I support the Motion, as a realist and not as a visionary or an idealist. In my view, world peace will never be firmly and completely established until the proposals mentioned in the Motion are put into practice. Most Members will agree that the bulk of the world to-day desires peace and if one is right in assuming that it will be necessary to have such machinery as this, as a necessary precondition of a firmly established peace, I refuse to believe that that is an impracticable proposition or a mere Utopian dream. It is a practical proposal. I know the difficulties of bringing it about, but it is as a practical proposal that I support it. It will be agreed that ethical standards have only been established under a rule of law and order and that law and order have only been established, gradually, through progressively increasing material sanctions. That statement certainly applies in domestic affairs. It is a commonplace of the history of the civilisation and what applies in domestic affairs, in my view, is a complete analogy with what will have to take place in international affairs. It is true that once you haave a certain order and civilisation in society, habits and customs grow up and the degree of the strength of your sanctions is progressively diminished. But, even to-day, I submit, in many instances mass psychology is of a very low order and the material sanctions which are always present in any domestic system of affairs are necessary for the preservation and maintenance of our ethical standards.
The Covenant of the League of Nations is, to use the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), a majestic structure, and in my humble view it is the only hope of permanent peace in the world. These proposals for the establishment of a tribunal in equity and an international police force are designed to strengthen the power of the League. They are in no way contrary to the League, but rather implement and give the League force to carry out the principles laid down in the Covenant. Majestic as the Covenant is, I think it will be admitted by the greatest enthusiast for the League that the machinery of the League is in many respects tenuous and vague, and that the several parts of the Covenant in many respects lack cohesion and unity. Anyone who reads through the Articles of the Covenant carefully must admit that there are great gaps still to be filled up in the machinery of the League. Fortunately, we have seen that, with good will those gaps can be filled up even ad hoc in dealing with a particular dispute. We have seen the very remarkable exhibition of unity which has been displayed over the application of the economic sanctions. But, I submit that you will never obtain that complete unity between the several Articles of the Covenant which is necessary until you have more effective machinery such as that proposed in the Motion.
I am a very enthusiastic supporter of the League of Nations, but I think it is a mistake to attempt to put too great a burden on the League until you have provided effective machinery for the support of such a burden. Too hot enthusiasm can be almost of as much disservice as indifference or hostility. The inherent difficulty in the Italo-Abyssinia affair has undoubtedly been the uncertainty as to what collective support will be forthcoming when it comes to the practical application of any given sanction. I should have thought that our experience in this dispute would have emphasised the importance of setting up machinery which will be more certain in its operation. There is no doubt that if you are to get effective machinery, it is far better to have it set up and to know how it will work before a dispute arises. It is always unsatisfactory to have to build up the machinery to deal ad hoc with any given dispute. That is the essence of these proposals, and I think it is important to emphasise that both parts of this Motion are essential. One is not sufficient without the other. You must have the tribunal in equity as well as the international police force, and the tribunal must have ample and adequate powers.
I always feel, when one talks about means of securing peace, that there is no attempt to reconcile what are strictly incompatible, namely, peace in the world and complete sovereign independence of each individual nation. If it is wrong to submit a dispute to the arbitrament of arms, clearly then a nation cannot be entirely its own judge over its own affairs or punish its own wrongdoings. The very essence of the League of Nations is that when it comes to disputes between nations, there must be a tribunal to adjudicate on these questions and that the matter cannot be left entirely to the parties themselves. This tribunal must have the power to judge or settle a dispute on the broadest possible grounds. It cannot be based purely on juridical grounds—that is an impossibility in dealing with internatianal affairs—and the grounds cannot be static in character. They must be flexible and have inherent in them the power to effect changes. That is recognised in the Covenant of the League of Nations, and it is set out in Article 19, but that, unfortunately, is one of the Articles which is more lacking in machinery almost than any other Article in the Covenant; and we shall probably be faced with difficulties under that Article in the case of Germany before very long. We must recognise that before we can get machinery to act, we must have a tribunal which has the widest possible powers both to rectify Treaties and to settle disputes on the broadest possible grow ads of equity and policy, and on practical as well as on purely juridical considerations, because, as I have already said, it is impossible to lay down definite rules which will be available in determining the varieties of disputes which can arise between nations. One of the essential ingredients, therefore, in the powers of a tribunal must be to effect this change which is contemplated by Article 19 of the Covenant of the League of Nations.
The hon. Member who moved the Motion referred to the objection which is raised to any proposa of this kind, the objection always being that it is not practicable. I have already said that I support the Motion on realistic, not on idealistic, grounds, although I support it on those as well. Is it impracticable? We have heard in the past of many things being impracticable which, within even a very short time afterwards, have proved practicable when these was the will to make them so. We are familiar with all that was said not so long ago in this House about economic sanctions. So great a supporter of the League of Nations as the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) only a short time ago expressed the view that economic sanctions we re probably impossible without bringing about war, and yet we find that there is no stronger supporter of economic sanctions to-day than that right hon. Gentleman. The difficulties of working econcmic sanctions have been very obvious in the proceedings at Geneva, but it is a fact that when they settled down to it, certain principles were laid down and machinery was devised. We have not yet had the opportunity to see how it will work in practice, but there is no doubt that all the preliminary machinery has been practicable.
When it comes to a question of the actual establishment of a police force, we know that there are always difficulties in getting a homogeneous force when there is a variety of allied nations, but it has been achieved in the past. We had to achieve it in the last war in order to attain the success that the Allies did attain. I have no doubt there are many critics of the acts of the Supreme War Council during the War, but the fact remains that co-ordination and an international force were obtained and eventually, at any rate in the last few months of the War, operated with great effect. History is full of instances. Perhaps no greater difficulties faced any man than those encountered by the Duke of Marlborough, and the forces at his disposal were probably about as conglomerate in their character as any allied forces in the history of the world. Then we had another instance—true, not nearly so difficult as the international force which is contemplated in this Motion, but nevertheless so difficult that it would have been considered impracticable prior to its being attempted—in the international police force in the Saar. There were difficulties in the establishment of that force; not only were they overcome, but never has anything worked so well in practice as the international police force in the Saar.
When those who support the idea of a tribunal in equity and an international police force speak of that force, we mean, at any rate within any approximate future, an international air police force, and the importance of that is on this very question of practicability. There is no doubt that strategic and administrative difficulties are far less in the operation of an air force than in the operation of either a military or a naval force, from the very nature of the fighting weapon—a single unit, of course working in formation—but the whole of the administrative and strategic questions involved are relatively simple compared with those involved in an army or a navy, and it is for that reason that it is not suggested that this force, at any rate in its inception, should be anything more than an air force. There is another necessary condition before an international air police force could be established: Each nation must give up its own national military air force. If it is said, "Then you immediately come into the realm of ideals," I submit that it is not so, because we have only to look at the various proceedings and discussions on disarmament which have taken place at Geneva to see that a great many nations, including our own, have expressly said they were willing to give up their own military air forces on one condition, that condition being that there should be effective control of civil aviation.
I submit that there have been many methods suggested for the control of civil aviation, but I do not think it could be disputed that if you did have an international military air force, that would be a very effective control of civil aviation. The whole reason why this emphasis is laid on the control of civil aviation is that civil aeroplanes are potentially war planes and can be converted, and the power would be given to that country that had the largest number of civil aeroplanes. That danger would not arise if we had an international air police force which was the only force which contained military aeroplanes. We have already expressed our willingness to abolish military aeroplanes subject to this control of civil aeroplanes. France has certainly done so. I have not the list of the various nations that have agreed, but I think that in view of those who have already expressed their assent, it cannot be said that there would be any difficulty in having that condition complied with if military air forces were abolished and an international military air force established.
Such a force would be a homogeneous military air force recruited as an international force as one unity, not necessarily with contingents subscribed to ad hoc by various countries, but it would be established and its machinery would be worked as one unit. When one speaks about that being impracticable, we should remember that our country recently entered into an agreement with France with regard to the Western Air Pact. The proposals were more than merely draft proposals because there was an agreement on the matter between France and this country, and the only reason why it is not in force is that it was made conditional upon the adherence of other nations. Surely the administrative difficulties in operating the Western Air Pact are just as great as they would be in administering an international military air police force. Not only would the administration be as difficult but it would be much less effective, because it would be more uncertain in its action than a homogeneous force set up as proposed in this Motion. I repeat what was said by the Mover of the Motion, that the real difficulties in the way of establishing this tribunal in equity and an international military air police force, are political and not technical. I am sure that if you could get rid of the political objections, all the technical ones could readily be surmounted.
I finish with this candid admission. Of course, an international police force cannot be set up without the consent of other nations; otherwise, it would not be international. It necessarily presupposes the adherence to the idea of establishing a force by, at any rate, the preponderating number of nations in Europe. I think that one could make a start with it in Europe. It would be too ambitious to make it a world force in its initial stages, and we would have to restrict it in its inception to Europe. That would mean the adherence of the preponderating number of nations in Europe, and it is not, therefore, a matter which this Government can bring into operation of its own will. All I appeal to the Government to do is to take the initiative in endeavouring to obtain that adherence of the preponderating number of nations to this idea. We are now committed to the principle of collective action and the principles laid down in the Covenant of the League of Nations. I submit that this scheme is only providing the very machinery without which we have had all the difficulties that have arisen over the Italian and Abyssinian affair. I do appeal to the Government to say that they are prepared to take the initiative in endeavouring to obtain a sufficient adherence by the nations of Europe to render the establishment of this force and tribunal possible.