HL Deb 05 December 1934 vol 95 cc133-76

VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD rose to ask whether the President of the Council was correctly reported as saying that a collective peace system is imprac- ticable in view of the fact to-day that the United States is not yet a Member of the League of Nations and that Germany and Japan have both retired from it, and whether that means that it is the policy of the Government to abandon so much of the system of the League of Nations as is contained in Article 16 of the Covenant and to revert in that respect to the pre-War international system; and to move for Papers.

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, before I put the Question which stands in my name I hope your Lordships will forgive me if I venture to say a few words on the very deplorable news that is in the evening newspapers of the death of the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Buckmaster. I had the honour of collaborating with him on a number of questions and I shared what I believe was the very general feeling of this House, a feeling of profound respect and affection for Lord Buckmaster. He was the friend of everyone who was oppressed or in difficulties. Every cause which could excite the feelings of pity or justice amongst men was certain to be defended by the matchless eloquence and sincerity of the noble Viscount. I have not the same experience of this House as some of your Lordships, but certainly during my tenure of a seat in your Lordships' House I have known of no one who was capable of moving to the same extent, not only the hearts, but the reason of your Lordships, almost on every occasion on which he addressed you. He added a distinction and an energy to your Lordships' debates which will be very much missed in the future. I think we may say, not in the common phrase but as a real expression of what we feel, that his death is a loss to this House and to the country.

I beg now to ask: whether the President of the Council was correctly reported as saying that a collective peace system is impracticable in view of the fact to-day that the United States is not yet a Member of the League of Nations and that Germany and Japan have both retired from it, and whether that means that it is the policy of the Government to abandon so much of the system of the League of Nations as is contained in Article 16 of the Covenant and to revert in that respect to the pre-War international system. I have necessarily only quoted in the Notice on the Paper a very small fraction of what the Lord President of the Council said in his speech at Glasgow to which I refer, and I think it would be convenient to your Lordships if I read a little more. The Lord President of the Council was referring to a collective peace system and he is reported to have said: This is impracticable in view of the fact to-day that the United States is not yet a Member of the League of Nations and that Germany and Japan have both retired from it. A collective peace system could never be undertaken without those countries—of that I am quite certain—and so long as I have any responsibility in the Government for deciding whether or not this country shall join a collective peace system I will say this: Never as an individual will I sanction the British Navy being used for the armed blockade of any country in the world until I know what the United States of America are going to do.

Your Lordships will observe that that passage ends with a reference to America. I should certainly myself agree that before instituting a naval blockade it would be desirable to know what view the United States of America took upon the question in regard to which it was decided to institute a blockade. We have had some reason to think that, in the case of the League of Nations deciding that a particular country had failed to carry out its obligations under the Covenant of the League of Nations, and had resorted to war so as to bring itself within Article 16 of the Covenant, if the League of Nations decided—or if the Members of the League of Nations, for that is the more correct way of putting it under Article 16, decided—that it was their duty to take measures to cut off relations with that country, then the United States of America, if they were satisfied that that was a correct decision, would do nothing to interfere with the effectiveness of such action. That, I understand, to have been the statement made on behalf of the United States Government at Geneva. That no doubt makes the position to some extent easier, but it still remains true that before attempting to enforce anything like marine pressure on a country it would be necessary to know what views the other great naval Powers would take.

Indeed, I have always myself believed that such pressure could only be effectively exercised under the cover of belligerent rights in the same way as we exercised that pressure during the War of 1914. It is quite plain now, as I understand International Law, that the doctrine of pacific blockade is exploded, and that if you wish to interfere with the free use of the sea in order to put pressure on another country, you must do it by virtue of belligerent rights. Of course that is true of the League of Nations as it is true of individual countries, and therefore if it were desired to exercise any pressure of that kind it could be done only in the extreme case of taking action under Article 16 in accordance with the provisions of that Article. I understand the great anxiety that any Minister would feel on such a matter with regard to the attitude of the United States, and I fully agree with those who think that it would be desirable to do everything possible to be sure that the United States would not do anything to interfere with the action of the international authority. So far as that part of the speech is concerned, therefore, I have not a fundamental difficulty or a doubt, but with regard to the rest of the passage which I have read, I confess that I feel a good deal more difficulty. I hope I may have misunderstood what my right honourable friend meant, but on the face of it that part is open to the interpretation that it is no longer possible to carry out Article 16 because Germany and Japan have given notice of withdrawal from the League—they are of course still Members of the League of Nations, but have given notice of withdrawal—and the United States has not yet become a Member of it.

That seems to me a very serious statement. Article 16 is, I think, historically, the kernel round which the whole of the rest of the League of Nations conception was constructed, at any rate so far as this country was concerned. The very first Paper which was submitted to the British Cabinet about the League of Nations—it has been published, so that I think I am not committing any solecism in referring to it—consisted almost entirely of Articles 15 and 16 of the Covenant. That is to say, it suggested that in future before any war was engaged in, whenever a rupture had occurred or was likely to occur between two countries, the matter should be submitted to the consideration of the Council of the League, that they should give some opinion within six months, and that not until three months after they had given their opinion should it be legitimate for any country to go to war, arid even then not in all cases, with which I need not trouble your Lordships. But at any rate there was to be that delay—that "moratorium" as it was called by General Stunts—between the quarrel taking a dangerous shape and the possibility of the outbreak of war. If any country in breach of that undertaking resorted to war, then the other countries were to combine, to put first diplomatic and then economic pressure upon the delinquent country, and then, if necessary, to consult with one another as to what military measures, if any, it was desirable to take with regard to that country.

That was the very first conception. I have sometimes heard people say that this whole provision was put in in order to satisfy some Continental view. That really is not so. It was part of the original British conception of the League. It was warmly advocated by a great number of people, including General Smuts, who, in the well-known Memorandum which he published at the time just before the meeting of the Paris Conference, and dealing with this question of the League, said this: I do not think the League is likely to prove a success unless in the last resort the maintenance of the moratorium"— that is the delay which I have described— is guaranteed by force. The obligation on the Members of the League to use force for this purpose should therefore be absolute. That is what he said there, and he elaborated it very considerably in other parts of the same Memorandum. It is true that that is not quite in accordance with the apparent meaning of his speech made the other day, in which he said: I say quite definitely that the idea of a League of Force was negatived … in the League of Nations Commission at Paris. I think there must be a little misapprehension. I think he must have been using the expression "League of Force" in a rather special sense. I was present, I think, at the whole of this discussion in Paris, and I remember very well a considerable discussion on a French proposition as to whether there should be a military organisation at the disposal of the League, with a General Staff and things of that kind. That proposal was negatived, but the proposal that there should be collective action against a wrong-doer was never negatived; indeed, it was always accepted as an elementary part of the Covenant, and it has been so recognised repeatedly by spokesmen in this country and spokesmen abroad on behalf of this country.

There is a very striking passage in a speech delivered not very long ago, that is to say on April 3 of this year, by a very great authority in this matter, Sir Austen Chamberlain. He used this language: I suggest, therefore, that it is impossible that we should remain indifferent to the concerns of our neighbours—not for any altruistic reasons, but because the interests of our neighbours are also our interests. … I hold that our safety is not in isolation, but in the recognition that the aggressor is the common enemy of mankind; and we must make it plain to all that against the aggressor will be mobilised a force which is irresistible and which must deny the aggressor the benefits he hoped to derive from his aggression. In the joint responsibility of the civilised world for the preservation of peace, as embodied in the Covenant of the League, lies the only hope of security for ourselves and for our neighbours. That is a very strong and vigorous expression, but I believe it to be a sound view of what the Covenant of the League intended, and I respectfully adhere and agree to what was said.

The Lord President of the Council lays great stress on the withdrawal of Japan and Germany and the refusal, or failure, of the United States to join the League. But it must be remembered that for some time after the creation of the League Germany was not a Member. She was not a Member for several years after the League was created. I personally regretted that, but that was the case; and the United States never has become a Member of the League. Therefore whatever may be said about the original formation of the League and the construction of the Covenant, it was quite clear that we should have to act and carry the League through in its early years without the assistance of Germany and the United States. Therefore the only difference so far as that state of things is concerned is the notice of withdrawal by Japan. I do not know that that makes such a very serious difference in a great number of cases, but surely it is at least balanced by the entry of Russia into the League; and therefore I do not quite follow why so much importance is attached to the action of those three Powers which are named.

