HL Deb 07 May 1934 vol 92 cc21-62

LORD PONSONBY OF SHULBREDE rose to move to resolve, That this House views with great anxiety the position of foreign affairs and urges His Majesty's Government to adopt a more decided and vigorous policy both in the Far East and at the Disarmament Conference. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I desire to apologise to your Lordships for having given such very short Notice of so important a Resolution as that which I have put on the Paper. At the same time I wish to thank the Leader of the House for having so arranged business as to allow me this opportunity. For two reasons I put this Motion down. In the first place, I understood that the business in another place was so crowded before Whitsuntide that no opportunity could be allowed for a debate on foreign affairs, and therefore in the present anxious condition of affairs no statement could be made by the Government for practically a month. I felt in the second place that this matter was causing grave concern and interest in the country, and that your Lordships' House could afford proper opportunity for the Government to make a statement.

I have merely put down two subjects. At first sight it might seem as if those two subjects were far removed the one from the other; but, as a matter of fact, as I hope to show, those two subjects are really very closely inter-related. I will begin with the position of affairs in the Far East. I would take your Lordships back to the time before the present Government came into office, when there was a more or less Liberal civilian Government in Japan, which afterwards was superseded by a militarist administration. Then I need not remind your Lordships of the various incidents which took place which caused grave apprehension throughout the world—the invasion of Manchuria, the setting up of an independent Manchukuo State, which action on the part of Japan was a clear breach of the Covenant of the League of Nations, the Kellogg-Briand Pact, and the Washington Nine-Power Agreement. No action was taken and when the United States made a protest in January, 1932, His Majesty's Government did not associate themselves with that protest. No action was taken after the publication of the Lytton Report, and in fact the League of Nations, in which so much confidence was put in some quarters, was found not to function. It certainly would seem in the opinion of many people that action, even though it failed, would have been a better policy than no action at all.

These very serious events had the most disastrous effects throughout the world. In France, all that section of advanced opinion that trusted in the League system was very greatly weakened. In Germany, Herr Frick, who, I think, was Education Minister in the Reich, said: "We admire the League, but we thank Japan for her example." Herr von Papers declared that since the Covenant had not been applied against, Japan it could not be applied against Germany if she re-armed, and in this country I, myself, have found, and many would endorse this view, that in many quarters where there was sortie confidence in the League of Nations, that confidence has been greatly weakened and even to some extent superseded by condemnation of the League. That having been so, Japan was, of course, greatly encouraged, and we know that her recent declaration went alarmingly far. It was a declaration which amounted to the enunciation of a sort of Monroe doctrine for Eastern Asia, and the Foreign Secretary was pressed to find out exactly what this meant.

In a series of replies which he gave to questions in another place on April 30, that is to say last week, he informed the House that His Majesty's Ambassador in Tokyo had asked in a friendly way what this meant, and this phrase occurs in the representation that was made by the Ambassador to the Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs. The communication was to the effect that the principle of equal rights in China was guaranteed very explicitly by the Nine-Power Treaty of 1922, to which Japan is a party, and that His Majesty's Government must, of course, continue to enjoy all rights in China which are common to all signatories or are otherwise proper, except in so far as their rights were restricted by agreements such as the consortium agreement, or in so far as Japan had special rights recognised by other Powers and not shared by them.

I would ask the noble Earl, who, I understand, will reply on behalf of the Foreign Office, to explain what the "special rights" of Japan consist of. The Japanese Foreign Minister, Mr. Hirota, assured His Majesty's Ambassador that Japan would observe the provisions of the Nine-Power Treaty and that the policy of the Japanese Government and of His Majesty's Government in regard to the Treaty coincided.

To which the Foreign Minister's comment is: I think that the statement made by the Japanese Foreign Minister is reasonably clear, and His Majesty's Government are content to leave this particular question where it is. Nothing could be more characteristic than that. Those words, "to leave the question where it is", ought to be illuminated over the Foreign Office so long as the present Government remain in power.

I would remind your Lordships, first of all, of what the Nine-Power Treaty lays down. I only need refer to the first clause, in which the contracting parties engage to respect the sovereignty and independence and the territorial and administrative integrity of China. Yet the Japanese Government calmly say they adhere to the Nine-Power Treaty when they have taken a great slice of China, have got troops in China, and have set up a separate Government in China. But that is not all. It is not merely a question of the interpretation of the Nine-Power Treaty. The Assembly of the League of Nations, in a unanimous Report on February 24, 1933—by which, one presumes, the British Government are still bound—declares that Manchuria is "an integral part of China under Chinese sovereignty," and it adds that "the Nine-Power Treaty concluded at the Washington Conference applies to Manchuria as to every other part of China." This Report goes on to make it clear that the Japanese army is responsible for the creation and maintenance of the present régime in China, and that the existence of this régime and the presence of Japanese troops on Chinese soil outside the Manchurian railway zone are incompatible with Treaty obligations and with peace in the Far East.

The question is: Is the Government bound by the report of the Assembly of the League of Nations, to which it appended its signature, or is it content now to throw that over in the face of Japanese defiance, and declare that the question may remain "where it is"? I think it really is a most unsatisfactory situation. There can be no doubt that the military occupation of several Chinese provinces and their separation from the rest of China are most obviously and emphatically not compatible with the Nine-Power Treaty, and the Assembly Report strongly insists on this palpable fact. It is the effect on the world at large of this submission to the Japanese demands at every stage by His Majesty's Government which is so particularly unfortunate, and also the weakening effect it has on the authority and prestige of the League of Nations.

The situation in the Far East is disturbing. There can be no doubt about it. The Nanking Government of China is very likely to be dominated by these strong Japanese moves, but the Nanking Government of China is not the only Government of China. The Lytton Report, on page 22, gives a very full description of the Government south of the Yangtse, the Communist organisations which have got together and formed a very strong Government which, in this Report, is said to have become an actual rival of the national Government. We know that the Nanking Government is particularly weak, and is likely to be dominated by the Japanese move forward, which we now apparently seem to support. No only was united action taken by the Council of the League—where we are not a negligible quantity, where our leadership can draw a great deal of support, but we were silent—but since then we have apparently gone much further in the cap-in-hand attitude to the Japanese pretensions. I saw in the newspapers last week that a Japanese Prince was cordially received over here. There was a photograph of him inspecting British guns—and no doubt giving orders to British armament firms to furnish further guns to Japan, which conceivably in the future might be trained against British ships and British troops. No, this is only one instance of a vacillating indecision which has been very noticeable in the actions of the present Government in foreign affairs; and it has so weakened the League of Nations and spelt such despair for those who have got some hope in negotations for disarmament, that we find ourselves now in a very serious situation.

The Japanese, as we know, describe the Chinese troops in their own land as "bandits" because they were opposed to the Japanese advance into Manchuria, and they now regard as measures calculated to disturb peace and order in the Far East any international assistance such as road building or rural credits and other measures which internationally have been perfectly acceptable to the Chinese. I hope that the noble Earl will be explicit on this point, and I sincerely trust that he will show that the Government are going to support the League of Nations and not submit to and accept all the declarations that come from a very aggressive and militarist Government in Japan.

Turning to the Disarmament Conference, I do not want to repeat to your Lordships what I said about it when it was first set up. I do not want to show, as I might well show, how my fears and misgivings at that time were justified. I thought the discussion by experts at Geneva of the different classes of arms was the wrong way to set about it, was bound to end in a deadlock, and I knew perfectly well you could never get any formula on any question of armaments which would be satisfactorily accepted by all nations with very various obligations, very different commitments, very different geographical positions, very different dispositions. Such hopes were bound to be frustrated. But I did believe, and I brought the idea forward more than once in your Lordships' House, where it was turned down and ridiculed, that if the simple formula had been adopted at Geneva that the great Powers should now, fifteen years after the War was over, reduce their armaments to the level which had been imposed on Germany by the Treaty of Versailles, then there was a hope in that formula, which was already in the Treaty of Versailles, that by such a reduction of armaments peace would be secured for the world. The action of the Government at Geneva has been one long series of hesitant and vacillating evasions of any serious, bold attempt at calling the world to reason after the great tragedy it has been through.

