Mr. L'ESTRANGE MALONE:
Subsection (1) reads:
(1) This Act may be cited as the Treaties of Washington Act, 1922.
The Committee will remember that at Washington there were five Treaties dealt with by our delegates. In addition to the two Treaties in this Bill, there were the Four-Power Treaty dealing with insular possessions, and the Nine-Power Treaty-dealing with China, the Treaty dealing with the open door in China, and that dealing with tariffs and Customs. It is very important that this House should have an opportunity of discussing the policy of the British Government in regard to China, and of expressing an opinion whether the policy with regard to Chinese tariffs, for example, or with regard to the Boxer indemnity is right. Is it the intention of the Government to bring in another Bill, such as, for instance, the Treaties of Washington (No. 2) Bill, dealing with these questions? Are we to be given an opportunity of discussing these very important matters, which are far more important than the points dealt with in this Bill? We ought to have an assurance that an opportunity will be afforded us at an early date of discussing these matters.
Of course, the Government are not in the habit of bringing in Bills except when legislation is required. The other Treaties do not require any legislation, only the ordinary executive action of the Government. That also applies to most of the provisions in the two naval Treaties. There are certain points in these Treaties that do require legislative action, and that is done in this Bill.
That is a very interesting statement, which is of some importance. Apparently the Government still maintain the right to make treaties without submitting them to this House at all, unless they are some small Amendments to a previous Act of Parliament—
I make no apology for raising certain points on this Bill before it be read the Third time. These are matters to which I referred very briefly on the Second Reading last Friday, when the Bill was rushed through the House with only a day's warning and with no very responsible Ministers present. The question to which I refer is that of the Japanese invasion of Eastern Siberia. At the Washington Conference, held at the end of last year, the Japanese delegates said they were authorised to declare that it was the fixed policy of the Japanese to respect the territorial integrity of Siberia and to observe the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of that country. Hardly-had the delegates retired from this great Peace Conference at Washington when a small conference was held at Dairen, in Manchuria, on 1oth April, 1922. At that conference, instead of continuing the sentiments of peace embarked on at Washington, the Japanese delegates handed an ultimatum to the delegates of the Far Eastern Republic which consisted of 17 points bearing very strictly upon the inhabitants of Eastern Siberia.
I fail to see how this can be in order. A whole review of what was passed at Washington would not be in order on the Third Reading. This is a Bill which affects two Treaties, but many other matters were considered and things done at Washington, and certainly it would not be in order to discuss them now.
This formad part of the discussion among the delegates of Washington which culminated in the passing of this Treaty. It is a very important matter, without which no lasting peace can possibly be arrived at It is a matter which, before the Treaty was signed, was the subject of a definite pledge by the Japanese delegates. I only ask what assurances have been obtained from the Japanese delegates that the pledges are going to be carried out.
With the permission of the Colonial Secretary, I renew my protest against this Bill being taken at this time of night. The need is not so great for other legislation that a more fitting occasion could not be found to take this Measure's Third Reading. In the Second Beading Debate the hon. Member for East, Leyton (Mr. Malone) referred to the fact that if the Treaties had been worked by the Prime Minister we would have had the trumpets blaring and the flags flying and a trained claque of Members to cheer. [HON. MEMBERS: "Order!"] I said there would have been a trained claque of Members to cheer the right hon. Gentleman at intervals. If hon. Members did not hear me the first time, I have repeated it. This Measure, however, is brought in at the dead of night. Fortunately it does not need any artificial advertisement. The Bill speaks for itself, and the Treaties have been acclaimed by well-disposed people of all nations as a great triumph for the two English-speaking peoples who were such important participators in the negotiations. I do not think I will be out of order in saying that this is the one real diplomatic success that has been accomplished since the Armistice and the greatest example of the new diplomacy which we can hold up to coming generations. I wish to point on in reference to one or two of the Clauses of this Bill where they might have been embodied in different terms and under a better Treaty. [Laughter.] After what I said a moment ago, perhaps what I let fall just now might appear a little ungracious. Still, we can be thankful for this Bill, but we can always hope to improve a Measure of this sort. The three principal defects that I see in the Bill are as follows: In the first place, the very gallant and fine attempt made by the British Commission at Washington to have submarines declared once and for all illegal, failed. Through all the discussions at Versailles at the time of the Peace Treaty, it is common knowledge we were in favour of the abolition of the submarines.
The hon. and gallant Member is not dealing with what is in the Bill. That was quite allowable on the Second Heading. On the Third Reading he must confine himself to what is in the Bill. I think the hon. and gallant Member was absent from our proceedings last week, but he cannot now make the speech which would have been appropriate on Friday.
I very much regret that I was absent last Friday. I am sorry more notice was not given, or I might have taken steps to have been here. I would not be in order, I gather, in referring to what is not in the First Schedule, but with reference to what is in the Schedule, I would like to say that the attempt to limit the size of aircraft, without in any way bringing in a code of laws for aerial warfare, is not altogether perfect. Then Article 5, which limits the capital ship to 35,000 tons, I am afraid, is simply providing an excuse to the Admiralty to force the Cabinet to permit the laying down of two new capital ships. Preparations had actually been started, and some expenditure had been involved, for the building of two capital ships of over 35,000 tons. The only result, as regards capital shipbuilding, in spite of the excellent sentiments and intentions of those responsible for this Schedule, has been that we stopped the preparations for building those two ships, after I do not know how much money has been wasted, and we start two absolutely brand new ships of under 35,000 tons in order to keep within the terms of the Schedule. It is a most unfortunate blot on an otherwise excellent Bill. In the Second Schedule we have, not a new law of the sea, but a law of the sea re-stated with reference to merchant vessels in time of war, but so long as submarines are permitted to be built, it will be open to unscrupulous Powers to ignore this scrap of paper, just as was done in the last War. The law in this respect was scrupulously observed in our wars with the Dutch and French, and ever since the time when regular navies came into being. It is no new law which is embodied in the Second Schedule. It is only re-stated with regard to submarines. The old law was ignored and denied in the last War
Yes, by Germany; but I do not know that recent events have proved other Powers to be much more careful to keep their pledges in international law than was Germany. There have been violations of the law by other nations than Germany since the 4th August, 1914. I agree that the submarine war by Germany was hideous and atrocious—a horrible degradation of all warfare at sea; but there have been other things, hideous and atrocious, committed by other Powers, and until there is some change in men's outlook altogether, and some change in the methods of choosing their governments, I fear these terrible events will be repeated. These laws are all very well, but so long as submarines are allowed to be built in very great numbers, there will always be the danger of these terrible violations and these atrocities being committed on peaceable merchant ships, and we in these islands are the people most open to this form of attack. I hope the setback at Washington will not prevent the Admiralty and the Government continuing their propaganda if this direction, and preparing their arguments for the next Conference at which it will be possible to bring the matter up again. I fear the limitations of the Third Reading have rather hampered me in trying to develop the points about which I feel very strongly indeed, and I only hope that, at any rate, this Bill will get better treatment in another place than it has received at the hands of the Government in this House.