§ LORD ALLEN OF HURTWOOD had given Notice that he would move to resolve, That this House views with profound anxiety the progressive deterioration in the international situation that has developed during the last few years; supports His Majesty's Government in their determination to ensure this country's strength and in their attempt to find some immediate solution of the successive crises that now confront the world; but would welcome at this stage a statement, to be made either in the British Parliament or at the League of Nations, indicating a comprehensive policy directed to a consideration of the grievances and disabilities from which certain nations claim to be suffering, and outlining the procedure which His Majesty's Government would favour with a view to the ultimate negotiation of an all-round settlement within the framework 116 of the League of Nations and the Pact of Paris.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion which stands upon the Order Paper in my name, but before proceeding to the debate I am sure it would be in accordance with the wishes of your Lordships that I should fulfil the mandate which I received from the noble Viscount the Leader of this House to make some reference to the great loss that the nation has incurred owing to the death of Mr. Ramsay MacDonald. It is a strange act of fortune that the sad privilege should have fallen to me. I enjoyed the friendship of Mr. MacDonald for over thirty years. I have known him in the time of his bitterest adversity, and I have known him in his time of great authority. In a few moments we shall be discussing European appeasement. Surely there was never an occasion more suitable for paying honour to the memory of a man who was one of the great peacemakers of our age. It was he, perhaps more than any other statesman of his time, who was instrumental in bringing Germany into the family of the League of Nations.
§ He will live in memory for many reasons, partly, I think, because of great qualities of personal character—a factor of no small importance when we think of the future of democracy. That applied to his work on behalf of the Labour Party. With Mr. Arthur Henderson he was one of the joint architects of that new Party in the State, and he brought to bear upon that work not only great qualities of intelligence and administrative skill, but an almost religious quality in his attitude to his political faith. It was in consequence of that combination of characteristics that the Party which he served became so great a Party. He was a great democrat. I think that perhaps he foresaw more clearly than any man of his time the conflict which confronted us between reason and violence as instruments in changing from one social order to the next. He was eager that his country should once more he a contributor to the development of democracy. He was eager that mercy and compassion should come back into the art by which men govern each other. I am sure your Lordships would also wish me to add one word of sympathy for the family he leaves behind, for if ever there was a family in which father, sons and daughters mingled with 117 great love, it was his family; a word of good will to the daughter who is still with him out on the seas; a word of good will to that gentle daughter who carried him through these years of great travail and triumph; and a word of good will to his son, Mr. Malcolm MacDonald, who is carrying on the high political tradition of his father. I am sure that in saying those few words I am voicing the desire of all Parties and of all members of your Lordships' House.
§ And now I pass to the Motion which stands upon the Order Paper. In moving it I am going to venture to ask for your Lordships' indulgence, to ask perhaps a greater measure of your time than I have ever dared previously to ask in a debate in this House. I was encouraged by noting a friendly nod from the noble Viscount who leads this House not long ago, when a kindly reference was made to the intervention of those of us who sit upon the Back Benches of this House, and I therefore venture to ask your patience if I claim a little more of your time than I have previously dared to do. I framed the Motion with the greatest possible care. Perhaps I should explain the reason why it appears in this form. There have been many debates on foreign affairs during the last few weeks. I cannot help but feel that some of these debates have not been as helpful in the international situation as they might have been. I have sometimes even wondered whether we were not in danger of seeing foreign affairs perhaps used for the purpose of Party capital. I do not myself deny that one is torn by contrary emotions when one intervenes on the subject of foreign affairs. Personally I know many arguments that I should like to use which would bring home to His Majesty's Government the grave responsibility that they must carry for the deplorable situation that we find at the present moment, a situation which has steadily deteriorated from the mistakes that were made in 1932 and 1933. But I know that there are other emotions as well, emotions that would make me desire to forget the past and to speak constructively and helpfully in the present, and I confess that I have succumbed to these latter emotions.
§ I have tabled the Motion with the deliberate object of diverting the discussion of international affairs from the somewhat sterile channels into which I think 118 those discussions have recently tended to flow. I do not deny—no one can—that the world is at the moment faced by a series of most outrageous acts of aggression, but I doubt whether it is either helpful or wise that all our debates should be centred upon how we may forcibly resist those acts of aggression. Events certainly demand that we should not surrender the principle of collective force. We used it with success at Nyon. It may be necessary to bring the pressure of quarantine in the case of the Far Eastern dispute. But I propose to ask the Government and your Lordships this afternoon to consider the arts of peace-making and not merely the art of bringing force to bear upon an aggressor. I believe that there is one question which public opinion is asking more insistently than any other at this critical moment, and that question is this: Is there no procedure which we could discover which would lead to all-round appeasement, particularly on the Continent of Europe? May it not be possible that we have overlooked some procedure which could lead to this end? I believe that the answer to that question is the most urgent need of the present international situation.
§ I shall submit in this debate that the answer to that question cannot be found except by a procedure which is comprehensive in its character. Take, for instance, sonic of the recent debates on foreign affairs. They have dealt one by one with separate crises in isolation. Not long ago we dealt with the Rhineland and Abyssinia, more recently we have dealt with Spain and the Far East. I do not dispute that it may be necessary for the purpose of exercising democratic control over foreign policy that we should have those debates. But what I do suggest is that they have all failed to bring out vividly and clearly the need of this moment that Britain should have a comprehensive design directed to appeasement, which, by the very quality of its comprehensiveness, not only should be able to promote appeasement, but might also help the solution of each one of the separate crises by which we are confronted. Berlin, Rome, Tokyo, Spain are all now interlocked. Each one of those crises is like a piece in a jigsaw puzzle. They lie in disorderly array upon the table. I submit that they cannot be assembled unless some nation is able to come forward at this moment with 119 a map of peace, or a picture of the whole design into which all those separate pieces of the jigsaw puzzle can be fitted. And that is the purpose of the Motion that I have submitted to the House.
§ But not only must this effort towards appeasement be comprehensive in quality; it must be directed towards an attempt to deal with the grievances, justifiable or not justifiable, under which certain nations claim at this moment to be suffering. In previous negotiations with Germany we have sought to find some alternative to the Locarno Pact, a regional area of security being thereby provided in the West. I do not deny the desirability of these negotiations, but what I do say is that if they are all confined to the subject of regional pacts of security and omit the question of grievances, then we shall make no headway whatever towards that general appeasement that we desire. I tabled this Motion nearly three week ago. At that time it appeared as though there were a complete deadlock in the international situation. Since then has come the news of the visit of the Leader of this House, Lord Halifax, to Germany, and I believe that news has been welcomed by the whole nation, by all Parties in the nation, and by all schools of public opinion. We all realise that there is no figure in our public life who has a more magnificent equipment for the role of an ambassador of peace, and I believe that the good will of this House as well as the good will of all the homes of this land will go out to the noble Viscount in his work of peace-making. None the less, I believe it will be of some value that at this moment there should be a debate which will reveal to some extent at any rate the state of public opinion on this subject of appeasement, provided, that is, that all of us, knowing that this visit is taking place, speak words of discretion and not words of carelessness.
§ Before I attempt to outline the procedure which is mentioned in the Motion may I, for a few minutes, refer to the policy of the Government as I understand it? I should describe the policy of His Majesty's Government at the present time as a policy of prudence, or, if I may use another word of classical origin, a policy of cunctation. The Government base their policy, as I understand it, on the League of Nations. They desire to 120 rebuild the League of Nations. But what the Government say is that the present position of the League is weakened and is inclined to become even weaker, and that in consequence there must be an element of prudence in the manner in which the League is used under present circumstances. Even in the last few hours we have seen the experience of the three Scandinavian countries feeling themselves unable to join in voting upon a resolution at Brussels concerned with a dispute as far removed from their shores as the Far East. It has often been said that if only Britain would lead, all the other countries would follow. In this case Britain did lead, and you have the abstention of the three Scandinavian countries. That, it seems to me, must be used by His Majesty's Government as evidence of the great need of prudence at the present moment.
§ His Majesty's Government watch the uprising of dictatorships on Left and Right. They watch these dictatorships, if I understand their policy correctly, with restraint. They wonder to what extent these dictatorships are really permanently well-founded in the morality and culture of the twentieth century. They check their opinion of these dictatorships by reference to books of history, maps of geography, and economic statistics. His Majesty's Government do more than that. They are determined that in the meantime this country shall be strong, and so far as I am concerned, in a world highly armed, where the peoples of all the nations are unwilling to give up their arms, I believe we owe support to His Majesty's Government in their determination that this country shall be strong. No one can travel, as I have travelled, in some of the smaller nations to-day who are clinging to democracy, without realising the return of confidence in those countries which there has been in consequence of the determination of this democratic nation to be strong. Such then, as I understand it, is the policy of His Majesty's Government. I do not challenge that policy, but what I do say is this: if we are to have a period of prudence—of cunctation—a period during which we are able to build up our strength, a period during which we exercise our force with the greatest restraint, then do let us during that period express a formidable initiative directed to the making of peace. I believe it 121 might be possible to unnerve a dictator far more by removing his grievances than by any other process by which he could be confronted, and it is that procedure I wish to outline.
§ What does the Motion ask? It asks for an indication of policy at this moment during the period of waiting which would indicate the manner by which you could reach an all-round settlement. It is a tragic memory that when for the first time in the history of the world we bound a steel band of the law round the nations at Versailles we bound within it inequality of status. I believe that all your Lordships will agree that if the nations are to respect law, then all nations must be equal before the law, and all nations must know that the law can be changed. We have thought so far of the League and its Covenant too much as an instrument of force and too little as an instrument of justice. The tragedy has been that such changes as have been made since the Treaty of Versailles have all been made as a consequence of threats of force or pressure which had the element of force within it. When I myself was in Germany talking in the post-War years with members of the German Government I realised the infinite misfortune that these changes should have come about in that way instead of as a result of the spontaneous initiative of good will; for, if these changes had come about in the latter way, they would not only have been good in themselves but they would have left behind them a mood of kindness and friendship which would have been of great value as we gradually built the new post-War structure of Europe.
§ Germany lies at the heart of the geography of Europe, and it lies therefore at the heart of the geography of the world. There is no single event which could do more to prevent a world war and to assist world peace than understanding with Germany at this critical moment. I do not ignore, nor am I going to ignore in the arguments I shall submit to your Lordships, the dangers that can emanate from Germany in her present mood. I am not blind, any more than your Lordships are blind, to the difficult psychological mood in which Germany is to-day, but I make bold to make the suggestion that if we would approach her now, for the first time since Versailles, as an equal nation, we might find that some of those difficulties would be removed. In the Motion I 122 outline a particular form of procedure. I do beg my noble friend the Earl of Plymouth, when he comes to reply on behalf of the Government, that he will give such sympathetic consideration as he can to the particular procedure which is there outlined.
§ And I wonder if I might hope to escape an accusation of arrogance from your Lordships if I ventured a few words at this stage about the past. Some of us have offered advice with regard to the international situation on many occasions since 1919, at the time of the mistakes, not after the event. In 1919 a Treaty was made with Germany, with Germany shut out, not permitted even the normal procedure of argument, after Germany had thrown out from its own land the old Government and its régime. At that time some of us protested. Later on, Germany was allowed to shake off the dust of Geneva from her feet at the time of the Disarmament Conference. Why? For many reasons; partly because of a foolish attempt to enforce upon that nation a probationary test. At that time, not after the event, some of us in your Lordships' House protested. Later on, offer after offer came from Germany. When I look back at some of those offers—and well I remember the details—when I look back at those offers in which Germany was prepared to accept an Army of 300,000 men, and an Air Force of 30 per cent. of the combined Air Forces around her, I look back to an offer which now seems almost utopian. I remember the terms she was willing to consider of coming back into the League of Nations. Fortunately at that stage our Government and our country were wiser than other countries, and it was a tragedy that that offer was rejected, not so much by us but by others. Again many of us in this House protested at the time. Then we went on to discuss, as I have already indicated, pacts of security, not attempts to analyse grievances. Again some of us protested and protested at the time.
