§ LORD PARMOOR rose to ask His Majesty's Government whether they will make a statement on matters of foreign policy and any matters affecting the Empire; and to move for Papers. The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, I regret that the Motion I desire to make has been unfortunately delayed—I make no complaint of it—until rather a late hour. The best I can do is to make as short as possible the points on which I am seeking information from the noble Earl, Lord Balfour, who I understand is to reply on behalf of the Government. I have sent him a list of the topics which I desire to raise so that there shall be no question of his not knowing what the particular points are, and I hope to receive from him such information as he is able to give me on these different heads.
§ The first point to which I wish to call attention is the question of Germany. I did not put these matters in this order upon the paper which I gave to the noble Earl, but I shall mention them in what I regard as the order of their importance and in that order I seek to raise them. I think there is no point upon which there is more general agreement in public opinion in this country than the desire that, without friction or conditions, Germany should become a Member of the League of Nations at the September Assembly and a permanent Member of the Council. The question I am asking to-day, however, is not a League Question but purely one of foreign policy. The difficulty, as I think I may put it, has arisen in this way. On Wednesday last the Foreign Secretary was asked a Question in another place which has given rise to what I might call serious dissatisfaction and comment in Germany itself. I will read the actual terms of the supplementary Question which was put to him in order that there may be no doubt as to the actual wards he used. I shall also call attention subsequently to what was said by Mr. Locker-Lampson.
The Question put to the Foreign Secretary was this:—
May I take it that the condition of disarmament"—
disarmament, of course, is a prior factor to entry into the League—
in Germany is entirely satisfactory?
To that the answer of the Foreign Secretary was:
No, Sir; I am sorry to say, no.
Surely no answer could be less calculated at the present juncture to ensure the smooth entry of Germany into the League this autumn. The natural effect of such an answer made by the Foreign Secretary at the present time was to create what has been designated by a well-informed correspondent as a thoroughly bad impression in Berlin. I have not seen the actual Despatch, but according to the report of the Despatch from the German Foreign Office, the German Foreign Office has said that the British Foreign Secretary ought to be aware that the disarming of Germany was actually carried out long ago, only a few details remaining to be settled.
§ Let me summarise the actual facts regarding the question of the disarmament of Germany. In January of this year the Foreign Secretary stated that the disarming of Germany had progressed satisfactorily. In March of this year the Commission of the League of Nations, of which the Foreign Secretary I think was the Chairman, reported, on the basis of a communication received from the Ambassadors' Conference—the body which deals with this question of disarraament—that the disarmament of Germany had been carried out in accordance with the Treaty of Versailles in a manner which was entirely satisfactory. The importance of that is that the whole movement for the successful admission of Germany into the League depended on the Report of the Commission in regard to the question of disarmament in Germany and that Commission, under the Chairmanship of the Foreign Secretary, reported that this was entirely satisfactory. Of course, if the question is raised, or sought to be raised at this time, that the obligations of Germany in regard to disarmament in any respect have not been entirely and satisfactorily carried out, that is inviting difficulty and objection when the question comes forward early next September as to the entry of Germany into the League with a permanent place on the Council.
Last night, in another place, Mr. Locker-Lampson gave an explanation which is reported under the head of "German disarmament." I think I ought to read it, because it is so
important. I will point out that after I have read it in what respect it appears to be unsatisfactory, is the hope that I may get a full and satisfactory answer in your Lord ships' House this afternoon. It is a matter which ought to be cleared up once for all, and cleared up now before any dissatisfaction grows or increases in. Germany and Berlin. This was the answer:
it was the hope of His Majesty's Government last November that the exchange of Notes which took place between the Ambassadors' Conference and the German Government at that time (and which were published in Command Pager No. 2527) would lead to the rapid conclusion of all the disarmament questions that were still outstanding.
Your Lordships will notice that that answer refers to an earlier date—that is, November of last year—than either of the dates that I have referred to in January of this year or when the Commission reported at Geneva. It was said at those dates that, the disarmament of Germany was entirely satisfactory. This is an important matter to clear up.
