§ LORD DICKINSON
My Lords, I have put the following Notice on the Paper:—To draw attention to the Resolution on the sanctity of treaties agreed to by the Council of the League of Nations on 17th April, 1935, and to move to resolve, That this House views with regret the passing of the said Resolution as tending to accentuate the differences between the nations of Europe at a moment when every effort should be made to bring 770 them into friendly co-operation, and it requests His Majesty's Government, in concert with the other Powers, to resume negotiations with Germany on lines which will be acceptable to the German people and will assure permanent peace in Europe.
I ventured to put this Notice on the Paper not necessarily for the purpose of asking your Lordships to vote, if you do not feel willing to do so, but rather to raise a discussion upon a certain phase of the present negotiations which, in my opinion, may imperil their success. There can be no doubt that the situation in Europe is serious. She may not be under the immediate menace of war, but she is returning to the pre-war atmosphere, which must inevitably lead to conflict unless all the peoples of the civilised world can be induced to unite in a common effort to prevent it. We thought we had done this in 1919, when, after the lessons learned in the Great War, the Powers agreed to the League of Nations Covenant, but as time has passed it has become evident that the League of itself cannot achieve all that it set out to do. In the meantime the people who went through the War are rapidly passing off the stage. A new generation has arisen to whom the Great War is but a matter of history. About two-thirds of the population to-day have had no actual knowledge of what we went through in 1914. Therefore it is certain that in our work for peace we have to appeal to new minds and by new methods.
This, I think, is especially the case in Germany where the new generation has asserted itself rapidly. Whatever may have been the origin of the War, they, at any rate, feel no responsibility for it, and they do not see why they should suffer for the deeds of a Government from which they have long ago shaken themselves free. I think this is a consideration which we must bear in mind in dealing with Germany and one to which the Powers have not had sufficient regard. The Powers began by excluding Germany from the League of Nations. For four years she was kept outside the League on the plea that she was not fit company for the other nations. I know from my own experience in connection with international work in Germany how this rankled in the minds of Germans and how difficult it was at that time to arouse any sympathy with the League. From 771 then onwards the German people have regarded it as a league of victors instituted mainly for the purpose of keeping Germany in subjection. Even after Germany was admitted matters showed little improvement. When the German delegates took their seats they were assured that they were being received on a basis of equality. Yet, in the Conference on Disarmament, this principle was lost sight of, and Germany had at last to withdraw from the Conference in order to induce the other Powers to accept and act upon it.
It is not surprising that the German people look upon the League as being fundamentally opposed to all that they desire or that they should applaud Herr Hitler for leaving it. Indeed, my Lords, I believe history will record that what contributed most to the rise of Herr Hitler to the supreme position which he now occupies has been the mistakes of the other European Powers. If we had dealt with Germany at Versailles as we dealt with the Boers at Vereeniging, Europe might now be well on the road to prosperity and Herr Hitler be still painting signboards in Vienna. It appears to me that we are falling into the same mistake now. On all sides one hears it said that one cannot trust the Germans. I dare say one cannot trust all Germans, but I think it is absurd to say that the German nation as a whole will not keep its word; and it seems to me foolish when opening negotiations with a man to begin by saying that we do not intend to rely upon his promises. But that is what we are now doing, and, as I think, for very inadequate reasons.
The German Government, it is said, have repudiated the disarmament conditions in the Treaty of Versailles and have thereby given another proof of the perfidy of the German character. But I venture to suggest that any man who studies the situation with an honest desire to discover what is really in the minds of the German people cannot fail to see that they have had some reason even for this action. In the first place we must remember that the Germans regard the Treaty of Versailles in a very different light from that in which we look at it. As was pointed out by The Times on April 18, the Treaty was drawn up without consultation with the vanquished party. They were not invited to Paris until after 772 the Treaty had been fully drafted, and then they were not allowed to discuss it orally. As The Times said:Germany literally signed it at the point of the bayonet.And The Times added these pregnant words:The facts of the conclusion of the Treaty of Versailles, however little they are remembered by most Governments today, are not only familiar to Germans—they are burnt into their minds.When we are asked to convict an entire nation of bad faith, it is only fair to bear in mind the circumstances to which I have just referred.
The second fact that we must remember has reference to Part V of the Treaty of Versailles. Here also we cannot judge the action of the German Government unless we give some consideration to the history of these clauses. They are those in which Germany undertook to abandon conscription, to abolish her navy, and to construct no military aircraft or submarines. The clauses were inserted in pursuance of President Wilson's Fourteen Points, upon the faith of which the German troops had laid down their arms. The Fourth Point contained the stipulation that "adequate guarantees should be given and taken that national armaments should be reduced." Both parties accepted this as a fundamental condition of the peace, as is evident from the letters of May 29 and June 16, 1919. The latter was signed by M. Clemenceau in the name of the Allied and Associated Powers. In it he assured the Germans that the Covenant of the League of Nations provided for the reduction of national armaments and that the requirements in regard to German armaments were the first steps towards the general reduction of armaments which it would be one of the first duties of the League of Nations to promote. Sixteen years have elapsed and no such general reduction and limitation of armaments has been achieved. I know that the French argue that, as there was no definite provision in the Treaty, they are under no obligation to reduce their armaments; but the Germans do not take this view. They say that a general limitation of armaments by the other Powers was as much a part of the Treaty as were the clauses in Part V, and, inasmuch as these Powers have failed to keep their word, that part of the Treaty is no longer binding upon Germany.
773 And, my Lords, this contention is not unreasonable, for it is not possible to hold that Part V was intended to be permanent; that, whatever others might do, Germany was to remain for all time in a position of servitude. Such a proposition appears to me to be unthinkable. Indeed, it is manifest that those who drew up the Treaty did not intend this to be, for the Preamble to Part V says that:In order to render possible the initiation of a general limitation of armaments of all nations, Germany undertakes strictly to observe the military, navy and air clauses which follow.It is clear that the special limitation of armaments accepted by Germany was only to last until there should come about that general limitation of armaments of all nations which it was to be one of the first duties of the League to provide and in which, of course, Germany's position would be regulated with that of the others. I submit to your Lordships with great respect that all this shows that we ought to be very careful before we base our actions on allegations of bad faith of this character at a moment when it is all-important to preserve an even mind and, above all, a sense of justice, and it is for this reason that I am, inviting your Lordships' attention to the action of the Council of the League of Nations at its meeting on April 17, 1935.
The Council of the League met on April 16 and 17, immediately after the Conference at Stresa. It was called to consider an appeal by the French Government against Germany's action in reintroducing conscription on March 16. The appeal was brought under Article 11 of the Covenant of the League, which declares it to be the friendly right of any Member of the League tobring to the attention of the Council any circumstance affecting international relations which threatens to disturb international peace or the good understanding, between nations upon which peace depends.The discussion lasted for only two days and proceeded in rather an unusual fashion, It is the custom of the Council, after having a general debate, to refer the question under consideration to one or more Rapporteurs, who prepare definite recommendations and in due course lay them before the Council. On this occasion this course was not adopted, but a Resolution prepared by the delegates of France, Italy and Great Britain was presented and ultimately adopted 774 without amendment. It is clear from the speeches of some of the members that they felt doubtful as to the wisdom of the decision, and one of them, the delegate from Denmark, abstained. Germany, of course, was not there, nor was there any suggestion that she should be heard in defence of her action.
It seems to me at least unfortunate that in a matter of such immense moment the Council should have "pronounced itself on the action of a particular Power"—I quote the words used by Sir John Simon—without hearing what that Power had to say. I will not weary your Lordships with reading the Resolution. It will suffice if I say that it begins by laying clown:that the scrupulous respect of all treaty obligations is a fundamental principle of international life, and an essential condition of the maintenance of peace;and thatno Power can liberate itself from the engagements of a treaty, nor modify the stipulations thereof, unless with the consent of the other contracting parties.The Resolution then states:that the promulgation of the Military Law of march 16, 1935, by the German Government conflicts with the above principles;and itdeclares that Germany has failed in the obligation which lies upon all the members of the international community to respect the undertakings which they have contracted.No one can take exception to what is an accurate enunciation of the duty which every nation owes to its neighbour, but I think that, in view of the consideration to which I have referred, there was another side to the picture upon which it would have been wise for the Council to meditate before allowing itself to be drawn into what I consider to be a most unfortunate position. For, having convicted the offender, it could not leave the matter there. The Council might—as it did—overlook the first offence, but it felt itself bound to provide against a second, and accordingly, after suggesting that the negotiations with Germany should be resumed, it set up a Committeeto propose.…measures to render the Covenant more effective in the organisation of collective security, and to define in particular the economic and financial measures which might be applied should, in the future, a State, whether a Member of the League of Nations or not, endanger peace by the unilateral repudiation of its international obligations.775 I admit that I view the prospect of this Committee with grave anxiety. It raises once more the question of sanctions, which have already been the subject of endless discussion, and it does so for a new offence.
Hitherto the question has been how to restrain a nation which has "resorted to war." The Council has now to consider how to compel a nation to keep its word. The first question is difficult enough; the second is, I believe, insoluble. There is only one way to force a nation to do something it refuses to do, and that is to occupy his country; and this is expressly ruled out by the Resolution. However this may be, I submit that the mere fact of the Committee sitting now will inevitably range the League against Germany at a moment when it is all-important to win the German people into sympathy with the League. Its appointment has already raised a storm throughout Germany and has furnished Herr Hitler with a fresh argument against Germany re-entering the League. It is this fact that has led me to bring forward my Motion, for I cannot see how peace will be advanced by dividing Europe into two camps, on the one side Germany and on the other side the League; and this seems to me inevitable if the League is encouraged to embark upon this new policy.
Surely, it is time to put an end to the mutual recrimination which in every country does infinite harm, and to try to discover how to reconcile the peoples on a basis of mutual co-operation. I believe the present moment is favourable. Herr Hitler has declared in the plainest of terms that he desires peace. The masses of the German people at this moment desire peace. There is no reason for us to be afraid of Germany; for, without artificial marshalling of the nations, we have them all on our side. At this moment Germany stands bereft of friends; largely by reason of her domestic policy. It is in her own interest that she should resume her right place amongst the civilised States of the world. It is best for us also that she should do so. I am sure it can be done; but not by the methods adopted at Geneva last month. We must be prepared to wipe the slate clean, however difficult it may be.
776 We were privileged to witness yesterday a marvellous demonstration—a demonstration extending far beyond the confines of London, out into every quarter of the globe. It was not confined to men of British blood, for men and women of all races, languages and colour turned their eyes and hearts yesterday towards the British throne. To what was this unprecedented manifestation due? In the first place, to the respect and love that their gracious Majesties had evoked by their noble example through one of the most eventful reigns in English history; and, secondly, to the fact that they have contributed to make the British throne not so much the emblem of power as a symbol of brotherhood. The British Empire is a family of brothers, whose strength springs from freedom and equality. If this has been achieved within our own family of nations, why should it be impossible amongst all the nations of the world? I refuse to believe that it is impossible. If we will set our faces firmly towards building up a real brotherhood of nations, And allow no personal or national prejudices to block the way, we shall succeed. I beg to move.
