§ LORD PONSONBY OF SHULBREDE rose to move to resolve, That this House deplores the issue of the recent "Statement relating to Defence" as calculated to add to international difficulties, lead to increased competition in armaments, increase the difficulties which confront the Disarmament Conference, and weaken seriously the system of collective security inherent in the Covenant of the League of Nations which is the basis of existing treaty obligations.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I put this Motion down for discussion, to-day, although a debate on the same subject took place only two days ago in another place. I felt that the question was of such great national importance that an opportunity should be allowed for an expression of opinion in your Lordships' House, where, I feel sure, there are many who will be listened to when they speak on the subject. I understand that the Government will reply through the noble Earl, Lord Stanhope. May I say that we are very glad to see him returned from his travels, and I feel sure that the noble Earl, wherever he goes, would only increase friendly international relations. That I say personally. Officially, of course, he is hound by certain policies which do not appear to me to be helping international harmony, and I think he must have been rather taken aback on his return to be confronted with this surprising document, although he will not admit that. I feel sure that he, personally, has had no part in the drafting of it, and it certainly does present something which is very unusual, both in its form, its language, and its substance. It has raised a great deal of consternation, I would say, throughout the country, and the expression of that alarm is not likely to subside for some time, because we 52 realise, and I think most people realise, that this is not the end of anything, but is the beginning of something. This is a first step, and if His Majesty's Government remain in office, as they seem inclined to do, to the very limit of their term, we may expect another instalment of this policy of rearmament, and that, I think, is why the country as a whole is regarding this with great seriousness.
Generally speaking, what one finds in this Paper, apart from the more technical sections, the last three sections, is an expression of mistrust—mistrust of the nations of Europe. It is said that:
Nations are still prepared to use or threaten force under the impulse of what they conceive to be a national necessity.
That is to say, nations are all prepared to scrap the agreements that they have made, and the Briand-Kellogg Pact which they signed, declaring that they would not use force as an expression of national policy. The Foreign Office probably knows how far that is true, but to express that publicly to the world in a document appears to me to be a most unfortunate method of ensuring peace and good will and harmony among the nations. If His Majesty's Government are suffering from a certain nervous hysteria, at least they should restrain themselves when it comes to issuing these important public documents. It is, indeed, a serious matter that this mistrust is to form the basis of a policy. We believe no nation, we trust no nation—of course we know that we ourselves are to be trusted, but nobody else—and therefore we must rearm! We may feel that necessity, but to put down that as the cause appears to me to be the most unfortunate bit of diplomacy we have heard of lately.
§ Then it is asserted, and this is what I object to very much, that our rearmament is greeted with applause and approval by all the other nations. If any other nation rearms it is alarming, and we must take steps ourselves, but when we rearm then everybody is said to be delighted. That is a form of self-righteous hypocrisy which I think we ought to abandon. I do not believe it is true. I believe that the only effect of our rearmament is to stimulate the competitive system, and to make other nations feel thoroughly justified in adding to their armaments too. France is proceeding 53 with measures of rearmament, and are no doubt very glad to fall back upon the explanation that we too are taking the same line. This abandonment of cooperation, this absence of confidence, this foundation of mistrust, and this return to national armaments is, of course, a fiat denial of the collective system, and a repudiation of the fundamental principle for which the League of Nations stands.
§ The reference to the League of Nations is very casual. It is referred to as just a clearing house for the various international negotiations. But I thought that the collective system, for which the League of Nations stands, was the foundation of our policy, and indeed the noble Earl himself, not long ago, in a debate in this House, declared the adherance of His Majesty's Government to the collective system. Now we are going to fall back on the old method of looking after ourselves, for ourselves, and of trusting in our own strong right arm. The Government realise that they are running a great risk. In fact, they say so. They say they have not taken these measures sooner because they did not want to run any risk of jeopardising some promising movement in the direction of ensuring permanent peace. They have given that up, and they are now going to jeopardise some promising movement in the direction of ensuring peace. I thought that the negotiations which were undertaken recently with the French Ministers who came over here were understood by the Government to be a promising movement in the direction of peace, and we understood that so promising was it that the conversations were to be extended. Other Powers were to be drawn into the agreement, and we regarded the situation as rather brighter, although there may have been, in the view of some of us, a certain hesitation in accepting all that the understanding with France implied. At any rate, the Government assured us that it was a hopeful movement, and when we heard that the conversations were to be extended, we felt—and I think that everybody in the country felt—that that certainly was a move in the right direction. Then, on the very eve of the conversation being undertaken in Berlin, this document is issued—issued as a preliminary; cannot believe it was issued to make the path smoother for the Foreign 54 Secretary. It was at any rate clear that the consternation which it excited in this country was also felt abroad.
§ There is an expression used in more than one section of this Paper which lays emphasis on the fact that the Government have shown an example in unilateral disarmament. The Government have done nothing of the kind. Unilateral disarmament, if I may say so, is my policy. I am not going to discuss it to-day, because I have brought it forward before in your Lordships' House, and I shall no doubt have occasion to bring it forward again as the world goes gradually towards that only solution of the problem. What His Majesty's Government have gone in for is unilateral reduction of armaments. That is a policy that is open to very grave criticism; that is a policy that is open to very serious attack, if you believe—as the. Government do—in the efficacy of force. My Lords, if you believe in the efficacy of force, if you believe that you are going to gain your object by devastating great territories and by killing by the hundred thousand men, women and children in their own homes, then a unilateral reduction of armaments is obviously the wrong policy. I do not think the abandonment of it is really justified, but I hope to hear from the Government that they think that the measures which they are taking are adequate. Of course, it is all for defence.
§ LORD PONSONBY OF SHULBREDE
I would rather go on with my speech. This statement is relating to defence, and the measures are all for defensive purposes. All measures of armaments in all nations have always been for defensive purposes. The Italians are just now defending themselves against the Abyssinians: the Japanese defended themselves against the Chinese bandits in Manchuria, and no single nation has ever acknowledged that its armaments were ever for any other purpose than defence. The people of this country are, however, sufficiently intelligent to understand that that has always been the excuse, and they are therefore not going to swallow the assertion that the new great development of the armament race is for the defence of all the nations all round.
55 A point in this document that appears to me very serious is the driving of the last nail into the Disarmament Conference. After all, when the Disarmament Conference was still alive, my right honourable friend Mr. Arthur Henderson, through thick and thin, generally in foul and very little in fair weather, has stuck to his post and done what he could to help on the work of that Conference. The record of His Majesty's Government with regard to that Conference is not one of which they need be proud. At times they have endeavoured to bring the nations together, but when one goes through the whole record—as I have recently—of every stage in every month of these three and a half years, one finds that His Majesty's Government have on more occasions either been critical, or have rejected proposals, or have made difficulties, or have introduced qualifications and reservations which have nullified the proposals of other nations. If they wanted to kill the Disarmament Conference they had better have said so earlier on, but to make the failure of the Disarmament Conference an excuse for this rearmament does not strike one as being perfectly frank or honest. After the Disarmament Conference we had this suggestion of what was called an "Air Locarno," and His Majesty's Government have twisted that into an excuse for further rearmament.
Then, my Lords, I come to that part of the Paper which has been very severely criticised even by supporters of the Government, and that is the singling out of Germany and German rearmament as being the excuse and the pretext for rearmament on our part. It certainly was an unfortunate move, and I am only glad that this clumsiness has not led to a break-off of the negotiations with Berlin. But however that may be, German rearmament was a foregone conclusion for any intelligent person who was following international affairs, ever since the Treaty of Versailles. Either we were going to abide by our word—the Allied and Associated Powers—and were going to disarm down to the level of Germany, or else it was inevitable that a Power of Germany's status would demand rearmament up to our level. That question was constantly postponed, constantly shelved. The various reasonable demands of former German Governments were ignored, and we find ourselves confronted with a very 56 serious situation. Nevertheless, it is no use now pretending that German rearmament was an unexpected event. It was an inevitable event, and it is an entirely insufficient excuse for the rearmament of other Powers. Deliberately to put this into a public document just as conversations were going to be initiated in Berlin was so clumsy and maladroit that one could hardly believe that anything of the sort could possibly have been done by any Government.
I am glad that the conversations are to take place; but what I complain of in Sir John Simon's diplomacy is that he is always trying to score off his opponents; he is always scoring points and catching them out. That seems to me a fatal form of diplomacy. The only form of diplomacy which is likely to succeed is that of getting alongside of your opponent, getting alongside of the person or the nation with whom you are disputing, understanding their point of view, and not treating them in a controversial mariner and pointing out where they are wrong. I cannot help wishing that these conversations which are going to take place in Warsaw, Leningrad and Berlin were all going to be conducted by the Lord Privy Seal. I think it would be much more likely that we should get good results.
With regard to the actual rearmament, of course I shall be told that it is not rearmament at all but is merely a precaution—replacing old stuff which is getting decayed, just seeing to our defences, and increasing the air arm as we were told some months ago it was going to be increased—that there is nothing in it at all, and that £10,500,000 will be spent simply in just these little precautions. So far as the Navy and the Army are concerned that may to a large extent be true, but with regard to the air arm it is a very different story. The Lord President of the Council has informed us that there is no adequate and complete defence against air attacks, and therefore the increase in the Air Force is simply a threat at large to foreign countries that their centres, their capitals and their populations are in danger of destruction from us. In fact it is only by the threat of even severer attack that you can pretend to have any defence in the air. Therefore the increase in our Air Force is a deliberate threat to the nations of the world, coupled with what 57 I have said already: "We do not believe your signatures to treaties; we do not trust your word."
I think that is a most unfortunate path to have chosen in international diplomacy. The Government quite undoubtedly will by this move stimulate competition. I do not for a moment accuse them of wanting to stimulate competition, and I am perfectly sure that, like all the rest of us, they want to avoid the conflagration of a war. Of course we take that for granted. What I am disputing is the methods that they adopt. We are always expecting something that will give us hope, and they are always producing something which gives us only despair. H they do really believe—there are certain people who do believe, and His Majesty's Government believe—that force can bring you the object you want, and that by force you can secure your aim, are these preparations adequate? Are the experts satisfied? Why only £10,500,000? Is that enough for the defence of the British Empire from New Zealand to Canada and from the Irish Free State down to the Cape of Good Hope? Is the Air Force sufficient? Why is our Air Force only the fifth? Why do we not make it the first? Why not, spend, not £10,000,000 but £30,000,000 or £40,000,000 or £50,000,000, in adding to our forces, if arms really mean security? To me the position seems to be simply this: that however mach people may believe in armaments they are not convinced that they do mean security. But it does seem astonishing to me, after the experience of 1914–1918, that anybody can believe that armaments can bring anything but devastation, destruction, dislocation, misery and suffering both to the victors and to the vanquished.
My Lords, I want to say a word about the end of this White Paper. I will not emphasise the point which was emphasised in another place about the Government calling themselves in this Paper "the National Government"—a most surprising proceeding, but very characteristic, sheltering themselves behind a, title to which they have no claim whatever and never had any claim, in order to impress the world by their importance. I do not want to dwell upon that. I do not know whether there is any significance in the passages where they call themselves "the National 58 Government" and in the passages where they call themselves "His Majesty's Government." I have not analysed the document sufficiently carefully for that. And the Paper is curious in another way: it is initialled. I have the other statements of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force, and they are all brought out and signed in the ordinary way. One is signed "Hailsham," one is signed "Londonderry," and the other is signed "Eyres Monsell." But here we have initials. I do not know whether there is any precedent for it.
Let me at once say that I am very glad to hear that the Prime Minister has recovered from his indisposition. This White Paper seems to have had a disastrous effect upon people's health. I myself had a very bad cold last week, but I am better again to-day. I refuse to believe that the Prime Minister, with whom I had the privilege and honour of working not only in office but in Opposition for many years, has initialled this document with anything but deep misgiving and reluctance. Not very long ago he said in a speech:People seeking safety by arms are like people seeking shelter under trees during a thunderstorm. They are at the very point which is first struck when the thunderstorm breaks, instead of being secure during grievous danger.That is more or less recent. I could quote many inspiring sayings of his on the subject of the fallacy of supposing that security rests in armaments, and the danger of doing anything which will encourage competition in armaments.
It is a source of dismay and disappointment to many of us that the Prime Minister should have been forced to acquiesce in the dictates of a Government which he himself created simply and solely to tide over a particular crisis, a Government which has driven him year by year during the last four years to turn his back on principles which he held with such deep earnestness, to scrap the convictions upon which his rise in political life was based, and to abandon the pursuit of policies which were accepted by thousands and even by millions, and which led to the rise of the great Party to which I have the honour to belong. I cannot believe that he put his initials to this document with any enthusiasm, and I feel that the little sentences put in here and there expressing 59 a belief in peace only act as a foil and show up in relief the other parts of this document to which I have called your Lordships' attention.
Before I sit down I want to reply to what may be put on the noble Earl's notes, which is the old gibe that I am a friend of every country but my own. My attack is made not on my country but on this Government that misrepresents the country. This Government does not understand the depth of feeling in the country against any move at all in this direction. I believe that my country is first and foremost in the world in its desire for peace, and in its strenuous pursuit of every method which will get peace between the nations and abolish this infernal, destructive business of war. I believe it is the first, and the Government does not represent this feeling in any way. I do not believe that it represents majority opinion in this country. I believe the peoples of the world are all of them misrepresented by the bungling, clumsy efforts of their Governments. And I should like to see my country take the lead. Instead of that, we find the Government pursuing a policy which must lead to further trouble, which must lead to an increase of armaments, which year by year is going to pile up this terrible burden on the people, this explosive matter which at any moment may burst into flame; because we know that if every country is fully armed it requires a very little spark to set fire to the powder magazine. A loss of temper here, a badly drafted Despatch there, or this sort of Paper might soon spread into a conflagration.
