Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [8th November]:
That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty as followeth:
Most Gracious Sovereign,
We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament"—[Mr. Hely-Hutchinson.]
I want to deal with the first portion of the King's Speech, that is, the portion which relates to foreign and Imperial affairs. Other Members on this side will, at a later stage, deal with the equally important part which relates to the domestic situation. Every year the Speech commences with a certain number of paragraphs setting out the foreign policy of the Government. Those paragraphs are generally found to contain about one-half pious platitudes and the other half some form of camouflage which is designed to conceal from the people of this country the real foreign policy which the Government are carrying out. That method has been employed in recent years, and the realities of the foreign policy which, in fact, has been pursued by the Government, have been most disastrously veiled under these vague and general phrases. Coming to the exposition, if one can so call it, of the policy in the Speech of the present year, I want to remind the House of similar passages that have appeared in the two preceding Speeches which have come before the House at the opening of the last two Sessions of Parliament, because I believe that a comparison of these three Speeches will demonstrate only too clearly and tragically why we are to-day in such a dangerous and difficult position in international affairs. In the Speech which was made on 3rd November, 1936, we find this paragraph:
The policy of My Government continues to be based upon membership of the League
of Nations. They desire to see the League strengthened for its work in the pacific settlement of international disputes, and they have already made known at Geneva their proposals for the improved working and wider authority of the League. My Government will co-operate with other Governments in the work of the Committee of the League which has been set up to examine these and other proposals.
In the following year, as the House may recollect, in the Speech delivered on 26th October, 1937, there was no substantive mention of the League of Nations. The only reference that was made to it was in a paragraph dealing with the Far-Eastern conditions, where it stated that the Government were prepared to work in co-operation with other Governments, whether members of the League or not. When we come to this year's Speech we find that it opens with what I regard as a very ominous paragraph:
My Government will do all in their power to promote the development of good understanding in the spirit of the joint Anglo-German declaration made at Munich on the 30th September last.
That paragraph marks the complete transition of foreign policy which has now been completed. The pretended adherence to the League and to its principles, which perhaps are more important than the League itself, which was put forward in 1936 has become in 1938 a complete desertion of the League and its principles, and the substitution of the Anglo-German declaration as the basis of the foreign policy of the Government. Russia has been spurned deliberately, and that peculiarly inept Minister, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, has been used by the Cabinet in order to villify a great country which, I should have thought, under any consideration in present circumstances, it was desirable that we should retain as a friend.
The desire expressed to do all in one's power to promote the development of good understanding is not a foreign policy. It is the expression of a hope, and nothing more. The truth is that the Government dare not go beyond these passages in their utterances upon foreign policy, because they are fully aware that if they did speak the truth about their foreign policy, all by-elections would be Dartfords for them. People would not tolerate the true foreign policy of the Government if it were to be frankly and bluntly stated, that is, the formation of a four-Power pact with the Fascist countries. However, the truth will out, even through the most elaborate camouflage, sooner or later. The Government have been able for some years now to conceal their real purposes from the people of this country. These people, I am certain, have now, through the events of the past few weeks, been shocked into a sensibility of the true situation, and the Government's betrayal of European democracies has now become clear to almost everyone in the country. So much so, indeed, that at by-elections now the Government's speakers can find nothing more constructive to say, and their canvassers nothing more truthful to suggest, than that the Labour party are in favour of war and that the Prime Minister saved this country from war in the recent crisis. It reminds me of the experience of the unfortunate passengers who found themselves in a car with an unskilled and dangerous driver who, when he had driven them to the brink of destruction, got out and told them how grateful they should be that he had not actually killed them. The language of the passengers does not bear repetition in this House, but the gist of it was that they would see him somewhere else before they ever went in a car with him again.
That is precisely the attitude which I hope the people of this country will adopt as regards the Prime Minister and the present Government. Everyone who is honest with himself knows perfectly well that there is hardly a person in the world to-day who wants war, provided that he can get what he wants without it. It is not a policy to want to avoid war, nor is it a policy to desire peace. It can be accepted that the wish of all the common people in the world and most politicians is to avoid war and to have peace. The question is, how are these most desirable things to be actually achieved? The Government's policy, as announced in the Speech, does not even start to deal with that side of the problem.
Before, however, I come to elaborate upon that aspect of the question I wish to say one or two words on other passages in that first part of the Speech. In the second paragraph the Italian Agreement it referred to as shortly coming into force. I do not want to repeat the many arguments which have been so recently addressed to the House against the coming into operation of that Treaty, but I want to link up that paragraph with the sentence about Spain. One might have hoped that by this time the tragic farce of non-intervention had been sufficiently discredited throughout the world to be put aside for the iniquity it is, and always has been. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) has shown us now that all the protests of the Foreign Office and the Ministers representing it were, so far as the period he was in office is concerned, at the least terminological inexactitudes. Throughout the whole sordid story of Italian intervention it has been clear that His Majesty's Government have had full knowledge of that intervention, though they have professed ignorance of it, and that they were either afraid or unwilling—which, I think, is more likely—to put any stop to that intervention.
Now they attempt to continue the deception which they have practised throughout, although the Foreign Secretary has admitted that Signor Mussolini himself is not going to leave Spain until the Italian forces are victorious. It has, however, been shown, to the admiration, I believe of the whole world, that the Spanish people can hold their own, in the military sense, against even the unlimited intervention of the Fascist Powers, and the only danger to them to-day, even after more than two years of the most frightful struggle against the most unfair handicaps that have ever been imposed upon a nation by the so-called civilised Powers of the world, is the danger of starvation. In this, apparently, the British Government are now preparing to play the role of assistant to the Fascist Powers by allowing General Franco and his allies to blockade the Spanish ports through the grant of belligerent rights, and so reduce by starvation those gallant men and women whom he cannot reduce by force of arms. If that final crime is committed against the people of Spain, and against civilisation itself, I believe that the British people will realise to the full that they have been betrayed by this Government, which will have abandoned every standard of decency and justice in international affairs.
I do beg the Government speaker who follows me to spare us the nauseating repetition of those self-righteous phrases as to non-intervention which not only we, but the people of every other country in the world that believes in democracy and justice, now know by heart for the hypocrisy that they really are. On this point I beg to add one observation. I see that His Majesty is to visit the United States of America next year, and if that can do anything to further the friendship between the two countries everyone, I am certain, will be glad; but in the United States of America to-day the people are disgusted with the conduct of foreign affairs by the British Government, and upon no point more than their treatment of the people of Spain. I trust that the Government are not going to ask His Majesty to visit the United States of America as the representative of a country that has been responsible not only for the encouragement of the Fascist victory in Spain but also for the starvation and brutal murder of the Spanish people. It is not yet too late for steps to be taken to obviate that awful calamity, how awful can be judged from the recent statement by General Franco as to the fate that awaits the adherents of the Spanish Government should he and his allies be victorious. I hope that hon. Members opposite have studied those remarks with care. The Spanish people must, merely in the name of humanity, if nothing else, be saved from that terrible fate, and that can only be done if belligerent rights are refused to General Franco.
The paragraph in the Speech dealing with affairs in the Far East does nothing to undo the effect of the Prime Minister's recent heartless reference to the Chinese in which he implied that even if China were smashed beyond all hope, there would, any way, still be a nice, profitable job awaiting capitalists in this country in rebuilding a Japanese China. The Chinese are not a conquered people by any means. It will take many years yet, even if it ever happens, for Japan to conquer China. In the Speech there is no reference of any sort or kind to any suggestion of a policy. There is merely a vague meaningless statement, such as almost anyone might have written, on the Far East situation. One can almost visualise the writing of the paragraph in the Speech. Someone asks, "What on earth are we to say about the Far East?" and the answer comes, "Oh, nothing much." "Well, what did we say last year?" "We did not say anything much." "Well, say it again, only change the words." That is precisely what has occurred in the present Speech. No policy, no suggestion that all is not as it should be; no reference to the appalling suffering of the Chinese under the most brutal attacks upon their open towns; no indication that one side is more deserving of help than the other; no expression of any desire to see the triumph of right and justice in the Far East or to give any assistance to those people whom we have deserted under the most solemn treaty obligations. We do not even offer them pieces of silver.
There is another very significant omission from the Speech, the omission of a passage which has occurred in the last two Speeches, and that is as to the visit of His Majesty to India. The reason is, of course, quite clear. It is not possible under the existing disturbed conditions for a State visit to be paid to India. But it is all the more remarkable that there should be no mention of India in the King's Speech. After all, India is not a small and insignificant country which we can afford to ignore, which even those who are bent upon the maintenance of British Imperialism can afford to ignore to-day. It seems to me that even they cannot overlook the position of India in the problem of the defence of the Empire which confronts them very really at the present time, quite apart from the true merits of the political situation there. It is clear that the Indian people are making very rapid strides towards self-government and in Defence. They are not going to give any support to that very Imperialism that they are now fighting in their own country when that Imperialism finds itself in difficulties elsewhere. They will, obviously, try to increase those difficulties if and when an opportunity arises for them to apply pressure in that way. It will be too late to gain the sympathy and support of that vast population when the hour of difficulty arrives for this country.
That is especially true if the present policy of repression continues to be carried out. By making it a criminal offence to speak against recruitment in India you are not going to make the Indian people more sympathetic towards supporting the Empire. We are, in fact, going to make them even more hostile than they are to-day. The only way in which we can obviate the very grave danger of a hostile India is to give to the Indian people that right of self-determination which they will eventually wring from this country, whatever happens. If measures in that direction could be taken now, it would at least be possible that they might be neutral or even friendly in the case of this country meeting trouble elsewhere. As it is, a hostile India will provide an excessively difficult form of opposition in the event of trouble occurring in any other part of the world. It seems to us that the time has now come when this problem of the future of India must be tackled in a more realistic manner.
The last reference in the Speech to Imperial affairs is to the position of Palestine. This has gone from bad to worse under the National Government, and illustrates the difficulties in which an imperialist system engulfs itself, especially when those difficulties are carefully nursed by its rivals as they have been in Palestine. The most thorough and ingenious Fascist propaganda is now being carried on, not only in Palestine, but in nearly every other part of the Empire inhabited by non-European races. I understand that a White Paper upon Palestine will be published this afternoon. It, therefore, will not be proper to deal with the problem at the present time, and until after that statement of Government policy has been published. One looks through these paragraphs at the beginning of the Speech and one comes to the same conclusion wherever one looks. Whether it be in the paragraphs dealing with past records of the Government or in the statement of the Government's present intentions, a complete lack of real policy is disclosed. A certain number of vague phrases are strung together, and there is a general intention to do what they can to maintain an Empire which they are themselves every day weakening and jeopardising by their inept and wholly unrealistic conduct of foreign affairs.
I want to turn now to the main question of foreign policy. I have stated that the opening sentences are ominous. They state that the spirit of the joint Anglo-German declaration is to be the guiding line of foreign policy in the future. I can imagine nothing more disastrous to this country and to the peace of the world than that our foreign policy should be based upon that spirit which was shown at Munich, a spirit of giving in to armed force and its demands and of putting aside all idea of—
putting aside all ideas of standards of international justice or morality. Such a declaration will certainly come as a warning to every smaller Power in the world, of what to expect so far as this Government is concerned. They can expect that their troubles will be dealt with in the spirit of Munich. Those countries can expect neither fairness, justice nor assistance from this country. It seems impossible for any small Power to-day to do other than attempt, in the light of that declaration, to make the best terms it can with the nearest dictator.
I gather that the Prime Minister does not object to the growth of the power of the German Reich in South-Eastern Europe any more than he apparently objects to the growth of the power of Japan in the Far East or to that of Mussolini in the Mediterranean. He still holds the simple faith that if those Powers are allowed to overwhelm the smaller Powers they will be kind enough to stop immediately they come up against what he would regard as the vital interests of the British Empire; in other words, if we are prepared to be reasonable at the expense of other and smaller nations we shall protect ourselves from future demands and attacks. The morality of such a policy is about as low as it could be. Let us put aside such—to the Government—unrealistic ideas as decency and morality, and remember, as we may be fittingly reminded by a Member from Birmingham, that we are, after all, called a nation of shopkeepers, and that our Government, anxious to prove the truth of that saying, have now sold out to the Fascists—of course, sold out other people's goods. Does the Prime Minister think that he has really bought safety by that rather sordid and dishonourable policy? Has he not read the remarks of that right-hand man of the German Dictator, Herr Goebells, that they are going forward with "Mein Kampf" in one hand and a sword in the other. "Mein Kampf" does not stop conveniently short at British interests, nor has the Prime Minister so mesmerised the German dictator as to cause him to desist in the prosecution of his avowed policy. Something more realistic than that is required if such a result is to be achieved.
Another curious omission in the Speech relates to the attitude of His Majesty's Government upon the very important and vital question of Colonies. The demand has been made—indeed it was reiterated in a speech of slapstick comedy by Herr Hitler last night—that we should give back the German Colonies. I should like to know whether the attitude of the Government is the same now as it was a year ago. I am sure that this House and the country would like a definite and precise statement upon this policy. We might then ascertain the purpose of the armaments which are being built in increasing quantities and for which no one has yet vouchsafed a reason, except that the Prime Minister informed us some time ago that we should be bound to use them for the protection of Portugal, Iraq and Egypt—not a particularly powerful set of allies with whom to go to war, even if they all joined us in the same war. Presumably we may assume that the residual reason for rearmament is to protect the Empire; but is it, I ask, to protect the whole of the Empire, or only those parts of the Empire that are not demanded from us by dictators?
The fundamental difference between the Opposition and the Government on foreign policy is not as to whether we are prepared to fight or not, but what we are prepared to fight, or to risk having to fight, for. It is truly said to be a fundamental difference because our outlook in this respect differs just as our whole political outlook differs from that of those on the other side of the House. We believe that, looking at the situation today realistically—and by that I mean in the interests, not of some limited class of people, but of all the common people of this country, the Empire and the other nations of the world—the primary interest to-day is to forge a policy which will work towards that economic justice which alone can form the basis of any permanent condition of law and order in the world—economic justice, not only between nations in the world, but also between the classes within the nations of the world.
We regard those interests of the common people the world over as far transcending any particular class or national interest, and we are, moreover, convinced that no peace, except the peace of death, can be imposed upon the world until at least some advance is made along those lines of economic justice. We believe that these are things which are worth standing up for, and which are worth making sacrifices for if we are called upon to make them. If such a policy is embarked upon, then we believe that it will be right and proper in the meantime to protect as far as may be the standards of civilisation, even by armed force if necessary as a last resort, but only as a last resort. It is of no more use for this nation or any group of nations to attempt to impose their rule or their peace upon the world than it is for the Fascist nations to attempt the same thing unless and until those nations are prepared to embark upon a policy of economic justice. The rule of law can only exist, either nationally or internationally, if there is at the same time justice, and justice cannot exist in the world as long as the world's resources are monopolised either by nations or by classes within nations. We are convinced that the people of this and other countries are prepared to make great sacrifices for a constructive policy of peace, but we are equally certain that they are not prepared to enter into another war between Empires just to repartition the world and to lay the foundations for the next ensuing war, as was done on the last occasion by the Treaty of Versailles.
They are, moreover, anxious and prepared to have the closest possible association with those other peace-anxious nations in the world such as France, the United States of America and Russia, in order that together they may work towards a common goal. They are far more anxious for that association than for an association built upon the spirit of Munich. Neither can they see the purpose of rearmament just for the sake of rearmament. They want to know the object, and they want to feel that, if they are called upon to make great sacrifices, those sacrifices will inure to the benefit of themselves and their children and of humanity as a whole. The Government's policy, on the other hand, so far as it has any objective, seems to be to rearm—and that, I may add, in the most wasteful and inefficient way possible—for the purpose of protecting our own possessions and Portugal, Iraq and Egypt, all, of course, of importance as points of protection for the Empire or for essential raw materials such as oil.
An hon. and gallant Member asks, what about the people in them? I am anxious about the people of all countries, not about the people of Portugal, Iraq and Egypt alone.
I have already stated that my interest starts with people in this country, extends to people in the Empire, and then to all the other people of the world, and I do not neglect the question of the protection of the people of Spain or China. Associated with this vastly expensive policy of preparedness, apparently, to do everything possible to advance the strength of those very countries against the possibility of attack by whom we are so feverishly rearming, and a willingness to feed their strength by aiding them in the overthrow and absorption of the smaller Powers who are their neighbours, there is no word as to the solution of the real trouble of economic injustice in the world, nor can there be as long as the Government are bent on maintaining the monopoly interests of British Imperialism at all costs, and very literally at all costs, because it will entail, if necessary, according to their policy, endless death and maiming in the next great Imperialist war. A more mad and suicidal policy it is difficult to imagine.
Of course, if the statesmen of the world are bent upon international suicide because they are unable or unwilling to face up to the reality of the economic injustices of the world, there is only one thing for the common people to do, and that is to replace those statesmen by others who are prepared to face the situation and all its difficulties. I do not minimise those difficulties, but they never can be, faced until they are first recognised and acknowledged, and this Government has not, in spite of seven years of unlimited power, even yet reached the stage of recognition of the true evils that beset the world to-day. Fortunately, the people of the country are now becoming aware of the real situation, and will not be deluded so easily in the future by the mere lying statement that the Government's opponents want war. [Interruption.] I do not trouble to answer the interruption of the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor); she is so irresponsible. People will realise that the truth is that the Government's supporters merely want power and Empire, regardless of what they may cost the common people of this country and of other countries, not only in terms of life and limb, but also in terms of standards of life. It is because they are awakening to the dangers of the present Government that they are turning from them, as is visible from the by-election results, to the saner and much more hopeful policy we are putting before them—not a policy of war, but a real policy of constructive peace.
People do not fancy their country as do the noble Lady and her set—[Interruption.] I apologise and withdraw the word, and substitute "gang." They do not fancy the future of their country, like the gang of the noble Lady, as being a junior partner in a Fascist international, ruling the common people of all countries by methods that have hitherto been reserved by that gang for native and colonial territory—methods of brutality and exploitation and the denial of freedom. That is the direction in which the people of this country will, unfortunately, have to travel if the present Government remain in control of foreign policy much longer. Instead, the Opposition offer a policy of hope and peace and freedom, based upon a determination to bring about economic justice for all people of all classes, and, upon the basis of that, to attempt to achieve justice and build an international society in which law, order and justice prevail, rather than violence and cruelty and the methods of international gangsterism, which to-day are being let loose on the world and are rapidly overwhelming the freedom of the people.
The Prime Minister referred to yesterday's discussion as a skirmish while the headquarters are planning their campaign. The campaign in which I, in common with the great mass of the people of this country, will take the greatest interest will be a real campaign for securing a lasting peace. I wonder if it is purely accidental that in so many speeches delivered on behalf of the Government stress is laid not so much on peace as on appeasement. That is not a mere playing with words. It raises the fundamental question of whether the Government's policy is designed only to avert war or to secure a lasting peace. It is a question on which many people are puzzled. I do not know the answer, and the country does not. But the country wants to know, and is entitled to know. Appeasement may mean nothing more than an attempt to please and propitiate your opponent. That is a thing perfectly easy to accomplish. The Prime Minister accomplished it for a time by his flight to Hitler. It was a quick flight, but, although it was a flight to Hitler, it was a flight from Lanark, the policy which most people thought this country had adopted.
I do not know what the next step in the policy of appeasement may be. It may be directed to those Members of this House and those sections of the Press which have had the misfortune to incur the wrath of Herr Hitler. I do not suppose it will take the form of trying to muzzle the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill); that would be very difficult, and I should think impossible. It will probably take the more subtle form of minimising such people, and accusing them of doing the dirty work of fouling our nest. There are two inherent dangers in this policy of appeasement. One is that you may have to pay a very heavy price, and the second is that it may prove only temporary in character and may encourage your opponents to entertain great expectations for the future. At Munich, everybody agrees, we paid a heavy price. No one is really proud of what we have done. Many people are very unhappy about what we have done. It is interesting and important to observe that while we agreed to pay a very heavy price, Herr Hitler has exacted a greater price than the Prime Minister agreed to pay. That has become obvious by the fixing of the frontiers of Czechoslovakia, which we agreed to guarantee without knowing what they were to be—and, indeed, without having a very clear idea even now as to what they are. The Prime Minister recognised that when he said:
It is quite true that there have been many things which none of us would approve of, which many of us would wish to have done differently."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st November, 1938; col. 74, Vol. 340.]
While we in this country have paid in the loss of influence, prestige and position in the economic life of Central Europe, the greatest price has been paid by people who thought—and I think not mistakenly—that they were entitled to expect that they would have France immediately, and ourselves ultimately, on their side. We
now seeking to appease the Czechs by providing £10,000,000. I think we should take care that some of the proceeds do not enter unexpected but expectant pockets. There is the danger of this arrangement that has been made proving merely temporary.
The Prime Minister the other day seemed to resent the suggestion that there was any inconsistency in his policy as established by the Munich Agreement, and his further policy of asking for rearmament—or, should I say, new armaments?—in this country on an unparalleled scale. Whether there is inconsistency or not depends entirely on the policy of the Government. If all he is concerned with is the temporary averting of war and the establishment of a Four-Power Pact, with Germany and Italy as partners, I agree that there is no inconsistency. But let us realise that the lack of inconsistency involves dangers. The first is, as the Prime Minister recognises, that he cannot hope to get even temporary appeasement without being able to threaten the person he is seeking to appease. That is merely emulating the policy of Hitler. The Prime Minister seems to be becoming more like Hitler every time he flies. Evil communications, even if by air, are apt to corrupt good manners. The fact is, the force of the appeasement which the Prime Minister secured with Hitler has begun to wear off already. That was clearly apparent in the latest speech of Herr Hitler just reported, when he said:
Never again will we go begging hat in hand outside foreign doors. If we do not get our rights by negotiation then Germany will know how to enforce its rights.
I have never myself observed any mendicant attitude on the part of Herr Hitler. I think that bagging rather than begging has been the method of his policy. We find the Prime Minister of this country forced to say that we must be armed because we cannot get even temporary appeasement unless we are able to show our opponents that we are fully armed and prepared to secure it, if necessary by force. The second thing is that even if that appeasement be obtained the Prime Minister recognises that it is so insecure that we must be ready for its breakdown. That it is insecure is, indeed, quite clear. It has been made perfectly clear in many ways within the last few months. Italy has got Abyssinia with our approval, and
Hitler has got Czechoslovakia and great economic advantages in Central Europe.
I do not mind their having opportunities as long as they are not advantages at the expense of other people who are entitled to them. Thirdly, both of them will have a position in Spain which is bound to imperil the strength and defences and economic life of this country.
There is another inconsistency in the policy of the Government in regard to rearmament. This is the very Government who for some years now, has had the authority of this House to spend large sums of money and to pledge the credit of this country for the purpose of rearmament and which has so woefully and wantonly failed in its task that it is now asking us to have confidence in it in the policy of rearmament. People want to know what has happened to the money. The answer is it has been spent on making mistakes. What is their defence? The defence is two-fold. According to the Prime Minister yesterday it was, "We are not the only country with deficiencies in the armed defences. It happens in other countries." The second defence, in one of the most amazing passages I have ever heard in this House, was when he said, "Look at us in 1914. We had deficiencies then." What a puerile defence to put up in 1938 to say, "Do not blame us; there were deficiencies in 1914," ignoring the fact that conditions have changed very much in the meantime, and that we might have been expected to have learned some lessons in the meantime and that the Government of 1914 had not for years been spending millions of money on rearmament. That is a defence which is very frequently heard at the Old Bailey from people accused of having misappropriated or misspent funds. What has happened to all the money that has been spent? It has been spent, but the unfortunate thing is that the Government have not learnt the lesson of their past mistakes even yet. They say they are very sorry and are going to do better next time.
What have they done already? They have appointed another officer, a new Lord Privy Seal. I think that all who know the Lord Privy Seal have great admiration for his capabilities and his courage, but however great his capabili ties and courage may be, he cannot succeed except on two conditions. The one is his position. Is he to be the director or the office boy, like the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence? Is he to get any more encouragement or to be given greater support than that given to the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence? That is a matter upon which he must depend for his success or failure. But the other thing upon which he must depend is even more important. He must depend on the good will and confidence of the people of this country, but, believe me, he will not get the good will and the confidence of the people of this country if all that the Prime Minister is engaged in is the building of a Four-Power Pact, the contents and enforcement of which must in large measure depend upon the whims of one dictator and the whimsicalities of another. But he will get it if the people can be satisfied that the Prime Minister is engaged upon a proper policy of peace, one not confined to four nations, however great they may be, but available to all nations, great and small, formulated by a body such as the League of Nations was meant to be, and would have been to-day if all those who were parties to its establishment, ourselves included, had played the game.
I rise with an extra feeling of embarrassment because I think that I am the only member of my family who has addressed this House since 1812. My ancestor of that date rose to the heights of becoming Prime Minister, but shortly afterwards he was shot and killed in the Lobby of the House of Commons. The assassin, when he was captured remarked that he did not intend to kill my ancestor but he did it for want of anyone better to shoot. So hon. Members, I feel, will understand my fear lest history repeat itself. Although I cannot expect them to share in the apprehensions I may have as to my own personal safety, I think that we are all concerned with national safety. But many of my own apprehensions have been removed by the new basis which I feel we now have for the construction of the peace of the world as the result of the Prime Minister's efforts, and I need hardly add that he has my wholehearted support. We have in the British Empire a great heritage that we must at all costs preserve for the benefit of civilisation. Thus, while we have no enemy, I believe that it is our duty to take every step we may think fit to preserve that heritage. Therefore, I hope, and I am confident, that the Government will aim at 100 per cent. efficiency both in the civil and the military sphere.
The question of armaments is no more important than the question of civil defence at home. I would like to suggest a two-fold proposition. The most gigantic task with which the Lord Privy Seal will have to deal is that of the evacuation of children. I congratulate the Government very sincerely on the emergency measures they took during the crisis, but one or two things since then have rather forcibly been brought to my notice. The district that I represent was going to have hundreds of thousands of children billeted in the villages. In many cases where the water supply is now adequate it would not have been adequate to meet any extra consumption and it seems to me that that might have had very serious consequences. Furthermore, in many instances the problem of the storage of food might have been very acute, with the available supplies. I suggest that a series of camps, permanent camps, should be erected on carefully chosen sites in the heart of the country. They must have water and power laid on and must have arrangements for the storage of food, for medical supplies and other necessities. It would be possible to give work to the unemployed in building such camps, and I do not believe that the unemployed would object to a somewhat rough and ready existence while they were building the camps.
