HL Deb 30 July 1930 vol 78 cc1054-86

VISCOUNT HAILSHAM had the following Notice on the Paper—To ask His Majesty's Government whether their attention has been directed to the amendments to the Covenant of the League of Nations proposed by the Committee appointed to bring the provisions of the Covenant into harmony with the Pact of Paris; whether His Majesty's Government are aware that the amendments proposed by the Committee go far beyond the purposes for which the Committee was appointed, and would (if adopted) materially alter the position and powers of the Council of the League and largely increase the liabilities of this country; whether His Majesty's Government will undertake to submit the proposed amendments to Parliament before giving them any acceptance or suppport on behalf of this country; and to move for Papers.

The noble and learned Viscount said: My Lords, I am sorry to have to ask your Lordships at this crowded period of the Session to consider the matter to which I am about to call attention. I do it only because it is a matter which gives me very considerable anxiety and because I have the best reason for knowing that that anxiety is shared by others whose authority and experience are far greater than my own. Unless some satisfactory assurance is given it is quite possible that before Parliament reassembles this country may find itself involved in entanglements and responsibilities not less formidable than those which were contained in that Protocol which was so emphatically condemned when it was laid before the judgment of the country in 1924.

The matter arises out of certain proposed amendments to the Covenant of the League of Nations. As your Lordships remember, under what is known as the Kellogg Pact—the Pact of Paris—the signatories to that Pact renounce war as an instrument of national policy. Under the earlier Covenant of the League of Nations the signatories to that Covenant agreed not to resort to war except in certain circumstances. There is, therefore, an inconsistency between the two obligations. The inconsistency is, I think, not a very serious one, because most of the signatories of the Covenant of the League of Nations are also signatories of the Pact of Paris, and in their case it will only involve that some wars would be a breach of their obligations under both agreements whereas others would only be a breach of their obligations under one agreement. However, the Assembly of the League of Nations in September last resolved that it was desirable that the Covenant should be amended to bring it into harmony with the Pact of Paris and a Committee was set up to recommend what amendments were necessary for that purpose.

The committee met, I think, for only one week, between February 25 and March 5. It seems to have carried out its business with remarkable celerity. But in that limited space of time it commenced by reaching a decision which I think was a most unfortunate one—namely, that it would not confine itself to bringing the two agreements into harmony, but that it was charged further with the duty of finding some alternative pacific means of settlement to replace the arbitrament of war, and that since war was to be renounced it was essential in the language of the Report itself that "its place must be taken by methods of pacific settlement in order to ensure the settlement of disputes." I shall show your Lordships in a few moments that having laid down that definition of its duties the Committee signally failed to perform its duties, because if its proposed amendments be accepted the result will be that a great many disputes will still have no pacific means of settlement provided, and therefore with regard to any particular dispute nobody in this world will know when the dispute breaks out whether it is one which is covered by a pacific means of settlement or not.

If I may, I would remind your Lordships of the present position in order to indicate what are the proposed alterations. The matter concerns three Articles of the Covenant—Article 12, Article 13 and Article 15. Since we are not taking a final decision on the merits of the proposed amendments, but only considering whether they are worthy to be submitted to Parliament before a decision is taken, I do not propose to develop all the possible criticisms that may be made but only to indicate one or two salient points arising particularly under Article 15. Under Article 12, as the Covenant now stands, the Members of the League agree that if a dispute arises between any two of their number they will submit the matter either to arbitration or judicial settlement or to inquiries by the Council—that is by the Council of the League—and that they will not resort to war for three months after the award or after the report by the Council. That obligation is altered, in view of the fact that war is now excluded altogether, into an agreement that they will in no case resort to war for the solution of their disputes. The embodiment of that Covenant has certain results in bringing in the provisions of Article 16, but I do not want to develop them now because I am anxious to confine myself to what I think are the most serious matters.

Article 13 is the one under which the Members of the League agree that they will submit any dispute which is suitable for arbitration or judicial settlement to that method of determination, and the principal alteration is one in language. Under the existing text when an award is made and is not carried out, the Council shall propose what steps should be taken to give effect thereto. The amendment is that the Council shall propose what measures of all kinds shall be taken to give effect thereto. That, again, is a minor amendment designed, as the Report shows, to indicate that all the serious obligations of Article 16 can be invoked in order to enforce awards given under that Article. But that is not the main objection to the proposed amendments.

Article 15 is, in my submission to your Lordships, the most important alteration. Article 15 is that Article which provides what is to happen when the parties to a dispute have not submitted it to arbitration or to judicial settlement. Primarily, at any rate, it refers to those disputes which are not matters of legal difference at all but are matters of high political importance. Under the existing Covenant what happens is this. The Council of the League of Nations enquires and reports. If its report is one by a majority of the Council—that is to say, is not a unanimous report—then that report has no effect at all except, of course, the moral effect of showing what the majority of the Council think. If, on the other hand, the report is a unanimous one it still has no binding effect upon the parties. Your Lordships appreciate that these are disputes which are normally at any rate not matters of law but matters, it may be, of vital import to the disputants, and the Covenant was very careful to preserve the character of the League of Nations as not being a super-sovereign body imposed upon the Members of the League, but as merely a free combination of a number of independent sovereign States.

Accordingly, the Article as it stands to-day provides that where there is a unanimous report the Members of the League agree that they will not resort to war against any party which complies with the recommendations of the report. But it does not make the report a binding decision which either party is bound to accept or obey, and it does not impose upon any Member of the League any obligation to attempt to enforce the report which the Council has reached. Under the proposed amendments, wherever there is a majority report of the Council the position is to be left unchanged and it binds nobody. Probably in the great majority of cases, having regard to the kind of dispute which is likely to be dealt with under Article 15, that is what will happen and in all those cases the Committee gives no means of pacific settlement. It does nothing to provide a means of pacific settlement of these disputes. I think the Committee is right and I am not criticising it. I do not think it is right or in the least necessary, at any rate, that in the Covenant of the League there should be a means set up which the parties are bound to accept of enforcing a settlement of every dispute which may arise. Very often a great deal more can be done by leaving the matter to good sense and time to cure so long, of course, as it is understood that neither party can resort to force.