The statement that I am making is not a complaint of what was said last November; it is a complaint of what was stated on subsequent occasions, partly in January and partly at Geneva, which are obviously the important times in a matter of this sort. Last night Mr. Locker-Lampson also said:
It is consequently a matter of disappointment that there are still a certain number of points—mostly, I am happy to say, of a minor nature—which are not yet settled.
Expressions of this kind on behalf of the Foreign Office create disquiet, not so much in this country as abroad, and it is their effect abroad that is important. There may be some small points outstanding—I do not know as to that—but I understand, and have understood, that all relevant matters which were necessary to be settled before Germany was in a position to claim admission to the League had been satisfactorily settled. It was so stated on the occasion of the last meeting of the Council of the League at Geneva. Of course, this is a Foreign Office point, but I am sure the noble Viscount will corroborate what I said that on that occasion the Commission (which is always appointed for a new country
that is admitted into the League of Nations) reported that on this question of disarmament all had been satisfactorily settled in Germany.
Mr. Locker-Lampson further said:
While for this reason my right hon. friend [the Foreign Secretary] expressed the view … on July 21 that the position was not entirely satisfactory, he does not desire it to be concluded that His Majesty's Government regard the situation with any disquiet.
I suggest that that explanation is extremely unsatisfactory, having regard to the difficulties which may be raised—I am sure I hope they will not be raised—in connection with the entry of Germany into the League and into the Council at the September meeting. I hope it will be stated in clear language, so that it may be understood in this country and in all foreign countries which are interested in this matter, that there is no departure so far as the Foreign Office and the Foreign Secretary are concerned from the attitude taken up by him at Geneva, that this disarmament had been completely and satisfactorily carried out, so that in every respect Germany was entitled to claim to be a Member of the League. As I stated just now, it is not a question of creating disquiet in this country but—what is always so much more important in foreign matters: I hope I speak with due consideration of that importance—of the effect, for instance, in this case, in Germany,, of a statement of that kind.
§ There is one point that I should like to mention in reference to this which the noble Viscount (Lord Cecil of Chel-wood), I dare say, would know even more fully than the noble Earl (Lord Balfour), although one is cognisant that no one in this country has had greater experience, particularly in initiating affairs at Geneva, than the noble Earl. When I was last at Geneva, in 1924, the question arose of superseding the International Commissions in Bulgaria, Hungary and Austria, and making provision for supervision by the League itself, which is, of course, the supervision contained in the Covenant of the League. On that occasion, after certain discussion, it was arranged that the scheme for supervision by the League should be so drawn as to apply to Germany as well as to Austria, Bulgaria and Hungary. It was considered that 272 a body so constituted—and the suggestions came from the Naval, Military and Air Commissions—should be competent also to deal adequately with the question of disarmament in Germany, and, on any more general basis of disarmament under Article 8 of the Covenant, would be a body which would supervise matters on behalf of the League of Nations.
§ I want to be as short as I can, having regard to the time, in asking the representative of His Majesty's Government in this House whether there is the slightest ground for suggesting that in any respect Germany is in default as regards its obligations of disarmament so as in any way to affect its claim for entry into the League of Nations. I am certain there is no matter on which public opinion is more unanimous in this country—quite irrespective of political Party matters, which ought not to intervene in foreign questions—than the desire that the Locarno conditions should be carried out and that, without conditions and without extraneous considerations, Germany should become a Member of the League and a permanent Member of the Council.
