I beg to move,
That this House deplores the circumstances in which the late Foreign Secretary has been obliged to resign his office and has no confidence in His Majesty's present advisers in their conduct of foreign affairs.
Nobody can speak in a Debate of this sort without feeling a sense of grave responsibility. After the opening speeches yesterday, and the disclosures that were made of a very serious kind, we should have failed in our duty as an Opposition and in our duty to the people of this country if we had not put down immediately this Motion of Censure. The entire international situation has changed as a result of the Prime Minister's declaration of policy. It may have changed for the worse, although I hope it will prove to be for the better; but the truth is that to-day the fate of the world rests in the trembling hands of the Prime Minister of this country. There is clearly a deep gulf between the late Foreign Secretary's outlook and that of the Prime Minister. There is a great gulf between the opinion of the majority of the people in the country and the right hon. Gentleman's new policy. The Prime Minister expressed surprise that there had been any serious divergence of view between himself and the man who was primarily responsible for directing the foreign policy of this country. What did the late Foreign Secretary say?
I should not be frank with the House if I were to pretend that it is an isolated issue as between my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and myself. It is not. Within the last few weeks upon one most important decision of foreign policy which did not concern Italy at all, the difference was fundamental. My right hon. Friend is, I know, conscious of this. Moreover, it has recently become clear to me, and I think to him, that there is between us a real difference of outlook and method.
A little later on, he said:
The events of the last few days, which have dealt with one particular issue, have merely brought to a head other and more far-reaching differences, not, if you will, in objectives, but in outlook and approach.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) summarised speech after speech that he had made in this House, at Geneva and in the country when he said:
Recent months, recent weeks, recent days have seen the successive violation of international agreements and attempts to secure
political decisions by forcible means. We are in the presence of the progressive deterioration of respect for international obligations."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st February, 1938; cols. 47–49, Vol. 332.]
In speech after speech, the right hon. Gentleman has spoken of the rule of law. Those are the three greatest words in the realm of international affairs if peace is to prevail. The Noble Lord the former Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs clung to the same point. He said:
It has been suggested in some quarters that this is a question not of principle but of detail, and that on questions of detail Ministers should not resign.
He went on to say that it was a question of principle, and as to the principle, he said:
It is the principle of good faith in international affairs. In the international sphere, the very existence of civilised relationships is dependent on a high standard of good faith."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st February, 1938; cols. 50–1, Vol. 332.]
The late Foreign Secretary, speaking at Birmingham 10 days ago, used the following words, which I marked with very great interest at the time. He was speaking, not to his generation, but to the new generation; and he said:
If we are to have peace in your time it means that in any agreements we make to-day there must be no sacrifice of principles and no-shirking of responsibilities merely to obtain quick' results that may not be permanent. … It is not by seeking to buy temporary good will that peace is made, but on a basis of frank reciprocity with mutual respect.
I compare these statements of two men, honoured in this House for their integrity and devotion to duty and for their unselfishness, with statements of the right hon. Gentleman. I listened yesterday to him almost terror-stricken to think that in 1938 these words could be uttered by a British Prime Minister:
I must ask for their indulgence while I endeavour to state once again my own views upon certain aspects of foreign policy—views which have never altered, and which have been shared by all my colleagues. On a former occasion I described that policy as being based upon three principles—first, on the protection of British interests and the lives of British nationals; secondly, on the maintenance of peace, and, as far as we can influence it, the settlement of differences by peaceful means and not by force; and, thirdly, the promotion of friendly relations with other nations who are willing to reciprocate, our friendly feelings and who will keep those rules of international conduct without which there can be neither security nor stability."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st February, 1938; Cols. 53–4, Vol. 332.]
This has been said by Tory Prime Ministers for over 100 years. This is the method which leads to anarchy, and anarchy must lead to war. There was no statement by the right hon. Gentleman yesterday about either the League of Nations or collective security. All that is now abandoned. What was the precise difference between the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington and the Prime Minister? The former stood for faith and works and the Prime Minister stood for blind faith.
I do not intend to give this any theological significance; I mention it only for purposes of debate. It is in a way—and this is what in the last resort will divide' this House—the difference between those who believe in the principles to which this country is deeply pledged and those who have lost faith in those principles and are now prepared to turn their backs upon them. The Prime Minister said yesterday, speaking about his late colleague, that he was the keeper of his own conscience. I want to pay this tribute to the ex-Foreign Secretary: I think he was nobly trying to be the keeper of the nation's conscience. I want to bring the House and the minds of hon. Members opposite back to the solemn pledges which the latter made at the General Election of 1935 in a manifesto signed by Lord Baldwin, the late Mr. MacDonald and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. This was the manifesto on which hon. Gentlemen opposite went to the country. Either they meant what they said or they did not mean what they said. I want to read some of the things which they said in that manifesto.
The League of Nations will remain, as heretofore, the keystone of British foreign policy. The prevention of war and the establishment of settled peace in the world must always be the most vital interest of British people—
Hon. Gentlemen opposite are a little impatient. I do not think their impatience will assist them.
… and the League is the instrument which has been framed and to which we look for the attainment of those objects. We shall, therefore, continue to do all in our power to uphold the Covenant and to maintain and increase the efficiency of the League. … Our
attitude to the League is dictated by the conviction that collective security by collective action can alone save us from a return to the old system which resulted in the Great War.
As a side light on the present situation, let me quote this:
In the present unhappy dispute between Italy and Abyssinia there will be no wavering in the policy we have hitherto pursued. We shall take no action in isolation, but we shall be prepared faithfully to take our part in any collective action decided upon by the League and shared in by its members.
I think that that is admirable, and I agree with every word of it. I quote it only to show the difficulties in which the right hon. Gentleman and his friends are to-day. Hon. Members opposite, I know, do not like it, but it is my duty to quote it. I remember a speech made by the then Foreign Secretary, the right hon. Gentleman who is now Home Secretary, when he spoke at Geneva before he scuttled the ship. He gave what seemed to me to be a perfect definition of collective security:
Collective security, by which is meant the organisation of peace and the prevention of war by collective means is, in its perfect form, not a simple but a complex conception. It means much more than what are commonly called sanctions. It means not merely Article 16, but the whole Covenant. It assumes a scrupulous respect for all treaty obligations"—
presumably by everybody.
Its foundation is the series of fundamental obligations, freely accepted by Members of the League, to submit any dispute likely to lead to war to peaceful methods of settlement according to the procedure provided by the Covenant, and not to resort to war for the settlement of these disputes in violation of the Covenant.
And then towards the end of his speech, referring not to Abyssinia at all, he said:
To suggest or insinuate that this policy is for some reason peculiar to the present question at issue would be a complete misunderstanding. It is to the principles of the League and not to any particular manifestation that the British nation has demonstrated its adherence. Any other view is at once an under-estimate of our good faith and an imputation upon our sincerity.
I read no more. These are declarations made in all seriousness, written down carefully, binding the British nation and binding the British people. It was on that programme that the right hon. Gentleman and his friends went to the country in 1935. They obtained their majority very largely on that international programme. They did their best to capitalise electorally the value of the Peace Ballot. This was the programme
on which they fought. This is the programme which they have now abandoned. The right hon. Gentleman has fled from all these principles as from the plague, and instead of fortifying the spirit of the world now—and the world needs it—he has scuttled to the back door of the dictatorship States to make a deal behind the backs of others. Instead of the widest possible discussions with the maximum number of people—[Interruption]. Certainly; hon. Members opposite had better read their own manifesto. Instead of doing anything on a broad international basis, the Prime Minister has sneaked round to the pirates lair to try to come to terms with them.
I would like to ask the Prime Minister to answer the question which my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition put to him yesterday. Is this unilateral action or is it not? The right hon. Gentleman at the end of his speech paid lip-service to our friendship with France. My right hon. Friend asked him whether the French Government had been consulted before this new policy was agreed upon. This House has a right to an answer to that question, either "Yes" or "No." I am using this point partly because I think we are entitled to an answer, but partly because, if there has not been the fullest consultation with the French Government, my claim that the right hon. Gentleman is now pursuing an isolationist policy is true.
I ask the House, what is the actual position to-day? The ex-Foreign Secretary had for some time been subject to attack by—[HON. MEMBERS: "You"] Hon. Members opposite do not seem to like me. I like them no more. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington has been the subject of attack in the tame Press of the Fascist set. Although we have criticised the right hon. Gentleman from these benches, we have never accused him of what he has been accused of by certain newspapers. It is very interesting to notice that just about the time the Grandi talks began the attack was let loose again against the right hon. Gentleman. More recently Herr Hitler made a speech, which has been smothered by the greater crisis. I hold in my hand a copy of the" Frankfurter Zeitung," containing a verbatim report of Herr Hitler's speech, and so far as I can make out—[Interruption]—I can make out what he said.
That part of his speech was delivered on Sunday at two o'clock. Two-thirds of the way through this speech, according to my calculation, was an hour before the Cabinet meeting here. What is the reaction of the German Press on this speech of Herr Hitler's, as regards the gibes and jeers which he made against the right hon. Gentleman? I quote now from the Berlin correspondent of the "Times" to-day:
The man in the street here is convinced that Mr. Eden resigned because of the attacks made by Herr Hitler yesterday. In consequence, a speech which had rather misfired yesterday has become this morning a resounding success for Herr Hitler.
If hon. Gentlemen opposite will not read the newspapers themselves, I am sorry to have to read quotations to them. If they have read the Press to-day they have seen the repercussions of yesterday's Debate and the departure of the late Foreign Secretary; they have seen the repercussions in the realm of world politics. One Berlin paper chortles because the late Foreign Secretary is now out of office. It says:
He set his entire influence against Mr. Chamberlain's attempts to free his country from Geneva.
A paper which is about as non-political as any Continental paper I know, the Brussels "Soir," says:
The policy of collective security and international co-operation within the framework of the League has received a severe blow.
"Pertinax," perhaps the most acute of political observers in France, says in the "Echo de Paris":
The fall of Mr. Eden will probably have results similar to those of the dismissal of M. Delcassé in 1905. The totalitarian States can credit themselves with the failure of British power.
The Vice-Chairman of the French Foreign Affairs Committee, M. Grumbach, said:
Mr. Eden's resignation is a disaster, coming as it does on the very day when Hitler attacks him and Great Britain. I can only tell you that in such a case in France no Prime Minister would have dared to let him go. If he had done so there would have been such a revolt of public opinion that the Government would have been swept away at once. England must do as she chooses. The fact remains that in Germany, where public opinion does not know what is happening and does not know the circumstances of the split in the British Government, German opinion will be convinced that it was Hitler who drove Eden from office.
That is the result of the right hon. Gentleman's policy—the first results a great
victory for the dictatorships, the dictators gloating over it and believing that they have done it. And the dictators, no doubt, will have to be consulted when the next Foreign Secretary is appointed. The events of the last week-end, so far from strengthening the right hon. Gentleman, have weakened him. He cannot even pursue his own policy now with the success that he thought he could achieve when he first began to talk with Count Grandi. Dictatorship is stronger now than it was three days ago, 10 days ago. The right hon. Gentleman is relying, with an implicit childlike faith that I find difficult to understand, on the word of a Power which has completely and often enough broken its vows. I wish I had time to do some more reading for the enlightenment of hon. Gentlemen opposite, but I must confine my remarks within the narrowest possible limits. But here is a paper which all Members of the House do hot read, a thoroughly respectable paper, a good Tory paper, and a paper that is a supporter of the National Government—the "Yorkshire Post." I think it would be a good thing if hon. Members would read the whole of this leading article. This is what a paper supporting the Government says about this new policy of the right hon. Gentleman:
It is difficult to be much impressed by Italian acceptance of a formula, for formulas have repeatedly been accepted before with little or no practical effect.
The right hon. Gentleman talked about a vendetta. We have no vendetta against Italy. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] We are implacably opposed to dictators who deny the people their freedom. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about Stalin?"] The "Yorkshire Post" goes on to remind the Prime Minister that a vendetta is not an English institution. I believe the right hon. Gentleman is being Italianised.
The right hon. Gentleman's immediate, I do not want to say quarrel, but difference, with the late Foreign Secretary was on the question of whether there should be faith and works or only faith. What is the situation now? Italy is now engaged in a double covenant-breaking aggression. She is in the third year of a war against Abyssinia, condemned by the League. She is in the second year of a war against Spain. The Prime Minister admitted that in his speech yesterday when he spoke of Italy sending reinforcements to Spain. Italy has just withdrawn from the League of Nations. Within the last few weeks a British ship was sunk by Italian aircraft, and, according to the right hon. Gentleman's own principles, which I have read, we must protect British nationals. As the right hon. Gentleman must know, having taken over the Foreign Office, Signor Mussolini is continuing to support the Arab revolt. He has watched without any sign of emotion, so far as one can gather, another attempt by Germany to destroy Austria's independence. He ought to know that both Mussolini and Hitler have been engaged in a large-scale attack on the League of Nations, spending vast sums of money in propaganda in Europe and in South America in the hope of persuading some of the smaller nations to come out of it. This is the nation which the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to trust without any shadow of proof.
The right hon. Gentleman tells us: First, friendship, the open hand; and in his second speech last night says there will have to be some conditions—unspecified, but he did suggest that there might be a starting point in the recognition of Italy in Abyssinia. Is that to be done through the initiative of the British Government at the League of Nations, or is it to be part of the private deal? If the latter, then I regard it as morally indefensible, and I should regard it also as being a deliberate attempt to assist Mussolini in the difficulties in which he now finds himself in Abyssinia. Any kind of unilateral arrangement, or one which was pushed upon the League, would not improve our relations with the United States of America. It is not very long ago, only a matter of a few weeks, since President Roosevelt and Mr. Cordell Hull refused to make a treaty with Italy because they would not recognise Abyssinia as being Italian territory. Let this be remembered as an illustration of one of the hundreds of the repercussions of this new policy on international affairs, that non-recognition is a cardinal principle of the United States' foreign policy. Our rebuff to Mr. Stimson in January, 1932, regarding Manchuria still rankles in the minds of American citizens and recognition of Abyssinia now, following upon Manchuria in 1932, would really hamstring the President of the United States and would drive him completely into a policy of isolation—and isolation is no policy for a family of nations. We were told yesterday by the right hon. Gentleman that Italy accepts the new British formula. What that formula is has never been disclosed to this House. If she accepts that formula as she accepted the first Non-intervention Agreement of August, 1936, and the volunteer agreement of February, 1937, that acceptance will not be worth the paper on which it is written.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer to-day, in a series of answers to questions and supplementary questions, dealt with another aspect of this problem to which publicity has been given in the Press, and that is the prospect of a loan to Italy. The Chancellor of the Exchequer says that he knows nothing about it. I hope that he never will know anything about any such suggestion. He knows that Italian credit is bad in the City, that it is perfectly hopeless for Italy to raise money in this country, and that therefore it can only be raised with the good will and the backing of His Majesty's Government. I hope that we shall have something more specific from the Prime Minister than the answer of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to-day. He ought to tell us openly and frankly that this will not happen, because, believe me, if a loan were raised, if Italy were financially helped, the money would not be spent on chocolate soldiers and toys for the children. The only effect of it would be another glorious victory for II Duce, the intensification of Italian militarism, the use of released resources to build Italian battleships to be used against us, and the financing of his projects in Abyssinia and Libya. In other words, a loan could be used only to bolster-up dictatorship in Italy, and to bolster it up against this country and all democratic nations. What the right hon. Gentleman has done is to turn his back completely on a policy to which his party and this Government are pledged.
The right hon. Gentleman talked about terms last night. What terms? Terms which this country can accept with honour, or terms which will be a further humiliation to the people of this country? Now that he is in the weaker position to argue, having given the dictator more power this week-end, he will inevitably get less favourable terms than before. We place no reliance in the words of the Italian Government. There is an age-long saying in this country, hallowed by experience and proved by experience, that kind words butter no parsnips. The right hon. Gentleman is risking the future peace of the world, he is risking the good name and the honour of this country, on a promise made on behalf of a State which has openly, flagrantly and deliberately broken promises in writing almost before the ink upon them was dry.
The right hon. Gentleman's new policy is a futile policy of hoping to settle world problems by individual agreements. In 1925 there was the crowning episode of a long and honourable career in public life when Sir Austin Chamberlain completed the Locarno Pact. It was signed by four men who, I am certain, were as determined as men could be to make that Pact work. Four great Powers—and that is as broad as the vision of the right hon. Gentleman yesterday—are not great enough to establish the rule of law in the world. Peace is indivisible. Four great Powers might agree, but the occasions of wars are often small Powers, and great Powers are dragged into them willy-nilly. This policy we regard as futile, as dangerous to the future peace of the world. There are very bleak prospects for settled peace by pursuing this policy of truckle and scuttle. Firmness is of the essence of statesmanship.
The right hon. Gentleman, in speaking yesterday of the Nyon Agreement, completely misunderstood the point. The point was that when two great nations said, "We are going to do this," and Italy was out of it, she came crawling on' her knees to come into it. That side is not going to disagree with that agreement. Italy did not come into it through this "Puss, puss, come to my corner" policy of the right hon. Gentleman. She came in because two great Powers had had the spirit and the firmness to determine to go through with it. There is more at stake than the right hon. Gentleman seems to think. A statement of the late Mr. Bonar Law has always stuck in my mind— "The path of honour is the path of safety." Honour demands that Great Britain should fulfil her commitments, given by Government after Government; honour demands that the Government should carry out their pledged word to the people.
We are now on a slippery slope. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) said, at the end of the last war, that there must be no next time. That brought great comfort to millions of people who believed that there was not going to be a next time, and this country and other countries in those four and a-quarter years paid a heavy price for peace and security. They paid the heaviest price the world has ever paid to destroy any of the evils which have assailed the world. Blood and treasure were poured out unstintingly, and one thing and one thing only we got out of it. We got nothing in the way of material wealth, we have not got much in prestige, but at least we got an ideal. Nearly 20 years have elapsed since the Great War ended, and we have a new generation now, who will vote at the next Election, who were born after the War. During those 20 years the best and the noblest forces in Christendom have striven to establish moral law in the world as its governing principle. States have faltered, some have fallen by the wayside, some have left the League, openly flouted its decisions, and openly broken their own undertakings, and we are rattling back to anarchy. Peace cannot be won by anarchy. Liberty cannot be maintained and strengthened by a relapse to the standards of the jungle. Liberty cannot be kept by a base subservience to the ruthless will of the dictators.
The Prime Minister's new attitude, because he is bound by the pledges of 1935, is really a renunciation of all that is best in modern political thought. His statement yesterday—and we shall see this gathering as the days go by—has shocked the moral conscience of the world, it has hardened the forces of dictatorship and militarism everywhere, it has humbled the people of this land, who gave their allegiance a little over two years ago to political leaders who stood for a new way of dealing with this centuries-old problem of international difficulties. It is because of that that we have put down this Vote of Censure. It is a challenge to the Government, a challenge to explain to the people why the election manifesto of 1935 has been torn up and trampled upon. It is a challenge to meet the people and to ask them for a mandate for this new, contradictory policy. My right hon. Friend said yesterday that if the Ipswich election had been to-day, my hon. Friend, whom I greet in this House, would have been in with a majority of 10,000. Where you get a complete reversal of Government policy affecting world affairs, it is the duty of the Government to meet the people. We make this challenge; it is for the Government to accept it.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) has just said that this is a challenge to the Government. It is a Vote of Censure put down by the Opposition, and therefore the issue that will have to be decided to-night is a party issue. I shall desire to devote the most part of what I have to say on that aspect of affairs, to the difference between the supporters of the National Government and the party opposite, but since this Vote of Censure is linked with the circumstances in which the late Foreign Secretary has resigned his office, there is one point on which I think I must just say a word to begin with. It is this: What is the issue which divided my right hon. Friend and myself, and with myself my colleagues? Because a good deal of the criticism which was directed against me or my colleagues yesterday appeared to me to be based upon assumptions which were not warranted by the speech of my right hon. Friend. Therefore I ask, Was the issue that divided us, as was stated by my right hon. Friend, the time and place of negotiations, or was it, as was stated on his own behalf by my Noble Friend the Member for South Dorset (Viscount Cran-borne), a great principle of international good faith?
Let us be quite clear about this. If it be a great principle of international good faith, I think the conclusion is that conversations could not be held with countries whose record is not, like our own, completely clean. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I assume that our record is completely clean, but perhaps some hon. Members do not take that view. I say that that is a position which I can understand; it is the position which was taken up last night by the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell), it really is the position which has been taken up to-day by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, but it is not the position of my right hon. Friend. It will be remembered that at the beginning of his speech he said that the Government had long been committed to consultations with Italy, and, of course, if we had been relying upon a great principle of international good faith as precluding conversations with those who were not considered to have supported that principle, he must have protested against those conversations, and he must have resigned at that time.
I am endeavouring, and shall endeavour, to be scrupulously fair to my right hon. Friend, for whom I continue to have the highest regard. All the same, we must not have misunderstanding upon this subject, and I wish to say here, in the presence of my right hon. Friend, that I have no recollection that at any time he ever said to me that this question of international good faith constituted an embargo upon conversations either with Italy or with Germany. That is one view. The view that has been put by the right hon. Gentleman opposite—no truck with the dictators—is another variant of it, not perhaps put on quite such a high moral principle, but intelligible as coming from the Opposition. But there are others who do not go quite so far as that. They say, "We do not refuse ever to talk with them, but in view of their past record, let them first say that they are sorry for what they have done—[HON. MEMBERS: "No"]—and show that they are conscious of what they have done, and show by some penitent act that they have changed their heart."
The right hon. Gentleman need not get so indignant. I am not professing to quote. I am paraphrasing in my own words what I conceive to be the effect of the suggestion that has been made. What is it that this section of opinion says should be done before we enter into these conversations? I want to know what it is?
To evacuate volunteers from Spain. That, of course, is what I have described as indicating that they are conscious of the wrong they have done. I wonder why the right hon. Gentleman stops at Spain. Why does he not add that they should come out of Abyssinia, too? It seems to me that, according to his principles, we ought to ask them that. The right hon. Gentleman would ask it. That exactly demonstrates the point that I am endeavouring to make, that really this suggestion that we would enter into conversations providing these things were done first, is humbug. [Interruption.]
On a point of Order. May I ask whether it is not perfectly appropriate that hon. Members on this side should interject, when interjections were common during the speech of my right hon. Friend?
I watched very closely when the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) was speaking, and I found that most of the interjections came from hon. Members behind him.
I am not complaining of interjections, as long as I am allowed to develop my argument. What my argument is leading to is this, that no business is ever possible on the lines which I have just been describing. No nation with any self-respect would accept conditions of that kind before entering into conversations. If you really mean to have conversations, you cannot lay down such conditions beforehand. This is merely another aspect of the perfectly logical attitude which seems to be taken up by the Opposition, that there are certain nations whose behaviour has been such that they are not prepared to enter into conversations with them. The choice, then, simply comes down to this: Are we prepared, do we desire to have conversations, or not? If we do, then it seems to me that the sooner we have them the better.
There is another argument which has been prominent in the discussion, an argument certainly well calculated to arouse strong feelings in this House and in the country. It is suggested that to enter into conversations is a humiliation for us. There has been talk about paying sacrifices to the dictators. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition said that I was going whining to Signor Mussolini. Gibes and taunts of that kind leave me absolutely unmoved. They convince me only of one thing, and that is that those who make them do not realise the greatness of this country. It is a great country, a strong country, a country that is the head and centre of a great Empire. It is a country to which countless millions of people look up for leadership, because they respect her. It is for a great country to do what a small or a weak country cannot always afford to do—to show magnanimity, and whoever aspires to lead her must be ready to ignore abuse.
