§ 4.15 p.m.
§ LORD SNELL
My Lords, I beg to ask His Majesty's Government if they have any statement to make on the international situation.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (EARL STANHOPE)
My Lords, in the week that has passed since the last statement to the House, stormy weather combined with low visibility has had its effect upon operations of war by land, on sea, and in the air. Activity on the Franco-German frontier has been confined to the action of local raiding parties and occasional artillery fire. Despite exceptional cold and wet, the British Expeditionary Force has continued to work diligently at their task of strengthening the defences of their sector of the line. The House will be glad to hear that all reports speak of the cheerfulness of the troops and of their friendly relations with the local inhabitants. We must not forget our numerous garrisons overseas. Though distant from the immediate scene of war, and without the stimulus which its proximity provides, they have to maintain a constant vigilance and to perform a routine of duty which can never be relaxed. The war at sea has been comparatively uneventful. We have continued to take toll of the enemy's submarines and have, on the other hand, lost a certain number of merchant ships. Nothing has, however, occurred to shake our confidence in our ability to overcome the submarine menace.
1661 During the week there have been a number of encounters with German aircraft engaged either in reconnaissances or in an attempted attack on a convoy. No damage was sustained in these encounters either by our aircraft or by our ships. The enemy on the other hand suffered some loss, and the net result has been to confirm the high opinion we already entertained of the quality of our fighter aircraft and the skill and courage of their crews. A particularly gallant exploit was the successful reconnaissance flight over North-West Germany during the week when valuable photographs were secured, some of them taken at a height of no more than 200 feet despite a heavy and concentrated barrage of anti-aircraft gunfire.
In the international field, the outstanding feature of the week was the speech made on October 31 by the People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs of the Soviet Union. M. Molotov's speech, which had been eagerly awaited in Berlin, but which I imagine has occasioned some disappointment in that quarter, has been carefully studied by His Majesty's Government who have noted with interest its definition of the Soviet Government's future aims. Noble Lords will remember that in an earlier speech on May 31 M. Molotov issued a warning that his Government would not be drawn into international conflicts. He said also on that occasion:We stand for the cause of peace and for the prevention of any sort of development of aggression.That is also the position of His Majesty's Government and we are not disposed to be disturbed over the flights of fancy in which M. Molotov indulged when describing the aims of the Allies. We have stated those aims ourselves in plain terms, and we are confident that they are fully appreciated by the great majority of the nations of the world.
We have had in the last few days a striking demonstration of the united determination of the Empire. From Canada, from the Commonwealth of Australia, from New Zealand, from the Union of South Africa, and from India have come Cabinet Ministers and representatives who have travelled thousands of miles in order to make personal contact with Ministers in this country and to see with 1662 their own eyes the gigantic efforts in which we are engaged. Discussions with these representatives have already begun and we are considering with them how best to co-ordinate the contribution which each of us can make to our common task. As your Lordships are aware, the Empire has already shown how generous and wholehearted is its spirit of co-operation. The fuller knowledge which we shall now gain of the plans of the different Governments as a result of the presence of their Ministerial representatives here will be of great value to us. And in their turn we are confident that the Dominion Governments and the Government of India will find that the first-hand impressions of their representatives will afford them invaluable aid in gaining a fuller appreciation of our common problems, and of the best and quickest means of solving them.
Equally striking is the whole-hearted co-operation that we are receiving from all parts of the Empire, including Burma, and from the Colonies. His Majesty's Government have already expressed our great appreciation of the spontaneous messages of support which came immediately after the outbreak of war from every single territory of the Colonial Empire. We did not ask for these messages: the Colonies have not been forced into war by Great Britain against their will. The action of so many peoples of various races is a witness to their consciousness that a threat to Great Britain is equally a threat to that freedom and well-being which has been assured to them under British rule.
Although at the beginning the war effort of the Colonies will be mainly on the economic side and every Colonial Government is doing its utmost to help us in the organisation of supplies of essential raw materials and foodstuffs, we should like to refer with gratitude to the numerous offers of personal service from residents in the Colonies. It is the intention of His Majesty's Government to employ the man-power of the Colonial Empire as may be most effective, and plans for doing this are being worked out. In many cases openings are already being provided in locally raised units. For example, in Africa, the strength of the Royal West African Frontier Force has been more than doubled and that of the King's African Rifles, in East Africa, more than trebled; and in fact the voluntary offers of service throughout the 1663 Empire have far exceeded our immediate requirements. As announced some time ago, British subjects from the Colonies and British protected persons who are in this country, including those who are not of pure European descent, are now placed for entry into the armed forces on the same footing as British subjects from the United Kingdom. Such is the nature of the help we are receiving from the Empire. Eagerly offered and gladly accepted, it is a splendid example of free co-operation and ungrudging self-sacrifice in a noble cause throughout the lands which owe allegiance to the King.
§ 4.23 p.m.
§ LORD SNELL
My Lords, although the statement to which we have just listened contains nothing thrilling in the way of news, these statements are very welcome and have a reassuring effect upon the mind of the country. I should like first of all to say a word in regard to the reference to the numerous garrisons overseas. The statement contained a well-deserved tribute to men engaged in those services, a tribute with which we should wish to be associated. It is also comforting to be assured that the Government have confidence in our ability to overcome the submarine menace. I can understand why nothing was said in the statement about the menace from surface craft, but the nation will expect information upon that point as soon as it can usefully be given. The reference to the support which has been and is being received from all parts of the Empire is the best of all answers to the accusations that have been made that England has ruled by force and by brutality. The British Dominions will never secede from the British Empire in order to enjoy the gentle amenities of the German Reich.
The question of Russia is enormously important, although it was not dealt with at any length in the statement which has been made. The situation is far from clear and I have no desire to put questions which may irritate rather than compose at the present time, but the nation and the House will be grateful for information when it can be given. A reference was made to M. Molotov's speech, and what he said on that occasion appears to me to render even more urgent a closer definition of our war aims and our conception of the main 1664 principles of a satisfactory peace. As I may require to deal with that matter more specifically at a later date, I will not go into it further to-day. I would like, in passing from that aspect of the statement, to say that I do not know how these statements are composed, but I do know that the present is a time when phraseology should be very carefully considered, and if I had been referring to M. Molotov's reference to our own ideals, I think I should have chosen different phraseology.
The noble Viscount above the gangway is, I believe, going to raise more specifically the question of India, and I will not be guilty of the discourtesy of stealing his initiative, but I shall have exhausted my privileges in your Lordships' House before he speaks and I cannot follow him. I merely say, therefore, that the situation in India is being viewed with increased anxiety by my Party, and our support of His Majesty's Government will depend upon the extent to which we are satisfied that they are trying to meet the passionate and, as we believe, the legitimate hopes and demands of the Indian people. As your Lordships know, we have quite definite opinions on the matter, and if on the one hand we counsel Indian statesmen and reformers not needlessly to injure such machinery of self-government as they already possess, on the other hand we warn His Majesty's Government that we shall not support either a blank negation or a merely equivocal promise of future action. The Indian people in our opinion have given proof of their capacity to run the affairs of their own nation. They have, as we believe, every right to Dominion status, and the Labour Party will continue to give their support to all lawful and practical attempts to secure it. That is all I desire to say on the statement, and I beg to move for Papers.
