HL Deb 03 March 1937 vol 104 cc474-509

Debate again resumed (according to Order) on the Motion, made by Lord Arnold on Wednesday last, That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty for Papers relating to British foreign policy and to the need for a change therein which will bring it more into accord with the realities of the existing situation.


My Lords, I think it will be universally admitted in your Lordships' House that this debate has aroused the greatest possible interest and has been sustained by a series of speeches of quite remarkable brilliance. The few remarks I should like permission to address to the House will be, I hope, of a very definitely constructive character. Therefore, I do not want to take up too much time in passing observations on the speeches already made. But I should like to join in the tributes which have been paid to the noble Lord who opened our discussion for a speech which appeared to me, at any rate, to be one of the most lucid and remarkable I have been privileged to hear in your Lordships' House. I only wish that the constructive character of that speech had been as remarkable as the lucidity with which he expressed his point of view. I cannot help but feel that speech after speech that has been delivered in this debate has been of a negative kind, and that had there been present in this House, or reading our debates, some representative of a nation which might have been considering aggression, that representative would have derived great hope and satisfaction from the course of the debate in your Lordships' House.

Speech after speech was delivered which proved that this country, at any rate as expressed in the points of view represented in this House, had very little to say by way of opposition to any potential aggression which might take place in Europe. That was confirmed, unhappily, by observations made in a speech otherwise remarkable and inspiring by the noble Viscount who leads this House, at Southampton, confirmed also by the Prime Minister himself in speaking in the debate on Defence in another place, in which both of them underlined—I think not altogether discreetly—that anyhow until our rearmament was complete, our use of that rearmament for the purpose of repressing aggression would not be very likely to take place in certain areas. I feel that to announce in advance your intention not to use your armaments, and to confess to the weakness of your armaments, must be very encouraging to certain nations at the present moment, having regard to the condition of Europe.

With regard to the speech made by my noble friend Lord Lothian, he delivered as he always does a delightful and eloquent discourse on the question of sovereignty. Over and over again he has pointed out in this House and elsewhere that national sovereignty is a great impediment to the organisation of peace, and he told us that there were twenty-six nations in Europe operating under that national sovereignty. Who denies it? We all know perfectly well that national sovereignty is an impediment. I waited and waited to hear from the noble Marquess his constructive proposals as to how, in the year 1937, we were, notwithstanding that disadvantage, to promote the peace of Europe, and I am bound to confess that the more I listened to his delightfully phrased and charming speech the more confused intellectually I became. I understand my noble friend is in favour of what is described by himself as a procedure of non-intervention, and he referred to America. He then proceeded to ask us to honour our obligations under Locarno. How you are to maintain a procedure of non-intervention and to honour your obligations under Locarno certainly passes my comprehension, and I think it will pass the comprehension of some of the countries in Europe.

My noble friend then went on to make a most startling remark. He said that in his judgment it was the economic frontiers of Europe which were the dangers to-day, and that there were nations which were prepared to go to war with regard to economic frontiers but not to go to war with regard to political frontiers. A remark more in entire contradiction of the atmosphere of nationalism in Europe I can hardly imagine. If there is one thing outstanding to-day it is this, not that economic frontiers are not difficult and are causing confusion, but that in Europe the spirit of nationalism and nationalist ambitions with regard to political frontiers have never been a more outstanding characteristic than at the present moment. I am therefore bound to confess that the speech of my noble friend both confused me and charmed me as all his speeches in recent times have done.

So far as the speech of my noble friend Lord Arnold is concerned, I do not want to enter into disputation with him as to whether it is possible for this nation to be armed and to go into isolation and remain free from the entanglements of Europe. That speech has been dealt with by subsequent speakers. I would point out to my noble friend that in his opening remarks he made it clear that he did not propose to discuss pacifism. Had he done so perhaps he might have had a stronger case for isolation, but to say, as he did say, that it was permissible to fight in defence of this country or to go into isolation fully armed, in my judgment is to invite an armaments race which in due course can only contribute to the factors that make for war. If nations are allowed to remain armed and each is to go into isolation, that can only result in an armaments race, each nation resorting to armaments for the purpose of its own security, and nations arming one against the other will ultimately lead to the position constantly described by Lord Lothian. The volume and momentum of scientific armaments in the world to-day will itself overturn all your efforts at conciliation, and when the order for mobilisation is given that order for mobilisation will make all attempts at the preservation of peace completely impossible. As I listened to my noble friend's speech I could not help feeling that whatever else he had done he had made no contribution whatever to the two objectives for which foreign policy stands, or should stand, the objective of the prevention of war and the objective of the reduction of the amount and the danger of armaments. On neither of those two subjects had he any contribution of any kind to make.

Now may I be permitted to address to the noble Viscount who is to reply a few questions which I hope are not indiscreet—if they are I am sure he will not reply to them—and to offer a few constructive suggestions? May I first of all say this? I feel that one has no right whatever to make a speech on foreign policy, at the present moment, unless one is prepared to state one's point of view with regard to the Government's rearmament proposals. I want to say quite frankly and without any qualification whatever that I support the rearmament proposals of His Majesty's Government. I regret that the pacifist policy has not been adopted. I know perfectly well that there is no prospect whatever of pacifism being adopted as a political policy in the immediate future so far as this or any other country is concerned. In those circumstances I venture to think that, whatever we may feel about the past and however we may believe that the present rearmament might have been avoided, we are compelled in the name of peace to support the rearmament proposals of His Majesty's Government. I believe that it is absolutely useless continually discussing the mistakes of the past. If you wish to make peace you have to take the position as it is year by year, and under the conditions of to-day I believe the rearmament of this country will make not for disorder but for the pacification of Europe.

I believe it is impossible to read with any care either the newspapers of other countries or the speeches that are made by their statesmen without knowing perfectly well that the decision of this country at this moment to rearm, and to rearm in a startlingly dramatic fashion, has brought confidence to some of the smaller countries of Europe, and may indeed introduce an element of some caution into the policies of dictatorial countries which have tended to become increasingly irresponsible. I believe, even judged from an economic point of view, when those nations come to compare their economic resources with our own, and when it is realised how the value of the raw materials which are necessary to rearmament may rise under the rearmament of this country, that even this realisation may contribute an element of caution, leading possibly to a restraint in armaments which would not otherwise have occurred. I feel I should not be honest in making such comments as I have to make on foreign policy unless I were to say that perfectly frankly with regard to the subject of rearmament.

Now as I understand the position of the Government it is this. They believe in the League of Nations. I read with the greatest interest the speech of the noble Viscount at Southampton and I read also the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Plymouth. I personally understand the position of the Government to be this: We believe in the League; we believe even that it may be necessary under that League that armed force should be used; but our opinion is that the League at the present moment has become weak; it may become strong; its membership is less complete than it was, and we do not believe that in those circumstances we can place upon the back of the League the responsibility that we would like to have placed upon it, and that we hope one day we may be able to place upon it. That I understand is the frank position of the Government now. I accept that position. I do not happen to share it, but I fully understand it. If, therefore, whilst we are rearming, it is the desire of His Majesty's Government to reconstruct the League, to rebuild it so that it may later on become powerful enough to carry the responsibilities that we desire to place upon it, what is the policy of His Majesty's Government so far as rebuilding the League is concerned?

