I beg to move,
That, in the opinion of this House, it is an essential preliminary to the success of the forthcoming World Economic Conference that the British Government should give clear and unequivocal support to an immediate, universal, and substantial reduction of armaments on the basis of equality of status for all nations, and should maintain the principles of the covenant of the League of Nations by supporting the findings of the Lytton Commission on the Sino-Japanese dispute.
I think the House will agree—[HON. MEMBERS: "Do not read it"]—that I have very fresh in my memory the wishes of the House both as regards the length and time of speeches and the Rule against the reading of speeches. I believe I am not generally very long—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"]—and I never read a speech. To-day I will endeavour to be as short as is compatible with the importance of the subject. I think hon. Members will agree that before this Session comes to an end it is desirable that the House should express its opinion on the conduct of foreign affairs, more particularly in view of the Disarmament Conference, and the Motion on the Paper is one which we think the Government may well support. Everybody in the Houses in agreement that we desire disarmament, desire peace and want no more war, and I believe everybody would wish that our Government should give a clear and decided lead at the Disarmament Conference; but I think, also, that everybody must be conscious that there has been a grave feeling of disappointment throughout the country at the lack of progress made at the Disarmament Conference. There have been numerous letters in the Press and deputations to Ministers from distinguished people of all political opinions and of various occupations and standing. I will refer to one only, the deputation of the Archbishops and the heads of 10 other Churches to the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, when they expressed their very grave disappointment with the slow progress made at the Disarmament Conference.
In the Motion we have put on the Paper we have stated that we believe progress at the Disarmament Conference is an essential preliminary to success at the World Economic Conference. We put that down for a very definite reason. In what I may describe as the rather thick and depressing fog of the Prime Minister's speech on unemployment there was one small star of hope, his reference to the World Economic Conference. It was really the only sign of hope throughout the speech. It is perfectly clear that the World Economic Conference cannot succeed without a great measure of success at the Disarmament Conference. Anybody who has any knowledge of public opinion across the Atlantic knows that the United States of America are most unlikely to co-operate in the economic reconstruction of Europe unless they are convinced that the European States are in earnest about disarmament. I am aware that without a settlement of the big disarmament question you cannot get a satisfactory settlement. That is a condition precedent to anything like economic recovery.
In the second place, we link disarmament and the Manchurian question together, for the reason that security and disarmament must go together. I hold that the Manchurian question is the acid test of the League of Nations as a guarantee against attack. Everybody who has followed the discussions of the last 10 years on disarmament and on every international question knows that the problem of security is always uppermost. Those who support the League of Nations claim that it is only through the League that security can be attained. Therefore, when a question arises in which two Member-States of the League are engaged, the question as to whether the League has afforded that security is a vital one. You cannot expect States to rest on the security of the League if, in a leading case, they find that a Member-State has been denied security. I believe that the Manchurian question is a vital one, and that unless it is settled satisfactorily through the League of Nations we shall find that the League will lose its moral authority and that the world will slip back to the old system of individual armaments and sectional alliances. Widespread throughout this country, among lovers of peace, there has been great disappointment. An political parties interested in peace have felt that during the last year we had, to a very large extent, abandoned the moral leadership of the world on this question. I think that we have been weak and timid over the Manchurian question, and in regard to the proposals that have been made by country after country to the League of Nations relating to disarmament, we have been unhelpful, obstructive, evasive and pettifogging, and we have failed to offer constructive proposals ourselves.
I want to say a word, first of all, in regard to Manchuria, because I understand that the Lytton Report is to be discussed very shortly at Geneva. I think that we are all agreed as to the very great service which has been performed to the world by Lord Lytton and his cosignatories. The Foreign Secretary knows something about the difficulties of getting a unanimous report. He knows—although he may be too modest to say so—how much depends upon the chairman of such a commission. I am sure that he will realise the debt we owe to Lord Lytton. We may congratulate ourselves that the chairman who guided the deliberations of that great body was a member of our own country. What are the facts about Manchuria? In 1915 there were the Japanese 21 demands on China, our ally. Perhaps that was not noticed so much at the time, because we were then immersed in the War, but it was a very significant fact. The next fact came in 1922, when the Washington Nine-Power Treaty, of which Japan formed a part, was concluded. Let us remember what was done there. The Powers agreed to respect the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of China. I confess that if such a declaration had been made before the War I should have regarded those words as extremely ominous. In pre-war days, a declaration by certain Powers that they intended to respect the integrity of another Power was always a prelude to partition. We remember the case of Persia. According to the wording of Article 2 of the Kellogg Pact:
The high contracting parties agree that the settlement or solution of all disputes of whatever nature or of whatever origin should never be sought except by pacific means.
In September, 1931, the Japanese occupied Mukden and proceeded to overrun Manchuria. I do not think that that was more than a militarist try-on. We have to remember what the conditions are in other countries. In Japan, the soldiers have considerable influence over policy. As a word of caution I would like
to say that, in discussing international affairs, we are apt to think of every country as personified, such as England, France or Japan, and to forget that there are masses of people who do not agree with their rulers. In every country there are different lines of thought, some pacific and some militarist, and we should never try to make an indictment against a whole nation because of the acts of some of their rulers. We showed great weakness at that time. I believe, if our Government had given a bold lead to the League of Nations, that that militarist try-on would have failed, and that the masses of Japan would not have supported it.
I confess that I was puzzled by the attitude of the Foreign Secretary. I am not suggesting that the question was an easy one, but I was rather glad that the Foreign Secretary had chosen the branch of the law that he did. If he had been in the police force, and I blew a whistle for him because someone had suddenly overrun my house, I am afraid he would have stopped first of all to ask for the title deeds of the house, in order to send them round to a friend in Lincoln's Inn for investigation as to whether I had any title and whether there were any rights of way for other people. While my house was being overrun and my family were being ill-treated, an inquiry about title deeds would have been rather cold comfort to me. The Foreign Secretary said that he would not take sides, and I think that that was a definite encouragement to the Japanese militarists—again I do not say to the whole of the people of Japan. There followed the Government of Manchukuo, a Government finally recognised in September of this year by Japan prior to the issue of the report of the Lytton Commission. Well, you have the Lytton Commission's Report, a very detailed, very careful, very balanced report, and we want to know this afternoon what the Government are going to do on that report. They say it is a League of Nations matter, but we want to know what our representative on the League of Nations is going to do on the Lytton Report. I believe that that report gives a great opportunity to vindicate the authority of the League of Nations, perhaps the last chance of the League of Nations.
I suggest that there are very vital issues involved. First of all, the question of China itself and Manchuria itself. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman would be the last man to underestimate the question of whether equal justice is going to be dealt out to a weak oriental country. Secondly, I am sure the right hon. Gentleman perfectly well knows the effect which the action of the Western powers might have on the nations of the East. Thirdly, and most important of all, I say that the handling of this question is vital to disarmament. I do not believe that if we fail over Manchuria we shall get France to go in whole-heartedly for disarmament. I do not believe that you will get Germany to reject all idea of rearmament. I do not believe that you will get Japan to give up what her Imperialists desire. We ask the Government whether they will take the Lytton Report as the basis of their policy on this matter?
Next I want to turn to disarmament. I believe that we have reached a very critical stage in the post-War period. I think I may say that there are three stages in that period. There is, first, the time when everybody is sick of war, but the world is still full of hatred and unrest. There is the second stage when war horror is still strong, but when nationalist illusions and hatreds are weakened. There is a third period when war is beginning to be forgotten, and when militarism, bred too often by despair, is raising its head. I believe that we are, perhaps, at the very end of the second period, and are approaching the danger of entering the third. It seems to me that the Governments with a real desire for peace in the leading countries never seem to synchronise. As soon as you get a Left Government in one country, you get a Right Government in the other. Just at the time when you find one country standing on its feet for its rights, another comes along, perhaps suddenly and unexpectedly, in favour of peace. To-day we have to take advantage of these strong peace tendencies, which, I believe, still exist in this country, and I believe are stronger in France than at any time since the War. But it seems to me that just when France is most ready, our Government—not our country—has become tepid.
Let us look at the records of the Government at Geneva. Whenever proposals for disarmament come up, whether from Italy, Russia, the United States or elsewhere, there is always the tendency to say that they are not bona fide, that there is something -behind them. I think we have treated them, as I say, tepidly. We are proud to think that we have done a great deal for disarmament, but I think that our attitude has sometimes been, or at any rate appears to the outside world to be like the Pharisee who said
Lord, I thank thee, that I am not as other men"—
French, German or even Russians. I have reduced my armaments more than anyone else. I am ready to give tip submarines, which I do not want, and tanks over 20 tons which I have not got. But when it comes to action, when we pass from general declarations and come down to business, we are like the other Powers, we always
Compound for sins we are inclined to By damning those we have no mind to.
That is the attitude of every Power. See what has happened. You had the Italian proposal of Signor Grandi for the abolition of ships over 10,000 tons, aircraft carriers, submarines, tanks, heavy guns and fighting aircraft. There was not much response, but we put forward a counter-proposal. The right hon. Gentleman brought forward his famous qualitative disarmament resolution. We were to scrap or internationalise all those "aggressive" weapons which were prohibited to Germany under the Treaty of Versailles, but surely this was made farcical by Admiral Pound's declaration that a battleship was not a weapon of aggression. What can you do on that? We then had the Hoover plan agreed to in principle—another of those diplomatic phrases—but the whole plan was whittled away. All tanks under that plan were to be abolished. We said "Oh, no—all tanks over 20 tons;" that is to say, we keep the greater number. All bombing planes—" Oh, no, we have a limitation." Ships—there have been discussions about tonnage. Yet surely the vital thing in disarmament is that the United States and Great Britain should act together. The third point was the abolition of private armament manufacture. The whole thing was rather pooh-poohed—the idea that countries were at all influenced by
armament manufacturers. My hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) referred to a document at Question Time, and we have heard of Mr. Shearer and the Comité des Forges. We know the influence of armament firms in this country as well. Now we have a French plan. What will be our response to that? How far are we able to go ahead on that? I hope that it will not break down in the discussions of experts.
I will now say a word with regard to Germany's claim to equality of status. I think that the Foreign Secretary was most unhappy in the response he made to Germany's claim. It was suggested that that claim had been made at the last moment. That claim has been put forward month after month. The Foreign Secretary took a strictly legal line. I think it is generally admitted by everybody that on the broad principle we cannot deny equality of status to Germany, but the vital question comes in: Is that going to be done by disarmament or rearmament? Now we say that if we have equality, it would be absolutely fatal if you coupled that with rearmament. We must voluntarily accept the same limitations as those which we put on Germany. In passing, I would say that these are not easy questions, but I do think that efforts to answer them have been damped by the action of our representatives. What is the cause of the right hon. Gentleman's failure? The right hon. Gentleman has very great qualities. He is a great advocate, but it seems to me that when he gets to a Disarmament Conference he sometimes forgets for whom he is briefed. He seems to think that he is briefed on behalf of the Army, Navy and Air Force, and not the common people of this country.
It is a grave mistake, I think, to go into a Disarmament Conference surrounded by a retinue of military and naval experts. Suppose any of us were to go into a conference the main object of which was to reduce the over-consumption of intoxicating liquor, and we had with us a licensed victualler, a brewer and a distiller, and that after a few moral speeches we committed the practical details to these gentlemen. I do not think that the brewers and distillers want people to drink too much. I know that the Navy, Army and Air Force men do not want war, but the fact is that if you put people whose mind is all the time working on war, you are not going to get good results. I will tell the House what I would do if I were a delegate to a Disarmament Conference. I would take with me as experts, first, a man who had wintered in the Salient., or been through the Somme or Paschendaele. He could give a very good idea as to whether a tank was an aggressive weapon or not.
I am not denying that. I am saying I believe that in these things the truth is often hidden from the wise, and revealed to humble men, and that the ordinary, simple soldier who has been through it would give a better view than the man whose ideas are necessarily taken up with higher strategy. Then I would take for Naval Disarmament a man before the mast, an ordinary rating who had been torpedoed; and on the question of gas I would take a man who had actually been gassed. Then, if I wanted to discuss the question of the bombing of civilians by aircraft., perhaps I would take the mother of some child who had been killed by bombing. If other countries were furnished with similar advisers, I think we could speedily reach a very large measure of agreement on disarmament. It is a grave mistake that at these conferences we do not get representatives of all points of view in the country. If the League of Nations had originally been formed by delegations from assemblies such as this House, and people of like views in foreign delegations, we should have avoided this vitiation of so much of our foreign affairs by always lumping people together, and personifying the ordinary common people of this world with entities called nations, and therefore right away from realities.
The policy we ask the Government to carry out is, first of all, full support of the League of Nations. I say that the answer to this question is a vital one. We hope that they are going to support the Lytton Report. Secondly, acceptance of the principle of equality of status, provided there is no rearmament. I believe that there is a very great danger, even with the best intentions in the world, of permitting rearmament, in however small a degree it may be. On the other hand, we must get rid, after all these years, of this division of the nations into the sheep and the goats. That can be done by a qualitative disarmament on the basis of the limitations placed upon Germany by the Treaty of Versailles—limitations which were laid down and prepared by the greatest military and naval authorities of that time, and were based on the principle that, if you cannot get complete disarmament, you should, as far as possible, restrict aggression and make the defence stronger than the attack; and, further, by acting on the principle of accepting, at least, the measure of disarmament quantitatively proposed in the Hoover Plan. Also, we should stand, I believe, for the abolition of the private manufacture of armaments, and for a rigid inspection by an international body of the armament factories of all nations.
I am not a great believer in mere negations in this matter of war. I believe that what we have to do is to try to build up a constructive internationalism, and I believe that the most fruitful suggestion which has been made in this regard is that relating to the internationalising of civil aviation. If we can begin to build up these economic ties between nations on an international basis, if we can get an international civil aviation force—and I believe that an international civil aviation force would be a very fine force, with all the high traditions of all the air forces—we shall have taken a very great step forward.
I should wish that to be only a prelude to a far greater degree of internationalisation, particularly of transport, for, after all, modern warfare on this huge scale depends on transport, I would like to see an international mercantile marine, and the doing away with all navies save such naval forces as might be necessary to restrain piracy. I would like to see an internationalisation of all the great Continental railway groups, and I believe that the suggestion in this direction which has been made by France should be welcomed and supported by our Government. I know that there are objections to such a course, and I can sympathise with them, on the part of people who have been running these matters from the national point of view and thinking in terms of nationalities, but I have listened to a great many discussions on air warfare, and I do not believe that you have a defence against air warfare at the present time. I do not believe that you can restrain air forces as long as you have nationalised civil aviation, and I believe that, unless air warfare is restrained, civilisation will be wiped out.
The lesson of the difficulties of disarmament; the lesson of the Manchurian trouble, seems to be that the very thing which was maintained in the treaty with regard to China, that is to say, the absolute sovereignty of the individual State, will have to go into the past, and all the States will have to submit to a lessening of their sovereignty in favour of a greater sovereignty. I hope that we are going to have from the Foreign Secretary something that will bring hope to all lovers of peace in this country and in the world. We are discussing this question on the eve of Armistice Day, a day of peculiar solemnity, on which we necessarily recall more fully than at any other time the sacrifices that were made in those four years, and on which we re-dedicate ourselves to the cause of peace. While we are thinking of those friends of ours overseas in those wonderful cemeteries scattered up and down the war area, the Foreign Secretary can give a message that will cheer the hearts of those of us who are left by the feeling that we have been trying to carry out the wishes of those who have gone beyond.
A day was secured for this Debate by the Opposition on the ground that they wished to move a Vote of Censure, and, as they declared that to be their objective, good Parliamentary custom establishes that they are entitled to the day. I think that in any case it is well that we should have a discussion on these gravely important matters, but I confess to a, little surprise on learning from the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down that that which was got for the purpose of moving a Vote of Censure on the Government is to be regarded as nothing more than an opportunity for everybody to accept the Resolution which has been moved. In fact, the Resolution, subject to certain observations which I wish to make, is couched in terms that will appeal to all, and the Vote of Censure has completely disappeared. I will deal first with the Manchurian matter, and here I have a short statement to make as to the present position of the Manchurian question which I think has been overlooked by my hon. Friend in the speech that he has made. The Lytton Report is available to Members in the Library. I think that half a dozen copies have been there provided, and I very much hope that most Members of the House have found time to study it. I regret that it was not possible to make it a Parliamentary Paper, but it has never been the custom, even in extravagant days, to distribute gratis to all Members of Parliament documents which are not produced by the Government or under its authority. There are, however, as I have said, some copies in the Library.
I agree entirely with the hon. Gentleman that it would be difficult to praise the Lytton Report too highly. It is one of the most readable documents; its moderation is very striking; it is written with a real sense of sympathy and of true statesmanship, and with what is very necessary in this connection, namely, a real sense of perspective. I remember very well an earlier Debate in the House in the course of which I urged that it was necessary to listen to the case for both sides, and I received extremely short shrift from some hon. Gentlemen opposite. No one, however, can read Lord Lytton's Report without seeing that he at least has been anxious to study this question and to present it fairly from both points of view. The Report is remarkable from the fact that, besides being a unanimous report, it is a report to which the chosen representatives of five different nations have lent their signatures. I was very much pleased to hear the hon. Gentleman as my colleague on the Indian Statutory Commission point out that that report also was unanimous. The Lytton Report is specially to be regarded because it was unanimous. I thought then, and I think now, that that is a most excellent maxim, and I hope he will extend it in reference to the Indian report to all his friends on that bench. This Lytton Report represents the view of five nationals, including, as the House will observe, a United States member, Major-General McCoy, and therefore, unquestionably, it is a document of very great importance indeed.
I wish to associate myself with what has been well said by the hon. Gentleman about Lord Lytton himself. The hand of Lord Lytton runs throughout the document, and we ought to remember that the greater part of the report was drafted by him from a hospital bed in Peking in the month of August, that is to say, a time of year when the ordinary resident of Peking, if he can afford to do so, flies off to the hills or the sea. I feel that the whole House would wish to let Lord Lytton realise how gratefully we regard, not only his tact and his leadership, but his courage and his persistence. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"]
I come now to the point where I part company from the hon. Gentleman in his speech. He has spoken very slightingly of the action that has been taken in the Manchurian matter, and particularly of the part which the British representative is supposed to have played, but, in fact, the appointments to the Lytton Commission, the methods of the Commission, and the inquiry conducted by the Commission, from first to last represent the policy which was adopted as the outcome of discussions at the League with complete unanimity, and to no small extent at the instigation of the British representatives. The appointment of the Commission was resolved upon in December, 1931. It was important to choose the best possible representatives, and that took, I think, a month. They arrived in the Far East in February of this year. They worked very hard, and visited very widespread areas. Their report was agreed and was signed as an agreed report in September, and it was released to the Japanese and Chinese Governments on the 1st October. Without in the least detracting from the personal work of these devoted men, I am entitled to say that the report is the out-come of League policy about Manchuria.
The hon. Gentleman asks us by this Resolution here and now to declare what action we will take on the findings of the Lytton Commission. If it were not for one circumstance, which I will mention, I should have no hesitation in giving him a very straight answer on that point, but I imagine that the hon. Gentleman is aware of the following facts. At the end of September, just before the Lytton report was about to be released to the Japanese and Chinese Governments, at a meeting of the Council of the League at Geneva a request was made by Japan for a short interval, to enable the Japanese Government to study the report when they received it, to prepare their own observations, and to deliver them to Geneva before the Council undertook the examination of the report. If there had been a rejection of that request, if indeed there had been any member of the Council who voted against it, I could quite understand the suggestion that to-day, on 10th November, before the Japanese observations have been received, this Government should pronounce judgment. The hon. Gentleman is very fond of twitting me with being a lawyer, though I am not conscious of the fact that it is necessarily a disadvantage when you are trying to keep a straight head in difficult affairs. But I have to lay down this legal proposition—and anyone may challenge it who likes—that it is not fair and it is not right, after you have promised to listen to and to read the observations of one of the parties, to pronounce judgment before you have ever seen them. I will leave that entirely to others. As a matter of fact, at the meeting of the Council of the League the Chinese representative was present. He took up a position which I sympathise with entirely and tried to support. He said, "If there is to be any postponement, let us have a definite period fixed; otherwise, we may have unlimited delay."
The President of the League on that occasion was Mr. de Valera. He was not particularly anxious to assist the British Government in the matter, he was acting with complete impartiality to all concerned, and he made a most admirable Chairman. He took the matter in hand and discussed what would be reasonable, and a compromise was reached which was not opposed by anyone and, as a result, it was decided that down to 14th November should be allowed for the Japanese to prepare and to present their document, that it was to be circulated and received on the 18th, and Mr. de Valera himself acting, as he did throughout, with the most admirable impartiality to everyone, has decided that there is to be a meeting of the Council on 21st November after we have studied the Japanese document.
I think I carry the whole House with me when I say it is not reasonable and it is not right to ask the British Government, when that is what we have all pledged ourselves to do, to come here on 10th November and satisfy a demand, however reasonable in itself, when we have never seen the document which the Japanese are now sending to Geneva and when we promised, as every other member of the Council has equally promised, to give no decision until we have seen it. Therefore, I content myself with saying that I associate myself entirely with what has been said as to the striking character of the Lytton Report. No one can fail to be impressed with the fact that such a document should have been reached unanimously, but I am sure the House will agree with me when I say that we are bound in this matter to play fair, having promised to do it. What there may be in the Japanese observations I do not know, but I am perfectly determined for my part not to commit my country to any judgment on the subject until I have heard what they have to say. We shall continue to act, as we have acted throughout, in loyal co-operation with the League of Nations on the whole matter. It is the greatest possible mistake to suppose that good is done by individual preliminary declarations. We shall hope to act, we mean to act, with the League of Nations as a whole, and we have a further ground for satisfaction in knowing that, anxious as this situation is, unsatisfactory as it is in many respects, we have in this matter been able to act not only side by side with other members of the League of Nations but in the closest co-operation and good faith with the United States of America. So much for the part of the Motion which deals with the Lytton Report.
I come to the other and tremendous question of disarmament. The hon. Gentleman has repeated his credo. I think almost every second sentence that he pronounced declared his belief in this, that and the other and, while he speaks always with the greatest courtesy and politeness, his disbelief in me. I must put up with that and endeavour to deal with the matter on broader lines. Let us come straight to the heart of the question. There is a great question raised which is often expressed in the phrase "equality of status." It assumed very great im- portance when Germany withdrew from the Disarmament Conference at Geneva in July. It is formulated very carefully in the German Note which was addressed to the French Government at the end of August, and it occupied, and rightly occupied, a great place in the very forefront of the attention of all of us who really care for promoting by practical means the cause of reconciliation and peace in Europe. I cannot help thinking that in our intense desire to solve this problem we sometimes simplify a little too much.
Equality of status, as the present German Government understands it and expounds it, involves not one thing but two things, and we must have a clear view about both. It involves, first of all, that to which the hon. Gentleman has referred, the question of the list of permitted weapons, the question of whether the world shall go on on the basis that there are instruments of war forbidden to the defeated Powers and permitted to the rest of the world. That is only one of the two applications of this principle which must he steadily examined. The other claim put forward in the German Note is a claim to reorganise German man-power by, for example, reducing the period of service of their long-service army from 12 to six years, or perhaps less, the establishment of a militia for the training of 40,000 men for three months in each year, together with a number of other things. I am not pronouncing either for or against these things at the moment. What I am saying is that anyone who really wants to inform himself or who is going to take part in meetings and discussions, as many of us will be doing in the next few days, about disarmament, ought to have clearly in mind that those two things are involved and not only one; first, the question of the permitted weapons, and, secondly, the question of the reorganisation of German man-power.