§ 4.29 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
My Lords, before turning to the subject of India, to which I would venture specially to invite your Lordships' attention, I will ask leave to make a few very brief observations upon the statement which we have just heard. It refers to the speech of M. Molotov as the outstanding feature of the week, and certainly that speech is important because it quite clearly and definitely shows that Germany in this war is now isolated militarily. She is almost isolated morally, but 1665 the fact that she is unlikely to have any allies in the field is a point of deep importance. Germany enters this war financially and in respect of many of her essential resources in a hardly better case than she ended the last war, and that also is a point which may prove to be of decisive importance. In the air the war so far has shown that our fighters can make good against their bombers. It may prove to be the Spanish Armada over again—the small handy vessels able to attack and destroy the great galleons. On the sea the statement shows that the Navy has been able to cope with the submarines, and on land the campaign on the Western Front has been reduced almost to siege warfare.
All these events in the air, on the sea, and on land show that so far, where the opponents are fairly evenly matched, the defence has the advantage of the attack, and the more that is so the better it will be for civilisation in the future. The present pause in the operations, the fact that the Germans are doing nothing, may perhaps be explained by the fact that they may not know what to do, or, indeed, it may prove that there is nothing that they can do. And that is all to the good from our point of view since it will enable the economic factors to have full play. As to the declaration in M. Molotov's speech of Russian neutrality and the desire of Russia in the Baltic and Balkans and elsewhere to restrict the area of war and to maintain the area of peace, the aims of British policy are the same, and, therefore, there is no reason why in these spheres we should be brought into any conflict.
I turn now to the subject of India on which many must feel grave concern. The noble Lord who has just spoken has expressed that solicitude on behalf of the Labour Party. The matter has been discussed fully in the other House, and I trust that your Lordships will think that it is not inappropriate that it should be discussed here also, it being, I am sure, the desire of all of us to say nothing which need embarrass His Majesty's Government in the difficult negotiations in which they are engaged. On the contrary, possibly some of the observations made here may be found to be of assistance. In the first place it is desirable, I think, not only to emphasize the matters on which there has been disagreement between the Government of India and 1666 His Majesty's Government here on the one hand and the Congress Party on the other, but also to point out that the points of agreement are numerous and important.
In the first place, in the matter which is the supreme issue of the moment, opposition to Hitlerism, there is a complete agreement between Indian opinion and the views of this country. If India thought that in this war we were wrong on merits, and if its sympathies were with our opponents, then indeed that would be a most grave matter; but the contrary is the case. Hitlerism is the very antithesis of Hinduism, with its creed of non-violence. The only resemblance between Hitler and Hinduism is that he is a vegetarian, but while personally a vegetarian he is politically highly carnivorous, and Indian opinion recognises that and is unanimous in its detestation of the underlying ideas of the Nazi creed. In substance, on the merits of the great issue now before the country, India is as wholeheartedly with this country as are Australia, New Zealand or Canada, as has been so recently shown by the striking election in Quebec.
Secondly, it is now agreed in principle that India should have Dominion status, and the disagreement is as to when and how, and also the question being raised now from the Indian side whether Dominion status is adequate. Thirdly, there is general agreement on the principle of federation for India. I travelled through India for some months last year and I found that while in no quarter were the federal proposals in the Act of 1935 approved in all particulars, and in almost every quarter they were opposed on important points, everyone agreed that some day and somehow there ought to be a federation for India—a Central Government, that is, resting on representation of the people. I remember Mr. Gandhi saying to me—he has also said it I think in public—"Federation—yes; but not this federation." So that while there is general agreement in principle on this important matter, there is division as to the form and the powers to be embodied in that Federal Constitution. Next there is agreement also between the British Government and Congress as to the need for carefully providing justice for the minority communities. The Congress recognises that the communal problem is a real 1667 problem not to be brushed aside but one that requires to be patiently settled.
Lastly in this connection, there is agreement with respect to provincial government. Everyone, or almost everyone, agrees that the Provincial Constitutions have been working with success. The British Governors of the Provinces may not approve, of course, of all that has been done, but they have no reason to complain of the general attitude of their Ministries. The safeguards that were inserted for fear of chaos in the Provinces under the new Constitution and failure to maintain law and order have never had to be employed, and the Viceroy, in the White Paper recently published, pays a warm tribute to the success of the Provincial Ministries. On the other hand, the Ministries themselves have had no cause to complain of the Governors and I heard when I was there, and I have read since, no word from any quarter that there has been any improper interference by the Governors with the working of the democratic Constitutions in the Provinces. Therefore there is over a large sphere a broad basis of agreement.
But when we turn to the matters on which there is disagreement there also the points are several and of great importance. The complaint is made by the Congress that while the British Government agree to Dominion status in principle they take no steps to implement it in practice. The Lord Privy Seal, Sir Samuel Hoare, in another place said that the pledge had been repeated time after time that Dominion status was the aim of Indian policy. The aim! The Viceroy, in the White Paper, says that we are moving—I quote his words—to the end that India may attain her due place amongst the great Dominions.And he quotes this statement:The natural issue of India's progress … is the attainment of Dominion status.The aim, the issue, always something in the future! That last quotation was from a statement by the noble Viscount the present Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, when he was Lord Irwin, and the date was 1929, ten years ago. Year after year goes by and this policy, which is declared to be the goal, the end, the aim, is not in fact carried into effect.
The Indian political leaders see the best years of their lives go by and they are 1668 still in the phase of struggle; they are not allowed to reach the phase of accomplishment. They may be tempted to use the familiar quotation, "Man never is, but always to be blessed." It is like some mountain climber who sees what he takes to be the summit before him, but when he reaches the ridge he sees beyond it the summit still further on, and when he struggles to the further ridge the goal is still out of his grasp. The Government say that if only Indians would agree among themselves on outstanding questions as between the communities and between the Congress Party and the States, at once Dominion status could be brought into effect. But that in substance means that the Moslems are to have a veto on the introduction of Dominion status. The Mahomedan community are not eager for federation. They are apprehensive of the results of it and they are not pressing for Dominion status. It is natural for them to say to the Hindus, "Unless you concede all that we want, we will refuse agreement, and if we refuse agreement the British Government say that they will not introduce Dominion status." Consequently the present policy of His Majesty's Government leads to the conclusion that the final decision is left with the Moslems. That would mean that one-fourth of the population of India is to decide the future of India rather than the three-fourths.