In January, 1933, Signor Grandi proposed the abolition of virtually all the aggressive weapons forbidden to Germany, and his policy all through was openly in favour of a constructive development of the League of Nations. But he received no support from Great Britain. He was driven from power, and now the Italian policy is different. On May 10, 1933, President Roosevelt in his message to Congress actually offered the abolition of all weapons forbidden to Germany in 1919, together with the most advanced offer of collaboration with the League of Nations. That offer, which was as advanced as could be reasonably hoped for at that time, was accepted by Germany, but it had no support from and was opposed by Great Britain. We then got Germany's withdrawal; and now both Germany and Japan are outside the League.

In a series of proposals that have come forward the Government representatives at Geneva have not given assistance to those Powers who have been endeavouring to go far enough to give some sort of hope of real advance towards disarmament. It would, of course, have been a great advance for Great Britain to agree to the abolition of capital ships and aircraft carriers, but they must have known that unless they agreed to that there was no chance whatever of the abolition of submarines. The British representatives were opposed to the abolition of tanks. They have consistently refused to consider the internationalisation of civil aviation which was brought forward by M. Pierre Cot, of France, although they have been aware that the use of civil aircraft for military purposes is a very serious question. Nothing has been clone, nothing suggested. The Secretary of State for Air in this House turned down the idea altogether, and there has been no constructive proposal from the Government in that connection. The British representatives have been hesitant, and in fact they rejected at first any idea of international supervision and control, and only of a very limited character with qualifications were they prepared to accept any idea of that sort.

The abolition of the private manufacture of armaments which was put forward by M. Jouhaux, the French delegate, has been turned down by His Majesty's Government and that, as there is a general re-armament now, is one of the most pressing questions. Instances are coming forward of the scandal of the profits that are made by the private manufacture of armaments. I saw with my own eyes the other day a leaflet that had been sent out by a big British armament firm to Germany, in German, with a large picture of a magnificent tank. I believe it has been withdrawn now, but they were quite at liberty to do that because armaments firms are not particular about narrow local patriotism: they are the servants of the world, and are ready to supply all nations that come along. Therefore we are supplying Germany, or trying to supply Germany, with armaments in private while in public we are protesting that Germany is re-arming; and I dare say the same thing is going on at this moment with Japan, because in the photograph the Japanese Prince looked extremely pleased with British guns. Then the suggestion was made, again by a Frenchman, M. Palmade, in the Expenditure Commission, that there should be budgetary limitation. There are difficulties. That Commission went closely into the difficulties, but received no encouragement at all from the British Government and that proposal was dropped.

Meanwhile my right honourable friend Mr. Arthur Henderson has stuck to his job, has gone on in season and out of season trying to see whether he cannot rescue something from the wreckage. Many of us sincerely wish he could be successful, but the prospects do not seem to be very favourable so long as the present Government are in power. Competition has begun. This very word "parity" means competition because, if you are going to arm up to the level of another Power, it means you will encourage that Power to arm still further. That has always been the experience. We are going to have parity in the air—I do not know if we are going to have parity in all arms in Europe and parity in all arms in Asia; but if so the expenditure that is before us will be a very heavy one. We are apprehensive that before long greater expenditure will be required. The breakdown of the League system, these various points of danger, which are only too obvious, encourage those who rely on force, and believe that in armaments they will find security, to urge the Government of this country on to build and to increase armaments. Japan is setting the pace in Asia, and Germany, it seems, is setting the pace in Europe.

France has been condemned because in her Note of April 17 she seemed to put an end to the prospects of any fruitful negotiations with regard to disarmament. But in condemning France we must remember that she has been going through very serious internal difficulties and, in addition to that, she always has the fear of her neighbour. Of course she cannot hope to keep Germany compulsorily disarmed for all time, but it always seems that just as we are within measurable distance of agreement some fatal blunder is made by one or the other. France has been asking for guarantees, and the only guarantee that was put forward by His Majesty's Government was that in the event of a Disarmament Convention being signed, and in the event of that Convention being broken, there should be consultations. One cannot help sympathising with the French point of view that a more futile suggestion could hardly be made. We may not be prepared to make defensive alliances; we may not be prepared to commit ourselves to take mili- tary action in hypothetical circumstances; but that we should put forward that when a breach of the Convention has been made there should be consultations, really did not seem a serious suggestion, especially in view of the breakdown of consultations and the possibility of united action with regard to Japan.

We do not want to commit ourselves to military action in certain circumstances. I do not think anybody would agree to that in this country. I am convinced that my fellow-countrymen, irrespective of their political views, are all peace-loving and desire to keep out of war. We do not want any preventive war. We do not want any military expeditions or to try to ensure the peace of the world by force, but I do believe there, are methods by which pressure can be brought to bear in flagrant cases by an automatic and graduated system of economic pressure. I believe that to be possible, and I believe that line should be further explored. It is contained in Article 16 of the Covenant, and it merely wants developing so as to act automatically when a flagrant breach of either the Articles of the Covenant, or any other Convention that may be drawn up, occurs. But no such lead as that has been given, and the result is that we find ourselves, in the face of alliances and pacts of which we have not got very full knowledge.

There has been the Four-Power Pact. I do not know what has happened to that. I rather think it has lapsed. There has been the agreement between Germany and Poland, followed rapidly by an agreement between France and Poland. We do not know what those agreements amount to. I do not know if they are agreements that are registered at the League of Nations or not. I do not know whether they have secret clauses or not. Then there is the Balkan Pact. All of them are perfectly unnecessary if these Powers were ready to adhere to the Covenant of the League of Nations, where they have ample protection. But these Powers feel that when great Powers like Great Britain do not adhere to the Covenant of the League, do not carry out the decisions of the League, their security is very doubtful, and they immediately consult one another with a view to making sectional and regional alliances. I think that is most unfor- tunate. We seem to have left the idea of a League policy and gone back to these sectional alliances.

I should be the first to admit that the presence in the world to-day of dictatorships makes matters very much more difficult. I want to be perfectly fair and admit the Government's attempts from time to time. I think their attempts have often been in the wrong direction and still more often been very feeble. They did pick up the pieces at the Disarmament Conference and try to put them together in some sort of Convention, but as the Disarmament Convention began on the wrong lines that was pretty hopeless. They then began to negotiate between the two chief rivals, France and Germany, and they sent out Mr. Eden with that view. I have a very high opinion of Mr. Eden's powers as a diplomatist, but I cannot conceive a more hopeless task than to ask any diplomatist to try and negotiate on lines of armaments—always the wrong end—with two disputants such as France and Germany. Dictatorships make it more difficult, because Fascism stands for dictatorship and war, while the League of Nations stands for democracy and peace. Dictatorships want arms, and not only for external use against possible potential enemies, but for internal use to subjugate their own people.

The Germany that started first with a demand for equality, certainly in that demand gained the sympathy of a great many people who knew that sooner or later the Powers would have to consider it, but Germany, by her internal policy, has alienated the sympathy of right-feeling people throughout the world. I do not want to dwell on the persecution of the Jews, which has been perhaps the greatest blot that has occurred in civilised history in recent years. I do not want to elaborate the persecution and suppression of Socialists and Pacifists, but we know that sympathy with any reasonable demand which Germany might have put forward has been very much alienated by her internal policy. I do not repeat charges which nave been. made right and left. I have never been one to believe all I read about atrocities in one direction or another. But one instance has been brought to my personal knowledge which I shall just refer to in passing as an instance of the cruelty of the presentrégime

A German Deputy, five times elected as a Socialist in the German Reichstag, was arrested for his Socialist activities and for his very strong peace activities. He was put into a concentration camp, he was given hard labour, and he managed to escape. His name was Herr Seger. After he had escaped his wife and child were put into a concentration camp. His wife had never taken the smallest interest in politics, but she and the child were labelled political prisoners and were put into a camp in which there was no single other woman. A demand for release was refused, and when her husband asked for a divorce so that she might Le released that was refused. The demand was made that he should return to Germany, which of course meant with a view to his being shot. That sort of procedure in a civilised country to-day does alienate the sympathy of those who want to see Germany return to the civilised comity of nations. It does make one feel, when you are dealing with the Fascist nations, that they will not be very much service in the League of Nations in trying to get the form of international democratic government which we approve.

