British asset for such a liability ''—[01-mcIAL REPORT, 21st February, 1938; col. 104, Vol. 332.]I cannot understand the childish confidence of the Prime Minister. Hitler has been guilty over a number of years of breaking every pledge he has given, and Mussolini has done it, if anything, to a greater extent still; yet the Prime Minister says he is prepared to accept assurances given by each of these gentlemen, that he can accept their word. I have no desire to reflect on the honour or sincerity of anybody in the world, but I like to judge people by their actions, and, judging the dictators in Germany and Italy from past actions, one cannot but come to one conclusion—that it is not wise, that it is a risky business, to accept their assurances and to act on that acceptance.
I thought the Prime Minister was rather harsh on my right hon. Friend with regard to the Motion of Censure. First of all, the Motion states quite definitely that the policy that is being pursued by this Government is not making for permanent peace in the world. The policy is not laying down firm foundations on which it is possible to build permanent peace of a kind that safeguards those things which are dear to us, and to which the Prime Minister referred on 24th March. I have found that supporters of the Government, and we shall find the same thing to-night, are never tired of boasting that they have kept this country from war during their period of office. They have, and we are all pleased on that account, but what worries us is that the policy they are pursuing cannot possibly keep this country out of war permanently. The preserving of peace is a very fine achievement, but we have to remember the type of peace that we are preserving. Schuschnigg kept Austria out of war. Schuschnigg could have boasted as vociferously as any Tory that 78 he kept his country out of war, but Schuschnigg lost Austria, and what is the kind of peace that Austria enjoys to-day? It is not enough for hon. Members opposite to tell us that since 1931 their foreign policy has kept Britain out of war. What they have to show is that, not only has it kept Britain out of war up to April, 1938, but that it is a foreign policy which lays down firm foundations on which Britain can be kept out of war for ever. I do not think it is doing that. My quarrel with the Government is that their method of keeping Britain out of war for a temporary period is a method which will land Britain into war, and into disastrous war, possibly in the near future.
The Leader of the Liberal Opposition made it quite clear that he trusts neither Hitler nor Mussolini. It gives him no personal pleasure to say that he distrusts someone else, but does anyone think that Mussolini, after having sacrificed the lives he has sacrificed in Spain, after having spent the money he has spent in Spain, after having run the risks he has run in Spain, dare go back to the Italians and say to them, "It's all over, boys; we have fought the war for altruistic motives; we are completely disinterested; we have freed Spain from the possibility of Bolshevism. That is all we fought for. We want no territorial or economic or political advantages; we leave Spain to the Spaniards"? I would ask the Secretary of State for the Dominions whether he can tell us that he believes that Mussolini dare do that. Does he believe that Hitler is taking the interest that he is taking in Spain for no other reason but the interests of the Spanish people? Has Hitler never thought of serving some German interest? Has it never entered his mind that it may be of advantage to Germany to have some control over Spain? Has he simply gone there saying, "I love the people of Spain; I am very anxious that they should have the type of Government they want, provided that it is the type of Government, I want"? I know the Dominions Secretary well. He does not believe that Hitler or Mussolini will take that attitude at the end of the Spanish war.
When I asked certain of my friends on the other side what they thought about Spain, and why they showed no concern as to which side won, my eyes were opened by what I thought were the rather cynical replies that I got. They said to me, 79 "You think that, if Franco wins, Germany and Italy, singly or combined, will control the future of Spain. But the people who will control the future of Spain when the war is over are the people who are able to invest their money in Spain, the people who can enable Spain to rebuild and rehabilitate herself after all the damage that has been done. The people who invest their money in a country are the people who determine the policy of the country. Do you think that Hitler can invest the necessary money to finance Spain? No; Britain can finance Spain. It is the British financiers who will see to it that British capital goes to Spain. So do not worry; whichever side wins, you will find that Britain will determine the future policy of Spain." If I accept that kind of reasoning, if I accept the idea that it is the person who invests money in a country that determines its type of Government, I wonder what is the real value of democracy. It seems to me that in that case democracy becomes a thing that is only apparent, and not real.
We on this side are told that we are very anxious that the Government of Spain should win. I say quite frankly that I am. But why? I do not know the Spaniards, either on Franco's side or on the Government side. I refused an invitation to go out to see either side; I thought I would stay in Britain—I thought it would be safer—and would depend for my information on people who did go out there. But, whatever type of Government there may have been in Spain at the commencement of the civil war, I feel that it was elected by the Spanish people. Probably it was not elected by British methods; I do not know; but it was elected by Spanish methods. It may be said that there was interference with the secrecy of the ballot in Spain; I do not know; I am told that at present in Austria there is likely to be no per cent. of votes in some areas, and possibly that may have happened in Spain. But, quite frankly, I want the Spanish Government to win because I believe that a victory for Franco would endanger democracy in Spain, and, in my opinion, it would also mean, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) suggested, the encircling of France, thus endangering France, and, in endangering France, endangering British interests.
80 We suggest at the end of our Motion that a General Election should take place. If the Prime Minister is so anxious to impress upon the world that he has behind him a united nation, what is he afraid of? His statement that there will be no General Election received from the other side one of the biggest cheers that has ever been given in this House, and I can quite understand it. There are scores, if not hundreds, of Members opposite who would not return after a General Election, and they know it. I submit, however, that there is a case for testing the opinion of the country. I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman that there might be something to be said against dissolving Parliament at the present moment, here and now, but our point is that a drastic change of foreign policy is needed. It is no use the Prime Minister constantly repeating that the Government are keeping the pledges of 1935. Those pledges are not being redeemed by the Government, and the country is entitled to voice its opinion. If the Prime Minister is as sure as he says he is that he would be returned with even a bigger majority than before, it would strengthen him to show the world that Britain was so unanimous.
He appeals to the trade unions. The trade unions of this country have never been reluctant in putting forth efforts and sacrifice. This is our country; we invest all that we have in this country; we do not invest money in Spain or in any other country; all that we have is at stake in this country, and the trade unions of this country would be prepared to support the Government in an effort to safeguard the interests of the British people. But the Government need not be surprised if we ask them a few questions. We would like to know what is the purpose of rearmament, and how the new armaments are to be used. You are friendly with the dictators, but do not forget that they murdered our trade union colleagues in Italy and in Germany; that they smashed the trade unions in Italy and Germany. Do not expect the trade unions of this country to assist you to be friendly with people who smashed those trade unions and murdered those colleagues of ours in the international trade union world. If we are asked to make some sacrifice of principles which it has taken us ages to win, we expect something in return. If the Prime Minister can convince the country that the policy of the Government is 81 making for real peace, he need not be afraid that he would not get the support of the trade unions, but, as a trade union leader, I say quite frankly that the trade unions of this country are not prepared to support a government whose policy is in our opinion so directed that it will endanger the interests of the trade unions of this country in the future.
What we need is to be convinced that the policy that is being pursued by the Government will safeguard the right kind of peace. We are not against rearmament. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury), who may be speaking later, will advocate a different policy; he will tell us that peace can be permanently established only by disarmament. Let me make the position of the Labour party quite clear, lest someone on the other side may attempt to misconstrue our policy. We stand for collective security. The Labour party stand for all the armaments required to safeguard British interests. We think that disarmament to-day, with the world as it is, with Germany and Italy in their present state of mind, would be disastrous. We do not think that for Britain alone to disarm would be any substantial contribution to peace. The best contribution Britain could make for peace in the present circumstances is by arming, but, having armed, let us use those arms for the cause to which the Prime Minister referred on 24th March—the hope of averting the destruction of those things which we hold most dear—our liberty and the right to live our lives according to the standards which our national traditions arid our national character have prescribed for us."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th March, 1938; col. 1399, Vol. 333.]
§ 6.31 p.m.
§ Wing-Commander James
So much play has been made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) on the subject of foreign intervention in Spain that, perhaps, I might make a few observations on that particular point, based not upon photo-stat copies but upon what I have actually seen in Aragon during the last few days. In order to put these points into their proper perspective, perhaps I may say that it became fairly obvious by the middle of last month that the Aragon offensive, which started on 9th March, was likely to be the decisive battle of the war. I accordingly sent a telegram to a Spanish friend of mine in San Sebastian, 82 telling him that I would come out at once. I went out, and spent some time following the course of operations. The battle of Aragon is being fought on a front of seven corps. There are seven corps taking part in the battle and I have watched five of them in action, and been in the areas of the other two. Since the daily papers are reporting the events pretty closely and some of the phrases may be misleading, I would like to deal with those details first.
It should be clearly understood that the Foreign Legion is in no way comparable to the French Foreign Legion; it is wholly and entirely a Spanish organisation. The proportion of foreigners is more than negligible. There are exactly two British subjects in the whole of the Foreign Legion. It was formed long before this war. It was formed for service overseas. It simply is that part of the Spanish Army which was formed for overseas service. It is wholly officered and manned by Spanish men. The Algerian Corps of General Yague is not manned by Algerians. I watched this corps crossing the River Ebro from early morning to late at night. I saw practically the whole of the corps cross the river, and a few days later I followed up their advance to the River Cinca, and saw them encircle Fraga. I can say that that corps is overwhelmingly formed of white Spanish subjects. There were, for example, nine squadrons of cavalry with this Algerian Corps, and, of those, three were native troops. Of the rest, there was not in the whole corps the equivalent of more than three British battalions of native troops.
I cannot give any estimate of the total number of Moors engaged in Spain, because they are not in divisions or even brigades; they are scattered about in relatively small formations through various sectors. Although a great deal of play is made with the word "Moor," I do not think anybody would say that the actual European fighting value of the Moors is the same as that of the native Spanish troops. It is no disparagement to them to say that; they have the same relative fighting value as had our Indian Expeditionary Force, which we brought to France. When we discuss bringing Moors to Spain, the Spaniards are entitled to remind us that we took our Indian troops to fight in France, and did not disdain their valuable aid. In weighing 83 some of the constant Press references to the Legionaries or Italians or Moors, do not forget that many of us who, in the War, had to censor the letters from our men to their friends at home, observed that those men were invariably opposed by the Prussian guard.
There are two spheres in which the Nationalists have got an undoubted superiority. The first is the air, and the second is in regard to artillery. But that, again, requires some qualification if it is to be assessed fairly, because, both in the air and in ground artillery, there has been a very large and increasing proportion of Spanish personnel. It must be remembered that, long before this civil war started, General Franco was the great training expert of the Spanish Army. He was the Ivor Maxse of the pre-war Spanish Army. Right from the start, he established schools—with the assistance of foreign instruction, perhaps—at which his own officers— reservists, volunteers and so forth—were trained as pilots and artillerymen. I can assert from observation that a very large part of the numerical superiority in aircraft and artillery which the Nationalists enjoy to-day is Spanish manned. I think practically all, if not all, of the very extensive use which is being made of aircraft for what is vulgarly termed "low straffing" is by Spanish pilots. They display a degree of bravery which is amazing, as might be expected from a people who in time of peace habitually go blindly around corners in motor cars, on the wrong side of the road, on two wheels.
This superiority in artillery has another cause as well. It is always much easier for the advancing troops, the winning side, to make full use of their artillery than it is for those who are on the defensive. They can push their guns up without fear of having them surrounded and captured. Several times, on really important sectors which were vital to the Republicans as a whole, I saw pretty heavy Republican fire—I hope that if I use the words "Nationalist" and "Republican," I shall cause no offence—suddenly stop, because the defending artillery had retired, for fear of being captured, thereby inevitably leaving their infantry largely unsupported. The artillery superiority of the Nationalists, though 84 great, is thus magnified by the nature of the operations.
As I have said, the advance is on a front of seven corps. I actually visited and watched fighting in the area of five corps; in the case of the other two, I was in the area but did not actually see the fighting. I have, therefore, some basis for trying to estimate the actual number of foreign combatants. While my figures are not capable of being proved, I hazard a forecast that when the documents are available it will be found that they are not far out. Obviously, I cannot give actual numbers—though I will do so in the case of the Italians in a moment—but I estimate that the maximum total proportion of non-Spanish subjects taking part in the battle of Aragon is 15 per cent. In making that estimate, I put the proportion of non-Spanish as high as possible and of Spanish as low as possible. I believe the lowest possible proportion of foreigners to be about 10 per cent., putting the proportion of foreigners as low as possible and of Spaniards as high as possible. I estimate that the most likely proportion of non-Spanish to Spanish is about 12.7 per cent. Let it be remembered that the great majority of the foreigners in Spain are in the Aragon battle area—surely not less than 80 per cent. The battle front of Aragon represents only about one-sixth of the total length of the line in Spain. That means that, with negligible exceptions, omitting Aragon, all that vast front is being held almost entirely by Spaniards; and the line—notably the Madrid sector—is not being so lightly held either. The question of what proportion of the total force is on the Aragon front is too conjectural for me to go into.
I said that I would give more specific figures about the numbers of Italians. I can do that because of some good fortune that I had in Spain. I did what anybody in my position would have done; I went up to the Italian sector. I had been given free leave by the Burgos authorities to go anywhere I liked, to do what I liked, and talk to anyone I liked. The country is remarkably roadless, and I was motoring by the only road from the rear towards the front in the sector, when I saw a group of officers on a piece of level ground by the side of the more or less mountainous road. One of my Spanish companions recognised in this 85 group Major Ponce de Leon, who is Spanish Liaison Officer, with the Italian General Officer Commanding. We naturally stopped, and I was introduced to General Berti, the General commanding the Italian forces. I apologised for being in his area without having notified him, but explained that I had been told by the Spanish authorities to go where I liked, and he said, "Not at all. Go where you like, see what you like; and anything I can tell you after, I will." I spent some time in that sector, and on the way back I was met by the same Spanish liaison officer, who said, "It is about time you came back. It is very cold waiting for you. The General has told me to take you back, and offer you supper with him." I naturally availed myself of his very courteous offer. We went back to the village where he was billeted.
On going through the ante-room for supper I fortunately saw—I could not avoid seeing it—on the wall his situation map. It was an enormous, large-scale map made up from day to day as the advance went on. It would be some 18 or 20 feet long and 10 or 12 feet high. On it was marked in coloured chalk the advance of the Italian corps, the dividing line between the divisions, and the advance day by day, etched in and shaded, and the numbers and names of the corps on the flanks. I naturally paused and looked at it, and afterwards I said to General Berti, "Do you mind my referring to what I have seen on your operations map?" He replied, "You can tell anybody anything you have seen here, and, what is more, if you like to come back to my area to-morrow, you can go anywhere you like in it, and you can check, as far as you can, the accuracy of what you have seen on my map and the statements that I make to you." However much I may have been mistaken or misled over figures, here at least is one figure which cannot be disputed. I already had, on my map, marked the approximate boundaries of the seven corps.
The Italians in the battle of Aragon on the 26th of last month were operating upon a front of 17 kilometres, that is 10¾ miles, and further, on 9th March, the day the battle started, they had jumped off from a base line of almost exactly the same distance, 17 kilometres, or 10¾ miles, When I got hack I referred to other maps, and I correlated that front of 86 9th March, when operations started, and 26th March, the day I was there, with the total length of the line. The operation of 9th March, measuring from about four miles North of Huesca, the northern point of advance, down to Teruel, the southern point, was from a base line of 150 miles. On the 26th of last month, measuring generously and fairly, not following every little curve but taking a broad outline, the advance was on a front of 217 miles. I ask hon. Members opposite, and particularly the right hon. Member the Leader of the Opposition, to remember these figures when they talk about the enormous Italian forces, the extent of the Italian participation in the battle of Aragon.
But to be absolutely fair, I must add one other thing. The Italian troops are more numerous on their front than the comparable Spanish formations, so that the figure of 10¾ miles out of 150 miles might be a little misleading. They have also, as General Berti courteously told me, a larger amount of artillery than the corresponding Spanish troops. General Berti then gave me these figures. I would remind the House that he in fact worked with the British forces in Italy during the Great War, and he was a very good friend to the British staff, and is a most courteous and efficient officer. He said, "I have here in Spain, under my command, a total of all ranks and all arms"—I assume he excluded aviation— "of 22,000 men. I have four divisions. There are two completely Italian divisions, the Littorio and the XXIII March, and I have also two mixed divisions, Italian and Spanish, the Blue and the Black Arrows. They are mixed at a ratio of 85 per cent. Spaniards to 15 per cent. Italians." Incidentally when I was formerly on the Aragon front in November last I happened, luckily, to select the section of the line in which there was a battalion of the Black Arrows, and in that case the proportion was correct. The General said "I have not received one reinforcement for three months. As my men complete their term of volunteered duty and go home on leave they are not being replaced. If you like to go and visit my batteries, you will find that I have not one battery up to strength, and the artillery of my divisions is to-day 1,000 men under strength." These figures were given to me in good faith by the Italian General, and I accept them.
§ Mr. Alexander
The hon. and gallant Gentleman is much more expert in military matters than I am, but I would ask him whether, in view of the official announcement in Italy, covering the casualties for the weeks since 9th March of the entire Italian force, he would regard casualties of 2,000 as being relative to those figures of total strength?
§ Wing-Commander James
The General himself gave me these figures, and, having travelled right across the ground in question, and having learnt that the Italians had in the last two days before I was there come up against very stiff resistance from the international column, I do not in the least dispute these figures. Casualties may be assessed in various ways, and I should be inclined to assume that that figure was given by Signor Mussolini for home consumption, and in order to indicate to his people the amount of their effort, it would probably and naturally include some fairly light casualties.
