§ 11.10 a.m.
Mr. Lloyd George
My observations on this occasion will be of an exploratory rather than a critical character. I want to find out exactly where we are. I was hopeful that the Prime Minister would have been able to make a statement at the beginning of the proceedings which would have absolved us from the necessity of having a debate at this juncture. However, I take it that he will, later in the Debate, tell us exactly what the position is. Until we hear his statement, I think it would be undesirable for me to move a reduction of the Vote and to challenge a Division, because everything will depend upon the character of the statement which he makes. We have reached a point where the decisions taken in the course, it may be, of the next few hours, certainly of the next few days, by ourselves, by France and by Russia, will be more fateful than any decision taken by these three countries since 1914. There is a general tension and strain manifest in every country in the world, and more particularly in the countries that would be involved in the event of a failure to come to a peaceable adjustment of the difficulties. Everyone is apprehensive; I think I may say that everyone is anticipating another blow from the dictator Powers. No one knows where it will come, but there is a general 1810 feeling of dread that it is coming somewhere.
The situation reminds me very much of the feeling that prevailed in the early spring of 1918. We knew there was a great attack coming from Germany, but no one quite knew where the blow would fall. I remember that the French thought it would fall on their front, while our Generals thought it would fall on ours. Even the French Generals were not agreed as to the part of their front on which the attack would fall, and our Generals were equally divided. All that we knew was that there was a tremendous onslaught coming somewhere, and the whole atmosphere was filled with, I will not say fear, but with uneasiness. We could see the tremendous activities behind the German lines, and we knew that they were preparing something. That is more or less what seems to me to be the position to-day. We are all frightened—or perhaps frightened is hardly the word, but we are all very nervous; we are all very anxious; the whole world is under the impression that there is something preparing in the nature of another attack from the aggressors. Nobody quite knows where it will come. We can see that they are speeding up their armaments at a rate hitherto unprecedented, especially in weapons of the offensive—tanks, bombing aeroplanes, submarines. We know that they are occupying and fortifying fresh positions that will give them strategic advantages in a war with France and ourselves.
Any man who has ever made any study of war will see exactly what is going on. They are not preparing for defence. If you watch closely, you will see that the military chiefs of the higher ranks in Italy and Germany are travelling around Europe for long conversations. They are inspecting and surveying, from Libya to the North Sea, all sorts of situations that would be of vital importance in the event of war. There is a secrecy in the movements behind the lines which is very ominous. Can anyone on that front bench tell us—I do not ask them to tell us, but could they tell us?—where the German troops are massing and where the German tanks have been assembled? Can they tell quite where Mussolini's troops are gathered together? There is that secrecy; and last night I was very struck by an item of news which was announced 1811 by the B.B.C. at 6 o'clock and repeated at 9 o'clock, but which does not appear, as far as I can see, in the newspapers to-day. The announcement was that eight embassies in Prague have received notice that ambassadorial rights will be withdrawn from them on 25th May.
Mr. Lloyd George
Very well. That is very ominous, because it means that they will be deprived of all means of communicating through the usual diplomatic channels without any danger of their communications being known. It means that there is something going on; that the Germans do not wish communications to reach our Government, the French Government, or any other friendly Government as to their intentions. There is the same kind of secrecy as in 1918, in order to baffle us as to their objects. They are not preparing for defence. I do not know whether it is necessary to ask the Government for confirmation of what I am saying now, because it has been said by the Prime Minister and others. They are not preparing to defend themselves against attack from either France, Britain, or Russia. That has never been threatened. I have never heard, either privately or publicly, any hint or suggestion that we were contemplating an attack upon either Italy or Germany in any quarter—and they know it quite well. Therefore, all these preparations are not for defence. They are for some contemplated offensive scheme against someone or other in whom we are interested.
That is the position, and it does mean that there is some blow meditated; we are not quite sure where, but the general result is that there is uneasiness and lack of confidence in every quarter of the world as to the prospect of peace. We are seeing it in trade, we are seeing it in the stock exchanges of the world, and we are seeing it even in politics. The last three or four by-election results have been very remarkable: I have never seen anything like it; and they have a meaning. Everybody may put his own interpretation on it; but, at any rate, there is a curious bewilderment; nobody knows quite what is going to happen, or, if I may say so, where we are. There is a 1812 reluctance to vote against the Government, but no less of a reluctance to vote for the Government. It is very significant. There is a general lack of confidence because nobody quite knows where we are, what we are up to, what we are going to do, or how we are situated. I do not claim these by-elections as favouring either one side or the other, but I think they mean that the people would like to know where we stand. That is what I am going to direct myself to, and I will do my best to keep out of controversy—it is not always easy, but the situation is far too serious, I think, for the ordinary bandying of taunts between one side and the other.
The country is interested in preparations for war, but it wants most of all to know how we are going to keep out of it. It wants our preparations to have a double purpose: to be not preparations for an inevitable war, but such preparations as to make peace inevitable. The way to do that is undoubtedly to assemble together such a force here, in France, in Turkey and in Russia, as will make the dictators, who are shrewd men, realise that they cannot run the risk of another act of aggression without facing the possibility of, perhaps not immediate, but ultimate disaster to themselves and to their countries. I hope that we shall look at the present position from that point of view. Let us make peace inevitable instead of war. There are two ways of ensuring peace. As well as making victory more certain, it is necessary to have the dictators know that we have behind us the kind of forces that will make our ultimate triumph secure, so that they will not challenge the issue. There are two ways. One is the strengthening of our own military forces to prepare for any emergency. We have been discussing that so often recently that I do not propose to take up any time in dealing with that proposition.
The second way is to secure the co-operation of as many independent nations as we can assemble in order to resist aggression. With regard to that proposition, we have procrastinated seriously and dangerously. I cannot imagine a government taking the risk which the present Government have taken in negotiations, not in coming to terms, but in failing to come to terms, with Powers whose assistance to us will not 1813 only be useful, but will, I think, be essential. I am speaking now from a purely military point of view. The Axis Powers have been very busy. They have been very relentless in gathering together all the support they can for a conflict which they knew in their hearts they could not challenge alone. Let us see what they have done in the last few months. They have captured three countries, which hold the most vital strategic positions in Europe. Czechoslovakia—we all remember what this meant, and undoubtedly it was a vast defeat for democracy. There is an old Welsh ode which says about our mountains that they are castles built by God to protect us. That is what the Bohemian mountains did. They have now been transferred from the realm of liberty to that of the oppressors, who have captured the fortifications, some of the most renowned arsenals in the world, and the whole of the armaments of the Czech Army, a fine army of 40 divisions. That has gone. They have captured the assets, and I was really rather startled on reading this morning—and I think we ought to have some explanation of this—that of the £35,000,000 of assets belonging to the Czecho-Slovak Republic, with the consent of the Treasury, £5,000,000 has been passed over to the Reich. I can only say that that appears in every paper. Have we recognised the annexation of Czecho-Slovakia? If we have not, here is plunder. We are not merely recognising robbers, we are now going to see that they are the receivers of stolen goods with the sanction of the British Chancellor of the Exchequer. I hope that before this Debate is over we shall have some explanation of where the £5,000,000 of that £35,000,000 has gone.
They have got Czecho-Slovakia, with all that that has meant in all the wars of Europe for hundreds of years. They have captured Spain—it is no use pretending that they have not—which is the key of the most vital waterway in the world. The Empires which had the command of the Mediterranean were the Empires that survived. We have not got it now. We may recapture it. Albania, a first-class strategic position in the Balkans, enables anyone who has got it to command the Balkans. The reason why the Germans never got Greece was, as I pointed out, because we had Albania. Yugoslavia, 1814 with all its material supplies, has already been reduced to a friendly neutrality. It is not far across to Bulgaria and Rumania—they have captured that—and they have practically converted the Adriatic into a sheltered sea and a deep harbour. Hungary and Bulgaria are undoubtedly friendly to them; there is no doubt about it. All that we have allowed to be done because we never took the slightest trouble to get Russia.
Mr. Lloyd George
Yes, that is right; I agree. When Russia offered us proposals months ago, when all these things were going on, our answer was, "It is premature." I am glad that the Government have woken up at last to the importance of securing the adhesion of certain powers. Unreservedly and unequivocally I congratulate them upon the Turkish Treaty. It is of great value. It is not merely that you have got a little Power with about 16,000,000 to 20,000,000 of population. They are a very brave people which in itself is a very considerable help. They hold a very important strategic position in the Mediterranean in reference to the possibilities in Palestine and Egypt. Therefore, I have nothing but the most unqualified feeling of gratitude for the very notable achievement with regard to Turkey. But when you come to the gigantic operations contemplated by these dictators, Turkey, although of invaluable assistance, does not count seriously, unless you have, first of all, a superiority in your armaments elsewhere.
We must face the situation and facing the situation means realising the facts You cannot when you come to war, or the possibilities of war, be satisfied with mere optimistic expressions. I remember that at the beginning of the War in 1914 there was talk about "over by Christmas." Therefore, there were people who said that it was not necessary to make any special effort. It is essential that we should understand what we have to face. Let us see what it is. Take Mussolini's boast. It is a great mistake to assume that Mussolini's boasts are quite without foundation. He says: "We have countries with populations, in the aggregate, of 150,000,000." Take a piece of paper and add together the populations that would be behind us if war were declared to-morrow. Including the 8,000,000 that you cannot reckon upon at the 1815 present moment from our huge Empire, our Dependencies, our Possessions—(it would take a very long time for them to come in, and the contribution they would make might be nothing like proportionate to their population)—if Mussolini has 150,000,000—and as far as I can see, working it out, he does not include Spain in that, because if he did the figure would be higher—and you make a calculation comparable to that of Mussolini, you will find that we are barely up to 150,000,000 of the population you can rely upon to the same extent as you can upon our 47,000,000, or France upon her 41,000,000, Italy upon her 45,000,000 and Germany upon her 91,000,000, if you compare the figures on the same basis. More than that, the 150,000,000 on our side have not the same equipment. They have not the same armaments. They have not the same number of men trained for war as the others. They are not as well prepared. They are not as clear in their purpose. These two men know what they are after, definitely. They do not tell us, but I have no doubt at all that they have talked the thing over, and so have their Ambassadors, and they know definitely and precisely what they are after. So do their military chiefs, who also have met to consider the position.
Our 150,000,000 are not as ably and resolutely led, and the reason to a very large extent is that we do not quite know where we are. All this business about Russia is proof of that. We do not quite know what we want. There is a great desire, if possible, to do without Russia. Russia offered to come in months ago. For months we have been staring this powerful gift horse in the mouth.
Mr. Lloyd George
We are frightened of its teeth. That means that you cannot make up your mind; but the other people can. After all, you are not frightened of the teeth of those beasts of prey who have been tearing down one independent country after another. You are not afraid of them. We have pacts of friendship with them. We have been shaking their paws. At this very hour, we are officially joining in the celebration of their carnicorous triumphs. We do not know 1816 quite where we are. The strongest strategic positions have been captured by the dictators, especially in recent months. Let us examine the military position as it is or will be with and without Russia, We are going through critical hours with regard to questions in which the fate of Europe, the fate of human rights, the fate, as the Prime Minister said, of human freedom and, it may be, the fate of our Empire, are involved. At the present moment we are passing through hours when a decision taken one way or the other will make all the difference to these essential issues.
There has been a very great change since the last War in the military aims of the dictator Powers and in the methods by which they are to be obtained. The main military purpose and scheme of the dictators is to produce quick results, to avoid a prolonged war. A prolonged war never suits dictators. A prolonged war like the Peninsular War wears them down, and the great Russian defence, which produced no great military victory for the Russians, broke Napoleon. Germany's ideal is now, and always has been a war which is brought to a speedy end. The war against Austria in 1866 did not last more than a few weeks, and the war in 1870 was waged in such a way that it was practically over in a month or two. In 1914 plans were made with exactly the same aim in view, and it was very nearly achieved; and they would have achieved it but for Russia. But from the moment they failed to achieve a speedy victory the game was up. You may depend upon it that the great military thinkers of Germany have been working out the problem, what was the mistake of 1914, what did they lack, how can they fill up the gaps and repair the blunders or avoid them in the next war? They have been thinking out these matters all these years.
Just watch what they are doing. They are still working out a scheme for a speedy victory, and they are taking full advantage of the changes which have occurred in the equipment of every army since 1918. Every country has made immense efforts to mechanise its army with the aim of achieving a quick triumph, on land, in the air and in the enormous increase in the power of the submarine. Take tanks. The British and the French at the end of the war had a few hundred tanks, but since then we have all been 1817 constructing tanks of greater size, heavier weight and with increased speed. The Germans, who at first rather disparaged the tank, have now got thousands. I have seen it stated by a prominent authority that by this time they have some tens of thousands of tanks, certainly about 20,000. They are much more powerfully armed with heavier guns, some of them with 6-inch guns, and are capable of traversing any country at an amazing speed.
It is the same thing in regard to the air. At the beginning of the last War Germany had only a few hundred aeroplanes; now she has thousands of bombing aeroplanes. There is no doubt that she has more than we have at the present moment, although, thanks to the efforts which have been made recently—I do not want to criticise the efforts of those who came before the present Secretary of State for Air—we are working up to a very respectable total. Germany has thousands of bombing aeroplanes infinitely more formidable in speed and carrying power than anything we saw in the Great War. In these two things the Spanish war is only a faint indication of the possibilities. Spain, with its hills, is not a favourable ground for swift tanks, and the aeroplanes numbered only a few hundreds compared with the thousands which Italy and Germany can command. The most significant and ominous of all the things, in my judgment, which have appeared in the Spanish war is the fact that aeroplanes sank merchant ships and if they had sunk them on the high seas it would have been done with far greater ease, because it is impossible to have a sufficient number of anti-aircraft guns to meet them.
We have guaranteed Poland and Rumania. Think of that as a military proposition to begin with without Russia. Poland has a frontier of 1,500 miles to defend against Germany. The Maginot Line is only 600 miles down to the Mediterranean, and Poland has no Maginot Line. Germany will choose her point of attack on that 1,500-mile front. Where is she concentrating? If Poland is attacked from Danzig, Pomorze or from Silesia, what help can we render? I would like to put that question to the General Staff. I asked a question the other day and I had no answer, whether the General Staff were consulted as to the military possibilities of redeeming that pledge before it was given. I think the 1818 House ought to know that. If so, how could they send reinforcements to Poland? Aeroplanes—they would be faced by a more formidable air fleet, unless we have Russia. They could not send a single tank or a single gun. How are you going to redeem that pledge without Russia?
Again I ask, Were the General Staff consulted before that pledge was given, and if so, are they prepared to say on their own responsibility that, without the aid of Russia, they can redeem it? The same thing applies to Rumania. The Polish army is a very considerable army, and if they were as well equipped as the Germans, I believe they could put up a fight. But they are not. Poland is a comparatively poor country. It has neither the financial nor the industrial resources to enable it to throw up great defences, to turn out great guns, to construct tanks or aeroplanes. Will the Government tell me how they are going to do it without Russia?
I will put the other side of the case now.—if Russia were in. There has been a campaign of detraction of the Russian army, Russian resources, Russian capacity, Russian leadership—a regular campaign of detraction. A good deal of it has been in public, but most of it has been in private. We shall never forget the Lindbergh episode. He is a very amiable and attractive man, who was the agent and tool of much more astute and more sinister men than himself. He went from one Member of Parliament to another saying that he had been to Russia. He had been there about a fortnight, I think; he had not seen any of the great leaders of Russia, and he could not have seen much of the army and the air force. He came back and told us that the Russian army was no good and that Russian factories were in an awful mess. There were a great many who believed it—except Hitler.
