War Indemnities.

Orders of the Day — Supply. — [2ND Allotted Day.] – in the House of Commons on 5th March 1919.

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Lieutenant-Colonel GUINNESS:

I wish again to draw attention to the present position with regard to the claim for war indemnities. The Government may consider that we who raise this question are very unreasonable and inconsiderate. We hope the Government is sound on the matter, but we want it to have no excuse, when it is representing us in Paris, for misreading the feeling which exists in the House of Commons and throughout the country on this matter. It is no good beating about the bush. We fear that there may be excessive consideration shown which will enable Germany to reconstruct her position so that very shortly she may be more numerous and more powerful than she was before the War. There are many hidden tendencies of trade, of race, of commerce, and of finance, and, indeed, there is an aroma of international finance hanging about even the British Government which causes one to feel that Germany may be treated with too much tenderness. We do not raise this question with any feeling of vindictiveness or from any sentiment, but because it is a matter which will decide the future peace of the world. Hitherto the German alliance has consisted of a patchwork of mutually hostile nationalities. The subject races, of Austria were a very great source of weakness. Owing to the regrouping of nationalities in the Peace, that is being changed, and owing to the break-up of Austria and the fact that ten or fifteen millions more of German-speaking people will coalesce with the German Empire, we have the prospect, in future, of a far more powerful central German race than we have ever had in the past. The efforts of the friends of Germany to get the alliance, instead of Germany, saddled with the crippling burden of debt which will result from the War is very remarkable. As soon as they are blocked on one line of attack they immediately start another. Originally we were told this country could not claim any reparation or indemnities for other expenditure than that in connection with repairs for air raids and for ships sunk. We had a satisfactory statement at the beginning of the Session from the Government that they were going to insist on the payment of indemnities, and that there was nothing in the terms of the Armistice to prevent it. Those who are suggesting that Germany should be let off easily, being blocked in that direction, are now trying to arrange that we shall come off worse in the division of German assets, and now, if we may judge from the Press, it is being suggested that reparation and indemnity should rank before the repay- ment of the colossal sum which this country has advanced by way of loan to our Allies. This is a matter which will cripple our finance for years unless the Government takes a firm hand and insists that the money advanced by this country to our Allies, with confidence in their good faith, shall be repaid out of the assets of Germany.

There are two other grounds put forward by the friends of Germany to induce the Government to forego indemnities. First of all, we are told we must please America. Paris, of course, is like a sounding-board. Every statement of any member of the Peace Conference is repeated and multiplied, and it has become generally acknowledged that we are taking up an attitude rather on the American side in this matter than on the French side. There is a suspicion, which I hope may prove untrue, that in the earlier negotiations in connection with the Armistice the Government committed itself to the American point of view, America having said she wanted no indemnities, and that when the Prime Minister at the election went very far to meet us in demanding an indemnity from Germany he put himself in a position of great difficulty, and would not be at all sorry if the Reparation Commission in Paris could be scapegoat to get him out of his present position. Is there any evidence that America as a whole wants us to forgo this just claim? America has had very great sympathy throughout the War for Belgium, and it is surely indefensible that Belgium's claim should be limited to her material damage! It is a small people, guaranteed by international instruments against aggression, and it is most outrageous that, having been set upon by Germany, it should by this American attitude be condemned to stagger on under this crushing burden of debt while its German neighbours grow fat owing to its renunciation. During the War we worked in very close agreement and sympathy with France and Belgium, and if indeed there is a variety of standpoint on this indemnity question, surely it is better for us, if we have to make a choice, to stand by those who have fought and bled for us from the beginning of the War rather than take up the attitude of trying to curry favour with America.

The American attitude is based upon what President Wilson and others used to say, in all good faith, to the belligerents about "Peace without victory." Well, they have altered since then, and a good many of them think that peace without victory would not be good for the future of countries in the world. If we give way we are not going to get any gratitude from America; we are much more likely to receive their contempt for having thrown away our just claim. Besides that, President Wilson's policy of indemnities has become a matter of party dispute in America, and I do suggest that it is a very slippery foundation for popularity in America for us to take our stand on a matter which is now so largely dividing opinion in that country. It is much safer to do what we have a right to do and trust to American good feeling to understand our motives. The other point of view which is being put forward, I suppose in the interests of Germany, is the point of view which is mentioned in black-leaded type by the organ of the late Minister for Propaganda, the "Daily Express," of to-day. That organ is, we imagine, in a position to know, because it is common property that Lord Beaverbrooke is in close touch with the Government, and I believe in very close touch with the Lord Privy Seal. In to-day's issue it says: The British Government looks forward with considerable apprehension to the creation of a sullen Germany, giving under foreign domination, and compelled to work against its will. The French demands naturally and properly are enormous, and Italy is steadily claiming her pound of flesh. In order, therefore, to relieve the situation and not to drive Germany into despair by piling up the Bill the British Empire will probably make no money claim whatever. The Lord Privy Seal this afternoon said there was no foundation for this assertion, but I hope he will destroy all chance of such suggestions being revived by giving us a reassuring statement this evening. Of course, we all realise that we must avoid the danger of bringing about anarchy in Germany. We all realise the very great difficulty of obtaining payment, quite apart from the question of Germany raising the money—the difficulty of transferring that wealth from Germany to us. But these difficulties, I am sure the whole House realises, are no good reason whatever against registering the full British claim, though those dangers and difficulties certainly might be a very fair reason for deciding not to enforce that full claim. Germany, after all, has very large assets, which are concentrated in such a way that they can be taken over by international control for a term of years. She has colossal mineral resources; the Westphalian coalfield is valued at £170,000,000,000, and her potash at£20,000,000,000. If these mineral fields were put under international control, and bonds redeemable, say, in 100 years or a shorter period, at the option of the German Government, were issued in payment of the claims which are admitted on the part of the various Allies and secured on these assets, surely it would be a tremendous incentive to Germany to pay off her indemnities to the Allied countries in a short time. The total value of such assets would be very much greater than the maximum claim against Germany, and this excess of value would probably induce Germany to redeem the bonds and regain control in a much shorter period than the maximum which might be laid down. This matter is of enormous importance, because we are spending money nowadays like water, and it surely is urgent that we should take some steps to reduce our indebtedness. But apart altogether from the financial aspect, I would again urge that any weakness on the part of the Government in pressing our claim to an indemnity, in view of the great amount of interest with which the country insisted upon the matter at the General Election, would cause a disastrous shock to public confidence, and to the reputation of Parliamentary government in this country.

