HL Deb 18 November 1937 vol 107 cc180-222

Debate resumed (according to Order) on the Motion made yesterday by Lord Allen of Hurtwood, 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.


My Lords, may I begin by adding a few words to what was said yesterday on the subject of Mr. Ramsay MacDonald? I enjoyed friendly acquaintance with him for a number of years, which developed into friendship when he was Foreign Secretary and we became officially connected. Full justice has been done both here and elsewhere to the remarkable qualities which distinguished him—the courage which he showed in espousing and stating unpopular opinions, and the personal charm, both racial and individual, which marked him out from other men. I will only further mention what always struck me—namely, his singular adaptability of mind in approaching matters of which he could have had no early or any very special knowledge. That faculty was indicated in the book which he wrote on the Awakening of India, before the War and at the time of his happy married life, and in that, having started to India undoubtedly with some, indeed many, preconceived views, he showed a breadth of view and a fairness which I remember impressed me greatly at the time. Still more was I impressed when he, more under my own observation, had dealings with the French Government when I was in Paris. I will only say of them, that he seemed to me to realise the French standpoints and to enter into the workings of the French mind to a greater extent than many other British statesmen who must have started with far more knowledge of France and the French than he could possibly have done. I feel that in him we are losing not merely a conspicuous but a most sympathetic figure from our public life.

Now I will turn to the subject of the adjourned debate. I am sure that all your Lordships must have been impressed by the marked moderation which the noble Lord, Lord Allen, showed in the course of, indeed throughout, the great speech which we heard yesterday. I will only say of that, that it is an indication of the value which the Cross-Benches—after all, I think, an unique institution in any Parliamentary Assembly I know of—can offer to your Lordships' House and to the country. It is clear from the course of the debate yesterday that your Lordships' minds have been to a great extent, for the purpose of this debate, fixed upon the visit which Lord Halifax is paying to Berlin; and we all agree, I think, that both from his personal character and from his past achievements there is nobody who could be mentioned before him for the purpose of stating the mind of Britain at this difficult time.

Some of your Lordships may have seen various notices published in our Press indicating the views of some of the German newspapers on Lord Halifax's visit, somewhat curiously couched, as it seems to me in certain cases, because they seem to have spoken of the extreme obscurity which apparently surrounds the views of His Majesty's Government on international affairs. One of them spoke of the jungle in which British politics were involved in that regard. The schoolboy retort "You're another" does not as a rule carry discussion very far, but I would say in all seriousness that this is precisely the difficulty which, in spite of the many public declarations made by the German Leader and by his colleagues, seems to me to surround the German foreign policy at this moment. We find it, I am sure, all of us, most difficult to attempt to realise what precisely the ultimate views of the German Government are in regard to the peace of Europe and the world.

Now in the first place it seems to me of extreme importance to clear up, if it can be cleared up, what are the actual facts about the dread of Communism which is so freely expressed in many parts of Europe. We are told on the one side that the Russian Government and the Third International, which at any rate has its moral headquarters in Russia, are still engaged on a kind of Holy War, a sort of Jehad to spread the Communistic faith in every country in which they can get footing. That in the earlier days was generally supposed to be, and I think was admitted to be, their main objective. I remember a friendly conversation with a distinguished Russian, in which he frankly avowed his belief that what had happened in Russia would, in due course, happen in other countries in Europe, and he could not deny that it would have to be brought about by the same sanguinary methods as those which had obtained in his own country. What has happened to him, as to so many other of the earlier distinguished exponents of the Russian faith, I confess I do not know, but I do not see his name mentioned now as taking a conspicuous part in the Russian Government.

How far is it true—to take one side issue—that the real inception of the Spanish civil war was mainly, if not solely, due to Communist manœuvres in Spain? One hears it categorically stated that that is the case, and equally categorically contradicted. I feel sure myself that no appeasement of the European situation can possibly be brought about until the facts in regard to Communism are known and are accepted by all the countries in Europe. Yesterday my noble friend Lord Samuel stated that it would be of great service if Mr. Stalin would repeat what he is reported already to have said, that that Holy War is no longer the Russian objective. I entirely agree. I think it would be of the greatest possible service if that could be done, and most serviceable of all if it could be done through the medium of the League of Nations. There are many others matters which in conversations will have to be discussed. We all have sympathised with and appreciated the position of Belgium in these international difficulties, and we have welcomed with the utmost heartiness the visit of His Majesty the King of the Belgians to these islands, and been impressed by the words that fell from him when he received the freedom of the City. Then there is another country, of which no mention I think was made in the debate yesterday, that is, Poland. I cannot help thinking that in any conversations that take place the position and future of Poland will be an important factor, because, after all, we have to remember that of the positive achievements of the peace made after the Great War the revival of Poland was in some ways the most interesting and by no means the least important.

Now I am not going to touch on the economic side of these international difficulties, supremely important though it is, and supremely important as is its bearing on our relations with the United States. But we all do realise that the economic side of this settlement may be the paramount factor in arriving at a settlement. It certainly is one of the most important. Let us not forget that there are some people who hold that the break-up of the Austrian Empire into its different racial elements and their attainment of liberty and of that somewhat over-rated capacity for self-determination, have been dearly bought by the destruction of the economic unity which the old Austrian Empire, with all its defects, at all events secured.

My noble friend Lord Samuel spoke yesterday with great force and, if he will allow me to say so, with conspicuous moderation, on the difficult subject of the old German Colonies. I do not propose to go into any sort of detail on that subject, though at one time, from the office I held, I had more knowledge of it, perhaps, than the average observer. But I am hound to say this—and in saving it I know I shall not get the agreement of some of your Lordships—that I do not feel at all sure that the application of the Mandate system to such units as the African Colonies has been in its results a happy one. The Mandate system, as applied to the countries of the old Turkish Empire, to Iraq, to Syria and, we have to admit, with all its troubles, to Palestine, was I think unquestionably the best way of dealing with those matters. But I do not feel quite so certain about the African Mandates, including those of the former German Colonies, because I feel that it is open to a German to say: "Well, this is all very well; you did not annex our Colonies; you rather boasted that you did not wish to add all these thousands of square miles to your territory; but, except for the fact, which in present circumstances is very little use to us, that they are to a certain extent free trade areas, what is the practical difference, so far as we are concerned, between their position as mandated Colonies and as they would have been if you had annexed them?" I do not know any very good answer to that complaint, if it should be made.

I know that some doubts have been expressed, not I think so much in the debate yesterday, as to the value and usefulness of these conversations between individuals, Prime Ministers, Foreign Secretaries and important members of different Governments, as compared on the one hand with the dealings through the old-diplomatic channels and on the other hand with the kind of public declarations which the noble Lord, Lord Allen, thinks might now be usefully made by His Majesty's Government:. I think there is this difficulty attaching to them, that conversations of that kind are liable to arouse some suspicion in the minds of other countries with whom we are, perhaps, on friendlier and more intimate terms than we are with those with whom the conversations are conducted; because, by the very nature of the case, a good deal that passes must be confidential and remain confidential, and that fact does, I think, cause a certain risk of arousing suspicion in the minds of others equally interested in the purposes for which these conversations are held. Therefore—at least, at any rate to some extent therefore—the noble Lord, Lord Allen, would like to have something said in a more public way.

I felt that the objections which the noble Earl, Lord Plymouth, made to any immediate or very early announcement of the kind were in themselves strong. One difficulty, I think, does exist in the fact that any public declaration, which, after all, need not be a declamation of the kind which the Prime Minister, I think, so rightly deprecated, might appear to be entering into a form of competition with those very loudspeaker declamations and declarations which are perpetually being made in some other countries in Europe. I see the force of that objection; but at the same time I think it cannot be disputed that there is an impression—not merely in this country, and not one which has been factiously raised for Party purposes in this country—that the policy of His Majesty's Government in foreign affairs has lacked clear definition and firm purpose. I am not going to attempt to argue how far that view is justified; but that it should exist at all I think is not only a misfortune but is to a certain extent an indictment of the methods which His Majesty's Government have felt themselves bound to pursue. Therefore I think it will be for them to consider how soon they will be able to draw some rather sharper and blacker line of general policy than that which they have been able to produce so far. We do not throw any sort of doubt on their loyalty to the ideals represented by the League of Nations, but the criticisms that are made are based on the possibility of their not having done all they might to set those ideals before the world and to do something to forward them.