Both those questions were raised in the German Note which was addressed to the French Government. It was, so we understood, the original intention of the German Government to enter into confidential relations with France and to initiate discussions with France alone before opening the question with others. Now that we see how things have been working out, I take the liberty to say I think that method was unfortunate. This is a matter which affects others besides Germany and France. It lies at the root of reconciliation in Europe, and I believe that there are other countries, our own included, which could contribute an influence and a help about this which makes it a very undesirable thing to keep it as a simple Franco-German discussion. Disclosure of the fact that there was to be this special discussion led to what I would call long-range firing, some of it misdirected or misunderstood, whereas what was wanted, and what is wanted now, is a meeting face to face to find a basis on which Germany can return to the Conference with honour to herself and advantage to us all in order that we may between us cleave out a way to peace.
Whatever may be wrong in the conduct of this difficult matter—none of us is always right—there is one thing I am perfectly clear about, and I hope the House will support me in it. I claim that the British Government did perfectly right in making strenuous efforts to bring these parties together. We took some risk. It is not a very pleasant thing for a Foreign Minister or a Prime Minister to make a proposal for a meeting that does not come off. We knew the risk about it, but what we felt was that this thing will go from bad to worse unless we can get Germany to enter into friendly and personal discussions not only with her neighbours in France, but with Italy and ourselves and, we hope, with the United States, and we took the risk of saying that we were ready at any time, as soon as possible, to facilitate that meeting. We did it, not for the purpose of supplanting the Disarmament Conference, not with any desire to put. Geneva in the shade, but because, believe me, if you are going to restore the situation which has been so seriously dislocated, it has to be done by communications between those Powers and those statesmen who are themselves intimately interested in the immediate adjustment of the difficulty. We had the hope, and I am within the letter of the truth when I say we had reason to hope, that Geneva would have been found to be a place where this meeting might have taken place, and it would have had this great advantage, that, obviously, it is much easier for the United States to be avail- able and to take part in such discussions in Geneva than anywhere else, because the United States are already there and are deeply interested in the Disarmament Conference. I can only say we still hope that that may happen.
In the meantime, there are one or two most important events which have occurred on which I should like to say a word. First of all, I should like to present to the House one or two reflections upon what is called the French plan. It has not, in fact, as yet been produced as a plan, but it has been the subject of a speech made by M. Herriot in the French Chamber, where he secured a great majority in its support. It has been the topic of a more detailed explanation given the other day at Geneva by M. Paul-Boncour, the head of the French delegation. Whatever may be said about the details—I will go further and say whatever may be said about some of the structural features of that plan, the first thing I think we all ought to recognise is that it is inspired by a spirit to reach agreement with Germany which we cannot but commend. There are three points about it that I will mention. First of all, it represents a definite effort to meet the German claim for equality of treatment. That is the reason, no doubt, why, as far as one can learn, in some quarters in Germany it has been received with a good deal of approval. The proposal which it contains, drastic as it is, that the home armies of the different nations of the Continent shall all be based upon the same principle of short-term enlistment is, at any rate, an effort at equality. I have noted that one of the observations made about the plan in Germany is this: whether it is a good scheme or a bad scheme, at any rate, it is an admission that the clauses of the Treaty of Versailles are not sacrosanct. That is a feature which is of very great interest in connection with the French plan.
There is a second feature of it which must mention—and which I am certain the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) with his record of service and his great contribution to the cause of peace by the method of developing peaceful pacts, will have closely noted—the proposal of the French plan for pacts of non-aggres- sion to include European Continental nations, which, owing to their proximity to one another, are more particularly exposed to certain common risks. That is a proposal which it seems to me ought to have the heartiest sympathy of Britain. In particular, we note that the French proposals do not, as we understand them, ask from this island anything further than the engagements we have already entered into on the basis of the Covenant and the Locarno Treaty.
Let me take the opportunity of saying—and I think that I speak for all here when I declare this—that we take those engagements—the engagements in the Covenant and the Locarno Treaty—seriously. It is an essential part of British policy, however the Government may be composed, that every such engagement given by us must be entered into, not lightly or inadvisedly, but discreetly and carefully. It is for that very reason that we note with much satisfaction that the French plan is not calling upon us to enter into further engagements of that sort. I think that I am entitled in this connection to remind the House of the declaration made the ether day at Toulouse by M. Herriot. It was quoted with great effect by the Lord President of the Council at the Guildhall last night, because it is a testimony of which any Briton may be proud. M. Herriot said that it had never occurred to him to doubt the signature of Great Britain. Then let us be very sure that we never give our signature unless we really mean it.
In the third place, the French plan contained a reference to the doctrine initiated by Mr. Stimson in the phrase, that the signature of the Briand-Kellogg Pact involves a change in the whole conception of neutrality. That is to say, if war, as an instrument of notional policy, has been outlawed by the signatories, then, in that case, it can no longer he a matter of pure indifference to the nations not involved in a future conflict that an aggressor nation has resort to war. I only wish to make this observation upon that very important declaration of Mr. Stimson. The full implications of that doctrine need most careful thinking out, for what is involved is nothing less than an important branch of international law which deals with the rights and the obligations of neutrals. Things of that im- portance cannot possibly be disposed of in a phrase or in a speech, but in the view of His Majesty's Government this requires to be analysed in all its bearings and consequences, and, important as the conception would be in any case, the House, I am sure, will agree with me that it is more than ever Important because a thoughtful American statesman coming from the United States, which is not a member of the League of Nations, has thrown this idea into the common pool and invited us to reflect upon it.
The comments which I have just made on the French plan lead me to deal directly with the attitude which, as it seems to us, the British Government ought to take up in reference to the German claim for equality. Let me in this connection first say that, in dealing with the German claim to equality of rights in the matter of armaments, as it is presented in the German Note of 29th August, it is very necessary, as it seems to the Government, to insist that the main purpose of disarmament is to ensure a lasting peace. Disarmament has other advantages; it saves money. But, after all, that is the first and primary object which everybody desires. The limitations which were imposed by Part V of the Treaty of Versailles upon Germany, and the corresponding limitations imposed by other treaties on other defeated Powers, were imposed, wisely or unwisely, as a means of securing in the circumstances then existing the peace of Europe.
I have never at any stage hesitated to proclaim that undoubtedly these limitations imposed upon Germany were intended to be and were expressed to be the precursor of the general limitation of armaments. The hon. Gentleman opposite really did me an injustice when he thought that the British Note was full of legal propositions. I aimed at getting rid of a series of merely legal propositions in order to insist that the principal issue is a moral and not a legal issue. I must be allowed at this point to say that our own Government—I mean by that the Government of this country however it may be composed—should not be under any special reproach in this regard, for our country has, in fact, made immense reductions and sacrifices. I cannot put the point better than it was put by my
right hon. Friend the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) who was with me at Geneva. He made a speech on the very day I think that the Resolution of July was being passed. This is what my right hon. Friend, then my colleague, but alas my colleague no longer, said on behalf of the National Government:
On the basis of the figures published in the League Armaments Year Book it will be found that the expenditure of the United Kingdom on armaments has been reduced between the year 1925 and the year 1930 by 15 per cent. Since that date further reductions have been made which give a total reduction of 20 per cent. in seven years. If a simple cut were made in armaments expenditure on the basis of the present year, that would not represent an equal reduction as between countries which in recent years have largely reduced their budgets and countries which have not done so. The former would be required to make their cuts twice over, whereas the latter would only be required to make them once.
My right hon. Friend went on:
That has a most important bearing upon the whole system of international conferences, the success of which is so momentous to the organisation of mankind. After an interval of years, there will probably be a second Disarmament Conference, and if, at the present time, no account is taken of reductions already effected, when the second conference comes nearer various States which might be in a position to reduce their expenditure would wait until the year of the conference for fear credit should not be given to them for such reductions. From the point of view of precedent, therefore, and taking a wide view of the future, it is essential that the Conference should not ignore the reductions already made.
I am the very last to use that quotation or to make this observation with any idea of getting out of the duty of further reduction. But we have come, as the Lord President of the Council said last night, to the end of unilateral reduction. If allowance is made for what has been done by every successive Government during recent years in this country, we are ready along with others, in an international conference, to promote drastic and effective reductions yet further. I do not want to quote figures from other countries, but if those figures were examined it would be found that there are some prominent countries where the claim which we are entitled to make for successive reductions over the last half-a-dozen years certainly could not be made. I say, therefore, that we recognise that the limitations which were imposed upon Germany were intended to
be and expressed to be the precursor of the general limitations of armaments.
How are we to deal with the situation presented by the German claim? Here is the position. Now, when an agreement between the nations of the world for the reduction and limitation of armaments is being initiated, Germany claims—I think she very naturally claims—that the methods of limitation which have been applied to her, or which are to be applied to her in the future, should no longer be different in nature from the limitations applied to the other nations. I speak with the authority of the Government when I say that the United Kingdom Government have throughout been ready and anxious to join the other Governments represented at Geneva, including Germany, in framing a Disarmament Convention which would fairly meet that claim. There has been hesitation. But why has there been hesitation? Any hesitation which might arise in any quarter does not proceed from the desire to inflict upon Germany permanent inferiority of status. It is said by ex- tremists here and there, but it is not the general intention. The hesitation has proceeded from anxiety as to the use which might be made of the new situation and from fear of the resulting dangers which might threaten the tranquillity of Europe. That anxiety may be unfounded, but our Governments would most strongly urge that it is, nevertheless, the highest wisdom to endeavour to remove that anxiety.
We would suggest that side by side with the fair meeting of Germany's claim to the principle of equality the European States should join in a solemn affirmation that they will not in any circumstances attempt to resolve any present or future differences between themselves by resorting to force. The world is entitled to this specific assurance. The acknowledgment by others of the moral right of Germany to parity of treatment with other nations, entails upon Germany, along with others, the acceptance of this corresponding obligation. If the hopes which we have and the belief which is so widely held as to the honest and friendly purposes of the great German people are justified, we feel that there is no reason why that assurance should not be given, and I do not associate myself with those who may be tempted to say that an assurance of that sort is not worth having. It is worth having, for the disregard of such an assurance on the part of anybody would mobilise world opinion and domestic opinion to a large extent against the disregard of that assurance.
On the assumption that some such assurance is given, I wish to state, quite definitely, the view which our Government take as to the way in which the German claim for equality of right should be met. I am not describing a programme or giving details, but there are three large heads to be considered. First, there is the question whether the limitation of Germany's armament in the future is to be contained in some special document which is binding upon her, like a peace treaty, or whether the limitation of Germany's armament is to be expressed in the same document and by the same sort of process as the armaments of others. Our view is that the limitation, of Germany's armaments should be contained in the same Disarmament Convention as that which will define the limitations of the armaments of others. That is to say, that the Articles of Part 5 of the Treaty of Versailles, which at present limits Germany's arms and armed forces, would be superseded, and Germany's limitations would be arrived at by the same process and expressed in the same document as those of other countries. That is equality of treatment as regards documents and methods.
Secondly, comes this point, and it is a very grave one. It has to do, not with documents, but with the duration of the Convention. We take the view that the newly expressed limitations in the case of Germany should last for the same period and should be subject to the same methods of revision as those of other countries. It would not appear to be practical politics, and indeed I believe it would produce an exactly opposite result from what some people imagine, if anyone at this time of day tried to prescribe a perpetual proscription for one great people while for themselves and their neighbours they claimed merely a limited period. We come, thirdly, to the most complicated and difficult subject of equality of status from the point of view of the instruments of war that are permitted to the nations of the world. I will do my best, Mr. Speaker, to obey your injunction, but here I would read a passage and would say: Germany has declared that she has no intention of rearming, but that she merely desires that the principle should be acknowledged that the kind of arms permitted to other countries ought not to be prohibited to herself. If equality of status is to be conceded, this principle must be acknowledged, and the United Kingdom Government are prepared to declare their willingness, in co-operation with the other members of the Disarmament Conference, to see that principle embodied in a new Convention. By what means and by what stages this principle can be applied must be a subject of detailed discussion at Geneva.
In that discussion it is absolutely essential that Germany should join. In the meantime may I, on behalf of the Government, make two points? First, what is the object of the Disarmament Conference. Its object is to bring about the maximum of positive disarmament that can be generally agreed upon, and not to authorise, in the name of equality, increases of armed strength. The second observation I would make is this, that the full realisation in practice of the principle of equality cannot as a practical matter be achieved all at once. Nothing but disagreement would arise if that was attempted. Confidence is what it depends upon. Confidence in the further application of the principle will grow as it is seen that the peace of the world has been made more secure by taking the first step. Therefore, the Government conceive that what is needed is a practical programme of stages, each subsequent step being justified and prepared for by the proved consequences of what has gone before. Of course, a similar principle would be applied in the case of Austria, Hungary and Bulgaria.
I have endeavoured, I hope at not too great length, to make clear to the House what is the view which the Government take of the principle involved in this all-important matter. I cannot attempt, and I do not think the House would ask me, to declare in a cut and. dried plan, in this detail and that, how this should be worked out. In the first place, the German Note recognises that the method of application is a matter for discussion and negotiation, and our object is to get Germany back to the Conference to discuss it. In the second place, I am following exactly the method that was followed in France; that is to say, a statement was made in the French Chamber, which I am glad to think received overwhelming support, as I hope our statement will receive to-day. Thereafter a declaration in more detail was made at Geneva, but the full French plan is not yet available. We shall and we must take the same course. I am hoping to go back to Geneva at the end of the week. It is only right that the Disarmament Conference itself should have as early an opportunity as anybody to learn what are the methods and processes by which we suggest this plan might be worked out, but the House of Commons is entitled to have, and the Prime Minister authorises me to say it that it shall have, at the same time and no later, information in exactly the same detail.
Allow me to say, lastly, that what we have attempted to do is in no sort of way to set up a rival to anybody else's plan. I know very well that you can earn an immense amount of popularity at Geneva and elsewhere by announcing that you have a plan. The thing that is really important is to bring the best possible friendly suggestion to a common discussion for the purpose of bringing Germany, France, Italy, America, ourselves and the smaller States round the Table again to apply the principles of disarmament which I have announced. I am very willing to incur the reproach, if reproach it be, that there is nothing spectacular in this mode of procedure. What we are endeavouring to do on behalf of the country, and we ask for the confidence of the House in our efforts to do it, is not to achieve some spectacular success but to transmute into practical and effective form the overwhelming desire and the passionate hope of the British people to see disarmament an accomplished fact.
I think all hon. Members will have derived a great deal of comfort from at least that portion of the speech of the Foreign Secretary to which we have just listened. We must all recognise that the right hon. Gentleman's statement has shown a genuine and constructive effort to achieve what has hitherto defeated the combined brains and the combined attempts of various Powers to achieve, some constructive form of disarmament which would really make for peace. As the right hon. Gentleman has said the object of disarmament that he proposes, is peace. Disarmament in itself and by itself is of singularly little avail if the spirit behind it is not the spirit and the will of peace. You can make and enforce agreements but; unless people want to keep them, and unless they are prepared to do so willingly, any country can drive a coach and four through them, while adhering strictly to the letter of them. Anyone who has been in Germany recently knows perfectly well that, although the disarmament clause of the Treaty of Versailles has reduced Germany's armaments enormously, it is possible to keep up a body of trained and disciplined men, not trained actually in the use of arms but ready at any moment to be so trained and to become an effective military force, and to do that within the limitation and within the letter of the disarmament clauses of the Treaty.
Bearing that in mind, it is useless to imagine that the mere signing of disarmament documents is going in itself to bring peace. Therefore, I welcome the statement by the Foreign Secretary that he realises that it is only by the peace spirit, by stimulating a genuine desire for the settlement of grievances, that this disarmament is going to be of service. That brings me to another point. He said that if the German claim for equal status was to be recognised it must mean that all the Powers in the new Disarmament Pact must guarantee that they would not in their relations with each other in any circumstances resort to force. We shall have to put something effective in the place of force to which they can resort for the settlement of differences. I should like the House to consider what is the trouble that is preventing us at the present time from getting the disarmament that we all say we want and that f think we all genuinely do want. It really amounts to the grievances which arise from the status quo, from the Treaties, on the one hand, and on the other hand from the fear of certain people that what they gain by the Treaties may be lost if they are not considered inviolate. The trouble during the last 14 years has arisen because no proposal for altering the status quo has ever received proper consideration Those who are discontented with the status quo, whenever they have put forward a desire to alter the conditions under which they live, have always had the feeling that the dice were loaded against them.
I spent a good deal of the summed holidays in Germany, and among all classes of the community there the feeling is that life under the conditions of the Treaty of Versailles is perfectly intolerable and that an ultimate revision of that Treaty must be conceded if they are to go on. I am not commenting as to whether they are right or wrong, but that is the feeling of the whole German people as expressed to me by Communists and Social Democrats, by the highest and the lowest. I well remember a discussion with a Communist deputy of the Reichstag who talked of internationalism, but made it perfectly plain that he only meant internationalism after the Treaty has been revised. I do not blame him. Like every other country Germany is in an appalling economic situation, and there is no question that there are many provisions of the Treaty which are perfectly indefensible. No one who knows anything about Central Europe would suggest that the Treaties are perfect and cannot bear alteration. The point I want to emphasise is this, that the great block to peaceful settlement and genuine disarmament is the feeling which is steadily increasing, that the League of Nations has not formed an effective safety valve for the ventilation of grievances. Wrapped up in that feeling is 90 per cent. of the trouble with regard to disarmament.
Let me say a word about the Manchurian question, because it is germane to this discussion. A League of Nations in which you can trust and to which you can sacrifice some portion of your national sovereignty must be a League of Nations which is going to face difficulties and not decline to act until someone has taken an illegal action. Without reviewing the Manchurian question, roughly the situation was this; that Japan felt that she was suffering intolerable grievances, that the League of Nations would do nothing to put them right and she took the law into her own hands. That may be wrong, but, nevertheles, it is a spirit which will come up more and more unless we get into the League a determination to face difficulties and see them through, however unpleasant.
There are burning questions all over Europe to-day which have to be settled. If they are going to be shelved and put on one side, or an award given in favour of the stronger Power, then all the disarmament in the world is perfectly useless because you will have a feeling of indignation and intolerable discontent which may sweep away all the effects of your peaceful agreements, your pacts, your legislation and disarmament. I feel sure that the Foreign Secretary will do everything in his power in this respect. I do not often agree with Mr. de Valera but there was a great deal in what he said in his Presidential Address at the League of Nations, and I hope that side by side with the disarmament proposals of the Government, and the actions of the Government, they are going to get the conciliation machinery working properly. If we can get the peoples of the world to substitute some other form than armed forces for settling their differences then they will be only too pleased to disarm quicker than treaties and machinery can be devised. It is the feeling, a growing feeling, that there is no alternative way for getting a difference settled except by taking over that action, and if we can once get rid of that feeling we need have no fear that the cause of disarmament will suffer.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Foreign Secretary, in his opening sentences, commented on the terms of the Motion upon which the discussion is taking place and said that he thought it was desirable that a discussion should take place on these important matters. During the last two or three days we have been discussing unemployment on non-party lines, and I think it is equally desirable that this discussion should proceed on the same lines. Whatever the Motion may be I hope there will be complete agreement that the discussion to-day is well worth while, because we have had a statement from the Foreign Secretary which, I think, is an important addition to the alleviation of the European situation which has taken place during the last few weeks. If I had been asked a few weeks ago what I thought of the European situation I should have had to say that I felt it was more anxious and more alarming than it had been at any time since the War, but I fell to-day that we are entitled to take a more hopeful view of the situation, and the statement of the Foreign Secretary will contribute to that end. I was pleased to hear his observations with regard to the new French plan. It is difficult to discuss or pronounce a final judgment upon it, but the proposal for the reduction of the long service armies a reduction in the period of service for conscript armies; if it is a step to organise them on a militia basis is one which will be heartily welcomed. I do not wish to be critical, we have not yet seen the agreement, but a mere change in the character of the personnel of these armies without any reduction in weapons would not be an acceptable proposition. I was pleased to hear the Foreign Secretary say that these proposals in his opinion were helpful and that they would receive the careful and sympathetic examination of His Majesty's Government.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman was pressed to give certain information with regard to the policy which has been pursued in Manchuria. I think it is clear that it is impossible for the Government to say anything more than they have said to-day. We are fully conscious of the gravity of the situation there, and I should like to associate myself with every word he said as to the statesmanship and personal contribution of Lord Lytton to that very important State document which the Commission has produced. In Manchuria a very vital decision has to be taken in the not very distant future, and in Europe, in relation to the German claim for equality of status, an equally grave decision has to be taken. What is involved in these decisions is really the survival or disappearance of the whole fabric for the maintenance of peace in the world which we have been seeking to build up since the War. In that connecnection may I recall with satisfaction the statement made by the Lord President of the Council last night at the Guildhall, when he said:
We are as desirous as any other country in the world to proceed and proceed rapidly, with that substantial disarmament throughout the world which we believe is essential to the cause of peace.
If those words have any meaning they mean that the Government policy is based on the maintenance of the Covenant of the League of Nations, and in my judgment that is essential in regard to the decision which has to be taken on the Far Eastern question and on the German claim for equality of status. The Foreign Secretary quoted from a speech made by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George).
That was just a slip of mine. I only mention the matter in order to explain that my right hon. Friend the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) is absent to-day at an engagement which he made when it was supposed the House would not be sitting to-day. I do not regret that the German claim for equality of status has been made at this time. Nobdy can say that the world has been over-hasty in the matter of disarmament or in carrying out the pledges involved in the Treaty of Versailles. It may be argued that the time taken is a measure of the difficulties of the situation. I do do not regret that the German claim has been made now because it will put an end to the constant delays and bring the matter more quickly to a satisfactory conclusion. I am in complete agreement with what the Foreign Secretary said as to the spirit and method in which the German claim should be met, and in particular that in any Treaty or Covenant which may be arrived at to deal with the German claim there should be no separate document for Germany, but that every nation included in the Treaty of Versailles should be included and its position defined in the new Treaty. That will go a long way, I hope, towards bringing about an amelioration of the tension, so essential if our civilisation is to be saved. My right hon. and learned Friend referred to the statement of M. Herriot at Toulouse. An equally important factor in the situation is the overture for a new treaty of co-operation between France and Italy; the holding out of the hand of good will between France and Italy is an event which will have a sensible effect on the general European situation.
Let me pass from that to a somewhat different and wider consideration. There is an immense potential capacity for recuperation in the world to day, and we will make a great mistake, I think, if we conclude that most of the causes of our present depression are due to reasons which can be defined as purely economic. A great measure of the depression of today is psychological in its character. One of the reasons why it has been so hard to make any impression upon that atmosphere in the world has been the absence of hope and the prolonged nature of the negotiations which have been dragging on from year to year. In the early part of this summer there was indeed a period when this hope appeared to come to the world, when the undoubted success of the Lausanne Conference brought a new hope to the peoples of the world. The whole of this generation is seeking for a sign, and the sign it is seeking is clear and definite evidence that the countries of the world are not only capable of working together for constructive purposes, but that they intend to pursue that course. As soon as that evidence is clear—we hope that events are making in that direction—there will be immense natural forces released for recovery, and they will do far more than any proposal made in the House during the three days Debate on the relief of unemployment.
That short period in the summer time, when we seemed to have that hope arising from Lausanne, was indeed dissipated by the negative results of the Peace Conference, but the Government may be quite sure that if they are pursuing the policy which they have laid down to-day they will have behind them the steady support of that great body of informed opinion which exists throughout this country. I think that the nature of public opinion in this country on the subject of peace and disarmament has undergone a profound change in the last 10 years as a result of the immense educational efforts that have been made. The science of peace has become a serious study for the first time in the history of the world. As a result of the efforts made it is probable that public opinion on the subject is to-day better informed on that subject than on almost any other aspect of our public affairs, People are following these matters with the greatest possible interest and anxiety. If policy is pursued on the lines which the Govern- ment have indicated to-day the Government may count upon the support of this informed public opinion.