I have tried to explain, first, that these camps would be useful for evacuation; and, secondly, in times of peace I think a great deal could be done with them. We hear much in these days about physical fitness and nutrition. I believe that a fortnight's holiday in the country would do a great deal more for children than most ideas about feeding or anything else. I happened to go this summer to a camp which was organised by Toc H, and the difference in the appearance of the boys at the end of even one week was very remarkable. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) in his pleas for more national unity. I submit that there is quite a lot of unnecessary misunderstanding between various sections in this country. It would be an excellent idea if the system of camps already in existence could be enlarged whereby public schoolboys and boys from industrial areas could spend a holiday together. I do not wish to confine these camps to children only. When the House discussed holidays with pay it was said, and I think rightly said, that the wife and mother practically never had a holiday. I see no reason why, under competent management, the children should not go to one camp and the parents to another. Furthermore, I feel that it would have a tremendous moral effect if it were arranged that those who are now out of work should also have a holiday at these camps. Lastly, I believe that these camps might in the long run help to solve the problem of the drift of labour from the land. It seems to me that by introducing the country to thousands of children during their holiday, many of them would learn to love the land and rural occupations, and that is essential if the farming population is to be contented, happy and prosperous.
I do not believe that the expense of building these camps would be very great. Moreover it would be money on which the return would be well worth while. I have read the remarks in the report of the Committee on Evacuation which sat under the chairmanship of the Lord Privy Seal. I hope that in his dual capacity the Lord Privy Seal will consider my remarks in the light of their dual capacity, because I think that such a scheme would be of immense value from the point of view of the health and happiness of this generation and future generations. I noticed in the Press to-day that I have as an ally no less an authority than Lord Dawson of Penn. I would say here that we share, I hope, a mutual misfortune in that we do not know each other. I have made a number of suggestions, and I sincerely hope that the Minister will accept them in the spirit in which they are offered. To conclude, I can only repeat the hope that I expressed at the beginning of my speech, that my remarks will not in any way force history to repeat itself in my case.
I hope that the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken will allow me to congratulate him on the speech which he has just delivered.
The hon. and learned Member who Opened this Debate referred to the Gracious Speech as containing a good many platitudinous statements. There may not be general agreement in regard to that charge, but I imagine that His Majesty's Government would have great difficulty if they were compelled to give further detailed particulars of some of the statements they have set forth in the Speech.
I would like to deal first with the reference in the Speech to Czechoslovakia:
My Ministers have already arranged for an advance of £10,000,000 to be placed at the disposal of the Czechoslovak Government.
I hope that the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs when he replies will be able to give the House some information as to what has taken place with regard to this sum of £10,000,000. There are people in our own country who seem to be taking the view that Czechoslovakia can no longer exist as an independent State and that any financial help given to that country will find its way indirectly to Germany. That is an extremely dangerous argument, because if it were accepted this money would accomplish the very thing that it seeks to prevent, namely the strengthening of Germany and the destruction of Czechoslovakia. It is perfectly true that as a result of the Munich Agreement Czechoslovakia has suffered very serious losses, that regions containing very important raw materials and industries have been taken away from Czechoslovakia, and that its railway transport system has been very seriously prejudiced and intersected by zones which have been transferred to Germany.
It is perfectly true that some of the territories on which these factories were erected were transferred to Czechoslovakia by the Treaty of Versailles, but that statement ignores the fact that during the last 20 years many of those industries have been built up by Czechs as well as by Germans. In any event the interruption is perfectly irrelevant, because it is not the less the fact that this new State has been deprived of these important industries. Thirdly, separation from their hinterland has taken place of quite a number of important industrial towns. Fourthly, the capital city of Prague has been deprived of its electricity supply, and Brno, the second largest city, has been deprived of its water supply, There is ample evidence that Czechoslovakia desires to remain an independent country and this places a greater measure of responsibility upon our country and upon France for the continuance of that independence. If Czechoslovakia is to continue to live it is absolutely essential that further capital be given to enable the new Government to reorganise the country—capital much greater than that which can be obtained within the borders of Czechoslovakia itself. This, I suggest, is the fundamental need of the moment so far as Czechoslovakia is concerned, and if the capital can be found I believe, and many others believe, that that unhappy country will be able to retain its place in the family of nations.
The Gracious Speech also refers to:
active furtherance of peace in Europe, which … will lead to a wider spirit of confidence and supply a fresh impulse for expansion in trade, industry and employment.
The Prime Minister in his speech yesterday seemed to be very confident that the recent changes in Europe would not prejudice our export trade in that part of the world. It may be easy to be confident as to the future, but we cannot be very happy about the position as we find it today. I find that our export trade, which all will agree is vital to the prosperity of our country, is in a most unsatisfactory position. In the first six months of 1929 our exports amounted to £358,000,000. Last year, for the first half of the year, they amounted to only £251,000,000. For the first half of 1938 our exports amounted to £233,000,000. That is to say that in the first six months of this year our foreign trade was approximately only 65 per cent. of what it was for the first six months of 1929. I should have thought it was obvious to all people that we have to develop our trading relations with any country which is willing to trade with us, including the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. It may be argued by some that we buy much more from the countries of Central and Eastern Europe than they buy from us, but exactly the same argument might be applied to our trading relations with the United
States of America, Denmark, and even Germany itself. At the present time we are buying from them much more than they buy from us.
Herr Funk, the German Minister of Commerce, stated the other day that political policy could not be separated from economic policy, and if that be so I make no apology for asking the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs to deal with the economic situation that we find in Central Europe to-day. Herr Funk has just returned from an extensive tour throughout South-Eastern Europe, bringing with him a bagful of commercial treaties which he has negotiated in the countries he visited. The German Minister of Economics has categorically denied the suggestion that those agreements are part of a deliberate German trade policy entered into with a view to securing eventually a monopoly of trade in that part of Europe. If that proves to be so, I do not think that our country or any other country can have any right to criticise even though they may envy the success which has attended the tour of the German Minister. If Germany secures a fair share of the raw materials that she urgently requires and is prepared to pay honestly for them by her manufactured products, it may well be that the ultimate result will be to improve not only their economic conditions but those of other countries, including our own. At the same time it must be admitted that, however advantageously Germany has secured the contracts with these various Governments, they have admittedly worked out most unhelpfully to other parties to the transaction. In some cases Germany has secured these commodities and re-exported them at a lower price to other markets, much to the detriment of the countries from which they were purchased. It is complained that our own Government have done nothing to anticipate or counteract this new policy on the part of Germany. The "Times," on 20th October, made this statement:
Perhaps the chief lesson for this country is that it might be well for us to review very carefully our own traditional methods and to see whether, without sacrificing anything of value, we might modify them in a way which will enable us to compete more effectively with the methods of the totalitarian States.
I cannot understand why His Majesty's Government are not prepared to follow
the example which has been set by a Government of the totalitarian States and to send a Minister of the Government on a good will tour to Central and Eastern Europe.
The Gracious Speech contains a reference to the development of good understanding with Germany. My hon. and learned Friend who opened the Debate stated that that is not an exposition of foreign policy but merely a pious expression of opinion. Even assuming it to be merely a platitudinous statement, it cannot be said that the party on this side of the House has not consistently advocated a policy of friendly relations with the German nation since the termination of the Great War. In the days when it was less fashionable that it is to-day, the Labour party gave sympathetic support to the legitimate claims of Germany, and the removal of their grievances. If that sympathy has been less apparent in recent days it is because of the methods adopted by Germany to remove the inequalities which were inflicted by the Treaty of Versailles. In 1932 at Lausanne, in order to secure the return of the German Government to the Disarmament Conference, this formula was agreed upon:
Germany should have equality of rights in a system of security.
The course of events during the last 20 years has been a series of one lost opportunity after another. There can be no doubt that the German nation had legitimate grievances, and time after time they sought to have those grievances remedied, but time after time the leaders of what was then a democratic system were refused that redress by the other European countries, with the result that Herr Hitler came into power. The same thing applied in regard to the formula agreed in December, 1932, at Lausanne. Nothing was done to implement the formula, and as a result Herr Hitler has achieved for Germany equality of rights by the ruthless destruction not only of the rights of other nations, but also by destroying their security and even their very existence.
It is alleged that those who criticise Germany's foreign policy advocate an ideological war. That is a charge without any justification whatsoever. War, whether it be ideological or otherwise, is still war, and, as my hon. and learned Friend said, I do not believe there is anyone in this country who desires that this country should be engaged in war. But that does not mean that we want peace at any price. I believe that public opinion in this country would welcome the most friendly relations with Germany, in spite of the fact that we do not like her form of government, provided that peace is not obtained at the expense of our friends, that it does not mean a free hand for Germany in Central and Eastern Europe, that it does not mean that we shall stand on one side in the event of Germany picking a quarrel with Russia, and also that peace is consistent with our obligations under the Covenant of the League.
I must confess that I have very serious misgivings when I read the various speeches made by Herr Hitler in recent days. Why does he wish to convey to the German people that those who criticise the foreign policy of the British Government are warmongers? Is there anyone in this House who really believes that the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden), the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), the Leader of the Opposition, or any other hon. Members who have been referred to by Herr Hitler, are really desirous of making war upon Germany. Herr Hitler must know that his statements are untrue or, alternatively, he has been deliberately misled by his advisers, including the present Foreign Minister of Germany, who spent several years in this country and ought to know what public opinion in this country wants, yet who makes a speech in which he refers to the warmongers in this country, simply because we criticise the policy of the British Government.
To-day, I read in the "Times" and other newspapers extracts from an article in one of the leading German newspapers, which contained a most disgusting attack upon three or four political leaders in this country, including the Leader of the Opposition. That is not the way to secure friendly relations between the German nation and our own nation. It is an extraordinary thing that the head of the German State should be so concerned to make a point against the Leaders of the Opposition parties in this country, that he should accuse the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) of having made a speech in this House advocating the destruction of Germany and Italy, whereas in truth and in fact, as hon. Members will recollect, the right hon. Gentleman said that he would like to see the destruction of the dictatorships. He never said that he wanted to make war upon the peoples of any dictatorship country, nor did he say that he was in favour of making war on dictators. He said that he was in favour of the destruction of dictatorships, which is a very different thing. If the leaders of the German nation wish to co-operate in promoting world peace, based on law and justice, and are prepared to renounce the threat of war as an instrument of national policy, they need have no fear of a lack of response from this country. I believe that they will find a ready response from all sections of our country, provided they are sincere in desiring to secure world peace based on law and justice.
The question of Colonies was omitted from the King's Speech, and on this point I hope the Under-Secretary will answer the question put to him by my hon. and learned Friend. This is a problem which will have to be faced, sooner or later. Herr Hitler has stated within the last few days that anyone who thinks that he intends to diminish his demands in respect of Colonies is labouring under a great mistake. It is clear that in the next few months this country will have to face up to this very difficult problem. Is agreement possible? Speaking for myself, I cannot believe that it will be found to be practicable permanently to exclude a great nation of 80,000,000 people from Africa, as long as other countries claim the right to possess and exploit their Colonies.
I realise that there are great practical difficulties which will have to be overcome if we are to obtain a solution of this problem. Much will depend on whether the problem is to be solved on the basis of power politics. If that be the case, it may be that if Germany is more powerful than our own country, we shall have to submit to something which will be very distasteful to most sections of the community. We had an example of what it means to surrender to power politics, in respect of Czechoslovakia, and it may be that we shall have a repetition of that state of affairs. If, on the other hand, the question is to be solved in accordance with law, justice and morality, then we shall have to approach it from a very different angle, and I believe that the policy which the Labour party have put forward is the right one, namely, that the countries that possess Colonies should hand over their Colonies to the League of Nations and allow them to be placed under a mandated system.
Hon. Members opposite may smile, and probably they are thinking that there is not the slightest probability of that proposal being accepted by other countries. It is, however, clear to my mind that there are only two ways of dealing with this problem—either by treating Colonies as something to be bartered and handed from one Power to another in order to secure the appeasement of that Power, irrespective of the rights and wishes of the inhabitants of those Colonies, or, alternatively, to have some regard to the wishes and desires of the inhabitants of the Colonies, and place them under an international system, so as to prevent it being suggested that one particular country is taking an advantage and enjoying a privilege which is not enjoyed by another country.
I appreciate the force of the hon. Member's arguments against the use of Colonies as counters in the game of power politics, and I understand it perfectly, but I do not understand by whom the mandate should be exercised when the Colonies have been pooled.
Obviously, the Colonies on that basis would be administered internationally. At the present time although the mandated territories are actually administered by the mandatory Government, the mandatory Government is responsible to the Mandates Commission of the League of Nations, which in turn is responsible to the Assembly of the League.
I must confess that it is a new point to me that the sovereignty of the mandated territories rests with the Mandatory Powers. That is not my understanding of the legal position with regard to mandated territories.
I did not mean to use the word "sovereignty," which is rather misleading in this context. I meant to ask who was going to exercise the government. Will the Government continue to be carried on by the Power carrying it on at the present time?
At the present time, where mandated territories exist, the government is in the hands of the Mandatory Powers, but those of us who sit on these benches would prefer that the mandated territories should be administered by an international commission, appointed by the League of Nations.
I should like to remind the Noble Lord that when these particular territories were put under mandate in 1919 they were not given any opportunity of voting whether or not they wanted to be placed under mandate. I suggest that the solution of the question of the Colonies is to put them under the League of Nations. It may be argued that at the moment the League of Nations is ineffective and that it is not, therefore, a practical proposition. I still believe that if Germany were to become a member of the League and thereby qualify to become a mandatory Power and share in any international administration which may be established over the various colonies of the world, it would be by far the best solution. If it is suggested that in the present circumstances the control of the League would be illusory, my answer is that the best way to prevent the control of the League being illusory is to strengthen the League of Nations and make it an effective international organisation. The urgent need to-day is to strengthen the League of Nations, and whatever people may say, and however much they may sneer, I am confident that sooner or later they will have to come back to it.
There are only two methods of governing international relations. One is on the basis of power politics, which we experienced up to the Great War and which landed us in the worst war in the history of mankind, and the second is the policy exemplified by the League of Nations, a policy based upon international law and justice. I regret very much that such evidence as we have indicates that the Government have not quite the same faith in the League of Nations as they had at the last General Election, because in the first and second King's Speech after the election they set out their faith in the League and their intention to back the League, but in the last two King's Speeches they have omitted any reference at all to the League of Nations. At any rate, it is the view of many hon. Members on this side of the House that the question of Colonies must be dealt with by an international conference of all colonial Powers meeting together to hammer out some kind of settlement, and such a conference will have to include the United States of America as well as Germany and Italy. After all, the United States Government have a responsibility in relation to mandated territories because they were handed over to the mandatory governments by the Powers which drew up the Treaty of Versailles, of which the United States Government was one. I believe that a settlement of outstanding problems would enable a strengthened and universal League of Nations to be organised capable of fulfilling its original function of preserving the peace of the world.
I should like to open my remarks by paying a tribute to the contribution which has been made to our Debate by my hon. Friend the Member for West Derbyshire (Mr. Hunloke). It does not surprise me that he won the by-election by a substantial majority, and judging by the standard of his speech I am fully convinced that he will represent his family and its great tradition in this House for many years to come. As I listened to the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) I was not surprised that certain electors at by-elections have been somewhat confused by the issue put before them. I could not recognise the Government's foreign policy in the extraordinary description which the hon. and learned Member gave, and in the course of my remarks I hope to deal with some of his major misrepresentations of our foreign policy. It seems to me that the hon. and learned Member does not like the world in which we are living, and does not seem to like the way in which the Government are looking at the world. I am reminded of a statement by the 17th century Marquess of Halifax:
To understand the world and to like it are two things not easily to be reconciled.
The best guide to our foreign policy is to realise that we are trying to understand the new world which is growing up around us and the new forces in it. That does not mean that we sympathise or like all that we see. That is the very distinct difference between the hon. and learned Member and the Government. The alternative to understanding, which we are trying to practise, is dispute and war; and the issue which hon. Members opposite will do well to keep before them throughout the course of our debates on foreign policy is that although we may not like the world we see, the Government have, at any rate, saved the peoples of the world from a ghastly war. The hon. and learned Member said he would like to see the foreign policy of this country extended to all the peoples of the world. That is a legitimate objective. But he saw fit to make some observations on our ancient alliance with Portugal, dating from the 14th century, which is one of the cardinal principles of our foreign policy and has been of great value to this country. He sought to make similar remarks about our alliances with Egypt and Iraq. I presume his difficulty is that we have undertaken certain commitments, and he wishes that we should make these commitments absolutely limitless. All I can say is that, having investigated the foreign policy of the Government, and having heard the wild statements of the hon. and learned Member and some of his supporters, I would rather follow the Government with their limited commitments and their defence of British interests than the foreign policy which the hon. and learned Member and his supporters would pursue.
As I have said, we do not necessarily like the world as we see it, or agree with all that we see, but I think we can, animated by certain ideals, achieve some settlement of modern problems. I have been following with some care, naturally, the criticisms of our foreign policy in this House and in the country, and I realise fully the anxieties which animate hon. Members opposite and a section of the people in the country. It seems to me that many people in their heart of hearts are grateful to the Prime Minister for the step he took and the peace he gave, and some of the present criticisms seem to me to arise from a wish to know what are the guiding strings of our policy at the present time. I am sure that the right hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) does not wish to smile too soon, because I want to help him and other hon. Members, and perhaps to make things a little clearer. I should like to do something to ease some of the difficulties of those who appreciate what the Prime Minister has done and who would like to follow him further.
I have been struck by the similarity between the contributions to the history of our foreign policy of the present Prime Minister and that great man, George Canning. There seems to me to be a certain similarity in the type of the two men and in the period of British history in which they lived. In both cases they may be classed as realists; in both cases they have been criticised, and in both cases they lived in a period of distinct doubt and confusion following upon a major world upheaval. Canning's contribution is perhaps summed up in the most famous of his statements:
I called the new world into existence to redress the balance of the old.
If I were to sum up the guiding line of the policy of the present Government and put it into the mouth of the present Prime Minister, I should say: "I faced the emergence of a new order of things while retaining the values of the old." It is up to me to try and prove that the old traditions of the rule of law, which we hope are going to rule the world, are being perpetuated in the foreign policy of His Majesty's Government. Let me examine what these values are: First, the settlement of disputes by peaceful means, and, secondly, that force should be subordinated to the method of consultation. The hon. and learned Member for East Bristol attaches no value to the spirit of Munich. I beg him and his friends not to under-estimate the value of the achievement of the Prime Minister at Munich. I would beg hon. Members of the House and the people of the country to appreciate what may be made of the signature to a document in which two great peoples of the world agree to a settlement of the differences between them by the method of consultation. However much we may oppose the policy of the Government, do not let us minimise the value of this new spirit, and let us in our Debates at least give an opportunity to this new spirit to grow, and check some of the regrettable criticism which has grown up since that achievement.
The hon. and learned Member said that there had been a complete desertion of the League and its principles by the Government. I want to take up that challenge, and to reply to him in this way, that not only have the Government gone out to seek new friends but they have tried to improve the League system. What has struck me most in our continual foreign affairs Debates has been that not a single Member of the Opposition in any speech in this House has referred to the statement in the Gracious Speech on the Prorogation that His Majesty's Government have attempted a comprehensive and practical review of the obligations devolving upon members of the League. That was the work done by some of us at Geneva during the dark days of the crisis, and as far as I know not a single Member opposite has discussed it in detail in the course of our Debates. Instead of that we have had the hon. and learned Member talking vague generalities, with a comfortable reliance on the words "collective security," with an ever ready peroration and an ever ready exordium; but there has been no attempt to consider sincerely and without controversy the great difficulties in the machinery of the League at the present time for the settlement of disputes.
Let me examine for a few minutes some of the efforts we have made in that direction. The criticisms of the League system, as we see it now, in dealing with the severe problems of the world are three. It is criticised for being too much bound up with the status quo; secondly, it is said that it has too few of the great nations within it; and, thirdly, that there has been difficulty in operating the coercive Clauses, and in particular Article 16. Those are difficulties which we all acknowledge are present in the League machinery. I am not claiming that the Government have solved these difficulties; but hon. Members, in dealing with League matters, often make the mistake of thinking that we are the only member of the League, and if it does not achieve a success, the blame is laid at the door of His Majesty's Government. We are one member among, I think, 49 nations which are members of the League at the present time—
—and, as my hon. Friend the Member for West Leeds (Mr. Adams). who has great knowledge of this subject, says, perhaps the chief one. We have taken part in an attempt to reform the present weaknesses of the League. Several systematic steps were taken at Geneva. The Covenant was separated from the Treaties of Peace, which will ensure an independent and separate life for the Covenant in the future, and will not automatically tie the Covenant as a piece of machinery to the status quo. So far, so good. What other steps have been taken to attempt to get away from the charge that the League is bound up too much with the status quo? As my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has explained, one of the difficulties of using Article 19—and, as I explained later in the same Debate, Article 11—has been that it was necessary to act by the unanimity rule. The Government made efforts on this occasion to get that rule waived in respect of a section of Article 11. We were unsuccessful, but at any rate we did our best.
I come now to the second difficulty, that there are too few great nations within the League to make the machinery entirely effective. We supported a communication to non-member States in order to try to bring nearer that universal collaboration which was the subject of so brilliant a survey by my noble predecessor in office, and which is the aim of all those who have the interests of the League at heart. With regard to the third problem, we introduced certain ideas concerning the operation of sanctions. We had noticed the views of the Scandinavian countries, led perhaps by Sweden, whose point of view was that sanctions should not be automatic. We had a discussion at Geneva and it emerged that there was no dispute that in future consultation between nations should be obligatory. At the same time most Members agreed that each particular case for the application of sanctions should be judged on its merits and that States members should do all they could in each particular instance. I think that is extremely valuable. It has recognised the limitations of the League machinery, but it has saved the Covenant in its entirety and has retained the moral obligation to consult, and the moral obligation, in the case of war, for nations to get together and to see what they can do. I think that is a preferable line to the generali ties and criticisms of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite.
The hon. Member for Kingswinford (Mr. A. Henderson) asked a question about the £10,000,000 advanced to Czechoslovakia. In this connection, I have already been approached by many Members of the House on the subject of refugees, and I will deal with the two questions together. One of the chief achievements of the League this autumn was the creation of a successor to two great bodies concerned with refugee questions, and just before the storm broke in Czechoslovakia and the ranks of the refugees were swelled, we evolved new machinery under which there is now to be one High Commissioner for Refugees, taking over the office of the old High Commissioner for Refugees coming from Germany, and also the work of the old Nansen Office. The new High Commissioner, whose headquarters are to be in London, is Sir Herbert Emerson, who was a distinguished Governor of the Punjab. I sincerely hope that this new body will be successful in dealing with the question of refugees in so far as refugees from Czechoslovakia come under its mandate. The hon. Member for Kingswinford asked about the loan to Czechoslovakia. As he knows, part of it is likely to be used for economic reconstruction—and conversations and negotiations have been going on with regard to this—and part is likely to be used for the purpose of assisting refugees. That is all I can say on this occasion.
I have been asked whether part of the Lord Mayor's Fund can be used for the maintenance of refugees, particularly from the Sudeten German area, who come to this country, and I am able to say that £20,000 of that fund has been allocated by the Lord Mayor for the actual maintenance of men, and perhaps their families later, when they reach this country. The administration of the £10,000,000, naturally, will be a subject of some interest to the House, and we have thought it wise to appoint a liaison officer in Prague, whose duty it will be to look into the expenditure of this money, and I hope keep in touch with the Czechoslovak authorities and the refugee organisations at present working in Prague. Mr. R. J. Stopford, who was a member of the Runciman Mission and whom I know for his good work in India, left for Prague at the end of last week, and among his duties will be that of obtaining such information as may be, from time to time, available on the numbers and types of refugees in Czechoslovakia and the conditions in which those who wish to emigrate might be enabled to do so.
Although I am glad to hear that an allocation has been made from the Lord Mayor's Fund, as the Under-Secretary knows the question of getting refugees, particularly Sudeten Germans, out of the country depends largely on the granting of visas by His Majesty's Government. We are told that 350 visas have been granted, but we are led to believe that 1,500 persons are in acute danger and 4,000 more in a lesser degree of danger. May we have an assurance as to the granting of visas, at any rate to those who are in great danger?
In reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Harold Macmillan), my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, who is responsible for this matter, gave an answer to the hon. Lady the Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone) on the subject, pointing out that he would be ready to consider individual applications when they are made, and further, that the families of the 350 could come to this country if arrangements could be made for them. I think this will show the hon. Member that, as regards refugees, the door is not closed, and that proper consideration is given to individual cases.
I do not wish to trespass further on the grounds of the Home Office. All I will say is that it is left to the individual emigrants to decide their destination. It must be largely a matter for their own decision. I come now to the Far East, on which several questions have been put to me. The hon. and learned Gentleman, in opening the Debate, said that no assistance was being given to China. We have taken part, in conjunction with other Powers, in supplying medical and other assistance to China through the organisations of the League of Nations. I should like to pay a tribute to the medical units at present operating in terrible conditions in that country. We would gladly associate ourselves with any other schemes for helping the Chinese people in their terrible plight.
The hon. Gentleman has said that the Government are prepared to join with other nations in giving assistance to the Chinese people. Does that include giving financial assistance, in association with other nations, to the Chinese people?
The hon. and learned Gentleman must follow the argument I have put. I was dealing with medical and other forms of assistance through the League of Nations organisations, and I said that in that particular department—if I did not say that, I will make the correction, and express my gratitude to the hon. and learned Gentleman for giving me the opportunity of making it clear—we are ready to join with other nations in giving any assistance we can. On this further matter, I have nothing more to add to the Government's statement. We have already offered our services, either alone or in conjunction with any other Power or group of Powers, to take whatever steps are possible to bring about a just and lasting solution of the present conflict. We have given, and we shall continue to give, our sympathetic consideration to any schemes which can be put forward on a commercial basis, following upon our recent support of a resolution on this subject at the League of Nations.
I have been asked questions, during Question time, on the subject of our general position in the Far East. There have been pronouncements recently at Tokio regarding the formation of an economic and political bloc comprising Japan, Manchukuo and China. I should like to say that the position of Great Britain in this matter is governed by the Washington Treaties and other international agreements to which His Majesty's Government, in conjunction with a large number of other governments, are parties. We could not, therefore, consider any alterations in the position, as laid down in the Treaties, which have been brought about by unilateral action. In this matter, our stand is the same as that which has been so clearly laid down by the United States Secretary of State in his statement on 4th November, which would serve equally to define the attitude of His Majesty's Government in the matter of the Washington Treaties. The United States Government had previously protested, in their Note to Japan on 6th October, against the infringement of the policy of the Open Door in China. In that connection I wish to say that the Government have for their part made formal protests, in the same sense as the United States Government, to the Japanese Government in recent times, and have made their position quite clear. Before leaving the subject of China, I should like to refer to the statement made by the Prime Minister in the Debate on the Adjournment last week. He said that the reconstruction of China could not be achieved without some help from this country.