§ The next point I want to ask about is China, and I will be as brief as possible. First of all, let me state shortly what the information is that has come to me, and I should like to know what the opinion of His Majesty's Government is upon it. No doubt a large portion of the information which I have obtained has come from missionaries, but the importance of that fact is that no other body of men can appreciate more fully than they can the principal trend of opinion in China. It is a very difficult matter. Their view, as I have seen it expressed by men of competence, who have spent their lives in China as missionaries, is that there is a national self-consciousness arising in China which was not present before, and that that must be taken into consideration in regard to policy between this country and China. In order to follow that out, and to concentrate matters as shortly as I can, I would ask the Government whether in their view there is a difference in the conditions and problems which have arisen between this country and Peking and between this country and Canton, and I will explain exactly what I mean.273
First of all, with regard to Peking, there is a very large headline in The Times correspondence from Peking, dated July 23. It, is headed "The Chaos in China: Need for Action by the Powers." That correspondent wrote from Peking, and so far as Peking is concerned he stated the view—I do not know what is the view of His Majesty's Government—that
The procedure which has been followed by the diplomatic body in China since the Washington Conference of conducting the affairs of the various foreign countries by means of joint action has so conspicuously failed to help the people of China or even the individual Governments adhering to the Washington Treaty, that the time has come for it to be changed for a more effective and less cumbersome co-operative method if the cataclysm now menacing China and threatening to involve the foreigners living here in ruin is to be stayed.
That comes from Peking, and what I went to ask is whether that is an accurate statement, in the view of His Majesty's Government.
§ There is another question which I must ask. The same correspondent suggests, as I understand, that there should be military co-operative action by America, Great Britain, Japan and, possibly, France. That is a very serious suggestion indeed. I do not know whether it has been brought to the attention of His Majesty's Government. It is suggested that there should be this military interference on this ground—the words are somewhat familiar—"the liberation of the suffering Chinese people from the oppressions of their ruthless self-appointed saviours" is necessary for their own future and for the prestige of the countries which I have mentioned. There are two definite matters of very great importance. It is very difficult in this country, I agree, to obtain the precise facts of matters of this kind, but if the facts are any way in the direction which I have indicated I should certainly be glad to hear that there has not been this failure which has been suggested, and still more that there is no probability of aggressive military action upon the plea which I have read out, that the Chinese are not to be left under their own self-appointed rulers, who are criticised in such words as I have indicated.
§ When we come to Canton, which in my view is to be regarded as a separate centre, the conditions appear to be far 274 more favourable. The first question which I wish to ask is this: What is the attitude of His Majesty's Government towards the suggestion of a large Shanghai Provincial State, with its centre at Canton?—because that is the movement which is being made from Canton at the present moment and it may be—it is a matter on which I cannot, of course, speak with any certainty—that a solution of some of our Chinese troubles is to be found in this direction.
§ There are two points which have been lately discussed between Canton and British Representatives. One is as regards, an international neutral inquiry into the conditions which brought about what has been called—I do not like to use the word massacre—the killing of certain Chinese at Shameen in 1925. The answer which I understand has been made is that the matter took place so long ago that no real inquiry can be made at the present time, and that it would be unwise to re-open old sores of that character. That may be perfectly true, and I give no opinion, but I ask His Majesty's Government whether that is their view. I further understand, on this matter whether there should be this further inquiry or not—I am reading from the words of correspondence which has been published—that "the Canton delegates pressed for a reference of this proposal to the British Government, and the British delegation agreed." Has there been agreement that this question of an inquiry into the difficulties at Shameen in 1925 should be referred to the British Government? If so, can His Majesty's Government give us any information as to the policy which they intend to adopt?
§ At the same time, there is a friendly indication that a certain sum, I think £1,250,000, is to be found and expended under a British engineer and British accountant, on further railway accommodation in the Canton district., and it is intimated that if that can be done it would be another way in which a friendly result could be obtained. Therefore the second question I wish to ask is whether this further proposal has been brought to the notice of the British Government, and, if so, what is the view that they take of it? I think I have made it clear that I wish for information as regards what we know to be these difficult conditions in China. It is of the utmost importance for trade, and for other 275 reasons, that there should be friendly relationship between this country and China, and there seems to be a prospect at any rate of such relations between Canton and Hong Kong, although the prospects are less favourable in the Peking district. I do not want to suggest difficulties, but I want to know what is the view of His Majesty's Government, and what they think is the right solution.
§ The next question that I am afraid I must touch upon—and I shall do so as shortly as. I can—is that of Iraq, which again is a question of foreign policy and does not arise at Geneva. I want to put my meaning at the outset in order that my remarks may be concentrated. The policy that was originally adopted towards Iraq and which was continued by the Labour Government was to regard Iraq as a mandated territory and to say that it was the duty of the Mandatory—in this case Great Britain—to educate the country for self-government and independence as early as conditions would allow. The last time that this matter was discussed in this House I remember that speeches were made by Viscount Grey of Fallodon and by the late Marquess Curzon of Kedleston.
This was in 1924, when Lord Corey or Fallodon used these words—
We went to Iraq during the War for purely strategic reasons. I was a member of the Government which went there, and I know it was done for purely strategic reasons.
Lord Curzon, in the same debate, went much further. He said—and I am reading his words—
I was the only man who opposed going to Baghdad at all ….
and he added that he had never desired to map out that part of the world as an arena for British rule or empire in the future. He further stated that the Treaty of 1924 was a measure for diminishing our responsibility and handing it over, and for creating an Arab State. I think that this was an absolutely right statement of what the policy should be.
§ That policy was carried a good deal further at Geneva when I was there as representative of the Labour Government in September, 1924. I may add that Lord Curzon stated further that he was mainly responsible for the Treaty 276 which he had made superseding a long period of occupation in Iraq and reducing it to the position of a mandated territory, in which the Mandate was to be in operation for not more than four years and might be in operation for a much less period. It is a very important question indeed whether in our treatment of Iraq we start on the principle of allowing Iraq to be self-sufficing and independent—or whether we have in mind its becoming a more or less permanent part of our Imperial Possessions. I say without hesitation that there is reason to suppose that the idea of extending the principle of an Imperial Possession, as against a Mandate, to Iraq is not an idea which the Government or the Colonial Secretary regard unfavourably at the present moment. The Mandate has been extended, as we know, for a period of 20 or 25 years with the possibility of breaking it at different times. I do not put so much weight on the terms, which were settled when I was at Geneva in order to make sure that no one could say that we had undertaken responsibility beyond that time, but what I think is of the utmost importance is this question: Do we intend to stop there altogether or do we intend the relationship between a mandated country and a mandatory Powers? I will not stop, at this time of the evening, to quote the terms of the Covenant, which, of course, are well known both to the noble Earl and to the noble Viscount opposite.
§ Upon this point, however, I should like to call attention to one figure. The total expenditure provided in the Estimate, which came to me in the form of a White Panes a day or two ago, for Palestine and Iraq—they were not separated—was £4,444,000, of which the cost of the Imperial garrisons in Iraq and Palestine amounted to no less a sum than £3,455,500. I am not saying that this may not be necessary, although in the present movement for economy all these matters have to be very seriously considered, but. I do want an assurance on that point, for what has been done there may lead to a risk of its being said hereafter that we undertook the responsibility on the footing that Iraq was to be regarded as Part of our Imperial Possessions and that the relationship was not merely temporary, with the intention that, as a mandatory Power, we might educate her in the conditions 277 of independence and to prepare herself to join the League of Nations. Perhaps the noble Earl, when answering me, will bear in mind that one would wish to know, having regard to the history of this matter, whether the principle laid down by Lord Curzon as a principle of the Conservative Government when he was Foreign Secretary is the same principle as is still being preserved in the relationship between Iraq and this country.
§ The next point of which I gave notice to the noble Earl and on which I wish to ask his opinion—I am sorry that there are so many points, but I shall be as short as I can—concerns Egypt. I do not assume that there has been any change in our relationship with the Sudan. I recollect that, when I represented the Foreign Office in this House when the Labour Government was in power, great satisfaction was expressed with the view that I put forward for the Foreign Office that we did not intend in any way to leave our obligations in the Sudan, but that we intended to maintain our position there in order to carry out all the obligations that we had undertaken. I assume, for the purpose of the present discussion, that in this respect, at any rate, there has been no difference whatever.
§ My real point in regard to Egypt is this. When Lord Milner's Report was not adopted, which, in the view of Lord Grey of Fallodon, was equivalent to overthrowing the system of Lord Cromer, the alternative was that, subject to four specified points—namely, the Sudan, imperial communications, foreign policy and the treatment of foreigners—Egypt was to be, as regards her internal affairs, a self-governing country. Is that principle being carried out at the present time? One knows, of course, what passed some time ago as regards Zaghlul Pasha, and I need not go into that, but I want to know if the internal government of Egypt is really in the hands of the Egyptian people, as was solemly promised to them at the time when the arrangement was made, and these four excepted matters were taken out of their control. I raise no question on that at all. On the contrary I appreciate that as regards those four points it was necessary to make an exception. But, within that exception, is Egypt at the present day being treated as a self-governing country in the sense that she is allowed to elect her own 278 Government through her own Parliamentary system in order that her real wishes and desires may be represented?
§ My last point I can put, I think, very shortly. I included in my Question not only foreign policy but Empire policy. I did not include that in order to raise a general discussion on such a world-wide topic. I put it down for the reason that I wanted, in the first place, to ask His Majesty's Government whether the arrangement for the holding of the Imperial Conference at the beginning of October is likely to hold good. One knows that since that date was fixed certain obvious difficulties have arisen, particularly in Canada, which may necessitate an alteration or postponement. I want to know if His Majesty's Government can give us information whether, at any rate at the present time, that date still holds. It was to be October 5. Secondly, I want to ask one or two questions as regards the programme The programme was indicated—I have not-the reference, but the noble Earl will know—by the Prime Minister in another place, but indicated in the most general language. What I want to ask is whether it is intended to discuss under the head of foreign policy the serious questions which have been raised as to the position of the various Dominions in the event of this country unfortunately becoming a belligerent Power.
§ I have been told more than once that matters of this kind may be discussed. But the matter is one or urgency. Nothing is more important for the whole progress and peace of the world and the maintenance of the Empire than the conditions which I have often heard the noble Earl so eloquently describe, conditions of a common loyalty and a common freedom. I want to urge this: the greater the freedom, the greater the loyalty. If you want to get a certainty of the support of our Dominions in the freest and most generous spirit on all occasions when the Mother Country is seeking their support, I think you can only find it by granting a maximum of freedom—I will not call it independence, that is a rather different word, but a maximum of freedom in these questions which have been so much discussed lately both in the South African Union and in Canada.279
§ There is only one other point and I have finished. It is this. A great deal has been heard of the continuity of foreign policy. Of course, the continuity of obligations, particularly Treaty obligations, is an essential element in civilised life, but if you want a more general continuity in political outlook you can only obtain it by opportunities for free discussion and consideration. One of the difficulties of Parliamentary methods, which we have overcome in this country more than elsewhere, is that whatever the desire for continuity may be the conditions are determined by the opinion of the country expressed on the occasion of any particular question. There are two ideals underlying most of the foreign policy of this country. There is the ideal of force and the ideal of conciliation. I need hardly say—I have expressed it so often—that ray view, and the view of those with whom I act, is entirely for conciliation or, if conciliation fails, arbitration applicable to all kinds of international dispute. That was the policy which during the period of office of the Labour Government we did our best to forward in every direction.
§ But there are other elements and other ideals. There is a notion that you can obtain by force, and ought to obtain by force, what perhaps you cannot obtain by negotiation and arbitration. I think the answer to that is that what you so obtain is of little or no value. You cannot regard what has been obtained by force as a settled matter. In every respect you ought to carry out the principle of arbitration as a means of settling in a peaceful manner all international disputes. I am using the words which we find in the Treaty of Locarno as between Germany and France. I cannot imagine any more critical conditions for settlement than the relationships of France and Germany. If those nations can settle the matter by "peaceful means"—those are the words used in the Treaty of Locarno—surely we ought to strive in every direction for the principle of arbitration and conciliation.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE DUCHY OF LANCASTER (VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD)
My Lords, my noble friend has asked me to say a few words upon the first point raised by the noble Lord's 280 Question—namely, the disarmament of Germany. As I understand it, the question which has caused some anxiety to the noble Lord is whether there is any such failure by Germany to carry out her obligations to disarm as would make it possible to suggest that she is not fulfilling conditions necessary for entry into the League of Nations.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
May I recall to the noble Lord the procedure which has to be followed upon an application by a State to enter the League of Nations? A State has to fulfil certain conditions which are set out in Article I of the Covenant. Perhaps I had better read the actual words: The State must have shownits sincere intention to observe its international obligations, and shall accept such regulations as may be prescribed by the League in regard to its military, naval and air forces and armaments.No question regarding naval, military and air force armaments arises in regard to Germany, because her obligations were laid down in the Treaty of Versailles. Therefore the only thing that had to be inquired into, and inquired into in accordance with the ordinary routine, was whether there was a sincere intention to observe her international obligations.
In order to inquire into that, according to an ordinary practice, a small Sub-Commission was appointed, in this case presided over by my right hon. friend the Foreign Secretary, which inquired into that and the other conditions necessary. When it came to this particular question the Commission, I understand, had before it a Report from the Ambassadors' Conference that they knew of no reason to suppose that there was anything which would induce them to doubt that Germany had a sincere intention (quoting, I believe, the actual words of the Article) to observe its international' obligations. There is nothing, as far as I know, that has occurred since then to throw any doubt upon that finding of the Ambassadors' Conference. Therefore the decision of the Sub-Commission, which was that Germany had fulfilled all the conditions necessary for membership of the League of Nations, stands and is 281 in no way impugned or altered by anything that has occurred, or anything that has been said since that time.
As to the statement made by my right hon. friend in another place, I really have nothing to add to the explanation given by the Under-Secretary—namely, that, though it be true that there are some matters which are still outstanding—and we regret that there should be any matters outstanding—they are not of a nature which causes the Government any anxiety in reference to the fulfilment of the obligations of Germany.
§ THE EARL OF BALFOUR
My Lords, I need not say I am grateful to my noble friend for having taken that part of the task of replying to the noble Lord on his shoulders, for he is far more competent to deal with it than I am. I will endeavour now, at this not very convenient hour, to touch on some of the subjects, or all the subjects, which the noble Lord brought to my notice. He will recognise that the courteous intimation that the sent me that he proposed to say something about China, about Iraq, and about Egypt by no means gave me notice of the kind of question in detail which he was going to raise. I make no complaint of that, but my reply may be less adequate than it would have been had a full notice, in the House of Commons sense of the word, been given of the questions, as I might then have given him more satisfaction than I shall be able to do as things now actually stand.
He began by quoting the opinion of missionaries in China to the effect that their observation showed them that there was a great awakening of national self-consciousness in the 400,000,000 population of that great Empire. All the information that I have received is of a similar tenour. I think that a world movement—perhaps a world movement in excess—in favour of nationalism has affected all nations, and it has not affected China much less than other nations. It is true, undoubtedly, that in addition to the age-long dislike of foreign practices and foreign manners, which has been a factor of rather powerful character in China's social life, there is this growth of what can be more accurately called a national self-consciousness. But when the noble Lord goes on to ask me 282 whether that national self-consciousness is going to be met on the part of Western nations by a kind of military alliance for the purpose of coercing China, I can assure him that I am not aware that, any nations have entertained so fantastic a notion. So far as His Majesty's Government, at all events, are concerned, we desire to interfere as little as possible in the internal affairs of China. China must work out her own salvation. She is now, as everybody knows, going through a period of extreme difficulty, and the difficulties that she is undergoing from her own internal point of view are necessarily reflected in difficulties which we, the other nations of the world in commercial and diplomatic intercourse with her, feel on our side.
What is going on in China? There is nothing there, as far as we can see, which deserves to be called a Central Government in the Western use of that term. Peking has no authority over large parts of the country, it has little authority over the remainder, and I have heard persons well qualified to speak on the subject say it has frequently happened in recent years and months that the power and authority of the Central Government does not extend beyond the walls of the capital. In the capital are nominally concentrated officials whose title would indicate that they have authority recognised over the whole of the rest of the country, and it is with them that we have to deal in the main. It is with them that our diplomatic relations take place, and it inevitably throws difficulty, embarrassment and confusion into the relations between China and external Powers that unfortunately the authority of the Central Government with which those external Powers have to deal is really in some respects wholly negligible in connection with Chinese affairs.
