HL Deb 15 March 1934 vol 91 cc250-78

LORD ALLEN OF HURTWOODrose to call attention to the present situation of the disarmament negotiations, with special reference to the need for expediting a Disarmament Convention by the offer of a collective guarantee on the part of all signatories thereto: and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, it is not easy for me to ask your Lordships' patience for further debate at this late hour and I only do so because of the debate which took place in another place last night. I think it is perfectly clear from the nature of that debate, and from the statements that were made by the Lord Privy Seal and by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, that the position in regard to disarmament is graver at this moment than it has ever been before. That debate, taken part in by Ministers, evoked a series of statements to which very few people can take exception, but neither of the Ministers concerned, speaking on behalf of the Government, was prepared to draw, in practice or in fact, any conclusions which ought to have followed the statements which they made.

Yesterday in this House—a crowded House, if I may say so—your Lordships spent three hours in discussing how to make war; to-night I ask you for a short time to discuss how to make peace. I do not expect that the noble Earl, Lord Stanhope, will be able to make any full statement with regard to the return of the Lord Privy Seal, but I do ask him to permit pressure to be brought to bear upon the Government as to the verdict which they will have to give during the next few weeks. I think it is sometimes better to bring that pressure to bear before the verdict is given than to let the Government arrive at a final conclusion and then try to bring pressure when it is too late. If the noble Earl, Lord Stanhope, is unable to make any further statement as to the nature of the negotiations in which the Lord Privy Seal has taken part, I am sure he will forgive me for saying that we shall expect him, as representing the Foreign Office in this House, to be able to interpret to us clearly and unmistakably the meaning of the British Note which was issued in January of this year. I propose to draw his attention, if I may, to certain statements which are made in that Note, and to ask him if it is possible for us to have further amplification of its meaning.

I do not propose to roam over all the details of the Disarmament Convention. I shall have nothing to say with regard to the size of guns or tanks or any of the instruments of war. I propose to narrow my remarks to one issue and one issue alone, which seems to me to form the key problem of the disarmament question. That is the issue of security. I shall put it to the noble Lord that the debate in another place last night has made it perfectly clear that security now takes precedence of disarmament. There is no reason that I can see why the Government, having made the speech which it has made through the mouth of the Lord Privy Seal last night, pointing out the folly of competitive armaments and pointing out the disaster which will result if no Disarmament Convention is signed, should not be prepared to make a further advance towards proposing a collective guarantee of this Disarmament Convention, which is now being held up because there is not sufficient confidence amongst the nations to enable it to be signed. If any such reason exists I hope the noble Earl will tell us what it is.

I say frankly that I welcome the second British Note which has been issued; but I do not know why the contents of that second British Note should not have appeared in the first British Note. It seems to me that valuable time has been lost between the publication of those two Notes, and dangerous political events have occurred in Europe during that time, which events could have been prevented if the British Government had included in the first Note the contents which appeared in the second. The plea which I want to enter in this House to-night is this: Is it not possible, with regard to this question of guaranteeing a Disarmament Convention, to act this time before it is too late? During the last fifteen years repeated mistakes have been made in the international world owing to the fact that over and over again wise political policies have been adopted when it has been too late for them to be of any advantage. The case of Reparations is known to everyone. We brought political confusion upon Europe, and we brought economic tragedy upon our own nation and upon the whole world, by acting in respect to Reparations when it was too late for good consequences to result. Precisely the same thing has happened with regard to granting equality to Germany. It has been abundantly clear throughout that, unless the principle of equality were conceded to Germany, there could only result a further tightening of the complication of the European situation. Yet in this House, in the month of May of last year, the noble Viscount who leads this House made a statement which has had, I think, the most disastrous political consequences.

I propose to read the statement which he then made; and I wish he were here, because I feel it difficult to make a reference to his speech in his absence. Speaking on May 11 of last year, the noble Viscount said: It is not our view that the right way to achieve equality of status is to let Germany come half-way up the stairs and the other countries go half-way down and meet on the landing

—a disastrous statement which had some of its consequences in the leaving of the Disarmament Conference by Germany. Now in the British Note nine months later we have a statement directly contrary to the statement which was made by the noble Viscount in this House. The British Note now says: ⁢. having regard to the principle of equality of rights, agreement is found to involve alongside of disarmament in some quarters some measure of rearmament in others.

That is a statement made on behalf of the same Government within nine months of the speech which was made by the noble Viscount, which proves the infinite danger of this Government taking steps, which have been clearly right throughout, but taking them too late for those steps to have any good consequences.

Is the same thing to happen in this case with regard to a guarantee? Are we now going to have a position in which the guaranteeing of this Disarmament Convention—which, if it were offered at this moment, would bear fruitful results for the peace of the world—is going to be contemplated only when the guaranteeing of the Convention will be too late? Whatever step is taken at the present moment, it must involve all the nations, including our own, facing up to this question of the collective security of the world. I am not pressing the question of collective security upon His Majesty's Government at this moment in relation to questions of law and order. I am not asking the Government to make a statement developing the principle of security in relation to Manchuria, the South American frontiers or matters of that sort. What I am asking the noble Earl is that he shall make some statement as to why it is that the Government are not prepared to take the initiative in offering a collective guarantee of this Disarmament Convention.