Here I would like to address a direct question to the noble Viscount if he would be gracious enough to consider whether he can respond to it when he replies. The first attempt of the Government in the course of rebuilding the League is to create, as I understand from the speeches of the noble Viscount and the noble Earl, Lord Plymouth, what is called a system of regional pacts. That has been made quite plain. I want to question that method. I can perfectly well understand a system of regional pacts, but what I cannot understand is one pact. I can quite understand that if in Europe to-day the Covenant of the League applied and if the League was respected and was strong, it would be possible by means of a system of regional pacts to underpin the League, to strengthen it in certain areas. But that is not the position, and I cannot understand how His Majesty's Government imagine that by the creation of one regional pact, not by the creation of a system, they are going to rebuild the League. You could underpin it, but you cannot rebuild it. Indeed I will go so far as to say that the creation of one pact at the present moment might even lead to insecurity in Europe instead of security.

To me the meaning of the regional pact is this. You find an area within which two conditions apply. The first of those conditions is that the nations composing that region have amongst themselves the will to peace. The second of the two conditions is that within that region there is a capacity for preponderant power against any one nation in that region that may possibly become an aggressor. It is possible that in Western Europe you may have an area—like Mr. Eden, I say "may" advisedly—in which it could be said there is the will to peace, a very doubtful proposition but one which I can understand. You may even have an area in which it is possible to say that there could be preponderent power against any aggressor which may desire to break the law. But in what other area of Europe does any similar region exist? Does anyone believe that in Eastern Europe or South-Eastern Europe there is at the present time the remotest possibility of a pact in which there is the will to peace or preponderent power against a potential aggressor? If that is not the case all that would happen unless we are extremely wise would be, by making one pact which we have not yet created but which we might possibly get in the West, we should bring security to the West but disorder and insecurity to the East. I cannot for the life of me understand how it is expected that you are going to rebuild the strength of the League by means of creating, not a system of regional pacts, but one pact.

I think both Mr. Eden and the Chancellor of the Exchequer have made it abundantly clear that you cannot divide Europe in this way, and I venture to ask permission to read the Chancellor of the Exchequer's own words. He said: … you cannot divide peace in Europe. Under the League we are interested just as much in the preservation of peace in the East of Europe as we are in the West, and our obligations under the League will apply equally whether aggression takes place in the Eastern or Western parts of Europe. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs said: We must neither mislead others nor be misled ourselves by any of those comfortable doctrines that we can live secure in a Western European glass-house. Therefore I put it to my noble friend that under the conditions of Europe to-day if the policy of His Majesty's Government is to rebuild the League through a regional pact and not regional pacts there is very little prospect of the League being rebuilt.

The other difficulty of regional pacts is that a regional pact may possibly create strength but it cannot achieve the one objective which Europe requires at the present moment, that is, the remedying of grievances. You cannot remedy grievances by means of a regional pact. The noble Viscount will be perfectly entitled to turn to me now and say: "Then what is the way of rebuilding the League in order that it may be strong enough to carry those burdens that we feel ought ultimately to be placed on it?" I will put it in as few sentences as I can. I believe that we have had in this debate, and that we have in general far too much discussion of the League of Nations as an instrument of force and far too little discussion of the League of Nations as an instrument of justice. I suggest for the moment that our primary need is not for further amplification of what we will fight for and where we will fight, but for a much more precise and definite invitation than any we have yet made to Germany to join in the discussion of her grievances and to negotiate a new settlement for Europe. We have never yet approached Germany in the right way. We have never approached her with a friendly, frank, public invitation to join in a discussion of all her grievances and to come to the conference table on a basis of absolute equality. That is the only way of being fair to Germany and clearing the road for the protection of peace. By that means we can either relieve the tension in Europe or prove who is on the side of peace and who is determined for war.

It is by making clear our intention to use the League as a means of promoting justice that we can justify our determination to give it precision as an instrument of force. I am quite convinced that the noble Viscount will now turn round and ask: "Is not that exactly what we are attempting to do? Are we not attempting to negotiate with Germany? Are we not attempting to create a situation under which a general settlement for Europe can be come to?" I am sure that is the intention of the Government. I only say that the procedure is open to criticism. Every invitation extended so far to Germany has been an invitation which has arisen either out of some isolated crisis or out of some isolated subject or in some isolated geographical area. Germany occupied the Rhineland. Instantly out of that isolated crisis we proceeded to try to patch and then to negotiate a general settlement. Failure resulted, or has done so until this time. Why? Because the approach to Germany is psychologically wrong. It arises out of crises where her dignity and past memories are involved. There is no starting point of equality.

Then we try to negotiate out of some separate subject such as raw materials. We know that Germany says she has a grievance with regard to raw materials, and so we set up a Commission under League auspices to go into the question of access to raw materials. What happens? Germany declines. She will not come into the discussion. And why? First, because the Commission is set up under the auspices of the very League with which she is in disagreement, and secondly, because the subject was being dealt with in isolation. It does not necessarily deal with Colonies at all, and Germany is not coming into a discussion—I am not saying whether she is right or whether she is wrong, I am only trying to state facts—which deals with some separate subject and does not deal with the inter-relations of one subject with another.

Now comes the question of Colonies, and I hope when I am dealing with that that my noble friend the Earl of Plymouth will not think me too critical. I can imagine nothing more disastrous in Europe to-day than that this nation and Germany should become locked either in short distance or long distance discussion separately upon Colonies. I read the speech of the German Ambassador, who seems to negotiate in this country at one moment and make political utterances in Germany the next, and I read the speech of my noble friend the Earl of Plymouth in reply to the Motion of Lord Noel-Buxton with the greatest interest. I cannot conceive any speech more likely to contribute to ill-feeling in Europe at the present moment than the non possumus position taken up by my noble friend in that reply. When dealing with the question of Mandates the noble Earl went so far as to say—I have his words here: Instead of the work being done by a few distinguished gentlemen of long experience, such as my noble friend Lord Lugard and his successor, Lord Hadley, who are prepared to devote a few weeks during each year, it would … require the organisation of a large international staff in constant employment throughout the year. Why not, my Lords? Is it to be our argument at this moment, with Europe in its present dangerous psychological state, that the noble Lord, Lord Lugard, or his successor cannot give more than a few weeks every year to the organisation of peace, but that we can spend £1,500,000,000 on rearmament? When it is asked that Colonial administrators should give a whole year instead of a few weeks to a task my noble friend the Earl of Plymouth says that that sort of thing is administratively undesirable!

I do put it to the Government that they will never achieve the foundations upon which a settlement can come unless Germany is approached with an invitation which covers all subjects and which starts for the first time since the War from the standpoint of absolute equality. I am not asking, as the honourable member Mr. Grenfell asked in another place, for an unwieldy world conference. I do not believe an unwieldy world conference is wanted at the moment. We have had far too many such conferences. What we want is not an unwieldy world conference but a general invitation to Germany frankly including every point. And then, when that invitation has been issued—and accepted, as I hope—you can create for the purpose of examining each one of these technical subjects—raw materials, disputed territories, Colonies—Commissions of a more expert character, and those Commissions can in due course ascertain the facts and report back to the diplomatists. Then it will perhaps be possible to bring together some kind of peace conference which shall take the place of the war conference of Versailles under whose ægis we are still living.