At any rate, that is what the Committee have done, and in all cases a majority report has no binding effect. But wherever there is a unanimous report the whole character of the functions of the Council and the whole effect of the report are being radically altered. Instead of being a document which binds nobody, which the disputants may or may not accept according to their will and pleasure, if it happens that the Council reaches a unanimous decision the parties are bound to obey that decision whatever it is. And not only are the parties bound to obey it, but every Member of the League is bound to adopt such measures as the Council recommends in order to enforce the obedience of any recalcitrant party. The report is quite definite in explaining that, although it has made this complete change, the Committee felt that the unanimous report was of so great an authority that it ought to prevail over the individual will of the States, and it would only take a final decision of the Council in cases where it was compelled to overcome the resistance of the States concerned. So that it is clear, as indeed the text shows, that the intention and effect of the proposed amendments are to provide that wherever there is a unanimous report by the Council on any dispute of whatever character, the parties are to be bound to accept it. If they do not the other Members of the League are bound to adopt coercive measures in order to compel their submission. That at once alters the position of the Council. It becomes a super-sovereign to which the hitherto sovereign States who are members of the Council are submitted.

So far as any disputes in which we ourselves are concerned are affected, your Lordships can readily appreciate how serious the consequences might be. For obvious reasons, I do not want to envisage in too much detail disputes which might arise; but your Lordships will remember that India, for instance, is a Member of the League of Nations. Egypt may easily become one, and the possibilities that this raises of the Council being called in to determine not a matter of law at all but some other matter of high policy in case of dispute arising, is one which I do not think many of us could contemplate with equanimity. Let us look at the disputes in which we are not directly involved. I will take only questions out of the past because, for obvious reasons, I do not want to suggest possible instances of friction between friendly nations in the future. Italy some years ago took possession of Corfu to bring pressure upon Greece. Italy and Greece are both Members of the League of Nations. If this Covenant had been amended, then the Council would have been bound to reach a unanimous report, if they could, and, if they did so, every nation of the League would have been bound to adopt the coercive measures which the Council chose to recommend in order to compel the submission by either of these two Powers to the decision which it had reached.

Again many American States are Members of the League. Not very long ago there was a dispute between two or those Members. If this Covenant, so amended as the Committee suggests, had been then in force, it would have been the duty of the Council to reach a unanimous decision and it would have been an obligation on every Member of the League to enforce that decision when once it was reached. When I remind your Lordships that the United States of America are not Members of the League and of the jealousy which the United States feel for the doctrine which they describe as the Monroe doctrine, it is not difficult to appreciate that that war, which all of us are accustomed to speak of as unthinkable, might easily be provoked by some unwise action by the Council of the League of Nations.

I can well understand that other nations may be quite content to accept these amendments because, whatever further obligation they put upon them, it is a very great advantage no doubt to the rest of the world if the British Navy can be used as a kind of policeman to enforce decisions which the Council of the League reaches and to enforce awards between two States with neither of whom we are directly concerned. It is natural enough that they should like to have our Navy as their weapon to enforce decisions against any recalcitrant State, but, when I look at it from the point of view of the interests of this country, then it seems to me that we are undertaking a very grave liability at the very time when we are reducing our capacity to discharge that liability. It will be said that Great Britain was represented at the Committee which has put forward these suggestions. It was represented by no less an authority than my noble and learned friend Lord Cecil.


No. This was a Committee not of States but of individuals, and I was not representing the British Government on that Committee.


I beg my noble friend's pardon. I did not mean to say he was there in a representative capacity, but that our country was represented by the presence upon that Committee of my noble friend. I am quite right in saying he was a member of the Committee and I am quite certain that, whether he went there as a representative of this country or in whatever capacity, he would bring to the discharge of his duties that great capacity which we have all learned to appreciate who have had the privilege of working with him. I am not speaking with any reservations at all when I say I have the very greatest admiration for his enthusiasm for the League of Nations. I hope also he will not think me discourteous when I suggest that it is just possible sometimes that his zeal may somewhat outrun his discretion.

It is not only I who am concerned about this. There is a body known as the Executive Committee of the League of Nations Union, which is certainly not lacking in enthusiasm for the League of Nations and all its works. Even that body, when it was called upon to consider these proposed amendments, thought it necessary to say that, although it generally approved them, it only did so on two conditions. The first was that none of the amendments should be made until a treaty for the reduction and limitation of armaments in pursuance of Article 8 of the Covenant has entered into force, a limitation of time which is at any rate postponing the amendments for a very considerable period. Secondly, that there should be a resolution of the Assembly to show that, in enforcing the powers of the Council under the Articles to which I have called attention, 11, 13 and 15, the Council will not recommend any measure involving an act of war except against the party which has itself resorted to war. I quote that not as my opinion but as showing that even so enthusiastic a supporter of the League of Nations as the Executive Committee of that Union is unprepared to face the risk which in existing circumstances the acceptance of these amendments involves.

I am not asking your Lordships to-day—it would be unreasonable to do so—to pronounce a considered opinion upon the amendments which have probably not come to the attention of many members of this House until this afternoon. What I seek to do is to satisfy your Lordships, if I can, that the amendments are matters which raise questions of very grave importance for the future of this country and are amendments which ought not to be endorsed by this country until Parliament has had an opportunity of full discussion and of reaching a mature decision. That request is not met merely by saying: "Well, we shall approve the amendments, but of course they will not actually come into force until the Government action has been ratified by a vote of one or both Houses," because you do not in that event get what it is essential we should have—a free decision of Parliament on the merits. It will not, be possible to get that decision if the Government come down to the other House and say: "We have endorsed these amendments. This is our considered policy. We claim from you a vote of confidence in our action." There are some at any rate whose enthusiasm for the avoidance of a General Election is apt to outweigh their decision on the merits of any particular problem submitted for their consideration.

I do desire—and I ask your Lordships to say that it is right—that, before anything is done to commit this country in any way to approval of these amendments, the matter should be submitted to the unfettered judgment of Parliament. I think that would be right in respect of any Government, but I suggest to the noble Lords opposite that it is preeminently right in a case in which, as they themselves remind us from time to time, they represent only a minority of the nation and are anxious to regard Parliament as a Council of State and are yet in a position, as the Government of the day, to commit the country without the approval of the representatives of the country ever having been sought. I had hoped to ask, if this Motion had come earlier in the Session when I put it down, that an opportunity would be found for a debate before Prorogation, but that obviously is impossible to-day. Therefore, all I can ask, and do ask, to-day, is that the Government should undertake that they will do nothing at the forthcoming meeting in September at Geneva to commit this country to an acceptance of these amendments or to approval of these amendments, but that they shall take such steps as will ensure the postponement of a decision until Parliament has had an opportunity of expressing its unfettered judgment upon it. I am sorry to have taken so long but the matter is one which your Lordships will agree is of somewhat grave importance and, in the hope of eliciting some satisfactory assurance from the Government, I beg, to move the Motion standing in my name.


