§ LORD SNELL rose to ask His Majesty's Government whether they are able to make any statement on the present position in Europe; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I hope the. House will believe me when I say that the Question which is down in my name on the Order Paper was not placed there 508 either to embarrass His Majesty's Government or to make it more difficult for those charged with the highly important and difficult business of negotiation at the present time. The Labour Party has, I think, throughout this crisis refrained from exploiting the situation for Party purposes, and my criticisms to-day, such as they may be, will recognise the difficulties and even the dangers of the present position. The intention of the Question was to afford to His Majesty's Government the opportunity, if they so desired, to make any appropriate and helpful statement upon the position that they seem to think right, and also to try-to impress upon the Government the great anxiety felt by large sections of the country at the drift of affairs in our foreign relations.
§ Those manifold difficulties will be spoken to from many points of view this afternoon. I can perhaps best assist your Lordships' House if I try to present as quickly as I can what I conceive to be the view-point of the Labour Party, and, in doing so, I venture to remind your Lordships that whatever its position in your Lordships' House may be, its position in the country is such as to entitle its views to be received with serious consideration and with politeness. I very much regret that unusual preoccupation has prevented me from informing the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, of a few of the main points to which I desire to ask his attention; but my duty will be to try to present in large the problem as I see it, and I do not ask for specific answers to-day to the questions that I put to him. I should like to know whether the Government still hold to the proposal to police the Western frontiers of Germany with a combination of British and Italian troops. I should like also to know whether Germany is to be allowed without protest to build fortifications upon her Western frontiers so that she could have undisturbed opportunity to concentrate upon her Eastern frontiers. I should also hope that the noble Viscount might be able to tell us something about what is likely to happen in regard to French fortifications, not now but in ten or twenty years time. And I should like also to ask for more definite information as to the future of the mandated territories, arising out of remarks made a few days ago by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Then I should also 509 like very much to ask whether Italy is to be allowed to continue to spread Christian civilisation in Africa in the manner in which she is now performing it. What is the policy of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in regard to the Committee of Thirteen which, I think, is meeting to-day? I should like also to ask whether the Government have received, and if so, have they come to any conclusion upon, the French proposals that are said to be imminent?
§ First of all I would like to say a few words upon the question of Italy and Abyssinia. I think that your Lordships' House has the right to ask for precise information as to what it is proposed shall be done in the present circumstances, and whether His Majesty's Government intend that the League of Nations shall be finally and completely humiliated and disgraced. It is a personal opinion, but I cannot help feeling that His Majesty's Government have some responsibility for the blinded and tortured men in Abyssinia who are now groping their way to the grave. I cannot help feeling that, if His Majesty's Government at an earlier period had been more definite in their position the war itself might have been prevented. As I have seen it, the Government have prevaricated, pleaded and admonished; they have protested their own virtue, and have, like the Pharisee, stood aside and thanked God they were not as other people. I think if I were in Kenya or Tanganyika, or elsewhere in Africa, I should scarcely like to look a black man in the face. I feel also that the one man who comes out of this horrible situation with any kind of credit is the Emperor of Abyssinia himself. I express my own great personal sorrow that the glorious land of Cavour and Mazzini should have its name stained with these infamous practices.
§ Our Government may say that they have done all that they could do and that the other fellows in the League are responsible. However that may be, of one thing I am quite certain, that if a Labour Government had been in their position, if they had been only half as bad as I think the National Government have been, they would have been torn to pieces by the self-denying scribes of Fleet Street or by the Primrose League, and we should even have had a run on 510 the banks! It is difficult for politicians in the position of the National Government, and even of your Lordships on the other side of the House, to ask for restrained criticism, because when we have responsibility for the nation's affairs the forbearance of members of His Majesty's Government and your Lordships generally is about like the forbearance that a pack of hungry wolves have when they surround a wounded buffalo.
§ Now I would like to say something in regard to the position of Germany. What attitude do the Government propose to take in regard to the German peace proposals? In my judgment no sort of antipathy that may exist towards the German system should prevent us from exploiting to the utmost those proposals, if they are likely to serve the end of peace. We in this country have nothing whatever to do with the internal politics of Germany, with the character and quality of her leaders. That is the business of the German people. If they prefer subservience to freedom, that is their concern, and if the land that bred Goethe and Kant feels able to prostrate itself before those who now lead it, that is also their business; but my own opinion, for what it is worth, is that in the proportion to which they are content to do so they will be judged by future generations of an awakened German people.
§ The Party for which I have the honour to speak has never been unfriendly to the German people, and is not now. It never believed that Germany alone was responsible for the War. It never supported the campaign of patriotic slander that was directed against her. It tried to help her in getting readjustments in the Versailles Treaty. It protested against the invasion of the Ruhr and the occupation of the Rhine. It wants Germany to have full and complete equality with other nations. But Germany must remember the difficulty that the world is in; that her word is no longer respected in the old sense; and that to-day, when Germany is making a kind of appeal for a new start, she lectures the nations in much the same tone that is habitually used by His Majesty's Government, and even by your Lordships opposite, when you are addressing the Labour Party.
§ At Ludwigshaven the other day Herr Hitler said that "what he had in mind 511 was a permanent settlement of the relations between the European peoples, in the same manner as he had established order in his own country." I hope that Herr Hitler will not be hurt if I say that his methods, while accepted in his own country, would be entirely unacceptable in ours. We should like to know more, if the Government can tell us, about the attitude of Germany towards Russia. I cannot help feeling that the strength and the integrity of Russia may be of some interest to us in the years to come, especially with the developments in the Far East, and I also feel that there is nothing in the cultural relationships between nations more characteristically clumsy and dangerous and short-sighted than the conspiracy of hatred and slander which has gone on in this country against that great people. The internal affairs of Russia, like those of Germany or any other land, are matters for her own people, and if they are satisfied with it that is their business. It is a system that would not suit us. But my responsibility is not to deal with Russian nor with German leaders; my responsibility is very carefully, and with some anxiety, to watch our own as best I may. The Labour Party will be no party to any arrangement which leaves Germany free and determined to attack Russia if she desires to do so.
What then ought to be our outlook in these circumstances? I am trying to speak with moderation and with a full sense that even the least important of us has a responsibility to promote peace and to try to appease hatred and remove misunderstanding. My own feeling is that we should aim at producing peace by mutual security if we can achieve it; not peace by combinations and balances of power, for they are precarious and always uncertain. If what I want should involve a reorganisation of the League of Nations itself, then we must face that; but I hold that no one is entitled to say that the League has failed altogether. Nor had anyone any right to imagine that it would perfectly perform its task. How could it, created as it was in such circumstances and having suddenly to meet all the difficulties of a world in chaos? What human institution is perfect? Everything changes, and since the League was
established circumstances have changed, and some change in its structure and purpose may be required. We are told by the physicists that the universe itself is not static but is in process of development, and so on. Sometimes, for my comfort, I adapt the lines of a New England poet that I revere, and say:
The League, the League is all we have
For our sure possessing.
Like the Patriarch's angel, hold it fast
Till it give its blessing "—
if not in the present form, then in some better form.
§ I should like also to say a word or two about France. What is the Government's attitude towards France and her policy at the present time? I cannot help feeling that France has an enormous responsibility upon her for the position that now exists in Abyssinia and elsewhere. The English people, as I see them and know them, have grown somewhat tired and alarmed at the shrill implacability of the French Government. France might have set a great historic example if she had led the way after the War in disarmament, if she had refrained from placing black troops on German territory, if she had not invaded the Ruhr. If she had not done these things, what a different Europe there would have been! But when making these judgments we have to make allowances for the experiences of France. Talk to any Frenchman you like, and within five minutes he says: "Yes, but you have not been invaded! "And, my Lords, we have not. In judging France, let us try to imagine what our own feelings would be if twice within my lifetime we had been invaded and our towns and villages had been destroyed. If we try to do that, we may understand something of what France feels.
§ When one considers what Hitler's written policy was—the destruction of France; a position which he tries as a politician to hide—one can sympathise with French suspicions in the matter. I only desire in this connection, before I close, to say that if our lot is bound up with France for good or for evil, if British lives are the price of her misfortunes and her mistakes, we may have the right to require of her that she should make her contribution at the present time by exploring in the spirit of 513 give-and-take and good will the proposals that have now been made. I will refrain from going into the question of Staff consultations, which I understand are to take place. I can only say for my Party that we distrust them because we do not know what is implied in them or how far they are intended to go. In conclusion, my Lords, I would venture to express my own personal faith, not in armaments, not in defensive and precarious alliances, but in the building-up, step by step, of a League of Peace between the nations. I hope that before we have separated to-day the Government may be able to give us some hope and some encouragement that this is being done.
§ THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (VISCOUNT HALIFAX)
My Lords, I would ask your permission to intervene for a few moments in this debate at this stage. In doing so I shall do my best to answer such of the questions of the noble Lord as are in my power to answer, and my noble friend Lord Stanhope will be prepared to answer any other points that any of your Lordships may raise in the course of the debate which will follow. This is the first occasion on which this House has had the opportunity of a debate directly addressed to the examination of the matters that have been in all our thoughts during the last month. I should be the first to acknowledge—as, indeed, was done in another place—the great restraint and consideration, arising out of public spirit, that have been shown not only to His Majesty's Government but also to the welfare of public affairs by the representatives of the Opposition, and indeed by all sections in this country. The noble Lord, I am sure, will also be the first to recognise that anyone in my position invited to speak on rather difficult and delicate subjects which are not immediately within his own department must be excused if he approaches them with a certain measure of care and prudence in order, if possible, to escape the charge of making a difficult situation more difficult than it is in any case bound to be.
The noble Lord began by asking me certain specific questions, some of which, indeed, fall into the natural structure of what I have it in mind to say and to which, perhaps, I might give the answers in that form. But before I come to them 514 I think I may say a word or two about one matter that he raised, which lies perhaps a little outside the actual terms of the Question on the Paper but which concerns affairs in Europe: the present position of affairs in Abyssinia. With regard to the general facts of the state of the machinery at Geneva, I do not know that I have anything to add to what was said by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary, the day before yesterday in another place, about the actual state of the remit to the Committee of Thirteen and to the action that the Committee of Thirteen had up to the date when he spoke taken on it. As the noble Lord will be aware the Committee of Thirteen is meeting to-day in Geneva, when I have no doubt my right honourable friend will put before them the general considerations to which he gave expression in another place two days ago.
May I remind the noble Lord of one sentence in the speech which my right honourable friend there made? After reminding the House of Commons of the passage of events since last February, he went on to say that in March he made it clear on behalf of His Majesty's Government that on the whole they were of opinion that an oil embargo should be imposed, and at that point he reminded his hearers that a proposal was made that one further opportunity should be afforded for conciliation before the embargo was put on. He went on to say:
" Conciliation was accepted by both parties, but in the interval since the acceptance of that conciliation the Italian Government have intensified their aggression."
Then I would call attention to these words of the Foreign Secretary:
" In the view of His Majesty's Government it would be intolerable that we should at Geneva merely speak of conciliation while war continued. There must be real conciliation, that is to say, conciliation which results in a given period in a cessation of hostilities, otherwise the Committee of Eighteen would have to face its task once again. The position of His Majesty's Government remains exactly the same as it has been throughout the dispute. We are prepared to take part with others in economic and financial measures, if others accept them and carry them out in the same spirit and the same measure."
This discussion, as I say, is proceeding to-day at Geneva, and I am not in a position to add anything to what is before 515 the noble Lord or indeed before anybody else at this stage in regard to it.
I must, however, say something about one or two comments of the noble Lord in his speech with which I am bound to differ. He asked whether His Majesty's Government were prepared to allow the League, if I remember his words aright, to be completely disgraced or completely humiliated, or something to that effect. At the end of his spech, however, he said he was greatly gratified to feel that the League had not in fact failed and he condemned the words of those who would argue that the League had failed. That is entirely my view. Where perhaps, when he began to speak, I might have felt that I differed from him was in feeling, as I do, that he made insufficient allowance for the fact that both the League and the conditions in which it has had to function have been essentially different from the League and the conditions in which its fashioners made it and thought it would function. I do not develop that at any length because it will be present to the minds of all your Lordships. Membership of the League is obviously different, the conception of its duties is different and the state of the world in which it has to function is essentially different from that in which those who made it looked forward to its functioning. And I should say that a League that is 50 per cent. or 60 per cent. representative cannot be expected to be 100 per cent. effective. It is unjust to the League to expect that it would be so. When the noble Lord went on to say that in his judgment His Majesty's Government must accept responsibility for tortured Abyssinia—
§ LORD SNELL
I said that they might have to share in the responsibility, not take the whole of the responsibility: I did not suggest that.
§ VISCOUNT HALIFAX
I understood the noble Lord to say that in his view the Government must accept responsibility.
§ VISCOUNT HALIFAX
Yes, share, but accept responsibility for tortured Abyssinia. I am not prepared in that form to admit responsibility at all. What does the noble Lord mean? It maybe true to-day, and it may have always have been true, that the only way of 516 preventing this war and the only way of stopping it would have been to have taken action that involved the direct risk of bringing this country into war with Italy. May I ask the noble Lord and his friends directly, would they have been prepared to throw this country into war with Italy in order to stop war between Italy and Abyssinia? Unless he is prepared to say that, and unless he would have been prepared in office to make that his policy, then the charge, against His Majesty's Government of not having done all they could within the limits open to them to prevent and to stop this war, in my humble judgment, does not lie. Certainly speaking for ourselves that was never our policy, nor if it had been our policy should we have been able to secure the general assent of the League of Nations Members in support of it. I am perfectly content to place the record of His Majesty's Government, given the instrument at their disposal, before the judgment of any impartial men or any impartial critics, and challenge them to say at any given point where and in what direction His Majesty's Government might, with general support and with general collective assent, have done more than they have done to stop a state of affairs for which I admit I have as warm and keen a sense of condemnation as any noble Lord sitting opposite. To say that we merely protested our virtue and then stood aside is, with all respect to the noble Lord, rather to be accounted one of his flights of imagination than one of his arguments of reason.
I turn now to the main matter to which the noble Lord directed our attention and I find great identity of purpose in everything that was contained in his speech with that which I find in my own mind. We both have, we all have, the common purpose of trying to the best of our ability to contribute to European peace. It has been frequently said that peace is the greatest British interest. Of course it is far more than that. It is the only interest of the whole world that is worth striving for, because in the interests of peace nearly everything else is contained and by it sub-served. The promotion of peace has been the constant end to which all the efforts of my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary and His Majesty's Government have been continuously 517 directed. And I do not find in the speech of the noble Lord, although he asked questions that I shall seek to answer, any great difference as to the method by which we have sought to ensure that end.
What do we, in fact, when we speak of peace, mean by it? It is sometimes spoken of as if it meant merely abstention from open warfare, but I think peace that was merely that would deserve the name of peace as little as a system of morality would be entitled to claim our loyalty that aimed no higher than the avoidance of open ill-doing—and I think it would be as insecure. Indeed, I believe that one of the contributory causes of 1914 was perhaps the fact that our policy of that day was not sufficiently positive. The point that I wish to make to your Lordships is that peace is no mere negative thing, because in this great struggle as I see it—the great struggle of the world and of human nature—the forces of good that make for peace and the forces of evil that make, for war are perpetually ranged against each other. In that warfare there is, and there can be, no armistice and no neutrality. If we want peace we have to work always for the understanding which may make possible the adjustment of differences, and also may give vitality to any terms of settlement. And I venture to think that so long as the path is blocked by fears and by resentments and by mistrust progress is at the best uncertain and at the worst impossible.
