Air Estimates, 1938.

Orders of the Day — Supply. – in the House of Commons at on 26 July 1938.

Alert me about debates like this

16. "That a sum, not exceeding £16,894,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1939, for Expenditure in respect of the Air Services, namely:

£
2.Quartering, Non-Technical Stores, Supplies and Transportation6,144,000
5.Medical Services524,000
6.Technical Training and Educational Services1,040,000
7.Reserve and Auxiliary Forces1,660,000
8.Civil Aviation2,925,000
9.Meteorological and Miscellaneous Effective Services2,587,000
10.Air Ministry1,490,000
11.Half-Pay, Pensions, and other Non-Effective Services524,000
£16,894,000"

3.57 P.m.

Photo of Sir Archibald Sinclair Sir Archibald Sinclair , Caithness and Sutherland

May I put a point of Order to you, Mr. Speaker? My hon. Friends and I, and, I believe, the whole House, are anxious that the Debate should cover as wide a field as possible, and I would, therefore, ask whether we can take together this Vote and Vote 2 on Diplomatic and Consular Services? Further, I would ask whether the fact of moving a reduction of the Vote will have the effect of narrowing the scope of the Debate?

Mr. Speaker:

I am quite willing that the two Votes should be taken together. It would be for the convenience of the House, and would enable the House to widen the scope of the Debate. If the right hon. Gentleman wishes to move an Amendment, it would not narrow the Debate at all.

Photo of Sir Archibald Sinclair Sir Archibald Sinclair , Caithness and Sutherland

I beg to move, to leave out "£71,143," and to insert "£71,043."

We have had during the course of this Session many Debates on special aspects of the world situation, and it seems to many of us that the time has arrived to make a review of the whole situation and that it is particularly important to have such a Debate and to give the Government an opportunity to define their policy before we separate for the Autumn Recess. Let me begin my speech on a note of agreement, on one point, at any rate, with the Prime Minister, who declared two or three weeks ago at Kettering that it was a striking fact that at the present time foreign affairs were dominating the minds of the people of this country. He thought that all the peoples of the world were asking themselves this same question: "Are we to be allowed to live our life in peace, or are we to be plunged against our will into war?" This is the explanation and justification of our frequent Debates on foreign policy during the present Session. We know that war is not inevitable, but we also know that peace is not certain. If it were, why this mad race in armaments? Every year of peace, every month of peace, is precious, but a policy which would enable the dictators to go on increasing their power by destroying freedom over widening areas of the world and to strengthen their own military machines with the resources of weaker Powers, would undermine the very foundation of law, justice and international good faith on which alone peace can be firmly based. Such a policy might indeed give us peace until the next General Election, but only at the cost of confronting us thereafter with the stark alternatives of war or submission.

The Prime Minister asks, are we to be plunged into war against our will? If those who threaten and trample on the rights of others are to be allowed to dominate and absorb the resources first of one country and then of another—Austria, Spain, China, Czechoslovakia and the Balkan countries—and if brute force proves irresistible, the answer is that we in our turn will inevitably have to choose between being plunged into war against our will or being reduced to impotence, poverty and servitude. An experienced and detached observer, Senator Pittman, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the United States Senate, said not long ago: World conditions are getting progressively worse, much worse. The so-called authoritarian governments have been consolidating and strengthening war instrumentalities, and the so-called democratic Governments have been progressively retreating with every indication of pacific fear. A continuation of such courses will inevitably result in continued conquests and ultimate war. If Senator Pittman is too detached, too remote, for his opinion to impress hon. Members, let us come nearer home and consider the opinion of Doctor Goebbels, which he expressed a few weeks after Senator Pittman: If I am asked wherein Parliamentary democracy and authoritarian States differ most deeply, then I must reply that the greater the danger the more parliamentary democracies are wont to retreat and the more the true leader—personality is wont to advance. Quite recently Signor Mussolini has described the democracies as "abject." Are we to be allowed to live our lives in peace? Only if we rid the minds of the dictators of the belief that the democracies are abject; only if we can convince the world that when we say that peace is the greatest of all British interests we do not merely mean untroubled possession of our Imperial heritage and selfish defence of our national interests, but peace based on law, justice and international good faith; only if we can rally those who love peace and freedom and hate war to the defence of these principles against the rising tide of barbarism and force.

Let us then look to our friends. My mind turns first to the United States of America. One of the greatest achievements of the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden), when he was Secretary for Foreign Affairs, was that he attained to a closer understanding with the United States than any Foreign Secretary since the War. Never has public opinion in the United States been so keenly alive to the perils which threaten democracy as it to-day. Never since the days of President Wilson have any President and Secretary of State so boldly exposed the fallacies of isolation as President Roosevelt and Mr. Cordell Hull have done. The tragedy is that while the United States is swinging away from isolation our Government is swinging towards it; and even our alliance with France is defended on the ground that the aeroplane has put our frontier on the Rhine.

Of the things which ought to be done to develop Anglo-American friendship and association I would mention three: First, if the Prime Minister would strike in his speeches the same notes as President Roosevelt and Mr. Cordell Hull do in theirs—the common interests of mankind in preserving peace and democracy and extending trade, that Britain is concerned not only to defend British interests, trade and territory, but to uphold freedom, law and justice wherever they are threatened by tyranny and aggression, and, in the words of President Roosevelt, "to make a concerted effort with other peace-loving nations to uphold the laws and liberties in which alone peace can rest secure." Secondly, to push on with the trade treaty and not stop there, but to concert with Mr. Cordell Hull fresh measures for breaking down trade barriers and removing the economic causes of war. If, in the course of this Debate, the Prime Minister can give us any news about the progress of the present negotiations with the United States, which seem to be hanging fire, we would be grateful. Thirdly, to tackle the question of the War debt. Do not let it lie festering under the bandage of polite diplomacy. Cauterise it even if it hurts a little, and Anglo-American friendship will be all the healthier and stronger for the great part it will have to play in the preservation of peace and freedom in the world.

From the United States it is natural to pass to the Far East, where China is the victim of a ruthless and ferocious attack. The Assembly of the League on 6th October last passed a resolution which His Majesty's Government supported, expressing its moral support for China and asking Members of the League to consider how far they can individually extend aid to China. In February of this year a resolution in similar terms was passed by the Council, with the outspoken support of the representative of His Majesty's Government, and on 14th May the Council passed a further resolution, "Earnestly urging"—that was the phrase—Members to give effect to the previous resolution and expressing sympathy with China in her "herioc struggle" with Japan. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs spoke eloquently in support of the resolution. Lord Halifax said: I would like to say a few words in warm support of the resolution now before the Council. I can assure Mr. Wellington Koo that His Majesty's Government will continue, as it has done in the past, to give, in the words of our resolution to-day, serious and sympathetic consideration' to any requests from the Chinese Government in conformity with those resolutions. What has been done? A few days ago the Under-Secretary of State was asked by the hon. Member for Walthamstow (Mr. McEntee) what had been done, and in a written answer he replied: I cannot attempt to give any detailed definition of what is being done or what may be in contemplation. ''—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st July, 1938; col. 2447, Vol. 338.] Will the Prime Minister tell us all the things we have done to help China, or is the catalogue too long and the task of exposition too great even for his powers of endurance? Something was done by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington when he was Foreign Secretary, but I suggest to the Prime Minister that if the question had been confined to the period since Lord Halifax supported the last resolution at Geneva on 14th May, the answer would have been packed into one word—"Nothing." I shall be glad to be corrected if I am wrong. We cannot send fleets and armies to help China to resist the Japanese invasion. China does not expect it, and I am not advocating it. But interest and honour alike dictate that we should give her a loan to stabilise her currency. Anglo-Chinese co-operation in commerce and finance is vital to the interest of both countries. The Leith-Ross Commission and the success which attended it testify to the agreement of both Governments on that point. Last July it was reported that the Chinese Minister of Finance had reached agreement in principle with the City of London for the issue of a substantial loan. The difficulty of issuing the loan has increased, but the need is urgent.

A fortnight ago the Chancellor of the Exchequer defended his refusal to give or guarantee a loan to China while giving one to Turkey, on the ground that Turkey was not engaged in hostilities. But it was precisely on the ground that China was defending her independence and integrity against Japanese invasion that His Majesty's Government, along with other Members of the League, supported a Resolution which committed them to giving "serious and sympathetic consideration" to any Chinese request for help. There could be not flatter repudiation of the obligation which Lord Halifax undertook on behalf of His Majesty's Government at Geneva than the Chancellor's refusal of this specific request from China for a loan on the very ground on which Lord Halifax undertook the obligation to consider it seriously and sympathetically. Moreover, on every occasion when we have debated the Far Eastern question His Majesty's Government have assured us that they will go as far as the United States Government will go; but the United States Government are giving just this kind of help to China by purchasing silver and thus supporting the Chinese currency. Therefore, a grant or guarantee of this loan would help China in her ordeal and promote both AngloChinese and Anglo-American co-operation. It sometimes seems to us that His Majesty's Government regard armaments as the only bulwark of peace and world order. A comparatively small investment in a loan to China might well produce future dividends in friendship and co-operation between our two countries which would be an incomparably stronger safeguard for peace and trade in the Far East than 10 times the same value in aeroplanes and warships.

Let us turn to Europe, and let us be thankful that we can to-day review the troubled scene and face the dangers which we see there—to which it would be folly to blind ourselves—in the clear, strong and hopeful light which has been shed by the visit of our beloved King and Queen to Paris, and by the splendour, the enthusiasm and the sincerity of the welcome which they received from the Government and people of France. We owe a tribute of respectful gratitude to Their Majesties for the great service which they have rendered to the State and the cause of peace, of which the strongest bulwark in Europe to-day is the firm and loyal friendship between France and Britain, and we look forward to showing our appreciation of the welcome which France gave to our King and Queen when President Lebrun returns their visit in the spring of next year. In the speeches both of His Majesty the King and the President of the French Republic emphasis was laid upon the fact that the friendship between the two countries was not exclusive. We want friendship with Germany, with Italy, with Russia and with all other countries as well; we would exclude none; but let each occupy its place with equality of rights and status in a world order based on law, justice and third-party judgment.

Is that what Germany wants? Will she be content to abide by third-party judgment and the rule of law? Will the Prime Minister tell us what Captain Weidemann said when he came over? Did he bring peaceful assurances from the German Government of their willingness to consider disarmament and the submission of international disputes to third-party judgment, or did he merely come to find out what our attitude would be in the event of a German invasion of Czechoslovakia? And what message did he take back to Germany from His Majesty's Government? I would also ask the Prime Minister to dissipate the cloud of rumours which has enveloped his last conversation with the German Ambassador. He published a communique with that object on Sunday. Will he now tell us what were the "certain assurances"—I quote the phrase from the communiqué—which he gave to the German Ambassador to the effect that the British Government were exercising a restraining influence in Prague? In the present critical situation in Central Europe we must all be anxious, as I certainly am, to give such support as we can to His Majesty's Government, on whom must rest so heavy a responsibility for preserving the peace of the world and of our own homes; and on the broad lines of His Majesty's Government's policy towards Czechoslovakia there can, surely, be little difference of opinion in any quarter of the House. On the one hand we want the Czechs to give the most generous concessions which are consistent with the safety of their State, to the reasonable wishes of the Sudeten German minority, while on the other hand they will deserve, and should receive, the support of His Majesty's Government in resisting unjust and aggressive demands. We, therefore, welcome the appointment of Lord Runciman in an advisory capacity to the Czech Government for the period of the negotiations, an appointment which both reflects Lord Runciman's willingness to accept most exacting and responsible public service and gives a fresh proof of the Czech Government's willingness to make every sacrifice for peace which is compatible with the integrity of the State and the principles of democracy.

There are, however, two rumours which I observe obtaining currency in the newspapers on which I should like to put questions to the Prime Minister. Is it true that we are trying to hustle the Czech Government in their negotiations? Surely it would be a great mistake to hustle them too far. They are a democracy, there are five or six parties supporting the Czech Government to negotiate with, they have Sudeten Germans to negotiate with, and behind the Sudeten Germans are other interested parties. Surely these negotiations are extremely delicate and extremely complicated, and it is within the practical experience of every one of us that if complicated negotiating machinery is forced to run too fast there is a serious risk of friction. The second rumour which I have noticed in the newspapers is that His Majesty's Government are pressing the Czech Government to submit their proposals to Herr Henlein for his approval before submitting them to the Czech Parliament. Is that true; and if true is it wise to give to Herr Henlein a form of veto on proposals before they ever reach the Czech Parliament? Surely it would be better that the proposals should be expounded to Parliament, and that if Herr Henlein has criticisms to make of those proposals he should have to argue them in Parliament and within the hearing of the public opinion of the whole world.

Obviously, there is no fear that the Czechs will attack the Germans. Therefore, the temptation to weak and shortsighted statesmen would be to exert pressure on the Czechs to conform to German wishes even at the cost of weakening the structure of their own State. For three reasons I believe that that policy would be fatal. First, because the policy of His Majesty's Government has so weakened the League that we have now relapsed into an era, which I hope will be short, of power politics, and Czechoslovakia, with the fifth largest and one of the most efficient armies in Europe, and one of the greatest armament industries in Europe, is a factor of immense weight in the balance of power. Once Czechoslovakia fell to Germany there would be nothing to stop Germany bestriding the Continent of Europe from the Baltic to the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. Secondly, if the Czechs are pressed too far they will fight rather than give way. Their great statesmen, M. Benes and M. Hodza, men of unimpeachable integrity, supported by their people with dour and resolute loyalty, have proved themselves in the crisis of last May, and since, to be firm, cool, tenacious but conciliatory. We do well to pay attention to the claims of the Sudeten Germans, but the rights, freedom and democratic culture and ideals of the Czechs also demand respect. If the Czechs are pressed too far they will fight, and France and Russia will be faithful to their obligations. Thirdly, if there is any doubt about our attitude those forces in Germany which would like to repeat the Rhineland and Austrian strokes of policy will urge another gamble. Already there are immense signs of activity in the militarist camp in Germany. Vehement anti-Czech campaigns rage in the German Press; prodigious quantities of war material are reported to be passing through Vienna on their way to the frontier with Czechoslovakia; German rearmament has recently been accelerated, the Air Force programme doubled, and their fortifications increased on the French frontier. Rumours, which have proved false, were deliberately spread by the German Press about a mobilisation in Czechoslovakia; while the Sudeten Germans, instead of following the path of compromise with the Czech Government, published on 19th July, possibly indeed under outside pressure, demands which went even further than those contained in Herr Henlein's Carlsbad speech, a development which must have been particularly disappointing to those who recently enjoyed the privilege of meeting Herr Henlein in London.

These are the facts against the unpleasant background of which we must consider any assurances which the Prime Minister may have received from the German Government, and judge how far it is morally justifiable and politically expedient to press the Czechs to go in concessions to the Sudeten Germans, and those who stand behind them. Moreover, they suggest that at this juncture safety lies in making the attitude of His Majesty's Government clear beyond a doubt, for if the militarists in Germany are encouraged to gamble on armed invasion of Czechoslovakia by uncertainty about the intentions of Britain a heavy responsibility for the resulting catastrophe will rest upon His Majesty's Government.

Let me now turn to what is only another aspect of one European situation, to the Mediterranean. Just as one end of the Rome-Berlin axis is thrusting into Central Europe, so it is also thrusting into Spain, fastening its grip—as I described in some detail in our last Debate—on Spanish military and economic resources, threatening our sea communications, and encircling France. War is still not inevitable, Mr. Speaker, because the aggressor Powers are still substantially weaker than those who wish to maintain peace and order in the world, but it does mean that there are powerful forces ready to exploit every weakness in the policy of France and Britain.

If with only a few sentences, I must trouble the consciences of hon. Members by referring to Abyssinia. The condemnation by the League of Nations of the Italian invasion of Abyssinia still stands. His Majesty's Government have declared that they have no intention of condoning it, yet they allow the Italians to develop our harbours of Berbera and Zeila and to build roads through British Somaliland which enable them to supply the troops which are trying to beat down the heroic resistance of the Abyssinians. The sum of £7,000 has already been paid by the Italian Government to the British Somaliland Government for this purpose, and on the west every facility is being given for the transport by Sudan Government steamers, through the British enclave of Gambela, of stores which are essential to the conduct of a war which His Majesty's Government still condemn as a crime. That ought to be stopped. Moreover, the Italians have been recruiting British Somalis to fight against the Abyssinians, which is plainly contrary to the Bon Voisinage. Agreement. It is true that Ministers have told us that the situation has been brought to the attention of the Italian Government, but I would ask the Prime Minister, Have the recruits now been discharged from the Italian armies?

There the Italian Government are ignoring the letter and the spirit of the AngloItalian Agreement. So they are in respect of propaganda. The Bari Wireless has closed down, but otherwise Italian and German propaganda is raging throughout Portugal and all through the Mediterranean countries. It is not only pro-Italian and pro-German propaganda; to that we should have little objection. Our right answer to that would be to give greater support to the strenuous efforts of the British Council, with inadequate resources, to put the British case. This Italian and German propaganda however is assertively and strikingly anti-British and anti-democratic. The Italians are spending the equivalent of over£1,000,000 a year on propaganda, and the Germans are spending much more. I must say that I am astonished at the silence on this subject of so many hon. Members who were moved to transports of indignation by the trifling, feeble, clumsy efforts of the Bolshevist Government to conduct propaganda in this country and through the British Empire. For my own part, I detest Government propaganda directed against other countries, from whatever Government it comes; I am prepared to denounce it and support measures against it whether it comes from Russia, Germany or Italy; but do not let the House under-estimate the far more formidable character of the propaganda which is being directed against British interests by Germany and Italy.

Nor can His Majesty's Government regard the bombing of British ships and the machine-gunning of British sailors by Italian aeroplanes and pilots as being consistent with the spirit of the AngloItalian Agreement? Nor is Signor Mussolini, as I understand from the newspapers, any longer content with the sacrifice of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden). The Rome correspondent of the "Times" tells us that anti-Italian designs are not, of course, attributed to the Prime Minister. He possesses Italian confidence up to 100 per cent. But the Italians are not so sure of some responsible officials in the Foreign Office. I hope that no more sacrifices will be offered by the Prime Minister to placate the Italian dictator, but we must be vigilant.

Moreover, in successive speeches Signor Mussolini has emphasised his contempt for what he calls the "demo-pluto-cracies," and his intention to work loyally with Germany and Japan. For the first time during the nearly 20 years in which he has ruled Italy, he is now even participating in the German campaign against the Jews, while his attitude to France is particularly threatening, and even insulting. His newspapers openly boast that Italy began armed intervention in Spain. I am shocked at the lack of consideration they have shown for the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft), who has so assiduously argued, on behalf of the Italian dictator, that it was the Russians who started it. Signor Mussolini and his newspapers say:" Not at all; it was we who started it."They are determined to control the destinies of the Spanish people, in spite of France and Britain and the Non-Intervention Agreements to which both they and we are parties. Independent newspaper correspondents tell us, that, since Signor Mussolini promised the Prime Minister as the price of opening the negotiations for the Anglo-Italian Agreement not to increase his intervention in Spain, the air blockade of Spanish ports carried out by Italian machines with pilots from Majorca and even direct from Italy, has been intensified, and that General Franco has such immense supplies of war material now at his disposal that the bombardments which precede his attacks are compared for the first time with those on the Western Front during the Great War. By thus increasing his military support of General Franco, by pressing us to bring the Anglo-Italian Agreement into operation all the same, and by refusing to negotiate with France, Signor Mussolini is openly aiming at driving a wedge between France and Britain.

So I would ask the Prime Minister, first, if he would tell us what passed between M. Daladier and himself in that correspondence which M. Daladier opened a few weeks ago, and between Lord Halifax and M. Bonnet in Paris. Secondly, I would ask him whether he agrees that, when the Government's plan for the evacuation of foreign combatants comes into force, if there is obstruction to the operation of that plan from Germany and Italy, we must promptly move to allow the Spanish Government to import arms freely to defend themselves against the intervening Powers? Thirdly, I would ask him whether he can give the House an assurance that he will not attempt to bring the Anglo-Italian Agreement into full operation during the autumn Recess until all the Italian troops, airmen and military advisers are evacuated from Spain and from Spanish islands and territories; or until the fighting in Spain is stopped by an armistice?

For, although we have always supported the Government's plan for the evacuation of foreign combatants, with all its imperfections, I am convinced that the world will witness a most appalling tragedy if an armistice is not declared in Spain before the end of the winter. Let the Government not wait until both parties are searching for a mediator. On both sides I have no doubt there are tens of thousands of men, and at any rate there are some leading men, who are longing for peace. On the Republican side, that is proved by the speeches of Senor Azana and Senor Negrin, and on the insurgent side by the speeches of General Yague and the Marquis de Carjaval, who have spoken out nobly for peace and understanding between the varying factions in Spain. Let the British Government start talking peace and rallying to their support the powerful influence for peace of the democracies on both sides of the Atlantic. Evacuation would have been good a year ago when it was first proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden), and when not only the Government supporters but my hon. Friends and I supported it; now, in all probability, nothing short of an armistice before the winter will avail to avert catastrophe.

In conclusion let me only say this, that I have no doubt that the thought uppermost in the mind of the Prime Minister, whose courage and industry in shouldering his heavy burden of responsibility we may all admire, however much we may dissent, as I strongly do, from his policy—the thought uppermost in his mind, as it is in my own and that of every hon. Member in this House, is the preservation of peace. The policy of concession to the dictatorships is, I believe, in danger of defeating that object. On the few occasions when it has been tried, firmness has invariably met with success. There were Nyon, the Czechoslovakian crisis of May, and the Austrian Debt settlement; and even the bombing of British ships, although there is sad news to-day, which shows the need for firm vigilance, has been almost entirely stopped since His Majesty's Government, stiffened by Debates in this House, made strong representations not only to General Franco but also to the head of the Italian Government.

It is a profound mistake to suppose that because Japan is having difficulties in China, Germany is having difficulties in Austria, and Italy is having difficulties in Abyssinia, the enterprises of the dictatorships are, therefore, doomed to failure. Never in the history of the world has tryanny had at its disposal such powerful instruments of oppression as it has to-day. If we are to avoid the choice between war and subjection, now is the time, before the resources of great and free countries like Czechoslovakia, Spain and Portugal are transferred in the balance sheet of power to the credit of Germany and Italy, to stand firm for our principles and for our ideals of peace, freedom, justice, and international good faith.

4.39 p.m.

Photo of Mr Neville Chamberlain Mr Neville Chamberlain , Birmingham, Edgbaston

The right hon. Gentleman who has just addressed the House has moved a reduction of the Vote and, of course, his business is to put a different point of view from that which the House would expect of me; nevertheless, the right hon. Gentleman did not on this occasion unduly stress disagreement and, in the concluding part of his speech, he said that everybody would agree with what he understood to be the main aim of the Government. I think that must be so. I cannot imagine anyone in any part of the House who would disagree with what we have so frequently declared to be the main aim of the Government's foreign policy, namely, the establishment and the maintenance of peace and the removal, as far as that may be practicable, of all causes of possible conflict in the amelioration of grievances between one country and another.