My Lords, I have no wish to complain of the course my noble friend has taken. On the contrary, it is very desirable that all the proceedings connected with the League of Nations should be brought before Parliament and be explained as fully as it is possible to explain them. My complaint is not that too much attention is given to the matter in Parliament but that a good number of members of another place are perhaps not as familiar with the details of the League of Nations as is desirable in a matter of that importance.

I do not like speaking about myself, but may I explain exactly what is my position in this matter? I am not a member of the Government; I am not responsible for the policy that they pursue; but I have been very glad to do anything I can to assist the Government in connection with the League of Nations to the best of my ability. When the Assembly decided last September that thin matter should be examined by a Committee of the League, and the Council accordingly set up a Committee in which my name was included, I was very glad indeed to accept the duty of attending that Committee and assisting it as far as I was able to do, but I think it is important—that is why I ventured to in- terrupt my noble and learned friend—to make it quite clear that I was acting in an exclusively personal capacity. It was perfectly well understood, and reiterated over and over again in the proceedings of the Committee, that we were not a Government Committee in any respect, and that the Government were entirely free to take any action which they chose on receipt of the report of the Committee.

I do not want to be misunderstood. I approve of the conclusions in the report, and entirely support them. I think they were wise and judicious, and if it be proved that my discretion is not to be trusted in these matters, that is my misfortune. I can only represent to your Lordships the reasons which induced me to arrive at the conclusions I did, and it is for your Lordships to say whether you agree with those conclusions or not. My noble and learned friend in his Question makes three charges, and asks a question. He charges that the Committee went far beyond the purposes for which it was instituted. He charges that our decision materially alters the position of the Council, and it was on that point he most insisted. He charges also that, in consequence of that I suppose, it will increase the liability of this country. I will deal with those charges presently.

He also makes a request, and the request is that the Government shall not commit themselves at the coming Assembly at all, because they have not been in a position to take the opinion of Parliament upon the subject. I think that would be a very unusual position for any Government to adopt at the Assembly of the League of Nations. They go there as the executive of their various countries. The League of Nations is merely a means of negotiating great international matters, and at the Assembly they go there to negotiate these matters and express the views of their Governments upon these matters. In that respect it does not differ essentially from any other international conference, and of course the Government always goes to a conference with a perfectly free hand and does in fact commit itself, and commonly signs the document which issues from the conference without any reference to Parliament at all.

My noble and learned friend, it seems to me, is enunciating quite a new doctrine, and a very serious change in the Constitution of this country, when he suggests that in a matter of this kind, in what is essentially an international negotiation, the Government should have its hands tied until it has previously asked the opinion of the two Houses of Parliament. I have the greatest possible respect for the two Houses of Parliament, but I have never thought it was right that they should discharge executive functions. Their business is first criticism and discussion, and secondly legislation, which is perhaps less important. Their business is not to direct the policy of the country, but to express their opinions and if necessary to turn out a Government which has not carried out what they think is a wise policy. Of course it is open to any member of either House to raise any question for discussion, and if he so desire to ask for the opinion of the House to which he belongs, but I deny that it is the duty of the Government to consult Parliament as to great executive acts until those executive acts have been completed. In old days, not so long ago, Parliament was not consulted before the ratification of a treaty. We have, I admit, made an innovation in the Constitution, and before the ratification of any important treaty Parliament or the House of Commons—there seems to be some dispute about which—has to be consulted. That is an innovation which has a certain convenience, but it is an innovation, and I hope the House will give no countenance to this novel doctrine that the Government is not entitled to discharge its executive duties up to the time when it has always been hitherto entitled to discharge them.

I pass from that particular proposal of my noble and learned friend to the charges which he makes. I trust your Lordships will forgive me if I venture to go into this with a little detail, because I am anxious to help your Lordships and have special means of information on this particular point. The matter arose in this way. At the Assembly last year the British Government brought before the Assembly a proposition that it was desirable to harmonise the Pact and the Covenant. That was supported by the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secre- tary, and immediately received the warm support of all the principal nations assembled at Geneva. They all thought that it was an essentially undesirable thing that there should be two sets of international obligations into which Members of the League had entered, one setting in motion the machinery of the League, and the other the obligations under the Pact of Paris, which, as your Lordships know, has no machinery and no obligations behind it, beyond the moral obligations. Therefore, the Committee was set up and the plan which the Committee adopted, and which I think was the right one, was to try to insert the Pact into the Covenant. The effect of that would be, of course, to apply the machinery of the Covenant to the execution of the obligations of the Pact, and that will of course, if accepted, produce the result that there is only one document, which includes all the serious obligations of the Nations, and they will know with exact precision what their obligations are.

I am sure it is a most essential thing in all international affairs that you should know as far as possible, without ambiguity and uncertainty, what are your obligations. I believe that the great evils of the past, and many of the wars, have arisen because one did not know quite what the obligations of tile countries concerned were. Therefore, I am always strongly in favour of this policy, although the question of whether the actual time at which it was launched was right is another matter with which I do not wish to trouble your Lordships. There never was any doubt as to what the Committee was going to do in its main functions. The British Government proposed then and there specific amendments to the Covenant, and they were discussed by the Committee of the League; and in substance, as I think—I am not going to forget my noble and learned friend's contention about the Amendment to paragraph 6 of Article 15, though I do not agree with him: I am not going to try to evade that in any way—but in substance, as I shall contend, the proposals made by the British Government last September were those which were adopted by the Committee. There were certain changes which I shall explain to your Lordships in a moment, but in sub- stance that was what was done, and the broad object which was pursued was to take these obligations which we had entered into, and which we all desired to make a reality, from the Pact and put them into the Covenant, and say: "Now these obligations not to go to war are put on precisely the same footing as the other international obligations into which we have entered, also not to go to war." That was the broad principle, and I venture to think that was a perfectly sound principle, and one which ought to be adopted.

My noble friend objects—and he a little surprised me, I admit—that we have altered the consequences of the unanimous decision of the Council in a dispute submitted to it under Article 15. That was the main point that he presented. The argument that convinced me that we ought to do something of the kind, that we ought to proceed in that direction, was simply this, that it was a mistake to leave imperfect obligations hanging about, and as far as we could—we did not succeed altogether, as I shall have to explain in a moment—those obligations should be made clear and distinct. And I agree that that is right. My noble and learned friend seemed rather to suggest that there were a good many cases in which it would be desirable to leave an international deadlock without any means of settlement. I cannot think that is a good plan. It is quite true that, with respect to a very strong country, it may work pretty well at times. But I do not believe it is a good plan, taking the world over; and we must look at these matters not only as affecting our own convenience, but as affecting the peace of the world.

