§ EARL BUXTON had given Notice to ask His Majesty's Government if they can give the House any information in regard to the proceedings of the Council of the League of Nations at the recent meeting in Geneva; and to move for Papers. The noble Earl said: My Lords, 85 as I stated yesterday, I have no intention of making a speech in asking this Question. I ask it because I am one of those who take great interest, and have a profound belief, in the future of the League of Nations, and I thought it would be to the advantage of this House if we had an opportunity of hearing from the Lord President of the Council what discussions took place and what conclusions were come to by the Council of the League of Nations which has lately been sitting. At the same time I desire to reserve my right to speak if, after he has spoken, it should appear to me desirable that I should say something, In order to preserve that tight, I have put down a Motion for Papers, although I need hardly assure my noble friend that anything I may say will not be in the nature of hostility to what he has done at the meeting of the League of Nations, for, or the contrary, I think we are to foe congratulated upon the effective and efficient way in which His Majesty's Government, carrying on the policy of their predecessors, have been represented upon the League of Nations.
§ LORD PARMOOR
My Lords, everyone who is cognisant of the work done by the Council or the Assembly of the League of Nations knows the interest that, the noble Earl has taken, and the admirable work he did as Chairman of a very important Committee, in respect of League work. I think I should add also, before I make the remarks which I have to make, that a Command Paper has been issued, which is a report by Lord Parmoor, the British Representative, of the Twenty-eighth Session of the Council of the League of Nations at Geneva. That Paper was issued a few days ago. It has been circulated, and I think everyone interested in the matter should know that this Paper has been circulated. It really gives in detail an account of the work done at the last meeting at Geneva.
If I may say one or two words in preface to what must be a mere statement of facts, I think the real question which matters in reference to what the noble Earl has said is whether, at the recent meeting of the Council at Geneva, the influence and authority of the League have been efficiently maintained. I think that is the one matter which one cares about, and that other matters are 86 incidental. I need not say much on that general question for this reason: no one will dispute the unique authority of the Secretary-General to speak on the subject of this meeting, and he lately gave a public address to the Parliamentary Committee, I think, in the House of Commons —at any rate, a Parliamentary Committee—and subsequently an account of his address was published. It contains these words—The Meeting of the Council at the recent meeting was much the most successful that the League has ever had.Now, I am most careful to make this statement—the success of the recent meeting of the Council was not due to that Council alone, but was due, of course, to a long period of preparatory work, in which no one has taken a more prominent or more adequate position than the noble Viscount opposite, Lord Cecil, and I am most anxious to dissociate myself from the idea that one meeting of this kind can in any way be considered by itself.
You have to consider long periods of preparatory work before the Council meeting was actually held; but I think that this statement which I have read, without going into matters in any greater detail, is sufficient answer to that undercurrent of criticism against the Council and the Assembly of the League which is always ready to revel in suggestions of failure rather than of success. That under-current of criticism has made its voice heard, although I think not in a very effective manner as regards the late meeting of the Council. The immediate cause of the success of the meeting of the Council, apart from, what I have called the preparatory work, was the friendly atmosphere which, in my opinion, surrounded all members of the Council who were present. Not only was there this friendly atmosphere, which it was extremely satisfactory for a lover of the League like myself to find, but there was a common desire to co-operate in carrying to a successful conclusion the work which we had to do. To any one who went over there for the first time it was a matter of intense satisfaction to see that the ideas of national exclusiveness were set on one side, and that all were prepared to work together for a common object, in order to carry on the work of the Council successfully. 87 That I thought was the keynote, and the extremely valuable keynote, of the whole matter, while the Council were in Session at Geneva. That atmosphere shows, to my mind, the real source of the influence and authority of the League at the present time.
No one could have been to Geneva without realising that the League has come to stay. There can be no possible question of its supersession. There can be no possible question that after living for a time it may perhaps pass into the region of oblivion. It has become a permanent thing to further peaceful settlement in the world. It has become a permanent thing to bring into operation a system for deciding international disputes and international friction, taking the place of the mere arbitrament of war. I do not want for the moment, nor is it necessary, to dwell at any special length upon that aspect of the case, but surely it is satisfactory to find that the League and the Council in their work are performing the great international duty of endeavouring to settle matters by agreement or arbitration, or legal method, as apart from war.
In that matter I should like to say this: I think it did strike the members of the Council when it was put before them—and, of course, my only position was that of British representative—it did strike them not only that His Majesty's present Government through its Prime Minister had stated officially that the League of Nations would be the pivot of their foreign policy, but also that all other Parties, as represented by their leaders at the late Elections, had really put upon the forefront of their standards the emblem of the League of Nations. I think that that is appreciated, and appreciated at its full value. This was not a matter of one Government, or of a change of Government, but a matter on which the people of this country apparently had made up their minds to carry out a peaceful policy in our foreign relationships.
While I am dealing with that, as the noble Marquess is sitting opposite me at the present moment, I may make one other point. I have always gratefully recollected that, even during the war period, when the League of Nations idea was not so popular as it is at present, he, as Leader of this House, allowed a Resolution to be adopted which, even at that 88 date, committed the Government to a "careful inquiry"—I think those were the words—as to how a successful League of Nations might be instituted. From the time that he accepted that Resolution the idea and principles of a League of Nations have gone steadily forward in this country. The Resolution was supported by the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, the late Earl Loreburn and the late Viscount Bryce, and in a very special manner by Lord Parker of Warrington, to whom the noble Marquess referred more than once as, from a jurist's point of view, stating the position in an admirable manner. I do not want to go into any details, but I desire to insist upon this—that from that date up to the present time there has been a constant increase of the authority and influence of the League, and of the support given to it in Great Britain.
