§ LORD PARMOOR
rose to call attention to the constitution of the League of Nations and to the terms of the Covenant.; and to ask to what extent the provisions of the Covenant have become operative.
The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, I am much obliged to the noble Earl for what he has said in order that this Question may be taken. More than once the matter has had to be postponed, and, in the course of events, it has conic upon a day that is not a very good day in your Lordships' House, but I wish to say that I am grateful to the Leader of the House for giving me an opportunity of introducing it when he is present, cognisant, as I am, of the enormous mass of duties that he has to perform. I shall have some criticisms to make in the course of my speech, but I wish to say at the outset that I speak as a whole-hearted supporter of an effective League of Nations. Perhaps I may give a definition of what I mean by an "effective League of Nations" in order that what I may say subsequently may be better understood. By an effective League of Nations I mean a League equipped and constituted to become part and parcel of the common international life of the constituent States, and to be operative not only when war threatens, but in the ordinary periods of peaceful intercourse, the object of the League really being that all nations may associate in peaceful co-operation one with the other, free from the fear and dread of aggressive violence. 423 There may be still some persons left who believe that international difficulties can be solved by war, but I think one may say that the mass of mankind has now been disillusioned. Mr. Balfour, if I might take him as an illustration, is a statesman who, according to his own account, is not unduly inoculated with the virus of fanaticism; in fact, he was critical of the fanatical spirit of Lord Robert Cecil. But he gave his considered opinion that those who believe in war as a moralising agency are only fit to be placed in a lunatic asylum. The same basic idea, of course, underlies the whole fabric of our Christian ethics, although that idea would not be expressed precisely in the same language. The fact is that civilisation, at the stage which it has now reached, revolts from these recurring scenes of violence and anarchy, and from the recurrent intervals where the more ambitious nations begin to pile up armaments in order to make new effort. The history of the world would illustrate what I say, but it is sufficient to recollect that till comparatively recent times we had the attempts of the military dominion of France under Louis XIV and Napoleon, which failed, and now we have the failure of Germany.
There is one other general consideration which I should like to bring before the House, and it is this. As civilisation advances, the inter-dependence of nations and peoples become greater, and that greater inter-dependence demands, if you are to preserve civilisation, a greater measure of peace, goodwill and co-operation. And at the same time there is this need for greater inter-dependence of civilised societies, we have the growth of scientific inventions of destruction which has given the forces of destruction a power that they have not had in the past. With the growing need of inter-dependence on the one hand, and the growing facility for deadly disturbance on the other, we must realise the extreme importance of adopting, and making practicable, the idea and principle of a League of Nations.
I think that I might remind your Lordships at the outset, in order to prevent repetition, that a Resolution in favour of the principles of a League of Nations was adopted in this House before the period of the Armistice—that is to say, in June, 1918. On that occasion the present Leader of the House made a notable speech, to one or two of the passages of which I intend 424 to draw attention later on. The Resolution stated—That this House approves the principle of a League of Nations, and commends to His Majesty's Government a study of the conditions required for its realisation.The main purpose of my Question to-day is to consider whether the studies of His Majesty's Government, no doubt aided by the studies of statesmen in other countries, have brought about a League of Nations containing the conditions required for the realisation of the ideals with which the League of Nations is connected. At the time that the Resolution was passed, the war being still on, many members of your Lordship's House thought that the passing of such a Resolution during the war might in some way lessen the war fervour. That anticipation was shown to have no substance in fact.
But what I think has become increasingly manifest is that if the League of Nations is to become a reality in international intercourse and international policy, it mainly depends upon the determination of the people of this country. In other words, if we in England do not show that we are in earnest in pressing forward the ideals and principles of a League of Nations, it is not likely that it will be pressed forward in other countries, many of whom are less favourable than we are both to the ideal and to the principle. There has been, no doubt, a great change since the time when that Resolution was passed. Many members of your Lordships' House at that time were sceptical whether a practical League of Nations could be framed. We know now that one has been framed and widely accepted—accepted by a very large number not only of the Allied countries but also of the neutral countries. What we want to see is whether the scheme which has been accepted is a working scheme, and likely to carry out the anticipations with which it was framed. We want to know what is the driving force behind that scheme which may make it a reality. It is manifest to everyone that there are shoals and rocks ahead which can be weathered only by careful and determined pilotage; and I hope we shall hear to-day that the pilotage afforded from this country will be all in the direction, at least, of attempting to bring the vessel safe to port.
That brings me to this question. Is it really intended that the League, as framed, should be a code of international inter 425 course, or is it a paper League which is likely, in its working, to have little or no effect? Before I come to the clauses with which I want to deal there are one or two general considerations to which I think it is necessary to call your Lordships' attention and of which I have given notice to the noble Earl. I think the acid test as to whether the League of-Nations is intended to be a reality or not is whether we are prepared to admit that a real League of Nations denotes some effective imitation of the principle of national sovereignty. If the Covenant is not intended to effect the principle of national sovereignty in any respect it clearly cannot be effective. I myself do not think is wise in any way to be dogmatic upon a point of this kind. I believe we shall have to judge largely by experience how far the general consent, which is of the greatest importance to mankind, is likely to carry to power of the League as against the independence of the various constituent nations of which it is composed.
But I am of opinion that every one who has studied the question of a League at a will admit that, unless the claims of the individuals to national sovereignty are to some extent limited and restrained, the League must be, in its main purpose, illusory and inoperative. If you study the League you will find in the Preamble this preliminary statement, and I will test what I have to say by reference to it. It is—That the object of the League is to promote international co-operation, and achieve inter- national peace and security.That is a very admirable general statement; but, if its object is to be attained, it necesarily involves that separate national ambitions for domination and dominion shall undergo restraint in the common interest. Unless you allow that principle the League cannot operate, in the wider sense, to promote international co-operation or to achieve international peace and security.
I should like to give a specific illustration of what I mean. Can the acceptance of the Covenant—I mean the real and true acceptance of the Covenant—be reconciled with an indefinite extension of the powers of the Supreme Council? It seems to me that those two bodies are irreconcilable. In other words, unless you make the League the true and the real authority, unless you give it the power which it ought to have, 426 it will sink into a secondary position and nothing of what we hope from the League will be obtained in practice. It must either be the guarantee of international justice and equity or the scheme is almost certain to become a failure. Because there is this vital distinction. The League depends on the impartiality of its actions; the League depends on the principle that it is representative of all countries and peoples; whereas, of course, it is perfectly obvious that the Supreme Council is not based on any such principle at all, it is based merely on the consideration of the power of the conquering countries.
More than that, at the present time it is very largely based on the power of two men only—namely, the Prime Minister of this country and the Prime Minister of France. One does not want to press that argument too far, but one can press it as far as this: Probably there never have been two men, in the history of the world, exercising so unique an absolutism; an absolutism against which there is no question, of which there is no record, which is not influenced by public opinion, but which, as far as one knows, is the result of meetings at different places—for instance, the Conference at Spa. I read the other day what was said by a thoughtful writer upon this subject, and I do not Profess to disagree from it. He said—It was the most dangerous absolutism on record—reporting to nobody, responsible to no one.As long as you have an absolutism of that kind, it seems to me that you have no guarantee whatever of international peace and good will; because it is impossible that a great principle of that kind can repose on the opinions of two men, however eminent they may be.
Upon this point I should like to quote the words attributed to the Italian representative, Count Sforza; because I think they are not only accurate in themselves but denote an Italian spirit which should be encouraged in every possible manner. He said—The Supreme Council should henceforth cease to exist—this is the representative of Italy—or at least be merged in a general International Conference in which the Germans should stand on the same footing as the Allies.This is a most important statement on progressive international policy. I believe 427 it hits the real difficulties which confront Europe and the world at the present time, and if, under the form of a League of Nations, we could supersede the Supreme Council by a general International Conference, in which conquerors and conquered should stand on the same footing, then we should have made a real and substantial advance towards reinstating the conditions of peace and security throughout Europe and the world.
The next point of a general kind is the inclusion of all countries. The noble Earl the Leader of the House, on the last occasion that this Question was discussed, said that you must have a World League and a World Court. I do not imagine that any one who has studied the matter could come to any other conclusion. But this is not a question of principle; it is a question of how you are going to apply that principle. it does not matter that you have such countries as Haiti and Guatemala, and the Hedjaz as members of the League if you have outside the League the great Central Powers of Europe. You cannot have a League and keep outside of it the countries which are really making. the world's history, and which will make it in the future as, to a great extent they have made it in the past. What is the real difficulty? I think the real difficulty is that so far from racial antagonisms having been allayed by the war, they have been intensified and aggravated. And that is one of the great difficulties of the international outlook in the future.
I know from having taken part in what I may. call religious international meetings, that there is a very strong and bona fide antagonism between the people of Germany and the people of France. I am not going into the reasons of that; they are pretty obvious on one side and the other. But can anything be done by this country to soothe these racial frictions and antagonisms? Are not we, or may not our Government be, in the position to do something at any rate to get rid of these existing irritations, which are doing so much to prevent the inclusion of all countries in the League of Nations? I realise intensely the difficulties which surround this question, but they must be faced, and an answer must be found if the League is to be in a real sense an effective League. And it seems to me they can only be answered in one way, and that is if we in this country, by our influence and example, 428 can help to allay the racial irritations which are now causing in Europe something like a seething cauldron of discontent.
