HL Deb 20 April 1923 vol 53 cc774-817

LORD BUCKMASTER had given Notice to ask His Majesty's Government whether, in view of the increasing gravity of the situation caused by the French occupation of German territory, they will inform the House of the latest developments and make a statement as to their policy.

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, the changes that have taken place in fixing the day for this debate may, I fear, have occasioned inconvenience to some of your Lordships, but I can assure you that such changes were due to causes that were beyond the control of anyone. I fear, also, that in selecting this afternoon I may not have selected the most convenient day, but I am sure that your Lordships will recognise that it was impossible to proceed with a debate relating to a matter of such consequence as that covered by the Notice which stands in my name upon the Paper on any day on which the discussion would have been interfered with by other business.

The importance of this matter will, I am certain, be underrated by none. Although primarily it concerns ourselves and France and Germany, yet I do not think it is using the language of exaggeration to say that, in its indirect consequences, it affects the whole civilised world. And I am satisfied that if we are going to seek a right solution for the difficulties that it presents we must examine the whole of the circumstances with the utmost fearlessness and impartiality, and we must not be deterred from saying what we think through fear that our language may be misunderstood. The noble Viscount, Lord Long, speaking in this House the other day upon a question that raised the possibilities of future alliance between ourselves and France, said that the alliance was sealed with blood and could never be broken. I am sure that every one of us understands and sympathises with the feeling that prompted those words. I am sure, also, that we shall all recognise that there can be no greater folly than to attempt to build your political future upon a phrase and that history has unfortunately shown that alliances that were cemented by bloodshed were frequently broken when the blood was dry. The real cement must be found in common sympathy, in common understanding and in common purpose pursued with common good will.

It is because I believe that that possibility yet remains before us that I propose to criticise this afternoon the action that has taken place in the Ruhr Valley. It is not difficult to understand what it is that has prompted France to the action she has taken. It is, of course, suggested that this action is a means of securing payment of the Reparations which have been long delayed, but if anyone will read, as no doubt the noble Marquess has read in the French papers, the complete report of the speech that was made by M. Poincaré at Dunkirk he will find that the opening sentences of that speech contained no reference whatever to Reparations. He pointed out that just as England would take every step within her power to protect her frontiers were they threatened by sea, so the French are bound to take every step that opportunity offers them to see that their frontiers are protected by land. It is certainly not surprising that they take that view.

We should never forget all that France has suffered. She has had her territory violated without reason and without offence. She has lost the lives of a million and a half of her finest citizens. She has had some of her best towns systematically destroyed, and villages that were once homes of thriving and happy industry are now nothing but mounds of broken buildings and desecrated dust. Even the homes that have been left standing are, as we all know, soiled by the memories of unnameable brutalities that sometimes lead one to think that the tides of civilisation had stopped at the Rhine. In addition to that they find that Germany has no external debt; that her internal debt is in such a position, owing to the depreciation of the mark, that she could, if she liked, redeem it without any effort; that war has not conquered, and never can conquer, the qualities that made Germany great. The thrift, the industry, the organised and disciplined intelligence they still retain, and with a population double that of France it is not surprising that France should be alarmed. At the same time, she finds that the protection which was guaranteed to her under the Treaty of Versailles has completely broken down; that she cannot rely upon the joint guarantee of this country and of the United States of America to safeguard her frontiers; and therefore I cay it is not surprising if, in these circumstances, she should be led to take action which the cooler reflection of people who are not exposed to the same dangers may be tempted to condemn.

But when you turn from that to the other side of the picture which is most frequently presented, that the advance into the Ruhr and its extension is justified by the fact that the Germans have broken their obligations under the Treaty of Versailles, it is then. I think, that you stand on more disputable ground. It is perfectly true that at the end of last year Germany was in default in regard to her coal deliveries to France, but it is equally true that the default was quite trivial relatively to the whole amount that had been undertaken to be delivered, and I doubt if anyone would think that that default was due to any intentional act on the part of Germany. However, there was a technical breach of the Treaty, and in January of this year France marched into the Ruhr. From that time she has extended her occupation further and further, and even to-day comes an account of other towns and other pit-heads that have been seized.

Now for the purpose of obtaining the coal which was the excuse for entering, I think no one can suggest that this occupa- tion has been anything but a failure. The total amount of coal that has been produced since France occupied these pit-heads is, so far as I can gather, about one-tenth of what it would have been had the German deliveries continued at the rate at which they were being carried out when the advance first took place. I cannot help thinking that anyone who looks impartially at this matter must realise that from the point of view of obtaining payment the method that has been adopted is the one likely to prove the least productive. Payment, of course, even if the coal deliveries were satisfied, would not be met by anything that the French have done or anything they can do. France must look for payment to the other resources of Germany, and she has herself strangled the very life-blood of German industry by taking hold of the whole of her productive centres, and preventing her from being able to carry on her trade.

With regard to Reparations, again I must say that I think the French have every reason to complain. It was this country that first stated that the amount that we could collect, and intended to collect, from Germany was £24,000,000,000. It was this country that was a party to the Treaty which regarded £6,500,000,000 as an initial payment; and, again, it is this country that has been the first to tell France that the whole of these calculations are misplaced, and that £2,500,000,000 is the very outside she can hope to receive. It is not surprising, if you treat a creditor in that manner, that he will be exasperated. But the whole question of Reparations from beginning to end has always, to my mind, been considered in the wrong light. The very first thing that should be done is to consider how you want to be paid, and, having considered how you want to be paid, then see how you can be paid. Then, having considered that, see how much can be paid. But to begin at the other end by saying that we ought to be paid so much, and that we should proceed to get that much without having the faintest idea as to how that payment can be liquidated without complete disaster to the industries of the country, is, to my mind, to begin at the wrong end of the problem, and can only end in ultimate disaster.

If France really desires payment, how does she think she is going to get it by paralysing German industry, through the flourishing of which alone can payment be made? It appears to me that it is perfectly impossible and at the same time it will have a very bad reflective influence upon ourselves, because not only will it stop Germany from paying France, fait it will stop Germany from being able to make even the smallest payment to us. I think, therefore, that when we consider, as we must consider, our attitude with regard to what has taken place, we ought, first, to consider whether, as an economic proposition, this occupation of the German industries is likely to be productive of any good either to France or to ourselves. The next thing that it seems to me it is essential for us to look to is: What is our position supposing we are satisfied, from the point of view of Reparations, that these advances will be worthless?

The first thing that must strike everybody is this. The reason for the establishment of an Army of Occupation in conquered territory is for the purpose of exacting the terms of peace, and so far as this country and Germany are concerned there is no longer any need for our Army of Occupation except as a means of securing that we receive payment of our debt. As soon as it is found that the debt cannot be paid I see no reason for their staying there at all. If it is said that the presence of our people is a great help to the occupied territory and that the Germans themselves would be the last people to wish us to go, my answer is that that really is no consideration of ours. We are not there for the purpose of benefiting Germany; we are there for some obscure purpose, to secure interest for ourselves, and we cannot afford to maintain an Army anywhere for the benefit of other people. So far from our Army being of the least help to us it appears that it embarrasses our position immensely.

We are now in an island surrounded on all sides by French troops, and the people within the occupied area, our merchants and traders, appear every day to be suffering more and more from the embarrassments of the position. I am certain that the noble Marquess will be able to tell your Lordships that the Foreign Office is constantly being worried and troubled with complaints which have arisen. In The Times of a few days ago there is an article headed "British Complaints" "(From our Special Correspondent)", and dated Dusseldorf, April 16. This is what is said— The British merchants at Cologne still complain of the restrictions imposed upon their trade. Absolutely nothing comes in or goes out,' one of them said to me this evening. Owing to the difficulties encountered at the French Customs posts, and the confusion existing throughout the whole Customs system, even Dutch shippers are now beginning to refuse to handle any goods for occupied territory. German shippers have, of course, long refused as a matter of principle to touch consignments licensed by the French. The Customs officials at Dusseldorf are demanding 10 per cent. import duty on perishable foodstuffs, and holding them up, despite the orders of the Bad Ems Control Office that foodstuffs should be admitted free and unhindered. Every one is at cross purposes, and the unfortunate British merchant established in Cologne sees ruin before him. Apparently it is nobody's business to protect his interests.' That is the way in which this is operating on our commerce. I sincerely hope that the noble Marquess, in the course of the observations he will make this afternoon, will be able to give us some assurance that these conditions will be lightened and that the Government will consider how far it is desirable to continue to maintain in the heart of this district an Army which serves no useful purpose to us.

I should like to ask him one further question. It is whether, since the occupation has taken place, Germany has been able to pay for the Army we maintain, or whether at the present moment it is being maintained at the cost of the British taxpayer? This appears to me to be an important and essential condition for us to consider in determining what future policy we ought to pursue. So far, therefore, as France and ourselves are concerned it seems to me that we do need to make the complaint that the policy they are pursuing is not only one which we have never approved but is one which appears to us to be fraught with danger and one which is imposing upon us great and unnecessary disabilities.

Let us turn for a moment from that question and consider the way in which it affects Germany, a matter which I regard as of great consequence. It is useless to imagine that we can get peace in Europe until, by some means, a common understanding has been established, not merely between ourselves and France, but between ourselves and France and Germany and all the European nations. To attempt to secure permanent peace on any other footing is to attempt something that will end in failure. Germany today presents a very remarkable aspect. She appears to have been most liberally cursed with what Ludendorf himself described as the most disgusting phenomenon of the war—the profiteer. He appears to have flourished exceedingly in Germany and to have removed himself and his money to any other place willing to receive him, and there, by his vulgar ostentation, to have led people to believe that Germany is a rich country. If you remove these people—the noble Marquess will not dispute it—Germany is just on the very edge of hunger and want. The most notable and very best of her people, the professional and educated classes, are living a life that is really harder than it was during the war. The numbers of suicides and deaths from privation are increasing almost daily. There is nobody who has any intimate acquaintance with Germany who has not told me exactly the same story in the same terms—that the lives of the people in Germany to-day, except for these few undesirable people, is a life of absolute misery, and that unless it is relieved great danger may ensue.

What is the end of that going to be? It seems to me that there are two possible conclusions. There is no doubt that this action of the French is felt deeply and bitterly by every German. The growing and silent resentment they experience from time to time finds its expression in acts of violence such as those recorded in the Press to-day. But in the German mind it sinks far deeper than that, and I cannot believe that it will be possible to impose this yoke on Germany for ever without Germany being able to establish relationships with Russia which it will be perfectly impossible for any European nation to prevent. By this means we shall once more light the flames that have scorched and withered the world. There is another possibility—namely, that we shall leave Germany naked to the assaults of anarchy. The action taken by hungry and desperate people can never be foretold, and the same conditions, misery and wretchedness, which were the initial cause of the trouble in Russia, may provoke the same results in Germany. Whichever the event may be there is "Good-bye" to the possibility of European prosperity, and in its downfall all the other nations will certainly be involved.

When we regard these conditions there always comes back to my mind the state merit of a great French writer, who said that the most civilised empires are as near to savagery as rust is to steel. In nations, as in metals, the polish lies only on the surface. What then are we going to do? We can begin again; we can seek to establish alliances between ourselves and France, and other people who will join us, and no doubt by these means we may be able for a time to build up and maintain the structure of a tottering and unsteady peace. We may be able for a little while to hold steady the swaying scales, but in the end ruin will overtake any such scheme as that as certainly as it overtook it in 1914.

There is only one possibility for the peace of the world. It lies in the enlarged operation of the League of Nations, in the insistence that these questions have ceased to be questions as between one nation and another, but have become a matter for the world, a matter in the solution of which the world should assist. In that assistance I am sure that I at least look anxiously forward to the possible help that we may get from the United States of America. There is a possibility there, but the difficulty I foresee is this. The League of Nations is embedded in the Treaty of Versailles, and the Treaty and the League are based upon totally different conceptions. The Treaty is based on force, and the League is based upon the conception of justice. Until you can make force the slave of justice we shall know no peace.


My Lords, I am sorry if your Lordships were put to any inconvenience by the postponement of the Question of the noble anal learned Lord until to-day. It had been put down upon the Paper for Tuesday last, and it was solely as an act of courtesy to myself—for which I thank the noble and learned Lord and the Leader of the Opposition—in view of my returning from abroad to England only on that day, that he was willing to postpone the Question. We would gladly have put it upon the Paper for yesterday, had there not been other subjects which had precedence. And so it is that we have been obliged reluctantly—and I express my regrets—to ask your Lordships to meet especially for the purpose this afternoon.

The noble and learned Lord, in the all too short speech which he has made, has spoken with his customary power and force. In the opening sentences of his speech he stated what I may describe as the elemental factors of the case with eloquence and almost with passion. With the premises as laid down by him I think that most of your Lordships, as testified by your cheers, were in agreement. I am not equally certain in every respect as to the conclusions which he drew from them, and in some respects I think I shall be able to show that the colours of his palette were a little overcharged, and, that matters are not quite in the position which he led your Lordships to believe.

I will at once disclaim one object in making my observations this afternoon. I do not think that your Lordships will expect me to go into minute detail either as regards the figures of Reparations, or as regards the actual incidents that are happening from day to day upon the Rhine or elsewhere in Germany, or as to the precise steps which from week to week our representatives have been called upon to take in defence of British interests. I might easily encumber my speech and weary your Lordships with unnecessary detail if I were to pursue such a line.

What I think your Lordships desire this afternoon—and be it remembered that this is the first debate that you have had upon this subject since the debate on the Address in reply to the King's Speech at the opening of the Session—is rather a general appreciation of the situation. What you wish to know is what is the policy of His Majesty's Government; how far they have been justified in press- ing it up to the present day; in what way it has already affected, or may affect, our relations with our Allies and with other European Powers whether we propose to continue that policy; and whether there are any recent developments which cause us to change our view. Broadly speaking, those are the questions that are raised in the Notice that the noble and learned Lord has placed upon the Paper, and those are the questions to which I will endeavour in my remarks to give a reply.

I do not think it necessary to go far into the past, but if the question be put: How did the situation arise? I need take your Lordships no further back than to July of last year. It started in its present form from the request of Germany in July, 1922, for the extension of the moratorium over the years 1922, 1923 and 1924, and from the refusal of the French, in August last at the meeting with Mr. Lloyd George in this country, to grant that moratorium except in return for productive pledges. In the six months that ensued between August of last year and January of the present year, various meetings took place in London and elsewhere. Different plans were put forward by different parties. The Germans themselves put forward certain proposals with regard to Reparations. The Reparations Commission considered the matter, and the members of that Commission contributed plans of their own. A Committee of financial experts also reported upon the financial situation in Germany. Finally, we came to the Paris Conference in the early days of January last, where His Majesty's Government was represented by the Prime Minister. Before that Conference were laid a series of proposals by the British Government, the French Government and the Italian Government, and without recapitulating what then happened—Papers have been laid which are accessible to everyone—I should like to remind your Lordships, because it is pertinent to what I am going to say later on, exactly what the British proposal was.

I will summarise it as follows. In Paris, in January of the present year, we pressed for the reduction of the. Reparations Debt to the figure named by the noble and learned Lord—namely, £2,500,000,000 gold. We pressed for the immediate issue of bonds of that amount, for the issue of a further amount of bonds equivalent to £865,000,000 gold to be issued subject to the decision of an Arbitral Tribunal in 1923, and representing the amount of the interest deferred on the £2,500,000,000 gold during the moratorium period. The British Government further urged the grant of a four-year moratorium subject to the establishment in Berlin of a foreign Financial Council to supervise the reorganisation of German finance. Should Germany fail to satisfy this Council that she was making adequate efforts at financial reorganisation, the British Government made it clear that they were ready to take part with their Allies in the forcible seizure of German revenues and assets, and in the extension of the occupation. This is a point which has, I think, been largely forgotten in the subsequent discussion. The British Government further announced that they were ready, subject to the acceptance of foregoing scheme, to cancel the French and Italian War Debts to this country, less certain sums representing gold deposits already in British hands, and various minor financial adjustments.

These proposals were refused by the French Government supported by the Belgian and Italian Governments, who made it plain that they would consent to no reduction of the French share of the German Reparation Debt, save as a setoff against the cancellation of the French War Debt to Great Britain, and that they would consent to the grant of no additional moratorium to Germany without the surrender of "productive pledges." These pledges were to comprise the establishment of an Allied Coal Mission in the Ruhr, and the seizure in the Ruhr, and in the territory occupied under the Rhineland Agreement, of the Customs, import and export licensing organisation, certain foreign currency payments on exports, coal tax, and goods due on account of the reparation timber and reparation nitrate and building material deliveries.

I have re-capitulated in a condensed form the Prime Minister's proposal of January last, because it was a, definite and carefully-thought-out plan. No one can deny that in respect of the War Debt of France and Italy it was more than generous. It was a proposal so generous that I doubt if it could have been made, or would have been made, by any other Power than ourselves. As regards Germany, and German Reparations, our object was to obtain the maximum amount from Germany that her finances could stand, and we were willing, as I pointed out just now, in the last resort to enforce drastic sanctions if the foreign Financial Council which we proposed to set up reported in an adverse sense, at a later date, against the good faith or sincerity of Germany. On the other hand, the proposals put forward by the French and the Belgian and Italian Governments were not viewed favourably by us, for reasons which have on many occasions been stated in public.

