§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOODrose to ask His Majesty's Government whether they can make any statement upon Foreign Affairs; and to move for Papers. The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I rise to move the Motion which stands in my name, and to ask your Lord ships to consider the condition of foreign affairs. I know that any noble Lord who desires to raise the question of foreign affairs is always in this difficulty, that if there is a negotiation in progress it is said that it is too early for him to raise the discussion, and if he waits till the negotiation is concluded it is too late. Of course that does make a certain difficulty in discussing this subject, as my noble friend Lord Ponsonby pointed out the other day. Nevertheless, I think there are certain matters which your Lordships would wish to consider; indeed there are a good many, so many that I do not propose to attempt to deal with most of them.
§ There is, for instance, the Far Eastern crisis. It is an important matter, but it is, for the moment at any rate, not in a very active state, and I do not propose to say anything about that on the present occasion. That matter can always be considered by your Lordships later when it becomes necessary. Similarly, there is the question of the detention of British subjects in Russia. There again I understand that the matter has been raised elsewhere more than once, and the Government appear to be fully alive to the importance of it and to be doing everything they can in the matter. I understand that they have deprecated any further discussion of it until they have had an opportunity of conferring with His Majesty's representative in 193 Russia, so I shall not attempt to deal with that either.
§ Then I come to a question of great importance, but one which is no doubt of some delicacy—that is, the events in Germany, and particularly those events which affect members of the Jewish community. I am not going to press the Government to take any action thereon. I shall be extremely grateful to them if they can give us any information, and I am informed that they have undertaken to ask the King's representative in Germany to furnish a report on the subject. I understand that announcement was made this afternoon in the other place. If that is so, perhaps my noble friend will be able to confirm it or correct it. That would be a valuable statement, and I am sure would do something to appease the anxieties which are felt in the matter. Failing such information we have to rely upon the Press. I must say that as far as I have been able to form an opinion, the Press has, in this matter, discharged its duties, which must have been extremely difficult, with great courage and discretion.
§ As I understand it three different allegations are made. In the first place it is said that members of the Jewish community have been treated with great violence and outrage, and that that has been done not indeed by the authorisation of the Government but without interference by the police and other representatives of the Government. As to that, I believe that the German Government have made in the strongest way protests against what they regard as the great exaggerations that have been made on the subject. They have said that the Government are entirely guiltless in the matter, and that such events as may have occurred have been merely the inevitable if regrettable excesses which take place in a time of revolution. If the Government have any information which enables them to confirm that view I am sure we shall hear it with the greatest pleasure. There is also another charge, that the newspapers in Germany, or some of them, have published the most violent and inflammatory articles against the Jews. Instances have been sent to me, with which I will not trouble your Lordships by reading, but certainly, if they are typical of much that has been said in Germany they are a very scandalous abuse of the licence of the Press. I do 194 not understand that that is denied; at least I have seen no denial of it. Of course it becomes very difficult to understand by friends of Germany in this country—and I have never been since the War anything else—because there is in existence in Germany a very strict censorship which one would have thought would have enabled the Government to put a stop to any proceedings of that kind.
§ Then there is a third matter which perhaps in its ultimate results is going to be more serious than any other to the Jewish community—that is, the compulsory dismissal of Jews from judgeships, from appointments as doctors and so on, which is going on now all over Germany. The people who are so dismissed are put in a very difficult position, because it is obvious that it will be very difficult for them in those circumstances to acquire any kind of private practice of their own, and naturally they will be ruined and put in very great difficulties as to living. That is not denied at all, as I understand it. It is admitted. Some of it, at any rate, is justified on the ground—a rather strange ground—that something in the nature of a boycott has been organised against German trade in various countries and that the Governments of those countries have done nothing to stop it. That is a rather strange doctrine—novel, as far as I know, in International Law—but at any rate it has this effect, that it seems to recognise that these matters are matters of international concern.
§ These events have undoubtedly caused great anxiety in this country. Your Lordships will not forget that there are many thousands, hundreds of thousands of Jews who are subjects of His Majesty the King, and are among the most peaceable and orderly citizens in this country. It is quite obvious that events in a Foreign country which cause great anxiety and unrest in a large section of the population of this country must give anxiety to the Government, and to your Lordships. It is reported in the Press that in the United States, where the position is probably even more acute than here, the Government have thought it right to make friendly representations on the subject to the German Government. I do not know whether that is true or not, nor do I know whether the Government would think any useful purpose 195 would be served by such representation, but I feel it right to call their attention to the matter. They will not forget, I am sure, that the special position we occupy in Palestine as the Mandatory for that country does give us a rather special position with regard to the fortunes or misfortunes of the Jewish community wherever they may be. Evidently one of the countries in which we are interested may be deeply affected by such events.
§ I know it will be said that this is a matter entirely of the national administration of Germany in which we have no right to interfere, and in a certain sense I cannot do other than admit that that is so. But your Lordships will remember that for very many years—I think I am right in saying for more than fifty years—it has been common ground that in certain circumstances at any rate the treatment of racial, linguistic and religious minorities is a matter of consideration for other countries besides the countries in which those minorities live. That was originally acted upon as long ago as the Berlin Congress, and it was very freely acted upon in the Peace of Versailles, among other Treaties, by which certain countries undertook definite obligations that they would treat such minorities in precisely the same way and with the same rights as they treated any other of their subjects. Those Treaties do not apply to Germany, I quite admit, but it is worth remarking that there is perhaps no country in the whole of Europe which has insisted more strenuously upon the strict performance of the obligations in those Treaties. I have heard at Geneva, and anybody who has been there must have heard too, the representatives of the German Government pressing very strongly for the strict administration of those Treaties and, indeed, urging that they ought to be made more stringent and that the machinery of the League should be made more drastic in dealing with them.
§ Certainly it is a little astonishing that a country that has taken that line should regard it as legitimate to treat a certain section of its population in quite a different way from the manner in which it treats the majority. To put the thing quite simply, it seems difficult to contend that anti-Semitism in Germany is perfectly legitimate but anti-Germanism in Poland is an act of tyranny. That is the position which I have thought it right to 196 bring before your Lordships because it does seem to me a matter in which the Government of this country must be interested. Whether they think there is anything they can do in the matter or not is another question. In any case I am quite sure I am speaking the mind of the whole of your Lordships in saying that if the Government can in this matter give us any reassurance we shall be indeed grateful to them.
§ I know some people have said that such events have made it less necessary to proceed with the policy of disarmament. I do not take that view. I believe that the policy of disarmament, for reasons that have often been explained in this House and elsewhere, is the right policy and ought to be pursued. I have always thought that in that matter Germany has a strong claim for the carrying out of the pledges that were given to her at the time of the Conference in Paris and these things, regrettable as they may be, do not alter the obligation of those who entered into those pledges to carry them out in their reasonable interpretation. Therefore I have to express my very great pleasure and gratification at the recent action of the Government at Geneva. They have presented to the Conference, as your Lordships are aware, a Draft Disarmament Convention setting out in detail proposals which they think may be acceptable to the Conference. That is, I am sure, the right way of proceeding at Geneva.
§ I would like, if I may be allowed a momentary digression, to say that I think it is very important to recognise that procedure at Geneva is not exactly like ordinary diplomatic procedure. An attempt to convert the Assemblies and Councils at Geneva into a kind of perpetual international congress like the Congress of Vienna will never produce the results which were intended and will never produce the results which are best from that body. The organisation, if you look at it carefully and consider the way in which it is constructed, is really much more in the nature of a sort of very imperfect and embryonic Parliamentary institution than a diplomatic institution. All the procedure by elaborate formulae which may mean anything or nothing, secret confabulations and so on, which were the only way, perhaps, of getting on in the old diplomatic assemblies, are quite out of place in 197 dealing with the Geneva institutions. I believe that is specially the case when you are dealing with a topic like disarmament where, as far as I am able to form an opinion; popular opinion throughout the world is really in advance of official opinion—perhaps because it does not see so closely and so clearly the difficulties of the procedure. I am satisfied that they are impatient or anxious, not because the Conference shows signs of going too far, but, on the contrary, because they are afraid it may not go far enough.
§ For these reasons and others of the same kind, I am extremely glad the Government have presented this scheme and intend, as I understand by the resolution of the General Commission, to proceed with it chapter by chapter and article by article in exactly the same way as we should proceed to deal with a legislative proposal in this House. If I express any regret at all, it is that this course was not adopted many months ago. By putting it off so long I cannot help feeling we have reached a condition where success is less easy to obtain than it would have been if this step had been taken months ago; but I do not want to press that. No doubt all is well that ends well, and if this particular transaction does end well the question of when the step was taken will become of very minor importance.
§ As to the details of the proposal I do not propose to say very much, because if one once went into details it would take a very long time; but I should like to touch very briefly on one or two of the leading provisions. As your Lordships are aware, the first part deals with what are called security proposals, which, as I understand them, propose that when there has been a breach of the Kellogg Pact there shall be a meeting of all the signatories to consider what had best be done. That seems to me to be a wholly admirable suggestion and I am glad the Government think it one they have a good chance of getting adopted. I have seen that a certain number of people who are anxious supporters of the League regard it as in some way or another an infringement of the League's prerogative, so to speak, or at any rate of the provisions of the Covenant. I do not at all take that view myself. I do not see why it should be in any way a weakening—rather a strengthening of 198 those provisions, and I am confirmed in that view by the existence of Article 90 of the proposed Convention, which definitely saves all the provisions of the Covenant of the League of Nations.