§ I have only ventured to record some of those historical facts because I do plead at this moment that when this Resolution, this particular proposal, comes under the review of the Government they will not unsympathetically reject it, and that those of us who are advocating this procedure may at least be permitted to remind both our nation and the Government 123 that perhaps we have not always been wrong so far as the past is concerned. At the moment there is a new hope and a very real prospect of that which ought to have been done years ago being accomplished now. It seems perfectly clear, as I have tried to indicate in the Resolution, that we can make no headway except by the procedure of an all-round settlement. If I understand the German mind accurately, if I understand the European situation even indifferently, nothing could be more fatal at this moment than to make isolated concessions which were not within the framework of an all-round settlement. I submit that if that is the case the procedure of His Majesty's Government leaves something to be desired. They attempt to build peace piecemeal. They say: "Look at Spain; if only we could eradicate that trouble the road would be clear to general appeasement." I do not believe it, my Lords. I do not believe that you can build peace piecemeal any longer. Every problem is interlocked with some other problem, every area is dependent upon some other area, and behind it all there is a psychological mood which is more dominant in directing the policies of nations to-day than economics or any other factor and which must be taken into account.
§ Let me now, if I may, just give one or two illustrations of the folly of attempting to deal with the present position by approaching separate problems and separate areas in isolation. Germany says, rightly or wrongly, that she needs access to raw materials, and that she is not in an equal position with other nations in that respect. Very well, the Government, in the desire for peace, proposed the setting up of a Commission which was established at Geneva in order that that disability might be inquired into. It acted in respect of that subject as a subject in isolation. What did it do? It set up the Committee under the auspices of the League of Nations. But the League of Nations itself is one of the elements in the dispute between Germany and her sister nations. It went further. It ruled out from the terms of reference of that Committee anything to do with either Colonies or Mandates when, in the German mind, the subject of raw materials is definitely linked with both 124 those subjects. What was the result? Germany declined, although she was the complainant, to come into the discussion or to join in the work of the Committee.
§ Take the question of Colonies. Here surely is a subject beyond all others that cannot be dealt with as an isolated subject. It is going to be a burning issue. God grant that it be not allowed to become a festering sore in the body politic of Europe like Reparations before it. We cannot start handing Colonies round as though we were handing cards round in a game of beggar-my-neighbour. We cannot deal with this Colonial question without regard to all the arguments of strategy, without regard to the interests of native populations. We know that this subject is infinitely difficult, infinitely complicated in its reverberations, but at least let us use the right arguments when we are dealing with Germany. Germany says she requires tropical areas for the purposes of surplus population. Why, in 1914, there were more Germans living in Paris than in the whole German Colonial Empire put together, and we to-day, the British Empire, the centre of an area of one-quarter of the earth's surface, have an inward flow of population and not an outward flow. Germany says she wants these Colonial areas for purposes of raw materials, The Foreign Secretary and the Committee to which I have referred have already proved that only 3 per cent. of the world's raw materials come from these undeveloped Colonial areas. What is the good of advancing those arguments which would appear to prove that the Colonies are of no value if, having said to our German friends "Look how ridiculous your arguments are; all these areas are valueless," we then proceed to keep the whole of our Colonial Empire? If anyone had ever tried to negotiate with the German Government they would know the lack of wisdom which comes from the wrong type of argument. Therefore we know that you cannot resolve this question by dialectical discussion, nor can you resolve it by dealing with any one aspect of it alone. You can only deal with the Colonial question provided it is part of an all-round settlement in which the question of ambition is examined, the subject of migration is considered and appeasement is produced.
§ Take, for instance, the question of Spain. What is going on in Spain to-day is not merely a domestic civil war. What 125 is going on in Spain to-clay is a tragic consequence of many causes, amongst which is one which cannot be ignored—the efforts of Russia, through her Communist International, to carry on her revolutionary activities across frontiers parallel with the life of the League of Nations. It is one of the tragedies of post-War Europe and of the world. There has been not only the league of sovereign States, the League of Nations, in which nations have sat down together in order to modify their sovereignty in the end and learn the habit of international co-operation, but parallel with that league of sovereign States there has been another International in which nations which ought to have been co-operating loyally with the League were seeking to foment disorder across each other's frontiers. It has produced a tragic reply of similar activity from the Right. It stands to reason that you cannot build this great experiment of the League whilst these parallel Internationals continue. If only Russia would have been content to build up her own domestic experiment within her own frontiers, she might by now have drawn, I was going to say all men unto her, but whilst this parallel activity goes on, I cannot see how you can build a successful experiment in international cooperation. That subject cannot be excluded when we come to negotiations for an international appeasement.
§ Then take Japan, and this is my last illustration. In Japan you have not only a dispute which is concerned with power politics in a particular area. You have a dispute, one of whose sources lies in the subject of migration. When have you dealt in recent years with that subject of migration? The inflow and outflow of migration has stopped, as compared with what it used to be. There again is an illustration of the inability of any group of nations, however filled with good will, to deal with a particular area unless all the kindred subjects like those of migration and others are brought under review. I hope I have said sufficient to prove the point that I desire to make, that we cannot approach the present situation of the world, so far as peace-making is concerned, except by this comprehensive review.
§ What, therefore, do I ask? I ask for a first step only, a first step towards this general appeasement. I ask for a pre 126 liminary declaration from this nation within which declaration would come reference to all these different subjects which are troubling the hearts of different nations. I do plead that my noble friend the Earl of Plymouth will not accuse me of asking for something for which I am not asking. I am not suggesting that informal discussions should not take place—not at all. They are of infinite value, as I have already indicated, but they are not sufficient. They might even become dangerous, because what is an informal discussion to one nation can easily be interpreted as a sinister manœuvre by another, and even that danger surrounds the present situation. Nor am I asking for a world conference. I know that any one who asks for general appeasement is generally supposed to be suggesting the gathering together of an unwieldy peace conference. Even I have sufficient diplomatic experience to know the folly of any more world conferences without preparation. Even I can tell from such discussions as I have witnessed what disaster may easily arise from that procedure. You might make confusion worse confounded. You might provide only a platform for angry disputation. I do not ask for a world conference. Nor do I ask that the declaration should be the foreshadowing in final and detailed form of the settlement which might ultimately have to be brought into being.
§ What, then, is the nature of the declaration? It is a declaration made for psychological reasons at a certain moment which reveals the outlook of this great nation, which indicates its ultimate objectives, which is a kind of framework into which it may be possible to fit each one of the subjects under discussion. The nations, at the present moment, do not know where this country stands. Russia thinks, I imagine, that we, the British nation, are the catspaw of Fascism, because of our supposed relationship with General Franco. Italy and Germany think that we are the dupes of the wily Bolshevik. There may be some advantage in keeping the nations guessing sometimes as to what is our policy, but surely not all the time. There may be a moment when it is wise for us to become clear.
§ What could be included in such a preliminary declaration? Surely we could say, with great psychological advantage, 127 that this nation feels the desire to admit the mistakes that have been made in the past. Probably Germany, if she had won the War, would have imposed upon us and our Allies just as harsh a treatment as we imposed upon her. That matters not. The fact remains that a mistake was made. Surely it would be of great advantage that we should say so. Surely we could say that we are anxious to start this time from the standpoint of absolute equality of status between all the nations; that we want to see some means by which clauses like the guilt clause could be eradicated from the documents which deal with the appeasement of the world; that we would reaffirm what the Imperial Conference has already laid down, that the Treaty of Versailles and the Covenant of the League should be dissociated; that we desire to see, so far as armaments are concerned, equality for comparable Powers; that in the difficult question of the relationship of Austria and Germany we do not desire, even there, an international statutory prohibition forbidding union which does not apply between ourselves and Holland; that even though we would insist that no union should occur which was not the voluntary act of all parties concerned, to pick out a particular relationship of countries and let there be on record an international prohibition in law is something which we should not desire to see continued.
§ We could indicate not only that we admitted the grievances which existed, but also that we desired to propose adequate machinery for their examination. That machinery might take the form of fact-finding Commissions or other more suitable forms. We could be prepared to indicate our attitude to them: we could say that we desired to rule out no subject which any nation might desire to have discussed. So far as German minorities in the countries neighbouring to Germany are concerned, so far as territorial difficulties are concerned, we could say that we desired especially the bringing in, for the expression of third-party opinion, nations which had not a vested interest in the actual Treaty of Versailles itself, and that the gaining of third-party opinion on such delicate subjects as that would be of enormous advantage to the world. We could say that so far as economics were concerned, if there was 128 an all-round settlement in which Germany was a voluntary and consenting party, we were anxious that there might be financial collaboration: a further reducing of trade barriers, a making of the League an instrument of mutual economic advantage and not merely an instrument of power. We could say that so far as Colonies were concerned, although we committed ourselves to no detail until this general appeasement had been negotiated, we did not rule the question out, and that we were for our part anxious to bring into being in tropical Africa the system of the open door which ought to apply in areas where we are acting as trustees on behalf of the world. We could say that, so far as revolutionary Internationals were concerned, we were anxious that steps should be taken that they should be closed down and machinery created for the international supervision of the agreement.
§ There is one other point, and it is the last point in this declaration to which I wish to refer. It is a burning question. We cannot exclude from any such preliminary declaration the whole subject of security. Everyone knows that the situation has deteriorated. We do not trust each other as nations any longer. Pacts have been signed and pacts have been broken—broken not only by nations which have outstanding grievances, so-called, but also by nations which were victorious in the Great War. We know that the major difficulty at the moment is to get confidence in the signature of any pact. What is the good of my talking here about an all-round settlement, about general appeasement, unless we can find some procedure by which, if that all-round settlement should be drafted, we could rely upon the honourableness of the signatures which were attached to it? There seem to me to be two acid tests which would have to be applied and which would have to be referred to in any declaration that was made. The first, at any rate so far as the huddled Continent of Europe is concerned, is that those who sign a new agreement must become Members of the family of the League of Nations, accepting its rights and its obligations. Secondly, if we are to feel any confidence in the signing of the new all-round settlement, there must be limitation of armaments and the international supervision of the agreement.129
§ Let me be permitted a word on each: membership of the League, and the question of security. Germany must be asked to state her attitude on this question of security, otherwise all the concessions are on one side. What is Germany prepared to put into the common pool so far as this all-round settlement is concerned? Is she only going to offer pacts of non-aggression? Pacts of non-aggression are not worth the paper on which they are written. On Germany's side there must be some revision of her attitude to the system of collective security, or otherwise no confidence can be felt. Look at the position of Czechoslovakia; look at the position of the countries which are neighbouring to Germany. Are they even to be asked to consider possible concessions, possible modifications, if Ger- many is not going to put into the common pool of agreement a desire to come into a collective, system?
§ But how can we ask Germany in these negotiations to make clear where she stands upon the collective system; how can we even carry through negotiations upon that subject unless we know where our own Government and our own country stand upon it? I understand only too well the present weakened state of the League. I realise that in the present situation we have to take great care lest even those of us who are zealous for the League break the spirit of the League upon the hard fabric of its text and its constitution. I realise that; that is why I want to rebuild the League. But suppose that an agreement were come to from which all the poison of injustice had been drained, and to which there was voluntary consent on the part of Germany and not a signature under duress. Surely then the law to be protected by the procedure of the League and by the procedure of collective security would be one that there would be no hesitation on the part of this country in protecting. We must be clear where this country would stand if an all-round settlement were come to in which the law were at last just in Europe. I plead with His Majesty's Government that, whatever difficulties they may feel about the League to-day, they shall take some early opportunity of indicating their loyalty, not only to the principles of the League, but also to the actual procedure of collective security, when we have a law which is just and a settlement 130 arrived at. But some of your Lordships may answer: "Even that is not enough. Nations have been Members of the League, nations have signed the Covenant, and even then they have broken it." I do not deny it, but never has the law yet been one that all nations felt to be just; never has the act of consent been real. That is why I acid a further acid test, the acid test that there must be associated with the settlement the limitation of armaments and the revival out of the documents of the Disarmament Conference of those various methods which were then under discussion whereby that limitation of armaments can be internationally supervised.
