§ LORD DAVIES
had the following Notice on the Paper: To move to resolve, That this House welcomes the assurances of the Foreign Secretary that His Majesty's Government has under consideration, in conjunction with other Powers, the desirability of assuming wider mutual obligations in order to prevent further acts of aggression in Europe. It expresses its conviction that the deterrent effect of such a policy can only be developed to the full by means of the immediate establishment of a Commission composed of the financial, economic, and military experts of the co-operating nations for the preparation of measures of mutual defence, and for the restoration to Czecho-Slovakia of her freedom and independence. Further, that this House urges His Majesty's, Government also to consider what steps can be taken to establish adequate machinery for the impartial settlement of all inter-State disputes as an essential corollary of the plan for collective security.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise to move the Motion standing in my name, and in doing so I do not think I need apologise to your Lordships for moving a Motion dealing with a subject which we discussed last week. In these days events are following each other with alarming rapidity, and since we debated ancillary questions last week we have been confronted with the seizure of Memel, we have been apprised of a Treaty between Germany and Rumania, which may have very far reaching consequences, and we have had a declaration by Poland which shows that she, apparently, has not been convinced that there is anything to be done, or anything to be gained, by consultation or conference. Moreover, we have had proposals, apparently emanating from Moscow, in which a Six-Power Conference was proposed, in order to discuss how best acts of aggression could be met in Europe.
I suggest that that is a very formidable list of events which have happened during the past few days. Therefore we should like to know—at any rate I should like very much to know—from the Government, what steps they are taking, what assurances they can give to your Lordships that the policy outlined by the Foreign Secretary in his speech to us last week is going to be implemented. In that speech the Foreign Secretary said that: 450… in all quarters there is likely immediately to be found a very much greater readiness to consider whether the acceptance of wider mutual obligations, in the cause of mutual support, is not dictated, if for no other reason than the necessity of self-defence. His Majesty's Government have not failed to draw the moral from these events, and have lost no time in placing themselves in close and practical consultation, not only with the Dominions, but with other Governments concerned…That declaration followed a very remarkable speech delivered by the Prime Minister a short time ago at Birmingham. I think most of us realised, after we had read that remarkable speech, that the so-called policy of appeasement was dead and that its author had himself told us of its decease. If that is so, then we understand the statement made to us last week by the Foreign Secretary in your Lordships' House.
I suggest to your Lordships that what is described as the policy of widening our mutual obligations is one which brooks no delay. We want deeds, and not merely words. Surely the time factor is of vital importance in this matter. After all, when Herr Hitler makes up his mind to do something he does pot wait. He merely presses the button and things happen. Therefore I sincerely hope that His Majesty's Government are not going to allow themselves once more to drift along without taking some active steps to try to prevent a surprise, and in advance to proclaim their intention to the world that they will take drastic steps if the freedom of any country in Europe is menaced again.
I should like to ask the noble Earl, who I understand is going to reply, why it is that the Government appear to be so often taken by surprise. We remember not so very long ago—I think about two or three years ago—there was a great controversy as to the relative strength of the German Air Force and our own, and it was not until the then Foreign Secretary, Sir John Simon, went to Berlin that it was suddenly discovered that our Air Force was not even equal to the Air Force which Germany had manufactured in the meantime. That came as a complete surprise. Then we remember that one morning we woke up and found that German troops had entered the Rhineland, and neither the British nor the French Government had the slightest idea that anything of the sort was going to 451 take place. The next thing that happened was the invasion of Austria and the seizure of Vienna. At that moment Herr von Ribbentrop was, I believe, lunching, or was at any rate in the same building, with our own Ministers, who again were completely taken by surprise. Then a few days ago, and without the slightest warning, we suddenly found that the ancient City of Prague, the capital of the Czech State, had been invaded almost overnight by German Troops. Only a day or two before, one of the Ministers of His Majesty's Government had proclaimed to us that very shortly the golden age would dawn upon the world. How is that golden age to be brought about? By bringing three Dictators and two Prime Ministers together, and when they sat round a table, then everything would be all right!
What I would like to ask is whether the fact that we are surprised in this fashion is due to ignorance. I do not know, but I should like to ask the noble Earl whether we are properly served by the Intelligence Service who, I have always understood, are responsible for discovering these things and for warning those in authority before these events actually happen. I venture to suggest that something should be done to see that this department, on which we spend a considerable amount of money, are doing their job properly. If these constant surprises are not due to ignorance, are they due to what someone described the other day as that horrible disease of wishful thinking? Is it that Ministers were warned, that the Government had in fact been given information, but that they steadily refused to deduce the facts which the information ought to have given them? I think that this disease of wishful thinking is something which has attacked democracies not only in our own country but in other countries as well. It is horribly infectious. It seems to have descended from high quarters and to have had very baneful effects on the country and on public opinion.
I leave that for a moment, and I would like to go back to what has happened in regard to the Russian proposal, which the Government, I believe, have not alluded to in any speeches or replies to any Questions, but which, I gather from the newspapers, was a suggestion emanating from the Government of Russia that a 452 Six-Power conference should be held. It was stated that in the opinion of our Government the holding of such a conference was regarded as premature. Well, I cannot understand why, in view of what we were told in the debate last week, and in view of what has been said in another place, such a conference should be regarded as premature. Surely if agreement in principle can be secured between this country, France and Russia, then the foundation of a six-Power agreement, or an eight- or nine- or ten-Power agreement has been laid. It seems to me that Russia is really the key to the whole position and that if our own Government wish to restore the policy of collective security it is essential that Russia should be one of the nations which adhere to such a policy. What I complain about here this afternoon is that we are always being given vague assurances that consultation will take place, or that some steps are being taken—we are not told what the steps are—to bring about an agreement to combat aggression in Europe.
What I want to know is whether we really mean business. Do the Government really mean business on this matter? Are we going to be content merely with a promise or assurance that if trouble breaks out then there will be some sort of consultation? I venture to suggest that, if this is all that is going to be done, when the time comes it will be too late and we shall find ourselves in precisely the same position as that in which we found ourselves ten days ago. There was no plan, there was no agreement as to what should be done in the event of the Czech Government being suppressed and being confronted with an ultimatum to surrender its sovereignty, to surrender its liberties, and to become a vassal State of Germany. I repeat, do we mean business? If so, I suggest that one of the first things we have to do is not only to arrive at an agreement in principle as to what we are going to do, as to what all these nations will do who are prepared to join in an alliance or pact or, as we used to call it, collective security—some noble Lords do not like the term "collective security"; call it anything you like—but the whole thing will break down unless beforehand you have secured consultation and an agreed plan between military experts, economic experts, and financial experts who have put their heads together and drafted a 453 plan in advance which can be carried out when the actual emergency arises if it ever does arise. That is what we used to describe in the last War as "unity of direction."
