§ Question again proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."
§ 11.59 a.m.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I was saying that that aggression was accompanied by an unbroken succession of outrages against British and other foreign residents in China. Of course it is impossible to estimate the number, but the hon. Member for Kidderminster told us the other day that the United States Department of State have calculated that there have been at least 600 such outrages against American citizens. If that is so, the outrages against British citizens must run into thousands. I do not want to dilate on them at any length; everyone remembers what they were, from the deliberate machine-gunning of our Ambassador to the kidnapping and long detention of the 2853 military attaché, Colonel Spear, the brutal murder of Mr. Tinkler, and the long series of insults and humiliations by stripping, personal violence and in other ways during the recent months in Tientsin. These events have been detrimental to British interests in many ways. The war itself, the fact of the aggression, has struck another blow at the structure of international law and at the new post-War pacts against war, which, on any right consideration, are the most vital of all British interests.
The outrages against our fellow-countrymen in China show very plainly that the militarists of Tokyo are pursuing the policy of the Tanaka Memorandum, and that their main objective is to drive all Westerners from Asia. In recent weeks they have shown us that they mean now, before the driving out of Westerners is complete, by using all the violence they dare, to compel us to become their actual accomplices in their aggression on China. That is the background against which His Majesty's Government began their negotiations over Tientsin. It is the background against which we must consider what we call the Tokyo formula, which the Government have now accepted; it is the background against which we must consider the demands which the Japanese have made and which are now being discussed.
I do not disguise the fact that from the very outset we have regarded the present negotiations with some anxiety. That anxiety is not caused only by the fact that, on the day when the Japanese blockade began, Dr. Goebbels told us that it was going to be the Munich of the East. It was caused still more by the resemblance of these negotiations to those which produced the Italian Treaty a year ago. Last year, Italy was doing propaganda against us; she was making trouble for us in Palestine; she was massing troops in Libya as a menace to Egypt; she was intervening on an extensive scale in Spain. Then we asked her what she wanted from us, what she would take to stop this illegal course of provocation; and what she wanted in fact was recognition of aggression and its results in various forms. We gave it. I am not saying whether it was right or wrong, but we recognised her sovereignty over unconquered Abyssinia, we agreed to various formulas which were used later 2854 to justify and legitimise her war on the constitutional government of Spain. She took all that we gave her; she gathered in all the prestige of our capitulation over Abyssinia; and she gave us just exactly nothing in return. The war against the Spanish Government went on; the trouble in Palestine got worse; the troops in Libya were increased in numbers; beyond what they had been before. To-day there is hardly a clause in the Italian Agreement which has not been torn to rags.
We are faced with the same situation by the Japanese. They, too, are attempting what a noble Member of this House once called blackmail. They have used illegal violence and provocation against British interests and British rights. We have asked them now what they will take to stop. They tell us, or they go as near to telling us as they dare, that they want our recognition for the legitimacy of their war in China. And so, when we say that we will negotiate about their demands at Tientsin, they ask us first to discuss what they call the background. We do so. We give them the formula drawn up in Tokyo ten days ago. I know that the Government have categorically denied that that means any change of policy of any kind. I know they have assured us that it affects in nothing the rights of China in international law. I am very glad of those assurances, and thank the Prime Minister for having given them, but I ask him for one moment to look at the formula, to consider its terms, and to consider how it has been interpreted and how it has been received. It lays down — and this is really the only point in the formula — that His Majesty's Governmentfully recognise the actual situation in Chinaand note thatthe Japanese forces in China have special requirements for the purpose of safeguarding their own security and maintaining public order in regions under their control.I ask hon. Members to consider the words "special requirements". The "Times" correspondent in Tokyo, in a message the other day, said that the task of the conference was to meet the Japanese Army's "legitimate requirements." I know how "Times" correspondents do their work. I have had, as an official, to deal with them for many years. I think it is very unlikely that the "Times" correspondent would use the word 2855 "legitimate" as a gloss on the word "special" unless he had heard someone do so before. I think that gloss has much importance, because, unless the word "special" means "legitimate," it means nothing at all. The Japanese Army have no legitimate requirements in China; they have no right to be there.
I submit that, whatever the Government desire, the mere fact of the formula having been drawn up means a quasi-recognition of the Japanese invasion. That is why it was interpreted in Chungking as a disaster; that is why the British Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai said it was likely to result in a deplorable betrayal of British rights, obligations and interests in China; that is why it was received with anxiety, if not with actual dismay, in the United States. That is why the Japanese Prime Minister said that it would be a big shock to the Chungking Government, and would be "a favourable factor in disposing of the China incident." I know that the Prime Minister has repudiated what the Japanese Prime Minister said: that, in fact, we must help the Japanese to conquer China if we want peace; but I submit that the formula is, and cannot but be, open to this interpretation.
What has happened as a result of our giving this formula? The Japanese Government have used it immediately as a starting point for further far-reaching and in-acceptable demands. First, they have asked for what they called the neutrality of the British Settlements and Concessions. No one wants the Settlements and Concessions to be the centres of war, but I remember that in 1932, and again in 1937, when the Chinese had halted the Japanese invasion at Shanghai, the Japanese used the International Settlement to land troops, stores, guns and munitions, under the protection of foreign ships, and the Chinese could not enter to repel them. They used that landing to take the Chinese armies in the rear. The Chinese have not forgotten that, on those occasions, we did nothing to uphold the neutrality of the Settlement. The Japanese say that, to ensure neutrality, they must have a system of joint police control. I view that suggestion with grave misgivings if the Japanese police are to behave there as elsewhere and if their admitted function is to hunt and per- 2856 secute Chinese citizens who are loyal to their own Government at Chungking.
Still more important is the Japanese demand for the handing over of the four Chinese who, they allege, murdered another Chinese at Tientsin a few months ago. This is a matter of the very highest moral and political importance, and I hope the Government will tell us, not only that they have not yet decided, but that they will not decide, to hand over these men. The Japanese, as far as I am aware, have failed to produce any evidence of these men's guilt. If the Japanese had such evidence, I am sure it would have been published far and wide. As the Under-Secretary said the other day, in answer to a Question, there are no Japanese courts with legitimate jurisdiction in invaded China. If these men were handed over to the puppet courts that have been set up in China, that would be a recognition of the fake regime which the Japanese have set up. The only courts that could try them legitimately are the Chinese courts at Chungking.
If we hand them over to the Japanese they will, no doubt, be tortured into confession, and then killed. I have here a letter from a British lawyer, Mr. Gads by, who practised for 28 years in Tokyo in the Japanese courts. He tells me that nearly every man accused in Japan confesses to the police or the procurator in the course of his preliminary examination. It is a matter of public knowledge that torture is used, and sometimes a man dies under torture. When it is known that prisoners have been tortured, the Tokyo Bar in a good many cases turn out in force to defend them, and in such cases the courts usually decide that there has been irregular conduct on the part of the police and disallow the confessions. I suggest that to hand these men over to the police would be disastrous to the British name in Asia, in India, and in Africa. It is one of our proudest boasts that we have stood for the sanctity of legal justice, and to hand over these men would strike a mortal blow at our reputation among the Chinese people, and would be regarded as an act of shame in the United States. I beg the Prime Minister to tell us that we are not going to hand over these men, as helpless pawns in our diplomatic game to a fearful death.
2857 The Japanese have demanded that we should give them the £ 800,000 of silver now lying in the Chinese Government banks at Tientsin. They have tried to make a quasi-legal claim. They have said that the silver belonged to the Northern Political Council, and that that Council has ceased to exist and has been replaced by the new regime at Peiping. That argument is utter rubbish. The Northern Political Council was established under the laws of the Central Chinese Government at Nanking. Its members were appointed by Nanking. The silver was and is the property of the Central Government of China. It cannot be given to the puppet regime without recognising that regime de jure as the legitimate Government of invaded China. The Government simply cannot do such a thing. It would be complicity and robbery which any British court would inevitably condemn, and I hope and trust that the right hon. Gentleman will give us an assurance on that point. Much more important, the Japanese Government have demanded that we shall prohibit the use of the Chinese dollar at Tientsin and shall compel everybody, foreign and Chinese, to use the worthless Federal Reserve Bank notes which they have issued instead.