That is the really important thing, because, if the peace of the world is broken anywhere, it affects British interests at the most vital point. No one knows how far a breach of the peace may extend. The late War began with a quarrel in the extreme South-East corner of Europe, a quarrel which ex hypothesi no ore would have thought would involve the world; yet it spread and spread and spread until it involved not only practically the whole of Europe, but the greater part of America, and even of Asia. That is the characteristic of war, a characteristic perhaps more especially of modern war rather than of ancient war, but still the characteristic of war. Once it breaks out you do not know how far it is going to extend. And therefore in considering this subject I do beg your Lordships to look at it mainly, if not entirely, from this point of view. Do the provisions that we have recommended make the maintenance of peace more likely? That is the real test. If they do not, they are wrong; if they do, they are right. That is my submission to your Lordships. Now, that is why I do not like these deadlocks. It is quite true, you may have a deadlock lasting for many years, a dispute between two countries unsettled and hanging about. There was the dispute between us and France over the fisheries of Newfoundland, which lasted for nearly a century if I remember aright. But no one, I think, who has studied the diplomatic history of that period will doubt that it was a serious evil, and that every difference of opinion between us and France was more or less aggravated by this outlying and unsettled matter of dispute. It remains as a bit of poison which tends to make septic every wound in the international body politic.

For that reason I agreed, and still agree, that it was right to try, as far as we could, to provide for the settlement of disputes by pacific means. What is this great change that we are accused of having made in the functions of the Council? Under the Covenant as it stands the position is this. If there is a dispute between two parties which is likely to lead to a rupture of a dangerous character, And it comes before the Council under Article 15, then, if the Council makes a unanimous recommendation, which is in effect a unanimous decision as to what ought to be done in reference to that dispute, nobody is entitled to resist that decision by force of arms; and if they do, the whole apparatus of Article 16 applies. My noble friend says that that is not a decision, and that that does not involve the obligation on all parties to obey the decision. But just let him consider. In a number of cases it does involve a decision. Take the case of a dispute about a piece of territory. If the territory is given to one party, and, if it is already in his possession, the decision is final—absolutely final—because no one can take it from him without forcible action. If it is not in his possess- sion when the decision is made, I still think that, if he sends in officials to take over the territory—I am taking the Covenant as it stands—and they are resisted, that is resisting by force a decision of the Council, and involves all tile consequences of Article 16. That is my view very strongly as to the present position of the matter.

I think that the framers of the Covenant undoubtedly did mean that where the Council was unanimous its decision was to have, not complete but an incomplete force of a decision. I cannot say that I admire the particular provision that was made, because, as it seems to me, it leaves too much to the parties concerned. It leaves it a matter of doubt as to how far the party can go in trying to enforce the decision which he has obtained, and how far the other party is justified in resisting that decision. That is just the kind of ambiguity which seems to me likely to lead to trouble. I greatly prefer the idea that when you get to that decision it is not right for the Council to disinterest themselves in the matter. They ought to recommend what steps ought to be taken, and only those steps should be taken which are proper to the carrying out of the decision. There is nothing novel in it. They have got that power already under Article 13 with respect to any judicial decision that is given. It is their duty then to propose any step—the change in wording which we have made is a matter, I think, of no importance—but it is their business to propose any step.

What is it we have put into Article 15? My noble and learned friend, I think, did not read the actual words, but they are rather important. This is what we have said:— If a report by the Council is unanimously agreed to by the members thereof other than the representatives of one or more of the parties to the dispute, the Members of the League agree that they will comply with the recommendations of the Report. If the Council's recommendation is not carried out"— what happens?— the Council shall propose suitable measures to give it effect. The exact words which now apply—I doubt whether there is a verbatim change—in Article 13 with reference to a decision. They propose. That is what they are entitled to do. They cannot command. The Council never can com- mand, they can propose. It will represent no doubt a strong moral obligation on those who propose it to comply with their proposition. That will be so, whether you put these words in or not. Wherever the Council makes a proposal, there will be a strong moral obligation on all the Members of the League to comply. Here we say definitely that it is their business to propose it, and the importance of this is, not that it increases the power of the Council—I do not think it does—but that it does, so long as they comply with the terms of the Covenant, take it out of the power of individuals to take the law into their own hands. That is the real way, and the only way, in which you can establish a peaceful situation in the world.

I cannot help thinking that my noble and learned friend exaggerates enormously, if he will allow me to say so, the importance of the change that has been made in this respect. I do not think he had in his mind—perhaps I am wrong—the provisions of Article 11, as they now stand. Those provisions, I think, are much more valuable than those of Article 15. They have constantly been employed and they are much more likely to be employed. What does that Article say? It says:— Any war or threat of war, whether immediately affecting any of the Members of the League or not, is hereby declared a matter of concern to the whole League, and the League shall take any action that may ho deemed wise and effectual to safeguard the peace of nations. No power could be more general and, as my noble and learned friend is doubtless aware, it was under that provision that measures were taken to prevent the Graeco-Bulgarian conflict. It has been employed on more than one occasion, and my noble and learned friend is probably aware that it has been recommended by the Assembly, and assented to by the British Government under the late Administration, that all sorts of measures short of actual war are to be open to the Council. That is the provision.

I cannot help thinking that the effect of the changes in Article 6 has been enormously exaggerated and, for the same reason, I am wholly unable to agree with my noble and learned friend that the general effect of what we have done is to increase the liabilities of this country. The general effect of what we have done has been, in my judgment, to increase the probability of the pacific settlement of disputes. That is the object to be aimed at. If disputes are settled pacifically, then no questions of sanctions or of war arise. The great thing is to keep your machinery for the pacific settlement of disputes as effective as you can.

I know the reply that is sometimes made, more or less openly. It is: "Why should we do than? We are very strong, we can settle our own disputes and, if anyone resists us, we can put pressure upon them to make them agree to our settlement." It is perfectly true that any agreement made by a strong Power that it will rely in future on pacific and not on warlike settlements does, to some extent, limit their action. But we have limited it absolutely by entering into the Pact of Paris. We have said quite definitely that vie will never resort to war—never!—in order to carry out a matter of national policy, and we have said quite specifically in the second Article that we will never seek to settle any dispute except by pacific means. We have abandoned that right, if it ever was a right that was worth having, and we have said that we are determined to settle everything by pacific means. The thing that is now really essential, as President Hoover has pointed out, is to provide the necessary machinery to make that general statement of our policy effective in the future and to carry out that policy.

