HL Deb 05 December 1939 vol 115 cc88-132

3.42 p.m.

LORD SNELL rose to call attention to the recent declarations by the Prime Minister respecting the war and peace aims of His Majesty's Government; to the essential principles of a satisfactory and lasting peace; to the urgent need for a wisely-planned programme of national economies and social reconstruction; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, it is not in the tradition of your Lordships' House that a protracted discussion should take place when the Address is moved in reply to the Speech from the Throne, but it was within my knowledge that several noble Lords desired to comment on the present situation, and I have therefore put upon the Order Paper the Motion that I now move I do not propose to speak at length myself. I often require the patience of your Lordships, but I do always try to remember that a speech, to be immortal, need not of necessity be eternal. Therefore I shall deal as shortly as may be with the issues stated in the Motion that I have on the Paper. The first part of it calls attention to recent declarations of the Prime Minister respecting war and peace aims, and the second part to questions social reconstruction concerning which we have very great interest.

In my judgment the Prime Minister wisely distinguished between war aims and peace aims for, though they are not unrelated, they are not really the same thing. The aim of the war must always be to win it in the shortest possible time. The aim of peace should always be the fashioning of a new world which is to supersede the war itself. It is, in our judgment, vastly important that the general principles of a peace settlement should be firmly set in our minds before passion or prejudice warps our judgment. But there has been on the part of His Majesty's Government, considerable hesitation in speaking even of the general principles of a peace settlement. The Prime Minister has had to be persistently encouraged to make statements upon the matter, and his clarity has increased with every attempt that he has made. His last statement is the most commendable of those that he has hitherto made: it is to bring into being a new Europe animated with a spirit of freedom, good will, mutual tolerance and co-operation between nations. These principles are stated in general terms, and probably advisedly so, for, so far as the Government themselves are concerned, it might be not useful to attempt any closer definition. But it does affirm the principle of a non-vindictive peace for which we should be grateful—a peace that would bear no resemblance to the Brest-Litovsk peace, the only peace terms which Germany has had the opportunity of enforcing since 1871.

History warns us against the dangers of what we may to-day call a "dictated peace." The Treaty of Versailles was not the only folly enacted within those historic walls. It was there that Germany elected to humiliate France in 1871. She took away two of the most cherished provinces of France, and she seemed to be strong. She exacted a vast indemnity, and she appeared to be rich. But these gains proved to be illusions for they aroused in France a determination to exact revenge. Versailles Treaty No. 2 was therefore the natural offspring of Versailles Treaty No. 1. Germany in her turn had to go through the valley of humiliation, and she had not the same qualities to endure with courage what she had to face as had the French. In contrast with these settlements is that of the South African settlement after the Boer War which was, in my judgment, the greatest act of sane statesmanship that has happened in my time. I cannot pass by that theme without paying a salute to the memory of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman and, if I may, to the Liberal Benches. It was a treaty which has been justified by its results. Time has proved how valuable indeed it was. Its vision and its prudence have borne fruit which we are now reaping, and the spirit of that great treaty should be kept before us now. We do not wish, I hope, to hand on the curse of national hatred to yet another generation; therefore it is advisable that we should think now about the kind of world we want to leave behind us and to shape our minds to try to create it.

That is all I will venture to say upon the first part of the Motion, because I know it is a part to which other noble Lords will wish to devote their attention. The second part of the Motion is one dealing with the urgent need for a wisely-planned programme of national economics and social reconstruction. We have thought it right, since war began, to suspend Party attack, and to help to sustain the Government in the great burden that they at present have to bear; but upon us perhaps even more than upon the Government rests the responsibility to stimulate thought upon this most vital subject As I see the present situation, we are indeed at the end of an epoch. The old moorings have given way, and we are drifting, we do not know quite where. Matthew Arnold, I think, said of his time that it was wandering between two worlds, one dead the other powerless to be born. We are in that position to-day. What is the kind of world that we desire to shape? I believe, rightly or wrongly, that Capitalism is not only dead but condemned, and nothing can ever resurrect it in our time. What, therefore, is to take its place? It has got to be, surely, an ordered and planned society, or, in the absence of such planning, a return to an ignoble economic individualism such as that which has produced the kind of world we are to-day living in.

In my desire to be brief I will only enumerate the problems which I think must shortly be faced. There is, first of all, the great problem of unemployment. We heard yesterday with some satisfaction of a reduction in the number of those unemployed and a promise that the proportion of the employed would be increased. But what is to be the position at the end of the war, when all the millions of men now withdrawn from industry, who are at present engaged in work of national service on the munition side of the war, are returned to the labour market? It requires no vision to foresee that there may be five or six millions of unemployed people in our land, and men who have served their purpose either in the factory or elsewhere will be discarded to look after themselves. My Lords, let us not drift into that situation. The soldiers of to-day are better educated than were their fathers and we should be wrong to assume that they will accept with docility such a situation as I have foreshadowed. If we do not want hasty revolutionary changes we ought to be considering even now how those issues are to be faced.

Therefore we have suggested that a Ministry of Reconstruction, or a Minister of Reconstruction, should even now be appointed so that we may begin to prepare for the time when, happily, the war shall cease; and it may not be a bad thing in the meantime if the Conservative Party could stop abusing and suspecting the Labour Party and really try to find out whether there is anything in their proposals that is worth consideration. Just one or two further illustrations. We are concerned about the position of higher education in this country, and indeed about education as a whole. It seems according to present arrangements that short-sighted and wasteful use is being made of the growing intellectual energy of our country. It would seem as though the authorities said: "Here is a young life at the university or elsewhere; let us get it into the trenches at the earliest possible moment." There is no apparent concern as to how the creative mind of the country is to be preserved for its service when the war happily is over. Then there is the problem of export trade. There is no evidence that that is being considered with the seriousness which its importance demands. We are also doubtful as to whether the financial resources of our country are being sufficiently conserved and strengthened for all the burdens that they have yet to bear. We are not satisfied that in the matter of food production there is sufficient drive to give the nation security; and we are always afraid that whenever the pinch begins to be felt the Social Services will be the first economy that will be made. We ask that these things should be taken into account at as early a period as possible.

Looking towards the world of the future one may note in passing that the wonderful self-sacrifice of our people has been such as to arouse our pride and our gratitude and our assurance; but mere aimless self-denial will lead us nowhere. We have got to think deeply, plan wisely, and prepare diligently for the world of peace which is to come. I do not wish to prejudice your Lordships' minds, but I say with all the sincerity that I have, that I believe the salvation of the future does, and must, lie upon Socialist lines and not upon any other. In any case I am quite sure that we cannot afford a policy of drift in regard to these great matters. After the conclusion of the last war, that great patriotic statesman of the Empire, General Smuts, uttered words that have always been in my memory and have deeply and continuously impressed me. He said: "What we have to do now is to build from the depths." That is what I believe we have to do now—to build from the depths and not be tempted to take a superficial or hasty view of the things which are to come. I have stated the problems rather than tried to solve them—that is my special duty on this occasion—but I hope that subsequent speakers will concentrate upon a narrower field and that the suggestions that they may make will receive the most careful attention of His Majesty's Government. I beg to move.

Moved, That there be laid before the House Papers relating to the war and peace aims of His. Majesty's Government; to the essential principles of a satisfactory and lasting peace; to the urgent need for a wisely-planned programme of national economics and social reconstruction.—(Lord Snell.)

4.2 p.m.


My Lords, I propose to occupy your Lordships' time only for a very few minutes for one good reason, which has been stated by the noble Lord, Lord Snell—namely, that this debate should be regarded rather as an addendum or appendix to the debate the other day on the Address, in which I took part, and I have no desire to repeat anything I said then. I anticipated with great interest the arguments that the noble Lord would use in support of his Motion, and of one thing I was perfectly certain, that he would say nothing in any way to hamper or inconvenience His Majesty's Government in relation to the war. There I was right. I am quite certain nothing was said of which His Majesty's Government could in any way complain.

The noble Lord said that his Motion is divided into two parts. I have really nothing whatever to say to-day on the question of war and peace aims, because I am one of those who think that for the moment the declarations made on that subject by the Prime Minister cover the ground as far as it can be covered at present; but there are one or two points in the second part of the Motion on which I would say a word. The noble Lord said that Capitalism is to be regarded as dead, and even worse than dead. I do not think there is any need to argue at this moment the proposition that Capitalism is in a very poor way. Whether the death of Capitalism means the complete extinction of the profit motive, I am quite sure that the noble Lord, Lord Snell, does not propose to institute the class war in the full Marxian sense. I take it that it is his desire to extinguish, as far as possible, the motive of profit. That is all very well, and no doubt that is one part of the Socialist creed, but it has to be remembered that it is also part of the creed of the Corporate State. Any thoughtful Italian, arguing the merits of the Fascist plan, would begin, I believe, by saying that it is opposed to Capitalism. Therefore, it does not seem to me that mere denunciation of Capitalism in itself takes one very much farther.