This is a really fundamental issue in the present negotiations with Tokyo. I venture to believe that if the Japanese demand is not accepted the Japanese will break off the negotiations very soon. I am glad to think that I have some confidence that the Government will tell us that they will not accept this demand either before or after consultation with other Powers. I do not see how they possibly could accept it. For one thing the legal argument which I have already put forward seems to me quite decisive. They cannot forbid the Chinese dollar or accept the Federal Reserve Bank notes without according de jure recognition to the Japanese regime in the invaded areas of China. It would be utterly inconsistent with the policy stated in the Government note of 14th January, which the Undersecretary reaffirmed the 'other day — a policy of upholding the Nine-Power Treaty and of ensuring the political, cultural and economic integrity and independence of the Chinese State.
I hope that on that ground alone the demand that we shall forbid the Chinese 2858 dollar in Tientsin will be promptly, finally and publicly rejected. Indeed I hope it will be rejected before our Debate to-day comes to an end. In truth, the legal aspect of this demand is much the least important. It is the economic and military purposes of the Japanese that we ought to keep in view. What do the Japanese hope for if they succeed in making us do what they desire? They hope to secure, first, a greater share than they already have in the import and export trade of China, in that way working not only towards their dream of monopoly of foreign trade at our expense but also adding greatly to their strength in the conduct of the war. They hope to strike a blow, as undoubtedly they would, at the stability of the Chinese dollar in the rest of China. They hope to defeat our efforts to maintain the stability of the dollar and in so doing to make it harder for China to secure munitions and other assistance from abroad. But above all — and this is really the point I want the Prime Minister to consider — they hope to destroy the guerilla movement in the vast areas which they have nominally occupied but which they do not in reality control.
There is a real sense in which the Japanese are right when they say that the currency question has a connection with public order in invaded China. It is common knowledge that the Chinese peasants have vigorously and consistently refused to touch the bogus Japanese currency in the invaded areas. It is common knowledge that it is with Chinese Government dollars that the guerillas have purchased their foodstuffs and kept their bands alive. The guerilla movement has become the most important single factor in the Chinese war. By the action of guerillas the proportion of Chinese losses has been reduced from 10 Chinese to one Japanese, as it was in the first year of the war, to one Chinese for one Japanese; in other words, equality of losses, at the present time.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
The Prime Minister expresses a doubt. Perhaps it is an exaggeration, but I have been in touch with some impartial authorities who have examined the matter.
§ The Prime Minister
I should have thought it was a subject on which it would be extremely difficult to get reliable information.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I have endeavoured to consult authorities in close touch with the situation. It is true at any rate that the proportion of Chinese losses has been enormously reduced by the guerilla movement. I do not think the Prime Minister will deny that the Japanese know that their only hope is to destroy the guerilla movement, and incomparably the most effective weapon they could have would be to destroy the Chinese peasants' faith in the Chinese dollar. It follows that if we lend ourselves to any plan which helps towards that end we shall not only be infringing the legal rights of China "but helping Japan to increase her economic strength at the expense of China and ourselves, and we shall actually be intervening in the war against the Chinese people in the most effective way.
I think I have shown that we view with anxiety these negotiations with Tokyo and the demands which the Japanese have put forward. They have led us to the acceptance of a formula which we think is open to objection in spite of all that the Government have said to restrict its meaning. The formula has led us to a series of unacceptable demands which I cannot think the Government will fail to reject. Then what happens? When we do not immediately accept these demands the Japanese continue with the methods of blackmail. They have increased their pressure, since the negotiations began, in almost every way. It is about two months since we first began informally to discuss the matter, and in those two months the Japanese have not only maintained an illegal and monstrous blockade at Tientsin but — the Prime Minister will correct me if I am wrong, but I think I am right — they have virtually blockaded Kulangsu, occupied Swatow, virtually closed the treaty ports of Foochow and Wenchow, closed the Pearl River, thus virtually blockading Shameen, and they have begun measures to cut off the foodstuffs from Hong Kong. On the 25th July the "Times" reported that they were beginning to operate an undeclared partial blockade of Hong Kong. They were mining waters in some of the adjacent ports and they were intercepting cargo junks. They were bombing the railway and bombing the roads around 2860 the border. The "Telegraph" told us the next day that they had wiped out a complete fleet of 400 junks and that of 1,000 men and women only a few had survived.
All these measures are designed to make food scarce at Hong Kong, and food prices have been rising. At Tientsin the Japanese commander cynically declared on 26th July that the traffic restrictions, as he called them, would not be lifted until their objectives had been fully attained. As lately as this morning the "Times" states from Shanghai that the Japanese blockade has been visibly tightened at Tientsin. They have again curtailed the milk supply and once more are stopping vessels in the river, in spite of the danger of accidents. There are various other ways in which British citizens are being molested and being interfered with at other places. The Chinese are being intimidated in order to make them leave British employment. Two women were stripped, according to a newspaper report, at Kaifeng only two days ago, and according to the "Times" this morning violent anti-British posters have again been plastered all over Chefoo, adorned with gruesome pictures of skulls. The blackmailer is pursuing the methods which he thinks he has made to pay. All this is very damaging to our prestige, and prestige is important in the East. It means the power to govern without armed force. It is very damaging to our interests, but we are afraid that it may be worse than that. We are afraid that it may be damaging to the whole policy by which the Government are seeking to avoid a war. In our view the Government are being led — very unwillingly I quite recognise — to compromise the basic principle upon which our policy against aggression must be based.
A week or two ago the Prime Minister was answering a question about the discussions of the background of the Tientsin question, and I ventured to ask him whether he would remind the Japanese that the real background of the matter lay in the fact that they were permitting aggression which was internationally condemned, and that if the aggression was ended every outstanding question between us could quite easily be solved, and the Prime Minister replied that he did not think that a very helpful suggestion. I think, with great respect, that that 2861 goes to the root of the matter. The Government declare that they are now trying to organise a Peace Front against aggression. But they cannot do it if, in the Far East, they virtually or by implication accept aggression, if they recognise as legitimate requirements the military needs which that aggression creates, and if they make concessions to that aggression of various kinds.
I want to ask the Prime Minister why he thinks that so many of the nations which are to-day threatened with aggression hesitate to join the Peace Front so vigorously and demonstratively? Why do the Dutch of all people declare that they do not want the British guarantee? They have always stood for collective security at Geneva and have always accepted every plan. Why has American opinion swung back so powerfully to isolation? I believe that one of the factors — I do not put it higher than that — is the belief of the people of that country that for us aggression is still only aggression when we ourselves are openly menaced or attacked. I do not believe that our general policy against war can possibly succeed unless and until we recognise and declare that China to-day is part of the Peace Front and act upon it. I hope that the Prime Minister will recognise it here and now, and that he will tell us that the Government are going to make no more concessions to Japanese blackmail; that they mean to help China to repel aggression, as they promised to help her in the resolutions of the League of Nations; that they will not hand over the four Chinese to certain death; that they will refuse to give up the Japanese Government's silver; that they will support the Chinese dollar as they have done hitherto; and that they will urge — this is a practical suggestion for consideration — the French Government to pay over to China the credit for supporting the Chinese currency which the French Chamber has already voted, and they themselves will give another loan to China to support the currency if that should be required. I hope that they will tell us that they will expedite the present agreement for export credits to China and that they will give a considerable share of the new £ 60,000,000 to China if she should ask that that should be done. Above all, I hope that the Government will tell us that they are going to follow America's example and will abrogate our Trade Treaty with Japan.
2862 The "Financial Times" declared the other day on the front page that in the opinion of the best informed quarters in London the Japanese were virtually at the end of their supplies of gold and foreign exchange. Nobody will give them credit. They can only buy abroad the imports of oil and minerals and other vital raw requirements with their exports, and of their exports the British Commonwealth of Nations — this country, India, the Dominions and the Colonies — are taking now 41.3 per cent. The stoppage of our purchases alone would be a mortal blow to Japan, and I submit to the House and to the Prime Minister that it is utterly grotesque that, while we are spending countless millions to confront aggression over here, we are by our purchases of Japanese exports financing their aggression in the East. I hope no hon. Member will say that this is a wild and irresponsible programme of support for China. It is very largely supported, I understand, by the China Association in their remarkable analysis of the British interests in the East, reported in the "Times" to-day. I hope that no hon. Member would say that it would provoke a war. I know that there are high authorities in this House who scoff at the idea.