We were forced in the last War after a great many attempts, a great deal of effort, and a great many disasters, to formulate a common policy, to establish joint Allied Commissions to work out plans for economic and financial mutual assistance, and also in the military sphere we were compelled eventually to establish a unified command in the field. That was done to win a war. I suggest that the same process has to be done now in order to prevent a war. Surely it is more important to try and prevent a catastrophe from happening than it is, when the catastrophe has taken place, to try and make the best of it and, in the case of war, to win it. After all, this is only what is said in Article 16 of the Covenant. It was not very long ago that the Prime Minister in another place said he would not alter a single Article of the Covenant, not even Article 16 As your Lordships know, Article 16 deals with financial and economic measures. It also lays down that all those nations who are willing to oppose aggression must consult together and recommend what in their opinion should be a proper and effective scheme.
I am sure some of your Lordships were very interested to read last week a very stimulating letter in The Times written by Sir Alexander Roger, who has had considerable experience in these matters. In that letter he suggested that, in view of the fact that a definite act of aggression had taken place, an economic boycott should be instituted against Germany for having brutally attacked and wantonly usurped all the authority of the Czecho-Slovak State. What he suggested, in effect, was that intercourse with Germany of every kind—financial, economic, transport, and every other intercourse—should be severed by all the countries who were prepared to support the rule of law. He called it, I think, a "sit-down strike." I prefer to call it an act of outlawry. When a nation deliberately affronts the public opinion of the whole world and is guilty of a gross act of aggression of this kind, all the other countries should say: "Very well, we are not prepared to have anything more to say to you until you restore the liberties which you have filched, until 454 you disgorge the booty which you have taken from this small and weak State." That is not what some people describe as punishment. It is not punishment at all. It is merely sending a country, in the international sense, to prison until such time as it chooses to make restitution. Is Germany willing to restore the liberties and freedom of the Czechs? Is she prepared to disgorge all the money, arms, and so on that she has filched from them?
I suppose we shall be told that in asking for this restitution we are provoking Germany to make war and that there would be a risk of retaliation if the countries prepared to enter into a plan of this kind were to put it into operation. That is a risk that we should have to run, obviously, but suppose we in this country had been guilty, let us say, of sending an expedition to Denmark and forcibly taking over Denmark, and suppose as the result every other country closed down its ports and instituted a boycott against us, I do not think we should immediately go to war against all these countries, assuming the rest of Europe, or almost all the rest of Europe, was prepared to exert this pressure upon us. I admit that such action might, and possibly would, bring about a policy of retaliation. Obviously no country is going to join in any embargo of that kind unless and until there is a mutual guarantee amongst the nations who take part in these coercive measures, in exercising this economic and financial pressure, that if they are attacked all the other countries will come to their support. It seems to me that any plan of this kind necessitates and implies the preparation of military plans in advance, and that is why, in the Motion, I have suggested a Commission of experts from all these countries who will sit down, not in six months' time, but immediately, to work out these schemes.
The next question I should like to ask is this: When do we propose to call a halt to these acts of aggression? One small nation after another is being either menaced or swallowed up. The small nations are being driven like sheep into the Axis fold. What are we doing to try to stop that? I would appeal to noble Lords here who are described as realists to consider this. What has happened in Czecho-Slovakia? That country was first of all deprived of its Maginot line, and as a result of what has taken place there 455 we have lost forty divisions of the best soldiers in Europe, about £30,000,000, innumerable guns, about one thousand tanks and fifteen hundred aeroplanes. They have all gone to Germany.
So far as collective security is concerned they cannot be reckoned upon any more. I have, I am afraid, on several occasions bored your Lordships by trying to plead for an International Air Force, and had there been such an air force in existence to-day those fifteen hundred aeroplanes would not have been part of Hitler's booty in Czecho-Slovakia. They would have had time to get away. I wonder, for I do not know, what increase there has been in our rearmament since last September. I venture to say that in twenty-four hours Germany acquired more than that increase on our part when she went into Czecho-Slovakia recently and took this loot of which I have spoken. I suggest that any leeway we are able to make up we are going to lose as one small nation after another is overrun. What is going to happen in two or three years' time?
I do not know, but we do know perfectly well that such small countries as Holland, Belgium, Denmark, Poland, the Baltic States and Switzerland are mobilising; we know that Poland is calling up all her reservists, that Rumania is tied up with a new trade agreement with Germany, that these small countries and Yugo-Slavia are all shivering in their shoes because they do not know when they may be the victims of aggression. What I would like to ask the noble Earl is this: Which of these countries are we going to help? Are we going to help any of them? This is what was said by one Minister of the Government on October 14, 1935, during the General Election campaign:If the League were to abdicate its functions every weak nation would first begin to arm,"—they are all doing that now—then to seek alliance with its strongest neighbour, and before long the peace of Europe would be at the mercy of the biggest and strongest Powers in Europe.The choice before us is whether we shall make a last effort at Geneva for peace and security or whether by a cowardly surrender we will break a promise we have made and hold ourselves up to the shame of our children and their children's children.456 Who was the Minister who said that? It was the present Prime Minister who made that speech during the last Election.
What I want to know is: Is that the view of the Government to-day? If so, are we prepared to go to the help of what are called the smaller countries in Europe? If we are, then it is high time there should be consultations between our Naval, Air and Army Staffs and the corresponding Staffs of those countries. I was horrified to read in one of the Sunday newspapers that the consultations with France, supposed to have begun eight months or even longer ago, had not been carried on very actively. Opinion up to the present, said the newspaper, is that discussions between the Staffs have so far been of very little practical value. There is a good deal more in the same strain. I should have thought, after the experiences we have gone through during the last few years, that at least there should have been some active collaboration between our military Staffs and those of our neighbours across the channel.
We know perfectly well that before the last War, thanks to Lord Haldane, thanks to Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson and other officers, everything was ready. I have often heard Sir Henry Wilson say that it was the proudest boast of his life that when the emergency came our Expeditionary Force was ready to be moved within a few hours. I hope something of the sort is being done now, but when one reads that sort of thing in a Sunday newspaper—in a reputable Sunday newspaper—one begins to wonder whether everything is as it ought to be, and whether these talks between Staffs are really in progress. I cannot help thinking that if there was real concrete evidence that we were determined, and that in this country there was the will, to resist this aggression, the rest of Europe, with the exception of Italy and possibly two or three small Powers, would rally to our side. After all, what we want to do surely is to regain the initiative. Up to now it has always been the Dictators who have made the running while we have simply been drifting. The Axis Powers apparently carry on their affairs in the very closest collaboration. Why do we not do the same thing with France and with Russia, if she is prepared to do it—we had to do it in 1914—and with the 457 smaller Powers? Are we afraid of annoying Herr Hitler? Is that the reason? One thing is certain: that unless something is done to prepare before the emergency arises we shall find ourselves in a most difficult and disastrous position.