Such a situation may easily become a permanent deadlock and it is not perhaps surprising that Congress suspects that that is the intention. All of us, I think, in this House understand the Moslem position and sympathise with it. Undoubtedly Great Britain has duties towards the Moslems of India. We cannot wash our hands of that question and say their future is no concern of ours. It is the case that the friction is serious between the Hindu and the Moslem communities. When I was there last year I was told by almost everyone that in most places the friction has been worse in recent years between Moslem and Hindu than earlier. That is not so everywhere. In great States like Hyderabad and Mysore, the question is quiescent, thanks mainly to the wise policy of the Princes and their able Ministers, but over the greater part of India it is always chronic and sometimes acute and dangerous. All that is 1669 true and the minorities must be protected in their rights.
Minorities have their rights, but so also have majorities. It is the fundamental problem of democracy in countries of mixed population how to reconcile the principle of government by majority vote with the securing of the liberties of minority communities. In countries that are homogeneous like this country or France, or which have become homogeneous like the United States of America, the question does not arise, but in others where there are several different races or religions or communities within the same geographical area, as in many of the States in Eastern Europe, or in Palestine or in India, then there is a grave problem which sometimes prevents democratic institutions from working at all. You have a conflict of two principles. Has the majority the right to decide in main issues? It has, if we believe in democracy. On the other hand, have the members of minority communities the right to be protected? They have. But if the two principles clash, what then?
In India, it has been found impossible to create a single electorate under the new Constitution. The electorate has had to be framed on a communal basis and each community is given its own representatives. There is in India the further complication of the States. The Princes have their treaty rights, and it is obviously a sound principle of government that treaties must be respected. But if the Princes have their treaty rights, their peoples have their moral rights. We cannot say that eighteenth or early nineteenth century treaties are to be allowed to block for all time the development of modern institutions. I do not think the Princes themselves would claim that. So, in relation to the Princes' rights and the peoples rights, majority rights and minority rights, we must reach the conclusion that both sets of rights must be respected. How the two can be reconciled is the task of a resourceful statesmanship.
I feel bound to say that it appears to me that recently His Majesty's Government, here and in India, have not shown sufficient zeal and energy in tackling these difficult problems. They have been rather too easily content to let matters drift. The present Viceroy, so far as federation is concerned, is, I believe, most 1670 eager, and has been most eager, to secure a solution, and has devoted himself with much persistency to achieving that. He recognises that in order to achieve Dominion status and federation, it is necessary to solve the problem of the minorities. He has been engaged in long and difficult negotiations. The outbreak of war has been held to have necessarily postponed those negotiations. I rather suspect that that postponement owing to the war brought a sigh of relief from may breasts in New Delhi, and perhaps in Whitehall, at an unexpected and welcome respite. But the inter-locked problems of minorities, federation and Dominion status ought not to be postponed, and Congress is right in urging that the question should be taken in hand now.
It has been assumed in many quarters that the outbreak of war has made it impossible even to conceive of these matters being pressed. I do not see why. The statesmen who would be engaged in dealing with these Indian constitutional problems are not those who would be engaged in the active prosecution of war measures, and it might well be that one group should be considering these questions in India or here while others devoted their energies entirely to the war. During the last war, noble Lords will remember that several of our most embittered and difficult political problems were settled while the war was proceeding, under the guidance of what was known as the Lowther Committee. It would be an immense proof of strength and of governing ability if, while with the one hand we were conducting a great war, with the other we were dealing with difficult Imperial problems in some part of the Empire.
I was glad to notice in the debate in the other House that several of the speakers thought that, after all, some of these questions at all events might be considered in the immediate future. Mr. Wedgwood Benn, a former Secretary of State for India, who opened the debate, took that view, and so did Sir Samuel Hoare, and the Under-Secretary of State for India, Sir Hugh O'Neill, who did not dissent from it. I regret that the White Paper suggested a different course. The Viceroy there proposed that the only step to be taken during the war should be the establishment of a consultative group, 1671 the membership of which he outlined. This group—I quote his words—would have as its object the association of public interest in India with the conduct of the war and with questions relating to war activities.It appears to me impossible to draw that line and to say that all consideration of constitutional issues would be ultra vires.
Naturally the Congress members say, and say with emphasis, that they are not prepared to discuss what should be the war measures to be taken by India unless they know what constitutional share the people of India are to have in determining what those war measures shall be. I trust that it may be possible for the Secretary of State to-day, without disadvantage, to give us some guidance on that aspect. The White Paper does embody one definite advance, contrary to what had been said hitherto. It agrees that any necessary legislation for the amendment of the Act of 1935 in respect of federation may be contemplated before federation is brought into effect. That is a considerable step to meet Indian opinion, and I trust that the second step may be taken—namely, that all these matters should not be postponed until after the war, but should be dealt with now.
I trust that your Lordships will not be deterred from approving action of that kind in the direction of Dominion status by the use by Mr. Gandhi and the Congress Committees of the word "independence" as defining their true object. Mr. Gandhi has explained to me and others with whom he has discussed this matter, and also in public, that by "independence" he does not necessarily mean separation from the Empire, but he means that the Indian people should have the right to determine in freedom, for themselves, what shall be the future of their own country. Many of us believe that if they were conceded that right they would unquestionably agree, and gladly agree, to continued membership in the British Commonwealth on the same footing as the present Dominions. I cannot suppose that Mr. Gandhi and his colleagues would suggest that in those preliminary discussions the representatives of Great Britain should take no part. It appears to me essential that we should take part; first, because we have those obligations to the Moslems and to the Princes from which we cannot 1672 in honour withdraw, and secondly, because the future defence of India must rest in great degree with the British Commonwealth. I cannot imagine that India in the near future would wish to undertake the immense cost of providing herself with adequate defence apart from the British Empire; and if she did not do so she would certainly run the risk of the same fate at the hands of one or more aggressive neighbours as has already befallen China.
If that be conceded, that Britain should take part in these discussions, then the two sides are not very far apart. The Viceroy, in the statement given in the White Paper, used these words:I am authorised now by His Majesty's Government to say that at the end of the war they will be very willing to enter into consultation with representatives of the several communities, parties and interests in India and with the Indian Princes, with a view to securing their aid and co-operation in the framing of such modifications "—that is, of the Act of 1935"—as may seem desirable.That is not very far removed from the Constituent Assembly for which the Congress Party plead. It appears to me that the difference between the two might be bridged with no very great difficulty if this meeting were to take place in India; and if it were to be fully representative of the Indian peoples with the present Indian Government, then it is not unlike the Constituent Assembly which the Congress Party desire.