It seems to me quite plain that Japan's general trade position, with her utterly disastrous military position in China, and, indeed, even her naval position, with her long and vulnerable lines of sea communications, make it impossible for her to risk another major war. If the Government would take this action which I have outlined, I believe that they would not only save China in her hour of need, and that they would not only do more to win American opinion for real co-operation than they could do in any other way, but they would strengthen their hand in their new policy of the Peace Front throughout the world. I would go further. The present chaos in which we live began in Manchuria eight years ago. It may well be that the next world war will begin with a clash in the Far East, but if we take this action it might be that, by courage instead of surrender, we should avert a European war.
§ 12.33 P.m.
§ The Prime Minister
In the course of the Debate which took place so short a time ago as Monday last we discussed to some extent the situation in the Far East, 2863 and I do not know that since then anything has happened greatly to change that situation, so there is not very much for me to add to what was said then. The hon. Member who has just spoken, as we all know, holds his views very strongly on the subjects which he discusses, but perhaps, on the whole, the observations he has made to-day were less fire-eating than they have been on previous occasions. I have always found a difficulty in answering him, because he always appears to try to push the Government to go a little further in their statements, pledges and assurances than I think they ought to go, and it puts me in this position, that, in refusing to put my foot upon what seems to be unsound ground, I may seem to be willing to go less far than in fact I really am going. Therefore, while I am afraid that I cannot give complete satisfaction to the hon. Member by giving definite assurances on a number of items on which he spoke, it must not be assumed that I am seeking to minimise the Government's strong objection to many of the incidents in which the Japanese have been concerned in the course of the last few months in the Far East, I want the House to bear in mind that the situation for this country is particularly difficult.
Sometimes I hear hon. Members ask why we do not do as the United States does. It is hardly necessary for me to point to the fundamental difference between the United States, with its isolation from Europe, and this country. Surely we must all the time, in the presence even of these insults and injuries which have been inflicted upon British subjects in China, remember what are the limits of what we can do at this particular time to help our people there. At the present moment we have not got in the Far East a Fleet superior to that of the Japanese. We have such a Fleet here, and in certain circumstances we might find it necessary to send the Fleet out there. I hope no one will think that it is absolutely out of the question for such circumstances to arise. I do not mean that as a threat but only as a warning. We would much rather settle our differences with the Japanese by discussion and negotiation, provided we can do so without sacrificing what we conceive to be fundamental considerations or principles, than do it by resort to force.
2864 There is another thing too, that we must remember, and I wonder sometimes whether hon. Members have it in mind. I think of all the lonely unprotected, defenceless British people scattered about in different parts of China. Even if we determined to-morrow that we were going to the last extremity we could not, perhaps, protect many of those people. I do feel that we have a duty to them, that we ought to bear that in mind and that we ought not, if we can avoid it, put them in greater peril than that in which they now stand.
I want to pay a tribute to the British Ambassador in Tokyo who is carrying on negotiations at the present time with, it seems to me, great skill, great coolness and courage, under extremely difficult circumstances, and in climatic conditions which I am told are at this time of the year particularly trying. We have agreed to a formula which has been the subject of some animadversions by the hon. Member. He says that the formula is open to interpretations which he admits the British Government have refused to accept as being legitimate interpretations. Nevertheless, he says that the formula is open to these interpretations, and he criticises it on that ground.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I said that in my view it is impossible to resist those interpretations, because unless the word "special" inquiry means legitimate inquiry it does not mean anything at all.
§ The Prime Minister
If the hon. Member lends his authority to that interpretation, I am sorry that he does so. I do not think it does us any good. After all, it does not really so much matter what interpretation people put upon the words; the real question is, how are we in fact going to interpret it in practice. If the British Government say that we do not regard this formula as implying any change in our policy, which, in fact, has not changed, surely that is of much more importance than an alteration in the words of the formula, which has been arrived at after much difficulty and after hours of discussion on both sides. At any rate, this formula has enabled us to discuss the very acute situation in Tientsin. In some aspects and in some parts of the difficulties at Tientsin it does look as though we should not have any great difficulty in coming to an agreement with the Japanese. I say that deliberately, 2865 although the House will understand that it is no use coming to an agreement on one point if there are other points on which we cannot come to an agreement. The agreement must be an agreement on everything. It does show, however, that those who are conducting these negotiations in Tokyo are by no means so extreme or so unreasonable as we have found many of the Japanese in China itself.
The hon. Member says that the Japanese are demanding joint police control in the Tientsin concession. I am not quite sure what he means by the Japanese in that connection, because, as he pointed out, there is not always complete unanimity between Tientsin and Tokyo. In case of doubt I think we must accept the Tokyo view. I can only say that the basis upon which our discussions in Tokyo have been proceeding on this subject of police control has not been on the basis of joint police control. They have been on the basis that the control should remain in the hands of the municipal council or its officers. The hon. Member also mentioned the case of the four men, and he asked me to give an assurance that in no circumstances will these four men be handed over.
§ The Prime Minister
I should have expected the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to take that view. I do not call him a judicially minded person, if I may say so.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
It is not a question of being judicially minded. It is a question of national honour.
§ The Prime Minister
I do not agree at all. On the contrary, I say that it is a question of evidence. If there is evidence that these men were actually concerned in the murder of Dr. Cheng, does the right hon. Gentleman say that it is a point of honour that we should not hand them over?
§ The Prime Minister
The right hon. Gentleman has the right to raise that point. Our point all through has been that we cannot hand these men over unless we have evidence to show us that 2866 they were concerned in the murder. The Japanese have now submitted their evidence, and that is being examined. I am not going to pronounce on what the verdict may be. The evidence must be examined not by me, but by proper legal authorities. If the result of the examination were to be that the guilt of these men were established, or a prima facie case for the guilt of these man were established, then we should have no right to do anything else but hand them over.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
This is a very important matter. This is the murder of one Chinese by other Chinese. No Japanese courts in China have jurisdiction over Chinese, only over Japanese. To what court will these men be handed over?
§ The Prime Minister
They would be handed over to the Chinese District Court which would deal with such a case. That is the authority to whom these men would be handed over, if they had to be. There are no Japanese courts except the consulate courts, and they only try Japanese, not Chinese.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
Are not these district courts under Japanese régime, and, therefore, to hand them over to these courts is to recognise their jurisdiction, and is a de jure recognition of the Japanese regime in China.
§ The Prime Minister
I think the hon. Member is going too far. These courts have been in existence all the time and they are courts to whom people have been handed over not only by ourselves but by others for the last 20 months, and we cannot now suddenly put up a new story and say that we cannot recognise these courts.
§ Mr. A. V. Alexander
Does that mean that we have abandoned the principle of the earlier Tientsin negotiations in having the case submitted to a joint tribunal?
§ The Prime Minister
We have said from the beginning that the evidence should be given to us by the Japanese on which they base their claim that these men should be handed over to them. They refused to give us that evidence, and it was then that we made the suggestion of a tribunal. Now they have given us this evidence and, therefore, that question no longer arises.
Let me pass to other important questions which have been raised. There is 2867 the question of silver and currency. The difficulty there is that it is agreed that these discussions are to be local discussions, about the local situation in Tientsin, and if you take the matter literally these questions are Tientsin questions. The silver in question is in Tientsin, and the question that is raised about currency refers to the circulation of currency in Tientsin. In the view of the British Government we cannot deal with these questions in Tientsin without really dealing with the questions elsewhere than in Tientsin, in fact, throughout the whole of Northern China. Whatever you do about silver and currency it must affect a very much wider area than Tientsin, and it follows from that that it is not only the British Government which is concerned in these two points. We have made it perfectly clear to the Japanese Government that we are not prepared to settle with the Japanese alone these two questions of silver and currency, but that they can only be settled after consultation with other Governments who are as concerned as we are in the general question of the future position of silver and also of currency. They are closely allied.
I am not going to lay down in the definite way which the hon. Member asked me what our attitude is going to be, consultations or no consultations. I do not think it is the proper way to begin consultations with any other country to say, "We have already taken our decision, and now we are going to consult you." If you are going to consult them you must reserve your decision; but I will go so far as to say this, that I do not take exception to what the hon. Member said as to the connection between the maintenance of the Chinese currency and the capacity of the Chinese to carry out a guerrilla warfare in northern China. I recognise that, behind this question of currency, which I agree with the hon. Member is probably in the minds of the Japanese the fundamental question in this matter, there is a much larger question, and that is the ability of the Chinese to carry on the warfare successfully.
