HL Deb 08 December 1932 vol 86 cc307-42

LORD MARLEY rose to ask His Majesty's Government what is the present position with regard to the Committee for the regulation of the trade in and private and State manufacture of arms and implements of war; when the next meeting of the Committee will take place; the reason for the attitude of His Majesty's Government in opposing the French proposals for the suppression of the private manufacture of arms; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I suppose we have to be grateful that 25 members of your Lordships' House out of a total membership of 740 take the trouble to attend a debate on the question of the private manufacture of armaments. There is, despite the poor attendance in your Lordships' House, very considerable anxiety in the rest of the country in connection with the progress of the Disarmament Conference at Geneva, and in particular in connection with the question of the private manufacture of arms to which the humble address for Papers which I have put down refers. Perhaps I might remind the House that in connection with the Disarmament Conference a Committee was set up under the decision of the Disarmament Conference of the 23rd July, whose terms of reference were: To submit proposals to the Conference, immediately on the resumption of its work, in regard to the regulations to be applied to the trade in, and private and State manufacture of, arms and implements of war. Fifteen States were appointed on this Committee to deal with the private manufacture of arms. The Danish representative was appointed Chairman and the Committee included representatives of France, Italy, Japan, Great Britain, the United States of America, the Soviet Union, Poland, Spain and Turkey.

The first meeting took place towards the end of September. Since then there have been a few meetings at considerable intervals. The French view with regard to the private manufacture of armaments was a perfectly straightforward one. The French representative, who has had a very considerable experience in connection with the private manufacture of arms, and who was a member of the Temporary Mixed Commission, made perfectly clear what his Government's position was. He said the only solution appeared to be the total suppression of the private manufacture of arms. He then pointed out that there were various possible objections which he considered were not convincing, and he went on to say: In reality there is no real difficulty in the way of the total suppression of private manufacture. He pointed out that the Treaties of Peace themselves afforded an example by the prohibitions which they had exacted in respect of certain countries, and he concluded, therefore, that steps should be taken to bring about a total suppression of the private manufacture of arms.

The French delegate was supported by the Spanish representative, M. de Madariaga, who is so well known to many of your Lordships. He came out clearly in support of total suppression. This point of view was also supported by the Polish delegate and by the delegate from Denmark who was the Chairman. The Turkish delegate produced a proposal in connection with the control of armaments, and said that private industrialists producing arms, in order to increase their profits, must conduct propaganda in favour of the arms traffic and that gave rise to a competition in armaments which may lead to war. The United States appeared to be somewhat undecided, and in point of fact the English translation and the French translation differ. Perhaps the noble Viscount who will reply for the Government and who, of course, is well aware of what is going on, could say which is the right translation. The English translation says: The United States delegate, Mr. Wilson, said he had received from his Government definite instructions as to the form to be given to the next convention. The French translation says that Mr. Wilson: dit qu'il n'a pas recu de son Gouvernement d'instructions…" I do not know which is right. One says that he has not received and the other that he has received instructions. It would be interesting to know which is correct. Anyway, at the first meeting he came out in favour of the regulation of private manufacture and restriction of imports and exports. Then the United States delegate said that there was a change in the United States attitude, a change in their policy, and that they were prepared to accept supervision of private manufacture provided that both State and private firms were included, and provided that there was a substantial reduction in armaments by the Disarmament Conference itself.

The British attitude—I am very anxious to draw particular attention to this—was, I venture to say, lamentable. In the first place the British representative began by a quibble as to the competence of the Committee to consider the suppression of private manufacture at all—a verbal quibble which was referred to the legal section of the Secretariat of the League of Nations, who of course swept it away as entirely without any foundation or justification. The British delegate then suggested that the French delegate was not sincere in his proposal for total suppression. He said he understood that France would not insist on the suppression of private manufacture and that she would be prepared to support mere regulation. In this connection the French delegate at two subsequent meetings denied that entirely and reiterated that he stood by suppression, the complete and absolute suppression of the private manufacture of arms. The British delegate then suggested that the action which Great Britain had taken was already sufficient, and he went on to say that: He felt that a considerable measure of progress would have been registered if all other states followed the example of the United Kingdom and adopted similar measures of control of the private manufacture of arms. It is interesting to know that the Government—presumably he was acting on the instructions of the Government—feel that Great Britain has done all that is necessary.

It is interesting to see, for example, the result of this control in the impartiality with which British armament firms supply equally China and Japan in view of the present state of affairs in Manchuria. For instance, last month British armament firms supplied 40,000 machine gun cartridges to China and 250,000 to Japan. The month before they supplied 200 machine guns to Japan and 1,500,000 cartridges to China. In August, 500 sets of bombs were supplied to China and fifty machine guns to Japan, while in June 500 bombs were supplied to China and 1,000,000 rounds of machine gun ammunition to Japan. There has been complete impartiality during the past year, although amounts have varied month by month, Japan being sometimes up on the deal and China sometimes up on the deal. I suggest that a control which allows a state of tension between two nations in distant parts of the world to be caused perhaps to rise into a state of war, by means of supplying munitions of war impartially to both sides, is hardly a control with which this Government should be satisfied.

At the Committee on the private manufacture of arms, the Danish delegate put forward a suggestion that there should be a questionnaire sent to the Governments in order to help to obtain information. It was a harmless enough questionnaire. It included, for instance, questions as to the purposes of the manufacture of arms for which permits are required; as to the undertakings which are engaged in the manufacture of articles coming under the categories involved; as to the sales of these armaments; and as to whether there were laws or administrative regulations in the country forbidding soldiers or members of the military administration on active service to hold paid posts in private armament undertakings. I should have thought that there would have been no objection on the part of the British Government to this questionnaire, yet the British delegate opposed the sending out of the questionnaire. It would be interesting if the Government spokesman would tell your Lordships' House why there was opposition to the sending out of these questions. I should very much like to know also, since these questions have in fact been sent out, whether the Government have replied to them.

Finally, the British delegate opposed total suppression of the private manufacture of arms—that is to say, opposed the French, the Spanish, the Polish and the Danish point of view—because he relied upon certain recommendations which were made by the Temporary Mixed Commission as long ago as 1929, a contention which the French delegate swept away when he said: The Committee could not, in studying the question, confine itself to the lines laid down by the Temporary Mixed Commission. Things had changed, ideas had developed and the work of the Disarmament Conference in particular had increased the scope of the question. This point was brought out at the full meeting of the Disarmament Conference, on November 18, by the French delegate when he urged that a technical committee should take into account the fact that considerable progress had been made concerning this subject since the 1929 contention. In this, the French delegate was strongly supported by the Spanish delegate at the full meeting of the Disarmament Conference.

That is the position for the moment. Your Lordships will remember that Article 8 of the Covenant of the League of Nations says: The Members of the League agree that the manufacture by private enterprise of munitions and implements of war is open to grave objections. The Council shall advise how the evil effects attendant upon such manufacture can he prevented, due regard being had to the necessities of those Members of the League which are not able to manufacture …. munitions for themselves. This Temporary Mixed Commission then sat and a year or two later produced six reasons why they considered that the private manufacture of arms should be dealt with. Those reasons are so interesting that I venture to detain the House while I very briefly give them. They said, in the first place, that the armament firms have been active in fomenting war scares and in persuading their own countries to adopt warlike policies so as to increase their armaments; secondly, that armament firms have attempted to bribe Government officials both at home and abroad; thirdly, that armament firms have disseminated false reports concerning the naval and military programmes of other countries in order to stimulate armament expenditure; fourthly, that armament firms have brought influence to bear upon public opinion through the control of newspapers in their own and foreign countries; fifthly, that armament firms have organised international armament rings; and, sixthly, that armament firms have organised international trusts to increase the price of armaments to Governments.