I am afraid I have detained your Lordships too long, but there are one or two other points I should like to touch upon briefly. What is the issue? What are we prepared to fight for? The Prime Minister told us at Birmingham that, although he was a man of peace, there was one thing he was prepared to fight for, and that was liberty We shall, I imagine, all be prepared to fight, as in 1914, for the liberties of our own country and the liberties of Europe, but I suggest that there is another issue we should also be prepared to fight for, and that is for the cause of justice, because justice surely is the foundation of peace. No durable peace can ever be founded on injustice. Therefore I suggest that the real issue between us and any nation which is guilty of acts of aggression is the upholding of the rule of law and the determination to ensure that justice shall be administered. If we have no ideals, I suggest that we are in a very had case. Some of your Lordships will remember that in Mein Kampf Herr Hitler stresses the vital importance of ideals. This is what he says:How well Britain understood the way to appeal to the idealistic side of man. While Germany fought for daily bread Britain fought for freedom—not even for herself but for little nations.We must remember also that it was ideals which, like cement, bound all the Allies together even in the darkest days of the War.
It was because we believed in those ideals that we were prepared to fight for them to the bitter end. I believe that this country is absolutely sound at heart, and I believe it will respond to any call in any emergency. What we want is leadership. What we lack to-day is someone who will tell the country what it is that we stand for as a nation. I remember once listening to a speech—it was towards the end of 1916, I think—made by Mr. Lloyd George. We were passing at that time through very dark and difficult circumstances. This is what he said:The blinds of Britain are not drawn yet, nor are they likely to be. The honour of Britain is not dead;"—458 I wonder if we can say that to-day. Let us search our hearts, and see whether we can say that to-day—her might is not broken; her destiny is not fulfilled; her ideals are not shattered.Surely we have to try to get back something of that spirit and to infuse it into the hearts of our countrymen.
I think your Lordships will also agree that we want to achieve unity, and unity in two senses—unity at home and unity abroad amongst those nations who are determined to resist aggression and to uphold the rule of law. We have destroyed, or helped to destroy, the League. We have helped to break up the system of collective security. What we want to do, and what I understand the Government want to do, is to go back to that system. Therefore we want to have someone to lead us who is attached, and sincerely attached, to that principle, to that plan of carrying on international relationships. We want to get unity at home. Some people suggest that we ought to have conscription. Personally I am not against conscription. If a war came, obviously we should have to have conscription. If we can help to prevent that war by going in for conscription now, why should we not do it? After all, the whole object would be a deterrent one, to prove to the small nations that we are in earnest, and to make Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini understand that we are in earnest. Anything we can do now to weld those small nations together, to create that sense of unity and common aim, will not only make us stronger as a country, but will also exercise a deterrent effect upon aggressors and will hearten all those countries who look to us for a lead in this matter. These small countries have been woefully disappointed. Only the other day Poland said: "I am going to rely upon my own arms and forces if I am attacked. I do not place very much reliance upon these consultations and conferences after what has happened to a neighbour of mine, Czecho-Slovakia."
There is one last quotation I would like to give your Lordships. It is from a speech made the other day by the Speaker of the Storting, Mr. Hambro. Here is what Mr. Hambro said:A British Foreign Minister, Sir Austen Chamberlain, did more than any other man to consolidate the political prestige of the League of Nations and to create confidence in the good will of the great Powers. His 459 brother Neville Chamberlain has done more than any other to undermine that prestige and destroy that good will. His policy in the last month has dismayed the small democratic States and aroused the worst fears towards their future. Not the solution of the Czecho-Slovak question, but the manner of its solving must be described as an act of violence without its like in civilised history. England and France created Czecho-Slovakia, Benes was the pioneer of their policy; they urged him on and praised him at every opportunity—and now they sacrifice his country by selling it behind his back. It is comprehensible that during the last League Assembly in Geneva people were saying, There will be no war as long as a small State remains that the great Powers can sacrifice.'Now we know where we stand. My country is so small that England would not even waste the cost of an aeroplane passage on a flight to Berlin to save us. Among all the small Powers the fear is now growing that they will one day be dismembered, without being asked, if this suits the book of the great Powers. A certain progress, however, is perceptible: Poland was partitioned in the eighteenth century by its worst enemies, Czecho-Slovakia in the twentieth century by its best friends.That is the opinion of the Speaker of the Norwegian Parliament.
I cannot help feeling that those views unfortunately are shared by a great number of the smaller countries in Europe. Therefore I suggest to your Lordships that what we want to do is to restore confidence, and in order to restore confidence I think we must have a change of leadership. After all, the present Prime Minister's personal policy has been carried out, and it has failed, as he has admitted himself. When a policy undertaken and pursued vigorously by a Prime Minister and his Cabinet comes to grief, then by the traditional rule of this country that Administration resigns or at any rate is broadened and widened by bringing in elements from other Parties. Your Lordships remember what happened in 1916, when it was felt from one end of the country to the other that Mr. Asquith had tried his best to carry out the most difficult and onerous job of prosecuting the War and was not up to the task. There was not an election, but there was a feeling—and that feeling was right—that what was wanted was a more dynamic personality; that a person of drive, a person of courage who was prepared to go all out to win the War and to provide the necessities for winning that War should be installed as Prime Minister of this country.
460 I am sure the Prime Minister has done his best. I am not suggesting that he has not. I am not suggesting that he was not convinced that in leaving, in deserting, as he did, the policy of collective security for the policy of appeasement he was doing his best for the country. I do suggest, however, that once that policy has failed, the time has come when we require new leadership. Are we bankrupt in statesmanship? I do not believe we are. Or has the fiat gone out from Berlin that we have no choice in the matter, or that our choice has to be severely restricted? I cannot believe that. Therefore I suggest to your Lordships that the time has come for action. We have been warned on more than one occasion what is likely to happen, and the time has now come when whatever policy we decide upon should be carried out with the greatest possible energy. After all, the best policy carried out weakly, carried out with hesitation, carried out with so many arriêre-pensées that we do not know what it really means, is worse than an indifferent policy carried out with all the force and energy of the nation behind it.
When I look back over the last twenty years and remember all those wasted opportunities for bringing about a better state of affairs in Europe, for developing the institutions which we had in order to create some day the United States of Europe, for developing the federal principle in international relationships, I confess to great bitterness. I do not mind confessing it. After all, what did we do? Unilateral disarmament went on for years, and then the lips of our late Prime Minister—who I am sorry to see is not in his place here to-day—were so tightly sealed that he would not even tell his fellow-countrymen about the rearmament that was going on in Germany. Why? Because he was afraid of losing the next Election, That is the sort of thing that sometimes make one's blood boil. What about our comrades who made the supreme sacrifice in the terrible struggle twenty years ago? What have we done to implement the promises which were made to them before they gave up their lives in order to destroy militarism and bring about a new state of affairs in the world?
I agree that at this stage recriminations are useless. It is no use going back to the past, except to try to see where we have gone wrong and what mistakes we have made. I suggest that now we have 461 arrived at the eleventh hour. Nevertheless there is one more chance if under bold and determined leadership this country can be rallied in support of the ideals, the principles, for which we all fought in the last War but which have never been realised, and if at the same time we remember the words of a great Englishman when he said "Because right is right, to follow right were wisdom, in the scorn of consequence." I beg to move.
Moved to resolve, That this House welcomes the assurances of the Foreign Secretary that His Majesty's Government has under consideration, in conjunction with other Powers, the desirability of assuming wider mutual obligations in order to prevent further acts of aggression in Europe. It expresses its conviction that the deterrent effect of sac's a policy can only be developed to the full by means of the immediate establishment of a Commission composed of the financial, economic, and military experts of the co-operating nations for the preparation of measures of mutual defence, and for the restoration to Czecho-Slovakia of her freedom and independence. Further, that this House urges His Majesty's Government also to consider what steps can be taken to establish adequate machinery for the impartial settlement of all inter-State disputes as an essential corollary of the plan for collective security.—(Lord Davies.)
§ LORD HASTINGS
My Lords, it is only ten days ago that your Lordships participated in a debate upon foreign affairs, and there seems every possibility that not many more days will pass before another debate upon the same subject is staged in this House. It therefore might appear to be perhaps undesirable that this debate should have occurred at all. But, inasmuch as the noble Lord, Lord Davies, put down a Motion upon the Paper which was provocative in the extreme, I felt that the noble Lord's bellicosity might possibly be to some extent tempered by the consideration of a few other reasons.
Lord Davies, in the course of his speech, ranged over a very considerable field, but the themes underlying it were those of the League of Nations—in other words, collective security and moral obligation. I would not have the House think that I discount moral obligation. Moral obligation is only a crude translation of Noblesse oblige, a motto which has been the standard of your Lordships for many centuries. But whereas it is 462 perfectly in order that the noble Lord, and even so humble an individual as myself, should both preach and practise moral obligation, it is not for those who carry the grave responsibility of controlling the affairs of this country to be animated by any such aspirations. On the contrary, it is their duty to do only that which is best for Britain. The standard which I and many who think like me are thankful to realise is at last the standard set up by the Prime Minister and by the Foreign Secretary, is what is best to be done for the country for which we are responsible.
What were the consequences of pursuing this shibboleth of moral obligation? Did not the right honourable gentleman who preceded my noble friend in the Foreign Office succeed in throwing Italy into the arms of Germany by the pursuit of that particular form of moral obligation? Did not he thereby enormously complicate for his successor at the Foreign Office the international situation? Did not he in large measure create the complications which now confront us in this country? Would the noble Lord encourage the further pursuit of that particular form of obligation, so as to estrange other countries, and make the position for Great Britain even more difficult than it now is?
I would like to say a word, if I may, in that connection, in respect of Russia. Last Monday week I was shocked almost into unconsciousness by hearing the most reverend Primate ask "What of Russia?" and be it borne in mind that the most reverend Primate's context was that of an alliance, or at least close cooperation with certain countries in Eastern Europe. I did believe, and I still believe, that the one great force which must eventually triumph is the force of Christianity. How could the most reverend Primate, or any of your Lordships, accommodate that belief with the co-operation of this most Christian country with that most godless one? But, putting aside fundamental questions of that character, which strike at the very root of moral obligation, what would result from a close cooperation with Russia, such as the noble Lord, Lord Davies, would desire? Is it not the prime interest of this country to regain her friendship with Italy? Is it not to the prime interest of this country to create a bond of friendship with the new Spain? Are not these two matters 463 of vastly greater importance to the wellbeing of this country than any will-o'-the-wisp co-operation with Russia? And if Russia were called into this conference, or allowed to initiate it, as the noble Lord desires, what hope have we in future of safeguarding British interests in the Mediterranean? Surely the standard and the principle should be that of what serves Britain's interests best, and while I repeat that questions of moral obligation should not be disregarded by those who hold comparatively irresponsible positions, they are impossible for those who have to steer this country through the difficult times through which we are now passing and which lie ahead.
The noble Lord, Lord Davies, referred also at some considerable length to the advantages of collective security. I do not know who would be collectively secured by endeavouring to create alliances and arranging for co-operations in Eastern Europe. No, the noble Lord makes wild and, if I may say so without offence, weird proposals for restoring to Czecho-Slovakia her independence, and for entering into wider mutual obligations in parts of the world which we cannot reach and where our forces would be wholly ineffective, and apparently in pursuit of certain principles he wishes our Prime Minister and our Foreign Secretary to commit this country to obligations which would land us in inevitable disaster.
There are other facts perhaps not so clearly thought of by the noble Lord as those to which he devoted his speech. Bellicosity creates alarm in this country. We have already created by Parliamentary inquisition, and by Press indiscretion, and by other means, a condition of affairs which is grossly unfair to the hardworking population of our island, which is interfering sadly with the progress of trade, and which in the long run will have the prosaic effect of making less money available for the Exchequer. Surely we might have done with that kind of talk. Lord Davies knows perfectly well that he is not proposing to lead a battalion—shall we say of angels?—across the air to attack impossible places in Central Europe. Why should he prompt others to suppose that that kind of expedition and adventure is possible or desirable?
For myself, I am thankful to think that in the hands of the present Prime Minister 464 and of my noble friend the Foreign Secretary we are safe in knowing that the best interests of Britain will be served, that we shall not be led into commitments of the kind that the noble Lord desires, and, without being in the least degree pacifist or unwilling to meet much obligations as the situation compels us to meet, I believe we should set aside the madness of the League of Nations, which has led us into the position where we now are. I have said all that I wish to say. I would not have spoken had it not been for the provocative speech of the noble Lord, Lord Davies, and I can only be thankful that he is not able to lead those who now control the affairs of this country into the dangerous paths which he would wish them to tread.
