HL Deb 24 February 1926 vol 63 cc284-302

LORD PARMOOR had given Notice to move, That it is not desirable on the occasion of the application of Germany for admission to the League of Nations and to a permanent seat on the Council in accordance with the Locarno Treaty, to raise the question of the general reconstitution of the Council of the League or to further increase the numbers. the noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, I desire to call attention to a matter which very deeply affects the efficacy and efficiency of the League of Nations, and it is from that point of view that I desire to address your Lordships quite shortly this afternoon. Your Lordships will notice that I am not asking for any expression of opinion as to whether at some time or other it may be necessary to raise the question of the general reconstitution of the Council of the League, or to increase its numbers, but I do hope to give reasons which will induce your Lordships to consider that it is inopportune and undesirable to do so on the occasion of the entry of Germany into the League, having regard to the terms of the Treaty of Locarno.

The importance of the Council of the League is known, of course, to any one who has taken any part in the deliberations at Geneva and is known to no one more fully than to the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil of Chelwood, who, I understand, is to reply from the Government Benches on this occasion. The Council is really the pulse of the whole League machinery. That machinery could not be made effective or efficient without a Council so constituted as to be able to carry out the extremely heavy duties which are placed upon it from time to time. On the one hand, it is the executive agency of the Assembly of the League; indeed, it is the only executive agency there is. On the other hand, so far as my experience has gone, practically every question is formulated and reduced to a practicable shape by the Council before it is submitted to the Assembly of the League itself. In fact, the Assembly is the legislative body, and the Council is in the nature of an executive authority, which not only carries out the decrees remitted to it, but prepares the agenda on which the Assembly acts.

It is unfortunate, I think, at the present time that the notion should have come into existence that the reconstitution of the League is required owing to the necessity of some regrouping of the. Powers or of balancing rival interests. In my opinion any notion of that sort would be fatal to the efficacy of the spirit which ought to over-ride all other considerations, at the League of Nations; that is to say, the international spirit of a general friendliness and neighbourliness, quite apart from any suggestion of a special alliance or special understanding. I should have thought less of the possibility of any result of that kind had I not read with some apprehension the speech made yesterday at Birmingham by the Foreign Minister. I understood him to say in that speech that, although he recognised the strength and validity of the protest made not only in this country but outside it against any reconsideration of the constitution of the League at this time, he was not prepared to take any steps so far as this country is concerned for making it certain that at this next coming meeting of the Council the only question to be considered in reference to the constitution of the League or the Council would be the entry of Germany itself. In fact, if I understood him, he said it was within the cognisance and knowledge of people who had been engaged in the League that for some time questions had been raised as to the necessity for reconstituting the Council by the accession of additional Members.

That may or may not be so. I can only say that in my experience, although it was a matter which was undoubtedly discussed, it was not one which had become in any way a living issue during the time I had the honour of being on the Council of the League. Whether it has been discussed or not at any other time, this is certainly not the occasion for bringing forward a question of this character and magnitude. The reason given for it by the Foreign Minister appeared to me to be destructive of his own argument. He said it was well known at the time of the Locarno Treaty that the question of the reconstitution of the League and the increase of its numbers was under consideration. What passed at Locarno would be known, of course, to the Foreign Minister. I can only say that outside Locarno the question was not one of adding to the permanent Members of the League, but a very different question. The question raised in that connection, as the noble Viscount knows very well, was the amendment of Article 4 of the Covenant in order to prevent the same Members being re-elected from year to year—which undoubtedly weakened the representative character of the League—and to provide that they should only be re-eligible after a period during which the particular States had not been represented on the Council. That, of course, is a very different matter.