I would mention one other matter on the general subject of the alleviation which is likely to ensue if these matters develop satisfactorily. They will immediately give an impetus to the solution of a very large number of problems which at present are difficult, if not insoluble. In particular they will have a very beneficial influence on the whole question of international indebtedness. I do not intend to say one word of my own on the subject of the European-American debt, because I hold very strongly indeed that the less said on that subject in public the better. But I venture to relate to the House the experience of a friend of mine who was delivering a lecture recently in America. At the end of his lecture, in which he had approached the subject of European indebtedness, there uprose in the body of the hall a questioner who put three questions to my friend. The questioner asked: "How much, Sir, is the European bill for armaments in the current year?" The answer was: "A sum of £500,000,000." The second question was: "Of that sum how much is the British share?" The answer was "£114,000,000 or thereabouts." Thirdly, the questioner asked: "How much is the payment which you have to make annually to the United States in respect of the debt?" The answer was: "About £35,000,000." The questioner then said, "Thank you, Sir" and sat down.
I merely mention that incident as illustrating effectively an attitude of mind which may be very materially altered if it is seen that we in Europe generally are pursuing a policy which will lead to disarmament. I repeat, that if the Government are pursuing their policy on those lines, they may count upon the support of a great body of informed opinion. It would not he ungracious to add that if their policy is not pursued on those lines they will have a body of critical opinion against them, and they will not be supported.
The House showed at Question Time some little jealousy regarding the amount of time occupied by Ministers and ex-Ministers in the course of Debates. I hope it will not be thought impertinent of me to take a part in the discussion now proceeding. I can plead at any rate that I have not occupied much time in the present Parliament, and I shall not now occupy more time than is necessary to develop certain ideas which I think it my duty to submit to the House. In the first place, I must say a word or two on the subject of the Sino-Japanese difficulty. It is quite true, as the hon. Gentleman who opened this Debate said, that it is impossible to dissociate the consideration and prospects of disarmament at Geneva from the ultimate issue of what has been passing before our eyes in China and Japan. I do not share the criticism which the hon. Gentleman directed against the Secretary of State for not having declared himself more definitely in that conflict at an earlier stage. The power of the League of Nations lies in its capacity to treat the parties to a dispute with perfect impartiality, with great patience, with a sympathy which can understand their hopes and fears and difficulties, which will endeavour to ascertain and place before the world the facts of the dispute, and then to mobilise on behalf of the settlement which it recommends the moral opinion of the world.
All of us are prone to think at different times, and above all when we are discussing disarmament, of the physical risks to which a nation may expose itself if its armaments are insufficient in comparison with those of other nations in the world. But there is a risk which no nation, however strongly armed, can afford to ignore in these days, and it is the risk of entering on a quarrel in which the opinion of the world will declare her in the wrong, with consequent reactions which will inevitably come among her own people as they are called upon to make the sacrifices of blood and treasure which the struggle entails, and which will determine the attitude of every neutral Power—if neutral Powers there still can be—to the combatants engaged. That we should arrive at a peaceful issue of the Sino-Japanese dispute, through the deliberations of the League, is of great consequence because of the effect which it must have upon the mood in which every nation approaches the question of its own disarmament.
I will refrain, as my right hon. Friend rightly refrained at this stage, from com- menting in any detail upon the Lytton Report. I would like to associate myself with all that he said about it, and about Lord Lytton's personal contribution, and, as one who has nothing but friendly feelings for Japan, who treasures the memory of our old alliance, and is indeed one of that dwindling band who at a critical moment in Japan's history, just before the battle of Tsushima, approved in Cabinet our Anglo-Japanese Treaty—as one who was part author of the Alliance and valued it, and who cherishes to-day, when the Alliance has passed away, the same friendly feelings to that country, I would appeal to the statesmen of Japan to give a fair and candid consideration to the facts set forth by the representatives of five nations commissioned by the League, and to the inferences which are to be drawn from their conclusions, and to make it easy, shall I say to make it possible, for their old friends to maintain their old admiration for that island Empire. I will say no more upon that subject.
I turn now to the broader question, not of a particular dispute, but of disarmament. I regret that the Motion which we are discussing was presented to the House in the form of a Vote of Censure. I dissociate myself from what, I think, was the unreasonable and unfounded criticism by the Mover of the Resolution of the past actions of the Government. My right hon. Friend and his colleagues have not sought for themselves praise and I do not attribute to them blame. They have not sought to produce a plan, regardless of its acceptability, regardless of the conditions in which it would be put forward and regardless of the feelings of those with whom they are dealing and whose assent must be obtained. They have not sought to gain credit and kudos for themselves by propounding a scheme and taking the applause which would follow. They have played what I think is the true role of the representatives of a nation so close to the Continent that every shock which passes through the Continental nations reaches it, so near to the points of anxiety and trouble that no disturbance of European peace can be indifferent to it, and yet, sufficiently removed, partly geographically and still more by association and membership of the British Commonwealth of Nations, from the immediate quarrels, rivalries and jealousies of the Continental nations. They have sought, not so much to produce a scheme for themselves as to bring all nations into some scheme—whether our own scheme or the scheme of others is a matter of indifference—which shall give us a wide measure of disarmament and fortify the sense of peace and strengthen the confidence which are needed for the solution, and even for the fruitful approach to any of our political, economic, military or other problems.
Is it too late to make an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues? They, of course, put this Motion down without any knowledge of the kind of statement which the Foreign Secretary was going to make. I venture to say of that state-merit that it is not merely a speech; it is a new factor in the situation, with immense possibilities for good and that all of us, wherever we sit, weighing our own responsibilities and thinking of the great issues involved, ought, on this occasion, to set aside the quarrels and criticisms of the past and take our departure from this new statement and send our Foreign Secretary to Geneva with the widest national backing, the most universal national mandate that we can give him to strengthen his hands in the policy which he has declared. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues to reconsider their Motion, and I should like to move, but I will not move unless it has the right hon. Gentleman's assent, a simple statement in which, without criticism and without preamble, we would record that this House unanimously approves of the statement of policy made by the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary.
I am not one who has ever allowed himself to despair of the success of the Disarmament Conference. That is not because I underrated, or even now underrate the difficulties, but because I think the results of failure would be so grave for everybody that no nation can take the responsibility for failure upon itself in the face of the world. In the last few weeks we have had two or three very encouraging signs. We have had the renewed assurance from the head of the Italian Government of the resolution of that Government to pursue a peaceful policy and to co-operate with the League of Nations, and I am glad to think that, throughout these difficulties, as far as one without official information like myself can judge, there has been for the solution of the difficulties a close and cordial co-operation and I think a most satisfactory measure of agreement between the Italian Government and our own.
In the second place, there have been M. Herriot's speeches to which allusion has already been made. No one who knows M. Herriot can doubt his sincerity or his earnest desire to promote friendly relations between France and her neighbours and peace throughout the world. I like to recall that M. Herriot, then, as now, President of the Council and Foreign Minister, was the first Foreign Minister with whom I verbally discussed the proposals which ultimately became the Treaties of Locarno. When I went to him at that time I think—indeed I know—that the message which I carried was in some ways a disappointment to him. Like our present Prime Minister and still more like the late Foreign Secretary, M. Herriot had been one of the prime architects of the Protocol of Geneva, and I had to tell him that the British Government were unable to ratify it. I had to tell him that the time for a Franco-British or Anglo-Belgian alliance with a point against Germany, in substitution for the Anglo-American guarantee, had gone by and that the only basis on which we could act was the basis of the proposals put before us shortly before by the late Dr. Stresemann. He accepted. It is true that he remained only a short time in office and that it fell to M. Briand and myself to work out the ideas which I had adumbrated to M. Herriot, but Locarno was M. Herriot's policy as much as M. Briand's or Dr. Stresemann's or mine, and that man has come back to office today with the same earnest desire for peace that I saw when I first met him in those older days.
In those two speeches, not for the first time, he has held out the hand of friendship and made advances towards reconciliation between the French people and their neighbours across the Rhine and between the French people and the Italian people. These things are hopeful. These things have within the last few weeks greatly improved the prospect, and now comes the statement of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. He called our attention to the fact that he propounded no new plan; that, above all, he propounded no plan in rivalry with the suggestions that came from elsewhere. But he laid down in clear, simple explicit terms the principles upon which, in the opinion of His Majesty's Government, any settlement ought to be founded. Broadly speaking, excluding all that is immaterial to the point which I am now discussing, what he said was that we were prepared to accept the German claim for equality of treatment, but we attached to it a condition. These two things go together and have rightly been put together by His Majesty's Government because without the condition which he attaches the realisation of our hopes for disarmament is impossible.
The Mover of the Motion I thought permitted himself some rather cheap sneers at my right hon. Friend as a lawyer and he also talked in a way which is common cant of the military, naval and air experts blocking the way to disarmament. If you consult military, naval and air experts as to what conditions are required for your safety, you place upon them a great responsibility. They will answer you according to their knowledge and will, if I know anything about them, not understate the insurance which you ought to make, because if there is any understatement and anything afterwards goes wrong the responsibility will be theirs. But the ultimate decision does not rest with the military, naval and air experts; it rests with the politicians. They have to take their risks also, and they have to take a wider, broader view than it is proper that the experts should take when advising upon their particular problems. We need not trouble too much about committees of experts which seem to raise more difficulties than they solve. It comes back at the end to this one question: Are the political conditions in which we live such as make it possible to contemplate further disarmament? That is the question which has to be answered by the politicians. The answer does not affect and cannot be given by military, naval or air experts. It depends upon political considerations and must be answered by politicians and statesmen. It is because the answer to that question is so doubtful and not because the ex- perts could not agree that disarmament has made so little progress. It is on the answer to that question that the ultimate success or failure of the Conference will depend. I hail, therefore, with great satisfaction, the coupling with that declaration of their readiness to satisfy the German demand, broadly and subject to examination, by stages, and to afford the same treatment to the other countries which are subject to similar treaty provisions in regard to disarmament—I hail with great satisfaction the coupling with that statement of the invitation, and indeed of the condition, that all the nations of Europe shall, at the moment of this disarmament, unite in a solemn affirmation that they will not in any circumstances attempt to resolve any present or future difficulties between them by resort to force. I agree with my right hon. Friend that the world is entitled to that specific assurance, and the known readiness of the Governments to make that assurance as part and parcel of, or at the same time as, the Disarmament Convention which they sign will greatly facilitate agreement upon the terms of the Convention.
It may be said that there is no need, that all the nations with which we are concerned have signed the Briand-Kellogg Pact renouncing war. Germany, has signed the Locarno Treaties, not alone the one which concerns the Western countries, but those Treaties which bind Germany and her Eastern neighbours to settle all future disputes arising between them by peaceful means; and yet do we find that those obligations, voluntarily undertaken—I am not now talking of the Peace Treaties, though I do not wish to make too great a distinction between Treaty obligations of one character or another—inform the policies of the German parties and the speeches of German statesmen? If my voice carries to Germany, I would beg the German Government, the German parties, and, above all, the German people to help those who are trying to help them.
My right hon. Friend's declaration vis à vis them is a generous one. We are taking risks when, so shortly after the War, and with no great assurance that ally large change has taken place in public opinion, we make that declaration. Have they no contribution which they can make? I find that many of those who have worked hardest for disarmament here and in other countries have been surprised, disturbed, and rendered anxious by utterances and actions of people whose position in Germany makes it impossible not to take notice of them. We want to see in their speeches, in their policies, the loyal acceptance of their Treaty obligations. We do not ask that they should abandon hopes which we would not abandon ourselves, which, in reverse circumstances, France would never have abandoned. We do ask of them that they should recognise that the law of Europe must be based upon its treaties, and that treaties must only, can only, be changed by agreement. It is not asking anything much.
When the Locarno proposals were under discussion I made an endeavour to explain them to this House, and perhaps the House will permit me to read a few words. I said, in reference to the German proposals:
If I understand them rightly, they amount to this: that Germany is prepared to guarantee voluntarily What hitherto she has accepted under the compulsion of the Treaty, that is, the status quo in the West; that she is prepared to eliminate, not merely from the West but from the East, war as an engine by which any alteration is the Treaty position is to be obtained. Thus not only in the West, but in the East, she is prepared absolutely to abandon any idea of recourse to war for the purpose of changing the Treaty boundaries of Europe. She may be unwilling, or she may be unable, to make the same renunciation of the hopes and aspirations that some day, by friendly arrangement or mutual agreement, a modification may he introduced into the East, which she is prepared to make in regard to any modification in the West."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th March, 1925; col. 318, Vol. 182.]
I had only a short time resumed my seat on that bench when I received a message from the German Ambassador urgently desiring to see me. I had to listen to two speeches before I could leave the Debate, but I then went to my room and invited the Ambassador to come and see me. He told me that in what I had said I had gone beyond what was authorized by the German Government. I naturally said that that was a most serious matter, and I tried to ascertain exactly what he meant and in what point he thought I had overstepped what their communications to the British Government had authorised me to say. I put to him
specifically this question: "Do you mean that the German Government reserve to themselves the right to use war as a, means of changing the Eastern frontier?" I said, "If that be so, I have indeed misunderstood you, and there is but one thing for me to do. I must go back into the House." I did not disguise from him that it would be a very disagreeable and a humiliating thing to have to do, but I said, "It will be my duty to go back at once into the House and say that I have misunderstood your proposals and that the whole situation must be reconsidered."
I could not get any precise statement from him as to what the claim was. Accordingly, my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council, then Prime Minister, repeated, in other words, the substance of this statement at the conclusion of the Debate, and we telegraphed the passage from my speech and the passage from his to Lord D'Abernon, asking him to explain the circumstances in which we put these passages, and asking that we might be informed whether, in what I had said, and in what the Lord President of the Council, then Prime Minister, had said, we had gone beyond the intentions of the German Government. We got back a confirmation from the German Government of the view which we took of their position. That was, that they voluntarily abandoned any idea of revising the frontiers of Western Europe, and that, while they could not abandon hope of securing revision of the Eastern frontier, they excluded war as an instrument for securing it. May I trouble the House with the words, not of the main Treaty of Locarno, but words which occur in the Preamble of the Treaty between the German Reich and the Polish Republic and the similar Treaty between the German Reich and the Czechoslovakian Republic? They are as follow:
The President of the German Empire and the President of the Polish (or Czechoslovak) Republic,
Equally resolved to maintain peace between Germany and Poland (or Czechoslovakia) by assuring the peaceful settlement of differences which might arise between the two countries;
Declaring that respect for the rights established by treaty or resulting from the law of nations is obligatory for international tribunals;
Agreeing to recognise that the rights of a State cannot be modified save with its consent;
And considering that sincere observance of the methods of peaceful settlement of international disputes permits of resolving, without recourse to force, questions which may become the cause of division between States;
Have decided to embody in a Treaty.…
and so on.
All that the friends of Germany ask of Germany is that she will, in daily life and in her daily relations with the neighbouring nations, observe, in spirit as well as in letter, the obligation that she has undertaken to respect the Treaty basis of Europe until that Treaty basis is changed by common consent. It is not asking them to abandon all hope. The Treaty basis has changed by common consent, and is changing. The Treaty right to keep foreign troops in occupation of the Rhineland till 1935 has been given up, the Treaty right to reparations has been given up, the Reparations Clauses are gone, and we have come to the Disarmament Clauses.
My right hon. Friend has declared, on behalf of this Government and with, I believe, the assent of all parties in this House, that we are again prepared to revise the Treaties by common consent in Germany's favour. A time may come come when some other and further revisions may be made, but it will not come, and disarmament may become impossible, unless those in whose favour we waived the past Treaty stipulations, in whose favour we now put ourselves on a new equality with them, make clear to us all that in their mind as in ours the purpose for which they seek equality is not that they may make war, but that they may feel as secure as the rest of us. If they preserve peace no one wilt make war. I think that my right hon. Friend's speech and the declarations of M. Herriot are an invitation to the German people and the German Government to respond in the spirit which has been shown, to allay the doubts caused by speeches of people in high places as to whether any treaty, however sound, however voluntary, however recent, is anything more than a scrap of paper.
If they will give us that assurance, no one will more profoundly welcome it, and if they will conform to it their common daily relations with other nations, no one will more heartily rejoice than I, whose pride it will he to my death that I have, at any rate, made two great efforts for peace between antagonistic nations. The fate of those agreements, whether they be with the Free State of Ireland or with Germany, lies in other hands than mine, but I know that if Gustave Stresemann were here to-day, he would hold out his hands to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, he would welcome the declaration that he has made, and he would not hesitate to repeat the declaration which he solemnly signed at Locarno and for which, after a great struggle, he secured the ratification of the German people that henceforth Germany looked for the redress of her grievances to peaceful negotiations with other parties, and not to the sword by which she perished.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) has addressed to the House a very impressive argument, and I will respond to his appeal to the extent that I will not couch any criticisms or observations I may make to-night in a tone of extreme partisanship. It is a little too much, however, to expect us to say here and now that we fully accept the statement made by the Foreign Secretary for as far as we can understand it without having seen it in print, it does not fully satisfy the rightful aspirations of the people of this country. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham said that he felt uneasy at certain utterances of people in high places in Germany. I am certain that that uneasiness has been shared by a good many other people, but when we consider the attitude of mind of the present rulers in Germany, must we not consider also why the present Government in Germany is there and why that particular school of thought is so prevalent? Are we ourselves altogether free from blame in the matter? Is not the present attitude of German statesmen the reflection of the despair and almost the hopelessness with which Germany has seen her rightful hopes thwarted through many long years? I have an extract from a leader which appeared in the "Times" last September, which appears to me to bear on that point. The "Times" states:
The flamboyant missionaries of ultra-nationalism would never have obtained anything like their present hold in Germany if, during the 11 years that have elapsed since the Peace Treaty was signed, the signatory Powers had shown any real determination to carry out the obligations of Article VIII, and to reduce their national armaments to the lowest point consistent with national safety and the enforcement by common action of international obligations.'
The best way to develop a new spirit in Germany and to encourage those elements in Germany which will work, as the late Herr Stresemann did, for peace, would be to fulfil our pledges as given in the Covenant of the League of Nations, and to do our best to secure that the coming Disarmament Conference is a real success.
The Foreign Minister, in the opening of his speech to-night, said that he did not intend to deal with the merits of the Manchurian dispute because he had not yet had the opportunity of seeing the Japanese reply. I do not intend for the same reason to go into the merits of that problem, but I want to say a word or two on the principles upon which those merits should be examined and judged. I appeal to the Foreign Secretary, when he is examining this question and considering the Lytton Report and the Japanese reply, to use his influence in the discussions that preceed judgment to support in every way the principles of the Covenant of the League of Nations, the Kellogg Pact and the Nine-Power Treaty of Washington. I hope also that he will interpret those principles in the plain sense of the words as they are understood by ordinary people. I do not think that I shall be accused of indulging in cheap sneers if I suggest to him that the highest ornaments of his own profession known in history are not those who have merely gained a position by forensic ingenuity and the interpretation of phrases and clauses in certain dialectical ways, but those great judges in whose judgments are enshrined the great principles of English justice which have been handed down as lamps to guide the feet of subsequent generations. I say this because I believe that it is of the highest importance in the Manchurian question that the principles of the Covenant of the League of Nations, as most people understand them, shall be absolutely justified and vindicated.
It can be said of the Foreign Minister that in the whole of this controversy he has not shown any anti-Japanese prejudice. The British Government cannot be accused of being prejudiced against what the right hon. Member for West Birmingham called our ancient ally. For that reason, they will be in a strong position if, when a decision has to be made, they find that they support, generally speaking, the proposals of the Lytton Commission rather than any counter-proposals made by Japan. Without trying to suggest what the judgment will be, I am entitled to say—and it is right that it should he said—that it would be a disaster if that controversy ended in the Covenant of the League of Nations being flouted, and if it were shown that members of the League of Nations could not rely upon the principles of the Covenant and of the Kellogg Pact to protect them against aggression. If it ended like that, the consequence would be disastrous not merely in the Pacific, but throughout the world. In the Pacific it would mean that great navies would have to be built to defend the possessions of those who have interests on that ocean. Australia, New Zealand and British Columbia would have to be defended by a new navy. And as far as the world is concerned, it would mean the end of the League of Nations and the failure of all our hopes of disarmament.
There is a school of thought which looks upon the League of Nations as a small child which suffers from infantile diseases which it can outgrow and which holds that we must not expect too much from the League at this early stage. It may not be able to prevent war—so runs the argument—but we must have patience and, as the years advance, the League will grow stronger and will, in the end, become a shield for peace, which it is not at the present time. That attitude was expressed very well by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham in a statement which he made a few years ago. Speaking at a public dinner, he compared the League of Nations with the growth and slow development of the power of the House of Commons since the days of Henry VII. He said:
I want the progress of the League to be as gradual, as ordered, as imperceptible as our own constitutional progress.
I venture to suggest that that is a false analogy and a dangerous comparison. The existence of the institution of Parliament or some similar organ of government is inevitable. It does not depend upon its conduct. Any country must have a Parliament or some corresponding organisation through which the voice of the people may be expressed and by which taxes are raised. You may have a, weak or a corrupt Parliament, but the institution of Parliament will go on and will gradually develop. There is, however, no essential necessity in the same way for the League of Nations. It is important that it should exist, but it is not the organ of a world state. Its existence is not inevitable. It has been set up by two forces—the force of hope and the force of fear. It was set up by people who hoped to build up gradually a finer system of organisation through which to remove the causes of war. It was set up also by those who feared the consequences of another war and hoped to erect a shield and a defence against that danger; but if the League of Nations fails when a crisis arises, then hope will fade also, and those who feared a further war will say to themselves, "The League of Nations is not defending us against war, is not defending us against attack; therefore we must go back to the old method of the strong man armed and trust for our defence to our own right arm." The danger is that if the principles of the League of Nations are not carried out, the League itself will vanish. A comparison of the growth of the League of Nations with the growth of Parliament during 400 years might be considered if one could guarantee that peace would be maintained for 400 years, during which the League of Nations could develop, but we cannot guarantee peace for six years, or even six months, and if the League of Nations cannot maintain peace then, if war comes, the League will be swept away with many other institutions.
Having studied this question of disarmament for 14 years, having read piles of documents and miles of speeches delivered at Geneva and elsewhere, I find that one of my chief impressions is that the French policy of saying that security must precede disarmament is the right one. I have always held that to get disarmament we must first have security rather than try to get security by disarming. That is why I always supported very strongly the Protocol of Geneva which I believe the right hon. Gentleman rejected through the influence of the late Lord Balfour. I have always thought its rejection was an international disaster. I believe it marked the greatest advance towards world peace that has ever been attained, and I believe it is absolutely essential and fundamental to get back either to that Protocol or to some organisation based on similar principles before we can get complete and final disarmament—to some system, that is, which defines the aggressor, which sets up a tribunal by which all disputes can be settled definitely, and which guards the attacked State against the aggressor.