In answer more immediately to the Question which the noble Earl has asked, I should like to dwell on one or two matters which are dealt with in further detail in the Paper to which I have referred. The first head is "Financial and Economic Reconstruction." One of the great works of the League has been in connection with Austrian finance. We had the advantage at the meeting of the Council of hearing Dr. Zimmerman, who is the international supervisor in connection with Austrian finance. He not only told us of the success of what the League had done, but he entered a caveat that the Austrian Government ought to be more economical, and ought to reduce expenditure, because, though at the present time the receipts were satisfactory, yet it was necessary that there should be further reduction made in the expenditure. On the whole, Dr. Zimmerman gave an admirable account of the success of Austrian finance—a success due to the action of the League of Nations, strongly supported, as it was, by Great Britain, and always with the approval of Lord Cecil of Chelwood as the British representative.
The next matter relates to the conditions of Greek refugees. The conditions of those refugees are very terrible, and there is an appeal both for public loans and private charities. But what struck me more than that was that the work is being carried out by a very well-known American, of great standing in his own 89 country, Mr. Morgenthau, and anyone who has been to the various districts of Europe—I have had the advantage of doing that since the war—will know what an enormous amount of work the Americans have done in endeavouring to bring assistance to the distressed parts of Europe. While I am mentioning Mr. Morgenthau's name—I shall mention subsequently the name of another American—may I say that I have great hopes that from the success of the Americans who have done work of this kind, before long the United States themselves may be induced to take a closer interest in the League, or even to become members of the Assembly themselves. Of course, nothing would he more likely to contribute towards the settlement of a great many of our European difficulties than such a step by the United States, and I am not without hope that they may do so.
The only other matter to which I want to call attention under this head is Albania. I do not know whether Lord Lamington is present, but the noble Lord asked me some time ago whether the Government would be prepared to assist Albania, and I answered that, if certain conditions were fulfilled, the Chancellor of the Exchequer held out the hope that we might subscribe to the extent of £5,000. The Albanian Government brought this matter before the Council of the League, and, in order to show the exceptional conditions in that country. I should like to read one passage from information which was sent, from sources which are reliable, to the Foreign Office. This is what a well-informed correspondent wrote to the Foreign Office—of course I would not give his name. He spoke ofthe dignity, courage, and resignation with which the poor mountaineers have met their hard lot. They have died by scores of want, misery, and cold and have suffered without complaint. They had not raised their voices, neither had they risked for alms.I brought that matter to the notice of the Council, and the Council unanimously were of the opinion that assistance should be given to Albania under these exceptional conditions.
The total amount required was about £20,000, and of that amount about £5,000 had already been found, leaving a sum of £15,000, in order that relief might he given. A proposal was made, and adopted on my recommendation, that the 90 League itself should make a subscription, and that it should appeal to other Members of the League to assist on the basis that, if other assistance was given, Great Britain would be prepared to find this sum of £5,000. I should like to add without mentioning names—because it is not public yet—that, from a telegram I have received to-day, I believe that this appeal to other Members of the League has been successful. Not only has it been successful from the point of view of getting this money, but also in respect of private charity. One American, as a private donation to deal with this matter, has already sent the sum of 10,000 dollars. Here, therefore, is an illustration of what the Council can do on a matter of this kind. It could not have been done, really, without the intervention of the Council.
I should like to say that when we were dealing with this matter the question was as to the best way in which the relief could be brought to these poor starving people. The Council finally directed the Secretary-General to request the Joint Committee of the International Red Cross Committee and of the League of Red Cross Societies to be goof enough to nominate a representative, to be responsible for the administration, on the League's behalf, of the funds made available by the decision of the Council. I do not think any better body could have been found. It is a body well-known to the noble Viscount who preceded me as the British representative on the League, and through the agency of that body this terrible famine may, I hope, be dealt with in the way I have indicated.
The next head to which my report refers is "Political Disputes." There are two matters in that connection to which I should like to call attention. There has been a long outstanding dispute between Czecho-Slovakia and Poland as regards the frontier in the Jaworzina district. It has not been a large matter; the whole population concerned only numbers about one thousand individuals. It has been a source of friction and trouble, however, and your Lordships will be glad to hear that I believe the matter has now been finally settled. While I am dealing with that I might, perhaps, add that the other member of the Council who was new to the work was M. Benes. M. Benes, on behalf of Czecho-Slovakia, gave untiring 91 attention to matters of this kind in order that a satisfactory solution might be found.
The next question is that of Memel. I do not know whether your Lordships realise what a difficult matter Memel has been. It is difficult owing to the relations between Lithuania and Poland, and I might state quite shortly what the points were and how they have been dealt with. In the first place, you had to make a harbour board of a neutral character; a harbour board which would act neutrally between the different authorities concerned. The harbour board was constituted and a member of the League was placed upon it. Then you had to prepare the constitution of an autonomous government in Memel. Memel is passing over to the Lithuanians, but, meanwhile, an autonomous constitution for the protection of the inhabitants had to be prepared.