I would venture to make one suggestion for consideration—not, of course, expecting any immediate or early reply. That is whether in connection with these changes the time has not come when there should be established a Privy Council in India. If a body modelled on our own Privy Council—of which I think not sufficient use is made here—were to be established in India, containing leaders belonging to the different sections and men who are not only now in Ministerial office but also are out of Ministerial office, it might be easier to secure adequate discussion on matters that interest all the different communities. Furthermore, it appears quite essential that when the discussions take place at the end of the war on the terms of peace and the arrangements to be made subsequently, and when the Dominions, as they certainly will be, are brought into consultation. India 1673 should be brought into consultation on equal terms. Even if at that date Dominion status had not been enacted by Statute, still that step might be taken; and it would be quite in accordance with British ideas if such a measure were adopted in practice before it had been recognised in law. Furthermore, I would urge upon His Majesty's Government that there should breathe through their declarations, in speech and in print, a fuller conception of the new position in India and of the future which is not far distant for her. After all, we sometimes do not remember that of every ten inhabitants of the British Empire seven are Indians. I do not see in the language of this White Paper and in the methods of consultation that are proposed the new spirit in relation to India which the times require.
Finally, let me say this. I am bound to express the view that the action of Congress in calling upon the Provincial Ministries to resign was wrong. It appears to me to have been an error of political judgment. Although I am in general agreement with most of the underlying aims of Congress, I think that tactically they have been in error. Anyone who has visited the Provinces—and I had the opportunity last year of visiting seven of them and seeing the Constitutions at work—must feel profound satisfaction at their success. Controversies there have been, of course, and the Governments, by their vigorous actions, have aroused opposition here and there, but they have already in the last two years achieved a great body of beneficial legislation, such as no British administration and no bureaucratic administration could possibly have accomplished, and the Viceroy has paid a warm tribute to their work in this White Paper. But that work is too important to be interrupted and thrown into confusion on account of political issues that have nothing to do with provincial government, and I believe that a more mature political experience would have led the Congress Working Committee to realise that this is a mistaken method.
It rather recalls the action of the trade unions in the earlier days of trade unionism, who were very ready on slight provocation to engage in strikes, in order to show their firmness and courage and 1674 determination; or the action of the Opposition Parties in some Continental Parliaments who, when they disapprove of something that is done or not done, with a magnificent gesture march out of the Chamber and refuse any longer to take part. Such a policy is always a mistake. It is wrong at any time, but now in India at this moment it is doubly wrong. While the British Empire is engaged in a life and death struggle for a supreme purpose, with which India is in wholehearted sympathy, they were wrong to take such a conspicuous action, which cannot fail to weaken in some degree the moral position of Great Britain, and therefore hamper the conduct of the war. I trust that they will not persist in that policy, but that the Provincial Governments, in the Provinces where Congress has a majority, will after no long interval return to office and resume their indispensable work. And I trust that His Majesty's Government here at home will make it easy for the Viceroy to arrive at an accommodation, which I am sure is his desire, and so take a further step forward towards the aim that we shall not merely maintain in India an Imperialist rule over reluctant subjects but succeed in enlisting the willing co-operation of a proud and self-respecting nation.
§ 5.5 p.m.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I confess I regret very much the speech to which we have just listened, not, of course, that it falls short of the very high standard which the noble Viscount has always shown in the speeches which he has delivered in this House. There was a lucidity and ability about the speech which must have impressed all your Lordships, but I cannot think he was wise in taking the present opportunity to raise this very difficult subject. He said at the beginning of his speech that he was not anxious to embarrass the Government; I think he said he was not anxious to embarrass the Viceroy. Well, I am afraid he will be disappointed. I suspect he has embarrassed both of them. I cannot think why he was not content to allow the situation to develop in India as it is developing. The Viceroy is doing his utmost to find his way through a very delicate situation, trying to reconcile conflicting claims and conflicting interests. Why should the noble Viscount charge in, 1675 and try to put pressure upon the Government and the Viceroy in order that they should go further than in their real judgment they desire to do? I regret very much the line he has taken.
In my humble judgment I have no criticism to make of the action which the Viceroy is taking at this moment. I think he is doing his utmost to make the Government of India Act work. The noble Viscount probably knows that some of us were very much opposed to the Government of India Act, but we have always thought that, once it was passed, an attempt ought to be made to work it. And the noble Viscount does not want to work it, he wants to alter it. After these very few years, and with hardly any experience of how it works in the Provinces, the noble Viscount says, "Oh, well, time is going on and these Indian statesmen are getting tired." What are two or three years in working this tremendous change in India? I must say I am astonished at the noble Viscount.
I hold no brief, as I say, for the Government of India Act. I believe it to be quite unworkable. I thought so at the time it was passed, and I have seen nothing to change my view. Of course, it has not been tried out yet. I do not think it has worked especially well in the Provinces, but in the Centre no attempt has been made yet to work it, and, as far as I can judge from the news which reaches all of us in the newspapers, great difficulties have developed in consummating the central organisation, which occupied so much time of your Lordships and in another place a year or two ago. I cannot remember, I am sorry to say, although I have taken great interest in the noble Viscount's career, what part he took when the debates on the Government of India Act were proceeding. I do not think he was a member of either House of Parliament for the moment.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I was quite aware that the noble Viscount did not serve on the Select Committee, because I spent a good deal of time there, 1676 and I should certainly have noticed that he was one of my most distinguished colleagues. But I was not aware whether he took much part in another place in the discussions on the Bill. He was not, I think, a member of your Lordships' House. But he did not seem to realise in the speech he has just delivered the immense difficulties which confronted the solution which we had to try to produce. Above all, not only was it a question of essential difficulty, but there was an air over the whole debates that Parliament was not doing that which it thought was really best on the merits, but being gradually pressed into it, compromising upon things which its political judgment did not justify, but it saw no other way out of it. I regretted the decision. But at any rate that atmosphere showed how very difficult and intricate the subject was.
The noble Viscount seemed to dismiss in a few phrases the difficulties which took the Joint Select Committee eighteen months, I think, in trying to solve, and the Houses of Parliament took a whole year. It is not to be done in that offhand way. There has always been an attempt to press the solution of this problem by other means than argument. We are all familiar with the process. The whole history of the Irish question is full of it. It was sought to influence the mind of Parliament by the disorder which was produced in India. I do not attribute the responsibility for that disorder to the leading statesmen of India, but undoubtedly, by the outrages which we witnessed there, it was sought to convince Parliament that something must be done. Again an attempt is being made to influence Parliament by pressure other than that of arguments. It is, of course, quite obvious that these gentlemen in India—very able, distinguished men—think they can force further concessions out of this country because of the international situation. That is obviously what is happening. It is very much to be regretted. The noble Viscount said: "Why should you not treat India as you treat Canada or Australia or New Zealand?" Does he see examples in those great Dominions of trying to put pressure on this country to make political changes because of the international situation? When they signify their wish to co-operate with this country, they do not make conditions; they do it with open hands.
