HL Deb 08 November 1933 vol 89 cc80-138

LORD PONSONBY OF SHULBREDE had given Notice that he would call attention to the proceedings at the Disarmament Conference, and move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I think it is only right that your Lordships should have an opportunity of discussing the question which really overshadows all others in importance, both nationally and internationally, at the present moment. More especially as it was discussed in another place only yesterday it is convenient and right that your Lordships should have an oppor- tunity of discussing it at the earliest possible moment. I have read the proceedings in another place yesterday with very great attention, and, if I may be allowed to say so, the statement of the Foreign Secretary was very comprehensive and as a master of exposition he was able to make a very good case out of the past proceedings. But I have always thought that Sir John Simon might be trusted to make the best of a very bad case with his great dialectical skill, and I cannot consider that his speech can be accepted as satisfactory, or can dispel the general mistrust that has grown up with regard to the attitude of His Majesty's Government in connection with this question of disarmament.

A great deal of the debate was taken up with past history land a good deal of recrimination, but I agree with the leader in this morning's issue of The Timesnewspaper, where it says: It was perhaps natural, therefore, that little should have been said about the future and that the impression should have been conveyed that the problem would still be approached by exactly the same methods as those which have led to a breakdown. It is my desire to direct your Lordships' attention more to the future than to the past, but in examining the future we have necessarily to see how to avoid the errors of the past. The great incident which has disturbed the proceedings is the withdrawal of Germany from the Disarmament Conference and her withdrawal from the League of Nations. In considering that, and the effect that it has had—necessarily an alarming effect, though I myself have never been one to take an alarmist view of the situation—I have never thought that the peace of Europe was in danger, but it has necessarily made a very great change in the proceedings and in the methods that have to be adopted. We have got to try and understand what it means more thoroughly.

It is perfectly true that Germany has got an incorrigible habit of doing the wrong thing at the wrong moment. They are the clumsiest diplomatists in Europe. That we know by experience, but there is a further fact which, I think, we have to take into account with regard to the whole psychology of the German nation at the present time, and I would say with regard to the world situation at the present time. I do not believe that sufficient account has ever been taken of the extraordinarily deep and injurious defect that the years of the War had on the generation that was under sixteen while it was being fought—malnutrition, withdrawal of the ordinary education facilities, withdrawal of parental influence, withdrawal of ordinary social intercourse, and the absorption of the young minds in the catastrophe which they heard talked about morning, noon, and night. I am not alone in thinking that that has had an indelible effect on youth, and we see signs of it all the world over. We see signs of want of development, a hysterical desire for excitement. We see signs of it more especially in Germany where the malnutrition of the four years of the War was aggravated still further by the blockade which still continued after the War was over.

It has shown itself undoubtedly in German youth very conspicuously. It has shown itself in a very serious way, and I think people who have been studying Germany during the last few years have noticed it in the German youth. They have noticed that what might be called this hysterical sadism and moral confusion has now been put into a channel by Chancellor Hitler He has harnessed it. His appeal is a very simple one; his object is quite intelligible; his methods are utterly deplorable; but his backing is colossal. We have got to take that into account. It is no good saying they are in the wrong. It is no good deploring the outrages which are taking place. We have got to take account of this fact. I might say here in passing that in this period since Chancellor Hitler got the reins into his hands there has been reason for alarm, and I think it is a matter of great congratulation to our neighbours across the Channel, France, that under the very wise leadership of the late Prime Minister, M. Daladier, they avoided taking offence on occasions when they might, from over-excitement, have been led to rash words, if not actions.

Your Lordships will remember that the last War was fought, we were told—it was dinned into our ears, especially by several of the speakers who were speaking in another place yesterday—to crush German militarism. That was supposed to be the prime object. I was never taken in by that, because you cannot crush militarism by war. You only breed militarism by war, but we never supposed it would breed so rapidly as, in fact, it has done. What I think is regret-able is that the Powers—our own Governments and foreign Governments—have been faced during the last fifteen years with this question of equality of status of Germany. It had to come forward sooner or later. A decision had to be made sooner or later. Either Germany must arm up to the level of the other Powers, or the other Powers must arm down to the level of Germany. Those were the two alternatives that stared statesmen in the face, and the question was never tackled. In fact, we seemed to get, during the fifteen years, further and further from real concentration on that particular question, till at last impatience, turning under the Hitler régime into exasperation, has led Germany to take this very strong step.

Our complaint on this side of the House is that there has been a great lack of leadership on the part of Great Britain. I hope I shall not hear the old taunt, which some people never tire of making, that one is a friend of every country but one's own, directly you criticise the Government. To mistake this Government for the country that we all love is really the most ridiculous absurdity. We are not friends of this Government and we do not pretend to be friends of this Government. We are here to criticise them, and I exist to criticise them, but that does not mean that I am not a friend of this country which I value above every other country in the world. Sir John Simon said we had an immense moral authority. That is perfectly true. He knows from his great experience at Geneva what a great moral authority this country has, and they have failed to use that authority in taking any bold initiative. They have taken the temperate line. They have modified other people's proposals. They have always tried to be the skilful advocate adapting this measure and that, but they have never taken the bold move for which the world and all the nations of the world have been waiting.

I want to take the four possibilities of the future, because it is with the future we are concerned. First, to stop the Disarmament Conference, and to say that it has been a failure; therefore to allow Germany to rearm; and to adopt what is known as the isolationist policy. We on this side of the House would reject that out of hand. We do not believe that you can isolate yourself in the world to-day. We must take our full share, and our share can only be taken through the machinery of the League of Nations. The Conference on Disarmament must go on, and must go on year after year if need be. The second alternative: Take what Chancellor Hitler has said and what the Soviet Government have said—take them at their word. They have said they will completely disarm at the earliest possible moment if others will. We have never said that; this Government has never said that. I doubt if this Government could say that, because the enormous weight of the armament interest and the gigantic influence of the Services and the tradition of the Services in this country would make a suggestion for complete disarmament very difficult for any Government to make.


May I ask the noble Lord whether he desires that we should completely disarm.


I was taking as the second alternative the suggestion that we should say, as the German Government have said, and as the Russian Government have said, that we would completely disarm if others would completely disarm. We have not said that.


That is a different thing.


No, we have not said that. I was suggesting we should say it. I was suggesting, as the second alternative, we should say that, but we cannot say that because of the reasons I have given, and, therefore, it would be unwise to expect the Government to take that alternative. The third alternative is to go on along the old lines, and this is the alternative which I think it looks as if the present Government would take—to go on along the old lines, to continue the proceedings in the Disarmament Conference as they have gone on during the last eighteen months, to take the British Draft and continue with it as the basis of discussion. I very respectfully state that to take the British Draft for a future basis of discussion, after the events that have recently happened, would be altogether futile. What is the British Draft? It is not a British proposal; it is the scraps front the discussions of the experts which have ranged over eighteen months.

I have before now in your Lordships' House declared that I considered that the proceedings in the Disarmament Conference were initiated and were conducted in the wrong way, on the wrong lines. They were discussing minute details with a view to arriving eventually at some principle. Of course it ought to I have been the other way round. They ought to have laid down a principle and then made the experts fill in the details. We have had these absurd discussions on qualitative disarmament, on offensive and defensive weapons, without, any sort of decision being come to. I know what I think about it is in your Lordships' eyes of no value Whatever, but I should like to quote what a distinguished general has said because it entirely bears out what I have said in your Lordships' House, and expresses the opinion which we on this side of the House hold with regard to the method adopted by the Disarmament Conference. He said: They had spent months sand months, and used reams and reams of paper trying to draw a hard and fast line between offensive armaments and defensive armaments. As one who had been at the job all his life he did not know where they were going to draw that line. An umbrella was a defensive weapon when used as a protection against the rain, but in a crowd an umbrella used for jabbing another man in the eye could be a very offensive weapon. In -the long run the only defence was vigorous counter-attack, and he did not think it mattered very much whether a battleship was twenty thousand tons or ten thousand tons. A 10,000-ton battleship could be just as offensive as a 20,000-ton ship; in fact it could be more so, because it was able to poke into holes and corners where a 20,000-ton battleship could not go. He did not think they would find a solution on that line. That sort of argument seemed to him to lead nowhere, any more than it mattered whether a gun was 6 inches or 16 inches. What the League of Nations was out for was the principle of disarmament. It was not a change of ships that they wanted, nor a change of guns but a change of attitude towards war, so that, as civil people, they would recognise it as an evil to be avoided in every possible way. I think that is an admirable epitome of the proceedings at the Disarmament Conference. The words are those of Major-General Sir John Daniell in a speech not long ago in Sussex.

Are we going to go on with that type of discussion? Are we again going to call out the experts and try to thrash out the vexed question whether a tank is offensive or defensive? Is it, going to be a qualitative disarmament? Is this interminable discussion to go on? If so, I am perfectly sure that nothing will come of it. The British Draft Convention is merely the scraps left over from the expert discussions in the various Commissions. It reminds me of the impoverished family in some remote corner of the world that had their 'meals off a long deal table with dips for where the plates ought to be. At the end of the meal the fragments were all brushed into a drawer at the end of the table and on Saturday they ate the drawer. Well this British Draft Convention is the drawer. It is the scraps. It is as indigestible as anything that has been produced at the Disarmament Conference. It is not on those lines that there is any hope of success in the future.

Moreover, the British Draft, by the various speeches that have been made on it since, has become very much mitigated, and I do not think that Sir John Simon's statement to the League of Nations on October 14 can be really read through and thought to be a great pronouncement on disarmament to which all the Powers would be ready to subscribe. It is no doubt very clever and picks out points here and there where Germany can be tripped up. I do not for a moment suggest that it was on account of that statement that Germany left the Conference, but I do suggest that a very different statement could have been made which would have prevented Germany from leaving the Conference. At any rate it looks more and more, as the discussions go on, as if the reluctance of the Powers to come to any agreement with regard to the various weapons and various standards was going to be balanced by gradually allowing Germany to rearm. If that is the case, of course the Disarmament Conference will have been worse than a failure; it will have been a most terrible tragedy.

Now I come to the fourth alternative, and this is the one which is concrete and simple, and which we on this side of the House have ventured to put forward. I think it will be discussed more fully in another place at a later date. We want these technical discussions to cease. We want simplicity. We want to take some standard which has already been laid down. Therefore we suggest that Great Britain should propose that the Powers—by stages it must necessarily be, but within as short a period as possible—should reduce their armaments to the scale imposed upon Germany by the Treaty of Versailles. There is no need for the discussion of this weapon and that weapon, of this tonnage and that tonnage. It is laid down in the Treaty and I need not go over it again. It has been imposed on Germany for fifteen years. It can be adopted by the Powers if they will agree to do so. At any rate we suggest that we should take the lead in asking for that, and just as we feel confident that disarmament is in itself and by itself an insufficient guarantee that there will be no more war, we want to see the tightening up of arbitration procedure. We want to see the strengthening of the League of Nations. We want to see it rehabilitated. We want to see Germany brought back into the League. We want to see Russia and the United States in the League and the League really used as the international organ for keeping the peace between nations. In addition to that when you get the League working you will have to revise your Treaties. That cannot be shirked any longer. You must not leave the sore places which were made by the Treaty of Versailles and the other Peace Treaties.