If you ask, since the Central Government of China is at present so lamentably weak who is it who exercises authority in that country, I can only answer to that what everybody knows to be the fact, that there are military authorities, responsible only to themselves and their armies, who, with varying fortunes, deal with the situation each in his own district. It is from our point of view not only a very abnormal and singular state of things, but it is one which produces great suffering in China itself, and great embarrassments 283 in the relations between China and outside Powers. But it is not for us to put an end to that state of things. We are not going to raise armies to traverse the length and breadth of China, and force the 400,000,000 of the Chinese population into any Western mould. They must work out their own salvation. In doing so they appear to me to be making many mistakes, and it is unfortunately true that their mistakes react upon us. But—I now speak merely for the Government, and not for other nations than our own—what we desire most earnestly, most sincerely is to co-operate with China, to help China where we legitimately can, to recognise that we and the Chinese, so far as commerce and economic affairs are concerned, have common interests and, as regards the organisation of their own country, our hope is that there will be no difficulty in their managing their own internal affairs.
Of course, I know only too well that there are difficulties in connection with the Maritime Customs and other points connected with Treaty rights which certainly require modification and reform, and perhaps even the oldest of us may live to see that they are removed. There is a great movement in that direction and with that movement wherever it can be legitimately taken we sympathise. But in connection with all these commercial and judicial affairs, it is quite impossible for us simply to say that all the international structure which has been built up in the last eighty years is to be summarily removed and conditions are to be brought into being as if that history had never existed. That, of course, the noble Lord would be the last to ask. All he can ask, and I am sure all he does ask, is that if there is any action which this country may assume we should certainly desire the good of China and the good will of China, and the good of China and the good will of China are both objects most earnestly desired by His Majesty's Government.
The noble Lord asked me about the relations between Canton and Peking. As the noble Lord is well aware, there is a strong movement in China which many good observers say is going to end in some kind of federal system between the Provinces. I do not know whether 284 that will be for the good of China or the evil of China, and it is not for me to pronounce an opinion. But that there are currents of opinion running in that direction I think is probably indubitable. China has had this strong provincial feeling developed in her long history. It has never ended in the breaking up of China and I have no reason to believe that China is more likely to be broken up in consequence of her present unhappy condition of chronic civil war than she has been in many other critical and difficult periods of her history.
In the meanwhile, it is impossible to deny that nothing can be more embarrassing in connection with the external relations of China than this unhappy combination of an entirely powerless Central Government and a series of generals each dealing with his own district in his own way, each engaged in intrigues and contests with the other, each having aims which may change from day to day and which at all events it is not my business to fathom or to estimate. Nothing can be more difficult than a situation in which that powerlessness of the Central Government and those powers of these provincial military generals constitute the complex and confused entity with which foreign diplomacy has to deal. We must all hope that these conditions will ameliorate, but I cannot honestly say, as far as I am concerned, that the conditions seems to me to be in a process of rapid improvement. The noble Lord asked me some questions regarding the Canton incident and the present Canton negotiations, but I am sure he will take it from me that it is not very desirable that I should enter on this occasion into that subject, which is in a state of transition and on which I certainly should not care to give any definite opinion.
In reference to Iraq, the noble Lord asked me what the intentions of the Government were with regard to the future relations between that country and ourselves. I do not think there has been any change in substance. We desire to see Iraq become an independent State. It is an independent State at this moment, but we desire it gradually to develop into a condition in which it requires assistance from no one and leans on no one. I do not know how soon that condition will be attained, but it is not yet attained in the opinion of the League 285 of Nations, as the noble Lord knows, and, somewhat reluctantly, it is clear that we must carry on the process of assisting, supporting and advising the Government of Iraq for some years to come. I am afraid Lord Curzon's estimate of four years, to which I think the noble Lord referred, is too short; but the noble Lord may rest assured that our desire is to see Iraq developed as soon as possible into a condition in which she is wholly independent of us, and entirely able to support herself against foreign aggression or internal disorder.