I know that one of the charges brought against His Majesty's Government is that of undue complacence, less perhaps in foreign affairs than in relation to some of their domestic policies on which, I am bound to say, I think they have sometimes viewed the landscape through spectacles rather too bright and rose-coloured. But perhaps I might venture to say that a certain degree of complacency is almost a necessary vice of any Front Bench. The noble Lord, Lord Snell, says "Hear, hear," but I am bound to say that he and his friends cannot be altogether acquitted of what I might term a kind of hypothetical complacency which continues to represent that, if affairs had not gone wrong in 1931, the whole process of European disarmament might have been accelerated under their care and, I take it, the whole course of events would have been materially changed for the better.

At any rate I do not think we can look to anything like national complacency, still less international complacency. I do not think that the oldest amongst us can remember any period at which it has been so difficult to look forward to the future with any attempt at foretelling what the state of Europe and the world is likely to be in a few months or in a year's time. Formerly there were difficult questions ahead which it was known had to be met and which could be more or less considered beforehand with the hope of being able to solve them. Now it is indeed difficult, and any man would be rash who would attempt to forecast the future even within the short periods I have mentioned. At the same time I think that this debate in your Lordships' House will have been in a degree useful, because I think it will help to clear everybody's mind. It will, I am sure, do nothing whatever to hamper the efforts which His Majesty's Government are making, and which in particular Lord Halifax is making, to arrive at a better state of things. All I can say is that I am sure that every individual and every Party in your Lordships' House will do their best to assist His Majesty's Government in arriving at that general settlement of which Lord Allen speaks in his Resolution.


My Lords, first of all I should like to thank the noble Lord who moved this Motion for giving your Lordships an opportunity of expressing your views upon this important subject. It has led to a useful debate which will serve a great public purpose. There can be very few occasions upon which a large body of men with wide experience in many different walks of life find themselves unanimously agreed upon one subject, and this afternoon is one of those occasions. We are all agreed upon one point. We all want peace. It is probable that in nearly every country an overwhelming majority of people also want peace. Why is it that we are not able to make certain of it? Who is it or what is it that makes men apprehensive of war? Nations are prepared to make great sacrifices for war; they are prepared to see the flower of their youth destroyed; they are prepared to see their women and children exposed to horrors never before dreamt of; they are prepared to see the curtailment and the postponement of some of their schemes for procuring a better standard of life for their people; and they are prepared to pile up a huge national debt for armaments which may hang like a millstone round their necks for generation after generation. These are some of the sacrifices that nations are prepared to make for war. What sacrifices are they prepared to make for peace? Are they prepared not even to contemplate any sacrifice? Someone may say: "But that is not the only question to be asked, and that is not the only answer to be considered." What risks is a nation prepared to incur for peace?

Let me endeavour first to give an answer to those two questions. Whether, unfortunately, we become involved in war or whether, fortunately, we can obtain a prolonged period of peace, whichever happens you will have to make sacrifices and you will have to incur risks. The sacrifices of war are well known; so, too, are the risks. The result of the struggle may be indecisive, and your sacrifices may have been made in vain. You are no better off. But the risks of peace are not so terrible as the risks of war. There is no such loss of life; there is no such loss of health; there is no such loss of treasure; although there may be some loss of possessions and some loss of prestige. The risk is that, even if you do make sacrifices, they will not be available for any length of time because they may only induce your opponent to ask for more. Now, in these circumstances, what can the individual citizen do? He can declare whether he is in favour of making some sacrifice, and whether he is prepared to run some risk. If his answer to both of those questions is "No," that is an end so far as he is concerned. But if the individual citizen is prepared to make some sacrifice, and if he is ready to incur some risk, he will be wiser to leave the amount of that sacrifice and the measure of that risk to those who are in a better position to form a judgment than he is, to those who know more of the facts, and who, by personal contact with his opponent, are able to judge the real attitude of that opponent towards peace, and to judge what are his powers for war.

Now permit me to draw your Lordships' attention for a moment or two to one or two details. The main causes of war are greed and injustice. If there is injustice in a State and there is no remedy for it, there is always a danger of disturbance, even of a revolution. If a nation feels itself to be suffering an injustice, there is always a danger of war. If, as a result of a successful war, a State finds itself in a position to impose a peace, it is always placed in the most difficult of all situations. It becomes a judge in its own cause, and that at a moment when it is probably greatly incensed against its opponent. Time after time history has taught us the result of an imposed peace. It sows the seed of war; it often transfers peoples and lands without any feelings of justice or humanity. It is quite easy to be wise after the event and to blame those statesmen who are responsible for such treaties, and probably their critics would not have done any better had they been placed in the same situation; but, as time begins to remove and to soften asperities, we can see mistakes and begin to suggest remedies.

You cannot sentence a great nation to death, and you cannot sentence a great nation to penal servitude for life. You may impose harsh terms, but is your anger to burn for ever? Is there to be no time for a reconsideration? It is a mistake to single out any particular nation and to regard it as your potential enemy for the next ten years. No doubt, on the question of reconsideration there are great difficulties ahead. To begin with, you cannot create an independent tribunal for the purpose. It has to be done by agreement between nations, and there are many factors to be considered before you conclude such an agreement. First and foremost, there are the interests, the rights and safety of the people affected. You must be careful in remedying one injustice not to create another. Then you have to consider whether any form of joint effort is possible as a solution of the problem, and you have to take into account things other than mere money, other than mere material matters. There are such things as legitimate aspirations, legitimate national pride which we should like taken into consideration were we to find ourselves in a like plight. This is not the time to discuss these questions or what are their answers. Obviously they are very difficult and very delicate matters, and an ill-timed article or an ill-judged speech may do untold harm. But an individual citizen is entitled to urge upon his Government the necessity of making some sacrifices and incurring some risk in order to obtain peace.

Let me turn for a moment to that part of the Motion which seeks or presses for an "all-round settlement within the framework of the League of Nations and the Pact of Paris." We should, all of us, like to see an all-round settlement without, at the present moment, making any precise definition of its contents, but one cannot help feeling a little apprehensive in trying to do too much at first. There are many different questions to be considered; many different nations to be consulted. And what is meant by an all-round settlement? Is Great Britain alone to be called upon to make sacrifices and to incur risks? If we are called upon to make such sacrifices and to incur risks, other nations too should be similarly called upon. It is almost impossible here, as I have said, to discuss all the details, but we are not the only nation in possession of lands which belonged to others before the War. And if there is to be an all-round settlement, I venture to ask whether in the ultimate result the position of the German-speaking inhabitants of the Southern Tyrol is to be considered. But it may be better not to be too ambitious, not to try to do too much at first. The millennium is not going to come here to-morrow, although every day brings us nearer to it.

I cannot leave this part of the Motion without referring to one other matter. Anxious as we may all be for an all-round settlement, willing as we may be to make some sacrifice and to incur some risk, I hope that we shall never forget the difference between what is expedient and what is right and wrong. After all, nations are only aggregations of individuals, and just as individuals from time to time commit wrongdoings, so do nations. In municipal law you can restrain wrongdoing; in international law, at present, there is no such opportunity. But nations are not habitual criminals. It may well be doubtful whether any of the great nations are at present ready to submit their pride and power of place to any form of international discipline or to forgo any portion of their national sovereignty. Every effort should, however, be made to submit every dispute to judicial decision. However regrettable wrongdoing may be, it may be impossible in every case to put back the clock; but every citizen and every nation should endeavour to create a proper public opinion which will be the beginning of preventing wrongdoing in future. Meanwhile, if Great Britain is to champion the cause of the weak, if we are not to let people down after we have made promises to them, if we are to protect our women and children against horrors from the air, if we are to defend ourselves against the attacks of an aggressor, we must be strong. To be weak is to be miserable.

Now let me turn to that part of the Motion which refers to the League of Nations. The League owes its birth to a time when clear thinking was prevented through a sense of the horrors of the past and hopes of the future. It has not done all that it was expected to do, but it is idle to say that it has done nothing. It has brought people together; it has checked or has prevented the traffic in white slaves and the traffic in noxious drugs, and it has effected some settlements. Probably the real reason for its want of success, certainly for its present want of success, is that it tried to do too much at first, especially as one great nation refused to become a Member. This refusal of membership and the withdrawal of other nations from the League have reduced it to its present position of impotence. Any attempt to enforce a policy of sanctions was foredoomed to failure; you might as well have expected a sieve to hold water. Over and above that, although this may not have been intended by its original framers, a careful perusal of the articles of the Covenant might have led a person to the opinion that the object of the League was to maintain the status quo.

