HL Deb 24 July 1919 vol 35 cc1036-7

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, very few words will be needed from me to ask your Lordships' acceptance of this Bill, and to invite you to pass it through all its stages this afternoon. I explained and defended in my speech the other day the policy upon which this Bill, giving a guarantee from the Governments of this country and of America to France in the event of any unprovoked aggression, was based. In Article IV of the Treaty, which is printed as a Schedule to the present Bill, you will find it laid down by agreement in Paris, that the Treaty, before ratification by the Sovereign, should be submitted to Parliament for approval. The same will happen in Paris, and that is why I am asking your consent to the acceptance of the Bill this afternoon.

The case for the Bill can be stated in a sentence. France has had not only a bitter experience in this war but on more than one occasion during the past century. Her frontiers in the East are singularly defenceless, and she has seen them without provocation and almost without notice over-run by the military forces of a powerful enemy. In the future the League of Nations will be, as we hope, her protection against any such outrage; but for the moment the League of Nations is, I will not say in embryo, but at any rate not yet finally and firmly constituted. She desires, against any repetition of the kind of outrage of which I am speaking, the protect ion which this guarantee affords. Later she will turn to the League of Nations to give it; and that no disparagement or affront is offered to the League of Nations by this provision now is, I think, evident from Article III of the Treaty, which runs as follows— The present Treaty must be submitted to the Council of the League of Nations and must be recognised by the Council, acting if need be by a majority, as an engagement which is consistent with the Covenant of the League; it will continue in force until, on the application of one of the Parties to it, the Council, acting if need be by a majority, agrees that the League itself affords sufficient protection. The idea, therefore, that the acceptance of this Treaty is in any degree a reflection upon the League of Nations may, I think, be dismissed.

The real test is, of course, is a Bill of this description—is the guarantee which we, and, I hope, the United States, are about to give, on the whole an instrument that will lead to the peace of the Continent of Europe and of the world? I do not think that any one can hesitate to answer that question in the affirmative. And I have not only been pleased—I have been almost surprised—at the absolute unanimity with which the undertaking of this pledge by ourselves—no mean undertaking; a very great thing in history—has been accepted by every body and section of public opinion in this country.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Earl Curzon of Kedleston.)

On Question, Bill read 2a.

Then (Standing Order No. XXXIX having been suspended) Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House forthwith.

House in Committee accordingly: Bill reported without amendment.

Bill read 3a and passed.