Now I do not know how far these matters apply to-day, but I think it is entirely unfair that individuals who may be perfectly sincere and innocent in their actions should be liable to attack under some or any of these headings. Take an example in the present board of Vickers, Armstrong. In a quotation from a paper in the House of Commons we get this: Contractors naturally are very keen to avail themselves of the services of prominent officers who have been associated with work in which the contractors are interested. The chief thing is that they know the ropes, since the retired officer who keeps in touch with his old comrades is able to lessen some of these inconveniences, either by securing the ear of one who would not afford like favours to a civilian…. From that it has been said on a number of occasions that directors of such firms as Vickers, Armstrong may be appointed by reason of their past interest in a subject in Government Departments. For example, among the directors of Vickers, Armstrong to-day we have General Sir Herbert Lawrence, who has been chairman for the last six years, and was formerly Chief of the Staff in France and retired in 1922; Sir Mark Webster Jenkinson, who was the Controller of the Department of Factory Audit and Costs at the Ministry of Munitions and Chief Liquidator of Contracts at the Ministry of Munitions after the War; General Sir J. F. Noel Birch, who was Artillery Adviser to the Commander-in-Chief in France, Director of Remounts and afterwards Master-General of Ordnance; Sir J. A. Cooper, who was the principal in charge of Raw Materials Finance at the War Office and then became the director of Raw Materials Finance at the Ministry of Munitions. It is unfair that these persons, who may he perfectly and absolutely innocent and clear of any of the implications involved, should be liable, because of association with a private firm of armament manufacturers, to be implicated in the development of the armaments industry.

We know that some of the suggestions are in fact entirely true. One of the most interesting cases was that of the American, Mr. Shearer, who was paid by United States armament firms to go about Europe and foment trouble, and he was largely successful in securing the failure of the Naval Conference at Geneva some years ago. When he got back to America the armament firms who had employed him were anxious not to pay him the full amount they had agreed for the work he had been successful in carrying out at Geneva. He only got $51,000 and he claimed to be entitled to $255,000. He took this case—it is an extraordinary country—to the Courts, the Attorney-General made an inquiry, and as a result of this inquiry the President of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation wrote to President Hoover and explained that he and the chairman of directors had in fact employed Mr. Shearer at a fee, I think, of $25,000, and that his duties were to be an observer at the Geneva Arms Conference, that he was to influence American and foreign newspaper correspondents and naval officers in stimulating the marine industry both for the Navy and merchant marine, that he was to send out literature to discredit American advocates of peace, and to insert his "publicity" in reputable American newspapers such as the New York Times.

He also had other tasks. One was to maintain a lobby in Washington in support of cruiser and merchant-marine bills pending in Congress, the preparation of political articles, lectures before patriotic societies, and the employment of experts for bringing influence to bear. Mr. Shearer, as far as I know, won his case. Anyway, he was awarded a considerable sum in addition to the $51,000 for his successful work at Geneva. It is interesting to note that Mr. Shearer has been at Geneva during the 1932 Disarmament Conference. What is he doing there? Surely it is undesirable, to say the least, to maintain the private manufacture of arms, with the result that we have this sort of international bribery and corruption going on to an extent of which we are unaware, but part of which, at any rate, has been laid bare by the case of men like Mr. Shearer.

I said at the beginning of my remarks that there is very considerable anxiety about the Disarmament Conference. Viscount Cecil of Chelwood, speaking at the Queen's Hall, a few months ago, said: There is a very sinister feature to all the disarmament discussions. I refer to the tremendous power wielded against all the proposals by the armament firms. It is no longer safe to keep in private hands the construction of these weapons of death. We must aim at getting rid of this immense instrument in the maintenance of suspicion. The League of Nations Union, at their annual meeting at Cheltenham, passed an urgent resolution pointing out that the private manufacture of arms was open to grave objections, and urging that the matter should be kept prominently before the public.

It is interesting also to know that the most rev. Primate, as a deputation with another Archbishop and eighteen Bishops and leaders of the Free Churches, interviewed the Prime Minister a few weeks ago and said this to him: We believe that one of the obstacles to disarmament is the vested interests of private armament firms. The Churches must protest against any group of private individuals being allowed a vested interest in the weapons of death and destruction, and we would urge that this traffic be either entirely prohibited or at least strictly controlled by Government licence. In The Times, to-day, there is another quotation from the annual meeting of the League of Nations Union, in which the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, refers to the disquieting rumours from Geneva that there is an abandonment of any effort to obtain disarmament before 1936. Has Mr. Shearer again earned some thousands of dollars by some underhand work at Geneva? The League of Nations Union passed a resolution yesterday urging that the whole influence of the Union should be to secure that the private manufacture of arms should be strictly controlled or prohibited.

In this connection there is one other point to which I want to draw your Lordships' attention, and that is the question of chemical warfare. All over the Continent there is training going on amongst school children in the wearing and the fitting of gas masks. I have here one of those gas masks which will give the House an idea of the type of training in defensive warfare against gas which is being given. These masks are not only very expensive and very unpleasant in appearance, but they are virtually training the young generation in the worst side of war. I suggest that the private manufacture of arms is intimately bound up with the chemical industry, and that in suppressing the private manufacture of arms there should also be the strictest possible control of the chemical and scientific industries. This was urged by both Denmark and France, but again the United Kingdom delegate opposed this suggestion, saying that it was too soon to discuss it. My Lords, it is not too soon to discuss it, but it will soon be too late if we go on temporising in the way which the Government are doing, and many scientific workers are urging that this matter of chemical manufacture should be dealt with alongside the question of private manufacture.

The Committee on November 12, the last meeting of which I had notice—perhaps the noble Viscount who is going to reply can give later information—said: After obtaining an opinion from the legal section …that the Committee was not precluded … from recommending the abolition of the private manufacture of arms, the Committee decided to continue its discussion on the subject. The inquiry into this question has been provisionally adjourned. I venture to ask the Government if they will, in the first place, hasten the continuation of that inquiry which has been provisionally adjourned; if they will give fresh instructions to the British representative to take a more serious line in connection with suppression; if they will instruct him to support the French and Spanish view in favour of the total suppression of private manufacture of arms; and if they will in any case secure that the international supervision and control of private and State manufacture of arms are included in both aspects of the question which the British representative is to support.