Photo of Mr Henry Croft Mr Henry Croft , Bournemouth

I have listened with the greatest interest, as I am sure the whole House has, to the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend who has just sat down. It may be said that it is unnecessary to raise this question again this evening, but the fact is that we have had a change in the strength of the policy of the Government on this subject for a very long time past. I would like to carry their minds back to the time when the cry of "No annexations," "No indemnities," was first produced in Russia via Berlin. There was a readiness amongst right hon. Gentlemen in control of the affairs of this country to assent to that formula as one which was a working basis, yet from that moment we have not known quite where we are in regard to that subject. Then we had President Wilson's fourteen points, and because it came from President Wilson once again there was very great readiness in this country to accept what he suggested, presumably not on the same sort of grounds, but in order to keep in with the United States of America. Again I believe I am right in saying that the Prime Minister once addressed American troops in France, and I believe that once more there he disclaimed any intentions of getting any money from Germany as the result of the great losses we have incurred in this War.

But there is one point which I think the country differentiates very strongly about, and that is the old idea of forcing indemnities upon a conquered country, as opposed to a demand for the cost of the international police in seeing that civilisation was rescued from this kind of tyranny. I think I am voicing the opinion of the country at largo when I say and believe that a League of Nations, or any principle of that kind, cannot be successful if the Germans are not going to pay to the full for the result of their war on humanity, and were not placed in a worse position than those against whom they made war. We have seen in this morning's newspaper—a very well-informed newspaper—the statement which fills us with alarm. There are some who have the impression that Lord Milner, who has recently been in Paris, is not very anxious to see this question of indemnities enforced. We have reason to think that the mind of His Majesty's Government has not always been united on this question. We want it to be made perfectly clear here, because we shall not have many opportunities in this House, which was elected upon this issue above all others, and we came here with a mandate which we believe is the same mandate which has placed His Majesty's Government, upon the Front Bench by the enormous majorities which we were pleased to see they secured. We cannot face our constituents if we whittle down this demand. There may be doubts in the mind, for instance, of the Leader of the House as to whether Germany can pay the whole Bill, but what we do hope is that His Majesty's Government at the earliest possible moment are going to state what we are entitled to. It is not for them to prove the incapacity of Germany to pay. It is for them to let Germany know our claim, and afterwards for them to settle it with Germany if she cannot meet the whole cost.

There is another point in this connection. Although our ideas are becoming more and more Utopian, and we desire to see the friendship of the nations in the days to come, we cannot neglect the fact that our burden is the heaviest, if not proportionately, at any rate, in the total, of all the Allied Powers, though everybody recognises, especially those who know the sufferings of France and Belgium, at first hand, that their claims come first. But in the sum total we have poured out more of our treasure, I believe I am right in saying, than any other country in the world, and therefore we ought not to be pressed always to give way to the pressure of the United States on this or on any other subject. There is another side of this question which is of extreme importance, of which no real mention has been made. The whole of the cost of rescuing the German Colonies and the Turkish territories from the tyranny from which they have suffered has been borne by this Empire. It is now proposed, I believe, in fact, that it has been practically agreed, though I presume the House of Commons will have a say in the matter, as well as the Parliaments of other countries, before it is ratified; but I believe that in principle it is agreed that there should be mandatory powers which would hold those territories for the League of Nations. It seems to me that the first duty of our delegates to Paris should be to point out that if the League of Nations is to assume the ownership or become the landlord of those territories, then the League of Nations ought to foot the bill which was incurred by the British Empire in conquering those territories. That is a question which seems to have occurred to very few. I am surprised that President Wilson himself, who I know is actuated by the most lofty motives, has not pari passu with his demand for a mandatory system suggested to the League of Nations that if they accept that principle they should find the money between the various countries making up the League to cover the cost of rescuing those territories. I can hardly believe that our delegates have not brought that point forward. I can hardly believe that they have examined the whole question of handing those territories over-to the League of Nations as the landlord in possession without putting forward a simultaneous claim that the cost to the British Empire, which has won those territories for the League of Nations, shall be borne by the partners in the League.

With regard to Russia, I do not know whether the Government has got any policy, but I am absolutely convinced of this, and I have been brought in touch recently with some scores of Russians, that unless we have a policy we are going to get into very serious trouble with regard to the Russian situation. Nothing can be more vital than that we should know where we stand on this Russian question. We have had attempts to talk to the Bolsheviks. The Prinkipo Conference proposal was the greatest blunder of modern statesmanship. One could only imagine that that, again, was prompted not alone from this country, but by others out side also. But that proposal was the worst day's work for the forces of law and order in the world in modern history. Bolshevism must come to an end, but the only question is when it is going to come to an end. What we as a Christian people have got to remember is that while we are waiting to see the fires of Russia burn themselves out not thousands, but possibly millions of people are going to die of starvation. That is the fact, and the first act I should have thought of our Government would have been to point out to Russia, by every means in our power, that we are against the Bolsheviks, and that never, never, can we have any talk with those people. And the second is this, to convince the forces of law and order in Russia, wherever they may be, that if they are against the Bolsheviks we are on their side, and that even though we cannot send great armies at this moment, at least they have our moral forces behind them and that we will do everything in our power to assist them.

9.0 p.m.

I think that it is forgotten that the dead of Russia number a greater total than the dead of any other of the Allies. Russia's sufferings have been more terrible than ours in this War—long before the Revolution took place. The part they took at the commencement of the War is forgotten far too easily by people in this House, who welcome to their bosoms those who were not by our side in those days. Anyone who studies the military history of the War will bear me out when I say that it is hardly believable that, but for the Russian attack in the East, the line at Ypres could have withheld the German assault, and that we could have held the position at that moment, that the Channel ports would not have fallen, and that Paris would not have fallen also, but for that wonderful effort of our friends in Russia. I would like to emphasise what my hon. and gallant Friend has said, that it has been the traditional policy of this country to stand by our friends. We still have friends in Russia, and I hope and believe we are going to stand by them. This horrible nightmare in Russia is going to pass, but when it has passed are those forces who are going to win through going to be able to say, "England was our friend; the British Empire stood by us in our time of trial." That is why I hope that the Cabinet will speak with no uncertain voice on this subject.

They may say, "We are exhausted as a result of the War. We cannot send troops at this time." But let us give our moral support. I believe that I know what the Liberal tradition in the past would have been on this subject. I believe that Mr. Gladstone would have been one of the first to realise that if we, as one of the leading Christian peoples, allowed this chaos to continue in Russia, we should stand for all time condemned. We cannot trifle with these things. We must be on the side of right in Russia. Precisely the same might be said of the traditions of the old Tory party in this country. They would have stood by the forces of law and order in that country. What of Labour? The Labour party know perfectly well that this movement in Russia is not a Labour movement. The whole of the best of the Russian labouring classes are opposed to tins movement, and it is starvation alone that keeps them in it. It is the dregs of the community that have been organised. Therefore all parties in this country should bring pressure to bear on His Majesty's Government to show that we are behind the forces of law and order in Russia.