§ Such, then, is the plea that I venture to put forward. I believe that it might mean that in the case of Europe we should have to build upon the foundations of the League, giving special life to Article 11 of the Covenant of the League. So far as America is concerned, and countries outside Europe, we have the Pact of Paris, which could be made more precise for all purposes, not only of consultation but also of action. It may be that some will argue that we shall not get the response from the aggrieved nations which will give us any hope. I do not know; that may be so. It may be that our noble friend Lord Halifax will ultimately have little of help to give us. We cannot say. All we can do is to bid him and the German Chancellor good will as they talk together. But supposing it were true that, after this effort had been made, made with infinitely more skill and design than has ever yet been the case, still the answer came back: "No." What should we have lost as a nation by having offered justice? Nothing. We should have strengthened our hands both physically and morally. We should have weakened the position of dictators and we should, above all things, have taken a step which, even if it were to lead to no tangible result, would be a step that, in the case of America, would give us the moral support and understanding of that great people as nothing else could do. If all efforts are going to fail, if some catastrophe is again to befall the world, there is nothing that we need more than the full-hearted understanding of the two sections of the Anglo-Saxon race, ourselves and America; and nothing would contribute more to bringing us within the ambit 131 of American understanding than that we should have attempted a policy of justice.
§ I am obliged to your Lordships for having let me speak at so great a length. I have not asked that this country should be weak: I have not asked that this country should act alone in respect of any policy of force: but I have asked that, if she is to be strong, she should also he magnanimous. This country, in its very nature, is the centre of one of the strongest combinations of Powers in the world, and it is right and proper that this being so, she should take her share in the collective protection of law. But a nation which stands at the centre of a Commonwealth occupying a quarter of the earth's surface, with all the advantages that that gives, if it is to be foremost in the protection of law must also be foremost in ensuring that the law is just. I feel that, if the noble Viscount can return with some message of hope, we shall all of us in this House give him the homage which is his due; and I earnestly hope that nothing that I may have said in this debate will have been aught else than helpful and constructive. I beg to move.
§ Moved to resolve, That this House views with profound anxiety the progressive deterioration in the international situation that has developed during the last few years; supports His Majesty's Government in their determination to ensure this country's strength and in their attempt to find some immediate solution of the successive crises that now confront the world; but would welcome at this stage a statement, to be made either in the British Parliament or at the League of Nations, indicating a comprehensive policy directed to a consideration of the grievances and disabilities from which certain nations claim to be suffering, and outlining the procedure which His Majesty's Government would favour with a view to the ultimate negotiation of an all-round settlement within the framework of the League of Nations and the Pact of Paris.—(Lord Allen of Hurtwood.)
§ LORD SNELL
My Lords, may I beg your leave to allow me to preface my remarks to-day with a very brief reference to the loss which Parliament and his many friends have sustained in the death of the late Mr. Ramsay MacDonald? My excuse for doing so is partly personal, but 132 also because silence on these Benches might be thought to be ungracious, and that we were indifferent to the passing of one with whom we have had long, close and valued friendships. I had known Mr. MacDonald intimately for more than forty years. We had worked together in many causes, in good times and in bad, when we were able to rejoice in success and when we had to bear the grim discipline of frustration and failure. Like myself, Mr. MacDonald was a child of the soil, and his early contacts with the fields and the moors were constantly reflected in his work and his thought. He had not the initial advantage of a planned or systematic education. He had, indeed, no advantage beyond his own natural endowments. What he made of them was the product of his prodigious industry, his self-discipline and his character. Only those who have had to tread the same hard pathway can know how rugged it was.
The time has not yet come when a balanced estimate of his career can be attempted; but, when all the necessary qualifications are made, I believe that the working classes, from whom he sprang, will have in him a hearty and a justifiable pride. I will say only this: he often appeared to lack the gift of seeing events objectively. His own strong personality and his considerable dexterity as a political craftsman sometimes intruded upon and seemed to obscure the issue. Critics have said of him that he found it difficult to make up his mind. But this fault, if indeed it was a fault, might be excused as Charles Lamb excused Shakespeare, on the ground that he had more mind than most people to make up. He had lived a long and a full life. He had fought and endured. He had tasted to the full the penalties both of success and of failure. His work was done, and I rejoice that, when the Dark Mother came to him, she came with unfaltering steps. What greater blessing could any man desire for himself, or his friends desire for him?
Turning to the subject of to-day's debate I should like first of all to express my gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Allen, for having placed this very important Motion upon the Order Paper of your Lordships' House. That Motion is as timely as the subject is important, and I think that all of us, in thinking of 133 it, must feel a burden of responsibility resting upon us to say nothing that can make more difficult the situation that we know exists. It is immensely complex, with a drift towards imminent danger, and we need to take that into account. At the same time mere polite evasion will not be a contribution to the solution of the problem. The Motion speaks of the "progressive deterioration" that has taken place in the international situation. That deterioration has gone on to a quite incredible degree. Let me try, in a few brief word, to indicate what the measure of deterioration has been. Six years ago the League of Nations was active, it was responsible, and it embodied the hopes of the civilised world. The proposal for a Disarmament Conference had met with approval; the level of armaments in various countries was comparatively stable; there was no kind of arms race in progress; there were proposals for a European Commission of Economic Cooperation; Germany was ready for both co-operative thinking and talking, but her progressively minded statesmen were ignored, they were snubbed and discouraged, and we are reaping in great part to-day the harvest that we sowed in the years 1932 and 1933.
I have to ask myself to what this deterioration is due. I must be brief to-day, and therefore I have to summarise rather than to explain; but I suggest that it has been chiefly due to a lack of en oral courage on the part of leading nations, including our own. No one has been willing to supply the leadership in appeasement. We have let "I dare not" wait upon "I would." His Majesty's Government, with their quite invincible flair for self-righteousness, are always saying that the fault is not in themselves but in their stars. Well, I do not know, but I know who would have been blamed for it all if the Labour Party had been in office. I have not the least doubt at all what the outcry would have been. But I notice even now there are voices on the other side which are beginning to grow alarmed. In the Observer of last Sunday we were solemnly told that never in the nation's annals were our simultaneous mismanagements so numerous and world-wide as to-day. Well, that seems to me to be the unkindest cut of all. When the Government's most resounding oracle utters words of that kind, those of us who belong to the 134 Opposition Parties may be forgiven if we attempt here and there to cast doubts upon the quality of leadership which His Majesty's Government have supplied. I should like to remind your Lordships that, although Labour was in office for only a short time, its foreign policy was at least not a disaster. It secured the evacuation of the Rhineland; it restored diplomatic relationships with Soviet Russia; it negotiated the London Treaty for naval limitation with the United States and Japan; itself accepted and persuaded the Dominions to accept arbitration in international affairs; it prepared the Disarmament Conference of 1932, and I have personally little doubt that that Conference would have achieved success had proper leadership been given from this country. But the manufactured panic of 1931 changed the Government, and the present, situation is a part of the price that we are paying for that event.
The difficulties of the present situation are of course obvious. The authoritarian States have gone to lengths of defiance and encroachment that we have not had to record before. Economic nationalism has been encouraged, there have been discriminatory tariffs imposed upon other nations, and I cannot help feeling that if the Government desire a lead in the direction suggested by my noble friend Lord Allen of Hurtwood, the most important contribution that could be made to peace at the present time would be an attempt to return to the old ways, to reduce and destroy the war-provoking, penalty-imposing barriers to trade in various parts of the world, and to return to a free exchange of goods and of services. To-day we are faced with a most serious situation. The League of Nations is more or less impotent, it is half discredited, and we are witnessing a retreat to primitive thought and deed. I could criticise Germany and France and Italy and Japan to-clay if it would serve any useful purpose, but it would do no such thing. What we are called upon to do to-day is not to estimate the faults of other nations, but to try to adjust our own minds to our responsibilities in the time in which we live. Can we assist at this time to lead the world to a new attitude towards war? Can we give support to any attempt at a general appeasement? Let me say at once, if that will be of any service to His Majesty's Government, that the Labour Party will 135 put no obstacle in the way of approaching this subject in a wide and comprehensive way, provided the attempt is made to secure a general, rather than a piecemeal, settlement.
My duty to-day is to ask whether the Government have any proposal to make. We believe—I believe very profoundly—that the world cannot go on as it is at the present time without disaster. If there be grievances to be remedied, let those grievances be examined, and let us face them in a generous spirit. We cannot have civilisation destroyed, either by dictators on the one hand or by truculent and diehard patriots on the other. The issue is too serious to allow of that being done, and I do not believe it is necessary. The world, after all, is full of reasonable people, and they know, as we know, that there is no short cut to peace, that we have to encounter frustration and perhaps defeat here and there, but the world on the whole will be satisfied if we have the will to peace and we are willing to think of what we can contribute rather than what we may lose in the process. Therefore, I think we should aim to remove the economic forces of international rivalry; we should try to enable all nations to share on fair terms the wealth of the world. We should try to persuade all nations, however unhappy they may have been about it, to give the League another trial in an effort to ensure for all political security and economic opportunity. Therefore we suggest that there should be a consideration, within the framework of the League, of the Colonial question, and the possibility of applying the Mandate system to territories at present in our possession and in dispute. There should be a renewed attempt to secure a revised form of procedure, and we should make a desperate attempt to end the arms race.
I will not delay your Lordships longer, except again to say that I think that what we want to-day is rather an affirmation of a principle than a declaration of a piecemeal programme. For myself, I believe that a new approach to the whole subject is necessary and that it is possible. Can we make any contribution to secure the peace of the world and the good will of nations? I am under no sort of illusion about Germany, but, just because I am not, I am all the more 136 bound to see that she suffers no injustice. I am not satisfied with the general chorus on this subject which says that Colonies would not help Germany if she had them. If they would not, we should not suffer much loss if we handed them back to her. I am not sure that these things are possible. All we ask is that they should be examined. There is the question of the natives, which I view with the very greatest anxiety. Germany's treatment of minorities within her own land does not encourage one to believe that she would be generous in the treatment of natives, but then I do not know. I should like that question examined too. What was her record in regard to the treatment of natives over whom she ruled, always remembering that our own record has not been entirely free from blame? Let us not be censorious when we have an opportunity, perhaps, of doing a great service.
I should like to press for international settlement, if not by international conference—one knows how difficult that is—first of all for an attempt to consider how the situation could be faced. In any case we have before us the choice of readjustment or ultimate war and possible destruction. It is at this crisis that the Leader of the House is on a most important mission, and I hope the Government will accept my assurance that both my Party and myself wish to Lord Halifax good speed in the great work on which he is engaged. We are at the parting of the ways, as it seems to me. The days are big with fate for us all, and we are faced with this enormous problem concerning which each must make up his own mind as to where he stands. I personally believe that even now, if our country would show the world the way, the world could be won back to the paths of peace. To that aim we should consecrate all our powers—all that we have of will and service and knowledge and devotion—and then we shall have done all that we can, and having done that, if the nation should be at war, there would at least be peace within us.