But to say that the League has not fulfilled expectations is not to say that it must be scrapped, is not to say that it cannot be reformed, although it is clear that some of the articles cannot be carried out. Men are divided into two great classes: there are those who are striving for the ideally perfect and are looking to to-morrow, and there are those who are content to work for what is practically possible and are looking to to-day. We should all desire to belong to the first class, to wish it success, and to have the ideally perfect as the goal which we desired to reach. What is the important thing for the League to-day? Which would you rather: would you rather have the United States of America and Germany in the League, or would you rather have Article 16, on sanctions, in the Covenant? You cannot have both. The day may come—many of us hope the day will come—when sanctions will be possible, but at the present moment it may be better to have the United States in the League and to have Article 16 out of the Covenant. That is not to say that we do not hope for the ultimate inclusion of Article 16. The League of Nations is not dead; it will live to do all that it was originally intended to do.

But, my Lords, to conclude: The times are critical, and it is the duty of every citizen to give thought to these subjects and to state his opinions upon them. If there is anything helpful in his opinions, so much the better, and he should not be discouraged if subsequent criticism shows the impracticability of his suggestions. I have put mine before your Lordships' House. I recognise that on either side of this House there are members with traditional policies and, if I may use that adjective, with tiresome supporters to satisfy. A political exile is, however, entitled to have ambitions and my ambition is that Great Britain shall lead the way to peace and shall show' by her example that she is ready to make some sacrifice and to incur some risk in order to obtain it. Are your Lordships willing to do so?


My Lords, the events that have occurred since the noble Lord put his Motion on the Paper have, as he at once warned us, altered a great deal the tone of the debate and necessarily involved a great deal of reticence. If the noble Lord will allow me to say so, he showed us a very good example in his speech. I hope I may be forgiven if I refer to an exception in that respect, and I want to do so quite briefly. I refer to the speech of my noble friend Lord Glasgow, and to a certain extent to the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel. They both dealt with the question of the German Colonies, and they submitted, as, of course, they were entitled to do, a particular point of view. There is an exactly opposite point of view about which I propose to say nothing, not because I do not feel strongly on the subject but because I think that when Lord Halifax is in Berlin, trying to establish a satisfactory atmosphere for future negotiations, the less said about anything which may form the subject of discussion between us and Germany the better. But I do refer to it quite briefly because, if no reference is made to the other side of the question, there will be misunderstandings, not only here but abroad, and particularly in Africa. I hope and believe, however, that reticence on this point is not only justifiable but imperative at the present time, and to observe it is one of the few things which we unofficial members of the House can do to help Lord Halifax in his vitally important mission.

Turning to the subject of the Resolution, which is one of finding some means of promoting appeasement, that subject must, of course, at all times, have the support of all right-thinking people. Whether the scheme evolved in such an attractive manner by the noble Lord, which is obviously one to which he has given much thought, is a practicability now is a subject about which there may be some doubt. As to the declaration which he asked for, I was not surprised, and indeed very glad, that my noble friend below me, in replying for the Government, could not see his way to add anything to what had recently been said, after the Resolution was put down on the Paper, on two occasions by the Prime Minister, at the Guildhall and in Edinburgh: and on another occasion by the Secretary of State in the House of Commons. I was glad that the Under-Secretary adopted the attitude of leaving well alone. I think that those statements, clear and concise, and quite unmistakable, do represent the attitude of Great Britain at the present time towards foreign affairs, and it is an advantage all round that they should be clearly understood; but that does not carry us beyond a very limited time, and obviously means must be found for improving the international situation.

I was glad that my noble friend Lord Rennell suggested and very pointedly supported the idea of employing more extensively our diplomatic representatives in foreign capitals. It is their job, after all, and one for which they are paid. Moreover, they know their job, and for many years they kept us out of war. But there is, of course, the League of Nations, about which so many people are very enthusiastic. I frankly admit, because I am a diplomatist, possibly, that I have doubted from the start the possibility of carrying on international affairs by a system of mass meetings, attended by politicians who address each other in languages which they do not understand. That, however, is the ideology which we have evolved, in the hope that it would solve the difficulties of a world completely upset by the War, and we ourselves and the United States must accept responsibility for the parentage of the child. Unfortunately, the United States deserted it at birth, and in the colloquial phrase left us the baby to carry. It has never been a very thriving infant, but, like all parents, we have been reluctant to admit any imperfections in it, and we have supported it and praised it as parents do.

The noble Lord, Lord Snell, suggested yesterday, not for the first time, nor was he the first member among those with whom he sits to take the line, that the League would have worked all right if we had given it a lead. There I must take issue with him. We gave it a lead until we brought ourselves to the point of risk. We were told so by the Prime Minister. The remarkable thing is, is it not, that so keen was this country as a whole to give a lead to the utmost possible extent that an admission which in other circumstances would have been astounding, coming from the Foreign Secretary, was accepted as natural and indeed with approval. At the same time it must be added that, having discovered what a dangerous position we had got into, the country gladly and enthusiastically, without one murmur of dissent, shouldered an unparallelled financial and industrial responsibility for putting our forces into a position adequate for the defence of our interests.

As one noble Lord said, there was nothing in his experience which had had such a reassuring effect in many parts of Europe. We have to recognise that after all the world has not changed, as many people suggest it has, and the old argument—I do not want to press this too much, but only to mention it—used by Lord Nelson in 1801, that a fleet of British battleships made the best negotiators in Europe, still holds good. At the same time we do not admit that we are going to give up the idea of creating machinery for solving disputes without going to war. That would indeed be the bankruptcy of statesmanship, and involve an admission which none of us is prepared to make. But the only machinery apart from diplomacy and armed forces existing in the world to-day is the League of Nations, and I suggest that it is necessary to overhaul that institution in the light of the conditions in which we find ourselves. Your Lordships will remember an admirable phrase used by Mr. Eden in one of his speeches recently, in which he said that we must not make the mistake of believing that what we want to exist irk the world does exist simply because we want it. Yet are not many people tempted to believe that the League of Nations is really what it was intended to be?

The noble Lord yesterday, in analysing the situation in Europe, as he did in a most interesting manner, did not, I feel, give quite enough emphasis to the part played by dictatorships. One of the reasons why the League does not function at the present time surely is that it was based on the idea that sovereign countries would be prepared to sacrifice a part of their sovereignty in deference to decisions reached by representatives of all the countries of the world after discussion, such decisions being presumably considered by the world as a whole as more in the interests of mankind than the decisions of the individual countries themselves. I hope I have put it clearly, but that is my reading of the basis of the League of Nations—that it involves a curtailment of the rights of sovereignty which we enjoy and have enjoyed and claimed through all time.

That is the very antithesis of the idea that lies at the bottom of the dictatorships at the present time, Pan-Germanism is avowedly the policy of Herr Hitler, the expansion of Italy is the policy of Signor Mussolini. The League of Nations obviously cannot succeed in Europe if Germany and Italy are absent from it. It may go on for a time, but infallibly it will break down, and it cannot succeed outside Europe, I venture to suggest, without the co-operation of the United States and Japan. Well, to get the United States in, to judge from my experience in the United States, seems to me to be absolutely beyond the bounds of possibility. Other noble Lords, I know, are more optimistic, but that was the conclusion I came to, and I find it very difficult to discover anyone who has had any long experience in the United States who thinks otherwise. But supposing the League were re-formed in such a way as to deal with European matters. That in itself would be a great advantage. Europe is the centre of our interests, and it is because I think there may be some hope of re-forming the League for that purpose that it is well worth while giving very thorough consideration to the matter.

But to return to the subject of dictatorships. I think the noble Lord suggested that the Government studies them in histories and studies them in books and so forth. I suggest that the place to study the new régime in Italy is Italy, and the place to study the new régime in Germany is Germany, and that you will find there such a transformation in the people in general that you will understand the amazing authority exercised in those two countries by the men who have raised themselves from the humblest possible beginnings and who now exercise an unparalleled authority in those countries. You have to remember that both Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini took charge when their countries were on the verge of chaos, almost overwhelmed by Bolshevism. They have restored self-respect to the citizens; they have restored order and quite a big degree of prosperity; and they have certainly restored confidence in the individual and confidence in the nation. I do not think it is surprising, when you see their work and read their writings, that those men should have obtained the influence that they have. Their system would not suit us for an hour—I do not suggest that for a moment—but that is not our affair, and I do not see that it matters in the least so far as we are concerned. But at the root of the whole of their work is the fact that they are great and courageous patriots, and they have stimulated the idea of patriotism in their two countries, which makes them formidable people to deal with.

