When our proceedings were interrupted by Black Rod, I was dealing with the question of how far the Protocol provides for the peaceful revision, if need be, of the Treaties and arrangements governing the Eastern frontiers, and I was pointing out that there is reason to believe that the language of the Protocol and of
the Report which accompanies it definitely excludes the revision of those Treaties. If that be the case, it is a very serious blot upon the Protocol, and I have no doubt it will not escape the attention of His Majesty's Government. On a similar point, I may take the language of the Protocol itself, in Article 4, Sub-section 5, dealing with the submission of disputes to arbitration. The Sub-section reads as follows:
In no case will a solution, on which there has already been a unanimous recommendation of the Council, accepted by one of the parties concerned, be again called in question.
I do not know why a particular Clause like that was introduced, unless it was intended to rule out such questions as the Vilna question, and the Upper Silesian question, and, if that be the case, then there, again, is a very grave flaw in the language of the Protocol. I understand the Government have many reservations to make to the Protocol, if they accept it at all, and I have no doubt that the difficulties which I have endeavoured to point out to the Committee have been present to their minds. What I beg them to do is not merely to point out these difficulties, but also to endeavour to make practical suggestions for dealing not only with security on the Western frontiers of Europe, but on the Eastern frontiers as well. It is up to us to have some practical proposal for dealing with the Eastern as well as the Western aspect of the problem.
If I am not exhausting the patience of the Committee, there is one other suggestion which I should like to impress upon the right hon. Gentleman. In the Protocol—I think it is the last article but one—we are told that all discussion of disarmament must be conditional upon the full acceptance of the whole of the provisions of the Protocol by something like four great Powers, and 10 lesser Powers. Why should that be so? Why is it that we, in particular, who are to bear the lion's share of any insurance given to Europe by this scheme of security, are to give all our engagements in advance, before we learn anything as to what we are getting in return. The language of the Protocol itself in this matter requires examination. Article 11 says:
In preparation for the convening of the Conference"—
that is, the Conference on disarmament—
the Council shall draw up with due regard to the undertakings contained in Articles 11 and 13 of the present Protocol, a general programme for the reduction and limitation of armaments.
Article 11 deals with sanctions, and Article 13, which is the important one, deals with prior undertakings and partial agreements. I think it very important that we should know what proposals are likely to emanate from the Council in that respect, how far they are likely to be modified or governed or influenced by existing Treaties and military Conventions in Europe, and, in fact, how much we can look for in the way of the removal of inflammable material from Europe before we commit ourselves to insuring it. At the present moment, we are asked to put our head in chancery, to sign all these provisions, and then discover what we are likely to get in return. I submit the other side of. the question is equally important and I do not see why the discussion of disarmament should be delayed simply because His Majesty's Government, as I think, quite rightly, require further time to consider the terms of the Protocol. I beg of the right hon. Gentleman to suggest that the Council should proceed at once with the discussion of plans of disarmament, and enable us to see what we are likely to get in the way of disarmament and whit is the standard of disarmament likely to be set as the condition on which the provisions of the Protocol shall ultimately come into force.
There is no reason why these two movements should not proceed pari passu. We have been manæuvered far too easily into a position in which our obligations are discussed in advance, but the obligations which the other people are to undertake are left over for discussion to some future date, when we have put our head in the noose. I beg the right hon. Gentleman, therefore, as a practical suggestion to the Council, to ask why this discussion on disarmament in the Council, as a preliminary to the disarmament Conference, should not proceed at once. I should think that that suggestion will certainly have the right hon. Gentleman's blessing.
Before I sit down, I should like to return for one last word to the German proposals and to beg that the
fullest possible effort will be made by His Majesty's Government to secure for them practical consideration. The alternative seems to be very grave, indeed. There is a passage in M. Tardieu's book, which seems justly to express the French attitude on this subject. It was written after the United States had failed to ratify the Treaty of Guarantee. M. Tardieu wrote:
To the practical question raised on 19th March, 1920, by the negative vote of the United States Senate, the final paragraph of Article 429, affords a clear and formal answer. That answer, whatever may happen, safeguards the interests of Prance. If, in the by no means certain event, that the contractual guarantee of the United States and Great Britain fails her, France will retain the physical and territorial guarantee afforded, and instead of retaining it at the risk of a break with her Allies, she will hold it by virtue of the Treaty of Versailles itself. In a word—no Treaties of Guarantee, no evacuation in 1935.
And I think we may add—if no evacuation in 1935, then no security in Europe, and no reduction of armaments. It is therefore of vital importance that we should press forward theses German proposals. One other suggestion I should like to make. The original guarantee pact to France was not ratified by two of the Dominions That is a very serious consideration. It was ratified by Australia and New Zealand, but it was not ratified by Canada—I think it was not even presented to the Canadian Parliament—or by South Africa. There is some likelihood, as I believe, that this new form of guarantee on the broad lines suggested by Germany will commend itself better to the Dominions than the original one-sided pact, and, with regard to South Africa, there is this to be remembered, that the attitude of Holland will make a, difference. It is quite certain that Holland is as much interested in the maintenance of Germany's Western frontiers at the present moment as any other Power, and it may be possible—I hope it will be possible—to introduce her at an early stage into the discussions.
When the right hon. Gentleman interrupted me, and gave an explanation, I, perhaps, replied unfairly to what he said. In the interval given us by Black Rod, I have reflected on what he said. I do not wish to suggest that I think he is proceeding to Geneva without definite ideas. It is indeed encour- aging to know that he is not going there at the moment to negotiate, but to discuss. Everybody will approve of that attitude. I am sure that, although he goes only for conversations, and not for negotiations, he is going there with clear ideas on behalf of the British Government, and I hope he will press for definite solutions on the lines which have been suggested from these benches in the course of the Debate.
The subject of the Debate is of such far-reaching importance and such widespread interest that it is with more than ordinary diffidence that I rise for the first time to take part in the Debates of this House. If, in the course of the very few remarks which I contribute to the Debate, I am not able to add anything new, or of interest, or of value, I must crave that indulgence which is invariably given by hon. Members to one who is undertaking the somewhat nerve-racking and difficult task now before me. This country at the present time is, in my opinion, faced with a decision of the most far-reaching importance—an importance not very much less than that great decision which had to be made in August, 1914. It is a decision which will be made in very different circumstances, not subject to the strain and the stress and the anguish of that time, but in its effect upon the history of Europe during the next generation, perhaps during the next 50 or even 100 years, this decision almost equals in importance that of 1914.
I need not seek to impress upon the Committee that I am and always have been a loyal supporter of France, without qualification and without modification. By that I do not mean that there have not been times when I have found myself out of sympathy with the policy pursued by France since the conclusion of the War. Like most other Members of all parties, I was entirely out of sympathy with the action taken by France at the time of the invasion of the Ruhr. In company with many others, I have been exasperated and annoyed by unjust and virulent attacks made upon this country and upon the leaders of this country from time to time in the French Press, and, more recently, I must admit, the attitude taken up by some French statesmen and some publicists and writers on the question of inter-Allied debts has been one with which I could not find myself in any sympathy. These, however, seem to me to be minor considerations, compared with the great question, of whether we are to support France in the very difficult situation in which she now finds herself and in which she has, in fact, found herself ever since the failure of the tripartite agreement between ourselves, France, and the United States.
France above all things requires security. France is afraid; she is afraid of another war, another attack on her by Germany. We may say that her fears art; groundless, we may point to the weakened position of Germany, we may point to the improbability of a disarmed Germany, with a small standing army, with comparatively little war material, shorn of her Colonies, attacking a strongly armed and prepared France. But France is looking ahead 10 years, 20 years, perhaps even 50 years, and she sees on her frontiers a country still strong, still united, virile, industrious, and, moreover, a country of which a large section is still undoubtedly animated by a desire for revenge. So long as that condition of affairs exists, so long will France be afraid. Arguments will not avail with people who are afraid, either with individuals or with nations. Fear is unreasoning. It is said that love is blind. On that subject I am not qualified to express an opinion, but if love be blind, fear is not only blind but deaf as well, and until you can eliminate fear, you will not get reason. Therefore, I am one of those who advocate most strongly some form of pact, or guarantee, or treaty—call it what you will—to give France that feeling of security that she requires. If you give her security, I am convinced she will become reasonable and that she will carry out honourably the obligations of the Treaty of Versailles Give her security, and I am convinced that she will reduce her Army and her Air Force to proportions more commensurate with the armaments of to-day. Give her security, and she will join willingly and gladly in any disarmament conference which may be called. Give her security, and she will be able to balance her Budget, stabilise her currency, and in due course face honestly and courageously the question of her War debts; but without security she will do, and she can do, none of these things.
I know that there is and will be a great deal of opposition from many points of view to any such treaty or pact as has been mentioned in this Debate. There will be the opposition of the type of mind that always thinks this country and the Allies in the wrong. There is a certain type of mind, which I have never personally been able to comprehend, which always sympathises with the enemies of this country, the type that finds excuses for atrocities and murders, whether committed—and I have no desire to say anything offensive—by Sinn Fein, by Egyptian Nationalists, or by Indian revolutionaries. It can find some excuse for them while condemning them lukewarmly, but it can find no excuse whatsoever for any strong measures of justice or repression which may be taken to deal with such atrocities. It is always against this country and always on the side of her enemies, and it is the same type of mind which during the War was quite unable to believe in any story, however circumstantial, of German atrocities, but was always most ready to give credence to any stories that were spread of French harshness or severity in the Ruhr. With that type of mind, that type of opposition which will arise against any security which we may offer to France, I do not think it is possible to argue, except to point out that the France of the present day, the France of M. Herriot, is, at any rate, a very different France from the France of M. Poincare, and that if we miss this opportunity which we have now of doing something to give Franco that feeling of security, we may very likely drive her back from her present feeling of friendliness and, I would almost say, of pacifism to those feelings which she expressed when she was under the premiership of M. Poincare. That seems to me the danger.
There is another type of opposition which will arise to any pact or guarantee, the opposition of those whom I may call isolationists. I do not think that is a view which is very strongly represented in this House, but I believe it is a view which will be consistently and strongly represented in a certain section of the Press. After the words that have fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and from others, and after the interesting speech-of Lord Grey, to which he has referred, it would be idle on my part to deal with that question of isolation, because I can- not but feel that it is the general sense of the country now that we cannot turn our backs on Europe and detach ourselves from the problems of Europe as we might have done 50 or 100 years ago. Modern science, aeroplanes, submarines, long-range artillery, these alone make us more a continental power than we ever were before.
There is yet another point of view, I will not say of opposition, in regard to the question of a pact or guarantee of security, and that is the opposition that we may expect from those who believe that the League of Nations or the Protocol can be a substitute for a definite pact or guarantee of security. On that subject, I am not qualified to speak in any expert way. If my opinions on the Protocol or the powers of the League of Nations differ in any way from those of the right hon. Gentleman who opened this Debate, I can only regret it extremely, because I must confess to the Committee that it was from the right hon. Gentleman that I learned some years ago what little history I have knowledge of at the present time, but I do profoundly agree with the words which fell from the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs that those who would put too heavy a burden on the League of Nations at the present time are not its best friends. I am a believer in and a supporter of the League of Nations, but I think there are many problems which at the present time it is not qualified to solve. I hope, in company with many others, that in a generation or in two generations there will be no problems of international policy which the League will not be able to solve, but I believe that at the present time it is not qualified to solve all problems.
In common with all others, I think I would prefer to see some pact in which Germany was included. That, to me, would be the ideal solution of this extremely difficult problem of the security and stability of Europe, but I am convinced that, if it is not possible to frame any such scheme at the present time, in spite of that, we should endeavour to enter into some kind of pact with France and Belgium, at any rate, to guarantee the Eastern frontiers of France. I quite realise the disadvantages and the difficulties of such a course. I realise that it may be said that such a one-sided agreement would only lead to such a situation as we had before the War, and possibly to a union between the Eastern Powers, Germany and Russia, against the Western Powers. But it is my belief that, if we entered into such a pact, Germany would inevitably come into it in time, if she does not now, because Germany wants security no less than France, and it would be every bit as much an advantage to Germany to know that her western frontier was definitely stabilised. It would help the present Government in Germany. It would help those who are not out for a war of revenge in any effort they may have to make against the reactionary party in Germany, which is out for a war of revenge, and to know that i,t would be futile and hopeless for them to plan any such war would be, to them, a very great help, I believe, in the conduct of their policy.
It is not for me to suggest to the Government any method of approach to, or any details of any scheme of, such a pact or guarantee. All that I can do, as a humble private Member, is to appeal to them to approach it from the very widest standpoint and with the very greatest sympathy, for France in particular. I am convinced that if in this matter they adopt a bold, a sympathetic, and a courageous policy, they will have the support of the vast majority of the people of this country, and if, in approaching this problem and dealing with it, they should be successful in solving it, I am confident they will go down to posterity as having rendered a great—yes, a notable—contribution to the cause of civilisation and humanity.
Perhaps I may be allowed to congratulate the hon. Member for Great Yarmouth (Sir F. Meyer) on the speech he has just delivered. I can do so the more readily because I am in complete disagreement with almost every sentiment to which he has given expression. I am one of that small minority, as he thinks, who may be called isolationists. I am not only against a pact with France, but I am against any pact, and I will confess that I was rather surprised to hear what the Foreign Secretary said this afternoon about isolation and the history-of our country. T was under the impression that it was the policy of Canning, of Palmerston, and also of Gladstone. I am against a pact with France, because T am quite satisfied that the pact is not required, merely as a matter of defence. In 1920, at Cannes, the then Prime Minister, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), offered to France complete security against the invasion of its soil. But that offer was rejected, and rejected with contempt, by France, and it was put in this way: First of all, they said it was unnecessary and, secondly, that it was valueless. M. Poincar´ put it that our self-interest, which, he said, in 1914 compelled us to defend France and Belgium, would in the future, as in 1914, compel us once again to defend the soil of France, and for that reason there was no need to accept the offer made by our Government to defend the territory of France. As a matter of fact France—and it is quite clear from the newspapers to-day that the position is still the same—wants to be defended, not only in France, but also to have that protection extended to their Allies in Eastern Europe. There is certain evidence in a letter written by the Marquess Curzon to Lord Hardinge in December, 1921, which deserves some attention. France had asked for defence against indirect attack which was in the judgment of the writer of the letter, even more likely to arise in the future than direct attack. In other words, France is concerned not about the security of her own soil but the security of Poland and other of her Allies in Eastern Europe.
I have another objection to any pact with France. What is the history of France itself and its relations to us? What were those relations up till 1914 I From 1685 to 1815 we were always antagonistic to France and to French policy. We had Blenheim and Waterloo. During the 19th Century we were on three occasions at least on the verge of war with France. Even in 1889 we were, when Lord Salisbury was in power, prepared, and this with the full approval of his colleagues, to enter into a Treaty with Germany against aggression by France. The cause of war has not always been Germany. The fear that has dominated Europe has not always been the fear of Germany, but rather the fear of France in conjunction with Russia. It is an unpleasant subject, but we must be frank in a matter in which is involved, not only ourselves, but what is of infinitely more importance, our boys. May I quote a sentence which Lord
Salisbury wrote to Paris in 1887. He said:
It is difficult not to wish for another Franco-German war to put an end to this ceaseless problem.
That was only in 1887. Has the attitude of France really changed? Does France really love us? Is France really a lover of peace? Judged by her history during the last 200 years, or by her attitude towards our own country, judging France by what has happened since the War, the fact that her Government has ignored our protest in respect of the Ruhr Valley, what will be the answer i Her airships number 10 times over and above our own force. Against whom are they intended? For whose protection? Against a disarmed Germany? Or are they intended, as I submit, to obtain a military domination for France in Europe? Even since the Naval Convention took place at Washington, France has built 100 warships. This country and the United States have been satisfied with a dozen each. I put it to the Committee that the real danger in Europe is the imperialism of France. Having made peace on the terms of the Armistice, which excluded the possibility of any claim to German territory, no sooner was the Armistice signed than General Foch, on behalf of the French Government, laid claim to the Rhine as the natural barrier and frontier of France in the future. It has been suggested even in this Debate that, because of the Pact between this country, America and France, we are under some obligation to France. I deny it. I put it in this way: The proposal made by France through General Foch was inconsistent with the very basis upon which peace had been made. After all, it was a peace and not an unconditional surrender on the part of Germany. What are the implications of these suggestions that have been put out?