May I refer him to the actual clauses which occurred in the British Note? First we start with supervision. Therein we have made some headway. In the first British Note what was stated with regard to supervision was vague and unsatisfactory. That was pointed out to the Government at the time, and now in the second Note the clauses which deal with the supervision of, armaments nave been strengthened and improved; but strengthened and improved when a great deal of disquiet has been created between nations, which need never have occurred. But supposing you do supervise armaments by international consent, and supposing a moment of time comes when the Preparatory Commission has to report that there has been a breach of the Disarmament Treaty by some nation or other, what then is to take place, if we do not grasp the opportunity at this moment? We say to France: "We ask you, and we ask other nations, to do something now—to disarm, to remove from yourselves that quality of security upon which you previously relied for the organisation of your nation," and then we give her no guarantee that in the event of her taking a step towards disarmament now, we shall aid her if need be. There is a neighbour of France under a régime which France and many other countries of the world view with grave distrust, but we make no guarantee that in the event of the Preparatory Commission reporting a breach of the Treaty, any kind of security will be available.

Look at the words again. First we concede the principle; then we say in Clause 9 that we are willing to extend some kind of consultalive action from breaches of the Pact of Paris to breaches which may occur of the Disarmament Convention itself. We even go so far in Clause 9 as to envisage that not only shall we consult, but that we shall keep in close touch in order that we may do whatever is right and possible to prevent or to remedy any violation of so important a Treaty. These words to-day offer some hope, until we come to consider in what way the Government proposes to interpret that phrase. First we come to a clause in the Disarmament Note which refers to the Treaty of Locarno, and I should like to ask the noble Earl if be will tell this House in what way the Government intend the Treaty of Locarno and the principle for which that Treaty stands are to be applied to the Disarmament Convention.

Clause 9 says that nations should expressly reaffirm existing obligations to maintain peace under such instruments as the Covenant of the League of Nations, the Pact of Paris and the Treaties of Locarno.

It goes on to say: His Majesty's Government cannot doubt that if such Pacts were expressly entered into "—

that is, including the Locarno Treaty— in connection with the Convention…their practical value for the purpose of creating a sense of security will not be disputed.

What exactly is the significance of including the Treaty of Locarno as one of the Pacts, the principles of which are to be applied to this Disarmament Convention? If it has any real meaning it might be a meaning of good, because the Treaty of Locarno does definitely envisage the taking of forcible action in the event of a breach of the Treaty. Therefore if any significance is to be attached to the inclusion of the Treaty of Locarno, it might be some good. The clause goes on to say: They (the Government) have a right to expect that⁢any violation of them (the pledges given) would be met in the most practical and effective way by immediately assembling Governments and States in support of international peace and agreement against the disturber and the violator.

All those phrases begin to offer some hope until we come to the interpretation placed upon them by our own Foreign Minister.

I ask any of your Lordships to consider yourself as a Frenchman reading these paragraphs from which I have quoted, hoping thereby to get some indication of the intention of the Government of this country in the event of a breach of the Disarmament Convention being reported, and then in a few days reading this speech by our Foreign Minister. Sir John Simon, following upon those clauses that I have read, says this: I may be asked, is this a new commitment? If by a new commitment' is meant a new undertaking given in advance to adopt a definite repressive action in ignorance of the circumstances hereafter arising which may be alleged to call for it, the answer is 'No.' This country will do its utmost faithfully to fulfil any obligations…but it is not the Anglo-Saxon habit to make defined engagements for undefined circumstances. We are entitled to say that our past history shows that when the occasion arises this country has not been found wanting.

A report by a Preparatory Commission, set up to supervise the armaments of the world, that there has been a breach of the Treaty, is no undefined circumstance at all. It is a perfectly clear breach of the Treaty. What interpretation can France and other countries place upon the clauses which appear in the British Note, if that be the interpretation placed upon them by our own Foreign Minister? Did we not have that consultation in the Sino-Japanese dispute? Did not the nations spend months of time in reasoning together as to what they would do? Did they not come to an unanimous verdict as to where the guilt lay with regard to that dispute? And what was the good of that consultation, and what help has it been to China, or to law and Order?

Did not the nations consult together in 1914, and has not Mr. Lloyd George made it perfectly clear that the Anglo-Saxon policy of keeping our hands free, and of refraining from defining, in advance, what this nation would do, was one of the contributory factors why that war came about? There was uncertainty as to where this country stood with regard to the obligations into which this country had entered. With that experience in the past, and the Sino-Japanese experience, how can you expect the other countries of the world to feel sufficient confidence in the interpretation placed upon the Convention by Sir John Simon, to bring about any hope of disarmament at all, far less of their signing a Disarmament Treaty? It is a matter of great congratulation to the whole world at the moment that both America and Russia are nearer to the League of Nations to-day than they have been at any time. I have little doubt that it is increasingly possible to bring about a modus vivendi with those two great nations, so that we may have some means of definitely guaranteeing, not necessarily at the present time all the law and order of the world, but this particular Treaty, which if it be not signed must have such disastrous consequences, as was pointed out by the Lord Privy Seal in his speech on the subject last night. If there is no collective guarantee of this Treaty there can be no hope of disarmament whatever.

The word "failure" has been spoken by the Lord Privy Seal and other Ministers in the House of Commons in the last few days. I do not personally believe that there is any reason to expect failure, but I am confident that it will occur unless this step which I am arguing for is taken—namely, that we will give precedence to security over disarmament, and with respect to this one Treaty alone we will, at the moment, give a collective guarantee. I only wish to say one other thing. When I beg for security as precedent to disarmament I am not merely thinking of the security of other nations. I am thinking equally of the security of our own nation. The Lord Privy Seal, speaking last night, made this statement: If the Conference fails it will not only be the security of this or that Continental country which is at stake, but our own security. If that ho so, how many of us believe that even the manifold increase in our existing armaments in this country would alone suffice to ensure our national security? I myself have no such belief and no such faith. Competitive armaments in themselves are no security. We had competitive armaments before 1914, and they availed us nothing as a preventive of war.