§ Moved to resolve, That this House views with regret the passing of the Resolution on the sanctity of treaties agreed to by the Council of the League of Nations on 17th April, 1935, as tending to accentuate the differences between the nations of Europe at a moment when every effort should be made to bring them into friendly co-operation, and it requests His Majesty's Government, in concert with the other Powers, to resume negotiations with Germany on lines which will be acceptable to the German people and will assure permanent peace in Europe.—(Lord Dickinson.)
§ LORD RENNELL
My Lords, the Resolution which my noble friend Lord Dickinson has submitted divides itself, as it seems to me, into two parts. The first part of it may be regarded as controversial. With regard to the second part of it, there will, I trust and believe, be a very general feeling of agreement throughout the country, and the Prime Minister has already wisely emphasised the necessity of associating Germany in any further movement for restoring the sense of security in Europe. It is with 777 regard to the former part of the Resolution that I would venture to offer a few observations, which may perhaps be justified by my long and intimate acquaintance with the countries concerned. I do not know that I can help traversing some of the ground that my noble friend has traversed, and the points which have been frequently brought forward by Lord Lothian and others, but the case seems to me all to hang together.
It was no doubt inevitable in the circumstances in which the matter was brought up to it, perhaps with rather undue haste, that the League of Nations, to which respect for treaty obligations is bound to be of some special concern, should not pass over in silence a public repudiation of these obligations, under whatever circumstances they may have been incurred and however clearly it must have been foreseen by anybody who has studied foreign questions that, unless anticipated by some mutual consent between the Powers, such repudiation was eventually inevitable. None the less I find it difficult to convince myself that the intervention by the League was Opportune at such a moment, and it seems to me regrettable that at the meeting of the Council, so far as am aware, no word should have been said—I will go further and say it was regrettable that there was no recognition on our part that there were contentions which might not unreasonably be advanced, I will not say in extenuation of Germany's action, but in mitigation of the somewhat crude verdict of condemnation pronounced by the Powers assembled at Geneva.
Will such intervention tend to further or to retard the end we have in view? Our manifest desire is, and consistently has been, to find a solution for the problem of restoring that equality to which we have acknowledged Germany to be entitled as a Great Power, and at the same time giving to France that sense of security on which she is entitled to insist. There are many other problems arising out of these Treaties, grave enough no doubt, but all of them of secondary significance compared with this major issue. It has been urged by counsel for the defence before the tribunal of public opinion which has been reviewing the German repudiation of obligations incurred under the Versailles Treaty, and not without reason, that that Treaty was very different from the inter 778 national instruments resulting from other Peace Congresses, at which representatives of defeated countries were admitted to discuss and contest the terms which it was proposed to inflict upon them. In this case the Treaty was in fact dictated under the menace of invasion, and accepted under protest. None the less it was accepted and signed, and therefore its repudiation by one party, without the consent of the other, was clearly a violation of an international principle.
But I think we should look on this matter with due consideration for another aspect of the question. The Treaty was drafted while the heat and animosities of the conflict were still intense. Reflection as to all its implications was hardly to be expected at the moment. A diminution of domain, and huge Reparations, might be anticipated and had to be endured, but conditions imposing disarmament could obviously not have been regarded as otherwise than humiliating to a great nation, were it, not that it was contemplated to redress the contrast between the military position of Germany and that of the victorious Powers by general measures of disarmament under the auspices of the League of Nations. Did anyone seriously believe that a highly developed, progressive and expanding people, with a great history and traditions, though momentarily forced to acquiescence by the stunning blows of unanticipated defeat and internal exhaustion and unrest, could be permanently expected to remain in a; condition of international inferiority if the other neighbour nations failed to implement their avowed intentions to disarm in a manner which would in a reasonable time restore to them a position of national equality? Would they not, if such undertaking remained unfulfilled indefinitely, be certain to endeavour to regain by all means, legitimate or illegitimate, liberation from restrictions which, if prolonged beyond such reasonable time, became intolerable to national spirit and pride?
It was only by the implementing of the engagements implicit in the Covenant on the part of the other Great Powers that this could have been avoided. To anticipate any other eventual outcome of the imposed conditions, to delude ourselves into believing that restrictions enforced on the temporarily weaker would be per 779 manently maintained when they had recovered strength to throw them off, is certainly not consistent with historic experience, or to my mind, with common sense. The question was therefore mainly one of time and of evidence as to the real intention of the other Powers to carry out what all professed to desire.
I hold no brief for Germany. I have it in mind that the Prussian, and later German, Governments have not infrequently shown a cynical indifference to the sanctions of international usage. I can recall in my own lifetime and in my own personal experience cases in which the pretext of Real-politik has been used as a mantle to cover action which the traditional practice of the society of nations would never endorse. We have perhaps in this country been a little too prone to assume that moral values will influence international politics. On that point I remain a sceptic. But I am certain that when we are seeking a solution of questions between nations it is indispensable to look at the issue from the point of view of those with whom we are at variance, and to see whether there is any justification for their conviction that they have right, or at any rate some right, on their side. Having to deal with things as they are, we have to bear in mind a sequence of events which has led the German people to hold, as I believe they genuinely and sincerely do, that the victorious Powers have defaulted in not carrying out the disarmament provisions of the Covenant.
What has taken place? Almost simultaneously with the institution of the League of Nations they saw a chain of alliances isolating Germany formed by the surrounding States. It has always seemed to me very questionable whether the formation of alliances within the body corporate of the League at all was consistent with the spirit in which it was conceived. But, in any ease, the very comprehensible aim of France to reinforce her defensive power and position has been interpreted in Germany as resulting in the creation of a solid block within the League which might render it a valuable instrument in the hands of her recognised adversaries. Then again, the long preparatory stage seemed to make the assembly of a Disarmament Conference an ever-receding prospect, and during the intervening years, except for Great Britain, which alone has acted in the 780 spirit of the Covenant, the nations which were bound by no Treaty restrictions continued to increase their military expenditure and their military equipment.
When at length, after having received the promise of equality, Germany in June, 1933, accepted the British plan of disarmament which the other Powers had agreed to adopt as a basis for discussion, a change was made a few months later, and a very vital change, in that plan, which gave Germany an excuse for assuming, or at any rate for believing and presuming, that the promised equality which had brought her into the League of Nations would not be implemented. She then withdrew from the Conference, and subsequently from the League. In the following year, however, Herr Hitler signified his readiness to accept the revised British plan, making proposals on his own initiative as to the limitation of a prospective Air Force which appeared in many quarters to be reasonable, but his advances were un-equivocably rejected in Paris. Meanwhile, there seems to be no doubt that Germany, having lost faith in the prospect of any disarmament by her neighbours, had for a considerable time past been secretly preparing her own rearmament before venturing openly to repudiate her contractual obligations. In France, on the other hand, public opinion has not been convinced by Herr Hitler's assurances that Germany has no territorial aims on her Western frontier. She continues to hold that the Locarno Treaty is inadequate for its purpose without more specific guarantees. Would this be so if she were not entangled in, and bound by, the obligations of the alliances which she has herself contracted?
If this situation be definitely prolonged, my Lords, I foresee serious danger, not perhaps immediate, but not necessarily very remote. It arises from the mentality which has been induced in young Germany during the last years. Rightly or wrongly, in the new generation there is a sense of injustice perceptible, and a resentment that no advances on their part are of any avail. A fervent faith in their own national future is only stimulated by every attempt made to extend and confirm the isolation of Germany. These feelings may before very long lead to ebullitions in that country which even a well-intentioned and well-disposed 781 Government may not be capable of restraining. With such a danger we have to reckon and I therefore must regret that we should find ourselves, unwillingly perhaps but in the eyes of the world repeatedly, associated with action which tends to make any prospect of reconciliation more remote. I am even apprehensive, after certain precedents, of our becoming involved ourselves in pacts and new guarantees which can only exacerbate an already grave situation.
But I am not altogether without hope. I welcome the disposition which has been shown by the Prime Minister and which the country will, I feel sure, endorse, of keeping the door of negotiations open, and I hope to see such negotiations undertaken with a clearer perception of a point of view with which we may not agree but which, twenty years after the outbreak of the Great War, we may, I think, regard with a greater spirit of fairness than the prejudiced outlook of fifteen years ago permitted. I would only say in conclusion that while I have very considerable sympathy with the terms of the Resolution, the last thing I should like to see would be anything in this House in the nature of a vote of censure of the action of the Council of the League, and I trust the Motion will not be pressed to a Division.
§ LORD MOTTISTONE
My Lords, I venture to intervene in this debate only to give one or two personal experiences which force me to support my noble friend Lord Dickinson in the interests of truth and justice. No doubt I shall be called a pro-German. I am taking the unpopular side, but I do not mind that so long as I know in my own heart that what I say is true; and if, as I think it may be, my view were adopted, which is indeed the view of my noble friend, there is still time to avoid the catastrophe of the isolation of Germany which must, of course, ultimately end in another European, and possibly world, war. The Resolution asks that we should resume negotiations with Germany in order that we may satisfy the German people, or words to that effect. Of course it is obviously futile to attempt to do that if the German people, as we are told, are seething with hatred against their neighbours and especially against this country; if they are arming for the purpose of destroying us. I see my noble friend Lord It Rothermere in his place. He has 782 taken a leading part in urging that we should rearm in the air. I quite agree with him there. Indeed, long before he began, in this House shortly after I had been raised to the Peerage, I urged that the Air Force should be doubled, and I say so still. If your Lordships will bear with me to-morrow week I shall say that I believe that from such knowledge as I have a state of emergency exists, and suggest certain definite things that we ought to do, and do quickly, in order to make ourselves secure.
But the question is: Should we lay all the blame upon Germany? It is against that that I protest. I believe that to be wholly untrue. With regard to the past, the noble Lord, Lord Dickinson, took the point that he did not think it was true to say, or at any rate that it was not a proper view of what took place at Versailles to say, that the signatories of the Treaty regarded Part V and the letter which accompanied it, saying in effect that we would disarm even as we had compelled Germany to disarm on the lines laid down—namely, external and internal security—as part of the Treaty as a whole. I was present as a delegate at the Peace Conference. I sat at that table when the German delegates filed in and when M. Clemenceau said to them in menacing words, "Will you sign?" Ono of them, it will be remembered, had run out the day before and would not sign, but the others did, and I say here and now to your Lordships that I am quite sure—and I am sure the other survivors of that meeting will not dispute it—that if any one of them had said Part V was not as much an integral part of the Treaty as the Covenant of the Treaty that would have been called equivocation. It was absolutely as much a part of it, and indeed the document which was signed contained both documents. Therefore if anyone says that the terms of what was then signed have not been broken by failure to disarm, the answer is simply that that is not true. If history comes to record "Who began it," as the schoolboy says, history will assuredly say that Germany did not, but that the other Powers failed to observe their promise in Part V as an integral part of the document.
Now we come to to-day. Is Germany seething with hatred against us, and is 783 it therefore hopeless for us to endeavour to bring her into the orbit of the nations and, especially, to be friendly with us? I notice that my noble friend Lord Rothermere, who has taken so great an interest in this question, has on various occasions made very fair comments, in striking contrast to those of many other newspapers, on the real state of affairs in Germany. I should hope to have him with me in this, that urgent as it may be for us to rearm in the air, it is because of the world situation and not because of one particular Power, Germany. There are one or two reasons why I think he will say that, and the House may come to agree when noble Lords reflect on them. Having, for various reasons, spent many weeks in Germany during the last two years, and being in close touch with many Germans as with many French, I believe it is true to say there is not one single German from the top to the bottom who wishes to quarrel with England—not one. What a fool he would be to try! It has only been tried once and it was a failure. Why try again? And I would add this, if any one considers defence as a whole, not from the viewpoint of either Army 1, Air Force 2, Navy 3, but defence as a whole, he will be impelled when he comes to study it to see that to Britain and indeed to the Northern Powers of Europe sea power, largely owing to the development in the air, has become more important, and indeed more vital and more decisive, than it was ever before. We should be straying from the purposes of this debate if I were to elaborate the reasons for this, but I can assure noble Lords that it is a fact that close study impels one to that conclusion.
We have a Navy. Whether it is the right sort of Navy, and whether it is big enough, need not be discussed to-day. I do not think it is big enough; but Germany has so far no Navy, and to ask me to believe that an intelligent person—and the Germans are mostly intelligent—would be prepared to see his flag chased from the sea and his country suffer all the harm of the blockade (which my noble friend Lord Cecil will well recall, and which caused more casualties to Germans than all the guns, shells, and aeroplanes) just for the sake of seeing the more inflammable parts of London go up in flames, thus helping England to have a 784 large slum clearance—you cannot convince me of that; it is absurd to suppose that that could be so. In conjunction with other arms air power is terrible. Against a power that has command of the sea it is but a futile menace, aggravating to an enemy, causing intense mischief, and possibly great loss of life, hut only creating greater and greater antagonism on the part of the enemy with the certainty of ultimate destruction No, there is no reason for that view.
People are talking about the mentality of the German nation. I was recently carefully preparing what I was to say to your Lordships to-day, and I met a friend of mine, an old Etonian, who, I think, gave me the best part of what I could say. As I have explained, I have spent a great deal of my time in Germany lately and know many Germans. It is plain that everything a German does is regarded as being intensely hostile to everybody, and especially to this country, whereas if anybody else does the same thing nobody pays the least attention. My Etonian friend said that when he was in Germany for a day or two he met a man he knew, at a parade of something that is equivalent to our Boy Scouts, the Hitler Youth. They were armed with dummy guns. My Etonian friend said: "There you are; now we know you are teaching your youth to fight against the English." The German promptly pulled out of his pocket a photograph and said: "But, my friend, these youths are armed with wooden weapons. You can see them. What is this? Here is an Eton parade with real rifles. You cannot deceive me; the rifles are real." Of course they were. The whole of this anti-German stunt, which is being run by I know not whom, astonishes me beyond measure.
There are many things in Germany which we deplore. All must agree about that, but the complete distortion of the truth is something which I never remember to have known in the whole course of my experience. I can tell your Lordships that during those many weeks that I spent there I formed the conclusion that the Germans were a very decent friendly people; certainly they were always friendly to myself and any other Englishmen whom I met. Any idea that they were our natural foes was, I think, as remote from their ideas as it is from mine. A friend of mine was with me, Mr. Munnings, the famous artist. Like all 785 great artists, he sees things in a way in which our eyes cannot see them. He was so impressed with what he saw and became so intensely angry with the English newspapers that he kept on writing to them. At last The Times published one of his letters. But in vain did he try to explain to people that he found the Germans a friendly folk. Perhaps my friend and I were either peculiarly amiable or peculiarly foolish.
I observe that in another place Major Attlee committed himself to the view that the Germans are terribly wicked people as a whole. I thought of a way of finding out what the people who had really been there think of Germany. I protest, as Dr. Johnson said, that you cannot express an opinion upon a place unless you go and see it. It is all different when you go and see it. These are the words of Dr. Johnson:The use of travel is to regulate the imagination by reality; instead of thinking how things may be, to go and see them as they are.Many people will not go and see Germany as it is, but some do. I heard that a great travel agency which advertised tours had had a lot of letters from people giving their experiences in Germany, so last week, in view of what I was going to say to your Lordships, I wrote to the secretary of this agency and asked if he had any of these letters and how many.
This was the agreeable information he conveyed to me. Out of 2,002 people sent in special trains, 300 had written letters of appreciation of the civility they had received from the Germans. None wrote in the opposite sense, and the letters all spoke strongly of the kindness and consideration shown to the writers. What sort of people were these? I have a list of their names I here. Almost every profession you can think of was represented. There was a clergyman of the Church of England ho wrote a touching letter, and another was from a Minister in York, while letter s also came from all sorts of hard-headed business men. They began by saying that things are wholly different from what they had been told, and. that they found the Germans a friendly and decent people. I am sure that is true. How rued we are to drive them and their Government into hostility and, antagonism! It is wrong and it is foolish to do so, and it is all being done in a way which I do not quite understand. 786 But this I know, that it is not in accordance with the wishes of the people who fought in the War, either French or German or English.
I have met many French and German soldiers, and met them together. One always begins by saying that one has been in the front line, as it was my good luck to be for nearly four years, and you go on to say: "Well, I may have had a shot at you," and the man replies: "Well, I am glad you missed me, and I am sure I am glad that I missed you." You are friends with the consciousness that after all you did try to do your best and you have a respect for the courage of the other side. I am sure that if you left it to the combatants in the late War and their sons war would be inconceivable, simply because they do not want to fight each other. They know that war is a hard business and that it can come to no good.
We are seeing a strange spectacle now. While those who are termed the pacifists are apparently planning a war, I am persuaded that the fighting men are making an effort for peace, and it is on their behalf that I am pleading to-day. I speak of something of which I know, and I know that is the sentiment. I have endeavoured to show from personal experience, and from the experiences of people who have been to Germany, that Germany has no hostile intention to us whatever. The only matter upon which I differ from my noble friend Lord Dickinson in his admirable speech is his remark that had we kept our word very likely Europe would now be at peace and Hitler would still be painting signs. I doubt that. I have only met Hitler twice, but I think that from the moment that he made friends with that great man von Hindenburg he was bound to rise to the top, and that he might have done so in any case. Somebody said of Lloyd George, "You cannot keep the little fellow down." I think you will find that in the case of Hitler he is a very different man from the man he is generally pictured to be, and that he has a vital quality. But apart from him and his Ministers I am sure that the German people, having fought a gallant fight with us, are only too anxious to make friends, and I would ask the Government, if they could not agree with Lord Dickinson and further the cause of international peace and good will.
§ LORD ALLEN OF HURTWOOD
My Lords, the subject which my noble friend Lord Dickinson has placed upon the Order Paper was touched upon in the debate in your Lordships' House last week, and I ask your permission to amplify the proposal which I then submitted to the Government because I cannot believe that any speech on this subject can be of value unless it be of a constructive character. If I may venture to say so to my noble friend Lord Dickinson, I think he uses in his Motion a phrase which is not entirely in accordance with the fact. He urges the Government to "resume negotiations." If I understand the matter rightly he is pressing an open door. The Government are more intent upon continuing negotiations with Germany at the present moment than for some time past, and the question which ought to be considered by us is the precise character of the move which could now be made to Germany and other countries which would enable those negotiations to come to a successful issue.
I ask the indulgence of the House to take part in this debate because I recently had direct conversations with the German Chancellor and many members of his Cabinet, and because the state of mind of Germany is one of the facts which contributes to the uncertainty of the present moment. I feel it may be of some value if I am permitted to deal with the actual proposals and state the mind of the German Government. It is very easy to exaggerate the gravity of the present situation. My own view is that, grave though it may be, there is more hope of a settlement now than there has been for a considerable time. It is perfectly true that the situation in Europe has deteriorated during the last three or four years. We now have an armaments race whereas we had hoped to have a Disarmament Convention. Germany has given notice terminating her membership of the League. That has been due to the fact that ever since the conclusion of the War Europe has been refusing to face the central problem which has been troubling the relationships between the nations. Statesmen have been attempting to deal with successive emergencies as they arose, and have neglected the major trouble which, unless it is composed, prevents the nations from finding any means of solution.
788 When the League of Nations was constructed it was an attempt to set up for the first time in history a régime of law between nations, but at the moment when that régime was created the sovereign status of the nations which had to honour that law was unequal before it, owing to the Treaty of Versailles. So long as the status of the nations called upon to respect that régime of law was different there could be no prospect whatever of bringing about a peaceful settlement of the situation. The hopefulness of the present moment lies, I think, in the fact that at long last the nations are realising that they must face this major problem, and I believe the contribution of the Prime Minister made in another place last week should earn the gratitude of the whole nation. By that speech he has brought back the discussions with Germany to the point where it is possible for equality to be applied to the negotiations that must now be carried through.
There are two achievements which are now within reach. One is that it is now possible to draft an agreement for the limitation of armaments. Many of us may regret that it could not have been an agreement for the reduction of armaments, as some of us think it might have been, but it is now possible to secure a limitation agreement which will bring to an end the peril of an armaments race. The second achievement that is now realisable, and one which is far more important, is that it is now possible, not only to secure a limitation of armaments agreement but the supervision of that agreement when it is signed. That is now agreed to not only by the Allied Powers but by Germany herself and, for the first time I imagine in the history of mankind, we can now get a limitation of armaments agreement which all the nations are prepared shall be internationally supervised.
Having reached that point the problem now is the problem of distrust. Russia is distrusted by Germany. Germany says that she does not believe that Russia's bona fides can be accepted and that Russia is only marking time in order that she may ultimately revive her efforts at world revolution. Other nations, and many statesmen in our own country, distrust Germany for exactly similar reasons, and think that she only desires to mark time in order that she, like Russia, may 789 reach a point when her foreign policy may be of a sinister character and a menace to the interests of peace throughout the world. What is required is something which would enable that distrust to be allayed because as long as nations distrust the bona fides of each other no proper agreement can be obtained.
When I put forward the proposal to the House that a new Draft Convention should be submitted by this country definitely filled in with concrete proposals, the noble Earl, Lord Stanhope, startled me by his reply. The noble Earl asked: How can a new Draft Disarmament Convention be submitted at the present moment having regard to the proposals which the German Chancellor has made, for instance, so far as land armaments are concerned? The noble Earl referred to the fact that the German Chancellor was now claiming a land Army of thirty-six divisions and asked whether it was not folly to submit a new Draft Disarmament Convention when Germany's claim was of that magnitude. It is exactly because Germany's claim is of that kind that the submission by this country of a new Draft Convention is so essential, because it is only When a concrete proposal is submitted that it will be possible to test the realities of that proposal by Germany and to discover the extent to which that proposal can be converted into a Disarmament Convention.
I am going, if I may, to ask your Lordships to examine the German proposals so far as air armaments are concerned, so far as land armaments are concerned, and so far as naval armaments are concerned, in order to check where it is that we may claim to distrust the bona fides of Germany. We must have a standard of judgment by which we can appraise the proposals that are made by Germany. May I begin with the air? Where is the proposal by Germany, so far as air armaments are concerned, which is morally reprehensible? Germany began by proposing the abolition of air warfare. We repeated that proposal ourselves in the Draft Convention. Unfortunately, there was no success in those discussions. Then Germany said, even as late as April, 1934, that she would be prepared to accept 30 per cent. of the Air Forces of the combined European Powers who were neighbours, or 50 per cent. of the French Air Force, 790 whichever was less, and at the same time Germany proposed that she should not be possessed of bombing aeroplanes. That proposal also received no response except, as I am glad to say, from the British Government. That suggestion fell to the ground. The present proposal of the German Government, as stated by the Foreign Minister in the House of Commons on April 9, is this: Air parity is now claimed by Germany, and the German Air Minister, General Goering, made this public statement which I consider to be of the most urgent importance:When other countries decide to eliminate their Air Forces altogether we will not hold back. If they say they will do it within two years Germany will follow snit.That is the most up-to-date proposal of the German Government, and I ask your Lordships what is there in the proposals of the German Government, so far as the Air Forces are concerned, which could be considered morally reprehensible?
I now turn to land forces. Germany has over and over again offered to give up weapons if other nations would give them up, but unfortunately unsuitable responses have been made. After Mr. Eden's most successful visit to Germany in the early part of 1934, Germany proposed land effectives of 300,000 men. The British replied to that proposal by accepting it as a basis of discussion, hoping that the figure could be reduced below 300,000. To-day, these opportunities have been lost. Germany is now claiming 36 divisions, which means a. maximum land Army of 550,000, which incidentally includes part of her storm troops and part of her police forces. That is the position which has been allowed to develop, and the reason we need at this moment a definite proposal of the kind that we made in 1933, is that there may be placed a measuring rod before the attention of all countries by which to estimate the extent to which these proposals stand as a maximum or as a negotiable proposition. I ask your Lordships when you are distrusting Germany and when you are considering the question to-day as to how you can make an agreement with her, why it is that when Germany asks for 550,000 troops you take an attitude towards her which is different from the attitude taken when Russia claims 950,000 troops, which she already possesses. Why is it thought to place these various forces, when they are advocated by Germany, in a different moral category from that in which 791 you place those of other nations? I venture to submit to your Lordships that this is due to the fact that we still continue to judge the German proposals and the German attitude, not in terms of the merits of that country's case, but in terms of the ideology of the Versailles Treaty, by which our minds are still infected. Then I come, if I may, to the Navy. Germany, is claiming, so far as the Navy is concerned, not now but ultimately to be reached, 35 per cent. of British tonnage. That, surely, is something which we can negotiate; that, surely, is something which we can adjust by means of a definite scheme submitted under a Draft Convention.
I then come to security. Germany, so far as the Western Air Pact is concerned, is perfectly prepared to come into that Western Air Pact. So far as the Eastern Pact is concerned, she takes precisely the same position which this nation has taken before to all pacts, so far as pledging her word to take part in some action under circumstances which have not as yet arisen. When I was discussing the Eastern Pact with the German Chancellor himself, he constantly referred to the British attitude so far as it was concerned with our becoming entangled in situations which we could not envisage and which we must allow to arise before we could commit ourselves to taking part in them. He said: "In what respect is the attitude of my nation in a different moral category, so far as the Eastern Pact is concerned, from the position which your own nation has taken all the way through in regard to being entangled, as you call it, in situations in Europe?" I only mention these facts to your Lordships because I feel that, if you examine the precise propositions which have been made at various stages and which are being made to-day by the German Government, those actual proposals are no more morally reprehensible than are the proposals which are being made by any other country.
The difficulty at the moment is one of distrust. We are not confident of the ultimate intention of that nation, just as she in her turn is not confident of the ultimate intention of the Russian people. That atmosphere can only be dissipated if we now cease from long-distance discussion of general principles. We have carried through that exploration; we have as a nation acted as a mediator and 792 as a conciliator. If I may say so, I think that the time for aeroplane diplomacy has come to an end. What we now need is that our country shall submit, not specially to Germany but to all nations simultaneously, a new Disarmament Convention filled in with practical proposals which arise from the knowledge that we have gleaned during that exploration, in order that long-distance negotiations may stop and that we may know precisely where every nation stands in relation to some definite scheme of action. If any nation rejects these practical proposals and reveals an ultimately sinister intention, the moral authority of our own country and of the other nations in dealing with that resulting position will be infinitely greater under the procedure I have advocated than it is at present under the Treaty of Versailles, or under the Resolutions passed at the Stresa and Geneva Conferences.
Anyone who has been in contact with foreign statesmen during the last few months can have no doubt of the enormous prestige of this country. We stand in Europe without an enemy, and we ought to be able now to use that moral authority by proposing some concrete series of proposals of the kind that I am advocating here. It is for that reason that I hope that the reply which the noble Earl, Lord Stanhope, gave on the last occasion will not turn out to be the last word so far as this particular technique of negotiation is concerned.
§ LORD NOEL-BUXTON
My Lords, like the last two speakers I want to give some reasons for supporting the Motion of my noble friend Lord Dickinson, arising from recent visits to Germany since the revolution of 1933. I, too, had occasion for interviews with Herr Hitler and several of his colleagues. I can record that last year I noticed a great change in the fashion of public opinion in regard to criticism of the Hitler régime. I found a great deal more freedom to find fault in a manner which would, I think, have been dangerous a year before. I have also seen in Germany formidable war preparations, and I have seen only too much of the results of internal German policy, in connection with relief work for the refugee victims of that policy. I agree with my noble friend Lord Mottistone that contact with Germany gives one an entirely different outlook upon the state 793 of opinion in Germany; it makes one understand the crude outlook which prevails there in a way which is impossible without going to the country.
I want to record two particular points which impressed themselves on me: first, the deep sense of the injustices that Germany has incurred, and secondly, the genuine fear of Communism. I hope we all welcome the announcement by the Prime Minister of a policy which regards Herr Hitler as a man with whom you can deal. The Government have decided not to despair of an agreement. I dare say we have had a narrow escape from a policy which refused to recognise German equality of status, but I feel that, although since my noble friend put down his Motion the Government have made that declaration, the Motion is opportune. We have had good steps of a similar kind by the British Government, but after that we have had retrocession and vacillation. My noble friend is right to seek to confirm the Government in the attitude that they have now announced.
Surely a policy that attempts serious negotiation with Germany as a Power of equal status has the merit of objectivity. It is a policy of reason. I trust we have now abandoned the policy often characterised by an avowed distrust of German sincerity. It seems to me that the underlying mistake which has vitiated our policy again and again is that that policy was due to an overwhelming desire to be loyal to France. Sympathy with France is universal and it is natural, but I think it cannot be doubted that our normal policy has been deflected from its course by deference to French desires. The outlook of the French must be different from ours. The nervous strain of the War and the prospect of overwhelming German strength in the ultimate future has made calm reasoning in France very difficult. The logic for which the French have been famous seems to me to have been very much undermined. If you talk to French politicians, they scout, the idea that firm agreement with Germany is possible. They hold that there is nothing to do except to hold Germany down as long as you can. They have a theory that the German only understands force, and they have an aphorism which pleases a type of mind: that you must treat a German either as master or as servant. The result has been a policy 794 which ensured, which might almost have been aimed at ensuring, revenge on the part of Germany in the future, and if you ask French politicians what is their ultimate hope in regard to future relations, it is pure pessimism. They hold that we must use force while it is possible—and after that the deluge! There is a vague hope, certainly, of a policy of encirclement. But encirclement is no real policy for us to envisage. For one thing it must fail when you certainly would have neither America nor Japan in your circle.
It seems to me that it is unhappily the fact that there is in this country also a school which is very much drawn to the French illogical view. It was certainly a very strange utterance for a Foreign Secretary to say that he loves France as one loves a woman. There is that excessive loyalty and sentiment towards France which deteriorates our judgment, as a similar feeling has deteriorated our judgment in the past with regard to Russia, forty years ago. We have often been carried away by prejudices like our old anti-Russian prejudice. We lost our balance. Before 1904 we deeply suspected France, and said things about France in an unbalanced manner, as some people now say things in regard to Germany. A great journal will be recalled to your Lordships' minds, which talked of rolling France in blood and mud. In 1910 we had arrived at the same attitude, almost a hysterical attitude, towards Germany. We treated, for instance, the incident of Agadir in a way which fanned the war spirit in Germany, and may have had its part in contributing to the War. Indeed I notice that in his Memoirs Sir Maurice de Bunsen says that we were more French than the French. That is an attitude of mind which is so dangerous as a guide.
We must also remember our difficulty in imagining the point of view of the Germans. How could the German outlook in these days be calmly rational? Put yourselves in the position of Germany, beginning with the humiliation of defeat and the natural hope of revenge—which, if we were in their place, I suppose we should feel with intense bitterness—followed by the deception they associated with the policy of the Fourteen Points, and followed by a still more extraordinary thing, the blockade, which, as my noble friend said just now, led to the 795 starvation and actual death of immense numbers of children in Germany, and to the permanent crippling of still larger numbers. It takes time to forget those things. And what about the truncation of German territories, with large provinces ceded to Powers which in German eyes are possessed of lower civilisation, and in various ways do represent lower civilisation? Any one who travelled before the War on both sides of the French frontier must have observed the striking contrast between villages on the French and German sides. Take the invasion of the Ruhr: how would we feel if the West Riding of Yorkshire had been occupied by Germans for a long period, and quite seriously misgoverned?
But I think the gravest impulse to a bitter outlook was the use of black troops. The spectacle of coloured troops controlling a really civilised population was the most extraordinary thing one could see in any part of the world—troops entirely uneducated, and at times guilty of offences, sometimes sexual offences, not always punished. It seems to me extraordinary that feeling in Germany has not been even more embittered than it is by these facts. You could not expect the German mind to be normal. It really is a marvel that Germany does, to such an extent, accept the situation, with a view to peace. If we were in their place I really doubt very much whether we should not feel that to seek revenge was the first point of honour.
After all these experiences good faith has evidently never been more necessary, and yet in spite of the broken promise which has already been described, with regard to disarmament, we have vacillated at the Disarmament Conference, and unhappily we have justified German distrust. The Germans offered, and reiterated again and again their offer, to reduce to any point upon which the Conference agreed, but their offer was hardly treated as serious. We have often made excellent advances, but then we have withdrawn them. When we said "equality" we followed it by a footnote that there must be a period of probation. It is impossible for the Germans to feel that we have really regarded them as equal partners in the Conference.
As to the German fears of Communism, that is a factor which, unless we have 796 been in Germany, we are all apt to ignore. What Herr Hitler said to me impressed itself upon me as absolute sincerity. Herr Hitler's sincerity is very much discussed in these days, but I am sure that on that point his sincerity is intense. There goes with it a feeling that Germany has done service to Western Europe in resisting Communism. There goes with it also a feeling that Russia is an enormous menace both to Germany and those whom the Germans think they are protecting further to the West.
Nobody denies that German diplomacy makes things very difficult. I am peculiarly conscious of the crudeness of the German actions, because I have been concerned with the relief of the victims of their internal policy. It is a brutal policy. Germany, unhappily, alienates her potential best friends by that kind of action, and I am afraid from what I noticed on my last visit to Germany that callousness is increasing in Germany since the Hitler régime arrived. Interference with the Church and the persecution of pacifists are other signs of a nationalism which is a bitter nationalism. But one cause of the brutality which prevails is the sense of the brutal injustice incurred by Germany herself, and nobody can deny that the policy of the blockade was frankly brutal. The bitterness in German views will, I think, remain until the relations of Germany with foreign countries become normal. The best way to arrive at a more sane outlook, both in regard to internal and external affairs, is the resumption of normal relations.
You may say of course that German diplomacy is clumsy. Well, some of us thought that the White Paper which was debated the other day in this House was somewhat clumsy. What about the sudden announcement by the French Government of two years service? It was answered by the sudden German announcement of conscription. We thought that clumsy, but it was the natural blow-for-blow diplomacy. I am afraid I think the Prime Minister's article in the News-Letter was a bit of clumsy diplomacy. It is going out of his way for a Prime Minister to lecture another country in a detailed manner. It is quite unnecessary. It furnishes another irritant, and it is these irritants which are welcome to any war-mongers, if there are such in Germany. It is possible that 797 there are war-mongers, and there are many perhaps less interested in a peaceful policy than Herr Hitler. We cannot afford to feed that kind of crude mind with any material. We might recall how before the War Admiral Tirpitz rejoiced at any material that w as furnished by action on the part of France or of this country which helped him with his campaign for a great Navy.
The lecture that my noble friend Lord Dickinson has described at Geneva is another case, I think, of an irritant, and we shall be fortunate if it has not made the return of Germany to the League very much more difficult than it was. We must recognise that it is a piece of good fortune that Herr Hitler is—I think it is certain—very pro-English. He has an idea that England's function is to be an intermediary between Germany and Prance. And, after all, he has shown some statesmanship. He has dealt with Poland in a way that none of us thought he could do, and he has solved what seemed to be the most insoluble trouble in Europe. I feel we ought to be very thankful that the Prime Minister has announced a policy which represents taking our own line regardless of the influence of any other Power. If the Government will hold to their policy of full recognition of the equal status of Germany without any qualification at all, then I think there is no need to despair of the future.
§ LORD NEWTON
My Lords, this subject has been so fully examined this afternoon that I propose to leave out practically everything that I had intended to say, and to make one observation only. In the course of the debate I think one, if not two, noble Lords expressed the opinion that Herr Hitler himself did not want war. Of course he does not want it. If there is any man in Europe who does not want war it is Herr Hitler, because he has got what he wants. He has got what he set himself out to get, and Europe is not going to deprive him of it. My noble friend Lord Stanhope probably will not admit it, but the fact is that he has completely succeeded, and the only aim which can see that he will be unable to realise for some time is the recovery of a colony. Well, he has obtained this success by working what I might term the most successful bluff in the history of modern Europe. He has gambled all along upon the fact that no 798 nation was prepared to go to war. I do not know anybody who wants to go to war, unless it be the members of the Party opposite, who announced the other day that they were ready to make war upon Japan. But there is nobody else who contemplates war, and I do not believe myself, for the reason that I have just stated, that peace in Europe is likely to be broken. I maintain that Herr Hitler has been successful all along the line, and it is foolish not to recognise the fact.
It is true that in achieving this success he has alienated most of the people who sympathised with him, but that unfortunately is a German characteristic. Somehow or other the Germans seem unable to exist without falling out with the people who are anxious to be friendly with them, and as one noble Lord recounted some of his personal experiences in Germany, perhaps I might be allowed to obtrude one of my own. I was in Germany two years ago, and I had a long conversation with a man who at that time occupied a. very important position, Herr von Papen, and I said to him: "It seems to me that you are gradually working yourselves into a position which will be even worse than your position in 1914"—I was referring to the period before there was any trouble in Austria. "In 1914 you always had one friend that you could rely upon, Austria; but now it is possible that you may fall out with Austria, and then you will not have a friend at all." And that is exactly what has happened, and if Herr von Papen recollects what I said to him—which is extremely improbable—I think he will admit that I turned out to be a very accurate prophet, because it is literally true to say that Germany does not possess a single friend in Europe, so far as I am aware, at the present moment. She certainly has not got friends among the Great Powers, and she has succeeded in offending many of the smaller ones.
Well, all this is very unfortunate from the point of view of people like myself who wish to be on friendly terms with Germany. Personally I cannot see why we should not be on as friendly terms with Germany as with France or Italy. It is against our interest to be in opposition to Germany, and it is in our interest that Germany should return to 799 a condition of prosperity and regain the position of a first-class Power. And if other nations were able to view the question in the same judicial spirit as our Government here, they would realise that the safety of Europe might be more surely guaranteed if they had to deal with a satisfied and contented Germany—contented, that is to say, if her reasonable demands were complied with—than with a permanently disappointed and soured nation.
It seems to me that the recent statement made in another place was the most satisfactory that has been made for a long time. I did not observe any hostile criticism on any side, either on the Continent or in this country. There is one particular feature of it which has not been alluded to this afternoon, but which I confess gave me greater pleasure than anything else, and that was that we had not made any fresh commitments and we were going to have nothing to do with Eastern or other Pacts. Of course my noble friend could not say so, but really it is perfectly plain that the object of the countries which try to draw us into these pacts is to obtain the use of the British Navy. As long as the utilisation of the British Navy remains in our hands, then I think we are contributing considerably to the cause of European peace, because I do not believe any single Power would go to war at this moment unless it knew it had the British Navy behind it.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
My Lords, I shall not detain your Lordships for many minutes. I must say, listening to my noble friend Lord Newton, I had a rather gloomy view of what he regards as successful diplomacy. He announced with great vigour that Herr Hitler had been a complete success, and he proceeded to explain that Herr Hitler had succeeded in depriving his country of every friend in Europe, which is perfectly true, though I cannot believe it is what Herr Hitler set out to do. If he did, his view of diplomacy is different from that which prevails, and I hope will always prevail, in this country.
I should have a little difficulty, if we were going to a Division, in voting for the actual wording of the Motion of my noble friend Lord Dickinson, but with the general thesis that he announced I should be in agreement. I agree with him most fully—I think he said it; certainly others 800 have said it—in thinking that the action of this country in connection with disarmament has been utterly deplorable. There is no doubt of that, and I cannot take the slightest interest in the French suggestion, if it is a French suggestion, that we were not absolutely bound by express words to do our utmost to carry through an international system of disarmament as soon as the Germans had disarmed, or as a condition of their promise to disarm; and when our advisers reported that they had carried it out, there was, in my judgment, no possible reason why we should not, all of us, have elaborated a system of disarmament, and any country which showed reluctance to do so, does seem to me to have been indifferent to its most solemn obligations. But though I say that, and though I find myself in close agreement with Lord Allen in urging a very definite disarmament policy, even now, on the part of this Government, I think it is a little hard to make so whole-hearted a defence of recent German action as fell from Lord Dickinson and other speakers.
It really is not true to say that the German action has been blameless, or nearly blameless. It is not merely the adoption of conscription. You have to take into account the general course of German diplomacy, German foreign action, in the last two years, or whenever it was that this system of government was adopted. I do not think it is unfair or exaggerating to say that with scarcely an exception the German policy has, from an international point of view, been antisocial. I do not think that is putting it too high. If you look at their action with regard to Austria, for instance, or, more recently, with regard to these questions of sending people into other countries and kidnapping their political offenders, these are things which are quite impossible to defend from an international point of view. They show an absolute indifference to the ordinary understandings that prevail between friendly nations. I do not want to exaggerate—I dare say there is another side to it—but you cannot possibly deny that the whole teaching of Germany for the last two years, of their own people, has been in favour of the glories of war. The evidence on that point seems to be overwhelming. And, of course, most of all, you have the refusal of Germany to take part in international action, not only in 801 the League, because she withdrew at the same time from the International Labour Office and from other less well-known international action. They cut themselves off deliberately from all international action.
There is not really any dispute that can be made about that, and when I am told that this is because they were treated unfairly in the League, because they were given a position of inferiority, I venture respectfully to contradict that altogether. I am not dealing with the question of the Disarmament Conference, which technically is not part of the League, though I quite agree there is a case, as I have already said, to be made about that; but as for their ordinary position in the League during the time when they were represented by Dr. Stresemann, for instance, it is really fantastic to say they were treated differently or in an inferior way to other countries. You have to take the facts of what has actually happened, the actual external facts, not what charming Germans may say to individuals who go and visit their country.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
I think you are much more likely to understand the German situation that way than by a casual visit and a few friendly conversations. I maintain that to take the history of Germany for the last two years is the only fair way of judging what their policy actually is. That is the only test you can apply. I say all this because, while personally I think that my noble friend Lord Allen is quite right, I do not think you gain anything by minimising the attitude of the German Government towards international obligations and international co-operation. You have got to take that into consideration, and you have got to consider it carefully. For the same reason I am not prepared to snake any very serious condemnation of the Resolution passed by the Council of the League. I confess I would rather have seen it worded differently, but that there should be some notice taken of 802 what, from their point of view, was a disregard of international obligations seems to me reasonable and proper. Where I think it was deplorable was that it stopped there, and did not do anything else. I should have been glad enough to see a condemnation of Germany if it had been accompanied by some definite undertaking by the Powers that they were going seriously to undertake and fulfil their obligations with regard to disarmament. That seems to me to be the great weakness of the action that was taken at Geneva.
I confess I do not share the anxiety of my noble friend Lord Dickinson about the new Committee, the Committee which is to examine how sanctions are to be made effective. I think it is very reasonable and, if you look at the history of international relations in the last three years, it is very necessary to consider exactly what you do mean when you say that certain things are to be clone and certain things are not to be done. But I do most heartily agree that if the result of that Committee is merely to elaborate the coercive machinery of the League, it will greatly fail in its duty. It must do more than that, or by some other international action more definite steps towards fulfilling our obligations about disarmament must be taken. I feel that very profoundly. I am not sure that I agree that the great criticism is that our action has been too friendly to France. I could not make that criticism of our action. I would say that the great criticism to be made of the present Government in these matters is that they have been deficient in taking any action, any definite view, on any subject, particularly in reference to disarmament.
The recent speech of the Prime Minister has been much praised, and I agree that the general attitude he took up was admirable, but I must say now that I could not help feeling a little disappointed both by his speech and the speech of the Foreign Secretary. The general principles were admirable, but when it came to what their actual policy was going to be then, I confess, I did not feel so satisfied. I will quote two or three sentences which were uttered by them. There is this sentence of the Prime Minister:It is the constant care of this country to help on the changes that must conic by negotiation.803 Before I make my comment I will read one or two phrases of the Foreign Secretary:What is it that Germany is now prepared not to say but to do? We implore Germany to show that she is prepared to take her part.I cannot help feeling that it has been too much the attitude of the Government all along not to say: "This is the policy which we, representing the British Government, desire to press upon the attention of the world; this is what we think ought to be done, and we are prepared to push it with all our force and all our strength. We recognise that our obligation and our responsibility for the preservation of the peace of the world is very great, probably greater than that of any other country in the world. We believe that the way it can be preserved is by the steps of disarmament, equality, and the régime of security, and what we mean by that phrase is these very definite proposals." I cannot doubt that if such an attitude had been adopted in 1932, or even in 1933, the Disarmament Conference would have succeeded. I cannot doubt that at that time there was a great opportunity for reaching an agreement on these very difficult questions.
I was grateful for the speech of my noble friend Lord Rennell, but, if he will allow me to say so, I wish he had made it two or three years ago. If the same speech had been made then, with the great influence he very justly and deservedly holds with regard to the Government, I cannot help thinking that we might have had a different issue than that to which we have unfortunately had to submit. I do very earnestly appeal to my noble friends who sit on the Treasury Bench. I hope and trust that they will now have a very definite policy, and not only a definite policy to improve the sanctions and to take part in the Committee which, of course, they are bound to do, because they voted for its appointment. I think that is the right thing to do, but it must not stand alone. If it stands alone it will do no good. They must clear their conscience, their international conscience, by saying that they really do intend, with all the strength of the Government, to carry out the pledges they gave when the Treaty of Versailles was signed. I earnestly hope that will happen.
804 I certainly feel that if we cannot do that, if we cannot take a really vigorous constructive action, the future is indeed very dark. It may well be that this Committee which is now to be appointed is really our last chance. It is the last real opportunity we may have. If we do not take advantage of it, who can say how the thing will drift on and how we may find ourselves a few years hence? Three years ago you might have had a real reduction of armaments all round. I am convinced of that. Most people seem to think now that is out of the question, and that all you can hope for is a limitation of arms. I am so sanguine that I have not yet abandoned hope even now for a reduction, but I recognise that the chance of reduction is very much less than it was three years ago. If there is another failure—it may be that we shall be unable to do anything—if, owing to our action, this opportunity passes also, then I am very much afraid that the opportunity even for limitation may disappear too, and we shall set our feet on that path which perhaps not this year or next year or perhaps in five years, but eventually, will lead to a disastrous war the consequences of which no man can foresee.
My Lords, I did not mean to inflict myself on you, and I shall not take up five minutes of your time. If the noble Viscount who has just sat down had not made the speech he has made, I should not have ventured to have got up at all. If there is one thing upon which we are all of one mind, it does seem to me that we are very much of one mind upon the absolute necessity of getting close to the German people and the German Government. The noble Viscount suggested that it was of no use minimising the faults of Germany. I submit that the faults of Germany have been shouted from the house-tops during the last two years, and that if there is a time for minimising the faults of Germany it certainly is to-day. It is not the moment for magnifying her faults, nor indeed, perhaps, for setting them out in public debate.
There is another thing, I think, upon which all those who have spoken to-day are quite agreed, and that is that the danger is very real, very serious and not very distant. I certainly am of that opinion. If you wish to get next to the German people and the German Government surely you must approach them in 805 such a way that they will consider that their present Government is being strengthened and raving its influence helped by your action. It is no use going to them and saying: "This is a brutal Government; this is a Government which does not really represent the Germans." It is the Government of the day, and we have to deal with it. If we want to secure peace in the world and the friendship of the German people we have to recognise that they have now a Government which can speak for them, and that it is that Government with whom we must become friends.
There is only one other point I wish to make. The whole of the debate has gone to show that this is a question of doing the first thing first. The whole debate has shown that if we were given again the chance that we had in 1933 we would every one of us be glad to go to the Germans and say to them: "Look here, these inferiority armament clauses are out of date; the time has gone by for them; we abrogate them; arm yourselves, if you think it wise, to the teeth, but before you arm yourselves to the back teeth come and talk to us and see if you can get any good out of it." I think the whole of the debate has shown that we should be glad, if we could, to go back to 1933. I agree with the noble Viscount who has just sat down that we do need, although we cannot expect to get it to-day, a constructive policy which will put us next to Germany and show her that she may have, If she likes, one friend in the world. I am reminded of a little poem I came across the other day, which I am sure your Lordships will enjoy hearing if you do not already know it. It reads like this:The centipede'' (that is the British Government)—The centipede was happy quite Until the toad in Fun, Asked him which leg went after which, Which worked his mind to such a pitch He lay prostrated in a ditch, Considering how to run.The time for considering how to run and which leg should go after which has gone by. We must somehow or other, if we are to have peace in Europe, convince the German people that we are potential friends.
§ LORD DAVIES
My Lords, I shall trespass on your time a few moments only. This debate has been very interesting 806 and comprehensive and it has covered very much ground. I entirely agree with what my noble friend Viscount Cecil said in criticism of the Motion which my noble friend Lord Dickinson has moved this afternoon. I think we shall probably all agree that the League could not have passed over a repudiation of Part V of the Treaty without snaking any protest at all. After all, the Treaty of Versailles is part and parcel of what a distinguished statesman in this country, the late Earl of Oxford and Asquith, described as the public law. So long as it was part of the public law of Europe surely it had to be respected, and it could not be repudiated or abrogated without the assent of the other nations who were signatories to it. Therefore it seems to me that we have been discussing this afternoon a purely anarchic state of affairs. We have been discussing whether we should be pro-German or whether we should be pro-French, or whether we, as a nation, have done our duty and carried out our obligation of trying to make the League the keystone of the foreign policy of this country. Personally I agree with the suggestion of a member in another place that it is our business not to be pro-German or pro-French but to be pro-League. If we are pro-League then I cannot help feeling that we should endeavour to develop the League into an institution capable of making effective the public law of Europe.
As I understand it, my noble friend Lord Dickinson complained that the Resolution was passed by the Council of the League. Surely if Part V of the Treaty of Versailles be part of the public law the Council had no option but to assert the sanctity of that law. I venture to submit that law is not law unless it fulfils at least two requisites. In the first place it must be capable of being changed by some peaceful procedure so as to adapt the law to new conditions which arise from time to time. Obviously, law is not an end in itself. Law is an attempt to prevent violence and to bring about peaceful changes in the conditions of civilised communities and in the relationships of nations. The second attribute which is also very important is that law is not law unless there is a sanction to uphold it. Until we transform and develop the League into a real international authority with power to see that its decisions are respected, 807 and until we have also implemented the intention of Article 19 to provide a peaceful procedure for the change of public law, we cannot blame Germany for having taken the law into her own hands and repudiated that Part of the Treaty.
I suggest to your Lordships that it is beside the point to ask, as we do, whether Germany had the right to do what she has done when we have made so little attempt ourselves as a country and a nation to develop the League into a real international authority that can dispense justice and establish peace in Europe. If a Treaty has been imposed by force by one nation or group of nations upon another nation, there will be a sense of injustice, and unless there is some means of removing that sense of inferiority and injustice then we shall drift into the final disaster. Therefore I appeal to the Government, as so many noble Lords have done this afternoon, for a real constructive policy; and I ask that that constructive policy should not be limited merely to new treaties and new pacts, but that it should extend to the equipment of the League of Nations with those institutions which are essential in order to enable it to administer and enforce the public law.
THE MARQUESS OF LOTHIAN
My Lords, I should like, if I may, to intervene very briefly in this debate in order to elicit if possible from the noble Earl who replies for the Government some information as to the real meaning of the last section of the Resolution passed at Geneva. The terms of that Resolution, which in substance appoint a Committee to examine how further sanctions can be created in order to deal with the danger of war which would follow violation of treaties, fills me with alarm as to what they may mean. I would remind noble Lords of the obligation of this country and of all other Members of the League under Article 16 of the Covenant. People often forget that the Covenant of the League does not prohibit war. One of the reasons why it does not prohibit war is that war, in the circumstances which exist before we create those institutions of which the noble Lord has just spoken, is the sanction behind Article 19. There has been in the past no way of bringing about changes against the will of nations except the fear of the consequences which will follow in the last resort.
808 The framers of the Covenant did not prohibit war altogether. What the Covenant provided was that nations undertook to submit their disputes to three different kinds of pacific procedure: resort to the International Court, to arbitration, or to investigation and report by the Council or the Assembly of the League. They undertook that the Council should report within six months, and the members undertook not to resort to war until a further three months had elapsed. Article 16, moreover, only brings even these sanctions into operation, with the obligation of this country to take part, if a nation goes to war in violation of that obligation. What alarms me about this Resolution is that it seems to contemplate bringing the sanction of Article 16 into operation in the event of any violation of any treaty anywhere. Not only is that an immense extension of the obligation under Article 16, but it seems to me that, unless you could contrive some other system by which you could alter treaties, it would mean that every country in the world would be obliged to maintain indefinitely the status quo under threat of war. That is a most immense and serious thing, and I hope that the noble Earl will reassure us that that is not done intentionally. Until some assurance of that kind can be given, I shall certainly support with all my strength the Motion which has been put down by the noble Lord, Lord Dickinson, to-day.
I do not want, in any way, to enter into the larger questions, which have been very fully ventilated to-day, as between Germany and ourselves, but on this technical point I think that the House is entitled to some information, on what the real meaning of that last section of the Resolution is. Is it to involve us in an immense extension of the liability to go to war in all sorts of unknown circumstances, quite different from the precise obligations which we have undertaken whenever treaties are violated in a way which may endanger peace? If so, I think it requires very much greater consideration than has yet been given to it by people in this country.
§ LORD PONSONBY OF SHULBREDE
My Lords, I desire, before the Government replies, to emphasise a few of the points that have been made during the course of the debate. I agree with my noble friend Lord Davies in saying that 809 the question of whether one is pro-German or pro-French is beside the mark. I think it was Mr. Sandys, in the debate in another place, who, in a very admirable maiden speech, said that it was not a question of being pro-French or pro-German, it was a question of being pro-British. I think he is right. On the other hand, it is very curious to observe the way in which, throughout history, the traditional animosity between these two countries has produced in this country partisans on both sides of great ardour and very deep conviction. Although we do not want to be pro-French or pro-German, we have to face the fact that it is the unfortunate juxtaposition of these two great nations and the friction between them that has been, and is still, the cause of the trouble in Europe and the world.
I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Allen, and my noble friend Viscount Cecil who both harked back to the idea of coming to some sort of agreement about armaments. Why always armaments as the point upon which to come to agreement? I do not believe, and I never have believed, that the nations will ever really come to a complete settlement on this question of armaments. Let us be fair to France; let us realise what the French conditions are. France, with a population of over forty millions, has a neighbour with a population of over sixty millions and with an enormous power of recuperation and of genius for invention and advance. What sort of armament settlement between those two is ever going to satisfy the shifting policies of the two Governments? It is inconceivable that any armament settlement could settle that conflict. They may not arrive at the only possible conclusion at which future generations will arrive: that security for France and Germany and settlement of their problems can only come by the disarmament of both of them. I quite admit that you cannot expect them to adopt that conclusion at present, although in the long run they will be sensible enough to come to it.
The fault I find with His Majesty's Government is that these discussions over this number of years have always been on armaments. The discussions have always been trying to get some ratio, some standard, some definition by which nations will agree to some compact on armaments. At the same time, 810 of course, that is admitting that armaments mean security, that nations have a right to ask for armaments because by that means they can maintain their security. I do not believe in any of those propositions, and I suppose that most people who really think of what happened during the years 1914 to 1918 will not believe that armaments mean security. In the Government, moreover, there have been different voices on this question of whether armaments mean security or not. I cannot quote the actual words, but in one speech—it may have been an article, but I rather think it was a speech—the Prime Minister asked what Germany had to complain of; she was perfectly safe. That is to say, disarmed she was perfectly safe. Not very long afterwards the Lord President of the Council said that we must rearm because our position and the strength of our influence in the Council of the League of Nations depended on our being fully equipped with arms. There are two directly contradictory ideas between the two leaders of the National Government.
I am inclined to agree with the Prime Minister that disarmament is the only security; but it is with armaments, and the discussion of armaments, and the rediscussion of armaments, and the reopening of the discussion on armaments, that we are going to try to continue the future negotiations. I for one do not believe that you will come to any satisfactory conclusion in that way. I should like to see conferences called together with a view to discussing why you need armaments, what your armaments are for, what your grievances are, what your demands are, and a satisfactory settlement of those points of the question reached, rather than finding out the size of the guns and the number of the ships, bombing aeroplanes and submarines that you are going to use in the next war, which is what the discussion has been upon.
I am very much afraid that the chances that have been lost are going to be lost again, and I heartily agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, when he says that what is wanted is something very much stronger in the way of a League. I noticed in the debate last week that the noble Earl, Lord Stanhope, in replying for the Government, said, thinking that he was pleasing us, that when he was at Geneva he was very mild. That was just 811 what we complain of, this eternal mildness on the part of the Government. We want the Government to take a bold lead; not to go cap in hand asking what other nations want and how far other Governments will go, but definitely going straight forward by the only method which can reach a satisfactory settlement.
I should like just to quote a sentence from another speech by another member of the Government, not by any means by way of disapproval but by way of very warm approval. That was a sentence reported from a speech made, I think, only last week by the Home Secretary. The Home Secretary said:Those of us who know what war means—and who does not in our generation?—are determined that we must take the course to prevent that recurring. It may be we will have to put ourselves in the place of other races and think from the point of view of other nations, and we must not be too sure that we of the British nation are always right and that the other nations are always wrong. There must be give and take.I was very much struck by those words. I thought they were extremely sensible, and I hope it is counsel which, if they will not listen to me, will have some effect as coming from a member of the Government.
I cannot help feeling that this debate, initiated in such a lucid and able speech by Lord Dickinson, will have a very beneficial effect. I believe that the people of Germany, in reading epitomes of this debate, will realise the amount of profound sympathy which exists in this country with the German nation and the German people, and the desire to help them and to draw them into the comity of nations; and that the German people will go on to wonder why it is that that sympathy has not found expression in Government policy. They will perhaps realise, which a great many have not realised because they are blind—blinded by facts which are going on in their own country—that it is these continual incidents, which I do not hesitate to say are nothing short of barbarity, of the treatment of inoffensive people because of their political opinions, which are so repugnant in this country that, although we want the German people to come back, we hesitate to show any enthusiasm about their present Government.
There is undoubtedly a mistrust of the present German Government. Nevertheless, whether it be the Government of 812 Russia or of Germany or of Italy, that Government is chosen by the people of the country, and their internal affairs are no concern of ours. What we have to do is to see that the relationship between those Governments is not biased and poisoned by any of the natural antipathy which we may have for their internal régime. It is our business to see that they are drawn together. There is no real obstacle against drawing them together. Although the recent debate in another place showed, if I may say so, an improvement on the part of His Majesty's Government, I still feel that this timidity, this absence of leadership, is not justified on their part, and that with the prestige of this country acknowledged as it is in the world, to-day, they really can, considering their enormous majority in this country, go much more boldly forward. I therefore hope that the noble Earl, who I understand is going to reply, will be able to give us an assurance that that is their intention in the future.
§ THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (EARL STANHOPE)
My Lords, the Leader of the Opposition was kind to me last week. He feared that if he laid a further straw on the back of the Under-Secretary undoubtedly he would collapse. To-night the noble Lord is less kind. He asked a number of questions, and I hope I can set his mind at rest on at any rate two of them. He reminded me that I had said I had been mild at Geneva. That was in relation to the views which I know are held by the noble Viscount who usually sits on the Cross Benches. I did take an independent view at Geneva. At the beginning of the proceedings I did not get much support from other nations, but as time went on that support increased, and although I had to come home the work was admirably carried on by the representative of the Foreign Office. I hope it will result in what may be one of the first agreements made with regard to armaments. Should that be so, it will be due to the fact that this country did take an independent attitude, and a line which was entirely our own, in which we tried to give a lead to other nations. Then the noble Lord read a speech made by the Home Secretary and said it was extremely sensible. Of course it was. The members of the Cabinet of the National Government are composed 813 of sensible men, and if the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, will read more of our speeches I think he will discover how much more he is able to agree with us in regard to our policy.
When I first read this Motion I wondered whether, as regards the first part of it, Lord Dickinson had ceased to be a believer in the League of Nations (of which I knew he had for many years been a warm supporter), and had indeed become an opponent of it; and with regard to the second part of the Motion, whether he had read the Resolution passed at Geneva to the end. As to the first part of the Motion your Lordships will notice that this House is asked to express its regret net only at the action of His Majesty's Government but at the action of the League of Nations. I would draw attention to the fact that every single Member of the League, with the exception of the representative of Denmark, voted for the Resolution—Argentina, Australia, Chile, Czechoslovakia, France, Italy, Mexico, Poland, Portugal, Spain, and the Union the of United Soviet Kingdom Socialist Republics—many of those nations not intimately concerned with the action Germany had taken, and therefore capable of taking an independent line. Indeed, how could they do otherwise?
The noble Viscount, whom I find myself agreeing with more and more, except with regard to armaments—I am not sure whether I am travelling towards him or whether lie is coming in my direction—pointed out that the whole essence of collective agreement is that agreements when made should be secure and should be observed. If your Lordships will turn to the Preamble to the Covenant you will find it begins in this way:The High Contracting Parties,In order to promote international cooperation and to achieve international peace and security…by the maintenance of justice and a scrupulous respect for all treaty obligations in the dealings of organised peoples with one another,Agree to this Covenant of the League of Nations.That is the Preamble, and it goes on to specify still further the necessity for maintaining all treaty obligations actually in the first paragraphs of the Covenant.
814 Noble Lords have reminded the House of the forming of the Covenant and of the Treaty of Versailles, but if I may say so, with great respect, some of the history of these arrangements is rather like the history that I read at school, which stopped so many years ago, lest it should be considered political, that it had very little relation to the facts of to-day. I am very glad that the noble Viscount reminded the House of some recent events with regard to Germany, because that is vital to the situation as it exists. Many of us had a considerable amount of sympathy with Germany as to the way in which she was still bound by the Treaty of Versailles, and the way in which Part V had no provision by which it could be rescinded or amended; but that was not the situation as it existed this year. Your Lordships will remember that, of course, the League of Nations had been endeavouring to get some other agreement to take the place of Part V for a number of years, and finally, partly owing to the fact that Germany herself had withdrawn from the League, this agreement had been severely checked and, at any rate temporarily, brought to a close. But the situation then changed.
We succeeded in making an agreement with France, with which Italy also associated herself, which is known as the Declaration of London. It was issued on February 3 this year. And what did it do? There appears in that Declaration the statement that the French and British Governments are agreedthat nothing would contribute more to the restoration of confidence and the prospects of peace among nations than a general settlement freely negotiated between Germany and the other Powers.What sign is there of inequality in that statement? Let us see how it goes on:…this settlement would establish agreements regarding armaments generally which, in the case of Germany, would replace the provisions of Part V of the Treaty of Versailles at present limiting the arms and armed forces of Germany.Now it was at that moment that the German Government announced to the world, first, the formation of a military Air Force, and. then the introduction of conscription. In spite of that His Majesty's Government were anxious to see what could be done, and they said: "You invited us to come over and discuss all the proposals which were referred to in the 815 Declaration of London. Is it still your wish that we should come and discuss all those proposals or not? Because, if so, we are ready to come." Germany agreed, and we went, with the result that the House knows.
It was the noble Lord, Lord Pousonby, who stated that all our discussions and all our agreements were connected with armaments. He seemed to forget that, after all, the proposals which are being considered in regard to an Eastern Locarno have as their object mutual security between various nations. I think he forgot also the proposals for a Danubian Pact, to see if the situation in regard to Central Europe could not be clarified and grievances removed so that peace might be made more secure in that area. It is true that we also hoped to deal with armaments and to deal with the air defence question, but to say that we only deal with Germany in regard to armaments is obviously not a complete statement of what we have been trying to do.
Now I was particularly puzzled by the noble Lord, Lord Dickinson, introducing this Resolution because I had always looked upon him as one of the warmest supporters of the League of Nations. Therefore I spent some time on Sunday afternoon in looking up some of his former speeches to see whether I could get some clue to his action. Well, I came on a speech that he made in another place on August 6, 1914. It was, incidentally, preceded by one by Mr. Ponsonby, as he then was. The noble Lord, Lord Dickinson, made a very brave speech on that occasion. He talked of the efforts he had made for many years for friendship between Germany and this country, and he went on to speak of the military caste in Germany, and he said—this was on August 6, 1914, just after war had begun:That caste has acquired such strength that it controls not only the feelings and thoughts of the people, but even has too great an influence upon the wishes of its Sovereign, and Europe is now witnessing the curse of conscription.He went on:…we may hope that if we win"—meaning if we won the Great War—we may lay down such conditions as will destroy that military supremacy which has brought Europe to the brink of destruction.816 And yet it is the noble Lord who asks us to condemn a Resolution by the League at the moment when Germany herself has reintroduced conscription, and has announced to the world that she is going to re-institute an armed force of 550,000 men, force far larger than any which belongs to any of the nations surrounding her, with the exception of Russia, which is, after all, not one of her neighbours.
I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Buxton, who said: "Why should we be always criticising Germany, when she does no more than other nations, and why have we not objected to the enormous forces which Russia has?"—some 900,000 men, I think he said. But we have. We have done our very utmost at the League of Nations to obtain a reduction in the arms, not of Germany only, but of all nations, and we have tried to obtain limitation in that way. We recognise, of course, that unless you can get a universal limitation you will get no limitation, and that therefore it is hopeless for us to try to limit Germany, or France, or Italy, or any other nation, unless also Russia and Poland and everybody else comes in. But it is a great undertaking. When we are faced with Germany making this sudden increase in her armaments we wonder what the change can be. It was pointed out, I think, in another place last week that whereas only last year Germany would have been content with 300,000 men in her land forces, now she asks for 550,000. Why? Well, Russia had a great Army last year, and if Russia is a danger now she was a danger then, and I think, as was pointed out by the same speaker in another place, it is obviously to the great disadvantage of Russia, as it is of every other nation at this moment, to think of going to war. Russia is no more settled in her internal affairs than many other nations, and she is not prepared to see them endangered, if not more than endangered, by going into armed conflict with any other country.
The noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, seemed to think that all we had to do was to have a good many representatives, or shall I say travelers? from this country going to foreign lands, and that then we should know all about them. That would certainly simplify things a good 817 deal, and I should not then be standing at this box, because there would presumably be no organised Diplomatic Service, which would be quite unnecessary. All that we should have to do would be to see that our travellers when they came home gave their impressions to the Press. The Press would select such of them as they wanted, and no doubt everybody would be happy. But unfortunately that does not seem to be quite the way in which the world works, and I think many of us have travelled in foreign countries and come back with all sorts of impressions, only to find that perhaps they were not so profound as we had thought at the time. Therefore I do not think we have quite got to that stage yet.
Turning to the second part of the Resolution of the Council of the League, that invited the Governments of France, Italy and the United Kingdom to continue negotiations to promote the conclusion of agreements to assure the maintenance of peace. Surely that is almost directly in accordance with the second part of Lord Dickinson's Resolution. As regards the third part, about which the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, asked me a question—an extremely difficult one—my understanding of that third part is that the Council of the League was anxious to see that the world should not drift into a state when it had actually got into war before it proceeded to take action; the idea being, I think, that once war had begun it was so much harder to bring it to an end. Therefore action should begin sooner and a Committee should be set up, not to suggest that nations should not go to war if treaties were broken, but to see that pressure was brought to bear on those nations in order that such breaches of treaties should be brought to an end and their obligations fulfilled in regard to that point. Although it might possibly be considered an increase of obligations for all of us, not of this country alone, it is probably one that we might find, if it worked successfully, would minimise and reduce the chances of war rather than increase them. Therefore, we should be fully justified in waiting to see what this Committee actually proposes. Of course, no nation is committed at this stage. In this way we may feel we are not only increasing the security of nations in general, but also strengthening the League itself.
818 My noble friend Lord Davies is a very persistent person. We had a debate last week on his Resolution regarding an Article of the Covenant. I suppose he did not get all he wanted then, so he managed to stretch the terms of the Resolution on the Paper to-day and naturally managed to get back again to the League of Nations as a Super-state. I expected a reference to the International Police Force, but we did not quite get to that, although it was implied. I do not think I can add very much more to what I said to him last week. A good many of your Lordships recognised that the Prime Minister and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs both made a strong invitation to Germany in the speeches that they delivered in another place last week. In fact, they went so far as really to issue an invitation to Germany to enable negotiations to be resumed, and the Leader of the Opposition in another place congratulated the Government on having "left the door wide open for Germany to come in." My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary reminded the House that Germany was one of five Powers who signed, and freely signed, a declaration for equality in a system of security, and he pointed out that Germany by her recent acts had gravely shaken the feeling of security in Europe. By acts and not by words she can re-establish that feeling of security. When Herr Hitler makes his promised statement on foreign policy next week, it is our fervent hope that this will be found to be the prelude to such constructive action on Germany's part. He has proclaimed his desire on many occasions for the maintenance of peace. That he should translate that desire into action is the fervent desire of His Majesty's Government.
Several members of your Lordships' House—the noble Viscount for one—said, why not at once reinstitute the Disarmament Conference, and my noble friend Lord Allen, I think, repeated that plea. But on what basis? Last year, or the year before, we hoped to get a basis of 200,000 men in the land forces of each of the principal countries of Europe. Germany asked for 300,000. Now she has gone to a figure which I doubt very much whether many of her neighbours could possibly reach, however great their intention might be, and therefore at this 819 moment it seems to me impossible for this country, at any rate, to put forward figures which are likely to be agreed. But let the Chancellor of the German Reich come forward and now give us figures. He has complained sometimes in the past, and Germans on the whole have complained: "You have made your programmes with each other, and you call us in when these things are settled and ask us to sign them without further ado." Let us get some definite proposals from Germany. We have made our proposals in regard to an Air Pact. Let us get proposals from Germany on these lines.
We have drawn up, for our own information, a draft Air Pact, and I have very little doubt that both France and Italy have done the same. Let us communicate these drafts to each other, and let us get one from Germany. Let us see whether Germany can put up proposals which are practicable proposals, and which will enable us to resume negotiations. She has criticised the plans made by other people frequently. She objects to the Eastern Pact. She does not much like these other arrangements. Very well, let her propose arrangements, and see whether we can get agreement on proposals which she herself stands by and originates. It matters little where they come from provided we can get proposals which are practicable and fair among all nations. There is no question at this moment, and there 'has not been for some time any question, of inequality as between Germany and other nations. Let her show her belief in equality by putting forward these proposals, and let us look at them and examine them and see what can be clone about them.
I am afraid I have rather sketched over the debate, because your Lordships have gone in a good many different directions, as is not infrequent, particularly in regard to foreign affairs. The noble Lord, Lord Allen, referred to the question of the Navy, and he said: "Why do you not negotiate on the Navy?" That is exactly what we are proposing to do. We have made an invitation to Germany to come over here and discuss naval questions. It is not for us alone to negotiate, as I would point out. We are only one of those who are bound at present by the Treaty of London and the Treaty of Washington until it runs out, and there 820 fore we should have to submit any proposals which are made by any nation to the co-signatories of these Agreements; but we have issued this invitation to Germany as we have issued it to other nations, and we have tried to bring them into negotiation in regard to that subject.
The noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, compared the German boys whom he saw with dummy rifles to the Officers Training Corps at Eton. I think both he and I owe a great deal to what we learned at Eton, not only in the Eton Volunteers as they were then, but in other respects also. But I think he will agree with me that the discipline of the Eton Officers Training Corps or the Eton Volunteers is not of the highest character, whereas we are told that the discipline in Germany is remarkable.
§ Loran MOTTISTONE
May I say to the noble Earl that I was at Harrow, and the discipline there was good?
§ EARL STANHOPE
That confession would account for the whole thing! I would point out to the noble Lord further that Eton is a very large school, and Harrow is a comparatively unimportant one. But apart from that, whichever it might be, they are only very limited in numbers, whereas the training that has been given to the German youth has been given universally, and not merely to a school here and a school there, and that, of course, makes the whole difference with regard to the youth of the country. That is the serious side of the situation, and that is a point we should like so much Herr Hitler to deal with.
May I say in conclusion that obviously it would be quite impossible for His Majesty's Government to accept this Resolution as it stands. The first half is, as I have said, a severe criticism, not only of the Government, but of the Council of the League itself, and as a loyal Member of the League and as one who wishes to see it supported, it is quite obvious we must resist this proposal to the utmost. The second half of the Resolution seems to me entirely superfluous. We are invited to do that which we are already endeavouring to do to the utmost of our power, and which, as declared by the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, is the object of our proposals at the present moment. I hope, therefore, that your Lordships will 821 not agree to accept this Resolution. It certainly will be of no advantage to the advancement of the policy of this country.
§ LORD DICKINSON
My Lords, I am not going to keep your Lordships more than a few minutes, although the speech that has just been delivered tempts me to reply at some length. Perhaps we mast leave that to some future occasion. The noble Earl has clone me the honour to look up a very ancient speech made in another place on tie 6th August, 1914, a day or so after we declared war and the day after I returned from a peace conference in Germany. I did venture then to say, what I believe still to be the truth that that war was brought about by the military power of a very powerful class and not by the people of Germany. I still hold that belief, and can say that that is the very reason why I have moved this Motion to-day. After the War we succeeded in doing away with the military class and with conscription in Germany, and those things would never, I believe, have come into existence again had the Disarmament Conference begun and concluded its proceedings within a reasonable time. It is my profound conviction that it is the delay which has taken place in the League of Nations and the Disarmament Conference that has given the opportunity for the resuscitation of that military ardour and that desire for aggrandisement and military show now reappearing in Germany. All I can say is that one can only regret it and hope that we shall do something that will at any rate make it as little harmful as possible.
I feel that my purpose has been very largely achieved. I put down this Motion for two purposes. One was to raise a note of warning, if I may say so without presumption, to His Majesty's Government with regard to the future proceedings of this Committee in Geneva. I dare say I do not see eye to eye with my noble friend Lord Cecil on this matter. I believe that the League has embarked upon a very dangerous course in trying to find a way if Germany offends again in any breach of treaty—the Treaty of Versailles or any other treaty—whereby all the Powers will attempt to compel her—
§ LORD DICKINSON
No. I will not trouble the House by reading the whole of the Resolution of Geneva, but no one can read that Resolution as a whole without seeing that the Committee's work is to find some means to remedy the fault which we say Germany has committed. I cannot help thinking that it will be quite impossible to leave Germany out of the picture when that Committee sits and begins to consider what new sanctions it is to institute for the purpose of compelling a nation to keep its word. I am no prophet, but I venture to think that before the month is out we shall have a warning voice from Germany in regard to what I am afraid may happen. At any rate, I am glad to think, from what the noble Earl has said, that the Government are going to act cautiously in relation to the proceedings of that Committee at Geneva.
My other purpose was to try to see whether a discussion in this House, which has great weight, would not facilitate the task of His Majesty's Government in approaching Germany. I think that everything that we have said will go, if I may say so, towards the sweetening of the associations of ourselves with Germany. It is very evident from many speeches made to-day by those who have been in Germany that we should make the Germans understand that at any rate here there is a considerable body of men of political thought who are anxious that a nearer approach should be made to Germany in these matters, and, inasmuch as I gather from the speech of the noble Earl that that is the one object of His Majesty's Government at the present moment, and that they are hopeful that they will be able to carry it out successfully, I think I have attained all I wanted in moving this Motion. I thank your Lordships for having given me this opportunity, and I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.