The suggestion is made, that we are bound to discuss and to enter into military and naval engagements in concert with France. Is that realised in this country? Is it really intended that the need and extent of our naval and military forces are to be decided in the future only after consultation with France? Are we to give up our own independence of which we have been so proud in the past? There is a real danger that this Pact will necessi- tate the existence of a Continental army by this country, because the French Press has clearly pointed out it is useless for us to enter into a Pact for the military defence of its frontiers unless we can place ourselves at once in a position to make that defence effective. In fact it has been pointed out that unless we had a body of men ready when needed—I am quoting from the French Press— and more ready than we were in 1914, that we would be too late. Are we to understand that this Pact advocated from the other side means that we are to have conscription in this country, that we are to maintain an army always in such a state of readiness that there will be no danger of it being too late, as they suggest we were in 1914? I can only say, on my own behalf, and on behalf of some of those with whom I generally act, that we shall in no circumstances agree to any Pact or Agreement which may involve this country in what seems to be involved. I am quite sure if it be known that a certain Pact, involving conscription, is being considered by the Government, there will be a wave of opposition in the country which will make the thing impossible.
There is another point. If we enter into these pacts and agreements, whether with France or Germany, we shall put into other hands our foreign policy. One great objection against the League of Nations has been the suggestion that in future this House ceases to be the final authority in foreign policy. I submit that if we entered into a pact, such as is suggested, with France, or combine with France and Germany, we shall cease to have any control as to what our foreign policy shall be. I shall not attempt to try and see what lies beyond the origin of the war in 1914. But there is a very staggering statement tin the "Memoirs of Lord Bertie," recently published, and written early in August, 1914, that he was—
staggered to find that the Russian Ambassador in Paris claimed the War as his war—that it was 'my' war.
I want to make it impossible in future that there shall be any Ambassador representing any country in Europe, that, under any agreement or pact into which we have entered, shall be in a position to say that a war, involving the destinies of mankind and civilisation, was "his" war! Reverting to what the
right hon. Gentleman has said, I say that the policy of this country, the policy by which we rose to greatness, was a policy of isolation, initiated by Canning after the Napoleonic Wars. It was the policy of Palmerston, the policy of Gladstone, the policy of Salisbury. I. do submit that our best interests will be served by keeping from entering into any pact or agreement, and preserving to ourselves the right to decide on which side we shall throw the whole of our naval and military forces, and whatever moral influence we may have on the side of justice and righteousness.
In addressing the House for the first time, may I ask that consideration which is invariably extended to one in my position. There have been few times in the history of this country when its foreign policy has centred round problems of wider or graver importance. The problem of security has, of course, always been with us ever since history began. But it has never been raised in the same way as it is being raised to-day. There has never been such a colossal effort made to minimise the dangers of war as that made during recent years. We are witnessing the inauguration of a new era in national relationships.
What is the principle objective at which we should aim? Although disarmament may be the last link in the chain of thought which we are following, I think it is really clear that there will be no disarmament until we have established security. Disarmament seems to be the natural corollary to security. No one will disarm unless they are secure, and, if there be security, there can be no reason why they should arm.
We have in the Covenant of the League of Nations a general statement of the principles of international co-operation, backed by mutual undertakings to support each other when those principles are violated. But as a matter of fact, it was assumed that the Peace Treaties would give a greater measure of security than in fact they have been able to give. As time has gone on it has become clear that something more was required. There was the Treaty of Mutual Assistance and Guarantee, which was the next step. It was not acceptable to many, something more was needed. The Treaty of Mutual Assistance failed to give satisfaction, because it was thought that it would put something too much like the powers of a super-State into the hands of the Council of the League, and also because the security which it offered seemed to be the security of arms—the very thing it was intended to replace. Now we have the Protocol, which attempts to give security through universal compulsory arbitration. I will not go into that in detail. What I want to do is to urge upon hon. Members not to regard it merely as one of a series of leaps in the dark, as just the latest convulsion of humanity caught in the net of international diplomacy. The brief survey I have just attempted has been made with the object of pointing to the connected evolution of ideas which runs through all these efforts at the pacific settlement of disputes. I would urge, therefore, that the Protocol be taken as a logical stage in this evolution, not is a final document to be swallowed whole, or necessarily turned down flat, but something which, so to speak, is a signpost guiding us towards the goal which we all wish to reach.
Leaving aside the question of detail, I should like to go on to what I conceive to be the fundamental reason why the Protocol as it stands may fail to carry conviction. It seems to me that public opinion the world over is not ready for a scheme so comprehensive in its objects and so vast in its implications. The problems in the particular regions of the earth give a varied perspective which it is impossible for all nations to grasp alike, and I believe that we should be well advised to consider whether it is not possible to restrict the scope of the Protocol so as to bring it more within the local perspective of the natural regions into which the world falls. I do not wish to be misunderstood as advocating a return to the system of alliances and counter-alliances. That is far from my thoughts. When I speak of alliances and counter-alliances, I mean that kind of pact which is obviously aimed at somebody; the kind of pact which inevitably divides the countries into two camps. I do not think any hon. Member really wishes that kind of pact. What we all wish is some agreement (and I think we would also agree that the largest possible number of countries should come within that agreement) which shall be mutual in all respects and shall give mutual guarantees against aggression.
Is there any means which we can see that seems to point the way towards such a restriction, by means of which security can be achieved? Is there no tendency which we can see, of which we may take advantage? It occurs to me that there is a tendency which we might at all events consider in this connection. Somehow the world seems to fall into natural groups which I believe might be utilised within the framework of the Covenant as the general idea at the back of any scheme or disarmament, and within which local arrangements might be profitably made. After all, we must not forget that the Covenant itself recognises the Monroe doctrine, and that very recognition must place difficulties in the way of the execution of the Protocol. If I may take as an example, a war between two States in South America. The United States would object very strongly to European Powers coming to the aid of any Power in South America. Also, apart from these difficulties, is it not reasonable to ask that the States of America should work out their own procedure for settling international disputes? Are not we doing the same thing in regard to the problems of the Pacific? Have we not in the Washington Treaties laid a basis out of which many developments may come, but which we hope may secure some regime for the countries surrounding the Pacific which may ensure permanent peace for that area?
So it is with Europe. I can conceive it possible that the Protocol should have a European application, and that Great Britain would reserve to itself freedom of action in any eventuality which would imperil its relations or interests outside Europe. In eventualities such as those, it would surely not matter so vitally to Great Britain exactly what the terms of the agreement were. II, as seems to be the case, the Protocol is what the Powers on the Continent want, I believe at all events that the idea of giving it an European application to which we should adhere with the special reservation I have suggested should be explored. I have only one word more to say in conclusion. I appeal to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to pursue—and I feel sure after what he has said he will—the path which has been blazed by successive Governments before him and to advance with the map of the Covenant of the League of Nations in his hand. This idea of continuity of thought, I believe, to be the most valuable one that we can grip on to. Let there be no set back in that evolution of ideas which I have attempted to sketch inadequately and briefly. Let us take advantage of what has already been done. This will prove the shortest way to the goal we all have in view.
It is always a plea sure to express on behalf of the House satisfaction at hearing the first speech of a new Member. But I am sure I am expressing the real feelings of those who have listened to the speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Captain Loder) when T say that it is doubly pleasant to be able to congratulate him on a real contribution to the Debate. Nobody could have listened to his speech, if I may presume to say so, without seeing that he is a Member who thinks for himself, and he has contributed the result of his own thought, greatly to the satisfaction of the whole House.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman spent most of his time in making some suggestions and comments, which were very much to the point, with reference to the Protocol, and that leads me to remind my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State that whether by accident or by design he did not in fact respond at all to the inquiry which was addressed to him by the right hon. Member (Mr. Fisher) who opened the discussion, and made no comment on the subject of the Protocol at all. I do not doubt at all, of course, that he had good reasons for that, and I largely sympathise with the view that he insisted upon, that he must be the judge as to the extent to which it is proper to develop such subjects in the present Debate. But, at any rate, I hope we may take it that his silence on the subject does not betoken any disagreement with my right hon. Friend when he said that at any rate he trusted that the British Government would not lay aside or destroy the Protocol proposal in principle, until they saw their way clearly towards promoting some better substitute.
The other subject which the right hon. Gentleman dealt with just now touched security. We have all been quoting to-day the phrase used by Lord Grey last night, when he said that security was the master key of all these problems. Nothing that I want to say is designed to cast doubt on that proposition, but, on the other hand, we must remember that there may be some questions which are not in themselves the master problem, but which, none the less, call for prompt and definite handling and cannot be allowed to wait merely because the master key has not yet been found. In my submission to the Committee, the evacuation of Cologne is one of those. I am sure that the whole Committee has heard with satisfaction what the right hon. Gentleman opposite said—repeating, in fact, what was said in another place two days ago—that the clear and decided view of His Majesty's Government in regard to the evacuation of Cologne is that that evacuation must take place in accordance with and under the conditions of the Treaty of Versailles, and that there is no other consideration which could be allowed to influence or postpone the matter. It seemed to me the more important that (his should be insisted upon from different quarters in the House, because, deeply as we all sympathise with the anxieties of France in this connection, it is really beyond dispute that there has been in some quarters in France an attempt to suggest another and a different view.
I hope this is one of the matters which is going to be cleared up, but nobody who has studied with any attention the declarations that have been made, and made not so long ago on behalf of French opinion and some French authorities, can dispute that attempts have been made to say that the questions of the successive evacuations of the Rhine zone is in some way tied up with, or depends upon, the questions connected with security or the old pact of guarantees. The argument is really a false one, and it docs appear to me that while the anxieties of France, and the soreness of France, that she should have lost a collateral guarantee on which she was counting, do throw upon our country a very special duty to exert itself to find some substituted security, it is false reasoning, and very dangerous reasoning, to say that as far as the evacuation of Cologne is concerned it
ought on that account to be delayed for a single day. The broad ground, of course, is familiar to all who have considered the subject, but I venture to think it cannot be made too plain for the benefit of the country at large. It is quite true that France places great reliance upon the collateral promise made to it by Great Britain and by America, undertaking to support the French Government in the case of unprovoked aggression by Germany. Let us always avow in the most ample measure that we in Great Britain appreciate that. As a matter of fact, anybody who looks at the text of these collateral agreements, the one guarantee given by Great Britain and the other guarantee given by the United States, will find that each of them begins with a recital in these words:
Whereas there is a danger that the stipulations relating to the left bank of the Rhine contained in the Treaty of Peace signed this day at Versailles may not at first provide adequate security and protection to the French Republic.
Therefore, Franco is overwhelmingly justified, if she chooses, in taking up the position that in signing the Treaty of Versailles she was to some extent influenced and persuaded by the tenor of these collateral guarantees, and I do not think any critic of French policy ought to hesitate to admit that; I admit it most fully; but we have got to remember that while the breakdown of. these collateral arrangements was, of course, no fault of Britain's, so also it was no fault of Germany's. Germany was in no sense a party to that. It is not merely a formal or technical view; it is the substance of the matter, to insist that Germany as a sovereign Power—not surrendering unconditionally, but capitulating on terms which it was sought to embody in the Treaty of Versailles, which in any event she was bound to accept—is not entitled to more favourable treatment than the Treaty of Versailles gives her; but she is entitled to insist on anything which the Treaty of Versailles does give her, without the smallest regard to the collapse or breakdown of those collateral guarantees.
The real conclusion is that statesmanship ought to strain itself to the utmost to assuage the fears of France in some other way, best of all, I think, by a way which brings Germany inside the League of Nations, which leads to effective inter- national disarmament, and a strengthening of the League Covenant. At the same time, if we are going to retain the respect of the world as a Power which recognises the absolute obligation of Treaties to which we have put our signature, we are bound to remember that Germany was no party to these collateral pacts, that then-breakdown in no way modifies Germany's right to rely on the due fulfilment of Article 429 of the Treaty—provided she fulfils it herself—and that it gives the Allies no ground whatever for refusing or delaying withdrawal if and when Article 429 calls for it.
That, I think, may be very well understood in England. It has been stated by the Prime Minister, it has been stated by the right hon. Gentleman to-day, and it has been stated by him before to-day. It was stated by Lord Curzon two days ago in another place. But it is useless to shut our-eyes to the fact that there is a large body of opinion in France which, by-confusing the failure to implement the Anglo-American Pact, to which Germany was not a party at all, with the clauses of the Treaty which define our rights and obligations vis-a-vis Germany, seems to feel that France has a moral right as against Germany to exercise a free hand on the left bank of the Rhine until French ideas of security are satisfied.
I should deplore with all my heart if there grew up a misunderstanding between the French people and ourselves on a question of this sort. It is not from want of sympathy for France, or want of appreciation of the reality of the anxiety of the French, and of the soreness which they feel because they lost those collateral guarantees, that I say what I do, but it does seem to me that it would be a most unfortunate thing if it were not made entirely plain to France that Britain is bound in honour to regard such a contention as untenable. It is like arguing that a tenant who is in occupation of another man's house under a five years' lease is justified in keeping the house when the five years are up because the tenant agreed to five years only in view of the fact that other persons hold out the prospect of alternative accommodation. It is quite plain that the right which Germany has in this matter—no right unless she has fulfilled the Treaty herself—is a right which we in Britain must insist on as a right we intend to see she gets, and to secure for her. as far as our action is concerned, without regard to any other consideration than the proper application of the Treaty of Versailles.
That leads, me to say that I rather regret the Secretary of State did not deal specifically with a question which my right hon. Friend below me (Mr. Fisher) put on this point. He asked this question, and if the right hon. Gentleman felt he could deal with it, I think it would be a satisfaction. He said, "Supposing that when the. British Government have examined these alleged defaults they, at any rate, come to the conclusion that whatever defaults there are are quite, trumpery and unimportant, and that there is not any solid and serious reason for saying that Article 429 should not be applied now as regards the Cologne area, what is the view of the British Government as to what our duty should be?" I heard the Secretary of State say—he said it more than once in his speech—that in these matters he was bound to act as one among a number of Allies, that he did not feel he ought to make declarations until he had ascertained the general Allied views. To a large extent, I think, everybody sympathises with that; but I must be allowed to point out that to say that every step this country is going to take in these matters is only going to be taken if everybody else agrees, is the same thing as saying that we leave it to another Ally to veto action which we ourselves think right merely on the ground of Allied solidarity. I do not think it leads either to a just application of these international agreements or a due regard to the authority of Britain in these matters, that our foreign policy should be administered from this point of view, that, whatever we are going to do or not going to do, the Secretary of State cannot tell us, because, he says, speaking in the name of the sacred principle of Allied solidarity, "I must remember that only if all the Allies agree can we do anything at all."
As long as the principle is agreed, I am very willing indeed that, his language should be substituted for mine. What I mean is, we all sympathise with the view that in these matters the late Allies should act together. It is perfectly right, of course, for the right hon. Gentleman to claim, therefore, an opportunity for consultation and communication rather than that he should rush off a-n independent declaration; but, for my part, I dispute that in a matter of the application of a Treaty to which my country has puts its signature it can be in all circumstances right to refrain from action which our Government thinks ought to be taken merely because we recognise the importance of always keeping step with other Allies whenever we can.
Let me point out how that applies to the present case, because it really is impossible to regard the present situation in reference to Cologne as at all satisfactory. The date of 10th January, 1925, has come and gone, and unless there has been a material breach by Germany of its duty to disarm, we are in the Cologne area at this moment without authority. When we came to 10th January, 1925, there was nobody who was prepared to assert, as a proved circumstance, that there had been a material breach. The evidence, as far as it went up to that time, was rather to the contrary effect. Down to the time-that the French went into the Ruhr in January, 1923, questions had been put in this House more than once to ascertain how German disarmament was proceeding. The right hon. Gentleman, who is now Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Guinness), and who was then Under-Secretary to the War Office, was asked in March, 1923, how that matter stood, and he replied:
The British representative is satisfied that the reductions in the German Army contemplated by the Treaty both in respect of men and material have been so carried out as to constitute effective disarmament." [OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd March, 1923; col. 2746, Vol. 161.]
He was asked a similar question in May, and he replied:
Our military advisers are satisfied that the provisions of the Treaty with regard to the surrender of arms and munitions have been carried out to such an extent as to ensure that at the present time Germany is effectively disarmed."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th May, 1923; col. 1903, Vol. 163.]
Now it is said there is reason to take a different view. I do not dispute it, but I do not know, and nobody in this House knows, and for anything that we learn from the Treasury Bench, they do not know, and the Foreign Office does not know. But we are already two months past the date when, assuming there had been no substantial ground of complaint, we ought to have withdrawn.
The time-table, the very belated timetable, was given by Lord Curzon two days ago. He said, as I understood him, that it was not until the middle of February that this Inter-Allied Military Commission signed its Report, that the Report had then come up to a committee at Versailles, that it had been there further studied for a number of days, and only two days ago was passed to the Council of Ambassadors. I read in the "Times" that the Council of Ambassadors had a look at it, and have returned it to the committee with an inquiry as to which of these things is supposed to be the "grave breach," and even after the speech of the Secretary of State we have no information to suggest that even the British Government itself knows what the contents of that Report are, and whether, on a preliminary view of it, it is regarded as serious or not. If the right hon. Gentleman would intervene, I should be very grateful if he could tell the House whether we are to understand that this voluminous Report is wholly concerned with a suggested catalogue of breaches, or is it not rather that it is a Report of the Inter-Allied Commission reporting both what has been done and what has not been done.
You think not? I am obliged. It does make a great difference. It is very material to observe that the seriousness of any alleged breach greatly depends upon preserving a sense of proportion. Information has appeared which, as far as one knows, is more or less accurate—though, of course, I have no official means of knowing—which shows to what a very substantial extent there has been disarmament by Germany. For example, nearly 6,000,000 rifles and carbines surrendered and destroyed, nearly 40,000,000 rounds of loaded artillery ammunition, 472,000,000 rounds for hand weapons, and vast quantities of guns, machine-guns, grenades and aeroplanes. There may still be very serious shortcomings, but I cannot understand how a Government or British public opinion can be satisfied in this matter unless there is a publication of the suggested complaints, unless there is a communication of them to Germany, unless Germany is given the chance to present her counter case or to challenge them, and unless there is an intimation of what it is that Germany has to do in order to put herself right. I was a little surprised to hear from the Foreign Secretary that in regard to the innocent question as to whether Germany was going to be given an opportunity of making observations on this report, all he could say was, "I cannot speak in the name of the Allies on that point."
This is an accusation of a breach of the Treaty which, if it be well founded, has very serious consequences for Germany. The most elementary sense of what is just and proper requires that there should be. of course, not only a full communication of what the complaints are, but the fullest opportunity for them to be answered, and some machinery should at once be devised to discover where the truth lies, and, if you do not do that, you are exposing yourselves not deliberately, but none the less surely, to the very grave reproach that the Report of the Inter-Allied Commission is not only able to pronounce a verdict but is able to pronounce that verdict in the absence of the accused, and the accused is not to be given a full opportunity to reply. I cannot agree that it is necessary to consult the Allies as to whether Germany is to be given that opportunity. Our occupation is by British troops, and the British Government and British feeling are committed to that proposition. If there is a serious ground of complaint that our troops are not entitled to stay where they are under those circumstances we ought to know whether that complaint is well founded. At the present-moment, unfortunately, the facts are not public-property, and apparently they are not even Government property, and time is going on, with the result that before these things reach the Government we may be told that we must have a new inspection. I do not question the right-and authority of the Allies to be fully satisfied that Germany has fulfilled her obligations. We, at any rate, must put ourselves right with the world, and that is what I urge most strongly.
I want to say a word or two about the Saar. I will state in a few sentences why it seems to us that this matter is so important. The administration of the Saar Basin, a place of about forty miles long and an intensely industrialised district of Germany, is really the test case in the eyes of many people as to the efficiency and adequacy of the League of Nations. The League of Nations have had the task of setting up an International Government in the Saar for the next fifteen years. They have appointed a Commission consisting of five members. One only was to be a Frenchman, the second was to be nominated by the Council of the League of Nations and was to be an inhabitant of the Saar, and three other members were to be neutral. Two Canadians have succeeded one another, and one of another nationality has been changed in the course of five years. I was a little surprised that the Foreign Secretary seemed to doubt whether these appointments were made by the Council of the League of Nations, but of course they are, and that is one of the things he is going to take part in discussing when he goes to Geneva on Monday. The appointments are made annually.
It is a striking circumstance that the Chairman of the Saar Commission for five years past has been a French member, and it is still more striking that the French Government should have secured the adherence of the Foreign Secretary to the re-appointment of that same French candidate to the position of chairman. This matter is important, because the chairman of the Saar Commission, in addition to presiding over the Commission, is the Executive Officer, and while I have not the least doubt that M. Rault deserves all that has been said in his favour as to his accomplishments and fine qualities, it is unfortunately the fact that M'. Rault has been the subject of very severe criticism in respect of one matter in the past, when he was the prime mover in issuing a perfectly monstrous decree which was promulgated in the Saar.
Moreover, there seems to be no reason at all why the chairman should be of French nationality. In 15 years' time the inhabitants of the Saar are to decide by plebiscite whether they desire to come under French rule, or German rule, or to continue under the League of Nations administration. It is obvious, if you regard the problem of security in Europe, that it is likely to be assisted by getting into the minds of the German people a real respect for the League of Nations, and I hope that what happens in this respect in the Saar will not be other than a satisfactory example of League of Nations methods. I would like to ask, is it a fact that the Foreign Secretary in December last communicated to the French Government his willingness on the present occasion to support M. "Rault as Chairman of the Saar Commission?
Then the thing has been done. We all know that whatever else the right hon. Gentleman is he is a man of his word, and, therefore, no consideration can alter that. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to express some slight regret, because if I am not mistaken the arrangement between M. Herriot and the right hon. Gentleman was made four months ago. It is a matter of fact that this is not an appointment which either M. Herriot or our Foreign Minister should control, but one which should be made by the Council of the League, and was due to be made, and would be made, in the course of the next week. With great respect to the right hon. Gentleman, it seems rather unfortunate that we should have been thus committed to the view that this gentleman should continue to preside over that Commission, because there are not only five other possible candidates, but every subject of the British Empire is a conceivable candidate.
There has already been a change in the case of the British member, the Saar member, and the neutral member of the Commission, and the only two members who have remained unchanged are M. Rault and the Belgian member. I understand that the Swedish Government on this occasion are to be represented, not by M. Branting, but by his successor. The right hon. Gentleman will be presiding at the meeting of the Council of the League of Nations, and I hope there will now bo an agreement for some rotation of authority in this matter. I hope the Foreign Minister will give the most careful consideration to that suggestion, because I think it would be a very great gain if it could be established now that we, here in Britain, while fully appreciating French interests in the Saar Valley, desire that there shall be a rotation in the chairmanship just as there is a rotation in the chairmanship of the Council of the League of Nations, and the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary is going to sit in that chair on the same principle. I think it is highly desirable that there should be an arrangement of that kind.
I only desire to say, in conclusion, that I accept the proposition laid down by Lord Grey, and reinforced by the Foreign Secretary, that security is the ultimate problem, and I most respectfully urge upon the Government and upon the members of the Committee and on British public opinion that we have the most deep concern upon the question of what is our right action in matters of immediate moment. It is unfortunately the case that if once you admit that France has to be satisfied as regards security before you can deal with other problems, you may find yourselves at the beginning of a perfectly endless chain. It is natural that France should feel greatly concerned about her position, and she does. It is natural she should wish, under the head of security, to get the most complete and absolute assurances that suggest themselves to her. Whether that is really the way to peace or not is quite another matter, and I must express my concurrence with what has been said by more than one hon. Member to-day that I do not believe that the security for European peace is really going to be promoted by any select alliances whatever. It is quite another thing if you can introduce under the League of Nations, mutual undertakings which will be equally available for Germany against France or for France against Germany. That is quite another thing, but the idea that you are really going to promote the future peace of the world by a select and special pact is an idea which, for my part, I utterly repudiate. It is, in fact, the "Bismarekian policy over again.
Nobody, at one time, would have seen reason to challenge Bismarck when he claimed that his policy was a success. He created his Triple Alliance, and for the time being it was an enormously powerful association, which appeared to secure the peace of the world, but it did not. In the very nature of things it called into being a counter-irritant, as such things always have and always will, and you may say good-bye to all genuine belief in international disarmament if once you set up again in Europe two competing, intriguing, opposing, select alliances of Powers. I venture to think that we are a better friend of France if we say that clearly and firmly, than if we merely continue to mumble these agreeable phrases, and say that it would have been so unfortunate, as, indeed, it would, to differ from French opinion on these grave issues. The true course, as I believe, for this country is to tell France quite definitely that, while there are many things we would like to do, there are some things that we cannot do, and we cannot do them, not because we do not understand her sufferings and do not appreciate her anxieties, but because we are convinced that, instead of their being the way to peace, they are the certain precursor of future war.
I should like to draw attention for a few moments to the question of the Protocol, and, to illustrate my arguments, I will ask the Committee to come with me for a few moments to Geneva—not to the Geneva which I hope the right hon. Gentleman will find next week, calm and dignified, but Geneva in the midst of a first-class international crisis, such a crisis as might have led to another European war. Hon. Members may have forgotten the incident, so I will briefly narrate what happened towards the end of August, 1923, on the eve of the meeting of the League of Nations at Geneva. There had been a delimitation committee, and some members of it had been murdered on the frontier of Albania, and the Greek Government was charged by the Italian Government with being responsible for that murder. The Greek Government appealed to the League ot Nations, but the Italian Government, before that appeal could become effective, had bombarded and taken possession of Corfu. The question then was no longer one which could be submitted to the League of Nations. The Italian Government had already taken action—the Italian Government which was a signatory of the Covenant of the League.
I should like to impress upon the Committee and, if I may very respectfully, on His Majesty's Government that we should study most carefully any protocol or any agreement that in any way would commit this Government or in any way put the armed forces of this country, whether the Army or the Navy, in pawn. In 1923, at the time of the crisis to which T am referring, it was suggested, and, in fact, it was common talk at the time, that we—being, I suppose, the most important naval power—might be asked to take action which would inevitably have led to a European war. In fact, I myself very well remember being asked one day casually, "Do you know how-many battle cruisers you have in the Mediterranean?" I asked, "Why?" and the reply was, "Well, we know what the strength of the Italian Fleet in the Adriatic is," and the suggestion was that we might even have to turn the Italian Fleet out of the Adriatic. That was at a time when paper commitments had no value at all.
I hope that this Government and the Houso of Commons—for we are all interested in the subject—will not lightly commit themselves to any form of agreement in which our naval power would be, so to speak, in pawn, without the most minute care and study of every conceivable line of action which might eventuate. We were, I think, at that time very nearly driven into a diplomatic cul-de-sac, and I believe, personally, that it was only the ability of Lord Robert Cecil, who was out there as our chief delegate, that saved this country from getting into a disaster. Personally, I think that Lord Cecil has never received sufficient credit for the way in which he handled that most difficult crisis, for the whole responsibility fell upon him. The House of Commons was up; the Cabinet was scattered all over Europe. I believe the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster were at Aix-les-Bains; the Foreign Secretary was somewhere in France, and the whole of the responsibility came upon Lord Robert Cecil. In that crisis, when the League of Nations had obviously been gravely injured by the action of Italy, there were many who said that the honour of the League must be saved—that some action must be taken to restore the honour of the League.
That is the real danger of these pacts. It is not in a state of affairs such as I hope the right hon. Gentleman will find, when everything is quiet and peaceful, that there is any danger of getting into commitments of this sort; it would be in times of crisis, such as arise so frequently, and such as I am referring to now. I hope very sincerely that the Government and the House of Commons will be extremely jealous of any commitment that we may enter into of any sort or description, and will not enter into it without going into every possible chance and exploring every kind of action to which we may commit ourselves, because I feel that, whatever action we are committed to, this country, if it has signed any Agreement, will try and carry out that Agreement. I would say that other countries, too, would try and carry out their agreements, but it may not be possible for them to do so. There were gentlemen who, at the time of that crisis in 1923, were all for upholding the honour of the League, like the late M. Branting, of Sweden, who has recently died, and Dr. Nansen, of Norway—these gentlemen were pressing for upholding the honour of the League, but I wondered, myself, if action were necessary, to what extent their countries would take part in anything that might have to be done.
That is the real danger, and I sincerely hope that we shall commit ourselves to nothing. I do not know how far this Protocol is going to be discussed this time. I regret that we shall not hear something about it to-night from the benches opposite, which are now empty, because it was the late Prime Minister, the present Leader of the Opposition, who was out there last year, and introduced the Protocol at the Assembly. We must be very careful what steps we take, for, as I have said, we may, in times of danger and crisis, be carried considerably farther than this country would like to go. I am perfectly certain that the House and the country can trust their fortunes to the right hon. Gentleman who will represent us next week, and with that feeling I think we can quite safely leave the matter in his hands.
The Debate thus far has, quite naturally and properly, dealt with matters of high policy on which the fate of nations de- pend—after-war problems, boundaries of countries, and the prosperity of peoples. I do not propose to tread those giddy heights in that rarified atmosphere, where my feet would with difficulty find their place; but I wish to take this opportunity, as I have done two or three times before on the occasion of this Vote, to raise a question which affects, though only in a small degree, the comfort of a large number of His Majesty's lieges—I mean the question of passports. After the War we found ourselves saddled, and rightly saddled, with a complicated system of passports and visas, which made travel difficult, and which was at first intended to make travel difficult. That impediment, of course, has been gradually diminished. Passports are easier to obtain, visas have been done away with in relation to a good many countries, and travel is relatively simple; but there has occurred, in consequence of the War, a great change in the habits of our own people
Before the War, the number of people who went abroad for their holidays, although absolutely large, was many times fewer than the number that go abroad now. ft is very little realised how vastly the number of people who go abroad for a week or 10 days or a fortnight, on the Continent for their holiday has increased; and these travellers, whose increase in number we ought to do everything we can to develop, seeing that, the more people who go into foreign countries, the better are those countries understood and the simpler are international relations in consequence—these large numbers of people who go abroad are drawn from a very much less wealthy section of the population than the Continental travellers of 50 years ago. The numbers that make a tour abroad which costs them anything from £5 to £10 are very large indeed, and might be enormously increased, but it is exactly to such people that the question of a passport and its cost, and the trouble of getting it, is a material factor which they have to consider.
At present it, is possible for people to go for a week-end to France or, I think, to Belgium, without any passport at all, and that provision has caused no inconvenience or trouble of any kind. It is the desire of large numbers of people that that facility which is given to week-end trippers to the opposite shores of France and Belgium should be extended, and that? people travelling in conducted parties of 20 or more should be allowed to go to Belgium or France without the necessity of being provided with passports. It is suggested that such conducted parties, which naturally hold together and can be handled as units, should be allowed to dispense with passports when going abroad. I understand that there is no objection on the part of Belgium to that development. On the contrary, both Belgium and France would naturally wish to increase, as far as they possibly can, the number of people who come to visit their countries, because they profit by them.
Although this matter falls under the Foreign Office Vote, it is a matter in which the Home Office also is concerned, because it is the business of the Home Secretary to watch and regulate the admission of aliens into this country. Passports arc, of course, an enormous convenience to the frontier police. They would have liked us to have the most elaborate system of passports before the War. Wherever bureaucracy is in power it tends to increase the difficulty and complication of getting passports. The more regulated passports are, so much the easier is it for the police to do their frontier work. That I realise, and it may be that there are difficulties, not so much from the point of view of the Foreign Office as from the point of view of the Home Office in further simplifying this matter of passports. I think it is possible that it is the policy not of one Government, but of all our Governments in succession, to cultivate what I may call the passport habit. They wish that everybody should be provided with a passport. No doubt if everybody in the country had a passport it would simplify a number of administrative details. If it is the policy of the Government to cultivate the passport habit throughout the country, then I maintain that the Foreign Office should greatly simplify passports and the methods of acquiring them. First of all, there is no necessity for the price being maintained. Secondly, there is no necessity for all the complication there is about getting a passport. A passport now always contains a photograph, and questions which have to be answered as to the length of a man's nose, the shape of his mouth, and so forth, are out of date, and could be done away with.
Then, again—although this is a small matter—whenever a new Foreign Secretary comes into office, the whole formula has to be altered, and all the printed passports awaiting issue have to be pulped, and a new set printed. A passport really need be nothing more than an authenticated photograph of a given person. The whole business of the passport is to say that, "The person depicted in this photograph is Mr. John Jones (or whoever he may be), born in such-and-such a year, and a British subject.'' If they could be issued available for five years at the price of 2s. 6d., and if it were, not always necessary to come to London to the Foreign Office to get it, but if it could be issued in different parts of the country, so that there would be very little trouble and expense about it, (lion, L take it, the passport habit might be cultivated in the sense the Government wishes, travellers would not be incommoded, and the matter could be rendered much simpler, and not less effective, far cheaper and far more popular. I wish to urge very strongly upon the Government, and especially the Foreign Office, that if they insist upon maintaining the necessity of everybody who goes abroad having a passport, they should make it cheaper, simpler, and more easy to get.
The fact is of particular significance that in 1925 it should still be necessary for the Committee, as undoubtedly it has been necessary, to devote a day to the very important matters to which reference has been made by those who have spoken, in speeches well-informed, and of the tone of which, I am quite sure, the Secretary of State would be the last to complain. But it does seem to me that as things are to-day, we are faced with a more favourable opportunity than has existed for some time of dealing with what is the main problem in regard to which various matters referred to this afternoon are important, but accessory. I say that because there is no doubt at all that a new spirit is being displayed by the present French Government, and a spirit which differs very considerably from that which prevailed under the preceding Government—a new spirit which, as I believe, certainly does remove some of the obstacles which previously existed in the path of those desiring to promote the pacification of Europe.
I quite appreciate that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs was entitled to say that there were certain matters upon which he did not think it would be right or expedient that he should speak in any great detail this afternoon, in view of the task which lies in front of him. But apart from detailed matter, to which reference has been made, it does seem to me that this is a time when the democracy of Great Britain, and the democracy of the different countries of the world, should seek to impress upon their leaders, and upon the leaders of the world, their keen and anxious desire to see a real step forward-taken. If I may say so, I think one of the greatest needs with which we are confronted in this country, as in other countries, at the present lime, is that we should make up our minds as to the goal which we are endeavouring to reach. On the golf course, after making a particularly feeble stroke, I have been comforted with the remark," Well, do not worry about that, because on this course it is not so much length as direction which counts.' I think at the present time it is the direction in which we seek to go that should receive our first and primary consideration. I should be the last to suggest that we are not taking very rapid steps forward, but I think we should impress on different countries that a favourable time has come for arriving at a decision as to what we are striving for, and then we should be in a better position to judge of the path which is likely to reach us to that goal.
Emphasis has been laid upon what is, admittedly, the primary concern of France at the present time—security. It is very natural that a country, which has had the history that France has had during the last 50 years, should be animated by that sentiment, and should be pressing on every and all occasions for something which is going to give her the feeling of security to which, admittedly, she is entitled, and which she naturally seeks to have. But while security is very important to France, it is also very important to other countries, and one of the troubles with which the peoples of the different countries are confronted to-day the lack of that feeling of security, not only in France, but also in all the other countries which were involved in the War, and, indeed, in many other countries which were only indirectly concerned with that struggle. While all are agreed that that is the primary purpose, what I feel we lack is that we do not seem to have any very clear idea as to how that security is going to be achieved. Reference has been made to-day to the collateral agreement which France hoped to see put into operation at the instigation of Great Britain and the United States of America. I can quite understand, and I think everybody must appreciate, the feeling of disappointment which animated France when that agreement fell through. But I trust we shall learn a lesson from the history ot that agreement, and realise that is not the way we are going to secure the feeling of security which is so desirable in Europe at the present time. Pacts nearly always lead to impacts, and, in making an agreement by pact of that character, we may just at the time being be giving to the countries concerned a sense of security, while, at the same time, as a matter of fact, laying the seeds for a great deal more of insecurity in the comparatively near future.
That is why I feel, that if the question is whether we are to resort to some pact or agreement of that character, we are really reverting to the old system of European policy, a system which has proved fatal in the past, which is just as likely to prove fatal in the future, and which, so far from giving that security which the country needs, will probably only lead to greater trouble in the future. Reference has been made to the Protocol, and France, having failed to obtain the collateral agreement, is now saying, I understand, that she is prepared to accept the Protocol as giving the security she needs. I confess quite candidly I have had very considerable difficulty in making up my mind as to our duty in regard to the Protocol. I can quite see the difficulties and the dangers which arc associated with it, and I have a good deal of sympathy with the last speaker but one, when he said, quite properly, that it was our duty in Great Britain to see that no unfair proportion of the burden which might be involved in the Protocol should be borne by Great Britain. But, I think, he rather misunderstood, if I may say so, the real terms of the Protocol, because, in the event of a dispute arising between countries, and our being involved in that dispute with our military or naval forces, I apprehend that, under the Protocol, it will be for Great Britain to decide as to the extent to which she can make the necessary contributions for intervention on behalf of the League in such dispute. And if we found the burden was one which we felt we could not legitimately undertake, it would be open to us to say so.
But while one agrees with the argument that there are difficulties and dangers attaching to the Protocol, I think one has to ask himself the question, If we arc not going to have that, what are we going to have1? In that respect I think the speech of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs—the greater part of which, I am sorry to say, I missed, but about which I have received information since—was somewhat disappointing. Something has got to be done, and, in considering what is to be done, we have to remember that it is not only France that wants security but we want security, and all the other countries want it equally. That is the question about which I should like to have more information from the Government in the course of this Debate. If they are not prepared to ratify the Protocol, with such reservations as they may deem necessary to make, what is it they are prepared to offer to France and Europe which will give the countries concerned a sense of security, and will really facilitate the pacification of Europe, which we all desire to sue fulfilled as early as possible?
I only want further to express the hope that there will be no unnecessary or undue delay in proceeding with the consideration of the problem of disarmament. Looking through the records of the meeting of the League of Nations at Geneva last year, the terms of the Protocol itself declare that one of the main considerations in the mind of those who were concerned in its consideration was the question of disarmament. Article 8 refers to that and the preamble of the Protocol refers to the desirability and the determination of those concerned in the matter to do all they can to realise, as contemplated by Article 8, the reduction of national armaments to the lowest point consistent with national safety. That is a matter which, as it seems to me, need not, and should not, be postponed, as in some quarters it is suggested it should be, until the larger question of the future of the Protocol or of its alternative can be considered and decided upon. I appreciate the difficulty of making declarations of policy at this time, but it is upon those two points that I think more information might and could be given, which would add considerably to the knowledge which we have, or ought to have., of the condition of Europe at present and would facilitate the peoples of the world in deciding what course should be pursued in the best interests of Europe as a whole.
Major-General Sir R. HUTCHISON:
I am one of those who entirely agree with what Lord Grey said last night, that the crux of the whole situation is one of security. I believe that the French have a perfectly just and reasonable ground for saying that we are in honour bound to offer them some security after the arrangement we entered into with America to guarantee their security. I believe also there is a possibility that, if various reservations had been accepted in America during the time their obligations were discussed in the Senate, possibly we should have had America with us in the League of Nations to-day. But, in any case, we who have signed the Treaty of Versailles are certainly entitled to give every consideration to the question of French security. In 1922 I told the House that, in my opinion, the French would move into the Ruhr, not for the purpose of securing reparations, but, under a sense of fear, for the sake of security. They did move into the Ruhr, and I take it that to-day the whole sentiment of French opinion is directed towards security. In dealing with this question of security we immediately come up against another bond of honour which we have in the Treaty of Versailles. The French view, as I take it, is that in order to obtain the security which they deem necessary they must hang on to the Rhine territory and must continue the occupation of Cologne. But surely, if we accept the idea of French security as being the whole basis of our policy with regard to that matter, we are in honour bound to deal with the Treaty of Versailles in an honourable way if the Germans on their side honourably carry out their duties, and it seems to me we ought to be on very sure ground that the reasons why we have not left Cologne are sound and substantial, and that we do not run the danger of breaking the Treaty of Versailles in the effort to obtain that French security which we all desire. We are really in a dilemma as to how far the desire to secure France will lead us into breaking other bonds which we have given in the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.
This question of security leads us much further than the making of pacts with one nation or another. Leading up to the War of 1914, we had not a definite alliance with France, but we had what was more or less generally known as a military arrangement. I was at that time on the General Staff taking part in those very arrangements with the French General Staff, and we never knew how the political situation was going to alter or interfere with the arrangements we had made, and I remember well at the end of July, 1914, how even then we soldiers, ready as far as we could be at that time, were in great doubt as to what was going to be the attitude of the British Government of the day. I hope and trust that no such similar situation will meet us again, and I hope that we shall not, through any false desire to help France, enter into an ambiguous arrangement such as we had from 1911 until 1914. The real difficulty we are up against is that we Have undoubtedly made one offer to France, which she accepted, and then we broke it because someone else would not fulfil their part. In other words our arrangement with France, the guarantee of her integrity with America, was turned down definitely by us because America had refused to carry out that bond. I think we can reasonably say it is up to us to do something to help France, and I am satisfied we shall get nowhere until we really satisfy this French fear of German aggression. But I hope that in satisfying that fear we are going to do it in a reasonable and sane way and that we shall learn the lesson of our past experience in the matter. God forbid that we should start to build up what you call competing alliances, the old idea of the balance of power, which is bound ultimately to bring Europe again into war, and I believe if we had anything to do with such an alliance as it is suggested we should have with France, Belgium and ourselves, we should really drive into the opposite camp Germany and Russia, and possibly another ally in the form of Japan, and the situation then would be ever so much worse for us than we had to face in 1914. That is not the way in which we can help security.
I believe myself there is a great deal to be said for the Protocol. I know there are many Clauses that we cannot accept. There are many points which have been drawn in this Protocol which we cannot agree to, but I think the foundation of the Protocol on the wide basis of all the nations is the right and sound principle. After all, we signed the Treaty of Versailles and we took part in the League of Nations, and we are trying to build up that framework and make it into a useful instrument to guard this country, I hope, against future wars. Therefore, I hope that the Government in any transactions at Geneva will not put away the Protocol, without putting forward something of a similar nature in its place. It is clear that if such an arrangement is to be of any good, we must attract into the League of Nations not only Germany but Russia. Until we get Germany and Russia into the League of Nations it will not be a complete and solid body which can deal with European affairs. I do hope that no hurried step will be taken definitely to turn down the Protocol, until something of a like nature can be put in its place. The idea that we can best secure the safety of Europe by getting enormous armies together by France, Belgium, and ourselves is beside the point altogether, because pacts of that sort, as was said by the right hon. Member for the University of Wales, lead to impacts. I am satisfied that the country generally would not back any Government that enters into such an arrangement for the safety of France, or anybody else.
In the framing of the Treaty of Versailles, many frontiers were drawn hurriedly and possibly were imposed on nations; frontiers which with the knowledge we now have of their working arrangement possibly would have been altered at that time. Therefore, it would be unwise for us to guarantee, certain frontiers which, possibly, under an arrangement or under arbitration might very well be altered. I have personal knowledge of the drawing of the frontier in Silesia, and I know that at that time some of the best advice that was given to us was that we were including in Poland parts of the country that would far better be left to Germany. Some of these frontiers east of Germany may easily be a cause of trouble, and this country would do well to safeguard itself against that. It seems to me that the Protocol, as at present drawn, might with conceivable safety be accepted, with reservations. We might have had America with us now in the League of Nations if the various reservations put forward had been accepted. I do not see why the various reservations which we are prepared to put against the present Protocol should not be definitely drafted and put forward. In any case, I am satisfied that security for Europe based on the Protocol or some form of Protocol would be very much more preferable and much more secure from the point of view of the peace and safety of Europe, than any form of competing alliances.
I am glad that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) raised the point of the Saar. That is going to be in the future one of the most vital points in the settlement of Europe because, undoubtedly, that wide area is going to be a bone of contention, just at the very time when we are preparing to evacuate the whole of the Rhine territory. If we do not take care that the population of the Saar has real confidence in the League of Nations, and if we do not make sure that they have every confidence that they will get just and fair treatment, and that there is not a danger of wirepulling within the League itself, we shall be creating a bone of contention for when the time comes at the end of 15 years. I hope and pray that the very excellent advice which the right hon. and learned Member for Spen Valley offered will be meditated upon by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and that in the coming year due consideration of the point of view will be given in his counsels when he again moves in the matter with the League of Nations at Geneva.
We are in danger at the present time of creating in Germany a certain amount of mistrust in our good faith. Up to the present I think that we, of all nations, have really entered into what I may call the German mind as a fair, reasonable and just power, a power that has administered and used its rights under the Treaty of Versailles in a perfectly fair and legitimate manner; but if the impression is to grow that Germany is not getting quite fair treatment, that they are being punished for no fault of their own, and if proper reasons are not put forward as to why we are postponing our departure from Cologne, I have great fear that we may be misunderstood, and that suspicion will be aroused which, I fear, will make impossible any chance of a peaceful settlement of the Rhine problem. For generations the Rhine has always been a bone of contention. There is one hope I hold, and that is that the carrying out of the Treaty of Versailles will go smoothly along its course, and that we shall do everything we can to prevent misunderstandings with Germany, and do everything we can with our Allies to see that they also do everything they can to ameliorate a situation which is extremely difficult. We can imagine what it would be like if we had continual occupation of our territory.
Therefore, if we want to have the rising generation growing up with the desire for peace and the desire to live in a friendly spirit with their neighbours, we must in a generous way try to help along the carrying out of the Treaty of Versailles, honour the obligations which arc undoubtedly ours, and see that they are faithfully carried out at Cologne and elsewhere. I am satisfied that that spirit will bear good fruit and I hope that the rising generation in Germany will be glad to co-operate with us in preserving the peace of the world. We must not forget that Germany is an enormous Power. She is a growing Power. She has a rising and growing population. Therefore, we have everything to gain by creating an atmosphere of trust in her people. I am satisfied that the present Government will do that, and I trust that we may, before long, hear from the Government a statement that an arrangement has been come to and that our part of the obligation to evacuate the Cologne region has been carried out.
We on these benches do not wish in any way to put pressure on the Government in this matter, but we hope and believe that the sentiments that we have voiced on this subject may have some effect during the negotiations at Geneva. We only hope that God will help the right hon. Gentleman, and direct him in his efforts, which I know to be sincere, to promote the peace of Europe, and to further the great advance which has gone on in the last year, so that we shall continue to progress towards more settled and stable conditions in Europe
It is not often that in a foreign affairs Debate of this importance the "Z" Reserves are called up, but it is not altogether a bad thing that the Government should listen to the views of those who were not called upon to speak with the same amount of responsibility that is expected from Members of the Front Benches. Older statesmen are wont to surround the discussion of foreign affairs with a non-controversial atmosphere. I think that that is very commendable. There is no one who has made any study of the foreign situation as it exists in Europe to-day who cannot but be aware of the extraordinary complexity which surrounds every one of the various problems which together make up the European problem. It may not, therefore, be altogether a bad thing if one attempts to clarify, even if you like from the less well-informed standpoint, some of these problems.
I would like to know, for instance, whether it is not possible to divide the problem of disarmament under three heads: disarmament in the air. naval disarmament, and military disarmament? The one which concerns us most closely, in my opinion, is disarmament in the air. From these benches a few days ago, as the result of a long discussion extending into the small hours of the morning, we secured from the Prime Minister a promise that we should have a specific statement on disarmament during this Debate. Those of us who made those representations to the Government on that evening had in view particularly the problem of air disarmament, and, though I have listened carefully to the Debate this afternoon, T am not aware that the problem of air disarmament has been discussed separately at all. It is on air disarmament that this country stands to gain most. Naval disarmament perhaps comes immediately between air and military disarmament, but it is on the question of military disarmament that the greatest complexities occur. Therefore, T listened with profound attention from a very back bench to the statement of the Foreign Secretary this afternoon.
No one knows better than the right hon. Gentleman how to make a clear and lucid statement, but no one knows better than he how to be obscure, and in the speech to which we listened this afternoon we had a masterly example of obscurity from the Front Bench. In my opinion we are gradually tending to the belief that security can only be obtained by building up, as the right hon. Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) said, two opposing conflicting rival sets of powers in Europe. We seem to be losing sight of the possibility that security can be obtained by disarmament. In my opinion security obtained by armaments is false and misleading. The only security which will not mislead is the genuine security which can be obtained only by disarmament. Another very important subject, of which we have heard nothing this afternoon, is the question of Inter-allied debts. I have had the privilege of fighting three elections in the East End of London. I have the advantage, or the disadvantage of having on my left hand the constituency of the hon. Member for Shoreditch (Mr. Thurtle). Upon another side there is the constituency of the hon. Member for North-East Bethnal Green (Mr. Windsor) and on another side there is the constituency of the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury), so I feel, therefore, rather in the position of an islander. I do not spend my time, as some of those gentlemen say they do, in going down to preach a class war, and doing everything to preach the difference between the children of the East End and the children of the West End, but I have a task which I think I can perform more profitably and that is to convey to this House the views that are held in that part of this great city.
If there is one subject on which they are intensely interested it is the question of inter-Allied debts. They have been told—I have told them—not with the object of arousing their animosity against any class, that France owes this country £650,000,000 and Italy £550,000,000, and that other European nations owe us also large sums, not to speak of the large sums which are owed to us by Russia. If France and Italy together were to pay us 2½ per cent, interest on those debts which they owe to us, and a further 2½ per cent, sinking fund, we should be able not only to take Is. in the £ off the Income Tax, but we should be able as well to reduce many other taxes which the people of this country find it very hard to. bear. But when we talk about 2½ per cent, interest and sinking fond on those debts; we are told that it is preposterous to ask France to pay this amount. What was reasonable has become preposterous in the realm of inter-Allied debts. I ask the Foreign Secretary to beware lest what is preposterous in the realm of disarmament and security of Europe should come to appear to be reasonable, when he refers to the proposal, which is finding a great deal of support even in this country, that some pact of security which we are to give to France should extend not only to the Rhine, where the Rhine is said to be one of the frontiers protecting this land now that we have the great development of air warfare, but should extend also to the eastern frontiers of Europe.
I consider it to be a preposterous claim that we in this country should send our armies and our navies around by the Baltic to protect the integrity of frontiers in Eastern Europe. That preposterous claim is rapidly becoming regarded as one which is necessary in due time very seriously to entertain. I do think that it is time for us to adjust our values on the question of inter-Allied debts and on Eastern and Western security. I know the difficulties which arc to be found in diplomacy. I know how difficult it is to understand the fears and the points of view which agitate the minds of foreign nations. I have been to France like most other Members of this House, and have spoken with Frenchmen on this subject, but the more you speak to Frenchmen on this subject of inter-Allied debts and securities the more you realise that we have drifted very far apart on those matters, and the reason is that our case has not been stated with sufficient firmness during the last six years. Time and again we have made concessions. France has only had to put her back up upon a subject and we have given in on the plea that we must not offend France. I am not more anxious than anybody else to offend France, and I shall be most careful not to say anything which will offend France, but if stating our interests is going to offend France, we are living in a very false security if we are going to withhold our case the whole time. I have asked several questions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in an attempt to find out what is the next step which they are going to take to urge upon France and Italy the necessity of paying to us some small sum of interest on the debts which they owe to us. We leave out of account the capital for the time being. But we want the Government to ask France and Italy, "When are you going to begin to pay us just a little interest on the debt which you owe us?"
When I put a question to the Chancellor of the Exchequer the, other day, he replied that Italy had promised to initiate discussions on the repayment of her debts—not now, but in a few months' time. These debts are years old. We have the magnificent promise from Italy that in a few months' time—not one, two or three months, but it might be six months hence—she will magnanimously consider what she will do to pay us a small portion of interest on the debts that she owes us. I followed that subject up to-day by putting a question to the Prime Minister. I do not wish to take advantage of the right hon. Gentleman's absence. We, all of us, especially those on the back benches, appreciate very much the regularity of his attendance in this House, and we feel the greatest sympathy for him in the cause of his absence. I asked the right hon. Gentleman to-day whether it was the Foreign Secretary or the Chancellor of the Exchequer on whom fell the responsibility for taking further steps in connection with the debts of France, Italy and other nations.
It is many weeks now since we sent to France a Note in which we made the most magnanimous concession. Not only has she not tried to put us off, but we have not had a reply of any kind. I have been trying consistently and very humbly to ascertain, first from the Chancellor of the Exchequer and then from the Foreign Secretary, what is to be the next step. Are we to let the matter go by default? It is going by default. The feeling is growing every day in France and' Italy, and in every other country that owes us money, that we are not going to trouble about collecting our debts, and every week will make it more difficult for us to collect a single penny of capital or interest on those vast sums. I am getting accustomed to the receipt of vague answers from the Government. The answer that I received to-day was that it would be impossible, especially within the limits of an answer to a question, to define the exact degree of responsibility which attaches to the Ministers most directly concerned in a matter of Government policy, which must ultimately be one for consideration by the Cabinet as a whole. Why "ultimately be one for consideration by the Cabinet as a whole"? The Cabinet have had six years to consider it. The present Cabinet has had quite long enough to consider it. Although I quite understood that the Foreign Secretary, who answered for the Prime Minister, could not tell me in answer to a question whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the Foreign Secretary was responsible, I would point out that we now have a Debate on the subject, and since the Foreign Secretary told me that he could not answer me within the limits of a reply to the question, I would like to ask the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer is responsible for taking the next step to collect this money, or whether it lies in the realm of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. This uncertainty as to who is responsible only postpones the day when one of them will do it. If neither of them knows who is supposed to do it, the result will be that it will not be done at all. It is such a difficult subject that it is more likely than any other question of foreign policy to be left untouched, unless brought to the attention of the Government with all the force that we can bring to bear from this side of the House.
In conclusion, let me try to express the point of view of the man in the street on this question. I shall attempt not to be indiscreet. Sometimes it is difficult for us who feel strongly and have to face the music before crowded and not altogether ruly audiences, to stand up in this House and in calm, dispassionate, unraised voices say what we think with regard to this question. But I may, perhaps, be allowed to say what is felt by some of those poor people in the East End" of London who have not a very close knowledge of foreign affairs, but whose judgment on broad lines is generally not far wrong, in my experience. They see that for six years since the War, on the questions of the Ruhr, disarmament, security for ourselves and for France, aye, and for Germany too, on Inter-Allied Debts, on Turkey, the Foreign Secretaries have merely been running round and round the question. They have not solved any one of these questions permanently, and it seems to them that it is as if the Foreign Secretaries are like children, running round a maypole or a mulberry bush, always afraid to come down to a hard settlement of the problem.
Can the foreign Secretary put a map of the world before him and put his finger on a single spot of the earth's surface and say, "There we have won a permanent. solid, diplomatic victory"! We have not won a diplomatic victory since the War. If "Peace hath her victories no less renowned than war," peace has also her defeats, and in the realm of diplomacy we have suffered defeat after defeat quite as damaging and inflicting quite as much loss and suffering on the people of this country as defeats on the battlefield could inflict. I respectfully beg the Foreign Secretary, when he goes to the Council of the League of Nations next week, to stiffen his diplomatic sinews a bit. Let him for once remember that there are 45,000,000 people in this country, many of whom are having a very hard time. We cannot afford constantly to place the interests of other nations above the interests of the British people. I ask him for once to stand up for the poor British people, who have received the worst end of the stick for the last six years.
I rouse myself with some difficulty, from a delightful dream of the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs running round a maypole, in order to address one or two comments to this Committee. I want, first, to hark back to a speech that was made by an hon. Member opposite earlier in the Debate. He was entering a plea, and a very strong plea, for the policy of a continued alliance with France, for the securing of a pact which would guarantee the integrity of the French frontier. The hon. Member referred to the types of persons who might be expected to offer opposition to his views. It is with the idea of removing the impression that opposition to the view urged by the hon. Member is necessarily opposition to France, that I refer to the matter again. We were told that the type of person who will now offer opposition to a pact with France is exactly the same type of person who during the War refused to place reliance on the stories of German atrocities. Is it not rather late in the day to be talking about atrocities, especially as some of us since the War have had the edifying experience of being introduced with some pride to gentlemen who now openly avow that they invented he stories about the atrocities? It is no going back and attempting to arouse the same passions that were aroused so successfully during the War.
If hon. Members opposite claim that in urging a policy of close co-operation, or even what is called a pact with France, they are showing friendship with Franco, then we on this side equally claim that we feel a friendship to France, though we oppose that point of view. As a new Member, I have been interested in the two occasions on which the Foreign Secretary has taken part in what is called a full-dress Debate concerning his Department. This afternoon I was impressed by the amount of eloquence, the statesman-like delivery and even the amount of time employed in imparting information which, after all, came to very little, and I could not help thinking, as the right hon. Gentleman pursued his course, that he must be leaving something over for his colleague the Under-Secretary to tell us at the end of the Debate. As the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State is leaving the country for a period, we are entitled to ask for more information than we have been given so far. Take, for example, the question of the Report of the Commission. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon), in the course of his speech, said nobody seemed to know very much about what was going to happen We, are entitled to insist that when the Report of the Commission is published all the relevant facts shall be published with it, in order that we may get the matter in due proportion, as my right hon. Friend said, and in order that we may see the proportion to the total requirements of the situation which any default on the part of Germany may form. We are entitled to know whether Germany will be allowed to give her view of the case and how far any so-called defaults are affected by the internal position in Germany. It may be that the Foreign Secretary and the Under-Secretary themselves do not as yet know very much on these points, but we are entitled to ask them to shave with us whatever knowledge they may have.
We on these benches do not wish to conduct this Debate in too critical a spirit, and we are only too anxious to contribute what we can to the objects which hon. Members on both sides have in common. The last speaker referred to the views of the man in the street with regard to debts. May I follow on the same line with regard to the general subject of pacts. I should be very glad if the Under-Secretary can give us some indication of the views which the Government take and the course which their policy is likely to pursue on the question of offensive and defensive pacts on the Continent of Europe. I dissociate myself from the view expressed early in the Debate by hon. Gentlemen who are no longer in their places, when they suggested that the policy of this country prior to 1914 was directly a contributory cause of the War. It was not a policy advised and engineered by the then Government which caused the War. It was a state of affairs existing in the world which they found in common with many other Governments in the days before the War. But the general view of this country with regard to defensive or offensive alliances was profoundly changed by the War. The view of the man in the street quite definitely was, and still is, that he believed we had, as a result of the successful issue of the War, got rid of the policy which led to armed groups of nations facing each other. That is perhaps an elementary thing to say, but it seems to me to be a thing which is too often forgotten, and I am particularly anxious to bring it to the attention of the Under-Secretary because there is a great deal of public disquietude as to the policy which is being pursued or is about to be pursued by the Government. I am not making any charge or accusation. I merely state that a great deal of public distrust would be set at rest if we could have a clear statement of policy from the representatives of the Government to-night and an announcement that they would deliberately set their faces against any attempt to renew a condition of affairs in Europe under which we had two armed groups of nations facing each other
The last speaker remarked that this country's policy was not sufficiently enforced. In the last two years I spent a considerable time in Belgium, and Belgium has from time to time been held to take a view which tended to render less stiff the attitude of her neighbour France. I have been told, over and over again, by Belgians who had very friendly feelings towards this country that they were impressed by the total absence of any presentation of the British case in the Press or elsewhere in Belgium. If other allied countries present their views very strongly, we should see to it that our views are also expressed very strongly. We have heard nothing to-day about the Government's intentions, policy, or hopes on the question of disarmament. I beg of the hon. Gentleman who will reply to give us some hope that the Government in their foreign policy are steadily keeping in view the belief of the man in the street that, after the successful issue of the War he was going to be relieved from the burden of armaments. The hon. and gallant Member who preceded me described his situation as one surrounded by constituencies whose representatives are not here at the moment, but who may take rather extreme views. I, too, represent a constituency of that kind, and it is a very difficult thing indeed, when we are reminded of promises made during and after the War, to satisfy people who find their burdens in no way decreased and who find their hopes of peace not so much raised as diminished. I would, in conclusion, ask the right hon. Gentleman, when he replies, if he cannot give us a little more information on the subject of debts, a little promise that the Government are going to. set themselves against the policy of pacts, and a little hope that they will direct their policy steadily towards security, not by means of alliances, but by means of disarmament.
I find myself in general agreement with a great deal that has been said from the benches behind me, and in particular with what was said by the hon. Member for South Hackney (Captain Garro-Jones). There was one point in his speech, however, with which I rather disagreed, and that was with regard to the question of the vagueness of the present Foreign Secretary. I think it comes very badly from the benches behind me to talk about the vagueness of any hon. or right hon. Member in this House, because, if anybody could give us an exposition of talking a long time and saying nothing, it would be those hon. and right hon. Members who sit behind me, and in particular their illustrious leader, who used to give us sue?, great examples of that particular kind when he used to grace this House so well before he left it to go to another place. Still, I am in general agreement with a great deal that has been said, and particularly with the point that it was time we ourselves declared our policy more definitely with regard to the various questions, and especially that of Allied debts. To illustrate my point, I would like to tell the Committee about a well-known local councillor in a Northern town, who went by the name of Porky Bell. For 10 years, in his municipal energies, he had tried to please everybody, and he had failed miserably. After 10 years, he made up his mind that in future he would try to please Porky Bell, and so he did, and in pleasing Porky Bell, he pleased everybody else, and I wonder whether we could not take that as an example.
What is the good of us worrying in this country, as we have been during the past six years, about what is best for France or what is best for Germany? Is it not about time that we looked at these things from the point of view of what is best for us, for Britain? There was no very great consideration shown us with regard to our debt to the United States, when it was discussed as to how we should pay and when we should pay. Why, then, should there be so much consideration about debts due to us, especially at a time when we, in this country, are burdened with unemployment more than any other country in the world I do not think the hon. and gallant Member for South Hackney was quite right in saying that there was any vagueness as to who should be the responsible Minister to approach France with regard to debts, because I think it has been shown by the events of the past few months that our own Chancellor of the Exchequer has already done a great deal in that direction. I think more should be done, and that we ought to show them very definitely indeed that, just as we have been compelled, under very great stress, to pay our debts to those to whom we owe money, so it is necessary that those who owe money to us should certainly take some steps, and at once, to meet their obligations. If they could only do that, it would ease the stress of excessive taxation, which, to my mind, is crippling industry more than anything else in this country.
Then there is the question raised by the right hon. Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) about German default, and I think we ought to know the exact truth about what is going on. I have known friends who have been to Germany, and they are very much afraid that Germany is defaulting a great deal, but whether she is or not, we certainly ought to know the truth. Let us know exactly whether it is true that, under the cloak of pretending that they are preparing a great system of gymnasts, they are preparing another great army. There is a suspicion that they are, and, if they are, France, of course, is right in feeling alarmed about the future. My own view is that the question will not be settled by any arrangement of pacts amongst the Allies, but only when Germany and France come together themselves, and make up their minds that they are going to have a peaceable future, and not a warlike future, on the Continent of Europe.
In conclusion, I want to say a word or two in regard to business firms in Lancashire who are having goods that have been sent out by them confiscated at places in Turkey, and particularly in Constantinople and Smyrna. There have been goods confiscated for no reason at all, very unjustly and unfairly, to such an amount that Manchester business men are suffering to the extent of over £60,000 I am very glad the right hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs is now in his place, because I think it is perhaps more his duty to deal with this question in this House than that of the Foreign Secretary himself, and I hope he will give it a little consideration and, in a friendly way, see if he cannot watch as closely as possible the interests of British traders, especially in Turkey.
I have listened with great interest to a large part of the Debate to-night, and for some reason it has been unusually easy to follow the speeches, and it has struck me, in listening to the Debate, that in all these discussions on security the really main problem has been shelved altogether.
We have turned our eyes to the effect of the occupation of Cologne and the Ruhr, but we have neglected, to a very great extent, the shadow on the East of Europe, the shadow of the future of Russia. It is impossible to say what is going to develop in that country, but the Russian Government is altering almost from day to day, and I think he would be a very bold man who would dare to prophesy what is going to be its ultimate constitution. There may be a restoration of some form of monarchy, or there may, in accordance with the nearly universal experience of history, be some form of military dictatorship. But so long as there is this great uncertainty in Russian policy I do not think that any question of disarmament or any question of security can possibly be effected that does not take into account the Russian situation. We in this country are far removed from Russia, and are apt not very clearly or certainly to see what is bound up with that question of security in the East of Europe. Security in the countries bordering on Russia's Western frontier depends upon the future of Russia, and the security of those countries is a matter of the utmost-importance for all of us, and for France in particular. She has guaranteed them money. She has given them assistance in various directions, and it is desirable to make certain as to whether they are likely to survive as a part of the European comity, or whether they are ultimately to be smashed and crushed by a great military Russia. This aspect of the question, I suggest, is a matter of the very greatest importance.
I do not see how we are going to discuss questions of security unless we take fully into consideration, not only the present possibilities, but prospective developments in Russia. It is not a matter that we can make up our minds upon immediately, and the Foreign Secretary, when he attends the Council of the League of Nations, will, I suppose, have to take that into account. It is mostly speculation, and he has no definite ground to go upon, but I do appeal to the Government that they might discuss privately with their Allies all that is involved in this question so that we might, if possible, guarantee that there shall be security against possible hostile movements in the East of Europe as well as in the West. I do believe that so long as the Russian problem remains insecure and uncertain there must be a feeling of insecurity in the East of Europe which will effectively spoil any possible plan of disarmament. You cannot expect the Eastern nations to disarm until there is a settled Government in Russia. Their neighbours will say that so long as other countries have not disarmed they cannot disarm. It is all very well to talk about the Protocol as a possible means of dealing with this question, but the Russian Government, the present Government, has repeatedly expressed its utter contempt for the League of Nations, and all its works. Until Russia has again become part of the comity of Europe I believe it is utterly futile to trust to the League of Nations bringing about disarmament; unless the Russian problem is first settled. This is a great problem of the future. I do hope, nay I feel sure, that His Majesty's Government will bear in mind this crux of the European problem, and its critical nature, in any discussion in which they may take part.
Hon. Members in all parts of the House must have listened with the greatest interest to the speech which has just been delivered by the hon. and gallant Member for Oxford (Captain Bourne). The Debate so far has been mainly confined to the question of the relationship between the nations of Western Europe. This Russian question goes far wider into the sphere of foreign policy, but it is equally important, whether you regard it, as does the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just sat down, from the point of view of European security, or from the point of view of Near Eastern policy, or from the point of view of policy in the Pacific. I will not go into all these very large questions now, except to say that one of the troubles of those who are interested in the future of the British Empire is the convergent lines of policy being followed in certain respects by the Russians, by the Chinese, and by the Japanese in the Pacific. With regard to the Near East, not so long ago we signed the Treaty of Lausanne—it was the year before last, and we ratified it. last year. The Russians have failed to ratify that Treaty. Apparently the British Government have no policy, and are making no effort to bring Russia in. I think the hon. and gallant Member is absolutely justified when he says that there can be no security in our foreign relations until Russia has been brought in. There can be no stability in the League of Nations until Russia is also invited to join. On this question of Russia I see that other countries, Japan, France, Germany, are making Treaties with the Russian Government. Our Government tell us that they cannot make a Treaty with the Russian Government unless they lend money to Russia. But Japan has not lent money. France has not lent money. Germany is quite unable to do so. Why, if these countries can come to an agreement with Russia, does His Majesty's Government find themselves quite unable to do so? The guaranteed loan was the great point of criticism at the last Election, and I always thought it was a real and substantial point of criticism which we directed against the Treaty signed by the last Parliament with the Russian Government.
We were asked to give this great guarantee. Surely, however, the Government realise that it is now of the utmost importance to bring Russia back into the comity of nations, and to do everything we can to develop the trade which is growing and increasing at the present time even without the stimulus which car-be given by a wider agreement with the Russian Government. Nothing is more important from the point of view of the people whom I represent here than to get an agreement with them in order that the Russians shall buy their herrings! I criticised the policy of the last Government in relation to Russia I did not do so with as much force, but at any rate, I did it with as much enthusiasm as any hon. Member of this House, but I always made it clear that I was strongly in favour of the extension of the Export Credits Act. Why no steps are taken in that direction indicated by the Government at the present time I cannot see.
However, as a matter of fact I am digressing from the three points which T really rose to deal with, and I shall deal with them quite shortly. I shall approach them from the point of view from which an hon. Member who preceded me approached them. What he said should guide us in approaching these problems was the British point of view. That is the point of view that counts. I am quite sure our point of view, and our interest in European questions are peace,, stability, and the real prosperity of the European nations themselves. Peace and stability we believe rest—and I believe other hon. Members will agree can only rest—upon a foundation of justice. Therefore I say on this question of security that we shall not make ourselves secure by piling up more powerful armaments than even in 1914. There is no security to be found along the road of force. That was an attempt which was made by the French Government when they went into the Ruhr. That policy the French themselves have found to be a failure. Therefore I say also there is no security along the road of alliances. That policy was tried after the Napoleonic wars. It was tried by Bismarck after the Prussian wars. In every instance in which it has been-tried it has been found a failure. Many people have been heard to say there is no chance for the League of Nations, that there is no hope of creating a great international organisation which shall lead to permanent peace. They say: "Look at the Holy Alliance; it has been tried and it has been a failure! "But it is on these failures that you can lay a foundation of success, and it is just because of these failures that pitfalls have been revealed that we can avoid. I believe the chances of success are better now than they have ever been in the history of mankind. What we think essential—we have not obtained it in this Debate so far from the Government, perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will give it us when he replies—what we want is an assurance that the Government will not go in for any of those pacts, an alliance with France alone, or an alliance between France, Belgium and this country which have been deprecated, not only from these benches, but also in the very interesting speeches which have been made from the benches opposite, especially the interesting and attractive maiden speech that we had from the Member for East Leicester (Captain Loder). For my part I would willingly support a quadrilateral pact which would include France, Belgium, Germany and this country within the framework of the League of Nations, in which we should be committed to action against those who are pursuing a policy of aggression, and in which we should take warlike action only in defence of the principle of arbitration and peaceful settlement of disputes. That is an understanding which I, and I believe my hon. Friends on these benches, would warmly support.
I should like to say one word more on the subject of the Saar Valley. This, as my right hon. Friend the Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. Fisher) has said, is "one of the great danger spots of Europe." That is a phrase which has been used also by a great Scottish publicist'. I believe it to be profoundly true. There is no question here of loving the German or pin-pricking the French. Here is a small valley of some 700 or 800 square miles in extent, very populous, which has inherited the unfortunate fate of being a bone of contention between two great Powers, and in order to help these people and to give them a chance of self-determination and in order to decide between the conflicting claims of the French and the Germane in that territory, a great experiment in international government was set up under the auspices of the League of Nations. If there is any suspicion in the minds of people who create public opinion in all countries in the world as to the impartiality of the League of Nations or their disinterested concern for the welfare of the inhabitants committed to their Government, then a fatal blow will have been dealt to the reputation of the League. Therefore I say it is of great importance that the Chairman of the Saar Valley Governing Commission, who is actually to exercise the executive power in that region, Should be chosen by the Members of the Council of the League because they honestly believe in his capacity and honestly believe that he if the best man for this appointment. I put to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs a question on this point some time ago. I asked him whether he had entered into any undertaking or whether he considered himself free when he wenifc to Geneva to choose the best man for this particular appointment. He replied that he had nothing to add to a previous answer in which he said that in selecting the President of the Committee personal qualifications must necessarily play a determining part. On another occasion the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Rennie Smith) put a question also about the appointment of the Chairman of the
Saar Valley Governing Commission, and the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs then replied that he deprecated being tied down and cross-examined in this House by hon. Members and being compelled to express certain opinions which might tie his hands. He said:
The whole object of this Conference is that we should come with open minds and. put what we have to contribute into the common stock out of which a common agreement may arise.
Yet when he was questioned to-day by my light hon. Friend the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) he admitted that in December last he had come to an understanding with M. Herriot that he would support M. Rault for the presidency of the Saar Valley Commission. I suggest that this suggests an unfortunate commenting on the reply he gave the other day to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Leith (Captain Benn) when ho deprecated the habit which he ascribed to my hon. and gallant Friend of suggesting in his question that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs was trying to hide things from the House. I submit, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will deal with this in his reply, that here is a clear case in which, first of all, in his reply to me he hid the fact, on which I had asked him a specific question, that he was not free when he went to Geneva, but was bound by an understanding to M. Herriot, and, secondly, I find myself unable to reconcile his statement in the answer to that supplementary question, that he was going to that Conference with an open mind on this question with his admission in Debate this afternoon.
Before I sit down I just want to make one reference to the topic on which several hon. Members have dwelt, the topic of disarmament. At the present time we understand that the Government estimate they will need a sum of about £120,000,000 for the fighting Services—which was the figure given in Debate by the late Chancellor of the Exchequer the other day and was not challenged by the Government spokesman in reply. I think that this will be extremely unpalatable to the House of Commons and to the country at the present time, when it is more than ever necessary to husband our financial resources so as to reduce taxation and deal with the great housing evil that is eating like a canker into the body politic of this country, and when, above all, we want to reconstruct our national civilisation on a broader and sounder educational basis. Yet at this time we find that the Estimates for the fighting Services are actually 50 per cent, higher than in 1913 and, this topic is most relevant to the Foreign Office Vote, which is, after all, the Department responsible for the policy on which our Estimates for the fighting Services are made. Yet the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in answering the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for the Combined English Universities, classified this among the minor points with which my right hon. Friend dwelt. The people of this country will think that the question of disarmament is one of the vital points and should be one of the main preoccupations of the Foreign Office at this juncture. Of course, my hon. Friends opposite may say that prices are high and that the pay of the Services has been increased. I do not in the least want to gloss over that. It might quite likely bridge the gap of 50 per cent, between the cost of the fighting Services now and the cost in 1913. But is 1913 to be the irreducible minimum? Are we never to get below the expenditure which in those days, when this country was prosperous, and when even then we thought it was a heavy burden, and talked about the crushing burden of armaments—are we never to have a lower standard than the standard of 1913? In what respect has the strategic situation altered since 1913? In what direction are the perils now facing us greater than, or even equal to, the perils we were then faced with? Why do the Government halt at the milestone of 1913? Why do not they give us a bolder lead in the direction of disarmament? In 1913, the greatest air and military Power in the world was Germany. To-day that military Power is broken, it is smashed to pieces, pieces which are harmless except for the mischief they do in getting into the eyes and inflaming the vision of militarists in other countries. To-day, the greatest military and air Power is our old ally France, which is bound to us by many ties of sentiment, of common interest, and of financial obligation. Surely our position in this respect has altered enormously for the better. We may not always agree with our French friends, but the point is that military power has been struck from the grasp of an aggressive, ambitious, irresponsible autocracy; the sceptre has passed into the hands of our old and faithful allies the French nation, a democracy not impervious to the force of public opinion, and not insensible to the ideals of international peace and disarmament.
In 1913 it was the naval situation which, after all, dominated the strategic position. There was Germany's naval challenge, the first on a great scale that had been flung at this country since the battle of Trafalgar. There, within a few hundred miles of our coast, and close to our trade routes, along which the food and supplies of raw material essential to the very existence of two-thirds of our population comes, was the fleet of Germany, ever growing in size and in efficiency. That fleet is now at the bottom of the sea. I do not press that point, but it is relevant to the discussion of the strategic situation. The only fleets now comparable to our own are those of our kinsmen and friends in the United States of America, the greatest, most prosperous, most peaceful democracy in the world, and those in the hands our old ally, the Japanese nation. We know the Americans took the lead in naval disarmament at the Washington Conference, and they are giving us a lead now. Nobody can have read without feeling a warm response the speech on this subject which President Coolidge delivered at his inauguration the day before yesterday. The United States fleet is the only one which is comparable with ours, and war with that country, if not impossible, is generally recognised to be a contingency of incalculable remoteness.
Let us consider other aspects of the situation than the purely naval and military, the social unrest due very largely to infamous housing conditions, which have grown worse since 1913, while the temper of the people has grown more impatient in view of the recruiting appeals and promises which were made to them during the War. Consider the thirst for education, which, after all, is the best hope for the future of this country, and our inadequate means for meeting it. Consider unemployment, and' the crushing burden of taxation which is weighing on our industries. Whereas in naval and military respects the position of this country is incomparably stronger than it was in 1913, our principal, or at any rate, our most imminent perils at the present time are social, financial and economic. We cannot therefore approve a. policy which fails to reduce the burdens imposed upon this country in respect of the diminished dangers of aggression from foreign nations, burdens which oppress trade and industry and hinder us from taking those measures which are essential if we are to withstand those greater and more imminent perils, restore the economic strength and prosperity of the country, and attain the Prime Minister's gaol of social contentment and co-operation.
Therefore, I would say in conclusion to the right hon. Gentleman: Now, in my belief, is the time for the Government to align itself with those forces at Geneva which are making for international peace and disarmament; not to discard the Protocol out of hand, but to see if along those lines, or along similar lines, we cannot make some advance in this great question, not confining ourselves to a negative attitude on the Protocol, but taking the lead in disarmament in cooperation with our Allies and in the interests of this country and of all mankind.
I cannot help thinking the whole character of this Debate has been somewhat changed by the totally unexpected evacuation of the left banks of the Chair by that over-sensitive and highly-strung army which could not stand seeing one of its Members subjected to the ordinary rules of procedure of the House. Whatever happens in the future we shall at least know that they are all sailing under the same flag. They can never claim in future to belong to different denominations though more or less of the same party. The reason I make this remarks is that in their evacuation they have unfortunately left stranded on the Front Bench that celebrated Protocol which is supposed to have been the chef d'oeuvre of the administration of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Ramsay MacDonald). When he returned from Geneva with that Protocol, it was firmly believed that at last a permanent solution for all international difficulties had been definitely found. Owing to this unfortunate incident we have lost the really great pleasure that must have accrued to many of us of listening to the right hon. Gentleman defending the Protocol in the face of that really excellent letter he wrote in reply to the proposal of the mutual pact of the Conference of 1922. All arguments there set for against that mutual pact of protection and security really applies with almost equal force to the present Protocol. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) drew the attention of the House, I think quite rightly, to the fact that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs had made no reference to the Protocol at all. I was rather surprised at this myself, because in view of various statements which have appeared in the Press of late it would appear that the Government have abandoned the Protocol altogether. T hope that if the Tinder-Secretary for Foreign Affairs winds up this Debate, he will give us a definite assurance that the Government have abandoned the Protocol. T can imagine no Measure so calculated to bring about a series of universal wars as this Protocol if it is ratified in its present form. I have analysed it, and I have arrived at certain conclusions. I do not think any reasonably-minded person would contradict the statement that it means we should have to hand over the control of our Army, Navy, finances moral conscience' to. heterogeneous assembly composed of the representatives of some 42 other nations, many of whom have been our enemies in the past, who dislike us now, and who may be hostile to us in the future.
I do feel that we should keep the control of our own affairs in our own hands, and not hand them over to the League of Nations as we should do if we accept the Protocol in its present form. I hope the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs will bring back from Geneva some definite proposition to which this House can give its acquiescence and ratification. During the last five or six years, ever since 1919, there have been many visits paid to Geneva by Prime Ministers and Foreign Secretaries, and not one of them has succeeded in coming back with a proposition which this House could accept. I think a great many hon. Members will agree with me when I say that the most encouraging words we have heard in this Debate came from the Foreign Secretary when he said that the Government were considering very carefully this proposition from Germany which reached him by some irregular channel. If we can only get this proposition put on some definite basis, then I think we shall have gone a very long way to ensuring the peace of Europe. It is an anomaly that after a great and successful war we should see the beaten Power offering security to the victors. The position is humiliating when the victors have to goto the vanquished to ask them to ensure the peace of the world, and to engage in no war of aggression. But it would not encourage wars in the future.
I was very much struck by some of the remarks made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon). He has the reputation of being the greatest lawyer in England at the present time. I think it is rather a pity that as a great lawyer he can only take such a one-sided view of an issue when it is debated in the House of Commons. Here we have a definite contract between various nations, and if the right hon. Gentleman, applies his view of the laws of contract in international affairs to the laws of contract in private affairs in the course of her practice, I am sure his practice would diminish as far as contracts arc concerned, although it might increase in other respects. The right hon. Gentleman assured us that the only thing he had in mind was that we should not in any way break the strict letter of the law of the Treaty of Versailles by continuing to postpone the evacuation of Cologne, because the French contend that unless they have a definite pact they are entitled to hold on to the left bank of the Rhine.
To every contract there must be two parties, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley never even hinted in one single word of his speech that the Germans had broken their agreement from the very start, and that the question of the' evacuation of Cologne and the Rhine zone generally is in no way concerned with this Report of the Inter-Allied Commission as to whether Germany has fulfilled her disarmament proposals as described in the Treaty of Versailles. It is true that is one of the principle Clauses in the Treaty, but I would like to draw attention to the fact that the whole question of indemnities under the Treaty of Versailles is equally bound up with this question of the evacuation of Cologne, just as much as the actual question of whether a certain number of cannon, rifles and shells have been destroyed. Suppose this Report, if we analyse it, convinced us that Germany had fulfilled all her obligations in regard to disarmament: even then we have a perfect right to remain in Cologne and the French in the Rhine zone, because Germany has not attempted to fulfil her obligations under the Indemnity Clause. The whole question is bound up with the Dawes Report, and I hope the Under-Secretary will give us in the course of the discussion a short account as to how the-Dawes Commission stands at the present time. We have heard very little of it lately, and we, certainly, ought to remain in possession of Cologne until we get a definite guarantee that the Financial Clauses of the Dawes Report are going to be carried out by Germany. We have had up to date no assurances whatever, and this question seems to have passed out of public notice for the time being, and there has been no mention of it in the Press or even in the speeches to-day. I hope the Foreign Secretary will bring back from Geneva some definite plan which will settle this vexed question of the securities and the peace of Europe. In the opinion of the average normal person, the League of Nations, since its conception, has turned out a ghastly failure, and ever since there have been a number of small wars in Europe over which the League of Nations has exercised no authority or restraint.
The only definite steps towards disarmament and peace during this period have boon taken outside the sphere of action of the League, at the Washington Conference. Another conference is proposed in Washington, and if it is attended by representatives of the Government, how far will that be affected by a subsequent conference under the auspices of the League of Nations? You cannot have these two separate conferences working towards peace. Either the Washington Conference will settle disarmament or the League of Nations will do it. Judging from the results of the past, I have more confidence in Washington than I have in Geneva. If we examine the clauses of the Protocol on this question, we do not know where we stand. If you examine them closely you will find that the armed forces are to be taken from our private use, and turned into the police of the whole world. If you take Clause 11, you will find it deals with the disposal of the forces in the event of war. Two commissions were left sitting by the late Prime Minister which were supposed to negotiate with the various Powers to decide the number of troops, the number of ships, the number of men and the finances which were going to be placed at the disposal of the League.
Once a nation has signed in for this sort of warfare, then, in the event of the League naming an aggressor in a quarrel between two nations, each country, on receipt of a telegram from the Secretariat of the League, would, under this Protocol, be obliged to send its armed forces independently to the scene of action to intervene between those two hostile Powers. I think this is a very great departure from the strategy of Marshal Foch, which led to our success in the War, which was concentration under one supreme command. It is a return to the strategy and military tactics of Peter the Hermit, where contingents of armed knights from each country in Europe were allowed to march independently to Palestine to attempt to recover the Holy Grave. It can well be imagined what would happen in Europe were the League suddenly to pronounce that a nation which be the innocent party, having put one foot over the famous demilitarised zone, was the aggressor, and the armed forces of the different nations would have to march. Supposing it were a case of war between France and Germany, we, of course, could send our little Army right away, and could only hope that they would be treated kindly by the immense armies of Germany and France. But other powers of the League could not arrive on the scene of hostilities at all until they had first obtained permission form the Germans to pass over their territory.
The only way in which they could arrive on the German frontier would be by passing through Switzerland, and I can almost see the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberavon (Mr. J. P. MacDonald), the author of the celebrated Protocol, reviewing them from the palatial palace of the League in Geneva. As they passed by he would stand there with the dove of peace in one hand and the book of rules in the other, and with all that fervour that we know he possesses in times of great national crises, while exhorting them to shed their last drop of blood on behalf of the dove, he would admonish them that, if they infringed the strict letter of the rules, they themselves would be liable to sanctions from the rear. When such a document is seriously brought before Parliament and the House of Commons is asked for its ratification, I can quite understand the silence of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and his refusal to deal with this matter at all, as he naturally prefers that the child of such a distinguished predecessor should die a natural death rather than be killed by his own irony and sarcasm.
There is another Clause in the Protocol which is even more dangerous still. We are all talking about the hegemony, of which we are all very proud, of the Anglo-Saxon race. I think it is Clause 11 of the Protocol—I named the wrong Clause before; that Clause was Clause 10—Clause 11 6ays that, in the event of a struggle between one Power that has signed the Protocol and one that has not signed it, the League of Nations proposes to exercise its authority, not only over its own members, but over those nations which did exercise a little common sense and which said that they would refuse to sign this ridiculous document. Clause II says that, directly a member has put its case before the League, and the League has decided that it is a case that the Council must take and submit to arbitration, then, if the other party, which is not a member of the League, refuses to accept the judgment and decision of the League, that the non-signatory Power automatically becomes the aggressor. What will happen? Across the Atlantic there is a great nation of 110 million people, who, I believe, sincerely wish to remain on the most friendly terms with us. In any case they are the only nation which speaks our own language and which has really got the largest percentage of Anglo-Saxon stock in its blood. On the other side of the Pacific are the Japanese, and the Japanese are also very friendly with us.
They have been our Ally in the past, and I hope they will continue to be our Ally in the future. But there are certain matters of difference, which I am sure will be peacefully settled, but which do exist between the United States and Japan. Suppose that there is a casus belli between these two nations. Japan, which is a member of the League of Nations, has only to call the Council of the League of Nations together and to place her case before the League. The League then, if the United States refuse to accept its judgment, automatically pronounces that the United States is an aggressor, and that Japan is the favoured child of the League, which must receive the protection of the League's armed forces. The result would be that we, if we signed this Protocol and adhered to the Covenant in its present form, would be obliged to send—I am afraid our Army would not be of much use—our Fleet to stand between the Fleets of America and Japan, and in order to get there by the shortest route we should have to obtain the permission of the United States—which I am sure would be readily given—to pass through the Panama Canal.
A possible advantage that we might get under this Clause, and it might be a very great advantage to the British Empire, would be that, as we should be fighting on behalf of the League for Japan against America, we might simply say, "We do not wish to interfere in the struggle, and therefore our sole contribution to the war will be that we will declare off our debt to the United States." I am sure the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs will announce right away to the other members of the League—even though he will be in the Chair, and it will come as a shock from the Chair—that we cannot in any circumstances accept an agreement of that sort, that we are perfectly willing in every respect to submit ail quarrels and disputes that we may have to the Permanent Court of International Arbitration, and that we will use our very best endeavours to ensure the peace of nations by inducing any two parties who have a dispute at least to gain time by submitting their case to the League. After all, if you gain time, where a question of war is concerned, you will almost automatically avoid war. In fact, had we been able to gain time, and had we been dealing with people who were acting in good faith—which they were not on that occasion—there is no doubt that the War of 1914 would have been avoided temporarily, although I am afraid it would have been merely a postponement.
When we are dealing with this question of the security of France, I do not think we can eliminate from our vice the other countries who formed part of the Central Powers during the great War. There is one very essential fact which I think has been obvious to a good many people who have studied the European situation since 1919. I have never had any illusions on this subject myself, and I have travelled a great deal in all of these countries. It is this. The possibilities of a renewal of this historic struggle on the Rhine between France and Germany are extremely remote. The Germans realise that they have nothing to get out of it, and the French also realise that they have nothing to get out of it. The removal of the strategic frontier to 50 miles from the right bank of the Rhine has practically rendered it impossible at the present time for France to be overwhelmed by a sudden attack of the German forces. Therefore, to my mind, this great question of the danger to French security is more or less an illusion, unless the Germans can raise enormous forces suddenly and the French have reduced their army to such a point that it is below the safety level. On the other hand, the danger in the East of Europe is, I consider, greater than ever it was before, because the whole natural trend of German expansion and German development since the War has turned towards the East.
That is the only country on which they have got their eye. When they talk of French security, they are never thinking of another attack on France, but they are thinking of improving their Polish frontier by overwhelming Poland if they can, of overwhelming Czcchslovakia, so as to have a free field for the exploitation of Russia in the future. I think it extremely honourable of the French that they have refused to have an isolated pact on their Western frontier, when they know their allies arc living under this great danger on the Eastern frontier, and the only way to avoid that would be by scrapping certain sections of the Treaty of Versailles, and, calling a conference of all the nations, to endeavour to arrive at some more equitable distribution of population, and of the economic wealth of the Middle East. Since the break-up of the old Dual Empire, the position has been really terrible for a nation like the Hungarians. They never accept as final a Treaty which leaves them with only 9,000,000 of population and three millions of their nationals under three different foreign flags. They are separated by artificial frontiers from all the raw materials required for the development of industries, and are reduced to the position of an agricultural community. All that could be rectified without making any real or drastic change in the conditions of the Treaty. Owing to the fact that it was not recognised at the time that the Austro-Hungarian Empire was a sort of League of Nations within itself, with Free Trade within its boundaries, with only a tariff in regard to other countries, the whole economic hegenomy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire has been completely destroyed by the partition of that country into various States.
If only the League of Nations, which could do an immense amount of good, by confining itself to more simple issues, would take up the whole question of the. economic life of these people, and endeavour to arrange a modus vivendi amongst them, whereby they could obtain the raw material and coal they require from their neighbours, it would be doing a wonderful work, which would immensely add to its prestige. I thank the Committee for having listened to me so patiently, after so long a debate. I have only endeavoured to lay before the Committee some simple points of view I have gained by constant travel throughout the various countries in the last three or four years.
The speech to which the Committee has just listened makes one feel how unreliable can become the political philosophy of great travellers. The hon. and gallant Gentleman probably knows more of the surface of Europe than any Gentleman in this House, but I venture to say he knows less of the political philosophy than almost anyone of his colleagues. It is a great comfort to think that we have presiding over the Foreign Office at the present time a statesman who, probably, has in common
with the hon. and gallant Gentleman not one single principle. My purpose in rising at this hour is to ask whether the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to answer two or three of the questions which were put to him by my right hon. Friend the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon). We all fully recognise the necessity for reticence which the right hon. Gentleman has pressing so severely upon his mind at the present time, but I am sure he will know it is in no unfriendly spirit that I say he has carried the practice of reticence as far as the House of Commons can stand. He said nothing whatever in the course of his speech to-day about the Protocol. My right hon. Friend the Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. Fisher) made that an important part of a very moderate speech, the most statesmanlike speech with which he opened this discussion. No complaint whatever can be made of my right hon. Friend's inquiries, and I think we were entitled to have from the Foreign Secretary some statement with regard to the Protocol. I know the right hon. Gentleman has already in this House, in answer to a question on the 12bh February, treated the Protocol with far greater respect than the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just sat down, who thought it a subject much more for mirth than serious consideration. The Foreign Secretary said that:
His Majesty's Government are earnestly engaged in the consideration, of the great questions raised by the Protocol of Geneva."—[OFFICAL, REPORT, 12th February. 1925; col. 351, Vol. 180.]
What we ask of the right hon. Gentleman is, that he should give us some idea as to what is passing through his mind with regard to the Protocol. It is a matter of the greatest importance not only to us, but to France. I know how much respect he, quite rightly, has for the opinion of France, but one does not require to have a very vivid imagination to realise what must be passing through the minds of Frenchmen who have seen one means after another, which were supposed to ensure them security, turned down by this country or America. First of all the Tri-partite Treaty was abandoned through no fault of this country or France, nor indeed of Germany. France lost whatever security she expected to get out of that. The Treaty of Mutual Assistance also fell
through, and France lost whatever advantage she might have expected to gain out of that. Now France is leaning, as we have every reason to believe from the statement of her public men, upon the Protocol. How does the right hon. Gentleman intend to deal with the last, of these many supports to French security on which French statesmen are relying? Does he propose to jettison the whole thing, as has been suggested, or doer he intend to discuss the Protocol—not, possibly, in its present form, but, perhaps, with reservations—with the idea of adopting it and using it for the purpose of European peace; or is it his intention to abandon the whole thing once and for all? If I may make a practical suggestion to him, it would be that he should get what he can out of the Protocol, to do it, if necessary with reservations, making its operation more restricted than is at present devised, but, at all events, to regard it as an instrument which can lie of great service in the preservation of European peace and the solution of European problems in the future by peaceful, and not by warlike means.
Another point on which the right hon. Gentleman might give us satisfaction is in regard to the Ruhr. I am well enough acquainted with the difficulties of international negotiations to know how necessary it is that a Minister going to an international council should feel his hands as free as possible. They cannot be entirely free. He must be bound by the public opinion of his own country, and it is because this House is far and away the best instrument for collecting and expressing the public opinion of this country, that I regret he was as reticent as he has been in the Question hour on many previous days with regard to important matters of European concern. The right hon. Gentleman has the right to claim that when he goes abroad he should go with a free hand within those limits. One of the most difficult questions he will have to deal with will be the problem of the Saar, and yet when he discusses that subject he will find his hands tied, not by the Opposition in this House, not by the British Press, not by discussion by irresponsible persons outside, but by his own action last December. Ho announced to the House that in pass- ing through Paris last December he gave an undertaking to M. Herriot that he would support the nomination of M. Rault to the chairmanship of the Saar Commission for the succeeding year and yet, as has often been said, that is one of the danger spots of Europe—not the only one, but one. If I remind the Committee of many of the difficulties in the Saar and the suspicions which have been aroused in neutral public opinion, not only in this country but elsewhere, the Committee will realise how important it was that the right hon. Gentleman should have gone to Geneva with his hands untied by himself or anyone else.
For instance, neutral public opinion has been asking in many parts of the world why it is that the French Government is engaged on extensive developments in the coal mines of the Saar Valley, far beyond what is necessary for the payment of reparations in coal. It is asked again in many countries why it is that nearly 100,000,000 francs have been spent on building permanent custom houses on the Saar frontier. Again, it is asked why the mines administration should be erecting new schools for the education of German children. Again, why in the Saar has the garrison been exclusively of French troops? The local police force provided for in the Saar constitution has not been formed, or is only partially formed, owing to lack of funds. Is it really advisable that public order should be maintained in the Saar exclusively by French troops? Why is it in this area everything French is encouraged and everything German is discouraged? I do not know what the answer to these questions may be, but they are being generally asked not only in this country but on the Continent and in the United States of America. Suspicions have been aroused and the impartial administration of the constitution by the League of Nations has been called in question. The Saar problem is not likely to be solved at Geneva during the present spring, nor, it may be, for some time to come, but in 1935 a pl´biscite is to be taken. Whatever may be its result, unless it is taken under fair conditions, unless, as the League of Nations Council and Assembly has long foreseen, the administration is a strictly impartial administration up to 1935, I am sure it is no exaggeration to say the Saar will be one of the most difficult problems to be solved by British and French statesmen in that year, and perhaps for many years to come. Under those circumstances what was more necessary than that the right hon. Gentleman should have been able to go to Geneva to plead the cause of impartiality with his hands untied and without any of the embarrassment which comes from an appointment which is certainly open to question so far as the impartiality of the constitution under the League of Nations is concerned?