My Lords, I did not intend to take part in this debate this afternoon, but after the speech of the noble Lord who has moved this Motion I thought it right to say at once, as one who knows the circumstances in which Sir Herbert Lawrence and General Sir J. F. Noel Birch are in the firm of Vickers, that the suggestion conveyed by the noble Lord is at least unfortunate. Everyone knows that Sir Herbert Lawrence before the War was engaged in high finance and gave that up to come back and serve his country, and that after laying down his sword he went back to the high finance. It was on the financial side that he went back, to the benefit of that great concern. Sir Noel Birch is an expert in heavy artillery and he went into the firm to give his great knowledge in the improvement of designs. If arms are to be produced at least produce the best you can, and you have to take the best advice in order to get that perfection in arms which everyone desires if you are going to produce arms. Therefore, from that point of view I think there is no reflection to be cast upon that officer because on retiring he gave his services to this firm.

Surely we are getting away from realities altogether. The idea that arms should be abolished altogether is an ideal which seems to me further away almost than the return to the days of the prehistoric age. You have got to accept the realities of the situation. I agree that it is the duty of every Government to control the production and the distribution of arms—where they are going and, under licence, where they are to be sent—but to say that you are going to prohibit the production of arms except by Governments is, I think, going away from the real situation. I cannot help thinking that in dealing with the question of disarmament as a whole we are going the wrong way about it. Our delegation, headed by the Foreign Secretary, has the sympathy of all in the great efforts that are being made in order to abolish certain kinds of weapons under which the civil population would in case of war suffer terrible calamity; but the real disarmament is the removal of the causes of war.

Arms will always be found by any who have the spirit and wish to go to war, and if we arc going to get any advance on this question of the resort to force we shall have to remove the causes that produce the desire to fight. Look at Europe to-day and the situation which is facing the Disarmament Conference at Geneva, with Germany remaining outside the Conference for particular reasons and demanding certain conditions. It seems to me that the real reason there is the grievance that is eating into the heart of the German people. I know it is said that if you express too much agreement or sympathy with the grievance of that country you undoubtedly create a stiffening of its attitude. That is perfectly true; but, all the same, the grievances do exist, and unless those grievances are tackled and dealt with by the League of Nations you will have the greatest difficulty in dealing with disarmament.

It is undoubtedly true that the relative reduction of armaments will not stop wars. Though you may prevent the use of aggressive weapons, like bombing aeroplanes and gas, you will not in that way do away with the spirit and the causes of war. After all, in 1914, before the War began, if you had had a really active Tribunal at The Hague, with some power or force behind it, you might have stopped that great conflict. And therefore, with the experience of what has gone before when trying to deal with the use of arms, you not only want some form of tribunal to adjudicate on the various cases that come before it, but behind that court there must be some form of force to carry out its decisions. Though I have not studied the proposals of the French plan as closely as I might, it seems to me that there is a great deal to be said for the plan, which would concentrate force in the hands of the League. That seems to me the only way in which you will get real peace in Europe, the only way in which you will be able to control the use of arms.

I am afraid that I am rather straying from the subject of the Motion on the Paper, but these considerations are all allied to that subject, and I think that if you pursue the line which has been pursued by the Committee appointed in July at Geneva to deal with the suppression of the manufacture of arms by private individuals that will lead nowhere. The noble Lord rightly said that vested interests come in with all their powerful means of obstruction. I think that in itself will be overpowering. That is why I advocate that some form of force should be placed under the control of the League in order to deal with weapons and arms in each country. I believe that is the right line to go upon, although I, for one, wish the delegation at Geneva every success in their great efforts.


My Lords, there is a matter allied to this question which my noble friend Lord Marley was not able to cover in his speech but which ought not to be forgotten, a matter which is much debated in these days —namely, the question whether those who have influence on Governments ought to be interested in armament concerns. It is a delicate subject, and one ought to choose one's words carefully in dealing with it. I, personally, feel it my duty to raise the subject to-day because of recent experience. When I have been speaking at meetings for the League of Nations Union I have had questions put to me at the end of the meetings as to whether Ministers had holdings in armament concerns, and what I thought of it. I replied that I had not searched the registers but, if it were the case, personally I regarded it as highly undesirable. This is a kind of subject that I would much rather leave alone, but "Do as you would be done by": if any friends of mine knew of questions being put in such a manner with regard to myself I should be—and I suppose all of us would be—grateful if they reported the fact.

It is well known that lists of shareholders bearing on this question have appeared in recent publications. I do not desire by any means to attack individuals but only to urge that Ministers should put themselves right if, possibly by inadvertence, they are holders of securities of this kind. I think the same applies to all Members of Parliament. They ought to look up their list of investments and get rid of every holding in armament concerns. One knows the excuses that are made, and have always been made, for holdings of that kind on the part of responsible people. Such excuses were made in the great controversy that many of us who were in the House of Commons at the time remember during the Parliament of 1910. Many of us then regretted that the Government of that day did not take a strong line on the matter.

But before the War the situation was different from the situation of to-day. There was a feeling that armaments would probably not be used; war was not definitely visualised; and of course, it can always be said that holders of such property would not allow themselves to be influenced where the public interest cut the other way. But the ease is vastly different since the War. War is now viewed realistically, and, further, we know the improper methods, to say the least, some of which we have heard of to-day, which have been employed by armament interests, especially the concealed use of the Press and the wire-pulling of paid agents. The notorious affair of Mr. Shearer, of which your Lord ships have already heard, in connection with the Naval Conference of five years ago, was an eye-opener to the public. It illustrated the fact that the policy of armament firms conflicts with the public interest, even as to its methods. Well, I suppose we all agree that no one should remain in a position where his private interest conflicts, or may possibly conflict, with his public duty. Such a position, we know, is not a sound one from which to face one's fellow men.

There is a very strong feeling on this subject of armament investments. Indeed, I can think of an index of the strength of that feeling. I believe that in the Labour Party and, for all I know, in other Parties, a shareholder in an armament company who was a Minister and who declined to put himself right, would find that a proposal would be made from some quarter in his Party that he should cease to he a member of the Party. I think I am right in that. The noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, said the other day that perhaps one of the most vital problems of to-day is the suppression of the private manufacture of arms and the control of the traffic. If that is so, it is vital that public feeling should be alive to the danger and should be aware of the money-making activities, national and international, which increase the chance of war. However reputable an armament concern may be—and we know how extraordinarily high their prestige has been, and that men of the highest standing are active members in the trade—however much that is the case, it seems to me that the association of public men with the manufacture of arms is helping to give respectability to the trade, and is, therefore, discouraging a public movement for control of the trade which is vital to the promotion of peace. It may be that international prohibition and control of the traffic is not to be yet, but here at least is one practical step that could be taken. By clearing their investment lists, if any such cases exist, of holdings, politicians can, it seems to me, do something to make the public realise that the private armament industry does produce dangers which ought to be very carefully watched.


My Lords, I thought the noble Lord who started the discussion to-day was, for an angel of peace, in an extraordinarily truculent mood. The noble Lord commenced by an attack upon the members of this House in general who were not present. He said that only twenty-five were here, and the noble Lord, with his speech ready, expressed great disappointment. It is not for me to say anything about the wisdom of other noble Lords who have the misfortune not to be present here to-day.

Before coming to what I had intended to say on the general subject, I want to state that it is very difficult to with hold what one would like to say in reply to the attack that the noble Lord made on certain individuals. It would have been easy to have spoken about the general idea of the undesirability of certain people being connected with armament firms and so on without mentioning names, and, incidentally, mentioning the name of one of the finest men in this country, a man of whom an act of dishonour would not be thought possible, a man who served his country magnificently in the War, who lost his dearest and best in the War, and who is, to put it in barrack language, one of the straightest men I have ever met. The noble Lord definitely attacked him. He said he was very sorry for people who were tied to a firm that did dishonourable acts such as bribery, spread false reports and so forth. He, therefore, insinuated that the firm of which he spoke was guilty of doing the acts which he mentioned, and that he was sorry for the individuals he named for being associated with it. Or, if he did not mean that, he meant it the opposite way, that the individuals he named were dishonourable men and he was sorry for the firm to which they were attached.

I presume that the noble Lord's Question is directed towards stopping incitements to war which may occur through the private manufacture of arms and the consequent pushing of sales. If war is the result of the private manufacture of arms, I certainly sympathise with him, and so would every noble Lord present. To my mind, however, it is not the capacity or ability to manufacture arms that is at fault, but rather the fact that arms, if made, may be sold to people who make a wrong use of them. It would be very difficult to get every country to agree to the noble Lord's proposal, and it is of no use unless every country that manufactures arms does agree. You would have to get not only the whole of the European Powers to agree but also countries like the United States, where an immense quantity of arms is manufactured. Then, when you had done that, you might possibly find that a number of small States in various parts of the world would commence to manufacture their own arms. I do know small States that are thinking of doing it, or have begun to do it, and it would be extremely difficult to control the sale of weapons of war by those countries. We might, therefore, see the capacity for making armaments actually increased instead of diminished, and under much less control.

To take our own case it would, so far as I can see, mean that weapons of war must be made by the State and by the State alone. This would mean in this country an enormous increase of State factories, and an increase of their capacity to manufacture. As it is, we reduce manufacture by our State factories to a minimum and we only just keep alive some of our great armament firms by comparatively small orders. You must remember that we have now such a very reduced armament that our case is not the same as the case, for instance, of France or any other country with a very large Army and Navy and Air Force. These small orders enable armament firms to keep abreast of modern improvement, and to acquire the knowledge of how to manufacture modern weapons if required by the State. Their factories in the meantime are available for civilian industry, and yet also are available in time of emergency for warlike work if required by the country. The plant they use is available for ordinary commercial nonmilitary subjects of manufacture. But if you put that all on to the State it would mean that the State would have to keep up huge and uneconomical factories out of all proportion to the amount of material that they would have to turn out.

The main thing to my mind Is to stop the export of weapons except to Governments, and then only under licence, and to destroy all weapons of war that are obsolete and that might otherwise be used to the detriment of peace in what I might term odd quarters of the globe. I remember just at the very beginning of the War speaking to Lord Kitchener, who said: I do not blame your politicians for not allowing the Army to have sufficient guns or ammunition, but I do blame the politicians for not having envisaged war, and not having made arrangements for the increased output which might become necessary, thus endangering the country. That is our position because we are not a war-making race. I understand that the noble Lord who put down the Question is a Communist, and this attitude of mind is borne out by the letter which he sent to the Moscow Daily News on the 5th of November of this year, in which his concluding sentence was a wish that increasing success might crown the efforts at present being made by the Soviet Union.


Hear, hear.


The noble Lord says "Hear, hear." Would it not have been better, instead of congratulating that country on the huge success it is making against us, to have suggested that it might reduce its armaments—a country that has greater armaments and is increasing its armaments to a greater extent than any other country? What about that gas mask which the noble Lord brought out just now? Is every child in Russia not taught to use that gas mask, and every woman and man also? Would it not be better if Russia were to come forward and say: "We will never use gas if you won't"? Would it not have been better to appeal to the world to do away with armaments, and would it not have been better of the noble Lord to have suggested that, instead of proposing to us that we should put our own country in danger? I think it would.

The noble Lord recently took part in a debate in Edinburgh and, in excuse for the huge military forces which are being enlisted and trained in Russia, he said that the Russian Army was only used as a means of educating people and that nearly half the life of every person who went into it was spent in cultural pursuits. The noble Lord nods his head and says "Yes." Would the noble Lord not suggest that we should have conscription in this country and adopt the Russian system of everybody being trained to arms and trained in the use of the gas mask? I suppose that is what he means. He cannot approve of it in one country and not in another. This statement seems to me most extraordinary when you remember that it comes from one who was Under-Secretary of State for War in a British Government. I cannot understand how the noble Lord, with his views about ex-officers who go into armament firms, an apostle of peace such as he is, could have held such a horrible position as that of Under-Secretary of State for War. However, autres temps, autres mœurs ! Of course we quite understand that it was not an office of profit—at least I suppose it was not.

The Russian Army now consists of about 1,185,000 enlisted men and experts say that the Soviet could mobilise a force of trained and partly-trained men of over 10,000,000. The noble Lord tells us of the great success of the five-year scheme and yet we know that every man, woman, and child in that country is being taught to hate every individual outside their own country. He knows that in Russia everything is based on military organisation. Even women are not excepted. There are no private enterprises in Russia for the manufacture of arms but there are State factories at every strategic point. There is not a military invention which they have not purchased, copied and in their opinion improved on, if possible.

The suggestion put forward by the noble Lord would result in adding enormously to our national waste and national expenditure. Every factory in Russia is, in effect, a private factory. By that I mean that it is possible to compare them with private factories here. If the noble Lord's suggestion were adopted, it would mean that Russia—I am not talking particularly of Russia but of countries organised like Russia—where everything is manufactured by the State and under the control of the State, would be able to manufacture enormous quantities of weapons, whereas we, a peace-loving nation, intending to keep peace and wanting to cut down armaments but at the same time retaining the possibility of increasing their manufacture if unfortunately that should become necessary, would get into a state of panic and you would see State factories being increased and enlarged. I do not want to detain your Lordships any longer. I am afraid that I have not made myself very clear, but I confess that I was a little upset by the perfectly unjust attack made upon personal friends of my own.


My Lords, I hesitate to intervene in a debate on a technical matter, but I have studied to some extent the opinions of experts and one or two things in connection with the traffic in arms occur to me. I think we must all agree that the present state of matters is not satisfactory. It is obviously absurd that one should have the League of Nations doing their utmost to stop the conflict between China and Japan while Members of the League of Nations are supplying both sides with the very means whereby they can carry on that conflict. It is absurd to think that we can remain content with such a state of affairs—on the one hand telling them to stop and on the other hand supplying weapons and munitions of war. It may be done quite impartially on both sides, but it is really almost a farcical state of affairs. I venture to think that something must be done to control it.

The noble Lord indicated quite truly that the great thing is to remove the causes of war and strife. It may be, and it is alleged I think with a good deal of foundation, that the present state of the traffic in arms may in itself be a cause of war. When you have the agents of a big armament firm going to country A and supplying that country, let us say, with guns of a certain calibre and force, and then going to a neighbouring country saying: "We have supplied your neighbour with these guns but we can give you bigger ones which will beat them," and touting for orders—surely that is very likely to lead to war, for the possession of such weapons is in itself an enticement sometimes to go to war when countries otherwise might have refrained.