Now, when the Prime Minister stated his inability to accept the French proposals he accompanied that statement with a declaration which I ask leave to read again to your Lordships, familiar with it as you are, and my reason for doing so will presently be apparent. The exact terms of his declaration were as follows:— His Majesty's Government after giving the most earnest consideration to the French proposals are definitely of opinion that those proposals, if carried into effect, will not only fail in obtaining the desired results but are likely to have a grave and even disastrous effect upon the economic situation in Europe, and in those circumstances they cannot take part in or accept responsibility for them. His Majesty's Government at the same time desire to assure the Government of the Republic that, while they regret extremely that there are irreconcilable differences of opinion on a subject so serious, the feeling of friendship not only on the part of the British Government, but as they believe of the British people towards the Government and people of France, remains unchanged. That declaration was, I believe, widely approved of at the time. It represented, and I think faithfully represented, the general sentiment of the British people, and it has been the basis of our policy ever since.

We began by instructing our representatives on the Rhineland and Reparations Commissions to refrain from participating in any decisions arising directly out of French or Belgian action, and to refuse responsibility for them. We refrained from taking sides in the controversies that were certain to arise, and did arise, between the French and the Germans, and we used our influence at every stage to bring about peaceful arrangements, both as regards communications and public order, in the area where our Army was placed. We intervened on many occasions—sometimes to prevent direct collisions between French and Germans in that area; sometimes (and I have a word to say upon this point in a moment) to prevent any injurious reaction on our own trade in the neighbouring territories; sometimes to resist any infringement of the Treaty rights of Great Britain; sometimes to stop precipitate or high-handed action on the part of local authorities.

In these objects on the whole our efforts have been successful. The presence of our troops there, which, greatly to my surprise, was emphatically deprecated by the noble and learned Lord, has been not merely tolerated by, but entirely acceptable to, both parties. There may be an extreme section in France who would have liked to see our forces withdrawn altogether, in order to precipitate either a more drastic execution or a more rapid fulfilment of French desires, but such was not the view of the French Government or of the Belgian Government. On the contrary, our action has been uniformly supported and approved by them. Similarly, the German Government welcomed the continued presence of our troops in that area, and on the whole they have listened to the representations that we have made to them in respect of trade and other matters.

As regards trade I have here—and I could use them if it were not rather inconsistent with the condition I laid down—a number of figures and details as regards the actual position. No doubt there have been the encumbrances and the harassing incidents to which the noble and learned Lord referred; but when I saw the figures from the Board of Trade I learnt, somewhat to my surprise, I own, that (not with regard to the occupied territories alone, because I have not got those figures) but with regard to Germany as a whole the figures of the exports and imports since the French advance into the Ruhr are considerably higher than they were in the corresponding period of last year; while, only as I came down here, I received an intimation that one of the minor causes of d Acuity with which we have been confronted with the German Government is likely to be forthwith removed by them.

I wonder what the noble and learned Lord meant by saying that the British Army is in this area for our own purposes. That is the last object for which we are there. We are there in pursuance of an obligation laid upon us by the Treaty, in order to carry out the terms of the Treaty. And the idea that any selfish purpose is concerned, or that we are looking after trade interests, either mainly or exclusively, is an idea without any foundation at all. The British military occupation of our area in the Rhineland has, until the noble and learned Lord spoke, so far as I know, not aroused a single dissentient voice. He asked about the cost of the British Army. It is being met out of the proceeds of the Reparation (Recovery) Act, which are more than sufficient for the purpose. The burden is not being laid, therefore, upon the British taxpayer.

While I am speaking of the British soldiers in this area I should like to pay, if I may in the presence of the Secretary of State for War, a tribute to the manner in which they have discharged an exceedingly difficult and delicate task. Their manner of performing this duty is one that has reflected infinite credit both upon the troops and upon their commanders. The British soldier, as we all know, has a wonderful knack of impressing foreign populations with a general sense of good temper, of fair-mindedness, and of ready wit, and no British commander in those regions can forget that he is acting in contact and, where possible, in co-operation with those who fought, and—as the noble and learned Lord reminded us—bled by the side of our troops in the recent war. Therefore I hope that the suggestion that the withdrawal of the British forces should be contemplated is one that will not be pursued.

It could meet at the present moment with no support from us, and it is one which, if announced, would create a feeling of positive dismay among all our Allies. We have adopted a similar attitude of friendly detachment towards the various tentative suggestions for intervention that have been made from time to time, feeling that, until France and Germany could come together, outside interference would be of little avail, and that, if we stepped in prematurely, we might do more harm than good. That this might easily have happened is only too evident from the speeches that we have had from French Ministers, to some of which I will presently refer. Nor has Germany so far shown any greater willingness to profit by external advice. In these circumstances it appears to me a certainty that if we had directly intervened we should have failed, and in the certainty of that failure lies the justification of the policy to which we are committed.

Let us take the two possible alternatives. Had we gone in with France we should have been partners in an undertaking, the practical wisdom of which we doubted and disputed from the start. Had we taken the side of Germany we should have been placed in an unfriendly and a disloyal position towards our late Allies. Our guiding consideration throughout has been that the Entente between France and Britain and their Allies should not be broken. We are profoundly convinced that the Entente is the basis of European recovery and of the European peace for which the noble and learned Lord pleaded in his concluding remarks. If that Entente be broken down I see no limit to the chaos that would result and to the perils to European peace and to recovered prosperity that might ensue.

The noble and learned Lord refrained—and I think wisely refrained—from bringing against this policy the taunts to which it has been subjected elsewhere. We have been told that our attitude of neutrality is one of impotence. That seems to me to be a cheap sneer. It. can easily be directed against any form of neutrality, either in war or outside of war. The neutral, as surely the experience of the last war sufficiently showed, is by no means a lay figure. He may start by being a spectator, but at any moment he is capable of being converted into an agent, and a very useful agent. The most useful form of action is not necessarily direct action, or open participation in a dispute. Neutrality has, in fact, a very positive aspect, and one which may at any moment be called into more overt existence. But, even in its negative aspect, the neutrality which we have pursued has, I think, been of great value. It was surely better to do nothing—although I am far from admitting that we have done nothing—than to do the wrong thing. The policy of avoiding mistakes and of waiting for the right moment to intervene is not a negative policy: it is a policy that may not only be tactically the wise one for the moment, but may turn out in the long run to be a policy of the highest statesmanship.

But the best defence that can be offered of this policy is not the use of any theoretic arguments, but is the fact that our neutrality has been acceptable to both parties, that neither would wish us to depart from it, and that, so far as I know—and I challenge contradiction—it responds to the general desires and convictions of our own people. It leaves us in a position where we can at any day or any hour intervene with effect. And I may add that no one has suggested a preferable alternative. I listened with great respect to what the noble and learned Lord had to say on that point, and, critical as he was of much that is passing in Germany, deploring, as he did, the results that are already visible and that he thinks will be magnified and multiplied in the future, he did not say to His Majesty's Government: "You are doing the wrong thing. I have got another policy in my pocket which I wish to put before you, and which I ask you to adopt." And in all the speeches that we have heard, from different quarters, and the general tone of which I do not think is at all to be deprecated, I have never found any concrete suggestion of an alternative policy which the Government ought to adopt as a whole.

Of course, the noble and learned Lord drew attention—and quite fairly drew attention—to the consequences that have so far ensued, and therein he fully justified the attitude that we took up at Paris, and the predictions that our representatives made. We did predict then that the despatch of file few technical officers who were supposed to be sufficient to secure the deliveries of this coal and timber, to be followed and safeguarded, if necessary, by a few troops, would develop into sustained military occupation. It has done so. We did prophesy that the economic results—with the exact figures of which I will not trouble your Lordships—would be disproportionate to the efforts made, to the expenses incurred, and to the sacrifices endured. I think that up to the present date that prophecy has been fulfilled. We did foresee that a position would arise which would not only retard the economic recovery of Europe, but would lead to a situation of irritation and exasperation between the Germans and the French. Such a state of affairs has arisen. A hundred days have now elapsed since that occupation began, and we seem to be no nearer the end. If, therefore, I merely wanted to stand up here to argue that our forecasts at Paris were right I should find no difficulty in doing it.

But, it seems to me that there are much more important things to discuss than the question whether we were true prophets or false prophets, and whether we were right and France wrong, or the reverse. What we have to do is to consider the situation as it is and to find whether any exit can be discovered from it. And here, before I proceed to any fuller definition of what are our ideas, it is only fair to let the French and the Germans speak as to what are their ideas, because, of course, the immediate developments of the situation rest with them rather than with us.

Now let me remind your Lordships, although no doubt you are aware of them, of the declarations, that have been made by the French and Belgian Ministers since the occupation was begun by France and Belgium. They have been four in number. On March 12, a little over two months after their occupation of the Ruhr, the French and Belgian Governments formally announced, that their intentions remained as outlined during the Paris Conference, that they were agreed not to subordinate the evacuation of the Ruhr and the newly-occupied territories to mere promises made by Germany but to effect the evacuation progressively as Germany executed her Reparation obligations. This announcement was followed by a yet more explicit statement by M. Poincaré on March 27, that the evacuation of Essen would only be considered as a final step after a complete settlement of Reparations.

Then, a few days ago after a Conference at Paris between the Belgian Ministers and the French Government, a communiqué was published stating that the Belgian and French Governments being equally resolved to pursue their common action in the Ruhr until Germany decides to make direct proposals for the payment of Reparations, have formulated a whole series of new measures to accentuate their pressure and to continue it as long as may be necessary. The two Governments also reiterated the Brussels Resolution that they would not subordinate to mere promises on the part of Germany the evacuation of the Ruhr and the newly-occupied territories on the right bank of the Rhine but that withdrawal would be effected proportionately with the execution by Germany of her Reparation obligations.

Finally, on Sunday last, came the speech from M. Poincaré of the character which was indicated by the noble and learned Lord and in which the French Prime Minister practically repeated in identical terms the declaration which I have just read. Such, my Lords,—and we have to count with it—is the attitude at the present moment of the French Ministers and the French Government. It is, as your Lordships will see, an attitude of fixed and inflexible determination, of a stern and almost implacable resolve. The language in which it is couched and the frequency with which it is repeated are, I think, in themselves sufficient to indicate to your Lordships how unwise and how fruitless would have been any intervention on our part at an early stage, and how certain we should have been, had we intervened, to provoke a rebuff.

Next I turn to the position of Germany, and here again I deduce my description of it not merely from the action of her representatives in the areas affected but from the pronouncements of her statesmen. There is no doubt—I think the noble and learned Lord indicated it—that Germany has shown a capacity for resistance which has surprised both her opponents and her friends. The results of the French and Belgian occupation up to date, though serious, have been less immediately disastrous than was expected in many quarters. Germany has shown a stubborn willingness to endure loss and privation. The position, no doubt, has been very difficult for her. There has been a serious shortage in her stocks of raw material. There has been a great rise in the cost of production and a consequent inability to carry out her exports. Above all, there have been amazing fluctuations in the exchange value of the mark. For a time the German Government made an effort, and apparently a successful effort, to stabilise the mark; but only during the last two or three clays we have seen that there has been another disastrous fall, and I confess that looking at the situation from the financial point of view only it seems to me to be fraught with the most profound anxiety.

Nevertheless, during this period the utmost that the German Government have so far been prepared to do has been to revive the suggestion, the origin of which was due to the American Secretary of State at the close of last year, that her capacity to pay should be referred to an international committee of business men or experts. But I note that this suggestion, though tentatively put forward again by the German Government, has not been followed up by the United States Government and that it was immediately declined and turned down by France. They have also made a suggestion to provide for the future security of France by proposing that Great Britain, France, Italy, Germany and, if she wills, the United States, should enter into an engagement not to go to war in the future for a period of thirty years. This suggestion, whether it had or had not sufficient merit to deserve further discussion, had, as you will see, no immediate relevance to the immediate situation.

This morning I received a telegram summarising the results of the debate in the Reichstag on the Foreign Office Vote which has been going on during the past week, and I am told therein that the general sentiment was one of wide and general approval of the Government, policy hitherto pursued with regard to the Ruhr; a complete unity of opinion in favour of the continuance of passive resistance. There was, indeed, an indication of willingness on the part of the German Government to make an offer on the lines of a proposal which was apparently submitted by Herr Bergmann to the French Government at the end of last year, but which was never formally communicated to the Allies—a proposal for the issue of a series of international loans by an international bank consortium subject to certain conditions as to trade equality and the withdrawal of the occupying troops.

That is the sum and substance of the advances or the suggestions, whatever be the best phrase, that have so far emanated from the German Government. They have, it is true, receded, and wisely receded, from the impossible condition, which they are alleged to have laid down, earlier in the day, that evacuation must precede negotiation, but when any question has been raised about a future, régime for the Rhineland they have passionately declined to consider any proposal that would be inconsistent with their sovereignity, or that would lay a territorial or a political hand upon that region.

Thus, my Lords, having stated to you the views that have been openly expressed by the French and Belgians on the one hand, and by the Germans on the other, we seem to have arrived at a positive deadlock. We have the spectacle of two proud and powerful peoples, the one with a profound and legitimate sense of injury, convinced that she has been duped and defrauded by a beaten foe and that her national existence may one day again be exposed to unprovoked attack. On the other hand, we have another State end another people equally convinced that advantage is being taken, and will continue to be taken, of their weakness and their exhaustion to reduce them to a state of permanent servitude, and to deprive them of their main productive resources. Was there ever in the world a situation more difficult or more complicated than that? How are we to find a path out of this labyrinth? How are we to devise an exit from this apparent cal de sac?

The noble and learned Lord, following the example of Lord Grey of Fallodon in the opening days of the session, fell back upon the not unnatural suggestion, calculated to awaken all our sympathies, of the intervention of the League of Nations. No one is less likely to dissuade any such action than His Majesty's Government, as on many occasions we have shown, but the proposal that the League of Nations should be asked to intervene at this moment is one which, although it ought to be treated with great respect, must also he a source of considerable anxiety. It is a proposal, if it is seriously put forward, to hand over to the League of Nations a problem—the Reparation problem—which has been definitely entrusted by Treaty to other authorities and bodies. It is more than likely that it would lay upon the shoulders of the League of Nations a burden greater than they could bear. It would be a proposal to hand over the solution of this question to a body upon which, so far, Germany is not represented, upon which the United States of America are not represented, and which, therefore, may be said to have a partial character. What is much more serious, it might involve the withdrawal of France from the League of Nations, and if that were so it might entail the ultimate dissolution and disappearance of the League itself. Therefore, I think the warmest of the League's supporters—and I count myself one—must be a little bit careful, in fact very careful, before they commit themselves to a suggestion so fraught with serious possibilities and even with, serious danger.

Another set of proposals has been put forward at different times in the past few weeks or months, and these proposals are that a way out of the difficulty should be found by the consideration of plans providing for the future security of France. As your Lordships know we have at no time shown unwillingness to consider any such plans: indeed, at the close of the war, we entered into definite obligations, along with America, to give to France guarantees in that respect. At a later date, when those arrangements fell through, we were willing to consider the question of making separate arrangements with France and with Belgium ourselves. I do not pursue the question now, not from any lack of appreciation of its importance but because I do not conceive it to be directly relevant to the stage of the discussion that we have reached this afternoon. I noted that the noble and learned Lord laid all his stress upon Reparations, upon the determination of a figure, upon our extrication from the present impasse about Reparations. And there, I think, he was right. The question of security is one that will, in all probability, arise at a later date, and I do not pursue it this afternoon, because abundant opportunities no doubt will occur later on of giving full consideration to it.

The question, therefore, before us today, if I have given at all a fair picture—it has been rather a sad picture—of the situation, is this: Who is to take the first step? I was reading yesterday in a newspaper a valuable statement by a number of gentlemen belonging to the Labour Party who have visited the Ruhr, and whose report has been published in the newspapers. After giving a description of the situation they recommended that the initiative should be taken by the British Government in a frank and definite statement of British policy. If I may say so that is not a very concrete suggestion. I have already pointed out that at Paris, in January of the present year, we did submit a very definite British plan, and that was the reason I summarised it in the opening sentences of my speech to your Lordships this afternoon. But the reception which that definite plan met with was not very encouraging, and does not lead us to think that if we put it forward again, or put, forward something like it, it would meet with any better reception. As regards a definite statement of our policy that is the exact object which I am endeavouring to satisfy in these remarks, and which in the few concluding observations I have to make I shall endeavour even more precisely to satisfy than I have so far done.

I notice that the Labour Party went on to make another remark of great value in its relation to this discussion. They said that no effort should be spared to keep in constant touch with both sides in order to take advantage of every fresh development which would narrow the gap between the conflicting claims and terminate the existing deadlock. That is exactly what we have been doing, and are doing. During the past three months, as representing His Majesty's Government, I have been in constant and close communication with the representatives of the great Powers concerned. I have not received from the representatives of the French Government any declarations other than those embodied in the speeches of M. Poincaré and the others to whom I have referred. As regards the German Government, I hope that I have never failed to give them what I conceive to be the soundest form of advice.

What is the position in which Germany is placed? She is the debtor. The obligation is hers. It is one which is not merely the result of her defeat in the war but which she has accepted by signing the Treaty. It might fairly and reasonably be argued that the first move should, therefore, come from her. I can understand the reluctance of the German Government to name any definite sum because, in the first place, she might say that the conditions have been so sharply altered by the events of the past three months that what was possible in January is no longer possible in April. Further, she is faced with the fact that France has so far committed herself to the high, and as many people think the impossible, figures fixed in May, 1921, and I can understand the reluctance of any Power to make a proposal containing definite figures which would immediately be refused. But I cannot help thinking, for my part, that if Germany were to make an offer of her willingness and intention to pay and to have the payment fixed by authorities properly charged with the duty, and if she were at the same time to offer specific guarantees for the continued payments, an advance might be made. France has more than once indicated her willingness to accept an overture if made to her alone—in which case she has undertaken to communicate it at once to her Allies—or if made to her in combination with her Allies. It is in the general interest that such an overture should be made. We must come to it sooner or later, and in my judgment the sooner the better. That is the substance of the advice which I have consistently given to the German Government, the general wisdom of which I see no reason to doubt.

Having stated the position, first, as it is viewed by the French and Belgians, secondly, as it has hitherto been viewed by Germany, and, thirdly, as it is affected by the action so far taken by His Majesty's Government, I come in the end to a summary of the definite policy of His Majesty's Government which we have hitherto been pursuing and to which we ask the adherence of the country and of this House. Let me sum it up in the following phrases. Our policy is fundamentally based on the Entente as the one solid and stable factor in a world of flux. That has been, and is, the underlying principle of our policy whether it be in the East or in the West. Only upon that foundation are we likely to build a new and stable structure, whether it be in the Ruhr or at Lausanne. Consistently with this we have observed, and as long as we retain the confidence of the country we shall continue to observe, an attitude of watchful and friendly neutrality. We have not given, and we shall not give, the smallest encouragement to Germany to evade her liabilities. On the contrary, we hold that they have to be met, that they ought to be met, and that Germany within the limits of her capacity should pay.

As regards our modus operandiwe have not receded from the proposals put forward by the Prime Minister in January. By that I do not mean to say that they are stereotyped immutably in detail or that we are not prepared, as of course we are, to resume discussions on that point. As regards securities we are also willing at any suitable time in the future to discuss plans or proposals, but this cannot be carried out at the cost of the dismemberment of Germany or the setting up of a new and running sore in the heart of Europe; and if guarantees are to be given they should, preferably, be guarantees that are reciprocal in nature. As regards Reparations we have not abandoned, and shall not abandon, our own claims. As regards, Debts—foreign Debts to us—we have already made an offer that was almost profuse in its generosity. We regard the problem as an international one which can only be decided by common action and not by isolated agreements between any two Powers or any small group of Powers.

As soon as a move is made, and I have indicated how I think it might be made, our help will be forthcoming to both parties. I am not without hope that on these lines a solution may yet be found. I do not regard the door as closed. The strain is one that not only must be telling, but is telling, severely upon the resources of both parties, and, if pursued, must imperil the future relations of two great peoples who have been placed side by side in the heart of the European Continent, and between whom, if there is to be anything like peace or settlement in the future, some kind of concordat must be established. I think I observe symptoms on both sides, if not of drawing together at least of a willingness to consider and even discuss the terms of future settlement. We shall continue to do our best to encourage and develop these symptoms, and I am hopeful that the time will arrive—it may arrive before long—when our influence and our authority, still I am glad to say remaining quite intact, may be usefully directed to the bringing together of the main parties to the dispute and to the evolution of a plan which shall aim not at a piecemeal solution but at the treatment of the problem, which is both a world problem and a peace problem, as a whole.


My Lords, the object of the Notice placed on the Paper by my noble and learned friend was to give the noble Marquess, on behalf of the Government, an opportunity of making a statement of policy on this very difficult and urgent question, and to give to your Lordships' House the fullest information and the fullest survey of the actual state of affairs and the latest developments. That purpose has been served, and I am sure your Lordship will all feel that the placing of this Question on the Paper as the occasion for this debate was opportune, that it was opened by my noble and learned friend in a speech which, while showing strong personal views, was worthy of the subject and showed a breadth of view worthy of the importance of the questions of policy involved. I am sure your Lordships will also feel that the speech we have heard from the noble Marquess opposite, for which, though we may offer some criticism, we are very grateful, has amply justified him in taking this opportunity for a debate. Incidentally, the debate will serve another purpose. It will give those of your Lordships who desire it an opportunity of expressing opinions on this subject. I myself have already had an opportunity at the beginning of the Session of expressing my views and I am accordingly not anxious to repeat at undue length what I have already said. But others of your Lordships who have not yet expressed their views may wish to take fuller advantage of this occasion.

First of all, let me say that I am glad that the noble Marquess repeated explicitly and fully the proposal on the Reparations question which was put forward by the Prime Minister last January. That proposal received notice at the time, but for some reason or other—I think by a sort of bad luck—one or two of its features which were least likely to be acceptable were singled out for special comment, and a great deal of it, while much more worthy of the attention of those concerned, especially our Allies—such as the offer to remit Debt—was rather slurred over. I think it was really desirable that it should be stated over again, and stated perfectly clearly. It is true that the proposal, having been rejected at the time, might not in its present form be capable of being revived, but I think it is desirable; when people are looking for a solution, that this proposal should be re-read and reconsidered. We are making no progress towards a solution of this question by the methods which are being adopted, and it is worth while to consider other proposals.

I would observe, however, on that proposal, that it dealt only with the question of Reparations and not at all with the question of security. I think that the questions of security and of Reparations are for France and Belgium much more intimately connected than the noble Marquess gave us to understand. They may not be officially connected, but I do not believe that any proposal which deals with Reparations will do other than meet with insuperable obstacles until the question of security has also been provided for. If Reparations could be treated purely as a financial and economic problem it ought to be capable of comparatively simple treatment. You have to state what is the maximum that Germany can pay, and how it can be paid, and an international commission of experts, such as the bankers who met in Paris last June or some body of that kind, treating the question purely as a financial and economic question, really ought to be able to put it in a form which would lead to a settlement. I believe that it is precisely because this question of security is so much in the French mind and is so far from being settled that the question of Reparations has presented so many and such great difficulties. If that be so, we have to look at the question of whether we are making progress not purely in the light of the possibility of making progress with Reparations but also from the point of view of security. I propose, therefore, before I sit down, to say something on the question of security.

But before I pass on to that point, I should like to say that I do not associate myself with any of the attacks on His Majesty's Government for not having prematurely intervened in this matter. Of what sort would the intervention have been? In a situation so acute as that between France and Germany, at any rate in its initial stages, diplomatic intervention would obviously have been futile; and I imagine that nobody was prepared to go beyond diplomatic intervention. I assume that if there had been premature intervention in the initial stages the result would have been, not to promote peace, but to precipitate and intensify conflict. The noble Marquess took note of the fact that in my noble and learned friend's speech that charge was not made, and I mention it only in order to put it aside. But the time may come, and one of the things which were in our minds when this debate was initiated was whether the time may not already have come, when diplomatic action on the part of His Majesty's Government might be useful in resolving the deadlock.

The noble Marquess has told us that the deadlock still exists and he has not given us very much hope as regards an exit. I had much rather that the noble Marquess told us frankly exactly what the state of things is than that he should use words of hope and optimism which were based purely upon phrases and were not justified by actual events. At the same time I wish he could have spoken more hopefully of the possibility of an exit, of the near approach of the moment when the Government might see their way to exercise an influence to resolve the deadlock. I welcome the explicit statement which he made that His Majesty's Government are desirous of finding such an opportunity, and that they are watching events with the object of taking the first opportunity which may present itself. It is really very unfortunate, and it may soon become disastrous, that the present deadlock should be prolonged without any new light or new prospect of a, solution being found.

I associate myself entirely with what my noble and learned friend said regarding his sympathy for France. I associate myself entirely with what the noble Marquess said as regards the necessity of maintaining the Entente between the two countries. If that Entente goes, the state of Europe is hopeless, and there can be no solution, nothing but confusion, and eventually, as I think, disaster. I am glad that, judging by present signs, His Majesty's Government have been able quite clearly to dissociate themselves from the policy which is being pursued in the Ruhr by the French and Belgian Governments, a policy which we think cannot have a successful issue, and that they have been able to do so while making it clear that they differ with regret, that their design is to co-operate, and that they hold themselves in readiness to co-operate in any solution, if the Ruhr solution proves, as I think it must prove, to be no solution at all.

I think all of us sympathise with the aims and the justice of the obiects which France has in view. She needs Reparations for her financial credit. We know how hard has been the struggle to maintain our credit. We are doing it, but we know how hard a struggle it is. We know very well that the French financial situation is even more difficult than our own, and that it is quite essential that France should have Reparation payments from Germany to restore her devastated regions, for the restoration of which she has hitherto been paying herself, if her financial position is to be assured. What does the payment of Reparations by Germany to France mean? It means that France makes no payments, but she receives considerable payments from Germany. What is happening at the present moment? France is making very heavy payments for the occupation of the Ruhr. She is losing money over it, and Germany also is making very heavy payments, but those heavy payments are not going to France but are being employed in supporting the policy of passive resistance, and in making purchases from abroad, from other countries than France, to supply the place of those products which Germany used to get from the Ruhr and cannot now obtain.

That is a paradoxical situation. It is not advancing the Reparations question, and what I see to be happening in the Ruhr policy now is that the cardinal fact is being entirely lost sight of, that French and German credit are really bound up together. French credit will not be maintained unless France gets Reparation payments from Germany, and Germany cannot make those payments unless her credit is set upon its feet. The struggle which is going on between armed occupation on the one side and passive resistance on the other is being disastrous to both countries, and is not bringing the Reparations question any nearer a settle- ment, but is making it more and more impossible, the longer it exists, for Germany to make as good an offer as she might have made a short time ago. Take the question of coal alone. Under the present policy France is getting mach less coal from Germany than before the occupation took place, and she is getting it at an enormous price—namely, the cost of armed occupation and the use of force. The longer that gees on the worse, it seems to me, the situation is likely to become.

Our hope is that both France and Germany must come to realise that a prolongation of the present state of things is something which is bringing them no nearer a settlement, but is making it certain that the longer a settlement is deferred the worse that settlement must be for them both—the less Germany will be able to pay, and the less France, therefore, will receive. If that represents the true economics of the present situation, surely it is worth while for the German Government, for instance, to take notice of the advice of the noble Marquess that she should at the earliest possible moment make an offer; and if that is the situation, surely it will be worth while for the French Government, when an offer is received, to give it the most, favourable consideration. That is the only ray of hope which I see in the situation—that each party may realise that things are getting definitely worse instead of getting nearer a settlement, and that there may, therefore, be a greater desire on one side to offer and a greater desire on the other side to consider.

Has the situation got better or worse in the last few weeks? In one sense it has, I think become more difficult, because the longer the French and the Belgians stay in German territory the more difficult it will be for them to withdraw. The more they spend in the occupation the more difficult will they find it to withdraw with results which are commensurate to the efforts which they have put forward and the money which they will have expended. We know by our own experience that it is very much more easy to find a reason for going into a place than it is to find a reason for getting out, and that the longer you stay the more difficult it is to find a reason for getting out. In that way the situation, I think, is less favour- able, but in another way there are signs that it is more favourable. I think there are signs that the French and Belgian Governments are beginning to realise that the mere exercise of forcible pressure upon Germany, of the kind that they are now exercising, is not really going to bring about a solution, and that there is, I will not say a change of Policy or of methods, because I know that both countries say that they must stay until results are achieved, but rather that there is a change of spirit. A little time ago it seemed to me that France and Belgium were quite confident that by forcible action they would cause a precipitate capitulation of the German Government, and that by their own single-handed action they would obtain results, and do so without consulting anyone who had been unwilling to participate in the action taken.

The Germans did not capitulate precipitatively, and I see signs, though I can only judge from the Press, that the French Government, and I suppose the Belgian Government, too, are coming round more and more to the view that a solution will have to be found, not solely by their own separate action in the Ruhr, but again by consultation with their Allies. That is to say, they will stay in the Ruhr and maintain their occupation until results are achieved, but they realise that the mere maintenance of that occupation is not going to achieve results which will enable them to withdraw.

I do not intend to place any construction upon the visit of M. Loucheur other than that placed upon it by France. I call it a visit, and not a mission. Exactly why he came I do not know, and I do not ask to know whether he had any special proposals to make, but undoubtedly, I imagine, he came here to explore British feeling, and I imagine that the account he took back to France was that while we still, for reasons which seem to us irrefutable and unanswerable, cannot participate in the action of France in the Ruhr, and while we think events show, week by week, that that action is not going to produce the results desired, we yet maintain fully our friendliness, earnestly desire a settlement, and hold ourselves ready to cooperate at any moment. That is, I imagine, the information which he took back, and that that information was welcome I take from the fact that he was present during, and was favourably mentioned in, the speech which M. Poincaré made at Dunkirk the other day. These are the reasons why I believe that, instead of thinking that mere insistence upon their present methods will bring about a solution, the French Government are reaching a point at which, while they still intend to maintain their present methods until some results are achieved, they realise there must be some collateral action in order to achieve the results that they want to accomplish. If that is so it is undoubtedly a change for the better.

Now I come to the further question—a question which, I think, is really also of vital importance, the question of security. I do not believe the French will ever evacuate German territory till they feel they have not only got a settlement of the Reparations question but see security for the future. That is a very natural thing, which I think we must perfectly well understand, and with which we ought to have every sympathy. I have so often insisted on the misfortune of the failure of the Franco-American and Franco-British Treaties, which were part of the peace that I will not attempt to go over that point at length. But those two Treaties were France's security for the future. Their disappearance left it void. That void has not been filed since, and as long as that void remains the real word as regards France's future is insecurity. It is not so at the present moment. I see that German opinion sometimes says: "Why is France anxious about her security? Germany is helpless, and proved to be helpless, by what is going on at the present time." Yes, that is true for the moment; but it is the future that we have to think of, and with a people as numerous as the Germans, and increasing, and as efficient as the Germans, the question of security in the course of ten or twenty years is a very real and anxious one for France, and must be so.

Of course, I think the Ruhr policy is not going to ensure France's security in the future, whatever it may do for the moment; it is going to make the security more doubtful, it is going to sow the seeds of revanche which, unless they are sterilised by some settlement, will eventually produce the crop which such seeds always produce. The policy will drive Germany more and more to look for an arrangement with Russia when any such arrangement may be possible. In fact, the policy, whatever it may do for security now, is really preparing insecurity for the future. Then how can the void be filled? Not by the Treaty of Versailles. It is under the Treaty of Versailles that the French justify the policy of the occupation of the Ruhr, but the Treaty of Versailles did not provide security for France. France never said that it did. Her point in the peace negotiations was that, the Treaty did not give her security, and she wanted much more to be given security. She was offered the Franco-American and Franco-British Treaties in order that she might accept the Treaty of Versailles, which she herself considered did not provide for her security. Therefore she cannot look for it under the Treaty, which from the beginning was not regarded as making her secure.

Is it to be found in separate alliances? I do not believe in the long run that separate alliances between any two Powers, or even a special group of Powers in Europe, will provide security. It was all that was possible before the last war, but it always failed. Take the policy of Germany after the Franco-Pruseian war. Prince Bismarck wanted to make Germany secure against France. Having crushed France in the Franco-Prussian war he then went on to create the Triple Alliance, which for a time dominated Europe. He even made a re-insurance Treaty with Russia to make security doubly sure. And for a time it was so. I remember that when I first went to the Foreign Office in 1892 as Under-Secretary it appeared as if that security was going to last indefinitely. But the result eventually was the Franco-Russian Alliance as a counterpoise to it, and then a competition leading to armed groups in Europe, and, finally, the war of 1914. If public opinion has gained wisdom from the last war surely one of the things it ought to have realised is that all previous attempts by one nation to get security, either by making itself strong or by taking to itself certain Allies, and thereby getting security at the expense of some other nation or nations, have in the long run failed. They create a counterpoise to themselves which eventually leads to war.

It was for that reason, I think, that at the Peace Conference the League of Nations was created. And if there is to be security in future I do not believe that any nation will find it in the long run in Europe unless it be a security which is not merely for itself or the group but for all Europe. I do not believe that anything else, will last. There has been talk from time to time of whether the Franco-British Treaty, which was declared lapsed when the Franco-American Treaty lapsed, could be revived. I hope the French recognise the exceeding willingness and good will with which Parliament at once expressed its approval of the Franco-British Treaty when it was signed after the peace; but I believe, as far as I can gauge public opinion in this country now, that it would be very reluctant to enter into an alliance which it thought might commit it to a Continental war over some dispute which it, cannot foresee, and upon which, therefore, it cannot foretell what view it would take.

But there is one thing that has developed in this country very much, and that is a decided opinion and desire to see the League of Nations made a strong reality. And there is one obligation which I think this country might undertake, and that is that if countries sign the Covenant of the League of Nations and join with us in undertaking the obligation to refer any dispute which arises between them, not to the arbitrament of war but to settlement by the Council of the League, then we should be prepared, in the interests of upholding the League of Nations as the great security for the peace of the world, if any nation breaks the Covenant, to uphold, not the merits of any particular dispute between two nations, but the Covenant of the League, in the same way as we have before upheld definite Treaty obligations when they have been violated.

I see no real security for the future until Germany comes into the League and signs the Covenant, and unless you have a clear agreement with France that the one great security for her and all of us in the future is to make that League a strong reality, and something which gives that security which no separate alliances, I believe, can give. Of course, as the noble Marquess has said, it is no good making that proposal at the moment. I do not put it forward as a definite pro- posal to be made at the moment, but the Government must have some clear idea of the end towards which they are working. They have offered us no suggestion of their own with regard to future security. If any better or more practical suggestion can be made, or any suggestion which is really going to give security and solve the question, of course I should be delighted to hear it. If it is really going to give security it is a policy which will deserve consideration.

The League of Nations ought not to be regarded as something which is outside and separate from the Governments which compose it. I would ask whether it could not be made an instrument, a definite instrument, for the creation of security between the frontiers of Germany and France. I do not go into any of the various proposals which have been mooted for putting certain territories under the control of the League of Nations, because the making of any definite proposal of that kind results, I agree, in an expression of opinion in France that it is not good enough, and an expression of opinion in Germany that it is an unwarrantable interference with Germany's sovereignty to which it will never submit. It would be far less an interference with Germany's sovereignty than that which is taking place at the present time.

If things continue as they are I think it would be worth considering whether you cannot make some use of the instrument of the League of Nations to give security to those frontiers, which will not merely give security to France but to Germany also in the future. Of this I am sure. The Government must have some definite policy in their own minds as to the direction in which they will work to solve this question of French security in the future. Our own security is bound up with it, and I believe that only by some big scheme which makes Germany feel secure as well as France will you bring about that feeling of security without which I do not believe that you will really get a definite settlement of the Reparations question. So long as those questions of Reparations and security remain unsettled the position of Europe must be precarious and insecure.


My Lords, after the speeches to which your Lordships have listened I shall not trespass upon your time for more than a very few minutes, but I should like to express one view of this question which is very different from any that has been expressed by previous speakers. In the Question which the noble and learned Lord has placed on the Paper reference is made to the gravity of the situation which is caused by the occupation of German territory by France. I think that phrase gives rise to a misleading impression. The gravity of the situation is not caused by French action in the Ruhr; that is not the cause of the disease. It is a symptom of it, and I believe it may be the remedy for it.

The real fact is this. The gravity of the situation has been brought about by the fact that ever since the Armistice Great Britain and France have pursued diametrically opposite policies, and I believe that while each of them has made considerable mistakes, on the whole France has had a far clearer and juster view of the issues that are at stake than Great Britain. French policy has been perfectly clear, logical and consistent. The French believed that the only secure settlement for the affairs of Europe was an alliance between ourselves and France on the one hand and Poland and the Little Entente on the other, and, as regards their own security, the placing of the left bank of the Rhine under, either French or international control.

What was our policy? So far as I can make out it was to do the exact opposite of that which the French wanted done. The first thing the French wanted to do was to prevent that combination which they so much dreaded between Germany and Russia. We did our utmost to bring that combination about. We reopened trade with Russia with the object, apparently, of enabling Germany to exploit Russia so as to pay us Reparations out of the proceeds of that exploitation. We entirely ignored the character of Bolshevism. We ignored the fact that Bolshevism was an article of German export; that it had been originally financed by Germany, through the Deutsche Bank and certain rings of international financiers; and that pan-Germanism and Bolshevism had been working together since then in all quarters of the globe subsidising anti-French and anti-British propaganda. We did this to try to bring about that German-Russian combination with a view, apparently, of facilitating the peaceful penetration of Russia by the Allied forces of pan-Germanism and international finance.

That is the policy which was as decided upon at Genoa. France showed her wisdom by having nothing to do with it, and everything that has happened since then has shown that she was entirely right. Almost a year ago in another place Mr. Lloyd George, who was then Prime Minister, informed the country that those at the head of affairs in Russia were undergoing an edifying change of heart in Favour of capitalism, and therefore this policy was a safe one to pursue. A year after that these reformed characters are massacring priests in cold blood and doing all they can to foster a lapse into barbarism on the part of the rising generation in Russia.

What have we done for the security of France? Absolutely nothing. If our policy is analysed it is found to have been an entire gamble. We appear to think that we are safe from German aggression during the next few years especially as the German Fleet lies at the bottom of the sea and the German Colonies are in our hands. After the next tort or fifteen years we have no policy at all except to gamble on a friendly Germany; and we apparently expect France to gamble on something which has not one chance in ninety of being successful.

As to our present policy in regard to Reparations, it is to grant Germany a moratorium for four years. How can we expect France to regard that as a reasonable proposal in view of all that has happened? Two years ago we were ready to march with France into the Ruhr. There was no difference of opinion about that course at all. Not only His Majesty's Government but the Opposition also were equally ready to embark on that policy as the only means of calling Germany's bluff. What has brought about the change which has taken place in the last two years? Why do we now blame the French for doing that which all parties supported them in doing two years ago? Is it any wonder that the French regard this striking change in our attitude as being due to those sinister influences which, perhaps, they are inclined to exaggerate—the influence of international finance, the influence of those who have money invested in German industry and who wish for the restoration of that industry for their own ends, and the influence of the speculators in the mark and in German securities?

During these two years a host of economic experts have tried to persuade out people that it is not to our advantage to extract from Germany any Reparations at all. The Labour Party also has been growing in power and, for all that the French know, four years hence this Government may have disappeared and we may have a Labour Government in power. If that is the result of waiting for two years, what is likely to be, the result of waiting for another four years? Again, during these two years France has seen Germany avoiding the payment of Reparations, and securing very considerable advantages not only by avoiding payment, but by securing economic control, owing to the depreciation of the mark over the countries of Central Europe. She has seen Germany securing vast concessions in Russia; she has seen the Eseen group securing munition and armament works, and she has seen German officers reorganising the Red Armies. What may happen in another four years in Russia? What weapons of war may not be forged out of the resources of Russia in the next four years?

Well, France has decided not to assent to that, and I think it is a great misfortune that we are not supporting her in that decision, and that we did not march into the Ruhr at her side. I do not say that by way of criticising the present Government, for I am far too sensible of the vast debt of gratitude we owe to this Government for having replaced the Coalition. Nevertheless, I think it a pity we have not adopted that policy. I believe that the peace of Europe depends, and the French believe it depends, first, upon a defensive alliance of the Western nations with the nations of Central Europe and Poland, and, secondly, upon placing the left bank of the Rhine under either French or international control.

We have heard a great deal about the League of Nations to-night. I believe something very different from what has been expressed by most people. I think that the historian of the future, when he comes to review this epoch, will say that of all institutions which rendered the peace unstable and endangered the settlement of Europe, the League of Nations was the worst and the most dangerous. If you want to see what a sham and delusion the League of Nations is you have only to study Article 10 of the Covenant of the League. Under Article 10 all the signatories of the Covenant are compelled to intervene if the integrity of any one of their number is infringed. If you go to any exponent of the League of Nations—and I have been to many of them—and ask them to explain what that Article really means, they will tell you that it does bind all the signatories to intervene if any one of them is attacked. But in point of fact that could never possibly happen, because you cannot imagine any set of circumstances in which Norway, for instance, would intervene in the event of Rumania being attacked, and if one of the signatories stands out that fact would automatically exempt all the others from coming in.

I am afraid it is very difficult to regard Article 10 of the Covenant of the League of Nations as anything else but humbug. But there is no reason why it should remain humbug. There is no reason why we should not make the League of Nations a reality by naval and military agreements between the signatories of the Covenant. That would be a very useful test of the real desire for peace on the part of those nations who have signed the Covenant, and of the identity of interest on which it is professedly based. If they were not all willing to sign. we could at any rate begin with those nations whose security was more immediately menaced by Germany and Russia.

In pursuing this policy—the policy of placing the left bank of the Rhine under international control, and concluding this alliance—is there any reason why we should not be supported by advocates of the League? Only the other day the chief authority on the League, Lord Robert Cecil, declared that we ought to be ready to replace the British flag at Gibraltar and Malta by a larger emblem, by which I suppose he meant some international emblem of the League of Nations. I do not express any opinion upon that utterance. I do not agree with it, but surely if we ought to be ready to replace the British flag at Gibraltar and Malta there can be no objection to replacing the German flag on the left bank of the Rhine by a larger emblem. I am sure it would do more to secure the peace of the world than would be done by replacing our flag at Gibraltar and Malta.

We are getting into a very dangerous position. How dangerous it is we may judge from the fact that we were discussing only the other day in this House how to prevent a possible attack on London by French aeroplanes. Putting it in plain terms, that is what the debate really was about. In the course of that debate we were informed, quite truly, that we were no longer an Island Power in the same sense as previously. But nobody drew the moral from that very correct conclusion. Surely the moral is this: If we are no longer an Island Power we must, to the extent that we are not an Island Power, be a Continental Power, and a Continental Power must have a land frontier. Our land frontier is the Rhine, and the more French aeroplanes there are to defend it the better.

Immediately after that debate the noble and learned Earl, Lord Birkenhead, gave an interview to the Press in which he said that the situation was really becoming very dangerous, and that French Generals, were using very offensive language against this country. I think he suggested that they were using threatening language against this country. I do not dispute the fact for a moment. I do not know what he expected us to do about it. I do not know if he expected us to resent it. I am afraid we are not in a position to resent any language used by French Generals, because, for weeks and months past, our former Prime Minister, Mr. Lloyd George, has been conducting a violent anti-French propaganda, not only in the Press of this country, but in the German Press, and also in that section of the United States Press which is most bitterly hostile to this country and France. We really cannot be expected to display any righteous indignation in these circumstances if French Generals display some annoyance in regard to these expressions of opinion respecting French action in the Ruhr.

I know that in expressing these views I have arrayed against me a formidable host of experts and of statesmen, and I should feel some discouragement were it not for the fact that in recent years it has seemed to me that the wise have not infrequently been proved to be wrong, and the foolish proved to be right. I noticed the other day an interesting observation made by a statesman, Mr. Winston Churchill, who said that before the late war there were a lot of very wise people who thought it could not possibly happen, and there were a lot of very foolish people who thought it could. In such a situation I am quite content to be numbered with the fools.


My Lords, I agree with the noble Duke who has just spoken in attributing a very large portion of the grave difficulties now confronting Europe to the mismanagement of the late Prime Minister of our relations with France since the Armistice, and in respect of the treatment of the relations between this country and Russia. I also deplore with him the exceedingly unseemly and unprecedented attacks which our late Prime Minister has been making upon our Allies. But I do not follow him in his conclusion that the League of Nations is the greatest folly of the age, and one of the greatest dangers confronting this country and Europe in future. Nor do I think that conclusion follows from his own line of argument. Nevertheless, I think that it is a great advantage to have a view so courageously put forward by the noble Duke.

The suggestion for which he pleaded so eloquently is the unifying of the Entente between France, Belgium and Italy with other Western Powers, forming an alliance offensive and defensive. Against what is it to be formed? Against the certain future combination of Germany and Russia. Is it not absolutely certain that such a grouping of the West and such a grouping of the East must one day end in a catastrophe compared with which that which we have witnessed will be but child's play? If such a catastrophe occurs again, such a conflict of the East and West, it is not Russia or Germany that would perish, or France or England, but the whole of civilisation. That is the danger which my noble friend and those who agree, with him do not seem to me sufficiently to weigh.

Those of us who support the League of Nations are under no delusion as regards its difficulties. My noble friend, the Leader of the Opposition, would be the last man to say that it is already a perfect instrument, It is only a child of four years' growth. The question before us is not whether the League of Nations is now the salvation of civilisation, but whether by its gradual growth, and the wise co-operation of men of good will and of nations it may be made an instrument to prevent that future catastrophe to which I have referred and which otherwise is absolutely inevitable. That is the question. Statesmen may fail, but surely it is worth an organised attempt of the world to prevent that which the world so clearly foresees. The noble Duke himself pointed the way in which the League may develop so as to achieve the end we have in view—an end which he also has in view, for what is most dear to him, as it is to all of us, is the safety of England and the British Empire. He of all people would regard with great sorrow the collapse of British civilisation in a world catastrophe. When he puts his finger on Article 10, and asks what is its value, he is justified, because, unless the League of Nations can achieve the power to control effectually those members of the community of nations who would break away from the League and resort once more to war, I agree that it will have failed of its purpose. But surely some arrangement giving security to France may be the nucleus of that effective power which he League of Nations so much requires.

I want to say with what great satisfaction those of us who support the present Government heard the Leader of the House and also the Leader of the Opposition join this afternoon in telling the country, the Empire and the world, that the preservation of the Entente is the only chance of civilisation at the present moment. In that policy they have our most cordial and enthusiastic support. I was glad also that the noble and learned Lord who raised the Question stated so clearly the case for France. The case of France is immeasurably hard. France was injured to the quick by Germany. The attack was unprovoked, and the war was conducted with a brutality worthy of Attila and his Huns. Parts of the fairest regions of France are still destroyed so far as their contribution to the wealth and prosperity of the country are concerned. And although France is the injured party, and although France won the war, she has received neither Reparations nor security. She has a strong case for sympathy and understanding, and a very grave burden of responsibility rests on men like the late Prime Minister who, because he does not agree with the particular line of action France takes, goes to that portion of the Press in America which is hostile to the British Empire in order to give voice to his denunciation. That is the case of France stated to-day by the noble and learned Lord, by the noble Marquess and by the noble Viscount.

Whose fault is it that the situation is as we find it to-day—that France is occupying the Ruhr I do not stop to consider whether that action is wise or unwise, whether it is likely or unlikely to effect the purpose, French statesmen have in view. France is in the Ruhr only because Germany has shown no sign whatever of contrition for the war or a desire to make amends. It is impossible for the warmest advocate of Germany to pretend that she has made any serious efforts to make those Reparations which are due for devastated France. And the condition of Germany is not as Lord Buck-master painted it. All of us have had the advantage of discussing this question with men who have travelled through Germany. I read the account of the deputation of the Labour Party which recently visited Germany. I find the account which Lord Buckmastcr gave of profiteers to be correct. I find the account he gave of the terrible hardships and struggle for life of people who are in possession of small fixed incomes to be only too accurate. I am afraid their hardships must be something terrible. But that is not a true picture of the working classes in Germany.

People who have travelled through Germany will tell you that they have seen no signs of unemployment; that the population is well-fed and well-clothed, that the children behave as healthy children do, and that there is no sign of that desperate want which Lord Buck-master depicted. During all the time that Germany has been making no effort to pay Reparations to the Allies great public works of the first magnitude have been going on throughout the country. Those who have travelled through Germany will tell you of the immense amount of building by private enter prise, of the huge public works in Berlin and all the other capitals, and of the absence of unemployment. Therefore, I say that if we are to distribute blame for the occupation of the Ruhr the fault is not with France but with Germany.

The real question at issue is the question of security. It comes to this—that France is willing to take great financial risks in the matter of Reparations but she is not willing to take any risks in the matter of security. The whole of her action has really been based on her conception of what is necessary for her security. The noble Marquess who leads the House with great wisdom and moderation stated the case and justified the attitude of His Majesty's Government it, waiting and watching. What is the use of proffering advice which you know will not be accepted? What is the use of scolding or meddling? The attitude of statesmen is that which the Government have adopted—namely, to define their position, to keep touch with both parties in the quarrel and to be ready to intervene when there is the slightest hope of effective action. I am sure that when the noble Viscount told your Lordships that the key to the solution of the question lay in security he was telling the country nothing less than the fact. If public men in this country, who themselves are thinking necessarily more of Reparations than of security, can only remember that France is thinking of security and not of Reparations we shall be nearer to understanding the position of France and thus be able to back up our Government in intervening when the right moment comes.

It has been indicated by everyone except the noble Duke that assistance may very well, hereafter, take the form of some action through the League of Nations, but only by and with the consent of France. For the League to be dragged in now, when, as my noble friend pointed out, Germany is not a member and the United States are not a member, and when France would at once leave, would be disastrous, and would result, not only in failure to end the present deadlock, but possibly in killing the League itself. I think this debate will have cleared the air. I am sure it will have given immense satisfaction to the supporters of the Government, and, what is of greater importance, both France and Germany will learn from it that, as regards the attitude and the main lines of action of this country, both sides in our politics are agreed.