There is, however, no reason why, because people are strong, we should not be friends with them, or why we should not get on perfectly well with them. But of this I am certain, that in a world which devotes so much of its resources to the strengthening of its armed forces you will get nothing unless you are strong too. With that I think the noble Lord agrees. We are taking adequate and proper measures to strengthen our forces, and in conjunction with steps which eventually will be taken doubtless to improve the basis of the League of Nations and encourage other countries to enter it, we may do something in addition to what diplomacy will do. But I refuse absolutely to adopt the attitude that unless something of that sort happens we are bound to have war. Is it not a mistake to suggest that the League of Nations is the one thing that stands between us and war? If I thought that, then indeed I think there would be ground for despondency. The League of Nations has neither prevented nor stopped a war of any dimensions since it came into existence. It did stop one war, I believe, where both protagonists were extremely thankful to be prevented from fighting. They were neither of them at all keen to fight.

When you get people who really mean to achieve by armed force the object that they have in view, then the League of Nations in quite futile, and may be dangerous. I think that the noble and learned Viscount who preceded me was right in suggesting that the first thing to do is to eliminate Article 16 from the Covenant. Having done that, and having started on a more modest basis, you should establish an instrument—I would not go so far as the noble Viscount went and say an instrument for judicial action, because I do not think that judicial decisions are of any value unless there is a police force behind them to enforce those decisions, and I see no prospect whatever of the development of the International Police Force about which the noble Lord, Lord Davies, is so enthusiastic. But there may be an advantage—it is worth trying at any rate—if you can get an establishment where people will meet and discuss and exchange ideas purely from the point of view of conciliation, not from the point of view of coercion, and not endeavouring to exercise any element of coercion. There I do think that a contribution may be made. But I believe it involves, in the first place, accepting the fact that the present basis of the League of Nations is wrong, that you cannot patch it up unless you are prepared to reconstruct it from the bottom, and that if you do reconstruct it you may arrive at something which may not be the dominant feature but may be of great assistance to the diplomats of the various countries in maintaining good relations.


My Lords, I welcome the Motion of my noble friend Lord Allen of Hurtwood, most particularly in that part of it in which he calls attention to the grievances, as he says, "from which certain nations claim to be suffering." I agree warmly with him that involved in this is the whole question of a general settlement, and it would be relevant to his Motion to discuss the question of the revision of the Covenant and the machinery for the removal of grievances; but I want to say a word in particular on one or two of the grievances which affect Germany, a subject which has been almost exclusively under our review in these two days of debate. When we think of these grievances we welcome all the more warmly the fact that the noble Viscount, Lord Halifax, has gone to Berlin. Those of us who have been there in recent times, as I have been, must have had our attention very acutely called to the deterioration that has taken place in the feeling towards this country which prevails in Germany. It has been suggested that it is not fitting that we should discuss today the subjects which may possibly be under discussion at Berlin, but I propose to follow the example of those many speakers who have preceded me, who have felt that it is more than fitting that we should do so. We may suppose that, if His Majesty's Government had been in any way desirous that there should not be discussion of these matters, it would have been very easy to get this debate postponed.

I think we ought to bear in mind that the situation is not so happy in Germany in regard to relations with this country as it was a year or two ago. Public feeling has been worked up to a rather heated point, and we must realise that an unfortunate incident might possibly make it very difficult for the German Government to appear to accept any sort of humiliating drawback. It is true that in one vital respect the situation is far happier than in former days before the War. There is no war party now, as there was thirty years ago. But one must say that if, by some horrible course of events, war should come, public feeling in Germany is now in a state which could be relied on by a Government immediately to give eager support. It is not always easy to understand German reasoning, but I think the feeling about England at bottom represents disappointed hopes of a friendship which the public were led to think might be an exclusive friendship, a friendship which, therefore, we cannot provide. But other grounds are of a more rational character, and it is very interesting to study the effect on German feeling of certain incidents which to us seem to afford no ground for complaint.

I found that the questionnaire, as it is called, the Foreign Secretary's Despatch involving certain inquiries as to the German disposition in the spring of last year, seemed to German ideas to partake of the nature of a lecture; and the fact that it was published looked rather as if the intention was to pillory the German Government in a rather marked degree. Then the incident of the "Deutschland" made a great and an unfortunate impression, until some words of the Prime Minister, a considerable time afterwards, corrected the situation very materially and satisfactorily. When there was a heavy death roll of German sailors and not an appearance of much feeling on the subject in this country, it left a mark which you find has remained, which probably we should not have noticed unless we had large numbers of friends on the other side.

But I think that the chief ground which has damaged feeling towards this country is in connection with the Colonial question. There cannot be any doubt that the interest in that has caught on with the public. Whatever may have been the motive of those in authority in allowing it to become part of a kind of campaign, there is a very strong and widespread feeling upon the subject. It is based on the idea of two special grievances. The first is that confiscation of the Colonies was based on the stigma involved in the statement of the Allies of German unfitness to govern the natives. The spirit of that statement in all our minds has been withdrawn. I do not know that we can say that we really differ from the German view. We all of us wish that that statement had not been communicated to the German Government. The statement itself is contradicted by the opinion of Colonial experts A day or two ago Sir Edward Grigg, who was Governor of Kenya, close to Tanganyika, made a speech in which he said that "the im- putation of unfitness to govern Colonial territories had never been justified and ought to be removed." The other ground which I was surprised to find prevail so much is the ground that confiscation was a breach of the promise contained in the Fourteen Points, on the faith of which the German arms were laid down. The fifth point, it is true, is flatly contrary to a policy of deprivation of the Colonies, and the German view, again we must admit, is hardly different from our own.

But moral feelings were not very prominent at Versailles; indeed, it is rather interesting to recall what Lord Grey said at the time that the Colonies had just been taken. As your Lordships remember, very early in the proceedings of the Versailles Conference the Colonies had been confiscated, and Lord Grey wrote a letter saying, in regard to Versailles: "I am glad I am not there. They are out for loot." Lord Grey was the last man, as we all know, to exaggerate. I find it difficult to escape the conclusion that we ought to act upon this opinion of ours that what is called in Germany "the Colonial lie" was not a proper ground for action. I do not know how to escape the conclusion that we ought to adhere to the undertakings on which we induced the Germans to lay down their arms. We ought not to act contrary to point five of the Fourteen Points.

Of course, one does also hear the argument to which the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, referred, the economic argument; but not so much; and I never heard the argument seriously advanced that tropical Colonies would provide a field for surplus population. It is true that Dr. Schact has a very large public which regards him as an economic authority, and he holds that the fact of a common currency with a Colony would be of very great assistance to German development and to German trade. Undoubtedly it would be the case that exploitation would be much more intensive than it has been since the War or than it was when the Colonies were held by Germany in the past. It is of course a fact that Germany, having very large investments abroad at that time and doing a very large trade with the rest of the world, was not so concerned to develop the Colonies as she would be if she had them now. The kind of argument follows this line—this is by way of illustration—Germany is badly in want of vegetable oils; a considerable amount of German land is now employed in growing crops for the purpose of producing vegetable oils; and it is a very natural grievance that land which might be producing food, which is exceedingly short in Germany, has now to be cultivated for growing vegetable oils. It is very easy for us to retort, what is quite true, that the economic advantage of getting back Colonies in Africa is nothing like so great as some claim it to be.

It is very common to point out that the German claim is really based on sentiment. It is a desire for prestige or the restoration of self-esteem, for the removal of some of the sense of isolation in the world. Of course it is based on the desire for prestige. The Germans would be less than human if they were not subject to that feeling. There is nothing new or artificial in their interest in Colonies. Many of us remember the hunger for Colonies before the War. Since Bismarck's day it was very prominent. Before the War what they possessed was not a great Empire, but it was adequate to give a certain sense of being a world Power, and the sense that they are forbidden to be of any more importance in the world in that way than Poland naturally rankles. We of all the peoples of the world should understand better than any others the instinct that prompts them in that way.

What is to be our answer to this claim? It is, of course, involved with many other questions. The recent correspondence in The Times has perhaps helped to formulate British opinion as it has not been formulated before. It is a great pity that consideration had not been given to it sooner, because action would have been much easier years ago. We still have among us those whose main principle is "What we have we hold," and they, I suppose, will never be convinced by other arguments. It is they who landed us in Versailles and the difficulties which have followed from it, and the crisis, because it is a kind of crisis, which prevails to-day. But I think the more serious opposition to restoring to Germany any Colonial sphere is among those who think that, while deprivation at that time was certainly wrong, it is too late now to reverse it. They might recall the saying of the famous Ambassador, M. Cambon, who, during the Versailles Conference, knowing the dispositions that were to be taken, said that the settlement was an improvisation, and it was not what appeared to him to be capable of permanence.