But I do not think there is anything to be gained by singling out one nation or another and putting the blame on them. I do not want to point the finger to Germany or France or Japan or any other nation. There are unreasonable people who make things difficult in every nation and we want to strengthen reasonable opinion in all nations. It is because our Government is taking such a modest line, is never asserting itself in any way to make a real advance, is behaving like a small Power whose influence is negligible, that I am making this protest this afternoon. I may be asked: "Well, what do you suggest? "In the humble position which I hold I never like taking it upon myself to make any suggestion to the great statesmen of the world, but I do repeat that these discussions about arms are started in the wrong way. It is no good taking the arms out of a man's hand. You have got to get rid of the idea in his head that makes him want to use those arms, and until you do that your discussions are really bound to be futile.

Therefore, it has been suggested, and I think with some reason, that discussion should begin at the other end, and that instead of discussing tanks, warships and submarines, bombs and aeroplanes, we should find out what it is that makes these countries want to use them, to get in black and white what are the sore places, what are the causes of complaint and fear and danger as between one country and another country. Those being set before the League of Nations, some of them might be resolved and on others advice could be given. It may be objected that that means a revision of Treaties. Well, I have always thought that until revision is faced these sore places will remain. At any rate there seems to me some prospect in that direction of arriving at some sort of advance, whereas in the present direction, in these futile discussions about quantity and quality of arms, there is no possible hope of anything like a useful result being reached.

However that may be, there is no question about one thing. What His Majesty's Government should do, and should lose no opportunity of doing, is to turn away from this idea of weakening, and even repudiating as they have, the League of Nations, and to do all they can to rehabilitate the League of Nations and give it the force and power and moral authority that it should have. Collective security can be afforded by the League. The United States of America and Soviet Russia should be enlisted in the League and invited to join. If we are to have any division—and there is only too apparent a division —in the world to-day between the Fascist States and those who desire a different system, then those who desire some sort of orderly international government should stand by one another within the League of Nations. The isolation which is advocated by some in this country is impossible. It is no good this country being isolated in the world to-day, connected as it is so closely, whether we like it or not, with the whole rest of the world. We have to take our share and it ought to be a great share. We have here in this country anyhow orderly government. The Government, with their great strength numerically in Parliament, are in a position to assert themselves a great deal more than has been done hitherto.

I hope the noble Earl in his reply will not indulge in recriminations and excuses for the past because, as The Times very properly said in a leading article the other day, the time for making surveys is past; an initiative is needed. I wish I could think that the Prime Minister and Sir John Simon were capable of making a bold initiative. I do not, and nine-tenths of the Tory Party do not, and seven-eighths of the Liberal Party do not believe that for a moment. That is the trouble. If only there was some Polar expedition being prepared that would be away, say, two or three years and Sir John Simon and the Prime Minister could be asked to join it, the sigh of relief that would go up in this country would be audible. No, my Lords, that is the trouble. We do not believe that the Government are capable of taking a bold initiative, of inventing, of trying to see what we can do. We believe that they are going to go on, in that splendid phrase of Sir John Simon, saying that they are content to leave the particular question where it is.

That is their motto; but I would remind them of what was said in the King's speech in 1933: My Government remain determined to uphold the work of international cooperation by collective action through the machinery of the League of Nations and in all other ways calculated to further good relations Between all States and peoples.

We want to see them carry out that policy; we want to see them support the League and not throw it over. It is because the Government are failing to carry out that policy, and because there is very widespread anxiety due to the vague, uncertain, equivocal and indeterminate policy which is being adopted, that I am moving this Motion to-day. The Government are never tired of priding themselves on the other great achievements domestically in this country, but when it comes to the realm of foreign affairs, we hear very much less. The force of events, the current of force, has been very strong. Everybody would admit that they have had most difficult circumstances to deal with, but on no single occasion have they shown that zest, that power which is really bound up with the position of Great Britain in the world, and on no single occasion have they really exercised the authority which dwells in them to make a bold move away from the rule of force into the region of the rule of right. I beg to move.

Moved to resolve, That this House views with great anxiety the position of foreign affairs and urges His Majesty's Government to adopt a more decided and vigorous policy both in the Far East and at the Disarmament Conference.—(Lord Ponsonby of Shalbrede.


My Lords, I have arrived at very much the same conclusion as that which has been reached by my noble friend Lord Ponsonby. In his Motion there are two parts. He speaks in the first place of great anxiety as to the position of foreign affairs. I do not believe that that is too strong a statement as to the feeling, not only of Lord Ponsonby and his friends, but of a very large proportion of the people in this country, and perhaps more still on the Continent. I may be wrong, but I do not myself think that there is any danger of immediate war, or there is very little. I recognise, of course, that there are circumstances which might produce that war; as it is sometimes put, there is a great deal of loose powder about. There is this disregard of Treaty obligations, both of the Nine-Power Treaty and of the Covenant, which is a very bad symptom; there is undoubtedly a recrudescence of armanients, and there is also the postponement of the fulfilment of the pledge entered into by almost all the countries of Europe that some scheme of disarmament would be carried out. But in spite of that, I do not myself see—the Government obviously have much better means of information than I have, but I do not myself see—any country which is anxious to break the peace at this moment, with the possible and conceivable exception of Japan. I have to say that because of the very ambiguous policy which that Power has pursued during the last few years.

That does not remove my anxiety in the least. I do not believe in the immediate outbreak of war: I do believe that we have reached a very serious crisis in international affairs. I think the question really is now raised very prominently and urgently whether we are going back to the system of international relations which prevailed before 1914. That seems to me to be the real issue. If we are going back, no decision could be more serious; and I very earnestly ask your Lordships to give that aspect of the present situation your most careful attention. There are really two theories of international relations. One is that each nation is to be for itself alone. You find traces of it in many national slogans. It certainly was the old theory: each nation for itself and the devil take the hindmost. That was the ordinary theory of international relations. I know that certain modern advocates of that theory try to make it acceptable by saying that it must be combined with a policy of isolation. I entirely agree with my noble friend Lord Ponsonby in saying t hat that is a perfectly impossible policy. We have never desired—at any rate not for a long time—unduly to intervene in European affairs. We have constantly, and sometimes (as I think) rather unwisely, declined to intervene when possibly our intervention might have made for peace, but we have from time to time been inevitably drawn into them.

We have seen on the other side of the Atlantic a much more determined effort to put into practice a policy of complete isolation with equally little success. From time to time America has been drawn into these great questions, and I do net believe that it is possible for any country to avoid that result. It certainly has not been possible for us in the past; and unquestionably the world has shrunk enormously since then, and what was impossible then is doubly impossible now. My Lords, I wish just to say, to avoid misapprehension, that even if I thought it possible, I should be vehemently-opposed to such a policy. In one of the best-known of the works of Charles Dickens there is a picture of a gentleman called Scrooge, Who carried out a policy of isolation completely. He lived only for himself; he lived a completely selfish life. I have no desire that the British Empire should be a kind of international Scrooge; but however you disguise this policy, whether you dignify it by well-sounding phrases or not, this policy of complete abstinence from all relations with foreign countries, or even the policy of each nation for itself—however you disguise it, in the end it really is a policy of international anarchy.

The very essence of it was, and is, that if a dispute breaks out between two countries and it is insoluble by diplomacy, the only resource is war. That is the very essence of that policy. No doubt it was softened by the understandings of International Law, but even in that case your Lordships will not forget that each nation reserved to itself the right to interpret International Law exactly as it pleased. Therefore, that policy must lead to war; it is, so to speak, mathematically certain; and in fact the experience of the centuries has shown that it always does lead to war and always has led to war. That is the policy, the old policy, which was carried out with great devotion arid great skill, and was no doubt designed, as far as it could be designed, to avoid war but always resulted in war, and as far as I can see always must result in war, sooner or later.