In my judgment, and I submit it to your Lordships, our obligation under the Covenant is quite clear and quite complete, and it is the foundation on which the Covenant was built. We had in our minds, those of us who were considering this question, the circumstances which preceded the outbreak of the Great War. We had in our minds the fact that our Foreign Minister had done his best to secure a meeting of the contending Powers, and had urged very strongly that nothing should be done until the matter had been discussed privately, and had failed. We believed, and he in a statement afterwards agreed in our belief, that if that had been possible there would have been good reason to hope that no war would take place. Therefore, the thing which we were most anxious to secure against a renewal of a great war was that there should be collective action to prevent a sudden outbreak of war. It was never part of the Covenant system that force should he used in order to compel some particular settlement of a dispute. That, we thought, was going beyond what public opinion of the world would support; but we did think we could go as far as to say: "You are not to resort to war until every other means for bringing about a settlement has been exhausted." I venture to think that unless that can be maintained and supported a very grave and grievous blow will be struck at the whole structure of the League, and at the whole hope of any advancement in the cause of peace.

I am one of those who believe that you cannot have disarmament without solving two great problems. One is the demand of Germany for equality, and the other is the demand of France for security, and it is of no use treating these problems as separate problems. They are the two sides of the shield, and it is essential that you should solve both if you are going to solve either of them, and unless you solve them you must abandon any hope of a serious degree of international disarmament by international agreement. Therefore I regard that as a fundamental case. I feel, further, that unless you can secure some degree of disarmament, or some limitation and reduction of armaments, you are very unlikely to be able to maintain for any considerable time the system of the League, or unlikely to secure enduring peace in the world. Therefore I feel very strongly that collective action, in the sense which I have described, is an essential part of the League.

I do not mean to say that collective action need always result, or usually result, in military action. On the contrary, my own belief, supposing the system is acting properly, is that the number of cases in which military action will become necessary is extremely small. We have seen the action of the League in smaller disputes. In every one there has been collective action in the sense that the Council have met and agreed what is to be done to prevent fighting. Intimation has been conveyed to the two parties, and certainly in some cases private consultations have taken place as to the next step to be taken if the parties did not agree; and it was because there was the possibility of a next step, whether economic or a step which might ultimately take some form of military pressure, that the advice of the Council was deferred to with such extreme regularity—until the events in the Far East. I am not going into the vexed question of the Far East beyond saying that for whatever reason, whether anyone was to blame for it or not, the fact does remain that because the League was unable to take any vigorous action of the kind indicated in Article 16 the League's advice was not in fact accepted, and the League was in fact impotent.

So I do regard it as not only our duty, but our interest, if we desire to maintain the system of organised peace, to maintain the system of collective action. I think it is absolutely essential, and I would not have brought this matter before your Lordships if I did not think that, and if there were not two other considerations to which I venture to call your attention. In the first place, this was the speech of the Leader of the Conservative Party, a man who in himself, I suppose, has the greatest share of political power of any man alive at this moment. His words, therefore, will be scanned and examined very closely all over the world. I have no doubt they have been scanned, and this phrase amongst the rest, and it is bound to be treated, as it ought to be treated, as of first-rate importance in the councils of the world. Nowadays, perhaps for many years but certainly nowadays, no statesman of eminence, and certainly no member of the Cabinet, speaking on foreign affairs, can forget that he is addressing not only his immediate audience, and not only his fellow countrymen, but the whole of the world at the same time. Therefore these statements become of a very serious character.

There is another reason why I think they are important at the present moment, and here I hope your Lordships will forgive me if I diverge into a rather different topic. Undoubtedly it is common ground, and asserted constantly, that the position of the League is not so strong as it was a year or two ago. The Members of the League show a sign of drifting back to the old pre-War system. I do not know whether that will go on. I think there is some reason for hoping that the situation is not so dangerous as it was six months ago. Still, six months or so ago, in the Spring, it did look to many of us terribly ominous. It did look, not possibly in this country so much but in many countries, that there was a slow drifting back to the old system. I do not wish to suggest for one moment that that meant there would be an immediate war. I hope I have never used language in public to that effect, and I do not wish to do so this evening. It may happen—anything may happen—but I do not think that is the danger to be feared. The danger to be feared is that you will gradually see the system of organised peace undermined and destroyed until it is useless and until we gradually go back to the old system of preparations for war, competitive armaments, group alliances, and all the rest of it, which, so far as I can see, must sooner or later—it may not be for some years, but sooner or later it must end in another catastrophic war. That seems to me to be the danger, and certainly to many others it seemed a very acute danger last spring.

It was that feeling—and here I am turning to a subject which I quite recognise I can only approach with the concurrence of your Lordships—which led some of us to start the much-discussed Peace Ballot, as it is called. That was the whole object of it. There was no other object whatever in starting that movement. I remember the circumstances as well as possible. We were very much exercised in our minds at the tendency which was visible all over the world. We thought that here was a League of Nations Union existing to maintain and to support the League of Nations by every means we could, and we must take some action, if there was any action that seemed to us at all useful to take. Some of us considered the ordinary methods of agitation—a series of meetings, petitions, processions and all the rest of it—but we came to the conclusion that for various reasons they were wholly inadequate. Then it was brought to our notice that a questionnaire of this type had been distributed and answered in a particular district in London with great success. By universal agreement among all the lovers of peace they had all worked together—no division of Parties or Churches or anything of that kind—and a very successful result had been achieved. We said: "Well, what can be done in one district can be done in all." That was the whole genesis of the idea, and nothing else. And when I read, as I sometimes do, suggestions that there was some obscure Party motive in setting this going, I really have to rub my eyes and wonder what it is that is in the minds of people who make suggestions of that kind. There really is nothing in it whatever.

The plan was started on March 1. It was brought before the executive committee on several occasions during that spring. There were present in the executive committee members of all Parties, a large number of them being Conservatives—when I say a large number, the body is of course small, but six, seven or eight of them were Conservatives. The matter was discussed. There were people who thought that the difficulties of expense, organisation difficulties, and so on, would be too great. That was discussed, but never once, by anyone, from any quarter, was it suggested that this ballot would have a Party political effect. That discussion went on. It went on for four months in various forms. The matter was brought before the annual meeting of the League of Nations Union on June 26, it was discussed there openly, with the Press present. Considerable reports of the discussion were made. The same difficulties were raised of the organisation and the expense, but never once was any suggestion made that this would have a deleterious effect on the Party interests of one Party or anything of that kind. And the discussion happened to take place in a locality, Bournemouth, which was necessarily, of course, very largely represented, as the locality always is in meetings of that kind, and I do not think that anyone would doubt that Bournemouth is a very sound Conservative place. It has, I think, the honour of being represented by Sir Henry Page Croft.

On July 5 we summoned a meeting of all the societies which took an interest in the matter and the questions suggested were put before them. They were discussed. There were present representatives of all the three political Parties and ultimately it was agreed to go on. It was not till a fortnight after that, that we were suddenly informed that this proposal of ours was open to the very gravest objections on other grounds. I am not going back into the quarrels that took place after that. I think quite enough has been said about them. I certainly have no desire to raise them again, though I am perfectly ready to do so if anybody else wishes to do so. We continued our efforts in every way to secure the assent and the support of all the Parties, particularly the Conservative Party, which had come to show some doubt as to whether it was possible for them to help us. We are very largely successful. In a number of places all over the country Conservatives, I am glad to say, are working cordially for the success of the scheme.

I have had the honour of attending a good many meetings about this matter. Nothing could be less Party than the Atmosphere of those meetings. They have been presided over sometimes by distinguished Conservatives, but more often by some person whose position rendered him necessarily neutral. At Bradford it was the Lord Mayor of Bradford. At Ipswich it was the Mayor of Ipswich—it happened, I believe, that until he became Mayor he was leader of the Conservative Party, but that was not the reason—at Chelmsford it was the Bishop: at Plymouth, I think, it was my noble friend Lord Astor, but that was only because he has a very special position at Plymouth, and not because he was a Conservative, and we had on the platform, in order to balance him, representatives of other Parties.

The National Declaration Committee has done everything it can, and will continue to do everything it can, to avoid any kind of Party atmosphere being brought into this matter, and those who attack it are the people who are running the risk of turning this into a Party manœuvre. I do ask your Lordships—and I am most anxious to obtain the approval of many members of your Lordships' House who belong to the old Conservative Party—to look into this question impartially. Let them read the questions attentively. Let them see which of them can possibly be said to raise Party questions as such. The first question is the adherence to the League of Nations: admittedly, that raises no Party question. That and the fifth question, which is merely putting into non-technical language the obligations of Article 16—absolutely nothing else than that—are the two questions about the League itself. Then there are three questions about disarmament. Question number 2 deals with general disarmament—no Party issue can arise about that.