§ Mr. Gallacher
Surely, the hon. and gallant Gentleman is not as simple as he is trying to make out to be; he is not going to make out that Signor Mussolini is trying to exaggerate the casualties in his own forces.
§ Wing-Commander James
I think that the casualties given on the front I have indicated in the period between 9th March and 26th March were not by any means improbable or unreasonable. I have given, as far as I can, a fair and accurate survey on these fronts.
§ Mr. W. Roberts
Before the hon. and gallant Gentleman leaves the Insurgent side, will he deal with the subject in which he is a specialist, namely, the position of the air force? Can he say whether the air force is under General Franco's control, what is the personnel and where they come from? I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman admitted that there was considerable superiority on the Insurgent side.
§ Wing-Commander James
I have dealt with that part of the Air and military operations which came under my personal observation. I cannot be lured into theoretical arguments and say who may or may not be controlling that part of the air force which I did not see operating.
§ Mr. Roberts
The hon. and gallant Gentleman has told us that he has been in close contact with officers of the ground forces, and I thought that perhaps he might have had some opportunity of exploring what, to us, is a more interesting subject.
§ Wing-Commander James
No, I did not. I have never when in Spain deliberately gone round doing anything that was not proper.
§ Wind-Commander James
The hon. Gentleman is discourteous in view of the fact that I gave way to him, and was giving him a perfectly fair answer.
§ Mr. Robertsrose—
§ Wing-Commander James
I have given way twice to the hon. Member. I would say, in further reply to him, that I have never poked my nose into things which, by virtue of my Air rank, might have made it awkward for people.
§ Wing-Commander James
There are technical matters connected with aircraft which it would have been very improper for me to have tried to investigate. If I had seen a crashed machine, it would have been a different thing. Hon. Members opposite talk about foreign intervention, in the battle of Aragon especially, as if it was all on one side. I do not know the ratio of foreign advisers and technicians on the two sides. I have tried to deal with what I have actually seen. There is no doubt that in this battle much of the stiffest resistance at the most important points has come from the International Brigade. It happened before at Madrid in November the year before last, and it happened in the Italian advance on Guadalajara, north of Madrid, and again in the Aragon battle at Caspe, at Alcaniz and at such vital points. At these points the brunt of the defensive fighting has been borne by the International Brigade. I am not complaining of it; I am recording it. Here again I am not dependent upon hearsay. I am not dependent 89 merely upon hearing of and seeing captured documents, captured kit, or upon reading captured correspondence. The other morning, at Caspe, I found that there were bodies of members of the International Brigade lying a few yards from the particular knoll to which I had gone to view the battle, confirming what I had been told the night before.
I think he would be a very bold person, in view of how soon the real facts will be and should be known, who asserted that, as far as the ground forces are concerned, there is any great superiority in assistance in either men or material on the side of the Nationalist forces. The main reason why this battle is being won is because of the great advantages enjoyed by the Nationalists in respect, first, of the training and morale of their troops, and, secondly, in the direction of the offensive, and that I believe to be purely and entirely a Spanish effort. I do not believe that this slogan of the Opposition that democracy is being strangled in Spain by the Republicans' failure to obtain arms has any foundation whatever. Even if they had not—as they have—been obtaining from at least two if not three foreign sources, such munitions as they could use, to call up at this last hour levies of boys to the army can be of no possible avail against the advancing force.
§ Mr. Alexander
That is entirely contrary, if I may say so, to what I learned in a first-hand talk that I had only last week with a large number of wounded British members of the International Brigade, who told me specifically that if they could only have had sufficient arms they could have held up the advance.
§ Wing-Commander James
The ordinary soldier often does not know the real facts, and I believe my statement will be found to be in accordance with the facts. This is a very ruthless war—I am not excusing anybody, I am only trying to report. But we should remember that we in this country are much more sensitive about many things than are the Spaniards. I have been several times struck by the way in which the heart of the British public bleeds when the Spanish heart only gets angry; and I think hon. Members opposite fall into another delusion when they say they believe this is a war between Fascism and Communism. That is an appalling over-simplification. I believe 90 that this war was inevitable. It is not necessarily linked with the divisions in the rest of Europe that we have seen in the last few years. The more I read of Spanish history in recent years the more I am convinced that this war, in ideology and in essence, is really a third Carlist war. I may perhaps be allowed to read one short quotation from a book published in 1836. This is the best book that has been written on the first Carlist war, and its English author was a man called Captain Henningsen, who fought in the first Carlist war. The Navarrese troops have been the backbone of the Nationalist forces in this war, and he said this of the Navarrese:Accustomed, from their ancient mode of government, to a great degree of personal liberty under a despotic form, they look with suspicion on the modern innovations which the liberals—a name applied to the Cristinos—in their march of new ideas, wish to introduce. Experience has perhaps given them an exaggerated horror of that revolutionary fever which has for the last half century agitated Europe, and of which designing men have taken advantage to disturb nations, that, ever and anon returning to the same point, find they have only gone round a circle, and that the charlatans, who led the movement, alone rise uppermost by the changing of the wheel.The bitterness of this war is accentuated by its religious aspect. I took the opportunity in the last few days of going into as many churches behind the advancing troops as I could. I did not go into a single town or village in which the church had not been desecrated—not one; and one of the most horrible things I have ever seen was a cemetery at Huesca which had been occupied the day before I was in it. I had heard in Saragossa a story of unpleasant happenings in this cemetery. There was no question of its being an exhibit. On the way to Huesca I found civic guards on duty and I was not allowed in, and I had to get a special permit from the Governor to enter it. A Spanish graveyard is a rather grisly place, from the custom of burying the dead in a sort of pigeon hole against a high wall. In this cemetery a large number of the tombs had been broken open, coffins pulled out, in some cases only a couple of feet, and the lids forced up. Where there was jewellery on the body the corpses had been tipped on to the ground, and I myself saw (a most revolting thing) a number of bodies with the ring fingers broken off. In all the chapels 91 that I entered around the perimeter of this cemetery at Huesca there were grossly obscene drawings on the walls and filthy inscriptions. That sort of thing does inflame feeling, and it certainly exasperates the Nationalist Spaniards.
I am afraid I have spoken very much too long. I will make only one more remark. I do not think the Opposition quite realise the dilemma in which they put themselves when they assert that there is a risk of Fascism or of outside influence dominating Spain after the war is over. Personally, taking a long view, I think there is little risk of either Fascism or Communism gaining a foothold in as intensely individualistic country as Spain. But Members of the Labour party who are never tired of denouncing Communist intrigue in their own constituencies in their unions and in the country, assume that in Spain Communism turns into beneficent and harmless influence. But if it be true, as I think, that the character of the Spaniard is such that Communism would have little chance among them, does that equally apply to Fascism? Are not both equally alien to the Spanish character? Are the men in Navarre, Castile, and Aragon less independent than the men of Catalonia? History does not say so.
I do not believe that on political, military or territorial grounds there is any reason for apprehension in the impending victory of the Nationalists. Remember that not once since 1812 has a Spanish army crossed the Pyrenees. We are the last persons to complain of that eruption because they fought there in the battle of Toulouse under Wellington. They are the most insular people in Europe, and perhaps the most self-supporting economically. I do not believe that Spain is going to be in economic pawn to those who have given them assistance. And this has been a war fought on the cheap. I do not suppose the daily cost of the whole of the Spanish army has approached that of a single corps in France in 1918. Except for a few luxury articles, they need import nothing. It is now a matter of weeks or days only before this war will be over. Nothing, absolutely nothing, short of large scale armed foreign intervention—which I think is unthinkable—can avert a Nationalist victory. I maintain that it is 92 then that the policy of non-intervention, initiated by the right hon. Gentleman the former Foreign Secretary, and courageously maintained by him against the Opposition—a fact they now forget—a policy initiated by a man in whom they have since discovered all the virtues that we knew were there before—that policy is now going to be vindicated. I do not believe that the interventionists are going to get any material benefit at all.
§ Mr. David Grenfell
If, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman assumes, the policy of non-intervention is now going to be fully vindicated, will he tell us whether that policy from the beginning did not favour the Nationalists?
§ Wing-Commander James
I believe that when history comes to be written it will be shown that if the policy of nonintervention favoured either side, it favoured the Republic, because the other side had the command of the sea and the Republicans had a land frontier. I came across to-day what I personally think rather an interesting quotation on the question of intervention in Spain. On 17th May, 1835, the Government of Madrid was in a bad way. The Carlist troops under the great General Zumalacarregui were gaining the day, and the Government of Madrid applied for aid to France and this was the reply given by Louis Philippe:Help the Spaniards from outside, if you will, but don't let us embark in their ship. Once therein, we must take the helm, and God knows what will happen. Napoleon failed to subdue them, and Louis XVIII to extricate them from their troubles. I know them—unconquerable and unmanageable by foreigners. They call on us to-day; we shall hardly have set foot in their country when they will hate us and put every obstacle in our way. Let us not employ our army in this interminable task; we shall be dragging a cannon-ball at our heels through Europe. If the Spaniards can be saved, they themselves are the only people that can do it. If we undertake to bear the burden, they will hoist it on our shoulders, and will then make it impossible for us to carry it.The hon. Member by his interruption nearly robbed me of my peroration. Non-intervention has saved the peace of Europe and left us the honest brokers to mitigate the peace in Spain. I apologise for the intolerable length of my remarks.
§ 7.14 p.m.
I do not propose to follow the hon. and gallant Gentleman in all the details of his speech with regard to the 93 Spanish war, because I do not think that is very relevant in all its details to this particular discussion; but I do compliment him on one thing. I think it must be a very long time since a speech in this House has ended up with a quotation from Louis Philippe. I confess for my own part I rather like that scholarly touch. But I regret that I cannot quite accept the hon. and gallant Gentleman's accuracy, if he suggests that with the number of Italian soldiers in action which he mentioned it was possible to have a casualty list of over 1,700, unless Signor Mussolini put down everybody on the casualty list who had nasal catarrh or a scratched finger. An hon. Gentleman suggests that he might have done so, but in that case a casualty list has no meaning at all. But perhaps the hon. and gallant Member had an opportunity of looking at that list and so he knows about what he is speaking.
I want to discuss something which the Prime Minister raised when he spoke of the manifesto by the National Council of Labour. He very adroitly and picturesquely, from the debating point of view, perhaps quite fairly, completely misrepresented what that document said. He tried to imply that the National Council of Labour was in favour of an alliance between Great Britain, France and the Soviet Union, independently of the League of Nations. The text of the document clearly states that that is not so. That is a kind of statement which, coming from the Prime Minister, rather undermines one's confidence in his fairness. He should not have made that statement, knowing how damaging it was and how damaging it was intended to be. That statement, in plain English, is not true.
I should like to discuss the matters raised by the National Council of Labour. The Prime Minister pooh-poohed calling together the League of Nations. He pooh-poohed a discussion by the Assembly of the economic causes of discontent in Europe at the present time. Surely, according to the Prime Minister's own definition of the powers of the League of Nations, that is precisely what the League of Nations can do at the present time. Suppose we agree that the League is not in a position to impose its power and its authority on Europe and stop war by force—and that it certainly cannot do at the present time. But whether 94 it is in its power to summon together the nations of Europe to bring discussion to bear on the fundamental economic financial matters which are at the root of the discontent in Europe, is quite another matter. That is certainly a thing which the Government ought to consider at the present time.
The other day I put down a Motion on the Order Paper, in my name and in the names of other hon. Members, suggesting that it was very necessary at the present time that a conference should be called to discuss the economic questions which are at the root of the discontent in Europe and at the root of the troubles which we see between Germany, Italy, ourselves and all other countries. I asked the Prime Minister whether a day could be given for that Motion, and I received the reply that a date could not be given. I noted that to-day, when the Prime Minister was dealing with the same subject in another way, he again waived this matter away as if the whole of the labour of M. Van Zeeland and the economic experts who have dealt with foreign affairs from the economic standpoint was really of no importance and not worth while the consideration of the Government. The Government through the Prime Minister have been talking in terms of old-time political diplomacy, when they ought to be talking in terms of modern economic diplomacy, which is a very different thing. It is true that there are many political discontents in Europe at the present time, but the basis of that discontent is almost entirely economic. The changes that have taken place since the last War are so tremendous that for people to talk in the 1914 phraseology, as the Prime Minister was doing this evening, is rather ridiculous.
I was interested to notice that one of the Prime Minister's supporters went to the length of reciting the old doggerel,We don't want to fight,But, by jingo, if we do.I had been wondering how soon the jingo spirit would be raised, and it is interesting to note that the jingoism has come from the Prime Minister's supporters. It will be interesting to see how it develops in the future. The right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) reminded us that in the old days the duty of the Opposition was to oppose everything, to propose nothing and to turn the Government out. 95 That was before the days when the economic system was as developed as it is at the present time. The Great War changed all that, and every Government now has to concern itself to a very large extent with economic affairs. A Government in the days of Lord Randolph Churchill was very largely concerned with purely political matters; but every Government at the present time is bound to concern itself to a large extent with economic matters. Every Government, owing to the world changes which have arisen since the late War, is bound more and more to take note of economic affairs. That applies to the United States, to the Soviet Union, to this country, Poland, Rumania, Germany, Italy, in fact every country in Europe.
Every Government in Europe at the present time is economically, administratively as well as politically functioning. Therefore, I suggest that we should change the old statement of Lord Randolph Churchill and say that the duty of the Opposition is to criticise everything, which we of the present Opposition have been doing, and to propose constructive alternatives, which are certainly constantly made from the Labour benches, and which were made in the manifesto of the National Council of Labour, which the Prime Minister went out of his way to attempt to ridicule. It is also the duty of the Opposition to convince the electorate who are much more important than they were in the days of Lord Randolph Churchill, to turn the Government out. That I think we are (wing very comfortably at the present time. If the Prime Minister is not ready for a General Election now or very shortly, we should be very glad to meet him at any time when he is ready and to give a very good account of ourselves. I hope that his own side will be as satisfied as our side will be when that day comes.
If the Government are not prepared to face the electorate, are they not ready to face the economic facts of Europe? I am sure that as soon as the Government have a good story to tell in the country they will be ready to face an election, but before that they must face economic facts. Let us face up to the Government's surprise about Austria Why were they so extraordinarily surprised at the 96 sudden eruption of Hitler's legions into Austria? When I was in Austria in 1919, attending to some of the results which the War and our blockade had inflicted on the Austrians, I found that 90 per cent. of the people in Austria were in favour of union with Germany, because the position of Austria at that time was an impossible one. Let me remind the House that it was not the Peace Treaties which had put Austria into that position but the Czechoslovakian Revolution of 1918, which divided up that part of the world. The Anschluss of Germany and Austria was prevented by Great Britain, France and other countries joining together, but no alternative was provided. If you do not provide economic and financial alternatives for the solution of economic and financial evils, then those financial and economic evils will at some time solve themselves by force or be solved by force from outside. That is exactly what has happened in regard to Austria. The Anschluss was inevitable if the economic difficulties of Austria were not faced.
I have raised this point this evening because Europe at the present time is full of unsolved economic difficulties, each or any of which, if not solved, may be the cause of very great trouble in the future. We have heard in this House something of the difficulties of Czechoslovakia, the difficulties of the Sudeten-Deutsch and the difficulties of the Slovakian minority. Those are difficulties which ought to be solved. There are also difficulties in Hungary. How many hon. Members know that from 1919 there has been a song of hate taught in the Hungarian schools, by which the children vow they will never agree to the slices which were cut off from Hungary on the signing of the Peace Treaty? Hungary is definitely a grave source of danger at the present time. In fact, every part of Europe can provide its quota of dangers because of economic difficulties. Rumania has another type of difficulty. It has gorged itself by adding territory from Hungary, Russia and other countries. Only the other day we had the difficulty between Poland and Lithuania. To-morrow, perhaps, we shall hear of Yugo-Slavia's difficulties, or of Bulgaria's difficulties. Who knows?
It is no use waiting until some dictator presents a pistol and says:" This is my method of solution." The only reason- 97 able method of dealing with these difficulties is for the League to summon a meeting of the European and the Near-Eastern Governments to face frankly, fully and completely all the economic difficulties which are outstanding in Europe at the present time. Not all of them are due to the Peace Treaties; some of them are due to changes independent of the Peace Treaties, but they date from about the time of the Peace Treaties. Unless these difficulties are faced, unless a constructive policy for Europe as a whole is evolved—and it can be evolved round a table—these difficulties will be one after another solved by violence, by force, to the detriment of this and every other country.
When we extend our view from Europe to the colonial dependencies of the world—the colonial possessions of this country, of France and other countries, the situation is even worse. Everyone knows that Herr Hitler has demanded that there shall be a discussion of the question of the return of colonies to Germany. I do not propose to discuss that subject in detail but only to bring into this discussion the question of the use of colonies at the present time. That consideration and the question of the economic readjustments which ought to be made must receive attention. The question very largely concerns the colonies in tropical Africa. What is the present condition of the colonies? It is that a number of arbitrary political changes were made at the end of the Great War, under which the colonial possessions of Germany were divided up and mandated to different nations, and since that time, economically speaking, very little has been done.
We call ourselves a great colonial Power. I have lately been looking into the statistics of our actual production and the administration of a number of our Colonies, and one thing that is quite certain is that we are an extraordinarily bad colonial Power, because we are not properly using our Colonies or our Dominions and the immense resources that are open to us there. What is necessary in Europe if we are to have real peace, is that we should allay the desire in Europe for economic expansion, for greater freedom and for higher standards of life by proposing some kind of constructive work in which the nations of 98 Europe could operate. I cannot understand why the Prime Minister should ridicule, by implication if not in words, the extraordinarily important report of M. Van Zeeland which he made after consulting all the chief countries of Europe, and after considering economic and financial matters with those best qualified to give an opinion in those countries.