Even if we do not want to find ourselves engaged in some great commitments in Russia I would ask, has every possibility I been considered? It would be small satisfaction to us in this country if we were in the throes of Bolshevist tyranny, if our friends in Russia were to send expeditions to Orkney or to the Isle of Man, and forgot to send them to the centre of the nation. I hope that His Majesty's Government will consider in reference to this question of Bolshevism, that if you could stamp it out in its centres, in Petrograd and Moscow, it can be killed, and I would ask them to consider whether their forces should be on the outside of the cir- cumference of the greater Russian Empire. If you are going to do anything in the way of intervention, I believe that a comparatively minor intervention by the British Fleet would do a great deal if it were made at the headquarters of Bolshevism. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will endeavour to persuade his colleagues to make it perfectly clear at the Peace Conference that the first duty of the Peace Conference is to secure peace. The League of Nations must be a contentious question. It should come afterwards. We want peace first with Germany, and the other enemy Powers. Then we want to see peace in Russia and order restored in Europe. After that we can turn to these great new reconstruction ideas, with which everybody sympathises, but which should not stand in the way of the immediate accomplishment of the demand of humanity which is the peace of the world.

Colonel BURN:

I wish to associate myself strongly with the observations made by the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken with regard to Russia. Having been in Russia myself during the War I know by my own personal experience of the situation in that country and I feel perfectly convinced that we have got to stand by Russia. The great danger, which I am sure my right hon. Friend realises as we all do, is the possibility of the joining together of the German forces with the Bolshevists. That would create a situation of the greatest danger to this country because it would menace our Eastern possessions. I desire to make a few remarks and to ask a question or two as to what is being done with regard to the Kaiser and his arraignment before an International Board and an Allied Court. I do not profess to be well versed in International law, but I cannot believe that there is any quibble that is going to prevent us, the people of this country, from seeing the author of the War arraigned before a court of justice. I believe that the people of this country will never be satisfied until that is done. I have the misfortune to know the Kaiser and to actually have stayed with him, and I do know that for years before this War he came here to this country, and receiving hospitality at the hands of everyone in Great Britain he made use of those opportunities to learn all he could about our military position. He is the instigator of everything and used the scientific knowledge at his dis- posal amongst his professors and learned men in order to invent the most fiendish devices for taking human life and causing the greatest amount of misery. I say that that man must be arraigned, and as well as the Kaiser there are others. There are the commandants of those prisoner of war camps where our men were in captivity for many months or in some cases even years. Those men are well known and their names and whereabouts, and it is our duty to see that they are brought to justice and whatever may be the verdict that they suffer for what they have done and the brutal treatment they instigated and saw carried out amongst our prisoners.

I should like the Committee to compare the treatment of the German prisoners in this country who really were almost as free men and certainly were better fed than many of our own working people, and who indeed received every consideration. Whatever else may be said when they return to their own country they can only say that they have been treated well. We know from authenticated proofs what our men went through in Germany. Almost in every instance the treatment was brutal, and I should like to know how many of our men were done to death either directly or indirectly by the treatment they received while they were in those prisoner of war camps. The men who authorised that treatment and instigated it and had it carried out must be brought to justice. We have also the known murderers of the heroine Edith Cavell and of Captain Fryatt, whose names are known throughout the length and breadth of this country, and indeed throughout the world. I say it is absolutely wrong if General Von missing. or whoever signed the death warrant of Edith Cavell is not brought to justice. I feel sure that this country will never be satisfied until this is carried out. I know that at my election, as well as all over the country, the subject which interested the electors most was this question of bringing to justice those men who behaved worse than savages. I know that this matter has been brought up in the House of Commons more than once at Question Time, but I do not think any satisfactory answer has been given. What I want to know and would like to ask my right hon. Friend is, how far has this subject been gone into at the Peace Conference? Are we to be told that there is some quibble in international law which would prevent those people being brought to justice? After all we have done in this War, and after the way in which our soldiers have suffered, and, indeed, the country, no satisfaction will be given to the people who are left in this country until we know for certain that those men will be brought to justice. I was glad to receive an answer from the Leader of the House a few days ago as to the captured British guns which are now ornamenting the main streets of many of the great German towns. I understood from him that steps are being taken to have those guns returned to this country. I should have thought that that would have been made one of the first conditions of the Armistice, because if British guns were left in those public avenues in Germany, how could we ever expect that in the next generation the spirit of militarism would be stamped out. Surely the boys of this generation will grow up seeing the guns there, with all the advertisements as to what regiments had captured them and under what conditions they had been captured, and would it be possible that those boys, when they came to manhood, would ever believe that Germany had not won this War? I hope this matter will be carried through and that nothing will prevent our representatives at the Peace Conference demanding that these guns shall be immediately returned to this country. If my right hon. Friend will consider these matters and realise how very intensely the public feeling is centred on these points, he will, I am sure, be doing a service that will be appreciated in the country and will also show that not only he but all of us who have given pledges intend to see that those pledges are carried out.

