I beg to move,
That this House, while appreciating the sincere efforts of His Majesty's Government to secure world-wide disarmament, considers that the growing disparity in armaments of the United Kingdom in relation to other Powers has brought about a situation which seriously imperils the security and independence of the British Commonwealth and endangers peace; in consequence, this House, though anxious to co-operate in a universal policy of peace and disarmament, either through the League of Nations or by direct international agreements, urges His Majesty's Government to pursue a course which will adequately safeguard our industrial, political, and national existence.
I feel that perhaps it is as well that the Disarmament Debate took place yesterday, and I am glad to note that the Foreign Secretary placed some time limit in which we should look to ourselves and see to our own preparedness. I am fully conscious of the gravity of this Motion, and I deprecate strongly—and as far as I am concerned it will not arise—any statement that would tend to embarrass His Majesty's Ministers in the very delicate negotiations that they are carrying out internationally, or any attempt to exaggerate our helplessness on this occasion—I do not think it would be in the public interest to do so—or, alternatively, to depict any of the horrors of war which we are all very desirous of avoiding to the best of our ability. But I submit that the soundest insurance against these horrors of war is an organised preparation against any attack on this country or on our Empire. The Motion will tend to show the peril in which we stand and to suggest to the Government that they should consider in a calm and dispassionate manner such measures as we have available for the security of this realm.
I do not propose to go into any details on the subject of existing armaments, but I wish to paint a broad picture of the situation as we find it to-day. We are all used to having in this country an Army relatively smaller than those of most of the first-class Powers, but that in itself would be in no way alarming if we could feel more assured that there was a sufficient body of partially trained recruits standing behind that Army to be called on in case of emergency. As for the Navy, 30 or 40 years ago, before airships were ever heard of, our fathers considered that the security of our Empire, our trade routes, and our country could only be maintained on a basis of two keels to one. That, as we all know, has long since been abandoned, and we are now asked to consider from time to time the question of equality with the next largest Power, although our commitments and obligations to our own people have not materially lessened but have, in fact, increased, and the relative dangers to those interests which our Navy guards have increased at least tenfold. It is a curious commentary, looking back on those times, from 1880 to 1910 or thereabouts, when this country had a predominance on the sea and was the greatest nation in the world, that there was an obvious cessation of jealousies as between one country and another as we know them to-day, and there was the greatest development of industrial and civilising progress.
One would imagine that, with our weakness on the sea, we should obviously have a preponderating superiority in the air, but we all know that that is not a fact, and we are, unfortunately, at least the fourth, the fifth, or, as some say, the sixth on the list of Powers in the world in relative strength in the air, although these other nations that have a greater strength in the air than we have have not a tithe of our responsibilities. We all regard the personnel of our Royal Air Force with the greatest degree of admiration. They are second to none in the world, and I might say the same also of the machines which we produce. This country is the workshop for the manufacture of aircraft for half-a-dozen foreign countries. Can we calmly contemplate the possibility of sending these splendid airmen into the sky to be grossly outnumbered and shot down, through our own neglect, when these men are endeavouring to defend our homes?
In that connection I would like to make a few comments about our anti-aircraft defence. There are four brigades, one of which is only on paper. Two brigades are Territorial and one brigade is Regular Army, which, I understand, is in the highest state of efficiency, but the two Territorial brigades are greatly
undermanned and understaffed. In fact, there is in them less than 30 per cent. of the full complement of highly trained artillery officers. Two brigades, one Territorial and one Regular Army, are reserved for the defence of London, and the other Territorial brigade is for the defence of the rest of the United Kingdom. It would not take much stretch of the imagination to visualise the possibility of an attack at various points in the United Kingdom, in which case our defence from the anti-aircraft brigade would be practically negligible. In the event of any sustained attack with anything like the casualties which we are led to expect from what occurred in the last War, at the end of a very short period defence in that respect would cease to exist entirely. Reverting to the general position, to which I shall keep as much as possible, I would like to quote the Prime Minister, because we recognise that he would be the last to make any serious statement unless he had ample justification, knowing as we do his sincere pacifist outlook. In a broadcast speech a few weeks ago, he said:
We ourselves have disarmed to the very edge of safety.
With due respect to the right hon. Gentleman, I submit that if a serious statement like that had been made 30 years ago by a Prime Minister, it would have created such an outcry in the country that it would have resulted in the fall of the Government within a week. To-day, however, our national pride and inherent self-reliance seem to have been sapped by pacifist and fanatical propaganda disclosing the length to which a nation might drop into short-sighted sentiment and Micawberism, ignoring entirely the first law of nature—self-defence.
Another aspect of this situation is our depreciating value as an ally round the conference table in discussing agreements for mutual protection from attack. Our value as an ally two years ago was greater than it is to-day, and unless we do something it will be infinitely less in two years time than it is to-day. It has also a further repercussion in connection with something more material, namely, trade. It has an adverse effect on our trade negotiations, and consequently may have an effect on the amount of goods we can sell to foreign countries.
How much longer are we going to drift into trouble because we take undue notice of political doctrinaires and ignore the warnings of practical men that are given from time to time? Many in the House are old enough to remember the warnings which were given by the late Lord Roberts in the few years preceding the World War. In 1913 a responsible Member of the Liberal Government described Lord Roberts as being in a state of senile decay and a foolish old man. Within 12 months this country was fighting for its very existence. Hardly a month goes by when warnings are not given to us by responsible and practical people who should know. In October last a grave and momentous statement was made by a man who, for the last, two years of the War, had command of the Navy and kept the freedom of the seas for the passage of our Army and our food supplies—a man who has and had then the entire confidence of the country. I refer to Lord Beatty, who stated:
We were the only country that had carried out fully the policy of disarmament, and to an extent that made us incapable of playing the part of a great Power or of guaranteeing the safe passage of the sea to our ships.
I will not insult the intelligence of the House by asking which it would prefer to have, but will just ask hon. Members whether they would prefer to take the solemn warnings of a man who has our confidence and has nothing to gain by exaggerating the situation, or to be led astray by the theories of a small but vocal section of callow youths from some of our universities and irresponsible individuals who are making capital by exploiting the perils of our country. How long is this state of affairs to last? How long are we to suffer in this country from an inferiority complex in respect to national affairs? This situation should be reversed without any further delay, because we are running a risk every day that it exists. There is a steady decline towards helplessness. I say helplessness, because we are obviously vulnerable in hundreds of places. This does not necessarily call for panic or for any great increase in the cost of the personnel of our Army, but I think that a great deal can be effected by dealing with the Services, by making them more efficient and utilising the vast potential resources in this country which are not at present taken into consideration. I am not competent
to talk of the highly technical points connected with the Services or, what is even more vital, the necessity and desirability of co-operation between those Services, but I would like to suggest one or two possibilities.
We ought to make a great deal more attractive to the young manhood of this country an augmentation of all the Services, which will at least have the effect of raising the physical standard of our country. We have been inclined in the past to neglect our mercantile marine. That is a great factor, and we should give it a great deal more practical encouragement, which would enable us in so doing to develop the use of suitable ships for the protection of our trade routes in times of emergency. The air has been talked about a good deal in this House, and I will pass it by saying that we ought to develop a national air-mindedness and give a good deal more encouragement to our civil aviation.
These are points which I trust will be developed in greater detail in the Debate, but I would like to spend a few minutes in calling attention to the necessity of being prepared when the time arrives to produce the necessary armaments that will be required. In the late War it was two years before industry in this country was placed on a basis of being able to produce anything like our requirements. It is inconceivable, if and when an attack should come, that we should be given anything like two years in which to make preparations. It is in our own interests that the whole situation as to industrial mobilisation should be brought under consideration without delay, and complete plans be prepared which could be put into operation as soon as the occasion arises.
There is another matter of equally great importance in connection with defence, and that is public opinion. Public opinion killed the strike against this country in 1926, and it saved the country once again in the financial crisis of 1931. How much longer are we to let pacifist and defeatist propaganda go on in this country without adequate reply? Right from the dawn of history no empire has survived that has for any extended period developed a policy of self-effacement or lacked full appreciation of its own traditions and future. In the face of aggression from outside it is not only the fighting services who are called into play but the whole nation, and a nation that is not prepared to face the greatest of all issues, its survival, will inevitably be submerged.
Apart from our unsurpassed traditions as a country and as a people, the British still have the greatest measure of personal freedom, the highest standard of social service and, I think, the highest conception of duty of any country in the world. But we must make allowance for a vast number of our younger population who have been brought up in an atmosphere of industrial depression and who, not unnaturally, have some measure of grievance against a country which cannot sustain them at the only standard they know, the standard of the few years of artificial affluence after the War. It is only to be expected that they will be absorbed in their own lack of opportunity, and have little conception of our traditions, and certainly very little, if any, knowledge of the industrial and social conditions, which are infinitely worse than ours, in every other country in the world. I think it is the duty of those of us who know and appreciate the grave situation to inform this vast strata of our population where it stands, and tell them of the great issues which are at stake at the present time. I maintain that it is part of the duty of the National Government to inform that section of the people, who should no longer be left exposed to ill-balanced fanatical propaganda and the exploiters of their own fanatical theories who exist in all grades of society. It is a definite charge on the Government, which they received by an overwhelming vote in 1931.
Next I would like to make some reference to the three Amendments on the Order Paper. In some ways I am not surprised to find them there. They fall into two categories. Those in one category show lack of policy, plead "wait and see"—a bubble which I thought was burst in 1923. With those in the other category it is an endeavour to stifle down the expression of opinion by this House of Commons, a sitting on the safety valve, because our House of Commons, whatever else may be said of it, is a sounding board of opinion in the country. There is no question, however trivial or however important, which does not stand a chance of being brought to the Floor of the House of Commons either by questions or by discussion during debates, and it seems a very great pity that the House cannot form its own definite expression of opinion. From our mechanical and engineering knowledge we know that you can close down a safety valve for short periods with impunity, but with a boiler under steam and with the pressure growing the safety valve is not a safe seat for any length of time, because one of two things will happen—either the person on the safety valve will be blown off or there will be a terrific explosion in the whole plant.
I am very conscious that anything I have said this afternoon is not necessarily new to any hon. Members, but I do hope that I have been able to put things in a new light from the point of view of our own security, and I hope the Government will take some action. The average, normal British citizen is very apprehensive about the prestige of his country at the present time, and is equally desirous of avoiding attacks whether they come from the North, South, East or West, or from inside, and of being permitted to carry on his peaceful pursuits and maintain his friendships with all those who wish him well. But there is an uneasy feeling that we are not prepared for an emergency which may arise, and I think I am speaking for the great bulk of public opinion in this country when I say that people would feel happier—I will not put it higher than that—if they could see obvious manifestations of preparation and organisation in readiness for an emergency organisation such as only the Government itself can initiate. But that does not relieve each and every one of us in this House of a measure of responsibility to the people who sent us here, a measure of responsibility so grave that it concerns nothing less than the security of our country and the continuity of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
I beg to second the Motion.
It may be argued that, in view of the discussion which took place yesterday and the statement of the Foreign Secretary, this Motion should not be pressed. I do not concur in that view. The political situation in Europe varies from day to day, but we cannot create new air squadrons or build battleships in the twinkling of an eye to adjust ourselves exactly to the varying international situation. The defensive forces of this country should be dependent, not upon the high resounding phrases of foreign plenipotentiaries, but upon the actual resources which they have at their disposal. It is almost inevitable in a Debate such as this that suspicions should be aroused in the minds of those who hold hard-and-fast views on the subject of Disarmament. Suspicions are sown, party manoeuvrings take place and the subject of peace and Disarmament, which we all whole-heartedly and equally desire, enters into the political arena. No more dangerous course could be pursued. How can the Lord Privy Seal's statements at Geneva be met with sincerity if the party to which the President of the Disarmament Conference belongs openly regards the Government, of which the Minister is a member, as a war party? The memory of the East Fulham by-election is still fresh in our minds. It was hailed as a victory for peace. Suppose the other candidate had won, as he very well might have, would the Labour party have heralded that result as a mandate given by this country for war? If they truly desire peace I beg them to keep this issue of peace and war out of party politics. But if they wish to dub the Conservative party a war party I hope they will pay a little more attention to history than to the enthusiasm with which they make that accusation.
I ask my friends of the Labour party to answer this question: What war has ever been declared by the Conservative party? With the exception of a small military expedition against Abyssinia in 1867, under Lord Derby's administration, no offensive military operation has ever been initiated by the Conservative party, and if the statement that the Conservative party are a big armament party be true, then those heavy armaments have kept this country at peace.