Thirdly, you had to deal with what, perhaps, was the most complex question of all—the traffic on the Niemen. Ninety per cent. of the traffic through Memel came from the hinterland and particularly from the Polish districts. That was a matter which was very difficult to adjust. What happened was this. I should like to dwell for a moment on this point. The Council appointed Mr. Norman Davis to be Chairman of the Committee which was to deal with this question. Mr. Norman Davis was at one time Under-Secretary of State in the United States Government during the Presidency of Mr. Wilson. He managed this work with extraordinary energy and ability, and he managed it in a way in which no one had contrived to manage it before by bringing it to a successful conclusion. Mr. Norman Davis is an extreme advocate of the League of Nations principle. Not only has he done this great work, but he told us he thought the fact that an American had done it would have great weight on opinion in the United States of America on the question of joining the League or not. He said they would be proud in America that an American had succeeded in this work at Memel. Only formal steps have now to be carried through in settlement of the whole question. It ended in the Poles, I will not say being satisfied—that would not be the right 92 way to put it—but in the Poles acquiescing in a Treaty being made between Lithuania and the four Allied Powers for bringing an end to a question which had been for a long time a source of international friction and trouble.
Now let me come to the next point, Corfu. When, some time ago, the Corfu incident took place, a question arose as to the jurisdiction of the League of Nations to interfere under conditions of that kind. I need hardly say that that raised very acute international questions, and it was resolved, I forget whether it was on the Motion of the noble Lord or not, though I think it was, that the very difficult legal and juridical matters which arose should be referred to a Jurists' Committee. A Jurists' Committee was constituted on which the English representative was one very well known to your Lordships' House and an ex-Lord Chancellor, Lord Buckmaster. The answers of the jurists came back for acceptance by the Council. They were unanimously accepted en bloc by the Council, but with certain reservations made particularly by Mr. Branting on behalf of Sweden. Still, they were unanimously accepted.
§ LORD PARMOOR
I am much obliged to the noble Viscount. Mr. Branting only made a reservation as to one of them, and the reservation he made came to this, if I may say so—I speak with the greatest respect to Mr. Branting—that the jurists had been unable to solve a question which he desired to be solved because they said, and I think said quite rightly, that in answering the question regard must be had to the particular circumstances of each case and you could not make a mere abstract answer.
But I think the most important matter which happened in regard to this was a statement made by Signer Salandra, the Italian representative. Your Lordships are aware that in the case of Corfu a difficulty had arisen between the Italian Government and the League, and this is what Signor Salandra said. It is so remarkable that I think I ought to read it:—I adhere to the proposal that the Council should approve as a whole the conclusions of the Special Commission of Jurists. As far as I am concerned, I do not 93 wish to make any declaration or reservation."—That is to say, he adopted them entirely—The Royal Government of Italy and the delegate who has the honour personally to represent the Royal Government hope that this attitude may be regarded as a proof of their loyal adhesion to the essential principles of the Covenant, and of their desire that the League of Nations shall develop still further its beneficent activities with the object of maintaining the best possible relations between civilised peoples, and of assuring the peace of the world.I think that is a very notable public expression of opinion coming from Italy and from Signor Salandra in reference to a matter in which the Italian nation was interested at the time—namely, what is known as the Corfu incident. I should like to add this, if I may, about the work of the League and of the Council. No one put his heart more into the matter and no one gave more intense co-operation, certainly in these matters, than the Italian representative.
Next, we come to what are called the administrative Commissions, and I want to say several words in reference to one of them because it raised the Saar question, which is a matter of great importance. First of all, however, let me deal with the question of Danzig. Difficulties had arisen as regards finding positions or places in the port of Danzig where the Polish Government could have their munitions or war material. It was a difficult matter. They wanted them to be rather in the centre. Danzig naturally desired that they should be removed to a more distant spot. The representative of Great Britain upon the Commission which dealt with this question was Admiral Aubrey Smith. We are very much indebted to him, and the whole Council of the League and this country are indebted to him, I am sure, for the admirable work he did in the settlement of this question. I think it has been settled now. The arrangement come to was that what he thought was right should be carried out, although for a period of six months the existing conditions, which in themselves are not satisfactory, are allowed to continue. After this period of six months, the suggestions made by Admiral Aubrey Smith will be carried out, and I think they will provide a satisfactory solution of the matter.
I am sorry that I have been so long, but the business of the Council was very important. I want now to speak 94 especially of what arose in reference to the Saar. I have always felt, and I still feel, that there has been a good deal to criticise in what has been done by the Council or Assembly of the League in regard to the Saar question. I do not mean to speak critically, but the matter has been an extremely difficult one and has not operated entirely in a satisfactory manner. No one has worked harder than the noble Viscount (I think in the right direction), but, at the same time, I do not think we have yet, arrived at quite the best solution.
There are three points, and one has to consider the mutter under each of these three heads. The first, point, and perhaps the smallest one in some senses, yet still an important one, is as regards the attitude of the Rhineland Commission in not allowing certain inhabitants of the Saar to leave the Saar district, because in order to leave it at all they would have to go across the Rhineland occupied district. There can be no doubt whatever that under the provisions of the. Treaty of Versailles, which I have here, as regards the Saar, persons living there are prima facie entitled to go over the occupied territory, and in and out as they desire. But it was alleged, as regards particular individuals, that they could not be allowed across the occupied territory for fear that they should raise disturbance and trouble in the occupied territory itself.