That school, which is a serious school of thought, feel in the main that the Nazi régime makes the difference, that racial ideas would vitiate the government of natives, and it is very fitting that in this country that should be a prominent, perhaps the prime consideration. I feel that myself. It is natural to fear that a régime responsible for some of the deplorable features that have been mentioned in this debate should be applied in the government of any additional area, but the question of the government of natives is an entirely different one from that of the treatment of the Jew or other features that we profoundly deplore in the internal government in Germany. The racial theory applied to African natives would result in a policy aimed at preventing a population of half-castes. The feeling towards natives would have no resemblance to the feeling towards those who are persecuted in Germany to-day. I suppose our own ideal in regard to half-castes is not unsympathetic to that ideal. The German Government before the War in Africa was praised by many great experts, and it is a most interesting question, how would it, if it came to pass again in these days, differ from its predecessors. The main difference, I take it, would be that the officials would be Nazis, and that the industrial development would be pushed very hard. But, in theory, so it is by ourselves.

Several speakers in this debate have made reference to features of German administration which are severely criticised in this country, and it is true that they are widely deplored. It is true that English friendship and desire for good relations with Germany would be much stronger if that criticism could be removed. But it is not relevant to the question of the government of natives. Moreover, I feel it is to be hoped that native interests will receive consideration and help from a system of mandation. In spite of what the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, has said, I cannot help thinking that mandation is an extremely valuable guarantee of access to trade for the world in general. It has some reference to the right of all States to trade with the Tropics. It is an extension of the system of the Congo Convention, which emanated from Germany itself in 1885, which is both a guarantee of world commercial interests and also to a very considerable extent of the welfare of natives and their freedom from exploitation for military purposes. But you must expect in the German mind great opposition to the idea of association with the League which would be afforded by mandation. I think it is difficult to realise, without being some time among Germans, how the League stinks in the nostrils of the German public. That is a most deplorable thing, but I think it is inevitable when for a moment we look from the German point of view and realise that to them the League is part of the Versailles settlement. It is associated in their minds with a policy of subordination. The reason for that is a very unfortunate one. It is that the League has failed to carry out what it intended to do in matters which affect Germany—for instance, in regard to the Minority Treaties. The Czechoslovakian question is a question of the fulfilment of a Minority Treaty. Again, they associate the League with the prevention of the tariff agreement with Austria in 1931.

Then we find, of course, in this country widely held objections on strategic grounds to the return of Tanganyika. I would only say that it is a mistake to suppose that there is not a great deal of discussion and realisation of the British point of view on that matter. To feel that the policy of restoration is necessarily associated with strategic changes in the Indian Ocean is to mistake the German attitude. The principle of restoration is, of course, insisted on, and it is only possible from the German side to ask for a return of Colonies, but subsequent to that the idea of adjustment is freely discussed. They understand very well the difficulty about Tanganyika, and I think their minds are looking very much more to West Africa. This is not the time to go into details, but on the subject of an equivalent for Tanganyika that might be found in West Africa I might remind your Lordships of a very interesting letter from Sir Claud Russell, formerly our Ambassador in Portugal, published in The Times not very long ago, suggesting the kind of principles on which adjustment might be made.

We are very often told that Germany would never be satisfied, that war is inevitable in any case, and therefore concession is useless. Well, it is happy that a different view was taken in the last century at the Congress of Vienna, when the French Colonies were mostly restored to France. The subsequent one hundred years were comparatively free from war. Your Lordships will remember that Castlereagh said that the allies were not in Vienna to collect trophies, but to provide for a peaceful future. The other day I came across a letter of the Duke of Wellington published in one of the volumes of his letters, which perhaps your Lordships may not have read, but which is very interesting. He said: If we ask France to make this great cession, we must consider the operations of war as deferred till France shall find a suitable opportunity of endeavouring to regain what she has lost; and after having wasted our resources in the maintenance of overgrown military establishments in time of peace, we shall find how little useful the cessions we have acquired will be against a national effort to regain them. We ought to continue to keep our great object, the genuine peace and tranquillity of the world, in our view, and shape our arrangements so as to provide for it. Wellington would not have tolerated the amazing shortsightedness that possessed some people at Versailles, and that shortsightedness has now to be undone.

If your Lordships will allow me I should like to say a word or two on one other question—that of the grievances connected with the Germans in Czechoslovakia. I have been staying in the German parts of that country, near the German frontier. The situation there, as we all know, is unstable. The Henlein Party has grown with extreme rapidity, and for two reasons. In the first place there is exasperation at the discrimination still displayed in the Czech administration. We must give to the Czechs credit for having applied the Minority Treaties better than certain other States, but minority rights as laid down in the Treaties are not granted. Even the strongest anti-Germans criticise the failure to apply fully the principle of non-discrimination. Another reason why the dissident Party of M. Henlein has grown to such an extent is the rise of nationalistic feeling, the increasing sense of German unity. Before the War, and for some years afterwards, you had the old loyalty to the Austrian Empire, making the Germans in Czechoslovakia feel that they were not one with the Germans of Germany, but the young generation cannot be expected to be governed by that feeling, and that again contributes to the desire for unity.

You cannot blame the Czechs for enjoying their novel powers of dominating those who lately dominated them in a narrow spirit. That is inevitable, but it is a danger, because it is close to the German frontier. I have no doubt President Bones regrets the non-fulfilment of equality, and the Government excuse themselves frankly on the difficulty of controlling the Czech bureaucracy as they would like to do. It is true that there has been some improvement but nothing corresponding to the agreement, from which so much was hoped, of last February. If there has been improvement it is attributed by good observers to the fact that the Czech Government is not quite so confident of the security that formerly was associated with the collective system of the League, that less reliance is placed on protection from outside, and therefore there has been a rather more conciliatory spirit. But the Germans in Czechoslovakia are looking more and more to Germany. If grievances remain unredressed year after year—for nineteen years now—you cannot expect people of spirit to wait for ever. I am sure it is to be hoped that the influence of this country, always very great with small States in the east of Europe, will be applied to the utmost towards securing the fulfilment of the provisions of the Minority Treaties.

It may be that that would prove a solution of the trouble; but suppose some unhappy incident led to a German demand for more than that, perhaps not for any change of frontier or for any form of self-government, but in favour of the rights which, for instance, are accorded by the Constitution of Switzerland. To resist that would be to resist the principle of self-determination. Self-determination was the aim proclaimed by the Allies in the War, and it is very material to us to consider what would be our position if such a crisis came. British opinion could not possibly support resistance to rights claimed under the Minority Treaty which was imposed by the Allies themselves. His Majesty's Government must surely be alive to the dangers involved in these possibilities and, I hope, active in pressing their views on the questions concerned.


My Lords, I desire to detain your Lordships for a very few moments only, although at the same time I should like to express regret at the practice, which seems to be increasing, by which anybody who speaks after six o'clock must cut down his remarks. We do not spend very much time in this House, and when a great many members try to prepare sufficiently to make a decent speech in this House, it is rather unfortunate that this new practice should be applied. I want to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Allen, on his speech yesterday. It has not only caused a very useful debate, but, if I may say so, it was a masterly speech. I did not agree with a great deal of it, but this House paid the noble Lord a high and unusual tribute: I noticed that during the whole time he was speaking there were no closed eyes at all! I agree with the noble Lord that we want to get down to fundamentals, but I am doubtful—as doubtful as other noble Lords have been, especially the noble Marquess on the Liberal Benches—about pronouncements. One of the curses of the machine age to-day is the loudspeaker, the amplifier and the megaphone, because they make people think that if you talk loud enough you can be more persuasive. They desecrate speeches and make sermons sound like street cries. This method of pronouncments shouted across Europe is not the right one, and I heartily support the noble Lords, Lord Stonehaven and Lord Rennell, in urging that the Diplomatic Service should be used more than it is and that diplomats should not be relegated to the position of office-keepers.

