HL Deb 11 April 1934 vol 91 cc501-30

had given Notice that he would ask His Majesty's Government whether they will declare their willingness to consider the formation of an International Police Force under the control of the League of Nations with a view to increased security and the better maintenance of world order; and move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I must apologise for introducing the subject of which I have given Notice because it has already been discussed in another place where it received the support of members of both Parties. I cannot help thinking, however, that it is appropriate the matter should be discussed in your Lordships' House. Your Lordships will have observed that a statement was made that the Government would be willing to consider the question of the formation of an International Police Force, though they could not give it their support now. They simply suggested that in these most difficult times every avenue will be explored in order to find an international solution that will safeguard the security of this and other countries. I respectfully suggest that the least they could do is to consider seriously the subject of this Motion.

We do not expect them to give any decision to-night. I think it will be admitted that this matter has never really been considered carefully. It has never been discussed in the country, and it would, therefore, be unfair to ask the Government to legislate in advance of public opinion. At the same time I think noble Lords would agree that the policy which has hitherto been pursued over a long period since the War is a policy that has not brought about the results which are desired. The prestige and authority of the League of Nations has become much less than it was some years ago. It is most important that every possible solution should be most carefully considered. I have no doubt that there are a great many people who will denounce any proposal for an International Police Force because they think it is quite impracticable, and that there are so many technical difficulties to he overcome. There are so many obstacles of a purely technical character to be overcome that they dismiss the proposition as being visionary and impracticable.

I would venture to suggest at the outset that it is not so much a question of discussing and considering the technicalities and practicability of any scheme, but rather of clearing our minds and endeavouring to discover what is the right policy to pursue and whether that policy is based upon sound and statesmanlike principles. In passing I would remind your Lordships, in regard to the practicability of any scheme for an International Police Force, that during the War it was found practicable and feasible to have a unified command. If it was possible to achieve the co-operation of the nations who were engaged in the War and to translate that co-operation into the terms of organisation, then it is, I submit, possible to do it now in peace time if we apply our minds to the solution of the problem. One reason which shows that the scheme is not so impracticable as many would have us suppose is that already a responsible Government has put forward definite and concrete proposals for the establishment of an International Force. I imagine that those proposals would not have been put forward at Geneva unless the Government of France had been convinced, supported by expert opinion, that the organisation and establishment of such a Force was a practicable proposition. I am also fortified by the opinion expressed by several very distinguished military experts who have definitely given it as their considered opinion that it is possible, assuming political difficulties are got out of the way, to deal with the technical problems which arise in the formation of any scheme.

I do not want for one moment to minimise the difficulties of thinking out, elaborating and establishing a scheme of this kind, but in this vital matter the first thing we ought to do is to make up our minds upon the principles and upon the policy which should be the basis of any such scheme. I think a great many will agree that the main principle upon which any sort of durable, I will not say permanent, peace depends, is that it should be based upon the conception of justice. It is impossible to expect to secure peace unless there are means and methods and organisations capable of administering elementary justice. Therefore the first principle appears to me to be that in any scheme there must be at least an organisation for the specific settlement of all disputes. That principle is contained in Article 19 of the Covenant of the League, which provides at the moment a very inadequate method for the revision of treaties and for the settlement of disputes which are not suitable for submission to the Permanent Court of International Justice at The Hague. The necessity of a tribunal of that kind became manifest during the Sino-Japanese dispute. After a, very long delay because there was no permanent body available to deal with the matter, the Lytton Commission was appointed, composed of impartial persons who were sent out to the scene of the dispute to make an investigation on the spot. That Commission, as we all know, presented a most valuable Report, a most comprehensive Report, which was unanimously adopted by the Assembly of the League. When we talk about an International Police Force we link up with, that consideration the idea, of a tribunal which is capable of settling, and which is empowered to settle, all disputes of every kind which are not suitable for submission to the Court of International Justice at The Hague. That, I submit, is the first principle.

The second principle is the principle of the right use of force. I conceive, and I think very few noble Lords will dispute it, that the only right or moral use of force is the performance of the police function. I know that sounds a very elementary proposition. It is a proposition which we all agree to in national communities, but it is a proposition which has not yet found its place in any system of international relationships. Until an International Force has been established, wielded by an impartial authority, that principle will not be allowed to function. The police function means protection against injury and aggression and also enforcement of international obligations. I cannot help feeling that there is still a certain amount of confusion of thought about the whole moral question of the use of force. We must all of us belong to one of three categories. Either we are abolitionists, who want to abolish force in all its forms—that I suppose is the principle underlying the Covenant—or we are duellists who still cling to the duelling system, which means the victory of the strongest at the moment, or we are policemen. To one of those three categories we must belong. We cannot escape from it. We must make up our minds that force is no longer to be regarded as the instrument of policy. When we have done that we have done what we did, in theory at any rate, when we signed the Kellogg Pact. If we are in earnest about it, then obviously we have to throw our weight into the scales upon the side of international solidarity, which can only be expressed in the terms of an organisation and not merely in terms of treaties.

Those are the two principles which I suggest we, as a country and as a nation, ought to support, and I am fortified in that opinion by one of the greatest and most distinguished historians of this country, the late Sir John Seeley, who, in regard to this matter, made this declaration: There has been found hitherto but one substitute for war. It has succeeded over and over again: it succeeds regularly in the long run wherever it can be introduced. This is to take the disputed question out of the hands of the disputants, to refer it to a third party whose intelligence, impartiality and diligence have been secured, and to impose his decision upon the parties with overwhelming force. The last step in this process, the power of enforcing the decision by the federal union only, is just as essential as the earlier ones, and if you omit it you may just as well omit them too. I submit that that is a very important declaration, coming from one of our most distinguished historians, who spent a great deal of his time in studying and writing many profound books upon the whole question of the solidarity of the federation of our Empire.