The second alternative is the prohibition of the private manufacture of arms. I do not think that it is either practicable or desirable. I think it would be undesirable for this reason. There are, I believe, at present only some seven nations manufacturing arms to any great extent and seven others producing arms to a lesser extent—only fourteen countries in all manufacturing armaments. If we were to prohibit, the private manu- facture of arms I think, as the noble Duke has just said, that the result would be that a number of States would start their own factories and therefore the production of arms, instead of being diminished, would be increased. There is a third possibility and that is that there should be a very effective form of control over the manufacture of arms. I think there can he no doubt that there is in the ordinary course of business—a business which is now legitimate—touting for orders and there is nothing to prevent it. It is not wrong to do it, but I think it is very undesirable. Surely we may hope for some form of international control if, as we hope, some agreement is reached at Geneva as to limitation of armaments. That of course must be international, but I feel that amongst the fourteen nations which produce arms it might be possible to have some agreement to set up an international board of control, and that in each nation there might be a controlling board apart from the Government which should distribute the orders coming to that nation among the different armament firms in the country.

It would be not a selling agency but only a distributing agency, placing orders amongst armament firms which would be kept in existence. If nation A wanted so many guns or so many rifles the international board would have to see that their demand did not exceed the quota allowed them under the Disarmament Convention, and that international board could then tell the boards of control in the different countries that nation A wanted so many thousand rifles. Each national board world then ask the firms in the country at what price they could supply and agreement could be reached as to how the order should be distributed. The firms manufacturing arms would have to be prohibited from going out to solicit orders. It would be rationalisation of the trade in arms. Something of that kind might be done under international control. I think it would be a practical way of dealing with this question. Total prohibition seems to me to be impossible.

I trust the importance of this question will not be lost sight of. It does not of course prevent everything that is possible being done to remove the causes of war, hot so long as nations have Armies—and none of us will see the day when Armies or Navies are dispensed with—so long as national provision must be made for defence, so long will arms of some kind be required, and it is above all things important that the supply of those arms should be rationalised and placed upon such a basis as to remove the abuses which I fear exist at the present time.


My Lords, I believe that to abolish or restrict arms by the repression of private firms and to hand over the entire monopoly to Governments would do very little to alleviate the present situation and might produce, as the noble Lord has told us, more disastrous results than even the present system. One cannot help feeling that if we are to get disarmament in the armament industry we must in some way control that industry by an international board. So long as there is profit to be made out of this industry and numerous companies are willing to spend large sums on new inventions arid processes of destruction, so long will these firms exist and go on flourishing. The control of these firms is one of the important features in the French plan, and once it has been accomplished it may be possible to restrict these firms to specified contracts. The noble Lord has suggested an international board. I imagine that if that board functioned properly, it would stipulate that any firms producing armaments should be precluded from supplying any nation which was not a Member of the League.

That would prevent any firms in this country from supplying armaments to Russia, for instance, which is not a Member of the League. I understand that recently we produced in this country several hundred tanks which were sold by firms here to the Soviet Government. That sort of thing would come to an end once the firms in this country were restricted to the orders which emanated from the international board. I think it would be a good thing if in corning to an arrangement with armament firms they were compensated for loss of business. It would pay the international board, the Members of the League, to grant subsidies to firms in order to keep a certain amount of plant actually in existence and to enable them to retain their skilled mechanics, so that if an emergency did arise there would be the possibility of expansion when more armaments were required. As time went on the need for such an arrangement would gradually become less and less because we should have attuned the mentality of the peoples of Europe to the idea of the purely police function and the abolition of the system of international duelling.

Another point I should like to refer to is with regard to the proposals which the noble Lord in his opening speech made about the Commission. The proposals which were made by the French representative on that body are to be regarded as part and parcel of the plan for disarmament put forward by the French Government at the Disarmament Conference. I think M. Herriot has made it clear, and in fact it is stated in the plan itself, that all these proposals hang together, and that when the French suggest that the private armament industry should be repressed they envisage what was described just now as an international board of control, with powers of supervision and organisation in connection with all the armaments produced for Members of the League of Nations, both as regards the national militias which they are to have under the French scheme and also the specialised contingents which are to be armed with the super weapons. The question I would submit to the Government is therefore: Are they prepared to support the French plan as a whole and are they prepared to support the underlying principles of that plan?

It is true that we may not be in agreement regarding many details and that there are many points to be criticised, but, as has been pointed out, if we want to remove the causes of war we must first create the will to peace, and that will to peace must be expressed, as the Lord President of the Council said in another place, not merely in the terms of treaties—everyone knows that as soon as war has broken out they become waste paper—but in terms of organisation. That organisation must embrace not merely an international force but some definite machinery by which it will be able to settle these disputes in a peaceable manner. There must of course be this organisation in advance so that we may not find ourselves, as we did in 1914, in ignorance to the very last moment as to whether we were going to support our treaty obligations; whether we were going to support The Hague Tribunal; whether we were going to support this, that or the other. We never made up our minds in advance what side we were going to take. The people of this country were left in entire ignorance. Surely it is time, after all the experiences of the past, that we should not drift once more into a policy of isolation, but should face these problems in a practical way and consequently give our very serious consideration to the plan which the French Government have placed before the Disarmament Conference.


My Lords, I had not intended to intervene in this debate, but I should like to reply to the charges which I think have been very unfairly made by two noble Lords opposite against my noble friend Lord Marley, that he attacked certain individuals whom he mentioned by name. He did absolutely nothing of the kind. What were the facts? He read out the charges made by the Temporary Mixed Commission against armament firms in Germany and throughout Europe and the world. Those charges stand. They are very serious. Those charges are making people consider whether something ought not to be done with this huge international octopus which is really strangling the nations. Anybody who is associated with an armament firm necessarily comes under those charges—most unfairly. In many more cases than those quoted by my noble friend the names can be found of people who are not associated with this sort of thing at all—perhaps not even the firms. My noble friend made it perfectly clear that his charge was not against persons associated with armament firms but against the firms, and he is supported by the charges made by the Temporary Mixed Commission.

Perhaps I may be allowed to draw attention to one point which has not been touched upon, and that is that these armament firms are manufacturing armaments for the destruction of our own people. When I was in Constantinople, at the end of last century, there was an agent of an armament firm who was regarded out there as of as much consequence as if he was a diplomatist. He had access to all the Embassies and was a very great personage. He could go to the Sublime Porte whenever he wanted to, and through his good offices, as I suppose they would be called, the Dardanelles were furnished with a most magnificent equipment of guns, which in 1914 were trained upon British soldiers and sailors and wrought terrible havoc. There is a gun exhibited in a public Park, to-day, to commemorate the gallant deeds of a very great regiment. On one side of that gun is to be found a brass tablet, on which the deeds of that gallant regiment are commemorated, and on the other side is to be found the name of the British firm which manufactured that gun, which was captured from the Germans.

So it goes on. That aspect of this hideous traffic is not always taken fully into account, but private manufacture of armaments is going to continue. It is far too powerful for the League of Nations or Governments to have any effect upon it, and those who believe in the regulation of armaments, and in having lighter weapons and smaller weapons of all the various categories that have been drawn up at Geneva during the last six months, will feel the necessity of having private armament firms, because you have got to have all the prohibited weapons ready, so that when war is declared and those regulations are broken you are the first in the field with the necessary amount of all those weapons which have been discarded by regulation. My noble friend who opened this debate stuck very closely to quotations from what had been said by high authorities and by the League of Nations. It is a very serious question, which I am glad should be aired in your Lordships' House. It should become known to the people of this country as part and parcel of the abomination of war, which, as I have often said, cannot be dealt with piecemeal but must be dealt with wholesale.