Photo of Sir Donald Macmaster Sir Donald Macmaster , Chertsey

The first point to which I wish to draw attention is that the relationship of this country to Germany is very different indeed from that of the United States of America. The United States came into the War at a very late stage, and her part in the War was not comparable to the efforts of this country. Then, when the United States came into the War, we had the announcement of her President that they did not come into the struggle with any object of territorial acquisition or monetary gain, and we had the express statement that they would not demand any indemnities for themselves. They so defined their position before President Wilson put down his Fourteen Points, and, whatever may be the value of those points, it is perfectly evident that from the American point of view they were points which they wished to obtain without the payment of any indemnity whatever. The position of this country and of France is very different. We had a war forced upon us. It was not a voluntary matter, but we really had war forced upon us, and we were, therefore, well entitled to say, when we conquered, that the enemy should make good the cost of the War and should pay an indemnity, and, so far as I can see from my examination of all the documents, we have never renounced that right in any shape. It is suggested that we did so in connection with our negotiations with the United States, but if we did so impliedly we never did expressly, and I do not think we did impliedly. Every hon. Member knows well that in the General Election the strongest card that we played all round was this, that so far as justice could be asserted against the Emperor of Germany and his co-murderers they should be punished; secondly, that indemnities should be claimed against Germany for the cost of the War; and, thirdly, that proper provision should be made in this country in regard to aliens in it and with regard to the future immigration of aliens into this country. In addition to that, there was, of course, the great necessity of doing justice to our soldiers and sailors who won the War for us; for, after all, whatever the politicians may say, the soldiers and the sailors were those who won the War. There is no doubt whatever that, at least, the Coalitionist party were pledged up to the hilt to see that the pledges which they gave in reference to these matters were carried out, and we all look to the Government to see that they are carried out; but we hear from time to time rumours as to a compromise, and that we are not to have indemnities and are not entitled to reparation. All that causes anxiety. There is also a feeling that the German Emperor and his co-conspirators are not being punished. I realise to the full the difficulties the Government have with regard to that question. The German Emperor is not triable before any international tribunal that exists. A tribunal might be created to try him but when the great Emperor of the French surrendered to our forefathers he was not given a trial, and though he said he surrendered to the most generous of his enemies, it was decided that he should be carried to St. Helena, where he ended his days. It may be that the proper course with regard to the German Emperor is that he should be confined in some place where he might repent his misdoings during his reign in Germany, because undoubtedly, though I hold nearly every German equally culpable, he had the power to stop a great deal of the outrages and barbarous treatment that were extended to our countrymen who were prisoners in his hands. Perhaps the greatest punishment that that man might have to submit to would be imprisonment for life in a French prison where he might be pointed at from day to day as an example of the downfall of a tyrant who caused such fearful bloodshed.

But I wish mainly to refer to the question of an indemnity as distinguished from reparation. There is a good deal of misunderstanding with regard to that. There is no absolute right to an indemnity. An indemnity is something that you demand because you have the power to recover it, and therefore you impose it. That is the interpretation that Germany put upon indemnities. Look at the indemnity they imposed on Rumania and on Russia, and look at the indemnity they imposed on France for the cost of the War of 1871, which was not brought about by France herself, but which they themselves put into operation. Therefore, if we have the power to impose an indemnity on Germany for the fair cost of the War we are quite justified in doing it. An indemnity is a different thing from what is ordinarily understood by reparation. I pointed out this afternoon when a question was asked with regard to this subject and when the Leader of the House told us, as we knew, that the original terms of the Armistice were in French. They were also put in English and in German, but the official copy, the authentic copy, is in the French language, and therefore it is to the authentic copy of the Armistice that we must go. When you look at the authentic copy of the Armistice, in the French language, you will see that the phrases there used are phrases that are quite familiar to those who know the French language, and that they have a special reference to what is known in the French system as "civil damages," damages to the civilian—damages for civil injury done to the individual. They have no reference to anything in the nature of an indemnity. The words in the French version are "Reparations des dommages." In the English version, "Reparation for damages done." These are the corre- sponding equivalent expressions, one in French and the other in English. Both expressions are a clear reference to the civil and ordinary damages that are done to the individual for aggression upon his property or rights, and not to damages between State and State. The right to damage for injury caused between State and State is expressly provided for in the preliminary portion of that same Article of the Armistice, in these words, in the English language: Financial Clause. With the reservation that any future claims and demands of the Allies and the United States remain unaffected, the following financial conditions are required. "Future claims and demands" is not a very good translation, if I may say so, of the official and authentic copy by which the matter is covered, because in the French copy the words are "Réclamation ulterieure," which means further claims, not "future" claims but "further" claims. Therefore, the rights of the Allies to indemnities, or any further claims which they choose to assert, are perfectly maintained and are distinct. Therefore it is a mistake to talk about this Committee in Paris, which is looking into the question of claims, as a Reparation Committee. It may be called that for the purposes of convenience, if you like; it is not merely taking into account the claims for the civilian population, but I have no doubt, also, the claims which the respective nations will have against Germany. These words, in the English version, "Damages done," can easily be connected with what transpired a short time before, because after President Wilson's Fourteen Points were submitted to the Allies, and they had an opportunity of considering them—whether they considered them as fully as they should have done I know not—at all events they made some express reservations with regard to the Freedom of the Seas—they could not take his view. They also made some other express reservations with regard to this very matter of damages to the civilian population, because in the Fourteen Points he spoke about the restoration and free evacuation of Belgium as one of his conditions. When the Allies came to consider these terms they put it down expressly in writing—and the Leader of the House will agree with me in that—as they did not wish that there should be any misunderstanding as to what the restoration and evacuation of Belgium meant—that it must be distinctly understood that these terms included all damages done—note the repetition of the words in the Armistice terms, compensation for all damages for aggression done to the civilian population whether from the air, or on the sea, or on the land. Here was the reservation at that stage of the damage done to the civilian population of the country, and in the Armistice we find a similar provision for damages done. It does not insert the word civilian, and it would have been unnecessary to have done so. But there is the express reservation in the 19th Clause for all further claims of any kind whatever.

So the position we are really in now before the Conference is this, and the position we are presenting to Germany is this: We want claims not merely for the civil population, not merely in this country or in Belgium, or wherever the injury was done to the civilian population, but we have the claim of the State to assert; no doubt a very large claim, and, as my lion. Friend who spoke a short time ago said, it is not a question now whether Germany is able to pay or not, but it is a question of what the claim is, and whether it should not be presented and be pressed, just as any claimant in a Court of justice presses his claim, irrespective of the question whether the defendant is able to find the money or not. I am not one of those who think that Germany is a poor country, or who would give easy terms to Germany, and I do not think the Leader of the House is one either. I have every confidence in the statement that he has made with regard to this. But this I say, that there are many assets in Germany, apart from the ability to pay extended over a period of years.