§ LORD BARNBY
My Lords, since the debate which took place at the beginning of last week there has been little fundamental change in the position of Europe. There are many of your Lordships who feel that in the circumstances it would have been much better that affairs of foreign policy should not have been raised again so soon in this House. Perhaps it would be right to regard this debate as merely a continuance of the debate initiated last week, but because of the provocative Resolution moved by the noble Lord, and the interpretation of it which has been given by the noble Lord who has just sat down, it is inevitable that some members of this House would wish to speak on this subject. Anyone who addresses himself to questions of foreign policy at this time speaks under a sense of serious responsibility, and with the consciousness that no word should be said that would embarrass the delicate negotiations which, in the knowledge of every one of your Lordships, are taking place at the present moment.
The speech of the noble Lord, Lord Davies, covered a very wide field. It offered ample material for the noble Earl who is to reply for the Government—the whole range of collective security, unity of direction and various other phrases which have meant so much or so little in the past, but overriding all there was his indictment of the Prime Minister's policy of appeasement. In earlier days in another place I found myself frequently in accord with the noble Lord, indeed we combined forces on many occasions in different projects. But in this case I find 465 myself in entire disagreement with him on the main point at issue. He made the observation that what we want is action, not words. It would seem relevant therefore to remark that action at home is the best evidence of what this country can do in foreign policy. It is for that reason that I admired a letter to The Times from the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, in December, 1937, I think, in which he courageously recommended obligatory service—not necessarily military service, but obligatory service, the subordination of the individual to the requirements of this State. He followed that up with a very clear letter on the same subject last week, and I think there must be few who read two letters in The Times yesterday who could have felt that there remain serious grounds for delay by His Majesty's Government in imposing some form of obligatory service and impressing the Chancelleries of Europe.
I do not want to approach this subject from an alarmist point of view, nor do I suggest that it is a moment for complacency. There is the long-range policy and the short-range policy. The short-range policy is occupying the active, continuous and intense attention of the Government. The long-range policy is a policy in regard to which speakers today can be helpful to the Government. I am one of those who think that the trade policy of this Government is the policy that is going to have the greatest effect in the councils of the world. After all, ultimately the cost of all expenditure on preparedness and armaments is going to be borne by trade. It is trade through which this country through many generations built up its wealth, to be the foundation of our position at the present moment. There is a spate of new trade agreements, which seem to be announced every day, and one feels that the great need is for intense application of the thought of the Government to these matters of trade policy. Economic preparedness internally must be complementary to military policy. That in turn is closely allied to the weight which this foreign policy will carry in the world.
There are many who think that bilateral trade agreements are the most profitable and promising method of dealing with the commercial position. There are many who feel that there should be greater drive towards bilateral trade equation 466 rather than dependence on the triangular and multi-angular balance of trade. Anyhow, export trade being one of our main needs, there seem to be real grounds why it should be examined more intensely by His Majesty's Government. There are many who think that the export drive can only come about by the application of subsidies. That is a controversial question. I mention it because it has been suggested that we are going to meet attacks on our trade by the application of the policy of others in the prosecution of our own. If that be a right policy it is not out of reason to suggest it should be met by a sales tax to provide the funds out of which it can be done. Whatever may be the method, the important thing is to export a greater volume of the results of British labour, which will pay for those imports we need, to provide the means of meeting the vast burden of expenditure needed to support our strength in the world.
Looking over the whole field, one's thoughts turn first to Italy and Poland, both large countries with extensive territory and large populations. The situation with regard to Italy naturally involves questions which affect others more than ourselves, and it would not be delicate to make any observations on that at this moment. In the case of Poland the situation is different, and the mover of the Resolution dealt at some length with that. For that reason I will confine myself for a minute or two to that problem. I am among those who think that closer collaboration with Poland, both in trade and in diplomacy, has been for many years past a matter of vital importance to this country. For twenty years I have tried to develop closer relations between Poland and this country. Before the War I was able to realise, by frequent visits to that country, that the three sections—Congress Poland, Galicia and Poznania which, thrown together, now form the territory of the present Republic of Poland—once fused, would give a powerful country. Since then I have travelled thousands of miles throughout the length and breadth of Poland on many visits, and have tried to familiarise myself with what is the internal life of the country. In another place, when we pressed that this country should appoint a financial adviser to Poland, Sir Hilton Young, now a member of your Lordships' 467 House, was appointed, and he did much to establish good relations between the two countries.
When one is actually in a country one is better informed than those who only go to a country and do business there. Personally I have had intimate contact with Poland. I have shown consistent confidence in Poland, and for that reason I speak with some warmth on the subject to-day. Because of that I have been a target for much criticism from those who had less confidence than myself, and it has been discouraging to see how, both at Westminster and in the City, there has been a complete lack of realisation of the importance of welding together the interests of these two countries. The internal economy of Poland is complementary to our own, and both on this ground and on the ground of diplomacy there is every reason why we should act together. Emphasis on this in the past has been frowned at because it tended to the encirclement of Germany, but surely the gloves are off and there is no need to-day to understate our own interest.
I would remind your Lordships that Napoleon said that Poland was the keystone of the European arch. What was true 120 years ago is equally true to-day. With the eclipse of Vienna, Warsaw takes its place. It becomes the focal point in the great territory which, stretching from the Baltic to the Black Sea, forms a wedge between the Axis States and Russia. The visit of Mr. Hudson, the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department, is opportune, and will, I am sure, he fruitful. We may have confidence that these discussions of a commercial character will help the diplomatic position, and we can rejoice at the outspoken criticism of that Minister and his realism as to the requirements of British trade. I would remind your Lordships that the economy of, Poland, like the economy of Australia, is complementary to the economy of this country. It is a country of primary production. It exports products of a character that we need and imports capital goods which we desire to send out with a British labour content. Poland's purchasing power until now has been low. Its development upwards can be only in the ordinary course of evolution, but there is a great market with which we need to trade. To-day more than at any other time we wish to see a 468 strong and prosperous Poland. It is for that reason that one hopes that the noble Earl, replying for the Government, will be able to give us assurance that this consideration is very prominent in the mind of His Majesty's Government.
The noble Viscount the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in speaking in this House on the occasion of the debate last week, turned for a moment to the question of the fate of refugees from Central Europe. If a debate takes place in this House I feel it is right there should be voiced the intense sympathy of your Lordships with these unfortunate people and the wish that whatever can be done should be done to help them. The repugnant treatment which has been, and is daily being, meted out to them evokes our sympathy, and we urge His Majesty's Government that they should make every possible effort to facilitate their rapid egress from what is now German territory, and, if thought right, the entry into this country of those to whom it is agreed such privileges should be extended.
The noble Lord who introduced the Motion referred to a letter in The Times by Sir Alexander Roger, urging an economic boycott of Germany. Boycotts, and economic boycotts above all, are matters of extreme danger, and I cannot allow a suggestion of that kind to pass in this House without protesting against the danger and impropriety of it. In any case, from a practical point of view, what is the good of trying to prevent direct trade with Germany?—because I need not remind your Lordships that trade can be triangular and multilateral and cannot be prevented.
In conclusion, I would say that if in the wisdom of those who guide us conscious development of trade in Central and South-Eastern Europe is neither prudent nor possible, then again, on the long-range policy, the aim of His Majesty's Government, in order to give confidence throughout the world in its power, should be to consider the position of the Empire as a whole. Trade within the Empire, to be developed, requires a redistribution of population, and there one calls to life and focuses one's attention on the responsibilities of the Dominions. In their charge are these matters, and it is earnestly that one hopes that those responsible for the government of His Majesty's Dominions will realise that the moment has raised much higher than ever 469 before the responsibility which they share in giving a gesture to the world that the vast territories which they control will be assisted and developed—and that requires population. That is the long-range policy. Surely in these days, when one sees these vast sums being expended on defence by the Dominions, one realises that increasing population is the best armament and defence.
My Lords, as the noble Lord who moved this Motion so happily and so pertinently said, time is a factor in all this business, and I do not propose to keep your Lordships for more than a few minutes, but I do welcome the opportunity of advancing certain considerations which hitherto up till to-night have not, I think, had sufficient weight attached to them. All that I say will, I hope, be said with the restraint which the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, recommended and displayed. I think it is appropriate to say now that it is necessary for us to take a long-term view of this great struggle which is going on in Europe. After all, it originated mainly out of the Great War; partially, probably out of the development of modern science; at any rate it originated in a great excitement of men's minds accompanied by vast integrations of men and subsequent disintegration. There has been no movement like it in recent history until you go back to the French Revolution, and the French Revolution worked itself out all through the first threequarters of the nineteenth century, and may be said to have been still working itself out when Rome was finally occupied in 1870.
I regret—I regret it as the father of children, I regret it for my nation—that I can see no early end to this turmoil in Europe. It is therefore necessary, it is essential, that we take a long view, and if we are going to take a long view we must do it in the consciousness of a good cause. In a long struggle nothing really matters to anything like the same extent as the value of the cause and the principle for which you are fighting. In that I am sure we are all at one, and any speech which has been made which did not emphasize that would be, I am sure, rejected by your Lordships on reconsideration. If you look at the recent history of Europe, and particularly its warlike history, you notice that the wars that have been going on since our Great 470 War finished have not in the main been territorial wars, they have been civil wars, they have been wars between conflicting ideals, conflicting systems and ideas of government. There are now, to any observer of Europe, two planes in which Europe must be viewed. One plane may be described as territorial, but the other plane, and by far the most important cross-section, is the ideological one, and the two planes do not agree. In numerous respects they do not agree. There are very few countries in Europe who have not more or less been through a civil war since 1918, and that denotes a great conflict of policy and of opinion, of principle, of religion, and of all the things we think most sacred.
The noble Lord who moved the Motion spoke a good deal of the League of Nations. He again, I noticed, begins to recommend that policy of universality which broke down so signally when the League of Nations was active in our affairs. Why did it break down? Because there was no unity of purpose, no unity of principle, although there might have been universality of membership. We need ourselves in our own country that unity of ideal before we are fit to fight. It is the greatest mistake in the world to say that when Mr. Chamberlain went to Munich he failed. He had the greatest success that any man has made during the last generation or more. Why do I say that? Because he appealed to all that was best in Europe, because he appealed to the policy of appeasement. Nobody who went to Italy shortly after the visit of the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary recently, could fail to grasp the radiant joy with which the Italians greeted the Chamberlain policy of appeasement and the Chamberlain policy of appealing to the best that is in all peoples. How can we appeal to the best in all the nations of the earth, and how can we therefore build up a strong alliance on any footing other than on the policy of appealing to our principles and sticking to them?
I have no desire to see Russia outlawed. I have never spoken in this House or elsewhere in favour of leaving Russia as an outlaw in Europe, but if we are going to pin our faith to that large country with its teeming population we must hear in mind that its ideology is entirely contrary to that of many other friends whom we may have or may acquire. You 471 cannot at the same time appeal to the best in the peoples of Europe and say you are working hand in glove with a nation which has treated its own populace as Russia has treated its populace. That is impossible, that would be fatal. On those lines we should inevitably finish up in disaster. There is only one hope for us, and that is to go on founding our case on principle and gathering to ourselves the best in every nation whether the rulers of that nation be or be not friendly to us.
§ LORD CATTO
My Lords, it may be that some of my noble friends would think that I would be more an authority were the subject of this debate finance or India, but perhaps I may claim a better understanding of the subject than might be generally supposed of one who in post-War years has been so closely associated with India. For before I even went to that country I had had great experience of the countries of South-Eastern Europe and Russia; indeed I lived in the latter country for some six years and I speak the language. The Prime Minister's Birmingham speech was the speech of his life. It expressed the sentiments of our people, it assailed Teutonic power politics, and it carried a conviction that has rallied to the democratic countries the moral support of the whole world. But, great as that, speech was, it gave no clear lead as to the remedy for the evils of which he spoke. Last week the noble Viscount the Foreign Secretary made a speech in this House in which, if I understood him rightly, he seemed to be contemplating some form of what has come to be called collective security. Now that may be a remedy, indeed it may be the remedy, but it is a matter that in all its implications requires the most thoughtful consideration. Otherwise it may become collective insecurity.
We must not forget that it was a pre-War form of collective security between France and Russia that precipitated France's entry and our entry into the Great War, and in circumstances, may I remind your Lordships, not unlike recent events in Czacho-Slovakia, for the quarrel was aggression by Austria and Germany on a small Slav State—Serbia. But although that was the spark that started the conflagration, it was not the real cause of the War. The real cause was the age-long rivalry of Teuton and Slav in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe, and 472 in my judgment that is something in which we should not again become involved. Each is strong enough to hold the other, and that is the only practical solution of the problem. I would not like any word of mine to increase the difficulties of the noble Viscount the Foreign Secretary, and the noble Earl who is to reply to this Motion, in the very delicate task they have before them, but perhaps it would not be inappropriate to remind them of this age-long clash of Teuton and Slav of which I have spoken, for if rumour is correct collective security, as it is now visualised, may include Russia and perhaps Poland. If that is so, I would remind them of what Stalin said about Western Democracies only the other day. It is too long to quote, but I have it here if the noble Earl wishes to see it.
I do not want to say any hard things about Russia. It is a great country, and the Russian people are generous and hospitable, as I can testify from the years when I lived amongst them. Their form of government is their own affair, but we cannot and we should not, in considering these problems, disguise from ourselves that it is a Government that is far from being a democracy, and that their leaders would, if they could, tear down every vestige of that democracy which we look upon as our birthright and destroy that liberty of the individual which is so dear to each one of us. I venture to hope, therefore, that the noble Viscount the Foreign Secretary will weigh carefully—and if I know anything of the Foreign Secretary and his caution I am sure that he will weigh carefully—all the factors before committing this country to adventures in the political maelstrom of Teuton and Slav in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe. I have faith in the strength and unity of the Western Democracies to defend their own ideals, and I go further and I say that I can see no good, but perhaps a great harm, in trying to surround Germany by a ring of potential enemies, driving her to desperation and re-creating the very conditions which brought about the Great War.
Time passes and I will not detain your Lordships more than a few moments. Is the basis of collective security to include the defence of Rumania and of Hungary and of Poland? The first two have already given pretty clear evidence that they want none of it. It is too dangerous 473 for them. They realise that they must live in peace with their powerful neighbour, and that their economic existence, and indeed their political existence, depends upon it. And so far as Poland is concerned, let us take heed that we do not bring about a situation whereby history might repeat itself and that country again become, as it has been in the past, the battleground of Teuton and Slav—and, no doubt, as always in the past, suffer dismemberment by both. I have listened to-night to the speeches of noble Lords and I have not found in any of them any constructive suggestion to help the Government in these difficult times. They have given nothing but criticism. Therefore may I, in conclusion, say that it seems to me that what should be done is to concentrate on what is practical and what can be immediately effected, and without delay bring about a general understanding of the large and small nations of Western Europe the geographical position of which is such that they could act quickly together and effectively in defence of their democratic ideals and territorial integrity.
My Lords, will you permit me, having just returned from Rumania, to make a few observations relative to the situation which might develop in the manner so deplored by the noble Lord who moved this Motion? I was very much struck whilst in Rumania with the splendid, not to say dynamic work, which is being carried out there by the British Council, and your Lordships will naturally be interested to know of the great part played in that by a member of your Lordships' House, the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd. The work of the British Council in Rumania has been invaluable to the interests of that country and our own. I suggest that not only should that work be intensified, but that the departure of an economic mission which has already been agreed upon by His Majesty's Government should be speeded up. I suggest that such a mission should not merely explore the situation, as all the essential information relative to the position in Rumania is available in London to-day, but should state clearly the amount of money—and that a substantial sum—that will be made available, and should proceed to the making of inter-trading arrangements between Rumania and this country. That, I suggest, would lead more effectively than anything else— 474 it is already in part being dope—to the development of a situation of great benefit to Rumania, and lead to the pacification of Europe more effectively, if I may say so, than the situation as outlined by the noble Lord the mover of this Motion.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (THE EARL OF PLYMOUTH)
My Lords, my first duty must be to express to your Lordships, on behalf of my noble friend the Secretary of State, his regret for his absence this afternoon. He is sorry that the shortness of the notice of this Motion and the pressure of work, which I am sure you will all realise bears very heavily upon him at the present moment, made it impossible for him to arrange to be in his place this afternoon. The noble Lord who initiated this debate has taken up a passage in my noble friend's speech in your Lordships' House on March 20, and has suggested to us certain steps which in his view should follow upon it. I feel certain that the majority of your Lordships will hardly expect me to elaborate that speech of March 20, more especially as in a statement made in another place on March 23 my right honourable friend the Prime Minister gave such indications as were possible of the steps which, in the view of His Majesty's Government, are appropriate in the circumstances, and the object to which they are directed.
Furthermore, in another place this very afternoon my right honourable friend the Prime Minister was asked whether he had any further statement to make upon the general European situation, and his reply was to the effect that he could inform the House that His Majesty's Government were actively continuing their consultations with other Governments upon issues arising from recent events. But he pointed out that during the progress of these consultations the House would appreciate that it was essential that their confidential character should be respected, and he therefore asked the House not to press him to make a statement which could not in any case be complete until the Government were in possession of the final views of the other Governments concerned. I hope, therefore, that you will understand that it is not possible for me to add anything, in regard to the present situation and the consultations which are going on at the moment, to what has 475 already been said both by the Prime Minister and by my noble friend the Secretary of State.
But at the same time I want to take the opportunity of stating quite categorically that I am quite unable to accept most of the propositions to which the noble Lord, Lord Davies, gave expression. They seem to me to be based almost entirely upon false premises and on over-optimistic hopes. They were, furthermore, in my view extravagant beyond measure in their sweeping generalisations, which I maintain were quite incapable of proof by himself or anybody else. In addition to that it is clearly not possible—nor indeed do I think it would be right for me to attempt—to answer a number of what I can describe mildly as the naively embarrassing questions which he put to me. Indeed, I do not think I should be using extravagant language if I said that it would lead to mischievous results if I attempted to do so. On the other hand, I wish to pay tribute to the restrained language which was used by other speakers, and to add that I certainly found that most of their remarks were, in contrast, extremely useful.
In the position of responsibility in which I speak this afternoon I have to use very careful and cautious language, as your Lordships will readily understand. Indeed, I think it behoves everybody, at a time of great tension such as we have seen and are still passing through, that they should use language which is not calculated or designed in any way to aggravate an already difficult situation. I therefore now turn to the last two paragraphs of this Motion, about which I can say a few words. These, with an important exception, relate to machinery and procedure rather than to substance of policy. It has already been made clear that His Majesty's Government have initiated consultations with certain countries to meet a situation in which independent States are subjected to such pressure under the threat of force as to be obliged to yield up their independence; and further to oppose attempts, if they should be made, to put such a procedure into operation. His Majesty's Government have not proposed a conference of States for this purpose, because they preferred at the present time to conduct consultations 476 through the ordinary diplomatic channels.
The noble Lord seems to contemplate not merely a conference but, in addition to that, a permanent body of experts to draw up a detailed financial, economic and military plan. In fact, he dilated on that point. All I can say in answer is that if States were willing to enter into a detailed combination for the purposes indicated, some such machinery might be found to be necessary: indeed, its establishment might follow almost naturally from such a combination. But I must make it clear that it seems quite evident to me that the creation of that machinery now would not necessarily provide the driving force which is so essential in the present situation. The noble Lord then passes, by implication, from defence to attack. He is not only thinking of steps to meet further aggression, if it should be attempted, but also active measures to restore the position of Czecho-Slovakia as it was after the Munich Agreement. It is clear that such a restoration could be effected only by force of arms, and I want to say that neither His Majesty's Government nor the States with whom they are in consultation are harbouring any such designs. I should like to make it perfectly clear that the object of the exchange of views which His Majesty's Government are conducting now is purely defensive in intention and character and has no aggressive purpose whatsoever.
In conjunction with this plan for resistance to aggression, the noble Lord suggests the establishment of machinery for the impartial settlement of inter-State disputes. That is in his Motion, though as a matter of fact he said very little about it during his speech. I should only like to say that we know that as a favourite idea of the noble Lord's, which used to take shape in his proposal for the constitution of what is known as an equity tribunal. I might say that the theory of that proposal is an unexceptionable one, but I think it will be agreed that its practical application in the atmosphere of the present time is obviously not practical politics. At the present time powerful States have even discarded the method of friendly negotiation for the settlement of disputes, and have resorted to the direct or indirect application of force. It is surely, therefore, 477 not even remotely probable that they would refer their grievances to impartial adjudication; nor, I am afraid, would it he feasible in a period of tension to create a body which would be regarded as impartial or which would have the authority to ensure respect for its decisions. As your Lordships know, the League of Nations endeavoured to provide machinery for conciliation, arbitration and judicial settlement, but unfortunately its purpose was not fulfilled. Full use may not have been made of it, but it was the will to work the machinery, and not the machinery itself, which was deficient.
I want to add that His Majesty's Government, for their part, have always been ready to discuss, in all sincerity and with all good will, any international question calling for settlement. They remain convinced that there is no question arising between States which could not be settled, if that good will exists, by friendly and peaceful negotiations. But they are not prepared, my Lords, to negotiate under the threat of force, nor do they see any object in setting up fresh machinery for the settlement of international disputes so long as the world lies under the menace of forcible action and so long as the general desire to make use of that machinery is conspicuous by its absence. The establishment of such machinery has no necessary connection with consultations having as their object resistance to further aggression. His Majesty's Government are not at the moment concerned with theory, or with the elaboration of paper plans, on which I would say that most of the noble Lord's speech this afternoon was based. On the other hand, His Majesty's Government are concerned, and very definitely concerned, to deal in a practical manner with the concrete issues affecting the independent existence of European States, which have been abruptly and forcibly raised by the events of the last few weeks.
I would like to conclude by thanking other noble Lords who have contributed to this debate for what they have said. I would like to assure Lord Barnby and Lord Sempill, both of whom referred to trade matters, that we are fully conscious of the importance of that subject, and I think the journey which the Secretary of the Department for Overseas Trade is now taking to Poland and the Baltic States, and other States in North-Eastern Europe, is evidence of the fact that we do attach 478 the very greatest importance to that subject. I was very glad to hear what Lord Sempill said about the work of the British Council in Rumania, and I can assure him that attention will be paid to what he has said on that subject. I would only say of other noble Lords' speeches that they seemed to me completely to demolish the whole of the noble Lord's argument, and therefore it is not necessary for me to say anything more at the present moment.
§ LORD DAVIES
My Lords, I do not propose to follow the noble Earl in his remarks at this late hour, but there are one or two points to which I would like to reply, if I have the time. Surely the noble Earl can imagine a state of affairs where things cannot be settled amicably round a table by the process of negotiation and discussion. In a perfect world that might suffice, but unfortunately, as the noble Earl knows, when discussion and negotiation break down, then one of two things must happen. Either the dispute must be submitted to a disinterested body, who can deliver an impartial judgment, or you must allow the disputants to go to war. That is the alternative, and that has been the bane of the League of Nations—that our representative has said that we must settle these things round a table, and that there is no necessity to set up other machinery which, when discussion and negotiation break down, is able to bring about a just and equitable settlement.
If those other countries which the noble Earl mentioned are prepared, despite the existing state of tension in Europe, to cooperate in resisting aggression, surely it would be a step in the right direction and an example to them if we expressed our willingness to submit ourselves to the rule of law by urging the creation of machinery of this kind for the settlement of disputes. Until we, as a country, have made that gesture to the world at large, I do not see how we can expect other countries to submit themselves, or to join us in creating those essential institutions which are necessary to support the rule of law.
May I, in answer to the noble Lords, Lord Barnby and Lord Sempill, say that it seems to me that in these days the flag follows trade? In other days it used to be the other way about, and it was always said that trade 479 followed the flag. Therefore I sincerely trust that the Government will do what Lord Sempill and Lord Barnby ask—namely, do their best to arrive at mutually satisfactory economic and trade agreements with both Rumania and Poland. I think Lord Phillimore is quite right when he says that it is the cause that matters. I think that he would probably agree that in order to secure what he describes as unity it is essential that other nations should realise that they can secure some measure of international justice.
Lord Hastings told us that we should not worry about what he described as our moral obligations. I do not know whether he drew any distinction between "moral" and "trade" obligations. I should have thought that they were one and the same, and when he told us not to worry about our moral obligations, then I suppose he meant that we were not to worry about our trade obligations, and that is why we have on occasions completely and entirely disregarded our obligations under the Covenant of the League of Nations. When he tells us that we are not to worry about our moral obligations, I would point out to him that that is precisely the line taken by Herr Hitler and other Dictators. Treaties mean nothing to them at all. In twenty-four hours a treaty no longer exists. Does Lord Hastings suggest that we should emulate the example of the Dictators and scrap every treaty when it does not suit us to carry it out?
He also told us that he disliked Russia, and that he hoped Russia would not exert any influence upon our policy. Then he began to talk about Italy. It is rather a curious fact, I think, that during the last week Italy has sent out several missions to Russia in order to secure a trade agreement with that country. Therefore, according to the noble Lord, it is wrong for us to have anything to do with Russia, but it is quite right for Italy, and probably other countries, to continue to trade with her. May I remind the noble Lord that in 1914, when this country detested the Tsarist régime in Russia, that did not prevent us from securing and welcoming the assistance which Russia was prepared to give us and France at that time. It is perfectly true that none of us, I imagine, has any great affection for the system of government which at present exists in 480 Russia. That is also perfectly true of other countries. Why should we draw a distinction? Why should we be influenced by any particular form of government which happens to exist in another country?
Therefore I must still appeal to the noble Earl, and the Government, in view of what the Foreign Secretary told us last week, when he gave us his assurance that at least the question of our incurring further mutual obligations was to be explored, not to go back on what he and the Prime Minister said, and not to turn their backs once more upon a policy which we thought they had substituted for what was called appeasement. After all, there used to be in this country what was described as continuity of foreign policy. The noble Earl knows perfectly well that all his predecessors in the Foreign Office have said, ever since the Covenant was signed, that the League was the keystone of our foreign policy. The late Sir Austen Chamberlain said so, and all his successors have said so. Why not, therefore, go back to that policy and endeavour to implement it by providing the means which we hope will prevent aggression in Europe? I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.