Now, the world to-day is standing at the cross-roads, and a hundred years hence, if the world survives, we shall all be judged by the direction that we now take; for upon the choice that we take at the cross-roads depends much more than the issue of our immediate difficulties, and the price of wrong judgment will be a very high one. Though the crossroads have long been in sight it is, I think, true to say that the world has been brought right up to them by the recent action of Germany and by the inevitable reactions from it. The history of those events is of course fresh in our minds, and I do not recapitulate it. It is quite undeniable that the method which was chosen by Germany to force her claims upon the world's attention has dealt a wounding and very far-reaching blow at all the foundations on which the international 518 order has to be reared. Germany has justified her action on the plea of past grievances, and there will be, no doubt, in sympathy with the noble Lord, a general desire that what I may call this era of grievances should be closed. But if and when that can be done and has been done, we must, I think, be sure that in future, as there will be no justification so there will be no intention in any circumstances to resort to that method again; and there will be no hope whatsoever of a settlement unless of that we can be positively and absolutely sure.
I need not remind your Lordships that confidence in the observance of international undertakings is as vital to the life of nations as confidence in the observance of contracts is to the conduct of their business and economic life. Therefore, the first thing that my right honourable friend had to do was to re-establish the foundations before he or anyone else could set to work at building the new house which we all desire to see. I have seen it suggested that the fact that my right honourable friend laid great stress upon the importance of what he has often called this interim period implied that he was unduly obsessed by the technical spirit, and was not sufficient alive to the greater project of the building of permanent peace. But that of course is quite untrue, because the due liquidation of this interim period was the essential condition of getting on to the permanent work which we all desire to see undertaken. And it was therefore for that reason that the efforts of His Majesty's Government infallibly fell into two compartments, first of all, of course, the attempt to devise conditions for the period intervening before the negotiations on larger issues could be undertaken; and, in the second place, the direct preparation for the time when, if the earlier difficulties could be overcome, the larger work should be taken in hand.
It was with that double object that the Locarno Powers worked some three weeks ago. It was evident that unless by some means some measure of confidence could be re-created in the period antecedent to that when it was hoped to reach discussions on the main questions, there was no chance of establishing a sufficient background of confidence to permit any hope of the larger negotiations being brought to a successful issue, 519 even if it were possible ever to get them begun. It is at that point that we feel that the German Government might have given us greater help. We have made it quite plain—and this answers one of the questions of the noble Lord—that our proposals of March 19, whatever their merits or demerits, were not of the nature of an ultimatum. But we had also, I think, the correlative right to expect that if the German Government were unable to accept any or all of the proposals we made, they would have made alternative proposals of equivalent value for the purpose to which ours had been directed. As the noble Lord knows, my right honourable friend will be holding discussions in which I shall also be associated, with representatives of the Locarno Powers during the next day or two, when one or two of the other matters that he mentioned will no doubt come under review, and therefore he will perhaps excuse me from saying more at this stage about them than that. But the fact that the German Government have been unable to make such a contribution as we had asked from them to this interim stage seemed to His Majesty's Government to reinforce the obligations that they had accepted in the earlier conversations to do what they could to reassure their co-signatories of Locarno—France and Belgium.
I was very glad to hear what the noble Lord said at the end of his speech when he invited us to place ourselves in the position of those countries. Those countries had lost, and had lost literally in a night, a security to which they attached great importance, and they had lost it in a way that seemed to them, as to us, to strike at the root of international stability. Therefore, quite apart from the fact that we were bound by our signature to very precise obligations under the very Treaty which Germany had unilaterally denounced, your Lordships may take it as quite certain that it was abundantly plain to those who were engaged in these negotiations of three weeks ago that those countries could only be induced to take their just share in the task of reconstruction if, meanwhile, they could be reassured as to their own security. The Staff conversations, of which the noble Lord spoke with some anxiety, and the letter that my right honourable friend sent a week or so ago to France and Belgium 520 were the contribution of His Majesty's Government to the creation of conditions which might make negotiations possible—in my judgment, as I have said, a contribution that it was quite essential to make.
I must say a word or two upon the Staff conversations. It is not necessary to emphasise again that these Staff conversations—contemplated, your Lordships will remember, under paragraph III of the White Paper—are concerned only with the discharge of our existing obligations in the event, which we hope will not occur, of unprovoked aggression. My right honourable friend gave the further assurance in the House of Commons on April 3, to Mr. Lloyd George, that
" it is not contemplated to put any of these military plans into operation in the unfortunate event of the failure of these negotiations unless "—
I would ask noble Lords to mark these words—
" there is an unprovoked attack by Germany on Belgian or French soil—an actual invasion of either France or Belgium."
Nor will your Lordships have failed to observe the precise conditions my right honourable friend attached to these conversations in his letter to the Ambassadors on April 1—namely, that
" this contact between the General Staffs cannot give rise, in respect of either Government, to any political undertaking, nor to any obligation regarding the organisation of national defence."
THE MARQUESS OF LOTHIAN
May I ask a quesion on that point? As I understand my noble friend, this obligation ceases unless there is unprovoked aggression on the soil or frontiers of France or Belgium. Would I be right in interpreting that to mean that the casus fœderis cannot arise as the result of any treaties which France may have with other Powers to which we are not a party?
§ VISCOUNT HALIFAX
I have heard the noble Marquess ask that question before in the House, and therefore I have come prepared with the answer, but it falls in a little bit later and, if I may, I shall answer it in my own form. It is of the first importance. In view of these explicit statements, I am satisfied—and I hope your Lordships will be satisfied—that no danger can rightly be held to attach to them of involving this country 521 in unspecified commitments. They are not the assumption of new obligations. They are only an examination of the technical steps that would be necessary to fulfil obligations by which we are already bound, and it is perhaps worth while, though I should think hardly necessary, to remind your Lordships that these obligations correspond exactly with the vital interests of this country, recognised as such for many centuries. There was, as was said in another place, nothing new in Locarno, and there is nothing new about its maintenance. Moreover, if the conditions postulated in the letter in the White Paper ever came to prevail, the condition of our assistance to France and Belgium against unprovoked aggression, for which this Staff contact may be continued, would for the first time—your Lordships will mark this—be on the basis of reciprocity. I can imagine that when no conditions are laid down as those in which one country would undertake to help another, it might be possible that Staff conversations might give rise to expectations that the event might prove unfounded, but that, I suggest, cannot arise when both the obligations and the means of discharging them have been the subject of exact definition.
With all respect for Mr. Lloyd George, I cannot myself see that there is any foundation at all for suggesting that the existence of such carefully circumscribed obligations or contacts would be likely of themselves, in any degree whatever, to make war more probable. The noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, has often talked in this connection about the time table beginning to operate; about the action of one country leading by mechanical consequence to counter-action by another, until the inevitable drift is set up towards that steep slope at the foot of which lies war. I believe he would agree that that against which he has warned the country is the result of something quite different—namely, the division of Europe into opposing blocks of nations bound to one another by close alliances; and no one—the noble Lord opposite and I are here in complete agreement—could feel more strongly than I do that against any such issue from our present anxieties all our statesmanship must be directed. I do not think that Europe can ever hope to win peace by a return to the pre-War system of alliances; but I do think, 522 definitely, that in any attempt to organise collective security for an area about which we feel able to anticipate with reasonable assurance the judgment of our fellow-countrymen, it is a real guarantee of peace that it should be plainly stated in advance that this country would resist with all the means at its disposal any wanton disturbance of the peace.
I fully share the sense that the noble Marquess has in his mind of the importance of precision, and here I come to the point on which he interrupted me just now. "Unprovoked aggression," under Locarno and under these Papers, means what it says. It does not mean, if I may repeat the words that my right honourable friend used in another place:a situation when, owing to obligations elsewhere, our neighbours may become involved in conflict and may call for help in a quarrel that is not ours.I think that is a specific statement which answers the point of the noble Marquess. These undertakings, therefore—and this is the point I wish to leave in your Lordships' minds—have no wider scope than the original obligations deriving from the Treaty of Locarno which they are designed to implement.
That brings me to say something about another matter that is in the minds of many thoughtful people, and that is about the relation of Locarno, and what flows from it, to the wider instrument of the Covenant of the League, subject to which Locarno was, of course, drawn. It has been a criticism of the Locarno Treaty—as of any other limited and specific undertakings—that it pro tanto weakened the prestige and position of the Covenant. The argument is plain enough. If the Covenant was what it has pretended to be, there is really no need for these other reinsurances which are only taken out because you do not feel certain on the day that the Covenant will be able to meet the claim. That is the broad argument in colloquial language, and I would readily admit that argumentatively I think the position is a strong one and can be sustained; but, as so often happens with human affairs, though the argument is excellent I am convinced the truth lies on the other side. I believe that these regional and specific guarantees, so far from weakening, supplement and reinforce the Covenant and help it with its 523 main job which, I would like some of our warmongers constantly to remember, is peace.
And that I think for two reasons. First of all, that to which I alluded at the outset of my remarks, because of the difference between the original conception and the actual conditions in working practice of the Covenant to-day; and, secondly, because it is essential in these matters, however much we may seek to set our gaze on the stars, that we should be realists and keep our feet on firm ground. I believe that British public opinion is prepared to accept particular and antecedent obligations to support France and Belgium against unprovoked aggression, firstly, because it thinks, and thinks rightly in my judgment, that this is a real contribution to the steadying of the European situation; and, secondly, because it feels by instinct that as it has always acted for generations so, given the compelling circumstances, it would infallibly act again.
But this attitude—and here I come to another question that the noble Lord, I think, asked me—should not be interpreted to mean that because we have assumed more specific obligations in the West which we were not prepared to repeat for the East of Europe, therefore we disinterested ourselves from all events and issues arising outside what perhaps I may call the Locarno area. In my view such an attitude would be quite impossible, partly because peace is, and is likely to be found indeed to be, indivisible; and it is very hard for me to imagine that if the East of Europe were really aflame you could feel any confidence that the flames would not spread across to the West, but also, of course, because of our obligations under the Covenant which are obligations by which we abide and which we intend to implement to the utmost of our power. Therefore it is with the single object of trying to strengthen the forces of real peace, and with some such conception as I have tried to lay before your Lordships as to how it can be achieved, that we shall examine the latest German Note and any proposals coming from any other quarter that may be laid before us.
The plan of which I have seen reports in the newspapers as likely to be submitted by the French Government has not as yet reached the hands of His 524 Majesty's Government and therefore I can say nothing about it. The Secretary of State has already said that, while he regretted that the German Government had been unwilling to give us greater help in the immediate problem, he yet, along with His Majesty's Government, recognised the importance of many of the proposals that the German Government had made and, taken together, they obviously constitute a body of material which must be carefully sifted and examined. I hope that in any communications that His Majesty's Government may have to make to the German Government they will bear in mind the wise counsel of the noble Lord opposite, that they should not allow to creep into them any of the temper that he has noticed with respect to criticisms of the Labour Party in or without this House. On that task of sifting and examining those proposals His Majesty's Government are already engaged in the hope that means may be found by which the Governments with whom His Majesty's Government have been working may be associated with them in their examination. The German proposals range, of course, over ground much wider than the Rhineland or the position of the signatories of the Locarno Treaty. Therefore, I think, on that ground, as indeed on others, there is a good deal to be said for so extending the scope of the preparatory discussions that will be necessary as to make the League of Nations as such a party to them, and I hope that we may secure a general agreement for that course.
Your Lordships, therefore, will not expect me to make detailed observations upon particular points of the German Note to-day, but one or two general observations may not be out of place. In all human relations, and particularly perhaps in such a case as this, when the attempt-is made to compose differences, the vital thing, I suppose, is that all parties should be so inspired by the common purpose that that which they have in common is really deeper and is really stronger than all the things by which they appear to be divided. And where that condition prevails, of course, agreement can be won, and agreement having been won such understanding can be established as is likely to give that agreement the quality of permanence. We are all only too well aware of how gravely and how disastrously the efforts 525 of the last years in Europe to find this true basis of peace have been prejudiced by all the complex of conflicting emotions to which the nations of Europe have been very naturally subject. We all see the problems in different perspective so that it is extremely difficult for one nation to see that which seems plain necessity or simple equity to another, and it is from that that in part comes the failure up to now of reconciling what always must be the two dominant paramount necessities of Europe which must be reconciled if the peace of Europe is to be any more than an uneasy and insecure neutrality, and those two paramount necessities are the equality of Germany and the security of European States.
I would hope, for example, that to-day France and Belgium would be not less willing than ourselves to give full recognition to the rightful claims of Germany in the sphere of equality, provided that they can be satisfied that the German Government will in fact recognise the duties towards all Europe that such equal rights entail. In other words, if I may use perfectly plain and frank speech, Europe needs to be satisfied that the peace project of Herr Hitler is sincerely meant and that the fact that certain countries find no specific mention in it does not imply that they have no place in the peace vision of the German Chancellor. No one can deny that, whatever faults there may have been on the other side, the German Government, by the procedure of the fait accompli and by the proclaimed philosophy of the overriding justification of State necessity, have gravely shaken international confidence. And confidence is a plant of painfully slow growth. Yet, if progress is to be made, it is to the future rather than to the past that our eyes must turn. So far as this country is concerned our policy will be to stand steadfastly by all who seek peace, and to oppose all who would betray the cause of peace. Every opening must be put to a fair and dispassionate test—the test of time and practice. By that proof alone can the genuine character of the nature of such opportunities for settlement be ultimately judged.
I do not think that for practical statesmanship there is any other way of determination. Meanwhile, we shall neglect no effort to reach a land of peace; but we will relax no precaution on the 526 road. Nor, finally, can I doubt that if ever the hopes of peace that we all cherish are to be more than dreams that pass, the nations of the world must call to their aid forces of which perhaps they have hitherto made insufficient use. The late Lord Grey used, I think, wise words when he said that nothing so predisposes men to understand as the consciousness that they are understood. Trust does indeed beget trust, and I see little hope of European peace, even if we are able to gather the nations to the business of negotiation, unless those concerned can bring to the Council table that quality which will then impel them to see the best and not the worst in what each may have there to contribute, above all remembering that they are perforce and in truth, by the common fact of their humanity, partners in the enterprise of securing the conditions by which alone the future of that humanity can be preserved.
THE MARQUESS OF LOTHIAN
My Lords, I should like in the first instance to thank the noble Viscount who has just spoken for the definite answers to certain questions which he has given, and for the extremely eloquent and moving speech which he has just made. He said during the course of his speech that the world had reached cross-roads. I think he is right. I think the negotiations and discussions which will take place, probably during the next year, will determine whether Europe finds a basis of peace or whether it is going to drift back to a situation in which it will at any rate find it extremely difficult to avoid war. The situation, as I see it, has been profoundly changed by three events in the last six months. They are three events on which I shall lay rather a different emphasis from the noble Viscount who has just spoken.
I think the first and most significant event is the conclusion of the Franco-Russian Pact. I do not think the noble Viscount made any reference to it. I do not think the people of this country realise the immense effect that that Pact may have on Europe and on ourselves. Admittedly, it is still perhaps in a somewhat inchoate condition, but do not let us disguise from ourselves the fact that it bears a suspicious resemblance, in its very nature, to one of those pre-War alliances which were 527 one of the primary factors in embroiling everybody in circumstances in which they could not avoid war. Every alliance is defensive and this alliance is carefully drawn within the terms of the Covenant except that it excludes the Council of the League of Nations almost entirely from any decision as to whether warlike action is legitimate or not. The decision lies unilaterally in the hands of the two signatories alone. That is the first and significant fact, and I think we have to recognise the immense effect that the conclusion of that alliance between an immensely powerful Russia and a very powerful France must have upon a nation which during all its history has been frightened about encirclement and the danger of having to meet war on both fronts, and has also been concerned, not so much with Bolshevism, as with the constant pressure of the great Slav world on Central Europe for at least two centuries. I think that is a factor the significance of which will become more and more important as time goes on, not only for Europe but for ourselves.
The second factor which has changed the situation is the disappearance of the demilitarised zone through the unilateral entry of Germany into that zone, clearly contrary to the letter of the Locarno Treaty. I am not going to embark upon a discussion as to the relative moral merits of Herr Hitler's action and the action of certain other Powers. I think what we have to realise is that the demilitarised zone has disappeared for ever and that whatever the result of negotiations may be we have to recognise that the special security for France and the special weakness for Germany which it involved have disappeared. We have to-day to look at a Europe in which Germany has recovered full sovereignty over her own country and the right to take the same measures to defend herself as are claimed and exercised by every other sovereign State. That means an immense change in the Europe of to-day. It gives Germany more power and must affect France's relationships with the minor Powers of Eastern Europe.
The third, and in some ways the most significant, change is the successful defiance of the League of Nations hitherto by Signor Mussolini. If there is one criticism to be made upon the speech of the noble Marquess it is this. I 528 do not think it is quite just and fair for him to cast so many aspersions upon the trustworthiness of the Chancellor of the German Reich in going back after fifteen years into his own country, admittedly in violation of a treaty, without passing at least as formidable strictures upon the head of a nation which has invaded a small country also contrary to all treaty obligations and carried on the war in a manner which has deeply offended the moral sense of all mankind. I do not think that anything you can say about the National Socialist régime is to be compared with the criticisms which it is possible to pass upon a régime which is training even infants in school to prepare for Imperialism and war.
§ VISCOUNT HALIFAX
I do not want to interrupt my noble friend, and only do so because, if he thinks that I have failed in my speech to give outward expression to my condemnation of Italian action, that is an impression that I ought not to leave in his mind. Indeed, I thought that my words had protected me from doing so.
THE MARQUESS OF LOTHIAN
My Lords, the situation, as I venture to say, has been changed, and profoundly changed, in the last year by the three events I have mentioned: the Franco-Russian and the Czecho-Russian Pacts; the disappearance of the demilitarised zone; and what has hitherto been the successful defiance of the League by Signor Mussolini. What frightens me is that the policy of the Government can, not wholly unjustly, be described as one of feebleness in Africa and enlarged commitments in Europe. If that is so, I think we are going to face an extremely dangerous situation. The central point that I want to lay before your Lordships to-day is this: whether we consider the future of the League of Nations, whether we consider our guarantees to France and to Belgium, whether we consider the future of the British Commonwealth of Nations—the greatest institution for preserving peace which still exists in the world—we are more and more being driven away from eloquent idealism back to one central fact: what is this nation prepared to fight about? Until we have made up our minds about that, there will be uncertainty in our policy; uncertainty in Europe as to what our policy is and as to what contribution, if any, we can 529 make to the stability of Europe; uncertainty in the League as to what it can ultimately rely on. That is the central problem which confronts this country and every country to-day, and the reason is that the League of Nations is not a Government: it is an association of sovereign States for certain purposes, and, inevitably any form of coercion between sovereign States involves the risk of war. The clear evidence of the last year has been that Article 16, the Article governing economic sanctions, an Article which might be very effective if all nations were universally combined, in a partial League is either ineffective or brings you to the risk of war. It is one or the other. It either brings such feeble pressure to bear on an aggressor State as can practically be ignored as a means of stopping that State from achieving its immediate purpose, or it brings such severe pressure to bear upon that State that it is likely to retaliate by action which means war.
In the last resort, the League is an instrument for waging war for international purposes instead of for national purposes. It is only when we face that fact that we shall clear our minds and clear our policies to-day about the League, about Europe, and about the British Empire. In the negotiations which are now beginning, and which, as I think, will go on for many months, the first thing about which we have to be clear and to educate our own countrymen to be clear is the points upon which they must be prepared in the last resort to go to war, and must therefore make it clear to other nations that they are prepared to go to war. We have done that in the case of Locarno, and I, personally, entirely subscribe to the declarations which were made to France and Belgium, on the assumption that these are genuine undertakings to go to their assistance if there is a case of unprovoked aggression by Germany. But I am not prepared to subscribe to these declarations if they mean that those countries can come to us and say that the casus fœderis can arise as the result of any treaty of any sort or kind that they have made with anybody else to which we are not a party. It is absolutely vital that we should make that distinction, not only to France and Belgium, but also to the whole world and within the British Commonwealth.
530 When we consider what we are prepared to fight about, I would ask your Lordships to consider for a minute the situation in which we find ourselves to-day in the world as a whole. There is a famous reference—I think Cecil Rhodes made it once when he quoted the fourteenth chapter of St. Luke to Dr. Jameson—which is very appropriate to us to-day:
" What king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? "
What is our ten thousand? We have just built a great base at Singapore to deal with a very menacing situation in the Far East. Can we send any considerable number of ships there even to-day? We have obligations to Australia, to New Zealand, to India, to Malaya, which come, in my view, a good deal before obligations—or some obligations—in Europe. Are we in a position to discharge them? I do not think that recent events in Japan have diminished the power of the military policy in that country, and it seems to be true that the United States is contemplating seriously withdrawal altogether from the Philippines in another nine years. How far do our ten thousand go to enable us to discharge obligations, which are just as great as any others we may have nearer home, to the people who enjoy liberty under the British flag and who look to us to protect them, and on whom in the last resort our own prosperity and security depend?
I would ask a question about a situation nearer home. I have no inside information, but I understand that a very considerable proportion of the British Fleet is now in the Eastern Mediterranean, that no inconsiderable proportion of the Air Force is in Egypt, and that there have been reinforcements in North-Eastern Africa from the British Army. Are they going to have to remain there as long as Signor Mussolini has any considerable army in Abyssinia? Are we going to be able to move the British Fleet over to Singapore or to the North Sea as long as Signor Mussolini keeps 300,000 troops, white or black, in Abyssinia? It is a very formidable question, and it is a question which we have to answer before we lightly undertake further obligations in Europe. I, for one, am not only horrified by some of the 531 methods which Signer Mussolini has adopted, but have never had much doubt in my own mind as to what his ultimate Napoleonic purpose might be. If the day came when Great Britain had to remove her Fleet from the Mediterranean, either to go further east or to come home, and became seriously embarrassed, would there be any obstacle, once he had an army in Abyssinia, against his repeating exactly the operation which his great predecessor Napoleon made in his first enterprise out of Europe some. 120 years ago? I do not think it is going to be easy for us to remove a very considerable proportion of our forces from the Mediterranean in the near future.
May I come back now to Europe? Is there any necessity, now that the Treaty of Military Assistance has been signed between France, Russia and Czechoslovakia, for us to be scared into further military commitments in Europe? Let me just read to you some figures—I do not say accurate figures but the best figures I have been able to obtain—showing very broadly what I may call the distribution of forces in Europe between the status quo Powers—that is, the Powers who are primarily interested in maintaining the status quo—and the Powers primarily interested in altering it. France has an Army of 520,000 men of whom 210,000 are overseas in Algeria, Morocco and elsewhere. She has 1,670 of what I believe are called front-line aeroplanes. Belgium has an Army of 68,000 and probably about 200 aeroplanes. Czechoslovakia has an Army of 200,000 and 400 aeroplanes; Poland an Army of 266,000 front-line troops and 500 aeroplanes; Rumania an Army of 150,000 and 250 aeroplanes; Russia an Army of 1,300,000 which, on the authority of my noble friend on my left, is supported by 3,000 aeroplanes, a number which he says is rapidly going to be increased to 15,000.
THE MARQUESS OF LOTHIAN
Probably he has very good sources of information. Yugoslavia has an Army of 200,000 and 400 aeroplanes. That gives a total of over 2,700,000 front-line soldiers and 6,420 aeroplanes on the side of the status quo Powers. That is not including Italy, which on a peace basis has 532 an Army of 370,000 and about 1,100 aeroplanes. On the other side what have you got? There is the normal German Army of 550,000. I am not including paramilitary formations which exist in all countries to a greater or lesser degree. Her present Air Force probably numbers 1,500 machines. Hungary has an Army of 34,000 and Bulgaria an Army of 30,000. You have a total of about 610,000 men and 1,500 aeroplanes. I should be the last to underrate the advantages possessed by a great military Power in the central position, nor can anybody who remembers what happened in the late War minimise the immense danger when small Powers can be taken in detail by a great Power without being supported by any other great Power. I merely put these figures forward as showing that Europe has immense reserves for the defence of the status quo if it likes to organise them without calling upon us at all.
When we consider the tremendous obligations which rest upon us in the Far East, in the Mediterranean and now in the west of Europe, I would urge upon the Government the paramount importance of not being lured into further commitments in Europe with anything like the arms and preparations which we have to-day. That is really the central point which I wish to lay before your Lordships. We have got to consider what we are prepared to go to war for, and what are the resources by which we can make war, before we can enter into commitments. It is only when we have faced what we feel we can get the country to fight for—and still more important to remain united behind a war—that we are in a position to say to the rest of the world what obligations we can undertake, what we can fulfil and what we cannot. I venture to think that much the most important thing we have to face is that question.
If possible there ought to be another Peace Ballot asking the country what it is prepared to fight for. In the situation which we are reaching in the world today security is coming more and more to rest upon what people are prepared to fight for. Until we face that we shall go on with the wobbling policy for which we are criticised by every other country and for which the National Government is criticised on this and other Benches. I ask the Government to consider that, 533 and to consider the future of the League of Nations—that also is involved—and then, having made up their minds, to tell the country what things they are prepared to fight for and the instruments by which they can make their decision effective.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
My Lords, we have listened to a most interesting speech from the noble Marquess with which I find myself almost entirely in agreement, particularly as to the questions which he thinks ought to be raised. I entirely agree. I think that really is the point. The point is whether we are going to persist with the old system of international government or the new system. It all comes back to that. Once you have made up your minds about that the rest of the questions become easy. It seems to me that the debate this afternoon really does turn on that question. In the few observations I am going to make I will endeavour to make good that proposition.
There are two broad questions that have been discussed. The first is the question of the Rhineland, about, which my noble friend the Leader of the House-spoke mainly, and on that question I do not propose to say much because I find myself in almost entire agreement with everything he said apart from certain details. I confess I think the suggestion of asking Italy to be one of the guardians of the faith of the world was perhaps unfortunate, but no doubt it was not made by the British Government. Apart from that and one or two other details I agree broadly with the policy of the Government. I think the speeches of the Foreign Secretary have rightly drawn a distinction between our duty under Locarno and our duty under the League Covenant, and I think that as long as that central distinction is preserved we shall not get into very serious trouble in Locarno. To the consultations between Staffs I confess I do not attribute so much importance as do those with whom I usually find myself in agreement. If we are under obligation to go to the assistance of France in certain events, it is only a matter of common sense that we should discuss exactly what that means if that duty is to be discharged.
I pass at once to the other question, which to my mind is far more urgent, and which, properly considered, is really far 534 more important. In that respect I agree with very much that was said by my noble friend who has just spoken. I mean of course the question of Abyssinia. That is where I agree with him. To my mind all these questions come down to the same principle, as far as principle is concerned. In the Far East the whole question was: Is Japan to be allowed, at her own will, to set aside a number of treaties and to decide that she has a right to do certain things without any appeal to anybody else except to her own sovereignty? That is the old system—every country to be entitled to do exactly what it wants for itself and nobody to interfere with it except at the price of war. The result, of course, was very disastrous in the Far East, and I think we are still suffering from that. I am not going back into the question of who was to blame, but I think we are still suffering from the fact that Japan was able to defy the most clear expression of opinion by all the other countries assembled in the Assembly of the League—fifty or sixty of them—and to go on with her policy as if their protests had never been made.
Then we come to the Rhineland, and if I may say so to my noble friend who has just spoken, though I am sure he recognised it, I do not think he really attributed quite enough importance to that. It is not to my mind the re-occupation of the Rhineland by Germany that is important, though it is a breach of treaty, and it has importance from that point of view; the real importance of it was the argument put forward to defend it—namely: "We have a right to do this because we are a sovereign country and we will allow no one to interfere with any exercise of our sovereignty." That is a fatal doctrine—and my noble friend, I am sure, will agree with me—if we are to establish the new order of affairs, and if we are really to put with any hope of a clear answer the question which he so much wishes to have put before the people of this country. And now with regard to Abyssinia it is just the same. The two issues in each of these three cases are: (1), respect for treaties—I need not say any more about that than, has been said—and (2), the broad proposition: Are we to attempt to establish in the world some form of international—I will not call it government, it does not amount to that—but some form of international control, or are we 535 to allow a recrudescence of the old international anarchy? Are we to have the new system, or the old? Are we to have the system so rightly condemned by my noble friend who leads the House, the system of alliances, or are we to have the system of the League, which is essentially different? That is the great issue before us.
I agree with what my noble friend Lord Lothian said just now that the Soviet Treaty is not in accord with the new system. It is not so, I quite agree; none of these special treaties are. They are the hang-over from the old system, and I quite agree we have to get rid of them sooner or later. It is only in that sense that—though I was partly responsible for it because I was a member of the Cabinet when it was done—I have never been quite happy about the Locarno system. I do not agree with my noble friend about that. My experience in the country is that Locarno is far more unpopular than the larger obligations of the League. The idea that it is to be confined to a particular case is not accepted. They do accept the proposition that we have to do something to re-establish the peace of the world. A big broad general system is the right way to do that—that is accepted. But if you talk to them about the historic interests of this country in the Netherlands you will find that the argument has a very poor reception. It is not only that these things depend on the same principles, but they hang together. A faulty decision in one will hopelessly compromise the decision in the other, and so on. Therefore we have to look at these things, and that is the excuse, in my judgment, for discussing the question of Abyssinia, even though the Notice on the Paper talks about the situation in Europe, because what happens in Abyssinia will vitally affect the position in Europe.
When you come to compare the relative importance of the German issue and the Abyssinian issue, I think that there is an unfortunate and considerable difference of opinion between what I take to be the popular opinion in France and the popular opinion in England. I quite understand how it happened that to the French the Rhineland issue is far more important than the Abyssinian issue. They look upon it on the old lines—the danger of an attack by Germany 536 against France, and all the old traditions of centuries, and all the old alliances, and how it is to be met by getting this country or that country on one side of the alliance or the other. I quite understand that to the Frenchman that must seem far the most important issue. But, judged as we judge the thing here, I think we are right in thinking that the Abyssinian issue is really the more important of the two.
I believe it is going to be the more vital, because when you come to look at the incidents of the Abyssinian question it is a far bigger thing than the re-occupation of the Rhineland by Germany—in itself, apart from its ultimate consequences: the whole horrible incident of an invasion, an invasion carried out in the way this invasion has been carried out. You have the absolute defiance of the Covenant, the express defiance by the spokesman of Italy; and not only of the Covenant, but of the Briand-Kellogg Pact and of all the other treaties. A wholesale slaughter, a hecatomb of treaties has been the accompaniment of the Italian policy. Then quite lately you have, in addition to that, the fearful savagery with which the war is now being carried on, in defiance again of quite express and definite treaties—more treaties thrown on the scrap-heap and creating precedents for future war which must give every country, and particularly this country, the utmost anxiety. We may see in the fate of the open towns in Abyssinia to-day the horrible fate of London to-morrow. And not only London, but, if the same precedents are to be followed, we are to see every little country village exposed to bombing and machine-gun fire and the slaughter of the women and children in it. The results will be something perfectly portentous if those principles of warfare are really to prevail in any future war which may unhappily take place.
Lastly, in estimating the importance of the Abyssinian issue, we have to recognise our special responsibility. I fully understand my noble friend's protest against that doctrine. But it is so; we cannot avoid it. Be it so that the responsibility for the mistakes, if mistakes were made—and I think very bad mistakes were made—was the responsibility of the League: but our inherent authority, our 537 inherent position must give us always a very great share of responsibility for any international mistake in which we are concerned. Not only so, as my right honourable friend Mr. Winston Churchill pointed out the other day, we did take, I think quite rightly and properly, an active part in pressing on the Council of the League the establishment of sanctions, and I agree with Mr. Churchill that, having done that, we incurred a special duty to do our utmost to sec the thing through and to see that those sanctions were effective.
