HL Deb 15 May 1928 vol 71 cc4-30

THE MARQUESS OF READING had given Notice of the following Resolution:—That this House cordially welcomes the proposals of the United States Government for renunciation of war, and, whilst recognising the desire of His Majesty's Government to co-operate in securing the peace of the world, is of opinion that prompt and favourable consideration should be given to these proposals, and that His Majesty's Government should declare their acceptance of the principles embodied in the proposed Treaties to the United States Government.

The noble Marquess said: My Lords, the Motion which I have placed upon the Paper, and which I now submit for the approval of your Lordships' House, is one which is in no sense designed to embarrass the Government or to represent the views of any political Party. My purpose has been to enable your Lordships, if you should think fit, to express your opinion—because that is all that is asked—with regard to the proposals of the United States Government for the renunciation of war. That the proposal is one of great moment no one can dispute, and the Resolution that I am asking this House to adopt is, as you will see, really confined, and designedly confined, to expressing a cordial welcome of the proposals of the United States Government, and stating the opinion that prompt and favourable consideration should be given to its proposals and that His Majesty's Government should declare their acceptance of the principle embodied in them. I desire at the outset to make it quite plain, as I think will appear from the terms of the Motion, that not only do I not desire to embarrass the Government—indeed, if I thought that the Motion would embarrass the Government I would not move it—but that I desire to pay a tribute of warm appreciation to the efforts which have been made, persistently and consistently, by His Majesty's Government and the Foreign Secretary to ensure the peace of the world. There can be no doubt, whatever view may be held with regard to certain proposals that have come forward for discussion at different times since His Majesty's Government have been in power, that the opinion of the country—expressed, I was going to say, without a dissentient voice, and I doubt very much if I am using exaggerated language—is that every endeavour should be made to secure peace and to make certain that we can have no recurrence of war.

We are fortunate again, as was shown in the debate last week in another place, in that this question is quite above ordinary Party political controversies. All Parties have spoken with one mind. Since I placed this Motion on the Paper of your Lordships' House a debate has occurred in another place on the Foreign Office Vote. No Resolution was proposed, nor, of course, could one properly be placed before the House in that discussion, but speeches were made, and it became manifest, both from the remarks of the Leader of the Labour Party and the Leader of the Liberal Party in that House, and especially from the language of the Foreign Secretary, that there is in truth no division of opinion, and that all unite in welcoming the proposals that the United States Government has made. If the Motion that I have placed before you simply consisted of this declaration of welcome I should not need to say another word. I should be content to leave it before your Lordships, as I feel confident that nothing more would be required from me. But that is not sufficient and, in my view, we must extend a most friendly and sympathetic hand to the United States Government. We should receive these proposals as they are conceived, in friendliness and sympathy, with the whole-hearted desire to co-operate in securing world peace. I very much doubt whether it would be necessary for me to argue that before your Lordships. The Foreign Secretary himself has used language, not identical with, but closely resembling that which I have just formulated to you, and I should have contented myself with the observations that he made, merely quoting them, and I should have asked your Lordships, as I am sure I could, to accept the Motion.

But I am asking something more. I think it necessary to do so, and I hope that your Lordships will agree with the view that I place before you. We should have no hesitation, and there should be no room for thinking that there is hesitation, in our acceptance of proposals of this character from America. The importance of the step that we are now discussing is, I would submit to you, most far-reaching. After all, America has not the same interest in Europe as we have, or in Asia, but nevertheless, and in spite of the fact that for a number of years she has not taken a prominent part or, it may be said, any part in some of the discussions that have proceeded at Geneva and elsewhere, she has now come forward and made the most important peace proposal, the greatest step forward that has yet been made. It is on that proposal that I am so anxious to secure an expression of opinion from your Lordships to the effect of my Motion on the Paper.

Your Lordships will remember—and I do not for a moment intend to delay the House by recapitulating—the various steps that have been taken ever since the Armistice and the Peace Treaties and the Covenant of the League of Nations. There have been numerous proposals designed, I would almost say, to secure the peace of the world. I will only remind you of quite recent events. There was the notable Treaty of Locarno, for which so much credit has been rightly given to the Foreign Secretary and His Majesty's Government. Again, there have been Conferences for disarmament, with regard to which it is not necessary that I should say anything at this moment. There were in September of last year at Geneva fifty States, Members of the League of Nations, who condemned and prohibited by a resolution aggressive war—all steps your Lordships will observe in the same direction, but nothing like so complete. In the early part of this year there was the Pan-American Conference, at which twenty-one American Republics united in a resolution condemning and denouncing war between themselves and further condemning and prohibiting aggressive war. Of those twenty-one Republics seventeen were already Members of the League of Nations. All these are steps which indicate the progress of the world's thought, and yet nothing which resulted in disarmament has taken place. Nations do not feel secure, and I would submit to your Lordships that the reason hitherto has been that until America came in and took her part, the Nations did feel some lack of confidence, not in the intentions of those who were signing the Treaties which were made, but because so long as America stood without and did not come within, there was an incalculable force upon which it was impossible to reckon. No one could say whether she would intervene or whether she would not in case there should be threat of war.