§ So, too, I have no criticism to make about the provisions with regard to control, the Permanent Disarmament Commission. The Permanent Disarmament Commission is, if I may be allowed to say so, taken very largely from the provisions of the Draft Convention for which I was in a minor degree responsible, and naturally I have no criticism of that part of it. Indeed, so far as it differs, it seems to me an improvement on the Draft Convention. It seems to me more practical and to go further. If my noble friend will forgive me, there is only one suggestion I would venture to place before him in that connection. It proposes a very large Commission—I dare say that was inevitable: a member from all the signatories of the Treaty which, if they amount to fifty or sixty, will mean a Commission of that number and a very large body for an executive body; but the more difficult provision, as it seems to me, is that they are said to be appointed by the Governments. I have no objection to their being appointed by the Governments, but I hope they are not going to be merely representatives of the Governments and nothing else.
§ We have had experience of two types of Commissions in Geneva: the type of the Military Commission established under the provisions of the Covenant itself which, as far as I know, has done little, or nothing—has been almost a useless body—and the type established under the Mandates Commission where the members of the Commission were indeed nominated by the Governments or at any rate suggested by the Governments, and quite rightly, but when appointed were given a certain amount of freedom of action so that, on the one hand, their actions did not necessarily bind the Governments and, on the other hand, they were not bound themselves strictly in every detail of their proceedings by Government instructions. I am sure that if you can secure that this body is as like the Mandates Commission, or the Lytton Commission for the matter of that, and as little like the old Military Commission as possible, it will be a, very much more effective body.199
§ Now I come to the actual provisions as to disarmament. The Government have told us that this is a compromise and it would be difficult if any considerable amendments are made to avoid other amendments and so bring about disaster. I quite recognise the difficulty and I hope I am not going to do anything to add to that difficulty. What I am going to say is—let us keep that compromise strictly in view. Broadly, and apart from other considerations which no doubt come in, the main compromise is between the German demand for equality and the French demand for security. I quite recognise that those are two perfectly well-founded demands in themselves, but may become difficult to reconcile. The further you carry equality the more anxiety you give to France about security. That is obvious. We have always maintained—when I say "we" I mean the British Government—that the French are mistaken in regarding disarmament in itself as a diminution of their security since, apart from the question of the German position which has always been admitted to be the one which would require special treatment, reduction all round does not increase danger, but, on the contrary, diminishes it. Therefore mere reduction of armaments all round does not add to the difficulties of security, but diminishes them within limits, subject to the big consideration I have mentioned.
That is quite clear and right, and my only appeal to the Government in this matter is that they should see that British policy fully recognises that truth as far as we as well as other people are concerned. I notice, for instance, the question of tanks. I admit I should be very glad of a little enlightenment as to what the Government views on that subject are, because the draft is a little difficult to interpret. In the first place there is a provision that there shall be no tanks above sixteen tons and, as I think we know from a statement by my noble friend in a previous debate, there are practically in this country no tanks or very few of a greater weight than that; so it would not affect our tanks at all, if that was all. Then there is the note to Article 21, which is rather oddly worded but which appears to mean, if I read it aright, that the question of the number of tanks below sixteen tons is
entirely open and is a matter for consideration later on. The note which deals with the matter is as follows:
it will be observed that one important aspect of land war material is not fully dealt with. No proposals are here submitted for tanks under the sixteen-ton weight limit. In its proposals of the Nth November last the United Kingdom Government drew attention to the different characteristics of the heavy and the light tank. The problem created by the latter evidently requires further international examination, and the question is therefore left open for negotiation in order that agreement may be reached upon the future of this important modern weapon.
§ I do not know quite what that means, but I hope it means that the matter is still to be discussed before the Convention is finally accepted or put forward, because it is obvious otherwise that we are up against a very considerable difficulty.
§ If we maintain tanks there will be, or may be, I do not know, a demand by the Germans that they also shall be allowed tanks. At present they are forbidden to have them. If we say that we are continuing them because they are only defensive ones, I am afraid it is rather difficult to contend that Germany ought not to be allowed to have them, but I am satisfied that if you do that you are infringing one of the great principles that the Government have more than once laid down in public, that this is to be a Disarmament and not a Re-armament Treaty, and in doing it you will greatly increase the anxieties of many other countries. I hope the Government will carefully consider this aspect of the question, because it appears to me to be one of great difficulty and importance.
§ Let me give one or two further instances of what I am contending. There is the question of capital ships. There, if I understand what the Government have done, they have said there is to be a holiday in building capital ships until the Naval Conference which is to meet in 1935, in two years time, but there is to be no abandonment of the right to build them. That may be right. I do not know. My impression is that the effect of that will be that in fact there will not be built any more of these immense ships larger than 10,000 tons. Yet, owing to the method that we have adopted in making that suggestion, I feel that we have weakened our position in the demand for the abolition of submarines, which it is common ground, 201 both from a national and international point of view, would be a great achievement. I hope the Government will consider that when they go through the negotiation of this draft.
§ So also with regard to aircraft. I fully admit the difficulty of this problem—namely, the great danger that the existence of large numbers of civil aircraft causes, because of their possible conversion, with very little delay, into bombing machines. Nobody doubts it, and such inquiry as I have been able to pursue makes that even more clear. I cannot help feeling that the course the Government have adopted, though attractive in one sense, is likely to lead them into considerable difficulty. They have, while loudly asserting and repeating, quite rightly, ever since the celebrated speech of the President of the Council, that the policy of the Government is to get rid of all military and naval aircraft, now proposed instead to keep military and naval aircraft in certain numbers, set out in the Draft Convention, and to ask the Permanent Commission, which I have described, to draw up a scheme dealing with civil aviation which will enable them at a later stage to get rid of military and naval aircraft altogether. I do not want to say anything which will make it more difficult to carry through the Government's proposal, because, although defective, it is still, I think, better than nothing; but I ask the Government to consider carefully when it comes to debating that proposal with the other Powers, whether they really think it will be possible to induce those countries which have no military and naval aircraft to wait an indefinite time in that position, or whether they contemplate some measure of re-armament in that matter also.
§ That is a more serious question even than that of tanks, and I look upon it with some little anxiety. I do not want to appear a carping critic. I recognise the force of what the Government have said do not even suggest that the Government should themselves propose any further amendments to this document, but I do ask them to be ready to consider with an open mind, and frankly and fairly, any amendments in the direction that I have indicated, or in any other directions, being well assured, as I am certain they can be, that the people 202 of this country will support them in any measure of disarmament, however drastic, provided it is equally and fairly applied to all nations alike. In saying that I want them to be of an open mind I must guard myself. I do not mean that I want them riot to have a policy at all. On the contrary, I am afraid of that very much. One of the things that I welcome about this document is that it is a perfectly definite statement of what the Government desire, and I am convinced that it is only by making a definite statement of that kind, and pursuing it, not obstinately but with fixity of purpose, that success can be achieved.
§ I cannot help feeling that in the last month a good deal of delay and difficulty has been caused by the impression that His Majesty's Government had not got a definite plan which they were prepared to pursue, and I cannot help feeling that they went into the Conference without any definite plan at all, and that in spite of the proposals which were made by the Italian delegate and others, they really gave no indication of what they really wanted. Then there came a period, about April of last year, when it looked as if they were going to develop a perfectly definite set of proposals. I rejoiced very much, I remember, at the time. Then it was followed by the reference of these proposals to expert committees, and you found the strange position in which British experts attending those committees, on the nomination of the British Government, appeared—I dare say I misjudged them—to be doing everything they could to show that the proposals which they were considering were either unwise or impracticable. The result of that terrible interlude was that by July all definiteness in the Government proposals had almost disappeared, and the resolution which they then proposed certainly seemed to onlookers to be a very serious set-back from what they had originally suggested. I cannot help feeling that that was a very unfortunate thing, because during that interval, or in the interval which followed, there were very serious changes in thepersonnelof foreign Governments which greatly added to the difficulties of the Conference.
§ I might, I think, give several other examples. I have notes of them here, but I do not wish to press this matter too much. I am bound, however, to say a few words about an incident which has 203 quite recently occurred which does fill me, I must say, with a certain amount of apprehension. This Draft Convention was the result of a proposal made by the British Prime Minister, who went out to Geneva specially to make it—very admirable! Then he and the Foreign Secretary decided—I should think probably quite rightly—that it would be desirable for them to visit Rome and have a conference with the Italian Prime Minister upon the situation. I have no kind of criticism to make of that decision. I am quite sure it is of the utmost importance that this country and Italy should, as they always have in the past, or almost always have in the past, continue to work together for the peace of Europe and for the establishment of good feeling among the nations of Europe. Nothing could be more desirable than that the present Italian Government and the British Government should work together for those ends. But I certainly imagine that when those two distinguished Ministers went there they did so with a view of trying to discuss the matter and of obtaining the assistance of the Italian Government for the forwarding of their policy of disarmament. I hope it was so, but the outward manifestations of their activities certainly made one a little hesitate.
§ I do not want to press it too much, but there was an interview apparently, which the Prime Minister is said to have given to the Press, and when a member of the Press asked him how these proceedings at Rome affected Geneva he said: "Oh, we are altogether out of touch with Geneva here." Perhaps that was a misreport of what he said. It was published in the newspapers here, and as far as I know has not been denied. Instead of that we had some kind of brand new proposals. I do not know exactly what they were, because they have never been published. But they included two propositions apparently, equality for Germany, to which, of course, if it only meant the same thing as the declaration of December last, when Germany returned to the Conference, no one could object; and a vague phrase about the revision of Treaties. I have never been of the opinion that the Treaty of Versailles was the last word of human wisdom or human justice. But I do think that to talk vaguely of revision and perhaps to be in favour of revision now does 204 seem to me just the kind of thing which creates doubt as to the reality of the interest of the British Government in disarmament.