The hon. Member finished by saying that in his view the British Government should also declare that China is a part of the Peace Front, and that we should act upon that. I cannot understand what 2868 the hon. Member means by that. Does he mean that we should treat China like Rumania or Poland and guarantee her against aggression? Surely in using those words and in saying that we should treat China as part of the Peace Front, he is using words very loosely and without any clear idea in his mind, and certainly conveying no clear idea to the minds of others as to what exactly he has in mind. Perhaps the hon. Member will enlighten us.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I have a clear idea that His Majesty's Government should make it plain again, as they have done on innumerable occasions at Geneva, that they accept the resolution passed there; that they regard China as the victim of a Covenant-breaking aggression which also violates the Nine-Power Treaty and the Kellogg Pact, and that they should take the measures which I outlined, the necessary concrete and practical measures, to give support to China at the present time, including a denunciation of our trade treaty with Japan, as the United States have done.
§ The Prime Minister
We have not gone back on anything we have said before as to our position in regard to aggression or in regard to China, but there is nothing which is contained in any obligation we have undertaken which obliges us to denounce the trade treaty with Japan. Once again the hon. Member demands that we should denounce this trade treaty. If I say, "No, I will not give him that assurance," it may seem that I am determined that the trade treaty shall not be denounced. Do not let anybody put that interpretation upon my words, but do not let us confuse a denunciation of this treaty with the actual operation of the denunciation. Twelve months' notice has to be given by us, so that 12 months will have to elapse before any active operative effect could follow from such a denunciation. I am not saying that that is any reason why we should not denounce, but I am merely saying that no immediate effect would be produced. There is another point. The Treaty has been acceeded to by some of the Dominions, and any denunciation of the treaty would have considerable repercussions in the Dominions. It would really be outrageous on our part to shut our eyes to the effect it might have and do anything about denunciation without having first 2869 obtained the full confirmation and agreement of the Dominions concerned in the action we propose to take.
We have been compelled by force of circumstances to undertake some very heavy liabilities and commitments in Europe. The effect of those commitments is that, if certain things were to happen, this country would have to go to war. It would be possible to undertake the same commitments in the Far East. I do not want to do that. This is a country whose resources it is very difficult to measure or to put a limit to. It is a rich country, a country inhabited by people of a determined and resolute spirit. But there are limits to what it would be prudent to undertake, and however much, therefore, our feelings may be exacerbated by things that are happening in the Far East—I can assure hon. Members that I fully share the most violent feelings that anyone could have on the subject; it makes my blood boil to hear and to read of some of the things that have been happening there—however much those emotions have been aroused in us, let us not forget the liabilities that we have already assumed or the position of our fellow-countrymen and women who are already on the spot.
I do not think there is anything more that I can usefully say this morning. I have tried to give the House some sort of indication of the balance of considerations that we have to take account of in the Far East. We shall endeavour, in continuing the negotiations, to preserve to the utmost extent the principles which have hitherto governed our conduct there. We shall preserve to the utmost possible extent the interests and the fortunes of British subjects there. We shall endeavour to show patience and to exercise a reasonable moderation, recognising that behind all these outrageous things there may be some genuine suspicion on the part of the Japanese in China about our treatment of them. Above all, let us not forget that there may be even graver and nearer problems to be considered in the course of the next few months. We must conserve our forces to meet any emergency that might arise.
§ 12.59 P.m.
§ Admiral of the Fleet Sir Roger Keyes
Having had a good deal to do with the Japanese during the last 40 years, particularly during two of their wars, I 2870 venture to address a few remarks to the House about the foreign situation in the Far East. In another place last night the Foreign Secretary said something to this effect, that it was for every responsible person to take a long view and look forward to the goal that we are striving to attain. I, therefore, intend to choose my words very carefully. I welcomed on Monday night the firm declaration that the Prime Minister made as to the policy that the Government intended to adopt in the Far East, and to the calm, statesmanlike statement he has just made as to the conflicting difficulties before him. I know so well from my long association with the Japanese that irresolution and weakness are bound to lead to further acts of aggression and may well bring about a situation so intolerable, as to make it impossible for our forces in the East not to use arms to defend our nationals. I submit that, if stronger action had been taken in the past, the risks that are now being run would never have arisen. I will give examples. After the Japanese, despite the protests of the authorities in the International Settlement, had made a victory march through the International Settlement—and British barbed wire was taken down to enable them to pass—they declared that they intended to march through the French Concession. When they found barbed wire, armoured cars and machine guns blocking the way, although they had actually announced the route that they proposed to take, they pretended that they never intended to enter the Concession.
Again, a year or so ago the Japanese military authorities declared that they intended to arrest a Chinaman in the International Settlement. Brigadier Hop-wood, in command of the British troops, who had to make up his mind in a moment, said, "If you do so you will have to fight." The Japanese military authorities declared that there was some misunderstanding and nothing further was heard of' it. It is no secret in the Navy that young commanding officers on detached service with a full knowledge that their Admiral would back them up, have taken strong action which has brought the Japanese to their senses on many occasions. It is also well known in the Navy that the desire—a very natural one, in view of the situation at home—of the 2871 Government to have no untoward incidents in the Far East has hampered naval and military commanding officers, and not only hampered them and put them in humiliating positions, but made it very difficult for them to deal with the arrogant, ambitious military leaders who seem to be acting absolutely independently of the Government in Japan. I know the Japanese so well; they will not stand up to a firm front.
Everyone who has spoken in the House about the indignities and insults that we are suffering from feels the same about it. It is almost impossible to speak temperately and calmly about the arrest of Colonel Spear, the stripping of men and women at Tientsin and the insolent behaviour of the Japanese generals at Tientsin in refusing to receive the British general commanding our troops in China. We are told that the aggressive demonstrations against us in China are organised by the military authorities, but the Japanese Government cannot escape responsibility for similar demonstrations in Tokyo. How can one expect to get any satisfaction from a government so lost to decency that it organises demonstrations outside the British Embassy while these talks are taking place?
In the East, loss of face is a very serious matter, and the fact that these dreadful things have happened has lowered our prestige. That prestige could be speedily restored if we took the right course now. The Foreign Secretary said last night that we cannot be the policeman in the Far East. That is true, but there are sufficient ships in the Far East to send some to every place where our trade is threatened. If the admiral on the spot were given a free hand, I am confident that the British Navy by showing a bold front, would be able to give protection to our trade. But we want something more than that. We want some tremendous international movement in the East to show the Japanese that Europeans will not tolerate this sort of treatment. We are not the only policemen; after all, France and the United States are just as much interested as we are in the preservation of the Nine-Power Treaty.
I do not think it is out of place for me to remind the House that before we went to the Washington Conference in 1922, we scrapped a fleet of capital ships—I think 2872 15 in number and several cruisers —which was more powerful than the whole fleet of the Japanese Navy. That was not taken into account when we went to Washington. There again, in order to meet the Americans' desire for parity, we agreed to scrap a further number of powerful ships. This entailed allowing Japan to possess a fleet of battleships and aircraft carriers equal to three-fifths of the Navy of the whole British Empire—an utterly disproportionate ratio, having regard to the strength of our respective Fleets when the War ended, and their relative responsibilities. Again, in 1931, in order to meet the desire of the Americans for all-round parity, we had to agree to a ratio of five to three in every category of the Naval service. Hon. Members opposite have traced the present troubles back to eight years ago, but I would go back a year or two earlier than that, because our action at that time, to which I have referred, encouraged Japan to realise that if she waited she could eventually carry out the 21 points that she attempted to force on China in 1915.
§ Mr. Alexander
I apologise for interrupting the hon. and gallant Gentleman, but I would remind him that the reception of the Japanese delegation to the London Naval Conference when it returned to Tokyo was such as led one to believe that the whole military class thought that the delegation had gone too far in meeting the demands we then made.