That report asked in definite and specific terms for the calling of such a conference as that for which I am asking, yet the Government have taken no notice of it. May I remind hon. Members that it was at the request of this Government and the French Government that M. Van Zeeland made this inquiry and produced his report? Why should not such a conference be brought about? It would be of the greatest possible advantage to Europe, and I believe would open a new and constructive chapter in foreign policy which is very badly needed by the Government at the present time. I do not know whether the Government have quite forgotten this report, but I suggest that they should look at it again and ascertain whether it is not possible to do something on these lines. At the present time, when you have in Europe this demand for self-expression, this demand for nationalism, this demand for a higher standard of life everywhere—which is at the root of economic and political unrest —it can be met only by an increase of wealth. An increase of wealth in Europe is only possible by greater co-operation between nations, by abolishing the restrictions on trade, the ridiculous fetters on currency regulations and by solving the problem of frozen credits. All these things can be solved by the methods outlined by M. Van Zeeland in his report.
With regard to our Colonies. They are extremely little used. The growth of Africa is going on haphazard and undirected, and will present us very shortly with a very serious set of problems. Why is it not possible, as M. Van Zeeland suggests, for the nations of Europe to cooperate in the formation of international chartered companies, in which the capital of all nations would be invested and used for the purpose of producing greater wealth in these Colonies, at the same time safeguarding the interests of the natives? In that way you would give opportunities for enterprise and activity, and for men to work and produce new wealth. As an 99 indication of how new wealth can be produced I will give one figure. I was looking recently into the question of the amount of palm oil exports from Nigeria, and on the basis of the opinion of an extremely good expert in this particular matter, I learned that the export of that commodity from Nigeria could be increased five-fold merely by introducing better agricultural organisation and better marketing arrangements, and using just the present native methods. We ought to use our Colonies more and, if you apply that illustration in the case of palm oil exports to other items of Colonial produce, with necessary modifications, you have the possibility of an immense increase of wealth being produced in the Colonies. I would suggest that all European nations, including Italy and Germany, should be asked to co-operate in this way under conditions laid down by the League of Nations. I hope we shall have some indication from the Government that they are not neglecting this aspect of foreign policy.
I suggest that they should summon this European and Near-Eastern Conference and that they should do so as soon as possible. This may not be a very new idea. It is not new to hon. Members on this side of the House, because it has been laid down in Labour party policy since 1919. It is not, or should not be, new, to hon. Members opposite, because it is outlined in the Van Zeeland Report. It is something upon which all people can agree, and it is constructive and not destructive in character. We should face the economic facts of Europe and of the Colonies in conference before we are asked to face them under threat. If we face them now we shall have a chance of coming to a solution of a valuable kind. The alternative to this policy is one Austrian coup after another, a weakening of the powers of peace, a weakening of the powers of Great Britain, until in some future time war and all the terrible powers which are now in the possession of mechanised armies, are let loose on an unfortunate world. There is a possibility at the present time that if the Government would give this lead we might snatch out of the present danger the opportunity of finding the foundation of enduring peace. On the basis of an economic conference such as I have suggested, Great Britain would rally to 100 herself, as the leader in such an enterprise, all the small nations of Europe, those with grievances and those who hope to participate in the redress of grievances and who have the right to participate in a policy of putting right wrongs which go back for more than 20 years. In putting these wrongs right we should have a new orientation of the Powers of Europe and a strengthening of the League of Nations.
§ 7.37 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Wickham
Hon. Members and right hon. Members opposite have in the past indicated that they were unable to support the Government's programme of rearmament because they disagreed with the Government's foreign policy, and were in consequence not satisfied that these arms would be used for purposes which they were likely to approve. Latterly, we have seen a change of outlook, at least in regard to armaments, although I was under the impression that the present attitude of the Opposition amounted to little more than a grudging admission of the necessity of rearmament. But I was glad to hear the remarks of the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. G. Macdonald) regarding the attitude of the trade union organisation, and I hope that it constitutes the official view of the Socialist Opposition. In that case it is a definite move in the right direction. The foreign Debates we have had recently have served to show up wide diver-gencies of opinion as to the objects of our foreign policy and the methods which should be adopted to attain them. I want to suggest that we have some common ground, and a good deal of common ground, in the field of foreign affairs.
His Majesty's Government have given categorical assurances that our arms will never be used for the purposes of aggression, will never be used for any purpose inconsistent with the principles which underlie the Covenant of the League of Nations. Does anyone seriously doubt the truth of this assertion? Nowadays no one seriously contends that behind our rearmament programme there lurks some sinister purpose, some dark design, to paint the map red with the blood of subjugated peoples. I think it is agreed that the first objective of our foreign policy is the protection of this country and Empire. Recently the right hon. Member the Leader of the Opposition extolled the 101 sagacity of the late Sir Austen Chamberlain. I well remember Sir Austen Chamberlain, a few months before his lamented death, prefacing one of his illuminating talks on foreign affairs with the remark that "British interests should form the basis of British foreign policy." I am not suggesting that British foreign policy should necessarily stop there. I know that hon. Members opposite would like to see it go much further. If I understand their position aright, they would like to see British foreign policy directed by the method of collective action through the League to the putting down of aggression all over the world. I hope it is common ground among the great majority of hon. Members on all sides of the House that the protection of the British Empire should at least form an essential objective of our foreign policy.
I should like to ask the House to consider for a moment some of the dangers which beset our Empire to-day. Look at the position of India, a vast continent with thousands of miles of vulnerable coastline and a population of 350,000,000 inhabitants, completely unarmed, not only lacking the means of arming themselves in an emergency, which is something that can be put right, but for the most part congenitally, and hereditarily incapable of bearing arms. The vast majority of them belong to castes which have been classed as unwarlike, un-martial, over a period dating back to prehistoric times when the Buddha would drop a lotus flower and it would become a sacred lake watering some desert area. They lack the first military essential, the will to fight, without which nothing can be accomplished. We have an army in India of 55,000 troops and 120,000 Indian troops, and they would doubtless be capable of withstanding an invasion from across the frontiers of North West India, but the most successful invasion, the British invasion, came from the sea. When one hears of the millions of men under arms in dictator countries, when one reads of the vast invading hordes pouring into China, one realises that the army in India, fine body of troops though it be, is in point of numbers, in point of effectives, more like a guard of honour than the army of a nation of 350,000,000 souls.
During the Great War, when we were tip against it, when we had our backs to 102 the wall, India was practically denuded of troops. The depots were full of raw recruits and there were a few British garrison battalions consisting largely of C3 men and dug-out officers over military age. Does anyone imagine that in the next war the situation will be easier? Though naturally we all are doing our best to avert the possibility of war, yet this is a problem we have to consider. Unless the British Navy is able to accomplish the very difficult task of maintaining the command of the sea in the East, unless we can maintain Singapore as an impregnable bastion, the chances are that India will be at the mercy of the invader. India with her unwarlike masses might well be in a far worse position than China is to-day. The Indians will be like a vast colony of seals on some Antarctic island, utterly defenceless against the bludgeons and knives of the sealers who take their pelts and leave their carcases rotting on the shore.
I shall only make a passing reference to the many other dangers which beset our Empire strung out as it is over the surface of the globe, but I want to express my profound conviction that proper provision for the defence of our Empire and our country, without taking into account any further commitments, will demand from this country the maximum effort in armament production which can be made without unduly diminishing that economic strength which my hon. Friend the Member for Wood Green (Mr. Baxter) has described as the best gun emplacement in the world. I maintain that that maximum effort is vitally necessary in order to attain what I hope and believe is a common objective, the defence of our great heritage, the protection of which means so much to the peace and freedom of the world. I venture to suggest to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite that, without abating their demands, without curtailing their criticisms of the Government's foreign policy, without giving an inch of ground, they can still come out into the open on the issue of rearmament and use their powerful influence to help to secure that that maximum effort will be made.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) told us that we cannot buy peace at Woolworths; possibly he thinks that it is obtainable at the Co-ops—by co-operative or collective action. I know it is held in some 103 quarters that collective security would pay us a dividend, and that by relying on collective security we could obtain greater protection at a smaller cost both in treasure and in exertion. The memory of Abyssinia will long remain in my mind, for I was one of those who, in all sincerity, advocated the imposition of sanctions against Italy. I hoped that we had found a means of putting an end to war, and I thought it would be well worth while to try it out. But on looking back, one is forced to admit that the experiment on Abyssinia was tantamount to the vivisection of a nation in the cause of political science. I scout the suggestion that we were half-hearted. I know that we went as far ahead as we could, short of acting individually instead of collectively; in fact, in going as far ahead as we did, we strained that collective principle. The operation was not only unsuccessful, but was a glaring failure.
I confess that I am puzzled and astonished that men and women of high intelligence, hon. Members of this House, should live in a world so unreal that they urge to-day that, with conditions as they are, this country should run the risk of being involved in another similar experiment. I assure the Prime Minister that, if I am any judge, the great majority of Somerset folk in my part of the world strongly support the foreign policy of the Government. They are opposed to a foreign policy of unlimited liability with the initiative in the hands of foreign Powers. I am sure that they appreciate that in my right hon. Friend they have a Prime Minister who is not only a first-class executive, but a man whose courage, whose steadfastness and whose determination to do what he believes to be right, render him a fitting leader of a great people.
§ 7.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Price
The hon. and gallant Member for Taunton (Lieut.-Colonel Wickham) referred to those who, he said, are living in an unreal world in advocating the principle of collective security, as we have advocated it from these benches for so long. I put it to the hon. and gallant Gentleman that those who are living in an unreal world are the people who think as he does. He said that the defence of the Empire is a more important and difficult problem than it has ever been before, 104 Is it not reasonable to maintain that, as it becomes more difficult for us to defend the Empire by ourselves alone, the only sound foreign policy is to work with other nations, that is to say, to stand by the Covenant of the League of Nations, and to try to get the support of other nations in the defence of our Empire, as well as undertaking some liabilities on our side to assist them when they are in trouble? Surely, that is the only sound foreign policy for us to follow now.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Wickham
I wish to make it clear that I am not in favour of a policy of isolation, but I think that if we do as the hon. Member wants, we shall on balance find that we are taking on a great deal more than the safety which we shall be obtaining.
§ Mr. Price
The hon. and gallant Gentleman looks at the liability side of the account but, like many other hon. Members opposite, he does not see the credit side as well. I maintain that the credit side is as great as, if not greater than, the liability side in our case, in view of our widely spread Colonies and Dominions, which are far more difficult to defend than those empires the territories of which are much more concentrated. I feel that hon. Members opposite, when they speak as the hon. and gallant Member has done, show a lack of vision, which is sometimes almost appalling. They still think in terms of an age which has long since passed, and not of modern, twentieth century conditions, which mean that unless we hang together we shall hang separately. Surely, it is not wise to argue that we shall fight for other countries and then find that they will not help us, or to say, as the hon. and gallant Member did, that we shall fight for countries which are far away, and assume liabilities all over the world. There are degrees of liability, as indeed is foreshadowed in the Covenant of the League of Nations. Under Article 16 of the Covenant we have no liability to declare war on an aggressor; under that Article the liability is for all Members of the League to consult together on the measures they will take. There may be degrees of liability, dependent upon geographical circumstances, the size of the nation, and its economic, financial and military power. Clearly, all those liabilities have to be worked out, as is provided in the Covenant of the League, which hon. Members opposite disparage so much.
105 I was deeply disappointed by the speech of the Prime Minister, a speech which I thought was thoroughly unworthy of the occasion, a speech which might have been made by any party organiser on the eve of the poll, but not a speech for an occasion as important and dreadfully serious as the present. The Prime Minister appears to think that the whole country is on his side. The right hon. Gentleman may have on his side those who fear the existence of Popular Front Governments on the Continent, for I am afraid that a certain number of people in this country would prefer to see Fascist Governments in power on the Continent; they do not like even to see a Popular Front Government in France, and would like to see that Government manoeuvred out of power and replaced by a Government with extra-parliamentary powers which would lead that great democracy away from its great and famous traditions. There are also behind the Prime Minister those who fear to take any risk, and those who are unable to look beyond their noses. That is not the constructive statesmanship which the country needs at the present time.
Moreover, the Prime Minister had the effrontery to claim that he had world opinion behind him. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) referred to Dominion opinion. I believe that American opinion, which is extremely important in all matters concerning European affairs, is being driven increasingly into isolation by the policy of our Government. Opinion in America is made up of two elements: there is the instinctive traditional policy of isolation dating from the days of George Washington; but there is a latent idealism among Americans which can always be got out in any big crisis in world affairs. It is the business of every British Government to try to utilise that latent sentimental idealism of the Americans for the use of whatever policy they may be following—in this case, surely, a League policy of mutual defence. I think it is true to say that American opinion is being increasingly disillusioned. First, there was the infamous Hoare-Laval episode, which greatly shocked American opinion, and now the Government are having these talks with the dictatorship countries, these backstairs talks which, I am afraid are making the 106 stock of this country still lower in American opinion. Surely, it would be wise at the present time to base our foreign policy on two main aims: first, firmness in upholding the rule of international law; and secondly, conciliation in world economic affairs. In regard to the first, it has been the historic policy of this country to prevent the domination of the Continent by any one great Power. I think Charles James Fox gave the best view of that kind of policy when he said:It should be the policy of this country to allow no one Power to become a danger to the liberties of Europe.It was for that reason that this country opposed Louis XIV, Napoleon and the Kaiser; but when Louis XIV and Napoleon were overthrown, we simply continued our policy of the balance of power. But when the last Great War ended, at least we did something which wrote a new page in the history of world affairs. We went beyond the old policy of the balance of power, and tried to create a new international order based upon the Covenant of the League of Nations. The last titanic struggle led us to that, and it was that which enabled us to look with some hope to the future, rather than to return to the old policy of trying to defeat any rising dictator by counterbalancing him with another alliance. It is untrue to say that any attempt to organise a partial League of Nations—for we all admit that now it would be only partial—would be the same as the old balance of power. The Prime Minister is entirely wrong if he says that. The old pre-war balance of power and alliances were entirely different from the League of Nations.- The pre-war alliances were closed alliances which no one could join, with secret naval and military commitments behind them. That is not the case with the League, which is an open parliament, where everyone knows the rules and the methods of procedure. Everyone knows its liabilities and everyone knows its assets. It is there that the Government have so grievously failed. We are told that we cannot make use of this partial League of Nations and that it is only like the old pre-war balance of power.
It may be that the world will have to face the unification of a portion of Europe under Hitler's domination. The German nation for many centuries has been slowly unifying itself: First, under the dominion 107 of Prussia and its great architect. Bismarck, with his policy of "blood and iron." Then, following the War, an attempt was made under the Weimar Constitution, with a democratic republic in Germany, to increase the unification of the Reich, and if only some wisdom and statesmanship had been shown then, we might have had a unification of Central Europe under those auspices. But, alas, owing to the follies and stupidities of that time and the Versailles Treaty, with all its inequities, that dream faded. To-day, we have once again a "blood and iron "policy, only 50 times worse than that of Bismarck, with a barbarous, outworn and unscientific racial theory which is being imposed upon the unfortunate German people. That is the kind of unification which we are getting now, and against that something must be done. We must try to bring together the other Powers of Europe to prevent the extension of those ideas, at any rate outside Central Europe. If the German people want unification under those auspices, it is not for us to say them nay, but we can at least prevent its extension, and that is where co-operation with the other League Powers is required.
There is no reason to imagine that such a course would necessarily lead to war. The German general staff learned a lesson in the last war. They do not want to fight a war on all fronts if they can help it. Bismarck never did that. He always took his enemies separately, on the principle of "divide and rule," and it was the failure of the Kaiser and Von Tirpitz to realise that principle which brought them to disaster in the last war. It may be true that the wiser heads in the Reichswehr, the men who can see that danger, have been put into the shade and that wilder and more dangerous spirits are increasingly in control in Berlin. But it is not unreasonable to suppose that those who are in command of the Army in Germany are not too keen on fighting a war on all fronts. Risks there may be in the course I advocate. Risks there are bound to be in anything which we may do at this time in Europe, but they are nothing to the risks of allowing the dictator States to take us one by one and deal with us individually.
I have said that our foreign policy should be twofold. First we should aim 108 at the organisation of the League States to resist firmly the unification of the world under a dictatorship hegemony. But there is a second consideration. We cannot organise the democratic forces merely to maintain the status quo. Conciliation in world economic affairs is essential. I asked the Prime Minister the other day a question about the Van Zeeland Report. The right hon. Gentleman said that he did not think that the atmosphere at the moment was favourable to pressing that matter forward, and I submit that that answer shows that the Government and the Prime Minister fail to realise how important is that report. It is true that, possibly, part of its recommendations could not be applied at the present time, but there are other parts of the report which, I think, could be applied now, and this would show the dictator States that we have something to offer. It might help to break down their opposition to us. It would help to show them that the democratic Powers of the world have constructive proposals to make. It is true that the democratic Powers to-day are the possessors of the main raw material resources of the world, and that the Fascist and dictator Powers are not in possession of those raw materials in such large quantities. Whether or not the trend towards distatorship is due to the fact that those countries have not got those possessions, is a matter for the historian some day to decide. But it is now urgently necessary for us to show the dictators that while, on the one hand, we resist their policy of lawlessness we are, on the other hand, prepared to take them in as partners in the exploitation of the world's wealth.