§ I am afraid—I hope that my noble friend will be able to tell me that I am entirely wrong, but I can only judge by what I see in the public Press and other papers of that kind—it has revived a great deal of the distrust and anxiety and suspicion which were so very largely allayed by the production of this Draft Convention and by the visit of the two Ministers to Geneva. I cannot help feeling—I hope that I may be allowed to say so—that it was a most unhappy incident, and one that is calculated to complicate the already very complicated position in Europe. I hope I am wrong, but that is my feeling. And I feel very strongly that that is not the kind of way in which this great effort towards peace will be successfully accomplished. I am quite sure that anything that gives an impression of hesitation or half-heartedness is absolutely fatal.
§ I understand the policy, of which my right honourable friend Mr. Churchill has been the eloquent exponent elsewhere, that the right thing to do is to abandon disarmament altogether and proceed to a revision of Treaties. To my mind it is an insane policy. I see no scintilla of a chance of success for such a policy, and it seems to me quite inconsistent with the pledge we gave at the time of the signature of the Treaty of Versailles. But I understand it. And I understand also the policy which says that the question of revision may no doubt have to be considered, that there are provisions in the Covenant which enable any country that feels aggrieved by existing Treaties to raise the matter in the way there indicated, and no doubt it may be a matter for consideration. But here is a matter which is in a sense a revision, perhaps not of the Treaties themselves but of the position that arose as a consequence of the Treaties, which has been so earnestly demanded by Germany and other countries—namely, the general reduction of armaments in pursuance of the pledges given at the time of the Versailles Treaty. Here is a measure which may do very much to satisfy the legitimate demands of Germany, and will do very much to appease the indignation and sense of un- 205 fairness which are said to exist in that country, and yet will be quite consistent with the maintenance of the rest of the Treaties until they can be properly considered.
§ I am quite sure that merely to say generally: "Here is a document which we do not really propose to maintain, but which is going to be revised generally," is to fill all those countries whose present political and territorial existence depends on those Treaties with anxiety and uneasiness, and I cannot believe that that is the way in which the great task of disarmament can be accomplished. I have always been an optimist in this matter. I have always believed that general disarmament is perfectly attainable if it is pursued with vigour and earnestness. I still hold that view. I quite admit that events have occurred which make it more difficult than it was. I cannot help feeling that if the step that has now been taken had been taken earlier we should have been even more certain of success. I still believe success is attainable, but it is only attainable if we have a clear and definite policy, and if that policy is pursued with consistency and courage. I beg to move.
§ LORD PONSONBY OF SHULBREDE
My Lords, we all always listen with the greatest possible attention to the noble Viscount who has put this Motion on the Paper. He is a very great authority on foreign affairs, and his services to the League of Nations and to peace are so well known to us all that we feel always that we can learn a great deal from what he tells us. So much do I feel that that when I find myself in disagreement with my noble friend I have very great misgivings that perhaps I must be wrong. This afternoon he appeared to be in a much more pessimistic mood than I have seen him in hitherto, and on the two last broad general topics on which he dwelt—namely, the Disarmament Convention and the Rome conversations, I am very sorry to find myself in direct disagreement with him.
But if I may first of all follow the noble Viscount in the mention he made of other matters—he did nut desire to touch on the Far Eastern problem, neither do I desire to go into that more than just to say a couple of sentences. I do believe the League of Nations, by its attitude 206 towards the conflict in the Far East, has largely weakened its authority and brought many who were friends of the League into a feeling of considerable doubt as to the efficacy of its power to stop armed conflict. I do not know whether the Government have explored all the possibilities of action with regard to Japan by the League, but I would draw the attention of the Leader of the House to one point. There is a possibility of the withdrawal of diplomatic representatives if hostilities continue, and there is the possibility of an economic boycott. An economic boycott is regarded in some quarters as being too difficult and complicated to carry out, but I would draw the attention of your Lordships to the work done by the International Blockade Committee in August, 1921, where very elaborate and careful analyses and lists are made of the exact procedure should any blockade be declared by the League of Nations. The weapon is ready at hand, and it merely means that the League should agree corporately to use that weapon in the event of their decision being further flouted. I only wish to draw attention to that point because the inability of the League to act, has, to some extent, rather weakened its authority in the world.
The noble Viscount touched very carefully and very tactfully on the terrible plight, as we hear of it, of the Jews in Germany. We regret what we hear, and we should like more information. At a moment of this sort the Government are necessarily in a very difficult position, and I do not think any of us desire that the Government should make any sort of pronouncement about the state of affairs in Germany while a revolution is actually going on; and, if I may say so, I very much deprecate the Motion that has been put on the Paper by the noble Lord, Lord Mount Temple. But I was in complete agreement with the noble Viscount when he said that whatever the state of the world, whatever turmoil there may be in Germany, that was no reason for saying we ought not to pursue the attempt at disarmament. I agree with him that it is more necessary rather than less necessary for us to make every effort possible. But when we come to the question of the Draft Disarmament Convention, I find myself in disagreement with the noble Viscount.
207 I have not altered my opinion at all from the time when I had the honour of speaking in this House at the very commencement of the Disarmament Conference. I did not believe then, and after fourteen months I am more confirmed in my disbelief, in the attempt to regulate war by these forms of rules, limitations, and regulations. This idea of making war into a more humanised game with a referee is really ridiculous, and I deplore the fact that we did not get out of that rut altogether. I think it was courageous of the Prime Minister to go to Geneva to see what he could do, for the deplorable state the Conference had got into was entirely due to a lack of initiative on our part. As one of the delegates out there said to me in July last: "Yon have no idea what the effect on this Conference would be of a strong lead from Great Britain"; but we always took the middle course and waited to see what the others would do. The result was that interminable discussion in which the experts had the upper hand. The Prime Minister went out there, and instead of starting any new lines he simply made a sort of summary of the processes which had been adopted by the Conference—he summed them up and put them, very boldly no doubt, into figures, and there we have it now chapter and verse.
The noble Viscount has got some hope that something will arise out of this, but very rightly he pointed to several difficulties with regard to this arm and that arm. I think he would admit, taking the document as a whole and reading it through, that the tone of it is that we want to help other nations to disarm but there is not very much about our own disarmament, because, after all, we know our great weapon is the capital ship and that does not come into this Convention at all. I do not believe, as I have said before, that regulating the tonnage of tanks or regulating the number of aeroplanes, or trying to prohibit bombs being thrown during war, or to prohibit poison gas, is going to be agreed to in any way that will mean real disarmament by all the nations, and as a result we may get out of this something which is still more watered down than this Convention which we have before us. I frankly admit it would be better for the Disarmament Conference to adjourn than to produce after, it will be eighteen months, something which will be not only valueless, 208 but which will mislead the world into supposing something has been done for the abolition of war.
One finds oneself in foreign affairs in agreement with people with whom one may be in very deep disagreement on all other subjects, or many other subjects. Signor Mussolini has never been a hero of mine, and the form of government which he approves and supports and dictates is not a form of government which I care about, but throughout this business the attitude of Italy really ought to be fairly studied. Italy watched the Disarmament Conference, and made the second best proposal for disarmament. Signor Mussolini was very careful never to go there because he did not really believe anything would come out of it. When he saw, after fourteen months, the deplorable condition it had got into his suggestion was this: "Why these arms? Why this fear? Why this clinging to armaments? There are sore places in Europe, and so long as those sore places remain you will have this fear, this distrust, and this absence of security. Let us get together and see if we cannot heal these sore places." That is a new approach, and to my mind it is a hopeful approach.
I do not regard it as so hopeless as my noble friend does. Treaties do not remain operative for very long. I think I am right in saying in regard to the Treaty of Vienna which concluded the Napoleonic wars, that after twenty-five years not one single article of it remained except the one that delimited the frontiers of Switzerland. This Treaty has not remained for fifteen years. We have been amending it and revising it every year. There was the reduction of Reparations, and the Dawes scheme and the Young scheme were amendments of the Treaty of Versailles. The evacuation of the Rhineland in June, 1930, happened five years before the time that was put down in the Treaty. The method of ascertaining the will of the people of Upper Silesia was different from what was laid down in the Treaty, and the Five-Power Treaty of last December giving equality ofstatusto Germany was absolutely in defiance of the Treaty. This revision of the Treaty is going on, and, so far as I can read it, the Italian suggestion is that the Powers should get together and operate through the League 209 of Nations and tackle this question of revision seriously. I do not think that that should be turned down, and I do not want to blame the Prime Minister for having listened to this suggestion. He did not initiate it. Our Government do not go in for initiating anything in any direction, but that is no reason why, when Signor Mussolini does make some suggestion, it should not be attentively listened to, especially as I think it offers a real prospect.
While I approve of the method, I am rather doubtful about the moment. Here I find myself more in agreement with my noble friend. The very moderate attempts at revision made by Herr Stresemann and Herr Bruening were turned down by the League, and, now, when there is a very different force in power, we seem to be anxious and even in a hurry to grant the demands that have been refused earlier. That, I admit, is one of the disadvantages. There is another one, that a revision of the Treaties, the healing of what I call the "sore places," involves a certain sacrifice on the part of certain nations and no sacrifice on the part of others. That is a difficulty, but that must be so. Undoubtedly these Peace Treaties as drawn up were both vindictive and strategic—that is to say, the idea was that with the war spirit still in people s minds the Central Powers must be so surrounded and so carved that they would never be a menace to the world again. Of course peace treaties never ought to be concluded immediately after war. They ought to be concluded by people who have had nothing to do with the waging of the war, and some time after the war has ceased. However that may he, these vindictive Peace Treaties will have to be revised sooner or later and, considering that the Disarmament Conference is in such very low water, I must say that I think this suggestion deserves very close consideration.