That is the object of making my statement this afternoon. I was referring to the statement made by the Prime Minister. I think it is clear from my right hon. Friend's words that what he meant was that when the time came we should be ready to play our part in giving such assistance as the Government and people of China might require to repair the terrible damage they have suffered, and rehabilitate and re-equip the country for the years of peace which we hope soon are to come. It does not mean, as the hon. and learned Member said, or as it has been, as we think, misinterpreted in the Far East, that we are looking to the end of the war to lend money to Japan in order to enable the latter to complete her domination of China. Since this erroneous interpretation has received rather wide currency in the Far East, I am authorised to correct any false impression which may have been made.
Before I finish dealing with the hon. and learned Member's other arguments I wish to say a word or two about Spain. In my last speech on Spain I referred to the fact that the volunteers on the Government side had not yet actually left Spain. I should like to follow that statement up by saying that I understand the Spanish Government are on the point of evacuating more than 1,500 volunteers from Spain in the next day or two. This is welcomed by His Majesty's Government, and I trust that the work of the Commission which the League has sent to deal with the matter will be expedited. The work of that Commission will fall into two parts—first to check the volunteers serving in the International Brigade both in Catalonia and the Southern part of Governmental Spain, and secondly, verification of the measures taken to withdraw isolated foreigners serving in Spanish formations. The latter task is the much more complicated and difficult; but the fact is that evacuation is proceeding and we shall be only too glad to cooperate with the Spanish Government in the return of British volunteers to this country.
That is so and I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for making it clear. The hon. and learned Member for East Bristol said we should not assume the role of assistants watching the starvation of the Spanish people. I should like to remind him of the many humanitarian steps we have taken to deal with the diffi culties and troubles of the Spanish people. In particular, the House will remember that a grant of £10,000 was made to the International Commission for dealing with child refugees in Spain. His Majesty's Government have given an extra £10,000 to that organisation, and I hope that the excellent work of dealing with these children, whose condition has only to be heard to be sympathised with, will be proceeded with by that International Commission. Further, I hope it will be possible in the future to announce wider and bigger measures on an international basis to deal with refugees in Spain, most of whom are on the Government side. This humanitarian work has been continued by a further grant to the Spanish section of the International Red Cross, and by the evacuation, very often with the aid of His Majesty's ships, of Spanish refugees. It is in this way, as I have said previously, that the British nation can best help the people of Spain. The hon. and learned Gentleman attached great importance to helping the people of Spain. It is in those ways and not by intervening in the Spanish war that we can be of the greatest assistance.
The hon. and learned Member raised again the point about belligerent rights. I repeat what I have said before. The Government view of this matter remains unchanged. The Non-Intervention Committee's plan is being proceeded with. Mr. Hemming is at present in Burgos explaining certain points in it to the Burgos authorities. Our point of view as regards belligerent rights is that they take exactly the same position in that plan and the development of that plan as they have always done. There has been no change in our policy in this regard. The hon. and learned Member dealt with our foreign policy and said that we were going to become the junior partner in a Fascist International, and he claimed that our policy was to achieve a Four-Power Pact. If the hon. and learned Gentleman had devoted his usual attention, which has made him his reputation in other quarters, to this matter, he would have realised that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has already made the Government point of view on the subject of a Four-Power Pact abundantly plain.
The hon. and learned Gentleman is trying to forestall the actions of the Government in this regard. There has been no Four-Power Pact made, and my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has made a very definite statement showing that the execution of a Four-Power Pact of the type to which the hon. and learned Gentleman referred, is not contemplated by His Majesty's Government. Therefore, I think it was a waste of time for him to devote his peroration to this particular aspect of Government policy. The hon. and learned Gentleman continued to request that we should achieve economic justice for the peoples. Our view is that the sooner we can break down some of the international barriers to trade the better, and that the sooner the autarchic system of economics can mix with the world system, the better it will be for everybody concerned.
Our's is not the wish to hold up any development of that sort. Our's is the wish, corresponding with what the hon. and learned Member said, for the peoples of the world to get together and understand each other's point of view. But we do not think that that is aided by the sort of speeches we hear from the other side. The hon. and learned Gentleman tried the usual game, which is the reason why people get so confused in this country when considering our foreign policy, of suggesting that our view of British interests is that of a particular section of the country. I would remind them that one of the principles in which we, on this side, believe, is private enterprise, and private enterprise to be successful needs democracy and freedom. It does not flourish under dictatorship, and just as the Government have proved that they will not lead the people into war, so they will prove that private enterprise and all that we believe in, will flourish under a system of democracy and freedom and in that peace which our foreign policy will ensure for our country.
The hon. and learned Member will realise that I have traversed a great many subjects and I am afraid I have imposed on the patience of the House for an undue time. I cannot add anything to-day on the subject of Colonies.
Does the hon. Gentleman mean that the Government has no policy, or does he mean that it is the same as that announced a year ago, or does he mean that there has been a change which he cannot announce?
Mr. Lloyd George:
I do not propose to deal with the controversy in regard to past events. We have had several Debates in this House on the subject. We shall have a great many more both in this House and in the country, and, as I say, it is not my object to-day to enter into that controversy. The case was stated with great power by my hon. Friend behind me, and I have risen rather to ask a few questions with regard to the future policy of the Government. Whatever anyone's views may be on the merits or demerits of the Munich Pact, it is generally agreed on both sides that it was only a beginning. Some of us think it was a very bad beginning. Hon. Gentlemen on the other side think it was a good beginning, but we are agreed that, at any rate, things cannot be left with Munich. We must travel a good deal further if we are to have a general peace. What I am going to do is to ask the Government a few questions with regard to what they have in their minds about a general settlement of the troubles of the nations. They must take a considerable initiative in the matter. It is all very well for the hon. Gentleman opposite to say that, after all, we are only one out of 48 nations, but we are a very powerful nation. We are one of the five or six great Powers of the world, and the initiative which we take in the matter is bound to have a tremendous effect, provided that it is pursued on the right lines, and with consistency and courage.
I am at a disadvantage in not being able to address my questions to the only Minister who could answer them. I know he has another important engagement to-night, and I certainly am making no complaint about his absence, but I hope that some of the questions which I put will be passed on to him. I have thought them out very carefully, because the peace of the world depends upon the answers which the Government are prepared to give, not to me, but to those questions which will be addressed to them by the conditions of the time. We have heard a great deal about the policy of the Prime Minister being a policy of general appeasement. Any Prime Minister who undertakes to advance general appeasement will be entitled to every support that can be accorded to him from every quarter in this House and from every section of the nation, but I think the House of Commons should be told beforehand what his ideas are about the lines upon which peace is to be settled. There has been a great deal of criticism of the Treaty of Versailles, but, at any rate, with regard to the Treaty of Versailles we did take the nation into our confidence long before we ever met the negotiators of the other countries. A whole year before the War came to an end, we gave, in very considerable detail, what our ideas were as to the nature of the settlement. They were submitted to all parties in the State. They were submitted to the leaders of the Liberal party, Mr. Asquith, as he then was, and Lord Grey. We then consulted the Labour leaders, and, as a matter of fact, the pronouncement determined upon by the Cabinet was approved by the Labour leaders. We also consulted the Dominions, not by cable, but by actually meeting their leaders, and discussing, point by point, the lines upon which we desired the Treaty to go.
Here is an even bigger task than that, a task which has been made more complicated by a great many events. We have not here the advantage of being the victors in a great war. Here we have very powerful nations, hostile, armed to the teeth, all-powerful. But that renders it all the more necessary that the House of Commons and Parliament and the nation should be taken into the confidence of the Prime Minister and the Government before they proceed to determine the lines upon which they are going to negotiate a treaty. The Prime Minister is going to France, and I presume he is going there to discuss that very question. He must take the French Ministers into his confidence. It is no use his going there to say, "Let us have peace; let us have a world settlement." Every body wants peace. He must be in a position to say to the French, "These are my ideas as to the course that we ought to adopt, the proposals that we ought to make, the limitations that we ought to set upon ourselves, what we should be prepared to concede, what we are prepared to discuss and negotiate." If that confidence is to be given to the French Ministers, you may depend upon it that it will be passed on to the French public—that is my experience in these matters—and quite rightly. But should not the British public know beforehand what the Prime Minister has in his mind? Should we not be told, in the Parliament that represents the nation, what those ideas are, what his proposals are? That does not mean that nothing is to be left to negotiation, but, at any rate, we ought to be informed as to the general outline, the general direction in which he proposes to travel.
There is a great deal of uneasiness in this country created by recent events, and it is by no means confined to those who sit on this side of the House or their sympathisers in the country. It is shared by a great many supporters of the Government. I know that from many communications which I have had from Conservatives, men who are undoubtedly Conservatives, and lifelong Conservatives. They are very uneasy. They have a great distrust, and there is great disquietude They have a sort of feeling that in the negotiations which have been conducted recently there has been no compromising as the result of those meetings. There has been no compromise, no give-and-take. It has always been a complete surrender to the dictators, and a complete surrender to the dictators for their extremest demands.
Take China. We have surrendered there far more than Japan ever demanded when she began her new Chinese policy—far more, and we have no protest, no policy. The news last night was that the Japanese armies had announced their intention to march right up to the boundaries of Burma. [An HON. MEMBER: "And Tibet."] We have no control over Tibet, but we have control over Burma, and for the first time in the history of the British Empire they will be right on our frontier—a great, aggressive, military Empire, commanding millions of soldiers. We came to the conclusion that we could not tackle it in 1932. That is a new event. It is a very grave event for the British Empire. There are the troubles in India, which were referred to by my hon. and learned Friend, and there is a good deal of dissatisfaction with the concessions which were made. There are demands for much greater concessions. There are demands for independence there, and here you have this military Empire, with millions of men, marching right up to the borders of that great Eastern Empire of ours, and no policy of any sort or kind that I can see to deal with the tremendous situation in the Far East.
It is not merely in China that we have made a complete surrender. We have made a complete surrender in Abyssinia. There is no demand put forward by Mussolini that we are not prepared to concede in this Anglo-Italian Pact. There is no negotiation, there is no give-and-take. There is no demand on Mussolini that at any rate he shall concede to the Ethiopians the measure of liberty which we conceded to the Boer Republic after we conquered it. There is no demand as to whether there is to be any self-government, whether the laws and customs of the people are to be respected. It is a purely unconditional surrender.
Take the third case, Spain. As far as I can see, we are there surrendering unconditionally. The 10,000 which are taken away as against the few thousands there are on the other side—that is practically a sham. The material is what matters in that fight, the aeroplanes, the great, heavy guns, the guns on the Straits of Gibraltar, which would close the Straits in the event of a war and make it impossible for us to have the same use of the port of Gibraltar as we had in any war we have been engaged in, as we had in the Great War of 1914. Are there any conditions to be made? We really ought to know something about these things, and we ought to be taken into the confidence of the Government. With regard to Czechoslovakia, the surrender there was not merely an unconditional surrender. There was a demand made by the Henlein Sudetens, and all that was conceded. Then fresh demands were made, and they were conceded at Berchtesgaden. These having been conceded, fresh demands were put forward. We entered into a Pact at Munich, and this has been disregarded, and further aggressions have been committed. It is not merely an unconditional surrender, it is giving a free hand in all these cases, East and West and in Africa, to these Powers. We are entitled to know, if the Prime Minister is going to take in hand the appeasement of the world, what are his ideas about it. Is the policy which we are going to negotiate with Italy and with Germany to be identical with that of which we have had experionce during the past seven years? If it is, I think we ought to be told beforehand.
Now I would like to put another point. There is a very great uneasiness. I do not want to make any controversial points. I got up not intending to make a controversial speech, and I shall do my best to keep within those limits which I made up my mind to impose upon myself. All the same, I must say one thing which may be regarded as a personal criticism of those who represent the Government, but it is merely a statement of fact. There is a great uneasiness in this country that when we meet these great dictators—some of the astutest, most daring men that we have ever had to encounter, either in negotiations or even in war, for well over a century, very hard, capable, and shrewd men, knowing their own minds, knowing what their policy is, determined to pursue it by every conceivable method, and doing so, and hitherto with a tremendous success which has established the foundations of their authority, not merely in their own countries, but throughout Europe—that we have not had anybody who has been quite equal to them in dealing with them.
There is that real uneasiness in the minds of very many people in this country who generally support the Government. The mention that has been made of rearmament has in itself added a good deal to that disquietude. We have been rearming since 1935. We have spent enormous sums of money, but we were not ready after two or three years, I will not say to wage war against the dictators, but to defend our own shores, our own towns, our own harbours, our own shipping, our own women and children. We had an extraordinary spectacle last week of two important Ministers sitting astraddle the penitent form, each vieing with the other in making confes sions, relying upon the old adage that the darker, the grosser the sin, the more acceptable the penitence. You had that going on last week, and that has created a sort of feeling, in the richest country in Europe, one of the greatest industrial countries in the world, unable after the expenditure of hundreds of millions to provide even the most elementary equipment for the defence of our country—a feeling that you cannot altogether trust people of that sort in a negotiation with two of the ablest rulers and the most ruthless rulers in the world.
Parliament ought to be told. We were confronted, in the surrender of Czechoslovakia, with an accomplished fact. It had already been decided upon, and then it was put into force. There was no discussion in this House at all. There was no attempt to seek the opinions of the House or to find out what its attitude was. There was no attempt to get suggestions from their own supporters. It is unfair to Parliament, to hon. Members opposite. They are confronted with an alternative which is very unsatisfactory to anybody who belongs to a very well organised party like the party opposite. They have to decide between acquiescence and a severe whipping, or, if I may put it in a personal form, between Mussolini and Margesson. I cannot conceive a more unpleasant alternative. I do feel that for hon. Members supporting the Government the main responsibility as long as they have a majority rests with them for interpreting the will of the nation and for interpreting the policy of the nation.
Parliament ought to be told in time what line the Prime Minister proposes to take. I will give three or four things which I think we ought to be told. The hon. Gentleman has told us about Spain. He has been very skilful, and nothing is more skilful in an Under-Secretary than to appear to be extraordinarily candid and yet not tell us anything. He has done that with amazing dexterity and I congratulate him on his success. He has not told us what is going to happen. There are a good many things which make us very uneasy. First of all, the policy of non-intervention has not been carried out. Anybody who watches these battles with any knowledge of what battles mean and what their tremendous machinery means, knows that the rebel equipment can only have been accumulated in defiance of the whole policy of non-intervention and of the solemn pledges given by these two great dictators to the British Government. The Government have assumed that non-intervention is in existence. In the King's Speech they say that the policy of non-intervention will be carried on. That is a Royal pledge, not to the people of this country merely, but to the people of Spain and to the people of Europe. Are we going to dishonour the pledge given by our Sovereign in that respect? We ought to know what the Government are going to do about that pledge.
That ominous speech delivered by the Foreign Secretary in the other place—what did it mean? He said that Mussolini could not allow Franco to be defeated. What does that mean? It means that he is not going to allow him to be defeated. He has told us that he is not going to allow him to be defeated. That means that he is going on supplying him with all the aeroplanes, with all the heavy guns, with all the ammunition, with the means of starving the Spanish population, with the means of sinking British ships and carrying on the war within a few miles of our coast. That is what it means. If it does not, we ought to know. Are the Government going to insist in their agreement with Mussolini that that business must stop and that the Spanish people must fight out their own battles in their own way? If they are prepared to accept an intervention in the sense of an attempt to pacify Spain by the intervention of the Powers, that is a different matter. But if the Government are going to say, "Well, until Franco wins we are not going to intervene; whatever Mussolini sends there, whatever Hitler sends there, whatever military, naval or aerial help they give, we shall not intervene"—if that is their policy, why put words into the mouth of the Sovereign which pledge us to a policy of non-intervention?
Then there is the question which is of such vital moment to this country, and I have never been able, nor have any of my hon. Friends here been able, to get any answer. We have pointed out that what is happening in Spain is placing the British Empire in a worse strategical position than it has ever been in if it should get into trouble. There are guns on both sides of the Straits of Gibraltar, great guns which can close the Straits, which can dominate the harbour of Gibraltar and render it perfectly worthless in the event of war. It is a thing we never allowed before this war. If there were any sort of suspicion that the Spanish Government were attempting anything of that kind, we always communicated with them. We have always felt that we had such an interest in the freedom of the Straits that we would have regarded an act of that kind on the part of the Spanish Government as hostile to the interests of those whose trade and whose communications with their Eastern Empire depended—not entirely, but mainly—upon the freedom of the Straits. I want to ask anybody who is replying, whether now or later, whether, if the Government are to have a pact with Germany and with Italy, they are going to make any conditions that will ensure that the freedom of the Straits will be guaranteed—not by a paper pact; the doctrine of the scrap of paper seems to be dominating Germany just as much to-day as it did in 1914. The way they have broken the conditions in Munich shows it, and you cannot have the life of a nation dependent merely on a paper understanding.
Are we going to ask them how that matter stands? That question has been asked repeatedly. We have never had any discussion about it. It has always been ignored by Ministers, and yet it is a vital consideration. One of the great arguments for rearmament is that you cannot go to the peace table to negotiate with great Powers if you are not adequately armed to stand up for your own rights, or what you consider your rights. Strategically we are put in a most dangerous position if this continues, and we shall know it every time. Not only shall we know it, but the Germans will know it; Mussolini will know it. Every time we come to negotiate there will be the knowledge at the back of our minds that if there is trouble we are in a very much worse position to stand up to them than we have ever been in the whole history of our country. Is nothing going to be said about the bombing of our food ships? They have been bombed by aeroplanes, not by Spanish aeroplanes, but by Italian aeroplanes; not by Italian aeroplanes that were in aerodromes in Spain and had been handed over to Franco; they have been aeroplanes that have left Italy, flown to Majorca, rested there a short time in order to find out where they could operate, and then gone straight to the harbours of Spain and bombed and sunk our ships. Is nothing to be said about that? Are we to make no conditions? Parliament really ought to demand an answer to that question.
I should like to know about disarmament. As long as the present condition of the world goes on we cannot neglect to provide whatever is necessary. In order to make us equal to our responsibilities or to enable us to face our perils we must to the last ounce of our strength make ourselves ready and strong. But that does not mean a permanent condition of things, and it is certainly not appeasement. Disarmament is going to be the test. I mean general disarmament; I do not mean disarmament by us and France alone. General disarmament will be the real test of any peace we make. Herr Hitler has said so. He has delivered some very extraordinary speeches recently, very violent speeches, and, as far as some of my friends in this House are concerned, rather abusive. From his point of view, I think they have deserved it. He is not a man who speaks without cause. I have followed his speeches very closely. He is not just talking nonsense because he has got excited; he is not that type of man. There is a point in what he say. He says, "I made peace with you at Munich"—which means he thought he had got us—"why are you struggling and, above all, after I told you I was not going to make war upon you, what is all this fuss about rearmament? You are doubling your efforts, you are making appeals such as you never made before, you are apologising because you have not done enough, and you are promising you will be good boys and double and treble what you did before." Hitler says, "I don't understand it. The Prime Minister remained behind to clear anything up and settle everything most amicably with me. He goes back and says, 'I have now got peace in our time,' and now he says, 'We must increase our efforts to arm.'" Hitler says, "I don't understand it," and he is right. He says, "If Munich meant peace, there is no justification for all this fuss about rearmament."
The Government have taken the view, which has been taken, I think, now by the majority of the people of this country and a great many supporters of the Government, that Munich did not mean peace, and therefore there is all this feverish effort to rearm—at any rate, the promise, which is a different thing. The Prime Minister said yesterday that we need not worry about trade, for we have peace now and peace brings confidence to trade, and therefore trade will improve. Does he really think he will restore confidence as long as the transaction which he has completed is one which ends by an acceleration of the armaments programme in every nation under the sun—America, France, ourselves, Italy, Germany, Russia and Japan? Traders are not fools. They know that we are arming not against an imaginary peril but against a real one, and the result is that until you get a settlement that will give confidence of a real peace—not a peace of surrender, of retreat, of giving up one thing after another, but a real, genuine peace, not a sham one—you will not get the confidence which is necessary to revive trade in the world. Disarmament is the test.
That brings me to another question—that of Russia. The hon. Gentleman said in his speech there was to be no Four-Power Pact. Does that mean that Russia is to be brought into the negotiations? If you are simply going to have an arrangement between Italy, Germany, France and ourselves without bringing in Russia, what is that but a Four-Power Pact? In my judgment that would be a fundamental mistake in the Government's policy. This is not a Communist country and there is no sign that it is going to become one. We have only one Communist Member in this House. One of the things which the Government have been saying, and rightly saying—I am entirely with them in this—is that we ought not to consider what ideology or system of government a country has before entering into a pact with it. We are neither Fascists nor Communists. We cannot possibly, as a democratic and free people, approve of the things that are happening in Germany or Italy, but, nevertheless, we are entering into discussions with them for a general peace. I am all for it, as long as we treat other nations of whose political systems we do not approve in the same way.
We do not agree with Fascism or its methods, we repudiate them, we are horrified by some of them, but the same remark would apply, as far as the vast majority in this country are concerned, to a good many of the things which are done in Russia. Why should we enter into negotiations with these Fascist Powers in spite of the fact that we disapprove of their methods and of the principles of their Government, and yet rule out a much greater country? On what grounds do we take that attitude? It is one of the most stupid things which any Government could do. We entered into a pact with Russia when it was Tsarist, with its pogroms, with its shooting-down of the workmen in the streets of St. Petersburg; we entered into a pact with a relentless autocracy. We did that in 1914, with the general consent of the nation.
Why are we ruling the Russians out now, purely because Herr Hitler says, "I am not going to treat with them"? Let me show the folly of it. Herr Hitler now boasts that he has 80,000,000 people inside Germany. There are 180,000,000 in Russia. Anyone who reads the very interesting volume published by Lord Londonderry of his interview with Herr Hitler in 1936 will find there the Führer's opinion of the Russian Army. He said that it was the strongest Army in the world, technically perfect, with the strongest tank force and the strongest air force. That was two years ago. What has happened since then? [An HON. MEMBER: "Executions."] There have been executions in Germany, too. One of their ablest generals was assassinated by order. Other generals are being got rid of. It is news to me that getting rid of generals is always a bad thing for an army.
Mr. Lloyd George:
I should like the hon. and gallant Member to point to a single case where Russia has intervened in the same way that Germany and Italy have intervened in Spain—[Interruption]—and in Palestine. It was part of our agreement that Italy should cease to interfere in Palestine, and there is no proof that she has carried it out. I was going to add, before I was interrupted, that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War got rid of his Staff, and at any rate things have not got very much worse since then. I was dealing with what has happened since 1936. Since then it is a well known fact—Russia has been spending enormous sums of money upon increasing the strength of her army, spending more money than Germany. According to what appeared the other day in, I think, the "Toronto Weekly Star," she has got 2,500,000 men under arms. She has got 18,000,000 reserves. No other country commands a force anything like that. And there is a fact which I remember Lord Kitchener telling me before 1914, when we were talking about the possibilities of war with Germany. I said to him, "The Russians did not seem to do very well against Japan." He replied, "Don't you underrate the Russians. I know the Russian soldier. He is the most fearless, dauntless, tenacious soldier in the world."
The Committee of Imperial Defence, three years before the War, had ascertained the strength of every army in the world, and when Sir Henry Wilson came to give us the strength of Russia he told us of the deficiencies in equipment, in transport, in guns, in the means of supply, and in ammunition. There was nothing which we discovered in the War which we had not been told beforehand. The amazement to us was that for two years Russia held up the attack of what was the finest army in the world at that time—without guns, without rifles, with men standing behind with no rifles in their hands but waiting to pick up the rifles of stricken comrades and then to carry on the fight. With hardly any ammunition they held up the Germans until we were ready. The Russians now have a great factory system; their transport has increased. They have a system which will enable them to supply all their deficiencies themselves. Nobody would say that Russia is a great industrial country in the sense that this country is, or Germany, or the United States of America, but she is infinitely better than she was before. Where does that great country come in? We are going to ignore it, to rule it out. What is Russia. they say?" We hear silly little interruptions like, "Are you going to deal with Bolsheviks?" When you are dealing with the prospect of war you cannot consider things of that sort.
Further, you cannot have disarmament unless you bring in Russia. That is the thing that matters. Russia recently has been doing a thing which she was not forced to do before, to arm for a war on two fronts, which has altered the whole military position. If she does not disarm, and if we do not bring her in, treating her frankly like a great nation of 180,000,000 brave people, who were prepared to sacrifice 5,000,000 or 6,000,000 of their youth when they fought side by side with us—if we are not prepared to treat her in the way a great people like that ought to be treated, how shall we get her to disarm? First you are going to get a pact with Italy and with Germany. Then you allow Italy and Germany to convert Spain into a Fascist State, so that there will be three fascist countries against you—and when that is done you are going to turn to Russia. That is not the way if you are looking for peace. If you have any other ulterior purpose let us know what it is. You may I have a genuine sympathy with these Fascist dictators, believe in their ideologies, think it is better for the world that we should have things of that sort—and the way in which criticism is deprecated and condemned and abused recently shows that you have in your hearts a desire for the same powers—but Hitler cannot disarm as long as Russia is armed. It would be too much to expect him to do it. I ask, therefore, why is it that we are not bringing in Russia? Have they refused, these friends of yours, to come to any discussion in which Russia is represented? If they have, how are you going to have peace?
And then we come to China. You are not going to help China. You are going to send her a few supplies, a few packages here and there, when she is fighting for her life against a terrible aggressor and invader who is going to march right up to the bounds of our Eastern Empire with her great forces, and to the bounds of France's Empire. Can you disarm without getting a settlement in China? Or are you contemplating a settlement in China like the settlement you have in Czechoslovakia, like the settlement that you are going to allow Mussolini to impose upon Spain, settlements that will hand over 400,000,000 of industrious people to the great dictator of the East, and hand Spain and Czechoslovakia to the great dictators of Europe? And when they have accomplished that task, then you are going to make peace with them. I cannot imagine a greater act of folly. They have cut us off in the East already, in Hong Kong and Shanghai. Our trade has been shut off. The Customs will be in their hands in future. We shall be dependent entirely upon their good will; and, mark you, it is no good talking about the Washington Treaty. What is the good of it? It has been completely torn up. Japan disregards it, and so do we.
The right hon. Gentleman—and this is my last point, and I apologise for taking up so much time—has been pressed by my hon. and learned Friend to say something about the League of Nations. Could anyone infer from what the Under-Secretary of State said what the intentions of the Government are? What are they? Wars are going on now, and the League of Nations is not called in at all, not allowed to intervene—completely ignored. He says, "The Covenant." What is the good of a Covenant which is not in force? Like any other document, when a tribunal says: "We cannot take any cognisance of the document because a lot of people object, and therefore we cannot take any notice of it," it is suspended—by the neck until it be dead.