Number 3 deals with the abolition of air warfare. Why, that is the reform that was advocated with such wonderful eloquence by my right honourable friend the Lord President of the Council himself, in a speech which he delivered about a year ago—a very well known speech. He said that it was essential, that he did not believe any limitation of air armaments was sufficient; if you wanted to get rid of this horrible business of bombing you must abolish air armaments. He touched on the difficulties raised by civil aviation and he concluded in a very remarkable passage with these words: If the conscience of the young men should ever come to feel with regard to this one instrument"— that is the military aeroplane— that it is evil and should go, the thing will be done; but if they do not feel like that—well, as I said, the future is in their hands. All we have done is to go to the young men of this country and ask them to express an opinion on this question. We have made our appeal to include the young men and young women because we are asking everyone over eighteen to express an opinion. I do not understand how it can be suggested that in asking that question we are raising any Party question whatever.

Then comes the one question over which no doubt most of the dispute has taken place—the fourth question, in which we suggest that private profit should be abolished in the manufacture and sale of armaments. If there are people who feel it difficult to answer that question it is perfectly easy for them to ignore it or answer it in the negative; nobody can complain of that. But why, because they disagree about that question, they should tear up the whole paper is an absolute mystery to me. I do not know why that advice is given. What is the difference between us? It is admitted—nobody has said it more strongly than the Prime Minister—that this system of private profit from the sale and manufacture of arms is a dangerous system. Others have said quite definitely that it must be controlled. The gentleman who recently got in for Putney said so in the strongest language. The whole difference on which so much has been said with such astounding warmth is whether you can achieve your object by controlling this industry or whether it will be necessary to take it over and make it a public industry altogether. It is, of course, very largely a public industry already; the question is whether you should take over the remainder. There is no question of principle raised as far as I can see. That is the whole question. Can it possibly reasonably be said that because we said abolition instead of control—probably we should have said "control or abolition" if anyone had suggested it—we are raising a Party question? I think, to use a well-known phrase, that is fantastic and ridiculous.

I am quite aware that there is a danger of this thing drifting into Party politics, but that danger arises from the attacks which certain sections of the Conservative Party have thought it right to make not only on the desirability of this scheme but on the motives of those engaged in it, on the whole idea of the referendum altogether, concluding with the advice to tear up the ballot papers. If that kind of thing is done and persisted in, I am afraid it is increasingly likely that the Opposition Parties will say, in their general attack on the Government's foreign policy: "Just look at the action they are taking about this Peace Ballot—does not this confirm everything we are saying about their foreign policy?" I should deeply regret it if that happened because I am anxious to see this thing a great success, and I do not want it to be drawn into Party politics, but, if it is, it will be entirely and solely due to those who have chosen to make these violent attacks on this scheme. I hope I have not spoken too warmly, but I feel that it is right to speak warmly because we have been treated with the greatest unfairness and injustice in this matter, and I am very glad to have an opportunity of saying so from my place in Parliament. So far as we are concerned we shall go on using every effort we can to avoid this being made a Party issue. Whatever is said about it, we shall make no change in the attitude we have adopted from the outset or in the purpose we have set for ourselves. We started this ballot for no other purpose: we mean it to help the establishment of a peace policy.

We believe it will be of great value in educating the people of this country to think carefully about these issues. We think it will be of some value, we hope of great value, to the Government of this country, whatever it may be, in assuring them that they have an immense body of popular support behind them if they desire to pursue a policy of this kind. And we believe most of all—at least I do—that if you can get a really imposing and overwhelming verdict in favour of peace and disarmament through the League of Nations—for that is, after all, the fundamental issue—if you can get that given by the people of this country, that will produce a very great influence on the international situation. They watch us closely. If they know that the people are really determined to see this thing through, that will give them much more confidence. It will, I verily think, appease a great part of the unrest and discontent in the world, and it will be of the greatest possible value.

I hope your Lordships will allow me to say that I do earnestly beg all those who are good enough to take an interest in this subject to think carefully whether they cannot come and support us and help us, and not try to belittle and destroy us. They will not succeed in destroying us. The evidence that is before me is overwhelming as to the interest that is being taken all over the country in this ballot. It is not only the meetings which I have attended myself, which are comparatively few in number, but others who are speaking all over the country tell me the same thing—there is the deepest interest in this subject, a real hope and feeling in the audiences that they have been asked to do something which may contribute practically to the peace of the world. I have no doubt that there will be a very large response, but it is quite open, no doubt, to any of the great Parties if they like, by taking a violently hostile attitude, to diminish that response, to make it less complete than it would otherwise be. I think that would be a profound pity. The thing has been started, as I have tried to explain very briefly to your Lordships, and it does not raise any Party question. It does not raise any question which any Party need be afraid or ashamed to asnwer one way or the other; and if you try simply to destroy it, if you urge the destruction of ballot papers, and so on, you may indeed diminish the extent of the replies—I do not think you will succeed in diminishing it very greatly, but to some extent—but I am satisfied you will do yourselves and the world considerable harm.

I beg earnestly my noble friends who have the control of the Government of this country at this time to consider carefully what they think ought to be done in this matter and not to allow themselves to be led away by any lesser considerations. I have put down this Question for the same motive: my anxiety to see the attempt to organise peace really established, formally established, in the councils of the world because, so far as I can see—and I have given the closest attention I am capable of giving to it for many years past—it is the only hope that exists at this moment of avoiding a future war more terrible, more disastrous even than the war we waged from 1914 to 1918, but which, whether less or more disastrous, will almost certainly, in the words of my right honourable friend the Lord President of the Council, shake Western civilisation to its foundations.


My Lords, may I be allowed to add a few words to what was said by the noble Lord who has just spoken about the lamented death of Lord Buckmaster? I have not been very long in this House, and I probably did not know him at the height of his powers, but I have known and followed his work from afar for years. He was a man of brilliant intellect and magnanimity, and I have found since I have been in this House that whenever he has intervened in the debate it has always been for noble ends and generous purposes. I venture to say that few speakers commanded the attention of this House in the way in which Lord Buckmaster has within the last few years, and I am sure I am speaking especially for the members who sit on this Bench when I say we feel equally the loss which Liberal causes—I use the term in no Party sense—have suffered through his death.

I wish now to say a few words upon the subject which has been raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil. I also am equally interested in knowing what the answer of the Government is going to be to the Question which the noble Viscount has put. I am not sure that I read the speech of the Lord President of the Council as meaning so disastrous a departure from the principles of the League of Nations as it might, taken literally, seem to be; but I confess I think the phrasing was unfortunate, and that the noble Viscount has rendered service to this House, to the Government and to the country in getting the matter cleared up. I think it is important for another reason. We are approaching a very critical stage in the history of the world. But I am not very pessimistic about the future. As often happens in great crisis, there are opportunities for far better things as well as possibilities of disaster, and I am inclined to think, from the way the world is moving, that if the great Governments of the world act wisely, in five years from now we may look back upon the rather terrible picture which is now being painted of returning war and rearmament as a dark cloud that has passed away.

The issue which really lies before the world to-day is whether it is going to make a success of what is loosely called "collective systems" or the League of Nations' system, or whether it is going to return to what may best be described by the words "power diplomacy." The practice of power diplomacy was the system which prevailed for many generations and was, I think, the immediate and precipitate cause of the Great War. Power diplomacy, as I understand it, does not mean that its advocates or practitioners believe in war in itself. Their argument is rather this, that in a world such as our present anarchic world, it is very difficult to bring about those adjustments of the political structure, especially in treaties and in frontiers, by diplomacy or conference. There may be no way of making changes except by a resort to force in some form. Just as inside the State, unless Governments move sufficiently with the times indignation and a sense of injustice gradually rise to revolutionary violence, so in international affairs unless changes are made in time war becomes inevitable. The power diplomat, sometimes for illegitimate sometimes for legitimate ends, tries to bring about those necessary changes in the international situation under threat of war. Changes are sometimes then made peacefully under threat of war because the other nations concerned are unable or unwilling to face war and yield to coercion. The danger of this method is apparent because it means inevitably a. continual rise in international tension and a continual expansion of armaments until you get such a state of competition, such a strict system of international alliances, that a knave or a fool or an accident may press the button which starts a world war.