After all, Article 19, as my noble friend knows very well, is part of the Treaty It is quoted very often by number, but the actual wording is never set out. It is very short and I venture to quote it to your Lordships:The Assembly may from time to time advise the reconsideration by Members of the League of Treaties which have become inapplicable, and the consideration of international conditions whose continuance might endanger the peace of the world.210 consider that those two possibilities have arisen, and I think that this attempt to approach the question of peace, to approach the question of disarmament, by this new avenue, really is hopeful. Although I am only too ready to condemn the Government and the Prime Minister whenever I have the opportunity, I do not consider that they should be blamed for this visit to Rome and for having listened to this suggestion, provided that the operations subsequently, and the negotiations, are all kept well within the purview of the League of Nations and, generally, whatever may be done is done through it. With those reservations, I feel that a new hope has conic from this suggestion, whereas so far as the Conference on Disarmament is concerned I can only regard with gloom the proceedings that will take place after Easter. I can only hope, with the termination of what has proved anyhow to be the wrong way to set to work, that something will be speedily done in order that we may get into an atmosphere of reality where these international questions may be decided by Ministers, by politicians, who are really concerned with policy, and where the experts may pack up their traps and go home and not be consulted again until the Ministers, the politicians, have made their plans.
§ THE MARQUESS OF READING
My Lords, when I came to your Lordships' House to-day I had no intention of taking part in this debate. I had intended to listen and to derive the advantage of the arguments which have been adduced by my noble friend Lord Cecil and those which will be heard in the reply of the Government. I did not know, and I had no reason even to suspect, that my noble friend intended to raise the question of the treatment of the Jews in Germany. I intervene at this moment only because as a member of that community and a member of your Lordships' House I find it impossible to sit still without adding my prayer to the Government to do all that it may be possible for them to do in the difficulties which I know surround them, in order that at least they may represent the views of a large majority in this country, to use no stronger expression. May I add also that one of my objects in rising was to thank my noble friend for having raised this matter, to thank him for what he said and also for his reticence which, if I may say so with 211 all respect to him, was very well timed and judged? The course he took, which was endorsed, as I understood, by my noble friend Lord Ponsonby, speaking for his Party, was one which we have learned to expect from my noble friend who has ever been generous and, indeed—I have used the expression on another occasion and I will repeat it now—noble in the efforts he has made when he has thought that there has been oppression on racial or religious grounds.
I have no intention of taking part in the general debate, but I do desire to press upon your Lordships in my capacity as a member of this House some of the difficulties which are confronting the Jewish community at this moment in Germany. I am not in the slightest degree going to travel into controversial matters. Whatever may be said outside is another question and whatever may have been done is also quite another matter. The point I desire to impress upon your Lordships is that the difficulties that are now being created are in relation to the educated, intelligent, professional classes in Germany. Usually, looking through a long series of difficulties through which the Jewish community has had to pass, the attack upon them has been made in relation to speculation or to finance. The attack at this moment as indicated by the Government—and I am referring to nothing else—which is to take effect, as I understand, from April 1, is an attack upon the professors at the Universities, the Judges and the lawyers, and the men of the medical profession who happen to be members of the Jewish community, and it is made solely because they are members of the Jewish community. That is not a question for controversy at all. In what I am stating to your Lordships I am most carefully referring only to what has been formally announced; what I have read this morning as having been announced in Germany as the measure which is to be put into operation by the German Government.
I pass over what may happen sometimes when a Government has recourse to measures of this kind which may produce attacks of a different kind, attacks which have not been intended. I pass over that. All I desire to impress upon His Majesty's Government is that, whilst realising that they are in a very difficult situation in dealing with this matter, I 212 do believe that some steps are open to them, and I suggest respectfully to them that they should at least use such legitimate means as are within their power to let Germany know what is the opinion of this country and what is felt by the British people. I have no doubt of the nature of that feeling from the information that has come to me from a variety of sources and from all political Parties and sections of opinion in the country, and I beg that they will use that knowledge and make such employment of it as they think legitimate and useful. I cannot press them to do anything further. I leave it entirely, as we must leave it, to their own judgment and their own discretion. I hope I have not in the observations I have made to your Lordships to-day transgressed in any way the rules which should properly govern our conduct in this House, but I found it quite impossible to sit as a member of this House in a seat in your Lordships' House, knowing what is happening in Germany, realising that the discrimination which is made is merely against men and women who are Jews, because they are Jews, without giving expression to my views, not so much as a member of the Jewish community but as a member of your Lordships' House, which has never failed to express its opinion when it has thought that wrong has been done.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
My Lords, the debate on the Motion brought forward by the noble Viscount has really divided itself into two parts. One is the part which has just been dealt with in, if I may say so, the most impressive speech I have heard for years in this House. On that part of the debate I do not propose to say anything except that one can only feel sympathy and join in the hope expressed by the noble and learned Marquess. The part of the debate about which I desire to say something is the question of disarmament. If I may say so—I am sure he will realise that I am saying it with respect and not with impertinence—it was with some surprise but with great pleasure that I found myself absolutely in agreement with the noble Lord who leads the Opposition. If I may say so, he is the first statesman I have yet heard put forward in either House of Parliament his opinion—which some of us, including myself, have held for many years—that this talk of disarmament is nonsense, is pure bunkum 213 and productive of no good. I was delighted to hear the noble Lord say so.
§ LORD PONSONBY OF SHULBREDE
I do not want the noble Earl to carry this too far. I never said this "talk" of disarmament. I said this method of approaching the question of disarmament was no use.
THE EARL OF HALSBUBY
I am delighted to concede to the noble Lord all he desires on that point, but I was talking of disarmament as a fact and not of talk about it. Let us come to what the noble Viscount said at the outset. He said the question of foreign affairs was a difficult one and that you were always in a dilemma. Either you were told that it was too early to say something or else if you waited a little longer you were told that it was too late. I quite agree. He also went on more or less to implement that great thought because he said it would be very difficult to make any amendments as to disarmament agreed to by the Prime Minister and Sir John Simon.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
You may have taken that down but I did not say it; what I said was that it would be difficult for the British Government to propose any amendment.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
I am sorry, but I think the noble Viscount will find, when he looks at the OFFICIAL REPORT, that I am a little more accurate. I accept that as what the noble Viscount meant to say. But let us look where we are. I raised this question in your Lordships' House last autumn and I pointed out that if you sent out a representative—it was Sir John Simon who was at that time Minister for Foreign Affairs—it did not matter what position he was holding in the Government he did not go out as a plenipotentiary and he could agree to nothing. I thought I got the House to agree with that view. The same question was asked in another place only a few days ago. I am sorry they did not there get such a categorical answer, but it is obvious that people sent out to these conferences are not; plenipotentiaries. That is a matter, I think, of the greatest 214 importance and it should be made clear they are not. One of the greatest troubles that arose from Versailles was due to the fact that the nations thought that those sitting there could agree to the Treaties, but President Wilson agreed to something the American nation would not accept, and that came as a shock to a lot of others who had thought that the whole matter was agreed and that there would be a guarantee by America. Let it therefore be laid down that no agreement made at Geneva or anywhere else binds this country. It has to be accepted by Parliament in this country. I see the noble Viscount looking at me.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
I thought the noble Earl was a lawyer and I was astounded to hear that as a proposition of law.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
I am sorry, but I do not think the noble Viscount has quite considered the point, which is that these treaties saying that we shall not do this, that and the other in this country are matters for Parliament.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
I think it will be found I am right in saying that we have to come to Parliament. I shall be gad to know if that is not so. Is the noble Viscount suggesting that it is purely a Crown matter? I should have thought it was not, but I am perfectly prepared to argue that at another time. I am contending, I believe rightly, that in making these agreements that we shall not do certain things, and that we shall do certain other things, we have to have agreement by Parliament. You can call it ratification or anything else, but Parliament can refuse or ratify. What have we at the present time? We have conferences sitting on disarmament in certain places, either at Rome or Geneva, and the noble Viscount has said that the organisation is embryonic. I am not quite certain what the noble Viscount means by that. Whether he means that at present the process of gestation is unfinished and nobody knows whether in due time we shall have an abortion or a live baby, I do not know, but I should think there is little chance of a live baby. We are told we must have meetings. The one 215 idea when there is trouble is to have a meeting. The noble Lord who leads the Opposition seems also to like the idea of a meeting.
The noble Viscount spoke of what would happen if there was a violation of the Kellogg Pact. Are you going to have a meeting or continue as before doing nothing, while Japan has simply done what she likes, and made the whole of the League a laughing-stock throughout the world? Ask any man in the street what he thinks of the League after the way in which Japan has gone her own way! Do not think I am a person who says that everything Japan does is right, but I should think it would appear to any ordinary person that she was undoubtedly in the right and also under the necessity of doing what she did. Anyhow, she did it, and the world at large thinks she is right and that the League of Nations have made fools of themselves. Is that to continue? The noble and learned Lord, Lord Carson, said from the start of the League of Nations: "You aye making a mistake; you are setting up a tribunal; you are setting up a court and giving it no sheriff, and without a sheriff what on earth are you going to do? "You can talk and meet about disarmament, but what are you going to do?
I am sometimes amused as I think that some years ago, when I raised the question of the real menace to the civilised world with regard to armaments and urged that it lay in the air, I was thought an absolute crank, and that now everybody is coming to that way of thinking. But will that danger be faced? Not a bit of it. The noble Viscount did nothing to face it. He said we might have a feeling that we should give up some of our aircraft and later, after a talk about civil aircraft, something might be done about that. Well, you go on talking year after year and you get nothing done. Nobody has yet put forward a possible plan of disarmament in the air. There is only one and that is one to which nobody will agree. That is to do away with all flying all over the world; short of that you will accomplish nothing. Anybody who knows anything about flying knows you can turn a civil into a war aeroplane without any difficulty and do it to-morrow. What is the good of talking about the control of civil aviation? You can abolish it, but you cannot 216 control it any more than you can control the output of motor cars, which are wanted for transport in warfare, or railways, or the mercantile marine. Are all those forms of transport to be under control, and if not, why not? Why suggest control for only one? Having heard the speech of the noble and learned Viscount I have not yet been able to see the slightest practical suggestion except one and that is—for goodness sake continue meetings, speeches and the expression of desire by everybody, at every centre of the world if possible, and at Geneva in particular.
§ LORD DICKINSON
My Lords, I hope you will allow me a few words on this subject, especially to urge that there should not be any avoidable delay. I do not think circumstances brook of delay. The Prime Minister, in the speech he made last week, told Parliament about his visit to Geneva. There, he said, he was struck by noticing "an ominous background full of shadows and uncertainties…Europe is in a very nervous condition." He said no less than the truth, and it is because the situation is serious that I welcome this discussion to-day, for which we are indebted so much to my noble friend Lord Cecil of Chelwood. The League of Nations has not yet been able to assure the world of peace, and I think that has been very largely due to the fact that in almost all its actions of a major nature it has been too late. The work of the League does not allow of great rapidity, and we have noticed that quite recently in connection with the Sino-Japanese conflict. I am persuaded myself that if the League had acted, as I believe it ought to have acted, five or six years ago, or even three years ago, it would have had very different results in the situation in the East than it has been able to obtain.
This matter of delay on the part of the League is one which affects us here in Europe very much, because of the manner in which it affects public opinion in Germany. I think we ought to take the trouble in this country to appreciate what is moving in the minds of the people of Germany, and especially in the minds of the masses of the people who really have power at the present moment. There is no place where this delay on the part of the League has done more harm than in Germany. When the War ended the 217 masses in Germany were as sick of the War as our people were, and they would have welcomed any method by which they could have obtained a system of permanent peace. A League of Nations society was actually formed in Germany almost immediately after the War, but almost the first thing which came was a grievous disappointment, because the Plenipotentiaries at Versailles refused to admit Germany to the League of Nations. Although the Covenant of the League purported to provide a new system of world co-operation, which should include all nations, several most important nations, including Germany, Austria and Hungary, were kept out for five years.
That had a grievous effect upon the peace movement in Germany as I know from my own personal experience. So bad was it that peace organisations existing in Germany at that time were hardly able to make any progress, and at one time suggested the setting up of a new League of Nations in which Germany would have her share. Even after Germany was admitted to the League there was procedure which caused disappointment in the minds of all the German people. They could not find any means of securing what they wanted more than anything else, the removal of the injustices from which German minorities in other countries were suffering. Then came the question of disarmament, to which Germany, of course, attached enormous importance. As your Lordships are aware, in the Treaty of Versailles, Part V, by which Germany and her Allies had to disarm themselves almost entirely, was preceded by a preamble saying:In order to render possible the initiation of a general limitation of the armaments of all nations, Germany undertakes strictly to observe the military, naval and air clauses which follow.At the same time we had the well-known promise by M. Clemenceau, that the general ŕeduction of armaments was to be one of the first duties of the League of Nations.
Nevertheless, although the League of Nations set to work to consider, and have been continually pushed along by the almost; sole efforts of Lord Cecil, who never tired in his efforts to get progress made, yet it took nearly ten years before the League had even summoned a conference to consider the question of disarmament. During the whole of that 218 time public feeling in Germany was rising, because it had been so often disappointed. Then there came the Conference, and at the Conference there were two questions which everybody knew were of prime importance—namely, the question of equality for Germany, and that of security for France. One would have thought that they were to be discussed and settled at; the beginning of the Conference, but they were not, and no result was obtained until the German representatives had to leave the room in order that there should be reasonable discussion and decision upon this question of their equality ofstatus. I apologise to your Lordships for referring to what you all know very well, but I do so because I want to point out that this very slow process has alienated the people of Germany and is largely the cause of the present situation in Germany.
I have here a letter from a friend who occupies a very high position in Germany in his particular walk of life. He says:It is greatly to be deplored that the Disarmament Conference has so far not shown itself equal to its task. The popular movement which has now conic into power in Germany…would never have assumed its passionate form if the German people had not for many years been again and again deceived in its confidence in the fulfilment of solemn promises and binding obligations.This is a perfectly true statement of the conditions which hold good in Germany, and although at the time, I admit, we and the French may have had very good reasons for the difficulties put in the way of the Disarmament Conference, nevertheless the consequence has been that the masses of the German people every year become more and more hostile to the League, and more and more incensed at its inaction.
The result is that every year a compromise becomes more and more difficult. The German Government are forced to ask a higher and higher price for every concession that they make to us, and we find it harder and harder to satisfy their demands. One cannot help recognising that the present state of affairs in Germany makes it extremely difficult to carry out this policy of disarmament, but it is all the more important, I submit, that we should not stay our hands in that matter. We must go ahead. We must not allow our course to be deflected by 219 this fact alone, otherwise the situation will become much worse. Therefore I would urge upon the Government that they should do all they can to make the coming Conference carry out what has been promised, rapidly and wholeheartedly. This applies in particular to the question of equality ofstatus. That expression is still one that is not fully understood, or not understood by everybody in the same sense. I take it as meaning that in the new system of mutual disarmament every nation, including Germany, is to be treated as though there had been no war.
Of course we cannot forget, and we ought not to forget, the War and the lessons we learnt in the War. But I submit that if we allow our common sense to be blinded by the memories of the War we shall never succeed in building up a lasting system of peace. There was a phrase used yesterday by the Lord President of the Council, dealing with another matter, the problem of India, in which he said, "This post-War world is full of pre-War minds." I think that is just as applicable to this question as it is to India for unless we can get rid of our prepossessions and look at this problem of the settlement of Europe from a new point of view we shall really arrive nowhere. This is particularly the case in Germany. The masses of the German people, I believe—and I have some reason for saying so—are not thinking of 1914, or of 1918, but of 1933, and the masses who are behind this new revolutionary movement are very largely young people—young people who are demanding that the new situation shall be dealt with from a new point of view, and that we shall not hark back to any of the old controversies that we have suffered from in the past.
I am glad to say that Germany has hitherto been treated in the League of Nations on that new system. There has been no differentiation in the treatment of the representatives of Germany and the representatives of other countries, and now that we are coming into close touch with the problem of how to arrange the relationship of Germany and other countries, so far as disarmament goes, I sincerely trust that we shall adhere to that principle and do all that we can to avoid any possibility of the German people thinking that, notwithstanding all 220 our promises, they have still been left in a position of inferiority. The success of this Draft Convention, which my noble friend Lord Cecil has explained and supports, as we all of us do, will depend very largely, I believe, on the way in which we treat this particular question. For example, there is no limit mentioned in the Convention. It is proposed that there shall be a period during which the differentiation between Germany and other countries with regard to armaments shall still persist. Let us make that period as short as possible. It is a great thing that we have, as I believe, induced the representatives of Germany at the Disarmament Conference to recognise and to accept a position in which, for at any rate a certain number of years, there will be still thisstatusof inferiority; but I cannot help feeling that public opinion in Germany will not tolerate that for very long, and we ought to fix as short a period as possible for that particular purpose. I am perfectly certain that it is to the advantage of France to arrive as soon as possible at the moment when there will be no question of inequality between one Power and another. If an arrangement can be arrived at, which I believe it can, by which this equality of status becomes an equality of armament, that will be a moment hen we shall at any rate, I believe, have a chance of attaining permanent peace.
There is one other question upon which I should like to touch, and that is the question of the revision of Treaties. I quite agree with my noble friend Lord Cecil that it is a pity perhaps that this question has been brought into such close context with the question of the Disarmament Conference. Nevertheless, we have to recognise that it has been brought up, and we cannot get rid of it; it is a subject which excites the greatest amount of attention in Germany, and which has very largely been the cause of the new movement in that country. We use the word "revision" really without knowing what we mean, or at any rate without knowing what other people mean. The Germans use it in a quite different sense. In the first place there are two points to which the German people attach enormous importance in the matter of revision of Treaties—two points upon which, I think, we could perfectly well agree. The first is 221 the revision of Part V of the Treaty, by which the Germans and others have been disarmed. That is one of the most important requests they have made—a revision of that Part of the Treaty, so that there should no longer be this disarmament of Germany. That will come about through this Conference; in fact, the Convention itself proposes to repeal or, at any rate, to alter—I think repeal—Part V of the Covenant.
The second thing which creates such powerful opposition and great indignation in the German mind is Article 231, known under the name of the War Guilt clause. It is an Article which I do not believe was ever intended to say that the Germans agreed to the view that they were solely responsible for the War. But it has been made use of in Germany for that purpose, and almost every German believes that in that Article Germany has been convicted of being the sole cause of the Great War. The excision of that Article, I hope, will take place, because after all it was the first of the Reparation clauses, and the Reparation chapter will sooner or later become useless. If the Treaty can be revised on those two points it will materially improve public opinion in Germany.
There is also the revision of frontiers. I think we talk rather vaguely about what revision of frontiers Germany really demands. I do not believe that any reasonable German at the present moment wants to get hack to the old frontiers of 1914. Herr Hitler himself has expressly declared that it would be a political absurdity, almost amounting to a crime, to claim back the old frontiers of Germany. There may be some mad people who think that they can get back part of Poland and parts of Alsace and Lorraine, but that is not really the opinion of any but a very small section of the German people. There is a certain number of people who do say that the frontiers should be revised here and there, but everybody who has gone into the question of the Polish Corridor or Upper Silesia or elsewhere, comes to the conclusion that this is a matter which could very reasonably be studied and very likely decided by an impartial tribunal anxious to arrive at some settlement. It is not impossible to reach a settlement upon those two points, and I must say I think that we owe a debt of 222 gratitude really to Signor Mussolini for having suggested that he himself will assist in finding some solution of frontier questions of that kind.