And when I say effective, what do I mean? Of course it is true, profoundly true, that the first, duty of the League is to stop the war. There cannot be any doubt about that. Read, not this Article or that Article of the Covenant, read the thing as a whole. There is no question that that is the conception, not of the words of the document, but of the whole idea. If you come to the words, they are extremely clear as well. And if it is the duty of the League to stop the war, then it is our duty—and I venture very respectfully to urge this; I do not think that the Government disagree, but I do urge it in any case—it is our duty to press the League to discharge that obligation. I know that some of my noble friends hold the view that that obligation does not rest on us unless every nation is prepared to agree with us in the step which we take. That is said, no doubt, in a popular way, but it cannot actually be what is meant. The abstinence of some small Power, for example, would surely not remove our obligations, or the abstinence of two or three or a dozen small Powers. The real issue is not unanimity, but whether we can command such a force as will make the opposition practically hopeless.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
That is a different matter. I am merely for the moment arguing the point that the only limit, as I see it, to our responsibility in this matter is that, giving the best attention I can to the documents 538 which bind us, I do not take it as our duty to act unless we have in support of our action so large a measure of assistance that the opposition will be practically hopeless. I know that when we say anything like that we are accused of being warmongers. I was glad to hear my noble friend Lord Lothian saying in so many words that he was a warmonger in that sense. But just let us see what it is we say. We say it is the duty of the League to take whatever steps are necessary to stop the war, and when we suggest something of an extreme character such as cutting off communications between Italy and Africa or putting on oil sanctions, or whatever it may be, we are told that means war because we will have to fight Italy. What does that mean? It means that if we do certain things in discharge of our treaty obligations, and in discharge of the principles which we are trying to set up, Italy will attack us. It is not a question of our going to war with Italy: it is a question of Italy attacking us; and therefore we must not do it, we must not risk doing that, because that will produce war. It means we are not ever to take any steps if a Dictator says: "If you do that I shall attack you." That cannot be right; that must be wrong: that cannot be a defensible point of view. We have got to do our duty under the Covenant. We have got to do it reasonably. We have got to take a reasonable course, but, taking that and assuming we have the support of a sufficient number of States to make our action practically certain to be successful, then the question of what action Italy or any other delinquent may take is a matter no doubt to be considered, but it is certainly not to be regarded as a conclusive answer to the discharge of our duty. Otherwise we should be really accepting the view that a delinquent country was entitled to dictate the measures of coercion. That seems to me to be the absurdity to which the argument could be reduced.
I entirely agree with my noble friend who was good enough to say, in his courteous interruption some time ago, that we must have Franco with us. That is a sine qua non, practically, as I understand the practical situation. It would not have been so, perhaps, in the Far East. We should have had to have America; but we cannot act in this case, 539 at least so I think, unless we have the support of France. It is possible that the French Government will act in such a way as to make it impracticable for us to take necessary action. One of my noble friends thought the other day it was sufficient to show that a course was idiotic to make it unlikely that the world would adopt it. I am afraid I do not take such a sanguine view as that. But if the French do take that line, that it would be idiotic of them seems to me to be beyound discussion. Their whole hope, in my view, in the end, like the hope of all other peace-loving countries, must be in collective security. I do not see any other hope at all for them. If they allow the League to be undermined, if they allow aggressive countries to defy the League and carry through their policy in spite of it, it seems to me that the chief hope of France is seriously interfered with.
I am bound to add this, as I am speaking on this subject, that it would be foolish of us, foolish, if I may say so respectfully, of the Government, to ignore the strength of feeling in the country on this point. I have not any doubt that the policy pursued by France last autumn has been responsible for the larger part of the reluctance, or the apparent reluctance, in many quarters to any action which would seem to bind us further to France in the present crisis. At the present moment I am satisfied that that feeling is far stronger than it has ever been that we are, and ought to be, bound to carry out our obligations so as to protect Abyssinia from the aggression of this infinitely more powerful aggressor. All the British feelings—do not let us through false shame conceal it—are on that side. The desire for fair play, the desire for chivalry, the hatred of cruelty, all the best and strongest feelings that move our people, are combined in this matter, and I am satisfied that, though that feeling is already strong, it is going to be stronger and stronger until it may easily reach an embarrassing strength.
What I feel is that that aspect of the case has never got home to the Italian Government and perhaps not to the French Government either. They do not understand it. They think that underneath it all is some curious anxiety about the waters of Lake Tsana or some such 540 nonsense as that. I observe with almost indignation that at this crisis, when the country is stirred to its depths by the appeals from suffering Abyssinians and the account of what they are suffering, we are told that the Italian Government have given fresh assurances that they are going to respect out rights in Lake Tsana, and that they do not contemplate at the moment any invasion of Egypt. That is not the point. One right that we care about in this matter, apart from these humanitarian considerations, is the right to peace. In my belief my noble friend Lord Lothian was perfectly right in saying that until that is established, and accepted, as the essential motive of our foreign policy, to the extent that in certain circumstances we will take forcible action to repress the aggressor, there is very little hope either that the world at large will understand what our policy is or, if they do understand it, that that policy will be successful.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
My Lords, I am sure your Lordships will feel a strong sense of gratitude towards the noble Lord, Lord Snell, for having put the questions that he has to the Government, and, if I may, I would like to congratulate the noble Lord on the admirable speech which he delivered. We have up to the present time looked upon the Socialist Party as a warlike Party, anxious to make war on all countries, yet at the same time not allowing this country to have those adequate defences which are necessary to enable it to fulfil the obligations which it might undertake. But I found no sign of that attitude in the speech which the noble Lord, Lord Snell, delivered, and I think that he put some important questions to the Government.
The noble Viscount who replied for the Government spoke in his usual eloquent and attractive manner, if I may say so, and enunciated a number of facts of which we were all perhaps well aware, but he did not give us any very real guidance as to the foreign policy which His Majesty's Government propose to pursue. I know that we are at the present moment in a very difficult position and no one would care to say anything at this time which might embarrass our Government in the negotiations which they are proposing to carry on, but one somehow feels that in our foreign policy—and I think it has been noticeable in the speeches to 541 which we have listened—there is some lack of direction and an absence of any definite plan. I am not sure that owing to our inadequate defences we have not found ourselves for some years past in a very difficult position, and have not felt capable of laying down any definite policy for the guidance of the world. I feel sometimes that if we could have done that, it would have relieved us from many of those difficulties in which we are now placed. But it does seem to me that at this time we require some definite foreign policy to be pursued, and that we should put that policy forward and adhere to it whatever it may be.
The noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, gave us a very clear picture of the state of Europe at the present time, and I know that state of Europe is a source of great sorrow to my noble friend who sits on the Cross Benches (Viscount Cecil of Chelwood). No one has fought harder than he during the last few years to reduce armaments in the world. He spent many years on the Preparatory Commission and he has made speeches in all parts of the country, yet to-day we see Europe an armed camp and armaments are increasing. This shows very clearly, I submit, that the policy which has been pursued during the last sixteen years has not been an effective policy, and that the faith which we have reposed in the League of Nations has not as yet been justified. But while I say that, I also wish to state that there is no warmer supporter of the conception of the ideal for which the League of Nations stands than myself, and I feel that unless we can establish a League in accordance with the ideals that are in our minds the outlook for Europe and the world is a very gloomy one indeed; in fact, I for one in that case see no future for the world except through some tremendous catastrophe out of which a new era may begin. But I am sure none of your Lordships are anxious to see that catastrophe. We earnestly hope that a reconstruction of the League of Nations may take place, and that we shall see established a worldwide organisation capable of bearing the strain which will be put upon it and of fulfilling the desires of the nations of the world.
The debate to-day has ranged over a somewhat wide area, yet I feel that none of us can say we have been able to derive 542 from it any very great satisfaction. There were gloomy prognostications in all the speeches to which we have just listened, but it does seem to me that, whichever of the questions may be actually the most important, the one which is filling our minds at the present moment is the situation which has arisen from the latest move of the German Government. I venture to say with all respect that this moment is one which should be taken advantage of, and that we should under no circumstances let this opportunity slip. One feels that a network of formalities will arise from the proposals that have been made. There is a danger that counter proposals will be put forward, and that instead of this opportunity being seized now, months will be allowed to slip by so that we shall be unable to derive from the situation the good results which I believe can be obtained from it. We have discussed today the collective power of the League of Nations and the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, has told us of his opposition—he did not quite call it opposition, but I agree with him in what he said in regard to his lack of agreement with the Locarno theory.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
May I be allowed to state that it would be unfair for me to say that, for I was responsible for it with others. What I meant to say was that I thought for the moment it was the right thing to do, and the only thing to do at the moment, yet I always did feel it had certain weaknesses which made it very difficult to defend in the country.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
I think I know exactly what the noble Viscount means, and in no circumstances would I think of doing him an injustice. I know that he believes in the collective arrangement of all these matters, and looks askance and with doubt at any arrangement which can be brought about by direct negotiations between Powers. But I do feel in the particular situation in which we are placed that an agreement between Germany, France and certainly Great Britain would be of the greatest advantage to the world, and I think your Lordships will agree with me when I say that this is the development to which the nations of the world are looking. The people in this country are increasingly interested in foreign affairs. It is quite 543 true there are various matters in this country which may cause them to forget the great importance of foreign affairs at this particular moment, but I think that nothing would give greater satisfaction to the people of this country than that some definite and satisfactory agreement should be arrived at between Germany, France and this country.
That is why I would most sincerely urge upon my noble friend who is going to Geneva to try and hasten these matters, because while there is sometimes some advantage in delay, I am quite sure there is no advantage in delaying this matter. One does most sincerely hope that we shall be able to consider the German proposals and consider the French proposals. I hope the French proposals are not in the nature of counterproposals, but are proposals which somehow will fit in with those that have been put forward by Germany. I hope we may be able to consider them and take a long step forward towards bringing about that peace towards which the world is so anxiously looking. The present situation has many alarming characteristics, but I do hope we shall be able to view it as a whole in its proper perspective. One does look to the representatives of Great Britain, the Foreign Secretary and the Lord Privy Seal—and I am sure we can have no better representatives—to do all they can to see that the matter is put in its proper perspective, because the world is looking at these negotiations and is believing that good will come from them. I do most sincerely hope that that confidence which is reposed in those who are dealing with these matters will not be misplaced.
I think we should realise what really is the reason for the situation in which we find ourselves at the present moment. The situation has been brought to a head, if I may say so, by our policy of sanctions. We have adopted a half-hearted policy of sanctions. I am one of those who are not at all in favour of the policy of sanctions as it is being carried out at the present moment. My conception of the League of Nations—I have had an opportunity of putting it before your Lordships before, and I ask your indulgence to allow me to put it before you to-day—is a great comprehensive organisation which includes all the nations of the world; an organisation which by its composition would be of so powerful a character that, although it 544 had the power to impose sanctions, those sanctions would never have to be imposed. I feel that the present organisation falls short of that composition, and that therefore the imposition of sanctions of this character constitutes a great danger and that those sanctions do not fulfil the objects which, as a weapon of the League of Nations, they are supposed to fulfil.
We know quite well that France was placed in a tremendous difficulty in deciding whether she should implement her allegiance to the League of Nations or consider her friendship and attachment to Italy, which is one of the greatest factors in the security of France. By our policy, in which we persuaded France to do neither one thing nor the other, a regrettable estrangement has taken place between Italy and France. That has forced France into the hands of Russia. Hence this very ill-fated alliance which has been brought about, and of which mention has been made to-day, although its full significance does not appear to have been realised. That alliance cannot be said to infringe the League principles. I think the signatories to the alliance have been careful that the League principles should not be infringed; but there is no doubt as to the meaning of that alliance. It is part of the policy of the encirclement of Germany, because France believes that by a policy of that description she will add to her own security. That is a policy with which I cannot agree. I most sincerely hope that we shall be able to persuade France that her future does not lie along that direction, but in an understanding with Germany and the full support of a reconstructed League of Nations.
I would deprecate the suggestion, which one does hear on all sides, that Germany cannot and will not respect treaties, and because of that suggestion, for which Germany has given very good reason, I am sorry to say, there is a prejudice against the proposals which the Germans have put forward. I, for one, condemn strongly the methods which the Germans have employed, but I think that we must realise that there are what I might call mitigating factors. All negotiations to which the Germans have been a party during these last few years have not been negotiations brought about on a basis of equality, and I think that inequality of status between countries is always very likely to vitiate negotiations 545 brought about between them. I am not saying this as an excuse for the action which the Germans have taken, but I put it forward, and I believe in it strongly, as what I call a mitigating factor. We must remember that Germany has been a defeated country, that she has passed through degrading conditions, that certain concessions of a not really very important character have been made to her, and that in every possible way her inferiority has been emphasised. Now Herr Hitler's power and policy are a direct reaction to the mistaken policy which the world has pursued, relating to Germany, in the last few years.
Germany requires help and sympathy like every other country. There is a suggestion that Germany is powerful and is desirous of making war on various countries, and is determined to be a direct disturber of the peace. I am quite sure that that is not the policy of Germany at the present time. At the present moment Germany is in no sense capable of making war, and it seems an extraordinary thing to me that the French should desire certain undertakings to be given at this moment, as if there was some danger of an invasion of France taking place in the next few-days or in the next few weeks. There is nothing of the kind in being at the present moment; but this is the time at which Herr Hitler has put forward proposals which I feel are a great move in the direction of peace. I sincerely hope that France will be able to put her fears and anxieties on one side, and will see in these suggestions the possibility of a new future, and that, instead of making new proposals and rendering the situation more difficult than it is at the present moment, she will see the course which she should pursue.
When we speak of France we must all look on France, naturally, with feelings of the greatest sympathy and affection. After all, none of us can forget the years which have gone by, in which we faced our dangers and our troubles together, and I think that if we look on the practical side of the question we know quite well that in future our fortunes are linked up with those of France. There is no possible situation which I can foresee in which France and Great Britain can find themselves ranged on different sides if such an emergency as war should ever take place. But the French 546 are essentially realists, and they have their one ideal before them, of security. They are concerned for the maintenance of what they believe to be their security, and they will consider no other question at the same time. They have endeavoured to achieve that security by subscribing to the League of Nations, although they have been desirous of fashioning a League of Nations of a pattern according to their own ideas. If the League of Nations did not furnish them with the guarantees they required then they desired that security should be obtained by alliances and guarantees of a different character. We must necessarily remember that the abiding fear which is always in the mind of France is the danger which she believes to come from Germany along her frontiers. I feel it is quite necessary that we should be able to persuade France as to the pathway along which her security lies, and if we can do that a great many of the difficulties with which we are faced will be solved.
Hitherto, by various disappointments, the French have felt that their security depends on the subjection of Germany. We have found in all these years that they have opposed every move in the direction of giving equality to Germany. Now the last element of the inferiority of Germany in the maintenance of the demilitarised zone has passed for ever, and France will be put in a position of dealing on a footing of equality with Germany. I feel that those who represent us at Geneva have a great task to fulfil—that is, the reconciliation of warring elements which at the present moment are dividing France from Germany. I believe that can be done after full consideration of Herr Hitler's proposals, and I sincerely hope that we shall be able to see those proposals developed into a lasting system which will bring peace in Europe for many years to come.
§ LORD ARNOLD
My Lords, in intervening in this debate I must make it clear at the outset that I speak only for myself. That has the advantage that I can speak plainly, and I intend to do so. I have had many years' experience now of your Lordships' House and I know that your Lordships do not object to candid and plain speaking. The noble Viscount who spoke for the Government used grave 547 words about the situation and said we were at the cross-roads. It is of course true that we are living in probably some of the most fateful days in history. People are and need to be intensely anxious. They feel that the sand in the hour-glass is last running out, and they want to know whether this chance—this last chance, it may be—of effecting a settlement in Europe is going to be grasped or whether, as so often in past days, it is going to be thrown away. I find them asking this: Is France once again going to be allowed to destroy a settlement as so often in the past?
I do not think myself that the debates which have taken place in Parliament up to the present have represented what very large numbers of people in the country are thinking. The people want to see swept aside all these diplomatic punctilios and juridical niceties and a settlement got, and they know that that can only be done by at last treating Germany fairly, differently from the way which she has been treated in the past. The noble Marquess who has just sat down made, if he will allow me to say so, a valuable speech with much of which I find myself in agreement. People are anxious because they know that if things are going to be put right there must be a fresh start in Europe and there must be an end of the Versailles spirit which has been the curse of the Continent for the last seventeen years. I am sorry to say that the Foreign Secretary, in the speeches which he has made in regard to this very grave and intensely delicate situation, never seems properly to have understood the German point of view. Certainly he has not stated it. Even the noble Viscount the Leader of the House, I thought, erred to some extent this afternoon in that direction. The noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, pointed out that the noble Viscount, apart from a few perfunctory remarks, hardly referred to the Franco-Soviet Pact and Mr. Eden in another place said very little about it when putting the position before the House. The noble Viscount, Lord Halifax, said that Germany justified what she had done on past grievances, but her main justification, as I read her reply, is the Franco-Soviet Pact and not past grievances.
The noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, said she had done what she had done because she was determined at all costs to assert 548 her sovereignty. That no doubt was part of her policy, because she felt that the time had come when she must no longer be under the inequalities under which she was suffering, but the factor which brought about the present position was the Franco-Soviet Pact, and the German Government, to do them justice, have been perfectly candid about that from the very start. As The Times Berlin correspondent—who, if I may say so, has sent singularly able and informative despatches—pointed out, ever since the spring of last year the German Government have said that if France went on with the Franco-Soviet Pact they would regard it as a breach of Locarno. Undoubtedly that Pact is against the spirit of Locarno. There can be no question whatever about that whatever juridical niceties may be put forward. It is part of the policy of the encirclement of Germany, and if we were in Germany's position we should feel exactly as she feels about it. This constant scolding of Germany for treaty-breaking puts an almost intolerable strain on the position, especially when it comes from France with her record about disarmament, both in regard to the Covenant and the final Protocol of Locarno, her invasion of the Ruhr, which was quite illegal and against the wishes of this country. France, as we all know, was the main factor in causing Article 16 of the Covenant to be broken in regard to sanctions against Italy. For France to pose as the upholder of International Law in Europe and to indulge in shrill condemnation of Germany because of the peaceful militarisation of the Rhineland is merely to aggravate the situation.
Obviously another great obstacle to conciliation are the Staff talks. There has not been a great deal said about them this afternoon, but I have no hesitation in saying that the overwhelming majority of the people of the country are against those talks. If a plebiscite could be taken that would be abundantly confirmed. Yet the Foreign Secretary actually said in another place that they would not in any way prejudice a settlement. The German Government have said exactly the contrary. They have said that they would be regarded as seriously prejudicial if the talks went on. That is common sense. Anybody but a diplomat could see that. They might have been designed to exacerbate the 549 situation. Consider the alternative. Suppose Germany at this moment was carrying on Staff talks with some Powers. Think what a howl would be sent up of "How can you trust Germany now?" Obviously it has been a very great mistake to give way to France on this point.
Moreover, there is no rational reason for the Staff talks at all at the present time. There is no fear of Germany attacking France at the present time. As "Scrutator" pointed out in the Sunday Times on Sunday—and he is one of the most able military critics in the country—
" There is no more risk of Germany's attacking whilst these negotiations are in progress than of Franco attacking."
And what did the Germans say themselves in their reply last week?
" As is obvious from her offer, Germany has no intention of ever attacking France or Belgium. And, taking into consideration France's colossal armaments and the enormous fortresses on her Eastern frontier, it is well known that such an attack would be senseless from the purely military point of view alone."
What on earth, then, is the, urgency of these Staff talks? Why could not they have been postponed for three or four months until negotiations have been carried through? Quito obviously they are a very disturbing factor in the situation.
Now the Foreign Secretary insists that in the White Paper there is an obligation under Locarno to go to the assistance of France and Belgium. The White Paper in effect says so. That is, under Article 4 (2) of the Treaty of Locarno, which says that:
" As soon as the Council of the League of Nations is satisfied that a violation or breach has been committed it will notify the Powers signatory of the Treaty and they will come immediately to the assistance of the Power against whom the act complained of is directed."
The submission I make is that as a matter of fact under the Treaty of Locarno there has been no obligation whatever in the present circumstances to go to the assistance of France or Belgium. Clearly the Treaty of Locarno envisaged an act of unprovoked aggression, and that has not taken place. This has been pointed out in one or two able letters in The Times, and I would like to say here that I think The Times in these grave days, both in its leaders and in its correspondence columns, has performed a very great 550 national service. It has been pointed out there that obviously the Treaty of Locarno was never intended to apply to peaceful militarisation. Such militarisation was never foreseen, and not provided for. The words are that we will go "to the assistance of the Power against whom the act complained of is directed."
What evidence is there that the peaceful militarisation of the Rhineland is directed against France and Belgium any more than against other Powers signatory of the Treaty? And indeed Article 44 of the Versailles Treaty says this:In case Germany violates in any way Articles 42 and 43 "—that is, the articles which say that there should be no militarisation and no fortification—she shall be regarded as committing a hostile, act against the Powers signatory of the present Treaty.The Powers—all of them, not merely France and Belgium. How could it be contended before any jury of twelve Englishmen that the putting of 30,000 German troops in an area which has a German population of 14,700,000 is an act directed against either France or Belgium more than against anybody else? No jury would convict on that.
I want to ask the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will deal with this point. I will put to him two specific questions. We are told we are obliged under Locarno to go to the assistance of France and Belgium—that is one of the justifications for the White Paper. I say that we are not obliged to do anything of the sort under the present circumstances. I ask the noble Earl these two questions: Were the words I have called attention to—namely, "against whom the act complained of is directed "—ever considered by the Foreign Secretary and the Government in coming to the conclusion that there was an obligation on us in this case of peaceful militarisation to go to the assistance of France and Belgium? If so, on what grounds was the conclusion reached that the act complained of was directed against France and Belgium any more than against all the signatory Powers?—which is what the Treaty of Versailles laid down would be the effect of a breach of Article 42 or Article 43. I contend that this is a very serious matter. 551 Germany has asserted again and again that what she has done was merely to affirm her sovereignty, and that fits in with the facts—the number of men and so forth. Clearly that fits in with what she has done. She has evidently had no intention up to the present of attacking anybody, and therefore up to the present we are not called upon to go to anybody's assistance.
It is only because of a strained and, in my view untenable, interpretation of the Treaty that we have been drawn into the present position, which, as Mr. Lloyd George has pointed out in a very able speech, is a very dangerous position: we are getting nearer and nearer, with obligations and commitments, to a condition of things which will one day lead to war. It is all very well to say that these Staff talks are really only part of Locarno, and that they do not carry us any further than Locarno. I agree with what the noble Viscount implied, that the British people have never really been consulted about Locarno, and they have never really understood it. In any case Locarno was signed in 1925, when the condition of Europe was totally different, and it was signed mainly for two purposes: first, to bring Germany into the League of Nations; and, secondly, to lead to disarmament—and France and the other nations undertook to disarm in the final Protocol. Those two things at the present time are not in existence. Germany went into the League of Nations and then went out, and there are jurists who hold that that very fact invalidated Locarno. And certainly France has not disarmed; on the contrary, ever since Locarno she has been rearming as quickly as her finances would allow. And yet we are told that this is only the same policy of Locarno, and that we are really being committed to nothing more. I say that is putting a very strained interpretation upon the position. It is opposed to common sense. Obviously we are committed to more when we have these Staff talks.
But then the Foreign Secretary said in his speech: "Ah well, we had to give way. If we had not given way we do not know what would have happened. It was the danger of war. This was the price we had to pay for the restraint of France." What was the restraint of France? What could she do? Did she propose to go to war because of peaceful 552 militarisation? If she had done that it would have been a gross breach of the Kellogg Pact, to which France is a signatory. And now she is posing as the upholder of International Law in Europe. Presumably when she is blaming one Power for breaking a treaty she would not break another at the same time! I am afraid there is only too much reason to believe, looking at the situation all round, that now that France has got us tied to her by these Staff talks, she really wants the negotiations with Germany to break down. She has never said a syllable to help them. On the contrary she has done everything to hinder them. M. Flandin went back to Paris, and that very evening in the Chamber he said: "Of course there will not be any foreign troops on our soil. That would be a monstrous iniquity." Is that the way to bring about a settlement at a time of very difficult and strained relations?
The fact is that France wants to keep the status quo. Now she has us committed to her, she wants that rather than a European settlement. But it is time that all this came to an end. The majority of the people of Great Britain are sick and tired of being dragged at the heels of France, and France's best friends should tell her so, and tell her she is making a profound mistake in continuing along the same fatal course which she has so often pursued in the past. Large numbers of people in this country hold that it is France who is mainly responsible for the condition of Europe to-day. After all, she has been the guiding factor in foreign policy for the last seventeen years, and there is a widespread demand that Great Britain ought at last to have a foreign policy of her own, not dictated from Paris. Unfortunately, for practical purposes the Locarno Treaty has now become an Anglo-French Alliance in effect; and yet it is quite certain that a big majority of the people of Great Britain are opposed to any such alliance.
Vast numbers of people have been alienated in recent months from any support of France at all. The noble Viscount said that one reason for that was what France did in regard to Italy and sanctions. Let us look for a moment at what France did in the matter of sanctions. From the outset it has been 553 France which has stopped effective sanctions. She refused to apply effective sanctions to Italy despite Treaty obligations, yet France wants sanctions against Germany despite the fact that they would be illegal because Germany is not an aggressor. So almost at one and the same time France, in her own interest, has stopped effective sanctions against Italy and, in her own interest, wants effective sanctions against Germany. Failing to get them she has enmeshed Great Britain in what is in fact an Anglo-French Alliance.
Before I sit down I want to say a word or two about the insistence which is put forward that Germany must make some gesture if negotiations are to succeed. She is to promise this or that for three or four months if there is to be a prospect of success. As a matter of fact Germany has gone a long way in that direction in her reply; she has promised certain things. But in truth all this talk of the supreme value of some gesture is remote from reality. If Germany is what she is represented to be by anti-Germans—namely, entirely untrustworthy and unscrupulous, the fact that she might be prepared to make some gesture would not indicate any change of heart but might be a trick any unscrupulous Power would adopt in order to get her own way later on. In those circumstances there would be no difficulty in her agreeing for four months not to fortify the Rhine, but that would be no safeguard. In any case Germany, as has been pointed out this afternoon, will not permanently agree not to fortify the Rhine. That is not equality, and she ought not to be asked to give any such guarantee. Such a prohibition is quite inconsistent with sovereign rights. Germany would fight rather than agree permanently not to fortify the Rhine. What is France going to do? Is she going to war with Germany to stop her having sovereign rights? If so, she will not have the British people with her, and if she does it that would be a gross breach of the Kellogg Pact which France has signed.
It seems almost incredible that we should be standing out for some gesture which, even if we; could get it, would have small bearing upon the situation. All this sort of thing ought to stop. If negotiations are to succeed, the past must be buried and Germany must be treated as an equal. Unless you are going to do 554 that, unless Germany is to be treated fairly and differently from the past, it would be better to break off negotiations altogether. You must do one or the other. This vacillating, wobbling, half-hearted, pin-pricking policy is bound to end in disaster. If negotiations do break off, it is vital to bear in mind the alternative. The alternative is an intensified armament race in every country in Europe. That: is what will happen. No feeling of security anywhere from hour to hour until the war comes, the war which the Prime Minister has told us will mean the end of civilisation. That is the alternative. Surely, it would be a crime against humanity to let small diplomatic punctilious points, juridical or otherwise, which have no real substance, break off negotiations—to break them off because of reasons which are trifling in comparison with the stupendous issues at stake.
§ LORD NEWTON
My Lords, this debate started with speeches on the subject of Abyssinia, and I should have thought that is a topic which must be as distasteful to one side of the House as to the other. The official representatives of both Parties are equally responsible for this policy, and must be equally disappointed at its futility. When I have on previous occasions ventured to express my disapproval of this policy I have been told that I was living in a pre-War world, which on the whole is no worse than living in a fool's paradise. I believe it is quite a common circumstance for people who are insane themselves to think they are the only sane people in the country and that everybody else is mad. I confess I had something of that feeling myself when this war began. I never in my wildest moments dreamt that I should find myself associated with Lord Rothermere and Lord Beaverbrook and, I suppose, Sir Oswald Mosley and Lady Houston, but the extraordinary thing is that the most unlikely people are right sometimes and other people are wrong. This is a case in point, and very much the same thing happened in 1914. In 1914 all the most eminent people in the country, all the high-brows, were convinced that war with Germany was unthinkable, and the so-called stupid people, amongst whom I temporarily rank myself, were convinced of the opposite; and it is the stupid 555 people who are right again now. I observe that the more important people are becoming converted, because I notice that both Sir Austen Chamberlain and Mr. Winston Churchill made speeches in another place on Monday strongly condemnatory of the Government's policy with regard to Abyssinia.
Everybody recognises the miserable failure of that policy, and I am not going to recount the various details, because I have done so often before, but if the noble Earl, Lord Stanhope, when he gets up, is able to quote one single solitary instance in which any benefit has been achieved for ourselves, for the Abyssinians, or for the League, I am prepared to withdraw any uncomplimentary observations that I have made in the past. I know very well he cannot do it, but I can suggest something to him, and that is that he might at all events admit we have learned a useful lesson. It is an extremely unpleasant one but at least we have realised, at long last, that our military and naval position is totally unsatisfactory and, to put it plainly, it is very doubtful whether we should be able to take on a great Power with any certainty of success. That is a rather melancholy conclusion to arrive at, but that assists the Government in this way because, as we all know, they are now obliged to tell the country that £300,000,000, I think, is required to put us in a state of defence. Whether that be regarded as a contribution towards collective security or not I do not know, but that is one small lesson we have learned, and it will be all the easier for the Government therefore to obtain the sum required without the opposition that would otherwise have been the case. I am wondering incidentally whether some noble Lords on the Opposition side will suggest that the Abyssinian policy of His Majesty's Government is all part of a Machiavellian design to enrich the armament firms of this country.
The connection between Abyssinia and the Rhine is not very clear, but nevertheless it is fairly obvious. In the first place it must be perfectly plain to everybody that the complete failure of the League was an incitement to Herr Hitler to take the action which he has done with regard to the Rhine. But there is another consequence of our policy 556 which is directly affected by the endeavour to enforce sanctions. Everybody knows perfectly well that the French most reluctantly embarked on the policy of sanctions. They did their best to resist it, and when they came to adopt it they did as little as possible. In fact, I am not sure they did anything at all. As somebody remarked—I think it was the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry—the French are a realistic nation, and I am perfectly certain that when they gave their consent to the application of sanctions and co-operated in a perfunctory way, they exacted something from us in the nature of reciprocity. I presume it afforded them an opportunity, so to speak, to squeeze us upon the subject of a possible attack on the part of Germany.
I am wondering whether the Staff talks of which we hear so much were part of the bargain—Staff talks which, I entirely agree with the noble Lord opposite, seem to me perfectly unnecessary, for this reason, that however illegal Herr Hitler's action may be, it does not constitute a threat of aggression at all. France is in no more dangerous a position now than it was in six months ago. Ever since the War the French have been spending colossal sums upon the fortification of the frontier. I believe they have spent something like £500,000,000 to £600,000,000 on it; they have been busily engaged in encircling Germany with satellite States which are heavily armed; and they have finally concluded an alliance with the Soviet, the object of which is unconcealed. The alliance with the Soviet Government was made because Russia is a formidable military Power. There is no secrecy about it at all, and the fact of this alliance being concluded, what-ever the views of the Labour Party may be on the subject, seems to me to have been an extremely valid argument on the part of the Germans that at all events the principle of Locarno has been destroyed.
What is there on the part of the French really to be afraid of? The mere fact of 50,000 men being introduced into the Rhine Valley makes very little difference. Nobody in their senses can believe that the Germans are going to fight them, at all events for some time to come. The French have not only prepared for an invasion for years and years, but they 557 have also prepared by contracting these alliances. They have made this pact, and no nation in its senses under the circumstances would dream of any aggressive measures at all. Therefore, what is there to talk about? If I understand the matter rightly, and if I am not misquoting Ministers, I think it has been stated that in no circumstances would British troops be used to turn German troops out of German territory. I believe that is a pledge that has been given. In that case, what is there to talk about, and what could we do in the matter? You may say we are responsible, but, as a matter of fact, we have not got any troops available for this purpose at all. I cannot help suspecting that these Staff talks are really a concession on the part of the Government to French, I will not say vanity, but to French amour propre—a thing which French Ministers can talk about when they go to their electors in the course of the next week or two. But the fact does not seem to me to have any real significance at all.
In any case, the situation on the Rhine has led to some extremely unpleasant criticism of this country in the French Press, not altogether unaccompanied by threats. For instance, I read in English papers of March 25 a translation of an interview given by M. Flandin to the representative of a journal called the Tribune des Nations, which, I understand, is an organ connected with the League, and in that interview he said in effect—I cannot quote his words because I have not them here—" If the English are going to maintain the attitude that they are holding at the present moment, what we shall do is this: we shall make our own terms with the Germans, practically at the expense of the English." There is no justification for any language of this kind, but I adduce it as an instance of the feeling which, in some quarters of France, prevails with regard to this country. I observe that my noble friend the Secretary of State for India, the other day in a speech which he made, I think at Manchester, stated that all the trouble in Europe was due to the action of Germany, and when this statement was criticised in The Times he replied that he was only expressing his private opinion. Well, I do not know whether Cabinet Ministers exchange private opinions upon questions of this kind or 558 not, but I cannot help thinking that if he was to examine his colleagues he would find that they did not all agree with him.
§ THE MARQUESS OF ZETLAND
I think the noble Lord has misunderstood the point. What I said was that certainly I was solely responsible for what I had said, but that was in reply to a suggestion by The Times that I did not approve of something said by somebody else.
§ LORD NEWTON
Yes, I know; that is the whole point. The noble Marquess was expressing his own views, but they were not necessarily the views of his colleagues, and, as I say, if he were to consult them, he would find the views of some of his colleagues were the exact opposite. If he were to consult a wider audience, I think he would find that there was an enormous mass of opinion in this country which refused to take that view, and took the view, on the other hand, that the present unsettled condition of Europe, the deplorable condition of Europe at the moment, is not due solely by any means to Germany, but is due to the fact that Germany has not had fair play since the War; and, in fact, that the real causes of the present condition of Europe are to be found in the post-War Treaties. There are sympathisers on both sides in this country. There are strong supporters of France, and there are many people who sympathise with Germany. I am not ashamed to avow myself as having very considerable sympathy with Germany, but I do not include in that sympathy—not that it will make any difference to him—Herr Hitler and the Nazi Government. To my mind Herr Hitler, whatever his merits may be, which are no doubt considerable, seems to go out of his way whenever he gets a chance to alienate his friends. He begins by alienating opinion by the persecution of Jews and political opponents in his own country, then he outrages and alarms foreign opinion by the breaking of treaties and by totally illegal acts. If I were a German I should be inclined to implore Providence to be delivered from this particular man. He may mean well, but it seems to me that on the whole his influence is disastrous, that it will be ultimately disastrous to Germany, and that at the present moment it is certainly disastrous as regards the feeling of the outside world towards Germany.
559 I think the prevalent feeling in this country is that we desire to be on equally good terms with both France and Germany. I do not know that we have any particular preference for one or the other, and I sympathise with the idea that there should be an alliance between the three countries, but it does not look like that being so at the present moment. I however derive great consolation from the fact that His Majesty's Government are going to take what I believe to be the really sound course. They are not going to take sides, but they have undertaken to consider the proposals which Herr Hitler is putting before Europe. Whether they are really valuable or not I cannot say, but nothing could be more unsatisfactory than the condition of Europe at the present moment, and I sincerely trust that these proposals will be carefully investigated. As far as my personal opinion goes, for what it is worth, I do not believe there ever will be any satisfactory settlement of Europe, that Europe will ever be really peaceful and satisfied, until the League of Nations is remodelled and until the post-War Treaties are revised.
§ LORD NOEL-BUXTON
My Lords, I want to express the anxiety which is widely felt lest the Government, while at first they took up the position of friends of both sides, are moving somewhat away from the position of mediator, and I wish to ask the noble Earl, Lord Stanhope, if he can assure us that recent indications do not indicate anything of the kind. The public and the Press have noted a certain departure from the attitude expressed by the Prime Minister in the first debate which took place in another place two days after the German coup. The Prime Minister said that" our aim was to bring France and Germany together in friendship with ourselves." He criticised both sides. He did not spare France, and that struck people as an extraordinarily significant utterance at such a moment, when France was asking our aid as the aggrieved party. The Prime Minister apparently felt that some warning was needed, and he said that "our best hopes have been blighted, sometimes by the French in our view missing an opportunity of accepting some offer." Then he went on to criticise Germany, using these words: "doing some act to liberate herself in breaking a treaty which has shocked our conscience," and again, 560 " in such a way as to shock the most delicate susceptibilities of the French." But he qualified that criticism with these words: "She has acted in that way I do not believe deliberately."
In that speech the Prime Minister took up the authentic attitude of mediator. He showed an absolute absence of bias towards either side, and the attitude of a potential friend to both parties, crediting both with sincerity. At that moment the French Government were proposing violent action, and asking us to take the strictly legalistic view. The Prime Minister's tone was markedly different, and his attitude, adopted by the Government, saved us from what would have been a reckless policy. Events now show to all the world that the French proposals would have been fatal. The Foreign Secretary has an extraordinarily difficult problem to face. No doubt experts had urged the Government towards leaning in favour of the letter of the law. The Cabinet preferred to lean in the direction of judging by the spirit of the law, but it does look as if in subsequent days there had been some movement away from that middle position, and certain newspapers have voiced the alarm that has been felt.
I would point to the White Paper of March 19 as one evidence of it. The proposals were made in a very different tone from the utterance of Mr. Baldwin. The tone was not that of a mediator. You might call it minatory. It seemed to assume that Germany was guilty not only in the letter but in the spirit. It departed from the conception of equality. The noble Viscount who leads the House, in his eloquent and moving speech, dealing with general considerations, said that Germany's excuse for her action is the grievance which she has suffered. I agree with my noble friend Lord Arnold that that does not do justice fully to the German case. The noble Viscount used afterwards the expression: "The era of grievance has closed." All of us welcomed such a statement from him, but the liquidation of the immediate crisis, as he called it, does need evidence from us of complete impartiality and total freedom from leaning to one side or the other.
I think that the White Paper, judged fairly, did show a certain bias. For instance, in the proposal of a one-sided zone. That surely implied that we are not at the moment prepared to recognise 561 Germany as a sovereign State with complete equality. If even we are not prepared to recognise that from this moment, then I think we create a despair in Germany and we jeopardise the prospect of receiving Germany into the League. The noble "Viscount, in his speech after that, made an extremely interesting appeal to the German Government. He tried to make acceptable what he evidently felt was an almost impossible pill for the German Government to swallow. It moved me to admiration to see how his great gifts were employed in making the pill as acceptable as possible. It was a masterpiece of persuasive argument, but he could hardly expect that it would succeed in inducing Herr Hitler to accept the proposal of a one-sided demilitarised zone.
Then, when you come to the question of Staff talks, we have had powerful criticism of the fact of the Staff talks to-day. Apart from, that, it seemed to me that the White Paper emphasised the Staff talks in a quite unnecessary way, and even if we were still occupying the same impartial position it was needless to give them such prominence in the White Paper. The tone of the White Paper was quite alien to that of the utterances of Mr. Baldwin to which I have referred. Then, after that, we had the debate in another place, and the Foreign Secretary went out of his way to defend the proposals in the form they took in the White Paper, and dwelt with emphasis upon the fact that we were not arbitrators. It seemed to me again that he was taking a different attitude from that of the Prime Minister, and there was a great deal of comment in the Press on the fact of this difference of tone. That departure from the part of mediator seemed to most of us disastrous. It seemed to us that if it were carried to any distance the last chance of establishing the League on a new and sound foundation would be gone, that we should be showing we were taking the French view as more reasonable than the German view, and that we agreed in essence with the French policy—a policy represented in the main by the invasion of the Ruhr. If we did approve of the French policy of past years, which has been so devastatingly criticised to-day, we should remember that that is the policy which produced Herr Hitler and Hitlerism in Germany, and we have 562 perhaps in the past given France reason to think that we did agree by our genial complacency and sympathy.
We have more or less followed the policy proposed by the French Government, and therefore it seems to me we are partly responsible for the shock which was felt in France three weeks ago at finding that we do not at all agree with the fundamental idea of French policy. What we understand as reason is not at all the same as what is understood in France as logic. We never of course can regard predominance as a possible basis of permanent peace, but we still have the Paris Press talking about France the victor, Germany the vanquished—an idea perfectly alien to ourselves at this stage of history. We all know the French view, which has been very well expressed by my noble friend Lord Snell. It is perfectly understood in England and great sympathy is felt for it. But it really is all to the good if the French people are now coming to realise that what we want is a League on a permanent basis and not on a precarious basis like that of subordination. Our views of policy are our own and there is public anxiety now, as my noble friends have said, lest perhaps the Government are drifting a little towards the adoption of French policy, as has so often been done in the past. I submit that the Prime Minister's reaction immediately after the coup was right and sound, and I hope that the noble Earl who speaks for the Government will be able to assure us that there is no departure from it whatever.
§ LORD RENNELL
My Lords, the debate which has arisen on the Question put by the noble Lord, Lord Snell, has been anticipated by a discussion in another place a very large portion of which was devoted to the Italo-Abyssinian dispute. I do not propose to make any reference to that to-day except to observe that I find some difficulty in accepting the contention put forward on behalf of His Majesty's Government that from September, 1934, until May, 1935, they had nothing before them except the Walwal incident. I do not know what smokescreen can have been interposed between them and the facts that was potent to prevent them seeing. The continual despatch of arms to East Africa throughout the summer, autumn and winter of 1934, the appeal of Ethiopia in January 563 of last year, repeated again in March, invoking Articles 10 and 15 of the Covenant, representing that the menace of war existed, and then finally, the acceptation of conciliation commissions from which without protest the real issue, the menace of war, was excluded, seem to make it difficult to claim to-day that nothing else was before them except the Walwal incident.
I will leave that alone to-day because the hour is advancing and I propose only to deal—without the slightest spirit of criticism of the attitude of His Majesty's Government up till now—with a problem which perhaps more than any other in my long experience seems to me to require examination without prejudice in the light of practical considerations. I believe that on the decision to be taken after the proposals that have been made by Germany depends any prospect of relief from the condition of unrest and constant preoccupation which has impeded the recovery of the world from the cataclysm of the late War. Its grim legacy has left other issues still to solve but in the main the essential cause of that unrest remains the perennial irreconcilability of France and Germany, accentuated, in the case of the former, by a conviction—genuine, if to my mind not really justified—that their future security was not accurately guaranteed, and, in the ease of the latter, that a position of inferiority in the family of nations, which a great and potentially powerful people could not endure without humiliation, must not be perpetuated.
If the present aspect of this issue between them is largely psychological it is really almost as old as history. As you will all remember, Tacitus represented the Gauls and Germans as being divided by a river, a mountain and an incompatibility of temperament. The majority of the German people, for reasons which it is interesting to examine, remained outside the orbit of the Roman Empire. France inherited from Gaul perhaps more than any other country the Roman tradition, and she may logically claim an historical title to uphold the sanctity of contracts. We ourselves inherited very much from the Roman tradition, but we have also acquired from long experience a conviction that in national as in human affairs there is an advantage in compromise, in fair play and in the saving grace of common sense, and that the 564 strict application of a code may often lead to miscarriages of justice.
The attitude of France in the present issue has been, as always, perfectly logical, but in a fluid world logic cannot be the sole determinant. It is accepted by those who from long personal contacts know them best, that the peoples of the rival protagonists are sincerely desirous of peace and convinced of the futility of war, but a fatalistic drift of preconceptions still darkens the air with suspicion. It cannot be a national interest to perpetuate antipathies. No one can contest the paramount importance of observing respect for the sanctity of treaties and for pledges freely given until by mutual consent they can be revised or rescinded. On the other hand, it cannot be reasonably maintained that with changing circumstances treaty restrictions imposed under exceptional conditions can permanently remain exempt from that time limit to which all human issues are subject. We have seen, since the cessation of hostilities, certain nations with a long tradition of antagonism rapidly resuming relations of good will. We have ourselves, I think, not failed by accelerating the evacuation, resisting new occupations, and terminating Reparations, to give testimony of our desire to deal equitably with issues which stood in the way of Germany's recovery. I trust it is not too much to hope that at the present critical moment our friends in France will display the same conciliatory spirit.
I have said before in your Lordships' House, and I repeat, that I hold no brief for Germany, but I have always endeavoured in international issues to understand the point of view of either disputant; and I ask myself how far was the action of Germany not rendered inevitable by this attitude of mistrust and suspicion of which she knows herself to be the objective? Germany has seen herself surrounded by a chain of alliances within the body corporate of the League of Nations, extending across Europe. She has seen every effort to achieve disarmament obstructed and thwarted, and the greater Powers, with the solitary exception of Great Britain up to the present time, vastly increasing their expenditure on armaments while she had been unable to recover that sense of equality in the family of nations which she holds to be her due. She has seen one proposal after 565 another for the discussion of certain essential issues rejected without consideration. And so finally, when the German people realised that their encirclement was about to be completed by a pact with Soviet Russia, whose aims and propaganda they regard, whether rightly or wrongly, as a menace not only to their own, but to the whole of Western civilisation, they applauded the violation in the letter of treaties which they regarded as having been already evaded in the spirit.
They may exaggerate the danger they apprehend from that propaganda, but, having lately returned from a country where it has been in recent times particularly zealous, I have been able to realise the wide range of its activities. We who have made sacrifices of our own interests, as I have read them, and even of old friendships that were precious to us, for principles to which we had of our own free will subscribed, cannot approve the method, but we may understand, and therefore to a considerable extent excuse, a sense of disillusion which has had recourse, in order to escape from servitudes felt to be inconsistent with national dignity, to a procedure which international traditions condemn.
I have been told, but I think by an ever-diminishing number, of people to whom I have spoken of the new Germany, that I am easily persuaded and should study historic precedents. I think I am as familiar with historic precedents as most of them can be, and yet I am convinced that it is more opportune and more helpful for a future settlement in Europe to study more recent history, giving credit for extenuating circumstances, and to welcome proposals for a future setttlement than, with all deference to the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for India, to urge a re-examination of the philosophy of Bernhardi and Nietzsche and Treitschke, the last of whom was electrifying university audiences in Berlin when I was there at least fifty years ago. These men belonged to the Bismarckian epoch, in which a succession of victories and the unification of Germany after the long period of struggle had intensified the imperial spirit to dazzling point.
I still travel a good deal, and often find occasions to revise old pre-conceptions with new experience. During the last 566 year I have visited many of the countries on the Continent which are now most under discussion. Perhaps what has impressed me most in one of them with which I have been familiar for more than half a century, Germany, was what I may call the democratisation of the country, if I may use that expression without putting too great a strain on its connotation. The old iron caste system, which Bismarck maintained was necessary to the then condition of Germany, has disappeared. All classes have been shuffled up together. The land camps have brought the youth of town and country into healthy and genial contact. The manner of the drill sergeant no longer governs the attitude of officials, or even of police, who are friendly and helpful, just as old men used to tell me fifty years ago they had always been in Germany before the Bismarckian régime. I found there a new spirit of hope and confidence in what a short time before I had esteemed to be a nerveless and disillusioned people. In the pre-War Germany the Army constituted the only real social organisation in the country. After 1918 all standards of tradition disappeared and with that to a very large extent the disciplinary, the moral and the physical training for which we largely depend on our schools and colleges, but for which in Germany school and college life made no provision. A new social organisation has to be established to stem the drift to anarchy, to engender a corporate spirit and disciplined character. Well, the Germans believe that military service offers the instrument best suited to their national temperament. I only mention this because I should like to remind some people that there may be other uses for a national armament than that of pure aggression.
I find here to-day in this country, in all sections with which I come into contact, a strong and a growing feeling that since the Peace Germany has not been altogether fairly treated. An apparent determination in certain quarters to prolong indefinitely servitudes imposed immediately after the strain and the resentments of the Great War, while the rest of the world failed to implement its undertaking to disarm, her effectual isolation completed by the Pact with Soviet Russia, and the rejection hitherto of all advances made by the new régime, have 567 influenced public opinion here in a direction which it is not possible to ignore, and I can have no doubt what the effect would be if the proposals which have commended themselves to that opinion were to prove of none effect. France and Belgium are protected not only by the obligations that we have assumed, but they—and I might add Holland also—are reassured by the conviction, of which Herr Hitler makes no secret, that the good will of Germany is indispensable to the recovery and prosperity of his own country.
The alternative to such a settlement is unthinkable. The possibility of another World War is unthinkable, for it would mean the end of the world we know. Those of us who have reached the term of human activity have still one absorbing preoccupation—to leave to our children and to our children's children a better and more hopeful world than we have had to live in for the last twenty years. A great opportunity seems to be offered us to-day when the accepted Leader of a great people, which has contributed so much to the enlightenment of mankind, conscious that he has the whole nation unanimously behind him, invites us to forget the past, to bury the hatchet, to lay aside mistrust and suspicions, and meet round the Council Table to devise a scheme to ensure the peace of the world. We may not share some of his ideologies, we may regard his outlook as contracted, we may regret the disregard for obligations which have commanded traditional respect, but it is sufficient to know the man to entertain no doubt as to his directness and sincerity. There are critical moments in international affairs when it is more urgent to grapple with real values than to quarrel over forms. I believe the vast majority of my countrymen stand for acceptance in principle of the offer that ho has advanced, and I would appeal to our friends in France to co-operate in insisting on their receiving fair consideration and so ensuring that that new gleam of light on the horizon of the Western world shall not lead us only to disillusion.
THE EARL OF MANSFIELD
My Lords, at this late hour I shall spare your Lordships practically any reference to the general situation, especially as it is my intention, I am afraid, to extend the bounds of an already wide debate. All 568 I would say about the general situation is that, whatever may be the result of the present unfortunate disputes between Italy and Abyssinia and between France and Germany, we shall never get lasting peace in Europe until not merely the Treaty of Versailles, but also that of Trianon, is radically altered, if not altogether scrapped. The point I have really risen to put to the noble Earl, Lord Stanhope, is one which arises out of the points put forward by Germany for consideration in her case. That point is with reference to her former colonies. A certain number of questions have been asked, especially in another place during the last few days, and the replies to these questions, even the one given as recently as this afternoon, have been of a character likely to cause a certain amount of alarm among those of us who see no justification whatsoever for the handing back of any mandated territory to Germany.
I am not going to labour the point of view, although I think it is one which I share with a great many people in this country, that there is no ethical reason whatsoever why we should hand back any of the colonies to Germany which we acquired by conquest at the finish of a war brought on by Germany, but I suggest there are three very practical reasons why any such return is entirely injudicious and ought not to be contemplated. The first is that it would not satisfy Germany if Tanganyika, which is generally understood to be the one they have their eye on first, were handed back. Sooner or later they would seek to reconquer South-West Africa and the Cameroons as well. The second point is that should there ever again be hostilities with Germany, which we must pray will never be the case, but about which we cannot be certain, the nuisance value of a German base in Tanganyika would be very great indeed, both from the military and naval point of view. We should have to keep a large force both on sea and on land occupied, which might well be required elsewhere, and a whole Continent which would otherwise very likely, even in a world turmoil, remain in a state of comparative peace, might be plunged into war. The third, and even more vital, reason is this. Can it be claimed by any one that Germany's record in regard to the treatment of the 569 inhabitants in the German colonies before the War is one that makes anyone confident about her administering them again in the future?
We have heard a great deal about the atrocities of Italians upon Abyssinians, but we have not heard mention of the atrocities of Germans upon helpless Hereros and other tribes in South-West Africa before the War, and I think we should be very chary indeed before we again abandon the inhabitants of any portion of Africa to the tender mercies of the German colonist and the German official. Unfortunately, there would seem to be very little reason to suppose, at the present time, that there has been any change of heart as far as Germany is concerned, because whatever may be the injustices from which that country is admittedly suffering, we have to remember that she is carrying on a calculated, cruel, sadistic persecution of certain elements of her own countrymen within her own boundaries, and, for my part, I am not prepared to admit that Germany is the moral equal of this country as long as she continues to oppress Jews and Christians alike in the way she is doing.
To sum up, the questions I shall put to the noble Earl, which I trust he will be able to answer fully when he replies, are these: In the conversations that have taken place between Herr von Ribbentrop or any other German Ambassador, official or otherwise, and any one of our Ministers or permanent officials, has any promise been made or indication been given to Germany that we should be prepared to consider the handing back to her of Tanganyika or any part of her former colonial possessions; and if not, can we have an assurance from the Government that under no circumstances will our Government be a party to any such proposal? Those of us who, in the past, have felt critical, will find our criticism carried to the point of opposition if there is to be any question at the present time of handing over to Germany these colonies which she lost as the result of her wilful precipitation of the world into the conflagration of 1914.
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Snell, who performed a service in putting down this Motion, has asked me to wind up for my noble 570 friends on this side, and I shall do so, I hope, with the required brevity. The noble Earl who has just sat down tempts me to follow him, as he always does when he speaks. I was delighted to hear what he said about the Treaties of Versailles and Trianon. I wish he had been of my generation because he might then have assisted me in another place seventeen years ago when I moved their rejection and voted against them, facts which I now have the satisfaction of remembering. Not only that but I opposed the Treaty of Sevres and the Treaty of St. Germain and other most unfortunate instruments of that kind which were drawn up at that time. But when the noble Earl reminds us of the very deplorable events which are happening in Germany, the persecution of this and that class and creed and so on, I feel compelled to resist his blandishments because, as my noble friend Lord Snell put it so well, these matters are after all the affairs of the German people. It is an unfortunate fact that in very many countries today the most abominable cruelties are taking place, tortures by police of political prisoners in South American Republics and in Eastern Europe, and horrible doings of that kind. But we have to curb our moral indignation. We can express our detestation of these things, but I do not think they should sway our foreign policy.
I remember at the same period about which I am speaking, when passions were aroused over these unfortunate Peace Treaties which are the cause of this debate keeping your Lordships so late to-night—I remember at that time great indignation being expressed against Russia because of the excesses of the Russian revolution. At that, time I, and my noble friend Lord Snell and others, pleaded in the face of great insult and calumny for non-intervention against Russia, for the patching up of the former friendship of this country with that great country, and the restoration of normal relations in spite of the excesses which we did not attempt to excuse. I am afraid I find myself compelled to take exactly the same line with respect to Germany to-day. However much we may deplore these events in Germany—and I am sure this is also the view of the Government—we cannot allow our policy to be swayed by them.
571 I will also follow the noble Lord's example in exploring one further small new patch of territory. Usually when we have these debates on foreign affairs your Lordships have the privilege of hearing the last speech for the Government made by the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor. I do not know what effect the Lord Chancellor's speeches have on your Lordships, but I always go away with a glow of satisfaction and a feeling that after all the Government are trying to do the right thing, that they really do want to support the Covenant of the League, that they are against war, and do want to encourage peace everywhere. That is always the effect of the Lord Chancellor's peroration on me, and apparently on the noble Earl who is going to reply for the Government in a few moments. But when I come to examine their deeds I find my doubts arising. I am going to refer to one of their recent deeds for which they may disclaim direct responsibility, but for which, apparently, they have some responsibility, and that is in connection with the attempted suppression, or at any rate the obstruction, of a peace film produced by an organisation which is a subsidiary of the League of Nations Union.
Films in this country are under the censorship of a so-called independent body, a Film Board, the Chairman of which is a very distinguished member of your Lordships' House, the noble Lord, Lord Tyrrell. I allowed myself the courtesy of informing the noble Lord, Lord Tyrrell, that I intended to bring this matter up at the end of the debate tonight. I also, I am afraid at somewhat short notice, informed the noble Earl the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs that I was going to refer to it. I was always under the impression that the Board of Film Censors was concerned with morals and decency and seeing that films were not published which offended the religious susceptibilities of people. I think it will be a surprise to your Lordships to hear that they apparently exercise some political censorship and that they apparently, in this case at any rate, look askance at, or with hostility and suspicion on, any film which is intended to encourage the peace feeling.
The film to which I refer is an antiwar film. It is not intended to be a 572 recruiting film. It does not gloss over the horrors of war and it reiterates again and again—of course it is a sound film—the words of our revered Prime Minister that there is no defence against air attack. And I suggest those words are even more true now than when the Prime Minister said them. This film has been refused a licence, though my last information sent by my right honourable friend Mr. Greenwood, a member of another place, is that the licence is now going to be granted. But your Lordships will, I think, be a little surprised to hear that the Board of Film Censors, presided over by the noble Lord, Lord Tyrrell, sent this film to the War Office for their opinion, apparently on the ground that some of the shots of the film, as they are called, may have been Government property. My information is that it is not the business of the Board of Film Censors to safeguard copyright or to safeguard Government property or anything of the kind. They are concerned with decency and morals and the other things I have referred to.
I think it is most unfortunate that this thing has happened. I dare say the explanation may be that they wanted to be sure the War Office films had not been misused without their permission. I understand there is nothing in that, and that now permission is going to be given; but it is a little unfortunate, at this time particularly, that a film made by voluntary efforts under the auspices of the League of Nations Union, which has been distributed free, solely for the purpose of encouraging the peace movement in this country, should be held up and obstructed in this way. I am very glad that the latitude allowed in your Lordships' House enables me to raise this matter, and I hope that the noble Earl the Under-Secretary will allow himself the same latitude in replying to me. Another noble Lord, who has taken a great interest in the British film industry when he held another Government office is the present Air Minister, and I hope that he agrees with me that this sort of thing should not be allowed to happen.
I referred just now to the events of some seventeen years ago when we had the Treaty of Versailles before Parliament. Your Lordships this evening heard a speech from the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, to which I 573 listened, if I may say so, with very great interest, which contained an apologia for Germany and what I felt was a veiled attack on Russia. I think it is generally agreed now—and this thread has run through all these debates—that taking the long view the events of the last few weeks and other events in Germany, including the excesses to which the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, drew attention, were caused by the Treaty of Versailles and what followed it. I have been refreshing my memory by re-reading the debate in another place when the Treaty of Versailles was before us and also I have read the debate on the same Treaty in your Lordships' House. Nowadays the noble Marquess and the noble Earl and others, with great truth, say that the Treaty of Versailles was a mistake. I ventured to point that out at the time. I ventured to point out that you deprived this country, Germany, of all her colonies completely and therefore pressed her into an inferior position, that you deprived her of the Saar Valley for fifteen years, and that you had by these things and by your Armies of Occupation and crushing Reparations put a general badge of inferiority and disgrace upon her. I said that all those things—they are all reported in the OFFICIAL REPORT—were bound to resurrect the Prussian spirit which had been defeated by the War.
At that time the German people were pacificists; they were disillusioned, the Bismarckian bubble referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Rennell, in his speech a few minutes ago had been pricked, and they were ready to play their part in the new society of nations, and, indeed, to go into the League. They were excluded even from the League of Nations. I ventured to prophesy that by what was being done the seeds of future trouble were being sown. I was, unfortunately, only too right. When we came to a Division there were very few who supported us. I note that among noble Lords who were then members of another place who voted for the Treaty of Versailles wore a number of your Lordships now present, including the noble Lord, Lord Stonehaven, the First Lord of the Admiralty, the Air Minister, my noble friend Lord Marks, who was in the Chamber a few moments ago, and the noble Viscount who answered the Question put by my noble friend Lord Snell, and who leads 574 your Lordships' House, Viscount Halifax. These noble Lords, then members of another place, voted for the Treaty of Versailles, and when it came to your Lordships' House—I have been looking at the debate—I see that the late Viscount Bryce had some very pertinent criticisms to make. But I do not find the name of the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, no doubt for very good reason—he was not there. He may have been abroad or absent on public service but he was not present at the time.
Now we are living seventeen years after these events. I perhaps need not press the point much further, but there is something to-day which alarms me and I venture once more to give warning of trouble that we may be laying up for ourselves, and perhaps the noble Earl, Lord Stanhope, will refer to this matter when he replies. I find a tendency in many influential quarters to clear the field, if I may so express it, for a German attack on Russia. It is called by other names, of course." Limiting the risks of membership of the League of Nations "is one of the phrases used." We must not entangle ourselves in the East at all and limit our commitments only to the West "is another. Lord Halifax, who spoke for the Government, answering my noble friend on another matter, and answering also the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, put it in a slightly different way. He said that we must limit our commitments in the West, and that France's obligations must not involve us in trouble in the East, or words to that effect. I would remind your Lordships that all these pacts of non-aggression are merely superfluous, in my opinion. We are all bound not to commit acts of aggression by the Briand-Kellogg Pact, the Pact of Paris, the pact outlawing war.
I took some part in the public campaign for the outlawing of war, which led to the President of the United States taking the initiative and to the Briand-Kellogg Pact being drawn up and signed. Every war must be started by somebody, and anyone who starts a war breaks his pledge under the Briand-Kellogg Pact. We are bound honourably also by the Covenant of the League of Nations, and as long as Russia is a Member of the League of Nations—she was welcomed to the Council by the 575 Government of which the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, was an influential and distinguished member—we are bound to go to her assistance if she is attacked. I find suggestions in many quarters, from important people, to the effect that Russia must be left to her fate and Germany must perhaps be compensated in Europe in that way.
I also have information, as no doubt also have the Government, that there is the beginning of a change of outlook in Germany herself towards Russia—that there are influential people in Germany who feel that a continuance of hostility towards Russia would be a mistake. There are the 1,300,000 reasons quoted by Lord Lothian, which exist in the numbers of the Russian Army, and there are the other 3,000 urgent reasons in the number of front-line aeroplanes possessed by Russia, not to mention the natural resources of the Russians. It would be extremely unfortunate at this time if this policy is supported of pretending that we have no obligation towards Russia such as we have towards other countries. I suggest that the sooner we get back to the policy, mentioned indeed by the noble Viscount who leads the House, of indivisible peace safeguarded through the League of Nations, the better.
May I express an opinion which has been already explained by my right honourable friend Mr. Attlee, in another place, in connection with Staff talks? I would like to extend a little what he said. I do not find great cause of alarm in the Staff talks themselves, as long as they are not confined to certain Powers only. I agree that to confine the Staff talks to only one side of the Locarno group is objectionable. War Staff talks themselves are, I think, quite essential at the present time, but they should include more nations. For example, if there is a fear of German aggression across the Rhine from the re-militarised zone, Holland is in equal danger with Belgium or France. Why have the Dutch Government, as a fellow Member with ourselves of the League of Nations, not been invited to participate in the Staff talks, and why have not the Staff talks been extended, as should have been done years ago, to all the other Members of the League of Nations? We had an example last autumn in the case of the Mediterranean Powers, when our Cabinet took some alarm, apparently, at threats 576 from Italy. We sounded, if that is the correct term, we interpolated the other Mediterranean Powers, the Turks, the Greeks and the French, the Spaniards, who all have important strategical positions in the Mediterranean, and I presume that some sort of Staff talks took place for meeting any situation of danger.
I say that that should have been done many years before and should have begun in 1921, when we began to build up the framework of the League of Nations. I see no more objection to these Staff talks than to a meeting of chief constables within a country threatened with internal disorder. They are for police action, and the answer to the German complaint is: "Come back into the League and we will be delighted for your General Staff, with their great knowledge and ability, to come into these talks with us as well." If they are really only what I may call police measures which are being examined, then everyone who comes in and offers to provide his quota towards dealing with an aggressor would of course be welcome. Then, if you get that state of affairs, first one nation and then another will begin grumbling at the expense. They will say that under these arrangements for keeping the peace they are spending more money than is necessary in providing aeroplanes and so on, and you will have the Ministers of Finance objecting that taxation is high, and that they do not like the expense. Then, my Lords, you will have the right atmosphere in which you can bring about by agreement a limitation of armaments. That is the long-range policy which we should be working up to, and I was glad to hear the Foreign Minister state that he hoped that Germany will be back in the League this summer. Then, if there are Staff talks, the Dutch and everybody else may be brought into them.
Lord Mansfield referred to the question of colonies, and I am glad to notice that my noble friend Lord Arnold, in a debate which he initiated a few days ago in this House, seems to have made a rather notable convert in the person of Earl Stanhope, the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. If he was correctly reported, recently, he has apparently an open mind on this question of Germany regaining some of her colonies. That 577 was rather a departure from the policy laid down by the Colonial Secretary on this subject, and perhaps we can have an enlargement of his views when the noble Earl comes to reply.
Now may I refer to something which was said by the noble Viscount, Lord Halifax, in reply to my noble friend Lord Snell. I entirely agree with what my noble, friend and other noble Lords, including Viscount Cecil, said about the disgust of the British public at what has happened in Abyssinia and the apparent failure so far of the sanctions policy. It it a most horrible business. As has been well said, it is not a case of Italy against Abyssinia but of Italy against the League of Nations. It is possible to trace a clear chain of events. It has been done before in your Lordships' House, and I do not want to dwell on it now. The links are only too visible. First Japan was allowed to engage in aggression against China, which encouraged Italy in her aggression against Abyssinia, and the third link of course is the German departure from the letter of the law. If finally Italy is allowed to profit by her aggression, a very serious blow will be struck at the whole League system. That we all know. It is only a platitude, but it is necessary to make this beginning in discussing to-day the system of collective security.
The noble Viscount who leads the House, and who is now I hope having a good air passage to Geneva, says that we did all we could without risking war with Italy. He threw out the well-worn challenge to us of the Labour Party: "Would you be prepared to face threats of war from Italy in taking measures to stop her aggression in Abyssinia? "Of course, we would. Certainly we would. Just as the policeman in the street has, if necessary, to face the assassin's pistol, so in certain circumstances, as the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, pointed out, we have to be prepared to resist force with force. We of the Labour Party were quite aware of that when we debated the matter last October at our Annual Conference. We see no alternative at all, and we say that if the collective system is made strong, and if it is known that it will be used, the aggressor will be discouraged from challenging not only the moral but the material forces of the world. If we are never to risk war in support of the Covenant, and of the 578 system of collective security, then we are encouraging any bully, any pinchbeck Napoleon to upset and destroy the peace of the world. In fact, we are giving over domination to the Fascist nations.
The noble Lord, Lord Rennell, quoted Tacitus. May I quote Virgil? "It never troubles the wolf how many the sheep be." I am afraid that in this Abyssinian affair and perhaps in others to follow with other aggressive nations, Signor Mussolini has been the wolf and the freedom-loving democracies of the West, the democratic countries of Europe—or their Governments—have been the sheep. That is one of our complaints against the present Government. They have given way to threats in this matter—either threats from Italy or perhaps hidden threats, as the noble Lord, Lord Arnold, suggested, from France. That is the question we have to face: What should be the point at which we are prepared to resist threats and indeed the warlike action of aggressors and peace breakers?
§ THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (EARL STANHOPE)
My Lords, so many statements have been made in another place in recent days that I think your Lordships have realised that there is very little new which can be said and the attendance in the House at this moment shows, I think, that your Lordships do not expect any long statement from me. Several of your Lordships have referred to the Abyssinian question. I only want to remind your Lordships that that is actually being discussed at this moment at Geneva by the Committee of Thirteen, who are going into the whole question of the gas bombing which has taken place according to our information in Abyssinia, although I understand that so far the Italian Government have not made any answer to the request for information which was made by the Chairman of the Committee of Thirteen. I think your Lordships will all agree that serious as that question is, the real matter that we should all like to get settled, and settled soon, is the question of bringing the war in Abyssinia to a conclusion at the very earliest-possible moment.
The greater part of the debate has, of course, dealt principally with Locarno, and I will endeavour to meet some of the points. My noble friend Viscount 579 Halifax challenged the Labour Party with regard to what action they would take against Italy, and I am glad that at any rate one member of the Party has had the courage to meet that challenge. We understand that he is quite prepared to take action which would involve this country in war with Italy, in spite of the fact that we should have been acting single-handed in taking action of that kind, and therefore there would not have been collective action. We understand that is the policy of the Labour Party, put forward by one of its responsible members.
I understood we sounded all other Mediterranean Powers, including France, and they gave a satisfactory response.
§ EARL STANHOPE
They gave the satisfactory response that they would come to our support if we were attacked. That is a different thing from saying they would have supported us in attacking some nation which would have brought on a war. For that we should certainly have received no support.
I am much obliged to the noble Earl, and I apologise for interrupting him, but I never suggested that we should attack Italy. I have said that from the beginning there should have been a complete boycott. That is what we have already said would have been effective.
§ EARL STANHOPE
I understand the noble Lord and his Party would have been prepared to take some military sanctions which would have involved Italy making war on us. Nobody has suggested that we should attack Italy—except a few Italians—but there are a certain number of people who have thought that we should have brought the war in Abyssinia to a conclusion by blocking the Suez Canal by unilateral action on the part of this country. What I am trying to find out is whether that is the policy of the noble Lord and those associated with him, whether they think that ought to have been done by this country. It is of great importance. I 580 understand him to say that he would have been prepared to stop ships going through the Canal or to take some military action which would have definitely have brought us to war with Italy.
I never mentioned the Suez Canal. I have always said that there should be economic sanctions—complete economic sanctions—and I still believe that they could and would have stopped the war.
§ EARL STANHOPE
The noble Lord said a great deal more than that. He said he would have been prepared to take any action, and that I understand to be not only economic but also military. If he tries to wriggle out of the challenge I can understand his difficulty, but unless his noble Leader, or somebody in another place, disowns him, I understand him to mean that the Labour Party would have been prepared to take military sanctions which would have involved us in war with Italy. I am not surprised that one of his Party in another place asked:May we have an assurance that the country will not be drawn into war by the Labour Party?
§ EARL STANHOPE
He is a member of the Independent Labour Party, which I understand is called Labour for the purpose of numbers when the Labour Party wishes to say how many votes it has got. But I really cannot go into the personal and political difficulties of the noble Lord's Party. When I heard that four of them were going to speak this evening my retort was that we should have four different lines of foreign policy before us.
My noble friend Lord Lothian made a very telling speech, which I am bound to say I interpreted in exactly the opposite way from the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil. I understood Lord Lothian to mean that in view of the obligations which fall upon us as a part of the British Empire we have many risks to face in every part of the world, both East and West, and that that was quite as much as we could fulfil. I understood him therefore to say that the risks 581 that we take under Article 16 were more than we ought indeed to face. Exactly the opposite view was taken by the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, who suggested that we ought to go to the utmost extreme and be prepared to take every kind of action for collective security. I have found that view backed in some parts of your Lordships' House to-night, and I think by the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Buxton. First of all, it seems to me a policy of negation and of hopelessness to say that you cannot do anything in regard to collective security. I am quite prepared to admit that the League, as it is composed now, is one that is not in the position that we all hoped that it would be in. It is not composed of all the great nations of the world, and until it is so composed its powers and its influence are a great deal less than we had hoped when the League was founded. But to say that therefore nothing can be done is a policy of hopelessness, because it means the complete abolition of all that we mean by collective security.
I do not take that view. I personally think that the League on the whole has done very well, even in regard to the Abyssinian struggle. I think the effect in Italy has been very much greater than many people yet realise. But let us remember that this is the first time in which sanctions have been imposed, and it has been no mean achievement to get more than fifty nations to agree, first of all to declare the aggressor, and, secondly, to see that sanctions were imposed at what was really very short notice after that aggression had begun. It is quite true that certain nations accepted the obligation of imposing sanctions very half-heartedly indeed, and some of them have been somewhat half-hearted in actually carrying out their obligation to impose sanctions. But we shall never really get the full effect of sanctions until every nation is prepared to face and to shoulder its full responsibilities. That is, I think, a matter that has to be brought home to them, and brought home to them very strongly.
There is yet a further matter in which we can strengthen the League a good deal, and that is by seeing that every nation contributes its full quota to the defensive Services which would be required under collective security. There 582 are certain nations, and particularly the smaller nations which stand to gain more by collective security than perhaps the greater nations would do, some of whom are somewhat inclined to think that they will get full security without making their contribution because the great nations will always come to their rescue at the last moment. That is an entirely false idea, of what collective security means, and until every nation is prepared both to face and to shoulder its responsibilities we shall not really be able to take effective action collectively.
The noble Lord, Lord Noel-Buxton, asked me if we were acting as mediators and with impartiality between France and Germany in regard to the present position. The answer of course is, No. We are not in the position of mediators. We are one of the signatories of the Locarno Pact, and the Locarno Pact has been broken by the action of Germany. It is therefore absurd to say that we should stand in a position of mediation between France and Germany. We ourselves are quite definitely committed under that Pact, in spite of what the noble Lord, Lord Arnold, said, because the point that he brought out has certainly been very carefully considered with the best legal advice that we can obtain, and we have no doubt whatever that we are definitely committed under that Pact in regard to the actual phrases which he mentioned.
§ LORD ARNOLD
I think I am entitled to a rather more definite reply, because that is merely an affirmation to the contrary. The words I called attention to were that we were called upon "to come immediately to the assistance of the Power against whom the act complained of is directed." The question which I asked the noble Earl—and I wrote it down so that there might be no mistake—was, Were those words considered? He now says they were. I say: if so, on what ground was the conclusion reached that the act complained of was directed against France and Belgium any more than against all the signatory Powers? because I pointed out that in Article 44 of the Treaty of Versailles, which bears on this particular matter according to the phraseology of the Locarno Treaty, it was distinctly said that any breach of this matter, that is any remilitarisation, would be regarded as committing a hostile act against the Powers signatory—that is, all the Powers. And I asked specifically 583 what was the justification for singling out two Powers as distinct from the others in view of all the conditions and circumstances which I adduced.
§ EARL STANHOPE
But surely it would be against the four Powers—not only France and Belgium, but also the cosignatories, this country and Italy. It obviously cannot be directed against Germany, who is herself doing the act complained of.
§ LORD ARNOLD
The noble Earl has given precisely the reply I wanted. That means it is not specifically against France, and therefore under Article 4 (2) of the Locarno Treaty we are not called upon to go to its assistance.
§ EARL STANHOPE
Of course we are called upon to go to its assistance. If a treaty is broken and it definitely says that certain nations will undertake certain actions we, if we are one of those nations, are certainly going to fulfil our bond and honour our signature.
§ LORD ARNOLD
I will not detain the noble Earl at this hour, but he has completely given the case away and said precisely what proves my point.
§ EARL STANHOPE
If that is so I must have put it very badly, because that point has been definitely considered by-legal opinion, and those legal advisers have not the smallest doubt that the noble Lord's statement is completely wrong.
§ EARL STANHOPE
Various points were made in regard to Germany being considered to be in a position of unfairness. May I say that I think that many people in this country would have felt that Germany had a very strong case that the demilitarised zone sooner or later should be brought to an end, but there is a provision in the Treaty of Locarno by which, if the Franco-Soviet Pact was thought to be contrary, either in spirit or in the letter, to that Treaty, the matter might have been put either to The Hague Court or to some other body. Germany, of course, did nothing of the kind, as we know. She broke the Treaty unilaterally, and that is, as the Leader of the House has said, the serious point 584 of the matter. The point is not the re-occupation of the Rhineland. It is the serious point as to whether treaties are to be sacrosanct in future or not.
There have been statements made in Germany which really caused some anxiety, that treaties must give way before the "eternal rights and the eternal duties of the German people." It is quite easy to say either in regard to this or some other treaty that rights have been infringed, or that there is some, unfairness, or that something or other has happened which alters the situation of the treaty; but if we are to be faced in future with treaties which may be torn up by unilateral action, we are going to build on a very unstable foundation indeed. It is for that reason that the Leader of the House and the Secretary of State have been doing their utmost to get a feeling of confidence restored, and to see whether nations can be brought together and to build on a foundation which everybody will realise is a secure foundation, and one which is going to last. If we can do that, then we hope we shall be able to bring the nations together again—France and Germany—and although we are not actually mediators, because we are definitely committed to one side, to do an act of mediation, and do what my noble friend Lord Londonderry suggested, which of course we all so much desire, to get France and Germany and ourselves once more in friendship and agreement on great matters of economics, politics, and policy.
Some noble Lords have been anxious that we should cut loose from all our engagements, and I have tried to meet that point. Other noble Lords have asked for explanations as to what is meant by the German proposals. We are only as yet examining these proposals, and therefore a great many questions will have to be asked by His Majesty's Government of Germany before we obtain real clarification of what is meant. My noble friend Lord Mansfield asked some questions in regard to colonies. The phrase in the German paper, "colonial equality of rights," may mean the return of one mandated territory or the return of everything. We have not yet discovered, and His Majesty's Government have therefore not begun to consider the question at all. My noble friend knows that a fairly long statement was 585 made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer I in another place two days ago on this matter. He said quite clearly that in no circumstances would there be any question of giving away British Colonies, but in regard to mandated territory that is in rather a different position. He indicated that there was no chance of our considering such a matter unless other nations in a similar position also considered it, and also that it was brought before the League of Nations, and he entered this further caveat, as my noble friend suggested, that the views of the natives in such territories would have to be given very careful consideration indeed.
THE EARL OP MANSFIELD
May I ask whether the noble Earl is not able to give an assurance that in no circumstances will the Government consider any such transfer?
§ EARL STANHOPE
No, I am not in a position to do that. In a question as wide as this, where we are engaged in getting Germany back to the League of Nations and getting a general settlement, I think it would be extremely unwise to give any such assurance. I am not a member of the Cabinet in any case, and therefore I am not in a position to give any assurance, on behalf of His Majesty's Government in such a matter as that.
The hour is late, and I have really nothing more to say, but may I just remind your Lordships of this? Many years ago, at the Lord Mayor's banquet in November, 1879, Lord Beaconsfield said:
" So Long as the power and advice of England are felt in the councils of Europe, peace, I believe, will be maintained, and maintained for a long period."
Like so many other sayings of Disraeli, these words are, I believe, as true to-day as when they were uttered over fifty years ago. We have been endeavouring to give our counsel in the affairs of Europe, and His Majesty's Government are taking steps to increase the power of this country by the defence arrangements which we are making. I believe that if we use 586 our power and our counsel in the affairs of Europe we shall be able once more to extricate Europe from the great difficulties that face it at the present time. I agree that Europe is in a most unsatisfactory condition, but I believe that by the influence and leadership of this country, exercised as it has been in the past and increased in influence by the rearmament proposals which His Majesty's Government have put forward, we shall be able to benefit not only this country but all the world and to establish peace once more on a sure foundation.
§ LORD SNELL
My Lords, the intention of the Question on the Paper was not to criticise or embarrass His Majesty's Government, but rather to be helpful. I think the debate has been of a serious nature, and I can only express my regret that in the reply of the Government it was thought necessary, in view of the reticence which we have exercised, to make a cheap debating attack upon the Labour Party. What does it matter whether there were four different views expressed in four different speeches? The duty of every member of your Lordships' House is to contribute the best he has and knows to the discussion that is before us, and I only say in conclusion that it is not the Labour Party which is under criticism, if anybody, but His Majesty's Government. I beg leave to withdraw.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.