My noble friend said: "You have not done that." He was quite right. We have left paragraph 7 of Article 15—that is to say we have left the case where the Council is not able to arrive at a unanimous decision. We have said that, in that case, all that we can recommend is that the Council will take every measure they can to bring about a peaceful settlement, and we have suggested, among other things, that they may consult the Court of Justice. That is all that we can do. But we also said in the report that we felt that this was a very unsatisfactory solution, and that the only really satisfactory solution was to establish a complete system of arbitration applying to all disputes. When I speak of arbitration, I am using the word in the widest sense. We recommended what was called a general act, not because it is a perfect instru- ment in itself, but because it does in fact provide for the complete settlement of all disputes.

That is the defence that I make to your Lordships. I think we have promoted the peaceful settlement of disputes, and I was a little sorry, if my noble and learned friend will forgive my saying so, that he thought it right to indulge in the old—I was going to say clap trap, but that would be a very unfair observation to make about anything that falls from my noble and learned friend—about the British Navy. After all, what is the function of the British Navy, laid dawn by every authority that has ever existed? The function of the British Navy is to preserve peace. That is the function of the British Navy. It is the only reason we keep it up, the only object we have in view—to preserve the peace of this country and of the world. It has constantly been used for that purpose. It was used the other day when they sent two ships to Alexandria because they thought there was a danger of a breach of the peace.


To discharge our obligations.


Certainly, but our obligation, our duty, our right and our interest is to preserve the peace all over the world. We have constantly used the Navy for that purpose, and I hope that we shall continue to use it for that purpose. The first business of the British Government in foreign affairs is to preserve peace, and I certainly think that we cannot use the Navy in a more economical way or in a way more in accordance with the interests of this country than in using it for the preservation of peace. That is the view that I take about the function of the British Navy.

I am sorry to have detained your Lordships, and I have only one further observation to make. My noble and learned friend was good enough to refer to a resolution of the Executive Committee of the League of Nations. As I was going to do the same, I am very glad that he did so. What does this resolution say? It says that the Committee— are of opinion that it is desirable so to amend the Covenant as to bring it into harmony with the Pact of Paris. They recognise that this can only be done by international agreement"— that is to say, you cannot have it all your own way— and they support the proposed amendments"— with a little exception which does not affect our discussion— ….as a reasonable compromise on two conditions. In the first place, they think that no alteration in the existing provision, of the Covenant should be made until a treaty for the reduction and limitation of armaments in pursuance of Article 8 has entered into force; and in the second, that it should be made clear by a resolution of the Assembly that, while the Council must have discretion as to bow it should exercise its powers under Articles 11, 13 and 15, it should be understood that it will not recommend measures involving acts of war except against a party which has itself resorted to war. If these conditions are fulfilled, the Executive Committee, while recognising that the ambit of Article 16 will be in principle extended, yet are of opinion that the guarantees of peace will on the whole be increased. I was a party to that resolution. I warmly support it and I think it is right. I think that no great changes in the relations of countries dealing with security ought to be made until we have disarmament established. I think that this is a very important principle.

I do not know at all what the Government will do, but I hope that they will act upon that principle, because, if I may venture to say so, I think, as I have always thought, that, while the Locarno Treaties were admirable in themselves, their one great difficulty was that they were not dependent upon the disarmament of the parties concerned. I want to say only one word more. That resolution which I have read was issued by a Committee, and on that Committee sat the following people: Lord Lothian, Mrs. Dugdale, Miss Courtney, who was a very well-known Pacifist; Mr. Hudson, who was a Conservative member of Parliament; Mr. Worsley, a well-known Liberal; Mr. Rennie Smith, a Labour Member of Parliament; Sir Thomas Inskip, Mr. Wynch, a Conservative; and Major Walter Elliot. They unanimously agreed to that resolution, which was presented to the Executive Committee and passed unanimously by them, so that if I have sinned I have at any rate sinned in fairly good company.


My Lords, I should like to support the proposition which has fallen from the mover of this Motion. It is of extreme importance that the amendments of the Covenant which have been proposed by this Committee should be brought before the full consideration of Parliament before they are adopted, and I am inclined to agree with my noble friend Lord Cecil, who has just spoken, that it is impossible for any Government to go to an international conference with its hands bound. At the same time, I think any Government attending an international conference or League of Nations meeting should make it clear that it is by no means confident that it can secure the ratification of an important treaty and should not arouse expectations in the fellow members of that conference that because it has given its assent, as usually happens in Great Britain, that assent is tantamount to ratification.

I do not propose to follow the legal arguments which the two noble Lords who have preceded me have gone into, but the amendments are after all of considerable importance. They introduce in the first place, for the first time, the principle of compulsory arbitration. I do not express any opinion as to whether compulsory arbitration is or is not a step which it is possible to take to-day in the defence of world peace, but it is a principle of enormous importance, and it should only be adopted, it seems to me, by Parliament after very mature consideration, and when Parliament has had a full opportunity of saying yes or no to any proposal which is made. In the second place, these amendments introduce the principle of coercion for policy. As I understand it, hitherto the League of Nations has rested on the very sound principle that it is an institution which brought the parties together and acted in a mediating capacity, but stood behind those mediatory activities in this sense, that they would take common coercive action against any nation which tried to settle a dispute by war in its own interests. That I think is a sound principle, and I stand here heartily behind Article 16—the coercive article in the League Covenant.

But this is introducing another principle, which is that coercion should be used for the decisions of the League when they are arrived at by unanimity. That is another very important principle which, in my view, should only be adopted after full deliberation by Parliament, and when you have made certain that the public opinion of the world has realised what you are doing, because in these international matters almost everything depends upon treaties having behind them the conscious and willing assent not merely of Governments or officials, but of public opinion. Then there is a third element in the amendments which I think is of considerable consequence. That is Article 16. While the amendments do not deal with Article 16 specifically, they alter the effect of Article 16 in a very important manner. Article 16 provides:— Should any member of the League resort to war in disregard of its covenants under Articles 12, 13 and 15, it shall ipso facto be deemed to have committed an act of war against all other Members of the League, which hereby undertake immediately to subject it to the severance of all trade or financial relations, the prohibition of all intercourse between their nationals and the nationals of the covenant-breaking State, and the prevention of all financial, commercial, or personal intercourse between the nationals of the covenant-breaking State and the nationals of any other State, whether a Member of the League or not. That Article at present only comes into force as against a nation which does not submit its dispute to investigation by the League for a period of six months, and awaits a further three months before it resorts to war. If it goes through that procedure it is at the end of that time free to go to war, and the nations are not bound to take military action against it. Under the Article as amended the Members of the League of Nations will be content to take economic sanctions against it whenever any nation goes to war at any time under any circumstances. That, in my humble judgment, is a change of very considerable significance.