The issue in the world to-day is whether mankind is going to make a success of the collective system or whether it is going to revert to power diplomacy with its inevitable end, another and even more catastrophic world war. If the collective system is to be successful it must contain two elements. On the one hand it must be able to bring about by pacific means alterations in the international structure, and on the other hand it must be strong enough to restrain Powers which seek to take the law into their own hands either by war or by power diplomacy, from being successful in their efforts.

Europe has been stabilised since 1920 partly by the League of Nations but much more by exhaustion and by the military predominance which France and her associates maintained behind the Treaty of Versailles. That state of stability is now passing away. If we are going to get disarmament in Europe, if we are going to make a success of the collective system there, it is only going to be because the major Powers of Europe, and notably Germany and France, are able to take into account legitimate grievances under the treaties, and remedy them, and, having done that, are also strong enough to deter any Power from taking the short cut of trying to attain their ends either by war or by power diplomacy.

I venture to think that there is at this moment a situation in which, more than in any other, this great issue is likely to be settled one way or another, and that is not in Europe but in the Far East. Very far-reaching consequences are going to turn upon the policy which this Government pursues in the Far East in the next three or six months. I do not wish to enter into the matters of controversy which are under discussion in the Naval Conference that is going on at the present time, but there are one or two principles at stake about which I should like to say a few words. I think it is no longer open to doubt that one of the parties to the Washington Treaty intends to denounce the Washington Treaty before the end of this year. That can only mean that it wishes in some way to alter the principles upon which the Treaty rests. I will call your Lordships' attention to those principles. They are three. In the first place, that the major naval Powers shall have equality in security, which is secured by each of them having naval forces limited by treaty and naval bases restricted also by treaty, so that none of them can successfully attack the other, because those bases are too far apart. The first basic principle, then, is equality of security. The second basic principle is the integrity of China and the maintenance therein of the open door. The third is that Pacific questions are the concern of all the Pacific Powers and cannot be dealt with unilaterally by the action of any one signatory.

I would like to ask the noble Earl who is going to reply for the Government—and I believe in this matter I carry with me the consent of most noble Lords here present to-day—whether there is any difference of opinion either in this House or in this country about the validity of those principles. Does the Government, whatever it may say about minor details of application, stand for the three principles—equality of security, the integrity of China and the open door, and the maintenance of the collective system in the Pacific? If it does, and if it is prepared to co-operate whole-heartedly with other Powers in defence of those principles, I believe that any attempt to alter them by the reversion to power diplomacy will fail and that the collective system will have a vindication of far more significance to the world than even a 100 per cent. verdict in a national Peace Ballot.

If you stand behind the collective system in the Pacific you will have behind these principles the whole of the British Commonwealth, the whole of the British Empire, because there is no part of it which, if this country stands for them, will not also stand for them. You will have the United States behind them, though I should very much like to ask its Government how far it is prepared to go in making those principles effective. I think we ought to ask the United States that question. You will have Russia, the last recruit to the League of Nations, which is far more powerful in the Far East than it was a year ago. You will have China, whose recovery from the chaos of the last few years is, if my information is correct, unquestionably beginning and on whose sympathy and support the trade of this country depends far more than on that of any other nation in the Far East. I have no doubt that you will also have the entire support of France and the other signatories. That is a very formidable list of Powers. The issue in the Pacific to-day is whether the collective system is going to prevail as against the attempt which is quite clearly within the minds of certain elements to destroy it and substitute for it unilateral power diplomacy.

This does not only affect the Far East. If power diplomacy succeeds in the Far East it will inevitably succeed in Europe also. If it becomes possible for one nation to tear up treaties in the Far East without resistance it will be equally easy for certain other nations, some of them dominated perhaps by the same aspirations, to tear up the Treaty of Versailles and even clauses more important than its disarmament clauses, with impunity. Then you will have an inevitable combination of militarist nations on the one side and of democratic nations on the other side, and the world lined up for a fresh world war. If we can vindicate the collective system in the Pacific, above all if we can secure the active support of the United States in vindicating it, we shall begin to break down what has been the principal barrier in the world to the success of the collective system hitherto, the abstention of the United States from any active participation in it.

I have always thought that the great fault of the present Government's policy in the Far East in 1931 was not its view as to whether or not it was possible to stop Japan from absorbing Manchukuo—about which there is a great deal to be said on both sides—but the fact that they did not co-operate wholeheartedly with the United States when the Secretary of State, Mr. Stimson, was manifestly endeavouring to bring the United States into active co-operation with the collective system and undo what happened in 1920. That was the great mistake they made at that time. I venture to believe that the opportunity is now returning, and that if the situation is wisely handled it may be possible to restore first in the Pacific an effective collective system, including the United States, strong enough to vindicate the three principles I have mentioned, strong enough to be effective without any mobilisation of military forces, because it is only a question of bringing into line all the nations bordering on the Pacific who stand behind these principles to defeat the object of those who wish to return to power diplomacy.

If that is successful in the Pacific, is it too much to hope that the principle there vindicated may be restored in Europe, and now that Germany is shedding her complex of inequality, that she may be brought also into the collective system? If so, and if we can obtain also the friendly approval of the United States, a few years may restore to even greater power and influence than it has had in the past the collective system embodied in the League of Nations, so that it operates not only in the Far East but in Europe also. I venture therefore to urge that much the most important point is the policy which the Government is going to pursue for the next six months in the Pacific. It contains in itself possibilities of catastrophe but also possibilities of triumphant success if a wise policy is resolutely followed to the end.


My Lords, before I address myself to the Question on the Order Paper I should like to associate myself with the two noble Lords who have spoken and, on behalf of my noble friends who sit with me, to express our sorrow at the death of Viscount Buckmaster. I think his voice will be very much missed in your Lordships' House. For me his eloquence was inspired not by rhetorical ability but by deep and sincere conviction. I had the honour of his friendship for a great many years. My mind goes back to the time when he and I sat on the back benches of the House of Commons, and I remember very well my distress when he was defeated at an election and not returned to the House of Commons. I thought that every stone should be turned to bring into public life a man whose transparent honesty and great ability would be of service not only to his Party but to the nation.

The Question that has been raised by the noble Viscount is one of very great importance and interest. I think we all owe him a debt of gratitude for coming to your Lordships' House to elicit from His Majesty's Government some clear statement which will get rid of the doubt which must exist in some of our minds as to what actual policy is being pursued by the Government with regard to disarmament and general European policy. The question is admittedly an extremely difficult one and we are rather apt, when we are discussing foreign affairs, to use phrases that have become current but of whose meaning we are a little bit doubtful. I venture to think that the very phrase "the collective system" is one which is not capable of very clear definition. That we should work in the League and through the League and in co-operation with other nations, is to my mind the only policy that we can pursue if our intention is to keep the peace, but when we come to the technical obligations which are involved in an adherence to the letter of Article 16 of the Covenant, then whatever may be the wisdom or un-wisdom of that Article, the practical application of it undoubtedly presents considerable difficulty.

In so far as it means a common condemnation by the Powers which are Members of the League of any action on the part of a so-called aggressor, that of course is like a vote of censure on the part of the world against that nation, and that vote of censure, even if it is not supported by any action at all, has a considerable effect on the prestige and the amour propre of the nation in question. When we get to the question of action—and I do riot make any very clear distinction between economic and military sanctions, because any drastic economic sanction would in the long run always lead to military sanction—I see considerable difficulty. There was an illustration of it not long ago in the Far East, and I have always had in my mind considerable doubt whether you will get a corporate agreement on the part of all Powers which are Members of the League of Nations to take military action or economic action against a recalcitrant Power which may be openly condemned as a breaker of the peace or as having taken action which is generally considered reprehensible. I do not believe that their particular economic interests in connection with that Power will allow them freely to join in military or economic action against that Power. I do not believe they ever will.