The next point which I should like to mention for a moment—and there is no need to dwell at length upon this—is the new situation which has arisen during the last twenty-five years, and winch from our point of view has steadily become worse since the War. That new situation to which I refer is the introduction of new weapons and new methods of war. I believe that, speaking roughly, from the time of the wars of the Spanish succession until towards the end of the nineteenth century there was very little change in the general character of weapons. Certainly the whole of the Napoleonic wars did not produce a single new instrument of fighting. But in the last twenty-five years, or the last thirty years, we have seen at least four new weapons emerge: we have seen the introduction of the submarine, the aeroplane, the tank, and poison gas as a species of ammunition. We have also seen the enormous development in naval craft and in artillery. We all know perfectly well that these developments are due to the advance of science, and to that advance no limits can be assigned. Therefore obviously we must try to adapt our vision, to adapt our plans and to adapt our policy to all these new conditions, which we do not like but which nevertheless science has imposed upon us.

I was reading the other day a book written by a very distinguished General of this country, who has great influence both here and abroad—a book called "Behind the Smoke Screen." In that book I found this quotation from Field-Marshal Foch: The military mind always imagines that the next war will be on the same lines as the last. That has never been the case and never will be. One of the great factors in the next war will obviously be aircraft. The potentialities of aircraft attack on a large scale are almost incalculable, but it is clear that such attack, owing to its crushing moral effect on a nation, may impress public opinion to the point of disarming the Government and thus become decisive. It is, of course, some time since Field-Marshal Foch uttered that opinion, but it is an opinion which is being expressed and emphasised every day. The Lord President of the Council, in another place, has made many speeches in which he has told us quite clearly and quite practically of the dangers which at present are hanging over our heads, as well as over the heads of every other nation in Europe. And, of course, our interest in this question is not a philanthropic one. We are concerned mainly, after all, with our own security, with the security of our own country, of our own children and our own people. I would venture to make one short quotation from a very distinguished member of this House: I quote from the late Viscount Grey. He said: London, the British capital and most vital spot, is more accessible to an air attack from a possible Continental enemy than are corresponding vital spots on the Continent to air attack from Great Britain. I quote that only because we in this country are so prone to consider that this vital question of insecurity is a matter for other nations to talk about, that we are immune from all these dangers and menaces and therefore need not worry our heads about them.

Therefore the real question is what is the maximum defence which it is possible for us to evolve and to organise against a menace of this kind. I cannot help feeling that in this matter we cannot afford to stand alone any more than we were able to stand alone between 1914 and 1918. Surely there is only one sure defence against a potential aggressor, and that is to imbue in his mind the certainty of an overwhelming reprisal by a superior force under the control of an international executive and backed by the moral support of an impartial authority. I submit that there is no other way of combining moral and physical force so as to produce the maximum deterrent effect upon the would-be disturber of the peace. And so I venture to ask your Lordships to consider most earnestly the proposal contained in this Motion. I believe that there is no really satisfactory alternative.

Some people will, no doubt, tell us that we have to rely upon our own strong right arm—that that is the thing to do; that we must have parity. I dare say that parity is better than the position in which we are at present. I agree with that, but, after all, is parity enough? What about a two-Power or a three-Power standard? Can we attain parity, and if we attain it, can we maintain it? I doubt it. It has not happened so in the past in the other Services. I think that parity is a will-o'-the-wisp—one of those hopeless things; and it is, after all, rather a counsel of despair, because we know perfectly well that it would never have sufficed to safeguard the security of this country during the last twenty-five years. Therefore, surely, parity is quite a hopeless proposition. During the War we were only too Pleased to secure the support of other armies, however strong or however puny those armies might be, to assist us in the day of trouble when we were facing great armies. Therefore I cannot understand why, when France proposes to form an International Force, we should give her the cold shoulder and say: "No, we prefer to rely upon our own strong right arm."

There are other people who say that we must have an Imperial Force and that defence must be organised on Imperial lines. After all, our Dominions are Members of the League of Nations, and therefore if defence is organised on a mutual basis, under the auspices of the League, there is no reason why they should disagree with us on that account. If this country is suddenly to be bombed, if the next war is going to be, as we are told, one mainly in the air, with the best will in the world our Dominions will be of little assistance to us, because the whole show will be over long before they will be able to arrive on the scene.

Therefore we are brought back to Europe and the League. Then, of course, it will be said that the League is a very attenuated institution; that the League now is an institution which does not comprise all the nations of the world and does not, certainly, include some of the great nations outside Europe. To that I would venture to submit that in the first instance the International Police Force should be confined to Europe, because the great danger arises in Europe owing to the proximity of States and the distance which can be travelled by aeroplanes. After all, bombers cannot travel for thousands of miles. Their range is limited to some hundreds of miles. Therefore the United States cannot bomb us, and neither can we bomb them. It is, however, quite another matter should disagreement arise between France and ourselves, for instance, or between Germany and ourselves. Therefore, because we cannot get a World Police Force seems to me to be no reason why we should not at the outset endeavour to put our house in order in Europe, and establish a European International Police Force, and thus get the majority of the Members of the League to become members.

Every nation which becomes a member is one or more possible aggressor eliminated from the list, and we should be able to produce a greater deterrent effect upon any other State or nation which proposed to break the peace. In passing I might remind the House that there are twenty-three what we call "smaller nations" in Europe, and between them they contribute 306 units towards the expenses of the League. The four Great Powers contribute 323 units, so that for all practical purposes the contribution of the twenty-three small nations is equivalent to the contributions of the four Great Powers. Therefore if the smaller nations can be enlisted in this scheme, it will make up to a very large extent any deficiency at the outset which might be caused by the defection of one of the Great Powers.