How are you to define what is a war? There is a considerable difference between saying you will take action against a nation which declines to submit to investigation, and saying that in any circumstances you bind yourself entirely to take these very strong measures against a nation which is guilty of a technical act of war. That also, I think, is a matter which requires most earnest consideration before it is actually adopted by any country, especially in view of the fact that the greatest Naval Power of the world is not a party to the League of Nations. It is a matter which I think must be considered not merely as part of the machinery of the League, but in relation to the world which is not wholly in membership of the League. Therefore I would urge upon the Government, if I may do so, that it is extremely important, in discussing this matter, they should make it clear that Parliament shall have a full and unfettered opportunity, as I am sure it will, of discussing this matter, and that, not being in a majority in this Parliament, they cannot assure fellow Members that the treaty will be ratified because it is assented to by them.

There is one other comment which has not yet been made in this House about the alterations. The alterations were made in order to bring the Covenant into line with the Pact of Paris. The Pact of Paris is already in effect, and all the Members of the League of Nations, except certain States in South America, have already renounced war. Therefore, by undertaking these particular obligations, they are doing nothing to add to the security against war. In so far as the Pact of Paris itself is concerned, they have renounced war, and they have no right to-day to exercise that residuary right to war which they did possess, and had possessed under the unamended power. They have renounced that power, and, therefore, by amending the Covenant, they do not add anything to the security against war so far as the Pact of Paris is concerned. The real significance of these amendments is in the additional changes which I have just mentioned—the introduction of the principle of compulsory arbitration, of coercion for policy, and of some extension of Article 16. Those are changes of real significance, the Pact of Paris already having done what the amendments purport to do in other respects.

One final word on the resolution of the League of Nations Union about disarmament. I am a party to that resolution, and I stand by it. The significance which I attach to disarmament is this. Just as people used to say that war was an instrument of policy, so I think that disarmament is the consequence of policy. You have in the League of Nations, you have in the Pact of Paris, you have in the Locarno Treaties, instruments of a novel character of great importance for solving the problems of Europe. If these instruments, which in my judgment are adequate to-day for that purpose, are working effectively the result will be seen in the reduction of armaments. If you are going to secure a reduction of armaments it will be because you have begun to bring some conciliation into the acute difficulties which now exist in Eastern Europe; because you will have begun to reduce the friction which now exists between France and Italy; because you have begun to bring some spirit of reconciliation into the Balkans. It was suggested only the other day that mattes in dispute between Italy and France should be brought before the League of Nations. That suggestion was bitterly resented in both countries, as I understand. How is it possible to conceive that you are going to solve these questions, which really affect the peace of the world, by introducing any element of compulsion? It seems to me that we are in these amendments pursuing the shadow rather than the reality.

The reality is that the nations of Europe should, if necessary, make such adjustments as are fair to treaties which are really unjust and begin to get into friendly relations with each other, and then disarm. If you make that step forward you may make these amendments something worth considering. If you do not do that, you are endangering, I think, the authority of the League of Nations by adding to its technical clauses. You must first change the spirit within, without which no peace can really exist. There is a well known quotation of Bacon which I would like to quote to your Lordships, because it seems to me to have a bearing on the question. Bacon wrote many years ago: "It is good not to try experiments in States except the necessity be urgent and the utility be evident."


My Lords, I think this is the first time that this House has had the pleasure and privilege of hearing a speech from the noble Marquess who has just spoken. Let me very heartily congratulate him, if I may, on behalf of the House, on the speech he has made. I am sure we shall hope that he will speak often, particularly on topics in connection with the League of Nations, because we know from what he has written and what he has done that he is really one of the great authorities on international matters. He urgently desires what most internationalists desire—that is, to promote in every possible way the peace of the world. It may be that there is difference of opinion as to the best way of promoting that peace. I am one of those who regard peace as never secure unless we get a measure of disarmament, which is one of the obligations of the Covenant of the League. But whatever difference of opinion we may have—I do not know that there is any difference of opinion on that point—I am sure we shall always welcome the contributions of the noble Marquess on this subject, and at any rate in principle I think we shall always substantially agree with him.

May I now go back from what he has said to the question asked me as representative of the Government as to what is the attitude of the Government towards the proposed amendments of the Covenant at Geneva? I think. I have put that question rightly. The answer, I think, has already been adumbrated by the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil. I think the answer is quite clear. So long as a Government is in power, so long as is entrusted with the safeguarding of our country and Empire, it must as a matter of primary duty perform the functions of Government and not be afraid to act up to its true and complete view of what the needs and interests of the Empire and the country may require. That has been a fundamental proposition as far as I know from the early stages of representative or any other government in this country. Executive powers are exercised by the Government as part of the Prerogative of the King. The function of Parliament, as has been pointed out, is an entirely different one. We could not, and ought not, to avoid our responsibilities at Geneva. But before ratification—which is the second step, making what we do at Geneva effective—we shall in this case, as we have in all other cases, consult the opinion of the House of Commons. Not only is that the modern method—before ratification, not before signature—


Does the noble and learned Lord mean to lay that down at all times, that he will consult the House of Commons, not this House? It is a most important statement.


I should not have thought there was any reason to interrupt me on that point. There is this difference, a very great difference, that if the Government on a matter of this kind found itself not in accord with the House of Commons it would be contrary to constitutional usage to try to conduct further the government of the country. That is quite clear as a constitutional principle which has been known for a long time. That is not the case as far as this House is concerned. So far as this House is concerned, it has not the power of altering the Government which the House of Commons has, because no Government can proceed without the consent of the House of Commons on which it really depends for its daily life. There can be no doubt whatever on that point. I am sure that any one who has studied constitutional principles would—at least I hope any one would—agree with me. As an executive act as regards treaties—and this is in the character of a treaty—the Government has, in theory, absolute power. But as a matter of practice—and I think convenient practice, and practice in accordance with the reality of government as carried on in this country—treaties of this character are submitted before ratification to the House of Commons.