That was a matter which was considered by a large number of jurists—I recollect that Sir Frederick Pollock was of their number—who gave their opinion upon it. Fortunately, the matter has now been settled, and settled in the best possible manner. The restriction has been withdrawn, so that these Germans, who were practically interned, can now go in and out of the occupied district. But provision is made that while they are passing through the occupied district they shall not leave the station premises. It seems a simple and common-sense solution, but it has taken some years to arrive at it. When this matter was being approached by the Council at our last meeting at Geneva we were told that this settlement had been arrived at, and that it was satisfactory to all parties; therefore one of the difficulties with which we had to deal had been removed by a sensible arrangement.
95 The next question was that of the local gendarmerie in the Saar. Upon this point I may perhaps read to your Lordships what the Treaty says. It says this:Only a local gendarmerie for the maintenance of order may be established.That is in the Saar district, and the Treaty goes on to say:It will be the duty of the Governing Commission to provide in all cases for the protection of persons and property in the Saar Basin.On the one hand there has only to be a local gendarmerie, and on the other there is the duty of the Governing Commission to protect persons and property in the Saar Basin. The difficulty always has been to have a local gendarmerie, and in the absence of a local gendarmerie the claim has been made—I do not want to suggest anything wrong about it—that, inasmuch as it was the duty of the Commission to provide in all cases for the protection of persons and property in the Saar Basin, they should for that purpose employ French troops.
What is the position at the present time? A proposal was made that the local gendarmerie should be increased by 500 members, which was an adequate increase for one year. It was then brought to the notice of the Council by Mr. Stephens, who is a Canadian and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that the funds would not allow of an increase to this extent in the present year. The reason stated was that there had been considerable interference with the railway traffic on the one side, and on the other side there had been a strike for one hundred days in the mining districts of the Saar. As the British representative I raised what protest I could against postponing the increase of the members of the local gendarmerie, and ultimately, on the proposition of the British representative, it was resolved that if the funds allowed in this current year a greater addition should be made to the local gendarmerie than had been allowed for in the original financial proposals for the Saar territory. I wish that we could have done more, but that was the most that could be done. However, a promise was made that the local gendarmerie should be made adequate and efficient as quickly as possible. When that is done any necessity for French troops will disappear.
96 There is another matter upon which there has been considerable discussion, and it is this. The Governing Commission of the Saar is appointed entirely by the Council of the League. It consists of five members, one of whom is to be representative of the Saar inhabitants. For some reason or other it has been difficult to get an adequate representative of the Saar inhabitants, and so long ago as the end of last year the noble Viscount took what I think was a right course, in a certain sense the only course. He said that so far as Great Britain was concerned we were desirous that the person representing the Saar inhabitants should be a real representative of the district which he was expected to represent. Having come to that conclusion, he suggested three possible names of representatives who would come within that category. One of them was Herr Kossmann, and after many inquiries by the Foreign Office—and the noble Viscount himself, I think, made such inquiries as he could—it was, in fact, agreed that Herr Kossmann on this occasion should be selected as the representative of the Saar inhabitants.
Considerable criticism has been levelled against the British representative because, as I understand, he did not insist on some other person being chosen. I had an opportunity of meeting the Saar inhabitants through their representatives. Of their thirty representatives on the Advisory Council twenty-three were at the interview that I had. I think they realised—for they expressed gratitude afterwards—that not only had this matter been settled for this occasion, but had been settled wisely so far as their interests were concerned. As so much criticism has been levelled against Herr Kossmann, I would ask your Lordships who possess a copy to look at the second annexe of the Report, where you will find a list of the recommendations of Herr Kossmann, which no doubt made the noble Viscount, and quite rightly, bring him forward as a suitable representative of the Saar inhabitants.
This matter has been so much criticised and discussed that I think it is only fair to Herr Kossmann that I should read one or two passages to show what an adequate person he is to act as the 97 Saar representative. This is what is stated:—Herr Kossmann was in early youth a miner in the Saar Valley. Having joined the Miners' Trade Union he soon attracted the attention of the leaders of the Workmen's Croups, who sent him to Berlin to take a course in Political Economy at the Trade Union School there. In 1906 he became Secretary to the Saar Catholic Workmen's Association; in 1909 he was elected as a member of the Municipal Council of Neunkirchen; in 1912 he was elected to the German Reichstag, of which he remained a member till 1918. After the revolution of 1918 he was elected to the German Constituent Assembly at Weimar. In the meantime he had been appointed Chairman of the German Catholic Miners' Group. During the military occupation of the Saar, after the Armistice, Herr Kossmann organised a Commission for the fixing of food prices, and an Economic Council, and was himself placed at the head of both organisations. When the Governing Commission of the, Saar Valley established the Advisory Council of the Saar Population they unanimously chose Herr Kossmann, in view of his trade union. Catholic and political affiliations and experience, as the most representative person they could find to preside over the deliberations.It seems ridiculous to criticise any one with such qualifications as these as though he were a mere outsider and one who did not represent the wishes of the Saar district. I was going to say that his recommendations were almost too good.