It is this country as much as the other countries of the world that requires the security that would come from a collectively-guaranteed disarmament. Geographically and economically we require it, and we cannot afford to enter into competitive expenditure with other countries in order to build up armaments. Therefore I hope that the noble Earl, who replies for the Government, will explain what significance is to be attached to the quotations I have given from this Disarmament Note, and I beg that when the Government give their final decision on receiving the Notes from other countries which they are at the moment expecting, they will no longer hesitate to place our guarantee behind this Disarmament Convention.


My Lords, I think the House ought to be grateful to my noble friend for his energy and tenacity in bringing this question before our notice. Undoubtedly, the position is serious, though I think there are some features in it which are less serious than they have been. I confess I was very much cheered by the debate in the other House to which he has referred. I thought there was a more general diffusion of the point of view which some of us have pressed over and over again for the last few years. I thought there was a decided advance even in the quarters which have hitherto been least friendly to the views we take, and it is only if such an advance as that takes place that we can hope for a really satisfactory policy in this matter.

The present position, if I understand it rightly, is that we have made certain disarmament proposals. I am not going to discuss them now. They are not, from my point of view, satisfactory proposals. I think myself the Government would have been well advised to make much more drastic proposals. I believe that they would have got much more out of it if they had done that. I believe that the difficulty of reaching an agreement on those drastic proposals is greatly exaggerated, and I am quite sure that if you desire to lead opinion in this matter it is not sufficient merely to seek what you believe will be acceptable to others; it is much more important to state, and state plainly and clearly, what you believe to be essential yourself for the situation.

Still, though these proposals are not satisfactory—indeed, I think they are not even what the Government would desire, if I understand their spokesmen rightly —they are something, and the question arises whether they will be accepted. Great steps have been taken to induce the Germans to accept them. Very considerable advances have been made towards the German point of view. My noble friend has just quoted the observations of the Leader of the House, in which he repudiated the conception of reaching equality by German rearmament. Of course that was a commonplace. It was not my noble friend only who said that, it was said repeatedly by other spokesmen of the Government at that time. I do not complain of their changing their view: that must always happen when you are dealing with a changing situation. Still, you have in fact made this very considerable bid, if I may call it so, for German acceptance; and though I did not agree with almost anything in the speech of the right honourable gentleman who sits, I think, for the Epping Division in the other House [Mr. Churchill], I did have some sympathy for his proposition that there was a danger of the Disarmament Conference resulting in nothing more than the rearmament of Germany. I hope that that will not turn out to be the case.

Well, in order to ascertain what the views of the Governments are on these subjects we have had the journey of the Lord Privy Seal. I am quite certain that the Government were extremely well advised in selecting their emissary for that purpose. No one could have been better, and we shall hear, I suppose, ultimately what have been the definite results. But whatever they have been, I feel extremely sure that no one else could have got any better results than he has got. We are not told what the results are, but it is admitted that they are precarious at present. I am not quite sure whether he said anything—he was very careful, naturally, as to what he would say until he could speak fully—but I rather think he intimated that it was not certain that the Germans were satisfied. That is a very astonishing proposition. No doubt one may have doubts about the reasonableness of those who direct German policy, or some of them at the present moment—and certainly General Goering's recent speech has greatly increased those doubts. At this time of day for a gentleman to get up, even in Germany, and rejoice, as he apparently did, in Germany being not only a military nation but a militarist nation, is certainly a very astonishing proposition. I really cannot understand the complaints that you so frequently hear from Germany that she is so misunderstood, and that people so misjudge her, and that we are always ready to take the worst view of everything she says and does, when we have a speech of that kind which, if it had been dictated by the enemies of Germany, could not have been more calculated to produce a thoroughly had impression on the public mind of the world.

Therefore, I admit it is a doubtful question as to what the German attitude is going to be. I must admit also that our treatment of the Germans during this controversy has not been one to en courage moderation. We have apparently never conceded to argument what the Germans want, only to threats of some kind. In the first six months of the Conference the Germans pressed constantly that the question of equality should be considered, and then finally, at the very end of that session, the spokesman of the British Government—I think it was the Foreign Secretary himself—said that he did not think it was possible to deal with the question of equality, or some phrase of that kind, whereupon the Germans left the Conference. For months there were negotiations of various kinds going on in order to induce them to come back and, ultimately, they did come back on the terms that the very point that they had urged in the summer should be conceded to them. In the same way last year a new proposal was put forward. We are still ignorant of the exact circumstances under which it was put forward or exactly what it was, but apparently it included a statement that no disarmament was to take place until there had been a period of probation of two or three or four years during which it would be seen what attitude the Germans were going to take. Well, the Germans vehemently protested against that, indeed, that was the cause of their quarrel, and they again left the Conference, and this time left the League and the International Labour Office and all sorts of other bodies—quite unreasonably, as it seems to me—and the consequence was that the proposal has been dropped.

Well, that is not the way generally to secure moderation in a negotiator, if you only yield when you are threatened with some violent action. I hope very much that, none the less, the Germans will in this case take a reasonable Attitude and accept, as far as they are concerned, the very considerable concessions which have been offered to them by His Majesty's Government. I think the great hope that they will do so is that there seems some ground for thinking that they really are very definitely anxious for some kind of Disarmament Treaty. They have said so over and over again, and it seems to me the case that that represents their settled policy at the time. And let me acid that I am quite sure, in spite of Mr. Churchill, that it is also the settled policy of the best minds in France. I am quite sure that they desire also a Disarmament Treaty. I know Mr. Churchill thinks that we are driving the French unwillingly into a Disarmament Treaty. I do not think that is the true view at all. They want it on terms which they think satisfactory, but that they want some kind of Disarmament Treaty is, I believe, certain; and indeed it is difficult to imagine how they could wish for anything else. And so do all the other countries in the world, I believe without any kind of exception.