Unfortunately, the Government and the Prime Minister do not seem to realise the danger of the tendency which was started by the Prime Minister when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, towards making the Empire a closed economic unit. That policy is only adding fuel to the flames and assisting the Fascist and dictator Powers to carry on as they are doing. Our policy should be to try to create low tariff areas throughout the world, to reduce restrictions on trade and to bring in the dictator countries, as far as we can and as far as they are ready to go with us in the exploitation of the world's resources. The Van Zeeland Report shows what can be done. It argues for a system of international public utility companies on which not only the producer 109 States but the consumer States should be represented, to control the output and ultimately the price and distribution of raw materials such as non-ferrous metals, rubber, and so on, which the dictator States at present have to buy in the world market, and which are largely controlled by the democratic States. We have the beginnings of such a system already in restriction schemes applied to such commodities as rubber and tin. Those schemes are unsatisfactory because they represent only the point of view and the control of the producers, but measures should be taken to see what could be done on the wider lines I have indicated. The Government, however, seem to do nothing. They cling to Ottawa.
§ Mr. Price
I do not advocate scrapping the Ottawa Agreement at once, but I do advocate their extension so as to include other countries, and widen the sphere of the low tariff countries. But the Government do not see that point of view. They cling to the narrow interpretation of the Ottawa Agreements; they desert the League of Nations, and they try, alone, to deal with the dictators. I beg hon. Members opposite and the Government to realise before it is too late the appalling gravity of the situation, and to try to deal with this great problem of international relations on the lines which I have suggested.
§ 8.12 p.m.
§ Major Braithwaite
I had not the opportunity of listening to all the Debates on foreign affairs which took place during the recent crisis, but I had the opportunity of studying at first hand the effect and the repercussion in the United States of Germany's action in taking over Austria. In Washington, Chicago and New York I had conversations with prominent business men, and in Washington particularly with members of both Senate and Congress. I can say, frankly, that in the early stages, at the time of the retirement of the late Foreign Secretary, there was in America grave apprehensions as to what was going to happen. One might have been in an English city listening to the discussions which took place in that connection. Later on when the policy of the Prime Minister and the new Foreign Secretary became apparent to Americans, they were profoundly relieved. They felt that at last Great 110 Britain had embarked on a policy which they could understand.
Many prominent American politicians told me how suspicious they had been of the line into which the League of Nations was leading us, and how dangerous was our experiment in connection with the Italian dispute with Ethopia, and how determined they were that, as far as League policy was going to bring about a form of military dominence over the world, they would not in any circumstances take any part in it. But the policy outlined by the Prime Minister was something which they could clearly understand. It was the policy of being a friendly, good neighbour to everybody, of seeking nothing in a personal or greedy way, of desiring to be conciliatory and helpful. Americans felt that in that policy there was much in which they could join. One thing I was glad to observe. The new armaments Bill which was then passing through the Senate was voted in very quick time by that assembly, once events in Europe were fully realised.
I am one of those who believe in friendship with both Germany and Italy. I also believe that the Prime Minister is on the right road to get that friendship. I do not think anybody in this House has any reason to suggest that the Germans, or the Italians either, wish to fight us. We ought to try and get on to a better basis with both countries, and I believe the policy that is being pursued by the Prime Minister is in that direction. It is absolute nonsense to suppose that the whole of the German armaments are being built up with a view to seizing England or part of the British possessions. That never has been the view of anybody who has talked to Germans during the last year or two.
§ Mr. Alexander
Then what are we building our enormous armaments for? Why do we need to build all these armaments? Whom is it against?
§ Major Braithwaite
I hold the view that it is to fill up the gap that was left by the Labour party when they were in power, leaving us at the mercy of anybody. If they had not pursued that mad policy, a lot of the trouble of the last few months would never have arisen.
§ Mr. Alexander
Does not the hon. and gallant Member know that in fact the 111 Labour Government spent practically the same amount on armaments as all the other Governments preceding it since the War? He is talking nonsense.
§ Major Braithwaite
The right hon. Gentleman knows very well that the policy of the Labour party at that time was to carry on as much disarmament as possible and to leave the country in a very much weaker condition than that in which they found it; and we are having to repair that damage. The bulk of the armament expenditure to-day is being incurred in building up an Air Force of an adequate size because of the real dangers that the air has shown during the past few years. Aerial warfare to-day is a very different thing from what it was in the last War, and we have to provide ourselves with adequate defensive measures. I think the policy of the Government in building up armaments is purely for defensive purposes. We have no ideas of aggression in any way, but to leave us without the means of defence when other people were rearming, would be a folly of which no Government should be guilty. The view that I found expressed in America during the past few weeks was that they were very glad indeed that His Majesty's Government had launched on a policy of rearmament and would be able, in the event of real trouble, to take care of themselves.
I can only hope that there will be a different attitude in this House from that which has been expressed by the party opposite to-day, for if there ever was a time for the consolidation of political interests, it is now. This is no time, in the middle of a crisis, in which to criticise the Government. The great strength of this country has always been that when there have been times of international difficulty, political difficulties have been put on one side; and to come to this House to-day and ask for a General Election to decide whether the Opposition or the Government are right is obviously a policy which the people of this country would not put up with. In my view, the Prime Minister was quite right when he declined to consider any such suggestion. It is not that he would not come back with an even greater majority than he has now—I am quite certain that he would—but the Opposition have so very 112 little to put forward as a constructive proposal, and I think that what they have put forward in the Labour manifesto shows so little substance, that it is a danger to which our country will not submit.
I feel that a great deal can be done between the English-speaking peoples if a foreign policy is put forward that they can understand, and I am certain that the League policy that we have been pursuing, as dictated from Geneva, was not understood. Our adventure in connection with the Italo-Abyssinian dispute was very much misrepresented in America and has done us a great deal of harm. Now that we are setting out on a policy of making friends in Europe and trying to bring different interests into line to see where we can be of real help, they feel that we are pursuing a policy that they themselves can thoroughly understand, and they will give us a great deal of support in that policy. They have identical interests with our own, inasmuch as they speak our own tongue, and I believe that they will give us, if we are in trouble, the same support as they gave us in the last War.
I have a particular knowledge of this matter, inasmuch as I had the honour to help in the training of two American divisions in the last War. I speak from real experience and knowledge, and from personal friendships over there, when I say that they are very sympathetic with us in our difficulties in Europe, and are anxious to give us the maximum of help and support in getting a better feeling all over this great Continent. But they feel a little uneasy that we may make some sort of deals with countries that may not be understood. I am certain that they would not like to see alliances created here to which they as well could not be parties, and in building up these new friendships I hope the Government will take into careful account the fact that we have to keep ourselves as reasonably free as we can from any further entangling commitments, doing whatever we can to bring back into a useful position those countries which are now economically unable to carry on the work which they should do as great nations of Europe.
I hope that my remarks will be interpreted by the Government as evidence of the good will that we have on the other side of the water, and I hope that we shall 113 take the greatest possible advantage of any opportunities that we may have for making ourselves as friendly and as cordial to them as we can and for bringing them into a position of taking a real interest in the work that we have to do in Europe. Furthermore, I can only say that I rejoice that the Prime Minister has come forward at this time and taken this great stand. I believe that the whole world is looking to him for leadership and direction, and I believe that it has confidence in the policy that he is putting forward. I think that the friendships that he is likely to create by this new method of foreign politics will do real good for the maintenance of peace at this time.
§ 8.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Ridley
I can only express the regret of many hon. Friends of mine on this side of the House that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Dominions was not present during the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Buckrose (Major Braithwaite), who has just sat down, because it is a little ironical that the one Minister in the present Government who was a member of the Labour Government from 1929 to 1931, and who therefore shared the responsibility for the mad rake's progress towards disarmament, as the hon. and gallant Member seemed to think it was, should be winding up the Debate for the Government to-night. We have listened with considerable interest to an account of the hon. and gallant Member's world tour, which apparently took him from Berlin to Baltimore. All that I can say is that if his view of American policy—which is seriously in conflict with responsible views expressed by friends of mine who have recently returned from the States—is based on no more secure grounds than his view of the objective of German armaments, it is very heavily to be discounted. The hon. and gallant Member said he had spoken with three or four people in Germany as to the purpose of the German armaments. There are only three or four people in Germany who know what that purpose is, and without wishing to be in any way discourteous to the hon. and gallant Member, I cannot suppose, no matter how wide his circle of acquaintances there may be, that it would include those three or four people.
I am sorry the hon. and gallant Member for Taunton (Lieut.-Colonel Wickham) 114 has left the House, for his concern about the insecurity of the Empire would be tragic if it were not, at least to those of us who sit on this side of the House, a little amusing. The steady drift towards isolation has in fact created this curious position, that on this side of the House there appears to be much greater concern about the defensive insecurity of the Empire than appears to be the case on the other side of the House, among those Members who traditionally drape the tables on their political platforms with the Union Jack.
§ Mr. Ridley
It is a matter of very serious concern to all of us. The hon. and gallant Gentleman specially mentioned the insecurity of India, and he might care to deepen his concern by the reflection that if India were attacked by Japan for what would seem to him a curious reason, India might prefer the Japanese type of Imperialism to our own brand and might not want us to defend her at all. The hon. and gallant Member for Wellingborough (Wing-Commander James) gave an exhaustive account of his Spanish experiences to which one part of the House listened with interest and the other with courteous patience. I was unable to understand the purpose of his analysis or to accept the accuracy of it, because the deductions he drew from his own experiences are in direct conflict with all the evidence available from all the responsible Press correspondents and journalists in Spain. After all the analyses have been completed, it remains true that General Franco's forces to-day are pounding their way to the Catalonian coast regardless of either courage of chivalry, grinding, as they advance, the corpses of their victims into the ground—the dead bodies of men and women who had delighted some of my friends and me with their folk songs and dances which they gave with simple pleasure and delight. When historians read the records of this time, they will marvel at the complete disregard of General Franco's forces, not only of international law, but of international decencies and at the brutality that has so fiercely mangled an almost defenceless people.
I regret also the absence of the Prime Minister, but I could not expect him to 115 remain as long as this in order to have the pleasure of listening to me. My hon. Friend the Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Price) made some observations about the Prime Minister's speech with which I cordially agree. The right hon. Gentleman referred in the opening of his speech, a little icily, I thought, and rather cheaply, to the fact that my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) had not in the course of his speech read or referred to the terms of the Motion. May I reply by observing that in a fairly long speech the Prime Minister himself completely failed to reply to one of the categorical questions addressed to him from the Front Bench? Instead, he treated the House to a speech which I thought to be cheap and entirely unworthy of the occasion, and which was filled with a kind of mirthless laugh in the face of an ever increasing state of world anxiety and tragedy.
I am sorry that the Secretary of State for the Dominions is not in his place at this moment, but the reason, I suppose, is understandable. I hope I shall not be regarded as impertinent or discourteous if I address to the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs a few questions. When my hon. Friends and I read that the right hon. Gentleman was to reply to this Debate, we hardly knew whether to sympathise with him or to congratulate him. We can only regard it as one further stage in his political degeneracy, which has been accentuated because his memory is either very weak or expediently convenient. In politics, even the most stupid people are right sometimes, but in foreign policy this Government has never been right. The right hon. Gentleman may care to remember that for 20 years the Tory party have not been right in the field of foreign policy. It is reaping now the harvest it has itself sown, a harvest of cruel anxiety, and it is reaping it for everybody, as well as for itself.
There have been from both sides of the House one or two historical surveys this evening. I do not propose to go back to Louis XIV, but I would take the right hon. Gentleman's mind back to 20 years ago, when his present political associates came to the House from a General Election, drunk with political power and saturated with the desire for international revenge. They imposed a Peace Treaty which stopped one war and sowed the 116 seeds of another. They imposed punitive reparations which were far beyond the point which economic wisdom justified. They scrapped one disarmament conference and broke up another. They broke up that world solidarity which, six or seven years ago, seemed to be growing stronger and not weaker. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will remember what were the overriding passions of his life until the autumn of 1931. The foreign policy that has been pursued for the last 20 years has given the Hitler Movement all the encouragement it needed, and the Government are now proposing to placate him for fear he should behave like the wild animal that Europe knows him to be. Six or seven years ago, when the right hon. Gentleman was a junior Minister in the Labour Administration—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]—when, at any rate, he was an insignificant Member of the Labour party behind the Front Benches at the time we left Office in the autumn of 1931, it is not to be denied that Europe was looking forward hopefully to disarmament. The fact that to-day it stands on the brink of war is due to the foreign policy that has been pursued in the intervening six or seven years.
The Prime Minister is now pursuing a new foreign policy with feverish anxiety. He has banged the door to one policy, the League policy, before he knows whether an alternative policy is open to him. He now knows that it is not. He cannot get a Four-Power pact if he dared, and he dare not get it even if he could. He turns has back on the League as an instrument of collective defence for reasons that may be examined for a moment. The Prime Minister said in the House on 7th March that his reason for turning his back on the League was that it was mutilated, halt and maimed. When we left office in 1931 the League was neither mutilated nor maimed. It had discharged all its obligations and lived up to all its responsibilities. If it is now maimed and weakened, it has been maimed and weakened by the foreign policy of the last six or seven years—it was maimed and weakened by Manchuria and by Abyssinia. In that connection, I would like to rescue from what would otherwise he complete oblivion an extraordinary statement made in the House by the Prime Minister in the Debate on the resignation of the Foreign 117 Secretary on 21st February. He then said:The formal recognition of the Italian position in Abyssinia was one that would only be morally justified "—Morals are standards of right and wrong. They are black or white, and they do not blend themselves into varying shades of grey. They cannot be discovered, even by the Prime Minister or the restless hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. G. Williams), in their justification for Italian brigandage in Abyssinia. The Prime Minister went on with a reason which was even worse than his justification. He said that the recognition of the Italian position in Abyssinia could only be morally justifiedif it was found to be a factor, and an essential factor, in a general appeasement.Later he said:What we are seeking to do is to get a general appeasement throughout Europe which will give us peace."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st February, 1938; cols. 58 and 63, Vol. 332.]I need hardly remind hon. Members that Abyssinia is not a European country, and that therefore all that the Prime Minister's statement means is that we are willing to justify—not morally I hope, expediently if you like—the recognition of the Italian conquest of Abyssinia in order that Europe may save its own skin at the expense of the complete destruction of somebody else. How many more strides is it to be supposed the Prime Minister has to take before he will as easily find a moral justification for recognising the German and the Italian conquest of Spain? I calculate, on what has been said by the hon. and gallant Member for Wellingborough, that it will take him about 10 days. I have heard in this House six Cabinet Ministers declare their complete indifference to the outcome of the Spanish conflict. You cannot love democracy at home and be indifferent to its fate abroad; it is an indivisible and indestructible thing only when it is indivisible. When I hear British Cabinet Ministers declare their indifference to the victory or defeat of a democratic government there is a large interrogation mark in my mind as to their allegiance and devotion to democracy.
The Prime Minister is a child in foreign politics. He is a plaything for the Italian dictator. Non-intervention has been deliberately violated, and its violation 118 bragged about, boasted about, within the last three or four days. What is the use of the hon. and gallant Member for Wellingborough trying, by a careful analysis, to persuade this House that on balance illicit intervention in Spain has been in favour of the Spanish Government when less than three days ago the Duce bragged that his Air Force had played havoc with the defenceless civilian populations in Spanish towns? The British formula has been accepted but contemptuously disregarded and flung on one side, although it was the price of opening conversations for commercial and economic treaty purposes. According to yesterday morning's papers the price, if you please, of a commercial and economic treaty with Italy is to be that their troops shall remain in Spain until the Spanish war is over and then will be withdrawn with the approval of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister and peaceful negotiations will continue. I can only conclude that the Prime Minister has not only a curious idea about the workings of foreign politics but a curious code of morals too in his standards of foreign policy.
I beg the House to remember that at this moment we are watching, I fear, the steady destruction of those instruments of government in Spain which are nearest to ours in outlook and philosophy. There can be no doubt that the changes in British policy in the last five or six weeks have given encouragement throughout the world to all those Governments whose systems of government are repugnant and abhorrent to all the characteristics of the British people. We have discouraged, dismayed and filled with anxiety all those democratic, peace-seeking, peace-loving countries which stands nearest to our own, and I am satisfied, from my own fairly considerable touring experience— not in the United States or in Germany, but in Great Britain—in the last six or seven weeks that this Government, in its foreign policy, completely fails to represent the great mass of the British people. The great mass of the people view with growing anxiety and apprehension our approaches to the Fascist Powers, and our steady retreat from our democratic friends. I support the Motion before the House because I am satisfied that an appeal to the country would emphatically endorse the views it expresses.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Lewis Jones
I have been interested during the last few hours in listening to the various speeches from the Opposition benches condemning the Government's policy. A short time ago one of the speakers said complaint had been made by the Prime Minister of the failure of the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) to make any reference to the terms of the Vote of Censure. I remember a story of a Welsh preacher who went to America and preached 40 sermons in 40 days, and on being asked afterwards what they had been about, said it was the same sermon but that there had been 40 different texts. To-night we have had the same text, the Vote of Censure, but a different point of view from every speaker from the benches opposite. Early in the Debate one hon. Member was very definite in his view that we should not trust the Fascist Powers—neither Italy nor Germany. He was not prepared for British diplomatists to enter into any discussions with representatives of Germany or Italy. Later, another speaker from the Opposition benches, I think the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Price), was particularly anxious that the Government should, through the League of Nations or by some other means, enter into discussions with representatives of those nations in order to find out exactly what were the points of difference between us in order that they might be cleared up. Frankly, it is time the Opposition knew what they were after. It is not sufficient to put down a Vote of Censure; it is essential that on this question, if on nothing else, their party should have some unified policy.