1677 What has shocked us in this country is that these Indian leaders have thought fit to use the international situation in order to promote a further step in the self-government which they desire. That is very much to be regretted, and I was glad, at the end of the noble Viscount's speech, to see he seemed to be conscious that these Indian gentlemen were not showing up very well. He said that these resignations of Governments are not the method by which you ought to promote political change. I quite agree with him. But they were no matter of surprise to us. We prophesied over and over again, in the Joint Select Committee and when the Bill was going through your Lordships' House, that this resignation of Governments was precisely the weapon which would always be used—of course it has been used—in order to force further concessions. It is not that I have any hostility whatever to the Indian people. What I should like to see is the changes which have got to be made, made with due considerations and deliberation and with much greater care than the slap-dash method which seemed to be the noble Viscount's idea.
The noble Viscount spoke of Dominion status and of the pledges regarding Dominion status. I am not quite sure about the use of the word "pledge." I always regret the vague use of the word "pledge" in these discussions; but undoubtedly the British Government have announced their intention on several occasions to grant Dominion status, and an announcement of that kind is a very weighty matter deserving of the most profound respect and attention. But what is meant by Dominion status? What did the noble Viscount mean when he talked just now of Dominion status? Did he mean Dominion status as it existed before the Statute of Westminster or Dominion status as it is now? He seemed to be conscious that Dominion status was wrapped up with the question of independence. Is he in favour of the independence of India? If he is not in favour of the independence of India, does he think his speech will be useful? Of course, as I understand the Dominion status to which he is looking, it is not that the new Indian Government should necessarily be independent, but that it should have the right to become independent. If I am wrongly interpreting the noble Viscount, I hope he will interrupt me.
1678 I gather that what he meant is that the new Indian Government should have the right, if it pleases, to be independent. Is that his object? If that is the case, what becomes of all the safeguards which we discussed at such enormous length in both Houses of Parliament and in the Joint Select Committee? Why did we take so much trouble about safeguards if, in a year or two afterwards, the noble Viscount and his friends want us to put power in the hands of the Indian Parliament to become independent and sweep away every safegard which we so carefully prepared and upon the strength and faith of which Parliament agreed to the India Act? That Act would not have had the slightest chance of passing into law but for the safeguards. Now the noble Viscount says, "Give them independence if they want it." Then what becomes of the safeguards?
There is no value in using a vague phrase like "Dominion status." What do you mean by it, and how will you deal with the essential problems which, whatever the status of India, will remain the same? What are you going to do about the primitive tribes? Who is going to protect them? Who is going to deal with the difficulty of the Princes? What is going to be done about the Scheduled Classes? Who is going to protect them? What is going to be done about minorities? All these things will remain. We may use the phrase "Dominion status" until we are hoarse, but these difficulties will remain because they are essential. I do not mean to say that in course of time, with experience and with effort, solutions may not be found for them, but they are not to be found by mere words—they are far too essential and far too difficult.
Then the noble Viscount said, "You must not pay too much attention to the Moslems; they are only one-quarter part of the Indian population." We are bound in honour to protect the Moslems. Indeed, for the British Government in the present state of international relations to be indifferent to the welfare of any Mahomedan community, would be sheer madness. The whole issue, perhaps, of the international struggle may largely depend on the frame of mind of the Mahomedan population of the world. Then the noble Viscount comes down to the House and 1679 says, "Let us solve the Indian question—give them independence or give them the right to get independence, and let them deal with the Moslems—they are only a minority." A famous statesman once said, "Minorities must suffer." No doubt they must, but this country has got to fulfil its obligations of honour, and we are bound in honour to the various communities I have mentioned. We are bound to the primitive tribes, we are bound to the Scheduled Classes, we are bound to the Princes by treaties which cannot be broken, and we are bound, of course, to the minorities.
I regret, therefore, that the noble Viscount has thought fit to bring once more before the public, and before the Indian public especially, all these very delicate matters. They cannot be solved by merely mouthing the words—the noble Viscount will forgive me; that is, of course, not a very civil phrase; his eloquence is far too high for any word of mine to say anything against it; I do not mean that—but the mere repetition of the words "Dominion Status" does not solve these problems. I look to time to solve the Indian problem and I look to inquiry certainly. By all means, after the war is over and when we can have regard to these subjects tranquilly and quietly, let us inquire again, if we are so minded and if the Indian people want us to do so, into the proper solution of the federal difficulty. But do not let us be pressed into it by the international difficulties elsewhere. Do not let us encourage the idea that, whenever Great Britain is in trouble or in difficulty, anybody who has claims against her can press forward those claims in the belief that she is sure to give way and that they are sure to get something of what they want.
§ 5.22 p.m.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA AND BURMA (THE MARQUESS OF ZETLAND)
My Lords, the Secretary of State for India in these days is always very apt to find himself in the most unhappy position between the hammer on the left and the anvil on the right.
§ THE MARQUESS OF ZETLAND
No, not the sickle. If I happened to be of a cynical turn of mind, I might suggest that he finds himself, after listening to 1680 the duel of eloquence which your Lordships have just enjoyed, in the position of tertius gaudens. But that is not the position in which, as a matter of fact, I find myself. I know quite well that the noble Marquess was always doubtful of the wisdom of the Act of 1935. He always held perfectly sincere doubts as to the workability of the Act, and we all respect the sincerity of his beliefs. I disagreed with him in those early days and on that matter I disagree with him still. I am bound to say that on the whole the provisions of the Act under which the Ministries were set up in the Provinces of British India have been fully justified, even by the short experience of some two or three years which we have hitherto had of their working.
The noble Viscount spoke about federation. He told us that in the course of his tour in India he found that on all sides there was agreement that the Central Government of India must be federal in character, though he told us that there were objections raised by the different parties concerned to the particular form of federation or to some parts of the form of federation embodied in the Act of 1935. Very well, then. The noble Viscount agrees that federation is the necessary form of Government for the Centre in the circumstances of India. But then the noble Viscount said, "You have promised India Dominion status; but it is always coming; it never comes. It is your aim. What have you done to give effect to your intention?" And I rather gathered from the speech of the noble Viscount that he thought we could bring Dominion status and federation into effect to-morrow if only we had the will to say so. He spoke of the pledge given by my noble friend the Foreign Secretary when he said that the natural issue for India was the attainment of Dominion status. His comment on that was that that was in 1929, ten years ago. Does the noble Viscount suggest that a federation could be formed before your units have come into existence? Surely the purpose of one part of the Act of 1935 was to create the units which would subsequently be federated.
The noble Viscount may think that we took a long time in drawing up the provisions of the Act of 1935. Well, we did; but if he had been a member, not only of the Joint Select Committee, of which the noble Marquess was a member, 1681 but also of those series of Round-Table Conferences with Indians themselves which preceded the drafting of the Act and the work of the Joint Select Committee, I think he would realise a little more clearly than perhaps he does to-day the extraordinary difficulties and the complexity of the problem which we have to try to solve. He made some references to the Viceroy's statement. He said that the promise contained in it, that at the end of the war we would take into consultation the leaders of the various communities and parties interested with a view to effecting such modifications of the federal provisions of the Act as might then seem desirable, was all to the good. But he said very little of what we are proposing to do pending the end of the war.