I am afraid I am trespassing upon the patience of the House, but there is one other point that I would like to mention, and it is this. Many people say: "Oh yes, if you constitute an International Force amongst the existing Members of the League you will simply constitute a new alliance, because it is only an alliance in another form." I venture to point out that if the Force were constituted as I have suggested, if you have a tribunal to settle all disputes among members, and they pool their military resources in an International Police Force, you have, in effect, really a new system, and one different from any alliance that we have known in the past. If on top of that you say to any country who is outside: "You are free to come in at any moment when you agree or desire to participate, and you can come in on terms of equality with the rest"—if you say that, surely under those conditions you have a system which is entirely different from any alliance which we have known in the past.

I cannot help thinking that the great thing is to make a start—to get something done—and to get as many nations to come into this scheme at the outset as are prepared to do so. The great obstacle up to now has obviously been the attitude of successive British Governments. I do not make any charge against the present Government, because they have only been following the policy, pursued since we signed the Covenant, of trying to evade some of its principles and of trying to whittle away Articles 8 and 16, and all those Articles which try to make the League into an authority instead of a talking shop. That is what General Smuts told us in 1919 that we must, at all costs, avoid, but that is the policy which has been pursued. We threw out the Protocol in 1924, after having a few months before pitched out the Treaty of Mutual Assistance. We have ignored the resolutions passed by the Assembly at different times, urging that the League should be endowed with efficient sanctions. We have in the last few years thrown out two French proposals for the establishment of an International Force, in the discussions going on at Geneva. Therefore, although I have no doubt we have no intention of under mining the authority of the League, the charge is that we have refused consistently to develop it into an institution capable of preventing war, and we shall go on doing that until we have made up our minds that the system of collective security, and of co-operative armaments, must be substituted for the system of competitive armaments. Until we do that we shall go on in a shilly-shally way, and the League will finally be brought to complete disaster.

I would suggest to the Government, that now, when it appears at any rate that the negative policy is not going to produce the results which it was hoped it would produce, now at this moment when the League is losing its prestige and authority, it is imperative that His Majesty's Government should reverse the policy they have been pursuing for the last fifteen years, and should realise that the feeling of the country is becoming very much disturbed, not about the breakdown of the disarmament policy, but because of a feeling that our security as a nation has been undermined and that all these safeguards which we hoped were going to come to us when we put our signature to the Covenant have been in a great measure illusory. I believe that at the beginning of the eighteenth century there is to be found a parallel to the existing state of affairs today. I was reading the other day Mr. Churchill's book on Marlborough and I found this statement. It was made about the condition of things in 1701: But the Tories were slow in realising the evolution of opinion which was already so marked. They were still hunting William III and planning retrenchment. They were still dreaming of detachment from Europe when the nation awoke beneath them. On May 8, 1701, the freeholders of Kent presented a petition to the Commons begging the House to grant supplies to enable the King to break from his allies 'before it was too late.' The militant pacifists were for punishing the freeholders for their presumption. They actually indicted their leaders, but the ground crumbled beneath their feet. The insular structure in which they sought to dwell crashed about their ears. I cannot help feeling that that is what may happen now. The only question is whether the crash is to be a shower of bombs on London.

It seems to me that as things are at present, if political programmes mean anything at all, the only alternative to that is a Socialist majority in another place, because they are the only Party in this country who, up to the present, have put an International Police Force into their programme. I hope myself, and I imagine most noble Lords hope, that this will not be allowed to become a Party question. It would be a national disaster if this matter were allowed to become the shuttlecock of Party politics. I appeal most earnestly to the Government—I do not ask them to decide in favour of it; all I ask is that they should seriously consider this matter now that we have come to the parting of the ways, when it is a question of going back to competing armaments, starting a new race of armaments, or adopting a system of collective security under the œgis of the League.

It is nearly twenty years—it will be twenty years in August—since war came, when the first hundred thousand went out from this country to fight for the sanctity of treaties and for the defence of Belgium, incidentally for the defence of their own country and of their relatives and friends. We swore to destroy militarism. I ask every noble Lord, what have we done since then to implement and carry out the pledge we made to those fellows who went out twenty years ago and gave their lives for the sake of their country and to make their country a safe place for their children to live in? I ask in all sincerity: What have we done to redeem that pledge? I would remind your Lordships of the words of Abraham Lincoln: It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honoured dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion; that we hem highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain. I beg to move for Papers.


My Lords, my noble friend who has moved this Motion carried me so very far in agreement with him that I am sorry I cannot find myself going the whole way. With his impatience and his indignation I am in entire agreement. May I say, too, that I have the greatest admiration for the persistent way in which he has advocated this particular expedient as a method of attaining the object which all of us desire? I desire to confine myself to the particular point which he raised by his Motion. I was glad to hear him hope for a Socialist victory at the next Election. He said that in the Socialist programme an International Police Force was mentioned, but I would remind him that, different from the Motion he put on the Paper, in the Socialist resolution the International Police Force is dependent on total national disarmament. If the noble Lord had put that in his Motion, that this was a concomitant of total national disarmament—that is to say, national armaments were to be abolished and we should only have an International Force to keep the peace—then I think he would carry a great many more people with him.

I feel—and I speak always on this subject rather from the personal point of view—I feel that my noble friend, in dismissing as negligible the practical point of view, is making a very great mistake. Before we can see what an International Police Force can do we must thoroughly understand what an International Police Force must be. There are so many points of difficulty arising in regard to the creation or institution of an International Police Force that it seems to me to make such a proposal very difficult to accept. My noble friend referred to the example of the Great War, but I do not think that that is a very strong argument in its favour. It took more than two years to get a united command for three nations who literally had their backs to the wall, with the enemy at their gate. I do not quite know how he expects a united command for, say, fifty-six nations who are going to lay down the rules and regulations for this Force in peace-time.