There is not one country that does not want the success of this Treaty. It is true they see great dangers and difficulties in this or that proposal, but they all want success. That is true even of the Governments, and I believe it is ten times true of the people of the world. Therefore, when Mr. Churchill and others press on us the folly of disarmament and describe us as pursuing a policy which is unreasonable in itself and likely to produce disaster, I am sure they are wrong as to the general wish of the public opinion of the world. I am amazed to find that he and all those who think: with him absolutely ignore the positive obligation that unquestionably rests upon us and others to do our utmost to secure disarmament as part of the general settlement of the Treaties of Peace. The obligation is quite clear. I need not quote it to your Lordships because you know it very well. There is something a little shocking in a statesman of experience snaking these speeches in which he definitely repudiates the whole policy of disarmament without any regard at all to the Treaty obligations into which we have entered.

That seems to me the position as far as the German side of the thing is concerned. Now what is the position as regards the French? That is the point mainly raised by this Motion this afternoon. So far as the French position is concerned, there is no change that I can see. They have always taken the same view from the very outset of this controversy, long before the meeting of the Disarmament Conference. They have always taken the view that at the moment, and for the time being, they are in an unassailable position militarily. If we want them to reduce that position we must in fairness give them some kind of alternative security. That is the position they have always taken. That was the position wren the proposal was purely one for disarmament, and it certainly is not less strong now when the proposal includes a considerable permitted rearmament by Germany, and they have asked quite definitely for guarantees. I dare say it is quite impossible for my noble friend the Under-Secretary to tell us what is the attitude of the Government with regard to these guarantees. I have no doubt the Government are considering them and have by now—at least I hope they have—quite definitely made up their mind what their policy on the point is to be.

The guarantees are quite well known. They ask, first of all, though not so insistently as they did, for the reaffirmation of our existing pledges. I understand nobody, except perhaps Lord Beaverbrook, has any objection to that. They ask, secondly, for the establishment of the Permanent Disarmament Commission which will have the right to examine how far any Treaty of Disarmament is being carried out. That, as my noble friend justly said, does not take you very far, because if the examiners were to report that in certain respects the Disarmament Treaty was not being carried out, it would not be much satisfaction to have that fact definitely established if nothing further was to be done. Therefore they ask, though not quite so specifically as personally I wish they had asked, for certain definite guarantees as to what is to be done in the ease of the Disarmament Commission finding that some country, in breach of its obligations under the Disarmament Treaty, is rearming in some respect or another. They say: "What is going to happen? Are you then prepared to take any action against the country that does that, because, if you are not prepared to take any action, then, from the French point of view, we are left defenceless."

Every country believes it carries out its Treaty obligations and that other countries do not, and that view is as strongly held in France as it is in this country. "We shall carry out our obligations but other countries will not. We shall be left in a hopeless position or in a very much more dangerous position than we are in now. We want to know what is to be done in the case of some other country not carrying out its obligations." To my mind, I must say, I think the case is unanswerable. I cannot see what case we can put up against an observation of that kind. I know there are certain gentlemen, for some of whom I have the greatest possible respect, who say that the French ought to trust us, that we always carry out our obligations. That is not really the view held of this country in all quarters abroad, and, even if it were, it is asking a great deal of a French Ministry to go to its people and say: We are entering into engagements which may seriously weaken us in the case of war. We have not got any definite plan as to what is to be done to see that the Treaty is carried out, but we are asked to accept a general promise that the British Government will do whatever is necessary. In the circumstances, I really do not think that that, particularly to the Latin mind, is a reasonable proposition to put forward. I am sure we ought to say that in such a case as that we would take, in the first place, whatever economic measures are necessary in order to put pressure on any country that has done such a thing as that. My own view is that if these measures were taken in common with all the other countries in the world the pressure would be so great that, practically, there is no country that would resist them. Theoretically a country of the most desperate character might do so, but I am certain that no country would in fact resist, and if they did they would suffer so severely as to cripple them completely in a short space of time. I do not go further into the detail of this matter, because it is not my business to do so—detailed policy must be left to the Government of the day.

There is one other proposal which the French Government have put forward with greater earnestness, and one which I have come to believe they should certainly be given the opportunity to develop, and, if they can do so, establish its practicability. That is the creation of an International Air Force. That rests upon one preliminary as it seems to me—namely, the abolition of all national Air Forces. I do not think it would be practicable as far as I can see, with any chance of success, to create an International Air Force unless you begin by abolishing all national military and naval Air Forces. That, of course, is a policy which seems to be demanded by our own position and our own safety, and therefore I gladly welcome it, but that I think is a condition of any International Air Force because the real purpose of an International Air Force is to take care that civil air machines are not used in order to make this sudden raid, deliver the "knock-out blow" which we have heard about so often, and which is a very serious thing indeed. Therefore, if these civil machines are to be kept in order, one of the circumstances which the French desire—they desire others in connection with the internationalisation or international control of civil aircraft—is the creation of this International Air Force.

I think it is a thing which the French ought to be encouraged to develop and explain exactly how they propose to carry it out. They are in a position to discuss an International Air Force with more experience than any other nation in the world because they have their Foreign Legion which, at any rate, has had to meet and overcome some of the difficulties of an International Air Force. I think they ought to be allowed to do it, and, personally, I should be very glad to see the experiment tried of an International Air Force used solely for the purpose of preventing the use of civil aircraft for military purposes. If that were offered to the French, if the Government would say they were ready to discuss that, even with an open mind, I believe it would do more to soothe French fears than almost anything that we could say.