I cannot agree with him if he thinks that you could redraft the federal provisions of the Act with a view to bringing a federation into existence while we are all burdened with the task of carrying on a life and death struggle, as I have said before; but we do agree that it is quite natural that the leaders of Indian public opinion should desire to be associated in some way with the Central Government during the progress of the war, and it was with a view to bringing them into close association with the Central Government that we did propose the consultative body of which I spoke to your Lordships when I addressed you on this matter a fortnight ago. That was a perfectly sincere and genuine attempt to associate the leaders of the Indian political Parties with the Central Government in the conduct of the war. And I remember observing to your Lordships that in my opinion it would have possessed three different advantages.
First, it would have enabled the Governor-General to communicate to the leaders of the political Parties confidential information. The second advantage would have been that it would have enabled them to express freely and frankly to the Governor-General their views upon the measures which the Government were proposing to take; and since the whole idea of it was conceived upon the assumption that there would be good will on both sides, that the Governor-General and the members of this body would be collaborating for a common purpose which it is perfectly well known all of them have at heart—namely, the successful prosecution 1682 of the war—I regarded it as axiomatic, and I still regard it as axiomatic, that the Viceroy would have attached the utmost weight to views expressed by the members of such a body in such circumstances. Thirdly, I said that it would in my view have this advantage, that since the representatives of the different communities would be working in close association not only with the Governor-General but with one another, it would tend to lessen the differences by which they are at present divided, and would bring to the surface such a measure of common ground as would justify us in inviting them to become associated with the Government in an even more responsible position. I regret profoundly that the proposal does not appear to have been received in India in the spirit in which it was given.
Meanwhile, these communal differences persist, and I need not lay stress upon them. They are known to your Lordships. The manifesto of the All-India Moslem League as well as the manifesto of the Congress are in your Lordships' possession and printed in the White Paper, and it may not have escaped the attention of some of your Lordships that even since then the leader of the All-India Moslem League has issued a statement which appeared in the pages of the Manchester Guardian only a few days ago. I do not want to underline the differences, but they cannot be ignored. You have got to try, somehow or other, to reconcile them. What in those circumstances is the path of wisdom? Surely the path of wisdom in those circumstances is to invite the leaders in the first instance of the two main communities, the Hindus as represented by the Congress and the Moslems as represented by the All-India Moslem League, to meet under the auspices of a neutral to discuss their differences frankly and to see whether they cannot find some solution of them. That is precisely what the Viceroy is doing at the present moment. He has invited the leaders of the Congress and the leaders of the All-India Moslem League to meet him for that very purpose, and I have no hesitation in saying that if, as a result of those discussions and consultations, we can find common ground on which the two great communities will work together, then the main obstacle in the way of associating the leaders of the political Parties in the 1683 actual Executive at the Centre will have been removed.
I need hardly say that I share the regrets which were expressed by the noble Viscount at the action which has been taken by the Congress Ministries in the Provinces. I agree with him that it has been a most unfortunate move, and I believe that history will prove that it has been a most unwise one. But there it is. With, as it seems to me, an undue haste, while discussions are still proceeding, the Ministries in four of the Provinces have already tendered their resignations, and the resignation of the Ministry in a fifth Province is expected in the very near future. That will mean that the Government will be obliged to proclaim a breakdown of the Constitution so far as the Provinces are concerned and to take into its own hands the administration. There is one comment which I would make upon what the noble Viscount said with regard to this communal difficulty. The noble Viscount admitted that in British India communal feeling had certainly not decreased in recent times, but he was apparently under the impression that the problem does not exist in the Indian States.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
No, I did not say that. I said it had not worsened so far as I could see in States like Hyderabad and Mysore.
§ THE MARQUESS OF ZETLAND
Of course I accept the noble Viscount's explanation of what he said, but he was singularly unfortunate in selecting Hyderabad as one of his examples, for throughout the past summer the communal difficulty in Hyderabad has presented a profound problem. It has been a Hindu movement against a Moslem Government, and for months bands of Hindus have been proceeding from other parts of India into Hyderabad itself in order to carry on a campaign of civil disobedience. No, my Lords, the communal problem is not confined to British India, nor, I think, is it true to say that it has not become accentuated in the Indian States, or at any rate some of them, during the past two or three years.
Let me only say this in conclusion with regard to our war aims in India. It is sometimes said still in India that we are fighting to maintain Imperialism in that 1684 country. If by British Imperialism is meant the domination and the exploitation of one people by another people, I say that if it ever existed it was abandoned by Parliament when it accepted the Preamble to the Act of 1919, and every step which has been taken since that time has emphasized and ratified the determination of the people of this country to work for self-government in India. I cannot conceive how any one who was desirous of maintaining Imperialism in India in the sense in which I have described it could possibly have voted for the Act of 1935. As your Lordships will remember the measure was one which passed by a large majority both in this House and in another place. No, my Lords, our intentions remain what they have been ever since the Act of 1919. We are striving our best with all sincerity, to assist in removing the obstacles which at present lie in the path of the full fulfilment of the promises which have been made. While I appreciate the difficulties of the noble Marquess in going with me as far as that, and I appreciate also the idealism of the noble Viscount who wishes to see a great quickening up of the process upon which we are engaged, I still find, with all the practical experience which comes to me as Secretary of State for India every day of the year, and has come to me every day for the past four or five years, that it is no use ignoring the difficulties which are in your path. What you must do is to work patiently and in all sincerity to remove them.
§ 5.42 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
My Lords, I trust your Lordships will allow me to pass from the question of India, on which I should be very unfit to address your Lordships, and to say a few words on the general Motion brought forward by the noble Lord, Lord Snell. It seems to me that there have been, since we last discussed the general position, a week ago, three events of outstanding importance. In the first place there has been the Encyclical of the Pope—a matter of vast importance—in which His Holiness in measured language, but with absolutely unsparing conclusions, explained that the totalitarian system of Government, at any rate as practised in some countries, was wholly inconsistent with the Christian religion. That is a very important declaration which I am 1685 quite satisfied will produce a very great effect throughout the civilised world.
Then came the publication by the Government of the White Paper describing the horrors of the German concentration camps. It was not a novelty to some of us. I expect most of your Lordships have received information in the last few years describing what is going on in these camps. I have, both indirectly and directly, from people who have actually been in them, and everything that I have heard bears out absolutely what the Government have described in their White Paper. Your Lordships will remember, of course, the very striking letter which was published in The Times, signed by a number of highly qualified legal experts, who had, in the course of their duties, examined the history of aliens awaiting decision as to whether they should be treated here as enemies or neutrals. Everything they heard from those people confirms absolutely what the Government have described in the White Paper.