There is a reluctance, which I think is a mistake, on the part of people who do not want to know the facts because somehow or other they contravene their theories, to acknowledge the tremendous change that has occurred in Russia, industrially and militarily. In 1914, I had to deal with them in their manufacturing capacity; I had a great deal of business to do with them. They were as bad as anybody I have ever met. In 1914, their manufacturing capacity was negligible. The money they had was not spent for 1819 the purpose for which it was given. Anyone who has read the story knows it well. Their army was a very brave one. They lost 6,000,000 in casualties, largely because they were not well led, in two or three years. They were badly equipped, and their transport was a complete welter. Even then they had a great arsenal, the Putiloff Works. I remember discussing it with the late Monsieur Albert Thomas, the Minister of Munitions for France. He went to Russia, and he told me that it was hopeless there. He had been through those great works, and he said that there was no arsenal in France where the machinery was as good as in those works, but nobody knew how to use it.
What has happened since? Since then, mostly under American and German instruction, they have had men trained. Their educational system has been completely revolutionised. Each year they turn out from the universities 600,000, and of those, 120,000 are boys who have been trained scientifically and technically. Their industrial output is ninefold what it was in 1914. The same thing applies in other fields. They have the finest air force in the world, they have an extraordinarily powerful tank force. And they are offering to place all this at the disposal of the Allies provided they are treated on equal terms. That is all they are asking. Why is not that done? You distrust them. Have they no ground for distrusting us? Every pact we have entered into since 1931 to deal with a situation like this, we have broken. We have given in to the dictators in every incident—Manchuria, Abyssinia, Czechoslovakia, Spain, Albania. We have given in, and we would give in now were it not that public opinion is roused at last. But if they say, "Let us put these distrusts on one side, let us work together," why should not it be done? Why this havering? Why these delays? What they say is that they will come in on the same terms as France. If France is attacked on the Southern frontier, the South-Eastern frontier, the Western frontier, we defend her.
Russia is only asking for exactly the same terms. She will come in wholeheartedly, with the whole of her tremendous force, provided we say that France, ourselves and Russia shall be in on exactly the same terms. Let there 1820 be no distinction between one and the other—no insulting distinction. What is the good of this political snobbery that only wants to help a proletariat Government provided you do not rub shoulders with it? The issues are too tremendous for that. To say simply she must come in with a guarantee here and must send her troops there—that is not a full and whole-hearted alliance. Why do we not make up our mind, and make it up without any loss of time, that we shall come to the same terms with Russia as we do with France? If you do that, then I should say—though it is a dangerous thing to predict in a world like this—that the chances against war would go up. If they are fifty-fifty now, I should put it at ten to one against war, if the Government have got the courage to face criticism, whether it comes from their own side or elsewhere, and the French Government the same. I know what is happening. I know what happened in France when we were dealing with Czechoslovakia. The Government there hinted to their supporters "We would not have done this had it not been for Britain." We are getting the same thing here in the newspapers. It is being hinted "We would be prepared to do it, if it were not for France." Let us take a resolve, a clear one, and, above all, a prompt one, to deal with the situation.
§ 12.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Attlee
The right hon. Gentleman, with his unrivalled experience, has drawn for us an extremely gloomy picture of the world situation, but I am afraid that it is a true picture. He has brought us down to the matter which is, I think, in the thoughts of all of us to-day: How can we prevent a catastrophe, and what is the present situation with regard to the negotiations between this country and Russia? There are arguments for secret diplomacy. There are arguments for open diplomacy. But I do not think there are any arguments for leaky diplomacy. There are no arguments for a diplomacy which is nominally secret but actually is not secret. The position is that we have proposals put forward from this country and from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Replies are sent and we are not told in this House what they are, but we find them set out pretty fully in organs of the Press, that, over and over again, have been proved to be particularly well-informed of the Government's intention. 1821 We are still, however, supposed to be in a position where these negotiations are wrapped in secrecy. As week after week goes by the reply to questions is, "You must not interfere in these delicate negotiations while they are going on." I say that they are not secret but very leaky, and I think that everybody in this Committee has a pretty good idea of what is the dividing line which at present separates the British Government and the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
I would put it shortly like this: The British Government have sought for a unilateral declaration from the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, that in the event of an attack on Rumania or Poland, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics will come to the help of those countries in the same way that Great Britain and France will do. On the other hand, the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics has taken up the line that there should be a pact of mutual assistance between Great Britain, France and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and any other States that may come into a guarantee against aggression—I think something more than just aggression against those States, I think against aggression anywhere, on a basis of reciprocity, but particularly in those areas. The difference between those two proposals seems to me to be one of principle. I can only gather from the Press what the general line is, but it seems to me that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics Government is standing out for the principle of collective security against aggression—that principle to which His Majesty's Government are pledged by their last Election appeal, and that principle which we have always supported on this side. It is a principle which recognises that aggression is not a localised concern, but the concern of all States, because it is a breach of the rule of law in international affairs, the observance of which is a prime condition of peace. But the Government do not seem to me ever to subscribe to this principle. They consider all these questions in the light of what they regard as British interests, and I think they have a narrow conception of British interests. They have their points where they are prepared to resist aggression, and the fact that they have those points means that, in other places, they are prepared to con- 1822 done aggression, and the history of the last few years has shown that that is so.
The action taken, which we welcome, in making an agreement with Turkey, and guaranteeing Poland and Rumania was, I think, right, but that action was undertaken because the Government realised that this was a matter which did concern what they call British interests. But in our view you cannot separate British interests from the interests of the civilised world. I think the line taken by the Government of the U.S.S.R. is the only realist one. I think the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) showed quite plainly that there is a strategic unity in Europe, and that you cannot separate it. I think we ought to be realists to-day.
The right hon. Gentleman gave us a picture of the strength of the Axis. There is strength in the Axis. There are also the seeds of weakness in the Axis. One thing which we ought to recognise is that there is a senior and a junior partner in the Axis, and as time goes on it seems to me that the junior partner is getting less and less the right to decide the policy. I am informed that to-day there are German troops in Italy. I hear on good authority of the presence of Gestapo agents, and I think there is a great deal of resentment in Italy on this. I believe many Italians are realising to-day that the policy of Signor Mussolini is reversing the achievements of the Risorgimento, the work of Victor Emmanuel, of Cavour, of Garibaldi, who, with the help of Britain and France, freed Italy from German domination. Signor Mussolini is bringing them back under the yoke of the hated Tedesci, and Italy is to-day almost as much a vassal of Germany as is Czechoslovakia. I hope she will soon be as unwilling a vassal, when the people get their way. Meanwhile the Axis stands as a menace to neighbouring States. We have done something to try to strengthen this peace front, so threatened. I think the right hon. Gentleman was right when he said that we must recognise the aggressive policy of the Axis, that in the European house there is an armed bandit who will say to everyone, "Stand and deliver". The question is, how is that to be faced?
My complaint is that we do not know what the Government policy is. There 1823 was a policy, the policy of appeasement, which failed because it had no real basis. I shall not go back to the arguments as to the rights or wrongs of Munich, but the fact is that that policy is dead; it was killed by the effects of Czecho-Slovakia and Albania. I cannot see the policy that is taking its place. As an immediate practical step I think it is a good thing to guarantee various States that were being threatened. But it is not a policy; it is only an expedient. We are still left waiting. What are we waiting for? The answer is given in a letter in the "Times" of yesterday, from the hon. Member for Tavistock (Mr. Patrick). He said:We are forming the habit of waiting nervously for the next international pronouncement by a dictator.It is a very serious thing. It means that we have allowed the initiative to pass from us. There is no constructive effort for peace. There is nervous waiting for the next act of aggression, and a dilatory and fumbling attempt to build up some kind of partial front in face of a terrible menace. I am afraid that behind that I see something else. That is a growing tendency to fatalistic acceptance of the inevitability of war. That is a frame of mind into which we ought not to get. The Prime Minister, when he dealt with the appeal for conscription, said that the words "in time of peace" were not applicable to the present situation. That is unfortunately true; it is true as long as there is a will to war on the part of powerfully armed States. I believe that the vast majority of people in this country consider that the best hope of preventing war is to get a firm union between Britain, France and the U.S.S.R. as the nucleus of a world alliance against aggression, an alliance so strong that it is not a question of winning a war, but of preventing a war. I believe most people will agree that the time is very short.
The right hon. Gentleman said that we cannot tell where the next move will come. That is one of the dangers of the situation. We do not know whether the ruler of Germany may decide to move Eastwards. What we want is that he should know that if he does move Eastward he will be met by Western Powers as well as Eastern. We do not know whether there may be aggression in the 1824 West. We want that he should know that if that is his contemplation, that if he made any attack in the West, he will be met by Eastern Powers as well, and of these incomparably the greatest is Russia. What is the state of the negotiations? We want to know whether those negotiations are extending beyond the question of Poland and Rumania, whether they envisage the whole strategic field? Some of us feel that in those pledges which we have given we are tending to get the dangers without the advantages.
I would like to hear something of what is the general view of the French Government on these matters. I see that the "Times" says that they hold some intermediate position between the view taken by the British Government and the view taken by the U.S.S.R. I do not know whether that is correct or not. But it is essential that we should march step by step with the French Government. It is notable that the whole Press of France, from the Catholic Right to the Left, is supporting this idea of some tripartite pact between these three countries as the nucleus of a peace alliance. I believe that a good deal of the opposition comes from a distrust of Soviet ideology. It is suggested that the real trouble is that certain States will not line up if the U.S.S.R. are in the alliance. I believe that is vastly exaggerated. Increase of armaments here will be useless unless we can follow it up with a positive policy. It seems to us that the Government have been very dilatory in pursuing these negotiations. One could make a chart almost like the chart of a patient in a hospital showing the movement towards some kind of agreement with Russia going up and down, dependent not on the will of this Government, but on the course of external events. Temperature is very low while events do not seem to be very dangerous, but at the least crisis it rises rapidly.
I believe that there are influences which are inimical to this alliance, and that in being inimical to any arrangement with the U.S.S.R., any effective arrangement, they are inimical to the best interests of this country. I would like to stress again the importance of time. We are living in the same kind of period as that which preceded 1914. The great danger in 1914 was that sooner or later it was inevitable that events would take charge. Towards the end it became a question of rival 1825 rapidity in mobilisation. To-day you have States that are organised for war far more completely than they were in 1914, and the whole life of the nation has been attuned to war. It is very difficult, if that is once set in motion, to reverse the engines and get back to peace.
Serious as are the delays and the lack of a clear policy in the immediate situation, I think it is still more serious that we have no indication of a long-term policy. We on this side have supported collective security under the League of Nations, a peace front not just for its own advantage but only as a screen and a protection behind which real peace can be laid on firm foundations. We have never believed in collective security as a panacea for the world's ills. We think it is only a condition precedent to the administration of other remedies, and we have put forward, constantly, over and over again, in this House, constructive proposals for world peace. It is just over a month since President Roosevelt addressed that remarkable appeal to the rulers of Germany and Italy. He sought to get from them assurances that they had no intention to commit further acts of aggression, and he asked them for those assurances as a necessary preliminary to dealing with the causes of war and establishing world peace. He realised—and he realised perhaps because he saw the failure of a police of appeasement to deal with aggressive action—that the replacement of the method of forceful aggression must precede further progress. He was in a special position to make that appeal. The United States of America was outside our immediate European quarrels, and also outside the immediate menace that might cloud the judgment of us here, but he recognised—and I think it is extraordinarily valuable that the President of the United States should have recognised so clearly—that the interest of all nations in peace goes far beyond what might be called their narrow interest, that the maintenance of the rule of law overshadows the interests of particular States. We know that that appeal was disregarded by the dictators, but it seems to me of immense importance. It did not mark the acceptance by the United States of America of specific commitments in Europe, but it did mark, to my mind, the acceptance of the rôle which the United States of America ought to play in the 1826 world to-day, and I hope will play, that is, the rôle of an influential member in the community of nations, lending its weight always on the side of the rule of law. I only wish that that had been realised by the leaders of the United States of America, all of them, in 1920. But for the great refusal of 1920, I think the world would not be now in the condition in which it is to-day.
But the President was not content with demanding assurances that there was to be no aggression. He indicated the problems which must be taken up if we are to get peace—relief from the crushing burden of armaments and the practical problem of opening up avenues of international trade—and he indicated that political discussions might proceed part passu. I want the Government to take up a firm stand against aggression. I do not think you gain anything by yielding to force, to those whose appetite only grows with eating, but I believe that at the same time we ought to indicate the policy which this country will be prepared to follow in the event of the abandonment of aggression. Take first the question of the burden of armaments. I think almost the greatest danger to-day, apart from the mentality of certain rulers, is the fact that the economy of great States has been put on a war footing. That is so in Germany, that is so in Italy, that may even be tending to be so in this country. You get this change of structure in a State, and you get a kind of hectic prosperity depending solely on armaments; the whole economy of the country is perverted, and it is extremely difficult to get out of it. Even if we were successful—and I hope we shall be successful—in building a barrier against war now, we should not be out of our difficulties and the immediate problem of what to do with our war machine. If you have a slackening in the arms race, if you have a move towards disarmament, you have not got rid of the problem, and it is one of the problems which faces the dictators. If we could get a sudden light from heaven falling on the dictators, and they decided to change their course, they would be faced with that problem. That problem is how to utilise for peace the economic power that is now being used for armaments. Those problems stated by President Roosevelt are, I believe, intimately, closely connected—disarmament, international trade, and the development of the world.
1827 With regard to political problems, I do not want to deal in detail with the political problems of Europe. I believe most of them are capable of solution, given the will, but the difficulty is that every political problem is exacerbated to-day because doctrines like the right of self-determination are used as instruments of military policy, just as the economic necessities of Germany are used as the instruments of military policy. Supposing we got rid of this threat of aggression, there is no reason whatever—and no one would object—why Germany should not be playing the great part in the economics of Central Europe to which her qualities entitle her. The only thing that stops it is the fact that to-day economic penetration is merely a precedent for political domination and for military utilisation.
But there does remain a problem which we ought to be speaking of, and that is the Colonial problem. No one of us, I believe, would be prepared to buy peace by concessions to violence. It would be a short-lived peace, but I believe we should set our house in order by making a clear declaration of where we stand on the question of Colonies and on the question of the division of the world. I am not going to argue the rights or wrongs of these Colonial demands. The important fact is that it is being driven into masses of the people that they are kept out of what they might consider their rights by the enormous possessions of the British Empire. I do not believe there is the slightest basis for it, but the fact that there is not a basis for it does not take away the power of the idea. In the same way there is not the slightest ground for the suggestion that other Powers are endeavouring to encircle Germany, but it is a dangerous fact that that is being driven into the mind of the people, and if we want to work for peace, it is not enough just to say that we are not encircling them, it is not even enough to say that our Colonies are there for the world and so on, and that we are not endeavouring to keep Germany out. We ought to have a positive Colonial policy for the world, but dependent on the abandonment of aggression, and I believe that if we could get a declaration that we believe that all Colonial possessions should be held on the principle of the Mandate, that they should 1828 be held for the good of the people of those countries, and for the good of all the people of the world, under international supervision, we should be putting ourselves, so to speak, right with the world, and we should be giving something on which peace lovers in other countries could build some hope.
I link that up again to the question which I said I thought was very important, that is how we are to get rid of the war machine. There is an immense amount of work to be done in the world, work of construction, in which Germany and Italy could bear their full part, whether it be in Europe or in Africa, or in any other continent. I believe it could be done internationally with international credit. I believe we could get a proper allocation of markets and of work. I am sure we could get an enormous rise in the standard of life, but it does mean that someone must give a lead in getting away from the narrow imperialist view and thinking only of narrow national interests, and in making an appeal for world collaboration which will help the people of this country and all other countries as well. To-day I would ask the Government to consider the need for getting a positive peace policy as well as a firm policy in this emergency. They should have a grave sense of their responsibility. Time is short, and if things drift, feelings will become bitter—we can see it already—and hatred will take charge. I think that a policy of what we call considering only British interest is impracticable, because we cannot divorce British interests from the interests of world civilisation. We can only preserve British interests in so far as they are consonant with and serve the greater interests of humanity. Without a firm policy of resistance to aggression; and without a bold policy for removing the causes of war, this country and the British Empire will drift into disaster, a disaster which will overthrow something greater even than the British Empire and this country, that is, the free spirit of human beings.