It was mentioned earlier that this is the thirteenth day's discussion on foreign policy. This thirteenth day has been an unfortunate and disappointing one for the Labour party so far, because although both the big guns and the little guns have taken part, the whole of them have turned out to be little better than damp squibs. One would have thought that to-day the Labour Opposition would have been a little more careful. They nagged at the Prime Minister day after day because, they said, he was delaying a declaration of the Government's foreign policy, little realising, I suppose, that it was essential that we at the centre of the British Com- 120 monwealth of Nations should keep in touch with the Dominions and self-governing Colonies. After the declaration of policy was made, about ten days ago, one would have thought the Labour and Liberal Oppositions would have taken warning from the wonderful response which it met with in all parts of the world. It was received with unanimous approval throughout the British Commonwealth of Nations, and, with the exception of one or two countries—including Germany, where it was a little unpopular—gave satisfaction in all parts of the world.
Half way through his speech the right hon. Member for Wakefield emphasised the importance of solving the difficulties which exist as between some of the authoritarian States and our own allies of the last War. We have to admit that there are fundamental differences between those nations, and no doubt there are many justifiable causes of discontent. Reference has been made by a number of speakers to difficulties which have arisen as the result of the Treaty of Versailles. I agree with the Opposition that before we can get real peace in Europe or in the world we must find a solution for some of the difficulties which have arisen as a result of the Peace Treaty of Versailles.
Suggestions have been made that we must not negotiate with some of these nations. It is a very awkward position in these days, when armaments cost this country at the rate of £1,000,000 a day and when there is suspicion all over Europe, and people are getting nervous. It was only natural that the Prime Minister of a country like this should look round and see what could be done to brush away some of the difficulties and to solve some of the problems which were causing anxiety to statesmen all over Europe. Something had to be done to stop the piling up of armaments, and steps were taken to enter into direct negotiations with Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini. I very strongly take the view that if this country is to avoid war there is only one way. In our approach to other nations there are only the two alternatives of war or negotiation. The Government have decided that their policy must be based upon negotiation, and for that reason the whole country is behind them.
§ Mr. Lewis Jones
I represent the most intelligent of the constituencies in Wales, and I can only hope that other constituencies are as intelligent. When we have met sections of the people we come back to the House and talk proudly and glibly of the views of the country, although we have been down to our constituencies only for the week-end. I suppose we mean the sum total of our own experience in our own constituencies. I have visited other constituencies and have come into contact with people, and I am convinced that the people of this country are determined that no effort should be spared to prevent our going into another war. I know that we are members of the League of Nations and signed the Covenant, and that we have to accept the rules of the game, but the people of this country are not prepared to sacrifice one life for Manchukuo, on the hills of Abyssinia or on the hills of Spain.
§ Mr. James Griffiths
With much of what the hon. Gentleman says I agree. The people of this country do not want to sacrifice lives for an unworthy cause, but will the hon. Gentleman tell us whether he supports the Prime Minister in regard to the sacrifice of British lives for Portugal?
§ Mr. Jones
I note that the hon. Gentleman supports much of what I said about collective security. I remember one of the slogans used by him in the last election. It was: "Vote for the National Government and send your sons to slaughter." The Government are committed by certain treaties to take action to assist France and Portugal, and we have to carry out our pledges. We discussed the question during the last few days, not in relation to collective security but in relation to a country which is at a considerable distance from us. We discussed whether we should commit ourselves. We were entitled to know from Czechoslovakia what her attitude was towards certain internal questions, because the country that comes to equity must come with clean hands. Two matters of vital importance have been before this House during the last few days relating to Czechoslovakia and Spain. I am satisfied that the Prime Minister found plenty 122 of satisfaction in the way in which his references to Czechoslovakia were received in this country and elsewhere. I know that Opposition Liberals must be a little nervous and must feel a little shocked over the speech which was delivered in another place, and which definitely gave support to the Prime Minister's statement.
The Prime Minister gave extracts from speeches made by the Prime Minister of Czechoslovakia, who ought to know what satisfaction there was in his own country at the Prime Minister's references to Czechoslovakia. He stated that the right hon. Gentleman's statements have had a stabilising influence in international relations, and that he believed that international danger was already lessening. A number of speakers to-day have devoted most of their time to the subject of Spain, but they seem to forget that we entered into this non-intervention policy by the invitation of the Socialist Prime Minister of France. It has been suggested that we are exercising some power to prevent France from intervening or from, at any rate, sending arms to Spain. It wants a lot of believing that Great Britain is able to prevent a Socialist Prime Minister rendering to Spain assistance which he thinks is desirable in this very difficult period. I am satisfied, and I know that the public generally are satisfied also, that withdrawal from the Non-Intervention Committee would entail considerable risks for Great Britain. Most of the Labour leaders, when they have been speaking to their own people in the country, have warned them that when the time comes for non-intervention to be done away with and the British Government intervenes to supply war material, the risks of war will be very considerable. I am confident that the people of this country are not prepared to face that risk of war.
The Prime Minister's declaration of policy has given great satisfaction all over the world. I know that he has been subjected to a considerable amount of invective during the week-end from some Opposition Front Bench Members. I do not know whether the fact that the Leader of the Opposition comes from the constituency known as Limehouse is responsible for it, but the Prime Minister should feel complimented upon the reference made to him by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) when he referred to 123 him as possessing a mercantile brain. We who know something about commerce—and this applies to the country generally—would think the affairs of this country were in much safer hands in these difficult times in the care of one who had a mercantile brain than if they were in the care of some people whom I know and might be described as rather woolly-headed. The carrying of a Vote of Censure suggests that there is an alternative Government to take the place of the present Government. I ask myself what is the alternative Government that would take the place of the National Government were the Government defeated to-night? I must confess that I look across to the other side—quite impersonally, if I may say so—with a certain amount of fear, because I realise the truth of what was said by Lord Sanderson, a Socialist peer, namely, that he would look upon the attainment of office by the present Socialist party as a menace to the peace of the world. I re-echo, and the people of the country re-echo, the words of the right hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) when he said in this House on 7th March:'' I do not care too straws in what way peace comes so long as peace does come; and I want to say to my colleagues that I cannot support in any sort of way the campaign which is being waged against this particular part of the Prime Minister's policy."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th March, 1938; col. 1615, Vol. 332.]He was referring to that part of the policy of the Prime Minister which aimed, first of all, at negotiating with the leaders of other countries in Europe with a view to clearing up difficulties and misunderstandings, rather than seeing this country go headlong into war. I shall most certainly support the Government against the Motion which is before the House.
§ 8.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Silverman
The hon. Member who has just sat down referred to a speech made in another place by Lord Sanderson, and to a somewhat earlier speech in this House by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury). We ought, I think, in fairness to remember that both of these gentlemen do not believe in the use of force at any time or for any purpose, and I suggest that it is not at all fair to quote these extracts from their speeches without at the same time reminding the House 124 that they would have opposed tooth and nail the expenditure of one single penny upon armed forces of any kind. That being so, I think that the effect of these quotations is greatly discounted.
§ Mr. L. Jones
I quoted those two speeches only to show that both said that the Labour party, if it came into office, would bring us into war.
§ Mr. Silverman
I heard the hon. Member make his speech, and I quite recognise that that was what he was saying. What I am complaining of is that he did not remind the House that both these gentlemen believe also that every penny spent upon armaments is a penny spent upon war, and their opposition to the policy of my hon. Friends on these benches is not one whit more fundamental than is their opposition to the policy of hon. Members opposite. If that were the general view of this country, I say at once that I should regard it with a very great deal of sympathy, but we are dealing to-day with practical politics, and with practical politics in a very critical situation. One of the elements in that situation is that people generally do not share the view of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bow and Bromley or the view of Lord Sanderson, and, therefore, we have to consider, not the question whether armaments are right or wrong, not the question of a particular policy in the light of a theory about armaments, but the fact that we have people in this country to-day who are prepared to use force in some circumstances; and the question is, in what circumstances, and for what purposes?
The whole burden of the Opposition's criticism of the Government is that the inevitable result of their policy is war, and war for purposes of which the overwhelming majority of the people of this country would not approve. What are those purposes? I do not desire to deal with my own personal reactions to these questions; I believe that what I have to say represents the overwhelming view of the overwhelming majority of the men and women in Lancashire who sent me to represent them in this House. Of some things they are certain. One is that the War that was fought between 1914 and 1918, though we won it, was a war in which we have since lost, if we ever attained, every one of the alleged objects for which we fought. We were told at 125 that time that we were fighting to make the world safe for democracy. The world is much less safe for democracy to-day than it was in 1914. We were told in 1914 that we were fighting to secure for ever the rights of small nations against the powers of mightier nations.
We won the War, but to-day the small nations of the world are infinitely more subject to the aggression of their mighty neighbours than they were before 1974. We were told in those days that the War was fought because it was necessary that treaties should be sacred, and that the pledged word of nations should be honoured. Treaties to-day are less sacred than they were in 1914, and, as to the pledged word of nations, to-day no one pays the slightest attention to the pledged word of any great nation in the world. We were told that we were fighting a war to end war. We have to-day a world in which the only question appears to be, not whether another war will come, but when it will come.
The people of this country, though they are not pacifists in the sense of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bow and Bromley, are at any rate profoundly convinced that not one of those ideals for which, we were told, the last War was fought, is to be attained by methods of force. One of the things of which, I think, people are certain, is that no nation can rely for safety to-day upon its own armaments, no matter how wealthy the nation, no matter how powerful the armaments. It is quite true that the great desire of the people of this country is to avoid war, and to establish peace on a secure basis, and I profoundly believe that to be the overwhelming desire of every other nation in the world. including the common citizens of Germany and of Italy. Therefore, I say that people in this country, as far as I understand them—at any rate, those in my own constituency—are not prepared to fight a war to defend democracy; they are not prepared to fight a war for self-defence; they are not prepared to fight a war in defence of imperial interests or lines of communication, anywhere in the world; because they are by no means convinced that any of these needs can be so attained.
If, believing these things, I still say that they are not Pacifists in the sense that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bow and Bromley is, I think that 126 perhaps the House will expect me to say for what it is that they will use force, if they will do so at all. I think they would use force if it were necessary, and only if it were necessary, in combination with all other nations and peoples of the right belief for the purpose of replacing international anarchy by international law; and their charge against the policy of the Government, not merely in the last few weeks but in the last seven years, is that every act they have committed in foreign policy has been calculated to undermine the fight of the world to secure that international society in place of international brigandage. They do not believe that hon. and right hon. Members opposite have ever had any real faith in the establishment of international law or in the establishment of collective security or in the League of Nations and its principles. They believe that, although lip service has been paid to those ideals from time to time, it has been lip service only; and, if we are to look at recent events in order to justify what I say is the feeling of the common people of this country in that regard, let me say how I think they regard such matters as Spain and Austria.
They see in Spain a sovereign State, member of the League of Nations, endeavouring to live under a Government and in a form of society which the majority of the people chose for themselves in a general election conducted upon democratic lines. They see in General Franco the leader of a sect that was determined, having lost the support of the people in their election, to overthrow the results of that election by force, and to accept, because in no other way could that result have been overthrown by force, the material and military support of outside nations. There is no doubt that that is a correct view of the matter. I do not believe there is any Member, even on the other side of the House, who would deny that that is a correct view. What has been our part in that? A good deal has been said about the Non-Intervention Agreement. It was an agreement that we, on our part, would commit an illegal act, in consideration of certain other nations refraining from committing illegal acts. For a friendly nation such as ourselves, to deny to the Government of another nation, such as Spain, at a moment when it was striking, at any rate in theory, merely to preserve law and order within the four corners of its own 127 territory, its rights under international law was an illegal act; and what Italy and Germany undertook, in return for that illegality of ours, not to do—namely, assist the rebels in Spain against their lawful Government—was itself an illegal act. So we made a bargain to compound a felony—that we would ourselves commit breaches of international law, as the price to be paid to other people if they would refrain from committing breaches of international law.
It may be that a great many people of this country, reluctantly and regretfully, would have been prepared to honour that agreement. They might have accepted the view that the Government are never tired of expressing, that this Non-Intervention Agreement is a bad thing, an illegal thing, an immoral thing, and almost a dishonest thing, but that if, as a result, we can prevent the attack on Spain by Italy and Germany, then perhaps, bad as the bargain may be, rotten as its moral foundations may be, in the degeneration that has come on the world, let us pay this price for the sake of preserving the Spanish Government from the attack upon it of Germany and Italy. But that bargain having been made, was the price paid? What has become of the consideration for which we entered into this illegal contract?
No one in his senses can doubt that had it not been for the intervention of Italy and Germany, not merely would Franco not have got as far as he has, but the whole trouble in Spain could not have survived the first three months. We made this bargain, the price has not been paid; and what does the Government now say about it? Do they say that the consideration having failed, the bargain has gone? They do not. They say still that our promise was conditional upon a promise made by other people and, though that promise has not been kept, we are still bound, We are still bound, they say, because if we now denounce the Non-Intervention Agreement that has become a fraud and a farce, the result might be that Italy and Germany would intervene to an even greater extent than they now do. I am trying to speak with respect. It seems to me that that argument is so utterly fallacious as to be deliberately insincere.
No one imagines that Italy and Germany are in Spain out of affection 128 for Franco. They are in Spain to serve their own purposes. They make no secret about it; and why should we? Is there any doubt that the measure of their assistance to the rebels is limited to one consideration only—the amount of support that is necessary to ensure Franco's victory? The kind of support that is necessary to ensure Franco's victory does not depend in the least on what we do or do not do. We are left with this position: We are deserting the Spanish people in their hour of crisis, because we are afraid, or, if not, because our sympathies are on the wrong side. From the point of view of the ordinary man or woman in the street the attitude of this country to the Spanish trouble is regarded with shame. The Prime Minister the other day, in a speech referring to the bombing of Barcelona, said that he regarded it, and hoped that everybody regarded it, with horror and disgust. Why? The weapon of bombing from the air remains legal, and it is not the intention of an international convention to ban it because Lord Londonderry, in 1932, said that it was necessary to retain the bombing weapon in order to preserve law and order on the North-West Frontier of India.
The right hon. Gentleman says that when the same weapon is used in Barcelona he regards it with horror and disgust. With what consistency can you regard it with horror and disgust when it is used by someone else for their own purposes? The thing which you refuse to others is at your disposal to be used for your own purposes. What is the good of the horror and disgust with regard to Barcelona? Is there any reason in this world why the people of Barcelona should not be allowed to buy anti-aircraft guns, which are purely defensive weapons, in order to protect themselves from the German and Italian bombers that are blowing their towns and cities to bits? This is the first time since I have been a Member of the House that I have troubled the House on foreign affairs. I have listened to all the Debates and I have never intervened until to-day, and I have never in all these Debates heard a single argument seriously advanced in order to justify the refusal to sell to the Spanish people the means to defend themselves.
§ Major Dower
It has really very little to do with his argument, but is the hon. 129 Gentleman aware that in regard to the anti-aircraft defences of London we want every gun we can get for ourselves?
§ Mr. Silverman
If the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister or the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, who is to wind up the Debate, cares to say to this House that the only reason why we refuse to sell anti-aircraft guns to Barcelona is that we need them for ourselves, I will accept his argument and withdraw my criticism. As the hon. and gallant Gentleman knows perfectly well, that reason has never been given except as a kind of make-weight to a lot of other argumentation.
§ Mr. Silverman
The hon. and gallant Member says that it is true. He is entitled to his own opinion, but I believe it not to be true. If it were true, it would be much more honest and fair and might afford some kind of consolation to the mothers and fathers of the babies, whose bodies are at this moment being broken in Barcelona by bombs, for the absence of anti-aircraft guns to know that this great country cannot allow them to buy one or two, because no one knows whether at some time we might perhaps need them ourselves. Throughout the nineteenth century, if I have read history correctly, all over Europe and all over the world peoples were fighting, sometimes with their backs to the wall, to establish their right to independence and to decide for themselves under what laws and under what Government they should live, and to have independence and liberty. There was never any doubt before upon which side the sympathies of this country lay. It may be that throughout the nineteenth century we did not do much to help, be it Gladstone, Disraeli, Salisbury or Palmerston, when an affair of this kind was going on. The sympathies of this country have been nowhere but on the side of the small people or communities struggling against a mighty force to win that for which we ourselves fought so long. Under a National Government, in the second quarter of the twentieth century, in a fight for liberty by a small community of people on the one side against two of the mightiest military countries in the world on the other, we are to be left in doubt on which side the sympathies of this nation and Empire lie.
130 What does the man in the street say with regard to Austria? He says that the rape of Austria was made inevitable by the Prime Minister's speech only a few days before it took place. [Laughter.] I hope that hon. Members will not laugh. My argument may be entirely wrong, and I hope that perhaps an hon. Member opposite will attempt to expose it as fallacious after I sit down. I am offering a serious and restrained argument for the consideration of the House. The situation, before the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, was that Germany and Italy had rival interests in Austria, which they had to keep balanced because of the necessities of the Rome-Berlin axis, and on the rival negotiations and the balance between Rome and Berlin the safety of Austria depended. The right hon. Gentleman steps in and makes an attempt to wean Italy from her Ally. Is there any use denying that the whole purpose of this conversation with Mussolini is to break the alliance, if it be practicable, between Rome and Berlin?