I hope I have not taken up too much time in trying to plead for this constructive approach to the psychological difficulties of Europe at the present moment. I cannot believe that what we need now is an over-emphasis of the discussion of the League of Nations as an instrument of force and an under-estimate of what might come to Europe if only we could reach into the heart of nations which, rightly or wrongly, think they have grievances. Unless that is done we make no headway. On the question of Colonies, we use arguments of the most unhappy character. We proceed to point out that the Colonies are of no value to anybody, either from the population point of view or from the trade point of view, and, having pointed out that Colonies are of no value, we then proceed to make it most emphatically clear that we will keep all that we ourselves possess. We go further than that. Lord Stonehaven made a speech which I felt was one of the most helpful speeches in the debate that took place a little while ago. He said many things which I thought were wise, but one thing in which I could not agree with him. He said—I hope I am not misinterpreting him—"We cannot consider the readjustment of Colonies, because of their strategic value." How much longer do we expect to go on occupying Gibraltar, occupying Malta, perhaps quite rightly, for strategic purposes; keeping Colonies that were once Germany's for their strategic value and then turning to the Germans at the present moment and saying that for strategic reasons they cannot have any adjustment of the situation? Unless we can reach some kind of technique which will either reveal what Germany intends or do her justice, I see no hope whatever of rebuilding the League in Europe.

I know it is usually thought that you must not have world invitations and you must not have world conferences until you have explored the position diplomatically. I have been in some of these discussions. You must find your agreement before your invitation is issued. I understand that rather more discreet and private diplomacy, but I do not agree with it. But to say that you believe in the international diplomatic exchange of more discreet persons than politicians finding your measure of agreement, and then let them make these speeches from the housetop from nation to nation, seems to me an absolute contradiction of the very technique which the Government say they desire to employ. But I do not believe that that is the way to the heart of Germany to-day. I believe that the technique of cautious diplomacy and of this subtle handling of countries is wrong, and I beg the Government to consider whether the tension in Europe to-day may not require a bolder initiative. The taking of the risk of making a public and more generous approach to the nations defeated in the last War has, I submit, been too long delayed. I have not asked that Britain should be weak. I have supported the Government's point of view so far as rearmament is concerned. I only ask that we should confound and outwit ambitions that may be unjust by offering the same justice as we claim for ourselves and for our own country. In Europe to-day the spirit of understanding might prove a more formidable check to the aggressor than the piling of commitment upon commitment to resist his aggression. I earnestly hope that the noble Viscount, when he replies, may be gracious enough at least to say something on that side of the approach to a new settlement for Europe.


My Lords, the noble Lord who has just sat down always commands more than attention and respect for the depth and courage of his convictions and the lucidity of his utterances, but in the multiplicity of subjects which this debate opens he will forgive me if I do not follow him. I should like, however, to say how warmly I agree with what he said about the force and cogency of the speech of Lord Arnold in opening this debate, a speech with which in many respects I and other Conservatives have the greatest agreement. At the same time I cannot follow him in his proposal that we should immediately drop the understanding that we have with France. In the first place, that will mean abandoning Belgium. I do not see how it can be otherwise, because we alone, in the circumstances that we may have in mind if Belgium were attacked, could not save Belgium entirely. For that reason I could not follow him even if it were that alone. But I think it is not that alone. I believe that the French understanding at the moment is in fact a great guarantee for the preservation of peace, even with the complication of the Franco-Russian Pact.

Suppose, at its worst, that the Franco-Rusian Pact were in full play and a war broke out between Germany on the one hand and France and Russia on the other. I know it was said by the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, that in that event the Germans would concentrate all their force, according to the dictum of their military advisers, on the Western front and attack France. My Lords, I find it almost incredible that they should do so. The Schlieffen plan, which involved the violation of Belgium and the attack upon France, brought ruin to Germany last time, just as the Plan 17 of the French very nearly brought ruin to France. If it is possible to learn any lesson of strategy in history, it will be that neither country will repeat those mistakes. Even if France were alone on the West, I believe the attempt to attack her in that way would be subject to the gravest risks. But why should the Germans, in the conditions about which we are thinking, take a step that would immediately bring a new enemy against them—namely, ourselves? I think many strategists are of the opinion that last time, if the Germans had been on the defensive in the West and had attacked Russian Poland in the East, they could have done all that their ambitions desired, and that is what their own interest, if no other reason, will dictate to them again. Indeed, you may take it the other way: that by our agreement with France the French in turn will not make an attack upon Germany, because in that instance we should never help them. I believe and hope that the very pact with France itself sterilises the Western danger-zone from the bacillus of war.

But having said so much, I do not believe that our understanding with France is a thing enshrined, so that no word of hostile criticism or even of friendly criticism by one country of the other should be allowed. Neither do I believe that it is something which needs continual reaffirmation or needs buoying up with the flowers of rhetoric. I have constantly seen expressions of this kind—"the two great democracies of the West" and "the twin pillars of Western Europe." I do not know if your Lordships are acquainted with the works of M. Tardieu, but I think that the bracketing of our institutions and theirs is, to say the least, inappropriate. Then, why should criticism be silent? Is the understanding so brittle that we dare not say a word of criticism about France? For example, we have rightly called attention to the contributions to the Civil War in Spain from Germany, Italy and Russia. But from the very first there was a continual stream of volunteers through, and from, France—it has been going on the whole time. Because, I suppose, the French Government might not like it, our Press, up till lately, has been strangely silent upon it. The understanding with France was based upon interest, and has been cemented by honour, but it must not bind our freedom, either of criticism or of action beyond its scope, and if it be possible to make such an overture as the last speaker has suggested, to Germany, that can be done, I believe, with perfect loyalty to the obligations we have taken on ourselves.

If I turn to Germany, of course no one can deny how difficult the German internal policy makes it for those who wish to be friends with the Germans. It seems to us amazing that a nation can get greater strength from racial discrimination, and when a nation is engaged in a struggle with the Red Revolution it is no less amazing that it should be estranged from the forces of organised religion. Signor Mussolini has done differently. In Italy Jewish officers go to synagogue in uniform, and he has made a pact with the Church which, at any rate, has been a splendid bargain for the State, whatever it may be for the Church. I do not think all this should affect our policy with Germany. Many of us may dislike, intensely dislike, the system in Germany, but many of us dislike even more the system prevailing in Russia, but there is a difference between the two, because the Germans do not seek to propagate their doctrine for use in other countries and to subvert the institutions of other countries. No evidence has reached me at present that there is any subterranean and submarine communication between Berlin and Nuremburg and the headquarters of Sir Oswald Mosley. If such an action could be proved, I might revise my opinion, but at present it appears to me that any agreement we make with Germany can be, and ought to be, done without looking into their internal affairs, and while we think that, do not let us be too particular as to the past.