§ 12.38 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Chamberlain)
I must frankly confess that I would have preferred not to speak about foreign affairs to-day because, as has already been said, this is a time of tension, a time of anxiety and a time of suspicion; and I cannot but be very conscious that every 1829 Word that I may say not only falls upon the ears of hon. Members but is transmitted round the world and examined under a microscope. I am also aware that there are some evilly-disposed persons who are only too ready to seize upon some phrase that falls from me, it may be on the spur of the moment, and give it a significance that was never intended. Therefore, I approach my task this afternoon feeling very much the difficulty of my position. I make no complaint that this discussion has been asked for. I recognise that when the House will shortly be separating for the Whitsun Recess, brief though that is, hon. Members want to be informed of where they are. The right hon. Gentleman who has just addressed us spoke about leaky diplomacy. I respectfully agree with him that diplomacy which is carried on half through the Press and half through official channels does make things more difficult. There has been, at any rate, a great deal of assertion in the Press, which, whether well- or ill-founded, has been seized upon by those who hold one or other set of views as a backing for those views, and sometimes as material with which to attack the Government.
I listened with a great deal of interest to the very thoughtful and in many ways constructive speech which was delivered by the Leader of the Opposition. There was a great deal in what he said with which I found myself in cordial agreement. What surprised me was that he did not seem to realise that what he was saying would find not only acquiescence but agreement on my part. He spoke of the necessity of a peace policy, a long-term policy, a policy which would envisage the terms upon which in certain circumstances and under certain conditions a settled peace could be established. He recognised that in these terms the colonial question would have to play a part. I agree that we in this country are not prepared to buy peace at the price of concessions which would only lead to further demands, but surely that does not mean that we would refuse to discuss any method by which we could satisfy reasonable aspirations on the part of other nations even if it meant some adjustment of the existing state of things. The right hon. Gentleman said, and I think he truly said, that you cannot talk about peace terms in an atmosphere which is entirely without a basis of confidence in 1830 the good will of those with whom you have to talk. There are many problems which would be easy of solution if one could be assured that they would be discussed in an atmosphere of good will. There are many concessions which might without too great difficulty be made if one could be quite certain that those concessions would be used only for the purposes for which they were given, and not used to bolster up some strategic aim.
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that you cannot profitably discuss your final peace terms until you are satisfied that there has been a renunciation, at any rate an abandonment, of any design of aggression against other peoples. The German Government have declared that they have no such intention. The trouble is that the right hon. Gentleman is not alone in not believing that, and that is a position which has been brought about by the German Government themselves. I would, therefore, say to the right hon. Gentleman that if we could have such a renunciation—I put it a different way: if we could have the conviction that there was no intention of aggression or of the further use of force in the relations between Germany and other countries.—[HON. MEMBERS: "Or threats"]—or threats—when I spoke of the use of force I meant to cover that—then I think you would find that we should not be backward in stating what in our view were the lines on which we could discuss terms for permanent peace.
So far as I am personally concerned, I want to say to the right hon. Gentleman that I do not look upon this matter in too narrow a spirit as to what are purely British interests in the selfish sense of the word. I agree with him that you cannot dissociate British interests from the interests of the world. The greatest of all British interests is the maintenance of peace, and it would be rather in an international spirit, believing that British interests are best served by a solution which takes account of the needs and the claims and the rights of other nations as well as our own, that I would desire to approach the subject of how we should lay down the lines of permanent peace.
The right hon. Gentleman rather complained, I think, that he did not know what the policy of the Government was in present circumstances—I am talking not of the long-term but of the short-term policy—and the right hon. Gentleman 1831 who preceded him, in his non-controversial speech, spoke of the dilatoriness and other sins of omission and commission of the present Government. In these circumstances, perhaps, the best service that I can render to the House is to try to state again what are the outlines of our short-term policy, but before I come to that I would like to say a word on one or two matters which were mentioned by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). He said we were living in very terrible times, when we were all conscious of some approaching blow but in doubt where that blow might fall. He compared our situation to the situation in the Spring of 1918, and certainly in the picture which he built up he did nothing to relieve the gloom, but seemed almost to go out of his way to find additional evidence of the imminence of some frightful catastrophe.
§ The Prime Minister
I do not want to underrate the gravity of the present situation, but I think the right hon. Gentleman painted a somewhat over-gloomy picture. For instance, he picks out the notice given to the Embassies in Prague that they would no longer be able to continue to hold their present position. Surely there is nothing very new, unusual or specially sinister in that particular procedure. Owing to action which, I am sure, we all deplore, Czecho-Slovakia is no longer an independent State but part of the German Reich, and I think it is only following precedent if our future representative there is rather a Consul-General than a Minister.
The right hon. Gentleman found another subject for gloom in a story in the Press that a German representative was in this country engaged upon a sinister mission in consequence of which the British Treasury was to release £5,000,000 of Czecho-Slovakian assets to the Bank for International Settlements for the benefit of the Reichsbank. I am glad to be able to cheer up the right hon. Gentleman on that particular point, because the whole story is a mare's nest. Herr Wohltat—the name of the gentleman—is not in London at all, as it happens, and anyhow the Treasury has not agreed to release any Czecho-Slovakian assets to the Bank for Inter- 1832 national Settlements or to anyone else. The only releases that have been made have been releases of small amounts to refugees from Czecho-Slovakia, apart from some releases of small amounts to pay trade debts due under contracts made before March, 1939. That is a small matter. There are stories in the Press somewhere or another every day, and we really cannot be contradicting them all the time, but as that particular one was mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman I thought it was desirable to correct it.
The policy which His Majesty's Government are following at the present time, as the House is aware, has taken on a new development since the joining up of Bohemia and Moravia with the German Reich. I do not know whether the German Government themselves, at the time when they took the action that they did, realised the tremendous repercussions which that action would cause in the world. It was said at the time that it was carried out with the assent of the Czechoslovak Government, but very little attention was paid to that account because everybody knew that there was an overwhelming German force just behind the door—if in fact, some of it had not already slipped through. Perhaps even more than the annexation in such circumstances of another State, what disturbed profoundly the public mind everywhere was the patent contradiction between these proceedings and the assurances which had so frequently and so solemnly been given to the world by the German Government. That contradiction completely undermined the sense of security in Europe, and it created a widespread feeling that the independence of no small State was safe if it stood in the way of German ambitions. I am not saying now whether those views were correct or not; I am saying that those views were created by the action of the German Government.
Therefore, as I said a moment ago, it really was useless for the German Government to deny that they cherished any design against the independence of others, because by their action they had created suspicion which they could no longer allay. It seemed to us that unless some new stabilising factor could be introduced into Europe, the dissolution of a large part of Europe might be imminent. It was in those circumstances that His Majesty's Government thought that it was 1833 their duty, in conjunction with France, to intervene and to try to supply this new stabilising factor. It was necessary to act quickly because apprehensions of attack were acute in certain particular quarters and we felt, therefore, that it was not possible to wait while we endeavoured to build up a system or combination to resist such attacks, and we took the course which, I think, has been generally approved, of acting ourselves, and promptly, by giving assurances of support in the quarters where they would be most needed.
It will be seen from what I have said that the assurances which we gave, first to Poland and afterwards to Rumania and to Greece, were not the end of the measures that we had in mind. They were what one might call first-aid treatment given to avoid any further deterioration in the situation. It still remains to strengthen them by more permanent arrangements and to try and get more support for them from any other quarters that are able and willing to give that support. I want to make it clear that this policy is not a policy of lining up opposing blocs of Powers in Europe animated by hostile intentions towards one another and accepting the view that war is inevitable. I was very much surprised to hear the right hon. Gentleman opposite indicate, as I thought, that some of us on this side regarded war as inevitable. I never regard war as inevitable until it has begun, and the gloomier the picture and the more formidable the appearance that war may be coming, the more strenuously I think should one strive to make it avoidable. We are always trying to avoid this policy of what I call opposing blocs, because it seems to us to be essentially an unstable policy, one which cannot be relied upon to remain the same and one which is, therefore, fundamentally dangerous.
In the policy which we are pursuing there is not any element of aggression, nor does it exclude the possibility of discussion, in the spirit of good will, on any points of difference between nations. It is a policy of precaution, a policy which is operative only in certain conditions which it is in the power of others to bring or not to bring into existence; it is an assurance against forcible aggression which may not, and we hope never will, arise. It is a policy which seems to us to be necessary, because without it we 1834 can see no prospect of establishing a sense of security or stability in Europe. Without that prospect it is, of course, inevitable that trade and enterprise should be stifled, and impossible that the conditions of life of the people in general should be improved. It would be a great mistake to underrate the impression, the effect, the concrete effect produced by the mere fact that we gave those assurances. As I remember saying at the time, they constitute an enormous departure from the policy hitherto pursued by this country, and, indeed, I think one may say that, if such ideas had been put forward even up to a few months ago, they would probably have been denounced and repudiated by the great majority of people in this country. The fact that they can be accepted, as they were accepted, with general approval, is the result, in the main, of those repercussions which have arisen out of the action of the German Government in Bohemia and Moravia to which I have already alluded.
It was not enough to give those assurances. We had to set ourselves to try and convince others, as well as ourselves, that we were in a position to make them good. That was necessary, not only for the confidence of those to whom the assurances were given, but for a wider circle. We have been debating this week the Military Training Bill. The broad principles contained in that Bill have, I think, been generally welcomed in the country, and they have been approved by the House of Commons. Undoubtedly there again, not merely the amount of the additional strength that we obtain from that Measure, but the fact that it is contrary to everything that we have hitherto held to be cardinal in our policy in this matter, has produced an effect the whole extent of which, perhaps, it is difficult for us in this House to measure. It is not enough, again, to do all that we can in this country to back up our assurances. We were anxious to support them, or to obtain support for them, by the adhesion of other countries who, like ourselves, were interested in peace, but who were much nearer to the possible seat of trouble than we ourselves are. And so we entered upon the conversations with the Turkish Government and with the government of the Soviet Union about which hon. Members have read 1835 so much in the last week and the week before.
In the case of Turkey, our discussions very speedily revealed such a similarity in our interests and in our outlook that the two governments were enabled to make the declaration of 12th May, a declaration which foreshadowed the conclusion of a definite long-term agreement of a reciprocal nature. The declaration was very warmly welcomed by this House, and the general satisfaction at the conclusion of this agreement which has been demonstrated throughout the country shows how high is now the prestige of Turkey in this country, and how greatly her friendship is valued. That friendship was begun under the long and memorable presidency of the late M. Atatürk, and it has been further strengthened under the distinguished present President, General Inönü. I recollect with pleasure that I had an opportunity of meeting him when he came over for the Coronation in 1937, and I would like to say what satisfaction it gives to the members of His Majesty's Government to be able to co-operate so harmoniously with him and with his present Ministers. Let me just observe in passing that we attach great importance to the reciprocal character of the agreements which we have made with Turkey and Poland. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the part that had been played by Russia in 1914. At that time Russia and Germany had a common frontier, and Poland did not exist, but it is a satisfaction to think that, if we should become involved in war, there is that great, virile nation on the borders of Germany which under this agreement is bound to give us all the aid and assistance it can.
This long-term agreement of which I have spoken cannot, of course, be concluded in the twinkling of an eye, and in these days events move so quickly that it does not seem advisable to wait. It did not seem to us advisable to wait until that agreement could be concluded before making clear to one another and to the world where we should stand in the event of there being an act of aggression leading to war in the Mediterranean area. We have declared our intention in that event to give one another mutual aid and to afford co-operation, but the House will remember that this declaration goes further than the Mediterranean; it re- 1836 cognises the necessity of ensuring the establishment of security in the Balkans. We have agreed that on that matter we shall have consultations together, the results of which, I have no doubt, we shall be able to embody in the long-term treaty.
I turn to the discussions with the Government of the Soviet Union. I cannot help thinking that there has been some misunderstanding, because the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, in the conclusion of his speech, put forward an idea which I have no doubt is held by many of his friends and supporters, namely, that the British Government were actuated in their conduct of these negotiations by mistrust of Russian ideology. I have said before that that is not so. I want to repeat it now. We are not concerned at all with Russian internal political doctrine. We are concerned with the best method of building up what my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) has called a peace front. If we can evolve a method by which we can enlist the co-operation and assistance of the Soviet Union in building up that peace front, we welcome it; we want it; we attach value to it. The suggestion that we despise the assistance of the Soviet Union is without foundation. Without accepting any view of an unauthorised character as to the precise value of the Russian military forces, or the way in which they would best be employed, no one would be so foolish as to suppose that that huge country, with its vast population and enormous resources, would be a negligible factor in such a situation as that with which we are confronted. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will dismiss any idea that, because we do not agree with the internal system of Government of the Soviet Union, that has in any way affected our outlook in the present negotiations, or the way in which we are conducting them.
The House may remember a recent statement by M. Stalin, that it was the policy of the Soviet Union "to support States which might be victims of aggression, provided that they were prepared to defend their independence." That is our own point of view, and it appeared to indicate that the Soviet Union might be prepared to collaborate in carrying this aim into effect. But we were also 1837 aware—and this is a point which has not been referred to at all up to the present—that the direct participation of the Soviet Union in this matter might not be altogether in accordance with the wishes of some of the countries for whose benefit, or on whose behalf, these arrangements were being made. We would desire to have the collaboration of all these countries, and we do not want to have any division among them. Accordingly, we suggested to the Soviet Government that they should make a declaration with regard to Poland and Rumania similar to the one which had been made by ourselves and France, namely, that if Great Britain and France should be involved in conflict in consequence of undertakings which we had given to those countries, or either of them, the Soviet Union should express its readiness to lend its assistance to Poland or Rumania, as the case might be, always provided, of course, that their assistance was desired.
§ The Prime Minister
The Soviet Government, apparently, thought that this offer was not reciprocal. The right hon. Gentleman this morning evidently took the same view, which he expressed with characteristic vehemence.
§ Mr. Lloyd George indicated dissent.
§ The Prime Minister
The right hon. Gentleman only means that it was not characteristic. He can be much more vehement even than he was this morning. I want to say now that the British Government have never desired to ask the Soviet Government to do anything which they were not prepared to do themselves. They have always wanted the arrangement to be reciprocal, and I do really find it difficult to understand why it should be thought, or why it should ever have been thought, that the suggestion we made was lacking in reciprocity.
§ The Prime Minister
If it be argued that it did not provide for the case of a direct attack on the Soviet Union, agreed; but it did not provide for the case of a direct attack on this country. The hon. Member said that it was not the same as the Agreement with Turkey. If I may be allowed to say so, that is not the point. The point is, was it reciprocal? I am not 1838 saying it was the same as the Agreement with Turkey, or with any country. What I want to examine is, was it unfair? Did it ask of the Soviet Union something more that we were prepared to do ourselves? It may be argued that it did not cover the case of certain States, other than Poland and Rumania, which are neighbours of Russia, and through which perhaps she might be attacked. Again, I say, it is quite true that it did not cover that, but, on the other hand, it equally did not apply to certain western States which, if attacked, might cause us ultimately to be involved in war.