Although we have not got that complete and perfect organisation, have we not got certain guarantees which will enable a good deal of disarmament to be brought about? I think we have. First of all, we have the Covenant of the League of Nations, especially if those principles of the Covenant are always supported to the full. Secondly, we have the Kellogg Pact. Regarding the Kellogg Pact, I wish to know why the Foreign Secretary wants a new affirmation to be made by Germany—and by other European States—not to resort to war to settle any dispute, because that has already been agreed to by those who have signed the Kellogg Pact. I do not object to a promise being made over and over again, but I sec no particular benefit in asking them to say again what they have already said by signing the Keilogg-Briand Pact, except that the second promise would be limited to Europe, whereas the Kellogg Pact is worldwide in its application. Thirdly, we have the interpretation of the Eellogg Pact by Mr. Stimson. The Foreign Secretary said something which I thought was rather over-cautious. He said the implications of the Stimson speech required careful thinking out. Why? Mr. Stimson said that consultation between the signatories of the Kellogg Pact when faced with a threat of its violation became inevitable, and went on to imply that if a war took place through a nation violating the Kellogg Pact there would be no neutrals at all, because no nation could take up an attitude of indifference and neutrality in a case of that kind. I should like whoever is to reply for the Government to say whether he does not accept that particular implication. If war takes place through a nation violating the Kellogg Pact, is it possible for any other signatory of the Pact to take an attitude of neutrality; is it not certain that every nation will be dragged in on one side or the other?
Those are some of the securities we have. Then we have the new French principles enunciated by M. Herriot in which he suggests that there should be a sort of chain of pacts, regional pacts, among the various countries in Europe, which would give additional security—a large number of smaller Locarnos. Taken together all these if they have not the completeness and the perfection of the Geneva Protocol have, in my view, certainly given us guarantees sufficient to produce a certain amount pf disarmament. How far can we go in disarmament? The subject is far too serious a one for us to try to impart any humour into this discussion, but I think a great mistake was made in sending the question of what weapons are offensive and what defensive to expert committees. Such meticulous examination of the question is very harmful. I suppose all weapons are both offensive and defensive. Take the case of an ancient warrior armed with a sword and a shield. One might say that the sword was offensive and the shield defensive, but the shield, especially if there were a pointed boss in the middle of it, could also be used as a very offensive weapon, and I have no doubt that in the hand-to-hand combats in the old days such a shield caused many deaths. When you extend that shield and develop it till it covers several people, and then fit it with wheels, it may become a tank: the defensive weapon has become offensive. The spectacle of naval experts arguing that a 35,000 ton battleship was a defensive weapon, whereas the submarine, which smaller nations use to keep the battleship as far away in the offing as they possibly can, was offensive, was really one to make angels weep and gods blaspheme.
Instead of going into that precise and meticulous examination between one weapon and another, why cannot we adopt the broad standard laid down at Versailles, which was decided in a few hours? Why cannot one take as a standard the weapons forbidden to Germany? Why cannot all the nations at the Disarmament Conference agree to abandon every weapon which was forbidden to Germany? That is the first suggestion I would make. Secondly, there is the point which the Foreign Secretary raised about the German army. That is met, it seems to me, by the French proposal to substitute a militia. There are two parts to the French proposals, as far as we know them, because, as has been said, they have only been explained in two speehces, and we have not got the plan worked out in print. First of all, every nation is to have a militia, lightly armed and without the heavier weapons. If for the present German ten-year army there could be substituted a militia of that sort it would place Germany upon an equality of status, especially if we all agreed to abandon the weapons forbidden to her.
As to the second part of the proposal, which was for special national armies, highly professionalised and highly mechanised, to be used only in the service of the League of Nations, and whose weapons would be locked away in a cupboard in some neutral country, I think that is rather a fantastic idea and not one to be recommended. But I think we ought to support the militia proposal because it would help to meet German views on equality of status. If, on top of all this, we could have a Hoover cut of one-third of our armies and our navies, we should have got a long way towards disarmament. The claim of the Foreign Secretary that we cannot start by cutting all round, because we have already disarmed to some extent, is a very dangerous one. Other countries make the same claim. The French say that by abandoning the three years' system for the one-year system they have made a tremendous cut in their military power. But, after all, why should the nations regard 1918 as a sort of basic line, and say they have disarmed from that standard? Because, after all, 1918 was a year in which all countries had heavily swollen armaments though to a different degree in different countries.
I would like to ask whether we are satisfied with our present naval and military position relative to other countries. Do we think we are in a weak position as compared with other nations? If we do, it is the duty of those responsible for our defences to increase our forces at a greater rate than our opponents. If, however, they are satisfied with our present position vis-à-vis other nations, surely there can be no objection to having a still further all-round cut on the present existing lines. I believe it would be possible for us to go to Geneva and ask for disarmament on the lines I have mentioned. The House will agree that it would he absolutely disastrous if the Disarmament Conference failed. If it fails now, the only alternative will be to arm. The nations will arm, and will embark upon another armed race, by land, by sea, and by air. Following upon that, as closely as a man is pursued by his own shadow, will come war, under the waters, in the air and on the land, until civilisation cracks beneath the strain and the Vesuvius of revolution opens out beneath our feet.
I beg to move, in line 1, to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words:
this House, having heard the statement of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, approves it and assures His Majesty's Government of its support in the vigorous promotion of a policy of limiting and reducing armaments by international agreement through the Disarmament Conference at Geneva; expresses its appreciation of the efforts already made by the Government in that direction; and also its approval of the determination of His Majesty's Government to continue their loyal co-operation with the League of Nations in dealing with the Sino-Japanese dispute.
By your leave, Mr. Speaker, I have inserted in the Amendment as it appears upon the Order Paper certain additional words. May I make quite clear why I move this Amendment? When I look at the Motion which was moved by the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee), I find these words:
the British Government should give clear and unequivocal support to an immediate, universal and substantial reduction of armaments.
I have no objection whatsoever to those words. I take the further words:
on the basis of equality of status for all nations.
Again I have no objection, provided that in each case we make precisely clear
what we mean. As is known to the House, this Motion was asked for as a Vote of Censure upon the Government, and the terms in which it was moved by the hon. Member for Limehouse were those appropriate to a Vote of Censure. That is the reason why I move this Amendment, which I saw described in one of this morning's journals as tantamount to a Vote of Confidence in the Government. I am content to let it be so regarded. After the statement of policy that we have heard from the Foreign Secretary, both in regard to disarmament generally and equality of status, every hon. Member will recognise that that statement may be the starting point of a new development in the disarmament movement. I move this Amendment in order to make it clear that the Government and the Foreign Secretary have the overwhelming support of the House for the statement and the policy that has been put forward. I would refer for a few moments to the words which I have already quoted,
an immediate, universal and substantial reduction of armaments.
I do not wish to raise minor matters of controversy on an occasion of this kind, but there is one statement of the hon. Member for Limehouse to which I should like to register my dissent at once. It was his characterisation of the advice and of the usefulness of the military and naval advisers of the Government in matters of this kind. I echo all that has been said by my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain). I have never held a commission as one of His Majesty's officers in the regular Army, but I am the only man in my family who has not held such a commission. So far as I have known serving officers in the regular Army, I am sure that they recognise their obligations when they are tendering advice. The hon. Member for Limehouse would find, among such officers, men who realised to the full the horrors of war and desired as much as any member of the civilian population to prevent them.
I always have regarded competition in armaments as a menace to peace and as likely to lead to war. I have always regarded the amount of money and effort that is spent on armaments as a monstrous waste, viewed from the point of view of society in general. I will do anything possible to forward the cause of disarmament, but it is mere childishness to let sentiment run away with reason and ordinary judgment in a matter of this kind. We are living in a world in which old hostilities and suspicions, generated years before the War, still exist, and are dying hard. It is a matter of common agreement by those who have had any responsibility in the matter, including former members of the party on the Opposition benches who have held high office and have been responsible for the Service Departments, that advance in disarmament must be by common agreement and cannot be otherwise. It is perfectly impossible for any one nation to go on alone. Only when there is common progress does the apprehension of attack by each nation become less. That facilitates further progress, and so the movement continues. It is obvious that one has to proceed by stages, and by stages alone, slow and disheartening as they may be, if any disarmament worth the name is to be reached upon a permanent and lasting basis.
This is a matter of common feeling on all sides of the House. I would ask every hon. Member to realise, as I am sure most of them do, what an example the British Government have set in the matter. The hon. Member for Limehouse used the expression "Pharisee." I hardly think that that is the proper phrase to use. Any unbiased observer would come to the same conclusion, that while the nations must advance together, yet one must take the first step in advance of the others. The nation that has been willing to take the first step has nearly always been Great Britain. We have almost gone to the limit—some people think we have gone in advance of the point—of the steps that we can take in advance of the others. That is one of my reasons for moving this Amendment. The other is that, while the proposals of the Government that were previously made constitute the ground for a great advance, the proposals that have been adumbrated this afternoon in general outline by the Foreign Secretary, may be a starting point for a new development.
Let me give my reasons for saying that. When I think of the question of equality of status I always feel that we are under
a moral obligation to accord that equality to Germany. I do not think that it is a legal obligation, but that it is a moral obligation is quite clear to my mind. It dates from the early days, when the terms of peace were being negotiated, and from what was known as the Clemenceau letter. May I read that letter, which was written in June, 1919:
The Allied and Associated Powers wish to make it clear that their requirements in regard to German armaments were not made solely with the object of rendering it impossible for Germany to resume her policy of military aggression. They are also the first steps towards that general reduction and limitation of armaments which they seek to bring about as one of the most fruitful preventives of war, and which it will be one of the first duties of the League of Nations to promote.
Clearly that constitutes a quite definite moral obligation to bring about that equality. It is in pursuance of that that I and many others have given support from the beginning to the Locarno Pact, although we realise what hat great responsibilities are imposed upon those countries that gave their signatures to such a Pact. I welcomed the policy of Herr Stresemann in Germany. I always had a very high regard for the work that he did. He made it possible for us to have confidence in the objects and aims of Germany, so that we could try to promote further agreement, and to make the advance, which must be by stages, towards that equality of status which is desirable.
Anxious as those of us are who have sincere feelings of friendliness towards Germany to proceed with this, it is impossible not to be somewhat perturbed by statements made in Germany of the nature of those that I have read not long since. If they were taken literally, they would tend to make us pause and wonder whether German policy was taking a different orientation from that which Stresemann gave to it. One realises what difficulties there are in a country like Germany, which is subject to extraordinarily acute distress. All through the world one has to recognise that internal economic troubles often create troubles in domestic politics. Those of us who have been rather anxious would be glad indeed to get a reassurance that there is no intention of rearmament on the part of Germany. I do most sincerely trust, that when this forward step is taken by His Majesty's Government it will be met on the other side by signs that they appreciate the spirit of what is intended, and that they will give their whole-hearted co-operation.
I look upon what we have heard to-day as a great advance. I only feel genuinely sorry that the whole of this House may not be ready to give its unanimous support to that policy of which mention has been made to us this afternoon. I am quite clear as to what is the duty of all of us here who are substantially in accord with that policy. It is the same duty which I have always felt. Even in the first year of this time of stress, when the difficulties with which the Government had to deal were domestic issues, I felt that this crisis was the greatest since the War. Now the Government have to face even more difficult tasks than during the first year. In dealing with international relations with foreign countries, they have no longer got control of the materials. They have got to use the influence they have in order to promote a policy which is likely to add to general peace, general contentment and happiness. The Government have an immense prestige and power in the world, and the opportunity of using them, that they may promote disarmament and the solution of the material, industrial and economic questions, all of which are inter-connected and bound up into one whole. The Government can only use their influence to the full if they know, when they are doing so, that they have this House, as representing the nation, overwhelmingly supporting them. For that reason I feel that those who agree with the Government should put behind the Government every atom of support and every atom of prestige it is possible for us in this House to give.
I find myself called upon this evening as the first of those Members who put their names on the Order Paper last Monday, without making a request for any particular day, to the following Motion:
That this House is entitled, on a matter of such vital importance as disarmament, to be consulted before His Majesty's delegates at Geneva enter into any commitments
which may permanently prejudice the security and peace of the British Empire.
It is difficult to intervene in a Debate which, up to the present, has followed such very broad lines of national policy. But no other opportunity may occur to those who, like myself, put our names to this Motion, to ask a few questions of a more direct nature of the Government before our representatives go to Geneva. I do not think any of us intend, or desire, that the Motion on the Paper to which I am referring should torpedo the general subject of the Disarmament Conference. We all consider that disarmament, if it can be effected, is vital. If it is not accomplished, that will shortly be followed by re-armament Debates. Obviously that would be terrible to consider. But surely a statement connected with rumours we have heard, and regarding which I tried to elicit information from the head of the Government, should be made. I must say for myself that I have been left in terrible anxiety, and almost alarm, as to how far our representatives intend to go when they find themselves at Geneva. I am anxious the House should not think that I am introducing too much detail into a Debate which has proceeded so far on such wide lines of policy. I submit that it is of grave importance.
As I have said, I tried a week ago to obtain from the head of the Government some indication as to how far our representatives at Geneva might go, particularly in connection with disarmament in the Air Force. The answer I received was that our representatives would obviously have powers of
abolition or the extension of anything.
The sentence ended with the words:
final consent remains with this House."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd November, 1932; col. 1782, Vol. 269.]
I submit that that is really a little misleading, more particularly to some hon. Members of this House who have come here for the first time. Supposing our representatives come back having signed away our air arm, which is, perhaps, of greater importance to us than any other arm. What is the procedure of ratification? It is simply a Vote of Confidence in the Government. Those who disapprove of what has been done have to vote against a Vote of Confidence if they desire to express their contrary opinion.
The National Government, however, mean many things to us. It would be impossible for us then, if we did disagree, to record effectively a vote in that way. I submit that the so-called ratification by Parliament really means nothing at all.
The rumours to which I refer must come from somewhere. They are of a very definite character, and, if there is any truth in them, then they are a matter with which Parliament should be acquainted before it has gone too far. On the 4th of this month a. very definite forecast of what is to happen to our Air Force appeared in the "Daily Mail." Some of the sentences are:
Total abolition or severe curtailment of bombing.
Grouping of all commercial air lines under an international body, and
Limitation of the number of privately owned aeroplanes.
That may be purely a kite flown in the* dark, or it may not. I have other indications which caused anxiety to me. I saw a question by a Noble Lord to the Prime Minister on Tuesday last week asking whether before any decision was reached with regard to the extent to which the British Government could agree with the French disarmament proposals, and particularly those with regard to the international control of civil aviation he would secure that the agreement would in no way prevent the future development of civil aviation. The Prime Minister replied that he had not yet received the new French disarmament proposals but he would bear in mind the significance of the question. It may be that the Prime Minister had not had at that time an opportunity of studying the French disarmament proposals, but only a few days later they seem to be thoroughly digested, and they formed the backbone of the Foreign Secretary's speech this afternoon. Perhaps what is most alarming appeared in the "Times" of the 9th inst. It gives me the impression—having been at this game a long time myself—of being inspired. If it is not inspired, a good deal of my case will fail, but inspiration appears very evident on the face of it. It deals with the two subjects which have obviously been causing a good deal of concern in Parliamentary circles and the Press. It begins:
In schemes of disarmament which have been examined the possibility of effecting considerable reductions in the naval and military air services of the world has always been under consideration.… But there is no ground whatever for the suggestion that there is any intention to restrict civil aviation in this country or to permit any foreign or international body to say over which routes British civil machines should fly.
That must mean something, and must come from somewhere. Are these the lines on which our representatives at Geneva will fight this case of disarmament for us? I say "fight this case for us," for if somebody does not, the existing utter disproportion between ourselves and several other countries will remain the same, or possibly even go from bad to worse. I say that very seriously because I am in a position to prove it. We have heard from the Prime Minister a statement to the effect that he does not consider disarmament is disarmament if it is unilateral. Here is a case which shows that disarmament, so far, has been entirely unilateral in our Air Force. After the War we had reached the position of being the second strongest Power in the air. From that time onward we started steadily to decrease, and by the time we had reached the spring of this year we had dropped to the fifth Power. Surely that is unilateral disarmament.
Why should our next neighbour reduce her strength by only one-half while we have reduced our strength by three-quarters? If we translate that into figures they will surprise many hon. Members. The total Air Force of the French is just under 3,000 machines. The total which Great Britain possesses is 1,430 machines. I submit that that is a big step in unilateral disarmament. I reinforce this argument by reminding the House that in 192293 a minimum programme of safety was decided upon. A speech to which I listened a few minutes age from the other side indicated that safety must come into consideration. Safety first and disarmament afterwards. This programme proceeded very slowly indeed, and in 1998 came to a standstill. At the present moment we are 10 units short of what was considered in 192223. to be the minimum programme adequate for the safety of this island and our homes. We are a. long way below the margin, at least 20 per cent. below what was described as necessary for safety then. This is an indication of the way in which we have played the game. I urge the Government not to let our representatives go one step further in this direction unless the lead is given to us from another source.
Another indication of our good will which perhaps has passed unnoticed is the way in which we have reduced our Air Estimates annually. Since 1925, our Estimates have gone down steadily, while I am sorry to see that those of France, since 1929, have gone up by £4,000,000 a year. These figures cannot be ignored. The responsibilities of the Empire must be taken also into consideration when comparisons are made between our Air Force and those of other countries. It may be true that the French have Colonial dependencies which need policing, but I do not think they are any bigger than ours, and certainly they are not so far away from the home headquarters; and they cannot be so great as to make it reasonably equitable that France should need 3,000 aeroplanes when we have to do with 1,400. I do not think our representatives at Geneva should be allowed to go below what I have described as the minimum programme which was decided upon in 1922 and 1923 as being absolutely necessary for the safety of our shores.
I cannot help thinking that the taxpayer has been rather ignored. Apart from the probable saving of many lives, the use of the Air Force in police work has saved this country in the last 10 years well over £50,000,000, and I think it will be admitted on all hands that the work has been done efficiently and humanely. There appeared yesterday in the "Times" a statement that there is no ground whatever for the suggestion that there is any intention to restrict civil aviation.
I would point out that, if you reduce or abolish the machine which the world seems to think the most dangerous, that is to say, the bomber, something else will immediately take its place. If you abolish the bomber, the fighter will do the work, and, if you abolish both, the Moth becomes supreme. If you abolish your Air Force, you will be under the control of those who have the largest number of commercial machines, and, as regards the number of commercial machines, we are, again, left in a position of practically hopeless inferiority. Therefore, I do not think it is too much to ask that, even if we cannot tie the hands of our delegates before they go to Geneva—and it must be admitted that it would be impossible to do so—the Government should bear in mind the fact that there are many Members of the House of Commons who feel that the question of security is being neglected, and that it is important that our delegates should not only do what is right when they get to Geneva, but should not forget the country to which we all belong.
I rise to support the Amendment which has been moved by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tamworth (Sir A. Steel-Maitland). Tomorrow we commemorate the fourteenth anniversary of the day on which the last shot was fired in the War which many hoped might end war. It is more than 12 years since the Treaty of Versailles was signed, incorporating the Covenant of the League of Nations, which was to provide the machinery for the peaceful settlement of disputes without recourse to war, and so to lay the foundation for disarmament by mutual consent. In those 12 years there have been preparatory commissions on disarmament, and the Disarmament Conference has met and adjourned after passing pious resolutions which, unfortunately, so far, taking the world as a whole, have left armaments very little reduced as compared with what they were when the War ended; and it is hardly surprising that there is among many people to-day, when they see hope so often deferred, heart-sickness and disappointment. I think it is as well to remember that there is that feeling, not only, perhaps, in this House, but outside.
I, in common, probably, with most other Members, have received a Letter from Oxford. That, perhaps, is not a matter of any great importance; Members receive a great many letters and documents which are circulated to them; but I, and perhaps other Members, have received that Letter privately as well, from two sources—in one case from an undergraduate at Oxford, and in the other case from a very much older lady, herself a grandmother. It is, perhaps, hard for us who remember so vividly the years of the War to bear in mind that the oldest man or woman at the University who has entered at the normal age was, when the War ceased, little more than eight years old. To them it is a memory of childhood, and it is natural and right that they should look forward, and not look back; and, with the impetuousness of youth, possibly they think that the fears and hesitancies of the older generation are holding up the cause of peace. The older ones, who look back, hope that what they went through will be spared to the generation that is growing up.
I think that those who were responsible for the circulation of that Letter, and other people who make similar statements, would have been well advised to have given more clearly the facts of the case. From many platforms we hear the statement, to which reference was made by the Foreign Secretary, that in the years 1925 to 1930 the cost of armaments throughout the world has increased. That statement is repeated from many a platform, but from how few is it stated that, in spite of the fact that expenditure on armaments throughout the world as a whole has increased in those five years, we ourselves, as the Foreign Secretary stated, have reduced ours by 15 and even 20 per cent. I think that those who have the cause of peace at heart should help people to understand what the situation is, and should not try in any way to ignore or evade the difficulties which this Government, and every other Government, have experienced since the War.
Not only have we in this country reduced the amount of our expenditure on armaments, but we have also reduced in men-power, in quantity of ships, and in every other respect. For over four years I had the advantage of helping the late Sir Julian Corbett in the preparation of the Official Naval History of the War, and, in the course of those studies, I saw all the operations telegrams that came into and went out of the Admiralty. It was not capital ships that we lacked; it was cruisers to defend our trade routes; and yet to-day we have 52 cruisers instead of the 108 which we had before. We also lacked destroyers for submarine hunting, and for convoy and escort work. The convoy system could not be brought into operation until America entered the War, because we had net sufficient of these and similar defensive craft. Today we have 147 destroyers, whereas before we had 285.
That Letter from Oxford referred to the discouraging attitude of the Government towards what were described as the bold and simple Hoover proposals. Although those proposals corresponded with the proposals put forward by the British Government for qualitative disarmament, the principal one of them was in the nature of a percentage cut—a cut of 33¼ per cent. all round—which would have left the armed forces relatively very much as they are to-day, and would have stabilised the position to the disadvantage of those who had done the most, and to the advantage of those who had done the least, in the cause of disarmament. We have already made a 50 per cent, cut in numbers. That proposal was not unlike the rough-and-ready rationing in the War, when those who had taken advantage of plenty when it was there were left the best off, and those who, in the interests of all, had voluntarily rationed themselves, as we have voluntarily disarmed, were left in a relatively worse position.
It must be admitted that, although we have set an example, and rightly so, to the world in disarming, that example has not been followed to the extent that we should have liked to see, and I think that this country must now turn its attention to the causes which have prevented other countries from following our example. On the one side there is the cry for security from France; on the other the demand for equality from Germany; and I think it is the duty of this country to see what is reasonable in those two demands and to reconcile them. Any student of history will realise that the years between 1871 and 1914, after the cessation of the Franoo-Prussian War, were years when in France there was inevitably cultivated the spirit of révanche. One cannot blame France for that. Is there not the danger that the same spirit may be cultivated in Germany to-day In Germany, on the western and eastern frontiers, there is being cultivated a spirit of nationality which is good in itself, but which looks towards its neighbour as an enemy. The children are educated to remember first of all that they are Germans; in the schools you see, round the walls in the school hall, mottoes exhorting them to remember first that they are Germans. This country, in the Treaty of Locarno, has guaranteed the western frontier of Germany. I rejoice that the French plan recognises that this country cannot be asked to enter into further obligations with regard to the eastern frontiers of Germany. I hope no Government will ever give an undertaking to guarantee those eastern frontiers exactly as they now stand, because I believe they cannot endure and are a constant cause of dissension, and just for that reason it is all the more right that the Disarmament Conference shall have a fruitful issue. Germany's demand for equality is one which I believe cannot be refused either in theory or in practice. In theory, I think it has been generally accepted. In practice, I do not believe it is possible, as the Foreign Secretary said, permanently to keep a great nation of 60,000,000 inhabitants in a state of inferiority. Any attempt so to keep them will produce inevitable results. Germany is allowed an army of 100,000 soldiers, no mean force when it is considered that Great Britain has voluntarily restricted her armies to less than 150,000. But the attempt to restrict Germany has led inevitably to reactions in other directions. In the outskirts of every German town the barracks which were previously occupied by the soldiers are now occupied by police, who are in very much larger numbers than they were before the War and are subject to a discipline which is military in everything but name. The Stahlhelm, the pocket battleship, and the dummy tank are all expressions of revolt.
The decision that the Disarmament Conference will have to take is whether Europe is to disarm or rearm, and the Foreign Secretary's statement reassures us that he and the Government are determined that the course that will be taken is the course of disarmament rather than rearmament. We used to hear a great deal under the last Government of world causes, as though they were things over which this country had no control. Time was when this country, instead of drifting down the international stream, assumed direction. I rejoice that that time has returned. I rejoice that it is a National Government, broad based upon the national will, which will go to Geneva to work out these problems of disarmament. The French Note leaves us full of hope. It recognizes the validity of the German claim for equality, and it recognises the impossibility of this country taking on further European obligations. I am convinced that this Government has the unanimous support of the country and, I hope, of the House. I hope the Opposition will show that they, too, are united behind the Government in desiring that there shall be a prosecution of the policy of reducing armaments by international agreement through the Disarmament Conference. I am certain that the supporters of the National Government are every bit as sincere as any Member of the Opposition in desiring that there shall be peace and security for peace, through the Disarmament Conference, and it is with confidence, after the statement that we have heard from the Foreign Secretary, that we stand behind the Government in promoting that policy.
Although this is by no means a maiden speech, it is perhaps the first speech that I have attempted to make in 10 years in a Debate on foreign affairs; consequently, I feel more or less like a tremulous person about to make a maiden speech—an experience which most of us have had. I think I can assure the hon. Lady that the Government can always feel that the Opposition will be behind them if they are really taking steps which will ultimately lead to real disarmament. If the hon. Lady's statement is true, that this is the only country which can initiate a movement which will ultimately bring about such disarmament as will give a sense of security and peace to the world, I should like to ask her why it has been left until 10th November, 1932, before the National Government has made the announcement that we have heard from the Foreign Secretary. After all, the Disarmament Conference has been in session for a considerable time, and if, as the hon. and gallant Member for the Drake Division of Plymouth (Captain Guest) said, the Foreign Secretary's statement constitutes a real forward step, I think the best part of that speech might have been made at Geneva several months ago. I am not at all sure, and I shall not be sure until I have read the speech, whether it is a real step forward or not. With regard to the reference to the Sino-Japanese dispute, I thoroughly agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Brox- towe (Mr. Cocks). In the circumstances, I do not see how the right hon. Gentleman could have enlarged upon his statement. With regard to the German demand for equality of status, I was not at all sure whether his suggestion involved rearmament on the part of Germany and some disarmament on the part of other countries or whether it really was intended to involve nothing more nor less than disarmament all round. That is one of the things that one will have to look at very carefully before one admits that the statement is a real step forward.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tamworth (Sir A. Steel-Maitland) regarded competition in armaments as a monstrosity, but he proceeded, as usual, to say that in all the circumstances it would be ridiculous for this country to disarm beyond the point we have already reached. If one looked over the Parliamentary Debates for the past 100 years, one would see that statement expressed tens of thousands of times. Disarmament is a very wise and discreet thing, but there are always 20 reasons why we ought not to indulge in it. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for the Drake Division was very frank and open in the suggestion that he made. He would like to mandate the Foreign Secretary and to give him definite instructions that no real tangible steps be taken until the House has been consulted. We on these benches are believers in open diplomacy, and, if the hon. and gallant Gentleman at long last has become a disciple of open diplomacy and will always insist on the Foreign Secretary and his colleagues being mandated from this Chamber, he will perhaps find support on the Opposition Benches. He talked about our having been the second Power at a certain stage, and said that we had now fallen to the fifth place. I am not sure whether we have disarmed at all in that particular or whether it is not the case that we have not built quite so fast. I do not know, for instance, the number of aeroplanes that we had at the conclusion of the War. I am not sure whether at one time we had only about 1,200. We have 1,430 to-day. We have not been disarming, so far as the Air Force is concerned, year by year; rather have we been arming, but at not quite so speedy a rate as the French Government have been arming. The hon. and gallant Gentleman is preserving the old defence idea that we must have the maximum power either to produce or to control an Army, Navy and Air Force as large as or larger than that of any other Power.
On the general question of principle, the terms of the Motion are as mild as might have been expected by any Government that is really anxious to promote the cause of disarmament. I think it expresses what is felt by everyone in the House, but some Members want too many conditions attached before they can support even this Motion. There are millions of people in this country who would readily support it as the minimum of what they would desire of any Government, be that Government Labour, Liberal, Conservative or National. However, that was not the point with which I rose to deal this evening.
I want to deal exclusively with the question of the production of armaments and the profit made therefrom. I put a question to the right hon. Gentleman yesterday and secured an answer which scarcely seemed to be consistent with the situation as it was a short time ago, although the situation may have changed between then and now. The right hon. Gentleman will correct me later on if I am wrong when I make this submission. We have had disarmament conferences, world economic conferences, and all sorts of international efforts to promote peace and so forth, but I am concerned at the moment about a secret international which I commend to the notice of the right hon. Gentleman. Perhaps if he feels any bitterness over anything that I may say during my observations he will be good enough to spend a few moments reading this document, and then, perhaps, he will feel as I feel at this moment, that unless something is done to suppress the private manufacture of armaments there can be no real and tangible disarmament. It is an appalling document, and I am not at all sure whether the question has not reached the stage when it is a test of strength to see whether the Government delegates or the armament delegates are the stronger. I know that the right hon. Gentleman will be the last person on earth to be intimidated by any personal attack, and I make no personal reflections whatever, but, having read and studied this little document, the secret and powerful influence of those whose business it is to secure the maximum profit leaves one aghast, and one wonders where their power commences and where it actually ends.
The question which I submitted to the right hon. Gentleman was upon the attitude of the representative of the Government upon a committee which was set up by the Disarmament Conference on 23rd July. The Disarmament Conference set up a special committee for this purpose. The Bureau shall set up a special committee to submit proposals to the Conference in regard to regulations to be applied to the trade in, and private and State manufacture of, armaments. Representatives were appointed from Great Britain, United States, France, Italy, Japan, and in fact all countries with a large armament industry. The representatives of those countries, so one is informed by one who was a member of that committee from the commencement, have passed no proposal either for the control or abolition of the private manufacture of arms. I quote from a document written by Mrs. Laura Morgan and despatched to the National Peace Council of America. Referring to this committee, she states:
France has come out strongly for the suppression of private manufacture, or, at least strict control of manufacture, both private and State, but England is frankly cynical.
She proceeds—and I commend this to the right hon. Gentleman since it affects the reply which he gave to my question yesterday—
The British representative of this committee is Mr. Carr of the Foreign Office. He evidently has no sympathy for the proposal for the suppression of private manufacture of arms.…He has criticised the committee for reviving a discussion which he apparently believes was closed 10 years ago with the report of the Temporary Mixed Commission, quite ignoring the development both in international law and in public opinion that has taken place since that time.
There is no attack upon the individual. The name is only used as being that of the representative of the Government. The right hon. Gentleman will, of course, accept full re- sponsibility for the actions of his representative at Geneva.
I can assure the House that that is my opinion of the right hon. Gentleman regarding this representative or any other. The document definitely states that the British representative, a Mr. Carr from the Foreign Office, who, apparently, was appointed by the British Government to sit on this special committee to deal with the private manufacture or control of armaments, has opposed all the time either the suppression or control of private armaments. The right hon. Gentleman, in reply to my question yesterday, said:
The Committee has drawn up a preliminary report which will come before the bureau of the conference in the near future."—[OFFICIAL. REPORT, 9th November, 1932; col. 328, Vol. 270.]
In point of fact, this committee has met several times and has adjourned sine die with no decision having been taken at all, very largely due to the fact that the British representative from the commencement to the end has opposed every submission made by France and in fact by any other country. I wanted to know from the right hon. Gentleman yesterday who gave the Foreign Office representative his instructions to oppose the proposal of France for the suppression of the private manufacture of armaments or the control of armaments produced by private firms. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will now tell us, because yesterday he told me that the representative of this committee was the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. If that is the case the statement of this observer, who, I understand, is a, reputable person, is entirely wrong, but unless information is given to the contrary, I shall conclude that the statement is accurate, and that the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs was not our representa-
tive on this committee, and that our representative actually opposed on every occasion any steps being taken in the direction of the motion made by France, Denmark, and others.
I cannot deal with the matter from my own knowledge at the moment, and I think the hon. Gentleman will appreciate that that is reasonable. I do not wish to say anything in criticism of the authority he is quoting, because I do not know anything about the lady. But the records of what goes on at Geneva are easily to be examined and are available to the hon. Gentleman, and, I think, to many well-known organisations in this country. I am confident that the answer which I gave yesterday was, in fact, right. At the same time, I will very gladly look into the matter, and I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for telling me that there is something in it.
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman, and I am satisfied that now that the question has been brought to his notice, he will be the first to appreciate, if such a report as the one quoted is sent to America, is seen, read and understood by every peace organisation in the United States, the tremendous adverse effect it will have upon that great, country when considering the question of our attitude towards either the private production of armaments or anything calculated to promote real disarmament throughout the world.
In the same document, to justify the impartiality of the lady who wrote it, she explains, for instance, the position taken up by the Government of the United States, which was hostile.
The official position of the United States is that we believe we can accomplish through complete publicity and strict control of trade the same results that other countries propose to reach by control or suppression of manufacture.
Therefore, she does not spare her own country, and she actually opposes both
of them. Clearly, there is a fundamental difference between the reply which the right hon. Gentleman gave yesterday and the situation as here described. The point I want to submit, therefore, is whether on a special committee or a general committee attached to the Disarmament Conference this country ought to give its representatives instructions consistent with the desires of the Government? I ask the right hon. Gentleman if, when the representative from the Foreign Office was opposing either the suppression or control of the output of armaments, he was expressing the feelings of the British Government? Were those the instructions which the right hon. Gentleman gave to him? If that was the case, we are entitled to say to the right hon. Gentleman and to his Government, that, instead of Britain leading the way in disarmament, she intends to maintain her position as the world's greatest armament exporter. In 1930, for instance, this country exported 30.8 per cent. of the total armaments which were exported in the world, and we had the grotesque situation of the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues sitting at Geneva discussing the Sino-Japanese dispute and every week that went by munitions and armaments were poured out of this country, supplied not only to China but to Japan; to both countries equally without any sort of discrimination. It was both ludicrous and criminal that we should have Government representatives sitting at Geneva discussing the rights or wrongs of the Sino-Japanese dispute while armament manufacturers in this country were sending machine guns, bullets, bombs, airships and all kinds of things to both combatants, making it well-nigh impossible for any sort of decision to be reached.
The right hon. Gentleman certainly has some responsibility for this situation. We want to know exactly where the Government stand in regard to the private manufacture of armaments. Do they still stand where they always stood, namely, that whatever can be produced and sold at a profit, whether it be fireworks for 5th November, or explosives for every day in the year, is to continue without any sort of limitation, restriction or control, as has been the case in the past? I am pretty certain that if Mr. Carr at the Foreign Office was carry-
ing out his instructions on the Disarmament Special Committee there is little or no reason why we should expect, despite the wonderful speech of the right hon. Gentleman to-day, any real step being taken towards final and lasting disarmament. With regard to the question which I put to the right hon. Gentleman to-day about advertisements in German papers, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman is going to make further investigations concerning them, for Article 170 of the Versailles Treaty reads:
The importation into Germany of arms, munitions, and war material of every kind shall be strictly prohibited.
We do not suggest that the right hon. Gentleman would licence the importation of any arms from this country to Germany, but the very fact that Vickers-Armstrong at this moment are advertising their armaments in German newspapers seems to indicate that Vickers-Armstrong are intelligently anticipating the possible outcome of the Disarmament Conference. What is the possible outcome that would justify these advertisements in German newspapers? Are they anticipating that the conclusion of the Disarmament Conference will be re-arming, and, if so, that they are going to dispose of vast quantities of armaments of all kinds to Germany? That seems the only conclusion that one can reach.
I want to say to the right hon. Gentleman, as respectfully as I can, and I want to tell him quite definitely, that not the slightest reflection is made upon any Minister of State, or upon any right hon. or hon. Member who sits in any part of this House, in my reference to the advertisements of the armament firms in German newspapers, but there are so many right hon. and hon. Members of this House who are financially interested in these firms that quite a false impression may be created in all parts of the world. Hon. and right hon. Members may seldom give a thought to their investments in this company or that company, but it is true to say that what they may be thinking may be very different from what is thought by other people in all parts of the world, who have their own investigators and who know all about it. We suggest, therefore, that the very fact of advertising munitions in Germany, while we are seeking to establish disarmament and peace, is a contradiction which almost cancels out all the hopes that the right hon. Gentleman engendered in all parts of the House to-day. We ask the right hon. Gentleman to go deep down in his investigations in regard to these advertisements. I do not think that any firm ought to be permitted either to undermine the work of the Foreign Secretary or to create a false impression in any part of the world, which is calculated to increase our difficulties during the months that lie ahead. The suggestion that armaments can be sold to Germany is enough to turn the person who is really anxious for peace into a citizen who is no longer law-abiding.
The right hon. Gentleman in his speech to-day said that every treaty or engagement must be entered into not lightly but very seriously, and he referred to the statement of M. Herriot, that he never doubted our signature. We must give that impression to every government in every part of the world. We ought to let them understand definitely and clearly that our signature to the Versailles Treaty, so long as it remains intact, shall be honoured and that nothing that the Government does or any of its nationals attempts to do shall undermine the signature that we attached to that very vital document. There are millions of people praying for peace. A large number of people have read this "Secret International." I wonder if the right hon. Gentleman by any act to-day or tomorrow can remove the doubts and anxieties that have been growing up. There can be no international economic co-operation until the atmosphere is created for peace. There can be no real peace atmosphere until a definite decision is taken by the Disarmament Conference that will reduce very materially the output of these weapons of destruction that are being produced day by day. Until that is done there can be no industrial prosperity and no true economy, certainly no lasting security.
I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to realise that this is a chance given to few men. I believe with many others who have spoken to-day that we are the one country that can give a lead to the world. I do not ask the right hon. Gentleman to do anything spectacular, which has no bottom and no basis in it. There is no need for anything spectacular. We want something reliable, tangible. If other countries make suggestions that scarcely meet the desires and aspirations of the right hon. Gentleman, I see no reason why we should wait for France, Italy, Germany or any other country to make the initial move. We are big enough and we ought to rise to the occasion. We ought to make proposals of our own if the proposals of other nations scarcely meet the need. We ought to make up our minds once and for all that real progress shall be made. If mankind fails to destroy war, war sooner or later will inevitably destroy mankind.
Mr. VYVYAN ADAMS:
I did not share the alarms and apprehensions of the hon. and gallant Member for the Drake Division of Plymouth (Captain Guest) when he said that he had seen a report in the "Daily Mail" which declared that there was to be abolition of bombing aeroplanes. If that were only true, what a magnificent thing it would be for the civil population of all the capitals of Europe. It may be too good to be true. I am particularly glad to have caught your eye, Mr. Speaker, because I do not like the Labour party who distinguish the Benches below me to arrogate to themselves a monopoly of interest, in the question of disarmament. Some of us in the Conservative party are not quite so foolish as they would like us to be. They may be sometimes perplexed when they hear observations from certain of our benches. I recall that earlier in the Debate to-day the speech of the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. M. Beaumont). I listened with a certain measure of perplexity to some of the observations of my hon. Friend. It reminded me of the dilemma of the walrus in "Alice in Wonderland":
If seven maids with seven mops
Swept it for half a year
Do you suppose,' the Walrus said,
'That they could get it clear?'
I doubt it,' said the Carpenter,
And shed a bitter tear.
My hon. Friend worked himself into a position where he absolutely despaired of any measure of progress in the limitation of armaments and the movement towards permanent peace. I am a little sceptical and apprehensive about the possibility of performance even of the Labour party. Let the House listen to some brave words uttered by a member of the party. During the two periods of office of the
Labour Government they made their contribution towards the £550,000,000 that the taxpayer has had to find over the last 10 years for naval expenditure. Here is a quotation from a speech by the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. G. Macdonald) on the 8th March, 1932:
We have been told that we are opposed to unilateral disarmament, but we have never stood for unilateral disarmament. We know that Great Britain has made a tremendous contribution to the cause of disarmament; in fact, no country in the world has made a bigger contribution in that direction, and it should not be suggested that because we are supporting an Amendment of this kind, we lack a patriotic spirit."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th March, 1932; col. 1734, Vol. 252.]
I would have suggested to my hon. Friend had he been here that before he expresses this fear of the word "unilateral" he should go into the question of big super battleships exceeding 10,000 tons and examine the very serious objections advanced by some of our best naval experts in regard to their retention, replacement and upkeep. But I am not going to be side-tracked into a digression which is more appropriate to a discussion on the Naval Estimates.
The hon. Member for Ince in the speech from which I have quoted used the words "patriotic spirit." Here again there is a very obvious and frequent fallacy. I would remind him with the greatest possible respect, and I would remind the members of the Labour party, that patriotism may vary from the self-sacrificing devotion of the unprofessional volunteers who gave their lives in the last War to the moral lunacy of the Navy League. The words "patriotic spirit" by themselves mean absolutely nothing. I am glad for another reason that I caught your eye, Mr. Speaker. There is a fallacy current in this country, which has been often used in debate, that much harm is done to the cause of peace by those who are most vocal in the championship of it. That is to say, in other words, that "speech is silver and silence is golden." But I would suggest to this honourable House that it is a novel principle on which to conduct our Parliamentary proceedings to say that a cause is best advanced by the silence of its advocates.
The hon. Member for Hammersmith (Miss Pickford) and also the hon. Mem-
ber for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) referred to the deliverance that was wrought 14 years ago to-morrow. I hope that I shall not be arraigned for cant if I say that I remember that deliverance for myself and my contemporaries, and that it is a subject on which I cannot possibly keep silent. There are some highly rhetorical lines by the poet Byron delivered in an entirely different association but which directly represent the necessity for expressing the need for peace and disarmament. It is a vital need to-day because it is now or never. This is civilisation's last chance. The lines run thus:
What, silent still, and silent all?
No, for the voices of the dead
Sound like a distant torrent's fall,
And answer, 'Let one living head
But one arise, we come, we come!
'Tis but the living who are dumb.'
It is on those grounds that on all possible occasions I would seek to promote the cause of peace.
It must be clear to hon. Members, if they would remove from their minds a sense of partisanship, that there is an anxiety in the country about the conduct of our foreign affairs. That anxiety is apparent not only in this House but in the Metropolis and in those localities which we frequent when this House is up. I am going very respectfully to venture to criticise the attitude of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary towards Germany in the course of September last. I shall, first of all, deal with the right hon. Gentleman's explanations and excuses in the course of a speech which he made to his constituents at Cleckheaton. With him, I have a certain intimate interest in the West Riding. He said this:
Again, I read comments about the British Note as though it was a sort of legal exercise which never attempted to deal with the heart of Germany's claim. Nothing could be further from the truth. That Note set aside legal propositions as not going to the root of the matter.
Again to-day he echoed that sentiment:
It insisted that the strength of Germany's claim lay in the fact that the limitation of Germany's armaments contained in the Treaty of Versailles was intended to be, and announced to be the precursor of general limitation by others.
Again the right hon. Gentleman in the course of a reply to a deputation from the churches said:
On the contrary, the Note was written for the purpose of saying that Germany's
claim and our duty could not be discussed in terms of technical law, and that that was not the proper way in which to regard the question. It was a Note which was designed to put aside technical and legal arguments as not being the ground which we should explore in order to insist that the real claim that was made upon the consideration of all the rest of us was a claim in the moral and not in the legal sphere. He admitted that its phraseology here and there might not always have made that plain, but he was very happy to take the opportunity of stating that the Note, which was not his individual production but the production of the Government, was designed for the purpose of removing to one side arguments which would themselves not be sound, and in any ease were technical, in order to make the real field for action and for debate clear and unmistakable.
I proceed to the Note itself. In paragraph 3 the right hon. Gentleman says:
To state what the object or aim of a stipulation is, is a very different thing from making the successful fulfilment of that object the condition of the stipulation. Still loss is it possible to deduce as a matter of legal interpretation of the Treaty that the manner in which the object—the general limitation of armaments—was to be fulfilled was to be precisely the same as the manner in which Germany's armaments had been limited by Part V, for the only indication in the Treaty of the manner in which general disarmament is to be brought about is to be found in the very general words of Article 8 of the Covenant. The correct position under the Treaty of Versailles is that Part V is still binding, and can only cease to be binding by agreement.
I wonder how often in the course of his brilliant career at our common profession of which he is still the most illustrious ornament the right hon. Gentleman in a case of defamation in which he has been appearing for the plaintiff, has addressed the jury in these words: "Members of the Jury. You must remember that you have not to determine what the defendant intended to be understood but what a, reasonable person would take his meaning to be." Has not the right hon. and learned Gentleman on constant occasions said that a reasonable man must be intended to assume the natural consequences of his own action? The natural consequences and reasonable inference from this Note in my humble submission is that it is a lawyer's—a distinguished lawyer's—opinion, nothing more nor less, as regards Paragraph 3. When we consider the highly sensitive and self-conscious condition of German mentality at the present time I can only say that it
was not perhaps so discreet a communication as should have been sent to that great people. Not only did may right hon. and learned Friend allow himself to adopt a legal manner in this communication but also in the course of his reply to the deputation from the Churches he said that it was not his own precise phraseology. There, again, I submit that that sort of argument will not do. I wonder what kind of comment he would make if a company promoter in the course of cross-examination—
I have the Note here now. I do not know in what way these things are dealt with in a court of law, but I know that it is quite certain that if my hon, Friend started to quote from a document and stopped at the point where he did he would receive extremely short shrift from judge and jury. The hon. Member has read an extract from Paragraph 3 and stopped, but the next sentence is this:
So much has been stated for the purpose of clearing the ground. But His Majesty's Government do not understand that the case put forward by Germany is a legalistic deduction from the language of the Treaty of Versailles. It is rather an appeal for adjustment based on the fact that the limitation of Germany's armaments contained in the Treaty was intended to be, and announced to be, the precursor of general limitation by others.
I want the hon. Member to observe that he has quoted the last words which I used to-day with commendation. It would have been candid if he had pointed out that the very words occur in the very centre of the very document which he presumes to criticise by stopping at that point.
I am well aware of what is contained in the Note towards the end, but I submit that there is no reason for this elaborate legalistic clearing of the ground. I am not trying in the least to be impertinent or to embarrass the right hon. Gentleman. Earlier in this Parliament the Board of Trade was perhaps the key ministry, later on it was the Treasury, but now it is the Foreign Office; and if I say things which may be considered to be hypercritical I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not resent them.
I have often heard the right hon. Gentleman's intellect likened to a sword. I wish he would draw that sword and keep it drawn. I do not think that the Government in general and the right hon. Gentleman in particular are sufficiently in touch with that immense army of public opinion which wants the largest possible measures proposed by our Government at Geneva. The point surely is this, that the larger and more generous the proposals for disarmament which we can make the wider the area of general acceptance by other nations of the world; and when I see plans suggested by His Majesty's Government falling short of the Hoover plan I can only say that the ideal object is being damnified. I urge the right hon. and learned Gentleman on the next occasion to make the widest possible suggestions he can. I ask him very seriously indeed not to listen to the apprehensions which have been uttered to-day about the possibility of civil aviation being internationalised. In my judgment that would be one of the most magnificent things that could ever happen in the cause of humanity. After all, we are living in an entirely changed world. Before the War a measure of security was conferred upon us by our Navy, but with the development of aircraft there is now no such thing as security, and less than ever is it possible to say that we can by increasing or maintaining armaments get security.