In the same speech to which I have referred the noble Earl said that the main idea of the League (and humbly I quite agree with him) was to maintain the permanency of conditions founded in equity and intended for stability. And can you deny, he said, an opportunity to recover freedom? There is only one answer to that. You cannot deny an opportunity to recover freedom. And therefore it is one of the first factors of an effective League of Nations that the peace which it is asked to guarantee should be founded on conditions of equity and intend for stability. I recollect the noble Viscount Lord Bryce, expressing a view which no one could put. forward with greater authority than himself, that it was to a very great extent, because of the absence of equity and stability in the terms of the Treaties that America has not become, so far, a party to the League. Just take one illustration, though others no doubt could be found in all parts of Europe. Take the German portion of the Tyrol. Are we to have a League to render permanent conditions which may disentitle the German population of the Tyrol from having the opportunity of recovering their liberty? Whichever way you look, you will see conditions under the Peace Treaties which are admittedly not founded in equity and not intended for stability.
That brings me to the terms of the League, in order to see whether the matters to which I have addressed criticism are capable of being rectified within the terms of the League itself. Article 8 deals with the question of disarmament. It is a matter of great, and perhaps of supreme, difficulty, but still it is a matter which has to be faced, if the League is to become effective. Article 8 says—The members of the League"—the members of the League are all the assenting parties to these Treaties—recognise that the maintenance of peace requires the reduction of national armaments to the lowest point consistent with national safety, and the enforcement by common action of international obligations.I quite assent to what was said the other day by the noble Viscount, Lord Grey, that it is only right that Germany should lead the way in the reduction of armaments. 429 The further the disarmament of Germany is carried, the better I think it would be for the peace and prosperity of the world. But that it not sufficient. In fact, there may be sources of danger in disarming some specified countries as against a measure of general disarmament. And if you disarm Germany, and leave other countries not only not disarmed but perhaps with larger Armies than before, you may lead to what was, I think, a great misfortune at the Spa Conference—you may lead to threats of occupation as against real consensual discussion in order to bring about an agreement by both parties, realising what equity and Justice in an agreement of that kind really means.
It is not, however, that I have any suggestion to make on this point. I have not. But does the noble Earl think that, as matters stand, there is a probability that the disarmament principle, which is recognised by all the members of the League, will be brought into effective shape? I recollect very well, when this matter was discussed before, the noble Earl dealt with this question of disarmament, but we have now come to conditions when the League is in force, and if you have the League effectively in force it is recognised by all parties that you must have reduction of national armaments to the lowest point consistent with the national safety. The question is, Is that likely to come about? And what steps are being taken to realise what is admittedly and essentially necessary if the League is to be effective in the sense that I have used the term.
The next Article to which I want to call the noble Earl's attention—I gave him notice of these matters—is Article 11, which is in these terms—Any war or threat of war, whether immediately affecting any of the Members of the League or not, is hereby declared a matter of concern to the whole League, and the League shall take any action that may be deemed wise and effectual to safeguard the peace of nations.There have been wars and threats of war continuously since this Treaty was signed and the League was put into its present shape, and I want to ask this, first of all: Is these any instance of a war or threat of war being referred, as a matter of concern, to the whole League? And is there any instance in which the League has been enabled to take any action which it might deem wise and effectual to safeguard the peace of nations? So far as I know, 430 the League at the present time is not constituted or equipped in order to exercise any such power. I want to point out that, unless these terms of the covenant of the League are to be nullified and regarded as mere camouflage on paper, it is right to determine now how they are to be put into operation, and whether there is the necessary machinery.
At the present time I do not want to, enter upon what might be difficult question—namely, the Polish policy—but I am one of those who think that, under Article 10, which is the prior Article in the League of Nations Covenant, members of the League—if there is such a body to,. do it—undertook to preserve, for instances, the independence of the Polish Republic. Therefore, I am one of those who feel very strongly upon a point of that kind. But that is not the immediate matter I am bringing to your Lordships' attention. Why was not the inauguration of aggressive warfare by Poland stopped? Every one, knew—every one, at least, who is in a position to understand these international matters at all—that Poland was taking aggressive action. I do not want to put it too far, but every one surmised, and I think rightly, that a great deal of the equipment necessary was supplied from the Allied Powers. There was undoubtedly war and the threat of war, and what I want to ask is whether any attempt was made to put into force the provisions of Article 11?
This is not an empirical question. I will give an illustration of a statesman who, I suppose, has occupied the position of Foreign Minister for a longer time that any other statesman in this country—I mean Viscount Grey. Speaking on behalf of the League of Nations, Viscount Grey said that in his opinion not only did the Polish War and the Polish difficulty come within Article 11, but it was a matter which ought to have been dealt with under that Article. Mr. Asquith and Lord Robert Cecil have expressed the same view. And no one will say on a matter of that kind that any one like Viscount Grey is likely to express what I would call an impossible opinion. It appears to me that Article 11 has been absolutely disregarded, and so long as it is disregarded, and so long as no steps are taken to make the power of the League effective, for all practical purposes the League is no guarantee whatever either of international peace or of international security. 431 I do not wish to call your Lordships' attention to too many of the Articles of the Covenant, but there are one or two more which I must mention in order to complete what I have to say. The next is Article 19, which may be of the greatest importance, and I want to ask the noble Earl what his views are in regard to it. It is in these terms—The Assembly may from time to time advise the reconsideration by Members of the League of Treaties which have become inapplicable and the consideration of international conditions whose continuance might endanger the peace of the world.There are certainly many international conditions at the present time whose continuance, according to opinion which is valuable and useful, might endanger the peace of the world. Have those matters been before the Assembly of the League, or have any steps been taken to bring them before that Assembly? I would go one step further. There is a very large body of opinion—whether rightly or wrongly for this purpose—which desires the somewhat drastic revision of the Peace Treaties. I am not now saying whether it is right or wrong, but does Article 19 contemplate the revision of the Peace Treaties by the League of Nations, as regards those parts of them whose continuance might endanger the peace of the world? That is, of course, a concrete question. I am not for the moment talking about whether the machinery is clumsy or not.
The Assembly is to be called at Geneva; I saw the other day in the newspapers that it is to be called some time in the autumn. I will assume that someone at that Assembly brings up the question that there are conditions in the Peace Treaties whose continuance might endanger the peace of the world. Is that to be considered by the Assembly of the League, and, if they come to the conclusion that drastic revision is necessary, will drastic revision be carried out? I have often thought that, unless some such revision could be carried out under the authority of the League, the future of Europe would be very dark as regards international understandings. At any rate, by discussion the parties would come to understand the matter, and to understand one another, better than they do now, and that would be one of the important matters if this discussion was allowed, and I think it should be sanctioned.
432 Article 22 is the Article of Mandates. I am aware that a Question has been put down on this point. It was put down after I put down my more general Question. and I must say a word or two on Mandates because they are part of the general views I wish to express as regards the operation of the Covenant of the League. In the first place, these Mandates are said to be a sacred trust, and I want to know, in regard to Mandates, to which I wish to call attention quite shortly, whether the noble Earl accepts the principle that Mandates undertaken are "a sacred trust of civilisation," and whether he accepts also the following extremely important principle, which goes, I think, to the whole basis of this Mandate question. Does he think that this "sacred trust" should be exercised by the Mandatories as Mandatories on behalf of the League? I am reading the words which occur, as lie is aware, in Article 22. Does he accept the principle of the "sacred trust," and that those who undertake that trust are to give an account of what they do, not to their own country or their own Government, but to the League of Nations? There is, of course, the whole difference between those two attitudes. In one case you merely give dominion and nomination to a particular Power. In the other case, you ask a Power to carry out its duty as trustee, and that Power has to give an account of its action, not to its own Government but to the members of the League.
Let me read this Mandatory clause a little further. It says—In every case of Mandate, the Mandatory shall render to the Council an annual Report in reference to the territory committed to its charge.Take the case of Mesopotamia. Are we to render to the Council an annual Report in reference to the territory committed to our charge? It is a very crucial question. It is a question which affects very closely the principle of national sovreignity. I am assuming, of course, that Great Britain and other countries, parties to the Covenant, have recognised that an annual account shall be given. The next words in Article 22 are these—The degree of authority, control, or administration to be exercised by the Mandatory shall, if not previously agreed upon by the members of the League, be explicitly defined in each case by the Council.I want to know if that has been done. There is a great difference between first 433 defining and determining the terms of Mandate and asking for its subsequent sanction and having it determined in the first instance by an independent party. I regard Article 22 as one of extreme importance and extreme difficulty. I do not want to be dogmatic; perhaps, by experience, we shall find out what is best to be done, but I do want to point out that under the Mandatory Article we have the principle of trust. The country which is carrying out the Mandate is a trustee, not to its own Government, but to the League of Nations, and without that principle the whole basis on which Mandates are sanctioned and safeguarded would appear to be undermined.
I should like to say one word about Article 23, which says—The Members of the League (a) will endeavour to secure and maintain fair and humane conditions of labour for men, women and children.I am sure the noble Earl will assent to this—that there are conditions brought about by the Peace Treaties which make fair and humane conditions of labour for men, women, and children, impossible. Take the case of Austria; or, to go wider, take large districts of Germany. You cannot put too harsh conditions on a country and at the same time secure and maintain fair and humane conditions of labour. Which of these two principles is to prevail? Are we to regard the Peace Treaties as not interfering with fair and humane conditions of labour? If so, a drastic revision is most certainly required. I know it has been stated that clauses of this kind are included in the Covenant of the League. But are they going to be made a reality? Are they going to be made a substantial condition of the international relationship and intercourse of the future? We come back again to this—that it is a question whether the principle, as embodied in the terms of the Covenant, is to become a living reality and a fundamental condition of international intercourse.