I am sorry to have detained your Lordships at this hour on this occasion so long. I have very little more to say. The real point is, are we going to rely—that really is at the bottom of this question of guarantee—on the collective system or not? It is an example, I agree only one example, of the collective system, but it is a vital and essential example, and the controversies that have been going on for the past few months have made it more and more clear that the real issue between the different nations is just that. Do we think that we can go back to the old pre-War system, each nation for itself and the devil take the hindmost, or are we going to try the new system of collective action, making it the duty of all nations to cooperate in order to preserve the peace? To my mind that is the broad issue before us, and when you read the debate in another place you will see how that is brought out, Mr. Churchill, to quote him once again, has an alternative policy. What is it? He puts aside all this idea of guarantees and sanctions and all that kind of thing. What he thinks the right policy is that there should be an alliance formed—he says, I do not know why, under the aegis of the League of Nations, whatever that may mean. But it is to be, as I understand him, just the old offensive and defensive alliance by certain Powers who would then have so great a strength that, in his view, they would. be able to command the world. I have no belief in that conception at all. That is the old policy of each nation for itself, or, if it cannot stand absolutely for itself, three or four nations to come together always to act in their own interests and not with regard to the general benefit of the world and the general maintenance of peace.

That is one policy. On the other side is the policy put forward by the Opposition in the other House. Mr. Attlee, both last right and previously, speaking on behalf of the Opposition in admirable speeches, put forward the other case, I thought with great force, but not with greater force than it was put forward by Captain Eden himself, for Captain Eden quite definitely says: "I do not believe there is any security short of the collective system; I do not believe in this conception that by competitive armaments you can ever reach security." He said it in the most precise and express language, most refreshing for me to read. That is his theory. Captain Eden is a definite, absolute, 100 per cent. supporter of the collective theory, and I understand the official view of the Government is the same. He was speaking for the Government, and he did not say anything essentially different from other members of the Government. If that is their policy, do for Heaven's sake go on with it with all your strength Do not let us have any more of this feeling about and seeing what you can do here and what you can do there without setting forward, with all the conviction possible, what you, representing this gigantic Empire with all its force and all its influence, think ought to be done.

I assure the Government, if I may be allowed to do so, that I never meet a foreigner, I never go abroad, without being perpetually asked "What do your Government mean? What is really their wish in these matters?" It may be that foreigners are very stupid, but it is not only foreigners who ask that question. I do beg the Government to have done with this kind of "pussyfooting," as the Americans call it, and go forward with all their strength. I observe that the Foreign Secretary, when he is dealing with this kind of proposition, says: "Oh well, the people who want that we must ask to make a gesture." It is not so, it is not a gesture. What I want is that, we being more interested than any country in the world in peace if not in the best position in the world in order to enforce peace, the Government should not be merely seeking about to see what this country or that country would want but should state to the world what they think is right, not, of course, with a view to adhering absolutely to that if they find it is impossible, but to be ready, necessarily ready, to make concessions in order to get an agreement. But they should begin by a clear, definite, courageous statement of their own policy. If they will do that I believe that, even at this last moment, even in the face of the very great difficulties we have reached and the tremendous deterioration of the situation from what it was two years ago, a successful solution might he reached.


My Lords, I will not detain you for more than a very few moments at this late hour. I am glad that the noble Lord opposite has taken this opportunity to raise this question once again, and of course it will not be the last time it will be raised. I think it is as well that the Government should realise what is being thought while they are proceeding on the next step in their policy. I listened most attentively to the whole of the debate yesterday, and I have been listening to the debate to-day. Yesterday we heard what the war machine consisted of. The noble Marquess, in a very striking speech, told us that they had in preparation Conferences and Committees, Committees of the Cabinet and Sub-committees, and Sub-committees of the Staffs, and, when I thought he was going to leave off, again he began telling us of all the intricacies of this well-balanced and carefully co-ordinated war machine. If I were to ask the noble Earl who is to reply this evening what is the peace machine, he would say that up the back stairs of the Foreign Office they have a room about the size of a large bathroom with two clerks and a typist. And yet peace is so infinitely more difficult to prepare for and to secure than war!

The policy that ought to be adopted by our Government is one which was well described by my honourable friend in another place last night as a long-term policy, whereas it would seem to us that the Government are always just deciding what their next step shall be. I personally am very glad that Mr. Eden has been added to the peace machine. I think he has a talent for negotiation, and I think he is as good an emissary as could be found. I in no way disparage the sending of him on this mission. But the Government are hesitant; the Government do not see far enough ahead. The speeches that we get sometimes give us hope and encouragement, and then we find a sentence at the end—that damaging sentence which has occurred in speeches of the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for Air, and occurred the other night in Mr. Baldwin's speech, and I think has occurred in the Foreign Secretary's speeches—which declares to the world that if these negotiations fail then we are going to build up to the full strength. It is that belief in force which we seem to have, and which we cannot suppress, and which we keep in the background as a threat, which destroys all the peaceful negotiations that might take place between the nations.

The noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, deplored such a speech as that made by General Goering. Of course we deplore it. The clumsiness of the Germans is proverbial. But I must say that there are speeches by our own Ministers which I deplore just as much. So long as this question resolves itself into these equations with figures you will find it very difficult to get any settlement. A language has grown up which we use very easily without being very clear as to what we mean. I am afraid the views I express on this subject do not represent anybody but myself, but I do feel that we really ought to understand what we mean and how far we can get what we ask for. Take the word "collective." It has been used by both the noble Lords who have spoken, and it is used very frequently and it sounds very well. Collective opinion—that you can get. Collective guarantees—those you can get, but you have to be certain that they will be followed by collective action. A guarantee which has not got a certainty of action behind it is no real guarantee. When we come to collective action I suppose I differ from most people. I have always said ever since the sanctions were put into the Covenant that when you get a breaker of the peace, when you get somebody who disregards the verdict of the Council of the League, that culprit, if you so call him, is not regarded from the moral standpoint but is regarded by each nation according to its self interests. That is what makes collective action so difficult. There was no question about collective opinion with regard to the Far East and the action of Japan, but when it came to collective action the nations differed because they had got different interests to consult.

I do not want to detain your Lordships now by bringing forward matters which are rather extraneous to the particular line that the debate has taken, but I do believe that a long-term policy is wanted, a long-term policy which takes into account all the possible eventualities, a long-term policy which envisages not only the question of security but why the nations feel that they are insecure, and takes into account the question of the grievances that the nations have and the vexed question of revision of Treaties. I do not believe that these questions ought to be taken in an isolated way. These great international questions are not going to be settled on the principle of one step at a time. I believe that we want a highly-trained body connected with the Government that envisages the whole of these problems from a very far-reaching point of view.

Before I sit down there is one plea that I would like to make to the Government. We cannot see what is coming, and people are talking—rather foolishly, I think—in terms of war. But we must envisage the possibility of a complete breakdown of this Disarmament Conference. The plea I would make to the Government is that in the event of failure to get agreement the Disarmament Conference should be kept in being. It should riot be broken up. Time must be allowed for a different disposition and a different atmosphere. I would plead that every effort be made to keep a Disarmament Conference in being so that it can be called to gether at a perhaps more favourable moment. I would also plead with the Government that every effort should be made to strengthen the League of Nations, to draw in Russia, to bring in America, to bring back Germany. I would plead with them to concentrate their efforts upon that. When Disarmament is not being discussed I do not see why these nations should not be brought into the League. The attitude of the Government gives this country and the people here and the people in Europe the impression that they are just picking up the next problem, cleverly seeing how they can put their case best, and very often how they can pick holes in the other nation's case, and that then they drop that question and wait till something else arises. I am quite convinced that this is a far larger question than is generally realised. It is not just a matter of the British proposals at the Disarmament Conference. It is a complex matter of international relations which requires far more studying, far more personal contact, and far greater diligence on the part of the Government to-day, with larger Departments at their service, in order, not that we may come to a solution—of course there is no solution—but that we may prevent the grave eventualities which so many people fear.


My Lords, I do not propose to detain your Lordships long, but I should like to add my support to what has already been said and to plead with the Government for the policy which the noble Lord who has just sat down has so eloquently advocated. After all, if the League is going to be, as some statesmen have called it, the corner stone of British foreign policy, we must endow it with the organisation and with the machinery which will enable it to carry out its duties. I should have thought it was obvious to everyone that we cannot expect the League to carry on the functions imposed upon it by the Covenant or to carry out its elementary duties and try to prevent war, unless we give it those organisations which every civilised community has found it absolutely necessary to maintain within its own borders. Therefore, I would emphasise the point which the noble Lord made just now that we must take a broad view of these questions. We cannot expect the League to set up an International Police Force, or an International Air Force, as suggested by my noble friend Viscount Cecil, unless, at the same time, there exists machinery to alter the status quo. Nobody can expect that the status quo, which is now expressed in different Treaties, can go on. The position has to be reviewed in accordance with the new conditions that arise from time to time and which make all Treaties inapplicable.

Therefore, I would plead with the Government to consider the establishment of an International Air Force and I would ask them also to consider the whole question of a tribunal of equity, a tribunal constituted on the lines of the Lytton Commission—not merely a judicial tribunal, but a tribunal which is able to settle all disputes which may arise, at any rate in Europe. Surely this is an opportunity for the Government to build a bridge between the revisionist group in Europe and the anti-revisionist group. We want to build a bridge in order that Germany may get what is due to her and fair to her in the matter of the revision of the Treaty of Versailles, and at the same time to guarantee to France that security which she is bound to have, and of which not only France but our own country still stands so vitally in need at this moment. I plead with the noble Earl who is going to respond on behalf of the Government to give us some hope that the Government are at least prepared to consider these matters.

The Lord President of the Council, in his speech the other day, said that the question of an International Air Force had not even been considered, and had never been gone into. At any rate it has been gone into by the French Government, and the French General Staff did produce a plan at the Disarmament Conference. What has our Government been doing all these years ever since the Armistice, ever since the Covenant was signed, what has it been doing during the last two years, during the proceedings of the Disarmament Conference, if this obviously vital matter has not even been looked into by our experts—by our naval, military, and air advisers? The Government apparently have never even taken the trouble to look into the matter at all. That is, I think, a very serious indictment coming from the Lord President himself. This is a matter in which surely we should not delay in making up for lost time, and in going into the matter with the other Members of the League who are prepared to assist in setting up a collective system.

