HL Deb 08 February 1928 vol 70 cc51-78

LORD PARMOOR rose to call attention to recent conferences at Geneva and to the Treaty with Iraq, and to ask His Majesty's Government whether there is any precedent for a similar treaty between this country and a mandated territory under Mandate A; and to move for Papers. The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, I indicated at the Prorogation in December that I intended to bring this question forward at the earliest moment. The method by which Notices relating to our business are sent out makes it difficult to give notice to those persons who are immediately in terested, but I took this course, which I hope accords with the views of the two noble Lords opposite who are concerned, I believe, in answering my questions: I sent them a précis of the points I desired to raise. At the same time, I sent a message that if I could give any further information on those points I should be glad to do so. Therefore, so far as those noble Lords are concerned, I do not think they will have any difficulty in answering the points I seek to raise this afternoon, even although the notice is not what one would wish it to be.

I should like to refer to one point which was raised in the debate yesterday. It was eminently satisfactory to hear the noble Marquess and, I think, the proposer and seconder of the Address in reply to the gracious Speech from the Throne, state most frankly and fully their belief in the power and the future of the League of Nations. I, of course, regard the future of the League of Nations as stabilised and certain. It has become part of the world's machinery. In fact, it is almost impossible now to think how many complicated questions could be settled peacefully and in a spirit of sympathetic understanding without the League of Nations. So the points to which I call attention this afternoon are not intended to go to the fundamental basis of the League—I assume that—but the particular matters which I shall have to criticise are the policy and action of the present Government.

I think there is a rather remarkable testimony to the position of the League of Nations, and I entirely agree, in what was said yesterday particularly by the mover of the Address, that any real mischief between this country and America or between America and ourselves is unthinkable. It is an impossible evil. I certainly should always abstain from what he desired we should abstain from—any possible note of criticism of what America has done or is proposing to do. America has made lately several notable pronouncements in favour of peace. I sympathise with all those pronouncements. But I think it must come to everyone's mind how much more would probably result from those pronouncements and how much more effective work might really be, done if they could be brought forward by America at Geneva as a Member of the League of Nations and of the Council of the League. No greater testimony could be paid to that great American President who, when all is said and done, was the real founder of the League of Nations at Geneva.

A question was raised yesterday by the noble Earl, Lord Beauchamp, who is not at the moment in his seat, as to publicity for suggestions made by the Government in connection with the Sub-Committee on Arbitration and Security in connection with the general Preparatory Commission on Disarmament. It would be well, I agree, that such a document should be distributed as widely as possible; but in regard to his complaint I am bound to Say that I found no difficulty whatever in obtaining a copy of that document, and I do not think anyone else would have had the slightest difficulty had he fried to get one. The great advantage of that is, first, that it enables me to be much shorter in addressing your Lordships and, secondly, one is enabled, through publicity, to concentrate attention and discussion upon what appear to be the really important points. As the noble Lord will readily understand, the document is not one which commends itself to those who are in favour of the signature by this country of what is known as the Optional Clause of the Statute of the Permanent Court of International Justice, or of those who desire to maintain what has so often been referred to as the all-inclusive method of arbitration for the settlement of international disputes. It is not, however, so much the fact that the Government have refused to entertain, as they have, either of those propositions as the reasons which they put forward for rejecting them to which I desire particularly to call attention.

The first part of the Memorandum which has been published refers to what are known as "justiciable disputes." That is the phrase used in the Memorandum itself. To put it perhaps in more simple language it refers to disputes which are capable of judicial decision and I believe most persons who study the matter think that is the real and best way of coming to a conciliatory and friendly conclusion. As regards arbitration or judicial decision, I do not think the noble Lord will say that I go too far when I state that the Government for the present have bolted and barred the doors. As to the signature of the Optional Clause of the Statute of the International Court, that has been very generally accepted not only in principle by the countries represented at Geneva, but by the actual signature of their Governments: amongst others—and I should like to stress this—by France and Germany. France, of course, expressed its readiness to sign—and M. Briand declared it was one of the most splendid tasks in his life—in 1924 at Geneva. Germany has signed more recently. In any case we must recollect this—and it is worth bearing in mind—that in the Treaty of Locarno judicial matters are referred to judicial decision on a wider scale than are those matters which are included in the Optional Clause of the Statute of the International Court.

After all, there are only four categories included and as regards those four categories it is competent for any country to make reservations. I know of my own experience that, practically with the assent and knowledge of all other countries, wide reservations were proposed to be made when the matter was discussed at Geneva in 1924. What are the objections which have been urged in the Memorandum to which I have referred? There is one objection which I do not think is specially urgent, but which was referred to by the noble Marquess yesterday—namely, the objection based on Dominion opinion. I was prepared to discuss that, but I notice that the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil of Chelwood, has put down a Motion for this day week in which that matter is specially raised; therefore I content myself with saying that until much more information is given than has yet been given as to Dominion opinion upon these points I cannot myself regard the matter as in any way cleared up or determined.

I know that in 1924 all the Dominion representatives here, in constant communication with their own Governments, took a different view. We know, too, that Canada has expressed a different view. We know also that Senator Daudurand, a very able exponent of Canadian views at Geneva, has constantly expressed his opinion in favour of the signature of the Optional Clause, and when the Imperial Conference met in 1926 it did not propose to reject the Optional Clause on any matter of principle. It said it regarded it as premature and no resolution was come to, but there was an understanding—I am using, I think, the actual words—that none of the parties to that Conference would proceed further without the assent and knowledge of the rest. I have more than once in this House, I am afraid with little success, attempted to obtain publication of the necessary documents. I hope that when the matter comes to be discussed—it is a matter of much detail and extreme importance—on the Motion of the noble Viscount we shall have a further insight into this much disputed question.

But there are two grounds, and they are very important ones, on which any movement towards the signature of the Optional Clause is rejected by the Government. In the first place they indicate that public opinion is against it. Public opinion is no doubt an uncertain factor, but I should have said that every indication of public opinion was in the other direction, and I do not think you could have a better authority than one of The largest associations in this country which is entirely non-political—namely, the League of Nations Union. But there is a more important point than that which, I confess, I cannot understand. The Government state they are unable to sign the Optional Clause not only on account of public opinion but for fear of a change in public opinion which would bring about the result that some Government in the future would not implement an undertaking now given. I think that is a monstrous suggestion from many points of view. Historically I will challenge the noble Lord to find any case of that kind. I cannot find any such case, though there may be one. I quoted once in this House a statement that there were five hundred cases, or something like that, the other way. I challenge the noble Lord to state any case in which public opinion has refused to implement a treaty of arbitration which has been entered into and ratified under the ordinary forms of our constitutional proceeding. It was much discussed at Geneva, because some people thought, and I was one, that sanctions were not necessary and that the history of the past showed that if a British Government undertook an obligation of this kind it was perfectly certain that the British nation could be trusted to acknowledge and implement in the future any obligation so entered into.

The suggestion goes a long way, because if you suggest that a treaty should not be entered into because a change of public opinion may take place, the logical result would be that we ought to enter into no treaties at all. Of course we ought to carry out, and shall carry out, any undertaking solemnly prescribed by treaty. It is an unfortunate suggestion, to say the least of it, a most unfortunate suggestion, that an undertaking cannot be given now because the country may not carry it out in future. Of course the classical case is the Alabama arbitration. There was no doubt a great agitation in the country at the time against the fulfilment by Great Britain of the findings of the arbitrators. It was said, as we so often hear, that the whole Imperial position of Great Britain was threatened, that she could never hold her position as a great nation, and all the common form allegations of that kind were made. Actually, by fulfilling the duties of justice which had been undertaken on her behalf when the arbitration was entered into, she did the greatest service for herself and humanity, and established practically the peace pact which ever since that time has been enforced between America and herself.

There is another point upon which the Government say that in their view it would be unwise to sign this agreement. Here again, if the allegation is a sound one, it is not against signing this agreement but against signing any agreement which would send international disputes to impartial decision. The noble Lord will correct me if I have in any way misinterpreted the document, but it is said —I am dealing only with those matters which are capable of judicial settlement and decision, such, for instance, as the interpretation of a treaty—that there can be some different canon of interpretation according to the State or States between whom the difference has arisen. Is that really meant or intended? The result of that would be to make all judicial settlements impossible. The result would be to make all judicial settlements uncertain, because if there is one element which makes a judicial settlement right it is that the determination that can be given in accordance with the canons of legal construction is one which is open to the whole world, whatever the States may be between whom the particular dispute has arisen. That is what I have to say as regards the signature of the Optional Clause. I say we ought to sign it; indeed, that we ought to have signed it long ago. And if we do sign, the greatest advance which can be made for a world peace will be the result of that signature. In any case I hope that the Government will reconsider the reasons which, if they are logically applied, would put an end to the peace movement at Geneva and would mean that so far from our taking the protagonist position, which many of us hoped we should take, we should really have to withdraw almost entirely from consultations at Geneva.

The other point can be stated more shortly. It is as regards non-justiciable disputes, that is disputes of a political character. I understand that any power of allowing the principle of all-inclusive arbitration, or in fact of any wide arbitration at all, is taken away from our Delegates at Geneva at this Conference. Is that so, because if it is so—


I did not quite catch what the noble Lord said.


I said that as regards non-justiciable disputes, that is, disputes of a political character, the Memorandum which has been signed makes it impossible for the British Delegates to support any scheme in that direction. That is what I said and that is a very serious matter. I do not say that we are always right, that one side is always right and the other always wrong. That is not my point. There has been very long discussion at Geneva. I claim that by a large majority the Assembly has shown itself in favour of what is called all-inclusive arbitration, and has shown itself in favour, for the reason that it would be a basis of security allowing a drastic scheme of disarmament to be carried out. I am not now dealing with whether the Protocol was right or wrong. I want to keep away from any technical matters. I want to take the broad view, and to ask the Government whether the Delegates of this country at Geneva will have to take the attitude at this stage that they cannot even consider any proposal for all-inclusive arbitration. I have read this Memorandum as carefully as I could several times and I think probably noble Lords will agree with me that it is very complicated and difficult. If I am mistaken in my interpretation of it I should like to be corrected. The noble Lord, of course, will have an opportunity when he replies. My interpretation of the document goes the whole length which I have stated.

I am the more sorry for that because Germany has now signed, and I think has unconditionally signed. M. Briand's signature was conditional. Germany has now signed and I read the other day a very fine address, if I may so call it—I do not want to indulge in terms of eulogy which might be impertinent—made by Dr. Stresemann when he received at Oslo the Nobel Prize. The whole of that speech, if anyone is doubtful about the attitude of Germany, ought to be carefully studied. The speech was made on an occasion wholly non-political and under conditions which allowed careful and studied statement. Dr. Stresemann said:— It is possible to assert to-day that the overwhelming majority of the German people is united in determination of peaceful understanding. That, of course, is in accordance with the signature of the Optional Clause. As M. Herriot said at Frankfurt, the spirit of peace can only be properly expressed by those who ardently desire it, but if you do ardently desire it and are actuated by the spirit of peace, why take this negative position towards the two great avenues along which peace has been sought by common assent at Geneva? I sometimes see the expression "compulsory arbitration" or "compulsory juridical decision." That is a misuse of terms. There is no question of any country coming within the area of arbitration procedure except of its own motion and on its own agreement. That was the basis of the Covenant of the League, and it is the only basis on which that Covenant can be reformed.

I do not want to do more than to make my point clear upon the Memorandum to which reference was made yesterday. But I am sorry to say that there are two other points—the noble Lord knows what they are—on which I have to take exception to the attitude of the Government at Geneva. This is the more regrettable that the exception that I have to take has reference to the Draft Conventions, as they are called, that are issued from the International Labour Office. I should like to give very simply the history—it will be the shortest way—of what is known as the Eight Hours Conference at Washington. The Conference was held in 1920, I think, and the Convention came into force on June 13, 1921. I emphasise that date, because it is a factor in all these Conventions that they can be revised after periods of ten years. As early as in 1921—that is, in the same year—proposals for delaying ratification were made on behalf of the British Government. I do not want to use the wrong name, but I believe that at the time Sir Montague Barlow was our representative. These proposals were rejected. There was a similar movement, and a similar rejection, in 1923, and in March, 1926, there was a London Conference of the five Great Powers, called by the British Government with the object, as announced by the Prime Minister, of facilitating simultaneous ratification, if agreement could be arrived at. What it was sought to reach was agreement as to the meaning and intention of the Convention, about which there was said to be some doubt. An understanding was arrived at and agreement was reached.

Let me quote a few words of what the Prime Minister said about it. He said:— We shall do our utmost to secure complete agreement and understanding"— I have said that this was arrived at. If that agreement is reached, the ratification of the Washington Convention by the participating countries will be possible, and we shall proceed to ratify; but we are not going to ratify until we are convinced that we all mean the same thing. In other words, we desired to come to a common understanding of what the thing meant, and then the British Government would ratify. Nevertheless there has been no ratification. In 1926 and in 1927 the British Government declared their intention of ratifying the Draft Convention. This was after the agreement of 1926. That statement was made twice. Then in the International Labour Conference of 1926 a resolution was passed taking note of the London Agreement which placed it upon record that, in so far as the signatories were concerned, no objection against ratification remained. Belgium ratified in 1926; India has ratified, and we know that there are special provisions regarding Eastern labour; France has given a conditional ratification, in the meantime readjusting her own internal policy so that the ratification can be effective; in Germany amendment is going on; and Brazil, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and five other countries have all recommended ratification.

Surely it is regrettable in these circumstances that Mr. Betterton should have been instructed to take the attitude which he took at the Conference only a few days ago. What was that attitude? It was to ask, at this late date, for revision. Eight years after the promise of ratification has been given we ask for revision! It is suggested that the question whether there should be revision should be considered in 1929—whether this Government will be in power then I do not know—and this was further postponed until 1931. Surely that is a very sorry history of an international movement in favour of making the conditions of labour in the world more satisfactory. This story is particularly lamentable for two reasons. One is that it lessens the authority of the International Office. That is obvious. The second reason is that it delays what is, after all, one of the objects of the proposed Convention—namely, that other countries should not have worse conditions than we have and that we should get rid of prejudices created by labour under sweating and other conditions in competition with our own. Surely that is not right, and surely, after all this time, instead of declining to place ourselves at the head of a labour movement which it ought to be the honourable desire of all people in this country to carry out—and I think that in one sense it is—we ought to do all we can to ratify this Convention, for the benefit not only of our own workmen, ninety per cent. of whom come within it already, but of the workmen of other countries, who are less privileged than ours. I should like the noble Lord to say whether that policy is one which is to be maintained. I do not want to cross-examine him, but I hope he will tell us whether there is any hope of the Government taking the view that the time has now come when, on behalf of the British people, they can ratify the Eight Hours Convention.

There is, I am sorry to say, one other illustration—it is a much smaller one, but still it shows a policy which is to be much deplored. There was an international Draft Convention regarding the inspection of emigrants on emigrant ships. The object of it was to prevent the overlapping which takes place at the present time. When that came forward last autumn at Geneva (it came forward again the other day) it was found that we had taken objection again to ratification. It was said to be on the grounds that the shipowners thought there might be some interference with their business if this Convention were ratified. The only object of it was that one inspector should deal with the matter in a ship to save overlapping and great inconvenience. But what I plead is this. Surely in what is a comparatively small matter of that kind we might show ourselves ready to ratify a Convention which, as regards all emigrants, would be an advantage and convenience and also an economy.

Those are the matters which I seek to raise under the first part of my Notice, and I am sorry I have delayed so long the noble Lord, Lord Lovat. I now come to the question of Iraq. May I in the first instance acknowledge the great courtesy which has been shown me by the Colonial Office—I have no doubt through Lord Lovat's assistance—in placing at my disposal all the documents I desired in order to raise the two points in reference to which I want to ask him a question. It is an enormous advantage instead of having to ask questions in order to get the assumptions as the basis of an answer, to have the answers to my questions supplied, and then to ask the noble Lord who is in command for the Government the effect of their policy. In 1924 Iraq was prominently before the Council of the League, first at Geneva, and afterwards at Brussels. I happened to be the representative of this country on the Council at that time. There were two matters involved. One was the Mosul boundary, about which I need say nothing, because that has been settled—settled, I may say, in accordance with the argument which it was my duty to adduce, and the same policy was subsequently followed by His Majesty's present Government. The other matter was how Iraq could best be dealt with as a country with a Mandate, and what I proposed on behalf of the then Government was that Iraq should be recognised as an independent sovereign Government (which was their desire) and that, instead of a Mandate in the ordinary form, there should be a Treaty between His Majesty and the Government of King Feisal in Iraq. We had the advantage in those days at the League of Nations of the help of a man who was admirable in questions of this kind, M. Branting.

After discussion my proposal was assented to, but it was proposed by us that the Treaty should only last for four years, that is, up to the end of 1928. The reason was that we desired that there should be no suspicion of anything like a permanent occupation of Iraq territory. I think it was Mr. Amery's proposal that that four years should be extended to twenty-five. There were reasons stated for that, upon which I do not wish to go back. In this present Treaty, as I understand, they have gone back again, not to 1928, but to 1932, and we have undertaken in 1932, if progress takes place, to do our best to see that the Mandate may come to an end by Iraq becoming a Member of the League of Nations. That is not exactly our original proposal, but it is very nearly it, and for my part—although they would not care for my congratulations—I heartily agree with the Government in that policy. It is the policy which we initiated at the start—the policy of a Treaty, but a Treaty for a limited time, with the abject of Iraq becoming itself a Member of the League of Nations at the earliest possible moment. Of course, as a Member of the League Iraq would cease to be a mandated territory. There was one important provision in our proposal—namely, that no change could be made without the assent of the Council of the League.

That was necessary in the case of a Mandate, and I asked the noble Lord, Lord Lovat, on the last occasion whether that would not be the same now, and I understood him to say that it would be. It seems to, me that before a Treaty of this kind can possibly be ratified there must be assent from the Council of the League, although there is no doubt whatever that that assent would be given.

So far I am entirely in agreement with what the Government have done. But there are two or three questions which I want to ask in connection with the conditions in Iraq. To begin with, I asked to have a paper sent to me showing the Iraq commitments at the present time, and the Government sent me a list of the commitments under varying heads. It shows that the cost of Iraq in 1927 was £2,759,000 as compared with £3,900,000 in 1926; so that is all in the right direction. I want to know, in the interests of economy—because with half this sum we could probably do a great deal for agriculture—whether there is likely to be a further reduction of any substantial amount in this liability. Secondly, there has been considerable discussion and disagreement in Iraq on the question of conscription, and my noble friend Lord Thomson, who has been there, has promised to say anything in detail which is necessary on this point at the proper time. Admittedly, it is a most difficult population for conscription purposes, owing to its great variety of characters and religions. Conscription became so unpopular, although it was advocated by this country, that the proposition was entirely dropped. I want to ask whether the Government are seeking at the present time to raise again in Iraq this question of conscription.

There is no doubt, too, that so long as we are not made the payers for every movement there, it would obviously be of advantage to Iraq if we guaranteed further railway construction. It has been proposed as being a good thing to run a railway through Kirkuk to Mosul. Is it part of our policy to guarantee expenditure of that kind in Iraq? It is a very serious matter not only as to amount, for if you once undertake guarantees of that kind, the probability of permanency or annexation, which has always been distinctly discouraged by this country, might be pressed forward. Everyone who cares about Iraq must be impressed at the present time by the splendid work done by an English lady, Miss Gertrude Bell, whose extremely interesting letters have been published.

Tanganyika is also a mandated territory. My noble friend Lord Olivier and myself have more than once raised the point that it is impossible to federate politically a mandated territory with ordinary Dominions. There is a different sovereignty and there are different conditions. So far as one can gather, that idea of political confederacy is not favoured. But I want to go further. A discussion arose upon this point the other day in the Reichstag, where no doubt the position is difficult in that Tanganyika was a German colony in other days, and Herr Stresemann, the Foreign Secretary, who takes a generous and quiet attitude upon these points, said he would be bound to oppose this to the utmost as inconsistent with the very terms of the Treaty. Therefore, although I desire in every way to prevent, friction especially upon points which are not of vital necessity, I should like to know whether the policy of political federation is being pursued and what is the attitude at the present time regarding it. I fear I have been rather long, but these matters cannot be discussed without a certain amount of detail. I feel very strongly indeed what was expressed by the Front Opposition Bench and by the mover and seconder of the Address—that these matters at Geneva are the real points of our day in world history, and that in the history of future times, we shall be judged—I do not mean one Party or the other but the country as a whole—by the way in which through Geneva we bring about a real settlement and a world peace.


My Lords, I do not rise to take part in this debate but merely to correct a slight misapprehension into which my noble friend Lord Parmoor fell. He referred to the Motion which I have placed on the Paper for this day week as a Motion which was intended to raise chiefly the position of the Dominions with regard to any arbitration treaty. That is not the intention of the Motion at all. The intention of the Motion is to raise the whole question of arbitration, including the signature of the Optional Clause. I only want to avoid any misapprehension upon that point.


I am sorry there is any misapprehension; but I think the Dominions are mentioned.


They are mentioned, but that is not the main point of the Motion. There is one observation I might make as I am on my feet. I venture very respectfully to ask my noble friend Lord Cushendun whether he can consider the question of laying this Memoradum on the Table of the House. It is perfectly true, as Lord Parmoor has said, that the Memorandum is available to any member of your Lordship's House who likes to apply to the Foreign Office for it. But if it is laid on the Table of the House, it normally becomes on sale as a Parliamentary Paper and any member of the public can obtain any number of copies of it upon payment of the usually moderate price. This is a serious matter, because I know that some people who have every right to obtain such a Paper have not been able to obtain it, not from any discourtesy on the part of the Foreign Office, but simply because it is not the rule to hand out Papers of that kind except to members of one or other House of Parliament. May I add that if my noble friend could also see his way, not to lay on the Table of the House, but to place in the library so that any noble Lord can consult them, the other replies made by Governments such as the German Government, and I think the Swedish and Norwegian Governments and I daresay other Governments on this question, I think it would be of considerable assistance to your Lordships in the debate which may arise next Wednesday.


My Lords, I may at the very outset reply to what has fallen from my noble friend. I have been informed through other sources of the wishes he has just expressed and which others may have shared, and I have already taken steps in the direction which he desires. I think I may say for certain at all events that the second of the two will be, if it has not already been, accomplished, and that the replies from other Governments to the Questionnaire at Geneva will appear in the library of the House. With regard to the circulation of the document to which the noble Lord referred and which was sent by His Majesty's Government to Geneva, although I am taking steps in the direction desired, I must say that I do so with a certain amount of reluctance. I still have, perhaps, hanging about me a certain amount of the Treasury atmosphere. On several occasions in the last two years I have very strenuously opposed demands for Papers of somewhat the same character being included in Parliamentary Papers on the ground of expense. I do not know what view the Treasury may take upon that point. They may possibly quote my own decisions against me. At all events I have made a request that these documents should be included in the Papers mentioned on the Pink Paper which wilt make them available for members of your Lordships' House.

Perhaps I may take the opportunity, as I am referring to that document, to say that I am not quite certain that the character of the document has not been to a certain extent misapprehended. The noble and learned Lord who introduced this debate appeared to me not quite to grasp the nature of that document. He asked me a question which I have very great difficulty in understanding. As far as I could follow him, he seemed to think that the existence of this document and its contents would take away from our representative at Geneva all discretion with regard to questions connected with reference to arbitration of non-justiciable disputes.


I thought it was a Memorandum from the Government directing him what he was to do.


I do not want to leave it there, for I may still leave some misunderstanding if I do, and I want entirely to avoid that. How did this document come to be prepared and sent to Geneva? It arose in this way. When the Security Sub-Committee was sitting at Geneva questions very naturally arose as to what would be the best modus operandi for the future—how we were to approach the examination of all the rather difficult and sometimes rather obscure questions which are grouped together under the name of security—and among other things it was suggested that before the next meeting of the Committee all the Governments represented there might, if they chose, send any Memorandum (it was entirely at their own discretion how much ground they chose to cover) which would have a bearing on the matters to be discussed and the Secretariat prepared, not exactly a questionnaire but a sort of agenda paper classifying the various ways in which a subject might be subdivided, examined and discussed. When we came back here we had the document prepared to which the noble Lord has referred giving, in general outline at all events, the views of the Government with regard to that scheme of work for the future use of the Committee.

It represents, no doubt accurately, the views of the Government, but it does not hamper the discretion of the Government's representative any more than any other set of instructions. The noble and learned Lord does not suppose that either my noble friend in his day or myself as his unworthy successor went to Geneva wholly without guidance from the Government here as to the line which is to be followed and the decisions to be taken, and this document is, so to speak, an advance sketch of the views of His Majesty's Government with regard to the various questions contained in that scheme. As regards publication I do not know that it was ever intended for publication, certainly that was not the main object of it. I think it was first made known in Geneva when it was sent out there and, of course, as soon as there was any sign of public interest desiring publication in this country, no objection was made and consequently it appeared in the Press. That was the reason why it appeared in that way. I have no doubt if we had known from the first that it would be a public document and be perused as such, probably in the first instance it would have been published in the form of a Parliamentary Paper.

The noble and learned Lord has addressed to me a fairly formidable catechism and I will do my best to assuage his thirst for knowledge, though I am not quite certain that my own equipment will be able to do it to his satisfaction. He was good enough to send to the Government notice of most of the questions which he intended, to raise and I thank him for his courtesy in so doing, but there was one matter to which he referred upon which I have had no notice and upon which, therefore, I am afraid I am unable to say anything; because I am completely ignorant about it. That is the Convention referring to shipping, about which I know nothing. With regard to most of the other subjects which he has raised I do not say that I shall be able to satisfy him—I am sure I shall not—but, at all events, I hope to be able to tell him what the views, of the Government are.

With regard to Iraq the noble and learned Lord, I was gratified to find, approves in the main of the policy which has been pursued by the Government, and there are only two points, I think, on which he desired to have some information. First of all may I say as regards this document, which the noble Lord was good enough to thank my noble friend for sending him, that, as he knows, there is nothing in it that does not appear in the Estimates of the year and all the information which is at our disposal and which I can give him is equally at his own disposal if he chooses to look at the published and printed Estimates. The only question that he asks is, whether any substantial further reduction is likely. The noble and learned Lord was once in the House of Commons and I had the honour and privilege of being there at the same time. He will not yet have entirely forgotten the phrase "I cannot anticipate the Budget." But I do not say that now for the reason that is usually given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. There is nothing in these figures that there can be any possible reason for keeping back looking at them from the ordinary budgetary point of view, but it would be premature for me to attempt to say anything beyond the fact that there has been, as the noble and learned Lord knows, a fall in the expenditure on this particular service and I am informed, without any figures being given, that the Colonial Office is very hopeful that the Estimates for the coming year may show—I do not know whether I should call it a substantial reduction, but at all events a very welcome reduction.

The only other point that the noble and learned Lord raised was the question of conscription in Iraq. I was rather surprised—I think I did not mishear him —when he said that we had proposed or favoured conscription. This is a, department with which I am not personally connected or familiar, but my information is, and I have no doubt it is correct, that that is very far from being the truth. I do not think His Majesty's Government have ever proposed or suggested or favoured conscription.


I think Mr. Amery favoured it. That is the information given to me, but I accept the correction.


If the noble and learned Lord can quote anything said by the Colonial Secretary to that effect I am not in a position flatly to contradict him, but my information is that certainly we have never favoured it. What happened was this. We were never really satisfied that it was at all necessary to introduce conscription into Iraq. The proposals that were made were of a very mild character to go by the term conscription. Out of a population of some three millions it was only proposed to raise an army about 12,000 strong by the method of conscription, and that is not quite what we are accustomed to associate with the word conscription in our ideas of European armies. Even that very mild form of conscription His Majesty's Government were never satisfied was necessary. The late Government in Iraq favoured it, I really do not know quite on what grounds, but at any rate they were anxious for it. That Government resigned and there has been a dissolution of Parliament. There has not yet been an election, but all the indications go to show that the new Government are not at all anxious to press on with conscription, and I think it is very likely that after the elections have taken place we shall not hear anything more of the matter. At all events I think I am in a position to assure the noble Lord, if he desires such assurance, that no sort of pressure will come from His Majesty's Government or from the High Commissioner in that direction, and that really our desire is that the matter should be dropped.

Another matter to which the noble Lord called attention was the question of Tanganyika. I was rather surprised at the view he expressed, though I am not prepared to argue that there may not be something in the constitutional point which he raised. After all, these Mandates are not very old. These Mandates are rather a new departure in international status and I dare say the noble Lord may have something to say on the proposition that a mandated territory does not form a very comfortable partner in a federation the other members of which are under the complete sovereignty of the British Crown. It may be so as a proposition in International Law, but I do not think it has any practical bearing upon the Government of the country. I would call the noble Lord's attention—he is probably familiar with it—to the terms of the Mandate for British East Africa. Article 10 says:— The Mandatory shall be authorised to constitute the territory into a customs, fiscal and administrative union or federation, with the adjacent territories under his own sovereignty or control; provided always that the measures adopted to that end do not infringe the provisions of this Mandate. Therefore, whatever may be said as a matter of academic argument, there is specific authority by the body which is best qualified to judge of these matters authorising the federation of the Tanganyika Territory with the British Colonies in East Africa if it is decided that that is a wise and desirable thing to do. As the noble Lord knows, a Commission has gone out to East Africa for the purpose of examining the whole matter. I am not in a position, of course, to say what that Commission may recommend on this point, but it is quite clear, I think, that if Sir Hilton Young's Commission recommend a federation to include this particular mandated territory there will be nothing improper in accepting a recommendation of that sort and including the territory in the federation. Those are the minor points, I think, to which the noble Lord directed my attention.

More important is the question connected with Geneva to which the noble Lord refers. I am rather reluctant to attempt at the present moment any very full reply to what the noble Lord has said, because I have in my mind that I shall have to meet my noble friend in a very short time, and not only do I not want to anticipate what I may say then, but I do not know that there is any occasion for inflicting two speeches on the subject on your Lordships' House.

Indeed, I may say three, because although I have not had the honour of being very long in your Lordships' House I have already directed your attention to this particular subject in reply to the noble Lord. I do not know whether it is possible for us to reach that stage which we often reach in private life of simply saying that we must agree to differ. After all, it comes to that. The noble Lord has put his view about the Optional Clause before your Lordships' House at considerable length and with his usual skill on former occasions. Last November he brought the matter before your Lordships' House, and I did my best to answer him and to put forward the views of the Government on that occasion.


May I say that my question refers to what is particularly proposed in the Memorandum. It is not a general matter. It is a particular question arising on the Memorandum of the Government.


I do not think, if I may respectfully say so, that that is quite correct. It is true the noble Lord referred to the Memorandum, because the Memorandum expresses the views of the Government instead of expressing his views. He began by saying that the Memorandum did not commend itself to those who were in favour of the Optional Clause. It was not intended to. There was never any intention of sending out a document setting forth the views of the Government which would commend itself to those, who, like the noble Lord, are in favour of the Optional Clause. I do not think, therefore, that I am under any obligation to go through all the various reasons which commend themselves to me personally and also to other members of the Government against signing the Optional Clause. I would like to ask the noble Lord, if I may do so respectfully, why does he not begin by converting the noble Viscount beside him?


There is complete liberty of opinion on this Bench.


The noble Viscount has expressed the opinion quite as strongly as any member of the present Government that the Optional Clause is one which it would be unwise to sign. I really think the noble Lord might begin by making a convert beside him before he brings his bitter reproaches against us on this side of the House because, notwithstanding his repeated expositions, we are still in the unfortunate position of taking another view. There is another point of a more general kind which I should like to lay before the noble Lord. We call this an Optional Clause but it is an Optional Clause to assume a compulsory liability. The option ends when you sign it, and then the compulsion begins. The noble Lord now belongs to a Party which, in very much less important matters than these international affairs, strenuously resists any proposal to submit to compulsory arbitration. The Labour Party has done this over and over again. It is not for me to say whether they are well advised or ill-advised, but certainly I think that it is at least logical to say that, if in the industrial world certain interests think that compulsory arbitration is too dangerous for them to accept because it might mean some encroachment upon their particular interests, surely it is even more fair to say that these dangers should hold out a warning when the possibilities of dispute concern not only material interests between one section of the population and another but interests between one country and another. The consequences of a wrong decision in a matter of this sort are very much more serious.

I am not on this occasion going to deal with the noble Lord's contention that all difficulty might be got over merely by reservations. I think I have said before that personally I regard it as very objectionable to sign a clause of this sort with a general purport and significance if at the same time you put reservations upon your signature which probably go very far to nullify that signature altogether. As a matter of fact, I have been told by those who know exactly what the reservations are that have been already entered by other nations, that the signatures and the ratifications are so peppered with reservations, and different reservations from different nations, that if a crisis were to arise in which this clause had to be put into operation, it would be a very difficult matter for anybody to discover exactly what the particular nations concerned were liable for. I think that this manner of signing a general Treaty of this kind really goes very far to destroy it altogether.

There is only one other point that I should like to mention in the case made by the noble Lord. He said—and I should agree with him if I did not think that he had misunderstood the meaning—that it was a very unfortunate suggestion to make that we could not sign a Treaty of this sort lest public opinion should change and lest it might then not be implemented. He then challenged me to say whether I could suggest any Treaty signed by the British Government which had suffered that fate. I am very thankful to say that I can make no such suggestion. But why? Because British Governments in the past have been very careful, when they signed an arbitration Treaty, that it covered only grounds in respect of which they were quite confident that in any circumstances the nation would be prepared to implement it. The noble Lord made special reference to perhaps the most famous of all arbitrations entered into by this country, the Alabama case. I wonder if the noble Lord has at all recently directed his attention to the circumstances of that arbitration, because, if he will refresh his memory with regard to it, he will find that the Alabama case is quite as striking an example of refusal to arbitrate as it is of agreement to arbitrate, and it is a very instructive case as to the line which ought to be drawn between those matters which are arbitrated and those which are not.

The noble Lord will find that the original demand of the American Government was to arbitrate on a very large question. The first part of it was that we were to arbitrate as to whether or not the United States had suffered damage and, if so, what damage, owing to premature or improper recognition of the Southern States as belligerents. That was a very big question. There were also, I think, some other points of the same sort which the British Government resolutely refused to submit to arbitration. When by the ordinary diplomatic channels the issue had been very considerably narrowed down, if I recollect rightly, simply to the comparatively small point of the injury that had been suffered by private citizens of the United States owing to the privateering raiders which we had by our negligence apparently allowed to proceed from our ports—when it had been narrowed down to that comparatively simple issue, then it became a classical example, which it has remained ever since, of submitting to arbitration a simple matter of damages, all the difficult principles haying been cleared out of the way by diplomatic action.


There was also the question of indirect claims, which the noble Lord has not mentioned. It is a point in his favour rather than against him. These indirect claims were insisted on by the United States and it was only after very great difficulty that the matter was withdrawn. It concerned millions of money.


I am much obliged to the noble Viscount. He has supplied a point that I had forgotten. I said that other points were cleared out of the way, and it was in fact those indirect claims that I had in my mind.


That really had nothing to do with my point, which concerned the carrying out of an award that had been made. My question was whether we would implement the award as it was in fact made. There was great discussion in this case, but the award was finally implemented, with an advantage that has persisted ever since.


Exactly. I do not know whether I shall fail to make the noble Lord understand my point.


I quite understand the point.


If he does not, it is entirely my own fault, but I do not think that he does. My point is that, if at that time we had been signatories to the Optional Clause, we should have been obliged to submit to arbitration not merely the point which we were quite ready to submit—the simple point of damages to private citizens—but the very much larger question, which was purely a political question, and if we had done that then I think there might have been very considerable danger that this nation would not have consented to implement it. I bring forward this case in answer to the challenge of the noble Lord, and I say that it is futile to ask whether a Treaty has ever been violated in that way, because before that challenge can have any validity or any force you must have the conditions which the noble Lord is seeking to bring about and which, I think, would be very objectionable and dangerous. I will not say more on the subject at the present moment because my noble friend below the gangway (Viscount Cecil of Chelwood) is going to bring the matter up at a near date, and no doubt it will be my duty to go more fully into it then. But I do not want to mislead either the noble Lord opposite or my noble friend. The obstacle, or one of the obstacles, still undoubtedly is the attitude of our Dominions. I know that it is for that reason that my noble friend wants to clear that out of the way by suggesting that we should approach them first.

His Majesty's Government in this country is open to persuasion either by the Dominions or by the force of circumstances, but so far as I am able to judge at the present time I can see no new fact, no reason why we should change our view, or adopt a new policy, unless it were for the mere pleasure of finding ourselves in agreement with the noble Lord. That, no doubt, is a very great object, but I am not at all sure that it is a sufficient object upon which to base the policy of this country. I do not believe myself, though the noble Lord is persuaded of it—he said so in the course of his speech—that this would be the greatest step we could possibly take in the direction of establishing peace. I do not believe it for a moment. I do not believe that if we were to sign the Optional Clause to-morrow peace would be in the smallest degree more certain—I am not at all sure that it would not be more precarious if we were to do so. But do not let the noble Lord think that while he is a devotee of peace we are bloodthirsty scoundrels, anxious to lead the nations into war. If he thinks that he will be doing a great injustice to us, and, I think, erring in a direction very unusual to him—for want of modesty on his own side.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his courtesy, but I cannot thank him for the meagre information which he supplied. I am not referring to Iraq; I think that was satisfactory. He said that the Government had never been in favour of conscription there, and was not in favour of it now. That was what I wanted to hear. But with regard to other points, first of all do not think that the matters which I raised were not properly raised, quite irrespective of anything mentioned in the noble Viscount's Motion which, of course, was put down at a later stage than mine, and of the presence of which on the Paper I was not aware. I think the noble Lord said, and truly enough, that the difference between the view he has put forward and mine goes very deep. It is a matter of very deep outlook, whether you think it is well to provide, either by judicial methods or by our ordinary arbitration methods, the means of settling all international disputes. Of course, it is not a new question. The Covenant itself goes a very long way, as the noble Lord knows. And many of his objections appear to me to be objections to the Covenant itself, because, except for what is called filling up the gap by the provisions of the Protocol, all that is contained in the Covenant of the League at the present moment is in the direction, and to a great extent compulsorily in the direction, of bringing about a settlement by other means than war.

When he spoke about arbitration in industrial matters that is a large question, and perhaps there might be more of it with advantage. But it is a very different thing in international disputes, because the alternative there is war, and it is war that we want to avoid. It may be very unfortunate to have a strike, but, after all, it is nothing like a world war. A world war means killing in millions, ruin, devastation, and (if I might quote his own Chancellor of the Exchequer) every conceivable crime against humanity except torture and cannibalism and he said those only were not done because they were of doubtful utility. I am not sure that even those should be excepted. Therefore we have to consider in these international matters what the alternative is. Everyone knows that there are risks in any step you may take in a matter of this kind, but they are worth it, and more than worth it, if the alternative of war is made as impossible as words can make it. Of course I quite recognise that the noble Lord disagrees with me on the fundamental proposition, but when he is comparing industrial arbitration with international arbitration I think you are bound to consider how different the two things are.

One word in conclusion about the Alabama case. I have quoted it pretty often, and I think I know all the conditions as well as my noble and learned friend (Viscount Haldane) does. We do not, and we cannot, agree about it. The reason why I quoted it is that it is a classical instance of the award, when made, being objected to very strongly by the public opinion in this country. Yet, in accordance with what I should call our invariable practice, we implemented our obligations. We did not treat them as a "scrap of paper." I recollect its being suggested at Geneva that possibly we might not implement an undertaking given. I refused to discuss it. I said: "There has been no such case, in my opinion there never will be such a case. I will discuss the matter on the assumption that any undertaking which the British Government give in treaty form is certain to be implemented having regard to the history of the past." I am sure the noble Lord will agree with me that that is an extremely important point. I do not wish to reply at any greater length, but I must thank the noble Lord for his courtesy, though the information he gave was not what I desired. I was going to make the suggestion about the Papers myself, but I understand that the undertaking is already given and it is quite satisfactory.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.