§ Sir R. Keyes
That only shows how necessary it is now to make them realise their position in the world. In 1931, to hasten the parity which America demanded, we agreed to scrap five great powerful ships without any corresponding sacrifice on Japan's part. I know that our delegates at the Conference were deeply concerned about that, and this was pointed out to the United States delegates. I know that the general trend of the arguments which they used were that if there was trouble in the Far East, there would be a united fleet there to meet aggression. I hope that the American isolationists will not succeed in preventing the United States from taking a firm and strong hand in upholding the Nine-Power Treaty. President Roosevelt, who has a great deal of difficulty in his country, has just made the courageous announcement that America will denounce the American- 2873 Japanese Treaty of 1911. He has given a lead in taking retaliatory action against the Japanese because of their maltreatment of American nationals. After listening to the Prime Minister's speech, I appreciate the difficulties of the Government. I know that it may not be convenient, for various reasons, to follow the example which President Roosevelt has given at once, but there are a number of ways in which we could put pressure on Japan and make her realise that she will be an outcast if she pursues her present course.
I know the Japanese very well, and I have had many friends among them. When they were seeking our friendship, when they were our allies, they strove to live up to our standards, and we of another generation, who had friends among the Japanese soldiers, sailors and statesmen of those days, and had a sincere admiration for their bravery and knightly qualities, are shocked at the depths to which their successors have fallen in following the precepts of their Nazi friends. But knowing them as I do, I am absolutely confident that if the Government makes it clear beyond a shadow of doubt—as I think the Prime Minister has done to-day-—that we can and will take the strongest retaliatory measures, Japan will not dare to pursue her present policy. She must know that she will get no help from the Axis Powers; she can get no help from them. Japan must know that Germany will suffer a crushing defeat in the end, if she is rash enough to force a war on the British Empire—rearmed, united and determined as it is now, and in alliance with France, Poland, Turkey, Rumania, and the other nations which have joined the Peace Front, to resist further aggression—she cannot expect to survive. Japan should be left in no doubt that if she links her fate and future with that of the Axis Powers, she will suffer the same fate as Germany suffered at the conclusion of the Great War.
§ 1.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Mander
Having listened to the last two speakers on the opposite side of the House, I must say that of the two speeches I very much preferred that of the hon. and gallant Member for North Portsmouth (Sir R. Keyes). It was like an invigorating breath of sea air, and I believe that there in what the hon. and gallant Member said, we heard the true voice of England in this matter of our 2874 attitude towards the Japanese. At the same time, I appreciate the fact that the Prime Minister, as a result of this sitting of Parliament to-day and this Debate, and the events of the last week or two, has been stiffened a good deal in his attitude. I venture to hope that he will remain up to that standard during the Recess. The Prime Minister said there had been no change of any kind, to speak of, since the Debate on Monday. But there ought to have been. If the Japanese were carrying out the terms of the agreement, there ought to have been a cessation of the outrages against British subjects in different parts of the Far East. There has not been a such a cessation, and I would like to know when the Government think the Japanese will begin to carry out their side of the Tokyo agreement.
I am glad to associate myself with the tribute paid by the Prime Minister to the British Ambassador in Tokyo. I am sure he is doing his very best. At the same time I would like to join with that a tribute to the British Ambassador in China for the admirable and equally important work which he is doing. I must say that this Agreement, when first put through, seemed to me a typical appeasement effort and quite inconsistent with the resolute policy which we hope the Government are now pursuing in the matter of a Peace Front. One has to think of the background. There was the old situation of sacrificing the victim and rewarding the aggressor. What is important is the effect of this agreement and these negotiations on various other powerful countries and in particular Russia, the United States and Germany. When the Prime Minister says that we have to think of the difficulties in the Far East, we have also to bear in mind the fact that by appearing to weaken there, by appearing to retreat before Japanese aggression or violence, we may be doing ourselves immense harm in Europe. We may be making our friends in Russia and in the United States feel that we cannot be relied upon to stand firm anywhere if we are not prepared to put up a bold face before the Japanese. We may be encouraging Hitler to think—and no one knows what he really does think—that if we are not prepared to take a firm line with the Japanese, we are not likely to do so in the case of Danzig or Poland or anywhere in Europe. That is why the whole conception of peace hangs together.
2875 If this agreement were interpreted in its worst form we should indeed have no moral basis for our action. The League of Nations Resolution would have been abandoned as well as the principles of the Nine-Power Pact. The Prime Minister said that when you go into negotiations you cannot start by laying down certain things which you will or will not do. In a sense there is something in that view, but surely when we enter into negotiations with the Japanese, we ought to make it clear beforehand that we are not going to abandon or even discuss acting in contravention of the League of Nations Resolution which binds us to take no action to weaken Chinese resistance in any way. Surely we should make it clear that we are going to act in accordance with the principles of the Nine-Power Pact. Surely we ought to take a clear stand from the beginning, so that there will be no misunderstanding in the mind of the Japanese Government.
It seems to me that the object of this agreement was to make the Japanese think that we were going to do something which we never had any intention of doing, to make them think that we might be persuaded to go a long way in meeting their demands and abandoning the Chinese. Of course, I do not think there is any intention of doing that. The Government were trying, as usual, to buy a little delay, but the result will simply be that the Japanese, when they realise that we are not going to do what they thought, will be more exasperated than ever and we shall have still greater trouble in the future. I would call the Under-Secretary's attention to the interpretation which has been put upon this Agreement by the Japanese Prime Minister, Baron Hiranuma. He gave an interview to the Press on 23rd July. This interview has been stated in certain quarters to have been inaccurate, but we know that when statesmen become embarrassed it is their habitual practice to blame the Press. I see no reason at all why the journalists in Tokyo should not have accurately reported what the Prime Minister said and he was reported to have said:The Anglo-Japanese Conference in Tokyo has passed its crisis, with the settlement of general questions forming the background of the Tientsin situation. The basic principle evolved as a result of this settlement is applicable to the whole of China and is not 2876 limited to Tientsin. This point ought to be clear to Great Britain … Such British rights and interests may be recognised if only Great Britain will recognise the relations of mutual aid and interdependence between Japan, Manchukuo and China. Great Britain will not assist General Chiang Kai-Shek's regime by granting it credits, or otherwise.That is the Japanese Prime Minister's statement of what he understands the agreement to be. How can the Undersecretary account for such an extraordinary result of these negotiations, as a misunderstanding of that kind? The statement also contains the following: —If Great Britain refrains from granting credits to General Chiang Kai-Shek's regime, that regime will be deprived of the wherewithal for financing purchases of munitions through dealers willing to supply them.That shows where we have got to and the Prime Minister's statement today, is wholly inconsistent with that statement by the Japanese Prime Minister. Obviously, no permanent good is likely to result from the negotiations which are now going on. In the last sentence of the terms of this Tokyo agreement there is this statement:His Majesty's Government … will take this opportunity to confirm their policy in this respect by making it plain to British authorities and British nationals in China that they should refrain from such acts and measures.Will the right hon. Gentleman say what instructions have been sent as a result of this agreement to British authorities in China? We are in honour bound to send instructions if they have been agreed upon. It seems to me that if a policy of this kind is followed out it is bound, in the long run, to lead to the abandonment of British interests in the Far East. If we are willing to give way a little here and a little there, the Japanese will take advantage of the fact and press us further and more strongly until there is no alternative to clearing out of the Far East altogether. The hon. and gallant Member for North Portsmouth who well understands the Japanese, was right in saying that we have to stand up to them and make it clear that we are not going to allow such a thing to happen.
There are all sorts of things, without any question of military action at all, that could be done. The United States have acted with splendid firmness in protest, I imagine, against the pusillanimity of the British Government. The Prime 2877 Minister said that, after all, 12 months' notice would have to be given to abrogate our trade treaty with Japan and that that was a long time before anything could be done. It seems to be a very excellent reason for giving notice at once, so that the time would start to run from now. I venture to say that the sort of things that we ought to do, and could well do, to help China would be concerned with the question of supporting the currency, the question of credits for the purchase of arms and goods for China and other material assistance, the refusal of imports from Japan, the refusal of access to British harbours for Japanese shipping, and the withdrawal of our Ambassador from Tokyo. They are all actions which could be taken in their different order and as seemed most appropriate and that would make Japan feel that we are not going to tolerate the sort of actions which she is carrying out. I would like to refer the the question which I put to-day dealing with this very matter, as follows:To ask the Prime Minister, whether, in view of the fact that during 1938 the United States, British, French, and Dutch empires provided Japan with 86 per cent, of her essential war materials, including 77 per cent, of her aircraft, 99 per cent, of her oil and petroleum, and more than 90 per cent, of all her metals and oils, he will consider the advisability of entering into consultations with the Governments of the United States, France, and Holland, with a view to considering the possibility of taking action to discontinue the encouragement of aggression in this manner.It seems to me that that is reasonably firm action which the Government might well take. Only by firmness in the East can we make it clear that we are going to be firm in the West, and I hope the Government by their action in connection with Japan will show from now onwards that we do intend to be absolutely firm.