The reasons which make that right in regard to the House of Commons really do not apply to submitting such Resolutions to the House of Lords. It is no derogation of the position of this House at all. We are not the House of Commons, we have not got the power of the House of Commons. Certainly it has been the practice of the present Government to bring everything it possibly can before your Lordships' House, but to say that where no Act is required and where the question is simply one of ratification of a treaty, the Government should bring the matter before this House would be entirely out of accord with constitutional practice. We have no power in this House which would make a practice of that kind really effective. Therefore, the first answer I have to make to the noble and learned Viscount opposite is—but perhaps I had better read the words of his Question so as to make it quite complete. He asks— whether His Majesty's Government will undertake to submit the proposed amendments to Parliament"— I do not know whether he means both Houses there.


Quite obviously. The meaning of the word "Parliament" is perfectly well known.


I am not disputing that, but it has been disputed even by the successors of the noble and learned Viscount in legal office.


It is because I was so shocked by that knowledge that I thought I would make it quite clear.


The noble and Viscount is quite justified in his astonishment. It only shows, what astonishes some people, that the best lawyers are not in accord upon what ought to be a very simple constitutional question. If I may resume reading the Question:— —to submit the proposed amendments to Parliament before giving them any acceptance or support on behalf of this country. We do not intend to submit any arrangement made at Geneva to this House. We do intend to submit it to the House of Commons before ratification. I do not know whether the noble Viscount will differ again on the legal point. That is the constitutional practice and constitutional duty at any rate in recent years.

Leaving that point, I want to go to the other point which the noble Viscount raised. I do not want to travel over the ground which the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, has already so ably traversed. It is sufficient to say that I agree with him on his construction of the various Articles of the Covenant which he has already explained so clearly to your Lordships. Let me say what it is that we are about here. We are about bringing into correspondence the terms of the Pact and the terms of the Covenant. What are the terms of the Pact? They indicate really what is the necessity at the present time for the suggestions which are being made. We all know the first Article of the Pact. It is that: The High Contracting Parties solemnly declare, in the names 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. The words there are extremely strong. They not only renounce it, but they "renounce it as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another." But that goes, admittedly and undoubtedly, beyond the terms of the Covenant.

There is, no doubt, the statement in the Preamble of the Covenant about renouncing resort to war. But when that Preamble is taken in connection with the subsequent Articles to which reference has already been made in this debate, it is seen that by no construction can it be said that the Covenant per se in all eases renounces war as an instrument of national policy in the relations of countries one with another. The first series of amendments proposed has the object of bringing the Covenant into correspondence with the Pact upon this point. We want the Covenant to say, as the Pact has said, that for the solution of international controversies countries shall renounce war as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another. I think it is sometimes said in too narrow a sense that you have conditions of war or conditions of peace. They do not spring up spontaneously. The conditions which lead to war and make war are the result of national policy. Just as in the past—end this has been the curse of Europe and other places—the organisation of international policy on a war basis has led to a number of cruel and devastating wars; so at any rate our view is (it is the view of the Government) that by organising a system based on peace and not a system based on war you will be able under the new national policy to avoid the risks of war which exist at the present time.

Really it comes back very largely in my opinion, to this. Do we want in all cases, or even not in all cases but as widely as possible, to have war renounced as a basis of international policy? I think that the one great advance in modern times has been the advance in that direction under the authority and assistance of the League. I should like to say a word further on that point which I do not think is always understood. The League constitutes an agreement, a very far-reaching agreement between the parties who have signed its terms. It is about the most solemn treaty that has ever been made in the history of mankind, so far as I know. The result is that we have given up, and have rightly given up, certain powers which we exercised by international right in the past, in order to enter into a relationship of mutual obligation that we might deal with one another, not on a war organisation but on the basis of a peace policy. That, I think, is one of the greatest advances that has ever been made in the history of mankind. Even as it stands it covers an enormously large field. I think the noble Viscount realises that. But it does not cover a quite wide enough field, and the object and purpose of the proposals we are now considering is that its character as assisting peace as in opposition to war can be further utilised and should be further utilised for the good of all mankind.

The second step, Article II of the Pact of Paris, is almost more important for our present purpose, and this is where, I think, I differ very particularly from the noble Viscount: It provides that when these disputes arise the solution "shall never be sought except by pacific means." No one has spoken mere strongly of the meaning of words of that kind than Mr. Baldwin and others on various occasions. I do not want to quote particular names because I do not think that anyone will get up now and deny the enormous importance of the Kellogg Pact, the Pact of Paris—that in future the solution of international difficulties shall never be sought except by pacific means. Is there any member of your Lordships' House who would controvert the value and importance of that proposition? The difficulty has been that although they can never be settled according to the terms of the Pact except by pacific means, no pacific means are indicated by which the policy of justice—which is what is meant by that pacific settlement—can be substituted for the policy of war.

The other amendments to which the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, has referred are all to extend and extend largely, as the noble Marquess has pointed out, a method and scheme of pacific means by which these international difficulties can be solved without resort to war. I am one of those who feel strongly that unless you have a pacific means so as to get a just solution as between persons in disagreement you are only half way on your journey. It is a terrible mistake, in my view, merely to take the negative side. You must go beyond that. You must say: "You must not go to war when you can have the justice of an impartial decision which is open to you or to your adversary as the case may be, where the matter can be settled on the basis of the terms of justice." Justice, as I use the term, means the impartial decision of a third party. There is no other way of making certain you have a just result. I should like to ask the noble Viscount opposite whether he does not think that the pacific means to which reference is made in Article II of the Pact ought not to be formulated so that they can be used as a practical method if you are dealing with one another on a friendly and peace basis?

That is the whole matter. It has been pointed out by my noble friend Lord Cecil that there is nothing new in principle in these suggestions that have been made. What is new is that they extend over an area which has been often referred to as the "gap in the Covenant." Is that not right? What can be done by the Council, to width the noble Viscount referred, does not seem very terrible, on the one hand, but seems, on the other hand, a method of reaching a solution by pacific means. If the Council is unanimous then they can take such measures as they may deem necessary in order to bring about a solution of the difficulty. I have not the exact words by me, but I think those are they and they are exactly the same words that you find in Article 13 while you find very similar words in Article 11. Why not? Do we want international peace or not? Do you want disarmament in the terms of a covenant or not? If so, you must have security and how can you not have security when you not only negative the possibility of war, if you can, but also have a tribunal by which difficulties, instead of being settled by force, can be settled on the ordinary basis of justice?