I do not wish to digress, and I will keep to this point, and not enlarge into the grave areas of political survey; but let us look for one moment to some of the assets in addition to those mentioned by my hon. Friend. There is the possession and ownership of the Kiel Canal. I do not know what that canal cost. It must have cost over £100,000,000 sterling, possibly£200,000,000 sterling. It is of great commercial utility. It need not be used merely as a war means of transportation, and it must have great commercial utility. If Russia is to be restored, look at its value to new Russia! If Poland is to be restored, and if we are to stand by new Poland, and Dantzig is to be its port, with the whole trade of the Vistula and the Baltic before it, with free access to it, and free exit from it, how important the canal must become! Look at the profit in connection with the use of the canal. May it not be of great commercial value, and one of the things which we might take, not for our whole claim, but as part of the items in the claim? If we do not take that as part of the indemnity to us—a small part it must be—there is this further consideration: What if we internationalise that canal, giving to each of the Allies a share in proportion to their effort in carrying on the War? If we give to England 30 per cent., to France 20 per cent., to the United States15 per cent., to Italy 10 per cent., to new Russia 10 per cent., to Poland 5 per cent., to Denmark 5 per cent., and to Belgium 5 per cent., and create a great international company operating that canal? No doubt they would operate at a profit. There are many ways in which we might apply for the indemnity other than in cash, because I thoroughly realise that the Germans cannot pay the whole of their debt in gold, and certainly cannot pay it at once, but that they should be made to pay, I think, there can be no doubt whatever in equity. Even in addition to equity are we not bound hand and foot to make them pay as a just claim for a war forced upon us to the extent of their ability to pay. That is what we said at the General Election. That is what the hon. Gentleman said, and the Prime Minister said. It was upon that score mainly that the elections were won. Consequently, I think that our deputies representing us in Paris, and the Ministry in this country should take the strongest ground they possibly can in support of these proposals, because I do not think we should be forgiven by the people of this country if we gave way in this respect. Therefore, I submit with great confidence that in the determination of this question there should be no backsliding. It is the interest of everyone in this country that our position should be maintained, it is the interest not merely of political parties but of all parts of the country as a whole. We are committed to it, and therefore we should go forward strongly, and maintain the position that has been put before the House, and the Country.

Mr. THOMAS:

I hope the hon. Gentleman will stick to his principles to- morrow. He has reminded the Committee that he and his friends were committed during the General Election to certain clearly defined principles. He said that they were committed to hanging the Kaiser, and to making Germany pay. May I remind him that they were also committed to the principle that there should be no Conscription? When he is so anxious that he and his friends should have due regard to their election promises, I want to remind him to keep clearly in mind all the issues, and not one that particularly suits him. At all events, I do not regret that this all-important question of the making of peace and the peace terms is raised, because in my judgment there is no issue so important and likely to have so far-reaching an effect upon the future of this country as the question of an early peace. The very remarkable thing is that everyone who has spoken about the delay in the peace terms has got one stock answer, and that is, that the Peace of Frankfurt took five months, and that was only between two nations; therefore, according to that logic, this peace ought to take about five years.

I want to remind the House that the one essential thing above all else at which we ought to aim is to be able at least to make a peace with an ordered Government. Hon. and right hon. Members must be disturbed by the events that are now taking place in the Central Powers. Anyone who thinks for a moment what the situation is, or tries to visualise the future, cannot help but realise that if the peace is dragged on, and if in a month or six weeks the Germans are asked—not to come in to discuss peace, please observe—but, according to what seems to be a clearly-defined notion, merely to be called in to ratify certain documents; then, supposing Scheidemann having been deposed—not deposed by the old regime, not deposed in the interests of a monarchy, but deposed by the Bolsheviks in Germany—then when that document is presented, supposing their answer is "No, there is no one to sign any peace terms. Do what you like," what is the situation in this country? I know the glib answer you get—that you must have an Army of Occupation. People who make that answer have no knowledge whatever of the feeling, temper, and dangerous situation that exist in this country, and certainly cannot realise that people to-day, in spite of all the horrors that we hear of in Russia, in spite of all the condemnation of the Bolshevik Government, in spite of all that is said about that form of Government, the great mass of the working classes in this country, without hesitation, say, "Never mind what the Russia Government may be; it is no business of ours to interfere with it."

Therefore, we are brought right up against the very object of to-morrow's Bill. Whatever else this country went to war for, whatever else was responsible for 5,000,000 of our men volunteering their lives—without Conscription, observe—whatever else was responsible for the courage, valour, and heroism during those four years, no one can pretend that our people were influenced, guided, or actuated by either a selfish or an ulterior motive. They did not enlist for the purpose of adding a yard to the British Empire. They did not enlist for the purpose of giving effect to any materialistic ambitions. They went to war because they believed that there was the challenge of militarism against freedom, and now they are told to-day that there is a delay in the peace terms, not because of the difficulty of giving effect to the Armistice terms, not because of the difficulty of giving effect to the intentions of this country, but because they want to find another natural frontier for France. That is the diplomatic way in which it is put. Alsace and Lorraine are now accepted, and rightly accepted—I do not complain—as being restored to France, but I ask any hon. Member of this House if, twelve months ago, you had told an English audience that, in addition to Alsace and Lorraine, there was to be other territory called, for frontier purposes, the natural boundary of France, could you have got a volunteer to fight in this War, or could you have maintained the prestige of this country as a whole? [Hon. Members: "Yes!" and "No!"] Of course, I do not want to quarrel. Hon. Members are as much entitled to their view as I am to mine. I put this proposition: If that were so, why was it that, throughout the whole four years of this War, the one great appeal made to our people was not to add any territory to any country, but merely to make it a fight for justice and right as against any Imperialistic consideration? [AN HON. MEMBER: "And safety!"] And safety. I agree we could not have justice without safety. But then comes the question of the definition of safety. If Germany is compelled to abolish Conscription, what becomes of the claim of frontier?

But I would put a stronger argument than that. Are frontiers, from a military point of view, of any value to-day? Does any Member in this. House, in view of four years' experience of aerial activity, dare suggest that any question of frontier is a military guarantee, as it was four years ago? What is the use of talking of the Rhine being a natural frontier, when you know perfectly well that even our own island country is not immune, in spite of our Navy to-day? It really brings us back to this: that so far as this country is concerned we have got to face the facts as to whether we are out for a lasting peace or a temporary triumph. I submit that we have two illustrations to guide us. Germany is the first. Germany's treatment of France in 1870 was brutal, callous, indifferent, and selfish. Everyone admits that. Everyone admits as well that that very treatment was responsible for setting the germs of this War. It created in the minds of every French man, woman, and child a spirit of hatred and revenge which found expression even in this War. No one would pretend for a moment that such a policy was a success. Everyone would be compelled to admit that it was a failure.

Take the second illustration. A few years ago Germany's peace terms with Russia were put out. There again, Germany made the mistake of showing the iron hand. There again Germany prostituted her power. With what result? Disaster to Germany! Let us, however, take the illustration of our own country in respect to South Africa. Hon. Members can read the report of the Debates in the House as to what happened at this very box from which I am speaking in respect to the measure then put forward of self-government for South Africa. Those who introduced the Bill felt that the only way to make a friend and ally of that country was to show that we were just, and desired to do the right thing. Would any hon. or right hon. Gentleman in this House dare to suggest at this stage of history that what we did in South Africa did not save us to a very large degree during the past four years? Therefore, I would draw a moral from these illustrations. It is an easy matter during an election to talk about hanging the Kaiser. Who is there in this House who would not agree that it was much too quick a death for him, or that hanging would be too good! But we have to consider whether it would be worth while even making him a martyr in this respect. A second point is that it is an easy matter to go to the electorate in the hurley and burly of an election—and particularly having regard to the circumstances of the last election—and to say, "We are going to make Germany pay." It is like everyone of us being anxious when the Chancellor of the Exchequer presents his Budget, to see that everyone else but ourselves is taxed. It is quite an easy matter to do that, but it is not an easy matter for this House of Commons to face the thing in that way. This House of Commons have not merely to say, "Make Germany pay," they have also to say how Germany is to pay. That is the position of this House.