I agree very largely with what my noble friend Lord Stonehaven said, but I wish he had not brought in that matter of Mein Kampf, because surely a man's past, and far past, may be ignored in a case like this. After all, Germany's frame of mind is the result of terrible sufferings, greater sufferings, I suppose, than any country outside Russia has suffered. I do not know whether any of your Lordships heard the speech of Lord Melchett the other day, in which he pointed out that the economic troubles of the last few years were the final blow that destroyed the attempt at constitutional government in Germany. But that economic distress was by no means the first. There was another and a worse one in 1920–24, when the savings of a lifetime were dissipated in a moment. I am afraid that the Germans have got into the position where they feel they can get nothing by remonstrance, and get nothing unless they take it, and although one wants to say as little as possible about an unhappy man who had a tragic fate, still I believe that the refusal of M. Barthou to make any accommodation on arms in Germany was almost the turning point of whether a successful arrangement or not could be made for many years. All these things we have to remember, and I do trust that we shall not approach that part of this great problem in what I may call any nagging of vindictive spirit.

It is sometimes said that what we have to fear is the danger of war breaking out in the East. It is very difficult to envisage such a war without involving the violation of Poland. Of course, on the map it would be possible for an army to march through Latvia and Lithuania, but the front would be so narrow that they could never effectively deploy. Therefore, Poland is a vital factor in any Eastern obligation, and it is of the first importance that we should do nothing which would drive Poland into the sphere of Russian policy. You may say it is unlikely, but you never know what a Government will do under great o stress and fear. There is that curious Slav mentality which makes it easier for Poles to understand and be mutually understood by the Russians, after all their differences, than it is by the Germans. That is what I think my noble friend Lord Lothian mentioned, but it is too often ignored.

I have little more to say, but are we ready for a general settlement? It seems to me that until we are ready for it, it is of no use to talk of mandated territories and the like, and at the same time the League is far too weak to bear the burden of any such settlement now. I trust that it may be stronger in the future, but to rely on any such settlement through the machinery of the League now is I think, a vain dream. Of course we always have difficulty in talking about foreign affairs because we know only in part, but I cannot help thinking that we have all along been too eager to attempt large general settlements and have not pursued the humbler part of making partial settlements of particular difficulties as we went along. That is why I think the Naval Agreement with Germany was a real piece of successful statesmanship. I trust that other partial agreements may follow upon that, and they can be brought about with perfect loyalty to our obligations to France and Belgium.

I believe at present the danger, or the twin dangers, are fatalism and fear. If a large body of public opinion really believes that war is coming, that is the way to make it come. If every indiscreet speech is broadcast and magnified, if every unfortunate incident is made the most of, that undoubtedly is the way of danger. And equally fear brings about the same danger. I think it was Mr. Burke who said that fear was a greater evil than revenge, and I see indications of a temper which would precipitate the very evil that is apprehended. I have seen strange symptons of an unpleasant disease in the most unlikely places. I do not like to call it by the name of blood-thirst, so I will designate it by the name of philaemic neurosis. I will give two examples of it. One is a very distinguished man, a great supporter of the League of Nations, who lately strongly advocated intervention on the side of the Spanish Government, not the least on the merits of the quarrel, but because he was afraid of Italy. If a policy to consort with Spaniards because you dislike Italians is not the best kind of Bismarckian Realpolitik I really do not know what is; and it was a remarkable suggestion to come from a lifelong peace-loving Liberal. Then there was another case. I observe a gentleman writing to advocate an alliance of ourselves with Russia for the purpose of fighting Japan, Germany and Italy, and this man is a distinguished economist who has long and faithfully written for the Liberal Party.

What we want in all the madness of the world are steady nerves and a strong arm. Both of these, I suggest, are given by rearmament. I do not believe in the theory that guns go off by themselves. I believe on the contrary that you may make (although you cannot prove it) a very strong case that the peace of Europe was maintained for decades by the strength of our Navy and of the German Army, say from the year 1880 to 1911. I trust it may be possible to revive the League and use it to good purpose, but for the moment I am glad to agree with the last speaker that our power alone is the greatest guarantee of peace, and it is on our strength and our wisdom that the future of Europe hangs.


My Lords, if any excuse were needed for this long debate, it would be that the subject is infinitely important, and that it is a good thing to have to review our position in these matters from time to time. It is necessary also because the Government, like all Governments, tell us as little as possible about their intentions in the foreign field. And it is necessary from time to time to remind the Government that Parliament itself has some responsibility in these matters. The information that we have been accorded so far has not been extensive, and not particularly reassuring. We have had some amiable references to the League of Nations, but singularly little about well-defined policy for the future. I confess that the debate has depressed me a great deal, because it has shown very little faith in the good will of mankind, and none at all in the possibilities of what we roughly call collective security. We have retreated on insular prejudices, and our main outlook is a preparation for war through rearmament. As I understand what has been said, arms are to secure us peace and so on, and the organisation of international good will is a futile dream that we shall have to abandon. I believe I am right in saying that militarism has failed a thousand times, and yet we have an almost childlike faith in it. On the other hand the League of Nations has not wholly failed. There are a great many things to its credit, and yet everybody almost is ready to denounce it and to renounce it. The noble Lord, Lord Newton, in his interesting speech, speaking of the League of Nations, said that we were the only people who believed in it.


Well, who else does believe in it?


Well, if nobody else does, that shows that we have already the isolation of sanity in the matter. We are to judge international questions, according to that outlook in life, in the terms of our own interests. Japan could do as she liked in Manchuria, cut slices out of the side of China because it was no concern of ours. Abyssinia was to be sacrificed to the white angel of civilising peace on the part of Italy because no interest of ours was touched. Well, that is the authentic voice of Toryism, but it is not to me a voice that we ought to listen to too attentively.

The question of rearmament has of necessity loomed large in this debate. The little sum of £400,000,000 has to be accounted for and excused in some way, and we notice that the first results of it have already begun to appear. We reply with armaments, presumably to Germany, to the extent of £400,000,000. Italy immediately replies to us with an amount she has not yet specified. It is obvious that our view as to armaments is not shared by people in other countries. We regard armaments in other countries as provocative and dangerous, and we regard ours as harmless, necessary furnishings in the temple of peace. Well, other nations do not think so. We notice a second result of a fall in the credit of the nation. A fall in securities, a great amount of which is held by working class organisations and friendly societies, is a very severe loss to people in this country who cannot well afford it.

I rose only to try to put in a few words what I conceive to be the policy of the Labour Party for which I speak. We support the armament plan of His Majesty's Government to the extent that it will enable us to fulfil our proportionate obligations in an attempt to secure world peace, provided always—I ask that that should be taken into account—that it is accompanied by a clear-sighted policy of appeasement amongst other nations. We have had no clear explanation from His Majesty's Government as to why this particular degree of armaments has been decided upon, and I want to ask what assurance the Government are able to give us as to the future. Perhaps the noble Viscount will be good enough to tell us in a few minutes. I only register my own opinion that the subject is so immense and so desperately urgent that we ought to make a contribution to the general good will in a large way. Small contributions are of no good at all. John Stuart Mill said: Against great ills small remedies do not produce small effects: they produce no effect at all. That is the position we are in to-day. This new armament race is a great ill, and small remedies will not do what we require. Therefore this expenditure could be justified only if it were associated with remedies equal to the measure of the evils, and we frankly do not see these remedies on that scale.