During the last period which has elapsed I consider that the Government's handling of the diplomatic situation has been satisfactory. I have no fault whatever to find with any pronouncement on foreign affairs made so far by the Prime Minister. I regard Mr. Eden's work in the most difficult situation as having been performed with great courage and great skill. I should like to congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Plymouth, on his handling of the Non-Intervention Committee. The Government knew, and we all knew, that it would not stop intervention, but we hoped that if it were proceeded with, it might stop a European war. So far it has, and the noble Earl has never been completely dismayed and has never completely thrown up the sponge. Lastly, I should like to say that nobody could be found in this country who inspires greater public confidence than the noble Viscount, Lord Halifax, who is undertaking this exploratory expedition to Berlin. While I say all that, I have a cause of dispute, and a very grave one, with His Majesty's Government which I will come to before I sit down.

I was very glad to hear the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, refer to the King of the Belgians. He only referred to the remarks that the King made last night at Guildhall, but I should like to refer to the very remarkable pronouncement he made in July this year. It was a suggestion very much on the lines that Lord Allen desires, but it had certain features which I thought were original and promising. He did not want a conference of representatives of the Powers, possibly to wrangle together round a table, but he asked for an exploratory commission to be set up, not necessarily of national representatives but of people who have devoted their lives to the various sides of the difficult questions which arise to-day. That is the only question I want to ask the noble Viscount who will be replying: how was that received? There was not a word. One finds sometimes that a very wise suggestion is allowed to drop and nothing is said about it, whereas foolish suggestions are easily taken up in order to knock them down. I feel that in the King of the Belgians we have a statesman who is watching the state of affairs very closely and has initiated and made a proposal which ought to be followed up.

One of the points on which I disagree with Lord Allen and which I wish I could persuade him to drop is this idea of collective security. If we go on with collective security it will be impossible to get Germany to come and talk amicably. I was very sorry to hear the noble Earl, Lord Plymouth, say yesterday—I think it was in trying to emphasise the fact that the Government did pay some regard to the League of Nations and did not intend to cold-shoulder it—that the Government based their policy on all the obligations under the Covenant. I do not think that the Government believe in collective security. The attempts at it in the Italo-Abyssinian war showed not so much that you could not prevent the Italians—that was unfortunate—but that you allowed the Abyssinians to suppose that you were going to help them. That is what is still happening to-day, so long as Article 16 remains in the Covenant. In fact, I have heard representatives of some of the smaller nations say that they like Great Britain being rearmed because they consider that British arms are going to help them if their crisis comes. I think that is a most unfortunate idea to gain currency. Although I should like the Government to go to Geneva and initiate an amendment of the Covenant in this degree, there again I am quite ready for them not to say so. I am quite ready for them gradually to show the League that force is not the proper basis on which they can build a peaceful world.

The noble Lord, Lord Rushcliffe, yesterday—in a most excellent maiden speech, if he will allow me to say so—told us how people sitting round a table who seemed hopelessly antagonistic could nevertheless be brought together. I think, if I may say so, that Lord Rushcliffe, although I have heard him speak very often before, seemed a little uneasy while speaking—I think because he was always expecting interruptions, and they do not come in your Lordships' House. But what I would like Lord Allen to visualise is this. In every quarrel people take sides. You cannot get rid of that. In a quarrel between individuals sides are taken. A man will be supported first of all because his supporters really consider that on the facts he is right. Then there are those who support him because he is an old friend, and whether he is right or wrong they are going to stand by him. Then there is the less noble reason of the third class, who are looking to the future, to their own interests, and do not want to make an enemy of him because he is powerful. That really applies to nations just as much as to individuals. You are not going to get a state of unanimity which will make either economic or military sanctions effective, and it is far better to say so.

I sympathise with the Government. I sympathise with the difficult task which they have got to perform. Dictators are difficult because the more they become aware of internal discontent behind them the more inclined they are to display a certain truculence in their foreign relations, and that makes negotiations difficult. I see no reason whatever for armed conflict on any of the outstanding questions of to-day. Where there is good will I think they may be solved. There is, however, great danger, undoubted danger. This is where I differ from all the former speakers, and where I want not to make an appeal, which would be useless, but to explain to the Government what I mean. It has been taken for granted, in speech after speech, that we are strong because we are rearmed; that rearmament makes us a peaceful element in the world. It does not do anything of the kind. It has led to further competition in armaments. Armaments are being built up, and, as Lord Grey and other statesmen said in the last War, armaments are one of the initial causes of war. I value the democracy which has been built up in this country in the course of centuries, and you are not going to keep your democracy side by side with gigantic military forces. Every soldier, every airman, and every sailor enlisted to swell the numbers beyond the ordinary is a definite detrimental factor, and an enemy, to democracy. You cannot have the two together, and if we are going on with this piling up of armaments I feel that that is the real danger of war.

Air-raid precautions making the whole population believe that there is imminent danger of air raids in this country, and that they have got to hurry up with it and pay money down for it: what is the effect of that? A sort of feeling of scare is growing up in the country: The Government say this, and it must be really an imminent danger! It is that sort of thing that leads to warfare, and if it does come, with all the terrible, tragic characteristics of this new sort of warfare, what are your bomb-proof shelters, your gas masks, and all your air-raid precautions, going to do against panic, leading to revolution and riot? That is going to be the first thing that you will have to deal with, and there is no precaution against that. I cannot understand why the Government, who have shown such skill in the diplomatic sphere, do not see that they are simply taking a leaf out of the book of those whom they point to as enemies—dictators and others—at a time when, if they gave a lead to the world in the opposite direction, there would be some security for this country in being the first to lead the world into a really peaceful channel.


My Lords, in all quarters of the House in this debate, the first opportunity that has come to us in this House, tributes, eloquent and sincere, have been paid to Mr. Ramsay MacDonald. Any one who knew him or served with him must have been struck by two characteristics—his courage in good times or bad and his spirit of service; and I think it is not inappropriate that those tributes should be paid in a debate on foreign affairs. If I may say so I do so entirely agree with what Lord Crewe said, with particular insight, as regards his understanding of foreigners—the almost unexpected Understanding that one found in him. I think that was because he had the capacity to such a high degree of seeing the other man's point of view—a very valuable gift when dealing with foreign people or your own people. Lord Allen, in a speech the whole of which held the House, spoke, as he could well speak from his old friendship, of the relationships of Mr. MacDonald in his family. I am sure one of the greatest consolations to Mr. MacDonald in his failing health—health which had failed in the service of the State—was to watch the progress of his son, and I think we, too, are fortunate that there remains in the service of this country a son of Mr. MacDonald who has won and who holds a great position entirely on his own personal merits.

The Motion before us contains several parts. The first part of it, with which I need deal only in a sentence, commends the determination of the Government to see that this country is strong. The rearmament programme which the Government are necessarily pursuing they are, I think, pursuing with universal consent, because everybody in this country and outside it knows that it is pursued with only one purpose—namely, that the country may be strong for peace. Although the debate was, I think, on the whole singularly free from criticism, and Lord Ponsonby spoke indeed most generously at the end, one or two speakers have charged us, as we are almost always charged in debates on Foreign Affairs, either with having done things that we ought not to have done, which is possibly true, or with having left undone things which we ought to have done. The second charge is very often brought against Governments in regard to foreign affairs, but I think not enough allowance is made for the very simple and obvious fact that, while in your own country you can control—almost wholly control—the course of action, in foreign affairs you can only succeed in your purpose in so far as you can persuade other people to go with you. You cannot force them into action.

Examples were cited with regard to the League of Nations, where in amendment of the Covenant or in action taken at the League it is quite impossible for one country to make sure that action is taken unless the other countries will go with it. The League after all is not an idol or an ideal, it is an instrument, and its strength must depend on the number of countries who are Members of the League and on their unanimity in action when they are there. We all desire that the League should be strong, but I think I shall carry most of the House, and certainly my noble friend Lord Ponsonby, with me when I say that the worst way to make the League stronger is to press for it to undertake tasks beyond its capacity, or tasks which the whole of the Members who are there will not undertake thoroughly and with good will. If you attempt that it means that you reduce the prestige and the power of the League, that you reduce its numbers, and that you make it impossible for the League to be what it must be if it is to have a real power, and that power can only come gradually—a League which will again embrace in its membership, or embrace indeed for the first time in its membership, all the great countries of the world.

My noble friend Lord Ponsonby also referred to a speech of great interest made by the King of the Belgians, whom we are all so proud to be welcoming in England to-day. If I may say so, the King of the Belgians—and I have heard and read speeches made by him on many subjects—never makes a speech which is not well worth attention. We certainly have not lost sight of the proposals which were made last July. They have a close connection with the purposes of M. van Zeeland's journeys and his review, but we have not in fact received M. van Zeeland's Report.

The main purpose of the Motion on the Paper is to ask for a comprehensive statement of policy and procedure which may tend to secure an all-round settlement. That request may mean one of two things. It may mean that you want the Government to state what are in their opinion the terms on which a lasting world settlement could be reached, and indeed even those speakers who rather disclaimed that as being their intention, when they began to speak at any length were very soon led into enunciating this or that condition which they thought ought to find, or must find, a place in such a settlement. I am sure we should not at all serve the cause which we all have at heart of procuring such a settlement if the Government attempted at this moment to make a statement of what they thought ought to be the terms in such a settlement. To start with, as I have said, if you are to succeed in the field of foreign affairs, you have to carry other nations with you. It is not we alone who can say what should be the terms of such a settlement. But if we attempted to do so, surely we should be suspected and accused of dictating to other people—a process which no country likes, and which we do not like ourselves. There is warrant that it is both wise and right at times to keep silence from good words.


I am exceedingly sorry to interrupt, but the wording of the Motion was drafted with the greatest possible care, and there is no suggestion whatever in it asking the Government to state in advance the terms of its final settlement. If the noble Viscount will do me the honour to read the Motion with care, he will see that that is so.


I have read the Motion, of course, with the greatest possible care, and moreover I listened to the speech of the noble Lord with great care and with great interest. I think that anybody who heard that speech would observe that he proceeded to pronounce a category of subjects which must come into such a settlement, and it is exactly that which I suggest is so dangerous. I hope before I have concluded I shall find that the noble Lord is at one with me. Certainly there have been many speakers in this debate who have told us what should or should not be in such a statement, and I would add this. Is it not extremely unwise to state a number of specific terms which you think should find a place in a settlement? Our own views of course we must have. Surely one of the dangers in statements of that kind in foreign affairs is that you find before you have gone into negotiation that you have made statements, almost laid down conditions, to which in the event you find it is either wrong or inexpedient to adhere. But the very fact that you have stated them as the sort of conditions which you think should be found in a settlement—and which receive the great publicity which unfortunately every statement does receive to-day—makes it the more difficult to recede from them. I agree entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Rennell, who said that the time for the enunciation of terms is the time when you have agreed, and the method to secure such agreement, I think, is frank and quiet discussion.

The noble Lord, Lord Rushcliffe, in a maiden speech which showed mature wisdom, spoke of negotiations where the subject appeared difficult and intractable, and where by careful approach, by quiet discussion, it was often found possible to arrive at complete agreement, provided that the will to agreement was there. The will to agreement is present not only in this country, but I venture to believe it is present in other countries too. After all, what we want to do to-day is to remove suspicions. We shall make little or no progress unless, when we do enter upon negotiations, we enter upon them in the spirit that we shall be met as frankly and as sincerely in those negotiations as we enter upon them ourselves. But I would make an appeal which it is little necessary, if necessary at all, to make to your Lordships, but which I think it is necessary to make to those outside, and that is that, if we are most likely to reach agreement, to reach lasting settlements, by quiet discussion, whether by statesmen or by diplomatists, everybody should make it as easy as possible for us to get that kind of quiet discussion. Many members of your Lordships' House have engaged in important business negotiations where you had to meet people who were competitors with opposing interests. As the result of discussion, not only is accommodation reached but what proves to be fruitful association. But no business man would ever have brought off a deal of that kind if he had had to conduct his business discussions throughout on the radio. Indeed, I sometimes think that perhaps fewer marriages would take place if every courtship had to take place in the full glare of publicity.

Everybody in this House has welcomed Lord Halifax's visit to Germany. He is indeed an ideal person for that purpose, as an interpreter of English life and English thought. But I would say two things about that visit. First of all, the real value of a visit of that kind is that it should be a natural thing for that visit to be paid; that it should not be regarded as some extraordinary and exceptional event. The other is: do not let us expect too much from it. There must be, in any negotiations, various phases and successions of discussions. The worst service I think that can be done to any part of a negotiation is to surround that particular visit or that particular discussion with a tremendous glare of publicity, and to ask at every stage: "What has it done? How far has it succeeded? What is the result?" If that is to be the way in which visits of this sort are to take place, they will do more harm than good and we shall make them quite impossible. I would be indeed content if, as a result of visits of that kind, it were simply said: "We talked frankly and freely. We understand one another a great deal better." After all, international relations, like ordinary human relations, are based on mutual understanding breeding mutual confidence.

But if what is meant by this Motion—and I think from the interruption of the noble Lord that it is—is that your Lordships are entitled to know and the country is entitled to know the broad guiding principles on which we proceed, I think they have been very plainly stated by the Prime Minister. If I might sum them up in a sentence or two, they are these: The maintenance of peace and the settlement of disputes by peaceful means; the promotion of friendly relations with other nations who will reciprocate and keep the rules of international conduct which are themselves the guarantee of security and stability; and I would add that friendships are no less real because they are not exclusive. Another condition is the protection of British lives and British interests. After all, one is none the worse an internationalist, one is none the less respected or understood by other countries, if one looks after the interests of one's own people; and, in the light of those principles we desire the frankest and fullest examination and discussion of the origin and substance of international fears and suspicion.

This debate has ranged over problems political and economic. I would venture to make one or two very brief observations upon the latter, because I think it is important that we should see these matters in their true perspective. A good deal was said about Colonial markets. Our Colonial markets are open to everyone on equal terms, and in the mandated territories there is complete free trade. We have, neither in the trade that goes in nor the trade that comes out, any advantage over any other country. Moreover, in our own non-self-governing Colonies, we have recently made it clear that we are anxious to do anything that we can both to ease any difficulty there may be about raw materials and to aid in the development of international trade. The League Assembly last September had under consideration the Report and the recommendations of the Committee which was appointed at our suggestion to study the problem of raw materials. This Report shows conclusively that the problem of raw materials is not primarily or even substantially one of Colonial possessions. In fact, only a small proportion—I think about 3 per cent.—of the world's supply of raw materials comes from the whole of the Colonial territories taken together. We have deliberately refrained from pressing the preferential system beyond a limited point. When last year it became possible for us to introduce a preference in the largest of our African markets, Nigeria, we refrained from doing so.

There is no question of raw materials being unavailable. In every country, tropical and sub-tropical, every producer wants to sell as much as he can. But Colonial products, like any other product, have to be paid for, and they have to be paid for in currency which the vendor can use. In a normal world, where trade flowed freely, these currency problems lay beneath the surface, and hardly, if at all, interfered with the free flow of trade. To-day that is not the case, and surely it ought to be the effort of all Governments, as it is of our Government, to make that flow freer. The block is not due to tariffs, and I think this should be said: it did not exist before the War, when every country except our own had tariffs. How happy we should be if the flow of trade to-day were anything like as free as it was before the War! Tariffs, reasonably used, are not in the least a block to trade. The real block to trade lies in instability of currency and in the exchange controls which follow from it. It should be to remove this that our best efforts should be directed.

There is another consideration to which attention has been, and ought to be, called. It is a view which is held, and very reasonably held, by a number of people of moderate opinion who hold it with deep conviction. That view is based on the realisation of the truth that wars inflict grave loss and injury on all who take part in them whether they win or lose, and when the time comes to determine what steps can be taken in the general interest to remove disabilities or grievances it cannot be presumed in advance of an assessment of all the other factors that the mere passage of time has automatically obliterated the basis on which the immediate consequences of the war were settled. We were advised in one speech not to deal with isolated cases but to try and deal with our problems as a whole. That is very attractive advice if you could follow it, but, unfortunately, the isolated cases have to be dealt with. When there is a crisis upon you you cannot wait to deal with the situation until you can deal with the whole position. You must deal with the situation as it arises, but you must deal with it—and I think we can claim that whether in Spain or in the East we have tried to deal, and have dealt, with those individual cases—in accordance with the general principles which we should like to use in a complete settlement.

For reasons I have given I do not think it is practicable or desirable for the Government to make a comprehensive statement, but, if I interpret the general sense of the House, it is that we all agree in the objective before us. It is to arrive at what, in the terms of the Motion, is called "an all-round settlement," what I would prefer to call a lasting peace. The Government must have the responsibility of trying to achieve that settlement. They must decide, therefore, the methods which afford the best hope of achieving what certainly all in this country must earnestly desire, and indeed what I believe nearly every man in every country in the world desires, a lasting peace.


My Lords, at this late hour I shall not attempt to follow the observations that have been made by the noble Viscount who is at present leading the House, and I shall leave to my noble friend Lord Allen the duty of replying in whatever way he thinks best to the criticism which the noble Viscount has raised to the actual wording of the Motion. One thing I may say. I agree entirely with his view that the best way to deal with this question is by private and intimate communications with other people in other countries. But it does seem an extraordinary thing that we have to lay down that proposition twenty years after the War. What have we been doing all that time? Whose fault has it been that we have not got into such intimate communication as we are at the present moment with the Leader of this House visiting Berlin? It may have been the fault of the Germans to a certain extent. It probably was the fault of others. It was mainly due, I think, to the fact that each nation has been suspicious of the others and we have never been able to bring representatives of those nations together. The proposal of my noble friend is, at any rate, that we should take some steps which shall ensure consideration of the whole question from a general point of view.

I do not wish to delay your Lordships unduly, but I should like to make a few observations with regard to the subject that has been so ably discussed during yesterday and to-day. In the speeches to which we have listened I have been greatly impressed by the fact that whilst there have been suggestions as to the situation and as to the remedies that one or other would apply, we have not really considered what is fundamentally wrong in the condition of the world at the present moment. What is it that has brought about the situation which we have to-day? I suggest that although the great majority of people in every country do not wish for war, they are not in the proper frame of mind for making peace. Peace is not a negative virtue. It is something that requires positive action, and unless men are searching after peace as they search for gold it will never be attained. Men were in that state in 1919, but since then they have gradually fallen away. Statesmen at Versailles felt that they were justified in making great sacrifices on the part of their people. No fewer than fifty Governments signed a Covenant whereby they abandoned their right to make war. This was a great act of national self-sacrifice; but within a few months these same States, beginning with the United States of America, began to whittle down that obligation. Each nation claimed to settle for itself whether it should engage in warfare and thus the whole basis upon which the League was constructed fell to pieces. This process became more apparent as time passed.

As your Lordships will remember, under Article 8 of the Covenant the first step was to be taken towards the reduction of armaments. Article 8 of the Covenant was inserted for the purpose of carrying into effect what M. Clemenceau declared was to be "the first step" in a process of general disarmament and he assured the Germans that this would be carried out in return for the enforced reduction of their Army and Navy. Yet it took several years before the Conference would even agree to treat Germany on a basis of real equality. If we had only carried out the policy of Article 8 immediately after the War we should have saved Europe some hundreds of millions of pounds expended upon armaments since 1919.

There was another case in which we failed to carry out the conditions laid down by the Treaty of Versailles. My noble friend Lord Buxton has referred to this in reference to the question of the minorities. There are some 30,000,000 of such folk in various European countries. Amongst these minorities there were a good number of men of German blood, residing mostly in territories which were transferred to Poland, Czechoslovakia, Rumania, Yugoslavia and Italy. The Powers, at Versailles, stipulated that the minorities should be safeguarded in respect of their language, religion and culture. This could only be done if the Governments of the States concerned had shown themselves willing to sacrifice something of their national pride and to allow men of another race or language to live their own life in such way as they had been used to. None of the States was sufficiently generous to do this, and as several of them were strongly represented upon the Council of the League it was found impossible to compel observance of the Minority Treaties. What has been the result? It has alienated the minorities from the majorities in their new countries; it has brought them constantly into conflict with their Governments; and amongst the minorities of German origin and speech, it has given rise to a movement in favour of the Nazi Party and a general desire to co-operate with it. Nothing is more noticeable amongst what I term the German Diaspora than this new tendency to look to Germany for inspiration.

People whose connection with the German Reich has been severed for centuries now turn their eyes towards it for relief from the hardships which they have been compelled to undergo by the majorities who rule over them. The Nazis in Germany have not been slow to take advantage of this and, by inviting these people to visit Germany and by other methods, they have popularised the Nazi cause among German-speaking people both inside and outside of Germany. This is very noticeable in Czechoslovakia where the Sudetendeutschen who have never formed part of Germany are now in close relations with the Nazis and by this means are wresting from the Czechs minority rights which the Czech Government ought to have granted- them voluntarily long ago. Both there and elsewhere the Minority Treaties, which were framed with the object of pacifying Europe, have proved to be a source of irritation, and this is due mainly to the extravagant claims of nationalist majorities to overrule the legitimate demands of other races. These races have been deprived of their rights by the exercise of an unreasoning and selfish nationalism, and a return to reason and good feeling on the part of the dominant race would rapidly tend to re-establish peace in Europe.

There is another problem which requires similar treatment if war is to be prevented. It is that of the former German Colonies. It is odd that although this question looms large in the public eye to-day it has only recently assumed its present dimensions. A few years ago, outside of a small band of former Colonial administrators, who were bona-fide be- lievers in Germany's capacity for colonisation, the demand for the return of the Colonies evoked but little response in that country. Herr Hitler has said that he does not attach much value to the Cameroons, for one very good reason—namely, that he did not wish German blood to be mixed with that of coloured races. Nevertheless, the demand for the return of the Colonies has proved to be a useful plank in an electioneering platform and is now an essential part of German claims for equality of treatment. But beyond this, there is the further claim for land in Eastern Europe. Germany established long ago settlements in South Russia, in Poland and on the Baltic. Some of these were separated from her by the Treaty of Versailles and others by post-War policies and her population problem was thereby intensified. Now, difficult though it would have been, I think that if the League of Nations had taken up such questions as those of Memel or the Polish Corridor, in exercise of its power under Article 19 of the Covenant, much of the legitimate complaint of Germany might have been removed by now. Of course Poland would have objected; but would it not be better for Poland to have peace than to be cursed—as she is now—with the eternal questions that arise in Danzig and Silesia?

Would it not, also, be to the advantage of the whole world if Germans could resume the practice of peaceful colonisation which they carried on so effectively before the War? No one can deny that the German people make first-rate colonists. Unfortunately, we have got into our own heads—and still more unfortunately into their heads also—the idea that every German on foreign soil must necessarily become a conspirator against the State in which he has found a home. This has not been so in the past and—pace Herr Hitler—it need not be so in the future. The German settler is known throughout the British Empire. In Australia he is among the most hardworking and prosperous of the inhabitants. In the United States of America there are some millions living in compact blocks, speaking practically nothing but German; but nevertheless good Americans except in war time. Even in Russia there are, I believe, certain Soviet States whose administration has been in the hands of Germans living in peace with their neighbours until the political machinations of the Nazis in Germany against Soviet Russia induced the authorities in Moscow to retaliate upon their German subjects and cause them a great deal of suffering. Herr Hitler hardly knows what hardships result to persons of German blood by his allowing it to be thought that he intends to seize territory by the sword. I doubt if he thinks the conquest of Russia is possible in any circumstances and if we can show him a better way whereby to restore prosperity to his people—namely, by methods of justice and peace—he will probably adopt it.

But we must be prepared to lead the way in any such policy and we could do so with comparative ease. We might begin by handing over to Germany the "B" Mandates which we hold over territories which before the War were in the German sphere of influence. I believe this would do no injury to the native inhabitants, nor would it constitute any military danger to the British Empire comparable to the gain in security arising out of the removal of a constant source of irritation between our two peoples. By the Mandate Germany would of course be prohibited from raising a military force among the natives or constructing fortifications. And if similar action were to be taken by France a great step forward towards a Franco-German understanding would have been taken. If this were followed up by a general extension of the system of Mandates in relation to territories where white men hold sway over coloured people, it might be the opening out of a new future for the primitive races of the world.

I know that it will be said that any proposal such as this would be a betrayal of the people who are at present safe and contented under British rule. I do not admit this. On the contrary, if by international arrangements of this character a world peace could be brought nearer and rendered more secure, the profit to those people would far outweigh any immediate loss they may suffer. And if nothing of the kind is done, they and we must all go on living on the verge of a volcano. They and we shall have to stand ready to destroy our neighbour. They will have to be educated, not in the ways of peace, but in the ways of war, as Italy is doing in Africa. They and we shall all live in a state of ferment until the forces we shall have called into being burst whatever bands remain and civilisation is reduced to ashes. I believe that no amount of conference between diplomats and statesmen will save us from this fate unless we can induce the people of the world to realise that they must all make sacrifices. It is on popular sentiment that we shall have to rely and to popular sentiment that we must appeal. I do not think that this is hopeless. If you read the speeches of Signor Mussolini and even more those of Herr Hitler, you will see that both of them profess to be striving after peace. Whether that is true or not, it shows that in their view their own people wish for peace, and I believe that if England only shows clearly a way to peace through self-sacrifice those people will follow her along it.


My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

House adjourned at twenty minute past seven o'clock.