World Peace.

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons on 18th December 1935.

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Photo of Mr Alan Lennox-Boyd Mr Alan Lennox-Boyd , Mid Bedfordshire

I beg to second the Amendment.

I should like to join with my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham (Mr. H. Kerr) in congratulating the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) on the competence and sincerity with which he has once more pressed forward the same Motion as we had the pleasure of hearing from him about two years ago. I should like to congratulate him also upon the persistence with which he returns to this particularly difficult subject. The more one considers the subject, the more one comes to the conclusion that of all the difficulties associated with an international police force of the kind that the hon. Member envisages, the chief difficulty will be to find an ideal leader for that force. If anybody has qualified himself by assiduity in probing into the depths of this difficult problem, it is my hon. Friend the Member for East Wolverhampton. He seemed to make some suggestion two years ago as to whether it might not be difficult to seepre recruits for that army. I cannot help feeling that if the potential recruits have the privilege of serving under the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton and of listening to his commands in excellent and eloquent Esperanto, there will be less difficulty in securing the recruits desired.

I should like to draw attention to one other observation the hon. Member made two years ago, and to ask whether the unreality that has since been shown to have hung around the discussion at that time will not in all probability be found also to enshroud the speech that my hon. Friend has made this evening. Two years ago he made suggestions, in the course of a similar discussion, as to the sating up of an international authority which would give the orders to this international force, and he recognised, as indeed he was bound to recognise, that if a unanimous decision were required, it would be very unlikely that any decision would ever be arrived at. He came down from the high level of unanimity and said that perhaps a two-thirds majority might be adequate for the decisions of that body. I am not going to labour the subject now, because to-morrow there will be a full discussion on this complicated problem, but I would ask him to consider between now and to-morrow afternoon's discussion whether he would consent to a two-thirds decision on the oil sanctions as binding upon His Majesty's Government, at the present critical moment in international affairs.

He then said that it was possible in the future that Germany would have 500 first-line aircraft. When we are discussing Germany's aircraft rearmament, it is not whether Germany has 500 aircraft that occupies our discussion now, but whether or not the building programme has yet brought Germany up to her figure of 2,000 by the end of this year. The hon. Member warned His Majesty's Government that they might, in the comparatively near future, be receiving from the Italian Government an interesting communication of great moment. He was referring, I believe, to suggestions for facilitating the government of the League of Nations. He said: I understand from the Press that the Government are likely in the near future to have certain proposals made by Italy … I have no doubt that … if they are found to strengthen and increase the power and influence of the League they will receive every sympathy and support."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th December, 1933; col. 451, Vol, 284.] Unhappily there have been observations and suggestions by the Italian Government that have scarcely taken the form that the hon. Member had in mind. I cannot help feeling that some of the pious aspirations to which he has just given expression will be found in two years' time to be equally without foundation.

The hon. Member seems entirely to have overlooked the fact of the absence from the League of Nations of the United States, Germany and Japan, three of the most powerful nations. He has forgotten also that an effective international police force presupposes world disarmament. My experience in my own constituency is that members of his party are inclined to gloss over increases in national armament in other countries and to think that in this country we pursue almost alone a policy of unilateral rearmament. I hope that it is germane to this discussion to remind the hon. Member that since the start of the recent development in naval expenditure the United States has increased by over 60 per cent. and Japan by well over 100 per cent., expenditure on naval armaments. It is obvious that, if an international police force is to be effective, it must be stronger than the strongest possible potential opponent. Otherwise I am reminded of the cynical cartoon that appeared two years ago in a French newspaper. It portrayed a League Fleet preparing for action in Port Arthur and there was a picture of a Japanese Admiral dictating a despatch to be sent from Port Arthur: Deeply regret unfortunate accident honourable League ships. The hon. Member for Bolton (Mr. Entwistle) entirely overlooked the circumstance that it is impossible to envisage an effective international force which is confined purely to an air force. The same mistake was made by the hon. and gallant Member for Carlisle (Brigadier-General Spears) who, I think, seconded the Motion of the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton two years ago. He said that it would be quite possible to have an effective international force which was purely and simply an international air force.

There are two misapprehensions in regard to the air problem and both find expression in this House. One is the view, to which I do not subscribe, although it is the view of the Prime Minister whom I support, that there is no effective defence against air attack. I do not believe that to be true; anyhow, it is not proved true. The other misapprehension, obviously held by the hon. and learned Member for Bolton, is that an effective, overwhelming and victorious stroke could be made by an international air force operating against a national army or a national navy in collaboration with their national air force as well. We have only to follow what has happened in the Abyssinian campaign to find that some of the high hopes held out as to the speedy conclusion of hostilities because the air position was strong have not been justified.

I suggest a problem to hon. Members: In the event of the Army of one nation invading the territory of another and occupying a somewhat crowded industrial centre, and the armed forces of the League being confined simply to an air force, how is it suggested that a punitive force should be brought to bear? Should you bomb the town that has been occupied by the invading army and destroy at one and the same time the invaders and the inhabitants, or should you go back behind the lines and bomb the cities vacated by that army and destroy, in the name of the international army, the noncombatant people left behind? To pose these questions does not mean that we are not sympathetic with the natural and laudable desire of the hon. Member to try to suggest how we could best evolve a system which will permanently maintain peace. I think he would agree that the problems which I have suggested have only to be read in order to be appreciated.

The hon. Member for Oldham touched on another problem of great importance and that is the problem of speed in modern warfare. I take it that there is little likelihood that tie warfare of the future will change, but he who strikes first obviously has an advantage. In the French proposals of 1932 on this question of an international force, it was suggested that there should be kept in the different towns of Europe units of the world force, recruited in the name of the League of Nations, which could be brought to bear against an aggressor in the event of aggression taking place. When the French Government and the French people put forward those proposals at Geneva, the problem that worried me and still worries me a good deal is, when are these troops to be mobilised? Are they to be mobilised at the first suggestion of aggression, and, if so, is it not likely that the mere fact of mobilisation will mean that the threat of aggression will be followed by earlier action on the part of enemy Powers? Or are they to wait until the act of aggression has taken place? In that case, if the act of aggression is done by an air force, then by waiting they will have lost so much advantage that their victory will be by no means certain.

My hon. Friend the Member for Oldham drew attention to another problem that springs out of the problem I have just suggested. In any effective modern campaign, it is essential that the general staff should work out in advance the plan of campaign against the suggested enemy. Everyone knows that in this country in earlier days, and no doubt it is done now, plans of campaign against anybody who might attack our possessions or imperil our safety have been gone over in the Staff College of this country. In the future, presumably, if we have an international army, the international general staff must consider plans, not against one or two possible breakers of the peace, as we, acting alone, might be obliged to do, but against every nation in the world that might at some time or another break the world peace. This general staff would be composed of nationals of the different countries—men who would not only, if they are to be successful, have to possess almost unique military and political powers, but also, what really goes with that, an entire absence of national or local patriotism. For instance, Marshal Badoglio, if he happened to be the representative of the Italian Government on this general staff, might be called upon to sit down and take part in, or listen calmly to, a discussion on how best to bomb Brindisi or Turin; representatives of the French general staff would have to be asked to listen to discussions on how most effectively that famous Maginaux line, behind which they hope the integrity of their front will be safeguarded, could be broken; and the representatives of this country would have to envisage sitting down and listening to discussions on the bombing of Woolwich, or perhaps of civil air stations like Heston, or even Hatfield. Even if my Noble Friend the Under-Secretary, who will wind up this Debate, were the British representative, we could scarcely put upon him the burden of sitting quietly by and hearing a discussion on the bombardment of his own home centre.

For this arrangement to be effective, it must also, as my hon. Friend has suggested, function automatically, and this demands a definition, upon which all parties are agreed, of what constitutes an act of aggression. It is certain that, if the League of Nations has done nothing else, it has stopped one thing which took place in every previous century, namely, the actual declaration of war. It has certainly stopped countries from declaring war, but it has not stopped war. These are rather different things, and I think we can scarcely hope for the successful functioning of a League army unless we come to some decision as to what constitutes aggression. The only material that we have at hand so far to help us in our deliberations on that question is that most certainly an act of war is not necessarily an act of nonaggression.

The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton skated most tactfully over all the innumerable technical difficulties, and indeed, the hon. and learned Member for Bolton seemed to suggest that, just because in the past some people had rather foolishly called some things impracticable which history has shown to be practicable, so everything that is put forward now, no matter how fantastic it may be, must inevitably prove to be right when history comes to be written. I am waiting anxiously for the Debate to-morrow, and I am certain that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will be very grateful for the admirable argument of the hon. and learned Member for Bolton, which personally at the moment I do not entirely comprehend myself.

He also referred to the Marlborough campaign in the 18th century. I would like to put this question to him. If we suggested that a modern Duke of Marlborough should be for all time the Commander-in-Chief of the League of Nations Army, would that be accepted by France, Germany or Italy? The very success of Marlborough's campaign came from his world reputation as a great master of war and captain of men. His wars, moreover, were in the interests of one country alone, although they were waged, of course, by an army containing people of different nations. It would scarcely be possible to find a parallel, in the unified command under the Duke of Marlborough, or, indeed, under Marshal Foch, to the problems which would confront anyone who was compelled to wage a war on behalf of the League in future, and, in addition, to wage it—and this is a new argument—with all the modern weapons that now lie to hand. After all, these modern weapons do constitute a very considerable problem which has got to be faced. Two years ago—I believe I am not misrepresenting him—the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton suggested that all the most modern weapons should be reserved for the use of the League army, and that the obsolete and out-of-date weapons should be left for the national armies to use. These modern weapons have to be made somewhere, and the men who are to wield them have to be trained somewhere. Are we to see a great barricade or screen, say half-way across Wellington Barracks, on one side of which men are to be trained in the bow and arrow for use in defence of England—I should have thought that that would demand the use of the most modern weapons—while on the other side men are being trained in mysterious devices which public-spirited scientists and inventors had placed at the disposal of the League of Nations army?

However much we sympathise with the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton, and however much we admire his public-spirited efforts both to improve the defence services and at the same time to see those defence services give way to an international army, we cannot possibly concede that the second objective is likely to be achieved by the Motion that he has put on the Order Paper. He agreed, as I think the hon. and learned Member for Bolton also agreed, that that problem will never be satisfactorily solved until the problem of civil aviation is properly tackled, but, if the suggestion made by one hon. Member who supported him were carried out, namely, that nations should be allowed to have aircraft up to a certain horsepower—say 500 or something less—which they could expand on their own account quite happily at home, while the bigger civil aircraft were put under international control, I would ask him to recognise that most of the bombing damage done in the last was was done by aeroplanes, the best that had then been evolved, which were very little stronger than, and sometimes not as strong as, the smallest Moth aeroplane that we see in the sky to-day.

This problem, as my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham said, will never be tackled at all unless public feeling is behind the organisation that it is proposed to set up. If public feeling in every country in the world that matters were entirely behind the League of Nations, the present unhappy situation in the world would not have developed. If public feeling were entirely behind the setting up by the League of new machinery before which people who suffer under treaty inequalities could bring their grievances to be acknowledged, then I think the machinery of the League of Nations under Article 19 would have already been used in the past. It is no use adding to the machinery under which the world is going to try to evolve a peaceful solution for all our troubles until we have proved that we are able to work the machinery that we have, and have got the will to peace acknowledged all over the world.