There is a further and, as I think, a more conclusive answer. Had this suggestion been a matter for real consideration at the time of the Treaty of Locarno we should expect to find some reference to it either in the terms of the Treaty itself or in the information supplied to the public when that Treaty was signed last summer. There is nothing of the kind. The only reference of any sort in the Treaty of Locarno is to the entry of Germany, which is referred to in Article 10. Until Germany has entered the League the Treaty of Locarno itself does not come into force and is not effective. Surely, in circumstances of that kind, silence negatives the supposition, at any rate so far as the outside world is concerned, that the general reconstitution of the Council of the League was made in any way a condition of the Locarno terms. It was well known, of course, and rightly known, that the entry of Germany into the League implied that Germany was to have a permanent place on the Council, and to that extent the numbers of the Council would have to be enlarged. At present, as your Lordships know, there are four permanent Members of the Council, and they would have to be increased to five. As a result of that the whole Council would be increased from ten to eleven. But so far as we know—no doubt the noble Viscount will tell us if we are misinformed—there is no indication from beginning to end of the Treaty of Locarno that any other question was to be considered at the time of the entry of Germany into the League except the conditions of the entry of Germany itself. It is obviously important from wide points of view that this position should be maintained.

I think it is unfortunate, but I suppose that everyone has seen some of the expressions used in France—I will not go beyond that—which would almost appear to threaten what has been called the friendly spirit of Locarno. I hope that expressions of that kind will be only transitory in their character, and that they do not really express the settled opinion of France. But outside France, if we take the other countries who are Members of the League, it surely is not fair or right to them that a question of this importance should be raised at the present time. The noble Viscount will know that a question of this sort should be raised for the first time in the Assembly, and that it is only after the Assembly has allowed the principle that the detail would go to the Council for settlement. That would enable all that measure of public discussion which is essential on a question of this kind to take place.

These matters must not be determined by understandings between particular Powers. They must not be wrapped up in any way in regional or sectional undertakings. They must, in their essence, be based upon the necessity of complete impartiality in the League, and that complete impartiality can only be maintained when, in a case of reconstitution, the whole matter comes forward for public and open discussion. When I say "public and open discussion" I mean that what goes on at Geneva in these matters is open to public discussion, whereas what may go on at Locarno in the way of understandings is not known to countries other than those concerned in the understandings. The noble Viscount is thoroughly cognisant of the whole machinery and the importance of the position of the Council, and I would like him to give us information upon this: Is the attitude of Great Britain to be cast on the side of determining the one factor, and the only factor, which is dealt with in the Treaty of Locarno, the entry of Germany, or is it to be thrown on the side of opening up the reconsideration at this date both of the constitution of the League and the increase of its numbers?

No one knows better, I think, than the noble Viscount does that when the question of the increase of numbers arises there also arises a question as between the permanent and the elected Members, and there is really no room at the present time for the consideration of any additional permanent Member on the Council of the League. Germany brings the number to five. It has been realised for a long period that the permanent Members should not exceed seven, and so far as the other two are concerned, one of them is the United States. It is of the greatest importance for the future of the League not only that the United States should enter, but that they should have, as they must have, a permanent place on the Council. If you once go outside what are called the Great Powers and have what I might almost call a scramble for the Council, whether permanent or elected, then no greater harm could be done to the future of the League of Nations, which depends for its strength end impartiality upon a Council in which there is no question of grouping or arrangement but in which the sole spirit is one of international peace and equality of treatment to all countries concerned. I beg to move.

Moved, That it is not desirable on the occasion of the application of Germany for admission to the League of Nations and to a permanent seat on the Council in accordance with the Locarno Treaty, to raise the question of the general reconstitution of the Council of the League or to further increase the numbers.—(Lord Parmoor.)


My Lords, it is satisfactory to know that the entrance of Germany into the League, and her further entrance into her proper position, in the Council, is apparently now to be unconditional. That one can infer from the language of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs yesterday. One has also the knowledge that, at any rate at this moment, Sweden would interpose her veto upon any other addition to the Council than Germany, and election to a permanent seat on the Council must be by a unanimous vote. So far those who are interested in the League of Nations in this country, the members of that great Union of which the noble Viscount opposite is a leading officer, and which has on its books as presidents or patrons the names of past and present Prime Ministers, the League of Nations Union—so far, I think, those who conduct the affairs of that Union will be satisfied, but they, and all people in this country who are not taking a direct part in politics as Government or Opposition, are still not happy at the position of things.