I do not believe that there is in France anything like the same opposition to the revision of the Treaty with the limitations I have mentioned that people say exists to such a large extent. InThe Timesof 28th of March, I read—it was from the correspondent in France—It is now apparent that the volume of opinion which is beginning to accept the notion of Treaty revision as an essential of moral reconstruction is slowly growing.I believe that is becoming more and more the view of the sensible people in France. Nor do I believe the German Government would refuse a reasonable settlement of some of these questions. It must be remembered that Herr Hitler himself has specifically advocated a rapid adjustment of Germany's relations with other countries. I have no sympathy—none of us has any sympathy—with the present condition of affairs in Germany. It is a condition arising out of a revolution—we deplore and regret it—but at the same time I venture to say we must not be deflected from our path of trying to find the way to bring peace to Europe by these occurrences which are taking place at the present moment. As I have said, we owe a debt of gratitude to Signor Mussolini and the Prime Minister for having brought this matter forward even at the present moment, and there is no real reason why their efforts should not be successful. I remember very well that Signor Mussolini was a member of the first League of Nations society formed in Italy after the War, and I have no reason to doubt that he would gladly take part in any effort which is made to bring peace to Europe.
§ THE EARL OF IDDESLEIGH
My Lords, I hope I may be permitted to express my respectful and sympathetic concurrence with the remarks made by the noble and learned Marquess, Lord Reading. I speak not only on my own behalf, I speak as a member of the Roman Catholic Church. My co-religionists and Lord Reading's worked together very successfully and very happily in Germany before the recent revolution, and we do feel—I think we feel in every country—real sympathy with those who are the victims of a movement which has been condemned by our Bishops. I trust that 223 the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Hailsham, will be able to give us some further information with regard to the conversations that took place between Mr. MacDonald and Signor Mussolini in Rome, although I quite understand it would be premature to ask for anything in the nature of details of the proposed Pact. Details cannot be arrived at; the matter clearly must wait for discussion between the great Powers concerned.
So far as one can understand the matter from the speeches which have been made and from the very numerous comments which have appeared in the Press, it would appear to be based on two ideas which have recently gained currency among international thinkers. The first idea, which has been closely associated with M. Briand and the French point of view, is that Europe has her own problems and must herself deal with those problems. That point of view is the point of view of realism, and has not been sufficiently accepted in the past. There was a time when our statesmen were very anxious on all occasions to seek American or other extra-European aid in the solution of our problems. It will be remembered that after the War great efforts were made to obtain American adhesion to an alliance in defence of the Versailles Treaty. We have been trying to obtain, without much result, guarantees from America as to her attitude in the case of a European State violating the Covenant. I am very glad to say, if I am right in making that inference, that we are now becoming in Europe somewhat more self-reliant, and that we are determined to solve our problems without external help.
The second idea on which this Pact would seem to be based is the peculiar responsibility for peace which must lie upon the greater Powers of Europe, a responsibility of which they cannot divest themselves and which they cannot altogether share with the smaller States. If that co-operation between the great Powers is to become a reality a very great deal of patient work will be needed, and it must surely be emphasised at the outset that it is purely an extension of voluntary co-operation. I saw recently a discussion in a newspaper as to what would happen if there were a Four-Power Pact and one of the Powers could not be brought to agree with the other three. It is extraordinary that 224 such a question should be discussed for a moment. It is perfectly clear that if, after patient and prolonged effort, great Powers cannot be brought to have a similar point of view, then the Pact must be ineffective in so far as that matter of disagreement extends. I should like to ask the noble and learned Viscount if I am right in assuming that this Pact is based on a readiness on the part of the great Powers to make sacrifices. No good purposes would be served by discussing the possible nature of the sacrifices which any one Power may have to make, but, so far as I can understand the statements issued by Signor Mussolini and Mr. MacDonald, unless there is some readiness to give up our own predilections in the common interest all talk of pact or alliance would be vain. At the same time, I understand that the days when sacrifices were made as gestures are gone, and that any sacrifices which are made will be made as part of a general scheme of European appeasement.
I had intended to say something on the question of revision, but I have been anticipated by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, and I cannot do more than express my complete agreement with the remarks that fell from his lips. Treaty revision is now a subject which one might almost say "brooks no delay." It is becoming so irritating a poison in the European system that those who speak of delaying the matter for twenty years do not seem to realise the intense and immediate danger of conflict which unrevised Treaties are causing. I imagine that revision of Treaties should not be taken to refer merely to territorial adjustments. The present time would seem to be peculiarly favourable to Treaty revision if that revision is to be moderate in character. I am very glad to see that the suggestions put forward recently have all been for the most moderate possible adjustments in territory.
It has been suggested in the Press that this Pact cannot come into operation on account of the attitude take up by the French Republic. I am, I know, treading on very delicate ground, but I have been pleased to notice in certain sections of the French Press in the last few days a rather more conciliatory attitude to the ideas put forward. For France to adhere to pacts of the nature 225 which has been vaguely outlined would indeed be a dramatic reversal of policy, but, after all, is it not the privilege of a great statesman to conduct at appropriate times diplomatic revolutions? Sire all know that the chief interest of France is the defence of her frontiers, and that is an interest which we, as signatories of the Locarno Treaty, share. It is because Englishmen of my generation may very possibly be called upon to implement those Treaties by going to fight in defence of those frontiers that we have some right respectfully to advise the French nation, and to hope, as we do most earnestly hope, that the plans which have been outlined will not be lost through lack of sympathy in our neighbour. I hope the noble and learned Viscount will be able to give us a certain amount of the information which the British public so eagerly awaits.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP CANTERBURY
My Lords, perhaps the noble and learned Viscount will allow me to say a word, in one sentence, before he replies. I have deliberately refrained from taking part in this discussion in order not to delay the reply and especially in order to give the noble and learned Viscount ample time for the reply on these most important issues. But I should feel I bad been somewhat lacking if I did not here publicly say, representing as in some sense I may claim to do the Christian citizenship of the country, that I associate myself entirely with what was said by the noble and learned Marquess (the Marquess of Reading) in a way which touched our hearts a short time ago. I earnestly trust that His Majesty's Government will be able to give assurances—I know they will—that they are doing whatever seems to them possible to express the concern of the people of this country and of their Christian fellow-citizens with regard to the Jewish community, and, not least, the concern of those among them who are animated by feelings of sincere friendship for the German people.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR, (VISCOUNT HAILSHAM)
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Cecil in moving this Motion began by saying that there was always a difficulty arising from the fact that if you brought forward a discussion on foreign affairs whilst negotiations were still proceeding, you were told that 226 it was premature to make any disclosure, and if you waited until negotiations had ended you were told that it was too late to make any change. I recognise that there is force in that criticism. On the other hand, I am bound to say at the very outset of my remarks that the matters which the noble Viscount has brought before your Lordships' House for our consideration are matters involving very delicate considerations of foreign policy and requiring very careful and tactful handling. Your Lordships will appreciate that it is difficult for any Minister to make a pronouncement upon the sort of questions we have been discussing which may not produce reactions that I am quite sure no member of your Lordships' House would desire, and which might even tend to defeat the very object my noble friend had in mind in bringing these matters before your Lordships. That is particularly true when the Minister who is charged with the duty of replying is not the one who is primarily responsible for the conduct of foreign affairs. I can only wish that my right honourable friend Sir John Simon could have been here to present in his own language the replies to the questions which have been asked. But when I say that, I hope my noble friend will not suppose that I even imply any criticism of the course he has taken bringing these matters forward.
From the Government point of view the value of a discussion such as we have had this afternoon lies not so much in any opportunity which it affords to His Majesty's Government to make a pronouncement on policy—that we would much rather not do in the particular conditions in which foreign affairs now stand—as in the opportunity it gives of hearing from people of authority and weight in the councils of the country what views they have formed on these problems and what suggestions they have to make. The value of the debate, I think, lies rather in the help that it may give to the Government in dealing with the problems than in any opportunity which it gives to the Government to pronounce their own view. Certainly the speeches which have been delivered, and pre-eminently the speech of my noble friend in bringing forward these matters for discussion, have been careful to avoid stating anything which could embarrass the Government or the country, and they have been nothing but helpful 227 to us in the conduct of the matters which have been brought to your Lordships' notice.
There were three specific problems which were particularly raised by my noble friend. The first was the treatment of the Jews in Germany. The second was the present discussion on the disarmament proposals at Geneva. The third was the recent visit of the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary to Rome and the discussions which ensued in Rome and Paris. Let me take those three subjects separately. I do not think it would be useful to follow the noble Lord, the Leader of the Opposition, into any discourse on the trend of affairs in the Far East. Certainly I think it would be very unfortunate if any impression gained ground abroad that His Majesty's Government were considering any such proposals with regard to that problem as those which the noble Lord outlined. It is, I think, rather a curious fact that those who are most ardent in their professions of desire for peace seem to be the readiest to encourage us in courses which could only lead to war.
I turn then to the three matters which I have indicated, and the first is the question as regards the treatment of Jews in Germany. I think it is important to define, if we can, the limits within which the British Government can properly act in that matter. There are a very large number of British citizens of Jewish descent. If any of those people were arrested or ill-treated in Germany we should have a right to complain and to bring the facts to the notice of the German Government and to press for justice to be done, but I am happy to be able to assure your Lordships from inquiries we have made that we are unable to learn that there has been any such case at all in Germany. No British citizen of Jewish descent has, so far as we know, had any cause of complaint of ill-treatment of any kind within the German State. Outside that limit it is suggested that some form of representation ought to be made by the British Government. My noble friend said he understood that a promise had been made in another place that such representations—
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
No. I do not want to mislead. I did not intend to convey that. What I understood had been said in another place was 228 that the British Ambassador would be asked to furnish a full report of what was going on there, or something of that kind.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
I am much obliged to my noble friend. I thought he used the word "representations."