Then on the question of social reconstruction, I take it we all agree that the war has interfered with a great deal of social improvement and social advance which, if peace had endured, might have been possible. It is no doubt hoped that when peace is restored those possibilities may be looked in the face again. But as to the attempt to plan the details of social reconstruction and to lay down definite schemes for measures to enforce that reconstruction, it seems to me there are two difficulties. The first is that of cost. I do not see how any inquiries of that kind could be made on a large scale without considerable expenditure of money and that, there is no need to argue, is a serious obstacle at this moment. Then there is the other difficulty, that to think out all these matters and to weigh all the pros and cons, either in the direction or in the opposite direction of Socialism, means the occupying by many of the best minds of the country of a great deal of time which at present is given, or should be given at any rate, to matters connected with the conduct of the war. Those two things, it seems to me, offer considerable difficulties in the acceptance of the noble Lord's proposition, although we all know that his motives and desires are of the finest kind and the hopes he entertains are shared by all thinking men and women, however much they may differ as to the methods by which those hopes can be realised.

4.10 p.m.


My Lords, I must not allow myself at present to speak on the main theme in the very impressive speech of the noble Lord opposite which has been taken up by the noble Marquess. I must keep myself to the first part of his Motion and say something about these peace and war aims. I think it is remarkable that this nation has entered upon this war with a very striking two-fold unity: on the one hand unity in accepting the neces- sity of the war, and on the other hand unity in envisaging the terms of a durable peace. With regard to the latter, no doubt there is some difference of emphasis on particular points, but I can see very little difference between the peace aims described by the noble Lord opposite here and by Mr. Attlee in another place, and those described by the Prime Minister in his recent broadcast and, even before the outbreak of war, by the noble Viscount the Foreign Secretary in his memorable speech at Chatham House.

I do not think it is possible to make any clear-cut distinction between the war aims and the peace aims. No doubt there must be a distinction of priority. The first immediate, indispensable task is to win the war. The evil things which compelled us to enter it must be cast out; the ground must be cleared of them before any foundations of a tolerable peace can be laid. But I do not think we can, even in concentrating upon that first task, rid our minds of the obligations that will rest upon us in achieving the second and greater task which must follow. In the first place we cannot contemplate without bitter disappointment and even some sense of shame the contrast between all the hopes and sacrifices of the last war and the fact that once again in the lifetime of a single generation this terrible ordeal has come. May not one reason be—at least so it seems to me when I look back upon it—that during the last war very little careful thought was given about the terms of any subsequent peace? They were all covered up in the vaguest possible language. The result was that when the actual terms of peace were declared very few of us—I do not except myself—were able to give a right judgment. The mere relief that the long strain of the war was over predisposed us to be uncritical. We must not make that mistake again. It has been truly said that now "we start on this war knowing well that it will not be enough to win it: the fruits of victory must be secured," and we cannot secure these fruits unless during the war we are sowing and cultivating the seeds out of which these fruits must spring.

In the second place there are, I know, very many of our people, the more thoughtful and more especially the younger among them, who will not be able to put their whole effort into this war unless they know not only what they are fighting against—they know that only too well—but also what they are fighting for, unless they have some vision of the purposes which are to determine the peace. They want a positive as well as a negative motive. Many of them desire not merely their own freedom and security but also the prospect that another generation will not find their lives haunted by the shadow that has twice inflicted itself upon their own. Therefore I think it is plain that such people, and there are very many, will not be distracted from concentrating on the immediate task of winning the war if they have a fuller assurance of what the character of the peace is likely to be. Here, of course, a word of caution is very necessary. It has been abundantly spoken of by the Prime Minister, and it was alluded to by the noble Lord opposite to-day, that even if this be so, the language in which any peace aims are described must be of the most general kind. It need not be vague because it is general. It would be premature to attempt to do more than embody general principles, to attempt in any way to lay down the actual terms of peace. That I think is obvious to us all.

None of us can foretell what the situation of the world will be when this war is over. What will be the position then of many of the nations which are now neutral? What will be the sort of Germany with which we shall have to deal? Will it be a Germany which, as some of us, all too sanguine, hope, has at last opened its eyes to the character of the régime to which it has so long submitted, or will it be a Germany which turns to some other form of dictatorship of the Right or even of the Left? In either case there will be a new danger. And now, when, God knows, the darkness around us is sufficiently thick, there has come this formidable and sinister shadow of Russian aggression. Who can tell what the place or the policy of Russia will be when the war with Germany is over? For all these reasons it is plain that we must not attempt to make terms of peace too definite. If we do, there is a double risk. On the one hand, once they were stated and held, there might be an attempt to impose them, in which case we might defeat our very desire for a durable peace. On the other hand, if once they were stated and then, because found impracticable, abandoned, we should be open to charges of breach of faith, and many of us remember how many of these charges were made in connection with the famous Fourteen Points in the last war. Therefore, my Lords, we must be content with stating the principles rather than the terms of peace.

Here may I venture upon another word of caution? Most of us, I think, feel that this war will have been waged in vain unless it results in some new order of international life where a common reign of law is substituted for the rule of force. Many architects are busy making designs for this new order. The plans of some of them contemplate a new, reconstituted League of Nations. The plans of others—and it is remarkable how strongly the minds of the most thoughtful people among us are converging on this point—contemplate some kind of federal union of States. But whatever these plans may be, depend upon it they will all make a very searching moral test upon the nations who agree to them. All of them involve an order in which nations shall not regard themselves as rivals but as fellow members of one community, and all of them imply an abatement of the claims of national sovereignty. But we know well enough that these claims spring from some of the deepest and the most persistent of the passions and prejudices of human nature. How can we be sure that, when the time comes, the nations who agree to these principles will have the moral strength to overcome these deep-seated tendencies? They will not have that strength if these principles are regarded merely as political opinions or pious aspirations. They must be regarded as in themselves right, as having, to use the common phrase, in themselves absolute values, because they represent a divine purpose for this world.

That means for most of us that they will be Christian principles based upon the faith which gives them strength and sanction. It is a very remarkable fact, as I well know, that at the present time a number of very able thinkers, some of them starting from a position of detachment from Christianity, have, by the mere force of their thinking, come to the conclusion that only upon that faith can anything that we can call a Christian civilisation be built; that only that faith will be strong enough to overcome these ingrained tendencies which lie behind the claims of national sovereignty. If this be so, then does it not follow that the nation which will have the conviction and strength to take a lead in forming the better order that we all desire will be the nation whose citizens have the strongest hold upon that faith?

Your Lordships are well aware that in this war, at the very outset, ministers of religion were exempted from the usual forms of national service. I must take it that one motive was that they should be free to devote themselves to another form of national service not less important—namely, to see that during the war the hold of our own people upon Christianity is strengthened and not weakened. I must at once admit that I hope it will be a Christianity very different from the conventional type of it to which we have been too long accustomed. I hope, if I may say so, following what the noble Lord opposite has said, that it will be a Christianity far more sensitive to the social conditions and injustices of our own people at home. I hope it will be more sensitive to the duty of regarding other nations as neighbours to whom we owe understanding and good will. But, as I see it, the duty of the Christian Church during the war, and not merely after it, will be to prepare men's minds for meeting the moral demands of which I have spoken, when the time comes for some better order to be built.

Lastly, may I urge a consideration which shows that we cannot absolutely divide peace and war aims? The noble Lord opposite has already spoken of a phrase of the Prime Minister to which I think most right-minded men will agree, that we are not seeking any vindictive peace, any peace merely imposed by the victors upon the vanquished. But that also will mean a very searching moral test. How can we be sure that we shall have the self-restraint to refrain from giving a vindictive character to the peace if already we have allowed ourselves too freely to give a vindictive character to the war? Here, it may be, the test will come in the matter of reprisals. It is an intensely difficult subject and I approach it with the greatest possible diffidence. We all agree upon the reprisals which have just been taken in response to the outrages of the enemy upon the high seas. Stern military necessities may make it necessary to impose more: for war at the best, in spite of all the heroic quali- ties which it calls forth, is a horrible business, and as the war proceeds and as there may be increasing moral indignation against acts that the enemy may choose to take, we must be prepared for an indiscriminate demand for more. I hope at least this may be said at the outset for our own aim, that we are not prepared to enter into any unrestricted competition in cruelties with the enemy, and that there are limits below which, even if it be for our own hindrance, we shall not allow ourselves to fall. In a word, during the war, as well as in view of the peace, we must try to keep the spirit of our people high as well as determined and strong.

4.27 p.m.


My Lords, in the debate on the Address the noble and gallant Field-Marshal, Lord Milne, made a speech which I think impressed all of your Lordships as to the grave difficulties and dangers that lie before us, unknown but almost certainly very severe. He spoke from ample knowledge and experience. But, whatever he thought about the situation then, the recent events in Finland must surely have deepened our sense of the seriousness of our position and of the position of civilisation in the world. I hope I shall not say anything which will be in any kind of way an embarrassment to the Government; certainly it is the very last thing I wish to do at a moment like this; but I do not think I shall embarrass them if I venture to say that in my opinion, as far as it goes, this attack by Russia on Finland is, as has been generally felt throughout the world, a kind of climax of the lawlessness into which we have somehow drifted.