There are two quite different matters, as it seems to me, to consider. The first is one rather of the order of practical importance. It concerns the efficacy of the Council. For that purpose, as the noble Lord who has just spoken has pointed out, it ought to be treated as au executive committee. It should be compact, small, able to be summoned at early notice, and as it has to be unanimous, there should be as little opportunity as possible for division. It has always to be remembered that if in the modern state of the world you have any body or society which is of any importance and which has not a strict rule as to limit of members, there are always States or corporations or people pressing to be added, or people pressing that States or individuals should be added. Any one who wants to keep a body small has to make the door that opens into the room move on the slowest hinges and in the heaviest manner. Possibly you almost want to bolt and bar the door to keep such an assembly within proper limits. I think probably our best example is the Cabinet of this country, which grew and grew till, during the War, you had to make a Cabinet of a Cabinet, a process which has been gone through with many other similar bodies. What was intended to be the nucleus has grown so large that you have had to insert a nucleus inside it.

Therefore it is very important that not one single additional unit should be admitted to this Council unless it is necessary. We have already increased the non-permanent Members from four to six. We add Germany as a Great Power. We hope that the time will not be long before the United States will feel that its position outside the League of Nations, flanked only by two supporters, Russia and Mexico, will be an intolerable position. We hope that she will then come into the League and, of course, have a place as a principal Power. You raise your five Great Powers to six, and some day, I dare say, not in the time of many of us perhaps, Russia will come in, and your Great Powers will be increased to seven. You have already six non-elected Members. You may be requested to add to those in order to balance the seven Great Powers, and you make what is now ten and will soon be eleven up to thirteen or fourteen at least, and that is a quarter of the whole body of nations. Is that a wise body to have to do prompt, discreet, perhaps for a time secret administrative action? I venture to submit to your Lordships that it is most desirable to keep that body as small as possible.

There is another consideration, which I have not yet seen mentioned; it concerns the election of Judges to the Permanent International Tribunal. We elect those Judges for nine years and there will be a fresh election in the course of four or five years. You have to consider how those. Judges are elected. Those who have followed this matter will remember that the project of having an International Tribunal broke down at both The Hague Conferences because the Great Powers, quite reasonably, said: "We are not going to have a number of smaller States log-rolling in order to put their Judges on the Tribunal and exclude ours," and also because the smaller States said: We are not going to be put in a position of inferiority. When the Covenant of the League of Nations was formed one of the first acts of the Council was to appoint a body of jurists to meet at The Hague and frame a scheme for the International Court, which was accepted by the Council and by the Assembly. I had the honour of being the representative of Great Britain on that body. We were faced at once by the old difficulty. The smaller States said: "We must have equal votes"; the greater States said: "That is quite impossible." The genius of Mr. Elihu Root invented a solution. I hail the advantage of suggesting a technical improvement and so my own name got affixed to the scheme, which is often called the Root-Phillimore scheme. The plan was that the Council and Assembly generally should elect in this way. The great States have votes on the Assembly and votes on the Council, and they are very powerful votes on the Council. The great States and the elected smaller States have thus two votes and all the others one, since no Judge is elected except by the joint vote of both. In that way there is a practical certainty that Great Britain and France and Italy and Japan may be pretty certain of having a representative on the body of permanent Judges. But if you water the Council you go far to diminish that protection, which is by no means too much at the present moment. Those are all reasons why I think it is very undesirable to add to the Council.

The next reason is the old one, the difficulty of drawing the line. Let me consider some of the States which have been suggested as suitable to become permanent Members. I begin with Spain. There is the romance of Spain, the wonderful history of Spain, the charm of her country and people. We would all wish to give Spain as honourable a place as we could, but from 1815 until near the end of the century there were five Great Powers in Europe. It is from the idea of these five Great Powers that the idea of the principal States in this Covenant is derived—Great Britain, France, Austria-Hungary, Prussia and Russia. Spain was not reckoned as a Great Power. But Spain then was a far greater Power than she is now. Spain then had Cuba and Porto Rico and the Philippines and she had not lost her continental Empire in South America and Mexico. Yet Spain was not treated then as a Great Power. Now she is unhappily shorn of so much of her power it is suggested that she should be treated as a Great Power.