§ LORD RUSHCLIFFE
My Lords, both Lord Allen and Lord Snell referred to the death of Mr. MacDonald. I served in his last Cabinet. I was honoured by his friendship. I was very often guided by his' judgment, and I received at all times 137 the most infinite encouragement in the exacting post I then held.
This is the first time that I have ventured to address your Lordships, but I feel that the subject-matter of this Motion is so important, so crucial to the welfare not only of this country but perhaps of the peace of Europe, that I venture for a very few moments to say a word or two upon it. This Motion, after expressing profound anxiety at the international situation—a view which we can all share—asks that comprehensive consideration be given to the grievances from which certain countries claim that they are now suffering. The object of course is to secure, by some means or other, the appeasement of Europe or, as the Motion calls it, "an all-round settlement." Stated thus simply, I should have thought there could have been no two opinions anywhere that such consideration is desirable, and if such an appeasement can be attained it would be most fervently desired in every country in Europe. As it happens, I am responsible, by reason of the post I now hold, for paying allowances to something like 500,000 or 600,000 people a week, and I have no hesitation in saying that I see little chance of any substantial reduction of that number unless there is such an increase of international trade and commerce as would inevitably flow from such appeasement should such appeasement take place; and, be it observed, that improvement would not only be in this country, it would be in every country in Europe.
I think it would be true to say that the great mass of the people to-day are worried and very bewildered by these recurrent crises. While they are determined, as always, to make every sacrifice and take any steps that may be necessary to defend their country and their honour, and while they welcome the steps which are being taken for their own protection and their own defence, they are worried by these recurrent crises because they see, as they are bound to see, that every one of them is followed by an acceleration of the steps which are so necessary for their defence. They, it is quite certain, would welcome with infinite relief any steps that resulted in the appeasement of Europe; but surely the greatest catastrophe of all would be if either here or elsewhere that feeling should develop into a feeling of fatalism as to the future. 138 I most respectfully agree with what the Prime Minister, in an oft-quoted passage, said at the Guildhall the other day, when he said it was the sincere desire of His Majesty's Government to see relations established upon the basis of mutual friendship and understanding, and went on to say:We believe that that understanding, which might well have far-reaching effects in restoring confidence and security to Europe, will be more hopefully pursued by informal discussion than by public declamation.If the object is, and it must be, the appeasement of Europe, and if it be thought that the best method of approach is informal discussion, what is the position? May I refer to one's own experience in these matters? It was my lot for ten or twelve years to take some part in the settlement of industrial disputes, and it was my business to watch over and over again very closely the negotiations and the conversations which led up to settlement. What one found was this. When the matter was approached for the first time it might well be that the prospect seemed hopeless, almost alarming. Then one was told that this point was so fundamental that no accommodation was possible. Another question would be one of principle which could barely be discussed, still less was there a possibility of an agreement on it. At the same time settlement was desired by both parties. Now what in those circumstances was, I might almost call it the technique, the process? Here I follow what in another connection was in the mind of Lord Allen. You began—I think the noble Lord, Lord Snell, will bear me out in this—by finding out that you did not agree about this point or the other, and you proceeded to investigate what was the relation of this point to that, and it was not until you had ascertained that relationship that you considered the outstanding point in relation to the main objective, which was settlement. Then, at the end, the parties had to consider whether they would come to a decision, whether they would continue the dispute with all the possible and incalculable consequences, or whether their good sense and good will would find some accommodation which ended in agreement.
It seems to me that in this international business there are points in plenty which confront those who would meet them fairly. There are points which, as Lord 139 Allen has indicated, may very well perplex the intelligence of the wisest and confuse the emotions of the most generous. There are questions which are difficult, questions which are momentous and apparently intractable. I deliberately forbear from debating or discussing any one of them, because I am not sure that at this moment it is profitable to do so, but at long last these questions will have to be considered in the light of the final objective, which is the appeasement of Europe or, as this Motion says, "an all-round settlement." In doing so there will have to be borne in mind what it means, not only to this country and Europe but to the world, if that appeasement can be obtained. If such an appeasement is to be secured it is clear that the agreement must be one which is acceptable to all sides. If what the Prime Minister called the basis of mutual friendship and understanding is to be on a sure foundation and confidence and security to Europe is to be restored, then all causes, or alleged causes, of complaint must be discussed and all considerations must be properly weighed. To ignore them would simply invite further irritation in the near future, and the appeasement might probably be indefinitely postponed.
I do not myself feel disposed to say any more at this moment. The Leader of this House, Lord Halifax, left yesterday for Berlin. Lord Halifax enjoys, as the noble Lord, Lord Allen, said, perhaps in a special degree the confidence not only of this House but of the country. I think we may well leave to him his own conduct at Berlin as elsewhere. If it should so be that the conversations which he holds result in negotiations which may make a substantial contribution to the appeasement of Europe and the peace of the world, then he will have performed the greatest service which perhaps it has ever fallen to the lot of man to render.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
My Lords, you have listened to the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Rushcliffe, and I am sure you will have done so with very great pleasure. I myself am but a new member of this House, newer even than the noble Lord who has just spoken, but I have been here long enough to have had experience of the kindness and courtesy with which your Lordships are 140 always ready to receive new members of this House, and I am sure I am expressing the feelings of all those who are present and the House in general when I say that your Lordships will always be glad to hear further speeches from Lord Rushcliffe born as they will be from the wealth of his long administrative and Parliamentary experience. Having himself for many years exercised with great success the functions of a conciliator, he breathes the same spirit into our debate to-day on this great matter of foreign policy, and his advice will, I am sure, be listened to with respect and followed with gratitude.
He, like the speakers who preceded him, made reference to the loss which the nation has sustained in the death of Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, twice Prime Minister. I myself knew him well when we were both young men and at the time of his marriage to that gracious and devoted woman bearing the great name of Gladstone, who was his wife. Our paths separated in later years, and very widely during the War, but came together again at the time of the crisis of 1931. Then I had the privilege of working in very close touch with him and formed the opinion that his course at that momentous juncture was animated by the highest possible sense of duty, and it was that that enabled him to render such great service to the nation at that time. Throughout his life he upheld the honour and dignity of British statesmanship, and I feel sure that this House will wish to express its appreciation of the purposes which he had in view and its sorrow at his death. Mr. MacDonald was always a champion of the cause of peace, that cause which in these days seems so gravely overshadowed.
The noble Lord, Lord Allen, who has presented this Motion in so admirable a speech, if I may be allowed to say so, has given us a subject which touches the very heart and core of the politics of our time. Our home affairs are quite overshadowed by international affairs, our finances are dominated by the claim—necessary claim in these days—made upon the public purse for armaments. Social progress, enterprise, trade, all are hampered by the conditions in which we find ourselves, and the looming anxiety that oppresses the whole nation for fear of the disaster of another great war. Lord Allen in these circumstances invites 141 this House to consider the international situation as a whole, and he has presented a Motion which I think, and I trust your Lordships will agree, is admirably framed and deserves general support.
For those who disapprove wholly the political régime which is now dominant in Germany there is, of course, a great temptation to take the negative view with regard to all and any claims advanced by that régime. There is a temptation to say that militarism is ingrained in the German; that the war mentality is ineradicable; that this régime has broken treaties time and again and therefore cannot be relied upon to keep any further engagements that may be entered into; that there is within Germany constant oppression and persecution of those whose politics or race or religion is not approved by the Party in power, and that any concession that might be made now would merely strengthen this régime and help to perpetuate it and would only be an encouragement to further demands. I myself, who was born into the Jewish community and am a member of it, naturally feel this tendency to bias in consideration of these matters very strongly. When one remembers how the Jews of Germany have been denied elementary rights of justice, how they have been brought to economic ruin, how, even worse, they are subjected to every insult and indignity—people who have done no harm but, on the contrary, many of whom have given lustre to Germany in philosophy and science and literature as well as commerce and industry—it is difficult indeed not to adopt an attitude of mere negation. But I remember that it is not the Jews who are disgraced by the ignominies to which they have been subjected, but rather those who inflict those ignominies, just as it is never the persecutors who shine out in history but the martyrs.
When general issues touching the international situation come before the Houses of the British Parliament considerations such as those I have mentioned ought to be put aside. They are not the decisive factor. It has long been a first principle in our politics, and I feel sure it is a sound principle, that international relations ought not to be determined by internal régimes. Before the War we found ourselves obliged, by the conditions of the time, to work in association with Tsarist Russia, although there were many features 142 of Tsarism which were detestable to great sections in this country. Since the War we have been obliged, as members of the comity of nations, to enter into similar relationships with Soviet Russia, although there again there are many features which are equally detestable. There has been recently a declaration on the part of the Imperial Conference. I quote from the records of the Conference:. … the Members of the Conference, while themselves firmly attached to the principles of democracy and to Parliamentary forms of government, decided to register their view that differences of political creed should be no obstacle to friendly relations between Governments and countries, and that nothing would be more damaging to the hopes of international appeasement than the division, real or apparent, of the world into opposing groups.There is a formal declaration on the part of the highest authority of a principle which should be, I trust all your Lordships will agree, the foundation of our international politics.
Nor is it right to say that we should be foolish to enter into an arrangement with Germany on matters which might be acceptable for the reason that we suspect that later demands might be made which would be unacceptable. To reject to-day what is reasonable for fear that to-morrow we should be asked to accept something else that is unreasonable would make every negotiation impossible, whether in private business or international politics. Nor obviously should we go into any negotiation with Germany and other Powers on lines referred to by the noble Lord who moved this Motion, with the arrière pensée that in any case we can make sure that nothing will come of it. A character in one of Goldsmith's plays says: "When my mind is quite made up I never object to listening to reason, because then it can do no harm." That is not an attitude which is proper for imitation. It would be a mistake also to regard the issue whether the Colonies which were taken from. Germany by the Treaty of Versailles should be returned to her, as a simple question to be answered "Yes" or "No." No doubt many spokesmen of Germany put the question in that form, but I see no reason why our consideration of these matters should be so limited. It is very natural at the start of negotiations that claims should be put very high, but I see no need to answer simply "Yes" or "No" to any question of that kind.
143 I would rather envisage this question as the noble Lord does who moved this Resolution. Should there be a general settlement of outstanding questions in which concessions in the Colonial sphere should be one element? If the question is put in that form my own view is that it ought to be answered in the affirmative. The Colonial map of Africa and Asia as it stood at the end of the nineteenth century was the result of prolonged and patient negotiations, compromises, sacrifices, withdrawals. The memory of the name of Fashoda shows how grave the strains were from time to time. Yet the Berlin Act of 1885, the Brussels Act of 1890, and later agreements settling these questions of allocation of territories were all reached without a war, by negotiations, by a process of give and take, and if any readjustments should be necessary they may again be so reached. There has been a most interesting discussion, which no doubt your Lordships will have read, in The Times of recent weeks on the Colonial issue, in which every point of view has been expressed by writers of authority, including many members of your Lordships' House. Some arguments advanced in that correspondence, and elsewhere in the discussion on both sides, on examination must be held to be untenable. For instance, it really is not possible to say that our Colonies are of such vital importance to us that in no circumstances would we make any concession, either in territorial or in economic matters, and at the same time to say that they would be so unimportant to Germany that we cannot really understand why she should raise the question at all. To put those two positions at one and the same time only exposes us to the accusation of hypocrisy.
On the other hand, those spokesmen who put the matter so high as to say that the possession of Colonies is absolutely vital to Germany have not proved their case. Dr. Schacht, for instance, writing in an important American organ on foreign affairs last January, said that the question is not one of imperialism or prestige, but of economic existence, for Germany. That, I think, is not accepted by students of the situation. The Scandinavian countries, for example, without any Colonies, have found themselves able to maintain economic existence and, indeed, have greatly enlarged their pros 144 perity in recent years up to the present time. We all know that the difficulty of the German economic situation is due in very large degree to the fact that she prefers to obtain as imports, in exchange for such exports as she can dispose of, the materials for armaments rather than foodstuffs for her people or raw materials for her manufactures. The country that prefers to be combative rather than comfortable must expect to suffer discomfort!But because this issue is not really vital to Germany, it does not follow that it is wholly unimportant, and the fact that it is not vital makes it perhaps more easy to come to some accommodation on both sides.