The only point I would like to put to the Government in conclusion is that a mere piecemeal arrangement and understanding with Italy and Germany will not carry you any further. It will only carry you further from the ultimate goal. You must have all the nations of the earth coming into the settlement, because disarmament is essential. If you say that you cannot do it through the League of Nations—well, I would have it done. There was a time when Herr Hitler himself proposed it. That was two years ago. He cannot go back upon it now. He cannot go back upon it if you insist upon it and if you say: "We are prepared to discuss the whole of this issue and to put an end to this nightmare that is oppressing the world, paralysing all its peaceful activities and giving it a horror which is a daily and nightly one for untold millions, for some of whom it means death, destruction and mutilation."
Why do not the Government come and take the House into their confidence and put forward a big, bold programme, wide as humanity itself, calling them all in? Ask them: "Cannot we stop this?" Everybody wants to stop it. There was a thrill of relief, and I do not mind say ing that I felt it myself when I heard that there would be no war, although I did not agree with the terms. There would be a relief which would be well-founded, and it would be a permanent relief. You would change the whole aspect of the world. I beg the Prime Minister not to go on with these dictators trying to settle grievances which can be settled only by an appeal to the whole tribunal of mankind, nations north, south, east and west. Then, and then only, there would be peace on earth and good will among men.
When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) first rose to his feet I expected something in the nature of a Philippic. At first I thought I was going to be deceived, because he started so quietly, so reasonably and calmly that it appeared almost to be a Georgic. But the old Adam—if he will allow me to take liberties with his name—at last came out, and the end of his speech was nothing but an attack on the Government for their alleged sins of omission and commission, committed during the last few years. I thought, when I heard the right hon. Gentleman's reasonable tones at the beginning: Is this the white sheet of repentance? The longer it is delayed the more acceptable is the repentance, but there was no repentance on his side, even so far as Russia was concerned. I seem to remember that the right hon. Gentleman was Prime Minister at the time when he was making war on Russia. Now he accuses the Government of doing something which they have no intention whatever of doing, shutting Russia out of the comity of nations.
Mr. Lloyd George:
I said that the mere fact that we were making war on Germany in 1919 does not mean that we ought not to be at peace with her to-day. We made war with Germany, but I am all in favour of making peace with Germany.
I was not speaking of Germany. In 1919 the Armistice had been signed and we were at peace, but the right hon. Gentleman seemed to be quite willing to engage in a new war with Russia. I do not wish to go back into the past; it was the right hon. Gentleman himself who insisted upon so doing. He adopted the ancient Parliamentary trick of the wise, elderly politicians when he knows that he has no case himself, of posing a number of—as he thinks—ingenious and difficult questions to the Government. I certainly hoped that we should hear rather more from the right hon. Gentleman of the policy which he has been putting forward in the last few days, and of which I hope to say something in a moment. The right hon. Gentleman spoke, as usual, with a keen sense of his irresponsibility. He made a most violent attack upon the Government. He put forward all kinds of rhetorical questions, some of which will no doubt be answered in due time. He accused the Government, in implication if not in words, of being the worst Government that there has been for a very long time.
If the right hon. Gentleman really thinks that, he must be a remarkably poor democrat. Surely he believes what he has professed all his life to believe, in the innate good sense of the democratic system and of the British working man. The British working man has successively returned to power Conservative or National Governments. What has been the confidence of the British working men in the right hon. Gentleman himself? They have returned him, it is true, but with only three other supporters. It is surely rather overstating the case, and it is an attack upon the good sense of the British voter, to claim that this Government—or any other Government in the last few years—is the most inept of modern times.
I believe the right hon. Gentleman reached the pinnacle of his fame in the years 1916–18. He always seems to me to have something approaching a war mentality. He does not seem to understand the piping times of peace, even armed peace. He always uses warlike and bellicose metaphors. Furthermore, I honestly believe that ever since the War the right hon. Gentleman has, in every possible national emergency, sought, although he may have done it unintentionally, to create the maximum of trouble for the Government of the day. He has seemed to me to flit hither and thither like a venerable poltergeist from Westminster to Churt, from Churt to Criccieth and from Criccieth to Carnarvon, kicking over the pots and pans, turning the cream sour—I speak in a figurative sense, of course—and frightening the cows that are about to become mothers; but I do not think that the effect of all those interventions has been quite what the right hon. Gentleman has intended. Here again, once more in a time of international trouble, we see the same hand squeezing a spot of poison here and there into the hell-brew for which he was so largely responsible in the peace treaties of 20 years ago.
I freely admit that at that time I had the keenest admiration for the right hon. Gentleman. He may not want it now, but unfortunately, in common, I am afraid, with almost the rest of the country, I have had to revise that admiration and the respect in which we formerly held him, not for his qualities of oratory but for his qualities of wisdom. I am sorry to have made a rather violent attack upon the right hon. Gentleman—I have done it only because of the great position that he formerly occupied as Prime Minister of this country—because of the affection in which members of his family are held in this House. I feel most earnestly and sincerely that his influence during the past 20 years has been a funereal one for this country.
What has been the right hon. Gentleman's attitude over this affair of Czechoslovakia? I understood him only the other day, in his speech at the luncheon of the Free Church Ministers' Club, to make a violent attack on the British Government, and particularly on the Prime Minister, for refusing to risk going to war on the question of Czechoslovakia. Would the right hon. Gentleman himself have, as he would say, called Hitler's bluff? Would he have risked a war on that issue? Would he have taken the chance that Hitler was bluffing? What would he have done, unless he was himself
prepared to go to war? He talked about turning over Czechoslovakia, wrapped in a Union Jack and Tricolour, to a ruthless dictator. It would be just as sensible to talk of handing over Wales wrapped in the Stars and Stripes. That is language which we really do not expect from a responsible statesman. Furthermore, if the right hon. Gentleman would have been prepared to go to war, what does he think would have been the result? Would he have been willing to hurl his constituents into another blood-bath in order to perpetuate his own errors of 20 years ago? And what then? After a few more millions had been killed, and a peace of ashes had been built once again, nothing would have been proved except the innate idiocy of mankind. To quote the old poet:
'But what good came of it at last?'
Quoth little Peterkin,
'Why, that I cannot tell' said he,
'But' twas a famous victory.'
That is what would have happened after, perhaps, four more years of death, misery, and destruction. At the present time we are still suffering from the effects of the last War. There are a million people in Britain, and thousands more all over the world, suffering from bereavement and from blindness, distortion and other forms of disablement as a result of the last War, and, if we followed the advice of the right hon. Gentleman and some others, we should have another million people going about maimed and in misery.
The right hon. Gentleman said something about the question of Gibraltar, and claimed that the Government, in any arrangement that was made, should insist on the freedom of the Straits. He said that mere paper treaties are of no use; that we had experience of them in the "scrap of paper" in relation to Belgium. But, unless you make a treaty, what else are you going to do? It is true that you might dismantle the guns, but, unless there is a willingness to carry out any treaty that may be made, with dictators or anyone else, it is impossible to go on with international arrangements at all. The right hon. Gentleman in his jeremiad, which was similar to those we have so often heard from right hon. Gentlemen opposite, said that, if General Franco is successful in Spain, he will necessarily be hostile to this country and in the pocket of Germany and Italy. I should say, on the other hand, that on balance the danger of the Valencia Government winning would be more harmful to this country than if General Franco were to win, because it is obvious that, if the Valencia Government win, Spain would have a weak government of a number of different complexions, ranging from Middle Right through Moderate Liberal and Left to extreme Communism or Anarchism. Such a government is bound to be weak. What better chance could there be for any foreign Power wishing to extend its influence in Spain than to find there a weak government of that kind? On the other hand, if General Franco wins, Spain will at least have a government which, though one may disagree with it, will at any rate be a strong government, jealous of every inch of Spanish soil.
I only wish to take up a little more of the time of the House. I am afraid that my indignation at the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman, which has been brewing for some years, led me astray. I want to say just a few more sentences on the question of Czechoslovakia. Supposing that the Prime Minister had taken an imprudent step, supposing that he had been jostled into war by those who seemed willing to risk such a catastrophe, what should we have been fighting for? I can think of a number of things for which we should not have been fighting. We should not have been fighting for our allies the Czechs, because they were not our allies. We should not have been fighting for self-determination, as we were in the last War; oddly enough, we should have been fighting against self-determination. We should not have been fighting for the League of Nations, because the matter had never gone to the League of Nations. We should not have been fighting in self-defence, because we had not been attacked. We should not have been fighting for democracy, because we should have had Russia, the greatest dictatorship country in the world, on our side, or so it is said; and Portugal and probably Turkey would at least have been favourably inclined towards us. We should not have been fighting a war to end war. In fact we should have been fighting in defence of France, unwillingly drawn in, because we could not afford to run the risk of Germany being in possession of the Channel ports. We should have been fighting merely because of an imprudent treaty entered into several years ago by our old Ally.
The affair of Czechoslovakia is over for better or worse. It may well be claimed that, if there were another war now, our position would be a great deal worse than it would have been only a month or so ago, and I think that that is probably the case; but, on the other hand, good things have come out in the meantime. I believe that the nations were so close to war only a month ago that they realise their incredible dangers, and that even Germany and Italy, as well as ourselves, are determined to do everything possible to avoid that risk again. Furthermore, understanding has come about. I believe that in this country we understand the problems of Germany a little better than we did before, and it may be that the Germans themselves now have a little better understanding of our view than before. Members of the House during the last few weeks, since the Munich Agreement, however bitter their attacks may have been upon the Prime Minister and the Government, have always spoken in favour of the second part of the Prime Minister's policy, namely, the bringing about of appeasement; but many hon. Members, both inside and outside this House, and many organs of the Press, although they have declared their support of this part of the Prime Minister's policy, have done a great deal to make it as difficult as it could be made by openly vilifying Herr Hitler, Signor Mussolini, and the Nazi and Fascist régimes.
As one hon. Member said only the other day, there are only two alternatives before us in dealing with these States; either we have to make friends with them or to fight them. If our policy is to try to carry on verbally an undying hostility to systems of government with which we may happen not to agree, there is no hope. I agree that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) and others have reason on their side, and that there is justice in their claim that they have been wantonly attacked; but I think it is necessary for us in this country to remember the difficulties which Herr Hitler has. I am not an apologist for the Fascist or the Nazi régime, and personally, if the Government had led us into war, although in my view they would have been wrong, I should willingly have fought again; and I should have been fighting, incidentally, for our own Parliamentary institutions. I think, however, it is absolutely necessary, if we are to have any enduring peace in the world, that we should try to make friends and avoid vilification and vituperation. As I have said, I am no apologist for the Nazi régime, but I believe the position to be roughly this: Herr Hitler says, in effect, When I recently made a pact at Munich, I believed that the Prime Minister of Great Britain was entirely sincere, both in his declaration that he made jointly with me and in his general pursuit of peace; but I, Hitler, as Führer of Germany, find it difficult to make any agreement with those who openly in the House of Commons call me a blackmailer, who look upon me as an ogre, and are trying to get together a band of people who will support a policy of preventive war against Germany."
I remember that, when I was a child, we used to have an engaging pastime known as a snub fight, in which the participants used to make the most odious remarks about the personal characteristics, ancestry, and everything else of the other party, it may have been in a crescendo leading to open hostility, or a diminuendo after the hostilities had ceased. But, sooner or later, someone, not necessarily the weakest, called out "Pax," and the fighting and quarrelling stopped and we were able to engage in our ordinary work or play again. I believe that, if hon. and right hon. Gentlemen and distinguished public people in this country would try for a few weeks to refrain from making these attacks on the dictators and their systems, there would be an instant response from the other side. I think that that would be worth trying; certainly it has never been tried yet. The other policy, of attacking them all the time, is making incredibly difficult the Prime Minister's task of trying to engage in the pacification of Europe and the world.
There are those of us who take a very different view on foreign politics from that ordinarily taken by the right hon. Gentleman, and the view of many of us was prevalent all through our English history. I will conclude with a passage written by Lord Bolingbroke 200 years ago, which is as applicable to our policy, and particularly to the policy of the Prime Minister, as it was in the early eighteenth century. Lord Bolingbroke wrote:
On This it will depend whether They shall prevail, who desire that Great Britain should maintain such a Dignity and prudent Reserve in the Broils of Europe, as become her Situation, suit her Interest, and alone can enable Her to cast the Ballance; or They, who are eager, on every Occasion, to prostitute her Dignity, to pawn her Purse, and to sacrifice her Commerce, by intangling Her not only too much with the other great Powers of Europe, from whom she may sometimes want reciprocal Engagements, but even with these diminutive Powers, from whom it would be ridiculous to expect any.
I must say that, as I listen to this Debate and watch the development of events in the world, I am reminded of the saying attributed to Chatham, who, when things were bad in the world, said, "Roll up the map of Europe." As I listen to this Debate, I feel like extending the words of Chatham, and saying, "Roll up the map of the world." The hon. Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Mr. Petherick) did not seem to me to have any material, essential difference with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). Their points of view, fundamentally, I think were very much the same. Possibly there is a little bit of difference, because the hon. Member for Penryn and Falmouth has a certain greater admiration for Hitler than has the right hon. Gentleman; but, fundamentally, it appeared to me that their point of view is very much the same: things have got bad in international relations, and the right hon. Gentleman said that the Government are weak in dealing with that situation because they do not face up more strongly and say harder words to Hitler, while the hon. Gentleman says we should be more distrustful of Russia than of Germany with regard to future developments.
I and my colleagues look at things somewhat differently from most hon. Members. We differ fundamentally from other Members. The Independent Labour party was the one party in this country that came out definitely against the Versailles Peace Treaty when it was made. We pointed out during all those years that the line that was being taken was wrong and would lead to terrible consequences. The Independent Labour party was right, as is generally recognised to-day. Future history, possibly, will also say that the Independent Labour party was right on this occasion, when their point of view was stated by my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) during the crisis.
The Prime Minister, it appears, came back from his visit to Germany assured that he had two alternatives—either practically to accept the terms of Hitler or else to go to war. There was not a choice between three courses that he could pursue—either the Munich settlement or war, or a better settlement than the Munich settlement. That was his opinion, and when we had his statement the hon. Member for Bridgeton thanked him—and, I think, rightly thanked him—because he had the moral courage to refuse the alternative of war and to accept the Munich settlement, although the settlement is quite obviously distasteful to him, as he himself stated, in so many respects. It took a great deal of courage for the Prime Minister of this country to accept the humiliating items in the Munich settlement rather than to lead the country into a great conflict, of which no one could tell what the end would be but which would have involved the loss of many millions of lives.
But there is a very big body of opinion in the country that does not accept the point of view of the Prime Minister that there was a choice between the two courses only. They believe that there was the possibility of a better settlement, and that Hitler was really indulging in a great game of bluff. They feel that the Prime Minister should have called Hitler's bluff. A friend of mine who was a pacifist—he was against the last War, and a conscientious objector—put it to me very strongly. There have been many fairy tales gathered round those events. He assured me that what happened in this Chamber, the passing of the message with regard to Munich, had all been arranged beforehand. I think that type of mind is one of the dangerous elements in the situation—the type of mind that accepts a mythical tale like that. I remember that when the Prime Minister unfolded his statement he was so uncertain with regard to the possibility of any alternative that I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), "This speech means war"—so far as the first part of the speech was concerned. But now there is this myth. I say that that is a very dangerous type of mind. But more dangerous still is the type of mind that says, "The other Government is bluffing; call the bluff," and are yet not prepared to face the consequences of the bluff being called. There are a great many people who, when the question is put to them as to whether, when the bluff is called, if it turns out to be not bluff but war, they would be prepared to take part in the war, say, like my friend to whom I put that question, "No, certainly not." I do not believe in calling bluffs unless you are prepared to pay the stakes.
At the same time, my friends and I have no more faith in the policy of appeasement which is being fallowed by the Prime Minister than we had in the previous policy of the League of Nations. What the Prime Minister did get was a respite, an opportunity. But I do not believe there is any hon. Member in this House who thinks that there is any substantial improvement in the general international situation. When the Prime Minister accepted the resignation of his previous Foreign Secretary he told us that when he took over the job he had been greatly concerned at the deterioration that had been proceeding in the general international situation, and that that increasing deterioration had led him to the conclusion that he must try somehow or other to avoid the worsening of the situation. There was certainly a deterioration in the international situation at the time of the crisis as compared with the situation at the time when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Leamington and Warwick (Mr. Eden) resigned, and the deterioration has gone on. As I watch events in the world, with heads of great States calling "Liar" throughout Europe at the heads of other great States, and the general sense of irritation with which responsible statesmen regard the statesmen in other countries, it appears to me that the deterioration in the international situation is really still proceeding.
Even with the desire of the Prime Minister for peace and his hope that this is going to be an appeasement policy, we have no confidence in it, because we do not think that the Prime Minister is really getting to the root difficulties of the problem. The international problem is very much like the domestic problem. As I see it, the domestic problem arises from the discontent of the "have-nots" against the "haves." The international discontent is also a case of the "have-nots" and the "haves." There are the nations that are in a more fortunate situation with regard to raw material than other nations: with regard to colonies, with regard to the opportunities of trading with those colonial possessions; and it is quite obvious that a great deal of the difficulty in the world to-day is due to the fact that German imperialism, in its need of raw materials for development, is seeking to extend its domination in Central Europe, with the possibility also of extending its power and getting possession of raw materials—the possibility, for instance, of extension to Ukraine, as the Leader of Germany has said in his book. I do not see the foreign policy of this Government dealing with this fundamental question at all. The idea is that we will talk nice and come to an agreement with the Leader of Germany, in which possibly France and Italy will also join with us. Does anyone think that you are going to get any real settlement without settling the economic problems which are involved?
We criticised the policy of depending on the League of Nations because we said that what you had on the League would be representatives of the economic interests of the dominant class in Britain, the capitalist leaders in France, the capitalist leaders in Germany and the capitalist leaders in those other countries. The way they handled the business was to try to get the League to adopt a policy than would satisfy their own individual capitalist interests. You do not get rid of the problem by going to Geneva. When the right hon. Gentleman went to Geneva, he did not grow wings while he was crossing the Channel. He still went to represent the interests of British capitalism at Geneva. That is what he was looking at, and consequently he came into contact essentially with the capitalist interests of the other countries that were represented at Geneva.
That is why I think that the policy of the party above the Gangway, in seeking to make its peace policy depend upon the League of Nations and the collective peace system of the League of Nations, is fundamentally wrong. The policy of the party above the Gangway should depend upon the international working-class movement and not upon capitalism meet ing in a so-called League of Nations. Therefore I have very little faith in the policy of the Prime Minister, because fundamentally it is still the same and does not recognise the real problem and the difficulties of the countries which have not the raw materials or the opportunities in this world of competitive capitalism. However, I did not intend to take as long as I have taken with regard to the international problem because I was very conscious of the fact that the view of my hon. Friends and myself would not be accepted by the great majority in this House.
I wanted to deal with domestic concerns, and I am greatly disappointed at the way in which the Government have failed, in outlining their programme for the Session, to give any hope to the old people, the widows and spinsters in this country who are in need of an improvement in their pension conditions. I introduced a Bill at the close of last Session to give the Government the opportunity of taking the hint, but there is nothing in the King's Speech for the old age pensioners. There is all this talk about getting the nations together and developing national unity. The Government want to develop national unity in the face of a peril coming from the dominance of some other country or countries, and we here are expected to have a great sense of national unity, and yet the Government allow the overwhelming majority of the people to live in the most miserable poverty. In the King's Speech they make no provision for them. They are prepared to increase the armament programme; they are going to develop a voluntary service, and I hear Members in this House saying the most extraordinary things. I heard the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) yesterday, for example, tell the Government that, if they did not make it compulsory service, he would have to consider whether he could support the Government any longer, and he assured them that the people of this country were just bursting with the desire that the Government should introduce compulsory service. If the people of the country are in such a tremendous state of agitation to get this service going, and to be doing service, why are they not joining up with the Territorial forces, with air-raid precautions and all the rest of it, and the regular Army? If the overwhelming majority of the people of the country have this earnest desire to give service, why should it be made compulsory to bring in the few people evidently not in agreement with the hon. Member for East Aberdeen.
In the circumstances of to-day, we hear that it is disgraceful for people in this country to talk with such irresponsibility. The Prime Minister tells us that we could not do it if we were in Germany, and, if we are really to face up to the menace, we are assured that we shall have to adopt a new system altogether—compulsory national service, great increase in rearmament, the holding of our tongues, the limitation of our opportunities of criticism. It is quite true that, if conflict broke out with Germany we might be obliged to have a strong and powerful force with which to meet Germany, but we would not win the victory against that for which Herr Hitler stands, because we would have already practically adopted it. We are to have all those conditions practically—"shut your mouth or you will get into trouble," compulsory national service and all the rest of it—that they have adopted in Germany.
It is said that this country was badly prepared when the crisis came, but how do we know that Germany, if it had come to a conflict, was any better prepared than this country? There were not the exposures and criticisms in Germany, but I have no doubt that, if it were not for the dictatorship in Germany, there would have been a similar revelation of the fact that possibly in the many ways of carrying on a war a good deal had been utterly lost sight of by their Government. In this country we are deliberately pointing it out, but they have not the liberty of pointing it out, and I very much doubt whether their efficiency was very much greater than the efficiency of this country under a democratic regime.
My main point with regard to the Ring's Speech is one of utter disappointment at the way the Government intend to go to the people and ask them to render voluntary services and to rally behind the Government, and yet they have nothing in their programme for the improvement of the material conditions of great numbers of the people. There is a word or two about housing in it, but no promise of any great Measure. I am sorry that the Secretary of State for Scotland has gone away. I understood that he was going to reply, and I wanted some assurance from him that we were to have a much greater drive in housing in Scotland than has been the case hitherto. I also would like the Member of the Government who is to reply to this Debate to tell us at an early stage what is meant by the phrase with regard to the alteration in unemployment insurance in this country. There is the promise of amendments of the Unemployment Insurance Acts. There is the provision that we make under Unemployment Insurance and unemployment assistance for the maintenance of the unemployed. The allowance for children is 3s. per week. If these children were to be evacuated from London, if war was to come, the allowance given for their maintenance might be 8s. or 10s. a week. The parents of these children are allowed 3s. towards their maintenance, but, when it is a case of their having to be maintained outside, there is a suggested allowance of 8s. or 10s. If the Government were really concerned about the fundamentals of world peace they would deal decently with their own people at home and they would give the same allowances to parents for the maintenance of their children as the allowances they were prepared to give in time of crisis.
The whole point of view of the Government is wrong. We have to deal with the problem of the "have nots" and the "haves," and we have to be prepared, if we are to have national unity, also to share the resources of our country on a basis which will give to every family the opportunity of a decent life. These are the considerations I wish to put before the House in connection with the King's. Speech. I deprecate very much indeed that there is no promise of anything for the old people or for the widows and spinsters, nothing for the unemployed with regard to an improvement in maintenance so that we would be able to solve the problem of malnutrition, and no promise of great housing proposals that would allow the people living in the slums the opportunity of life in a decent home. The programme of the Government for this Session certainly does not offer any hope of a great improvement in the conditions of the people.
I do not propose this evening to follow the hon. Member who has just spoken into the realms of what is happening so far as social services are concerned, nor do I propose to go into a long discussion of the other points which have been raised in this connection. I feel that now is the time when, rather than making party capital, we should try and see to what extent we can find agreement among ourselves. If I bring up the point of this topic of Czechoslovakia in one way, surely, it is a point of agreement. The whole House was unanimously of the opinion that there was a considerable risk of war before that trouble. Now that the trouble is passed there may still be a risk of war—nobody will deny it—but for every grievance which has some substance in it which you can remove, that risk of war must, to a certain extent, be reduced. Some hon. Members may think that it is still the same to-day, and others may think that it is now much smaller, but as long as we are all agreed that there is some risk, surely, the main problem at the moment is the question of rearmament.
It is very easy to generalise on the subject of rearmament. I think, all things considered, that the machine, as it exists, has done the best that it can, but rather than make criticisms of the past, which get one very little distance forward, we should see in what way we could try and mend those gaps which appeared in our rearmament programme and in our preparations. It is better to take the mote out of your own eye before trying to take the mote out of anyone else's. There is one point which has struck me also very forcibly in this House, and that is on the subject of Question Time. I realise as much as any hon. Member the very great importance of Question Time. It gives a chance to Members to bring before the House grievances of individuals and of the community, and it is an opportunity to check up the activities of the great Government Departments. But surely anyone who has any experience of trying to run a business knows that with even quite a small business you have a very full-time job. Ministers are appointed to run a Government Department, and we in this House demand that practically every day they shall be in attendance for half the afternoon, while the House is sitting, while they have also to give up a good deal of their mornings as well to think out the answers to possible supplementary questions. As we must have questions, would it not be possible to take the questions to each Department on one day a week and on the other days the Minister could get on with his job in his office?
I have spoken of the mote in our own eye, and may I offer a suggestion as regards the Civil Service? A young man when he is considering whether he shall enter the Civil Service sees in it the prospect of an honourable profession, in which he can never earn a very high salary, but in which he will have security and the possibility of a reasonable pension at the end of his service. If he makes no mistakes, that is to say, if he takes no risks of initiative, he has a reasonable prospect of promotion, but if he takes the risk of initiative, from which mistakes might possibly arise, he will probably spoil his chance of promotion. To what type of mind, therefore, does the Civil Service appeal as a profession? Surely the cautious mind, the mind which is swayed by the consideration that risks must at all costs be avoided. The result is that we have in our Civil Service probably the finest working machine in the whole world, and one that makes the fewest mistakes. But if you are going to appoint a man to maintain a business which is already established the man you appoint is not necessarily the type of man you want in a business in which you want to double or treble your sales—a man with imagination and drive who is ready to take the risk of initiative.
Surely the one thing that we have missed during the past two or three years is that drive. To use a simile from a relaxation in which I talk a good deal of interest, in which it is the business of hounds to pursue a hare, there is a certain kind of hound who goes like a gun off the mark, and there is another type of hound which looks as if he had to be pulled off by a string. The paramount consideration with us to-day must be the question of speed. Speed and time are vital factors and, provided we get some results, it is much better that we should aim at speed, even if a certain number of mistakes are made. There are some types of boys who are not prepared to go out to secure those results, while there are others who like to go out and create something for themselves and take the risk of sinking or swimming. A great many of those boys succeed by initiative and drive, and I do think that too little use is being made in this country of that type. There is in every part of the community a strong feeling of patriotism. They would like to do something, and I believe that if they were appealed to they would come forward and give much of their time voluntarily to trying to help their country with the abilities which they have shown in the job that they are doing. There is another point, and that is the way in which senior Civil Servants, when they are becoming of great use to the country and have just got to the top of their Departments, are shifted into some other Department because it offers them a senior position. Surely it would be much better to pay them well in their own Department which they already know rather than to move them into another Department which they do not know.
With regard to our relations with the totalitarian States, I think the community can be divided into those who are so blinded by prejudice that they think the totalitarian States can do no wrong, there are others who think they can do no right, and there are those, and perhaps the largest body, who see the weaknesses of totalitarianism but are also prepared to see its possible advantages. When you judge a country like Germany do not take the advice only of the older people, because when the existing regime in Germany came into power they said to themselves that when people get to a certain age you cannot change their point of view, but what you can do is to bring up the younger generation in such a way as to stamp your point of view upon them. Therefore, most, of the efforts of the leaders of National Socialism in Germany have been directed at the younger people. When you want a picture of what we are going to do in the future, you should talk to the younger men in Germany because those are the people we shall have to deal with.
I think the one thing that we should dislike most in this country would be the curtailment of our liberty. What has struck me about Germany is that the rulers of that country have created a type of young man who, when he gets up in the morning to go to his work, does so not so much with the thought, "What can I do for myself?" but rather, "What can I do for my country, for my fellow- Germans?" If you create a communal feeling of that kind and make the young men feel that they should become fit members of their community, you will accomplish a good deal. There is, I think, the same idealism in this country. Unfortunately, except in emergencies, when I think it prevails in every part of the community, it is very often dormant. Surely no system of government, whether a democracy or a dictatorship, ever stands still. Those who have studied the Russian experiment will be aware of the many changes that have taken place in the Russian system of government in the last 20 years. The test of a dictatorship or a democracy is the direction in which they are going to evolve. People in this country say, "Never could we have a dictatorship here." I do not think that is a true statement. But the only thing that would bring a dictatorship in this country would be the unwillingness of individuals to live up to the responsibilities which are placed on them.
We have lately heard a good deal about moral rearmament. I am rather suspicious of phrases like that, because everybody is apt to take them as applying to their own particular side, and before you know where you are people are so muddled that they cannot see the wood for the trees. There are far too many people in this country to-day who are prepared to sit back and criticise, instead of going out to do the job for themselves, and when you tackle them they say, "Oh, that is not my job." The abuse of other systems of government gets you nowhere. I believe that abuse begets prejudice, and prejudice begets blindness, and, after all, it only drives the other side closer together. The only way in which you can influence people in the dictatorship countries is by the example that you offer, and if you can show them how much better certain aspects of our system are than their own, you will have some hope of getting them to evolve along our own lines. While we are certain that our system of government is the right one, are we so small-minded as to go in for a mud-slinging match? We should be above that sort of thing. We should try to show by our example which is the direction in which they should go, but we must first search our own hearts and make perfectly sure that that example is a good one. There are many ideas and prejudices in this country which may have to be scrapped in the years to come. I would urge, too, that there must be a new spirit throughout the country, a spirit of unselfish co-operation and understanding, and also a spirit of national gratitude for what we have managed to evolve under a system which even yet is not perfect. If we can get that spirit here, surely we can then expect those other countries to recognise the advantages which we enjoy, and they will then advance towards the goal of freedom.
With certain parts of the speech of the hon. Member for Peterborough (Lord Burghley) I find myself in agreement, but when he talks about getting contact with individuals in the dictatorship countries, particularly Germany, I wonder whether he realises the extreme difficulty of getting such contacts? He reminded us that we should pay attention not only to the views of older people in Germany but of the younger ones. I wonder whether the House would be interested in listening to an experience I had only recently when at Nuremberg. One of the best displays I saw there was a display given by young girls. It was on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, when a gymnastic display, such as one might often see in this country, but marvellously organised, was given by well drilled girls. I was entirely satisfied with that spectacle which could have been given in this country without the slightest criticism.
At the end of the afternoon's performance a gentleman who, I believe, is the Reichs führer for Sport Baldur von Schirach—at any rate he is the leader in Germany for sports—[HON. MEMBERS: "Leader of the Youth Movement."]—addressed the performers. This gentleman is of such an age, I believe, that certainly there was no possibility of his serving in the last War, and he proceeded to decry the generation which produced these girls. He went on to tell how the girls of Germany in the olden days were poor anaemic things who could only play "The Maiden's Prayer" on the piano (which is certainly a libel on the musical talent of Germans), and he went on to say that the new generation which he saw before him was quite a different generation from that which had preceded it. I turned to one of the leaders of these girls and said, "How old is Baldur von Schirach?" I think she said he was somewhere in the region of 30. I said, "Is he married, and has he any children of his own?" and I think the answer was "No." I said it was blasphemy for this man to talk to those young girls and say some of the things he was saying about the older generation who had fought on the battlefields and fought valiantly and helped to produce these children.
That is not going to help. If we are to take the views of the young people, those views must be properly formed, but the views of the young people in Germany, and not only in Germany but elsewhere, are being ill-formed by leaders such as the gentleman to whom I have referred. I have attempted to get not only the views of the older people in Germany, but of the younger people also, and I have many contacts, and I can assure the Noble Lord that not all the young people who are now being forced to serve in Germany are in entire agreement with the objects of the Fuhrer, as evidenced when they thought they might be led into war in the recent crisis.
I agree with the Noble Lord that we ought not to go out of our way to abuse other governments, but I wonder whether he remembers the abuse that has been levelled against the Russian Government by members of his own party. If we are to be fair we should not limit our abusive observations to one country, but we should avoid abuse against all countries. Abuse has produced bad blood, and many of the Noble Lord's colleagues in the Conservative party have helped to produce that bad blood. I would not abuse the leaders of any nation. Whatever we think about what has happened in Germany, the fact remains that it will have a tremendous reaction on the systems in the world in the future. I believe that what has happened and is happening in Germany, Russia and Italy, in spite of the obstacles put in the way of it by hon. Members opposite, will alter the whole economic position and system of this country and the world.
It is possible that we shall get Socialism in our time, but not always necessarily by political methods. Many of the things adopted in Germany are certainly not what we know as right dictatorship methods; in Germany it is certainly a dictatorship of the Left. What Germany has had to do with regard to her own economy will happen in this country in time. We cannot get reorganisation such as Germany has been able to get, without adopting some of the methods which Germany has been forced to adopt. I will name only one. Business profits in Germany are limited to 6 per cent., generally speaking, and all profits over that amount have to be invested in government bonds. In this country we have the laissez faire system of private enterprise and competition, and that is why we are not getting our rearmament, and cannot get it.
One big firm in Germany, which I could name—I do not want to do so—is engaged in producing a synthetic material which we are told is far superior in wearing power to the real article. That firm possesses certain patents for the production of that synthetic material, and was asked by the Government to put up other factories. They were told that they need not worry about the capital, because the Government would find that, but the provision of the capital for the building of the new factories would entail Government representation on the board of directors. That firm has declined to duplicate or quadruplicate the factories, but the Government has got the factories and has forced the firm to allow its patents to be used by its competitors for the production of this synthetic material. In our own country one of the reasons why we are not getting our armaments is because the patents held by many firms are not shared; they are limited, and therefore there are only limited possibilities of production. Let hon. Members who are inclined to criticise the Government for the non-production of armaments go to the root cause. The fault is not entirely due to the apathy of the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence, but to the economic system under which we are living. It cannot produce the goods, and that is why some hon. Members opposite are advocating the setting up a Ministry of Supply. I think that will have to come before the Government get their full rearmament.
With respect to rearmament, I should like to know what standard we are going to adopt. Is it to be comparable to any rearmament which is now taking place in foreign countries, for example, Germany, or is it to be unlimited rearmament? I can hardly imagine that the Government are going in for a programme of un limited rearmament. Surely, rearmament must bear some definite relation to the armaments of foreign Governments. If so, will the Government tell us what standard they propose to adopt. In previous White Papers on Defence which have been published we have bean told that in aeroplanes we must have at least a standard equal to that of the strongest Power on the Continent. Is that to be our policy? Are we to produce as many aeroplanes as Germany produces? [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"] If that is the standard to be adopted, then the House can assess our requirements. At the present time we know nothing about our requirements. We are told that we have to fill up the gaps in our defence. Is that to be the policy of the Government? That was the policy three years ago, in 1935, but to-day we have not even filled up the gaps, let alone put ourselves into a position to meet the stronger situation of certain countries abroad.
A remark was made yesterday by the Prime Minister with regard to "trailing our coat tails." I think it was a little unworthy of him to speak of the Opposition as he did. We are not irresponsible children, to be chided merely because we criticise the Government. If the Prime Minister really thinks that it is necessary to go to the country at a general election for endorsement of his policy, let him do so. We should welcome it. If the facts can be placed fairly before the country, we are quite ready to face an election, and we feel confident that the Prime Minister will not get that overwhelming majority which he and some of his supporters seem to think they will get Even if Oxford was not exactly a flower in our buttonhole, it certainly was not a bouquet for the Prime Minister, to say nothing about Dartford.
In the King's Speech, as the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) indicated, there is no definite line on which we can fasten with regard to certain parts of the Government's policy, and I suggest that it is impossible to talk of national unity in any tangible sense until we can be sure that the policy that is being followed by the Government in foreign affairs, to say nothing about home affairs, is one that will commend itself to all sections or to most sections of the people of this country. It must be evident to hon. Members on the Government benches that even in their own ranks there is discontent with the Prime Minister's policy in relation to foreign affairs. We need not refer to the speeches of the Opposition, but in speech after speech made by nominal supporters of the Government we find hesitation and grievous doubt about the usefulness of the policy which is being followed by the Prime Minister.
In matters of foreign policy if the Labour Opposition came into office we should have to adopt some continuity, and it is necessary, therefore, that we should be consulted far more than we are at the present time in these matters of vital interest, not only to political parties but to individuals. What is happening at the present time? The Prime Minister virtually treats the Opposition with contempt when it comes to reasonable criticism of his own policy. He even passes over prominent members of his own party who dare to question the rightness of his policy There are no signs at the moment of national unity and there can be no signs of national unity in the dangerous times which are ahead of us. That is a tremendous pity because, although I believe in the efficacy of party politics in many respects and the value of alternative policies, I believe that we are playing with fire at the present time, and those who are meddling with fire most are not the Opposition but the Government themselves. I read an article in the "Evening Standard" yesterday by the right hon. Member for the St. George's Division of Westminster (Mr. Duff Cooper), in which he speaks of making every man a fighter. I do not think that is the right plan to follow. Germany is attempting to do that at the present time, but we are told that one volunteer is worth two pressed men.
Perhaps the heading did an injustice to the right hon. Gentleman, but from the views he expressed I am inclined to think that the heading is not too far away from something that he had in his mind. I believe he feels, as some other hon. Members have felt, that there is some necessity for compulsion. There may be that necessity in certain circumstances. I believe it would be impossible to allow the same conditions to prevail if we were in another war as prevailed in the last War, where some men went and some stayed behind, to make profits out of the war. It will be impossible to fight any war on the same terms again, and I do not limit my remarks to any one section of the community. I believe that at the present time there is no necessity for compulsion. If the country is properly informed of the danger which it must be obvious to hon. Members confronts us, then the volunteers will be there in overwhelming numbers, just as they were coming forward when the crisis was upon us.
It is impossible for us to deal with this question in the unreal atmosphere created by some hon. Members. Everybody knows and feels that there is the sword of Damocles hanging over our heads. Everybody speaks of peace, and yet they know there is no peace. If we read the speeches of the dictators, we see that they are simply breathing fire and brimstone against the democratic nations. I heard one of those speakers at Nuremburg, Herr Goebbels. He spoke with the utmost contempt of democracy, and as I listened to him I wondered what chance democracy has against leaders of this type, armed as they are, backed up as they are by immense military and air forces such as Germany possesses. I would do everything I possibly could to keep the peace, and there would be no vote of mine given against the Government if I thought they were pursuing peace along the right lines. Our people are not concerned with unreal party politics, but they are concerned with realities in this issue of peace and war. They would sweep out of pwer any party politician who attempted to play with these issues in any light manner.
Therefore, I think I am justified in saying to hon. Members opposite that it is a libel, a slander on any hon. Member of any political party to say, as the Noble Lady the Member for Sutton (Viscountess Astor) did this afternoon, that they desire war. Those of us who went through the last War would be the last to desire it, and it is certainly a libel on the Labour party to say that because we criticise the Government we desire war. We do not. Our whole existence is based on peace. We have some chance of building up the things for which we have striven for so many years in face of the opposition of the Conservative party, if we have peace. Indeed, we can accomplish these things only if we have the solid foundation of peace. We know what war will mean not only to individuals but to us as a political party, and that is why we eschew war and preach peace. We ask the Government only to show us that there is some reasonable chance of getting peace and they would not find any idle opposition on our part. It is because we believe the peace which the Prime Minister talks about and flourishes in our faces in the form of a few words on a piece of white paper is no real peace but an illusory peace, that we criticise and will continue to criticise the Government.
It is an established practice of this House that a certain portion of the Debate on the Gracious Speech from the Throne should be devoted to foreign affairs, but on this occasion I feel considerable sympathy with the hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Butler), the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. In the last few days we have had two Foreign Office Debates, and from bitter experience I know what an additional burden that casts on the Minister concerned. That is why I should like to express my sympathy with him. We have had an exceedingly interesting and moving speech from the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger). I think that most hon. Members in the House will be in complete sympathy with him when he said that there must be unity, and that you cannot expect to have unity in this country unless you have a policy upon which you can unite. That is the great problem which we have to face now. I am much afraid that unless we can obtain unity we shall not survive as a great nation.
At the same time, I do not want to follow up that point, but rather to take the House back to those two foreign affairs debates which took place a few days ago. One of them dealt with the Anglo-Italian Agreement and was necessarily limited in scope. The other was a general debate which was wound up by a speech by the Prime Minister. There can be no one who heard that speech who did not appreciate the passionate attachment of the right hon. Gentleman to the policy to which he has set his hand. We all recognise his complete and absolute sincerity. Nor is there anything in the general conception of the policy of appeasement to which anyone in any part of the House need take exception. The policy has been defined as an elimination of problems by collaboration and good will. That is an essentially British conception. It is what, in fact, we all try to do in our private lives, and what we all try to do in our public life in regard to purely national affairs.
In industrial disputes there is an increasing tendency to try and find a solution for disputes not by conflict but by conciliation. If there is a difference between two sections of the community each tries by a modification of its original point of view to come closer to the other party and usually they meet somewhere near the middle, and an agreement is reached. Probably that agreement is not entirely satisfactory to either of the two parties, but conflict is, in fact, avoided, and that to the great majority of the British people far outweighs the advantages which might conceivably have been obtained by either party standing firm in their position and making no concessions. I think we shall all agree that is the right conception, and that it is a conception which should be extended also to the international sphere.
But there is one essential condition, and that is that all nations alike must be actuated by the same desire. They must all want to make a contribution to meet the other party to the dispute. Otherwise, what happens? The party that believes in compromise goes far beyond the middle line where agreement should be reached, but finds no equivalent approach from the other side. It is not until the party which believes in compromise reaches the other party's original position that he comes into contact, and that is where agreement takes place. In fact, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) said the other day, one side is constantly giving and the other side is constantly taking. In such a situation as that it seems to me that a policy of appeasement must be crippled, possibly that it cannot be carried out at all, and I am afraid to many hon. Members that is the position as it exists to-day.
We know that our own country is ready to make concessions to bring about agreement. The Government have already given most abundant evidence of that. But has there been any equivalent contribution from other nations, and, in particular, from Germany and Italy? If anyone likes to put in Russia I am ready to accept it, but for the purposes of my argument I prefer to concentrate on Germany and Italy. International conflict has, indeed, been eliminated. But has it been achieved by the modification of German and Italian aims so as to bring about a generally acceptable solution? On the contrary. It seems to me that it has been brought about by a ruthless enforcement of German and Italian national interests. Let me give one or two cases. Austria presented an international problem; Germany eliminated it by absorbing Austria. The Sudeten district in Czechoslovakia presented an international problem; Germany eliminated it by absorbing the Sudeten lands. The civil war in Spain represents an international problem. Italy seeks to solve it by ensuring victory for the side with which she is most in sympathy.
This up to now—and it cannot be denied—is the contribution of the authoritarian Powers. They have a policy, a definite policy, a workable policy and a powerful policy. But it is not a policy of appeasement as we understand it. It is something entirely different. The hon. Member for Saffron Walden expressed some satisfaction in his speech with the Munich Agreement and said that at least it was a settlement of a dispute by peaceful means. I cannot wholly share his satisfaction. It seems to me a little bit like the case of a highwayman who holds a pistol at the head of a peaceful traveller and says "Your money or your life," and after he has extorted his money an onlooker says: "How splendid; the dispute has been settled by peaceful means." I still cannot feel that our conception of a policy of appeasement and the German and Italian conception of a policy of appeasement are the same.
To say this is not to stigmatise the German and Italian Governments as wicked and unprincipled. I agree with those who have said that sterile abuse serves no purpose whatever. Nor indeed is it true that the authoritarian States have no principles. They have great ideals for which their own people have been willing to make immense sacrifices of liberty and comfort. But the point is that their ideals and ours are not the same. We regard our nation as a member of the community of nations, and we regard it as a fundamental duty to harmonise our own national interests as far as possible with the interests of other members of the community. The authoritarian States do not regard themselves as members of a community. They suffer, if I may use a somewhat paradoxical term, from an excess of international individualism. Their one aim is to enhance the material greatness of their own country, at whatever expense to other nations, and in pursuit of that object they think that any action is justified. Their eyes are fixed, perfectly sincerely and patriotically, on their goal, and any treaties they have signed or assurances they have given are not allowed to stand in the way of that goal.
I do not say this in order to make an attack upon them. I see no point in attacking them. But I equally see no point in the British Parliament blinking obvious facts. To a nation which is actuated by such considerations as the authoritarian States a settlement on terms acceptable to others has no chance at all. They do not want compromise. They think indeed that compromise is contemptible. What they want is victory. That is not, I submit, a jaundiced view of a bigoted democrat. It is borne out by the declarations of German leaders. Hon. Members will have seen the speech made by the German Chancellor at Weimar on Sunday last. In that speech he said:
I, too, am ready to negotiate, but let there be no doubt about this. I shall not permit Germany's right to be impaired by negotiations or in any other way.
Nobody questions Germany's right to justice. But "rights" in the sense used by the German Chancellor is a very elastic term, and it is fair to ask what Germany exactly means by them. What is her interpretation? We know that Germany thought she had a right to Austria. We know that she thought she had a right to the Sudeten-Deutsch districts. We know that she thinks she has a right to the return of all the former German Colonies. There are various other rights which have been adumbrated in "Mein Kampf." On all of those, it appears from the German Chancellor's speech, there is to be no question of modification or compromise. Germany is to pursue her course relentlessly by whatever means
come to her hand, whether by negotiation, as at Munich, or if necessary, by force. The uncompromising nature of this policy is even more clearly defined in the speeches, to which references have already been made, of Dr. Goebbels, whose value as a Minister of Enlightenment is even greater in foreign countries than it is in his own. There are very numerous examples from Dr. Goebbels' speeches, but I would like to quote only one. Speaking at Nuremburg on 7th April of this year, Dr. Goebbels said:
Adolf Hitler's leadership is watching with zealous care to ensure the unity of the National Forces at a time when, as we may assume, the rare moment has come for the world to be apportioned anew.
He went on to say:
All this takes us step by step at a time when we run the least possible risks … The risks become smaller the more powerful we become; and this power of the German nation consists of the army and the wealth of armaments, and the concentration of mental power. There was a time when the world spoke of the demands which it would make on us. To-day we speak only of the demands we make on the world.
What can conceivably be clearer than that? The present purpose of those who direct German policy is not in doubt. They have made no secret of it. They have certain clearly defined aims, and they are absolutely determined to achieve those aims, whatever the cost to us or to other nations. In those circumstances, is it surprising if some of us in the House have serious doubts whether, under conditions of that kind, a policy of appeasement, as envisaged by the Government, can in fact be successfully carried through? That policy, we all know, depends on the good will and collaboration of the authoritarian States. Is there any evidence that that collaboration is forthcoming? Certainly, the speech of the German Chancellor, which was quoted in the Press this morning, is not encouraging. If the Government have further evidence which proves that the attitude of the German Government is changing, that the new spirit is fermenting, if they have got that, I do hope they will tell the House at the earliest possible moment; for certainly it will very greatly relieve our minds. But if they have only a general hope—and I found only that, I am afraid, in the speech of my hon. Friend this afternoon—I am sure they will not blame us if our grave anxiety persists.
In this connection, may I say that I hope it may be possible for the Prime Minister or for my hon. Friend to give us at an early date some more definite idea of their future intentions. The Prime Minister, in the House last week, said that the Government were determined not to sit still and wait for peace. I do not think there is anyone who will disagree with that. But what steps does he propose to take? I have seen rumours in the Press that he is to seek another personal interview with Herr Hitler. I do not know if that is true, but if it is true, if there is any foundation for it, what does he propose to say to Herr Hitler when he gets there? I hope they will at some early time tell us what they can. I know that it may be too early to-day to tell us anything, and I have had far too long experience of the Foreign Office not to know what harm premature publicity can do; but perhaps it will not be considered presumptuous if I suggest to them the direction in which I believe the minds of many are working, not only in this House, but in the country. These people feel—and they are a very large body of opinion—that our country during recent months has made very many and very far-reaching concessions in the cause of peace. Has the time not come when an equivalent contribution should be asked of others? I believe that feeling is very widely held.
And if I am asked what those contributions are to be, I should say, firstly, that the authoritarian States should show themselves ready—and show themselves ready by deeds and not merely by words—to settle disputes which arise between them and other nations by conciliation and not by force. That is the first essential. The second thing is that they should agree, as part of a general settlement—not as a preliminary to it but as part of it—to a limitation and reduction of their armaments, both by international agreement and under international supervision. I believe that that is the test, and the only test, of their sincere attachment to the policy on which the Prime Minister and the Government seek their collaboration. If they felt themselves able to agree to these proposals, quite clearly many things would become possible to which at present in this country there would be the most violent opposition. If, on the other hand, they refused, we should at least know where we stood.
In the meantime, if I may make a suggestion with all due deference, I do hope there will be no more preliminary concessions on our part. When my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington, last February, at the time of his resignation, suggested that as a prerequisite of the opening of Anglo-Italian negotiations, there should be some undertaking by Italy, and some fulfilment of it, that she should perform what she had already promised, we were told in the House that it was impossible to ask for such a preliminary by a great nation; but we ourselves, since that date, have been asked to acquiesce in a great number of changes, preliminary to a general settlement, which we should certainly not have chosen ourselves. We are a great nation. Why should we accept a standard which we thought humiliating to other Powers? Finally, let us recognise, in any negotiations in which we may take part, what is the essential condition of lasting peace. Just and durable peace, I believe, can rest on one foundation, and one foundation only, and that is respect for international obligations. Every time we or other nations condone breaches of international obligations we do not strengthen the fabric of peace; we impair it, and must impair it. Sometimes we know we cannot help such breaches occurring. We are not in a position, we have no right, to prevent them. But even in those cases we should certainly not condone breaches. By doing so, all we do is to debase the whole currency of international relations. I fully recognise it is not the intention of the Government to do any such thing, but I believe it is a very real danger, things being as they are. Of course, we all want good relations with the authoritarian States, as with all other States, but not by way of surrender. Not in that way shall we ever earn the respect of the people of Italy and Germany themselves, on which ultimately the truest friendship must rest.
I know that those who press for a higher standard of morality in international affairs are sometimes accused of smugness or self-satisfaction. I heard some such accusations made last Wednesday in the Debate on the Anglo-Italian Agreement. I believe that to be a complete misunderstanding of our attitude. Our motive in pressing for such a raising of the standard is not idealistic, but severely practical. If international in struments are not to be worth the paper on which they are written, of what use is it concluding them? To enter on them in such conditions is not to cure the distemper from which the world is suffering, but merely to conceal from the patient the ravages of disease until it is too late to cure him at all. A year ago the world was already very sick. To-day its state is progressively deteriorating. We believe—I believe the great portion of our people believe—that there are certain essential conditions of recovery, and the main one is the restoration of good faith in international affairs. Let us face this frankly and boldly. Let us make it the basis of our policy. Let us make it the test of every step we take. For if we do not set some standard now—make no mistake—very soon it will be too late.
I am sure the Noble Lord will not consider me guilty of any lack of appreciation of his very able and most helpful speech if I follow the example of one or two other hon. Members, and ask the House to turn its attention for a few minutes to the social side of the Gracious Speech. I want to speak on this, and particularly as it affects Scotland. The first thing that struck me on hearing the Gracious Speech was that this year there is no mention, as there was last year and the year before, of the subject of a Bill dealing with clubs. It is three years now since the hon. Member for Halifax (Mr. Gledhill), on 6th March, 1936, brought in a Licensing (Amendment) Bill, one part of which dealt with the subject of clubs. I believe it was indicated that it was partly on the request of the Clubs Association, the Clubs Organisation, and others. His speech and his proposals were strongly criticised by the then Home Secretary, the right hon. Gentleman who is now Chancellor of the Exchequer; but the right hon. Gentleman admitted the great urgency of legislation in the matter, and gave a distinct understanding that he would introduce a Bill, on behalf of the Government, dealing with the subject if the hon. Member would withdraw his Measure, which was accordingly done. Sure enough, the subject appeared in the following Speech from the Throne, on 3rd November, 1936—two years ago. It was indicated that it was a Bill which was to be passed that very Session. The Seconder of the Address on that occasion, the hon. Member for West Leicester (Mr.
H. Nicolson), dealt it its first blow. He said he desired to release two of the in-numerable bees that were buzzing in his bonnet, and he went on to declare that the second bee, that about clubs, was a little bee and would not buzz long. In that statement the hon. Member has proved to be quite prophetic. The words he used were these:
I observe with some apprehension a reference to clubs in the Gracious Speech. Although I am sure the Government will be cautious in suppressing bogus clubs, yet I trust that in any orgy of legislation they will not still further diminish the liberties and amenities of the people."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd November, 1936; col. 19, Vol. 317.]
So fantastic and antiquated were his ideas of liberty. I call attention to the words which he used. He said he was sure that "the Government would be cautious"—as indeed it proved to be, and more than cautious—"in suppressing bogus clubs," and that in an "orgy of legislation" they would not further diminish the liberties of the subject. An orgy of legislation! I wish I saw it in this House. An orgy of legislation on the liquor question by the National Government is beyond my conception. In the following year, on 26th October, 1937, there was this passage in the King's Speech:
Among other Measures which you will be invited to pass will be a Bill to make better provision for preventing abuses of the law relating to clubs.
On this occasion the hon. and gallant Member for Thanet (Captain Balfour), who moved the reply to the Gracious Message, again raised the bogy of liberty and warned the Government to be careful. The Government evidently could not a third time brook the farce of their proposed legislation on clubs being flouted by the Mover or Seconder of the Address. Better to break their promise, better to break the understanding made with the hon. Member for Halifax and the House. I only want to say here that the Bill to which I have referred was introduced as a result of protests from magistrates' associations, who complained that the licensing laws were being held up to mockery for lack of legislation dealing effectively with clubs. It was also based on the representations of chief constables. Even the Archbishop of Canterbury was moved for once to say something against the National Government; and it was on this question of clubs. He said:
No self-respecting Government could continue to let this matter drift.
The Government have continued to let it drift; they have dealt a fatal blow to any proposals made for dealing with it, and we must, therefore, conclude from the Archbishop's statement that they are not a self-respecting Government.
I refer to this matter because I brought in, almost three years ago, on 18th March, 1936, a Bill relating to the registration and conduct of clubs in Scotland. In Scotland we have safeguards which do not exist in club legislation in this country. Still there are many excesses. I mention only three of the provisions of that Measure. In order to prevent the uprising of purely drinking clubs, one Clause of the Measure proposed that a club must be in bona fide operation, without registration, for one year before it could be registered. Secondly, it was proposed that where a public house had been dispossessed of its licence, the building could not be used for a club for a period of five years. A third provision was that no registered club should be allowed in a "no-licence" area, and no new registered club in a "limitation" area. That Measure was backed by Scottish Members in all parts of the House, and the then Secretary of State for Scotland in a letter to me expressed his great interest in the Measure. The temperance people in Scotland, however, resolved that they would await developments on the English Bill and not press it any further in the meantime. Now they are left lamenting that they ever trusted to this Government to produce any club legislation at all.
I pass from that to the subject of pensions. I wish to indicate to the House that the feeling on this subject is very widespread. I do not know that it is known to the Government. I have addressed some very large meetings in favour of spinsters' pensions, but that question is in a manner sub judice because a committee is dealing with it; and, therefore, I do not dwell upon it now. But there is intense feeling as to the inadequacy of the present old age pensions. As my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) pointed out last night, one-tenth of the old age pensioners in this country have to seek Poor Law relief. Contrast that with old age pensions legislation in New Zealand. I do not say that the financial basis is the same, but it is remarkable that under the Social Security Act, which has now been passed in New Zealand, an aged couple in receipt of old age pension get £3 per week, and are allowed to draw an additional £1 from other sources.
I know that the argument which is used against action on the part of the Government at the present time to deal with this matter, is that of cost. But take one illustration. On 9th December, 1935, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury indicated that to give spinsters at 55 years of age pensions of 10s. a week would cost £12,500,000. That was up to 70 years of age. A little additional would be required at the age of 70 for those who would not then be entitled to the present old age pension. On 23rd June, 1936, the Prime Minister confirmed that estimate. That is a mere bagatelle of expenditure. The scheme of the Labour party for old age pensions is a comprehensive scheme which would take away anomalies and cover practically all cases. It would increase pensions from l0s. to £1, and, in the case of a couple, from £1 to 35s., and it is estimated to cost some £85,000,000, or thereabouts. But there would be a large gain in that regard to the local authorities; and further, a large part of the cost would be met by contributions. Even if you take it at £40,000,000 or £50,000,000, as our finance goes to-day, it is a very simple sum indeed.
We hold that this is a rich country, and can well afford to see that all such people dependent on the State are provided for properly. I was looking the other day at the latest returns made by the Commissioners of His Majesty's Inland Revenue relating to those who leave behind them capital of £500,000 or over, and I find that, in the last recorded year, no fewer than 38 persons in this country left estates valued in the gross at £41,000,000. I say, therefore, that the cost of meeting this urgent social need can well be met by this country. I often think of what Captain Scott wrote when, after he had discovered the Antarctic Pole, he lay down to die. Writing to his wife, and thinking of her and of his children, these were the words he used:
Surely, surely a great rich country like ours will see that those who are dependent on us are properly provided for.
I say now: "Surely, surely a great rich
country like ours will see that those of whom I am speaking, who are dependent on us and on whom we depend, will be properly provided for."
I am glad to see the Secretary of State for Scotland in his place. I wish to say a sentence or two on the reference in the Gracious Speech to the subject of the distressed areas. We are told that there is to be a continuation of the present policy in the Special Areas. I think many hon. Members have difficulty in realising that we have any distressed areas at all in Scotland. I will mention just this fact about my own constituency, which is one of the most distressed areas in the county of Lanark, all of which is scheduled as a distressed area. The latest figures show that the number of unemployed in Coat-bridge, one of the two burghs in my constituency, as 5,090. In the neighbouring burgh of Airdrie, also in my constituency, the number is 3,513. In those two burghs alone there are no fewer than 8,603 unemployed, running up to over 29 per cent. of the number of insured persons. It is but fair to admit that a new industrial estate has been started at Chapelhall, which is better for us and nearer to us than the Hillington industrial estate of which so much has been said. It is true that grants have been given for baths, sewerage schemes, and the like; and I wish to acknowledge also the activity of the Secretary of State and of the Scottish Commissioner for Special Areas in their desire to find some new industry. But I have letters from the town clerks of Airdrie and Coatbridge that apart from these things, no new industry has yet been planted in either of those burghs. The Secretary of State for Scotland very courteously sent a message to me that he was invading my constituency. I expect he thought he might get a scornful reply. On the contrary, I wrote to him that if he would announce some new industries for this distressed area, I would bless his name.
Now I wish to refer to the three Scottish Measures announced in the Gracious Speech. One, dealing with slums and overcrowding, indicates that "further action will be taken," and that "a Measure relating to the financial provision" will be submitted for this purpose. Much has been done in this regard in Scotland. The overcrowding in one of my burghs is about 44 per cent., one of the highest in Scotland; but these two burghs have done as much as any burghs in the number of houses they have built, and I trust that these grants will be substantial, so as to deal effectively with this great problem.
The second of these measures is the amendment of the marriage law. I do not need to tell the House that the old, fundamental marriage law of Scotland was of the simplest character. It was by consent, even without witnesses, although where there were witnesses it was more easy to prove it, but it has given rise to great scandals, especially in connection with Gretna Green, and I am very glad that we are promised a new civil marriage, simple and inexpensive. In the report dealing with this subject, I think there was a great defect in that the civil marriage was to be confined to a few districts. The report of 1937 said:
It was universally recognised that such marriages should be contracted before certain registrars specially advertised for the purpose, in the principal centres of the population.
But in the Bill which was introduced last Session and which, I suppose, will be reintroduced in much the same form, provision was made that all burghs and county councils should provide
reasonable facilities in every part of Scotland
for such marriages. The fee is to be 5s., and civil marriage is brought within the reach of all. Although it is not at the present moment practical politics to insist on a civil marriage as the basis, yet I recall the fact that my predecessor in the ministry of my last charge, a famous church leader and great evangelical, Dr. Robert Howie, advocated that there should be civil marriage for all, leaving the churches to impose, or the parties to ask, for any such religious service as they might wish. Without pressing that point too far, I see in what is promised us and in the Bill that has been introduced a fair solution of the difficulty in Scotland.
The third point, and the last, is that we are promised in the Gracious Speech the reorganising of Scottish administration, and centralising of the Government Departments in Edinburgh. This is a measure which is an instalment, though only an instalment, of self-government, and as such I accept it as a stepping stone to larger things. Someone said to me to-day that it was a sop to Cerberus. Well, I do not need to assure the right hon. Gentleman that Cerberus will still bark for more in this regard, and will continue barking until we have a Scottish Parliament dealing with our purely Scottish affairs. People say to me, "Would you set up a Parliament in Scotland, and would you have Customs established on the Tweed for the passing of goods from one country to the other?" My answer is that I am too much concerned to see the van Zeeland report established throughout the world so as to abolish or bring down tariff barriers to be thinking of establishing tariff barriers between Scotland and England. People say again, "Surely Scotland as a nation might have its own Army and Navy." My answer is that I am so anxious to see disarmament throughout the world that I will not take any part in setting up a new Army, Navy, or Air Force for Scotland.
I want to give to all parties in the House this reminder and this note of warning. You may say that rearmament is necessary; you may say that you cannot help yourself, but surely one of the lessons of the Great War was that you do not make yourselves safer, you make your position more perilous, by the worldwide increase of armaments. I was reading "The Truth about the Peace Treaties," by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), a massive volume, his "Apologia pro vita sua," and I may say—I would have said it if he had been present—that as far as his intent was concerned, he did well and did his best in a most difficult situation, but he does mention this very specially, that the reduction of armaments foreshadowed in the League of Nations was to bring about
a general reduction of the huge armaments responsible for precipitating the Great War.
Mr. Asquith, when the war was still at its height, on 26th September, 1917, said:
We must banish once for all from our catalogue of maxims the time-worn fallacy that if you wish for peace you must make ready for war.
Earl Grey of Fallodon, when the War was over, said:
If you prepare for war, you get war.
With those words I return to my theme in a closing sentence, the theme of self-government for Scotland. On 2nd November, 1706, when our Scottish Parliament was passing, Lord Belhaven said:
None can destroy Scotland, save Scotland's self.
To-day I say, on behalf of an increasing movement shared in by my colleagues:
None can save Scotland, but Scotland's self.
Like the hon. Gentleman the Member for Coatbridge (Mr. Barr), I propose to say a few words on home affairs. I would like to congratulate the hon. Member on having the Secretary of State for Scotland to listen to his thoughtful speech. I would add my sincere congratulations to the Prime Minister on his great efforts for peace. I am sure that the whole nation appreciates the self-sacrificing work that he has done, and fully realises how difficult the following on of his efforts must be in existing conditions. I was much impressed by the happily worded and interesting speech of the Mover of the Humble Address, and I fully agree with him that minding our own business so far as getting on with our job is concerned should be our first endeavour just now. Apart from completing our defence works, what is our main job? There appear to me to be two major aims: first, to put a large number of the unfortunatae unemployed to work, and, second, to bring about such conditions as will give us a favourable balance of trade.
Before speaking on our export trade and the Overseas Trade Department, I would mention what I may call the balance which should be held by the Administration between rural and urban policy. What do I mean by this balance? I suggest that the Minister of Agriculture should be allowed to define a certain percentage of foodstuffs which should be and must be grown in this country, the proportions to be such that they will not only meet the requirements of an emergency, but be indicative of a proper balance between home-grown and imported products. I would like further, tentatively at all events, to suggest a programme on which agriculture could work. We should, in the first instance, definitely arrange to grow in this country one-third of our wheat requirements, one-third of our sugar, one-half of our fruit, one-half of our meat, including bacon, three-quarters of our eggs, and the whole of our milk, vegetables and potatoes. We must, naturally, provide suitable wages for both farmer and farm labourer. It is possible, I admit, that the realisation of a programme of this nature would entail some slight increase of price on these commodities, although in many cases no change would occur. We have to remember, however, that the urban population to-day are buying food relatively cheaper than other items in their expenditure as compared with a few years ago. I think that the country as a whole would be prepared for this slight change on the definite understanding that such increase would be regarded as essential to national Defence, and, therefore, as one of the Defence Services which the nation must be called upon to bear. I do not suggest that my percentages are inevitably correct, but I give the Minister an opportunity of drawing up alternative estimates provided he is willing to accept and to act on this principle.
May I say a few words in regard to overseas trade? I welcome heartily the reference in the Gracious Speech to their Majesties' visit to Canada and the United States of America, and one is delighted to hear that next year His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent is going to Australia. Our greatest ambassadors of commerce have always been members of our Royal Family, and I believe that these visits will undoubtedly result in closer and more fruitful business relationships between Britain, Canada, the United States and Australia. Our export trade has had the appearance of healthy growth during the past three or four years, but we have to-day still more to expand our markets. The Exports Credits Guarantee Department has been without question of considerable value, and I am strongly in favour of giving it more flexible powers so that it may extend its operations. In addition—and this is most important to-day—there should be an improved relationship between industry and Government Departments.
I advocate greater co-operation and greater friendliness between those leading industry and the heads of the various Government Departments. Undoubtedly, it is possible to bring about a better atmosphere in their mutual relations, and I think that traders generally would take greater advantage of Government support if there were less suspicion than now exists between what I may call industrialism and departmentalism. The leading manufacturers and traders are generally men to be trusted, and they can take care of any black sheep there may be in their folds. The Government should use them more than they do, particularly in connection with our defences. Such industries as iron and steel, chemical and engineering are to-day very highly organised and admirably controlled by well-established trade associations. Would it not be wise for Government Departments at all times to use their industrial research stations and in all ways possible to use that fund of experience which these associations could well put at the disposal of the Government? In connection with the extension of our air services, I feel certain that should a closer co-operation be possible a good many of those shops which we see manufacturing aeroplanes in single units, where they should be manufactured in hundreds, would be quickly altered. A great deal of hand labour which is put on those machines could be dealt with by a single-purpose machine.
I welcome the sentence in the Speech relating to the problems of civil defence and the promise that in future they will receive the undivided attention of a Minister of the Crown. May I suggest that in carrying on his enormous task of providing shelter, fire appliance and safety for the civilian population, the Minister should see that home-produced materials are used as far as possible? I would deprecate the importation of a great deal of timber for the shelters when we can so well supply steel for such a purpose. If during the next two years we can complete satisfactorily our defence work and substantially increase our export trade, as I feel sure we can; if we can utilise home products in Government purchases; if we can avoid having an adverse balance of trade; if we can see to it that the balance is struck between the needs of the rural and urban areas, and thus bring more people back to the land, I feel sure that we should quickly reduce the serious number of unemployed and that, should we still be given peace, we shall see the feeling of depression, which to some extent continues to exist in this country, gradually disperse.
In the most Gracious Speech I noticed the following words:
My Ministers will persist in their efforts to establish favourable conditions for the development of oversea markets.
Similar words have appeared in the most Gracious Speech for the last two or three years, but, nevertheless, there appears to be a steady decline in our overseas trade. I regret it, but I cannot agree with the statements made by the hon. Member for Hallam (Sir L. Smith) when he says that our overseas trade is improving. Our principal customers are the United States of America, Canada, South Africa, Australia and British India, and with the exception of South Africa trade with those countries has steadily declined over the last 10 years, and I think it is quite possible that it would have declined more quickly than it has done had it not been for the Department of Overseas Trade. I consider that that Department has contributed considerably to developments in our overseas trade.
During the last two years I have on my own account visited Canada, the United States of America, Palestine, North Africa, South Africa and South America, and in all those countries I find practically the same state of affairs, that when it comes to a question of our exports we are not the nation we were. We have been a great exporting nation. We attained that position through being the pioneer nation in the application of mechanical power, an advantage that no other nation has ever experienced in the past or is likely to obtain in the future. Now we have lost that position, and have to depend upon our own efforts, and are in a parallel position to that of competing nations, but we are different from them in one respect, and that is that we have to export to live. During the last 10 or 15 years our overseas holdings have been reduced, and continue to shrink, and unless we continue to expand our overseas trade it is quite possible that the time may arrive when we are not able to feed ourselves.
I hear of world competition and of how it is increasing, and I hear accounts of our oversea trade as expiring. The last thing I wish to do is to belittle our industries, but I consider that there is considerable room for improvement, but the obligation to take action rests not only upon the Government but upon manufacturers as well. It is the combined efforts of the two which will recover our overseas trade. I hear it said that the reason why it has shrunk is, possibly, the Ottawa Conference, the Most-Favoured-Nation Clause, the fact that the United States of America have a large home market and are thereby put in a position to sell their goods cheaply, that Japan has cheap labour, that Germany gives subsidies, and so forth. But all that does not explain why a nation like the Dutch can supply all the radio sets to Brazil, or why a nation like the Swedes can supply practically all the ball bearings to South America, or why electrical machinery is so easily exported from Denmark. There is something else to be taken into account, and that is the combined efforts of foreign manufacturers and their Governments towards creating the best conditions for export trade.
I do not believe in belittling my own country, as I have said, but in South America I found that practically all the imports of foreign manufactures are coming from other countries than England. Agricultural machinery is supplied from the United States and so are road-making machinery and motor cars. Possibly there are more motor lorries than motor cars from this country. Windmills and films are practically never exported from this country, nor is air conditioning plant. Such equipment is being supplied from Germany, the United States and several Scandinavian countries. If we are to retain our overseas trade we have to look to the modern requirements of those nations. It is a trade drive that is wanted and a trade drive we have got to have if we are to recover our position in overseas markets. I have no criticism whatever to make of the trade commissions. On the other hand, I have made inquiries of disinterested people of other nationalities, and on every occasion I have been informed that the services rendered by such countries as the United States and Germany are more efficient than those rendered by this country.
Further with regard to South America, the United States have a regular air service from Miami right round South America twice a week. The Germans also have air lines out there. I understand that the British have just started one in a small way, but it is 10 years late. America has been working over those routes for 10 years. If I want to post a letter from the Argentine to England or from England to the Argentine by air mail it costs me 4s., whereas I can send one to Australia or South Africa for 1½d. Surely that trade is also worth having? I suggest that we should do more towards educating foreign buyers by sending our technicians out to their countries. Trade nowadays is not of the same character as it was 10 or 15 years ago, or before the War, when one could send abroad a shipload of galvanised iron sheets, tools, wire, and so forth and distribute them and get payment through the merchants. That sort of trade is gone. It is the trade in the higher technical products to which we have to look, and our technicians must go to those countries if we are to sell modern manufactures against the competition of other nations.
Some time ago I had the misfortune to break my watch. A friend said to me, "I will give you a watch." This is the watch he gave me. I have since shown it to a number of people, and on practically every occasion they have said that the price of it would he 5s. to 10s. Watches such as this are supplied to South America by the Germans at 1s. 6d. each. Hon. Members will ask, "How is it done? Labour and materials will cost more; we could not make them at that price here." To say that is to accept the defeatist attitude, and if that is the attitude we are going to take up we shall not survive as an industrial nation. Then there is the broadcasting of news in South America. In Chile it has to be done by private enterprise, and there is a certain firm which is assisting with the broadcasting of news out there. It is paying a private individual £4 or£5 a month in order to rebroadcast the British news. It now says it does not need any further advertisement and is stopping its allowance for the rebroadcasting. I think that state of affairs is disgraceful when other nations are taking every opportunity to rebroadcast their news. If we do anything along those lines it is essential in my opinion that it is broadcast by a native.
Trade agreements are very desirable and acceptable, but trade agreements will not make people purchase commodities which they do not want. We have to manufacture those commodities which are suitable for the particular nation to which we send them. I will refer to one trade agreement which I came across relating to the importation of electric lamps in Chile. It showed that 51 per cent. were German, 33 per cent. United States, 8 per cent. Japan, 5 per cent. Dutch and 3 per cent. other countries, among which we were included. Other countries are making trade agreements and we have to make similar agreements. We have to rise to the occasion as they are doing. It is no good suggesting that Germany is getting the trade and that we cannot do it. That is a defeatist attitude with which I do not agree.
While I was out there Lord Willingdon was on an official visit, and he created a great deal of interest. The whole of the European population was interested. Meetings were held and interest was created also in the native population; but as soon as he went the whole thing went flat. Manufacturers could come in and follow up enthusiasm created by such visits. The hon. Member for Hallam (Sir L. Smith) referred to the coming visit of the King to Canada and the United States. Those visits, instituted by the Government, are admirable undertakings, but they will be absolutely useless unless they are followed up by the manufacturer. If we are to continue to be a great trading nation we must have the combined efforts of the Government and the manufacturers.
We must all feel that, as we are within two days of Armistice Day, it is something of a tragedy that we should be discussing questions so largely concerned with war and Defence. If we could for a moment imagine what those would think who gave their lives in the last War it would give us a feeling of great concern. We have heard a good deal in the course of this afternoon about Hitler, and Hitler has made numerous references to some of our public people. I do not think that we gain anything by continually calling names as though we were small boys having a quarrel. It is not in the least dignified. I rather feel that the less said about Hitler the better. The less notice that is taken of him in any direction would be of considerable benefit.
Unfortunately, there is something very nearly approaching a war atmosphere, certainly an atmosphere of considerable fear, which is not a healthy condition. The hon. Member for the combined English Universities (Mr. E. Harvey) made a reference last night to appeasement and the Versailles Treaty. We have to remember that the German people have felt, and still feel, very bitter about what was said at Versailles, and also that they are very much like ourselves. We have to remember the manifestation that was made upon the occasion of the Prime Minister's visit to Germany. It indicated that among the German people there was an intense desire for peace in the same way that we have that desire here. The more we can do to get into touch with the peoples rather than with the rulers, the nearer shall we come to an understanding and an appreciation of each other, and the more thankful shall we be for the efforts that have been made from time to time by schools in various parts of the countries to exchange pupils. It is clear from all that we have heard about it that there has been a growing appreciation on both sides of the other's position.
During the recent crisis something happened which has never occurred before in this country or in the rest of the world to anything like the same extent. Over the whole world the peoples' desire for peace resulted in their resorting to the churches for prayer in a way that has never occurred before and to a very much larger extent than in war time. Unfortunately, when the crisis passed, that was forgotten and there was an intensification of armaments. Those two facts seem to us entirely irreconcilable. We were indeed thankful when the efforts of the Prime Minister resulted in so much relief, but that relief has been too quickly turned into anxiety.
The Noble Lord who spoke a short time ago referred to the need for unity. I am sure we desire unity. One experience of the crisis was that there was a certain amount of unity, not simply out of concern or fear, but in considering what our object and intentions should be. I recently heard from a comparatively small company of people in the East End of London, representing different constituencies. The gathering was composed of clergy, social workers, civil servants and others, all engaged in what one might call real national service, although not the kind of national service which attracts the greatest amount of attention. They issued an appeal
addressed principally and primarily to the churches, but it is no less appropriately addressed to us here, because we open our proceedings with prayer. It is not inappropriate to show what these comparatively young people are expressing in regard to the present position. They say:
We believe that there is an alternative policy and for this we are pledged to work. It demands first of all a readiness to repent of our past ways, and to begin to put our trust in God and to desire the things which make for peace. It means a readiness to give justice to the people of our own land, and to put an end to class domination and strife at home and to imperialist domination abroad, even at the cost of forgoing luxuries and advantages ourselves in order to secure necessities for all. It means the creation of a people bound together by love, truth and justice building for peace and not for war. … We stood in greater need of such help when the immediate danger was past than when men and women were turning to God in desperate prayer that war might be averted. It did not come, and the first and greatest opportunity was lost—but it is still not too late. We ask them too, to review in all honesty and sincerity the implications for the Church of the continuance of rearmament and A.R.P., bearing in mind the clear witness of the Oxford Conference on Life and Work to the true relation between Church and State. We call them to make plain the true causes of this situation and to refuse to salve the conscience of this people merely by urging them to give to the relief finds, worthy as these are of all that we can offer.
We all of us believe that this nation has had a great past, and desire that it should have a great future. That past has been great largely because we have endeavoured, not simply in our home relations, but also in our relations with other peoples, to promote friendliness. One of the Amendments which appears on the Order Paper expresses something of what we feel. We are not in any way hostile to anyone else, and the desire has been expressed by countless people, not only in our own land but in others, that we should endeavour to find some different way of settling our disputes from those to which we have been driven in the past.
It is not my intention to deal with foreign affairs, either directly or indirectly, but it would be lack of courtesy on my part if I did not say something with regard to the speech of the hon. Member for Attercliffe (Mr. C. Wilson). He referred to the custom of this House in opening its proceedings with prayer. May I remind the House that during the War it was its custom to have a special prayer asking Almighty God to cause men to look with pity upon all those whom war makes desolate and broken-hearted, and to endue them with patience and fortitude. I wish that, in the present state of the world, that prayer could be restored to our domestic liturgy.
The hon. Member has also urged restraint in public references to the heads of foreign States, and I agree with him. May I mention a parallel? In December, 1851, Louis Napoleon obtained dictatorial powers in the Republic of France. Public opinion in this country was greatly aroused; bitter things were said; our press at large was unrestrained in its abuse, both of the French people and of their President. On 3rd February, 1852, Lord Derby, who was then Leader of the Opposition in another place, following a speech elsewhere by Lord John Russell, observed that, if the Press of this country wished to exercise the influence of statesmen, they should speak as such. He believed that the personal attitude of the President of the French Republic towards this country was entirely friendly; if anything could divert him from a course which his personal inclinations suggested and the interests of his country required, it would be the constant stream of criticism and abuse which was being levelled at him in so many organs of public opinion in this country. He continued—I quote from memory:
It is perfect madness at one and the same time to make the most serious allegations against a neighbouring State and to proclaim our alleged complete helplessness in the event of invasion.
Tennyson replied, and his reply deserves to be repeated in this House, though I have not got it in my pocket. He said:
He went on:
Not, it will be noted, of the things we did! Four years later, we and the French were fighting shoulder to shoulder against another country, in 1856, beginning a friendship which has never been broken. I draw the moral that moderation is a thoroughly sound policy in foreign affairs.
My intention in rising to address the House this evening was to raise a very different matter. There is nothing in the Gracious Speech which I do not heartily welcome; there is nothing which I shall not be glad to see passed into law as soon as may be; but I think we must all recognise in our hearts that the Speech does not contain a tenth of the things that we ought to do if we are to catch up the arrears of many years of rather leisurely Parliamentary legislation. The cupboards of every Government Department are full of reports of Royal Commissions and Committees who have unanimously urged action, which, because it required legislation, and for that reason only, has been postponed, until the damage had been done. Whenever I study the history of any domestic social problem, I nearly always find that the worst of present evils would have been avoided had action been taken five, 10, 20 or even 30 years earlier upon the unanimous reports of Departmental Committees and Royal Commissions representing the best opinion on both sides of the House. In almost every case, I have found that the "slaughter of the innocents" towards the end of the Session prevented legislation being passed, and that the answer from the Treasury Bench, whatever Government was in power, was always the same:
We wish it done; it is a good thing; it commands general acceptance; but there is no Parliamentary time.
This slogan is writ large across the departmental sky. For the last 30 years the Parliamentary machine has been like a locomotive so busy blowing off steam that it has not sufficient pressure left to pull the train up the bank. It is possible to use too much steam in whistling. I have sometimes noticed in this House during the past Session that Members of Parliament, having done their best to make constructive contributions to a debate, pack up their bags and go home, feeling that they have done something, as they have, and have done with the question for the time being. That is un
fortunately true, but the question remains unsolved.
We are now faced abroad with competition in the spheres of government, finance, transport, production and of distribution, as we have been very appositely told by my hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Higgs) and by the hon. Member for the Hallam Division (Sir L. Smith). Totalitarian Governments are prime movers which can exert pressure much more quickly than we can, and can bring much more power to bear on production and distribution for war, but equally for peace, than we can at a given moment. If we are to compete sucessfully, Parliament must become a fruitful nd revivifying channel, and not an obstructive bottle-neck which Parliament to-day is apt to become, particularly towards the end of a Session. In present circumstances that is bound to be so, as long as we retain our present system of handling legislation. I am making no reflection on the attitude of the Opposition; I am making no reflection on the Government; I am merely suggesting that the time has come for us to make a careful inquiry into the actual working of Parliament. For example, in the domain of law and justice, action has never been taken on the reports of the Crown Proceedings Committee and of the Ministers' Powers Committee. The Crown cannot be sued in tort in England. State employés are becoming daily more numerous—we have added 20,000 in the last year or so—and Government Departments impinge inevitably on individual rights, so that the need for reform is correspondingly urgent.
Our Statute Book is chaotic, a disgrace to a nation which prides itself, rightly, on its supremacy in the administration of justice. We complain of the inefficiency of our unpaid justices; but how many persons who make that complaint have seriously considered the nature of the instrument put by Parliament into those justices' hands? It is an instrument that nobody can work and nobody can buy. The Vagrancy Act, 1836, is an absurd anomaly, the Gaming Acts are a hopeless tangle, as also the Game Acts. The Highway Acts are under revision which will take years, by an immense committee of busy men. The Patent Medicine and Food Adulteration and Burial Acts are hopelessly involved, the Allotment Acts are unintelligible, and the Housing Acts have been reported unanimously by a Departmental Committee to be in a very bad mess. There are thousands of Statutes dating from the Reform Act, 1832, and there ought to be very few dating from then. Consolidation without Amendment is futile. We require a strong Select Committee of both Houses of Parliament, empowered by Resolution of the House to make—or nominally, to suggest—reasonable amendments. Such a committee could within 10 years wipe out all Statutes over 100 years old, except a few of our great Statutes like Habeas Corpus and Magna Charta, which might well remain as monuments to a great past. Every Ministry has cupboards full of uncontroversial measures of simplification and consolidation which must be pressed if we are to compete in peaceful commerce with other nations. Our costs are excessive. It is often more difficult to repeal an Act of Parliament than to pass it.
This question of the reform of Parliamentary procedure is no new problem. In 1930 it was considered at length by a committee, presided over by the present Minister of Labour, which made certain very modest suggestions which were not acted on. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) suggested an economic Parliament, sitting concurrently with this House, in which the great industrial and trading interests of this country, both of those who were employed and those who employed their labour, should be fully represented. This House, he pointed out, is elected on a purely territorial basis, on a basis of opinion and not of function, and it is a pure accident if the great industries of this country are represented, on either side of this House, by spokesmen qualified to speak on behalf of their respective industries. It so happens that some great industries are fortunate, and are normally represented in the persons of industrialists and members of trade unions. But there are many exceptions. If there is to be less suspicion between the Government and commerce there should be some place where people can speak their minds openly and officially on behalf of great industrial and financial and distributed interests without being regarded as logrollers. In this House, when any Member gets up and speaks on behalf of an industry he has to explain that he has not an interest in it, or that he has an interest in it. He has to apologise for his existence. I would like to see some public place where a man can say, "I am empowered to speak on behalf of the whole gas industry," or the cotton industry, and be followed by somebody who will say, "I am empowered to speak for those who work in the gas industry," or the coal industry.
The public at large are little interested in the outworn traditions and minutiae of Parliamentary routine. They have a profound sentimental respect, which is not misplaced, for our ceremonies, but not for our proceedings, of which they are critical. They feel that the traditions of this House may clash with the needs of those we represent; and I have sometimes that feeling myself. It is our way in this country to retain our outward forms while changing for the better the spirit that inspired them. It is the custom in other countries to change completely the outward forms, while retaining, too often, much of the bad old spirit. On 14th July, 1930, Lord Baldwin suggested that it might be well for Parliament to devote a whole session to looking into past legislation and overhauling the machinery of State. But that was eight years ago, and I need hardly say he did not find it possible. The need is more urgent to-day. Taxes are rising, rates are rising, our competitive possibilities are reduced pro tanto. The need is not for a reduction in the scale of the social services, but for the promotion of economy in the working of the social services.
In regard to local government, we had a Commission on Tyneside Local Government, where 13 or more local authorities are working and overlapping in an area with a population of less than 1,000,000. The Commission suggested a unified system which would be both economical and responsive to the needs of the locality. The Government did not accept the recommendations and made other proposals to the local authorities, which were rejected. When the Minister of Health was asked last July what he proposed to do about Tyneside, he replied that he could do nothing, for until the local authorities were agreed nothing could be done. Meanwhile, local government on Tyneside is needlessly expensive; it is a gratuitous tax on the country at large that there should be so many local authorities. Our whole system of local government wants overhauling; but Parliament will never have time to do it in present circumstances.
Then there is the National Health Insurance Act. The administration charges expressed as a percentage of the total disbursements, amounts to over 22 percent. per annum—which is enormous. The expenditure of the Ministry of Labour for Unemployment Insurance, which is a national establishment, is just over 6 per cent. There is something wrong with a system of Health Insurance administered by 4,400 independent approved societies and actuarially independent branches covering the whole of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, competing with each other, so that you have a hundred different societies and branches competing in one town or in one long street and with benefits varying so greatly that nobody knows what they are; and if I ask for a handbook saying what benefits can be given by any particular society in any given area, the reply of the Ministry is that they have no idea and cannot possibly give the information, so that the ordinary man in the street has to take his approved society by and large. The biggest societies give the least benefits. To him that needs most least is given. It is not necessary to cut down social services if we will work them with economy. The expense ratio of workmen's compensation, so far as worked by insurance companies, is, according to the official returns, 42½ per cent. on the average if medical and legal charges are included. That is enormous. I could give many other examples of excessive overheads due to the fact that we have never wholeheartedly accepted the position that when once there is compulsion upon people to insure it is up to the Government in the long run to ensure that they get full value for their money.
I still cling to the belief expressed by Burke in 1778, in his "Thoughts on Present Discontents," that
there ever is within Parliament a power of renovating its principles and effecting a self-reformation such as no other plan of government has ever possessed.
He went on:
Public troubles have often called upon this country to look into its constitution. It has ever been bettered by such revision.
I believe these words are true to-day. Public opinion calls upon us to revise our constitution, and I do not doubt that we
should better it in the process. Many of us Members of Parliament would be glad to do much more than we are doing. Many of us feel that we are not pulling our full weight, not as members of a party but as Members of Parliament. The growing feeling is general in a much wider sphere, hence the demand outside this House for some form of national register. When Captain Hood was asked by Nelson before the battle of the Nile whether he could stand in between the French fleet and the shore, he replied:
I do not know whether there is enough water, but I would like to stand in and try.
There are a vast number of men in this country who want to stand in and try. We should give them a lead by reforming our Procedure. When we begin to reform our own methods many commercial firms and others will be much more ready than they are at present to accept the admonitions of Government Departments. When this tyranny is overpast, and when, as I firmly believe, a measure of equilibrium is established in Europe and some measure of disarmament is agreed upon, we shall still be faced with competition in the markets of the world, including those of the British Empire, and it will be increasingly severe. We cannot achieve collective security in the economic sphere except by making full use of our own skill, our own soil, and of what lies beneath it. I wholly associate myself with the hon. Member for the Hallam division of Sheffield (Sir L. Smith) and the hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Higgs) in that connection. This may require, as the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) said on 14th October last, a radical alteration in the whole tempo of our lives and may call for changes in our social and economic structure as far-reaching as those which have taken place in some other countries. It will certainly mean a vast amount of legislation. We have to clear away the rubbish and the deadwood of centuries, what St. Paul calls "hay and stubble." That is why I feel that the consolidation and amendment of the Statute Book should be pressed forward and the tempo of our parliamentary life changed. To quote Burke again, this time from his Address to his constituents at Bristol:
It is impossible to imagine how much of service is lost from spirits full of energy, full of capacity, who are constantly pressing forward to grea and capital objects, when
you compel them continually to be looking back … Applaud us when we run, console us when we fall, cheer us when we recover, but let us pass on—for God's sake let as pass on.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson) always interests the House. Some of his remarks with regard to the procedure of this House were of great interest, and his suggestion with regard to the procedure with which this House should deal with economic and social problems of the day is one which ought to receive the very greatest attention. On the other hand I would like to issue a warning. He put forward the suggestion of industrial bodies outside this House meeting to discuss these matters, and one wonders really whether he is not suggesting something which might undermine the responsibility of this House to the country and of the Government to this House. That is a very great and a very serious consideration. He seemed to be suggesting something which might cause us to slip down the slippery slope to the corporate State. While I certainly agree that the industrial policy is something that we ought to consider, the final sovereignty of the State must rest here and with the Government who are responsible. Therefore with that warning I would say that certainly so far as the making of any suggestions for the improvement of the procedure of this House are concerned the matter ought to receive most careful consideration.
I certainly agree too with his approval of what was said by the two hon. Members from Birmingham and Sheffield respectively, in regard to our industrial system in relation to foreign trade and our home trade. That is a question we shall have to face up to very soon. We have the Fascist States of Europe, one of them anyway out for the economic domination of the whole Central and Eastern Europe. It is natural that a great industrial country like Germany should attract to it the agricultural States on its immediate frontier. It is said that we should abandon our commercial interests in Eastern Europe and in Asia. I have sometimes heard it said by a school of thought in this country that we should abandon it and concentrate solely on our trade with our great Dominions. But there are political consequences involved in such an abandonment, which it would be impossible to foresee and would be most dangerous. There are in Eastern Europe to-day States which are only too anxious to deal with us and to deal with the countries which still have free exchange. They do not want to come under the economic hegemony of the dictator States, and it seems to me that in order to meet this competition we have got to discipline ourselves, to take a leaf out of the book of the Fascist States themselves—not to copy their methods of course, but some of their economic organisation. Our industrial leaders should organise themselves as one unit in dealing with foreign markets. That is what is done in Germany.
Here we are with our old-fashioned individualism, and our great industrial leaders apparently have not yet woken up. That was a thing that I missed in the speeches of the hon. Members for Sheffield and Birmingham. They did not seem quite to realise that if we are to recapture our position on the world markets there must be some public board, with the State interested in it and the Board of Trade taking a big hand in the control of it—some board for the purpose of dealing with our foreign trade and negotiating with those countries in Eastern Europe, and which can speak for this country as a whole and give to those countries what they so much want. These countries particularly do not want to come under the economic monopoly of the Fascist States. Although I do not believe we can ever expect, nor should we expect, to have the bulk of the trade there, we can have a very large portion of it, and by such means as I have indicated we shall prevent these States from falling under the political leadership of the Fascist States.
Therefore, I felt glad to see in the Gracious Speech a reference to the visit to this country of the King of Rumania. I think Rumania is just one of those countries where our commercial and economic interests could be, and ought to be, increased. I was glad also to see the reference in the Gracious Speech to the efforts to establish favourable conditions for oversea markets. Though the democratic Powers have lost the position they had in Central Europe as a result of the disaster last month, all is not lost as far as Eastern Europe and the Near East are concerned. We still have our contacts with Turkey. An agreement was made last summer with the Turkish Republic which ought to be developed. There are, one hopes, coming negotiations with Rumania. And, last but not least, there is that great State in Eastern Europe with whom we ought to have the very closest relations, economic and political too—the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. That is one of my great complaints against the Government, that they have failed altogether to bring Russia into any kind of settlement that they are contemplating for Europe. They were thinking about not encircling Germany. The Prime Minister last week told us that we ought to be very careful in our commercial policy in Eastern Europe not to do anything which would make us appear to be encircling Germany. It is not a question of us encircling Germany. It is a case of Germany encircling these hitherto independent States, and ultimately encircling us. We desire to prevent these States from falling under Germany hegemony. That should prompt us to keep our eye on these problems, particularly on Russia.
I am not satisfied with our commercial relations with Russia to-day. Russia is not buying in this country as much as she should in return for the large purchases that we make from her. Russia is perfectly entitled to take that line and allow us to pay for it in the way that we are doing. She exports gold to us, and also there is a triangular trade going on between us and Russia and other countries whereby the balance is partly met. But I think we ought to negotiate with Russia, and negotiate a more favourable treaty for ourselves. You cannot, however, expect Russia to listen to us if we treat her like a pariah, as we have been doing all along and are still doing. Russia should be brought into any settlement that is made, economic or political, in Europe to-day, and it is not to be forgotten that Russia will not be left out.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) in his speech this afternoon warned us on that very point. He dealt with it from a military point of view, and showed how important Russia's military power is, and particularly her potential power. I entirely agree with him, but I would also say this. If you look upon Russia now as being no important factor, it is the greatest possible blunder you could make. Russia has never been left out in any great European settlement. She has had times when she has retired into her shell, periods when internal difficulties have prevented her from taking any interest in events outside her own borders. That has happened repeatedly to that country, from the troublous times that followed Boris Godunov down to the times when, after the invasion of Russia by Napoleon, she was for a time rendered almost incapable of taking action or taking any interest in Europe, but she has always come back. She was an important factor in the peace which ended the Napoleonic wars. She was, again, an important factor in the settlement of the Near East after the Russo-Turkish war of 1878, under the Emperor Alexander II. She was an important factor—unfortunately a very bad influence in those days—in the intrigues which led up to the Balkan Wars, which laid the foundations of the European wars, and she has always at different times played a role in the settlement of Eastern Europe.
Therefore, although we have lost our position in Central Europe, and the democratic Powers no longer count as a factor there—they might have done if they had acted differently—we have still got a position in Eastern Europe. By co-operating with Russia, Rumania and Turkey, basing our policy upon trade agreements with those countries, basing it on sea power, we can always help to prevent the domination of Central European Powers pressing out into those countries. And, after all, that has always been our traditional policy—by sea power and by treaties to prevent the countries in Eastern Europe and nearer Asia from falling under the domination of any great Power in Europe. Let us return to that policy, and see that the great territories on the threshold of Europe and Asia, between the Baltic, the Black Sea and the Aegean, are still kept open for the trade of the world and for our trade and for the possibilities of development in the future, giving Germany her share there. But it will not be attained by a policy of submission and agreement to everything that the dictator States of Central Europe demand. It will be done only by a policy of conciliation on the one hand and firmness on the other.
I am reminded very much of the situation that took place in ancient Greece. I was looking the other day at the history of the Peloponesian War by Thucydides, and also at the speeches of Demosthenes in Athens after the rise of Philip of Macedon. It is terrible to note how just the same position arose then as seems to be arising now. There was the great dictator in the north, and in view of the fact that the democratic republics of Greece would not combine in a League of Nations but quarrelled and fought with each other, and that there was no common policy but constant delay and constant indecision, the great dictator in the north finally subdued them. That led to democracy and liberty dying in ancient Greece. We must see that that terrible danger does not come to us now through failure to find friends while there still are friends, so that we may perhaps be saved from the fate of ancient Greece.
The hon. Member for Coatbridge (Mr. Barr) has made reference to the urgent and vital problem of unemployment. That is a question of the greatest importance, and I make no apology for raising it again to-night. The Prime Minister told us yesterday that the principal and proper function of government in relation to trade and employment is to try and create conditions in which industry itself can carry on its enterprise with confidence and success. That policy of the Government in recent years has met with a great measure of success. For example, the Ottawa Agreements and the other trade agreements made with foreign countries have assisted the foreign trade of the Empire. The exports of this country in 1937 exceeded those of 1932 by £181,000,000. That is a very large increase and has assisted in reducing unemployment in these islands. Out of that figure, £125,000,000, or more than two-thirds, was due to our trade under the Ottawa Agreements and the various trade agreements made with foreign countries. I sincerely hope that the trade agreements which are being negotiated with India, Burma, Switzerland and the United States will be satisfactorily concluded and will have the same effect in assisting our export trade and helping unemployment.
I wish to refer shortly to one or two schemes which have been set in action by the Commissioner for Special Areas and which are designed to help those who are, unfortunately, unemployed. The excellent work done by the Commissioner has been referred to on many occasions. There was a general improvement in regard to unemployment in the Special Areas last year. Unemployment decreased by 25 per cent. Since the Special Areas organisation was established, unemployment has declined from 347,566 to 210,000. That recovery which took place last year in the Special Areas, says the Commissioner, was largely independent of the arms programme. The object of the Commissioner is to broaden the basis of the economic life of the Special Areas so that they may not be left dependent on one or two industries. He is making an attempt to bring lighter industries to the areas suffering from unemployment.
There is a very interesting reference in his report to the general policy of industrial development. It is true to say that it is exceedingly difficult to bring new industries to the Special Areas. In 1936, out of 551 new factories which were established in Britain only eight were set up in the Special Areas. Nevertheless, the Commissioner is making great efforts to establish new factories on the trading estates which he has undertaken to set up in the areas. I should like to make one or two suggestions in this regard, and the first is that there should be some additional assistant industrial advisers appointed to help the very able business men who are now voluntarily giving their valuable services in helping the Commissioner.
It is important that many of these differing problems should be studied in great detail, and it cannot be expected that the limited number of very able business men should spend a great amount of time studying these problems on the spot. They have other and very important work to carry out. If an additional number of assistant industrial advisers were appointed, they would be of the greatest help to the Commissioner in carrying out the work, with which he desires to deal successfully. If I might give one example: the London and North Eastern Railway is about to carry out important work which will cost £2,000,000 to £3,000,000 in regard to the electrification of the railways between Manchester and Sheffield. I hope that when the Manchester railway line between that city and Woodhead is electrified it will open up north-east Cheshire for industrial development. That specific problem requires a great deal of careful thought, and in that direction the additional industrial advisers could carry out a useful task.
The Commissioner in his report for last year drew attention to the grievous problem of the older unemployed men. There are many difficulties due to the closing down of cotton mills, coal pits and general factories which must be obvious, and require careful study. The loss of skill and physical fitness to men over the age of 45 makes it exceedingly difficult for them to regain their former employment, but the Commissioner reports, and I think this is encouraging, that about 5,000 men over the age of 55 living in the Special Areas secured work last year. It is to be hoped that that process will continue.
I should like to make a few remarks about the different schemes which have been successfully set in motion by the Commissioner. There is a system which is known as subsistence production. It is an effort to enable the older unemployed men to produce for themselves as many as possible of the necessities of life. These schemes are voluntary and are open to unemployed men over 35 years of age, living in distressed towns where unemployment is a grave problem. The men continue in receipt of their unemployment assistance and other allowances, and in return for their labour on the land they are entitled to obtain from the society organising the scheme, at the cash cost of production, such goods as they require for consumption or use in their own households. That system has brought relief and help to a large number of unemployed people. The Commissioner points out that in this way it has been possible to raise very materially the standard of living in households where unemployment is severe.
There is another experiment which has also been successful. It refers to cottage homesteads. This type of cottage homesteads, which has been widely tried out in France and other countries in Europe, has been of great benefit to unemployed people. It is a proposal to establish a new type of holding comprising a house on about half an acre of land for occupation by elderly unemployed persons with families comprising young members of an age likely to take up industrial employment. These homesteads have been established in groups of about 20 or 30 in localities in the Midlands and the South of England where there is an opportunity for employment for boys and girls. The Commissioner has only just started this new system. I hope it will be extended and adapted to suit varying conditions in different parts of the country.
It seems to me that the Commissioner has been most successful in helping the unemployed by his efforts to settle unemployed people on the land. These various land settlements have in almost every case been helpful, and I rather hope that more local authorities will see their way to extend these schemes and build up and develop land settlements which will be an encouragement to the development of a healthy and vigorous community. Whole-time holdings with a dwelling-house vary in area from three to 10 acres, and are designed to provide formerly unemployed men with an economic livelihood. Such holdings are equipped on the most modern lines for the production of market garden produce, pigs and poultry. I have seen some of these experiments in Hampshire and other parts of the country, and I am certain that they could be tried out usefully in other parts as well. The Commissioner says that the task is to transform a townsman into a country man, an industrialist into an agriculturist, a wage earner into a petty capitalist, and a man whose morale has been lowered by long years of unemployment into an ambitious and self-reliant member of society. I am sure that hon. Members in all parts of the House will realise that excellent work is being carried out by the Commissioner and that he is doing most useful work to help the unemployed.
The Commissioner notes the value of having given fresh hope and a chance of independence to a family whose chief breadwinner has been long unemployed, as well as the physical benefit to the family through being transferred to healthy surroundings with abundance of fresh air and food. These benefits are apparent to all. It has been proved beyond any measure of reasonable doubt that there are in the Special Areas and other parts of the country considerable numbers of middle-aged men with growing families who have been out of work for some considerable time and who are likely, after a period of training, to be able to adapt themselves to the entirely different life involved in land settlement.
Therefore, from almost every point of view these land settlement schemes are successful and have provided many benefits and advantages to unemployed persons. They enable unemployed people to regain their former independence of character and spirit. In due course the unemployed people no longer require direct financial assistance from the State. The agricultural industry is strengthened by the increased output of the land. The fertility of the land is raised, the workers have good food and regular work in the open air, which brings with it that contentment and peace of mind which is often so sadly lacking to those who are unemployed in the great cities of these islands. The children's health improves, and they usually find employment in the cities near the settlements. The increased purchasing power of these formerly unemployed persons brings improved trade to shopkeepers. The whole outlook of unemployed persons, when they become settled on the land, is altered, and they can look to their future without dread and apprehension. Those who thought that they were unknown, uncared for and forgotten, find hope and confidence returning once more to their lives. I hope the. Minister of Labour will encourage and support all those of us who are anxious to see some of these schemes readapted to suit different local conditions in other parts of the country. For we must not forget that there are still in these islands many families who still feel the bitter affliction of shapeless idleness.
I desire for only a few moments to refer to one paragraph in the Gracious Speech, in which in somewhat cursory terms reference is made to the cotton industry and to the difficulties which are obtaining in that industry. In the Gracious Speech the Government say that these difficulties are engaging attention and that proposals which will require legislation are to come before Parliament. As one who has been intimately engaged in the cotton industry, speaking in the capacity as chairman of one of the great cotton combines of Lancashire, I say at once that I am greatly disappointed that the legislation which we were promised during last Session has not been introduced. We have had conference after conference and deputation after deputation to those in charge of this section of our trade. I admit at once that I dislike Government interference in trade, but being a realist I realise that times have changed and that we have to accept changed conditions.
The Bill which we understood was under consideration and was shortly to be brought in by the Government was, as we understood it, simply to carry out the decisions which had been arrived at by the majority of those engaged in the cotton trade. I speak with full knowledge of one portion of that trade, the fine spinning industry, which still fortunately retains a predominant position in the world. Even after the many anxious fears which were expressed when price-cutting became so extreme and losses were incurred all round, an understanding was come to by practically 84 to 85 per cent. of the trade to adopt a regulative price. That has resulted quite definitely in bringing some small measure of prosperity to those engaged in that section of the trade. As I have said, the great majority agreed to the regulative basis for conducting their business, and when last year business was fairly active, the fact that 16 per cent. were outside the agreement did not materially matter. To-day, when the trade is, unfortunately, much smaller than it was, the standing out of this percentage has a very marked effect on the whole of the business, and in the coarser section of the trade, with which I am not particularly concerned, those who stood outside the agreement appertaining to that section have made the position so difficult for those who came to an understanding that one of the largest firms supporting the regulative basis declared its intention some two weeks ago to go outside the agreement, and the agreement has now collapsed.
I speak with a full recognition of the fact that there is a certain amount of opposition to this proposed Bill, opposition which, I believe, as I have stated in Lancashire and repeat here, is governed by selfish considerations; but as it is a fundamental article of my business belief that the prosperity of the individual is bound up with the prosperity of the whole industry, I earnestly ask the Government to go forward with the Bill which undoubtedly they have in mind, and not to wait until they get the complete agreement, which I assure them they never will get in Lancashire. I ask them to recognise the fact that the overwhelming majority of those who are engaged in the industry, faced with the grave difficulties of the industry at the present time, desire that the Government should provide statutory powers, which can come from a Government Bill alone. Therefore, I ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of the Overseas Trade Department, who knows what the feeling is in Lancashire, to convey to the President of the Board of Trade, who is also quite conscious of that feeling, my earnest request that the Government should go forward at once with the Measure which has been promised so long.
The hon. and gallant Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool (Sir J. Shute) has wide experience and an intimate knowledge of the industries and life of Lancashire. It is a pity that he did not wait to make his speech on Monday or Tuesday next when the Opposition intend to move an Amendment which will give him additional support. On those days he will bear from this side of the House many speeches couched in similar tones of criticism, and he will also have the opportunity of supporting us in the Lobby. The hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Cox) made a speech which interested me very much, but I am afraid that the hon. Member is too much of an enthusiast for the schemes which he advocated. I, too, am connected with a land settlement association, and I am happy to say that we have been able to help many men to get healthy and useful employment in the cultivation of the land. I think that the hon. Member was rather too generous, and I believe that on reflection, and if he reads his own speech, he will feel that he has been rather too fulsome in his praise of the operations of many societies so far. I think he would be wise to be a little more critical, in order that the schemes may be still further improved in the interests of those whom he desires to serve. This is not the occasion to criticise his speech in detail, but on Monday or Tuesday perhaps there will be an examination of this type of scheme and criticism of the Government for their failure to make wider provisions for giving men access to the land.
The Gracious Speech gives priority and prominence to foreign affairs, and I feel that I should be lacking in my duty if I failed to supplement the remarks that have been made to-day bearing upon the very grave situation in which we find ourselves and which gives so much concern to the people whom we represent. In the Gracious Speech, there is the usual formula:
My relations with foreign Powers continue to be friendly.
Those friendly relations are not as much in evidence now as they have been on the happy occasions previously when the formula has been used. It is really straining the tolerance of the House to suggest that our relations with foreign countries are friendly at the present time, for there has not been a time in this generation when our relations with foreign countries were so precarious, when we ourselves were the victims of so much apprehension, and when other foreign countries with whom we are supposed to have friendly relations were more disturbed. It is really a travesty of language to describe our relations with foreign countries in these terms. Indeed, the correspondence between this House and the representatives of foreign countries is now being maintained by what is nothing more or less than backchat. For some years there has been growing up in the world a network of propaganda and subversive activities which gravely imperil the peace of the world. We have reached a condition of things in which these propaganda methods exert their painful influence. We find now that the leaders in various countries have occasion to reply to one another in public, in terms that do not help the promotion of friendly relations between various countries. We have almost been brought to the point at which we have to whisper our comments in the House lest we draw upon ourselves the condemnation of those who, in various parts of the world, listen to us.