Take Poland, a very large country with 28 millions of inhabitants and very considerable resources. Yes, and very likely to be a great clement for peace because she has only one defensible frontier in the direction of Czecho-Slovakia. On all other sides she has no defence except the courage of her people. But Poland has no Fleet and no access to the sea except through the corridor to Danzig. It is a country which it is ludicrous to think of as playing a part in the affairs of America, Asia or Africa. Her influence, almost her very name, is unknown to some of the peoples of some countries in the world. Her influence is European and must be left at that. Poland is a great and growing country and I trust she will become very powerful, because I think she will be a powerful element for peace. But she was divided into three portions for over a hundred years and her people cannot have had time to get together into a homogeneous unity. In fact, they have been fighting against each other. The Poles in the Russian service were fighting their brother's in the German service and in the Austro-Hungarian service. They have to unite and form some great coherent mass. They have their financial troubles still, and I do not think they are by any means equal to other Powers that may be named.

I come to the third Power and the one which in my judgment has the greatest claim, and that is Brazil. Brazil is not only a very powerful country, a very rich and very prosperous country, but a country with unlimited powers of growth. She has had a seat from the beginning as one of the elected Powers of the Assembly, and long before the question of Poland was raised she was claiming to be considered as a permanent Power But Brazil, though a great Power, is not so much greater than the Argentine. Argentine is sulky already about the League of Nations, and what do you suppose the effect will be on the Argentine if Brazil is made a permanent Member and Argentine, possibly, does not get a seat at all? You may say, admit Argentine and Brazil, but what about Chile? These A.B.C. States of South America, as they have been called, have all claimed to be considered as leading bodies. Finally, Brazil is Portuguese-speaking, and all the rest of South America is Spanish-speaking. Do you think it will be satisfactory to the rest of South America if Brazil has a permanent seat? You can, of course, say, admit all these countries, but in that ease where are you going to draw the line, where are you going to shut the door? I do not say that some time or other, as the French say, à son corps dèfendant, one might not have to admit a State here and there, but for Heaven's sake do not let us do it until we are absolutely forced to do it.

I come to the other question, which is a more serious one. The reason for this agitation is evidently a distrust of Germany and an uneasiness on the part of Poland. If we are to treat the Council as a cockpit in which people are to be equally balanced so as to have fair fights we might as well not have the League of Nations at all. I was very much struck by an article in one of the South African papers which, I think, put the matter very tersely when it said: If the Council is to become a cockpit, the honest Dominions had better be out of it altogether, and out of the League, too. For Heaven's sake do not let us do that which Lord Grey in his book has pointed out so clearly; do not let us begin with an atmosphere of suspicion, leading then to tension, to rival armaments and to war.

Finally, what is Poland afraid of Your Lordships will remember that whenever any nation not on the Council has its affairs brought before the Council it is entitled to sit upon the Council. Perhaps I may be allowed to trouble your Lordships with a paragraph in Article 4, which runs: Any member of the League not represented on the Council shall be invited to send a Representative to sit as a member at any meeting of the Council during the consideration of matters specially affecting the interests of that Member of the League. Poland has availed herself already of that clause. She has been present at meetings of the Council where her affairs have been discussed, has sat for that purpose as a member of the Council, and is therefore always able to be protected and 'o protect herself—not to ask France to be her champion—if by bad luck such protection may be necessary. I deprecate from the bottom of my heart this atmosphere of distrust and suspicion, this idea of mutual cheeks and balances, to which this agitation seems to lead. I hope and trust that His Majesty's Government will not lend themselves to it.


My Lords, there is, I think, one important feature which is common not only to the discussion that is now proceeding in your Lordships' House but to the discussion that preceded it, and that is that it would be most unwise to press His Majesty's Government to declare themselves more fully than they wish to do on matters so delicate and so difficult as these two matters which have been before your Lordships' House this afternoon. I think that it would be embarrassing to them, and therefore an action which I am only too anxious to avoid, if we were to say anything which might snake the position more difficult for them than it is at the present time; and, if that is their position with regard to the official point of view, so also it exists to some extent with regard to those who speak unofficially. My own words shall be guarded and few, but there is, I think, one important omission which, however much I may violate the rules of order in your Lordships' House, ought to be repaired with regard to the last discussion. That is to express the pleasure of your Lordships that the state of health of the noble and learned Earl, the Secretary of State for India, has allowed him to appear again in your Lordships' House, and to add our hope that he may be able to attend quite regularly to his duties in the future