The new policy is different. The new policy starts with the proposition that war must not be used to settle international differences; that the settlement must be attempted by mediation, by arbitration, by judicial decision, by negotiation, of course, but in no case must war be used for the ultimate decision. That is implicit in the Covenant of the League of Nations. It is expressed in the Kellogg Pact, and in the Covenant at any rate there is admitted the doctrine that if, contrary to the covenant embodied in that new doctrine, any country does resort to war, then it is the duty of all the other countries to join together to use whatever pressure may be necessary in order to repress that breach of international order. That is to my mind the very essence of what is called the League system. That is what it means, and this country, both by its signature to the Covenant and by its acceptance of the Locarno Treaties, which are really a good deal misunderstood—they are merely the application to a particular case of substantially the same principles as those contained in the Covenant—the British Government have adhered to the new policy, and not only adhered to it by their formal signature, but the spokesmen of every Government since the War have asserted in strong and emphatic language that that is the right policy for this and indeed other countries. And quite lately we have had in this House, and in the gracious Speech from the Throne, and in statements made by leading Ministers in the other House, a repetition of the determination of the present Government to adhere to that policy. Nevertheless, in the last two years since the Government came into office a very determined effort has been made to challenge this new doctrine.

My noble friend referred to the Japanese case. It relieves me of the necessity of going in detail into it. Undoubtedly Japan did for a fact—nobody can doubt it—break both her Treaty obligations under the Nine-Power Agreement, and her Treaty obligations under the Covenant, and when the members of the League, including the representatives of His Majesty's Government, unanimously decided that she had broken her obligations, she replied by resigning from the League. A more direct challenge of the new system it is impossible to devise. As my noble friend has also pointed out, a similar challenge, though not so explicit, perhaps, has been made by other countries, and notably by Germany, not only in the language used sometimes by her leading statesmen but by the fact that she withdrew not only from the Disarmament Conference and from the League and from the Labour Conference, but from other bodies of a similar character. There is no doubt that she definitely said she was not content with the new system and desired to return to the old system. I am very glad indeed to see that one German Minister, Herr von Papen, the other day—it is the first time that anything of the sort has been said, and I welcome it—said that of course Germany preferred to be in the League rather than out of it if she could come in on equal terms. I welcome that as a sign that the policy of Germany is no longer anti-international, as I was afraid it was.

Still a great deal of harm has been done by the action she has taken, and, of course, one cannot conceal from oneself that there is a section of opinion in other countries, and even in this country, which is vehemently opposed to the new system, which wants to go back to the old system of each nation for itself. "Preparedness!". "Prepare for War if you want peace!" All the old slogans are making their reappearance. I draw your Lordships' attention to that, because I think that as a result of those actions and other circumstances there has been—no one can shut his eyes to it—a decline in the confidence in the League and the League system. You hear very wild language used about the League being at an end, and so on. That is great exaggeration, but that there is a decline of confidence in the League no one who reads the newspapers or talks to foreigners can doubt. Therefore we are brought to this conclusion, that if, as I do not doubt, His Majesty's Government do make support of the League of Nations an essential feature of their foreign policy, that policy has failed. So far from being able to support the League and maintain it in its original strength, confidence in the League has gradually deteriorated during the period of office of the present Government.

That is only port of the case, no doubt. Mortals, as we know, cannot command success. It may be that although the League has declined in public confidence, the Government may say that that is not due to action or inaction of their own. That is where the second part of this Resolution becomes important, because it calls for a very decided and vigorous policy by the Government on two leading questions in which the collective system is involved—namely, Disarmament and the Far East. It becomes necessary, therefore, for me to say a few words as to whether I adhere to the view that there is need for change of policy by His Majesty s Government—whether I agree that the policy of the Government has not been sufficiently determined and vigorous in the past. My Lords, I do not think that any honest man can doubt that that question must be answered in the affirmative.

I am not going in detail into the Sino-Japanese case. My noble friend said something about it. Much more, I am sure he will agree, might have been said on the same lines, but broadly speaking I cannot avoid the conclusion that although the language of the Government was sometimes strong, their action was always weak. I feel that that quality of their dealings with Japan, which seems to me to he obvious in the last two years or more, is made all the more striking by the recent discussion with Japan about that very amazing declaration which the Japanese Government allowed to be put out. No doubt the Japanese Government, encouraged by their immunity in Manchuria, thought they could declare what was almost a protectorate over the whole of China, they could give notice at any rate that no one was to interfere in China—I am putting it in popular language—without the leave of Japan.

In that case the Government did take action. They did make a protest, a protest couched in courteous but strong language.

I wonder whether that was because the trade interests of this country were directly affected—whether the Government drew a great distinction between a case where Japan had indeed infringed her Treaties, had indeed infringed Treaties to which this country was a party, and in so doing had inflicted grave injury upon another country which was a. party to the same Treaty—a distinction between a case of that kind and a case which directly threatened the trade of this country with China. I hope that that was not the reason for the difference in their action, because I feel sure that if it was, it was not only not very creditable but exceedingly short-sighted. If you are going to destroy, or allow to be destroyed, the collective system in the Far East, be well assured that sooner or later we are going to suffer in every way, politically, economically, commercially, in the gravest fashion in that part of the world.

I do not want to develop any further that part of my argument. The broad facts are well known to your Lordships. Parts of them have been recalled by my noble friend. I have endeavoured to draw attention to some other parts of them, but they are perfectly familiar. I do not think anyone will doubt—I do not think that the Government themselves would doubt or question—that the events in the Far East have been a grave attack on the collective system, have done a great deal of harm not only in the Far East but in Europe as well, and have greatly increased the difficulties of the Disarmament Conference. I do not believe that any one who has considered the matter would doubt it for a moment, and I cannot myself understand that any one will seriously question that those evil effects have been at any rate in part the result of insufficient vigour in the policy Of His Majesty's Government.

When you come to the case of disarmament I am afraid I take exactly the same view. At the outset, in February, 1932, when the Conference met I am not able to discern that the Government had any policy at all—any positive and constructive disarmament policy, that is. At the best they had the policy of Mr. Micawber, waiting to see if something would turn up—a readiness to adopt or accept measures of disarmament if they were put forward, but not a readiness to put them forward for themselves, to have a definite clear policy which could command the support of the vast numbers of people who were looking, and praying even, for disarmament. Nothing of the kind can be discerned, so far as I am able to examine it, in the policy of the Government in the beginning of the Disarmament Conference. Nor can I see that subsequently have they ever really put forward with vigour and decision any disarmament policy of their own. They have undoubtedly made suggestions at times; some of them have been very useful suggestions but I look in vain for any speech or any action of the Government of the kind which amounts to leadership of the nations.

A good deal of misunderstanding circles round that expression asking the Government to give a lead. The Government have often treated it as if we were asking them to give a further lead in the matter of disarmament—more unilateral disarmament. That is not the meaning —it is not my meaning at any rate in the least. That is not what I am asking for. What I am asking for in my feeble way—I have asked for it over and over again—is that the Government should go to that international gathering and say: "We have considered the matter. We have deeply at heart the question of disarmament. We see the great number of nations that are anxious for it, and we believe that the right system is as follows," and then state their policy and put at the back of it their own influence, which is very great, and the influence of the whole Empire, which is enormous. I look in vain for any case in which action of that kind has been taken by the Government. They have appeared always to be seeking for the line of least resistance.

I know how people who call themselves practical politicians think that that is the right method of political action. I am afraid I cannot agree with them. I am quite ready to agree with the proposition —which is indeed a self-evident proposition—that in an international gathering you cannot have it all your own way. But that does not prevent you putting forward your own policy. You may have to make concessions in that policy later on—that is quite possible—in order to meet objections that are raised. But the first essential, if you want people to follow you, is to give a lead, to say: "This is what we believe in, this is what we think is right." That is what I do not see that the Government have ever done. And when they have put forward their policy, I do not think that it has been improved or made more serviceable for the purpose by those unfortunate exceptions which have been introduced in order to meet special British convenience. With all this have been combined statements from time to time which have certainly led to the impression abroad, and largely at home, that the Government were not really very keen on disarmament. I dare say it was quite unjust, but that has been the impression. Statements of that kind have been made, and, still more, from important members of the Government there have been silences more eloquent than even any statement,

That is the reason, it seems to me, why the Motion is justified in asking for a more decided and vigorous policy. And that no doubt involves the question which may well be put: "Well, what is it you propose? "I have nothing to add to what was proposed by the Assembly of the League of Nations with reference to the Sino-Japanese situation. With regard to disarmament I recognise— who does not?—flat the situation has become very difficult. Every day I read a fresh statement in the newspapers which shows how difficult it has become. There is one most unfortunate statement in The Times this morning—unfortunate not from the point of view of The Times, but by reason of its intrinsic meaning—reporting what are alleged to be the views in Paris of M. Bérenger, who, I understand, is the President, or as we should say the Chairman, of the Committee on Foreign Relations in the Senate. I am not going to quote the details of that statement, but I am bound to say that anything less helpful to a. solution of the difficulty it is impossible to imagine. In that situation, which has undoubtedly become worse, what can the Government do now? I admit the great difficulty, but I still believe that the only chance of success is for a really vigorous and courageous statement of policy by the Government.

If it had been made in the summer of 1932 I do not doubt it would have succeeded. The situation then was singu larly favourable to disarmament. You had Herr Bruening still in power in Germany; you had an Italian Government, with Signor Grandi as Foreign Minister, which announced quite plainly, as my noble friend stated just now—I think he was a little wrong about the date, I think it was in the spring of 1932—Italy's adherence to a very advanced system of disarmament. You had statements from Russia and from America all favouring strong measures of that kind. Even France. Very shortly after that date—I forget exactly when it was, but I think it was just about May, 1932—you had actually a General Election in France fought very largely on the question of disarmament. I am assured of that by those who actually took part in the elections, and a very great majority was returned to the Chamber in favour of disarmament. I remember that about that time I happened to be in Paris, and met a very well known politician of the Left, who told me that there had never been a, situation in his recollection so favourable to disarmament as it was then in France. Not only were the Radicals and the Socialists in favour of it, but a considerable section, a very valuable section—I think it was the Catholic section—of the Right were also in favour of it. He was in great spirits in thinking something would be done.

If at that moment the British Government had come forward with a well-thought-out policy, vigorous, not spoiled by trying to have the best of both worlds, not a policy of disarmament which was to apply to all nations except our own, but a real policy of disarmament with a real policy of reasonable guarantees, I am satisfied myself that it would have succeeded. What was that policy? It was the policy accepted by Germany that all the weapons forbidden to her should be forbidden to other nations. It would not have meant equality, but it would have been a real step towards equality. It would have involved no doubt a reaffirmation of those existing guarantees against war into which we had entered, but unless we are going to be false to our word there is no harm in reaffirming them. I think you would have had to have had a promise that if after entering into the Treaty any nation pledged to carry it out should begin to re-farm, that action must be treated as a threat to the peace of the world, and economic sanctions of a suitable character would be enforced by all countries against that nation. I believe that would not have been difficult of acceptance, and I think that on those lines you would have obtained a considerable reduction of armaments, a real step forward, a great appeasement of the international situation.

Of course, I agree most fully with Lord Ponsonby when he says that fundamentally and ultimately the great thing is to get at the cause of the armaments. The difficulty is that the first promise we have made to Germany is that she shall be given something like equality of armaments, and until you remove that perfectly natural grievance you cannot get on with the other subjects at all. If you were now to turn aside from that, I am afraid she would regard it merely as another evasion of that primary obligation. But I do not disagree with the general principle he put forward. There are other details I could elaborate about the control of civil aviation and so on, but it is not necessary for me to do so. It may be that to put that policy forward now would not produce agreement; I do not know. My impression is—I may turn out to be quite wrong—that even now a policy of that kind is more likely to produce agreement than any other policy that can be suggested, the policy of M. Bérenger, for instance, which is, as I understand it, to have no re-armament of Germany, the maintenance of all armaments as they are, and an enforcement of guarantees That policy certainly will never be agreed to. It will never be agreed to by this country, I imagine; I am sure it will never be agreed to by Germany. It is perfectly hopeless as a solution.

I have not yet seen any policy which seems to me more likely to achieve agreement than the one I have indicated. After all, it is for the Government to have a policy. All that we outsiders can do is to make suggestions, and I do make the suggestion that they should put forward a policy on those lines, that they should put it forward with all their strength, saying that they desire earnestly this policy, that they propose to put it forward clause by clause and ask the General Commission or whatever body it may be to vote on each proposition, so that we may know who it is that is obstructing disarmament in the world and who is prepared to go forward. We know that Germany quite recently, through the mouth of Baron von Neurath, expressed the view that she would accept a policy on those lines. We know that the Italians have constantly said they are prepared to accept any policy of disarmament that the other nations can agree upon. The Russian Government have repeatedly said they are prepared to accept any policy of disarmament provided it is real disarmament. The smaller countries have said very much the same thing, and I doubt whether any of them would oppose it. As for America, I can only judge what she would do by the public statements of President Roosevelt and Mr. Norman Davis. They are perfectly clear as far as I can see that America would be prepared to accept a policy on those lines.

I do not know whether the Government have information which may show that these impressions, which are derived from public sources, arc erroneous. Of course it leaves out the great Powers, France and Japan. I do not know what the policy of France may be, but it seems to me that it would be madness for her to insist on a breakdown of the Disarmament Conference and the loss of all the security which an agreement on disarmament would give her, and substitute for that the indefinite right of re-armament by Germany, and the knowledge that if the Disarmament Conference broke down through French action it would be quite hopeless to ask this country to join in any coercion of Germany. As for Japan, I do not pretend to know what the policy of Japan may be, but I should certainly regard it as quite impossible to consent to this, that Japan should be allowed to hold up a great international reform by herself.

Those are the suggestions I make for what they are worth. I am sorry if I have appeared to speak with too great a vehemence, but I do feel profoundly that the issues are tremendous; that if we go on in the kind of way we have been going on, and the result is that the Conference breaks down and further discredit is cast upon the collective system, the situation will be tremendously serious. I know full well the strong forces that are in favour of abandoning the collective system—all the forces of tradition, certain very powerful financial and economic forces connected with the manufacture of arms, all those people who always are afraid to do anything because they regard human nature as hopelessly perverted and corrupt. But, on the other hand, I am quite confident that there are immense battalions on our side. I believe the great mass of the people of this country is convinced of the necessity of a policy of that kind. I believe that in every country the great majority of the people are for peace, and, indeed, for risks and sacrifices, provided they are assured that they are going to increase the chance of peace. I believe that a policy advocated with vigour by the British Government would find enormous support all over the world, but if not, if the policy fails, it will indeed be a melancholy satisfaction that the conduct of the Government should be condemned, and I am sure it will be condemned, by the verdict of British public opinion.


My Lords, I was, I confess, a little surprised to see the Resolution which has been rather suddenly brought forward by my noble friend opposite at this particular moment, because he, like myself, has some knowledge of diplomacy and diplomatic practice and knows how seldom it is really opportune, or to the advantage of the country, to discuss foreign affairs in Parliament. It seems to me particularly so in the present case where the only alternative can possibly lie between silence and very plain speaking. Well, if there is to be plain speaking I am afraid it must be upon his head. He has, I was surprised to find, brought forward a long series of charges against the Government of obstruction in the work of pacification. I will not go into all those now, but my noble friend concluded with a sort of charge against His Majesty's present Government of trying to introduce the sectarian spirit into the League of Nations grouping, and so on. He did not say one word about what, to my mind, has been the essential weakness of the League of Nations from the very beginning, the fact that almost immediately after its foundation a chain of alliances was contracted reaching right across Europe, isolating those particular States that had been our enemies in the War but who, we hoped, would at the earliest possible time come into the League of Nations themselves. I am surprised to learn that His Majesty's Government should have been guilty of these sectarian tendencies, and that there is no feeling of what, as I have said, I have always looked upon as one of the essential weaknesses that has done so much to undermine the authority of the League of Nations in other countries.

In the few observations which I would venture to make to-day I confine myself to the question of disarmament, because it is the one that I know perhaps a little more about. As regards the Far East, while I freely recognise that the Government were, to some extent, circumscribed by existing conditions and that they had to deal with facts as they are, from those who criticised them we have never heard very definitely what action they would have taken under similar circumstances. I spend a good many months of every year on the Continent of Europe, where I have a great many old associations and intimate ties. Twelve months ago I was disconcerted, I may say I was dismayed, to find that wherever I went people were speaking incessantly of the coming war. Few were able to explain to me what the action would be or who was to be regarded as the probable aggressor, but this inevitable and almost immediate war appeared to be a general obsession. Recently I have found that it is much less generally discussed, and certainly not at any rate so openly or so insistently discussed, and yet none the less to my mind the European situation has certainly not improved. I should say it has rather deteriorated. If this is so it surely is important to try to ascertain the reason and, it may be, to assign the responsibility, which I cannot agree with my noble friends who have already spoken in visiting on His Majesty's Government.

If we are looking for a premiss from which to draw certain conclusions we are confronted by one initial fact about which, I suppose, there is no dispute on any side—namely, that with the exception of Great Britain the great Powers concerned have done little or nothing to carry out the obligations implicit in the Treaty of Versailles to reduce their armaments, as the defeated Powers were compelled to do. It is equally indisputable that they have by that failure given substance to the claim of Germany to be released from a position of inequality or inferiority which is humiliating to a great nation. There is a second issue of facts. There is a dispute which makes it very difficult for the average man to arrive at any definite conclusion—partly because he is probably himself aware that a certain amount of prejudice is difficult to eliminate from his own mind and partly because the attitude of the two countries principally concerned, France and Germany, is judged so differently by their respective partisans and interpreted so differently in the country itself.

We have been repeatedly informed by those who should be entitled to speak with authority that Germany never actually carried out a great number of her disarmament obligations, and since matters have been brought to a head by her withdrawal from the League of Nations, we are assured that re-armament is proceeding apace in that country. It may be at once admitted that it is difficult not to be a little sceptical about assurances given to the contrary, in view of certain utterances of statesmen and publicists which from time to time startle us by their vehemence. At the same time travellers from our own people who range over a great part of Germany on business or on their own private occasions, assure me repeatedly that everywhere they go, even in every village, they see boys and youths continually drilling. That this is so there can be, I think, no doubt. On the other hand, a ready explanation of this phenomenon is always forthcoming. It is—I do not say that I believe it, but it is the explanation given to me—that owing to the insufficient nourishment of children during the War the physique of a whole generation in that country has so deteriorated that a vast effort has to be made by the nation to try and restore them to physical health and virility, and that drilling and the accompanying physical exercises are the form most acceptable to the German youth, who from their boyhood upwards have always spent their time at playing at soldiers, which is as natural to them as cricket and football are to English boys. So much for the German dilemma.

The attitude of France is represented by her partisans as being dictated by fear, felt in a country twice in fifty years invaded and occupied, of any revival of the military and aggressive spirit in a neighbouring country believed to be irreconcilable and whom admittedly very little effort has been made to reconcile.

On the other hand, in some of the continental countries that I visit the opinion is widely disseminated, both in publications and in conversation, that the intransigent attitude which she is displaying in discussions and negotiations, cannot be dissociated from the material interests of that extensive combination which includes the great manufacturers of armaments and the associated industries, and which, owning and controlling a large number of organs of the Press, is thus able to influence public opinion. The average man who hears these things on either side and who desires to form an unprejudiced view wants to know the truth. I am afraid that he can hardly expect to obtain it by asking His Majesty's Government.

But, my Lords, there is a third fact about which the average man finds it less difficult to arrive at a decision. He has seen projects for disarmament put forward at the League of Nations by the Great Powers. Between three of them he has seen that there is considerable agreement and there seems to him no reason to anticipate that divergent points might not have been reconciled by discussion and mutual concession. But on the part of the fourth Power he sees no disposition, or little disposition at any rate, to come to terms, and he is confronted with the avowed or implicit contention that all the pacts and agreements hitherto contracted are insufficient to guarantee a security the special conditions of which are not specified. Now the failure to secure any definite decision on the lines which this country desires and which our Government have been continually so zealous to promote, has forced opinion reluctantly to admit that the only hope to secure any Convention at all lies in the principle of regulated armaments with international supervision exercised impartially by all signatories.

Germany, through the head of the State, has declared officially her readiness to accept such a Convention with supervision extending to those formations even which appear to have a semi-military organisation. The Chancellor is prepared to admit that Germany should remain for a further period of five years in that position of inferiority which has been denounced as intolerable without any decrease of personnel or of material in France, only claiming the right to provide the weapons of defence appropriate to a short-service army of 300,000 men which is to replace the long-service army of 100,000 men. He is ready to renounce bombardment from the air and only aims at equality of strength with the principal Air Powers of the world at the end of ten years. Such an attitude, which we may presume was assisted by the action of His Majesty's Government in promoting friendly negotiations, merited, it must seem to the average man, a better reception than that indicated in the communication from the French Government which closed the door to negotiations.

It has long been obvious that Germany cannot permanently be left in a condition of inequality and of inferiority to the other great nations of the world. Things have now reached a point where, if agreement cannot be found on a basis of regulated armaments, an extremely dangerous situation must supervene. What is the alternative? It can only be a return to the old vicious conditions in which international relations were really ultimately governed by material force, always with the menace of war as their ultimate sanction. I cannot admit that there has been reason to criticise the action of His Majesty's Government in recent negotiations, and I hope that, in whatever form those negotiations may be resumed, we shall see His Majesty's Government taking an active and a firm part in arguing those points in the German Note which are acceptable to the majority of those concerned, and which I think are indispensable to the conclusion of any Convention whatever.

I trust, however, in view of the perparedness for all eventualities which long procrastination has enabled other countries to achieve, his Majesty's Government will never lose sight of the all-important fact that we also have our own security to consider, that we also cannot remain in a permanent condition of inferiority, either in the air or on the sea, a position not forced upon us by compulsion from any treaties but voluntarily adopted in an earnest and loyal hope to promote the peace of the world.


My Lords, I propose to detain your Lordships but a moment or two because, especially at this late hour of the evening, I do not wish to travel over the ground which has been so well covered both by my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition and my noble friend Load Cecil, and also by the noble Lord who has just spoken. We must agree in the main, and I do not doubt that there will be no voice in this House which will contravene the proposition, that this country's interests, apart from every other consideration, demand that we should do our utmost to support the authority of collective action by the League of Nations. I do not think that it is necessary to argue for one moment in favour of that proposition. What I confess inspires me with a little anxiety at this moment and induces me to intervene in the debate is the pressure from the Opposition, supported also by the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, for a more decided and more vigorous policy by His Majesty's Government in relation to the two matters which are the subject of the Motion.

I will say nothing in regard to the Far East; that has already been discussed at length, and so far as I am concerned, I am afraid I must leave it to-day, as the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs recently said he left it, "where it is." That is to say, I do not enter into the discussion, not because I differ from much that has been said, but for the reasons which I have already given, that is to say, the lateness of the hour and the fact that I do wish to ask the Government's consideration of one special point in relation to this Motion, and that is, the "vigorous policy" which is asked of them. I do hope that the Government, when they go to the Disarmament Conference, will at least have well in their mind that this country, as I believe, is firmly determined that it will not enter into any definite commitment which would automatically on the happening of a particular event involve it in war. I do ask that the Government should tell us quite definitely at this moment that they have no such intention when they go to the Disarmament Conference which is to ensue in a very few days.

I am, of course, not speaking of discussions which may take place on questions which may arise as to what would happen in certain eventualities. What I am anxious about is that we should not be in any way committed, and especially without Parliament having had an opportunity of stating its views. I should gather, first of all, that this Government would not, at Geneva, attempt to bind Parliament—that it would not enter into any commitment without having consulted Parliament. Certainly it could not enter into a commitment of this character without asking Parliament to ratify it. But I go further; I am anxious that the Government should not commit themselves even to the extent of proposing to ask for a ratification of any definite commitment that would involve us in action of the kind I have indicated, without leaving to us the freedom of arriving at a judgment upon the situation as it arises, or coming to a conclusion when the facts are known as to whether or not we wish to assist one or the other, and as to whether circumstances demand that we should on any grounds, either on grounds of our own interest or on high moral grounds, intervene by (it may be) action which might. commit us further than we have any intention at the time of being committed.

What I desire to know from the Government, and all that I am pressing the Government to say to us to-day—and I do suggest to them that I am not asking too much, but that we are indeed entitled to know it—is that when the Government go to this important Disarmament Conference, no undertaking of the character to which I have referred will be given and that we shall not be placed hereafter in the position of the Government returning and saying: "This was said by us in Geneva; we were forced into this position, and we must now ask Parliament to ratify what we have done in the face of, and with, a number of other nations." I cannot believe that this country is ready to enter into commitments of that character, or to ratify them.

I understand quite well, and it is unnecessary to travel into, the reason why the Government, of course with the greatest desire to press for action by the League of Nations, are confronted by circumstances which make it impossible for them to do so. They can only arrive at conclusions; they cannot announce action by the League of Nations. The League of Nations can act only according to the Covenant, and in most cases—indeed in almost all cases—the League of Nations can only act unanimously. There are of course circumstances in which it can act by a majority, but they are few and rare. It may be, and I think it is, the fact that the real position in which our Government have been placed is that, however strong their desire may have been to enforce the Covenant, they have met circumstances which have made it impossible for them, at any rate so far, to take more decided and vigorous action, and consequently they have been prevented from doing what has been urged. That does not mean, and I have no intention of suggesting, the contrary of what has been said by the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition, that more decided action by the Government might in some circumstances have led to a better state of affairs. I do not want to travel into that to-day. I do not want to be drawn into that discussion, because my sole purpose is the one I have indicated. I am anxious that the Government should now tell us quite definitely that they do not intend to bind us in the manner indicated, even in discussion in Geneva or even with the promise that they shall come to Parliament for ratification. That is the question to which I would ask the noble Earl to reply.


My Lords, the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition sometimes amuses us with a broadcast, and on one of those occasions he announced to his audience that he believed in controversy, and thought it was the salt of the earth. I have a suspicion that he has been imbibing a good deal of salt, and is sprinkling it over the House this evening. I am not altogether surprised that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has been accused with regard to his action in the Far East. It appears to be endemic in that position. The distinguished father of the noble Viscount on the Cross Benches used to be reputed not to know where China was. He seems surprised to hear it.


You should not believe everything you hear.


I assure the noble Viscount I do not, but I rather wish that he sometimes was not quite so ready to accept everything he is told with regard to the ideals and policy of the League of Nations. That remark with regard to the Far East was not confined to the late Lord Salisbury. When I was in the Far East I always heard the late Sir Edward Grey described as "Give-away Grey," and therefore it is not surprising to me that Sir John Simon should be again accused of inaction in the Far East.

I rather rejoice that the Motion is in two parts, because in my view the second part is cancelled out by what the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition said with regard to the first part. He implied that our policy was lacking in vigour, and should have been much more definite, but so far as I understood him the policy be desired was that we should pull everybody's chestnuts out of the fire. That appeared to be his policy with regard to the Far East. He seemed to think that we had given a definite pledge in the Nine-Power Treaty to support the integrity of China. We did nothing or the kind. What we did do was to promise that we would not ourselves interfere with the independence of China, and would take no action which should break up that independence, and that we would maintain the open door. Of course we have fulfilled that obligation, not only in the letter but in the spirit.

Then he accused us of not taking a lead with regard to the situation in Manchukuo, and he stated that the United States had taken isolated action in January, 1932. That is quite correct. The United States is not a member of the League of Nations and this country is, and inasmuch as China had already appealed to the League, I think your Lordships will agree that it was impossible for this country to take isolated action in advance of other Members of the League, and that it was essential that we should act with the League in any proposals which were made. It was due to the action of this country that the League took up the Stimson policy, and got other nations to agree to it. I would remind the noble Lord that neither the Lytton Commission nor the League proposed that sanctions should be imposed upon Japan. In any case I think he will agree that sanctions of any kind would have been impossible without the support of the United States of America. The United States showed not the smallest sign that she would take any action of that kind. As many of your Lordships know, there is a considerable balance of trade between the United States and Japan. One sells the other a large amount of raw cotton and the other sells in return a large amount of raw silk. I am not suggesting that that is the reason why the United States did not wish to take further action, but it is a matter which would make her pause a good deal before she took any such action.

I am not going to rely simply upon my own view with regard to what the League should have done in regard to the Far East, but I will state the opinion of one for whose views your Lordships always had great regard. I will quote the opinion of the late Lord Grey of Fallodon. I think it was the last speech that he made. On March 7, 1932, speaking at the Albert Hall, he is reported in the News-Chronicle of March 8 to have said this: The attacks on the League for its handling of the Far Eastern trouble were not justified. The League had been a restraining influence from the beginning. … What more could the League have done? … Economic pressure could not have been applied on Japan unless it was done in co-operation with the Government of the United States. He added: I am delighted that the United States has joined with the League as much as it has in this conflict, but I do not for a moment believe that the United States Government has been so bashful that it has been anxious to do so much more and has only been waiting to be invited to do so. So far as I am aware the British Government and the League have shown no backwardness in supporting anything which the United States Government proposed, and to have proposed more than the United States Government was ready to co-operate in would not have been effective and would not have been wise. At any rate I am prepared to leave the question there, although apparently that is a phrase to which the noble Lord opposite objects.

He asked me in regard to a phrase that appeared in the reply made by the Secretary of State, as to the special rights of Japan in China. The explanation is quite simple. It has often happened in the past when China has built railways or undertaken various contracts, that she has granted to the country which advanced the money special rights. We have rights with regard to several railways, on which British employees have to be engaged in preference to other nationals. That is what is meant with regard to Japan's special rights. There are a number of cases where China has made special arrangements of a commercial nature, and that is all that is meant by the special rights of Japan—such rights as are held by most of the greater nations in Europe; and certainly by ourselves. The Leader of the Opposition also raised a question with regard to the Japanese objection to assistance in China. As I understood Japan's statement, it was not that she objected to technical assistance in China, but requested that it should be kept free from politics. I understand there have been cases where some of those who have given technical assistance have taken a political line, and that was the point that Japan was objecting to.

We, in asking Japan as to her intentions, made it quite clear that we could not for one moment agree that Japan had any right to stop assistance being given in China, and that of course we should give such assistance, as we have done in the past. I may say that the assistance which is being given by experts from the League of Nations is very considerable and is spread over a very wide field indeed. Dr. Rajchman, who is the head of the Health Section of the League of Nations, is very nearly home now, and, I understand, will report to the next meeting of the Council in regard to technical assistance which he has been rendering in China. I think he is due back next week.


I know how critical is anything the noble Earl says in this House, and I do not want to press it, but my chief point in regard to the Far East is: Are His Majesty's Government satisfied that the Japanese Government are observing and intend to observe the Nine-Power Treaty?


The noble Lord will remember that our Ambassador in Tokyo was given that definite assurance by the Japanese Government only, I think, about ten days ago. Japan did quite definitely give the assurance that she intended to abide by the Nine-Power Treaty and by the open-door policy.


And His Majesty's Government are satisfied?


Naturally we are satisfied with the assurance given by a friendly nation. I do not think the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, asked me anything in regard to China and the Far East, but, as regards the many questions directed to the Disarmament Conference, I am sure we are all grateful to my noble friend Lord Rennell for giving us a delightful speech, which of course is based on very great knowledge. I have more than once had to remind your Lordships that the League of Nations does not consist of the United Kingdom representatives alone. We are often asked: "Why do you not put forward your plan, and put it forcibly?" We of course had a good many things we should have liked to put forward at Geneva if there had been any hope of their being accepted.

Everybody knows that the policy of this country was to abolish conscription. We have pressed that over and over again, but we have not brought it forward at Geneva because we know quite well that not one of the Continental countries would have accepted it if we had. The reason why we waited at the beginning was that those questions naturally affect Continental countries more than they do us in regard to their actual armament and the types of armaments that they possess, and we were anxious to try to find what was the greatest common factor. That was why it was impossible to put forward our Draft Disarmament Convention at an earlier time than we did last year. The noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, thought that we had never given any really great lead, although occasionally we had been useful. It struck me that that did not come very well from him. He, after all, was Chairman of, I think, the Drafting Commission (I forget the exact description of it), which I think for some years was trying to draw up the plan for a Disarmament Convention. When I studied it with great interest I found that all the things I wanted to know were blank spaces.


Certainly. That was the purpose. Those were the terms of reference to the Commission.


There was so much left blank that there was very little left to go on at all.


There was nothing. The noble Earl had better look at the proceedings of that Commission. It is perfectly clear that we were appointed to draw up a skeleton scheme without any figures, without any documents, merely suggestions, the kind of line the disarmament discussions might take. That was all we did, and we reached an agreement.


Yes, and the noble Viscount and the Commission took a very long time in doing it.


Not so very long—about five weeks.


It naturally took a certain time to draw out our Draft Convention because when it did come out it contained, not blanks but definite figures and proposals. That, I think most people will agree, was a tremendous step in advance. No country had ventured to get anywhere near it. And it was not until the Prime Minister produced that Draft Convention that we had anything really definite to go on at all. The noble Viscount's skeleton was, I admit, most useful, and we were grateful to him, but it was a skeleton, without even very much in the way of bones. We filled out the bones, but covered them with some flesh. So far from that not being useful, it was first accepted as a basis of discussion, and then subsequently as the basis for a future disarmament agreement.

To return for a moment to 1932, after Germany left the Conference for the first time, we took a lead in both inter-governmental discussions and diplomatic discussions, and eventually we succeeded in getting Germany back. And then was produced that very well-known declaration in which Germany's equality of rights in a system which would provide security for all nations was acknowledged—again at the instance of His Majesty's Government. Then, as everybody knows, things again slowed down and seemed likely to be stuck. Our Draft Convention resuscitated the Conference. Once again, however, Germany withdrew from Geneva, and once again diplomatic conversations ensued. The diplomatic conversations came to an end, and then His Majesty's Government produced their Memorandum, which was published in January of this year. I forget whether it was the noble Viscount or the noble Lord opposite who asked: "Why was not that in your original Convention?" The answer is, because it was not such a good plan as the original Draft Convention. We hoped to get more disarmament than eventually we put forward in our Memorandum, and the reason why it was less in the Memorandum was because we had failed to get other nations to agree to all that we had put forward. That was the sole reason why we made our changes.

We realised that neither France nor Germany would agree, and therefore, once again trying to bridge the gap, we produced our Memorandum. Then we followed that up by sending the Lord Privy Seal round—not, as the noble Lord opposite suggested, to negotiate, but merely to explain our Memorandum and to find out what the views of the three principal Powers in Europe were to our proposals. He was not given any authority to negotiate, and of course he made no attempt to do so. He merely went round to explain and to see where the differences lay. Since that time your Lordships who have studied the latest White Paper will see that replies have come in from several Governments. There is the reply from the Danish, Spanish, Norwegian, Swedish, and Swiss delegations, and they say that they are of the opinion that only the General Commission is competent to take the decisions of principle which are necessary. Then we got the statement of views of the German Government. It is quite true, as I think Lord Cecil said, that in general principle the German Government accepted our Memorandum, but they did bring in two extremely important so-called modifications.

Your Lordships know that we have been doing our best to try to get aerial bombardment abolished, and we have always made it an essential condition that not only should naval and military aeroplanes be abolished but that there should be a satisfactory system of control of civil aviation as well, because, as has been explained on more than one occasion in this House, it is of no use whatever abolishing naval and military aeroplanes unless you have an adequate control of civil aeroplanes, which are so easily convertible. We suggested in our Memorandum that there should be an inquiry as to whether this was not possible, and we realised it would not be fair to ask Germany to wait indefinitely while such a Commission came to its conclusions, and so we put on a limit of two years and suggested that Germany should have no military aeroplanes for two years while that Commission was trying to reach agreement. Germany in her reply says that she is not prepared to wait any longer at all. She demands a number of short-range machines, which will not include bombing machines, from the signing of the Convention. Your Lordships will realise that that of course is going to make it more difficult to obtain agreement in regard to the abolition of aerial bombing. Germany is not content merely to have fifty per cent. of the military aeroplanes of France, and these to be short-range machines, for the period of the Convention, but she says that after five years she then claims to have all types of machines, as I understand it, which will increase in numbers until she has full equality with those of any other Power.

The second point is perhaps almost more important still. We suggested quite definitely in our Memorandum that we thought it should be an essential condition—I think that was the term; anyhow that is near enough—of disarmament that Germany should return to the League of Nations. Germany's reply in her statement of views is this: The German Government continue to recognise the Treaty of Locarno. They consider that Germany's return to the League can only be dealt with after the solution of the question of disarmament and above all of their equality of rights. Your Lordships will observe that there is no promise whatever to return to the League of Nations after the question of disarmament has been settled, but merely that the question shall be dealt with, and that of course makes a very considerable difference.

Simultaneously with that—in fact before we received Germany's final statement—the Secretary of State approached the French Government and he put the two questions which appear in the White Paper: Are you prepared to accept the British Memorandum as a basis for a Convention, subject to the modifications which Germany proposes, provided that we can come to an agreement in regard to guarantees of execution, and, if that is the case, what guarantees of execution do you desire? In reply to that the French Government in the final Paper says this: She appreciates the friendly action of the British Government in wishing to seek with her an effective system for surrounding with guarantees the execution of a Dis armament Convention. She regrets that the action of a third party should abruptly have rendered vain the negotiations undertaken by the two countries with equal good will and good faith. In other words, as I understand it, France is not prepared to accept the Disarmament proposals of His Majesty's Government, either with or without guarantees.

Then the French Government goes on to say: It will be the duty of the Disarmament Conference to resume its work. That work should not be abandoned, but taken up at the point at which the Conference left it when it invited Governments to proceed to an exchange of views outside the Conference, which have not produced a result. So that not only the Norwegian and other Governments, whose Memorandum I quoted to your Lordships, desire to go back to the General Assembly of the League of Nations, but so also does the French Government. And that, of course, is the proposal now of His Majesty's Government. We see no further object at the moment at any rate in pursuing conversations with other Governments, but propose that the matter should be dealt with by the General Assembly of the League when it meets at the end of this week.


The General Commission of the Conference?


The General Commission. The noble Marquess opposite asked me in regard to any pledge that I could give as to obligations that should be undertaken by the Government at the League of Nations. I can only say that His Majesty's Government have no proposals of that kind in prospect at the moment, and it is extremely unlikely, knowing Geneva as I do, that anything can possibly be settled at Geneva before this House and another place have every opportunity of discussing and, may be, approving it. There is no proposal of that kind at the moment although, as the noble Marquess knows far better than I do, we already have quite definite pledges under the Treaty of Locarno, and these of course we abide by. There have been, as the noble Marquess knows from the White Paper, proposals that there might be guarantees of execution in regard to the Disarmament Convention. As the noble Marquess will realise from what I have read, that proposal, or in fact that inquiry, because it is not more than an inquiry, has fallen to the ground in view of the French reply, so the noble Marquess can be fully assured that he will have ample opportunity of discussing any proposal that may be brought forward, though so far as I know no proposals of the kind are in contemplation.

The noble Viscount on the Cross Benches, in a moving appeal which we all recognise came from his heart, hoped that we should stand by the League of Nations. I think he realises that that is our policy, inasmuch as we said it was an essential condition of any Disarmament agreement that Germany should return to the League. That is our effort at any rate to get one of the greater nations back; and, in regard to the proposals put forward by the Leader of the Opposition, he knows that over and over again it has been said in this country that if only the United States would join the League many of our difficulties would be very much simplified. We always hope she may do so, but she has so far made no sign whatever in that respect, no more than has the U.S.S.R. Any desire to join the League of Nations must be shown by the applicant and cannot be shown by the League going round hat in hand and inviting other people to join. If either of those two great countries are willing to suggest they should join the League of Nations, I am quite certain they would receive a very warm welcome if they chose to do so.

The noble Lord opposite proposed that we should be much more energetic in our action. Some nations on the Continent are more energetic in their actions. In fact, only the other day I was reading in a newspaper that in one country there was a campaign against grousers, and it was stated that the plague of dissatisfaction must disappear once and for all—an end must be made of traducers, defamers, skulkers, and obstructionists! I am not going to apply any of these epithets to the noble Lord opposite, although he applied a good many to His Majesty's Government, but I am afraid that if he lived in the country I am thinking of he would certainly be accused of being one or all of these things. I should be very sorry for his future and for his freedom if he had made a speech against the Government of that country such as he has made against ours.

At any rate this I can say, that His Majesty's Government are just as anxious as the noble Lord opposite to see if, even now, they cannot obtain agreement at Geneva, and to see that disarmament and control of armaments shall be under a definite system. Whether that is still possible remains to be seen when the General Commission meets at the end of this month, but, so long as it is still possible, His Majesty's Government will go on making efforts, and, although I have no statement to make in regard to any new policy at the present moment, we shall continue to take the lead, as we have done in the past, so long as there is a vestige of hope left in regard to any Disarmament Convention.


My Lords, I do not propose to divide the House and beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

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