My Lords, before the noble Viscount replies, I do not want to take part in this debate, but as two or three noble Lords have been good enough to quote me as being opposed to the private manufacture of armaments, I should like to explain what seems to me to be the real essential point of this discussion. There is all over Europe, and America too, a considerable body of armament manufacturers, having at their disposal very large funds and being no doubt in close communication with one another. It is obvious that if they are to sell their arms there must be a disposition on the part of their customers to use those arms, otherwise there would be no demand for them. It is, therefore, to the commercial interest of these armament manufacturers to maintain, as far as possible, an atmosphere of suspicion and hostility among the various nations. I do not say that they all yield to that temptation, but it must be a strong motive with them all. If there is not such an atmosphere of suspicion it is obvious that there must be less demand for the commodity that they produce. It seems, on the face of it, that that is an unsatisfactory state of things.

But it may be said that those are merely theoretic and academic considerations; that in point of fact there is no evidence that these manufacturers do use their great funds for any such purpose. I quite admit that the evidence on the subject is not very extensive, but there are two very well-known instances in which the armament manufacturers do appear to have used their funds exactly for that purpose. There is the case, to which my noble friends have referred, of Mr. Shearer, in 1927, at Geneva. A very remarkable ease, because undoubtedly the firms which employed him were firms of the highest possible standing in the United States, or some of them, and they undoubtedly did employ him—I think they said to watch the proceedings at Geneva; but I do not think anyone who was there has any doubt that he went a good deal beyond watching and in fact utilised his energies arid abilities if possible to prevent a conclusion of those proceedings such as would promote international disarmament. That is one case, but there is, of course, also the other case, which is very well known, of the purchase in Paris of one or perhaps two of the largest newspapers by those interested in the steel factories and also armament factories, I believe, and the consequent complete alteration of policy at any rate in the case of one of those papers, so that, having been a moderate supporter of republican institutions, without any very marked attitude, it became a reactionary paper violently opposed to M. Briand and an advocate of a much more active and aggressive policy for its country.

It does appear to me that the possibility of that kind of thing is a very serious evil, and I have a very strong feeling, quite apart from the actual incidents that have occurred, that undoubtedly some of these armament interests do take very active steps to prevent any measure being carried into effect which will reduce the number of customers that they have. I will not weary your Lordships with other cases which have often been alleged. I merely cite those two as illustrative of the kind of evil that exists. I believe everybody admits that that evil exists. Everybody must admit that it would be desirable to reduce or abolish it, and the only question, as it seems to me, that is really important to consider and difficult to decide upon, is whether you can prevent that evil by stringent control or whether you must not go as far as to abolish private interests—that is, commercial interests—in the manufacture of arms. That seems to me—I speak with all humility—the only serious question.

I used to think that you could do it by serious control, but I am bound to admit that the difficulties of producing any form of control which would really prevent this state of things have so far baffled me. I have not been able to think of any system of control which would really be effective for that purpose, and therefore my own inclination certainly is that we have arrived at a condition of affairs when commodities and articles of this kind are so dangerous to human prosperity and human civilisation that they ought not to be left any longer in the hands of private individuals, but should only be in the hands of responsible Governments. That is the conclusion at which I have arrived. It is a conclusion not very unlike that which many people have arrived at with regard to various types of dangerous drugs; and it is for that reason that I have ventured to express myself in the way which noble Lords have cited about me outside this House.


My Lords, the noble Lord who has raised this Question asked me three questions. The first relates to the present position with regard to the Committee for the regulation of the trade in, and private and State manufacture of, arms and implements of war which has been set up at Geneva. I think it would be the simplest plan if I gave the House rather a full explanation of how this Committee came to he set up, and in the course of that I shall he able to answer the noble Lord's second Question—namely, when the next meeting of the Committee is to take place.

On July 23 the General Commission of the Disarmament Conference adopted certain resolutions, one of which was this: The Bureau will set up a special Committee to submit proposals to the Conference immediately on the resumption of its work, in regard to the regulations to be applied to trade in, and private and State manufacture of, arms and implements of war. In accordance with this resolution the Bureau constituted the Committee for this purpose on September 22 and a number of countries were invited to send representatives to serve on the Committee. There were, I think, some fourteen or fifteen countries invited to join. All except three of them accepted the invitation. One of those which refused the invitation, or which did not accept it, was the Russian Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, of which the noble Lord is such a champion and ardent admirer. The Committee sat from October 4 to 19 last, and on November 12 the Rapporteur, the Polish representative, submitted a Report to the Bureau. I need not trouble your Lordships with the full conclusions set out in the Report, but the main conclusions were that the Committee was not yet in a position to submit concrete proposals for regulating the trade in and manufacture of arms: that any such proposals should be framed so as to place producing and non-producing States as far as possible on a footing of equality, and that the Arms Traffic Convention of 1925 and the draft Convention of 1929 for the supervision of the private manufacture and publicity of the manufacture of arms, would have to be revised. The Committee at the same time set up two Sub-Committees to deal respectively with the manufacture of arms and with trade in arms, on both of which Sub-Committees the United Kingdom was represented.

The Report was submitted to the Bureau and discussed by it on November 22, when the Bureau adopted the resolution which I now propose to read to your Lordships: The Bureau of the Conference, Having taken cognisance of the Report of the Rapporteur of the Committee for the regulation of the trade in, and private and State manufacture of, arms and implements of war, and heard the proposals and comments made by the various delegations at the Bureau's meeting on November 18, Approves the Committee's Report and the methods of work adopted by it; (1) Requests the Committee and the Sub-Committees to resume work as quickly as possible, in order that the Bureau may at the earliest possible moment have at its disposal all the necessary material to enable it to submit to the Conference the proposals provided for in the General Commission's resolution of July 23. (2) Considers that the Committee has been entrusted with the examination of all the aspects of the problem of the regulation of the trade in, and private and State manufacture of, arms, but that it must choose a practical method of work based on the declarations made at the Bureau's meeting on November 18. (3) Considers that it is already agreed that the provisions relating to the trade in, and manufacture of, arms and implements of war should be included in the same legal instrument as the Convention for the Reduction and Limitation of Armaments. (4) Requests the Committee to consider in what conditions equality of treatment may be attained:

  1. "(a) between producing and non-producing countries;
  2. "(b) between the different contracting countries (special zones, etc.);
  3. "(c) between State manufacture and private manufacture.
(5) The Bureau requests the Committee to consider whether, within the general framework of supervision already adopted by the Bureau, it is necessary to provide a technical procedure better adapted to the international supervision of the trade in, and manufacture of, arms. (6) As regards the Committee's conclusions concerning the questions of the limitation of and publicity in regard to war material, the Bureau considers that any final formula should be postponed until appropriate solutions have been reached by the competent organs of the Conference. (7) The Bureau draws the Committee's attention to the desirability of collecting the necessary documentation with regard to the licence systems adopted by the different countries, and of studying the possibility of framing an international licence system. Your Lordships will observe that the Bureau has directed that the Committee and the Sub-Committees shall continue their work. I am informed that, in fact, the Committee re-assembled on December 1 last and immediately went into Sub- Committee which is now meeting almost daily. That answers the second Question.