It pleases the right hon. Gentleman sometimes to suggest that our attitude towards certain countries in Europe is one of continued concession, and although from time to time he gives instances which go to prove the opposite, they are to be excepted. Let not the right hon. Gentleman or anyone, either in this country or elsewhere, imagine for one moment that, although we seek peace, we are willing to sacrifice, even for peace, British honour and British vital interests. We are making rapid progress with our great rearmament programme, and day by day the armed strength of this country becomes more formidable. While that tremendous power which we are accumulating remains there as a guarantee that we can defend ourselves if we are attacked, we are not unmindful of the consideration that although it is good to have a giant's strength, it is tyrannous to use it like a giant. Our aims are not the less peaceful because no one can imagine that we have reason to fear any opponent.

The right hon. Gentleman moved over a very wide field and put to me a great number of questions. I am not sure that I remember all his questions, much less the answers, but in the course of what I am to say I shall be able to take up, at any rate, a portion of them as I pass from one part of the subject to another. In the brief speech which I propose to make upon the more salient points on the international situation I shall hope to make clear in each case that what the Government have kept constantly before them is that main fundamental aim and that policy which I began by describing to the House. The right hon. Gentleman paid an eloquent tribute to the magnificent response which was recently accorded to the King and Queen on their visit to France. I would like to associate myself with what the right hon. Gentleman said. I do not think I recall such unanimity among all classes and all parties in France as was displayed on that occasion, and while no doubt it was largely due to the personal bearing and charm of the Royal guests, one may ascribe it in large measure to the consciousness that our two democratic nations are united closely together by common interests and common ideals.

The unity which exists between France and ourselves is the more happy because I think it is generally recognised that it is not directed against any other nation or combination of nations. It is in itself a solid buttress of peace. That unity was strengthened and confirmed by conversations which took place between my Noble Friend and the French Ministers in Paris. The right hon. Gentleman asked me to tell him what took place in those conversations. An official communiqué has been issued which gives the substance of them, and I really do not think there is anything more that I can tell the House, because there is no mystery about them. There has been no new undertaking, no new commitment on either side. There was a general discussion of all matters of common interest to the two countries, and there was general and complete agreement upon them. With that, I think, the House may be fairly satisfied.

If I may turn to France's unhappy neighbour it is a matter of profound regret that one cannot see the prospect of a speedy termination of that terrible struggle which is daily destroying the best of Spain's life and dissipating the resources which will be so sorely needed when the combatants lay down their arms. There is no need for any appeal to be made to this Government to take advantage of any opportunity which may occur for mediation, or an armistice, or anything that would bring to a close the military operations which, I think, must shock us daily. In all these cases there are moments when it is not only futile but, indeed, mischievous for third parties to try to intervene. I hope the House will believe that, if we do not intervene at this particular moment, it is only because we are convinced that the moment has not come when we can intervene with success.

Photo of Miss Ellen Wilkinson Miss Ellen Wilkinson , Jarrow

Why did you close the frontier?

Photo of Mr Neville Chamberlain Mr Neville Chamberlain , Birmingham, Edgbaston

The House is aware that the non-intervention plan—the British plan for the withdrawal of volunteers which was agreed upon by the Non-Intervention Committee—has now been submitted to the two parties in Spain. I understand that the Non-Intervention Committee are not yet in receipt of replies from both sides, though I hope that those replies will not be long delayed.

Photo of Miss Ellen Wilkinson Miss Ellen Wilkinson , Jarrow

Have they not had a reply from the Government?

Photo of Mr Neville Chamberlain Mr Neville Chamberlain , Birmingham, Edgbaston

I believe that they have had a reply from the Spanish Republican Government, but that they have not yet received a reply from General Franco. Perhaps, however, the House might like to have the latest information about the communications which have been passing between His Majesty's Government and the Burgos authorities about the bombing of British ships in Spanish ports. We sent a communication to the Burgos authorities, who have, the House will remember, declared that it was no part of their policy to make deliberate attacks upon British ships. We sent a communication to them proposing that an immediate investigation should be made into certain cases to which we had already drawn their attention, and in which it appeared to us that the attack had been, in fact, a deliberate one. We proposed that this investigation should be carried out by two naval officers, one appointed by His Majesty's Government and the other by the Burgos authorities. If they agreed that the attack was deliberate, then the Burgos authorities would make the necessary arrangements to pay immediate compensation to those concerned. If, on the other hand, the two officers were unable to agree, then our proposal was that the matter should be referred to a third party, not of British or Spanish nationality, but who should be agreed upon between the Burgos authorities and ourselves, and that he should make the final decision. We have now received a reply from the Burgos authorities in which they say that, in pursuance of their desire to meet the wishes of His Majesty's Government, they accept this formula and they agree that the investigation we propose should be carried out. We are now considering whether it would not be advisable to send Sir Robert Hodgson back to Spain with instructions which would cover, among other things, the detailed working out of this proposal.

There is another matter which is bound up with the situation in Spain, and that is the position in regard to the Anglo-Italian Agreement. The Agreement was to come into force upon a date to be determined by agreement between the two Governments, but on 16th April, that is to say, the date upon which the Agreement was signed, Lord Perth addressed a Note to the Italian Foreign Minister in which he reminded him that His Majesty's Government regarded the settlement of the Spanish question as a pre-requisite of the entry into force of the Agreement made between the two Governments. I should like to explain, because I am not sure that it is generally apprehended, why it was that we put in that stipulation. We never regarded this Agreement as simply a bilateral arrangement between Italy and ourselves. When we entered into negotiations, we did so because we thought then, and we are still of the same opinion, that the restoration of the relations between Italy and this country to their old terms of friendship and confidence would bring us appreciably nearer to our ultimate aim, which is a general European appeasement. We felt at the time that the moral justification for our recognition of the Italian position in Ethiopia would be the knowledge that that recognition had brought with it a real contribution to the peace of Europe. We felt that, while this conflict was going on in Spain under the sort of conditions in which it has been waged, the Spanish situation was a perpetual menace to the peace of Europe, and it was for that reason that we said that it must be removed from that category before our Agreement was brought into force. It is not our fault, and it is not the fault of the Italian Government, that that condition has not been brought about. They have kept faith with us—

Photo of Miss Ellen Wilkinson Miss Ellen Wilkinson , Jarrow

Would you like to send some troops to help them?

Photo of Mr Neville Chamberlain Mr Neville Chamberlain , Birmingham, Edgbaston

They kept full faith with us in the reduction of their troops in Libya, in the cessation of anti-British propaganda, and in collaboration on the Non-Intervention Committee. [Interruption.] We on our side have carried out our engagement—

Photo of Mr Neville Chamberlain Mr Neville Chamberlain , Birmingham, Edgbaston

It is very difficult to give a connected account, which I am trying to do, of the state of affairs in Europe, if I am subjected to these constant interruptions. Hon. Members will surely have plenty of opportunity later on of criticising what I am saying, and I think they might at least allow me to finish my sentences. I was saying that we have fulfilled our engagement to take steps at the Council of the League to clarify the position of Member States in regard to the Italian sovereignty over Ethiopia. The right hon. Gentleman stated that the recruiting of Somalis by the Italian forces was taking place in British Somaliland. My information is that he is mistaken. Recruiting has not taken place in British Somaliland—

Photo of Mr John Jagger Mr John Jagger , Manchester Clayton

They have taken them out.

Photo of Mr Neville Chamberlain Mr Neville Chamberlain , Birmingham, Edgbaston

Perhaps I may be allowed just to finish this sentence—but a certain amount of recruiting has taken place, not in British Somaliland, but among people whose home is in British Somaliland but who crossed the frontier for purposes of grazing. The Government of British Somaliland have taken all possible steps to prevent recruiting, and it has recently been agreed with the Italian authorities that no such recruiting shall take place.

Photo of Mr Neville Chamberlain Mr Neville Chamberlain , Birmingham, Edgbaston

I do not think any undertaking has been given to discharge the men. Of course, they ought never to have been recruited. There, for the present, the matter of the Anglo-Italian Agreement must rest. We cannot abandon the position we have taken up about the settlement of the Spanish—

Photo of Sir Archibald Sinclair Sir Archibald Sinclair , Caithness and Sutherland

Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the subject, will he answer the point about material going through from British Somaliland and up the Nile through the Sudan and Gambela?

Photo of Mr Neville Chamberlain Mr Neville Chamberlain , Birmingham, Edgbaston

I am sorry I cannot answer that question. I have had no notice of it, and have not the slightest idea to what the right hon. Gentleman is referring. I never heard of it before. I will ask my hon. Friend to make inquiries and, if possible, give the right hon. Gentleman an answer later on. I was saying that we cannot abandon the position we have taken up in regard to the settlement of the Spanish question which we have over and over again declared to the House. But, on the other hand, we profoundly regret this unforeseen delay which has taken place in the completion of the agreement, and we shall do all that we possibly can to facilitate the withdrawal of the foreign volunteers from Spain, in order that that country may cease to offer any threat to the peace of Europe.

Photo of Mr Clement Attlee Mr Clement Attlee , Stepney Limehouse

Do I gather from the right hon. Gentleman's present statement that what he means by a settlement in Spain is the volunteers' withdrawal agreement? Hitherto we have not known what he meant by a settlement in Spain. Do I understand now that it is merely a question of volunteers being withdrawn?

Photo of Mr Neville Chamberlain Mr Neville Chamberlain , Birmingham, Edgbaston

I would like to see what happens when the volunteers are withdrawn. If His Majesty's Government think that Spain has ceased to be a menace to the peace of Europe, I think we shall regard that as a settlement of the Spanish question.

In recent weeks the attention of His Majesty's Government has necessarily been particularly directed to two areas in Europe. One is that with which I have been dealing; the other is Czechoslovakia. In dealing with Czechoslovakia, it is very difficult for people in this country, with the exception of a comparatively small number who have made a special study of the position, to arrive at a just conclusion as to the rights and wrongs of the dispute between the Czechoslovakian Government and the Sudeten Germans. Many of us would have been very glad if we could have left this matter to be decided by the two parties concerned; but, unfortunately, here again we are only too conscious that there are all the materials present for a breach of the peace, with incalculable consequences, if the matter is not handled boldly and with a reasonable amount of speed. Therefore, in accordance with our general policy, and in close association with France, we have done everything that we could to facilitate a peaceful solution of the dispute. It is a problem which, in one form or another, has existed for centuries, and it would perhaps be unreasonable to expect that a difficulty which has been going on so long should be capable of solution in a few short weeks.

The right hon. Gentleman spoke of one of the many rumours which he has collected, without very much authority behind them. This was to the effect that we were hustling the Czech Government. It is a little difficult to know what one is to do about these rumours. If you deny them when they are untrue, then when you cannot deny them people assume that they are true. You get into a difficulty when you eliminate one rumour after another, and thus allow the skilful journalist to find out the thing you wish him not to know. With regard to this rumour, I should like to assure the right hon. Gentleman that there is no truth in it. Indeed, the very opposite is the truth. Our anxiety has been rather lest the Czechoslovakian Government should be too hasty in dealing with a situation of such delicacy that it was most desirable that the two sides should not get into a position where they were set, and unable to have any further give-and-take between them.

Perhaps I might say, with regard to the rumour to which the right hon. Gentleman referred when he inquired whether we had urged on the Czechoslovakian Government to submit their proposals to Herr Henlein before putting them to their Parliament, that we did so, and we did so for that very reason, that if by any chance an agreed settlement could be come to between Herr Henlein and the Czechoslovakian Government before any statute was put before the Czech Parliament, obviously that would be the best solution of all. But I do not think that any great amount of pressure need be applied from us to induce the Czechoslovakian Government to do what they were anxious to do all along, and that was to give the fullest opportunity for a full and frank discussion of any proposals they might wish to make. Hitherto we have ourselves abstained from making suggestions as to the particular method of trying to solve this Czechoslovakian question, although, of course, in this country we have had a certain amount of experience of the difficulty of trying to provide for local government without endangering the stability of the State. We have, perhaps, in that respect had as much experience as any country in the world.

But while we have felt that an agreement voluntarily come to, if it could be reached between the Sudeten Germans and the Czech Government, would be the best solution, nevertheless, as time has gone on, it has begun to appear doubtful whether, without some assistance from outside, such a voluntary agreement could take place. In those circumstances, His Majesty's Government have been considering whether there were some other way in which they could lend their help to bring the negotiators together, and, in response to a request from the Government of Czechoslovakia, we have agreed to propose a person with the necessary experience and qualities to investigate this subject on the spot and endeavour, if need be, to suggest means for bringing the negotiations to success. Such an investigator and mediator would, of course, be independent of His Majesty's Government—in fact, he would be independent of all Governments. He would act only in his personal capacity, and it would be necessary, of course, that he should have all the facilities and all the information placed at his disposal in order to enable him to carry through his task.

I cannot assert that a proposal of that kind will necessarily bring about a solution of this problem, but I think it may have two valuable results. First of all, I think it would go far to inform public opinion generally as to the real facts of the case, and, secondly, I hope that it may mean that issues which hitherto have appeared intractable may prove, under the influence of such a mediator, to be less obstinate than we have thought. But it is quite obvious that the task of anyone who undertakes this duty is going to be a very exacting, very responsible, and very delicate one, and His Majesty's Government feel that they are fortunate in having secured from Lord Runciman a promise to undertake it, provided he is assured of the confidence of the Sudeten Germans—I hope he will be—as well as the assistance of the Czechoslovakian Government. Lord Runciman was a Member of this House so long that he is well known to many hon. Members. I think they will agree with me that he has outstanding personal qualifications for the task he has undertaken. He has a long experience of public affairs and of men of all sorts and conditions. He is characterised by fearlessness, freedom from prejudice, integrity and impartiality, and I am quite certain that everyone here will wish him all success.

Photo of Mr Frederick Bellenger Mr Frederick Bellenger , Bassetlaw

The right hon. Gentleman has stated that Lord Runciman will go in quite a personal capacity, entirely, unconnected with His Majesty's Government. Do I understand that his position is only acceptable as long as both sides agree to accept him as an arbitrator, or adviser—the Czechoslovakian Government and the Henlein party?

Photo of Mr Neville Chamberlain Mr Neville Chamberlain , Birmingham, Edgbaston

I think the hon. Gentleman is under a misapprehension. Lord Runciman is not in any sense an arbitrator.

Photo of Mr Neville Chamberlain Mr Neville Chamberlain , Birmingham, Edgbaston

He is an investigator and mediator—that is what I called him. He will try to acquaint himself with all the facts and the views of the two sides, and he will no doubt see them separately, and perhaps later on he will be able to make some proposals to them which will help them. He is in the position, so well known to the hon. Member, of a man who goes down to assist in settling a strike. He has to see two sides who have come to a point when they cannot go any further. He is there as an independent, impartial person.

Photo of Mr Frederick Bellenger Mr Frederick Bellenger , Bassetlaw

Acceptable to both sides in the dispute?

Photo of Mr Neville Chamberlain Mr Neville Chamberlain , Birmingham, Edgbaston

That is Lord Runciman's stipulation, and obviously a necessary one. If one side declare that they will have nothing to do with him, it will be quite impossible for him to undertake the task.

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Epping

Have both sides agreed?

Photo of Miss Ellen Wilkinson Miss Ellen Wilkinson , Jarrow

Could we hear that personal exchange?

Photo of Mr Neville Chamberlain Mr Neville Chamberlain , Birmingham, Edgbaston

My right hon. Friend asks whether both sides have agreed, and my reply was that we have not heard from the Sudeten Germans. We have impressed upon the Government of Czechoslovakia, and also upon the German Government, our own sense of the desirability of restraint. We have noted with satisfaction the efforts which the Czech Government have made, and we have also been very happy to receive assurances, only recently renewed, from the German Government of their own desire for a peaceful solution. The right hon. Gentleman asked me what asurances I had given to the German Ambassador. I was not myself responsible for the exact wording of the communiqué to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred; but it does not mean anything more than I have already told the House of our action in urging the Czechoslovakian Government to try to do all they possibly can, consistent with what they consider essential to their own State, to come to an agreement. On the other side, too, we have continually urged the need for patience in a very delicate and difficult situation.

If only we could find some peaceful solution of this Czechoslovakian question, I should myself feel that the way was open again for a further effort for a general appeasement—an appeasement which cannot be obtained until we can be satisfied that no major cause of difference or dispute remains unsettled. We have already demonstrated the possibility of a complete agreement between a democratic and a totalitarian State, and I do not myself see why that experience should not be repeated. When Herr Hitler made his offer of a Naval Treaty under which the German fleet was to be restricted to an agreed level bearing a fixed ratio to the size of the British fleet, he made a notable gesture of a most practical kind in the direction of peace, the value of which it seems to me has not ever been fully appreciated as tending towards this general appeasement. There the treaty stands as a demonstration that it is possible for Germany and ourselves to agree upon matters which are vital to both of us. Since agreement has already been reached on that point, I do not think that we ought to find it impossible to continue our efforts at understanding, which, if they were successful, would do so much to bring back confidence.

I agree very much with the right hon. Gentleman in the value that he attaches to our relations with the United States of America. I am happy to think that they have never been better than they are at the present moment. With regard to the debt, I am not quite sure what the right hon. Gentleman meant by cauterising it. The settlement of the debt has to be a settlement between two parties and cannot be settled by one alone. As for the attitude of the British Government, I would like to refer the right hon. Gentleman to the Debate which took place on this subject only a few days ago in another place, when the spokesman of His Majesty's Government made it perfectly clear what our attitude was.

Coming to the trade agreement, I regard that not merely as an attempt to come to a commercial agreement, which if we could find a fair settlement would be of benefit to both countries, but as an effort to demonstrate the possibility of these two great countries working together on a subject which, if they can come to terms, may prove to be the forerunner of a policy of wider application. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not feel that it is necessary to display impatience, because of the length of time which has been taken over this matter. To begin with, a commercial treaty of that kind deals with an enormous schedule of articles, every one of which has to be the subject of discussion and conversation, and he knows very well that the constitutional procedure in the United States, however admirably it may be adapted to a thorough sifting of the question, is not one which lends itself to expedition. At the present time we have gone through this great schedule and we have agreed upon a great part of it, but, as always happens in these cases, we have come down after a time to certain particular instances which offer exceptional difficulties, and those are not yet entirely resolved. All that I can say is, that I know there is good will on both sides, and I hope that we shall not have to wait too long before we are able to announce that we have finally come to an agreed conclusion.

I have only one other part of the world upon which I now need touch, and that is the Far East, where war is still being carried on with all the horrors which seem inseparable from modern warfare. The Brussels Conference last November showed clearly enough that no proposals which would involve intervention in the conflict on the part of the Members of the League of Nations would have any chance of acceptance. Of course, His Majesty's Government could not alone undertake that great burden. The right hon. Gentleman asked me, Can we show what we are doing to carry out our obligations under the League resolutions? and he made special reference to the request of China for a loan. We considered long and anxiously whether we should be justified in introducing the special legislation which would have been necessary if this Government had granted or guaranteed such a loan, and we came finally to the definite conclusion that we should not be so justified in the case of a loan, which would have been based upon security of hypothetical value, and as to which it was by no means certain that, if it were granted, it would achieve the objects which were intended. The fact that we have not been able to grant or guarantee a loan to China does not exclude all forms of assistance, financial or otherwise, and there are various proposals which have come to us from China for assistance in another way, which are not open to the objections at any rate which we found to a loan, and which are now under examination by the Government Departments concerned.

It cannot be said that we are disinterested as a country in the position in the Far East, because for a hundred years our interests in China have been of great importance, and when the Japanese Government claim that they are protecting their interests in China, I am sure they must recognise that we too have our interests in China and that we cannot stand by and see them sacrificed in the process. But there again, in the Far East, we should be very glad to offer our services to bring about the cessation of hostilities if ever and whenever we can see an opportunity which presents a favourable prospect of success. In the meantime we are resolved to do our utmost to see that British interests shall not suffer in a conflict for which we have no responsibility and in which we have no direct concern.

I think that I have touched on all matters which are of special interest to the House, but in this survey, which has included a glance at two ferocious wars, and an area which is the subject of dispute which is a potential threat to the peace of Europe, situated as it is in the very heart of the Continent, it is as much a matter of regret to others as it is to His Majesty's Government that we cannot record any effective or active intervention by the League of Nations. We know well enough what is the cause of this ineffectiveness, and it is ineffectiveness which is likely to persist as long as some of the most powerful nations in the world are outside the League. We regard the present position of the League as temporary, and even if it is necessary for the time being that the League should renounce the idea of the use of force, there still remains a wide field of usefulness for the League, in pursuing which, as it seems to us, the League may well be able to build up a fresh position of confidence and of approval, with the result that in time we may find that those nations who have left the League, because they did not agree with the use of force by the League, may come back to it and take part in this other work, and, who knows what further developments may then take place once the League can be considered more representative of the world as a whole than it is to-day?

I would only say that with that view of the future of the League we intend to give the League all the support and encouragement in our power. In the meantime, in the critical situation in which we find ourselves, we have to fall back upon the ordinary methods of diplomacy. At the beginning of this year I think that many of us must have felt that it was likely to be critical, for good or for evil, in the history of the world, and now that more than half of it has gone, I believe we all feel that the atmosphere is lighter, and that throughout the Continent there is a relaxation of that sense of tension which six months ago was present. To that lightening of the atmosphere and slackening of the tension, we believe that the policy of His Majesty's Government has made its contribution. We intend to pursue it and we believe that in the end we shall succeed in bringing back security and confidence to Europe.

5.30 p.m.

Photo of Mr Morgan Jones Mr Morgan Jones , Caerphilly

I entirely agreed with the Prime Minister when he said, in his closing remarks, that we began this year in an atmosphere of the greatest apprehension. He said that we have now passed through more than half the year and he feels justified in expressing the belief that the atmosphere has somewhat lightened. Without being as optimistically inclined as the right hon. Gentleman is at this moment, let me say that in so far as the atmosphere is lightening we shall all rejoice. At the same time, in the process of lightening the atmosphere, as the Prime Minister put it, democracy in Spain has come very near being obliterated—we hope it will not be finally obliterated—Austria has been gobbled up by Germany, Czechoslovakia is being daily menaced, and the Chinese in the Far East are fighting for their very lives. If that is lightening the atmosphere, what can a heavy atmosphere really be?

I think we shall all be deeply grateful to our hon. Friends below the Gangway for raising the subject of foreign affairs. It would have been disastrous if the House had gone away for the vacation without having an opportunity of reviewing, broadly, the international situation. I am fully in agreement with the remarks made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) with regard to our relations with the United States of America. It has fallen to my lot to make three visits to America in the last few years, and I can speak from actual observation when I say that I am quite certain the Government should face up to the fact that there does remain in America a certain amount of, shall I say, misunderstanding. I would go further and say that in my judgment—I commit nobody else to this view beyond myself—nothing could contribute more to the clearing away of the misunderstanding between ourselves and the American public than a settlement of the American debt question. I do not say how it can be done, but I am sure that it does remain a very serious stumbling block in the way of full Anglo-American amity and friendship.

I was very interested, I might say I was somwhat alarmed, by some of the charges which were made by the right hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland concerning what is happening in Somaliland and adjacent territory, and what he alleged to be the special facilities afforded to the Italians to carry on what the League of Nations has declared, and still declares, to be unjustifiable intrusion upon the independence of Abyssinia. The Government ought to take steps before the Debate closes to clear up some of the allegations which the right hon. Gentleman put forward, in good faith and apparently on definite information, so that we may know what is taking place in that part of the world.

When we came to discuss the underlying principles of foreign policy, I would recall what the Prime Minister said in a speech in this House on the list February, when he laid down three general general principles. In the first place he said that the Government proposed to afford protection to British interests and the lives of British nationals. Secondly, he said they sought the maintenance of peace and, as far as they could influence it, the settlement of differences by specific means and not by force. Thirdly, be promised friendly relations with other nations which are willing to reciprocate our friendly feelings and who are willing to keep those rules of international conduct without which there can be no security or stability.

These general principles are unexceptionable, and I accept them, and in the light of those general principles I propose to examine the policy of the Government in regard to Spain, Czechoslovakia and the Far East. The first proposition is the protection of British interests and the lives of British nationals. What is British interest? How do the Government define it? Is it a British interest that Spain should remain under the control of a free and independent Government in Spain? Is it a British interest that German guns should dominate the Straits of Gibraltar? Is it a British interest that Spanish bays should become the hiding places for hostile submarines at some future time? Is it a British interest that our closest neighbour, France, should be embarrassed in future by the presence of a hostile Fascist Power on the Pyrenees? Is it a British interest to flout deliberately our obligations under international law and to give comfort to a rebel in the territory of a friendly Power, as we have done to General Franco?

What does British interest mean with regard to the protection of the lives of British nationals? How have the Government implemented that principle? British ships have been bombed and their crews have been machine-gunned, not while carrying contraband but while carrying on legitimate trade. Is that protecting British nationals? I would remind the House of very remarkable occurrences in the past. During the last Parliament six British engineers were arrested in Moscow on the ground that they had broken the law of the country in which they then lived. What happened? We forthwith declared that they could not be guilty. The diplomatic machinery was speedily set in motion, and the then Prime Minister, Mr. Baldwin, declared that the Russian Ambassador had been told that the friendly relations of the two countries would be severely strained if these arrests were proceeded with. The Foreign Secretary almost wept with indignation. The House was whipped into a fury of resentment. The Government did more. They found a reason for denouncing the Anglo-Russian Trade Agreement. We moved on that occasion with remarkable vigour and directness, but that was in the case of Russia, of course!

Recently in Mexico the Government of that country changed the law in regard to oil concessions. Those very unworthy things called profits were menaced. What happened? We issued a sharp ultimatum to the Mexican Government. We have done more than that. We have closed the British Legation in Mexico. We are not even speaking to them. Again, we acted with vigour. But when a few poor British seamen are bombed, butchered and machine-gunned as they battle for their lives in the sea, what happens? The Prime Minister says to the murderers, "You naughty boys." That will give great comfort, I am sure, to the widows in Swansea, the Hartlepools and South Shields. It will ease the pain of their hearts to know that the Prime Minister, in pursuit of his policy in defending British nationals, has reprimanded their husbands' assassins very severely.

Photo of Sir Arthur Baxter Sir Arthur Baxter , Wood Green

If that is all that has arisen, why has bombing stopped?

Photo of Mr Morgan Jones Mr Morgan Jones , Caerphilly

We do not know that yet. The third principle laid down by the Prime Minister was keeping the rules of international conduct. Would he suggest that Italy has done that? Is it suggested that what Italy has done has been in accordance with the standards of international conduct as accepted among nations? The hon. Member opposite asked me a question. I ask "Is he following the rules of international conduct even now?"

Photo of Mr Morgan Jones Mr Morgan Jones , Caerphilly

Mussolini. I will read an extract from the "Times" of last Saturday. Under the heading, "Danish Ship sunk by Aeroplane," appears the following statement: It was reported from Marseilles yesterday that His Majesty's Ship 'Shropshire,' of the First Cruiser Squadron, landed on her arrival there the officers and crew of the Danish steamship ' Bodil.' It does not happen to be an English ship, but is the bombing of that ship in accordance with ordinary international conduct? Some will say, "Mussolini has not caused that; that is General Franco." But we have been in this difficulty on such numerous occasions that we are simply left to guess who is responsible for these bombings.

Photo of Mr Roy Wise Mr Roy Wise , Smethwick

The hon. Member has just said that it is Mussolini.

Photo of Mr Morgan Jones Mr Morgan Jones , Caerphilly

We are told over and over again that we cannot even guess, but everybody on this side and on the other side of the House has a shrewd suspicion where these aeroplanes come from.

Photo of Mr Roy Wise Mr Roy Wise , Smethwick

You do not announce it as a fact but as a suspicion.

Photo of Mr Morgan Jones Mr Morgan Jones , Caerphilly

Yesterday, the "Daily Telegraph" published this information: I am reliably informed that a whole, entirely new, division of Italian troops was landed at Vineroz last week and that until these men can be brought into the line north of Sagunto the insurgents are unlikely to make much further headway. The correspondent goes on to say: Among the planes massed on this front, there are known to be three groups of Savoia bombers, each group consisting of 27 machines. In addition, there is a group of 86 Junkers, now reinforced by 83 planes of the same make—complex craft which appear to have two rudders. Then there are nearly 200 Fiat chasers and numerous squadrons of Messerschmidts. They have not escaped losses. The point of these observations is this: The right hon. Gentleman laid it down for our acceptance that one of the basic principles of his foreign policy is that he is prepared to enter into agreement with those who are ready to adjust their conduct and to accept international standards. I would ask him whether he regards these incidents as in accordance with decent international standards. Moreover, the Press of yesterday and to-day leads us to the conclusion that even now, in spite of the Anglo-Italian Agreement, Italian forces are still being sent into Spain. Is this good international conduct? Is it a sound basis upon which to establish decent Anglo-Italian relationships? I ask the Prime Minister—are these things true? We spend enormous sums of money on our Secret Service and it must be represented in every port around Spain. It must be here, there and everywhere. Surely, with the vast sum of money expended on it the Secret Service ought to be able to equip the Prime Minister with knowledge as to whether this agreement is being faithfully observed or otherwise. I think I am entitled to ask the Prime Minister, as I now do, is it or is it not the fact that the Italians are still pouring men and material into Spain in spite of the agreement between ourselves and Italy? These considerations are vital if the House is to have any belief or faith in the bona fides of the opposite party to the Anglo-Italian Agreement.

I appreciate the Prime Minister's intentions. He wants to secure as quickly as possible peace in the Mediterranean—a very desirable end. But I suggest that we cannot really purchase peace at the price of silence in the sight of these endless iniquities perpetrated in Spain day after day. Indeed, I make the assertion that we are silent because of the very one-sided character of the non-intervention policy which we have followed. Because of it we have abandoned the Basques who only 20 years ago in the Great War sacrificed hundreds, if not more, of their people in an effort to serve us. Now 20 years later we have withheld from them the means of defending their own liberty. We have allowed scores of our own seamen to be done to death while plying their legitimate trade; we have watched the violation of international law and we have been unfaithful to a fellow member of the League of Nations, and that fellow member is not General Franco but the Spanish Government. It is the Spanish Government with whom we have relations, and I suggest therefore that we are unfaithful to our obligations to the League in treating the Spanish Government in this shabby way. There has been nothing like it since the days of Pontius Pilate, the first great non-interventionist. How long is this farce to go on? How long are we to tolerate this one-sided non-intervention agreement which in fact works in the direction of intervention on one side?

We are told that the Anglo-Italian Agreement is dependent upon the Spanish situation. I was glad indeed to hear the Prime Minister define a little more clearly what he regards as a settlement in Spain before the Anglo-Italian Agreement can come into operation. It is the first time we have had a definition of it, although it was not too clear this afternoon. The House rises on Friday for some considerable time and I would like to ask the Prime Minister whether we are to understand that the Anglo-Italian Agreement may be put into operation although the House of Commons may have no opportunity in the next few months of expressing its mind and will concerning it? That really is a most important matter, because if what happens in Spain leads to a victory for General Franco, which I fervently hope may not be the case, it will mean a tremendous impetus to the Fascist movement in Europe; it will mean, as I see it, enormous complications for our nearest neighbour and ally France; it will almost inevitably involve the transference of a fair body of French soldiers to guard the Pyrenees frontier, with a consequential effect upon the nature of our commitments to France. Therefore, if it is to be a Fascist victory, then clearly this House, representing one of the ancient democracies of Europe, ought to have a word to say on the matter. If, on the other hand, the Anglo-Italian Agreement is to be implemented on the basis of the status quo, then that too would have implications upon which this House ought to express its mind and its will.

In regard to the problem of Czechoslovakia, I am bound to say that I was agreeably surprised—I will be quite candid—by the tone of the Prime Minister's remarks. We have been rather led to believe, by reading the organs favourable to the Government, that there seemed to be a desire to bring more pressure to bear on the Czechoslovakian Government to make terms with the Sudeten Germans. I would emphasise the point of view which the Prime Minister himself expressed, as I understood him. He is anxious that the Czechoslovakian Government shall determine how far in their judgment, not in our judgment, they can go in making concessions to the Sudeten Germans. That is very material. There is a school of thought in this country and in this House which seems to be anxious that exceptional pressure should be brought to bear on the Czechoslovakian Government to make concessions even to the length of invading the autonomy of their State. By all means let the Czechoslovakian Government strive with all its might to arrive at an agreeable settlement with the representatives of the Germans in the Sudeten lands, but they must be allowed to determine for themselves at what point the unity, the independence and the integrity of their State demand that they shall make no further concessions.

May I put this point? There are people in Germany who are very blatant and very loud in their demands and pleas on behalf of minorities outside their own Government. Before people begin to make demands and pleas for minorities outside their own territory they might show a little humanity in their treatment of minorities inside their own territories. When they show a little humanity to the Jews and especially to innocent Jewish children we shall begin to believe in their right to interfere in the proper government of people outside their own territory. The Prime Minister told us that Lord Runciman has undertaken the difficult and delicate task of studying this problem on the spot in Czechoslovakia. I entirely agree that it is a very difficult, intricate, and somewhat thankless task at best. I am glad the Prime Minister made it clear that Lord Runciman goes on his own authority and nobody else's, not as an adjudicator or arbitrator, but rather as an adviser and conciliator. If he went in any other capacity his mission would speedily prove unsuccessful.

In his three governing principles the Prime Minister said that he wanted to be faithful and loyal to those who accepted the ordinary standards of international conduct. Let me make this observation in regard to Czechoslovakia. There is no Government in Europe that has made a more solid, more sustained, or more constructive effort on behalf of the League of Nations since the end of the War than Czechoslovakia. They cannot be accused either in the letter or in the spirit of having departed from what are accepted as proper standards of international conduct, and they are entitled to our complete sympathy, and, if possible, our support.

Lastly, there is the question of the Far East. Here again, as in Spain and in Czechoslovakia, the Government of China is a member of the League of Nations, and, therefore, we have our League obligations to China. But apart from these general obligations we, with other countries, have entered into special obligations under the Resolution which was carried in May of this year. Let me read the terms of the Resolution: The Council … earnestly urges members of the League to do their utmost to give effect to the recommendations contained in previous resolutions of the Assembly and Council in this matter and to take serious and sympathetic consideration of the requests they may receive from the Chinese Government in conformity with the said resolutions; expresses its sympathy with China in her heroic struggle for the maintenance of her independence and territorial integrity threatened by the Japanese invasion and in the suffering thereby inflicted on her people. It seems to me that we are obliged to do what we can to fulfil the terms of that Resolution which was carried as recently as May of this year. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the question of a loan. Obviously the Government know better than I do whether there are difficulties in that respect, but I would make the observation that it was only recently that legislation was passed by the House permitting the Government to make a special loan of about £10,000,000 to Turkey. For my part, I was entirely in agreement with that. If it was possible in regard to Turkey, surely we could have done the same thing for China, if China had so desired. But apparently the conditions are unfavourable to that. Nevertheless, I rejoice that there was a suggestion in the Prime Minister's speech that other methods may be devised whereby China may be assisted in her titanic and heroic struggle to preserve her independence.

The Prime Minister concluded his remarks with a reference to the relative incapacity of the League in recent months to fulfil all that we hoped of it. I believe that in the long run the nations will find that the League, or an improved League, will be vital to the well-being of the world. Difficulties will be bound to arise between the nations—no one can remove them completely—and it will be possible to settle them only in one of two ways, either by the method of discussion or by the method of force. As long as we desire the method of discussion, the League method—improved, if you like—is the only method available to us. Therefore, I urge the Government to stand tenaciously by the League conception, to develop, strengthen and improve the League, for after all, it is the only bulwark against the dethronement of law in the world.

On the second day of this Session, I asked—and the House entirely agreed with my proposition—that something should be done with regard to the bombing of civilians. Six months have now passed since then. The other day, I asked the Prime Minister what had happened, and he said that he had to prepare schemes before submitting them to other nations. I appreciate the difficulty and the propriety of doing that, but now, at the end of the Session, I renew my plea that the Government should make a fervent appeal to other nations to stop this horrible practice that is increasing among the nations. I do not say that we can make war a gentlemanly business, but if we could circumscribe it to some degree, if we could remove the menace of war from the air and all that that implies, we should bring some little mental relief to the peoples of the world. So I conclude by repeating that, in my judgment, we have to build upon the basis of the League. Upon that rock the temple of peace must be founded. If it is so founded, no matter what rains of criticism may descend upon it, nor what winds of adversity may whistle about it, the structure will stand, for it will be founded upon the rock.

6.5 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Wardlaw-Milne Mr John Wardlaw-Milne , Kidderminster

I think there is no hon. Member who will not be in full agreement with the expressions that have fallen from the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) in the latter part of his speech. We must all agree that the foundation upon which to build the peace of the future lies in the reconstitution of the League of Nations, but at the same time, I am sure that most hon. Members will agree that that rebuilding is not likely to be done unless we face the deficiencies which exist in the present erection and realise that we must not place upon this temporary building the burden which we hope to put upon the full structure which we hope to have in the future.

I wish specially to deal with one aspect only of foreign affairs, but in doing so I would like to make it clear to the House that I am not less interested than every other hon. Member in matters in Spain or in Central Europe. I refrain from dealing with them as I know many Members desire to speak. Before passing to the specific aspect of foreign affairs with which I want to deal, however, I would like to say, and I am sure every other hon. Member agrees, how much we hope the mission which Lord Runciman is undertaking will be crowned with success. There is no question that that mission will be a most difficult and delicate one, but if Lord Runciman, with his long experience of men and affairs, can find some means of bringing these two parts of the same nation together and in that way help to bring about peace in Central Europe, he will have achieved a task which will entitle him to the gratitude not only of this country but of all the nations of Europe.

The subject which I wish to refer to in detail is the situation in China. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister both dealt with the position of our trade there and the latter with our desire to assist China. Everybody will be gratified to hear the Prime Minister's statement that it is the intention of the Government to do everything in their power to maintain British rights and interests in that country. I think it is desirable, in a debate of this kind, that I should make it clear to the House that those of us who, in recent weeks, have put on the Order Paper so many questions in connection with trade and the difficulties under which our merchants in China are working, have not done so without having behind them chapter and verse for every one of the accusations, if I may use that word, that have been made.

Occasionally I find, when speaking from this side of the House, on behalf of British trade in one part of the world or another, that one is a little apt to be attacked on the basis that we are endeavouring to preserve the rights and interests of those who make large profits out of British trade. I would like to remind hon. Members of a statement which was made in the House at the time of the troubles in Shanghai a good many years ago, when British troops were sent to the British concession there. I have not looked up the statement, and therefore I am speaking from memory, but I think I am accurate when I say that a member of the Government, I think it was the Prime Minister of that day, stated that that trouble, very confined comparatively speaking, was estimated to cause loss of employment to no less than 60,000 people in Great Britain. That outbreak was very limited when compared with the War in the Far East to-day. Therefore, I feel that one need make no excuse for pointing out how very serious are the effects of the present situation in China on those trading there and in turn on employment in this country. We are a little tired of hearing assertions that the Japanese Government intend strictly to respect British rights and interests and maintain the open door in China. Those are very familiar statements, but I wonder whether any of our good friends even in Japan would be really surprised if we said that we would like to see a little more action on those lines and perhaps fewer statements to the effect that they intend to work in a way entirely friendly to British trade and industry.

I will give one or two examples of what is happening. One or two questions have been put to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on the subject of the wool trade with China. That is a trade which, before the present troubles in China, was almost exclusively in British hands. Large sums have been spent by British firms, in co-operation with the Chinese in past years, in setting up machinery for the cleaning and packing of that wool. Most of the wool is shipped, I understand, to the United States of America. Until recent days, Japanese firms had no share in that trade, but recently a syndicate was set up, apparently under the authority of the Japanese Government, which now monopolises the trade. The Chinese are not now allowed to sell to British firms, and recently, long-established British houses sending their buyers to Chinese headquarters, from which the wool comes, have been told that the Chinese are not allowed to sell to them. There may be no legal embargo—that, I think, is one of the replies we have had on the subject—but it does not alter the fact that British firms are unable to buy the wool. The Japanese have secured the whole of this trade in which previously they had very little interest. Apart from anything else, the getting down of the wool to the ports is made impossible because the Japanese take good care that the freight is not available for British interests.

Again, with regard to the North China railways, we are advised that plans have been prepared to weld the whole of these railways into one system in conjunction with Manchuria. The Pekin-Mukden Railway was built with British capital, about £500,000 of which is still outstanding, and British engineers are, or were until recently, employed. I wonder how many of them will lose their jobs and how much British capital will be lost if this new plan is carried into effect. I do not want to give details on all these various matters, but to refer to them just sufficiently to give an idea to hon. Members as to how serious the situation is. I will give another instance. Almost every firm in the Far East is experiencing difficulties with regard to cables. Either the cables are mutilated or delayed; and they say that others who ay not British do not necessarily suffer in the same way. All these things show that there is definite interference with British trade.

Perhaps the worst aspect is that of shipping. Before the war, apart from a few Chinese steamers and junks, the greater part of the coastal trade was in the hands of British firms. It is now proposed to set up a Japanese monopoly which will oust us. At Tsingtao, probably one of the best harbours in North China and in a peaceful area at the present time, action is being taken which is destroying British trade not only now but probably for a number of years to come. No British ship is allowed alongside the wharves, no through passengers are allowed on British ships, and they may load only in the stream, whereas the Japanese ships can go alongside the wharves and load freely, as even German ships may do. I do not think it is stating the case too strongly to describe what is taking place as an attempt on the part of the Japanese to see how much the British Government will stand. They seem to think that if we stand for that proposition we can be expected to stand for nearly anything.

Then, an even more serious case, the great Whang-poo Conservancy Board is not allowed to function. Its duty is to keep the river clear at Shanghai, and the dredging of the river is essential, not only for British, but for international trade and the shipping of all nations. The work was carried out with funds raised by a levy on all shipping. I do not say that it is a work which is of the same importance or magnitude as the Suez Canal, but it is clearly of vital importance to all trading interests to China that this dredging should continue to keep the waterways open. The dredgers and plant were seized by the Japanese many months ago and I am informed that they have not allowed any continuance of this work notwithstanding the fact that, as I say, it is really international in character. I suppose it is wrong, in advance of knowing all the facts, to assign reasons for an action of that kind, but it is difficult to avoid repeating what has been said that there are suggestions of a future Japanese concession further down the river and that it might not be against the interests of Japanese traders in the future if Shanghai were left nearly high and dry. At any rate, whatever the reason for it, the action which is now being taken is very detrimental to British trade and to the trade of all other countries except Japan and even that exception at the moment seems doubtful.

I do not wish to weary the Committee with details, but many other instances could be given of the conditions under which British trade is endeavouring to carry on its operations in China at the present time. I do wish, however, to make an appeal to the Government. I know their difficulties, and I, like other speakers, regret that the Government have not been able to see their way to grant a loan to China. It is not for those who do not know all the circumstances and certainly it is not for me to criticise the Government's decision. The Prime Minister said that they came to that decision after considerable thought and discussion and I am sure that there was a keen desire on the part of the Government to assist China in any way that was possible. None the less, I, personally, am sorry for China's sake and frankly I am sorry for Great Britain's sake also that a loan was not granted. If we look at it even from the lower motive of the future of our trade in the Far East, such a loan would have done more than anything else, I believe, to ensure good feeling for this country in the future, because China would have greatly appreciated any help that we had been able to render her in that way. Anybody who knows how the Chinese have acknowledged such assistance as has been rendered, by the Lord Mayor's Fund, for example, and other measures for bringing relief and comfort to those suffering as a result of the war, can have no doubt about the wonderful reception which would have been given to assistance from us in the form of a loan and what it would have meant to China to-day. As I say, we do not know enough about the circumstances to criticise the Government's decision; they alone were in a position to judge, but, personally, I am deeply sorry that they found themselves unable to grant the loan.

Apart from that, however, surely the Government could, in connection with our trade interests, take a stronger line than they are taking at present. There have been, I think, three cases in which we have taken a more or less definite line, in comparatively small matters perhaps, but with very good results. First, there was the very serious demand made by the Japanese in regard to the Shanghai municipality, which, if agreed to, would have meant in effect that it would have become mainly a Japanese corporation. That demand was resisted and the Japanese gave way. There was another case in which the Japanese demanded to be allowed to search the British concession for a certain man who was wanted by them. The British General who was there at that time resisted that demand and after much trouble, again they gave way. Another and more interesting case was the seizure of the "Tatung," a British vessel, by the Japanese. At first they refused to give up the vessel, but His Majesty's ship "Cricket," which was on the spot, was ordered to clear for action and to fetch the vessel. The Japanese protested and said there was bound to be a very unfortunate incident, but in the end they gave up the vessel.

I suggest to the Government that it would be possible for them to take a stronger line than they are taking now. They are making no demands that are not reasonable and they are making few demands which affect British trade alone. They are only making demands in cases where military interests are really not affected. In many cases the Japanese argue military necessity where it does not exist and in cases where that necessity cannot be substantiated the Japanese ought to do everything they can to carry out their professions that they intend to respect British rights and interests. I hope that nothing which I have said will be regarded as being inspired by any anti-Japanese feeling. We have been very good friends with Japan in the past and nothing would give the people of this country greater pleasure than to see our country very good friends with Japan once again. But I think that the Japanese perhaps above all other people in the world respect and admire strength.

Photo of Mr John Wardlaw-Milne Mr John Wardlaw-Milne , Kidderminster

Yes, the right hon. and gallant Gentleman expresses exactly what I mean. They admire and respect firmness, determination, strength and honesty of purpose, but to my mind they despise and bully timidity. I hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary when he replies will be able to say that the Government, are making even stronger representations than they have been making up to now, and that if necessary, they will take such action as they took in the one or two cases which I have described. It is possible that on some such lines as those, we may be able to restore trade, as far as it can be restored, under present conditions in China. In doing that, we shall not only benefit our merchants and others interested in trade in China, but we shall increase employment in this country or at any rate avoid what might otherwise be a rise in unemployment. At the same time, we may perhaps be able to bring nearer the time when we shall restore peace in the East by acting as mediator between two countries with both of which we have important and long standing interests. We have long been closely connected with both countries in friendship and peace and desire to see them prosper.

6.24 p.m.

Photo of Mr Richard Acland Mr Richard Acland , Barnstaple

It is perhaps a little late in the day to be making speeches such as that to which we have just listened. I do not recollect that the Federation of British Industries gave much support to the campaign which we of the Opposition parties conducted, in order to suggest to this country that, if we weakly allowed the Japanese to overrun Manchuria, the next thing that would happen would be serious inroads into our own interests. On the contrary, I seem to remember a campaign conducted to suggest that it would be a good thing to buy off Japanese desires for any part of our trade by allowing them to overrun Manchuria. I ask myself, therefore, whether the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne) is justified in demanding all this strength from a Government which has told us—as far as I can remember without any opposition from the hon. Member—that they are, not unwilling, but unable to protect our trade interests against an infinitely weaker Power, infinitely nearer home.

Photo of Mr John Wardlaw-Milne Mr John Wardlaw-Milne , Kidderminster

Will the hon. Member forgive me, if I interrupt him in order to say that I have nothing whatever to do with the Federation of British Industries?

Photo of Mr Richard Acland Mr Richard Acland , Barnstaple

I thought the hon. Member was speaking on behalf of British trade in general which, in other respects, is represented by the Federation of British Industries, but I accept the hon. Member's statement that he and that body, although they represent the same thing, are entirely separate and distinct from each other. This Debate on foreign affairs is being conducted in a much better atmosphere than some of the other Debates which we have had on these questions. Nobody on this side of the Committee has been accused of desiring to plunge the country into war for the sake of establishing a Government with which we would agree, and nobody on the other side of the House has been accused of desiring to "rig" foreign policy, so as to create world conditions in which progressive politics would become an impossibility. But I think hon. Members opposite ought to realise a little more than they do how great is the general support given to the views on foreign policy held by hon. Members on this side. The hon. and gallant Member for Epsom (Sir A. Southby) told us that the Opposition parties were almost alone in the world in criticising the foreign policy of the Government. A study of the free Press of the world, and even of some of the Government-controlled Press of the world, would, on the contrary, reveal an almost universal bewilderment at the policy which is being pursued by the Government. The Government should not neglect the evidences of a growing public opinion which supports the view held on this side of the Committee. They cannot brush aside as of no account the devastating letter in which Viscount Cecil severed his connection with His Majesty's Government: I do not recall any incident in British history at all comparable. I do not believe any other British Prime Minister would have made the speech made by Mr. Chamberlain. It seems to me inconsistent with British honour and international morality. Hon. Members opposite cannot brush aside Lord Cecil as a hot-headed young idealist, nor yet as a party politician who is out for his own ends.

Photo of Mr Roy Wise Mr Roy Wise , Smethwick

Will the hon. Member tell us the circumstances of Dr. Garnett's resignation from the League of Nations Union?

Photo of Mr Richard Acland Mr Richard Acland , Barnstaple

I was just going on to suggest to hon. Members opposite that they could not brush aside the declaration of the League of Nations Union, presided over by Lord Lytton, who is not a Member of either of the Opposition parties, a body of 300,000 members, including all those who have made it most closely their concern to study the course of international relations, electing their executive committee democratically, that committee containing many men and women of high standing who are not associated with either of the Opposition parties, and that body consistently, in these last months, passing resolutions which I will not say are diametrically opposed to, but are more and more divergent from, the policy of His Majesty's Government. Nor can the Government ignore the declaration of those II bishops, including an archbishop, who said: We wish to affirm … that there is a clearer moral justification for the use of armed force in defence of international law than for a war in defence of territorial possessions or economic interest. We are far from satisfied that this order of priority is accepted by the Government. Speaking on the bombing of ships in Spain, they said: Not so much in defence of British interests as in defence of law, we hold that the Government should take effective action to check these outrages and should face considerable risks with that object. Nor should the Government entirely ignore the Council of Action. [Interruption.] If there is any tendency on the part of hon. Members opposite to discount, as of no account whatever, the resolutions that are passed by that body—

Photo of Mr Roy Wise Mr Roy Wise , Smethwick

Nobody takes any notice of them at all.

Photo of Mr Richard Acland Mr Richard Acland , Barnstaple

Tell me some more about the Council of Action.

Photo of Mr Anthony Crossley Mr Anthony Crossley , Stretford

They ran the campaign of the Labour candidate at the Stafford by-election.

Photo of Mr Richard Acland Mr Richard Acland , Barnstaple

Nine out of the ten most famous and renowned leaders of the Nonconformist Church are associated with that body as members of its Council and of its committees, men entirely divorced from either of the political parties, men who would not associate themselves with a body which consistently and roundly condemns the policy of His Majesty's Government if they themselves were in support of the policy which is being pursued by the Government. Let it be known by the people in this country outside that hon. Members opposite mock at resolutions which have been endorsed by these independent leaders of this great section of Christian thought in our country.

Photo of Mr Roy Wise Mr Roy Wise , Smethwick

They always opposed Government candidates.

Photo of Mr Richard Acland Mr Richard Acland , Barnstaple

The fact that they have at elections opposed the Government candidates does not prove that there is anything wrong with these leaders of Christian thought in the country, but it proves that there is something wrong with the Government candidates. We have from all sides evidence of a mass of public opinion outside the ranks of what are called professional party politics growing ever more critical of the policy that is being pursued by the Government. The Government ought to treat our advice and our proposals on the basis that they are receiving the support of this wide public opinion, and I submit that the Government do not give us that treatment to which we are entitled when it is suggested that we would like to divide the world into Fascists and democracies so as to make friends with the one and fight the other. We do not want to divide the world into Fascists and democracies, into dictatorships and democracies, but we do say that when there exist in the world nations determined to achieve their own ends by violence, then, not by our will but by the logic of events, the world is automatically divided into nations which have renounced war as an instrument of policy and nations which have not, and it is then the duty of the Government of this country to proceed upon such a line of policy, in those circumstances, in a world so divided, as will lead this country, not through the next six weeks, but right through, to permanent peace.

There are two policies that have been suggested. One is to make concessions in the hope that the nations desiring to achieve their ends by violence will be satisfied. As to that, I will quote, in further support of our general attitude, the words of the late Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs: The idea that we could eliminate causes of friction between us and the authoritarian States by a series of concessions on one side was clearly futile That is one policy. The other is that we should stand firm in the hope that those Governments, seeing that they could achieve nothing by force, would turn their attention to the remedying of their legitimate grievances by recourse to reason. It is only fair to say that whenever we have stood firm the dangers of war, so much raised up against us, have proved illusory, and while we have retreated—I will not say because we have retreated—the dangers to peace have steadily increased. I believe that we are now facing probably the most dangerous month that Europe has faced since the last War. I have no wish to be alarmist, but when we heard those comforting words from the Prime Minister, I could not help remembering what seemed to me the more realistic words of the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill): Now, after Austria has been struck down, we are all disturbed and alarmed, but in a little while there may be another pause. There may not—we cannot tell. But if there is a pause, then people will be saying, 'There now, see how the alarmists have been confuted; Europe has calmed down, it has all blown over, and the war scare has passed away.' My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will perhaps repeat what he said a few weeks ago, that the tension in Europe is greatly relaxed. The 'Times' will write a leading article to say how serious those people look who on the morrow of the Austrian incorporation raised a clamour for exceptional action in foreign policy."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th March, 1938; col. 1453, Vol. 333.] I fear that, whereas great German guns were not moved up to the Czechoslovakian frontier on 21st May, they are being moved there now. I say that we shall only meet the situation by standing firm, and I suggest that there was another speech by the right hon. Member for Epping in which he showed how we should stand firm: I know that some of my hon. Friends … will laugh when I offer them this advice. I say, 'Laugh, but listen.' I affirm that the Government should express in the strongest terms our adherence to the Covenant of the League of Nations and our resolve to procure, by international action, the reign of law in Europe. He ended by saying: Before we cast away this hope, this cause and this plan, which I do not at all disguise has an element of risk, let those who wish to reject it ponder well and earnestly upon what will happen to us if, when all else has been thrown to the wolves, we are left to face our fate alone."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th March, 1938; cols. 98 and 100, Vol. 333.] When he said that, I thought he said it with the acceptance of the whole House, and I ask myself whether that policy has been pursued since then and why the House, which seemed to accept it then, has since gone back on itself.

The most essential thing is that we should stand firm with France. That has been said many times. We should not of course, stand by her if she were deliberately and wantonly to invite war by attacking one of her neighbours. She could not expect our support then, but we can leave that out. Is there any denial of this, that in any circumstances which are conceivably likely to arise this country could not tolerate, as every Foreign Office in Europe knows, a Europe in which France had been beaten by one of her neighbours? If that is so, is it not clear that we should be bound to intervene to prevent such a Europe, and is it not clear, will it be denied by any Minister or Member in this House, or can it be unknown to any Foreign Office in Europe which takes a reasonably realistic view of the situation, that we would not commit the folly of delaying our intervention until our intervention was too late? That being so, and our independence and our strength being bound up inextricably with the independence of France, I submit to His Majesty's Government that we should pursue a policy of supporting France in those things which the French clearly recognise as being the most vital for their own safety, and that we should abandon the policy of nagging them to pursue some other course.

No one can move around in Paris and meet responsible people there without becoming aware of the most terrific pressure that has been put upon France to close the Spanish frontier. That pressure, of course, is not inconsistent with the reply given in this House on 6th July by the Prime Minister, when he said that the Government never suggested that, in present circumstances, the French Government should take unilateral action in closing their frontier."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th July, 1938; col. 355, Vol. 338.] I understand that the word "unilateral" is the vital word in that sentence, and that the pressure was applied to Portugal at the same time, so that the Prime Minister's answer was strictly accurate, although his supplementary answer, about its having been independent action by the French Government, was not, I think, strictly accurate, having regard to what anybody who moves around in Paris at all must know. In any case, of course, bringing in Portugal does not make very much difference, because, although the Portuguese might close their frontier, arms could get into Spain through the ports.

But I have something more specific to say, something almost fantastic, and I would remind the Committee that on the last occasion when seemingly fantastic statements were made from this bench, and when an hon. and courageous Member, raising a matter on the Adjournment, had to leave this House under the jeers of the benches opposite, his assertions were subsequently proved accurate up to the hilt. Unless it is going to be said that a very high authority in France has fabricated—and by "fabricated" I mean physically constructed—a Note, I say that we addressed to the French a Note, on 5th June, informing them that they were prolonging the war in Spain by their policy, informing them that they were alienating and would lose British public opinion unless their frontier was closed, indicating that unless there was a change of policy we would have to consider implementing the Anglo-Italian Agreement forthwith, and making another suggestion which I will not quote.

I may be accused of mischief making in the statement that I am making, but I have considered my responsibility quite carefully in making it, and I have considered every possibility that what I am saying is capable of doing damage. If this Note is admitted by the Government, the Government must at once put themselves right with public opinion by putting on record, immediately, that the policy implied in the Note is repudiated. Alternatively, the existence of the Note will be vigorously repudiated, and I have already indicated precisely what is the extent of my own doubt as to whether or not the Note was sent, but apart from the doubt that I have expressed, I myself can feel no doubt about it. Of course, the French Government know precisely whether or not the Note was sent. If it was not sent, well and good. If, in fact, it was, the French Government will be able to judge by the strength of any repudiation whether they really need fear the threatened loss of public opinion in this country.

Whatever feeling His Majesty's Government may have as to the probability of General Franco leaving his allies in Spain or of the effect of his failure, I suggest that the French Government have very firmly informed His Majesty's Government that they have no doubts at all on the subject of Franco disposing of his allies and that they regard with grave disquiet the prospect of German air bases on the north coast of Spain and in Spanish Mediterranean ports, I do not say under the control, but available to the use of the Italians. I wonder whether the Prime Minister, in saying that there was universal agreement with the French, universally agrees with them in that belief also. If His Majesty's Government really believe what they say in talking about Anglo-French co-operation, they ought from now onwards, for the sake of avoiding the ultimate certainty of that kind of war in which France would be almost inevitably beaten, pursue a policy having for its object a solution of the Spanish problem which will render those menaces to the safety of France impossible in the judgment of sober statesmen.

This policy involves five things. It involves the taking of steps by His Majesty's Government to inform themselves of the extent of Italian and German intervention. I support the hon. Member who spoke from the Front Opposition Bench in that. I wonder whether it is true—I have every belief that it is—that the French Government have recently told His Majesty's Government that they have definite evidence of greatly intensified Italian effort in Spain in the last few months. I wonder whether that is another of the subjects about which the Prime Minister would tell us he is in cordial agreement with the expressions of the French Government. I suggest that we should give up this pretence that we cannot protect our ships from illegal air attack. If the Government said to us, "In all the circumstances of the case, non-intervention being what it is, we do not choose to protect them," that would have been coherent, although I would not have agreed with it. To say that we cannot, if we choose, with our Navy protect our ships from General Franco, is really a little more than the ordinary Englishman can be expected to swallow. I suggest that the Government should call into conference every responsible journalist who has returned from Spain in the last six weeks, and address to them this frank question: "Do you think there is any likelihood of the Spanish Government being beaten in anything like the near future?" The Government would he surprised at the unanimity of the answers. For some time we have to show to other countries that there is a limit to the lengths that they can go in bad faith without provoking us.

In the terms of the resolution of the League of Nations Union, passed many months ago, I would submit to the Government that they should let it be known that, if it is found that either the Italians or Germans are intervening, or that Franco and the Italians are indulging in delaying tactics over the withdrawal of foreign troops, we would support the French if they chose to put the two sides on equal terms by reopening the frontier. Many hon. Members would prefer a solution by General Franco, and many hon. Members on the other side would prefer a solution by a Government victory, but if we take Britain as a whole, what is most desired is a solution by an armistice agreement. If we want that we must put the two sides on equal terms and not keep support from one while allowing it to go to the other.

Lastly, may we hope that, whatever the Prime Minister means by a settlement in Spain, he will not agree to bringing into force the Anglo-Italian Treaty until Spain has entirely ceased to be a cause of international tension and danger. That will not be when one side or the other has been crushed down and perhaps massacred. It will be when those German air bases have ceased to exist on the north coast of Spain.

6.50 p.m.

Photo of Mr Anthony Crossley Mr Anthony Crossley , Stretford

The hon. Member for Barnstaple (Mr. Acland) spoke in some contradistinction to the speech of his leader the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair), whose epithets always sound to me like the names of battleships. I was afraid at one moment that the epoch-making revelations of the hon. Member for Barnstaple would wake up the right hon. Member for Gorton (Mr. Benn). The hon. Member was very aggrieved because the Government were not taking more notice of the various resolutions of the so-called peace societies. In particular, he mentioned the League of Nations Union and the Council of Action, but he did not mention the body which is more powerful than either of those and which largely runs the League of Nations Union. I refer to the International Peace Campaign. He was very wrong to deal with one aspect of this matter and not mention the resignation of Dr. Garnett, who resigned because, in his opinion, it was impossible any longer to consider the League of Nations Union a non-party body. Until recently I was a co-opted member of the executive council of the League of Nations Union. I wish to respect the secrecy of its councils, but I am perfectly aware that Dr. Garnett did not voluntarily resign and that a resolution was carried against him. I have been wondering all these months, when resolution after resolution was passed by that body, how long it could go on being considered a non-party body. I believe that it would be better now if the Government were to leave that organisation for good and all, and to leave it for what it is in practically every constituency. I have tried to make it in my constituency a non-party body as far as I could, but it is known to everybody that it is focus of opposition thought in every constituency.

I agree with the hon. Member on one point in his speech and I disagree with one point in the fine speech of the Prime Minister. I cannot help thinking that even if things are a little lighter to-day, they are in all conscience dark enough. In these dreary days at the end of July, this is the first year I have not felt like a schoolboy going for my holiday. It is the first time I have felt that the power of Mr. Speaker to call us together might more than possibly be exercised. Two quotations come to my mind. One is from Horace, and I wish I could live up to it in the next few days. It is: Omnem crede diem tibi diluxisse supremum, which means, being translated, "Live each day to the uttermost and believe it to be your last." I cannot help feeling that that is a proper quotation for these days. The other one, from Dryden, is in English, and runs:

  • "A daring pilot in adversity
  • Pleased with the danger when the waves run high."
I do not suppose that the second line can possibly apply to our Prime Minister, but I do not think that the speeches that have came from the Opposition side of the House will lessen the thankfulness that is felt by most Members on this side that their affairs are for the moment in the hands of "a daring pilot in adversity." I hope that he will be able to lead us out of adversity and into a haven of tranquillity, that a bygone Baldwinian world which, even if the security was sometimes not very well founded, was at least a much more comfortable world to live in than the present world. We are anxious about many parts of the world. I think that perhaps most of all we are anxious about Bohemia and the fate of Czechoslovakia. I am glad to see that Lord Runciman is going there. I do not believe a better man or one with a more impartial record could go. At the same time, my fear has always been that Herr Henlein will not be allowed to make his own terms with the Czechoslavokian Government.

I do not like these rumours in the German newspapers of troop movements. Clearly they are intended to convey the impression that Czechoslovakia might be herself an aggressor, as if lambs ever in fact attack lions. It is my strong opinion that if there were any weakening of the Government in the attitude which they have taken up this summer, by which quite possibly they saved a major conflagration, disaster might indeed come. The hon. Member for Barnstaple talked about wanting an ideological war. I do not suppose there are 2 per cent. of the people in the country who want to fight an ideological war.

Photo of Mr Anthony Crossley Mr Anthony Crossley , Stretford

All the same, we must want the conditions to arise in which the Anglo-Italian Agreement can be brought into force. Whatever our bygone disagreements of opinion on this side of the House last February, there cannot now be anything but hopes for its success. I would like to say something about the Spanish Civil War. There have been two decisive battles in that war. The first was fought outside Bilbao and it sealed the fate of Viscaya. The second was fought at the Government's own choosing last December at Teruel and it made inevitable the march to the sea. The third is being fought to-day and it is being fought by two separate armies, one advancing along the coast and now held up in the Orange Groves, and the other completely separated from it by a trackless mountain range advancing down the road from Teruel. The Government might quite possibly within the next few months have to face a new situation in Spain. At the moment that battle is not decided one way or the other, but if General Franco in fact cuts off the ports in the east of Spain from Madrid it is quite possible that within the next few months organised resistance might cease in the southern part. It would cease very soon after the lifeline with Valencia was cut.

In these circumstances I want to make three observations. In the first place I am extremely glad to hear that Sir Robert Hodgson is going back. It is a very dangerous precedent for a representative to be absent. A pregnant example was the absence of the British Ambassador from Constantinople during the summer of 1914, and I cannot help thinking that British interests will be better served when Sir Robert Hodgson goes back. [An HON. MEMBER: "Mexico."] We have acted right through in Mexico wholly in co-operation with the United States, which ought to please hon. Members opposite. The second observation I wish to make is about bombing. I hope the Government will steadily maintain a clear distinction between the bombing of docks and harbours and the ships in them by high-flying aeroplanes which no country is going to forego in a war, and the deliberate bombing of ships outside harbours by low-flying aeroplanes. It is a distinction that ought never to be lost sight of. Mr. Bilmeir and his friends deserve no protection. They are there for exactly the same reason as the profiteers in the last War. If it was not for the risks they would not be there.

Miss Rathbone:

Will the hon. Member not admit that they are there for the same purpose as all the neutral shipping that came to our ports during the Great War and to which our safety was due, because we could not have been provisioned without them? They are carrying on legitimate trade and bringing food to the civilian populations, who would otherwise starve.

Photo of Mr Anthony Crossley Mr Anthony Crossley , Stretford

Most ships' captains are always ready to run a blockade. Most of the ships that came during the War got huge freights, which made it worth their while to take the risk. If there was not a very severe risk, they would not be in the trade at all. The third remark I wish to make is that if it should come to the granting of belligerent rights, which is not very likely, or if, as is more probable, a neutral port is arranged in the east of Spain, I hope we shall arrange a contraband list which will be consistent with the sort of contraband list that we should demand if our Navy was engaged in a war, because it is useless to say to-day that food, oil, and coal are any less contraband than the instruments of war themselves or any less vital to the waging of a war. After all, civilisation is not centred in Spain. Savagery may be. I am quite convinced that the whole country is behind the Government in attempting, and continuing for two years their effort, to isolate the war from spreading. [Interruption.] Spain is not a menace. Germany is a menace, and a very serious one, too. There is a conflict going on in Germany. It is not actually a conflict of aim but a conflict of timing. There are forces of moderation there. We must not forget that those forces exist, even though at the moment they cannot hold up their heads against the fanatical bourgeois and in some ways puritanical Regime of the Nazis. It is most important that we should give encouragement to those in Germany who believe in moderation. If I might name one at some risk, I believe quite sincerely that General Goering does not want to be involved in a conflict with this country, though there are others who may, most of whom have in their time received the adulation of the journalist Atticus.

In our effort to present our policy clearly to Germany there is one appeal that I want to make to the House. Let us away in the future with this talk of weakness. I was so glad that the Prime Minister's speech to-day was a strong speech. We are not a weak country. In raw materials, in strategic position, in manufacturing potentialities, above all in our unity as a nation, in the fact that we have a progressive Right and a moderate Left and that we are unscourged by Fascism and Communism, we are a united nation and a strong nation, and every German is willing to believe that we are a strong nation. Recently the Turkish Foreign Minister said, "England occasionally loses a battle but she never loses a war." That consideration is uppermost in the minds of hundreds of thousands of Germans. Also we stand for a great many good things—for decency, order and conciliation. A friend of mine the other day was very much incensed at the festival in Vienna to the murderers of Dr. Dolfuss and he wrote a letter and allowed me to copy it and I propose to read it to the House. It was to a high official in the Nazi party. He asked me whether he should send it or tear it up and I told him to send it: I cannot forbear, though reluctantly, to tell you in what horror and revulsion the festival to the murderers of Dr. Dolfuss is held in England. Dr. Dolfuss may have opposed your policy but of his sincerity and courage there can be no doubt. He was deliberately allowed to bleed to death. He was denied the consolation of a priest.If you insist on war you will find us a united nation; not indeed united in our desire for war—no one here desires that—but united and strong in our knowledge that we should be fighting against the spread of a philosophy which can glory in so savage a commemoration. Everyone wants conciliation, but there can be no satisfactory conciliation with Germany except through our strength, and there can be no settlement or peace with Germany unless Germany quite clearly understands that we are making a settlement, or peace, because we want to and not because we have to.

I should like to say a word about propaganda. The hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Wakefield) told me the other day that he was attending a conference in Rome. The British Government put in two or three papers and the German Government plastered the conference with papers of everything that the Germans were doing for the welfare of their people. Our people may have different ideals. They may praise the ideal more of liberty than of self-sacrifice, though they are prepared for self-sacrifice if it comes to it. I think we ought to tell the world something more, too. In face of the propaganda bill, of the equivalent of millions of pounds in some countries—I believe something like £8,000,000 a year in Germany—we spend practically nothing. A Minister and a Ministry of Propaganda may be very distasteful to the majority of those on the Front Bench but I cannot help feeling that a well equipped and well financed department of propaganda would be a most valuable department at the Foreign Office.

I do not see why we should be ashamed of telling the world, because our prestige stands high and every statesman in Europe is looking to England and to its Prime Minister as the principal conciliator and moderator in the turmoils and troubles of that unhappy Continent. The British people have deserved well of their leaders. Our democracy is resolute even if it is not exciting. It is brave even if it does not all the time beat the drum. It does not want an ideological war. It does not want isolation—knows that it is not a practical policy—and it certainly is not pro-German any more to-day. A constituent said to me not long ago, "Never take us for granted, but always remember that we will rise to an occasion." To a private Member it was perhaps an inapt and irrelevant remark, but I do not think I can conceive of a grander sentiment for the Government to bear in mind through the dark and difficult days that confront them.

7.13 p.m.

Photo of Colonel Josiah Wedgwood Colonel Josiah Wedgwood , Newcastle-under-Lyme

The hon. Member seems to dislike a great many things. He started by disliking the League of Nations Union and then he went on to the American democracy.

Photo of Mr Anthony Crossley Mr Anthony Crossley , Stretford

I did not say a single word that could be taken as dislike of American democracy.

Photo of Colonel Josiah Wedgwood Colonel Josiah Wedgwood , Newcastle-under-Lyme

I must have misunderstood the hon. Member. I thought he said the trouble in Mexico was due to the American democratic control of that country.

Photo of Mr Anthony Crossley Mr Anthony Crossley , Stretford

I said we had acted right through that dispute in co-operation with the United States, which ought to please Members on the other side of the House.

Photo of Colonel Josiah Wedgwood Colonel Josiah Wedgwood , Newcastle-under-Lyme

I took that for a sneer at the United States. I am glad to know that I was mistaken. It is the League of Nations Union and the democracy on this side which are the hon. Member's pet bugbears. He urged finally that we in this country were a united people. I have no desire to be united with him in any way whatever. I earnestly hope that the Spanish Republican Government will beat the dictatorship in that country and will hold out, not for three months but for three years, until we have a decent Government which will support democracy instead of handcuffing it while the bullies kick it.

There is one thing in which I agreed with the hon. Member. Anyone who has known Lord Runciman as long as I have will be delighted that he has been selected for this post. Indeed, I wish him so well that I will say nothing on earth in his favour. But I cannot congratulate the Government upon this particular method of achieving peace. It savours too much of the squeezes which the Government have applies to various other countries in the interest of peace. We squoze Abyssinia—if you prefer the Oxford accent, the squeeze was successfully applied by His Majesty's Government to Abyssinia—of course, entirely in the interests of peace and of the dictators. For the last two years the same squeeze has been applied to Spain—of course in the interests of peace, but, also, as it happens, in the interest of the dictators. Now, using again the argument that this is in the interests of peace, we are beginning to squeeze Czechoslovakia. We are urging them to moderation in face of the German demands, and moderation means conceding some of the German demands, and I see that in the solutions proposed for the Czechoslovakian problem is the usual normal method of having autonomous areas for the Sudeten Germans.

A Sudeten area, given autonomy, given control of the police, will be ruled by the Nazi party in Germany; by the use of the police they will make that autonomous area an integral part of the German Reich. We have only to see what they have done with Danzig to realise what must be the inevitable end of any autonomous area handed over to the rule of the Nazi party. We justify that to ourselves, not only on the ground that we are preserving peace, but that this is in the interests of the people who are given autonomy. Danzig, until it was annexed by the Nazi party, had a large majority of people who were terrified of Nazi rule and who resisted it at the polls as long as they were allowed to. We know perfectly well that among those people whom we class as Sudeten Germans, there was until a year ago a majority who opposed the Nazi rule. The majority are the German working-class Socialists, who live in that area. What have they to gain from Nazi rule? The destruction of their trade unions, the destruction of their co-operative movement, the enslavement of the people. What have the Jews to gain, the Jews who have fled from the surrounding Reich into Czechoslovakia and are trying there to build up again a life for themselves? Directly Nazi rule comes along what happened in Austria will be repeated in the Sudeten Deutsch territory—another 20,000 suicides, another great tragedy.

What is the excuse for enabling the Nazi rule to be extended all round the frontiers of Czechoslovakia? The excuse is, as ever, that it is to be done in the interests of peace. I tell this House it is in the interests of war, inevitable war, and a war that we shall not be able to win. Every time you sacrifice one of your potential allies to this pathetic desire to appease the tyrants you merely bring nearer and make more inevitable that war which you pretend you are trying to avoid. At present, Czechoslovakia has a natural rugged frontier on three sides of her, and that frontier is armed. Cut off all that Sudeten area from Czechoslovakia and you put Germany across the frontier up against a perfectly easy advance to Prague. You put the big armament factories almost in the German area. You make Bohemia, at any rate, indefensible. The armies would have to retire on to the hills all round Moravia and Bohemia. Once we have this Government congratulating this House of Commons, as we may have directly we meet again, that through its instrumentality an arrangement has been come to which is accepted by Czechs and by Sudeten Deutsch, but which, in effect, delivers over the whole of Czechoslovakia to the Nazi rule, we shall have scrapped one more of our friends and allies, weighted the balance once more against democracy and freedom. We may congratulate ourselves that day that for another three months, or until another July or August comes, we have secured peace, but it will be a peace which is even more precarious than it is at the present day, a peace which can only be maintained ultimately by a war into which we shall go shackled and handcuffed.

Surely the House can see even now how the situation has changed in the last two years. When Lord Baldwin was Prime Minister there were risks, and I do not think we took sufficient steps to counter those risks, but what a halcyon time it seems, looking back now. Though it was a world which was not safe for democracy, in any case it was safer than it is at the present time. For the last two or three years we have been making these desperate attempts to be friendly with people who hate us and hate our form of rule. We have made to them concession after concession. We have sacrificed the Spanish people. We have sacrificed British honour in the attempt to secure a settlement with Italy and with Germany. And this is the result—that this country, and democracies throughout the world, are in a more difficult position to-day than they were a month ago, a year ago, or three years ago. All the time the Government are saying, "The strain is getting less. They have accepted our last surrender. Surely they will not press us, they will not bully us again, for another month or so."

As every man in this House knows, ultimately there is something for which our people will fight, and will have to fight. Seeing the trend of events during the last three years, seeing the increased danger to this country which comes from the policy of surrender and weakness, there is not one of us who must not hope—even those on the Government side—that the Government will on some occasion stand firm, because the best way of avoiding war is firmness on the part of the British Government, and its alliance with all those countries in the world which, like us, stand for the rule of law, for peace between men, and for an old-fashioned idea of religion and of honour which transcends the nationality of to-day.

7.25 p.m.

Photo of Mr Nevil Beechman Mr Nevil Beechman , St Ives

I have for just over a year listened with very great interest to the speeches in this House upon foreign affairs and I should like to-night to venture upon an observation upon those speeches, because non-intervention can go too far even in Debate. My comment would be that we hear too little in this House of those major tendencies in the world, long-term tendencies though they may be, which are, in fact, leading towards peace. If, as I believe, there are such tendencies in the world, the dominant feature of the situation seems to me to be that time is on the side of peace. If that be so the supreme need of the world now is to avoid such a major war as will lose us our liberties for good and destroy civilising processes for ever. It is easy to say that we should take an adventurous course, that we should be firm. My right hon. Friend the Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) rightly told us that there had been occasions when firmness had paid, but there may be an occasion, obviously there are occasions, when it is imperative that we should be patient, move with a delicate tread. On such occasions no doubt those who choose the less showy course, who avoid that firmness to which they are so loudly urged, are called cowards. Well, I am proud of the Prime Minister, because he has had the moral courage to allow himself to be called a coward at times in order to produce peace and to avoid those more showy courses which in my judgment would have led us into war.

What are these major tendencies which, as I say, are leading us, if we can only allow them to be fulfilled, to peace? In the first place, that very science whose devilish inventions have poured down destruction in Spain and caused abomination in China is all the time bringing the world closer together. That is not a mere phrase but something which is happening rapidly before our very eyes. Secondly, that very science is bringing potentialities for good before the peoples of the world such as have never existed before. And there is among the peoples of the world a consciousness that these potentialities exist and they are determined to see the fruits of peace garnered in a modern world. I believe that in this House we greatly underrate the spirit of mankind. I believe that the spirit of man is such that in the long run it insists on liberty and is determined upon peace and I urge hon. Members to retain, and to show that they retain, their faith in humanity.

I assert with confidence that there is a determination in the masses of the people all over Europe to avoid war, and that that determination has not been weakened during the last year, as has been suggested, but has been greatly strengthened during that time. I believe that the lessons of Spain and China have not been lost, and that point has been added to the determination to avoid war by the fact that Germany has now gone into a new phase. We have seen a period of supreme exaltation in Germany, but that is now over. I am far from wishing to suggest that the people of Germany have not faith, such as they have had, in their rulers. Nothing is gained by suggesting and reiterating that the dictatorships are on the verge of catastrophe. I think that is a delusion, and a very dangerous delusion at that. It seems to me that Germany is entering upon a new phase in a sense that she cannot now claim that her adventures are of a domestic nature. Those adventures are at an end, and although her regimentation is increasing all the time, any new adventure will take her into totally different spheres where dangers are far greater.

The suggestion seemed to be made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness that militarists were increasing in number and in danger, but it seems to me that the most extraordinary feature of the world at present is that the professional militarists desire peace as never before in the world. Indeed, I sometimes feel when I listen to hon. Members opposite that the militarists shrink from war even more than they do. There is not a militarist of prominence in Europe, whether commanding on land, on sea or in the air, who would not view with dismay any attempt on the part of his country to enter into a major war. This supreme fear of war which I have attempted to analyse seems to have put before the world an opportunity which it has not had before. I hope I shall not be proved wrong, but I do not take the view that there is a piling up of danger. I believe we are entering upon a phase in which the world for the first time, and Europe in particular, is ready to be told, under that pressure of the fear of war, that political and economic problems can be solved by peaceful means.

Photo of Mr Nevil Beechman Mr Nevil Beechman , St Ives

I am coming to that point. In that connection I say that it is the duty of this country to show how peaceful solutions can be achieved. I know that hon. Members opposite do not desire war at all and it would be very wrong to suggest that they do so desire, but theirs is a policy—they have admitted it with great frankness in this House—which presupposes that, in the last resort, they must be prepared to enter upon war in order to insist upon the rule of law against those who reject it. There, to my mind, is the fundamental fallacy. You cannot create good will by force. In the present situation you can build a structure of peace only by demonstrating the efficacy of peaceful solution in practice. I do not think it matters in the present situation what the instrument is which produces the peaceful solution, but it is vital that the peaceful solution should be produced, that the minds of the nations should be habituated to that course, and that they should see the efficacy of a peaceful solution in practice.

We have had examples of standing firm before. [HON. MEMBERS: "When?"] Let me trace it out. After the War, when democratic Germany was incapable of paying the great sums provided for under the Treaty, France was very firm, and I am sure that responsible French statesmen now regret it. France marched into the Ruhr and smashed Germany's hope of recovery under the democratic régime.

Photo of Mr Samuel Silverman Mr Samuel Silverman , Nelson and Colne

And we alone protested against it.

Photo of Mr Nevil Beechman Mr Nevil Beechman , St Ives

Germany was not a member of the League of Nations and had no right of appeal to the League. Abyssinia, yes; democratic Germany, no. Once again, later, when the sands were running out, Germany wished to join with Austria, because Austria had proposed to join with Germany in a customs' union. What happened? The matter was referred to the League of Nations, and the League of Nations referred it to the Hague Tribunal to decide whether such action was in accordance with the Treaty. It was decided that it was not. Was there ever such a hopelessly inverted process? What ought to have been decided was: Is this right or wrong? If it is right and the Treaty prohibits it, the Treaty must be altered. For the first time, we are now getting to a point when people are willing to be told that peaceful solutions are possible. There has always been a major nation, France at one time and Germany at another, anxious and willing to resist change or to procure change by force. I believe that history will say that what determined the failure of the League of Nations was that the public opinion of the nations was not ready to ratify, and did not perfect, the revisioning clause of the Treaty.

It is a fine thing that we have a Prime Minister who is leading us to understand, and by our example leading other nations to understand, that the reign of law does not merely mean that we should respect a static condition, crystallised at a certain point in history; we recognise that law must be changed as growth occurs and that growth and change can occur without violence. Another factor which has prevented us from coming to a right view of these matters is that we are in too close a proximity to great world and national movements. That factor is of enormous importance.

I hear hon. Members talk of dictatorships as though these were all in the same category. I well know that dictatorships have features in common, and that the common feature which we all abominate is that they regard the individual as existing for the benefit of the State, but let us not forget that they have in common the feature that the dictator is the symbol of national pride. That is why when one attacks a dictator one so frequently finds that one has consolidated the nation itself. The great thing to remember about dictatorship is that it is in that sense representative of its country. It is conditioned by the geography, the history, the resources and the ambitions, and beyond all the fears, of the country in which that dictatorship has arisen. By that test, Mussolini's Italy is not in the same category as Germany. Italy is not a totalitarian State at all. It is no reflection on the potency of Mussolini, or, indeed, on his intelligence, which is no doubt very great, to suggest that if Mussolini were to disappear Italy would be once more in the hands of the monarchy. It is necessary to remember that the Italian people are very charming and very civilised, and that they dislike war. In this country we sometimes scoff at the Italians because they dislike war, but I commend them.

Beyond all, let us remember Italy in its Mediterranean setting. I believe there is a great awakening going on right through the Mediterranean. We started it ourselves in 1860 or thereabouts, when we helped Garibaldi to set up Italy as a force in the Mediterranean. Are we beginning to regret it? Take the case of Turkey. A most remarkable awakening is taking place there. I sometimes hear hon. Gentlemen say that we must muster the democracies, but we must not forget that if we muster all the people who are opposed to force some of them will not be democracies at all but dictatorships, and very interesting dictatorships, which may have far greater consequences than such a country as Denmark which is a delightful and highly civilised country.

Another example of awakening in the Mediterranean is that of Spain. I believe that there are Spaniards fighting on both sides in Spain, in spite of what I hear in this House. I believe that those Spaniards are fighting for precisely the same thing. Hon. Members may say that some of those Spaniards are deluded, but we must not forget that popular delusion is one of the ordinary concomitants of war. I believe that those Spaniards are fighting to make Spain great, to bring her out of the extremes of poverty and oppression by giving free play to the spirit of Spain. There has been a great awakening in Spain not only in politics and in sociological matters. The awakening has been going on in literature, in music and in art, but it now trembles in the balance, not in accordance with who will win in the present conflict, but it trembles in the balance, because, if this slaughter goes on, there will be no Spain left at all. I associate myself very strongly with what has been said on the other side, and, indeed, by the Prime Minister to-day on that subject. I feel that there is only one policy for this country in regard to Spain, and that is to take every possible step to end this slaughter as soon as possible. I hope that the House as a whole will be able to support that policy, not only to end the slaughter, but to make sure that when it is at an end there will be mercy and decency shown. Whatever may be the outcome, in the present situation victory is of far less consequence than mercy. And I beg all hon. Members opposite to support this policy of demonstrating that co-operation between nations can only be achieved now by showing the value and efficacy of peaceful solution. I ask hon. Members on the Opposition Liberal benches to support that policy; I ask them to follow their own leaders; I ask them to follow, for instance, Mr. J. A. Spender, whom I regard as one of the greatest exponents of Liberalism in relation to foreign affairs, when he wrote, on 24th May last: Is it too much to hope that all parties will for the time being join in such a concentration and give up public recrimination which may place us at a disadvantage with the totalitarian States in which unity is imposed by an iron discipline? I ask hon. Gentlemen opposite whether they cannot, at any rate in the sphere of foreign affairs, support the National Government, not merely because it is in accordance with strategical realities, not merely because the safety of the country depends on it, but because it is, as I believe it to be, in accordance with the fundaments of morality and with that Liberalism in which they sincerely and intensely profess to believe. I, therefore, ask them to support the Prime Minister, who, through all these distresses and torments, through every black and bafflling emergency, has had the courage to retain and practice a faith in humanity.

7.48 p.m.

Photo of Mr Reginald Sorensen Mr Reginald Sorensen , Leyton West

I agree with many of the expressions of the hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Beechman), and appreciate his very sensitive approach to the problems with which we are all concerned. I am glad that he has approached this very difficult and intricate problem of foreign affairs in a rather different fashion from that adopted by some of his own friends. I would certainly recommend him in all sincerity to spend a week-end in the company of the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft). Possibly, as a result of the interesting time they would have together, we should find that the whole of the party which the hon. Member opposite supports would then approach more nearly to the spirit of the Labour party than has frequently been the case in the past. If the hon. Member does not mind my suggesting it, he rather strikes me as being the proverbial poacher turned gamekeeper. The sentiments to which he gave expression would have been admirable had they been expressed and put into operation say 15 years ago. They were precisely the principles that the party to which I belong was struggling to uphold when the party to which the hon. Member belongs was attacking them with all the vehemence at its command. That is not a matter of dispute; it is a matter of historic fact.

Again and again, while I was listening to the hon. Member, I could not help feeling that he was living in a world of illusion, that he was addressing to us sentiments, ideas and exhortations which might most properly be addressed to Members of his own party. The sentiments which he expressed have been our sentiments for years. We agree with him, for instance, that the firmness expressed at the time of the Versailles Treaty, and again and again since that time towards democratic Germany, has been largely responsible for the situation which confronts us to-day. It is certainly interesting to find that our ideas of yesterday are now being supported by Members of the Conservative party. Et is frequently so. We have often upheld principles which 25 years later the laggards in other parties have gradually come to accept. I could not help feeling that the hon. Member would probably take rather a different view if it were a question of our Imperial possessions being challenged. It is all very well to speak as he spoke, no doubt quite sincerely, about the necessity of withholding firm action from a situation such as that in Spain, or China, or Czechoslovakia, but would he apply the same pacific principle if the possibility arose of, shall we say, the invasion of Tanganyika or an attack on the Falkland Islands? The hon. Member behind him says, "Of course not," and I agree that that is the real position of the party which the hon. Member supports.

I admit that the whole House is united in its desire for the appeasement of the world, for a settlement of differences and the ensuring of peace. Only crooks and perverts really want war. There are some, possibly, even in this House, but the majority are not like that; whether Conservative, or National Liberal, free Liberal, Labour, Independent Labour Party or Communist, I am certain that they all want peace. Here I will be more charitable than the hon. Member opposite. He has on more than one occasion blurted out the insinuation, or made the deliberate statement, that my party wants war. That is utterly untrue. I will be more charitable; I do not believe that his party wants war; I repeat that nobody who is sane and civilised wants war.

Photo of Mr Nevil Beechman Mr Nevil Beechman , St Ives

I said that hon. Members opposite wanted peace.

Photo of Mr Reginald Sorensen Mr Reginald Sorensen , Leyton West

I was referring to the hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Wise). That hon. Member knows very well to whom I was referring. Even though all Members of the House, unless they are crooks or perverts, want peace, that, surely, is only the beginning of the issue. The issue really is, what kind of peace do we want? There are some who want a peace of stagnation; there are some who want a peace of conquest; and there are those who want a peace of justice. I want something more even than the last; I want a peace of human co-operation. It is in that regard that hon. Members of this House differ from one another; in other words, we differ in our concept of peace. Therefore, I am entitled to ask whether the conception of peace embodied in the policy of the British Government and its supporters is not a peace of conquest with law subservient thereto—in other words, a British Imperialist peace. I am not denying that it is peace that they want, but it is a peace of conquest, and a peace of British conquest. In other words, they say, "Whatever else happens, let us see to it that our own domination, our own territories, our own interests, our own power, remain untouched. We want peace, but peace with Britain still dominant." I know that Members of the House, like the hon. Member for Smethwick, will say, "Why not?" They want the angel of peace to walk abroad with the British trident in her hand and a tame lion by her side.

Photo of Mr Roy Wise Mr Roy Wise , Smethwick

A very good system, too.

Photo of Mr Reginald Sorensen Mr Reginald Sorensen , Leyton West

I am glad to find that hon. Members opposite say that it is a very good system, too. It is precisely that concept which is largely responsible for the threat of war in the world to-day. I listened with very great interest to the Prime Minister to-day—

Photo of Sir Arthur Baxter Sir Arthur Baxter , Wood Green

I think the hon. Member will agree with me that the world must have leadership, and, if he can suggest a better leadership than that of this country, we shall be glad to hear it.

Photo of Mr Reginald Sorensen Mr Reginald Sorensen , Leyton West

If the hon. Member will do me the honour of listening to me for a moment or two, he will hear my answer to the question he has put to me. The Prime Minister said this afternoon: Though we seek peace, we are not prepared to sacrifice British honour and interests. We cannot stand by and see our interests sacrificed. That, I presume, embodies the standpoint of hon. Members opposite. If I may put it into a British colloquialism—I will not quote Latin, because in the House of Commons, where we speak English, I prefer to use English—the statement of the Prime Minister may be summed up as: "What we have we hold." That, I am sure, will find a warm response in the soul of every hon. Member who supports the present Government. The Prime Minister said, further: Our interests in China have been of great importance for hundreds of years. All this blindly ignores the fact that the standard we set up for ourselves is precisely the standard by which other Powers also determine their policy. When we declare to the world that what we have we hold, we evoke the response from every other Power: "What we want we will get." If we maintain, as hon. Members opposite maintain, that the peace of the world must carry with it the status quo, the preservation of Britains Imperial monopoly and supremacy, we are literally asking the rest of the world to follow our example and challenge our supremacy. Why not? What is good for us must surely be good for other nations. If we rejoice in a mighty Empire with great possessions, supremacy and great economic advantages, and if these have brought to us, as they have, a higher standard of life than obtains almost anywhere else in the world, it is natural that other people, looking at us with envious or appreciative eyes, should say, "Very well, if that is Britain's enjoyment, we must have that enjoyment too, and the means which Britain has employed to secure that advantage we too will employ." Hon. Members know in their heart of hearts that that is so, and that is why they want to preserve the world as it is, and why it is that, when they are so anxious for peace, they want a peace that will keep things as they are. They fail to recognise, or fail to admit, that no durable or lasting peace in the world can be founded on that basis. We are, in fact, merely inviting other Powers to follow in the same footsteps that we have trodden when we say that our interests in China have been of great importance for hundreds of years. It is natural that Japan should retort, "Very well, we are going to start our hundreds of years of interests in China. You have had the advantages for hundreds of years past, while we were a slumbering feudal nation until So years ago; now we will begin."

From an Imperialistic standpoint, how can we deny this? If we claim to have had for hundreds of years in China, India and elsewhere these economic and Imperial interests, by what logic shall we say that Japan shall not by the same means secure the same interests? If in Africa we declare that we are a great Imperial Power, with substantial economic and territorial advantages, by what logic can we say that Italy shall have no rights there? The same is true of Germany, and any other Power. As long as we say that our standards shall be determined by Imperialistic aims, we are inviting other nations to set up the same standards. They merely say to us "You are a great Imperial Power; it is our turn now. Prepare, because we are going to challenge you before many years pass." We have all engaged in this game of power politics. That is very largely the reason why the League of Nations has failed—or, at least, has been modified so far as its original purpose is concerned. We are playing a diabolical game of chess, with human lives as pawns.

The Prime Minister said, "We desire the removal of the causes of possible conflict in the relationship of one country with another." Everyone agrees with those sentiments; but what are the causes of such possible conflicts? Does anyone imagine that by merely postponing the threat of crisis or emergency, merely lasting out the years by some subterfuge or diplomatic manoeuvre, we are removing the causes of war? They lie in the clash for supremacy. It is sheer hypocrisy to pretend that by merely postponing war we are averting it. As long as we merely worship at the shrine of power, other nations will do the same. As long as we are unprepared to sacrifice part of our material advantage for the sake of humanity as a whole, other nations will adopt the same standard as we have adopted, and tread the same path as we have trod, and in time we shall find ourselves in inevitable conflict with all nations trying savagely to grab power.

We are all hypnotised by words. The finest words we use may contain sheer hypocrisy. Dr. Johnson said: "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel." He was a Conservative but I do not adopt his rather crude description, nor do I suggest that patriotism is necessarily the last refuge of a scoundrel; but there is not a single word— "patriotism," "art," "music," "religion" which has not been used at times for the grossest actions. We are poisoning the sacred names of "freedom," "democracy" and "patriotism," by allowing them to blind us to the fact that what is wrong with the world is the mad rivalry for Imperial and territorial power. Therefore, I believe this House should recognise that, putting aside all the discussions and debates that have taken place here as to whether the Government have done right or wrong in this or that particular respect, there is fundamentally only one hope, and that is by the emergence of this country and other countries out of the hypnotism which is on them to-day to a realisation of the need for sacrifices all round. Only that can secure an enduring peace. Until we shatter that hypnotic worship of power, fine words will only be used as a means to the end of securing the satisfaction of an elemental passion.

I have always been a pacifist, and I am more convinced than ever that repudiation of all forms of war alone will secure a lasting peace and an understanding peace; but while that is my position, and while I strive to convert individuals to that viewpoint, I recognise that the great majority—99 per cent.—of our people are unprepared as yet to accept that point of view. That is not to say they are not pacific. There are elements of pacifism in the most jingoistic Members of this House. In the last resort we are all pacifists. We should still believe in the final triumph of truth and right even if we failed in war. It would remain an ultimate faith. Whilst I recognise that the great majority are not prepared to take this particular view, I submit that we can start in a small way, every one of us, by laying it down that if arms are to be used, and if efficient arms are to be used—and I grant the logic of that—at least we must see that these arms are used for an ideal and a principle—the ideal of international law. That surely is infinitely superior to the ideal of national superiority. The League of Nations has largely been betrayed by a Judas kiss of superficial friendship. Men have paid lip-service to it. They spoke of an international law, but when it came to the pinch it was quietly put on one side. Let us try to preserve some remnants of that international morality and international legality which are still within the structure of the League. If we do that, I feel that these dark days will be dispelled.

But Britain must give a lead precisely because it has this Imperial advantage, because it has a higher standard of life, because it gained so much more out of the last War than other Powers, and precisely because it has missed so many golden opportunities. For those reasons it can give a great lead. Britain, by forswearing her Imperial supremacy for the benefit of humanity, can deliver a moral shock to the world. When I listen here to either side of the House, my friends or my political enemies, debating niceties of diplomatic strategy, I again and again realise that all this in the end will get us nowhere at all. The rivalries of people to-day are so intense. The divisions of ideology—to use a hackneyed word—are so deep that they have divided Europe in two. Whether some Members of this House may desire that final clash between the rival ideologies or not, it will in any case be the mass of decent human beings who will suffer in that conflict, and I ask, therefore, before we drift on and on to this vortex of destruction that there should be in this House on all sides Members who are prepared to make Great Britain a great Britain in a new sense of the word—not in terms of territorial advantage or of economic superiority, but in terms of moral and social leadership to the whole world.

8. 11 p.m.

Photo of Sir Arthur Baxter Sir Arthur Baxter , Wood Green

If the Prime Minister fails to make a success of his foreign policy it will not be for lack of sincerity or for lack of variety in the advice which has been tendered to him to-day. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal party—

Photo of Sir Arthur Baxter Sir Arthur Baxter , Wood Green

—the Liberal party in opposition—made, as usual, one of his charming and bellicose speeches. His conception of Great Britain is not at all the same as that of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. It is very similar, however, to that of Sir Joseph Porter, who, as hon. Members know, in Gilbert and Sullivan's "H.M.S. Pinafore" gave to the British sailor advice as to the manner in which he should carry himself. I am not sure of the words, but they are something like this:

  • "His nose should pant and his lip should curl,
  • His cheeks should flame and his brow should furl,
  • His bosom should heave and his heart should glow,
  • And his fist be ever ready for a knockdown blow.
  • And this should he his customary attitude!"
That is the conception of the right hon. Gentleman of what should be the customary attitude of this country. Then we had a very sincere, moving and utterly impractical speech from the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. What he asked this House to do is to legislate not for Great Britain, or even the British Empire, but for humanity at large. If at a given moment the whole of humanity could alter, then I think we could dispense even with this House of Commons. We could reach the millennium at one jump. Lacking that happy consummation I do not know why the hon. Gentleman is so certain that Great Britain, by giving up what she possesses, will bring peace.

Photo of Mr Reginald Sorensen Mr Reginald Sorensen , Leyton West

I did not say that at all. What I said was that Great Britain should make her own Imperial advantage subservient to international law.

Photo of Sir Arthur Baxter Sir Arthur Baxter , Wood Green

The hon. Member taunted hon. Members on this side—I do not use the word "taunted" unfairly—with the contention that "what we have we hold." I regret very much that the party opposite should have always regarded the British Empire in its formation and development as somehow anti-social; actually it is one of the most far-reaching instruments for progress and peace that the world holds. No one can travel, as some of us have done, from one part of the Empire to the other without seeing the genius of this race for bringing civilisation to natives who would otherwise have been left in darkness. Coming, as I do, from the outer Empire, I should have thought hon. Members on the other side would have led the House in support of such an ideal.

Now let me come to Germany. I do not want to subject the House to the usual experience—a man who has been on a Cook's tour writing a book about it while he stands on his feet; but I must confess that at Whitsun I went to Czechoslovakia, Rumania, Germany and Austria during a very critical time, and I would like to make one or two observations to the House, with an apology that I do not claim to be an expert on the subject.

This much I will say. You cannot travel to-day through Central Europe without becoming conscious of a deeply sinister shadow across that Continent, and that shadow is Germany. We on this side do not share the fierce hostility of the Opposition to all forms of totalitarian government, even though we dislike it, but to deny the sinister influence of Germany to-day in Europe would be to deny the truth. She is pursuing a double policy of economic and political penetration, which is tyrannical in conception and dangerous in the carrying out. Czechoslovakia is a problem which even Lord Runciman, who has looked upon problems from two angles before, will have some trouble in adjusting. It has been said that the great wars of the world have not been between right and wrong, but between the right and the partially right. That is the real crux and tragedy of the Czechoslovakian problem. There is the right against the partially right, and it is for that reason a fierce and prolonged struggle.

I went down to Reichenberg in the Sudeten country on the Saturday before the last Election. The whole place was very excited, festooned with flags and pictures of Henlein. On the Saturday night I had supper about midnight with the Nazi leaders. They were very nice; they gave me all the information they could and naturally put their own case very strongly. Suddenly a message came that the Czech police had shot some of the Sudetens, and there was great excitements. At this, I asked if I could be allowed to go with them and see the atrocities which they were describing. They thought it would be better for me not to see them, but I said I could stand the sight and would very much like to have first-hand information possibly to place before the House of Commons, or some of the newspapers, which occasionally publish what I write. As I pressed them they consented, and eventually we started off at about 1 o'clock in the morning in three motor cars to track down the atrocities which were inflaming German opinion to such a pitch. From one village to another we followed rumours. We were told that there had been some shooting in the next village, but when we got there the shooting had taken place in the village we had just left.

Our Nazi leaders were good fellows, but they were persistent, and eventually we turned on to a deserted road, and there we found an atrocity. A window had been broken by a small stone, and I regret to say that a rotten egg had also been thrown. We surveyed the scene as if we had come to a shrine. This was the best that they could produce, but there was a German photographer with us. I do not know where he came from, but he turned up in the car, and being a newspaper man he thought quickly. He handed to three or four rather bewildered villagers sticks which were torn from a fence, and he photographed these gentleman standing in front of a cottage which did not belong to them, with their sticks upraised, guarding it against the terrible Czechs. These photographs did very well in the German Press; I saw many copies afterwards. That was one side of the case. The atrocities, and the stories of atrocities published in the German Press were not true. They were fabrications, I would say to the extent of 90, or nearly 100 per cent. Yet when we crossed the border into Germany and bought the German newspapers we read that, in spite of the most terrible atrocities, the election had taken place in Reichenberg, and the Germans had voted for the Nazi classes. I think that one of the most regrettable features in all this most unfortunate situation is the falsifying to the public of facts which may be politically useful, but which are lies, a tendency which is reducing the intellectual level of the German people to that of adolescents.

That is the most sinister thing, but no matter how one looks at this problem, and although I have described with absolute accuracy the atrocities which did not take place, we must make no mistake about it, the plight of the Sudetens is deplorable and harrowing. There is no question at all that their factories are being, and have been, abandoned. The Czech Government, for reasons which may be justified, will not give orders for munitions to the Sudeten factories. This is what they say in defence. and it is a very strong defence—"We cannot trust them with secrets." No Sudeten German can have a licence to fly an aeroplane of any sort, and again the Czech Government reply, "We are a small country and we cannot afford to have these men in the air." Of all the problems, this is the nearest thing to an insoluble problem I have ever discovered. How are we going to solve it?

Is it to say, as many Members of this House will advise, and especially my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), that you must form an alliance of nations, an economic alliance semi-military, spiritual, and on the grounds of freedom, and hold Germany at bay and say, "One move against Czechoslovakia and we march?" I do not think that that is a very sound policy, because it would drive Germany, already cornered and frustrated in many ways, into a corner. In my opinion Germany is much more likely to fight a war of desperation than a war of conquest. I say, beware a desperate Germany. That is one policy which we could adopt.

Mr. Vyvyan Adams:

Does my hon. Friend really think that the present German Government would deliberately ride for a certain fall? Does he think they would embark on a war when they knew they would be defeated?

Photo of Sir Arthur Baxter Sir Arthur Baxter , Wood Green

That is a question which is very often asked, and I would answer my hon. Friend in this way. When a totalitarian Government sees its administration coming to an end, we must remember that there is no alternative party, no alternative government, and that if these men fall from office they are doomed men, they are dead men. The enemies they have created would shoot them. Therefore, if you say to a group of 10, 12 or 500 men who are running a nation like Germany on a totalitarian basis: "Which will you do if your regime is coming to an end; you will go to war or will you throw up the reins of government and go home to possible assassination?" I think war would be the more likely thing that they would decide upon.

We have three policies or attitudes that we can take towards Germany. One is isolation, as propounded by Lord Beaverbrook and the "Daily Express." That is an attractive policy. It has all the attractions and all the difficulties that were summed up by Mr. Goldwyn, of Hollywood, when, after listening to a conference of his directors, he said: "Well, boys, include me out." It is unfortunately true that for this country to include itself out of Europe is charming, but rather more difficult than the laws of geography will permit. Therefore, while I pay to Lord Beaverbrook that greatest respect for his opinions which he deserves, and while I would not decry his great services to the community, at the same time I am sorry that I cannot follow him into that lovely garden, or ocean, or desert of isolation, desirable as it is.

The second alternative is that put forward by the right hon. Member for Epping, which is to bring together all the democratic forces into what would be a military alliance, although he does not choose to call it that. There is a third alternative, which reminds me of Oscar Wilde's words: So cure the soul by means of the senses. I believe that we have to cure Germany before we can cure the European problem. That is a big order, but I think we are very foolish in this House sometimes, those of us who refuse to believe that there is any good in National Socialism or that there is no unselfishness in men like Hitler and Goering. We are very unwise in thinking that. You cannot come in touch with German National Socialism without realising that Herr Hitler has given to his young men a faith, a vision, unfortunate as it is, and limited as it is in understanding, which we ourselves often fail to give to our own people.

To say that Hitler is merely a crook, that he is only a gangster, is absurd. In saying that, you are dismissing a man whose capacity, however misdirected, certainly takes him out of that class altogether. The Opposition to-day are asking what Captain Wiedemann said when he saw Lord Halifax. I have a feeling that I know. I think he said: "My Government is anxious to improve the relations between our two countries. My Government assures you that it desires a peaceful Czechoslovakian settlement." I believe those two things were the foundation of the conversation. I contend that Germany profoundly desires a peaceful settlement of the Czechoslovakian questioa. You may take it that she desires it on the crudest and lowest standpoint, because she is not ready for war. Put it that way if you like. There is, however, another reason which is apt to be more sound. In the Sudeten district there is a stricken German community of 3,500,000 people. They are living from hand to mouth. Do you think that Hitler's economic situation is such that at one swallow he can take into his economic system 3,500,000 more industrialists? I agree that Hitler wants political domination, that he may ask for a plebiscite and he may do the wrong thing again, but Germany does not want the people; she only wants political control. Therefore, I do not think we are risking very much in believing that Germany desires a peaceful settlement of this problem.

I do not speak here very often, and the shorter I speak perhaps the better it is for the House, but having had an experience which is sometimes unusual in journalism in that I have seen that which I am writing and talking about, I want to go on for another minute or two.

Photo of Mr David Kirkwood Mr David Kirkwood , Dumbarton District of Burghs

The hon. Member spoke about 3,500,000 industrialists in Czechoslovakia. Does he mean to say that there are 3,500,000 unemployed industrialists in Czechoslovakia?

Photo of Sir Arthur Baxter Sir Arthur Baxter , Wood Green

I was not speaking of the whole of Czechoslovakia. I was referring, broadly speaking, to the population statistics of the Sudeten countries. The figure given is 3,500,000 Germans, which would include children and women. As a community they live on factories which are no longer active. One of the saddest sights to be seen in the whole of unhappy Central Europe is to drive from Richenberg 20 or 3o miles to the frontier and to see factories which in the prosperous Austro-Hungarian days were all working and progressing. You can see where the proprietors with Germanic pride in the development of their industries had added a little decoration to this wall and a little garden there; but now the factories are empty, and they are being broken up for their value in bricks. One wonders how the district lives at all. I grant that I may have been guided to the worst part of the district, but the mere fact that a decimated area shows perhaps the worst, does not alter the fact that the situation is very serious indeed.

I do not believe that Herr Hitler is an impulsive man. On the contrary, I think he has shown every sign of being a moat patient and thoughtful man. He acts swiftly only when he has added up every chance of action and reaction. This sending of Captain Wiedemann to London to see Lord Halifax I would not dismiss for a moment as an impetuous act on his part. Hitler looks out on the world to-day and he is wise enough, for all his mysticism and emotional qualities, to say, "We have lost the battle. We have created every enemy that is possible. We have failed to make friends. I think the time has gone when Germany must know that she looks out on the enmity of the Catholic Church, on the enmity of the trade unions, on an Anglo-French understanding which she turned into an alliance overnight by her march into Austria, of an outraged Jewry and a resentful America. She has changed Austria from almost a vassal State into a sulky, brooding Germanic province. Wherever Germany looks she must realise that she has lost the game of diplomacy, and not for the first time. And so, turning to see how she can change the course of things, we come back to one of the most persistent and consistent things in the character of Herr Hitler, and that is a deep and resolute respect for the people of this country.

I feel that if we could at this moment go towards Germany—if you like with our pistols in our pockets prepared for eventualities—let in some fresh air, bring the Germans into contact with this country, we could show to him and his people a better way of reopening frontiers than by conquest and guns. I refuse to believe that the Germans are entirely different from ourselves. I almost think it would be ironically effective if we changed Shylock's lines and say: Hath not a German eyes? Hath not a German hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? … warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as an Englishman is? It is time we began to orientate our minds towards that point of view. I apologise for keeping the House so long, but I should like to recapitulate the three alternatives about which I have been speaking. I do not think we can afford to go on waiting upon eventualities. We must choose between one of these three policies—Isolation. Or blocking Germany secretly or openly wherever she tries to expand; a process which is now going on in the Danubian and Balkan countries. We must do that or adopt the third policy, which is to treat the Germans as being men like ourselves, with the same ambitions, the same sense of destiny as ourselves. By that I do not mean for a minute that we can afford to let down any of the safeguards; it must be a gradual approach. Bernard Shaw says in one of his plays that the difference between a flower girl and a duchess is the way you treat her. The difference between Germany as she is to-day and Germany as she might become may be the way we treat her now, and I would ask hon. Members opposite to consider whether, instead of adopting as they do an attitude of persistent and never-ending hostility to the Germany of to-day, they should rather run the risk, the risk which the Prime Minister is taking with his own reputation, so that we may in this fateful month of August, 1938, see a great thing happening in the world this year.

8.39 p.m.

Miss Rathbone:

We have listened to an extremely interesting speech from the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. Baxter). I visited Czechoslovakia about a year ago and I agree with very much that the hon. Member said about the situation. I will not stop to discuss that part of his speech, but I should like to point out one thing. He is pointing us along a dangerous road. He says that we should treat the Germans as human beings like ourselves. I agree. He said, why not open the frontiers? I agree. But does he really believe that Herr Hitler with his ambitions is going to be satisfied with merely economic concessions, and if he wants more room, at whose expense is it to be? Wherever one looks, at the former German colonies, at Czechoslovakia, at Austria, the places where Germany will want to expand, it is all very well for us to say, "Let her expand," but at whose expense? Should we not see the same detestable methods which have been practised against the Jews and Liberals in Austria? There was no bloodshed, but the methods in their sadist cruelty have hardly been paralleled in the history of the world. Is not that the difficulty? I think we should sacrifice a very great deal, bits of our own Empire, take risks to avoid a conflict with Germany, but before we plan what we are going to give away to Herr Hitler we must consider at whose expense it is to be.

I think we must all be thankful about the Prime Minister's reference to the lightening of the dark clouds. At the same time we are all going away with very anxious minds, and I want to deal with a few points about which we are specially anxious. While we are away the proposals as to the removal of volunteers from Spain are likely to be implemented. There are one or two reasons which make one look at the proposals with very doubtful eyes. This is part of the plan to conciliate Mussolini at almost any cost, and so make a conclusion of the Anglo-Italian Agreement possible, but we cannot help seeing that in almost every way the non-intervention scheme is being tightened up by restrictions against Republican Spain, while allowing constant intervention on the rebel side. That particular proposal has itself provided several large gaps through which assistance can pass to the insurgents from Italy and Germany. There are no observers in aerodromes, although we know that the most formidable form of foreign intervention on General Franco's side has been the coming of aeroplanes by air. We had a reply from the Under-Secretary of State only yesterday about this matter. He said that the suggestion of observers being placed in aerodromes had been turned down by the Non-Intervention Committee. Why? Is it because it is impracticable? If it is possible to have observers in the ports of Spain why is it impossible to get observers at the aerodromes? And why are there to be observers in some ports of Spain and not in all? Is not the reason the same in both cases, that the Italians did not wish it?

The Prime Minister asked us to believe that the Italians have co-operated in the non-intervention scheme. Of course they have, because co-operation has enabled them to get their own way and continually to weaken the proposals to their own advantage. In spite of the weak points in the proposals I think they might have brought a limited advantage if they were going to find a way for getting rid of foreign volunteers. It has not been sufficiently noticed how the Prime Minister has really sabotaged, with the aid of his French allies, the chances of the scheme of his own Government by removing from General Franco almost all inducements genuinely to co-operate in the withdrawal of volunteers. Obviously that withdrawal cannot take place unless General Franco co-operates, but the Prime Minister has given him long beforehand the chief advantages which he stood to gain by cooperating. One of those advantages was the closing of the French frontier, which ought to have synchronised with the commencement of the withdrawal of volunteers, but which has taken place two months, at any rate, before the withdrawal can possibly begin. That frontier has already been closed for over a month. I do not intend to discuss now the vexed question of who was responsible for its being closed—Paris has its own opinion about that—but I suggest that neither Government seems to be very proud of the effect. The closing of that frontier has greatly lessened the chances of success of the proposals.

The other advantage which has already been given as a free gift to General Franco is the cutting off from the Republican side of supplies derived from neutral shipping, as a result of the Prime Minister's refusal to protect British shipping. The other main motive which General Franco had for co-operating in the withdrawal of volunteers, which would injure him far more than it would the other side, was the gaining of the recognition of belligerent rights, but he scarcely needs belligerent rights now, because the Government have done his work for him and given him more than he could have got by a blockade, which he has not the naval power to enforce, by bullying and threatening those shipowners who, in the exercise of their lawful business of carrying food and fuel to a half-starved people, and by refusing to protect them while they were carrying on that lawful business. For those seasons, I feel that the chances of success of the proposals have been very greatly decreased. The Prime Minister can scarcely conceal his anger that the Spanish Republic, like King Charles, has been so unconscionably long a' dying, and consequently he vents that anger on his own countrymen who, in a legitimate way, have been helping the Spanish Republic to survive.

The question of China was admirably dealt with by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair), and I will only say how glad I was that he called attention to the disastrous answer given in the House the other day by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Chancellor explained that the Government had decided, after carefully going into the possibilities, to refuse any loan to China, and he actually gave as a reason for differentiating in that matter between China and Turkey the fact that China is engaged in hostilities, thus making the very fact of China being the victim of an aggression a reason for withholding that form of financial assistance which, under the Covenant of the League of Nations, ought specially to be given to the victim of an aggression. Could the Chancellor have told Japan more plainly that we were too afraid of her to do what is our duty as a Member of the League?

Again, with regard to Abyssinia, I was glad that the right hon. Baronet drew attention to what is happening in Somaliland. I think we shall, in future, rue the penetration of Somaliland by the Italians which is now going on. Large numbers of Italians are allowed to go into the country to help to develop roads, and they have been given the privilege of carrying food and other things needed for the use of their troops across those roads. I think we shall find that in the long run we shall pay for that. I am told that the British Somalis are among the best fighters in Africa; and yet we are, as far as possible, making it practicable for them, if we should ever come into conflict with Italy, to fight on the Italian side and not on our own. One other matter which I want to mention in connection with Abyssinia is the treatment of our distinguished guest, the Emperor of Ethiopia. Everybody must admit that he is a man whom we have ruined. The British Government, having persuaded him to rely on our protection and to take our advice, then withdrew that protection, because it became inconvenient. We have reduced him to exile and poverty. Whether that was inevitable or not, I do not intend to discuss, but no one can deny the degree of our responsibility. At a time when we are prepared to barter away his remaining rights over his country and his country's independence as part of our deal with Italy, we are allowing him to be reduced to such straits that a public appeal for his assistance has to be made. That seems to me to be deplorable, and I wish that the Government would find some way of providing reasonable maintenance of the Emperor.

The Government have permitted these various acts of weakness because of fear of the aggressor countries—Japan, Germany and Italy—and a desire to conciliate them, or, to put it more crudely, to buy them off by encouraging them to vent themselves on weak nations, in the hope that, having become sated, they will leave us and our possessions alone. What we fail to see and what is the cause for the deep anxiety which gnaws at our hearts, is any sign that this policy, ignoble at best, is even succeeding. True, it has kept us out of war so far, and the Government are fighting by-elections on that claim; but can the country be kept permanently out of war by those means, and if so, at what cost? One country after another which might have been our ally in a system of collective security is subjected either by force or by diplomatic pressure, and the balance of power in Europe is steadily being shifted to our disadvantage and to the disadvantage of all the other surviving democratic powers. We should gain something if there were any signs of real appeasement, but are there any signs of that? After every fresh concession, the aggressive powers become more openly arrogant and insolent. That is particularly the case with Signor Mussolini, whom the Prime Minister has been so sedulously wooing, and who becomes more openly offensive every day.

The Prime Minister's only reward for tamely allowing British ships to be sunk without anything more than a, verbal protest was Signor Gayda's taunt in the official organ of Rome that if a single Italian ship was sunk, the Italian people would reply not with verbal protests, but with guns. The premature closing of the French frontier, again obviously a gesture on the part of the French Government, with or without our encouragement, solely to please the Italians, met with the Duce's furious outburst against the great demo-plutocracies, with their ridiculous and nasty faces, which the Italian people would always remember in peace or in war. So far, that is what we have got by cringing to Signor Mussolini. Obviously he and Herr Hitler, although Herr Hitler is more discreet and less outspoken, have merely been confirmed in their belief that the British nation is decadent and that the spoils of its Empire will shortly be ready to be divided up between them.

I sometimes wonder whether they are wrong in that assumption. I sometimes wonder whether the Government's policy, if continued on its present lines, will not lead to our sinking down step by step without fighting into the position of a second-rate Power. For every concession that is demanded from us, the question will be put, "Is this worth the risk of war?" and the answer will be "No." At some time, perhaps, the Government will be willing for this country to fight for some cause, and then perhaps they will find that the nation will not fight. So there will be no fighting. We shall get into a position similar to that of Denmark or Sweden, but with the difference that we have a far more congested population and are far more dependent on foreign trade, and that those countries retain their liberty and comparative prosperity because they have behind them the support of the great democracies. When freedom has been submerged all over Europe, will our freedom survive; or alternatively, at some point in that intolerable descent into the valley of humiliation, will the point be reached at which we shall fight, but—what is only too likely—fight alone, or with insufficient allies, because, by reason of the selfishness of our present policy, we have been left practically alone.

While the taunt is constantly flung against us that we want war, I think there is no Member of this House who wants war. I doubt whether there is any person in the country who wants war. We all passionately want peace, and the only question which divides us is how to secure it. I cannot believe that in the long run we shall secure peace by continually running away and by sacrificing not only our own prestige and honour, but the lives and liberties of the peoples of smaller nations. I cannot help believing that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) is right and that his view is the view held by many hon. Members, namely, that it is not too late to rally the peace-loving nations within the League.

It may be too late. The rot may have gone too far. I only throw out this suggestion. Has there ever been in the last two years, a realistic approach to the countries of the League, one by one, to ask each what it was prepared to do, to say to each country, "You want your security guaranteed; what are you prepared to guarantee for the security of other nations?" The kind of League before my mental eyes is not a League which resembles a great church with a preacher in the pulpit laying down maxims of conduct, which everybody accepts but nobodys obeys. It is something more like a mutual insurance society where different bargains are made with different nations, and each nation guarantees so much, according to what they are going to get out of it. That is a practical, realistic League. We are told that such a League is impossible and we might agree, if we had any reason to think that it had ever been attempted. But we have never had an opportunity of knowing whether it has been attempted, and we have no reason to believe that any attempt has been made by this Government at recreating the League on those lines. Many of us believe that the real reason why no such attempt has been made is not because the Government think it impossible, but because they know that in order to work out the sum, the co-operation of Russia is essential and they are determined not to co-operate with Russia. I believe that is the complex which lies beneath the belief that collective security is dead. One tremendous fear which possesses us is that during the Parliamentary Recess, one pass after another may be sold, and that we shall come back to find that the whole European position has deteriorated. The only safe path is a return to the ideal of collective security.

8.59 P.m.

Photo of Mr Roy Wise Mr Roy Wise , Smethwick

I shall endeavour to be as brief as I can, and I wish in the first place to offer my congratulations to the Opposition Liberals for having returned to the Chamber. I noticed with considerable amusement that for long periods during this Debate, which they themselves initiated, their benches were untenanted.

Photo of Mr Edward Williams Mr Edward Williams , Ogmore

So were your's last night.

Photo of Mr Roy Wise Mr Roy Wise , Smethwick

We did not initiate last night's Debate.

Photo of Mr Edward Williams Mr Edward Williams , Ogmore

No, it was a Debate which concerned the miners.

Photo of Mr Roy Wise Mr Roy Wise , Smethwick

I think that the Opposition Liberal party have done a certain amount of good service in commencing a Debate of this kind, but I do not think that the case which they put up was particularly good. It seemed to be based upon many of the misconceptions which they have promulgated in the past, and which have just been reiterated by the hon. Member for the English Universities (Miss Ratlabone). It is true that nobody on this side of the Committee has yet thrown across the Floor the taunt that hon. Members opposite are anxious for war. I do not believe that anybody on this side thinks that they are anxious for war. We are prepared to credit them with as much desire for peace as we have. But I think we can say with some justice that the policy which they advocate, whether they like it or not, is almost certain to produce war.

In my view they fail entirely to recognise the true object of foreign policy. They fail to realise that foreign policy is one of our instruments of defence, and that the Foreign Office should be regarded as a Defence Ministry, just as much as the War Office, the Admiralty or the Air Ministry. If foreign policy results in the danger of war or in war itself, then that policy has failed. Sometimes it is necessary to insure against possible failure by searching for allies in case war should break out, but obviously to a nation in the position of Great Britain, the first object of foreign policy should be to see that war does not break out, and I cannot see how any of the things advocated by the Opposition could possibly result in anything except ultimate disaster.

Let us take first the position in the Far East and ask ourselves what the Opposition would have us do there. Not so long ago they were more belligerent than they are to-day. They were demanding far stronger action, and I was pleasantly surprised when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) came down to this House to-day, and instead of drawing the bright sword with which to defend China, contented himself with producing the moneylenders' scales, and demanding that we should lend money to the Chinese Government. We have heard that same demand for a loan, as our great contribution towards the defence of China from more than one speaker. They are, of course, deceiving themselves, either deliberately or unintentionally, when they talk of a loan. What they mean, obviously is a subsidy and I think it would be much more honest if they said so. A loan to China in its present state is not the sort of loan which would be undertaken by normal finance. I have only to ask hon Members opposite, would they subscribe their personal fortunes to such a loan, or do they expect the Government to do it out of the taxpayers' money? If they are prepared to subscribe their own personal fortunes, there is nothing to prevent them from lending their personal fortunes to the Chinese Government now.

What would they have us do in Spain? The official Opposition is frankly interventionist ventionist [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I believe they have always said so, but I think that recently their party managers have told them that their attitude on Spain and their opposition to British rearmament have proved electorally unpopular, and they are now hastily endeavouring to swallow some of the unfortunate past utterances of their leaders. I do not want to waste the time of the House by reminding the Opposition of the proud boast of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) as to the extent of their intervention in Spain. They will remember that the right hon. Gentleman's statement was quoted by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It was to the effect that they had done much more to help the Spanish Government than they dared say in public. They are frankly interventionist, but the Members of the Opposition Liberal party are, I think, reasonably non-interventionist as regards the Spanish quarrel. They have some idea that a victory of the Barcelona Government would be more favourable to British interests than a victory of General Franco. They may have very good grounds for thinking that, although I confess that I cannot see that it matters very much to us which party wins this Civil War. The interests of Spain have always been linked with those of this country. I am not concealing my own personal predilection of the way in which I should like the Civil War to end, but I am talking of the attitude of Spain to this country when it is over. As long as Britain remains one of the largest potential customers of Spain, so long Spain will be friendly to Britain, and I cannot see that our present rigid neutrality can possibly do us any harm. I do not believe that inclining to one Government or the other, or straining all the laws for the protection of ships on the high seas in order to supply materials of various kinds to the Barcelona Government, will help us ultimately to conciliate whatever Government is eventually victorious in Spain.

We have had a considerable demand that we should protect British shipping in Spanish waters, but I believe that that demand is based on a misconception of what the aeroplane in war in fact is. I believe we should look upon it as a form of long-range bombardment arid that we should say to ourselves, "What would happen if Barcelona were a besieged city within the range of artillery, and British ships were in the harbour when that bombardment was going on and were hit by the shells which were fired at Barcelona?" I do not believe that in law we should have any complaint whatever in such a case. Obviously there is no precedent in international law for the use of the aeroplane as a means of long-range bombardment, but, looked at from that point of view, I think there is a very strong case for the Government's attitude, that while we can afford every protection on the high seas, and do afford it, ships that enter ports in a war zone enter them at their own risk.

In the case of Czechoslovakia, again, there has been a demand for a more vigorous attitude and for less consideration for the Sudeten Germans—a curious demand particularly by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood), who was urging, as far as I could see, that we should stiffen the resistance of the Czech Government to the demand for autonomy from those Germans who live in Czechoslovakia. I thought at the time how horrified he would have been, and indeed, how horrified he was, when the same sort of attitude was urged on the British Government in the case of the Irish, a people of another race—

Photo of Mr Roy Wise Mr Roy Wise , Smethwick

—just as the Sudetens are of another race, demanding autonomy just as the Sudetens are demanding autonomy. I would finally remind hon. Members opposite that they can overdo this business of standing up to the dictators. Nobody is asking this country to be meek, but I will finish with one quotation from an ancient poet, Ennius.

Photo of Mr William Gallacher Mr William Gallacher , Fife Western

He is as dead as you are.

Photo of Mr Roy Wise Mr Roy Wise , Smethwick

He referred to the Romans of his day and they were just as irresponsible as the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher), and he was talking of their more intelligent predecessors: "Non cauponantes bellum sed belligerentes." "Not the hawkers of war, but those who train themselves to fight," and I commend that very much to all those hon. Members opposite of military age who have not yet trained themselves to fight.

9.10 p.m.

Photo of Sir Geoffrey Mander Sir Geoffrey Mander , Wolverhampton East

I want first to reply to some remarks made in the course of his speech by the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Crossley), when he made something of an attack on the League of Nations Union and expressed the view that it was desirable that it should be made a party body by the retirement of the Conservative party. I very much hope that that will not be the case, and that it will long continue to be representative of all the parties in the State. My own experience for a number of years as a member of the Executive, on which we have had distinguished representatives of all parties, is that we have gone out of our way to try and accommodate our opinions to those of one another and to arrive at unanimity wherever possible, and I think we have been largely successful in attaining that result. It would be most deplorable if a body of which the Prime Minister thinks it is right to be President at the present time were to be handed over to the ordinary party fight. The League of Nations Union stands for certain ideals which are not the preserves of any party or Government. Its object is to educate public opinion and to try and persuade Governments and Members of Parliament to adopt its policy, and in pursuance of that object it is bound at times to come into conflict with Governments and at other times to support Governments, and you cannot expect any other course of action.

The hon. Member made some reference to the recent resignation of the secretary of the union, and I should like to say, quite clearly and unequivocally, as one knowing all the facts—and other hon. Members of the House on the other side who are members of the committee will confirm what I say—that whatever the reasons were, they were internal, and they were in no way whatever political. The chairman of the executive, Lord Lytton, said so on the occasion of the resignation. The difference between members of the union is that some of them regard the League of Nations policy as one for immediate application, here and now, in the year 1938, and others equally sincerely think it is likely to come into operation a very long time off. We have to try and accommodate ourselves to the two views, but we shall have to return to that policy, and personally I shall always do all that I can to promote harmony among members of all parties on that body, and I hope it will always remain representative of everybody in the State who is interested in foreign affairs.

This has been an unusually calm Debate for one on foreign affairs. The Prime Minister said that the atmosphere seemed to him rather lighter, but I can detect a good deal of thunder in the air. After all, we have two international wars going on at the present time unchecked, in which great countries are taking part and large numbers of men, women, and children are being slaughtered in cold blood every day, and one cannot reach a state of much satisfaction or feel that the atmosphere is very much lighter while that sort of thing is going on, because we all have a responsibility. It is no good thinking that these things are happening in other parts of the world. We are bound by treaty to do what we can, and we are doing very little, to bring these wars to an end. There is another war that is smouldering at the present time in Czechoslovakia, and I propose to say something about that in a moment.

I will venture to criticise, as I have done before, the policy which is being pursued by the Government and by the Prime Minister in particular, but I should like to say that I pay the warmest tribute to the sincerity of the Prime Minister and to his single-minded devotion to the cause of peace. I am sure he has no other object, and while I may think him wholly wrong in the way in which he goes about it, I have no doubt whatever that there is no man in the country who is more anxious to attain it. It is a policy that is very largely a personal one. He is Foreign Secretary and no one else in the Government counts. He dominates it and controls it from his own Department. It seems to me rather curious that the chief diplomatic adviser of the Government is not consulted more often. I wonder what is the position at the present time. Perhaps my hon. Friend could tell us what Sir Robert Vansittart is? Is he still the chief diplomatic adviser of the Government, and, if so, when did the Prime Minister last consult him? It would be very interesting to have that if, indeed, the record has been kept of so remote a period. It is fair to say that the Prime Minister's personal policy envisages a Four-Power Pact, and, that being so, it will be difficult for him to respond to the appeals that are made to him from time to time to line up with the democracies, such as the United States and the appeals that come from President Roosevelt. He cannot do that because it is inconsistent with his well-meant efforts to come to friendly arrangements with the two great dictator Powers.

I want to pass for a moment to China and make reference to the question of the proposed loan. It is made clear that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was inaccurate in the version he gave in reply to a supplementary question the other day, when he said the reason we did not give the loan was because they were at war. I am sure that he gave it on the spur of the moment without thinking, because it is an absolutely indefensible reason for not giving a loan in view of the past history of what has happened in the Far East and of our commitments under the Covenant of the League and other Treaties. The reason seems to have been a lack of security. Why is there so little security? Have we not some responsibility for it? I should have thought that if we looked a little beyond the pounds, shillings and pence we could have found that loan to China. From a psychological point of view and, even, in the long run, from the financial point of view, it would have paid us back many times over. I hope the Government will not permanently rule that out and will see whether they can do that small thing at any rate to help the much wronged China. There is a small point I would like to ask the Under-Secretary to deal with in regard to the protection of shipping in China and in Spain. We are told that in Spain British shipping in any case cannot be protected inside the three-mile limit and in port because, apart from anything else, it is physically impossible. How is it that in the Far East, in the Treaty ports in China, we are told, as my hon. Friend told me the other day, that naval protection is given to British merchant vessels in port and inside the three-mile limit. If it is found to be a practical proposition to do it in the Far East, how is it found impossible to carry it out in Spain? Is the reason because the Government do not want to do it in the one case? It looks very much like that.

In regard to Spain generally, I find great difficulty in speaking with patience about the hypocritical sham of non-intervention that has been going on for so long. It is a case of the application of sanctions against the victim of aggression itself. It is quite clear, I should have thought, that if Franco wins, which the Prime Minister must desire because of his Anglo-Italian Treaty, it will involve in effect a major military defeat for Great Britain and France because of the effect it will have on the Pyrenean frontier. I hope that due consideration has been given in the Defence department to the remarkable article that was published in the "News Chronicle," the other day by a high German general staff officer, General Von Reichenau. He dealt frankly with the situation that had been created on both sides of the Mediterranean, and said that the British and French position was impossible and that in any trouble with Portugal she would be forced willy-nilly into the arms of Germany. I find it difficult to see much prospect of success for the Prime Minister's Treaty, but I think he has to-day given us rather more information than ever before about what he means by a settlement. He has made that pretty clear, and we have that much satisfaction, at any rate, and it looks as if the conditions that he has laid down are not in the least likely to be realised before we meet again. I draw that consolation from it, at any rate.

It would seem to be right to do two things immediately. One is to open the French frontier, which we were told was closed because the French Government wanted to do it and for no other reason. The British Government expressed no views—they were not interested. The French Government suddenly thought of it; they thought it would be a good idea to close the frontier. If that is so they are free to open it again. The other thing is to restore the right of the Spanish Government to purchase arms. Would the Under-Secretary in reply be good enough to say what happened about the British observers who were being sent out to Spain to be available to go to the site of any towns that were bombed to investigate and report? Have they gone, or are they going, and have the consents of the parties been received? What is the position?

I propose to turn to the most serious international question of the moment, as I see it, that of Czechoslovakia. In order to get the background of this I am afraid that I must return once more to a subject which I am afraid the Prime Minister will not like, but I realy feel obliged to do it. I refer to the famous article which most people now think expresses in some ways the views of the Prime Minister, and which he himself has not denied. I think that that is a fair statement of the case. The quotation I propose to make is in regard to Czechoslovakia. This is the impression made on the mind of a skilled American journalist with regard to Czechoslovakia after hearing a certain very high authority: These British think there is little danger of immediate war in Europe. To the query: 'Will France and Russia fight for the Czechs?' they answer: 'How can they fight?' France is separated by the width of Germany and cannot march troops into Czechoslovakia. Russia is separated by Poland and Rumania. Besides the Soviet have shot their best generals. Russia will be formidable in defending its own territory—it always has been in that respect—but it cannot be counted upon to move troops into Czechoslovakia any more than France can. Any suggestion that Russia might fly 1,000 bombers to Czechoslovakia and give Hitler reason for fear his beloved Germany might be bombed is ruled out with the comment that Czechoslovakia lacks the necessary equipment and ground facilities for such an additional air force and that the Russian planes might themselves be bombed to bits before they could take off from Czech territory. Nothing seems clearer than that the British do not expect to fight for Czechoslovakia, and do not anticipate that France and Russia will either. That being so, then the Czechs must accede to the German demands, if reasonabe. I read that as showing the mentality behind the direction of foreign policy. It is astounding to think that anyone could hold that view and yet within ro days from that date all these things that were said to be impossible were going to take place. Russia, France and Great Britain were all prepared to stand by the side of Czechoslovakia and take whatever military and air action might be necessary. It seems to me an extraordinary misreading of foreign affairs to put forward a suggestion of that kind. At this writing the British are not sure as to the exact nature of Germany's intentions towards Czechoslovakia and they do not think Hitler is very sure of himself. Der Fuehrer has called for the incorporation of all Germans within the greater Reich, but this policy, if carried to an extreme might take in not only the Sudeten Deutsche but also the German-speaking peoples of all Europe and across the Atlantic as well. The last sentence points out a very grave danger. Supposing the extreme demands of the Sudeten Germans were acceded to and territorial autonomy were given, and it were in due course followed by incorporation in the Reich, you would have set a precedent which must inevitably be followed by similar agitation and propaganda among Germans in Switzerland, in Denmark, in France, in Poland, in all the countries surrounding Germany and, as the article indicates, amongst the Germans in Brazil and countries of that kind as well. Having once permitted it to take place in the case of Czechoslovakia, there would be no real answer to the demand which would inevitably be pressed forward from Germany for its extension. That shows the tremendous danger that exists in setting any precedent in the case of the Sudeten Germans now. In so far as there is a sincere desire on both sides to come to an agreement, the difficulty could easily be solved. There is not the slightest doubt about that. The Czech Government, if left to itself, could do it if there were no outside interference and, if we are able to believe the recent statement of Herr Hitler's Envoy that his desires are, as always, purely peaceful, there will be agreement and we need have no further trouble about it. But that may not be the case. In that case agreement is impossible. I take the view that the attitude of the German Government in this matter is purely opportunist, having failed in the frontal attack, using every diplomatic opportunity that arises for the purpose of marching into Czechoslovakia at the particular moment when everything seems favourable, and that she is not genuine in desiring a settlement at all. Nothing would displease Germany more than for a settlement to take place which would relieve all trouble and make everything quiet there.

Each concession that is made by the Czech Government makes it more difficult for them as a State. They have taken grave risks. They have gone a very long way already and, when the actual proposals are published, the way the minorities, or nationalities as they should be called, are going to be treated will have a very grave reaction on the minorities in other countries in Central Europe, in Hungary, Jugoslavia and Rumania, where it will be seen that the treatment in Czechoslovakia is infinitely ahead of anything enjoyed anywhere in that part of the world, and very serious results may accrue from that. Surely Herr Hitler's game is to protest strongly at every concession that it is not enough and that he must have more until the time comes when he has absolutely everything that he wants. If I were in a position to give any advice to the Czechoslovakian Government it would be this. Having made all the concessions they possibly can to the extreme limit, having regard to the safety of the State, they should then say publicly to the world that they have done so, that they can go no further and that they are prepared to stand, alone if necessary, against any attack from an aggressor. I believe that an attitude of that kind would rally round Czechoslovakia, as it did on 21st May, those forces which then stood by her and which stand for law and order in the world.

I heard with interest the announcement with regard to the appointment of Lord Runciman as mediator and, of course, I sincerely hope he will have every success in his exceedingly difficult task. The Prime Minister said that the Czechoslovakian Government had asked for the appointment. That is one of those very extraordinary things, like the sudden French closing of the Pyrenean frontier, that people do entirely on their own. I should like to ask the Under-Secretary whether it was a spontaneous proposal from the Czech Government. Was it not indeed put up to them and discussed with them beforehand and, their consent having been obtained, did they not then ask for the appointment to be made? It would be very much fairer to make that clear if it is the case as I believe. I was very much surprised to hear that Lord Runciman had accepted this appointment, because I think we who knew him in this House, and admired his great gifts and talents and wide experience, have never regarded him as a man who was sighing for fresh worlds to conquer or was really waiting for some gigantic task into which he might throw the whole of his weight with all the energy and enthusiasm of youth. We formed quite the contrary impression. Nor, in spite of his great experience, do I think he has actually had any diplomatic or Foreign Office work in the handling of difficult international negotiations of this kind. Still, he is a man of great ability and we hope he will succeed in the task.

One thing that seems clear about the appointment is that he is deeply sympathetic to the Prime Minister's point of view. He would certainly not have been appointed unless he agreed with the Prime Minister's general view of foreign policy, and I am afraid there will be people who think that Lord Runciman has been sent to Prague in order to impose the Prime Minister's foreign policy on the Czechoslovakian Government. They may be quite wrong in thinking that but there will be people unkind enough to take that view. One of the grave dangers of the situation is obviously this. Supposing he comes to the conclusion that the Czech Government ought to do certain things which in their opinion would endanger the State, and he reports to the Government, and the Government at once says, "The Czechs are wrong. This great wonderful adviser has said they ought to do certain things and they will not." It will place them in a very difficult position indeed. It is from their point of view a very dangerous proposal to have made in the circumstances.

Lastly, what practical alternative can we work upon? In order to get back gradually to collective security, as we must at some time, we ought to start with that little bit of it that arose suddenly on 2tst May. There you had, for the moment at any rate, Great Britain, France and Russia, perhaps Poland, perhaps others, certainly then prepared to act together against aggression. I have since then asked the Government whether they do not propose to proceed from that point and to organise. They say "No," but surely the wisest course would be not to rest content with that casual alignment of forces but to think it out, to plan it, and to organise it, so that the whole world would know exactly where everybody stood and what would happen to an aggressor if he moved. It would be made clear that that arrangement was open to Germany. She could come in on equal terms, and with full possibilities for the peaceful settlement of international grievances by third-party judgment.

The Prime Minister said the League of Nations is in abeyance and that we all know the cause. I feel rather inclined to say, though I am not going to say it, that the cause is sitting on the Front Bench, but I am going deeper than that. While blame attaches to the Government, it really is because the people of the world, and above all the people of this country, are not sufficiently educated in the question of League principles, are not sufficiently determined to see them carried out in practice. The blame rests with the people. I hope the process of education will go on among all parties, that the Government will feel that they have full national backing for proceeding boldly on a collective policy, and that they will go forward and show the world that the wisest course is to extend the system of collective security which we have built up inside the British Empire to the whole globe.

9.27 p.m.

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

This is the 24th Debate upon foreign policy this year, and we have in the same period answered from this bench more than 1,400 Parliamentary questions on foreign affairs. Perhaps I may be permitted to say that this experience has been of some benefit to my knowledge of foreign policy, and I must personally express my appreciation to the House. I believe that I have learned a good deal about foreign policy, just as in the few odd moments which I am able to spend in my garden at home I may learn something about gardening. I know that it is not in the interest of problems in foreign affairs to dig them up by the roots too often, and when I come to examine some of my own plants I hope that I shall let them grow in their own sweet way over the summer. With regard to the atmosphere of the Debate this evening, I think we can find some satisfaction that it has elicited from my right lion. Friend the Prime Minister a comprehensive and encouraging speech which has received tributes from all parts of the House. Leaving aside the leaders in debate, we have had also some interesting speeches which I think show a grave desire to understand the point of view of other nations, and particularly of Germany, speeches such as that of the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Crossley), the hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Beechman) and the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. Baxter), and from the benches opposite the speech of the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones). I regard that growing desire as very satisfactory.

The subjects raised during the Debate seem to be grouped under three main areas, the Far East, Spain and Central Europe. The foreign policy of this country is engaged in dealing with a particularly tense situation in each of those areas of the world, As an Empire we are faced with very particular problems in all three areas. We are attempting to observe impartiality in the Far East where war has not actually been declared. We are pursuing a policy of not intervening in a civil war in Spain in which we regret that there has been foreign intervention. We are prepared to lend our services in Central Europe to help to solve a question which history has found for reasons of geography and of race to be particularly intractable. If we look at our policy in all these areas we shall see that there is a certain degree of uniformity. In none of these problems are we taking sides but are doing what we can to encourage the building of bridges between opposing points of view; it is rather this positive aspect of our policy in these three groups of problems to which I shall devote my few remarks this evening.

I shall do my best to answer the many points which have been raised in the course of the Debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne) raised several problems with regard to the Far East, in particular, what he alleged was a wool monopoly in North China, the question of the Pekin-Mukden Railway, the question of British ships and one or two other points. In reply to a question by the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Moreing) at Question Time on Monday, I said that His Majesty's Ambassador at Tokyo was now engaged in a specially-arranged conversation with the Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs. All these subjects, so I believe, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster referred, and the subjects which were raised at Question Time on Monday, are to be discussed in the course of this conversation. I would only say that we shall judge the sincerity of Japanese assurances in these matters by the success which we trust will attend the course of this important conversation.

Other points have been raised in connection with China, in particular by the hon. Member for Caerphilly, who spoke of the China loan. I have not very much to add to what has already fallen from the Prime Minister on this point, but I would tell the hon. Member that we are well aware of the resolutions passed by the League on two occasions on this subject. The resolution of 6th October, 1937, asked Members of the League to refrain from taking any action which might have the effect of weakening China's powers of resistance, and asked them to examine individually how they could extend aid to China. I think it fair to say that no action we have taken would have the effect of weakening China's power of resistance. When we come to the resolution passed on 2nd February this year we find that the League Council is confident that those States represented on the Council for whom the situation is of special interest will lose no opportunity of examining in consultation with those similarly interested the possibility of any further steps which may contribute to a just settlement of the conflict in the Far East. We have been fully alive to the very serious responsibilities imposed upon us as a result of supporting this Resolution. His Majesty's Government have given the closest consideration to all the possibilities, and our decision that we are not at present in a position to introduce legislation, which would be necessary in the case of a loan, does not rule out any and every kind of financial assistance to China. A number of proposals to which my right hon. Friend referred have been submitted by the Chinese Government to the Export Credits Guarantee Department. Those are being considered, and as far as that Department is concerned it will deal with applications for export credits to China in exactly the same way as it dealt with similar requests from elsewhere in the past.

Photo of Mr Morgan Jones Mr Morgan Jones , Caerphilly

How can the Export Credits Department work along these lines if the difficulty is securities?

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

The Prime Minister referred to that particular difficulty. I have naturally thought about this matter, and I think it is right to say what I have said, and to add that some of those proposals have already been examined. For reasons for which His Majesty's Government cannot be responsible, some have been rejected; others are still under consideration. His Majesty's Government are open to receive any others which the Chinese Government feel that they wish to submit to us.

Photo of Mr Arthur Henderson Mr Arthur Henderson , Kingswinford

Was not the difficulty overcome in the case of Turkey by His Majesty's Government underwriting Turkish Bills, and could not that be done in the case of China?

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

No. I do not think that the two cases of a loan to China and the loan to Turkey are on exactly the same basis of security. Before I come to the many questions which have been raised on the subject of Spain, I would answer questions which were put by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) with regard to Somaliland. The right hon. Gentleman will have seen that the agreements negotiated in Rome in January, 1937, deal with grazing rights of British tribes in Ethiopia and transit through British Somaliland for Ethiopia. These were published in June of this year as Command Paper 5775. I understand that the Governor of Somaliland has reported that the agreement has been working satisfactorily as a result of co-operation between British and Italian officers on the frontier. The right hon. Gentleman asked us a question about the supply of war material and the transit of troops. In the course of the negotiations which led up to the conclusion of this agreement it was made clear that the transit of troops and war material through the British Somaliland would not be permitted and such transit has not taken place.

Photo of Sir Archibald Sinclair Sir Archibald Sinclair , Caithness and Sutherland

I did not say anything about war material.

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

I think the right hon. Gentleman suggested earlier in the Debate that arms and materials were being forwarded to the Italian forces in Ethiopia through Gambeila. The latest information which I have been able to obtain in the short time available is that merchandise has been imported and exported as in previous years from Gambeila through the Sudan by means of boats on the rivers Baro, Sobat, and the White Nile. No arms or munitions of war have been exported to Ethiopia over this route. I trust that this information will be welcomed.

Photo of Sir Archibald Sinclair Sir Archibald Sinclair , Caithness and Sutherland

That depends upon the definition of arms and munitions of war. I do suggest that stores and goods have been conveyed.

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

I am answering the point which I understood the right hon. Gentleman to put, but I will certainly look further into it.

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

I do not think that I can add to what the Prime Minister said about the recruiting of troops across the frontier of British Somaliland into Italian territory. The latest information that I have been able to get on this subject is that the Government of British Somaliland has reported that while no recruitment of Somalis for Italian forces is taking place in British Somaliland, yet the authorities in Italian East Africa have engaged some British-protected tribesmen outside the Protectorate. This information has been given before. This recruiting is, as far as we know, not continuing, but I am quite ready, in view of what the right hon. Gentleman has said, to make further inquiries on the subject.

Let me now come to the question of Spain. Very much time has been devoted, especially in Parliamentary questions, to the subject. I would remind the House that our work in Spain has been positive. Sometimes the policy of non-intervention is put in a somewhat unattractive light by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. I would remind them that we should appreciate their support in trying to carry forward the positive side of the policy of non-intervention. The hon. Member for Caerphilly referred to the "farce" of nonintervention; but if he regards our efforts to bring about a withdrawal of foreign nationals, and the plan which the Committee have forwarded to the two parties of Spain, as a farce, I am very sorry. I should have preferred his collaboration and support in bringing this plan to a successful conclusion. The time-table for the introduction of the plan depends upon the agreement of the two Spanish parties. After the Committee have considered the replies from the parties, they will have to consider the time-table on pages 20 and 21 of the report. The reply from the Spanish Government has been received and is being forwarded to the Non-Intervention Committee, and we are still awaiting the reply of the Burgos authorities. A question was put by the hon. and gallant Member for Nuneaton (Lieut.-Commander Fletcher) to-day and I answered by telling him that I would give him this information. I am accordingly doing so, in order to keep faith with him.

Photo of Mr Reginald Fletcher Mr Reginald Fletcher , Nuneaton

In thanking the hon. Gentleman may I ask whether the Spanish Government's reply is an acceptance of the British plan?

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

I am afraid I could not say that at present, but we have just received it to-day, and I have not personally had any chance of examining it. It is our duty to forward it to the Non-Intervention Committee, and it would be improper to make any statement about it at this stage. I hope that the hon. and gallant Gentleman will understand how we are placed. The hon. Member for Barnstaple (Mr. Acland) raised a point with regard to the French Government, and just as I regret the absence of collaboration of hon. Members opposite to help us with the plan of non-intervention in Spain, so I deplore that the hon. Gentleman, at this particular moment in the history of the Anglo-French entente, should look for possible, and, I believe, unreal points of difference between the two Governments. The House has paid a tribute to the very fine feelings which exist between the two Governments as a result of the Royal visit, and I am afraid I do not think it profitable to pursue on this occasion the line of argument which the hon. Gentleman has raised. I tried to understand his reasons for raising it, but I can only reply to him that I do not recognise any message containing the arguments which he put forward or the type of pressure to which he referred in the course of his speech, although I have examined the matter as closely as I can.

All our interchanges with foreign Governments on the question of what is known as the British plan have been undertaken, irrespective of the Governments concerned, with a view to creating an atmosphere in which we could make the withdrawal plan a reality. That has been our object with every Government. I do not want to detain the House very long on the subject of intervention in Spain, but as it is always raised I would say a word or two about it before dealing with the question of ships. The Government are always in a difficulty on the question of information. I have tried sincerely in answering questions in the House to give the House the information which is in our possession. I will give one instance which occurred in the course of the Debate to-day. It was suggested that Italian troops have recently landed in large numbers at Vinaroz. I have been able to examine that statement, and our information goes to show that those troops were Spanish troops who had been landed from the Balearic Islands and their number was between 5,000 and 6, 000.

Photo of Dr Edith Summerskill Dr Edith Summerskill , Fulham West

A letter was read to me in English by the Foreign Minister, Senor del Vayo, and there was no doubt that those troops were Italian and not Spanish.

Photo of Mr R.A. Butler Mr R.A. Butler , Saffron Walden

That illustrates the difficulty which we have about information. I do not deny the sincerity of the contribution which the hon. Lady has made to the Debate, but it illustrates our difference of opinion. Our information is that these troops were in fact Spanish troops, and that is why I imparted the information to the House. The hon. Lady disagrees with me, and I am afraid we must leave it at that, without wishing to deny the sincerity with which she has put her point of view.

The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) again raised the question of an article by General von Reichenau. I again repeat that we have received from the German Ambassador on behalf of his Government a categorical denial that such a lecture as that referred to was ever given. The hon. Member also raised several points on the subject of ships, and, in particular, he asked why there was a difference between the possibility of our taking action without territorial waters in China and the possibility of our taking action within territorial waters in Spain. There is this fundamental difference: that in Chinese waters we have certain treaty rights under the Treaty of Tientsin, made in the middle of the last century, which entitle us to take our warships into Chinese territorial waters. In the case of Spain we have no such treaty rights, and, if we took British warships into Spanish territorial waters, it must mean intervention in the Spanish war, which His Majesty's Government are not prepared to undertake.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stretford (Mr. Crossley) raised the question of the distinction which he hopes the Government will make between the bombardment by high-flying aircraft of harbours in which ships are situated, and what he regarded, and what we regard, as the deliberate bombardment by low-flying aircraft of ships lying outside harbours. It is precisely that difference which the Government have maintained, and will maintain in their future negotiations with the Burgos authorities on this point. The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton raised a further point about the international commission on aerial bombardment in Spain. We have not yet received a reply from the Spanish Government, but we hope to receive one soon. Meanwhile the two British officers concerned have been appointed and are ready to proceed at once to undertake this important work within Spain at the request of either Spanish party.

I think I have covered all the points which have been raised in the course of the Debate and which I am able to cover in the short time at my disposal. I think we can say, when we review the position, that the Government are taking a positive view in all the difficult problems that are facing them. By not taking sides in any of these particular struggles, the Government can quite easily be accused of a lack of idealism. The zealot very often wishes to join in the fight and show the intensity of his conviction, but in all this difficult time of war and conflict our zeal has been directed towards preserving the peace and keeping this country out of a major war. Let me refer again to one who is becoming a great friend of mine in these Debates. Mr. Spender, referring to his Liberal past and his present Liberal convictions, says—and I hope this will reassure right hon. and hon. Members who have been responsible for this Debate— not a few of us have enough of the old Liberal pacifism in our make-up to feel that a year in which war has been averted is a year of gain, and, so far, a good contribution to peace. The Government have kept this country at peace. So far, that is a good contribution. It is our intention to attempt to make that peace continue so far as we are concerned, and to do so we shall need all the experience which our political wisdom and our sense of toleration can give us. I trust that in our efforts we may receive the help of all those who think likewise.

Question put, "That '£71,143' stand part of the Resolution."

The House divided: Ayes, 275; Noes, 128.

Division No. 328.]AYES.[10.0 p.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.Denman, Hon. R. D.Lamb, Sir J. Q.
Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)Denville, AlfredLatham, Sir P.
Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.Dodd, J. S.Law, Sir A. J. (High Peak)
Allen, Col. J. Sandeman (B'knhead)Doland, G. F.Law, R. K. (Hull, S.W.)
Amery, Rt. Hon. L. C. M. S.Donner, P. W.Leech, Sir J. W.
Anderson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (So'h Univ's)Dorman-Smith, Major Sir R. H.Lees-Jones, J.
Anstruther-Gray, W. J.Dower, Major A. V. G.Leighton, Major B. E. P.
Apsley, LordDrewe, C.Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.
Aske, Sir R. W.Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)Liddall, W. S.
Astor, Major Hon. J. J. (Dover)Dugdale, Captain T. L.Lipson, D. L.
Baillie, Sir A. W. M.Duggan, H. J.Little, Sir E. Graham-
Balfour, Capt. H. H. (lile of Thanet)Duncan, J. A. L.Loftus, P. C.
Balniel, LordDunglass, LordMabane, W. (Huddersfield)
Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M.Eastwood, J. F.MacAndrow, Colonel Sir C. G.
Barria, Sir C. C.Eckersley, P. T.McCorquodale, M. S.
Baxter, A. BeverleyEdmondson, Major Sir J.MacDonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)
Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.Macdonald, Capt. T. (Isle of Wight)
Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)Ellis, Sir G.McKie, J. H.
Betohman, N. A.Elliston, Capt. G. S.Macmillan, H. (Stoekton-on-Tees)
Bennett, Sir E. N.Elmley, ViscountMaitland, A.
Birchall, Sir J. D.Emery, J. F.Makins, Brigadier-General Sir Ernest
Bird, Sir R. B.Emmott, C. E. G. C.Manningham-Buller, Sir M.
Blair, Sir R.Emrys-Evans, P. V.Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.
Boulton, W. W.Entwistle, Sir C. F.Markham, S. F.
Bower, Comdr. R. T.Errington, E.Marsden, Commander A.
Boyce, H. LeslieErskine-Hill, A. G.Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.
Braithwaite, Major A. N.Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.)Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham)
Briscoe, Capt. R. G.Everard, W. L.Meller, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)
Broadbridge, Sir G. T.Fildes, Sir H.Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)
Brown, Col. D. C. (Hexham)Findlay, Sir E.Mitcheson, Sir G. G.
Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)Fleming, E. L.Moore, Lieut.-Col. Sir T. C. R.
Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.)Fox, Sir G. W. G.Morgan, R. H.
Bull, B. B.Fyfe, D. P. M.Morris, J. P. (Salford, N.)
Bullock, Capt. M.Gluckstein, L. H.Morris-Jones, Sir Henry
Burton, Col. H. W.Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)
Butcher, H. W.Grant-Ferris, R.Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.
Butler, R. A.Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)Munro, P.
Campbell, Sir E. T.Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.
Cartland, J. R. H.Gridley, Sir A. B.Nicolson, Hon. H. G.
Carver, Major W. H.Grigg, Sir E. W. M.O'Connor, Sir Terence J.
Cary, R. A.Gritten, W. G. HowardO'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh
Castlereagh, ViscountGuest, Lieut.-Colonel H. (Drake)Patrick, C. M.
Cayzer, Sir H. R. (Portsmouth, S.)Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N.W.)Peat, C. U.
Cazalet Thelma (Islington, E.)Guinness, T. L. E. B.Perkins, W. H. D.
Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)Gunston, Capt. Sir D. W.Petherick, M.
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n)Hambro, A. V.Pickthorn, K. W. M.
Channon, H.Hannah, I. C.Pilkington, R.
Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)Hannon, Sir P. J. H.Ponsonby, Col. C. E.
Christie, J. A.Harbord, A.Porritt, R. W.
Clarry, Sir ReginaldHaslam, Henry (Horncastle)Pownall, Lt.-Col. Sir Assheton
Clydesdale, Marquess ofHaslam, Sir J. (Bolton)Procter, Major H. A.
Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.Radford, E. A.
Colfox, Major W. P.Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.Raikes, H. V. A. M.
Colman, N. C. D.Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.Ramsbotham, H.
Colville, Rt. Hon. JohnHepburn, P. G. T. Buchan-Ramsden, Sir E.
Conant, Captain R. J. E.Hepworth, J.Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)
Cook, Sir T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.)Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)Rayner, Major R. H.
Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)Herbert, Capt. Sir S. (Abbey)Reed, A. C. (Exeter)
Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)Holmes, J. S.Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)
Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L.Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.Reid, Sir D. D. (Down)
Cox, H. B. TrevorHopkinson, A.Reid, W. Allan (Derby)
Craven-Ellis, W.Horsbrugh, FlorenceRickards, G. W. (Skipton)
Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. PageHowitt, Dr. A. B.Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)
Crooke, Sir J. SmedleyHudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack,, N.)Ropner, Colonel L.
Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.Hulbert, N. J.Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)
Croom-Johnson, R. P.Hunter, T.Ross, Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)
Cross, R. H.Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H.Rowlands, G.
Crossley A. C.James, Wing-Commander A. W. H.Royde, Admiral Sir P. M. R.
Crowder, J. F. E.Jones, L. (Swansea W.)Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.
Cruddas, Col. B.Keeling, E. H.Russell, Sir Alexander
Culverwell, C. T.Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)
Davidson, ViscounteesKerr, H. W. (Oldham)Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)
Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)Salmon, Sir I.
De Chair, S. S.Kimball, L.Salt, E. W.
De la Bère, R.Knox, Major-General Sir A. W. F.Samuel, M. R. A.
Sandeman, Sir N. S.Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)Watt, Major G. S. Harvie
Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir P.Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)Wayland, Sir W. A.
Scott, Lord WilliamSueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.Wedderburn, H. J. S.
Selley, H. R.Tasker, Sir R. I.Wells, Sir Sydney
Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)Tate, Mavis C.Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)
Shepperson, Sir E. W.Thomson, Sir J. D. W.Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Shute, Colonel Sir J. J.Thorneycroft, G. E. P.Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)
Simmonds, O. E.Titchfield, Marquess ofWindsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.
Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)Touche, G. C.Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Smith, Sir Louis (Hallam)Tufneil, Lieut.-Commender R. L.Wise, A. R.
Smithers, Sir W.Turton, R. H.Womersley, Sir W. J.
Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir DonaldWakefield, W. W.Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley
Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)Walker-Smith, Sir J.Wragg, H.
Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. EuanYoung, A. S. L. (Partick)
Spears, Brigadier-General E. L.Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Spens, W. P.Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'l'd)Warrender, Sir V.Mr. Grimston and Mr. Furness.
Storey, S.Waterhouse, Captain C.
NOES.
Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple)Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)Parkinson, J. A.
Adams, D. (Consett)Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)Pearson, A.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)Groves, T. E.Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.
Adamson, W. M.Guest, Dr. L. H. (Islington, N.)Poole, C. C.
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)Price, M. P.
Ammon, C. G.Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)Quibell, D. J. K.
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)Hardie, AgnesRathbone, Eleanor (English Univ's.)
Banfield, J. W.Hayday, A.Richards, R. (Wrexham)
Barnes, A. J.Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)Riley, B.
Batey, J.Henderson, J. (Ardwick)Ritson, J.
Bellenger, F. J.Henderson, T. (Tradeston)Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)
Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W.Hills, A. (Pontefract)Rothschild, J. A. de
Benson, G.Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)Sexton, T. M.
Broad, F. A.Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)Silverman, S. S.
Bromfield, W.John, W.Simpson, F. B.
Brown, C. (Mansfield)Jones, A. C. (Shipley)Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)
Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire)Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)
Burke, W. A.Kelly, W. T.Smith, E. (Stoke)
Charleton, H. C.Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)
Chater, D.Kirby, B. V.Smith, T. (Normanton)
Cluse, W. S.Kirkwood, D.Sorensen, R. W.
Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R.Lathan, G.Stephen, C.
Cocks, F. S.Lawson, J. J.Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)
Collindridge, F.Lee, F.Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)
Daggar, G.Leslie, J. R.Summerskill, Dr. Edith
Dalton, H.Lunn, W.Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)Macdonald, G. (Ince)Tinker, J. J.
Day, H.McEntee, V. La T.Tomlinson, G.
Dobbie, W.McGhee, H. G.Viant, S. P.
Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)MacLaren, A.Walkden, A. G.
Ede, J. C.Maclean, N.Watkins, F. C.
Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)Mander, G. le M.Watson, W. McL.
Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.Marshall, F.Welsh, J. C.
Foot, D. M.Mathers, G.White, H. Graham
Frankel, D.Maxton, J.Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)
Gallacher, W.Milner, Major J.Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)
Gardner, B. W.Montague, F.Williams, T. (Don Valley)
Garro Jones, G. M.Muff, G.Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)
Gibson, R. (Greenock)Nathan, Colonel H. L.Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)
Graham, D. M. (Hamilton)Naylor, T. E.Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Green, W. H. (Deptford)Oliver, G. H.
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.Owen, Major G.TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Grenfell, D. R.Paling, W.Sir Hugh Seely and Sir Percy
Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)Parker, J.Harris.

Question, "That this House do now adjourn," put, and agreed to.

It being after Ten of the Clock, Mr. SPEAKER proceeded, pursuant to Standing Order No. 14, to put forthwith the Question necessary to dispose of the Report of the Resolution under consideration.

Mr. SPEAKER then proceeded to put forthwith the Questions, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the outstanding Resolutions reported in

respect of Classes I to IX of the Civil Estimates, the Revenue Departments Estimates, the Navy Estimates, the Army Estimates, and the Air Estimates."