I ask the hon. Member to keep an open mind on the subject. If an increase in armaments in this country would lend stability to the character of Europe, are my hon. Friends opposite in favour of that addition taking place? Let us have an answer to that. We believe that such an increase would lend stability to the character of Europe, and it is for us to state and prove our case. Whether we desire it or no, the formation of a European international police force will be postponed for many years, and therefore we have got to maintain the balance of power in Europe, whether we like it or not. If we have not got adequate forces to sustain that balance of power in an unprejudiced way, then the influence which we bear in the European situation must wane. At the moment our policy is not unbiassed. It is dependent upon the force we have at our disposal.
The hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps), at the end of last year, urged the Government, through the League of Nations, to take violent steps against Japan, because he believed that the Japanese had made an outrageous attack upon China. But if we had wished to take that violent action, we could not have done so. The very first threat given, the first shot fired, would immediately have led to the loss of Hong Kong and of the Malay Peninsula. That would have jeopardised our Far Eastern trade, and resulted in unemployment and starvation in this country. The same fact applies to the Mediterranean. Malta is protected by one flying squadron supported by the "Glorious." Within an hour's flying of Malta there is Italy with 750 first-line aircraft. If we took strong action against Italy they could immediately cut off Our food supplies from coming through the Mediterranean. The same thing applies to Gibraltar. There we have no aircraft of any description, but across the water is France with her entire North African air force. That fact must influence the statements of the Foreign Secretary when he discusses the international situation with the Foreign Ministers of Italy and France. The whole of our foreign policy is thus painted with the brush of expediency. The hon. and
gallant Member for Lewes (Captain Loder) has put down an Amendment to this Motion, and I believe that that Amendment has the support of the Government. He ends his Amendment with these words:
that it is inexpedient to adopt any resolution which might prejudice the success of international discussions now proceedng.
Our Motion ends with these words:
urges His Majesty's Government to pursue a course which will adequately safeguard our industrial, political, and national existence.
Can the safeguarding of our industrial, political and national existence possibly jeopardise the international situation? Therefore I would ask the Lord President of the Council, who, I believe, is going to reply to this Debate, this question: Why should an increase in the armaments of other countries, particularly American naval armaments, be hailed as a constructive Measure to cure unemployment, but that if we put down a Motion to suggest that our forces are inadequate, it is stigmatised as an action liable to lead to war? Japan has increased her Navy by 37 per cent., the United States of America by 29 per cent. and Italy by 20 per cent. Why do not hon. Members opposite get up and say that it is those countries, and not us, who are reducing our Navy, that are making for the disruption of Europe? I am not one who believes that this country can cut herself off from the rest of the world as the owner of the "Daily Express" seems to imagine.
I believe that we have got to have some form of international agreement, but I doubt very much whether an international police force would be of any value. In my view, there is no possible connection between the functioning of an international police force and the functioning of a national police force in individual countries, and for this reason. The police forces of individual countries take action against either an individual or individuals who do or say anything which they think will lead to a breach of the peace; in other words, they take action before anything has happened. Are those who are in favour of setting up an international police force advocating that when Herr Hitler sends a note to Dr. Dolfuss which might lead to a breach of the peace, immediately that note is sent an international police force laden with lethal weapons and bombers should take action? The mere suggestion of such a thing is the most bloodthirsty supposition which has been put forward in history. Therefore, this international police force, if it could function, would have to act after the event it should have prevented had taken place.
It functions afterwards, but if my hon. Friend was about to break into a house the police force would take action before he did so. I believe that if the peace of the world is to be maintained, some form of international agreement will have to be made, but I do not believe that it will be an agreement like that which is proposed at Geneva. When we listen to these debates on Disarmament, and we are told that armaments lead to war, we are not facing up to the real facts. Armaments never lead to war. The root causes of war are far deeper than that. One cause of war is the economic pressure which is brought to bear upon individual countries, and that economic pressure will be brought to bear under a Capitalist or Socialist State, because it is the result of innumerable individual acts. Each individual wants to get more than he gives, and no Socialist system could prevent a housewife trying to get a bargain at a cooperative store. When those individual actions are put together they form pressure upon a nation, and that nation seeks to place the burden on some other country. That is one of the reasons for war. The second reason is that man likes to live under the legal code to which he is accustomed. A German is perfectly willing to live in Alsace-Lorraine under German law, but not under French law.
Those are the causes of war, and they have nothing to do with armaments; but if the result of that pressure is to be delayed, some armed force will have to be formed. For the last quarter of a century one quarter of the world has lived in peace. Since the passing of the Statute of Westminster the British Empire has ceased to be, and a Commonwealth of Nations has been born—nations which are as different in colour, culture and creed as any in the world, and they possess a legal code which is more or less similar; they have lived in peace, while Europe has been at war, and I believe the formation of a British Commonwealth force must precede the formation of a European police force. My hon. Friends may say that I am suggesting that Canada, Australia and ourselves should increase our armaments. I am not doing anything of the sort. The next war will be decided in the air, and military, civil and commercial pilots and machines will all be brought into it. I urge the Government, therefore, to make as many aerodromes as possible in this country, and to train as many pilots as possible in a civilian, not a military, capacity, because during times of peace those civilians will be earning wealth for the nation, while in time of war they would be a defence.
In this connection, I do not wish to weary the House with figures, but I would like to draw the attention of the House to the figures for gliding, which, after all, is a form of flying which can soon be changed into military flying. Germany, who has no military air force of any description, is regarded as one of the strongest air Powers. To-day she possesses 13,000 glider pilots. Russia, who is spending 2,250,000,000 roubles on armaments, being a Socialist State out for peace, of course, will have at the end of this year no fewer than 30,000 pilots. The United States of America flies at night commercially and civilly more mileage than the whole of the rest of the world flies during the day, we in this country possess 580 glider pilots. Those are facts which, I believe, speak for themselves, and I believe they are facts which prejudice our position in international relationships. Therefore, I have no hesitation in supporting this Motion, and in asking the Government to consider our views.
I beg to move, in line 1, to leave out from "while" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:
determined to pursue a course which will adequately safeguard this country's industrial, political, and national existence, and being anxious to co-operate in a general policy of peace and disarmament, considers that it is inexpedient to adopt any Resolution which might prejudice the success of international discussions now proceeding.
In moving this Amendment, I hope that the Mover and Seconder of the Motion will not take it amiss that the form in which they have chosen to raise this discussion should be challenged. Our only concern is that at this time nothing should go forth as the considered opinion of this House which might in any way be taken as an expression of want of confidence in the Government's handling of the international situation, or which might create an impression that the line which the Government have pursued with such single mindedness of purpose for the last two years, is henceforth useless.
I hope that I am interpreting the feelings and sentiments of those hon. Gentlemen correctly when I say that they do not want to give that impression. They have been very careful to express their appreciation of "the sincere efforts of His Majesty's Government to secure world-wide disarmament," and they have expressed the desire to co-operate in a policy of peace. I could not help detecting a vein of veiled criticism, and perhaps of something like scepticism, not only in the Motion itself, but in the remarks that fell from the Mover and Seconder. The hon. Member for Newport (Mr. Clarry) did not impress me very much with his pre-war analogy. He did not seem to make sufficient allowance for the different circumstances in which we stand to-day. We have had a war since, and there is a difference between a situation which was tense with the preparedness for war and one in which the defeated nations are to a very great extent disarmed and there is no other foe that we can see immediately upon the horizon.
He made a great point of the value of the military spirit in keeping up and promoting patriotism and for keeping up our self-respect as a nation. I should be the last person to belittle the value of physical training, whether it is achieved in a military unit or in any other form, but I hope that nothing that he said means that he wants to have the sort of militaristic convulsions which are a feature of the present regimes in Soviet Russia and Germany. I recognise, and I think that we all do, that the present state of the defence forces of the country causes anxiety to a great number of people. I have no quarrel with the ventilation of those anxieties in this House, but I think that the hon. Member for Newport was going a little too far when he suggested that our Amendment was intended to stifle an expression of opinion. I can assure him that nothing of that kind was in any of our minds when the Amendment was put down.
There is a certain difference between ventilating anxiety and the implications of this Motion. Reading it, I find it exceedingly difficult not to draw the conclusion that it implies criticism of the Government. It implies that it is the Government's policy that has made our defences inadequate. I cannot help thinking that if this Motion is passed in its present form, many people at home and abroad would draw the conclusion that this House desired immediate and substantial re-armament. I do not think that the House is prepared to go as far as that, at the present juncture. Circumstances alter cases, and there are circumstances in which re-armament may be a necessity. The Foreign Secretary himself said as much yesterday, when he observed that, if a satisfactory disarmament agreement cannot be promptly arrived at, we may have to face the question of the state of our armament, which is at a low level, and of our own rearmament, if we are to live in a world which has begun to rearm. That is perfectly true, but those circumstances have not yet arisen.
I do not want to go over the ground which was covered by yesterday's Debate, but I hope that the House will allow me to recapitulate in a few sentences some of the objectives resulting from what was said yesterday. First of all, we want a disarmament convention, something which goes beyond limitation of arms and aims at a real reduction in armaments: If this is our objective, it does not seem that the Motion, which contains a suggestion that the proper thing to do is to rearm, comes very appropriately on the following day. Then there are all the specific details contained in the British Draft Convention and the recent White Paper. It is worth while drawing attention to the fact—I think it is a fact—that if a convention were adopted embodying those proposals it would go a long way towards arresting the disparity between our forces and those of other countries to which the Motion refers, be cause on land we should see Continental armies reduced very much more nearly to the proportions of home defence forces and oversea garrison forces, such as our own, and at sea we should not lose the position to which we are fully entitled by our widespread Imperial responsibilities.
In the air we should achieve parity with all the other great forces, a parity which we can only achieve to-day by a very substantial building programme. I believe that we are in a position of greater inferiority in the air than with any other arm, but for the moment it is our business to try to level down and not to level up. There are two roads by which security—which is the main theme of this Debate—may be sought. The first is by international agreement, and the second is by superiority in armaments. The second course is that which has been habitually pursued in the past, and it has always led to one country trying to lord it over the world and to an armed struggle. I need only mention Spain under Philip II, France under Louis XIV and Napoleon, and the Germany of William II.
It was not the policy of the monarchs, but the policy of the countries. My hon. and gallant Friend must not read more into my argument than I was putting there. The fact is that under a system of competing armaments, some one country thinks that it has a chance of trying to lord it over all the others. We say that more can be done by the method of international agreement, and that we have achieved more success along those lines than has ever been achieved in the past. The League of Nations is the foundation upon which we have to build. The success of the Disarmament Conference would immeasurably increase the strength of the edifice of international confidence. The Lord Privy Seal concluded his speech yesterday with a statement of the effects of a failure of the Disarmament Conference and of the immense issues that are involved, which must have impressed and moved everyone who heard it. We who have put our names to this Amendment do not wish, any more than the Mover and Seconder of the Motion, to see our national security jeopardised or the efficiency of His Majesty's Forces impaired, but we maintain that the time will not have come to emphasise the case for re-armament until the last resources of diplomacy have been exhausted.
I beg to second the Amendment.
I appreciate the attempts of the hon. Member who moved the Motion to, as it were, clarify the situation as he sees it, but that, I submit, is the last thing it would do were the Motion to be carried. On the contrary, it would, in my submission, merely give the impression of divided counsels, of a half-hearted approach in two directions to two quite different objectives—on the one hand to disarmament, and on the other hand to re-armament. Half the troubles of Europe in the past have arisen from inability on the part of the Continent to understand our foreign policy. Hence the taunt of "Perfidious Albion." It was not, of course, that we were either perfidious or treacherous; it was merely that we felt sufficiently detached from the rest of Europe to be able to carry out an opportunist foreign policy. I do not use the word "opportunist" in this connection in any derogatory sense, but at the present time—and I think it would be as well that we should face this fact fairly and squarely—we are no longer detached; we are, for good or for evil, firmly welded to the comity of Europe. Therefore, there is no longer, if there ever was, any excuse for our carrying out a merely opportunist policy.
It seems to me that the wording of this Amendment explains sufficiently clearly what our intention is. It says, in the first place, that, while we are determined, as is quite natural, to see that the security of this country is adequately assured, we are at the same time anxious to co-operate with whomsoever will co-operate with us in the matter of disarmament, and that we are forced to regard the Motion as being inexpedient inasmuch as it gives the impression of completely divided heads. A. W. Kinglake, in summing up the causes which led to the Crimean War,
and speaking in particular of the year 1833, has this sentence:
Thus Europe was in repose; for, in general, when the world believes that England will be firm, there is peace.
He goes on:
It is the hope of her proving weak or irresolute which tends to breed war.
It is precisely in the danger of adopting a policy which means two things at the same time, as would be the case if the Motion were adopted—it is for that very reason, and in these words, that I find my justification for supporting the Amendment.