I have thought it right to bring this matter before your Lordships' House because, as I say, there are others here who will want to express an opinion to-day, but on behalf of the Opposition I want to emphasise our strong disapproval of the policy, our deep disappointment at the turn in events, and our feeling that the way it has been done is likely to lead to the worst interpretations being put upon it, not only in this country but abroad. His Majesty's Government, as I said just now, are probably going to remain in office for their full term, but we on this side of the House are glad to say that that full term cannot be for very long, and the only hope for this country and for the world will be that they will be changed for a Govern 60 ment which has this matter very much more closely at heart.
Moved to resolve, That this House deplores the issue of the recent "Statement relating to Defence" as calculated to add to international difficulties, lead to increased competition in armaments, increase the difficulties which confront the Disarmament Conference, and weaken seriously the system of collective security inherent in the Covenant of the League of Nations which is the basis of existing treaty obligations.—(Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede.)
§ THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (EARL STANHOPE)
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord opposite for the kind things he said about me personally. I am afraid that that part of his speech is not likely to make much appearance in the newspapers that support his Party because, from such information as I have, I rather understood that my action at Geneva did not at any rate earn the approval of his Press, nor, as I understood it, was it likely to receive favour at the hands of the noble Viscount who sits on the Cross Benches, but I am glad to observe that at any rate for the time being I am relieved from the anxiety of his attacks.
The Leader of the Opposition, as your Lordships will have observed, has put down the terms of this Vote of Censure in a somewhat different form from that in which it appeared in another place. The noble Lord of course knows his Party very well. He knew that when that Vote of Censure in another place came to be discussed, those who sat on the Opposition Front Bench in that place would undoubtedly take very different points of view, and he therefore wished to be in a perfectly clear position to follow any one of them or, as in fact has been the case, to follow none. If your Lordships have looked at the debate that took place you will have seen that, although Mr. George Lansbury did not take part, his views at any rate are quite clearly known. I think they coincide very nearly with those that are held by the noble Lord opposite. I think he said that he would disband the Army, dismantle the Navy, and dismiss the Air Force; in other words, he would have no defence forces of any sort. Is that the view of the Labour Party?
61 We have another version. We have the version that was put forward by Colonel Wedgwood. He approves of most of the White Paper, but one of his criticisms was that we spend a certain amount of money on the Army and Navy—which the noble Lord opposite apparently does not very much mind—and he objected because we do not spend a great deal snore on the Air Force, which the noble Lord opposite does mind. He went on to say that the true Solution was an International Police Force in the air. Is that the policy of the Labour Party?
§ EARL STANHOPE
We never quite know whether people are independent or members of that body, because they seem to drift in and out. But at any rate perhaps the noble Lord opposite will agree with me that Major Attlee and Sir Stafford Cripps are still, at the moment, members of the Party—until perhaps it has its next annual conference. Those two state that we should join with everyone else in any war, wherever it takes pace, but that we should do so without supplying any effective force of our own, or without keeping them adequately equipped. It is rather the position of the man who, stands at the door with his hat out to take a collection, but is careful never to put a coin into it himself. Is that the policy of the Labour Party? None of them is the policy of His Majesty's Government.
May I dispose of two points at once? I am glad to find that the noble Lord opposite did not accuse this Government of desiring to go to war. That has been said on a good many occasions, and of course it is perfectly absurd. He said, and he said quite truly, that the people of this country are first and foremost in their desire far peace and in their abhorrence of war. Nobody denies it. Is it likely that the present members of His Majesty's Government are unaware of that fact? Is it likely that, when we know that the country as a whole is bitterly opposed to war, we should be thinking of waging a war of any sort? There is not a single one of us who does not know that, whatever the Government may be, it would not dare to go to 62 war unless there was overwhelming cause, and a convincing cause which we could lay before the people of this country before any such action was proposed. I have heard a good many charges made against this Government, but I have never yet heard the charge that we were so anxious to leave this Bench that we should take the earliest and easiest opportunity of committing suicide. This is not one of the charges to be made, and therefore when people suggest that this Government is inclined to go to war, or wishes to go to war, nothing obviously could be more absurd or more untrue. I hope we shall not hear or see it repeated from any public patform, or on any poster, or anything of that kind.
Sir Stafford Cripps was challenged on Monday last as to what he would have done if he had been in office at the time of the Sino-Japanese dispute. His reply was quite definite. He said—and the noble Lord will find the reference in the OFFICIAL REPORT of the House of Commons—that he would have withdrawn our Ambassador, and if that hail been ineffective, then he would have exerted economic pressure, and if that had failed, then in co-operation with other nations he would have resorted to armaments—in other words, he would have gone to war. It seems to me indeed fortunate that the Labour Party fell from office before the Manchurian dispute arose. They, at any rate, seem to be the warlike Party, and not those who sit on this side of the House.
May I raise another point in order to get rid of it? It is suggested that we are preparing a vast increase in armaments, and the noble Lord opposite kept on referring to rearmament. On the other hand, he said that in past years we have not been practising disarmament but that the proper description of our action was reduction of armaments. Very well; but he cannot have it both ways. What we are doing is to make good the expenditure that should have been incurred in recent years, and instead of making a reduction of armaments, we are making a slight increase. But it is not a question of rearmament, nor is it a question of rearmament on a large scale. May I point out to your Lordships that the increased expenditure which is made public in the White Paper comes to less than nine per cent. of the total amount expended on the Defence 63 Services last year? We are constantly being told by noble Lords opposite, and particularly by Lord Marley, that we ought to take our example from Russia. I wonder if he says so in regard to armaments. I am told that it is impossible to make any comparison in regard to the expenditure in Russia, because the rouble is so variable that it is almost impossible to do so, but on the figures given in another place by the Lord President of the Council, I think he will not deny the vast increase in the Army which is now under the control of the U.S.S.R., nor will be deny that they claim they have the most highly mechanised Army in the world. If it is such an evil thing for this country to increase the cost of its armaments by nine per cent., what is to be said of the U.S.S.R. and other nations of the world who increase theirs by a vast amount?
The noble Lord, the Leader of the Opposition, said that this small increase in expenditure is going to lead to further competition in armaments, to further expenditure and further danger. I hope I shall be able to claim to have shown your Lordships that this expenditure, far from doing that, will have exactly the contrary effect. Why must we spend this additional sum? The first reason for it is that in the past we have had Chancellors of the Exchequer who have taken a narrower and more short-sighted view of our requirements in the Defence Services than the present holder of that office, and when I say previous Chancellors of the Exchequer I am not referring only to Chancellors of the Exchequer in Labour Governments. If you are to have defence forces at all, it is not only necessary that the individuals in those forces should be efficient, but that they should be adequately equipped. It happened to be my lot to spend the winter of 1914–1915 in the trenches. We were covered by the artillery of the Division in which I was serving. That artillery was told that it was to limit its expenditure to four rounds of ammunition per gun per week, and it was further told it was to save on that expenditure of ammunition. It is hardly surprising that I, in company with, I imagine, nearly everyone who was then serving abroad, felt the utmost indignation against the Government of that day for having sent us out without proper equipment and without the support that 64 was necessary in order that we should carry out the orders given to us. I well remember standing in this House in May twenty years ago and telling your Lordships that the French held their trenches by the fire of their 75 millimetre guns, and that we held our trenches by rifle fire; that the one was expensive in ammunition and the other in human lives. That is one of the reasons why, although we hope we shall never have to use either shells or rifle ammunition again, if we are to have any defence forces at all we feel they should receive adequate and modern equipment.
A further reason why we have reduced our armaments in past years—and it was referred to by the noble Lord opposite—was that we hoped other nations would follow our example. As the House knows, but as the nation did not know until the White Paper was produced, so far from that being the case, nations have increased their expenditure on armaments and are increasing them to-day. We hope to secure a Disarmament Convention. As the House knows, but as the nation did not know until this White Paper was produced, the conclusion of a Disarmament Convention until Germany returns to the League of Nations and takes full part in these deliberations, is quite impossible. Does that mean that we have given up the idea of collective action? So far from that being true, we believe in it more strongly than ever. The League of Nations has great moral force. It has no physical force. When persuasion is possible the League of Nations can obtain a settlement, as it often has done in the past, and as I believe it will do more and more as the years go by. When, however, a nation takes the bit in its teeth, then physical force becomes necessary. But what do I mean by physical force? I do not mean the force that shall be applied by one nation against another. I mean force exercised by collective action. If this Government, or any other in this country, were thinking of anything of the former kind, of course our expenditure would not have gone up 9 per cent., but more likely 90 per cent., or 900 per cent. Who can pretend for one moment that, with an Expeditionary Force of five Divisions and fourteen Territorial Divisions—which, incidentally, cannot take the field under six months—and an Air Force that is only fifth in the world, 65 we could possibly think of taking action alone against any other nation?
What do we mean when we talk of force as exercised by collective action—that is action taken by nations in combination against an aggressor? Everybody knows that no nation would dream of declaring war if it knew that once it declared war it was certain to be defeated; and therefore collective action, in order to be effective, must be so strong as to be a complete deterrent against any nation that wishes to go to war, because the forces of those other nations will be obviously sufficient to overwhelm it. That is why we in this country feel it necessary to increase our quota, so that if the nations joining together to exercise collective action are ever called upon to do so our quota will be adequate, will be efficient, and will be supplied with adequate equipment. Collective action, in order to be a real deterrent in war, must not only be adequate, but it must be relied on as a complete guarantee.
I was accused in Geneva when I was there last week of being an optimist in this matter for saying that nations could be relied on to fulfil their obligations. And so they can where the temptation is not too great. Now let me remind the House of what the noble Lord himself raid in regard to this matter almost exactly a year ago, on the 15th March, 1934. This is what he said:Collective opinion—that you can get. Collective guarantees—those you can get, but you have to be certain that they will be followed by collective action. A guarantee which has not got a certainty of action behind it is no real guarantee.He went on to say that collective action was very difficult, as each nation regarded it from the point of view of its own self-interest. That, of course, is perfectly true, and that is why His Majesty's Government are following the policy of regional guarantees. We are endeavouring to get agreements made on the Locarno model—that is to say, not alliances of several nations against another nation, but agreements made between nations by which they guarantee to come to the assistance of each other if attacked by one within their own group. The policy is only to include in that group those nations whose interests are definitely endangered so that there shall be no question whatever that they shall fulfil their guarantee and come to 66 the support of any one of them which is attacked.
It is the principle behind the Air Pact; it is the principle behind our proposals for an Eastern Locarno; and of the other proposals which my two right honourable friends the Secretary of State and the Lord Privy Seal hope to lay before Germany during the course of this month. We believe that these arrangements are as much in Germany's interest as in the interest of any one of her neighbours, and we profoundly hope we may persuade her to agree to them and to sign her name to them. We believe that if wet can attain those guarantees, given by those groups of nations, in which we ourselves, incident ally, shall not come because our interests are not severely touched other than by our loss of trade—we believe that if we can get those arrangements made, a feeling of security amongst nations will once again appear. We hope that we may succeed in making the League of Nations universal amongst the nations of Europe, and that we shall then once more be able to undertake the work which had been so well begun by the Disarmament Conference.
This great White Paper has cleared the air. It has made people think. It has brought them up against realities. It has said no more than, not so much as many people have said, including the noble Lord himself, if I wished to quote him—which, under the circumstances, I naturally am not going to do—but it says it publicly in a way that cannot be passed by. We believe in being frank with other countries—and many countries are mentioned in this White Paper. We believe still more in being frank with our own. The Socialist Government were afraid to trust the people in 1931. They were afraid to tell them of the economic crisis. They put their heads in the sand like ostriches, and as they were not ostriches, of course they fell. The National Government told the nation the truth and, as always happens with the British people when you tell them the truth and the whole truth, they rally to you and support you in any measures which they consider necessary. Once more we are telling the nation the truth. Once more we know that the nation, when it understands what the situation is, will rally to us and will back our proposals. We ask this House to support the Government in the proposals which it makes in this White Paper by 67 their vote in the Division to-night; but we ask them still more to make this White Paper understood throughout the country, and then we have no fear as to the result.
§ THE MARQUESS OF READING
My Lords, I should like to be allowed to congratulate the noble Earl who has just spoken upon the speech which he has delivered, and I think we have every reason to congratulate ourselves upon having him to represent the Foreign Office in your Lordships' House. His speeches are invariably informative, and if he will permit me to say so, very interesting. Not only does he produce arguments in a way which is persuasive, but he invariably couches them in the most courteous terms. I wondered as I listened to the argument that was put forward in support of the Motion whether I am quite correct in the view I am taking of the language of the Motion as presented by my noble friend Lord Ponsonby. I understand it to mean, as I think its terms imply, a refusal to support the proposals of the Government—that is, the recommendation in the White Paper that there should be an expenditure of some £10,500,000 in respect of the Defence Services. As I understand it, it means that, supposing you were voting merely on the question of whether there should be this expenditure or not the noble Lord would vote against it. Every word that I have heard from him, and everything I think that is in the Motion, really deplores the recommendation made by the Government, besides, of course, criticising both the language and the time of issue and the consequences, as the noble Lord foresees them.