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
I was very anxious to get this matter right and so I caused inquiries to be made. As far as I have been able to ascertain, we have not promised, and we do not think it would be right, to make representations to the Government of Germany with regard to the treatment of German citizens of whatever descent. Similarly I think I am right in saying that it is a mistake to suppose that the United States Government have made any such representations. What has happened in the case of the United States, and what I understand was stated in another place with regard to our own Government, is that the Ambassadors of this country and of the United States have severally been asked by their Governments to make inquiries and furnish reports on the position. I think it is true to say that some little time ago there was a conversation between His Majesty's Ambassador at Berlin on instructions from the Secretary of State and the German Minister of Foreign Affairs, and that our own Secretary of State also took the opportunity of mentioning the matter himself to the German Ambassador in London. In both cases, I am glad to be able to tell your Lordships' House, the replies were of a reassuring nature.
Your Lordships listened a little earlier this evening to a very moving and impressive statement from my noble and learned friend the Marquess of Reading. I think, if he will allow me to say so, nothing could have been more useful, nothing could have been more restrained than the language which he used in speaking of his fellow Jews in Germany. I am quite sure that the anxiety that he expressed coming from one who can speak with his authority must have a great effect on public opinion. The statements which came from the most rev. Primate and from my noble friend the Earl of Iddesleigh, representing two different branches of the Christian Church, show how widespread is that anxiety. On the other hand, I think it 229 only right that I should say at once that the British Government do not think that they can claim to have any special right to intervene with regard to German subjects who are of Jewish race. It is suggested—I think not more than suggested—by my noble friend that our position as Mandatory in Palestine and our position as signatories of the Peace Treaties, which contain provisions for the protection of minorities, give us possibly some special rights.
§ VISVOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
I said a great interest in the subject. That was the exact phrase that I used, I think.
I do not think we require this position to give us an interest, but to prevent misunderstanding I think it is only right to say that, whereas as the Mandatory Power for Palestine we do conceive that we are charged with a special duty to protect Palestinian Jews, that does not give us any general right of intervention on behalf of Jews in foreign countries. Although it is quite true that in the Peace Treaties special provision was made for the protection of minorities, that was done, I think, generally speaking, where certain territories were allotted to particular countries and in those territories were minorities of a different race from that of the country to which the territory was allotted. It was thought right to make it a condition of handing over those territories that due protection should be afforded to the minorities who were being entrusted to the rule of a different people. That of course has no application to the position in Germany, and I do not think it would be in the interests of the Jews themselves that any suggestion should be made that His Majesty's Government conceive themselves to be clothed with any authority to intervene on behalf of Jews in Germany.
THE MARQUESS OF BEADING
If my noble and learned friend will forgive me I should like, with the permission of the House, to refer for a moment not only to what my noble friend Viscount Cecil said, but also to other observations which have just been made. So far as I am aware nobody in the course of the debate used the expression "intervene." I do not think that anybody suggested that the Government should intervene.
230 Perhaps I may unintentionally have gone a little further than I meant, but I am perfectly sure that I never used the word intervention. I never suggested it, and never intended to suggest it, because naturally I realise the difficulties of the Government, and I should be sorry indeed if it was thought anywhere that I had suggested that the British Government should intervene merely on the question of the treatment of German Jews and not in relation to British subjects. May I, if my noble and learned friend and the House will forgive me, just reiterate what I did say or what I meant to say? What I meant to say was that I believed that the knowledge of the views held by the majority of British people, not to use too strong an expression, properly conveyed, not as a formal representation, not by any means as a Government representation, but in such form as might be thought desirable with theimprimaturof Government on the truth of the statement, would have more effect almost than anything that I could imagine on the situation. That is what I meant.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
I am much obliged to my noble and learned friend. His intervention is nothing but helpful. I think that probably there can be no more effective way of expressing the views which are very largely held by people in this country than the expression of opinion which has been made in this House, but I was anxious to demur to any suggestion that representations should be made by the Government, because I think that would be an unwarrantable interference. I think any suggestion that we were prepared to do anything of that kind would do more harm than good and would be properly resented by German public opinion. The last thing anybody wants to do when passions are inflamed as they have been in Germany recently is to do anything to fan those flames or arouse any legitimate resentment or ill-feeling. The matter is one which obviously arouses deep feeling, but it is one on which I am glad to be able to assure your Lordships that satisfactory assurances have been given in answer to the questions we have put. I can only hope and trust that the German Government, which, after all, has not had very long in which to establish itself under very remarkable circum- 231 stances, will allow nothing to happen in Germany which would in any way conflict with the interests which have been expressed in your Lordships' House. I think that is as much as I can usefully say with regard to that particular matter.
A second matter was raised by the noble Viscount, the question of disarmament. It was a real satisfaction to the Government to know that the proposals which were recently laid before the Geneva Conference and which have been adopted as the text for their discussions meet with the approval of my noble friend. I think he was a little hard on us when he suggested that we were belated in bringing forward a plan. He must remember that as long ago as February of last year, when this Conference originally met, it had as its text for discussion a Preparatory Convention which had been drafted with very great labour, spread over many months, by a Committee of which he himself was certainly one of the most important members; and, naturally, we went to the Conference prepared to discuss that proposal and, with very careful plans, prepared to deal with the different articles which had been drafted for consideration. I cannot think even now that there was anything wrong in His Majesty's Government preparing to start the discussion at Geneva on the basis of the Draft Convention which my noble friend and his colleagues on the Committee had prepared for that very purpose.
After a while it became apparent that there were certain problems which required expert examination. The noble Lord opposite thought that the right way of dealing with disarmament questions was for the experts to be told to pack up and go away, for the politicians to agree to something, and then for the experts to be told what had been agreed upon. I confess that is an irresponsible way of dealing with vital questions of national security that I should be sorry to see adopted by any Party in this or in any other State, and, since the experts have been criticised and attacked, I should like to say that in the view of the Government the help given by the British experts at Geneva during the prolonged period of these discussions has been of the greatest assistance, not only to the Government, but also to the Con- 232 ference as a whole. They have laboured with a single-hearted desire to reach an agreement which would combine a practical measure of disarmament with a reasonable security for those disarming, and they have made most valuable contributions in trying to reach accurate definition and practical proposals. I would add that for politicians to make agreements about matters they have not the training or experience to understand and hope that by ignoring difficulties they have overcome them, does not seem to me either statesmanlike or even commonly prudent. In fact, experts did discuss various difficult topics and they arrived at a considerable measure of agreement with regard to some of them. I hardly think it is too much to say that but for their labours it would probably have been impossible to frame the explicit proposals which the Prime Minister laid before Geneva a few days ago.
In July the United States came forward with certain proposals and your Lordships will remember that the British Government then themselves formulated a statement of their attitude with regard to those suggestions and proposals of their own, which formed the subject of a White Paper and re-opened discussions on some of the very matters with regard to which my noble friend criticised us—notably, the question of capital ships. That was in July. In November, when things seemed to be going not too well, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs went to Geneva and himself made a speech on the 17th November which formulated in the most explicit terms the proposals which His Majesty's Government laid before the Disarmament Conference, and the length to which we were prepared to go in order to obtain a measure of agreement. That was followed by the arrangement between the five Powers which brought Germany back into the discussions—which again was achieved very largely by the efforts of the British Government. I do not think anyone contributed more to the return of Germany to the discussions at Geneva than my right honourable friend the Prime Minister of this country. It was only when it seemed probable that the discussions were not likely to end in any fruitful agreement for a very long period that we took once more the initiative, and took what was un- 233 doubtedly a difficult and in some respects even a dangerous course: we laid before the Conference concrete proposals setting out actual figures for a large number of Powers. I do not think it would have been possible for anybody to have produced such a scheme as the Prime Minister produced on the 16th March if it had not been for the very large amount of preparatory work, discussion and agreement which had been reached in the earlier stages of the Convention.
There are one or two matters in the proposals in regard to which my noble friend asked specific questions. He said he wanted to know a little more of the Government's views with regard to tanks—and when I come to the subject of tanks I feel able to speak with a little more assurance than when dealing with the broader questions of foreign policy. So far as tanks are concerned my noble friend said that this country was making no sort of concession because, by fixing a limit of sixteen tons, we were fixing a limit beyond which our tanks did not go. I am anxious at once to correct that; in fact we have 142 tanks of well over sixteen tons, the whole of which would disappear under these proposals. I do not say they are the most modern tanks, but the reason for that is that for a long time we have been directing our armaments, such as they were, purely to defensive warfare and therefore have not been building the larger class of tanks. But it is a mistake to suppose that we have not a large number of these, many of which have performed very useful service and the whole of which we were proposing to scrap if the proposals were adopted.
Then I was asked what are our views with regard to the smaller tanks. Those have been stated, I hope with clarity, in the speech of my right honourable friend on November 17, and I think they were also stated quite clearly and definitely in the earlier declaration in July. The view of His Majesty's Government is that the tank is an essential weapon to the British Army. It is the defensive answer to the modern automatic rifle and machine gun. If you have a very large Army, as nations who employ the methods of conscription of necessity have, it may be you are able by sheer weight of numbers to overcome even posts which are armed with rapid-firing rifles and machine guns—you do it at 234 immense cost of life, but still you are able by persistence to achieve it—but if you have, as the British have, an Army reduced to the very limit of safety regarding numbers, an Army highly trained, but very, very small, then it is impossible for any responsible Government to adventure that Army into any form of modern warfare unless you are able to provide them with that measure of protection which the modern tank affords; and therefore it is that it is an essential interest of this country that tanks shall be maintained as one of our arms. While we are quite willing to enter into any discussion as to tanks which may be useful, and we have in fact, as my noble friend knows, expressly stated in Article 21 of the Draft Convention of March 16 that we had left the problems as to light tanks open for international examination and negotiation, I think it is only right that I should say quite plainly and definitely that in our view the tank is an essential adjunct to the British Army as constituted at present.