I pass to the immediate question that is before your Lordships' House at the present time. I think we can fairly congratulate His Majesty's Government upon the prospect which they have achieved of bringing to fruition the results of the Treaty of Locarno, one portion, and one of the most vital portions, of which was the provision for the admission of Germany into the League of Nations, and I am sure that this will be a matter upon which all parties may join in congratulating His Majesty's Government when the full policy of Locarno comes to fruition. Meanwhile I return for the moment to the question of pressing His Majesty's Government upon this point. I am bound to say that, having regard to a great deal that has appeared in the newspapers lately, it has almost seemed unnecessary to raise this discussion in your Lordships' House this evening, and, if it were not unnecessary, one might almost say that it was an unwise step to take. But I can well imagine that in difficult cases of this kind, however unwilling His Majesty's Government may be to express any official opinion, it may still be a source of some strength to them that the unofficial view should be conveyed to them in no uncertain terms and that they should come to know exactly what it is that unofficial people in this country are thinking.

I think I may fairly say that the views of my noble friends and myself are well known to your Lordships. A letter was written to The Times by Viscount Grey of Fallodon the other day, and I think it would be difficult to add anything to the wise terms of that communication. If anything more were necessary, I think that it was said at a meeting of the Parliamentary Branch of the League of Nations Union at the House of Commons the other day. To that which was said on those two occasions I really do not think that it is possible for unofficial people to add anything useful, and certainly they can say nothing better than was said on both those occasions. Therefore it is that I would say to the noble Viscount who represents His Majesty's Government that, while I do not in any way press him to say more than he wishes to say tins afternoon, I am quite sure that he will allow us on some subsequent occasion to express more fully what we feel upon this subject.


My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the noble Earl who has just, spoken for the consideration that he has shown in his speech and for his recognition that it is very difficult indeed for a member of the Government at this stage to say very much on the question that has been raised by the noble and learned Lord. I certainly fully reciprocate his hope that on some future occasion, if the noble Earl or any other member of your Lordships' House desires, we may have a fuller and more unembarrassed debate on this question, for I do recognise most fully that the question is one of very great importance. That, I think, is unquestioned. I do not disagree—though I am not sure that I should have agreed with everything that the noble Lord opposite has said about the functions of the Council—with his main proposition of the immense importance of the Council to the working of the League. I do not think it very safe to press analogies of municipal government and to speak of the Assembly as the legislative body and of the Council as the executive body, but I think you may fairly say without any exaggeration that on the working of the Council to a very great extent depends the efficiency of the League, because undoubtedly it is a body which meets, as your Lordships know, far more frequently than the Assembly and is of much more manageable size, and unquestionably the matters that come before the Council are at least as important as—I will not say that they are more important than—those which come before the Assembly.

The question that has arisen goes back to the fundamental constitution of the Council. When the Council was trained at Paris it was decided that it would be desirable to have two classes of Members, the permanent and the non-permanent. If your Lordships look at the Covenant you will see that the permanent. Members consist of the representatives of the principal Allied and Associated Powers and that there were five of them (at that time we hoped that the United States would be one), while the non-permanent Members were four, and were to lie elected by the Assembly. The ground of selecting the five Members was not, of course, that they represented the principal Allied and Associated Powers, though that was a convenient way of describing them, but that they were the Powers which had the widest world-interests, and that therefore it was probable that any question which came before the Council was likely to affect them in some degree or other. It was, therefore, thought that they ought to be present at all meetings of the Council. That was the broad principle on which they were selected, and that was the way in which their selection was defended, because it was not with all Powers very acceptable that there should be two classes of Members.

It was no doubt on that principle, when the question of the application and admission of Germany arose, that it was generally thought that Germany clearly came within that class of Power with so many interests all over the world that she ought to be present at all discussions. It was openly agreed that when she came in she would be elected as a Member of the Council, and that the necessary steps would be taken under the Covenant to ensure that that should be done. I think there is one point in the noble Lord's speech, and one argument, which I am unable to accept. He treated the matter as if the admission of Germany to the Council was the thing which gave rise to the desire to enlarge the permanent membership by the admission of other States.