My comments will be far more restrained, I believe, than the comments of certain hon. Members who have addressed the House to-day, and I shall do nothing to disturb the spirit of Munich, or the spirit of anywhere else, as far as it manifests the faintest glimmer of hope for the maintenance of peaceful relations between the nations. But I am not satisfied—and in this I feel I share the sentiments of a large number of hon. Members—with the interpretation which is placed upon the spirit of Munich, the spirit of joint collaboration. I have a suspicion that that document was very hastily drafted in order that the Prime Minister should not come away empty-handed from the conference at Munich. That declaration was drafted by the Prime Minister and all that Herr Hitler contributed to it was his signature at the end of the document. I do not think it is a declaration upon which much hope can be based, and I do not see in the events which have since transpired much indication of the spirit of peace of which so much was made by the Government when the Prime Minister returned to this country. The spirit of Munich did not help in the least at the Munich Conference itself. Herr Hitler made not the slightest concession there, and the terms reached at Munich were more severe than those of Berchtesgaden and Godesberg.
Those terms have been imposed in their full bitterness upon the people of Czechoslovakia. It has now been made clear that self-determination was the shallowest of pretences. Effect has not been given to self-determination in the subsequent proceedings arising from the so-called Agreement at Munich. Strategic and economic considerations have been decisive. No sentiment, no wish, no desire, no national pride on the part of the Czech people has been given the slightest consideration. Czechoslovakia has been mutilated in the West in the interests of the German Reich, mutilated on the North by its neighbour Poland and on the South by Hungary, and the process of mutilation is not yet complete in the East.
I have heard in this House from time to time strong criticisms of the Treaty of Versailles. The hon. Member who now sits so comfortably leaning against the bench opposite was much more truculent in his demeanour this afternoon than he is at the present moment. He made an attack upon the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). He charged the right hon. Gentleman with having some respon sibility for the present condition of Europe. We on this side were not satisfied with the Treaty of Versailles, but we are the only people who have the right to criticise it because we were the only people who then submitted alternatives to the boundaries and frontiers laid down in that Treaty. The idea of the Treaty of Versailles, which came from the reactionary politicians on the other side of the House in the years 1918 and 1919—and many of them are still here, or their sons and nephews are here, and the same spirit is still manifested—was to make certain that Germany would not become strong enough again to threaten the peace of Europe. That was the basis of the Treaty of Versailles. It was a penal treaty. All kinds of penal conditions were laid down in it and it was impossible for a decent, normally-minded person, unless largely supported by Labour votes, to get into this House in 1918 and 1919 to lay down decent conditions of peace. The responsibility lies there on the other side of the House.
The present Prime Minister received the coupon from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, and the House then was filled with coupon holders. They went on their knees to beg for coupons. I remember the time very well. But let me say this in connection with the Treaty of Versailles—
The Treaty of Versailles was not a perfect Treaty, but let anyone who remembers the circumstances of that day examine the map of Europe as it was in 1920 and look at the map of Europe to-day. I invite any hon. or right hon. Gentleman to examine the map of Europe to-day and to say whether he could redraw the frontiers of Europe very much better than they were drawn in 1920 in the Treaty of Versailles. Let those who condemn the Treaty of Versailles and the frontiers there laid down for Czechoslovakia, Poland and other countries look at the results of this Munich Agreement. They will not find a parallel for that Agreement anywhere. The present frontiers are the worst frontiers ever drawn by any treaty-makers in the history of Europe. The people of Czechoslovakia are to suffer from the imperfections and faults of the Treaty which has been imposed upon them by the recent Agreement.
The hon. Member opposite said that he was tired of hearing about Munich and Czechoslovakia. I do not think we ought to ignore or forget the lessons of Munich as easily as certain hon. Members suggest. There is much yet to be learned from the Munich Agreement, and we should be doing a disservice to the people of this country if we now allowed the Munich Agreement and the subsequent proceedings to be overlooked by this House, which is the custodian not only of British interests but of the international interests in which we are involved. It is said that we ought not to condemn the Munich Agreement too strongly because this country was involved and the Prime Minister had made a great personal effort to be present at Munich in the interests of peace. All that has been said to-day, as on previous occasions, but let us be more careful not to praise or condone that Treaty.
The Munich Agreement is a crime. Its effects are criminal and people will suffer for it as long as they live. I doubt whether that State, mutilated as it is, can again have restored to it any chance of decent economic and independent conditions. We cannot be content with that, and I find it increasingly difficult to shake off the unhappy premonition that we shall appear in the history books of the future as accessories before and after the crime. I am convinced that the conduct of our own Government towards Czechoslovakia will draw forth the strongest reproof from those who study history in the future.
I think the hon. Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Mr. Petherick) asked the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs whether he would have gone to war to support Czechoslovakia. The question that I would like to put to the hon. Member now—and it is a question that might be put to all those who charge us with desiring war at any time—is, Would the hon. Member support going to war if France were involved to-morrow or in the future in her relations with Germany, or if France were involved in any quarrel because of an attack by Germany upon France? Would he go to war to support France in those circumstances.
I am not responsible for the Government of this country, but as the hon. Member has asked me the question, I would say that we are obliged to defend France against unprovoked aggression.
And we were obliged to defend France even if she was involved in an attempt to defend Czechoslovakia against German aggression. If the hon. Gentleman wants to find fault with us or with any Member of this House for having desired to be loyal to a pledge, he must try to find out where he stands, and I think France should be told, and the whole world should be told, where the Tory party stands in this matter. If the hon. Member repudiates all liabilities and obligations, he must remember that he decides to fight alone. If this country has no obligation to fight for anybody else, why should any other country have an obligation to stand by our side in our trouble? The hon. Member must take that position. If we are not to stand by France when she is fulfilling her own treaty obligations and when she is overwhelmed by the threat of superior military force, should the time come when we desire assistance to defend ourselves against an attack on our interests who is there to stand by our side and help to defend us?
I entirely support the pledges that have previously been given to defend France against unprovoked aggression. The hon. Member says I am trying, as one obscure Member of the Tory party, to evade all obligations. I would stand by every obligation that Great Britain has given.
Does the hon. Member believe that he speaks for his party? If he does, then it is no use accusing this side of wanting war, because he is charging us with a desire to do the very thing that he himself desires to do. The hon. Member wanted war, and it is just the accident that France did not go to war that prevented him from taking himself, his party, and his country to war.
I would like to examine this spirit of Munich. The Prime Minister was strangely reticent about it yesterday. There was not a word of interpretation yesterday from the man who came back flourishing this wonderful epistle of peace and good will. There was no attempt further to explain the implications of that document. The Gracious Speech contains references to our friendship with France and the United States of America, and we are all very pleased to find those references. We desire friendship with all people. There is no discrimination. No one on this side of the House hates the German people. There is no hatred against Germany in this country. This country is singularly free from hatred against the German people, and the German people do not hate us, I am perfectly sure. The German people do not want war, and their pleasure at the postponement of conflict at Munich was just as marked as the pleasure of the people of our own country. All the people of the world dread war, but the dictators exploit this natural sentiment. They play upon it, they abuse it, they speak of millions of bayonets. Signor Mussolini, I believe, counted 8,000,000 bayonets at the command of a single person. That is the dictator speaking in the true spirit of dictatorship. Eight million bayonets—not souls, not creatures, not human beings, not people with personalities, but 8,000,000 bayonets, each held by a single soldier submissive to the will of the individual dictator. They speak of skies darkened by aeroplanes. That is the language of the dictators. They are armed for aggression and have invaded weaker States one by one in the course of the last two or three years.
It is now regarded as an offence to question the methods and the motives of the totalitarian States. In the spirit of the Munich Agreement it is assumed that this nation should follow with prompt totalitarian uniformity the example of the Prime Minister and the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs. I have sat in this House and I have been amazed to listen to the Under-Secretary. A day or two ago he said that General Franco had spoken a certain word and he believed it. Mussolini had said a certain thing and he believed him. The Prime Minister believes Herr Hitler. These three beings stand above the ordinary level of mankind. When they speak they are to be believed, not only in the totalitarian countries over which they preside, but in this House when they are to be quoted as infallible objects of veracity. I am not to be believed because I am a political opponent. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs was a leader many years ago in a time of great stress in this country, but no respect is shown to him to-day. Respect is directed to Mussolini, Hitler and Franco, but there is no recognition of the services done by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs who was the outstanding man when this country was in trouble many years ago.
Franco, Mussolini and Hitler are to be believed, and it is almost blasphemy to suggest that these people have deviated one instant from the truth. The Under-Secretary seemed to suggest that it was unreasonable to question the Government's policy. We cannot agree with those hon. Gentlemen who vow their confidence in the honesty and veracity of Hitler, Mussolini and Franco. Let them be judged by their behaviour. Have they played straight with their promises in regard to non-intervention? Hitler and Mussolini have pledged themselves not to intervene in Spain. The war goes on in Spain, and in this war General Franco relies upon Italian and German troops and munitions. He knows quite well that he cannot win this war unless Italy and Germany send the best of their troops and materials to him. He knows that he would have been defeated long ago without them. The hon. Member opposite went out to see General Franco. He professes to have no political partisanship in this matter; he says he is neither Fascist nor Nazi, but I have heard him speak in glowing terms of General Franco and his Phalangists.
I have never said I have been there, because I have not, for a perfectly good reason. The hon. Member is referring to the hon. and gallant Member for Wellingborough (Wing-Commander James).
The hon. Member himself has spoken on this matter, and I shall withdraw only when I find he has not. I will say no more about it now. The Italian Government have been carrying on the war in Spain for 2½ years. Day after day we were told in this House that our Government had no knowledge of that. They have admitted the presence of Italians only after the Italian Government had admitted the presence of their troops in Spain and had claimed large-scale victories for them. Now we are told that the Italians are withdrawing from Spain, that 10,000 have been withdrawn and there are not many more left, and those that are there are not playing a very important part in the conflict. General Franco knows better, and so do Members of this House whom I can see here now, who have been active partisans of General Franco and have been paying tribute to the qualities of this rebel General, who would have been hanged or shot if he had committed the same offences in this country. In Spain he is a rebel against his own Government. He seduced the Spanish troops and called in troops from other countries and is now relying upon the Italians and the Germans. Signor Mussolini, Herr Hitler and General Franco are a trio of men who have defied international law, broken their pledged word and committed atrocities and cruelties against the people of Spain unequalled in the history of Europe. They talk of non-intervention with the utmost scorn and of the right hon. Gentleman's Government with contempt.
The King's Speech talks of assisting the restoration of peace in Spain. I should like to know what our Government are prepared to do. There are millions of innocent Spanish civilians who have undergone privations for the last 2½ years. An hon. Member opposite knows a lot about if, because he is in close contact with General Franco himself. He has helped to distribute the seditious literature of General Franco.
The hon. and gallant Member is related to General Franco in this country. He cannot deny it. I have received communications in his name, and so have other Members of the House. The Government have said something about restoring peace to Spain and bringing hostilities to an end, but I should like them to make a declaration. The Foreign Secretary has said in the House of Lords that Signor Mussolini is determined to win a victory for Franco before he withdraws any men from Spain. I want to know whether the Government of this country are prepared to accept that fiat. I want to know before this Debate ends whether the King is made to utter an untruth when he declared in his own speech that we are going to do something to bring hostilities in Spain to an end. What are we going to do? The House is entitled to know. Questions have been put to-day which have not been answered, and this is a question to which I would press for an answer to-night or before the Debate ends. What are the Government going to do to help to restore peace to Spain and to bring hostilities to an end? Are the Government going to intervene? Are the Government going to mediate? Are the Government going to do something to stop the wholesale starvation endured by the people of Spain? We shall be accessories to the worst of dark crimes if we do not do something to clear our name from the charge of complicity in a plot against the Spanish people.
I promised that I would say a word or two on the question of trade. I will finish after a few more words. My observations will be very brief and general. We are all complaining of the burden of expenditure, but if the spirit of Munich develops as it has done for the last week or two our expenditure will increase rather than diminish and we shall be spending more hundreds of millions of pounds a year in the wasteful and futile preparation for war. We shall be expending the substance of our people and joining all the other countries in Europe in the mad race towards bankruptcy which will overwhelm us all one of these days. I trust that there will be no war, but if the spirit of Munich is to avoid war it must also avoid this expenditure on armaments. There is always the temptation to the nation strong in arms to use those arms against its weaker neighbours.
Considering the prospect of peace or war in Europe I see the awful alternative of the continuation of a programme of rearmament, with the prospect of hostilities actually receding to the distance of many years. Can anyone contemplate with satisfaction or peace of mind the rearmament of Europe, nations spending every year £2,000,000,000 or £3,000,000,000 for the next five or 10 years and, at the end, having piled up arms and diverted all their unemployment resources to the manufacture of tanks, aeroplanes and guns by the thousand, deciding not to use those arms? The piles of warlike materials will be left to rot and rust and all the men now in employment upon them will be turned out again, to stand by and to rot and rust also—human labour which has been engaged in the preparation of all those wasteful, stupid and futile armaments. I would like this House to contemplate the urgency of diverting at the earliest possible moment that capital, labour and productive capacity to better use.
I heard the hon. Member for West Derbyshire (Mr. Hunloke) describe in a maiden speech a village in his division. It would be an accurate description of a village in my division or in the divisions of hundreds of Members of this House. He described the difficulties attendant upon the proposed evacuation of children from large cities to rural areas during the recent crisis, and he said that the villages in our countryside could not receive those school-children because no water was available and no light had been provided. It would be quite impossible to receive in the villages of our country small parties of 150 children evacuated from the towns.
That picture suggests that there is a large work of rural reconstruction upon which we could profitably employ ourselves. Imagine Britain spending £300,000,000 a year on improving the conditions of life for our people, on housing, lighting, water supply, better transport and better schools; why, we could regenerate Britain and make of it a coun try in which one would be proud to live and for which one would be proud to fight. We are neglecting our people. Millions of people in this country have nothing to gain by fighting for it. No exchange is offered them even though they offer their blood; you give them nothing in return. With the same expense as that of the present preparations we could make a country fit for heroes to live in, and when the country was fit you would find the heroes there. We are a splendid race. We are a proud race, with as much capacity for industry and toleration as any other, and yet we are throwing away our resources and opportunities for building up a happy, contented and secure life for our people. I hope that before this King's Speech is passed by this House the omissions from it will be made good and that a better programme for the Session will be provided.
I am sure that the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell), who is always so courteous himself, will acquit me of any discourtesy if I do not follow him in detail into the discussion of foreign affairs, because it was arranged that I should deal rather with domestic affairs at the end of this Debate, and that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs should intervene on foreign policy during the Debate. Since my hon. Friend spoke, there have, of course, been a number of speeches relating to foreign policy. I would refer particularly to those of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) and of the hon. Member for Gower, and would say, in relation to those speeches, that the observations made in them will, of course, receive the carefuly study which they merit.
There is one observation on foreign affairs that I feel bound to make. The hon. Member for Gower began by reading the opening words of the Gracious Speech, which follow the usual formula:
My relations with foreign Powers continue to be friendly.
I say "the usual formula." It is the formula that is used when this country is at peace. The hon. Member complained that in present circumstances it was rather strange, but I think that millions of people in this country are thankful
that that formula can be used, when we realise that it is only a few short weeks ago that we sat in this House definitely under the shadow of war. The hon. Gentleman has referred to the waste of armament, and has said something with which I hope all my hon. Friends will find a measure of agreement. He said that our goal must be the limitation, and ultimately the abolition, of aggressive armaments. But that must be pursued as a general policy. Unilateral disarmament alone, as we have found to our cost before, has not produced the results that we desire. The Government refuse to accept the doctrine that war is inevitable. Other evils have been stamped out. The evils of disease can be coped with, and we believe that the evils of war can be coped with too.
Although foreign affairs are not the main subject of my speech, I want to say a word or two on one aspect—a trade aspect—of the policy which the Prime Minister is pursuing with a view to appeasement in Europe and a better understanding with the two countries which have been much in our speeches to-day, namely, Germany and Italy. That is the economic value of such an understanding. An interesting speech was made to-day by the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Price), who referred to the value of the trade which we conduct with the Central European countries, and also with Russia. As regards those Central European countries and our trade with them, I want to assure the House that we shall use our best endeavours to retain our trade with those countries, and to use all proper methods that we can to extend it. I should like, if I had time, to expand on that question, because for a number of years I was in charge of the Overseas Trade Department and the Export Credits Department, and may claim to know something about it.
In spite of all that has been said about the great difficulties of trading in those markets, there is important work to be done there, but I think that those who speak continually of the value of the Central European group of markets—Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria, Greece and Yugoslavia—sometimes forget the very great value of the German and Italian markets themselves, and I should like to give some figures to the House on that subject. The point I wish to emphasise is that our policy of trying to come to a better political understanding has a very great importance for trade also. During 1937 we imported from Germany—including Austria—and Italy, £47,000,000 worth of merchandise. We exported, including re-exports as well as our own produce, over £37,000,000 worth of goods. From the group of countries which I mentioned, during the same period the comparable figures were £13,000,000 of imports and £7,000,000 of exports—so that, from the total of that group, the amount of our trade, important as it is, is very much less than with the two great countries I have mentioned. I emphasise the figures of £47,000,000 and £37,000,000 as compared with £13,000,000 and £7,000,000 for the whole group of countries. If we take Czechoslovakia into account, in 1937 our imports from that country were £7,000,000, and our exports, including re-exports, £3,000,000. If we take the whole group including Czechoslovakia, we get a total of £20,000,000 of imports and £10,000,000 of exports.
I hope I am not conveying the impression that I do not regard that trade as of any value. It is of immense value. We must, manufacturers and Government Departments alike, strain every nerve to hold that and expand it. I emphasise that the Prime Minister's policy of appeasement, quite apart from its political value, which involves life and death to many people, also means employment to many of our people. At the same time, I would point out that we are also a vital market to those countries. That should be remembered. We can never trade successfully without good will. Hon. Members talk about loss of trade in Central Europe, but I have heard little from them about the loss of trade in those two great markets which would occur without good will. These markets are of special importance to Scotland, as Germany in 1937 bought 963,000 cwts. of herring and paid £678,000 for them; Italy bought 71,000 cwts., valued at £105,000; and Greece bought 46,000 cwts., valued at £64,000. It is very important for us to hold those markets that we have, as well as to try to obtain new markets where we have the opportunity.
I think the right hon. Gentleman is wrong about this year as compared with last: I think there has been an improvement; but I would like notice of the question. Surely the right hon. Gentleman would not suggest that the market is not of importance, especially in view of the failure of the Russian market. Equally we are of great importance to these two countries. That position should be preserved.
I would like to say a word about one aspect only of the Colonial problem. I do not want to prejudge the discussions on that problem. I read with interest the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Stirling (Mr. Johnston). I do not say I agree with him, but he has given great thought to the matter. But I think great harm is done by talk in certain quarters about the stranglehold Britain has on raw materials which are not available to other countries. I think that that causes bitterness and misunderstanding in foreign countries, and, what is more, it is not true. I was at Geneva last year as Financial Secretary to the Treasury, and it was my duty to take part in the Debates at the Assembly. One of the subjects brought up for discussion was the report of the Raw Materials Committee of the League of Nations. That committee pointed out that the raw materials question was not primarily or even considerably a question of colonies or of colonial production, and that the difficulties of certain countries were not in regard to the supply of raw materials but in regard to the ability to pay for them. On that occasion, speaking in that committee—I hope the House will forgive me for quoting my own observations at Geneva, but I think they have a direct bearing on this aspect of the colonial problem—I said:
The committee recommended that all nations should bind themselves by autonomous action or by international conventions not to adopt such measures, prohibitions, restrictions, etc., on the export of raw materials and export duties high enough to act as a restriction or prohibition. The United Kingdom"—
I gave this assurance on behalf of the United Kingdom Government—
was prepared to declare that this had been and would be its policy. It would welcome similar declarations from other governments and was prepared to consider the terms of an international convention if such seemed desirable to other countries.
I went on to deal with the development of national resources, and said:
There had been no obstacles to foreign investment in the United Kingdom, and it had been the policy of the United Kingdom Government in the past that there should be no discrimination in the granting of concessions for developments of all kinds throughout the British Colonial Empire.
There had been one exception in the case of petroleum. A decision had been reached—I am speaking of last year—to modify that exception. I make this point, and it is one worthy of serious consideration by the House. Whatever may be said of the Colonial question, it is wrong to assert that Great Britain is making it impossible for foreign countries to get raw materials. On the contrary, in general, it may be said that the Colonies are only too ready to supply them.
I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman has misjudged me. I said that it was said in certain quarters. I had no intention of applying it to him, and I hope that he will accept my assurance. I read his speech with interest, and I paid him the tribute that, though I did not agree with all he had said, he had evidently given great thought to the matter. It was said by some hon. Members this afternoon. It was said by the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) who said that the nations were divided, like people, into the "haves" and the "have nots," and proceeded to argue that we kept raw materials to ourselves. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will understand my references in this regard.
There are some questions at home to which I would like to refer. There has been reference to unemployment and criticism of the fact that the word "unemployment" does not appear in the Gracious Speech. The word "employment" appears in the Speech, and I wish to direct the attention of the House to the fact that, since the first National Government took office in 1931, the number of employed people in the United Kingdom, exclusive of those employed in agriculture, who came later to be registered, has increased from 9,400,000 in October, 1931, to 11,455,000 in October of this year. That is to say, new jobs have been found for about 2,000,000 of our people, and the numbers of unemployed are less by 1,000,000 than at that earlier date. Though there has been a rise again this year, that rise seemed to be checked a short time ago. Then there came the international crisis, which had a bad effect on trade, but again the latest figures seem to show another check to the recession; and I for one see no reason why we should not have improved opportunities of employment in front of us.
The hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. T. Cox) in a very interesting speech paid a high tribute to the work of the Commissioners for Special Areas. I would like to say a word in relation to the Scottish Special Areas. In Scotland on 17th December, 1934 (the beginning of the period), there were 28.9 per cent. of the insured population unemployed in the Special Areas of Scotland. This had been reduced by the 17th October this year to 18.3, a reduction of over 10 per cent. In the Special Areas over Great Britain as a whole there are well over 100,000 more persons in work than there were three years ago. I do not pretend that there are not still black spots and great difficulties to contend with in the Special Areas, and if I had a little more time I should have developed that subject. But I do not think we do any service to the prestige of our country or to the work of the Commissioners if we do not give credit to the figures and facts that I have now brought forward. The commitments of the Commissioners in England and Wales have reached nearly £17,000,000, and the commitments in Scotland now amount to well over £4,000,000, covering a wide variety of enterprises.
I would like to mention in the case of Scotland the estate which has been created at North Hillingdon, which is just outside Glasgow. In Scotland we have sometimes thought that we suffered from having too many of our eggs in one basket—in the heavy industries—and we are making a conscious effort to broaden the basis of our production and to get some lighter industries to start in Scotland. This estate at North Hillingdon is an effort in that direction. There 88 factories have been completed, and 59 are under construction, and 73 tenants have taken 105 factories on that site. Although it has been said as a criticism that the new factories are merely transfers from other areas, that is not in fact the case. It is an easy criticism to make, but I have been at pains to find out whether we are doing anything useful at North Hillingdon, and I believe we are. The facts are that some 27 factories were transferred from outside the Special Area, while 54 are new firms or branches of existing firms; so the transfers are only one-third if the total. Although the total number employed there, as compared with the total number employed in the country as a whole, is not immense, nevertheless these new factories are producing things which were not already produced in that area, and we have introduced lighter industries to a part of the counry which has relied on heavy industries before. So I claim that that is a conscious direction of industry in a proper direction.
There is one old industry in the Special Areas of Scotland to which I should like to make a reference, and that is the shale oil industry. In the Lothians oil is produced from shale, and that industry has been through a very bad time. With the competition of imported oil from abroad it was quite impossible for the industry to be kept economically at work. As the House knows, there is a preference for home spirit, and the Government have given a guarantee of a preference on home spirit of 8d. a gallon for 12 years. That is having a very important effect on this old industry, and I am pleased to be able to say that considerable extensions are taking place. At present the number of workers engaged in that old industry is just over 4,000–4,094—and of this number 2,400 are on the spread-over system, that is to say, they work three weeks out of four. This arrangement was come to between the employers and the employès in order to spread the work over, and it has in fact been a good and model arrangement for helping us through a bad time. None the less, it does not give such good work as whole time. There are, roughly, 4,000 men employed. As a result of the recent extensions full employment will be given to all the workers, instead of the spread-over arrangement, and in addition 500 or 600 new workers will be engaged. I mention this as an interesting example whereby an old industry may come into its own again, if it becomes profitable for its products to be sold.
As the hon. Member knows, I am not in a position to make an announcement about that, beyond what is stated in the Gracious Speech, namely, that the question of improving conditions in the Special Areas is under consideration at the present time.
I should like to say a few words on the subject of housing, on which several questions have been addressed to me by hon. Members. The Gracious Speech makes reference to housing in the United Kingdom. A total of about 4,000,000 houses have been built in Great Britain since the War. The provision of these houses has enabled the rehousing to take place of about 15,000,000 people. That is to say, that about every third person in the country lives in a postwar house. In Scotland, unfortunately, we are in a backward position as regards housing. We estimate that in Scotland we require about 250,000 additional houses, in order to replace slum dwellings and to deal with the very serious overcrowding which still exists. I am glad to say that better progress has been made in Scotland this year than last year. The total number of houses built up to date this year is already more than the number last year, and promises to be a marked improvement on last year. But that does not satisfy me, nor can it satisfy anyone who is anxious to see the Scottish housing problem really solved.
I think the total this year will be just under 20,000, compared with 13,000 last year. That is a marked improvement, but we have a long way to go if we are to make up the 250,000.
Yes. One of our difficulties in Scotland—and I shall be glad if the hon. Member could help me in the matter—is to get labour. That is a very difficult problem, as we all know, in Scotland. I have to-day introduced a Bill, which will I hope be available to hon. Members to-morrow, which improves the rate of subsidy, and in that way will give considerable assistance to the drive which is necessary in Scotland for rehousing the people. I shall have an opportunity when the Bill is under discussion, in a very short time, of outlining its provisions. We have discussed the matter with the local authorities, and it is anticipated that this Measure will produce a real improvement in housing conditions in Scotland. We are also trying to meet the labour difficulty by introducing alternative methods of construction, timber houses and concrete houses, and the Bill that I have introduced provides for the encouragement of those efforts.
I have dealt with only one or two aspects of the Gracious Speech, but they are sufficient to show that on the home front, as well as in the field of foreign affairs, His Majesty's Government are striving forward towards the betterment of the conditions of the people. If we are to have that betterment we must build on solid foundations and we all know that the surest foundation is the resolve of the peoples of Europe to live at peace with each other. I believe that the best man to build on that foundation is the Prime Minister.