I now come to the third part of the noble Lord's Question, in which he asks what he describes as "the reason for the attitude of His Majesty's Government in opposing the French proposals for the suppression of the private manufacture of arms." The noble Lord's Question is framed so as to suggest, I think, that this country was alone in standing out against some proposal which the rest of the Conference desired to carry into effect. Your Lordships appreciate, of course, that that is completely inaccurate, that what really happened was that the great majority of the Committee took one view, that the French representative with two others took a different view, and that the United Kingdom representatives agreed with a great majority of the Committee. The noble Lord, I presume, is referring to the proposal put forward during the first meeting of the Committee by M. Jouhaux, the French representative on the Committee. I understand that M. Jouhaux suggested that the Committee should propose that the private manufacture of arms should be entirely suppressed because of the terms of the fifth paragraph of Article 8 of the Covenant of the League of Nations. I understand, too, that M. Jouhaux referred in his arguments in favour of the total suppression of the private manufacture or arms, to a Report drawn up by the Temporary Mixed Commission on September 15, 1921, which, he said, gave an impressive description of the mischievous effects of the private manufacture of arms. That description was read out by the noble Lord in the course of his speech. In fact, as your Lordships probably know, what happened was that the Mixed Commission, in making its Report, set out in two successive pages, first, the objections that are raised to unregulated private manufacture, and then the objections that are raised to the abolition of private manufacture.

The noble Lord read out the first; that is to say, the objections which are raised to untrammelled private manufacture. He did not read out the second, and, possibly, if one wants to get a fair view of what the Committee thought, one ought to hear both sides. This is what the Committee went on to say: (1) If private manufacture were altogether forbidden, it would result that all manufacture of munitions and implements of war would be conducted by State enterprise. In the consideration of such a course, the following difficulties have been suggested by some Members:

  1. "(a) The Covenant seems to refer only to those evil effects attendant upon private manufacture which may affect international relations. Questions of internal policy involving domestic sovereignty are here excluded, as indeed elsewhere in the Covenant. In other words the provision in the Covenant seems to deal with private manufacture only in so far as it affects the growth of armaments and relations between States, but not in so far as it affects the domestic industrial system.
  2. "(b) A recommendation that private manufacture be abolished would doubtless be objectionable to States which do not produce all the munitions which they need. Such States would probably feel that it would be more difficult to get the necessary supplies from foreign Governments than from foreign firms.
  3. "(c) As International Law stands today, the supply of munitions or implements of war by a neutral Government to a belligerent Government would constitute a violation of neutrality. In time of war, therefore, a belligerent would have to depend upon its own production and upon what it could get from its Allies. This might mean that all Governments would feel themselves called upon to prepare for the eventualities of war by storing up large stocks of munitions and by equipping themselves with large munition plants.
  4. "(d) The abolition of private manufacture might result in the establishment of many new armament plants by the Governments of non-producing States. Such Governments could, of course, undertake to manufacture munitions to meet their own needs, there being no restriction on the export of iron and coal. In this way, non-producing States might become producers.
  5. "(e) Governments might—in some countries—find it more difficult than private firms to reduce their armaments establishments on the cessation of war, owing to the Parliamentary pressure exerted by the representatives of labour engaged in the production of armaments.
  6. "(f) Few industrial enterprises work exclusively for the manufacture of war material. For the most part, the great armament firms are establishments of a composite nature, whose activity in normal times is chiefly directed to peace industries.
  7. "(g) It is difficult to define war industries. Optical and chemical industries are all-important in war. Aviation is an industry at present distributed among a considerable number of different factories. How far, then, should State ownership extend? Does not the acceptance of the 336 principle of State ownership of war industries lead logically to the State ownership of all industries?"
No doubt that would appeal to the noble Lord opposite, but I do not think it would appeal to many in your Lordships' House. The last paragraph I will read says: (h) State arsenals for the complete manufacture of arms and munitions would have to include, in addition to a large number of mechanical workshops, a complete metallurgical plant and a factory for the chemical products required in the manufacture of explosives. It is doubtful whether States will face the expenditure involved. Nor would such a State arsenal ever attain to an output corresponding to its means of production. I have read those paragraphs just as they were printed, because I think your Lordships ought to have both sides of the picture presented, and at least I think it will be conceded that these objections are objections of very considerable weight.

The Mixed Commission met again in 1924, and their Report in 1924 stated that "the majority of the members held that as the Committee had been appointed to examine a draft convention for the control of the private manufacture of arms it should obviously leave out of consideration the question of the prohibition of private manufacture." The noble Lord opposite led your Lordships to believe that this was some quibble—that was his phrase—invented by the United Kingdom representative in 1932. Your Lordships will see that in fact it is the Report of the majority of the Commission in 1924. The majority of the Commission took the view that the private manufacture of arms must be regarded as a purely national matter, the regulation and inspection of which should be left to the national authorities, and they drew up a draft convention on the national control of private manufacture. M. Jouhaux, the French representative, was unable to accept the Report of the majority of the Commission, and he had only three supporters. It is a significant fact that both in 1921 and 1924 the Commission dealing with this question reached the conclusion that there was no case for the suppression of the private manufacture of arms. His Majesty's Government have, however, their own reasons for opposing the suggestion that all private manufacture of arms should be suppressed. Some of those reasons coincide with the objections made in 1921, which I have already quoted, but is addition to those objections we believe that the suppression of private manufacture of arms—the noble Lord will appreciate that I am dealing only with suppression—would rot be to the general interest of this country.

In the first place His Majesty's Government feel that it is most important that all manufacture of arms whether by a State or by a private firm should be treated on an equal footing. We in this country depend to a large extent upon private industry for the manufacture of the armaments which we require for our fighting Services. This is not the case in all countries. It follows, therefore, that the suppression of the private manufacture of arms would operate in a very detrimental way on this country, because other countries can produce and are producing. Russia, for instance, produces all the arms which it requires in State arsenals. We depend on private industry. We should have obviously, therefore, to indulge in a very considerable expenditure to replace the factories which we were suppressing. Moreover, the existing private armaments industry in this country provides a very cheap and elastic method of providing for the expansion which is necessary to supply the requirements of our armed forces in time of war. In the second place if all private manufacture in this country were abolished His Majesty's Government would be involved in very large capital expenditure which they certainly could not face at the present moment, not to mention the complications which would be caused by the dislocation of labour, which is, again, a very serious matter under the conditions existing to-day.

There is a further point to which I should call attention, and that is that few, if any, private factories in this country are exclusively or even mainly employed in manufacturing munitions. The greater part of their peace-time activities in almost every case is devoted to civil industry. If we were to agree to suppress the private manufacture of arms in this country it would entail the complete reorganisation of the metallurgical and explosive industries, and it would be very difficult to know where to draw the line. For instance, many parts of guns, carriages, tanks and warships are produced in several different factories which are devoted mainly, or almost exclusively, to peace industries. Any aircraft factory can turn out military machines as well as civil machines. To produce a finished round of ammunition a great many industries are involved. In fact the manufacture of arms and ammunition involves in some way nearly all industries. Such things as rifle sights and optical instruments form an integral part of weapons of war, but nobody would seriously suggest that the manufacture of such articles was part of the armament industry and must therefore be suppressed entirely in this country. I think I have said enough to indicate that for us to suppress the private manufacture of arms is impracticable. I should like to stress the fact that it was in view of its impracticability that our representative on the Committee was forced to oppose a proposal for the suppression of the private manufacture of arms.

At the same time want to go on to explain to the noble Lord, Lord Polwarth, and the noble Lord, Lord Davies, that His Majesty's Government are perfectly prepared to accept and to enforce further control of the private manufacture of arms going beyond the control which at present exists, provided that some equitable proposal for such control can be worked out and that similar control is enforced in all arms-producing States. Obviously it would be impossible for us to enforce regulations which were not enforced elsewhere. We think that the most equitable scheme would probably be found to lie along the line of control by licences and publicity of manufacture, operated under the authority of the various national Governments rather than by some international authority. We believe that that control would be adequate to remove the evil effects of the private manufacture of arms which are referred to in the Covenant. If all the parties to the Disarmament Conference were to agree and would carry out some arrangement of this kind, we believe that the complete control of the private manufacture of arms could thereby be attained and that it would be very much more effective than any attempt to set up an international body to control private manufacture in each country, which would not only prove irksome in practice but would he very likely to prove a source of constant and unnecessary friction between different States.

One or two questions were addressed to me which are not included in the Notice and with which, therefore, I cannot deal with the same certainty. I was asked whether the English or the French version of what the United States delegate said at a meeting of one of these Commissions was the more correct. Both have equal authority as the noble Lord knows. As the American representative presumably spoke in English I think it is very probable that the English version is correct, but I have no information as to which really is correct, and indeed I know of no means of finding out except by relying on the memory of someone who was there. Obviously I cannot answer that question.

Then I was asked why it was that the British representative objected to a certain questionnaire being sent out. Again that is a matter of which I had no notice and therefore I have had no opportunity for exhaustive inquiry. The representative of the Foreign Office—and it was a member of the Foreign Office who was present at the meeting—says that the British representative did not object. That is possibly the correct answer. If he did object, I should have guessed that it was because he did not think the questionnaire would serve any useful purpose. That, however, is purely speculative. Honestly I do not know the answer beyond that which I have already given. Then I was asked whether or not we had sent a reply to the questionnaire. The answer is that the questionnaire has been received, that the reply is being drawn up if it has not already been drawn up. I do not know whether it has actually been forwarded, but it will be sent shortly if that has not already been done.

I was also asked a question about chemical warfare. The noble Lord produced a gas mask and told us that one is issued to every school child in France. He suggested that these gas masks were very horrible and that it was very hard luck on the French children to have to learn how to wear them. I rather sympathise with the French children, but I think the noble Lord would be doing more than I can do to secure the abolition of such training if he would persuade those Russian friends whom he admires so much to cease to be the one European nation which has an active section of its Army devoted to offensive gas warfare. So long as that section of the Russian Army continues it is obvious that the rest of Europe has to be prepared to deal with the menace it involves.

I was asked by the noble Lord, Lord Davies, whether we would support the principle of the French disarmament plan. I am quite sure that the noble Lord on reflection will realise that it would be very unwise for me to attempt to answer that question. I am here to deal with specific questions relating to the suppression of the private manufacture of arms. I have in a previous disarmament debate explained to your Lordships that the French disarmament plan, in common with all other schemes, is being examined carefully in the hope that one or other of the schemes or a combination of the schemes may form a basis on which some agreement may be reached. Within the last day or two there have been meetings in Geneva which I hope are to be resumed within a very short time, and I think it would be very unfortunate if His Majesty's Government were to range themselves definitely either against or in favour of one of the schemes, when they were actively engaged in discussions with the authors of those and other schemes and with one or two people whom they are anxious to persuade to come into a disarmament agreement. At any rate I have no authority to answer the question and if I had had notice of the question I should have asked the noble Lord not to ask it. I am sure he will forgive me if I do not attempt to give an answer.

I think that that disposes of the points raised except that there was a statement made by the noble Lord with regard to certain individuals whom he named. The noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, explained to your Lordships that no sort of attack on those individuals was intended. With regard to that I would only say that if there was no intention to make any attack upon those individuals I fail to see what useful purpose is served by naming them in your Lordships' House. If there was an intention to cast any aspersion upon them, having regard to the names mentioned, that attempt can only reflect discredit on the man who made it. I think I have dealt with the whole of the matters which are raised by the Question, and I hope also that I have made clear to your Lordships what I am sure is the cardinal fact which your Lordships would wish to know. That is, that we are opposed to the suppression of private trading in arms for the reasons that I have endeavoured to give to your Lordships, but that we arc in favour of collaborating in a further means of control of that trade provided only that means can be evolved, fair to all parties, which can be applied equally all round, and which will be applied not only in this country but also in the other countries where any production of arms either by the State or the individual takes place.


My Lords, I think that the debate has produced a number of interesting points of view. In particular, I am sure the House will welcome the declaration of the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil. There has been the usual personal attack or me, but I see that the noble Duke who knows so much about Russia has been unable to stay to press his attack, and therefore he leaves me victorious on the field complete with a gas mask which, had he gone on much longer, I should have been compelled to wear. The noble and learned Viscount who leads the House always, if I may say so, makes the very best of what case he has, however bad it is, and he has as usual made the best of his case, though he has had an unusually bad one to defend. He points out that the Russians were invited to join this Committee and refused. I am not surprised when they know that the instructions given to representatives like the British representative are such as to render almost worthless the recommendations of that Committee. That of course is the reason why they will not be involved in waste of time, but I would remind the noble and learned Viscount that the Russians have been the first always to support complete and absolute universal disarmament and their support of that, if it were a bluff, has never been called because no other nation has been prepared to support them on the line they have taken.

With regard to the statement that I made a personal attack on certain members I named of the Vickers board, I expressly said that was the farthest thing possible from my intention. What I pointed out was that under the points which have been raised by the Temporary Mixed Commission such members were very unfairly laid open to attack, and it was because it was so unfair that a prominent person should be associated with armament firms which have been attacked by the Commission for their bad influence on international disarmament, that I used that as an argument for the total suppression of the private manufacture of armaments. My point is that we want this country to lead the world in these international discussions and not be always behind with verbal quibbles and reasons for doing nothing. That is why the case of the noble and learned Viscount is so weak—because he spent his entire speech in explaining why we should do little or nothing. Of all the arguments I suppose the most absurd is that if we closed private armament factories other countries not now producing would have to put up new factories and that therefore there would be an increase in armaments production. If you put up a new factory in one place it merely balances the closing down in another, and of the two the publicly controlled is far the better and safer in the present condition of the world.

The noble and learned Viscount suggested that it would be unfair to private firms to close the factories down. What is to prevent the Government buying them and letting them become Government properties? In any case it is entirely inaccurate to suggest that the manufacture of arms is cheaper in the private factories than in the Royal yards and factories. Time and again proof has been furnished that the manufacture. of arms is cheaper in the Royal yards than in the private yards. I realise that the Government have literally nothing to produce in this matter—not only no arguments of value, but no Papers, and therefore, with your Lordships' permission, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

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