I have noticed, during these defence Debates which take place from time to time, that no two speakers ever seem to agree. I understand that the object of these Debates is—to use the expression which my hon. and gallant Friend has just used—to clarify the best means of securing national defence and safety. However, all that happens on these occasions, so far as I can see from past experience, is that every speaker puts forward a different theory, generally a pet theory, as to how this defence should be carried out, and very often it is an extremely prejudiced theory. Already to-day we have heard something of the "do nothing at all" school. I presume that before the Debate is finished we shall hear something from the "disarm completely" brigade; and, as time goes on, we are assuredly likely to hear of the vested interests of the three Fighting Services. I may say in advance that I intend to add somewhat to the general discord; and I should like to add that with what has been said already, and what in my opinion is going to be said, I disagree entirely—that is to say, as far as theories on defence are concerned.
I may claim to know something of attacks by air, because during the War I had the privilege of serving both in a "Zepp-strafing" squadron in this country and also in a fighting squadron in France; but, even so, I disagree with that considerable air-minded school whose slogan is, "Attack is the best form of defence." I disagree with that entirely. I presume that, when they put forward that slogan, they do not mean by it that they are going to start a war by being the first to attack. I imagine that the principle is that foreign nations would think twice before attacking this country, because we have the means of hitting back. I consider that to be a very praiseworthy theory, a theory that is typical of the bulldog breed; but to my mind it is completely out of date and absolutely useless.
I would ask the House to visualise, perhaps from a somewhat different point of view, the air attack of the future. Thousands of hostile machines would steal upon us, each with a definite objective; and here I will digress to the extent of pointing out that the art of blind flying has reached such perfection in these days that a bombing machine is capable of going at least 200 miles by compass, reaching a very small objective, hitting that objective, and getting back to its base without even having seen the objective. Further, I would remind the House that our aerodromes are few, and, taking into account the theory that attack is the best form of defence, I presume that all our attacking machines would have to be at aerodromes in the South of England—that is to say, if they wanted to reach the Continent easily. The position of the aerodromes would, of course, be known to the enemy, and it might easily happen that, before we could get our somewhat cumbersome retaliatory machines into the air, a large number of them would be put out of action by enemy machines. If the enemy attack came at night, it would be a far easier feat, because it stands to reason that, if you are getting a large number of machines up from aerodromes at night, it would be necessary to some extent to illuminate the machines as well as the aerodromes, and that would make them a much easier target; and, while our retaliatory machines—our raiding bombing machines—were being dealt with at their aerodromes before they were able to get into the air, other machines, perhaps thousands of them, would be concentrating on London.
Here I would point out, as has already been pointed out before, I think, by the Lord President of the Council in that famous speech which he made many months ago, that London is situated in a most unfortunate position geographically. It is in a more vulnerable position than any other capital of any large European country. If we remember that London is practically next to our frontier, and if we compare the position of London with the position of Paris, Berlin, Madrid, or even Rome, the point becomes obvious. Again, London is the main artery of the whole of this country, in which respect it is different from the capitals of other countries, and, if a large hostile fleet of bombers were allowed to come over London unmolested and [...]unhindered, and were not prevented from dropping their bombs on strategical positions, what would be the result? Very probably the bombs used would not all be bombs of the same kind that we were used to in the last War—bombs of an explosive character. I have no doubt that many of the bombs would contain deadly poison gas, and even at the present time various forms of contagious disease are capable of being spread by means of bombs. The matter would obviously be far more serious in the future, especially as many more machines would be used, and it could very easily happen that the whole of London—and that would mean the whole country—would be disorganised, all our communications would be stopped, it would be impossible to get out mobilisation orders or messages to our aerodromes or our Fleet at sea; in fact, chaos would reign everywhere. Moreover, there would be no necessity for the enemy to land any troops or to enter into any naval engagement, for, after we had been completely disorganised, there would be nothing to prevent the indefinite and unmolested continuance of raids of destruction all over the country, until, completely demoralised, we accepted any terms that were offered.
I agree that there are probably some hon. Members who may be thinking that this is merely another scaremonger's speech, that it is a fantastic picture; but I would point out to any such sceptical Members that it was also considered fantastic at the beginning of the Great War to suggest that that War could possibly last for more than two weeks. It was also considered fantastic to think that the enemy would use such a weapon as poison gas, and many other War innovations were at one time considered fantastic. But I can assure hon. Members, from any slight practical experience that I may have had on this subject, and from the conversations I have had with experts, that this conception is by no means an impossibility. The policy of a large fleet of retaliatory machines is a step in the right direction but, from the point of view of security, they will on their own be quite useless.
It may be asked: What then are we to do, because, if by any chance this theory proves correct, undoubtedly our Navy, as far as attack on this island is concerned, would prove useless, the Army would be of no avail, and an aggressive Air Force could in all probability be rendered impotent. Are we to do nothing? Certainly not. I consider that there is only one way of making ourselves secure as far as attack upon this island is concerned.
It has only recently become known that an aeroplane has been constructed in this country—I do not think the public yet know anything about it—which is able to climb something over 20,000 feet in a little over nine minutes. During the War—I can give my own personal experience—it used to take me generally about one hour to get up to the necessary height that the enemy were known to be approaching, and by the time I got to that height the enemy were back at their base and the occupants were having a meal. Compare that state of affairs with the present. Now you can get up to over four miles in a little over nine minutes. That means that these amazing machines—I think there are only one or two at the moment—can go practically straight up like a lift at 25 miles an hour. This aeroplane is a single seater. It is extraordinarily fast, it is capable of carrying two machine guns and its price is extremely reasonable. As compared with the price of an ordinary bomber capable of going over to the Continent, it is very reasonable indeed. It is not capable of being used for raiding purposes as it is unable to carry a sufficiency of bombs, and it has only a short range.
With a large fleet of these defensive machines we should be able to intercept an enemy 20 minutes after the warning was given that they were approaching our shores. Until recently this has proved an impossible proposition, because engineers have not been able to devise the necessary super-machine, in fact nothing definite was known of the possibilities of such a super-machine when the Lord President of the Council made, a few months ago, the speech to which I referred. To-day the whole aspect of the theory of the defence of the country is completely changed because of this amazing engineering discovery and, provided we could throw a sufficiency of these machines into the air, raiding enemy aircraft could be dealt with night or day whatever the weather. Knowing this, I doubt very much whether an enemy in the future would start at all.
No doubt the obvious criticism would be: This is certainly a new and possibly a feasible idea provided the interseptors can see the raiding enemy machines, but what is going to occur if, say, 3,000 or 4,000 enemy machines come over in dense fog or mist or thick clouds? The answer to that is simple. In those circumstances they would not come at all. Consider the difficulty that now exists of maintaining an adequate Imperial Airway service between Paris and this country in foggy weather. Even though only two machines are going in opposite directions, nevertheless accidents have occurred in the past though not to Imperial Airway machines. For a raid such as I am envisaging it would be no use sending two or three machines. They would have to send over at least 1,000. Contemplate 1,000 machines going on a parallel course, with the same objective, in thick cloud. It would be nothing more nor less than a suicide club, and a great number of the machines would have laid each other out by collision before they arrived at their objective. I cannot believe that in such circumstances any pilots would be so fool-hardy as to embark on such an enterprise nor can I believe that commanding officers would ever dream of sending out their squadrons with so very little chance of success and with every chance of disaster and failure. Therefore, as I consider that that is the main criticism that can be put forward, and I do not believe there is any foundation in that criticism, I maintain that such a policy as I have laid before the House would not only give us adequate protection but it would be protection without aggressiveness, which is important, and it would be protection which would not create foreign competition, with its subsequential race in armaments. And a consideration that should not be overlooked is that such a policy might well be an economy because, with this security and feeling of safety which would be given to the country, many far more expensive forms of armament could be done away with.
The Debate to me has taken on a complete air of unreality. It is very strange that we should be talking in this way after two years of a National Government which we are told has been supremely successful both in the field of domestic and foreign policy. Every speaker that I have listened to so far has assumed that war is inevitable, and that the best thing we can do is to prepare for it in some way or another; how, no one seems quite to know. There is no insistence upon any particular form either of defence or attack, and it would seem that we must prepare on an all-round scale. Neither is there any indication whatever as to where the enemy is to be found. Air attack is assumed, but from where is the attack to come? Who is going to attack us? Is it France? Is it Germany? Is it France and Germany combined? More unlikely things have happened than that. Is it a combination-which will include Italy or is it all the Fascist States, which will make an attack upon what will be the only remaining democratic State?
I am prepared to argue that the Socialist State so-called is the most pacific State in the world. You say that Russia is armed, but they have done it deliberately because they feared that they were open to attack by all, and most countries in Europe have helped to bolster up that belief, whether it was true or not, for there is scarcely a capital city in any country which is not riddled with all kinds of anti-Russian counter-revolutionary organisations all of which have pet proposals of their own for undermining and overthrowing the existing Government of Russia. In those circumstances, hon. Members opposite and behind me ought not to condemn the Russian Government for taking a line that they preach themselves as being the only possible successful line in face of the danger that threatens them.
After all, the necessity for armaments, whether naval, air, or land, depends entirely on the kind of policy that we pursue. From 1905 to 1914 the policy of this country was dictated by what I believe was a fact, that we were in arrangement with Russia and France against possible hostile attack from the countries of the Triple Alliance. Therefore, in those years our policy was not directed against France. Neither was it directed against Russia. Had it been, our tactics would have had to be of a different character. One asks what is the policy that we are pursuing now. Whence does the danger arise? Security has been talked about. We have signed more Pacts and Conventions in the last few years than ever before in our history in a like period. Convention has followed convention, and pact has followed pact, and yet here to-day we are talking about security. Do we rest upon the Locarno Pact? Do we rest upon the Kellogg Pact? Are these things of any use to us? If we still regard them as useful, should they not affect the policy which we pursue with regard to our military preparations? Are we still holding to our belief in the League of Nations, or have we by our own deliberate policy weakened it to such an extent that we can reckon upon it no longer as being of a supporting character so far as we are concerned?
The foreign policy the Government have pursued in the last two years is making all this talk almost a necessity. Much of it has arisen, I believe, because of our wrong policy with regard to Japan. The Government made a fatal error in that respect. I have said this before, and I shall continue to say it, because I believe that the question of peace is one of the utmost and most paramount importance to the world. It is very requisite that we should put forward our ideas as to where we in this House go wrong, and that we should be subject to correction. If I am proved wrong, I shall be pleased to accept correction. Almost up to the end of 1931 there was a hope and belief that the League of Nations might prove effective, even on the first great trial in September, 1931, after the National Government had been in office for a month, with regard to Japan and its attack upon China through Manchuria. It cannot be said that there was any dubiety about the position of Japan.
The League of Nations set up a commission, at the head of which was appointed an Englisman of undoubted integrity, whose word nobody in any country in the world has dared to challenge, and which, I venture to predict, cannot be challenged. The findings of that committee were of a very definite character. Their examination was of the most complete order. They went to Manchuria and investigated on the spot. They hinted very broadly that the alleged incident out of which the action of Japan arose was a framed-up job. In fact, it has been stated that a British agent, four days after the beginning of the conflict in Manchuria, sent a report to the British Government which riddled completely the Japanese claim and proved that the whole incident was non-existent.
It is stated—and I should like to know that it could be contradicted as definitely as it is stated—that the British Government kept this information from the League of Nations. If that was so it was in line with the policy which was subsequently pursued, because in face of the definite findings of the Lytton Commission, the Foreign Secretary of this country did his best to whitewash Japan. Although he admitted that she was technically wrong, morally she was right. I do not understand that view. Great lawyers may but I do not. [An HON. MEMBER: "Might is right!"] It was pronounced in this House from those benches that, although technically she was wrong, morally she was right, and that we ought to support her. In fact, so well did the Foreigh Secretary argue the case before the League of Nations that the Japanese representative, Mr. Matsuoka, thanked the Foreign Secretary for having put his case before the League better than he could have done it himself. That, I believe, was the prime error in our foreign policy and much of what has arisen since has arisen out of that fact. Herr Frick, who is now Hitler's Minister of the Interior, said some months afterwards, but before the Nazi Government came into power, "I pay my respects to the League, but I take off my hat to Japan." It had shown Germany that if the League was only sufficiently affronted it could be ignored.
Is the hon. Gentleman arguing that the Government in not taking some economic or other action against Japan was wrong, and does he mean that we should have taken that action?