The practical difficulties seem to me almost insuperable. Where is the headquartens of this Force to be? It is often referred to as an Air Force, but I am thankful to say that an air force cannot have its headquarters in the air; it has got to have its headquarters on the earth. How is the International Force to be recruited? From which nations? Equally according to proportions? Which nations are going to be allowed to supply this International Force with armaments?—and remember the armaments must be very modern. Where is this Force to do its manœuvres—because it is not going to be only an Air Force. My noble friend says "a Police Force": it is to be a naval force, a military force and an air force. Where are the manœuvres to be held to keep it efficient and effective for the purpose which my noble friend has in view? Who is to command it? It is to be confined to Europe. That, I think, is rather a new departure on the part of my noble friend. If it is to be confined to Europe, who are to be the commanders of the three sections? I think it is pretty obvious that if they were chosen from France, Germany, Italy or Great Britain, there would be a great complaint that this was simply a Force by which the Great Powers were going to maintain the status quo. I think we should have to have commanders from some of the smaller nations, and I think there would be considerable difficulty if we had a Czecho-Slovakian general, a Dutch admiral and a Portuguese air marshal. But to make it a perfectly impartial and effective Force I think that sort of thing would have to be done.

But, most of all, who is going to set this Force in motion? What authority is going to say when it is to act? I think the noble Lord himself quoted the instance of the difficulty of getting unanimity in the Council of the League when we get near the moment of action, as illustrated in the difficulty over China and Japan. There we had a Report condemning a nation as an aggressor, and no action was taken. No diplomatic representatives were even withdrawn, no idea of economic pressure was put forward, and, of course, no military sanctions were taken at all. What authority is going to take the responsibility of setting this International Police Force in action? The Council of the League? We know by experience that the Council of the League will not be able to judge the aggressor as an aggressor, but that each nation is going to regard that aggressor as a friend, a possible friend, or an economic rival, and will judge from the point of view of its own self-interest the particular position that arises. You are not going to get unanimity.

Now, if I could visualise as my noble friend does a disarmed world, with a small efficient Force just ready and alert to prevent this aggressor from breaking the peace, I should go with him all the way; but I cannot visualise a world like that at all. And when I think of the instrument he suggests for bringing about peaceful relations, I feel that it is almost impossible to conceive such an idea materialising. It is perfectly true, as the noble Lord said, that France at a certain stage of the proceedings suggested that there should be an International Force. I cannot recollect at the moment whether that proposal was accompanied by a suggestion that France would renounce all her national armaments. I rather think not. But unless that is done this International Police Force is going to be an additional burden of armaments on the world, and a menace, I think, to the possible maintenance of peace. No, I should like to see this ideal as my noble friend sees it, but I do not. I know the difficulty of picking out the aggressor. I know the force of the analogy, which is always trotted out, of the police force and the individual criminal—an entirely false analogy. Here we have our Courts, here we have our punishments, here we have the policeman to arrest an individual criminal, who can be proved to be a criminal. No nation is a criminal. There are criminals in every nation, but the idea of calling a nation a criminal—which, of course, has to be done in war time in order to whip up sufficient animosity against it—is an absolute fallacy. Nobody is going to declare any nation an aggressor, they will not do it with unanimity around a table, and then say to a Brazilian admiral, or whoever he may be in charge of the International Force: "Now you may operate."

No, I really cannot treat this suggestion as one that is likely to bring about an abolition of international war or a solution of the disarmament problem. I share my noble friend's feeling of impatience at the slow progress that has been made, but not a word shall fall from me to disturb the delicate negotiations which are going on at the present moment. Any advance is better than a break-up, and I do not want to say anything on that point to-night. I confine myself merely to expressing my personal opinion on the proposals which the noble Lord has laid before your Lordships, and to saying that I am afraid that the ideal that he visualises in this International Police Force is not one in regard to which can share his hopes.


My Lords, there are, it seems to me, two ways of looking at this question. Yon can look at it on the lines of the very large view that my noble friend Lord Davies has on these matters—the establishment of an entirely new system, with an International Court, something like an International Legislature and an International Force to carry out the orders of the Court. That would, no doubt be accompanied by the abolition of all national forces, and nothing would be left except the International Force. Oddly enough, my noble friend Lord Ponsonby rather sympathises with that view; he thinks that that would be a possible solution. I wish I thought so. I suppose most of us, at any rate many of us, would be very glad to see a re-arrangement of Europe on such lines, but I think that that is outside practical politics at present. I do not see my way even to advocate that as a practical contribution to the present situation. But there is a much more narrow proposal that has been actually made, and I should be sorry if anything passed in this House which would seem to condemn out of hand that narrow proposal.

The much narrower proposal is that as part of the disarmament scheme we should all of us agree to abandon national air forces, military and naval, altogether—then, of course, the familiar difficulty of dealing with the civil aircraft would arise—and that we should be able to deal with that partly by some kind of international control of the civil aircraft. So the French urge—I am not now confining myself to the actual French proposition put forward before the Disarmament Conference but the popular discussion of this matter in France—that you must have in addition to that some final security lest you should be at the mercy of any disloyal country that used its civil aircraft for the purposes of aggression. They suggest that in order to deal with that and that only, at any rate to start with, there should be created this International Air Force, which would be, therefore, of limited use, and, since it would not have to meet any other military force in the world—it would have only to deal with the misuse of civil forces—it need not be of a very large size. I do not think the difficulty of finding a location for it would be so great as my noble friend imagines, because of the extreme mobility of an air force. Therefore it does not so very much matter where its headquarters are, for it could be brought on the scene of action with extreme rapidity from almost any point in Europe. I do not think the practical difficulties would turn out to be so great. I do not pretend to be an expert in these matters, but the French experts believe firmly that these practical difficulties could be got over.

I confess that idea does appeal to me very greatly. My noble friend more than once has suggested, and I sympathise with his view, that the great ideal is total disarmament of all national forces, and I am sure he would agree with me that that is not practical politics at this moment. We ought, in my judgment, to direct our policy to that ultimate result, though it may be a very long time hence before we can hope to reach it, and it is for that reason that I have always been, or at any rate for many years now have been, an advocate of this system of getting rid of bits of the armaments of the world—total disarmament partially applied. You cannot apply it generally but you might get rid of some of the most dangerous forms of armaments. If you could get people to agree in that you are then really in accord with my noble friend's principles, that in a situation in which you have total disarmament in the air, you may then have an International Air Force charged only with the duty of seeing that no disloyal country uses its civil aircraft in order to replace the military aircraft which it has abandoned. That proposal does not seem to me so wildly impracticable as my noble friend thinks.