§ The Prime Minister
Again, I am not saying whether this was the same as any other treaty. What I am saying is that it is quite wrong to say that it was not reciprocal. I think I made it plain that our suggestion did not contemplate that the Soviet Government should intervene irrespective of whether Great Britain and France did so—although, as a matter of fact, our own commitments which follow upon the assurances we have given are irrespective of whether the Soviet Union come in. Therefore, if there be any inequality between the two States in the proposals which have been made the inequality was in favour of the Soviet Union and not of this country. We rely on a matter of that kind because it is a question of fact, and although I have given a little time to explaining our position, it is really because the Soviet Union really seemed to believe that we had tried to put an unfair proposal upon them, and because colour was given to that view by the intervention of the right hon. Gentleman. It really is a misunderstanding, and whatever can be alleged against our proposal, I am sure that it cannot be alleged truly that it was unfair.
Nevertheless, since the proposal was not acceptable to the Soviet Union, we tried again. What we, above all, were anxious for was, that we should be able to come to an agreement quickly, and it is always easy to come to an agreement quickly if you accept everything that the other side puts up. [An HON. MEMBER: "That is what you did at Munich."] No doubt that is what some would have done. I do ask the House to remember that in this matter we are trying to build up, not an alliance between ourselves and other countries. 1839 but a peace front against aggression, and we should not be succeeding in that policy if, by ensuring the co-operation of one country, we rendered another country uneasy and unwilling to collaborate with us. Therefore, I suggest to the Committee that in this matter, which is one of great difficulty and delicacy, a certain amount of caution is necessary, caution arising not out of ideological differences, not out of pure obstinacy, not even because we think that one course serves narrow British interests better than another, but because the object of our policy is to build up this peace front. We would rather delay for a few days longer than hastily take a step which might result in the work that we had already done crumbling before our very eyes.
We thought that perhaps the Soviet Government might have been willing to declare its agreement with us on those matters on which we could agree, and that it would be prepared to let us discuss further, and at greater leisure, the subjects on which difficulties still existed. That, in our view, would have been a wise course to take to show agreement and I cannot help thinking that, if we agreed even on a part of the policy to be pursued, it would have made it easier to come to a complete agreement on the rest. I cannot help saying how much I regret the decision of the Soviet Government not to let M. Potemkin go to Geneva. The Geneva Council was postponed for a week in order to allow him to go there, but after it had been postponed we heard that he could not go. My Noble Friend will, therefore, be deprived of the opportunity of discussing personally with him these matters, which, I think, might have been valuable for both of us. No doubt the Soviet Government had good reasons for their action, but I only regret that it was not possible for this meeting to take place. This is one of the cases in which I cannot help feeling that there is a sort of veil, a sort of wall between the two Governments which it is extremely difficult to penetrate, and that if only that opportunity had been afforded us we might have, perhaps, managed to shake hands across the gap.
§ Sir A. Sinclair
Would it not help the Committee to break down that wall and pierce that veil, if the right hon. Gentle- 1840 man would tell us what are His Majesty's Government's objections to the Russian Government's proposals?
§ The Prime Minister
I thought that I had made that perfectly clear. I will repeat it again. I am not going any further than I have gone already. The Committee will realise that I must walk warily, and I do not want to say anything which will make things more difficult than they are already. What I have said was, that we are not concerned merely with the Russian Government. We have other Governments to consider. [An HON. MEMBER: "Italy"] I am not going any further.
§ The Prime Minister
There may be those who are out just to damage the Government or to make mischief, but those who want this policy to succeed, as His Majesty's Government do, will, I think, refrain from pressing us unduly to disclose the exact point where the difficulties arise, when I have already given them a general indication.
I have nothing more to say except this. Throughout this matter we have been in close touch with the Government of France, with whom we are happy to have collaboration and counsel. There is no difference between us, and my Noble Friend the Foreign Secretary will have the opportunity to-morrow for further discussions with the head of the French Government and with their Foreign Minister. I do trust that after this consultation, and with their help, it may be found possible to overcome those obstacles which have hitherto prevented us from reaching an agreement with the Government of the Soviet Union, and that we shall be able in due course to report to the House that we have at last made a final agreement with them.
§ 1.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Churchill
The cool and deft Parliamentary reply which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has just delivered has not, I think, carried the Committee very much further. Nor has it, I venture to 1841 say, reassured those who feel deep misgivings about the present situation. One could hardly have expected to hear that after many weeks of negotiation, at a most vital moment, there was a complete deadlock, for the moment, between the Russian Soviet Government and His Majesty's Government. One has not received, I think, any very clear account of the differences which exist, nor of the reason or substance which lie in those differences. We have been told that the negotiations are still proceeding and that the situation is extremely delicate. That may be quite true, but they have beep proceeding all these weeks, and the time may be very short. I have been quite unable to understand what is the objection to making the agreement with Russia which the Prime Minister professes himself desirous of doing, and making it in the broad and simple form proposed by the Russian Soviet Government. I have learned nothing to-day from the right hon. Gentleman which throws the least light on that.
Undoubtedly, the proposals put forward by the Russian Government, which have been given very considerable publicity, contemplate a triple alliance between England, France and Russia, which alliance may extend its benefits to other countries if and when those benefits are desired, against aggression. The alliance is solely for the purpose of resisting further acts of aggression and of protecting the victims of aggression. I cannot see what is wrong with that, and I am going, if the House will bear with me, to examine some aspects of the difficulty. What is wrong with this simple proposal? It is said: "Can you trust the Russian Soviet Government?" I suppose in Moscow they say "Can we trust Chamberlain?" I hope that we may say that the answer to both questions is in the affirmative. I earnestly hope so.
There was more than one phrase in the necessarily guarded closing remarks of my right hon. Friend which inspired me with the hope that the differences between His Majesty's Government and the Russian Government, and the differences between the right hon. Gentleman and other Members of the House, may not be so large as we have been, unhappily, led to suppose. When you come to examine the first question, the interest and the loyalty of the Russian Government in this matter, you must not 1842 be guided by sentiment. You must be guided by a study of the interests involved. The vital major interests of Russia are deeply engaged in co-operation with Great Britain and France to prevent further acts of aggression. We have heard of the Turkish Agreement, on which everybody congratulates and compliments His Majesty's Government. I think it is particularly satisfactory in the Turkish Agreement that there were foresight and design and that a £10,000,000 loan was proposed by the Prime Minister more than a year ago. It is this evidence of foresight and design which is specially welcomed and specially beneficial at this time. If one may quote a famous phrase, they are "rare and refreshing fruit," the more refreshing because perhaps, unhappily, they are somewhat rare.
This Turkish proposal, which is universally accepted, is a great consolidating and stabilising force throughout the whole of the Black Sea area and the Eastern Mediterranean. Turkey, with whom we have made this agreement, is in the closest harmony with Russia. She is also in the closest harmony with Rumania. These Powers together are mutually protecting vital interests. If an advance down the Danube of Nazi influence were to lead to the setting in motion of submarines in the Black Sea, that would be a menace to all the vital interests of Russia and Turkey. Therefore, you have been working on a community of interests. A community of interests prevails throughout this great area affected by the very wise and sagacious Agreement between Turkey and Great Britain, which I hope will in a few days be supplemented by a similar undertaking between France and Turkey.
There is a great identity of interests between Great Britain and the associated Powers in the South. Is there not a similar identity of interests in the North? Take the countries of the Baltic, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, which were once the occasion of the wars of Peter the Great. It is a vital major interest of Russia that these Powers should not fall into the hands of Nazi Germany. That is a vital interest in the North. I need not elaborate the arguments about the Ukraine which means an invasion of Russian territory. All along the whole of this eastern front you can see that the major interests of Russia are definitely engaged, and, therefore, it seems that you could 1843 fairly judge that they would pool their interests with other countries similarly affected.
I should have thought that this plan of a triple alliance is a preliminary step, and an invitation to other countries in danger on this front to come under its protection, was the most straightforward and practical manner of approaching the subject. I do not know whether I can commend it to my right hon. Friend by adopting a simile selected as a special compliment to him. It is like setting up an armoured umbrella, under which other countries will be invited to take shelter as and when they seek to do so. But we cannot exclude from our minds the fact that we are in a deadlock at the moment. What are the differences? We have already given guarantees to Poland and Rumania, and the Government tell us that they would be glad if Russia would give similar guarantees. Consequently, if Poland and Rumania are attacked we shall be in the war, and so will Russia. It is almost axiomatic that those who are allies of the same Power are allies of one another. It is almost axiomatic.
If you are ready to be an ally of Russia in time of war, which is the supreme test, the great occasion of all, if you are ready to join hands with Russia in the defence of Poland, which you have guaranteed, and of Rumania, why should you shrink from becoming the ally of Russia now, when you may by that very fact prevent the breaking out of war? I cannot understand all these refinements of diplomacy and delay. If the worst comes to the worst you are in the midst of it with them, and you have to make the best of it with them. If the difficulties do not arise, well, you will have had the security in the preliminary stages.
Now I must deal with some of the objections. The right hon. Gentleman, very prudently, did not wish to discuss the position of some of the other countries. We know, however, that the names of some of those countries are being used in discussion, and it is absolutely necessary that we should look a little at the position of those different countries. Take, in the first place, Poland. It is not true to say that Poland is an obstacle to the formation of this triple alliance. The Government will contradict me if they feel it necessary 1844 to do so, but I cannot believe that the Polish Government will consider it any part of their duty to place a barrier between arrangements which might be made between France, England and Russia for their own mutual security. Poland would naturally not wish that her affairs should be decided over her head, and I notice with great satisfaction that when M. Potemkin visited Warsaw we were led to believe from all that transpired—to use that much abused word in its proper sense—that the conversations on all the matters involved were highly satisfactory. Therefore, I will not have it said and put into currency that Poland is the obstacle to agreement between Britain, France and Russia.
Nor is the introduction of the Baltic States an obstacle either to Poland or to Russia. On the contrary, these Baltic States, united together by the closest military agreement, are also in the closest touch with Poland. There is harmony there. The vital interests of Poland would be affected by the subjugation to the Nazi Power of the three Baltic States of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. The same is true of Russia. There is an identity of interests in respect of these States. Are we to be told that we shall increase our responsibilities by guaranteeing these Baltic States as well? You will not extend your responsibilites, or your burdens, by extending your guarantees to cover all these countries, at the point at which you have now got, from the Baltic to the Black Sea. You are in it up to the neck already, and the question is how to make your system effective, and effective in time. I should have though that at the point at which we have now reached, there is safety in numbers, and there may be even peace in numbers, provided that every State that is admitted makes its fair contribution and shows itself earnestly resolved to take all measures to maintain its independence. Therefore, it seems to me that there is no reasonable objection on the ground of the attitude of Poland, and no reasonable objection on the ground of our having to give a guarantee or being involved in the fate of the Baltic States. These are not valid reasons in themselves for not going forward with this alliance with the Soviet.
But there are other countries of which we have heard. Take the case of Italy. It has been said: Do not irritate Signor 1845 Mussolini by making an alliance in time of peace with the Russian Soviet Government, just as he may be coming round, when he may be going to show some expectation of a change of policy. If the Prime Minister desires to influence Signor Mussolini, let me assure him that there is one way, and one way only, in which you can do it, and that is to be strong: nothing else will have any effect. If we are able to convince Signor Mussolini that Great Britain is strong, is arming herself, is united with the French Republic and bound together with other countries and has the whole power of Russia at her disposal, you will have the best chance of Signor Mussolini bracing himself for the great effort which may be required of him to liberate his own country from foreign thraldom.
There is the question of General Franco—that General Franco, also, may be coming round, and that we must not put him off. All we ask of General Franco is that he shall be neutral and rebuild the ruins of his country, and make a profit, as Spain did in the last War, from both sides. That is the only source from which they are likely to gain at the present. Can anyone doubt that that is the Spanish interest and the desire of General Franco? Yet if there is a different policy pursued in Spain, it is not because General Franco desires it but because there are forces and intrigues on the part of the Nazi and Fascist Powers. The way to counteract these forces of intrigue is to be strong, and the united strength of all peace-seeking nations would, as the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) has said, be overwhelming and would have a deterrent effect.
There is one other country, and that is Portugal, our ancient ally, with whom we have the oldest alliance in the world, the famous Anglo-Portuguese Treaty. Will they, it is said, not be rendered uneasy if they see their British ally also an ally of the Soviet Republic? I think it should be easy to remove such anxieties, because obviously if we are allies of the Russian Soviet Government they will not molest our allies by any intrigues or Communist propaganda. It will be quite easy to insist upon that as an element in the co-operation of our alliance. What is taking place in France to-day? Some time ago I was at Metz and the general there informed me that 1846 there were no more loyal and serviceable soldiers under his command than the Communists. Why is that? It is not because they care about France, but because they care about resistance to Nazi domination. What does it matter what the motive is as long as the action is effective and trustworthy? Motive is a matter for the individual himself. Therefore, it seems to me that it would be a great assurance to the Portuguese Government and people that they would not be disturbed by internal intrigues from the Comintern. An alliance with Russia would be an actual guarantee in the interests of Portugal rather than the contrary. At any rate, you will do far better if you have an opportunity of speaking to Russia as an ally than if you have the conditions of distrust and mutual suspicion which prevail at the present time.
There is only one more point I want to make, and I must make it if the House will bear with me. It is what I may call the technical military aspect of the defence of Poland. His Majesty's Government have given a guarantee to Poland. I was astounded when I heard them give this guarantee. I support it, but I was astounded by it, because nothing that had happened before led one to suppose that such a step would be taken. I want to draw the attention of the Committee to the fact that the question posed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs ten days ago, and repeated to-day has not been answered. The question was whether the General Staff was consulted before this guarantee was given as to whether it was safe and practical to give it, and whether there were any means of implementing it. The whole country knows that the question has been asked, and it has not been answered. That is disconcerting and disquieting, because obviously if it could have been answered it would answered about giving £5,000,000 of Czech money back to Germany. I had hoped that it would be answered, but it was not, because it could not be answered in any satisfactory form.
If there had been a careful military examination of this problem, I think it would have been seen at the very outset that no great influx of Russian troops into Poland for the purposes of the defence of Poland is practically possible. The roads and the railroads, of which the 1847 gauges change at the Russo-Polish frontier, would not enable any large Russian army to come into action on the Western borders of Poland. Moreover, it is not necessary, for the Poles have a very large army; they do not lack brave men to defend their native land and their regained independence. What they need is not men: they need munitions. That is what I want to impress upon the Committee. That is what we shall all need should a war come—not only Poland and Great Britain, but all the countries engaged in it. In the last War, the fighting was very intense for two months or more, and then suddenly it stopped, not only because of the winter, but because both sides had fired their ammunition. There had to be a breathing-space. There will not be any breathing-space in the next war. Once the German bombardment is begun, it will continue for many months without the slightest slackening. This country and its allies must be equally able to maintain themselves, and that is where the aid of Russia to Poland is going to be absolutely vital, in aeroplanes, tanks, artillery, ammunition and equipment. This ought to be studied and thought out. It is not a question of bringing in great masses of Russian troops, but of giving aid in the form in which it it needed and in the form in which I have every reason to believe Russia would give it in practice, provided that, on these broad lines, a triple alliance were set up. That is why M. Potemkin's conversations were satisfactory.
Clearly, Russia is not going to enter into agreements unless she is treated as an equal, and not only treated as an equal, but has confidence that the methods employed by the allies—by the peace front—are such as would be likely to lead to success. No one wants to associate themselves with indeterminate leadership and uncertain policies. The Government must realise that none of these States in Eastern Europe can maintain themselves for, say, a year's war unless they have behind them the massive, solid backing of a friendly Russia, joined to the combination of the Western Powers. I do not agree altogether with the very dark colours with which my right hon. Friend invested his picture in order to bring out his points, but, in the main, I agree with him that if there k to be an effective Eastern front—an Eastern 1848 peace front, or a war front as it might become—it can be set up only with the effective support of a friendly Soviet Russia lying behind all those countries.