Then I was asked with regard to the capital ship, and it was suggested that we had made no proposals with regard to that. Well, my Lords, I do not think that is quite accurate, or perhaps it would be fairer to say that it rather ignores the previous Papers which set out our policy. We were endeavouring to bring together matters with regard to which there had been reached some measure of agreement, or with regard to which we thought it possible to reach some measure of agreement. So long ago as July we stated definitely that we were in favour of reducing the size of the capital ship, and in November we suggested that it should be cut down to 22,000 tons instead of 35,000 tons, and we adhere to that policy and have never departed from our willingness to do that; but we did not put it into the Convention because, up to the present, that proposal does not seem to have met with very much favour, and I do not think that the fact that we have not put in proposals which unfortunately we have not been able to get other people to adopt is any reason for suggesting that we are weakening our action when we make suggestions with regard to submarines. We should be only too glad if it were possible to reach an agreement to reduce the size of capital ships.
235 Next as to aircraft. Our policy is set out as plainly as possible in the declaration of November, and as a result of discussions there has been a Committee working in Geneva on this specific problem of how far it is possible to regulate civil aircraft and prevent their being used for military purposes, or, if military aircraft are abolished, to prevent civil aircraft from taking their place practically at a moment's notice. Meanwhile we have put forward what is a very practical proposal for disarmament in the air, because we have suggested that we shall reduce everybody's Air Force to at most two-thirds of what our Air Force is at present. That is, summarising it, I think the effect of the proposals of November 17. I cannot tell if we shall reach that measure of agreement, but I think it would have been a mistake, because there did not seem to be any immediate prospect of reaching a satisfactory agreement and a satisfactory means of regulating civilian aircraft, and therefore a satisfactory means of abolishing the use of aircraft for military purposes—I think it would have been a mistake, because that did not seem to be immediately possible of attainment, not to have attempted to make any step forward towards reducing armaments in the air. The proposals we have made are certainly a very large step towards that end.
My noble friend asked whether we would consider amendments which were put forward to our proposals. Most certainly we shall consider them, but we have tried to put into this one framework what we believe to be a fair agreement as between different nations. We have deprecated extensive amendments, not because we think what we have done is perfect, but because, as your Lordships will appreciate, if each nation tries to amend the proposals in its own interest, as it naturally would do, the result would be that everybody would be asking that other people should have a little less and they themselves should have a little more. The result would be that we should be back where we were before definite figures were proposed. Certainly we shall consider definite proposals which any Power may bring forward, and we shall consider them in the light of the essential interests of British policy, remembering that one of those esential interests is the maintenance and securing of peace.
236 Then I turn to the visit of the Prime Minister and of the Foreign Secretary to Rome, and I was sorry to hear that my noble friend was at any rate not very pleased with some of the results of that visit. I should like to say at once that the visit to Rome was not made on the decision of my two colleagues, the two Ministers who went there, but was made on the decision of the Cabinet, and the Cabinet is responsible for it. When they got to Rome they were met by Signor Mussolini, who, like ourselves, had obviously been disquieted at the slow progress made towards disarmament and at the present state of political tension in the world. He had certain suggestions to put forward which he hoped might tend to the securing and maintenance of peace. Those proposals were in a tentative form. They were discussed by the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary with Signor Mussolini, and after discussion there they were discussed further in Paris, and they have been considered by the Cabinet. They are now being considered by the various Powers immediately concerned. I do not think it would be useful or at all advisable that I should go into detail as to those proposals. They are not fixed or settled in any way, and discussions of that kind, in which of necessity a number of different Powers are engaged, may be very much hindered and hampered if any one country makes a public pronouncement with regard to them.
I do not think, however, it is any indiscretion to say that if, as my noble and learned friend suggests, they contain proposals with regard to equality ofstatusfor Germany and with regard to the revision of Treaties, those two matters are not new matters which are being brought forward by Signor Mussolini as something fresh to impose upon an already distracted Europe. The question of equality ofstatusfor Germany is the subject of the statement of December, 1932, and the question of the revision of Treaties, as Lord Ponsonby has reminded us, is enshrined in Article 19 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, and is involved in the proposals to give Germany equality ofstatus. If, as my noble friend has said, deep anxiety, distrust and suspicion have been aroused among some of his friends by reason of the fact that Signor Mussolini's proposals are under consideration by His 237 Majesty's Government, then all I can say is that I think his friends are of a very suspicious nature.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
I was not referring to my friends but to reports in the Press of foreign countries.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
I am sorry if foreign countries are anxious, distrustful and suspicious of this country merely because proposals are under consideration. They were inspired, I am quite satisfied, by an earnest desire to secure and establish and maintain peace; and when one remembers that proposals for co-operation between different Powers in Europe, if they are not successful, are very likely to leave Europe in the near future in the position of dividing into rival groups of Powers, then I think that most of your Lordships would agree that any hopeful proposal to prevent that happening and to secure cordial cooperation between the principal Western Powers of Europe is a proposal which ought to be received with great cordiality and anxiously examined with the hope of making it a success.
My noble friend Lord Iddesleigh asked whether I could assure him that the proposals that Signor Mussolini had put forward were proposals which were based on the readiness of the different parties to the agreement, if there were one, to make sacrifices. I think probably the better phrase to use is the phrase which my right honourable friend the Prime Minister used when he was discussing this matter in another place, and when he explained that:The other nations have to make a contribution of their own, and that contribution must be a substantial one. It must be such a contribution, in such form and of such an importance, as will place beyond the shadow of doubt that when these changes are made they are not to pursue anything in Europe but a co-operative and a friendly policy.And my right honourable friend went on to say:If the Four Powers come together, if a way can be devised for joining with their views those of the smaller nationalities concerned, and for examining the causes of fear leading now to an unwillingness to disarm, who would dare to deny that the most effective work for peace which has been done since the War will have been accomplished? That may well have been begun by the Italian plan.238 I do not think I can usefully add anything to that description of the purpose of the Italian plan, and I would only like to add that if any suspicion, was raised in any quarter that its effect would be to hinder the consideration of the disarmament proposals which we have brought forward, the fact that it was followed almost immediately by the whole-hearted declaration of the Italian delegate at Geneva in favour of the Prime Minister's scheme I think ought to go some way at Any rate to reassuring them and to satisfy those people that their fears are unfounded. I hope I have dealt with the questions which my noble friend put to me, and I hope I have not said anything which is indiscreet. If anything that I have said in any degree conflicts with what has been said by the Prime Minister in another place then I can assure your Lordships that to that extent my statement must have been mistaken, and that his is to be taken as the authoritative and accurate text.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
My Lords, in asking leave to withdraw my Motion, I desire to thank the noble and learned Viscount for the courtesy of his reply and for the very considerable amount of information which he has given to us. He will not be altogether surprised that I am still very anxious about these tanks, and that I think he did not deal with the primary difficulties. I do not see how you are going to carry your policy through without re-armament of Germany, and that is the great difficulty both with regard to tanks and aircraft, as I indicated. As to capital ships I was a little disappointed. I hoped that the unhappy proposal to preserve a capital ship of 22,000 tons had disappeared. That always seemed to me a very unwise proposal. I am sorry to see that it is still alive in the recesses of the Government's mind.
With regard to the, in a way much more important, matter of the Rome meeting, I was very glad to hear the last sentence of my noble and learned friend's reply. I really hope that the Government will not brush aside the anxiety which has been caused by the negotiations. It may be quite unjustifiable, but the difficulty of negotiations of this kind is that they are announced, various accounts are spread in the papers as to what has been said, 239 and everybody puts the most alarming constructions upon them. That always happens, and yet people will go on with the same technique and the same procedure, though they know it always ends with these results. But what they are afraid of is revision. "That," they say, "means an alteration of frontiers, an alteration of the territorial and, it may be, the political position of various countries, and at this moment, when you are asking us to agree to a Disarmament Treaty, how can you do it when we do not know what is going to be our future?" That is the dangerous part of it, and if that difficulty can be removed by some definite statement that no such plan is under consideration, and that the Government propose to proceed with their disarmament policy without alteration and without any hesitation, then no doubt the difficulties may be dissipated.
But at the present moment I assure my noble friend that if he will enquire I think he will find that there is a very widespread impression that the disarmament policy has been more or less shelved, or at any rate has been cold-shouldered, and that there is a new policy dealing with an entirely new conception of how peace should be preserved in Europe, and that that has created a great deal of anxiety and difficulty. I feel sure that has happened. Whether it ought to have happened is a different matter, but that I am sure is the difficulty, and it is that aspect of it, not the question of whether the conversation at Rome was very desirable—I said it was in my opening observations—it is the form and method and the actual details of what has taken place which I feel sure have caused a great deal of difficulty. I hope the Government will take that point into consideration and do their utmost to remove it.
My Lords, may I ask the noble Viscount whether I understood him rightly to say that he was not an advocate of revision of frontiers until the Disarmament Convention at any rate was out of the way? There was a phrase which we found it difficult to understand.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
I am not conducting these negotiations, but if I were I certainly should not complicate them by asking the Powers of Europe to consider a revision of frontiers 240 until you get into a much more peaceable frame of mind than you are in at the present moment in Europe. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.