I have gone through the principal clauses on which I want information and in reference to which I gave notice to the noble Earl. It really all comes back to the wider consideration. Is it true, as stated in the Preamble, that the League will be used to promote international co-operation with the idea of achieving international peace and security? Has there been, as the Preamble states, open, just, and honourable relations between all countries, whether conquered 434 or conquering? Can reasonable Imperial ambitions be furthered under the terms of the League, based on consent and freedom and not on dominion and force Can we, under the protection of the League, expect a new international outlook, get rid of the friction which so unfortunately mars the relationship of many nations in Europe at the present, and inaugurate a new period of general peace and co-operation? It is for these reasons I have brought forward this subject and introduced these matters to the notice of your Lordships.
§ VISCOUNT BRYCE
My Lords, I have only a few words to add to what has been said by Lord Parmoor. I desire to support the general questions my noble friend has addressed to the Government in a spirit which, I think, will have won the approval and general sympathy of your Lordships. There is no use denying that some disappointment exists here and elsewhere with the progress which has been made, since the signing of the Peace Treaties, in carrying out and popularising the principles of the Covenant of the League of Nations. There has been one cheering feature, and that is the adherence of Switzerland to the League. I need hardly emphasise the importance which attaches to the adherence of Switzerland. She is not only a country centrally placed in Europe commanding all the great routes north and south, east and west, but her adherence is of special importance as she has departed from what has been her historical principle of not connecting herself with general European systems. She is also a country in which there exists a volume of intelligent, educated and thoughtful opinion, at least as great as in any other European country, in proportion to her size. The fact that this decision was given by the whole Swiss people on a referendum gives great moral, as well as political, importance to her adherence.
But, apart from that, I confess that the League of Nations has not made the advance in public confidence and respect for which we had hoped, and one reason for that is that the Governments of the Great Powers have shown less faith in the League, less interest in it, than we had expected. Let me say at once that I do not, in this, or in anything else that I may say, refer in any way to the noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. I have assumed, ever since the speeches he has made in this House on the subject, 435 that the noble Earl is in accord with the sentiments which animate the League of Nations and desires to use it as much as possible. I am not in any way criticising anything that he has done or said. But I do believe that public opinion here and elsewhere has not been sufficiently enlisted in support of the principles of the League. One reason for that is that we have not been told enough of what the League is doing, or the principles upon which it is acting.
Lord Parmoor has called attention to the question of Mandates, and has interrogated the Government about them. I have to advert to them from another point of view. There was no part of the Covenant that was received with more general approval and sympathy all over the world than the provision for Mandates for backward races and semi-civilised peoples who, detached from the control of Germany, were to be placed in conditions which would work for their happiness and advancement. That was a very important part of the whole scheme, and the essence of that scheme was that these backward peoples, these semi-civilised races, were to be dealt with by new methods which would enlist the sympathy and the support of the nations of the world at large. The Mandates were to be carried out in the interests of the native races themselves.
Now I want to advert to some of these cases. There was the case of the Nauru Island, with regard to which a debate took place elsewhere. I refer to it only as an instance in which I believe that if the public opinion of this country had been consulted, if we had known what was passing, better provision would have been made for the case of Nauru than seems to have been made. There is the case of Mesopotamia, to which my noble friend has referred. There are the cases of the Mandates to be given for what was German East Africa, and the cases of the Mandates given in other parts of East Africa, to France and Belgium. All these raise very large and new questions. The object of the Mandate is to secure the protection and progress of the native peoples. If the world knew what was being done, what were the conditions under which the Mandates were being granted, and what steps are to be taken to enforce the performance of those conditions, I believe a great amount of public sympathy would be enlisted on behalf of the League of 436 Nations. It is quite time that we got rid of secret methods in this respect. The methods employed by the League of Nations need not be secret, in the sense in which the old diplomacy was obliged to be secret, and is perhaps now obliged to be secret. This is a matter in which we wish to invoke the aid of what is best in the sentiment of the world, to give effect to what were the benevolent intentions of those who signed the Covenant of the League of Nations, and I believe the League of Nations could do nothing better, to secure the interest and promote sympathy, than to take us into their confidence on the subject of the Mandates, and let us know more fully than we know now what is being done to carry them out.
Now I pass to the wider questions referred to by my noble friend. There are, as he said, troubles everywhere through Europe, and, I may say, through the world at large. Twenty months have elapsed since the signing of the Armistice, and disorder and strife prevail everywhere in Europe and Western Asia. The hurricanes are still coming up and the waves are still running high. I will not attempt to say how much of these misfortunes, how much of this strife and threatened danger to peace, is due to the permanent evil propensities of mankind, to what theologians call "original sin," how much is due to the shortsighted and selfish policy so often shown in the proceedings of the Supreme Council, meeting at Paris or else where — shortsightedness and selfishness which the whole world sees and no one attempts to defend—and how much is due to the dissensions and differences of opinion which have arisen between the Great Powers, so that the responsibility has been divided and four Powers have committed mistakes which probably no single Power would have committed. Of course, allowances must be made for the difficulties which arise when four Powers try to do business together. There can, however, be no doubt about the deplorable things which are going on, months after the Armistice. The position of the world is almost worse than it was when that Armistice was signed. Could not the League of Nations be invoked to deal with some of these questions in a different and larger spirit, and in a spirit which is more likely to win assent and agreement than the Conferences of the Powers have been able to obtain? Some instances have been given 437 by my noble friend, and others will occur to your Lordships.
As regards the Bolshevists, and our dealing with Bolshevist Russia, I am bound to say that I should be the last person to blame the Government, or to charge them with the difficulties which arise. The House mast understand that the Bolshevists are opposed to the principle of a League of Nations. They hate it with the hatred of a rival. Their scheme is not to recognise nations at all, but to have the dictatorship of an international proletariat. That is incompatible with the principle of the League of Nations, and therefore I do not think we can expect that any proposal which we can make, based on the principle of a League of Nations, would be received, or, if received, would be favourably carried out, by the Bolshevist Government. As I have said it is against their own principles, and they would be false to those principles if they did adopt the doctrine of the League of Nations.
But I believe there are a great many other cases in which it would be quite possible for the League of Nations to intervene. I fully agree with what was said by Viscount Grey of Falloden, and repeated by Lord Parmoor, that Poland might have been warned, before she attempted to move into the Ukraine, of the dangers that might follow. I think that the Danubian States might be approached, in order to endeavour to mitigate the suffering which is caused by the introduction of tariffs and methods of transport, by which foodstuffs grown in these States are not allowed to go to feed Austria. These are matters, as indeed was said by the Colonial Secretary in a debate which we had in this House, in which the League of Nations might intervene, and I should like to hear that there is some prospect that the League of Nations will intervene and endeavour to put forward better conditions, which will be favourable to all parties. Then there is the case of Albania and the quarrels of the Jugo-Slav States with Italy. The Great Powers have failed to settle these questions. Might not an attempt be made to refer them to the League of Nations, which would take them up de novo in perhaps a more coniciliatory spirit? I will only mention, in passing, the dangers which threaten us from a conflict between China and Japan, and I will acknowledge, also in passing, one service 438 which the League of Nations has rendered and which shows the other services which she might render. In taking in hand the adjustment of the very difficult question with regard to the Aaland Islands the League of Nations has been dealing with the question in what, I think, will commend itself to the House as being the proper way.
There is one more question. This relates to a recognition by the Powers of a case in which the League of Nations may be used, and I desire to ask what steps are being taken to use it. Your Lordships may remember that when the Treaty with Hungary was submitted to Hungary, a communication was addressed to the Hungarian Government by the Prime Minister of France on behalf of the Allies, in which he used these words with regard to the territorial delimitations in Hungary—The Allied and Associated Powers have nevertheless considered the case where a boundary so traced—according to the terms of the Treaty with Hungary—would not everywhere correspond precisely to ethnical or economic exigencies. Possibly an Inquiry conducted on the spot will do away with the necessity of displacing, at certain points, the limits provided by the Treaty. Such an Inquiry could not be conducted at the present time without indefinitely delaying the conclusion of Peace. … But when the Boundary Commissions have commenced their labours, if they consider that the provisions of the Treaty give rise anywhere, as stated above, to any injustice-which it is in the general interests to remove, they will be at liberty to submit a Report on the subject to the Council of the League of Nations. In such case the Allied and Associated Power agree that the Council of the League shall be-empowered, if one of the parties concerned asks, for it, to offer their friendly offices to amicably rectify the original delimitation under the same conditions at such places where a modification shall be deemed desirable by a Boundary Commission.That was a very useful offer, but it does not remove the objection which some of us took to the terms of the Treaty with Hungary, upon which some of your Lordships have already expressed your opinions. Some of us have said in this House that we think the terms of that Treaty unduly harsh and quite unjust, but, at any rate, this was a proposal which might have mitigated those terms, and I should be glad to hear whether anything has passed subsequently upon the subject, and whether we may hope that this mitigation will be applied.
I believe that the League of Nations Council may be usefully invoked in cases 439 where the Conference of the Powers would not have the same prospect of success. There was at one time a proposal, embodied in some of the original drafts put forward before the League of Nations, that there should be a Council of Conciliation established to deal with cases not susceptible of judicial determination—a Council which should be able to approach these questions in a spirit of mediation, and which would not approach them as great Powers dealing with questions on the basis of their own interests would approach them, but a Council which would deal with them in the larger aspect of the interests of the world at large and particularly the interests of peace. If that proposal for a Council of Conciliation had been adopted, I believe that it might have done more than the Council of the League of Nations as at present constituted, is likely to be able to do. Surely it is possible that the Great Powers might occasionally, instead of dealing with these highly controversial questions such as the questions which arise between Italy and the Jugo-Slays, and instead of continuing efforts that have hitherto proved unable to adjust, refer them to the League of Nations which might be able to find some solution that would better satisfy the desires of the contending parties and accelerate the conclusion of peace. Where the Powers act as Powers they are forced to do so as representing their own national interests. But the League of Nations has a wider scope and embodies a wider conception, and therefore it might do what the Powers have so far failed to effect.