Nor is the argument sound that, after all, Germany would have done much the same if she had been victorious in the War. That, no doubt, is true. We have only to remember her policy during the War of Mittel-Europa, the Brest-Litovsk Treaty and the Bucharest Treaty to realise that if she had had the opportunity she would probably have been far more ruthless than the negotiators at Versailles. But what should we have said in those circumstances? We should have said that the Germans had shown bad statesmanship by being ruthless in this matter, and that they had merely sown the seeds of fresh quarrels. Obviously a policy which we ourselves should have condemned is not one which we ourselves should imitate. Nor, again, can I concur in the view that our own strategic interests make it impossible for us to make any concession. It is really an impossible claim to say that no nation which is even potentially hostile is to be allowed to have any possessions in any part of the world where they might conceivably threaten our important trade routes. That is an impossible claim, and if it were pressed it would merely expose us to world-wide animosity. There is also this further point in that connection which I venture to suggest should be borne in mind. So long as Britain has command of the sea, the outlying Colonial possessions of other Powers are not necessarily military assets to them; they may rather be merely pledges for tranquillity and an encouragement not to adventure but rather to restraint.
More important than any of these considerations, perhaps, is the one to which the noble Lords, Lord Snell and Lord 145 Allen, have referred, and that is consideration for native interests. There opinions are divided as to German administration before the War. That there were defects is certain, but defects could also be found in the early days of the administration by Belgium of the Congo, which has afterwards become extraordinarily efficient and successful; in the administration by France of some of her Colonies; and even incidents in our own early colonisation. It may be that such supervision and assurances could be obtained as would fully safeguard native interests. It is said that the natives themselves ought to be fully consulted before any change is made. It might perhaps be a little awkward if Germany were to say that she was quite prepared to accept that principle and would agree to precisely the same procedure as Britain had adopted for consulting the natives at the time when these various territories were acquired!What the safeguards of the interests of the natives should be and how they should be consulted are, of course, matters for further and detailed consideration; but undoubtedly the principle is sound, that native interests should take a high place in any consideration of these matters.
Furthermore, one point which is not often mentioned but is of great importance is that the interests of other nations—one might call them neutral nations in this matter—require consideration also. The Scandinavian countries, Czechoslovakia, Poland, the Balkan States—all these, which are wholly law-abiding countries and have no Colonies of their own but have considerable commercial and economic interests in this connection, surely should be consulted and fully considered before any decisions are reached. What form negotiations should take and to what precise objects they should be directed is a matter for later consideration and not, perhaps, for debate in this House and on this day. For my own part let me say that I do not favour the suggestion which is sometimes made, that Colonial territories should be placed under a kind of composite administration, perhaps by the Mandates Commission of the League of Nations, and held in trust for the world at large. There are the strongest administrative reasons against that. They were expressed some time ago by a member of your Lordships' House, Lord Lugard, who is one of the most illustrious of 146 African administrators and has had long experience as the British representative on the Mandates Commission of the League of Nations.
He has pointed out the grave objections to any kind of hybrid—it is more than hybrid; I used the word "compos site"—government of that kind for reasons of difficulties of finance, of the support when necessary of armed forces, and generally of securing harmony among administrators and the spirit of team work. If you get people representing half a dozen different nationalities all engaged in administering the one territory year after year, perhaps generation after generation, you will not secure that team work and that harmony in administration which are essential to good government. In history, where the experiment has been tried I do not think you have ever found that it has succeeded, or that a condominium of two or several Powers has been able with efficiency and success to govern a territory of any importance for any length of time. Some form of the present Mandate, or some revision of it, might conceivably be applied. The establishment of chartered companies is another suggestion that has been made and is perhaps worthy of consideration. The fact remains that Germany is the only one of the great European Powers without any direct Colonial interests. More than that, she has had them. She is not like a Power who has never possessed Colonies; she has had great possessions of her own which were the fruit of long years of effort and sacrifice. She was bereft of all of them at a stroke, and it is not surprising that this should be, and should be likely to remain, a cause of unrest.
The conclusion to which the noble Lord points in his Motion is that there ought to be an all-round settlement. For my own part I should like most earnestly to support a settlement which would deal comprehensively with all the great outstanding questions that trouble the world. It is essential that Russia should undertake to stop effectively interfering in other peoples' affairs. Mr. Stalin has declared that that indeed is his policy; but, in any general arrangement, that contribution to a settlement should be embodied and should be most formally and solemnly expressed. Of course, the Russians may say that this policy of interference was 147 adopted very largely as a reprisal for the invasion of Russia by the White Armies soon after the revolution and the support given from this country and others to an interference in Russian internal affairs. But that is years ago, and now that any such attempt has ceased the Soviet Republics should on their part give a pledge that there will be no continuance or resumption of their former interference. When that has been done, then Germany can be expected to cease breathing fire and slaughter against Russia. Then may come that limitation in the growth of armaments which is so earnestly to be desired. The growth having been limited or stopped by this general arrangement, then perhaps, at some later stage, when the situation has had time to calm itself, we may return to the policy of disarmament and get back to a lower standard of expenditure upon the armaments of the world.
Furthermore, undoubtedly, as part of that general arrangement, the Covenant of the League of Nations should be formally separated from the Treaty of Versailles. They are two different things and ought never to have been combined. The Imperial Conference, which I have already quoted, at the time of the Coronation put on record its view that that ought to be done. The British Foreign Secretary at Geneva has stated that that is the policy of His Majesty's Government. Yet nothing is done. The war guilt clause, again, should clearly come out of the Treaty. Even though it be substantially true (and for my own part, as a member of the Cabinet at that time, I believe that substantially it is true that the world could have had peace if Germany had wished for peace at that time) nevertheless, to put such a declaration in a treaty requiring German signatures is an absurdity. It is like extorting a confession under torture. It is of no value whatever as evidence. Then, in that calmer atmosphere, if those things be agreed, we may hope that the membership of the League of Nations may be completed; but only if the League realises that it has an absolute duty to care for the redress of grievances by peaceful means as much as for the prevention of war on the part of aggrieved parties.
It is not enough to say merely that we should stand by the Covenant. Of course 148 we should stand by the Covenant. But Article 19, which provides for the amendment of international arrangements, is as much an integral part of the Treaty as any other Article. Yet it must be confessed (I say it as one who is an earnest partisan of the League) that there has been no indication of any kind that the League has been anxious to make effective use of Article 19. Mr. Eden, at the Assembly of the League last year, used these words with regard to what is usually termed peaceful change:If nations are to be prepared to co-operate fully and loyally for the maintenance of peace, that peace must rest on a basis that appears to them desirable or at least acceptable. They will only strive to maintain a status quo that has won general acceptance, or to prevent forcible change of that status quo if they are convinced that there exist peaceful methods whereby just changes can be effected.Those are very wise words, it I may say so. Yet here again nothing is done. These declarations are left merely as declarations. They are not followed by action.
Lord Cecil, whose absence to-day owing to his journey to America we all of us regret in a discussion of this nature, continually emphasises the importance of exalting law as against war; but only, if I may say so respectfully, in a parenthesis or in a peroration does he say: "Of course, we are all anxious to remedy any grievances that can be proved to be just grievances." If only he and my noble friend Lord Davies would put that in the very forefront of their policy and insist that the League should take up this aspect of things effectively and actively, I think that they would render even greater service than they now do—and great that service is—to the cause of peace.
So long as the League of Nations gives the impression that it considers itself to exist merely in order to maintain the arrangements of 1919 as though they were to constitute the map for fifty years hence, one hundred years hence, or for all time; so long as the League of Nations is a judicial body, interpreting the law, and not a legislature able to amend the law; so long as it gives the impression that, if there is violence, something happens, but if there is no violence then nothing happens, except speeches and resolutions—so long the present strain is likely to continue and the danger of a rupture is 149 likely to endure. Of course, we have to realise that this globe is not a tabula rasa; that we cannot start as though nothing had been decided by history, as though there were no long-established and legitimate interests. But the fact that there is a situation which is the result of history and that there are long-established and legitimate interests is not a reason for taking no action. It is only a reason for taking careful action as a result of negotiation. I agree wholly with the noble Lords who have already spoken, that it would be futile and foolish to propose at this stage a world conference to deal with these matters. That would be likely to result in failure, if there were not full diplomatic preparation beforehand. But that that diplomatic preparation should begin (and let us hope the visit of Lord Halifax to Germany may be the first step towards it) I for one have no doubt.
It may be said that this debate in the House of Lords to-day may be mischievous; that it may embarrass the Government; that speeches, coming perhaps from unexpected quarters, in support of the German claim may induce them to put that claim too high; that the speeches made here to-day have been in fact pro-German. They have not been pro-German; they have been pro-peace. It is our duty, each of us in his own measure as far as he can, to give guidance to our own public opinion here at home. Furthermore, any arrangement that is made must involve concessions, and concessions must involve some sacrifice, and that sacrifice will certainly be unpopular in certain quarters in this country. The Government of the day—and we are urging them to take action—may offend sections of their own political supporters. Therefore it is the duty of those who are spokesmen of Opposition Parties, not merely to look forward gleefully to taking advantage of any electoral mishaps that may ensue to the Government on account of their action, but rather, in advance, to express their own view and to say that, if they approve the precise methods that are adopted, they will certainly be prepared to support His Majesty's Government and to defend them against such criticisms as may be involved.
Such sacrifices as may be involved ought not of course to fall only on the British Commonwealth. We should be acting in the common interest. France is 150 very closely concerned. France naturally is always in a state of alarm with respect to her most formidable neighbour's armaments. Her people are bitterly resentful on account of the terrible calamities which they suffered in the late War through no fault of their own, and those sentiments in France have, very naturally, led the French people to a certain course of policy which has been marked, as we can see looking hack, by grave errors. There have been two great mistakes made by French Governments in relation to Germany in recent years. The first was the course taken with regard to Reparations and the occupation of the Ruhr. The second was the course taken with regard to disarmament, in which M. Barthou's famous declaration was the decisive word. And now there is the danger that the French may commit a third error and refuse to make any concession of the kind that has been advocated here today that will bring about a general settlement. I hope that in France public opinion will be wise enough to see that a détente is vital and urgent, and that a settlement, in which Great Britain, France and Germany are the principal parties, is in these days the primary need of the world.
I have said that concessions will be inevitable, and this country must be prepared to make some sacrifices. Mr. Amery, in his letter to The Times, suggested, very agreeably, that of course concessions should be made, but the other European Powers may be called upon to make them. It reminds me of an observation by Sydney Smith, that "man is certainly a benevolent animal: A never sees B in distress without thinking C ought to relieve him directly." After all, the British Commonwealth controls one-fourth of the earth. We have been by far the largest territorial beneficiaries by the Treaty of Versailles. We never expected it; it was no part of our war aims; no one in this country enlisted in order to light the Germans so as to annex or control the German Colonies. Yet somehow it happened. And we must take these things into account if we are inclined to yield to the temptation to stand on the old footing; for were we to say we seize whatever we can and we hold whatever we have, we should be doing less than our duty to the world. It is not enough that the position of this country and of this Empire should be strong legally and strong 151 strategically: it must also be strong morally. We have to stand right in the eyes of our own people, in the eyes of the people of Canada and of all the Dominions, of the people of India and of the United States—and that is a matter of great importance—and to stand right in the eyes of history. When we returned the Ionian Islands to Greece, when we abstained from annexing Egypt, were these acts of weakness? The Empire has been not the weaker but the stronger for those acts. The British Empire has played too great a part in the progress of mankind, and stands far too high in the world to-day that it should feel humiliated if, in the general interest of world peace and in this time of crisis, it showed a spirit of accommodation. Its greatness would rather be enhanced. For the greatness of any Empire is not a matter of territorial size only, or of military strength. The moral element comes in, and in the end is decisive.