My Lords, this may seem to be an idealistic policy but I do not think it is so necessarily. I believe it is only through a measure of this sort, it is only through the authority of a real League of Nations that you are going to make any advance on this question. One thing is certain, that the road we have taken is the wrong road and therefore we ought to take a different one. That, I think, every one will admit. This suggestion comes as a new move in a new direction, a stride forward which, with the moral authority which the Foreign Secretary said we have in the League of Nations, would carry a great deal of weight and persuade others that the time has come for a real advance. Some may say that it would be a concession to German threats. I do not think we ought to let any false pride of that sort stand in the way of doing the right thing if we believe it to be the right thing. Though we may have delayed doing the right thing it is never too late to take a step in advance. We must not go on judging German diplomacy by what is going on in Germany itself. Nations are strangely governed in these days, and there are many forms of government with which we fundamentally disagree, but that is no reason why we should not talk to the nations in the councils of the world in such a way as to preserve good relations and amity between the nations.

Mr. Eden, in his concluding remarks in the debate yesterday, deprecated the League being dragged into Party politics. I do not know why there is such a terrible dislike in some quarters of Party politics. It is as if Party politics meant that those playing it were playing to get into office, playing for salaries. I always understood Party politics to mean the principles in which we believed. When you see that the League of Nations is not being used in the proper way it is right that any Party that chooses should call attention to that fact and say that the League should be so restored as to inspire confidence in the peoples of the world. That section of opinion which wants rearmament, that section of opinion which was so very articulate in the Conservative Conference that wants a higher expenditure on armaments, has faith in force to secure the position of this country. I have no such faith. After all, the greatest display of force the world has ever known in the years 1914 to 1918 has given security to nobody at all. It certainly has not made the world safe for democracy, which is one of the things we were told it was going to do.

No, my Lords, I think it is madness to meet these demands which are being made by rearming Europe. I am afraid it is going on. I am afraid this is a great opportunity for those who are making money out of armaments and who naturally welcome a scare which will bring orders. Armament firms have got to be tackled. I think the French delegation on one occasion did make suggestions at the League for tackling armament firms. They have got to be tackled. They are not national institutions, they are inter national. They are great international institutions for furnishing arms very often to our potential enemies. We hear now in some quarters that Germany is rearming. I do not know to what extent that is true or not, but I do know that the British Empire is furnishing Germany with metals that are essential for armaments. But that is the way. There is no nationality in this armament business and, until the Governments of the world tackle it, it will always be a menace to the peace of the world.

I have tried to put the future before your Lordships. I want to elicit from His Majesty's Government what are their intentions. The noble Earl, Lord Peel, in putting forward the previous Motion that was before your Lordships said he deplored that we had not in this House a representative of the Foreign Office. But we have a very distinguished representative of His Majesty's Government, a Cabinet Minister, the noble and learned Viscount who leads the House, and I am quite sure that he can speak on behalf of His Majesty's Government in telling us what are their intentions. After the eight hours of debate in another place I could find no sentence conveying the intentions of His Majesty's Government with regard to the future procedure in the Disarmament Conference, except that it seemed that I could infer that it was to jog along oh the old lines with the old British Draft Convention and try to get some agreement on standards and ratios. I hope that that is not the case. I hope that the noble and learned Viscount will tell us to-day that there is a fresh outlook, a new path, a real call to the nations, that in spite of the difficulties, in spite of the withdrawal of Germany, in spite of the apprehensions which exist—no doubt not all without justification—in many parts of the world, the British Government is going to stand up and suggest a line which will give fresh hope to the world that this matter at last will be settled. I beg to move for Papers.


My Lords, I hope not to detain your Lordships for more than a comparatively short period. I have listened to the speech of the noble Lord who leads the Opposition with very great interest. It has the advantage that it presents a view to us with which we may not agree. It speaks, in truth, the sincerity of the convictions of himself and also, I gather, of a number of the Party to which he belongs, but I am not sure that his observations would command the support of all the members of his Party or that the views he presented would find complete agreement amongst them. It would not be germane to the present discussion to enquire further into that, but he did make observations, showing deep feeling, with much of which I am in agreement.

His desire for peace, and the words which he spoke quite definitely against rearmament, must find an echo not only from all those who support the noble Lord, but I believe from every member of your Lordships' House, including those who represent the fighting Services. I do not believe that any of them, used as they are to methods of warfare and knowing far better than we do all their terrible consequences, has any desire for war, and from my conversation with those who have been our leaders in the field, who are members of your Lordships' House, and who also take their part elsewhere in public life, I do not for a moment accept any suggestion that they have had any part in trying to prevent peace or bring about war; and I do not think the noble Lord suggested that. The noble Lord made an attack on armament firms. I do not propose to enter into that, because I know nothing about it, save to say that it did seem to me he was overstating the importance that could be attached to the propaganda of armament firms for the sake of increasing their business in the supply of arms. That it may have had an influence is possible. We have read books which tell of intrigues, but I think that in these days it would be very difficult for any firms of that description to pursue with success any such policy as was indicated.

The noble Lord began by a reference to, the statement by the Foreign Secretary in another place yesterday. My own impression is that it was a very complete statement couched, as it necessarily would be, in lucid language, conveying to the House and the country what had been in the mind of the Government, and to my mind it carried the conviction that the Government had been doing its utmost in the cause of peace, striving all it could to promote it and to prevent rearmament. I doubt whether that could be challenged and again, as I understood the noble Lord, he did not challenge it. What he did challenge was the action that has been taken and must, be taken. I have no desire to travel over the wide field of all the causes that have brought about the present situation, but would confine myself to the alternatives that he discussed.

Before dealing with those, however, I would join issue with the noble Lord in one respect. I think he was really not just to the present British Government. He attacked them for lack of leadership on the part of Great Britain and seemed to indicate that they really had done nothing except to produce the British Draft Convention in February. Surely that is not a fair statement to make. I feel convinced that if he will cast his mind back a little he will admit that it is idle to say there has been lack of leadership. Such a statement is not true if it suggests that we have taken no steps with regard to disarmament for ourselves. We have indeed given an example to the world by disarming ourselves—to use an expression used by the Foreign Secretary recently—to the edge of risk, and when the noble Lord addresses your Lordships, and through you the general public, and suggests that we have done nothing as a Government or as a people, I do think it is essential that that should be borne in mind. I do him the justice of saying that, as I understood his argument, he has not failed to notice and realise that that has been the case, and it is unfortunate that when attacks are made this matter, which is so important, is often left out of account.

May I point out to him that it is this very reduction of armaments which has caused anxiety in the minds of those who survey the situation and realise what is happening in the world? It may be that because of that some speeches have been made which have led to the suggestion that we were in favour of rearmament. So far as I understand it that is really not the case at this moment. I trust, indeed, that no such proposal will be put forward by the Government. So long as we are labouring for peace it would seem not to help us if we were now to come forward, having given the lead in disarmament, to give a lead in rearmament in consequence of recent events. I believe the immense moral influence and authority this country has in councils abroad, and particularly in the League of Nations, can best serve the interests of the world by continuing to labour for peace, by striving in every way possible to promote it, by not being disheartened when difficulties occur, and by having a definite policy and striving constantly to press it forward to the utmost of our ability. I believe moral influence in the world is a vastly important factor and cannot be very easily moved aside. It has its effect and the influence of this country has, I believe, grown during the last few years. In my view it has very great weight, and, there again, I do not think there is any challenge.

But I turn to the particular discussion —the alternatives to which the noble Lord referred. He talked at one moment of isolation, and obviously he could not agree. In this respect I find myself in complete agreement with him. I think it is idle for us to assume that we can isolate ourselves from Europe, for obviously, geographically, we are nearer to the Continent of Europe now than ever before in the world's history, by reason of inventions and the developments of science. What at one time was a long crossing of the channel now becomes a question, comparatively, of a few minutes. Therefore it does seem to me that we ought not to attempt to isolate ourselves, that we ought not to abandon the influences that we do possess, and that therefore we should continue to take our part where it properly should be taken.

The second alternative to which the noble Lord referred, as I understood his observations, was as to the continuation of the Disarmament Conference. I very much hope that it will continue. I do not believe that it will be useless, and indeed, so far as I have been able to understand from the President of that Conference, who is a member of the noble Lord's Party—from all I have read of him and know of his views, he would be the last to wish that the Conference should be discontinued. Indeed, it could not be discontinued. It has always been a great difficulty to know what would happen. Even in the short period when I was Foreign Secretary, although the Disarmament Conference had not yet commenced, nevertheless constantly questions were coming before me, and I remember perfectly well the perplexities that I saw in the situation and the difficulties that there would be in handling it. Of course, one recognises the simplicity with which the matter can be disposed of by those who have only to argue about it, especially on one side, and the immense obstacles which confront those who set themselves to work to make proposals. I am not suggesting that because those obstacles are so immense we need not trouble further about them. On the contrary, I say continue the Conference, proceed on your course, and strive to arrive at something practical.

Reference has been made to complete disarmament, and it was said by the noble Lord that, although that might be the view put forward—and I rather gather it is the view which he would like —no Government really could put that forward. I agree with his conclusion but not with the reasons which he gave. Obviously no Government, charged with the safety of its population and their interests, would for a moment dare to run that risk, especially when dealing with an Empire such as ours. I will not, however, take up further time on that subject.

The only other point is the fourth alternative to which the noble Lord referred, and that was in connection with the British Draft Convention, which was introduced early this year, I think, by the British Prime Minister. I do not agree that nothing had been done, as I have said already, firstly, because of the disarmament to which we have already had recourse. I would also, when it is said that we have done nothing, point to the British Draft Convention, and suggest to those who think about it, and who have taken the trouble to study it, that it was a great move by this country. It was definitely the conclusion of the British Cabinet—and it was really an important step to take, because it was the proposal of the British Government—that there should be equality of status for Germany. It completely changed the situation, and was going a long way ahead. What would follow from it, of course, had still to be discussed, and it is, I understand, because of the proposal and the difficulties which have emerged in striving to reach conclusions, that we have arrived at the present situation.

Do not let us leave out of account the fact that one of the reasons why it has become so difficult is the change of situation in Germany. I have no wish to discuss the new régime, but I think it is essential that, considering the situation, we should bear in mind that there was a great change. We should remember that when first the declaration of policy as to equality of status was made, we had not seen what has happened more recently, and there was not so much fear of militarism in Germany as many now think, and as I cannot help thinking, with some justice, we have reason to fear at this moment. But of course we must take into account the definite statement by the German Chancellor, and Baron von Neurath, in favour of peace, although we are not at the moment in agreement as to the means of arriving at it.

All I can find in the observations and arguments of the noble Lord seem to me not to advance the situation, except perhaps what he said finally, when asking the Government for their view. We are in this very difficult position at this moment, caused, no doubt, by the withdrawal of Germany from the League, but no one can suggest now, especially after Baron von Neurath's statement, that Germany's withdrawal from the League was because of the British Foreign Secretary's speech at Geneva. That, at any rate, has now completely disappeared, because the statements of the German Foreign Minister make it quite clear that in withdrawing they were acting in pursuance of a policy upon which they had made up their minds before Sir John Simon had uttered one word of his speech. Even so, it brings us eventually to this difficult question: How are we to operate? What are we to do? I agree with much of the criticism that fell from the noble Lord with regard to offensive and defensive armaments. I confess that I have never quite understood how it was expected to reach any satisfactory conclusion. I can understand why some armaments winch may appear to be more easily used for the purpose of defence should be retained, whilst others which would appear to be the most suitable for attack might be suppressed. I can follow that line of argument, but I have never been able quite to understand how you can distinguish between the two in the final conclusion and the use that is to be made of the weapons.

The noble Lord said that what he would desire is that these technical discussions should cease. No doubt he would find a great deal of support for that, but, even so, you have eventually got to come to them. I am afraid it is hopeless to think that you can get a reduction of armaments without discussing the various kinds of armaments. But eventually, it seems to me, we always got back to the same difficulty. We must depend upon agreement, and there must be means found of seeing that the agreements are carried out. I do not want to go into the question of inspection. Nevertheless, one cannot but think that that is one means, if not the only means, of securing knowledge of what is happening in a foreign country, and of realising whether or not there has been a breach of any convention that may have been made in respect to armaments. I do not suggest that such an inspection can be completely effective, but I do suggest that it is an effective means. I doubt whether there is anything more effective.

But, in any event, while anxious to hear whatever the noble and learned Viscount who leads the House will have to suggest as to the future, I think that wise words were uttered by the noble Lord when he said that we ought not to let false pride interfere with doing what we may think right. As a general proposition I do not think any one would dispute that. It becomes, of course, a little more difficult when you are dealing with nations, and especially when you are dealing with a number of them. But I ask the Government to tell us that they will not let any such question interfere with doing what seems to them the proper and legitimate thing, and of following the best means of reaching a conclusion. Particularly I imagine that if the Conference is to proceed now at Geneva we shall try to get all nations into it, and that we shall make every attempt, as I feel that we shall, to carry Russia and the United States with us, because that is of immense importance. If, as the result, you were to reach a conclusion in which all were quite definitely agreed, and Germany stood isolated, refusing to take part in it, refusing to discuss it with the League, cannot but think that the isolation in which Germany would be must have an important effect upon her, and that in the result the moral influence of the world would triumph over Germany if she attempted to take that course. I hope to see—I would even say that I expect to see—in the future that the League of Nations will gain strength, that it is not to come to an end as some suggest, and that, with the assistance of the League, we may give effect to what obviously our people want, and that is that we should continue to fight not only for our own peace but for the peace of the world.


My Lords, I cannot refrain, in rising to address your Lordships on a question of this kind, from adverting in one or two sentences to the very deplorable loss that your Lordships' House has suffered since we last discussed this question in the death of Viscount Grey of Fallodon. I do feel that we are poorer in approaching any question of foreign affairs without his guidance and his counsel, and I am quite sure that, as the years go on, there will be a fuller and a more complete recognition of his enormous merits as a Foreign Minister and his great leadership to this country during a great many years of his life.

I am very grateful to my noble friend Lord Ponsonby for raising this question. It is unquestionably one of enormous importance, and I am perfectly certain it is one which is exciting the very deepest interest all over the country. I have been very much struck lately in going about the country with the spontaneous interest taken in the matter. It is very, very deep. I do not recollect any question which has, apart from Party politics altogether, suddenly sprung forward into a matter of such deep interest as this question has done in the last few weeks. I was very glad to notice in the speech of the Foreign Secretary that he recognised that most fully, and said that he was confident that the country deeply desired both peace and disarmament. I believe that is true.

There are a good many subjects which have been touched on here and in the debate last night which I should have liked to say something about, but I am afraid of wearying your Lordships by prolonging my observations too much. In particular, I should have liked to say something about the question of the private manufacture of armaments, because it is a subject upon which I feel very deeply, but I am not going to say anything on the present occasion on that subject. I hope some future opportunity may arise when it can be debated, and fully debated. To my mind this topic divides itself into two parts—namely, the question of what has happened, the past, and inevitably the conduct of the Government in reference to the past; and the future. I feel myself—and in that respect I Am in agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby—that it is the future that is really interesting the country, and which is in itself of vast importance.

The past is only really of interest so far as it throws light on what we may expect in the future. Nevertheless, it is quite natural, with our Constitution, that when the matter comes up for debate, particularly in the House of Commons, it is the past conduct of the Government which fills the largest space. I observe that almost the whole discussion last night, or, at any rate, a very large part of it, raged round the question of how far, if at all, the Government was to blame. Therefore, I shall say a few words about that, but I do not wish to prolong these observations more than I can help. One of the subjects I am forced to leave aside, because I do not want to burden your Lordships too much, is the discussion of the measures of disarmament which we have taken ourselves and in respect of our own forces. There is rather more to be said on that subject than was said last night, but of course everyone recognises and admits and rejoices—perhaps everyone does not rejoice, but I at any rate rejoice—in the fact that a considerable measure of disarmament, or a considerable measure of reduction of armaments, has been undertaken by successive Governments.

Putting that aside for the moment, let me try to present, I hope without undue offensiveness to the Government, what is the anxiety that is felt about their conduct in the past. I am sure they will agree there is anxiety. There is a great feeling in the country that things are not going as well as they ought to go. What is the reason? Of course the suggestion is not—I cannot believe that it is to any extent, apart from a few extremists—that the Government are in favour of war. That is an absurdity. No Government that could be conceived in this country would ever be in favour of war. The feeling—and I admit I share it a little myself—is that there has been an inadequacy in the conduct of the disarmament negotiations. That is the thing. I know it is said that the Government have taken the initiative over and over again. They have certainly done something. It is quite inconceivable that any Government could have sat for two years in a great International Conference without saying anything or making any proposal. I do not suggest that for a moment. But I do say quite deliberately that they entered upon this Conference without any definite policy of disarmament in their minds at all. That I do say; and I say that is borne out by their conduct in the early months of the Conference. They made no definite proposal then at all. They proposed, I remember, a programme of work. That was not a proposal as to what should be done, but as to the method in which the work should be done. They made no actual proposal.

I think that was all the greater pity because at that stage it was quite evident there was a very large measure of agreement in the Conference as to the kind of steps that might be taken. There is no doubt about that at all. There is on record a speech of the Italian Foreign Minister making certain definite proposals for the abolition of those armaments which were forbidden to Germany. That was a perfectly definite proposal with only one qualification, and it was approved at the time by the German representative and by a very large number of the representatives of the smaller States. It was regarded, I shall not say with absolutely definite approval by the American representative, but still with a great deal of sympathy and in some respects with quite definite approval. It is quite true that the French Government pressed very strongly their view about security, but I have a very strong feeling that in the face of a real definite proposal being put forward you would be able to arrive at some conclusion with regard to French difficulties in that matter. Let me remind the House of the European situation at that time. You had as Chancellor in Germany Dr. Bruning, who was unquestionably favourable to that proposal on broad lines. You had the Italian Foreign Minister, Signor Grandi, who had avowed himself in favour of it. You had in the latter part of the summer a General Election in France which resulted in a great movement towards the Left, and which was very largely fought, as Frenchmen have assured me, on the question of peace and disarmament, and you had just come into office M. Herriot, who was, whatever may be said in criticism of that very distinguished statesman, unquestionably bound to make a move in that direction if he could do so.

If at that time the British Government had come forward with a definite scheme, I believe there would have been a very good chance of complete agreement, and it is because nothing was done at that time that I think there is ground for making criticism of the British Government. But it was not only the question of what was actually done. There was the whole atmosphere in which the negotiations were being conducted. There was no Cabinet Minister in charge. I have said this to your Lordships before, and I shall not dwell on it more than a moment. Ministers came out from London, stayed for a few days, and returned to London, and the impression was created, wrongly or rightly, but in fact created, I can assure the House, that the British Government were not really in favour of disarmament—certainly that they did not regard it as a matter of the first importance or one on which the whole future of Europe, as I think, depended. That was the situation which undoubtedly existed, and undoubtedly caused the impression that I have described both abroad and in this country. I do not believe that any honest, man, looking at the facts at that time, will really dispute that such an impression existed.

It was a little confirmed, let me say this, by the treatment of this question of disarmament in Ministerial speeches. I am not going to give you a catena of speeches, but there was a considerable number of speeches, partly by important Ministers, partly by—I shall not say unimportant, because they are all important—but by Ministers of less importance, in which the question of disarmament was treated (shall I say?) cavalierly, as a rather troublesome question which they did not think mattered very much. That was the kind of atmosphere. I do not wish to say anything which will be offensive to the Government, but even the Prime Minister seemed to me to take that line. He scarcely ever mentioned disarmament in his speeches. I could not tell how many speeches he made on the subject, but very few, and on some occasions at any rate, as when he went to Rome, he used language in which he appeared to suggest that the proceedings at Geneva were matters of very minor importance. It was that kind of atmosphere, that kind of talk—it is for others to say whether that really represented the views of the Government or not—which is very largely responsible for the anxiety which exists at the present time in the country on the subject.

I know my noble friends believe that it is all due to the wicked propaganda of the Labour Party, led by that now almost mythical figure, Sir Stafford Cripps. I can assure my noble friends that they greatly exaggerate the value and effectiveness of Labour propaganda or. indeed, of any propaganda. I have often wondered how the great mass of my fellow-countrymen arrive at their political opinions. I have never been able to satisfy myself that propaganda has anything to do with it, but they do reach conclusions, sometimes very strong and vigorous conclusions, deeply held. I believe it is by a kind of political intuition, and I do not believe there is any other reasonable explanation of it. I do not for a moment believe that the speeches, however eloquent, of this or that political leader produce more than a very moderate effect. I do think that the cause of this anxiety is the doubt created by the attitude of the Government themselves and what they themselves have said. It is that which causes doubt to spring up in the minds of the people, doubt as to whether they are really putting their backs into the question, whether they really regard it as a question that matters and one on which the whole future of this country and indeed of civilisation may depend.

That is the way vast numbers of my fellow-countrymen regard the question. Until they are satisfied the Government take that view also they will feel anxiety in the matter. I quite admit that during the debate last night there were many passages, particularly in the speech of the Foreign Secretary, which I was very glad to read, which did recognise that he felt very deeply the great importance of the question, the vast importance of the success of this disarmament movement, and, not least, the immense importance of doing everything that could be done to strengthen the League of Nations. I am very glad that that was so, and I hope —I hesitate to use this language—that the period of nebulosity with regard to disarmament is over, and that we shall have a very vigorous and concrete attitude adopted by the Government speakers themselves in the future. My criticism of last night's debate is that so little was told us as to what was really the future policy of the Government. That is what the country wants to know. We do very much want to know what exactly the Government are going to do. They told us that the Conference was to go on. That was very good as far as it goes, but it was nothing new. We knew that before. But they did not tell us what attitude they were going to take when the Conference met.

I ventured to describe what was the attitude of the Government in the beginning of the Conference. I said that it was not anything very definite. They had no definite policy. They were prepared to accept any suggestions that were made and to consider them, but they did not come forward and make any suggestions themselves. I do hope that nothing of that kind is going to be done in the coming meeting of the Conference. There was an ominous phrase, which I hope I was mistaken about, in the Foreign Secretary's speech about this being a matter which mainly concerned France and Germany. I do hope that kind of attitude is not going to translate itself into action when the Conference meets. It is absolutely vital to the success of the Conference that we should come forward with a perfectly definite and clear policy. I will say in a moment what I think the policy ought to be. Unless that is done, I am quite confident there is no prospect of the success of the Conference.

What do I suggest? It is not my business, perhaps, to suggest anything, but, as Captain Eden the other day was good enough to ask those who made criticisms to make constructive criticisms, I will, for what it is worth, make some effort in that direction. I listened with great attertion and interest to the suggestions made by my noble friend Lord Ponsonby. He wants something striking and new in the policy. In a way, so do I But he thinks nothing can be done with the present British Draft Convention. If I understood him rightly, he would rather favour dropping that and starting something entirely fresh. With the greatest respect to him I think that would be a very dangerous course. I think if you were to drop that which, after all, has received a measure of approval from the Conference, and start something entirely fresh, the probability is that you would find yourselves in greater difficulties than you are in at present. I would rather say what I have always said, that the presentation of the Draft Convention, though it came, as I think, a year too late, or very nearly a year too late, was a step in the right direction. It was a definite proposal. It did enable the Conference to begin to discuss things practically and seriously. I do not mean to say, I never have said, that I thought the Convention was perfect, or nearly perfect, but it was a step in the right direction. I would, therefore, prefer to see whether you cannot so amend that Convention as to make it a practical proposal on which agreement can be reached.

I am about to say something of the Germans, and I wish to preface it by saying that I was much flattered by the quotation from observations of mine made by the Foreign Secretary—a quotation which he made, oddly enough, for the second time, and I am very grateful to him for quoting me. I adhere to everything I said then and which he quoted. I think that the conduct of the Germans in withdrawing from the Conference, whatever may be said about their grievance, was a most unfortunate step and can only be explained, as it was explained by my noble friend Lord Ponsonby, by the curious infelicity in diplomatic negotiations which the German Government has always shown. I think it was a most deplorable step. Nevertheless, I cannot help wondering whether an agreement is not possible all the same. I think it is.

I was shown yesterday a document which I am going, if your Lordships will so far permit me, to read to the House. It is the translation of a statement that has appeared in a French newspaper, and it purports to be a copy of the official Note sent by the German Foreign Minister in reply to a proposed Anglo-Franco-American Convention. The notice is dated October 6. I have sent my noble friend (Viscount Hailsham) a copy of this document. I will not read anything which is not in that document. This document may be an entire illusion. I do not know. I am going to ask my noble friend whether he can help me about it. This is the document: (1) The German Government is willing to accept, as a basis, the British plan. One of the questions I want to ask my noble friend is, supposing this document to be a genuine document and not a mere illusion, what is meant by the British plan? It considers reasonable the proposal for a Convention to be signed for a period of five years, as laid down in the above-mentioned plan. But it is impossible for the German Government to accept the proposal relative to a trial period. The German Government has no objection to the proposed disarmament being effected by stages, for practical reasons relative to the disposal of material. It would be possible to fix the period of the first stage for two years after signature, and that of the second stage for three years after the expiry of the first. The German Government will be forced to claim that the principle of equality of rights be applied as soon as the first stage shall be put into force. (2) Germany is prepared, as proof of her desire for conciliation, to undertake to change the Reichswehr into an army made up of short-term recruits. The Government of the Reich is, however, unable to give precise indication with regard to the quality and quantity of material required by this new army until the actual conditions laid down in the Convention regarding material are known. (3) The British plan deals with three distinct categories of land weapons:—

  1. (1) Arms to be absolutely prohibited in the future:
  2. (2) arms to be limited quantitatively:
  3. (3) arms to be authorised to the Powers without any limitations whatsoever.
With regard to the first category, Germany is prepared to accept any prohibition of any weapon whatever, provided that this prohibition be applied generally. Further, Germany is prepared to give up all kinds of weapons owned at the present time by the armed nations on condition
  1. (1) that these nations undertake to destroy these weapons in a given period, which should not exceed the period of the Convention:
  2. (2) that the use of these weapons be prohibited in the future."
That is a little obscure, but according to my reading—I may be wrong—it means that if the other nations will agree to give up at the end of five years certain weapons then the Germans will not ask for them. They will not ask to be allowed to have weapons which are ultimately going to be destroyed.

The document goes on: The German Government wishes to be informed as soon as possible exactly what weapons the interested Powers propose to prohibit and destroy. With regard to the second category that is those to be kept to some extent— it is estimated, according to the British plan, that certain kinds of weapons will be limited qualitatively and quantitatively. The Government of the Reich is anxious to know as soon as possible how these weapons will be defined, and what will be the quantitative limits imposed. By the application of the principle of equality of rights, Germany should be authorised from the beginning of the application of the Convention to possess certain kinds of weapons which the other Powers will be authorised to keep in specified numbers. The only point remaining for discussion is the exact number of weapons in this category to be allowed to Germany. (4) With regard to the third category (weapons to be limited neither quantitatively nor qualitatively) the Government of the Reich estimates that there will be no question of any limitation for Germany so long as no limitation is laid down for the other Powers. The document goes on to elaborate that a little and I do not think I need read the rest.

Your Lordships will observe that according to that statement, if it was really made, the Germans accepted the principle of short service. They accepted disarmament by stages, by periods which do not seem on the face of them very unreasonable—that is to say, a total period of five years divided into two sub-periods of two years and three years. They accepted the general prohibition of weapons, and, if I am right in my reading, they said that they would not ask for any which are to be abolished within the five years. I put aside, for the satisfaction of my noble friend Lord Ponsonby, the discussion as to whether these were offensive or defensive weapons. That does not really arise in this way of looking at it. It was a question of reaching some step of equality with Germany irrespective of the question of offensive or defensive weapons. I must say to safeguard myself that I do not accept the view that it is impossible to make any such distinction in practice. That is what they accepted. Then they demanded the right to have those weapons which were ultimately to be kept. That is to say, if the other Powers said that they propose to keep tanks under sixteen tons—there was something I think, of that kind in the first British plan—the Germans said: "If you are going to keep them always, then we ought to be allowed to have them immediately." I think the answer to the German difficulty is to say that we do not propose to keep them. That is the proper answer, and if that is so the Germans would have said that they did not want them.

Then comes the demand for complete freedom as to other arms. I do not know what are the exact technical difficulties, but that seems to me a matter of minor importance. It does seem to me, having made that demand, and baying had no official reply—or at least no reply from the Conference—the conduct of Germany in withdrawing is still more extraordinary. On the face of it it looks as if there were reasonable prospect of agreement being reached on some such terms. I should be very grateful to my noble and learned friend if he is in a position to tell me whether there is any truth in that statement. It comes from a respectable French newspaper and it appears to be a translation of a definite official document. I shall be grateful to him if he can tell me what is the British plan referred to, and whether any official reply was sent to this German document. I hope that my noble friend Lord Ponsonby in his Motion for Papers will include a Motion that the Papers shall be laid upon the Table of your Lordships' House. I do not know what the British plan was, and it is impossible to know how far the Germans came, but obviously there are some conditions which will necessarily have to be made to any acceptance of the German plan. There must be provision for the control of armaments, for supervision of disarmament, and there must be, I think, provision as to what is to happen to a country which, after accepting definite limitation of armaments, proceeded to break that acceptance and to rearm. Those things would have to be dealt with, but I cannot help feeling that there does seem to be some basis of discussion, and I shall be intensely grateful if my noble and learned friend in his reply can give us any hope that that kind of discussion is still open.

If I might venture to do so I would say that what I conceive to be the kind of proposal which might be serviceable would be that, when the General Commission meets again, there should be an amendment to the British draft plan proposed on the kind of lines which I have described in reading the German Note. The British Government should lay that down as what they propose. I know that it is said: "Well, we cannot do anything without consulting this or that Power and we must be guided by whether they are favourable or not." I ask your Lordships whether that is a reasonable position in which to put the Powers you are consulting. They are asked in private to come forward and sponsor definite proposals which will almost certainly be violently criticised by a section of their own public opinion. It is not doing them any service. It is far better that the proposal should be put forward as the brutal British proposals. No doubt there would be a certain amount of criticism of the British Government, but that would not break our bones. It is not so difficult to give way to proposals made and supported by a great mass of international opinion as it is for Governments to agree from the first with proposals which will get them into trouble with their supporters.

I do not much believe in private talks, but let the Government have them if they think them useful. They should, however, put these proposals forward on their own responsibility. They should put forward an amended British plan and then the Conference should go through it, as we go through a Bill in this House, and vote. I do not believe in the doctrine that the Conference should not vote. I believe that in the end you would have a Convention approved by an overwhelming majority of those represented at the Conference, because I believe the overwhelming majority are passionately anxious to get something done. You would get it and go to the full Conference and say: "Here is a document which has been approved by the General Commission by an immense majority." Is there anybody who is going to take the responsibility of destroying that document by refusing assent? It may be there would be some, but better we should know it if there is. I think that probably nobody would take that responsibility.

When you have this document, either at that or an earlier stage, you would say to the Germans: "Here is a proposal and we should be glad of your observations. We should have been glad of your assistance, but we can only present to you what we suggest and we should like to know what you think of it." It may be said that that would be humiliating to us. I do not think so. There was a big meeting I attended at Geneva just before I came back and a French speaker, M. Pichot, representing the ex-combatants—there are two big societies, one called F.I.D.A.C. and the other C.I.A.M.A.C., and it was one or other of those two—speaking as a man who had been wounded in the War, urged this very procedure. "Do not give it to the Germans," he said, "as an ultimatum, but ask them for their assistance. When you have made your document, ask for their consideration of it, because I think that is the best way of reaching agreement." If the Germans accepted it you would get what you wanted; if they rejected it, and rejected it unreasonably, I agree there would have to be a consultation of the Council of the League to see what could be done. I shall not anticipate what the results of that would be in this matter. I am delighted to find I have the unexpected support of Mr. Winston Churchill, who apparently thinks that this is the moment when the League of Nations could operate with immense effect. Whatever you do I am sure you cannot hope to succeed unless you have presented beforehand to the German Government a treaty which is reasonable and fair and will take full and reasonable account of their objections, and which is also reasonable and fair to the French and will take full account of their objections. I see no impossibility about meeting one or the other, and I earnestly hope that the policy of the Government will be something like that.

It is absurd for me to say to your Lordships, who are as well aware of it as I am, that this crisis is of an immensely serious character. We have to face not only in this country, where it is not very powerful, but in other countries, a determined attack on the whole organisation of peace. If there is to be a complete failure and we have to admit that our organisation of peace, whether of the League of Nations or whatever it may be, has failed, there will be a serious set-back to the whole scheme and spirit of that organisation. I do not know what the consequences may be, but they will be in my Judgment extremely serious and as far as I can see, it means, without question or doubt, that if this plan of organising and protecting peace has to be abandoned, sooner or later, and I am afraid not very late, we shall come again to the terrible consequence of war and the absolutely catastrophic results which war must have on the civilisation of the world. I do not believe that will happen, but unless the Government are really going to put the whole of their strength into this question and not allow minor considerations—no doubt of value, but not of the first importance, of a technical or other character of that kind—to hamper them, to cause a want of vigour or determination in their conduct of the case, I am very much afraid the chances of success are extremely remote. Even now, though it is rather late, if the Government put their whole strength into this, backed up, as they will be, by the whole of the Dominions of the Commonwealth in the great efforts to secure disarmament, I believe they will succeed, and I am sure it is only a moderate statement of the truth that the country is watching with the deepest anxiety what may be the outcome of the present state of things.


My Lords, whatever differences of opinion there may be in regard to the Motion upon the Paper there seems to be general agreement that the House is indebted to my noble friend Lord Ponsonby for initiating this debate. No one is more qualified than he to initiate a debate on disarmament both by his profound knowledge of the subject and by his record of public life for nearly thirty years. The last two speeches showed considerable divergence of opinion in regard to whether the Government had or had not given a lead at the Disarmament Conference. The noble Marquess who leads the Liberal Party was of opinion that a lead had been given, although I gather it was not so much at the Disarmament Conference—


I referred to the Draft Convention.


The Draft Convention was simply the odds and ends left over and was put forward at least a year too late, and prior to that the Government had given no lead. They had been turning down proposal after proposal—that the history of the first twelve months of the Conference—culminating in the farcical alternative proposal to the United States. How is it possible in those circumstances to say that any lead worthy of the name has been given at Geneva? The country does not think it has been given. It did not think so at East Fulham, or Kilmarnock, where the majority came (town by 9,000, and evidently they do not think so at Skipton, where the Government vote is down by 10,000. We are faced by grave times. I do not think there is immediate danger of war, but it is the tendency of these times which matters and nothing will apparently shake the complacency of the Government. Whoever is to blame, they have done nothing wrong—Hitler is to blame and ought not to have left the Conference, but Hitlerism has been produced because for years the Treaty of Versailles has not been carried out. I believe that if we had been in the position of Germany and things had dragged on so long we would have left the League of Nations.

The question of the lead Britain has given in Disarmament is one which should be carefully examined. The Government case put yesterday by the Foreign Secretary is that, comparing the destroyers, and the capital ships with those of 1914, there has been a considerable reduction and, comparing am numbers of the Army there has been a reduction, but the Foreign Secretary skipped lightly over the Air Force. What is the total result? The Val expenditure on armaments in this country in 1914 just before the War began—and it was not low then ill view of the unsettled state of Europe—was about £80,000,000. In the current year it is practically £109,000,000. Where is disarmament on a big scale? Making an allowance for the change in price level it comes to pretty much the same figure now as before the War.


What about the armaments of other nations?


If the noble Lord will allow me, I will make my speech in my own way. He ought to know that it is not possible for a speaker to say everything all at once. I say, looking at those figures, that there has been no disarmament on a big scale at all. Obviously there has not. We are spending practically as much, even allowing for the change in the value of money, as in 1914. The noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, made a speech not long ago in which he said we could not possibly do anything more, and that we had already done more than anybody else. That may be true, but it does not alter the fact that we have not carried out the pledges which we gave in the Treaty of Versailles.


Does the noble Lord say that we have not carried out the pledges given at Versailles? I was present at the signing of the Treaty, and at all the Conferences, and I say that that is absolutely untrue. Every pledge that we have given we have carried out to the full.


I am very much surprised to hear the noble Lord make that statement, because taking the words of the Treaty of Versailles I do not think the statement can possibly be substantiated. We entered, for instance, into the Covenant of the League of Nations, and we have not carried it out. The fact remains. No doubt our record is better than the record of France in regard to disarmament. France has increased her armaments enormously since the Treaty of Locarno, although then undertaking that disarmament should follow. Disarmament has not followed. The noble Viscount or the Foreign Secretary has stated that we have disarmed to the edge of risk. What risk? Against whom do we want armaments at this moment? Is it against Germany? Germany is supposed to be disarmed. Are we to be armed against France, our pre-war Ally? Is it Italy, or Japan, from whom we are separated by I do not know how many thousands of miles of sea? Is it the United States? What is the risk in carrying disarmament even further than it has been carried by this country? I am prepared to agree that compared with other countries our record is the best, but it is the fact that neither in the spirit nor in the letter have the Treaties of Versailles and Locarno been carried out.

Why, even in the current year there has been an increase of armaments in this country. There is an increased armament budget of £4,500,000 this year, while the Government are preaching economy, and the social services are being starved and the Sinking Fund is suspended to reduce the tax on beer, in order to make a present to the brewers. Let us get the facts about these things. The Government are very sensitive on this point of disarmament, in view of the by-elections, and complain that it is unfair to say that they are not as keen about disarmament as other Parties. It is not what the country thinks. What did the noble Marquess say? He said that our expenditure on armaments was a good insurance, and that if a bigger premium were wanted we would willingly pay it. That is not the talk of a man who is keen on disarmament, and it is this kind of thing which has led to great disquietude in the minds of a great many people in the country. That cannot be denied.

The general situation in Europe is that statesmen will do everything for disarmament except do it. They will talk about it, go to Geneva, write about it, confer about it, and perorate about it, but they will not do it. And yet the peoples want disarmament, and statesmen are pledged to carry it out, and now, fifteen years after the War, it has not been done. Statesmen will take no real risk for peace and that is the trouble. France will not take any risk for peace, none whatever, and I do not agree that we ourselves are taking anything which can be called a real risk for peace. It is an exaggeration of language to use those words. Unless a halt is called there will be nothing before us ere long but a renewal of the race for armaments, and war will come, sooner or later.

There is one, as I consider, very fundamental matter in regard to the present situation, which so far has not been discussed in this House nor yesterday in another place, and it has a very direct bearing upon the whole question of disarmament, and of war in the future. The whole character of warfare for the future is changed owing to the development of aerial warfare. That cannot be denied. The old idea that you could preserve the peace and ensure security by preparing for war, has now gone, because of the development of aerial warfare. The position is that there is no effective defence against aerial attack at the present time, and I think that that is a matter which all Governments and all peoples ought to face. It is vitally necessary to realise the change which has come about. It is the heart and centre of the whole business, and Lord Rothermere is calling for 5,000 aeroplanes, but that will not help you materially. I see Lord Halsbury sitting in his place, and he made a speech in 1928 to which I listened attentively, and which I have read several times since. That is a compliment which I pay to very few speeches, whether made in this House or outside. It was a most weighty speech. The noble Earl has had experience, owing to his work in the late War, and subsequent study and investigation of this matter, and he has pointed out the tremendous peril to London which would unquestionably arise in the case of another war. He has even gone so far as to say that if conditions were sufficiently favourable, forty tons of gas would be sufficient to decimate the whole population of London. Forty tons of poisonous gas is nothing compared to what will happen in the next war. It would be a mere bagatelle. He finished up his speech by saying that any expert would agree with this, that London is at the mercy of any nation that is close enough and evilly disposed enough to come and obliterate it. London could be absolutely and completely obliterated. There is no secret about these things.

I would like to commend to your Lordships' attention a book called "The Character of the next War," issued by the Inter-Parliamentary Union of Geneva. It has been described as the most terrible book ever written. It is a very terrible book. That book makes it perfectly clear that as things stand at present there is no effective defence against aerial attack, particularly in any gigantic town like London. We have here collected in one area nearly one-fourth of the population of Great Britain; nearly as many as are living in the whole of Canada, and one and a-half times as many as are in the whole of Australia—all herded together in one not very big area. What are you going to do about it? Your 5,000 aeroplanes will not help you. There is no effective defence. Professor Noel Baker, one of our very great international authorities, in this book says that under present conditions there are no means of defence against such attacks. In the English manœuvres not very long ago 250 aeroplanes converged on the capital. Only sixteen of them were discovered by the searchlights. There is no guarantee whatever that those sixteen would be shot down. The other 234 were free to roam at, will over the whole ext of London. There is no secret about these things.

The question is what are you going to do about it? It is no good having a big Air Force, or a big Navy—how will the Navy help you against that sort of thing? It is no use having a big Army; how will it help you? There has been a complete change in the situation. The fact is that civilisation has now got to the stage when it can pretty easily destroy itself. That is what it has come to. I suppose that is what Mr. Baldwin meant in a recent speech when he said that the next war, as far as he could judge, would be the end of civilisation as we know it. When you have got to that stage there is only one thing to do, and that is to disarm—to get agreement to disarm if possible. Do not mobilise these terrible instruments which have the power to desolate the whole population of London with a not very large number of tons of poison gas. And it is not only London, but other big towns as well. With the increased power and range of aeroplanes no great city in Great Britain will be safe. It may be said, Cannot we retaliate? Of course we can if we have enough aeroplanes, but what is the good of that? What, satisfaction, what advantage would it be to us, if London has been decimated, to go and do the same to cities on the Continent? It does not really help you. No, the situation has now become so appalling that if humanity is to be saved it must come to some agreement with regard to disarmament, or somehow disarmament must be brought about.

What is to be done? As the noble Viscount has just pointed out, Sir John Simon is going back to Geneva to carry on apparently in pretty much the same way as he has carried on before. That has meant failure hitherto, and I am not hopeful of any better result, certainly if the matter is to be in the hands of Sir John Simon. There again, it is a pity that the Government do not realise what a great many people in the country think about their Foreign Secretary. This is too serious to be burked. I consider that Sir John Simon is the worst Foreign Secretary this country has had for fifty years, and I could wish very much that if these matters are to be carried on again at Geneva somebody else should go as Foreign Secretary. He never ought to have been put at the Foreign Office.

He scarcely possesses one of the essentials that a British Foreign Secretary should have. He was only put in there as a makeshift in this so-called National Government. They had to do something for him, and he was put in there as a. sort of balance, as part of the penalty that had to be paid for this log-rolling, this so-called National Government.

A great deal has been said in the course of the debate, and Sir John Simon said the same thing yesterday—in that sense I agree with him—to the fact that there is much power in the moral factor. The noble Marquess said it. Very well, I go so far as to say this. Let Great Britain do all she can to bring other nations into agreement with regard to disarmament. Failing that, I personally shall he prepared to suggest that we disarm ourselves—disarmament by example. I believe, if you did that, you would set the way which other nations would follow. Herr Hitler has said he is prepared to go down to the last machine-gun if other countries trill do the same. Russia has made that offer too. If we cannot get agreement I shall be prepared that we ourselves should rim the risk, whatever the risk may be. It is not a big risk, because you cannot have any security whatever in regard to the air. I think it is the lesser risk of the two. I do not believe that if you did that you would be in danger yourselves. As my noble friend Lord Ponsonby said in a previous debate, if Great Britain did that I do not believe that Germany or anybody else could mobilise sufficiently to attack us; they would not have the moral factor behind them among their own people. I do not believe that the thing can be done.

Before I sit down I want to say one or two words about another matter which has not been mentioned in this debate to-day, but which figured largely in the discussions in another place yesterday. I mean the Treaty of Locarno. I am not going to discuss the Treaty of Locarno to-day. I am not going to consider how far the recent happenings have invalidated Locarno. What I do say is this, that as disarmament in effect was a part of the Locarno Treaty, if it could have been forseen that that disarmament was not going to take place and that France, so far from disarming, was going considerably to increase her armaments; and if it could have been foreseen that Ger- many would leave the League of Nations, as I am afraid she may do, I do not believe the Treaty of Locarno would ever have been signed. However that may be, I feel that these are days for plain speaking, otherwise we arrive nowhere. And I do protest against members of the Government, Mr. Baldwin and others, going about with their hands on their hearts and saying: "Of course we shall keep our word; our word is our bond," and so forth. Your Lordships know as well as I do that all countries make treaties, and all countries break treaties. If it suits them to keep treaties they keep them; if it does not suit them to keep them, they do not. If our word is our bond, what about the Kellogg Pact, what about various clauses of the Treaty of Versailles'? Treaties have their place in international relations, but do not let us make ourselves ridiculous by going about and saying that we always keep our treaties. Because, as a matter of fact, we do not. It is not historically true.

My own view, reading between the lines of what Sir John Simon said yesterday, is that if Germany does go out of the League of Nations Locarno is absolutely dead. In any case according to him it amounts to practically nothing. The French have never taken it as amounting to anything whatever, as far as we can see. There is not the slightest indication that France has refrained from adding one extra gun on account of Locarno. There are many opinions in the country about Locarno. I am not suggesting for a moment that this Government favour war or would willingly go to war. Of course they would not. No Government would do that. It is a question of their policy, and of the tendency of their policy. But I do tell the Government that if, later on, it comes to another war, they are not going to have the British people mobilised behind them en masse, as they did in the last war. That will not happen. I was reading not very long ago in a paper very far removed from pacifism words to the effect that, Locarno or no Locarno, British Government or no British Government, the British people would not consent to have an army sent abroad to fight on the Continent again. If that kind of thing is appearing in papers favourable to the Government, it shows it is going to be a very difficult thing to mobilise the British people again for war on the Continent of Europe.

I am quite aware that those of us who speak as I have done, those of us who are pacifists, are open to attack—not that I think it is justified—and we are also open to something stronger, abuse and so on. But I do hope, as Lord Ponsonby said to-day, we are not going to have those cheap jibes which not infrequently fall from the Treasury Bench on such occasions. Times are too serious to allow of that. Let us have the matter thoroughly discussed. We have our case. We utter a protest against the emphatic protestations of those who take the view that it is only by arming up to the hilt that we can keep the peace. We deny that. But if there are to be these dogmatic assertions, we pacifists also can enter the ring. We are in a very strong position. There are a few things we can say. We may be pacifists so far as warfare is concerned, but we are not pacifists in debate. We are quite prepared to hit back, and lay down our own propositions, and before I sit down I shall lay down six, all of which I believe to be incontrovertible.

The first is that the undertakings regarding disarmament given at Versailles and Locarno have not been carried out. The second is that people everywhere want disarmament, and it is the duty of statesmen to give effect to the pledges which have been given and to effect disarmament. The third is that all attempts to limit warfare by what is called qualitative disarmament will fail in the future as they have failed in the past. The fourth proposition is that there is no effective defence against air attacks, and that the next war is likely to inflict the most appalling destruction on civilian populations, to say nothing of damage to houses and property. Fifthly, it cannot be disputed that another war would not settle anything, but would inflict nearly as much harm upon the victors as upon the vanquished. My last proposition is this, that the only sure safeguard for civilisation, having regard to the position which has now developed, lies in universal disarmament, and that any risk involved in Great Britain alone giving a lead in that direction is less than the risk involved in any other course. If we cannot get agree went, let Great Britain do that. It be the right course, and in the end I believe it will prove to be the safest course.


My Lords, I apologise to your Lordships for intervening at the present stage because I know there are some of your Lordships who have not yet spoken and whom we shall look forward to hearing a little later on, but one or two points have been made, notably by my noble and learned friend Lord Cecil, which I think require answering publicly at a time when they can reach the public, and therefore have felt it desirable in the, general interest that I should say what I have to say at this stage. I would like to preface my remarks by observing how profoundly I share the regret which my noble friend Lord Peel expressed earlier in the clay that there is no representative of the Foreign Office here to answer for the Government. It is quite true of course that as a Cabinet Minister I know the minds of my colleagues and I share responsibility for Government policy. But nobody knows better than my noble friend Lord Cecil how different it is for the Minister who is actually in charge of the Department to speak on any particular topic compared with a colleague who may be fully informed as to the policy which it is decided to pursue, but who may not fully appreciate the repercussions of all that he says on collateral matters, which perhaps are not so present in his mind as in the mind of the Foreign Secretary. However, I shall do the best I can to deal with the criticisms that have been put forward.

To begin with, I should like to accept, what I think everybody in this House has stated, that there is no difference between the Parties in general, not merely in their desire, but in their burning anxiety for the preservation of peace. That was very powerfully stated by the noble and learned Marquess who leads the Liberal Party, and it is, in fact, axiomatic in the policy of every Party. If I make any complaint against the Socialist Party opposite it is not that I suppose that they believe anything different from what I have just said, that they do not fully believe and know that we are as anxious as they are for peace, but, I do complain that they use language in the country which is calculated to give the opposite impression, and that they endeavour to use the real desire for peace which people of all Parties share as a Party weapon by misrepresenting the Government as being in favour of war. The noble Lord who introduced the debate began by stating that there had grown up in this country a general distrust of the attitude of His Majesty's Government with regard to disarmament, and the noble Lord who spoke last, and who indulged in what he called plain speaking but which some other people might call personal abuse, vaunted himself on the fact that the by-elections to which he referred showed that the general distrust had taken root in the minds of people outside. No doubt it is I rue that it has been the constant anxiety and effort of the Socialist Party in recent months to create such a general distrust, but I cannot think that in doing that they are serving the cause of disarmament or the cause of peace.

But I do not want this evening to deal with the matters which have been discussed on any sort of Party lines. I feel bound to register that protest, however. I do not intend, if my noble friend Lord Cecil wilt forgive me, to enter afresh into controversy with him as to the conduct of the Government in February, 1932, and as to whether we ought to have brought forward specific proposals, different from those of the Preparatory Convention which was prepared by the Committee over which my noble friend presided—


No, no. I did not preside, I was a, member.


—the Committee of which my noble friend was a very prominent member; or whether it was possible to persuade France, for instance, to abandon submarines, or Japan or the United States to abandon battleships eighteen months ago. All I can say is that if my noble friend has information which leads him to think that was possible, it is information that has not reached me. I rather prefer to deal with the present situation which is, after all, the matter which is most important, from the point of view not merely of this country but of the peace of the world as a whole. The noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, complained that there had been a lack of leadership on the part of Great Britain, and he said that the world was waiting for a bold lead from this country. I waited, and I am sure all your Lordships waited, with anxiety to hear a suggestion as to what direction that lead should take, because we at any rate in the National Government are anxious to get the most useful suggestions, no matter from what unlikely quarter they may emanate. But when I get his suggestions I confess—I hope he will forgive me for saying it—I did not find they were very helpful.

He told us that there were four possible courses, of which the third was to go on along the old lines working on the British Draft, and that was a plan which he thought was no good. It incidentally happens to be the plan which, if I understood him aright, the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, thought was the only promising one. The noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, preferred the fourth plan, to follow up what he called the policy of his Party, and the policy of his Party consisted, in part, of strengthening the League of Nations and of bringing Soviet Russia and the United States of America into the League. He will forgive me for saying that these are not statements of policy, but an aspiration. We should all like to see the League of Nations strengthened. We should all rejoice to see the nations which have at present stayed outside coming into it. But it is not a Party policy or a policy of a Party in this country to make the United States or Soviet Russia come into the League. We can hope they will. We can encourage them if they show any desire to do it. We can welcome them if they do come. But those are aspirations which, I suppose, we all share, but which, unfortunately, at present do not look very likely to be fulfilled.

Then he went on to propose what undoubtedly was a definite policy. He proposed that the United Kingdom should go to Geneva and should there invite all the nations to reduce their arms to the scale which was permitted to Germany under the Treaty of Versailles. I think I am correctly quoting what he desired. That, no doubt, is a very heroic gesture, but what the Government desire to do is to achieve agreement at Geneva and I wonder whether there is a single member of this House, or a single person who has studied contemporary politics in either House, who seriously believes that that proposal has the remotest chance of acceptance, or that the effect of it could possibly be to produce agreement at Geneva. Does anybody suppose that if we were to invite France to-day to disarm to the extent to which Germany is now disarmed, she would do it? Does anybody expect that if we invited Japan to disarm to the extent which Germany is now disarmed and to discard those weapons which Germany is not at present permitted to have under the Treaty of Versailles, she would do it? Does anybody suppose the United States would do it? I mention only three Powers, not because they are particularly aggressive Powers, but because they happen to be three of the greatest Powers. Does anybody suppose for that matter that Italy would do it?

It is a wholly unpractical and useless policy to go and put forward as the British proposal at Geneva something which we know in advance must be rejected by all those whose assent is essential if we are to produce any form of Convention at all. Therefore this much-vaunted plan really is a counsel of despair, and certainly it is not the policy of His Majesty's Government, and I do not believe it ever would be the policy of any responsible Government if it once had to face the responsibility of dealing with facts instead of making debating points. But because that policy is hopeless, I hope nobody imagines that it is hopeless to try and do anything. My noble friend Lord Cecil put forward a different suggestion. He began by reading a document which he was good enough to send to me three or four hours ago and about which he then informed me he was intending to ask some questions. I have not had it very long.


I ought to apologise to my noble friend for not having sent it earlier, but it really was not possible for me to do so.


I was not making a complaint but only an explanation. I have not had long to investigate it, but I have communicated with the Foreign Office. I can assure my noble friend that the document is a document which we saw for the first time when he sent me a copy. It purports to be an official Note sent by Herr von Neurath in reply to a proposed Anglo-France American Convention. There is Anglo-Franco-American Convention, and there has been no Note delivered to the British Government by the German Government on anything like these lines. But what embarrasses me a little, because I have to take rather a difficult position, is that if I left it at that I should certainly convey a misleading impression to the House. We have never seen this document, we have never heard of this document, and we have no knowledge that any such document existed, and as a Note to this Government I do not believe it does exist, but it is perfectly true that during the months from June to the 14th October there were proceeding constant conversations between this country, the United States, Italy, France and Germany. There were negotiations and discussions which were arranged to take place when the Conference adjourned in July, and which everybody desired should take place, in order to see how far it was possible to reach complete agreement upon what was called the British plan, the British Convention which we put forward in March of this year, and what modifications, if any, might be suggested or accepted by other parties.

In the course of those negotiations it is perfectly true that at one period there was a suggestion made by one of the other Governments that a modification, which would not affect the essential features of the Draft Convention, would be for the Convention to be longer in its period than was originally suggested. Five years was the period in our Convention, and it was suggested that might be lengthened perhaps to eight years, and that the eight years period should be divided up into two parts; that during the first part there should take place a transformation of the continental long service, or comparatively long service, armies into a shorter service, into what has sometimes been described as a militia basis; that during that first part certain categories of weapons should be no longer manufactured, and that during the second part of the eight years period certain weapons, which at present existed, should be destroyed, and that quantities of other weapons which were still allowed to exist should be reduced to named figures which could be stipulated in the plan. It was also suggested that, as soon as the Convention was signed—that is to say, at the beginning of the first period—there should be set up a Supervisory Commission charged with the duty of seeing that each country was carrying out its obligations under the Convention. That is to say, that during the first period there were no weapons being manufactured of the prohibited character, and during the second period, that the proper destruction was taking place and the proper limits were being observed.

That was a plan which was discussed and with regard to which the Germans raised the difficulty that they were placed in a position of inequality during the early period because other members would have weapons which were denied to them, and a suggestion was made by the Germans that they ought to be given samples of the weapons which would ultimately be permitted and common to all the signatory Powers as a token of equality. The Foreign Secretary asked the German Government to communicate to him what they meant exactly by samples, in order that he might consider that-suggestion, and in October last—it was in fact, I think, on October 6, which I see was the date of this document—the representative of Germany in this country came to the Foreign Secretary and made a communication from his Government. The communication was not identically in the words of this document, but the document looks so much like the communication that it is at least possible that this document represents the instructions which were given by the German Government to their Ambassador in this country. I have no sort of idea, if that be the case, how it ever reached any newspaper, however reputable, but that is a possible solution of the genesis of this document which the noble Viscount has read to your Lordships.


May I ask for an explanation of one point? Did the noble and learned Viscount say that the Supervisory Commission was to come into operation at the beginning of the first period or of the second period?


At the beginning of the first period. That has always been the plan. The noble Marquess will remember that that was made explicitly plain at Geneva when the purport of these conversations was reported by Sir John Simon to the Conference. It appears in the White Paper which has been published containing the proceedings of the Bureau of the Disarmament Conference on October 14 when the President, Mr. Henderson, requested the Foreign Secretary to make a statement with reference to the conversations which bad taken place between the United Kingdom, French, German, Italian and United States delegations. In response to that invitation Sir John Simon gave an account of the conversations. This is what he said: The scheme, therefore, which emerged for consideration, as the result of a number of these interviews, was one in which the proposed period of eight years would begin with the transformation of Continental armies on the lines set out in the British Draft, together with the setting up, through the medium of the Permanent Disarmament Commission of an adequate system of supervision— so it is quite clear that it was to be from the beginning.

Sir John Simon went on: so that the sense of security, which the due observance of the Convention will afford, should provide the groundwork for the practical attainment of the twin ideas of disarmament and equality. Mr. Henderson has suggested that the Permanent Disarmament Commission might be set up as soon as the Convention is signed without waiting for ratification. So it was suggested that it should be set up even before the first period— If this suggestion is found feasible it ought to be welcomed for it aims at shortening the period when actual disarmament and attained equality would be effectively reached. It is understood on all hands that the supervision contemplated would be of general application. Then the statement goes on to discuss other matters. I have read that passage because I think it is important to point out that from the very first time when these conversations were made public it was made perfectly clear that the setting up of a Commission charged with supervisory duties was to take place at the very inception of the whole plan—and even before, if possible. At any rate it was to operate from the very beginning of the first period without waiting for the commencement of the second period, and the Commission so set up was to be charged with supervisory duties over the performance of their obligations by every nation and was not, of course, aimed at any one in particular.


Perhaps the noble and learned Viscount will forgive me for interrupting. It is rather an important matter. I have followed the words he quoted from the document dated October 14. Are we to understand that this was Jrafted subsequent to the receipt by the Foreign Office of some document which resembles that which the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, has read out?


No. I am sorry if I gave that impression. This is not something that was drafted. This is a speech delivered on October 14. Of course the speech was delivered after the interview of October 6. That interview conveyed certain communications from Germany to this country, but no document resembling in any way the document which my noble friend Viscount Cecil read was handed to us at any time. We have never seen that document or anything like it, but we had on October 6 a conversation at which a communication was made not dissimilar in outline to the proposals contained in this document.


I understand the noble and learned Viscount to say that the German representative—I do not know whether the Charge d'Affaires or the Ambassador himself—called at the Foreign Office on October 6, or some date about that time, and made a communication.




One knows that such communications, not always but often, take the form of reading from a document a message which the foreign representative has received. It may be that the German representative read from this document, or something like it. Normally—I do not think there is any secret about it—the Foreign Secretary or whoever receives the communication makes a Minute of the communication and embodies it in a Despatch to the British representative abroad, at Berlin in this case. That Despatch is no doubt in existence. I would like to suggest, if it does not conflict with any public interest, that it would be very desirable that that Despatch should be laid on the Table.


That is a matter on which, of necessity, I must consult the Foreign Office. I cannot express any opinion on that now. All I can say is that no document was handed in and no aide memoire left. I have not checked everything in this document to make sure that it is identical with the conversation, but I have no doubt that it is so substantially. I do not think that. I am being indiscreet if I go so far as to say that there were two points which struck the Foreign Secretary at once with regard to this document. The first point was That, whereas the discussions which road taken place with Baron von Neurath referred to the question of Germany having samples and the request we made, to which we were waiting for an answer—and other nations too were waiting for an answer—was to be told what exactly was meant by samples, this communication contained no reference to samples. It, in fact, proposed that Germany should have the right to rearm at once.


Subject to a discussion as to numbers.


Subject to a discussion as to numbers for each of the signatory Powers, but that there should be rearming by Germany without any—


am very sorry to interrupt, but this is really a matter of some importance and I do not want any mistake. I may have misread it, but I understand the document to say: "I f you, the other Powers, are going to keep certain arms then we ought to have them because you can only keep them on the ground that they are defensive. If that is so, then we ought to have some of these arms, but we can see that the question will still be open to discussion, how many we ought to have."


I am not sure we are much at variance except that, it having been stated by Germany that "We must have samples of the kind which are ultimately to be allowed to everybody" and the question being put as to "What do you mean by samples?" the answer is that "From the very beginning we must have equality" which, I think, means: "We will not be content with a sample; but we must have rearmament on the kind of scale we are to receive when the Convention is signed." The other observation which struck the Foreign Secretary very much was that, all through, the British conception, both in December, 1932, when Germany was invited back to the Disarmament Conference, and in the Draft Convention of March, 1032, was an equality of status within a framework of security and, so far as we were able to ascertain, there was nothing at all about any sort of security in the proposals which were made.


That depends on what is meant by the British plan.


Again I am only speculating because I am speaking about a conversation, but I imagine this document means the Draft Convention because it begins by saying: The German Government is willing to accept as a basis the British plan. It considers reasonable the proposal for a Convention to be signed for a period of five years as laid down in the above-mentioned plan.


I must apologise, and this shall be my last interruption. Whatever plan it refers to, if I understand the document, it does not: quarrel with anything except those points dealt with it says they agree to accept the British plan as a basis. I suppose it means they would have accepted something in the nature of control.


I do not know and, as I say, the document is new to me. But so far as the conversation is concerned the two points which struck the Foreign Secretary was that samples had disappeared into a claim for complete equality with regard to rearmament and, secondly, that there was no reference in the communication to any question of security, which in our mind has been essential, because we think it is an essential factor in any framework of peace and in effective disarmament. That communication was made on October 6. Again I am in a little embarrassment to know how far I may properly go, but there was a Cabinet Meeting on October 9, as anybody can see who looks at the newspapers, and I do not suppose that it is a wild assumption that that document would have been considered. On October 10 the Foreign Secretary went to Geneva and he had a series of discussions with the various representatives of the Powers who had been engaged in the conversations, including two at least with the German representative —Herr Nadolny, I think it was, at that time—and at one of those conversations I think representatives of other Powers besides Great Britain were present. As a result of the conversations—Herr Nadolny having left Geneva on either the 12th or 13th—Sir John Simon was invited on the 14th to recount to the Bureau the general purport of the conversations, and your Lordships will find, in a statement he made on October 14, the record of the alternative proposals, though they are not really alternatives, but a modification of the British plan which had been the subject of discussion. Obviously he could not properly state what would be the attitude of the different Powers. Their representatives were there and each had an opportunity of making a statement.

Your Lordships will remember the effect of that speech by Sir John Simon. He was followed by Mr. Norman Davis, the representative of the United States, who says that he was glad—I am quoting— to be able to confirm Sir John Simon's account of the conversations and to endorse and support the position he had taken up on the important questions of substance before the Bureau for immediate decision. He went on to say that as a result of the frequent and exhaustive conversations he had had during the past few clays with Sir John Simon, they had come to the common conclusions so clearly and forcibly expressed in that statement. He was followed by the Italian representative, M. di Soragna, who thanked Sir John Simon for his very clear and full statement on the present position of the very serious question with which we are dealing. The Italian representative added: We are hopeful and confident that the world may find in this programme, as we do, a positive basis for the subsequent work which has still to be done in achieving the aim to which we all look forward in the same spirit of conciliation and peace. M. Paul-Boncour, on behalf of France, expressed thanks to Sir John Simon and Mr. Norman Davis, for the frankness of their statements and pointed out that the conversations had taken place at the specific invitation of the Bureau and the Chairman. Baron von Rheinbahen, representing Germany, said he desired to limit his observations to stating that the view of the German Government on disarmament is marked by two claims or elements: (a) Real and substantial disarmament, of the highly-armed Powers; and (b) the immediate practical application of equality of status the question of quantity being open for negotiation. In this sense, I have taken note of the very important statement of Sir John Simon and shall report it at once to my Government. Then the Belgian representative finished up by saying that the Belgian delegation unreservedly concurred in the ideas expressed by Sir John Simon and supported by those who had spoken after him. I cite those passages because I think they show that no one present, after hearing Sir John Simon, suggested that his account was inaccurate or that he did not fairly report the effect of what had happened, and Italy, France and the United States all said that the proposals he had outlined seemed to offer a practical basis for the successful conclusion of a Convention. I have taken a little time over this matter because, the document being a new one, it was important to deal with it as fully as I could. In addition to the interviews to which I have drawn attention the Foreign Secretary saw the German Ambassador on October 10 before he went to Geneva, so that we kept closely in touch with the German Government and were able to exchange views as fully as possible. I think that supplements, but does not vary in any way, the accounts which have already been given of the various discussions which led to the meeting of the Bureau on October 14. At the meeting of the Bureau the German Government contented itself with the statement made by Baron von Rheinbaben. The German representatives had left Geneva one or two days before the meeting and on October 14 the declaration was made that they were not going on with the Disarmament Conference or the League of Nations.

An appeal has been made from various quarters of your Lordships' House that the British Government should not let any false pride intervene in preventing an attempt still to reach a measure of agreement. I can assure the House quite sincerely and with absolute conviction that there can be no question of false or any form of pride in a matter of this importance and of this international gravity. We have throughout been anxious to do all we can to achieve a disarmament agreement. We have set an example of which, in spite of Lord Arnold, we think we have a right to be proud, of the extent to which we were willing unilaterally to disarm, and the extent of the risk which we were prepared to take, in order to try, by the force of example, to persuade other people to accept that disarmament policy which we regard as essential for the permanent peace of the world.

We have striven to achieve success at Geneva. Lord Cecil of Chelwood apparently does not think much of our efforts. He even suggested that the Prime Minister had not shown much appreciation of the importance of Geneva, because he did not often make speeches upon it. The Prime Minister has a good many subjects on which he has to make speeches, lied although I have not a table of the number of speeches that he has made on Geneva, it is certainly the fact that he went himself to Geneva in the early stage of the Conference, within the first few months, and spent a considerable time there, and from my own personal knowledge he laboured most assiduously in endeavouring to find the basis of an agreement which could be acceptable especially to the German and French nations, as well as to the other nations represented. I do not think that this at any rate is an indiscretion, if I say that, to-day, in dis-armament, really the crucial difficulty is the difficulty of reconciling Germany's claim to equality with France's claim to security.


It has always been so.


I agree, but in recent years it has been a burning question. Unless you can find some way in which Germany's sense of resentment at being placed in a position of inferiority is overcome, and at the same time France is given a feeling of reasonable security that she shall noble the victim of unprovoked aggression in the future, it is hopeless to expect that any real progress can be made towards disarmament. We have been conscious that that has been the crux of the problem. It has been obvious from the first. That has been the principle which directed our labours and we have directed them in conjunction with other nations, and especially perhaps Italy and the United States, who have worked very hard with us in the same direction.

We are not going to abandon hope because Germany has left; the Convention or because Germany has given notice to leave the League of Nations. I think it was a very unfortunate mistake for Germany to have made—a mistake in her own interests, though perhaps she say that she is the best judge of them. I think it is also a very great damage to the international peace structure of the world. I think it was a very real mischief that she should have gone out as and when she did, and a very unfortunate decision which she took. She has taken it, but she has still two years before her notice to leave the League becomes effective. Since she has left she has, through the mouths of her Chancellor and her Foreign Minister, protested her desire for peace, and if those speeches are accurately reported she has indicated her willingness to resume conversations with one or other of the great nations, with a view to disarmament. We intend to do everything that in us lies to produce agreement. I cannot say that we are going on exactly as if Germany had not left. I do not know whether that would be possible. My noble friend said: "Try and put in the Draft Convention which appears in this document." I do not think that that would be a very satisfactory method, because I cannot imagine that France, for example, would accept a document with those things in it, and I am not sure that my noble friend himself would think that a document which provided for substantial rearmament for Germany was in the interest of disarmament.


I said so.


I am pleased that I have rightly interpreted my noble friend's feelings. On the other hand I think it would be a disaster for the Convention to break down, and all that I can usefully say to the House at this moment is that we are at this time conducting conversations with the Powers—I will not say principally affected, because it might be misleading, but with the Powers which have the largest armaments which would have to be regulated or reduced under the Convention, and the Powers who are most difficult to reconcile in their divergent views—as to the most useful and hopeful way in which some measure of agreement may yet be achieved. I do not myself at all throw over as impossible any scheme of qualitative disarmament. I am not suggesting, and I hope I shall not be understood as suggesting, that that is the policy of the Government—that they are only going in for that. I do not want to be understood as ruling out any kind of disarmament which we find will meet with general acceptance, or ruling out any method for reaching disarmament which we find is likely to meet with general acceptance.

I do not think it would help in our efforts to produce a result if we were here and now to proclaim that this or that was the method which we intended to press to a conclusion. When one is actually engaged in discussions with a number of other Powers, who have just as much right to their own views as we have, and are just as anxious to achieve success, I do not think that that is the best way to get your own way or to persuade others to accept your plan. We are discussing with other Powers what is best to be done in a difficult situation. We are most anxious to repair the mischief which we say has been done to the cause of disarmament by what we regard as the mistake made on the 14th October. We are going to labour, as long as we remain the Government of this country, wholeheartedly in the endeavour to bring into operation some scheme which shall solve the great problem of reconciling the need for security, which is quite naturally asked for by some Powers, and the need for equality, quite rightly insisted upon by others, and to reach such a measure of disarmament as will result in the permanence of peace and the avoidance of those horrors of war so graphically described by more than one of your Lordships in the course of this debate.


My Lords, I do not intend to take up your time for more than a few minutes, but there are one or two matters which I desire to bring forward. I do not think there has ever been a talk about disarmament (and certainly this is no exception) where anybody who has talked has not run away from what he meant by the word "disarmament." The other question they run away from is what they think is going to be the result if they got it. If the noble Viscount wrote a dictionary and I looked up in it the word "disarmament" I think I should see, "See panacea '."

But is it going to be a panacea for anything? To begin with, you cannot disarm. It does not matter how much you try, you cannot do it. During the last War two new weapons came into being. One was the aeroplane, the other was poison gas. In the conversations before the Versailles Treaty Marshal Foch pointed out that you cannot disarm in respect of those weapons, short of doing away with every factory both on the chemical and on the aeroplane side. The result is that you cannot disarm in the two weapons which will be the dsciding factors in the next war. What is the good of talking about big guns which were used at the beginning of the last war? They are not going to be used at the beginning of the next. The next war is going to be war in the air and it is going to be war against the civil population.

It may be said, quite rightly: "It is all very well for a member of this House to make a statement of that kind, but on what does he base it? "I will give your Lordships a few things that I base it on. First of all, it has been stated for a great many years now in a published book by Rudolf Hanslian, who is the head expert on poison gas in Germany, and he has stated that that will be done in the next war. It has been stated by Pavlov in Russia. It has been stated by plenty of people in other countries—Austria, Italy and France. Only the other day Professor Banse, who at the present time is the head of a military college in Germany, published a book in which he deliberately said that Germany would in the next war attack the civil population from the air by poison gas—and he mentioned the civil population of this country, too. It is quite true that Herr Hitler has banned that book, because, as he somewhat naively said, it might give a wrong impression of Germany's aims in foreign countries: but the Professor is still in his job. The Chancellor also was not quite accurate when he said that the Government could not be responsible for individuals who chose to write these things. The Professor is not an individual in that sense at all. He is a Government servant and paid by the Government as the head of their military college, and nowhere has the Chancellor ever said that that is not to be the considered policy of Germany.

The noble Lord, Lord Arnold, mentioned a speech that I made some time ago, and I should like to tell him that that speech had a sequel. A certain member of the Cabinet in the late Labour Government was very interested in the matter, and he asked me if I would go down and debate the whole question at Cambridge with Mr. J. B. S. Haldane who, of course, is the big expert on gas. I went down and we held that debate. I put my case forward. It was on the agenda paper in rather a stronger form than I had meant to move it, but I thought: "Well, I will take it on and see what happens"; because my Motion was that, having regard to poison gas attacks, possibly from the air, the next war would be the end of the whole of civilisation in Europe. After I had made my speech, to everybody's astonishment Mr. Haldane got up and said he regretted he had to agree with everything I had said. There is no answer to this except retaliation, and you cannot get retaliation by disarmament. The only way you can save yourselves in my view—and it is a matter that has been a great worry to me for many years—is by having plenty to relatiate with, and to get the people of all countries to realise what it is going to mean. I do not mean the politicians, I mean the people at large—let them realise that it means mutual obliteration. Then, and then only, I think you might get an end of war. But you will not get it by this so-called disarmament. You must he strong, and show your strength, and then you will not have to use it.


My Lords, I do not intend to delay your Lordships at this late hour, but I think that the discussion we have had has been of extreme interest. I hoped that the noble and learned Viscount the Leader of the House towards the end of his speech was going to tell us something of the Government's intentions. It is extremely difficult for him to do it, because of course, as we appreciate, it is not exactly his Department, but I hoped that on this second day of the debate, when the first day in the Commons had been occupied so entirely with the past, we might in your Lordships' House have an opportunity of hearing from the Government something of what they intended to do in the future. The noble and learned Viscount very ably as usual, and quickly and boldly, disposed of all the suggestions I brought forward, and then I eagerly cocked my ears with a view to listening to what was going to come from His Majesty's Government, and I heard nothing whatsoever. But in the course of the discussion my noble friend Lord Cecil produced a document. Now, this document, from what I can gather, is obviously some form of leakage, probably from abroad. At any rate, it has been referred to and commented on by the Government, and in order to explain it a series of documents has been referred to—a conversation on October 8 with the German Ambassador.


The 10th.


This document is not improbably instructions given to the German Ambassador on that day. The noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, suggested that the Foreign Secretary on that day would in the ordinary course have made a report of that conversation and have sent it in the form of a Despatch to His Majesty's Ambassador at Berlin. That is Document No. I that ought to be laid before the public. Then we were told that there was another—I think with the German Ambassador on October 10. That has been referred to, and I think the country ought to know what passed between the German Ambassador and the Foreign Secretary on that occasion, because these are the preliminaries to the document which has been quoted, which is Sir John Simon's speech at, the Disarmament Conference on October 14, which is the critical moment and turned out to be the excuse, anyhow, for Germany leaving the Disarmament Conference. So important is the sequence of events, so important is it for us to know exactly what transpired that I feel sure that His Majesty's Government will not refuse my Motion for Papers, but will lay a White Paper before us in which it will be interesting and important for us to know the sequence of events that led up to this rupture. I do not think it is an unreasonable request on my part. In the ordinary way I should have formally withdrawn my Motion for Papers, but in view of what has transpired, and the number of documents referred to, I think I am justified in pressing my Motion.


My Lords, if I may, by leave of the House, answer the noble Lord, he is of course fully entitled to press his Motion, but I very much beg him not to do so for this reason. I do not know whether it is possible to lay even the one document to which my noble friend Lord Cecil referred, if it exists as a record of a conversation between the Foreign Secretary and the representative of the German Government. Certainly I do not think it would be possible to lay documents referring to other conversations with the German Government without laying other records of conversations with other Governments, and at this moment, when, as I have said, we are anxiously trying to negotiate with a series of Governments in order to bring about, if we can, an agreed measure of procedure, I think that to publish records of all the conversations and discussions which have taken place would be very damaging to the cause which, I am sure, the noble Lord has at heart just as much as I have, that is, the cause of trying to bring the parties together on some common basis of procedure. I really think it would not be helpful to the cause of peace, and I therefore urge my noble friend not to exercise his undoubted right to press for Papers. I will certainly undertake to consult the Foreign Secretary, who has listened to the best part of the debate, and see whether there are any documents that could be usefully produced, but I should be very sorry to have to accept the Motion which would indicate that there were any Papers which could be produced.


With the leave of the House I would just like to say I do feel the House is in very great difficulty in this matter. Undoubtedly, it is now established that it was not the Foreign Secretary's speech on October 14 that produced the crisis—it was something that occurred earlier—and we are told there was a communication to the German Government on October 10. It does seem at any rate a plausible conclusion that it was as a result of that communication that the crisis arose. I do not know, but I think it may be very generally felt in the country when people lead this debate that that probably is what happened, and I am sure it is much better, more in the interest of the Government and in the interest of the negotiations which are going on, that all these ambiguities should be cleared up definitely and as early as possible. May I make a suggestion to my noble friend Lord Ponsonby? I see the difficulty of my noble friend Lind Hailsham in assenting to this Motion. It is the difficulty we are always up against. There is no direct representative of the Foreign Office in the House who knows the ins and outs of everything. Would it not he possible to adjourn this Motion now, not to reject it, not to pass it at this moment? I do not think we can pass it by the rules of the House, and if we divide it would really have the effect of adjourning, because I do not think there are thirty noble Lords present. Then we can raise the question again when the Leader of the House is in a position to give a decision on the matter.


My Lords, I do not want to appear unreasonable or to press the Leader of the House unduly. I quite understand the delicacy of the situation, only I would ask him to consider this point. Unfortunately, a document has been read in this House. What it is, is not clear, but it is public property now. It may be taken as a garbled version of something that has occurred in the proceedings. Would it not be better to have the correct version, which can be checked by the Government and which the Government could be responsible for, rather than to set people guessing and thinking over something which may be quite without any sort of authenticity I would ask the Leader of the House to consider that point. I do not desire to press this Motion, and I should like to adopt the suggestion of the noble Viscount, which is designed to give the Government time to think the matter over, and to adjourn this Motion.


My Lords, I would very much prefer that the noble Lord should withdraw his Motion instead of adjourning it. I shall communicate with the Foreign Secretary and ask him to give full consideration to the point raised. The only document read is of course a translation which my noble friend Lord Cecil has obtained from a French newspaper, and which will be found in the OFFICIAL REPORT. I would rather have the matter disposed of now, and I hope my noble friend will accept my assurance that the Government will consider the matter. I do not like the idea of an adjourned Motion which one might have to whip for and vote against. Even voting it down might be less satisfactory than an arrangement on the lines suggested.


My Lords, I am quite ready to accede to the suggestion of the Leader of the House on the understanding that he will put this matter quite fully to the Foreign Secretary and see whether a White Paper cannot, be issued.


My Lords, I shall tell the noble Lord what the Foreign Secretary says. I will even ask Sir John Simon to come and see him if he likes.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.