But as the noble Viscount who introduced this debate very rightly said, collective action does not necessarily mean military action or even economic action; it means working through the League on every possible occasion when a question of difficulty arises. If we had refused ever to take military action under Article 16, it would not have made any difference in the last fifteen years, because the League has never agreed to take such action. Therefore the point to my mind is this: Are we going to adhere to the League of Nations as a means of trying to settle disputes between nations, or are we going to fall back on camps, on the balance of power and on competitive armaments? That is really the question which arises at the moment, and it is important that we should know exactly where the Government stand. The passage in the speech of the Lord President of the Council the other day which disturbed me most was the passage in which he said: All that I would say is this, that His Majesty's Government are determined under no condition to accept any position of inferiority with regard to what air force may be raised In Germany in the future. Now that is a distinct beginning of competition. It is what has happened before, and it leads to only one result. "Whatever armaments you have, we are going to go one better"; and then the other Government say: "Whatever armaments you have, we are going to go one better." So you get that race which was carried on in the years before the Great War broke out in 1914.

I have been looking up the debates of that time, and the expressions used by Ministers at that time. I can myself remember Sir Edward Grey (as he then was) saying that this competition in armaments would submerge civilisation and lead to national bankruptcy, Mr. Lloyd George condemning it as "organised insanity," and Mr. Asquith (as he then was) deploring the huge diversion of national wealth into unproductive channels. And yet nothing was done. We are hearing very eloquent phrases today deploring the possibility of war even, and condemning those who foresee it. We hear denunciations with regard to the piling up of armaments. But nothing is being done. If the collective system, which is our only hope of restraining national armaments, is to be abandoned, then of course we are in for competition, and all the debates are going to be like they were in the years before 1914. I remember them very well because I always took part in them. I always deplored the competition, and I was always laughed at and told that I did not know what I was talking about. Everybody was always glad to show how they knew the jargon of the particular Service—it was the Navy then; it is the Air Force now—and was able to show exactly by figures how we ought to arm and arm until we were stronger than our possible competitors. Many of us whose memories go back to those days are being forcibly reminded of the drift which largely led to the great catastrophe.

I fully admit that difficulties are created to-day by the rearmament of Germany, which of course was absolutely inevitable, and many of us foresaw it many years ago. There were only two alternatives. Either the Powers should carry out implicitly the Articles of the Treaty of Versailles and cut down their armaments, or Germany would insist that her armaments must be on a level with theirs. Any child could have foreseen it, so that it is nothing unexpected, and we have to face it as a reality today. It is also to be deplored that Germany and Japan are outside the League of Nations and that the United States of America have never joined it; but as my noble friend said, the League has continued its work, and it has got a new adherent in Russia. While we must not expect that everything is going to work smoothly—and people are only too fond of pointing at the League as a failure—yet I believe that it is only through the League that we are going to get any improvement in international relations.

I hope that the Government to-day will make it clear that they do adhere to the collective system and do not intend to go back to competition in armaments and to dividing the world into camps. The noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, just now gave a particularly well-informed account of the state of affairs in the Pacific and spoke of the necessity of the collective system there. There is nowhere in the world where the collective system cannot prove itself to be the only system by which we can work in these days. In olden times there was one nation against another; then we got a grouping of alliances of half a continent against the other half of a continent; now we are, with modern facilities, going to group the world into two vast and hideously opposing camps which, if they clash, might lead to a catastrophe such as humanity never experienced before.

The noble Viscount who opened this debate deplored the attitude which had been taken up with regard to the Peace Ballot. I was amazed that anybody should have objected to it. If my name had been connected with it then I could have understood the objection, but I am not even a member of the League of Nations Union, and it seems to me all the questions, except the last, could be readily answered by every reasonable man and woman in the country. I hope the noble Viscount will see that there are people in this country who are against the League of Nations, who think war is inevitable, who want preparation for war, and who want to wave the flag. They are declaring themselves as opposed to the ballot, and so the actions of the opponents have turned this ballot into what must be recognised as a show-up of those who are the opponents of peace. It is deplorable, but we have to recognise that there are such. They are a small minority. Unfortunately they are very vocal, and very often very violent in their language, but I think the ballot will prove, and I myself by personal experience would certainly endorse that verdict, that the main body of the people of this country want to see a policy pursued that will keep the country at peace and the world at peace. It is not outside the capacity of statesmen.

I pleaded in 1914, in the early months, for leadership, for somebody who would strike a note that would be responded to by the people of the world who wanted this thing and were begging for this thing and whose Governments did not adequately represent them. I feel that that leadership is wanted now. I had hoped that the Lord President of the Council would give that leadership. In his speeches before he seemed really to begin to voice that deep feeling in the country, but his last speech has been a disappointment, provoked, perhaps, by the difficulty of the situation in which the Government find themselves. I hope the noble Earl, Lord Stanhope, when he replies to the debate, to-day, will assure us that we are wrong in supposing that the collective system has been given up, and that the Government intend to pursue a course which will not lead to competition in armaments and to a return to the old bad system which led to war.


My Lords, I hasten to assure you that I have no intention of intervening in this debate. I have nothing to add to what has been so powerfully said by Lord Cecil of Chelwood, but this debate, not unfittingly, is being used as an opportunity to express our regret at the death of Lord Buckmaster and our recognition of his many gifts. Occupying the place I do in your Lordships' House I cannot refrain from adding a few words to what has been so admirably said by other speakers. I think that by general testimony, in which I know the late Lord Oxford and Asquith joined, Lord Buck-master was the most finished orator in this House. We must all have listened with the greatest admiration to the flow of his words, at once polished and forceful. Fortunate indeed was the cause which had his advocacy in this House. He not only appealed to our minds, but did something more difficult and perhaps more courageous: he appealed to a quality always latent but held in habitual reserve—to our sentiment, but never to anything that might be called sentimentality. It fell to me for many years to oppose him in a matter on which he felt deeply, but on which we differed, and none know better than I do how powerful was his advocacy. He brought to the service of this House and of this country great gifts of mind and speech, a high integrity and single-minded devotion to the causes, always worthy, which he had at heart.


My Lords, I should like in a very few words to associate myself, not only on behalf of the Government but on behalf of noble Lords who customarily sit on the Benches behind us, with the eloquent tributes that have been paid to Lord Buckmaster. He was only for a short time Lord Chancellor, and it is not as such that we shall remember him and regret that he is no longer among us. He often spoke in this House, and many of us can picture to ourselves his slight form standing at one of these Benches when he was addressing your Lordships' House on a variety of subjects. Whether we agreed with him or not, every one of us admired his eloquence and appreciated to the full the earnestness and sincerity with which he put forward his case. Indeed, I think there were few occasions when, whatever our Party views might be, he did not earn a great deal of support, not so much by his eloquence as by his sincerity, for what he said he felt to the depth of his being.

The debate which has taken place to-day in the House has covered, as often is the case, an extremely wide field, and I am not prepared to go into all the many questions that have been raised. From the terms of the Motion on the Paper, and indeed very largely from the speech made by the noble Viscount, it is implied that the whole collective peace system is enshrined in Article 16 of the Covenant, and that if for any reason that Article is not put into force then His Majesty's Government—in company, I suppose, with the Governments of many other nations—intend to make a great alteration in policy. Both those implications are entirely untrue. The noble Lord who leads the Opposition indeed said better than I can very much to make that point clear. Never once, as he reminded the House, since the Covenant was framed, have the conditions of Article 16 been actually brought into operation. So far therefore from there being any change in the policy of the present Government, it is in this respect carrying out only the policy which has been followed by every one of its predecessors since the Covenant was drawn up. If the noble Viscount had examined the speech of the Lord President more closely he would have seen that he used the phrase "collective peace system in its narrower sense"; for he went on immediately to refer to the question of armed blockade of a country by the British Navy, and lie said that he would never agree to such an operation until he knew what the United States of America was going to do. Well, but is there anything new or revolutionary in that statement?


Not in that statement.


Because no one knows better than the noble Viscount himself how great were the difficulties—to put it no highdr—that our Navy had to face when they instituted the blockade at the time of the Great War until the United States joined in. No one knows better than he that it did not really become fully effective until the United States joined. I see he denies that statement, but at any rate the pressure seemed rapidly to get very much stronger and harder when we got the support of the United States. Well, could anything be more damaging to the League of Nations than that it should institute sanctions, and then that they should fail in their purpose and that they should prove ineffective in their working? So far from strengthening the League, its authority would be destroyed and its effectiveness so diminished that it would be of little account, and that effectiveness might be destroyed not for a period but possibly for all time.