§ LORD RANKEILLOUR
My Lords, there is one difficulty which I think we all feel in the course of these debates—namely, that we know only in part, whereas the Government know much more, and we may raise points to which there really is an absolute answer, and yet the Government may not be able to give it. Still, it does not follow that those points should not be raised. Parliament would be of little use if what was felt outside it were not expressed within it, and of course I do not think any of us will be able to complain if, when the Government spokesmen come to reply, they are neither able to assent nor to refute what we say. There is another feature in these debates which is constant and very curious; that is, the unexpected agreements that are revealed. Five years ago I could not imagine that I should have agreed with, say, the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, upon anything; but now I find, when he speaks in these debates, that I agree with some 50 per cent. of what he says, and he may take it that I shall always be glad to do anything I can to protect him from the Chauvinistic fury of his former colleagues.
With regard to the Motion before us, I may say again that I find myself in what formerly would have been most unexpected agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Hurtwood; that is to say, 152 in the substance of his arguments, though not perhaps in the detail of his text or of the considerations that he has advanced. I do feel most strongly that we have allowed ourselves year after year to be bound too closely by the old associations of the War, and I have felt this very strongly on two occasions. The first was when the offer by Germany to accept a limited standing Army was rejected by M. Barthou. I cannot but think that we ought then to have dissociated ourselves from that decision, just as we did in the case of the Ruhr policy. And among the other unfortunate results of that decision was that I am afraid it impressed on the official mind of Germany that it was useless to try to get anything by reason and that nothing counted but the accomplished fact. There was at that time, however, a certain reason which perhaps influenced our Foreign Office. Up till lately there was the power in France, and perhaps the will among many in France, to take some further drastic action such as the occupation of the Saar, or even of the Palatinate. That was possible, and it may be that only by a close association with France could we exercise a restraining influence. But that state of things has passed. A new situation has been created, and we are now untrammelled, except by our abiding promises. Those, of course, remain and must never be repudiated—the promises we have made to France, the promises we have made to Belgium—and I should not have minded if Holland were brought into the list. But nothing in those promises need make us fight to keep Hungarians under Prague, any more than Tyrolese Germans under Rome.
Then I have felt this difficulty from old associations much more since the time of the Franco-Russian Pact. That appears to me to be another turning point. It immediately resulted in the partial estrangement of Belgium. Its effect on Germany can only have been to revive its ancient traditional fear of Russia which was especially felt by Prince Bismarck. I cannot but fear it has had some effect on ourselves. If we are bound to France, and France is bound to Russia, can we altogether escape some influence of Russia on our own policy? I fear that that has been the case, however unconsciously, upon ourselves. I see it, I 153 think, in the attitude we have taken, contrary to all precedent, about belligerent rights in the Spanish conflict—and that although Russia has lost no opportunity of preventing an accord between ourselves and other Powers, as might be seen in the whole progress of the Non-Intervention Committee. I noticed a very interesting article by M. Flandin, formerly Prime Minister of France, in the Daily Telegraph lately, in which he expected that before the Spanish conflict is over fresh incidents would arise and they would be exploited. Though he did not actually say by whom, it was quite evident what he meant. I do believe a general settlement depends on making it clear that, however indirectly and unconsciously, we are not serving Soviet policy.
There are real grievances arising from the Versailles and St. Germain settlements. I do not abuse the authors of those settlements in the way many do, because at that time passions were so inflamed, and naturally inflamed, that probably what they did was not only natural but unavoidable, but on a cold view these settlements were inconsistent and inequitable. They professed to be based on nationalism—self-determination as Mr. Wilson put it; but they were not applied by the victors to themselves. For instance, Austria which then wished, suppose unanimously, to be united with fellow Germans in distress, was not allowed to do so. In Czechoslovakia there is a large minority of Germans and another considerable minority of Hungarians. A considerable body of Germans in the Tyrol were placed under Italy against their will, and a considerable body of Slovenes at the back of Trieste. Yugoslavia meant an immense increase of Serbian power. No one gave a thought to the Albanians and Macedonians who had been put a few years before under Serbia against their will. So with the Bulgarian minority in Rumania. Then there was Danzig and there was Memel.
I do not say that the extreme nationalism that was enforced on the side of those who succeeded was at all necessary or justified. I think it ran to extremes, but that was the principle and the principle was only applied to one side. I cannot help thinking of the old quotation with which some of your Lordships will be familiar: "Quam temere in nosmet 154 legem sancimus iniquam!"Much censure was passed by the historians of the last century on the proceedings of the Vienna Congress, but at any rate that Congress did secure peace in essentials for a great many years. If it were in my power to evoke the spirits of dead statesmen to solve our present difficulties I would certainly call up Prince Metternich and Lord Castlereagh rather than Mr. Wilson and M. Clemenceau.
That is the position. Are we going to drift? Incidents will be multiplied, and as the incidents multiply sides are taken. If one side is in alignment with another for one purpose it might be drawn into supporting those with whom it is associated for entirely different purposes. One never can tell what new incident may arise in which sides will be taken, and the position will be crystallised into groups, as indeed many people in this country would wish to happen. When these incidents come about it may be that no sinister purpose is intended by the nations who have to deal with them, but even if the policy of one country on these occasions begins with bluff it may not end with bluff. There are certain words of Mr. Churchill in his "World Crisis" which may well be noted. He said, referring to the crisis of 1911:It seems probable now that the Germans did not mean war on this occasion, but they meant to test the ground, and in so doing they were prepared to go to the very edge of the precipice. It is so easy to lose one's balance, or a touch, a gust of wind, a momentary dizziness, and all is precipitated into the abyss.Unless we can face the new situation without being trammelled by the past that is just the situation which I fear may arise again.
I do not in any way under-rate the difficulties of the policy of appeasement. I am afraid it is quite hopeless for a long time to come to work through the League, and I am not quite sure what the mover of this Motion meant when he talked about "within the framework of the League." Not only as an instrument has it broken down, but as an instrument of international policy, as Lord Samuel appositely remarked, it has acquired, and still has, a reputation of being a mechanism for the preservation of the status quo. That must be remedied in some way. Another difficulty is that every time we may seem to yield to pressure; and 155 certainly annoyance is unnecessarily caused by certain propaganda which I need not more particularly specify. There are two dangers in that. First of all I think we may say we are a tolerant and easy-going people but, like an old sleepy dog, we may be nasty when really roused and it cannot do any good that this propaganda should continue. Again, this violent propaganda often has results very different from that which is intended. Just as I believe it was the attacks of the newspapers that confirmed Lord Baldwin in the leadership of his Party, so the results of this propaganda may have the effect of making us more tolerant and more easy in our minds at the idea of co-operation with Russia. But when all is said and done I cannot help thinking it is the higher courage to do the right thing, and to face this question is in my opinion the right thing, even if you lay yourselves open to the charge of having done it from fear.
Of course there is the difficulty of internal politics both in Italy and in Germany. Not only is there in Germany race discrimination, which I may observe does not exist in Italy, but it seems to me amazing, while combating Bolshevism, that the German Government should alienate section after section of their own people, including the great religious bodies, by whom they might well be expected to be helped. It is a most inexplicable phenomenon, and I cannot believe it will last. Yet we must, I think, keep some sense of proportion. After all, in Germany, men and women are not butchered by the tens of thousands merely for their opinions or because they belong to a class. The churches are still open, the clergy are alive, a man can still reap where he sowed, and, above all—and here I echo what the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, has just said—they do not attempt to subvert the institutions of others. Propaganda there may be, but certainly in this country it is bound to be singularly ineffectual, and, whatever may be said against Sir Oswald Mosley, I have never heard it said that he took his orders from Nuremburg. It is not for me to say what exact steps should be taken. I will not attempt to specify, but I do feel this danger of a re-alignment of forces in Europe which ought not to be together against others with whom they ought to be friends. And when I add to 156 all these considerations the many associations of the past, the many things in common that after all we have with Germany, I feel appalled at the bare notion that we should have another war with Germany with Soviet Russia as our ally.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (THE EARL OF PLYMOUTH)
My Lords, as the first Government speaker in this debate I should like first of all to associate myself sincerely with all the eloquent tributes that have been paid to Mr. Ramsay MacDonald and which, I fear, I cannot hope to emulate. We all very deeply deplore his passing. The services which Mr. MacDonald rendered to his country were indeed most eminent ones, and no one who has followed events could have failed to admire and respect the dignity and courage with which he bore the almost intolerable burden of responsibility which was placed upon his shoulders in the year 1931 and in those years that followed. I agree with the noble Lord who initiated this debate that it is not inappropriate that these tributes should have been paid to Mr. MacDonald during the course of a debate on foreign affairs, for he took a deep interest in and had a profound knowledge of these matters, and it was perhaps in this sphere in which he achieved his greatest political successes.
May I turn now to the matters which we have been discussing? This debate has, as I expected, ranged over a very wide field, although the Resolution which the noble Lord moved was directed towards a specific and limited object, and I therefore think that it is only right that I should in the first place apply myself to dealing with the noble Lord's speech and the arguments that he has brought forward. We all know that the noble Lord has given a great deal of thought and study to these complicated questions, and I need hardly say that I listened to all he said with the very greatest attention and with deep interest as well. May I say in the first place that I greatly appreciate the spirit in which he spoke and the motives which actuated him in bringing this Resolution before your Lordships. I would add that I gratefully realise that he has done so not with the object of criticising or damaging the Government or of making their already extremely difficult task more difficult than 157 it actually is, but that he has spoken rather with the object of being of assistance and with the object of putting forward some really constructive suggestions as a contribution to the various problems with which the world is at present confronted. I can say with complete truth that I agree with a great deal of what the noble Lord said during the course of his speech. Unfortunately no one can deny his original proposition—namely, that during the last few years there has been a deterioration in the international situation in many respects, but I also agree with him that I do not think any useful purpose would be served by going over the past and attempting to apportion the blame for what has occurred.
I will pass to other points that he made in his speech, and I would first of all say that I was extremely glad to know that the Government had his full support in their determination to ensure the country's strength. It seems to me that in the present state of affairs—and I say this in no alarmist way whatsoever—that is absolutely vital, and I feel that the full realisation of the fact that His Majesty's Government intend to ensure that strength has had, as I think he himself said, a heartening effect in more than one country in Europe. I am also grateful to the noble Lord for the support he has given to the Government in their attempts to find some immediate solution of the successive crises with which the world has been faced, and this is, of course, a very relevant point indeed. It means that we can never, at any stage, or that we have never been able at any stage, to reach a period of stability. But though you may have a big general object in view, and whether you are aiming at a general settlement or not, it is perfectly clear that if a crisis does arise at a particular time it has to be dealt with forth-with. Unfortunately, in recent times those crises have been only too frequent. The prospect of pending negotiations of a wider scope does not, I fear, make a settlement of sudden incidents of this nature less urgent.
I honestly do not think that it is necessary for me to emphasise the fact that His Majesty's Government are as anxious as anyone else to bring about a comprehensive settlement of the troubles and problems with which the world is confronted. If there is any misconception 158 on this point—and I must confess that it did seem to me there might be from some of the speeches to which we have listened—if there is any misconception that His Majesty's Government are wedded to a policy of limited negotiation on specific questions, I would like to correct that misconception at the earliest possible moment. That is not so, I can assure your Lordships' House. The fact is, however, that they have at times been driven to adopt this course. But they have always had as their primary object a settlement of a comprehensive character. If they have failed to achieve that settlement it is not through want of trying, and it is through no fault of theirs. His Majesty's Government have, on numerous occasions, made plain their desire for a settlement of this character.
I do not wish to weary your Lordships by examples, but I think it perhaps would be appropriate if I referred to just one or two. I would like to remind the House that in February, 1935, after a meeting between French and British Ministers in London, a communiquéwas issued saying that the object of the meeting had been to promote the peace of the world by closer European co-operation, in a spirit of the most friendly confidence, and to remove those tendencies which, if unchecked, were calculated to lead to a race in armaments and to increase the dangers of war. The communiquéwent on to envisage negotiations on the conclusion of mutual assistance pacts, the limitation of armaments, the return of Germany to the League and the conclusion of a regional air pact. Again in July of last year after a meeting in London between French, Belgian and British Ministers, the communiquéwhich was issued stated that the main purpose to which the efforts of all European nations must be directed was to consolidate peace by means of a general settlement. Immediate negotiations for an agreement to replace Locarno were proposed, but the communiquéadded that if progress could be made, other matters affecting European peace would necessarily come under discussion, and a widening of the area of the discussion was envisaged.
I could easily quote other instances of a similar kind, but I think that what I have said shows quite clearly that His Majesty's Government have tried constantly to institute general and comprehensive negotiations and to show that they 159 are not, as I think has been suggested, wedded to a policy which has as its object the solution of problems by means of limited discussions on particular questions. We are as conscious as anyone else of the fact that these grave difficulties and problems, which are at present exercising the world, depend very largely one upon the other, and we are well aware that it is only infrequently that any one of them can be solved in isolation from the rest. But we cannot ignore what has occurred in the past, and it is unfortunately only too evident that in the comparatively recent past the system of the general conference has not been prolific in results.
What actually happened is really this. When a conference of a general character has been faced with a breakdown of these general negotiations, the country has been compelled to fall back on more limited discussions and has been compelled to endeavour to agree at least on a certain number of questions. The reason for that is perfectly obvious. It is quite clear that in their view agreement on a few points was better than agreement on none, and there always remained the hope that a partial success might lead to further progress in the future. Actually this is what happened in 1934 in connection with the Disarmament Conference, and I think it is broadly true to say that this method of limited approach has only been resorted to when the general approach has failed to bring results. I am perfectly prepared to admit that the results achieved on these limited points have not always been encouraging, but I think it is nevertheless perfectly true to say that these restricted meetings have often succeeded where the general conference has failed.
These words have been directed towards trying to impress upon your Lordships' House that a general settlement of the world's difficulties is still the primary object of the policy of His Majesty's Government, but, if I may say so, it seems to me that in his speech the noble Lord was concerned not so much with matters of policy as with questions of procedure. He made an appeal to me to be as sympathetic as possible to the proposals which he has put before us this afternoon. I have every desire, I can assure him, to be as sympathetic as I possibly can, because I am convinced 160 that he was desirous in what he said of nothing more than of being helpful to the Government. But I confess I am at the same time in some difficulty, because in spite of what the noble Lord has said, I cannot pretend yet to be quite clear as to what the noble Lord wishes the Government to do. He wishes the Government to make some pronouncement on the question of the procedure which they think might be followed in order to lead up to a general settlement and a general appeasement throughout Europe. On the other hand—and here I think that I have not fallen into the error into which he feared I might fall—he does not expect us to put forward a comprehensive policy which would put before the world our proposals for solving all these outstanding difficulties and problems.
But my difficulty is this. It seems to me that the distinction between procedure and actual policy is very often not a great one, and I noticed that the noble Lord during the course of his speech stepped very easily, if I may say so, from one to the other, and it was sometimes rather difficult to know whether he was dealing with a matter of procedure or a matter of policy. As I said before, the trouble is that the situation in world affairs has been constantly changing and is constantly undergoing changes. This fact must necessarily have a very close bearing even on a limited problem such as that of procedure. I think that your Lordships will readily understand that in these circumstances the Government might find that to be finally committed even on a question of this character might place them in difficulties and add to the complications of an already difficult position. Even for these limited purposes it seems to me essential that the ground should be very carefully prepared.
Difficulties occur to me very readily. For instance, we ought, I think, to be satisfied that all parties to a prospective settlement should be prepared, or are prepared, to accept the same fundamental notions of international relations. That is a very important matter, and I mention it in no spirit of criticism necessarily, but because it would appear quite clearly from what has been said that the method, for instance, of bilateral discussion and negotiation is definitely preferred by some countries to the method of a more general discussion and a settlement of a more 161 general character. That again the noble Lord has suggested: he suggested it in the wording of his Motion—that any settlement that might be negotiated should be negotiated within the framework of the League. I merely ask the question whether it is certain that such a suggestion would be accepted by all parties. All these points have to be cleared up, and I think that they ought to be cleared up and the ground definitely prepared before the next step is taken.
May I say a word about the position of the Government with regard to the League and the Covenant? Criticisms were made that there was no mention of the League of Nations in His Majesty's gracious Speech from the Throne. I want to take the opportunity in this House of assuring your Lordships that the foreign policy of His Majesty's Government still continues to be based upon the principles of the Covenant of the League. I think it is hardly necessary for me to say that, and I should not have clone so except for the criticisms which have been made on this point. We naturally accept fully all our obligations as Members of the League. If I may say so, I think the noble Lord gave a very fair description of the policy of His Majesty's Government in this connection. I noticed, however, that the noble Viscount opposite alluded to certain matters and certain statements which had been made by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and by others in connection with the work of the League which he complained have not been followed up by action. I wish it were as easy—I do not suggest, as it appears to the noble Viscount, but as it might appear to others outside—to solve these difficulties by a few words or by a stroke of the pen. The longer my experience grows, the greater do I realise the difficulties that are intrinsic in almost every problem of an international character. I would only say that I do not think he was quite fair in complaining that nothing had been done in regard to these matters. He referred, I think, to the statement made by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on the question of the separation of the Covenant from the Treaties of Peace. So far as this question is concerned, I should like to say that it was examined at Geneva in September last but that—I do not think unexpectedly—legal questions were raised at once and they naturally require considerable 162 thought and study. The matter is, however, in hand and is being pushed forward as quickly as possible in the circumstances.
I revert, if I may for a moment, to the noble Lord's actual proposal. I want to say that whether the proposal which he has put forward could at some future time be usefully adopted or not, I really do not feel in a position to say to-day; but I am bound to say that His Majesty's Government feel that there are serious objections to it at the present time. My noble friend Lord Rushcliffe made an allusion this afternoon to a recent speech made by the Prime Minister, from which he quoted, and in the course of which the Prime Minister made it perfectly clear that we in this country wish to live on terms of friendship with Germany and Italy. In parenthesis, may I say that I entirely agree with what the noble Viscount said when he put forward the proposition that the system of government obtaining in one country ought not to affect the possibility of good relations between that country and another which does not live under the same system. Then the Prime Minister went on to say that he thought that the search for that better understanding between us could be more usefully pursued by the method of informal discussion rather than by the method of what he termed public declamation. I feel certain that the House in general will warmly support the view that he expressed.
The noble Lord has said that in his opinion his proposals are not irreconcilable with the method of informal discussion which has been referred to by the Prime Minister in his speech. I am afraid I am not quite so certain. I think that the world has been suffering lately from too many declarations of this character, and declarations of this kind remain binding in the future and prove very awkward indeed, in that, in the first place, they tie the hands of the declarer even more tightly than they are already tied, and they would bring further limits to the area of possible negotiations between that country and any other country in the future. From the point of view of making clear the policy of His Majesty's Government, I really do not think that a further declaration of this character is necessary, because I think that nobody can justifiably say that, as a result of the various statements 163 which have been made by various members of the Government in the recent past, there can be any doubt as to the general principles upon which the foreign policy of the Government has been based and will continue to be based in the future.
A number of other subjects were referred to during the course of this afternoon's discussion. Not unexpectedly, a great deal has been said, and said by, I think, almost every speaker this afternoon, on what is now called the Colonial question. The noble Viscount dealt with this question in considerable detail. But I feel certain that I am justified in assuming that the House will not expect me, particularly at this time, for obvious reasons, to argue this question in detail this afternoon. It is clearly quite impossible for me to do so, and I cannot add to-day to the authoritative statements which have been made on behalf of the Government in the past.
I very often wish that it were possible for me to give more definite replies to the numerous questions which are put to the Government in the matter of foreign affairs at different times, but I feel certain that your Lordships realise the delicacy of the position and are prepared to make allowances for the Government for that reason. I only wish to assure your Lordships that the objects of the Government remain perfectly clear. We intend to strive as hard as we can to bring about a general appeasement throughout Europe and throughout the world. In so doing, the Prime Minister has indicated to us the method in which he thinks this can best be approached. In conclusion I would only like to thank the noble Lords who have spoken, for the allusions that they have made to the visit which is now being undertaken by the noble Viscount who leads this House and for the good wishes which have been expressed during the course of the afternoon towards him in his objective.
§ LORD RENNELL
My Lords, the Resolution which has been moved so earnestly and so sympathetically by my noble friend Lord Allen, really divides itself into three sections, with the first two of which I am quite cordially in agreement. As regards the third, however, the invitation to His Majesty's Government to make a comprehensive state- 164 ment of their foreign policy, I am very doubtful how far it would be opportune or possible at the present moment to make such a statement which would be of value, before certain approaches have been made to other countries which must inevitably be greatly concerned. I am the more confirmed in this view by the opinion expressed in his Guildhall speech by the Prime Minister, in which he said that he thought the earnest desire of His Majesty's Government to see our relations with Germany and Italy established on a better and a surer foundation of friendship would be more wisely pursued by informal discussion than by public pronouncement. In that I seem to see a hopeful prospect of some return to the sounder procedure of the old diplomacy, which very often, by competent and informal discussion, served to prevent the tension of national animosities from reaching a straining point, and had to my mind every advantage over the modern procedure of flashing these differences at once on to the screen of publicity.
The new method of diplomacy by propaganda and Press cannot, I think, be acquitted of some share in the deterioration of relations referred to in the Resolution. It has synchronised with, if it has not been altogether or partially responsible for, an apparent readiness to disavow traditional friendships, when obligations and interests are in conflict, and to impute unworthy motives to those who have, for many, many years, decades and even centuries almost, inspired confidence. Perhaps international relations must always be a variable co-efficient. But a disregard, however innocent, of the old methods of international procedure, which long practice had commended as a safeguard against inopportune or intemperate utterances or manifestations by the less experienced, may well tend to an aggravation of tension which it would have been possible to avoid. It would be invidious to quote examples, but I think there are not a few of them which will be fairly obvious to your Lordships.
As to the actual terms of the Resolution, firstly there is, so far as my observation and information go, a very large body of opinion in this country which views with growing apprehension a tendency among the Western nations to divide into two antagonistic groups. And there is also, I am convinced, a perceptible feeling that a too exclusive and 165 almost mechanical collaboration with one particular Power, to which we are bound by mutual interests and definite obligations, has in the recent past circumscribed our own liberty of action, and rather tended to discourage than to promote appeasement and good will. The country will welcome a greater independence of initiative, such as appears to be the policy of the Government to-clay. Secondly, I welcome the fact that public opinion seems at last to have realised that our influence as an element of stability could only be weakened in the council of nations by the disastrous sentimental advocacy of giving the world a lead in premature disarmament, which there never was any real prospect of others following, His Majesty's Government may rest assured of the support of the country in their determination to reinforce our material strength. In doing so, moreover, lies the only hope of eliminating further crises.
Does anyone doubt to-day, especially in view of recent developments in the Far East, which our own divisions in the West may have precipitated, that in the restoration of a good understanding between the Western Powers and in the removal of grievances, real or sincerely believed to be so—a point I shall not go into to-day as the hour is so late—lies the only prospect of maintaining a stable Europe and avoiding fresh disaster? The key to that restoration of equilibrium lies to my mind—and here I am in agreement with the mover of the Resolution—in the readjustment of good relations between Great Britain and Germany, to which there might then seem a fair hope of eventually attracting a France now less disposed than hitherto to reject unconditionally all advances from her eastern neighbour. The main obstacle, of course, is presented at the present moment by the alliance which France has contracted with a Government whose agents are notoriously working to subvert the existing order in other countries. It is not, I gather from my French acquaintances, universally popular in France, but it is there regarded as the alternative to a Russo-German alliance, any fear of which seems to me to show how easily prejudice can obscure political vision.
Those who have studied the Spanish problem from its inception have no doubt, although the Spanish people had their own good reasons for discontent, from whence came the stimulus to open revolu- 166 tion and the main supply of materials with which to maintain it. That initiative has been responsible for the intervention of other countries and has brought into prominence a Mediterranean question which is causing preoccupation. In the Spanish conflict it seems to me our business is to be strictly impartial. We have intended and endeavoured to be so. None the less, the question may arise—and I have heard it put several times—whether unavoidable measures taken to protect our own sea-borne traffic are not penalising one side, in view of the facility with which the other side appear to be able still to command material support. The concession of belligerent rights to both parties seems to me quite consistent with neutrality and with the principle of leaving Spain, whose history and traditions should relieve us of any fear of permanent foreign influence there, to deal with her own internal affairs.
As regards Italy, I look upon the tension which has arisen as largely artificial. It is unnatural as between two countries which, from their insular or semi-insular nature, have a common interest in the freedom of the seas. Much has happened in recent years to which we have been unable to assent, for reasons sound and comprehensible, and not on account of any rival interests of our own. But our difference of view has not altered the course of events, and it is useless to discuss to-day what might have been handled differently, not only by others but also by ourselves. We have to deal with things as they are, and as a settlement seems in the real interests of all concerned, is it not wiser to accept the inevitable graciously rather than grudgingly? As regards our relations with France, they are assured by our community of interests, the security of the Channel, the freedom of the highway to the East, and our position as neighbours in the vast areas of Asia under our control, prejudiced by active Bolshevist propaganda on the one side, and, on the other, by apparent Japanese aims for political and economic hegemony in Asia. Each of us has need of the other, and we are bound to stand together. And if an amicable settlement between ourselves and Germany will contribute to the building of a bridge across which France and Germany can meet in confidence, the sooner the better for the welfare of Europe and the world.
167 I have ventured to put before your Lordships the views of one who watches foreign affairs pretty carefully as to how I see a possible, and perhaps the only possible, way out of some of our difficulties. Having set these forth briefly, may I conclude by saying that, having confidence in the prudence of His Majesty's Government, and believing in their sincere desire to arrive at a settlement, which all agree is the alternative to a renewal of the disasters we have gone through, I am not disposed at the present moment to press for a comprehensive statement and am well prepared to wait until they feel that the time is ripe to give one.
§ THE EARL OF GLASGOW
My Lords, in the very interesting speech of my noble friend who initiated this debate I did not hear him mention France—he may have done so, but I did not hear him. But I am quite sure he agrees that in seeking agreement with Germany or a settlement in Europe, our relations with France should not be impaired. Speaking frankly, those relations are not hound by any mutual affinity between the two peoples, but are determined more by the security of our respective countries. What many people in this country object to is France's alliance with Russia. I hope I am not going to offend noble Lords opposite when I say it is very difficult to understand the attitude of their Party with regard to Russia. They say they stand for democracy and hate dictatorship, while on platforms throughout the country their followers support the most tyrannical, the worst, and I was going to say the bloodiest dictatorship in Europe. Why should we be friends with such a dictatorship? What does not seem to be understood is that we have got to line up now either with Germany or with Russia, and the time has come to tell our friends in France that the one we will not line up with is Russia.
As I said before, I believe the great majority of the people of this country do not want this alliance with Russia, nor do they like the commitments which France has made with other countries in Eastern Europe, because they believe that we might be drawn into war in favour of an ally of France. Supposing that happened, I say quite plainly that, although we adhere to the Locarno Treaty 168 as far as France is concerned and are prepared to go to the support of France if she is wantonly attacked, we should refuse to be responsible for France's diplomatic frontier. If Germany, for instance, attacked one of France's allies, we should make it clear that we should not go to France's support. If such a calamity were to come about I humbly suggest that we should immediately say to that invader that we would not intervene, but if their troops entered into the departments of France in Picardy, Normandy or Brittany, then we should support France with all our forces. Although we know that air power has very largely increased—and I know many of your Lordships are air-minded—it is true to-day, as ever, to say that any potential enemy of this country which holds Belgium and the Channel ports of France is holding a pistol at the heart of the British Empire.
I am perfectly sure of one thing. I have been in Germany, and have met some of those who influence the Government in Germany, and I am perfectly sure that Herr Hitler, and those who rule in Germany, want to be friends with this country and with France. If France refuses to take the proffered hand I see nothing to prevent this country from doing so. What is it that Germany wants? It is said that she wants fiscal union with Austria and a free hand in Eastern Europe. What has that to do with us? Also we know it is said that she wants Colonies—perhaps Tanganyika. If she wants Tanganyika I should myself be very glad to see her get it, but we must have some quid pro quo, some return, from Germany. I would suggest that we might say to Germany: "Yes, we will give you Tanganyika. There are great difficulties about it, but we will give it on condition that you remain neutral if at any time our Colonies in distant parts are attacked by some other Power, so that we may be free to bring the whole of our forces to bear where they are needed." There are, of course, other conditions which might be imposed. Your Lordships will say, probably: "How about our security? Supposing Germany fortified her Colonies what a threat that would be to our trade routes." You might put in a condition that Germany will not fortify any port in the Colonies which we give to her.
169 It may be said that we cannot trust Germany, that she has broken so many treaties. Modern Germany has broken no treaties. It was the old Germany and not the modern Germany which broke treaties, and tore up scraps of paper. Herr Hitler has himself said that he will not break any treaty he has ever made. A treaty with him is sacrosanct, and no one can say that modern Germany has broken a single treaty that she has made. The Peace Treaty was imposed upon Germany by force majeure. I think we may trust her in this matter of Colonies. You may remember that a short time ago a question was addressed to Germany, as to whether she would be prepared to keep the treaties she had made. Supposing that question had been addressed to this country, how would your Lordships have felt? Great resentment was felt through-out the whole of Germany. I do not wonder at it. Why do we so often assume the schoolmaster attitude and treat other nations like naughty little boys? They resent that. We should feel the same if a question of that sort were addressed to us. I was surprised at the time at the restraint shown by the German papers when they must have felt wounded to the heart at such a question being addressed to their Government.
Another point which I wish to make is that Colonies are an urgent need to Germany. They want raw materials very badly. It is quite true that before the War 1.5 per cent., I understand, of Germany's raw materials were brought in from their Colonies, but in those days Germany could buy from the whole world. Everything now is different. Germany cannot go out and buy as she did before, because it is so very expensive for her to do so, and therefore at the present time she is unable to buy as she could do in former days. Now, if she had Colonies, there would be no currency troubles and she could extract from them her raw materials to an extent unknown in former days. Let us remember Germany as a great and friendly country, akin to us by race, and let us give her what she asks in reason. Let us shake hands with Germany, and if possible get France to do the same. In that way, I believe, lie peace and security.
§ THE EARL OF IDDESLEIGH
My Lords, with regard to the last speaker, I wish international affairs were so easily 170 and almost casually adjusted as he suggested they should be. He spoke as if the possibility of Anglo-German friendship were a picture of reality. Things are much more difficult than the noble Earl suggests. There are much greater complications in the situation. Nevertheless, I cannot but feel that the debate to which we have listened has been a debate which will do considerable good. When I listen to the speeches of your Lordships on foreign questions my mind addresses itself to the effect which your Lordships' words will have on the foreign Press. Your Lordships' debates on these questions are greatly studied, and they attract considerable attention in responsible quarters. I have no doubt that this debate will attract attention. It will be widely quoted in Germany, and those who, no doubt, look for the restoration of German Colonies will be able to quote this debate as a mark of progress. No doors have been slammed to-night. The only representative who has spoken for those sections of my Party referred to by the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, expressed an open-mindedness on this question which shows a considerable change from the views current even six months ago. No doors have been slammed. The possibility of negotiation on Colonial questions has been admitted on all sides of the House. I hope that it will be made equally clear by those who guide foreign opinion that this is emphatically not a question we are prepared to discuss in vacuo; that it must, as the noble Lord, Lord Allen, has said, form part of a general settlement and a general discussion; that we cannot even negotiate on the subject unless we are assured that as a result of the great sacrifices which we were called upon to make we shall secure the lasting result of European peace at least for a generation.
In the old days after the War one thought of perpetual peace. Nobody talks about that now. Let us talk of peace for ten years. For that we would be prepared to make a sacrifice and it would be a very great sacrifice. The question has been too much discussed in terms of the Colonies, but to the British people it is essentially the surrender of our responsibility for natives whose protection we have assumed. That is a very serious matter to a race of our Imperial traditions. We cannot hand out Colonies at a mere request or in a mere hope of good tern- 171 porary effects. It cannot be done as a gesture. I would only add one other consideration. I believe that it would be very helpful indeed in the discussion of this problem if some assurances were received from responsible quarters in Germany that the missionary question would receive careful and considerate handling. I do not think it is too much to ask this of Germany, for the treatment accorded to Christian denominations in that country must make us very uneasy. As my noble friend Lord Rankeillour has said, there has been little or no persecution, but there has been a very definite and very deliberate detachment of the German youth from the ideals of Christianity, which is likely in the long run to be far more fatal to the Churches. Some years ago a French statesman who was himself opposed to Christianity remarked that "anticlericalism is not an article for export." If we can receive some assurance that the mythus of the twentieth century would not be considered a suitable doctrine for negroid races it would do something at any rate to ease sentiment in this country with regard to the matter.
But my main purpose in rising to-night—I am afraid it is too late to deal with it any more than by reference—is to mention the fact that the Colonial question is only a small part of the general question of restoring Germany's commercial position. How secure and happy we should feel if Germany was rich, as prosperous commercially, as she was in the days before the War. One feels that had the conditions which preceded 1914 continued only for a few years without an outburst the German commercial interests would have been so great that their public opinion would never have tolerated an outbreak of war. If only to-day we could so assist those interests in Germany which are represented by Dr. Schacht, the commercial peaceful interests, we could feel much more secure with regard to the German military preparations. It has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Snell, that this would best be accomplished by some general matter of free trade. I think he ignored the fact that free trade is of little value without a currency that can be internationally accepted. Indeed I should imagine—I am no economist—that if free trade were to come to Europe to-morrow Germany would be very severely handicapped with 172 her currency system in its present position. Free trade must surely follow and not precede some improvement in the position of German currency, which is today only kept at its present level by the most ingenious system of manipulation. Would it not be possible, as part of our discussions with Germany, to envisage the abandonment by this country of some of our rights under the most-favourednation clauses in European treaties? It is a suggestion which has been made before, I am well aware. There may be, as Lord Rankeillour has said, good reasons why this offer and other suggestions cannot be seriously considered, but I put it forward as a possibility that might promote the commercial welfare of Germany and through that the peace of the World.
My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Crewe, I beg to move that this debate be now adjourned until to-morrow.
§ Moved, That the debate be adjourned until to-morrow.—(Viscount Mersey.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly.