§ 3.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Dalton
I beg to move,That this House has no confidence in the Foreign Policy of His Majesty's Government.This Motion, which stands upon the Order Paper in the name of four of my right hon. and hon. Friends and myself, is very clear, very simple and very direct. It is a Motion of no confidence in the foreign policy of His Majesty's Government, and in so far as the Prime Minister himself has lately taken a predominant part in the direction of foreign policy, it is a Motion of no confidence in the Prime Minister personally, in that capacity. I want to make that clear. Recently, when my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition offered certain criticisms on the subject of foreign policy the Prime Minister accused him of fouling his own nest, and added, a little enviously, that those things did not happen in dictatorship States. I hope that the Prime Minister will not think fit to use such language to-day. Our own nest. What is it? Our own nest is a national possession, not the perquisite of Ministers who are only its temporary guardians. Our own nest, this little island, is still a refuge for liberty and democratic opportunity amid a world of dying freedoms. Our pride in it is not less than that of the Prime Minister and his friends, though our views may differ from theirs as to how it should best be 2504 safeguarded. My case to-day is that it has not been safeguarded by its temporary guardians and that they have failed to keep safe this little nest of ours; that they have exposed it to new winds and storms and to greater dangers from the outer world than for a long period of our history. That in essence is our case.
In 1931 they took it over safe and secure from a Labour Government. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I am pleased to observe the high spirits on the other side of the House of those who are trying to some extent to offset the gloom which overhangs the international scene and the impending departure of the Prime Minister on another of his ill-fated pilgrimages to foreign parts. Our case is that in 1931 what the Prime Minister calls "our nest" was comparatively safe, partly by reason of the relative strength of our armaments over those of Germany and other Powers and partly by reason of the strength of the League of Nations, which then had prestige and authority, but that to-day the situation is quite other; that those who have been the guardians of the nest for those seven years have destroyed its security, neglected its defences and alienated many of its friends. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I hope to convince, before I sit down, that attentive audience which is kind enough to listen to me from the benches opposite. Our case also is that by a succession of grave misjudgments this country has been brought into the direst peril in which it has stood since the end of the Great War, more than 20 years ago.
It would be necessary to go back for a parallel to the ineptitude with which our foreign policy has lately been conducted, to the days of King George III and Lord North or even, as I see an Oxford historian has recently suggested, to the days of Ethelred the Unready. During this period of seven years, continuous responsibility has rested upon certain statesmen and upon the Prime Minister and his colleague sitting by his side—who I understand will reply to this Debate—now the Chancellor of the Exchequer who, at an earlier period, was the Foreign Secretary. During those seven years we have witnessed a continuous decline in British power and influence in the world—a continuous decline under a so-called National Government. I hope and believe it has not gone so far as to bring final catastrophe upon us, in spite of the evidences from recent 2505 speeches of Members of the Government of their disturbingly low morale and of their pessimistic outlook on the future. There was, for example, the speech of the Secretary of State for the Dominions, who speaking at the Constitutional Club on 14th December said, as reported in "Daily Telegraph":There are those who think that even in our lifetime we shall see the great edifice of the Empire crumble to pieces. I sometimes wonder if, before I leave the Dominions Office, I shall not find that the people who prophesied that are right.[HON. MEMBERS: "Read on."] Is not that enough? Is not that quite enough dithering defeatism for one speech, and quite enough dithering defeatism to disgust the Dominions?
Let us look round the world at some of the wreckage on which it is proper to comment this afternoon and for which His Majesty's Government are in large measure responsible. Let us begin in the Far East. We have become almost callous, by their repetition elsewhere, at the horrors of Japanese warfare against China, and particularly against the civil population of China. Now, we are glad to know, the Japanese advance appears to be slowed up. The question arises whether His Majesty's Government are willing to do anything to help China, still a member of the League of Nations, to resist the brutal and unprovoked aggression made upon her by Japan. It has often been declared in all parts of this House that co-operation with the United States of America in international affairs is most desirable and essential, wherever it can be got. It is perhaps most easily got to-day in the Pacific. It is reported in the Press that the United States Government are making an advance of some £5,000,000 to China through the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, a governmental agency. I hope that the Prime Minister will tell us what we are doing. There was some passing reference to this matter at Question Time to-day, but I hope that he will be able to make a fuller statement of what we are doing to assist China in the Far East. I hope that he will tell us that we are prepared to go at least as far as the United States of America in assisting China.
I venture to express the view that there are only two possible policies to follow in the Far East. One is to help China now to retain her independence and her 2506 sovereignty against Japan's attack. That is an intelligible policy. The other is to cut our losses and wash our hands of Eastern Asia altogether, abandon all our markets there to Japan, evacuate Hong Kong as no longer tenable, and concentrate all our forces and economic interests in the South Pacific, along a line the northern boundary of which would be Singapore, New Guinea and the northern coasts of Australia and New Zealand. Either of those policies is possible, but His Majesty's Government up to now have been pursuing neither of them, but have been sitting still and doing nothing, with an occasional bleating and unheeded diplomatic protest in Tokyo. I ask them to-day whether they have now made up their minds to pursue an active policy, in association with the United States of America, to help China by financial and economic means?
I turn to Europe. It is not my intention this afternoon to examine closely the Munich Agreement as such, although I have some observations to offer upon what has happened since that agreement was come to. There was a four-day Debate upon the Munich Agreement, and I think it did credit to this House and did honour to democracy. It left the Government with much the worst of the argument. [Laughter.] Hon. Members who find that statement most amusing were not those who made the most important contributions from those benches to that Debate. Some very powerful contributions were made from those benches and contributed to the complete defeat of the Government in that Debate. Hon. Members who smile now and who did not speak then were among those who, when the Division Bell rang, made the full extent of their contribution to save that Government from defeat. I will turn to the situation which has developed since Munich, merely commenting, in passing, on the fact that the declaration signed at Munich by the Prime Minister and Herr Hitler looks as though it were not going to give us that peace in our time which the Prime Minister promised on his return from the Continent.
The so-called Munich settlement has unsettled all Europe. To-day there is no frontier which can be regarded as reasonably safe—not one. [HON. MEMBERS: "There was not before!"] Perhaps I may be allowed to proceed with my speech. Not one word of appreciation has 2507 come from the Ruler of the German State of the efforts of the Prime Minister or in support of the spirit of that declaration. On the contrary, the German Press, directed by Dr. Goebbels, has been full of abuse, of a great number of persons in this country who have been named and a larger number who have not been named. Every obstacle appears to have been inserted by Dr. Goebbels and certain other persons holding high position in Germany in the way of that friendship between the British and the German peoples which my hon. Friends and I desire no less than does any other hon. Member in this House. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Yes, the German people—the German and the British peoples have nothing which should keep them apart except the distortions of the truth and propaganda of some of their rules: that is all, nothing else. We shall labour, and indeed, I believe we shall all labour, to remove the evil effects of that propaganda and to make friendship possible between the British and German peoples. I should have thought that hon. Gentlemen opposite would agree with my complaints. Under the direction of its present rulers Germany is proving herself a disturbing factor and bad neighbour all over Europe, and indeed, in other continents as well.
If any hon. Member has read the very interesting article in the "Quarterly Review" of October last, entitled "The Nazi International," he will find in it much detailed evidence of German activities, using anti-Semitism as a bond of union between unlikes. Many such devices are being used all over Europe, in Scandinavia, in Eastern Europe, in States bordering Germany on the West, and even as far away as America. The evidence is there, set out in that article, and it is a most appalling picture of persistent lying and persistent raising of bad blood all over the world; and it must cost a lot of money. It is useless to hide these truths from our eyes. These activities, carried on up to quite recent days and weeks and reported in the Press from day to day, are a very unfortunate sequel to that Declaration signed by Herr Hitler and the Prime Minister at Munich. I trust that soon we shall see more evidence in the German Press of a real desire to live up to that Declaration.
Before passing from the question of German propaganda, let me ask the Prime 2508 Minister whether he can add anything to what was said at Question Time regarding the purpose for which Dr. Schacht has been to London. We have been told—I offer the Prime Minister an opportunity to deny it if it is not true—that Dr. Schacht has come here with a plan by which we should pay the German Government in order that they should allow the Jews, or a number of the Jews, to leave Germany; that we are to pay Germany to let the Jews go. That seems to me to be pretty impudent, if such a proposal has been made, and I shall be interested if the Prime Minister will tell us whether such a proposal has been made, and, if so, I hope he will say that the Government are not taking part in any such arrangement.
At Munich Herr Hitler declared that he wanted no more territorial changes in Europe after the boundaries of Czechoslovakia had been revised, and the Prime Minister believed that that was true. But now there is Memel. In Memel a great agitation has been set up and it appears to be only a matter of weeks before there may be some frontier changes there. In Danzig too there are perturbations, and, much more serious than either of these two questions, there is already considerable agitation and disturbance in the Ukraine and about the Ukraine. I shall ask in a moment what is the Government policy in regard to that part of Europe and these disturbances and agitations. But, before I come to that, let me say one word about Czechoslovakia. I ask, where do the Government stand with regard to the latest phase in that unhappy country? Herr Hitler declared that he wanted no Czechs in the Reich. He has now got 750,000 in the Reich, and many of them could easily have been left outside frontiers drawn without leaving any additional Germans outside the Reich. They have been annexed, quite frankly, for economic and strategic reasons. In all more than 1,000,000 Czechs and Slovaks have been handed over to neighbouring States. I remember that the Prime Minister, in his broadcast speech just before he went to Munich, spoke of Czechoslovakia as "a small country of which we know nothing." That country has now almost ceased to be a sovereign State any more. On these matters the "Times" is well informed. It has good foreign correspondents; the material from their foreign correspondents is very often better than 2509 what appears in the leading articles. The Prague correspondent of the "Times" on 15th December stated:It is understood that negotiations for large German orders to Czechoslovak armament factories are proceeding.I wonder whether that was discussed or prospectively agreed to at Munich? Some of us can claim to have foreseen it, to have foreseen that, if Czechoslovakia was allowed to pass unhappily within the German orbit, you would not only lose from one side of a hypothetical balance a gallant army, but you would also lose one of the finest and most formidable armament making plants in Europe, and the products of those Skoda works would be made available for the German Army and not for any other State. It has an important bearing on the whole problem of our relative rearmament, if Germany can now rely on the Skoda works for their full output.
Moreover, what about this road from North to South which is to be drawn from Silesia to Vienna? Quoting again from the "Times," on 23rd November their very well-informed Berlin Correspondent wrote:The motor highway which is to be built between Silesia and Austria represents a cession of Czechoslovak territory not contemplated in the Munich Agreement; it is, in effect, the German corridor proposed in pre-Munich plans of the Reich Government and then dropped owing to British opposition.Owing to the opposition of the Prime Minister, I suppose? What has the Prime Minister to say now about the proposal to drive this corridor road through the centre of the industrial areas of what is left of Czechoslovakia? What is to be done about it? What is the Prime Minister's attitude in the light of the protest which apparently he made, according to the "Times" correspondent, at an earlier stage, against such a corridor, which is now to be driven through, while Czechoslovakia is unable to do other than meekly accept it? These developments in Czechoslovakia are most disturbing, and suggest, as some of us ventured to predict, that the Prime Minister at Munich was not fully equipped, and was not properly advised by competent Foreign Office officials as to the implications of these problems, because he chose to take with him advisers without knowledge or experience of foreign affairs or of Europe. To-day we are reaping the consequences.
2510 I shall be glad to hear how our guarantee is affected by these developments. There was again a very brief reference to that subject at Question Time. The Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence has said that the guarantee of the Czechoslovak frontiers is already morally in force. I wish to know whether our guarantee is actually in force, to defend the two parts into which Czechoslovakia is now divided from aggression that may be made upon it from this corridor. What is the liability of this country? Evidently if these guarantees are to be taken seriously it may be a most grave matter.
Before we leave Czechoslovakia can the Prime Minister tell us what is the attitude of the Government, if any, towards what is taking place in Ruthenia? Ruthenia was the extreme Eastern limit of the old Czechoslovak State. It was, in any case, a poor and primitive country. The Czechs did a great deal for it. With regard to housing, education, roads and public health, they did a little to lift it up, but it still was a poor and most primitive country. But now the better half of it has been transferred to Hungary, and what is left has become apparently a centre from which agitation is to proceed through German agencies for the disruption on a large scale of Poland and the Soviet Union and Rumania, all of which contain populations said to be Ukrainian. I seriously ask the Prime Minister to say what are the intentions of the Government regarding this most patent and obvious endeavour by Germany to stir up further trouble on an immense scale in Eastern Europe, with a view of dominating it herself, and by setting up a so-called Great Ukraine to get for herself enormous stores of oil and wheat and other necessaries for the waging of another war.
I do not know whether the Prime Minister is surprised at these developments in Ruthenia or whether they were discussed at Munich, but I take it that the Foreign Office has had an eye upon them. It would have been much better, in my view, rather than that Ruthenia should have become a centre of agitation of this kind, for it to have gone back to Hungary, to whom it belonged before the War. I hope that the Hungarian Prime Minister, a man of great courage and ability, who withstood heavy German pressure in September last, will continue 2511 to withstand it now, and if he does and if he treats well his new minorities, I think he will win back much of the previous feeling of friendship for Hungary which prevailed in this country. I have referred to this agitation being carried on among the Ukrainian population and to the fact that the Soviet Union, Poland and Rumania are directly concerned.
There is once more a possibility—it may not last much longer—there is still one more chance for British diplomacy to bring together into an effective combination all these nations in the East of Europe who are threatened by this German push towards the East. They are still there, a potential combination—the Soviet Union, Poland, Rumania, Jugoslavia, Turkey and Greece. They are all members of the League of Nations, to which we and France still belong. You have still there a potential formidable force, if it could be welded together for peace and for organised resistancee to further endeavours to dislocate Europe. I wish to know whether it is any part of the Government's policy to encourage these nations to stand firm and to stand together against any further aggression threatened against any one of them? Has the Government a policy in Eastern Europe at all? If so, it is time that the House was told what it is.
The Government are in danger of getting repeated the situation of September, with minor variations only. There are the claims against Poland, and Poland is now in the danger zone. Czechoslovakia having been submerged, Poland is now in the danger zone. Poland has treaty relations with France, as Czechoslovakia had. Supposing that Germany shows signs of intending to attack Poland, and supposing that France shows signs of intending to fulfil her obligations towards Poland, has His Majesty's Government a policy in that situation? Is the Prime Minister clear as to what he will do? Will he discourage France from fulfilling her obligations towards Poland, as some believe he discouraged her with regard to Czechoslovakia? However that may have been in the past, what will he do in this new situation? Or are the Government prepared, and are they deliberately seeking, to cause that explosion, if there must be an explosion of dynamic forces in Germany to go eastward rather 2512 than westward, in the hope—vain, as I believe—that there is not enough force behind it to enable it to explode twice, first in the one direction and then in the other? Is the Prime Minister prepared to allow Germany to have a free hand in absorbing the whole of Eastern Europe? Is he prepared to sit by and do nothing in particular when this scheme for a great Ukrainian State is pushed towards a reality through the stirring up of war in Soviet Russia, Poland and Rumania? I think this House is entitled to know what is the Government's policy, if any, with regard to this new threat to the status quo in Eastern Europe.
In the Mediterranean it used to need an audacious foreigner to sink a British ship and kill and mutilate British sailors. It does not need so much audacity now; it only needs an aeroplane and a claim that one is employed by General Franco; that is enough. I would like to know whether the Prime Minister intends, when he visits Rome—this is the first of the questions I wish to ask him, in spite of his rather uphelpful reply at Question Time to one of my hon. Friends—to raise with Signor Mussolini this question of the persistent bombing by Italian airmen, flying Italian planes, of British ships and British merchant seamen. It is not enough for the Government to say that these shipowners are a disgrace to the British flag because they are trying to make profits out of the conditions in Spain. We should like to know what the Prime Minister is going to do to protect British shipping and essential British rights to trade with States with whom we have friendly relations, even though there be civil disturbance within those States.
So far as Spain is concerned, this question has often been debated here—necessarily often, owing to the importance both of the international principles involved and of the British interests involved. The more you are prepared to let Germany have her way in Eastern Europe, if that be the way in which the mind of the Government is moving, the more you are prepared to tolerate German aggression and aggrandisement in Eastern Europe, the more you need to keep the West intact—the more you need to keep Britain, France and Spain intact as a unit on which we can rely, and the more you need to prevent Spain from becoming merely a puppet of those dictator States 2513 which may be threatening the peace in other parts of Europe. Therefore, these two questions are entangled together. We find it impossible to believe—I do not know whether the Prime Minister still finds it possible to believe—that if General Franco, with the assistance of Signor Mussolini and the indirect assistance of the British Government, wins his war in Spain, he can be counted on as a factor that could stand along with Britain and France in a democratic and peaceful Western European bloc. On the contrary, we are convinced that, if he wins his civil war with this Italian and German assistance, he will be, for the time being at least—and it is only the short run that will count heavily here—a puppet of those who have directly enabled him to win.
The Anglo-Italian Agreement will, no doubt, be a subject of discussion in Rome. I want to ask the Prime Minister whether he still believes that the speech he made on 2nd November continues to represent the facts, and whether the undertakings which, as he then told us, he received from Signor Mussolini, still appear to him to have been observed. On 2nd November, the Prime Minister said:We have received from Signor Mussolini definite assurances, first of all that the remaining Italian Forces of all categories will be withdrawn when the non-intervention plan comes into operation"—only General Franco, on instructions from elsewhere, is preventing it from coming into operation—secondly, that no further Italian troops will be sent to Spain; and, thirdly…that the Italian Government have never for a moment entertained the idea of sending compensatory air forces to Spain in lieu of the infantry forces which have now been withdrawn."—[OFFICIAL. REPORT, 2nd November, (1938; col. 209, Vol. 340.]Let us contrast this statement of the Prime Minister on 2nd November with the answers of the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on 28th November and 14th December, in which—under some pressure, indeed—he made an admission. I quote his answer of 14th December:We do not deny that there has been a certain measure of assistance from Italian sources, but I would not like it to be thought that in personnel it has amounted to more than replacements."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th December, 1938: col. 1964, Vol. 342.]But even if it does not amount to more than replacements, it is in flat contradiction with the second of the two under- 2514 takings, that no further Italian troops would be sent to Spain. Even if they are only replacements of the 10,000 infantry that were withdrawn, to the Prime Minister's great satisfaction, some Italian troops have been sent to Spain, and I therefore think that it cannot be denied, and that the Prime Minister will not deny, that in fact the undertakings given by Signor Mussolini have not been kept. That being so, we ask, is it really a useful or a dignified procedure, or one likely to lead to valuable results for this country or for peace, for the Prime Minister to proceed to Rome next month, while the evidence is so clear that the undertakings given to him so short a while ago have not been kept? Is there any reason to suppose, if this be so, that the undertakings given to him next month will be better kept that those which were given to him two months ago? I assume that he will tell the House, when he replies, what reasons he has for supposing that future undertakings will be better kept than past undertakings which have been given to him have been kept. We are told that Signor Mussolini is on the point of launching another great offensive in Spain. Perhaps it is hoped that that offensive will be under way and may even have succeeded before the Prime Minister arrives in Rome, so that there will be, as it were, nothing further to discuss so far as the Spanish war is concerned.
Past prophecies that the Spanish War would come to an early end by military means have always turned out to be wrong. The amazing power of heroic resistance on the part of the supporters of the Spanish Government—outnumbered enormously in aircraft, in guns, and in all the other means of war—has continually upset all the prophecies made by General Franco and his friends of an early end to that deplorable and hideous war. The question of belligerent rights for General Franco will, I suppose, be discussed in Rome, and I would like the Prime Minister to tell us whether the Government still stand where they did on that matter—whether we can be assured that, before Parliament meets again, immediate belligerent rights will not have been promised to General Franco by the Prime Minister in these discussions at Rome, in advance of Parliamentary approval. General Franco is a most unfortunate military commander. Even with the 2515 assistance of considerable forces drawn from Italy, and very important, though not numerically so large, forces drawn from Germany, and in spite of his Moors so gallantly fighting for the Cross of Christ—in spite of all this assistance, he is still incapable of achieving a victory over the men of the Spanish Republic. Therefore, he wants belligerent rights, in order that, by borrowing a few destroyers and other warships from his friends—because he has nothing much in the way of a Navy to dispose of himself—in the same way as he has borrowed aeroplanes from his friends, he may be able to starve out the women and children, and thus defeat the men. I trust that no British Prime Minister will be an accessory to any such policy. I ask, therefore, for a definite assurance from the Prime Minister that belligerent rights will not be granted to General Franco, or even promised through Signor Mussolini to General Franco, until the House of Commons has met again and the whole matter has been freshly reviewed next year.
I should also like to ask whether credits for Italy will be discussed at Rome. This House is giving the Government considerable powers with regard to export credits and kindred matters, and we should like to know—the Italian Government being in a very bad way financially at the moment—whether there is any intention to discuss the question of granting credits for Italian trade. Provided that the whole business could be cleared up—if Signor Mussolini would leave Spain to the Spaniards; if he would pursue a policy of peace with his neighbours; if he would cease to threaten the French, and if he would revert to his earlier manner in his earlier days, when, so far as international affairs were concerned, he was not aggressive—credits might indeed become discussable; but I hope they are not discussable as long as the Italian Government continues its present provocative international attitude. Further, will the Prime Minister discuss Suez with Signor Mussolini? There have been rumours that some change was to take place in the control of the Suez Canal, which at one time was described as one of the lifelines of the British Empire. I do not know whether the Prime Minister would still so describe it. Can we have an assurance that there is to be no serious modification of the régime in regard to the Suez 2516 Canal in consequence of these discussions?
Are there to be any further discussions regarding Italian boundaries in Ethiopia? Owing to the Prime Minister's reticence with regard to his intended discussions in Rome, many rumours have got into circulation, even in some organs of the Press that are friendly to his Government, and it would be well if some of these rumours could now be denied. It is, for example, being put about that Signor Mussolini is going to ask for a corridor across the Sudan to link up Libya with Ethiopia—rather a sandy track, I should have thought, and involving considerable expense to make it viable. None the less, the suggestion has been put out that this is one of the proposals that will be made, and that, in return for such a corridor across the Sudan, we are to take in exchange some part of what recently was independent Abyssinia. I hope that the Prime Minister will not dirty his fingers with any such deal as that. It was bad enough that the British Government stood idly by and allowed Abyssinia to be subjugated. If, in addition to that, we are now to share the spoils, we shall indeed have reached a very low point of national honour.
The Prime Minister, as I have said, and as the House knows, has been extremely reticent, and reluctant to explain to us what he thinks he can achieve by these discussions with Signor Mussolini; but, after all, this House is entitled to some information on the broad lines, at any rate, along which the Prime Minister wishes those discussions to proceed. It is characteristic of the Government's foreign policy that the House of Commons is not taken into their confidence until it is too late, as was the case in the crisis of August and September last. Then, it was not until steps had been taken that could not be revoked that the House of Commons was given any opportunity to express an opinion. I hope the Prime Minister will give us more information this afternoon than he was disposed to do on earlier occasions, and that he will tell us what he proposes to do during his visit to Rome, which, whatever his more docile supporters may say, is viewed with great concern by many of his supporters. Indeed, the "Daily Telegraph," which speaks in these days for the more patriotic section of the 2517 Conservative party, expresses in a leading article this morning apprehension as to what may be in store for us in consequence of the discussion. It would be a far happier state of affairs if, by reason of our past experience, we could say that we had confidence in the British Prime Minister in his intended discussions with the head of the Italian State, but, in view of past experience, we cannot say any such thing.
We have no evidence in British foreign policy to-day of any plan based on a firm purpose, or on any understanding of realities in Europe and the modern world and, least of all, of the real intention of the dictators with one of whom the Prime Minister proposes to have these talks. We believe that, just as at Munich, he will be in grave danger at Rome of being humbugged and out-manoeuvred, although I am glad that this time he is taking a Foreign Office official with him. We have this apprehension, and it would be dishonest for us not to express it. We should be failing in our duty as His Majesty's Opposition if we did not. We view this visit with the greatest apprehension, because during these seven years the Prime Minister, in various capacities, and the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, in various capacities, have continually mishandled foreign policy from point to point: weakening the League of Nations, wrecking the Disarmament Conference, neglecting the defences of the country, lulling the country into a false sense of security by inaccurate statements about our defences; and now slithering down the slope which leads, unless this slide can be checked, towards an immeasurable disaster. Therefore, we have not got confidence in the Prime Minister, nor in the foreign policy that he is carrying out. For this reason we have put down this Motion.
§ 4.35 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Chamberlain)
The Motion before the House this afternoon, unlike most Motions previously put down by the Opposition on foreign affairs, is both clear and brief. It recognises that the Government have a foreign policy, and condemns it. But it gives no reason for its condemnation; still less does it offer to the House any alternative foreign policy. Accordingly, the Opposition speakers are free each to put his own construction on the 2518 Motion, without necessarily requiring the assent of all who sit behind him. The hon. Gentleman who has just addressed us began in a somewhat flippant vein, in which I do not propose to follow him, but he went on to paint a picture of the terrible plight of Czechoslovakia and of the gloomy prospects in the countries neighbouring that State, all of which he attributed to the Munich Agreement. If there had been no meeting of the Four Powers at Munich what would have been the position now? I regret that the hon. Member, in painting his picture and in denouncing the Government, and particularly the Prime Minister, did not tell us in so many words what he would have done if he had been in my place. One can only guess what he would have done, by implication, because we must assume that he would have done the reverse of what he says we did. If one may draw that conclusion, then I say that his policy would have involved us in war simultaneously with Japan, with Germany and with Italy.
§ Mr. Speaker
Does the hon. Member wish to stay in the House? He cannot do so if he continues his interruptions.
§ The Prime Minister
If the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) does not accept that description of the policy he would have followed, I wish he had said in so many words what his alternative was. Then, at least, we might have seen how wide was the gap which divides us. It would have been wise, if he had no policy of his own to put forward, to try at least to give a chance of success to the policy we are pursuing, on the aims of which, at any rate, I believe the whole House agrees, even if it does not agree as to the methods. If that policy, having had a full chance of success, were nevertheless to fail, I myself would be the first to agree that something else must be put in its place. But I have been getting a great number of letters which convince me that the country does not want the policy to fail, and, whatever views may be expressed in this House, I am satisfied that the general public desire us to continue the efforts we have made.
I did not ask for this Debate. Last Tuesday I made a speech on the subject of foreign affairs which received very 2519 wide publicity, and there is not much that I can add to-day to what I said then. But since the Debate has been called for, I will try to make a few general observations upon some of the topics which are uppermost in our minds. Fortunately, there is a great part of the world about which it is not necessary to say anything, because where things are going well it is best to leave them alone. It is a source of continual satisfaction to His Majesty's Government that our efforts to keep all the Dominions fully informed of the foreign situation as we see it have been rewarded by a general absence of criticism on their part; and, as for the United States of America, following upon the Anglo-American Trade Agreement there is no sort of difficulty or difference between us which gives us the slightest shadow of cause for anxiety. It is, of course, in Europe and in the Far East that our principal causes of trouble exist, and it is to those two parts of the world that I shall devote what I have to say this afternoon.
I think the whole House approves the fact that the relations between ourselves and France remain of the most cordial character. I expressed our conception of what those relations meant on Tuesday last, and I am gratified to note that the same views about our relations prevail on the other side of the Channel, because on the very next day M. Bonnet, the French Minister for Foreign Affairs, took occasion to repeat, and to associate himself in the name of the French Government with, the declaration which had been made before the Chamber of Deputies on 4th December, 1936, by the then Foreign Secretary, M. Delbos. That declaration was to this effect: that all the forces of France would be spontaneously and immediately used for the defence of Great Britain in the event of an unprovoked aggression. Such declarations as have now been made by our two Governments are really more significant than an actual Treaty, because it is the intentions of Governments rather than the form of words embodied in agreements which mean the most when the occasion arises to give them effect.
When I turn to the Mediterranean I must sorrowfully admit that the struggle in Spain, which has now been raging for two and a-half years, still shows no sign of coming to a speedy end. Throughout, 2520 our policy has consistently followed the lines which we originally laid down, namely, that we would abstain from intervention in the affairs of another country. We have tried by every means in our power to induce other countries to follow the same policy, and, where they have taken a contrary course, to reduce intervention by international agreement. In fact considerable reductions of foreign intervention have already taken place—
§ The Prime Minister
The war drags on its disastrous course while the best manhood of Spain is perishing on the battlefield and the civilian population is suffering all the grievous consequences of modern warfare. The hon. Member addressed to me a question—one of a great many—about the pledges given us by the Italian Government, which, he declared, had been broken, and which, in his view, rendered it inappropriate that the forthcoming visit to Rome by the Foreign Secretary and myself should take place. These charges against the Italian Government are, to the best of my belief, not well founded—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"]—but it cannot be denied that, according to the information of the Government, a certain amount of assistance has been given in men and material to both sides in recent months, and on General Franco's side some of this assistance appears to have come from Italy. The question therefore arises whether that assistance amounts to such a degree as to constitute a breach of the pledge which the Italian Government gave. The hon. Member repeated the assurances which were in fact given us by the Italian Government and which were related in this House at the beginning of November. Among them is one that no further Italian troops should be sent to Spain, and the hon. Member quoted my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary as saying that no large numbers, acording to our information, of officers and men had been sent, and that they did not amount to more than replacements of men withdrawn. I do not think those were the exact words of my hon. Friend, but in any case I am quite certain—
§ The Prime Minister
No, it is not necessary because it is not relevant. [An HON. MEMBER "Tell the truth."] Mr. Speaker, is it in order for an hon. Member to imply that I am not telling the truth?
§ Mr. Malcolm MacMillan
On a point of Order. The right hon. Gentleman accused one of my hon. Friends of not having quoted accurately. In other words, he implied that he was not telling the truth, and is it in order for the Prime Minister to make such an accusation and not produce any facts to prove it?
§ The Prime Minister
I will leave it to the House whether what I said is justified, but these exact words are not very relevant to my argument, because whatever the words that were used by my hon. Friend—
§ Mr. Dalton
I understand the Prime Minister to say that I have not quoted the words accurately. I have them here, and I am prepared to quote them again, if he will allow me.
§ Mr. Dalton
The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, replying on 14th December to my hon. Friend the Member for North Lambert (Mr. G. Strauss), said:We do not deny that there has been a certain measure of assistance from Italian sources, but I would not like it to be thought that in personnel it has amounted to more than replacements."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th December, 1938; col. 1964, Vol. 342.]
§ The Prime Minister
The hon. Member has put a construction upon these words which they do not bear. [Interruption.] I really must ask hon. Members to have a little self-control. They will, or some of them will, have an opportunity of speaking afterwards, but it really is extremely difficult to carry on any sort of connected argument if hon. Members cannot control themselves. The hon. Member, I was trying to say, put a construction upon these words to mean that the 2522 men who had been sent to Spain were to replace the withdrawal of the 10,000 men. My hon. Friend never said anything which would bear that construction, nor did he mean it; nor has the information in our possession led us to suppose that the men who were being sent to Spain since last October have amounted to as many as 200. That being so, while of course we must regret that any assistance has been given from outside sources to either side in Spain, we cannot say that there has been any increase in the Italian effectives in Spain since October, and I do not think that what has been sent can fairly be said to amount to a breach of the pledge which was given us by the Italian Government.
The hon. Gentleman also put some questions about the granting of belligerent rights, and he asked whether the Government still stood where they stood upon that question. I can only repeat what has been said over and over again, that, so long as there are foreign troops in Spain and so long as no other solution has been found for the Spanish question but that which is involved in the Non-Intervention Plan, His Majesty's Government do not propose to grant belligerent rights to the parties in Spain other than in accordance with the Non-Intervention Plan itself. If ever His Majesty's Government can find any just and practicable way of bringing this war to an end, or even of securing an armistice in this sanguinary trouble, we shall use all the influence we can exert while still preserving the impartiality which we have shown since the beginning. How far it may be possible or profitable to discuss these matters in Rome I cannot say, but the House may be assured that we shall not depart from the principles which have guided our policy throughout and that our desire is still to-day, as it always has been, that the final settlement of the differences between the Spanish people shall in the end be decided by the Spanish people themselves.
I want to say something else about the visit to Rome. I regret extremely that it should be suggested here in this country or elsewhere that the Foreign Secretary and I require to be bound beforehand by some assurance that we are not going to betray any cause or abandon any vital principle or sacrifice any important interest either of this country or of any of our friends. Such suggestions are not 2523 only insulting to us but highly discourteous to our hosts as suggesting that they will invite us to do any such thing. It is an attempt to poison beforehand the atmosphere of our discussions, but it is totally contrary to the spirit in which we have accepted the invitation of the Italian Government. As I have explained before, we are not going to Rome with any fixed agenda or with the expectation of bringing back any new specific agreement. We are going there to exchange views with the Italian Government upon all or any matters of common interest. We are going with a genuine desire to improve our relations by a better understanding of one another's points of view, and, through the personal contact that we can establish there, to strengthen confidence between us—a confidence, which, if we can be successful in establishing it, must necessarily contribute to the general stability of Europe, and more especially to that of the countries which border on the Mediterranean.
Now I turn to Germany. Our relations with Germany, as I would like to see them, were set forth in the Munich Declaration, to which the hon. Member has referred. Its terms are now familiar to everybody, but I would like to say something more on the subject this afternoon. Twenty years ago we emerged from the greatest war in our history, and we who lived through that war are not likely to forget the immense effort and the dogged determination with which the German people pursued that struggle to the end. It is not to be expected that, after such a long and bitter conflict, it would be possible to view the situation with the same calm and the same detachment as we can view it to-day. During those 20 years we have come to realise that in the post-War period the treatment of the German people was neither generous nor wise. With the passage of time has come to us a recognition of their great qualities and a strong desire to see them co-operating in the restoration of European civilisation. There is no spirit of vindictiveness here. There is no desire to hamper their development or to cramp their tremendous vitality as a nation.
On the contrary, we have a firm conviction that unless this strong and virile people can be induced, in partnership with others, to improve the general lot, there will be neither peace nor progress in 2524 Europe in the things that make life worth living. If by any word spoken in this House I can give some sort of assurance, going deeper than any formal statement of policy, that in this country there is an earnest and a constant desire that the peoples of Britain and Germany, together with other members of the European family of nations, should find means of co-operating in removing the menace of war, I believe I shall be expressing not only our own feelings but those of many other countries throughout the world, who are looking to us to get them out of their troubles.
At the same time, I must add that it is not enough for us to express that desire. It takes two to make an agreement, just as it takes two to make a war, and I am still waiting for a sign from those who speak for the German people that they share this desire and that they are prepared to make their contribution to the peace which would help them as much as it would help us. To reproach us for going on with rearmament after Munich is strangely to ignore the facts which are patent to all. We are ready at any time to discuss the limitation of armaments on the basis that all should contribute to that limitation, with due regard to their own safety. So long as others are going on arming day and night we are bound to do the same, because although reason is the finest weapon in the world to combat reason it has little chance to assert itself where force is supreme. It would be a tragic blunder to mistake our love of peace and our faculty for compromise, for weakness. The democratic system has its failings, but it has this virtue that in moments of crisis it evokes a strength and a unanimity which springs from conviction and which expresses the wholehearted will of the people.
Let me say a word or two on the Far East. The time has gone—
§ Mr. A. V. Alexander
In view of this very important passage of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, can he tell us that he is also waiting for the same kind of sign from Rome as he is waiting for from Berlin?
§ The Prime Minister
I should like to leave that matter at what I have already said. I was saying that the time has gone by when one can treat affairs in any part of the world as though they could be isolated and localised. Events 2525 in the Far East are intimately connected with affairs in Europe, so that when we consider our position there we must do so in close relation with the position nearer home. The war in China has now been going on for 18 months, and the end is not in sight. The sufferings inflicted on the Chinese population far exceed in scale and extent the Spanish tragedy, and the opportunities for alleviation are much less. Our own long-established interests in China have inevitably suffered material loss during this conflict. In face of the forces which have been loosed simultaneously in the Far East and in Europe you cannot expect this Government or any Government to secure satisfaction for every claim as it arises in such abnormal conditions. All that you can expect is that everything that is possible to be done shall be done, and that no claim and no interest shall be overlooked. I want to assure the House that that is being done, that we are defending our rights and that we are not prepared to deny to either combatant the normal relations which they are entitled to expect from a friendly Power.
Another question was addressed to me by the hon. Member, about the loan which has been spoken of as being granted by the United States Reconstruction Finance Corporation to China. I understand that this loan is a credit, designed to facilitate United States exports to China. In principle, His Majesty's Government would be very glad if it were found possible to facilitate certain United Kingdom exports to China in the same way, and that is a question which will be considered sympathetically when the Export Credits Bill has been passed. Meantime, we can only await the outcome of the hostilities in the Far East, while watching closely for any opportunity which might enable us to assist in bringing it to an end upon fair and reasonable terms.
I do not think I have anything more to say than this. Once again, I should like to repeat my conviction that the foreign policy of His Majesty's Government during the last 18 months has been right all along. If I had to live those 18 months over again I would not change it by one jot. Whether it ultimately achieves its aim, remains to be seen, but that is not a matter which depends upon us alone. Even if it were to fail, I should still say that it was right to attempt it. 2526 For the only alternative was war, and I would never take that awful responsibility upon my shoulders unless it were forced upon me by the madness of others.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ Sir Archibald Sinclair
The Prime Minister has delivered an undeniably important speech. It contains one or two assurances for which I shall express my gratitude in the course of my remarks, but there were other passages in it, notably the concluding passage, which I find profoundly disquieting. I will not traverse the ground which we have traversed so often in previous Debates on this subject, but summing up the results of the Prime Minister's policy during the last 18 months I do say that they have involved this country in dangers of which we were all very conscious in September, when they brought us to the edge of war, and have involved us in the humiliation of the Munich settlement. I do not believe, and I dispute with the Prime Minister, that the only alternative to that policy is war. On the contrary, I believe that it was the abandonment of the League of Nation's policy which brought us to the edge of war, and I fear that if his policy is persisted in it will be very difficult to avoid war in the future. It is because I want peace that I want this policy changed.
The Prime Minister gave us very little information, either in reply to the questions which were asked by the hon. Member who opened the Debate, or about his forthcoming visit to Rome. In one curious statement he referred to his hosts in Rome, who had invited him. I always thought that the Prime Minister invited himself to Rome. Does he say that he has been invited to Rome?
§ Sir A. Sinclair
I thought the suggestion had come from the Prime Minister. His statement makes the position clear. It does seem to me that the House and the country ought to have been given more information about the subjects which are to be discussed in Rome. In an eloquent passage the Prime Minister referred to the unity which a democracy shows in times of danger, but that unity must depend upon leadership and upon information, and this House is entitled to more information than we have received.
2527 As regards the Far East, the Prime Minister made a particularly cryptic remark, which I tried to take down. If I misquote it, I hope he will correct me. He said that the Government were not going to deny to either combatant all the normal relations which should exist between friendly nations. I find it very difficult to reconcile that statement of policy with the resolution of the League of Nations, to which His Majesty's Government were parties, that they would give every possible assistance to China in the course of her struggle with Japan. I welcome the Government's action in providing some credits for the Chinese Government. I hope that the Government—for I understand that the credits of which we have been informed are only an instalment, or their policy—will give definite assistance to the Chinese Government in maintaining the value of their currency, which is a vital factor in the situation in the Far East at the present time.
The Prime Minister also referred to Munich. He turned to the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton), who had opened the Debate, and said, "But for Munich, what would have been the position of Czechoslovakia and these other countries to-day?" and he asked what the hon. Member would have done. From our several points of view hon. Members above the Gangway and hon. Members on these benches, and many hon. Members on the opposite side of the House, are broadly agreed on the point of view we have put forward. We have told the Prime Minister and the Government in successive Debates what we should have done. The answer has been given repeatedly, but I will again try to define the issue. Let me make it clear that I, at any rate, am not going to define the issues artificially. My profound mistrust of the Prime Minister's foreign policy is derived from a careful study of his speeches, from which it appears to me that he misconceives the world situation and misunderstands both the opinions of his opponents at home and the psychology of those two ruthless and formidable dictators (not reasonable and honourable, but misguided, gentlemen, as he appears to think) with whom he has principally to deal. For example, at the Foreign Press Association banquet he declared roundly that only two alternative policies were open to us. What were these two alternative policies?
2528One was to make up our minds that war was inevitable and throw the whole energies of the country into preparation for it. The other was to make a prolonged and determined effort to eradicate the possible causes of war and try out methods of personal contact and discussion while, at the same time, proceeding steadily with such rearmament as was necessary to restore the power of defence which we had voluntarily abandoned for a period of many years.That is surely a classical example of a false appreciation of a political situation. In the first place, no reasonable man in this country can be expected to embrace the defeatist doctrine of the inevitable war. We repudiate it. The object of the policy which we have consistently advocated in Parliament during the last 18 months and longer has been to make peace more secure and war more unlikely. Unfortunately, largely but not wholly, owing to the policy of the Government during the last DS months, and especially since the Prime Minister took over the direction of that policy at the beginning of this year, peace has become more precarious and war more likely. Everyone, whether he opposes or supports the Prime Minister's policy, regrets that fact, but it would be folly to ignore it. The controversy is not between those who believe and those who do not believe in the inevitable war. We say that war is not inevitable and the Prime Minister cannot say that war is not possible.
The controversy is between those who think with the Prime Minister—I propose to define the issue and I challenge any hon. Member to say that my three definitions of the issue are not fair definitions, indeed, much fairer than the Prime Minister has ever given in these Debates—I say that the controversy is between those who think with the Prime Minister that peace can be secured by appeasing the dictators with concessions, and those who believe that these one-sided concessions only whet their appetites, increase their self-confidence and sense of power and destiny, and stimulate the invention of fresh grievances. The controversy is between those who think with the Prime Minister that it is only if war is inevitable that it is necessary to throw the whole energies of the country into preparation for defence, and those who believe that the existing international order and our own rights and liberties are so seriously threatened that, although war is not inevitable, we ought nevertheless to make that great national effort, 2529 including the establishment of a Ministry of Supply, now and without delay. The controversy is between those who, like the Prime Minister, are apparently willing to pay any price, or almost any price, for friendship with Germany and Italy, and those who say that the terms of friendship with Germany and Italy must be consistent with respect for the rule of law and the liberties of Europe.
The Prime Minister often reminds me of Job. He has almost as many trials and tribulations. He has an even greater number of friends who offer him unsolicited and unpalatable advice. He bears all these tribulations with almost as much patience as Job. But he has one great advantage over his prototype. Job bitterly regretted that his adversary had not written a book. The Prime Minister neglects this advantage—he will not read it, or if he has read "Mein Kampf" he will not take its lessons and warnings to heart. On page 699 of the French translation he will find these words:The mortal enemy, the pitiless enemy, of the German people is and remains France.On the following page he will find these words:If we pass in review the Allies which Europe can offer us there are only two, England and Italy.Hence the Rome-Berlin axis and all the efforts which Signor Mussolini and Herr Hitler are constantly making to separate England and France. Hence the danger which lurks in the Prime Minister's policy of negotiating with Italy while leaving France in the cold exposed to Herr Hitler's rebuffs and threats. If we negotiate with Italy France should be there alongside us. I asked this question in a similar Debate in June. Is it not true that the French Government, unable to prevent our Government from undertaking their untimely negotiations with Italy in February but seeing the perils of isolation, asked to be allowed to associate themselves with us in the negotiations, and that we answered that we were going to deal with Signor Mussolini alone and that the French must make their own terms? Is it not a fact—I have reason to believe that it is true—that the French Government wanted to come in and negotiate with us in the spring with Italy? I should be a little happier about the Prime Minister's visit to Rome if M. Daladier was going to Rome also. 2530 Meanwhile, at the other end of the Rome-Berlin axis, Herr Hitler continues the process which the Prime Minister at the Foreign Press Association banquet described as a "revision of the Treaty of Versailles by discussion." The Prime Minister is always very scornful about people who mouth phrases which are, or which appear to him, to be meaningless, yet no one is fonder of a pet phrase than the Prime Minister—witness "appeasement" which has at last stuck in the throat, or should I say the pen of the leader writer of the "Times," who realises that peacemaking demands reciprocity, which the Prime Minister so far has been singularly unsuccessful in obtaining. But how much more dangerous are those who use phrases which are full of meaning which they do not understand. When Herr Hitler at Berchtesgaden persuaded the Prime Minister to say "self-determination," he fired a powder magazine which has blown Czechoslovakia to pieces, destroyed her freedom and has not finished exploding yet. "Revision of the Treaty of Versailles by discussion"—a phrase which is used to mask the ugly fact of German aggrandisement at Czechoslovakia's expense under threats of force. We all welcome the sentiment of the Prime Minister that we wish for co-operation with the German people. We wish for the utmost co-operation with the German people and we are willing to pay for German friendship any price which is consistent with the rule of law and the liberties of Europe. He said that we do not wish to hamper their development or to cramp their expansion. Certainly not, provided it is not at the expense of other countries in Europe and especially of their neighbours, and at the expense of freedom and democracy. Whatever may be said about the frontiers of Versailles in that region the Munich frontiers are incomparably worse, both ethnographically and economically, and it is a safe prophecy to say that they will not last as long as the frontiers of Versailles.
Two months ago the Prime Minister was telling us to trust Herr Hitler, that he was only interested in German-speaking people and that he had no further territorial ambitions once the Sudeten question was settled. We pointed out that the right test to apply to Herr Hitler's signature to the Munich Declaration was the value of 2531 his signature to the Non-Intervention Agreement in Spain, one of the few countries until recently in which there were no Germans. German intervention continues intensively in Spain, and there seems no reason for any genuine scrap of doubt that Herr Hitler means to move eastward into Memel-land in the North and the Ukraine in the South. The hon. Member for Bishop Auckland referred to the road which is to be built through Czechoslovakia. There appeared in the "Frankfurter Zeitung" on 3rd December a speech by Herr Hess, the Deputy Fuhrer, in which he referred to that road—I hope the hon. Member will forgive this part of the quotation—as "a great Socialist work," and he added:Down the road will go the means of power of the German nation.Does the Prime Minister still ask us to trust Herr Hitler's assurances or does he admit that our scepticism is justified?
We are asked to rally round the Prime Minister and create national unity in foreign policy. It is not we who have created disunity. The Government obtained its majority in this House and obtained its mandate from the people at the last election for a policy of loyalty to the Covenant of the League and steady and collective resistance to unprovoked aggression. There were differences of opinion between parties and differences within parties on the application of those principles, but all parties alike, including His Majesty's Government, agreed that it was by reference to them that the actions of Ministers were to be approved or criticised. It was only when the Prime Minister took foreign affairs into his own hands, when he sought to win the favour of Signor Mussolini by sacrificing his own Foreign Secretary, when he declared that collective security was dead and thus encouraged Herr Hitler to march first into Austria and then into Czechoslovakia, and when he tried to separate Italy from Germany by driving a clumsy bargain with Signor Mussolini at the expense not only of Abyssinia but of the principle embodied in a formal resolution of the League of Nations, that recognition was not to be accorded to the results of aggression—it was then that disunity in the basic principles of our foreign policy was created. It was created by the Prime Minister in order to follow a policy which 2532 brought us, as we all know now, to the brink of disaster in September. National unity will be restored only when this Government, or some other Government, lays down afresh principles of British policy which will command the moral assent of the British people and convince the world that our object is not merely to defend our national and imperial interests, but to build up an international order in which peace will be based on justice.
Lord Halifax, speaking at Geneva in May of this year, said that in the question of recognising the Italian conquest of Abyssinia,Two ideals are in conflict—on the one hand, the ideal of devotion, unflinching but unpractical, to some high purpose; on the other, the ideal of a practical victory for peace.On another occasion, he said that in his opinion the only moral justification for recognising the Italian annexation of Abyssinia would be if it was a contribution to peace. Surely, the time has come when Lord Halifax should consider whether even by his own criterion recognition has been justified. Our surrender to Italian blackmail was, of course, a strong factor in encouraging German aggression in Central Europe, for Herr Hitler and his counsellors were bound to assume that as we yielded to Italy in the Mediterranean, we might fairly safely be counted out as a factor in Austria and in Czechoslovakia. Moreover, war continues in Abyssinia; it continues in Spain; it is openly threatened in Tunis; and since the Anglo-Italian Agreement was signed, the war in Spain has been marked by a new feature—the deliberate bombardment of British ships carrying on peaceful and legitimate trade under the auspices of the Non-Intervention Committee, and the slaughter of no fewer than 30 British sailors and the mutilation of many more by Italian aeroplanes. Surely, it is time for the Secretary of State to consider whether the methods of his predecessor at Nyon were not more effective than his own in dealing with the Italian Government, and whether he can now feel in his own conscience that the sacrifice of Abyssinia and a vital League principle has, in fact, been justified.
Let us consider the results of the Prime Minister's policy towards Italy by the criteria which he himself has suggested in 2533 his own speeches, and by the terms of the Anglo-Italian Agreement and the letters accompanying it. In the first speech which the Prime Minister made in the House after the resignation of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden), on 21st February, he explained the difference of opinion which had arisen between him and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington, and he said:Moreover, I was equally convinced that once the conversations had started we should find good effects of the new atmosphere in many places, and notably in Spain, where the chief difficulty between us had lain for so long.On that issue, at any rate, events have clearly proved that the ex-Foreign Secretary was right and the Prime Minister wrong. Later in the same speech, the Prime Minister said that he had just received a communication from the Italian Ambassador, in the following terms:The Italian Ambassador informs the Prime Minister that he has submitted to the Italian Government the proposals suggested at their meeting of last Friday, and is glad to convey to him the Italian Government's acceptance of the British formula concerning the withdrawal of foreign volunteers and granting of belligerent rights."—[OFFICIAL REPORT 21st February, 1938; cols. 60–61; Vol. 332.]That was in February. Moreover, among the Notes exchanged in connection with the signature of the Anglo-Italian Agreement was a Note from Count Ciano, in the following terms:The Italian Government have the honour to confirm their full adherence to the United Kingdom formula for the proportional evacuation of the foreign volunteers from Spain, and pledge themselves to give practical and real application to such an evacuation at the moment and on the conditions which shall be determined by the Non-Intervention Committee on the basis of the above-mentioned formula.Here again, the Prime Minister has been duped. The Spanish Government have withdrawn all their foreign volunteers from the line and are in process of evacuating them under international supervision. Far from the Italian Government giving apractical and real applicationto the evacuation of their troops—apart from about one-eighth of their infantry—they are actually reinforcing them. In newspapers most accessible to Government influence and inspiration, we are 2534 told that the time has come for granting belligerent rights to General Franco without insisting upon the previous withdrawal of Italian and German volunteers. Let me say at once, on this point, that I am grateful for the assurance which the Prime Minister has given the House this afternoon. On the same day as the Prime Minister made the speech from which I have quoted, a striking speech was made by the hon. Member for West Leicester, (Mr. H. Nicolson). He described the Italian method of negotiation. He said:The tip of the corkscrew is placed gently, charmingly, sweetly upon the top of the cork. Nothing happens. The bottle is placed in the right position. That manoeuvre is called 'good relations'; it is called 'ending a vendetta.' Suddenly, the corkscrew is given a twist and the cork begins to squeak. That is the method.And the hon. Member went on to say:They have the standing method which is called in Italian a 'combinazione' under which they never let you know the maximum of their demand. They let you suppose that their demand is something quite modest, but the corkscrew goes in a little further all the time until you find that the cork has no. means of egress except in close conjunction with the corkscrew."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st February, 1938; col. 100, Vol. 332.]How much more clearly than the Prime Minister did the hon. Member for West Leicester discern the realities of the situation in February. At first, the idea was the recognition of the annexation of Abyssinia against the evacuation of Spain and the Balearic Islands by Italian troops and airmen. Then the corkscrew began to turn. Gradually by degrees, we got into the position in which we actually recognised the annexation of Abyssinia against the evacuation of roughly one-eighth of the Italian infantry in Spain, leaving all their aeroplanes, pilots, tanks, guns and staff officers, and while they continued to bomb British ships and kill British seamen. Now, other turns are being given to the corkscrew. It is being suggested that it would be unreasonable to expect the Italians to evacuate Majorca; it is being suggested that we must grant General Franco belligerent rights without the evacuation of Spain and Majorca by Italian troops and airmen. Moreover, before any settlement in Spain has been reached—for no reasonable person in this country regards the evacuation of Io,00ct Italian infantry as a settlement in Spain —fresh demands in connection with the Suez Canal are being made and although Count Ciano declared in connection with 2535 the Anglo-Italian Agreement that the declaration signed in January, 1937, regarding the status quo in the Mediterranean was reaffirmed, Italy is now demanding Tunis, Corsica and Nice. The Prime Minister told us, although the demonstration in the Italian Chamber was clearly pre-arranged and although these demands have been sustained by a tremendous Press campaign in Italy, that the Italian Government have formally dissociated themselves from them. Yet no word of these assurances that were given to the Prime Minister by the Italian Government has been allowed to be published in the Italian Press. The Prime Minister was duped by the Italian Government in February; he is still being duped by Signor Mussolini; and public opinion in this country has every ground for its alarm at the prospect of the Prime Minister's visit to Rome next month.
The Prime Minister said that the Government's policy on Spain has been consistently followed. Has it? Has the Prime Minister forgotten the Assembly of the League of Nations a year ago, at which there was passed a resolution that if the complete withdrawal of non-Spanish combatants could not be obtained in the near future, the members of the League would consider ending the policy of nonintervention? Great Britain voted for that resolution. The Prime Minister at that time was the present Prime Minister. Since then, Italian and German intervention has increased. I ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who I understand will reply to the Debate, what action do the Government propose to take now to implement that resolution which contemplated action, such as I have mentioned, in the near future if the foreign troops were not evacuated from Spain?
In a series of Debates this year, we on this side of the House, and, with one exception—the hon. and gallant Member for Berwick and Haddington (Captain McEwen)—all those supporters of the Government who are the most experienced and instructed in foreign affairs, have not only condemned the Prime Minister's foreign policy, but have also advocated the only constructive alternative; but in spite of that, the Government supporters in the House and in the Press stop their ears, and go on repeating parrot-like that there is no alternative policy.
2536 Let me then briefly summarise my alternative. First, let us grapple our friends to us—the United States, certainly. I congratulate the Government, and especially the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, on the conclusion of the Anglo-American Trade Agreement. But if we are to win the confidence, friendship and co-operation of the people of the United States, we must stop talking as though we are concerned only with the defence of our national and imperial interests. We must stop talking about not being drawn into a war between Bolshevism and Fascism. Indeed, neither Herr Hitler nor Signor Mussolini ever mentions Bolshevism nowadays; both of them threaten democracy. Anybody who has travelled in the Near East and in those countries where Italian and German propaganda is rife, knows that it is directed not so much even to the glorification of Italy and Germany as to the stirring up of hostility against this country and against democracy. We must convince the American people that we are resolved to uphold democracy and establish a peaceful world order based on the collective enforcement of justice for big and small nations alike. Then there are the European democracies, the countries whose frontiers, as Lord Baldwin said of Britain, is on the Rhine—Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, and France. We must work together to give each other confidence, confidence in our mutual loyalty and strength; and work also to increase the prosperity of our peoples. Then, it is vital that our rear should not be exposed to attack from Spain, and that France should not be encircled.
There in Spain is a field for practical appeasement. The Republican Government may win, if the war goes on. After all, we won the Great War after the Germans had almost reached Amiens in March, 1918. But that will take another year or two. General Franco may win, perhaps by starving hundreds of thousands of women and children. If he does win, he has told us that he will have to settle accounts with 2,000,000 political offenders whose names are in his police dossiers. That would mean a shocking massacre, for which the Prime Minister and this Government would have to bear a share of the responsibility, if they were to grant belligerent rights to General Franco before the evacuation of the foreign troops. Surely now is the time 2537 to say to Germany and Italy and other interested Powers, like the Latin Republics of South America, "Let us try to get peace in Spain." Let us say to Germany and Italy, "Either you remove your foreign combatants, or we will not grant General Franco belligerent rights and we will abandon non-intervention and give our shipping protection even in territorial waters." We can do so by the method of measured and regulated reprisal which I have already advocated and explained in this House. Better still, let us say to them, "We ask you to join us and other European and American States in bringing this horrible war to an end. "Let the Government, at any rate, make a supreme effort to secure a truce in the new year. There, it seems to me, is the true field for a practical measure of real appeasement.
Lastly, there is Russia. But, I hear it said, Russia has a different form of government. I hear it repeated, even in this House, that the Russians are Bolshevists and revolutionaries and that they are untrustworthy. But there is also a different form of government in Germany, and nobody argues more strongly than hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, that we ought to ignore internal forms of government in our international relations. I agree, but that applies equally to Russia, and Russia has been true to all her international obligations. From her body after the War were torn, in whole or in part, what are now Rumania, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland—and she has made pacts of nonaggression with all, and has been faithful to her signature to all those pacts. She has never been a menace to her neighbours and her co-operation is necessary, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) has pointed out, either for peace and disarmament or for war. It is very remarkable that the United States Government is now making great efforts to improve its relations with Russia. We should only be marching in step with the United States if we did the same.
Then, instead of running after dictators from Berchtesgaden to Munich, and from Munich to Rome, begging them to name their price for a few more months of peace, we should take the moral initiative in laying down the principles of international order based on justice and fair play. Somebody may say "Would 2538 not that mean the encirclement of Germany?" But to break out of that encirclement the Powers who might at first be inside it, would only have to agree to join in a measure of general disarmament and to abide by third party judgments in all disputes. By all means let us ascertain the grievances of the dictators. Let us confer with them, but let us realise the immense power which resides in the Rome-Berlin-Tokio triangle and let us not go into these negotiations either prematurely or unprepared, or without the knowledge and sanction, and if possible the company and co-operation of our friends, great and small, whose interests may also be at stake. Nor let us ever lose sight of our ultimate goal—the re-establishment of the rule of law in Europe, buttressed by collective security and with constitutional machinery for peaceful change.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Quintin Hogg
I rise to address the House upon an issue of major policy so soon after my entry into it, with considerable diffidence, but I believe that hon. Members, and, in particular, hon. Members opposite, will accept my statement that I do so from a conviction which is none the less sincere, because they may find themselves in disagreement with it. If I venture to criticise, very respectfully, the attitude of the hon. Gentleman who proposed this Motion and of hon. Members who may contemplate supporting it, I hope they will forgive me for doing so. I say "forgive" for a particular reason to which, I think, certain point was added by the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) in his opening remarks. He spoke at considerable length of a reference by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to the practice in totalitarian States, whereby the governments of those countries tended to resent the smallest criticism directed towards them. I have not failed to observe in the past few weeks, on the part of Members of the Opposition, a sort of curiously inverted totalitarianism, whereby they would seek to deny to the Government of this country the right to suggest that the actions and words of the hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite were, perhaps, sometimes ill-considered and sometimes ill-judged in the best interests of the community.
If I do venture to criticise hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite I hope, as 2539 I say, they will forgive me and believe me when I say that I do so, not in the hope of gaining any controversial advantage in debate, but in the belief that many of the criticisms which have been directed towards His Majesty's Government and their supporters in this House, are based not upon a genuine divergence of principle, but upon a misconception of our attitude and a misapplication of principles, upon which everybody is agreed, to the facts of the present stivation. If I create a lingering doubt in the minds of hon. Members opposite as to whether that is not possibly the case, I shall feel that my words have not failed in their effect. I admit that I share the view that this Motion and this Debate are unfortunate. There are many matters in foreign policy on which all Members of the House are in complete agreement and in disagreement with the Governments and trends of opinion in other lands, and a much more useful object might have been served by an attempt to formulate in a Motion those matters of agreement, rather than to lay stress—as is inevitable in a Motion of Censure—upon matters of difference between us. It is not always wise to attempt to draw lessons from history, but I am tempted to think that one of the contributory causes of the Great War in 1914 was the stress laid by the leaders of the German Empire of that time upon the embittered divisions in this House, which were such a conspicuous part of Parliamentary life at that period.
§ Mr. Hogg
I cannot help thinking that if both sides in the House at that time had shown that real national solidarity, which subsequent events showed to exist, the German Empire might have been deterred from daring to break the rules of international law and inflict upon the world the catastrophe which followed. I can conceive of nothing more likely to mislead the present leaders of the German people, never very ready to understand the real currents of British public opinion, than a Motion of this kind which is directed to emphasising the differences which divide us, rather than the more important matters upon which we are funamentally agreed. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) seemed to suggest that a fundamental divergence of principle 2540 divided the House and the people of the country to-day. Let me say at once that I respectfully disagree with him. I believe that there is a position to be found in foreign policy which, properly stated, would express the genuine convictions of almost everybody.
I believe that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in that portion of his speech which the right hon. Gentleman rightly described as the most important, was speaking for the people of this country when he referred to the anxiety with which we regard the attitude of the German authorities at the present time. I believe I should be expressing the opinion of the whole House if I said that the people of this country desire peace to-day as much as they ever desired it, but that they are not prepared to attempt the attainment of peace at any price or, as the right hon. Gentleman suggested, at almost any price. We do not think that those who fought in the last War fought in vain. I am certain that the young men of my own age, among whom I have been brought up, whatever their section of society or their situation in the Kingdom may be, will do what those others did, should the appeal be made. But we must be certain, must we not, if that appeal ever comes, that not merely is our cause a just one, but that every means of avoiding conflict about it has been exhausted?
It is that which makes us respect, as I believe we do respect, the policy of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. It is that which makes us distrust, as I believe we do distrust, the policy of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. It is not, as is often suggested, that we care particularly about the safety of our own lives. It is that we know that another European war would debase the coinage of human honour for generations to come, and make the good life which each of us, in his own imperfect way, desires to achieve for himself and others, more difficult to live not merely for ourselves but for our children and our children's children. If I may say so, without incurring any accusation of idle praise or undue flattery, it is because I am very conscious that there is one man in this House to whom this terrible reality is of supreme importance, and because I am conscious that that man is my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, that I should, 2541 for my part, in any case vote against a Motion of Censure of this kind expressed in these terms.
The hon. Gentleman who proposed the Motion referred to a number of specific topics, and I cannot help feeling a certain uneasiness at the attitude which he and his party would have adopted in relation to them, having regard to the supreme importance of peace, had he been in a position to put his principles into effect. He referred to China and Japan, a matter which has engaged the attention of us all. We know, and we cannot forget, that the hon. Gentleman and his party have repeatedly assured us that their policy in the Far East from 1932 onwards would have involved far greater commitments for this country than in fact have ever been undertaken. I can conceive nothing more likely, in the light of subsequent events, to provoke a European conflagration than that that great agency for peace, the British Empire, should be heavily involved in commitments in the Far East.
Then we were given a long disquisition upon the Spanish situation. I hope to be acquitted of the slightest sympathy for either side, but I wish to say that if there were anything calculated to make General Franco a puppet in the hands of the dictators, it is precisely the policy of continued intervention which has been persistently followed by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite since the inception of hostilities in the Spanish dispute, and I cannot help wondering whether it is really their interest in the vital necessities of this country or their sympathy with one of the two combatant sides which has led hon. Members opposite in the present Debate to lay so much stress upon, and to devote so much time to, the Spanish situation. I could not help noticing that, for a reason which may have been sufficient, the hon. Gentleman refused to pay much attention to matters arising out of the Munich Agreement, and his course was followed by the right hon. Member for Caithness. But, after all, if we are to express our confidence or want of confidence in the policy of His Majesty's Government in relation to foreign affairs, the Munich Agreement must necessarily play a central part. If that was a mistake, no amount of correct policy in relation to other and subordinate matters could ever create confidence; if it was right, no mistakes on 2542 subordinate matters could destroy the confidence which that Munich Agreement created; and if it be true, as the hon. Gentleman said, that in fact the Munich Agreement has already been, as it has been, adequately debated in this House, I can only say that that heartily confirms me in the opinion which I expressed at the beginning of my speech, that a Motion of Censure of this kind is wholly out of place and a mere waste of Parliamentary time.
§ Mr. Hogg
I do not seem yet to have persuaded the hon. Member opposite. I propose now to adduce certain further arguments. Hon. Members opposite have tended to say that it is not only a question of attaining peace. The British Empire, I think the right hon. Gentleman said, at any rate by implication, is or ought to be the guardian and the champion of the law and liberties of the world. I should like to say, and to say with complete sincerity, how greatly I sympathise with the feelings of disquiet and of indignation which have come from Members on the Opposition Benches in relation to international affairs in the past few years. What has happened in the last few years on the Continent of Europe and in the Far East has been a matter of real anguish, not merely to those who are interested in any political system, but to those who have an elementary regard for the fundamental conceptions of right and wrong in foreign affairs. We have had to contemplate acts which violate all law and decency. We have seen wrong clone, and we have not been able effectively to right it. We have seen the hand of the suppliant stretched out, and we have not been able to raise our arms in protection. We have heard the voice of the oppressed, and our own voice has not been adequately raised in warning against the oppressor. We have listened instead to the laughter of those who appear to think that the cry of them that call upon the Lord in their trouble can be stifled for ever beneath the thunder of heavy cannon.
2543 I say that, because I want hon. Members opposite to realise that their indignation, so frequently and often so eloquently expressed, is shared to the full by Members of this House who support the foreign policy of His Majesty's Government, and because I believe that a great deal of the criticism that has been directed from the benches opposite has been due to the fact that hon. Members have suspected us of not sharing that indignation. But I may be forgiven if I suggest that criticism based upon silence on the part of His Majesty's Ministers is not altogether well founded. It is, as my right hon. Friend said, a mistake to confuse conciliation with weakness. It is a mistake to confuse the silence of restraint with the silence of approval, and it is, perhaps I may be allowed to say, a still greater mistake to deny to those members of our nation who happen to be democratically elected and constitutionally appointed to power at the present time the same feelings of generous indignation which animate the rest of us. But the British Empire is not merely the guardian of the world's liberties; it is also the trustee of the peace of the world. An ill-considered word, a foolish action, might plunge the world into another struggle, upon the horrors of which we are all agreed, and I cannot think that hon. Members opposite are justified when again and again the criticism is made against the members of the Government that they have not expressed the indignation which I hope has been felt by all of us and which has certainly been expressed from more than one quarter in this House.
There is only one further matter with which I think it proper to deal at the present time. It has been suggested that recent events have proved the foreign policy of the Government, and in particular the policy which found its expression in the Agreement of Munich, to be utterly and completely wrong. I wonder which of the criticisms of that Agreement have really been corroborated by recent events, because, so far as I know, there were three criticisms, and only three, which could have been offered. The first was—and I am glad to think that it has been repudiated by both the hon. Member and the right hon. Member who have so far spoken from the Opposition side—that rather than make that Agreement 2544 there ought to have been a war. It is a criticism which has been expressly repudiated from the opposite benches, but perhaps hon. Members will forgive me for saying that it is particularly prevalent among the representatives of organised labour in the country. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] If the hon. Member who contradicts that will come with me to Oxford, I will introduce him to the local branch of the Transport and General Workers' Union, and he will find that I am right and that he is wrong.
The second criticism, which was voiced by the right hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland was that in fact, although it was right not to fight, the settlement which was arrived at was in effect a bad settlement because better terms could have been secured. It seems to me that that is a statement based upon the allegation that the dictators were bluffing, for which not a rag of evidence has been produced and to which there is not the slightest ground for giving assent at the present time. It seems to me, with respect to the right hon. Gentleman, that it is he, and not my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, who has misunderstood the mentality of the dictators. It seems to me that in the mentality of those gentlemen there is no room for bluff. They can never admit themselves to be wrong, they can never recede, and if they are driven into a corner, they are likely to gamble everything upon a last desperate throw in order to retrieve a dangerous position. I venture to suggest to the House that it is a false allegation that any other alternative was open to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister when he went to Munich than that which he ultimately took.
The third criticism seems to me the most ungenerous of all. It is in effect, "We admit that at the time when the Munich Agreement was entered into it was the only possible thing to do, but we say that it was only because of a long series of blunders and mistakes that that Agreement was the only alternative open to the right hon. Gentleman." It occurs to me that that is a somewhat ungenerous criticism. My mind goes back to 28th September, and I realise that all his enemies and most of his friends had already abandoned hope that the efforts of the right hon. Gentleman would secure peace. It is the conviction of hon. Members on this side of the House, not merely that the Prime Minister did the only thing which 2545 was open to him, but that he, and he alone, achieved something which no one else could have achieved, by his devoted efforts in the cause of peace at a time when others had given up hope, that he achieved thereby one of the great miracles of our time, and that those who fail to see this fact are guilty of the fault of the man who strains at a gnat while swallowing a camel. I venture to submit that if it be the truth that not one of these criticisms is justified, and if it be the truth, as I suggest that it is, that no lack of confidence in His Majesty's Government on foreign affairs could possibly be justified except upon the basis of condemnation of Munich, this Motion of Censure must necessarily fall to the ground.
The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister has said that he has not abandoned his hopes of peace. I prefer to base my argument on the belief that the policy of His Majesty's Government would have been justified, and will be justified, even if it is shown, as recent events have tended to make us fear, that the hearts of the dictators are not to be softened by actions of friendliness or conciliation. I believe we shall have gained if that policy fails, and fails by war, the most important thing that the people of this country can gain. If we are to have a long and embittered struggle we must be certain, not merely that our cause is just, but that every alternative possibility has been fully explored. If the policy pursued by my right hon. Friend does not achieve its object, the object of peace by appeasement, it nevertheless will have given this to us—the most important gift which it could give in the circumstances—namely, the assurance that should we have to fight we shall have the certainty of knowing that we are right, which will be necessary to carry us through any struggle on the scale that modern warfare will demand. It will give us, too, an opportunity to be prepared, an opportunity which, I hope, the right hon. Gentleman will take to the full. Perhaps I can say this also without any sense of irresponsibility, time is on the side of the democracies in this matter.
§ Mr. Hogg
If the right hon. Gentleman believes in democracy as sincerely as I believe in it, he will realise that 2546 dictatorship is grounded upon economic and political unsoundness, and it must necessarily follow that time is very much on the side of democracies if peace can be prolonged for only a few months. No one can fail to be impressed by the crises which have been averted, and we hope, at any rate, that by a continued aversion of crises war in the end may be averted altogether. There has been talk of national unity. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness and Sutherland implied that national unity was an impossibility behind His Majesty's present Government. I believe that national unity is the supreme need of the present time, and I have yet to learn that in a time of stress a democracy can unite behind any other body than its democratically elected and constitutionally appointed leaders.
§ 6.18 p.m.
Mr. Lloyd George
I had not the pleasure of hearing the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) deliver his maiden speech, but I am very glad to have heard his second speech and to be able to congratulate him upon possessing some of the remarkable debating gifts of his distinguished father. I cannot, of course, reply to all the points which he raised, but I would like to make some reference to one or two. I am glad he did not join with some of his friends in taunting those who disapprove of the policy of the Government with desiring war. Nobody wants war. I have never met anybody who wanted war—Conservative, Socialist, Liberal or Communist. Nobody outside a lunatic asylum wants war, and it is only foozle-brained partisans who make a charge of that kind against others. The only question is, Which is the best method of achieving peace? That is all. There are some who say you can best achieve it by a policy of surrender of important interests, either of your own country or of others. They are prepared to pay a high price for it, a price which many of us think involves questions of honour, integrity and right.
On the other hand, there are those who say that you can only secure peace with aggressive nations by showing firmness. We have only to look at the history of the last few years to see that there is a good foundation for that conclusion. If this country had joined with the United States of America over Manchuria when they were prepared to do so, we should 2547 not have had the present war in China. We should not have had war with all its horrors, which were described by the Prime Minister in eloquent terms. Somebody said the other day that probably more men had been killed in China than in the whole of the Great War. They number millions. None of them would have been slaughtered if we had shown firmness over the first step taken by Japan.
§ Mr. H. G. Williams rose—
Mr. Lloyd George
Let me finish the argument. It would have been very much better if the Prime Minister had been allowed to finish his argument in his own way. In the end he achieved his purpose, but he was very provocative. Still, many of us are that. I never believed that if we had shown a firm front to Mussolini over the Abyssinian question he would have proceeded—if we had done it in time. The same thing applies, I think, to Czechoslovakia and to many another episode to which I could call attention. The Prime Minister has asked us, "What would you do?" He asked the question in reference, I suppose, to the last moment. That was not the time to take the necessary steps to avert a conflict—after Herr Hitler had committed himself at Berchtesgaden. This crisis had been developing for weeks and weeks. The Government never made clear what their attitude was. I venture to say, what anyone who has made a study of the armies of Europe knows, that knowing the French army, and knowing the Russian army and the British Navy—the information is all available, and especially to the Government—Herr Hitler, if he had known there was a combination of that kind possible against him if he took any aggressive line against Czechoslovakia, would never have taken any step. He would not have been backed up by his army to begin with. They were against it, they were frightened of it, and he is a shrewd, sensible man in the long run. He would not have taken action.
We should have achieved our purpose. What was that? It was very well put in the Fourth Draft of Lord Runciman, that the Sudetens were entitled to autonomy. I said that long before this controversy arose. I said it at the Paris Conference. I agree with all that has 2548 been said about its being delayed. I said so at the Genoa Conference. The Sudetens in May of this year were asking only for autonomy. If the Prime Minister then, with the Prime Minister of France, had taken the necessary steps to support that demand and said that any attempt to annex Czechoslovakia, to invade it, to deprive it of its defences, would have been resisted with France and Russia behind it, there would have been no war, There would have been a far better settlement, because anybody who has studied Central Europe knows that there is such a mix up of populations there that it is purely a question of how they are to be arranged together. The Fourth Draft was an arrangement the Sudeten Germans themselves were prepared to accept, and they said so.
It was only at Berchtesgaden, after they had received the encouragement of the "Times," that the Prime Minister committed himself to that extent. The editor of the "Times" has been the Signor Gayda of the Prime Minister, and he says in advance what the policy of the Government is going to be. That encouragement was only given a few days before the Prime Minister went to Berchtesgaden. What is the use of asking us, "What would you do in these circumstances?" I should, first of all, have done exactly what I have recommended at the present moment, and I should have done it in time. But it no use asking us now, because the Government neglected attending to the business in time and effectively showing a firm front with France and with Russia. They kept Russia out of it, although she was more directly interested in this matter than even this country.
The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Dominions, in a letter which he sent to one of the two Conservative candidates at Perth, said that in the Prime Minister's action there had been give and take. It was all give. I should like to ask of one single point where there was any concession. There was no compromise and no concession. The Prime Minister gave infinitely more than the Sudetens themselves had ever asked or wanted. When we met them in Paris they never asked to be attached to the German Reich. It is the last thing they had ever hoped for, or expected, or wanted, at that time, and they would have repudiated the 2549 idea, which is what they did within a few months of the Berchtesgaden Conference. When the Prime Minister made that arrangement, when he gave in, what happened? Just what you must expect if you begin to surrender one point after another to these very aggressive leaders. Herr Hitler asked for more. He even went away from Munich with an agreement which has not been kept. Territories which were not to be handed over have been taken by force; in territories where they were to permit a plebiscite it was not allowed. That is the kind of bargain which the Prime Minister made. He got a scrap of paper signed by Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini. No sooner had he and M. Daladier turned their backs than they tore it to pieces and went on with their job, getting exactly what they wanted.
The British Legion, some of the picked survivors of the Great War, were to go to Germany by agreement with Herr Hitler, to occupy territories where there was to be a plebiscite. After they had landed on the Continent they were sent back. [HON. MEMBERS: "They never left Southend."] I beg pardon, after they had left their homes. [Laughter.] I do not think it is a joke at all. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Well, then, do not laugh. You go to the British Legion and laugh. They were sent back after they had been dragged out of their homes in Scotland, England and Wales, north and south.
Mr. Lloyd George
They were invited by the Government to occupy those territories and after they had been brought out in great pomp and circumstance[HON. MEMBERS: "They volunteered."] —they were sent back without a "Thank you" from Herr Hitler for the offer of their services. Why? He went and occupied those very territories. And that is the Munich Agreement.
I should like to know upon what the Prime Minister bases his extraordinary complacency. It is amazing when the facts are taken into account. It is not shared, as far as I can see, by anybody outside. Men stand by their party, as millions of men will stand behind their party, even when mistakes are made. I am not criticising that. But I have not met anybody who regards this Agreement, and the various transactions of recent 2550 years in which the dictators have broken faith with us in agreement after agreement, and we still go on making fresh agreements with them—I have not seen one man who regards that with satisfaction. It is not lugubrious and malicious partisans who are distressed about the events of the last few weeks and months. I am not talking about the supporters of the Government in this House, though some of the most experienced and ablest among them have broken away. They have felt the force of what the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) said, that we ought to have some assurance from Signor Mussolini that he would keep the bargains he had already entered into before we negotiated fresh ones. That, I venture to say, is the opinion of the vast multitude of the people of this country in their hearts, and it is common sense. Everything he said upon that subject has been justified by the events.
Take the practical view of, if you like, the City of London. I am not an admirer of the politics of the City of London. They gave me far too much trouble when I was Chancellor of the Exchequer. They are Conservative. I do not believe there is a constituency in this Kingdom where there is a larger proportion of Conservatives than there is in the City of London, and especially on the Stock Exchange. But they are men of business. What is their view of Munich? The first view was that of the Prime Minister. When he jauntily said on arriving home, "I have brought you peace in our lifetime," that was their view. They took him at his word. Up leapt stocks and shares, several rungs on the ladder. In two or three days they came slithering down, and down. Even gilt-edged securities to-day are a testimony to the genuine opinion of his Conservative friends of the City of London about the Munich Agreement and its value.
The right hon. Gentleman has paid four visits to the Continent to meet its leading statesmen. What has been the result? Agreements broken. Are the relations-between Germany and Italy and France and Britain any better than they were before? They are infinitely worse. Is the outlook for peace any better? The clouds are darker and more lowering than they were before. Germany has been indulging in a flood of scurrility against some of our leading statesmen. Even the 2551 right hon. Gentleman has not escaped. I was amazed to see in a speech of Herr Hitler's a reference to:Umbrella-carrying statesmen of the past, who, thank God, are extinct in Germany.I think it is rather insulting from a man who has treated you as a friend and whom you have treated in the same way—whom you trusted in a perfectly candid, straightforward and courteous manner, going out of your way to meet him. [Interruption.] I think it was. It was mean, anyway. But it is not merely that. The general attitude of the whole of the Press there is hostile, and in a country like that the Press means the Government. It is really official—essentially so. The same attitude is adopted towards France by Italy. Take those claims about Tunis, Corsica and Nice, with the torrent of abuse of France, with the threats towards France. You have never had those conditions in this aggravated form before. It is a mistake when you are dealing with men of that kind to surrender to every demand they make. It simply encourages them to go on.
Take Spain. The right hon. Gentleman made an agreement with Italy months ago. What has followed? Reinforcements poured into Spain afterwards. It is not the reinforcements of men that matter. Those gallant fellows on the West coast of the Mediterranean could deal, and deal effectively, with all the men Signor Mussolini sent. Anyone looking at those great battles recently at Teruel and on the Ebro, and the fights that led up to the capture of those towns along the coast, knows perfectly well that it was not the legionaries of Mussolini that did it. It was his aeroplanes, his guns, the overwhelming artillery and bombs turned upon those gallant men. Most of that material has been poured in since the right hon. Gentleman made the agreement with Italy. All those offensives had been prepared carefully, and the materials had been brought in for the attack, brought mostly from Italy, some from Germany. That is the way in which all these Agreements have been treated.
The fact of the matter is, they are treating us with contempt, and there is a very deep feeling of anxiety about the Prime Minister's visit to Rome. Quite frankly, they think he is no match for these astute, crafty, ruthless, unscrupulous dictators; 2552 and—let us be quite honest about it—he is not. Herr Hitler has treated both Prime Ministers, the French and ours, with great contempt. As soon as they turned their backs he and Signor Mussolini said, "Well, now we have got rid of those fellows let us get on with the job." One of them marched across; did not wait for plebiscites; took more than he had ever promised to take. He has converted Czechoslovakia into an utter vassal State. Czechoslovakia will never trust France and Britain again, never, and is trying to make the best terms she can with Germany. That barrier of democracy was given away by the Prime Minister and M. Daladier, leaders of two democracies. And then they came home so pleased, as if they had achieved something, as if they had won some great victory for democracy—a real triumph. They met in France the other day. It was just like Wellington meeting Blucher at La Belle Alliance, shaking hands and congratulating themselves on a historic triumph that will ring through the ages. The Prime Minister of England here will tell us what a fine fellow Daladier was and how without his help the thing could not have been done, this tremendous victory could not have been achieved.
The Prime Minister of France, in the Chamber of Deputies, referred to "This magnificent old man." I agree that the Prime Minister has a right to complain, as he did the other day at the Mansion House, at that appellation. There is nothing in his appearance that would justify it, certainly nothing in the agility which he displayed in tossing away one province after another; but, at the same time, there was something in it, and I can understand M. Daladier's point of view. They both ran away as hard as they could from their obligations, but our Prime Minister, in spite of his more advanced years, kept well ahead; and M. Daladier said: "See him, the British Prime Minister, running faster and farther than even I. What a magnificent old sprinter." [Interruption.] I am just telling the House exactly what happened. They both ran away. They were very pleased with themselves and with each other. That is why I feel very troubled about sending a man in that frame of mind to Rome to meet Signor Mussolini.
It is a dangerous state of obsession into which the right hon. Gentleman has 2553 got. I warned the House before he began that he is a very obstinate man. He is very stubborn. He himself said to-day that nothing he has done in the last 18 months would he wish to see undone. I wish to God we could all say the same, but who would say that except a very self-complacent man? You cannot send a man with that obsession to Rome to meet Mussolini; and I am not comforted in the least by the fact that Lord Halifax is going with him. He is not an adequate keeper. We have been trying to find out beforehand what the Prime Minister is going to do there. This is the British House of Commons, elected by about 25,000,000 men and women in this country. This is the seat of authority, and we are entitled to know. Why are we not getting an answer? We were confronted with a fait accompli before; may we not be confronted with an accomplished fact again?
The Prime Minister thinks that it is enough to say: "I am out for peace." He has read "Ivanhoe," as we all have, and he has got the idea of Wamba that he can get through anywhere simply by shouting: "Pax vobiscum." You ask him any question, and he says: "Pax vobiscum." "What are you going to give away?"—"Peace be with you." Whatever that might have done in the days when you had to deal with a besotted Norman baron, you are now confronted with one of the most astute diplomats in the world, and you want to have something to give him. Does the Prime Minister know what he means to give him? Has he made up his mind? We ought to know. It is not as though he were going to Rome without knowing the questions which are in the mind of Mussolini, who has been perfectly straightforward about it, as he was about Abyssinia. I said so in this House. Mussolini told us in plenty of time so as to give us a chance of saying to him: "We cannot allow it" We did not say it. It was a wise thing for him to do. He told us what he was going to do and he piled up his armies there. It was perfectly clear that he was going to advance and to annex the country. Not a word said here.
He is now practically telling us what he has in his mind. He is the head in a dictator country; he is the ruler of the land. He has no elected assembly; yet he tells us what he means. The Prime 2554 Minister is the head of a democratic State. He is governed by the will and the support of the majority of the representatives of the people of this land. Why does he withhold from us what his intentions are? I am again putting to him three questions. I understand that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is to reply at the end of this Debate and I know that he will show his usual skill in advocacy; but skill in advocacy very often means skill in avoiding disagreeable questions. I ask him specifically two or three questions. He can refuse to answer them, but as a Member of this House I ask him, and many people would like to have the answers.
To begin with, where do we stand about non-intervention in Spain? The 10,000 men of the Foreign Legion on the republican side have gone. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] If they have not all gone, the Government can tell us. On the rebel side there are scores of thousands of trained officers and men from Italy at the present time; there are divisions now under German and Italian Generals and officers, preparing for a fresh offensive. That I take from the "Times." They have an overwhelming mass of artillery from Germany and Italy. They have at least three to one in aeroplanes. Again I take that from the columns of the "Times." They have, in artillery, five to one. They have inexhaustible ammunition and help at sea to sink ships. I want to ask about this, because something which was said by Lord Halifax has got to be explained. Lord Halifax—I am quoting what, I think, is the substance of what he said as I have not the quotation with me. I am prepared to correct what I say if anybody says that I am not quoting fairly—practically said that we must take into account the fact that Mussolini was bent upon a victory for Franco.
What does it mean? We are entitled to ask. Does that mean that if Signor Mussolini and Herr Hitler go on sending aeroplanes there, whether for replacement or otherwise, and cannon and ammunition, up to the point where Franco secures a complete victory, that we would still enter into a pact of friendship with Italy, while that is going on? Will the new and revised Pact be based on the assumption that that is to go on? Will it mean also that while Germany and Italy are allowed to send as much stuff there as they consider necessary to achieve a 2555 Franco victory, the policy of non-intervention will be imposed upon France and ourselves? We are entitled to know.
The second point is: There is an attempt to starve Spain into surrender. Food ships are being sent there, but some of them have been attacked and sunk by aeroplanes supplied by Signor Mussolini. Some of those aeroplanes come straight from Italy. They land at Majorca, rest there, go straight to attack and then fly back to Italy. The right hon. Gentleman will also find that in the newspapers which support the Government. I am not sure whether it was the "Daily Telegraph" or the "Times." I think it was the "Times." If there is a pact of friendship with Italy, is it to be entered into on the assumption that Italian planes can sink British foodships or the foodships of any other country, carrying something which is not contraband and with non-intervention officers on board? Is the Prime Minister not going to ask questions about that—and not merely ask questions, but going to make a condition of it?
There has been a great campaign against France in Italy. Those who are the unofficial spokesmen of Signor Mussolini have declared their intention of recovering Tunis, Corsica and Nice. The campaign is going on. Is the Prime Minister before he enters into a new pact going to have a complete understanding with Signor Mussolini that no steps will be taken in any one of these three places—Tunis, Corsica and Nice? If not, what is he going to surrender? What is he going to give up? What is he going to bring away? Is he going to have an agreement there which will, at any rate, give an equal chance to the two combatants in Spain—the people who are fighting for the independence of Spain and the people who are trying to establish a Fascist régime with the aid of foreign troops? The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken taunted my friends on this side by saying that what will make Spain a puppet State will be the speeches of hon. Gentlemen on this side. Well, I am not underrating the eloquence of any of my friends, and I am perfectly certain that Franco does not underrate it. But if Franco is going to establish a puppet State, it will be for far more substantial reasons than any eloquent speeches wherever they are delivered. It will be because he knows he cannot conquer Spain with- 2556 out the aid of these foreign dictators. It will be because he knows that not only can he not conquer Spain without their aid, but that he cannot maintain his authority there without their continued aid.
There is great suffering in Spain—the Prime Minister himself said so. There is going to be worse suffering. It will not mean the suffering of the combatants only, as he knows. The people are going through a hard winter, with very insufficient food. We saw to-day in the papers that there is no milk in Barcelona for any of the children. There would have been plenty had it not been for Italian aeroplanes and Italian submarines. The battle which is going on there is a real epic in the history of democracy. A body of absolutely untrained workers, without officers, has held down a trained army with trained officers, helped by two of the greatest military Powers on earth, who sent their big equipment there, their picked men to run it, their best men to advise them. The battle of the Ebro, looked at from any point of view, is one of the most remarkable episodes in the history of any war, and I cannot recall one in the history of the Great War which will excel it. The children, the wives, the mothers and the fathers of these valiant men are to be starved out this winter by Italian aeroplanes. Is the Prime Minister going to offer the hand of friendship in the name of the greatest democracy in the world to men who are waging that savage warfare against women and children?
§ 7.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Raikes
The House has listened to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) with great interest, but I cannot help wondering whether, with his great knowledge and with his past experience as Prime Minister of this country, he has said one word which could be of the slightest help to world peace, which could in the slightest degree assist Europe at the present time when it is, if not on the verge of war, at any rate at somewhat uneasy peace. The right hon. Gentleman wound up with a wonderful peroration about starvation. The right hon. Gentleman, no doubt, recollects that he won the last War by the blockade of Germany, which meant starvation. He realises as well, no doubt, that that blockade went on for a year after the end of 2557 the War. I suppose the women and children of Austria made the same sacrifice then in peace time that the women and children of Spain are making now in time of war. It is very easy to take this high line with regard to starvation.
§ Mr. Raikes
The right hon. Gentleman says there is no war between Spain and Italy. What war was there between Austria and this country between 1918 and 1919?
Mr. Lloyd George
The hon. Gentleman says this went on for a year. As a matter of fact, after many discussions with America, Italy, and France, we sent supplies to both Germany and to Austria, and ultimately we sent a very considerable sum of money to Austria for the purpose of enabling it to cope with its difficulties. We never kept up the blockade.
§ Mr. Raikes
The right hon. Gentleman will bear in mind that after the Peace Conference began all these things were done, but will he tell the House that between the actual time of the Armistice and the beginning of the Peace Conference there was no blockade?
Mr. Lloyd George
I am quite willing to take that point. The Peace Conference met early in January, and it was only a question of six weeks, at a period when there was a great deal of disorganisation. Whether we sent anything to Austria at that time I could not tell the hon. Gentleman, but we raised the blockade. There was no blockade at all then, and we actually assisted.
§ Mr. Raikes
But surely the Peace Conference was in July, and, after all, there is a considerable difference between January and July.
Mr. Lloyd George
I must get this right, for not only my honour is involved but the honour of our country. The hon. Gentleman says that we actually enforced a blockade, just as Italy is blockading Spain now—that we blockaded Austria after we had ceased to be at war. There is not a shadow of a shade of truth in it. In fact, I think a much stronger word 2558 could be used were it not for the fear of Mr. Speaker.
§ Mr. Raikes
As far as the right hon. Gentleman's explanation is concerned, I am quite prepared to take his word that it was a considerably shorter time than a year. I thought the blockade lasted for a year after the War. But my principal point was that when the right hon. Gentleman talks about starvation and says that General Franco is winning by starving women and children—and at any time it is horrible to wage war on the stomachs of the civilian population—he must remember that we used that weapon and regarded that weapon as necessary.
I should like to pass on to another point that the right hon. Gentleman made. He twitted the Prime Minister a good deal because the Prime Minister has not told the House what he intends to do when he gets to Rome. But as one who has been a Prime Minister himself the right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that you cannot give a full explanation of what you are going to do even before you go to Versailles. Did the right hon. Gentleman tell the House every single thing that he was going to do at the Conferences of Genoa and Versailles? The right hon. Gentleman is a great man, but he would have been a genius if he had been able to do that. Then we come to the further point, and the only one that was elaborated at any length in his attack upon the Government policy—the question in regard to the way in which peace could have been saved, if only we had taken a different attitude a few months earlier regarding autonomy for the Sudeten Germans.
§ Mr. Raikes
A few weeks? I took a note of what the right hon. Gentleman said. What he suggested was that if in May we had made representations to Czechoslovakia that complete autonomy on the lines of the Fourth Plan should be granted to the Sudeten Germans, and if at the same time we had made it clear to Germany that, after autonomy had been given, Britain, with France and other countries, would automatically guarantee the land which had been given autonomy, there would have been no war. But what the right hon. Gentleman did not explain was the pressure that we could have used that would have made 2559 Dr. Benes earlier in this year grant autonomy to the Sudetens before he was forced to do so. If Dr. Benes had given the autonomy pledge in 1919 or 1920 things would have been different. Does the right hon. Gentleman suggest that we could have maintained peace by telling Dr. Benes in the spring, "If you do not give autonomy to the Sudeten Germans you cannot count on us if you get into trouble with Germany"? [An HON. MEMBER: "What did he do after Berchtesgaden?"] Well, we never gave any pledge of any sort or kind to Czechoslovakia. The only pledge was a very definite obligation under the League Covenant, which in point of fact was never invoked by Czechoslovakia at any time.
The right hon. Gentleman seems to suggest that somehow or other we should have told the Germans some time earlier this year that if in any circumstances they invaded Czechoslovakia there would be war. Certainly, from the very start, it would have divided this country; it would have divided the British Empire. How can any great statesman representing any great country give an automatic pledge on a matter that may not arise which is not a direct and vital obligation on his own country, involving, should there be any invasion in any circumstances of the area concerned, the automatic engagement of the lives of millions of British subjects? It would be enough almost to break any government; it certainly would be enough to weaken ties which unite our foreign policy with the foreign policy of our great Dominions if they are to be told, speaking broadly, that, so far as foreign policy is concerned, automatic obligations are to be incurred by them on behalf of this country over matters which may arise in such a way and under such conditions as to make it perfectly reasonable, at any rate, for some other country to intervene.
I have no doubt that certain hon. Members, probably including some on the Conservative side of the House, will wish to speak against the Munich settlement, and will take the line that our policy is wrong and ought to be changed. I would like to ask hon. Members, at any rate on the Conservative side of the House, a question that might be answered by any one of them who may happen to speak. Whether the Munich policy is a good 2560 policy or a bad policy, once that policy has been accepted, is it just, is it right, not to give it at any rate some fair chance of success? After all, policies, whatever they may be, have no fair chance of success unless they are given a fair time to work. I do not complain so much of the attitude of hon. Members opposite. They hold the view that the duty of an Opposition is to oppose, though sometimes their opposition seems, to me at any rate, a little factious. But as regards hon. Members on our side of the House, those who objected to Munich have a right to do so, but these continued pinpricks against the Government, when Munich has become the Government's policy, seem to me to be unworthy of hon. Members who still at any rate call themselves technical supporters of the Conservative party.
Munich has its chance of success on two lines. My hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) said a little time ago, in an admirable speech, that time was on our side. There was a certain amount of dissent from the other side of the House, but, after all, there are two matters which must be borne in mind in regard to the question of time. In the first place, so far as our own rearmament is concerned, the next few months, now that we have our fast fighter planes being produced, as we understand, in increasing numbers, we are going to be able to play some part against any would-be aggressor. This country is only likely to be attacked if an aggressor thinks he can strike a knock-out blow. The stronger your defensive weapons are against a knock-out blow giving an aggressor an immediate success, and the more unlikely you can make that knock-out blow, the safer to some extent you are. That is one side of the question. The other side is that, so far as the totalitarian States are concerned, every month and every year that they continue to run their whole industries on a war basis, as they have been doing for years, they weaken to some extent their general financial position, and lower rather than raise the standard of living of their people. The lower the standard of living of the people, particularly if they are under a system which the people cannot change in the ordinary democratic way, the more the seeds of discontent must grow in those countries, and it seems to many people, both in this House and in the country, that, if we had got landed in war this 2561 year, we should have brought our head into the same noose as certain persons who, if given time, may quite conceivably break up and hang themselves without bringing us on to the scene at all.
If internal troubles increase in those countries, there are only two alternatives. There may arise in those countries some form of internal revolution, or, as I think is more likely, the more moderate elements in the country concerned would reflect that they could not carry on their present system without grave disorder unless something substantial were done for their own people, and they might consider it worth their while, finding that a knockout blow could not easily be struck at a great Power, to enter into some pact for the limitation of armaments in order to avoid a state of chaos which would destroy them as well as the rest of the world. I believe that, provided we are sufficiently strong, as I believe we shall be, there is a real possibility that countries like Germany and Italy, with a somewhat weakening internal fabric and the heavy expenditure that is continually pressing upon them, will feel, quite rightly, inclined to meet and to consider a real limitation of armaments from the point of view of their own interests alone.
If only we could get away from this mad race of armaments, increasing year by year, and arrive at some form of limitation, such as, possibly, the abolition of military bombing aircraft, we should lose a great deal of that fear which is the real trouble in Europe to-day. Armaments are not a direct cause of war, but fear is a cause of armaments, and it is generally agreed that fear has been abroad for the last 10 years. If the Munich policy makes possible the limitation of armaments rather than the certainty of war, the Munich policy will prove to have been the greatest triumph of statesmanship that this country has ever known. I do not believe in high-sounding phrases, but, when I saw what I thought was a certainty of war averted at the last moment in the autumn of this year, it gave me, speaking for myself, a feeling that, if somehow or other such a miracle occurred at the last moment—if, having got as near to war as we did this year we were able to escape it—that may well be the way, provided we are prepared to lead both in appeasement and in strength, that will enable nations, without war, to settle many of the difficulties 2562 which confront the world to-day, and to give a real opportunity of bringing about what Members on all sides of the House want, namely, peace and justice.
§ 7.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Sorensen
I am sure the whole House was interested in the criticism which the hon. Member for South East Essex (Mr. Raikes) addressed to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). I was interested particularly in his reference to the right hon. Gentleman's protest against the blockade of Spain at the present time, but I would remind him that, whatever may be the justice of his criticism, it applies just as much to himself, for he belongs to a party that, even more than the other members of the Coalition Government at that time, were most earnest in their protraction of a war after the War. I mention that because of the indication that was given, in certain words of the Prime Minister, of the very grave responsibility that our own Government and our own country have for the present tension and hatred in Europe. The Prime Minister himself admitted that we had not acted wisely and generously to Germany after the War. That has become more and more a general opinion among thinking citizens of this country, but I believe that this is the first time that any statesman of this country in this House, standing on the Government side, has publicly proclaimed that admission to the world.
That admission has tremendous significance. It is perfectly true that we did not act, not merely wisely and generously, but even justly, to Germany after the War. What a pity it is that 20 years were allowed to pass before the making of that belated admission. Had it been made, and had action come from it in 1919, in 1920, or even in 1930, we might have had a very different story to tell, and at the present time Europe would have been much nearer to peace than unhappily it is. I repeat that we bear a very heavy responsibility for the tensions and menaces of the present international situation, and those who bear the greatest share of that responsibility sit on the Government side of the House to-night. The Labour party at the time pointed out in utterance after utterance, in declaration after declaration, that we were merely sowing the seeds of another war, and Members on the opposite side of the 2563 House—Conservative supporters of the present Government and their predecessors—either laughed our appeals to scorn or ignored them, and in so many words said, "To the victors the spoils." We are now paying very bitterly for the blind folly of Toryism and its allies in 1919. While I agree that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs bears some of the responsibility, I think his critic to-night is the last person in the world to point the finger of scorn at him. Possibly the hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs was right but, whether that be so or not, it would have added strength to his criticism if he had admitted that not only was he criticising the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, but that he was criticising his own party also.
I have already said that a different story would have been told had we been wise and just, and even generous, to Germany in 1919. Now we have to admit, because we were not wise and just in 1919, there is the possibility at the present time that the 1,000,000 lives that were laid down in the last War have been betrayed. If we are to drift into another war, very largely as a consequence of events arising from our lack of wisdom and justice after the last War, it means that those who laid down their lives laid them down in vain. We must also admit that the statesmen of 1919 were not big enough for the occasion—not even the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs. Those of us whose memories go back to that time recollect the passionate hatred and bitterness that were in the atmosphere of our nation and other nations in 1918. I can understand statesmen saying that they could not help it, that they had to give way to this flood of bitterness and enmity. They say it now. But, on the other hand, had there been some prominent statesman who would have been prepared to risk his whole political reputation in 1919, even if he had temporarily gone under, I venture to suggest that the political sacrifice on the part of such a statesman big enough at the time might have saved Europe from the dreadful menaces that confront it at the present moment.
The truth is when we look back we see more and more that those who thought themselves great in 1918, viewed from a distance of 20 years appear mere political 2564 dwarfs. They had not a big enough vision of the future; they were mere sounding boards for all those base and primitive feelings which were bound to create a situation such as that which confronts us to-day. This is not to say that, either then or now, people desired war. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs was right when he said that he did not think people on either side desired war. Only crooks, perverts and fools want war. I do not think there are any of them in the House; I hope not. We all want peace, but it is the question of what kind of peace that divides us one from another. Some are perfectly prepared to have peace provided it is the peace of conquest. Franco wants peace; but at what price? He wants peace at the price of the burial of democracy. Signor Mussolini wants peace, Herr Hitler wants peace; all who are worshipping the sword want peace, but they want the peace of the sword. Between those and those others who want a peace that is based on freedom and democracy there is obviously a great gulf fixed. There are some people—I must not be taken as being one of them—who are prepared to kill and be killed rather than submit to a peace which is an ignoble peace and which is little better than death itself.
The Prime Minister pleaded for reason, and I am sure all of us were glad that he emphasised the need of reason in the world to-day. He spake these words; or words to this effect: that whilst reason can be used to combat reason, it cannot be used to combat violence. There is some truth in that, though not the whole truth, but the Prime Minister overlooked this great fact: that there are reasons and reasons. When we speak of reason, we have to recognise that Signor Mussolini has his reasons, and so has Herr Hitler; in other words, they can use intellect to justify their case. Merely to speak of reason is not enough; it is the motives behind the reasons that have to be taken into account. If we are to speak merely of peace and reason we shall get nowhere at all. What is to happen if you have rival wills aspiring to secure the same end? If the conflict of those wills means war, no amount of reason can avoid it. Reason is to be interpreted in terms of the will behind it. Some years ago when I 2565 was stranded for some hours in Newcastle-on-Tyne, not knowing what to do, I went through a small and grubby entrance and observed the processes of a game called an all-in wrestling match. It was a most amazing exhibition. There were two men throwing each other out of the ring and apparently jumping on each other's stomachs. While I was wondering how it could happen in a civilised land, I could not also help thinking that it resembled the state of Europe to-day. Both those men, no doubt, were thinking rationally of what they were doing; but, while reason was being used, in spite of that there was strife and the desire to subdue almost at any cost.
As I see it, we have in Europe the conflict of various wills saturated with the concept of power. Each uses reason to try to secure his ends. Therefore, we can well understand why Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini are both employing reasons to show why they should secure their end. That end is obviously, in some measure, of the same nature as that which we have pursued. Here are we, with the greatest Empire the world has known, containing approximately one-quarter of the world's area and population, the most important strategic points and great economic advantages. While the economic advantages of colonies are not what they once were, it cannot be denied that we enjoy in large measure advantages from our great economic monopolies in the past. Having obtained all these advantages, and saying to the world still, "What we have we hold," can we wonder if other nations, having started late, say that they are going to try to secure advantages similar to those which we have? The Prime Minister, having said to the Czechoslovak Government, at Munich and elsewhere, that they should be prepared to sacrifice part of their State for the sake of peace, does not dream of applying that principle to the British Empire. Members of this House congratulated the Prime Minister when he induced the Czechoslovak Government to sacrifice a very important part of their State, but if he said, "In order to secure peace, I am going to recommend that we should sacrifice, when and where necessary, ex-German Colonies like Tanganyika," those who congratulate him now would rise up and denounce him as a traitor to his country.
2566 Why is it that he would not dream of making such a sacrifice of part of the loot that we secured in the last War, and recommend that those Colonies should be internationalised, or, for a trial period of, say, ten years, put under international control? The reason is that we are a great Imperial Power, we must remain a great Imperial Power, and while we recommend others to sacrifice their interests, we ourselves must do nothing of the sort, even if peace is at stake. If that is the ultimate criterion, that whatever happens we must not sacrifice any of our Imperial interests, even if the question of war is involved, how can we possibly condemn other Powers for recognising the same criterion and treading the same path? There is a conflict of wills. Those wills are saturated with the illusion of power. We have had it: it is passing away here in some measure; but others who have not had it, or not in the same degree, are now experiencing it.
I admit that the present situation is fraught with tremendous menace to the future not only of this country but of Europe. There are irrational elements imperilling the very existence of society borne out of the volcanic eruption of bitterness, greed, fear and hate. The sense of inferiority that has begotten aggressiveness in the souls of German people is not rational. With even a slight knowledge of human behaviour, we know that, even with an individual, if there be a period of prolonged humiliation, when at last the humiliated person scrambles to his feet and begins to recover some measure of self-confidence and reassurance that is frequently not accompanied by reason at all. That is how I see what is happening in Germany at the present time. There is a great wave of dangerous irrationalism sweeping over Germany and Neurosis is being worshipped. There is this striking difference between the present situation in the world and the situation which existed when the Labour Government left office in 1931. To-day, we do not all speak the same moral language in Europe, as was the case in former years. Previously, although we might be inconsistent, sometimes to the verge of hypocrisy, there was at least a common reference to the standards of Christianity. That is largely gone. The conception of personal dignity, of liberty and of democracy, let alone charity, is being spurned as vicious 2567 rather than virtuous. The wave of anti-Semitism which has shocked the remaining elements in the civilised world is a symptom of the basic difference.
When, in a few days' time, the Prime Minister meets Signor Mussolini, no matter how affable they are around the conference table, the fact remains that in the Prime Minister's mind there is a criterion of decency and civilisation which does not appear to be in the mind of Signor Mussolini, if one is to judge from his speeches and articles—and the same is true of Herr Hitler. Hitler is undoubtedly passionately sincere and anxious to serve his country, but the difference of ethical criteria is there. Even if we have only abridged copies in this country of "Mein Kampf," there is in that book every evidence that Hitler speaks a different moral language from that which we use. Whereas we are aghast to think that a whole race of Jews should be punished because of the murder of one man by a blindly foolish youth in Paris, Hitler thinks that that is laudable in the extreme. How can there be any affinity of thought between one who takes that view and ourselves? Hitler and Mussolini have their reasons, but their reasons are motivated in a very different way from ours, and we have to overcome that intense difficulty in some way. The great dilemma and the great danger confronting us is this: we are anxious to have peace, but not peace at any price. If other countries want what we have got, their response to our slogan of "What we have we hold" is, "What we want we will get." In that case, how can peace be saved? If war comes, it may mean the break-up of civilisation as a whole.
Whichever way we turn, we are confronted with a menace to the British Empire and a menace to civilisation itself. Although I recognise the logic of those who call for rearming, I would point out that that logic may lead to the destruction of civilisation. It is possible to say the Prime Minister could have done little other at Munich than he did, but surely that is not the point. If we start down a certain road and get to the end of it, and are confronted with an abyss of destruction, surely we have to retrace our steps back to the point where we came on to that path and then select another road. So with the danger of conscription and of 2568 overwhelming arms. If to-day, as a logical consequence of the policy we have followed for 20 years, we have been brought to the point that because Germany is rearming me must rearm, where is the limit? If we are to be as strong as the potential aggressor so that if Germany is to arm to the teeth, so must we, otherwise we shall be at a disadvantage; if Germany has conscription, so must we, or else we shall be at a disadvantage; if Germany must be ruthless and merciless, so must we, unless we are to be at a disadvantage. In other words along the road we are now travelling we steadily become more and more infected by the very disease we seek to eradicate. I hope most earnestly that when the Prime Minister goes to Rome—and I bid him God speed as I bade him God speed when he went to Munich—
§ Mr. Sorensen
There is no shame in wishing well to any man in this country whether on this side or on that, and refuse to believe that my political opponents are scoundrels. I believe that often they are wrong, but even if I believe that they are wrong, I also believe that there is as much decency in them as there is in myself. Therefore, I will never cease to send good thoughts and good wishes even to those who are my opponents, with the provision that I hope they will be sufficiently enlightened to carry out the policy which I feel to be right. The bitterness and hatred in the world, stirred up and intensified by many people at the present time, can never save civilisation from collapse. There is too much hatred in the world to-day and some of us are too much eaten up by it even to recognise this danger to the principles we advocate. Therefore whilst I wish the Prime Minister God speed when he goes to Rome, yet I do so only with the hope that he will not go with the idea of merely playing a devil's card game with Mussolini. I hope he will go with a big enough proposal and say to Signor Mussolini: "This is a dirty game we are all playing, and it can only end in the collapse of all Europe." I say he should propose to Signor Mussolini that, instead of playing the old game which is but a bloody gamble, he should propose a different game altogether, the game we have tried to advocate from these benches for years past— 2569 to try and establish peace, not on a basis of cunning, scheming or manoeuvring for position, but the splendid game of re-building Europe in the belief that the only thing in the end that will last in Europe is a foundation of international co-operation and justice. Let the Prime Minister, in the name of reason and justice, and not only in the name of justice, but of humanity, risk his whole political life on that even if he fails. If that is the approach he is going to make to Signor Mussolini, even if Signor Mussolini may reject it, in the end such a moral stand will do more to save civilisation than all the armaments now feverishly being made by the blind nations of the world in an atmosphere of fear at the present time.
§ 7.49 P.m.
§ Captain McEwen
I would like to point out to the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Leyton (Mr. Sorensen), who has just resumed his seat after making a very eloquent speech, as he usually does, that, when he remarked on the differences which existed between Signor Mussolini and Herr Hitler and the Prime Minister, and the difficulty, therefore, that the Prime Minister might have in coming to any satisfactory conclusions with them, possibly the origin of these differences lies in the fact that both these dictators are, in fact, Socialists. The hon. Member in the earlier part of his speech spoke about our behaviour towards Germany in the earlier days up to 1930. He said, as other speakers have also said in the course of the Debate to-day, that had we but treated Germany wisely and generously at an earlier date all would have been different, and special reference was made to the Peace Treaty in this respect. The fact of the matter is that we could have followed two policies. One was a wise and generous one towards Germany, but the reason why we could not follow that was, in the first place, as the hon. Member for West Leyton has rightly said, that public opinion would not allow it. It is all very fine to call for some super-statesman—and I notice that hon. Gentlemen opposite are only too fond of doing so—who can over-ride the democratic opinions of his supporters. They are all chiding the present Government. They say: "You are a National Government, why cannot you do this, that or the other?" It is not because a Government is all powerful 2570 that it should, therefore, use its power like a dictator. He was suggesting that there should have been a super-statesman who would have discouraged this public opinion at the time. I think that that is asking too much. That public opinion did exist very strongly. I remember very well feeling that way myself. I felt that the terms were not harsh enough, and that was the opinion of one who had just come from the war.
The other policy which might have been followed was the one of harshness, and it was the policy very often advocated by the French Government. That, I must confess, was the policy which I always hoped to see followed. The tragedy of the post-War years was that we and the French Government managed to coincide on no policy at the same time. When they wanted to carry out theirs we were not ready, and when we wanted to carry out ours they were not willing. The result was that we fell deplorably between two stools. I think that that is the truth about the matter of wise and generous treatment, but, as I say, my own opinion was always in favour of the other treatment because I believe that what hon. Gentlemen now are saying from the benches opposite but never did before is, on the whole, the way to treat Germany. It is not invariably successful, but it is usually successful. But having seen the crisis of September and having realised the new orientation of policy which exists as a result of that crisis, that is precisely why now I support so wholeheartedly the policy which the Prime Minister and the Government are following.
There was one other small point arising from the speech of the hon. Gentleman which was that he felt that those who were killed in the War had died in vain. I do not think he actually said that, but he made some reference to it. It is all very fine now for us to be persuaded—we who fought in the War—that at the time we were fighting a war to end war, or a war to save democracy. I can assure the House that at the time I was fighting for neither of those things. I never heard about either of them until after I came home at the end of it. What I was fighting for during the War was to destroy the power and might of Germany which had been bullying the world, and that we succeeded in doing. Nor is it now necessary to say, looking back over 20 years, "Look what we have come to; it was 2571 all done in vain." Not at all; it was not. If we have succeeded, as we have done, in obtaining 20 years' peace in Europe, it is no mean achievement, and if we can succeed now by a policy such as the Prime Minister has followed in obtaining a further 20 years' peace in Europe, we shall still have done nothing of which to be ashamed.
Hon. Gentlemen on the Liberal benches are always saying that they regard peace as worthless unless it is permanent. I think they are too greedy. If we expect peace for a period, we have done well; if we expect it for all time, we are expecting far too much. The hon. Gentleman who opened this Debate—and I b regret that he is not now present, as I have many things that I would have liked to have said to him—talked about Spain. Everything that could have been said about Spain and the Spanish situation I should have thought has been said many times in this House before, but the only thing that matters to this country is the emergence of a Spain hostile to this country. It is that which matters. Provided we avoid that tendency, we need have no fear.
The whole difficulty really lies in this, as I see it. The right and proper thing to do, there is no doubt about it, is to recognise belligerent rights. There was a great deal of talk this afternoon about giving belligerent rights to Franco. There is no question of giving them to anybody in particular. It is a question of recognising that the existence of belligerent rights applies to both sides. There is no doubt that these rights ought indeed to be recognised, but the difficulty is that, owing to the foolish and irresponsible behaviour of the Italian Government, they have made it extremely difficult for us to effect this recognition. There were two mistakes made some time ago, and it is of no importance now as to who was to blame for them. One was in not granting those rights at an earlier stage, and the other was that, instead of attempting to secure the evacuation of all foreigners fighting in Spain, we should rather have attempted to prevent the incursion of any further volunteers into that country. Those who were already there would have disappeared gradually by the process of wastage of war. That was a possible policy to follow. We might have achieved that through the 2572 Non-Intervention Committee, but to attempt to secure the removal of those who were already there on both sides was doomed to failure from the beginning.
Let it not also be forgotten, as I have had occasion to remark in this House before, that it was in fact, first of all, this country and France who turned down the suggestion made by Italy and Germany for the evacuation of foreigners from Spain. The reasons for that I need not go into now. The situation then was a very different one from what it is now, but the fact remains that that was indeed done. I do not wish to keep hon. Gentlemen, many of whom I know are anxious to speak, from addressing the House, and I will therefore close my remarks, as I regret to say that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) has passed in and passed out again, and I have lost my opportunity of saying something to him.
§ 7.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Vernon Bartlett
I find no satisfaction in criticising any man who is trying to do a very difficult job indeed. I admire the courage with which the Prime Minister, armed only with his now famous umbrella, went to Germany and reviewed those terrifying guards of honour in their black steel helmets and their big black boots. I admire the pertinacity with which the Prime Minister carries on with the policy even in face of adversity, but we cannot rule out the possibility—and I deliberately put it mildly—that the Prime Minister's policy may be mistaken. It seemed to me, as I watched the audience and listened to the applause the other day during his speech to the Foreign Press Association, that the vast majority of these representatives from all parts of the world felt that the policy of the British Government is mistaken. I had never before realised the extent to which loud applause could constitute a vote of censure, and certainly the results since Munich—I think we all deplore this—have not been so brilliant that we can contemplate further official trips abroad without uneasiness. Unless the British Government realise that in point of fact they have virtually destroyed the independence of Czechoslovakia which they boast of saving, we should not have had yesterday the representatives of the Czechoslovak Government being compelled to go away from London without 2573 that loan which they had been promised at Munich.
The uneasiness which we all feel is the greater because at least two of the present Members of the Inner Cabinet, which we were told ran the country more or less during the crisis, were among the 300 Members of Parliament who sent their message to the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Ll. George) during the Peace Conference, to tell him that he had to enforce the harshest possible terms upon Germany. Those people, who now charge as war-mongers all the critics of the Munich policy, are the very people who resisted any concession to Germany when she was weak, and might have accepted such concessions as an act of generosity, and are now in favour of making every concession when Germany is strong and bangs her fist on the table.
May I, not in a spirit of boastfulness but only to emphasise my appeal to the Prime Minister, inform the House that when Herr Hitler came into power I made myself very unpopular with the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was then Foreign Secretary, because I ventured, in very mild language, to broadcast a criticism of his policy at the Disarmament Conference. That policy was a complete rejection of the moderate terms put forward by Herr Hitler. At that time Herr Hitler said that he was prepared to limit his army for all time to 300,000 men, to accept any form of international control and to cut down his armaments, to use his own words, "to the last machine gun," if we and the other governments would do the same. The Chancellor of the Exchequer—I say the Chancellor of the Exchequer because, although my knowledge of architectural monuments is fairly good I do not know where our political monuments go at election time—who was then Foreign Secretary, would not hear of that suggestion of a German army of 300,000 men, with the result that Germany will now, I understand, have a standing army of at least 850,000 men. The result was that Herr Hitler went out of the League and, as a very minor result, I went out of Broadcasting House.
I would ask hon. Members whether we can unhesitatingly accept the judgment of right hon. Members who have rejected offers of the sort I have mentioned, and 2574 who now regard as warmongers those of us who have worked unceasingly since the War to build up a system of avoiding war, based on law, decency, order and justice. I am new to this House and I fear I am much too ignorant of the delicate balance between the Legislature and the Executive, but surely it is a new and very dangerous interpretation of democracy that allows the Prime Minister to refuse time after time to give this House the slightest indication of the subjects he proposes to discuss on his next visit to a dictator. Is the function of this House only to ratify pledges given by the Prime Minister, when it is too late to alter them?
§ Captain McEwen
Before any other previous conference that has taken place has the agenda been given to this Mouse?
§ Mr. Bartlett
I think we should certainly have been given very much more in the way of detail than we have received in this House in reply to questions. Surely, the pledges which the Prime Minister may be called upon to give in Rome are pledges which vitally affect the lives of every man, woman and child in the country. It may have been necessary for the Prime Minister to shoulder the heavy burden of responsibility in the Czechoslovakian crisis but, judging from the multitude of questions on the subject of the forthcoming visit to Rome that are put in this House, there is no reluctance on the part of hon. Members to share the responsibility in the present case. Although this is a Debate on a Vote of Censure, I am convinced that the people of this country want not to condemn for the past but to have assurances about the future.
I happen to have been to Spain twice since the civil war broke out, and I have the most profound conviction that it will be a disaster for the Spanish people and the whole of European civilisation if the Spanish Government are defeated. I know that there are people who have been to the other side and who have come away with an equally profound conviction. If those of us who visited Spain had confined our remarks to what we had seen on the particular side we visited, there would not be so much lamentable confusion about the issues involved in the Spanish war. I would 2575 appeal to hon. Members to forget their prejudices, even to forget the abstract question of justice, to look at the Spanish problem only from the point of view of the interests of the British Empire, and to remember that what happens in Spain must have a vital effect upon the future of the British Empire.
I wish we could be a little more sure before the Prime Minister goes to Rome that nothing will be done that will facilitate victory for the side supported by Signor Mussolini and Herr Hitler, because one has only to read the newspapers which appear in Italy, Germany and elsewhere, and the broadcast messages of the dictators of those two countries, to realise that in the last resort this Empire of ours must be the object of envy of Hitler and Mussolini. We ought at all costs to be sure that nothing is done in Rome which will facilitate a victory for that side in Spain which has the support of Signor Mussolini and Herr Hitler, because that victory would not only be placing in their hands territory which during the last War we were very anxious, and rightly anxious, to keep out of German control, but it would irreparably weaken our most important European ally by giving her one more frontier to defend. That is obvious, whatever our feelings may be about one side or the other in Spain.
The Prime Minister assured us that while the Non-Intervention plan remains the generally accepted plan, the British Government will not go back upon it, but I am not sure that I can fully share the optimism expressed in this respect by the right hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair). Without consulting the Non-Intervention Committee, which has not, I believe, had one single meeting since July, the British, French, German and Italian Governments, on their own initiative, sent the Secretary of the Non-Intervention Committee on a rather mysterious journey to see General Franco. I say "mysterious journey" because its declared object was to explain to General Franco a nonintervention plan which was perfectly plain and which he had made it clear he was not going to accept. I understand that the Secretary of the Non-Intervention Committee has returned and has now produced a report which is the strongest possible demand that there should be the 2576 grant of belligerent rights to General Franco, and not only those limited belligerent rights which were foreseen in the non-intervention plan, if and when there had been the withdrawals, of which we have heard so much and seen so little, but entire belligerent rights, which would certainly result in the starvation of the Spanish people on the Government side and their submission, and the bringing into power in Spain of the man who undoubtedly depends upon Signor Mussolini and Herr Hitler for his power.
Although the Prime Minister told us that we shall abide by the Non-Intervention plan so long as it is the generally accepted plan, he also said that if we can find a just and practical plan for arranging an armistice we should use all the influence we could command to get it accepted. Those are not his exact words but they are as near as I could get them. The Prime Minister would remove very much uneasiness in this House if before the Debate ends he would clear up this point once and for all. It is not this country but Italy which has demands to make, and I doubt very much whether the best way of keeping those demands within the bounds of moderation is for the Prime Minister to go to Mussolini instead of Mussolini coming to the Prime Minister. The uneasiness of which I have spoken is, I am sure, shared by many hon. Members on the benches opposite, even though they may not confess to it by their votes to-night. Their tradition of loyalty to individuals rather than to principles may cause them to strangle their consciences. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. Bartlett
It is a very worthy loyalty, the old-school-tie loyalty; you must not sneak on the monitor, and that sort of thing, but I hope that hon. Members will not strangle their consciences with their old school tie. [Interruption.] In spite of the unfortunate effect of my last remarks, we all of us want national unity, and we want it very much at this juncture. We would, therefore, appeal to the Prime Minister at least to avoid in Rome any step which will widen and deepen existing differences, and that he will give us, if possible, more precise assurance to that effect to-night. If the Government have not full confidence in this House, I do not see how the House can have full confidence in the Government.
On a point of Order. Is it the correct thing that we should have a Debate of this kind going on while there is no representative of the Foreign Office on the Front Bench?
Mr. Deputy - Speaker (Sir Dennis Herbert)
The hon. Member ought by this time to have discovered that that is not a point of Order.
§ 8.14 p.m.
§ Sir A. Wilson
The hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Bartlett) has made a serious accusation against the British Broadcasting Corporation, which should be either substantiated or withdrawn—namely, that as a minor result of his having made a very moderate criticism of the Foreign Secretary his engagement at Broadcasting House was terminated.
§ Sir A. Wilson
I hope the hon. Member will make it quite clear that it was not in consequence of any political prejudice on the part of the Governors that he left Broadcasting House.
§ Mr. Bartlett
I cannot imagine that the circumstances in which I ended at the B.B.C. interests hon. Members very much, but I cannot go quite as far as suggested by the hon. Member, that I left entirely of my own free will.
§ Sir A. Wilson
The point is of importance. Hon. Members on both sides of the House would be reluctant to believe that political prejudice could affect employment of broadcasters, and I am glad that the hon. Member has made the point clear. The hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) made satirical and what seemed to be rather offensive remarks about Moors fighting for the Cross of Christ. The French Government and ourselves are fortunate in the possession of more loyal Moslem troops and citizens than any other countries. They have steadily supported us for over a century in many countries, and it would be very regrettable if a purely religious point was imported into this discussion.
§ Mr. Thurtle
Is it not a fact that the Moslems were appealed to, to support General Franco on the ground that he is a great Christian gentleman?
§ Sir A. Wilson
I have no reason whatever to believe that any such appeal was made to the Moors. The hon. Member for West Leyton (Mr. Sorensen) referred to the Government as having followed the wrong road for a long period. Surely it is pertinent to remember that when the Rhineland was occupied, which to my mind, and I said so at the time, was almost bound to seal the fate of Czechoslovakia, no dissentient voice was raised in this House when we decided to take no action, and the hon. Member for Bridgwater himself took the view that there was something to be said for the Germans on that occasion.
§ Mr. Bartlett
I must apologise for having to rise again. In point of fact, I was a strong supporter of the policy of the then Foreign Secretary, who was very much in favour of intervention to enforce our Treaty obligations.
§ Sir A. Wilson
I have no reason to think that there was any desire on either side of the House that the then Foreign Secretary should go beyond an informal protest, and when in May of this year the Foreign Secretary said that we should not be uninterested in the fate of Czechoslovakia but declined in advance to commit this country to specific action, no responsible voice was raised against him. The line we followed till the beginning of September has been one which, broadly speaking, has the consent and concurrence, so far as Central Europe is concerned, of both sides of the House.
§ Mr. Alexander
If the hon. Member looks at speeches from this side of the House he will find that we have repeatedly asked for assurances.
§ Sir A. Wilson
I do not think hon. Members in any part of the House would have been willing for the Government to commit themselves unreservedly to armed intervention. I want to touch upon one specific point which may be raised in Rome—namely the Suez Canal. It is impossible for us or any other nation to regard the present situation as satisfactory. For the past three years the dividends paid have averaged 50 per cent. per annum, which is a lot. This is an international public utility and should be 2579 run as such. It is in the hands of a commercial company whose president frankly avows that the duty of the board to the shareholders requires them to charge just so much as the traffic will bear, just so much as will prevent any large quantity of shipping from going round the Cape. The capital in British hands is 46 per cent., but when Disraeli bought the shares neither he nor those who acted on his behalf realised that only 250 of these shares carried voting rights. We have 10 votes, say one-eighth of one per cent. of the voting strength. We have no sort of control. We have had three Government directors since 1875 and since 1885 seven unofficial directors, whose remuneration is 2 per cent. of the dividend, and is £3,000 and £4,000 a year. There are 32 directors in all. Seven British directors are self-nominated. When one dies the survivors appoint his successor. No unofficial director has ever retired. Under a recent agreement one-third of the directors will in course of time be Egyptian subjects nominated by the Egyptian Government, to whom the concession will revert in 21 years time.
The Egyptian Government is thus bound to come very prominently into the picture, and we should understand their position. Egypt was entitled under the original concession to 15 per cent, of the profits, which were not expected to be large. De Lesseps suggested that they should be restricted to 25 per cent. The Egyptian Government sold their right to the 15 per cent, profits for a derisively small sum years ago. They naturally look forward to the time when they may receive a considerable sum. If the Egyptian Government wish to make the greatest possible contribution that a Mediterranean Power can make to international good will they will not take a purely financial view of the enterprise. They will take the view that as by the disappearance of Turkish rule they enjoy territorial sovereignty over this little strip of territory separating Europe from Asia, they will regard themselves as trustees for the world and will put it on the same basis as the Panama Canal, which is managed and controlled by the United States of America on a non-profit-making basis. The Panama Canal cost three times as much as the Suez Canal to construct, and although it costs nearly 2580 twice as much to run the dues are 10 or 15 per cent. lower than Suez Canal dues, and even so, it is not losing money.
I should like a solemn appeal to be made to the Egyptian Government to consider themselves as trustees for this great highway between Europe and Asia. We own 46 per cent. of the shares, practically the whole balance being in French hands. It is mainly a financial matter. I should like the concession to be renewed, if need be, on totally different terms, not in 20 years' time, but now. The dues could be reduced by nearly one-half, and still the company could pay between 6 per cent. and 8 per cent. on its capital. That would be of immense assistance to the trade of all nations, whether east or west of Suez. At the present moment, the dues amount to nearly 5 per cent. of the ad valorem value of most of the goods which pass through the Canal. On a cargo of Cardiff coal going to Port Sudan, the dues would be equivalent to 37½ per cent, of the ad valorem value of the coal f.o.b. Cardiff, an absolutely prohibitive tariff. The charging of half-dues on ships in ballast affects only tankers, and is wholly unscientific, since it costs just as much to take a ship in ballast through the Canal as a ship fully laden. The whole question of the tariffs needs to be gone into afresh. Over one-half of all the cargoes from East Africa reach us via the Cape, and millions of tons of shipping now go round the Cape to avoid Canal dues at from £3,000 to £5,000 a ship.
The shipowners talk as though the Canal dues were primarily their concern, but it is the shippers who really pay the dues. The shipowners do not care much one way or the other; as long as ships of all nations have to pay the same dues. But the dues are equivalent to a free gift of a fortnight's steaming time to Japanese ships which leave Tokio or Yokohama for Indian or African ports. I look forward to the day when the Suez Canal will be under Egyptian control, with the active co-operation of all the present French management, which has a very fine record, and with the active concurrence of all users of the Canal. The 1869 concession laid down that those countries principally interested were to be represented on the board. At the present time, apart from the English and French, there is only one Dutch representative on the board; but the nations concerned—Italy, 2581 Germany, France, Holland and ourselves —should be represented proportionately to their shipping interests.
§ Sir A. Wilson
Yes. I want to see proportionate representation. There is also something to be said for the Italian claims in regard to Tunis, not territorially but in their domestic and administrative aspects. It must not be forgotten that when the French took Tunis in 1890, with the consent of Germany and the assent of this country, they promised not to fortify Bizerta ("British Documents on the War," Vol. VII, page 385), but they did so four years later. There are more people of Italian blood than of French blood in Tunis. A great deal of mutual concession would be possible in Tunis without any territorial change. I hope that when the question of Tunis is discussed, as it must be, it will be dealt with, if possible, by some independent arbitration, which will enable both sides to put forward what I believe to be a perfectly genuine case of administrative trouble of very old standing; for anybody who is familiar with the state of Tunis will realise that these problems which are now being discussed so angrily in the Italian Press are really ancient grievances based on a substratum of solid fact.
Mr. J. J. Davidson
The hon. Gentleman has referred to discussions between France and Italy with regard to Tunis. Will he give his opinion with regard to the legitimate owners of that part of the world?
§ Sir A. Wilson
I can tell the hon. Gentleman that Mr. Milner Gibson, a former Home Secretary, was the last man to have received a permit from the Bey of Tunis to sail his yacht in the Mediterranean.
Is it not a fact that every important order must still receive the signature of the Bey?
§ Sir A. Wilson
I would not like to go into the question of French rights in Tunis. It is not our affair unless we are 2582 asked to intervene. The hon. Member for West Leyton put a question as to whether we were to say "What we have, we hold," and expect other nations in the ultimate resort not to take by the sword what we obtained by that means. I am one of those who have always held that we should be prepared to consider the return to Germany of some of her former Colonies (excluding Tanganyika) as part of a general settlement to which all, including Germany, must contribute, and in which other Powers than ourselves must play their part.
§ Sir A. Wilson
I do not include the consent of the inhabitants of the territories concerned, for the simple reason that we never asked their opinion. I have no reason to believe that the Germans have much to be ashamed of in their Colonial administration. We all have skeletons in our cupboards. If anybody starts atrocity-mongering, he can find ample cases from every part of the world without difficulty; and he can embody them in a book, and sow the seeds of hatred and contempt easily enough. I have seen that done in every country. But equally, I concur with the Prime Minister's remark, towards the end of his speech, that there must be some indication from Germany that she is willing to come to a general settlement. I will go further and say that to-day a general settlement must include a very different attitude towards the Jews. Subject to that, I would not exclude, as a condition of a general settlement, the possibility of returning some of the colonies formerly held by Germany, and I am convinced that the interests of the British Empire would not suffer thereby.
We are strong enough to withstand any menace which might occur as a consequence of Germany having regained a footing in Africa or elsewhere. The British Empire is more likely to be kept together by having the healthy stimulus of a rival Colonial Power than by remaining merely a congeries of States bound by no ties except those of a common sovereignty, of trade and race. I believe that the more we bring Germany into contact with the outside world the less likelihood there will be of a clash between Germany and most of the rest 2583 of the world. Germany is suffering from a form of claustrophobia, and if we can in some measure open up the world to her by returning some of her colonies, I believe that, in the long run, we shall serve the interests of peace. I hear mutterings of disapproval from certain hon. Members. I understand the feelings of those who profoundly disagree with me on this point. But I would not hesitate to make that sacrifice if we could thereby get a general, comprehensive settlement. Do we envisage a fresh bloody war in Europe as one of the responsibilities of a mandatory Power? I will not ask the youth of this country to fight solely for a few million African acres. In the words of Professor G. P. Gooch, a great Liberal and a man as much given as any man in this country to the pursuit of peace:The private citizen may be prepared to surrender his life rather than his faith. The State cannot and must not make such a sacrifice, because it is the trustee of generations to come. The supreme obligation of the State to survive may involve decisions which the individual would feel bound, on ethical grounds, to reject. This is a difference between public and private morality which cannot be ignored. The individual may sacrifice his life but the community must live on. A trustee cannot surrender an estate which is not his own. In other words, action by a Government, within certain limits is determined by considerations of what may be called a biological, rather than a moral order.That is my own profound conviction but we have no right to maintain a position in relation to all the mandated territories, in the same degree as to our own colonies and Dominions. For British soil, for the Dominions and for the Crown Colonies, I would fight and ask others to fight without hesitation, but we took charge of the mandated territories under the superintendence of the League of Nations, under a form of words deliberately intended, as I can see, to differentiate our territorial possession rights there from those in our colonies. I regard them as in a different category. I hope the Government will not exclude in the future the possibility of dealing with Germany in this matter in a sense of justice arising from strength rather than of strength unaccompanied by a sense of justice.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Cocks
The hon. Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson) said that when 2584 Germany marched into the Rhineland and broke the Locarno Treaty the then Foreign Secretary was in favour of making only a formal protest. But the hon. Member knows perfectly well that the then Foreign Secretary in conjunction with France, made every effort at that time to get Germany to agree to another settlement, which was to replace Locarno, and which would have included a non-aggression pact in Central Europe. Such a settlement would have saved Czechoslovakia. Germany made excuses for not coming to a conference such as was then suggested, and we all know now the reason why. But it is the opinion of many people that it would have been a very good thing if strong measures had been taken at that time. It is easy to be wise after the event, but we know now that if Germany had been ordered out of the Rhineland, she would have gone. That is what German generals have stated.
I come now to the subject of the Debate. After all what we are discussing here is a Vote of Censure, and I wish to apply myself to that point. No decent-minded man or woman can possibly quarrel with a policy of appeasement, even if it is trying to appease people who will not even sit down to dinner with the Prime Minister. If the Government can remove any legitimate grievances from which Germany or Italy may suffer, and by so doing give us a durable peace, then they will have deserved well of the country and of the world. One stipulation which I would make would be that in trying to bring about the appeasement of Germany and Italy, we must not sacrifice the legitimate interests and liberties of other nations. We here feel very strongly that in trying to bring about the appeasement of Germany the Government have sacrificed the liberties and independence of Czechoslovakia and imperilled the very existence of other countries and we are afraid that in trying to carry on a policy of appeasement with Italy the Prime Minister may sacrifice the liberties and independence of Spain.
Spain, like Abyssinia, was a member of the League and the Spanish Government in no way endeavoured to interfere with the legitimate interests of Italy. Yet we know that in July, 1936, both Germany and Italy helped General Franco to start an insurrection in that country. Our country refused then, and has refused ever since, to allow the Spanish 2585 Government to purchase arms for its own defence. A promise was secured from Italy and Germany that they would follow a similar policy of non-intervention. Pledges to that effect were, I would point out, given to us by the Governments of Italy and Germany. But we know that, from the outset of the insurrection, Germany and Italy have never ceased to supply General Franco with vast quantities of arms and large numbers of fighting men. There has been overwhelming evidence to that effect. Despite that evidence, Ministers continue to state in this House that they have little or no information on the subject. I think it is time to say publicly, and I wish the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs were in his place, so that I might say it to his face, that the answers which Ministers give on this question are an insult to the House of Commons, and not very creditable to the Ministers themselves. Last April the Prime Minister entered into an agreement with Italy by which the conquest of Abyssinia was recognised and he gave a pledge to the House that this Agreement would not come into force until there was a settlement in Spain. He said in February that the Agreement would not be approvedif in the meantime, anything had been done 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 undertakings that they had given to acept the British formula. No intimation could be plainer than that. [OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st February, 1938; cols. 152–153, Vol. 332.]Those were the right hon. Gentleman's own words. In spite of that, Italy continued to send help to General Franco. On 14th May Signor Mussolini, speaking at Genoa, said:We desire the victory of General Franco and will do everything to achieve this.Last July the reinforcements to General Franco became so heavy that the British representative in Rome actually protested and made representations to Count Ciano on the matter, and the fact was not denied. Then came Munich, and Mussolini had to receive some reward for what he did there—for saving the Prime Minister's face, because that was all that happened at Munich, as I propose to show in a moment. At the same time it was proved that the Prime Minister also saved Signor Mussolini's face, so that dis- 2586 honours were easy, and no further concessions to Italy were really required. Talks in Rome were resumed, 10,000 Italian troops were withdrawn and although British ships were still being bombed the Prime Minister declared that a settlement had been reached although Lord Halifax had said:Signor Mussolini has always made it plain … that … he is not prepared to see General Franco defeated.It seems to me, from those statements, that the Prime Minister is like Herr von Bethmann-Hollweg in 1914. To him, pledges and treaties are merely scraps of paper, to be torn up when they were found inconvenient, and my suggestion is that the Prime Minister is the Bethmann-Hollweg of England and, like his predecessor, is leading his country to disaster. He has dishonoured our name in Spain and in Central Europe, and, if he concedes belligerent rights to General Franco, as suggested by the hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Bartlett), he will dishonour our name in France as well. The Prime Minister has called for unity. I would like to say that if, as a result of the British Government's policy, the Spanish Republican Government are defeated, there will be no unity in this country at all, and the workers of this country will regard the Prime Minister (with the same unquenchable hostility with which they now regard the other two dictators.
With regard to Germany, in September, 1937, Signor Mussolini paid a visit to Berlin and there came to an agreement, the terms of which have been mentioned in this House over and over again. The terms of the agreement made between Signor Mussolini and Herr Hitler in September of last year were that Germany should have a clear field in Central Europe and Mussolini a clear field in Spain. Last November—and this is a point which has never been answered in this House or indeed ever put in this House, although it has been put elsewhere—Lord Halifax went to Germany and had an interview with Herr Hitler on the future foreign policy of Germany. What was said at that interview has never been disclosed in this House. We have been told that the conversations were confidential, but one of two things must have happened. Either Herr Hitler told Lord Halifax what his intentions towards Central Europe were, gave him some indication 2587 of what his ambitions were as regards Austria and Czechoslovakia, or he did not. If he did not, then our Government were deceived by Herr Hitler on that occasion, and if they were deceived on that occasion, why should they have any reason to trust him now?
On the other hand, he may have told Lord Halifax what his intentions were, and I have a shrewd suspicion that some indications to that effect were given. If that is so, the Government then had two courses before them. The Government might have said, "We do not agree with Germany's ambitions in Central Europe or that they should be allowed to annex Austria and carve up Czechoslovakia, and we shall take steps to strengthen the opposition to such a course—in other words, we shall take steps to strengthen the collective system and stand by Czechoslovakia and Austria in case they are attacked." Nothing of that sort was done, but the Prime Minister might have taken the other course. He might have agreed with Herr Hitler's demands and said, "I see no harm in those ideas," and made up his mind then and there not to resist them. If that is the case, if, after hearing from Herr Hitler what his ideas were, the Government made up their minds not to resist those ambitions, the whole of the crisis, with the exception of a few hours on a certain occasion, which arose over Czechoslovakia so far as this country was concerned was a sham fight, and the British public has been deluded and deceived from the very beginning of the controversy to the end. I may say that, although that view, as far as I know, has not been expressed in this House, it is, I understand, very current in the United States of America.
Let me go into a little more detail. Last February the Prime Minister came down to this House and announced a change in the direction of our foreign policy. It was to be a policy of appeasement, founded on friendship with the dictators. He pushed aside the League of Nations and said that the small nations would no longer be able to look to the League to defend them against aggression, and that what he wanted was an understanding between the four nations—France, Italy, Germany, and ourselves—which, he said, would preserve the peace of Europe for some considerable time. That was the 2588 statement made in this House on two or three occasions. The immediate reply from Germany was found in a statement of the "Times" correspondent in Berlin to the effect that an agreement or understanding of this sort between the four Powers was only possible if France broke off her alliances with Czechoslovakia and Russia and if Germany was given a free hand in Central Europe. That was in reply to the Prime Minister's suggestion, and I have an idea that the Prime Minister must have noted that reply, because very shortly afterwards came the interview at a certain notorious house at which the Prime Minister is reported to have said that Czechoslovakia would not be defended by Russia, France, or ourselves and, therefore, would have to agree with the German demands made upon her if they were reasonable. The Prime Minister also took into his Ministry as Under-Secretaries two Members who had expressed the same view about Czechoslovakia.
In March Herr Hitler marched into Austria and at that time gave a pledge to Prague that Germany would abide by the 1926 Treaty. Lord Halifax, speaking in the House of Lords, said about that pledge:By these assurances, solemnly given, and more than once repeated, we naturally expect the German Government to abide.Yet when the crisis about Czechoslovakia came, and President Benes appealed to that very Agreement, the German Press sneered at it and described it is "a dusty document" of Geneva. The Prime Minister of the British Government, without the knowledge of the British people, at that time, in conjunction with the French Government, tore the Treaty out of the hands of President Benes and forced him to hand over hundreds of thousands of his fellow countrymen to the Nazi fury and concentration camps of the Nazis.
It is obvious that all through last summer, when it was clear to all the world that Germany was making preparations for an onset upon Czechoslovakia, when 400,000 people were taken from civil occupations to build up the German fortifications in the Rhineland, when 1,500,000 men were being mobilised for so-called manoeuvres, our Prime Minister had no intention of putting up any serious opposition to Herr Hitler. There was no attempt made to organise the League of Nations; there was no consultation with Turkey, 2589 Rumania, Yugoslavia, or Russia, all of whom might have been willing to give assistance, there were no staff conversations even with France until the very last moment, up to the Nuremburg speech the British Ambassador in Germany had had no interview with Herr Hitler to warn him that we might take action if he proceeded against Czechoslovakia, and the British Fleet was not mobilised till the very morning of Munich. And all the time this was happening influential people in this country were telling Herr Hitler and Herr von Ribbentrop that they could do what they liked and that the Prime Minister would not lift up a finger to stop them. I believe that if right steps had been taken at that time, Czechoslovakia would have been saved, Nazi aggression would have been checked, we might have had the opportunity of building up a reformed League, or a strong League, on the basis of justice. In my view, all that the Prime Minister was concerned with then or during all this time was, with the aid of Lord Runciman, to bring about a situation in which France would be compelled to repudiate her treaty with Czechoslovakia and abandon her alliance in the East, and that we, therefore, would not be compelled to go to her assistance. That is exactly what happened.
The main argument to support the policy of Berchtesgaden is that it was in accordance with the policy of self-determination. There is no evidence whatever that even the German population of Czechoslovakia desired to join the Third Reich. No responsible leader of the Sudeten Germans ever said they wanted to join the Third Reich. They had their grievances, it is true, but they could be altered by different political arrangements within the State. Having breathed the free air of democracy, the majority of them did not want to breathe in the mephitic atmosphere of Nazi slavery, because that is what happens when anybody is forced to join the Third Reich. Even Herr Heinlein, probably the most contemptible figure in the whole present business, the paid henchman of Herr Hitler, made no claim that the Sudeten Germans should be annexed to Germany until after the Nuremburg speech, when from his safe refuge in Germany, he called upon his deluded followers to rise against the Government.
If Berchtesgaden was bad, Godesberg was worse, and Munich was worst of all. 2590 There were no safeguards in that document which was presented to the Prime Minister on the point of the sword, and because there were no safeguards the International Commission was set up to work out the details of the safeguard. That International Commission, consisting of three Ambassadors and the Foreign Minister of Germany, have been sitting in Berlin in an atmosphere of menace and military autocracy. Every time a question had to be decided and it looked as though the argument was against Germany, the army gave its orders and the decision was given to Germany. The newspapers of this country have not sufficiently reported the proceedings of that Commission, although the "Manchester Guardian" has had many interesting articles on it. Officers were in attendance and ringing up headquarters, saying, "Our German representatives are giving something away," and they get orders back that this should not be done. Practically every point that the International Commission has given has, as the Under-Secretary well knows, been given away to Germany. Germany has secured practically every point, and it has been secured, as Memel was secured, under the threat of force. The Prime Minister denies that Munich was a great defeat and he strongly deprecates anyone saying it was. I am not one of those "yes-men" whom the Prime Minister likes to have surrounding him. With some knowledge of history, I say that I do not know any case in the whole course of British history of a diplomatic defeat so shattering and humiliating as Munich. So humiliating and shattering was it, that I have heard hon. Members on the other side saying—not in the House—that they consider that under the leadership of the Prime Minister the life of the British Empire is moving peacefully to its close.
Observe some of the results of Munich. First, the only democratic State east of the Rhine is being rapidly turned into a totalitarian State under the protection of Germany, and taking its foreign and domestic policy from the Third Reich. President Benes was forced to resign by Germany and to flee the country. The State itself, having lost one-third of its population and nearly one-third of its territory, has been divided into three parts, two of which. Slovakia and Ruthenia, are practically under the directing hand of German control and are being 2591 used as a base for a new attack on the Ukraine. The alliances with Russia and France have been abandoned. Second, 1,000,000 Czechs and 500,000 German democracts have been handed over to Nazi rule against their will, and important industrial centres, which contain practically no Germans, have been handed over to Germany for economic and strategic reasons. Third, the strength of the Germany Army has been increased by the equivalent of 30 divisions and 1,000 aeroplanes. I saw the other day that 1,200 or 1,300 heavy guns are being moved from Czechoslovakian fortifications to the Rhine. Three hundred thousand men trained in the Czechoslovakian Army are now available to increase the German reserves, apart from the annual intake of 60,000 or 70,000 men. We have been told to-night that the armament works of Czechoslovakia are now being employed to increase the armaments of Germany.
In fact, Hitler has won a complete victory. The whole of south-east Europe is being brought under his economic and political control. The Prime Minister has said that he does not regard the mission of Herr Funk as very menacing. I should like to draw his attention to a statement by Dr. Imredy, the Prime Minister of Hungary. He paid a visit to Berlin a few days before the Czechoslovakian crisis, and on his return this is what he said—I think he made a very injudicious speech—German intentions are to establish a great German commonwealth of nations which would include the smaller nations of south-east Europe, while guaranteeing their frontiers and independence. They will be subject to Germany in foreign policy and will be unable to conclude treaties which might be directed against Nazi Germany. Czechoslovakia was the stumbling block.The stumbling block of that scheme is now the pedestal of Hitler's victory. In the meantime, the collective system has been destroyed, Russia has been forced into isolation, British and French influence in Eastern and Central Europe has been reduced to zero. At the same time, Hitler, armed as Napoleon was never armed, stands triumphant over Europe with his allies, Italy and Japan, menacing British interests in the Mediterranean, in Africa and in the Far East. As to the cause of appeasement, it has vanish into thick air. It is clear that Germany is preparing for a new spring 2592 offensive in Eastern Europe, while Italy is threatening British interests in the south. In spite of the optimistic platitudes of the Prime Minister and his followers, the only gain of Munich is that it has given a short breathing-space in which to prepare for another crisis, and to remedy those shocking deficiencies in our defences for which Ministers and some ex-Ministers ought to be impeached. For all this we have to thank the Prime Minister for a policy in which he has been encouraged and misled by a small group of influential people in this country who, like Flandin in France, have gone almost to the knife edge of treason and have assured the Nazis that the British Government will never fight, and have almost brought about the ruin of their adopted country.
When Hitler stated that he had no further territorial claims in Europe the Prime Minister paid a great deal of attention to that statement, but it has already been pointed out in the House that he said the same thing on 7th March, 1936, just after he entered the Rhineland. He said:Germany will never break the peace of Europe. We have no territorial demands to make in Europe.The point I want to make is that the Nazi Press are now stating that this assurance given by Hitler cannot prevent German communities in other countries from clamouring for union with the Reich. That is how it is got over. The second statement which is made is that Germany never wished to go to war with Britain. That may be true for the time being, because the new juridical dogma of the Third Reich is, "Right is only what is useful to Germany." As long as we are useful to Germany I am certain that Germany will not wish to go to war with us, but we cannot overlook the demands, which have been laid down as unalterable, of the Nazis:We claim all Germans in Sudeten-Germany, Alsace-Lorraine, Poland, Austria and the States which succeeded the old Austria.As long as we allow those aims to be fulfilled and put up no opposition, I am sure that Germany will be quite ready to keep the peace with us. But when all our friends are destroyed, perhaps, as in the case of Czechoslovakia, with our assistance, then she will turn upon the greatest, the richest, the most envied of all her rivals and competitors, that is, 2593 ourselves. The issue was plainly stated for us many years ago by a distinguished poet who was greatly admired by the followers of the father of the Prime Minister. Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem called "The Old Issue" in which he pointed out that our liberties had been won by our forefathers by the sword from tyrants, and he begged us not to allow those tyrants to return under any pretence or in any form. He warned us particularly against paying Danegeld in the name of appeasement. I do not often quote poetry in this House, but here a few appropriate lines:They that beg us barter—wait his yielding mood—Pledge the years we hold in trust—pawn our brothers' blood,Howso great their clamour, what so e'er their claim,Suffer not the old King, under any name.Cruel in the shadow, crafty in the sun,Far beyond his borders shall his teachings run.Sloven, sullen, savage, secret uncontrolled—Laying on a new land evil of the old. We shall take our station, dirt beneath his feet,While his hired captains jeer us in the street,Give no heed to bondsmen, masking war with peace.Suffer not the old King, here or overseas.I believe this country is faced by the greatest peril with which we have ever been faced in the whole course of our long and not inglorious history. We are faced by a virtual alliance of three aggressive States. At the head of those States are men utterly ruthless, cold and determined, deaf to appeals, to reason, to justice and to humanity, following a settled course towards world domination, and finding at every point the British Empire an obstacle to that goal and that ambition. In the face of that peril I believe our policy should be not only to rearm, but to build up a system of collective security, to seek friendships, to build up alliances, and to use all the methods of diplomacy to weaken and disunite those hostile forces, By sending military missions, for example, to Turkey and to Moscow, and, lastly, adopting a masterful policy in the Western Mediterranean, we shall do more to stave off danger than by any umbrella-carrying visits to Munich or to Rome.
In the days of the Prime Minister's father there was a saying, alluding to the 2594 armament firms of his family, that the more the British Empire expands the more the Chamberlain family contracts. At the present time we can say that the more the Chamberlain influence expands the more the prestige of the British Empire contracts. I believe that unless the policy of the Government is reversed, either by its own action or by the action of the electorate, we are doomed to drift on through the darkening shadows of danger and death until the time comes when the sword of vengeance and retribution strikes, and then, unless the country rallies under wiser, braver and more resolute leaders than we have at present, we shall be driven to headlong surrender, and all that will be left of our power and our greatness will be our name and the memory of our fall.
§ 9.10 p.m.
§ Viscount Cranborne
In these dark and difficult times in which we live all debates on foreign policy are of importance, but I think that this particular Debate has unusual importance. It is the last full-dress Debate that will take place in the House before we separate for the Christmas Recess. Hon. Members will not be meeting again until the end of January, and that, in the present situation of international politics, is a very long time indeed. I do not suppose that there ever has been a time when the international situation has been more fluid and uncertain than it is to-day. We are like people living on a quicksand. The ground is constantly moving under our feet. Each morning we take up our newspaper with increasing anxieties and very seldom are those anxieties unjustified. What is the reason for this? I suggest that it is this, that certain nations in the world to-day, and notably Germany and Italy, regard themselves as in the position of creditors of the rest of the world in the international situation. They think that great debts are still owing. The full extent of those debts we do not yet know. They are only very gradually disclosed to us. We know that they included Abyssinia, Austria, and the Sudeten-Deutschland. We know now that they include the ex-German Colonies, Tunis, Corsica, Nice, some adjustment with regard to the Djibuti Railway and some share of the control of the Suez Canal. But that may not be all. They may be only instalments. Behind them there may well be Danzig, 2595 Memel, the Ukraine, and the Polish Corridor.
It is true that those claims have not yet been disclosed, but in the light of recent experience who will say that those may not be part of the debt which Germany and Italy consider are owing to them? Until a fortnight ago we had no knowledge, hardly even a suspicion, that there was a claim to Tunis and Corsica. It came to me, as I think it came to all hon. Members, as a bolt from the blue. We thought, indeed, that it was entirely ruled out by the terms of the Anglo-Italian Agreement, which had just been signed. But now it is a recognised issue in international affairs. If this claim has not been officially put forward by the Italian Government, it has certainly been unofficially blessed, and possibly unofficially inspired. It is inevitable, therefore, that we should all of us be preoccupied about the present and future claims of Germany and Italy and should want to know what is the attitude of His Majesty's Government with regard to them.
I beg the House to believe that I do not make these observations in any spirit of mischief or with any desire to embarrass the Government. It seems to me that the situation is far too serious for that, and personally I regret that the Opposition should have put down a Vote of Censure. I think there are some of us who would have preferred our deliberations to-day to take place in the atmosphere of a Council of State. The cut-and-thrust of party politics hardly seems appropriate to the times. The people of England are not so much concerned with apportioning the blame for the past, as intensely anxious to have information and reassurance with regard to the future. This, I must honestly say, the House of Commons is fully entitled to have. With all deference to the Prime Minister I feel that further information should be given. After all, we in this House, worthily or unworthily, represent the Commons of England. We are responsible to the people who have elected us. How are we to fulfil our responsibilities unless we have some information? It is surely fair, therefore, that we should ask for the view of His Majesty's Government towards these present and future claims of Germany and Italy. Do the Government accept the thesis that those 2596 two great countries are still in a position of creditors and that further concessions are due to them by the world, and in particular by us and France? Or do they, on the contrary, hold the view which many of us hold that whether or not there have been debts in the past those debts have now been amply satisfied and more than satisfied and that there are counter-debts owing to us?
These questions become especially urgent in view of the forthcoming visit of the Prime Minister and of the Foreign Secretary to Rome. I must confess that I am not yet quite clear about this visit. I understand the purpose of it; it is to improve relations between England and Italy, and from that general purpose none of us would dissent. It is as to the character of the visit that I am a little bit bewildered, I gather that it is not a mere visit of courtesy, a gesture of good will. There is more to it than that. There are to be serious and possibly vital conversations. But we do not know yet whether there is to be an agenda, and, if so, what is to be in that agenda. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) said that we ought to know what is in that agenda. If there is not to be an agenda and there is to be just a general discussion we should like to.know whether the Prime Minister proposes to place any limit on the subjects. Is he going to say that there are certain subjects which are not discussable at all? Take, for instance, this new claim to Tunis and Corsica. The Government have, I understand, declared that such a claim would be a contravention of the Anglo-Italian Agreement. I think we all welcome that declaration, but would it not be wise to go even further and to say: "This is not a subject we can in any circumstances discuss, and if such a claim is made on France we shall stand four-square with France in resistance to it"?
I saw a quotation in the "Sunday Times" yesterday from the "Frankfurter Zeitung" giving the German view, expressed with a clarity and force that one always associates with Dr. Goebbels's propaganda machine. The paper said this:In comparison with the cumbersome deliberations regarding the degree of British obligations in case of a conflict (between France and Italy) one can point to the fact 2597 that in the relations between Germany and Italy no such deliberations have been necessary in these years of the Axis. They will not be necessary in future. We know our relations towards one another.Why should be be reluctant in our relations with France to be just as clear and just as resolute as they are?
Or take Spain, in regard to belligerent rights, I understand the position of the Government to be that we are prepared to grant to both parties the belligerent rights which are defined in the British plan, when all the other conditions laid down in the plan are fulfilled. I do not think that this would satisfy all hon. Gentlemen opposite, but I think it would satisfy a very large number of people in England, the great majority. But is it not desirable that we should make that abundantly clear to the Italian Government and that we should say to them that although we are quite ready to discuss belligerent rights under those conditions, we will not discuss them at all under any other conditions? I suggest that it would be a useful and desirable thing to say, before the Prime Minister goes at Rome at all.
We all appreciate the desire of His Majesty's Government not to spoil the atmosphere of a conversation, but there is something to my mind even worse than an impaired atmosphere, and that is a false atmosphere. We know that above all things the Prime Minister is a realist and I am sure that he will agree that a negotiation between two parties who labour under a complete misapprehension as to each other's point of view cannot be expected to yield any fruitful results—can hardly be expected to yield any results at all. For the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary to go to Rome and fail would be far worse than for them not to go at all.
It is all the more important that His Majesty's Government should state their position in that there are undoubtedly great misconceptions in Italy as to the views of the Prime Minister himself. I do not know whether hon. Members saw in the "Times" of r4th December a quotation from an Italian newspaper called "Gazetta del Popolo." If hon. Members will allow me I will quote it to them again. It appears to be a very important passage:The last word in French policy is always said in London. This was proved over the reoccupation of the Rhineland, over the 2598 Anschluss, and over the Sudetenland. In each case France had said, 'Never,' but Britain thought otherwise. So to-day, if Britain tells France to 'pay' in Spain and in Africa, she will pay. At the bottom the question of war or peace is a problem of British internal politics. If Mr. Chamberlain holds firm it will be peace.That is a monstrous suggestion. It is an insult both to France and to England, and above all to the Prime Minister himself. I do not think anyone believes that it represents his view. I believe it is an absolute travesty of it. But it seems most undesirable that either the Italian people or Signor Mussolini himself should be left under any illusion on such an important matter. This inspired Italian passage seems to be very ominous, and for the Prime Minister to go to Rome upon an exploratory visit with these indications before him seems very much like the Emperor going to Canossa to try to find out, by personal contact, what were the views of the Pope. I feel, therefore, and I say so with all deference, that the Government should make clear before the Prime Minister leaves for Rome, and possibly to-night, if the Chancellor of the Exchequer will do it, both to the Italian, British and French people, what is their attitude both with regard to the general claims of France and Italy and with regard to the more limited issues that I have mentioned. I believe that such a step on the part of the Government would do a great deal to clear the air, and that so far from injuring the prospects of the Rome visit it would go a very long way to give it a chance of achieving real and practical results.
§ 9.25 p.m.
§ Mr. McCorquodale
I do not want to follow the Noble Lord the Member for South Dorset (Viscount Cranborne) except on one point. He seemed to suggest that the Prime Minister has not made our attitude clear over the question of belligerent rights. I think the Prime Minister in his speech this afternoon defined our position exactly and as the Noble Lord required. The Noble Lord did not seem to think that the Government defined their position over the Italian claims to Tunis, Corsica and Nice. I should have thought that the Prime Minister in his broadcast speech on Tuesday night and the answers to questions in the House, and his statement this afternoon in the House, showed perfectly 2599 clearly that the relations between France and ourselves were most cordial and complete.
§ Viscount Cranborne
I did not say that the Prime Minister did not define our position about Tunis: what I said was that he did not say that he would not discuss the question at Rome. Indeed the Prime Minister went out of his way to say that everything would be discussed. The claim to Tunis seemed to me to be a thing that should not be discussed at all.
§ Mr. McCorquodale
I think that if the Noble Lord reads the Prime Minister's speech more closely, especially with regard to belligerent rights, he will see that his point is completely met, and the statement made by the Prime Minister about France in his broadcast speech on Tuesday night surely defines our attitude beyond any possible mistake to so clever a man as Signor Mussolini. I think everyone in this House, however he may disapprove of the Prime Minister's policy, has nothing but admiration for his courage, for his refusal to spare himself, and for his perseverance. I believe that I am one of a vast majority in this, country who also have complete confidence in his judgment and in his wisdom as well as in that of the Noble Lord the Foreign Secretary. If leadership from this country can succeed in bringing back sanity to a mad world I believe that the Prime Minister and Lord Halifax will accomplish it.
It seems to me that having or not having confidence in the Prime Minister and Lord Halifax personally is the kernel of the whole matter that we have been discussing to-night, and for this reason. When we discuss home affairs—unemployment, the social services, tariffs and the like—we can get, and do obtain, all the relevant facts on which we can form and express a judgment. But when we come to foreign affairs that cannot he the case. We cannot be told all the facts and the opinions that are available to the Foreign Secretary. It is quite obvious that that must be so. We are also in foreign affairs dealing with human beings, and human beings are always unpredictable. You never know exactly what course they are going to follow in the future; you can never with assurance, prophesy what will happen next. Problems in foreign affairs blow up over night 2600 —or at least over the week-end in these days—and so it is fundamental that we must have in charge men whom we can trust, and whose judgment we can accept. That trust, once given, must be real, and it must not disappear or revolt at the first setback or difficulty that we might meet. I think this is essential.
What is our goal? I think we are fundamentally all agreed. I would like to describe it as I see it under three headings. First of all, we all want peace, and confidence that peace may be enduring. We were told the other night by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) that it was right to hate war but it was wrong to fear war. I think the latter half of that statement to be profoundly untrue. For myself I must confess that I both hate war and I fear war. I hate war because of the sufferings, the agony, the misery, the waste that it causes. I hate it also because of its ghastly stupidity. But I regard war with fear because I believe it is the breeding-ground for evil, for wickedness and for the powers of darkness. The evils that we see stalking over Europe to-day, the hatreds and persecutions, the passions, the blasphemies, the tyrannies that poison our civilisation—these largely had their birth in the Great War and its immediate aftermath. And another greater war, I fear, might lead to an extension, to a further outburst of evil, so that at the end of it Christ himself might be forgotten and Satan rule triumphant over a shattered Europe. Also a fear of war may very well prevent war breaking out. The terrible weapons that men have designed to kill each other have indeed now become so ghastly that nations may well shrink from their use on their enemies when they know that their enemies will have the same weapons to reply in kind. Therefore, I say that to hate war and to fear war is natural and right, and that both those feelings may prevent war breaking out.
I want, secondly, to secure that no nation should feel itself to be oppressed, ostracised or excluded from the benefits that more fortunate nations enjoy, for such feelings breed antagonisms, arguments, disputes and conflicts. It is the duty of statesmanship—and I believe the Prime Minister understands this almost better than anyone else—to remove the basis from those feelings if they do exist. And, thirdly, I want to see first things 2601 put first in Europe. The first things in life, in my belief, are not material things, but things of the spirit and things of the mind. I want freedom for the individual to practice such communion with his Maker as he finds most satisfying to his own conscience, and I want him everywhere to have such peace of mind that he can so develop his own mental and spiritual faculties as to enrich his own life and that of all others with whom he comes in contact.
I realise, of course, that this last goal cannot be attained in Europe at the present time, but is that a reason for war? I say no. Such conditions will not last for ever. I also realise, of course, that other nations may make such attacks on us that our national life and our heritage may he imperilled. It is then, I believe, our bounden duty to face even war, believing that we must in the ultimate resort defend our heritage and our pledged word with our lives. But who can say that this was the position over the Sudeten German question? I can have no confidence in the judgment of those who condemn Munich and who would have faced war—the only alternative as I see it to Munich—for such a cause as preventing the Sudeten Germans from joining the Reich if they wished to.
That brings me to the point that I could have no confidence in such a Member as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) as regards the leadership of the nation's foreign policy. Except on rearmament, all his decisions, in my judgment, have been wrong in the recent past. Nor, with all due respect to the right hon. Gentleman, could I, or, I believe, the nation, have much more confidence in the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair), especially after some of the remarks that he addressed to us this afternoon. I wonder, too, whether the nation as a whole would really be prepared to place their lives and the lives of their dear ones in the hands of the Leader of the Opposition and his friends if they were faced immediately with the question of war or peace. No; my confidence is placed firmly with the Prime Minister and the Noble Lord, Lord Halifax, knowing that they will strive ceaselessly to reach such goals as I have endeavoured to describe.
May I finally urge upon the House and the country, in considering present affairs, 2602 the well known and oft-quoted words of Abraham Lincoln:With malice towards none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on.I believe there is too much malice here, as well as abroad; I believe there is too much uncharitableness here, as well as abroad. Let us keep watch over our own tongues and our own actions even as we express disapproval of the actions of others. May I finish on a personal note? I was at school during the last War, and came to manhood in the immediate postwar period. That was a period when it was the fashion to decry and "debunk" any generous action or enthusiastic impulse. It is, therefore, perhaps for the first time that I have felt that surge of enthusiasm and confidence in any man that I feel to-day in the Prime Minister. He has my confidence now, and he will have it in the future.
§ 9.38 p.m.
§ Captain Sir Derrick Gunston
My hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. McCorquodale) has told us that he hates war, and I can assure him that those who did not take his view about Munich equally hate war. I do not propose this evening to go into the rights or the wrongs of Munich; we had a four-days' debate on it, so perhaps I may say that I have come to praise Caesar and not to bury him. I join with my Noble Friend the Member for South Dorset (Viscount Cranborne) in being rather sorry that a Vote of Censure has been put down. I and others pleaded, at the time of Munich, for a foreign policy that the whole country would support, and, while the Government have not given us much response, I cannot help feeling that this Vote of Censure is not the best way of getting unity in policy, though I yield to no one in my acknowledgement of the right of an Opposition to put a Vote down. Although I agree with many of the sentiments that they have expressed, I rather feel, if they will forgive me for saying so, that they have never been very helpful in giving us the armed force that is necessary in order to back up our foreign policy, and I must deplore the fact that for some years they were very laggard in helping us in rearmament, though I candidly admit that they have now altered their views. But I notice that now they are somewhat suspicious about the voluntary register, and are 2603 totally opposed to a compulsory register. I cannot help feeling that if they want a really strong foreign policy carried out with the necessary force behind it they ought to take a much stronger line in providing the forces that are necessary.
When we look at Europe, before we can get the foreign policy which most of us desire, we have to consider the strategic considerations. I would remind the House that our foreign policy has been founded on three strategic considerations—first, that we should never allow, if we could prevent it, one country to dominate Europe by force; secondly, that the Low Countries, with which I also include the Channel Ports, must not pass into unfriendly hands or into the domination of another country; and, thirdly, that we must be predominant on the sea. I am not going to argue whether anything else could have been done at Munich, but I think we should be wiser if we were to admit that the strategical balance has now gone in favour of the totalitarian states. Bismarck once said that he who controlled Bohemia controlled Europe. We must admit that Germany is in a considerably stronger strategic position than she was before; we might even say that we see one country almost in a position to dominate Europe.
As regards the other two questions on which I think we ought to concentrate—can we save the Low Countries, and can we save the Channel Ports?—to-day it is absolutely essential that we should tighten up our friendship with France, and I very much welcome the speech of the Prime Minister on Tuesday. I have been quite open in my criticisms in the past. I have never for a moment said that I approved of the whole of the Government's foreign policy; but I think it is good in parts. That is why I propose to examine some of the most favourable aspects of the Government's policy. We must realise, as we do realise, and as the Government realise, that a close friendship with France is vital if democracy is to be saved; but I think we ought to face up to what that friendship means. If ever war should break out—of course we hope it will not—France might have to face with a population of 40,000,000, not only Germany with a population of 80,000,000, but possibly Italy as well. That would mean that a population of 2604 40,000,000 would have to face populations of 120,000,000 altogether. I believe that France could only do that with the help of the British Empire.
I suppose the French Air Force is about equal to the Italian Air Force. That means that, for England and France to be equal in the air to Italy and Germany, the English Air Force would have to be equal to that of Germany. That is why I was somewhat apprehensive when I heard my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air talk about adequacy instead of parity the other day. I hope it will be possible for him to get our Air Force equal to the German Air Force, for unless it is, I do not think the two democratic Powers can be equal in the air to the totalitarians. Of course, we can help France on the sea and on land, and I want to put this point before the Government. If the friendship between England and France is to be effective, as we hope it will, we have to face up to the fact that we may have to have a land striking force. I believe that when we come to a crisis, the French will be apt to say, "What divisions can you put into the field?" and if we answer, "Very few now, but we hope to be able to provide a number in a year's time," they will say, "Is that so; are we always to be bled while you are getting ready?" I believe that makes our position weak, and it may weaken our foreign policy. Sooner or later, if our foreign policy is to be strong, the Government must face up to that.
Is my hon. And gallant Friend suggesting that France should rely on this country sending an army to help the army of France, on the same scale as in the last War?
§ Sir D. Gunston
No, I do not want to go into details, but it would not be on the same scale as in the last War, because so much of our man-power would be required in making aeroplanes for the Air Force, though it must be of sufficient size to play a part in Europe. On the land, we can be of considerable help to the French and other democratic countries, and our sea power is so great that its influence can be of great help to the Prime Minister when he goes to Rome. I have often thought that one of the reasons why Italy ran out of the Triple Alliance in the last War was because we had command of the sea. It is true that Mussolini has spoken of a secret mobilisation during 2605 the last crisis, but I understand that it was so secret that those men who were supposed to have been called up and mobilised never knew anything about it until they read the accounts in the newspapers. I am very doubtful whether, if things had come to a head, Italy would have played the part which she was expected to do. If the Prime Minister will make it clear that although, in the event of hostilities, it would be very awkward for us if our communications were interrupted in the Mediterranean, the Mediterranean is of vital importance to Italy, with her overseas Empire, I am sure that that would make a great impression on Mussolini, who knows the limitations of the Italian Navy. I believe that we have the cards in our hands if they are properly played.
It seems to me that we rather misjudge the psychology of the rulers of the dictator States. The hon. Member pointed out that reasonable men desire to live in friendship with other nations, but I wonder whether the rulers of the totalitarian States are reasonable people. I am not saying that in any offensive way. The Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer have won their positions in this House by means of argument and reason—the two weapons that could not be used in a totalitarian State. When you look at the success of Herr Hitler, when you think that only a few years ago he was a comparatively unknown painter, when you realise how he has risen, when you realise that he wrote that book in prison, not as a vague dream but as a policy that he expected to be carried out, you realise that he cannot be a reasonable being. These dictators have selected as lieutenants men of great courage, who would never shrink from any task, however unpleasant, that was necessary to carry out their objectives, but there is one argument that they will listen to, and that is force.
Therefore, it is essential that this country should rearm at the greatest possible speed. The Prime Minister could carry out his policy of appeasement with a much greater chance of success if the country were stronger. The Prime Minister is one of the hardest-worked Prime Ministers we have ever had, and we do not want to put any more burdens on his back, but I hope that in the Recess he may get a little time to study the question of rearmament, and to satisfy himself 2606 that we are really making progress at the rate we ought to expect, and can expect if the Ministers are delivering the goods. I believe this country hates war as much as the hon. Member said, but it likes justice even more, and will make all sacrifices asked of it to carry out a firm, strong and just policy. May I conclude with a quotation from a great Tory statesman, William Pitt:This country has always been desirous of peace. We desire it still, but such as may be real and solid, and consistent with the interests and dignity of Britain, and with the general security of Europe. War, whenever it comes, will be preferable to peace without honour, without security, and which is incompatible either with the external safety or the internal happiness of this country.
§ 9.53 P.m.
§ Mr. Alexander
The hon. and gallant Member who has just spoken is a popular Member of the House, liked and respected by all parties, but I could not help feeling, as he was making that very mild speech compared with the last speech we heard from him, that the whip had been cracked very successfully over the constituency of Thornbury. I was even thinking towards the latter part of his speech that he seemed not to want to debate foreign affairs, but only rearmament and more rearmament. He has properly expressed the real confidence of the Tory party in the peace of Munich. We are all delighted to listen to the periods of a great Tory statesman like William Pitt, but it is a pity that the Tory party have to go so far back to find a great statesman. Having listened to practically the whole Debate this afternoon, I have heard nothing which can be said to do other than justify this Motion of censure in. every way. I do not know, of course, what have been the main preoccupations of the principal occupants of the Government Front Bench, most of whom have been conspicuous by their absence since Seven o'clock. It is suggested in the evening paper that they have serious differences in their ranks, and they may have been away endeavouring to compose them; but we hope that, in spite of this poor attendance during the Debate on a Motion of Censure, the Chancellor of the Exchequer will have been sufficiently advised as to what has happened during his long absence to enable him to reply.
Certainly the Opposition have a right to a much more detailed and a much more 2607 House of Commons answer to the queries we have put to-day than we have yet received from the Prime Minister. We are entitled to such an answer at this time, when the House is going to adjourn for several weeks, over a period in which the Prime Minister is going on a most important mission to discuss with the head of one of the two principal dictator States matters on which he gives us no real information at all, but which may have very wide and far-reaching repercussions. In the course of the statements which have been made we have asked for certain information, and we have had no adequate answer given to us by the Prime Minister to-night. The Chancellor of the Exchequer may say, "The Opposition put down a Vote of Censure upon the general policy of the Government, and it is for them only to substantiate from their side that the Government should be censured, and it is only for us to answer from the other side that the Government should not be censured." But we have given the Government the opportunity of saying at any rate why they should not be censured by giving the real answer to questions relating to the results of their foreign policy. Practically every one Of the questions which my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) put this afternoon are consequent upon the evil results of British foreign policy up to date in the National Government.
I propose to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer a question which has not been answered. Why did Dr. Schacht come to London last week? Are we not entitled to know? Was it or was it not a consequence of the Government's foreign policy? Does anybody deny that one of the so-called fruits of the peace of Munich was the projection of the worst form of Jewish progrom that we have known for a century, a progrom that would discredit the Middle Ages? I do not think that the words of Mr. Ickes in America yesterday were too strong. We ask from this bench to-night why Dr. Schacht came to London? Was it to negotiate some special conditions under which the victims of the ruthless, bloody persecution of the Jews should be given a way out by our paying the price to Germany. Was that why he came? We are entitled to know. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, no doubt, bas been consulted by that high priest 2608 of finance, the chief of the Bank of England, who has been negotiating with Dr. Schacht. We are entitled to know what have been the conversations on the financial side of this matter between the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the Governor, and the distinguished financial visitor from Germany? That is the first point we want answered.
I turn to the question which was put arising out of the circumstances which have arisen in Czechoslovakia because of the foreign policy of His Majesty's Government. Does anybody deny that the results in Czechoslovakia have already added very considerably to the potential menace of the German hegemony in Europe, in that they have handed over a very complete and powerful portion of the Czech-German nation that lived in Czechoslovakia, with military equipment and military training, and made not only these people available on the German Dictator's side, but also put the rest of the Czechoslovak area into enmity rather than friendship with the democratic nations of the West? We have put a question on another result of it to-night. We have asked the Prime Minister to say what is the position with regard to the road and the territory necessary for the road from Silesia to Vienna? We asked the Prime Minister what he had to say about that in general, and also what he considered would be the effect of that great and important military transport project upon our new guarantees of the new boundaries of Czechoslovakia. Are we not entitled to have an answer to that question? It really is extraordinary the way which leaders of the Government think they can treat the House of Commons to-day if we cannot have answers to questions of that character.
I will take another question which was put by my hon. Friend. What is the real attitude of the Government at present to the events in Ruthenia and the relation of those events to the problem—I do not think it is too strong to say it—of stirring up trouble by Germany from the outside in the Ukraine and in Poland, as well as that which has already been indicated in Memel. Are not we entitled to know what the attitude of the Government is upon that matter? We have not had a word from the Prime Minister to-night. I must say that of all the passages in the speech of the Prime Minister to the House the 2609 ones which I welcomed most were his references, first, to the real desire—and I believe that to be true—of our British people to develop the friendship of the German people. We are thoroughly agreed with that, but we seem to sense in the speech of the Prime Minister an increase of nervousness as to the effects of his peace at Munich when he says that he is still waiting for a sign from Berlin. Even taking that passage in the speech of the Prime Minister, I began to feel in my heart and my mind, as I thought of the experience of the past few months—and how often the Government have let us down—whether or not that passage would be interpreted in Berlin as meaning that we should not be so very interested if there were disturbances caused by Germany and expansions by Germany in that portion of Northern and Eastern Europe provided we were able to secure co-operation for British interests in other parts of Europe and the world.
I should be very unhappy if I thought that that was a proper interpretation of the speech of the Prime Minister in this present stage, but I cannot help reading into his words—and I shall look at them more carefully to-morrow—an attitude of mind of that kind. Certainly it was significant that there was no similar statement of the Prime Minister this afternoon referring to the position in relation to Italy. What we therefore want to know, as it was put by my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland, is, does it mean that the Prime Minister's policy is to give Germany a free hand in the development of disturbances in order to promote German advancement in Eastern Europe? We consider that we are entitled to an answer upon that question to-night before we go into the Lobby. I come to the next question which has not been answered.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir John Simon)
I want to do my best to reply to the right hon. Gentleman. I really do not quite understand his last question. Would he mind restating it? I am sorry. It is no good saying that he wants an answer if I do not understand the question.
§ Mr. Alexander
Certainly, I refer to the reference made earlier in the Debate to Ruthenia and to the probability, as I have viewed it, of an increase of disturbances, engineered perhaps from outside by Germany in the Ukraine, and in Poland in 2610 relation to the Ukraine and Memel, and we ask what is the attitude of the British Government in their foreign policy towards any development of that kind in Eastern Europe? To put it in the words of my hon. Friend which I have just quoted, is it the policy of the British Government to give Germany a free hand in regard to any development of the German hegemony in Eastern Europe by disturbance?
I come to the Mediterranean. The Prime Minister is going to Rome. We have asked him, but we have had no answer, whether when he meets Signor Mussolini he will raise the question of the bombing of British ships by Italian airmen. An answer is essential. I do not need to take up the time of the House in regard to this point, because of the full way in which it has been put by other speakers, and not least by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). I do not wish to worry the House by repeating the facts and arguments that have been adduced, but I do say that we are entitled to put to the Prime Minister this great human problem of Spain. People of all parties are taking part in voluntary organisations for the sending of food ships to Spain. Some of us have been engaged in Labour, cooperative and trade union circles for 16 or 18 months in raising funds for milk and food for Spain, and we consider that we have a right to know from the Government whether the Prime Minister is going to raise the question of the bombing of British ships, and especially British food ships.
The attitude which has been adopted so far under the guise of non-intervention seems to me to be so thoroughly discreditable, having regard to the objective which was first laid down when nonintervention was adopted as a plan, that I cannot understand why the Prime Minister can go to Rome at this time unless before he leaves London he has specific evidence that Signor Mussolini will carry out his past pledges in relation to Spain. Having received those pledges he then should be willing to discuss with the Prime Minister a real plan for the future evacuation, completely, of the foreign help of Franco, without which they could accomplish neither the vanquishment of the Spanish Government's soldiers in the field nor the starvation of the women and children in Spain. On that point we are entitled to 2611 have an answer. I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer will forgive me for having devoted the first part of my speech to stating seriatim the points on which we consider that we ought to have received replies from the Prime Minister
We have put down this Motion of Censure because it is so patent to anybody what the seven years of National Government have brought us to in foreign affairs. The results of the National Government's foreign policy can be described only as appalling in the deterioration of affairs in the world. That deterioration began almost directly the last Labour administration left office, and it is no use for the Prime Minister either in his speech last week or in his speech to-night to turn to the Opposition, as a get-out, and ask, "What would you have done?" The Prime Minister and his confrères have been in Cabinet executive responsibility for seven years, with an unprecedented Parliamentary majority, and with the power to have voted themselves any quantity of arms they liked, and what do we find? We are in a position of danger in Europe, and in a state of defencelessness which ought not to exist considering the power which this Government has possessed. You cannot escape your responsibility, Mr. Prime Minister, by asking what the Opposition would have done, although we should be very pleased to tell you. The Prime Minister will have to face in the country real responsibility for the share of this country in the general deterioration in the foreign situation. [Interruption.] Has the Secretary of State for Air some remark that he would like to make?
§ The Secretary of State for Air (Sir Kingsley Wood)
When are we going to hear what the right hon. Gentleman and his friends would have done?
§ Mr. Alexander
If the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to sit late and to move the suspension of the Rule, I will go right on. I would do that if the Rules of the House permitted. All the same, I am not going to let the Government off. Let me summarise the results of the Government's foreign policy. Let us look at home. The Budget position facing the Chancellor of the Exchequer is such that if it had been produced by a Socialist Government right hon. Gentlemen opposite and the City of London would 2612 reject it as thoroughly unsound and dishonest. It has been caused by the Government's foreign policy. They have added £800,000,000 to the National Debt; they have increased the taxation on industrial profits until it reaches 6s. 6d. in the and £ still they do not pay their way, and they have to borrow over £100,000,000 a year. The first thing is to make a balance sheet of the results of the National Government's seven years of office, and that in itself is enough to condemn them as unworthy to hold office. If there was a change of Government I know what would be said of the financial position left behind by the National Government, as soon as a Labour Government had to take office. It would be said: "See what the Labour Government has brought us to." Yet you are the people who came in to clear up what was called financial insolvency. Instead of that the Government have landed the country into a hopeless financial outlook, which is bringing lack of confidence. The whole of the City of London condemns the Prime Minister to-day. They have been weeping for the last six or seven weeks about the terrible state of business in the City of London, caused by the great prosperity-making peace of Munich.
Let me take another result of the Government's foreign policy, the Far East. We have British investment interests in China of approximately £300,000,000. What is the view of Sir Robert Calder Marshall, a very prominent British business man in China? He says that already the deterioration of affairs in the Far East has more than halved the value of that great block of British investments in China. If the position goes on as it is to-day, deteriorating, we stand to lose the whole of our British investments in the Far East. Whose fault is that? Can you attribute it only to the Japanese and their aggression? Of course not. You attribute it to the policy of the National Government of 1931 to 1933, the neglect of the then Foreign Secretary, now the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to take effective action. The position in the Far East to-day is getting worse and worse week by week. What remedy have the Government to offer? They have not the guts to adopt their own resolution at Geneva. The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs was at Geneva when the matter was discussed, and I am sorry he has not executive responsibility to 2613 carry out its intentions. In the face of Japanese aggression in the Far East the League decided that Article 16 was in effect, in operation, but the representative of the British Government left it so that the countries should be able to interpret the application of Article 16 individually. Therefore we hear very little about the individual application of Article 16 and any sanctions against Japan, or about help to China, from the National Government.
The further the scene of conflict from this land the more is there a quietening of the conscience. In the course of the last 18 months 30,000,000 have been rendered homeless in China and over 1,500,000 casualties have occurred. You get so accustomed to listening on the wireless to accounts of what is happening in this and other fields that you switch it off, anything to keep it away from your ears and your conscience, and you forget that you have a large measure of responsibility for allowing these things to continue—I do not say the sole responsibility. Look at Abyssinia. [Interruption.] I can quite understand hon. Members wanting me to let them off and talk about something else, but I am not going to do that. The Prime Minister is going to Rome. Is he going to have any conversations with the Duce about Abyssinia? In Abyssinia there is still fighting going on in those parts of the territory not yet conquered; week by week they are fighting for the freedom of their own country.
§ Mr. Alexander
It is easy to describe as bandits those who are rebelling against an invader who has not been there 18 months, and also easy to ignore the fact that there are 400 square miles of territory which has never yet been occupied by the Italian invader. They are still making Italian widows and orphans, and Italian widows and orphans are being taxed in order to provide for the upkeep of the invading army. You recognise the conquest but you regard those natives as aggressors who are fighting for freedom and the possession of their own land. That is another result of the National Government's foreign policy. Take the effect of the Government's foreign policy on Italy itself. There has been a wonderful waving of the wand of friendship 2614 between the Prime Minister and the Duce over Munich. The Duce was the special saviour by creating the Conference at Munich. One would have thought that there would be such a collaboration for peace in the future that all would be well, yet we have seen, in regard to Italy, a widening of her demands. Demonstrations about Tunis, Corsica and Nice were staged in the Italian Chamber of Deputies, and when I say "staged," it is a charge made not merely from this side of the House, but supported by a leader in the "Times." These things were shouted in the streets of Rome, and gradually they were followed up by demands in Mussolini's official newspapers. That is a result of the Government's foreign policy. Italy sees how weak the Government are in retreating from principles in order to find how much further she can go in her next demands.
I should like now to say a few words about the League of Nations. I suppose there is no need yet to apologise for speaking about the League of Nations. To what condition of affairs has the Government's foreign policy brought the League of Nations? Seven years ago this country was the principal member of a League of 52 nations; our word counted in the League, and was treated as valuable, and accepted. What is the position to-day? The League is, with many hon. Members opposite, just a regretful memory. In place of the position which obtained seven years ago in the League of Nations, what is there now? The Government have brought the country into a position in which, except for the friendship of the United States, which is unable apparently to give any firm military alliance, there is not a single country in the world to which we could look to-day for immediate help in a time of crisis, apart from France. That is the contrast between 1931 and 1938. In the cases of Manchuria, Abyssinia, Spain and Czechoslovakia, by a strict adherence to League principles and by holding together the League Powers on a policy of law against aggression, the Government would have been able to wage the conflict against aggression on a frontier far removed from our own boundaries, on an economic basis, and with every prospect of stopping aggression and restoring law without firing a shot.
What are we faced with now as a result of seven years of the policy of the National Government? We are faced 2615 with immediate dangers on almost every British frontier within the Commonwealth. Now it is not a question of having to wage an economic fight against Japan at Mukden; it is a question of preparing to fight at Hong-Kong. What hon. Member on the benches opposite does not admit that? That is the position that has arisen because the Government "missed the trip" in 1931. We are no longer in the position of being able to conduct economic sanctions against Italy in Abyssinia. The pistol will be pointed at the Prime Minister—they will talk about their claims to Tunis and their claims in the Suez Canal; and eventually we shall have to defend Egypt and Palestine at those points on our frontiers.
In Europe, one could have afforded an economic battle, in collaboration with the other members of the League, for law against aggression. Now the Government are preparing as rapidly as they can—for what? Not for peace. They are preparing for war, but they are preparing to fight on the frontiers of London, and not even at the Rhine. There is not an hon. Member opposite who can deny that. Nor is there any doubt that when Members of the Cabinet just whisper their secrets, they know that that is what is being done. The Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence was reported in the "Times" a few days ago as having said:Our policy is to complete our defences both at home and in other parts of the Empire so that no longer may it be necessary for us to refrain from appropriate action, so that no longer may our Prime Minister in this or any other country be hampered by considerations of weakness or default on our part.If that means anything at all, it is an admission by the Minister for the Coordination of Defence that you have refrained from appropriate action and that you have defaulted because you regarded yourselves as too weak to take appropriate action, or to do other than default. How else can one regard these words? They mean that we have neglected to protect our rights by taking appropriate action and that we have defaulted in our obligations to other nations and to international institutions because, forsooth, the Government imagined that we were too weak. I have heard it said once or twice to-day that time is on our side in our rearmament programme. 2616 Why, if the Government in the last seven years had had sufficient courage to stick to principles, instead of running to expediency, there never was a time up to 1936 and late in 1936, when they could not have taken appropriate action, with the relative strengths as they then were, and with the support of the League of Nations which they would have had behind them. Since that period in the middle of 1936 the German programme, the Italian programme, the arming and progress of Japan have meant that, instead of time being on your side, up to the present at any rate time has been on the side of the dictators—all because the foreign policy of this country has veered away from loyalty to principle, in the Covenant of the League, and has gone in favour of expediency, which has proved to be morally craven and full of dangers for the future of the country. That is why, at the present stage, we have put down this Motion of Censure on the Government in the light of what they are still apparently proposing to do.
I wish to put two further points. First I would make a plea to-night for China. We have seen in the last two or three days the issue of a loan of about £5,000,000 sterling by the Reconstruction Agency of the American Government. Can we not now look to the Government to see that something equally potent is done by this country? May I say to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that I do not consider the answers so far given, about the £500,000 of trade credits, are really adequate to meet the situation, although I recognise from the terms of the Prime Minister's answer to me that the amount may be expanded beyond that figure? But may I remind the Chancellor of the Exchequer that ever since the Leith-Ross mission three years ago there has been a great deal of confidence in this country among the Chinese because of the stabilised currency which resulted from that mission. But that currency has been able to continue its successful career only because in the meantime the Americans have purchased from the Chinese a very large part of their silver reserves. With the Japanese now using every kind of effort in other parts of China to undermine that currency, if China is to have a chance to win through, her currency needs support. I would plead that the position 2617 that America has taken up should be regarded as a lead to us for further concerted action. The Far Eastern collaboration with America which is possible over this matter may lead to the very great development of long-standing future relations of friendship with that country, and I very much hope, therefore, that that will be done.
The other point that I wanted to mention was this: We, on this side, have often been charged with criticising the policy of the Government as if we were desiring war. On the contrary, I am asked by the Secretary of State for Air what we would have done. I say frankly that from the beginning of the trouble in 1931 we would have adhered strictly to the policy which the Secretary of State for Air, as the head of the Tory political organisation in 1935, an organisation which does not forget the votes of the people, promised the electors, namely, a League policy. The Prime Minister bears as much responsibility as any man in the Cabinet for having run away from that, ever since his speech on the "midsummer madness" of the use of economic sanctions against Italy. Further, I would say to the Secretary of State that we would not only use the World Conference for which my right hon. Friend asked for the economic adjustment of the differences which lead to physical strife and disaster, but I, at any rate, and I am sure my party, would work at all times for the reconstruction of international justice through the World Court in such a way that we should be able and prepared to say to the world, "There is no question in regard to which our country is a party in dispute, and which has not been settled by the ordinary channels of conciliation, which we shall not be willing to refer to the Court of International Justice for settlement, to abide by the result, and to use whatever collective force with other nations may be necessary to implement the decisions of the Court." That is what the Government have run away from, and that is why they have led us to increasing and impending disaster.
§ 10.33 p.m.
§ Sir J. Simon
The hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) reminded us that some 10 weeks ago we had altogether four days' Debate immediately after the Munich Agreement was signed. He said, and I think he carried general 2618 assent in saying, that that Debate, to which so many contributed and which was conducted with such good temper, was an honour to this House and, I think he said, to democracy. He thought, however—and there, perhaps, opinions may differ—that as the result of that Debate the Government got the worst of it. At any rate, if we apply democratic principles, the Government got a very large majority, and the Resolution which was then so overwhelmingly carried was in these terms:That this House approves the policy of His Majesty's Government by which war was averted in the recent crisis and supports their efforts to secure a lasting peace.It seems to me that one, at any rate, of the main questions which is raised in this Debate to-day is whether anything has happened in the interval which would justify the House or the country in changing that decision.
§ Sir Arthur Salter
The Prime Minister interpreted that Resolution as giving approval only to the Government's action at Munich, and not as a general approval of their foreign policy.
§ Sir J. Simon
At any rate, I hope it will appear—and I trust my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter) will be one of those who will make it appear—that that is still the judgment of the House of Commons. The question which does arise is whether anything that has happened in the interval since then would really justify a revision of that verdict. Naturally hon. Members have been much concerned to try and show that there was an alternative policy which should have been adopted other than accepting the inevitability of war. Hon. Gentlemen opposite have not developed that argument at any great length. There was a moment in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander) when I thought he was going to say something about it. I understand that he has locked up in his own breast an alternative policy which would not have landed us into war, but, unfortunately, time did not permit of his explaining what it was.
It is only right to say that other distinguished Members of the House have faced that issue. My right hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) certainly faced it. He told us that he recognised that this was 2619 a challenge. He does not like the Munich Agreement. I have never known anybody use such strong language as my right hon. Friend has done, for it was not enough for him to say that he was displeased with it; he said he was nauseated with it. It turned his stomach. The rest of his fellow-countrymen undoubtedly felt a great relief at the avoidance of European war, and even thought that there was something to be said in praise of what had been done, but my right hon. Friend was, unfortunately, seized with an attack of biliousness. When he announced that he would explain his alternative policy we sat up and took notice. He then passed on to some very eloquent periods without mentioning what he would have done. Right at the end he did make a contribution. He recognised, of course, that the crisis at that time was imminent, only a matter of hours. Obviously, therefore, the alternative remedy which he had in his mind must be something that would operate very swiftly. The Prime Minister, after all, did persist in trying to get peace when nearly everybody else had despaired. That was the general verdict of the world, not merely of this country, but of America for example. Undoubtedly, the general verdict of the world was that he had saved the world from war.
I listened to what was my right hon. Friend's alternative remedy other than accepting the inevitability of war. What was the alternative remedy—quick in action, effective in performance—which my right hon. Friend thought might have been substituted? This is his sudden, immediate solution. We should grapple our friends to us, especially the United States. He was good enough to add that he congratulated the Government on having done something in that direction. Then he said we should work together with other democracies and we should see that France was not encircled. Last, but most important of all, as a stop-gap policy, we should seize the moral initiative in laying down principles for world order. I mean by "stop-gap" something that would do the trick quickly. Surely it is obvious to everybody that however praiseworthy these propositions may be—and some of them have great nobility, though I am not entirely sure that they do not really represent an attempt to establish a grand alliance 2620 against certain other States, which is very contrary to all the principles of the League of Nations—it is quite obvious that all that has nothing in the world to do with how we should have handled the situation at Munich when war was in danger of breaking out in a few hours. My right hon. Friend said, and said with some justice, that the Prime Minister had the patience of Job. He went on to say that he was surrounded, as was the patriarch, by advisers. I do not know whether there were two oppositions in the days of Job, but there was Eliphaz the Temanite and there was Bildad the Shuhite. But these Biblical analogies sometimes have a dangerous application; perhaps my right hon. Friend will remember that when Job was really fed up with the advice so freely given him by those two worthies—
§ Sir J. Simon
No doubt he would have done if he had thought of it. My right hon. Friend may remember Job's sarcastic observation. Job said:No doubt but ye are the people and wisdom shall die with you.Unfortunately, the end of the story was that Job's advisers were both found to be entirely wrong and that Job came out of the mess all right.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) made a still more direct attack upon the crucial question, "What alternative was there?" and I would like in a minute or two to refer to what he said. My right hon. Friend did not take part in the Debate at the beginning of October, and he explained to a gathering of Non-conformist ministers that the reason why he did not take part was that he thought he was doing more useful work by remaining silent. It seems to me, with great respect to my right hon. Friend, that his argument is open to this criticism. He evidently is assuming that the transfer of territory from Czechoslovakia to Germany was a wrong which we should have resisted because it was a wrong. But there, if I may say so, he has got the story quite wrong. He referred to what Lord Runciman had said and said we ought to have been quicker in urging—
§ Sir J. Simon
—recommended autonomy. I have his report before me, and before ever the meeting at Munich Lord Runciman was writing in these terms:If some cession is inevitable, as I believe it to be, it is as well that it should be done promptly and without procrastination. There is real danger, even a danger of civil war, in the continuance of a state of uncertainty. Consequently there are very real reasons for a policy of immediate and drastic action. Any kind of plebiscite or referendum would, I believe, be a sheer formality in respect of the predominantly German areas. A very large majority of their inhabitants desire amalgamation with Germany. The inevitable delay involved in taking a plebiscite vote would only serve to excite popular feelings with perhaps most dangerous results. I consider, therefore, that these frontier districts should at once be transferred from Czechoslovakia to Germany.Leaving the question for the moment of whether the area ultimately transferred was too big, Lord Runciman himself, the independent adviser—
Mr. Lloyd George
I am very sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but can he say whether that was before or after Hitler's speech at Nuremburg, because there the demand was changed? Lord Runciman had already recommended that autonomy, and I say quite frankly that I was in favour of it; but when Hitler had committed himself it was too late.
§ Sir J. Simon
I would answer the right hon. Gentleman straight off, but I have not the dates immediately in mind. [HON. MEMBERS: "Before!" and "After!"] I will pass on, if I may. The point I am making is that at the critical time it is not the case that Lord Runciman was saying that local autonomy would be enough. On the contrary, he was recommending transfer of territory. I say here now, as I said in the Debate at the beginning of October, that the first reason why we may defend the Agreement of Munich is that the Agreement of Munich was right. It was transferring an area which ought not to have been included in Czechoslovakia to a community in closer racial sympathy with the area than the Czechoslovakians could possibly be. I think I am right that in his latest book, "The truth about the Peace Treaties," the right hon. Gentleman makes the point very plainly himself. He shows quite clearly 2622 that those boundaries were drawn at the time of the Peace Treaties not because it was thought thereby to bring together people with natural affinities but for strategical or other reasons.
§ Sir J. Simon
What we were really engaged in doing therefore was correcting one of the mistakes of the Peace Treaty. I have never been able to understand with what conscience anybody could call upon us to run the risk of what might be a terrible war, and treat it as though it were a righteous war, to prevent a correction of frontiers which in itself was just, and which our own independent observer had recommended should be made. Quite true, as the right hon. Gentleman said to those Nonconformist ministers a few weeks afterwards—[An HON. MEMBER: "What were you at one time?"] I heard an observation which I should like to correct. I am the son of a Nonconformist minister, and so long as I am in this House no one will ever hear me sneer or be disrespectful on that matter. The right hon. Gentleman said that if we had to go in for a war we should no doubt have suffered at the beginning, but he went on to say that the ultimate—
Mr. Lloyd George
The right hon. Gentleman has not completed the point. It was because of the neglect of the Government.
§ Sir J. Simon
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will let me go on. The ultimate result, he said, would have been that the authoritarian States would have been crushed like an eggshell. I wonder what the audience thought of that—a bloodthirsty calculation. It would be no consolation to me to be told that if we had fought a war and after we had suffered in this country, our enemies would have been crushed like eggshells—women, children and everyone else.
Mr. Lloyd George
They would have started it. I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that it was on the assumption that they had started it themselves by invading Czechoslovakia.
§ Sir J. Simon
I pointed out that the transfer that was proposed was a righteous transfer. I further pointed out that language like that abundantly justified my claim, and the claim of the 2623 majority of the House, that it was the Prime Minister who saved Europe from disaster. I have been asked one or two points specifically. If I do not answer all the points it is only because I have not- as much time as I expected.
First of all, my right hon. Friend asked about the 10,000 Italian infantry who were withdrawn. There is no truth at all in the idea that they are being replaced—none. It is a final withdrawal. We have no information to the contrary, and it would be entirely contrary to our views that it should be anything else but the final withdrawal of these 10,000 men. As far as we know, the only movement of personnel from Italy consists of a small number who, for example, are replacing in the rest of the Italian forces individuals who are coming home. That has been stated quite clearly by the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. We do not regard this exchange as a breach of the promise not to send further Italian troops to Spain. Then the right hon. Gentleman asked a question and quoted a phrase of Lord Halifax. I have not the context in my hand, but I remember reading it, and I say at once there is no bargain between the British Government and the Italian Government on this subject at all. Nor will there be. Any suspicions on this head are completely unfounded, and nothing happened, either at Munich or in Rome or anywhere else, to lend any colour to this suspicion. Nor will anything of the kind happen. The right hon. Gentleman asked a question about Tunis and the Anglo-Italian declaration.
Mr. Lloyd George
I did not ask about the 10,000 men. I asked whether the Pact of Non-Intervention was to be regarded as continuous, or whether it was only to be binding upon Britain and France and not upon Italy and Germany.
§ Sir J. Simon
I am very sorry. I would not like to give an answer at so late an hour. I ought to say, Mr. Speaker, that I was promised 10 minutes more time than I got. I wish now to deal with another matter to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. It has not been referred to in this House for a long time, though it has fairly often been mentioned outside. My right hon. Friend, going back into history, thought he detected an earlier failure when he said that if this country had been prepared to join with 2624 the United States of America in resisting Japan there would be no war in China to-day. Now I want to deal with that. It was dealt with in the House pretty fully by my right hon. Friend the present Prime Minister when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer in a Debate on 5th November, 1936, and, as far as I know, it has not been made a topic in Debates in the House since. I believe it is the case that it has been stated in different forms in the country, and as I was Foreign Secretary at the time, I think the House will give me three or four minutes to state what the facts are. There is no truth in the statement that His Majesty's Government lagged behind the United States. One of the best and fullest statements of the true facts was published quite recently in the "Times" on 10th November in a long letter sent by Sir John Pratt. Sir John Pratt, who is now a retired civil servant, was at that time in the Far Eastern Department of the Foreign Office, and he sets out the whole story there with the greatest accuracy. He says that there is "an absurd belief" in some quartersthat the United States actually proposed sanctions or strong measures to check Japanese aggression and that the British Government refused.There is not the slightest syllable of truth in that statement. The letter also says:Mr. Stimson states that in February, 1932, he put forward a proposal for a joint invocation of the Nine-Power Treaty and he adds"—the letter then recites the statement of Mr. Stimson. Sir John Pratt continues—and I know that this is accurate, because I was there at the time:In making this statement Mr. Stimson's memory has deceived him. The facts are that on receiving the draft of Mr. Stimson's proposed invocation the Foreign Office telephoned to Geneva a paragraph containing the nonrecognition doctrine, and this paragraph was embodied in the declaration issued by the 12 members of the Council on 16th February, 1932. At the same time a written answer was handed to the American Embassy for transmission to Mr. Stimson, stating that the British Government was most anxious to cooperate with America in this matter, and that, in view of their adherence to this declaration, it was hoped that those of the League Powers who were signatories to the Nine-Power Treaty might also associate themselves with the proposed joint invocation.I myself, at Geneva, took this proposal of Mr. Stimson, brought it before the appropriate body, and moved that it should be adopted by the League of 2625 Nations. It was so adopted, and, as soon as it was adopted, a message came from the United States Government thanking us for the efforts we were making and expressing the gratification of the United States Government at the action taken by the Assembly of the League of Nations. There could not, therefore, be a more ridiculous perversion of the facts than that which has been referred to.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough asked why Dr. Schacht came to London last week. I answer that he did not come on behalf of the German Government at all; he did not come in any public capacity whatever. He is the head of the Reichsbank, and for many years has been an acquaintance and friend of the Governor of the Bank of England. As a matter of fact, except that I had for some 20 minutes an interview with him of an entirely personal character, in which no Government business and no financial business of any sort was discussed, that is all the information I can give to the House about the visit of Dr. Schacht. [Interruption.] I do not know whether the hon. Lady wishes me to understand that she does not believe me. I have told her what I know and what happened in my own presence. I think that, when she reflects, she will recognise that I would not tell her anything that was not the truth.
I was also asked a question about the road from Silesia to Vienna. Our information is that the ground on which the road is to be will remain part of the territory of Czechoslovakia, though I have no doubt that the road itself will be the property of some Germany company. Be that as it may, I ask the House to observe what would have happened if there had been a war. In that case all the roads in
§ Czechoslovakia would have been German, and I am quite unable to see why we should be challenged on this. I was asked about Ruthenia. The hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate said very truly that Russia, Rumania and Poland have close and special interests in that part of the world. His Majesty's Government have not. Our part in the matter is simply that we should encourage anything that is in accordance with peace. Our interest is the promotion and preservation of peace in that as in any other part of the world.
§ Sir J. Simon
On 6th October this House carried by a large majority a resoluation of approval of the policy of His Majesty's Government. As I have already reminded the House, nothing that has happened since then affords any ground for reversing that verdict. The way of the peacemaker is hard, and the Prime Minister has had to face much that is disappointing and much that makes his task harder. I trust that the whole House at least agrees on one point to-day, and that is with the passage in my right hon. Friend's speech which related to the German nation. But the Prime Minister has this consolation. He has the consolation of knowing that, all over the land, homes are preparing for the quiet and secure enjoyment of the Festival of Peace, which, if it had not been for his efforts, might well now be enduring the twelfth week of a world war.
That this House has no confidence in the Foreign Policy of His Majesty's Government.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 143; Noes, 340.2629
|Division No. 24.]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m.|
|Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple)||Buchanan, G.||Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Burke, W. A.||Ede, J. C.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Cape, T.||Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)|
|Adamson, Jennie L. (Dartford)||Charleton, H. C.||Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales)|
|Adamson, W. M.||Chalet, D.||Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'Isbr.)||Cluse, W. S.||Frankel, D.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Cocks, F. S.||Gallagher, W.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Collindridge, F.||Gardner, B. W.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Cove, W. G.||George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd (Carn'v 'n)|
|Barnes, A. J.||Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)|
|Bartlett, C. V. O.||D[...]ggar, G.||George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)|
|Batey, J.||Dalton, H.||Gibson, R. (Greenock)|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Green, W. H. (Deptford)|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W.||Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Bevan, A.||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)|
|Broad, F. A.||Day, H.||Groves, T. E.|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Dobbie, W.||Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)|
|Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Mander, G. le M.||Simpson, F. B.|
|Hardie, Agnes||Marshall, F.||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)|
|Harris, Sir P. A.||Mathers, G.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Hayday, A.||Messer, F.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Henderson, A. (Kingawinford)||Milner, Major J.||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)|
|Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Montague, F.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Morgan, J. (York, W.R., Doncaster)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Hicks, E. G.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Stephen, C.|
|Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Hollins, A.||Muff, G.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Hopkin, D.||Nathan, Colonel H. L.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Noel-Baker, P. J.||Thurtle, E.|
|Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Oliver, G. H.||Tinker, J. J.|
|John, W.||Parker, J||Tomlinson, G.|
|Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Parkinson, J. A.||Viant, S. P.|
|Kelly, W. T.||Pearson, A.||Walkden, A. G.|
|Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.||Walker, J.|
|Kirby, B. V.||Poole, C. C.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Kirkwood, D.||Price, M. P.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Lathan, G.||Pritt, D. N.||Westwood, J.|
|Lawson, J. J.||Rathbone, Eleanor (English Univ's.)||White, H. Graham|
|Leach, W.||Richards, R. (Wrexham)||Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)|
|Lee, F.||Ridley, G.||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Leonard, W.||Riley, B.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Leslie, J. R.||Ritson, J.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Logan, D. G.||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Lunn, W.||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Seely, Sir H. M.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|McEntee, V. La T.||Sexton, T. M.|
|MacMillan, M. (Western Isles)||Shinwell, E.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|MacNeill Weir, L.||Silkin, L.||Sir Charles Edwards and|
|Mainwaring, W. H.||Silverman, S. S.||Mr. Paling.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Campbell, Sir E. T.||Dugdale, Captain T. L.|
|Agnew, Lieul.-Comdr. P. G.||Carver, Major W. H.||Duncan, J. A. L.|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Cary, R. A.||Dunglass, Lord|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. J. (Armagh)||Castlereagh, Viscount||Eastwood, J. F.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.||Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester)||Eckersley, P. T.|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)||Cayzer, Sir H. R. (Portsmouth, S.)||Edge, Sir W.|
|Anderson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Sc'h Univ's)||Cazatet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Edmondson, Major Sir J.|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.|
|Apsley, Lord||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n)||Ellis, Sir G.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Channon, H.||Ellisten, Capt. G. S.|
|Astor, Major Hon. J. J. (Dover)||Chapman, A. (Ruthergien)||Emery, J. F.|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.)||Entwistle, Sir C. F.|
|Aster, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Chorlton, A. E. L.||Errington, E.|
|Baillie, Sir A. W. M.||Christie, J. A.||Erskine-Hill, A. G.|
|Balfour, G. (Hampstead)||Clarke, Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.)|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Clarry, Sir Reginald||Everard, W. L.|
|Balniel, Lord||Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Fildes, Sir H.|
|Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M.||Colman, N. C. D.||FIndiay, Sir E.|
|Barrie, Sir C. C.||Colville, Rt. Hon. John||Fleming, E. L.|
|Baxter, A. Beverley||Conant, Captain R. J. E.||Fox, Sir G. W. G.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T P. H.||Cook, Sir T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.)||Fremantle, Sir F. E.|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Fyfe, D. P. M.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)||Gibson, Sir C. G. (Pudsey and Otley)|
|Beechman, N. A.||Courtauld, Major J. S.||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J.|
|Beit, Sir A. L.||Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L.||Gledhill, G.|
|Bennett, Sir E. N.||Cox, Trevor||Gluckstein, L. H.|
|Bernays. R. H.||Craven-Ellis, W.||Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C.|
|Bird, Sir R. B.||Critchley, A.||Gower, Sir R. V.|
|Blair, Sir R.||Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page||Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)|
|Blaker, Sir R.||Crooke, Sir. J. Smedley||Grant-Ferris, R.|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.||Granville, E. L.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Cross, R. H.||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)|
|Boulton, W. W.||Crowder, J. F. E.||Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Cruddas, Col. B.||Gridley, Sir A. B.|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Culverwell, C. T.||Grigg, Sir E. W. M|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Davidson, Viscountess||Grimston, R. V.|
|Davison, Sir W. H.||Gritten, W. G. Howard|
|Brass, Sir W.||De Chair, S. S.||Guest, Lieut.-Colonel H. (Drake)|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||De la Bère, R.||Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N.W.)|
|Broadbridge, Sir G. T.||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Guinness, T. L. E. B.|
|Brocklebank, Sir Edmund||Denville, Alfred||Gunston, Capt. Sir D. W.|
|Brooke, H. (Lewisham, W.)||Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Sir D. H.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Dixon, Capt. Rt. Hon. H.||Hambro, A. V.|
|Bull, B. B.||Dodd, J. S.||Hammersley, S. S.|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Doland, G. F.||Hannah, I. C.|
|Burgin, Rt. Hon. E. L.||Donner, P. W.||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.|
|Burton, Col. H. W.||Dower, Major A. V. G.||Harbord, A.|
|Butcher, H. W.||Drewe, C.||Harvey, Sir G.|
|Butler, R. A.||Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)|
|Caine, G. F. Hall-||Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)|
|Heilgars, Captain F. F. A.||Markham, S. F.||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)|
|Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.||Marsden, Commander A.||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Mason, Ll.-Col. Hon. G. K. M.||Shepperson, Sir E. W.|
|Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-||Maxwell, Hon. S. A.||Shute, Colonel Sir J. J.|
|Hepworth, J.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Simmonds, O. E.|
|Herbert, A. P. (Oxford U.)||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.|
|Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Higgs, W. F.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Smith, Sir Louis (Hallam)|
|Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S.||Mitcheson, Sir G. G.||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)|
|Hogg, Hon. Q. McG.||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel Sir T. C. R.||Smithers, Sir W.|
|Holdsworth, H.||Moore-Brabazon, Lt.-Col. J. T. C.||Somerset, T.|
|Holmes, J. S.||Moreing, A. C.||Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir Donald|
|Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.||Morgan, R. H. (Worcester, Stourbridge)||Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.|
|Hore-Belisha, Rt. Hon. L.||Morris, J. P. (Salford, N.)||Spans, W. P.|
|Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Morris, O. T. (Cardiff, E.)||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'l'd)|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Morris-Jones, Sir Henry||Stewart, William J. (Belfast, S.)|
|Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)||Storey, S.|
|Hulbert, N. J.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Hume, Sir G. H.||Munro, P.||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Hunloke, H. P.||Nicholson, G. (Farnham)||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw h)|
|Hunter, T.||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Hurd, Sir P. A.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|Hutchinson, G. C.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Sutclife, H.|
|Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H.||Palmer, G. E. H.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|James, Wing-Commander A. W. H.||Patrick, C. M.||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)|
|Jarvis, Sir J. J.||Peaks, O.||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.|
|Jones, L. (Swansea W.)||Peat, C. U.||Thorneycroft, G. E. P.|
|Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Perkins, W. R. D.||Titchfield, Marquess of|
|Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)||Peters, Dr. S. J.|
|Kimball, L.||Petherick, M.||Touche, G. C.|
|Knox, Major-General Sir A. W. F.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Train, Sir J.|
|Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Pilkington, R.||Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.|
|Lambert, Rt. Hon. G.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Lancaster, Captain C. G.||Porritt, R. W.||Turton, R. H.|
|Latham, Sir P.||Pownall, Lt.-Col. Sir Assheton||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Law, Sir A. J. (High Peak)||Procter, Major H. A.||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Leech, Sir J. W.||Raikes, H. V. A. M.||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan|
|Lees-Jones, J.||Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Leigh, Sir J.||Ramebotham, H.||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.|
|Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Ramsden, Sir E.||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.||Rankin, Sir R.||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Levy, T.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)||Watt, Major G. S. Harvie|
|Lewis, O.||Rayner, Major R. H.||Wayland, Sir W. A.|
|Liddall, W. S.||Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)||Wedderburn, H. J. S.|
|Lindsay, K. M.||Reid, Sir D. D. (Down)||Wells, Sir Sydney|
|Lipson, D. L.||Reid, J. S. C. (Hillhead)||Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)|
|Little, Sir E. Graham-||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)||Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.|
|Llewellin, Colonel J. J.||Ramer, J. R.||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Lloyd, G. W.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Loftus, P. C.||Rosbotham, Sir T.||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)|
|Lyons, A.M.||Rosa Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Mabane. W. (Huddersfield)||Winerton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.||Rowlands, G.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|M'Connell, Sir J.||Rayds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.||Wise, A. R.|
|McCorquadale, M.S.||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross)||Russell, Sir Alexander||Warnersley, Sir W. J.|
|MacDonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)||Wood, Hon. C. I. C.|
|Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)||Salmon, Sir I.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|McEwen, Capt. J.H.F.||Salt, E.W.||Wragg, H.|
|McKie, J.H.||Samuel, M. R. A.||Wright, Wing-Commander J.A.C.|
|Maclay, Hon. J.P.||Sandeman, Sir N. S.||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Macnamara, Lieut.-Colonel J.R.J.||Sanderson, Sir [...]. B.|
|Magnay, T.||Schuster, Sir G. E.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.-|
|Maitland, A.||Scott, Lord William||Captain Margesson and Mr.|
|Makings, Brigadier-General Sir Ernest||Selley, H.R.||Furness.|
|Manningham-Buller, Sir M.||Shakespeare, G.H.|