Let me refer to a point made by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) when he said that German behaviour was rather questionable so shortly after the War. I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that a young German of 18 years of age now reaching the prime and full vigour of life was, when the war broke out, only four years of age and could have had no conceivable responsibility whatever for it. The right hon. Member I know was suggesting that Germany should morally disarm. I suggest that moral and physical armaments cannot possibly be separated. It is the physical armaments of Europe which have prevented the moral disarmament of Germany. There is a Motion on the Order Paper in the name of hon. and gallant Members which I suggest is somewhat self-complacent and provocative to other nations. They suggest that to the Motion which I and 70 other of my hon. Friends have put on
the Order Paper should he added the words.
To an extent equal to that already carried out by this country.
I know that there is an academic case for that kind of argument, but I suggest that their Amendment can be restated in this way—"The world is very mad, Great Britain is only moderately mad. Let the Government hasten, lest we are worsted in this honourable competition. Hurry brothers: we may miss the bus." We hear much of prestige and security; and on that point I go back to the argument that never again in the history of the world will there be any security by armaments. There is no longer any protection whatsoever against a sufficiently large body of foreign aircraft. Such sacrifice as is now being made in England is not in our prestige because we are not so strongly armed, but by the taxpayers of this country, for 25s. out of every £10 of Income Tax goes towards the provision of instruments of destruction. It really is a fantastic sum, and even that amount entirely excludes the provision for debt, which I know may be said to be money which passes from the right pocket of the nation to the left pocket of the nation. In conclusion, I suggest to the House that any prestige that now remains to Great Britain in an utterly changed world depends not so much upon the calibre of her cannon as upon the character of her citizens.
In rising to address the House for the first time for three years I would like to reiterate the warning so often made in this Chamber by my very distinguished predecessor in the representation of St. Marylebone, Sir Rennell Rodd. It was briefly this: That all considerations of international disarmament, of land forces, are ludicrous unless one is prepared at the same time to take into account the abolition or anyhow the drastic reduction in future army reserves. All Continental armies, except, of course, that of Germany for the time being, are based upon a system of universal military service. On the other hand, Great Britain relies nearly entirely for its protection upon a small standing army. When, therefore, at successive disarmament conferences our army, already disproportionate to the very elementary need of the policing of our Empire, is recommended for a reduction, pari passu, with Continental armies, I maintain that like is not being compared with like. If you reduce our effectives by, say, 25 per cent., you immediately reduce our security by that amount. On the other hand, if you reduce the effectives of Continental armies no possible comparison can be made, for the simple reason that the conscripts, the reserves, are still there. Up to now France has led the Continental Powers in refusing to allow the question of reserves to enter into disarmament discussions, and so Great Britain has entered into these discussions at a grave initial disadvantage, and a disadvantage 'which, to my mind, has not been sufficiently understood in the country as a whole.
We have not had too much information concerning the new French proposals, but there bas been a certain amount, and I consider that these new proposals in no way change the situation as I have just outlined it. In fact they only go to intensify it. It only shows how right was Sir Rennell Rodd in his original premise. The last thing that France intends to do, if she can possibly prevent it, is to relinquish her reserves. What we have so far heard of the new French proposals is all to the advantage of France. As I understand them these are two of the new French proposals: First, that regular armies should be proportionate to the needs of Colonies. If that is the case it means that when an allocation is being made France would have an Army of anything over a quarter of a million men, whilst Germany to all intents and purposes would have no Army at all. A further suggestion that reserves should be disproportionate to population again is in France's favour, because, as we know, France at the moment is considerably perturbed by her falling birth rate.
If I may he presumptuous enough to say so, I would suggest that the whole problem should be approached from a better direction. Small armies for defensive purposes can be watched, and to some extent internationally controlled, possibly by a League of Nations; but on the other hand reserves can be hidden. It is very difficult indeed to define what is a reserve. There are so many private armies, Steel Helmets, and such like. Some may say that Boy Scouts are a form of reserve. In fact reserves can be juggled with and their extent merely depends upon the fructification of a nation, and I have yet to learn that fructification can be internationally controlled.
It cannot be suggested that this country is lacking in the desire to "seek peace and ensue it," and therefore I trust that the very earnestness of this desire will fortify us against any further international confidence trick. I have read the proceedings of innumerable disarmament conferences. I have heard the possibility of future wars canvassed both inside and outside this House—Germany versus France, Germany versus Poland, Italy versus Yugoslavia, Russia versus Rumania—the choice is a wide one. As a bulwark against these impending catastrophies we are recommended to the League of Nations. The League during a fairly long existence has certainly stopped one small war in the Balkans and I think another one in South America. It should also have all praise for its efforts as regards the white slave and the drug traffic. But it has also turned a blind eye on one or two notable pieces of land grabbing by Powers that, to my mind, are too powerful to be coerced.
The League has enjoyed something more than its due meed of world praise. But what has been lacking is a general appreciation of the British Empire as the most powerful factor making for peace in the world to-day. We alone are in the unique position of having nothing to gain by war, and at the same time fearing no one. But by various pacts and treaties that well-meaning idealists have manoeuvred us into in the past, our hands have been somewhat tied. The ordinary man and woman in the country are deeply concerned about this and like matters which in calmer times they would have cheerfully left to the decision of the Foreign Office and to the Diplomatic Corps. In my own constituency I have been asked during the last month at least 12 times whether it is a fact that the Treaty of Locarno in certain circumstances would mean that this country would be compelled to fight with Poland against Germany. Does not the dangerously explosive condition in which Europe finds herself to-day, depend to a very large extent upon the hegemony that France has established? Surrounded by her satellite States, Poland, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Rumania, she is able to go far towards imposing her will upon the entire Continent. For hundreds of years it has been the lesson of the world that for France to be predominant—and I do not want to confuse the word "predominant" with the word "prosperous," for we all want her to be prosperous—has been a sure sign that Europe is poor and confused.
I doubt if even the Foreign Secretary knows his way through the maze of treaties and agreements and various forms of ententes and pacts by which a peace-loving nation has become surrounded ever since the Peace Treaties, most of them committing us to armed intervention in certain circumstances. I agree that the French were our very gallant allies during the War, but I somehow feel during Debates such as this that we should not be carried away too much by sentiment and that for les yeux, however beaux, we ought not to allow ourselves to become further entangled.
A glance round the peoples of this world will show seething desires for which wars may be waged. Germany demands equality and also the possibility of renewed colonial expansion. Italy demands the opportunity of controlling the vital mineral supplies that lie just beyond her border. Japan demands an outlet for her surplus population. It is only Britain that makes no demands at all and, amid this welter of self-interest, it is only Britain that has the will to peace and at the same time the balance to keep it.
France demands a degree of security that no nation has ever yet possessed. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who are, of necessity, in close touch with public opinion, will, I trust, bear me out when I say that during the last few years, and intensified during the last few months, public opinion has definitely changed in its attitude towards France and Germany. If this is the case I feel very strongly that France ought to be made aware of this change of attitude. Surely we have not yet reached the stage as a nation when we are no longer worth listening to by other Powers. If that is not the case, then I suggest that we should assert our national views at this forthcoming Conference in no uncertain manner. Let us approach future proposals with a realisation, both of the extent to which we can be misled on the question of future armed reserves, and at the same time of the force for peace that an unbound and unfettered Britain might represent. I have reason to believe that, if this were done, a greater step forward would be made towards world peace and world prosperity than all the problematical decisions of a League of Nations where Guatemala and Nicaragua might very well have the casting vote upon some vital subject.
I listened this afternoon to the statement of the Foreign Secretary with a great deal of relief. I must confess that I did, to some extent, share the misgivings which have been expressed by the hon. Member for West Leeds (Mr. V. Adams). There have been times in the last few months when my faith in the Foreign Secretary has not burned as brightly as probably it ought to have done. I am glad to feel that his statement to-day has restored to me a great deal of my faith. I am very sorry if it is the case that the Opposition will not be able to respond to the appeal so eloquently made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain). If there is one thing certain in connection with the problem of disarmament and peace it is that this country at the moment is bound to be the leader at Geneva. As more than one speaker has pointed out, we enjoy at the moment tremendous prestige as a nation. Everyone knows that we are free from the political antagonisms and suspicions which distract so many of the nations of the world to-day and for that reason we must have a tremendous moral force at the Disarmament Conference. But anything which the Opposition does to-day to try to discredit the Government is bound to have the effect of weakening our influence at Geneva and weakening the cause in which the Opposition profess so lofty an interest.
In the course of this Debate the hon. Lady the Member for North Hammersmith (Miss Pickford) referred to the Hoover proposals. She pointed out, what is perfectly true, that the Hoover proposals, in so far as they imply a cut all round of 33⅓ per cent., would put us in this country at a disadvantage on account of the disarmament which we have already voluntarily undergone. I think it is worth the consideration of this House and the Government whether it might not in the long run pay us to suffer even that disadvantage. This problem of peace and disarmament is not altogether a technical problem. It is technical in a large measure, but it is also a political problem, involving all sorts of political and economic considerations, and there is no doubt, as more than one hon. Member has said, that the influence of the United States of America is going to be tremendous, not only in the Disarmament Conference, but in the World Economic Conference which is to follow it. That influence is bound to be tremendous in the whole problem of the economic recovery of the world. In fact, I think most of us would agree that we cannot possibly achieve any real economic recovery without the close co-operation of the United States of America, and anyone who has lived there for any length of time would, I think, recognise that the desire for peace on the part of the people of that great country, although sometimes it may seem to us to express itself in rather curious ways, is almost their ruling political passion. Unless we try genuinely to meet that desire to some extent, we cannot hope for any real co-operation from the United States of America in solving our difficulties to-day.
The right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary expressed the view, with which think the great majority of people in this country will agree—it is a view which has been expressed by various Governments of this country—that we have proceeded far enough in the way of unilateral disarmament. Although I am extremely keen on disarmament, I must say that I agree with that view entirely. At the same time, I think we might very easily make a mistake if we were to stress too much what we have done in that direction, because if we do that, there is a. great danger that we may antagonise those interests which we must conciliate if we are to make the advance in disarmament which I believe everyone in this House, whatever his party, wishes to see.
The Foreign Secretary quoted from a speech by the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel), who is not able to be with us to-day, as I understand he is engaged on business which is to him of more importance, in which he said that this country could not be expected just to fall into line with other countries in the way of international disarmament unless some allowance was made for the fact that we had already undergone a substantial measure of unilateral disarmament. That, again is a perfectly logical and, I think, correct attitude. But it can be pushed too far, and if we insist on that attitude to the letter, I think we shall find that nothing will be done at Geneva at all. If we are to make real progress at the Disarmament Conference, we must be prepared to sacrifice some of the unilateral disarmament already made, and to regard it, in a sense, as a bad debt. If we do not do that, I do not see how we can lead the Conference in any way; and if we do not lead the Conference, I do not see how it can be expected to succeed.
I am well aware that there are very grave risks attached to a policy of disarmament and that if we were, for example, to accede to the Hoover proposals just as they stand, we should be exposing ourselves to certain risks in regard to our trade routes. That is something which no one can deny. At the same time, we must realise that we shall be exposing ourselves perhaps to even greater risks if we adopt a policy of absolute passivity. And I believe the risks to this country from a failure of the Disarmament Conference are very much greater than any reasonable risks which we should run in a genuine effort to lead the world in the direction of disarmament.
I would like, before sitting down, to repeat something which was said to the Government by the hon. Member for West Leeds. There is, at any rate in the North of England, where my constituency is, a tremendous popular feeling for disarmament and for peace, and I believe that the people of the country are building the greatest hopes on the Disarmament Conference, in spite of its comparative failure up to date. If the statement to-day of the Foreign Secretary is any indication, I believe that we have very good grounds for supposing that those hopes will be fulfilled.
I listened with very great interest to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary, and I believe that this House will judge that statement as one of the great State documents. It has required all the skill of His Majesty's Opposition to search the newspapers for evidence to the contrary to get away from the implication, in their opposition to the Foreign Secretary's statement, that they are against disarmament. They have instead searched the German newspapers and found some sort of proof of the private exportation of arms. I leave it at that, because that is not the object with which I rose. I want to comment on the high level of the speeches in this Debate. Many Debates start on a high level, but this Debate has been maintained at a high level, and I think the reason for it is that the Debate has come about through public opinion. A hundred years ago—I may say that history does not repeat herself; I have to think this, because she was a feminine muse—the franchise became so much a part of public opinion that it forced its way through the House of Commons and, what was more difficult, through the House of Lords of those days; and to-day again there is an example of the weight and force and majesty of public opinion. It is that which has made itself felt to-day and which has maintained this Debate at its high level.
I would like to go back a little and trace the growth of that public opinion. My memory just serves me to recall the first Hague Peace Conference of 1898 when 26 States were summoned to bring about disarmament and compulsory arbitration. I would like, in passing, to note that Dibelius' book on England duly records thanks for the efforts of the British Government on that occasion in the cause of voluntary arbitration, which ultimately resulted in the establishment of the Hague Tribunal. That tribute was published some four years after the war was finished. In 1899, 44 States assembled at the Hague. They did little more than register the growth of public opinion. The other day, the Note from the British Government which recorded the determination of the British people to bring about disarmament and through disarmament the peace of the world as far as they could, mentioned that 64 States would be represented at Geneva. I venture to think that this record of the growth of public opinion in one generation means more in the future than any hope that we may have, because it is not from Governments, it is not even from the ablest State document—one of the ablest of which we have heard this afternoon—that disarmament will come. It will come from public opinion. We can see for the first time some foundation on which can be built the security of the future. We remember the Kellogg Pact as a gesture. It was more than a gesture in the hearts of many people, and more than a gesture in the hearts of the nations that signed it. It will be remembered that, 20 other nations adhered to that Pact, but it remains a gesture, a pious wish; it remains possibly a source of mockery.
Now we come to the beginning of the implementation of the Kellogg Pact. We have had this afternoon a first step towards its implementation. There can be no doubt in the minds of His Majesty's Opposition as to the sincerity with which the Foreign Secretary's statement was uttered, and as to the sincerity of the words it contained and of their meaning. The hon. Members on the Opposition Benches were appealed to earlier in the Debate by no uncertain voice, a very experienced voice, to join in this effort in the cause of peace. I should not presume to hope to succeed where another had failed, but I would remind the House that the Opposition stand now at the point where they can by a gesture unite with His Majesty's Government on this subject, which should be non-party. We have tried on this side to keep it nonparty, and I appeal to hon. Members opposite to come in and to make a gesture before the whole world that Great Britain stands united, that it is no question of party or of a National Government, but that Great Britain stands united in the cause of peace. The implementation of the Kellogg Pact can only be brought about by the faith—I do not say the opinion—but by the faith of the whole House. And let it be remembered that the implementation of the Kellogg Pact cannot be brought about until the feeling for world peace has got right away from a sense of party politics.
An hon. Member from the other side of the House ventured to make an attack on the imperfections of the League of Nations. There is very little wrong with the League of Nations, but there is a good deal wrong with some of the members. It is purely an organisation, a piece of machinery, and it only functions as the delegates who go to Geneva make it function. I feel that in the last 12 months a good deal has been wanting in the way that some of the delegates have used that machinery with regard both to disarmament and to the policy in the Far East. I would not exclude from that criticism the representatives of our own Government. I hope that the important pronouncement we have had to-night means that there will be from now henceforth a vigorous and progressive policy pursued at the League of Nations on behalf of this country in all matters that are before it. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary made some reference to the Lytton Report, and I agree that he could not be expected to say here and now what he is going to do about it. I think, however, that lie went a little far in suggesting that the matter might be still in some way sub judice.
The Lytton Commission has been out in the Far East, the Japanese and Chinese have had a chance of putting their points of view, and every aspect of the problem has been investigated. While it may be only fair and courteous that the Japanese should be heard in any final submissions they want to make, the judgment has really been delivered in the Lytton Commission's report. I hope that the. Government will go to Geneva to base their actions on the recommendations of that most remarkable report, one of the finest documents ever put out in the history of the world. It is an example of the kind of work that the League is so well able to do. When they have a problem to solve, they hand it over to an expert committee of investigation, which brings them an agreed report. Such reports in every case so far have been put into operation to the satisfaction of all parties concerned in the long run. There are the cases of the Aland Islands, the dispute in Upper Silesia, and the Mosul dispute. The same procedure as in the case of Manchuria was adopted in those cases, and most successful solutions arrived at. The Lytton report appeals to one, because it is not penal or punitive. Nobody ought to want to go into the past and lay blame and ask that judgment should be delivered on what has been done in Manchuria.
We want to make certain that a peaceful solution is arrived at. We do not want to look back on the past; we want to look into the future. The solution of the problem suggested by the Lytton Commission, if backed whole-heartedly and enthusiastically by the public opinion of the world, will, I believe, settle the problem, giving the Japanese all that they can reasonably ask, and giving the Chinese, of whom great concessions will be rightly asked, that claim to sovereignty for which they have the right to ask in Manchuria. I hope that when the Foreign Secretary goes to the League, he will allow the matter to be discussed by the Assembly of the League, which is seized of it, and not allow it to be dealt with solely by the Council. For many years past, and certainly during the present year, the Assembly has shown itself far more capable of taking a wide view, without any sectional prejudices, looking solely to the interests of the League and the world as a whole, and I hope that is the arena where the matter will be discussed and debated.
I have one other word to say to the Government with reference to what we might do for China. Our present Minister in China, Sir Miles Lampson, has served that country with great ability and distinction during the last two years. I understand he is about to retire, and the question of the appointment of a successor arises. I hope the Government will give most serious consideration to the possibility of appointing some Englishman of outstanding ability. If I might mention the sort of personality I have in mind, it would be someone like Lord Irwin. I do not want to deprive the Government of one of their brightest ornaments, but that is the type of personality who could render immense service to that country. In the next few years the Chinese will want someone to act as their guide, philosopher and friend, to be in constant contact with them and to tell them, out of the richness of our experience, the way in which it is wise to conduct their affairs. I have in mind the kind of service that was rendered by Lord D'Abernon to Germany after the Was, or by Mr. Dwight Morrow to Mexico. There are many other and outstanding examples of similar service; in the work of Lord Durham, Lord Milner and Lord Cromer.
I hope the Government will consider also, whether it would not be right and advisable to move the Legation to Nanking. No doubt there was wisdom in waiting until things seemed to have settled down for certain in that place, but at present the Legation is 800 miles from the seat of the Chinese Government, and there is a good deal to be said, surely, for the British Minister being on the spot and in constant daily contact from every point of view with the Chinese Government. If the Foreign Office does not feel able to go quite as far as that, I hope they will consider going as far as the Japanese and Italian Governments have gone, and establishing the Legation at Shanghai. At any rate it is only a night's journey from Nanking and would put us in a far better position to give friendly advice to the Chinese Government than is possible from the remote place in which we are at the present time.
On the question of disarmament, one may have very strong feelings about what has happened in the past, about a certain lack of vigour and leadership, but I do not think that on an occasion like this one ought to harp on that, one must look to the future and the development we all believe may come out of the new pronouncement made to-night. I think that in the statement made we have wise, cautious and excellent advice, far better than anything this Government have put forward in the cause of disarmament before. I am afraid it means we are not going to take up that position of bold world leadership at Geneva such as one would like to see this great country occupy. America has put forward definite proposals as a lead to the world, Italy has put forward definite proposals and France is doing the same thing, but I still do not see, according to what the Foreign Secretary says, that there is any suggestion that we are going to put forward proposals of our own, rather, that we are going to act as conciliators, and in that capacity no doubt we may render very great services to the world. I should have liked to see this country taking its proper place from the very beginning as the leader of the world in disarmament, as in so many other matters.
While one wants to welcome with gratitude the pronouncement which was made, it is impossible to assess its real value until we see how it works, how it develops, see the stand the Foreign Minister takes up at Geneva and the vigour and the enthusiasm with which he forces it forward on every possible occasion. If that policy is really going to be carried out on the lines of the pronouncement made, surely it involves inherently certain very important consequences. If we are going to get an agreement acceptable to Germany, to which she will voluntarily set her hand, we have to consider reducing or abandoning our claim to those weapons of offence or defence which were forbidden to her by the Treaty of Versailles, the use of monster battleships, bombing aircraft, tanks and submarines. We have to be open to surrendering the use of those weapons ourselves. As I understand it, that is inherent in the declaration made to-night. If it is not, then that declaration has no real meaning at all, because we can never satisfy Germany unless there is an approximation to her position along those lines. The Foreign Secretary said that Germany would have to be placed in the same position, to use the same arms, as we are. That may mean, as has been suggested, that she may have a token tank or a token bombing aeroplane, just to show that she is as a matter of fact nominally in the same position, but it cannot mean much snore than that, because otherwise there would be rearmament, and rearmament has been definitely ruled out.
The thing that has changed the whole position and that may make the Disarmament Conference a great success after all, is the attitude taken up by Germany. In the last few months Germany has made it clear that she is going to rearm if success is not obtained. That is nothing new. It has been said year after year for the last 10 years, and nobody should have been surprised when she said it and acted with such vigour as she did during the last few months. That action of Germany in holding us to the promise we solemnly made to her after the War has brought the world up against a clear and definite choice, if ever there was one, between a real, drastic, disarmament convention, such as I hope may arise out of the Government's declaration to-day, or, on the other hand, inevitably the immediate preparation by all nations for a further and a bloodier war than we had a short time ago. I do not think that anybody can doubt that that is the issue that lies before us today, and I feel sure the Government will have behind them the wholehearted and enthusiastic opinion of this House and of the country in warding off such a terrible prospect.
There has been one real incident arising out of this Debate which I think is not without significance and which ought to be mentioned. I think we have all realised that there was among the new Conservative Members, who up to the present have, in their modesty, not been very vocal, an intense and sincere desire for disarmament. They have come out into the open on this occasion. There was an attempt by, if I may so call them, the Diehards, the more extreme and older Conservative Members, to tie the hands of the Government to some extent to the type of disarmament which they might support. The reaction to that was a movement among the younger Conservatives, expressing the real opinion of the National supporters of the Government on all sides of the House, showing that they were prepared to give the Government a free hand and not limit them in any action they may take to ensure the success of the Disarmament Conference. I am quite sure the Government will have behind them public opinion outside and support in this House if they stand up fearlessly to any sectional or vested interests who may try to tie their hands. I hope they will rise to the height of the great opportunity that lies before them to build in a real disarmament convention a barrier against the horrors and injustices of another war.
I should not rise at this hour and after so much eloquence has been poured forth if it were not that I want to talk upon a particular aspect of the question. My hon. Friend the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) has just referred to the Lytton Report. It is to that I wish to refer, and particularly to the last words of the Motion on the Paper. Those words would seem to imply the Mover's desire that the Government should be controlled rather too strictly by the terms of the Lytton Commission Report. I think that I am not misrepresenting him by saying that he has some idea that the Government should confine their operations rather strictly to the terms of the report.
It will be observed that the Amendment gives rather more freedom to the Government. That is desirable. We all recognise that the Lytton Report is a very wonderful document, probably more wonderful in its tactfulness than in any other quality. There are incidents recorded in which a certain amount of blunt language might have been used. The incident of 18th September would have given an opportunity to a vitriolic pen, but the authors of the report have kept themselves within very diplomatic and tactful bounds. They have enlightened the public upon a great deal of the history, the recent history, particularly, of China. This House is not so much concerned to-night with what has passed, but with the situation that exists. The League of Nations, when it comes to discuss the matter, will be vitally concerned with what has passed, and it must to a certain extent base its action upon the history of what has taken place. We are concerned with the one plain fact that Japan is in Manchuria. Her presence there has been somewhat thinly veiled since the new State was formed, but Japan is controlling Manchuria. I make no comment upon how that came about.
In addition to the fact that Japan is controlling Manchuria and that there is the new State of Manchukuo, we have to remember the condition of China. Manchuria is cut off, for the time being at any rate, from China, and China is in a state of disorganisation. Large areas of China are under Communist control. In those areas where the word of the Government of Nanking passes to some extent, the control is weak. There is distress all over the country, amounting in very many cases to absolute starvation. Law and order are but weakly maintained anywhere in the country, and are not maintained at all in some areas. The people are in a very bad condition, and development is crippled. One would say that China is suffering in the birth pangs of democracy, and that she is suffering very badly indeed. If ever She attains to full democratic institutions, she will have earned them.
I refer to the general Chinese situation because it does not seem possible that there can be a satisfactory settlement of the Manchurian question unless the whole question of good government in China can be taken into consideration also. We may assume that Manchuria can be given some form of autonomy under Nanking. That has been suggested. If that is so, for the control of Nanking to be made effective it is necessary for China to put its house in order. There can be no effective control of the subsidiary state by Nanking, unless there is some definite system of ordered Government in China itself. It has been suggested that the situation in Manchuria might be such as existed during the time when Marshal Chang Tso-Lin was the dictator of Manchuria. It seems to be forgotten that, when Marshal Chang Tso-Lin was the dictator of Manchuria, not only did he control Manchuria but, in his off moments, so to speak, he had the pleasant habit of descending upon Peking and of disturbing the good order in that area of China. This idea of setting up an autonomous Government in Manchuria with some sort of control from Nanking, exercised through a Governor of the Marshal Chang Tso-Lin type, would, and could, only result in another war-lord being set up in China. We should be very likely to have exactly the same condition of affairs as we had before. When that great war-lord was in Manchuria, he certainly did not deign to receive orders from Peking.
There must be military force in Manchuria for many years, owing to banditry and disorder, and it is necessary to have someone of a military character in charge of affairs there. That someone ought to be controlled from Peking. The only way in which that can be done is by restoring good government in China itself. The two processes are closely connected. If you are to restore good government in China, it is necessary to settle the Shanghai question. It is necessary for the Government to decide what is going to be done about the Feetham Report. It is much more important for our Government to decide what they are going to do about a definite settlement in regard to the Chinese district court of Shanghai. The agreement and the conditions under which that court exists expire in March, 1933, a very few months ahead. So far as one is aware, nothing has been done towards setting up conditions under which that court shall continue its work, shall be reformed, or shall pass out of existence. The uncertain condition of that court was very largely responsible for the trouble which arose before the outbreak occurred in Shanghai. Had the court been able to deal with boycotters in Shanghai, it is extremely unlikely that there would have been any desire on the part of the Japanese to intervene, and none of that dreadful carnage would have occurred during the recent trouble in Shanghai. The question of the court lies at the bottom of most of Shanghai's troubles, and Shanghai lies at the bottom of most of the troubles in China.
Our Government have to consider very seriously not only the question of Manchuria, but the whole question of China, and to consider it before many days are past. It is necessary to establish in China a proper judicial system which shall be free from interference by politicians and by military persons. These are the conditions which exist at the present time, and they must be changed. I would ask that our Government should take this matter into consideration and, through the League of Nations, should, with other foreign nations, offer assistance to China in getting affairs put straight, and should give a guarantee that the best advice shall be given but not from a British Minister, whose position is a little difficult—I know that it was strongly advocated in a book which had a very large circulation that a great man should go there, and that the legation should be moved from Peking to Nanking. That found great favour in that book—not, I think by advice from a British Minister, but through ordinary channels by appointing experts for each of the Departments. Those experts could not possibly work, unless by arrangement with the League of Nations the Chinese Government has decided that their advice is to be accepted. I have had some little experience as adviser, and I am able to say from that that there is nothing more uncomfortable for a man when he knows that his advice is reasonably good, at any rate, than to discover that his advice is simply put on one side. There is not much satisfaction in finding that nothing results from it, and I should be the last to suggest that advisers should be appointed to help China if we did not have some definite guarantee, at the same time, that the Chinese would, at least, pay attention to the advice given.
I do not think that we need discuss to any great extent the position of Japan in Manchuria. I think that Japan knows very well that her position there cannot be permanent, and that the people of Manchuria are predominantly Chinese and do not want a Japanese regime. I do not believe Japan has any desire to do more in Manchuria than to maintain her very proper interests, adopt a proper attitude and see that she does not suffer there. Without in any way attempting to justify the attitude of the Japanese either in Manchuria or Shanghai, I think that, despite the trouble in both those places, the action of Japan will prove to have been good, on the whole, for China. At any rate, the action of Japan—a country which knows its own mind and has the courage to do something—has given an opportunity to the League of Nations to take this matter in hand and out of that evil—as you may describe it if you like—some good will come. The work we and the League can do on behalf of China is not merely work of pure humanitarianism; it has a very definite economic value. One likes to think of the humanitarian side, but there is the side which will appeal to our traders and commercial people. Until these countries are put right, there is no hope of that development taking place in Manchuria and China which should have been going on steadily ever since 1911. It has been a good market lost and remaining lost, and while we think of the humanitarian side of it, we have also to think of the practical, economic side. I hope our Government will take a strong line when this matter comes before the League of Nations. I hope the task they will take in hand will be a task which will have a successful culmination in a China restored to something like itself. It will be a great and very valuable achievement if some 400,000,000 patient, industrious and ex- tremely hard-living people, the Chinese, can see as the result of what takes place at the next meeting of the League of Nations Council, some hope that in the future their lives will be well-ordered, well-governed and reasonably prosperous.
I wish for a moment to go back to the Motion before the House. I, for one, welcome it because it puts a question which must be answered, and which to some extent has been answered by the Foreign Secretary. The question is: Are we or are we not going to maintain the principles of the Covenant of the League of Nations? It may seem late in the day to put this question, but it is fundamental. The reason why it is necessary to put this question is that this nation has never understood, has never been told and has never faced its obligations under the Covenant. This Government—every Government—has to bear a great responsibility. This nation, which longs for peace, has been taught to believe that merely to aspire to peace and to pass resolutions in favour of peace is an end in itself. No effort has been made to explain to our people what were the liabilities which they had contracted. We have undertaken very heavy obligations indeed under Article XVI of the Covenant and under the Pact of Locarno. We have undertaken obligations which may entail naval or military intervention. Our people have never understood these obligations, and, on the other hand, the people of Europe have had no idea up to date whether if it came to the point the people of this country would honour their obligations or would not.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to a speech made by M. Herriot at Toulouse, a speech which did honour to him who made it and did honour to the people to whom he referred. M. Herriot said it had never entered his head for a moment that the British people would not honour their signature, but the point is whether M. Herriot's conception of our obligations and our own conception of them coincide? The other day I read an article in the French newspaper "Le Temps" by one of the most reputable writers, a man well known for his moderation and for his desire for a better understanding with Germany, M. Vladimir d'Ormesson. He said that in case there was a conflict on the Polish frontier between Germany and Poland, under the Locarno Conven- tion, or rather under the Acts which were signed as complementary to the Locarno Pact, England was bound to intervene should there be an armed conflict on that frontier. I was thoroughly startled when I saw that article. It is an example of the different interpretation of one pact as between ourselves and Continental nations. I have often been asked by statesmen of different countries whether I was sure that our people would do this, that or the other, and I felt that I could never be so bold as even to surmise what our action would actually be. This uncertainty as to what would be our action in given circumstances has been one of the most fruitful causes of the instability of Europe to-day.
I was very glad to see from the papers to-day that the Lord President of the Council said yesterday that the Government will stand by its obligations. That was a very welcome statement, and it was repeated with considerable emphasis by the Foreign Secretary; but may I respectfully say that, until the nation as a whole thoroughly understands what its obligations are, neither the Lord President of the Council nor the Foreign Secretary can assert with confidence that it will subscribe to its obligations. This nation has certainly no wish to repudiate its obligations, but, on the other hand, it may well he that those obligations are too vague and too extensive. We have now a unique opportunity of narrowing and defining them.
Two new factors make this possible. In the first place, there are the declarations which have been made by Mr. Stimson, the American Secretary of State. I was delighted to hear the right hon. Gentleman mention them, and draw attention to the importance of those statements, which, so far, seem to have escaped the attention of people in this country. What those statements amount to is that the United States renounces the right of neutrality in case of a breach of international peace, and it is, perhaps, of equal importance to note that, the French proposals, which have been so deservedly commended during this Debate, are based upon Mr. Stimson's statements.
His declarations have eliminated one of our greatest difficulties under the Covenant of the League. Before this, we might have found ourselves in conflict with the United States if we had blockaded a breaker of the peace, but, with the ratification of the Briand-Kellogg Pact and Mr. Stimson's interpretation of it, that danger no longer exists. The United States have realised the validity of the old principle of our common law that there can be no neutrality in the face of crime. A London magistrate the other day reminded the public that individuals who had come to watch the hunger-marchers were guilty of an indictable offence if they did not come to the assistance of the police if called upon to do so. Under the interpretation which as been placed by Mr. Stimson on the Briand-Kellogg Pact, just as a private citizen now is guilty of an indictable offence if he does not come to the help of the police in case of a breach of the peace, so a nation has not the right to abstain and stand aside in case of a breach of international peace. This fact also removes once and for all another of our great difficulties, the difficulty implicit in the theory of the freedom of the seas.
As regards the French proposals, which we must all recognise as a very great effort in the cause of peace, it is obvious that they cannot be accepted as a whole, but they form an admirable basis for discussion. There is, however, one of the proposals which is startling. It advocates the creation of a kind of small expeditionary force, heavily armed, to be held at the disposal of the League of Nations. I do not see how there can very well be, in the same nation, a militia on the one hand and a kind of Pretorian Guard on the other. I think that this Pretorian Guard or expeditionary force will cause alarm and suspicion abroad, and that, furthermore, it will be a danger to democracy in the country where it exists. In countries where Parliamentary institutions are not as firmly established as they are in this country, there is real danger in having a small mercenary army at the disposal of a Government, because that force may well fall into wrong hands.
As I read the French proposals, my mind went back to a Debate in this House on the Adjournment during the summer, on the subject of the Disarmament Conference, and I could not help contrasting the very constructive effort of the French plan with the lamentable impression that many of us received as a result of that Debate. The hearts of many of us sank as we listened to the right hon. Gentleman on that occasion. I am glad to say that impression has been very largely corrected by what we have heard from him to-day. I feel that I must go back to what has happened within the last month or two, because it is important. Last summer we had seen the Foreign Secretary start off for Geneva with all the good will of this nation. We hoped he was going to assist at the birth of peace. Never were greater hopes centred on the skill of a midwife. When he returned from his attendance on the labours of the mountain at Geneva., and he came to this House to announce the happy event, we found that he held in his arms a very, very small mouse, and a very sick mouse at that. We had hoped for so much that it was humiliating to think that this great country, so full of good will, so admirably placed outside the turmoil of European politics, had contributed so little.
The British proposals at Geneva showed that we had tackled the problem at the wrong end. We had lost sight of the fact that what the world wants is the abolition of war. The efforts of the British delegation had been confined to niggling attempts at regulating war. The Hague Convention was also an attempt to regulate war, and that attempt failed. The British proposals at Geneva were merely another attempt to regulate war. What else but an attempt to regulate war can you call qualitative disarmament? As for the attempt to lay down rules for the humane conduct of war, the Hague Convention also attempted to do that and failed. We all know that regulations may he made to do away with poison gas and to forbid the bombing of civil populations, but they will be violated by any nation that is fighting for its life. I must say that, in the face of the desire of the whole world for permanent peace the proposals we made this summer seemed paltry. It is sad to think that we were confining our efforts to regulating the size of battleships, limiting the size of guns on cruisers to 6.1 inches, and seeing whether tanks were offensive weapons or not. We really wanted something more. The truth is that the British proposals lost sight of the fact that, although disarmament in itself is a very important question, disarmament in itself is not sufficient to ensure peace, and history proves that to be true. One of the bloodiest wars that have ever taken place was that between the Northern and Southern States of America and, when that war started, those States were certainly not armed according to European standards.
What is wanted is to implement the will to peace, and this can only be done if, in the first place, the nations feel safe, and if, in the second, they feel that they can obtain justice. As the British proposals did nothing whatever to meet those two necessary conditions, they did little more than tinker with the problem of disarmament. It is sad to say it, but we failed in leadership. A month or two ago, when the most important developments were taking place at Geneva, the whole of Europe looked to us to give them a lead, and that lead was not forthcoming. The best we can now do is to follow the lead given us by the United States and France, and I was very glad to see that that is apparently the intention of the Government.
Our vacillations have bewildered most nations and they have misled Germany. Germany thought we were encouraging her to repudiate her Treaty obligations, and that is why Germany received such a shock when it received the right hon. Gentleman's Note of 18th September. I hope Germany now understands that this country will not stand unilateral repudiation on her part or on anyone else's part, but, on the other hand, our people will, I feel certain, support any just claim that Germany may put forward. I was delighted with the right hon. Gentleman's statement in that respect. The greatest proof of sincerity and courage and of determination to stand by its obligations under the Covenant that the Government can give is to support the League of Nations whatever decision it may take in regard to Manchuria. I beg the Government, as other speakers have begged them, to be firm and to outline a clear policy in regard to the Disarmament Conference. Otherwise, if we fail to do this, may I say what other speakers have said with all the conviction of which I am capable, that we shall have war, and, if there is war, we cannot escape being involved in it. There are in this country a lot of small boys growing up, little chaps whom we tend and look after, who mean everything to us because they are our sons. Let us do everything that within us lies so that at least they shall be spared from going through what we ourselves went through.
I think everyone will agree that this discussion has been well worth while, and, although we were gently chided by the right hon. Gentleman for having put down a rather too nebulous Motion instead of a red hot Motion of censure, I think that the fact that we put down such a Motion is evidence that we wanted, if possible, to have a discussion without the inconvenience that a pure and simple party Resolution would involve. Most Members who have spoken have agreed very considerably with the Motion. The right hon. Gentleman gave as a reason for not accepting it the fact that we had talked about a Motion of censure. I think we had better be judged by what is on the Paper than by what people are talking about. I hope very much that the right hon. Gentleman will understand that the questions of my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) are important ones, and we consider that this question of the private manufacture of armaments, and the tremendous vested interest that there is in that industry, both in this country and everywhere else, make it imperative that the Government should take the matter in hand. It will be a great scandal if it comes about that firms in this country are supplying arms in places where arms are prohibited.
I am rather sorry—perhaps the right hon. Gentleman is going to do it—that no one has said anything about the World Economic Conference. We on this side feel that what the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Carlisle (Brigadier-General Spears) has just said lies at the root of this question, namely, the will to peace; not merely the will to disarm, but the will to peace. Peace in our view depends very largely upon the economic conditions in the world. Nations do not go to war merely for the sake of going to war. There are reasons, and usually they are economic reasons. A nation like Japan desires to expand out of her own country. She invades Manchuria and defends her invasion on the plea that the economic and social development of her country makes it necessary that she should have room to expand.
I believe that the late War very largely arose from the same kind of conditions in regard to Germany. I have listened in this House to pre-War speeches. I remember how the present Lord Grey of Fallodon, then Sir Edward Grey, defended the policy of the Liberal Government on the question of disarmament, and the discussion to-day has followed very much upon those lines. No one wants war. Everybody wants peace. Everybody wants disarmament leading to peace, but no one up to the present has come down accepting what is really the root problem between the nations, namely, the economic conditions of the world. Unless this Government and the Governments of the world tackle that problem and tackle it speedily, we on this side of the House do not think that there is much prospect of international peace or of disarmament. It is very easy to brush these things aside, but the whole of the differences between the French and the Germans in regard to Alsace and Lorraine, the fight between those nations for those provinces, has very largely been economic. The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but the history and the condition of the country to-day proves that quite conclusively. People do not want anywhere in the world to annexe or to hold provinces which are of no economic use to them. We wish to impress that point upon the Government. We hope that they will not allow, as far as in them lies, any postponement of the World Economic Conference, and that they will do, as they say they want to do, everything possible to bring about a meeting at the very earliest possible date. With regard to Manchuria and to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that European Powers should sign another sort of peace pact in a way outlawing any nation that breaks the peace, I ask the House of Commons seriously to consider what the proposition means. The right hon. Gentleman also said that Great Britain always honoured her signature. I will put a point to the House and the House can decide in its own mind. Nine Powers signed the Washington Pact guaranteeing the integrity of the Chinese Republic. That Pact was broken and so far nothing has been done. The Japanese invaded Shanghai and bombarded defenceless villages, and nothing but wordy protests were made. [Interruption.] Yet Japan, Great Britain and America had signed the treaty. I ask—and I hope die right hon. Gentleman will answer the question—of what earthly use is it to sign treaties if they are of no value What are the Chinese to think of the Nine-Power Pact?
When the right hon. Gentleman says, "Let us have another one for Europe," I would ask him what about the Kellogg Pact and the Covenant of the League? What is the use of saying to the world, "Let us have another treaty of non-aggression, let us have another treaty, saying that under certain conditions we will do this and do the other," when we know perfectly well that we have already signed treaties to the same effect. It is rather nonsensical to ask the British public to believe that it will be a step towards peace. I wish I had the chance of seeing the statesmen of the world face to face, for I would say to them," In heaven's name or in the name of the honour of your own countries do not sign another document which you do not intend to honour." If you mean peace, you do not need to sign documents about it. There is no reason to sign documents between honourable people. If they really want peace, they can easily obtain it without making false promises to one another and attaching their signature to them. Therefore, we take no stock whatever of the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman that there should be another Pact between the European nations. If the nations will not honour the Kellogg Pact and the Covenant of the League of Nations, it is no use saying, "Let us have a third one." The whole of the nations ought to honour the agreements they have already made. Will the right hon. Gentleman say exactly what they mean in reference to these propositions in regard to Germany. I have read the document, and it reads like all documents the right hon. Gentleman would prepare. It reads fair and good, and, to a very large extent, is worthy of approval, but what does it really mean? Where do you start with the Germans? I understand that we as a nation admit the right of the Germans to ask us to carry out our pledged word in the Treaty of Versailles. There, again, is a question for the nations of the world. They pledged themselves when they signed that Peace Treaty by saying to the German people: "We have imposed upon you disarmament of the most crushing character." Rather, I should say, disarmament of a most beneficent character. [Interruption.] Yes, beneficent. Not from the point of view of penalising the German people but from the point of view of setting an example to the world to live without armaments.
The nations of Europe have performed a great disservice to the German nation by not following their pledged word and disarming themselves when they had disarmed Germany. They have given Germany every right to come forward now and say: "You have imposed this upon us. You gave us an honourable pledge, or what we thought was an honourable pledge, that you would disarm in the same manner as you disarmed us." We have done nothing. When I say, "We," I mean the Great Powers. The Great Powers, ourselves included, have not honoured the letter or the spirit of our pledge. Is anyone going to say that Great Britain has disarmed in relation to Germany? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes!"] The thing is too nonsensical to think of. We talk about scraps of paper, but this supposed Peace Treaty, signed between the Great Powers and Germany, has never been honoured, and the result is that Germany has got sick with hope deferred. They believed that we were going to take the lead in bringing about disarmament. We have not done so, and the German people have been forced to come right out into the open and say: "You are not carrying out your word. Your Disarmament Conference goes on month after month and nothing is done. Now we are going to take the matter into our own hands, and re-arm"
I would ask the right hon. Gentleman this question: Is the British Government in favour of Germany re-arming? Does anyone on the benches opposite think that it will be a good thing for the peace of Europe if Germany should re-arm? Does anyone think so? We on these benches think it will be the most terrible thing for Europe if there is another race in armaments between France and Germany. That brings me to another point. What is the datum line from which the right hon. Gentleman proposes that Germany and France should start in the matter of disarmament? France has a whole ring of fortresses dividing her from Germany; the Germans have none. France has something like 10,000 big gums; the Germans have 17. What is the point of reduction at which the French are going to say to the Germans: "This is where we start. After two years it will be lower, and so on, until we have equality." If there is any reality in the document that the right hon. Gentleman has put before us, it is very essential that we should know what the British Government is going to say to the German people on this very vital question.
Can the Government give us a statement showing the position of armaments in Europe to-day and how each nation stands, how Czecho-Slovakia stands, how Poland stands, how Yugo-Slavia and the new nations stand in regard to armaments? Somebody has found them the money. What we would like to know, when you are offering to put Germany on an equal status with the rest in considering the question of a convention regarding armaments is, what does that mean in the terms of reduction of armaments with regard to France and the rest of her neighbours. That is a very vital question and one which ought to be answered. The Foreign Secretary in his speech to-day said, quite truly, that we recognise the position of the German nation and the justice of her claim. I should like to tell him why we cannot accede to the request that has been made to us that we should withdraw our Motion. It is because we look back during the months that the present Government have been in office and during the period of the Disarmament Conference, and we have failed to discover what real contribution the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues have made to the discussion of this problem.
It is no use our blinking the feet that most of the other Governments, of the big Powers, with the exception of Japan, have tabled propositions a one sort or another. The Russians tabled a proposition for universal disarmament. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh and jeer. I heard those laughs and jeers in this House during the two years 1910–12. The same sort of jeering went on about all other nations except ourselves. I should have thought that those nations that really believe in disarmament might, as the Dominions Secretary does when he plays, have called a bluff. If it was bluff you might have said to the rest of the Powers: "Here are these wicked Bolsheviks. They put forward a proposition which we know they do not mean. Let us take them at their word and test them on the matter." It is not a question of whether they mean it or not. It is a question of what you mean. It is very easy to sit in judgment on somebody else. Hon. Members have made speeches tonight about peace and disarmament. Do they mean disarmament some day, some time? Do they mean total (disarmament? If they do, why not to-day? [Interruption.] Why not? The attitude of mind of the hon. Member opposite who is in fits of laughter is the attitude of most people who talk about peace and disarmament; it is to-morrow not to-day.
This question of disarmament and peace has got to be brought right down to bed rock. Do we really want total disarmament or not? I want total disarmament, and if there is any nation which proposes total disarmament it is the duty of the British Government to support it and get it carried by the other nations. You do not like the Russian proposition, you do not like the Italian proposition. Nobody can please you. And then Mr. Hoover comes along with proposals and they are discussed and talked about, but nothing happens. The right hon. and learned Gentleman makes speeches here and at Geneva but nothing comes of them; and after weeks we have another set of proposals, the French proposals. All I have to say is that if these proposals mean an increase of military forces in Europe, no matter whether they are conscript or voluntary, or militia, if they mean an increase, it is good-bye to disarmament and to peace. There is not a single hon. Member who will not admit that this is absolutely true. Therefore, we cannot be satisfied with what the Foreign Secretary has told us to-day. He has not told us how he proposes to accomplish the first stage or how he proposes to proceed afterwards, and he has mot bold us what steps he proposes to take for security amongst nations.
An hon. Member has spoken of the obligations we are under to guarantee the peace of Europe. I do not believe that the people of this country know the nature of these obligations, and I should very much like the Government to publish a memorandum telling us exactly what it is we are obliged to do. I do not want to see us going into war again in the defence of small nationalities as we went last time. Nobody believes that that was the cause of the War at all, and, therefore, I join with the hon. Member in asking that we shall be told very soon, not years after the catastrophe has happened, as we were told about the engagements entered into previous to the last War, but told now and told in plain English of our obligations so that the common person can understand them. Mr. Stimson has told us that under the Kellogg Pact nobody can be neutral in future. I should have thought that that was a reason for saying that if there are to be armaments we are going to see that all the armaments in the world are under one international authority, not leaving nations to arm themselves to the teeth and then set about trying to prevent them fighting one another.
I do not believe that the question has been thought out thoroughly or intelligently. The issues involved to the British people are tremendous, that is if it is true that a war on the Polish frontier between Germany and Poland means that we shall have to send British troops across the water again in defence of one side or other. The people of this country should know and understand the position quite clearly. Further, more consideration ought to have been given to the proposition put forward by the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) on the nationalisation of civil aviation. There has been a great deal of debate and discussion on that subject. In the midst of the last War, I think in the last year of the War, the late Lord Brassey wrote to the "Times" and pleaded that the narrow waterways of the world should be internationalised. I think it would have been a very good thing if in the Peace Treaty that had been done. Now one of the best means of securing peace in the world would be to internationalise civil aviation. We would then have no quarrelling about air routes or air stations, but we would have them open and free for the use of ail the nations of the world. I believe that that would be one of the greatest preservatives of peace.
I am always rather shocked during and at the end of these discussions because we seem to have got so far away from war conditions. I shall to-morrow represent my friends here at the Cenotaph, where we shall see tremendous crowds of people, who will process in order to do honour to the multitudes who died in the last War. Everybody said, "This is a war to end war," yet here we are, 13 years after the Armistice, discussing the beginning of disarmament in the world; here we are denying to each other the possibility of peace in the world; talking about signing new agreements; talking about making new arrangements. I heard the eloquent appeal of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) to us not to press this Motion. I say again that we are pressing this Motion because in our judgment the Government—not this Government only, but the Government of which I was a member and all Governments since the Armistice—have not done their duty in this matter. We have not done all that we ought to have done to bring this issue to trial, not any of us; none of us is free. I do not want the House to think that I am standing here in a self-righteous way. None of us is free of responsibility in the matter. We have not done our duty in regard to peace and disarmament.
I ask the House not to reject our Motion, which is a perfectly simple one, asking that the fullest measure of disarmament shall be demanded by the Government, asking that they shall turn over a new leaf, and go to the Disarmament Conference to do everything in their power to honour those whom every one at 11 o'clock to-morrow will be honouring by standing still. We have not been able to do justice to the disabled men, to the men who served in the War. Many of them are starving or semi-starving in our streets. We have not been able to do justice to them. Then, I say, in God's name do justice to their children and save them from the infamy of another war.
I find myself, at the close of a most interesting Debate which has been well worth while—I should not have regretted a second day of it, because there have been a number of most interesting individual contributions —in profound agreement with one or two of the opening observations of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. Disarmament in my view will not stop war. That is a matter of the will to peace. That is absolutely right. As I have often said, there are two natural instincts that make for the preservation of the race—the reproduction of the species and the preservation of the species by fighting for its safety—and the right hon. Gentleman is perfectly right that the fighting instinct is the oldest that we have in our nature. That is what we are up against, and I agree with him in that, although he did not actually say it in that way. The highest duty of statesmanship is to work to remove the causes of war. We shall all be in agreement with that. That is the difficult and constant duty of statesmen and that is where true statesmanship is shown. But what you can do by disarming and what we all hope to do is this—to make war more difficult, to make it more difficult to start, to make it pay less to continue, and to that end I think, we ought to direct our minds.
I have studied these matters for many years. My duty has made me chairman for five years of the Committee of Imperial Defence, and I sat continuously for 10 years on that committee, except during the period when the present Opposition were in power. There is no subject which interests me more deeply, nor is there one which is more fraught with the well-being or ill-being of the human race. What the world suffers from—and I have said this before—is a sense of fear, a want of confidence, and it is a fear held instinctively and without knowledge very often. But in my view, and I have slowly and deliberately come to this conclusion, there is no one thing more responsible for that fear—I am speaking now of what the hon. Gentleman the Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) called the common people of whom I am chief—there is no greater cause of that fear than the fear of the air. Up to the time of the last War, civilians were exempt from the worst perils of war. They suffered sometimes from hunger, sometimes from the loss of sons and relatives serving in the Army, but now, in addition, they suffer from the fear, not only of being killed themselves, but, what is perhaps worse for a man, the fear of seeing his wife and children killed from the air.
These feelings exist among the ordinary people throughout the whole civilised world, and I doubt if many of those who have that fear realise one or two things with reference to its cause. One is the appalling speed which the air has brought into modern warfare. The speed of air attack, compared with the attack of an army, is as the speed of a motor car to that of a four-in-hand and in the next war you will find that any town which is within reach of an aerodrome can be bombed within the first five minutes of war from the air, to an extent which was inconceivable in the last war, and the question will be whose moral will be shattered quickest by that preliminary bombing? I think it is well also for the man in the street to realise that there is no power on earth that can protect him from being bombed. Whatever people may tell him, the bomber will always get through, and it is very easy to understand that, if you realise the area of space. I said that any town within reach of an aerodrome could be bombed. Take any large town you like in this island or on the Continent within such reach. For the defence of that town and its suburbs, you have to split up the air into sectors for defence. Calculate that the bombing aeroplanes will be at least 20,000 feet high in the air, and perhaps higher, and it is a matter of simple mathematical calculation—or I will omit the word "simple"—that you will have sectors of from 10 to hundreds of millions of cubic miles to defend. I beg pardon. I am not a mathematician, as the House will see. I mean tens or hundreds of cubic miles. Now imagine 100 cubic miles covered with cloud and fog, and you can calculate how many aeroplanes you would have to throw into that to have much chance of catching odd aeroplanes as they fly through it. It cannot be done, and there is no expert in Europe who will say that it can. The only defence is in offence, which means that you have to kill more women and children more quickly than the enemy if you want to save yourselves.
I just mention that at the beginning of what I have to say that people may realise what is waiting for them when the next war comes. The result of all this is, and the knowledge of it, which is probably more widespread on the Continent than in these islands is, that in many parts of the Continent, I am told, open preparations are being made to educate the population how best to seek protection. They are being told by lectures; they have considered, I understand, the evacuation of whole populated areas which may find themselves in the zone of fire; and I think I remember to have seen in some of our English illustrated papers pictures of various experiments in protection that are being made on the Continent. There is one very interesting feature of that. There was the Geneva Gas Protocol, signed by 28 countries in June, 1925, and yet I find that in these experiments on the Continent people are being taught the necessary precautions to take against the use of gas dropped from the air. I may have something to say on that later on.
I will not pretend that we are not taking our precautions in this country. We have done it. We have made our investigations, much more quietly and hitherto without any publicity, but, considering the years that are required to make your preparations, any Government of this country in the present circumstances of the world would have been guilty of criminal negligence had they neglected to make their preparations. The same is true of other nations. What more potent cause of fear can there be than this kind of thing that is going on on the Continent? And fear is a very dangerous thing. It is quite true that it may act as a deterrent in people's minds against war, but it is much more likely to act to make them want to increase armaments to protect them against the terrors that they know may be launched against them. We have to remember that aerial warfare is still in its infancy, and its potentialities are incalculable and inconceivable.
How have nations tried to deal with this terror of the air? I confess that the more I have studied this question the more depressed I have been at the perfectly futile attempts that have been made to deal with this problem. The amount of time that has been wasted at Geneva in discussing questions such as the reduction of the size of aeroplanes, the prohibition of the bombardment of the civil population, the prohibition of bombing, have really reduced me to despair. What would be the only result of reducing the size of aeroplanes? As soon as we work at this form of warfare, immediately every scientific man in the country will turn to making a high explosive bomb about the size of a walnut and as powerful as a bomb of big dimensions, and our last state may be just as bad as the first.
The prohibition of the bombardment of the civil population, the next thing talked about, is impracticable so long as any bombing exists at all. We remember in the last war areas where munitions were made. They now play a part in war that they never played in previous wars, and it is essential to an enemy to knock those areas out. So long as they can be knocked out by bombing and no other way, you will never in the practice of war stop that form of bombing. The prohibition of bombing aeroplanes or of bombing leads you to two very obvious considerations when you examine the question. The first difficulty. about that is this—will any form of prohibition of bombing, whether by convention, treaty, agreement or anything you like, be effective in war? Frankly, I doubt it, and in doubting it, I make no reflection on the good faith of either ourselves or any other country. If a man has a potential weapon and has his back to the wall and is going to be killed, he will use that weapon whatever it is and whatever undertaking he has given about it. Experience has shown us that the stern test of war will break down all conventions.
I will remind the House of the instance which I gave a few weeks ago of the preparations that are being made in the case of bombing with gas, a material forbidden by the Geneva Protocol of 1925. To come a little more closely home, let me remind the House of the Declaration of London, which was in existence in 1914, and which was whittled away bit by bit until the last fragment dropped into the sea in the early spring of 1916.
No, but we regarded it as binding. Let me also remind the House as I have reminded them before, of two things in the last war. We all remember the cry that was raised when gas was first used, and it was not long before we used it. We remember also the cry that was raised when civilian towns were first bombed. It was not long before we replied, and naturally. No one regretted seeing it done more than I did. It was an extraordinary instance of the psychological change that comes over all of us in times of war. So I rule out any prospect of relief from these horrors by any agreement of what I may call local restraint of that kind. As far as the air is concerned, there is, as has been most truly said, no way of complete disarmament except the abolition of flying. Now that, again, is impossible. We have never known mankind go back on a new invention. It might be a good thing for this world, as I have heard some of the most distinguished men in the Air Service say, if man had never learned to fly. But he has learned to fly, and there is no more important question, not only before this House, but before every man, woman and child in Europe, than: "What are we going to do with this power now we have got it?" I make no excuse for bringing this subject forward to-night to ventilate it in this first Assembly in the world, in the hope that perhaps what is said here may be read in other countries and may be considered and pondered, because on the solution of this question hangs not only, in my view, our civilisation, but before that terrible day comes there hangs the lesser question, but a difficult one, of the possible re-armament of Germany with an air force. The two things are inextricably wrapped up together.
That brings me to the next point. There have been some paragraphs the Press which look as though they were half inspired—by which I mean it looks as if somebody had been talking about something he had no right to talk about to someone who did not quite comprehend him—in which a suggestion was put forward for the abolition of the air forces of the world and the international control of civil aviation. Let me put that in a slightly different way. I am firmly convinced myself, and have been for some time, that if it were possible the air forces ought all to be abolished, but if they were there would still be civil aviation, and in civil aviation there are the potential bombers. It is all very well using the phrase "international control," but nobody knows quite what it means, and the subject has never been investigated.
That is my answer to my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Drake Division of Plymouth (Captain Guest) to whose speech I listened with very much interest. In my view it is necessary for the nations of the world concerned—and I will make a remark about that in a moment—to devote the whole of their minds to this question of civil aviation, to see if it is possible so to control civil aviation that such disarmament will be feasible. I said the nations whom it concerns, because this is not a subject on which a nation that has no air force or no air sense has any qualification to express a view. I think that such investigation should only be made by the nations who have air forces and who possess an air sense, and undoubtedly, although she has not an air force, Germany should be a participant in any such discussions as might take place. Such an investigation would be, under the most favourable circumstances, bound to last a long time, for there is no more difficult or more intricate subject even assuming that all the participants were desirous of coming to a conclusion.
So, in the meantime, there will arise the question of disarmament only, and on that I will say but a word. My right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Drake Division raised a point there. He pointed out quite truly that this country had never even carried out the very modest programme which was adopted by Mr. Bonar Law's Government in 1922 or 1923 as the then minimum requisite, in the opinion of the Government, for the safety of this country. He expressed the fear, the very natural and proper fear, lest we, with a comparatively small Air Force among the large air forces of the world, should disarm from that point and that the vast difference between our strength and the strength of some other nations would remain relatively as great as it is to-day. That kind of disarmament does not recommend itself to the Government. I may assure him that the point which he made has been very present to our minds and that in my view the position is amply safeguarded.
I would make only one or two other observations on this subject, my desire having been to attract the minds of people to this subject. It has never really been much discussed or thought out, and yet, to my mind, it is far the most important of all the questions of disarmament, bemuse all disarmament hangs on the air. As long as the air exists, you cannot get rid of the fear of which I spoke, and which I believe to be the parent of many troubles. One cannot help reflecting that, after the hundreds of millions of years during which the human race has been on this earth, it is only within our generation that we have secured the mastery of the air. I certainly do not know how the youth of the world may feel, but it is not a cheerful thought to the older men that, having got that mastery of the air, we are going to defile the earth from the air as we have defiled the soil during all the years that mankind has been on it. This is a question for the younger men far more than it is for us. They are the men who fly in the air. Future generations will fly in the air more and more.
Few of my colleagues around me here, probably, will see another great war. I do not think that we have seen the last great war, but I do not think there will be one just yet; at any rate, if it does
come, we shall be too old to be of use to anyone. What about the younger men? How will they investigate this matter? It is they who will have to fight, and it is they who will have to fight out this bloody issue of war. It is realty for them to decide. They are the majority upon the earth, and the matter touches them fax more closely. The instrument is in their bands. There are some instruments so terrible that mankind has resolved not to use them. I myself happen to know of at least three inventions, deliberately proposed for use in the last War, that were never used—potent to a degree and inhuman.
If the conscience of the young, men should ever come to feel with regard to this one instrument that it is evil and should go, the thing will be done; but if they do not feel like that—well, as I say, the future is in their hands. But when the next war comes, and European civilisation is wiped out, as it will he and by no force more than by that force, then do not let them lay the blame upon the old men. Let them remember that they, they principally or they alone, are responsible for the terrors that have fallen upon the earth.
|Division No. 359.]||AYES||[10.51 p.m.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Batey, Joseph||Groves, Thomas E.||Maxton, James|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Grundy, Thomas W.||Milner, Major James|
|Buchanan, George||Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Nathan, Major H. L.|
|Cape, Thomas||Hicks, Ernest George||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Jenkins, Sir William||Price, Gabriel|
|Cove, William G.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Watts-Morgan, Lieut.-Col. David|
|Dagger, George||Lawson, John James||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Leonard, William||Williams, Dr. John H. (Lianelly)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Llewellyn-Jones, Frederick||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Edwards, Charles||Logan, David Gilbert|
|Evans, David Owen (Cardigan)||Lunn, William||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen)||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Mr. John and Mr. D. Graham.|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||McEntee, Valentine L.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir Francis Dyke||Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leads, W.)||Aske, Sir Robert William||Barton, Capt. Basil Kelsey|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Astbury, Lieut.-Com Frederick Wolfe||Bateman, A. L.|
|Aitchison, Rt. Hon. Craigle M.||Atholl, Duchess of||Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell|
|Albery, Irving James||Atkinson, Cyril||Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury)|
|Alexander, Sir William||Belillie, Sir Adrian W. M.||Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th, C.)|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l, W.)||Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Beit, Sir Alfred L.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nb'd)||Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J.||Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley|
|Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent)||Balniel, Lord||Bennett, Capt. Sir Ernest Nathaniel|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell||Bernays, Robert|
|Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B.||Eillston, Captain George Sampson||Kimball, Lawrence|
|Bevan, Stuart James (Holborn)||Eimley, Viscount||Kirkpatrick, William M.|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Emmott, Charles E. G. C.||Knatchbull, Captain Hon. M. H. R.|
|Blaker, Sir Reginald||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Knebworth, Viscount|
|Borodale, Viscount||Entwistle, Cyril Fullard||Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton|
|Bossom, A. C.||Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George|
|Boulton, W. W.||Essenhigh, Reginald Clare||Latham, Sir Herbert Paul|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Everard, W. Lindsay||Law, Sir Alfred|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Fleiden, Edward Brocklehurst||Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Fleming, Edward Lascelles||Lees-Jones, John|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Sir Archibald||Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||Leigh, Sir John|
|Bracken, Brendan||Fraser, Captain Ian||Leighton, Major B. E. P.|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Fremantle, Sir Francis||Levy, Thomas|
|Briscoe, Capt. Richard George||Fuller, Captain A. G.||Lewis, Oswald|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Galbraith, James Francis Wallace||Liddell, Walter S.|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Ganzonl, Sir John||Lindsay, Noel Ker|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Gibson, Charles Granville||Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe-|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen.H.C.(Berks.,Newb'y)||Gillett, Sir George Masterman||Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest|
|Browne, Captain A. C.||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Llewellin, Major John J.|
|Buchan, John||Gledhill, Gilbert||Lloyd, Geoffrey|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T||Glossop, C. W. H.||Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hn. G.(Wd.Gr'n)|
|Bullock, Captain Malcolm||Glyn, Major Ralph G. C.||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (H'ndsw'th)|
|Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie||Goff, Sir Park||Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)|
|Burnett, John George||Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Loder, Captain J. de Vere|
|Butler, Richard Austen||Gower, Sir Robert||Mabane, William|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rl'd, N.)||MacAndrew, Lt.-Col. C. G. (Partick)|
|Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Granville, Edgar||MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)|
|Caine, G. R. Hall-||Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas||McCorquodale, M. S.|
|Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley)||Graves, Marjorie||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)|
|Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)|
|Carver, Major William H.||Greene, William P. C.||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Grenfell, E. C. (City of London)||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)|
|Castle Stewart, Earl||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||McEwen, Captain J. H. F.|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Mlddlesbro',W.)||McKie, John Hamilton|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (P'rtsm'th, S.)||Grimston, R. V.||Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Gritten, W. G. Howard||McLean, Major Alan|
|Caralet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Guy, J. C. Morrison||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord Hugh||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.|
|Chalmers, John Rutherford||Hall, Capt. W. D'Arcy (Brecon)||Magnay, Thomas|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir J.A.(Birm.,W.)||Hamilton, Sir R. W.(Orkney & Zetl'nd)||Maitland, Adam|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston)||Hammersley, Samuel S.||Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest|
|Chorlton, Alan Ernest Leofric||Hanbury, Cecil||Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot|
|Christie, James Archibald||Hanley, Dennis A.||Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Martin, Thomas B.|
|Clayton, Dr. George C.||Harbord, Arthur||Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon. N.)|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Hartington, Marquess of||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Hartland, George A.||Meller, Richard James|
|Colfox, Major William Philip||Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenningt'n)||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd|
|Collins, Rt. Hon. Sir Godfrey||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.||Milne, Charles|
|Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J.||Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)||Mitchell, Harold P.(Br'tf'd & Chisw'k)|
|Conant, R. J. E.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)|
|Cook, Thomas A.||Hepworth, Joseph||Mitcheson, G. G.|
|Cooke, Douglas||Herbert, Capt. S. (Abbey Division)||Molson, A. Hugh Eisdale|
|Courtauld, Major John Sewell||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Monsell, At. Hon. Sir B. Eyres|
|Courthope, Colonel Sir George L.||Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston)||Moore, Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr)|
|Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry||Hope, Sydney (Chester, Stalybridge)||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Hopkinson, Austin||Moreing, Adrian C.|
|Craven-Ellis, William||Hornby, Frank||Morgan, Robert H.|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Horobin, Ian M.||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)||Horsbrugh, Florence||Muirhead, Major A. J.|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Howard, Tom Forrest||Nall, Sir Joseph|
|Crossley, A. C.||Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.||Nall-Coin, Arthur Ronald N.|
|Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M.(Hackney, N.)||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.|
|Culverwell, Cyril Tom||Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport)||Newton, Sir Douglas George C.|
|Curry, A. C.||Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)|
|Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C.||Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)||Nicholson, Rt. Hn. W. G. (Petersf'ld)|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovil)||Hurd, Sir Percy||Normand, Wilfrid Guild|
|Davison, Sir William Henry||Hurst, Sir Gerald B.||North, Captain Edward T.|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Romf'd)||Nunn, William|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.||O'Connor, Terence James|
|Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Iveagh, Countess of||O'Donovan, Dr. William James|
|Dickie, John P.||Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)||Oman, Sir Charles William C.|
|Donner, P. W.||James, Wing-Com. A. W. H.||Ormiston, Thomas|
|Drewe, Cedric||Jamieson, Douglas||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.|
|Duckworth, George A. V.||Janner, Barnett||Palmer, Francis Noel|
|Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel||Jennings, Roland||Patrick, Colin M.|
|Duggan, Hubert John||Jesson, Major Thomas E.||Peake, Captain Osbert|
|Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||Joel, Dudley J. Barnato||Pearson, William G.|
|Dunglass, Lord||Johnston, J. W. (Clackmannan)||Penny, Sir George|
|Eastwood, John Francis||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)||Percy, Lord Eustace|
|Edge, Sir William||Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)||Perkins, Walter R. D.|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Ker, J. Campbell||Peters, Dr. Sidney John|
|Elliot, Major Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)||Petherick, M.|
|Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey||Kerr, Hamilton W.||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, B'nstaple)|
|Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n, Bilst'n)||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Templeton, William P.|
|Pickering, Ernest H.||Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard||Thomas, Major L. B. (King's Norton)|
|Pickford, Hon. Mary Ada||Savory, Samuel Servington||Thompson, Luke|
|Potter, John||Scone, Lord||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.||Selley, Harry R.||Thorp, Linton Theodore|
|Power, Sir John Cecil||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Pownall, Sir Assheton||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)||Todd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)|
|Procter, Major Henry Adam||Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)||Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)|
|Pybus, Percy John||Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.||Touche, Gordon Cosmo|
|Raikes, Henry V. A. M.||Simmonds, Oliver Edwin||Train, John|
|Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Ramsbotham, Herwald||Skelton, Archibald Noel||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Ramsden, E.||Slater, John||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|Rankin, Robert||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Ratcliffe, Arthur||Smith, Sir Jonah W. (Barrow-In-F.)||Wallace, John (Dunfermline)|
|Rawson, Sir Cooper||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Ray, Sir William||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine,C.)||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Rea, Walter Russell||Smith-Carington, Neville W.||Ward, Sarah Adelalde (Cannock)|
|Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)||Smithers, Waldron||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir John S.|
|Reid, Capt. A. Cunningham-||Somervell, Donald Bradley||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Reid, David D. (County Down)||Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)||Watt, Captain George Steven H.|
|Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)||Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Reid, William Allan (Derby)||Soper, Richard||Wells, Sydney Richard|
|Remer, John R.||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.||Weymouth, Viscount|
|Rentoul, Sir Gervals S.||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.||Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Robinson, John Roland||Spencer, Captain Richard A.||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Ropner, Colonel L.||Stanley Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)||Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)|
|Rosbotham, S. T.||Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Ross, Ronald D.||Stevenson, James||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)||Stewart, William J.||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Rothschild, James A. de||Stones, James||Withers, Sir John James|
|Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.||Storey, Samuel||Womersley, Walter James|
|Runge, Norah Cecil||Strauss, Edward A.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Kingsley|
|Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)||Strickland, Captain W. F.||Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)|
|Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Rutherford, Sir John Hugo||Sudden, Sir Wilfrid Hart||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'oaks)|
|Salmon. Major Isidore||Summersby, Charles H.|
|Salt, Edward W.||Sutcliffe, Harold||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)||Tate, Mavis Constance||Captain Margesson and Mr. Blindell.|
Resolution agreed to.
That this House, having heard the statement of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, approves it and assures His Majesty's Government of its support in the vigorous promotion of a policy of limiting and reducing armaments by international agreement through the Disarmament Conference at Geneva; expresses its appreciation of the efforts already made by the Government in that direction; and also its approval of the determination of His Majesty's Government to continue their loyal cooperation with the League of Nations in dealing with the Sino-Japanese dispute,