That is an assumption which my hon. and gallant Friend is unable to prove. I think that from the records and statements made by various important individuals there was sufficient evidence to show that we could have had the backing of France and of the United States of America. I feel convinced that, if this country had had the backing of France and of the United States of America, and the moral hacking of several other Powers, probably that influence would have been sufficient to have deterred Japan from the line she was taking. What is the effect as far as our own policy is concerned? Only a week or two ago a more or less secret conference was held on board His Majesty's Ship "Kent" at Singapore. Prominent Australians were present. I do not know what conclusions were arrived at, but I have seen it stated that as the outcome of that conference the naval policy of the Government is to be changed, that there is to be a development in the Southern Pacific, and that we are to begin now to establish a tremendous naval base in the Falkland Islands. Against whom is that to be directed? If it is correct, it will have a tremendous effect upon the future policy of this country. I am simply using the information given in the Press, as one must do. I am quoting from the Press, and I say frankly that I saw the statement in the "Daily Herald." It is as authentic as the "Daily Mail." There need not be any jeers about it. I learn that the "Times" has been discovered lying, and do not forget that fact.
If the Falkland Islands is right, we can find the ocean on the map. If my knowledge of geography in that area is not as good as that of the hon. Member, the Falkland Islands, from my point of view, is enough. If that is correct, it marks another development, and we now have to consider, at any rate, officially, that Japan is a potential enemy, although for years she has been our friend. If this is the first outcome of our friendly action there only about two years ago, it is very bad payment for the kind turn we did her then.
One could go on with regard to other policies. Whatever our policy may be with regard to armaments, it will be determined by the policy we pursue at the Foreign Office. That is the determining factor. Are we to regard France as a potential enemy? If so, we must arm supremely in the air. Must we increase our naval strength? Some hon. Gentlemen will say "yes." Against whom? Germany, France again, Italy, or is it the United States of America? Are we to regard the United States as the potential enemy against whom we must prepare? If we are to prepare against the United States, where are we to prepare against them? Are we to prepare against Russia? Why do we want a great naval force against Russia? The land force is not of much use there. Where are these enemies against whom we must prepare? Of what do they consist? I see that in the Resolution we are asked to urge
His Majesty's Government to pursue a course which will adequately safeguard our industrial, political, and national existence.
If the experience of the late War is anything to go by, that is the last thing that military preparation can do. They are the very things which military preparation in that War destroyed. They are the things which suffer most, and most nations are now realising it. I admit that war may come, but I do not know who the enemy may be, and I do not know from what direction it may come. I am prepared to admit, as the seconder of the Motion put it, that war is the outcome of economic competition. I want us to begin to take some risk to avoid war of that character, to have some belief in the League of Nations, to extend its power, and to try and avoid this continual striving for the possession of raw materials, here, there or anywhere else. It is very seldom that we bother our heads about the control of raw material for commercial purposes. The materials that may be useful from the point of view of war are those about which we trouble most of all. I believe that until men have sufficient sense to form some international board which will control raw materials with a view to seeing that all nations get their fair share and have access to them for all legitimate purposes, we shall not rid the world of the fear of war.
If war comes again, the end of it no man can foresee. The Lord President of the Council has told us what might be the result of future war—it would be the end of the civilisation that we now know. He visualised the establishment of a civilisation based upon a different economic conception, an economic conception which he might not like but which I personally do not fear. If it were established and the world could be rid of the horror of warfare, then the world would have purchased its freedom at a cheap price. It is time that we began to take some little risks for peace. We take a great many risks for war. The time is not far distant when we shall discover that to risk a little with the object of maintaining peace will be well worth doing.
I would impress upon the Government the desirability of changing the outlook in regard to many aspects of this question. There was a Debate in this House yesterday, and not a very satisfactory one. We have moved considerably in regard to our attitude towards Germany. Not long ago she was an outcast. The Germans were Huns, they were the outcasts of Europe, they were of such a character that they were not considered to be fit to be entrusted with weapons of a lethal character. Now, according to our changed conception, Germany must be allowed to have almost as much as she wants. No longer is fear of Germany to be expressed. As we move from one position to another, the situation becomes worse. The action of the Foreign Secretary so far as the handling of this question is concerned, reminds me of a character who said of himself:
The good I would, I do not;
What evil I would not, that I do.
I do not believe that the Foreign Secretary desires to do evil. As an individual his integrity is beyond dispute, but his policy and the policy of his Government is wrong. So far as the Motion and the Amendment are concerned, I and my party will vote against both.
I rise to support the Motion. I do not intend to follow the last speaker very far. I followed him as far as the Falkland Islands, and then I found that I was lost. I agree with him on one point, where he said that he does not know where our enemy is to come from. Nor do I at the present time. One hon. Member said that we all have our pet theories. My pet theory is the question of the safety of our food supply. No nation attacks another unless it can see some reasonable chance of success. It is the duty of the general staff to find the weak spots in other nations, and I suggest that it is the duty of a statesman to find his own weak spot and to eliminate it. The first consideration of a general officer commanding a force in the field, is the provision and safety of his food supplies. A shortage of munitions or a shortage of stores is very unpleasant, but it is not fatal, as would be the case with a shortage of food. The first consideration of a country like ours, which imports so large a proportion of its food, is to safeguard its food supplies.
During the last war, after our Navy had cleared the seas of enemy surface ships, after it had dealt successfully with enemy submarines, and when aircraft had not been developed to the pitch we may expect in the future, our food supplies caused us grave anxiety. Let us imagine ourselves in another war. I say "imagine" advisedly, because I do not see with whom we are to be involved. Let us imagine that we have increased our Army to a sufficient strength to give us an expeditionary force, that we have invaded the enemy country, that we can supply the expeditionary force from our Dominions, and that we have won battle after battle. It would be of no use if by any form of blockade this country could be starved. Therefore, I want to support the suggestion which will be made later in greater detail, that we need to co-ordinate not only the plans but the finance of our three Fighting Services. When I look at the composition of the Committee of Imperial Defence I wonder whether there is anyone there who is charged with the duty of keeping alive and up-to-date the organisation and control of our food supplies. I have no doubt that we have the organisation there, all pigeon-holed, but is there anybody there whose duty it is to keep it up-to-date?
Such a representative would need to go to the conferences regularly and keep in the closest touch with the heads of Departments. He would want to
approach the Admiralty and Air Ministry to ask them which ports he ought to use. He would want to see the President of the Board of Trade to find out the facilities at the various ports. He would want to see the Minister of Transport to see about the distribution of food throughout the country, and he would want to see the Minister of Mines, because the more oil and petrol we could produce in this country, the more ships would he available for the carriage of food. Last, but not least, he would want to see the Minister of Agriculture. We all disliked the old-fashioned jingo who used to boast in song that:
We've got the men, we've got the ships, and we've got the money too.
I would forgive him a great deal if he could add that we have also got the food. I should prefer his noisy confidence to the confidence of the man who refuses to believe in or is unable to see any possibility of, danger in the future. A rich country which is open to attack is provocative of war. If we can persuade the world that we have so organised ourselves that our food supplies are secure, many people in this country would be much happier, and at the same time we should have done a real service to the cause of peace.
Although there is a great deal in what has been said by hon. Members who have spoken in favour of the Motion, and also by hon. Members who have spoken on the Amendment, with which I entirely agree, there is one feature common both to the Motion and the Amendment with which I so heartily disagree, that if they go to a Division, I shall certainly give neither my vote. Both the Motion and the Amendment and the speeches made in support of them suggest that the maintenance of a sound and adequate defence by this country is in some way inconsistent with the policy of pursuing the limitation of armaments. We have had that argument both ways. We have been told that we are not entitled to bring our defences up to Treaty limits at the present time, because that might weaken and not strengthen our diplomacy in securing limitation of armaments by Convention. We have also had the argument the other way. I heartily disagree with both those arguments.
Let me take, first, the argument for the Motion. I agree with those who support it, that our defences are not at the present time what they should be. So far as the Army is concerned, I do not know, and I should be glad to be told if anybody does know, for what purpose the Regular Army is organised in this country at the present time. It seems to me that we need another Lord Haldane. I hope the present Secretary of State for War, Lord Hailsham, is directing himself to that problem; I am sure that he must be doing so. So far as the air is concerned, there is no doubt whatever that our position is extremely insecure. As for the sea, we not only have far fewer ships than we are entitled to possess under Treaty limits to which we have agreed, but those ships are not going to sea as they ought. The Navy is not getting the sea practice or the sea service which it ought to have. So far, I agree entirely with the Resolution.
But I do not agree that the pursuit of disarmament should be abandoned in order that we may bring our defences up to strength. It would be insanity on the part of the leaders of this country at the present time not to pursue a policy of limitation of armaments with all their strength. Thirty years ago, a Conservative Government determined that even in the conditions that prevailed at that time, the cost and the danger of maintaining adequate defences for the Empire against all corners were much too great. At that time we had resources which we do not now possess. We had extensive investments all over the world. We had greater national wealth. We had lower taxation and we had by comparison an insignificant debt. We had a fleet then of a two-Power standard, a fleet which had enabled us to carry out a great colonial war without interference from any European Powers, although, as is well known now, more than one of those Powers would have liked to intervene. I need hardly labour the comparison between our situation then and our situation now. Our resources have been to a large extent weakened if not dissipated altogether. Our taxation is very high, our debt is 10 times what it was at that time, and we have a fleet which is no longer up even to a one-Power standard. It is essential, as the Motion says, that we should have security. With that I entirely agree, but it is equally essential to us, in our present condition, that we should have security at the minimum cost. There is no matter of greater importance to this country at the present time than the pursuit of the policy of limitation of armaments. So much for the realist side of the argument. I would support the Motion but for the fact that in the latter part it seems to set the policy of a limitation of armaments and the policy of adequate defence in opposition, a point of view with which I entirely disagree. There never was a time when realists in this country should concentrate more whole-heartedly on preventing another race in armaments.
Coming to the Amendment and to some of the speeches which have been made in support of it, and particularly to the speech made by the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil (Mr. Wallhead) on the other side of the case, I feel that there is some excuse for the realists in this argument, that they derive some excuse from the attitude of idealists who seem to think that complete disarmament on our part, unilateral disarmament, can possibly be a substitute for adequate defence. Those who concentrate on disarmament at the present time are pursuing a great ideal. The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil has my sympathy when he says that he hopes to see the reign of law and the disappearance of force as a national instrument in international affairs. But surely it is a profound mistake to suppose that in international affairs, any more than in national affairs, the law can dispense with the support of force. It is not true of the law within a single State however highly civilised. The comparison is often made that because duelling has been abolished inside the State, or by municipal law, therefore, international war should be abolished; that as force has gone in one polity why should it not be abolished in the wider polity of the nations? How was duelling abolished? It was abolished because force was there to prevent it being carried on, because the law was supported by adequate force. That is the true ideal in international affairs. If we want to secure the reign of law in international affairs just as we have secured it in our own national affairs then in international, as in municipal, affairs the law must be supported by force.
Some day perhaps we shall work out the creation and establishment of an international force, but for the time being we must look to the collaboration of those Powers which really want peace and the reign of law to give their support to law and refuse to adopt an attitude of neutrality when the law is broken. Force, which is a barbarous and criminal thing when it defies the law, is surely a civilising and beneficent thing when it supports the law. We must be prepared to play our part with adequate forces if we want to secure in the world as at present constituted a stable limitation of armaments, to support the reign of law and also if we want to ensure and stabilise peace. For these reasons, I dislike the Amendment almost as much as I dislike the latter part of the Motion.
There is real tragedy ill the difference of view which underlies the conflict between the Motion and the Amendment, because when England is divided against herself, as she seems to be on this issue, she can exercise but a very inadequate influence for disarmament and peace. We Englishmen—I cannot speak for the other races and nations who are represented in this House—certainly have a double nature, which is compounded curiously of realism and idealism, just as the air is compounded of one gas which is heavier than air, and another gas which is lighter than air, nitrogen and oxygen. When these two elements in our nature combine then we can really make ourselves felt with effect, but when they are warring against each other, as they seem to be now, our influence in the world disappears.
The greatest example which can be found is our history between 1904 and 1914. All through the 10 years leading up to the War England was divided against herself. If she had not been so divided I believe the war might have been avoided, but, at any rate, when the crisis came, when Belgium was invaded, England became one. Why? The invasion of Belgium, the breach of treaty faith, the wrong done to a small nation, stirred all the idealism in our nature, but the realist side also recognised that this breach of a treaty was a mortal peril to ourselves, and both sides of our nature came together in the determination we then formed to see the War through. If we could get back that unity at the present time we should be able to do a thousand times more than we are doing now. This duality of our nature is a paralysing weakness when the two sides are in conflict, as they seem to be now. I have been told that the air contains not only the two most important elements, nitrogen and oxygen, but also a considerable measure of another gas called argon, an inert gas, and I sometimes suspect that when the two sides of Englishmen are in conflict an undue proportion of this inert gas somehow rises through the orifices which supply air to the lungs of hon. Members in this House and perhaps supply air to the lungs of right hon. Gentlemen of the Treasury Bench.
I should like to have moved an Amendment of a different kind to the Motion, but, unfortunately, I did not see the terms of the Motion in time, and, therefore, had no opportunity of putting it down or of ascertaining whether it would secure any support from hon. Members. But if I had had the opportunity of putting that Amendment down it would have been to the effect that our weakness in defence at the present time was prejudicial both to the security of the Empire and to the effective pursuit of disarmament and peace. As things stand, I cannot vote for the Motion or the Amendment. I can only express a fervent hope that our leaders in the next few critical weeks will hammer out a policy which does justice both to the realist and the idealist side in our nature, that we shall have sound and adequate defences and that we shall use them to prevent another race in armaments, to supporting the reign of law in international affairs, and by that means give the nations peace.
Throughout the greater part of the Debate of yesterday there seemed to be a great passion for realism and to-day in almost every speech the same passion has been expressed. We must think realistically. I agree entirely, but it seems to me that there is an underlying assumption that the only people who can think and talk realistically are those who have expert knowledge in the technique of armaments. Admirals, Generals, and so on, can speak, it is assumed with an authority which those who occupied minor posts during the War, whose experience of fighting was limited to trench warfare, cannot possess. We cannot claim to be experts. I cannot forget, as the result of copious reading of the many books which have been published since the War, that those who claimed to be experts then were sadly out in their calculations, and our experience during the War makes me feel rather diffident about accepting the authoritativeness of those who claim to have expert knowledge.
I ask the House to address itself to the realities of the situation. It will be agreed that there is nothing to be gained by Great Britain further weakening her defences. If Great Britain ceased to be a potential ally or foe international anarchy would become intensified. Until we have an International Police Force Britain must be sufficiently armed to make her worth while as an ally and as a potential force in preserving world peace. That proposition will be commonly accepted, but I feel that we have failed to realise the relativity which must enter into all calculations of armaments. An hon. Member has made the point that we ought to consider who our potential enemies may be. Obviously, if we pursue a policy of isolation as some hon. Members seem to desire, if the pooled security as embodied in the Covenant of the League of Nations is renounced and Britain with her Empire stand alone, the problem of armaments must be regarded from a different angle. If we are to maintain our shores inviolate, if we are to ensure the security of our food supplies, and so forth, and prevent aerial bombardment of our cities, obviously we must increase our armaments very much beyond the limits which we have now assigned. If the Empire is going to become an isolated entity then, of course, we shall have to consider the Far East; we shall have to consider the defence of Australia and of our Far-Eastern possessions, but, we nave to consider such problems in relation to actualities.
What are the probabilities of a war? I have spent a certain amount of time during the last few years in Central Europe and the Balkans, and I feel that we ought to face the reality of conditions in those areas. How is war to come? From what directions is there a menace in these days? I have never believed that war comes primarily from armaments. War always comes from injustices of one kind or another. Viewing the situation, I cannot but feel that there are three main causes which ought to be considered as potential causes of another war. The first is the scramble for markets. It all depends on what kind of philosophy of history you have. If you have the heroic philosophy of history you find the causes in another direction, but as an economic realist I cannot but feel that this is inevitably one of the causes.
What is the position in the Far East? Western civilisation has been adopted by Japan. In 1853 Japan was more or less a hermit country, with very little association with the outside world. We offered to it the blessings of an industrial civilisation. The population grew, as it inevitably does under industrial expansion. The population increases now at the rate of something between 800,000 and 1,000,000 a year. What is its outlet? You taught Japan mass production and how to utilise cheap labour. Let us be frank. When Great Britain became industrialised she had an empty world and she proceeded to appropriate that empty world. She built up markets. You cannot deny to Japan those privileges which we, rightly or wrongly, arrogated to ourselves. It is no good saying that we must consider the menace of Japan and have a naval base here or there, and consider the defence of Australia. If Japan becomes a menace it it because she must have room to expand. Whether it is right or wrong, I am not considering the merits of the contention, you say that Australia must be a white country. Canada does not admit the Japanese. The United States refuses admission to Japanese. What are the Japanese to do? It is sheer nonsense, footling futility, to say that Japan shall not be allowed that room for expansion which we claimed. You taught her industry, taught her to search for markets, and you have to face up to the realities of that situation.
Then you have the problem that will probably be a fertile cause of dissension, the problem of repressed nationalities. Take the case of Austria. We talk about the menace of the Auschluss. We say that at all costs we must prevent the union of Austria and Germany. The victorious Allies stripped Austria, of every economic asset that was worth while. Industrial areas, were torn from her by the succession States. She was left more or less a derelict country, quite incapable of maintaining economic independence. In 1919 her General Assembly framed a constitution which contained a Clause saying that Austria was a part of the German Reich. In 1920–21 that same General Assembly demanded a plebiscite, so that the people of Austria might decide whether or not they should be part of the German Reich. We stripped Austria of resources, and we have had to keep her going. France and ourselves have been pumping millions into her. She is quite incapable, even to-day, with the assets which Italy has offered by allowing Trieste to be used as a free port and a guaranteed market for a certain percentage of agricultural produce. It is no good saying "Here lies a menace, and we must consider armaments in relation to this new menace of a union between Germany and Austria." If you continue to treat Austria as a defeated nation, if you ask her to maintain an independent, economic existence when you have taken away from her all the props and pillars that make that possible, you are living in a world of make-believe.
Then you come to a country like Jugoslavia. There you have a situation which in my judgment is full of menace. I do not make any accusation against Italy as having designs on the other side of the Adriatic though one could say something about it. But in Jugoslavia you have a situation which is an invitation to anyone with Imperialist designs. Those at Versailles and St. Germain lacked wisdom. They tried to make a union of the Serbs and the Croats. The thing is utterly impossible. They are all Slays and have the same blood, but they have an entirely different tradition. For 500 years the Serbs were under the heels of the Turks, but the Croats have drawn all their cultural inspiration from the West, and they boast that the Turk has never put his foot in their territory. Yet you try to make a union of people who will never unite. There you have a situation on the Adriatic that is full of menace.
I am not competent to deal with air forces, with the exact magnitude of our Navy in relation to our needs, nor with the Army. I cannot make any worthwhile contribution on that subject; I leave it to others who know. But I would plead with this House to face the realities of the situation. So long as you have these injustices poisoning the bloodstreams of Europe, so long as you have countries where you try to fuse and blend and merge elements that will never make a homogeneous union, so long as you have in the succession States strong irredentist minorities, and so long as you refuse to nations which are industrially expanding a fair share of the world's raw materials, fair opportunities for marketing their goods, fair opportunities for securing spheres for investing their industrial capital, Geneva and Locarno are of little worth. You can have your pacts, your agreements and your conventions, you can meet till the crack of doom, but until you undertake the removal of these injustices, which are like cankers in the body of Europe, so long will all your talk about disarmament be fatuous and futile.
Sir NAIRNE STEWART SANDEMAN:
I had not intended to intervene in this Debate until it struck me what an enormous responsibility rested on every Member of this House in the matter that we are discussing. We are all personally responsible, and the Front Bench especially so, for the feeding of the people in these islands, and we have to be perfectly certain that the food supply is protected. Personally I have always believed in the strong man who uses his strength in the right way—the fellow who is not a bully. One sees it all through life, in the preparatory school and in the public school, where things go well so long as the boys at the top are strong physically as well as mentally. When they are strong only mentally you may have trouble, but if they are strong physically as well as mentally the school is happy, contented and well-run. I have noticed the same thing in the factories with which I have been associated. So long as you use your strength and do not use it to oppress, you have very little trouble with your working people. I am certain that in the case of a country it is exactly the same thing. What would the National Government be with weak Whips? I do not say that they would ever oppress or do anything like that, but if they were not strong they would find out that trouble was in store for them. So why should not we be strong?
I personally believe that if in 1914 we had had a bigger Army there would have been no war, and the position to-day in the way of taxation would have been very different from what it is. I believe that it was a case of our being penny-wise and pound-foolish, for Germany would never have dared to attack if we had had an Army double the size of that which we possessed. I also feel that after the War we disarmed far too quickly. If we had had something with which to go to the other nations and to say: "Now we are prepared to disarm if you are going to disarm," we could have made a bargain. But what is the position to-day? The other nations know that we have disarmed as far as we can possibly go, and we have nothing left with which to bargain. What they are doing now is deliberately to arm against us.
The question of disarmament is not getting on very quickly. I am afraid that we are trying to beat a dead horse. We were talking about it in the Smoking Room. If we look at history we find that one of the bloodiest wars in history was that between the North and South in America, where neither side was armed at the outset. The war went on with results, in bloodshed and slaughter, as great, in proportion to the forces employed, as the slaughter in the Great War. Disarmament will not make it certain that there is not to be a war, but a really strong Britain is a thing which will have a peaceful influence on the whole world. This is not a question that the ordinary man in the street really understands. It is a question for the experts at the Admiralty, the War Office and the Air Force to inform us about. I would like to know whether they are satisfied that the Navy is big enough, that the Army is big enough, and that the Air Force is powerful enough to ensure supplies of food to this country. I do not think it is fair for those who may have the settling of the question to take any gamble on the position. They ought to be entirely guided on this subject by their experts. This enormous and wealthy Empire spread all over the world is a plum for anyone who could take it and we are open to attack from many quarters. Are the Admiralty, the War Office and those at the head of the Air Force, satisfied that they can guard this Empire? If not, it is for them to show their sense of responsibility by letting the country know the real position. To take a chance by keeping it quiet a little while longer, in the hope that we are going to get some sort of deal as regards further disarmament, would be an absolute delusion.
I think the general sense of nearly all the speeches, both for the Motion and for the Amendment, has been in favour of preserving peace in some way or other. The only exception to that rule was, I think, the speech of the hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. Wall-head) who seemed not averse from entering upon a war provided it was not under the banner of his own country. If we went to war under the Rampant Dove of Geneva, or the Hammer and Sickle, then apparently in that case war would be justified and necessary according to the hon. Member's view. But the other speakers were united on the fact that peace must be preserved at all costs. I was particularly glad to hear one lone voice from the Liberal benches, which have been in their present empty state for the greater part of the afternoon. I was particularly glad to hear from that quarter an impassioned plea that we should face realities. Discussions on security or on armaments are prone to get away from the realities and to come down either to unimportant details or vague generalisations.
Security can be attained in several ways. It can be attained by isolation, a policy which, I think, the House with few exceptions would agree, is impossible. It could also be attained by alliance and that is the method which has been used in English history in the past for the maintenance of peace and security. We have never, in our military history when we could help it, relied exclusively on our own strength. We have always sought alliances, first with one Power and then with another, in order to preserve a balance and maintain a security which no one nation could ever provide for itself. Since the War we have departed from our old traditional diplomatic policy of searching for useful alliances for the preservation of peace, and have embarked on a new course known sometimes as open diplomacy—as opposed to secret diplomacy—and also known as common international action. After 16 years of open diplomacy those of us who are disturbed about the security of our country may well take stock, to find whether that security is best preserved by continuing this apparently unending series of conferences, or whether we should not return to the old policies of this country, and entrust the handling of our diplomacy once more to the professionals instead of to the amateurs, and endeavour to restore the old doctrine of the balance of power.
That doctrine maintained the peace of Europe for just on 100 years without any major war. It succeeded in isolating such wars as occurred, from the end of the Napoleonic wars to the beginning of the last War. Ultimately, it is true, it failed and the last War broke out, but the question arises: Is Europe, as a whole, not nearer war to-day than it has been at any time in that 100 years? I think an impartial survey must reveal that Europe, as a whole, is far nearer war to-day. If we are to seek allies if is obvious that we must have something to offer. One of the reasons for the failure of the Disarmament Conference up to the present, and the reason for its ultimate failure—which, I believe, is bound to come—is that when we turn to a country, such as France for instance, and say, "Can you not base an alliance on the Locarno Treaty? Here we are ready to come to your help if your frontier is violated," the French, being a reasonable and logical race, reply, "We may not doubt your willingness, but with what are you going to help us?" It is just for that reason that the Conference fails.
At the moment, an alliance with England, either from a military or naval point of view, is worth nothing to our allies. That is a state of things which has not, I believe, occurred since the Wars of the Roses, and it is a state of things which ought to be tolerated no longer. When a situation arises in which the military value of Belgium to France is greater than that of England to France, it is time that we took thought of our defences, and of what we have to offer to any possible ally, and also of the ally to whom we ought to offer it. We spend every year a great deal of money on the defence of the country. It may not be enough. Indeed, I am prepared to agree with a number of hon. Members who contend that it is not enough. But at least we can see that we get value for what we spend, and I do not believe we are getting that value now. We, as an Empire, have military problems of our own which can be solved without reference to the armaments of other countries.
Reference has already been made to the question of convoying and protecting food-ships. I would not descend to arguing the details of how naval expenditure ought to be distributed. If I did so, I should lay myself open to two broadsides, one from the hon. and gallant Member for North Battersea (Commander Marsden) and the other from the First Lord of the Admiralty. The same remark applies to the Air service which has been very ably discussed already by two hon. Members. So far, the Army has been left out of the discussion, but it is by no means an unimportant factor in considering our national policy. We have in the last few years, presumably for reasons of economy, treated the Army as a form of police with rifles, to sit in towns and overawe crowds, ignoring the fact that the main idea of a regular army is to have a striking force which may some day have to go to war, and fight against another army as well trained and as well armed as itself. In our case it would have to consider the possibility of meeting a better armed force.
We have neglected the mechanisation of the Army. I think no soldier can controvert the statement that we have now for each division of our Army a supply of artillery to prepare for attack which is only equivalent to what would cover the front of two battalions. Out of every 12 battalions of our Army, 10 are merely there to act as targets for aeroplanes and cannot be put into action with efficiency. Obviously, either you do not want the 10 battalions at all, or you must put them into some form of protective cover where they can act as a defensive force, or, as a third alternative, you must increase your artillery. If we could neglect for the moment any consideration except that of achieving the maximum efficiency in our fighting services with such money as we can afford for that purpose, we should be able to get back to our real protection, which is protection by diplomatic action. Possibly it is impious to hope that the Disarmament Conference may be unsuccessful, but it is a very strong temptation to those who for over 16 years have watched conference after conference, the result of each one of which has been a diminution in the power of England, and further chaos on the Continent of Europe.
It would be a very unfortunate indication of the feeling in this House, if the speech of the hon. Member who has just sat down were to be taken as representative of it. He concluded by almost expressing the wish that the Disarmament Conference would fail. I feel that that view is not widely shared in the House. Yesterday we discussed with some disappointment, which was apparent in all parts of the House, the relative lack of success in achieving a Disarmament Convention, but we left here last night with the impression that the Government were still striving to achieve an agreement. It is unfortunate that this Motion has been brought forward to-day. It conveys to people outside this House, and especially to those who watch our proceedings from a distance, a sense of insincerity and an idea that we are inconsistent even from one day to another. I regret some of the speeches which have been made this afternoon. While there may be some justification for an examination of the position of our armed forces, there is no excuse for some of the self-depreciation which we have heard.
This Motion refers to disarmament, and expresses appreciation of the sincere efforts of the Government to achieve agreement. It then goes on to urge the Government to pursue a course which will "adequately safeguard our industrial, political and national existence." I do not know exactly what that means. I would possibly take a very different view from the Mover of this Motion as to the interpretation of that part of the Motion. If it were left to me, I might suggest that the best way to safeguard our industrial, political and national existence would be to change the Government of this country, or to change the
industrial and economic policy which the Government are carrying out at present. If the hon. Member had been content to survey our position in relation to other States and the effect of anything which we do from time to time upon our relations with other States, he might confer a service upon the House and the country. But when, in an attempt to prove his case, he recalls pre-War controversies about the Navy and so forth, he is not so helpful. We all remember the days in which we claimed a two-Power naval standard for ever, and when serious politicians and even statesmen of worldwide renown joined in the chant:
We want eight, and we won't wait!
and all that kind of nonsense. All that was political controversy, and passed for statesmanship of the highest order. The hon. Gentleman recalled to us that that standard had been abandoned. It was abandoned because circumstances have changed, and that argument shows how terribly uncertain are the conditions that those who place safety in armaments make from time to time. He said the danger to us had increased tenfold since those days, that we are in a position 10 times more dangerous to-day than it was in those days, but he omitted to say—and the hon. Gentleman who spoke last did not deal as faithfully as he might with the point—where the danger is to come from. The hon. Member said, "Trust to the diplomats." What does that mean? Is it trusting to skill in diplomacy, to negotiations, conciliation, persuasion? Does he trust in them?
Has he not in his mind, behind all this diplomacy and consultation, the idea that we must be armed, that we must be in a position to impose our will on people who disagree with us? Then what is the use of pretending to rely upon diplomacy, if he believes that the ultimate safeguard is force? I would like to know what estimate of force these gentlemen have in mind. Is it one enemy, or two enemies, or a combination of enemies? What standard of armament do the hon. Members believe to be necessary in order to give us the safety and the security which they desire? In the pre-War days, the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) will remember quite well, we were building up our naval preparations mainly against one country. It was in view of Germany's naval preparations that the insistent demand was made in this country for six or eight years before the War broke out. Germany has now disappeared as a naval force altogether. Germany is no longer taken into account in trying to arrange for naval armaments, and there is no stability, there is no possible ground for examining the armaments which we require unless we know what kind of opposition we have to face, particularising in regard to names and position in every single case.
If one imagined that countries A, B, and C were potential enemies, one would have to estimate, not only the naval strength, but the air strength and the army resources, required to cope with those enemies, each of which would have their own geographical position as well as resources in men and materials of different kinds, and it is quite beyond the capacity of any experts to lay down an ideal condition of armament which would satisfy all possible requirements of this country from the point of view of security. Because of this uncertainty, both in regard to the people who might be our allies and in regard to those who might be our enemies, there is no safety, there is no possible balance-sheet of safety, in any attempt to maintain sufficient armed forces for the purpose. Our own armed forces would not be sufficient, and we should have to have regard to the measure of strength, not only of our enemies, but also of our allies. The hon. Member who moved the Motion referred to the question of enemies and allies, and I would like the House to realise how quickly these allies change into enemies, and how quickly enemies become friends, under conditions that develop from day to day.
Because of the dangerous state of flux in which Europe and the world find themselves to-day, all these attempts publicly to debate the military, naval, and air requirements of this country are highly dangerous and should not be entertained until it is quite definitely and finally established that there is no hope of a world agreement and regulation through the League of Nations. The armed forces of which we speak are a very uncertain basis for international friendship, and those who deprecate ourselves and those who say that this country has less value as an ally to-day than it had in pre-War days or some other previous time are deceiving themselves. This country is more sought as a friend to-day than ever before, despite the existence of the National Government and despite the mistakes of that National Government. It is not our armed forces, it is not the exact conduct of our diplomats from day to day, but it is the lasting reputation of this country that makes friends for us in all parts of the world, and it is upon that reputation for sincerity and straight dealing that our security lies, not upon any possible addition to our armed forces or any possible attachment of any other armed body of people with whom we might be associated.
I would like the House to get away from this idea of dependence upon military preparation and to come back once again to the spirit and the hopes that were entertained yesterday, that there might be agreement in Europe. There is no real ground for disagreement in Europe at the present time. The hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. R. T. Evans) referred to the quarrels in the Balkan States, where the people suffer from age-long feuds which are very difficult to remove, but there is nothing in the state of the Balkans to-day to call for a resort to war by the larger nations of Europe, and there is nothing in any part of the world that would justify a resort to arms. I dislike very much these pessimistic utterances and conclusions drawn from the clear but very small and insignificant signs of disorder in the world. There were disorders in the large city of Paris last night, but anyone who would draw the conclusion from that fact that France is in a general state of confusion and not to be respected as a neighbour would be drawing an utterly false conclusion. There are difficulties in all parts of the world. We are exceptionally fortunate in being free from many of the difficulties which beset other people, but our responsibility is all the greater on that account, and we should be striving to give an example to the world and should resist the temptation to hark back to the old idea, the exploded and obsolete idea, that security can be found in armed force.
As a matter of fact, the world is more heavily armed to-day than ever before. The world has never been so heavily armed as it is now, and if those who say that we are in danger of war are right, they must seek for some explanation, and that explanation is not to be found in insufficient armaments. It is to be found in some other cause, and that cause is, as my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil (Mr. Wallhead) said, the economic difficulties, the unwillingness to face up to the economic problem, and the unwillingness to come to grips with a problem which is universal, and in particular a problem which afflicts all countries alike, and not one country only. The hon. Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg) referred to the changing habits of the people, and in arguing for an international police force he referred to the fact that the practice of duelling to settle private quarrels has now gone. That is not because we fear the law, it is not because there is a policeman in every street; it is because people's minds have changed. It is a moral disarmament. It is our social attributes that have come into greater play, and that is why, in the more highly civilised countries, duelling has been abolished. More progress of this kind must be achieved internationally, and the abolition of duelling between private individuals is a good augury for the prospective abolition of war between nations. If private quarrels can be settled without recourse to private force, then national quarrels can be settled without recourse to national force.
The hon. Member for Altrincham also said that international law must be under the authority of an international force, and I agree, but in all the discussions that I have heard in this House, and as long back as I can remember, alliances have partaken of the characteristic of international force, and whenever we entered into an alliance we surrendered partially; there is partial abnegation of our own sovereignty. If those who believe it is possible to have a balance of power, to have limited agreements between nations, to act together against some other body of nations, then they concede the possibility of the establistment of an international force and the possibility of the recognition of a super-national armed authority.
The hon. Member recalled his happy schooldays, and I am glad that he had happy schooldays. Mine probably were much shorter than his and placed in less happy circumstances, but he found in school that the big boy, the strong boy, was an institution worth having in the school because he maintained peace by domination and by exercising authority over boys not so strong. But the hon. Gentleman said himself, and in so doing gave the case away, that so long as the big boy was a nice boy, things were all right. That is the trouble in the world. If the big boy is a nice boy, it is all right. If he has force, and that force is used wisely, it is not physical force, it is moral force, and what the world wants is the development, encouragement, and establishment of moral force between nations. Just as moral force has now to be applied between individuals belonging to the same nation, so must moral force be asserted as the real, ultimate force between the nations of the world.
I have promised to give way to one who is much more eloquent than I am and who will interest and, I am sure, benefit the House on this subject, but I would like, before sitting down, to ask the House once again to realise the terrible possibilities of a war that might come about as a result of rivalry in armaments. We all know that the destructive power of this country, our power to destroy life, is infinitely greater than it was before the last War broke out. Other countries are correspondingly stronger. Take, for example, Germany, which is supposed to be relatively badly armed. Germany has been disarmed and has not yet rearmed to our standard, but does anyone doubt that that great industrial country, with its resources in science and learning and mechanical experience, could in a very short time, in weeks or months, build up such resources, such material for war, as would stagger the world if put into operation. We can do the same thing. This country can build. We were building at the end of the last War, aeroplanes and their parts, and a larger Air Force than we now employ could have been built in a month when the last War came to an end.
Ships will not play as large a part. The admiral will stick to his ship. He will be left in his ship, and the battle will be fought very much better without him. It will be fought by people who can rise higher than the hon. and gallant Gentleman can. These armed forces are waiting to be brought into creation. The ordinary men and women in the street are, after all, the people who count. Diplomats and military and naval experts have been found wrong time and time again, and their mistakes have cost countries tragedy on a large scale. I would like to believe that the view of the man-in-the-street was taken and his interest considered, and I would like this country not to trifle with this idea of re-armament. Let us give all the strength and support we can to the Lord Privy Seal and those with him who are striving for an agreement which will ultimately lead, I hope, to disarmament among all the countries of the world. On this question of armies hon. Members do not do themselves justice. They argue as if we could build a certain number of ships and aeroplanes and have just sufficient number of men in uniform and make them drill for so much time each year, or have a standing army like ours enlisted in the service of the King for a fixed term, and that when we had all that, we were safe. Hon. Gentlemen delude themselves if they depend on that kind of protection.
Does not the House realise that the next war will be fought, not with arms? Not by any branch of the service will the war be decided. It will be decided by money, by the financial resources of countries, for war would be embarked on with expensive impedimenta and equipment—much more expensive than the simple weapons of former days. We were spending £8,000,000 a clay before the last War came to an end. We would be spending our millions from the first day of the next war. All the great industrial countries would be doing the same. How long does the House or any military expert think we can go on doing that kind of thing? With the huge burden of national debt which we now carry, and the huge burdens of debts saddled upon all the countries of the world, no army could give protection or enable any country to maintain operations. The crash would come in the financial centres in each of the countries. I beg the House not to entertain the idea of safety by arming, and not to give any encouragement to the view abroad that we are entertaining an increase of armaments. I beg rather that a message should go forth from the House that the people of this country abhor the idea of warfare and the financial catastrophe and utter breakdown of society which would ensue upon war between civilised nations, and that we are determined to carry on the Resolution of yesterday, and extract from the Memorandum which is now the policy of the Government all the good that can be extracted from it, and to go on unceasingly with a real policy of disarmament which will bring real security to the world.
Every one, I am sure, will share the admiration of the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell) for what he called moral disarmament, and his wish that, just as duelling has passed out of our minds in this country, so the idea of war may be banished from the minds of all the civilised nations of the world. We all share those sentiments which the hon. Member expressed in his agreeable speech. But, unhappily, when we look out upon the conditions of the world we see a very different picture, and not only a different picture, but tendencies which are running in a contrary direction—the immense stimulus to nationalistic ideas which is the characteristic and the main feature of modern times, taking the form of economic self-containment and of rivalries as fierce as any. All this rise of nationalistic ideas moves directly contrary to those pleasant and bright visions of society, in which the hon. Member indulges himself and has indulged us this evening. The movement is rather the other way. What is happening now is that all those grievances and injustices, to which the hon. Gentleman who spoke from the Liberal Benches referred, between the nations of Europe and in the Far East are unsolved or unredressed, and that meanwhile all over the world countries are arming.
Thus we have an entirely different situation from that which we would all like to see. We have an entirely different situation, or a very greatly changed situation, from the one which existed only a very few years ago. I remember in the days of the late Conservative Administration, when I had the honour of serving
under my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council, who is, I believe, going to reply on the Debate to-night, that we thought it right to take as a rule of guidance that there would be no major war within 10 years in which we should be engaged. Of course, such a rule can only be a very crude guidance to the military and naval chiefs who have to make their plans, and it had to be reconsidered prospectively at the beginning of each year. I believe that it was right in all the circumstances. With Locarno and the more mellow light which shone on the world at that time, with the hopes that were then very high, I think it was probably right to take that principle as a guide from day to day, and from year to year. No one could take that principle as a guide to-day. I am quite certain that any Cabinet, however pacific—and no one can impugn the peaceful desires of His Majesty's Government, except those who are divorced from the slightest desire for contact with truth—there is no Government, however pacific and peace-loving that could possibly arrange the basis of their naval and military organisation upon such an assumption as that. A new situation has been created, largely in the last few years, partly in the last three or four years, largely, I fear, by rubbing this sore of the Disarmament Conference until it has become a cancer, and also by the sudden uprush of Nazi-ism in Germany, with the tremendous covert armaments which are proceeding there to-day, to which the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks), in a most interesting speech yesterday, drew our attention. He quoted figures, which may or may not be strictly accurate, but which now bear a very close relation to the grave underlying facts. That has changed the position very much indeed, and everyone sitting on the Government Bench knows how gravely the position has been changed. Only yesterday we defined once again our commitments to other countries. They are very serious commitments. The White Paper which we discussed yesterday contains a very grave sentence:
They have a right to expect that, if these provisions and pledges were solemnly entered into, they would not be lightly violated, and that any violation of them would be met in the most practical and effective way by immediately assembling
Governments and States in support of international peace and agreement against the disturber and the violator.
I think that those are very serious words to use in a document, and it would be most unwise for us to proceed with our diplomacy in one direction, and not make our necessary preparation in the other sphere. We had a speech yesterday from the late Foreign Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain)—one of his most lucid and powerful utterances—in which he dotted the i's and crossed the t's of this declaration, and pointed out that it was to be understood as a gentleman's agreement, as a declaration to be interpreted with a fine sense of honour; and there was no contradiction of any kind—could there have been?—from His Majesty's Government. At Birmingham this year, my right hon. Friend the Lord President went out of his way with great solemnity to issue a warning about the European situation, and he pointed out how strictly we should adhere to all the engagements into which we have entered. These are considerable facts, and we must consider our military, naval and aviation defence in relation to facts of this character.
An hon. Gentleman was asking what cause could arise for any dispute which we could have. We are engaged in demanding equality for armies, in imposing equality for armies as far as we can, upon the nations of the Continent—France, Germany, Poland and Italy. Suppose it is asked in a few years that there should be equality for navies, too? When the Government are asked about this, they say, "Oh, no, that would not apply; we should not agree to that." Suppose we are asked some time in the future to restore colonies for which we hold a mandate, the Government would say, "Certainly not; we should not open that question in any way." There are a lot of things which we will do and will not do, and this is one of the occasions when we may ask, What do we back our opinions with; what arrangements and force have we to summon behind these serious issues of opinion on which we declare our will and right? What happens, for instance, if, after we have equalised and reduced the army of France to the level of that of Germany, and got an equality for Germany, and with all the reactions which will have followed in the sentiment of Europe upon such a change, Germany then proceeds to say, "How can you keep a great nation of 65,000,000 in the position in which it is not entitled to have a navy equal to the greatest of the fleets upon the seas?" You will say "No; we do not agree. Armiest—they belong to other people. Navies—that question affects Britain's interests and we are bound to say, 'No.'" But what position shall we be in to say that "No"?
Wars come very suddenly. I have lived through a period when one looked forward, as we do now, with great anxiety and great uncertainty to what would happen in the future. Suddenly something did happen—tremendous, swift, overpowering, irresistible. Let me remind the House of the sort of thing that happened in 1914. There was absolutely no quarrel between Germany and France. One July afternoon the German Ambassador drove down to the Quai d'Orsay and said to, I think, M. Viviani, the French Prime Minister: "We have been forced to mobilise against Russia, and war will be declared. What is to be the position of France?" The French Prime Minister made the answer, which his Cabinet had agreed upon, that France would act in accordance with what she considered to be her own interests. The Ambassador said, "You have an alliance with Russia, have you not?" "Quite so." said the French Prime Minister. And that was the process by which, in a few minutes, the area of the struggle, already serious in the East, was enormously widened and multiplied by the throwing in of the two great nations of the West on either side. But sometimes even a declaration of neutrality does not suffice. On this very occasion, as we now know, the German Ambassador was authorised by his Government, in case the French did not do their duty by their Russian ally, in case they showed any disposition to back out of the conflict which had been resolved on by the German nation, to demand that the fortresses of Toul and Verdun should be handed over to German troops as a guarantee that the French, having declared neutrality, would not change their mind at a subsequent moment.
That is how that great thing happened in our own lifetime, and I am bound to say that I cannot see in the present administration of Germany any assurance they would be more nice-minded in dealing with a vital and supreme situation than was the Imperial Government of Germany, which was responsible for this procedure being adopted towards France. No, Sir, and we may, within a measurable period of time, in the lifetime of those who are here, if we are not in a proper state of security, be confronted on some occasion with a visit from an ambassador, and may have to give an answer in a very few hours; and if that answer is not satisfactory, within the next few hours the crash of bombs exploding in London and the cataracts of masonry and fire and smoke will warn us of any inadequacy which has been permitted in our aerial defences. We are vulnerable as we have never been before. I have often heard criticisms of the Liberal Government before the War. It is said that its diplomacy was not sufficiently clear and precise, that it wrapped things up in verbiage, that it ought to have said downright and plain what it would do, and there were criticisms about its lack of preparation, and so forth. All I can say is that a far graver case rests upon those who now hold power if, by any chance, against our wishes and against our hopes, trouble should come—a far graver case.
Not one of the lessons of the past has been learned, not one of them has been applied, and the situation is incomparably more dangerous. Then we had the Navy, and no air menace worth speaking of. Then the Navy was the "sure shield" of Britain. As long as it was ready in time and at its stations we could say to any foreign Government: "Well, what are you going to do about it? We will not declare ourselves. We will take our own line, we will work out our own course. We have no wish or desire to hurt anyone, but we shall not be pressed or forced into any hasty action unless we think fit or well." We cannot say that now. This cursed, hellish invention and development of war from the air has revolutionised our position. We are not the same kind of country we used to be when we were an island, only 20 years ago. That is the thing that is borne in upon me more than anything else. It is not merely a question of what we like and what we do not like, of ambitions and desires, of rights and interests, but it is a question of safety and independence. That is what is involved now as never before.
I am going to mention only this, because I am not going to stand between the House and my right hon. Friend for more than a few minutes longer, but it does seem to me that there are three definite decisions which we should now take at once, and without any delay. The first affects the Army. We ought to begin the reorganisation of our civil factories so that they can be turned over rapidly to war purposes. All over Europe that is being done, and to an extraordinary extent—to an amazing extent. They are incomparably more efficient than anything that existed in the days of Prussian Imperialism before the War. Every factory in those countries is prepared to turn over to the production of some material for the deplorable and melancholy business of slaughter. What have we done? There is not an hour to lose. Those things cannot be done in a moment. The process should be started, and the very maximum of money that can be usefully spent should be spent from to-day on—if we act with wisdom.
Then there is the question of the Navy. For the Navy, at any rate, we should regain freedom of design. We should get rid of this London Treaty which has crippled us in building the kind of ships we want, and has stopped the United States from building a great battleship which she probably needed and to which we should have not had the slightest reason to object. It has forced us to spend some of our hard-earned, poor money—the little there is for these purposes—unwisely. It has forced us to take great ships which would have been of enormous utility in convoying vessels bearing food to these islands and to sink them in the ocean, when they bad 10 to 15 years of useful life in them. We must regain our freedom at the earliest possible moment, and we shall be helped in doing so by the fact that another of the parties to that Treaty is resolved to regain her freedom, too. Then there is the air. I cannot conceive how, in the present state of Europe and of our position in Europe we can delay in establishing the principle of having an Air Force at least as strong as that of any Power that can get at us. I think that is a perfectly reasonable thing to do. It would only begin to put us back to the position in which we were brought up. We have lived under the shield of the Navy. To have an Air Force as strong as the air force of France or Germany, whichever is the stronger, ought to be the decision which Parliament should take, and which the National Government should proclaim.
There is only one other point which I venture to mention—[HON. MEMBERS: "Go on!"]—and that is the co-ordination of the three Services. A right hon. Friend of mine, the Member for South Molton (Mr. G. Lambert), yesterday asked the Prime Minister a very pertinent question as to the allocation of money between the three Fighting Services. I doubt very much whether, at this stage, there is room for economy in any of them, but at any rate it would be advantageous, in my opinion, if the problem were studied from a central point of view, because things are changing very much. The emphasis should be thrown here or there, according to the needs of modern conditions, but there should be much more effective co-ordination than now exists. I ask my right hon. Friend when he replies, after consulting with the Leader of the House, to say that sometime in this Session the Vote for the Committee of Imperial Defence should be put down—the Prime Minister's salary, or whatever is the Vote—so that we can have a discussion on the three Services combined. It would be a very valuable discussion, one such as has frequently been allowed in previous years, and was never more necessary than at the present time.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lewes (Captain Loder) has moved an Amendment to the Motion asking us to await the result of the White Paper. I see no great harm in the House placing some hopes in the White Paper, but grave harm if that is going to delay the necessary provision for security at home in the meanwhile. Who believes that the proposals of the White Paper will prove acceptable; for instance, that France, which has now between 700,000 and 800,000 men, is going to reduce her forces in Europe to the level of those of Poland, to an equality with those of Germany? Who can say that our proposals will gain any acceptance on the Continent of Europe? The Government can make their effort, if they like, they can then say they have done it, but they cannot justify delaying necessary action in the sphere of defence until they get the answers, which will be given, no doubt very politely—to the Lord Privy Seal when he embarks on his peregrinations round the capitals of Europe. We cannot delay for that. Therefore, if my hon. and gallant Friend were to go to a Division, I should vote for the Motion and against this temporising, vaporising, paralysing Amendment which my hon. and gallant Friend opposite has put down, I believe at the instigation of the Government.
I think that the responsibility of His Majesty's Government is very grave indeed, and there is this which makes it all the graver: It is a responsibility which they have no difficulty in discharging if they choose. We are told they have to wait for public opinion, that they must bring that along and must be able to assure the good people here that everything is being done with the most pacific intentions—they must make a case. But they do not need to do anything like that, and nothing like that can stand between them and their responsibility to the Crown and Parliament for the safety and security of the country. The Government command overwhelming majorities in both branches of the Legislature. Nothing will be denied to them that they ask. They have only to make their proposals, and they will be supported in them. Let them not suppose that if they make proposals, with confidence and conviction, for the safety of the country that their countrymen will not support them as they have always done at every moment. Why take so poor a view of the great patriotic support which this nation gives to those who, it feels, are doing their duty by it? I cannot feel that at the present time the Government are doing their duty in these matters of defence, and particularly in respect of the air. It seems to me that while we are becoming ever more entangled in the European situation, and while we are constantly endeavouring to weaken, relatively, our friends upon the Continent of Europe, we nevertheless are left exposed to a mortal thrust, and are deprived of that sense of security and independence upon which the civilisation of our island has been built.
I am very glad that my right hon. Friend has been able to come down to-day and give us a characteristic and very powerful speech, bringing to our attention a great many things that we ought to attend to. I suppose that he and I have had as much responsibility, or almost as much, as any two men, certainly for events up to four years ago. We have worked together on these problems, and any contribution that he makes in the possession of greater freedom and less responsibility is bound to have weight, not only from the gift which he possesses in his ability to make his case, but also from the great positions in the State which he has held. I, for one, am glad that this Debate has taken place as a complementary Debate to that of yesterday. The House yesterday, in a very admirable Debate, was almost unanimous in its approval of what the Government were trying to do. I take no exception to the fact that by a curious chance it so happens that to-day we are discussing matters of the gravest import and which have a very close relation to those which we were discussing from a rather different angle yesterday.
I want first of all to correct one or two phrases which were used by my hon. Friends in their speeches. My hon. Friend the Member for Newport (Mr. Clarry), in a speech which I thought was of great interest, of excellent temper and full of sound sense, spoke about our national pride being sapped; and the Seconder, in another very interesting speech, spoke about the Government pursuing a policy of expediency. In my view there is neither expediency on the part of the Government nor any sapping of the national character or pride. That I do not believe for a moment. Let me try to illustrate the position as I see it. All of us who are middle-aged will remember, in the years before the War, that whatever might have been thought by certain military students and possibly some men in public life, the majority of the country believed that war was impossible. That was the national atmosphere; the country swung from it in a day in 1914, and for four years there was no more military nation than this. Nothing could have been more wonderful than the unity, courage, endurance, and perseverance of the country. Then, in 1918, we entered on the sixteen most difficult years through which this country has ever passed, or through which any Government—and many have had a try— has had to pilot the country. What was the era into which we were entering? We were an impoverished nation; we had lost a large number of the most virile of our population; we could have had no idea then what the effects of the strain of war were and would be, not only on the men who had fought but on many of the civil population. We had to get the men back to work who had been at the Front, a Herculean job, and there was not always work for them. We had to face immense difficulties at home and immense difficulties abroad. Every nation had its domestic problems. We have had domestic problems with which the different Governments have been wrestling through all these years, not always with success.
During these years it has seemed impossible that war should come again. We did not think that it was impossible before the War from horror of what war meant; we simply thought war was out-of-date. The feeling after the War was begotten of the knowledge of what it was. So it came about that in what time they could spare from wrestling with their domestic problems, the statesmen of Europe set to work to try, through the League of Nations, to effect a measure of working together and of disarmament, and to get a new method of consultation, so that the method so graphically described by my right hon. Friend as taking place at the Quai d'Orsay might be a thing of the past. Everyone here will admit, whether he thinks now that success in achieving that object is possible or not, that it was no unworthy object for Europe to discuss and to struggle for.
Here, however, I must say that the facts have struck some hard blows at Europe. As a matter of fact, and I say it with no criticism, there was no more reeling blow struck at this new attempt in Europe than when the American Congress refused to support President Wilson. At that time, when people's wounds, as it were, were still bleeding from the War, to France, who had been the principal sufferer, security was essential in which to restore her shattered nerves. That security which she thought she had got from President Wilson disappeared in a moment. That has made as many, if not more, difficulties than anything else in Europe by always bringing up the question of security; and the question of security is an infinitely difficult problem with which to deal.
We are making an attempt to deal now with that problem, and that is what the House was discussing yesterday. For good or for ill, in a very short time we shall know whether we may look for success or not. If I may just go back to yesterday and say what we are looking for, we are looking for something which will prevent that dreadful alternative of no agreement of any kind. We are trying to get an ordered armament, a limitation. That in itself, as we all know, carries with it many difficulties, and brings a problem which was discussed yesterday by the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps), about the rule of law in Europe. But, as was well pointed out by another speaker—I think to-day—the rule of law involves sanctions, and it is sanctions that brings the man into the law court. Sooner or later Europe will have to face that fact, and it is going to be an extraordinarily difficult question. But she will face it, in my view, with more success if we have succeeded in bringing about a convention on the lines of our White Paper. With an equality there should be, for everybody's sake, a much better chance of getting what we all want.
While I am speaking I will just diverge for one moment to two questions that were mentioned yesterday. I wish to throw out a word of warning about them, because they come in connection with these agreements and also with regard to limitation of armaments and sanctions. Much too light a use is made, especially among those who belong to a very different school of thought from that to which I belong, of the word "blockade." People talk lightly about blockading a country as an economic sanction. An economic sanction is very difficult to bring into effect without blockade. Blockade is an act of war, and any country, unless it is absolutely impotent, which you blockade will fight you for it. That, I think, is a fundamental consideration which should be recognised when one is speaking about blockades.
I wish also to utter a caution about budgetary limitations. I know that the idea of budgetary limitations appeals to many hon. Members of this House, and I do not say that it is impossible to achieve something by it. Nevertheless, I want the House to remember one or two difficulties about it. I have not been into all the figures of other countries, but I would hazard this opinion: that in no country, at any rate in no European country, has the cost of the fighting services been so much increased as our own by the pay of the personnel. That throws out of relation all comparisons between those other countries and our own. I am going to do what I very rarely do: Inflict on the House a few figures on that point which I have taken out with great care. Hon. Members may also be glad to have them, because they put succinctly the reductions which we have made in personnel and, therefore, fall in with many of the arguments that have been used to-day.
The figures are not many, but they are very interesting. The pay charge for the Fighting Services in the Estimates for last year is compared with the charge in 1914–15, which was a few months before the War broke out; I leave out the odd hundreds of thousands. In 1914 it was £12,000,000 for the Navy, £13,000,000 for the Army, and nothing for the Air Force. Last year it was £15,500,000 for the Navy, £17,000,000 for the Army, and £5,250,000 for the Air Force. That includes all pay and allowances for service personnel but not for civilians. The increase in the 19 years was 52.75 per cent. But remember this. The service personnel in 1914 in the Navy was 146,000, and last year it was 89,000. In the Army it was 172,750, and last year 141,000. In the Air Force it was nothing, and last year 29,500. There has therefore been a decline of 18.5 per cent., and the cost per man in the fighting services has risen from £78 10s. in 1914 to £147 2s. last year, an increase of 87 per cent.
When, moreover, you remember that we are almost alone among the Great Powers in having to spend a large sum on our Fighting Services Estimates for coaling stations, fuelling stations, and harbours all over the world, such items as do not appear in the accounts of many countries, you will get some idea of the reservations that have to be made, and of the difficulty, quite apart from the currency difficulties which were referred to yesterday, which will be found in making a fair and equitable comparison between our actual costs and the costs in other countries. It is no mere obstruction on the part of this Government that we have always welcomed, perhaps rather lukewarmly, suggestions of budgetary limitations. I want the House to realise that there are real difficulties in that matter, and that such objections as we have put forward have not been objections put forward merely for obstructive purposes, but that we do see very real difficulties in coming to conclusions which would be of service.
I want to say a few words about an observation which fell from the hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. Wallhead). His line was that we were bound to have a war. I do not think that we are at all bound to have a war.
One could come to a different conclusion every day, if one argues that way. I do not accept that inference, and I do not draw that lesson from the speeches which I have heard. I listened to my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), who was talking in his eloquent way about the dangers of war in the future. What are the causes of war? It has been well said, among those who have studied history, that the commonest causes of war have been dynastic and religious, and the question of boundaries. Of course dynastic wars were very often mixed up with boundary wars because the dynasty wanted to enlarge its boundary, and in those days the dynastic claim was the easiest one to raise. I do not suppose anyone in this House expects to see another dynastic war, or another religious war. That leaves boundaries. There, I think, is a question of danger. I use the word "boundary" in a very comprehensive sense. It may not only be a boundary which a nation may feel has been wrongly drawn, owing to many of their nationals being on what is, to them, the wrong side of that boundary, but it may be an economic boundary. You may have the boundaries of existing countries—this I think is the great danger in the next generation—strained by the growth of population, and those boundaries may break.
In all the attempts which we have made—and Heaven knows, at the moment, the outlook is not peculiarly cheerful—to keep the League of Nations together, and which we are going to make, we hope and we believe that it is possible that these questions of difference of a nature that may lead to war—and the only questions that are left to-day that may lead to wars in the future are those which above all would have been impossible as dynastic or religious questions—should be soluble by rational means, if taken in time, if the danger is seen, and if the statesmen of Europe can see some years beforehand where the danger spot is likely to grow, so that we may avoid what my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping, in his picturesque way, has described as "the rubbing and the irritation of a sore."
That is work for which the League was intended and for which the League can be and must be used. I am quite convinced that the present Government, and I believe any other Government that might take its place drawn from any part of the House, when they were up against it, as you are when you are in the Government, will do all in their power to maintain Geneva and the League, and sympathetically to make such alterations, if they be convinced of the necessity for those alterations, as may make for greater harmony among the nations of Europe.
If we fail, there is no need for me here to say a word to the House of the dangers of that situation, but I would say this: If we do fail, the Government will feel that their duty is to look after the interest of this country first and quickly. If agreement be come to, it is a much simpler problem. We then, in common with the other partners in the Agreement have limits up to which we can arm. It should be our duty to make ourselves as competent as we may up to that limit, because with equality of armaments you will find that that is what every nation will do. It is what, after all, every nation must do if it is to make itself fit to be the partner and the colleague of the nations, when the time comes when sanctions may have to be enforced. These things lie in the future, but I see them clearly and I see them whole. We have not yet settled how we can get this form of international law among the nations where war is concerned. It is perfectly clear that it can only be got ultimately by force, and the great problem for Europe will be to see how that doctrine is to be adopted.
I have told the House quite frankly how I regard this matter. It can be but a short time, as I said earlier in my speech, before we shall know whether the prospect is favourable for our Draft or whether it is going to end in failure. I have told the House what the position will be if it fails and what the position will be if an agreement is reached. After the Debate that we had yesterday and which has probably gone out to all the world, and after the admirable Debate to-day which has but put before the country problems which the country will have to face and face soon—there is no doubt about that—I hope that my hon. Friend who moved this Motion and his friends may see fit not to divide the House upon it. I believe that the Debate will have done good; I am sure of it, but this is by far the gravest question that we can discuss, and we have only had four hours' debate. The speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping was one which he compressed, but, argued and delivered, it would have taken more than an hour, and it would certainly have taken more than an hour to answer it. These questions cannot be gone into in a discussion of this kind. They will be more suited to the discussion for which he asked—and I will bring his request to the notice of the Prime Minister. I have had the honour and pleasure of taking part in similar Debates in the past, and I always feel that they serve a useful purpose.
Yes. That is what the right hon. Gentleman wanted. If the Mover of the Motion sees fit not to press this question, to a division, I believe that that will increase, instead of diminish, the influence of the very question which he wished to bring to the notice of the public. That would take away any appearance of discord or difference of opinion. Fundamentally there is agreement about it in every way, and I think that that course would at this moment be for the best.
I desire, with the leave of the House, in the few minutes that remain to make an immediate and vehement protest against certain passages in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). He to-day has declared—I do not go into the whole question which he raised about the immediate necessities of the national defence—in favour of resuming, as he called it, our freedom, with respect to naval armaments, that we should take the earliest opportunity of tearing up all agreements for the restriction of shipbuilding, and that the world should be set free once more to engage in an unrestricted race of naval armament.
The right hon. Gentleman and myself were Members of the pre-War Cabinets which had the duty, the most painful and unwelcome duty for us, of increasing expenditure upon the naval armaments of this country by 40 per cent. in a few years. It was essential, and it was done. When the right hon. Gentleman was First Lord of the Admiralty he proposed to Germany a naval holiday, in order that that monstrous but inevitable waste of the resources of both countries should be avoided. Now he is proceeding in precisely the opposite direction, when we have to some extent a naval holiday, and when we were able, by the Washington Treaty and the London Treaty, to stop the unrestricted race of naval armaments which was about to proceed. He would reject all that advantage, and he declares that we should resume our freedom.
If we resume our freedom, everybody else resumes freedom. Japan resumes her freedom, and every country will be compelled to build ship against ship, again involving an enormous expenditure of the resources of the world. These things are relative, and the strength of any navy depends upon the strength of other navies. If we secure a general agreement to reduce all navies and to stop this race, surely it is an advantage to all mankind. If every country were to double its armaments, no country would be stronger than it was before, and every country would be poorer than it was before. In fact, the speech of the right hon. Gentleman may be summed up in these words, that he would raise a cry of "Long live anarchy, and let us all go rattling down to ruin together."
I just want to remind the House, in the short time that remains, that in those days to which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) has referred, the country owed a lasting debt of gratitude to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) who, when he had failed to bring about a holiday in building with Germany, was one of the few realists who understood the peril and took steps to meet it, while the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen and his leader in the same year was telling us that never had there been a better opportunity for reducing our Fleet power.
The House has, I think, been profoundly moved by the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), and those of us who have taken some part in cultivating public opinion in the past on the question of defence are grateful for what he has said. We all agree that the speech of the Lord President of the Council is one which should make a very strong appeal to the House. I only wish that he had been in a position to say that he could accept some of the proposals and suggestions made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping. We have been living largely in a fool's paradise for a considerable time.