§ Debate resumed (according to Order) on the Motion moved last Thursday by Lord Snell, That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty for Papers with reference to the foreign policy of His Majesty's Government.
§ 4.21 p.m.
§ LORD MOTTISTONE
My Lords, when I moved the adjournment of the debate last Thursday, Lord Addington had just concluded a speech in which he made an earnest appeal on high Christian grounds for the policy of conciliation which had been adumbrated (to use that new word) by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. No one could possibly differ from the words Lord Addington used. Nor indeed, as I have read this debate anew, having heard every word that was said, do I think it would be easy for any reasonable man to differ from the words that were said by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and by the subsequent speakers. I trust that I shall not bring the debate down to a lower level, or say anything acutely controversial, but I have one or two things to say, and I hope your Lordships will bear with me while I say them very briefly.
The first is that I am an unrepentant believer in the policy known by another 388 new word which I do not like—the policy of appeasement. I was called to task by my noble friend Lord Cecil, when he said nobody believed in that policy. I said "I do," and I understood him to say that I was one of the untouchables or words to that effect. But I am quite unrepentant. I am quite sure that a conference is better than a war every time. Nor do I for a moment agree that this country sacrificed any essential of honour, still less of material advantage, by what was done at Munich and subsequently. I am convinced that history will record that what was then done, as was accepted at the moment by everyone, was done rightly and wisely and well, and so I stand here an unrepentant believer in conference—as a famous writer in The Times put it "conference before the killing begins." Of course it is right that that should be so. I agree, not that peace was bought at too great a price—I do not think that is in the least true—but that we must make ourselves strong so that as time goes on and other crises arise we shall be ready.
Since those days we have made immense strides. I understand from public statements and what I have learned from Ministers and others, whose opinions and whose knowledge are open to all of us, that the increase in our strength to fight is far greater than we anticipated six months ago. That is all to the good. Not that we believe for a moment in a policy of what is called aggression. I am going to submit that we have got to alter our vocabulary and abandon the word "aggression" altogether. Some years ago our trouble with Italy was all caused because it was known that in certain particulars we were so weak that we were barking up the wrong tree when we tried to pretend we could force agreement; we were not strong enough to do it. Now that has all changed. Now we are strong. Yet I am told on good authority that there is a chance of war because there are those who think that a sudden blow at the heart of the Empire can be so designed and so inflicted that we should be prepared, within a few weeks, to agree to a disgraceful peace, and that there are documents in existence which people have seen which show that that extraordinary delusion exists.
I have had some days to think over what I would address to your Lordships, 389 so I can choose my words. I agree that this extraordinary delusion does really obtain in responsible quarters across the North Sea. I can only give my own experience for what it is worth. Having been for twenty years responsible for raising troops by voluntary enlistment in a great county supplying a considerable portion of the Territorial Forces of this country, and having been in other ways brought into touch with the people of this country on non-party lines as Chairman of the National Savings Association, I can perhaps claim to have rather a unique opportunity of finding out what the mind of our people, men, women and children, is, and I say without hesitation, looking back to the days of 1914, when as Secretary of State for War I had to think of the same things, that the spirit of the people, their determination to join up, is far higher now than it was then. Indeed it is true that it was then most difficult to get the numbers we wanted by voluntary enlistment, whereas now our numbers for voluntary enlistment are overflowing. In almost every county in this land the Territorial Force is up to full strength.
How well we remember the days when we were distressing ourselves, and having discussions with the Opposition—of which the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, had a special cognisance, and of course also the noble Viscount, Lord Runciman, who was in the Cabinet with me—as to whether it was possible to get the people to agree to some form of conscription, and nearly all of us agreed that it would split the country from top to bottom. It was for that reason and not for any political reason that we abandoned any such idea at that time. Now see what has happened. Only this morning I received information from responsible officials who tell me that they themselves were quite astonished that the whole of what is termed conscription was gone through without a hitch of any kind, and that their only embarrassment was that many more people turned up than they thought could possibly attend. Having regard to the number who had already joined up, and to all those who might be in hospital, they had formed a very good estimate of the number, but that estimate was exceeded. My Lords, believe me, in my journeys from end to end of this country, talking to the national savers, a quiet body of people who 390 represent the majority in this land, I find a unanimity of heart and soul among the people of Britain to stand for what they think just and right which is incomparably greater than that shown at any time in my recollection.
Then, if my words might reach across the North Sea, what folly it is to think, when they failed utterly to crush us by surprise attack in those days, that the burning down of some towns, the destruction of beautiful buildings, the killing of women and children, would make our people give in now. I am sure your Lordships will agree with me that just the opposite effect would be the result: the people of this country without exception, would say: "We will never give in, and we will walk forward resolutely right to the end." I have said this because, so far as I know, nobody has pointed out the great change that has come over our people. It is a real change. There is a determination that they will not give in. Now comes the question, Change to what? "And here I plead for a rearrangement, not of our forces but of our vocabulary. Especially I would appeal to the noble Lords, Lord Snell and Lord Addison, that they would not say, "We stand fast for democracy," because that is so embarrassing. Our old ally Portugal and our old friend Turkey, so vital to us in this business, cannot join in that fight. They do not call themselves democracies and do not pretend for a moment to be democracies. And if you are going to pursue this idea and go further into Europe, into another country, how absurd it is to say "We fight for democracy." That is not what we fight for. Still less should we say we are fighting against totalitarian States. Far from it. Our most valuable allies and friends are themselves totalitarian States.
Then what do I suggest? I suggest that we should say, "We stand for, and we should like to call ourselves the head of, a League for Fair Play." That is a very simple English expression, a League for Fair Play, to see that the little man is not done in by the big man. We stand or fall by that. But other people do not understand our language so well. Then I would say this is a League of Humanity. We seek humane methods, as opposed to brutal methods. Believe me, my Lords, if you are going to get people to fight for a cause, von must tell them what we are fighting for in unequivocal terms. If 391 you tell them we are going to fight for democracy against totalitarian States, and they find themselves alongside people who take the opposite view, the thing will be a failure. So, with respect, I say you should form now a League of Humanity. If we must have a lingua franca which all men can understand, I would quote, though its context is not so magnificent as the words, something which was said to me by the late Dr. Butler of Harrow School. He said to me as I was leaving Harrow School: "My boy, let this be your motto" and handed me a paper on which were written words which I can only speak in the way we Harrow boys spoke, and not as Winchester men talk. The words were these: Homo sum; humani nihil à me aliènum puto. I would interpret that as meaning that I am going to stand for any other man of the human species and save him from attack by the big man who is trying to down him in an unjust cause. That is what we are fighting for.
Having defined as best I may the kind of league which I think His Majesty's Government, with the full support of any other Government, should form, I make a further suggestion of which I ventured to send notice to my noble friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. It is a suggestion which I believe is not altogether inopportune. If you are going to say to all these millions of people who are going to be prepared to fight, and will fight, in the cause of humanity, you must give them some idea that you are starting on a new course, a more humane course. I hope your Lordships will not reject this idea at once, because, believe me, other people, infinitely more important than myself, have thought that there is a real point in it. It would be a good plan to ask of all who join this League of Humanity that they should begin by saying "As between ourselves, we foreswear forever the most brutal means of warfare and we will, as far as we can do it, abolish the submarine."
I remember attending a naval review with a very eminent Indian statesman. We looked at the battleships and cruisers and the other surface ships, and he said: "I, as a Buddist, can look at these with some comfort, because in the terrible catastrophes that have befallen mankind in my life—the earthquakes of Messina and Martinique, the floods in China. The 392 earthquakes in Japan—the British Fleet have been foremost in saving human lives. It is true they would have done better without their guns, but they have done their best in the saving, not of tens of thousands, but of hundreds of thousands of lives." Then we came to the submarines and he said: "Can they do any of these things?" and I said "No." He said: "What is their function?" and I said: "To starve and to drown." He said: "Can the submarine do none of these things?" I replied: "Oh no, it is totally unfitted for anything else." He said to me a profound thing, which I quoted to M. Clemenceau and Marshal Foch at the end of the War. He said: "And yet you white men profess and call yourselves Christians." It is profoundly true that every submarine which swims on the sea is a sign to all and sundry that our Christian professions are as nought. Suppose you said to each of those who joined this League of Humanity: "We are going to stand together. Let us begin by saying we will abate the most acute horrors of war. Hitherto we have been saying that we will foreswear war altogether. That has not worked very well. Let us do what was done long years ago in the days of chivalry. Let us begin by stopping the most brutal and horrible things." I think really that gives a better chance. Foolish men have said: "Oh, no. The nations will never stop at anything." That is not true, because they have not killed their prisoners. Whether from fear of consequences or from inherent recoiling from a thing so base, they have not killed their prisoners. They have not, in fact, poisoned the water supplies of whole countries, though they could have done so.
Let us, I respectfully submit, begin in this way and say to our friends: "Abandon submarines." I know that some here will say at once: "Oh, but you are thinking of the days when that nearly came about, at the time of the Treaty of Versailles, when we know you took a leading part"—as I did, because I was one of the delegates at Versailles. It has been said—I saw in yesterday's Press an eminent sailor repeating it—that the submarine is the weapon of the weaker Powers, so that no one will ever agree to that so long as England has a predominant Fleet, and as England must have a predominant Fleet in order 393 to survive, you never can do it. The thesis is untrue. I see before me a man who knows that I am not speaking without the book when I say that the advance of science in the detection and destruction of submarines has got to such a point that it is true to say that only those who have a preponderance of surface ships can use the submarine weapon. I will quote here one who is perhaps our greatest military genius, whose name I will give to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, though I am not entitled to give it to your Lordships. He said to me not long ago, in good, simple words, all the facts having been placed before him—among others by Lord Chatfield, whom I see here—"The submarine is as dead as the dodo." He added "Given the money." The money has been provided. It is an emphatic way of stating what is in fact a truth. Given the predominance in surface ships, modern science and certain developments which I need not here particularise have made it true to say that, although it is the fact that certain other Powers have a new technique of building submarines which enables them to turn out such a vessel at least twice as fast as could have been done a few years ago, modern technique has provided us, and all those who do not like the submarine, with a method to destroy them far more quickly than they can be produced if they attempt to function in the open sea.
I say this because I challenge contradiction in suggesting that now is a time when you can make a proposition for the abolition of submarines and submarine warfare without being countered by the statement that it is the weapon of the weaker Power. It is not; it is the weapon of the stronger Power, and the stronger a Power in surface ships, the greater is the power for mischief of its submarines. The weaker the Power in surface ships, the more dangerous is it for it to attempt to use the submarine. If this suggestion should commend itself to my noble friend—I hope he will not completely reject it; there are, I know, others who would not reject it—it might open the way to this Humanitarian League, asking the others to join us. There would be only three men who would have to say, "Well, we agree to it"—only two in Europe and one in the Pacific: the Emperor of Japan, the King of Italy, and the Chancellor of Germany. If those were to say 394 "We agree," at once the dream that we all dreamed in 1919 might come true—it nearly did come true—and all the submarines in the world could be towed out into deep water and sunk in a thousand fathoms. It might happen. I say nothing of Spain, because it is well known that Spain would naturally agree to such a proposition, exhausted as she is by such a terrible struggle and only too anxious to recuperate in peace. Nor need I refer to the United States, because we know full well from his previous utterances that the President of the United States would be the first to join if such a proposal were acceded to.
And, of course, once that were done, although the League of Humanity might not yet have come to an agreement with the other States, we might go further—who knows?—and say: "Why should we not do this for the long-range bomber, before the killing begins and before we all become troglodytes, before all the squares in our towns are filled up with trenches with difficulty freed from water, before we all go stark, staring mad, so that they will say in the future that there was not a sane man amongst us?" We might agree not to do this foolish thing, especially, to come back to the thesis which I first put before your Lordships, as nothing of that kind can destroy the heart, soul and spirit of the British people, and, I vow, not of the French people either. On those lines—and if they are perhaps novel now, I submit that they are worthy of consideration—we might well proceed.
There is one more subject, and then I have done. It is proposed by a member of your Lordships' House, Lord Hardinge of Penshurst, in to-day's Times that we might well revive the Ministry of Propaganda. Of course we all know that certain preliminary steps have been taken to that end. Now I would plead that if we do revive the Ministry of Propaganda, it should be confined strictly to telling the truth. I implore His Majesty's Government, and I will ask the Foreign Secretary, to assure me that they have no intention of supporting a Ministry of Propaganda countering lie with lie.
SEVERAL NOBLE LORDS: Hear, hear.
§ LORD MOTTISTONE
That way danger lies. I speak of what I know in this matter. In common with ever so 395 many whom I am addressing, I spent long years with fighting troops on the Western Front, and I also served on other fronts. We know what the soldiers thought: all these lies disseminated by the different propagandas of the different countries did infinitely more harm than good. There was one particular, damnable lie which, if it had been true, would have made it impossible for us ever to shake hands with our enemies again. I remember so well when it was brought to me, and I see one here to whom it was also brought. I said then: "That is a lie." I asked my colonels—I had then a considerable force—to meet me, and I said: "Are you prepared to issue this to the troops under your command?" They answered "No! No, Sir; even if you order us, we will not do it; it is a lie." And they used various expletives about the lie which, as they were Canadians, I cannot possibly reproduce in your Lordships' House!
I implore the Government not to be led astray—and there are people who want to do that. Let all the propaganda be open and above-board; but let every effort be made to make the people of other countries understand the truth. Let them realise that, far from brutalities happening in Palestine, there the example of restraint set by our troops in most difficult circumstances has been almost the most remarkable thing in these post-War years. Let all that be said. But to try to tell lies, or even to vilify the enemy—that way danger lies, and it may well make peace impossible and war certain. I hope that nothing I have said will in any way make the situation more difficult or dangerous—I hope not. I hope the noble Viscount, when he speaks, will very kindly give me an answer to the two questions that I have asked him. I believe that if we keep our heads and our tempers, there is no doubt that the next harvest that we shall await will not be a harvest of blood and tears, but a harvest of peace and good will.
§ 4.49 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT STONEHAVEN
My Lords, the speech of the noble Lord—in its beginning, at any rate—was a very fitting continuation of the speech made by my noble friend on Thursday, and I would suggest that few even of those of us who have had the longest Parliamentary experience 396 can have listened to a speech which more faithfully presented British ideals or gave a more accurate account of the British aims and objects than the speech made by my noble friend on that occasion. In addition to presenting a view which I believe to be shared not only by the overwhelming majority of our fellow-countrymen but also by our fellow-countrymen overseas, who find expression in their own Parliaments, the speech was an appeal to a world that shows obvious signs of incipient madness, to pause and take stock of the situation while still in a position to do so, and quite rightly it promised our wholehearted co-operation in any genuine and sincere attempt to find a peaceful solution for the many intricate problems which darken the international horizon.
At the same time, my noble friend, I think, laid proper emphasis on the fact, which is just as important as our desire for peace, that if the leaders of other countries are determined to submit their case and their countries to the arbitrament of war, there are principles and interests for which we will fight, and that we have complete confidence in the result. I am afraid that in the present state of the world it is unfortunately true that the last part of my noble friend's speech was the most important, because the most urgent matter at the moment appears to be to find an effective deterrent against the continuation of the practice, which has been adopted with success in recent years, of solving questions by the sudden threat of employing overwhelming force. No one can doubt, and no one does doubt, our readiness to talk, but there is only too much reason to think that widespread doubts exist as to our willingness and readiness to fight, and surely nothing can be more important than to make quite certain that the world does not repeat the tragic mistake of July, 1914, in that respect.
But even if that is achieved, it will not solve the world's difficulties. At the best, it can only provide an opportunity for a genuine attempt to solve them by peaceful means rather than by war. Even so, what an immense gain that would be, and in that connection the speech of my noble friend who has just sat down raised another part of my noble friend's speech on Thursday—namely, the importance of each side trying to understand the other's point of view. If the noble Lord opposite 397 can really get the idea of fair play into the heads of those who may conceivably be our opponents, he will have done a very great work, but it is not going to be easy, and if one approaches the situation from the angle of endeavouring to inform one's self of the opinions of those who may be opposed to us, the immense difficulties of the task at once become apparent, and that for the very obvious reason that over a very wide area of the Continent of Europe the usual channels through which public opinion normally finds expression have been closed—the public Press and the platform. Dr. Goebbels is reported to have proclaimed his intention of making all Germans think as one man. With an intelligent and highly gifted race like the Germans, that is, of course, impossible, but what apparently can be done, and appears indeed to have been done, is to make the newspapers all write as one man, and a study of the German and Italian Press at the moment is not very encouraging.
When one draws on private sources of information which are open to those of us who have Italian and German friends, one finds that a view is widely held by both Germans and Italians who are by no means hostile to us, and who certainly do not want war, that it is unreasonable on our part, having acquired a world-wide Empire, largely by conquest, to stand in the way of other nations who feel that their necessities compel them to imitate our example. Another view was expressed to me recently by a young Nazi. I asked him whether he and his contemporaries really wanted war, and I added that my question was due to the widely-held impression that the attitude of Germany, to-day, bore a remarkable resemblance to the German attitude before the outbreak of war in 1914. His reply was that he and his contemporaries did not want war, but had no fear of war. They felt, he told me, that it was essential that a great country should be strong in order that in the event of its failing to satisfy what it looked upon as legitimate demands by negotiation, it should be powerful enough to achieve its object by force of arms.
There is another view held on the Continent, which was well described in an interesting article by Commander King-Hall in the Press on Saturday, where he pointed out that the idea of 398 encirclement was being preached in season and out of season in Germany. We all remember that that is precisely what happened in the years previous to 1914. The new factor appears to be that, in order to meet the undoubted fact that it would be just as hard to lead Germans on to an aggressive war as it would be easy to rally the whole country in defence of the Fatherland, the proper answer to encirclement is deemed to be counter-encirclement. I believe those are the views which are widely held abroad, and it is right and proper that the remarks of my noble friend below me, and of my noble friend opposite, as to our determination being far more universal than it was in 1914, should be equally well understood. If that happens I can see no ground why reason should not prevail in the long run. We live certainly in the days of miracles, that is to say, things happen which a year ago no one in his wildest moments would have dreamed could happen. Is there any reason why we should not enter upon a good time in the future?
There is another point which is germane to the subject—namely, the point of view of ourselves and of other countries, to which I would like to turn for a moment, and ask my noble friend below me some questions. The Prime Minister recently stated in a speech in another place that it was incumbent upon us to make our position clear and unmistakable, whatever might be the result, but unfortunately he followed that up, some six weeks later, with another speech in which he pointed out that the Colonial question would have to play a part in laying down the conditions in which a settled peace could be established, and he stated in that connection that there were many concessions which might without too great difficulty be made if one could be certain that they would not be used to bolster up some strategic aim. I read those words with disquiet. I wondered what inference would be drawn abroad from those remarks of the Prime Minister. I wondered what inference we ought to draw from them ourselves—and among ourselves I include in particular our fellow subjects, native, British and Indian, who inhabit the Colonies in question, and who suffer from the unique disability within the Empire that they are not represented in any of our Parliaments.
399 If I crave your Lordships' indulgence in representing their case, which of course I cannot claim to do in anything but a perfectly private capacity, I would venture to do so on the ground of an association with tropical Africa which began immediately after the Battle of Omdurman, and extends therefore, with interruptions, over a period of more than forty years. No one who has had that experience can fail to have developed a genuine liking for the African native, and a great admiration for the officials and soldiers who spend a great part of their lives in Africa, and for the pioneers whose energy and enterprise have been responsible for the development of the natural resources of that great Continent. There have been mistakes without doubt, but, taking it by and large, we are entitled to be extremely proud of the work of our fellow countrymen in Africa, and the raising of the standard of living of the African has been something which nobody could possibly have foreseen forty years ago.
I had the experience only the other day of driving in a car along a road close to a place where, forty years ago, I remember encountering a perfectly naked black man armed with a spear, followed by a wife dressed in the same costume, carrying on her head all the family chattels. Well, I met possibly the grandchildren of that couple, the boy dressed up to the nines on an up-to-date motor bicycle, with his girl on a pillion behind him, exactly the same as a couple you might meet, except for the difference in colour, on the outskirts of any of our cities. I asked four people of experience—a District Commissioner, an experienced settler, a Roman Catholic Archbishop, the head of the missionaries, and a young man just out from Oxford—how much of all this change was mere change and how much represented progress and real improvement. The men whose opinions counted most, the settler and the District Commissioner, said it was at least fifty-fifty. The missionary put it considerably higher, and of course the young man from Oxford, who had had no opportunity of studying the question, bluntly said: "You cannot arrest the march of progress." He will learn more about that very quickly.
The situation as these people see it is that the Prime Minister has expressed the 400 view that in certain circumstances many concessions might be made, and it is not unreasonable that they should feel that any concessions can only be made at their expense. On the other hand, we have all read the reported demand of the German Chancellor for the return of the Colonies which he says were stolen from Germany. It is safe to infer that so long as that sort of language is used the prospect of any sort of understanding must be small indeed. But taking an optimistic point of view, and assuming, as we are entitled to assume, that the efforts of the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister persuade the countries involved to discuss their differences in a reasonable frame of mind, what sort of concessions are we in fact prepared to make in regard to the Colonies? I should be glad if my noble friend could enlighten me on this subject, because I can assure him that my post-bag makes it clear that I am by no means alone in feeling anxious about it. At the same time I hasten to assure him if he feels he cannot answer me, that I recognise of course that in times such as we live in it is he alone who can judge what it is proper to say or not to say.
But I do beg leave to point out this. We have assumed heavy responsibilities towards the native inhabitants of the territories involved. You cannot destroy a whole system and replace it with another system, and then leave the whole thing to go back as it was. It will not go back. The situation of these territories gives them capital importance to us from the strategic point of view; their retention is as important to us from the point of view of defence of Imperial communications as their possession would be important to a hostile Power as bases from which those communications might be cut. The main reason for the retention of the Colonies conquered from Germany after the war was strategic. In view of the unparalleled efforts which we are devoting to the strengthening of our defence forces at home, is there any sense in contemplating the possibility of surrendering vital strategic points abroad? The answer seems to me to be so indubitable that it seems hardly necessary to ask the question. In that case what concessions can the Prime Minister have had in mind? Already under the mandatory system Germany, in common with other nations, enjoys equal economic advantages with ourselves. She is on complete equality 401 with ourselves, except from the point of view of sovereignty. Her demand is quite clearly that we should surrender the sovereign powers which we now hold. I hope that it may be taken for granted that His Majesty s Government do not contemplate this as a possibility.
In conclusion may I urge this point in extenuation of a speech of unaccustomed length so far as I am concerned? It is possible to visualise a situation arising where the only obstacle to the establishment of an enduring peace may appear to be the sovreignty of the former German Colonies. We ourselves are only involved to the limited extent covered by the territories which we now hold subject to a Mandate under the League of Nations; that is to say Tanganyika, a small part of the Cameroons, and Togoland. France, Belgium, South Africa., Australia, New Zealand, and Japan all bold former German territories under similar conditions. We obviously cannot speak for them. But the danger that I see is this, that it is quite possible that we may be accused of jeopardising the prospects of enduring peace by obstinately clinging in a dog-in-the-manger spirit to a few hundred thousand square miles of African desert of which we already hold far more than our share. I suggest that criticism of that kind is on all fours with the "Danzig is not really worth a war" attitude. It strikes me as a dangerous and misleading half-truth. At the end of the last century we very nearly came to blows with France over the Sudan. We stood firm on that occasion, and reason prevailed then. It would be tantamount to admitting the bankruptcy of civilisation and statesmanship to believe that reason will not prevail in almost similar circumstances again.
§ 5.9 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
My Lords, I do not propose to follow the speech of my noble friend Lord Stone-haven in dealing, as he did, with one particular aspect of this problem, the Colonial question, which no doubt will have to be dealt with, but does not appear to me to be one of the questions which it is urgently necessary for the Government and the House to settle at this moment. Nor am I going to take up the challenge that my noble friend Lord Mottistone delivered to me to justify a rather hasty observation I made in reply 402 to an interruption by my noble friend. He will forgive me for saying that this habit of interruption does occasionally lead to such unfortunate results.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
Both. I propose to confine myself to the very striking and impressive speech which the Foreign Secretary delivered on Thursday. That raised completely the real questions we have to consider at this moment. He began his speech by dealing with two or three special questions. I do not propose to say anything about them, except as to China. He quoted with very legitimate pride the statement that Dr. Wellington Koo had thanked him for his sympathetic attitude at Geneva. I have the great honour of the acquaintance of Dr. Wellington Koo, and I am quite sure he would have thanked my noble friend whatever he had said, feeling that that was only a decent civility from the Chinese point of view. But I do not believe there is very much difference of opinion between my noble friend and myself about this question of China, except on one point.
I imagine he would agree that the controversy which is raging in the terrible war in the Far East is precisely the same controversy as is waging—fortunately without war—at this moment in Europe. It is the great question which we have got to settle, and which I look upon with the greatest anxiety, as I believe everyone in your Lordships' House looks upon it—is it legitimate for a country to make aggression on another country in order to carry out what it regards as its material or even political interests? Ought there to continue that which always used to exist—namely, the right of war on the part of any sovereign State? I believe that is the real issue with which we have to deal, and that is certainly the issue which is being fought out in the Far East. It is the attack, the aggression, the invasion by Japan of China, carried out with a ruthlessness which must be the subject of admiration from a certain school in Germany, but which I am glad to believe would be impossible, even nowadays, in Europe. I know the immense difficulty about doing anything about China. It would be indiscreet if I were to dwell on it in detail. That, indeed, is a matter entirely for the Government to deal with, but I should 403 be glad if my noble friend could give us the assurance, not only that he is sympathetic with China, which I am sure everyone in this House is, in the terrible position in which she is placed, but that he recognises, if there is any possibility, and so far as there is any possibility, we ought to do everything to assist China to drive back the Japanese invasion from her shores.
That is all I desire to say on the special points with which my noble friend dealt, but I do want to say a few things about the general policy as outlined in the extraordinarily interesting and, to me, extraordinarily persuasive speech which he delivered. If I understand my noble friend rightly, he considers there are two main chapters, as it were, of our foreign policy. The first is to resist and prevent aggression as far as we can. I will not quote his words, but I have the speech here and I was delighted when he put it in a very general phrase. I naturally am in entire agreement with that. The Covenant of the League of Nations, which I have spent some time now in considering and advocating, rests indeed on that theory, almost principally—the objection to a resort to war in pursuit of either a righteous or unrighteous cause unless everything possible has been done to try and settle the difficulty by agreement. Therefore I have no kind of criticism to make of that part of my noble friend's speech. He then goes on to say that the other great aspect of foreign policy must be our readiness to deal by negotiation and discussion, or, I suppose he would say, by arbitration or mediation or any other way, with any international difference that may arise. There, again, of course, I am entirely in agreement with him. Although I see questions have been raised as to whether it was judicious at this moment to put that forward quite so definitely as he did, I think he is very likely to be a better judge of that than his critics, especially with the information that he has at his disposal. I doubt whether it is ever indiscreet or undesirable to state what you believe to be fundamentally the truth, and I believe that to be fundamentally the truth. So far I am in entire agreement with the policy my noble friend advocated.
Now we come to the methods by which that policy is to be carried out. As to the resistance of aggression, he advocated 404 what is now conveniently called the peace bloc. He had the general support of the House in that advocacy except, I noticed, from my noble friend Lord Phillimore, who was unhappy, as I understand, because he thought Russia was to be brought into the peace bloc. As to the desirability of that on material grounds I am afraid I take a different view altogether from Lord Phillimore on that point, and I cannot help thinking that the fact that the possible aggressors are so very anxious that Russia should not come into the peace bloc must be a pretty good ground for thinking she will be an important factor if she does come in. I am not going to argue the question of Russia at any length, but I would like to say a word regarding the position of those who hold the view that we ought not to receive assistance in the cause of peace from a country like Russia, not, I hope, because her economic views are different from ours—because that would be a ridiculous ground—but because she takes a different view, unhappily, on questions of religion. I cannot see why that should be so. If Russia is prepared to help us to do what is right, I cannot see that we are justified in not accepting, and indeed in asking for that acceptance, because she holds other views which we are confident are wrong. If that view is to be held, I wonder why Lord Phillimore raised no objection to the entry of Turkey into the peace bloc though he did raise strong objection to the entry of Russia. On that kind of ground I see no distinction between Russia and Turkey.
I pass from that, and come to the more serious, more thoroughgoing objection of Lord Ponsonby. He said—and I was delighted to hear him say it—that he greatly preferred the League's system to the system of the peace bloc. So do I, very much. I prefer it because it is a permanent device for dealing with all aggression and not only with the immediate emergency in which we are engaged now. If we are to go on in Europe, I am perfectly clear myself that we have got to have some permanent machinery by which aggression will be stopped, not merely by a hastily summoned alliance of countries who fear a particular aggression, but as a general principle in international affairs. My noble friend the Foreign Secretary rather suggested that his difficulty was that the League was not effective. I am quite certain, if he will 405 forgive my saying so, that if this country had put into the maintenance and support of the League half the energy and vigour and courage which it has put into organising the peace bloc, the League would have answered and worked admirably and perfectly well. And I think it would have had great advantages. Not only is it permanent but it has the immense advantage that it is not directed against any particular country. I know it is said that the peace bloc is there to stand against any aggression. Unfortunately, owing to the circumstances in which it has been formed, it is, obviously, almost a bloc to resist Germany, and that opens up—I will not say the whole but a large part of the difficulties in which we find ourselves with regard to that country.
So far, therefore, though I am afraid I do not go very far with my noble friend Lord Ponsonby, he and I are agreed in preferring the League system to the peace bloc system, but it would be very unfair to him if I suggested that that was the main view he held. He believes in total disarmament and a completely pacifist policy. I suppose anyone who has thought about it at all would agree with him that if such a policy were practicable—that is to say, if you could induce all countries in the world to abandon armaments and rely solely on discussion—that would be an immense improvement in the world, a fresh birth of civilisation; but I see no prospect of it. We have seen in a very recent case indeed what happens to a country when it is put into the position of being totally unable to defend itself. What happened in the case of Czecho-Slovakia? In spite of the challenge of my noble friend Lord Mottistone, I am not going again into the question whether she was rightly induced or wrongly induced, but she was induced to abandon her effective defences. Her line of defence was handed over to Germany, her arms were handed over to Germany, all her money was handed over to Germany, and she was absolutely powerless. And then what hapened? Not that Germany treated her any better, but immediately took the opportunity of marching into Prague and, in effect, annexing the whole of the country. With all respect to my noble friend Lord Ponsonby, I am not prepared to put my country in the same position as Czecho-Slovakia.
406 I cannot help feeling that nowadays, as the world is, force is essential, inevitable and unavoidable. What I do say—and I do beg my noble friend to consider very carefully whether he does not ultimately agree that this is so—is that it is far better that that force should be controlled and regulated by a great international authority than that it should be left entirely at the disposition and control of each country, merely anxious to use it for its own purposes. That seems to me the only difference that remains between my noble friend and myself.
So much for the question of aggression. May I just say a few words about the point of negotiation? As I have said, I am strongly in favour of negotiation on any subject provided, as the Foreign Secretary made quite clear, that the negotiation is carried on in a really peaceful atmosphere, without any threat by one side or the other. But my difficulty about the Foreign Secretary's system is that he contemplates—probably he would tell me it is the only practicable thing—bilateral negotiation with Germany. I do not think that is going to be a successful way of dealing with the difficulty with which we are faced. I think it is true to say that Germany—and of course by Germany I mean in this case the Government of Germany, for I cannot tell what the people think, though I can hope they do not take the same view as their Government—that the Government of Germany do not take fundamentally the same view as we do of these international questions, and that is the real difficulty. I do very earnestly urge upon my noble friend and noble Lords in all parts of the House to consider that aspect of the case, because, unless we get clear about that, we shall not be able to deal with this subject by any kind of negotiation, and we are almost certain to drift into war.
It is not the case that Germany and we think broadly alike, that Germany has certain grievances of a special, specific and definite character, and that if you could only remove those grievances we should all be able to work together for a common purpose in a common way. Unhappily, I do not believe that that is a true account of the situation at the present time. I believe not only this Government of Germany but all the Governments of Germany of which I have any knowledge, from the time of 407 Frederick the Great downwards, have taken an entirely different view. Their view has always been that the nation's right depends upon its strength, and that the only real test of whether a national action is justifiable or not is whether the country which carries it through is able to carry it through. I know that sounds very shocking to British ears, but I am convinced that it is the position. They have erected the State into a kind of semi-divine position. That is my view; it may be wrong; but if I am right you will never understand the German position unless you recognise that they believe the State to be a semi-divine institution which it is wrong and wicked for any of its subjects to oppose, which makes its own law for itself, and says that what the State intends to do, and makes clear that it intends to do, becomes right by that fact alone. I may put this too strongly, but I believe, broadly speaking, that is right.
I was interested in the account—I am afraid he has left the House for a moment—that Lord Stonehaven gave of a conversation with a Nazi friend, because it was really very much what I have been saying, that when you came to examine what the Nazi meant it was consistent with the explanation I have given and consistent with no other. What the Nazi said, in effect, was: "We do not desire war, but if we cannot get what we wish without it, then we are not afraid of it." In other words they say: "The whole thing is: Are we strong enough? Have we the power to carry out what we believe to be in the country's interests? For us that is perfectly right, and if it means war we see no reason why we should not indulge in it." It is for that reason that I doubt very much whether in the existing circumstances there is any prospect of your getting to a real settlement by bilateral conversations with Germany. I think you have far more chance if you can bring the whole world into these discussions, or at any rate a large section of it.
I felt myself in sympathy with what Lord Darnley said earlier in his demand for a conference. I agree with the Foreign Secretary that to start a conference in the old form of international conference just now without preparation, without any investigation as to what the conference would probably do, would not 408 be wise. But if you had kept the League in active operation, you would not have had to deal with that. There it would be permanently ready to your hand. At any moment you could go to what is in effect a conference of all the civilised Powers and ask them whether they saw some way out of the difficulty. I was interested to observe that my noble friend Lord Mottistone is in favour of a new League, which he calls the League of Humanity. I did not quite make out what its methods of operation were to be, or what its functions were to be, except that it was to defend the small Powers, which I admit seems to be a little astonishing from a noble Lord who so warmly defends what happened with reference to Czecho-Slovakia. But putting that aside, he asked for a League of Humanity, one of its duties being the abolition of the submarine and of bombardment from the air. I wish I could bring myself to believe that any such policy had even an outside chance of success. I am quite sure that if you abandon your present League and start to construct a new one, you will come to grief.
There are other suggestions with which I will not deal, because they have not been advanced in this debate. I prefer to come back to what I understand to be the policy of His Majesty's Government. They say: "Yes, the League is right. We would like to see it effective. We still believe that the broad principles on which it is founded are right. We have already defended our action at Geneva on the ground that we are doing nothing that is inconsistent with the broad principles of the League. But at present"—this I understand is their view—"it is more practical to proceed with the peace bloc, even though that cannot be a permanent solution of the difficulties of Europe." I am very much afraid of that policy. If it fails, of course we are in another war, and anything may happen, though I think even then even the nominal existence of the League would still be of value. But suppose it succeeds, and gradually there is a diminution of tension and we get back to something like the position we were in before the War of 1914. Do you think then would be the best time to try and set up again a League which you had allowed to drift still further downhill during the intervening period? I am afraid you 409 would find it far more difficult even than at the present time, infinitely more difficult than it would have been if the Government had pursued at an earlier stage a vigorous policy such as I am venturing to indicate at this moment. I believe there is still a chance, but there is no further time to be lost if you are going to aim at setting up a permanent organisation for peace in the world—and what a magnificent thing it would be if it could be done! If you are really going to aim at that, to aim at re-establishing the broad principles of the League—I do not care about the modification of this or that Article, that is a small matter—I am quite sure you have no time to lose. You must begin now with your first steps in that direction, and your first step should be to see that where there is any possibility of utilising the machinery of the League you should utilise it and put the whole force of this country and her allies behind it. That is the only way in which you will recreate the authority and the prestige of the League, without which I very much fear you may not be able to deal with the terrible difficulties before us.
§ 5.35 p.m.
My Lords, I rise to deal more particularly with the Far Eastern situation, but before doing so may I join with those who have congratulated my noble friend Viscount Halifax on his speech last Thursday, a speech which I believe has been unequalled in this House in many respects? I confess that some of the implications of that speech have left me a little uncertain, but in these days when events move so rapidly, when crises follow each other so quickly, I do not think it is fair to ask the Foreign Secretary to define too closely policy in regard to what may happen a few months hence. But I do agree with him that whilst we are rearming, and rearming as rapidly as we can, we should make every effort we can to negotiate a permanent peace. In the meantime I think there are very few in this country who would be so bold as to question the policy of the Government in connection with the non-aggression pacts which have recently been set up. I go even so far as to support the pact with Russia, so long as that is not in any way turned into a military alliance. I think we are extremely fortunate in 410 having Mr. Neville Chamberlain to-day as our Prime Minister and the noble Viscount, Lord Halifax, as Foreign Secretary. I congratulate them most warmly on the magnificent work they have done during the past year and the magnificent work which they are performing to-day.
Let me now turn to the Far East, which is the reason why I have risen to-day. In the past two months I have made several speeches on the war between China and Japan, and upon the last occasion I ventured to say that the position was growing worse. To-day I would venture to say that the position is worse than ever. The Yangtze valley, that traditional area of British trade, is entirely closed, and continues to be closed, to outside trade in spite of the fact that the Japanese are trading there all the time. Currency and trade restrictions continue. I referred only six weeks ago to the fact that they are becoming worse. The Yokohama Specie Bank have now created a dollar with the same value as the national dollar—equivalent to eightpence in English money—and are insisting that wherever possible this dollar should be used as against foreign currency. They are having some success in this regard, because European merchants have to obtain a living and in many instances they are being forced to use that new currency instead of the old national currency which had a circulation throughout the world.
Then there is the question of trade from Shanghai to British ports. The United States for the past thirty years, France and our Dominions, have all insisted upon consular certificates being given for any goods which are exported from Shanghai on the basis that they have been financed by financial arrangements which are open to everybody. The Japanese are using our ships to carry goods under conditions which are quite contrary to that usage. I wish to ask the noble Viscount to take such steps as will arrange that in future British consular certificates shall be given on all goods exported from Shanghai to British ports. I know there is a question about how that may be done: I am advised that an Order in Council would suffice for that purpose.
But I come to a far more serious side to this situation. Grave anxiety is now being caused all over China among 411 British residents by the truculence of the Japanese soldiers and sailors to our nationals. In Tientsin, indeed, the Japanese have instituted a blockade of the Settlement. I have it on good authority that they have placed barbed wire round the British concession, and they are reported to have put guards on the concession exits in such a position as to isolate it completely. I understand that certain ships belonging to our nation, the United States and France are taking steps to remove that blockade; but I should like to ask my noble friend what it is intended to do in that regard and how we are going to resist this new form of pressure, as I might call it, on the part of the Japanese. I would make this suggestion: that His Majesty's Government should immediately inform the Japanese Government that in reprisal for the blockade in Tientsin, Japanese ships shall be denied the use of the ports of Singapore and Penang for the transit of their goods. That would be a perfectly legal action, as I understand it, under International Law, and unless we are going to use military force, we must use some action of that kind if we are to counter what Japan is doing in China to-day to our nationals and our trade.
Then I come to Shanghai. Quite recently in Shanghai there was the case of the British mill manager who was bayoneted by Japanese soldiers at Pootung, which is close to Shanghai. That unfortunate man was refused all medical aid for a number of hours and has subsequently died as a result of his wounds. Not only that, but he was refused permission to see the British Consular representative in order to represent his case. I understand that certain representations have been made by His Majesty's Government to the Japanese authorities in regard to this case, but I should like to know whether it is the intention of His Majesty's Government to press this case and to exact all reparation for this unwarrantable and brutal act.
Then there is the case of our military attaché, Lieut.-Colonel Spear, who, it is reported as late as to-day, is still being held by the Japanese on the ground that he is a spy. I should like to ask my noble friend what it is proposed to do in that case, and what right the Japanese have to arrest one of our military 412 attachés on any ground whatsoever without referring to the General Officer commanding our troops in that quarter of the world. It is really inconceivable that such a state of affairs could have been reached in that part of the world. I wonder how long it is going on and when it is going to be stopped, and what His Majesty's Government propose to do in order to affect it. Just at this moment, when all these cases are going on, rumours—and very strong rumours at that—are rife that one of the two battalions quartered in Shanghai is to be removed in September. The two battalions that are there are hardly sufficient to guard the perimeter of that Settlement. If one were withdrawn it is quite certain that the Japanese would take that as a sign of waning interest on the part of His Majesty's Government and the British people in this question, and probably make it an excuse for the seizure of the International Settlement, as they are trying to do at Tientsin and Amoy.
It is not, so far as I can learn, an idle rumour that the Japanese have in view the seizure of Shanghai. July 7 is a danger date, for it is the date of the second anniversary of the Sino-Japanese war. I venture to suggest to my noble friend that it would be wise not to deplete the forces in Shanghai, if that rumour be true, but to strengthen them, and to send further ships to Shanghai in order to prevent any seizure, if that is contemplated. I further venture to suggest to my noble friend that such action should be taken in consultation with the American authorities and French authorities, both of whom have the deepest interest in the maintenance and the integrity of the International Settlement at Shanghai. I am told that the Japanese seem to think that their best way of coping with what they call the anti-Japanese campaign in China is to take possession of those Chinese who are protected by the foreign flags. That is why they are now taking their action in Tientsin, why they have done what they are doing in Amoy, and why they may do what it is stated they have in view to do in Shanghai. If this were the case, what would be the result? The trade of Shanghai would decrease to practically nil, because obviously all the Chinese in the Settlement would as soon as possible leave it and retire to the interior of 413 China. In that event trade would evaporate very largely, and the £200,000,000 of investments which this country has in Shanghai would become mere waste paper.
The war has gone on so long, and there has been so little resistance on the part of England and the United States to the many Japanese acts of interference and trampling on the rights of British and American subjects, that the people of Japan believe that they can take any steps they like, to-day, in order to prosecute the war. With that object they would seize the International Settlements, and they believe that it is their right to do so. That may be their view, but it is not our view, and I submit that we should take every step possible to prevent such action, especially in Shanghai. There is no doubt that the situation in Shanghai is very serious and very critical. I cannot urge too strongly upon His Majesty's Government, again, the necessity for strengthening our forces there, and of strengthening our naval forces in the vicinity as well, as I have said before, in consultation and, I hope, co-operation with the United States and France.
Let it be remembered that a very important part of the British Empire lies in the Pacific Ocean. Any such step as the occupation of Shanghai by Japan would mean a vital blow not only to this country but to Australia, New Zealand and Canada, and to the British Empire as a whole. Apart from trade it would signify loss of prestige and power in the East which could never be regained. In China no British subject would ever be able to hold up his head again. I appeal to the Government, with all the force at my command, to prevent this shame falling upon us, and upon the British Empire, and to take action before it is too late. I think it is true to say that the British Empire made Japan, and if we are not careful Japan will unmake the British Empire.
§ 5.54 p.m.
§ LORD DAVIES
My Lords, I would like to endorse the concluding remarks which have fallen from the noble Viscount opposite. At the commencement of his speech he paid eulogy to the speech of the noble Viscount the Foreign Secretary, and I am very sorry—I wish it were otherwise—but I cannot follow him in that course. The noble Viscount, Lord 414 Halifax, made a very interesting pronouncement, and as usual he succeeded in completely mesmerising your Lordships. The noble Viscount is an expert in the art of hypnotism. He casts a spell where-ever he goes, and that is not in the least surprising because as a private individual we all regard him with admiration and respect. Like one of his predecessors, Lord Grey, he has devoted his great talents and abilities to the service of the State when he might have been engaged in more agreeable pursuits, and I confess that for many years, in fact until the last two years, I shared your Lordships' admiration for the noble Viscount and all his works. Since he succeeded Mr. Eden as our Foreign Secretary, however, I admit that I have been sadly disillusioned, and the iridescent mists of hero worship have gradually been dispelled by the icy blasts of foreign policy, which have revealed the noble Viscount in his true colours.
I do not for a moment suggest that this will wring his conscience—I think those were the words he used in the debate on Thursday—or that your Lordships have passed through that harrowing experience—perhaps your Lordships' time has still to come—but I do believe that there are many people outside this House who share my disappointment and misgivings. After all, a statesman, like a private individual, must be judged by his deeds rather than his words. As I have said, the speech delivered by the noble Viscount on Thursday produced an hypnotic effect on the members of your Lordships' House, and since we adjourned we have had the advantage of reading it in cold print. Personally I have read it three times, and the impression created when I listened to it has been confirmed.
If I may be allowed, with all deference, to say so, I think it was a thoroughly bad, ill-timed, and confused speech. It was bad because it demonstrated once more the cleavage which exists, I believe, inside the Cabinet and also in the country, between the protagonists of appeasement on the one hand and those who believe in collective security on the other. It was ill-timed because at the very moment when the Government are supposed to be building up what they call a peace front, it creates an impression, both at home and abroad, that this country is prepared to make another cynical deal with the aggressors. It is 415 confused because it contains no constructive plan, no solid foundation, upon which to rehabilitate the shattered fortunes of Europe. Surely the time has gone by when we can be content with a string of platitudes about the necessity of understanding the points of view of other nations, of reaching an understanding with Germany and of securing a footing of mutual confidence with other countries so as to enter into an era of general friendship. Everyone is agreed about these things and others enumerated by the noble Viscount. They are all excellent, they are essential, they are the A B C of international relationships. But what your Lordships want to know, and what I believe the country wants to know, is how are they going to be achieved? Is it by recourse to the method of Munich or the method of Geneva? Is it by further instalments of appeasement or by trying to establish the rule of law? Is it by giving away other people's lives and properties, or by making some sacrifice ourselves for the cause of justice and peace?
For two years past the noble Viscount has been giving us doses of soothing syrup, which I believe only create a feeling of nausea among our friends, and of exuberance in other quarters. His speech on Thursday only increased anxiety in Paris, suspicion in Moscow, dismay in America, bewilderment in Rome and irritation or exultation—I am not sure which—in Berlin. In some quarters it appeared to be regarded as the preliminary to another Munich, in others as an apology for the encirclement of Germany. The noble Viscount began his speech by telling us that he was engaged in the pursuit of the purpose which the Prime Minister described the other day as that of "building up a peace front against aggression." Surely this is not the first occasion that a British Cabinet has been engaged on this meritorious undertaking. I always understood that that was what we had been trying to do ever since the War. Then what about the League? Has the noble Viscount forgotten that this country, in conjunction with others, joined in a solemn League and Covenant at the conclusion of the bloodiest war in history to prevent aggression? Why, then, during the last two or three years have he and his colleagues discarded this institution on every occasion when vital issues should 416 have been discussed? Why at the bidding of the Dictators has he repudiated the Articles of the Covenant? Why has he descended from the moral plane of this Covenant to the pre-War level of power politics, rank opportunism, and expediency applauded and practised by Hitler and Mussolini?
That after all, to put it quite frankly, is what the noble Viscount and his colleagues have been doing ever since the Prime Minister's "midsummer madness" speech in June, 1936. It is called "Appeasement"; it might have been called something else. In March of this year, as we know, they made a discovery. When Hitler marched into Prague they realised that "midsummer madness" would not work, and that appeasement was dead. And since March, so they tell us, they have a new policy. What is their motto? As far as I understand it, it is this: "Rebuild to-day what we pulled down yesterday, what we erected the day before." If we consider it dispassionately, could anything be more ludicrous? Here was a building erected upon the sacrifices and the sufferings of millions of men who died in the World War, but by the sheer stupidity, the obstinacy, and the cowardice of a handful of so-called statesmen in our own and other countries, this building has been dismantled, and to-day it stands as an empty shell.
Now the Prime Minister and the noble Viscount propose to erect what he calls a more practical structure. What are the foundations of this new edifice? Are they justice, the rule of law, and collective security? Not a bit of it. The foundations are unilateral and bilateral pacts based on national interests. In the words of the noble Viscount:The assurances would operate, as in the case of Poland, if there should be a clear threat to the independence of Rumania or of Greece which the Rumanian or Greek Government respectively considered it vital to resist with their national forces.Well, I suggest that that can only mean that each of those Governments is to be the sole judge as to whether a particular act, or a particular incident, is to be considered as a clear threat to their independence. I do not often find myself in agreement with my noble friend Lord Ponsonby, but I entirely endorse what he said on this point—namely, that the policy we are now undertaking is worse 417 than collective security, because it seems to be not under the aegis of the League of Nations. The decision therefore as to whether this country is to be involved in war is apparently to be left to the judgment of the Turkish, Greek, Polish or Rumanian Governments. Is this a practical substitute for a decision taken by a Council representing the anti-aggression front—a Council upon which this country would be represented?
Therefore I humbly suggest to the noble Viscount, that his methods are most impracticable. They are merely a hand-to-mouth expedient, to which he has been been driven because he and his colleagues have betrayed the League and repudiated the Covenant, and they have not the courage to admit to their fellow countrymen and to the world that they have done so. These unilateral and bilateral pacts are the price which we have to pay. They include, as I think my noble friend Lord Cecil pointed out, far greater risks but have none of the advantages which a real and properly organised system of collective security is able to offer.
The noble Viscount told us about China. He said that the Government were doing their best to see that British interests are accorded due respect and that treaty provisions are upheld. Whatever the policy of the Government may be in the Far East—and the noble Viscount who just sat down has described it to us—I do not think we can say very much for its results. British interests, trade and commerce, and even the lives of British subjects are menaced. Every week we read in the newspapers of acts of terrorism and intimidation on the part of Japan. I wonder how many protests have already been made by our Government to Tokyo. The noble Viscount appears to have forgotten that a barefaced war of aggression has been going on in China for the last two years, and he seems oblivious of the fact that if China is conquered our position in Hong Kong and in the Pacific becomes one of extreme danger.
Will he tell us what he has done to assist the victim of aggression? Mere declarations of sympathy, I suggest, are cheap. I believe he has already given China a small loan, and he has allowed her to import munitions from this country. That is very creditable, but has he also tried to prevent the export of arms and the materials for the manufacture 418 of armaments to Japan? Has he taken any steps to exert economic pressure upon Tokyo? I should have thought that at Geneva he would have taken the lead in responding to the eloquent appeal that Mr. Wellington Koo made to the Members of the League. It is a melancholy fact that respect for this country in the Far East has completely vanished. In fact it no longer exists, and this unfortunate result, I suggest, is due to the policy pursued by the noble Viscount and his predecessors, especially Sir John Simon, who in their anxiety to appease Japan at the expense of China have destroyed the reputation of the British Empire for justice and fair play.
The next item which the noble Viscount mentioned in his speech was his account of the negotiations which have been going on with Russia. I have listened very carefully to all the speeches in this debate, and I have not heard a single word of protest about the delay which has been going on with regard to these negotiations. After all, do your Lordships realise that ten weeks have elapsed since these negotiations were started? In March, Poland and Rumania were threatened with invasion. For a few days the Government saw the red light, and there was great diplomatic activity. We also remember that at that moment Russia proposed a Nine-Power Conference, but M. Litvinov was told that this proposal was premature, I want to ask the Foreign Secretary, is this the way in which he hopes to build up his peace front? Will he tell us why he refused the Russian offer? Since then, we know, negotiations have dragged on drearily, clogged with suspicion on both sides. I suggest that if that conference had been held M. Litvinov might still have been in the saddle to-day. After all, he was the champion of the League and of collective security. What help, may I ask, did we give him at Geneva? We simply ignored him. Like Mr. Eden, he was sacrificed on the altar of the League, perhaps not at the bidding of Mussolini and Hitler, but at any rate to their intense joy and satisfaction. Will the noble Viscount tell us why we are still splitting hairs with Russia? I believe the vast majority of people in this country regard the inclusion of Russia in a new peace front as absolutely vital, and it is this public opinion which prodded the Government to negotiate with Russia in the first instance.
419 I do not pretend to know what the military strength of Russia is at this moment, but I understand that, on the whole, she is far better armed to-day than she was in 1914. For instance, I am told that the peace strength of the Russian Army is 1,800,000 men, and that her reserves are somewhere between 14,000,000 and 16,000,000 men. She has also, I am told, an Air Force of between 10,000 and 12,000 aeroplanes, of which 4,000 are first-line military aircraft. I do not know that anybody outside Russia really knows what the real strength of the Russian Army and Air Force is, but we must all agree that the potential strength of Russia is enormous. Whatever it may be at this moment, most of us probably realise that without Russia the peace front cannot function effectively.
My noble friend Lord Cecil said that, if Russia was not included in this front, war was almost inevitable. No one can regard Poland and the Balkan countries as a substitute for Russia, and without her help these countries are bound to go under because we are powerless to give them any direct assistance. I am sure your Lordships have not forgotten one of the greatest tragedies of the last War when Serbia and Rumania were overrun, and I need not remind your Lordships of the campaigns of 1914, 1915, and 1916, when it was the Russian pressure in the East which enabled France and ourselves to hold the Western Front. Noble Lords opposite—and I refer especially to Lord Phillimore who alluded to this subject in his speech last Thursday—noble Lords who oppose the inclusion of Russia are like the Bourbons; they have learned nothing and forgotten everything. War is, as we know, always a gamble, but if Russia remains neutral or aligns herself with the other totalitarian States, then the outlook for the British Empire would be black indeed. That is why I believe M. Molotov talks about pulling chestnuts out of the fire, with the result—very regrettable, I admit—that we are compelled to eat humble pie.
The other day in another place the Prime Minister said:I cannot help feeling that there is a kind of veil, a sort of wall between the two Governments which it is extremely difficult to penetrate.Well, I ask the noble Viscount opposite, who is responsible for erecting this wall? 420 Some noble Lords, I know, say that we cannot trust Russia, but I think we also have to ask ourselves whether we can expect the Russians to trust us. Why do they not trust us? I venture to give three reasons. The first is that after Munich, and after Abyssinia, no one trusts us. There is hardly a foreign Government that trusts the present Government in this country. That is the first reason. The second is that during the Munich proceedings Russia was given the cold-shoulder; she was deliberately pushed on one side; and M. Litvinov was left high and dry at Geneva. I believe that certain people prided themselves on the fact that the betrayal of Czecho-Slovakia had been accomplished without the assistance of Russia. Thirdly, the Russian Government know perfectly well that in certain quarters in this country there was lurking a hope that the German eagles would fly eastwards and not westwards, as it was apparently intended that they should do at the time when Hitler wrote Mein Kampf. It was no doubt hoped that after a long and inconclusive struggle in the East, France and Great Britain—strutting about like cocks on the European dunghill—would be able to dictate peace to the exhausted totalitarian roosters.
Before the invasion of Prague there was no suggestion from the Foreign Office of pulling the chestnuts out of the fire so far as Russia was concerned. Sometimes I wonder whether, even now, the Cabinet are really in earnest, or whether these negotiations are not merely another sop to public opinion. Is it possible that history is about to repeat itself? Your Lordships will remember that in 1935 Sir Samuel Hoare announced to the Assembly at Geneva that this country and our Government stood behind the Covenant in its entirety. The then Prime Minister, Lord Baldwin, proceeded to win an Election on the strength of that speech, which a few weeks afterwards was entirely repudiated when the Hoare-Laval agreement was announced. Unfortunately, these pigeons are now coming home to roost. I would give anything to be certain that the Government are now really in earnest and that, in spite of the delays which have happened—and everyone must admit that these delays have been most heartbreaking—Russia may yet be induced to join the peace front, and that every European State 421 which is a Member of the League may be invited to do likewise.
I am not at all sure, however, that some members of the Government, and some members in another place are not still obsessed with the notion that there is a "Bolshie" behind every bush. They are frightened to death of Communism, and I believe—and I have very good evidence of it—that is why more pressure was not brought to bear on Mussolini over Abyssinia. It was because it was feared that if he was overthrown a Communistic régime would spring up in Italy. It cannot be too often emphasized, as I think my noble friend Lord Mottistone reminded us, that what are described as ideologies do not enter into this question at all. How does the internal domestic government of other countries concern us? It is not our job, surely, to tell the Russians, the Germans and the Italians that they must all be good democrats; nor is it our business to pronounce a verdict upon the relative merits or demerits of Communism, Nazi-ism, Fascism or any other ism. Surely all that we are concerned about is that these countries should keep the peace and not resort to violence against their neighbours. Therefore, if Russia is willing to join with us and France and other countries to prevent aggression in Europe, surely we should welcome her with open arms.
If, as many people believe, her inclusion is vital to the maintenance of peace and the prevention of war, then may I respectfully ask, why does not the Prime Minister, or if he is too old to undertake the journey, why does not the Foreign Secretary fly to Moscow to clear up any misunderstandings there may be and make whatever arrangements are necessary to implement this pact? Surely, if the Prime Minister could fly to Berchtesgaden and Munich to meet Herr Hitler, there is no reason why in a matter of vital urgency of this kind he should not do the same and make a similar approach to the Dictator at Moscow. I understand that a very distinguished official from the Foreign Office has been entrusted with this tremendously important task, but I venture to suggest to your Lordships that that is not enough, that this is not a time to stand on ceremony when the fate not only of Europe but probably also of this country may be hanging in the balance.
422 When the noble Viscount on Thursday had finished with Russia he proceeded to give us a lecture upon the methods of conducting international relationships. As I suggested in an earlier part of my speech, he delivered what I would respectfully suggest were a number of platitudes, many of them old friends whom we have met before. I observed that running through this lecture there was a very ominous word which occurred five times—I counted them—in the latter part of the noble Viscount's speech. It was the word "negotiation"—negotiation was the key which would unlock the door and solve our difficulties. That no doubt is a wonderful discovery, but it sounded, I think, too much like its twin brother "appeasement." May I remind the Foreign Secretary that negotiation has been the stock-in-trade of the Foreign Office for a very long time, in fact for centuries? Has he no other word in his peace vocabulary? The noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, suggested that arbitration was included under the heading of negotiation. Perhaps I am unduly suspicious, but I cannot help feeling that arbitration was left out purposely. The trouble is, of course, that the Foreign Secretary and his colleagues are obsessed with the idea of national sovereignty; they are not prepared to submit themselves to the rule of law, and unless they are willing to lead how can they expect other countries to follow their example? That, surely, is the crux of the whole business.
Negotiate by all means, sit round a table by all means, but if there is no settlement, and if these negotiations end in a deadlock, the question is, are we prepared to submit the issues to the adjudication of a third party, to a disinterested and impartial tribunal? If not, then I venture to think that collective security is a myth and the rule of law an impossibility. The noble Viscount talked about justice, but how, I venture to ask, can he expect to dispense justice if the appropriate machinery is non-existent? How long is every nation to be the judge of its own cause and the punisher of its own wrongs? We have had negotiation by diplomatists. We have had negotiation by conference. Munich, of course, is the latest example. My Lords, believe me, something more than negotiation is required if an atmosphere of confidence and of good will is to be created in Europe.
423 The Foreign Secretary also said that he did not think war was unavoidable. I hope he is right, but surely the whole experience of the human race is against him and proves that he may be wrong. So long as nations choose to live in a state of complete anarchy, where each Government is a law unto itself, where every country is armed to the teeth and when armaments are increasing at a terrific pace, there can be only one end, sooner or later—I do not know when—and that end is war. Unless someone—President Roosevelt, the Prime Minister, M. Daladier, I do not know who—can introduce a new system based on the rule of law, with overwhelming force organised and mobilised behind the law, then the crash, the duel, is inevitable. Humanity cannot escape from it, because it is part and parcel of the system under which we choose to live. On the other hand, if we develop the principles of federalism and apply them to the League or, if you like, to this new peace bloc or confederation, if you equip that institution as an international authority whose task is to administer justice, you may—I do not say you will—avert the catastrophe of war. I say you may, because after all the blunders and folly, all the wasted opportunities, of the last twenty years, it may possibly be too late.
But I agree with the noble Viscount that that is no reason for throwing up the sponge. Obviously, however, as I think the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, pointed out, there is no time to lose. Every minute counts. Therefore I suggest that the first thing to do is to build up your peace front, or whatever it may be called. I suggest that pacts in themselves are not enough, that ways and means of implementing them must be worked out by financial, economic and military experts from all those countries who are prepared to resist aggression. Therefore may I venture to make this suggestion, that we should send as soon as possible, a military mission to Moscow if the Russian Government will agree. In 1917 I had the privilege of being one of the members of the Milner Mission which was sent to Russia, and I well remember the unsatisfactory state of affairs which existed even at that time after three years of war. No effective liaison, no complete liaison, had been established and organised in order to ensure joint action between the Allied and 424 Associated Powers. I hope we shall not repeat this tragic mistake.
I must apologise to your Lordships for being so long, but I am coming to an end. At this moment I suggest that the British peoples stand in grave danger, perhaps the gravest in all our long history. Such a situation naturally calls for statesmanship of a high order. It calls for courage and patience. But it also demands prompt and imperative action, not only in our diplomacy but also in our defensive arrangements. I am sure your Lordships all rejoice that our King and Queen have won the hearts of the American people. God forbid that these feelings of good will and mutual respect between these two branches of the English-speaking community should be dissipated by a second Munich. That indeed would be an irretrievable disaster. On the contrary, let us enunciate a just, resolute and virile policy, based upon the eternal principles of the rule of law. Then I am convinced we shall win not only the support of the majority of the nations of Europe but also the respect and collaboration of our friends in America. And when the new confederation has been firmly knit together, not to encircle Germany or Italy or any other nation, but for the sole purpose of creating a righteous peace, then we can hold out the hand of friendship to the German and Italian peoples and invite their co-operation in promoting the advancement of our common civilisation no less than the cause of equity and justice.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ LORD HARMSWORTH
My Lords, I should not have intruded on your Lordships at this late hour if the Foreign Secretary had been at the moment on the Front Bench below me; but as, in accordance with our arrangements in this House, I had undertaken to speak, no doubt the Foreign Secretary has taken the opportunity for a well-earned respite from the debate of this afternoon. In the course of his remarks Lord Davies made one observation with which I found myself in entire agreement, and that was that this country and our people stand at this moment in a position of great peril. That is why I am, with my noble friend Lord Mottistone, an unrepentant upholder of and believer in the policy of appeasement, or, if that word is entirely discredited, of conciliation or 425 negotiation. I am one of those members of your Lordships' House who feel grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Darnley, for introducing his proposal the other day. I am prepared to uphold the policy of appeasement even if I am to be charged, with His Majesty's Ministers, with "crawling back to the discredited policy of appeasement." I employ the picturesque language of one of the most influential leaders of opinion in this House, and it is only because this policy of conciliation is so misapprehended and so little popular, apparently, that I join in the babel of voices about war. I have often thought that we run a serious danger of being talked, written, radioed and rumoured into war. It is an old belief, and a very sound one in my judgment, that nothing tends so much to war as talking about war. I wish we could have a close season for warlike talk, during which time the practical men could get on with measures of defence and statesmen be free to consider, to welcome, and, I would say, to invite means of settlement on lines of common sense.
In such an emergency as this—and I believe it to be a serious emergency—the functions and duties of Government should be divided into two main categories: one, of course, in the preparations for defence, and the other in regard to our relations with our neighbours. In regard to defence I need say nothing. In regard to the most important of all our relations, those with France, there is little to be said: whatever affects France affects us. But what of our less harmonious neighbours—and forgive me if I venture to go back to some of the more elementary matters connected with this crisis—what of our relations with Italy? I think I am right in saying that we have not been at war with Italy since the time of Julius Caesar. The people of Italy—let us remember it even in these days of angry resentment—are our traditional friends. We have for them, and they have for us, the highest possible regard. We have no cause whatever to quarrel with the Italian people. To them we owe a very great part of our civilisation. To many of us Italy is a second home. It is unbelievable to me—I find it to be incredible—that we should ever find ourselves in the position of trying to destroy by bombardment or otherwise any of the immortal treasures of Italian civilisation.
426 Then, if I may be so bold as to speak of Germany, our relations with Germany have not always been so happy or our sympathies so fervid, yet to Germany is it not true that every one of us in this House owes an immense debt of gratitude for her achievements in philosophy, in science, in music, and in many other ways? So far there is no enmity between the British and the German peoples. Our difficulties latterly have been with the German Government and German statesmen. Their methods we have had good reason to deplore, and sometimes bitterly to resent. But may I be a little bolder still and say, can we not observe that the German Government so far have not challenged a single vital and essential British interest? Not one. I mean such a British interest as would really call for all the energies of this country to rebut it, such—to give a simple instance—as an attack on the coast of England or, I will say, on Gibraltar.
I return for a moment to the critics of the Prime Minister and his Government, who urge, as I think my noble friend Lord Davies would urge, that we cannot in decency and honour have any truck with totalitarian statesmen. They follow, even so benevolent a man as I know my friend Lord Davies to be, with angry suspicion any hint or suggestion that His Majesty's Ministers are seeking to approach a peaceful settlement. They seem to hold—and indeed we have heard my noble friend express such a view this afternoon—that to speak of reconciliation, or conciliation, or appeasement, or whatever you choose to call it, is in itself a kind of treachery, an indication of weakness and vacillation of purpose, and calculated to shake the confidence of our partners in the non-aggressive front. I was deeply impressed by the knowledge that my noble friend exhibited in regard to the emotions in Paris, Moscow, Leningrad and America evoked by the speech of my noble friend the Secretary of State. I should be very much obliged if Lord Davies would, when he is at leisure, convey to me his means of information as to what is being felt and thought in all the capitals of the world.
I am glad to observe from the course of this debate that this opinion in regard to conciliation is not uniformly held by your Lordships. Indeed, I believe there 427 is a large body of opinion in this country that has no sympathy with this repudiation of appeasement and would welcome with huge relief any peace movement on the part of my noble friend the Secretary of State and his colleagues in the Government. Let me say in regard to the so-called untouchableness of some of these totalitarian Governments, that in my own brief experience of foreign affairs British Governments have concluded agreements, and lived on friendly terms, with Governments whose methods and systems compared unfavourably with those of Germany and Italy. Cases will occur to, and be well within the memory of, every one of your Lordships. Some of my Liberal friends are deeply concerned with principles of international morality, the maintenance of democratic systems, the rule of law, and the like. I am all in favour of those principles in theory, and in the seclusion of my library, but I would not willingly commit the men, women and children of my country to a frightful war in defence and upholding of abstract principles.
I want to know better why this desperate adventure should be embarked upon. I would not willingly risk the fortunes of this country and Empire in support of what are called ideologies—in support, in particular, of theories about democratic government. Can we claim that our own system is satisfactorily democratic? I appeal to noble Lords sitting on the Opposition Front Bench. Are they satisfied with the quality of our democratic system? This must be said, that when we speak of democracies, I would venture to say that the Nazi régime in Germany is at least as democratic as that of some of the States with which we are now seeking friendly co-operation.
In conclusion, and with apologies for intervening between your Lordships and the expected speech of the Secretary of State, I would say that in this House we, I am sure, harbour no illusions with regard to the nature and effects of what too easily has been spoken of as the next war. But I am afraid that such illusions are very prevalent in the popular mind. At this moment, I think of our people as a great people, foremost in its example of tolerance, good-nature and decent government sliding down to a dreadful abyss in a whirl of fine sentimentalism and confused thinking. I contemplate a 428 war, and so must everyone of your Lordships, in which the front trenches will be in the great cities, where civilian populations will be exposed, as they have been in Spain and China, to dangers and hardships that have not often been endured by armed and disciplined forces in the battlefield. I foresee a struggle which, if it should come, will change the course of history and result in irreparable loss to all the nations engaged in it—an inconclusive war that will open up a vista of strife and hatred in Europe lasting perhaps for whole generations. There is, I submit, nothing in our present situation, grave and difficult as it is, that calls for so enormous a sacrifice on our part or on the part of our potential antagonists.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (VISCOUNT HALIFAX)
My Lords, I have no right to speak again in this debate, but with your Lordships' assent I would like to make a few observations upon some of the speeches that have been made, and some of the arguments that have been advanced. As is always the habit and the custom in your Lordships' House, we have again witnessed grave and important subjects being debated with great dignity and great restraint, and a great sense of responsibility, and nothing, I suppose, is more noticeable in such a debate as we have had than the respect with which sentiments that are widely differing are universally received. I think perhaps it may not unreasonably be claimed on behalf of this House that in that respect we set an example that is not always followed in other places.
Perhaps before passing to some of the more particular matters that have been raised in the debate I might make one general observation without the risk of appearing egotistic. I have noticed that the speech which I had the honour of making to your Lordships on Thursday has been variously interpreted in different quarters. Of course it is one of the most habitual propensities of politicians and those who contribute to the Press that when they have strong opinions they naturally select from any speech only those portions of it which are in appearance, if not in fact, favourable to the particular argument that they desire to stress. It certainly would be quite unprofitable, and most unhelpful, for me to attempt to make any comment on any 429 observation so inspired, because for one thing the process, if once embarked upon, would be totally and painfully unending. From that I excuse myself, only asking that the observations which I made on Thursday shall be considered as a whole.
As regards those members of your Lordships' House who have contributed to this debate I, speaking personally, have nothing but gratitude for the generosity with which they have treated my own contribution to it, with indeed one notable exception, the noble Lord, Lord Davies, who was good enough to speak to us just now. He advanced a theory which I confess was entirely novel to me, and from the surprise of which I have as yet only partially recovered. He attributed the kindly reception that your Lordships have given to my speech to the fact that I had—I think his phrase was—"succeeded in completely mesmerising" the House. He will forgive me for saying that it was not unnatural that Lord Davies, intoxicated by his own eloquence and by that extreme felicity of phrase which comes so spontaneously from him, should have been free from any risk of such mesmerism. It was not therefore at all strange to me to hear from his lips that His Majesty's Government, and I think I in particular, were lost to all sense of courage, all sense of honesty, intelligence, and—I do not think I do him an injustice—all sense of political virtue, of which he will permit me to say I drew the conclusion from his speech that he had a comparative monopoly.
The position in the Far East has been destroyed by myself, completing the ruin begun by Mr. Eden, and he in his turn contributing to the ruin already begun by Sir John Simon. The delay in the Russian negotiations was entirely the fault of His Majesty's Government and of this country, and I regretted to hear the noble Lord say that he had formed the melancholy conclusion that His Majesty's Government were not sincere in their efforts to reach an agreement with Russia. To that last observation the noble Lord will forgive me if I do not reply, because I think that the only reply that I could make would be one that perhaps would be better made outside this House than inside. I am the more easily relieved from replying because I feel that all your Lordships who heard Lord Davies's admirable speech will, like 430 myself, have formed the conclusion that there is one broad remedy, and one only, for the distresses and discontents of the present time in our foreign policy, and that is that the noble Lord himself should be in charge of it.
With your Lordships' permission, I must make one or two attempts to answer some of the specific questions that have been raised in the course of this debate. It has, I think, been asked why I should have made any speech at all upon foreign affairs at the particular moment that I did. My answer to that, a perfectly brief answer, is that the noble Lord opposite, Lord Snell, happened, for reasons of which I am totally unaware, to choose the particular day of last Thursday to place his Motion on the Paper, and I think he indeed made that choice a long time ago. When he so chooses he has the right, unless I show him grave reason, to summon me to this House to answer anything that he may say. And I indeed saw no reason to ask the noble Lord to postpone the debate because—and here I agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, who I think said that it was seldom indiscreet or undesirable to speak the truth—I myself have formed the view that on the whole it is seldom too early or too late to speak the truth, if you are sure that in fact truth it is. That brings me to a question that the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, asked me in relation to propaganda. I most entirely and warmly share his view that propaganda—a word which has achieved a rather unenviable significance—should, and would most usefully, be conducted on the lines of plain facts, and of objective statements, and of assertions of truth. I believe that if the countries of the world know that what emanates from this country, whether by broadcast, or whether by speech or writing in whatever form, is the truth, then the influence of the written or spoken or reported word will have great weight in a great many places.
The noble Lord, Lord Phillimore, raised the question of the negotiations with Russia. He will perhaps dispense me from arguing the particular question of principle with him, because on whichever side we might engage ourselves in that debate, that is, from his point of view unhappily, at the present time an academic question, inasmuch as the Government, after due deliberation, have 431 chosen their course, and obviously cannot depart from it. As he knows, the negotiations with the Soviet Government are about to be resumed in Moscow. Mr. Strang, the representative of the Foreign Office, left England this morning, and hopes to be in Moscow I think on Wednesday morning, and therefore it would obviously be neither profitable nor possible for me at this stage to enter into further details in regard to the matters that will then fall to be discussed.
I think I am also in part dispensed from answering the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, because my noble friend Lord Cecil did that for me at an earlier stage of the debate. I only add one observation to the general statement that Lord Cecil's observations seemed to indicate. Whether you like it or not, you have to recognise that in this year of grace, 1939, you are living in an era of power politics—force politics; and the question on which we have to make up our minds is, So long as force is placed in the position of arbiter, what are the purposes for which you wish to see force employed? Is your force to be used for the promotion or for the destruction of the things like justice and order and the like? For on these things, as I should believe and as I think all of us, including the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, should believe, human society depends. And if your view is, as I have no doubt it is, that you cannot afford to see those things disappear from the world, if you can prevent it, then you are surely bound to be prepared to meet force with force, and to see that the force that emerges dominant is the force that has as its purpose the promotion of the things on which human society ultimately depends. I cannot do more in regard to the specific point Lord Ponsonby raised than assure him and your Lordships that of course any engagements entered into by His Majesty's Government with other Governments will be made public, and if there is any demand, such as I think he put forward, for particular maps, I should be glad to consider the matter.
The noble Viscount, Lord Stonehaven, contributed to the debate some observations in regard to policy concerning Colonies. I need not assure him, or assure any others, that I, and indeed I have no doubt all members of His Majesty's 432 Government, realise the full force of what Lord Stonehaven said. I can also, I think, truthfully say that none of the considerations that he mentioned are for a moment absent from our minds. No one who has looked at that problem with any care can fail to know the difficulties that it arouses—difficulties, I might add, that are not in any way diminished when the language employed to put the case forward is intemperate. And those difficulties are all the greater because everybody, or nearly everybody, has so far tended to think of treating the Colonial question through the single process of rendition of territory. That, of all the possible methods of treatment of it, is the most difficult. My noble friend will forgive me If, to-day, I say quite frankly that I am not prepared to add anything at this time to what has been said by His Majesty's Government in regard to that question.
My noble friend Lord Elton drew our attention specifically to the question of Danzig, and in doing so he rightly emphasized the complex nature and problem of Danzig which certainly, as all your Lordships will recognise, demands the utmost measure of patience and restraint if most serious and dangerous consequences are to be avoided. I do not think I can do better to-day than emphasize the attitude of His Majesty's Government as it was recently defined by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister when he used very carefully considered words. His words, if your Lordships remember, were these:Our assurances to Poland were clear and precise. Although we should be glad to see the differences between Poland and Germany amicably settled by discussion, and although we thought they could and ought to be so settled, if an attempt were made to change the situation by force in such a way as to threaten Polish independence, that would inevitably start a conflagration in which this country would be involved.I pass for a few moments from Europe to the Far East. Far Eastern matters were referred to by the noble Viscount opposite (Lord Cecil) and my noble friend Lord Elibank. With regard to what fell from the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, it is of course quite true, as he said, that in the Far Eastern arena we are witnessing a conflict of principle, involved in the whole question, as he said, of the right to resort to war. None of us need be under any illusions about that. In these circumstances, during the last two years, it has been the duty of His 433 Majesty's Government both in this country and at Geneva to consider what course of action was both incumbent on them and practical for them to adopt. In connection with that question they have, as the House knows, been parties to the passage of successive Resolutions by the Assembly and meetings of the Council—Resolutions which, I am well aware, have never gone as far as the representative of China thought it was desirable to go, but which have gone as far as those Powers particularly concerned in the Far East thought it practicable for them to go. There is no good in this matter, any more than in any other, refusing to face the practical realities of any question, and I am quite content to leave the conduct of this country in regard to that matter to be judged by those who have a full knowledge of the facts and who are able to form a judgment as to the manner in which this country has carried out the obligations that it has assumed at Geneva.
The noble Lord, Lord Davies, gravely underrated the value of what it has been in the power of this country to do, not least by the action it took earlier this year in regard to the Chinese currency. There was a case in which it was quite possible to argue that British interests were deeply engaged and where we were not only serving the interests of China. That is quite true, but those who know best the problem of China would not have been unwilling to say that no form of help, valuable as it was for British interests, could also have been more helpful to China than that which enabled the Chinese to maintain at reasonable equilibrium that on which depended their economic strength.
My noble friend Lord Elibank has mentioned a very large number of cases of complaint regarding the treatment from which British interests in China are to-day suffering at the hands of Japan. It is a very formidable list indeed, and it reflects the extent of the British stake in China to which he directed our thoughts. That list includes complaints in regard to treatment, as he said, of British nationals, ships, trade, and other interests at Japanese hands as well as threats against the security of International Concessions and Settlements. I can assure my noble friend that His Majesty's Government have not been indifferent to any one of these threats in any one of these 434 directions. I am sure he appreciates the difficulty with which in this matter at this time His Majesty's Government are confronted, but I can assure him that there is no truth whatever in the rumour of withdrawal of troops from Shanghai, and, as regards ships, as he knows, the Commander-in-Chief of the China Station has full authority to move ships from place to place according to what may be the needs of the moment.
I know very well that the Japanese military authorities advance the plea of military necessity in justification of many of the acts which have resulted in thus limiting British rights and interests, but His Majesty's Government are not able to accept that plea, especially in the many places in which military operations have now ceased to take place, as any excuse for the impairment of rights which are secured to our nationals under solemn treaty provisions. Still less can we accept the unilateral modification of instruments entered into freely by ourselves and other Powers. All the matters of complaint which have been raised in this debate have been made the subject of representation—sometimes repeated, I regret to say—to the proper Japanese authorities, and His Majesty's Government will continue to exert their full efforts and influence to secure the maintenance of the right of British subjects to live and trade peacefully in China.
The noble Lord referred to the case of Colonel Spear, the military attaché, and in regard to his case I cannot speak fully until I have an account from himself. I can, however, say that his journey was entirely devoid of any ulterior purpose such as has been suggested by the Japanese, and whatever had been the Japanese suspicions, they should not have detained Colonel Spear once his identity was established. The noble Lord will have seen that Mr. Cooper, who was with Colonel Spear, has been set at liberty, and he reports that Colonel Spear is being properly treated at the present time. I have no reason to anticipate that matters in regard to Colonel Spear will not be satisfactorily settled. With regard to the trouble which ended in the death of Mr. Tinkler from bayonet wounds to which the noble Lord referred, the facts of the case have not as yet been fully established, but whatever were the precise facts of the incident itself under which 435 Mr. Tinkler received the wounds that unhappily led to his death, His Majesty's Government take a very unfavourable view of the events which happened between the time of his wounding and the time of his death, and His Majesty's Ambassador in Tokyo has been instructed to protest to the Japanese Foreign Office and to reserve all the rights of this country, as the noble Lord suggested, for any compensation, when the facts are established, there may be a right to claim.
That, I think, covers most of the specific questions that have been asked me in the course of the debate, and I only wish to make one or two quite short observations of a general kind before I conclude. I said a few minutes ago that I did not wish this afternoon to emphasize one part or another of what I said a few days ago in order to counter misrepresentations of its sense and purpose, for I have no doubt at all, as I think this debate has on the whole shown, it has been very well understood by those who have read it as a whole. I would venture, with respect, to say that it is a sign of some confused thinking to suggest or to argue that my speech implied any change whatever in British policy. On the contrary, it was a perfectly frank attempt to get people here and elsewhere to face the realities of the present situation.
The noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, expressed a view that while he was not, I think, generally in disagreement with what I had said, thereby sundering the old alliance between himself and Lord Davies, he was disposed to prefer the League system to the peace bloc. In particular he committed himself to the view that he thought if His Majesty's Government had put half the energy and half the courage and half the effort into the maintenance of the League of Nations that they had put into their recent efforts to create a peace front, the League would never have been in its present debilitated state. I beg leave to differ from him in that regard, as I do in the observation he made in the sense of saying that it would be more difficult in his view to reconstruct the League later than it would be were you to set to work to try to reconstruct the League at the present time. I really cannot bring myself to believe that the present 436 moment, when, as I said the other day, everybody is doing the utmost to provide against immediate dangers, is the moment to get all nations—and you want if you can all nations—to apply dispassionate thought to the problem of reconstruction of the international order. I tried, in what I had occasion the other day to say at Geneva, to make it plain that we did look forward to that task and that I certainly hoped that all Governments, or as many Governments as possible, would be brought to co-operate in it, but I am bound to say that I think the work that His Majesty's Government are trying to do now, so far from being antagonistic, is an essential preliminary to the larger work to which I certainly, with the noble Viscount opposite, look forward.
That leads me to say this. There are two things, as I see it, that British policy wants to make plain. The first thing is to make plain that British policy, while making no threats, and while concealing no ulterior designs, does want to make it quite clear to the world that if force is used to-day those who use it must now count upon force being met by force. I think the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, was profoundly right, if I may with respect say so, when, with great authority and opportunity of ascertaining and feeling the public sense in all parts of this country, he suggested that the spirit of the people in England and of these Islands to-day was far stronger and more robust and united than it was even in 1914. The one thing that the foreign machinery of propaganda always fails to mention—and the reason is obvious enough—is that no one of our engagements, as I said the other day, will ever function if there in fact exists nowhere any forcible disturber of the peace. That of course, as the noble Lord opposite realises much better than I have any right to do, is the principle on which the Covenant of the League is based.
That leads me to my second point, which is, as more than one of your Lordships has recognised, the other part of the policy that all will certainly wish to see kept clearly before the people of this country, and it is this, that if there is no attempt or intention to resort to force, then the whole influence of this country, which is not negligible, will be thrown, and in my judgment will be rightly thrown, as my noble friend Lord Harms-worth just now desired, on the side of 437 reaching fair settlements by negotiation. In saying that, I agree 100 per cent. with the noble Viscount opposite when he suggested that if you are to reach the point of negotiation you must mean the same thing. That would be an essential condition in my own mind for the success of any negotiation on which I should hope one day to see the nations of Europe prepared to enter. It is not always easy to judge accurately of intentions, and our judgment must largely depend upon the words spoken and the acts done by those who control the policy of other countries; but there are, as I see it, two alternatives at present standing for choice before the world, and I should be well content if I thought that this debate in your Lordships' House had had the effect of focussing the attention of all whom my words may reach on the incalculable advantage of exchanging the threatening, dangerous and sinister methods of arbitrarg force for the methods of negotiation and peaceful settlement.
§ 7.29 p.m.
§ LORD SNELL
My Lords, without being in any way hypnotised by the two speeches of the noble Viscount I venture to thank him for them, and I think that the House will thank him also. Of course the immediate responsibility for this debate falls upon me, but I think I am right in saying that His Majesty's Government were not terribly surprised to see the Motion which stands on the Paper in my 438 name. With your Lordships' permission I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.