I mention those two facts together because there is no doubt that these horrors are the direct result of the Nazi creed. That is the essential thing we should recognise. If you abandon Christianity as a religion you abandon it as a system of morality also. The two things cannot exist apart. It is perfectly plain that in this part, at any rate, of the administration of Germany, the virtues of mercy and pity have absolutely disappeared. I think His Holiness points out that the creed must have very important effects in the international aspect, and of course it must. It is the explanation, or may be the explanation, of what we have had to complain of so frequently in recent months, the absolute unreliability of the pledges given to us by the German Government. Then, too, the horrors which have gone on in Poland, which are perfectly appalling as anyone who has seen them will tell your Lordships, are the natural result of this form of idolatry, for that is of course what it is. How is it that the mass of the German people, among whom, as many of your Lordships who know them much better than I do will testify, are men and women of normal mental make-up who must be as horrified as any of us at these stories, who must deplore many of the actions of their Government profoundly—how is it that they go on submitting to such a Government? 1686 That is the real subject to which, quite briefly, I want to draw your Lordships' attention.
The third great event that has taken place has already been alluded to, the speech of M. Molotov describing and defining Russian policy. I am not going to examine that speech at all, but I think it is possible that one thesis which he maintained may be in part the explanation of the curious moral inertness—to put it in the mildest language one can—of the German people at the present time. His thesis was this: Russia stands for peace, Germany wants peace, the British and French Governments insist on going on with the war and they do so for Imperialist reasons. That, of course, not one of your Lordships would regard as sustainable for an instant. Therefore, he stood forward as the advocate of peace. Undoubtedly the whole propaganda of the German Government since the outbreak of war, ignoring all the facts of the case, has been that the German Government stood for peace and desired it. I cannot deny that there are, I hope in small quantities, certain echoes of this kind in this country and elsewhere. They take the form of demands for the statement of the war aims of our Government, requests to know what it is we really are fighting for. My object here is to make a suggestion to the Government.
I quite recognise the great difficulty of declaring your war aims in detail. It is true that circumstances may differ very much before peace is reached, and then your declaration on war aims may prove to be a very unfortunate thing to have made. But I do feel—I may be wrong—that we might somehow make it clearer to the world what is the very essence of our position: that we stand for peace, security, the right of nations to live their own lives in their own way. That is really at the bottom, if I understand it rightly, of the whole of the policy of the Government. I cannot help thinking that that aspect of it might somehow—I will suggest the kind of thing I have in mind in a moment—be brought more clearly before the world, so that when this or that Power gets up and says that it stands for peace, their people, and still more the neutral peoples of the world, will know that we really and truly do stand for peace and that we have made it abundantly clear that that is our case.
1687 I said just now that I understand the great difficulty of elaborating peace aims, though perhaps something might be done in that direction. But why is it quite impossible to say now that we should be prepared for peace on the following conditions—not elaborate conditions at all, but certain essential vital conditions? A great deal has been said about having a Peace Conference. But we cannot go—it would be madness to go—into a Peace Conference unless we have certain basic conditions on which negotiations in that conference could proceed. No conference that has ever been called, or hardly any, has succeeded unless that preliminary condition has been fulfilled: that the parties to it have agreed on some essential basis on which their discussions shall take place. Let me just illustrate my point in another way. I fear it is unlikely, but suppose we received a message from the German Government to-morrow, saying they were prepared for peace and asking on what terms we would consider peace, we should have to answer, and we should answer, I hope, with alacrity. But is it not worth considering, at any rate, that we should be better off with our own people, and with the neutrals and the enemy populations, if now we could explain to them that on certain broad conditions we, too, are prepared to enter on the discussion of peace?
I will not attempt, for it is not my function, to define such conditions in detail, but broadly speaking we all know—at least I think we all know—what they are. You must have a guarantee that the aggression on Poland and Czecho-Slovakia by the Germans shall be brought to an end: they must withdraw their troops. That seems to me vitally essential. We must also have some security for the future that this kind of international crime will not be committed. That is to say—I can see no other way of doing it—we must have some kind of international organisation, some international authority, which will be able to prevent such outrages from taking place. I put those suggestions quite generally to the Government. Those seem to me the broad conditions on which we might be prepared to enter into a peace conference. If anything like them can be stated, would it not be well to do so?
In the last war, at a given stage, a very highly-respected statesman of the day, 1688 the then Lord Lansdowne, wrote a letter to a newspaper—I think it was the Daily Telegraph—a well-known letter, in which he advocated peace by negotiation. It was rejected by the Government of the day, of which I was a humble member, on various grounds. The one that affected me, at any rate, was that it did not seem to me that there was the very slightest chance of the Germans accepting. But I have often wondered since that time whether our decision was right. However certain we might be of rejection, would it not perhaps have been better at any rate to give the chance for peace to be re-established? No one can possibly feel, I am sure, as much as the present Government do feel, the terrific responsibility of carrying on the war for one moment longer than is absolutely essential. I am certain of that. I have no criticism of their war policy; I support it heartily and wholly. But I do beg them to give, if it is only to satisfy weak and foolish consciences, some consideration to this suggestion and to see whether they could not make a declaration on the lines that I have suggested, or some other, opening the door to possible negotiations for peace.
§ 5.58 p.m.
§ LORD NOEL-BUXTON
My Lords, I want in a few words to ask a question arising from statements on the progress of the war, and in particular a statement made a fortnight ago in which the Prime Minister and the noble Earl, Lord Stanhope, spoke of the necessity of persevering to the end unless the German Government gave us proof of sincerity by definite acts—those were the words—and by effective guarantees of sincerity. Since then, Mr. Lloyd George has suggested a way by which sincerity could be put to the test and he has had very wide support. But many people are still asking what are the acts or the guarantees on which such great issues depend. We are entitled to ask the Government if they can further indicate what meaning those words bear. We ought ourselves to be clear in our own minds what acts and what guarantees we should think sufficient. What acts are in the public mind at all? Some suggest the complete integral evacuation of pre-war Poland and pre-Munich Czecho-Slovakia. But that would certainly be contrary to the wishes of many of the inhabitants of pre-war 1689 Poland, who were, as it were, imperial subjects of the Polish nation. The White Russians and the Ukrainians, whose leaders I have known myself, were of course not satisfied with the Polish Government. Now, however, if Poland and Bohemia were to be established on ethnic principles, a genuine national Poland, and if perhaps these States were to be united in a federation, including Germany and Russia and also Hungary and, if it desired, Slovakia—would that be an act proving a new attitude on the part of the German Government such as the Prime Minister had in view? A really national Poland may, for all we can tell, be obtainable, in view of the difficult situation in which Germany finds herself owing to the action of Russia, and the more so as it has developed since Hitler's last speech.