That really, after all, is the whole matter. I understand the noble Viscount to say that there are areas in which he desires the war principle still to be maintained. That is wrong. For the good of mankind war should be limited in every possible way. I do not believe that under these resolutions, if they are carried, war would be a practical method likely to be resorted to in the future. I cannot say it is absolutely eliminated because to eliminate war you must have disarmament and must obey the obligations, the obligations of honour I would call them, which you have already assumed under Article 8 of the Covenant. I think that is the answer to the noble Viscount's third Question.

There are two other specific Questions. The first is— To ask His Majesty's Government whether their attention has been directed to the amendments to the Covenant of the League of Nations proposed by the Committee appointed to bring the provisions of the Covenant into harmony with the Pact of Paris. Of course their attention has been so directed. They have been very carefully considered and my noble friend Lord Cecil has pointed out the extent to which they have been approved. Secondly, he asks— whether His Majesty's Government are aware that the amendments proposed by the Committee go far beyond the purposes for which the Committee was appointed. We are certainly not aware of that. In my view they have not gone anywhere beyond the purpose for which the Committee was appointed—namely, reconciling the Pact and the Covenant.

The Question goes on:— and would (if adopted)"— —these perhaps are more material words— materially alter the position and powers of the Council of the League and largely increase the liabilities of this country. They would alter in the right way the position and powers of the League. I do not think, nor does the Government think, that they would largely increase the liabilities of this country. The more peace you can obtain, the more you can have the spread of a peaceful principle, the less are the liabilities of this country than when every international dispute was referred to the arbitrament of force. I cannot expect the noble Viscount will agree with me, but I hope I have answered his Questions and that he will appreciate that those, like Lord Cecil and others, who do not take his view are quite as sure and quite as anxious as he is, by the promotion of peace, to diminish the liabilities of this country in the direction of war, and to make us what we ought to be, the missionaries of peace in every part of the world.


My Lords, if my Motion has served no other useful purpose it has, at any rate, provoked a maiden speech from my noble friend Lord Lothian, to which I am sure everybody on this side of the House, equally with the other, has listened with pleasure, and we hope that he will join our debates more often in future. That, I am afraid, is the limit of the satisfaction which I am able to obtain from the debate. The noble Lord, Lord Cecil, and the noble Lord who has just spoken denounced the suggestion that Parliament ought to be consulted beforehand as being a dangerous innovation in our Constitution. We realise then what humbug the Prime Minister was talking when he said that, as a Minority Government, he desired that Parliament should assume the functions of a Council of State and should be called into consultation. We realise now that he was what would be called in another place "talking through his hat," and that what he really means is that the Government are going to act without consulting Parliament and then confront Parliament with the alternative of turning them out or else of accepting an act of which the House may profoundly disapprove. It would not cause me any compunction to turn them out at the earliest possible moment. Unfortunately, there may be those who see things in a contrary direction and it is very unfortunate that a course should be adopted by the Government which must have the result, and apparently is designed to have the result, of ensuring that Parliament shall pronounce, not on the merits of the proposal, but only on the merits of the Government.

The noble Lord who has just spoken said the question was: "Do we want to renounce war?" Of course that is not the question. We all want to avoid war. The question is whether these particular proposals are designed to avoid war or not. At any rate it is arguable that an amendment of the Covenant, the effect of which is to impose on every Member of the League an obligation to resort to war in circumstances in which it is not now bound, is not a means of avoiding war. It is a funny way of avoiding war by making a number of people solemnly agree that they will go to war under conditions under which they are not now bound to do so.

My noble friend Lord Cecil said one thing which a little surprised me when he said that under the existing provisions of Article 15, as he read them, all parties to a dispute were already bound to accept and comply with a unanimous report of the Council. I am surprised at that. Not only because it is not my reading of the Article, which is perhaps a matter of comparatively minor importance, but because I see stated in the report of the Committee of which the noble Lord was a distinguished member, dealing with this proposed amendment, that paragraph 6, on the other hand, gave some degree of force to a report of the Council which was unanimously adopted but the parties to the dispute were not obliged to comply with the report. I entirely agree with that view but, of course, it is the exact opposite of the view which the noble Viscount has stated to your Lordships' House. It only shows how important it is that the matter should be further considered before the nation and the country are committed to it.

The noble Lord opposite has said that he desired to see compulsory arbitration in all cases, which he refers to as synonymous with justice. I profoundly disagree with him. I think that arbitration in arbitral matters in matters of judicial decision is an eminently desirable thing; but I think that compulsory arbitration by a body of twelve representatives of nations, in matters which may have no judicial element in them at all—matters merely of policy—is a very dangerous innovation. And when we go further and we find that when this arbitration is embarked upon nobody can tell whether the result will be to produce a binding or non-binding report, then I do not think we get that degree of certainty to which the noble Lord attached importance. It is said that there were very distinguished members on the Executive Committee which gave the decision to which I have called attention. It is because the attention of some of those members of the Committee was drawn to the very grave consequences which these proposed amendments involve that I was invited to look into the matter, and it was with their approval and agreement that I made the Motion which I have brought before this House.

Then I was accused of talking claptrap about the Navy, because I pointed out that in my judgment, while it might be desirable for other people to use our Navy to enforce an award which they had obtained, it was not the function of cur Navy, and it was not a position in which I should desire our Navy to be placed. The noble Lord said that our Navy was intended to protect British interests, and that the preservation of the peace of the world is a British interest. Of course it is, but to use our Navy to involve us in quarrels with which we have no immediate concern is not in my opinion the best way to promote or preserve the peace of the world, especially when I remember the character of the disputes in which we may be involved. Then Lord Cecil reminded us how the last War broke out through a conflagration in a remote part of Europe, but one reason for others getting involved in it was the number of entangling agreements which involved other people who had no concern in the original trouble, and resulted in their being dragged into the conflict. Therefore I am not sure that it is an argument in favour of the amendments.

I do not desire to say anything more, except this, that the noble Lord has told your Lordships that if, and when, they have signified their approval of these amendments they are going to bring the question before the House of Commons, but do not intend to bring it before your Lordships' House. I do not desire to enter into the constitutional question there raised, but I would like to point out to noble Lords opposite that if they persist in that attitude there are other means by which the matter can be brought before this House, whether they wish it or not. Having made those observations, I have at least elicited some statement of the view of the Government, and I do not wish to persist in my Motion for Papers. I ask leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.