Not "gave rise to the desire" but "the occasion" were my words.


Even that is not a perfectly accurate way of putting it. The truth is rather different. The question of the admission of other Members to be permanent Members has been for a very long time debated at the Assembly and at the Council. I remember there was a very acute discussion as long ago as 1921. I do not desire to go back on the details of it, for they would not be relevant, nor would it be discreet, perhaps, but the matter was discussed, and Lord Balfour, who was the British Representative, took a very strong and decided view as to what ought to be done. That can be referred to, because no doubt it appears in the records of the League at that time.

I was surprised to hear the noble Lord say that it had not been a living issue when he was there. I was surprised at that, because I think the time when he attended was the only time when I did not, and on every other occasion I have always known that this question of certain States who thought they had claims to be permanent. Members was constantly being discussed and debated, sometimes openly and sometimes in the course of private conversation. Therefore it would not be true to say, and I think it is a mistake that it should be thought to be true to say, that it was the admission of Germany which raised this question. What I think is much more true to say is what the Foreign Secretary said last night at Birmingham—namely, that this question had been postponed because it was felt that when Germany came in, and the constitution of the Council was under discussion, would be the proper time to deal with these questions, which had been constantly raised before that time. With regard to what the noble Lord said, that there was nothing about it in the Locarno Treaties, I agree. Nor do I read the speech of the Foreign Secretary as suggesting that there was anything about it in the Locarno Treaties. What I think he said, and what is clearly true, is that there was nothing against it in the Locarno Treaties, and that the claims of these various countries must have been present to the minds of those who discussed matters at Locarno, because it was familiar to those who had taken part in the discussion that there were these claims which some day would have to be dealt with.

I venture very earnestly to press upon your Lordships that in this matter the Representative of the British Government, who would be the Foreign Secretary, should be left a reasonably free hand to deal with the matter when he gets to Geneva. Of course, I do not want to cut down the rights of your Lordships, or the rights of the other House, to pass a Resolution or give any indication of your wishes, but at the same time it is an essential part of the good working of the League that the Representatives of the Government should not go there tied hand and foot to deal with the matter by instructions given them at home. They ought to go with instructions, of course, but they should have certain liberty of action, so that they can really debate the matter honestly and fairly with their fellows and the Representatives of other States, hear the arguments, and after hearing the arguments make up their minds, not what their instructions are, but what, on the whole, ought to be done, having in view the great purpose of the League—namely, the interests of peace, for which it exists. I hope, therefore, that your Lordships will not pass this Resolution, or indeed any Resolution which would tie the hands of the Government.

I hope Lord Phillimore will forgive me if I say that it is impossible for me to enter into a discussion of the claims of the various States. It would be in the highest degree indiscreet to discuss whether this or that claim is a proper claim for permanent membership of the Council. I only hope that this freedom will be allowed my right hon. friend, and I confess I was a little surprised at the attitude which the noble Lord opposite took. He at one time appeared to say that this matter ought to be left to free discussion at Geneva, and he deprecated rather strongly any settlement of it at Locarno or elsewhere—private settlement—but on the other hand he apparently desired that the British Government should say they would do their best to stifle any discussion of the matter if it were raised at Geneva. That seemed to me to be a misapprehension which runs through the discussion. It is not the British Government who have raised the question. If it is raised at all it will be raised by other Governments who desire to have it raised, and it is impossible for the British Government to go to the League of Nations and say to any other Government: "You have no right to raise this question of the composition of the Council, when another Member is being admitted to it."

Any other State has a perfect right to raise the question, and it would be for the British Government to make up its mind whether, on the whole, that other State had made out a case for permanent membership of the Council. I do not deny that certain broad principles should be observed by the British or any other Government in considering this question, and some of those broad principles may be laid down before our Representatives go, and some will be generally agreed, whether they are laid down or not. I agree that it would be disastrous if any idea grew up that this question of admitting this or that nation as a permanent Member was due to a desire to create a counterpoise to Germany. I do not think that there is any difference of opinion with regard to that idea in this country. The balancing of rival interests would indeed be disastrous to the Council. I am sure that if you once get the Council divided up into permanent groups who vote together on general questions of International affairs, then you have done a great deal to destroy the usefulness of the League.