Then he asked me whether Egypt was a self-governing country. I should say certainly and beyond question Egypt is a self-governing country. There are four most important reservations, to which the noble Lord himself made reference, and so long as those reservations exist, so long as those problems are unsettled, of course inevitably problems may come up in which we should be obliged to exercise an authority and take a part which are not precisely those which we should adopt with a country which was in the full sense of the word independent. I mean independent apart from those four problems. But putting those four problems on one side we have to regard, and do regard, Egypt as an independent country. I do not know that anything more can be said upon that subject, and I hope that what I have said, which I think is the substantial truth, is also the formal truth as regards international law. I think substantially it is.
Another point on which the noble Lord questioned me was that of the Imperial Conference, and he asked me about the dates. I understand that the Prime Minister is to make a statement in the very near future and I need not anticipate that. I have little doubt myself that for the convenience of the Dominions the date will have to be deferred to after October 5, but I leave the Prime Minister to say exactly what the last arrangements are that we have arrived at in conjunction with the Dominions.
The noble Lord ended by raising the point of the relations in which the Dominions stood to us in case of difficulty and asked me whether that question will come up. It will certainly come up if any of the Dominions desire it, I and think there can be little doubt that the 286 subject will be touched upon. Perhaps I had better say no more on the subject. My own personal view is that the relations are those necessarily of equality. None of us conceive that of these conglomeration of free States one is above the other. One may have more responsibility than another, one may be in more dangers than another, one may be closer to the centre of international complications than another, but all are on an equality. That is the very essence, as I understand it, of the British Empire. As to exactly what that equality involves, as to exactly what degree of responsibility each has for the other, on that I personally think very little is gained by refining, discussing or defining. I should say that a: far as this country is concerned we are bound to go to war to defend any part of this Empire which is in danger. Personally I think: the duties of all the other members of the Empire to us are not less than our duties to them, but, as to the particular conditions under which that great duty is to be exercised, I do not believe anything is gained by inventing hard cases before hand.
Our plain duty is to defend the Empire of which we are so important a part. That duty, I hope and believe, we shall always carry out and it is also our duty—I am sure I speak for the Government in this respect—to bring them into our councils as far as that is possible. There are what I might almost call mechanical difficulties in certain kinds of consultation—difficulties of time and space which no scientific discoveries will wholly enable us to eliminate. Time and space inevitably come into these considerations, but we desire to give them the fullest information as to the motives which animate our policy. We desire to bring them with us on every possible occasion. We desire that the unbreakable bond which unites us together shall carry with it that mutual confidence, that constant interchange of ideas, that harmony of ideas and ends which, after all, are the great basis and strength of the Empire. As to how far and in what way these general maxims—perhaps you might call them platitudes—will be dealt with by the various elements of the Empire when they meet togther towards the end of October I am unable to say, but I confidently hope and 287 believe that the political instincts, identical in character, identical in aim, which spring from the fact that we have all been brought up under common traditions and with common political instincts, will carry us through all the difficulties of discussion and, when the occasion arises, through all the perils and perplexities of action.
§ LORD PARMOOR
My Lords, my only regret is that the House is not better filled to have heard the extremely interesting speech and information which the noble Earl has given to us. I am sure he will acquit me of responsibility for the difficulties which put off this discussion till an unfortunately late time. The only other observation I should like to make is 288 this. Those who act with me on this side of the House have the same desire of Imperial unity as the noble Earl has himself expressed. Exactly how that can best be obtained is, of course, a matter for discussion and consideration, but the ideal and the object are the same—Imperial unity of these self-governing Commonwealths, all on the basis of equality and all with a common loyalty one towards another. I am sure the Party with which I am connected will co-operate fully in any considered policy on those lines. I again thank the noble Earl. It is too late to add more now.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ House adjourned at five minutes before eight o'clock.