What was Hitler to do? These negotiations between London and Rome had been commenced, and only one of two results was possible; one that the talk might succeed, and the other that the talk might fail. If the talk had succeeded and a Rome and London understanding took the place of the Rome and Berlin understanding, Hitler's opportunity of taking Austria would have gone for ever. If the talks failed he would still have to maintain an uneasy balance between Berlin and Rome, and therefore, to maintain the independence of Austria on which that balance depended. Therefore, whether these talks were to succeed or to fail, that was the moment for Hitler to act, and that was the opportunity with which the right hon. Gentleman presented him. And what had the right hon. Gentleman said in his speech in defence of that policy? He had poured ridicule and contempt upon the idea that any of the small nations of Europe could rely upon the League of Nations or upon the principle of collective security to defend them if they were attacked. Having said that, he was surprised and horrified and most patently upset when he found that Berlin had taken him at his word and that Austria had failed to resist. Can it be said, when these are the patent facts, that the policy of the Government did not make the rape of Austria by 131 Hitler at that moment an inevitable consequence of the attitude, as the right hon. Gentleman preferred to call what otherwise might have passed for a policy.
If we are at this late hour to save ourselves, the people of this country are convinced that it cannot be done by a continual and painful staggering from crisis to crisis. They are equally convinced that there is no safety to be found in a helter-skelter race of competitive armaments, nor in a self-regarding isolation that is always content to pass by on the other side. They are convinced, I think, that the only hope of preserving peace now, and the only hope of establishing peace upon a secure foundation, is the establishment of an international society that is prepared to do justice as well as to preserve order; and I think, too, that they are rightly coming to believe that although that collective security and that international society are the only hope of the world, however difficult they may be to achieve, they are impossible to achieve in an acquisitive society which does not believe in cooperation as a principle of human conduct.
The cause of war is poverty, and the cause of poverty is that economic system which this party came into existence in order to overthrow; and Fascism is simply and solely the last defence, if there be one, of that acquisitive society on which the twin evils of poverty and war depend. And the real cause of the paralysis of Government policy on foreign affairs to-day is that they are torn on the one side between a quite genuine desire to preserve peace and an equally genuine but almost pathological fear of the establishment of a system of society which would establish peace and justice but only at the expense of the kind of acquisitive competitive society which they are pledged to defend.
§ 9.28 p.m.
§ Mr. H. G. Williams
I have listened with great interest to the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman), who has just addressed the House. I presume that the system of justice and non-acquisitive society which he has in mind is that which now prevails in Russia. That is the example that we are to follow, where instead of having debates they shoot up the Cabinet 132 Ministers they do not like. The hon. Member has just given an account of recent events which was curiously inaccurate. He attributed the "rape of Austria" to the speech made by the Prime Minister on the Monday following the resignation of the late Foreign Secretary. Now let us just examine the sequence of events. He will remember that a fortnight or three weeks before that certain generals had been dismissed from office by the head of the German State. He will remember the mysterious rumours that excited our interest— rumours of alleged revolt in military garrisons, all of which were quite clearly, as we realise since, a cover to preliminary military movement without drawing attention to their purpose. He may remember that the week before the late Foreign Secretary resigned there took place the famous interview between the German Leader and the Austrian Chancellor. It was on the Friday before the Foreign Secretary resigned that we learned the result of that interview. Surely the determining factor was that interview and the position in which the Austrian Chancellor was placed. The Austrian Chancellor took a gamble, which did not come off. Quite clearly all these things had been determined beforehand. No one suggests that it was possible for that great military movement to take place with such precision unless there had been a fortnight or three weeks' or a month's detailed preparation.
§ Mr. Silverman
The Berchtesgaden Agreement ostensibly was an agreement that settled outstanding differences between Austria and Germany, but what subsequently took place I agree with the hon. Member that the mode in which the Anschluss took place gives evidence of long previous preparation, but why was it not put into operation before? It was not—
§ Mr. Williams
I can quite easily answer the question. The question is, why was it not done before. Quite clearly because it had to be prepared for in advance. It was arranged for in advance, and therefore it could not be the sequel to the Prime Minister's speech. That was the whole burden of the hon. Gentleman's 133 speech and that point had no significance at all. Then he told us that the Great War was started to make the world safe for democracy. There is not the faintest justification for that statement. That was a stupid statement invented two or three years after the Great War had started, for propagandist purposes, and not by responsible people. The phrase "a war to end war" was not a phrase used by Sir Edward Grey in this House on 3rd August, 1914. If you want to know why this country went into the War you have to examine the declarations made before it happened, not the phrases that unwise people subsequently invented. And therefore that part of the hon. Member's speech had no particular bearing.
Now I come to a subject to which he devoted a good deal of attention. Who intervened first in Spain. [HON. MEMBERS: "Italy."] Let us see. Who won the great battle for the defence of Madrid? The International Legion. Who beat that attack? [An HON. MEMBER: "Made by the Moors."] Well, the Moors were Spanish subjects associated with Spaniards, and the International Legion defeated them and prevented possibly the termination of the war at the end of three months. The International Legion was a force drawn from a great many countries of the world, including this country— because at that time we had not put into force the Foreign Enlistment Act. That was the first material act of intervention. [Interruption.] I am not surprised that hon. Members are getting cross. We have listened impatiently for two years to the most dishonest propaganda in international affairs I have ever known. Who was the Foreign Ambassador who for the first five or six months of the war was virtually a member of the Spanish Government and Cabinet? The Russian Ambassador. [Interruption.] It is perfectly true.
I know that the Noble Lady the Member for Perth and Kinross (Duchess of Atholl) does not like it. She has been going round the country—I do not know why—in complete defiance of all her ancient principles. She used to tell stories about Russia. It is true. It was gloried in. Hon. Members and Noble Ladies must not get cross if some of us say these things in reply. [Interruption.] I must ask hon. Members not to interrupt. I have only five minutes. I want to sit down 134 by 20 minutes to 10; I want to keep my contract. Who will be most unpopular when the civil war in Spain is over. [HON. MEMBERS: "You."] I shall not be unpopular, because I do not suppose they have heard of me. I am one of those who have disapproved of members of political parties going to Spain. I regret that the first to go were members of my own party. It was a very bad example. It is not our business to interfere in other people's family quarrels. I object just as much to people going about in this country holding public meetings on either side. I have held a particular view in regard to this conflict, but I have steadfastly declined to associate myself with any organisation preaching doctrines one way or the other. I do not think we ought to do it. It is always undignified and it is not characteristic of the common sense of the British people. I hope that both organisations which are indulging in propaganda in this country will close down.
Let me come to the point which I was raising when I was interrupted. When the civil war in Spain is over, whichever side wins it will want to get rid of those who helped it, in order to escape the criticism of opponents that they are under foreign domination. Those who have helped on either side will be unpopular. The countries which will be most unpopular in Spain will be those which have intervened, and I am afraid that unless they are very careful France will be the most unpopular of all. I believe that firm friendship between this country and France is vital to the peace of Western Europe, but everyone knows perfectly well that great numbers of people have gone into Spain over the French frontier in support of what is called the Spanish Government. Everybody also knows that great masses of munitions have gone over the French frontier to Spain. In that matter the French Government have not acted with the candour with which they ought to have acted. I believe that firm friendship between France and this country is vital to the peace of Europe, but that is no reason why the people of France should not realise that some of us disapprove of their connivance in the ceaseless intervention that has been taking place ever since the civil war began.
The party opposite won a by-election at Fulham three or four years ago on the issue that the Government were going to 135 lead the country right into war. It was the most dishonest cry on which any election was ever fought. In 1932 the Labour party wanted us to go to war with Japan. I well remember that I was fighting a by-election at Croydon when the crisis was at its height, and I know exactly what was the literature which was put out by my opponents. It came from the party headquarters. I know the speeches that were made. The policy that was advocated meant war with Japan, without the faintest doubt. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] If it did not mean that, it meant nothing; it was dishonest.
In 1935 the National Government won the support of the country over the Liberals and the Labour party, because the country realised that they were less likely to get us into war. I was opposed to sanctions from the beginning to the end. I was the first person holding any kind of public position who by a letter to the "Times" opposed the policy of sanctions before it had been adopted. I have been consistent in my opposition and I fought my election on it. I ran a good deal of risk in opposing my own party on a question of policy at the general election; but I did it. The Liberal party in my constituency, and they were typical, called for the Covenant, the whole Covenant and nothing but the Covenant. In other words they were in favour of coercive action.
§ Mr. R. Acland
They were interpreting the speech of the right hon. Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare) literally.
§ Mr. Williams
The point is, what did the Liberal party mean? They meant coercive action. You cannot coerce people without their resisting, and that is war. What did the Labour party say? They said, "Close the Suez Canal." That would have been an act of war. As a matter of fact, the Italians were better situated then for closing the Suez Canal than we were, because they had far more troops in that area than we had. Nine months ago the Labour party were again screaming out that we should go to war against Japan. In the autumn the whole of their cry was that we should take action which would have led us into war with Japan. At the present time they are urging a course of action which would lead us definitely into another world war. That is the party which goes before the 136 people and talks in the cause of peace. They preach peace but they support a policy which would lead to war, and at the same time they give ineffective support to the policy of rearmament. They are the militaristic party in this country at the present time. It has been said of the British people that they are the least militaristic and yet the most military in the world. I think that is true. The Labour party at the moment are pursuing a policy which makes them the most militaristic and yet the least military. That is going to be their condemnation, if they carry their Motion to-night and they have the misfortune of having to ask for the voice of the country on their actions in the past six months.
§ 9.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Alexander
The hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. G. Williams) can nearly always be depended upon to compress into about 10 minutes the most violent and outspoken things that could come from any Member of the House; things delivered with an air of authority as if they could always be proved at once by perfect evidence. As I listened to the hon. Member giving one of his usual performances, I could not refrain from saying to myself, "How easy it is for some people to get up and be glib and make charges against our party, which has behind it decades of history in working for peace." If that is the sort of charge that the hon. Member makes in this House, what sort of charge must he have been making in the country?
§ Mr. Alexander
The pretty hard things I am about to say of the Government seem to me to be on the whole justified by the kind of speech to which we have just listened. We put down the Motion of Censure upon the Government because of their foreign policy, and because we believe it is essential in the interests of the people of the country that they should have an opportunity of saying whether or not they are in favour of it before that foreign policy takes us into any further disaster.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) took some little time this afternoon—much too long to please the Prime Minister—to state the points in regard to the Government's policy of which we complain, and which 137 we think will lead us into disaster. When I listened to the reply of the Prime Minister I felt that in all the 16 years that I have been in this House, except for a short period, I have never heard a speech from a Prime Minister more unworthy of the occasion, more removed from the subject of the Motion, or more calculated to convince us still further than when the party opposite are dealing with the subject of elections they do not hesitate for a moment to mislead the people to the fullest possible extent. I say that to the Prime Minister because in his speech this afternoon we had an indication from him of the kind of things he and his party are going to say at the election when it comes.
He seemed to think that the Labour party were not anxious far an election. He is quite wrong. The right hon. Gentleman cannot point to any outstanding and glowing election successes for his party during the last few months. I wonder whether he can find a single great electoral triumph since he assumed the office of Prime Minister; anything which would encourage him to go to the country. He and his Cabinet are awaiting anxiously to see what happens in the critical election at West Fulham. When I interrupted him he did not deal with the point I put to him about Lord Baldwin's statement in November, 1926. He knows that Lord Baldwin in his speech in this House said that it was the verdict of the by-election at Fulham, that the people were in favour of peace, that made him, the Prime Minister, the Leader of the great capitalist party in his country, afraid to tell the country the truth for fear they might lose the election. And the Prime Minister is afraid to tell the people the truth on foreign affairs. It is still true, in regard to questions of international relationships and preparations for war, what Frederick the Great said:If only my soldiers really knew the truth they would never march.What is happening at the moment is this. The Prime Minister and his Cabinet have deliberately sacrificed the policy of support of the League to which they pledged their hearts and souls to the electors, and are now engaged in a policy of private secret diplomacy, in negotiations with Herr Hitler through Lord Halifax at Berchtesgaden and the con- 138 versations started by the Prime Minister with Mussolini himself last August. They are engaged in a whole network of secret diplomacy, which they themselves told the people in their election manifesto was bound to lead to war. The Prime Minister has made one or two references to their election manifesto, and I think I had better quote another bit of it: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.The Prime Minister and the Cabinet, having now given up a League policy, are now busy in the old diplomatic system of negotiating and arming at the same time, and keeping the people of this country in the dark as to what they are really doing. They do not know what Lord Halifax said to Herr Hitler. They do not know what Herr Hitler said to Lord Halifax. They do not know what the Prime Minister said to Mussolini. They do not know what instructions the Government have given to Lord Perth on which to talk to Count Ciano, but in a few days, in a week or two, we may be faced with a fait accompli of a draft agreement presented to this House, with no possible knowledge what our commitments are.
Our view of the situation—and we are entitled to put it to the country—is that that kind of action if not leading to immediate war is going to lead with absolute certainty to a European and world outbreak which the world even yet has never seen. And the Government who pledged their souls to the electorate on League policy are leading us to it and are to-day spending more money than was ever spent in peacetime on armaments. The whole mass of our people look like being eventually led like lambs to the slaughter without having an opportunity of saying yea or nay. We demand that they shall be given the opportunity. If the right hon. Gentleman is so confident in regard to the view which is taken on his attitude—not policy, because he has not got one, and he was careful to correct himself and say "attitude"—if he is so confident that his attitude commends itself not only to the majority of the world, as he put it, but to the people of this country, he has nothing to fear. Why does he not go to the country? If we believe that the policy he is pursuing is 139 likely to lead to a wide and devastating outbreak of war, then the people have the right to say whether the blood of themselves and their children shall rest upon themselves. They are entitled to say that. At present the Government are functioning on a mandate given to them on the specific undertaking that they would follow the policy of collective security, and until they return to that policy they have no mandate from the people for another day in office. I will add this word—as the Prime Minister looks amused. To me it means that in view of the speech of Lord Baldwin on 12th November, 1936, the Government were elected on a lie, and now desire to remain in office by fraud.
Complaints have been made from time to time during these very difficult days with regard to foreign affairs that hon. Members on this side have asked for many Debates and have adopted what the Prime Minister described this afternoon as a party view of the international situation and exploited it for party purposes. Three weeks ago, there was a Debate in regard to the serious situation created in Europe by the brutal treatment of Austria by Germany. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition opened the Debate, and I had the unenviable responsibility of winding up the Debate from this side. The Under-Secretary of State, in replying for the Government, had to admit that on that occasion neither my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition nor I had done anything but approach the matter in a thoughtful and helpful spirit. What do we get for that? What do our people get for it? Instead of having some new move by the Prime Minister in the direction of producing a policy which would lead to national unity in regard to foreign affairs, the Prime Minister went away and gestated for about rip days, and then produced no policy. There was not the slightest change. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Government were not going to change their attitude with regard to Spain and that non-intervention was to remain. [Interruption.] I am glad to hear those cheers, because they show that I am faithfully presenting the facts to the House. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that while the commitments of this country towards France, Belgium, Portugal, Egypt, and Iraq would be kept, 140 there were to be no other specific entanglements, but that that did not mean that we might not have to fight some time, somewhere, in some circumstances. I do not think I am unfairly paraphrasing the Prime Minister's statement.
Therefore, the situation has come to this, that instead of having a foreign policy based upon the election manifesto of the Prime Minister's party, based on collective security, we are to go on with a plain rearmament policy to fulfil our obligations to France, to march for Portugal if Portugal is threatened, to defend Iraq and Egypt if they are threatened, and to aid Belgium if she is threatened, although apparently Belgium has withdrawn both from Locarno and from specific commitments under the League Covenant. That is the position, and I would like to examine it for a few minutes. But let me say, first of all, that if that be the Government's policy they will get no support from us, for that policy means that we are to be in danger of being drawn into a war of alliance at any time.
The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister knows well from our general support of a League policy that to fulfil our commitments which have been duly registered within the Covenant of the League is something which all of us on this side of the House would support; but to tell the House that we have got to put away what the Prime Minister called the shams and pretences of the League and confine ourselves to these other things, means that our workers are to be asked to make sacrifices unprecedented in our modern industrial history in peace time, and our taxpayers are being asked to pay this year £150,000,000 more in taxation than they paid in 1931 under a wicked Labour Government; they are being asked to make unprecedented sacrifices, although at the same time, already £600,000,000 more in debt than in 1931, we are to be asked to heap up the debt from day to day. All that is for the certain purpose, not of acting collectively upon the law, but of being drawn into individual conflicts with this, that or the other country. There is to be no permanent peace, no resting upon the collective action of all the peace-loving countries against an aggressor; we are simply to do what we are told by the Government of the day, and use the forces of this country for the purpose of national policy—it may be defence and I am not saying it is not, or 141 arguing that it will be aggression—at any time that it suits the Government. That is the fulfilment by the Government of their pledges to the electorate to support the League and collective security.
Let us consider what was the effect of the announcement of the Prime Minister. I heard a little argument between the hon. Member for South Croydon and my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Come (Mr. Silverman), and I think that my hon. Friend won on the statement of the case which he made. But I put it to the Prime Minister that his statement on 22nd February, with regard to it being wrong to delude weak and small nations that the Covenant of the League protected them, in my view sealed the fate of Austria. It might well have been that 1he question of the Anschluss would have arisen at a later date and it might have been treated in different circumstances, but the Prime Minister's statement, made publicly at that time, was an invitation to Hitler to march into Austria. On 16th March and again on 24th March, the Prime Minister said that although the position in Spain was so serious, the Government would not change from their policy of non-intervention. Although I gather from information coming to me that the Government forces in Spain are still capable of being rallied and of putting up a fight for democracy and liberty in Spain, it looks as though that announcement of the Prime Minister might in the end seal the fate of Spain; and I venture to say that if it is found in history that the Prime Minister and his Cabinet sealed the fate of Spain, it will be shown later that, at the same time, they sealed the fate of France. In regard to that, let me say that the position in France to-day is one of great anxiety. They are no longer in the position, in alliance with this country—for the situation between ourselves and France is that of an alliance —of having to face an attack on their frontier with Belgium, and Luxemburg, or with Italy, but they will be in the position, if Franco is finally victorious, of having to face an attack in the rear, by land, air, and sea.
§ Mr. Alexander
The hon. Member for South Croydon is not as innocent as he pretends to be. I am sure he has read "Mein Kampf." I shall be surprised if 142 he has not read the famous speech of Signor Mussolini on 30th October. I shall be surprised if he has not visited Rome in the last few years and seen that wonderful map erected by Signor Mussolini showing the old Roman Empire round the Mediterranean, stretching from Gibraltar to Palestine and taking in the Mediterranean as an Italian lake. I shall be surprised if he does not, in his heart, know that Hitler's thesis in "Mein Kampf" is the one which he proposes to follow and that the ambitions of Mussolini in regard to making the Mediterranean an Italian lake are being steadily pursued. If that is so, then the independence of Spain becomes a very serious strategical factor. I believe that from the facts which I have, I could put up a case to-night for the removal of the Non-Intervention Agreement in respect of Spain, purely upon human and democratic grounds. I think those are strong grounds upon which one could put such a case, but I have not the time to-night to do so, and I want to put the case now on the strategical ground from the point of view of France and this country.
We have heard to-night from hon. Members like the hon. and gallant Member for Wellingborough (Wing-Commander James) reassurances, or what they think are reassurances, that if Franco is victorious, there is no reason why Spain should be used by the dictators for operations against us, why, they say, should it be so used? I reply by asking them: Would it be the first time that a country with so-called independence in a geographical and administrative sense had been used for such a purpose? When Manchukuo was taken by the aggressor Japan, and made into an "independent State," it did not prevent that "independent State" from being used as a base of mobilisation, and a jumping-off ground for the invasion of Jehol and Hopei and the advance further South to Nanking and Shanghai. Before the War Turkey had no alliance with Germany? but Germany had a military mission there and Germany trained its army. Turkey was independent of Germany, but as soon as the "Goeben" and the "Breslau" had got out to the Mediterranean, the Turks were in the War on the German side.
Let those who doubt what the position would be with regard to the future use 143 of a Spain conquered by Franco in regard to military strategy, look at your own door-step, at your own Empire. Have hon. Members never heard of Egypt? Egypt is an independent country. Its independence is guaranteed by Britain, but you do not hesitate to use it as a military and air base. Hon. Members opposite know perfectly well what will happen if Franco wins in Spain, after all the expenditure of money and men and material. With the League not being used, with collective security at a complete discount, with the old game of diplomacy and of making alliances going on again, you will find that Mussolini and Hitler, intent upon the advancement of their programmes and policies, will use Spain in such a way as to be much more dangerous strategically than anything which we had to face in Western Europe in the last Great War.
I beg of those people who have, perhaps, been inclined to support the general view of the Prime Minister that circumstances have so changed, that you can no longer use the League and collective security, at least to think of the grave danger arising from the fact that a National Government with a great working majority should, deliberately, over six years, drift and drift and drift until you have not a single State allied with you to-day outside France. Outside France, there is not a single nation in the world with whom you have a firm alliance. You have Spain in danger of being completely over-run; you have Austria gone into the hands of Germany, with all her resources in iron and coal—war resources. You have immediate danger to Czechoslovakia. As I heard it put the other day, you appear to be content to allow Austria to be lost like a pawn in the game. Today you are losing, not pawns, but bishops and knights. As we cannot persuade you in this House to act differently unless the country can get a change of Government, unless the country can get a Government returned on a policy of collective security, then for the manhood generation of to-day, and for their children coming after them, there is no security and no hope of permanent peace. Let us consider the references of the Prime Minister to the question of Czechoslovakia. He said in his speech of 24th March: 144This position is not one that His Majesty's Government could see their way to accept in an area where their vital interests are not concerned in the same degree as they are in the case of France and Belgium; it is certainly not a position that results from the Covenant." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th March, 1938; col. 1405; Vol. 333.]I think we ought to hear from the Minister who replies—and incidentally we have had no answer from the Prime Minister to seven separate questions which were put to him this afternoon—what is in the view of the Cabinet "a vital interest." I have tried to show that the independence of Spain is a vital interest. Let us look at the view of the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden). I quote from a speech of his on i4th September, 1936:If our vital interests are situated in certain clearly definable areas, our interest in peace is world wide, and there is a simple reason for this. The world has now become so small, and every day it becomes smaller, that a spark in some sphere comparatively remote from our own interests may become a conflagration sweeping a continent or a hemisphere. We must therefore be watchful at all times and in all places. We must neither mislead others nor be misled ourselves by any of those comfortable doctrines that we can live secure in a Western European glass house.If that means anything at all, I take it that it means that our vital interest is the preservation of peace as a whole. It is a subscription to the doctrine of the indivisibility of peace. Will the right hon. Gentleman who is to reply tell us whether that is the policy of the Prime Minister in the explanation of his speech on 24th March? It is because we believe that to be the entire opposite of what the Prime Minister is proposing to the nation that we think he ought to go to the electorate for a further mandate. There is another point that I want to put in this same connection. I looked it up the other day, and I found that Mr. Baldwin, as he then was, said in this House, on 11th March, 1935:Until a time, which we hope may come, when a system of collective security may be devised, what else is left but to try to secure this corner and that corner in the different parts of Europe? ''—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th March, 1935; col. 48, Vol. 299.]I could understand to some extent the Prime Minister saying perhaps, "Well, circumstances have changed, and we must give up the whole-hearted support of collective security that we used to have," but I am sure we are entitled 145 to ask: Then what about the other part of the policy? What are you trying to do to secure this corner and that corner in the different parts of Europe as a vital interest? It seems to me that all the time the Government are not only losing their chance of re-establishing the solidarity and the hopefulness of collective security, but they are also giving up every opportunity that they have had of saving this or that or the other corner of Europe which might be a very helpful buffer in times of difficulty. If I had had more time, I should have liked to have gone more deeply into some of these things, but I have promised the right hon. Gentleman that he should have time to reply.
The suggestion, which was made again by the Prime Minister to-day, that the party on these benches has no effective alternative policy is simply untrue. [HON. MEMBERS: "What is it?"] Let hon. Members be patient just a moment. The party that I represent here to-night has persistently and consistently, ever since 1918, argued against the injustices which were imposed upon defeated enemies as a result of the Great War. We have at all times, consistently again, urged that the grievances and injustices which existed should be adjusted. We have said that we could not get a permanent peace and disarmament unless we were prepared to deal with those grievances and those injustices. Whenever we asked for that in this House, and for support for it in the country, we were opposed. It is true—and I want to be honest—that there were individual Members in all parties who took the same view, but, generally speaking, the party opposite were opposed. We were accused in 1929–31, and the accusation was repeated to-night, that we were too much in favour of disarmament and let ourselves get too weak. On the contrary, instead of being weaker, although we had smaller units of armament, as a result of Labour's disarmament policy we were relatively stronger. An hon. Member opposite shakes his head and says, "Not in the air." All that I can say is that there was no air force then in Germany.
I was going on to add that it was the policy of conciliation followed by a small, minority Labour Government in 1924 in the Pact of London, it was the policy of conciliation followed again by a larger 146 Labour Government in the London Pact of 1930, which promised, at any rate, if only we had complete support, a move to a state where the popular, democratic Government of Germany might have been saved. It was the constant opposition, the capitalist opposition, to our attempts to secure complete appeasement in Europe which led to the German people finally taking Hitler because they felt there was nothing else they could take. What is our policy now? In the first place, we repeat that the Government ought on its election pledges to call together the League again now. In the second place, because the position in foreign affairs has so sadly deteriorated under the mess and muddle of six years of National Government, we say that until you can rebuild an effective peace alliance you will go on having to provide armaments. We would proceed in the next place to deal with every main specific objection or grievance of those parties in Europe and the Far East today who find difficulties which may endanger the peace.
The difference between the Government manifesto of 1935 and the Labour manifesto of 1935 was this. We were both in favour of collective security on paper, but the National Government manifesto never said a word about appeasement. It provided nothing with regard to colonial demands or economic relief. The Labour party included in its election manifesto the adjustment of grievances, the international control of raw materials, and an extension of the mandate system for the colonies. At the present rate of progress—or rather lack of progress—of the Government, we shall get to the position where the right hon. Gentleman will make concession after concession, going from Mussolini to Hitler and then from Hitler to Mussolini, each playing Box and Cox with him for his favours. In the end we shall have them rehabilitated, and so remove from the economic difficulties which their own system has created for them, that they will be ready for the achievement in both cases of their present objective, a great Empire. In each case the Prime Minister will have created for the children and grandchildren of the present generation a time of despair, a time of hopelessness and a time when they will look back at the period in which those, who ought to 147 have stood for Britain, for the Commonwealth, for democracy, for freedom and for liberty, had sold them into slavery for generations.
§ 10.24 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs (Mr. Malcolm MacDonald)
The Opposition are asking for an immediate General Election. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) has said that the party opposite is eager for it. They are confident that if the issue which they have raised in this Debate could be submitted to the country without delay the great jury in the constituencies would return a verdict against the Government. I should like to remind hon. Members opposite, in the most friendly spirit, that they have said that sort of thing before. I remember on 15th September, 1931, when the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) was speaking from that Box on behalf of the party opposite. The hon. Member was speaking just after the first National Government had introduced a Budget under which every income in the country was going to suffer reductions. [Interruption.] He said:Whenever the Chancellor of the Exchequer is willing to sound the trumpet for an election we will go to the country confident that the alternative proposals that we shall put up will be preferred by the electors to the proposals put before us in these Budget Resolutions and in the Economy Bill ''—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th September, 1931; col. 795, vol. 256.]When the trumpet sounded hon. Members went to the country, and suffered a defeat so crushing that they have not yet recovered. [Interruption.] I am well aware that hon. Members think they have a better case to take to the country this time. They can recite a catalogue of the sins of omission and commission of this Government. They start with the failure of the Government to do what the Opposition wanted it to do with regard to the Manchurian question. That, I understand, was the original sin. That, we were told by one hon. Member this afternoon, was the root of all our troubles to-day. I would remind the House that the electors have already had an opportunity of pronouncing upon the policy of the Government at that time, because that policy was one of the chief issues in the election of 1935, and the result of it was that for the first time for 25 years a Gov- 148 ernment was returned in this country at two consecutive elections, and returned with that immense majority which we shall be able to show in the Division Lobbies this evening.
Hon. Members would also criticise without qualification many of the details of the policy pursued by this Government with regard to the Abyssinian question. Once more, we were told, we had forfeited the confidence of the country. I would point out again that the electors of this country have had opportunities in many constituencies of pronouncing upon the policy of this Government since the event which hon. Members most severely criticise. [An HON. MEMBER: "Ipswich!"] Of course, hon. Members pick out particular instances, but I can tell the House the record of the whole lot. Since that event, 43 by-elections have been held in this country. Two have been won by Independent candidates, 13 by the joint Opposition parties and 28 by the Government, a majority of two to one in favour of the Government.
§ Mr. MacDonald
"Hope springs eternal in the human breast." Hon. Members opposite have persuaded themselves that once more the Government are pursuing a foreign policy which does not command the support of a majority of the electors.
§ Mr. MacDonald
They are asking for the election trumpets to be blown once more so that they may go and seek that victory which has eluded them on a great many other occasions.
§ Mr. MacDonald
Once more the judgment of hon. Members is entirely wrong. I am confirmed in that view by two factors which have recently appeared. First of all, some 10 days ago, the Prime Minister made an extremely important statement on the foreign policy of the Government, and the wide support which that statement has received throughout the country—
§ Mr. MacDonald
—in almost every provincial paper of any importance—[An HON. MEMBER: "The" Yorkshire Post!"]—as well as the National Press—
§ Mr. MacDonald
—is an indication that the Prime Minister interpreted correctly the temper and the views of the majority of our countrymen.
§ Mr. MacDonald
I am confirmed in my view also by the fact that the alternative policy advocated by the Opposition does not seem to find favour with many of those who normally support the Opposition.
Anyone who has read the Debates in another place recognises that that statement is true with regard to the party which sits below the Gangway and those of us who have friends in Labour and trade union circles know that there is a great deal of criticism and disunity there. For instance, as one example of this criticism that is going on I will take the views of a very eminent and for a long time hard-working supporter of the Labour movement, Lord Sanderson, who said, in resigning from the Labour party, that hecould not work for a party whose foreign policy involves so much hatred of other Powersand whose attainment of office he would regardas a menace to the peace of the world.There is no reason at all for a General Election on this issue. There is a great deal more national unity behind the Government to-day than hon. Members opposite care to admit. Of course, that does not mean to say that there is no room for differences of opinion—perfectly honest differences of opinion—on foreign policy. We on this side of the House regret those differences but we recognise the perfect sincerity with which hon. Members opposite hold their views, and I hope they will do us the credit, at least, of believing that we are equally sincere in our view that other methods are required if we are to achieve our common purpose, namely, the establishment of peace.
150 The two sections of the Opposition are agreed in the proposals which they would make at the present time. They would pursue a policy based, first, last, and all the time, on League of Nations action. They would call an immediate meeting of the League Assembly, and they would ask the League Assembly to take charge of the situation. I have no hesitation in saying that, if the membership of the League were universal, or if it were anything approaching universal, there would be no difference between that side of the House and this side of the House at the present moment. We should adopt that policy without hesitation. But we have to recognise that, when the League of Nations Assembly meets, there are a good many vacant chairs in its conference hall. We have to recognise that some absentees are extremely important members of the international community; and we have to recognise that a League, the membership of which is so seriously depleted, cannot act in exactly the same way or so effectively as it could if its membership were complete.
The right hon. Gentleman who spoke on behalf of the Liberal Opposition said that my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) ought to be recalled, and that, if he were recalled into office, then we should have a proper League of Nations policy. If my right hon. Friend were speaking at the Box this evening, he would say exactly the same about the League as has been said from this Box already, and is being said now. The right hon. Gentleman said that my right hon. Friend did not say it before, but he did say it before. He said it before as Foreign Secretary. Speaking at the League Council in January of this year, he said:There is no advantage in shutting our eyes to certain events, however regrettable and however much we may deplore them. By the defection of some of its more important members, the League is now faced with the fact that the area of co-operation is restricted, and that its ability to fulfil all the functions originally contemplated for it is thereby reduced We must realise that in present circumstances the League is not in a position to achieve all that was hoped of it.I will give an example of the kind of thing that I mean. One of the purposes for which the League Assembly is to be called according to the Amendment is that it may make: 151Practical arrangements for putting into operation machinery for removing the economic causes of war.And the Leader of the Opposition and the spokesmen of the party opposite have said over and over again recently that we ought to get ahead with this problem of economic and trade and financial relations. We absolutely agree as to the importance of that. It was this Government which helped to take an initiative, the result of which was that a very comprehensive and thorough examination of economic problems was carried out by M. Van Zeeland. He has presented a report upon which we have been asked questions this evening. He has made some extremely valuable suggestions. One of the things that come out very clearly from his report is that if economic co-operation is going to have any practical result, that co-operation must embrace certain of the great Powers. It must embrace not only Great Britain and France, but the United States of America and also Germany and also Italy. If the Assembly of the League is called to tackle this problem, three out of the five Powers mentioned will be absent, and, in addition, certain other extremely important nations like Japan and Brazil, with regard to trading questions, will not attend the deliberations. It is perfectly true—
§ Mr. MacDonald
What is the good of sending out an invitation to, say, the United States of America, when you know perfectly well that the United States will not send a representative to a League Assembly meeting? That is the sort of reason why, in our view, it really is not facing this situation in a practical way to suggest that on all and every occasion, for any and every problem, the sovereign solution is calling a meeting of the League of Nations Assembly. Let us take the question of political difficulties between nations. What is going to be the League Assembly procedure with regard to the settlement of them? Is the suggestion that the League gathering should make a reaffirmation of our loyalty to our obligations under the Covenant? That is absolutely unnecessary, as far as the Government are concerned. The Prime Minister made a statement the other day in which he repeated our obligations, both military and otherwise, both treaty obligations and 152 obligations under the Covenant of the League, and he said categorically, that we stood by every one of those obligations.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough who spoke so scornfully about some of those obligations— the obligation to France, the obligation to Portugal, the obligation to Egypt—seemed to indicate that this was a new policy of this Government: a policy of alliances. Of course, it is nothing of the sort. The obligation to France was taken on under the Locarno Treaty, for which the Labour party voted at the time of its introduction to this House, and which has, in fact, received the blessing of the League of Nations itself. The Treaty with Portugal has lasted since the fourteenth century, I believe, and has even survived, without any criticism, two Labour Governments. As for the Treaty with Egypt, the right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that the highly respected Foreign Secretary of the Labour Government made a tremendous effort to conclude that Treaty with Egypt, which would have included these military commitments, and all that has happened is that the National Government have succeeded where the Labour Government failed.