If you wish to inspire confidence in the League of Nations, the most important thing to do is to bring in the United States. They are a great Power, and an impartial Power, outside our quarrels altogether. I do not despair of their coming in. From what I can learn it is still quite possible—given time for the dust-clouds to settle down, the air again to clear, and controversies to be forgotten—and more than possible, that the United States will join the League of Nations. In the meantime if you want to attract public confidence and inspire public sympathy, you ought to appeal to all the Powers of Europe as well as to the Allied nations themselves. The minor states and their opinion ought also. to be consulted. If you show them that the League of Nations is a real and active force and is doing good, you will enlist their public opinion, and that public opinion 440 will tell in every country, even in those where controversies are now most acute. Let us endeavour to remember the original aim with which the League of Nations was framed, an aim of supreme importance. It was to save the world from another 1914. If the chance which the League of Nations presents to us is now lost, civilisation will be at the mercy of those formidable forces of suspicion, hatred and selfish rapacity that produced the war.
That is why every effort should be made to enlist the support of the whole world on behalf of the League. Dark indeed would be the prospect for mankind if this attempt were to fail. We hope and pray that the horrors of 1914 and the succeeding years may not recur. But we must not leave things to drift. We must have some permanent safeguard against their recurrence. We must use the only instrument in our power, the only method yet devised, to prevent a return of such unspeakable calamities. I hope, therefore, that we shall hear from His Majesty's Government something that will encourage us to believe that they are going to make the utmost use in their power of the League of Nations, and that in so doing they will have the concurrence of the other great Powers with whom they are acting.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
My Lords, I will not stand between the noble Earl (Lord Curzon) and the House for more than a very few moments, but there is one thing I wish to say. My two noble friends who have spoken have dwelt upon the way in which failure has manifested itself to carry the League of Nations into reality. There is another aspect, and that is its effect upon the reputation of the Government abroad and at home. If you set before yourself a purpose, and it is a purpose in which there is very great national interest, and you do not carry it out, something begins to happen. Confidence begins to be withdrawn, and the suggestion of weakness begins to be prominent. A Government is not reputed strong merely because it makes violent efforts, but is reputed strong in so far as it accomplishes the purposes which it has definitely set before itself. There is growing up a very strong feeling on that subject.
It is not that there is indifference about the League of Nations; I do not agree that there is indifference. I think there is a very strong and keen interest in the 441 League of Nations, but there is a stronger and more growing sense that the League of Nations is not being made a reality. That, I believe, has something to do with a certain amount of the indifference that there has been across the Atlantic upon this subject, and it has a good deal to do with the feeling abroad, and with the sense that the policy of the Peace Treaty is being allowed to drop. What was that policy? The first 26 Articles embody an admirable conception. A victory was won; the terms of Peace were settled, and the carying out of the consequential terms of what had been adjusted was to be entrusted to a body which did not consist of victors, which did not consist of people with their own interests to serve, but to a semi-judicial body, which was the League of Nations. How has that been carried out? As Lord Bryce has said, the League of Nations enters upon a heritage of twenty months of effective peace. It has itself been an effective body for about six months. It has had several meetings and has done a good deal. It has founded the International Court—which it accomplished at its meeting a short time ago in February—which is now being framed at the Hague. It has done other things also. But for what it is still more notable are the things it has not done because it could not do them.
The League was invited to take a Mandate for Armenia, but it said, "You have not put us in a position to take a Mandate for Armenia." How can you get a reality out of your Peace Treaty if the fundamental principle is not carried out that you should hand over things to a body which is more judicial than a mere assemblage of victors and which should include other interests —that you should hand these things over to be worked out for you? You cannot do that unless the Allies are in earnest in putting sufficient power into the elbow of the body to do that. They have not done this. I am deeply aware of the difficulties with which the noble Earl has to deal, but I think there is much in what Count Sforza said that there is very little favourable to the League in the atmosphere of the deliberations of the Allies in the Allied Councils which take place from time to time. It is still a meeting of the victors. What has been the result? War after war. Do you think you are really settling things in the Near East? Bolshevism will be cured by Russia. These things are worked out by the people 442 concerned; but if anything would tend to weld Russia together into a nation which will cling to Bolshevism like any other national institution, it is to see the case of Poland left untouched by the League of Nations which was set up to deal with such cases.
I own that I take a gloomy view of the future. Not only so, but I take a very gloomy view of its effect upon the resources of countries like this and others. How can we settle down to tranquillity and reconstruction so long as these disputes are constantly arising? Why do they arise? They arise because we have not carried out the great principle of the Peace Treaty that something of the judicial element, strengthened and made effective, was to. take the place of the Allied Council. I say "to take the place of the Allied Council," but the Allied Council would have remained of limited purpose if that principle were carried out. It may be said, "You do not know the difficulties, you do not know the troubles, and you do not know the opposition of other countries." We always hear that sort of thing. Ministers are strong in so far as they get over these difficulties, amounting sometimes, when looked at from too near, to impossibilities, but impossibilities over which success comes if there is a definite purpose carried out unrelentingly and unflinchingly.
I may be putting a somewhat depressing view of the situation, but I assure the noble Earl that it is a view which is growing in people's minds. That is a great danger It is a delusion, in these days of democratic government, that a Government with a majority in Parliament can do what it likes. It cannot. We have the illustration, in domestic affairs, of this Government. giving in, time after time, to trade unions, or whatever assemblages they may be. We have the illustration of the Government obviously in very great difficulty over its Irish policy, having let things drift, and not gone to work on a clear conception of that which it had in hand. Now we have the same thing with, foreign affairs. With what result? Threats. of "direct action" unless the League of Nations is made a reality; threats of "direct action" if we take part in this or that war. All these things means that the Government has not the power put at its disposal by the nation to give effect to its decisions; and when you reach that 443 state of things it is bad for the nation, and still worse for the reputation of the Government and its strength and influence. I have thought it right to say these things strongly because I feel that the dissatisfaction which is growing up about the present position of the League of Nations is one which is very great and very serious; and unless a more vigorous policy, more completely in accord not only with the letter but with the spirit of these twenty-six. Articles, is put into operation, I for my part look with much misgiving upon what lies before us.
§ LORD SYDENHAM
My Lords, I do not propose to detain the House for more than a few moments. I am sorry to introduce a jarring note after the harmony of the three speeches to which we have just listened. Notable speeches were made in the debates in March and June of 1918, and they are most interesting reading at the present moment, if you will refer to them. We have gone very far since those days. One of the things we have is a Covenant which has never been discussed in Parliament, and some of the provisions of which were pronounced by the principal speakers in those debates as quite impossible. The genesis of the League of Nations was not fortunate. By mixing it up with the Peace Treaty, that Treaty was delayed for months, with results which, I am sorry to say, are completely irreparable.
I only want to say very briefly how the question now stands. We thought that the American people were heart and soul with us in the League of Nations. We now know that they were sharply divided. It is not for us to say a word about their policy, but we must face facts, and that is what it seems to me so many of the advocates of the League of Nations fail to do. To my mind it is certain that America will never join the League of Nations unless some modifications are introduced into the Covenant. But it is certain that there can never be a valid League of Nations unless America joins it wholeheartedly. In the debates to which reference has been made we had distinct warnings against hurry, both from the noble Earl who leads the House and from Lord Parker, whom we sadly miss this afternoon. Those warnings were disregarded.
Since 1918 there have been practically three main considerations that have pre- 444 sented themselves—fresh considerations which we cannot ignore. In the first place, there must be noted the extreme difficulties with which the Supreme Council struggled. Negotiations were broken off, which might have resulted in chaos. That chaos has not happened is a fine tribute to the Prime Minister and his colleagues, for their patience and earnest endeavour to arrive at a settlement. But the moral is that if three or four great Powers, with force behind them, find it so difficult to arrive at a settlement, what can a League of Nations, composed of 30 or 40 nations, really do when a difficult question comes before them? My noble friend suggests that the League of Nations should substitute itself for the Supreme Council. I can only say that if this were done I do not think any conclusions whatever would be arrived at. In the second place, we have been told that a very large sum of money is required in this country to create an atmosphere favourable to the League, and I imagine that at least £50,000,000 would be required to create the world atmosphere which seems to be necessary to produce the success we should all like to see.
In the third place, only the other day a group of very earnest people went as a deputation to the Prime Minister. They are people who desire, as we all desire, to abolish war. They went in a deputation to the Prime Minister, begging him to set up an International Army without any delay. In the debate in June, 1918, the noble Earl the Leader of the House, in my opinion, knocked the bottom out of the idea of an International Force, and, speaking as an old soldier who has not quite forgotten all the principal studies of his life, I must say he was absolutely and entirely right. you can, of course, have a combination of force for specific purposes, and it is most fortunate that we have such a combination at the present moment; otherwise I think that nothing would be done. But you can never have an International Force organised, administered, and controlled by a League of Nations. My noble and learned friend, when he introduced this question in 1918, wanted "a tribunal whose orders shall be enforceable." I confess that I did not quite know what he meant, but if he meant that he realised that force is necessary behind all law, whether domestic or international, then I entirely agree with him. Under the Covenant of the League of Nations that 445 body can always threaten, if it can arrive at a completely unanimous opinion, which must be a very rare occasion. But it would have no means of backing its threats by force, and they will be invalid threats—merely idle threats. The noble Earl who leads the House and the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, both pointed out the impossibility of limiting armaments and of securing that any limitation set down would be closely observed.
I ask your attention to Article 8 of the Covenant which, for all practical purposes, I believe to be useless. At least I do hope that this old sovereign State will never submit to the humiliating inquisitions which Article 8 lays down. Then there is Article 10, which the Americans, I believe, will never accept, and I cannot understand how anybody who realises what it means can accept it. That Article says that the League undertakes to "preserve against external aggression the territorial integrity" of all states, which must include the new States which are now being artificially constructed. When, for example, the Hungarians decide to throw off the yoke of Rumania, as they certainly will do when the great national forces in Europe begin to bestir themselves again, can the League of Nations take up the cudgels against them? They will then be confronted with the right of self-determination of a large number of people, and how can you preserve the integrity of a State by the use of mere threats? But that is only one case out of a large number which may arise at any time. The idea of preventing war is so attractive that many supporters of the League seem to believe that it has already been achieved, and they have not, I believe, studied the terms of the Covenant. I commend to all such persons the very careful, cold, and dispassionate analysis of the terms of the Covenant made by the Swiss Federal Council in its message to the Federal Assembly of Switzerland. I believe that the League of Nations can, at best, prevent only small wars, which can be averted in other ways, but I do feel most seriously that it may lead to wars.
We have already, as the noble Earl the Leader of the House pointed out two years ago, the British Family of Nations, which is now being assailed by an organised conspiracy of very long standing. We have seen the deadly effect of propaganda to which the noble and learned Lord, 446 Lord Sumner, referred in grave and earnest words on Tuesday last. By means of such propaganda the League might become a centre of dangerous intrigue against the British Empire. We were told the other day by the noble Lord, Lord Islington, that we ought to think internationally. If that means that we ought always to try and understand the point of view, and care for the interests of, other nations then I most cordially agree with him. But we have too many people already who cannot think nationally, and there are very few among them who can really think Imperially in the true and best sense of that word; and the only international thinking that is likely to attract large numbers of people is that of the Red Internationale which, I believe, the League of Nations might be exploited to assist.
Lastly, I want to point out that in every State in the world constitutional government is now at stake. While that is the case can it be the right time to try and impose a form of super-national government? I envy the ideals of my noble and learned friend, but I feel sometimes that idealists are rather dangerous and I fear that, until human nature can be changed very considerably, the present Covenant, as it now stands, is premature. I would not for a moment wish to abolish any of the machinery that has already been constructed. I wish to make purely constructive proposals, and they are these. Let the Covenant be carefully revised in such a way as to ensure the co-operation of America. That should be the first step. Then, let it proceed on the lines, which were laid down clearly by Lord Parker in this House, of restoring and developing International Law, which has been shaken to its very foundations during the war. Let it organise a very strong Court of Arbitration at The Hague, but let it remember, as the noble Earl the Leader of the House said three years ago, that "a hard-and-fast juridical system could only be attended with failure." Let it endeavour to unite all the nations of the world by mutual treaties of arbitration.
That is a work which would keep it going for a good many years, and might lead to the most valuable results. And there is far more work of an international character which the League can quite safely carry on, notably work connected with public health, and with social reforms of all kinds. There 447 is a great work which the League could carry out in that way. But do let the League abandon some of its more extravagant claims, and let it be patient, and wait for a better time than the present. Unless it reconsiders its position in some respects, I am very much afraid that it might make itself ridiculous, as it very nearly did over the question of Persia the other day. The noble Earl the Leader of the House told us two years ago that former Leagues had "expired in ridicule and scorn." That is exactly what every right-thinking man and woman who has learned the bitter lessons of this war hopes, and must do their utmost, to try to prevent.
§ LORD LAMINGTON
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Charnwood, who is absent from the House, has asked me to put the Questions standing in his name on the Paper— namely —To ask His Majesty's Government—
448 The first Question is really due to the words employed by the noble Earl the other day when we had a debate on Mesopotamia. Lord Charnwood feels there is some doubt as to the exact interpretation of his words.
- 1. Whether, under the Covenant of the League of Nations, it is not obligatory that the terms of every Mandate shall be settled by the Council, except in cases in which all States which are Members of the League have (either through the Assembly of the League or otherwise) signified their approval of those terms; and, if this be not a correct interpretation of the Covenant, what other meaning His Majesty's Government put upon the eighth paragraph of Article 22 of the Covenant.
- 2. Whether the Government will publish the Drafts of the Mandates for Palestine and Mesopotamia some time before they are submitted to the Council of the League, and will endeavour to secure that the terms of those Mandates shall be finally settled in a form which has the considered and unfettered approval of all the States respresented in the Council.
- 3. Whether the Government will consider the advisability of submitting these Mandates not only to the Council but to the Assembly of the League.
- 4. Whether it is the intention of the Government to proceed further with the Nauru Island Bill before the Mandate for that island has received the approval of the League.
The second Question is due to the fact that my noble friend feels that, instead of the League of Nations controlling the future destinies of countries, their destinies would rest rather in the hands of the big Powers, and he wants to safeguard the principle as much as possible, lest the terms of the Mandates should be settled by the big Powers, and not by a separate body like the League of Nations. In the third place, it is specially desirable in our own interests that when we accept Mandates they should have the approval of every nation that adheres to the League. For my own part I may say I think this particularly applies to Mesopotamia, Syria and Palestine. So far as I can see there has been a complete disregard of Paragraph 4 of Article 22 of the Covenant. Paragraph 4 distinctly asserts that the wishes of the people who are put under a Mandatory Power should be first ascertained. So far as I am aware, that has not been done in any one of those three countries. With regard to the last question about the Island of Nauru, I understand that Lord Charnwood is satisfied with an answer given by Mr. Bonar Law, by which he understands that that island will have a Mandate similar to those that may be given to other countries.
The noble Lord, Lord Sydenham, enumerated certain directions in which he thought the League of Nations might do good work. My view is that one thing the League of Nations might do is to mitigate and reduce the amount of secrecy that at present obtains in the conduct of foreign affairs. The noble Viscount, Lord Bryce, said he thought the public would give greater support to the League at the present time if there was not the same amount of secrecy observed. To me it seems that one benefit that may arise from the setting up of the League is that people will he made more cognisant with what is going on throughout the world, and the public, therefore, may have a chance of becoming enlightened and so be able to have some effective voice in the settlement of vexed questions. I will say nothing further as I am merely putting these Questions at the request of my noble friend Lord Charnwood, 449 but I hope we may get some assurance that in those countries in the Near East which are in an unsettled state at the present time some regard will be paid to the wishes of the inhabitants as to their future destiny and administration.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON)
My Lords, I hope that the importance of this subject, which is very great indeed, may not be measured by the numbers of those who are assembled in your Lordships' House to listen to the discussion, though it may very well be by the authority of the noble Lords who have so far addressed us. There are, as we know, attractions, even commands, elsewhere, which account for the paucity of the attendance here this afternoon. But perhaps, from the point of view of those who are here assembled, the tranquil atmosphere in which we are met to-day may be a little more suitable to this discussion than the more exciting surroundings in which some of us were addressing your Lordships two days ago.
Before I proceed to answer the numerous Questions which have been addressed to me—and as regards those that emanated from my noble friend Lord Parmoor, I must thank him for the courtesy of giving me an indication in advance of the particular points he desired to raise—there is one reservation or explanation that I should like to make. I think there is a tendency, of which there has been some trace in this debate, to regard His Majesty's Government as if they were exclusively, or at any rate mainly, responsible for the League of Nations. Indeed, from the talk we hear in some quarters, it might almost be supposed that the League of Nations was a Department of the British Foreign Office. Of course, it is nothing of the sort. The League of Nations is a great international corporation, with its own organisation, its rules, its secretariat, and its habitation soon to be determined. It conducts its procedure and its business in its own way. It does not seek instructions from the Foreign Office, although it reports its proceedings to us.
We are, after merely one of the eight Powers who are, at the present moment, represented on the Council of the League; and, of course, in the Assembly itself we are only one of a very much larger number. It is quite true that Mr. Balfour, both as 450 an ex-Foreign Secretary and as a member of His Majesty's Government, provides a close, and powerful, and most influential link of union between the League and the Government. But with the actions of the League, the procedure of the League, and the policy of the League, we have no direct connection. We can, of course, appeal to them and bring matters before them whenever we think fit, but it is for them, on their own responsibility, and not for us, to decide. I make this reservation at the commencement of my remarks, because, in the first place, it must not be assumed that, because I happen to be at the Foreign Office, I have any special right to speak for the League of Nations as a whole this afternoon, and because I wish, in passing, to enter this mild protest against a tendency that I think exists, to assume that His Majesty's Government can manipulate the League of Nations to do pretty well what we desire.
It is true, I think, that a greater interest is evinced in the League in this country than in any other, and I think it would be just to say that for every speech that has been made in a foreign Legislature on the question of the League of Nations, twenty or thirty—I dare say a larger number—have been delivered in our two Houses of Parliament. What I want to disclaim is the idea that if the League of Nations fails—and it will be my object to show you that any such expectations or vaticinations are very far from the mark—it will not be fair to treat His Majesty's Government as either the guilty, or even the responsible, party. We are the friends, but we are not the parents, or the guardians, or the schoolmasters, still less are we the policemen, of the League. I wish to make that quite clear from the start, because, to some extent, it will qualify everything that I have to say.
More than one noble Lord has put, although with a somewhat different intention, the question, What has the League so far accomplished? Some noble Lords appear to think, very little. My noble and learned friend Lord Haldane gave, I think, the first recognition that it had, in the six months of its effective existence, accomplished a good deal. During that time the Council of the League has had seven meetings and is about to have its eighth meeting. The Assembly of the League, delayed, as we all know, because it had to be summoned by President Wilson 451 and by him alone, is to meet in the autumn of the present year. I need not repeat this afternoon the very clear and, I think, encouraging account of the work of the League during the last six months, that was given by Mr. Balfour in another place only a month ago. He described at considerable length on that occasion the organisation and the machinery of the League as it had been set up. He referred to the work which it has already done in connection with the Peace Treaty. He gave a list of the matters which had been referred to the League, to one or two of which I shall have to call attention as I proceed; and he indicated the matters that had been referred to the League, not arising out of the Peace Treaty, but in connection with the powers that had been bestowed upon it by the Covenant.
It may be true to say that in all the things referred to—mention has been made of Persia and Armenia—the action of the Council of the League has not solved those difficult problems. But neither has the Supreme Council always been successful in its efforts, and, were neither the Council of the League of Nations nor the Supreme Council in existence, I am not at all clear that the Foreign Offices of the various Governments, which would otherwise be the only instrument which could deal with these matters, would have been any more successful than the Council of the League has been in these particular cases. It is impossible, and I think it would be most unfair, to argue that the League of Nations has not already shown itself to have in itself capacities of a great international instrument which is capable of doing—and I shall presently argue has already done—very substantial service to the cause for which it was brought into being—namely, the cause of the pacification of mankind.
Now, as regards the particular questions which have been addressed to me I will endeavour to the best of my ability to answer them. The first was a rather technical, I might almost say an academic, question asked by Lord Parmoor as to whether any real limitation of sovereignty is involved in the existence of the League. Lord Sydenham, in his remarks, deprecated the idea that any such real limitation of sovereignty could be regarded as a practicable proposition. It all depends on what you mean by the use of the phrase. If the noble and learned Lord means that a part of the sovereignty of Great Britain, or any 452 nation you like to name, is taken away and that all these fragments of sovereignty are, so to speak, united in some new supernational authority, or international power, of course the answer is in the negative I assume my noble friend did not mean that.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
I am certain he did not, because as a previous speaker (I think it was Lord Sydenham) pointed outs the idea of such an International State, which I criticised some two years ago, is inconsistent with the very phrase "League of Nations" and has only to be examined in the context of its implications and all that would be involved in the shape of executive authority and armaments, to be found to be an absolute absurdity. But if Lord Parmoor meant, as I think he did, that nations under the Covenant of the League are to meet together and co-operate, instead of acting as they have hitherto separately, instead of basing their policies on the old theory of the "Balance of Power," then that is the essence of the League of Nations and it may involve some limitation of sovereignty.
Is that, after all, much more than an extension of the principle which is already in existence? If a nation concludes a Treaty with another Power, and commits itself to a certain course of action in certain contingencies, that in itself may involve some abrogation of its sovereignty. If a nation goes to arbitration under an Arbitration Treaty, or otherwise, it commits itself to accept the result. That is a modification of its own sovereignty; and if you set up an International Court, to which reference has been made this afternoon, and bind yourself to accept, as of course any nation must do, its results there again there will be some diminution of sovereignty. If you go beyond that, and proceed to the point at which there is some reduction of armaments, either by common consent or by individual action in deference to the existence of the League of Nations there again there is, I think, some diminution of sovereignty. I do not pursue this question further. It is one of academic interest, I merely deal with it in passing in response to the question which has been put.
I come to the more important question which has appeared in different forms in 453 almost every speech to which we have listened, and that is, Is the existence of the Supreme Council compatible with the effective existence of the League of Nations? One noble Lord, Lord Parmoor I think, said that the two were absolutely irreconcilable one with the other.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
I am very glad to hear that qualification, because that is the essence of the case. As now explained I do not disagree with the noble Lord. But there has been some tendency to assume that the Supreme Council—about which I shall have to say a word or two—is performing functions which ought not properly to be attributed to it, and which it might very well, almost by a stroke of the pen, now hand over to the Council of the League of Nations. That, of course, is not the case. The Supreme Council is a legacy of the war. It is a meeting of the representatives of the principal Allied Powers who won the war, who have to conclude the Peace, and whose duty it is to try and see that the Peace is put into operation. I think we are rather apt to speak as if, having been freed from the horrors of war, we have also been freed from the conditions and status of war. That is not the case. Until you have concluded and ratified your Peace Treaties a state of war exists. For instance, at the present moment an Armistice prevails with Turkey, but the war is not at an end with Turkey, and until we sign the Peace Treaty with Turkey, and that Treaty is ratified, we remain under war conditions. It is for the Supreme Council, which fought and won the war, to carry through the various operations which are necessary to bring the war to an end and secure Peace.
Let me put it in another way. I have had some experience now of the past Conferences and meetings of the Supreme Council. Take the subjects that have occupied us at Paris, in London, at San Remo, at Boulogne, at Brussels and at Spa. I happen to have been present on all these occasions. Every one of the subjects that have occupied us has been a subject directly arising out of the war or the Peace Treaties which were concluded when the war was coming to an end. What are the subjects we have discussed—disarmament, reparation, Tesehen, Danzig, the Turkish Treaty, Poland. Take the Mandates for Syria, 454 Palestine and Mesopotamia arising out of the Turkish Peace Treaty. Take the case of Spa in particular. In my judgment, the Supreme Council at Spa did more useful work than it has accomplished on any previous occasion, and what was the principal reason for that? It was that for the first time we were seated at the table with the Germans. Observe that the meeting with the Germans, which I must say was due to the initiative of our own Prime Minister, has been found to be compatible with the existence and work of the Supreme Council, but would have been absolutely impossible had a Council of the League of Nations been operating because Germany has not yet been admitted to the League.
May I put the matter in yet another way?—and a hint of this appeared in the speech of Lord Haldane. One of the reasons why so many of these cases cannot, with wisdom or propriety, be referred to the Council of the League is exactly that which he confessed—namely, that the Council has not got the executive authority, the experience, or the force behind it to enable it to solve these questions. If you. attempted prematurely to place matters of this sort in its hands, believe me you would find great duplication of work, constant friction between the Council of the League on the one hand and the Supreme Council or various Governments on the other, and you would, in my judgment, do more than anything else, by acting prematurely, to bring about a disastrous breakdown in the work and future of the League itself.
Now, my Lords, while I am speaking about Spa, may I correct one strange misapprehension which prevailed in the speech of my noble friend, Lord Parmoor. He seemed to be very much disturbed at the idea of the peace of the world being in the hands of two autocrats. He even named them. They were our own Prime Minister and the French Prime Minister, and he described these gentlemen as conducting their operations almost in secrecy, reporting to nobody, and responsible to no one. That certainly is not my recollection of Spa. On the occasion of the principal Conferences there with the Germans, so far from the two dictators sitting alone and issuing their ukases to Europe, I counted the number of the persons in the room, and there were ninety, and so far from the reports of their proceedings being concealed from the world, M. Miller and, the day before yesterday, made a speech of an hour in the 455 French Chamber in explanation of what had occurred, and yesterday afternoon our own Prime Minister made a speech of an hour and a half in the House of Commons with the same object. I think, therefore, that the picture may be dismissed as a phantasy.
One word more only about the Supreme Council. I hope no one assumes that the Supreme Council derive the smallest pleasure from the necessary task of performing the duties that still devolve upon them. If anybody imagines that it is any satisfaction to the Prime Minister, or myself, to go wandering about the Continent, from one part to another, far from our documents and leaving an enormous accumulation of work behind us, and engaged day after day, and almost hour after hour, in Conferences such as I have described, he is very much mistaken. Let me add this—that as soon as the duties which I have described are drawing to an end, no body of men will be better pleased to shut their doors, to go back to their own duties at home, and to hand over the duties to the League of Nations, than the members of the Supreme Council themselves.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Parmoor, asked me a question as to what was our view about all countries coining into the League, and he quoted words of mine which I had used in 1918 (and to which, of course, I adhere) indicating that in my view—and we all share it—the real conception of the League of Nations is a World League. It is useless to deny what a great disappointment we have suffered in the defection of the United States. It is useless to deny that the League has been painfully crippled up to date by that defection, and at Paris, two years ago, I do not think it entered into the minds of any one that the country which had been to a large extent the inspirer, the parent, of the League, would be itself the first to stand aloof, or that the real sponsor of the League would be absent when the christening ceremony took place. It has been a great disappointment to all of us, and I agree with the noble Lord who spoke just now, that no effort should be spared, as no effort has been spared, to induce that decision to be reversed. I may say that we have gone a long way in that direction, because, although America stands out, at any rate for the present, from the League, and although she is not directly a participant in the operations of the Supreme Council, 456 no occasion arises on which she is not invited to take part in our deliberations. Both at San Remo and Paris the American Ambassador is commonly present in a somewhat anomalous position —whether official or not, I cannot exactly say—but at any rate the invitation to him to be there indicates the warmest desire on our part to be associated with America in the future as we have been in the past, and if it were possible for the League of Nations, as it is not, to adopt a similar attitude, I am sure they would.
With the exception of the United States and the ex-enemy countries almost all the nations of the world are, at the present moment, members of the League, and when the Assembly meets in November next a number of applications from smaller groups and States will be placed before the League, asking for admission. As your Lordships know, admission depends upon a two-thirds vote of the Assembly, subject to guarantees, given by the aspirant to admission, to accept and loyally fulfil the obligations entailed upon him by the Covenant. How long it will be before the ex-enemy countries can be admitted as well it would be idle speculation to discuss, but it is obvious, from the conception that I have ventured to give of what I think the League ought to be when properly constituted, that at any rate in my judgment that interval should be curtailed as much as possible.
The next question about which I was asked was that of disarmament. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Parmoor, put to me the question, "Do you think general disarmament probable?" No one who looks at the position of affairs in Europe at the present moment—and indeed not in Europe alone; perhaps more so in Asia—and who sees what someone called the "seething cauldron of discontent" which there prevails, can answer that question in the affirmative. Still less can such a reply be given when you contemplate the great armed force in Soviet Russia, pushing itself forward to the Western frontiers of Russia, threatening to overrun Poland, gravely menacing the stability, if one can use that word, of Germany itself, and acting as an ever-swelling menace to civilisation. At such a moment to talk about general disarmament would be extremely foolish. Clearly the first step that can be taken, and indeed the only step that can be taken at the moment, towards disarmament, is 457 to proceed with as much rapidity as you can with the disarmament of the enemy whom you have beaten and crushed.
Many hours have been spent at Spa in discussing this question With the German representatives. Your Lordships' House knows well how extraordinarily difficult it is, because whereas one party, the Allies, say to the Germans, "Now we must call upon you faithfully and loyally to carry out the obligations of the Treaty," on the other hand the Germans make reply, "If you force upon us too precipitate a disarmament we cannot guarantee order; there will be revolution in our country, and you will find that we have no Government at all." That is the kind of difficult situation that arises and which renders rapid progress very, very difficult indeed. Nevertheless, I think that in that respect at Spa a substantial advance was made, and I think that a good deal remains to be done, by individual Powers themselves, who are in a position to do so, setting an example, as I am quite convinced that our own Government is willing to do, by reducing its own armaments within reasonable reasonable limits, as far as possible. I may say, before passing from the question of disarmament, that one of the actual accomplishments of the Council of the League has been to set up a Committee to consider practicable schemes for the reduction of armaments in the sense that I have advocated.
The next question that was raised was one arising out of Article 11 of the Covenant, and upon this Article the noble and learned Lord, Lord Parmoor, speaking in tones almost of indignation, challenged me to show that any action at all had been taken. He was quite mistaken, and the answer to him was given by the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Haldane, who followed. The reference of the Aaland Islands question to the League of Nations was taken under Article 11, and I hope I am not indiscreetly letting out any secret if I reveal to your Lordships that that reference to the Council of the League was taken by myself on my own responsibility. This question of the Aaland Islands, seemed to me, having gone very closely into the matter, to be one affecting international relations which might threaten to disturb international peace, or the good understanding between the nations upon whom peace depends, and, acting upon what I think is a sane interpretation of that 458 Article of the Covenant, I informed the two nations concerned that I proposed to snake that reference, with the satisfactory result that, having been in dispute with each other for several months about the matter, each warmly welcomed the reference as soon as it had been made.
One other case has been referred to in connection with this Article, and that is the case of Poland. There has been repeated here this afternoon, by more than one speaker, the charge, which we have already heard from Lord Grey of Fallodon, Mr. Asquith, and others, that a great mistake was made in not referring the case of Poland, at the time that she started upon her campaign of aggression, to the Council of the League. It was pointed out by Mr. Balfour in another place that this was not in any sense the kind of case in which reference to the League, or intervention by the League, was contemplated by its authors. But I would give the more practical explanation which comes home to me as having been to some extent concerned in the matter. What was the position? Here were two nations, Poland on the one hand, Soviet Russia on the other, at war. They have not, during the two years in which I have Lad any connection with this matter, been at peace. They have been sporadically engaged in military operations against each other throughout the whole of that time, and, indeed, just before this advance happened, we all knew that the Bolshevik armies were massing themselves in great force to attack Poland. Then it was that Poland, in an evil hour, neglecting the advice which was given her by no one more emphatically than by His Majesty's Government, without informing us as to what she proposed to do, collected her forces, spread them out on her frontiers, and started out on the movement by which she invited, and brought about, her ruin. Those were the circumstances in which this aggression took place, and those were the reasons why no reference was made.
But I would apply another test to our action. I think it was Lord Bryce who said that such action, if it takes place, ought at least to be effective, and he indicated the main reason for which it would not be effective, in the attitude of the Soviet Government itself. Had such a reference been made by some external Power, I have no doubt whatever what would have been the response. In the first place, Poland herself was not in any mood 459 to accept any such reference, or any such intervention. In my judgment, she would most certainly have refused. And what would have been the attitude of the Soviet Government? We have some indication of that in the reply that they gave to the proposal of the League of Nations to send a Commission of Inquiry into Russia. But if you want to know what the real sentiments of the Soviet authorities towards the League of Nations are, will you allow me to tell you what they have said in the message which is about to be made public in reply to the latest proposals with regard to negotiations which were made by His Majesty's Government?
This is what the Soviet Government say about the League of Nations—The Soviet Government considers still less admissible the interference in the cause of peace between Russia and Poland of the group of Governments called the League of Nations. … The Russian Government has never received from the so-called League of Nations any communication as to its creation and existence, and it has never had the opportunity of adopting a decision about recognition or non-recognition of this Association of States. When acquainting itself, from unofficial Press sources, with the Covenant of the so-called League of Nations, the Soviet Government could not leave unnoticed the fact that according to Article 17 the non-members, in case of conflict with members of the so-called League, can be invited to submit to its decision as if they were members. The Soviet Government can in no way agree that one group of Powers should assume the rôle of supreme body over all the States of the world, and, watching over the full inviolability of the sovereign rights of the Russian labouring people, the Soviet Government absolutely rejects the pretentions of any foreign groups of Powers claiming to assume the rôle of supreme masters of the fate of other nations. It absolutely rejects therefore every immixtion of this Association in the cause of peace between Russia and Poland.I need not distinguish or qualify that document by any epithet of my own. At any rate, it indicates very clearly to your Lordships the spirit in which the Soviet Government regard the League of Nations—a considered and relentless hostility—and it indicates quite plainly what would have been the reply of the Soviet Government to any such proposal, had it been made, as that which was advocated, without of course knowledge of these circumstances, by Mr Asquith and Viscount Grey.
Now I pass—and if I am long it is only because the questions put to me were long—to the question of Mandates, concerning which a number of very important queries 460 have been addressed to me. About Nauru I shall say nothing, partly because I understand from Lord Lamington that Lord Charnwood did not expect it, and partly because my noble friend Lord Milner will make a statement on the subject when he moves the Second Reading, in a few days' time, of the Nauru Island Agreement Bill. The Mandates with which we are concerned to-day are the much more important Mandates connected with Africa, with the Pacific, and with the East. Lord Sydenham asked me the direct question whether His Majesty's Government, in accepting certain of these Mandates, acknowledge the principle that these Mandates constitute a sacred trust of civilisation?
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
In reply to the noble and learned Lord the answer is, Yes, we do undoubtedly accept the Mandates in that spirit. And to his further question whether the Mandate, having been accepted, we shall acknowledge the obligation to render to the Council of the League an annual Report in reference to territory so committed to our charge, again the answer is unquestionably in the affirmative. Lord Bryce complained that more information had not been given about the Mandates, and, indeed, I think there is some substance in that charge. The public, I believe, are rather bewildered about this question of Mandates. They do not exactly know how they stand, or whether they are being brought into existence in a regular and formal, or in a backstairs, way; and they long for some information whch will enable them to realise not only that the terms of the Covenant are being observed, but also that the countries concerned, particularly our own, are acting in a manner consistent with the highest ideals that we profess.
Therefore I will endeavour, in a few sentences, to give such explanation as appears to me to be desirable about these Mandates, more particularly in connection with Article 22, which is the Article of the Covenant that deals with the matter. The Question is raised, I think, by Lord Charnwood—it has been raised in the Press also; there have been some communications from Lord Robert Cecil on 461 the matter—as to what is the meaning of the penultimate paragraph which runs thus—The degree of authority, control, or administration to be exercised by the Mandatory shall, if not previously agreed upon by members of the League, be explicitly defined in each case by the Council.The phrase itself is a little ambiguous, and I sought an explanation of the circumstances in which it was introduced into the Covenant in Paris. This is what happened. The original idea in Paris was that the Mandates should be explicitly defined in the Peace Treaties themselves, and accordingly the phrase "members of the League" meant the signatories of the Treaties. At a later date it was found impossible, for many reasons into which I need not enter, to include the Mandates in the Treaties themselves. Since then the Supreme Council in this, as in other matters, has acted as the representative of all the signatories of the Peace Treaties. It is clear that at Spa, or at San Remo, or anywhere else, all the signatories could not be present, and their powers have been devolved upon, and exercised by, the four great Powers as representatives of the remainder. The Supreme Council has been acting in this capacity both with respect to the German and Turkish Peace Treaties.
What, then, it may be asked, has been done with the Mandates? They fall into two classes. There are the Mandates, commonly known as B and C Mandates, which relate to territories taken from Germany in East Africa, in South Africa, and in the Pacific Islands. There has been great difficulty in settling these Mandates. Questions have arisen with France about the Mandates for Togo and the Cameroons. Questions have arisen with Japan about the Mandates for the Pacific Islands. It has been from the desire to obtain unanimity, and from that desire only, that these Mandates have not so far been submitted to the Council of the League of Nations. As soon as they are settled and this uniformity is secured, and I hope it may not be very long, the reference will be made under the terms of the Covenant.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
The noble Earl says that, when they come to be referred from the Council to the League of Nations, it will only be done after unanimity has been obtained. Will they be modifiable afterwards by the Council of the League of Nations, or, having been 462 unanimously agreed upon, with what object will they then be referred?
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
The question is important, and the answer is clear. Of course they are to be referred to the Council of the League of Nations with the object of getting opinions, suggestions, it may conceivably be the revision of certain of the clauses, from that body. Otherwise, the thing would be a farce.
Then as regards the Mandates for Syria, Mesopotamia, and Palestine. Those Mandates were conferred at San Remo by the four Great Powers in the Supreme Council, acting in the manner I have described, upon Great Britain and France, and they were accepted by France and ourselves. No one, of course, could confer them except the Powers who had conquered those territories and held them for disposal. It was never contemplated that anyone else should so confer them. The actual procedure to be followed was laid down in Article 96, Section 7, of the Turkish Treaty which runs as follows—The terms of the Mandates for Syria, Mesopotamia, and Palestine will be formulated by the principal Allied Powers and submitted to the Council of the League of Nations for approval.What is the next stage? First, the Mandate is conferred and is accepted. Then you proceed to draw up the Mandate under the terms of the Covenant. We have been engaged in drawing up the Mandates for Mesopotamia and for Palestine and, under an agreement arrived at, they are to be submitted to the Allied Powers who are acting with us in the matter. The Draft Mandates for Mesopotamia and Palestine have been shown to the French and the Italians.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
Let me come to that in a minute; I will take it in my stride. Then these Mandates, after being seen, and, I hope, approved, by the Powers, will be submitted under the terms of the Covenant to the League of Nations; and, similarly, I have no doubt, the French Draft Mandate for Syria will be shown to us and the other Allies before passing on to the final stage of the League of Nations.
Lord Charnwood, in one of his Questions, suggests that the reference should be made 463 not merely to the Council of the League of Nations, but to the Assembly. I would point out to him in reply that there is no provision whatever to that effect in the Covenant. On the contrary. Secondly, I cannot conceive a body less qualified to discuss the question of Mandates than the Assembly of the League of Nations. What you want for a purpose of that sort is a small gathering of experts, and authority. You do not want to throw a Mandate on the table with forty or fifty representatives of all the States in the world to discuss it; and the idea, if I may say so, is, if you examine it closely, quite out of the question. There is a further reason which I might mention—namely, that the Assembly of the League of Nations is not a body which, for physical reasons, can be constantly called into existence. It is not contemplated that it should meet on an average more than once in a year. The first meeting is to be in November of this year. It is very doubtful whether all the Mandates will be ready by then, and supposing they are not, are you to postpone the Mandates for another year till November, 1921, in order to get the advantage—if it be an advantage—of ratification by the Assembly of the League?
Lord Charnwood also suggests in one of his Questions that there should be an intervening stage of publication of the Mandates before you refer them to the Council of the League. I cannot think that that would be a wise step. It would seem to me to be singularly derogatory to the Council at the very moment that you want to sustain its value and importance. Because what would it mean? It would mean that on the way to the Council of the League of Nations you referred your Mandates to public opinion, to the Press, to Parliament, in all the countries concerned, so that the Council of the League, instead of having the Mandate as a clear issue, upon which to decide one way or the other, would not have the slightest idea as to what was the nature or authority of the Mandate with which they were dealing.
Then comes my noble friend Lord Lamington, who draws attention to paragraph 4 of Article 22—to the very important consideration that the wishes of the communities concerned —he is referring to the Turkish Empire—must be a principal consideration in the selection of the Mandatory. Of course that is so, and it is upon 464 that principle that we have been acting in the case of Mesopotamia and of Palestine. Those are the only cases with which I have had close personal connection. And I declare that no evidence of any sort can be adduced that the inhabitants, either of Mesopotamia or of Palestine, wish for any other Mandatory than ourselves. During the last two or three years we have been making the most earnest and continuous efforts to arrive at what is in the real mind of the people of Mesopotamia. We are anxious to meet them in every possible way. We are pledged there to set up some form of Arab Government. The form that we desire is the form which is acceptable to the people. The difficulty we have found has not been for one moment that they dislike the idea of our Mandate, but they cannot make up their own minds what is the particular form of independence that they want. You have there a great territory from Mosul in the North down to Basra and the Persian Gulf in the south; you have Kurds in the mountains in the extreme north; you have nomad Arabs in the south; you have the city population of Baghdad in the middle; and the commercial community of Basra in the south. You can well understand that there is some difficulty in procuring unity among all those people. But that is our desire. And certainly against no nation or Government concerned can the reproach be made with less justice, that we have not made a principal consideration, in the choice of the Mandatory, the wishes of the communities themselves.
One or two other small questions were asked by various speakers. Lord Parmoor asked a question with reference to Article 19, which provides that "the Assembly may from time to time advise the reconsideration by members of the League of Treaties which have become inapplicable," and so on. He asked me if any matters of this sort had been brought before the Assembly of the League. Of course, the answer to that is that the Assembly has not yet met. It does not meet till November. There is an enormous agenda of business to be brought before it, but whether it includes the particular subjects to which the noble and learned Lord referred, I cannot, of course, say at this moment. He also drew attention to Article 23, and here I think he misconceived its application. This is the Article that relates to securing fair and humane conditions of labour for men, women and children. He said, "Does 465 not this Article apply to such a situation as arises in Vienna at the present time?" I think the answer is in the negative, because, if my noble and learned friend will look at it, the reference here is to the organisation of the International Labour Office, which is really one of the chief products of the League.
Upon that point I will tell him exactly what has happened, because up to date I think it is one of the principal achievements which may be credited to the Council of the League. In the Treaty of Peace special provision is made for the establishment of an International Labour Organisation as part of the League, and already a great deal of valuable work has been accomplished by this organisation. The preparations for its establishment were commenced, even before the Treaty was signed, by special authority from the Supreme Council in Paris. The organisation was to consist of two parts—an annual Conference representing all the members of the League, and a permanent International Labour Office, which should serve as the executive side, of the organisation, should conduct inquiries, and act as a clearing-house of information.
The first Conference was held at Washington last November, when a large number of important Conventions were adopted, dealing with hours of employment, protection of women and children, etc. Forty-three countries from almost every part of the world were represented by delegates, who included employers and workers as well as officials. The second Conference has recently been held at Genoa to deal with the question of the conditions of employment at sea, and the third Conference, to be held in 1921, will deal, among other things, with the conditions of employment in agriculture. Immediately after the Washington conference the establishment of the International Labour Office was commenced, and it is now working under the direction of a distinguished French statesman, M. Albert Thomas, assisted by an English Civil Servant, Mr. H. B. Butler, and an international staff. The office has already a good deal of work of its hands of a most valuable character. The proceedings in the Conferences and in the work of the office have been marked by a spirit of co-operation, not only among the countries represented, but also among different groups of officials, employers and workers.
466 I think I have now answered all the Questions that were put to me arising out of the Covenant of the League, and I will, in a concluding sentence, only say thin about the future of the League. Some noble Lords have expressed grave doubts as to whether it was likely to expand into, anything serious and powerful. Other noble Lords have been much more sanguine about its future. I think—agreeing therein with what has been said in the course of this. debate—that the real opportunity for the Council of the League will be when the Supreme Council is able to lay down the work which is at present in its hands. When it does so the Council of the League will to some extent step into its shoes, take over its powers, and exercise its functions. And all the more will it be able to, do so, in my judgment, with effect, if at that date the Prime Ministers and the Foreign Ministers of the great countries represented on the Council of the League, freed from the anxieties and responsibilities which now devolve upon them in connection with the work of the Peace Conference, are able to take their seats at the table of the Council of the League.
I should like to see the Council composed of the Prime Minister or the Foreign Minister of each of the countries represented upon it, or alternatively, in cases where some other subject was coming up, by a Minister of the Government concerned. I should like to see the peripatetic wanderings of the Council of the League brought to an end, and the Council settled down in its permanent habitation, be it at Geneva or elsewhere, where it can concentrate its undivided energies upon its work. I think that if we arrive at that condition of affairs it might be a desirable thing for each Power represented on the Council to have some permanent delegate residing at the capital of the Council of the League, in order that the Government might never be unrepresented there, and that on great occasions, when the Council of the League meets or important questions are brought up, you might have your Prime Minister or your Foreign Minister to represent, your country at its meetings. That is the picture that I draw in my own mind of the future that may lie—I hope will lie—before the Council of the League.
I hope I have said enough to show that those who suggested that Governments are not serious in the matter certainly did an injustice to His Majesty's Government. In my view there is no cause for 467 disappointment, or disheartenment, or despair, about the future of the League of Nations. On the contrary, it appears to me that the work done in the last six months has been serious and substantial. The present seems to me to be full of promise and, to my mind, there lies before the League a future of real and practical utility. I will only say in conclusion that no effort will be wanting on the part of His Majesty's Government to bring about that result, and I hope the observations I have made this afternoon, for having listened to which I thank your Lordships, may remove some of the anxieties and apprehensions that have been so widely expressed.
§ LORD PARMOOR
I have no right of reply, but I think I may express my personal gratitude to the noble Earl for the trouble he has taken in answering the questions which I, as well as other noble Lords, put to him. I desire also to express the opinion that we have listened to a speech of extraordinary interest and importance, which, I hope, will be read and thoroughly considered not only by those who take a great interest in the future of the League of Nations, but by all who (like my noble friend Lord Sydenham) have applied their minds to the matter in a much more systematic way than I have. I hope that the speech will be widely read and understood.