The larger proposal of Lord Davies, I agree, is for the moment at any rate not practical politics. I confess I should very much like to see a definite scheme worked out in detail dealing with all these difficulties which undoubtedly exist, such as who is to command the Force, where it is to be situated, how it is to be recruited, who are to supply the machines. All these things are practical difficulties. I do not think they are insuperable, but they are practical difficulties which would have to be dealt with. I should like to see the French or, if it were possible, even our own Government, work out some definite, practicable, detailed scheme for a plan of that kind to be used only to secure the world against the disloyalty of some of those who had agreed to abandon their military land naval air forces. I cannot help feeling that that would be a most hopeful experiment to try. It is possible it would fail. It is possible that when you came to try and establish your International Air Force, you would find that the practical difficulties were too great. I do not myself think so, but it is possible. You would in that case then have to go back no doubt to the old plan of national air armaments.

I think that at present the immense probability is that there would be no major war for some little time, even if we failed altogether in our efforts to secure peace by disarmament and by the reinforcement of the League. But this seems to me the time in which we can fairly say to the French: "Now come forward with your definite scheme; if you can show to us that it is a practical scheme we are prepared to consider it, and if it does furnish a solution of the great difficulties in the way of international disarmament, or even a partial solution, it will be an immense advantage." I cannot see that any evil could result from it. Therefore, up to a very small point, I go with my noble friend Lord Davies. I cannot go the whole length of his Motion on the Paper. That seems to me to be asking too much, and to be asking so much that if we ask for that we shall get nothing. But the other proposal seems to me well worth trying, and I should bitterly regret it if we were to abandon the hope of getting rid of national air forces throughout the world because we were not prepared even to consider, arid consider favourably, this proposal of the French Government and a large section of the French people. I am sure that if we were prepared to consider it, and really prepared to consider it, we could do something which the French would feel was worth paying for, and they would pay by being much more reasonable about the general disarmament question.


My, Lords, the noble Lord who introduced this Motion prefaced his observations by saying that he thought it was a great mistake—so at least I understood him—that the question of the practicability or impracticability of the technical details of a scheme of this kind should prevent the theory and the principle of the policy being discussed, and a little later in his speech I think he deprecated what he conceived to be the attitude of the representatives of His Majesty's Government at Geneva in their welcome to certain plans and propositions which had been placed before the Assembly or before the Disarmament Committee. I must say I quite agree with all he said when he quoted General Smuts as saying that the danger of the League of Nations was that of becoming a, talking-shop and not an active agency. It seems to me that any Government or any delegate—I certainly would have felt it so when I myself was a delegate at Geneva—who would support, or even give partial support to any scheme which is put forward unless he is certain that it is a practical scheme, would not be doing his duty to his Government. No Government would give countenance to a scheme unless they knew it was possible to carry it through. Otherwise it seems to me the difficulties which would be met would be so great that the efforts would only result in disaster. Therefore I entirely agree with my noble friend Lord Ponsonby that it is most desirable to examine a scheme of this kind from the point of view of its practicability before you give any support to it.

I do not think it has been mentioned in detail before during the debate to-night, but people are sometimes apt to forget that the conduct of war and the character of armaments differ considerably to-day from what they were before the War. The noble Lord did refer to it, and said that there had been great developments during recent years in the air, on sea and on land. I do not think perhaps that that is so generally accepted as the noble Lord suggested to your Lordships. The reason of this development is the extension of mechanisation. This question recalls to my mind a conversation I had with the late Marshal Foch the last time I met him. It was a very interesting conversation that I had with him on this topic. My colleague at that time was the Master-General of Ordnance, General Birch. I have taken the opportunity to refresh my memory by consulting him in view of the debate in your Lordships' House. The late Marshal Foch said that with the development of inventions mobile war must become less possible, and that as the power of machinery increased so the actual distance between front lines would become greater and greater. The result would be that fewer men would be necessary and the actual rank and file would be mechanics who would press buttons under the orders of non-commissioned officers.

Right through the intervening formations from the higher command there would be a system of telegraphy, so to speak, communicating with the highly-mechanised forces in the front line. The result would be that the real pivot of war would not be in the field but in industry and in the factories, and much more organisation would be required to produce machines rapidly and repair them as quickly as possible. So the country which was most capable of making war successfully and the country which would have the greatest advantage would be the one which could produce the largest number of warlike machines in the shortest possible time. Organisation of industry would supersede in importance the field training of troops, the fighting troops themselves would tend to become fewer in numbers, and the importance of the organisation of men behind the lines would increase proportionately. For example, if one man was required to work a machine it might take ten men in industry to keep that. machine in the field. The cardinal point therefore is that the nation whose industry is best organised for war, and whose manufacturing system can most swiftly turn from peaceful to warlike purposes, will be the strongest military power apart from its peace-time standing armies. If that is the case I think it makes a great difference in the situation.

Mechanised engines of war must be simply designed, quickly constructed by mass production and easy in their manipulation by the post-mobilisation trained men who would have to work them. It will be impossible and useless to maintain a large mechanised force in peace time because if you do you will run the risk of its being rendered obsolete by any new invention at any given time. Therefore, more and more will depend upon post-mobilisation construction and post-mobilisation training. That must render the whole problem of disarmament much more difficult. It might be quite possible perhaps to lay down scales for the size and character of armed forces in peace time, but it would be quite impossible to make any arrangement to control the switching over of industry from peaceful to warlike methods more quickly in one nation than in another. The capacity to do that would depend on the genius of the particular nation concerned, upon its enthusiasm for the cause, Upon the nature and state of its industries and upon the supply of raw material in its hands. I do not want to let it be thought that I regard the state of mechanisation as so far advanced as this. As the representative in the House of Commons of my noble friend opposite, the Financial Secretary to the War Office has said, you must still rely to a certain extent on men and horses. I do think, however, as I said when I was representing the Army Council in your Lordships' House, that mechanisation is sure to come and that it will supersede the legs and arms of men and horses as surely as sails and wood have been superseded by steam and iron.