§ Mr. Alexander
I want only to be quite clear about it. I think I added in my speech to-night that of course, my party would fulfil any commitment into which this country has entered which would be of benefit to peace. We do not question that. My only point about Egypt is that you maintain its independence, but it does not prevent you from using it as a military base, and that is what will happen when Franco has conquered Spain.
§ Mr. MacDonald
The statement of the Prime Minister, however criticised by the party opposite, has been hailed in Europe as perhaps the most far-reaching statement that has been made in modern times by any statesman of a British Government. There are indications already that it has had a considerable effect in calming opinion in Europe and in making men's minds there turn to constructive diplomacy. The principal difference between hon. Members opposite and hon. Members on this side with regard to foreign affairs in these days is that hon. Members opposite think that Europe already is divided into two camps, and that between these camps there shall be little or no communication.
§ Mr. MacDonald
That there should be mutual suspicion and distrust, and that there should be the building of up armaments against each other.
§ Mr. MacDonald
Into one camp are put Germany and Italy. If we are to refuse to speak to these Powers, they will be driven into that camp, with their associates, and in the other camp, according to the conception at any rate of many hon. Members opposite are to be France, Great Britain, and the Members of the League of Nations. You can dress that conception up in any League of Nations terminology that you like, but in effect that is simply the old conception of maintaining peace in Europe. That state of affairs, with two rival alliances in Europe, is absolutely bound to lead to the same grim finish as that to which it came the last time, and end in war. On this side of the House we do not agree with hon. Members opposite. We do not regard it as necessary that Europe should be divided into two camps.
The right hon. Gentleman seemed to suggest that we were the people who were going in for a policy of alliances. That is exactly what we are trying to avoid. If we are to establish confidence and peace in Europe again, we have to extend the circle of co-operation much wider than the membership of the League of Nations to-day. We have to do our best to create once more conditions in which the nations who are still in the League, and the nations who are outside the League co-operate for the settlement of their mutual problems. It may be that we are simply impracticable idealists, but we believe that it is the duty of statesmanship to try to break through the suspicion and distrust which to-day divide some nations from other nations. We believe that it is the duty of statesmanship to get back to the first principle of the League of Nations and try to settle international disputes and differences by reasonable and peaceful negotiation. We believe that that method has to be tried to the uttermost. It was because of that that we started conversations with Germany, which have been so rudely interrupted by events in Austria; it was because of that that we started the con- 154 versations with the Italian Government which are proceeding somewhat more satisfactorily.
After all, I would remind the House of this: This is a policy which the Labour party used to believe in. The right hon. Gentleman himself has practised this principle of conversations and negotiations with Powers with whose domestic and international policy very often his party did not agree. In 1930 he was First Lord of the Admiralty. He was in part responsible for the London Naval Treaty, to which he has referred this evening, and at the time of the negotiation of that Treaty certain difficulties arose with France and with Italy. Italy was then already a Fascist State. The Italian Government had already done many things of which the Labour party violently disapproved. The hon. Member for Ince (Mr. G. Macdonald) in his very conciliatory speech this evening referred to the suppression of trade unions. Trade unions had been suppressed in 1930. What did the right hon. Gentleman do? Did he refuse to go and talk to the Italians about the difficulties which had arisen? On the contrary, he himself made the journey to Rome. He may talk about secret diplomacy as much as he likes, but I wonder why it is secret diplomacy when our Ambassador engages in negotiations in Rome, and not secret diplomacy when the right hon. Gentleman engages in conversations with Ministers in Rome.
I say in all honesty that I believe that if hon. Members and right hon. Members opposite were on these benches to-day they would be pursuing very much the same sort of policy with regard to negotiations which His Majesty's Government are pursuing. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why did not Eden?"] With regard to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, ho had accepted the principle of conversations with Italy several months ago.
I must say a few words about Spain before this Debate comes to an end. We have had once more the demand from the party opposite that the policy of nonintervention should be abandoned. The arguments for and against that have been exchanged very often in this House, and I am not going over the old ground again. 155 I will say only this: We have never pretended that non-intervention has been a complete success. We never denied that there was foreign intervention in Spain. That intervention has taken place on both sides. What the policy of nonintervention has succeeded in doing is in localising the conflict; and if we were to abandon that policy now, and if more men and more material were to pour in on one side in Spain, do hon. Members suppose that the other side would be content? Of course they would not. There would be a counter-reinforcement on the other Spanish side, and before we had gone very far we should have had a case producing a real conflict, not only in Spain but spreading over the whole of Europe. If hon. Members opposite think that that is a policy to—arrest the dangerous drift towards war,then I do not understand their reading of international affairs. It is precisely because we are anxious to arrest the dangerous drift towards war—towards a European war, that we are determined to maintain the non-intervention policy in Spain.
His Majesty's Government in this country are responsible for conducting the policy of a most powerful nation. Our policy is certainly not dictated by any weakness. If our policy of appeasement and our endeavours at peace-making fail, and this country is drawn into war, we can make a contribution in that war which will be decisive. We are much surer under the National Government than under the Government that went before. We are powerful because of the great wealth of this country. We are powerful because of the military and naval strength of this country. We are powerful because of the superb qualities which our people display when they are tested.
We are powerful for another reason also. There has been talk this evening about Imperial unity. Certainly, let us maintain Imperial unity. It is a most precious thing. We draw our unique strength from the fact that we are the centre of an Empire whose territories and 156 peoples stretch right round the earth, and we have to be careful especially to preserve our co-operation and to preserve our unity with the peoples of the Dominions, who exert the same freedom as we do in the conduct of their own affairs. It is because I believe that the great majority of our fellow citizens in the Dominions agree with the policy being pursued by this Government that I finally ask the House to support that Government.
§ Mr. Attlee
rose in his place, and claimed to move," That the Question be now put," but Mr. SPEAKER withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.
§ Mr. MacDonald
The right hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) suggested that the Dominions are opposed to this policy. I am not going to weary the House—I could not, in the time left, if I wanted to—with many of the quotations which could be made showing how this Government is supported in the Dominions. I will simply content myself with one quotation from one Prime Minister, the Prime Minister of South Africa. Speaking four or five weeks ago he said—[Interruption.] It was after the most recent crisis.Mr. Chamberlain has my full support both with respect to the policy pursued by him and with respect to the methods whereby he seeks to carry out that policy. To say that South Africa's confidence in Mr. Chamberlain's Government has been shaken by what has just happened, may contain some truth with respect to certain individuals, but to say that such is true in regard to South Africa or the Government, is decidedly incorrect.I ask the House to show in the same measure support for this Government and its policy.
That, as the Foreign Policy of His Majesty's Government cannot arrest the dangerous drift towards war and is inconsistent with their election pledges, this House is of opinion that the issue should be submitted to the country without delay.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 152; Noes, 359.161
|Division No. 163.]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m.|
|Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple)||Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Parker, J.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Parkinson, J. A.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Groves, T. E.||Pearson, A.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Guest, Dr. L. H. (Islington, N.)||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Hall, G. H. (Abardare)||Price, M. P.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Hall, J. H. (Whitechepal)||Pritt, D. N.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Hardie, Agnes||Quibell, D. J. K.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Harris, Sir P. A.||Rathbone, Eleanor (English Univ's.)|
|Banfield, J. W.||Hayday, A.||Richards, R. (Wrexham)|
|Barnes, A. J.||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Ridley, G.|
|Barr, J.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Riley, B.|
|Batey, J.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Ritson, J.|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Hills, A. (Pontefrast)||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Brom.)|
|Benson, G.||Hollins, A.||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Bevan, A.||Hopkin, D.||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Broad, F. A.||Jagger, J.||Rothschild, J. A. de|
|Bromfield, W.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Seely, Sir H. M.|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||John, W.||Sexton, T. M.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire)||Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.||Shinwell, E.|
|Buchanan, G.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Silkin, L.|
|Cape, T.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Silverman, S. S.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Kelly, W. T.||Simpson, F. B.|
|Chater, D.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Kirby, B. V.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.||Kirkwood, D.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Cocks, F. S.||Lathan, G.||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Leas- (K'ly)|
|Cove, W. G.||Lawson, J. J.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||Leach, W.||Stephen, C.|
|Daggar, G.||Lee, F.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Leonard, W.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Leslie, J. R.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Logan, D. G.||Thorne, W.|
|Day, H.||Lunn, W.||Thurtle, E.|
|Dobbie, W.||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Tinker, J. J.|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||McEntee, V. La T.||Tomlinson, G.|
|Ede, J. C.||McGovarn, J.||Viant, S. P.|
|Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales)||Maclean, N.||Walkden, A. G.|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||MacNeill Weir, L.||Walker, J.|
|Foot, D. M.||Mainwaring, W. H.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Frankel, D.||Mander, G. le M.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Gallacher, W.||Marshall, F.||Westwood, J.|
|Gardner, B. W.||Mathers, G.||Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)|
|Garro Jones, G. M.||Maxton, J.||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Milner, Major J.||Williams, D. (Swansea, E.)|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Montague, F.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Gibbins, J.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Gibson, R. (Greenock)||Muff, G.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Graham, D. M. (Hamilton)||Nathan, Colonel H. L.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Naylor, T. E.|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Noel-Baker, P. J.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Oliver, G. H.||Sir Charles Edwards and Mr.|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbre, W.)||Owen, Major G.||Paling.|
|Acland-Treyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Bossom, A. C.||Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Boulton, W. W.||Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)|
|Allen, Col. J. Sandeman (B'knhead)||Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n)|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. J. (Armagh)||Boyce, H. Leslie||Channon, H.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.||Bracken, B.||Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.)|
|Apsley, Lord||Brass, Sir W.||Christie, J. A.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Clarke, Frank (Dartford)|
|Assheton, R.||Brocklebank, Sir Edmund||Clarke, Colonol R. S. (E. Grinstead)|
|Astor, Major Hon. J. J. (Dover)||Brown, Col. D. C. (Hexham)||Clarry, Sir Reginald|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Clydesdale, Marquess of|
|Baillie, Sir A. W. M.||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)|
|Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.||Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.)||Colman, N. C. D.|
|Balfour, G. (Hampstead)||Bull, B. B.||Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Bullock, Capt. M.||Conant, Captain R. J. E.|
|Balniel, Lord||Burghley, Lord||Cook, Sir T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.)|
|Baxter, A. Beverley||Burgin, Rt. Hon. E. L.||Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Burton, Col. H. W.||Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff (W'st' r S. G'gs)|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Butcher, H. W.||Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Butler, R. A.||Courtauld, Major J. S.|
|Beechman, N. A.||Caine, G. R. Hall-||Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L.|
|Beit, Sir A. L.||Campbell, Sir E. T.||Cox, H. B. Trevor|
|Bernays, R. H.||Cartland, J. R. H.||Critchley, A.|
|Birchall, Sir J. D.||Carver, Major W. H.||Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page|
|Bird, Sir R. B.||Cary, R. A.||Crooke, Sir J. S.|
|Blair, Sir R.||Castlereagh, Viscount||Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.|
|Blaker, Sir R.||Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester)||Croom-Johnson, R. P.|
|Cross, R. H.||Hopkinson, A.||Peat, C. U.|
|Crossley, A. C.||Hore-Belisha, Rt. Hon. L.||Peters, Dr. S. J.|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Horsbrugh, Florence||Petherick, M.|
|Cruddas, Col. B.||Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Culverwell, C. T.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Pilkington, R.|
|Davies, C. (Montgomery)||Hulbert, N. J.||Plugge, Capt. L. F.|
|Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)||Hume, Sir G. H.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.|
|Davison, Sir W. H.||Hunter, T.||Porritt, R. W.|
|Dawson, Sir P.||Hurd, Sir P. A.||Power, Sir J. C.|
|De Chair, S. S.||Hutchinson, G. C.||Pownall, Lt.-Col. Sir Assheton|
|De la Bère, R.||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H.||Procter, Major H. A.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||James, Wing-Commander A. W. H.||Radford, E. A.|
|Denville, Alfred||Joel, D. J. B.||Raikes, H. V. A. M.|
|Dodd, J. S.||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)||Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.|
|Doland, G. F.||Jones, L. (Swansea W.)||Ramsbotham, H.|
|Donner, P. W.||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Ramsden, Sir E.|
|Dower, Major A. V. G.||Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)||Rankin, Sir R.|
|Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)|
|Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||Knox, Major-General Sir A. W. F.||Rawson, Sir Cooper|
|Dugdale, Captain T. L.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Rayner, Major R. H.|
|Duggan, H. J.||Latham, Sir P.||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)|
|Duncan, J. A. L.||Law, Sir A. J. (High Peak)||Reid, Sir D. D. (Down)|
|Dunglass, Lord.||Law, R. K. (Hull, S.W.)||Reid, J. S. C. (Hillhead)|
|Eastwood, J. F.||Leech, Sir J. W.||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Eckersley, P. T.||Lees-Jones, J.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Leigh, Sir J.||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Ellis, Sir G.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)|
|Elliston, Capt. G. S.||Levy, T.||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Elmley, Viscount||Lewis, O.||Rowlands, G.|
|Emery, J. F.||Liddall, W. S.||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.|
|Emmott, C. E. G. C.||Lipson, D. L.||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Little, Sir E. Graham.||Russell, Sir Alexander|
|Entwistle, Sir C. F.||Llewellin, Colonel J. J.||Russell, R J. (Eddisbury)|
|Errington, E.||Lloyd, G. W.||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)|
|Erskine-Hill, A. G.||Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S.||Salmon, Sir I.|
|Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.)||Loftus, P. C.||Salt, E. W.|
|Everard, W. L.||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)||Samuel, M. R. A.|
|Fildes, Sir H.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.||Sandeman, Sir N. S.|
|Findlay, Sir E.||M'Connell, Sir J.||Sanderson, Sir F. B.|
|Fleming, E. L.||McCorquodala, M. S.||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir P.|
|Fox, Sir G. W. G.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross)||Savory, Sir Servington|
|Fremantle, Sir F. E.||MacDonald, Sir Murdech (Inverness)||Scott, Lord William|
|Furness, S. N.||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)||Selley, H. R.|
|Fyfe, D. P. M.||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.||Shakespeare, G. H.|
|Gibson, Sir C. G. (Pudsey and Otley)||McKie, J. H.||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Gledhill, G.||Macnamara, Major J. R. J.||Shepperson, Sir E. W.|
|Gluckstein, L. H.||Macquisten, F. A.||Shute, Colonel Sir J. J.|
|Goldie, N. B.||Magnay, T.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.|
|Gower, Sir R. V.||Maitland, A.||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)||Makins, Brig.-Gon. E.||Smith, L. W. (Hallam)|
|Grant-Ferris, R.||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)|
|Granville, E. L.||Markham, S. F.||Smithers, Sir W.|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Marsden, Commander A.||Somerset, T.|
|Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Mason, Lt.-Col. Hon. G. K. M.||Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crowe)|
|Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Maxwell, Hon. S. A.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Gridley, Sir A. B.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.|
|Grigg, Sir E. W. M.||Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham)||Spears, Brigadier-General E. L.|
|Grimston, R. V.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Spens. W. P.|
|Gritten, W. G. Howard||Mills, Sir F. (Leylon, E.)||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)|
|Guest, Lieut.-Colonel H. (Draks)||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'l'd)|
|Guest, Hon. I. (Brecon and Radner)||Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswick)||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N.W.)||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Storey, S.|
|Guinness, T. I. E. B||Mitcheson, Sir G. G.||Stourton, Major Hon. J. J|
|Gunston, Capt. Sir D. W.||Moore, Lieut.-Col. Sir T. C. R.||Strauss, E. A. (SouthwarK, N.)|
|Hacking, Rt. Hon. D. H.||Moore-Brabazon, Lt.-Col. J. T. C.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Hambro, A. V.||Morgan, R. H.||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton (N'thw'h)|
|Hannah, I. C.||Morris, J. P. (Salford, N.)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Morris-Jones, Sir Henry||Tasker, Sir R. I.|
|Harbord, A.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Hartington, Marquess of||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)|
|Harvey, Sir G.|
|Haslam, Henry (Hornoastle)||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.|
|Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)||Munro, P.||Titchfield, Marquess of|
|Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Nall, Sir J.||Touche, G. C.|
|Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.||Train, Sir J.|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Nicholson, G. (Farnham)||Tree, A. R. L. F.|
|Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.||Tryon, Ma|or Rt. Hon. G. C.|
|Herbert, A. P. (Oxford U.)||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Turton, R. H.|
|Higgs, W. F.||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. W. G. A.||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon)||Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S.||Palmer, G. E. H.||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan|
|Holmes, J. S.||Patrick, C. M.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Hope, Captain Hon. A.O. J.||Peake, O.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Warrendar, Sir V.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord||Wragg, H.|
|Waterhouse, Captain C.||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)||Wright, Wing-Commandar J. A. C.|
|Watt, Major G. S. Harvie||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Wayland, Sir W. A.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Wedderburn, H. J. S.||Wise, A. R.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Wells, S. R.||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount||Captain Margesson and Lieut.-|
|Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)||Womersley, Sir W. J.||Colonel Kerr.|
|Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.||Wood, Hon. C. I. C.|
§ The Orders of the Day were read, and postponed.