Now I want to make a brief reference to the question of refugees, as I see the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) in his place. I venture to hope that he will be able to say something in this Debate about the work of the inter-Governmental Committee which has recently been considering this problem from a new angle, and that he will be able to report to us some satisfactory progress. With regard to the Czech refugees, we first of all gave them a gift of £4,000,000, and we undertook to guarantee a loan of £8,000,000. As a result of what happened in Czecho-Slovakia, that loan has never had to be proceeded 2878 with, so that we really saved a very considerable sum of money there because the loan could not be regarded as a safe investment; and I urge upon the Government to consider most carefully whether, in view of the fact that the sum available, the £4,000,000, will probably not be enough, and in view of the immense moral commitments that we have to these refugees from Czecho-Slovakia, who have been persecuted day after day—something like 1,000,000 Czechs have been sent to Germany, and large numbers of Germans are being colonised in Czechoslovakia at the present time—we cannot do more. It might be that a further £2,000,000 would cover all our commitments and all the very special obligations which we have. We all know the sacrifices which Czecho-Slovakia was called upon to make in the interests of this country, as it was put by the Prime Minister last year. I understand that there are 2,000 of these Czech refugees in Poland at the present time, and that there is some danger that some of them might be driven back into Germany, and I venture to make an appeal to our good friends, the Polish Government, to look with the utmost sympathy upon the situation of these unfortunate people, to do everything they can to prevent such a catastrophe, and to facilitate either their settlement in Poland or their escape to some country where they will be treated with equal consideration.
I will conclude by referring to a point that I raised at question time to-day. In view of the uncertainty and anxiety concerning the formula defining indirect aggression in the Anglo-Soviet Pact, I submit that some public statement should be made so that public opinion can judge exactly where the relative merits of the position of the two Governments lie. I think the public interest demands it, and I believe that people would like to know and that it ought not to hinder the negotiations by our Government at all. Indeed, if their position is a wise and statesmanlike one, it can only invigorate and strengthen their attitude. The Prime Minister said that it was not usual to make such statements without the consent of the Government concerned, but it is very easy to consult the Russian Government. You are doing it every day, and I very much doubt whether the Russian Government would have any objection to publishing the formula. I strongly urge 2879 on the right hon. Gentleman to consider seriously making this publication. Perhaps he will say in his reply whether he will confer with his right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary on this point.
§ 1.33 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Macnamara
There are, in my opinion, certain factors which we want to take into consideration in connection with affairs in the Far East. As I see it, I must confess that the danger seems to be most immediate in Europe. It is more than doubtful tactics for us to allow potential aggressors to draw off our forces somewhere else before starting upon their aggression. We must, I consider, bear that in mind the whole time, however angry we may feel about the situation in the Far East. I hope the Government therefore will walk very warily. Secondly, as far as I know, the Japanese individual is normally a peace-loving individual. There is one caste in Japan, the Samurai caste, that is extremely warlike, and there is also one class in Japan, the officer class, which is likewise warlike, but the conscript soldiers are from the small peasants, who are, as far as I know, a peace-loving people, as are the normal Japanese business men, and, although I feel that we have to walk warily in the Far East at the present time, nevertheless we have also to walk firmly, because by weakening we only encourage those classes and castes in Japan which are in the ascendancy at the moment possibly, and quite probably, against the will of the majority of their own people.
How are we `trying to get our views across to the Japanese people? Are we taking any steps in Japan itself? That is a point to which the Government might well give attention. There are several English newspapers in Japan, but only one, a very small one, the "Kobe Chronicle," is owned by British capital. The others are owned either by Americans or by the Japanese themselves, and so the British point of view is not being fairly put to the Japanese The American point of view may reach them, but the Americans are rather apt to sling mud at the Japanese. They are responsible for most of the anti-Japanese propaganda in the world but do not really shoulder their share of the responsibilities. They are apt to preach at us too much. The Americans are very apt to consider themselves born 2880 missionaries, though for the life of me I cannot discover what is their mission.
My hon and gallant Friend the Member for North Portsmouth (Sir R. Keyes) said we must make abundantly clear to the Japanese, as did other speakers, that we intend to be firm in the Far East. I quite agree, but unless we are going to back up those words with some action I do not see that they will be the slightest good whatever, and as I have already asked the Government to walk warily where we are concerned it seems rather difficult to say what our action should be. To my mind the answer is that there are several nations with unity of interests in the Far East. There are several nations therefore who should combine in a unity of purpose and, if they want to get that unity of purpose, they must put their forces under a unity of command.
I think the real answer in the Far East would be for the Government to do everything they can to get all the nations concerned in the Far East to put their forces under one command—that is to say the French, India, the Australians, the New Zealanders, and, if the Russians come in the Peace Front, then the Russians too; and of course ultimately, as we should hope, the Americans. In my opinion there is nothing which would be more likely to keep the peace in the Far East than if there were one Commander-in-Chief in charge of an allied force with power to station it or parts of it in the territory of any one of those allies. If that were accomplished I doubt whether there would be one Briton or other European stripped by Japanese soldiers. But beyond that point there is the matter of the Concessions. It may be an unpopular subject to raise just now, but when the atmosphere has returned to the normal calm, and nobody is threatening us, I hope the Government will review these isolated posts of ours throughout the Empire, which are extremely embarrassing to us from the military point of view, and which very often date from a past century and should have been revised long ago. Those Concessions will be no more popular to a strong Chinese Government which may win the war than they are to a strong Japanese Government.
I return now to Europe. Most of the debate has been centred on the Far East, but it is not easy to get into a foreign 2881 affairs debate in this House, and there is a certain matter of great importance that I want to mention now, for very obvious reasons which the House will see, I hope, as I unfold my argument, and that is the course that events are going to take in Europe. Germany, as we know acts thus: a war of nerves, followed by a victory within their opponent's country, usually some demoralisation of them, and then the sudden swoop. Now we are faced with a desire on Germany's part to break Poland. We all talk of an August or September crisis. Well, Germany has by her actions mobilised the British Fleet, she has created a British militia, she has brought more troops under arms in Britain than at any time since the War, and she knows prefectly well that those troops will remain in arms and that the Fleet will remain mobilised during August and September. In other words, I consider that she is deliberately provoking a war of nerves during these two months, but it strikes me as being most unlikely, from the military point of view, that she would deliberately encourage us to arm to the teeth and mobilise to the teeth if she meant to strike during those two months.
She will, I think, quite probably gain her second point, that is to say, a victory within her opponent's territory or sphere of interest, during these two months. I am including Danzig as "within." She is practically in Danzig now. It is only a question of a change of title. After that there will come a time when she will have to make a sudden swoop, but she will not make that sudden swoop—will not, in my opinion, make the great supreme adventure, which might risk war with us, when we are fully mobilised and absolutely prepared to meet her. Hon. Members will see in a minute why I am saying all this. Germany knows perfectly well that although she can keep her troops under arms throughout the winter we cannot do so. All our civilian-soldiers will have to go back to their jobs sooner or later, unless we readjust our whole economy. So I feel that she will keep us on edge during August and September and probably mop up, or sop up, any of the fruits of victory which may fall into her lap on the way, such as Danzig; but if she is going to make the supreme adventure of an attack against Poland, which might bring in us against her, I consider she is much more likely to do so during the 2882 winter, and probably the early winter, say, November, than she would be during August and September.
§ Mr. Alexander
I hope the hon. and gallant Member does not mean to give Germany the impression that no objection would be taken to the mopping up of Danzig.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Macnamara
Of course I do not wish to give that impression. I am looking at it from a purely military point of view, and of course the right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that my feeling on the situation at Danzig matches his own. But supposing Germany gets Danzig and puts Poland in the position of having to attack Germany, Poland might find it difficult to do so. Then we come to the winter without a war having broken out. From every point of view if Germany is going to make the supreme adventure against Poland, knowing the risk she runs of bringing in us and France, a winter war would suit her every time. The gently rolling country of Poland would be frozen over crisp and hard, and that would be very suitable for the movement of Germany's mechanised forces, either from Germany itself or from East Prussia. She would be able to fight her local war against Poland, which she thinks she could win in a few weeks; but she fears our attacking either through France or through Russia, or with the Air Force, and in winter all air and sea-passages become far more difficult. It would be more difficult for us to bomb Germany in the winter than in the summer. It would be more difficult for us to send direct help to Poland by sea in the winter than in the summer, even if we had complete command of the sea. If we wish to attack Germany via France we should have to do so in the slush and mud of Flanders and in a French winter, and we should be acting against German troops snug and warm in their concrete fortifications. If we wanted to help via Russia we should have to send an expeditionary force, and that would be hazardous in the extreme, with soldiers going to their first campaign through the rigours of a Russian winter. In every way a sudden swoop on Poland would suit Germany more in the winter than in the summer.