Colonel BURN:

Present the Bill.

Mr. THOMAS:

My hon. and gallant Friend says "present the Bill." Does he think that it is quite so simple a problem to those who have to present the Bill?

Colonel BURN:

Yes.

Mr. THOMAS:

If the mere presentation of the Bill would settle the question then this House would be agreed, and there need be no Debate. But no one who has given any consideration to the question assumes it will be settled in that way. Therefore, I rise to point out, however unpopular it may be, that in my humble view the first essential is to make an early peace. Eisner, who was so cruelly murdered a fortnight ago, told me himself in a long conversation I had with him a fortnight before he was murdered, that "the one thing your country of England ought to do is immediately to send food into Germany."

Photo of Mr Thomas Moles Mr Thomas Moles , Belfast Ormeau

Certainly, while we are short ourselves: feed the Germans while Britishers starve!

Mr. THOMAS:

I am used to interruptions at mass meetings, and I appreciate them accordingly; but I am not used to that kind of interruption in the House of Commons. I merely proceed to speak hereof the man who for three years during the War was in gaol. He had opposed Germany. He had denounced Germany. Immediately he was released he led the Revolution, and was the first Republican President. I put a question to him and to others. I said, "If there is such a change in Germany, how do you account for the Social Democrats, who have supported the War, being returned in such large numbers? We in England take that as an evidence that there is no change in the German people." The answer he and others gave to my question was this: "At the last election the German people had three alternatives. In the first place, they had the supporters of the old regime—that is, the monarchy. Again, on the other side, they had to choose between the Bolshevists, the Extremists, and the Social Democrats. Whatever (said Eisner) the view may be of the Social Democrats' action during the War, we at least felt that they were the safest party as against the two sets of Extremists." We may not agree with that explanation, but I put it to hon. Members that that at least is a feasible explanation. The point I am developing is that whilst we continue the blockade, whilst we allow starvation to take place, we ourselves are creating a situation that practically makes it impossible to make peace whenever the opportunity is presented. Again, I repeat that it is not because I do not want a peace. I do want a peace. But I want an ordered peace. I want reparation. I want to see Germany pay the full price of the Armistice terms. But I do not want to see us carried away by passion, bitterness, or hatred, or by our own personal feelings, forgetting that we can create a situation that will render peace permanently impossible. For that reason I have taken part in the Debate. I again repeat, I may not have contributed to the popular side, but I have contributed to what I believe to be the side of the British working classes and what they are thinking of—[Hon. Members: "No, no!"]—because I know, whatever may have been the position four years ago, this House will be making a mistake, and will be blind to what is happening outside, if the temper and changed feeling is not realised. You cannot have Bolshevism growing in the Central Powers, you cannot have the reaction following the War, without the danger of it spreading. I want to avoid it spreading, but I do not believe it can be avoided by merely skipping over the surface. I repeat that I want to see an early peace and a permanent peace, but let us keep our heads and not talk in glib phrases about hanging the Kaiser and making Germany pay without considering the consequences to our own country.

10.0 P.M.

Photo of Colonel Sir James Greig Colonel Sir James Greig , Renfrewshire Western

I cannot sit still in this Debate without expressing my view after the speech to which we have just listened. I do not yield even to the right hon. Gentleman opposite in my desire for an early peace. We have been fighting for an early peace and we have been shedding our blood for an early peace, but it would be madness to make peace before we knew the terms could be carried out and enforced. I represent a constituency in Scotland which is mainly composed of working people, and I consider myself as much a representative of working men as any hon. Member on the benches opposite. What did I find in my Constituency in Scotland? I was not strong enough at the early meetings on the question of indemnity and reparation, and the same thing applies to the adjoining constituency to my own, and I had the whole thing out there. The meetings would hardly listen to me because I was taking the line put forward by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. [An Hon. Member: "Political opportuneness!"] I do hope the hon. Member opposite will be quiet, and he will have his own turn. I sit for a majority of labouring people, and I can assure the House that the feeling in Scotland was that they were out for reparation and guarantees. What do I mean by guarantees? Will any hon. Member say he would believe the word of a German, written or sworn?

In the earlier stages of the War I thought, and I believe, President Wilson expressed the same view, that there was a difference between the governing classes in Germany and the people, but now I am perfectly certain, after four years of war with Germany, that the concentrated opinion of the people of this country is that there was no difference between the military party and the people of Germany, and there is no difference to-day. The military party are simply masquerading behind the Scheidemanns and the other people. In my opinion, at the present moment in Germany the military party are camouflaged behind Bolshevism, and I believe the military party could put down the disturbances if they so desired, but they are not doing it. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman opposite can do a good deal in the way of explaining to the people what is the real position of our peace terms at the present time. As far as we know the peace terms, Alsace-Lorraine will be retransferred to France, and is there an hon. Member in the whole House who would say that is unjust? Not one. I have been over that country, and I know it. I have been around the whole battlefields of Metz, and there is a block of German territory on this side of the Rhine stretching from Metz to the Belgian frontier, and it would be very unwise if the French decided to take over and occupy that part of the frontier, but equally unwise if they omitted to make sure it should not be a basis of operations against them. They might have an equally good claim to Cologne, which years ago was a French town. Nevertheless, that country is German, and is largely occupied by Germans. It is, however, a mountainous country from which you could make a fresh descent on to the plains of France.

To what are the French entitled? Suppose in Scotland we had the Germans alongside of us just beyond the border, we would like to have a strong strategic frontier between us and them. The right hon. Gentleman opposite asked what difference does the frontier make now that there are aeroplanes. May I point out that it makes a great deal of difference? What were our difficulties during the air raids on London? It was that the German aerodromes were on the Belgian coast, and when they were driven away from them we are safe, and the French want the same thing. With regard to the stretch of country north of Metz, they want to make it impossible for the Germans to use that as a base for attacking them. The right hon. Gentleman talks about the Rhine not being a complete frontier. Some distance from the Rhine there is a line of hills that will pass into French hands and there will be a broad stretch between the Rhine and these hills where you could form your troops ready to cross the Rhine if the Germans attempted to come in again. What the right hon. Gentleman should explain to the people is a little geography as to the Rhine instead of getting into their heads any such foolish notion as that the French are going to take country which is German territory as well as Alsace-Lorraine.