I am certain that I may safely assure my noble friend Lord Phillimore that no action by the British Government will be dictated by distrust or suspicion of Germany or any other Power. Whatever action they take will not be motived by any such feeling as that. On that I think there can be no doubt at all. No Member must be admitted as a permanent Member to the Council as a counterpoise to another one. I think one may go as far as to say that it would be a grave mistake if permanent status were given to any particular country arbitrarily, without any reason at all. I have tried to describe to your Lordships what was the broad reason which underlay the original constitution of the Council. I do not say it is sacrosanct. The League must be prepared for changes. It must grow, if it is to be a living organism, and we cannot make it rigid, or absolutely stereotype its constitution or its procedure. Those principles may or may not be those which will permanently govern the constitution of the Council, but, if they are to be abandoned or modified, then they must be replaced by some other equally intelligible and satisfactory principles.

In the second place I think the noble Lord, Lord Phillimore, is right in saying that there will probably always have to be more or less a balance between the permanent and the non-permanent Members. I do not mean an absolute equality necessarily. That may or may not be so, hut it has not been so up till now. The original Council contemplated five permanent and four non-permanent Members; then, when the United States did not accept a seat, it was for some time four permanent and four non-permanent Members. Then, for reasons which seemed adequate at the time, two more non-permanent Members were added, and you had six non-permanent and four permanent Members. Therefore I do not mean absolute equality. But there has always been a kind of conception that you must not have an overwhelming majority of one compared with the other. That seems to me one of the principles which will have to be borne in mind very carefully in any change that is made. But subject to this kind of very broad general principles—and I am well aware that they are very broad and very general—there must be a very large variety of solutions which would be acceptable of this very difficult and delicate problem.

I am sure that nothing is gained by the kind of minatory language which has been used, not in this country—I have seen none of it in this country—but in certain other countries about what may and what may not happen if this or that is not done. That is not the way in which to approach a League problem, and those countries, if there are any, whose Governments should be so ill-advised as to indulge in language of that kind will not really find that their influence in the League or in international affairs is increased by action of that kind. But, subject to that, there are, as I say, a very considerable variety of solutions to this question. I can only tell your Lordships that the Government are considering them, and will consider most carefully all that has fallen from your Lordships during the debate this afternoon, and that, before my right hon. friend goes to Geneva, he will make up his mind, or rather the Government will make up their mind, as to what line he ought to take. I am sorry that, in these circumstances, I am unable to accept the noble Lord's Motion.


My Lords, I thank the noble Viscount for the considerate way in which he has dealt with this question. We all realise that there would be difficulties if ha sought to go into any detail. Speaking for myself the general principles which he enunciated, and particularly his description of the evils which would result from anything like grouping or balancing as between rival claimants on the Council, are entirely satisfactory. There is one matter in regard to which I am not quite sure that I understood him. The immediate object of the discussion which I raised was that this question should not be brought forward on the occasion of the entry of Germany into the League. My argument was that to raise it on that occasion would be likely to lead to the difficulties as regards the constitution of the Council which the noble Viscount deprecates quite as heartily as I should myself. But then he made the statement that it would be impossible for Great Britain to raise this question at the present time.


No, I did not say it would be impossible for Great Britain to raise this question. I said it would be quite impossible for Great Britain or any other Member of the League to prevent any Member of the League, certainly any Member of the Council, from raising this question, if they desired to raise it. It is not for us to dictate to other sovereign States what they should think right in this matter.


I was not suggesting that for a moment. We are all aware that in these matters each nation represented on the Council is absolutely entitled, in its sovereign rights, to take what attitude it pleases. There is no question about that. The only question which I sought to raise—and I do not desire to press the noble Viscount further—was as to any information which he could give us, particularly after the speech to which I referred, as to what this country was likely to do, and I thought he applied the word "impossible" there, but I understand that that was not so. I have no desire whatever to press my Motion, particularly if it might have the effect which he suggested of in any way curtailing the reasonable freedom of our Representatives on the Council and on the Assembly at this coming meeting early in March. In these circumstances I ask leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn,