HL Deb 23 May 1928 vol 71 cc300-2

My Lords, I beg to ask whether by paragraph 10 of the Despatch of Sir Austen Chamberlain to Mr. Houghton, dated 19th May, 1928, it is intended to reserve to His Majesty's Government the right to treat any attack on certain countries, not part of the British Empire, as if it were an attack on the British Empire itself; whether the names of those countries can be stated and whether any other meaning is implied in the above-mentioned paragraph.


My Lords, before the noble Lord answers the Question I should like to remind him that paragraph 10 of the Despatch referred to by my noble friend in his Question vitally affects the interests of Australia and other parts of the Empire, especially, of course, with respect to the Suez Canal, and I think that His Majesty's Government have every reason to act with caution in such matters. In fact, I very strongly deprecate putting any pressure whatever upon His Majesty's Government which would induce them to adopt any precipitate action. From Versailles to the League of Nations, from Locarno to Mr. Kellogg's proposal, many foundation stones for peace have been laid. The first of them was abandoned by its author. It is constitutionally impossible for the United States to make a firm offer, unless indeed it has already passed the Senate. If the British Government gives its pledge, therefore—and that is one of the chief reasons for full consideration—it is one thing; if the United States Government gives its pledge it is another. That was, indeed, the object of Hamilton, who drafted the Constitution—to make it as difficult as possible for the United States to enter into engagements with foreign Powers, and in that respect at any rate he achieved a complete success.

On the Motion of the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, I thought the suggestion made by the noble Lord representing the Foreign Office was an extremely reasonable one, and I think it would have been better had that Motion been withdrawn pending the time when the Government were perfectly satisfied that their acceptance of those proposals was in a form which sacrificed none of the interests of the Empire. Therefore, in all the circumstances, I would most strongly deprecate any attempt to put pressure upon the Foreign Office in this matter.


My Lords, I am much obliged to my noble friend behind me for deprecating undue pressure being placed upon His Majesty's Government in this respect. I think I can assure him that His Majesty's Government will not give way to any undue pressure in the matter. In regard to the question of my noble friend below the gangway, important negotiations are at present taking place between His Majesty's Government in Great Britain and the Government of the United States in regard to the proposals made by the latter on April 13 last for a multilateral pact outlawing war. After giving these proposals the most careful and sympathetic consideration, my right hon. friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs was charged by His Majesty's Government to return a comprehensive reply to the United States Ambassador on May 19, warmly welcoming the valuable suggestions made through the initiative of the United States Secretary of State and indicating the views held by His Majesty's Government in Great Britain. This Note is now under consideration by the Government of the United States, and while His Majesty's Government will at the proper time be prepared to Offer any explanations of what they have already said which may be required to facilitate the negotiation of a Treaty on the lines of that proposed by Mr. Kellogg, it would be undesirable to risk confusing the issue by adding to the general statement of the position of His Majesty's Government as set out in their Note of May 19.