Unless there is an Eastern front set up, what is going to happen to the West? What is going to happen to those countries on the Western front to whom, if we had not given guarantees, it is admitted we are bound—countries like Belgium, Holland, Denmark and Switzerland? What is going to happen to those countries? How are they to be defended if there is no Eastern front in activity? Let us look back to the experiences we had in 1917. In 1917, the Russian front was broken and demoralised. Revolution and mutiny had sapped the courage of that great disciplined army, and the conditions at the front were indescribable; and yet, until the Treaty was made closing the front down, more than 1,500,000 Germans were held upon that front, even in its most ineffectual and unhappy condition. Once that front was closed down, 1,000,000 Germans and 5,000 cannon were brought to the West, and almost at the last moment turned the course of the War and forced upon us a disastrous peace.
It is a tremendous thing this question of the Eastern front. I am astonished that there is not more anxiety about it. Certainly, I do not ask favours of Soviet Russia. This is no time to ask favours of countries. But here is an offer, a fair offer, and a better offer, in my opinion, than the terms which the Government seek to get for themselves; a more simple, a more direct and a more effective offer. Let it not be put aside and come to nothing. I beg His Majesty's Government to get some of these brutal truths into their heads. Without any effective Eastern front, there can be no satisfactory defence of our interests in the West, and without Russia there can be no effective Eastern front. If His Majesty's Government, having neglected our defences for a long time, having thrown away Czecho-Slovakia with all that Czechoslovakia meant in military power, having committed us without examination of the technical aspects to the defence of Poland and Rumania, now reject and cast away the indispensable aid of Russia, and so lead us in the worst of all ways into the worst of all wars, they will have Hi-deserved the confidence and, I will add, 1849 the generosity with which they have been treated by their fellow-countrymen.
§ 2.4 p.m.
Mr. J. J. Davidson
It is with extreme diffidence that I intervene in this Debate. I do so because it is an opportunity once again to raise, and to obtain a reply to, a question on foreign affairs which I addressed to the Government last Monday. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) and other hon. Members who have spoken have stressed the important point of having the confidence of many foreign nations with regard to our foreign policy. I suggest to the Government that it is just as important and necessary that the people of this country also should have faith and believe in the foreign policy of the Government. We ought to have a clear indication as to whether the Prime Minister, in his new policy, is serious and in earnest. I raise the question of the British Ambassador's attendance at the victory parade in Madrid to-day, because among my hon. Friends there is a grave feeling that this kind of action indicates that the Prime Minister and the Government are not serious in their professed intention of bringing about a peace bloc against aggression in the world.
I wish to put this direct question to the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. Was it agreed to, by the Cabinet that our Ambassador should attend this parade? Did the Cabinet agree to that proposal despite the difficulties of our ally, France; despite the fact that the ally on whom we depend to such a great extent; has been continuously insulted and sneered at by General Franco's Government? Did our Cabinet come to this decision, in order to satisfy General Franco's Government, or in order to satisfy Signor Mussolini and Herr Hitler? Did the Cabinet feel that they would be rousing antagonism in Germany or Italy, if our Ambassador did not attend? I submit that one thing which is required by the Government at this time, is a belief in the country, and particularly among our industrial organisations, that they are serious in their policy. They may have the confidence of other States; but as long as the great Labour movement and the great mass of the people in this country are suspicious of their policy, there will be neither whole-hearted support of the Government's policy nor 1850 wholehearted belief in the Government's intention. An indication such as this causes suspicion of the Government's policy.
Some of my hon. Friends on this side attended the funerals in Tarragona of British sailors who were killed by bombs from Italian aeroplanes. The facts are well-known to the Secretary of State and the Government. It is well-known that, despite the presence of non-intervention officers, and despite the protests or alleged protests of the British Government, the Italian bombers continuously singled out British ships for attack and sent many British sailors to their graves. Does the Under-Secretary really believe that it will add to our prestige to send our Ambassador to a victory parade, headed by an Italian general and Italian troops, headed by the very people who made these attacks on our Mercantile Marine while it was carrying out legitimate trade with a foreign country? Does he really believe that the presence of our Ambassador, the representative of the British nation and the British Empire, at this parade of people who have spat on our flag and killed our sailors, will raise the prestige of Great Britain in the eyes of the world? I say that it will be looked upon as an indication that the Prime Minister has not departed from his appeasement policy, his policy of trying to satisfy Germany and Italy and bring about a four-Power Pact including those countries. We view this decision as an indication that the Government are still angling for a four-Power Pact with the Fascist countries. Another indication is their continued refusal to have anything to do with Russia or any other democratic State in the peace bloc. I believe that I am justified in raising this question and asking for an adequate reply, because the prestige of this country is just as important as its armament policy.
§ 2.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Raikes
I feel it only right that, at any rate, on one side of the Committee to-day, the case should be put against the so-called Russian military alliance. It is very easy to criticise the attitude of the Government at this time, and it is impossible for the Government, in the middle of negotiations, to give clear, precise replies to all the questions which have been raised. But as far as a Russian military alliance is concerned, 1851 we have to consider what the implications of such a policy would be. I think, possibly, that some exaggeration may have been made in regard to the power of Russia. Nevertheless, the Committee will agree that the power of Russia might be a factor for peace if properly applied. There are two ways of approaching the question. There is what appears to be the simple way of a military alliance with Russia. There is an alternative, to which I will come in a moment. We have to ask ourselves first, will a so-called military alliance between Russia, this country and France, be the best way of collecting together the largest number of nations that it is possible to collect on the side of peace, or will it not? That is the touchstone by which any Government worthy of the name in this country, whatever its political colour may be, will have to judge this question.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) ran very speedily over a list of the countries which might object to a direct military alliance with Russia and rather waved them aside, as if there was nothing in that objection. But I would detain the Committee for a few minutes by a consideration of the actual position of certain of those countries. First, take the case of Poland. Poland at the end of the War escaped from the thrall of Austria, Germany and Russia, and there is probably no doubt about the fact that the Poles who had been under Russian domination since the Partitions, had suffered the hardest fate of the three sections of Poles. Poland, after it had become an independent state, defeated the Russian armies at the very gates of Warsaw in 1920. Poland has, since then, set up what is, in fact, not a democratic State, but a dictatorship, and as the history of the last 18 years shows, the Polish Government all along has been afraid of penetration by the Soviet. They have been afraid of the importation of Soviet ideas from Russia into Poland. That, indeed, may well be one of the reasons why the Ukraine, under Poland, has been kept under such tight control by the Polish majority Government. They fear a new Ukraine under the Soviet containing a Polish minority. Fear of Russia has inspired all the actions of Poland for 18 years. To-day you have 1852 a non-aggression pact between Rumania and Poland to fight for one another in the event of aggression by Russia. To this day you have no pact signed by Rumania and Poland that they will fight as a common front against the advance of Germany. Until such a pact is signed I do not think it is unfair to infer that the fear of Russia, the fear of Soviet infiltration into what you can call a capitalist State, is greater, even than the fear of Germany.
Let me pass to Rumania. There, again, you have a dictatorship, a State which is modelled in its new parliament entirely on the Fascist State of Italy. It is a State that collected Bessarabia from Russia at the end of the War. It is true to say that to this day Bessarabia is marked on Soviet maps as part of Soviet Russia. Is it an unfair inference to draw that in Rumania, as well as in Poland, there is a fear of what might happen to the government itself, to the leaders of that government and the men who are running that State on capitalist lines, if Russian ideas were to find their way into Rumania. Then pass to Bulgaria. That is a country which may be of vital importance in the course of the next few months. Bulgaria would be a link in the Balkans between Poland and Rumania and between Greece and Turkey. The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) stated that Bulgaria was lost completely to the Axis. I do not think he had any ground on which he could say that Bulgaria was yet lost. If you want to lose Bulgaria, a country where Communism is outlawed and where no Communist party is permitted at all, the quickest way will be to make a direct military alliance with Russia.
I am not going to talk about Italy, except to say that there we have our friends. I cannot imagine that the influence of the Vatican in favour of peace will be entirely assisted by this country tying itself up in an alliance with Russia. But I leave it at that. Yugoslavia, I think, probably has been lost to the Axis. Anyhow, Yugoslavia has signed the Anti-Comintern Pact, and for the time being is struggling under great difficulties with Germany on the one side and Italy on the other. I know that many in Yugoslavia are anxious to maintain the British connection if they can. Let us pass the 1853 other way to Spain and Portugal. The right hon. Member for Epping passed over Spain and Portugal very rapidly. He admitted that he thought pressure was being put on General Franco, that Fascist intrigues were running through Spain. I agree that they are. Will the desire of those elements in Spain which desire neutrality be helped by making a direct alliance with a country to which General Franco has been more in opposition in the last few months than to any other? The first and the most serious effect of a military pact of that sort must be to drive Spain fully into the arms of the Axis.
Is the hon. Member unaware that it is generally recognised that Franco Spain is already a member of the Axis? If the hon. Member desires, and I can get permission, I will take him to two German aerodromes, established in Franco Spain, which are a direct menace to the British Fleet.
§ Mr. Raikes
Franco Spain has signed the Anti-Comintern Pact which Yugoslavia has signed. [HON. MEMBERS: "Not Yugoslavia."] Yugoslavia signed the Anti-Comintern Pact a month or two ago, I understand, but if I am mistaken in that statement I will withdraw it. But the fact that you have signed an Anti-Comintern Pact does not mean of necessity that you will be bound to the Axis in a war against Great Britain—not for one moment. Indeed, the only way in which you could ensure a completely hostile Spain would be to hurl Soviet Russia straight before their noses. Portugal is going to be extremely useful in the event of hostilities. Portugal is under a strict Catholic dictatorship and in a Catholic dictatorship you get a feeling of definite hatred against Communism. It is fair to assume that your chance of holding Portugal would be very considerably reduced by a direct alliance with Russia. Then where do you find yourself? You find yourself with Russia, France and Britain in a military alliance, and your small friends among the peaceful States falling off right and left. You will be in the hands of the Soviet. Suppose that on top of that Germany were to say, "I will go West." Then Russia would see, what time after time her speakers at Moscow Conferences have said they wanted to see—the great countries in Europe falling out. Then Russia would come into her 1854 own, and you would have given Russia the best chance of doing it. If war broke out in the West and was fought out there, as it would be for a considerable period, and Russia found that she had not to come in at the start, it is probable that at the end of the war Russia would be the most prosperous of the great countries of Europe. You are playing into a trap if you put Russia in such a position that she is to be the final judge of what she does, and at the same time you are losing your old friends.
Take next the Sino-Japanese war. Early in that war you had munitions and money being poured into China by Russia, China was encouraged by Russia on every side. War broke out for a short period on the Amur River, on the edge of Manchuria, between Russia and Japan. Suddenly the whole of the Russian armies retreated from their posts. What has Russia done for China since? Nothing. It has been left to Germany to provide China with munitions. Anyhow, the Japanese in the last six months seem to have been complaining more about German munitions in China than about anything else. If Russia is sincere and desires the biggest numbers of countries to be gathered together on the peace front, Russia will accept out terms and will play her part in strengthening the peace front in Europe. If, on the other hand, she refuses those terms and insists upon a military pact, that is a trap, and a trap that is to be avoided at all costs.
§ 2.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Eden
This Debate has been one of contrasting speeches. My hon. Friend the Member for South East Essex (Mr. Raikes) was almost as gloomy about the consequences of including Russia in a close arrangement with ourselves and France, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), earlier in the day, was gloomy at the prospect of such exclusion. I think we would all of us appreciate the delicacy of the conditions in which this Debate takes place, but truly. I do not think the Government have any cause for complaint at all that the Debate is taking place. We have all of us, as Members of this House, been reading in the Press for a great many days and weeks accounts of the progress or lack of progress of negotiations between this country and Soviet Russia. The newspapers have had 1855 infinitely more information than has this House, and conspicuously the reputable Press, by which I mean, of course, the Press that supports the Government. I do not think, therefore, that the Government can complain, having read in those papers accounts of these negotiations, that the House now asks for the fullest possible information. It seems to me that the chief problem before us to-day, upon which I want to concentrate for a few minutes, is the question of the negotiations now in progress between this country and Soviet Russia, for I agree with several speakers in this Debate—and I think nobody has dissented from it—that the outcome of these negotiations may have the gravest significance for the future peace of the world.
As it seems to me, this problem falls approximately into two parts. Each of those parts is important in itself, but they are absolutely distinct, and it is important, if we are to come to wise decisions, that we should not confuse them. Those two parts of our problem each have their difficulties, and they are each distinct. There is, first of all, a political issue of the greatest consequence, and there is, secondly, a diplomatic problem of machinery. The political issue is clear, and it is on this that surely we must first of all make up our minds. The political issue is whether we want the closest possible relations, political and military, with the French and Soviet Governments. That is the political matter upon which we have to make up our minds. Obviously, two points of view are permissible. My hon. Friend the Member for South-East Essex quite clearly, on that aspect of the question, takes the view that we do not want relations of such intimacy as that. He presented his case very well, but we must know which is the Government's point of view in this matter. The second problem, the problem of machinery, is to embody this expression of our desire, whatever it be—this expression of the state of relations which we should create with Russia and France—in a diplomatic instrument which shall have the maximum deterrent effect, while taking account of the difficulties which we know to exist in regard to third parties or, more strictly speaking, fourth parties.
Let us take for a moment this political issue first, and it is on this that we would 1856 like, I think, more clarity of expression than we have had from the Government to-day. It is my conviction—I have never concealed it from the House—that it would be a gain to peace if an understanding could be arrived at between this country, France, and Russia, and the sooner, the more complete, the more far? reaching that arrangement, the better. I believe that that would be advantageous to this country, I believe t would be advantageous to Russia, and I believe it would be advantageous to Europe and to the maintenance of peace. I do not think it unfair to ask the Government, when they reply, if they will tell us whether that is their view or not. Let us examine this question for a moment from the point of view, first of all, of Anglo-Russia relations. I have never been able to see any reason why, on any part of the earth's surface, the relations of this country—the British Empire—and the Soviet Government should come into conflict. If there is one country that has surely got plenty to do at home, that country is Russia. One glance at the map is sufficient to show how immense are her territories, and to travel any part of Russia's giant distances reinforces that conviction, that no country in the world has a greater need for peace.
I have no desire to enter into arguments as to the merits or otherwise of the methods of government employed in Russia or anywhere else, nor is it indeed necessary or relevant to the decision which we have to take, but I think we should all agree on this, that Russia has, in relation to the Western Powers, in her internal economy and the condition of her people much leeway to make up. I do not believe that those at present in power in Russia would in any way dispute that. Certainly the impression that I formed, when I had contact with them four years ago, was that they were just as alive to the tasks that confronted them inside Russia as we could be to the tasks that confront us here in this country. That was the impression that I formed, and I think the Committe might well bear this in mind, that war, should it break out, would hamper and probably destroy the great experiment, because whatever view you take it is a great experiment, which is going on inside Soviet Russia at this time.
It would not help Russia at all. I can imagine no country which has less to gain 1857 from war. She does not want any more territory; she has more than enough. The problem is not a problem of space for her, it is a problem of development; and it cannot be economic causes, which we so often hear are what drive nations to war, because Russia's economic resources are virtually limitless. Again what she requires first is the opportunity to develop them, and so I say that there is every advantage, so far as Anglo-Russian relations are concerned, in giving political expression to what is a geographical and economic fact. If that be desirable from the narrower basis of Anglo-Russian relations, it is surely even more essential from the point of view of European peace. What is the object of this policy upon which the Government are now engaged? It is not to win a war, but to avert a war. Surely it must follow that the stronger the organisation you create, the greater its power as a deterrent to any would-be aggressor State, and, equally important, the greater its appeal to the peoples everywhere, whatever the attitude of their Government. I say that there is every advantage from the point of view of European peace in making this arrangement as complete and thorough as possible.
Let me turn to the purely strategic aspect of this question, which is of importance and the House should discuss it. We have undertaken commitments to go to the help of Poland and Rumania. There can be no question of turning back from that. The whole House and the nation supported the Government in giving these commitments. If we were ready to undertake them it is inconceivable that we should not be anxious now to build up the peace structure as a whole in Eastern Europe. To use a military metaphor, what we seem to have done is to occupy an outpost line in Eastern Europe. It is essential that we should consolidate the main front behind that line. I assume that the Government share this view. I can hardly believe, unless they did share it, that they would have undertaken these tremendous obligations. If you are going to build a deterrent it is folly not to build the most powerful deterrent in your power. The Prime Minister, speaking at the Albert Hall the other day, spoke of a conversation with M. Blum, in which M. Blum said that in his judgment the greatest danger of an outbreak of war was that 1858 there should still be doubts in the minds of certain governments—we may as well name them, Germany and Italy—as to our seriousness of purpose. I entirely agree with M. Blum. This country can certainly not carry conviction more effectively in the minds of these two Governments than by two steps—compulsory National Service on the one hand, and an arrangement with Russia on the other. I cannot help regreting that any other impression should have got abroad. I really do not think it is the fault of Members of this House; we have been very patient and have not pressed the Government with questions about the Russian negotiations, but have had to get all our information from the newspapers. We think now that it is not unreasonable to ask for further clarification than we have had to-day.
I want to say a word or two upon the other aspects of this question, the aspect of machinery and how this arrangement is to be carried out. What I should wish to see is that the basis of arrangement should be a tripartite alliance between this country, France and Russia based on complete reciprocity; that is to say, that if Russia were attacked we and France should go to her help, and if we or France were attacked Russia would come to our aid. Then, if any other nations of Europe were victims of aggression and called for help, we should make it clear that we would be prepared, all three of us, to give that help at once and to the fullest extent of our resources. That is the instrument which I conceive, and I really cannot understand why an arrangement of that kind should be thought to run counter to the peace front. After all, France has already her own arrangements with Soviet Russia. No one thinks that they run counter to the peace front. We have our arrangements with France and Belgium, and no one thinks that they run counter to the peace front. There are a number of these arrangements. There is our arrangement with Turkey, in which France would be associated. Why should it be part of the peace front to come to an arrangement with Turkey and not part of the peace front to do the same with Russia?
The argument that has to be met is the argument about other Powers, and here I come to the question of diplomatic machinery. If we make a tripartite 1859 arrangement between three great Powers it could certainly be so drafted as to make it plain that it would not come into operation in respect of Russia's neighbours or in respect of anybody else except with their consent or at their invitation. I refuse to accept that it is impossible to draft an arrangement of that kind. When I am told that the difference between our proposals, as far as I can understand them from the Press and from what we have been told, and the Russian proposals is that we allow for the position of these other countries and the Russian proposals do not, I am bound to say that I do not agree. As far as I can follow from what has been told us in the Press, the Russian proposals make exactly as much allowance for the position of fourth parties as ours. In fact the arrangement we are proposing to Russia is concerned exclusively with Russia's immediate neighbours. We could have a form of arrangement which would cover Europe as a whole and which, therefore, would be much less invidious to Russia's neighbours. I press this again on my right hon. Friend. He knows it is not for the first time. I believe arrangements can be come to which cover the three great Powers, as the three great Powers, and which are operative for Powers other than those if they desire it and if they ask for that help. On that basis I really cannot understand why we should hesitate to come to an arrangement.
§ Mr. Eden
It would apply to Europe alone. May I sum up the situation? After the events of March, or, as some of us would prefer to put it, after the events of last autumn, there were in principle two courses open to the Government and to the people of this country. We could have disinterested ourselves entirely in Central and Eastern Europe and we could have sought to live what lives we could on the western fringe of Europe while nations in Central and Eastern Europe were called upon to stand and deliver one by one. That was a possible course. There are some in this country who would advocate it. There was only one other course, and that was to join with other peace loving nations to put a stop to acts of 1860 aggression which must ultimately lead to disaster. There is much to be said for either of these courses. There is nothing whatever to be said for trying to find some form of halfway house. In actual truth, there is no such building in existence. The Government have embarked upon trying to construct what has been called the peace front. I would beg them to pursue that course with the utmost vigour and conviction, for only thus can peace be saved. My hon. Friend the Member for South East Essex spoke of the effect that these arrangements with Russia may have on countries such as Spain, Portugal, and so on. I admit all that, but there are difficulties in any course we pursue. There is no perfect course to follow, least of all with world conditions as they are to-day. All I ask the Government is that, having embarked on this policy, while bearing in mind the considerations which my hon. Friend expressed, not to allow those considerations to weigh with them but to pursue this policy with vigour and conviction, for only thus can they succeed and only thus will the peace be saved.
§ Mr. G. Strauss
On a point of Order. Is it in Order that a Debate of this great importance should continue and the Committee listen to important statements when there is not one member of the Cabinet on the Front Bench?
§ Sir Percy Harris
May I point out on that point of Order that we have had an important statement from the ex-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs? Is it not common courtesy for a member of the Cabinet to be present?
§ The Chairman
I think that both hon. Members know perfectly well that that is not a point of Order.
§ Mr. G. Strauss
I beg to move, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."
I am moving this Motion merely in order to draw attention to this state of affairs which, I think, is resented, probably, in all parts of the House. We have had very important speeches, the last one of particular importance.
§ Question put, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 86; Noes, 142.1863
|Division No. 144.]||AYES.||[2.47 p.m.|
|Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple)||Gallacher, W.||Nathan, Colonel H. L.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Gardner, B. W.||Noel-Baker, P. J.|
|Adamson, Jennie L. (Dartford)||Garro Jones, G. M.||Paling, W.|
|Adamson, W. M.||George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd (Carn'v'n)||Parker, J.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Rathbone, Eleanor (English Univ's.)|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Riley, B.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Grenfell, D. R.||Ritson, J.|
|Batey, J.||Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W.||Guest, Dr. L. H. (Islington, N.)||Rothschild, J. A. de|
|Benson, G.||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Salter, Sir J. Arthur (Oxford U.)|
|Broad, F. A.||Hardie, Agnes||Seely, Sir H. M.|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Harris, Sir P. A.||Shinwell, E.|
|Burke, W. A.||Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.)||Silverman, S. S.|
|Cartland, J. R. H.||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Cocks, F. S.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Smith, E. (Stake)|
|Collindridge, F.||Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Daggar, G.||Hopkin, D.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Stephen, C.|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Lathan, G.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Dobbie, W.||Lawson, J. J.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Leslie, J. R.||Thorne, W.|
|Ede, J. C.||MacLaren, A.||Thurtle, E.|
|Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||Mathers, G.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Maxton, J.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales)||Messer, F.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R T. H.||Montague, F.|
|Foot, D. M.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Mr. Whiteley and Mr. Anderson.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Dunsan, J. A. L.||Levy, T.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Dunglass, Lord.||Lindsay, K. M.|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Eckersley, P. T.||Lipson, D. L.|
|Apsley, Lord||Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Little, J.|
|Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Loftus, P. C.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Ellis, Sir G.||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)|
|Baxter, A. Beverley||Emmott, C. E. G. C.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross)|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Everard, Sir William Lindsay||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Fildes, Sir H.||Maequisten, F. A.|
|Bennett, Sir E. N.||Furness, S. N.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.|
|Blair, Sir R.||Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C.||Markham, S. F.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Goldie, N. B.||Marsden, Commander A.|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Grant-Ferris, Flight-Lieutenant R.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)|
|Brass, Sir W.||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel Sir T. C. R.|
|Brooke, H. (Lewisham, W.)||Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirenoestar)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Gridley, Sir A. B.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Grigg, Sir E. W. M.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.|
|Bull, B. B.||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Petherick, M.|
|Burgin, Rt. Hon. E. L.||Guest, Lieut-Colonel H. (Drake)||Pilkington, R.|
|Burton, Col. H. W.||Guest, Hon. I. (Brecon and Radnor)||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.|
|Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A.||Guinness, T. L. E. B.||Pownall, Lt.-Col. Sir Assheton|
|Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester)||Hammersley, S. S.||Raikes, H. V. A. M.|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.||Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n)||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Rankin, Sir R.|
|Channon, H.||Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)|
|Chapman, A. (Ruthergien)||Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)|
|Chorlton, A. E. L.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Christie, J. A.||Hume, Sir G. H.||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)|
|Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Hurd, Sir P. A.||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)|
|Conant, Captain R. J. E.||Hutchinson, G. C.||Rowlands, G.|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H.||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.|
|Cox, H. B. Trevor||James, Wing-Commander A. W. H.||Russell, Sir Alexander|
|Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page||Jarvis, Sir J. J.||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)||Samuel, M. R. A.|
|Davison, Sir W. H.||Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)||Sandeman, Sir N. S.|
|Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Kimball, L.||Sanderson, Sir F. B.|
|Doland, G. F.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Schuster, Sir G. E.|
|Dugdale, Captain T. L.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. G.||Selley, H. R.|
|Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.||Sutcliffe, H.||Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.|
|Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Smithers, Sir W.||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)||Wise, A. R.|
|Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir Donald||Thorneycroft, G. E. P.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)||Titchfield, Marquess of||Wragg, H.|
|Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Spens, W. P.||Turton, R. H.|
|Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'l'd)||Wakefield, W. W.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)||Mr. Grimston and Lieut.-Colonel|
|Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairr)||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.||Herbert.|
|Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.||Wedderburn, H. J. S.|
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ 2.53 p.m.
§ Brigadier-General Sir Henry Croft
I think the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) was a little unfair to the Government in the very interesting speech which he has just delivered in suggesting that they had refused to respond to efforts to build a deterrent against aggression. As I see it, and as I think the vast majority of people in this country understand it, there has never been anything but a desire cordially to welcome any countries into the common circle of the peace front against aggression, whether those countries be democracies or dictatorships. There is one point on which there has been a little heart-searching among people in this country who have not been vocal upon this question. I understand the delicacy of the situation and that view has not been expressed as emphatically as the other point of view; indeed, very little has been said about it at all, because those who hold that view have wanted not to make the diplomatic situation more difficult. When I say that they were different I mean that they would desire generally to see co-operation of the sort broadly indicated in the original ideas of the League of Nations, had it been able to function for collective security, namely, that if any country was attacked those who were co-operating would go into the common business of defence.
What is now demanded is that this country should form something in the nature of a definite military alliance and, therefore, it seems to be going back on the old conception of the League of Nations in the first place. I think the right hon. Gentleman would agree that that is something which we have always tried to avoid in our diplomatic history. It does not mean that we are not friendly in welcoming such co-operation; indeed the Government made it clear that they have already guaranteed two of what I might call the great bulwark States between the Axis 1864 and Russia and have shown that we are prepared to fight. I was surprised that Russia was not prepared to do the same thing, which seems so much in line with our common aim. If Russia is as anxious as we are to preserve the peace of the world she will be ready to co-operate in the same kind of way, as so many nations have already desired to do.
In the time remaining to me I want particularly to emphasise my dissociation from the ideas of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). I thought he would be in his place, but he is not here at the moment. Everybody must lunch at some time. When he painted that very gloomy picture of Great Britain's position, during the speech previous to the one he has made to-day, he had a most unfortunate effect in the world. He gave the impression that in this country we were afraid that we might be defeated and wiped out, brought to our knees, unless we could have the support of one particular country. The right hon. Gentleman has become a best seller on the German radio for propaganda. If the right hon. Gentleman really believed last September that we were in a position in the end to crush the totalitarian States like an egg-shell, I can hardly think that our wonderful growth of armaments quite recently has made the position utterly hopeless and that we are down and out if we do not have support from the East. In saying that, I have no hostility whatever to any idea that we should gather in all the friends we can for the common purpose.
I would like also to remind the Committee that there has been talk of a great deal of propaganda, in public and in private, against the Russian idea. Private views may be held which wonder whether a permanent arrangement of this description might not affect that very great body of opinion which in the past has been afraid. I agree that ideological ideas in different countries are no concern of ours at the moment. We are concerned with trying to build up a peace front, but there 1865 are forces which must be taken into account. I read an article in "Isvestia" the other day in which it spoke of the false rumours that Russia was working for a military alliance and described them as absolute nonsense. What we want is military co-operation in the case of aggression, and I believe that His Majesty's Government are doing nothing contrary to that main idea.
In his very interesting speech my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) spoke of the military significance of those facts and rather indicated that it was important that we should have an understanding with Russia because we should then be able to pour her machines, aeroplanes and tanks, military material and munitions into such States as might be attacked. That is certainly true. You do not want a military alliance in the old understanding of the term—unless the term now has a new meaning. The great idea of a military alliance to achieve that purpose is that we should be all in with great armies and the Fleet, not that another party to that alliance would merely supply materials, as many countries did in Spain from both angles. The idea of a military alliance would be, if it is ever contemplated, something in which there was complete equality, a pooling of the man-power of the countries who were associated. I do not know, but I should imagine that His Majesty's Government in the conversations have already asked what contribution would be possible in the present transport arrangement for the great Russian nation to bring into the common pool. That seems to be very important.
I expect that that question was asked, but I as an Englishman want to know more about it before a military alliance is signed with a country with which we have not always had the same ideas. It is a dictatorship. Lots of people in this country have the idea that dictatorships should not be touched with a barge-pole, but we have to remember that all the countries that we have guaranteed are dictatorships. We have departed from the old idea of a front of democratic powers against the dictators. We are now building up something like a common peace front of all people without regard to their form of government.
§ Sir H. Croft
I have used the right hon. Gentleman's formula. I like his slogan "peace front"; what I ask is whether we are wise to turn to right or left to make a triple military alliance in order to preserve a peace front? No one will accuse me of being unready in these matters, but a definite military alliance may divide the world into blocs, and even after the present crisis has passed we may find countries still dividing the world into just those two fundamentally different types of view with which we can associate ourselves only by veering to one side or the other in a way in which we have always tried to avoid.
I have made these few remarks, not because I do not want the conversations with Russia to go on and to be brought to the most successful conclusion, but because I am voicing the point of view of a rather larger number of people than is generally recognised. I do not claim to be its personal representative, but there are great forces throughout the world who would not like to see any permanent attachment to any particular nation, although they might agree to an attachment among all the countries of the world. What I have said is felt very deeply in many countries of the world where it is also felt that perhaps the greatest thing, even greater than peace, would be that nothing should be done to impair still further what has been up to now the destruction of world peace, and that is lack of faith and an antagonism to all the things for which civilisation has stood in the past.
§ 3.5 P.m.
§ Sir A. Sinclair
I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £100.
If I do not, as I generally endeavour to do, act in the spirit of the advice which Mr. Speaker gave us at the beginning of this Parliament, to indulge in the cut-and-thrust of debate, it is because I want to approach this discussion, in the very serious situation in which we find ourselves, from as far as possible a non-controversial angle. For that reason I do not feel inclined to take up the challenge which the right hon. Gentleman threw down to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), as I might otherwise have done in the absence of the latter. Nevertheless I must say that I was a little surprised to hear the hon. and gallant 1867 Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) say that the speech of the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon was inconsistent with his speech in September in which he said that, if war had then come, the democratic Powers could have crushed the totalitarian Powers like egg-shells. I am not sure whether I am quoting the words exactly, but they were to that effect. After all, however, we did have Russia with us then; we had Czechoslovakia with us; we had the Republican Army of Spain still fighting for the principles of liberty in that country; and in all these three respects the situation was very different, and, if I may say so quite frankly, from the point of view of the totalitarian Powers must less favourable than the situation we have to face during this discussion to-day. The Prime Minister was good enough to say that, in spite of the embarrassment which he felt in answering a Debate on foreign affairs on an occasion like this—an embarrassment in which all of us in every part of the House would sympathise with him—he made no complaint of this discussion; it is now several weeks since we had a discussion on foreign affairs.
Let me begin by saying that the situation we are discussing to-day is mainly distinguished from the background against which we have conducted our previous discussions on foreign affairs by the fact that on previous occasions the situation has been fundamentally deteriorating, and, although an agreement with one country might have been signed, or an outbreak of war in another country might have been averted, the power and prestige of the law-abiding nations was diminishing, while the power and prestige of the other nations was increasing. In that situation, while Ministers tried to keep up our courage and their own by reiterating the platitude that war was not inevitable, it was becoming constantly more likely, until at last the Prime Minister was constrained to admit, in our debates on the Military Training Bill, that we were already in an intermediate stage between peace and war. Now, for the first time for many years, we can say that, in spite of the state of tension to which the Prime Minister referred in his speech this afternoon, and in spite of the dangerous weaknesses and inconsistencies in the foreign policy of His Majesty's Government to which I must presently refer, the forces of 1868 peace and order in Europe are beginning to recover their confidence and strength, while those of arbitrary power are beginning to decline. The balance of power is still against the former and in favour of the latter, but the process of readjustment, which will require a tremendous effort of energy and will on the part of this Government and people if it is successfully to be completed, has begun. Unfortunately it is at the present moment being retarded, and dangerously retarded, by His Majesty's Government.
Time permits me to do no more than merely enumerate some of the important factors which have produced this encouraging and hopeful change in the general situation. First, the abandonment of the policy of appeasement, which was whetting the appetites and increasing the power and prestige of the dictators. Secondly, the close and firm co-operation between the Governments of France and Britain. Thirdly, the well-judged and well-timed intervention in the affairs of Europe by President Roosevelt, whose personal initiatives have certainly saved Europe, and perhaps America, from war. There can be no more foolish misunderstanding of the President's policy than to suppose that we could look to him to protect Britain's Imperial interests, or to sacrifice the interests of his own country to a sentimental friendship with France. He has, however, proved himself to be a cool and detached but devoted friend of peace in Europe and the world, and shown himself to be, indeed, the greatest peacemaker of our time. Fourthly, the realisation of the neighbours of the German and Italian dictators that they have to choose between submission and resistance, and their willingness to cooperate with spirit and vigour in a policy of resistance. Fifthly, the revolution which we have worked in our policy by linking our destinies with those of the Continent, and giving Europe a striking pledge of our purpose in the adoption of conscription.
The Prime Minister said that it was a great mistake to underrate the importance of the guarantees we have given in Eastern Europe and the Balkans. I have not fallen into that mistake. I appreciate their importance to the full. But I thought the Prime Minister went too far when he said that such a policy would not have been supported by the people six months ago. Has he forgotten that the 1869 Government won their great majority by an appeal to the people to support steady and collective resistance to aggression? That was in 1935. A Government which had followed that policy consistently would have had the wholehearted support of the country and of Parliament.
There is another factor which I want particularly to stress, because it is of great importance. In both Italy and Germany, but particularly in Germany, the moral forces of justice and the dread of responsibility for plunging the German people, and all Europe, into an unjust war, are beginning to create resistance to the prevailing policy of the dictatorship Governments. This factor is of crucial importance at the present time. The mass of the people in Germany, as in every other country, rightly loathes the thought of war. It has often seemed to me that the Prime Minister has exaggerated the importance of this fact, because perhaps I have a higher opinion than he of the cleverness of Dr. Goebbels and the power of the technical instruments that he has at his disposal. But this mass loathing of war is a fundamental factor which happily exists and which we ought not to ignore.
There are a number of officers in the German Army, many of them men whose religious instincts have been outraged by the treatment of both the Catholic and Protestant churches in Germany, who do not want to see the great instrument of German power which they have built up thrown away on some desperate and wicked enterprise of war which would be on such a scale that Germany would lack the resources to win it unless by the unlikely hazard of the knock-out blow. Then, apart from the irreconcilable remnants of the Left in German politics, there are the Conservative elements in that country, still important and influential, who have steadily supported Hen-Hitler as long as he was maintaining order at home and adding to the strength, prestige and territory of Germany abroad without involving the country in war. But they are becoming increasingly alarmed at the gradual bolshevisation of the country which the armament programme and the four-year plan of General Goering have involved, and they are still more deeply disturbed by the annexation of Czecho-Slovakia, by the reaction which this event 1870 has provoked abroad and by the prospect that Herr Hitler's foreign policy may involve Germany in war on two fronts. I will not take up the time of the House in describing them in detail, but similar currents of opinion exist in Italy, stimulated by the stagnation of Italian colonial policy in Abyssinia, the firm and spirited reaction of France to the insolent claims of the Italian Government, the steady deterioration in the standards of living of the Italian people and the accumulating evidence that Herr Hitler is rapidly becoming the dictator not only of Germany, but also of Italy.
These currents of opinion in Germany and Italy must be encouraged to irrigate the fields of peace in Europe, and for that two things are necessary. First, the Governments of France, of Britain and of their friends in Europe must find means of convincing patriotic and humane Germans and Italians that not only have we no intention of intervening in their domestic affairs, but also that we should not think of taking advantage of any domestic embarrassment or difficulties through which they might be passing in order to bring any form of pressure to bear on them from outside or to settle problems in which they might be interested, to their disadvantage. We must strive by every means, and not necessarily by orthodox and traditional means, to make the German and Italian people understand that we are their friends. They ought to know that it would be impossible to form a government in this country with a policy of making war on Germany or Italy, and that even if you could imagine a government of such madmen, it is quite unimaginable that it could obtain a majority to support it in Parliament. Therefore, neither Germany nor Italy has the slightest reason to fear an attack from Britain unless it is provoked by an act of German aggression upon us or upon one of the countries whose independence and integrity we have guaranteed. Secondly, we must make it abundantly clear to those in Germany who are beginning to think that resistance to the Hitler regime is their duty, but only then-duty, if it is the one alternative to a war in which Germany and all Europe would be ruined, that our purpose is unshakeably firm, and that any act of aggression by Germany which threatened 1871 any of the countries whose independence we have guaranteed would immediately plunge Germany into a war on two fronts. Any weakness or harking back to appeasement would discourage the men of peace and play straight into the hands of the men of war in Germany.
If we are to carry conviction into the minds of the German and Italian peoples, and consequently into the minds of those who are threatened with aggression, five things are necessary. First, at home there must be vigour in action and firmness in policy and the exposition of policy. Let me concede at once to the Government that they have shown much greater vigour in action in the last few months than previously; but there has been deplorable delay in establishing the Ministry of Supply. That should have been done long ago, and it must be the first business after Whitsuntide. I do not want to irritate hon. Members opposite—and I think the Committee realises that I have tried to approach this weighty question to-day in a non-controversial spirit—but I have been a great deal in touch with foreign opinion, and I must say this to the Committee, because it is true, that nothing would give greater encouragement to our friends abroad and give greater proof of our sincerity in pursuit of our policy than the reconstruction of the Government and the admission into it of those who have been consistent advocates of the policy of collective resistance to aggression.
Then while it would be too much to expect the Prime Minister or the Secretary of State to answer every foolish letter or article which may appear in an important newspaper, His Majesty's Government must realise that the concerted flow of letters in the "Times," harking back to appeasement, of which the first was written by a distinguished salaried official of the State, discourages our friends and strengthens the parties of aggression in Germany and Italy. It is important that such letters and articles should be publicly disavowed by some prominent member of the Government at the first opportunity after publication.
The second requirement is that firmness towards the present rulers of Germany and Italy must be enjoined upon the official representatives abroad of His Majesty's Government, especially those in Rome and Berlin. Any weakness there 1872 encourages the force of aggression in those countries, quickly becomes talked about in the small diplomatic circles, and is reported as a dangerous symptom to the Government of every country in the world. Thirdly, His Majesty's Government must be firm, even at the cost of some temporary sacrifice of commercial convenience and economic advantage, in all matters affecting the main principle of collective resistance to aggression. For example, it is of vital importance that His Majesty's Government should take no action the effect of which is to condone or to give the impression of condoning the annexation of Czecho-Slovakia and Albania.
I do not like the appointment of a consul in Bratislava, but I recognise that it is possible to hold another opinion on that subject without departing from the main principle, and therefore I do not press it, I would ask the Government this question. Is it proposed to appoint a British consul in Prague or in any other town or city in Bohemia or Moravia? If such appointments were made would it not be necessary to obtain an exequatur from the German Government in Berlin, and would not such an application inevitably involve recognition of the German annexation? Will His Majesty's Government assure us that they will on no account take any action which might justifiably be held to amount to the recognition of the German annexation?
Another example of an action calculated to produce an impression which I hope is false, and to impose a strain upon the collaboration of the Governments of Great Britain and France, was the untimely return of the British Ambassador to Berlin. Still another is the presence of the British Ambassador to Spain at the victory march through Madrid today. Will Marshal Petain be there? Even if he is, France has suffered less than we have in ships and in the loss of sailors through the attacks of the Spanish airmen whom the representative of the British Crown will be saluting in the streets of Madrid to-day. These concessions to weak counsels in a divided government enfeeble the peace front, incite distrust among the friends and hope among the enemies of peace, and lower the prestige of Britain.
Thirdly, there is the question of Turkey. I associate myself with every- 1873 thing that has been said in welcoming that agreement with the great and proud nation of Turkey by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, the Prime Minister and the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). But the Committee must not cherish the illusion that we have got a binding agreement for mutual assistance with Turkey yet. The formula which the Prime Minister read out to the House last week only meant an agreement to agree. It is in the right direction; it has had an excellent effect abroad, but do not let anyone suppose that if any one of the countries in the Mediterranean area which we have guaranteed were the object of aggression next week that Turkey would necessarily move a man, a ship or a gun. Turkey would not move unless and until—and this brings me to my last point—the co-operation of Russia was assured.
I wish I could convey to the Committee the impression of blank astonishment and deep disappointment which is felt abroad by men of all parties, by all friends of peace and justice, at the attitude of His Majesty's Government towards Russia. We have had this afternoon from the Prime Minister no defence of His Majesty's Government's refusal to accept the Russian proposal; the Prime Minister preferred not to explain the reasons. Still less have we had any explanation of His Majesty's Government's still more indefensible refusal to accept another alternative, the plan which has been put to them by the French Government. Although they have been very sparing in an explanation of their refusal to accept the Russian Government's offer I know many of the pretexts which have been put forward by the Government to explain their attitude. I was glad to hear the Prime Minister brush aside the arguments derived from the alleged inefficiency of the Russian forces. I remember in 1914 how Generals Rennenkempf and Sazanov, hating each other much more than they hated any enemy general, lurched into East Prussia and mopped up a few German troops until the Germans under Hindenburg and Luden-dorff swept these heroic and ill-equipped soldiers headlong in confusion across the Russian frontier. But that blundering but heroic enterprise saved Paris.
While it is true that you require a great deal of skill and equipment for the capture of a great fortress, or indeed for 1874 breaking into somebody's house, what you require for keeping a door shut when somebody is trying to get through it is merely bulk and weight. That is why Russia would be so useful to the cause of peace at the present time. I know that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping was well justified in saying that, among the ridiculous pretexts that have been used by His Majesty's Government to defend their refusal to accept the Russian offer, is the possibility of offending Portugal. The 300 years old alliance between Great Britain and Portugal, two proud and independent nations of equal status, is firmly based on common interests. If foreign policy is not to be dictated by ideological prejudices, as the Prime Minister claims, surely we cannot allow the ideological prejudices of even so valued an ally as Portugal to prevent us from obtaining such a vital buttress for peace in Eastern Europe as Russia would provide.
An even feebler argument is that an alliance with Russia would throw Spain and Italy into the arms of Germany. Why, they are there already. We do not need to trouble about that. I understand that the Government have been using even such an argument as the effect on opinion in Canada. I cannot believe that that is an argument which can be seriously treated when we are considering the imminent threat to peace here at our own doors in Europe. Moreover, let us remember that Herr Hitler is eagerly watching these negotiations. I hope that every hon. Member has read the despatch which appeared in "The Times" of 15th March from their Berlin correspondent, who said:It would not be admitted here" [that is, in Berlin] "that an Anglo-Russian alliance would mean the end of German successes in the field of foreign policy. At the least, however, it would be a substantial hindrance, and not a few observers here believe that if the current Anglo-Russian negotiations were to break down, there would be considerable pressure on Herr Hitler, on the side especially of the Army, to make such arrangements with Russia as would preclude any danger of England's receiving a second chance.If there is any doubt about the efficiency of the Russian army now, the right hon. Gentleman need have no doubt about its efficiency if it were taken over by German staff officers. If we want the friendship and active military help of a great country like Russia, we must not treat 1875 her as a convenience, as a country we can call in to help us when we and the countries in whose welfare and independence we are most concerned are in danger. We must treat her as an equal partner in resistance to aggression, and if we welcome her soldiers to the battlefield we must not, as we did at Munich, exclude her statesmen from the council chamber. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister said that there must be reciprocity, and that the Government's proposals meant complete reciprocity. The Prime Minister did not deal with this case. Suppose that we went to the help of Holland if she were threatened by an act of aggression from Germany. Poland would be bound to come to our help by our reciprocal guarantee. Russia, by the Government's proposals, would be bound to come to the help of Poland. But if Lithuania, Estonia or Latvia were threatened by aggression from Germany, Russia would have to help them, but we would not be under any obligation to help Russia. Therefore, there is not, in fact, reciprocity.
The British offer did not cover the Baltic States. I am not going to deal any further with the argument of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping in regard to that. I think it is a cast-iron argument. It is absolutely essential that we should protect the Northern flank of the peace front in Eastern Europe by ensuring that the Baltic States are not overrun. There is no time to be lost, and I beg the Government, if it is not already too late—for their attitude has enormously increased the difficulties of reaching agreement with Russia—to accept the plan of the French Government which would almost certainly have been acceptable to Russia ten days or a fortnight ago, though I cannot confidently say that it would be acceptable to Russia now. I hope that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen saw a despatch in the "Times" from its very well-informed correspondent in Paris yesterday. He says:It is worth recalling that soon after the negotiations began, the French Government proposed intermediate suggestions of their own and that these, though shelved after their initial consideration in London, are still being held in reserve at the Quai d'Orsay in case the moment may arrive for their re-presentation with a better chance of success.I hope that those plans will be taken up 1876 by the Government. With astonishing loyalty, the French Government have supported His Majesty's Government in putting forward inadequate proposals. I venture to predict that it will put a strain upon the close collaboration which, happily, now exists between French and British Governments, unless His Majesty's Government before it is too late, if it be not already too late, repay that loyalty by accepting the French proposals for an accord between the three countries which would pledge them jointly to collective resistance to any act of aggression in either Eastern or Western Europe, and to which accord effect could immediately be given by staff conversations. I do not know whether their military advisers have told the Government that we would win a war without Russia. But I am certain of this, that we cannot preserve peace without Russia. Nothing but the clearest evidence that the might of Russia will be engaged against aggression will give the necessary encouragement to Turkey and other countries to throw themselves wholeheartedly into the front against aggression, will convince the German and Italian peoples that aggression would inevitably mean disaster for them, and would certainly deter the war parties in Germany and Italy from plunging Europe into war.
§ 3.39 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Butler)
This Debate has illustrated that the Committee appreciates the fact that we have passed through a most active period of British diplomacy. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair), in addition to giving us his 14 points—I counted many more than five, and they included the complete reorganisation of the Government—did acknowledge that the forces for peace had begun to recover strength. I welcome that measure of congratulation for the policy of the Government, because I think it is largely due to our initiative that this has happened. May I remind the Committee of our exchange of guarantees with Poland; of our assurances to Rumania and Greece, and of our recent declaration with Turkey, which has been received on all sides of the Committee with great satisfaction; of the great strides which have been made by British diplomacy, and the great 1877 energy shown by the Government in the last few weeks and months. I should like to acknowledge also with gratitude the tribute that the right hon. Gentleman paid to the declarations made by President Roosevelt, which I think have also helped the situation in the way that he described. Our strength, as has so often been said, has not been mustered within this country, nor connections made with our friends outside this country, for aggressive purposes. I notice that whenever that phrase is used it is loudly cheered. But I find, listening to the speeches of some of those who do lip service to the statement, that their arguments are aggressive, and that in the case of the right, hon Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) the word "carniverous", as applied to other nations, slips only too easily from his lips.
In our view the statement that we are not mustering our strength or collecting our friends for aggressive purposes is perfectly true. The more that is understood within this country among the more enthusiastic, whose ardour prompts them almost to aggressive remarks, and the more it is realised abroad, the more will the motives of British foreign policy be appreciated at the present tune. In my own case I am sure the Committee will expect from me no more shining examples of oratory than they usually get from the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs. I am informed that a distinguished noble predecessor of mine at the beginning of this century was given instructions by his chief that he was never to answer a supplementary question. I have heard it said that I have answered innumerable supplementary questions. But I would explain that I cannot indulge in the rhetoric that the Committee would like, and that while cerain negotiations are proceeding, in the present state of international relations a certain limitation must be imposed upon a person in my position speaking on foreign affairs in this Committee.
The fact that there has been a certain reticence in this debate was illustrated by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, the moderation of which I think was accepted on all sides of the Committee. It is in accord with our British view that instead of concentrating the whole of this Debate on the 1878 excellent achievements of the Government, most of the time the Debate has been concentrated on the negotiations with Russia, which on some sides of the Committee are regarded as protracted.
The first matter, before I come to consideration of the question of Russia, is the question of Spain. The hon. Member for Maryhill (Mr. Davidson) raised this issue at Question time the other day, and gave me notice that he would bring it forward in a speech to-day if he got the opportunity. He asked me whether the action of the British Ambassador hi attending the victory parade in Madrid had the approval of the Cabinet. I can answer that this action had the approval of my Noble Friend. He asked me whether we had acted in accordance with the best interests of our ally, France. The best answer to that is that the French Ambassador, Marshal Petain, was present at the parade to-day, just as our own Ambassador was, and so were representatives of other foreign Powers. As I have explained before, we regard attendance at the parade as a normal act of international courtesy. It always surprises me when I hear the Opposition's views on our policy in Spain, that although for the last year they have criticised our policy "because we would lose Spain," yet now, on an occasion when, according to normal international practice, an Ambassador would attend such a function, they wish us to show a studied discourtesy to the new Spain by not allowing our Ambassador to appear at the parade. The situation seems to me to have been summed up in the words of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, when he said, "They captured Spain," alluding to the Axis Powers. I should like to say that I hope that no Member of the Government will ever use such language, and I think the Spanish Government itself, with that proud Spanish feeling of independence, would resent any such suggestion.
Mr. Lloyd George
I said they could never have captured Spain without the very powerful assistance which those two dictator Powers gave to them.
§ Mr. Butler
The point which I was taking up was the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion that the Axis Powers had captured Spain. We believe that any action of ours which tended to be discourteous 1879 towards the new Spain would be undesirable.
The right hon. Member for Caithness asked me a question about Prague. He asked what was the position of His Majesty's future representative in Prague in view of the statement made earlier about the British Legation in that city. The whole question is under consideration, and no decision whatever has been taken to ask for an exequatur from the German Government which would, as the right hon. Gentleman reminded us, amount to the de facto recognition of Bohemia and Moravia.
§ Sir A. Sinclair
Why has no decision been taken? Surely the Government are firm in refusing recognition?
§ Mr. Butler
It is typical of many of these hypothetical situations in which the Committee likes to drive Ministers. I have used the expression that no decision has been taken, because no decision has been taken, and I can give no date when a decision will be taken. I have stated the exact opposite, which indicates that recognition is not at present decided.
There was another phrase used by the right hon. Gentleman, on the subject of Turkey. He said that if there were an act of aggression leading to war in the Mediterranean area, Turkey would not move a ship or man a gun unless there was already an agreement with Russia. This is, in the view of the Government, a misreading of the declaration to which Turkey has put her hand, and I think it should be definitely repudiated by the Government. This is the Clause in the declaration, the third Clause, which covers the point raised by the right hon. Gentleman:Pending the completion of a definite Agreement, His Majesty's Government and the Turkish Government declare that, in the event of an act of aggresion leading to war in the Mediterranean area, they would be prepared to co-operate effectively and to lend each other all the aid and assistance in their power.The right hon. Gentleman will see, therefore, that the point about which he expressed some anxiety is in fact covered.
Now let me come to the point to which the attention of the Committee has been principally directed this afternoon, and that is the negotiations with the Soviet Government. The right hon. Member for 1880 Epping (Mr. Churchill)—and I must say how honoured I am to cross swords with so many distinguished speakers this afternoon—said that it was action and not motives that mattered, and he went on to say that motives were matters for the individual conscience. The view of His Majesty's Government is that motive is always of first importance in the conduct of foreign policy. Rather than take any hurried or hasty action, we should in this Committee consider dispassionately the motives which rule us at the present time in framing British policy. Perhaps the Committee will be patient with me if I try to define those motives. The object of His Majesty's Government has been two-fold. We have been anxious to create a sense of security and to establish a guarantee of independence from the earliest moment in those regions where potential threats have been most imminent. We desire, in fact, to give early support in those quarters where it appears to be most urgently required. Then we wish to secure the maximum amount of collaboration for this purpose. We hope—and this is important—that assistance will be forthcoming from States which are willing to offer it and that it will be made available to States who are willing to receive it. In this connection let me tell the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping, in answer to his question whether the General Staff were consulted about recent guarantees, that His Majesty's Government keep in continuous consultation with the General Staff, and the right hon. Gentleman may rest assured that any action that we have taken has been in consultation with that body.
The governing purpose of this policy which I have described is in no sense a desire to threaten or encircle or hamper the legitimate activities of any other State, nor to organise any group of Powers against any other group of Powers. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington said that our object was not to win a war but to avert a war, and that exactly describes the policy of His Majesty's Government. When I say that it is not our policy to organise one group of Powers against another group of Powers, I might well remind the Committee that the results of such an action might conceivably be—and this is a point which has not yet been put—to bring war nearer rather 1881 than to push it further away. Our sole objective has been to establish confidence in Europe, so that all States, great and small, may pursue their lawful purpose without disturbance and without fear that their independence will be menaced from any quarter. In order to achieve this object interchanges have taken place with the Soviet Government and they have been described by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to-day. In their latest communication received a few days ago, on which certain negotiations have been proceeding since, the Soviet Government explain the reasons why they prefer the suggestion that they have made. We have said that the procedure, which has already been indicated to the Committee, of our policy seems better suited 1o the circumstances of the moment and to the objects we have in view," which I described earlier.
Though our plan is less comprehensive than a military alliance, we believe it better designed to give effective support where support is most needed. It is also, we think, more in harmony with the views of other Governments most nearly concerned and less calculated to raise doubts and difficulties in their minds. I have been pressed to state the views of some of those other States. It is difficult for me to give an account of individual views, but let me take a point which was made legitimately in a constructive way by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington. He said that he proposed a plan which he thought could be successfully put into operation with the consent of the other Powers concerned. That is a point we shall certainly bear in mind, and he and the Committee may take it as certain that we shall continue to keep closely in touch with the other Powers concerned. While I cannot specify the views of individual States, let me take, for example, those who live in a part of Europe in between great Powers. There must be on their part, looking at it simply from the point of view of commonsense, a natural hesitation before a decision for any definite association with one of those great Powers is taken by one of those States. If there is hesitation in a State living in a geographical position of that sort, there is also similar hesitation of decision for His Majesty's Government. The hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth 1882 (Sir H. Croft) said that to make a military alliance of this tripartite character would be a big departure in British policy, and he is perfectly right, and that is why the Government are approaching this matter with caution and giving proper time to the consideration of such an important subject. We are giving careful and sympathetic consideration to the suggestions and criticisms of the Soviet Government—
§ Mr. Butler
Yes—and my Noble Friend is concerting and will concert with the Soviet Ambassador, to whose work a tribute should be paid, in an attempt to reconcile the points of view of the two Governments. In this attempt His Majesty's Government have been happy to avail themselves of the collaboration and counsel of the French Government. Our original suggestion has already been modified with a view to meeting the preoccupations of the Soviet Government and negotiations, are continuing. I cannot, therefore, accept the phrase of the right hon. Member for Epping when he said he feared that we were rejecting and casting-away the Soviet Government. We are doing no such thing. I was asked by the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) whether we desired an understanding. I can naturally say that the answer to that is in the affirmative. Our object remains that we should not range one group of nations against another group. On the contrary, we seek conditions of security in which the differences which must inevitably arise between nations may be all adjusted by free negotiation and not by force, and that we should, in fact, seek to avert war and not by any of our actions, hasty or otherwise, tend to bring it nearer.
The right hon. Gentleman did not reply to my question. I asked whether the Italian troops taking part in the victory parade are not in Spain in violation of the agreement signed by our Government and the Italian Government.
§ Mr. Butler
In the exchange of letters attached to the Italian Agreement we were informed that the Italian troops would leave Spain after the end of the 1883 civil war, and we have since been informed that they will leave at the conclusion of the victory parade, and I can inform the Committee that it is our opinion that they will do so.
§ Question put, "That a sum, not exceeding £128,056, be granted for the said Service."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 96; Noes, 220.1885
|Division No. 145.]||AYES.||[4.0 p.m.|
|Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple)||Gardner, B. W.||Rathbone, Eleanor (English Univ's.)|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd (Carn'v'n)||Ridley, G.|
|Adamson, Jennie L. (Dartford)||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Ritson, J.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Rothschild, J. A. de|
|Ammon, C. G.||Grenfell, D. R.||Salter, Sir J. Arthur (Oxford U.)|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Shinwell, E.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Guest, Dr. L. H. (Islington, N.)||Silkin, L.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Silverman, S. S.|
|Batey, J.||Hardie, Agnes||Simpson, F. B.|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Benson, G.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Broad, F. A.||Hicks, E. G.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Burke, W. A.||Hopkin, D.||Stephen, C.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Isaacs, G. A.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Cocks, F. S.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Collindridge, F.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Thorne, W.|
|Daggar, G.||Kirby, B. V.||Thurtle, E.|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Lawson, J. J.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Leslie, J. R.||Viant, S. P.|
|Day, H.||Mathers, G.||Walkden, A. G.|
|Dobbie, W.||Maxton, J.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Messer, F.||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. J. C.|
|Ede, J. C.||Montague, F.||Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)|
|Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales)||Noel-Baker, P. J.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||Oliver, G. H.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Foot, D. M.||Paling, W.|
|Frankel, D.||Parker, J.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Gallacher, W.||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.||Sir Percy Harris and Sir Hugh|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Caine, G. R. Hall-||Dunglass, Lord|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Campbell, Sir E. T.||Eckersley, P. T.|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Castlereagh, Viscount||Edmondson, Major Sir J.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.||Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester)||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)||Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Ellis, Sir G.|
|Anderson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Sc'h Univ's)||Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Emmott, C. E. G. C.|
|Apsley, Lord||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n)||Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.)|
|Assheton, R.||Channon, H.||Everard, Sir William Lindsay|
|Baillie, Sir A. W. M.||Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Fildes, Sir H.|
|Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.||Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.)||Fremantle, Sir F. E.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Chorlton, A. E. L.||Furness, S. N.|
|Balniel, Lord||Christie, J. A.||Fyfe, D. P. M.|
|Baxter, A. Beverley||Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Gledhill, G.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Colman, N. C. D.||Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C.|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Colville, Rt. Hon. John||Goldie, N. B.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Conant, Captain R. J. E.||Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)|
|Bennett, Sir E. N.||Cook, Sir T. R. A. M. (Norfolk N.)||Grant-Ferris, Flight-Lieutenant R.|
|Blair, Sir R.||Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Cooper, Rt. Hon. T. M. (E'burgh, W.)||Gridley, Sir A. B.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L.||Grigg, Sir E. W. M.|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Cox, H. B. Trevor||Guest, Lieut.-Colonel H. (Drake)|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page||Guest, Hon. I. (Brecon and Radnor)|
|Braithwaite, J. Gurney (Holderness)||Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Guinness, T. L. E. B.|
|Brass, Sir W.||Cross, R. H.||Gunston, Capt. Sir D. W.|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Crossley, A. C.||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.|
|Broadbridge, Sir G.T.||Crowder, J. F. E.||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)|
|Brocklebank, Sir Edmund||Davison, Sir W. H.||Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)|
|Brooke, H. (Lewisham, W.)||De Chair, S. S.||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||De la Bère, R.||Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.|
|Bull, B. B.||Denville, Alfred||Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-|
|Burghley, Lord||Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Herbert, Lt.-Col. J. A. (Monmouth)|
|Burgin, Rt. Hon. E. L.||Doland, G. F.||Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S.|
|Burton, Col. H. W.||Dorman-Smith, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir R. H.||Hogg, Hon. Q. McG.|
|Butcher, H. W.||Dugdale, Captain T. L.||Howitt, Dr. A. B.|
|Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A.||Duncan, J. A. L.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)|
|Hulbert, Squadron-Leader N. J.||Moreing, A. C.||Smithers, Sir W.|
|Hume, Sir G. H.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Hurd, Sir P. A.||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.||Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.|
|Hutchinson, G. C.||Nicholson, G. (Farnham)||Spens, W. P.|
|Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H.||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'ld)|
|James, Wing-Commander A. W. H.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Jarvis, Sir J. J.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)||Peake, O.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|Keeling, E. H.||Peters, Dr. S. J.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)||Petherick, M.||Tasker, Sir R. I.|
|Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Pilkington, R.||Tate, Mavis C.|
|Kimball, L.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Pownall, Lt.-Col. Sir Assheton||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)|
|Lambert, Rt. Hon. G.||Purbrick, R.||Thorneycroft, G. E. P.|
|Latham, Sir P.||Raikes, H. V. A. M.||Titchfield, Marquess of|
|Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.||Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.|
|Levy, T.||Rankin, Sir R.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Lewis, O.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)||Turton, R. H.|
|Lindsay, K. M.||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Lipson, D. L.||Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan|
|Little, J.||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Llewellin, Colonel J. J.||Remer, J. R.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S.||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.|
|Loftus, P. C.||Ropner, Colonel L.||Watt, Lt.-Col. G. S. Harvie|
|Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)||Wedderburn, H. J. S.|
|McCorquodale, M. S.||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.||Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)|
|MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross)||Russell, Sir Alexander||Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.|
|MacDonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)||Salmon, Sir I.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|McKie, J. H.||Samuel, M. R. A.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Macnamara, Lieut.-Colonel J. R. J.||Sandeman, Sir N. S.||Wise, A. R.|
|Macquisten, F. A.||Sanderson, Sir F. B.||Wood, Hon. C. I. C.|
|Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Schuster, Sir G. E.||Wragg, H.|
|Markham, S. F.||Scott, Lord William||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Marsden, Commander A.||Selley, H. R.|
|Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham)||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.||Mr. Grimston and Captain|
|Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)||McEwen.|
|Moore, Lieut.-Colonel Sir T. C. R.||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)|
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ Several hon. Members rose—
§ It being after Four of the Clock, the CHAIRMAN left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.1886
§ The remaining Order was read, and postponed.
§ Whereupon Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 2.
§ Adjourned at Eight Minutes after Four o'Clock until Monday next, 22nd May.