The other point I should like the right hon. Gentleman to allude to is disarmament. That was the subject of discussion here when the Air Estimates were first brought before the House. Time was not found that evening for any Debate on the subject of the comparative reduction of the Air Force. It was one of the most important subjects raised in the course of the Debate, but no one representing the Government was able to make any statement on the subject, excepting only that at the end of our discussion the Prime Minister assured us that when the Foreign Office Votes were taken a statement would be made by the Government on the subject of disarmament. Therefore, there comes a demand in this House that further light should be thrown upon that important subject by the Foreign Secretary, coming on the top of the promise given by the Prime Minister that this was the proper occasion on which a statement could be made, and that statement would be made from the Government Bench. I therefore ask the right hon. Gentleman if he would address himself to that subject for a few minutes to-night.
It is a question of prime importance for our own finances. My hon. and gallant Friend below me pointed out how much it means to us at home; how much our heavy charges for the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force will handicap the Government in dealing with great social questions, all of them dangerous, and nearly all of them dependent upon sound finance. But it is not only the situation at home that makes one press for an answer from the Government as to their policy in regard to disarmament: it is for the preservation of the peace of Europe. It is impossible for arms to be piled up. as they are now on the continent of Europe, without involving many new nations in financial troubles. These nations are proceeding from one deficit in their Budgets to another, and as their deficits accumulate, not all the Dawes Committees in the world will be able to solve their problems in the future. More than that, there is also a tendency with large troops on either side of new frontiers, where the races are intermixed, where all the minorities are restless and discontented, for these troops to be used in the solution of frontier questions by way of force.
It is necessary for the peace of Europe that disarmament should be one of the first subjects discussed at international conventions in the near future. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs was pleased that the whole of this policy is a peaceful policy; but it is necessary that proceeding alongside all the discussions which will take place at Geneva and elsewhere on the great problems which may give rise to trouble in the future, there should be a definite attempt made by the Government to deal with the comparative reduction of the armed forces of the Continental Powers, as well as our own. If the right hon. Gentleman feels that this is asking a little too much, we have, at any rate, the right to lay claim to his services in the cause of the limitation of armaments. We have to face not only the risk of what may be done by the armed forces already organised and in existence, many of them in position for purposes of defence or aggression, but what may be done in the direction of increasing armed forces, and we would ask him to take whatever steps he can take to prevent the increase of those forces, for the easing of European finance as well as for the easing of our own Estimates.
I see no way of dealing with these subjects except by making the fullest possible use of the League of Nations. The right hon. Gentleman will be in a strong position at Geneva. He will take the chair at the Council. It is our turn on the rota to find our representative in that responsible position. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will discharge it with a dignity which will bring credit to his office and to this country. But it is also necessary that he should proceed into these discussions with a League of Nations enthusiasm more pronounced than that of some hon. Members who support him on the benches opposite. I was a little surprised to hear the hon. and gallant Member opposite jeering, if I may say so, at the League of Nations, when all the leading members of his own party are supporters of the League of Nations. They are keen supporters of the organisations in this country which advocate the cause of the League of Nations. I cannot imagine anything ruder to be said of a leader of his own party, than that in regard to this serious policy they are guilty of camouflage. The right hon. Gentleman who is going to Geneva is not going with any idea of disguising his opinions or his enthusiasm for this the greatest instrument that has yet been devised for the solution of European problems without resort to arms.
All I ask of the right hon. Gentleman, in conclusion, is that if he is going to provide France with security, he will find that the only means of doing that will not be by exclusive alliances, but by alliances which are not exclusive, and which find their base and their limit within the League of Nations. It is necessary if the League of Nations is to succeed in its work that its prestige should be unshaken, and that it should command general unqualified international confidence. ff we diminish in any way that prestige and influence we shall undermine the faith which the world has in the League of Nations. Therefore it is not unreasonable to ask the right hon. Gentleman to use his high office as Chairman of the Council, and to do everything in his power to use the machinery which has already been created to enhance the prestige and power of the League of Nations itself.
We are supposed to be discussing, among other items, the League of Nations. On the other side of the House we have supporters of the League of Nations, and on this side of the House there is a mixed gathering whether for the League of Nations or the Protocol, but when we come to look for the putative fathers of the League of Nations we find that they have shown their respect for their child by staying away. There was an old English gentleman who summed up this House in three sentences. He said: "A politician kept his eyes fixed on the ground; a statesman raised his head to the middle distance; but a thinker looked like the psalmist and raised his eyes to the heavens." Judging from the speeches which we have heard to-night I think that most of them have been made by politicians who have kept their eyes on the ground and the immediate future. For myself, perhaps, I am a thinker. I should add that the English gentleman said that the thinker's may be the most ennobling point of view, but he is not the most practical man. Therefore, as I class myself as a thinker, it may be that I am not practical. But we are sending from this country a Member of this House to preside at this gathering, and we are told from the benches opposite, "He will fill the position with honour, but only as long as he does what we think is right." Is that the position of statesment? It is the position of cast-iron, narrow-minded taskmasters.
The result of that attitude has been that instead of being the gi'eat constitutional power which they used to be the party opposite are now scarcely a char-a-banc load in this House. On this side we have Members who are divided some for and some against, but my opinion is that if you believe in your party and your Government you should trust them, and when you cannot follow your leader the most honest thing to do is to clear out. The English gentleman to whom I referred said of the statesman that he lifted his head to the middle distance. So far as I am concerned I prefer to say that it is a most unfortunate thing that this has been forced on the Government to-day, and that it is a waste of time, a despicable waste of time. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Hon. Members may say "No," but were I a dictator in this country, had I been sending an ambassador away to-morrow, I would have said to him, "You shall take this day free and clear. You shall sit down and think, and realise your responsibility of to-morrow." Owing to the narrow-mindedness of certain hon. Members we have our ambassador here. I believe that, as a statesman, he will "lift his head to the middle distance," and will do what he believes to be right. I intend to judge him, not before he has taken action, but by the results of his work when he returns and gives us his report.
I other than grateful to my hon. and gallant Friend who has just spoken for the solicitude that he has shown on my behalf, and for his kindly suggestion that it would have been a good thing had I had a little more time to think over what lay in front of me, instead of spending my last day occupied with Parliamentary discussion. Let me say at once that I make no complaint of the attitude of the Opposition in demanding this day for this Debate. I am certain that if it had been possible under our Parliamentary rules they would not have insisted on the choice of this particular day, and that in accordance with (.he courtesy which we always show to one another, especially when there is any matter of public convenience concerned, they would gladly have met my convenience by taking an earlier day. Before I come to one or two questions of consequence, may I associate myself with what was said by earlier speakers in relation to two maiden speeches that I had the pleasure of listening to this afternoon. The hon. Member for Great Yarmouth (Sir F. Meyer) and the hon. and gallant Member for East Leicester (Captain Loder) both made notable contributions to our Debate, and if the other day, as we learned by a speech in another place, one of our great Parliamentary figures has gone from this House never to return to us again, we are doubly glad to think that within a day or two the youth of the House shows promise of maintaining its high traditions. May I add one word which is a little more personal? It is always an added pleasure to one of the old Members of this House when he sees the son of one of his former colleagues enter this arena and make his mark with his first speech.
It is not possible for any of us to sit without interruption through the whole of a Debate, and I had some other business to do in the course of to-day besides attending to the needs of nature. I am sorry that I missed the speech of the hon Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair), because I understand that that was more in the nature of a personal criticism than any of the other speeches. If I rightly apprehend the substance of the hon. and gallant Member's charge, it was that an answer which I gave to a supplementary question a little time ago was inconsistent with the answer which I gave to-day to the right hon. and learned Member for Spen Valley (Sir J, Simon) as to my attitude or as to the promise I had given to support the re-election of M. Rault for another year. I have not been able to refer to the particular answer, but I am under the impression that, in answering a supplementary question, I thought I was speaking on a wider issue than the original question. I did, as a matter of fact, have some doubt a little time afterwards, when the matter by some chance returned to me, as to whether my answer had been perfectly candid to those who might not be following in my exact train of thought, and I sent for the answer. But I looked only to the answer I had given to the original question and not to the supplementary question. If I misled hon. Members I hope they will take it from me that it was not intentional but was such an accident as will sometimes occur when supplementary questions are put, the full purport of which, or of one's answers to which, one does not see at the moment. I do not think I need say more about the subject. I myself think that the Saar is not a danger spot of Europe. I certainly would not dispute with the right hon. Gentleman who referred to danger spots, that there might be a good deal of irritation engendered there, on the one side or the other. I certainly am not prepared to defend all the cases of the Saar administration which have come under the review of the Council in the past, but I have said, or I think that I have said, that the administration is becoming better. I have satisfied myself that a great many of the criticisms of it are unfounded and that, if there be wrongs, they would stand a much better chance of being righted by the Council if those who plead that they are wrong would confine themselves to points, on which they really have a solid case to present for the consideration of the Council. Weighing all this, I came to the conclusion that I could do no better than support the re-election of M. Rault who has gained a great deal of experience and of whom, as I say, when I had a personal interview with him, I formed a more favourable opinion than I had conceived before. I therefore told M. Herriot that I should support his re-election.
I cannot range over the vast variety of subjects which have been discussed in the course of the Debate, but there are one or two big questions on which I should like to say a few words. Let me preface them, however, by saying that I think my own plea for a little consideration has perhaps concealed from the Committee the extent of the information which I imparted and the candour with which I spoke, and when hon. Members read my speech they may feel that it really contained more than at the present moment they have entirely given me credit for. The right hon. Gentleman talked as if I had told the House nothing. He talked as if I had said nothing of any consequence on any subject. [HON. MEMBERS: "The Protocol!"] I am glad to think it was only the question of the Protocol which was in mind, and I feel at once relieved from the charge of any reticence greater than that which my predecesssors have observed.
Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman allow me to pursue my argument and take it stage by stage and if I leave untouched some question in which he is particularly interested will he call my attention to it before I sit down? I am glad the right hon. Gentleman has indicated that his observation had reference only to the Protocol. The deliberations of His Majesty's Government on the Protocol have been continued for the last three months. Some papers of consequence reached me only this afternoon, while I was sitting on this Bench, but apart from the fact that our deliberations have only just come to the point at which any statement could possibly be made, it is important, I think, that that statement should be a considered statement, not thrown out in the course of a Debate ranging over a vast variety of subjects, but one adequate and complete in itself, and carefully considered beforehand. I expect to be called upon to make an announcement on the subject at the League meeting. I do not know in what form it will be best that the decision of His Majesty's Government should be conveyed. I am certain that when it is conveyed it ought to be accompanied by a reasoned statement of the arguments which lead us to our conclusion. Whether it will be more convenient that that reply should take the form of a letter to the Secretary-General of the League, to be communicated to the League, or whether it will be more convenient that it should take the form of a statement by me from my place at the Council, I propose to decide when I am able to take counsel with my colleagues at Geneva, but I shall arrange that, as far as I can, subject to any accident, the publication of any letter I write or any statement that I make shall be simultaneous there and here, and I have left instructions that a copy of the statement made or letter written on behalf of His Majesty's Government is at once to be laid as a Parliamentary Paper, to be made available to Members in the Vote Office.
I only make two observations on, remarks which have fallen from the two right hon. Gentlemen sitting one behind the other on those benches below the Gangway. The right hon. Member for West Swansea (Mr. Runciman), who spoke last, commended the signing of documents of the character of the Protocol with reservations. Well, I will say frankly that I am averse to encouraging the signature of international documents of absolutely fundamental importance, the documents which are the charter of Europe and of the world when critical occasions arise, with a string of separate and discordant reservations by each or by many of the Powers who sign. What is the good of signature? What is the public law of Europe when you look first at the document and think you know it, and then find that A has made this reservation, that B has made these two reservations, and that all the other letters of the alphabet have made reservations greater or less? The other observation which I have to make has reference to what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for the combined English Universities (Mr. Fisher). He said that the Protocol was founded on the great principles of arbitration, disarmament, and security. There can be no doubt, whatever the views of the Government about the Protocol, and the Governments of the Empire, about our interest in the questions of arbitration, disarmament, and security. I think I have said enough about security unless it is to add this, that all the indications which I have been able to obtain as to the state of opinion, even in those countries which are ready to sign or have signed the Protocol, leads me to the conclusion that if this country signed the Protocol to-morrow without amendment and ratified it the next day, we would not have settled the question of security, as it presents itself to those who are anxious about it.
What country is more ready to refer disputes, or has always referred disputes in which it was engaged, to arbitration than our own? What country has shown itself a better friend of arbitration than our own? We shall never be unfriendly to the principle of arbitration, even though there are some questions which perhaps at present cannot be referred automatically to compulsory arbitration, whatever may be the case when the world has moved further away from the troubles of yesterday, and when the League has become more powerful and a more unchallenged exponent, by the incorporation of those Great Powers who are still outside, in some League itself which speaks really for the whole civilised world. Again, why should there be any doubt of the attitude of His Majesty's Government on the question of disarmament? Disarmament, within the measure of what is possible and safe, is not the policy of this or that British Government; it is a national policy. We are all in favour of it, and we will do anything we can to promote it while we are responsible. But the order which my predecessor provided is a settlement first of reparations, then of security, and then of disarmament, and it was on that basis that the Assembly of the League framed its own. I do not say that that was the only basis on which it could have been done. It may have been. The fact that it did choose that basis, no doubt, makes it more difficult to make any alteration. But when and where we can promote disarmament the British Government will do it.
I come to a point I think not raised by the right hon. Gentleman who spoke last, but raised directly by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon). He interpreted an observation of mine in my first speech as implying that I recognised in our alliance a right of veto on the action which the British Government might think it right to take. The right hon. and learned Gentleman, as I pointed out at the time, did not quite correctly sum- marise my language, and he wholly and incorrectly expressed my thought, To say that there are certain questions which cannot be decided by ourselves, and that there are a larger series of questions which, even if we could decide them by ourselves, we think it better, proper, more loyal, to confer with our friends about before we settle them, is not to say that we are surrendering all right of private judgment. Nor is it reasonable or helpful to suppose that the only results of such consultations must be that, if there be a difference of opinion, that difference wiil persist in spite of the consequences or will only be resolved by the Hritish Government always surrendering its will to that of its Allies. No party, no co-operation even between Members of the same Government, is possible on the basis that one always has his own way and that when there is a difference it is his will that shall always prevail. It is not at all in that spirit that I pursue, and endeavour to arrive at, agreement with other nations, and particularly in those matters, I beg the right hon. and learned Gentleman to observe, where individual action by us, if unaccompanied by similar action by others, does not achieve the result which we wish to attain. I shall put it quite bluntly, lest I shall be again accused of saying nothing. If we walk out of Cologne merely in order that somebody else, not the Germans, may walk in, have we really advanced that agreement. that better atmosphere, which the right hon. and learned Gentleman desires as much as I do? Would the Germans themselves wish to see us go out if others went in? I am not entitled to answer for the Germans, but I may have my own opinion, and at any rate there is a case where, for effective evacuation, agreement must be arrived at. When I say that in order to make the evacuation effective agreement must be arrived at, I do not mean to deprive His Majesty's Government, or this country, of any right, in default of agreement, to take whatever action they may think fit and expedient in the circumstances which arise.
May I interrupt the right hon. Gentleman for a moment? My observation, may I remind him, was not addressed quite to the point he is making now? My observation was based upon his remark that he did not find it possible to answer the question whether Germany would have the opportunity of presenting her views as to the allegations of default, because, as I understood him, that would have to depend on the view taken by the Allies.
Of course, until there is agreement amongst the Allies, I cannot say whether the representatives of the Allied countries will agree to a meeting with Germany; but if the right hon. and learned Gentleman wants my personal opinion, again I give it to him. I want to take that course which gives the best hope, not of prolonging contests but of getting satisfaction, and of bringing the occupation to an end. That is what I said earlier in the day, and it is one of the things I had in mind when I said I thought, if right hon. Gentlemen looked at my speech, they might find there was more in it than they had supposed. I want to take the course which will best conduce to the object which I believe to be common to the whole House, the satisfaction of the just demands of the Allies, made under Treaty, with the consequence of the early evacuation of the Cologne area. I have this time, I think, answered clearly, and I hope with sufficient candour, the questions of importance which it was thought I had dealt with inadequately earlier, and there is no time for me further to correct my deficiencies, even if there were any.