There is something to be said for a policy of complete pacifism. There is something to be said for a policy of isolation. There is something to be said for a more vigorous endeavour, through the League of Nations or in other ways, to organise the good will of mankind. But there is nothing to be said for a lukewarm policy of support of the League of Nations while at the same time piling up armaments and erecting tariff barriers. Something has been said to-day about regional pacts, and some of the criticisms of the noble Lord, Lord Allen, were valid, but at the same time, whilst the Labour Party would look for a world acceptance of conditions that would secure world peace, it may be that the problem could be approached in detail with some chance of limited success. Some advance might be made. I agree that one regional pact would perhaps be dangerous, but a system of regional pacts where the thing could be specialised might have some advantage. For instance, to illustrate, tale the Pacific. If a regional pact for that area could be arranged, you might have some of the hesitancies, say, of America abolished. She would know her maximum commitments, and that would count for something, with some loose relationship to Geneva, the Pact of Paris, and so on. If the Government have any views on that matter, perhaps the noble Viscount will tell us in a minute or two.

I shall not delay the House long, but I should like to trepass upon its patience to say a word about isolation. The noble Lord, Lord Arnold, in acting as the apostle of that faith, seemed to me to express an old faith out of which I thought both he and I had grown some time ago. Isolation was possible in the old invasion-proof England. It was possible when we had a system of free trade. But it does not seem to me so attractive after the scientific developments of the last generation and after the experience of the Ottawa Conference. I do not believe there is any particular virtue in isolation as a theory. I do not believe that the monastic life is any better for a nation than I think it to be for an individual. My noble friend was fortunate, or unfortunate, in that he was at once hailed as a new prophet by Lord Beaverbrook. I am quite sure he did not deserve that painful embrace. I have just one other tiny quarrel to settle with him, and that is that he went out of his way to throw bouquets at the Government, and said it had kept us out of war so far. I do not mind throwing a single flower of neighbourly good will to His Majesty's Government, but I like my enthusiasms to be restrained. The Government is quite capable of putting all the beauty spots on itself that it requires.

I would, before I conclude, just say this. Much has, of necessity, been said about Germany. I shall not go into that to-night, but personally I have never been unfriendly to Germany. I owe her teachers far too much to be unmindful of all she has meant in the civilisation of the world. I have never believed that she alone was responsible for the World War. To that extent I am sympathetic to her. But I do not take all the statements made in Germany at their face value, and I thought some speakers in your Lordships' House who have done so showed an innocence that most of us have lost. What I believe we ought to do is to try to have a good-neighbour policy of proper relationships with Germany as far as possible. The world will not be healed by hatred or by large armaments. It will be healed by understanding and give-and-take. Let us remember, in criticising Germany, all she has gone through. I am not concerned with her system of government. I frankly confess I would prefer rather to die than to live under it, but I have not to live under it, and if Germans are satisfied with it that is their business; but I do think the time may have come when the Government might in that large way suggested by Lord Allen make an inquiry as to what accommodations are required and whether an understanding can be reached.

If the Government cannot do it, it may be possible for an unofficial examination to take place. It is just twenty-five years since I had the privilege of organising in London a great English-German Understanding Conference. It assembled at the Guildhall and we spent three' days in very close examination. Sir Frank Lascelles, our late Ambassador in Berlin, was our President, and a distinguished German committee and a very distinguished German delegation came over here and for three days we sat and discussed these difficulties between the two nations. The result was a great clarification, but the unfortunate incidents of 1914 prevented that Conference from having a lasting effect. I feel that if I were twenty-five years younger I would like to start that business again, and see whether anything could come from it. In conclusion, I want to ask the Government if they can tell us more, if they have anything to say about Spain, and if they have anything to tell us about the result of Mr. Runciman's visit to the United States. If they have, your Lordships will be glad to hear it. What I do feel, however, is that peace will not come through isolation; it will not come in a mechanical transference of our affections from France to Germany; it will not come in a rearmament policy unaccompanied by a clear and planned policy of peace, and it will not come in an aimless drifting in regard to America; but probably will come only in a large-scale effort to remove the causes of irritation, and in a foreign policy which recognises our share of the responsibility for the peace of the world.


My Lords, you have come to the end of a three-day debate. In the course of that debate a great number of speeches have been delivered, sincere and thoughtful speeches, and each one, I think, characteristic of the man who made it. I owe an apology to the noble Lord who initiated the debate for having been perforce absent on the first day of it, but by all I have heard, and by what I have been able to read, I am conscious that I was the principal loser by not being able to be in my place to hear the noble Lord's speech, although, as I say, I have informed myself of it through the Press. In all those speeches I think it has been remarkable that there has been, with perhaps some slight exception in the last speech of the noble Lord opposite (Lord Snell), a very little trace of Party sympathy in the strict sense of the word, and it was, if the noble Lord will allow me to say so, the more remarkable that, in his own characteristic and charming fashion, he should have, in banter, resorted to that, because he happens to lead a Party that, in this debate, has, I think, been responsible for expressing not less than three different opinions upon the matters which have engaged our attention.

Nothing I think has been more significant than the frequency with which these debates recur in Parliament. That is a measure of the new national interest that is gathered round foreign policy and foreign affairs, and, as such, it has to be welcomed, though the House will not fail to appreciate the difficulty that it imposes upon any spokesman of the Government who has to reply for the debate at the end of three days. He must either say the same thing as his colleagues have said here and elsewhere, which is apt to be dull, or he must run the risk of saying something different, in which case he is exposed to the higher criticism of Lord Snell and Lord Ponsonby. Well, that we cannot or do not, all of us, succeed in saying anything new, is not, therefore, to be attributed to our fault, but is I suppose the consequence of this, that the main elements of the problem are not always changing from month to month, and that when, as my noble friend Lord Stonehaven said, we pull up the plant from time to time to see how it is growing, we are anxious to do so tenderly in order not to damage the general prospects of the ground.

The main burden of this debate has been the examination of the relationship in which this country ought to stand to the obligations and the theories of the League of Nations. With all respect to my noble friends Lord Allen and Lord Snell, I do not think that this debate, even if that were all that it had produced, would have been so unconstructive as they appear to think. It is perfectly natural that those issues, lying, as I see them, alongside the old international obligations, should excite thought and should in many cases give rise to some anxiety, and during these three days more than one of your Lordships have examined what, in regard to these matters, are the possible directions in which a course may most wisely be steered over seas that are necessarily stormy.

Pacifism has claimed its advocates, although more than one of them has, with the great candour that we always associate with Lord Allen, explained that he does not regard pacifism to-day as practical politics. I only make one observation upon that head. I understand and I respect the attitude of my noble friend Lord Ponsonby, and from the Christian point of view, as he got into clash with the most reverend Primate, I would say this. I do not think there is any subject that needs to be more constantly searched by Christian thought, and although this is not the place to argue that, if I could see my way to a general pacifist system in which all nations would resolutely and finally abjure war I should be glad, for that, of course, is what we all want. But I cannot myself believe that for a single nation, in the conditions of the world to-day, to forego both the will and the power to defend what it believes to be right, is either politically practicable or morally imperative.

Then some of those who have spoken have referred to the alternative of the automatic invocation of military force against all infractions of the Covenant and of peace. The noble Lord, Lord Arnold, rather unkindly but perhaps not untruly, immortalised certain persons as victims of the bitterest disappointment if there was a war anywhere and they were not in it. If I were quite sure that such an interpretation of collective security would in fact keep the peace I would naturally support it, but I venture to think you cannot be quite sure, and it is because you cannot be quite sure that it is important to define what you are willing to fight for. Otherwise you are, as I see it, participating in a huge bloc and there is a real danger that, as the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, said, what might be a local war would become a world war. The most enthusiastic supporter of the League of Nations would not admit that it was any business of the League to promote that end. The opposite alternative which has been discussed is to say that in no circumstances will you fight unless you are attacked—isolation. The noble Viscount on the Cross Benches drew our attention yesterday to the political dangers of isolation. He may be right—I think he probably is—but in my view it is only small countries that can with any assurance claim the privileges of isolation, and I am quite certain that the centre of a great Commonwealth such as ours, with interests in all parts of the world, could not in fact isolate itself. On the moral side I should certainly feel that no great country has a right, even if it could, to throw away its power and its capacity to exert influence on the problems that lie at its door.

Therefore, having exhausted those possibilities, I come to the position of His Majesty's Government which the noble Lord opposite deems to be indefinite and uncertain. It has in fact, of course, been repeatedly defined by the Foreign Secretary, and I will not weary your Lordships by repeating that definition here. It rests, as you know, upon the drawing of a distinction between cases for which arms would certainly be used and other cases of possible disturbance of peace in which this country would be free to judge of the merits and the circumstances at the time subject to our Covenant obligations. That is not disloyalty to the League. When the noble Viscount said that my noble friend the Earl of Plymouth had in the course of his speech said that he would only fight for vital interests, I think he unwittingly did my noble friend less than justice. What he did say was: I venture to say that nations cannot be expected to incur automatic military obligations except where their vital interests are concerned. Your Lordships will observe that that is a very different thing.

The noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, said that he thought my right honourable friend's speech at Leamington was wise and statesmanlike but that subsequently the landscape had become a bit blurred. Others have suggested that His Majesty's Government's policy is therefore to that degree uncertain. The noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, even charged us with vacillating indecision and I think the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, also used language not dissimilar. The future is always and unnecessarily uncertain but so far as it is possible to be definite I suggest that His Majesty's Government's policy is crystal clear. I would make this assertion without fear of contradiction, that as far as I have had the opportunity of reading history—over which the noble Marquess, if he will allow me to say so, led us rather a fairy dance yesterday—I should be prepared 1o maintain the position that never in the eighteenth or nineteenth century was British policy so clearly defined in advance as it has been by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary in recent months.

I know perfectly well, and indeed I largely share, the anxiety to which the noble Lord, Lord Arnold, and the noble Marquess and others have given expression in this debate of the possibility of what I may for brevity term an Eastern entanglement. I am not oblivious to that and I am not oblivious to the anxiety of those who see indirect but grave danger to the West of Europe from possible complications in the East linked, as in the judgment of many observers East and West are, by the Franco-Soviet Pact. I do not know whether your Lordships have in your minds a question and answer in the House of Commons on February 8 last. Mr. Lambert asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs: whether any commitment exists whereby under the Franco-Russian Pact Great Britain could be involved in a European war; and, if none does exist, has this fact been made clear to the French and Russian Governments? That question was answered by Viscount Cranborne. He said: The answer to the first part of the question is No, Sir. As regards the second part of the question I think the French and Soviet Governments are fully aware of the position. I think that is a pretty definite Parliamentary answer to one side of the kind of question that the noble Lord who initiated this debate had in his mind.

I would go a little further than that and I would say that unless you are prepared on the one hand to say, "I will fight in every case on behalf of peace, which is one and indivisible," or on the other hand to say, "I will only fight when I am myself the victim of attack"—unless you are prepared to take one of those two positions there is an inevitable no-man's-land of uncertainty lying between which is quite incapable, as I think, of antecedent definition. Therefore it is that if we are unable to define beforehand what might be our attitude to a hypothetical complication in Central or Eastern Europe, that is not to say that we disinterest ourselves in the fate of those parts of Europe. We have repeatedly maintained our determination to carry out to the best of our ability our obligations under the Covenant, and if those obligations are not capable of prior definition with precise exactitude that is a feature—and I venture to think not an accidental feature—of the Covenant itself. If it is true that the League itself is crippled, as indeed it is, by the defection of important Members, that does not mean that this country is without influence and authority which she would use in endeavouring to prevent such a conflict arising. I suggest that that influence and autho- rity will be greatly reinforced, as Lord Allen, indeed, himself recognised, by the steps that we have now decided to take in the matter of rearmament.

Lord Allen asked me if I had any views on the question of one regional pact. I followed, of course, what I understood to be his thought—namely, that if you have one regional pact immunising, isolating, keeping in permanent peace one area, you will be likely to leave to the greater danger of disturbance the other parts of Europe. I hope that what I said a few moments ago will have assured him that that is not the way in which His Majesty's Government see the problem with which we are concerned. The regional pact is not in competition with the League, nor is the pact the instrument to which we should look for the remedy of injustices which we, not less than he, would desire, when opportunity offers, to see remedied. I have seen it suggested that the best guarantee, or a guarantee, against war would be that immediately on the outbreak of war, whatever the merits, the Prime Minister should be hanged, somewhat on the principle by which I understand the Chinese ceases to pay his doctor when he ceases to be well. I should not greatly mind that being done if everybody conformed, especially if a war synchronised with the advent of a Labour Government to office—which indeed, to judge by many speeches that have been made by Labour orators in the last six months, might very well be the case!

But the real guarantee against war, or against war for any but the clearest and most overwhelming of reasons, is that which the noble Lord, Lord Arnold, referred to in his speech when he said that it was impossible for any democratic Government in these days to make war unless it could count on the overwhelming support of the country behind it in doing so. That is true. And what is not less true, but I do not think the noble Lord mentioned it, is that it would be impossible for any Government in this country to decide on a declaration of war unless they were morally confident that not only this country but also the whole Empire was associated with them, or prepared to associate itself with them, in their decision. Our judgment and our expectations in these matters no doubt vary according to our several temperaments, and I can only repeat that His Majesty's Government do not desire in regard to European peace to be ranked among those prophets of fatalism and fear to whom Lord Rankeillour referred and of whom I agree with him that there are all too many. I confess that I rubbed my eyes and my ears when I heard Lord Ponsonby say that the Government was responsible for the talk about war.


Hear, hear.


I am sorry to find that he is unrepentant, because I and, as far as I know, most of my colleagues spend most of our time saying exactly what I have just said and endeavouring to discount the influence of what I may call the unrelieved pessimist. Therefore, if Lord Ponsonby has honestly thought that up to this moment, I hope that from this moment he will change his view. It is of course quite natural that the nerves of Europe should have been frayed when so many things have happened so quickly and so differently from what people would have anticipated. It is also true that new danger-spots are constantly in process of manufacture. Spain has been mentioned, and if I may do so in parenthesis, I would answer two or three specific questions that the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, put to me yesterday. He asked how the Non-intervention Agreement was going to work and what was to be done about the naval cordon; what security there was that a food-ship would not be arrested by German or Italian ships. The answer is that the ships of the Navies taking part in the supervision scheme will have no powers of arrest or any right of search. Their duties will be confined to establishing the identity of all ships proceeding to Spain in order to verify whether they have or have not conformed to the obligation imposed upon them—namely, of taking supervisors on board—under the Agreement. Apart from that, the position remains unaltered—namely, that we make ourselves responsible for the protection of our own shipping. He further asked whether there would be officers of another nation on board, for example, a German ship. I am advised that the answer to that question is that, in view of the zones which have been provisionally allocated to the four Powers concerned, it is not considered necessary to post on the ships of the various Powers, officers of another nation.

While I am on that subject, perhaps I might mention that it will be the duty of the Government in this House to bring before your Lordships at an early date a short Bill giving power to bring this Agreement into force, a Bill which I hope, when it comes, your Lordships will be prepared to treat as an emergency measure. I can hardly leave the question of Spain without adding my word of tribute to the persistent and persuasive patience of the noble Earl, Lord Plymouth, to whom I think we all owe a real debt of gratitude for the way in which he has pursued his task.

I am not one of those who do not think that there is more than one reassuring element in the present situation. I think it is something which we can be pleased to learn that the Chancellor of Germany should have assured us on January 30 last that the era of surprises was over. The second thing that I ponder with some degree of satisfaction is that, so far as I can judge, any nation who wanted it could have had a war any lime they liked during the last six months over Spain. They have net had it, though if they had wanted it they could have had it. Therefore it is that I disagreed with Earl Russell when he said that rearmament meant that the Government foresaw war as likely. We have no such gloomy anticipations, and I would state my feelings in terms exactly the reverse: that in our view, as in the view of others who have spoken, the programme of rearmament is calculated to make war far less likely. At this stage of international adjustment I do not believe that this statement is capable of challenge—namely, that the stronger this country is the less likelihood there is of war.

I go the whole way with all noble Lords who have deplored the waste of money on armaments. I go the whole way with them when they say that rearmament in itself is no solution. It is only a means to an end. But it may be the only means to an end, and that end is not selfish nor aggressive but is the end of securing for this country due weight in European councils, and I do not believe that any loyal Member of the League of Nations anywhere in Europe would disagree with that assessment of the situation to-day. I would like the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, if he would, to re-examine the process of thought that leads him to state that our purpose in this matter is, as he suggested, not defence, but preparation for attack. Really the noble Lord must take it from me that that opinion is one wholly without foundation.


May I explain to the noble Viscount that in saying that I meant that defence in the air does mean preparation for attack.


I think if the noble Lord had made that point in his speech it might have been better, because I think the words he used were liable to considerable misconception. The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, asked whether the Government had given up disarmament. I can assure him most emphatically no. But he will not, I think, disagree that the prolonged trial that we made of unilateral disarmament had no other result than to convince us at least of its futility. The one lesson that we have learned has been the impossibility of getting other people to make sacrifices and come down to a low level, when we had already made sacrifices in advance, and had therefore proportionately less inducement to offer to other nations to follow our example. The writer of the fable of the fox and his brush had a great deal of human wisdom stored up.


May I ask the noble Viscount who refused to bring down their Navy to the level of the British Navy?


I think the noble Lord is endeavouring to lead me on to the dangerous swamps of generalities. I think I am right in this. The difficulties, such as they were, about the Navy—and as he knows it was not there that the principal difficulties arose—arose principally from the definition of several categories, and if the noble Lord refreshes his memory by looking at the Disarmament discussions at Geneva I do not think he will find that we were on any point of substance the obstacle to any reduction in quantity or quality.


Very successful, up to a point.


The time may come, and we hope it will come, when it is possible to negotiate with more success reasonable equilibrium in armaments, and I would emphasise this, at a much lower scale than at present we are being compelled to build. The settlement of all these problems depends, as I say, on two things: first, the intrinsic elements in the problems themselves—racial, economic, political and the like—and secondly, the spirit of approach that all countries can make to the problems and the degree of understanding that they can bring to them. Those who heard it will not have failed to be moved by the speech that my noble friend Lord Addington addressed to the House last night. Those who heard Lord Allen to-night, whether they agreed or disagreed, must have felt much of the conviction he felt when he spoke on the same part of the subject.

It is too often suggested that rapprochement with one country must involve estrangement from another. That is not our conception. A great deal is said, as I said just now, about collective security. That, if it means anything, must mean reality, and if it is dangerous to be deluded by phrases that do not correspond to reality, it is not less dangerous to bury our heads in the sands of isolation, which the first gale will blow away. When Lord Ponsonby spoke of his mistrust of regional pacts which he saw in the terms of a Pact between A, B and C, subsequently inviting D and E, but knowing that D and E would never, in his view, come in, I am entitled to remind him of the continuous efforts that this Government have made for the last twelve months to make the Five-Power Pact inclusive of all the nations concerned. The essence of collective security is that we do not believe in exclusive alliances, which, as Lord Lothian and the Marquess of Crewe said, are the only effective alternative before us. We seek always the method of co-operation as opposed to any plan that would divide those whom our whole policy is to bring together.

The noble Lord, Lord Allen, complains that we have never invited Germany to the council table on terms of equity, and he answered in advance the reply that I should naturally make, that that is exactly what we have been seeking to do, as I have said, for the last six or twelve months. He himself would prefer what he called a more constructive approach, not indeed by way of a world-wide conference, but by way, as I understood him, of a small conference in which all questions of possible difference would be brought into the arena of free discussion. But as he spoke I said to myself: "Who would be participating in such a conference? Russia?" He would know well, presumably, the difficulties an invitation of that sort might encounter. There are other people whose interests might be affected, because we know the only people who would wish to participate in such a conference, if it were ever held, but whatever might be my first judgment about such a proposal as that, I can certainly assure him that any talks at any time that might seem likely to lead to fruitful results or better understanding, would always secure the sympathy and the good will of His Majesty's Government. That is, indeed, the spirit in which they are constantly seeking to approach European problems, and the same spirit in which we should always welcome the co-operation of the United States, of which the noble Marquess spoke yesterday. I do not think I have anything more to add in reply to what Lord Stonehaven asked about Mr. Runciman's visit than has already been said publicly on that, but I will convey what he said to him.

The other thing I want to say is this. I want to emphasise the point made by Lord Rankeillour, which I think is profoundly true, that though we believe that the cause of peace is in fact one, it may well be that an approach to a general settlement may be advanced by the solution of particular questions, which can be treated separately, although they must ultimately form part of a larger whole. It is for that reason that we have been attempting to bring the five Western Powers together. It is for that reason that we took the initiative in the proposed raw materials inquiry, and it is for that reason that His Majesty's Government would welcome any agreement anywhere that was honestly devised to promote the cause of peace.

I hope I have said enough to show that, in my view at least, the policy of His Majesty's Government is not negative, is emphatically not the policy of despair, and is not one which leads us to feel with Lord Snell that international good will is no more than a futile dream. We still, retain our faith in the ideals of the League of Nations and in the possibility of finding means to make those ideals prevail. Whether the world will or will not succeed in that—with all due respect to my noble friend Lord Newton who, I see, is not in his place—no one here and now can say, but it is quite certain that we can make no contribution to that end unless we are in a position to play our part. And therefore it is that all the efforts of His Majesty's Government, diplomatic, military, industrial and all other, will be subordinated to the single aim of endeavouring to build peace upon a foundation of justice, that can alone support a durable structure under which all the nations of the world can be at peace.


My Lords, your Lordships were good enough to give me a patient hearing during the long speech with which I introduced this Motion, and I shall certainly not make any protracted remarks now. It is obviously quite impossible to deal with all the issues which have been raised in these three days' debates. So far as my own speech was concerned—and may I say how deeply I appreciate the kind references which have been made to it by various noble Lords?—the main reply was made by the noble Earl, Lord Plymouth. But I hope he will forgive my saying that it seems to me clear that his speech in reply to mine had been prepared before he heard my speech and was not altered after he had heard my speech, because he really did not deal in detail with the main arguments which I advanced, and for the most part his observations consisted of vigorous assertions that the Government's policy was the best of all possible policies.

That, of course, is the question at issue, and perhaps he will allow me to say, with respect but with emphasis, that assertion is not argument. Neither is evasion discussion, and the noble Earl did evade many of the points, no doubt difficult points, about which I should have liked to have some information. For instance, I told him in advance, in response to his request, that I should raise in a very definite form the difficulties and dangers of the Franco-Soviet Pact, and yet in his reply he never mentioned the Franco-Soviet Pact, did not say one syllable about it, although in my speech I had devoted a good deal of attention to it.

The noble Viscount, Lord Halifax, has said something about the Franco-Soviet Pact, but I will not discuss that very delicate matter now. All I should like to say to the noble Viscount is that I hope he will bear in mind what was said by The Times. As he was not here when I quoted it, perhaps I might quote again three or four lines from an important leader in The Times, which said: No Englishman in German shoes would consent to accept the commitments of a new treaty while the Franco-Soviet Pact … is still in force. The noble Earl, Lord Plymouth, also asserted vigorously that isolation is impossible, but he did not reply to various arguments which had been advanced on the other side. The noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, did go rather more in detail into that policy, but I found his arguments against it unconvincing, and one or two of them, if I may say so with respect, impossibly fantastic. The noble Earl may think isolation is impossible, and the Government may think it impossible, but I would very much like to know what they really think of certain aspects of isolation.

However, their attitude is that, at any rate for the time being, it is impossible. But the fact remains—and I have no doubt about this—that there is a large and a growing body of opinion in the country which does not take that view, which holds that, so far from isolation being impossible, it is the policy which should be adopted. And, after all, isolation over a long period of history has been the traditional policy of this country, and I dealt in my speech with the changes brought about by air warfare and so forth. I have made most careful inquiries, and the fact is that the people, or many of them, are getting sick and tired of these Continental commitments. I do not wish to attach any very great importance to my own small experiences, but it may interest the noble Earl and the Government to know that, as a result of my speech, I have had messages in very large numbers from all parts of the country, strongly approving of the kind of policy which I endeavoured to outline, and in a great many instances assuring me that the writers of their own knowledge can affirm that such views are widely held in their own particular neighbourhoods. Those are, I think, factors which have in a small way at any rate to be taken into account.

I emphasised last week—and there must be a good deal of agreement about this—that no Government can take this country into a war on the Continent unless it has behind it the support of at least go per cent, of the people. I think it is quite clear, in view of the large body of persons supporting isolation, that the Government cannot get 90 per cent, unless this country is attacked. I do not believe that that is going to happen, and therefore I hold that there is every prospect that, if there is a next war, Great Britain will be kept out of it. It has been said that isolation does not give an absolute guarantee. The noble Viscount or some other speaker suggested that this country will be kept out of war. But under isolation the chances of this country being kept out of war are, I think, very great, and the risks of its going into war are enormously reduced; in fact they are reduced to a minimum; whereas under the policy of the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, and his friends they are at a maximum. Under that policy, whatever the war is, wherever and whenever it is, you are certain to be in it. Of the two policies, for my part I prefer the one which I ventured to outline. I think it is infinitely less risky for this country.

I thank the noble Viscount for his very careful and long reply. He will not expect me to be satisfied with it, but I thank him. It did not go as far as I wanted, but although the noble Viscount has not said very much, he has said something, and I hope, if I may say so with respect, that he will think the more. I hope also that the Government will, as time goes on, still further change their policy away from commitments. They have done something in that direction. Their policy has changed. It is not what it was. There has been a material alteration, and I urge upon them that they should do more. Let them move away from this so-called collective security, the definition of which, by the way, was still further whittled down by Lord Cranborne in another place last night—further reservations and qualifications.

I do not want to use strong language, but I do not think it is an over-statement that this unfortunate phrase has really become a farce, and I suggest it is undesirable—to use no stronger word—to reduce an important definition of grave international issues to farcical conditions. May I say this? In the recent by-elections everybody has been struck with the smallness of the polls. I have no doubt that one reason for that is that there is a large number of people who, on this question of foreign policy—which is the major issue of the day and what people are thinking about and talking about—do not find their views represented either by the Government candidates or by the candidates of the Left, and a large number of them are abstaining from voting.

Finally, I want to say something which is not very easy for me to say but which I ought to say in all honesty. I incurred, apparently, in a mild way the displeasure of my noble friend Lord Snell for, as he said, throwing a bouquet at the Government. I was not aware I had gone as far as a floral decoration, and I do not think I really did, but I must be fair though the heavens fall, and on the occasions—not very frequent—when I can say something in favour of the Government I do not mind doing it. Even at the risk of still further incurring the displeasure of my noble friend, I must say something more. My admiration of your Lordships' House has always been restrained. It continues to be restrained. In fact, to use a phrase of my noble friend Lord Snell, it is "under strict control." I have been a critic of your Lordships' House, and I am still a critic, both as regards its composition and its powers, but it is only fair to admit that your Lordships' House is a platform for expressing independent views. I feel impelled to say that because it has been pointed out in the Press in the course of this debate that under Party affiliations and so forth it would have been very difficult for a member in another place to have given expression to the independent views which I endeavoured to voice in introducing this Motion. It is right that I should admit that.

If I may be permitted to conclude with a further personal reference, I would say this. Again and again I have been asked—in the last year particularly—why is the kind of policy which I endeavoured to outline in introducing this Motion not placed before Parliament. Again and again I have been assured that vast numbers of people are thinking that way. I say that I have been asked why are these things not said in Parliament; so at last, as they do represent my strong convictions—and not hastily formed—I said, "Very well, if no one else will say these things, I will say them myself," and through the medium of your Lordships' House I have done so. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.