The effect of the collective peace system is by no means confined to the imposition of sanctions. Personally I deplore all this talk of war and of sanctions, and I am by no means alone in that opinion, because if I might quote to you a speech which many of your Lordships know well, the speech made by General Smuts not quite a month ago, he took very much the same line. Indeed, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Sir John Simon, has said very much the same thing on a number of occasions, but perhaps as a member of the Government that carries less effect in the noble Viscount's mind than would the speech of General Smuts. This is what he said: This war talk is creating a war atmosphere and is more likely to lead to war than anything else. To me it seems all a vicious and dangerous mistake. And the curious thing is that pacifists are most responsible for the scaremongering. In their well-meant efforts to frighten people into disarming and to a sense of dangers to come they are actually fomenting the mentality that leads to war. And he went on to say: With all the emphasis at my command, I would call a halt to this war talk as mischievous and dangerous war propaganda. The noble Viscount on the Cross Benches referred to the formation of the League of Nations and the drawing up of the Covenant, and he said that he thought General Smuts might have been mistaken in the view that sanctions were not, as the noble Viscount described it, the kernel of the Covenant. Well, but this is what General Smuts said in this same speech: In the first place, I cannot visualise the League as a military machine. It was not conceived or built for that purpose, and it is not equipped for such functions.


Hear, hear.


Well, that being the case, I think the noble Viscount will agree that the Lord President of the Council was fully justified in making that remark in regard to the collective system in that narrower sense. But if he will turn to the other side of the question of the collective peace system, there I think I can reassure him to the full. After all, in my view and I think in the view of most of your Lordships, the League was brought into existence, not to punish a nation which resorted to war, but actually to prevent wars occurring. In my view and in the view of His Majesty's Government it was brought into existence so that when a charge was made by one nation against another, or if one nation harboured a grievance against another, either because of some action or inaction by its neighbour, the whole policy should be to prevent that grievance or that charge from festering the whole body politic and turning the nation's mentality into such an inflamed state that anything might happen, even to the extent of war.

The whole idea of the League and of the collective peace system was that such cases should be brought before the Council of the League of Nations, that there they should be discussed fully and frankly round the table, without heat, and with a full sense of the seriousness of the case, and should be exposed to the full light of day. That is the way by which we should best preserve the peace of the world—by the removal of fear and suspicion and the allaying of grievances; that in our view is the true collective peace system, and that is the policy which His Majesty's Government intends to pursue with all its strength. I might only remind your Lordships that at the present moment the Lord Privy Seal is attending the Council of the League at Geneva, where questions of great importance are being discussed, and where, we believe, when they are submitted to the examination of those who are there present, we shall be able to straighten them out and get rid of a dangerous situation which might arise if there were no such thing as a League of Nations, and if we and others had withdrawn our support from it.

Let me quote another passage from the speech of the Lord President of the Council—that same speech to which the noble Viscount referred. He said: In these days when the League has been so weakened by recent events— he was referring of course to the withdrawal of Germany and Japan from the League— we must never relax our efforts to help the League and, so far as it is possible, to maintain its authority, and never relax our efforts to remove, so far as our efforts will help to remove, fear and suspicion through the countries of Europe. The difficulties may seem insuperable; our objectives may seem far from attainment; but we can work for it and we will work for it. So far, therefore, from my right honourable friend the Lord President of the Council having suggested that he was proposing that we should abolish the collective peace system, I think the noble Viscount will see quite clearly from that speech that he intended to support it to the utmost of his ability, in company of course with every other member of the Government.

The noble Viscount referred at considerable length to the Peace Ballot. I had not come here prepared to deal with that question, but it reminds me rather of the type of experience that once occurred to me when I was Civil Lord of the Admiralty. My chief objection to the ballot is not so much its original authorship, but the way in which it is being propagated in many parts of the country, if the reports and the letters which we read in the Press are to he believed. I have no other source of information on this subject, but, as your Lordships all know, many letters have appeared in the Press about it, and I have no reason to suppose that they are untrue. But I have a further objection and it is this, that some questions in the Peace Ballot are not such as could possibly be answered by a direct "Yes" or "No" by anyone who really knows the whole facts of the situation.


Nor is it necessary.


Then I do not understand how the votes are to be counted, because if a reservation is made that the answer to this is "Yes" provided so-and-so is done, obviously that is not a direct affirmative to the question that is asked, and therefore the counting of heads in that respect becomes entirely valueless. Many of us have been trying to get some of the matters referred to in the Peace Ballot carried out long before we sat on this Bench, but we have failed to do so. It is not in the hands of this country alone. It depends, as the noble Viscount knows, on what is done in other parts of the world, and therefore, if he asks members of the Government and those who support the Government to advise people to give a direct "Yes" or even a qualified "Yes" on some of these matters, that is not possible because whoever sat on these Benches would still find that the answer would have to be so qualified that it would be quite valueless from the point of view of a count.

I remember very well a case which happened at the Admiralty. I took drastic action against an individual, and I was heavily attacked by some supporters of the Party opposite who came to see me as members of the Whitley Council. I told them that if they were sitting in my chair as Civil Lord they would take exactly the same action, probably with greater severity, although at that time neither they nor I thought that one of them would be shortly sitting in my chair. In 1929, a few months afterwards, a member of the Party opposite did sit in my chair, and he did not reverse the action I had taken because when he found himself saddled with the responsibility of carrying out his duty he realised that the action I had taken was perfectly correct and it was not proper to change it. In the same way, even if Parties were changed in this House, and noble Lords opposite found themselves sitting on these Benches, they would find themselves being attacked in regard to the Peace Ballot because, if they were honest in serving the interests of this country, as they would be, they would be unable to give a direct answer to some of the questions.

The noble Marquess raised a question in regard to the situation in the Far East and the collective system as it applied to that part of the world. I am afraid I cannot follow him into that at this moment. He is aware of the conversations which are now going on between the three great Powers particularly interested in that part of the world, and other nations have been kept in touch with these deliberations. These conversations are primarily concerned with the question of naval security and the ratio of the Navies which might operate in that part of the world, but I think I should be doing a disservice to the collective peace system if I went further into that matter at this moment. I am sure he will appreciate my difficulty in regard to the matter, particularly as it really lies outside the terms of the Question on the Paper. He referred to the system of power diplomacy. I am a little bit nervous of these terms which are inclined to be misinterpreted when applied to general considerations. For instance, it might equally be termed power diplomacy if the collective peace system were instituted to compel a nation to do something or other which, without that system, it would he most unwilling to do. I hope we shall not use phrases which require definition, because, in the end, they land us into many difficulties and very often into grave misunderstandings.

I am afraid I have hardly answered the noble Viscount as fully as he would have liked, but I trust I have made it clear to him that His Majesty's Government do in fact support the collective peace system to the utmost of their power. He will remember that it was referred to in the gracious Speech from the Throne, to which we listened only a very short time ago, as being one of the cardinal points of the policies of His Majesty's Government. We feel that by taking part in discussions round the Council table at Geneva, we are doing the best for the preservation of the peace of the world. He will realise that that is not a policy either of isolation or interference, but it is a policy of influence, of using the influence of this country to see that there shall be a better understanding between the nations of the world, to see that the difficulties which arise are brought out into the light of day and discussed fully as among friends; and by that method we believe we shall do more to preserve the peace of the world than by taking action such as is suggested in many quarters, very often without great consideration of the consequences.


My Lords, before the noble Viscount presses for Papers or withdraws his Motion—I have no knowledge of the noble Viscount's intentions—may I add a very few words on what has fallen from the noble Earl opposite. With the last part of his remarks I am sure every one of your Lordships would be in the fullest sympathy. They were most excellent sentiments which warmed the imagination of all of us, but with very great respect the noble Earl speaking for the Foreign Office on this occa- sion did not deal with the most pregnant sentence in the remarks at Glasgow of the Lord President of the Council, and with the most profound respect to the noble Viscount who raised this matter, there is another interpretation to which I would draw the attention of your Lordships' House. I am sorry that the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, who spoke from the Liberal Benches, has gone out, because this very much affects the interesting remarks he offered to your Lordships. The Lord President of the Council has a habit of dropping sentences like bombshells. There was that notorious sentence about our frontier being on the Rhine. That has never been fully explained to me, or to anyone else, and the high explosive in the particular sentence I have in mind is just as potent.


I think the noble Lord is mistaken. The noble Viscount who leads this House has explained that sentence very fully to the satisfaction of most members of your Lordships' House.


I have read every word on this subject, and I think the noble Marquess himself enlightened us with regard to it, but I am no further in my understanding, and a great many people have still to understand what the Lord President of the Council meant. But I would beg for some further interpretation of the following very highly explosive sentence. These are words quoted by an honourable friend of mine in another place, and not challenged, and therefore they may be taken as an accurate report and not possibly a garbled account appearing in the newspapers: There is growing in the Socialist Party support for what is called a collective peace system. With that part the noble Viscount on the Cross Benches has dealt. That is, of coarse, striking a blow at the very foundations of the League as it is at present, but I leave that to the noble Viscount. This is what, if I may use the expression, intrigues me, and I think a great many other people on both sides of the Atlantic. The Lord President of the Council said that the collective peace system could never be undertaken without the countries he mentioned and now I come to the words: So long as I have any responsibility in the Government for deciding whether or not this country shall join a collective peace system, I will say this: Never as an individual will I sanction the British Navy being used for the armed blockade of any country in the world until I know what the United States of America are going to do. I venture to say that that sentence contains more high explosive even than the famous sentence about our frontier being on the Rhine.

I put this specific question to noble Lords opposite representing His Majesty's Government: Is that going to be reciprocal? In other words, is the American Navy to which we have granted equality with great willingness, without any reluctance, also not going to use the blockade weapon without ascertaining our attitude? I hope the answer is "Yes," and I hope there is going on in these private discussions this sort of arrangement between the two greatest maritime Powers, because if that is the case, if that is what the Lord President was hinting, that is the most hopeful thing that has happened since the end of the Great War, at least since the refusal of the United States Senate to sanction the adhesion of the United States to the League of Nations. That sentence means that, for the first time, not even excepting the present Prime Minister when he was supported by my Party and not even excepting all his colleagues in the Labour Cabinet, a British Cabinet Minister, and one in a very high and responsible position, has declared that our age-long right of visit and search, as a belligerent in time of war, of commerce on the high seas no matter what flag it flies, is not to be exercised, and we are not to have the right of seizing contraband in neutral ships or seizing the commerce of a belligerent to whom we are opposed, or that we shall not have the right to declare an effective blockade and exercise it, without ascertaining what the United States of America are going to do.


If the noble Lord reads the sentence again he will see that it has an entirely different implication and application to that he is suggesting to the House.


I submit that these words are perfectly plain and that what went before them did not in any way affect or colour them. May I read them again? Never as an individual will I sanction the British Navy being used for the armed blockade of any country in the world"— any country in the world!— until I know what the United States of America are going to do. The sentence before that quoted by the noble Viscount and one or two sentences quoted by myself do not affect that at all. I am very glad to see these words. If they mean what it may be supposed they will come to mean, then we are in future to act at sea in exercising our ancient and very often effective weapon of blockade only in consultation with the United States of America. Obviously that must be reciprocal. I cannot imagine any statesman of this country tying our hands in that way without guarantees from the other side. That being so, if that is the case and I hope I have not built up an edifice on those words which will collapse at the next speech made by the Lord President of the Council—if that is so there is the answer, a most important answer to the questions put so pertinently by the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian.

It means that arising out of the unfortunate situation of the Pacific Treaty, the Nine-Power Treaty of Washington, there is at last going to be a collective system of security at any rate at sea whatever may happen on land and in the air. If these words mean what I think they mean, they mark the beginning of arrangements with the United States of America and other Powers of good faith to preserve at any rate the peace and tranquillity of the high seas, which could be done to-morrow and which I venture to suggest would be the greatest immediate and practical guarantee for the peace of the world. I hope that that implication is the correct one, but as my noble friend Lord Ponsonby has said, with this Government we really never know where we are. Ministers speak with different voices; not only Ministers belonging to different Parties, but Ministers of the same Party, colleagues in the Cabinet proclaiming the same political faith do not speak the same language.

May I say a word about the Peace Ballot? I was a member of the executive of the League of Nations Union when this step to take a ballot was decided upon. I was very reluctant at that time to its being taken because I thought it might not be very effective and might do more harm than good if it was a failure. The result of the attacks made upon it is that it is going to be an enormous success from the main point of view that we had—namely, of arousing interest again in the League of Nations such as there was in the days when it was first founded in a great wave of popular support and enthusiasm soon after the War. The effect of the attacks made upon it by members of the Conservative Party and others has been to arouse great interest and has been a godsend to the organisers of the ballot; but as a member of the Party to which I belong and as a member of the executive at the time I would reinforce what the noble Viscount has said, that there was no Party motive whatsoever in the organisation of the ballot. If the Conservative Party like to make a Party issue of it that is their affair. Their attacks upon it have certainly aroused public interest and I suppose for that reason we should be grateful. I apologise for detaining your Lordships at this late hour and standing between the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, and your Lordships. I hope we may have some further interpretation of the Lord President's speech at Glasgow, and I do not think that this matter is going to rest where it is.


My Lords, the noble Lord who has just spoken is of opinion that you can use Article 16 of the Covenant without consulting the United States. The Government think you cannot use Article 16 of the Covenant without consulting the United States. This question of Article 16 of the Covenant is, I think, the thing which is having the effect of making the League work badly at the present moment, because in their heart of hearts nobody believes you can use Article 16 of the Covenant. I think it is worth enquiring for a minute why there has been, as there undoubtedly is, a tendency to return to old methods of diplomacy. There are various reasons given for this. One is the sheer devilry of other foreign nations; the second reason that is often given is the secret machinations of the armament firms; a third reason is the natural "Toryness" of the National Government, and a fourth reason is often ascribed to certain characteristics of the present Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.

Personally I think what is preventing the League from working is the fact that there is something wrong with the machinery of the League. The League seems to me not to be working far enough ahead on the basic problems of international affairs. It never acts until a moment of crisis arrives. It is like a man who neglects his constitution for years and only begins to worry about it when he is going to have an operation. The result is that the nations comprised in the League are faced with the prospect of using Article 16 without any action having ever been taken under Article 19 of the Covenant. It has always been said, and I think rightly, that the unfortunate result of the Manchurian controversy was a serious blow to the League, and that Manchurian controversy is an excellent example of what I mean. A crisis arises in the Far East. The League does its best to deal with the crisis by the Lytton Commission. It tries its best, and it fails. But the problem beneath that crisis has existed for years and has been talked of ever since I can remember. I refer to the question of the expansion of Japan. So far as I know, the expansion of Japan has never been dealt with under Article 19 of the Covenant, and when the crisis does arise the British Government, with no guidance whatever from the League under Article 19 of the Covenant, has to take a critical decision between using Article 16 of the Covenant or returning to the old diplomacy.

Various reasons have been given for the action of the Government in that crisis. They have been accused of weakness and cowardice. They have been accused of a secret desire to destroy the League of Nations; and people have said that they were doubtful as to the defensive capacity of Hong Kong and Singapore. A child with half an eye can see the temptation which beset the Government on that occasion. Action under Article 16 was very doubtful; and no prepared solution under Article 19 was available while if the Government returned to the old diplomacy it was possible for them to obtain without a blow a solution of the Pacific problem. Of course it is obviously vital to the interest of England that any Japanese expansion, when it does come, should go to the North and not to the South. The noble Viscount who opened the debate has enormous influence in international affairs, and I wish he would turn his mind to the consideration of whether, by any alteration of the machinery of the League, or by any use of the Secretariat, Article 19 could be made effective, so that the basic problems of international affairs, such as the expansion of congested nations and the alteration of the Treaty of Versailles, could be put into the path of peaceful solution before the stage of actual crisis arises.


My Lords, I did not intend to intervene in this debate, but after listening to the reply of the noble Earl on behalf of the Government I cannot help making some comment on his speech. I would venture to point out to my noble friend who has just spoken that Article 19 of the Covenant was invoked in the case of the Sino-Japanese dispute by the appointment of the Lytton Commission. I agree that if a tribunal in equity had been part and parcel of the permanent machinery of the League, it could have been put in motion before the crisis had actually arisen and before Japan took the law into her own hands. One result of the Lytton Commission was that its Report shows conclusively that these matters can be settled peacefully provided the decisions of such tribunals are upheld by the operation of either diplomatic, or financial or economic sanctions. But the main point which I would like to adumbrate is the reference of the noble Earl to war talk and his quotations on that subject from the speech of General Smuts.

Everybody of course deplores the fact that there is so much talk about war and the possibility of war, but I cannot help feeling that it is a case of Satan reproving sin when those responsible for the policy of this Government, those responsible for an increase in our armaments, denounce people who are trying to discover some alternative to the competitive system and accuse them of indulging in war talk and producing an atmosphere which leads to war. If our Government, if the French Government, if the German Government, if all the other Governments, stopped arming, if they ceased to vote money for new armaments, then there would be no war talk. The way to diminish war talk does not lie, I venture to suggest, in operating the competitive system of armaments and refusing, as apparently the Government refuses, to consider any proposal for co-operative armaments in its place.

I also gather that the view of the Government in regard to the function of the League of Nations is that it is to be used solely for what is described as diplomacy by conference. There its function ends. You must produce a round table and you must all sit at that table and endeavour by means of discussion and by a process of conciliation to arrive at amicable agreement. Excellent! But what happens if there is no agreement? Has the last word been said? Is there no barrier after that against a resort to war? The noble Viscount who opened the debate was one of the members of the Commission which drafted the Covenant and therefore has first-hand knowledge. He has told us quite categorically this afternoon that those who were responsible for drafting the Covenant intended that the League should be an international authority and not merely an international conference. The two things are quite distinct. But the noble Earl told us this afternoon that, in his opinion at any rate, the function of the League is simply that of a conference at which representatives of the nations can meet together and discuss matters openly and frankly.

No one wants to minimise the value of a procedure of that kind, but we say that it does not go far enough, that war has to be prevented at all costs and that there must be a further barrier. We suggest that when the conference system fails there shall be a resort to arbitration, a resort to a tribunal in equity, a resort to the same system which was agreed to when the Sino-Japanese dispute was referred to a Commission charged with the duty of investigating the facts on the spot and reporting afterwards to the Council and the Assembly. The noble Earl, in referring to the very interesting speech of General Smuts, made great play of course with the phrase that the League was the round table of the nations, that it was a body which, by the process of negotiation and conciliation, could settle international disputes. Then he went on to say that Germany should be accorded equality of status. Every noble Lord will agree, I think, with that view, but if that is conceded does it not follow that Germany is just as much entitled to a mandate for Colonies in Africa as any other nation? I cannot refrain from asking General Smuts why it is that sixteen years have elapsed and no attempt has been made to remove the inferiority complex which he talked so much about in his speech by at any rate discussing this question before the Council and the Assembly of the League and trying to settle it by this process of negotiation and conciliation.

If no agreement could be come to, then why not refer it to a body similar to the Lytton Commission, to a tribunal in equity who would go into the whole matter from the point of view of what General Smuts described as the interest of humanity as a whole, of what was best for the native races and of what was justice as between German claims and the claims of any other nation who might desire mandated territories in Africa? If General Smuts and his colleagues in South Africa refuse to submit a question of this kind to the consideration and to the arbitrament of a tribunal in equity composed of internationally-minded men, of elder statesmen who had no axes to grind, and who were not representatives of their Governments but were appointed, as the Lytton Commission was appointed, by the Council of the League—if he does not agree to that system, and if the Government of South Africa says "No," then it follows that the whole thesis of General Smuts's speech is entirely invalid, and it means that you are back again once more in the vicious circle of competitive armaments, because one country will say "What I have I hold" and the other country obviously will say "What I want I must get, and the only way I can get it is by being stronger, by increasing my armament so that I may be able, either by the threat of war or by the actual waging of war, to get what I consider to be due to me." Obviously there is not any other way.

What is the alternative? What alternative has the noble Earl to suggest? If we arrive at a position where there is a conflict of rights, obviously there must be some third-party judgment: there must be a reference to somebody who has no axe to grind, who can consider all the facts, and who can give at any rate a semi-judicial verdict; and for the time being at any rate the legislative function must be put into commission in that way. That is what I imagine the noble Marquess who spoke earlier in the debate meant when he talked about Treaty revision, and when he said that there must be some system to supersede the old system of power diplomacy. All that the Government has to offer apparently is diplomacy by conference. That was tried 115 years ago, when the Quadruple Alliance was formed arid when Viscount Castlereagh inaugurated the conference system. Apparently we have not advanced very far. After the lapse of 115 years, and after the greatest war that the world has ever seen, is it not time that the collective system should be made very much more drastic—a collective system which is not intended to punish but which is intended to provide a deterrent effect? I venture to submit to your Lordships that you will never get that deterrent effect until you combine moral and physical force, and that you can only combine them by establishing the reign of law. When General Smuts suggests that it would be wrong to turn the League into a military machine—for I think that is what he said—the reply is that nobody suggests it. All that some of us suggest is that the League should become a policing machine, which is a very different proposition.

The noble Earl may laugh, but I think he probably knows the difference between a policing system and the duelling system. A system which endeavours to uphold the law and to compel appearance before a Court is a very different system from one which is concerned simply with using force as an instrument of policy. If there is no distinction between those two systems, then I fail to understand what the sanctions under Article 16 are intended to be. Obviously the founders of the League intended that in those sanctions there should be a collective force, and that force could be nothing else but a policing instrument. The fact that ever since successive Governments have endeavoured to whittle away this machinery, have done nothing to develop the machinery which the founders intended under both Article 19 and Article 16, and have done nothing to produce a system which would operate in advance of the present, proves that they regard the League as being only a very useful debating society and Geneva as being a very useful place to compare notes and to try to arrive at a common policy, but if that common policy is not forthcoming then everything should be allowed to drift. I venture to suggest to the noble Earl who spoke on behalf of the Government that the time has surely arrived when it is our duty and our responsibility, as the nation which can bring together so many other nations and which occupies a unique position in the world, to develop the League until it can develop the moral authority which its founders intended it to exert in the councils of the world.


My Lords, I shall not detain your Lordships for more than a minute or two. I do not propose to deal with all the various points which have been raised in the debate: I wish to deal with only two points which were made by the noble Earl who was good enough to reply for the Government. I wish, in the first place, to thank him for his courtesy, and for the admirable way in which he stated his case; but I am afraid that that is the limit to which I can go. He played round my question, but he never answered it at all, and I suppose that was because the instructions which he had received from His Majesty's Government did not permit him to answer it. But the point is really quite a simple one. He said, "What an admirable thing it is to have discussions amongst the Nations!" We are all agreed. That is not in dispute: we are all for discussions. But what is to happen if one country resorts to war? That is the point, and that is the only point which is raised. If one country resorts to war instead of discussions, what are you going to do?

That is the practical question with which I am sure the noble Earl would be met in any discussion of an international character. What they are afraid of is invasion: that is the thing that is bothering them. The French say: "You want us to come to an agreement with Germany to reduce our armaments, and you want us"—I do not, but some people do—" to allow the Germans to increase their armaments. That is all very well, but what is going to happen then? Supposing we do all that, we weaken our power of resisting Germany, and what is going to happen supposing they attack us? "That is the question. It is all very well to say that you can put aside Article 16 and that it has nothing much to do with it, but you have got to answer that question, and you cannot get out of it. You can get out of it in this House, I agree, but you cannot get out of it when you negotiate. That is the thing which has held up the negotiations. It is what the French are always asking, and they say that they frequently hear from British public men a suggestion that we are not going to act up to our clear obligations under Article 16.


May I remind the noble Viscount that there is also the Treaty of Locarno?


Be it so, but it comes to the same thing: if you do not act up to one, you will not act up to the other. The obligation is perfectly clear, and is not in dispute. My noble friend said that the questions which we ask in the Peace Ballot are obscure. If he would answer Question 5 of the Peace Ballot there would not be any difficulty at all. It puts the point absolutely clearly. I prefer it to the wording of Article 16, because Article 16 is necessarily worded more elaborately. Let me take Question 5: Do you consider that if a nation insists on attacking another the other nations should combine to compel it to stop by

  1. (a) economical non-military measures?
  2. (b) if necessary, military measures?"
That is the obligation which you have undertaken quite solemnly and specifically under Article 16. There is no question about it. I am sure none of the noble Earl's colleagues would doubt that that is the Article. Do you mean that, or did the statement of the Lord President of the Council mean that we did not propose to be bound by it? That is the question, and to that question the noble Earl gave no kind of answer. I thought the statement of the Lord President of the Council was obscure. I am afraid it is still more obscure after listening to the explanation of the noble Earl. I am sure it is not his fault, but it is the disadvantage of Cabinet Government. Having made that observation, I will not discuss the rest of the Peace Ballot, because I have said all I have to say and I do not think there is any difficulty about so wording your answer as to make it clear whether your answer is "Yes" or "No." I do not propose to press my Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

House adjourned at twenty-two minutes past six o'clock.