After all these processes of thought and procedures in action have taken place (perhaps it would not be quite correct to say "after"), there emanated from M. Briand, in December, 1927, a proposal for a bilateral Treaty between France and the United States for the renunciation of war as an instrument of policy, and also for the settlement of all questions in dispute between the two nations by pacific means. That in itself was a further step forward, and after considerable thought the American Government came forward with what has been described as the multi-lateral Treaty, in which she has drafted a Treaty for the acceptance of five Powers with herself, including Great Britain and her Dominions beyond the Seas and India, France, Italy, Germany and Japan. She asks these nations to join in a Treaty which is so simple and yet so wide and comprehensive that I would venture to suggest that there can be no real objection to the acceptance of it in its present terms, leaving open, I quite agree, various matters of detail which will have to be discussed and negotiated in the future, but which should not for one moment prevent our immediate acceptance of the Treaty. The Treaty is so short and yet so important that I will read to your Lordships the very few sentences which are necessary in order to bring quite clearly to your minds what, of course, you have already read—namely, the effective proposals.

There is a preamble, important in itself but with which I will not trouble you now. Article 1 is as follows:— The High Contracting Parties solemnly declare, in the name of their respective peoples, that they condemn recourse to war for the solution of international controversies, and renounce it as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another.

That is what I have compendiously termed in my Motion as proposals for renunciation of war, and you will notice how far-reaching it is. Recourse to war is condemned and is renounced as an instrument of national policy. The next Article, and the only other with which I shall trouble your Lordships, is:— The High Contracting Parties agree that the settlement or solution of all disputes or conflicts of whatever nature or of whatever origin they may be, which may arise among them, shall never be sought except by pacific means. I pause for a moment to emphasise to your Lordships how far-reaching is the character of that Article.

The first Article, no doubt, is a solemn declaration. War is renounced. It is no longer to be an instrument of policy. It shall no longer figure in the Diplomatic Notes which may pass between nations. No implication will be raised in any Notes of threats of war. All that is to disappear entirely, according to the proposal now put before us. Then as a corollary comes the Article which I have just read, which is most significant as emanating from the United States Government, and which is certainly the most far-reaching of the proposals for world peace that have ever yet been placed before us, or before the world. Your Lordships will observe that there are no reservations of any kind. There is no question of such matters as matters affecting the honour of a country being excepted, as was the case in the arbitration Treaties with which we have been familiar. It is really for the first time that the Powers are asked to agree with the United States that, for the future, every dispute, whatever its character or origin, whatever its implications or consequences, shall be settled by pacific means; that is, by a tribunal of some character which will have to be agreed upon. If this is accepted you will have among the Powers which are, after all, the most formidable in the world at the present moment, an agreement solemnly entered into by them to this effect. That is what I have ventured to characterise as the most momentous step and the greatest forward movement that has yet taken place in the pursuit of world-peace.

The only other Article it is unnecessary to read, but it makes plain that any nation may declare its adherence to these proposals. They are not confined to the six Powers. Those Powers will naturally be the first signatories, but the proposals do not exclude other Powers. On the contrary, they leave it open to them to declare their adherence and become parties to them. So gradually, it is to be hoped, if this becomes an effective instrument, all the nations of the world will have become parties to the document which we are now discussing.

Now I would ask one question. Why should we not accept these proposals? What argument is there to be advanced against acceptance? I have read somewhere that they amount only to a platitude. That means that they represent a self-evident truth and that it is not necessary to have a document. But is there not all the difference in the world between a platitude and this solemn declaration by six great Powers that henceforth they are agreed only to resort to pacific means for the settlement of disputes? What other argument is there? There is one which certainly might have been formulated. It was put forward in the first instance by France, but it is one that in some respects touches us closely. It may be said: How can a Government that has entered into the Covenant of the League of Nations, that has made the Treaties of Locarno, sign a document of this character which may be inconsistent with those engagements? Without attempting for a moment to enter into detailed discussion of the League of Nations Covenant, it might be said that Articles 70, 15 and 16, each of them, contain a possibility of a country having to undertake military operations or to enter into war. There has been much written and said on the subject, and I will leave it at that, for reasons which I will explain in a moment. It is further said there must be a limitation, that is to say, every country must have the right to defend itself. Again, the argument was used that there must be liberty of action in case one of the parties to the Treaty should break it; and, lastly—and I think this has only been advanced by France—that this Treaty should only come into effect when all the Powers have signed it.

I leave out the last for the moment, and I deal with the first three. To my mind each is a formidable matter for us to consider. We have a proud history in regard to the observance of Treaties. We do not break Treaties, we perform them scrupulously, and it might be said it is impossible for us to enter into a Treaty of this character so long as we remain parties to the League of Nations Covenant and tie Locarno Treaties. But, fortunately, all doubts of this character have teen dispelled by a speech, which was described by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs recently as very remarkable, made by Mr. Kellogg, the Secretary of State in the United States Government, in an address winch he delivered to the Council on Foreign Relations. There he made it quite clear that none of these matters should stand in the way of any country that desired to become a signatory of this Treaty. As regards the safeguarding of the right to legitimate self-defence and free action in case one of the signatories to the Treaty breaks its compact, these, according to him—and I think your Lordships will agree—are self-evident propositions. They are inherent in a Treaty of this character. He went on to observe that there was nothing in the proposed Treaty to impair these rights, and it was unnecessary to include them in the text. He further declared that there was no inconsistency between the Covenant of the League of Nations and the idea of unqualified renunciation of war; and, in relation to the Locarno Treaties, he said that the United States was entirely willing that all parties to them should become parties to this proposed anti-war Treaty.

The speech of the United States Secretary of State merits much greater attention than I am able to give it at this moment. My reason for referring to that speech is, firstly, because I know its terms are fairly generally known and have been very fully reported, but mainly because, by the statements which I have just quoted, all the difficulties in our way in regard to the three Articles of the Covenant which, as I said, might conflict with our obligations if we signed this Treaty, have been formally recognised. Mr. Kellogg's statement enables us to adopt that interpretation, as, indeed, Germany has already done in the declaration which she has made accepting the Treaty with the interpretations placed upon it by Mr. Kellogg. I submit, therefore, that those difficulties, if they existed, are removed. Notwithstanding that we are parties to the Covenant of the League of Nations, that we should never depart from the pledges which we have given, that we should keep faith to the uttermost limit with all those signatories; notwithstanding that we have entered into the Treaties of Locarno, which might, on the face of them, appear inconsistent with this Treaty for the renunciation of war, we are still able to sign it; we retain our rights of self-defence, we retain our liberty of action in case one of the parties should break the Treaty. Once that is made clear I ask your Lordships to dismiss from your minds any doubts or hesitation or reluctance that you might have had to express an opinion in favour of the Treaty as it stands.

I do not know exactly what view His Majesty's Government may take upon this matter, except in so far as I have gathered it from the speech made by the Foreign Secretary in another place last Thursday. Certainly, according to his view, as I understand it, he would not dissent from the propositions I have put forward. No doubt he would express them a little more carefully because of the position he occupies. But, after Mr. Kellogg's speech, he stated that he hoped that these Treaties will be successfully concluded and for the reason, or part of the reason, I have just given. Of the reservations or objections that have been raised there remains only one which was raised by France. That was that all Powers should join in this. Here Mr. Kellogg naturally did nothing, and for my part, and I hope also in accordance with your Lordships' view, we should not allow a condition of that kind to interfere with the completion of the important step which we are now discussing. I do not wish to take up time in pointing out all the difficulties that might arise and all the delays and obstructions that might take place if you had to get the assent of all the Powers. But why should we wait? If we have the signatures of the six Powers—America, the British Empire, France, Germany, Italy and Japan—what is there to fear? Where is the world war to come from? How can it be made so long as you have these six Powers parties to this Treaty and, of course, as one must assume and as we would all believe, intending to carry out loyally and faithfully the obligations they have undertaken?

I have stated to your Lordships the various objections that may be put, as I understand them. For myself I do not know of any others, although I have studied the literature on this subject with the greatest care. I admit that I am deeply interested, as I am sure your Lordships are. I think that at the present moment it is essential there should be no appearance of hesitation on the part of our Government in the conclusions that it will reach regarding these proposals. I do not know whether there will be any dissentient voice, but I would state unhesitatingly that the first item for this country in its foregn policy is to maintain and to enhance the friendly relations between the United States and ourselves. We say that war between us is unthinkable. It is true, in spite of all the various little discussions which take place and are not worth mentioning, that war is unthinkable. But with our united influence and the other Powers joining in this, then I think that war would not only be unthinkable between ourselves and the United States, but unthinkable between any States. I do not for a moment suggest that it is impossible that there might be some conflict between smaller Powers and that difficulties might arise. I do not think that we reach the millennium merely by signing this document. But I believe that we shall have taken a very important step. I believe that we shall have gone further forward in the direction of the world peace which we have all had at heart ever since the Great War, than by anything that has been done yet.

We not only have America stepping in for the first time and joining with us and with the other Powers for the purpose of maintaining peace in the world, but taking her part in the affairs of Europe to the extent that she joins with European Powers in the renunciation of war and in the agreement that for the future all disputes shall be settled by pacific means. That is a really great advance. It will take time, I believe, before the minds of our people adapt themselves to the change of thought that must necessarily happen once this document is signed. Men will no longer think in terms of war. It may sound strange, it may sound visionary, but I believe it to be true that if only that document can be signed and whatever negotiations take place with regard to it can be completed, then for the first time there will be security for the peace of the world, and those who have taken part in it, who have striven for it, will at last have seen the success of the most mighty, the most inspiring and the most noble of all political causes—the peace of the world. I beg to move.

Moved to resolve, That this House cordially welcomes the proposals of the United States Government for renunciation of war, and, whilst recognising the desire of His Majesty's Government to co-operate in securing the peace of the world, is of opinion that prompt and favourable consideration should be given to these proposals, and that His Majesty's Government should declare their acceptance of the principles embodied in the proposed Treaties to the United States Government.—(The Marquess of Reading.)


My Lords, I desire to say in a very few words how heartily I agree with the Resolution which the noble Marquess has proposed and also with the eloquent words which he has addressed to your Lordships. The proposal of America is a momentous one in the history of the world. As the noble Marquess has pointed out, it is the greatest step which has yet been proposed for ensuring a world peace, which I believe is in accord with the wishes of the vast majority certainly of the people of this country and of the people of the world at large. As the noble Marquess has so eloquently said, the question must be approached entirely from a national standpoint. It may be sufficient if I quote one passage from the speech made by the Leader of the Labour Party on the occasion of the debate in another place. Mr. MacDonald said that he thought we ought to accept without attaching reservations. That, I think, is a very important statement. There is a further statement I should like to add and in which I am in entire agreement with the noble Marquess—namely, that the acceptance should be made as speedily as possible and in recognition of the generous and wide-reaching manner in which Mr. Kellogg has put forward his proposals. I am also in entire agreement with what the noble Marquess has said as regards existing relations or Treaty obligations which affect this country, that there is no reason whatever, particularly after the explanation of Mr. Kellogg, why the American proposals might not be accepted without any delay at all.

The noble Marquess referred, and I should like to refer quite shortly, to the question as to whether the proposals in the Treaty might be inconsistent with obligations which we have undertaken either in the Covenant of the League or in the Treaty of Locarno. In my view it is unthinkable that this country should not entirely fulfil any Treaty or international obligation which it undertakes. It always has done so and I assume it always will do so. The noble Marquess has pointed out what Mr. Kellogg has said. In addition, let me say that I can see no inconsistency between the terms of the American proposal and the obligations undertaken in (I think they are) Articles 10, 15 and 16 of the Covenant of the League. If there is any difference it is a difference in what is called the sanction in the two cases; but I place no weight upon that, because I regard our obligations as not to be protected by sanctions; they will be undertaken by the good faith which has always been characteristic of the British people.

The noble Marquess quoted that very important paragraph in Article II of the American proposals. I will read the words once more because they are so very striking:— … agree that the settlement or solution of all disputes or conflicts of whatever nature or of whatever origin they may be, which may arise among them, shall never be sought except by pacific Means. It is impossible that any drafting could state a principle in wider terms. It is impossible to read into the terms themselves any limiting provisos. At the same time, by using the draft form of acceptance it is made perfectly clear that pacific means only are to be used in the future in settlement of those international disputes and conflicts. Perhaps I may add this to what the noble Marquess has said, that in the Locarno Treaty the expression is "except by friendly means." There is no difference, of course, between the words "friendly" and "pacific." If there is any difference it is merely a matter of language. I think that perhaps pacific is the more expressive term of the two.

The only other matter that I have ever heard of is the possibility that there might be difficulty in regard to the special obligations and Treaties which now exist between the United States and this country. I think it is clear that no such difficulties could possibly arise. There is what is known as the Root Arbitration Treaty of 1908. That only refers to certain specific matters for judicial decision, and in terms excludes the question of vital honour or matters affecting third parties. Then there is the Arbitration Treaty of 1914, which, after all, was nothing more than a Treaty sending matters of dispute for conciliation—to what is called in the Covenant of the League, inquiry and report. This proposal, as the noble Marquess has pointed out, goes far beyond any peace proposals hitherto made both in its scope and in its importance. If I have any feeling about it, it is a wish that we ourselves had started such a peace proposal for the world at large; but that is a small matter. There is no country of greater importance for the peace of the world than America. This proposal not only carries peace prospects further than they have ever been carried, but, what I think is still more important, it shows that the American people as a whole—and as I believe—have a true peace spirit, a true desire for world quiet; and it is not so much on paper, but on the existence of that spirit and that feeling that we can trust for quiet and security in the future. I very heartily support what was said by the noble Marquess.


My Lords, I need hardly say that the very last thing I should feel would be any sort of complaint that the noble Marquess has raised this question this afternoon. Indeed, for a reason which I shall give in a moment, I am very glad that he has done so, but I do feel a little surprised, perhaps, that he has thought it worth while to do so, because, as he himself has reminded your Lordships, very few days have passed since the whole question was debated in another place, when a very full statement was made by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary, covering practically all the ground that it is possible to cover at the present moment. Therefore I hope that the noble Marquess will not feel in any way aggrieved if I find it impossible to add anything to what has been said by the Foreign Secretary, who, of course, speaks with the greatest possible authority.

I was rather surprised at one or two of the things which fell from the noble Marquess. It is true that he began by saying that he had no intention and no desire whatever to embarrass His Majesty's Government. I gladly acknowledge that nothing that he has said tends in that direction; in fact, I find practically nothing in the very eloquent speech which the noble Marquess made with which I feel I ought to disagree in any particular, except that towards the end of his speech he asked the question: Why should this Draft Treaty not be accepted? And a few other sentences fell from him to the same effect, which seemed to imply, though he did not actually say so, that some hesitation on the part of the Government could be detected, some lack of eagerness to meet the proposals which have been put forward from America. Otherwise I do not think there was any particular point in putting the question in that particular form.

As a matter of fact I entirely agree with the noble Marquess in all that he has said about these proposals. There is no hesitation, and there has been no hesitation, by His Majesty's Government in giving a welcome to the proposals which have been made. On this point I would like to read a short passage from the speech of the Foreign Secretary which puts it beyond question:— I will go further to-day, and I will say that, not only have we warmly welcomed it, but that we are hopeful that it will be successfully concluded, and that it will make a real contribution to the peace of the world. Later in his speech he repeated that:— I need scarcely say after my opening words on this topic that our answer"— that is, our answer to the American Government— will be to the effect of our desire to co-operate in the conclusion of such a pact as is proposed, and to engage with the interested Governments in the negotiations required for that purpose. Therefore I can say that from the very outset these proposals are welcomed by His Majesty's Government and that no time will be lost in acting upon the words which I have just read from the Foreign Secretary's speech.

I said just now that I was glad that the noble Marquess had raised this question. I am glad partly because I welcome the generous tribute which he has paid to the efforts of the Government in the direction of peace and especially the efforts, the successful efforts, of my right hon. friend the Foreign Secretary. Perhaps your Lordships would allow me to say that I have had special opportunities of judging how just that tribute is which has been rendered by the noble Marquess. When the present Government was formed I had the honour of going in a subordinate office to the Foreign Office, and then, after a period there, I was for two years in another Department where I had neither time nor opportunity for giving any attention to foreign affairs. Then, some months ago now, I was moved to the office which I now hold, where I again have opportunities of keeping in touch, to some extent, with the foreign policy of the Government. I can truly say that after the interval of two years when I returned to touch with foreign affairs, I was astonished at the improvement, as it appeared to me, which in that interval had taken place with regard to the sense of security in the world, with regard to confidence in the maintenance of peace. I think a complete change has come over the public atmosphere of Europe. I think that is very largely due to the successful negotiation and signing of the Treaty of Locarno, in which, as the noble Marquess has said, my right hon. friend had a very large part. Therefore, I entirely agree with him in the tribute which he has paid in that respect.

When I come to the particular Draft Treaty which the noble Marquess has brought to your Lordships' attention this afternoon. I should like to refer, if I may, a little more particularly than he did to the history of it up to the present moment. As the noble Marquess knows, and as your Lordships know, this proposal has grown out of a correspondence which took place between the French Government and the American Government. In fact, the proposal originated with the French Government and it has been enlarged in the course of negotiations. The French Government wished to confine the renunciation of war to aggressive war. That was objected to, and I think reasonably and rightly objected to, by the Government of the United States, which takes the view which His Majesty's Government have always also held, that it is impossible to give a definition of aggressive war. As the Foreign Secretary said on a memorable occasion at Geneva, it is much better to wait until the occasion arises and take into account the circumstances of any given case before we pronounce on the question whether there has been aggression or not.

I must ask your Lordships to remember the terms of the Treaty of Locarno. In the Treaty of Locarno there is also a renunciation of war as between France and Germany, but that renunciation of war, their undertaking not to resort to war as between themselves, is subject to exceptions. The exceptions are stated to be cases of self-defence, war in self-defence, and war in pursuance of the obligations undertaken under the Covenant of the League. Therefore, it was not unnatural perhaps, when the present Draft Treaty was proposed by the United States, that the French Government might at first feel some hesitation as to whether the exceptions dealt with in the Treaty of Locarno are, or are not, covered by the much more general terms of the present proposed Treaty. I think it is from that hesitation that some of the correspondence between the French Government and the United States Government has taken place. I think we may confess that we, ourselves, have also felt some hesitation, because surely when you are undertaking a Treaty of this sort, however wholeheartedly one may accept the principle and accept all those considerations which the noble Marquess has so eloquently put before us, nevertheless when you are signing anything, surely it is very important that you should know exactly, not only what you mean by it but what other people mean by it. I do not think we can exaggerate the importance of making certain that when people sign documents of this sort they are in agreement as to the meaning. Otherwise you merely have future misunderstandings, which not only lead perhaps to very evil consequences directly but also indirectly cast doubts upon the efficacy of agreements of this sort.

Therefore, I do not think anybody can complain no matter how much care may be taken to make sure that the meaning which we attach to the document is the meaning which other people attach to it. The question is: Does this Draft, or does it not, admit the right of a nation to defend itself? Does it leave it open for nations to fulfil their obligations either under the Covenant of the League or under the Treaty of Locarno? The noble Marquess has quoted two authorities to show that these exceptions are covered by the Treaty. He has quoted Mr. Kellogg and he has quoted the German Government. I rather wish that the noble Marquess had given us his own views. After all, the noble Marquess is a very high legal authority, and I think that in a matter of this sort it would be of great value both to His Majesty's Government and to the world at large if we had the definite considered opinion of the noble Marquess as a Judge as to the meaning of this Article, and whether or not it does leave open to nations the right of self-defence and does safeguard the obligations under the Locarno Treaty and the Covenant.


I thought I had expressed my agreement with the views of the Foreign Secretary in this respect. Perhaps my desire not unduly to prolong my speech may not have conveyed my meaning. I did quote the Foreign Secretary and the views he had expressed—which I accepted.


That is not quite the same thing. After all, the Foreign Secretary's opinion is not a legal opinion. I would have been glad to fortify His Majesty's Government in the action they take and the views they hold with the authority of the noble Marquess.


I should not have accepted the view of the Foreign Secretary unless I was fully in accord with it. Being fully in accord I did not think it worth while discussing it further as I assumed that your Lordships were all familiar with that view. The noble Lord may take it from me that I agree absolutely with every word which has fallen from him upon this subject.


I am very glad indeed to have drawn that from the noble Marquess and, of course, I accept his statement that it was only his undue modesty which prevented him giving it to us before. I am glad to find that he agrees with that view, which is, as the Foreign Secretary said, the view that His Majesty's Government take. But they have taken it, after all, with some hesitation, because, although the noble Marquess now gives us the weight of his opinion and we have the views of the German Government and of Mr. Kellogg, it is not the fact that there is no difference of opinion among lawyers. It is very important that there should be a clear understanding. His Majesty's Government take the same view as has been expressed by the German Government and by Mr. Kellogg, very largely because of the remarkable speech made by Mr. Kellogg. In a matter of this sort it is, of course, of the very greatest importance to know the views, especially the personal views, of the author of the Draft Treaty. Nevertheless they remain, however weighty the authorities, personal opinions, individual opinions.

No one knows better than the noble Marquess the difference between the view expressed as to the intentions of authors of a document and the actual interpretation of the document itself. It may occur, and has often occurred, that the intentions of the framers of a draft are not successfully expressed in that draft, and it is for that reason that I believe that no one will think it unreasonable that we should desire—not to put reservations in the Treaty; I agree that we should avoid the necessity for any reservations in the Treaty; but that we should place on record in some formal and accepted manner the views expressed by the different Governments, the American Government, the German Government and ourselves, as to the meaning of the document that we are signing. There are, of course, methods known to diplomacy by which that might be done without in any way interfering with the acceptance of the document itself. As the Foreign Secretary said in the House of Commons the other day, there is no conceivable reason why there should be any hesitation on the part of His Majesty's Government in welcoming proposals of this sort. After all, the proposals themselves and the principles that they lay down are only such as have underlain the policy of this country in its foreign affairs, I will not say for how long—it may be a long time or a short time—but at all events in recent times the policy of this country has been that which is now practically put into words in this proposal of the American Government. That in itself is quite a sufficient reason for our welcoming that proposal.

As regards the actual Motion which the noble Marquess has placed upon the Paper, I do not know whether he would desire to have it accepted by your Lordships or whether he will be content with the discussion that he has raised and the complete agreement—I think it is complete—between him and those who represent His Majesty's Government in your Lordships' House. I should myself prefer not to give a formal acceptance to the actual terms of the Resolution, for although, especially after the speech of the noble Marquess, there is nothing in it that I should object to, nothing that I should feel it necessary to resist, yet it does appear to me to be a little lacking in precision. The noble Marquess explained that he made it so in order that he might put in a compendious form the terms of the Draft Treaty, but nevertheless the Resolution as it stands does not accurately reproduce the terms of the Draft Treaty and, as the intention of the noble Marquess is, I imagine, to ascertain the views of your Lordships and to elicit, what I think is the fact, that there is really no difference of opinion in your Lordships' House with regard to the character of these proposals and the policy that His Majesty's Government ought to pursue, I hope that he will be content without placing on formal record in the form of a Resolution words which are not quite precise, realising that in a matter of this kind, especially as we are discussing an international document that is not yet signed, it would be better for your Lord- ships not actually to place on record a Resolution which, as I say, does not precisely reproduce the terms of the Treaty.


Will the noble Lord tell me in what respect the Resolution lacks precision, bearing in mind that it does not profess to quote all the language of the Treaty? If he will tell me in what way he would desire to amend it, I shall be very glad to fall in with his view. I will leave it at that for the moment.


My Lords, I have to apologise to your Lordships for not having been present in the earliest stages of this debate owing to a very long-standing public engagement in the country which it was impossible for me to avoid. I do not desire to detain your Lordships for more than a very few moments. I am quite sure, though I did not hear the speeches, that I do not need to emphasise in any way the importance of the American proposal, which has no doubt been dealt with. Perhaps I might be permitted to point out that I think that those who drafted the American proposal must have had before them the old definition of Clausewitz of private war, which runs in this way: "It is an instrument of national policy whereby one nation imposes its will upon another." The object of the American proposal appears to be to take that definition and, accepting it as the definition of what may be called private war, to ask those who should sign a Treaty to renounce the right of private war altogether. I was very glad to hear from my noble friend the opinion that has also been expressed by the Foreign Secretary that our policy has for long been guided by the same principle—namely, that we do not affect or desire to use war as an instrument of national policy. I am not sure whether that would be accepted by all our foreign critics, but it is a very good thing to have it laid down as the policy which, in the opinion of the Foreign Office and of those qualified to speak for it, is that which the British Government adopt.

It would be affectation, however, to deny that, if the American proposal is accepted, as I earnestly hope it will be, it will make a very great difference in the accepted rules and understandings of International Law. Unless I have wholly misunderstood it, almost the fundamental principle on which International Law rests, or at any rate one of its most fundamental principles, is that every sovereign nation is entitled to go to war when it thinks it is desirable so to do in its own interests, or in any other interests, so far as that is concerned. It is now proposed to reverse that principle altogether—to take away the right of private war altogether—and to start International Law upon an entirely new basis. For myself I welcome most profoundly that suggestion, and earnestly hope that it will become part of the public law of the world, and that it will be accepted with as little delay as possible by His Majesty's Government, since their acceptance or refusal will naturally be of the greatest importance to its success among other nations.

I do not wish to make any serious criticism about the delay. The Foreign Secretary has explained it. No doubt it is unfortunate that we should have had to wait a certain time before sending our reply, and I confess that I had some hopes that upon the occasion of this debate His Majesty's Government would have been in a position to tell us in so many words and precisely, what reply they propose to send to the American Government. I understand from the debate in the House of Commons that a reply has already been suggested for consideration by the Dominions, and that we are awaiting their answers. I do not, of course, criticise that in any way, but I feel personally—although it is not particularly germane to this subject—that sooner or later Parliament and the Government will have to consider very carefully what is to be the final shape in which the management of the foreign affairs of the British Empire is to be left. It is quite right that we should carry with us the assent of the Dominions in everything that we do, but it is also, I think, quite impossible that we can admit that the foreign policy of the country is to be always and invariably held up until the Dominions have expressed their opinion upon it.

That is a great problem, and I merely mention it because it seems to me that in this case a certain amount of unfortunate impression has been produced by delay—delay for which I do not attack His Majesty's Government in any way (it is owing to the working of our institutions), but which it is desirable, it seems to me, in these very delicate matters, to avoid as much as possible in the future. My noble friend said that although the Government were decided to accept, and as I understand very warmly welcome, in the words of the Foreign Secretary, this proposal, they had had, I think he said, a little hesitation as to its full meaning in some respects. It is very natural and very right in a matter of this importance that everything should be considered with the utmost care. He pointed out that there were two difficulties, which we know from the public Press have greatly affected some other Powers—namely, first, the question whether self-defence was excluded, and whether the obligations under the Covenant were affected. As to that I do not think it is necessary to go further than what Mr. Kellogg rightly pointed cut. Self-defence cannot arise unless you are attacked, and when an attack is made the Treaty is broken, necessarily, and the obligations do not apply.

With regard to the other point raised, it is a point which I understand may have excited some anxiety on the Continent of Europe, because we must never forget that the preoccupation of some of them is their security, and they never consider any of these proposals without considering very anxiously what possible effect it will have upon their security. That has not been for us in the past so urgent a question, because we are not a Continental Power, but it is a very urgent question to them, and I would never make any criticism of them for their anxiety in that respect. I am bound to add that, so far as I am able to form an opinion, that anxiety does not seem to be well-founded on this occasion. As I understand it, it is this, that if you renounce war you may hamper the action of Members of the League of Nations in suppressing what, in spite of my noble friend, I will venture to call aggressive war; and it is said that to accept the renunciation of war in place of a positive guarantee of security against the consequence of aggression is not satisfactory to some Powers who are placed in a very delicate and difficult position.

I personally should say quite frankly that if I thought for one moment it was suggested that this Treaty was to take the place of the security given by the Articles of the Covenant, I should not think it was possible to suggest to Continental Powers that they should accept it. I myself see no reason for thinking that that is the effect of this Treaty, and we have the positive assurance of Mr. Kellogg that it is not the intention of those who proposed the Treaty. I confess that it seems to me, especially when you have in view the old definition of private war which I have read, quite clear that there is a real fundamental distinction between using war as an instrument of national policy and using war, or at any rate coercion, in order to preserve international peace, in the discharge of an international obligation. It seems to me parallel to the distinction between violence exercised by one individual against another, in order to obtain his wishes, which we punish as a crime or as an assault, and the exercise, it may be, of similar violence, and perhaps even greater violence, by a representative of the community—a policeman, or whoever it may be—in order to prevent or punish crime when committed.

The two things, although both involve violence, are entirely and essentially distinct, and as I understand this proposal, and the explanations of it that have been given, it is quite clear there is no intention whatever to deal with action on behalf of an international authority. What is aimed at is exactly what Clausewitz described as "using war as an instrument of national policy, whereby one nation imposes its will upon another." It does not seem to me that it really weakens in any way the effect of the Covenant, or of the safeguards provided by the Covenant. On the contrary everything which makes for peace strengthens the Covenant, anti strengthens the provisions in that document which provide for peace, and therefore I would myself have thought that the same language might be used about this as I remember my right hon. friend the Foreign Secretary used about the Treaties of Locarno. He said it is quite true that was not, strictly speaking, a League document, but it was, if I remember rightly his actual phrase, a document which underpinned the whole structure of the League; and it seems to me that this Kellogg proposal would under-pin the whole structure of the League, if and when it is adopted. Therefore, I cannot help feeling that these fears or doubts, to which my noble friend has alluded, and which he has put aside, he has rightly put aside, and I trust that all those who have felt the same doubts will imitate his example.

I do think very strongly that the acceptance of the renunciation of war, which I hope will now come to pass, makes even more strong the necessity for providing an alternative to war as a means of settling international disputes. If you are going to take away the existing method of dealing with it you must provide something in its place. Therefore I feel very strongly that the acceptance of this proposal does not weaken in any way the necessity for pressing on with the League efforts to extend arbitration and the reduction and limitation of armaments; on the contrary, it makes all those efforts even more necessary and even more obviously right. My noble friend referred in a different connection to the Treaties of Locarno. He pointed out that they forbade violence between the parties, but he will remember that in doing so they also provided very stringent rules as to the whole method of proceeding to arbitration in respect of the disputes which henceforth are not to be settled by the arbitrament of war. But I do not suggest that it is in any way necessary to hold up this Treaty or to discuss these matters.

I only make the observations I have made in order to guard against any possibility of the suggestion that if we make this Treats it will be unnecessary to proceed with the League's efforts to-wards arbitration and the reduction of armaments. Those are matters which it is not necessary, and which, indeed, it would be very undesirable, for me to discuss on this occasion. It may be that we shall have to come back to them in the future, and all I desire to say in conclusion is that I trust that as soon as possible—and it will be a great gratification to me if the Government are able to indicate when they expect to be able to send a reply to the American Note—they will send such a reply, and that it will be as cordially and as favourably drawn up as it is possible for a document to be.


My Lords, I had not intended to address you this evening, and I should not be addressing you but for two sentences of the speech, with which I should otherwise be in hearty sympathy, of the noble Lord, Lord Cushendun. There was one sentence at the beginning, and one sentence at the end. The sentence at the beginning was his expression of surprise that your Lordships' House should be invited to consider and debate this matter because it had been already debated in the House of Commons. I should have thought that that was the very reason why your Lordships' House should not be backward in expressing your approval, if you felt it, of the approach that is being made by the United States and the apparently favourable reception of that approach which was coming from His Majesty's Government.

The other sentence was the sentence at the end in which he invited the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, to withdraw his Motion. I trust most heartily he will do nothing of the kind. I think it is most important that your Lordships' House should appear not to be backward in promoting the cause of peace. Any one of us who had the courage to stand up, and thought he could do it with a dry eye, could on our experience of the last few years dilate in language to which feeling would give eloquence upon the miseries of war and the blessings of peace. It is unnecessary to do it in this House; we all know it too well. But, that being the case, and this being a really whole-hearted demonstration—a beau geste, as the French would call it—on the part of the United States, I trust we shall receive it with open arms. That does not mean—and here I am entirely in accord with the noble Lord, Lord Cushendun—that we are to accept everything blindfold. It may very well be quite desirable that there should be some sort of declaration that we understand the Treaty to mean what it says, and no more than it says, and that it should be made perfectly clear that we are not going to give up our obligations under the Covenant of the League of Nations, and that, after all, there are cases—and here I am going to borrow the language of an American pamphlet published during the latter stages of the War—where peace must be enforced. That was a most valuable contribution towards the various schemes which culminated in the League of Nations, made by some American jurists, and hearing the title of "Enforced Peace," and I wish that the Americans would remember that there are cases where peace must be enforced.

The only other caution I would put in is with regard to the kind of tribunal which is expected to operate in lieu of war and to decide these questions. I trust that the unpopularity which the League of Nations has in the United States owing to the unfortunate overdriving of that great man President Wilson—great but too obstinate in that matter—will not be allowed to react upon the popularity or unpopularity of the Permanent Court of International Justice which, after all, owes its existence very largely—principally—to the skill and insight, of a great American, Mr. Elihu Root, and which has had upon it from the beginning, in Mr. Bassett Moore, a valuable American Judge. I trust that nothing will be done in the way of side-tracking that Court, and that, as far as possible, His Majesty's Government will make that the organ which is to decide questions in dispute between nations. With those cautions, which I quite approve the wisdom of the Foreign Office in considering, I nevertheless trust that we shall show by our vote that we welcome the proposal of the United States and the conduct of His Majesty's Government in taking that proposal into favourable consideration.


My Lords, I do not know whether the proposal of my noble friend Lord Cushendun, which I might almost call an obiter dictum, a passing phrase, as to the withdrawal of this Motion was intended to be a definite request to the noble Marquess to withdraw it. If it was I greatly hope that the noble Marquess will not accede to it. I can conceive of nothing more unfortunate in the history of England at this time than that when this matter has come forward and has been brought before another place, either it should not have come before this House or, still worse, it should have come before this House and the House should have declined to agree to it. I most earnestly hope that we shall in every way encourage His Majesty's Government to speak decisively, to speak promptly and to speak without reservation of any kind, and to accept a proposal which, I believe, will stand out in history as one of the most remarkable that has been made in the story of civilisation and of the world. I should be very sorry indeed if this House took no part in ratifying and voting for it.


My Lords, in consequence of what has fallen from the most rev. Primate, may I say that I did not intend to make any definite request for withdrawal. I expressed the view that as the Resolution was not very precisely worded possibly the noble Marquess did not wish to place it on our records. I do not press that in the least degree. In consequence of what the most rev. Primate has said and what I understand is the wish of the noble Marquess himself, I am quite ready to accept the proposal.


My Lords, I will only detain you for a very few moments. My first answer to what has fallen from my noble friend Lord Cushendun is with regard to his surprise at my having placed this Motion on the Paper and persisted in it. I placed this Motion on the Paper before the debate had taken place in the other House. But even had I not done so, I would have brought the Motion before your Lordships' House, because my desire was that we should take the opportunity which I understand His Majesty's Government cannot, at this moment, however much they desire it, take with the proper formalities; that is to say, I wished, if your Lordships thought fit, that this House should express its opinion upon the, proposals. I understood from the speech of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the other day, and it was implied in what fell from my noble friend this afternoon, that however anxious the Government was to express its immediate approval, after it had once considered the language that was being used, it could not take that step because the Dominions were being consulted.

I never used the expression "hesitation" in relation to the Government with the slightest desire to criticise them. All I meant was that I thought it would be lamentable if it should go forward to the United States that we were showing reluctance to accept the proposal that had come from them. It occurred to me when the Foreign Secretary made his speech on Thursday last that it accentuated the desirability of your Lordships' House expressing an opinion. The House of Commons was unable to express an opinion because the debate there took place merely on the Foreign Office Vote and there was no resolution. The Resolution that I placed on the Paper was designed, as I carefully explained in moving it, for tie purpose of declaring the opinion of this House. I did that because I understood that the Government was not yet in a position formally to make its declaration to the Government of the United States, and because it seemed to be a means by which your Lordships' House, which has among its members those who have taken part in administration, in foreign service and in great Imperial services, and which is, perhaps, as well qualified to express an opinion upon this question as any other House of whatever character, could express its opinion. Consequently I am asking your Lordships to accept the Motion which I have moved.

May I say that, however grateful I am to my noble friend for all that he has said regarding the Motion and for his substantial acceptance of the arguments put forward as well as the conclusions, I could not withdraw the Motion for this reason. A Resolution of this kind having been placed on the Paper, debated in your Lordships' House and accepted by all Parties in the House with rare unanimity, I think it would be a great mistake if the House should, nevertheless, not have been able to pass it and to have it standing in the proceedings as a record of the opinion of your Lordships upon a subject which I still regard, as I am sure you all regard it, as the most momentous we have had before us for a number of years.

On Question, Motion agreed to.