Mr. THOMAS:

As the hon. Member is lecturing me, I want to remind him that I know the country to which he refers, and I have been there much more recently than he has. I also want to remind him that the purport of my speech was to show that this was not part of the Armistice terms.

Photo of Colonel Sir James Greig Colonel Sir James Greig , Renfrewshire Western

We are now talking about the final peace terms, and what we want to make sure of is that the final terms shall be such as shall form a sound basis against the fields and the cities of France being invaded again. If we visualise the position of the French after their experience in 1870 and in this War, I think, if we were in the same position as the French, we should ask for ourselves a great deal more than the French are asking for. Again I appeal to hon. Members opposite to try and keep cool and see straight on this subject. We are all at one on this matter. We want peace, and we want to get rid of militarism, but until the final peace terms are settled, and they have got to be settled among about thirty nations, it would be the utmost foolishness to give up any weapon which would enable us, in spite of German signatures or words of honour, or anything of that sort, to make perfectly sure that tills war does not recur in our time.

Photo of Colonel Josiah Wedgwood Colonel Josiah Wedgwood , Newcastle-under-Lyme

The speech of the hon. and gallant Member opposite, and the tone of this House make me absolutely despair. Hon. Members appear to think that they are still living in a world before the War, when they were dealing with problems which could be solved by crowned heads and diplomatists. As things are going it looks as though we shall have in Germany a state of affairs exactly similar to that which we have in Russia at the present time, and it will be the fault of the diplomatists in Paris who are delaying peace in order to discuss these methods of annexation. If you have a Bolshevik regime in Germany, as you are very likely to have, because the state of affairs there gets daily worse, you may make what terms of peace you like on paper, but you cannot possibly have those terms carried out. You may claim your six thousand million damages, but if they have no government there which will sign the terms of peace, and which will see that the country for which they sign, them carries out those terms of peace, you might just as well put that piece of paper straight into the fire. Even if there is a Bolshevik Government, or otherwise which signs peace deciding that a certain indemnity is to be paid, you cannot possibly collect that indemnity without occupying Germany with your troops, and the occu- pation of Germany to the tune of £400,000,000 per year is likely to cost this country a good deal more than the indemnity ultimately collected. What you want to do is to get what you can out of Germany in the way of cash, and to do that you must make certain definite suggestions. You must get an indemnity either, as the hon. Member suggested, in the form of canal dues, or canal ownership, or you must get it in the form of a royalty on coal or something of that sort. There are definite sums which can be obtained in this way, but, if you start putting forward gigantic claims, you make it impossible for any Government in Germany to extract them, and consequently impossible to get lasting peace in Europe.

Surely to-day we might recognise that we are dealing with a world which is moving straight towards the abyss of bankruptcy and starvation, and to talk about making France secure by grabbing territory when the whole world is getting less secure through indebtedness and starvation and through the utter incapacity of civilisation to stand up against the losses of the last four and a half years, seems to me to be inviting anarchy in the midst of this country. I do not want to see civilisation entirely upset. [Laughter.] Hon. Members really seem to think that it does not in the least matter as long as they can carry out their idiotic election pledges. We are here to talk as sensible individuals, and hon. Members, even new Members, must realise that there must be a difference in tone between the speeches made in this House and the speeches made on the hustings to constituents fresh from a desperate war of four and a half years. It is absolutely essential that we should realise that peace is necessary as early as possible, not in order to get reparation or to get security for territory, but in order to get security for civilisation and to prevent world bankruptcy.

Photo of Major Hon. Christopher Lowther Major Hon. Christopher Lowther , Cumberland Northern

I rise to point out, if I may, with all humility, a slight discrepancy in the argument of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas). He reminded hon. Members of their election speeches with regard to the Conscription Act, and he seemed to say that if their pledges were kept a conscripted Army would cease to exist, and consequently the size of the Army would be materially reduced. He also seemed to say at the same time that we should send food into Germany. In my view we have two weapons for enforcing peace terms upon the Germans. One is the Army of Occupation, and the other is the blockade. If we take away from ourselves both these weapons, we take away from ourselves the power of enforcing peace terms, and I venture to suggest that the right hon. Gentleman might possibly consider which of the two weapons he would prefer to take away, and which he would think it better that we should keep for enforcing peace terms. We are all agreed that the sooner they are made the better. It is no use flying off in these questions at a tangent. It is a question really of business. We have beaten the Germans, and we have to get such terms as we can out of them, terms that are within reason and within justice. One of these two weapons must be kept in our hands, and the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Members who follow him would be giving assistance to this House if they were to point out which weapon they think it would be best that we should hold for this specific purpose.

Photo of Mr Bonar Law Mr Bonar Law , Glasgow Central

I congratulate my hon. and gallant Friend upon having obeyed the command of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Newcastle (Colonel Wedgwood) and upon having spoken like a very sensible person. It seems to me that he has put the case exactly as it ought to be put. We certainly have to look at these questions from the point of view of justice, but we have also to look at them from the point of view of what is possible. I have listened to a very long Debate, covering a great variety of ground. It was an interesting Debate, but the House, I am sure, will forgive me if I take the view that the interest was rather in the speeches addressed to the Government than in the reply which would be made by the Government. Everyone of the subjects has been dealt with over and over again, and though in listening to the speeches I tried to think of something new which could possibly be said I entirely failed to do so. I shall, therefore, touch very briefly on the different subjects as far as I remember them.

We had, first of all, a discussion about Russia. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Christchurch (Brigadier-General Croft) spoke very strongly about what this Bolshevik rule in Russia means, and what should be done in regard to it. I do not think there are many people in this country who now have any doubt as to what it means, and, personally, I am led to the conclusion that the real meaning of the rule which prevails in so large a portion of Russia is penetrating more and more throughout the whole of this country, and that our people are beginning to realise that in whatever direction improvement of conditions may lie and from whatever direction that better world of which we have heard so much is to come, it is not from that direction, from which nothing but ruin can come, ruin which applies far more severely to the very class that most needs to be elevated in Western Europe. That is very true. We are constantly giving very much more than moral support to the forces which originally took our side against the Germans, and which are now taking in our view the side of humanity against the kind of rule which I honestly believe cannot possibly last, and which, if it did, would be a scourge to the whole world as it is now to Russia. How can anyone say more than was said on this question by the Prime Minister? I have discussed it myself in Paris, not only with our Allies, but with representatives of very many classes of Russians. What more can be done except this, which we all recognise to be impossible? The Russians state that this force is entirely kept up by terror which may be very easily overthrown, but not one of them dreamt for a moment that there was anyone of the Allied countries which, after all the sufferings they had gone through, would be prepared to recommend that an army should be sent to put this force down. No one suggested that. In whatever direction salvation lies there really is no use in speaking as if this were a simple problem, unless you are prepared to do something like what the Germans did when they thought Russia was beginning to fall into the same state. They had to keep more than 1,000,000 men, and even then they were as far off as ever from conquering it. I do not wish to say that the Allies must not try to do something, and must not get a policy. It is more difficult when there are so many nations working together, and I entirely agree with what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War said on Monday, that if at the end of the Peace Conference we were to go away in the belief that we had settled everything, and left the great bulk of Eastern Europe in chaos, it would be said that the League of Nations had been tried at the outset, and that at the outset it had failed. Something must be done, but I am not prepared to add a single word to what has been said on this subject by the Prime Minister.

The only other subject which excited wide interest was the question of indemnities. I am going to try to speak like a sensible man on this subject. The first thing I would say, and I think it is a sensible thing, is that the speeches we have listened to have not been directed with a view to getting any new declaration from the Government. They had two objects, one was to express the strong feelings of the hon. Gentlemen who made the speeches, another was to let the Government see—it was not necessary—that the feeling on that subject in the country and the House has not abated, but is as strong as ever, that the Government is expected to get the best terms which can be got out of Germany. That is quite true, but there was one thing which I rather regret in the speech of the hon. Member below the gangway. He said he had reason to believe that Lord Milner was not strong in the desire to make Germany pay. There is not a shadow of foundation for that. There may be differences of opinion as to the amount which Germany can pay and Lord Milner, in conversation with me, as no doubt with others, has expressed the view—I hardly like to say that I agree for fear I should be suspected of being friendly to the enemy—that some of the extreme figures mentioned are absolutely unobtainable. But that is very far indeed from saying that he or any one of us does not hold as strongly as any Member of this House that we are entitled to get from Germany every penny up to the full cost of the War providing Germany is able to pay.

During the whole of the Election I made speeches, like other people, and I never had the slightest doubt as to the justice of our demanding full terms—never—but I was careful not to hold out hopes which I believed could not be realised, that from that source we would be able to get rid of the immense debt which we now carry. It would be a great mistake to do that. The mere fact that Germany is morally bound to pay it is not of much value if you cannot get it. I noticed that some hon. Members said that the question whether or not she could pay is a question for her rather than for us. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Is that quite sensible? I quite admit that our right to make the full demand is undoubted, and not to make that perfectly clear would be foolish. But we have got to talk like sensible men. Supposing that in ordinary business somebody owed you a large sum of money. Suppose you were a banker, and the man could not meet his obligations. You have two ways of dealing with him. If you think the man has misled and swindled you, you may very likely say," I am going to make that man a bankrupt, whatever happens. On the other hand, if it is a matter of a large sum and you represent a bank and the shareholders in the bank, you will look at it a little from this point of view: "Shall I get more under a composition than by making the man a bankrupt?"

We really must look at this question a little from the point of view of what there is a possibility of getting out of Germany, and, having once done that, it is our business to get every penny we can. That is the whole case. I dislike the idea of some of the fabulous sums which are stated as if we could secure them. For instance, my hon. Friend who introduced this question quoted a figure. I believe I saw it in some newspaper, and probably he got it from the same source. If he will think, he will see what it means. He said that the Westphalian coal mines alone ware worth £170,000,000,000. Does my hon. Friend realise that that is very nearly ten times the whole of the estimated wealth of Germany before the War?

Lieutenant-Colonel GUINNESS:

I said it was much more than the cost of the War. I did not name that as the figure we might recover. I said that was the security which the Germans could offer.

Photo of Mr Bonar Law Mr Bonar Law , Glasgow Central

The hon. Gentleman has not understood my argument. He never suggested that we could get £170,000,000,000, but he said that the Westphalian coalfields were worth that. Unless my memory is wrong, the estimate of the total wealth of Germany, including the Westphalian coalfields, before the War was only about one-tenth of the sum he named for the Westphalian coalfields alone?

Photo of Mr Henry Croft Mr Henry Croft , Bournemouth

That was a German estimate.

Photo of Mr Bonar Law Mr Bonar Law , Glasgow Central

All I shall say is that if a German made that estimate he is not a sensible man £170,000,000,000 is worth, at an annual value of 5 per cent., £8,500,000,000. That is at least four times more than the total income of Germany before the War. So it does not matter who made the estimate—it is a very unreliable one.

I do not in the least object to having these subjects raised. It does no harm to let the world see that the British House of Commons, in this respect representing the British people, has no doubt whatever as to justice of our claim for the whole cost of the War, and has determined that we shall put as large a claim on it as Germany can be made to pay. That is the question. But it does not really, so far as the Government is concerned, make the case any stronger to have me or some other member of the Government answering the same question in the same way at least once a week. There is no change in our policy. We want to get all we can towards the terrible burden which lies upon this country. No one but a madman would deny the justice of our claim. If you assume we are going to have no indemnity, and that Germany is going to pay nothing, would it not mean that the nation which in our view not only caused all these horrors but caused them deliberately, and would have made her victims pay to the last farthing—if there is to be nothing of that kind, Germany will start in the commercial race much better off than the nations whom she invaded and pillaged. There can be no justice in that. But we must in all these things see clearly what we are aiming at, and do our best to get the most we can to lower and lessen the burden which lies upon this country.

I was told my right hon. Friend opposite remarked that the essential thing was to get peace quickly so that we could know where we are. I entirely agree with him. It is not merely the danger of Germany falling into Bolshevism, though I think that is a real danger, but the greatest anxiety of the Government at this moment is to get our own trade and industry started in the most effective way. As long as the blockade continues in its present form, which applies not merely to the enemy countries but to a certain extent to the countries adjacent, trade conditions cannot be restored, and in our own interest therefore it is of the utmost importance that we should get a settlement which will enable this to be done as soon as possible. There I come again to the remark of my hon. Friend below the Gangway. We must have some method of making as sure as we can that the peace conditions will be carried out, and that we shall be in a condition to enforce them. We must have some means of doing that. The speech of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Churchill) was, as far as I could judge by some comments, entirely misunderstood, for he expressed exactly what I am saying. We must have some means of doing that. If we can the sooner we end the blockade, which is bad for women and children and sick people in Germany, and is bad for us also, with the knowledge that we can rely on our weapon, the better for this country and better for everyone.