Then there is the question of her ally, Italy. The last thing Italy wants is a war in Europe against France. It would be far more difficult for France to attack 2883 Italy over the Alps, or for her aeroplanes to go over the Alps, in Winter. The one place where Italy might like to strike, in North Africa, the climate suits a campaign in winter far more than in summer. Therefore, I want to give this warning: "We may get through August and September; we may have our war of nerves; Germany may gain this or that or may not gain this or that, but no major war may have broken out. Then, at the end of that period, what will happen? Hitler will say: "There was nothing in it at all. You see I was a man of peace after all. Why did you not go on your summer holidays; what was all the silly fuss about? We in Britain will then start demobilising our Fleet and our troops, and so on, thinking that we have a peaceful winter ahead of us and that we have nothing more to fear.
The barometer will suddenly jump high, having been low for months. Hon. Members are aware that when the barometer goes up and down or vice versa if it is sudden it is an extremely dangerous sign. When we come back we shall be told, as some newspapers are already telling us, that it is high time that we got on to our own domestic concerns and had our General Election; that we got down to our usual dogfight and to our internal dissentions again.
I am saying this now because I hope that we shall not relax our vigilance even though we are getting near to the winter. I hope that we shall not judge the future weather by the temporary high reading of the barometer and that we shall remember that the sudden droppings and risings of a barometer nearly always tell of bad weather. I hope that we shall be extremely careful when we come to fighting each other over our own internal domestic politics, even in matters like a general election about which we are already talking as if taking place in the autumn or in November. We must be prepared to shelve our differences if necessary. We should bear in mind those military factors which, in my opinion, would give Germany the advantage every time in going to war in Poland in winter rather than in the summer months, and we must not think that, because August and September are over, we shall have no trouble in the winter and can therefore afford a general election which may well play into our enemy's hands.
§ 1.48 p.m.
§ Mr. John Morgan
We have followed the very thoughtful speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Chelmsford (Lt.-Col. Macnamara) with considerable interest and concern, and I am sure that many hon. Members, including some on this side of the House, will take into account some of the things he said. We have taken it far too much for granted that October and November would be a perfectly straightforward period, when we might concentrate on even an electoral campaign without undue anxiety. I am glad that he has put those contrary considerations before us.
In regard to the Far Eastern situation, I am not in the least anxious to be inquisitive about the actual day-to-day affairs out there. I have in a very vulnerable and responsible position relatives with whom I keep in contact. What I feel is that this thing is hitting back at us in an extraordinary way. The assumption in this House is that the German people rather like to see us in this position in the Far East, but actually the German people would like to see a firmer British stand in the Far East. It may suit German high policy to enjoy our predicament out there, but the German people are no more pro-Japanese than they are pro-Italian when it comes to their sense of the desirable alignments for themselves. Nevertheless we have to submit to the kind of thing that went over the radio over the whole German Reich the night before last. It was a poem, which read:How pale the old chap went, that poor old Mr. John,When sentries stood before the British Concession'.He ground what teeth he had, and stripped right to the skin;That wasn't nice for him—ha! ha!—in Tientsin.The whole Empire is naked—nude, like poor old honest John.He ceased to be a mighty dude, for he had nothing on.Both big and little watched aglow this novel kind of nudist show;What John exposed, to his distress, was not alone his nakedness.Oh, what a lot was lost to him—Not only there in Tientsin!2885 That is how we were represented over the whole German Reich and Austrian radio on Wednesday night this week, and it illustrates the kind of backwash that we are getting from the Far Eastern situation.
In this problem we are only the junior partner. The senior partner is the United States of America, both actually and potentially. I was out there about three years ago and I went to Honolulu and down the west coast of America. One has also been out to Australia and New Zealand and one is aware that their preoccupation in foreign matters is with the Japanese problem. We made a fuss the other day about tinned salmon coming from Japan into this country. Actually, British Columbian salmon is all Japanese-caught, although it is put into tins in canneries in Columbia. The Japanese simply make a harvest of salmon there and ship the whole of their cash takings back to Japan. Then they begin drawing on the canneries for another season. When one goes to Honolulu one realises that, apart from the aerodromes, there is plenty of evidence of Japanese interest in the area. That is part of the preoccupation of the United States.
President Roosevelt felt so sure of his public opinion that he took a step which to us in such a situation would be a major step, namely, denounced the United States of America-Japan trade treaty. It was quite unexpected to us and I think it must have come as a kind of shock. It would in our case be represented as an emphatic declaration of policy on the part of the British Government and it would have gone from one end of the country and of the world to the other. President Roosevelt has to feel his way and handle his public opinion as tactfully as he can for all sorts of reasons. Yet he felt perfectly at liberty to make a definite declaration of the kind to which I have referred, and which cuts right across the commercial interests of America at the present moment. America is selling twice as much to Japan as she is importing from Japan. That kind of consideration we should have in mind before we came to such a decision, yet I take it that America has had the same fact well in mind, as we should. Nevertheless, America has taken a definite line and President Roosevelt has taken a drastic step. In spite of their isolationist attitude towards our affairs, action towards Japan 2886 evidently meets with approval sufficiently widespread for such a statesman and politician as he is.
The point is this: In the statement which we had from the Prime Minister this morning it was apparent that there must have been a basis of interest between ourselves and the United States on this question. I hope that the Undersecretary will be able to indicate what some of those contacts have been. When the Prime Minister had made plain last week the formula on which the Tokyo discussions were proceeding every news agency in London was inundated with cable appointments from American newspapers the moment that declaration was made. They wanted to know exactly what it meant and how far we were breaking with our declared policy. They showed marked concern about our action. The Press of London that afternoon was simply alive with inquiries from America as to what the declaration meant. Not for many a day has America shown such an interest in our parliamentary activities as it showed on the day on which the Prime Minister made his declaration about the formula.
I should like the Under-Secretary to tell us a little more. Is there any reason why he should not tell us something of the occasions, times and actual volume of the direct contact that they have had with the United States officials on this question of the Far East? Has joint action been contemplated at any time? Was the Foreign Office aware that the American Government was about to declare the trade treaty with Japan null and void? Have we been in active association with the United States, or are we so anxious to save our face that we cannot bring ourselves to enter into discussions as a junior partner with the United States on this matter? Are we prepared to let the United States show a little more initiative in this matter than at the moment we are able to show? Our talk this morning has all been along the line that we are taking unilateral action. The Prime Minister discussed the whole matter as if we were taking our own line, without close association with the other major interests that are concerned.
We may deplore it, but I can certainly understand American reluctance to become involved in European matters. It is, however, the inverse that is operating now; we are reluctant to become involved 2887 in Far Eastern matters because of our major pre-occupations here, while the United States are becoming more disposed to be pre-occupied and involved in the Far East. Their general official policy is concerned about their interests in the Pacific, and their relationship with China in particular. One feels that we may be reluctant to part with our national rights in this matter, that we are, perhaps, too conscious of our own particular status to do what was suggested by the hon. and gallant Member for Chelmsford (Lieut.-Colonel Macnamara). When a certain impingement on American rights was threatened by the Japanese naval authorities, the American admiral told them that, wherever there was an American citizen, there they would meet the American Fleet, and no more was heard on that question. Further, we have little evidence that American citizens, of whom there are as many in China as there are British, are being subjected to the same kind of treatment as our people. Have the Japanese more respect for the American attitude in this matter? It may be that they have, as a result of certain considerations with which we ought to be more closely associated.
I hope the Under-Secretary will give us substantial evidence that we are in the very closest contact with the United States—that we are not merely exchanging information, that we are not merely intimating what we are doing, but that we are actually surrendering to the United States a certain amount of the initiative in this matter, and allowing them to exercise their evident preponderating influence over Japan, the result of which is seen in the respect that is shown to American citizens as against the disrespect that is shown to our citizens. I hope that this aspect of the matter will be made clear to us. because I feel concerned about it. The Prime Minister indicated, quite rightly, that we have to be careful about our action in case we involve the personal position of British residents out there in isolated circumstances, but if we can secure their protection by joint action with the United States, nothing ought to be allowed to stand in the way, and we ought to be prepared to accept measures leading to joint action of the kind suggested by the hon. and gallant Member for Chelmsford. I feel that the people of this nation would probably regard it as 2888 a move in the right direction if they found an American admiral at the head of our affairs in the Far East, coordinating our military forces. I personally should have no objection to that, but should regard it as a first-class move, and as a portent of greater moves of the same kind in the future; and I hope the suggestion will be put forward that we are ready at this stage to use all our British forces in some sort of joint action under American initiative.
Further, why should we not suggest, in the early autumn if you like, a joint conference of our Dominion interests— Canada, Australia, New Zealand—with the United States, in the United States, on the Japanese question? If such a conference were announced at this time, the Japanese would call a halt straight away. Their diplomatic activities would be at once diverted into new channels; they would at once have a major preoccupation looming over the horizon, and would have to take first-class note of such a gesture, seeing that our Dominion interests are so vitally concerned with Far Eastern affairs. I lived for a fair time in New Zealand on two occasions, and I know Australia particularly. In Australia they are almost as unconcerned about European matters as the American citizen himself is, but they are fully alive to the threat that would arise from a Japanese advance in Malaya and elsewhere, and any move to bring Dominion, American and British interests together at some point in the United States would do more than anything else to check this present aggravation of our special interests in China. I hope that in any case the Under-Secretary will let us know how close the contacts have been in all this business with the United States, and whether any representations have been made from the United States in which we have not co-operated or assented. Have there been any proposals from them which we have not felt in a position to accept or take advantage of? If so, it surely should be known to this House, because some of us may feel that we have a right to be interested in such offers from the United States.
§ 2.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Trevor Cox
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Lieut.-Colonel Macnamara) gave us an interesting and highly speculative speech, in 2889 which he dealt with all sorts of vague possibilities and drew a picture of what might possibly happen to us in the future. I do not think that any good purpose would be served by further discussion on those lines, because it is most undesirable that rumours and speculative possibilities of this kind should be circulated in all directions. The hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker), who also made an interesting though somewhat academic speech, was more moderate in his tone than usual. He made a somewhat screened attack on the Government and the Prime Minister. He showed that he had very little confidence in any action which the British Government had taken in the Far East, and that he could put no trust in the Prime Minister. I hope that during the holidays he will consult some of his friends and constituents in the country. Then I think he will come to the conclusion that the people of these islands have been profoundly impressed by the Prime Minister's directness of purpose and freshness of outlook. They know very well that he possesses the two great qualities of courage and confidence which made his distinguished father, Joseph Chamberlain, so eminent. It is, of course, true that such a personality naturally attracts both enthusiastic support and determined hostility, and, as I have said, if the hon Member consults the great masses of the British people, he will find that they are included in the former category.
§ Mr. Cox
The people of Brecon are not entitled to speak for the 48,000,000 people of this islands. Like the hon. and gallant Member for Chelmsford (Lieut.-Colonel Macnamara), I wish to deal with one or two problems in regard to the European situation, because there are graver and nearer questions which affect us at these times. In the Debate on foreign affairs on Monday the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) made an appeal to the Government, and asked the Prime Minister if the Government would plainly declare that the restoration of Czech independence is a firmly settled objective of British policy. Surely that is an irresponsible and childish suggestion. The only way in which the status quo in Central Europe can be altered to-day is by the use of military 2890 force, and I am sure the people of the country are not prepared to support any action of the kind suggested by the right hon. Gentleman.
In a previous foreign affairs Debate the Leader of the Opposition raised a very important question. He attempted to draw some distinction between British and world interests. He tried to show that the Government were carrying out a narrow and imperialistic policy which was hostile to the major interests of other States. That is quite untrue. Anyone who has made a careful study of British history, or read the Crowe Memorandum, knows that British interests are the same as those of a majority of other States. That has always been a cardinal principle of British policy, which has never been hostile to the vital interests of a majority of other States. It is quite true that the possession of preponderant sea power might cause apprehension among some other nations, but the danger of a world coalition of foreign powers against us is most unlikely, as the policy of this country is essentially pacific, and does not threaten the national independence of any State, but is rather the enemy of those who have adopted any such policy. The guarantees recently given to Greece, Rumania, Poland and Turkey show a wish on our part to protect weaker communities which are in danger, in support of the general policy of the preservation of national independence. At the same time, we can incur no enmity from other powers, because we have always desired the largest measure of general freedom of commerce. No one here wants a closed economic system which would give us advantages at the expense of others. No one can point to any action taken by any British Government during the last 20 years which might show that our interests had not harmonised with the general desire of the majority of the nations. Can the same be said of Germany to-day? Lord Rennell, speaking in another place not long ago, said that there seemed to be some doubt whether Germany was de-siring to destroy and supplant the British Empire.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I must remind the hon. Member that reference to speeches in another place, except those by Members of the Government, being statements on behalf of the Government, are out of Order.
§ Mr. Cox
I will not continue on that point, Sir, except to say that there seems to be some accumulative historical evidence which shows that these ideas may have been Germany's mind before the War, and now the world sees a vast Teutonic War machine growing in strength, directed at, and successfully crushing, one small State after another. Then there is the usual long list of primitive excuses and explanations. Now that Germany seems to have abandoned her own principle of national self-determination, the smaller neighbouring States are naturally alarmed. It seems, from statements made in the controlled newspapers of Germany, that Germany to-day has unlimited plans of expansion. That view was recently put forward in the German Press. Now I wish to make one or two observations on this question of general interest: encirclement. The German newspapers are continually complaining of the so-called policy of the democratic powers in regard to encirclement. But which State was it that encircled Austria and Czechoslovakia, and destroyed their freedom? Which State is trying to encircle Poland, Roumania and Yugo-Slavia? Which State employs officers skilled in the art of encircling other countries and then dominating them by force?.
The German Propaganda Ministry says that the democracies are degenerate and decadent. If that is so, why should anyone fear their so-called attempts to encircle other States? Why should such desperate attempts be made to prevent the German people from knowing what is going on in England and France? The German people is however naturally anxious about the possible mismanagement of its vital interests. No one here wants to prevent Germany from holding her rightful position as a great modern European power. It would be wrong to attempt to deprive her of access to raw materials and other supplies, or to try to harm her commercial ambitions. It may be that Germany is only ambitious to spread German culture by advancing Teutonic ideals in many quarters of the globe where her language is understood.
2892 On the other hand, there may be this fanatical desire for world domination.
In any case, it would be folly to run any further grave risks by failing to form a grand alliance of all the Powers which respect national independence and desire peace and to make that alliance too strong to give Germany a chance of succeeding in any war. That is a reasonable policy which would have the support of the great majority of the people of these islands. This alliance must make it clear that it is prepared to defend its existence and freedom by warlike measures if there is no effective alternative. The newspaper articles written by German journalists on the subject of encirclement are not particularly impressive. Not only do they make use of some scarcely complimentary appellations, referring to hon. Members here as "unctuous hypocrites sitting on the banks of the Thames," but they do not seem to realise that the system of mutual security guarantees aims not at encircling particular countries, but only at encircling aggressors. The German Chancellor had only to agree to President Roosevelt's proposals to show that he had no further thoughts of aggression. The fable that the so-called pluto-democracies can be blackmailed into inactive silence is equally false and dangerous. It is one which may be bitterly repented. It may be the direct cause of a terrible conflict which will undoubtedly lead to the utter ruin of those who manufactured this untruth.
I hope that the Government will push ahead with the Peace Front alliances and continue in their efforts to maintain peace. The spirit of restraint and accommodation recently shown by the whole Kingdom has given this country the leadership of the nations. It is as well that the people of these islands should know that the founders of dictatorships are always men of criminal determination and ruthless energy, who will stay their hands at no crime however enormous. Therefore, I hope that we shall show an equally inflexible determination not to recoil before any of the heavy duties imposed on us by the will to protect the destinies of these islands.