And, again, what is conveyed by the word "guarantee"? Let us suppose a European conference, to which should be submitted the main questions of permanent European settlement, economic and political. Suppose the German Government agreed to take part in such a conference, and to accept the settlement which would emerge as the result of the conference, and, further—very important—declare its readiness to join in a scheme of reciprocal disarmament, with international inspection—would that be regarded as an adequate guarantee? I suggest that such act and guarantees should be regarded as of the utmost value, if they are obtainable, to weigh heavily in the balance of pros and cons in regard to accepting the idea of such a conference, which is such a difficult balance to arrive at. It may, of course, be answered that Hitler would not agree to such a proposal, but I would suggest that it is worth inquiry.
Hitler spoke—for what that is worth—of collaboration, and also of disarmament. Well, of course, we cannot trust his word. But it is a fact that the neutral Press at all events has largely regarded that reference to a negotiation as inviting a reply, and many people regard the Government's subsequent statement as banging the door. We do not know if it was meant finally to bang the door, but one may venture to hope that soundings are being taken. There is a widespread demand, of which we have had evidence just now, for a statement of our ideas of the European order which in the end 1690 we desire, and there are many arguments for showing readiness to enter a conference if it was charged with discussing our own proposals. Of course, there are risks, we all know; there are risks on both sides. But no course provides absolute security. I can only venture to hope that the noble Viscount the Foreign Secretary will take an opportunity of making clearer what are the acts and the guarantees which His Majesty's Government have in view.
§ 6.4 p.m.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (VISCOUNT HALIFAX)
My Lords, the noble Viscount has raised a matter of profound importance, and has been followed, in a sense somewhat different, by the noble Lord who has just addressed your Lordships; and just because I—and, I am quite certain, every one of your Lordships—recognise the profound importance both of what has fallen from those two noble Lords who have spoken, and also of the subject matter of the questions with which they dealt, they will not, I think, expect me to enter in any detail, without most careful thought and preparation, into the particular questions that they raised. But there are one or two observations that I think I could rightly make.
I do not disagree at all with what fell from the noble Viscount in the opening part of his speech concerning the great importance of the three events that he selected, I think, as dominant events of the past week. Nor do I in the least disagree with him in regard to what he said as to the fundamental clash between what now stands out before the world as the inspiration and result of the Nazi philosophy on the one hand and the values that we associate with, and owe to, the Christian religion on the other. The noble Viscount recognises the difficulty of declaring in detail war aims. He said—and again I have no quarrel, of course, nor would any of us in this House or outside it—that the broad purposes that we all have before us are sufficiently well known—peace, security, and the rights of nations to live their own lives, with particular application to Czecho-Slovakia and to Poland, and to the protection of those Christian values to which he has referred. The noble Lord who spoke last I think said—and here again I should most certainly also agree with him—that no conclusion of this war could 1691 possibly be acceptable, either to us or, I should suppose, to any of the peoples of the world, that did not bring some solution, either immediately or in the immediately near prospect, of the problems of armaments which press so heavily to-day on all peoples.
But, having said that, I am bound to add this—and perhaps this is a partial answer to what fell from the noble Lord who spoke last. The essential foundation, surely, in all our minds, of any progress, whenever such progress may be found possible, towards peace, must be confidence, and the confidence which the present German Government have destroyed must be repaired, and they are, I think, the only people who can repair it. We have said, in that statement to which the noble Lord who spoke last referred, that assurances from the present German Government are not enough, and if, therefore, as was suggested in that statement, the German Government are prepared to make their choice in the sense of making a real effort to repair that confidence in the world that they have destroyed, it is for them, and not for us, to consider how that can be done.
For the rest, I am not prepared at this stage, in that regard, to add to what was implicitly contained in the statement of October 12. I would suggest to your Lordships that if we are, on the whole, generally satisfied that the direction in which we are seeking to travel is right, that the main purpose of our journey is one on which we are, in the main, agreed, it is, as the noble Viscount said, neither reasonable nor possible to define accurately in advance at what moment or in what way our purposes can be said to have been achieved. It is obviously necessary—I think your Lordships would recognise this—to take account of the conditions that may be prevailing whenever the time comes to make peace, and these, of course, we cannot now forecast. Unless we know the duration of the war and its intensity, we can form no estimate of what may be the state of Europe when victory is won and what may be the position of the several Powers who will be concerned.
It is not necessary for me to remind your Lordships that the definition of war aims is not a question that concerns this Government alone, but concerns also the 1692 Governments of the Dominions and of our Allies with whom we are, of course, in perpetual contact concerning all questions affecting the prosecution of the war The time may well come when it will be possible and right to define in greater detail the terms which would be held to be the fulfilment of the purposes for which we took up arms. It must surely be clear that if you are engaged in a war the primary aim is to win it, and for that the first purpose we must have is, in my judgment, to defeat those who, by their repeated violations of European order and threats to freedom, have obliged us to take up arms. We all know instinctively what we want. We want, I suppose, that very man and woman in Europe should have the chance of leading a decent and orderly life and of developing his or her personality according to opportunity. It may be that some of our broader purposes will not be capable of achievement all at once. But, I repeat, if our general purpose is clear and our direction is right, and if our people are united and resolved in defence of the principles in which they believe, then we can be reasonably confident that the outcome will be made to correspond to the convictions of those who desire to create a new and better world order which may enlist the co-operation of all nations on a basis of equality, self-respect, and mutual tolerance.
Having said that, let me add this in conclusion. I think that nothing but benefit can come from many different minds freely making contributions to this, surely the greatest problem any generation of mankind has ever had to face. Certainly no one individual, and no one Government, and no one country would lay claim to be a repository of wisdom, still less to have a monopoly of wisdom, and certainly I would make no such claim on behalf of His Majesty's Government. I am quite sure we ought all to be ready to consider any proposals by which, may be, the hopes and aspirations of peoples can be brought nearer to fulfilment. But one thing is quite certain, and that is that we ought not to desist, and I hope shall not desist, from the task to which we have set our hands until we are convinced that, in one way or another, we have secured conditions which, so far as is humanly possible, may protect the world against a repetition of this tragedy. I do not believe 1693 it is possible at this stage to be precise, as I have said, as to when or how you may judge that to have been achieved. I have deliberately spoken to-day in terms quite general, for the question which has been raised cannot and ought not to be dealt with in a short reply without much longer notice than I have had; but I have, perhaps, said enough to indicate the general attitude of mind of His Majesty's Government on this question and to show how fully I share, and they share, with the noble Viscount who introduced it and the noble Lord who spoke last, the sense of the importance of the issues they have raised.
§ LORD SNELL
My Lords, I beg to thank the noble Viscount for the statement he has made and welcome his appreciation of the point of view of those who make suggestions for general peace. I beg, with your Lordships' leave, to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.