As a matter of fact, the noble Viscount and the Foreign Office in this country took the greatest possible care to select the man they thought most suitable to represent the Saar district. After considerable negotiations they came to an agreement with M. Hanotaux on bealf of the French, and Herr Kossmann was unanimously adopted, as he ought to have been having regard to the care taken in his selection and the arrangement come to between the noble Viscount, my predecessor, and the French representative. Surely the suggestion that has been made that the wishes of the inhabitants of the Saar district have been disregarded by the selection of Herr Kossmann are dispelled by the information I have been able to give to your Lordships. It was actually stated in some papers that Herr Kossmann was a man to whom no responsibility could be entrusted; that he was a man without authority and without knowledge of the Saar people. The contrary is the fact.
There was one other representative to be elected, and it was suggested that he should be either a Spaniard or a Norwegian. 98 So far as the Spaniard was concerned his recommendations were extremely good. I say that because I voted in the minority. I did not vote for the Spaniard, I preferred the Norwegian. But no one can possibly say that the Spaniard was not properly qualified to be placed on the Saar Governing Commission. I am very anxious that this matter should be clearly understood because I think it would be a distinct dereliction of duty for any member of the Council not to take the greatest possible care to see that the Governing Commission of the Saar Valley is properly constituted in accordance with the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles.
The only other mtter to which I need refer is under the head of "Protection of minorities." I doubt whether any more difficult question if thrown upon the Council of the League than the adequate protection of minorities in particular countries. There are districts in Central Europe where natural affection towards minorities is somewhat cold at the present time. There are great difficulties particularly between Poland and Germany. I should tell your Lordships what the conditions were because a very large step has beer taken towards a settlement of these difficulties. It is to the credit of Poland that we have been able to carry the settlement as far as we have. In the first place, there was a difficulty with regard to German colonists, as they were called, who had property in the new Poland and who had been expelled without adequate compensation. The question whether they ought to have been expelled or not was brought before the International Tribunal at The Hague, and they held that the Poles had no right to treat German colonists in this way.
Fortunately, this matter was referred to a Committee of which one of the members was a member of your Lordships' House, a great international jurist, Lord Phillimore. When we were at the Council at Geneva we had before us the Report of this Committee of which Lord Phillimore was a member, and the matter has now been referred back to them. I have, no doubt that, having been so referred, it will be brought to a proper and satisfactory settlement. Meanwhile, in answer to questions which I raised, the Poles have undertaken not to expel any more German colonists and to pro- 99 vide compensation for those who have been expelled. The difficulty in cases of this kind is to set up adequate machinery, but Lord Phillimore made a suggestion which was received with universal satisfaction—namely, that you might have the aggregate amount to be paid settled and leave it to the Committee to divide that aggregate amount. If you were to have these compensation cases dealt with separately it would be years and years before a matter of this kind would be settled.
The difficult question of nationality, particularly between Germany and Poland, has been causing trouble for a long time, but this is now on the way towards adequate settlement. It is pro vided that the two countries shall endeavour to settle this matter between themselves, but if it is not settled within a specified time, then an arbitrator has been appointed with power of settlement; the arbitrator being the head of the Court appointed by Poland and Germany in Northern Silesia. He is a man who has the confidence of both parties. I hope that this question of nationality will ultimately be settled as between Germany and Poland, and then one cause of friction and trouble will be removed. I need not trouble your Lordships about other matters, important as they are, "Slavery," "Social questions," and "Opium traffic." I have already trespassed on your time so long as I ought, but let me say one word in conclusion as to the future.
One naturally looks to the future as regards the League of Nations, and looking to the future in the light of experience one cannot help feeling that the one absolutely important matter is that it should become all-inclusive. You cannot really have a League of Nations in the deeper and truer sense when such a country as Germany is not in it. It really is impossible to deal adequately with these questions, the deeper questions, until Germany is a Member. Your Lordships will have noticed that in almost every question to which I have referred the German Republic has been interested and affected. I hope everything has been done to promote justice and equity. Rut you want something more. You want the cooperation and assistance of the countries and peoples concerned. You want not 100 only to ensure that they are properly treated, but you want to have the knowledge which you can only derive from the countries and peoples themselves. That is why I look forward with hope as regards the future of the League of Nations. Enthusiastic as I have been in the past in upholding the principle of the League. I must say, as the result of my journey to Geneva, that I am more hopeful now of its ultimate success than I have ever been.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
My Lords, I think your Lordships are indebted, not only to my noble friend Lord Buxton for raising this matter, but to the Lord President for the very full and interesting account which he has given of the proceedings of the Council of the League at Geneva. Personally, I am delighted to hear of an experience which, I believe, is that of all who go to Geneva. They come back very much stronger believers in the League than they were before they went. I remember one of the noble Lord's colleagues, Lord Chelmsford, making a very striking speech at the Assembly in 1922, in which he explained that he had come to Geneva very doubtful as to the desirability of the League, that he had been convinced by the proceedings of the Assembly that it was doing a very good work, and that he was confident of its success and its future usefulness.
I think all of your Lordships who read the Report which Lord Parmoor has drawn up and circulated will be struck, first of all, with the extraordinary number and variety of the subjects with which the League deals. If it were not (with all deference to my noble friend, Lord Newton) that the hour is rather late, I should like to read to your Lordships merely the titles of this extraordinary variety of subjects—the administrative matters, such as those to which the noble Lord has referred, the reconstruction matters, such as those concerned with Hungary, Austria, and so on, and a great many other headings dealing with humanitarian matters, economic matters and matters of every kind. That is, in one sense, a very desirable thing, for I am all for magnifying the League's office. Rut it raises two questions which I think are worthy of your Lordships' attention.