In any proposition of this kind we must look to the future. If your Lordships agree with me in thinking that the state of affairs I have envisaged is not inaccurate, then I would ask you to examine the effect it would have upon the proposals made by the noble Lord. The noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, said the proposal of his Party was that there should be complete disarmament on all sides. If it were possible to get real total disarmament it might seem that the proposal of the noble Lord would not be so very difficult of execution. All that would have to be done would be to abolish the armies of all nations and then to superimpose an International Police Force. But, my Lords, think what a huge force would be necessary. We are not considering this simply from the point of view of Europe alone, but from the point of view of the whole world. Given a little time, any country by the development of industry might become formidable warlike power. The International Police Force must be able to strike immediately to overwhelm the recalcitrant Power, and to occupy its territory, because if it did not do that it could not prevent post-mobilisation development.

It must be ready to do this in any part of the world, no matter how far from its base. It must have a strong force always at command at the base, ready to act perhaps in two parts of the world at once, because two emergencies might arise and the Force would have to deal with each one. There would have to be —and this is a very important point—land and sea transport always available. You could not want to charter ships. The International Police Force would have to be able to strike at once in order to prevent a recalcitrant Power developing its resources. Then, as my noble friend behind me said, this Force must have a territory to live in. It must have a home, a base, and an area for training, and ports and all the resources of a Great Power. Assuming all this to be possible, a Force of this kind must have in addition a General Staff and plans—plans to deal with every possible emergency and to deal with it swiftly. We all know that if operations are to be successful surprise is a very great factor. As the International Force contemplated by the noble Lord must consist of members of all nations—at least I understand that to be the idea—all nations must be represented on the General Staff at any rate in turn as upon the Council of the League of Nations.

I suppose the relations between the General Staff and the International Police Force would be much the same as were the relations between the Cabinet or the Allied Governments and the Army during the War. But you cannot compare the unified command during the War with the International Police Force because the unified command during the War was fighting against a common enemy whilst the International Police Force in peace time would have, as its potential enemy, one of its own governing body. Members of the Council of the League of Nations would all want to know the plans of the General Staff of the International Police Force. They would not be willing to vote money for the Force without knowing how that money was to be spent. Therefore every potential recalcitrant would know what. would happen if the International Police Force was sent against it. It would lay plans accordingly and the difficulties of the International Police Force would be enhanced enormously.

I think there is another difficulty. We all know—at least we have been informed by the memoirs of many distinguished people—that the relations between statesmen and military commanders in time of war are not always free from a certain amount of difficulty and friction. Now what happens if you have a military commander acting under the Council of the League of Nations, and the Council of the League of Nations disagrees with the commander of its International Force? What may happen is that that officer may say: "I am not going to be over-ruled by these people, who do not understand these matters, or I shall be defeated and destroyed. I shall take the whole matter into my own hands." Then one would have the same result as happened in ancient Rome to the Praetorian Guard: if you had a force like that, they might not only take over the direction of the military operations under an international civilian Cabinet, they might take over the whole administration itself, and the Council of the League of Nations would then be like Frankenstein when he had created his monster.

I have one other reason for rather de precating this proposal from another point of view. As your Lordships will perhaps remember, there was some years ago a great meeting at the Albert Hall under the chairmanship of Sir William Robertson, and if my memory serves me correctly—I have not, verified it—among the speakers was Mr. Lloyd George. He said—I am not quoting him textually, but. only from memory—that you will never ensure peace until you banish the idea of war from men's minds. I do not think that Mr. Lloyd George (if I have quoted him accurately) ever spoke a truer word. The Disarmament Conference has now been sitting for many years, and before that, as my noble friend Lord Cecil and I both remember, there was the Disarmament Committee which had been going on for years and years. Many people think that in the result the Conference may be unsuccessful. I sincerely and devoutly hope that that may not be the case; but it would, I think, be unfortunate if we did not recognise that the chance of success is not by any means absolute, and indeed some people might think that it was slender. But I think that the chances of success of the Disarmament Conference very largely depend upon the efforts of His Majesty's Government. Supposing that at the Disarmament Conference agreement is not reached, that nothing is done, and that after years and years of preparation and years and years of discussion the world definitely pronounces that any kind of arrangement for disarmament is impossible, I think a disastrous blow will then have been struck against the endeavour to banish the idea of war from people's minds, and in fact it may be fatal to the idea of moral disarmament which personally I always think is of more importance than the question of material disarmament. I think moral disarmament must come first.

Some measure of success I do feel must be attained by the Disarmament Conference, or you will have going out all over the world, as I said before, a direct negative to the possibility of making any sort of arrangement for disarmament, and that is what must be avoided. I think that possibly the success of the Conference may not be very great in its positive nature, but it is imperative that there should not be a negative result, and therefore a complete failure from that point of view, by which we should confess that any effort on our part to arrive at a solution is unavailing and that a solution is impossible. Therefore I venture to think that it is rather unfortunate to discuss these ideas at the present moment. I should like to see all members of your Lordships' House and all sections of opinion throughout the country supporting His Majesty's Government in their difficult task, in which it is so very important that they should have the support of everyone in order that they may avoid a failure and a direct negative to the efforts of the Disarmament Conference at Geneva.


My Lords, I think at this late hour your Lordships will not expect me to follow all the noble Lords who have spoken into the many points which they have raised in the course of this debate. My noble friend the Lord Chairman, who has just sat down, has said, and of course quite truly, that it will be a disaster if the Disarmament Conference fails after all the efforts that have been made. That, as everybody knows, is the view of His Majesty's Government, and therefore I need hardly say that we are using our utmost endeavours to see whether success cannot still be attained. I wondered somewhat when the noble Lord, Lord Davies, was approaching the end of his remarks, whether his statement that this country had done more to undermine the League of Nations than any other, would have been supported by the noble Marquess his leader. I am sorry that the noble Marquess is leaving the House, otherwise I should have appealed to him as a former Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to say whether, so far from this Government having done less to support the League of Nations than any other, the reverse is not true, that no country has given to the League such warm and consistent support as England has.

After all, the point which we are discussing to-night is an International Police Force under the control of the League of Nations, but that, I am afraid, is not what most of us have been talking about. My conception of a police force is that it is a civil force raised to maintain law and order. What at any rate became perfectly clear from the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Davies, was that the Force that he had in mind was certainly not a civil force. He talked about a military air force, and he quite obviously forecast that the Force would bomb other countries, including, I imagine, the cities and their occupants, both men and women, and also children. That, at any rate, is hardly the function of a police force. Moreover, a police force, as I understand it, is a permanent body which is permanently in existence, but from some remarks which were made by the noble Lord I rather gathered that he thought that it might be produced when a crisis arose and might be a more or less ad hoc body. Further, a police force is raised to maintain the law; but what International Law have we got? There is a code of law in this country, and if we do not know it, that at any rate is merely our own personal fault. A force can go out to see that that law is obeyed, and if anybody breaks it he can then be dealt with. Of course the whole strength of the country is behind that civilian force and a delinquent can be brought into court and dealt with there. As the noble Lord, the Leader of the Opposition, said quite definitely, you cannot judge nations as criminals, and so far from having to deal with individuals you are dealing in this case with nations, and with the forces of those nations.

In my view the analogy of a police force is entirely inappropriate and absolutely misleading. The true analogy as I see it is the King's Army in the times of the barons' wars. Then, in this country and elsewhere on the Continent, there were great and powerful barons, each with his retinue of followers and often a very considerable army; they quarrelled, and they fought amongst themselves, until eventually there came an authority which imposed its power upon the others and reduced the country to peace. I do not pretend to be an historian, but I think that the noble Lord will agree that the barons' wars in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, so far from having been merely minor encounters, and possibly stopping one or two people taking part in duels, were prolonged and bloody conflicts; and that is what he is really facing when he talks about an international force.

I do not think that anybody in this House really believes that at this moment the world has got to the stage when it is prepared to abolish its national armies. I doubt whether many of us believe that the nations are prepared at this moment to give up all their national ideals and their national hopes, sometimes for expansion, sometimes for greater trade facilities, and to say that they will come under the control of what is really in fact a super-State. If we are really going to have this International Military Force (which is its correct description, for it is not a police force) then it will definitely mean, as I think the noble Lord himself visualised to some extent, a super-State, with an executive under that State, with presumably a Parliament, which would lay down what should be the policy either for the whole world or for the parts with which this Force had to deal, and presumably, in this case, Europe. Now may I remind the noble Lord, with regard to the League of Nations, that two of the greatest nations in Europe are not members—Russia and Germany—and therefore if this military force is to be put under the control of the League of Nations, presumably he thinks that Germany will be prepared 'to be ruled by this super-State and controlled by this military force, although she, herself, will not have a vote in this Assembly?

After all an ounce of fact is worth many pounds of theory. The noble Lord referred to the unity of command achieved in the War. I can tell him something about it from personal knowledge. At the beginning of 1918 I was serving on the Military Staff at Versailles, and our duty was to try to forecast what was likely to happen in the next six months of the War. We decided that it was obvious that a very heavy German attack was going to be made on the Allied line, and we came to the conclusion, after a considerable amount of thought, that the best way of securing the safety of the line was to have an Inter-Allied Reserve. We decided that that Reserve should, consist of six British and twelve French Divisions. We put forward our scheme to the Governments of the allied countries, and our proposals were approved after long discussion at Versailles. Eventually the Governments decided that an Allied Reserve should be set up, and that it should be controlled by the Supreme War Board, which was to consist of representatives of the four allied nations—namely, France, represented by Marshal Foch; Italy, by General Cadorna; the United States, by General Bliss; and the British Empire. by Sir Henry Wilson. Eventually that scheme became known in this country, and the storm of criticism that arose at the suggestion that the Allied Reserve should be controlled by a Committee I can remember to this day. It was pointed out that a Committee was not a suitable body to exercise executive action; that it would not be in touch with the situaion; that the four Commanders or four Staff officers drawn from four different nations would be thinking of their own part of the line and the security of that particular section; and that in every respect such a proposal was hopeless.

I can only say that the Supreme War Council at Versailles undoubtedly suffered materially from that criticism. We were appointed an advisory body, and the criticism that an advisory body was not equally good for executive action undoubtedly did the Staff there a good deal of harm, in that their advice thereafter was not looked upon with as much favour as it had been previously. A further thing happened. When it came to the test the Commanders-in-Chief of the British and French Armies refused to find their respective quotas of divisions, and I think your Lordships will realise that I have given an analogy which fits not inadequately into the situation put forward by the noble Lord. The Leader of the Opposition has, I am glad to say, enabled me to shorten my speech very materially, because I agree with every word he has said. I understood him differently from the noble Viscount on the Cross Benches, because I understood him to be entirely opposed to an International Police Force, whereas the noble Viscount appeared to think that he was in favour of it.

It is undoubtedly true that you cannot consider merely the principle, as Lord Davies suggested, but must look into the practicability of these proposals. I have already ventured to point out the difficulties of dm question of command, but I would point out further that when you come to this great body, the League of Nations, even the appointment of some one to a comparatively subordinate position on the secretariat leads to endless discussion, and is only solved after considerable delay. Then I understood from the noble Lord that he proposes to confine his International Military Force to Europe. That, at any rate, will solve some of the difficulties in regard to shipping and how to get that force to various parts of the world, but there is still the difficulty, as pointed out by the noble Viscount on the Cross Benches, and the Leader of the Opposition, as to where such a Force would be situated. The proposal put forward by the French at Geneva was that it should be merely an Air Force, and that it should be established in what was called one of the minor countries, but the whole proposal was extremely indefinite and not backed up by any other nation, and therefore it really received comparatively little discussion.

I venture to think that when we went into the whole question of where such a Force would be situate, and came down to an actual definite location of such a Force, we should find that practically every nation in Europe would object to its location, for two reasons. The first is strategical. It might not be considered an advantageous position for dealing with an aggressor. The second reason is a comparatively minor one, but of no small importance—namely, that wherever such a Force is situated there does it spend its pay, and therefore becomes an immense asset to the country in which it is situated. As every country will presumably be expected to contribute towards the expenses of this Force, each country will expect some return for its payment, and so the fact that all the money would be spent in one country would be quite sufficient to destroy the scheme. After all, the League of Nations was established to endeavour to prevent war rather than to make war on other countries. I am not going to suggest for one moment that this country is opposed to an International Force. We have already agreed to it in regard to the Locarno Pact. There we are definitely committed, if certain occasion should arise, to supply such a force as is necessary to deal with the situation; but an International Military Force is a very different matter. It is not to be established to deal with a particular situation that arises, but it is presumably to deal with any situation which this Supreme International Control will order it to deal with.

The noble Lord quoted the instance of the Lytton Commission. That Commission was not a tribunal, as he suggested, at all. It was an ad hoc body set up by the League to elucidate the facts. It was not there to give judgment on the situation but merely to report back to the League, for the League to give its own decision.


They certainly made recommendations.


They made a general recommendation, but they were not set up as a tribunal, but merely to establish the facts. I do not want now to go into many other points which were raised. The noble Earl, the Lord Chairman, I think exercised flights of fancy as to what the war of the future was likely to be. I think he will find, if he enquires from those whose profession is naval or military, that an inferior weapon in the hands of a highly skilled man is more effective than a better weapon exercised by one who is only an amateur; and if he thinks these nations will be able to wait until a crisis has developed and then set their factories to work to produce armaments, I hope at any rate he will get some other nation to agree to do it rather than this one, because I am quite certain myself it is an extremely dangerous doctrine.

Lord Davies suggested that force should no longer be used as an instrument of policy, but he went on to say that this super-State should deal under Article 19 with the revision of frontiers, and presumably would enforce those decisions made on new frontiers by its own Force, which is exactly contrary to the proposals which he agreed to, and which were that every nation has signed its name to say it will no longer use force as an instrument of policy. It seems to me there is very little difference between an international body using force as an instrument of policy and a national one doing so, because in every case there will be those who will object and war will ensue. I think that is all I can really say to your Lordships on this matter. I think your Lordships will realise from what I have said that the view of the Government is still that expressed by the Lord President of the Council in another place a few weeks ago. The world is still a very long way from the international mind which would make a proposal for an International Military Force a possibility and, that being so, we cannot of course accept the Motion which the noble Lord has put down. I am afraid I have no Papers which I can lay, but presumably the noble Lord knew already that that would be unlikely, and he merely put down his Motion in that form in order to have the right of reply.


My Lords, it is difficult at this late hour to reply to all the points which have been raised. After hearing the speech of the noble Lord who sits on the Front Opposition Bench I cannot quite understand why he is associated with the Labour Party, because apparently he has no use whatever for the programme that his own Party claim as the one which they support. It is all very well to say you must have complete disarmament simultaneously with the arrival of an international Police Force. That is bound to happen, because once the principle of the international Police Force is established no nation which subscribes to the maintenance of that Force, and which contributes effectives towards the Force, is going to keep a national force of its own. There would be no object in its doing so. Private individuals gave up carrying arms, not because Acts were passed by legislative bodies, but because they found that these arms were highly inconvenient, and that there was no object in carrying them any longer when the sheriff and afterwards the constable arrived on the scene. The same principle applies to nations, and I think the great mistake Disarmament Conferences have made is that they have tried to put the cart before the horse.

Once you have security, once you take away that feeling of insecurity which possesses Europe at this moment, you solve the problem, and the whole object of an International Police Force is to provide that security before and not after a crisis develops. If, as in 1914, we do not make up our minds or declare our intentions we can only expect that a fresh war will break out. If you can, as I believe you can, with the co-operation of the other Members of the League who have already expressed their willingness to do so, express in terms of organisation that determination to secure peace, then you have gone as far as you can go towards the prevention of war.

It is hopeless to attempt to answer all the questions that have been raised, but I think their very number proves that this discussion has not been entirely futile. Obviously, it is a question of practicability, but the question of practicability is primarily one for military experts. I am not a military expert, but I am sure many of the points Lord Ponsonby raised are susceptible of practical solution. He said that I had ignored that particular aspect of the question. I tried to explain at the beginning of my speech that it is not a question of ignoring, but it is a question first of all of deciding on general principles. After we have decided that the general principles are sound, then the question is how to apply them, and that is a matter for experts and technicians, who can supply the necessary answers and work the principles out in terms of organisation. For instance, what about recruitment? I think somebody said it would be impossible to recruit this Force. The French Government are able to recruit their Foreign Legion from every country in Europe. They have no difficulty in getting recruits. Why, then, should there be any difficulty in getting recruits for an International Force?

Then, there is the question of the supply of armaments. Armament firms could be specially licensed for the purpose in each particular country that joins in a scheme of this kind, and they could be limited to supplying the international authority as their only customer. That is a practical way of solving that question. I venture to think that if such an arrangement were made with individual private firms who were recognised and licensed to supply the international authority, then we should be, able to deal effectively with all the gun-running and all the scandalous export of armaments to countries which will probably use them against us in the event of hostilities. I could go on talking for a long time, but at this late hour I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.