The terms of the Motion, as the noble Earl has said, differ in this House from those in another place. For myself and those associated with me we have put to ourselves, as I think we must, the question whether it is in the interests of the country that there should be this adequate expenditure now, or whether it is right that we should go on as we have been doing—not only this Government but successive Governments for quite a long time—with reduction of armaments notwithstanding all we have seen in foreign countries. The question is whether we are right in insisting upon continuing the example we have set and in which we have undoubtedly run risks, and 68 whether, in point of fact, the Government are not forced by circumstances to make the recommendation which is contained in this State Paper. I confess that there is some danger of confusion in regard to the terms of the Motion, and I would like to attempt to clear it for the benefit not only of my own supporters but of any who choose to listen. There is some confusion between criticism of the policy of the Government in the past and criticism of the White Paper and of some of the arguments in support of the purpose for which it was issued—namely, to show that it is necessary that we should raise our expenditure to the extent of the £10,500,000. With some of the criticism made by the noble Lord in regard to the time of issue and in regard to some of the language used, I am inclined to agree, but I doubt very much—I am not going to pursue this point—whether it was a deliberate action on the part of His Majesty's Government to issue this White Paper on the particular date on which it was presented to the public. Nothing has been said in explanation of that, and for myself I think perhaps it is as well that it should remain where it is.
I will not pursue the topic except to make the observation that I cannot believe, and do not believe, that it was deliberately intended in any way to—I will not say give Affront, no one could think that, but to make it difficult for the Foreign Secretary in his visit to Germany. Obviously that could not be, because the Government have determined upon taking a particular line and a definite line upon which I think they are entitled to approval. The issue at the particular moment was unfortunate. One might perhaps say something more, but I will leave it at that. The Foreign Secretary's visit to Germany is to take place it may be two or three weeks hence. Whatever misunderstandings may have been caused have disappeared at any rate for the time being, and all one can hope is that when the visit does take place it will really result in some benefit to the peace of the world.
There is more, I think, in the argument used by the noble Lord, and also in another place, in regard to the policy of language of the White Paper, because it the Government as indicated in the 69 is legitimate to say that in regard to policy the words must have been carefully considered. The Government are stating to the country, in what is really a great State Paper, what their views are with regard to the present and what precautions must be taken for the future. I must say, however, that I find myself in complete disagreement with the noble Lord and with others not only in his Party but in other quarters, with regard to the attitude of the Government towards the League of Nations. I was surprised when I heard the noble Lord say, in effect, that they seemed to be indifferent to the League of Nations. I believe that the Government have done everything that they thought possible to ensure the success of the League of Nations and to prove their adherence to it. I have often heard statements made that the Government are lukewarm in support of the League of Nations. I do not believe it. I believe it is just as untrue to say that as to state, as is done sometimes outside this House, that the Government are not so much in favour of peace as are other sections of the political world.
I was glad to hear the noble Lord say—and I am sure he meant it—that he was convinced that the Government were absolutely determined to do everything they could to ensure peace. I think that ought not to be forgotten. On platforms outside this House and in writings it is suggested that the Government are not actuated by a desire for peace as warmly as the rest of the country. I think I am entitled to say that the one thing that stands out in recent years is that this country has been a leader in the direction of the promotion of the pacification of the world, that it has not hesitated to take risks which other countries have not taken, that it has never faltered when it has seen the way to taking a step in advance in the direction of peace. I am convinced that the Government, according to the best of their judgment, have done everything, and are doing everything they can to maintain peace. We cannot shut either our ears or our eyes to some of the observations made outside, and I think it is wrong that statements should be made to induce any part of the population of this country to think that His Majesty's Government are not working for peace. I care not to what political Party they belong. I would say the 70 same, and I am sure I should be right, if the Government were formed from the Party of which the noble Lord is so distinguished a member. They would be working with the same object.
I would like to put one question. When it is said that we in this country are increasing armaments, that we are encouraging a race in armaments, that we are taking steps which will create international difficulties, that we are, putting obstacles in the way of the Disarmament Conference, that we are weakening seriously the system of collective security inherent in the Covenant of the League of Nations—I ask myself, when all that is said, whether there is any country in the world that really believes that if we give effect to this policy that the Government have put forward of increasing expenditure for the purpose of defence, we are marching on towards war, or taking any step that is intended to imperil peace. I say without hesitation that no country believes that. I doubt very much whether any comment of that character is to be found in any newspapers published throughout the world. The reason is that this country, whatever criticisms may be made of it, has persistently done everything it possibly could to promote the peace of the world, and not to endanger it. After all, of course, many other countries have made the same protestations, but we are the nation that has set the example. When I look round and study what is happening in other parts of the world, I think it is remarkable that we have been able to carry on for so long with our reduced armaments and expenditure. During this time the policy of the British Government—and I am not referring especially to the present Government but to successive Governments, ever since the Peace Treaties—has been always in favour of trying to reduce the armaments of the world. The British policy has been: Let us set the example; whatever else happens we will not increase our armaments, in order that other countries may take the same view, and gradually, in that way, we may come to disarmament.
I do not very much care to go through the list of what has taken place. The noble Earl referred to Russia. So far as I know, from the figures that I have seen, there has been an increase of at 71 least fifty per cent. in the size of the Russian Army within a short period—from some 600,000 to 940,000. Some of your Lordships may have seen the figures published in other countries, but it strikes me that nothing could be more significant than to take the figures of a country like the United States. No one will suggest that the United States is a country making for war or against peace. On the contrary, although it has not always been able to be in agreement with us, and although it is not a member of the League, it has taken part in the Kellogg Pact and other treaties. This is what has happened in America. Her naval estimates amounted in 1933 to 350,000,000 dollars. In 1935 the estimate was 490,000,000 dollars, and for 1936 the estimate is 580,000,000 dollars. America is building her fleet now up to the full limit permitted under existing treaty, which has now been denounced. If ever there was a country entitled to spend money on her fleet, in order that she may be able to protect her communications within the Empire, to secure the food of her people, to provide the raw material necessary for her manufactures, and to maintain her security, so that we can live without being attacked, I should have thought it was this country. Yet, during this period we have done nothing.
So far as I can judge, trying to consider the circumstances fairly and impartially, other countries have been rearming during the last few years, notwithstanding the example that we have set. Yet our Government have gone on from month to month and year to year, hoping that what was being done for the purpose of reducing armaments would have the effect, either by means of a Disarmament Conference, or regional pacts, of bringing about a general disarmament, and we should then have had the satisfaction of having stood still while other countries had gone on. Now at last we have arrived at the conclusions set forth in the White Paper. The Government, who perhaps know of dangers to which they cannot give utterance, and who are in the best position for knowing how far it is necessary to recondition our forces and advance our military equipment, who know best, far better than I can claim to know, what is necessary—the Government have said quite definitely, solemnly taking the responsibility, that all this must be done. In those circumstances, 72 I think it would be a rash man, bearing in mind the responsibility there is on every member of Parliament when faced with a problem of this character, who would say that he would vote against the expenditure recommended by the Government.
After all, because I do not want to detain your Lordships, I cannot but think that when we get to the real point, which is whether or not the Government are right in recommending this expenditure, there can be no effective answer, and the noble Lord will permit me to add that nothing he has said has tended to show that the Government are wrong, although he advanced criticism of the Government for what had been done in the past. I shall hear with interest from other speakers whether or not they take the view that this expenditure should be refused. All I can say is that when we look at it seriously, as we must do, and try to resolve to ourselves and the country whether it is right, pursuing peace as the Government do, and as we all insist they should do, if it were necessary to insist, to my mind there can be only one answer to the question whether this increase of expenditure should be made. The consequence seems to me to be that I must, having regard to the view I take of the circumstances, vote against the Motion and support the Government. I believe, in saying that, that those who are associated with me take the same view, not for a moment because we are anxious to rearm, but because we say, as the Government say, that it is a necessary consequence of the present situation, and that it is essential that we should do now what we have postponed doing for some time.
I conclude with the observation that I cannot but think that this rearmament throughout Europe is really a danger to us, and a danger in this sense—not that I mean that any country is thinking of attacking us at this moment, but that it does threaten our security, and we have to take care to do what we can in order to have adequate defences. It is essential for us that we should take up that serious position in view of what is now happening. For that reason I hope that there will be little doubt—as I think there must be—of the view of your Lordships' House on the Motion which is now put forward.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
My Lords, in the vehement defence of the Government to which we have just listened there was one statement with which I find myself in agreement. The noble Marquess says, and says quite truly, that there was no question that the Government was in favour of peace. I have never doubted that. I have attended a very large number of meetings and, at any rate in my hearing, nobody else has ever doubted it. There may have been cases in which it has been doubted, but, as far as I am concerned and as far as those with whom I am working are concerned, there has never been any question about it. Indeed, I doubt very much whether there is anybody in this country who is not in favour of peace. You may find a few eccentric intelligentsia who take the view that war is a natural process of evolution, or some 7ionsense of that kind, but, broadly speaking, everybody is in favour of peace. The difference—the vital difference and the important difference, with which the noble Marquess, if he will forgive me for saying so, did not deal at all—is, what is the best method of securing peace? That is the vital difference, and the only difference that is of any importance in this debate. The noble Marquess said, and re Aerated over and over again, that the only question involved here was whether it was desirable to spend money on the defences of the country. I entirely disagree with him, is he will forgive me for saying so.
§ THE MARQUESS OF READING
If the noble Lord will forgive me, I did not say it was the only question; I said it was really the main issue which arose out of the Motion.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
I do riot draw so fine a distinction between the only question and the main issue. That is what he said, and he dealt practically with nothing else. I entirely disagree. There are two quite distinct issues, and in my judgment the issue to which the noble Marquess addressed himself is not the more important issue. There is the first question: whether expenditure is justified and this expenditure is justified; and the second question: whether the reasons given for that expenditure are good reasons or bad reasons. In my judgment it is the second question which in the long run is far 74 the more important of the two. As to the question whether some expenditure on the armaments of this country is desirable, I agree that it is extremely difficult for anyone without official information to, say whether in some particular case expenditure is or is not justified. At any rate, as far as the Army and the Navy are concerned, I can well understand that—taking, of course, as we are bound to take, the Government's statement of what they are proposing to do to be right, namely, that they are not increasing the Army or the Navy bat that they are really bringing certain Services up-to-date that had fallen into decay—this may or may not be desirable. At any rate it does not seem to me that this is a matter which we can very usefully debate at this stage, or until we have before us the full account of what exactly is proposed.
I heard from my noble friend Lord Stanhope a good deal of discussion as to whether the policy of the Government amounted to rearmament. I do not think that very much matters. The proposal, undoubtedly is to increase the extent of the araments, and, certainly as far as the air is concerned, to increase the strength of the Air Force. Whether that is or ought to be described as rearmament does not seem to me to be very important. The noble Lord made one statement which I thought was very interesting and important he said that it was quite untrue to say that this expenditure would lead to larger expenditure in the future. I believe that other members of the Government are going to take part in the debate, and I hope that they will be able to expand that observation of my noble friend. I understand, certainly, from the debate in the House of Commons that this is in many respects only the first step in a very considerable further expenditure.
Particularly are we told—and I think it is very important that we should know whether it is right or wrong—that in the near future it will be necessary to replace all the battleships of this country. That means a very large expenditure, something very much greater than anything that is proposed on this occasion. I think that each battleship now costs something between £7,000,000 and £9,000,000. If you are going to have 75 fifteen battleships, that of course means a very large expenditure, and therefore I did not quite follow what my noble friend meant when he said that this must be treated as leading not to larger but to smaller expenditure. My anxiety was a little increased, if my noble friend will allow me to say so, by his reference to the necessity—which we all regret deeply—in the late War for suddenly increasing our ammunition from what it was to the requirements of an Army many times greater than anything we had had in time of peace. I do not know whether the noble Earl meant that in his view the Government ought now, and in the present condition of affairs, to prepare sufficient reserves of armament and reserves of ammunition to satisfy the kind of demand that was made upon our forces in the Great War. That also would be a very important fact if that is what is intended, but I do not know whether that is what he was intending.
I prefer at present to take the account given in the other House, that, as far as the Army and the Navy are concerned, the proposal commits the country to nothing more than re-equipping those forces where the equipment has fallen out of date. Whether that is desirable or undesirable seems to me a matter of great detail which is very difficult to debate on the present occasion. As to the air, that of course is a different proposition. There is no question that the Government believe that it is essential to increase the Air Forces of the country. That was discussed last autumn, and I have no desire to renew the discussion. I then felt, and I still feel, that the present time is not the best time to take that course. I feel that it is a horrible thing that we should apparently be accepting the necessity of having air warfare in the future. It may become absolutely inevitable. The Government, though they have used some very unfortunate language about the Disarmament Conference, still profess—and I am sure they honestly profess—a desire for disarmament. But to accept this horrible doctrine that air warfare is to be a normal part of future warfare seems to me the most shocking thing in the world.
I observe that even in this Paper, in paragraph 25, the Government say in so many words:Up to now, however, the only deterrent to an armed aggressor"—76 that is, an armed aggressor in the air—has seemed to be the possession of adequate means of counter-attack.In other words the only way of dealing with air attack is reprisal. I feel that that is a most horrible state of things—really horrible. I will not accept that, and I will never accept it until I am absolutely driven to it by the overwhelming force of events; and then I shall only hope that my life will have come to an end before any future war can take place.
The second question, and in my judgment much the more important question, is what really is the policy underlying this expenditure. That seems to me to be the really vital question, and far more important—though perhaps not so much attention was paid to it in the debate on Monday—than the question of the actual expenditure contemplated. As I read the Motion, that is really the question which is raised by this Motion—not the actual question of expenditure but the policy underlying that expenditure. I have tried to understand that policy as set forward in the White Paper. To my mind—and indeed it is common ground—the White Paper is a document of immense importance. It sets forth on the authority of the Prime Minister, being signed by him, the policy of the Government. The noble Earl, Lord Stanhope, desires that that policy shall be explained everywhere and that everyone shall know it. It is therefore, it seems to me, right for your Lordships to examine, and to examine rather carefully, what is the policy put forward in that White Paper.
The first ground that I shall mention which is put forward as justifying this expenditure is the conduct of other countries. That was relied upon by the noble Marquess; it was relied upon by the noble Earl, Lord Stanhope; it was relied upon by most of the speakers in the other House; and it is relied upon in the White Paper. I do not desire to add anything to the criticisms which have been expressed about German rearmament. I confess that it seems to me an odd way of prefacing a friendly talk with the Germans, but it may be that that is the right way of dealing with Germans. I do not know. It would not be the right way of dealing with any other people in the world, and I doubt very much whether it can have been a judicious 77 way of dealing with the German Government. But at any rate, as far as that Statement is concerned it may have been put roughly and uncouthly, but it is true that the German policy is a policy of rearmament, quite definitely, and there is at any rate some ground for thinking that that is not only for defence but may be used, and it may be part of the policy of the German Government ultimately to use it, for purposes of aggression.
Well, that is a fact; but when I come to the rest of that paragraph I admit that I am a good deal startled. It goes on to say that there are other countries which have rearmed and (I suppose) to whom the same kind of observations may be applied. There is Russia, it is said, and Japan. I do not know whether it is right to treat them as aggressive nations or not. I should have thought that at any rate with regard to Russia it was very doubtful whether it was right. And the United States of America! Does anyone really seriously believe that the armaments in America, whatever they may be, are a threat, or any kind of threat, to this country? I am astonished at the way in which the United States of America has been quoted frequently in this discussion. Why, before 1914, it was common ground among all parties that the armaments of the United States of America could always be left out of account when we were considering the necessity of armaments in this country. I think it a most unfortunate thing that they should have been mentioned in the White Paper as part of the reason which necessitated the increase of armaments in this country.
I observe that at the end of paragraph I there is a striking phrase. The Government say, and I think it is a thing which is well worth bearing in mind:We could not afford to overlook all these increases, and so have had to begin to meet our deficiencies, but have been anxious not to make the provisions for necessary defence merge into a race in armaments strength.I wonder how you can avoid a race in armaments if you defend an increase of your armaments on the ground that other countries have already increased theirs? I do not myself see how you are to draw the line. Every increase in armaments by every country is justified in every case as necessary for defence—strictly for de 78 fence. I dare say they think it is right and that they are perfectly honest; but we know by experience that the immediate result is that some other country says: "Well, it may have been done for defence, but the net effect is that their armaments have become stronger, and if we are to defend ourselves, our armaments must be made stronger"—and so on.
I do riot believe that you can have any policy of increase of armaments without running the very gravest risk of establishing—indeed it is nonsense to say that it has not already established—the beginnings of a race in armaments. That is really, it seems to me, where one of the great fundamental differences in policy conies in Do you really believe that by increasing your armaments you are going to solve these tremendous difficulties? I am quite sure you are not going to. I am quite sure that if that is the only thing you are going to do, the policy is bound to fail. I know that many of the Ministerial speakers have said that they agree, and that they propose to have also a reliance on the collective system. I wonder whether that is the effect that their action has produced on other observers? And that, after all, is the real test of the White Paper.
I do not deny that there are good things in the White Paper. I could not help being reminded of the traditional curate's egg. Parts of it may be excellent; but that is not a sufficient justification for a White Paper—or for an egg! I took up The Times this morning. The Times I think would print any information which it received and which it thought relevant, but it certainly would not alter that information so as to be hostile to the present Government. This is the heading of the column on the British defence debate: "Impressions in Germany. End of a Chapter." And this is the way in which it summarises the general German opinion:… the British Government in the debate have not only admitted the failure of the Disarmament Conference but have even shown that they no longer find the peace machinery of the League of Nations, in which they so long expressed confidence, to be adequate.In support of that there is a quotation from the Frankfurter Zeitung, which, though I suppose it is now under the orders of the Government, used to be a 79 very independent paper, and which says this:… the British Government are decided, as their White Paper testifies, on a policy which completely excludes in advance a disarmament,' or a serious limitation of armaments, or even any conversations on the kindred basis of last year.And then it has this very ominous sentence:The practical content of equality of rights has been fundamentally altered.I hope that the Ministers when they go to Berlin will be able to correct that impression, but that is the impression which the White Paper has conveyed to the German Government and the German newspapers, and it is a formidable impression. Nor am I very much cheered to find that the opinion of all the Parties except the Parties of the Left in France is very favourable to the Government's proposals, or even that Italian opinion is also favourable to them. The political Parties of the Right in France and a good deal of the Italian Government believe, and have constantly expressed their belief, that the only safety lies in having a very strong national army. The fact that they approve of the Government's policy does not seem to me to be a very strong argument in its favour.
The question really is: What, in fact, is the general thesis of the White Paper? I quite admit that you can find passages in it strongly supporting the League of Nations and the collective system. I personally have very little doubt indeed that the Government as a whole—I do not know whether I should feel quite so sure about every member of the Government—do believe that they are in support of the League of Nations and the collective system, and in some shape or form—the shape described by Lord Stanhope just now—of collective action. But when you come to look at the White Paper there are phrases in it, which have often been quoted, which certainly seem very difficult to make it consistent with at any rate what I understand to be a policy of reliance upon the collective system. Here is the celebrated paragraph 4, the paragraph which I think anyone reading this document would regard as laying down the foundations of the policy which the Government recommend:Hitherto, in spite of many setbacks, public opinion in this country has tended to assume that nothing is required for the maintenance of peace except the existing 80 international political machinery, and that the older methods of defence—navies, armies and air forces—on which we have hitherto depended for our security in the last resort "—observe those words—are no longer required.I think that is a very exaggerated way of putting the case on the other side.
It goes on:The force of world events, however, has shown that the assumption is premature, and that we have far to go before we can find complete security without having in the background"—not some kind of regional pact, butthe means of defending ourselves against attacks.Then it goes on to a discussion about the way differences arise, and these words follow:and it has been found that once action has been taken the existing international machinery for the maintenance of peace cannot be relied upon as a protection against an aggressor.If the Government had gone on to say: "Though that is our belief, we do still believe in collective defence, and we propose to go in for a totally different policy of collective defence, a policy of regional pacts," then I should have understood it. But they say in this paragraph that the political machinery has failed, and therefore—what? That they must findthe means of defending ourselves against attack.Well, I am not surprised that those phrases, which have gone the whole round of Europe now, have been understood by many observers to mean that the Government have abandoned—as the Germans think—belief in the possibility of the League of Nations being of any real service in case of an attack. It was my great privilege on more than one occasion to visit M. Clemenceau after he had retired, and he always received me with the same observation. He always said: "I like your League of Nations." Then he repeated it—" I like your League of Nations, but I do not believe in it." That seems to me the attitude which anyone would believe the Government had adopted, in this paragraph at any rate of the White Paper.
I come to the proposal for regional pacts. Though I do not agree with everything in the interesting speech which Sir Austen Chamberlain made the 81 other night, I think he has been a little unfairly attacked by those who disagree with him, because I think it is quite plain that his speech was a speech—like the speech which the noble Lord has addressed to us—in favour of regional pacts and of collective action. I quite understand that, in spite of some rather strong language used in his peroration, Sir Austen did not intend to reject that as the main thesis in which he believes. But I confess I am in great doubts about this question of regional pacts. The noble Earl who has addressed us said that there were to be group agreements, and the groups were to be formed by those who were directly interested. I think that is a most dangerous doctrine. I doubt very much whether you can split up peace and war nowadays into groups of this kind. Any breach of the peace, wherever it takes place, is a danger to the whole peace of the world, and that is the foundation for the system on which that part of the League of Nations was founded.
I am very much alarmed at the idea that you will be able to say "Well, here is the question of the Rhine: that affects us." I do not think it affects us a bit more than lots of other questions. The actual ownership of land on each side of the Rhine is not a matter of vital importance: what is a matter of vital importance is the disturbance of the system which will produce war, which may extend in any direction, as we found in 1914. I am afraid of that doctrine of groups for that reason. I certainly would not rule it out where that was the only thing that could be done, but I would certainly make it a very rigid condition that it was to be part of the larger system, and only an explanatory part for dealing with disturbances in particular parts of the world by those countries. I would not say "those countries which were mainly interested," but "those countries which could most easily co-operate in order to suppress a breach of the peace."
There is another great objection that I have to pressing this doctrine of regional pacts too far. I do not regard military measures as the best weapon for the collective system. I regard it as the very last resort, the final thing when everything else has failed. Then, it may be, you are driven to it, and that is what the Covenant says. But I regard as far 82 the most generally effective means the political and economic steps taken by a great mass of the nations. There is always being brought up this question of what we ought to have done with regard to Japan. I know of nobody who was in favour of going to war with Japan. What we did say, many of us, what I should have said and many of us would have said, was: "We have great; possibilities of economic pressure upon Japan, on one condition "—and that condition was always made—"that the United States will co-operate with us in the matter." If you had had action by the League of Nations, coincided in by the United States, the pressure would have been so tremendous on Japan that I am perfectly convinced that a very different policy would have been pursued by that Power. The only conceivable possibility—a possibility which always seemed to me so remote as scarcely to be worth taking into consideration—was that in that case Japan would go to war with the whole world and, possibly selecting us as the nearest and most vulnerable person, would have attacked our territories. I do not believe a word of it; I believe it is fantastic nonsense. If there were a danger of that kind it might well have been desirable, before entering on your policy, to have had a special agreement among those engaged in it that they would co-operate to protect one another if such an attack were made.
I do not want to go back to all that, but I do want to say that in my judgment it is a great mistake and a grave danger always to talk about collective action as if collective action means collective military action. If the system works properly and works as it ought to work, and works easily, as it would work, that would only occur in a very remote contingency, and the ordinary operation of the system would be by political and economic action. For that purpose you cannot proceed by groups, you must proceed by something like general action. So long as these two points are safeguarded—namely, that you are going to have this system of group action underneath the League and as part of the League, and that you are going to have nothing done which will interfere with effective economic action—I quite agree it is a very useful step towards collective pressure.
83 I really have finished what I desired to say. My anxiety about this White Paper is that it does seem to me that in substance it will be read, and has been read in spite of the asseverations of Ministers, as a wonderful new State Paper setting forward a new step, sweeping away all the make-believe of past years and establishing a new policy. When you try to fix that new policy in definite words it does seem to me to mean that we are for the future going to rely very largely, so far as the White Paper is concerned, on the actual strength of this country, and we are not going to rely in the future on the collective strength of the whole world or even on a group. That is the grave danger which it seems to me arises from this White Paper. It is perfectly true, as I have said, that you can find passages in the White Paper which seem to point in a different direction, but that gives me very little comfort. In a matter of this kind, indeed in every matter of foreign affairs, the most essential thing is clearness and definiteness. If you can show that there is ambiguity in this White Paper so that you can read it in one way or another, you only show that, though it is not faulty as definitely proposing a bad policy, it is faulty because it does not definitely propose a good one.
It is for these reasons that I feel that the issue of the White Paper was a very grave mistake. I am not so much concerned with the question of the actual increase in expenditure. I have told your Lordships my thoughts on that subject. That is not to my mind the vital thing. The vital thing, the thing that really matters to this country and to the world, is what is going to be your real policy. What is the policy you are going to pursue with all your strength and all your power? Is it to be a collective policy? Is it to be a policy of relying upon co-operation with other States, not in order to get this or that advantage for this country or that country, but to get a supreme advantage for all countries by the maintenance of peace? Or are we going back to the pre-1914 system of "international anarchy," as it has been well called, where each nation acts for itself, if possible in co-operation with some other nation but essentially not as part of a general world-community, but as part of 84 some group which is trying to establish a particular policy which it believes favourable to its interests? Unless that is made pre-eminently clear all policies of increase of armaments are in the greatest degree dangerous, and if you tell me that this Paper does not necessarily mean that, though if may mean it, then I can only say that in my judgment it points to a real weakness and evil in the present Government—namely, that they do not speak with one voice or that they do not act with one purpose. That is the vice of all Coalitions.
I am afraid I cannot agree with those who regard this as a National Government. I understand a National Government to be a Government formed for some single national purpose of such an overmastering character that all those who are members of it will put aside altogether their own political views and concentrate on that issue, and on that issue alone. Such Governments existed during the War. Questions of Party politics were put into cold storage completely, whether they were Home Rule or Disestablishment or whatever they might be. They were ignored altogether, and the whole force of the Government, and practically the whole force of the country, was concentrated on one issue. It is mere playing with words to suggest that any similar state of things exists with regard to the present Government; and for my part I have come to the conclusion that it would be very greatly in the interests of this country if we abandoned this pretence of a National Government and returned to some system of homogeneous government where all the people thought the same on these great questions. Then, whether I was fortunate enough to agree with them or not, there would be a definite, clear, positive policy carried out, and that, after all, is the great merit in any administration of public affairs.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords, I have no wish to take any considerable part in this discussion or to speak at any length, but as I have played a part in these matters, if not in this House yet in the country, I feel my silence might be misinterpreted, and therefore I feel justified in asking your Lordships' attention for a few minutes. I have a great sense of diffidence in following my noble friend 85 who has just spoken with his usual force, conviction, and eloquence. He is a master of these subjects and, as he knows, I have very often received guidance from him which I never regretted. If, therefore, I differ in some respects not so much from the substance as from the tone of his speech, he will know that I do so both with regret and with diffidence.
I freely admit that when I first read this White Paper it filled me with a sense of disappointment. I do not think that I or anyone else could have contemplated this expenditure of an additional £10,000,000 with equanimity. On the contrary, one's great desire is to lift not only from this nation, but from every nation, the burden of armaments. To know, then, that £10,000,000 was being added to the overstrained finances of this country did indeed seem deplorable. Further, I must confess that it was disappointing that there should be even an appearance of this country abandoning what I still consider the admirable lead which so far it has given to other nations in disarmament, even the appearance that is was entering, however modestly, into the race of armaments; and I must admit that there were phrases in the, White Paper which seemed to me, not so much necessary for that frankness that leads to a better understanding, as capable of giving rise to needless misunderstanding at this present juncture. But when I have said all that I feel bound at once to say that I cannot but regard many of the fears and apprehensions which have been expressed elsewhere in the country, and even, if I may say so, by the noble Viscount himself, as based upon some misapprehension of the real nature and purpose of this document.
In the first place, I cannot but note that except as regards the Air Force, it does not propose—indeed that is common ground except in regard to the Air Force—any increase in armaments but only an increase in equipment and efficiency. It is possible to contend that the existence of any armed force in a country is wrong, because the use of ft would be wrong. That is a logical theory. How far the noble Lord opposite really holds it or not do not quite know, but it is a logical theory, though I think that the conclusions to which it would lead would show that there was some flaw in the 86 premise. But unless one holds that particular theory, I do nut see how it can be contended that if any force is justifiable at all for defence, or for the fulfilment of international obligations, it can be justifiable to keep that force obsolete and inefficient. I should like to stress that point. It seems to me that to leave what armaments there are, if they are capable of any sort of justification, in a state of inefficiency is to practise a peculiarly undesirable and underhand form of unilateral disarmament.
As to the Air Force, no doubt that causes greater disquiet, but after all it is only what was foreshadowed many months ago. I do not think there is anything novel in it, and therefore I find it difficult to realise with my noble friend who has just spoken the immensity and apparently, indeed, the horribleness of the prospect which this particular increase opens out.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
May I say to the most reverend Primate that I did not mean that this particular increase was the prospect that terrified me. It was the existence of air warfare altogether, and the only reason why I deplored this particular increase was that it seemed to me an acceptance of the perpetuation of air warfare which I thought we had still some hope of getting rid of altogether.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
I am much obliged to my noble friend. Possibly I may deal with what he has said a little later in my few observations. All I am anxious to point out now is that the actual provisions of the White Paper do not seem to me in themselves, apart from implications which may be read into the language, to justify the very hard things that have been said about it. But if this White Paper was the only thing that represented the policy of the Government, if it was to be construed as in any sense abandoning their intentions to proceed as soon as possible with a renewal of the proposals for the limitation and restriction of armaments generally, then I should feel even more troubled by it than the noble Viscount who has just spoken; but, as I understand the situation, that is not so.
There are two features of what I understand to be the policy of the Government—two concurrent features to which I think critics of the White Paper ought to pay 87 attention. The first is the encouragement of those regional agreements to which so much allusion has been made this afternoon, agreements by which nations interested together, situated together geographically, possibly confronted by common dangers, agree to protect each other against a possible aggressor within that group. I should feel grave doubts about this policy of regional pacts and agreements if they could be interpreted as alliances of groups of nations intended to protect themselves against some other nation that was assumed to be likely to be aggressive. But that is not their purpose. They are pacts of mutual assurance, and, if that be so, I cannot but think that the extension of them, the extension, if we may so call it, of the policy of Locarno, cannot but make in the direction of that collective security which we all desire. Here perhaps it might be worth while to remark that the success of these regional pacts must very largely depend upon the degree in. which each nation within them can rely upon the others fulfilling the obligations, possibly the obligation of the use of force, which they have undertaken, and that, therefore, is another reason why it would not be promoting the success of these regional pacts if any country, such as ourselves, which is responsible for one of them, were to allow its armaments, if any justification of armaments is possible, largely to become obsolete. We should not be playing the game with those with whom we have entered into common obligations if we did that.
There is another feature of the policy of the Government which, I think, it is only fair to remember and appreciate, and that is their obviously earnest desire to bring Germany back into the League of Nations. A great deal was said, and said very truly and in a way which had my whole-hearted agreement, by the noble Viscount about the importance of stressing more and more, and not less and less, the importance of the League of Nations and the system of collective action which it represents. But surely it is common ground that if Germany is not included in that League, it cannot function in the way which we all desire. Accordingly, I regard it as a matter of great importance—and I am sure the Government do the same—that every effort should be made to persuade Ger 88 many to take that place without which neither can the collective system of the League work, nor can any general system of disarmament throughout the world take place. I must confess that I agree with what has been said as to the way in which, in this country, we have hitherto regarded the claims of Germany. I think it is unfortunate to imply that in the present situation Germany alone is to blame. I think the Allies have a very large share of blame in having been so slow in attempting to implement the solemn declarations of Versailles. As soon as it was plain that the Allies were making no serious attempt to level their armaments down to the German level, it was certain that Germany would insist upon levelling her armaments up to the level of the Allies. We ought to have recognised that long ago, and to have taken steps accordingly. Therefore, I do not agree with any implication, if it be contained in the White Paper, that the whole blame should be laid on Germany.
At the same time it is clear that now we are ready to receive Germany in the comity of nations in a position of perfect equality of status. I am sure it is in that spirit and with that intention that the Foreign Secretary is proceeding to Berlin, and there is no one of us who does not wish him the fullest success in his great undertaking. I cannot but believe that there must be some appeasement of the tension at present existing if the system of regional agreements is extended and fulfills the functions assigned to it by Sir Austen Chamberlain elsewhere—namely, that it is not a substitute for the League of Nations but the underpinning of the structure of which the League of Nations is the basis. If that be so, and Germany can be persuaded to enter into the League of Nations, then there will be a position created which will make it more hopeful to resume conferences on disarmament than has hitherto existed for many years past. It is not because I wish the question of disarmament to be in any way postponed or belittled, but, on the contrary, because I believe it to be vital, that I am anxious in these ways to bring about a state of things in which the Disarmament Conference can be resumed with greater hopefulness than before. If that be so, then I think the noble Viscount will agree that it is only through some general disarmament con 89 ference which is surrounded by an atmosphere of security which does not at present exist, that Europe generally and the world can proceed to deal, and deal adequately I hope, with that horrible portent which the noble Viscount brought before us of the continuance and development of war in the air. So, my Lords, I do not abate for one moment my conviction that armaments are no security, that in the long run, if a nation thinks that by increasing its own armament it is increasing its security, it will find it is labouring under a delusion, because it is only thereby increasing the sense of insecurity in other nations.
If I thought that the policy of His Majesty's Government was represented simply by this White Paper, and was not to be implemented in the ways which I have indicated, and from those beginnings to follow up a more definite approach to the adoption of the whole system on which the League of Nations is based, I should speak very differently from what I have done this afternoon. I cannot but think that a great deal of language has been used about the existing situation which is exaggerated. I hold no brief for His Majesty's Government, but also I have no such bias against it as I think, if he will allow me to say so, gave pith and perhaps vehemence to the criticisms of the noble Lord opposite. I am only trying to look candidly on the facts as they are. I do not think that those who are so passionately devoted to the cause of the League of Nations and the system of disarmament advance their cause when they use such exaggerated language as to say that the White Paper means that the Government have abandoned their adherence to the League of Nations. While I think our ideals must be held strongly, it is not enough to assert them in phrases. We have to keep them in relation to the actual facts which confront us from time to time. For these reasons, although I am not without sympathy with much that has been said by the noble Viscount, I find it impossible to endorse the language of the Resolution moved by the noble Lord opposite.
My Lords, the most reverend Primate found it difficult to follow the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil. I can assure the most reverend Primate that it is much more difficult for me, as 90 is becoming almost customary now, to follow him. May I most respectfully thank him for having, at any rate, Addressed himself to the Motion on the Paper and to the speech of my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition? I am a very young member of your Lordships' House, and perhaps I ought not to say this, but I was rather astonished to hear the noble Earl who spoke for the Government address himself, not to the speech of my noble friend who moved the Resolution, but to speeches made in another place. I have always been taught to believe that that was not regarded as the me and wont of your Lordships' House. I hope that another time the Government spokesman—perhaps here I should address myself to the noble Viscount who leads the House—will deal with the Motion moved and the speeches made here, and not with what happened in another place.
The most reverend Primate let fall a remark which as so noteworthy that I wrote it down. It was a remark which, if it goes without some qualification, might give rise to very serious misunderstanding. The most reverend Primate said that without Germany the League of Nations could not function. With what the most reverend Primate said about bringing Germany into the League every one, of course, will whole-heartedly agree, but to say that the League cannot function without Germany is, I submit, a most dangerous statement to make unless there is some explanation. Without some explanation it, would mean that Germany could place her demands on a very high level indeed. She could almost blackmail us before coming back to the League. Does the most reverend Primate mean that we cannot hope for success in reducing armaments without Germany, or does he mean that the collective system cannot function without Germany?
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
If the noble Lord will introduce the word "fully" before "function" I think that would express my meaning.
I thank the most reverend Primate. That does explain it. I am, with regard to the League of Nations, a diehard. I say that if the League of Nations as a result of this and other actions perished to-morrow, we 91 would have to set to work to start a new one. So long as three or four nations remain, I would maintain the League. Just as when the barbarians overran the country and destroyed the See of Canterbury, a, few priests kept alight the torch of learning and religion in Ireland, so I would keep only two or three nations as a nucleus of the League.
There is one other remark of the most reverend Primate to which I would like to refer. He said it seemed to him that as long as we had weapons it was wrong to leave them inefficient and obsolete. The most reverend Primate, I am afraid, has been misled by deliberate false propaganda that our weapons have been allowed to deteriorate and decline and that we are weak relatively to other nations. I cannot speak with any knowledge of the Army. I should be surprised, however, if the noble Viscount would admit that the Army, with regard to equipment, was not at a very high level of efficiency. It is well mechanised and the other weapons are well looked after. But that is not the important thing. We still rely, primarily, and the noble Earl who spoke for the Government will agree, on the Royal Navy. If I might I would like to draw the attention of your Lordships and especially of the noble Marquess who leads the Liberal Party to certain figures—because he rather took the rôle that Sir John Simon did at Geneva. When Japan was arraigned before the League of Nations Sir John Simon, in the words of the chief Japanese delegate, defended her with greater ability than he, the Japanese delegate, could have done himself; and in this House the noble Marquess defends the Government with far more eloquence and efficiency than they are themselves capable of. He used the same argument, that what was proposed was only the replacing and replenishing of stores which have become obsolete.
Is the noble Marquess and the most reverend Primate aware that since the Armistice we have spent on the Army, Navy and Air Force £2,520,000,000? Is he aware that since 1926 the net Naval Estimates, including the ones just issued for 1935 which are to be discussed to-morrow in another place, come to a total of £551,000,000? I think the most reverend Primate and the noble 92 Marquess would have the right to wonder, when told that everything is rotten and obsolete, whether we have got value for our money. But we have got value for our money. We, to-day, dispose of the most powerful Navy in the world, far the most powerful, and if you take into account our naval bases and our naval reserves, still existing in our mercantile marine, we have an overwhelmingly powerful naval force. I hold in my hand the Official Admiralty publication, a Return of the Fleets, formerly known as the Gibson Bowles Return, Command Paper 4817. This gives the fleets of the seven principal naval Powers. With regard to battleships and battle cruisers, capital ships of the line, we are by treaty hound to an equality with the United States of America. With regard to cruisers there was only a limit on size of individual ships until recently. The figures give an answer to the ridiculous statement in the White Paper that we have unilaterally disarmed. We have not made any movement to disarm unilaterally. In cruisers we have, built, fifty in number, and the next highest are the United States, twenty-six, and Japan, thirty-one.
Yes, certainly. The noble Earl has taken a great interest in these matters. He has often said that our cruisers are out of date. We have on the stocks building thirteen new ones, to-day, as against ten American, four Japanese and six French.
§ LORD LLOYD
Is the noble Lord aware that next year we shall only have thirty-six, and one obsolete cruiser, and that we cannot compare with America and Italy because they are of an entirely different character?
I was coming to the noble Lord, but he has moved from his usual seat to another place, and I had not seen him. I had intended to refer to him. That argument used by the noble Lord I have heard many times used by Lord Howe in another place with great ability—that our cruiser fleet is rotten and obsolete, and that their bottoms are falling out. That is utterly false. The Admiralty take an arbitrary age-limit of twenty years for battleships and sixteen years for cruisers. Now a 93 ship is not obsolete in twenty or sixteen years unless you fail to refit and renovate and repair her, and we have throughout, and the spokesman of the Admiralty will, I know, not deny this, had adequate money in the Royal Navy for repairing and refitting vessels as they become old.
I will tell the noble Earl in a moment. It is to-day announced that the "Cumberland," which has just returned from the China station, is to have spent on her for repairs £400,000. She is a ship of the new 10,000 ton type, and cost about £2,600,000. About one-sixth of her original cost is to be spent on refitting her; and so it has gone on right through the Navy. It depends upon whether sufficient money is spent on repairs and maintenance, and I submit, looking through the Navy List, that no one can declare that we have not had adequate money voted for repairs and maintenance. The noble Earl has referred to the "Hawkins" class, which was started during the War and finished some years later. I have certainly included them and they are included in the List as efficient. The only one not classed as efficient is the "Vindictive."
Yes, certainly, but I am dealing with the position as it is now. Then with regard to cruisers built. There are to-day fifty British cruisers and five mine-layers, and twenty-six American cruisers. It is absurd to pretend that we have made one step towards unilateral disarmament. We have done nothing of the kind. Then there are eight British aircraft carriers as against four American and six Japanese. It is true that we are weak in destroyers—namely, 161 as against 227 American; but the Japanese only have 101. I agree that we should not be weak in destroyers. They are the most useful war vessel—I give the noble Lord that one admission—but apart from destroyers and submarines—which latter are not really our weapon at all; we have always said the submarine is the weapon of the weaker Power—we are overwhelmingly 94 strong at sea. I am sorry if I speak with vehemence; I know that the noble Lord opposite, Lord Allen of Hurtwood, does not like my vehemence when I let myself go, but this is a matter on which I cannot speak without some indignation. I object very much that the word should go out that the British Navy has been allowed to rot, and I resent very much that the most reverend Primate should be misled by Government spokesmen on a matter upon which he cannot be expected to have expert knowledge.
§ LORD LLOYD
I do not want to interrupt the noble Lord, but he has definitely challenged the point of view which I put forward to-day in a letter to The Times. I want to ask him if we shall only have, in the Admiralty computation, after the needs of the fleet in wartime are satisfied—that is to say, twenty of the Battle Fleet and ten always in harbour—six non-obsolete cruisers to look after 85,000 miles of sea routes and about 2,000 ships at sea. That is, of course, a rough computation. I do not know if the noble Lord would call that powerful and completely satisfactory.
I will give the noble Lord, if he will allow me to do so, complete satisfaction. If we are going to rely on our existing Navy List of cruisers, we are woefully weak for antisubmarine work, for convoy work and for the defence of trade generally. But that, my Lords, is the exact point of my noble friend who moved this Motion. He used almost those same words. If we are going to rely upon our own strong right arms we are poorly equipped for doing it, and if we are going to rely on our own strong right arms it will mean an immense addition to the Navy and also to the Air Force. The Admiralty in 1930, under the influence of the Labour Government, agreed that fifty cruisers should be our establishment, and the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, in the same letter—and I know he can speak with authority in these matters—states that the Government have now apparently given way to the Admiralty and given us the seventy-cruiser establishment. That will mean the building of twenty new cruisers, and as the noble Earl, Lord Howe, agrees that the existing cruisers are now reaching the obsolescent stage, this will mean an immense shipbuilding programme even if we are to 95 have the modest establishment the Admiralty demands.
I say "modest," because if we are going to rely upon our own Navy to protect our own commerce in the seven seas against the air menace, the submarine menace and the possibility of sending out disguised cruisers on the trade routes, the present establishment of seventy is inadequate. That is why we say that the collective system is the only safeguard for the food, raw material and commerce that the noble Marquess who leads the Liberal Party said we had to guard. I have mentioned the number of cruisers building. I could go through the list, but anyone looking at this Admiralty publication must admit that the talk of unilateral disarmament as regards the Navy is utter nonsense. I use strong language in your Lordships' House; I do not apologise for it. It is too bad that a busy man like the noble Marquess, with the great knowledge of affairs that he has to keep up, should have to accept Government statements and then find they are wrong.
The noble Earl sought comfort with regard to Russia. He said that we ought to note how the Russians are increasing their Army. I was afraid that he was going to say something that might give offence in Moscow and injure the prospects of the Lord Privy Seal during his forthcoming visits. In fact, I very much hope that the Government have not any more White Papers on the stocks! I also note with satisfaction that in the present White Paper Poland is not mentioned. That must have been before the Government knew that Mr. Eden was going to Warsaw. I know that the noble Earl would not willingly say anything that would annoy Mr. Stalin; I have not heard that he has a cold yet. My noble friend Lord Marley has for some reason been picked out from amongst the galaxy of politicians in the other House who claim the chief attention of the noble Earl, because I suppose he has often spoken of Russia in other connections, such as that of education and holiday homes for the workers. The noble Earl said, "Look how the Russians are arming." Of course the Russians are arming. They are now threatened by two Powers; on the east by the Japanese and on the west by the Germans. When I say they are threatened by the Germans, I mean that 96 they have not forgotten the statements of the present very powerful leader of all Germany with regard to his ideas of a German aggression into the Ukraine, and they regard a German-Japanese alliance against them as at any rate a possibility.
With great respect to the noble Earl, I have so little forgotten Poland that I travelled through Poland a little time ago. The Poles are supposed to be one of the allies in "Mein Kampf," the book of the present leader of Germany, who are going to help to colonise the Ukraine with good Germans and Poles. Now the two Powers who are supposed to threaten Russia, Japan and Germany, are the only two important nations in the world who refuse to sign pacts of non-aggression. I have also ventured to make this observation in your Lordships' House, that if and when we establish a Socialist State in this country we may have to defend it, because it is a Socialist State, against Capitalist States. I admit that, and I make a present of that suggestion to the noble Earl and to the noble Viscount who leads your Lordships' House. The Russians are preparing to defend themselves against possible attacks because they are a Socialist State. They have not forgotten the intervention, which was only a few years ago.
The noble Earl asks if I have forgotten Poland. I can assure him that the Russians have not forgotten Poland, and they have not forgotten the fact that a large piece of what is ethnographically Russian territory is now under Polish rule. That is the answer to the noble Earl when he points to the increase of the Russian armaments. In any case, however, Russia is at last a member of the League. We used to be told a few years ago that we could not enter into any Treaty for reducing armaments because Russia was not a member of the League. Now we are told that Germany is not a member of the League and that Japan is to withdraw; earlier, the United States did not adhere. Now Russia is a member of the League, and according to the arguments of the most reverend Primate we have certain obligations to fulfil and must therefore have some weapons, in the present disordered state of the world. The Russians have built up a powerful 97 mechanised Army and a powerful Air Force, and as long as they are members of the League they should be an added comfort and defence, as long as we and they adhere to the system of collective security. That is the very system of collective security which is derided—may I say?—by important members of the Conservative Party like Sir Austen Chamberlain. It is good enough, we are told, for little accidental disputes, but for great conflicts by major Powers and for wars embarked on as a deliberate policy the League, we are told, can no longer be relied upon. We say that that is a suicidal policy, and because the Government in apologising for that new policy are injuring the nation—are injuring our nation, for a considerable section of which we claim to speak—we have put forward this Motion and adhere to it.
I am sure that nobody in your Lordships' House suggests it, but certain people were taken to task by the noble Marquess who leads the Liberal Party for suggesting that the Government deliberately mean war. I was speaking last week in Cambridge at the Union, and I repeat here what I said then. Of course the Government are not deliberately preparing for war or following a course that they suspect may lead to war. What they are doing is committing an offence for which some naval officers were tried the other day; they are hazarding the nation. They are adopting policies which all history shows are dangerous. That this course will eventually bring them into conflict with other nations has been proved over and over again.
I sometimes wonder what has happened to what we used to call the old Tory Party. The noble Viscount on the Cross Benches awakened a most responsive echo in my heart, I assure him, when he pleaded for a return to straightforward politics where at any rate we knew where we were. I would, with great respect, ask the present leaders of the Conservative Party to regard what their predecessors did after the Napoleonic wars, when the Tory Party was in power for two or three decades. They knew the nation was exhausted, they knew that Europe was exhausted, they knew that the people were tired and sick of the bloodshed, the misery and the slaughter of war, so they deliberately pursued policies of peace. They cut down and economised in every direction, including 98 armaments, and they allowed the nation to recover, and the great industrial development of this country to begin. That is what the Tory Party did after a great war a hundred years ago. Now the Tory Party has allowed itself to be inveigled into the present Coalition, and I am afraid we get a policy which is neither one thing nor the other. We do not get a policy which gives us armaments which enable us to defend ourselves with our own strong right arm, and we do not sufficiently support the collective system, which is the only alternative.
I am afraid I have detained your Lordships' House longer than I had intended to, but I have two suggestions to make which I hope are constructive. The most reverend Primate spoke of the necessity of bringing Germany back into the League, awl if I may, I would add to that: into the community of European nations. Whatever we may think of the form of government in Germany or of its actions, it is necessary for the peace of Europe for Germany to be within the European family. The reason for that—and I make no apology for mentioning it, because this is an age of extreme frankness—is that the real danger to the world peace, as everybody knows—and it has been expressed by the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, much better than I can express it—lies in the Pacific, for racial reasons and economic reasons which exist, and it is no good our blinking the facts. I do not think that the. Japanese Government is deliberately aiming for war, any more than I believe that the British Government is deliberately aiming for war but the Japanese Government is being driven along certain courses which may lead to a serious breach of the peace. I believe that there is at any rate a chance of preserving the peace of the Pacific if Japan cannot rely on European Allies. The danger is, of course, of war between Russia and Japan, and I believe that if Japan can be deprived of the hope that if she falls foul of Russia. Germany will help her, there is a chance of keeping the peace. That is the great reason, I think, why we have got to make a supreme effort, despite what has perhaps outraged our sensibilities in the internal policy of Germany, to bring Germany into the 99 European community, and to treat her as an equal member of the European family.
My other point, which has reference to the same danger, is: What are we doing about the United States of America? There was to have been a Naval Conference in 1935, this year. The noble Earl, Lord Luean, gave me an answer to a written Question which I recently put, saying that confidential conversations were going on. Has the time arrived when the veil can be withdrawn from those confidential conversations'? The noble Earl, Lord Stanhope, has returned from Geneva with all the latest news of the world. Can he give us any enlightenment? Is the 1935 Naval Conference, in accordance with the Treaty of Washington and the Treaty of London, to be held? And what preparations are being made for it? And if it is held, are we going into that Conference to engage once more in a miserable haggle about the tonnage of cruisers, the calibre of guns, the size of torpedoes, and all those miserable technical details which play into the hands of the professional warriors every time? Or are we going to approach it on a much wider front, which is the great problem of world peace, beginning with the security of the world's commerce at sea—far easier to secure by agreement with the United States than land security and land disarmament.
I would plead that in approaching the Naval Conference of 1935—and I think it ought to be held, and we ought to work for it to be held, and held successfully—the approach to it should be through the system of collective security with the United States on the high seas. The noble Earl, Lord Howe, and the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, deplored our weakness in cruisers: they are sensible of our vulnerability to attack on our commerce at sea. Of course they are, and they are perfectly and completely justified. But the Americans are faced with the same problem. America has important overseas possessions, and American overseas commerce is growing. There is an insistent demand in Congress at Washington in almost the same words as those used by the noble Earl, Lord Howe, in this country, for more cruisers for the protection of American interests. There is a community of interests for the de 100 fence of the Atlantic and Pacific trade routes; and instead of looking upon the American Navy as a rival to ours, if we could look upon the two great Navies as guardians of the world's commerce at sea, that I suggest would be the right approach to the 1935 conference, and would avoid a fresh vast expenditure on armaments.
The noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, spoke of the present increase foreshadowed in the White Paper as being an instalment. Of course it is only an instalment. He spoke of the increase of the Air Force. If we are going to have an Air Force in this country equal to the nearest Air Force within striking distance on the Continent—I am glad to see that the noble Lord, Lord Trenchard, is here—and if at the same time we are to have the necessary Air Force for the defence of Malta, Singapore and the North-West Frontier of India, the expenditure on the Air Force to bring it up to that standard must be immense. If, in addition to that, we have to begin replacing our ageing battleships, our great super-dreadnoughts, we can look for a doubled expenditure on armaments in about 1937, when the Washington Treaty expires. The situation from the point of view of the taxpayer is serious enough. From the point of view of the ordinary citizen who wants to do trade and business with some certainty that we are not soon going to be plagued by another war, it is most serious. It is most serious of all, as my noble friend Lord Ponsonby has said, for the young people who will have to fight in the next war. It will not be this Government. This Government will move its seat of power to Belfast when the fighting begins. It will be the unfortunate young men who did not know the last war, who were babies when it broke out, and who are now being hazarded and endangered by the policy pursued by the present Government, who will suffer. I repeat that I do not believe that the present Government are deliberately working for war, but by their wobbling, their uncertainty, and their too little faith, they are hazarding the interests of this nation.
§ LORD NOEL-BUXTON
My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Stanhope, hardly gave a proportionate section of his speech to the question of the reference to Germany in the White Paper. It seems to me that 101 too much importance cannot be attached to that matter. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs also gave very small space to it, and I should like to say a further word upon it to your Lordships. The reference to Germany alone, it seems to me, would justify my noble friend's action in bringing forward a Motion today. The singling out of Germany for special reprobation endangered the whole plan of the Anglo-French declaration. The inclusion of Germany in some form of agreement aimed at collective security is obviously essential to durable peace. I was glad to hear the most reverend Primate dwell upon that. It had taken England and France all too long to reach a proposal which furnished a possible basis for acceptance by the German Government. The German response was awaited with intense anxiety. To the relief of the whole country that response was favourable. The visit of the Foreign Secretary was duly planned. A situation reached with so much difficulty and delay was obviously one for the most delicate handling. Yet that was the moment chosen to issue a statement markedly galling to German feeling, obviously endangering the responsive attitude which had been arrived at.
Germany was pilloried as the cause of trouble. Her ease was sharply differentiated from that of the other Powers mentioned. Inevitably the result was indignation in Germany and suspicsion of our sincerity. How are we to account for this astonishing move? I find it impossible to believe that it was inadvertent. Its probable effect must have been obvious to the merest tyro. It was clearly a deliberate act. What caused it? There are naturally several schools of thought in the Cabinet in regard to the League. A belief in the possibility of peace by international agreement is a novelty for the old-fashioned Conservative mind. One might classify the two views at each end of the scale in the Cabinet as pre-War and post-War, primitive and modern. It looks as if this sudden volte face in our approach to Germany represented a victory of the primitives in the tug-of-war which must prevail in the Cabinet. It is good news, however, that the visit to Germany is still to take place. But will it be as friendly as it might have been? The atmosphere has been embittered. The German attitude of revived confidence has 102 been spoilt. But I need not labour the German point of view, because we have seen it admirably expressed in the last few days by my noble friend Lord Lothian in his valuable letters.
How can this jeopardising of talks with Germany of the most fundamental importance be justified? The most charitable interpretation regards it as a blunder. If it was not sabotage, it was criminal recklessness. It is another case of the variable and uncertain nature of the Foreign Secretary's action. That uncertainty is commonly attributed to his peculiar personal temperament. It may be the result of opposition from what I have called the primitives in the Cabinet over-ruling his judgment. In any case, the Cabinet is responsible, and in any case the effect is disastrous.
From the German point of view—it is difficult to understand unless one visits Germany—English policy since the Disarmament Conference has been, of course, exasperating. At one moment we declare for the German right to equality. At another the Foreign Secretary issued a legalistic argument to show that the German right to equality under the Versailles Treaty was strictly conditional. At one moment we welcomed the American proposals relating to reduction of forces by one-third. At another the Foreign Secretary damned it with faint praise in his roost patronising manner. Later on we had the British plan, arousing hopes of a firm policy. But again we had the Germans provided with a grievance through our non-response to proposals of theirs. Finally, we have the Anglo-French declaration, but then comes the lecture to Germany in the White Paper. The impression is even worse than that of mere half-heartedness. One cannot imagine that Mr. Henderson, had he remained at the Foreign Office, would have been so unsuccessful, because he would not have shifted his ground from time to time.
I agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, that the question to-day is not so much a question of expenditure as a question of the policy underlying the White Paper. The White Paper as a whole is intended to facilitate the adoption of the Estimates. But it was surely unnecessary to use the occasion to damage the League. It is not the Estimates themselves but the nature of the utterance that is mainly in question. 103 Mr. Baldwin says he is hurt when the Government eulogy of the League is called "lip service," but that is a fair description of the White Paper if it does a disservice to the League. Nobody could possibly describe the White Paper as intended to further the cause of the League. It is an utterance of depreciation. The success of any League, as of any treaty, multilateral or even bilateral, postulates mutual aid and reliance. The White Paper proclaims that you cannot rely on the League. It is an encouragement to fear and anxiety. It provides Governments with an argument against proposals for League progress. It stultifies our own proposals for new agreements. It pictures the League as a fixed machine which will either work or fail. It distracts attention from the truism that the League is what its members make it. Illustrations can easily be given of that. The League was effective in preventing a Balkan War in 1925 because M. Briand was energetic. Lord Cecil made it effective when Italy was induced to withdraw from Corfu in 1923. That was the result of personal activity.
You can, of course, kill the League by saying that it is dead. Are we the people to give a lead in distrust? The Government's expressions of love for the League are rightly described as empty if they are followed by exhortations to distrust it. Sincere praise would at all events have combined such expressions with reminders of the League's value. It would have prompted the inclusion of facts giving ground for trust in the League. It might have shown that the Government appreciate that side also. There are cases where the League has prevented war—wars which had even been embarked upon, as in 1921, the Albanian-Yugoslav controversy, and in 1925, the Greco-Bulgarian trouble, which had actually already taken the form of a war and which was stayed by the energy of M. Briand.
We all wish we could regard the Government as whole-hearted when they tell us the League is their main hope. But if they belie those words, one is tempted sometimes to wonder if an open enemy would not be better than a half-hearted friend. To make the League a success requires 100 per cent. of energy. It may well be that no success at all can be secured without that 100 per cent. of energy. The White Paper is another 104 proof that the Government are halfhearted. Their language is not the language of a keen desire for success. It gives the impression that the sceptics in the Cabinet are in a majority. The modernist members perhaps have less energy. Perhaps progressive and modernist views find their high-water mark in the Lord President of the Council. The effect of half-heartedness has been only too evident in regard to the Disarmament Conference. The White Paper gives the impression of throwing up the sponge, and it is so taken abroad. And it does so at the roost critical moment in the history of the Disarmament Conference. Even at this late hour, when the proposal for inspection of armed forces is being discussed at Geneva, it is England that raises difficulties. We have obstructed on many occasions. Our reservation about bombing is only one illustration. If the Government are really sincere in their professions of faith in the League and in disarmament, why should they not prove their sincerity by showing some energy in a progressive direction? Let them begin by frankly accepting the system of inspection of arms which the noble Earl opposite was not instructed keenly to support. Why should the Government not indicate their real whole-hearted support of the League by supporting that proposal, a proposal obviously necessary for agreed disarmament?
§ EARL PEEL
My Lords, I should like to make one or two very brief observations on this matter. It is usually the salutary custom in this House—I think it is salutary—that the only people who address your Lordships are those who criticise the Government, and if anybody ever approves of any action that the Government have done, he usually does it in silence. I do not even except, if I may say so, the speech of the most reverend Primate, because his assent was so very guarded, and he only agreed to the proposals of the White Paper, I think, if a great many other things might be done which would have a peculiarly qualifying effect upon it.
I really do not think it is necessary to say anything about either the Government or the country being in favour of peace. We know they are strongly in favour of peace, and it is precisely because there can be no doubt that the 105 Government and the country are in favour of peace that a document like this White Paper becomes possible and can be issued without any fear of misrepresentation. I have listened in the course of this debate to the amazing amount of innuendo, suggestion, and criticism that has been built up on this White Paper. It astonishes me because, when I read it, it seemed to me a very straightforward and frank statement of facts. The reason I approve of the White Paper is that, reading it, as I think without bias, it does riot, to my mind, lay down a fresh policy at all. What it does is this: It sums up in a few telling phrases the experience we have gained of the working of the League of Nations, of agreements with other countries, and the state of the world; and on those phrases, which I believe to be true, you must of course build up your policy.
I am not going to say a word about the actual timing of the document. Sometimes this matter of issue is rather difficult. The White Paper has been criticised, too, because it is plain, frank, and rather blunt in its expressions. I welcome that. I think that sometimes these documents are drawn up, I will not say with too accurate a regard for style—the style is generally not very classical—but with a certain polish of phrase which leaves them sometimes not quite clear to the ordinary man, and this document is intended for the ordinary man. This is a document of great importance. Even if it suggests no fresh declaration of policy, it does sum up certain facts and issues which have been rather plain to the ordinary man for some time but which now get the considered judgment of a responsible Government upon them.
There are four propositions of the highest importance in this document. The first one is that it has been found, once action has been taken, that the existing international machinery for the maintenance of peace cannot be relied upon as protection against an aggressor. I have not heard in the course of this discussion one single word of criticism upon that proposition. The only thing that was said was by my noble friend Lord Cecil, that force was the last resort and that collective action might take many forms before it got to the use of force, with which I quite agree. But even he did not suggest that the machinery of peace can 106 be relied upon as protection against an aggressor. Then we have the second proposition, which says that disarming ourselves in advance by way of example has not increased our negotiating power in the disarmament discussions at Geneva. Does anybody challenge that proposition? I have heard much criticism of this White Paper during this debate, but I have not heard one single noble Lord get up and deny that disarmament on our part has not assisted our negotiating power in the disarmament discussions at Geneva.
The noble Lord whom I am following, Lord Strabolgi, will pardon me if I do not follow him in his elaborate discussions as to whether or not we have been disarming, because until he spoke and revealed the mystery unknown to me, I was under the impression that for the last ten years, looking at the facts and figures, we had been disarming steadily. His persuasive eloquence has rather shaken my belief in that as regards the Navy, but that is a matter we can deal with on another occasion. We have to accept the fact of disarmament, whether you call it one-sided, unilateral, partial, or whatever else, as we have been practising it during the last ten years.
The other proposition is that the Disarmament Conference has virtually come to a standstill. That is an important statement, because in connection with so many of these international conferences the public are never told they have come to a standstill; all we are told is they have adjourned until the next meeting. But that is a definite statement which has again to be carefully weighed, and I think it has not been denied by any noble Lord who has spoken.
§ EARL PEEL
That is for the Government to say, but I should have thought the fact that the Government had denied it would not carry any great conviction in the mind of my noble friend. The fourth proposal m is as regards the Locarno Treaties. It is said that these 107 are being seriously weakened by the knowledge, shared by all the signatories, that our contribution, in case our obligation is clear to us, could have little decisive effect. Is not that a statement of the plainest common sense? I know it has been used as an argument by one ingenious member in another place that the Government are using their obligations under these Locarno Treaties in order to gain support for definite proposals for increasing their defensive forces, but I think it is just as well to put the plainest and simplest interpretation on any document. Surely it is unarguable that we cannot perform our obligations unless we have some force with which to support them. These four propositions, none of which, as I say, has really been controverted by anybody—
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
I really do not think the noble Earl ought to say that over and over again.
§ EARL PEEL
Then I will say it once. I quite agree that reiteration of argument sometimes is not strengthening. Perhaps my noble friend will assume I have made the statement only once. Starting then with this summary of facts with which we are supplied in this White Paper, I want to ask this question. The noble Viscount himself has talked a great deal about collective security. I listened with great attention to his argument, and I think I appreciated it, but the fact remains that one has to ask in the case of one's own security: If this country is attacked can we rely upon the assistance and help of the League and, what is more, can we rely upon that support being given at the right time? I think the answer generally given to that question by most people is that we cannot do so, that, so to speak, what is everybody's business is nobody's business; and it is for that reason that these regional pacts were entered into, because it was thought, and naturally thought, that where there were fewer parties concerned, they would have a greater interest in their own security, and there would be greater likelihood of the pacts being carried into effect. So far from weakening, they really strengthen the general security of collective action.
After all, you can never get countries to fight with the same enthusiasm for 108 other people as they do for themselves. When war is being considered you always have parties who are against that war, and will not the cause of a Party be enormously strengthened if they are able to say to their fellow-countrymen: "You are not fighting for your own interest, but for the interests of some other country at the behest of and at the suggestion of the League"? I am bound to say, and I am sorry to have to say it, but I think it is true, that part of the anxiety now being felt as to the carrying out of these agreements is due not only to the fact that it has been necessary to pile up so many of them and say the same thing several times, but that there has been some weakening of the carrying out of international agreements and obligations since the War, which has bred in many peoples' mind a distrust of agreements themselves. If you only look at the way in which the more easy financial agreements and arrangements have been broken by so many countries, you will not wonder that people distrust these arrangements. As an Irishman said the other day, any country that boasted that it maintained all its agreements would be charged with a very undesirable form of arrogance.
That being the case, I can do nothing myself but commend the Government for making plain these statements in order that the country may know precisely where we stand as regards the League of Nations and as regards the agreements based upon it. I cannot see myself that the White Paper shows any weakness in the determination of the Government and the country, and indeed, of all Governments, not only to support the League of Nations, but to maintain to the utmost of their power the collective arrangements. All that it seems to me to do is this: it gives a new setting to the adjustment of the relations of the League of Nations and to those agreements of the countries that have entered into them. I believe myself that this plain and honest statement of the situation, though it may be disagreeable to persons who like to nurse illusions, is of great value to those who love reality and believe that on reality and sincere statements and action any real Government foreign policy must be based.
THE MARQUESS OF LOTHIAN
My Lords, I do not propose to detain the 109 House for more than a few moments but there are one or two observations I would like to make on this debate. I have come to the conclusion that I must absolve the Government of any malignant intention of repudiating the League of Nations in the White Paper. At the same time, I must confess that its genesis and the moment of its birth and many of its phrases were most unfortunate. I venture to think that the trouble arises from combining a. rather doubtful advocacy of the League of Nations with the powerful argument for an increase in armaments. That is what has really created the confusion in people's mind. If the Government had merely suggested, as the Lord President of the Council did in another place, that "We have to bring before the country the very formidable evidence of what is going on in other countries, and that these increases are the justification for not a very great increase in our own expenditure," without attaching to it some very dubious remarks about the League of Nations, most of this trouble would not have occurred.
I think the White Paper in itself is rather an unfortunate document, and I will let it go at that. On the other hand I feel that a good deal of the discussion this afternoon has a certain element of unreality about it. We have been asked over and over again whether we think that an increase of armaments contributes to the peace of the world or will prevent the outbreak of war. I think every intelligent person must admit that an increase of armaments leading to a competition in armaments, cannot ensure peace and must, in the long run, lead to war. On the other hand, I cannot persuade myself that weakness in armaments will have any ether effect. Neither of those two positions goes to the root of the trouble which confronts us. Neither by armaments nor by unilateral disarmament will you ensure peace. The essence of the case is that peace, until that distant day when you get the world federation with a Government which has the allegiance of every citizen, depends upon policy rather than on armaments. The great weakness of the Disarmament Conference, as I have said often, has been that it began with armaments and not with policy. The reason that you had a successful disarmament agreement in the Pacific in 1922 was that the 110 Governments first settled policy and then were able to agree about armaments—the instruments of policy. The reason we cannot get agreement about armaments in the Pacific to-day is that we are not yet agreed about policy.
There are two main causes of unrest in the world to-day. One is the problem of finding the right place in Europe and the world for Germany. That is one vast problem. For fifteen years we have lived in an unreal world in which one of the greatest Powers in the world has been disarmed and defenceless, and is now, because we have been unable to disarm or persuade our neighbours to disarm, rearming in order to gain the equality she has been promised. This naturally has caused unrest, and there are admittedly difficult adjustments necessary to secure Germany her rightful place in the world. My own view is that the last thing Germany wants to do is to solve these problems by war. But they have to be solved. The problem is to find a reasonable and just place for Germany in Europe, and beyond that, reassure Europe that there will be no attempt to go beyond what is reasonable by force. Then you will have a real European community, peace and a true League of Nations. The other problem of the world is that some solution has to be found for the problem of Japan in the Far East, a very difficult, even, as somebody said, a dangerous question. That question is going to be raised by the noble Earl, Lord Peel, in a few weeks' time and I need say no more to-day.
We have got to solve these political problems if we can, and make Germany a member of the European community, on the one hand by respecting her rights and giving her her right position, and, on the other hand, by making effective a collective system against aggression in the League of Nations. If that can be done there would be no serious difficulty about keeping the peace of Europe for another twenty years and making the League of Nations effective. And there is no other way. Similarly, if we can solve the problem in the Ear East, which is a political question, we shall get a renewal of the Washington Treaties. Then, if Europe is settled and the Far East is settled, I think there is a very good chance of the United States itself coming into the League. The 111 problems which confront us are political problems. Whether we have armaments up or down does not really go to the root of the problem. That is why I look with much expectation to the visit of the Foreign Secretary and the Lord Privy Seal to Berlin and then afterwards to Warsaw and Moscow in order that, for the first time since 1920, there may be really frank discussions with Germany and Russia as to how the peace of Europe is to be stabilised for the next twenty years and as to the changes that have to be made in order to bring that stability about.
May I ask just one question on the Air Force? I should like to say in this House, that I was assured by the leader of Germany that Germany was prepared to abolish all bombers altogether if everybody else did so. That is a very formidable fact, and I should like to bring that fact to the attention of the Government.
May I ask the noble Marquess if he said anything about police bombing in the Berlin district?
THE MARQUESS OF LOTHIAN
He did not mention that. He did not go into details. The problem I want to raise is this. I think a distinction must be drawn between the defensive aspects of an Air Pact and the more serious and formidable aspect which will arise if bombers are not abolished, and we come to the stage of mutual retaliatory bombing of women and children. If we get to the position that nations feel that they may at any time be collectively bombed then your last state is going to be worse than the first. I think there must be two stages and a distinction drawn between the use of defensive fighters and collective retaliatory bombing in the event of bombers not being abolished. I bring this matter to the attention of the Government only because I think that in framing their policy for Berlin it is a formidable fact—if it is a fact, as I believe—that Germany is willing by international convention to abolish bombers altogether.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (VISCOUNT HAILSHAM)
My Lords, I do not propose at this late hour to trouble your Lordships with more than a few observations, but I think the debate which has taken place demands an answer 112 on behalf of the Government. I am very glad indeed that the debate was initiated, if for no other reason than that it enables your Lordships to express your opinion as to whether this White Paper is right or wrong, and whether you approve or disapprove the policy contained in it. I hope that your Lordships' House will very shortly register the opinion in even more decisive terms than were recently recorded in another place.
I think we all start on common ground. It is now conceded that every section of political opinion in this country, and every politician or statesman to whatever Party he belongs, is earnestly pursuing what he thinks the best method of achieving peace in the world. Everybody now admits that whether the method followed be right or wrong, whether the policy be mistaken or not, the end which we all desire to attain is world peace. No one, I think, who has any knowledge of the people of this country can doubt that one great determination is burnt Into the very heart of our people, that if it can by any means be avoided war shall never break out again. But there is only one Party which seeks to use that very real desire for peace as a Party weapon. That is the Party which is represented by the Noble Lord who moved this Motion. The Noble Lord was good enough to say that this White Paper had aroused alarm and consternation. I venture to think that alarm and consternation were raised in the minds of people most of whom had never read the White Paper but who believed that it contained what noble Lords and their allies outside this House were saying that it contained.
The noble Lord went on to assure us that "of course"—to use his own words—this White Paper meant that the Government had abandoned the collective system and had repudiated the League of Nations. A more grave misstatement I suppose has seldom been uttered by any responsible statesman or even by any politician in either House of Parliament. The fact is that there is a fundamental misconception in the minds of those who attack the White Paper. They assume that there are two alternative and inconsistent policies—the one the policy of relying on the League of Nations and on what has been shortly described as the collective system, and the other the policy of relying on force, 113 that if you have anything to do with armaments or force you are repudiating the League of Nations, and that if you have anything to de with the League of Nations you are repudiating the idea of force. It was in the same sense I think that the noble Viscount on the Cross Benches said that this White Paper would be understood as involving a new step and a new policy.
I wonder whose fault it is if that impression is created. I do not think it arises from anything in the White Paper. It comes from what people have chosen to say about the White Paper. The fact is that there is no such inconsistency and there is no such alternative policy. The Government base their policy, and say they base their policy, upon support of the League of Nations and upon what is described as the collective system. But that does not involve that we abandon the idea of defending ourselves if we are attacked. It does not mean that we render ourselves incapable of defence and thereby invite attack, which is of course the policy of the noble Lord opposite. The noble Lord opposite said that when anybody made their arms effective or increased their expenditure on armaments, that was equivalent to expressing their disbelief in the good faith of the rest of the world, and was in effect an accusation of distrust and of falsehood against the rest of the signatories of the Kellogg Pact and of the Covenant of the League. That is a very grave attack to make, not so much on this Government but on almost every nation which is a signatory of the Kellogg Pact or of the Covenant of the League of Nations, because they 'have been all increasing armaments in far greater degree than we have.
Take Germany. The noble Lord knows—it is common ground—that Germany hardly troubles now to disguise the fact that she is disregarding her Treaty obligations under Part V of the Treaty of Versailles, and the noble Lord has, I have no doubt, encouraged her to do so by what he has been saying this evening. Take the Soviet Government. Its expenditure, as we know, has gone up enormously—to something like six and a-half billion roubles in the current year. Its man force, it boasts, has gone up by more than 50 per cent., its tank force by some hundreds per cent. Take the United States of America. Nobody, I think,—except, of course, the noble Lord 114 opposite—suspects the United States of America of contemplating a war of aggression, but the United States of America has increased its arms in a far greater proportion than anything of which we have even dreamed in this country.
§ LORD PONSONBY OF SHULBREDE
If the noble Viscount will allow me to interrupt him I should like to say that I never mentioned the United States of America.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
know the noble Lord did not, but what he said was that it was ridiculous for people to talk about having increased their arms for defensive purposes, that nobody believed that, that nobody increased arms for defence and that it was really always for aggression. I am pointing out that nobody except the friends of the noble Lord would ever suspect the United States of America of contemplating a war of aggression. Yet they have made a larger increase than anything we dream of. If it be true that to increase armaments means that you desire to make war and not to defend yourselves, then the United States of America must be a very guilty party.
Let us take two little nations, because. I do not suppose that even the noble Lord can seriously suggest that they contemplate aggressive action against the rest of the world. Take Switzerland. She is engaged in re-equipping her Army and increasing war material, and is proposing to increase the period of conscript service and to construct frontier defences. Is Switzerland an aggressive Power? Take Belgium. Belgium in the current year has increased her army by three battalions, has added five battalions of frontier defence troops and is spending four or five millions on defence. She has done a good deal snore than we have. Does anybody suppose that Belgium wants to declare war on her neighbours? Of course not. Everyone knows in the modern world that it is necessary to have certain military force—I use the word "military" in the widest sense—to defend yourself against unprovoked attack. That does not mean that you abandon the hope that you will not be attacked. The noble Lord says that if you are prepared to have force it means that you are relying on force alone. It means 115 nothing of the kind. It would be just as sensible to say, if there were an outbreak of crime in the country, that you were not merely to try to educate your population to a degree of good sense which would enable them to live honest lives, but that you were to abandon the use of policemen because that might be introducing the element of force. The thing is manifestly absurd.
Then we are told that there is a great race in armaments. Figures which your Lordships have probably read, some of which have been quoted, show, I think, quite plainly that for years past, partly under economic stress, partly also in an earnest desire to encourage other people by disarmament to follow our example, we have allowed our Army. Navy and Air Force to reach at any rate the very verge of risk, to use a phrase cited in the other House. That cannot go on indefinitely. We have to spend these sums which are proposed, not in order to increase our armaments and to have a big Army and Navy, but to bring them and the Air Force respectively up to the very minimum which we think possible, having regard to the obligations which those forces may have to discharge.
The noble Viscount said it was not so much the expenditure he complained of as the facts which were stated, the reasons given in the White Paper for the expenditure, and he stated first the fact that we referred to what other countries are doing. Is it irrelevant in considering armaments to consider what other people are doing, and if it is not irrelevant ought you not to give the real reasons? Ought you to suppress them? That may be all very well in an autocratic or despotic country, but in a democratic country like ours, if you are going to make your policy intelligible to the people, in my judgment it is essential that you should be frank with the people and tell them the truth, and if you tell them the truth I believe that they will respond to it. Then my noble friend on the Cross Benches said that he found paragraph 4 of the White Paper objectionable because it referred to the means of defence against attack. It refers to the means of defence against attack as the last resort if, unfortunately, it should turn out that those primary defences against the outbreak of war should 116 prove ineffective. My noble friend believes that economic pressure works smoothly and effectively, and will not lead to war. I hope he is right, but I do not think there is much experience which leads us to place very much confidence in either of those conclusions. My noble friend has not much faith in regional pacts.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
I did not say that. I said that I thought there were certain conditions to them which ought to be observed in order to avoid dangers which I tried to explain.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
What, like myself, he desires to see is a system of collective security, but we cannot ignore the fact that great parts of the world are outside the League of Nations, and I think it is important that we should not abandon the endeavour to reach regional pacts because we prefer a wider scheme of collective security. If, in spite of what we try to do, collective security should break down, and the system of regional pacts should be inefficient, then it is important that we should have some means of defending ourselves against attack, and the Army and the Navy, I think it is conceded, are not being brought up to anything like the level of pre-War days. As to the Air Force, it is only asking for the sum of money approved as long ago as last July, and it is intended not for the bombing of undefended towns but for the bombing of aerodromes and hostile planes, thereby rendering them incapable of attack.
I noted with interest what the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, said about the policy of Germany with regard to the abolition of bombers. That is a matter which will, of course, be taken into consideration, but it does not quite solve the problem, because we have the great difficulty of the existence of civil aircraft, which can be turned at short notice into effective bombers. Therefore the problem is not quite so simple as would at first appear. Whether it can be overcome is a matter for consideration by expert statesmen and their advisers when they come to close grip with the subject.
So far as the Government are concerned, we have what we believe to be the very minimum force which is necessary to protect this country and the Empire, and to discharge the obligations 117 which are cast upon it. If we have a minimum force we can only keep it at that extremely low level by doing our best to ensure that it is an effective force. We shall continue to work in the future, as in the past, wholeheartedly in the cause of peace. We shall continue to base our policy on the League of Nations, as indeed we declare in the White Paper, but we ask the support of your Lordships' House in carrying out this policy of rendering our forces efficient. Further, we ask your Lordships' individual assistance in explaining to the country what the proposals in the White Paper really are, and in dissipating those misstatements which have been made, those very wild misstatements, which have been made for purely electoral purposes—outside statements which I am afraid nothing which has been said by noble Lords opposite, or by the noble Viscount on the Cross Benches, will have done very much to remove.
§ LORD PONSONBY OF SHULBREDE
My Lords, I feel that this debate has been very well worth while. We have had a most interesting discussion, and I wish to thank the Government for giving me not one reply but two. I should have liked to press them to be a little more explicit as to whether this was a first step; that is to say, what are the expectations for the future, what inevitably must this lead to; but of course the circumstances of the future 118 are hidden horn us, and I cannot expect them to answer that. At the same time it is clear that it is the initiation of a new and different policy, and if there has been a misunderstanding, as the noble Viscount has complained, and misinterpretation, I do not think that any other Government ever laid themselves so open to being misunderstood and misinterpreted as have the present Government by this White Paper. They are themselves to blame for any accusation made against them, by reason of the tenour and composition and spirit in which the White Paper was issued.
I do not want to say anything more. The Leader of the House turned his batteries on to me at the end of his speech. I should have liked to have a little time to deal with the absolute travesty of my arguments which he presented to your Lordships, but it seemed to me to be a reflection of some speech which he has been making in some Tory village hall, and I did not want to interrupt him. He hoped that your Lordships would give a very decisive vote—more decisive than was given in another place. I am sorry to disappoint him, but I do not want such a serious day of discussion to be marred by such a farce as a vote in your Lordships' House. I therefore beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Leave withheld, and, on Question, Motion negatived.
§ House adjourned at twenty minutes past seven o'clock.