France made an offer. France, which has at the present moment the strongest Air Force in the world, offered to place that Air Force at the disposal and under the control of the League of Nations. We said: "No, we do not want to set up any system of that kind." We never even took the trouble to ask the smaller nations in Europe. After all, there are 23 small nations in Europe who contribute 360 units towards the maintenance of the League whereas the Great Powers contribute 326 units—practically equivalent. If those smaller nations were prepared to come into this collective system and to contribute upon the same basis as that upon which they now contribute to the maintenance of the League, a very large share of whatever money was necessary for the maintenance of such a force would be forthcoming from the smaller countries in Europe alone. Therefore I do ask the Government to say that all these questions shall be carefully gone into. After all, we have come to the parting of the ways. The Disarmament Conference, as I always thought it would do, has broken down, and we are faced now with the alternatives either of going back to the competitive system or of launching out into a co-operative system which alone expresses the right use of force by the Governments of the world.


My Lords, the noble Lord who initiated this debate realised, I think, that I was not in a position to make any very definite statement at this moment. Your Lordships are aware that my honourable friend the Lord Privy Seal has only just returned from his tour, and that at present we are not in possession of the replies which have to be made by the three Governments which he visited. I think the noble Lord, Lord Allen, seemed to think that the French were going to apply solely for security. I am not going to pre-judge what the French are going to say. They may ask for that; they may ask for other things also; but I would point out to your Lordships that this Memorandum is quite clearly stated to be a compromise, and as a compromise it is, of course, not entirely popular with anybody. Therefore it by no means follows that supposing that the French were to ask for security only, we should even then find ourselves in a position to agree with everything that has been put forward elsewhere. The Government were, I think, rather criticised by the noble Lord for having delayed so long after our original draft Convention before this Memorandum was produced. We make no secret of the fact that this Memorandum is not such as we should like to have had. It is the utmost that we think we can get, but we prefer the draft proposals which were put forward by the Prime Minister last year rather than our Memorandum. Those proposals, of course, as noble Lords all know, have proved to be unacceptable, and therefore we had to find some other proposals, to see if then we could bridge the gap.

As my honourable friend the Lord Privy Seal said last night, he has at any rate narrowed the gap by the information which he has received in going to the three capitals which he visited, although he cannot say that he has bridged it. As noble Lords know, the Lord Privy Seal was asked to go and explain our Memorandum and to see what replies these three nations would give to it. He was not sent in the position of a negotiator nor in fact did he attempt in any kind of way to negotiate. He was going merely to find out the opinions of those three countries and then to report to His Majesty's Government in order that if necessary further action could be taken. I can assure the House—and I am sure your Lordships need no such assurance—that the moment those replies are received His Majesty's Government will delay not one moment in considering them and seeing whether it is possible, by some slight change in our Memorandum in one particular and another change somewhere else, then to obtain agreement.

I think it is often forgotten that these Disarmament proposals do not depend on ourselves alone; it is sometimes thought that provided we agree, then the thing must go through. Of course the position is nothing like that. Not only are there the leading nations which have just been consulted, but there are 64 nations who have been attending this Disarmament Conference, and a great many of them are extremely jealous of their own particular points in a Disarmament Convention. They have to be consulted, unless we are going to take the line that only the more powerful nations shall be considered and that the smaller nations shall be brushed aside. I think every one of your Lordships will agree that that is entirely contrary to the whole spirit of the League of Nations, and would be an entire change in its procedure and its outlook.

The noble Lord who instituted the debate, Lord Allen, criticised the Leader of the House for having said in May of last year that it was not our policy that Germany should come half-way up the stairs in order that other nations should go half-way down to meet her. I think that if he will cast his mind back he will remember that the whole spirit of this country, and of course of the Government too, was that a Disarmament Convention should not mean rearmament. As time went by it was realised that the more heavily armed nations, as they are called, were not prepared to come down so far that there should be no rearmament of those that were less heavily armed. By experiment and error, if I may call it so, we have had gradually to change our proposals until they have come to the stage found in our Memorandum which was published in January last. It is a considerable advance on What was done before; in many ways, I was going to say, an Irishman's advance, because it is retrograde. The calibre of guns is heavier than was originally proposed, and various other proposals have been modified. I think the number of effectives has been increased. Therefore from the point of view of disarmament it is less favourable than was the proposal put forward by the Prime Minister last year. As I have said, the reason we did it was that we recognised, after the long discussion which had taken place at Geneva, that although the draft proposals put forward were accepted by everybody present at any rate as a basis, there was no hope of obtaining a definite agreement upon them.

The noble Lord asked me with regard to security, and that is a matter which was discussed, I think, by almost everybody who took part in the debate in another place last night. The proposals in the Memorandum are a considerable step forward from anything that has been suggested by this country before. As the noble Lord knows, there are quite definite guarantees in the Treaty of Locarno, and of course those are reintroduced and carried on in this Memorandum; but we go a good deal further. Instead of simply giving guarantees for the Pact of Paris we now propose that if there is any breaking of the terms of the Convention then there are at once to be consultations. I admit that that is, of course, not a complete guarantee, but those who have taken part in these consultations and discussions at Geneva must realise how very difficult, it is to get a definition which shall be clear, and not involve. more than this country is prepared to undertake or which any of us may feel to be justifiable.

I need only take, as an illustration, the definition of "aggressor." My noble friend on the Cross Benches has taken part in these discussions, and knows how extremely difficult it is to get a definition of "aggressor." So far no definition has been found which would fit in with the outbreak of the War in 1914. Therefore, when it comes to giving guarantees, it is essential that in the first instance we should define exactly what we are going to guarantee, and then consider what that involves. Until we have got replies from those nations whom we have consulted, of course I can make no statement on the point, and noble Lords will not expect me to; but I might point this out. I think the noble Lord, the Leader of the Opposition, said that the Government were hesitant, and that we ought to give guarantees, without which collective action was not effective, and he went on to say that it was our duty to strengthen the League of Nations. Once you come to the question of guarantees it is difficult, I would point out, to get the United States altogether in step with us, and therefore if this country is going to give guarantees it may become even more difficult to get great nations which do not belong to the League of Nations, or which have ceased to belong to the League of Nations, to join or rejoin the League.


I think that was more the argument of the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil of Chelwood, than mine. I pointed out the difficulty of giving guarantees.


I am sorry that I misunderstood the noble Lord, but at any rate it is what has been said by a great many people, and that is one of the difficulties that the Government have got to face. We recognise that we have got to be definite, in order to get the support of the nations to any form of Arms Convention. On the other hand we desire to strengthen the League of Nations to the utmost of our power, and to get these great nations back to the fold. That is one of the great difficulties that we have to face. I might perhaps remind your Lordships that the Secretary of State last night said quite definitely that in his view even a bad Arms Convention was a hundred times better than none at all. That is quite definitely the view of the Government. We intend, so far as it is possible, to see if we can reconcile the views of these various nations, and if it is necessary to make such a change in our Memorandum as to alter it even somewhat in its fundamental principles, we should not hesitate to do so if we believed that it was the right policy for this country, and ensured the peace of the world. We recognise clearly that an Arms Convention, even if it gives rearmament in some instances, means regulated armaments, and not unregulated armaments, which in the view of everybody would be disastrous.

The Leader of the Opposition said he thought that there were only two clerks and a typist engaged in peace work at the Foreign Office. I have not been there long enough to know how big the staff is, but I have been there long enough to know that it would be very difficult to find any one who was not definitely working for peace and security. So far from their being confined to a place the size of a bathroom, my answer is that those engaged in League of Nations and disarmament work cover the whole of the purlieus of the Foreign Office.


I was talking really of the League of Nations.


I had in mind the whole Department in so far as it was dealing with League of Nations and disarmament work. Having served for a very long time with Service Departments I can say that the question of agreement on disarmament is by no means confined to the Foreign Office, and that it is by no means the desire of the Service Departments to plunge into war. They understand very well that we are in no condition to plunge into such a rash experiment, and I can say from personal experience of the last War that no one wishes to have another experiment of a similar character. I am told that the League of Nations Department has nine members, of which three are special experts. Whether those are the two clerks and a typist I should doubt. I should imagine that they are of considerably more importance than that. As I have said, the Foreign Office as a whole is dealing with this question, from the Secretary of State downwards, and we are doing our utmost to see if a Disarmament Convention can be agreed to between the nations of the world.

I think Lord Cecil of Chelwood talked about a period of probation having been put into the previous Agreement with regard to Germany. That, as I understand it, was not what occurred on that occasion. As he knows, the Agreement was to last for something like ten years. The idea was that every nation should first of all have this inspection of its armaments, and that only later on should come the reduction of arms which was to be made by the more heavily armed nations. It was not a question of testing Germany to see if she was going to fulfil expectations, because the nations who signed were going to be asked quite definitely, on and from a certain date, to reduce their arms, and unless the thing broke down because the nations failed to fulfil their signed word, quite definitely everyone would from a certain year begin to reduce armaments.


I did not want to go into details of the Agreement, but I described it in the way in which it is described in Germany, and I am afraid sometimes in France also.


It does not follow that what an agreement is described to be in Germany is accurate, any more than descriptions one hears in this country. Do not let us take what is said in any country as being necessarily true. We know from our own experience in this country that statements are made which very few of us would be prepared to say were accurate. I do not think I can give your Lordships any more information which is of real value at this moment, and therefore at this late hour perhaps I had better say no more. But in reference to what the noble Lord, Lord Davies, said, may I say that I do not think he quite accurately quoted what was said by my right honourable friend the Lord President of the Council. What he was referring to was an International Police Force and not an International Air Force, and when the noble Lord said that it had never been considered I think your Lordships will remember that my noble friend sitting behind me [Lord Londonderry] took part in discussions at Geneva when that was under dismission for, I think, many weeks together.


I think what he said was that it was never worked out.


Exactly, but "worked out" is a, very different story from being considered; and if the noble Lord, who had a Motion down last night, had raised the question I was quite prepared to deal with that subject at considerable length and to point out to him that it is not merely a question of setting up an International Police Force—in fact, it is not a police force at all but an International Army—but that you have to set up a super-State which would give its orders and make its plans. That, of course, is rather outside what we are discussing to-night, and therefore I do not want to follow it further. May I once again repeat that as soon as we have got replies from these various nations His Majesty's Government will lose no time in considering them and in threshing out, not merely a short-term policy, but a long-term policy for our own security and for the peace of the world?


My Lords, it would be ungracious for me at this late hour to reply in any detail to the points that the noble Earl has put before us. There is, however, just one point that I should like to make. He stated that it is sometimes asserted and believed that if only this country would agree to this or that proposition everything would go through. Well, I am not one of the people who take that view on all questions, but so far as this question of security is concerned, I do believe that it is more true on that question than on any other. Noble Lords who sit on the Front Bench and who are members of the Government are far too inclined in dealing with international affairs to lay the blame on other countries. The noble Earl himself has referred to the difficulties with America. I know those difficulties perfectly well. The noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, when he was dealing with air policy, laid far more blame than he was entitled to do on the attitude of other nations. So far as security is concerned, it is true that if on that question this country would make clear its view and come down on the right side, it would enormously assist the solution of the main issue which confronts the world at the present moment. In this case you cannot lay the blame on other countries. It is upon our own country, and our own country almost alone, that the blame must be laid. I thank the noble Earl very much for the courtesy of his reply, apologise for my onslaught and ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.