Once upon a time there were Liberals who held fast to that view. Once upon a time there were Liberals who after the Boer War did not say that we must have performance first; they took the view that faith and trust in honour and good faith were sufficient to fix a standard to which men would find it easier to conform. They knew that risks were being taken in reliance upon, and their acceptance of, those principles. That is the kind of Liberalism about which in my youth I used to hear so much, and which in later times has shown its belief in the same principles in its dealings a dozen times with the Dominions, with Ireland and with India. How shabbily does the attitude of the right hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) compare with that of his great predecessors—John Morley, Campbell-Bannerman, Asquith! Do not let hon. Members trouble themselves because others try to belittle their country by talking of surrender and running away. Let us rather ask ourselves whether what we are doing is right, and whether it will contribute to the end we have in view.
It is suggested that in what we have done we have had to go behind the backs of our friends. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Who speaks with knowledge of what we have done and whether we have gone behind the backs of our friends? [HON. MEMBERS: "Eden."] My right hon. Friend never said anything of the kind. On the 25th of last month my right hon. Friend had a conversation with the French Ministers, including the French Prime Minister, in which he informed them that we contemplated opening conversations with Italy.
I put it to the House. The right hon. Gentleman says that we went behind the backs of our friends and took isolated action. I tell him that we did tell our friends what we intended to do, and he now says that we informed them but did not consult them. The conversations went further than that. Not only were the French informed of our intentions, or of our contemplated opening of conversations with the Italians, but there was considerable discussion on the subjects which might be discussed when we came to open those conversations. Without going into details, which perhaps it would be going too far to enter upon now, I think I may say that there appeared to be a complete agreement between the French and ourselves upon the subjects which would then be discussed. I remember one thing in particular which was reported as having been specially insisted upon by the French, and that was that the discussions should include a settlement of the Spanish question. That bears out what I said last night and yesterday afternoon upon that question. A settlement of the Spanish question is to be included. I have told the Italians that it is to be included if we are to have an agreement later on. I altogether repudiate any suggestion on the part of hon. and right hon. Members opposite that we have done anything behind the backs of our friends, or that we have not acted in full consultation with them.
The important point is not entering upon the conversations, but what is to be discussed at those conversations and what is to be the agreement, if there be an agreement, at the end of them. Bound as we are to our French friends by constant communications and by constant sympathy in the past, does the House suppose that we had it in our mind to conduct these discussions without keeping in close touch with our French friends the whole way through? It seems to me obvious, or perhaps hon. Members have not realised what we had in mind, that if these conversations are to lead, as we desire them to lead, not merely to an improvement of the relations between ourselves and Italy but to general appeasement all round the Mediterranean, in which the French are particularly interested, we could not possibly achieve that end unless the French were entirely with us from the beginning to the end.
If that is so, why when I put this specific point to the right hon. Gentleman yesterday did he give me no reply? When I made the statement about consultations with the French, why did the right hon. Gentleman not take the opportunity of telling us what he has told us now? He made no statement.
I am sorry if the right hon. Gentleman thought that I was discourteous to him in not replying to his question. I can assure him that I did not intend deliberately to avoid his question. If I did not mention it last night—and I think he will find if he reads the OFFICIAL REPORT that was the only opportunity I had—he will remember that I got up very late, and that I had not intended to say more than a few words. I hope what I have said to-day will make amends to him for my not having mentioned it last night.
While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for meeting that specific point, he will realise why my right hon. Friend referred to the matter. As the Prime Minister had not answered on a very vital question as to whether we were acting with France, we naturally assumed that he had not an answer.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends will not assume again that because I do not answer every specific point, I have no answer to give. I now want to go to another point which was mentioned by the hon. Member for Gower last night, and to which I am afraid I did not reply then. It was brought up to-day with greater emphasis by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield. He said that I had shocked the moral conscience of the world yesterday by my speech. He said that some passages which he was about to read out—I will not attempt to repeat his words from memory, but they were to the effect that those passages were such as he would never have expected any British Prime Minister to utter. I wondered what it was that I had said, but when he came to read out the three principles on which I had, on a former occasion, stated that our foreign policy was based, it did not seem to me that there was anything in those principles, which as the right hon. Gentleman said had been uttered by Tory Prime Ministers for 100 years, of which I need be ashamed or which need shock anybody's conscience, not even that of the right hon. Gentleman himself. But I rather gathered that what had so shocked him was not what I said but what I had omitted to say.
He went on to observe that I had said nothing about the League or about collective security. I will say something about them now. I have often expressed the view that the party opposite allow themselves to be governed by phrases, the actual meaning of which they never take the trouble to think out. Among those phrases is "collective security." What do they mean by collective security? [HON. MEMBERS: "What do you mean?"] I mean by collective security a system under which the collective action of a number of States is assured to prevent aggression, or if aggression is undertaken, to put a stop to it and punish the aggressor. I wonder whether anybody differs from that definition. [HON. MEMBERS: "No…"] I am glad that we are agreed so far. Does anybody here believe that the League, as it is constituted today, can afford collective security?
I was coming to that. What did we mean at the last Election? I say that the situation has completely changed since the last Election. At the last Election it was still possible to hope that the League might afford collective security. I believed it myself. I do not believe it now. I would say more. If I am right, as I am confident I am, in saying that the League as constituted to-day is unable to provide collective security for anybody, then I say we must not try to delude ourselves, and, still more, we must not try to delude small weak nations, into thinking that they will be protected by the League against aggression and acting accordingly, when we know that nothing of the kind can be expected.
The party opposite seem to me to be the worse kind of diehards. They keep on repeating clichés and phrases and tags which once may have had some significance but have none to-day. You cannot expect a motor car to win a race if half its cylinders are out of action. You cannot expect a League constituted originally to perform certain functions, on the assumption that if it did not embrace every nation in the world, it embraced practically all the powerful nations of the world—you cannot expect a League which has been given a function corresponding with that state of things, to be able to exercise that same function if nearly all the great Powers have left it.
The hon. Member might just as well have put that interruption into his own speech. I say that the power of the League does not depend upon its nominal membership. It depends upon the conviction of its members that it can carry out its functions. At the time of the last Election the conviction that it could not carry out its functions was not universal, even if some suspicion had entered into the minds of some members of the League. I say that to-day you will not find anywhere in the League any conviction that collective security can be provided by the League as now constituted. What is the conclusion to be drawn from that? [HON. MEMBERS: "Why do you stay in?"] I am staying in because I still have faith that the League may be reconstituted, because I still believe that there is important and valuable work for the League to do. But I doubt very much whether the League will ever do its best work as long as its members are nominally bound to impose sanctions or to use force in support of obligations.
I would not change an article in the Covenant. [Interruption.] I am trying to say something which has a serious meaning, and if hon. Members will not listen to me now, I hope they will read what I am saying. I am saying what I would do about the League and I say I would leave the Covenant as it is. I would not tear up a single article of it, not even Article 16, in the hope that some day it might be reconstituted in such a form that we might rely upon being able to use those powers for the function for which they were originally intended. But I would have it clearly understood, to-day, that the League cannot use them and cannot be expected to use them and that the nations which remain in the League must not be saddled with liabilities or risks which they are not prepared to undertake. Nor must other nations expect that the League will provide that security which it was once hoped it would provide. I believe that if the League would throw off shams and pretences which every one sees through, if it would come out with the declaration of what it is prepared to do and can do as a moral force to focus public opinion throughout the world, it would justify itself. It would be a real thing; it might draw unto itself again some of those who have lost faith in it in the past, and the future of the League might be assured for the benefit and salvation of mankind.
The party opposite have been asked what they would do in these circumstances. You may take the view that you are not prepared even to talk with those who differ from you or whose standards of public conduct you do not approve. That has been, I will not say our intention, but actually what has happened up to now. Can anybody say that we have approached nearer to peace by pursuing a policy of that kind? Can anybody say that we have taken fear out of the hearts of men? Can anybody say that we have lightened the menace that has been hanging over us? Must not everybody admit that month after month we have seemed to be getting nearer and nearer to war? I believe that the policy of the party opposite, if persisted in, this policy of holding their hands and turning their backs, of making speeches and of doing nothing, is a policy which must presently lead us to war.
There may come a time again, as there have been times in the past, when someone who occupies the position that I hold to-day will have to face again the awful responsibility of answering that question, "Will you plunge your country into war?" I pray that that responsibility may not fall upon me, but does not an almost equally heavy responsibility lie upon a man who feels, as I do, that if we do not take action, we may presently be faced with that frightful question, and who feels that by taking action he may do something to avert it? I feel that I should fail in my duty if I failed to take that action now, as I have done.
No one could have listened unmoved to the words which the Prime Minister uttered as he ended his speech, when he referred to the terrible responsibility which must rest upon any statesman who is responsible for plunging his country into war. That responsibility is fully realised on these benches, and, I am sure, on the benches above the Gangway, and the common desire of all who take part in these Debates is to try to arrive at such a policy as will best avoid war. That is not a position which is taken up by the right hon. Gentleman alone. We have to realise that we have listened this afternoon to a very momentous pronouncement from the Prime Minister. The policy upon which he fought the last election has not merely been abandoned because he says that circumstances are different; it has been relegated to the category of clichés and phrases. The clichés and phrases which have been uttered by his own fellow Members, by his late leader, Lord Baldwin, and by the Foreign Secretary who has now resigned, are good enough to fight and win an election, but when it comes to founding a policy, they are abandoned. I hardly think that it lay in his mouth to remind those of us who sit on these benches of the actions taken by Liberals in the past, actions which showed confidence in our people. They were all actions which were resisted most bitterly by his party. If I had any doubt when I came into this House whether it was our duty to support the Motion, such doubts would have been banished by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman.
I cannot help thinking that if the crisis on Sunday could have been tided over so that the Foreign Secretary and his Noble Friend could have remained members of the Government, they would not long have remained members of the Government after the speech to which we have just listened. One thing, more or less a matter of phraseology, that I regret in the Motion is that hon. Members above the Gangway have made it rather easy for the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury to rally his Members into the Lobby on the question whether they have confidence in their own Prime Minister. I should have liked a Motion enabling us to rally a great deal of that influential opinion which was expressed yesterday from the benches behind the Government, and which was clearly very doubtful as to the steps taken by the Government and highly sympathetic to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden). As the Motion is before us, we can vote for it only as it stands.
When I listened to the ex-Foreign Secretary yesterday I could not help my mind going back to the very similar scene when the present Home Secretary resigned from the same office. It had some resemblances. The quiet dignity and deep feeling of both those speeches were very much the same, but the circumstances were very different. When the present Home Secretary resigned, it was because of a blunder which had been committed and for which he had to take the responsibility; when the ex-Foreign Secretary resigned it was because a blunder was about to be committed for which he refused to take responsibility. His was by far the prouder position. He might say with Shakespeare:
Not Caesar's valour hath o'erthrown Antony,
But Antony's hath triumph'd on itself.
There appears to be a serious issue of fact between the Prime Minister and the
ex-Foreign Secretary. I have done rather a lot of reading from newspapers to-day. I am not going very far, but I would call attention to the very remarkable leading article in the "Times" to-day, which draws into a sharp light this conflict of testimony. It says:
The play of cross-purpose is exemplified again in the two most dramatic passages of Mr. Eden's and Lord Cranborne's speeches. Mr. Eden said he had declined to negotiate under a 'now or never' and Lord Cran-borne that he would not yield to 'blackmail.' Both declarations drew loud cheers from the House.
Mark these words:
If they were required in the present context, could anyone doubt that the speakers' resignations were justified, or have any confidence whatever in Ministers who might be prepared to take the cowardly course?
It will be observed that this great newspaper is using practically the very phrases of the Motion now moved from above the Gangway. It goes on:
It is clear, however, that the Italian invitation was accompanied by no kind of threat, express or implied.
Why is it clear? I know that the "Times" has remarkable sources 01 information. There was a time when our party meetings in 1930 were reported quite accurately in detail, almost before they had taken place, but I cannot imagine that even the "Times" has spies in Downing Street or in the Foreign Office. This pronouncement can only be in entire dependence on certain words that fell from the Prime Minister yesterday.
I am not going to suggest for a minute that in what he said yesterday the Prime Minister was attempting to mislead the House when he said there was no threat. On the other hand, I cannot believe that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington or his Noble Friend were trying to mislead the House either, or that they would have used those very significant and remarkable words quoted by the "Times "without any kind of foundation in fact. It seems that what has obviously happened is that a different interpretation has been placed upon what constitutes a threat. The Prime Minister may think that if a man pulls out a pistol, loads it and aims it he has not yet uttered a threat and that it becomes a threat only when he puts his finger on the trigger. Others may hold different views. I do not think that the Leader of the Opposition or my right hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) is likely to get all the information he would like out of the demand for a White Paper, because if a threat of any kind was uttered it is pretty certain that it would not have been committed to any document. We know there were conversations. Am I going beyond the bounds of probability if I suggest that quite unofficially the Italian Ambassador may have intimated that British Ministers would understand that the Duce had a certain temperament and a certain position in the face of the people of Italy, which would render any rebuff a very serious matter which would lead to very grave consequences?
I am extremely glad to have got that pronouncement. I did not Want the position to be that we should have a White Paper issued to us and then be still left in uncertainty as to whether words were used across the Table which would convey a similar impression. Now that we have had this denial from the Prime Minister, the words quoted in the "Times" and used by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington and the Noble Lord become an absolute mystery. Are we to suppose that the "now or never" of the ex-Foreign Secretary and the "blackmail" of his Noble Friend were purely figments of their imagination? I cannot imagine it. Something, at any rate, must have passed without the direct knowledge of the Prime Minister, something which caused them to use language which would be entirely unjustified if it had not some foundation.
I come to the conversations themselves, which I presume will take place, since the Prime Minister has now taken over the reins of foreign policy. I have no doubt for a minute that the Prime Minister will do his best in those conversations for the good of his country. I do not doubt that for one single second, but I feel that the negotiations will be started under rather unfortunate auspices and that Mussolini has already got first grip, if he has not won the first fall. I am extremely anxious as to what will be the position of our country at the end of the bout. I wish to speak quite shortly about one point arising out of these negotiations, and I speak in this particular solely for myself; I do not wish to involve anybody else. It is a question of the recognition of Abyssinia.
I cannot personally endure the idea that this question of the recognition of Abyssinia should be made a bargaining counter, a means of trading in order to get some advantage for ourselves. Italy eagerly desires that recognition. I do not want this recognition to take place at all, but if it has to come I would rather it were done frankly and openly, without any condition attached to it; simply let it be our people saying, "This is in the past. We cannot go on indefinitely, and we will make the recognition." I would rather that were done than that it should become a means of trading for some advantage for ourselves. If this pass which we have endeavoured to defend so long has become incapable of defence, I would much rather we retreated from it in good order than that we should sell it, as appears to be the alternative. The position of the Emperor of Abyssinia is pitiful enough. He has not much reason to be grateful to mankind to-day. It would be the last word if we were to sell his birthright for the sake of a revised Italian radio programme. There was a strong indication, in the speech of the ex-Foreign Secretary and also in the letter he wrote to the Prime Minister, that there had been for a considerable time a growing divergence of policy between him and the Prime Minister. I understood from the Prime Minister—
I imagined that the policy of statesmen was normally governed by their outlook. Perhaps things are different on the other side of the House. I imagined that possibly some kind of denial of that would be made to-day, but, after the speech to which we have listened from the Prime Minister himself, it is quite obvious that there has been a divergence, whether of policy or of outlook I cannot say, and of the most serious kind. I am seriously exercised by that, because I have always believed that, in spite of differences on this and that, there has been a certain continuity of foreign policy in this country, running through several Governments. Though it has broken down on points, it has generally been revived again.
In Debate after Debate in this House we have heard the speaker who wound up for the Government—it might be the ex-Foreign Secretary, or Lord Baldwin, or the present Prime Minister—say at the end that, in spite of differences, there had been an underlying unity of purpose, and I think that that has very often been justified by the Debates themselves. I am wondering whether it will ever be possible to say that again, after the latest moves that have been made. I can see, in the idea of trying to preserve collective security, the closest possible understanding with France, and ideas of that kind, a continuity running through the policy of the late Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, Sir Austen Chamberlain, Mr. Arthur Henderson, the present Home Secretary when he spoke at Geneva, Lord Baldwin, and the Foreign Secretary who has just resigned. That continuity is rudely broken by the speech to which we have listened this afternoon. The Prime Minister quite recently, on a public platform, claimed that, as the result of our increased military strength, we are listened to by foreign nations now. That may be true, but what do we say to them? If all that we have to say is "Heil Hitler" or "Viva II Duce," I have no doubt that they are very ready to listen, but I would suggest that it is not necessary to go armed to the teeth to the meeting of a mutual admiration society. What is the good of all this influence being won if it cannot be exercised for the protection of the weak or for any other good purpose?
Some, I know, will rejoice at the change which has been so clearly announced by the Prime Minister this afternoon. Some in this House—I honour them because they did not try to get an advantage from the usual cry at the last election—consistently maintained, and have since maintained in this House, an anti-League view. They have expressed it clearly, and we are all the better for such clearness of statement. There are also certain organs of the Press which have been barking at the League ever since it has been in existence. They were delighted when they believed at last that they had chased it up a tree, and now they rejoice at the fall of the ex-Foreign Secretary, because they believed that he was the only man who could save it.
They certainly have reason for satisfaction in the present situation. But to the great majority of hon. Members opposite I would say in all seriousness, "Beware what you do." There is a traditional League policy in this country, built up, not by the League of Nations Union alone, not by the churches and chapels of this country, although they have played their part, but by the successive speeches of Prime Ministers, including Conservative Prime Ministers. That policy has had a great volume of public opinion behind it. Now, from what has been indicated this afternoon, it appears that the Front Bench opposite are going to tie that policy neatly up in a parcel and deliver it on the doorstep of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, so that he can claim it for his own, as if he alone were concerned. Hon. Members above the Gangway know my position in that regard. I have been their opponent; I have fought them without malice; I have contested seven elections against them; I have always been opposed to them. There is no reason, therefore, why I should desire the return of a Socialist Government in this country. But let the Prime Minister see to it that, in his conduct of foreign affairs, which will now depend upon him, and practically upon him alone, he does not bring about a situation, which I am sure he does not desire, in which that solution would be the only solution possible.
It is with sorrow that I rise to-day to take part in this Debate. Since my right hon. Friend became Prime Minister, I have tried my best to give him disinterested and independent support. I know what his difficulties are, and we all know the dangers by which we are encompassed; yet I could not sit silent here this afternoon without expressing in good faith and in sincerity my disagreement with the course which he has taken, and my increasing concern for the consequences attendant upon it. There is one thing, however, that I will not do; I will not say one word willingly to exacerbate the differences which have arisen between the late Foreign Secretary and his former colleagues. No man, with the best will and sense of detachment in the world, can resign from a Government without wounds given and taken. My hope is that those wounds will not rankle or fester into personal differences, however serious the political issues upon which the men are divided.
We were all stirred yesterday by the speeches of the two retiring Ministers. I must express my keen personal sympathy with the late Foreign Secretary, whose policy I admired and whose friendship I enjoy. My right hon. Friend has had a long and laborious apprenticeship at the Foreign Office and upon the League of Nations, and he undoubtedly is in possession of a body of knowledge and experience abont Europe which no one else possesses outside the trained officials, and which no one else is likely rapidly to be able to acquire. I say that he is an irreparable loss to the Government, being one of the very few men on that bench whose name is widely known throughout this island, and I feel personally, as an older man, the poignancy of his loss all the more because he seems to be the one fresh figure of first magnitude arising out of the generation which was ravaged by the War. My right hon. Friend falls from power associated with the great principles and causes which he has faithfully sustained, and which, we may be sure, will protect him in his retirement.
I would also like to pay my tribute of respect to my Noble Friend the Under-Secretary, and to his chivalry and strong conviction. I was received with great kindness by his famous grandfather when I was a young lieutenant in the cavalry; I have known his father, as so many of us have, and worked with him for many years; and everyone, I am sure, will agree that on this occasion he has worthily sustained those high traditions of service to the greatness of Britain which have for centuries been associated with his name. I think that this is also a moment to celebrate the achievements of the late Foreign Secretary. They ought not to be overlooked at this time. They have been remarkable. For a year and a half we have followed his policy of non-intervention in Spain, and even those who have been most irritated by many of its aspects must have admired the extraordinary tenacity of purpose and steadiness of aim with which he has maintained a central course, without undue bias on either side. And at the end of all this, with all the shifting scenes of the Spanish War, we are found to be the country most trusted by both sides, and the only country, perhaps, which still possesses some eventual power of merciful mediation.
Then there was the Nyon Conference. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister gave an account yesterday of our differences with Italy in the Mediterranean during his tenure of office. I hope he will forgive me if I say that, although I have followed those events from day to day, I really hardly recognised them from what he said. But with respect to the Nyon Conference, certainly it is right to do justice to the great achievements of the late Foreign Secretary then. Here was the only occasion I know of where Britain and France together definitely stood up to the outrages that were being committed. The Prime Minister said that certain incidents had occurred in the Mediterranean. Those "certain incidents" were eight or nine submarines—and where, I should like to know, could they have come from?—sinking ships all over the Mediterranean and leaving the crews to drown. But when, at Nyon, England and France acted together, it was seen that there is a strength behind these two countries, and almost all the other countries in the Mediterranean resorted to them. On the very next day that odious form of warfare came to an end, and, with one exception, has never been resorted to since. I tell that story because it seems to me that we should not set ourselves unduly against the duty which sometimes falls upon nations and individuals of standing up boldly in defence of the right, even though that may not be unattended with risk. In the last place, no one at the Foreign Office has been more successful than, or so successful as, my right hon. Friend in establishing that good relationship, good will and sympathy with the United States which must for ever play a leading part in all our affairs.
I thought I might recite these incidents to the House because now that a great figure has left—and in view of all the criticism that attaches to men when they are Ministers—it is only right that we should recognise that his tenure of the Foreign Office has been not only distinguished, but memorable. We had yesterday the conventional and official account by both sides of the differences that led to this series of misfortunes. I think that, for the first time, we can form a clear picture of what happened. Evidently there were divergencies, marked no doubt by good will and all the courtesies of Cabinet association, between the Foreign Secretary and the new Prime Minister. These divergencies extended principally: first, to their conception of the present condition of the League of Nations and its Covenant; and, secondly, to the attitude which we should adopt towards the dictator Powers. I need scarcely say that these divergencies are divergencies of degree and, perhaps, of temperament, but it is clear that there were these divergencies—that they were honourable and well grounded on both sides, of course, goes without saying.
Coming to the merits of the actual dispute, it would seem to many people that this was an inopportune time for negotiations with Italy. In the first place, all these acts of bad faith which have been described to the House are fresh in everyone's mind. In the second place, the dictator Powers of Europe are striding on from strength to strength and from stroke to stroke, and the parliamentary democracies are retreating abashed and confused. On the other hand, behind this fine facade, there was every sign that the Italian dictator, at any rate, was in a very difficult position: the industrious, amiable Italian people long over-strained; everything in the country eaten up in order to augment the magnificence of the State; taxes enormous; finances broken; officials abounding; all kinds of indispensable raw materials practically unpurchasable across the exchange; Abyssinia a curse, a corpse bound on the back of the killer; Libya and Spain; perhaps 400,000 men overseas, all to be maintained by a continuous drain on the hard-driven, ground-down people of Italy. There was a picture. One would have thought that these corrective processes upon external arrogance and ambition might have been allowed to run their course for a while; or, otherwise, how are the healing processes of human society to come into play?