I do not know that it is really worse than the German attack on Poland; indeed in some respects it is not worse than, perhaps not even quite so bad as, the German attack on Poland. It has not, at any rate so far, been marked by the wholesale and ruthless slaughter of every human being of every age and of both sexes, which I gather has been one of the distinguishing marks of the German proceedings; but it has been perhaps even more shameless than anything that was done by Germany, and the excuses put forward for it have certainly appeared to me to be even more flimsy than those which were put forward on behalf of Germany. In certain sections of the population one hears very often fierce denunciations of Imperialism, going sometimes even as far as to say that we are engaged in an Imperialist war. I am not quite sure what Imperialism in that sense means. But if it means, as it appears to mean, national greed which defies all restraint and is prepared to satisfy itself at the expense of a peaceful and imperfectly armed population, then I can conceive no act in history which is more open to the reproach of Imperialism of that kind than the invasion of Finland.

It is not only this particular incident, but I cannot help feeling that there is a kind of progressive decline in international morality. If you throw back your minds to four or five years ago, there was the invasion of Manchuria by Japan, followed by the invasion of Abyssina by Italy, the reoccupation of the Rhine Provinces, the events in Spain, the absorption of Austria, the further attack on China, the absorption of Czecho-Slovakia and the invasion of Poland, and now, last of all, the invasion of Finland. One cannot help feeling that each successive brigandage that was carried out led to another, and the infection spread from one country to another. Japan, Italy, Germany, Russia: a terrible chapter in the world's history. Surely we have now reached the point at which every country must recognise, particularly the smaller countries, that unless this infection can be mastered, unless the epidemic can be conquered, there is no country in the world which is safe, small or great, but the small obviously less than the great. Surely that is an issue which must appeal—indeed one gathers it does appeal—to the whole world. Surely, the force of public opinion, if it can be properly aroused and properly expressed, even now must be a great asset on the side of peace.

I confess that I read with great pleasure—as your Lordships will realise if you have done me the favour to follow anything that I have said on the subject—the statement that Finland had appealed to the League of Nations. Of course, we all know that the League is not what it was, but it still might be made, as it seems to me, the centre and focus of a great denunciation of this system—for it is a system—which proclaims that no morality binds a State, no rule of law, no rule of God binds a State: its only and sole criterion of conduct is what the governors of the State think may be for the advantage of that State. That is the fundamental thing at the bottom of all these events that I have mentioned to your Lordships. And now we have a definite challenge to the platform which at any rate still commands the greatest international position. I cannot help feeling that here is a tremendous opportunity offered to us to set forward our counter case, to say to the world what we really believe about these things—that we do think that, call it what you will, call it the supremacy of the law, must govern even the relations between States.

I was delighted to see in this morning's paper that the Government have announced their intention of attending the meeting of the Council of the League on Saturday, and I suppose of the Assembly, which I understand is to follow next week. I hope that it will be possible for the Foreign Secretary himself to go. I know it is asking in these days a great deal, but I can scarcely imagine that even he can be more required in England than he will be in Geneva on these occasions. He and he alone, not only because of his personality, but because of his position, can really voice the feeling, not only of this country, not only of France and Poland and our Allies, but of the whole world—the feeling of America, the feeling of every little country. I know something of it, I know it exists, I know it is tremendous; and if it can be focused and made to apply to this situation, surely we may hope that it will have a decisive effect on this terrific controversy. I read in the paper the other day a very interesting letter from the most reverend Prelate, the Archbishop of York—I think it was in the Daily Telegraph—in which he cited, as I ventured myself to cite to your Lordships, the precedent of the letter of Lord Lansdowne in the last war, and urged that the Government should declare more precisely their terms of peace. A distinction has recently been drawn between war aims and peace aims, and of course that is a perfectly sound distinction, but I would venture to say that you may subdivide peace aims into what may be called armistice terms and terms of final peace.

As to the terms of final peace, something may be done, as the most reverend Primate has just now said, to make our ultimate objects more precise, to hold them up before the people. I am sure the more that can be done the more you will encourage the people of this country and of the world to join in resisting the views of the dictatorship countries. But I do recognise that there must be a great deal of difficulty in stating with precision terms of peace which, when you come to make them, may have to be made under very different conditions from those which prevail now. I hope the Government will do all they can to make the statement of their terms of ultimate peace—at any rate of the objects they have in view—rather more precise than they have done at present.

There are the other terms—the terms on which they would be prepared to cease fighting and enter into a discussion of terms of peace, the armistice terms. After all, every war must end first by an armistice and then by terms of peace. Armistice terms must of their necessity—they may change—always exist. There must always be terms on which the belligerents will be content to come together in conference to discuss terms of peace. Indeed I should have thought, broadly, it would be possible even now for anybody to lay down certain of these terms. They might be—I hope they would be—very few, but certainly of course we are bound to restore the independence of Poland and Czecho-Slovakia, and perhaps of Austria, though that seems to be on a rather different footing; but certainly of Poland and Czecho-Slovakia. I think that by the terms of our Treaty with Poland we have agreed not to make peace except in agreement with her. I quite agree that these terms are essential, and until these are granted I do not see how you can desist from the action which you took in order to obtain them.

But they are not quite enough. Something more must be said, at least I think so, as to what steps—how precise you can make them I do not know—you intend to take to prevent a recurrence of this terrible event that has occurred this year. Something must be said about that. In his recent broadcast, the Prime Minister, after drawing a picture of what he called Utopia, which he went on to say would take very many years to establish, and which, therefore, has very little bearing on the present situation, said that there would have to be machinery to watch over the development. I cannot help thinking that that is so vague as to be almost nothing at all. What does it mean? What are we aiming at? What kind of thing have we got in view? At this opportunity which has been given to us to state our case at Geneva before the assembled delegates of what must still be by far the largest number of nations in the world, cannot we really make some statement not only of what we are fighting for, not only of our case against both Germany and Russia—and I am sure it would be fatal for us to make our case only against Russia—but also of what our desire is for peace, how anxious we are to re-establish it, how ready we are to negotiate provided only we can get these terms, these elementary terms of justice, for which we are fighting, for which we went to war, and without which we cannot either in honour or with safety make peace again?

4.46 p.m.


My Lords, I wondered when I saw the Motion on the Paper whether anything concrete and useful to the situation in which we find ourselves would come out of it. With the utmost respect, I am bound to say that the speech of the noble Marquess opposite was the only one which, up to date, has touched the question of the war at all. I was surprised to find the noble Lord, Lord Snell, who has given such splendid support to the Government, so far forgetting himself, if he will forgive me for saying so, as to ask that the Conservative Party should stop attacking the Socialist Party and pay some attention to the Socialist proposal. I do not know whether he has got any example of the Conservative Party attacking the Socialist Party since the beginning of the war. May I ask him not to suggest that that sort of thing has happened, because the head of the Party Organisation issued this order by instruction of the Prime Minister: Mr. Chamberlain has authorised me to say that it is not his desire that the organisation of the Party should be used during the war, either directly or indirectly, for the advancement of any cause but that of defeating the enemy. That is the only thing any Conservative wants to do, and I hope the noble Lord opposite will abandon this talk about attacking the Socialist Party.

The speech of the noble Viscount who has just sat down was, if he will forgive me for saying so, precisely the sort of speech I thought he would make. He, of course, thinks that you have only got to state your case at Geneva and all will be well. Does he really suggest that stating your case to a collection of nations from which Germany, Russia, Italy, the United States, and Japan are absent, is at this time of day really going to have the effect of saving a single life in Finland, which, after all, ought to be our aim? The noble Viscount has, of course, boundless faith in declarations of policy. He it was who organised the Peace Ballot, the sole effect of which was to scare the Government so that they put off starting rearming two years longer than they ought to have done. Yet here we are in the position in which we find ourselves.

It is incredible to me that people should begin talking now, before we have been at war for a quarter of a year, of what will be the terms of peace, what are to be the aims of peace. I was astounded at the most reverend Primate's suggestion that there existed in the country today young men who are not putting their back into the war because they do not know what the war is about. Really that is not fair to our young men. They know what the war is about, and it would be much better if noble Lords opposite paid less attention to our war aims and more attention to the war aims of the enemy. They have been stated without any equivocation. They are the same aims as those with which Germany went into the war in 1914—namely, to destroy the British Empire. What the British Empire means to its inhabitants is seen by that splendid rallying of the clans that we have all admired ever since the first day of the war. It is a repetition of 1914, but more intense on this occasion, and particularly more marked among those nations inhabiting either the Crown Colonies or Mandated Territories who, according to the suggestion by the most reverend Prelate, the Archbishop of York, who I am sorry to see is not in his place, are to be handed over to some international authority.

Sacrifices at other people's expense are not very noble sacrifices, but I have noticed this in excuse. I happened to look at the record of the most reverend Prelate, and so far as I can see he has never spent any time at all in Africa. That may be an excuse for ignoring the conditions of the community of that country, but it is not a sufficient excuse for the use of the influence which the most reverend Prelate's great position gives him to make a suggestion which, to my mind, is a base betrayal of patriotic fellow-countrymen, as base and as ignoble as the bargain made by Germany and Russia whereby Finland is sacrificed to Russian ambition. The suggestion of handing over these territories to an international authority surely is one of the meanest things it is possible to imagine. Nothing is a finer tribute to the self-sacrifice and the wisdom of the men and women who have given up their lives to the conduct of those Colonies than the tremendous rise in the standard of living in them. And are we to be the only people who are to hand over these men for whom we hold a trusteeship, or is that to be suggested as a solution also of the Colonial possessions of France, Belgium, Portugal, Italy, Japan? And, incidentally, I wonder how much attention Japan has paid to the Mandates Commission of the League of Nations. I know that in our case the sole effect of the Mandates Commission is that the unfortunate Governor has to come home and sacrifice a portion of his leave in order to hold an elementary instruction class for the information of the Mandates Commission, composed for the most part of people who have no claim whatever to exercise any authority because of lack of experience, and who, fortunately for the Colonies and the people affected, have not any time to do so.

Then you come to another suggestion, the suggestion of federation, all turning on the idea that we have got to found a new order. Surely the situation in which we find ourselves to-day can be traced to the over-weaning conceit of the people who thought that they could found a new order after the last war. Why not try the other thing? Why not restore some of the old-fashioned things that used to prevail in the old days—respect for law and order, respect for the plighted word, and authority to see that law and order are maintained. The federation of Europe really is a marvellous suggestion. I think the colleague of the noble Lord opposite, Mr. Attlee, stated in addressing his Party that Europe must either federate or perish. If that is to be, as he said, the only alternative, how many people would not be prepared to accept the alternative of perishing? What reason is there to suppose that the federation of Europe is anything but a crazy notion that never can be carried out?

We could not even federate the Empire. Many of your Lordships will remember that forty years ago Imperial federation was a very attractive idea and appealed to many of us, but if you had tried to federate the Empire, the Empire, as we now know, would have dissented, because the Empire will not take orders from people whom they do not themselves elect and over whom they have not themselves control. To suggest that in Europe, with its vast differences of race and religion and tradition, you are going to make a federation, and that federation is going to prevent war, is a suggestion which can come only from people who cannot have had any first-hand experience of living in Europe. So far as the future is concerned I would only suggest that, taught by the experience and the appalling mess that was made by the people who drew up the Treaty of Versailles, we must allow ourselves to be influenced by people who do know something about the countries which are affected, the diplomatists and other people who have been trained to live abroad.

The noble Lord opposite said that Capitalism was not only dead but condemned. It is thirty years since I first embarked in Party politics, and I have heard that phrase every year several times over. Even noble Lords on the Bench opposite will appreciate the fact that it was extremely fortunate we had a certain amount of capital accumulated before the last war began, and it will be a very fortunate thing if we do not get to the end of our capital before we get to the end of this war. What does the noble Lord mean by Socialism? If he means what I understood him to say, then Russia is a Socialist country.




But it is called the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. And Germany is a Socialist Republic. Germany is a National Socialist country. Does the noble Lord mean that form of Socialism?—because if he does then we shall differ much more profoundly than we differ now if that is the intention of himself and his Party. I do not believe it is. But what kind of Socialism is it? I do not invite him to embark on a discussion because I began by deprecating taking up time now over matters which are not directly concerned with winning the war, because winning the war is the only thing with which we are concerned at present. May I remind your Lordships in connection with the idea of setting up a new order, of a quotation which appears at the beginning of the late Lord Cromer's book Modern Egypt, a book by the greatest successful reformer in our time? He gives this quotation from Bacon: It were good that men in their Innovations would follow the example of Time itself, which, indeed, innovateth greatly, but quietly, and by degrees scarce to be perceived.…It is good also not to try experiments in States except the necessity be urgent, or the utility evident; and well to beware that it be the reformation that daweth[...] on the change, and not the desire of change that pretendeth the reformation. I believe that it would be a good thing if people who still think they can create a new world order by simply drawing up a plan would ponder those words of that great statesman.

There is only one other question upon which I wish to touch, because I think it is very pertinent to the situation before us, and that is to refer to the words of Field-Marshal Foch's order to the Allied Armies on November 12, 1918. The Field-Marshal said: After having resolutely stopped the enemy you have for months attacked him ceaselessly with tireless faith and energy. You have won the greatest battle in all history and saved the most sacred of all causes, the freedom of the world. You have covered your colours with immortal glory. Posterity will be grateful to you. Posterity ought to have been grateful, but it is the mismanagement of the men who had charge of world affairs after the war which has led to our finding ourselves in the position in which we are to-day. We can count on the same bravery, the same courage, the same sacrifices in this war in which we are now engaged. But, my Lords, the war is only beginning, and I do beg the noble Lord opposite not to continue in this line but in the opposite line he has adopted hitherto, of collaborating to the utmost with the Government, not merely of a united country, but of a united country at the head of a united Empire, taking the lead by all means in the conduct of the war, though admitting that it is premature at this time to embark on what we are to do when the peace comes.

5.1 p.m.


My Lords, on these occasions I find myself in disagreement with everybody who speaks, but, at the same time, I find that they make remarks with which I fully agree. Even in the eloquent speech which the noble Viscount has just made, I was surprised to find myself in complete agreement with him on two or three points. When he says that he does not think that any good can come of going back to Geneva, I agree with him. I think that having recourse to Geneva, at this moment, is almost pouring oil on to the flames. Further, I agree, when he says that people who support the federation of Europe and the federation even of the world are talking of something so Utopian that it is hardly worth considering, especially at the moment when national sovereignty is the main difficulty. The exaggerated claim of sovereignty of individual nations is the main difficulty that has to be met to-day. It is not the moment when you can expect them to renounce any degree of their sovereignty.

But I am not going to examine the various Utopias. I rather liked the one propounded by my noble friend Lord Snell, but I do not really believe that we can do that. I think that during the last two months, I have received more plans for reconstructing Europe and the world than can ever have been produced before either in typing, in writing or in print. Some of them are very good, some of them are very comprehensive, and some of them are beneath contempt. While people are turning their attention to the future, and very rightly I think, on the other hand there are a number of people—increasing as the weeks pass and as the war gains momentum—who take the old football match view of the contest. That, I think, is the view that is shared by the noble Viscount who has just sat down. They maintain that the only object to aim at and even to mention is victory in the war. All the rest can be left till that has been gained, the knockout blow has been delivered. Then other matters can be discussed. The most reverend Primate, in one of his sentences, seemed to agree with that.




Let me say half a sentence. But the most reverend Primate has a way of qualifying what he says almost immediately, and with the qualification I am in agreement. He said that we did need some assurance of what the character of the peace is likely to be. Now the Government—and I think it is towards the Government we ought to turn a great deal more attention than to one another's suggestions—hover in an uncomfortable balance between the two opposed views. They cannot, after; having had resort to arms, dismiss the incontestable argument that victory is the main object, but at the same time, they desire to sketch somewhat vaguely a merely idealistic vision of international relations which can be further elaborated later on and the more easily attained once military victory has been assured. They must necessarily be vague in their description of their Utopia because they cannot foretell what sort of world they will have to deal with.

The noble Viscount the Foreign Secretary has been tremendously praised for his Utopia. I mean the one in the broadcast. I have been through it very carefully and I have read it line by line. He says we are fighting in defence of freedom. That is more or less the same as "making the world safe for democracy," which we did last time. We are fighting for peace. That is "the war to end war," exactly the same as last time. We are fighting against the constitution of brute force over law. That is the setting up of the League of Nations. And we are fighting for the sanctity of treaties. Then, further on, he says again that we are fighting for the rule of law and for the quality of mercy in dealings between men and men. That is going further than almost any of the Utopias which I have collected. We are not only going to deal with international morality but with individual morality. If the war is to go on until we get that all straightened, well we shall none of us live to see the end of it. The noble Viscount also said that we seek no vindictive peace. We did not seek it last time. Then I am sorry to say he used that very old phrase "We have no territorial ambitions for this country." I remember Mr. Asquith saying that, I remember Mr. Bonar Law saying that, and I remember Mr. Walter Long saying that; and at the end of the war, as noble Lords know, we came out with one and a quar- ter million square miles for the British Empire.

What the Government seem to forget is that after a prolonged war it is extremely unlikely that they will continue to be in existence. We have got to look forward to their demise. That is inevitable. Governments always fall after wars, so that probably they will not be there to deal with any terms of peace. After a war of three years or more, neither they nor any subsequent Government, however composed, will have any adequate control over the terms of peace. That is why I deprecate so much talk of all these idealistic worlds which we have as a vision. After the huge casualties, the widespread destruction, the devastation and the ruin, the inevitable sentiment they will be forced to obey will be that of vengeance and punishment, and our Allies, too, will be forced or even inclined to bring pressure in the same direction. The distant blue sky of idealism will be obscured by the dark clouds of primitive passions. "Squeeze them till the pips squeak" will again be the guiding principle for the treaty makers. To be fair, one must admit that the treaty makers of 1919 were not lacking in humanity nor devoid of idealism, but they were powerless against the wave of intense indignation which four years of desperate suffering and loss had created. Their little contribution of idealism, the establishment of the League of Nations, turned out to be nothing much more than a framework for future international dissensions and disputes. To pretend that after a knock-out blow, the policy which is increasingly popular—and very naturally so—you are going to treat your enemy as an equal, is the purest hypocrisy. Sir Nevile Henderson, in a very interesting and moving speech which he made the other day, had a very high and admirable peace aim, which was that we should make peace without hatred. After a knock-out blow that is asking too much of the distressed, damaged and ruined combatants.

One matter upon which we all agree without exception is that the sort of world we have been living in for the last four years is quite intolerable. The question is, therefore, are we deliberately to make it worse before it can possibly become better? We are quite in the dark as to how this war will proceed. Everyone has been wrong in his expectations so far. We have no idea, however confident we may be, how it will end, or even how exactly victory will be reached; but it has gone sufficiently far on its unexpected course to make us see that the smouldering flames are spreading rapidly. What nation in Europe—nay, in Asia or in North America—can say that in its aloofness it has security, or in its neutrality it is free from all danger? Like a prairie fire the flames are spreading far and wide and turning into a conflagration. To-day it is Finland and perhaps the Scandinavian countries; to-morrow it may be Rumania, with the fire creeping down, perhaps, towards Mesopotamia and nearing India. It is no longer necessary to be labelled as a belligerent to suffer loss, fear or destruction. Science has inspired man's ingenuity to make the earth, the sea and the air a menace to man's existence. Controllers are no longer controlling, Governments may soon cease to govern. Machines devised by man are making mankind their slaves and their victims.

Yet we are only at the beginning, and our puny imaginations cannot see the end. Governments may fan up the hatred necessary to prosecute a war. We like to personify the nation which is declared our enemy, and we can do this with greater ease than ever before. With ease, no doubt, we can go on fighting until the knock-out blow is achieved. What then? It would almost seem as if the prophecy made by leading statesmen will be the only expectation which will prove true: that this war will lead to the breakdown of such civilization as we have reached. I say this in all sincerity as a warning to the Government. I do not ask them to say a syllable further with regard to war aims: I think it is waste of breath and raises expectations which must be falsified. It is impossible to couple a triumphant victory with the ideals of a new Europe and a better world. It simply cannot be done, and it is much better to leave off attempting to do it and to confine ourselves to a fuller consideration of the road on which we have embarked. There is another road; I shall not enlarge on that or anticipate the debate next week on the Motion which my noble friend Lord Darnley has on the Paper, but I say this in order to check the spate of Utopias, this attempt to raise people's hopes by seeing beyond this contest, by vain expectations which are bound to be falsified.

5.15 p.m.


My Lords, it was very appropriate to a debate on war aims that a few moments ago your Lordships' attention was recalled to the famous incident of the Lansdowne letter. At that time opinion was divided between the advocates, in accordance with Lord Lansdowne, of a negotiated peace, and the advocates of the knock-out. Many to-day are wondering whether they were right to oppose the Lansdowne proposal and wishing that they had supported it. The most reverend Prelate the Archbishop of York, in a very weighty letter in the Daily Telegraph of yesterday, said that at that time he was editor of a certain newspaper, and that he among the minority wrote in his editorial comment that the Lansdowne letter "breathed the air of political sanity and Christian hopefulness." Political sanity and cool judgment are the chief requisites for a lasting peace, and a stable peace after the war is the greatest need of the world. But we shall not get such peace unless public opinion is very fully prepared and fortified with cool calculations. The emotions of war, as my noble friend Lord Ponsonby has just been saying, will defeat cool judgment.

The Prime Minister rightly criticised the politicians of 1919 a few days ago, and he hopes for greater wisdom at the proper time. The noble Viscount, Lord Halifax, wrote a very noble and Christian appeal in The Times not many weeks ago against the growth of hatred; but can we be hopeful that his appeal will be fully realised? It seems to be thought that this time we shall be wiser; but we must bear in mind that the provocation to embitterment, if the war is long, will be far greater than it was in the last war. Those who had bereavement of men to mourn last time would in that case have bereavement of women and children to mourn as well. It seems a forlorn hope that judgment will be cool at the end of the war if it is a long war. It is desperately urgent that the public should be prepared and should realise the conditions of a stable peace.

I should like to dwell for a moment on what seem to me the three main conditions which would contribute politically to a stable peace. I think they are the European order system that the Prime Minister has forecast, disarmament, and failure of aggression. The chief condition of stability is what the Prime Minister has called the new Europe. He sketched a new European order, politically and economically: a group of States agreeing to prevent war and to provide for the free flow of international trade. We must never despair of the principle, as I think, of collective security in some form. I do not see how we can get away from it. The noble Earl, Lord Baldwin, very aptly said that if the League was destroyed another League would have to be invented. The Leader of the Labour Party the other day defined the conditions of such a greater League.

Why did the League fail? Did it not fail in the main because from the first it excluded Germany, one of the greatest Powers of Europe, from membership? It did not provide equal status; Germany was humiliated; and you may say that the League of Nations therefore never had a fair chance. A League providing equal status would be the greatest possible guarantee of security. Secondly, disarmament would he a guarantee of the class which, in the Government's statement, we learned was the cardinal aim and condition of peace the other day, a concrete act indicating a new intention on the part of every State which joined in it. The third main condition, it seems to me, would consist in the failure of aggression. Would not failure be secured if a Polish State and a Bohemian State were restored—genuine States? We must be loyal to our friends and to their national rights. They ought to be truly ethnographical States. They ought not to include alien minorities; that would be fatal. To include, for instance, the Sudeten Germans in Bohemia or the Ukrainians in Poland would be neither justice nor conducive to peace. But restoration in its true form of genuine States would be a great concession, and, with that, disarmament and a European system would be the best available conditions for a stable peace.

The task is surely for the Government to seize the moment when those conditions first become accessible. I agree that we must live in no illusions; we must not be visionaries; and it is assumed to-day that Hitler scouts such conditions. After all, it is only the Government who can know what the real intentions or inclinations of the German Government are. Public speeches mean very little. Hitler cannot afford to show weakness, nor can we. He may be in grave difficulties and he may realise them much more deeply than we think. Events in Finland may be a most serious blow to him. We on our side are thought to have banged the door when the Queen of Holland and the King of the Belgians made their proposal the other day. We ought not to close the door, and I do not suppose that we have closed it in reality. We may assume that the Government will know what are the real intentions of the German Government from time to time. The statement, which appeared to be official, not many days ago in regard to the agents who were kidnapped at Venlo, seemed to show that communications of some kind were passing. The Government should know that, if and when they do see any opportunity for serious contact, they would have very powerful public support. We all agree that they should ignore every motive except that of desire for a just and permanent peace, and they may at any time find that the conditions of it are obtainable in the near future.

When we come to the question whether peace could be made with a Nazi Government, opinion is very divided, and I am glad that the Government have not committed themselves. It goes against the grain to think of making peace with such a Government. Indignation is quite inevitable, and perhaps nobody is sensible of more hostility than people like myself who have been concerned with the refugees from Germany. We inevitably feel that criminal action ought to be punished, but we shall agree that we must subordinate indignation and its satisfaction to cool reason if the best settlement is to be got. The idea of punishment of the Nazi leaders is a chimera. In such a case the criminal always gets away. It is not the individual who suffers, but countless innocent people who are sacrificed in a punitive war. After all, the Germans may decline to turn against Hitler. Again, what sort of German Government would inspire us with perfect trust of its permanent pacific disposition? We fought the last war to turn out the Kaiser. Are we to fight another long war to bring monarchism or the Monarchist Party back again? And if we did, would that be a perfect guarantee of stable intentions? There is, after all, no cer- tainty of a permanently pacific disposition. We all long to end German tyranny in Germany itself, but the Prime Minister has truly said that every nation must be left to choose its own Government, and our sole concern is with peace between nations. We can only work for the conditions most likely to produce it. Such conditions may be (because we without inside information cannot possibly tell) at an early date within reach. If they come to be within reach, it would be supremely tragic if the opportunity were lost.