In the first place, I will venture to put a question to the Government. Here is 101 this great variety of work being done, work of immense importance in almost every department of human activity. I should like to ask the noble Lord opposite whether he is yet satisfied that the departmental organisation here is adequate for the purpose. I do not express an opinion, because I am obviously not in a position to judge, but when I have had the extreme pleasure of visiting the noble Lord at the Foreign Office on official business, as I have done once or twice, I certainly have not been struck with the magnificence of the arrangements that are there made for dealing with League matters. The noble Lord will be aware of the kind of thing to which I am referring. I do not wish to press him unduly, but I hope he will not be weary in welldoing, and will do his utmost to see that the Government, which I am very glad to know have put the League in the forefront of their foreign policy, will ensure that tire departmental arrangements are adequate, and more than adequate, and are such as will impress the casual observer that the Government really mean business when they say that they regard the work of the League as the most important element in their foreign policy.
Then there is another point. The League of Nations does all these various things, and its work increases from year to year. It is an organism, and a live organism, and, like all live organisms, it grows. I think that is inevitable. I do not want to see it grow too fast in the number of subjects that it takes on, though I am very anxious that it should grow as fast as possible in the importance of the topics with which it deals. Nevertheless, it does grow. I observe in this Report that it has taken up two new subjects. One is an international arrangement for the legal assistance of the poor—an excellent thing, and I have nothing to say against it. I see that the funds for it are to be provided by some outside source. Further, the League is taking over some organisation for child welfare. That also is most admirable, and I have no doubt that it is a matter in which an international organisation can do the greatest possible service. But that will mean certain additional expenditure.
I have never shared the view that the League of Nations is extravagant. On 102 the contrary, I believe that the amount of money that is spent on the League represents work done with the utmost economy. When you consider that the whole of this organisation works for all the nations of the world with something less than £1,000,000, including the cost of the Labour Office, and when you compare that sum with the ordinary expenditure of a public Department, I think any one who has any candour of mind will agree that the work is done with extraordinary economy. I do not regret that. Economy combined with efficiency is an admirable thing. But I do not want you to sweat the League, and if you are going to put more and more work upon it, as I think is inevitable, then you will have to face the difficulty of an increase of staff and a consequent increase of expenditure. The figures are small at present, but that is one of the points about which I feel anxious. I am not quite satisfied that you really have a machine which is adequate to deal effectively with all the multifarious activities which the League now undertakes.
That doubt, is particularly urgent in the ease of some of the League's administrative work. I have never attended or read of a Council of the League since it was started without finding that a large part of its time was consumed in administrative problems connected with Danzig and the Saar. I am not sure whether under the Memel arrangement, which I heartily welcome, additional administrative work will not devolve upon the League. Certain administrative duties were also put upon the League, I think with the greatest possible wisdom, by the Treaty of Lausanne, though they mainly consist in appointing individuals, which is not a very serious matter. But I am not quite satisfied that the organisation of the League is really adequate to deal with these administrative problems. It is a difficult point. They have a most admirable official, a Norwegian gentleman, whom I have no doubt my noble friend came across—M. Colban—whom it is impossible to overpraise for the admirable work which he does. But, at the same time, to deal with day to day administrative problems needs a very considerable organisation, and I am not sure whether that problem has really been solved.
103 I see, for instance, that at this particular Council no fewer than nine different questions came up to be dealt with from Danzig—it is true that several of them were postponed—and at every Council the same sort of thing has happened. You have a very difficult administrative problem to deal with at Danzig, with its Poles and Germans, and Very complicated problems have also arisen in the Saar, concerning which I cordially welcome the noble Lord's observations. I was very glad to hear his warm and, I think, quite just defence of the appointment of Herr Kossmann, but perhaps he will forgive me if I remind him that his attitude is in refreshing contrast to that which was, at any rate at first, adopted by the Prime Minister in the other House, where he spoke of the noble Lord as unfortunately having had to struggle with undisclosed arrangements made by his predecessor in connection with the Saar.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
It was explained to the extent that the suggestion that there was anything undisclosed was inaccurate. I do not want to make a grievance about it, but as a matter of fact there was no matter undisclosed. Everything I did at Paris in December was officially recorded at the Foreign Office, and was at the disposal of my successor from the outset.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
Nor do I gather that the noble Lord felt that it was a very difficult struggle which he had to make against the unfortunate arrangement which I was supposed to have made. I am sure it was the best appointment that could have been made at that moment. I am aware that there are gentlemen in the Saar who have criticised it, and others, but it is right to say—because I do not think it is always realised—that there is a section of opinion in the Saar which is not anxious that the Governing Commission should succeed. At the end of fifteen years the Saar inhabitants will have to make a decision. They will have to decide either for annexation to France, or for retrocession to Germany, or for a continuance of the present régime.
104 No one believes—I speak quite frankly—that they will decide for annexation to I France. That alternative may be completely set aside. They may decide for the maintenance of the existing régime, and it is very natural that those who are anxious for complete retrocession to Germany should be anxious also that the Saar régime should not be too great a success, so that their fellow-citizens may not be, as they think, misled into voting for a continuance of it. It is therefore not possible to say to some of the most energetic of the inhabitants of the Saar, "Whom do you want?" because they may decide for some one whose main object is to bring the thing into disorder. I certainly think that the inhabitants of the Saar should be consulted. It is very important that they should be. I do not think that we have reached the final solution of how you should appoint the Saar Member, but I am satisfied that this solution is not to be sought by taking the first person whom the loudest mouthed inhabitants press upon the Council.
I am not so happy about the gendarmerie. There is no doubt that the real criticism of the administration of the Saar is not what the Saar Commission has done, so far as the Government is concerned. I believe it has been a good Government and certainly a very economical Government. There has been no disturbance since it was installed, and on the whole I have never come across any evidence of anything like grave injustice. I believe it is a good Government on the whole, but undoubtedly its defect is that it has too much the appearance of being a French Government. I do not want to say a word against the French, but undoubtedly that is the thing which makes it unpopular with a large portion of the inhabitants, and anything which emphasises that, or makes it appear to be true, is unfortunate. That is why personally, and I am sure the noble Lord will agree with me, I am satisfied that the sooner the French garrison is withdrawn, or if it cannot be immediately withdrawn, diminished, the better.
I have never quite understood why it is necessary to keep so many troops there at all. The Saar is not a large place. It is not more than thirty or forty miles wide, and it has very admirable railway accommodation. I cannot see why it is 105 necessary to have troops there, or why they should not be just on the borders of the Saar, and not in the Saar itself. I venture to urge that upon the noble and learned Lord as a possible solution which he may consider for the future. As to the increase in the gendarmerie no doubt it is an expensive matter, and there are other difficulties with which the noble and learned Lord is probably familiar; for example, as to whether a native gendarmerie would be in all respects the best force to protect French property in the Saar.
One subject which the noble and learned Lord did not mention is the Decree against peaceful picketing. The noble Lord will remember that last summer, when the strike took place, there were two Decrees passed in a rather irregular manner. One has since been withdrawn. It created a lot of Press offences. The other was a Decree making peaceful picketing illegal. In July, or it may have been September, when these things were considered, there was a kind of—I will not say undertaking, but understanding, recorded rather tentatively in a Resolution of the Council, that all exceptional methods were to be withdrawn as soon as possible. They have withdrawn the larger ordinance, but they have never withdrawn the ordinance about peaceful picketing. There are great difficulties about the matter because sentiment on the Continent is not quite the same as it is in this country on the subject, and no doubt the Council would not be very warmly in favour of withdrawing that Decree. I hope, however, it is a matter which the noble and learned Lord will not lose sight of, and that he will press for its withdrawal as soon as practicable.
I do not propose to follow the noble Lord in his general review. There is one topic about which I may perhaps say a word, though he did not mention it, and that is Hungary. As the House is aware, that is exactly the same proceeding in its nature as what was done in the case of Austria. It is a similar attempt to save this State from financial and economic ruin. I hope it is going through. I believe that the noble and learned Lord was able to secure the final signature of the Protocol embodying the arrangement come to earlier in the year, and I am glad to see that these signatures have been affixed to the 106 Protocol. I think it is a remarkable instance of the atmosphere of the League to which the noble and learned Lord referred. I do not believe it would be easy to find greater racial differences than those which exist between the countries surrounding Hungary and Hungary itself, and yet all have come forward to help Hungary, and, in particular, not to use her misfortunes to aggrandise themselves or their interests. I think it is a very satisfactory result. I know that very good judges indeed thought that, whatever happened in Austria, it was very improbable that the League would ever succeed in obtaining a similar result for Hungary. Therefore, it is a matter upon which I think this House may congratulate itself, that the League has been able to carry through the second of these great, steps, which are, I think, the only two great reconstructive steps which have been made since the war.
I do not want to say anything about Memel or Jaworzina. If one may be pardoned for a somewhat impudent phrase, they may be described as two cases in which the League has wiped the eye, of the Ambassadors' Conference. They are two eases in which the Ambassadors' Conference failed to secure a settlement, and which the League has settled. I was glad to hear the reference which was made to Mr. Norman Davis, who has done admirable work in connection with Memel. He is a very distinguished American citizen, who really has been past all praise in the tact and judgment and energy with which he has pursued that task to a success.
I should like to say one word about one of the topics to which the noble Lord referred—namely, the answer of the Jurists' Commission on the Corfu incident. That is the final conclusion of that incident. We have dealt with it altogether. I never have been one of those who thought that the Corfu incident was otherwise than very satisfactory from a League point of view. I remember vehement criticisms being made upon it at the time. I remember particularly that Mr. Lloyd George wrote, for publication in America, a most violent attack on the whole thing. It was conceived with that indifference to fact, and that vehemence of statement and recklessness of consequences which are 107 characteristic of that gentleman's methods of controversy when he is dealing cither with a political opponent or with a Minister of a friendly country, and he concluded it with these words:—It has damaged the British name, it has destroyed the authority of the League of Nations.A more recklessly inaccurate statement has never been made. As a matter of fact, I believe that the incident has done a great deal to increase the authority of the League of Nations. And these final events show the extent to which that is true.
They show, in the first place, that the League did not feel itself too weak to tackle, an international controversy, even if one of the great Powers was engaged in it. That fact alone was of importance. It showed that, once the League took up a question, warlike developments ceased. They ceased instantly. There were no further warlike developments from the moment the matter was placed by the Greeks into the hands of the League. I think that the way the League dealt with it showed that the one desire that prevails at Geneva is to achieve a peaceful settlement of a matter, and that no question of corporate amour propre would interfere with it. The moment the two parties informed the Council of the League that they had agreed to go before another tribunal, the Council of the League Very properly said: "If you have agreed to take another tribunal, that is your affair: all we want is a peaceful settlement. By all means go to the tribunal." But they very rightly drew up, and recommended to the other tribunal, what they believed would be a just settlement of the dispute. And I venture to think that the real mistake that was made in the whole transaction was that the terms of that settlement were not adhered to in one important particular by the Conference of Ambassadors.
There were two difficulties which resulted from that article to which I have referred. A great deal was made of the fact that a great Power had challenged the competence of the League. I think too much was made of it even at the time, but the result is most satisfactory, as it happens. We have now had a reply from the jurists to whom were submitted three questions, raising, in effect, this 108 proposition: Is there any conceivable ground on which the competence of the League may be rejected, except the one mentioned in Article 15 itself, namely, that the matter affects the international jurisdiction of a country? The jurists—and there was an Italian jurist there also—have unanimously answered that there is no limit, except that, to the competence of the League in dealing with international disputes. That has now been laid down. It was accepted in the warmest language by everybody present at the Council, and it may now be safely asserted that it would be quite impossible for any Power to raise any question as to the competence of the League in an international dispute, whatever it might be, in the future.
Then there is the question of reprisals, to which the noble and learned Lord referred. That is a much more difficult question, and a much more doubtful question in international law. I am very sorry that my noble friend Lord Buckmaster is not here, because I should have very much liked to hear his views on the subject. But, in substance at any rate, you have got this decision—that where any reprisal is carried out by one Power against another, it is for the League to decide, if the dispute comes before it, whether that is a legitimate reprisal, or whether it is one which is, in substance, a resort to war. That decision really does give to the League a very large measure of authority, which perhaps it was doubtful whether it had before. I regard these replies of the jurists, and their acceptance by the League, as an immense step forward in the history of the League.
Taken with the very valuable and successful decisions of the International Court of Justice, they are an assertion, and more than an assertion—an exercise—of the judicial, law-making power of the League which will, I believe, be of great importance to the international law of the world. When I was in America I heard a great deal of the necessity of the codification of international law. I believe that is, in existing circumstances, a chimera which cannot be attained, but I do believe that the steady growth of international law, by judicial or quasi- judicial decision, is a most valuable gain, and will gradually build up a body of international law much more elastic and 109 flexible than that which now exists, and will have the great advantages of growth which we know in our own judicial system. I think the decisions of the jurists have been a great step forward in that direction.
The noble and learned Lord concluded by affirming his belief in the League, and by asserting that the League, was a living and a growing organism. I am sure that he is right, and there are three straws—perhaps more than straws—which seem to me very instructive. There are the very remarkable words used by the Italian representative, which I will not read again, as the noble and learned Lord has already read them, but I particularly refer to the phrase as to their desire that the League of Nations "shall develop still further its beneficent activities," which, as he very truly said—for I can entirely confirm him in that respect—the representatives of Italy have been instructed evidently to act upon, as their instructions in dealing with any matter which comes before the League. I say that that is a very important indication of the position which the League now holds.
There were some phrases used by Mr. Norman Davis, in his final observations on the Memel question, which seem to me equally important. He says that he has been very much gratified because this work has given good evidence of what the League of Nations has accomplished, which could not be otherwise accomplished, and he said:—It was naturally impossible to find a settlement that suited everyone, but I feel that my trip from America to Europe has been worth while, because it has proved to me that the League of Nations is doing what it was intended to do.I think that is a very valuable testimony from that very distinguished American who came from the other side of the Atlantic to see what the League is doing, and to assist in its work.
Perhaps I may, without indiscretion, add just one other instance. In the new 110 French Ministry I observe with great pleasure the inclusion of several well-known advocates of the League of Nations. M. Loucheur is a very strong believer in the League, as I know from personal conversations with him. M. de Jouvenel is probably the keenest supporter of the League among the public men of Franco at this moment since M. Léon Bourgeois has almost retired from public life; and, finally, there is Colonel Fabry, who was sitting the other day with me on the Sub-Committee on Armaments in Paris, and who has rendered immensely valuable service in assisting the work of that Committee and particularly in that of the draft. Treaty of Mutual Assistance. I think the fact that when a powerful Minister desires to strengthen his Ministry he should naturally turn, in France, to those who have distinguished themselves by their advocacy of the League of Nations is an indication—and, indeed, there are many other indications—of the great growth in the authority and prestige of the League in that country.
As to this country, the noble and learned Lord knows as well as I do that the position of the League is immensely strong. It is, I think, growing in strength every day. We have now evidence that it is growing in strength in two of the great countries of Europe, and that it has at any rate received an emphatic endorsement in an important part of its duties from a distinguished American citizen. These facts seem to me to afford good augury for the future. In congratulating the noble and learned Lord on the work which he was able to do in Geneva, I join with him in expressing confidence in the League and the firm belief that it is through the League, and through the League only, that we can hope for the eventual pacification of the world.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ House adjourned at a quarter past seven o'clock.