I believe myself that we might have left this scene alone for a time. I think the Italian dictator would soon have been compelled to bring many of his troops home from Libya, and some, at any rate, of his troops home from Spain, where they have given little satisfaction either to himself or to General Franco. We know that large numbers of disappointed people who have gone to Abyssinia in the hope of some Eldorado will be soon coming back to Italy, disillusioned. Many questionings were arising in Italian bosoms which were natural and legitimate and could not be suppressed or ignored. All this was in the interest of peace, and also, I might add, what is an even greater cause than peace, freedom. After all, it is sometimes wise to allow natural processes to work, and for crimes and follies to be paid in coin from their own mint. The internal condition of Italy is certainly causing their dictator grave anxiety. He stood in need of an external success. It is quite easy to understand how Signor Mussolini should have instructed Count Grandi, if he did so instruct him—I am not quite clear—to encourage talks with Great Britain. But it is less easy to understand, I venture to submit—and I am endeavouring to argue this in a manner not calculated to cause heat of any kind—why we should have had hurried so eagerly to the rescue. Here was a case where we ought to have allowed time to play its part.
However, as I reconstruct the story, the Cabinet, from the usual vague, well-intentioned desire for peace and friendship, enjoined the Foreign Secretary to have these talks. It is quite clear that he was reluctant to do so, and, in my opinion, he was right. The talks proceeded very unenthusiastically for a number of days and no doubt Signor Grandi reported to Rome that the progress made was small. At any rate, at this point—on 11th February—the following statement is made in the Italian Press—an inspired statement on the authority of Signor Farinacci, which carries with it the decision and authority of the Italian Government:
Our opinion will not change until London's foreign policy ceases to be directed by Mr. Eden. In many speeches and on many occasions he has shown his poisonous attitude of mind towards Italy. …
And then there is a good deal of further abuse. This was a very serious article. No such expression of opinion could have appeared in that country unless it had been approved by the dictator. You might almost say that the dictator had dictated it himself. It amounted to this, that there was a demand that the Foreign Secretary should go, and that unless he went there could be no progress in these talks. I, therefore, read with very much
concern in the London evening newspapers of the following Friday, 18th February, that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister had taken the negotiations into his own hands, and had invited Count Grandi to conduct discussions with him and the Foreign Secretary, not at the Foreign Office but at No. 10 Downing Street.
I think that the House must say, looking at it from a purely outside point of view, that this was clearly a decisive episode in the story which we have before us: clearly the deciding episode, the episode which brought these divergencies which have not been concealed to a definite head. Here is the Foreign Secretary attacked by a foreign Government through their controlled Press, his own papers filled with rumours that he will resign, and the Prime Minister coming in in this peculiar and difficult situation and taking charge of the discussions himself. Of course, he has a perfect right to do so; and, if he feels the urge, he has an inevitable duty to do so. But what was the position of the Foreign Secretary in this situation? I am trying to apply my mind to that, with some experience of the ways of Cabinets and Ministers. What degree of authority, what sphere of usefulness, would be left to the Foreign Secretary in these Italian discussions after what had occurred? Clearly, he and they had been taken charge of by his superior, and taken charge of at a time when his dismissal was being loudly demanded in a foreign country with which this country was in negotiation. This is a bald statement of fact which everybody can get from the newspapers.
What is remarkable, I think, is that the Prime Minister should have been surprised on that second Friday when the Foreign Secretary began to talk about resignation and say he would not agree to this, that or the other. I think that that shows that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, acting entirely within his rights and from the best of motives, had taken a step the consequences of which he did not fully apprehend but which are now obvious to us all. Some people think the Foreign Secretary ought to have stayed on longer in a state of what can only be described as public chaperonage and ought to have waited for a longer period. It has been generally agreed that these are questions which a man can only judge for himself. Speaking about this memorable episode of his resignation, I am bound to say that in my view, as a Member of this House, I believe he acted absolutely rightly, and I think the responsibility for that event, for what has happened, or for what is going to happen, rests for good or ill upon the Prime Minister, who was also acting entirely within his rights. I think the Prime Minister yesterday, speaking of the future, said that we must look forward, and that we must not unduly look back. The Prime Minister has assumed the whole responsibility. He has taken control of foreign affairs, and of this decisive veer of those affairs, into his own hands. The House, by a large majority, is, I am convinced, ready that he should do so.
Whatever my views may be as to the wisdom or unwisdom of a particular course, I am not going to fail to wish and hope that he may be rightly guided, and his efforts crowned with success. I will not attempt to predict the course of the negotiations with Italy to which we are now committed, but I must say that their initiation appears untimely and their outlook somewhat bleak. Anyone who was in the House when my hon. Friend the Member for West Leicester (Mr. Nicolson) gave us last night his brilliant and deeply informed analysis of the possibilities which are open in this field, must feel extremely anxious as to whether a satisfactory and successful conclusion will be reached. We shall certainly be asked to give a lot, and there is very little we can receive in return, except the cessation by Italy of wrong and unneighbourly action in which she has long indulged.
There is, however, one object which I fully admit would throw a different light on this scene. Even at the risk of being accused of some illogicality in my argument, I would say that if it were possible for Italy to discharge her duty in aiding Great Britain and France in defending the integrity and independence of Austria, for the sake of that I would go as far as any man in making concessions. It would not be possible without some new service rendered by Italy to the general cause of European peace and appeasement. But here, I was disappointed to read last week that my Noble Friend Lord Halifax in another place said, as far as I recollect, there can be no question of our trying to have the Rome-Berlin axis altered in any way. Then it does seem to me that this is very disconcerting. It is difficult to see what serious advantage can inure to Great Britain in the Mediterranean, except expressions of good will and temporary relief from wrongful annoyances to which we have been subjected. We must certainly hope that any negotiations upon which our country embarks will prosper and reach a conclusion acceptable to this House, and not incompatible with our interests, but the outlook is not too promising, and the Government's position in regard to these negotiations will not be particularly easy, because, obviously, they have a great step to take to bring about a satisfactory conclusion, and this must be perfectly well known to the other side.
Let us see what are the wider consequences of this resignation of the Foreign Secretary. They are grievous in the extreme. This last week has been a good week for dictators—one of the best they ever had. The German dictator has laid his heavy hand upon a small but historic country, and the Italian dictator has carried his vendetta to a victorious conclusion against my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden). The conflict between the Italian dictator and my right hon. Friend has been a long one. There can be no doubt whatever who has won. Signor Mussolini has won. All the might, majesty, power and dominion of the British Empire have not been able to secure the success of the causes which were entrusted to the late Foreign Secretary by the general will of Parliament and of the country. So that is the end of this part of the story, namely, the complete defeat and departure from power of the Englishman whom the British nation and the British Parliament, reinforced by the mandate of a General Election, entrusted with a certain task; and the complete triumph of the Italian dictator at a moment when success was desperately needed by him for domestic reasons.
What has happened since the resignation was announced? All over the world, in every land, under every sky and every system of government, wherever they may be, the friends of England are dismayed, and the foes of England are exultant. Can anybody who reads the reports which come in hour by hour deny that? We have a heavy price to pay for all this. No one can compute it. Small countries in Europe balancing which way to turn, to which system to adhere, liberal or authoritarian—those countries are more inclined to move to the side of power and resolution. We are told that Italian propaganda is already being toned down at the Bari broadcasting station. I am glad to hear that, because of the harm it was doing to our interests in the Middle East. No propaganda has ever been so harmful and effective as that. It will be universally believed that it is Signor Mussolini's superior power which has procured the overthrow of the British Foreign Secretary. I cannot myself contemplate the arrival of the British envoy at Rome to make a pact which, if it is successful, will involve the recognition of the conquest of Abyssinia. I cannot contemplate that, after all that has happened, and all that I have said in full accord with so many hon. Gentlemen here on both sides and with all with whom we have talked, our friends and constituents in the country. I cannot contemplate this event without a pang of bitter humiliation, which I am sure will be re-echoed in millions of cottage homes throughout this country.
But what has happened in the United States of America? There havoc has resulted from this event. I do not say that it cannot be repaired, but millions of people there who are our enemies have been armed with a means to mock the sincerity of British idealism, and they think that we are all Continental people tarred with the same brush. That is the propaganda which has been given an enormous impetous and assistance, while our friends, those who are steadily working for the closer co-operation of the two countries, of course, on parallel lines, are downcast, baffled and bewildered.
I must illustrate the danger of our present situation by another incident. There are a great number of worthy people who think that any negotiations must be good. They do not seem to see that ill-timed or unsuccessful negotiations debase the whole currency of international intercourse. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has referred to the Halifax Mission, or excursion, which took place. I was against it from the very beginning, because I think it was not a very good moment to communicate by that particular door. It certainly was not. But what happened? The powerful Press which supports the Government proclaimed that a great new basis had been found for the relations between Britain and Germany, that the question had been explored in an amicable manner, and that Britain and Germany had entered upon a new relationship. What has been the result? A most truculent speech. I am using the word "truculent" because I found it in the "Times"; I always read the "Times" though I do not always agree with it. I use this word because it is obviously a word which is justified, as those who used it were not seeking to use a needlessly provocative word. Then there has been this episode, this tragedy in Austria and the violent pressure placed upon the government of that country. How does this show improved relations? I was told by a friend who arrived from Vienna a few days ago one of the results of the Halifax Mission. One thing he said was that Lord Halifax had given him to believe that England would not object to German authority over Austria. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame!"] No, no. There is not the slightest truth, I am certain, in that statement.
There is not the slightest truth in the suggestion, and anyone who wants confirmation of that has only to realise that Lord Halifax is a man of honour. The Noble Lady says: "Why say it? "I say it because it seems to be a valuable piece of information for me to give to the House of Commons. I say it because it shows the danger of these unofficial visits, and how use may be made of conversations, which are entered into in quite good faith, in order to procure support for other policies. But here, when we talk of these greatly improved relations which are proposed to follow from the Halifax visit, let me just read this small extract which I found yesterday morning, again in the "Times":
Field-Marshal Goering's newspaper, the 'National-Zeitung,' emphasises the warning to the foreign Press which the Fuhrer delivered. The writer expresses his conviction that 'the incredible campaign of propaganda and calumny in the foreign Press during the past fortnight' is directed by definite central organisations, and that it is not altogether uninfluenced by official policy. The article adds the warning that the time is
coming when those who bear the real responsibility will no longer be protected. An organisation through which, in such cases, a blow can be struck with lightning speed and with probable success has, it is stated, fortunately long been ready.
It is quite clear who is the individual in this country.
I do not think that it is necessary to say, but it is perfectly clear that this is the most extraordinary statement to be made upon this very high authority, and I earnestly trust that the Home Secretary will take all the necessary measures to afford protection to anyone who may have been aimed at by that statement. I will not trouble the House, because I am very glad to discharge my task this afternoon, which I have undertaken only from a sense of duty. The consequence of a particular event very often presents itself to the actor in it only after it has gone beyond recall. The resignation of the late Foreign Secretary may well be a milestone in history. Great quarrels, it has been well said, arise from small occasions, but seldom from small causes. That there was a complete divergence between the late Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister is too plainly apparent. The late Foreign Secretary adhered to the old policy which we have all forgot for so long. The Prime Minister and his colleagues have entered upon another and a new policy.
The old policy was an effort to establish the rule of law in Europe and build up through the League of Nations, or by regional pacts under the League of Nations, effective deterrents against the aggressor. That is the policy which we have followed. Is the new policy—I hope we shall hear more about it—to come to terms with the totalitarian Powers in the hope that by great and far-reaching acts of submission, not merely in sentiment and pride, but in material factors, peace may be preserved? I earnestly hope that I may be reassured, and that Ministers will take occasion to explain their policy more fully. It may be that when the new directors of our foreign policy study the grim face of Europe and the world at this moment, when they have studied it with direct responsibility and with full information from day to day, they will come back to the old conclusions. But then it may be too late. The situation may be vitally changed. Many forces now favourable may have disappeared. Many friends in Europe may have entered into new combinations. Many sources of strength, moral and physical, upon which we might now rely may be gone.
I was glad to hear the Prime Minister say that our association with France was unchanged and unbroken, but let there be no mistake about it. Our own safety is bound up with that of France. We have our Navy, but that is no protection against the air. The peace of Europe rests to-day upon the French army. That army at the present time is the finest in Europe, but with every month that passes its strength is being outmatched by the ceaseless development of the new forms into which the vastly superior manhood of Germany is being formed. Almost any foreign policy is better than duality or repeated chops and changes. It is strange that the British people who have such a reputation for stability in other matters should have been in the last few years pursuing a foreign policy so baffling by its changes and twists that foreign countries have been unable to keep step with us, while the little nations who are indirectly affected by our changes are thrown into the utmost bewilderment and confusion.
The other day Lord Halifax in another place said that Europe was confused. The part of Europe that is confused is that part ruled by Parliamentary Governments. I know of no confusion on the side of the great dictators. They pursue their path towards sombre and impressive objectives with ruthless consistency and purpose. They know what they want, and no one can deny that up to the present at every step they are getting what they want. When I look back upon the past five or six years I discern many lost chances when we could have made a stand, a united stand, against the dangers, and when by an act of generosity and magnanimity following upon the marshalling of material strength we could have perhaps prevented the evils which are now upon us.
The grave and largely irreparable injury to world security took place in the years 1932 to 1935 in the tenure of the Foreign Office by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer. In those days I ventured repeatedly to submit to the House the maxim that the grievances of the vanquished should be redressed before the disarmament of the victors was begun. But the reverse was done. Then was the time to make concessions to the German people and to the German ruler. Then was the time when they would have had their real value. But no attempt was made. All that was done was to neglect our own defences and endeavour to encourage the French to follow a course equally imprudent. The next opportunity when these Sybilline Books were presented to us was when the reoccupation of the Rhineland took place at the beginning of 1936. Now we know that a firm stand by France and Britain with the other Powers associated with them at that time, and with the authority of the League of Nations, would have been followed by the immediate evacuation of the Rhineland without the shedding of a drop of blood, and the effects of that might have been blessed beyond all compare, because it would have enabled the more prudent elements in the German Army to regain their proper position and would not have given to the political head of Germany that enormous ascendency which has enabled him to move forward. On the morrow of such a success we could have made a great and generous settlement.
Now we are in a moment when a third move is made; but when that opportunity does not present itself in the same favourable manner. Austria has been laid in thrall, and we do not know whether Czechoslovakia will not suffer a similar attack. Let me remind hon. Members when they talk about Germany's desire for peace, that this small country has declared that it will resist, and if it resists that may well light up the flames of war, the limits of which no man can predict. It is because we have lost these opportunities of standing firm, of having strong united forces and a good heart, and a resolute desire to defend the right and afterwards to do generously as the result of strength; it is because we have lost these successive opportunities which have presented themselves, that, when our resources are less and the dangers greater, we have been brought to this pass. I predict that the day will come when at some point or other on some issue or other you will have to make a stand, and I pray God that when that day comes we may not find that through an unwise policy we are left to make that stand alone.
It is a difficult moment for any private Member even although he has been in the House for many years to get up and endeavour to continue a Debate such as this, and I must confess that I feel more anxious and apprehensive than I did when I made my maiden speech. But it will do no harm if some of the fever is taken out of the Debate, and if we continue our discussion in an atmosphere less charged with the emotion which has been raised by my right hon Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). My right hon. Friend spoke good words about the ex-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and I was glad to hear him, but there is no personal tragedy connected with to-day's Debate. If there is one thing certain in an uncertain situation, it is that neither the political career of my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) nor the political career of the Noble Lord the Member for South Dorset (Viscount Cranborne) has come to an end. This is one thing which is quite sure where all else may be obscure.
I think it is absolutely essential, if the House is to come to a clear decision on these vital matters, that we should look at them in some sort of perspective. One does not want to delve into the history of the past, but there is a background to this situation, and it is a background for which the right hon. Member for Epping cannot disclaim all responsibility. It does not begin in the year 1932. It begins in the year 1918. I do not think that the Treaty of Versailles, looked at in retrospect, was the wholly admirable instrument of peace which those who negotiated it at the time imagined it to be. I go so far as to say that in that Treaty lies the root of many of our troubles, and one of those troubles is Austria. You created a political and economic entity which it was impossible to sustain. I am not going to blame the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), because the difficulties at the time were almost insuperable, and he was supported, and indeed pressed on, by a surge of public opinion in this country that made cool and calm negotiation almost impossible. The marvel of it was that he got any treaty at all. But that does not get away from the fact that it was not a good treaty; and we have to take this into consideration in considering the situation we are in at the moment.
It is no consolation to reflect that the French were at least as much to blame as ourselves, if not more so. All I want to say now is that you cannot do the things which we did in 1918, and for 15 years afterwards, and get away with it without paying. I must, however, refer to the great effort of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, in 1922, to save the situation and retrieve Europe at the Genoa Conference. He made that effort single-handed, because most of his Cabinet were against it. And it may well be that, in sabotaging that Conference, Poincaré and Barthou sabotaged Western civilisation. It was the greatest hope we had had since the War. The failure of that Conference brought down the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, but that was no discredit to him. What followed? First the occupation of the Ruhr. Then the failure to follow up Locarno, for which the right hon. Member for Epping has to bear some responsibility. Then there was the squalid, futile, interminable quarrel over reparations, which lasted for year after year. And finally the occupation of the Rhineland which was continued even after the signature of the Treaty of Locarno. And when at last the driven Germans turned, there was the failure of His Majesty's Government either to come to terms with them while there was yet time, or stop them rearming.
It is a story of muddle and disaster without parallel in history, caused partly by the incorrigible reluctance of the people of this country to face at any period the realities of the European situation. Take for example, the Disarmament Conference, which at no point or period ever touched reality. We went on arguing about tanks and guns and bombs, instead of their causes, until that Conference was literally battered out of existence by the series of well-directed blows from Berlin which culminated in the occupation of the Rhine-land. Have the Socialist party no responsibility for that? We all have a responsibility for it, because we would not face up to the reality of the situation when Hitler went into the Rhineland against the advice of his general staff. Nobody had the guts to do it. Now we see that it would have been the right thing to do. My right hon. Friend the Member for Epping says it would have been the right thing to do, but did he come forward and say, "Let us go into the Rhineland and stop the rearmament of Germany"? Nobody said it. So the Treaty of Versailles was torn up, clause by clause, in our faces by Hitler, and none of us had the courage to act. Thus we all have our share of responsibility for the situation with which we are confronted at the present time.
In judging the work of my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington, we must remember the conditions in which he was handed the seals of office as Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. He had hopelessly inadequate forces at his disposal for carrying out any policy at all. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood), in opening the Debate, said that firmness is the essence of statesmanship. When did the party opposite, prior to two years ago, ever advocate, with conviction, firmness on the part of the British Government? When did they ever advocate giving any British Government the necessary means for carrying out a policy of firmness? Some of my hon. Friends on this side remember the Fulham by-election.
My right hon. Friend the late Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs found a League without power and without prestige; a League, therefore, useless as an effective instrument of policy. He found himself confronted by a civil war in Spain. And he found himself faced by the fact that the initiative in foreign affairs had passed from Geneva to Rome, Tokyo and Berlin, out of the hands of the League and into the hands of rearmed and aggressive Fascist Powers. It was a prospect enough to daunt the stoutest heart. Whatever we may say about the merits of the present dispute, the dauntless courage with which my right hon. Friend faced that prospect commanded then, as it commands to-day, the respect and admiration of all his fellow-countrymen. What were his objectives? He had to play for time. He had to try to keep this country out of war, and to prevent the outbreak of a general war in Europe, with hopelessly inadequate forces at his disposal. He succeeded brilliantly in doing all these things during two of the most difficult and anxious years through which we have ever passed, and in the face of absolutely ceaseless criticism, most of it destructive, from the party opposite.
There is little more to say, except with regard to the present situation. The advent of a new Prime Minister in this country coincided with the first visible signs of the growing strength of Great Britain, and it became clear that a more positive foreign policy was called for to meet the new situation. It also became clear—and it has become increasingly clear during recent weeks—that that policy was not forthcoming. Why? I think that the correct diagnosis has been made by hon. Members on all sides of the House. We might as well face the facts. There was clear evidence, and there still is, of divided councils, of a clash of personalities, and of dual control. As long as that continued, there could be no positive policy, but only drift—drift into war, and a world war at that. We fought one world war to make the world safe for democracy. The results are there for all to see. I do not know that the results of another would be better.
When my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping was speaking, I could not help being reminded of a similar situation in which he himself was confronted with facts which were very like those which exist to-day. During the War, when my right hon. Friend was at the Admiralty, there were two forcible personalities, two able men, at the head of the Admiralty—himself and the late Lord Fisher. At a very crucial moment in the War they clashed and could not agree about policy. One wanted to go one way, and the other wanted to go another. What happened in the end was that they both resigned; and the result of that was that there was neither an effective prosecution of the Dardanelles campaign on the one hand nor of the Baltic project, which was Lord Fisher's idea, on the other. There was nothing but paralysis in the direction of our naval affairs, and there followed, as a result, the submarine menace which nearly strangled this country out of existence. We do not want such a thing to happen again. At least, on this occasion they have not both gone. It is much better when one gets this sort of situation to keep one of the protagonists, because then at least there is a positive policy.
I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping—and this is one of the few points on which I do agree with him—when he said that the timing of this crisis is most unfortunate from every point of view. If it had happened only a month ago, we might have saved Austria. What worries me now—and on this I hope there will be some reassurance from the Government—is whether Mussolini has some quid pro quo from Hitler for acquiescing in the anschluss between Austria and Germany. Meanwhile, the loss of the Foreign Secretary is a very heavy price which this country has to pay. Not as far as the smaller countries of Europe are concerned, for we lost them when Lord Baldwin succumbed to the propaganda of the party opposite, and decided it was safer to win an election than to re-arm this country. But undoubtedly the resignation of my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington has caused profound uneasiness in France and the United States, and it is these countries which matter more than any others. I think they should be doubly reassured as to the intentions of the British Government.
For, whatever may be said, there has been a change of policy on the part of the British Government, a fundamental change, of vital importance. It is a change from the static and negative policy, imposed upon us by sheer necessity during the last two years, to a positive and dynamic policy. No doubt a similar change would have occurred had my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington had his own way and the support of the Cabinet; there would have been a dynamic policy on other lines; but in that case, inevitably, my right hon. Friend would have had to assume control; for that was the essential condition upon which another policy could have been successfully pursued.
Meanwhile, we are faced with the fact that the present Cabinet unanimously, for not one of them has resigned, with all the facts before them, decided in favour of the Prime Minister's policy. For my part, I would only say that any positive policy is better than no policy at all. The Prime Minister is now gambling on Mussolini's good faith. I am not referring to the past. And I would respectfully say that I do not think the very brilliant speech of my hon. Friend the Member for West Leicester (Mr. Nicolson) was helpful in any way. Nobody has shown up the methods of the old diplomacy in such scorching and searching criticism as he has in two books of his which I have often read. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is playing for high stakes. He would not do so if he did not believe in the policy which he has undertaken. He is playing with very great courage. I think my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington and my Noble Friend the Member for South Dorset were quite right to resign, because they could not play this game with these stakes if they did not believe in it. And they did not. The only chance of success is that the game shall be played by a man who does believe in it, and believe in it to such a point that he considers that any other policy would be fatal. That is the view which the Prime Minister has adopted, and expressed to the House.
In conclusion, I only wish to say that it really does not matter who is Prime Minister or Foreign Secretary, as long as England does not suffer. Whatever may be the merits of the case, at least, and at last, we have got direction at the top. For 15 years there has been a total lack of constructive leadership in this country, ever since the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs resigned office. Nothing could be worse than that, and it is that which has got us into the mess we are in to-day. For my part—and I think I speak for the majority of hon. Members on this side—I wish the Prime Minister luck in a venture, which may turn out well or ill; but which nobody can truthfully say lacks high courage.
Mr. Lloyd George:
The hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) has delivered a very characteristic speech in which he has taken a very independent and original view of the situation. He has raised an infinite variety of very controversial subjects, and I could not hope to refer to more than one-tenth of them in the time at my disposal. I should have liked to have said something about the Treaty of Versailles. For the last two months, I have been occupied in writing up the facts about that Treaty, and therefore, I am very full of the subject; but I will reassure the House by saying that I do not intend to inflict any of that information upon it. However, I would like to refer briefly to one topic which the hon. Member mentioned. He spoke of the creation of Austria, and said that it was too small to be a successful economic entity. Austria was not created by the Treaty. I have gone into the facts very industriously, and what really happened was this: Before the negotiators ever sat down to consider the Treaty for Austria, Austria had already been parcelled out. If it had been left to us, I quite agree that there might have been a better partition; but Czechoslovakia was already a fact, Yugoslavia was a fact, and Rumania had taken possession of that part of the country which was contiguous to her own and in which people of her race dwelt. Austria was left. It was there.
Therefore, one thing to have done would have been to add Austria to Germany. It is a fair thing to say at this moment that there was a good deal to be said for that at that time, and there were men in the Foreign Office who actually wrote a document in 1916 recommending it; but nobody knows better than the hon. Member that at that moment it would have been quite impossible for the negotiators to have done anything of the kind. In view of the temper not merely of our country but of France, and the general temper of the whole of Europe, they could not have done it. Therefore, Austria was there before we began. Those remarks are not strictly relevant to the subject-matter of our Debate, but I wanted to give that explanation.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) has stated a point of view, which I shall certainly take in this particular controversy, with such brilliance and force, and has entered into the facts in so much detail, that there is very little left for me to say in supporting the case which he has made; but I would like to join with him and with the hon. Member for East Aberdeen in saying a word of sympathy and congratulation to the right hon. Gentleman the late Foreign Secretary and the Noble Lord the late Under-Secretary, for the very heroic step which they have taken. It is very rare to find an example of that kind in the whole of our history. If the right hon. Gentleman the late Foreign Secretary will allow me to say it, as a very much older man, here was a man who, at a very early age, had attained what was undoubtedly the biggest official position in this country. Anybody who happens to go outside this country can see that it is the Foreign Secretary's name which matters, especially if he has a personality, as the right hon. Gentleman has, and a point of view. It was a very high position. It was an extraordinarily high position to hold at such an early age. He maintained it with great dignity and with distinction.
There were many things in which I did not agree with him, but I took the view, and I expressed it before I ever imagined he was going to be forced to resign, that he was not altogether responsible for many of the things in which he had acquiesced. It is what happens in every Government. I have had dealings with Foreign Secretaries, and I cannot say that we were always in agreement. In every Government you have a variety of views. You cannot be resigning every time the vote of the Cabinet is against you. You cannot resign, even when you are Prime Minister, when the majority of the Members of the Cabinet obviously take a different point of view. There must be a good deal of give and take.
It is very difficult for a man to take such a step as resignation. It is not merely his own personal career that is involved. There is the unity of the Cabinet; there is his loyalty to his party; there is his friendship with the 19 or 20 men who happen to be there; there is his desire to help his chief. There are all sorts of appeals, which are highly honourable, which make it exceedingly difficult for a Minister to take a step of that kind. When he does it the House may depend upon it that it is a matter which he at any rate conceives to be not a small question but one involving a deep principle which rouses his conscience. I saw a reference in the "Times" to the fact that if the right hon. Gentleman was a good boy he might one day become Prime Minister. I hope he will not be too good a boy. His responsibilities are not at an end now that he has resigned. There are millions of people in this country—and I say it from what I have observed in all parties and especially among those who have not got really strong party associations—who look to him to continue to give them guidance and inspiration. I hope that in the interest of the country he will deem it his duty to do so.
When a man takes a step such as he has taken he puts into the bank a fund of public respect and honour upon which he can draw, and I hope that he will continue to draw upon it in the interests of his native land and of humanity. There is no doubt at all that the world is in a condition such as no one has ever seen it in before. The aspect is not a clear one. It is full of obscurities, full of mists, and no Minister, be he Prime Minister or Foreign Minister, can see very clearly the path that is in front of him. Anybody may make mistakes. But the people of this country, I am convinced and have been for a long time, have been looking out for a young man with all the enthusiasm and idealism of youth to lead them forward. I have thought for a long time that the right hon. Gentleman had that gift and I hope that we will continue to use it.
When the Prime Minister tried to minimise the differences I could not follow him. He treated it as a sort of detail which did not justify a man in calling his conscience into action, resigning a great position and dividing the Government. He has only to see what has happened to realise that there is something of primary importance which has occurred in the history of this country, in the history of Europe, and in the history of the world. I agree with the hon. Member for East Aberdeen that it is a new policy, that it is a new line altogether. The mere fact that you had a larger number of Cabinets sitting for a longer period than you have had since 1914, before the War was declared, with the same crowds outside, shows that there was something more than a mere trivial detail. It was not merely a grain of sand in machinery which was not thoroughly well lubricated. There was a great decision to be taken.
Let us look at the attitude of foreign countries. As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping said, the democratic countries are disheartened, they are dismayed, they are frightened. There is no doubt that they deplore this resignation and that they have lost confidence from the fact that the right hon. Gentleman, the late Foreign Secretary, has had to leave the Cabinet on a question of policy and outlook. On the other hand, the dictators do not conceal their jubilation. They know they have won a great triumph. They are not the kind of small men who make the mistake of exaggerating little details. They are big men; for better or for worse, they are very considerable men. They think in very big terms. They think on very broad lines, and if they think they have won a great triumph they are right.
The Prime Minister at the end of his speech yesterday left, as the crowning piece of evidence with which to crush the late Foreign Secretary, the production of a telegram that was handed to him by Count Grandi. The House must have noticed the dates. The telegram arrived on Sunday morning. There was a Cabinet meeting in the afternoon. The telegram was not there.
I agree that there is every justification for what he has said, but, as he has said it and, I suppose, is going to found some argument on it, I must tell the House that unofficially Count Grandi communicated the contents of the telegram early on Sunday morning and I communicated it to the Cabinet.
I am very reluctant to intervene in any way, and I do not wish to contradict what my right hon. Friend has said, but I do want to make the position quite clear. I had received at the time of my resignation no official intimation whatever from the Italian Government in the sense which the Prime Minister has just submitted. It is true that he told me he had received such an intimation, but I did not know, and he did not tell me, from what quarter it came. Nothing, however, reached the Foreign Office while I was still Foreign Secretary. I must add that had it been received at the Foreign Office it would have made no difference to my decision.
Mr. Lloyd George:
I have been a Member of various Governments for 17 years. I have never heard of such conduct as that. If I had treated a colleague of mine in such a way I should have been ashamed, and so would any Prime Minister. It is a most incredible story. Here is an important document—we have not yet had it, but it was read to us—which comes from Rome and which bears definitely upon the controversy. It was never placed in the hands of the Minister who felt so strongly upon the matter that he was resigning. He does say that it would not have altered his point of view, but that does not make any difference.
I want to be perfectly frank with the House. I do not see that I have done anything of the kind. Let me inform the House, if I may, of what happened. The right hon. Gentleman must forgive me because this is an imputation upon my personal honour. The Foreign Secretary and I saw Count Grandi twice on Friday. In the interval between the two meetings, my right hon. Friend said to me that he thought that at least the Italian Government ought to have made some gesture before we entered upon conversations with them. He instanced as the sort of gesture he thought they ought to have made that they had accepted the British formula. On that I asked him whether, if they did accept the formula, it would make any difference to him. He said quite straightforwardly and simply that it would not. He had other objections which would still remain. All the same, I told him I thought it would be helpful to get such an assurance from the Italian Government if they were willing to do it in order to create a favourable atmosphere for the conversations. When Count Grandi came back I asked him whether the Italian Government could accept the formula. He explained at some length that there were a good many difficulties in the way, and he eventually said he would communicate with his Government and find out if that were so, and we arranged, my right hon. Friend and I, that Count Grandi should return on Monday and give us the information and we would then tell him the result of the Cabinet meeting. On Sunday morning I received through a friend who knew Count Grandi an intimation that he had received a favourable reply, and I told the Cabinet so. It did not make any difference to my right hon. Friend. I did not expect it to. He has said it would make no difference. But I did think, having that unofficial information—I did not see Count Grandi myself—that I ought to let the Cabinet know at the earliest possible moment. I cannot for the life of me see that I did anything wrong.
The right hon. Gentleman is so determined to make out that there is something wrong that he will hardly listen to the facts. I never saw this document until Count Grandi brought it to me on Monday, therefore I could not communicate it to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington on Sunday. I had heard that the answer was favourable, and that is what I told the Cabinet—the answer was in the affirmative. There was no document.
Mr. Lloyd George:
The Prime Minister is making exactly the statement that I made when he got up to contradict me. I said there was a document received by Count Grandi on Sunday morning. It was never communicated, either to the Prime Minister or anyone else, until Monday morning. Why was it not communicated? A document of that importance from Rome making a statement as to the policy of the Italian Government was kept until Monday morning, until the Foreign Secretary had resigned. It is exactly what they wanted.
Mr. Lloyd George:
All that the right hon. Gentleman said yesterday was that there was a document received by Count Grandi on Sunday morning and only communicated to him on Monday, and that is the whole point that I was making. Then the right hon. Gentleman said he had heard about it on Sunday. If that is the case, the document ought to have been secured and handed over to the Foreign Secretary before a decision took place.
Mr. Lloyd George:
Yes, certainly, when such great issues were involved and when it was known that there was a document of this importance and the Prime Minister never took the trouble to secure it, and Count Grandi never took the trouble to deliver it, because he wanted to get rid of the Foreign Secretary. At any rate, it shows the muddled way—[Interruption.] There is no doubt at all that the dictators were determined to drive the late Foreign Secretary out because he was the only man in this Government who would stand up to them. The Home Secretary is a runaway horse—and he smashed the cart when he did so. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, another Foreign Secretary, is running away even from his own constituency. You have got rid of the one man who could stand up to them. The Prime Minister talked about the Boer War, and said, "Are you going to refuse to negotiate with a country, because you disapprove of their conduct in the past?" I took a different view of the Boer War, and I got a very warm reception from the right hon. Gentleman's constituency. In the Boer War we were dealing with men like Botha and Smuts, men of honour, men who honourably carried out every promise that they made to the British Government. Can you say that about Signor Mussolini? You have entered into bargain after bargain with him, and he has broken everyone of them. He made a bargain to have a ban on the sending of troops. That was in February of last year. Within two days after he had signed it there was a contingent of troops from Italy landing at Cadiz. On the 28th there was another contingent and in March another. A short time after entering into these engagements, he himself admits that he landed 50,000 troops in Spain.
What is the comparison between entering into conversations with the Boers, who honoured their pledges, and with a man who time after time has broken every engagement? I think the Foreign Secretary was perfectly entitled to say, "Before you make a fresh engagement let them keep those that they have already made." That is a question of principle. The Prime Minister was brought up in business. Suppose that a man who had broken every promise that he gave, and fulfilled no engagements into which he had entered with him, came to him and said, "Let us have a new plan altogether." What would the right hon. Gentleman have said? "Had you not better first of all discharge your other promissory notes?" The right hon. Gentleman says, "I have a formula now. I have another promise which is an indication of good faith and good will." Would he have done that as a business man? He is dealing with some of the astutest and subtlest brains in Europe. They have broken every promise that they have ever made to the British Government, and the Prime Minister says, "At last I have a formula." All I can say is that, if he is as dovelike in his innocence as that, he is really not fit to deal with these Machiavellian dictators. He is only fit for a stained glass window.
Suppose, instead of the case of Italy having conversations with us or us with Italy, a Labour Government in similar conditions was having conversations with Russia. Suppose the Russians had first of all annexed Rumania, the League of Nations protesting and we imposing sanctions, and then Russia tried by force to set up a Communist Government in Spain and sent 50,000 to 100,000 men and an overwhelming mass of heavy artillery and ammunition and got command of the Straits of Gibraltar, our pathway to the East, then, promising that they would send no more, still sending organised armies. And a Labour Government doing nothing, allowing it to go on. And then Stalin sends over and says, "Come over to Moscow. Come and have conversations with me and we will make a fresh arrangement." What would be said by the Press which is supporting the right hon. Gentleman? There would be charges of perfidy, dishonour, of betraying the British flag and dragging it in the Bolshevik gutters of Moscow, from hon. and right hon. Gentlemen behind him. That is what would happen. It is exactly the same situation here. He has been beaten by the dictators. You could see it in the speech of Herr Hitler. There was a tone totally different from anything which I have seen in any of his speeches. Before they were tactful; they were courteous in their references to France and to us. [Interruption.] Yes, they were, all his speeches, perfectly courteous. On Sunday there was an arrogance, there was an insolence, there was a sort of feeling that he had you beaten. So he has—driven from one point after another. Tonight we have heard for the first time one of the most momentous declarations which the Prime Minister has made—that we could have the League of Nations without sanctions. That is the theory of the anarchist. The doctrine of the anarchist depends upon law and upon resolutions which are carried by a community who do not have any law to enforce them. It is anarchy.
Beaten in Manchuria, beaten in Abyssinia, beaten in Spain, and now—[An HON. MEMBER: "At Ipswich."]—the negotiations are to be in Rome. The Prime Minister is not going to Canossa himself; he is going to send a representative. You live under the cowering peace of the white flag, retreating from one position after another. We are a very slow moving people. We have the sort of feeling of self-confidence that a nation has which has never been beaten, and for that reason we pass by incidents which foreign countries would have been roused to fury about. But a moment will come, and I think there are indications that it is coming, when the people of this land will insist on once more unfurling the flag and getting men who can stand by it.
Earlier in this Debate an hon. Member, commenting upon the way in which this Motion was drawn, said that the wording of it really brought together the supporters of the Government, and eased the situation for the Patronage Secretary. The wording of the Motion is unnecessary. My right hon. Friend the Patronage Secretary is very fortunate. He has only to wait for the speeches from the Opposition to watch the rallying of the Government's supporters. I think that even the most junior of Members on this side of the House have some right to register a protest against the sort of attack that was made on my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in the speech to which we have just listened. There was no form of misrepresentation which was not used in that speech. He was accused of not showing to the Cabinet a document which he had not got. When that charge was disproved beyond any doubt, there was no withdrawal of the charge. He was then charged with not keeping his Cabinet informed of what was happening. When that was disproved there was again no withdrawal. I say that such an attack is an unworthy one, and should never have been made in this House.
The other thing which has stood out most clearly in these last two days of debate is that there is no opponent or critic of the Government's policy, except my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) and my Noble Friend the Member for South Dorset (Viscount Cranborne), who has not spent his time in trying to make as much mischief as he can among the other nations in Europe, apparently thinking that we shall produce friendly relations by blackguarding the public men in every other country in the world. I will make one other exception—the speech of the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. K. Griffith). It was a welcome relief in comparison with the malicious mischief-making nonsense which we have been hearing all through this Debate. But there was one remark by my hon. Friend which I feel that I must controvert. He said that we were departing from our old and traditional policy of support of the League of Nations—or words to that effect. I do not admit that we are departing from that policy, but, at any rate, it cannot be very old or traditional. The League dates back only to the time of the Treaty of Peace, and there is a policy far older, far more the traditional British policy, which is the policy of endeavouring to make friends with as many people as possible. When we have a League of Nations outside of which there are a large number of dissident States, it is no departure from the policy of supporting that League to try to make friends with the countries outside. That is the step which the Prime Minister is now taking, and taking none too soon. It is a policy which many of us would like to have seen adopted two or three years ago to redress a mistake which was made when the Stresa front was originally broken, broken in the sacred name of the League and of collective security. Collective security is the worst will o' the wisp that has ever been followed by the statesmen of any land.
I heard the phrase to which my hon. Friend makes reference. I am not quarrelling with the detail of whether Article 16 is left in the Covenant or not, provided it is implied that nobody is going to take any notice of it, and that we do not pursue collective security until it becomes reasonably possible to do so. Let the House reflect what the breaking of the Stresa front did. Does any hon. Member seriously think that Germany would have taken the gamble of marching into the Rhineland if Britain had not been occupied snarling with Italy in the Eastern Mediterranean? It would never have occurred. Does anybody think that the present extension of German influence over Austria would have taken place if the old friendship between this country and Italy had not been severely strained? Because from Austria's point of view, Italy was the only nation that could come to her assistance quickly enough to be of any use. It is no comfort to the Austrian to know, when he has immolated himself to Germany, that subsequently Great Britain and France might take vengeance on the aggressor. The only thing which can interest any Austrian who wishes to defend his country is who can get there before it is overrun, and there is only one country which can do that.
Friendship between Great Britain and Italy, a thing for which many of us have worked sincerely for some time past, I believe to be essential to the peace of Europe and, indeed, to the protection of British interests throughout the world. There is one vital link in our Imperial communications, and that is the Mediterranean sea. The British Empire is spread along the middle of the world and the whole way round it, a very large proportion of it south of the equator. We cannot afford to be Europeans wholly, nor are we Europeans without any other outlook or any interest. That highway is an essential link in our policy. If there is trouble with any country in the Mediterranean we can close it. We can hold Gibraltar at one end and dynamite the Canal at the other end, and we can turn the Mediterranean into a lake.
I am prepared to admit that the presence of a hostile Power is always embarrassing in time of war. You are not likely to have a war without a hostile Power, and I do not so underrate the fighting capacity of the Regular Forces of the Crown as to assume that they cannot hold Gibraltar, whatever guns are mounted. We can turn the Mediterranean into a lake, a military fact which is admitted by all Mediterranean Powers, but we should do well to remember that, although we can close the Mediterranean as an effective highway, there are others who, if they cannot close the route, can make it extremely difficult to transport any goods along it; and yet these two Powers which could make the Mediterranean difficult of access to British shipping, France and Italy, both have the same interest as our own, which is to keep that route open.
Let us not close our eyes to the fact that in these days, and indeed at any time, the only sure basis on which a treaty can be founded is one of mutual interest. Nations are not quixotic individuals who cheerfully sacrifice generations of their youth in pursuit of some ideal which they do not expect to realise. Nations can get together if they have some common object for which they are working, and I believe that with Italy we have that common object. We both have interests in Africa and in the Mediterranean, and surely it is idle to continue this bickering, which has no purpose and serves no good cause. It is not for us to worry whether in the past Italy has or has not maintained her obligations. We were very glad on one occasion when she did not, and even then, let us remember, the original treaty of the Triple Alliance had a clause in it which precluded any action ever being taken against Great Britain by Italy. Great Britain has very little cause to c complain of the way in which the Italians have in the past honoured their friendship with us.
What has happened since the War? Let us look to the reasons why those various international obligations have not been fulfilled, and we shall see that the whole lot were founded on sand. They were built on a Covenant which does not exist and which nobody was prepared to make any sacrifice to maintain, and I believe that this new departure, or rather this return to an old and well-tried policy, is one of which the supporters of the Government are in favour. I do not think the country will fail to realise, not only its success, but its desirability. We have already seen a change in the attitude of Italy towards this country—the cessation of propaganda from Bari, one of the essentials which I think the right hon. Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) said should be a preliminary to any form of talks, and the acceptance of the British formula, which is no idle gesture on the part of the Italian Government.
Perhaps I put my statement unfortunately, but the mere acceptance of such a formula, one over which there has been the most bitter acrimony in the Non-Intervention Committee, is a very considerable concession for the Italian Government to make, and I believe that they will certainly implement it. Indeed, a large number of the speeches from the other side of the House have indicated that Italy would be glad of an excuse to remove her troops from Spain, in which case there is no danger of her not implementing that obligation. I believe the country will support the line which the Prime Minister has taken. I noticed some mendacious headlines in the official organ of the party opposite about floods of protest inundating Members of this House. I have had one telegraphic communication to-day, on a matter connected solely with the quota of British films.
There is no public feeling against the Prime Minister's step other than that public feeling which is already ranged on the side of hon. Members opposite and which seeks any stick with which to be-labour the Government, whatever they do. I believe that the vote taken to-night will be sufficiently decisive to show where the feeling of Members on this side lies. I do not believe that the airy dreams, which were cherished by hon. Members opposite, of a vast secession of Members of this party will be fulfilled. Indeed, I am told, among those circles which indulge in pecuniary wagers on this sort of thing, that the odds are extremely favourable, and I hope that there will be no concession to the attitude of hon. Members opposite, which has done nothing but exacerbate Italian feelings throughout the last two years and which will never allow the idea to escape that they would at any time believe that Italy was ever sincere. That is not the way in which to build an international understanding, it is not the way that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has chosen; and the country will judge, and results will prove, that an era of good faith is of considerably more importance than party propaganda directed simply and solely at making mischief.
I am a little sorry that you, Mr. Speaker, should have called me when there was such a great phalanx of Government supporters anxious to come in and aid the apologetics. I think I never saw another occasion when every Conservative Member in the House rose to his feet at the same time. I am interested in the speech of the hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Wise), who welcomed a return to the old policy. He has apparently some information about this matter that the rest of us have not, because the Prime Minister told us that there was no change of policy, that the only difference between himself and his right hon. Friend who has just resigned was one as to method, and that the fundamentals of policy were to remain precisely the same. I would like to know from the hon. Member for Smethwick what information he has about this return to the old policy.
Nothing was ever heard of the policy of collective security prior to 1935; it is a policy which was expressly repudiated by the older Conservative party on several occasions before then. It was declared unworkable and has since been proved unworkable.
I understood from the Prime Minister's speech that he was not differing from the late Foreign Secretary over that matter, and that the only difference between them was whether the talks were to be started at the moment. Therefore, when the hon. Member talks about a new policy, or about reverting to the old policy, he is talking about something upon which the House has not been informed, and he is assuming, what we have a suspicion of but no information about, that this is a definite, large-scale break with the diplomacy and foreign policy of the last few years. He makes that assumption, and I think he is probably right, because I do not believe the Prime Minister is going to make any substantial difference in the method of conversing with Italy. The only difference between him and the late Foreign Secretary is that it took the latter two years in which to make up his mind that Signor Mussolini was no good. The late Foreign Secretary has been conversing with Italy all that time, and I have been trying to understand, since this discussion started in the House, what they mean by "starting conversations" with Italy, because, so far as I know, as a Member of this House, conversations with Italy have never stopped. There has never been one week when diplomatic communications between Great Britain and Italy have been stopped. The conversations have been going on all the time, and always with the same object in view, namely, getting some basis of common decency for founding friendly relations between this country and Italy.
The late Foreign Secretary, after two years of effort, just in the last week or two has made up his mind that it is simply impossible to enter into any bargain with people of that description, for whom the hon. Member for Smethwick makes himself an apologist. I am quite satisfied that the difference between the late Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister is that the former has had some experience and the Prime Minister is green; he is new, he is fresh, he thinks that he can make a bigger impression on Signor Mussolini than the late Foreign Secretary made. I do not believe, if I am any judge of personality, that the Prime Minister's patience will last as long as that of the late Foreign Secretary. I think that if there were personal negotiations between the Prime Minister and Signor Mussolini, in just about one week the Prime Minister would have had enough of it; and if the hon. Member for Smethwick were conducting the conversations, I think they would last even a shorter time than that.
The hon. Member was wanting nothing off him, and Signor Mussolini was wanting nothing off the hon. Member. It was just a polite conversation, and they both got what they wanted. I may be mistaken in the hon. Member's political outlook. I thought he was an orthodox Conservative Member of this House, but it may be that he is a Fascist. There seems to be something about Smethwick that sets men in that direction. It may be that the reason of the harmony between Signor Mussolini and the hon. Member for Smethwick was that they had a similar outlook politically, and it may be that the hon. Member is gratified that Signor Mussolini is able to impose his will upon this country, regarding it as a triumph not so much for Italy as for that particular kind of political philosophy. Apparently it is a triumph for Mussolini at this moment. It is certainly not a triumph for His Majesty's Government.
Only a week ago, while addressing a conference of my own supporters in the City of Glasgow, I asked them to face the realities of the situation and to realise that in this country the National Government had still the support of the majority of the electors of the working-class. I said that a week ago, believing it to be true at that time, and in the interests of realism. I cover a considerable amount of ground and meet a tremendous number of all types of people, and I have never since 1931 seen anything happen politically in this country that has made such a tremendous difference in public opinion, I believe that if the Government went to the country this week there would be a return to the 1931 position and hon. Members opposite, including the hon. Member for Smethwick, would be swept out of this House. A deadly blow has been dealt at the position of the National Government. It is something from which they will not recover.
I hope hon. Members will give me and my colleagues the credit of being not completely partisan in our outlook. We are able, perhaps, to take a more objective view of political things than the majority of hon. Members, and I say very deliberately and definitely that the only way in which Great Britain can re-establish itself among the nations is for a change of Government to take place at the earliest moment. [HON. MEMBERS: "What sort of Government?"] That is one of my difficulties. Admittedly, a General Election held just now would throw Labour into governmental power in this country. With all my difficulties, with all my differences and all my criticisms of that party, I believe it is absolutely necessary that this Government ought to be put out of office and a new Government put in. I have no reason to assume that a Labour Government could not fill the position in international affairs infinitely better than the Government now holding the reins of office. I can see them making mistakes, but I cannot see them crawling in front of Fascist Powers. [An HON. MEMBER: "The Labour party has no guts."] If it is true that the official Opposition has no guts, then God help this country, because it has been amply demonstrated that the present Government has no guts. It may be that the only thing for us to do is to lie down and let the dictators trample over us. I do not believe that that is the position in the country. I believe that the working classes of Great Britain are at one and the same time the most courageous and the most sensible people in the world.
It has this to do with the situation that the working-class population can throw out the Government and put in a Government that expresses the natural courage and common sense of the people. We have not such a Government at the present time. Hon. Members opposite know perfectly well that what happened at the week-end was disgraceful. The speech of the hon. Member for Smethwick was disgraceful. He says that I must not say anything that Mussolini might resent. The right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) must choose his words very carefully. The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) must modulate his tone, because Mussolini might not like it. Hitler and Mussolini can pour out to the world abuse and filth about Britishers; they can go into the Mediterranean and destroy the lives of British sailors, they can dictate to the British Government, and the hon. Member for Smethwick, a typical young man of Conservative philosophy in this House, says to me, and the right hon. Members for Epping and Carnarvon Boroughs: "Hush. Don't say a rough word about these fellows; they might not like it." am not a fighting man, like the hon. Member. I am not bellicose. I am reasonable and rational. I do not want to go to war any more than he does. One of the most powerful men in Germany, Dr. Niemoller, a man who seems to be able to stand up to Hitler, unarmed and alone as far as facing the music is concerned—
I am saying that; but he is standing out unarmed and alone, taking his life in his hands and impressing the world more than Hitler is impressing the world when he makes his demands. Perhaps the great British nation with its power, its influence and its standing might try to absorb one scrap of the courage that Niemoller showed in Germany, or an even more outstanding case that of the chief character concerned with the Reichstag fire, who alone stood up knowing that death was the probable consequence of what he was doing. Those are standards much too high for the hon. Member for Smethwick. Here in the House of Commons we must not dare to raise our voices in criticism, but I shall say what I believe to be true, even supposing there were 10 big bullies who were going to punch me in the jaw and lay me out because they did not like me.
Great Britain, never disarmed, never without immense resources of men, money and materials could surely face up and say something definite to the powerful dictatorial nations of Europe, which up till now have gained ground almost entirely on bluff. Any headway they have made has been because they were bluffers. The late Foreign Secretary was essentially a gentleman, and he was at a complete disadvantage in dealing with the type of people he has had to deal with in foreign affairs recently. He was in an environment where he did not know how to act. I do not know the type of personality that could do the job properly. I am looking at the hon. and learned Member for Argyll (Mr. Macquisten) who, I regret to learn, is proposing to withdraw from the political life of the country. If he had been a few years younger he might have been the man for this type of job. He has had a long experience at the criminal bar of Scotland. Perhaps Lord Hewart, who has just had to deal with some hard cases from Mayfair, might be the type of man we want.
I do not not think that the conception propounded by the hon. Member for Smethwick or the ideas that the Prime Minister intends to carry out are going to re-establish Great Britain in the eyes of the world, and in particular in the eyes of the decent peace-loving nationalities with whom we have most in common. I agree with what the hon. Member said in criticism of the League of Nations. We on these benches have never believed that the League of Nations was anything more than a Utopian dream in a capitalist society. The idea of capitalist nations sitting down in harmony and agreeing to compete peacefully with one another, some with vast possessions, others coveting those vast possessions, was so fantastic that we said that type of instrument could not be set up in the middle of a capitalist world. We have never looked upon the League at any time as an instrument that would help to bring peace. But we are not going away from it. This action of the Government is not a break with the League of Nations; it maintains the same idea which the hon. Member for Smethwick described as the will-o'-the-wisp of collective security.
If we are to move towards the idea of world economic unity, towards a world conception of social justice, we must base our diplomacy on something different from the basis that the League of Nations has laid down, and that this Government and other Governments have tried to follow. We must establish our law and order on the basis of establishing, first, social justice in our own land as between workers and masters. Only on that basis are we going to move towards world stability; a world economic stability, a world of social stability and a world free from war. If the rulers of this country are not prepared to make the necessary sacrifices to establish social justice in this land, they need not think that they can get any safe or easy way of securing peace for Britain in a warring world. I, for one, will support most heartily the Vote of Censure moved by the official Opposition. I agree with the hon. Member for Smethwick that the majority will vote for the Government and against the Vote of Censure in the Lobby to-night. The Vote of Censure will not be carried in this House, but it will be carried in the minds of the majority of people outside, and, in my view, it will be the beginning of the end of National Government in this country.
I am glad, Mr. Speaker, that I have caught your eye at a time when the temperature of the House has reverted to normal, because I want to state shortly and quietly why I support the Government against this Vote of Censure and in doing so I wish to stick to the text which is before us. We are asked to support a Motion that
This House deplores the circumstances in which the Foreign Secretary has been obliged to resign his office.
Many hon. Members have spoken much more about our regret that the right hon. Gentleman had resigned his office, or about a wish to censure the Government, than that he was obliged to resign office. Those are two different points. We may regret deeply that the Foreign Secretary has resigned his office. I do. I think we owe a great deal to him and to the late Under-Secretary. I think they kept the flag flying in times of great difficulty and stood up for us manfully. But I do not agree that he has been forced to resign his office.
We have heard a great deal of eloquence which has been far from the point, but we can always come back to the words of the Foreign Secretary and the Under-Secretary and looking at them it is clear that the exception taken by those two great officers of State was not to having these conversations, but to having conversations at a particular moment or to having conversations before certain preliminary arrangements had been made. One knows that in all these affairs, as in ordinary commercial business, people take different views about exactly how negotiations should be started. But they do not resign and break off with their friends—particularly when that resignation is a matter of great importance—on a question of whether or not a particular moment should be chosen. I do not think either that in ordinary circumstances people would resign on the question of whether or not it was better to force the party with whom the conversations were to take place to grant beforehand certain factors, which would come into negotiation afterwards. If one looks back to the War one can remember that when men were tired and nervous and overworked they resigned. They behaved precisely as the Foreign Secretary and the Under-Secretary have done.
I certainly am, and I think the incident with the previous Foreign Secretary and Abyssinia was very much the same. I think that Foreign Secretary also was overworked, and his judgment was not quite normal. He presented what I believe was a good solution to help the Abyssinians, but he did it in the wrong way and at the wrong time. In the incident we are considering I think the mental balance of the Foreign Secretary was wrong. I do not think he ought to have resigned. I quite understand how when he resigned the loyal Under-Secretary went with him, but I believe the Foreign Secretary made a mistake and I think it is unfair to suggest—at least I do not support the suggestion—that he was forced to resign. I do not think the difference between him and the Prime Minister was enough. Looking at the fact that we have had in two or three years two Foreign Ministers, who, to my mind, failed because they were overworked, I think it is very important that the Government should remember the great strain which is now thrown on a Foreign Secretary. He has to deal with dictators in the morning and talk about the same subject in quite different tones to the Socialist Opposition in the afternoon.
Our Foreign Secretaries have to my mind been handicapped by having attached to them ideas of collective security under Article 16 of the Covenant of the League which we now know could not be carried out but which a few years ago we believed could be carried out. Declarations were made and it was believed that those declarations could be made effective and that Article 16 was a good Article. I do not believe that even if we have the whole world in the League Article 16 would be a proper one to include in the Covenant. The world is probably 100 years away from the state of civilisation in which we could get the overwhelming force and impartial justice necessary to pull up with a sharp brake the nation which breaks the law. I do not want it to be thought that I am an opponent of the League of Nations. The contrary is the case, but I feel that the League has been weakened by having attached to it this unreal Article 16. It was a dramatic Article and it stated a real thing in forcible terms, but the real thing could not be carried out, and I believe that by cutting out that Article from the Covenant the League would be strengthened. One has only to look at the British Empire in order to see how much it gains by not having any coercive clauses at all and how little it would stand if we tried to put in such clauses.
Apart from the question of whether or not the Foreign Secretary was "forced" to resign, there is the question of whether the Prime Minister should be blamed for thinking it wise to start conversations with Italy which may lead to negotiations. I urge the House to remember that we are trying to make peace. We have heard some dramatic orations, particularly from two of our orators, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). But I would not call them speeches which led to peace. The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) claimed his right to say what he thought to anyone anywhere in the world. I agree that we are free men and have freedom of speech, but what I beg every Member of this House to do is to study some of the speeches which have been made here by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury). He appears to have a very sound conception of the proper method of negotiation with foreign Powers. I do not agree with him about not having any Army. But the right hon. Gentleman's view is that you must throw yourself into the mind of the person with whom you are dealing. You must try to look at the problem with his eyes. There is nothing original about that advice. Every business person tries to look at things with the eyes of his customer. Every general tries to look at a situation with the eyes of his opponent and every great assembly like this should try to see the other point of view when discussing contact with its neighbours.
We must not imagine that our neighbours look at these matters as we do. They do not. Take the Covenant of the League, for example. We have been humiliated because we were committed under Article 16 to render to other nations help which we have failed to render. I feel that very much. But we are no more to blame about that than Italy was. Does Italy feel humiliated? Not in the least. I believe you would find that the most honest and excellent Italian citizens, if you took a poll of them, did not feel that they had done anything wrong in connection with the League of Nations. They would not believe that we were objecting to what they had done because of our commitment under the League of Nations. They would say that we were objecting because we feared that our trade would be injured.
How does the hon. Member suggest that the Italians to whom he is referring would reconcile the invasion of Abyssinia with their signature of the Covenant of the League?
I do not think they would try to do so. I am trying to put the hon. Member into the mind of an Italian. I had a conversation with a leading Italian of high character at a time when matters were most critical between this country and Italy, just after the Abyssinian war. He told me and a number of business people exactly why the Italians had done it and what they expected to get and why they have hoped for our help. At the end we said to him, "That is all very well and we can understand all you have said, but what none of us can understand is why, if you had these intentions, you first pledged yourselves that you would not attack Abyssinia and then got us to join in the pledge?" He simply laughed and said, "Oh, at the time the French were getting on friendly terms with the Abyssinians and we wanted to spike their guns and do something as a set-off, so we brought the Abyssinians into the League." But he had no impression that there was anything wrong in that and we must realise that the mentality of other nations is different from ours. That is one reason why we should not bind ourselves strictly by a clause of that kind in the League Covenant.
I give one other instance. Some young friends of mine were in Italy and they got into Italian society. They went to a party where the conversation turned on the difference of customs between England and Italy, and in particular on duels, which was a hot topic because two duels were imminent at the time. My friend was asked: "What happens in England if a man insults you?" He answered that he does not insult me. "What would happen if a man did insult you?" they asked. "I suppose I should laugh at him," he answered. They persisted and asked "What would happen if he went on insulting you?" They seemed to think that that was a critical daily problem.
We must remember that all these nations are on different levels of civilisation and outlook from each other and ourselves. We have before us the great task of pacifying the world. In the last few weeks M. van Zeeland, who has been helping with an inquiry, has brought out his suggestions, and he asks:
How are we to ensure practically the success of such a plan?
Bring together as soon as possible representatives of the principal economic Powers at least France, the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany and Italy … Contact should be of a purely preparatory character.
I regard the conversations with Italy and Germany as absolutely essential to pacifying the world. I believe that trade and peace go together and that we, as a great creditor nation of the world, hold the key to both. If we can join with our neigh-hours we could further the movement which the Prime Minister is at the present moment seeking to start. Do not let us blame him for it. It may be a difficult time and we cannot expect him to guarantee results. At any rate, let us not censure the Government for making the attempt.
I was sorry to interrupt my hon. Friend in the middle of his speech, but it has been assiduously rumoured—I saw it in the "Times" this morning by no less a person than the Chancellor of the Exchequer—that my right hon. Friend resigned and took the action which he did on account of ill-health. I do not believe there is an element of truth in that. I believe that when he took the decision which he did and in which he was supported, though on different grounds, by my Noble Friend, he took it in the full possession of his powers and faculties, and that he had never been better in health since he went to the Foreign Office.
The present Debate has a far wider significance than is contained in the resignation of my right hon. Friend. It was originally suggested that he and my Noble Friend had resigned purely on a point of detail, a petty point. The divergence in yesterday's Debate was whether the resignation had taken place on a point of detail or on principle. If any of us had doubt when we started the Debate this afternoon whether a point of detail was all that was involved, the speech of the Prime Minister must have dispersed it once and for all. He revealed a wholly new conception of foreign policy. Speaking yesterday, my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) said:
In international affairs can anyone define where outlook and methods end and principles begin? "—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st February, 1938; col. 49, Vol. 332.]
I do not think that question arises only in discussing international affairs. Very often the biggest differences arise on this very question of whether outlook and methods are, in fact, principle, or only detail.
My right hon. Friend said in so many words that we were entering these negotiations under a threat, and my Noble Friend went further and used the word "blackmail." The Prime Minister put an entirely different interpretation upon the proposed conversations with Italy, but it must have struck the whole House that there was a wide difference between his interpretation of the assurances and the action of Germany and Italy and that of my right hon. Friend. There was a wide difference of interpretation between my right hon. Friend and the Prime Minister of what, to many hon. Members, must seem the same fact, the same assurances and the same action.
Personally, I should have preferred my right hon. Friend to resign upon the initiation of what is called the Chamberlain-Mussolini correspondence. That was the moment when he should have said: "This is a new experiment and a new technique in diplomacy. We have a new Prime Minister. I disagree with it, and this is the moment when I resign." But who is to judge? The Prime Minister had just taken office and no doubt there were extenuating circumstances of one sort and another, and my right hon. Friend carried on. Another moment when he might have gone was when Lord Halifax went to Germany. There, again, one remembers the extraordinary circumstances in which that visit began, a mere hunting expedition, and so on. What concerns me is that the fundamental difference between the Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend is what my right hon. Friend described as a real difference of outlook and method. That difference is not confined to the Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend, or even to different Members of this House; it seems to run right through the country. It exists, and deeply. It may be that sometimes the difference is a matter of age. Perhaps those who scan the horizon and have many years ahead of them look with rather different eyes at all the problems of to-day from those who have not so many years ahead. I know there are many people who sincerely say that to maintain a certain conduct in international relations at the present time is foolhardy, in face of the existing dangers, but expediency in foreign politics has never been a tenet of the Tory faith. I say frankly, as a Tory, that I believe that in all questions of foreign policy, or indeed of any policy, but particularly foreign policy, right should always come before expediency, whether it be dangerous, difficult or foolhardy.
I have always believed that fear has very little effect upon the conscience of our nation. Listening to the Debates yesterday and to-day, I cannot help feeling—one must speak one's mind on this subject—that the Prime Minister has been forced into the initiation of these conversations partly on account of fear. I agree that he has taken the brave course in coming to the House and stating his point of view, and that it will be much more difficult for the Prime Minister electorally. One should recognise the courage of the Prime Minister in coming here and putting forward his policy which, as he so rightly said, opens him to the danger of grave misrepresentation, and which will be very difficult to explain to the country. None the less, he has made use of opportunities, and is employing methods, which are not in keeping with our traditions and which, even if they are successful, must spoil our good name.
One of the most difficult tasks in this House is to follow a speech with which one has been in agreement. The hon. Member for Kings Norton (Mr. Cartland) has just expressed the view that if he had had any doubt as to the justification of the view that there was a considerable divergence between the late Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister, that justification would have been found in the speech of the Prime Minister this afternoon. Those of us who have sat through the whole of this Debate must have had our minds filled with a wide variety of feelings, varying according to our disposition in the House, that we were living for a moment in the middle of drama and of grave responsibility in international affairs. That feeling was shared by every Member on these benches. We listened, in the terms of the Prime Minister's speech, to one of the most deplorable political utterances that this House has heard for a very long time.
I want now to turn to the terms of the Motion of Censure. It deplores the circumstances in which the late Foreign Secretary was obliged to resign his office, and expresses lack of confidence in his Majesty's present advisers in their conduct—that is to say, their general conduct—of foreign affairs. In examining my own attitude towards the terms of the Motion, I ask myself three questions. In the first place, this Government has been in office for six years, and the Prime Minister, with two bright exceptions, has had some responsibility for the conduct of British foreign policy for the last 14 or 15 years. I would ask the House to inquire whether in those six years peace has been made more secure in Europe by the policy of the British Government, or whether, on the contrary, insecurity and suspicion do not abound in 1938 where they were almost completely non-existent in 1930 and 1931. Is it not the case that, as I said in this House 10 days or so ago, in 1931, when the Labour party left office, Europe was a peaceful continent, looking forward hopefully to disarmament and social expansion? Is it not the case that now, after six years of deplorable British foreign policy, Europe is shivering with fear on the brink of war?
Is it not the case, too, that at the end of 1931 there was still a chance with the exercise of some generosity, to save democracy in Germany; and has not the continued policy of the Government itself contributed to that baffling problem in Europe to which it has attempted to adjust itself by re-orientation in the last 48 hours? Peace is less secure than it was six years ago, largely because of the foreign policy of the British Government. War is nearer to-day in Europe than it was six years ago. Nobody doubts that. It is in our language; it is in our legislation. Hardly a day has passed in the House for the last six months on which some piece of legislation has not adjusted and related itself to the probability of international war. Aramaments—again largely because of the foreign policy of the Government—are being prepared for an event that must come if arms continue to be so prepared. In that sense the Prime Minister's repudiation of the League as an instrument of national policy is no departure suddenly decided upon today. In a speech at Birmingham on the 18th of this month, the right hon. Gentleman made the following, to my mind, astounding and deplorable statement:
The second point is to make Britain so strong that nobody will dare to attack her.
That takes us back 25 years or more, to the pre-war age when every first-class nation in Europe was trying to build a navy twice as big as that of every other first-class nation. When the mathematical impossibility of that was disclosed by the explosion of 1914, the world, as soon as it could, turned its back upon the arms race of pre-war years; but the Prime Minister's statements at Birmingham and in his first speech yesterday take us back again to the isolationist policy of pre-war years, to a mad arms race at the end of which there must inevitably be world war. The answer to my second question clearly is that war is nearer to-day than it was six years ago.
My third question is: Is democracy safer in the world to-day, as a result of the policy of the Government, than it was six years ago; and will an agree- ment with Italy contribute to the safeguarding of democracy where democratic institutions have still been preserved in the world? I have heard five Cabinet Ministers on various occasions in various Debates declare their indifference to the outcome of the Spanish conflict. I do not believe that it is possible at the same time to love democracy at home and to be completely indifferent to its fate abroad. I believe that, with this constant creeping paralysis of democratic institutions on the Continent of Europe, with this constant and ever-increasing darkening of what were the instruments of political enlightenment, we in this country carry an increasingly grave responsibility for preserving here, and for using all the power and prestige at our command to preserve in the world, the instruments of democracy and peace, and for making quite certain that whatever policy we pursue is pursued with a desire to preserve our beacon light, flicker however it may.
Not only has the instrument of democracy been jeopardised, peace made less secure, and war brought inevitably nearer by the foreign policy of the British Government in the last six years, but the reorientation of policy in the last 48 hours is only the logical result of the policy which has been pursued for the last six years. I do not believe that that new policy can be more fairly assessed than by inquiring in what countries it has been received, on the one hand with jubilation, and, on the other hand, with disappointment. Who is rejoicing in the world to-day? No doubt hon. Members "aw the "Evening Standard" placard:
Eden: Rome pleased.
But what of the United States, France, Scandinavia, China, Spain, Abyssinia? Are they rejoicing, or have they, on the contrary, a feeling of disappointment? Is not all the rejoicing on the part of the bullying Powers of Europe? There has been no more profound change in the atmosphere of the world in the short space of six years than has been made in the period between 1931 and the end of 1937. I suggest that, tested in the three ways I have indicated, the Motion should receive the support of all those in the House who detest war and seek to preserve the instruments of democracy and peace.
I make no apology for supporting most enthusiastically the declaration on foreign policy which the Prime Minister has made this afternoon. If I venture to deal a little bitterly with one or two of the speeches that have been made, it is because I believe that plain speaking on both sides is as much needed to-day as it has been at any time. A good deal of heat has been engendered in the Debate, but I could not help wondering what object in the interest of peace could possibly have been served by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). As for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), I could not help wondering, in view of the fact that he was prepared, now that the Prime Minister's policy had been inaugurated, to watch it with a not entirely unhopeful eye, why, if that is his view, he has found it necessary to say so many things, particularly in regard to the visit of my Noble Friend Lord Halifax to Berlin, which can do no good, and can only give new reasons for criticisms in the foreign Press at the present time.
But the task which the House has set itself is, if hon. Members opposite are successful—which of course, they will not be—to pass a vote of Censure upon the Government because the Foreign Secretary has found it necessary to resign. A great deal of what has been said in this Debate has been completely irrelevant to that issue. To start with, we had an extremely lengthy speech from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) in which he made great play with the fact that he thought that we had not fulfilled our pledges for 1935. But the Foreign Secretary has not resigned as a matter of principle because he was dissatisfied with the way in which our pledges had been kept since 1935. Reference has also been made to Abyssinia. But it is equally obvious, that whatever may be the reason why the Foreign Secretary has resigned, it is not because it may be that at some period we are going to consider the recognition of the conquest of the province of Ethiopia. In fact, the strongest protagonist of the late Foreign Secretary, the hon. Member for West Leicester (Mr. Nicolson), when he made a most eloquent, and, if I may say so, a somewhat extravagant speech last night, said he would be prepared, if we could make a good deal, to consider recognition of the province of Abyssinia. Beyond that, it has been suggested with some vigour on certain sides of the House that in no circumstances should we have any truck with dictators in these times. But hon. Members know as well as I do that the Foreign Secretary did not resign because he was opposed in any circumstances to negotiations with dictator Powers. As the House knows well, the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) hit the thing off when he said that we all knew that there had been conversations between Italy and the late Foreign Secretary going on for weeks and months. No, the resignation is not due to any great principle about negotiations with dictators.
We come down to what appears to be the true position as it stands to-day. It is not right, I think, to take the somewhat easy way out that the hon. Member for the City of London (Sir A. Anderson) took, and say that people get a bit ill, a bit nervous, a bit upset and then they resign. That is, I think, a little underestimating what the position must have been. What it does amount to is a matter of degree. When we come down to these principles one by one and ask whether there was any fundamental objection to negotiating with dictators, any fundamental objection to the recognition of the province of Ethiopia, or any fundamental difference over the League of Nations, the answer is, no. The statement by the Prime Minister this afternoon rather cleared that up, because when he laid down his view with regard to future policy over the League of Nations, he showed that there was no departure from support of the League as such, but that there was definitely a positive policy laid down rather than a negative policy—and it is a negative policy which, rightly or wrongly, we have been pursuing for the last two or three years. Our policy has been, "Remain in the League, keep fairly quiet, and wait until the time may come when we can give some sort of lead to the world." But you cannot go on being negative for ever.
To-day, we have three courses before us, and I suggest that a very short consideration of them explains more clearly than anything else what happened with regard to the Cabinet differences. The first is the course that hon. Members opposite would adopt. They say it is no use having truck with dictators; the only thing is to get an alliance between all the democratic nations of the world—this is what the hon. Member for Clay Cross (Mr. Ridley) suggested—rally them together, and then make a deal with the dictators. That is an understandable view, but it is rather curious that the democracies of the world, when they are considering action of that kind, always include the great authoritarian country of Russia.
I do not think it is so much a matter of the democratic nations as the nations which during the last few years have shown a readiness to stand by their treaties. It is not the democratic countries, but the countries which keep faith.
The hon. Member has helped me a lot. I confess that for a long time I have been wondering what those democratic countries were. The hon. Member assures me that to keep the spirit of liberty beating in your breast you need not be a democratic country. It is only necessary that for some time you should not have broken any specific treaty. As far as Russia is concerned, she has none that she could break. I am obliged to the hon. Member.
But, as I said, it is understandable to say, "We will break the Fascist States by an alliance of all those States that are not Fascist." But if that were the policy which the Government were to adopt today, it would make a world war inevitable. If you say you are going to ally yourself with the democratic countries—giving the democratic countries the rather wide definition that the hon. Member for Barnstaple (Mr. Acland) has given them—in order, through the League of Nations, to maintain the status quo, you are going to create difficulties. The great difficulty of dealing with States outside the League to-day has been that there are States which believe that the League is being used, under the guise of high morality, by Britain and France to maintain the status quo. That policy would mean that we should be drawing closer and closer to a conflict between Fascist and Popular Front governments, with ourselves among the Popular Fronts. If the position is one and indivisible that policy must lead to war, and I tremble to think, whichever side won, what the state of civilisation would be if another world war were lightly entered upon. There is the course which has been adopted by the Government for a considerable time of more or less waiting upon events in a negative way while supporting, at the same time, the general policy of the League. You cannot continue to do that. What is it? I notice that the hon. Member for West Leeds (Mr. V. Adams) is amused.
I am very much obliged to the hon. Member for West Leeds for explaining his own little joke. If you stay absolutely still, you cannot draw any nearer towards getting a strong, peaceful relationship among the big Powers of Western Europe. The result of standing still must mean that you have to do it more and more, with England and France going one way, and Italy and Germany the other. Although it would take longer to get the world split up than it would by an immediate alliance with the democratic Powers, inevitably you would have the same division between the States as at the present time. The Prime Minister has found at this period, apparently from the point of view of the Italian Government, the best opportunity of discussing the difficulties between this country and the Duce. The right hon. Member for Epping was apparently doubtful, and said that the time was bad and that you ought to lay down certain conditions precedent before you do that. The Foreign Office view, for which there was something to be said, was in respect of the danger which would affect all Europe if the right steps were not taken at the proper time. That danger must have determined the Prime Minister and the Cabinet to say, "If there is a real opportunity now, we are not going to make it difficult and try to upset the atmosphere by insisting upon this and that, playing into the hands of this new Italy, which believes that we never wanted to negotiate and that we have always, behind the scenes, tried to get Italy down." They say that they will get through the red tape and the old diplomacy and will meet them half way, so as to be able to negotiate upon level and open terms without insisting upon steps which might be described in any way as a curtailment of prestige by the other Powers.
That is what the Cabinet are doing, and that is the difference between the positive policy of trying to bring the great nations of Europe together and the negative policy of simply drifting along. The difference at some time or other had to come up, and I am glad it has come up, although, like other hon. Members of the House, one deeply regrets that these steps have occurred. As it is, it is far better to get on with the job and to have a definite policy than have no policy at all. If the Prime Minister, by acting with speed and precision, and by treating Italy as a human country, and not as a country of barbaric beasts, which is rather the attitude of certain hon. Members opposite, does something to draw Italy, Germany and France more closely together, we shall have gone some way towards the possibility of a peaceful Europe. The Prime Minister is criticised to-day, as a man who takes a bold decision will always be criticised. That man may well go down to history as the great peacemaker of this age.
The hon. Member for South-East Essex (Mr. Raikes) in his very fine defence of the Government's policy has been good enough to say—and I entirely agree with him—that we should do no harm by speaking frankly. I am glad that he said that. I do not think that we do any harm either abroad or in this country. Indeed abroad our speeches are simply not printed if they are not satisfactory to foreign States. It is the fact, for example, that in Italy yesterday, not even the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the late Foreign Secretary was printed at all in the newspapers. That is a remarkable commentary on the subject which we have to discuss to-day.
We are asked two simple questions in the Motion which is put before the House, The first is whether or not we approve of the circumstances in which the late Foreign Secretary was forced to resign his office. The second is whether or not we have confidence in His Majesty's advisers on foreign affairs. To the second question I can give no answer at the present time. To the first question my Friends and I, several of us, had wished to move an Amendment leaving out the second part of the Motion which hon. Members opposite have moved. Mr. Speaker did not accept that Amendment, but I have risen in order to express the views of those who had wished to put down that Amendment, and, in addressing myself for a few moments to the House, I want to refer to some recent events in Europe, to Herr Hitler's actions and Herr Hitler's speech, and to the resignation of the late Foreign Secretary, and how much it was due to matters of principle and to the new policy. If there is a new policy I am entitled to inquire whether or not there has in fact been a loss of prestige of this country, and what effect that may have upon the future, I would preface my remarks by saying two things.
First of all, I am convinced of the conviction of the Prime Minister and his absolute sincerity in all the actions that he has taken in the last few days. I believe with him that realism is the only way to peace. For ten years or more this country was ruled in its foreign affairs by an optimism which was unwarranted and false, platitudinous, cliché-ridden, sentimental and sacrosanct. An optimism which was based upon the entirely false assumption of human nature itself had been purged by four years of the agony of war. May we never return to that sort of optimism. May we always face the facts, as, I am convinced, the Prime Minister is trying to do now. He has been accused of naivete. If you have to deal with people with acute inferiority complexes it may well be you are more likely to be successful if you are absolutely simple and naive.
Having said that, I want to oppose his point of view, but I want also to add that I do not found my convictions upon the arguments of hon. Members opposite. I do not believe that one side in Spain must be allowed to win. I believe in belligerent rights; and absolute neutrality; and in non-intervention. I do not believe that the League of Nations is at present an effective method of getting peace in the world. As for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) he does not come here for months and months, and then he arrives, and it is just as though a vulture had smelled a carcase from a long way off. He almost persuaded me to vote for the Government this evening. His blandishments, the adulation of the Council of Action, and the resolutions of so-called Peace Societies, must be not the least obnoxious torments which are causing the late Foreign Secretary anguish in his ordeal these days. They must be thoroughly and whole-heartedly hateful to him. Indeed my argument would completely fail if the late Foreign Secretary was not also a realist. My whole contention is based on the fact that his was a policy of realism.
May I give to the House in a brief form my view of the situation? Last week Herr Hitler forced the Austrian Chancellor to make certain internal changes. At that time Signor Mussolini was in his country cottage at Abruzzi, and when telephoned to said he could not in fact do anything to assist Dr. Schuschnigg. What did that fact represent in Europe? I maintain that it represented the deliberate choice, the conscious surrender, of Signor Mussolini of his interests in Europe. It was a deliberate choice of his dream of an empire around the Mediterranean rather than security in the middle of Europe. I believe the Austrian coup does not denote any cause for the breaking of the Rome-Berlin axis or the weakening of either end of that axis, but rather that it was a revelation of the actual basis of that axis—Herr Hitler saying "this is my field and that is yours."
That coup was succeeded shortly afterwards by Herr Hitler's speech last Sunday, and I think it is relevant to remind the House of the five major points in that speech. It contained a definite threat to Czechoslovakia. It contained an assurance that he and Italy were interested in the victory of one side in Spain. It contained a violent attack on democratic methods and the League and it contained a renewed claim for colonies without any indication that Herr Hitler was willing to make any concessions to what is usually called a general settlement, whatever that rather vague phantasmagoria, which we are unwilling to dismiss from our minds, may mean. Finally, it contained an open attack on the late Foreign Secretary.
I hope the House will notice one point, that Italy before last Sunday morning had given an assurance to Germany over Spain, an assurance that she was interested in one side. It was an
assurance given some time before Sunday morning because it was quoted in Herr Hitler's speech. On the same Sunday morning apparently, a telegram was received by Count Grandi which was handed to the Prime Minister on Monday, a telegram which made it clear that Italy was willing to accept the British formula for the withdrawal of volunteers from Spain. I want to ask whether these two assurances are consistent one with the other—I think it is relevant to our discussion—to ask whether they are compatible, these two assurances, the assurance that they were interested in one side in Spain and the assurance that they were willing to accept the British formula. Of course there is one other possible indication which I think was touched on by the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), the possibility that Signor Mussolini does in fact recognise what is probably true, that his troops in Spain are not likely to have much influence on the course of the war in Spain. On Sunday evening the Foreign Secretary resigned. Germany had openly attacked him; Italy had attacked him for months. Without any question he was the principal stumbling block, the main moral adversary and the practical antagonist of the methods of these two countries. He made the Leamington speech. His was the triumph of the Nyon Agreement. It may have been a coincidence, I think it was, this synchronisation of great events. I think the whole House will agree that it was a peculiarly tragic coincidence for this country, a tragic coincidence which anyone who looks at the world Press this morning must realise. I do not want to quote from Left-Wing papers all over the world, but "Pertinax" in Paris, who is known as a responsible journalist, said:
The totalitarian States can credit themselves with the failure of British power.
The American Press can be read by hon. Members for themselves, and the Berlin correspondent of the "Times" has an article this morning which also speaks for itself. In Italy there is public rejoicing. In the Empire the reception has been uniformly unfavourable. One fact seems to me to dominate the whole situation, and it is a most significant fact, that is that in certain countries the impression has been perhaps wrongly gained that England has dismissed her Foreign Secretary in order to please, to come to terms
with, Germany and Italy; that England has in fact suffered an immense loss of prestige in the world. It may be, and I hope it is, a temporary loss of prestige. Everyone must hope that, but that it is a loss of prestige I cannot divorce from my mind. It was said by some hon. Member yesterday, if it is prestige or peace, then we prefer peace, but I cannot divorce from my mind the fact that prestige is the principal safeguard against war; that the prestige of this country is the greatest guarantee this country can have for peace.
I want to see this country a power for peace in the world. When Germany's difficulties are great, when junkers and big business men, Protestants and Catholics, the army, and the old Foreign Office, all these elements of moderation, are being subjected to ruthless subjection, when Italy's finances are in disorder, when her expedition to Abyssinia is in the greatest difficulties, and reinforcements have to be sent there, it seems to me to be peculiarly tragic that we should show any sign of weakness. I cannot regard the events of the last few days as anything but an ostensible sign of weakness in face of the world. We have done it with the knowledge that we are not, in fact, weakening the Berlin-Rome axis at either end and that we are not, in fact, reducing Italy's alliance with Germany to any less formidable proportions; we have done it with the knowledge of the way in which Italy has treated her agreements in the past; and we have done it—I think this is the reason the late Foreign Secretary resigned—without any sort of testimony—for the Bari broadcasts stopped only yesterday—that there was any real change of heart in Italy.
May I say a word or two about the man who is going? He was a stone-waller; he had to be. He had to bat on a very bad wicket, because he had two bad predecessors. I wish to be absolutely candid when I say that I think he was let down before he took office. I do not believe that he could have carried himself in that office with greater dignity, or with greater dignity for this country, and I believe he can look back upon his period of office with the consolation that never did he lower the prestige in which his country was held. I would like to say a word or two to the new Foreign Secretary. [HON. MEMBERS: "Who is he?"] The new temporary Foreign Secretary. Everyone wishes him well in his task. There was a' former Lord Halifax, known, I believe, as the "Trimmer" in our history books, who made one very wise remark. He said: "Liberty can neither be got nor kept but by so much care that mankind are often unwilling to pay the price for it." Let the new Foreign Secretary, whoever he may be, never be afraid of the British people. If the day comes when they are unwilling to pay the price for the liberty which they cherish, then they will be unworthy of their great possessions in the world. The British people will never let down the Foreign Secretary if only he will pursue a policy of simple right and truth.
It is with a certain amount of diffidence that I intervene in this Debate. My main concern since I became a Member of the House has been for domestic affairs, and foreign affairs have seemed to be far away from most of the topics on which I have spoken in the House. My time has been spent very largely in looking after the Special Areas, and the foreign field has seemed to be distant from the Special Areas; but on consideration, I find that there is a connection between home and foreign affairs important enough to warrant my intervening in this Debate, although I am principally what may be called a "homer." In the foreign field we find areas which, like the Special Areas in this country, need special attention.
The office of Foreign Secretary in any country in Europe during the last 20 years has been a very troublous one. It always was a difficult position, but since the Great War it has been still more difficult. The Versailles Treaty has increased the gravity of the problems of foreign affairs. These resignations, like other resignations in the past in this country and in other countries, are merely incidents arising from the Versailles Treaty. In this country we have seen, under the influence of the Versailles Treaty, the resignation of a few Foreign Secretaries. Only two years ago, a Foreign Secretary was compelled to resign by the force of public opinion outside the House, because people had expected the National Government to stand by their pledge regarding the League of Nations and collective security.
The same public opinion now repudiates the action of the Government in compelling the late Foreign Secretary to resign. The Prime Minister stated that the policy of the Government is now one outside the League of Nations, but he has brought forward no new policy. It is the old theory of the balance of power, which has always resulted in catastrophic wars. The Four-Power Pact mentioned by the Prime Minister, with two democratic Governments and two dictatorships forming it, is the old policy of the balance of power. In dealing with the two dictatorships, the Prime Minister has superseded his own Foreign Secretary. When he wanted to deal with the German dictator, Herr Hitler, instead of sending the Foreign Secretary to Berlin he sent Lord Halifax to hold conversations; and when he wanted to have conversations with Signor Mussolini, instead of entrusting them to the Foreign Secretary, he undertook them himself. When I was a boy there were some lozenges sold that were called "conversational lozenges," and the conversational lozenges that have passed between Mussolini and the Prime Minister are like those which I got when I was a boy—they contain merely sweet nothings. At any rate, those supersessions by the Prime Minister were too much for the ex-Foreign Secretary. The two countries that are most joyful to-day are not this country and France, but those two countries which for a long time have been seeking the removal of the late Foreign Secretary.
The accumulation of indignities poured upon the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) resulted in his resignation. I hold no brief for the late Foreign Secretary. He is of age; let him speak for himself. He has done so nobly and honourably. He has refused to be relegated to the position of office boy at the Foreign Office. He has shown dignity worthy of a Durham man, for he is a Durham man; and I only wish that he had shown that strength of character a year ago. However, the Members of the Cabinet have turned their backs on the right hon. Gentleman. In the early history of the human race, when the first two human beings who inhabited the world turned their backs on Eden, a great curse was put upon them. Let that be a warning to the National Government. Public opinion will vindicate the late Foreign Secretary. We have a symbol in Durham County called the Durham ox, the symbol of strength and courage; and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington, as a Durham man, has lived up to that symbol. For the moment the Prime Minister may seem to be on top, but I believe that the Prime Minister will live long enough to sing, if he does sing, the words of the popular song, "The greatest mistake of my life."
I do not wish to refer to the first part of the Motion, except to say that, in common with thousands, indeed, tens of thousands of my fellow countrymen, I have regarded the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) as especially representative of a great hope and a great ideal. I have regarded him as representing in his person the conception of a new world to be formed out of the torture of the War, which was to be run by ideals of justice and decency instead of by methods of brute force. Now the right hon. Gentleman has resigned his great office and the vision seems to some extent dimmed. I sincerely regret the departure of the right hon. Gentleman. I regret even more the dimming of the vision. The right hon. Gentleman and those who have held the same beliefs have lost a very important battle, although I do not believe they have lost the whole campaign. We deceive ourselves if, either in the House or in the country, we pretend that this battle was lost last Sunday or in the crisis over the week-end. It was not lost then.
My own feeling is that expressed by the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) that this battle was lost through the long period of years since the Treaty of Versailles, and that it is impossible to attribute it to any particular case of bad generalship or cowardice or weakness. It is grotesque to present this issue which is being raised to-night as a clash between the forces of evil as represented by the Prime Minister, shrewd, narrow and short-sighted, and the forces of righteousness and generosity as represented by Members who rally behind the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood). That is presenting the issue in far too simple a form. I am afraid that the clash which has undoubtedly taken place is a clash not between parties or policies, not between personalities, as I have heard it described, but a clash between our hopes which were strong, and the facts which have unfortunately proved to be very much stronger.
What are the facts of the position today? I do not see how anybody can deny the truth of the picture which was drawn by the Prime Minister yesterday of two great groups of powerful States ranged together behind their own frontiers, arming feverishly and glaring at each other, and drifting inevitably towards a world war and world cataclysm. I do not see how it is possible for anybody to deny that that is the situation, and, having listened to the Debate, I do not see how anybody can deny that the Prime Minister did right in attempting to break out of this appalling vicious circle of hatred, suspicion and anger. It is true that the course he has adopted is full of danger and of all kinds of possibilities of failure, but I do not see that any other course which has been put forward is an absolutely safe and certain path to follow. On the contrary, it seems to me that every criticism which has been directed against the policy of the Prime Minister has been completely sterile. There has been no constructive suggestion for any path which would lead us definitely towards a peaceful settlement of Europe.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) paid a great and deserved tribute to the late Foreign Secretary and pointed out the great work he had done for this country and for Europe during the past two years. I do not think anybody, including the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping and the ex-Foreign Secretary, would claim that his policy, which has been carried on most gallantly under the greatest possible difficulties and with a great measure of success, has succeeded in creating in Europe a system of international peace; or that anybody would deny that in the last two years the international situation has drifted from bad to worse. However much of a shock this crisis has been to the people of this country, I am sure that they will before very long come to the view that the Prime Minister has taken a gallant, a courageous and the only possible course at the present time.
After all, it is always possible to have a war. It is always possible for this country to stand still on our national dignity and on our national conception of honour and justice and to slide into a war. We can do that at any time. If the Prime Minister's policy fails, as it might, we have always the other policy to fall back on, but if we adopt now that other policy which will inevitably lead us into a world war, there is no alternative before us. That is, I am sure, a belief which will become increasingly shared by the electorate of this country.
I said earlier that the vision which I like to think I shared with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington has been dimmed, but I do not believe that it has been put out entirely. I do not share the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Wise). I believe it is still possible to erect an international system based on the conception of reason and justice. I am sure it is not possible to erect that system on a basis of hatred, fear, suspicion and anger such as exist to-day. If the Prime Minister and the Government are able to sweep away some of that suspicion and anger, there is some hope for the League of Nations and for that conception. But if they are unable to do that there is no hope at all.
Mr. V. Adams:
I have had to give a very proper undertaking to be brief, so the House will forgive me if I speak at very great speed. We have heard a speech of cardinal importance from the Prime Minister. It had a dual effect upon me. I was both impressed and depressed. I was impressed by the fissiparous outspokenness of the right hon. Gentleman and also by the anarchic and archaic philosophy that underlay his speech. My right hon. Friend asked for magnanimity. Incredible as it may seem, he asked for magnanimity for the Italians! I should like to know how, in logic, one can be magnanimous to people who are bullying you. It seems about as logical as asking people to be magnanimous to a man-eating tiger or to a raging forest fire. There was no mention in his speech of any magnanimity towards the victims of the Italians, namely, the Ethiopians. Incidentally those unhappy people are our victims also, and the victims of all the States Members of the League, in that we promised to defend them against the aggression of Italy. Moreover, the Prime Minister to-day has virtually torpedoed the traditional conception of the League of Nations. Not in so many words, but in effect he has repudiated Article 10, even if he wishes, for reasons that I cannot understand, for the documentary survival of Article 16.
Only the other day the late Foreign Secretary was saying publicly at Geneva, with his great and incomparable courage, that in the view of the Government the League of Nations was still the best instrument for the preservation of international peace. No wonder he has resigned. Worst of all perhaps, the Prime Minister's speech has brought visibly nearer the prospect and the possibility of the violent demise of Czechoslovakia, and if so, within measurable time we shall see stretching across the Continent of Europe a Nazi dominion from the Baltic in the North to the Balkans in the South and it will be a pretty poor look-out for the Western democracies of France and Great Britain, which are to-day the citadels of decency. It is not true, as the hon. Member for the City of London (Sir A. Anderson) said to-night and the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. McCorquodale) said last night, that the right hon. Gentleman is down or ill or in any special need of a rest. This miserable fiction is being repeated in that organ of cowardice and conventional camouflage, the "Times." My right hon. Friend is no more ill than the hon. Member for the City of London. I expect that to-day, with a clear conscience, he feels considerably less sick than some of his former colleagues. His speech last night did not exhibit any of the symptoms of neurasthenia. It was the speech of a robust, courageous and honourable man. I should like to thank the hon. Member for South Derbyshire (Mr. Emrys-Evans), a particularly close friend of the late Foreign Secretary, for his speech last night. It was right for someone to assess that which we have lost. The right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington is the soul of honour. In his public and private relationships he has perfectly exhibited the spirit of the lines:
To thine own self be true
And it must follow as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.
My right hon. Friend said that we all desire the maintenance of peace, but he has recognised that we shall not avoid war by always running away from the threat of it nor, to quote the late Under-Secretary, by surrendering to blackmail. My Noble Friend's speech seemed no less compelling than that of the Foreign Secretary. It has perhaps received less than its due. Between those two gentlemen and their late colleagues there has emerged this fundamental divergence of principle. Those two intended to work and succeeded in working the League method, but the rest of them seemed quite unable to resist a temptation to limit their respect for League ideals to speeches upon the hustings. If I may speak personally, I feel in all sincerity the resignation of the Foreign Secretary like a blow. Although during the last six or seven years that I have been in the House I could count the number of conversations I have had with him on the fingers of two hands, but I have conceived for him an admiration which has bordered upon affection. But I do not think his absence will last very long. In my view he is an inevitable leader. To-day not the least brilliant and not the least honourable Member of the administration has left the Government. Meanwhile what happened yesterday and the day before will thrill every pro-Fascist and elate every pro-Nazi in the country and throughout the world. The substantial effect of what has happened is that decency and respect for international obligations, for which my right hon. Friend in excelsis stood, have been momentarily eclipsed. We are presented with a plain issue between right and wrong, and I feel bound to oppose the Government, not because I wish to support His Majesty's Opposition, but because it is the only way in which I can show my loyalty to my right hon. Friend.
As I listened yesterday to that noble speech I could not help saying to myself, "Thank God at long last we have found a man in this democracy who is not afraid to stand up to the dictators." It is apparently denied on high authority from the Front Bench that the right hon. Gentleman's head is the price of Signor Mussolini's gesture—the Italian Agreement. But have the Government really forgotten the history of 1935 as thoroughly as apparently the Prime Minister forgets the essential details of the Nyon Agreement? I should like to carry back the mind of the House to the summer of 1935. Time and time again Signor Mussolini promised to settle that cardinal and decisive controversy by peaceful means, though all the time through the canal his legions were being poured to blister, to blast and to butcher the naked Ethiopians. If precedents are anything to judge by, Signor Mussolini is utterly incapable of keeping a mere verbal undertaking. On that ground my right hon. Friend, in default of some practical gesture going beyond a mere promise, was right to resign.
Do the Government really think that a weak and accommodating policy towards Signor Mussolini is going to fail to encourage Herr Hitler? I agree that Herr Hitler is the main and most formidable danger to European peace. If he feels that the democratic Powers are never able to make a stand, clearly he will go forward with the procession of aggressions upon which he has already so clearly embarked. Speeches that are inconvenient to dictators are never printed in totalitarian countries. So I can say that if Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini were to fall, I believe that Europe would breathe again. It seems to me an absurd thing for this country to try to bolster up Signor Mussolini when he is in patent economic difficulties at home. If he were to fall, collective security would again be a possibility, and I believe this nation and Europe would see before them an era of decency, good faith and peace. To direct our foreign affairs towards these ends, we need the best man available. I hate to have to say it, but the best man has gone.
The discussions here yesterday and to-day have, in the personal sense, been painful, I think, to many quarters in the House. We on this side have for a considerable time criticised with vigour the foreign policy of His Majesty's Government, and, therefore, we have criticised and attacked the late Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and we withdraw some of that criticism. At Question Time we have shot questions and supplementaries at him and in that pro- cess I have taken my part from time to time. Nevertheless, I think that few of us can fail to feel some sense of tragedy, about this particular departure of a Minister from office. I have always felt intuitively that the late Foreign Secretary wished to do better in foreign affairs than his colleagues were willing that he should do, and I feel with the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) that there has departed from among His Majesty's advisers one of those younger men of the Conservative party who had ideals, who had visions, who had aims, which commanded sympathy outside the strict political circles within which he moved. Therefore, while we are not going to withdraw from the critical line we adopted towards the policy for which the late Foreign Secretary was responsible, we can join, in principle, in the note of regret and of sympathy and, within limitations, in the tributes which were paid to the right hon. Gentleman by the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) and the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, and I am sure that it must have been pleasing to the late Foreign Secretary to receive those tributes from two such doughty champions in politics.
My only regret is that the Prime Minister himself, who was the chief of the late Foreign Secretary, with whom he worked for many years, did not spare time to pay the tribute he might have paid—one, at any rate, up to the standard of the right hon. Members for Epping and Carnarvon Boroughs. I think the Prime Minister has been a little unkind to the late Foreign Secretary. If I may say so, I think nothing would have been lost in this Debate if the Prime Minister had gone out of his way to pay adequate tribute to the work of a departed colleague, adequate tribute to the labours he has performed as a Member of his Government in the field of foreign affairs. [Interruption.] Well, that is a matter of judgment, and I do not think that the Prime Minister did.
This situation arises from a dispute between the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary. I think none of us would dispute the right of the Prime Minister, as the head of the Government of the day, to have a voice in, and to be consulted about, the policy and the actions of every Department of State. But I think I speak for many hon. Members. not only those on this side, when I say that I have a feeling that the attitude of the new Prime Minister in relation to the work of the Foreign Secretary went beyond the reasonable rights of the head of the Government, that he unduly, ostentatiously and publicly interfered with the functions and the responsibilities of the Foreign Secretary, and that he weakened the authority of the Foreign Secretary in the eyes of the world. I hasten to suggest that it is a dangerous thing for any Prime Minister to weaken the authority of the Foreign Secretary who has got to deal with foreign Governments. It is right that the Prime Minister should be consulted, it is right that he should have an effective voice, but let it be remembered that it is the Foreign Secretary who has to deal with foreign Governments. He has to deal with those holding similar positions in foreign Governments, and it is profoundly dangerous if the impression has been created, which I think has been growing even since the Prime Minister took office as Prime Minister, that though the Foreign Secretary may be the titular holder of the office, real policy on foreign affairs is determined not by him but directly or indirectly by the Prime Minister himself. Even if the Prime Minister intervenes in the conduct of foreign affairs, and I do not deny his right to do so, it is profoundly important if the work of the Foreign Secretary is to be done properly that he should act in such a way that the public status of the Foreign Secretary, his full authority, is maintained. I have a feeling—I say it without bitterness; I say it with deep regret—that the late Foreign Secretary has been stabbed in the back with an Italian dagger, and that the stabbing has been done by his own Ministerial colleagues during recent times. Therefore, it does seem to me that the Foreign Secretary has experienced unfortunate treatment.
We are still in something of a maze about the note which was handed in by Count Grandi. It is curious that the handing-in of that note should have been delayed until Monday morning. It was known that the Cabinet were having a critical session with regard to our attitude towards Italy. Surely the proper thing on the part of the Italian Ambassador would have been to hand that note, which he received on the Sunday morning, promptly to the Foreign Office, in order that the proper Minister might have been made aware of its contents officially, and it is curious that it was not handed in. Then it was handed to the Prime Minister, apparently after the resignation of the Foreign Secretary, and one feels that there was here a little bit of tactics as between the late Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister—[HON. MEMBERS: "As between Count Grandi and the Prime Minister"]—well, on the part of the Ambassador as between the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister, which reinforces my feeling that we have reached a situation in which, at any rate, one foreign Power had become convinced that it could play off the Prime Minister against the Foreign Secretary.
I heard the exchange between the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs and the Prime Minister and, if I may say so, thoroughly enjoyed it, because I think a little bit of real fighting in the House is good now and again. I heard it, and at the end I was not clear about what had happened. Moreover, if there was an unofficial third party intervening between the official representative of His Majesty's Government and the official representative of a foreign Power, I really think the House of Commons has a right to know who it was. I ask the Prime Minister to enable the Minister of Agriculture, who, I understand, will reply, to give us the information. Further, I should like to know whether this is the first occasion of the kind. I think it would be regrettable if unofficial persons were mischievously and irresponsibly having access to the Prime Minister, whether those unofficial persons be located in London or in Rome and whether the unofficial person be a man or a woman. The newspapers are talking about these things, which have created an atmosphere that is not too good, and I think there is a responsibility on the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister to clear the matter up.
There is another point that I should like to have cleared up. Who was it in Government circles that was giving the Press two stories the week-end before last? Who was it that was inspiring some newspapers to say that there was a row on between the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister and inspiring other newspapers to say that there was no row on between the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister? I have reason to believe that both those stories were inspired from Government quarters, and I only ask the Prime Minister to enable the Minister to clear that up. Was that coming from Government quarters; was a Minister involved in the promotion of those stories? That ought to be cleared up, because I think that the meanest of all ways of damaging a Ministerial colleague is to utilise the newspapers for that purpose.
Nobody will be more delighted than I am if the Prime Minister—[Interruption.] I do not know whether the Prime Minister knows all about the expensive publicity and public-relations machine that his Government have created in various State Departments, and I only ask him to make sure and let the House know when he can. As I say, nobody will be more delighted than I shall if it can be made very clear that the newspapers were not manipulated against the Foreign Secretary by members of His Majesty's Government or persons acting on their behalf. We feel, I think by now the House generally feels, that since the new Prime Minister took office there has been a change of attitude on the part of the Government towards British foreign policy and towards liberty and freedom in the world as well as liberty and freedom in our own country. We were severe critics of the late Prime Minister. I think he had, if I may say so with respect, many faults, and I think the present Prime Minister has some qualities which the late Prime Minister did not have, but Lord Baldwin had an element of liberalism about him that we all respected. He had a respect for liberty about him that we respected, and I feel that in the present Prime Minister that quality of liberalism in the best sense of the term, of a respect for democracy, is lacking.
When I said in the Debate on the Address that I felt that the Prime Minister had a crude, mercantile, class-conscious outlook on public and international affairs, I meant it. I believe it. I think that is the fundamental trouble with the Prime Minister, that he lacks those qualities of liberalism and respect for freedom that, with all his faults, his predecessor possessed. I cannot explain, I cannot understand, the foreign policy that is supported by the Prime Minister except upon the basis that his international class consciousness has outweighed his desire for democracy, for peace, and even his interest in the security of the British Commonwealth of Nations itself. Consider what has happened, and let hon. Members ask themselves, fairly and coolly, whether it would have happened under Disraeli, who is the patron saint of the Conservative party. We have seen things happening towards the Eastern end of the Mediteranean which have endangered the security of the British Commonwealth in the Near East; we have seen, not a civil war in Spain, but a foreign war conducted by two European countries against Spain, which has endangered British security and British communications at the Western end of the Mediterranean; we have seen, in 1932, a cruel, aggressive attack by Japan upon China which imperilled British trade and British security in the Far East, which is now renewed on a bigger scale; and I ask the House, in all seriousness and in all sincerity, What is the explanation?
The only explanation that I can find is this, that His Majesty's Government are seeing struggles between popular liberty and Fascist dictatorships, they are seeing a popular struggle on the one side in Spain against rebellion and foreign invasion, and when they consider their attitude towards the policy of Signor Mussolini and Herr Hitler, all the time they are asking themselves, "If this dictatorship Government goes down, what goes up? What takes its place?" It is at that point that their ideology—this glorious new word that all of us have learned from the Communists, I think, Conservatives as well as ourselves—moves them, and that they say to themselves, "We are not in love with Signor Mussolini—we know the dangers to us—we are not in love with Herr Hitler, we are not in love with the big militarist Government in Japan, we are not in love with General Franco, but if we are faced with the issue of whether we want a stern pro-capitalist Government that keeps its workpeople in order or a possible Government of the Left of some sort that will promote popular freedom and" the economic liberation of the people," then it is that their international, capitalist class-conscious bias leads them astray. That is an authentic explanation, psychologically, of the Prime Minister's attitude. [Laughter.] It may be that hon. Members laugh because they know it is true, or it may be that they laugh because they do not know it themselves, for where are we getting? If I ask a question about the situation into which the British Commonwealth is getting, it is not a matter for laughter. I am serious and worried about it. We are encouraging the break up of the League. We have only one ally in Europe—France: an asset and a liability. Even that ally we are not treating properly. We are drifting into a situation of absolute or semi-isolation.
Cannot hon. Members opposite be serious for a moment and pause to think what could happen to this British Commonwealth if we were faced with a war against Germany, Italy and Japan? That being the situation, and hon. Members know it, whatever the degree of rearmament in the British Commonwealth and in this country, we should have—and I say it with regret—a good chance of going down. If we know that, we ought to pursue a foreign policy in which this country will not be isolated. [HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!"] If hon. Members are cheering because they are confident that with the magic charms of the Prime Minister in place of the lack of charm of the late Foreign Secretary, Italy is to be made our ally and to be broken away from the Rome-Berlin axis—if that is what they believe, surely their confidence is a little premature.
May I suggest that if the Prime Minister is determined to be a close and affectionate friend, as he appears to be, with a Fascist dictator—I think he would like both of them—and if he has to choose one of the dictators, Signor Mussolini and Italy are not the strongest alliance. I am assuming that the Government will not make an alliance with Russia, because that would be contrary to their ideology. The Government are actuated by ideology all the time, and I think they are wrong. If they are determined to have one of the Fascist dictators, I cannot understand why they select Signor Mussolini and Italy as against Herr Hitler and Germany. I should have thought that in the military sense Hitler and Germany, if you can get them—I do not think that you can get them—would be more worth putting your money on than Mussolini and Italy. Hon. Members have the right to choose their own particular brand of dictator, but if they prefer Signor Mussolini I am afraid that it is not possible for me to influence them. I do beg the House, in dividing to-night and in casting a vote which, presumably, will influence the conduct of foreign policy by His Majesty's advisers, to recognise and understand that we are really drifting into a situation in which the British Commonwealth is tending to be isolated, and in which the security of our own country and of our connections are being gravely imperilled as time goes on.
It is because we of the Labour party love all that is best in British democracy and British traditions that we do not want to see our country go down or the British Commonwealth go down in an attack by Fascist dictatorships. It is unjustly said—I suppose we all say unjust things about each other from time to time, and we shall probably go on doing so—that Labour seeks war. [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear!"] I hear an unconvinced "Hear, hear!" It is hardly necessary for me to say that that statement is untrue, that it is known to be untrue and that what it entails is foreign to the instincts of the Labour party. We have more international traditions, more international friendships than any political party in the State. We see no advantage from war. The utmost advantage that we can see from the next war would be world-wide social revolution, and even that would be a doubtful advantage, for at the end there would not be much out of which one could make a Socialist civilisation, even if the revolution came off. Our interests are against war. The working-class people do most of the suffering in war. War brings tragedy and disaster to working-class homes. In modern circumstances the outbreak of a great international war would bring untold suffering and disaster to working-class homes in crowded cities, for the workers would not have the advantage that richer people would have of clearing out and going to safer parts of the country. We are not a war party. We have no interest in being a war party. We remember the last war. We know that our people got nothing out of it. We know that it brought much sorrow to the working people of our land, and prolonged economic depression.
It is also said that we particularly want war with the Fascist States. We do not. We should like as much as anybody else to live at peace with the people of Germany, the people of Italy, and, may I add, the people of the Soviet Union? We want to be friends with all the peoples of the world. We have our quarrels with the Fascist Governments, just as hon. Members opposite have their quarrels with the Government of the Soviet Union. I think I can understand their feelings, and I ask them to understand ours. We cannot forget that our Socialist comrades in Germany and in Italy have had their liberty destroyed, their property taken, their lives destroyed and, above all, what we cannot forget—I do not so much mind putting a man against a wall and shooting him, although that is an awful and a terrible thing—are the tortures that these people are put through. They have not a clean death but a death of torture. We cannot forget that. We cannot forget the way that trade unions have been treated and their property taken. We cannot forget the unreasonable cruelty to the Jews in Germany. We cannot forget the attacks upon organised religion in that country. I know that hon. Members opposite feel the same about the sufferings of the aristocrats, the rich people and the royal personages in the Bolshevist revolution. I can understand that. These memories linger.
I hope that I speak for everybody else when I say that our business is to promote peace with all the nations of the world, whatever the complexion of their Government may be. It is difficult for us in the case of the Fascist Powers, but if we were the Government it would be our duty to do that. It is difficult for hon. Members opposite in the case of Soviet Russia, but it is their duty to do it. Why are they not using the Soviet Union in the collective organisation of peace? The Prime Minister assumed that Soviet Russia was not a great military Power in Europe. With great respect I do not agree. It is a much greater military Power in Europe than Italy. Why do the Government ignore it? I do not ask them to agree with Mr. Stalin. I do not agree with him. I am no friend of tyranny. Whether it is tyranny of the Left or tyranny of the Right, I do not like it. I wish that hon. Members opposite could say the same. I do not agree, I say, with Mr. Stalin, and I do not agree with the internal political system of the Russian Government, but I say this—that the Soviet Union is a genuine power for peace and a genuine friend nowadays of the League of Nations, and in our own national interest we are fools not to cooperate with the Soviet Union and with all the democratic and peaceful Powers of the world.
Fascism, we cannot forget, has cruelly treated our political friends. Fascism has this additional difficulty, as indeed has the Bolshevik dictatorship, that it controls meticulously its own newspaper Press. It suppresses all other political parties and controls public opinion in its own country to such an extent that our Government and other democratic Governments are at a disadvantage in that they are unable to be sure of what is the public opinion in those countries. But there is this distinction between the Governments of Fascism and the Government of the Soviet Union. The Governments of Fascism laud and encourage the spirit of war, openly and without any shame, whereas it must surely be agreed that the leaders of the Soviet Union, while certainly engaging in military preparedness, have nevertheless lauded the spirit of peace and Mr. Litvinoff at Geneva has done all he can to implement it. [Interruption.] The interventions of the Noble Lord opposite are never particularly useful.
If I wanted help I should not go to the Noble Lord for it. But this fact has to be faced that, in the midst of Fascist dictatorships, with admittedly warlike mentalities, we have something new in international affairs and we need a new technique. The Prime Minister thinks so and he has applied one. I think it is wrong. Doubtless he thinks it is right. We need a new technique but not, I think, the technique which has been followed by the Prime Minister. Dictators understand men who have wills of their own. They understand power and clarity in foreign affairs but those are the very qualities in which His Majesty's Government have been lacking ever since they came into office in 1931. The result is the Fascist dictators are becoming increasingly aggressive. As every piece of aggression has occurred our position has become weaker in dealing with that aggression until, in relation to Austria, which is a little country, when its principal Minister was received and given orders by the Chancellor of Germany, the Government felt unable to do anything.
I am not glorifying the Chancellor of Austria. His rule was also a dictatorship which suppressed Socialist opinion and the trade union movement and co-operation. But does not the House see that with every incident on the international scene—Japan and China in 1932, Abyssinia, Spain, the new attack upon China—every time the Government have failed to mobilise the collective opinion and collective power, particularly the collective economic power of the world, not to make war upon another nation but to uphold international order, they have made the task more difficult? The consequence is that we are getting into a worse position than ever. It may be China to-day, Abyssinia another day, Spain another day and Austria another day. The time will come when it will be Britain, and it seems to me that the Government are not looking at it in that way and have not properly considered the security of our own country and of His Majesty's Dominions oversea.
What we need in dealing with the dictators and the dictatorship countries is, above all, clarity in foreign policy, courage—the courage to act and the courage not to act—self-respect and collective power. We need a capacity on the part of Ministers to evolve some sort of idealistic, big imaginative, world democratic leadership. Such leadership the world sorely needs at the present time. The man who comes nearest to that is President Roosevelt. When he speaks to Congress he speaks also to that varied people of the United States and to the peoples of the world. I wish that our Ministers could speak to the peoples of the world, to the people of Germany, the people of Italy, and the people of other countries instead of merely conducting themselves in a servile spirit towards the Fascist dictators.
By this latest modification of British foreign policy we have done an enormous amount to alienate the friendship of the United States, to increase their suspicion of us, to make more difficult economic and political co-operation between the United States and this country. We ought to have a readiness for justice towards the peoples of Germany and Italy. We ought to make it clear that we are ready for justice to every people in the world provided that that justice is coupled with peace and the collective organisation of world order. Finally, we ought not to over-estimate the power of the dictatorship States. They are really not as strong as hon. Members fear and they have their own troubles inside their own countries. We have seen that. We ought to watch for those things and encourage these peoples to feel that justice awaits their countries, that justice is available for their countries, that it is not we who stand between them and justice but their own governments. But the Government will not do that because the Government are anxious to uphold the political power and authority of Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini in their own countries.
We surely must choose the time and the period when any such negotiation should begin. Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini have double-crossed each other about Austria in recent times; if they are capable of that, are we sure that our own Government will not be double-crossed in the same way? As a Labour party, if we were a Government, we should be, as we ought to be, ready to do business in the interests of the peace of the world and of justice with every nation in the world and every type of country, irrespective of political complexion. Where we are at the moment is that the Fascist Powers are saying: "Do what we say or we threaten you with war," and the Prime Minister is saying: "Do what you will; there will be no war as far as we are concerned." In running to that extreme it seems to us that His Majesty's Government are playing the game of the Fascist Powers.
The question is when and how the negotiations should be conducted. Herr Hitler was in difficulties with his army and with his economic situation. He has, in part and for the time being, pulled himself out of them by his attack upon Austria, and we had to stand by powerless, so the Government thought. Signor Mussolini is in difficulties. He has less territory under his proper control in Abyssinia than he had a year ago. He is experiencing the greatest difficulties in Abyssinia. Ministers must know it. They must be advised from the spot. He has military commitments in Abyssinia and Spain, and he has to keep an eye on his bigger dictator neighbour next door. The economic and financial position of Italy is grave in the extreme. The Berlin-Rome axis must have been strained by the conflict of interests between Germany and Italy as to Austria, and the action which Herr Hitler took really cheated Signor Mussolini of his position vis-à-vis Austria.
Those are not circumstances in which the Prime Minister ought to have rushed into negotiation with Signor Mussolini, or in which he needs to get rattled or nervous. Those are circumstances in which to bide your time, to let things develop and to wait for the point when Signor Mussolini himself has to make an agreement, and, therefore, when our bargaining power would be infinitely stronger than it was when the Prime Minister chipped in. I cannot forget, although it is disputed, that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) said that the negotiations were insisted upon by Italy on the basis of now or never. I cannot forget that the Noble Lord the late Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, used the phrase that His Majesty's Government were being subjected to blackmail. On that point we ought to have specific information from the Minister of Agriculture. Something must have happened. There must be some reality, otherwise those statements would not have been made. The House is entitled to know more about them.
That is our view: not objection to negotiation with Fascist Powers, but careful consideration of the tactics that should be employed; not in order that we may humiliate any country or push any other country down, but to shape our tactics, policy and methods in order to establish the order of the world and peace among the nations of the world. What is the Prime Minister's policy? What does he propose to seek in the course of these negotiations? I make a prediction that the Prime Minister is seeking a four-Power Western European Pact and never mind the rest of the world, that he is proposing to abandon the use of the League of Nations for political purposes, that he is proposing finally to abandon British interests in Spain and let the Fascist dictators take their course within certain limitations. While these discussions have been going on, while the Prime Minister has been moving towards an arrangement, if he can get it, with Signor Mussolini, new aircraft, new guns, new ammunition, have been supplied to Franco by Germany and Italy, and as recently as the present week this war material has been in action. That is not a sign of good faith; that is not a sign of Signor Mussolini getting out of Spain, or of Herr Hitler getting out of Spain; it is a sign that our Government is again being deceived, and appears willing to be deceived.
Is the Prime Minister contemplating some sort of loan or credit for Italy? We suspect that he is. I may say this for myself in all seriousness, that, if British financiers put money into countries in order that dictators may further rearm against our country, and may further oppress their peoples, then, if their peoples rebel, carry out successful revolutions, and repudiate their loans, those financiers will get no sympathy as far as I am concerned if they lose their money. Is the Prime Minister going on to consent to the recognition of Signor Mussolini's partial conquest in Abyssinia? These are the points of the foreign policy which, it seems to me, the Prime Minister is pursuing.
We have been asked, "What is your foreign policy?" Hon. Members have repeated the question. I do not wish there to be any doubt about it, and therefore I want to hand over to the Prime Minister the Report of the National Council of Labour on International Policy and Defence, which has been approved by the Trades Union Congress and the Labour Party Conference. Disagree with the policy if you like, but it is a policy. As the Prime Minister is new to foreign affairs, he may wish for a simpler statement, illustrated with pictures, so I present him also with a copy of No. 2 of "Your Britain," which is specially devoted to international affairs. If he requires a million copies, we shall be prepared to supply him with them at dead cost price. There is a policy, and there need be no lack of understanding about it.
To-day the Prime Minister has made a statement about the League of Nations, a very important statement, in which he has frankly indicated that the Government has decided to break all the pledges that it gave at the General Election with regard to its foreign policy. To-day's statement on the League of Nations means that the Prime Minister intends that the Covenant, at any rate so far as sanctions and collective action against an aggressor are concerned, is to be torn up. [Interruption.] I will cover the Prime Minister's afterthought in a moment. That was the first statement—that they should not be acted upon. Then, having torn up the Covenant, he realised that he had gone too far, and, as an afterthought, he decided to pick up the torn pieces of the Covenant, paste them together, and put them in the file, so that they are officially on record but not to be acted upon. It is as though the Church of England were to tear up the Ten Commandments—
—pick up the pieces, paste them together again, and put them in the history book so that they would be available for record. But has the Prime Minister consulted with France about that declaration on the League of Nations? Because M. Delbos, the Foreign Minister of France, only recently at Geneva made a declaration supporting the full retention of the Covenant in the work of the League. I want to know from the Minister of Agriculture, on behalf of the Prime Minister, whether the French Government was consulted before this new and startling declaration of the Government's attitude was made.
The outlook for the world and for our country is black. It seems to me that we are now pursuing a policy which will give encouragement, rather than discouragement, to the warlike Powers. It seems to me that, without desiring war, the Government are becoming responsible for our country sliding and drifting into war at the will of others. I beg of the House to remember, in the vote that it has to give to-night, the disaster of war, the destruction, the suffering and the wreckage that it would mean for our country and the people of our country. I beg of the House to remember also the suffering and disaster it would mean for other countries and the people of other countries. It is our duty to tell the Government that we demand that they shall be lively in the active organisation of peace. It is our duty to demand from the Government that they should be at least as active in the organisation of peace as in preparation for war. It is our duty to tell them that we are apprehensive that they can neither keep peace nor be efficient in preparation for war itself. And I beg the House, with all the emphasis and sincerity I can command, to support us in this Motion, to demand that the Government shall pursue a policy of constructive and active peace, so that our country, our Britain, may lead the world in the evolution of a higher and a greater civilisation.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) has just addressed us in a speech of very great interest, but I must confess that, for my part, I found it so much infected by ideology and technique—the two plagues of the modern vocabulary—that I found it hard to follow the constructive drift he intended to convey to us. But he has been good enough to repair the omission created by the difficulty in his address by presenting the Prime Minister and me with a copy of what is called a policy—and I understand it will be a policy in the sense in which hon. Members opposite understand that word. It will be a long list of words, strung together in as attractive a manner as possible, as lacking in definition as possible, and as full of resounding terms as etiquette requires. The right hon. Gentleman accused my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister of having been mercantilely class-conscious. I think the right hon. Gentleman's own speech, if I am not doing him an injustice, betrayed some traces of class-consciousness. It is a very convenient type of mind that can suppose it to be true that persons on this side of the House sympathise only with princes and lords, whereas all the sympathy with working-class victims of war and violence is confined to the righteous bosoms of hon. Members opposite.
My right hon. Friend is accused of class-consciousness and of having in some mysterious manner created the present unhappy dispute in Spain. If the ideology of the right hon. Gentleman is sufficiently sound, his chronology has let him down. The Prime Minister when the dispute broke out was Chancellor of the Exchequer and engaged in the rebuilding of the finances of the nation. The serious point which emerged from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman and one which, I am sure, will find an echo in some parts of the House, was when he spoke, in these days in which we live and have to do our duty, of the danger of drifting into isolation in the modern world and being faced with problems of Defence of an extremely grave nature. He mentioned that as the problem, and, indeed, on this side of the House, it is generally recognised that, as long as we have strength, we ought to endeavour to break down that isolation and restore our contact with the nations of the world.
No doubt the House will share the surprise which I feel at finding myself at this Box to-night addressing the House on subjects so remote from the agricultural preoccupations with which I am usually troubled. I hope that the House will pardon me if I lapse into any indiscretions of language due to my inexperience of the particular vocabulary which is generally employed in discussions upon foreign affairs. I think that it might be of service to the House in this very difficult and painful situation in which we find ourselves if I were to tell the House as bluntly and as plainly as I can how these recent events appear to me as a Member of the Cabinet without any particular departmental connection with foreign affairs out of which this trouble has arisen. I will tell the House how it occurs to me. I ought to say that this is an Opposition Vote of Censure and covers foreign affairs in general. The general argument seems to be that hon. Members think that we should have no talk with authoritarian States at all or that it should be so conducted from such an altitude of moral reproof that would make it barren of any prospect of success. I would point out that for this doctrine they cannot pray in aid my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden). His Majesty's Government decided some time ago to conduct these conversations with Italy with the object of trying to allay some of the suspicions which had grown up. The House will not expect me to reply to the general bluff-without-force policy of hon. Members opposite. Our policy is rearmament and conciliation, and to be as active as we can in both.
May I state, by way of coming to what I have to tell the House, my attitude on the question of foreign affairs very briefly? I have always been reluctant as a private Member to address the House upon this subject, believing that in foreign affairs reticence is a virtue unless it is combined with expert knowledge. My general impression about foreign affairs is that it would be a perfectly simple subject if it were not for the foreigners; that it would be a great deal easier if, instead of a lot of foreigners, we had to deal with some group as homogeneous, say, as hon. Members opposite. Some of the speeches which have been made in the course of the Debate have proceeded almost on the assumption that all foreigners were members of Transport House, whereas, as a matter of fact, they are not all even members of the League of Nations. We have to remember that there are foreigners with ideas very different from ours, and that no possible approach to them can be made unless it is accompanied with a sincere desire—I do not say to see all their points of view; that' is impossible—but with a desire at least to see their point of view about half as much as we expect them to see ours. On that basis there is some prospect of addressing ourselves to foreign affairs with profit.
Consider what is happening in the world to-day in some of the States which do not share the advantage of a free Press. You have growing up in these States a public opinion which is influenced in one direction, and has to rely on one agency for its source of information. The great consequence of that, as I see it, is that we are faced with a problem not so much of the rulers of dictator States, but ultimately of the grave problem of the peoples of these States. One can imagine, for example, the people of this country growing up from youth to old age continuously under the influence of one set of newspapers in this country, and the distorted view they would get of foreign affairs in general. That is the sort of problem with which we are confronted. That is the sort of atmosphere in which suspicions grow, which appear to be incredible to us in this country. Suspicion breeds fear, and fear is the natural begetter of hatred. That being the problem with which we are confronted, surely any service which can be rendered by dispelling this poisonous miasma of suspicion is one which is not only well worth performing, but one which it is the bounden duty of His Majesty's Government to perform whenever they see a fitting opportunity.
It was agreed some time ago to hold conversations with Italy for this purpose. The Prime Minister and the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington have told us that recently a request came to them from Italy for these conversations to be held in Rome at an early date. When we met on Saturday we were asked to decide whether it was wise, as a matter of public policy, for these conversations to take place as early as possible in accordance with the request of the Italian Government, or whether, as the then Foreign Secretary held, we should delay the matter further. He did not feel that he could assent to these conversations without certain terms which he regarded as proper for us to put as a prelude to any opening of these conversations. I hope I am not misrepresenting my right hon. Friend. We have been too long together to think of misrepresenting each other in the slightest particular. As I understand the matter, my right hon. Friend the late Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs insisted on certain requirements before the conversations could be agreed to. The chief of these was that there should be some progress made with the withdrawal of troops from Spain before we entered upon conversations at all. That, I understand, was the most important matter at issue between us. On the other hand, time was pressing. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Because there was cause to believe that if this opportunity were missed, another opportunity as good might not so easily recur. [Interruption.] I want to make it plain to the House that at no time during these discussions did I feel under any sense of duress, compulsion, bullying or blackmail of any kind. I can tell the House quite frankly that had there been anything of that nature apparent to us, I and my colleagues would have thrown out any proposal that came barbed in such a way.
I want the House to appreciate that there are two sides to this question, and that what we had to decide was, when we had the opportunity, if it slipped, would we get another opportunity again, and when? [Interruption.] Hon. Members opposite seem to imagine that that is a matter which could be very easily decided, but I ask them to reflect that opportunities in foreign affairs do not come every day for doing a thing at the right time. I think that everybody with any experience, even the remotest, will know that. A great deal depends, in the initiation of any movement in diplomacy, on its taking place at the appropriate time. We felt that it was the appropriate time and the best time, and for that reason we decided that it was better to go on.
I did not say "final" or anything of the kind. What I said was that unless you take opportunities as they come—[Interruption.] As far as I am concerned, from start to finish, I have felt not the slightest compulsion or duress. It was only a matter of what it was best in the public interest to decide.
The matter seems to come to this. The late Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs felt very keenly and clearly that the reason why we should have some performance of evacuation from Spain was because he could not trust. People cannot always trust what Governments say to them. Carefully weighing up this matter, my view—I am speaking for myself was as follows: If you assume you can trust a man with whom you are negotiating, then you can take his word as his bond. If, on the contrary, you assume that you do not trust him, then even a part performance, even the evacuation of some troops from Spain could easily be washed out and cancelled by surreptitious reinforcements in another direction. For that reason it seemed to me that the matter was not one of great importance, that it was better to get on with our task of conciliation as quickly as we could. Therefore, I and my colleagues agreed to the course with which the House is familiar. Then my right hon. Friend resigned.
There is one point I ought to make clear. All this talk about me and my colleagues trying to get rid of my right hon. Friend, which has been insinuated and suggested, is absolutely false and without foundation. The most strenuous efforts were made by a body of colleagues and friends to assist him in his difficulty and to retain his great services for the Government and the nation. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister assisted in these efforts. When he got news during the Cabinet meeting that this reply, which was arranged to be delivered on the Monday, was likely to be of an affirmative character, he at once told all his colleagues, including my right hon. Friend.
The hon. Member must not expect the Prime Minister to disclose all his sources of information. As soon as my right hon. Friend knew of it he laid it before the whole of his colleagues, including my right hon. Friend. That ought to be known. Everything was done, but done in vain. My right hon. Friend does not expect me to give in public any long expression of my sentiments towards him and of my regard for him. I believe that the matter on which he resigned, though it appeared to me, using the best of my judgment, to some extent a small thing, was one which he regarded as of vital importance. That was an example of how the same thing can impress two different minds.
I want the House to follow this particular aspect of the matter. What were we to do then when my right hon. Friend resigned? We could visualise to the full, and we did not under-estimate, the shock of surprise and bewilderment that would descend on the country as a consequence of this news. I was easily able to appreciate that, because it came to me as a shock of bewilderment that I shall never forget. It would have been an easy course, in view of all the difficulty that lay ahead and of my right hon. Friend's decision, which he took no doubt from the highest motives, to have said that this would make such a row that we had better go back. That could have been done because we could easily see what sort of a row would have been caused by this event. I could have forecast almost exactly the speeches that would have been delivered by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill).
I did not accurately forecast all my right hon. Friend (Mr. Churchill's) speech, but I knew he would tell us that Italy was a decrepit, feeble State when he wanted to argue that we should have left her alone, and also that she was powerful, menacing and formidable when he wanted to argue that we had been bullied by her. I knew that he would overstate his case and carry his charges against our foreign policy, not only to the events of the last few days, but into periods for which my right hon. Friend (Mr. Eden) shared responsibility with us, and that he would go on with this long story, and stop only where it began to impinge upon those periods of time when he himself was partly responsible. I say none of us was under any illusion as to what was happening. There would be a flood of misrepresentations and charges of change of policy where nothing of the kind was involved at all. Our relations with France and the United States will continue as close and friendly as they were before.
We also saw that there was only one thing to do, and we decided on this very quickly. Having come to a decision which we thought was right, our duty, in spite of the difficulty, was to go to the House of Commons and say so, and allow them to decide. [An HON. MEMBER: "Go to the country."] That will follow in time, and when it follows we shall not be afraid to meet hon. Members. There has been a great deal of talk about yielding to dictators. I deny that it ever happened, but there comes a time when Governments in democratic countries must stand for what they believe to be their interests, not only against dictators but also against those spasms of excitement which are apt to follow in any democracy after an important event. I hope the House will take into consideration that we are carrying through a policy in which we vitally believe in a time of some difficulty. I hope we deserve the support of our friends, and I hope they will be with us in the Lobby.
Of course, this has led to misrepresentation. We had a lecture from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs about the League of Nations. The attitude of the Government towards the League has always been that we regard it as the best instrument of policy, but we regard it with eyes of realism, and we do not wish to put it forward to others or to ourselves as a guide and protector when it cannot really
act in that capacity at all. Let us see how far we are at variance with this matter on the League of Nations. Anyone who is not blind to facts must have seen that history has led to changes in its constitution as events have happened in the world outside which render it an instrument very different in conception and in environment from what it was when it was created. I will, if I may, read a quotation:
Undoubtedly the great weakness of the League comes from the fact that it only represents one-half of the great Powers of the world. Until the others join, you might as well call the Holy Alliance a League of Nations. The League, to be a reality, must represent the whole civilised world. That is necessary to give it balance as well as authority.
The authority for this proposition is the book called "Is it Peace?" by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs. I will read another quotation which seems singularly appropriate in view of the same speech.
No, Sir. I am not answering those questions now. I am dealing with something which is, I think, of greater interest to the country as a whole than some of the questions which he asked. Here is another extract from the same volume which may have some relevance. The right hon. Gentleman talks about a certain type of controversialist, the type of controversialist who is always advertising his idealism but has made a point of withholding the salient facts from the public which he professes to enlighten and instruct.
There is no more unscrupulous debater in the ring than the one who affects to be particularly high-minded.
Those are words which all of us should keep in mind in this controversy. The hon. Member for West Leeds (Mr. V. Adams) put the matter perfectly simply, according to his own mind, by suggesting that it was a question of choosing between right and wrong. That means he put it on the basis of a moral question. Moral questions are matters to be decided by ourselves according to
our respective consciences, and I should like the House to think, as I do, that not all the morality is on one side in this matter. We have had a lot of talk today against certain rulers in authoritarian States and have had the problem stressed as if it were a matter of Herr Hitler or Signor Mussolini only, but I cannot get out of my mind that behind those rulers are their peoples many of them carrying on innocent vocations as innocently as our own people to-day, and if matters were allowed to drift into war it is the peoples in all the nations, including our own, who would pay the penalty. It would be easy for us to sit down, to bury our heads in the sand and to go on uttering platitudes, as hon. Members opposite are so fond of doing, but we should not be doing our duty to the people of this country, both those born now and to be born in future generations, if we did not exercise our minds as best we can to break down this vicious circle and to get back, if we can, to some common factor in Europe.
Europe has a great tradition of its own. Even though there are divisions among the nations of Europe, European civilisation is still the standard of civilisation for the world, and we ought to see that we preserve it intact. There is no theory, in my view, so dangerous as the theory that war is inevitable. There is a great danger of it, and this is the Government, though hon. Members opposite call it weak, which is conducting the greatest rearmament campaign ever undertaken by this country in time of peace, in order to ensure that if conciliation fails our people will be in a position to render it a difficult and dangerous enterprise for any dictator, or anyone else, to attack us. In the meantime we are pushing conciliation as far as we can, to see whether we cannot arrive at some basis which will serve as a foundation on which to give realistic form to that idealistic conception which we all in our hearts desire.
|Division No. 105.]||AYES.||[10.59 p.m.|
|Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple)||Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Ammon, C. G.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Adamson, W. M.||Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Price, M. P.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Pritt, D. N.|
|Barr, J.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Quibell, D. J. K.|
|Batey, J.||Hicks, E. G.||Rathbone, Eleanor (English Univ's.)|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Richards, R. (Wrexham)|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W.||Holdsworth, H.||Ridley, G.|
|Benson, G.||Hollins, A.||Riley, B.|
|Bevan, A.||Hopkin, D.||Ritson, J.|
|Bromfield, W.||Jagger, J.||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Brom.)|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire)||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Buchanan, G.||Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.||Rothschild, J. A. de|
|Cape, T.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Salter, Sir J. Arthur (Oxford U.)|
|Cassells, T.||Jones, Sir H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Sanders, W. S.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Jones, J. J. (Silvertown)||Seely, Sir H. M.|
|Chater, D.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Sexton, T. M.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Kelly, W. T.||Shinwell, E.|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Short, A.|
|Cocks, F. S.||Kirby, B. V.||Silkin, L.|
|Cove, W. G.||Kirkwood, D.||Silverman, S. S.|
|Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||Lathan, G.||Simpson, F. B.|
|Daggar, G.||Lawson, J. J.||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Leach, W.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Lee, F.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Leslie, J. R.||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)|
|Day, H.||Logan, D. G.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Dobbie, W.||Lunn, W.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Stephen, C.|
|Ede, J. C.||McEntee, V. La T.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||McGhee, H. G.||Stokes, R. R.|
|Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales)||MacLaren, A.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||Maclean, N.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Foot, D. M.||MacMillan, M. (Western Isles)||Thorne, W.|
|Frankel, D.||MacNeill Weir, L.||Thurtle, E.|
|Gallacher, W.||Mainwaring, W. H.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Gardner, B. W.||Mander, G. le M.||Tomlinson, G.|
|George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd (Carn'v'n)||Marshall, F.||Viant, S. P.|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Mathers, G.||Walkden, A. G.|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Maxton, J.||Walker, J.|
|Gibson, R. (Greenock)||Messer, F.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Milner, Major J.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Montague, F.||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. J. C.|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Westwood, J.|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||White, H. Graham|
|Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Muff, G.||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Nathan, Colonel H. L.||Williams, D. (Swansea, E.)|
|Groves, T. E.||Naylor, T. E.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Guest, Dr. L. H. (Islington, N.)||Noel-Baker, P. J.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Oliver, G. H.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Owen, Major G.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Hardie, Agnes||Parker, J.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Harris, Sir P. A.||Parkinson, J. A.|
|Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.)||Pearson, A.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Hayday, A.||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.||Sir Charles Edwards and|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Birchall, Sir J. D.||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n)|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Bird, Sir R. B.||Channon, H.|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Blair, Sir R.||Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)|
|Alexander, Brig.-Gen. Sir W.||Blaker, Sir R.||Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.)|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.||Boothby, R. J. G.||Christie, J. A.|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)||Bossom, A. C.||Clarke, F. E. (Dartford)|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Boulton, W. W.||Clarke, Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead)|
|Apsley, Lord||Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Clarry, Sir Reginald|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Clydesdale, Marquess of|
|Assheton, R.||Boyce, H. Leslie||Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)|
|Astor, Major Hon. J. J. (Dover)||Brass, Sir W.||Colfox, Major W. P.|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Brocklebank, Sir Edmund||Colman, N. C. D.|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Brown, Col. D. C. (Hexham)||Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J.|
|Baillie, Sir A. W. M.||Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Conant, Captain R. J. E.|
|Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Cook, Sir T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.)|
|Balfour, G. (Hampstead)||Bull, B. B.||Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Bullock, Capt. M.||Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff (W'st'r S. G'gs)|
|Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M.||Burgin, Rt. Hon. E. L.||Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)|
|Barrie, Sir C. C.||Burton, Col. H. W.||Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L.|
|Baxter, A. Beverley||Butcher, H. W.||Cox, H. B. Trevor|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Butler, R. A.||Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Caine, G. R. Hall-||Crooke, Sir J. S.|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Aylesbury)||Campbell, Sir E. T.||Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Carver, Major W. H.||Croom-Johnson, R. P.|
|Beechman, N. A.||Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester)||Cross, R. H.|
|Bennett, Sir E. N.||Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Crowder, J. F. E.|
|Bernays, R. H.||Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Cruddas, Col. B.|
|Culverwell, C T.||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H.||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)|
|Davidson, Viscountess||James, Wing-Commander A. W. H.||Reid, Sir D. D. (Down)|
|Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)||Jarvis, Sir J. J.||Reid, J. S. C. (Hillhead)|
|Davison, Sir W. H.||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Dawson, Sir P.||Jones, L. (Swansea W.)||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)|
|De Chair, S. S.||Keeling, E. H.||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)|
|De la Bère, R.||Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)||Rose Taylor. W. (Woodbridge)|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Knox, Major-General Sir A. W. F.||Rowlands, G.|
|Denville, Alfred||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.|
|Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. G.||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.|
|Dodd, J. S.||Law, R. K. (Hull, S. W.)||Russell, Sir Alexander|
|Doland, G. F.||Leech, Sir J. W.||Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)|
|Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||Leigh, Sir J.||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)|
|Duckworth. W. R. (Moss Side)||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Salmon, Sir I.|
|Dugdale, Captain T. L.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.||Samuel, M. R. A.|
|Duncan, J. A. L.||Levy, T.||Sandeman, Sir N. S.|
|Dunglass, Lord||Lewis, O.||Sanderson, Sir F. B.|
|Eastwood, J. F.||Liddall, W. S.||Sandys, E. D.|
|Eckersley, P. T.||Lindsay, K. M.||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir P.|
|Edge, Sir W.||Little, Sir E. Graham.||Savory, Sir Servington|
|Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Lloyd, G. W.||Scott, Lord William|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S.||Selley, H. R.|
|Ellis, Sir G.||Loftus, P. C.||Shakespeare, G. H.|
|Elmley, Viscount||Lyons, A. M.||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)|
|Emery, J. F.||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Emmott, C. E. G. C.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.|
|Entwistle, Sir C. F.||McCorquodale, M. S.||Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.|
|Errington, E.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross)||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Erskine-Hill, A. G.||MacDonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Smith, L. W. (Hallam)|
|Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.)||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)|
|Everard, W. L.||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.||Smithers, Sir W.|
|Fildes, Sir H.||McKie, J. H.||Somerset, T.|
|Findlay, Sir E.||Maclay, Hon. J. P.||Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe)|
|Fleming, E. L.||Macquisten, F. A.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Fox, Sir G. W. G.||Magnay, T,||Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.|
|Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Maitland, A.||Spens, W. P.|
|Furness, S. N.||Makins, Brig.-Gen. E.||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Fyfe, D. P. M.||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.||Stewart, William J. (Belfast, S.)|
|Gibson, Sir C. G. (Pudsey and Otley)||Markham, S. F.||Stourton, Major Hon. J. J.|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Marsden, Commander A.||Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)|
|Gluckstein, L. H.||Mason, Lt.-Col. Hon. G. K. M.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw'h)|
|Gower, Sir R. V.||Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham)||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|Grant-Ferris, R.||Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.)||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Granville, E. L.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Tasker, Sir R. I.|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswick)||Tate, Mavis C.|
|Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Mitcheson, Sir G. G.||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)|
|Gridley, Sir A. B.||Moore, Lieut.-Col. Sir T. C. R.||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.|
|Grigg, Sir E. W. M.||Moore-Brabazon, Lt.-Col. J. T. C.||Titchfield, Marquess of|
|Grimston, R. V.||Morgan, R. H.||Touche, G. C.|
|Guest, Lieut.-Colonel H. (Drake)||Morris, J. P. (Salford, N.)||Train, Sir J.|
|Guest, Hon. I. (Brecon and Radnor)||Morris. O. T. (Cardiff, E.)||Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.|
|Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N. W.)||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Guinness, T. L. E. B.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Gunston, Capt. Sir D. W.||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Hacking, Rt. Hon. D. H.||Munro, P.||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan|
|Hambro, A. V.||Nall, Sir J.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Hannah, I. C.||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Nicholson, G. (Farnham)||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Harbord, A.||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Hartington, Marquess of||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Watt, Major G. S. Harvie|
|Harvey, Sir G.||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. W. G. A.||Wayland, Sir W. A|
|Haslam, H. C. (Horncastle)||Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Wedderburn, H. J. S.|
|Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)||Peake, O.||Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)|
|Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Peat, C. U.||Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.|
|Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.||Peters, Dr. S. J.||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.|
|Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan.||Petherick, M.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Hepworth, J.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)|
|Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||Plugge, Capt. L. F.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Higgs, W. F.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S.||Porritt, R. W.||Wise, A. R.|
|Holmes, J. S.||Pownall, Lt.-Col. Sir Assheton||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.||Procter, Major H. A.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Hore-Belisha, Rt. Hon. L.||Radford, E. A.||Wood, Hon. C. I. C.|
|Horsbrugh, Florence||Raikes, H. V. A. M.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.||Wragg, H.|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Ramsbotham, H.||Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C.|
|Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)||Ramsden, Sir E.||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Hulbert, N. J.||Rankin, Sir R.|
|Hume, Sir G. H.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Hurd, Sir P. A.||Rawson, Sir Cooper||Captain Margesson and Lieut.-|
|Hutchinson, G. C.||Rayner, Major R. H.||Colonel Kerr.|