5.27 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord on the Front Bench did not try to define peace aims, but it is clear from those who have spoken from among his own political supporters that there is very acute division of opinion as to what course should be followed. Lord Ponsonby read us a very lachrymose dirge, from which I could draw only one conclusion, that is, that if he were the dictator of this country he would come out of the war at once. The noble Lord who has just sat clown gave us a number of very excellent suggestions. He wants to redraw the map of Europe on ethnographic lines. Good gracious me: that has been one of our chief troubles! That was done in 1918. He reviewed and revised a number of objectives of the Peace Conference of Paris, of the Treaty of Versailles. I do not look upon that as a very hopeful list of peace aims. The fact is that, unless we keep discussing our peace aims in the most general terms, we shall get into hopeless and irremediable difficulties. We cannot talk about peace aims until we know where the peace is going to be declared, when the war is going to end, who are going to be our foes in the war and who are going to be our Allies.

A fortnight ago we would have talked about peace aims without mentioning Finland. A fortnight hence, in talking about peace aims, we may have to include another group of European countries. And the result is that, as circumstances change so frequently from month to month, from week to week, almost indeed from day to day, to talk about peace aims is really a quixotic enterprise. And what right have we, Britain, to talk as though we were going to lay down peace aims? What about our Dominions? The noble Lords, Lord Snell, Lord Noel-Buxton and Lord Ponsonby, ignored our Dominions. What about our Allies? What about France? Nobody has mentioned France. What about Egypt? Has Egypt got no war interests? I do not know what has happened to Lord Noel-Buxton. He makes these calm speeches week after week, telling us that we must show no indignation; but does he know what is happening in Poland? What business has he to say that Poland shall show no indignation? Does he know that during the last month the history of Poland has been one of the vilest and grossest and most obscene massacres in the history of that unhappy country? And he comes here, with all his calm judicial outlook, and says: "Above all things, no indignation."


I am sorry to interrupt the noble Earl, but I said that we could not help feeling, and I particularly feel, most violently.


If the noble Lord will read his speech he will see he deprecated anything of that character. Now the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, did begin a catalogue of peace aims, and he broke down because, he said, "I am not really quite sure whether Austria ought to be included or not." Now that shows, does it not? that when we are talking about peace aims we must all talk together. It is no good our talking about peace aims unless we know whether Austria is to have a voice in the terms of peace. And then what are we going to do? Why do not noble Lords put their actual concrete proposals on paper, and try to draft a Bill about peace terms. Then they will realise the difficulty. Do they want to have a congress? Do they want to call neutrals to the congress to discuss peace aims? Does the noble Lord, Lord Snell, contemplate that Germany is coming to discuss the peace terms of Germany? I saw the other day in the paper a suggestion that the Jews, as such, should be brought into the conference on peace terms. There is no end of the possibilities in discussing peace terms, and the fact that there is no end means that there will be inconsequence to the end of the discussions. I say that we have only got one war aim, and that is to win, and by winning the war my object, my hope is, in general terms, to end Hitlerism and all it means to me, and to do whatever is possible to prevent its recurrence.

I will explain, if I may, what I mean by my peace terms, and I engage to say that they are peace terms which will commend themselves to every thoughtful man, and indeed, I suppose, to every peaceful nation in the world. I want my home and my country to live in quiet, in amity, and in confidence. I want to be able to trade with my fellow countrymen and to trade with my neighbours. I want to be friendly with my neighbours. If I have difficulties with my neighbours I want to have a proper method of adjusting those difficulties. I want them to be free. I want their personality and their character to be developed. I want the small nations to thrive and prosper. I wish to see their scholarship and their intellectual and artistic ambitions developed. I hate the idea of all these small nations being drilled and ground down and absorbed into some huge comprehensive and killing system. I want to avoid the persecution of races and the persecution of religion. The noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, used the term "elementary principles of justice." Well, I beg to suggest that those are elementary principles of justice, and Hitlerism is a positive repudiation and negation of them all.

How is this to be accomplished? Well, I believe that the way to accomplish it is to concentrate upon winning the war. Unless we can achieve that, all these ideals are going to go by the board. And let me say this. If, as we all profoundly hope and pray, we do bring this war to a successful issue, then the unanimity of the civilised world will begin to assert itself—then and then only, for now, my Lords, neutral opinion is abashed. Neutrals are threatened and blackmailed States, which dare not say Yea even to Lord Snell. But when, by concentrating upon this war, we have won it, we shall find, I believe, that the world will unite in insisting that this blackguard war shall not begin again. Then we can discuss terms of peace. Meanwhile, let us ponder all we know. Let us all ourselves, without committing ourselves to schedules and catalogues of peace aims, seek out all the positive solutions, but let us always fight to win the victory.

5.37 p.m


My Lords, I should like to congratulate the noble Earl upon his very eloquent speech, which many of us have enjoyed because we felt that it really touches the very kernel of the situation. The observations that I desire to make have to do with quite a different theme. I desire merely to call attention to the urgent need for a wisely-planned programme of national economy. And I want to make two points, and two points only, in reference to what may be clone really in a practical way to help the Government. I am speaking now to a very large extent for the Federation of British Industries. They, as noble Lords know, consist of a great number of members of well-organised industries which are federated together, and they are able to render a great deal of help to the Government, which hitherto they have not had the opportunity of giving, although they are very willing to do so. A year ago, with the President and a past President of that body, I was a member of a deputation to the Prime Minister, and we pointed out at that time that it was the duty of the Government to make arrangements in advance of a possible war to deal with the expansion of exports. Now we find after nearly three months of war that very little has been done to stimulate the exports of this country, and we arc very apprehensive because unless the Government have the matter in hand we shall be in a very parlous condition.

Mr. Clement Davies in The Times yesterday stated that, comparing the exports of this country for the month of October with those of a year ago, they have gone down 42 per cent. Industries are prepared to do a great deal more than they have done in the way of exporting their commodities, but they have been restrained by the various Departments, who have their attention concentrated on their own particular work. Take, for instance, the fighting Services. They are all anxious that they shall receive all the necessary supplies and all the accommodation and transport necessary, but the export of commodities is just as valuable to enable us to win the war as I believe some extra Divisions would be if they were sent to the Front. It is essential, if we are going to meet our liabilities, that we should export our goods. It is all very well for the Government to seize exports from Germany. That is no doubt an excellent step having regard to the present situation, but that is not the whole problem. The problem is for us to secure the markets which the Germans will be losing by that action which we are taking on the sea.

If, instead of having so many Government Departments—the Board of Trade, the Treasury, the Overseas Trade Department, the Ministry of Supply, and all these licensing authorities—all restraining the action of manufacturers in sending their commodities where they are required abroad, you had one central authority in the Government who could expedite the work of exporting commodities and get into touch with industries, you would solve this question. We are restrained by a great number of Government Departments from meeting the situation which exists all over the world. Trade is very sensitive, and if people cannot get the goods they want quickly from one country, they will go to another. All the time we are losing trade, and it seems to me we are losing our exports, which are so essential to our life during this war, by not having a proper head as driving force in connection with our export trade. I know the difficulties the Government have, but I do put it forward to them that they ought to do a great deal more than they have done to get into touch with the Federation of British Industries, take advantage of the help which manufacturers are only too willing to give, and deal with them directly at the earliest possible moment.

The other point I want to deal with is also a matter on which there is very strong feeling on the part of members of the Federation of British Industries. Area organisations are being established by the Minister of Supply. He has got into touch with the trade union leaders, and apparently trade union leaders are going to be on all these organisations. He has also got into touch with the Engineering Employers' Association, who, no doubt, from the labour point of view are also excellent; but he has already got a panel of industrialists which he formed at the very beginning of the war. That panel has never been called together, and its members have never been consulted. At the present moment there appears to be no intention whatever of members of the Federation of British Industries being invited to serve on these area organisa- tions. It is vital that people who know what commodities can be produced, what the value of commodities is, and the extent of the machinery available should be invited to join this body in addition to those already invited. I do ask the Government, here and now, to assure me that these points will be attended to so that the Federation of British Industries may feel satisfied that the help which they are only too willing to give to the Government, and which is at their disposal, shall be used.

5.45 p.m.


My Lords, it so happens, though it seems to be a long time ago, that on September 3 last I was a member of the Government which declared this war by means of an ultimatum delivered, I think, on September 2, and I therefore have a collective responsibility with the rest of the Cabinet for the war which is now being waged and which may prove to be a most serious and desperate struggle. That Cabinet were well aware of the difficulties that lay before us. For my part I had a very plain and clear view as to the aims of the war on which we were embarking. I hope that the Government will not step beyond the aims which have been more than once repeated by the Prime Minister in another place, and I will add that I agree with practically every word that my noble friend Lord Crawford has said with regard to the aims of this war. There are three things which were in my mind, and which are still in my mind, which it may be said are legitimate war aims. They are substantially those which have been already defined. The first thing is to win the war. The second thing is, so far as we can, to right the wrongs which have recently been committed in Europe. The third thing is to obtain security.

It is that conviction that has brought me to take up a few minutes of your Lordships' time this evening, and for this reason. My noble friend Lord Crawford has referred—and as soon as he did so everybody saw the importance of the matter—to the views of the Dominions on war aims and the views of our gallant Ally, France. I have, your Lordships will allow me to say, somewhat peculiar advantages in the matter of getting to know the feeling of the French people, the feeling of the soldiers in the trenches and of the people who are engaged in the armament works in France at the present time. Your Lordships are probably aware that there is an extensive and continuous propaganda going on in France, from Germany, consisting not only of leaflets but also wireless messages and statements endeavouring to sow the seeds of discord between this country and France. It goes on night and day, with the Germans saying all the time, "You are being played with by your Ally, Britain. They do not intend really to support you more than they must. They are leaving for you the brunt of the fight; you know that practically every able-bodied man up to a class over 40 in France has been called up and England have called up" (as they say and it is untrue) "a negligible number of people." They acid that "when the war is over you will find you have been sold, that the British people have let you down." I am saying this, not because in my belief there is word of truth in it—indeed I am convinced that it is only a part of the campaign of lies which the Germans have throughout used in order to wage this war—but because I think, and I may almost say I know, that speeches here and elsewhere all over the country which talk of our war aims and peace aims as if it was for this country to make up its mind on that subject without regard to the feelings, the hopes and the necessities of France, to say nothing for a moment of the Dominions, are doing a great deal of injury to the feelings which ought to subsist between Allies such as France and ourselves.

As I have said, I am not intending to take up more than a minute of your Lordships' time, bit if you want to have references to a vindictive peace, and to say that we must not have a vindictive peace, if you want to enlarge upon the high-minded motives that ought to animate us when the distant day of peace, if it is distant, comes, for heaven's sake add that you do not mean by that that you are not going so far as you can to insist on terms which will enable us and the French, not only for our own lifetimes but for a longer period than that, to live quietly without a fear that this terrible attack will come upon us again. We must be certain, and the French must be certain, that there is not going to be for a long time, as far as human foresight can see, a country in Central Europe that will on some flimsy pretext embark again upon aggression against everybody which seems to them to be unable to protect himself. Those who talk of peace terms as if they could be considered even by reasonable people without regard to the feelings of the French and of the Dominions are most unwise, and those who think that the French will ever consent to any terms which do not give them security in the future are simply crazy.

5.53 p.m


My Lords, the Motion on the Paper covers a wide field, and the noble Lord who moved it pointed out to us how naturally it fell into two comparatively separate compartments. I think that most of the observations that have been addressed to your Lordships this afternoon have been occupied with that part of the Motion that concerns the war and peace aims of His Majesty's Government and the essential principles of a satisfactory and lasting peace. I understand that it will be within the power of those of your Lordships who wish to develop the other side of the Motion to have an interval of two days in which to ponder the general introduction to that side of it that fell from the noble Lord who moved it, and that it will be convenient that that section of the debate should take place in greater detail on Thursday, when we shall have the opportunity of receiving the reply on behalf of the Government from the noble Viscount who sits on the Woolsack.

There was, however, one observation made on that field by the noble Lord opposite, Lord Gainford, to whom I might perhaps at once make one observation by way of reply. I can tell the noble Lord that I shall lose no time in bringing the observations that he made to the attention of my right honourable friend the Minister of Supply, who, I can assure him and those for whom he speaks, has no other desire but to work in as close and intimate harmony with all those concerned in labour and production, whether trade unions or those responsible for the employers' organisations, as he can, and that he and all the Government, not less than anyone else, are anxious at this time to have all the regard possible to the most important question that he raised—namely, that of watching the level and the volume of exports from this country, because we must all surely realise that on that largely depends the financial and economic strength to which we have so much to look.

The debate inside Parliament and outside it on the broad question of what has now come to be known as war and peace aims has ranged widely, and, as I think I said in a debate in this House early last month, His Majesty's Government are always ready to consider all views that are put forward. I find myself in complete agreement with an observation that fell from my noble friend Lord Crawford, when he emphasized the desirability of everyone giving all the thought that he could—privately, be it added—to all the various ramifications of these issues that do or may arise; but I think everyone will have been struck by the very large common measure of agreement that this debate has revealed. I shall have something to say in a moment about the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, who has not infrequently, as this afternoon, spoken in his capacity as the representative of a minority, so far as I could judge, of one.

The distinction that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister drew the other day between peace and war aims is, with all respect to Lord Ponsonby, generally admitted to be valid, and I think that what he said in that connection has secured a very general approval. I was particularly glad that both Lord Crawford and my noble friend Lord Maugham reminded us of the impossibility of this country itself endeavouring to give great detail and precision to those subjects without adequate regard to what may be the feeling, and what may be even in some regards a different feeling, in some of the Dominions or among the Governments of our Allies. That is a consideration of which we must never for a moment lose sight. But I suggest, my Lords, that, after all, the general purposes for which we have taken up arms are perfectly clear. They have been, as I think, defined as far as it is possible for the Government to define them, and I was particularly glad to notice that both the noble Lord who moved and the most reverend Primate shared that view. I really do not think there is any difference of opinion in any quarter now as to their general substance. It is quite possible, as the most reverend Primate said, that some may put the emphasis differently and that, as circumstances change, that may from time to time lead to some variety of expression. But the fundamental purpose remains. When the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, told us, what is no doubt a self-evident truth, that this Government must some day give place to another, I was consoled by the reflection that, unless the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, himself be called upon to form a Government, I do not anticipate that there will be any substantial variation in the war aims of this country in the hands of any Government formed from any responsible quarter in this House.

Perhaps I may for the sake of clarity, however, repeat and summarise in the briefest possible fashion what our purposes appear to me to be. In doing so I shall be perhaps merely putting into different words what fell from my noble friend Lord Crawford in a speech to which the House listened with such evident enjoyment. We desire peoples who have been deprived of their independence to recover their liberties. We desire to redeem the peoples of Europe from this constant fear of German aggression, and we desire to safeguard our own freedom and security. It is quite true, in spite of the fact that it evoked a measure of criticism from the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, to say that we do not seek aggrandisement and we do not seek to redraw the map in our own interests, and still less—although I recognise what can be said about the increasing difficulty of maintaining this position in the hearts of our people as the war goes on—are we moved by any spirit of vengeance. On the contrary, if Germany is able to restore the confidence which she has destroyed, we aim at a settlement which will encourage, her to take her rightful place in Europe, and we wish to create an international order in which all peoples, as we hope, secure under the reign of law, can determine their political and economic life free from the interference of their more powerful neighbours. To this end we would be willing to give our best, in full co-operation with other nations, including Germany, to the work of reconstruction, political and economic, for only so do we believe that the ordered international life of Europe can be preserved.

Now, my Lords, that general frame-work—and it has been said over and over again—will be found in the speeches of members of His Majesty's Opposition just as much as in speeches of those who speak for His Majesty's Government, and in the views expressed in statements made on behalf of the Dominions. It will be found in the declaration of M. Daladier and of French leaders of all Parties, and I do not believe it would meet with dissent in any Allied quarter. These declarations in my judgment may fairly claim to represent what the terms of the Motion describe as "the essential principles of a satisfactory and lasting peace." It may well be that the sacrifices that this war must be expected to impose may lead—and I most devoutly hope that they will lead—to an appreciation of those Christian values of which the most reverend Primate spoke, and lead all men to seek to give more practical application to them in the life of our people. If such are our peace aims and if, perhaps more important, that is the spirit in which we would wish to see them realised, it is perhaps not difficult to see the answer to another question that many people pose, which is perhaps the same question in other words.

What are the precise terms, it is asked—the noble Viscount opposite this afternoon came near to asking this question—what are the precise terms upon which this country would be willing to stop the war to-day? His Majesty the King the other day, in answering the peace proposals of the King of the Belgians and the Queen of the Netherlands, said that it was not his wish nor that of his Government for the war to continue a day longer than was necessary. On what conditions, then, would this country lay down arms? The answer to that question was given by M. Daladier in the speech he made a few days ago. He said that France—and he might have added the United Kingdom—would lay down her arms when she could treat with a Government whose signature could be trusted. She would treat when the wrongs caused to weaker nations could be righted and lasting security established. And he went on to indicate that France must have confidence that this security would endure.

A great many people write to me, as no doubt to many of your Lordships, suggesting that an armistice should be proclaimed and a conference summoned. They say: "You will have to have a conference some time, why wait till after the war? Why not have it before you have to pay all the price that war exacts?" The success of any conference depends upon the conditions of its meeting. The conference method was followed in September, 1938. We were willing to follow it again immediately before this war, if Germany would abandon her intention of invading Poland and would withdraw her troops. Why, in fact, did not the Munich conference secure lasting peace in Europe? Agreement was reached, the most solemn assurances were given, but only six months afterwards Herr Hitler changed his mind, and, as he has so often shown, he can always find excuses satisfactory to himself to justify action which completely contradicts assurances given earlier. That kind of right-about-turn after such solemn undertakings does show that no conference can be securely counted successful unless this habit of disregarding assurances is abandoned. That is a fundamental reversal of what has hitherto been German policy, and it is little use deluding ourselves with wishful thinking about the results to be achieved by conference until the primary lesson has been learnt by those who would take part in it—namely, that force is a bad plan. There is no evidence yet that the German Government have learnt that primary lesson.

Therefore, my Lords, I suggest to you that the two prerequisites for a conference are, first, evidence that the German Government were willing to accept terms which would correspond to the purposes for which we took up arms—and everybody knows what those were—and secondly, security that any settlement reached would be respected. On any other basis a conference, in my judgment, would achieve nothing and would be only likely to enable the leaders of Germany to make their people believe that on the whole the old method of force had not worked too badly. What Lord Noel-Buxton suggested about the importance of showing that aggression had failed would not have been achieved, and the world would in consequence be left in the same precarious and intolerable suspense as we have all known during these last years.

The tale of evil consequence that has flowed from the German example and practice of aggression, as the noble Viscount reminded us, grows. In the last two days we have witnessed what has, as he said, been universally condemned as an inexcusable act of aggression by one of the largest upon one of the smallest but most highly civilised nations of Europe: their open towns bombarded, their women and children mutilated and done to death, on the pretext that a nation of under 4,000,000 had hostile designs against one of 180,000,000. The British people, themselves deeply committed in a struggle against aggression, have I think experienced two deep emotions: they have been profoundly shocked by the circumstances of the Soviet attack, and they have profoundly admired the magnificent resistance of the Finns. It is the case, as the noble Viscount said, that this matter is forming the subject of an appeal to the Council of the League of Nations at the end of this week, to be followed, as I understand, by a meeting of the Assembly on Monday. I can assure him, if it were necessary to do so, that on that occasion His Majesty's Government, by whomsoever represented—and I am afraid I see great difficulties about absenting myself from this country for so many days—will make their position plain.

There are two comments that I would make on this unhappy extension of the conflict, and the first is this. The Russian attack on Finland seems to me to be a direct consequence of German policy. By the agreement which he thought would give him a free hand to attack Poland, it would seem that Herr Hitler bartered what was not his property to barter: the liberties of the Baltic people. The sequence of events has shown how wide is the damage once the floodgates are opened. I know that historical parallels can often be pushed too far, but your Lordships will perhaps forgive me if I remind you of the famous passage in which Lord Macaulay condemns the action of Frederick the Great, because it is not without significance to-day: Till he (Frederick the Great) began the war, it seemed possible even probable, that the peace of the world would be preserved.…To throw all Europe into confusion for a purpose clearly unjust was no light matter.…England was true to her engagements. The voice of Fleury had always been for peace, but the selfish rapacity of the King of Prussia gave the signal to his neighbours. The whole world sprang to arms.…The evils produced by his wickedness were felt in lands where the name of Prussia was unknown, and in order that he might rob a neighbour whom he had promised to defend, black men fought on the coast of Coromandel and red men scalped each other by the Great Lakes of North America. That is not quite irrelevant to the passage of events to-day.

Earlier in the year we had tried to improve our relations with Russia, but in doing so we had always maintained the position that rights of third parties must remain intact and be unaffected by our negotiations. Events have shown that the judgment and the instinct of His Majesty's Government in refusing agreement with the Soviet Government on the terms of formulae covering cases of indirect aggression on the Baltic States were right. For it is now plain that these formulae might well have been the cloak of ulterior designs. I have little doubt that the people of this country would prefer to face difficulties and embarrassment rather than feel that we had compromised the honour of this country and of the Commonwealth on such issues. The other observation that I wished to make was this. Germany used to complain of encirclement, and I remember saying in the summer that if encirclement there was, it was Germany herself who was responsible for it. I little thought when I spoke that we should so soon see Germany extending this operation of self-encirclement in a direction that must surely give the German people food for anxious thought upon the future issue of it.

In the face of these events we have, of course, increasing awareness of the perils that threaten European society as a direct consequence of German policy. I have heard it suggested that immediate peace on almost any terms would be desirable in order to save Western civilisation from worse perils. I venture to think that view is shortsighted. Its fallacy is exposed to my judgment and to my heart by those events in German-occupied Poland, for example, to which my noble friend Lord Crawford drew our attention. Noble Lords will have seen the account in the last few days issued by the Polish Government of the terrible acts of oppression and savagery that have been perpetrated there, and which are condemning daily thousands of Poles to misery and many to death. Nor does that stand alone. We hear much, but we do not hear all, of the tyranny in Prague: and we hear much, but I have no doubt again we do not hear all, of the veiled menace to other countries who as yet preserve their independence and their neutrality intact. These considerations are surely relevant in forming a judgment upon the conduct of the war.

We have recently received protests from certain neutral countries about the measures which we have taken by way of reprisal against German exports, which will, it is claimed, harm neutral interests. These protests will of course be answered with full detail; and it is of course undeniable that hostilities are bound to involve some loss to all countries; but His Majesty's Government have not exceeded the rights given to them by International Law. We do our best to apply our policy with restraint and consideration. We try to alleviate hardships to neutral trade, and nothing that e have done on the sea has brought into peril a single life of any neutral citizen. But Germany has ruthlessly violated neutral rights and destroyed neutral life by indiscriminate sinking of neutral as well as belligerent ships, whether by submarine action or by illegal mines. Her policy clearly threatens both the liberties of neutral countries and the fundamental principles on which their life, just as much as our own, is founded. It is in that light that we have a right to ask neutral countries to judge the actions which are forced upon us through the methods by which the German Government makes war.

It is such considerations as those that have brought our people and their Allies to their present resolve to see this war through. They understand well enough what is at stake. They do not expect an easy victory. They do not underrate the skill and the power and the determination of their enemy. Nor do they count on an early collapse on the enemy's home front. But they do know the quality of their own resolution, and they know that the recognition of the issues at stake will keep that resolution both united and intense. There are some, whom we may honour even if we cannot applaud, who feel that it is both futile and wrong to attempt to exorcise the evil spirit loose in the world to-day by the use of physical force; and if we could be exclusively concerned with what is passing in the nonmaterial sphere we might, I should suppose, all be of one mind. But where physical force is invoked for the destruc- tion of values, moral and material, upon which our very life depends, it is in the last resort only by physical force that the ravages of the evil spirit can be resisted and contained.

But I most whole-heartedly agree with what fell from the noble Lord who moved, when he suggested that that resistance would not by itself achieve our purpose unless, when it had opened the door to the positive work of reconstruction, we were able to enlist much practical wisdom in that great task. The Prime Minister, as he said, referred to this subject in his broadcast address the other day. We do not of course know, as yet, what will be the conditions in which peace is made. It has already been said that a new order in Europe can only come through surrender in some measure by the nations of their sovereign rights in order to clear the way for some more organic union. I do not know that I should go quite so far as my noble friend Lord Stonehaven in condemning all attempts to fashion a new order, but I do agree with him that we only court disaster if we forget that no paper plan will endure that does not freely spring from the will of the peoples that can alone give it vigour and life; and international, like our own national, institutions must be very securely and deeply anchored on reality. I often think that some, in reflecting on the future of these things, are inclined to yield to thoughts of schemes that I cannot myself believe to be immediately practicable. I have sometimes felt that, if he will forgive me for saying so, about some of the proposals that my noble friend Lord Davies has from time to time laid before us in this House. But he would, I have no doubt, agree with me that we must build our Utopia course by course on foundations that are themselves well laid and solid.

Much emphasis has been placed, and rightly placed, upon the thought to be given to the economic side of international collaboration in the future. I would not say more to-day than that His Majesty's Government fully appreciate and recognise the importance of all those issues. It may well be that, from working together to solve concrete problems and difficulties arising in finance and in trade, closer political understanding may spring and may develop. But here again, in considering the future of economic as well as of political collaboration, we must not only keep in line with our Allies and with the Dominions, but also we have to consider the views and the interests of many nations themselves to-day non-belligerent. But if we bear these considerations in mind then we may hope, I think, to get security, and then the reconstruction will, in the words of the Motion, be "wisely planned."

I have only one word more to add. When we see, as we do see wherever we look to-day, the rank growth of the doctrine of brute force in the world, and when we picture to ourselves how, if unchecked, this must choke all the other plants upon which the human race depends for its sustenance and its health, most of us, I think, instinctively recognise that there can be no merely temporary truce or patched-up armistice that would bring no real relief. My Lords, our people are sometimes slow to grasp the full implication of events, or to draw deductions which force upon them the necessity for grave decisions, but their judgment is shrewd and astonishingly sure; and it is just because they have come to see with perfect clarity how im- possible life is to-day on the conditions created by the present rulers of Germany that there is no inconsistency between their passionate desire for peace and their deep determination to see this struggle through until their purpose is attained.


My Lords, I beg to move that this debate be now adjourned.

Moved, That the debate be now adjourned.—(Lord Strabolgi.)

On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly.