§ Sir JOHN SIMON
I beg to move to leave out. "£126,600,000," and to insert instead thereof "£126,599,900."
I am glad to see, from the condition of the front Government Bench, that there is not likely to be any immediate protest against a further discussion being initiated on the very serious question connected with the occupation of the Ruhr. My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow (Mr. Mosley) and I have put down this Amendment to reduce the Foreign Office Vote in order to call attention to recent events of great and increasing gravity in the Ruhr Basin, and to invite a statement from the Government as to the action which is taken, or is contemplated to be taken. I am not going over old ground, which has already been dealt with in our earlier Debates. What I desire to do is to ask the attention of the House and the attention of the Government to certain new facts and new events, some of them only two or three days old, which undoubtedly have a most important bearing on this difficult question. The increasing seriousness of these events cannot be disputed, for they not only involve the prospects of peace in Europe, but at the same time they closely affect British interests—both national interests and, indeed, British commercial interests. On the opening day of the Session, which is just a month ago to-day, my right hon. Friend the 1332 Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) called attention to the passage in the King's Speech in which the Government's policy was stated to be this:My Government, while feeling unable either to concur or participate in this operation,''—that is the French and Belgian action—.are acting in such a way as not to adc3 to the difficulties of their Allies.It is really not open to dispute that however praiseworthy that object may have been, the intervening month has shown that very considerable difficulties are caused to British interest and British trade by the continuance of a policy of merely passive acquiescence. My right hon. Friend, on the opening day of the Session, said it did not seem to him that this declaration exhausted our duty, and he pointed our that the policy of passive acquiescence could not go on indefinitely. The Prime Minister dealt with this matter in several speeches to the House, and always—if I may be allowed to say so—with his usual frankness. He has told us, in earlier Debates, that the Government- as yet did not see its way to take any action, or even, as I understand, to make any representation. But, while, the policy of waiting on events continues from week to week, and indeed now from month to month, the events themselves are rapidly changing. it is in face of these new events that the House is entitled to ask, and is bound to ask, whether passive acquiescence is still to be the keynote of British policy.
I want. to bring the thing to a point, and to state at once what are the three new events which have occurred quite recently, in respect to which we have really had no Debate on the Floor of this House at all, and as to each of which the House generally will feel that some statement from the Government is proper and desirable. The first of these three new events is that the British Army of Occupation, instead of continuing to hold its own sector of the occupied area, with Allies to the right and Allies to the left, is now completely surrounded, and has no contact with unoccupied Germany at all. Nobody will dispute that that is a very serious fact. It is a new fact, and one as to which the House and the country are entitled to have a statement from the Government. The second new event is this—it is very closely related to the first., and it concerns and affects 1333 us all, in whatever quarter of the House we sit—that, as the result of this complete encirclement of the British area at Cologne, British trading interests in the Cologne area—interests connected with the sending of goods to the Cologne area, or through the Cologne area—which are very considerable both as to export and import, are being most seriously prejudiced. I am sure many hon. Members must have received, as I have received, indications showing that. British traders of undoubted public spirit and patriotism are really greatly concerned at the consequences to British trade which are connected with this isolation of the British area at Cologne.
The third event, perhaps the most serious of all, and also the most recent of all, is this. There are indications, unfortunately, that the period of passive resistance on the part of Germany in face of the Ruhr invasion may be coming to an end. We have news in our newspapers this morning of a savage outbreak, involving the deaths of French soldiers and of German civilians. That fact is a solemn warning to us of the danger of letting the policy of drift and acquiescence go too far. I have indicated these three events because they are new events, and I am within the knowledge of the House, and I shall be confirmed when I say, that none of the three has been made the subject of discussion or debate in the House. I will deal with the three, briefly, and in order. First of all, as to the position of the British Army of Occupation. I am not sure whether a map has been put up in one of the rooms connected with the House which shows to the full extent what has happened within the last week or so. In general terms, however, the facts are well known to the House and to the country. The original occupation—I invite the attention of the House to this fact—of the Ruhr Valley did not involve any interference with the British zone at all, because Essen and the Ruhr Valley lie opposite to the Belgian zone, which is more to the north than the British zone. Therefore, whatever may have been the anxieties of the country and the concern of the Government, when they found that our friends in France were determined to advance into the Ruhr Basin, that decision did not in itself involve any interference with the British area at all.
What has happened since is that the French have followed up their advance 1334 into the Ruhr, which was to the north of the British sector, by a corresponding advance to the south of the British sector. They advanced into Germany, not only in Baden, but also immediately to the south of where the British troops were stationed, and by 25th February—I think I remember the hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs himself giving the answer—the French troops had occupied territory between the Mainz and Coblenz bridgeheads, and then between the Coblenz and Cologne bridgeheads. They have now gone further. They have joined hands from north and from south, behind and beyond the British area, with the result that the British Army and the area of British occupation is completely encircled. That is a very grave situation, which I venture to think was not at all contemplated when the arrangements were made for the joint watch on the German frontier, and, indeed, does not seem to me to have been contemplated at the time when the Prime Minister had his interview with M. Poincaré in London last December. The House will no doubt have studied the Blue-book which has been recently issued giving an account of the interviews, both in December in London and in January in Paris, between the British Prime Minister and M. Poincaré. It is a very interesting book, and I notice that a good deal that we have been told by the Prime Minister in this House may be found in it including, indeed, the famous remark about the jugular vein.
I invite the House to allow me to read a passage on page 52 of this Blue-book on the exact point that the encirclement of the British area of occupation is a new fact, which was not within the contemplation of our own Prime Minister, or apparently, of M. Poincaré, when these conversations took place. I find on page 52 this statement as to what happened on the 10th December, 1922, at 10, Downing Street:M. Poincaré explained that the whole of his proposals referred only to the parts of the Ruhr in the neutral zone as fixed under the Treaty of Versailles, and that he contemplated no action outside the neutral zone.What has happened since has nothing to do with the Ruhr. The occupation of the area which is beyond the British area is not an occupation of the Ruhr, but is 1335 an occupation of territory to the south of the Ruhr: and the plain truth is that these events have followed one after the other, step by step, and we are faced to-day with French action in this area which goes far beyond what was ever explained to or contemplated by our Prime Minister at the time of the interviews recorded in the Blue-book. That must be taken to be a very important matter, because I remember that the late Prime Minister, in the Debate three weeks ago, venturing upon a military opinion, or rather quoting the military opinion of others, said that the French advance into the Ruhr really involved the occupation of an exposed salient, and he doubted very much whether it would receive the approval of any expert military opinion. Since that date, our friends in France have completely corrected that position. They have straightened their line behind our backs, and have really taken up an entirely new front of their own, facing Germany, with the result—not a very satisfactory result, I should have thought, from the British point of view—that the British Army is no longer in contact with unoccupied Germany at all, but, as a matter of fact, is completely encircled and surrounded by French troops.
May I point out another effect which has followed upon this, and here we approach an admitted breach—admitted, I mean, on the part of the British Government—an admitted breach by the French of the Treaty of Versailles. The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs was asked a question on the 5th March by my hon. Friend the Member for Accrington (Mr. Charles Buxton) as to whether it was the fact that the Rhineland High Commission was exercising jurisdiction in the territory usually occupied by the French military authorities, and, if so, under what provision of the Treaty of Versailles or of the Rhineland Agreement it was exercising such jurisdiction. The hon. Gentleman replied by saying that that was so, but he added:His Majesty's Government are advised that under no provision of the Treaty of Versailles or of the Rhineland Agreement can the High Commission claim to exercise jurisdiction over the territory in question."—[OFFICIAL REPORT,5th March, 1923; col. 14, Vol. 161.]That is, at any rate, one example of the unhappy consequences of the French advance as to which, up to the present, 1336 our own Government professes itself unwilling either to interfere or, indeed, to protest. I do ask the House to consider whether the time has not come when we are bound to ask the Government the question, and urge them to answer—Have they really satisfied themselves that the recent action of the French in advancing into Germany is within the Treaty of Versailles at all? I must confess I was very much astonished at the answer, and, so far as I know, it is the only answer that has ever been given from the Government Bench on this subject. There has been a good deal of discussion as to the proper interpretation and application of the Treaty of Versailles in this regard. I remember that my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge University (Mr. J. Butler), in a maiden speech which everyone in the House much appreciated, put the question very clearly indeed, but he got no answer. No one has ever had any answer from the Government on this point, and when, on the 15th February, a question was put by the hon. Member for North Norfolk (Mr. Noel Buxton), as to whether or not the opinion of the law officers had been sought on the question whether action under Part 8 of the Treaty—that is the Reparations part—on which the French occupation is based, requires the unanimous consent of the Reparation Commission, an answer was given by the Under-Secretary of State to which I should like respectfully to call his attention. I cannot help thinking that on reflection he will not be preparerd to justify his answer, and I shall be very much surprised if the House of Commons is content with it. He was asked whether the Attorney-General had been asked to advise the Government as to the true interpretation and application of this Treaty of Versailles, and he replied:I think my hon. Friend will see that it would be useless to take the course which he recommends, because any opinion given by the law officers of the Crown here must necessarily be based on principles of interpretation laid down by British law in British Courts, and those principles of interpretation may not be accepted by other nations."—[OFFICTAT. REPORT. 15th February, 1923: col. 311, Vol. 160.]I hope I do not treat the office of Attorney-General with undue respect, but I have some recollection of that office, and have great pride in having held it, and it is the first time I have ever heard that the Attorney-General of this country has not got, as one of his most important 1337 confidential duties, the duty of advising the Government and the Cabinet as to the proper construction and application of Treaties to which this country is a party. To say that the whole thing is to be thrown aside on the ground that an English lawyer cannot be expected to give anyone any advice on such a subject that is worth having, would, I think, make some past holders of the office turn in their graves. It has always been the case that the Government of the day has asked for, and paid such respect as is proper to, the best advice that they can get from the lawyer whom they choose as the principal adviser of the Crown, but here is a question which has been very widely canvassed, which has been raised in this House again and again. Are we really to understand that the answer of His Majesty's Government is that they have never even asked anyone, not even the person who is authorised in this matter to advise them, whether or not these proceedings are within the Treaty of Versailles?
Before I leave the point, may I just point out to the hon. Gentleman that, whatever may be said on one side or the other, this is a very serious point, on which there is, undoubtedly, a difference of opinion. I notice, for example, that M. Barthou, who is now, I think, the President of the Reparation Commission, but who was previously the authority who reported to the French Chamber as to the Treaty of Versailles, has published a book called "The Treaties of Peace," in which he reproduces the report that he made to the French Chamber as to the meaning and application of the Treaty The House is aware that, under the French system, the Chamber is accustomed to pay special attention to the views of the official who is called the reporter, who presents a commentary and explanation on various matters to the Chamber. This is what M. Barthou says in his book, at page 116, and this is what he reported to the French Chamber:The Reparation Commission will have powers of control. If Germany avoids her obligations, the Commission will report this failure to the Power interested, and the Allied and Associated Powers will be able to take by common accord "—I call attention to the words "by common accord"—measures of prevention and reprisal, which Germany is bound not to consider as acts of hostility.1338 That Report was made in 1919, and the book is one which can be got in any bookshop that deals with serious French literature Its title is, "Les Traités de Paix," by Louis Barthou. If the reporter of the French Chamber, when the Treaty was being explained to the Chamber, took the view that the Treaty contemplated action by common accord, it is at least worth while consulting the Attorney-General as to whether one Power can take this action by itself.
§ Sir WILLIAM DAVISON
Will the right hon. Gentleman read the Section of the Treaty itself, so that the House may be able to judge, and not quotations from a book?
§ Sir J. SIMON
I am much obliged to the hon. Member for his suggestion. It is a very useful one, and I will follow it. If, however, I may mention it first, there is a second point, which was raised by the hon. Member for Cambridge University in his speech, and many think it is the more important of the two. I will just mention it, and then we will see what the language of the Treaty is. The other point of difficulty is as to what kind of sanctions the Treaty contemplates in addition to the specific form of sanction which it in terms mentions. One view is that the language of the Section is so wide as to justify one single Ally in doing anything, even though it may result, as in the present case, in destroying the prospects of other Allies getting any reparation. The other view, which commends itself to many interpreters, is that there must be some restriction put upon this action, and that military operations, which, for aught I know, may involve marching to Berlin, are not what is really contemplated by the Section. I am glad to follow the hon. Member's suggestion, which is a most practical one. The words are these:The measures which the Allied and associated Powers "—not, be it observed, any one of them—shall have the right to take in case of voluntary default by Germany, and which Germany agrees not to regard as acts of war, may include economic and financial prohibitions and reprisals, and in general such other measures as the respective Governments may determine to be necessary in the circumstances.I am not going to lay down the law on the matter. I only say that it rather astonishes one to hear that the British 1339 Government has no desire that the Attorney-General should tell them what he thinks. The opinion which is very widely held—it is not for me to pronounce upon it at all—is, first of all, that a Clause which speaks of Measures which the Allied and Associated Powers may take cannot in the same sentence really contemplate that one Power can do what it likes, in defiance of the wishes of the others. Secondly, the contention is that economic and financial prohibitions and reprisals, though they are followed by more general words, do not in virtue of the words which follow extend to and cover the most extreme military measures. This cannot be regarded as a point of no substance. Now that we have reached a point when our friends in France have admittedly, in view of the British Government, gone beyond the powers of the Treaty in giving the Rhineland Commission powers which the Rhineland Commission has no right to exercise at all, I do ask the Under-Secretary whether it is not time that we had some assurance from the Government that they have really considered and come to a conclusion as to the extent to which the Treaty covers the action that has been taken.
I now come to the second point, namely, what is the effect which this encirclement and isolation of the Cologne area is having upon the interests of British trade. Cologne, which is the centre of the British Army of Occupation, is also a most important trading centre. It is one of the most important trading centres of that part of Europe, and it is a trading centre with which British trade has very close connections. I noticed in the "Times" newspaper the other day a very striking article communicated to them from Cologne, which contained this statement:British firms established in Cologne number close on one hundred and they are growing more and more indignant over the situation in which they are placed, more especially since they consider that they were encouraged by the British Government to settle here and do their part in restoring pre-War trade. After four years' hard work our trade here had become really important to the Empire, but it has been ruined by a stroke of the pen.That is a very serious statement. I do not think that at the moment it attracted quite as much attention as it otherwise might have done, because I have taken this extract from a copy of the "Times" which also announced the results of the 1340 Mitcham and Willesden bye-elections. Until this new action by the French there were, it is true, duties which were imposed upon goods going into the occupied area, but those duties were administered through German officials, on a scale of charges which was well known, and trade was being conducted on that basis. What has happened since? I hold in my hand a letter from the secretary of the British Chamber of Commerce at Cologne, in which he asks that public attention should be drawn to the position. He says:I beg to enclose herewith a summary of the Regulations of the Inter-Allied Rhineland High Commission on the one hand and the German Government on the other, in order that you may see for yourself the impossible state of affairs existing here.I have done my best to digest this elaborate document, and I think I can state accurately what is the effect of it. The effect seems to be that a British trader who is exporting British goods to Cologne, whether to supply that area or to pass through Cologne into unoccupied Germany, very often sends his goods by the Rhine. Since the new French advance, his goods are stopped. They are held up by the French Customs officials before they get to Cologne, and a demand is made for an import duty of 10 per cent. ad valorem. That is by no means the end of his troubles. Supposing that he pays the import duty of 10 per cent. ad valorem, and the goods are goods which are going through into unoccupied Germany, there is also a duty which he is charged, and which is charged by the French Customs officials, because they are goods exported from the Cologne area. Neither the duty that is charged when the goods go in, nor the duty that is charged when the goods go out of Cologne are duties which the German authorities will recognise or acknowledge. Therefore, having paid the import duty or the export duty as the case may be to the French Customs officer, the British trader finds that he has to face the German tariff, and he has to pay that German tariff before his goods pass into unoccupied Germany.
The Secretary of the British Chamber of Commerce at Cologne points out that the result is that British trade is being strangled, and that it is quite impossible for it to be carried on as it was carried on before. He says:Consequent on the Franco-Belgian march into the Ruhr district, the German officials,1341 who hitherto had worked the Customs business,ceased work. The German Government declared the Bad Ems office closed, refused to recognise any licences as valid, which might he issued after that date. The Rhineland High Commission, on the other hand, declared their intention to open the office again under their sole control. Since then both sides have been constantly publishing conflicting orders, threatening persons ignoring or disobeying their conflicting orders, and threatening persons ignoring or disobeying their several instructions with heavy penalties. The use of licences in the occupied territory, issued by the German control offices, is forbidden, unless otherwise expressly mentioned. Non-compliance or evasion of these Ordinances and instructions is punishable by lines not exceeding 100,000,000 marks, five years' imprisonment and possible forfeiture of goods.In another part of the document he says:The German officials when dealing with British goods passing through unoccupied territory to Germany, not only will have nothing to do with the receipts for Customs duties paid to the French, hut regard it as a breach of German law if anybody under their control should have recognised the French claim.British trade interests are things which this House of Commons has a very special duty to look after and protect. Letters are reaching many Members of this House, as well as myself, which go to show that the situation which has been created, so far as British trade is concerned inside the Cologne area, which is now surrounded by French Customs officials and French troops, is a situation which is growing more and more serious. I will quote one more passage from the statement in the "Times":It is by no means only the local British trade which is hit. Imports from Great Britain to this area have absolutely stopped. Formerly this area took a very large proportion for its own use, and a considerable quantity of the goods in transit passed through Cologne on account of the lower freight charges, for this route competed with Hamburg. It is not only the prohibition by the German Government of the payment of 10 per cent, which has killed our trade: in the opinion of many British experts such a payment is economically impossible. A great, deal of cotton yarn from Manchester and Australian wool comes to Cologne, as well as rubber, metal ores and residues, and copper, marked in London at prices fixed by the world metal market there. These raw material prices are cut to the lowest possible figure and are practically the same throughout the world. 'The idea that Germans can pay the 10 per cent. tax on London metal prices is laughable,' one well-known engineer said to me! There is no patriotism in the refusal of German manufacturers 1342 in occupied territory to pay a 10 per cent. import tax and another 10 per cent. tax on manufactured goods when they leave occupied territory; the refusal is justified by business considerations alone.What is the only comfort which up to the present the Government has been able to give us on this subject? I hope we shall hear before the end of the Debate the latest information on the subject from the Under Secretary. So far as I have been able to follow what he has been able to say, it is limited to this, that they are trying to make arrangements which will give some indulgence or some period of tune for the goods that were already on order, already on the way, or already subject to contract. A much more serious thing is what is going to happen in the future. If we may trust the reports in the principal Bradford newspaper, and in other newspapers, there are large departments of British trade, vitally concerned in commercial transactions in Germany, accustomed to use Cologne as the place of entry, who stand to suffer substantially unless we can have this new situation cleared up.
Lastly, I want to call attention to the most serious thing of all. It is the news which has reached us of violent outbreaks between the French soldiery and the German population. Hitherto in the occupied areas the German population have adopted a policy of passive resistance. Everybody must see that one of the greatest dangers of the situation was that that passive resistance might in the end give way in favour of some more violent or desperate methods. I am justified in saying that this is an entirely new change, as well as a very important change, because if the Under-Secretary and other hon. Members will look at the "Times" this morning they will find in two columns side by side two communications. One is a communication from the Paris correspondent of the "Times," and the other is a communication from the Cologne correspondent of the "Times." What is it that the Paris correspondent of the "Times," writing yesterday, says?There is a widespread feeling here this morning that events in the Ruhr during the last two days have profoundly modified the situation.He is referring to the violent fracas, including sudden deaths on both sides, between the French soldiery and the German civilians. He goes on to say 1343 that the French Minister of War, making a speech, said, in reference to this event:A crime such as that, of which our two countrymen have been the victims"—he is referring to the deaths of two French soldiers—calls for pitiless reprisals.I notice that in other Press communications it is stated that some of the German civilians who have been shot were people who were in custody and who were shot whilst trying to escape. There are a good many people in this House who have reason to remember that a campaign of pitiless reprisals, accompanied by the shooting of men who were already under arrest, because they were trying to escape, is not always found to be the shortest way to peace. That is what the Paris correspondent of the "Times" says. The Cologne correspondent says:Affairs in the Ruhr and the Rhineland have taken a serious turn over the weekend, and outside the British zone the situation is extremely critical.The question I put to the Government, which I think we are entitled to have dealt with, is this: Granted that a month or three weeks ago, or even more recently than that, the Government may have thought there was nothing to be done but simply to wait. Is it really the Government's view that this policy of passive waiting is to go on indefinitely? The object the French have at heart is more and more clearly seen not to be the recovery of reparations at all. I do not for a moment say their anxiety about security and their indignation at the way in which they feel they have been played with is not a sentiment which all of us will recognise as natural and which most of us would have a great deal of sympathy with, but they are not there for the purpose of collecting reparations, whatever their purpose may be. If I may again refer to the Blue Book, if one reads the conversation which went on in London last December between the Prime Minister and M. Poincaré, it is plain that that cannot have been the object which M. Poincaré had in mind. At page 24 of the Blue Book, in the preliminary discussion, the French Prime Minister was saying:So far as reparations are concerned the schedule of payments agreed to on 5th May, 1921,"—1344 That is the £6,600,000,000—had already made an appreciable reduction in the valuation of the German debt as contemplated in the Treaty of Versailles. Any question of further reduction would meet with violent opposition in France.I notice on page 38 the Prime Minister, faced with that most serious declaration, naturally said to M. Poincaré, "Then what is your object?" Let me read the passage, because it shows, as indeed the whole House knows very well without reading the Blue Book, the Prime Minister will always tell the House frankly what he has said privately on behalf of the Government. He was obviously much concerned. This is what he said:Before the questions of sanctions was discussed,"—Before the discussion about the Ruhr,he asked, Could not M. Poincaré put before them proposals so that they would know what demands it was contemplated to make on Germany and how they could be carried out?'That is the attitude taken by our Prime Minister. He never got an answer. As far as I can see, the question was not really repeated, and these discussions broke down, and the conference ended in Paris in January with the French Prime Minister on his side taking the stand that nothing would induce him to reduce this impossible figure of reparation by a penny, and on the other hand on an absolute refusal to explain how he thought there was something which Germany could do in order that they might, by doing it, get the withdrawal of the French Army. The question, therefore, that arises seems to be this: The Government plan of waiting a little until the French saw that reparations could not really be collected by following the French plan, the idea that we should wait in order that Franco might see the mistake she had made, ceases to have any meaning at all if the French object is seen to be something different from reparation. What is the good of waiting till France discovers that she cannot get reparations by this method, if that is not really the main object of France? If the French position was really to occupy the Ruhr indefinitely, is British policy to be that we are to wait. indefinitely? However plausible a waiting policy may have been a month ago, its justification disappears when it is established that there 1345 is nothing to wait for. Therefore, I invite the Government to consider whether they must not make some declaration, some advance, which goes beyond their purely negative attitude hitherto. The sole defence for Government inaction, which has been put forward again and again by the Prime Minister, is that the Government is unwilling to do anything of which the French do not approve. That, for instance, was his reason for discouraging a reference to the League of Nations.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Mr. Ronald McNeill)
I do not think the Prime Minister ever used that expression.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I need not say, especially as the right hon. Gentleman is not here, that I am anxious not to misrepresent him at all. I am glad to be corrected if that is rot so. At any rate, to take up the attitude that you cannot make any appeal to the League of Nations unless you think France would approve your doing so is to reduce the Covenant of the League to an almost meaningless absurdity. The Covenant can only be brought into operation if one signatory exercises his friendly right to call the attention of the League of Nations, whether the Council or the Assembly, to a situation which threatens the peace of the world. I will take Article II of the Treaty and put this question to the House. Would anyone dispute that circumstances have arisen which threaten to disturb international peace? Can anyone dispute that the good understanding between the nations upon which peace depends is threatened by recent events? If those two statements are really quite impossible to controvert, those are exactly the conditions upon which Article II of the Treaty declares that it is the friendly right of each member of the League to call attention to the situation. May I read the words?—It, is also declared to he the friendly right of each member of the League to bring to the attention of the Assembly or the Council any circumstance whatever affecting international relations which threatens to disturb international peace or a good understanding between nations upon which peace depends.I quite understand that the position may he taken up—it was taken up by the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil) in the Debate three weeks ago—that after all you must allow to the 1346 Government of the day a wide discretion and exercise of judgment as to the right moment at which to take action, but that is a wholly different proposition from contending that as long as one signatory to this Article II objects, that. is a reason why no action should be taken at all. I cannot help thinking the House and the country would greatly value a declaration from the Government that though they have, of course, to choose their own time—heaven knows it is much easier to ask questions than to answer them—at the same time they do not at all take up the position that they decline to regard reference to the League of Nations as possible as long as there is a prospect of our friends in France objecting. How can it be an unfriendly act to France to exercise under the Treaty a friendly right which France, by her signature, has declared every party to the Treaty possesses. To say one Power can really, in effect, hold up a reference to the League simply because it objects to the reference being made is completely to upset the whole scheme of the Covenant of the League and to confer upon each Power that signs the Covenant a liberum veto the right which is more vulgarly and simply expressed by saying "one black ball shall exclude." That is not the scheme of the League of Nations at all, and while, therefore, the time at which it ought to he used is, of course, a matter of very grave and high policy on which, no doubt, we must pay due attention to the views of the Government, I ask that it shall be made plain that there is no question that they are debarred from taking this action, with the Council of the League, I think, meeting next month, simply because they are afraid French opinion would not approve of it.
May I make one more reference to the Blue Book? I see on page 78 a report of a very powerful speech which the Prime Minister made in the discussions at Paris. In that speech he laid down, with what seems to me the most admirable good sense, the policy which he thought ought to be followed. May I read it?—But no really large sum could be obtained without re-establishing German credit. To do that the first thing was to find out, not only in the opinion of the Allies themselves, hut in the opinion of all fair-minded people outside, how much Germany could pay.That being the view which the Prime Minister expressed at Paris, I conclude by asking this question. I trust it may be 1347 dealt with. Is that still the view of His Majesty's Government? Is it still their policy? If it is their policy what is it that they are doing in order to carry that policy into effect.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Mr. MOREL
The right hon. Gentleman began his speech by telling us three new facts had recently emerged. I entirely agree with that, but I suggest that a fourth new fact has emerged, that is that we have in Europe to-day a rapidly developing war situation. We have a letting loose of appetites, we have a letting loose of international disturbances, and we have a letting loose of fears from one end of Europe to the other. We have fears in Switzerland. We have very acute fears in Holland. What is the position of Holland to-day in regard to the French advance? Trade between Holland and Germany is being interfered with and the Dutch know only too well that if this policy of France is persisted in the problem of Limburg and the Scheldt, which nearly brought war between Holland and. Belgium two years ago, will be revived. The Dutch know very well that they are very liable to fall into the ditch which the French are digging and when public opinion, which has been kept back, as some of us have reason to know, by official influence in Holland, becomes really conscious of the result of the persistency of French policy, you are going to get an explosion of public opinion in Holland directed both against France and Belgium which may have very serious consequences and towards which we certainly shall not be able to show indifference. Then take the position of Poland. Poland has been arming to the teeth for a long time. She is now expending more and more upon preparations for war. She has just borrowed 400,000,000 francs from France, the whole of which is to be spent on munitions and preparations for war. It seems a rather curious thing that we are told on the one hand that France is invading Germany because she cannot meet the deficit in her Budget and must have reparations, and that she should be rich enough, apparently, to lend Poland £16,000,000 in order to buy munitions and make preparations for war. Fear is also present in Hungary over some sinister movements which have taken place in Rumania. The longer European 1348 statesmen, and public opinion in Europe tolerate, this violation of the law of Europe by the French, the more you are going to create these fears and apprehensions and the nearer you are arriving at a state out of which war will automatically ensue. Take the position in Germany itself. Germany is being driven to despair. A friend of mine the other day attended a meeting of students of the Berlin University. He contrasted the tone of that meeting with the tone of a similar meeting held four years ago when Professor Nicolas, who took much the same line which some of us took in this country in regard to the War, and when he had been rehabilitated in his University Chair and was using his whole influence upon German students for peace and the reconstruction of Europe. To-day my friend attends a meeting at this same university of 2,500 students, and he finds that the whole of that great impulse towards peace, which undoubtedly existed in Germany at the end of the War, has been turned round and to-day they are asking for revenge. The Leader of the Opposition said the other day, in so many words, that this House really does not realise as a whole the gravity of the situation in Europe.
I do not suppose that, in the whole history of Europe, we have had such an extraordinary spectacle as we are witnessing to-clay. Here is a great and gifted nation, a member of the League of Nations, which is supposed to exist to prevent acts of aggression in time of peace—here is this great, gifted nation invading a neighbouring country, seizing its railways, establishing a- line of Customs, expelling its officials, destroying the whole civil administration of the country—doing everything, in fact, but annexing it in name. That is what is going on under our eyes, and it is illustrative of the bankruptcy of statesmanship in Europe and of the moral decay which has come into men's minds that this act can take place without protest and without constructive opposition. War would have been raging from one end of Europe to another if the victim of this act were not militarily helpless for the time being. But does any sane man believe that, if pursued, this policy will not lead to war? Can any sane man believe that, if war once starts in Europe, it will not spread from one end of 1349 Europe to the other; and can anyone believe that if that war once starts, we shall not be dragged in sooner or later.
What terrifies me more than anything else is the argument which is used, the position which is taken up by some hon. Members opposite, perhaps not so much in this House as outside, of "Hats off to France" whatever France does. It appears to me to be the most dangerous attitude. When the real designs of French militarism have become so clear that no one can mistake them, these math influences which are agreeing to-day with what France does will turn round and condemn France to-morrow. The Prime Minister says ho has no policy in face of the situation, and, if I do not misrepresent him, which I should be sorry to do, I think he told the House the other day that if we called the fact that he had no policy "drift," then he was drifting. It does seem to me that this policy of drift is the most clangorous policy you can possibly adopt from the point of view of peace and national security. Whom does it help? It is injurious to France because it helps French militarism to drag the French people along a road ending in disaster. It is injurious and unfair to Germany. We have certain obligations to Germany under Treaty; these obligations have been set aside. It is injurious to our own interests. The right hon. and learned Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) has touched to-day briefly on the reports which are pouring into us from British merchants in Cologne and London. I myself have called attention on several occasions to these reports. One of the latest I have received is from one of the biggest importers of aluminium. A very large stock of their goods has been seized by the French. They cannot get the stuff away they cannot supply their clients in Eng and with whom they have contracts. The result is, I am informed, that unless the situation is ended at once several thousand workers in this country will be thrown out of employment within the next few weeks. It is injurious therefore to our interests and injurious to the interests of peace, which are threatened more and more the longer the situation develops.
I should like to ask the Government a specific question. The Government has said that, in all these individual 1350 cases, they will do what they can, but there is the question of principle, and what I want to ask is: Are the Government prepared to accept the position that wherever the French choose to go that there our trade can be interfered with and can have new taxes imposed upon it.? It is not merely a question of dealing with individuals; it is a question of knowing what is going to happen as the French area of occupation increases. What I hope the Government will tell us clearly is, if to-morrow the French Government occupies Hamburg or Berlin—if wherever they go, the Government accept the position that the French have the right to interfere with our trade and impose licences on goods which have already paid licences to the Germans, If they do I venture to say that it is a decision which this country will not stand for a moment.
I wish to echo a remark made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley. He said, in effect, are you going to wait indefinitely? You have waited, and the French have pursued their policy with all the greater activity, the less activity you have shown. The Prime Minister, referring to France's attitude with regard to mediation, said that France would regard as a hostile act either a reference to the League of Nations or a reference to the Hague tribunal, or any mediation at all. That is a position we on this side of the House cannot accept. We are members of the League of Nations. We have as much right as France in the League, and we are also signees of the Versailles Treaty, which, unfortunately for us, the late Prime Minister helped to create, and which has done us and the world infinite harm. We are a member of that Treaty, and it is perfectly ridiculous for the French to take up the position that they will not allow us to review their action, which professes to be action under the Treaty, nor allow us to refer the matter to the League of Nations. If we take up that position, we reduce ourselves to the level of a Balkan State, placing ourselves in a most humiliating position, and not in a position which makes for peace. My own particular views on this subject are perfectly clear, and have been from the beginning. I submit that the policy this country ought to pursue is not one of diplomatic inaction, but one of constructive diplomatic action, that the 1351 whole strength and influence of our diplomacy should be brought to bear to establish the closest possible co-operation with the United States with a view to a new conference to reconsider the whole, political settlement of 1919, and to consider the strengthening and the reform of the League of Nations. If you do not get this matter settled within a given time, it will get out of hand, and you will never get it settled at all. You will never get it settled unless Great Britain and America work together for the definite purpose of re-shaping the entire political settlement of 1919. Any other policy is tinkering with the subject. The position, as I see it to-day, is that the vital power of this country is prevented from finding expression by a formula of inaction which seems to me to offer the very greatest dangers, both from the point of view of our own interests and from the point of view of peace.
I want to pass to another subject in another part of the world where an equally dangerous position is being developed although, of course, the setting is very much smaller—that is, the position in Egypt. Same of us had the privilege of waiting on the Prime Minister and the Under-Secretary of State the other day on a deputation in connection with Egypt. Since we had that interview matters, from one point of view, have got much worse, but from another point of view there has been a ray of hope. The House is familiar with the main subject and I do not propose to do much more than to touch upon it very briefly.
Briefly, the position in Egypt to-day is that for the last year we have been trying to govern the country, not through its representatives, but through our own nominees, with the result that we have not succeeded in bringing about that treaty between Britain and Egypt which we all desire to see, but have succeeded merely in worsening the situation and increasing the exasperation on both sides. The other day we had a striking telegram from Cairo in the "Times," which is a source not suspected of any particular leaning towards Egyptian nationalism. It represents the view which we have been urging on the Government. The message states:In view of the apparent bankruptcy of martial law a solution may be found in a new orientation of policy—possibly in entrusting the maintenance of order and 1352 security to an Egyptian Government. If this policy were developed it would seem that the only possible course to take would be to release Zaghloul Pasha, the sole Egyptian strong enough to inspire an Egyptian Government with sufficient power to maintain order without the British support of men under martial law. And the abolition of martial law is now generally admitted to be desirable. The only alternative is the reinforcement of the present régime involving the use of additional troops and further coercion, with no hope of ending murderous attempts or of reaching a settlement, but only a steady drift to more bitter Anglo-Egyptian relations.I urge the Government to be a little more courageous in this matter of an Egyptian settlement. It has been trying to settle the affairs of the country through four different Pashas, none of whom had real authority with the Egyptian people, and it has failed—the last failure being that of Adby Pasha—to form a Cabinet. The position to-day is that we have no Cabinet in Egypt, no government and no policy. There are outrages. There is an intensification of martial law as a result of these outrages, and there appears to be no hope at all of any constructive policy in the future. What we urge on the Government is to take their courage in their hands, to recall to Egypt Zaghloul Pasha, who is the real leader of the Egyptian people, and to see if he cannot form a Ministry. I do not know Zaghloul Pasha myself, but I do protest, and I think a protest should be made in this House, against the charges which have been made against him in the Press. He, has been described as an Anglophobe and an intriguer against, the British position in Egypt, whereas he has been spoken of in the 'highest terms by Lord Cromer, Lord Milner and Lord Kitchener.
It is admitted, not only by Egyptians, but, I think, by nearly all who have had anything to do with affairs in Egypt during the last 15 years, that he is the only man in whom the Egyptian people believe. In their eyes he is a kind of demigod. Here is this man, 70 years of age, exiled in Gibraltar, suffering from an incurable disease, and observers in Egypt, who understand the situation on the spot, realise that if anything happens to him while he is there in Gibraltar you will have in Egypt massacres, and, in fact, the beginnings of another Ireland. I would urge the Government to reconsider their whole policy in Egypt. 1353 I do not want to make any personal attack on General Allenby, whose military services to the State we all recognise, and who was very active in getting the Protectorate removed, and the declaration of Egyptian independence made. But I do suggest that in the existing difficulties it would be better if we had a representative who was not identified with the policy of keeping out of Egypt the only man who can lead the Egyptian people. I have received to-day, and the House might be interested to hear it, a message from a respected Member of this House, the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Spoor), who is in Egypt now for his health—Failure martial law in Egypt abundantly shown from its utter inability secure arrest of single criminal responsible for outrages. Imposition fines on community no remedy under pretence rousing people from attitude indifference. It simply penalises hundreds of people who have no connection whatever with crimes. Continued imprisonment innocent men whose sole desire honourable understanding with Britain is disgrace to our administration and lamentable confession of our poverty of ideas. Zaghloul Pasha over 70 years age and Egypt's acknowledged political leader kept in exile seemingly to satisfy sectional British demand for continued control and to serve militarists' pride. Meanwhile situation generally gets worse. Can nothing be done to awaken the Government to need for immediate action or are we going to repeat Ireland's tragedy?I desire to reinforce that message with all the earnestness at my command, and I urge the Government once more to reconsider its policy in Egypt and to display a little of that imagination in which sometimes its best efforts are so sadly lacking.
§ Lord EUSTACE PERCY
The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Morel) has laid down for the Government a policy to be pus led in Egypt, a policy which has been laid down several times before. That policy may be summed up in these words: "Recall a certain political personage who is now interned in Gibraltar owing to the action of the British Government, and put that gentleman in power in Egypt." I am not going to express an opinion as to whether that gentleman is or is not a fit person at the present moment to put in power in Egypt, but I am sure that the hon. Member, and hon. Members opposite, will believe that no situation is quite so simple as all that. Without entering into a controversy with regard to the present 1354 state of Egypt, one thing clear from its history is that its political difficulties have been due in the past, as I think they are due to-day, not so much to any British interests or interference, but owing to cross-currents and counter-currents of opinion and intrigue in Egypt itself.
It is a very simple view of the situation to suppose that the resignation of Nesim Pasha the other day was entirely due to the British position with regard to the Sudan or any other particular question. It is true—and I regret it, and do not know whether it was avoidable, though I cannot help thinking that perhaps the Government might have played its cards tactically rather better—that the Egyptian interests concerned in that affair have been able to put the blame on His Majesty's Government for that resignation, and I am sorry to see that they have been able to make the hon. Member for Dundee, and others, believe that the only reason for his resignation was a particular attitude taken up by Lord Allenby. Everybody who knows the present political position in Egypt knows that that is not the case. The proposal put forward by the hon. Member for Dundee is that the British Government should recall Zaghloul Pasha from Gibraltar to Egypt and make him Prime Minister for the purpose of imposing—
Mr. J. RAMSAY MacDONALD
I hope that it is only by a slip of the tongue that the Noble Lord says that we have suggested that the British Government should make Zaghloul Pasha Prime Minister of Egypt.
§ Lord E. PERCY
I am afraid that it was not a slip of the tongue. It was actually word for word what the hon. Member for Dundee said.
§ Lord E. PERCY
I am within the recollection of the House, but I withdraw unreservedly if I have misrepresented the hon. Member. But I think it fair to say this, that the assumption behind the hon. Member's proposal was that if Zaghloul Pasha were released he would automatically become Prime Minister of Egypt, and that we should do everything we can to promote his being placed in that position and that does indicate- that hon. Members 1355 opposite, while they say that the British Government should have no control over Egypt and wish the British Government to withdraw from all connection with Egyptian politics, do wish at the present moment that British influence should be thrown on a particular side in the present political dispute in Egypt, and that so far as we can we should promote the Premiership of Zaghloul Pasha. That would be regarded, and even the action of the British Government in releasing Zaghloul Pasha at the present moment would be taken in the present situation—very regrettably no doubt—as indicating, that the British Government wish to have Zaghloul Pasha Prime Minister for the purpose of imposing a particular constitution on Egypt. I think that that is the fact and that is the difficulty of the situation.
I do not mean to say that I think that the British Government should not do it. I am not at the moment expressing any opinion as to what the Government's action should be, but we should remember that the cut and dried proposals which are put forward by the hon. Member for Dundee do not really represent the delicacy of the situation or the difficulties which we have to meet. And I think that it is fair and it should be said clearly in this House—it has been said I think before but it should be repeated—that there is no doubt among people who know Egypt that, so far as anything outside crimes against foreigners which are left unpunished by the Egyptian Government, is concerned, there is nobody in Egypt, I believe, least of all Lord Allenby, who desires to maintain martial law in Egypt. It is agreed on all hands that the moment you have a constitution in Egypt, the moment you can have a Government set up under a State constitution, so that an Act of Indemnity can be passed, martial law ought to be abolished, and the sooner that happens the better. And it is not the case, and it should be stated clearly in order that Egyptian public opinion may take note of it, that His Majesty's Government desire to continue martial law in order to keep their hold over Egypt. They have denied that repeatedly and it is not the case. I hope that no hon. Member opposite will insinuate that it is the case.
§ Lord E. PERCY
I know, but that does not alter the present situation or the fact, which hon. Members opposite know perfectly well, that the great obstacle to the removal of martial law ever since the end of the War has been that no Egyptian Ministry was prepared to take office unless protected by martial law, and that no one in Egypt so strongly opposed the withdrawal of martial law as the Egyptian Ministers themselves. That, again, is a factor in the situation which the over-simple exposition of the hon. Member for Dundee left out of account. Let me pass from that to the general situation in the Ruhr. I think that the hon. Member laid down a policy which was almost indistinguishable from the policy of the French Government, as it has been reported in the Press and as I believe it is in actual fact. The hon. Member wants a revision of the whole political settlement of 1919. So, I understand, do the French Government. That is precisely what the French Government have been saying, or what different sections of public opinion in France have been saying. I have referred before in this House to the question whether hon. Members opposite are really very consistent in some of their criticisms of the political settlement of 1919, and whether it lies in the mouth of those who preached self-determination so vigorously towards the end of the War, to object to a settlement like the Austrian settlement, where the worst features from an economic point of view, are the result of a too rigid application of the self-determination principle.
For instance, I wish that hon. Members opposite would take into consideration the fact that where the Treaty sinned most violently against the principle of nationalism, as, for instance, in the Tyrol, no one alleges that any evil economic results have followed. It is where the Treaty sought to carry out the national principle that economic evils have followed in the most distinct and urgent form. I suggest to hon. Members opposite that, in thinking of complete rearrangement of the political settlement, they would be well advised to examine their views and principles of foreign policy in relation to the drawing of frontiers, in order to make quite certain whether they can go to a new conference 1357 with any united feeling or clear idea as to the principles on which frontiers would be drawn. They think that a corridor for Bulgaria to Salonika is extremely desirable, but that a corridor for Poland to Danzig is very inadvisable. That is a fact which can be explained, no doubt, but it follows no clear principle. Are hon. Gentlemen anxious for a re-opening of the whole of the settlement of 1919? I do not think that anyone has criticised the settlement of 1919 more violently than I have, in my humble way. But, in asking for a re-arrangement of the whole of that settlement, are hon. Members considering the counter views which they will meet from the French Government, who also desire a re-arrangement of the whole settlement? Is that the way in which we are likely to get a greater measure of peace and justice than we have now? I ask hon. Members to consider that point.
I know there is a feeling that at great international conferences the representatives of a nation like this can rise and speak of justice and truth and peace, and carry their view in an atmosphere which they will create and control. That is a very long way from the actual facts of an international conference—the facts of compromise here and compromise there, of conflicting interests, the most violent of them conflicting national interests based on the self-determination doctrines which hon. Members opposite have applauded and applaud still when they are uttered in Ireland. It is a very far step from that idealistic conference, where we can make our views felt, to the actual things that happen when you get 20 nations, no matter how enlightened, meeting in the same room. I do not for a moment believe that, the way to peace is to tear up and reform from the outset to the end the whole of a political settlement which, however faulty and wrong, was reached only after many months of difficult negotiations, and necessitated just those compromises which I have mentioned.
I do not think that that is the way to set about it. But I think that the time is approaching when the Government can no longer maintain an attitude of purely negative neutrality towards what is happening in the Ruhr. I do not think that they can obtain the support of the United States or their intervention, when 1358 It comes, because I do not believe that the United States will be inveigled into any such far-reaching and entangling relations in Europe as that would involve—at any rate under the present administration. I hold that the Government must have more courage than the hon. Member for Dundee realises. I think they will have to take the lead alone, without waiting for the United States. They must not take action in the sense of tearing up the whole Treaty of Versailles, because that would lead, as I hae said, to the very same demand from France in exactly an opposite sense, but I do hold that they will be obliged to enforce the Treaty of Versailles, obliged to appeal to that Treaty, and obliged to get the agreement of France to an arrangement of this whole question. I am no pedant about the methods of arrangement, but, so far as I can see, the most convenient, the most effective and the least objectionable to France, for consideration of this problem, is the Council of the League of Nations. The time is approaching when we who support His Majesty's Government in their attitude will ask them to take strong and decided action, although we are and must remain prepared to leave His Majesty's Government the judges: of the precise moment at which to act.
§ Mr. MOSLEY
The Noble Lord who has just spoken will forgive me if I do not follow him in his interesting references to the Egyptian situation, beyond making the comment that one of his inferences seemed to be illegitimate. The Noble Lord appeared to think that the fact that a man was let out of gaol of necessity meant that he must become Prime Minister. No doubt history brings many great precedents to support that view, but it does not invariably follow, and I submit that it is a contention which cannot be supported—that because hon. Members on the Labour Benches desire to release Zaghloul Pasha from his confinement at Gibraltar, they intend in any way to impose him upon the Egyptian people.
§ Lord E. PERCY
That, of course, is true. But I would point out that we have been pressed this afternoon to release Zaghloul Pasha, not on the ground of mere justice but on the ground that he is the only natural, political 1359 leader of the Egyptian people. What does that mean?
§ Mr. MOSLEY
What it means is this: That hon. Members on the Labour Benches think that the British Government is keeping in confinement in Gibraltar a man whom a free people desire to make Prime Minister. They advocate that Zaghloul Pasha should be released and allowed to return to his native land, where, if the country chooses, it may make him Prime Minister. If the country does not want to make him Prime Minister it will not do so. How can the Noble Lord, even from the serene detachment of his elevated spirit, so distort the argument of hon. Members on this side? The Noble Lord addressed some other admonitions to my hon. Friends. He pointed out how absurd it was for them to advocate self-determination and at the same time to wish for a revision of the Treaty of Versailles, which would provide for some greater measure of economic unity between the nations. Why should it be that racial freedom is compatible with internationalism? Of course, it is perfectly compatible for races who are free to come together in a wider arrangement of economic unity for their mutual benefit. The Noble Lord returned to the Ruhr, and I hoped that in this sphere he would be able to give us further enlightenment. But he enlightened us only to this extent—that since the last. Debate, in which he took part, he has changed his view. He did not say why. I remember that I had the difficult task, on the last occasion on which I participated in a Debate on Foreign Affairs, of following the Noble Lord. He had just addressed a powerful and cogent appeal to the House to do nothing, and in advocating a policy of drift and muddle, he went as far as a good supporter of the Government should. But this afternoon, from his Olympian heights, he did administer a slight expostulation to the Government, and invited the Prime Minister, in view of the gravity of the situation, to take some action.
Let me come to the main theme of this discussion. We have had to-day a very elaborate, detailed and frank Debate. To a certain extent we have set aside those considerations which in the past have sometimes circumscribed discussion. We have always been told that anything that 1360 is said in this House may offend France. I am thankful to say that that consideration has not been kept unduly in view in the course of to-day's discussion. After all, we have tried the old mealy-mouthed method, have tried not to say frankly what are the views of this country, and not to declare our policy. Such methods are largely responsible for the terrible situation in which we find ourselves today. The demand which is made of the Government at the moment is for clear analysis, decisive judgment, and plain speech. That alone can hope to remedy the situation in which we are placed. Let us speak out frankly, if necessary with brutal frankness, and invite the Government to do the same. We have tried the other method and it has not worked. Another argument which was always advanced in previous Debates was that it was unwise to urge the Government into any precipitate action, and the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister has himself put forward that view with great strength. To begin with, I have no great fear of the present Government ever embarking on any precipitate action. Our experience so far, has not justified that apprehension. The difference between the present Government and the last Government in this respect is very marked. The last Government, it seemed to me, were always in a hurry because it never knew where it was going to, and the present Government is never in a hurry, because it is always quite certain that. it never possibly can get anywhere at all and after all that is the soundest of all grounds for delay and caution.
The right hon. and learned Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) in his elaborate and detailed survey of the situation adduced very powerful arguments to demonstrate that the position with which the Government and the country is now confronted is fundamentally different from the position as we conceived it, when this question first arose. The right hon. Gentleman adduced the position of oar forces, circumscribed as they are on every side; the position of our traders in this area and the grave incidents of violence and threats of further violence, which have arisen between the French and the civilian population, and he argued that these circumstances taken in conjunction, present a fundamentally new conception of 1361 the Ruhr situation, which calls for a revision of the Government's attitude. I venture to submit there are further arguments and even wider considerations which must now be taken into account. If we read the French Press—and any man who reads carefully the French Press as a whole, may see fairly accurately reflected there, the mind of the Quai D'Orsay—there we see that the aims of French policy, the open, avowed, and admitted aims of French policy, are changing and have changed. We see at last the reason why the French Prime Minister insisted upon fixing the reparations figure at a point which the economic opinion of the world says is impossible of achievement. We see why during the course of those discussions which are recounted in the Blue Book quoted by my right hon. and learned Friend, the Prime Minister of France ever refused to discuss or debate that question with the Prime Minister of this country. We see now revealed in the French Press reflecting, as I contend it does, the opinions of the Quai D'Orsay, the real policy and the real mind of France. If it is contended that this reflection be not true then I submit that a question and a very strict question should be addressed by this Government to the Government of France which should elicit the truth. No such questions have yet been addressed to the French Government.
Are we to understand that the situation now is this, that the French aim at the imposition of a new Tripartite Treaty by Belgium and France upon Germany, and that, as we understand again from the French Press, the Prime Minister of this country is to be kept waiting in the old familiar fashion upon the doormat until France has settled this Treaty and then is to be invited, if he cares to do so, to sign that Treaty, nobody caring very much whether he signs it or not? That apparently does not make the slightest difference in the eyes of France. Is this to be our position as one of the greatest Powers in the world, and one of the greatest participants in the world War—is this the position to which we have sunk in the European situation? If we are to have a new Treaty; if we are to have what amounts to the permanent annexation of the Ruhr Valley, and the permanent annexation of the Saar Valley; if France is to wed the Ruhr coal and the Lorraine iron in perpetuity; if there is to be a 1362 revision of the Treaty giving France all those aims which were resisted by England and America and defeated at the Peace Conference at Versailles; if that is to be so, does it not fundamentally alter the position of the Government of this country? I submit that it is legitimate to assume that these are the aims of France, until straightforward questions have been addressed to the French Government and we have elicited the real position. Does this situation not alter the whole position of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister?
It might have been argued quite plausibly, when the situation first arose, that the right hon. Gentleman's policy of wait and see was right. He argued, "France has got to make this attempt; she is going to the Ruhr Valley to get her reparations; she will fail, she will be disillusioned, and then will come the moment at which Great Britain may profitably intervene." That is a standpoint which can be argued and which was argued with great force, but does not the present situation entirely alter that argument, modify it, and defeat it? No doubt it may be argued if reparations were the real object of France, then time was on the side of the right hon. Gentleman, and disillusionment would have brought about a prospect of intervention. Supposing, however, that, as a fact, the aim of France is not reparations but annexation, then time is against the right hon. Gentleman. Then every day the situation becomes more difficult, every day the situation hardens, every day that policy crystallises. This policy of annexation and exploitation cannot be disproved except under the test of the years, just as the policy of annexing Alsace Lorraine was finally disproved by the test of the years. It cannot now be undone. The French people will not be disillusioned in the policy which they are pursuing until another world war has convulsed Europe and, in fact, until France has suffered a military defeat. If this new policy be adopted, then nothing in the world can avert or prevent ultimate war. That appalling, that colossal fact looms once again before our anguished humanity. If this state of things continue, if the present situation be allowed to grip until it becomes permanent, hardened, crystallised, then nothing in the world can prevent war.
To-day you see the gradual creation of the new alignment of Europe. You see, 1363 on the one hand, the much advertised bloc, France, Belgium, and Italy; on the other hand you see a new alliance coming into being between Germany and Russia. On the one hand was the League of Victors, and on the other the League of Pariahs. On the one hand there was the League of Prosperity, and on the other the League of Despair. And if the precedents of history be true in this case, we may judge that, in the end, the league of despair will prove victorious, for it is the usual rule that desperate men fight best. If this be the case, and I submit these contentions have not yet been disproved from the Government, Benches, what is the true policy of this country? There seem to me to be two possible policies. One is active strenuous intervention, and the other is withdrawal and complete isolation. The present policy of the Government embodies all the worst features of both those policies. We are not raising one finger to prevent war. We are doing nothing to avert what is rapidly becoming an inevitable catastrophe, and at the same time, if war does come, we shall be involved in it, with our forces and our moral responsibilities.
Supposing we adopt one or other of these two policies, or as I submit, adopt first one and then if that fails, adopt the other, what are the weapons and resources in the hands of this country that we can employ in a policy of active intervention? The right hon. Gentleman says that not only would intervention be regarded as an act of hostility by France, but that it is not feasible, that it would not work, and that we should do no good in that way. Well I think the right hon. and learned Member for Spen Valley, disposed pretty effectively of the argument that France could possibly consider an appeal to the League of Nations as a hostile act. Let me deal for one moment with the argument that an appeal to the League of Nations would do no good and could do nothing at all except break up the League. If advocates of the League of Nations seriously advance that view, then they are saying in this House that the League of Nations is impotent and is ineffective for the purpose for which it was created. The League of Nations was designed primarily for the prevention of war, for the prevention of aggression, and for the maintenance of peace. If we now say that 1364 the League of Nations is unable to act in this matter without the acquiescence of France, then we are saying to the world that one Power in Europe is strong enough to defeat the League of Nations and that one Power can hold up, for as long as it likes, the collective will of mankind. If we take that view we admit that the League of Nations is impotent and there is no place in the world for an impotent League of Nations.
I submit, even though it be true that in her present position of extraordinary military and industrial strength, France might be able to defy the League of Nations, that in any case it is worth attempting. If the attempt is not made then the League fails, and it is far better to use the League even if we risk breaking the League, rather than let it die an inglorious death. It is better, after all, in human affairs to die gloriously on the field of action than to sit still or to lie still until you are smothered in bed. That is what the present policy invites. Therefore, I would advocate intervention, with an immediate appeal to the Assembly of the League of Nations and the mobilisation of the whole moral forces of mankind. That is the moral weapon in our hands. There is another weapon, a weapen which, alas! is usually more potent in human affairs, the economic and financial weapon. Why should not we turn openly and in the light of day to the other great pacific community in this world; why should we not turn to America and say to her, "We have all the economic and financial resources in our hands, and unless we use those resources for the imposition of peace upon the turmoil of Europe, then the very greatest disaster awaits mankind, a disaster for which we cannot possibly disclaim our responsibility."
Does anyone argue for a moment that if the appeal were made, and the issue in this matter were made clear, the great American community would fail to cooperate with us in the imposition of peace upon the more turbulent elements in the world? I contend that the imposition of peace is feasible. America and Great Britain in conjunction. having regard to their present financial situation, could effectually reduce any country which resisted them to a position of bankruptcy. They have that power within their grasp Why should we not make either on our 1365 own, or if possible, in conjunction with America, some use of this immense weapon which is in our hands, one of the greatest weapons which has ever been at the disposal of any Power? I think in the event of our intervening actively, we should know beforehand the exact scope and limitations of our policy in advance. To intervene in a blundering fashion, not seeing every step of the policy which we are about to pursue in advance, is almost as bad as drifting aimlessly to disaster. We cannot charge into this situation like a bull in a china shop; we want to know exactly what we are going to do and where we are going to stop. There are two things we can do, and they are, appeal to the League to organise moral opinion and appeal to America to organise economic opinion. We should go so far and no further.
Statesmanship should lay down in advance, and be careful to observe, one fundamental maxim, that not another drop of British blood is to be spent in the European quarrel. We should proceed thus far and stop short of any appeal to arms. I think it is a fact—unpalatable it may be, but none the less a fact—that the generation which bore the brunt of the last War has had enough of war. I do not think they are going to lift another finger to cleanse the Augean stable of European diplomacy. I do not believe they will consent to the pouring of another drop of British blood down the gaping drains of its seething animosities, its racial hatreds, and its atavistic prejudices. I do not believe they would consent to any such course; I do not believe that generation would fight again except in defence of their own homes, and I think it is perfectly useless for any Government in this country to appeal for an armed intervention in European affairs. Before we come to that point we must pursue the policy of withdrawal and isolation. In such a position we should witness a horrible spectacle, we should suffer the loss of our trade, but we should preserve from loss precious lives, too many of which we have already sacrificed. But even if such a policy of despair were pursued, even if we were reduced to that, we need not for a moment flatter ourselves that we should be immune from the very gravest dangers in the event of a European collapse. In 1366 fact, we may be fairly certain that if that great catastrophe occurred, we should inevitably be overwhelmed in the ruin of that great collapse. Therefore, I urge on the Government to take their courage in their hands, as has already been demanded of them in the course of this discussion, to go forward with a real, a virile policy, a reasoned, thought-out policy of intervention. I believe that, if they refrain from doing that, we are in danger of enjoying something even more than the tranquillity which the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister promised the country—I believe that Europe is in danger of enjoying the tranquillity of death. If this state of affairs continues, we, with other great communities of the past, shall be held in the cold embrace of that great tranquillity of all communities which have been found inert, limp, lethargic, nerveless, in the face of great trials and of great ordeals.
The two paths to which the alternative parties are pointing this country are very clearly marked. The Government are inviting us to be driven helplessly in front of the buffets of ever-changing fortune, along a path leading, as I believe, to that inevitable doom which invariably overwhelms hesitation, vacillation, and trembling weakness in human affairs. Those, on the other hand, who take the opposite view are inviting this country to traverse the path of action and of daring, beset though it be by menace, by difficulties, and by grave dangers, to advance in that path strong in the belief that by this means, and by this means alone, can be achieved the ultimate goal of security and of honour, to advance inspired by a belief in the greatest mission, as I see it, that destiny ever imposed upon the mighty spirit of an indomitable people.
§ Mr. THORNTON
As a new Member, I claim the indulgence of the House while I intervene in this Debate for a very few moments. I want particularly to emphasise a point of view that has not been emphasised sufficiently, though it has been referred to, in these frequent Debates which we have had on the Ruhr question, and that is our point of view. After all, charity begins at home, and we want, I think, to keep that in mind. Are we ever going to get anything out of the Germans? There is undoubtedly a dark body of opinion in this country who, rightly or wrongly, think that we are going to get 1367 something out of Germany. Well, if we are not going to get anything out of the Germans, for heaven's sake let us say so and be done with it, but I, for one, though I may possess a sanguine and an optimistic temperament, have hopes that we shall eventually succeed in getting something out of the Germans. The actions of the French in the Ruhr undoubtedly, it seems to me, have postponed the possibility of out getting these reparations. What are His Majesty's Government doing about it? The hon. Member for Harrow (Mr. Mosley) who has just spoken, with great eloquence has described the inactivity of His Majesty's Government, and I would ask that the Government should seriously consider the proposal that has been put forward from these benches. Various proposals have been made on this side, but, after all, I would submit that it is really the duty of His Majesty's Government to evolve a policy and to do something. The very latest pronouncement that we have had from the Prime Minister was in the Debate on the 6th March, when he said:It is true that at this moment we have nothing we can propose to the House. It may be that to have no policy is had, but to have a policy which cannot succeed and which in itself is bad, would be even worse."—[OFFICIAL REPORT., 6th March, 1923; col.:365, Vol. 161.]Cannot His Majesty's Government evolve some policy to see if it is possible for us to recover these reparations, which we think are rightly due to us from the German Government? I am not myself dwelling at all on the question as to whether the action of the French is right or wrong. Expert opinion in this House appears to be unanimous that the action of the French is wrong, but I am only dwelling on this side of the question, of the seriousness to us of postponing this matter of our reparations. I remember that when the right hon. Gentleman the ex-Prime Minister was speaking on the joint Amendment to the Address, he told us that a solicitor, before he issued execution, had to consider very carefully whether it was worth while to issue execution. I, for a time, belonged to the worst-paid profession in the world—that of the law. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I can assure hon. Members it is so. I seem to remember this point—and hon. and learned Members will correct me if I am wrong, because I am somewhat rusty 1368 —that when execution had been executed, the execution creditor was not allowed to take the proceeds of anything that, he realised, but it was retained in the hands of the sheriff for 21 days.
To apply that analogy to the present situation, if the French Government do succeed in recovering anything from the Germans—it is true that we are told they are doing this mainly for security and not to recover reparation—but if they do succeed in recovering any money, are they to go off with the lot, are they to sweep the pool, or are His Majesty's Government seeing to it.? Have they any arrangements that any proceeds that are recovered from the German Government should be held, so that we shall have something out of it if there is anything going at all? My own knowledge of the French nation makes me think that the French, much as I admire them in many respects, are a very material nation, and if there is anything to be got out of Germany, they will get it. We could not have better debt collectors to recover reparations than the French nation. It is said that there are more misers die in France than in any other country in the world, so that if there is anything to be got, they will get it. I would ask the Government, as a simple matter of policy, have they any arrangement with the French Government to have any of the money that the French succeed in getting out of the Germans? There are many other speakers who wish to address the House, and I do not want to stand in their way on the first occasion on which I address it. I thank hon. Members very much for the indulgence they have extended to me.
§ Mr. HERBERT FISHER
Though I cannot attempt to emulate the rich and variously tinted eloquence of the hon. Member for Harrow (Mr. Mosley), I associate myself with hint, and with my right hon. Friend the Member for Spell Valley (Sir J. Simon), in their protest against the settled policy of inertia which His Majesty's Government have thought fit to adopt in face of the grave situation in the Ruhr. The situation there is becoming more and more difficult and more and more dangerous as time goes on. It is also giving rise to apprehensions of the very gravest character throughout the Continent of Europe. We have had two French officers murdered, we have indications 1369 of a rising temper of indignation in France, there are rumours—no doubt, absurd rumours—going about Germany that France proposes to march either to Munich, or to Hamburg, or to Hanover, and there is a general feeling of alarm and unsettlement throughout the Continent, which will be aggravated as week passes after week, month after month, and nothing is done. The French occupation of the Ruhr, as the hon. Member for Tavistock (Mr. Thornton), who made such an interesting maiden speech, has pointed out, does affect our interests very directly. It affects the area at present occupied by our troops, it affects our trade directly and indirectly, and it affects our prospects of obtaining reparations from Germany: and in that connection I should like to ask my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs a question.
In 1921 an arrangement was made between Great Britain, France, Belgium and Italy, in virtue of which each of these contracting parties was entitled to levy 25 per cent. upon German imports, and we have in effect been raising a revenue by this method. I understand that one of the results of the French military occupation of the Ruhr has been the imposition of a 10 per cent. duty upon goods coming to this country, and I should like to ask my hon. Friend what steps, if any, the Government have taken to represent to the French Government the consequences of their action upon the agreement into which we have both entered. Now we learn from the newspapers that the French Prime Minister has gone to Brussels to consult with the Belgian Government with respect to the terms which are to be offered to Germany, and I presume that at this Conference at Brussels arrangements will be made settling the conditions under which France would be prepared to evacuate the districts in Germany which she has recently occupied. These transactions are transactions in which this country has a very direct and a very important interest. We have a much greater interest in the matter of reparations than has Belgium. Are we to allow these important questions, directly affecting our interests, to be settled in our absence by the French and Belgian Prime Ministers? Are we not even to be represented at this Conference at Brussels? America is not herself directly concerned with the question of 1370 reparations. America is not claiming reparations. At the same time, the American Government have on previous occasions been represented by agents, who have watched the course of events, at Conferences at which these questions have been handled. Are our interests being watched at Brussels? I hope my hon. Friend will be able to give an assurance on that point.
I come back to the principal question which causes anxiety on these Benches. It is quite obvious that the settlement arrived at at Versailles between France and Germany no longer gives satisfaction to the French people. It is quite obvious to everybody that according to the recent declarations of M. Poincaré that he desires—and he has public opinion in France behind him—a profound modification in the terms of the Versailles Treaty which was the result of the joint discussion of the British, the French, and the other Allies. Are we to look on while the basis of the Treaty of Versailles is overturned without attempting to make the voice of Great Britain heard? Are we to allow these grave matters to be settled in our absence? Is nothing to be done to put forward the British point of view, and to secure for that point of view a chance of being heard when the whole territorial settlement is jeopardy? I do earnestly protest against a policy of inertia. I say so, and I have said so twice already when this subject has come up, for it is impossible that the question of reparation and security for France can be adequately, effectively, and satisfactorily settled except by international conference. I believe it will be necessary that America should take part in that conference. I desire that conference to be, if possible, under the auspices of the League of Nations, reinforced by America, but before such a conference is held I think that this House does desire to know what steps the Government are taking to put what I may call the British point of view, and the international point of view before the attention of the French and Belgian Government. They are apparently under the impression that these are matters which they can settle without consulting this country, and without reference to the moral judgment of the civilised world.
§ Colonel GRETTON
I feel impelled to put a point of view which is not very divergent from that of the right 1371 hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, for I also, with many others, am disturbed and uneasy as to what the inertia of the Government means. Political events do not stand still. A policy of isolation has proved itself in the past to be one of the most disastrous policies in which this country can engage. We tried as nearly as we could for years before the War to disassociate ourselves from active participation in the affairs of the Continent. It was very largely the policy of inertia, pursued by more than one Government, which led to the catastrophe of the Great War. Even the United States will find—and history and observation confirm the view—that although separated from Europe by 3,000 miles of ocean they will not be able to isolate themselves from the major affairs of the European continent; therefore, it is quite evident that the, Government of this country must sooner or later take action. What action do they contemplate? We cannot look upon the state of affairs in Europe unless we are associated with some Allies.
It is, I think, the universal desire of the people of this country that her Allies should be France, Italy and Belgium. Yet on a matter which is most vital to France, the recovery of reparations, we have most carefully and most persistently disassociated ourselves from those efforts to recover compensation and reparation from Germany which France considers vital to her economic existence. That is the root-cause of all our troubles. Out of that disassociation from France arises the difficulties which we had in the Near East in negotiating terms of peace. With France and England united the major difficulties which have occurred would soon disappear. Does the Government intend to pursue this policy of isolation until it leads to a greater evil? Every step that France takes is denounced by certain persons in this country, and by a section of the Press, while one hon. Member to-night cent so far as to inform the House that they were unanimous in disapproval of the course undertaken, and disassociated themselves from all French action.
Those of us who hold that the Government is taking a wrong course feel that if we, at the earlier stage, had actively supported France to ensure her claim for reparation, and had held ourselves ready 1372 to assist her—at any rate, up to a point—in any action which she might consider necessary to take—many of us believe, and have grounds for believing, that if we had done that, by now the occupation of the Ruhr district would probably have accomplished, or practically accomplished, its purpose. The present position is one which causes the greatest alarm. I agree with the hon. Gentleman who has just delivered his maiden speech, upon which I congratulate him. He said that in these matters we had to consider ourselves as well as our Allies, and our own safety. The future of our policy will be determined by the course the Government take during the next few weeks. The universal opinion of the people outside, so far as I can ascertain it, is that, France had a right to take action to recover reparation from Germany. All the evidence shows—there is no doubt of it—that. Germany is approaching a stage when the German authorities will be forced to negotiate and endeavour to come to terms. Where shall we be? England, France and Belgium have made terms with the German Government to exact reparation. How, if we have ostentatiously continued to disassociate ourselves from all action that leads to payment, can we expect to get anything on account of our claims? Of course, we cannot. It will be a bitter disappointment to the large majority of our people outside the House if the course this Government takes leads to final banishment of all prospect of payment from Germany. I must confess to the most profound uneasiness. People outside believe that the safety of ourselves and the peace of the world depend not upon the League of Nations, for the League has no power or authority to deal with the great issues of foreign affairs. Our future must depend upon finding ourselves associating with allies, whose main course in the affairs of the world is similar to, and coincident with, our own, and whose united authority may be relied upon to secure the peace and security of the world.
§ Mr. J. H. THOMAS
The speech just delivered clearly indicates the feeling that of necessity exists on this question of France and the economic position. The hon. and gallant Gentleman concluded his speech by saying that the duty of this country was to seek friends and 1373 friendship with those whose economic interests are, at least, similar to our own. If there is one fact that stands out clear in connection with this matter, it is this: that the economic interests of France and our own are not only not identical, but are in absolute conflict. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman can discuss this mater without reference to party, and with the working or commercial classes, he will find a very different view to that which he himself has stated. The Government to-night are in a somewhat difficult situation. There has not been a solitary speech delivered in favour of their policy. The only difference between the Debate and the four previous Debates is that there are not any new arguments, but that, everything that was predicted has gradually and, unfortunately, come true. That is the difference between previous Debates and this.
I just want to refer to a telegram which I myself read to-day, or yesterday, which charged the French military with rioting and robbing the German Railwaymen's Union, and compelling the members to sign a declaration that they would work 10 hours instead of eight. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister promptly denied the accuracy of that statement, and he said that it was impossible, and he could not believe it. I have been to the scene of action since, and I had with me yesterday those who were in the office, and I can produce the original document, and I add to my statement to-day that not only is that the action of the French military in the occupied area, but they have insisted upon every trade union being compelled to send to the military a notice of their meetings, a list of their agenda papers and the speakers before any trade, union meeting is allowed to be held, and they have also to furnish the names of their officials. The first question I ask upon that is whether that action is calculated to bring about good feeling with regard to this question. Instead of the German working classes, many of whom were bitter and angry against their own rulers immediately following the Armistice, as was evidenced by the revolution, instead of those people taking their stand against a repetition of the old military regime, the action of France is driving them absolutely into the opposite camp.
I want the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs to answer two specific questions. 1374 In the first place, is it true, or does the Foreign Office know that the Prime Minister of Sweden, who was a delegate to the last League of Nations Conference, in a statement to his Chamber a fortnight ago said that he could not give a report of the proceedings of the last League of Nations Conference unless the whole of the Press and the public were excluded. That was the, statement made by M. Branting, the Prime Minister of Sweden, to his own King. It is no secret that that statement had connection with the French developments and the French situation, and what I would like to ask is whether, if the position is that a delegate to the Conference like the Prime Minister of Sweden declares to his own Parliament that the position is so serious as to warrant them sitting in camera, how is it that we, having delegates there, not only have not been told anything about this matter, but so far as any report of the proceedings are concerned, this House is in entire ignorance.
§ Mr. THOMAS
There were two Conferences. One of them was held in February in connection with the League of Nations, at which we were represented, and the other was the Disarmaments Conference in connection with the League of Nations, at both of which we had representatives, and at both of which M. Branting was the representative of Sweden. I ask this question for this reason. We have been told, and the British public has been continuously told, about the poverty of France, and we all know the debt of France to this country. We all know of the repeated explanations that, so far us France is concerned, she cannot meet her obligations to us, and that the only means of hope or salvation is the occupation of the Ruhr and the demand and receipt of reparations that will follow. One can hardly reconcile that with the fact that the French Government, within the last three months, has voted and sent for 100,000,000 gold francs to Poland, as well as 20 shiploads of munitions which have left the French ports for Poland. At this moment there are at least 30,000 French officers training the Polish Army.
What deduction do we draw from that? Here you have 400,000,000 francs voted to Poland, munitions being sent there, and 1375 French officers training the Polish Army. Everybody knows that this is being deliberately done with the object of making an attack on Russia. It cannot be denied that this sum of money has been voted, because that knowledge is public property in the French Chamber. It cannot be denied that the munitions have been sent, and that the French officers are training the Polish soldiers. I think we are entitled to be told what this money is being spent for in this conection. We are entitled to ask that question, and to draw one conclusion. Who else is there in the vicinity of Poland that France would be likely to make these preparations against? I say to the Foreign Secretary, and to those who are following this question, that the two incidents I have mentioned cannot be dissociated from the apprehension that is felt with regard to the general French policy, and our difficulty is to know what action our own Government is taking.
It is reported that, commencing Monday of this week, a new arrangement was arrived at last week between ourselves and the French Government for the working of the railways. The situation at the moment is that 120,000 railwaymen are on strike, and have been on strike for some weeks in the Ruhr. No less than 12,000 French railwaymen have been sent there to do their work. Everyone who knows anything about the situation there must be perfectly aware that six times that actual number of railwaymen could not even do the work. Imagine those who are innocently talking about the French getting reparations and saying France is winning, assuming that the railways, which are the most complicated in the world, can be run by 12,000 foreigners, knowing nothing of the system, and, in addition, to all the accidents you do not hear anything about, which are kept absolutely quiet, the whole place is paralysed from beginning to end. Can we stand silently by, when the new agreement made between our Government last week means that we are letting the French do what they like That is the situation which has resulted from this agreement. What has developed there? Here are two German papers. In one you will observe that the censor has blotted everything out, but this other is an original copy which they did not manage to blot 1376 out, and in this copy there is really an appeal by the responsible German people and the responsible editor of that paper begging the German workers not to do anything that will provoke a riot or an outrage.
Why are they making that appeal? Simply because you cannot speak to anyone on the Continent or in Germany at this moment who will not tell you that their grave fear Is that, with the troops being supplied with drink and being fully armed, someone will be shot, as has already happened, and then in the words of Monsieur Poincaré, deliberate reprisals will take place. That is what they fear, and it is because they have done something to avoid that and appeal to the masses that the French military authorities have censored this paper and struck out the news in the manner I have indicated. I can only repeat what I said on the last occasion. We have been asked what would Germany have done under similar circumstances. I ask this House to picture what would have been the situation in this country if the incidents that are taking place in Germany took place in this country even by the action of the Germans themselves? We all know perfectly well that they would have been bitterly resented.
There is one other danger. Scheidemann, who was the first Prime Minister of Germany following the revolution, and who took very definite steps in order to bring home to Germany a full recognition that something must be done, said we must clear out of every office all those responsible for the old régime. Two days ago he wrote an article in which he said: The one thing that he feared more than anything else was the new power which the French occupation would give to those who were responsible for the War which we all deplored. The hon. Gentleman opposite and my hon. Friend (Mr. Thornton), in an excellent maiden speech, said he hoped that we shall be able to share in what France is going to get from Germany in the shape of reparations. I have never yet heard any hon. Member in this House tell us what they mean if France succeeds. I have not even seen in the Press any general indication on this point. The general phrase is that France is marching into the Ruhr to get reparations. It is admitted that there is no coal, and if they want marks they can 1377 print them themselves. It is proved that they cannot get coal, and what are they doing? They are merely piling up a Bill that the French people will demand an explanation of later on. It is for all these reasons that we cannot support the Motion which is before the House, and this House will be wanting in its duty if hon. Members do not persist in demanding from the Government that they must tell the House and the country what they know of French intentions and whether they know what France really is doing. Above all, as the hon. Member for Harrow (Mr. Mosley) said, if there are any people in this House or outside who believe that the great mass of our fellow countrymen are going to be involved in another war, if they think for a moment that they will be able to mobilise our people for another war, they will meet with a very rude awakening.
§ Mr. HAROLD GRAY
I listened last Session, and again this Session, with great regret and surprise to the attacks made on our French Allies by hon. Members on the other side of the House. I know our memories are proverbially short. We very soon forget our friends and we very soon forgive our enemies. It is not. so with the French. They cannot forget the days in 1914–15, when they stood with oar men in the long lines of trenches. They cannot forget what occurred in 1918 when the Germans broke through the English lines. The French cannot be expected to forget all these things as we do. I cannot understand by what right we presume to dictate to France. France is not isolated as Germany is. France has her Allies. Appeals have been constantly made to America to help us to coerce France. Why should we appeal thus to America? Surely, now we have arranged to pay our debt to that country, it is no longer necessary for us to continually cringe to her. Can we forget that it was America which for two years before she came info the War practically squeezed us dry, and only then came into the War? I do not understand this principle of appealing to America. The only chance we ever had of securing reparations was in 1918–1919, when the late Prime Minister and the President of the United States went to Paris to draw up the Treaty of Versailles. At that time we robbed France of the fruits of 1378 her victory. If we had then gone into the Ruhr we should have got reparations, and there would have been none of these difficulties. The trouble we are in is due to the action of the right hon. Gentleman who then represented this country, who misled France and has been misleading her ever since. We are giving far too much consideration to the commercial side of this question. I am strongly of opinion that the country will feel we are taking the wrong line, and that the, Government have made a mistake. If they had gone into the, Ruhr with France we should have done better. Now, as it is, if France wins she will win in spite of us, and if she loses we shall have lost her confidence. I do not want this Government to go down to history as a Government which has mistaken a policy of timidity for one of tranquillity.
§ Mr. CHARLES ROBERTS
I rise to ask a specific question of the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, and I shall be glad if he can clear up, in the course of his reply, one or two of the difficulties affecting trade between this country and the Ruhr area which have arisen at the present time. I should like to put this case not because T. think it is the most important aspect of the question, for there are very large questions of international policy involved. Apart from those, the action which has been taken by the French authorities to-day is causing a great deal of ill-feeling between the trading community of thin country and France, and it is undoubtedly doing a considerable amount of harm to British trade. This specific case I want to put is one that has been given to me. it is the case of the steamship "Badenia," which left. Cologne on 2nd March and came down the Rhine with a cargo of goods, British owned and consigned to the United Kingdom, having complied with all the necessary formalities. She was held up at the French Customs barrier at Ruhrort by French Customs officials, who boarded her and demanded a 10 per cent. duty on the British goods, and when payment of this was declined ordered her back to Cologne and stated that unless the money was paid within eight days the cargo would be confiscated. That appears to be the working of this 10 per cent. arrangement. It is, of course, specially harmful to British trade with the British occupied parts of Germany. 1379 It seems to affect also the transit trade from the unoccupied parts of Germany which passes through the occupied parts under British occupation. Goods coming from Germany into Britain at the present time pay 26 per cent. reparations duty, and on top of that they are now called upon to pay an extra 10 per cent., while goods from Germany to France or Belgium do not have to pay that 26 per cent., so that goods imported into Britain now apparently pay 36 per cent. duty, which clearly means a serious handicap to British trade. The result is that there are at the present moment hundreds of tons of British goods lying in the Thames unable to get into Germany, while in the Cologne area British goods actually sent from Cologne are unable to get, here. Perhaps the, Under-Secretary will tell us if the reparation dyestuffs which are the property of the British Government have to pay this 10 per cent., if the British Government do pay it, and if that extra charge is passed on to the British consumers of dyestuffs in this country? Some part of my question has been answered already, because 10 minutes ago I gathered from the Under-Secretary that this particular ship had been released at Cologne and was sailing at once.
But what does that mean to British trade? Does it mean that the transit trade from the unoccupied areas can now come clown the Rhine and be free from these charges, or does it mean that they will still have to pay them? I think from the point of view of British trade and commerce we should really know what is being done, Let us remember that in the Treaty itself these waters of the Rhine are international waters and the imposition of the duty of 10 per cent. I venture to submit is quite inconsistent with the Treaty of Versailles. Perhaps the Under-Secretary can tell us whether that is the case 'and whether the Treaty itself provides for the 'free navigation of the Rhine? Under these circumstances, for the French Army of Occupation to come in and levy a tariff, there looks singularly like the original procedure which gave its name to a tariff. It was, originally, a sum of money which was paid to pirates to anew, your boats to proceed. The trade along this trade route is being entirely held 'up. Perhaps the Government has been able to succeed in doing 1380 something. I hear some representations have been made to the Allied Commission at Coblenz. Is it not possible to set up some British authority in the British occupied area to which cases in dispute where British traders are concerned may be referred, or are we to be entirely at the mercy of the Franco-Belgian authorities to do whatever they like to interfere with and stop British trade. That is all I wish to ask on this specific point. It is one of the causes of the inconvenience which is being inflicted on us by the action of our Ally. But there are far more important questions involved than that, and I agree with the hon. Member who spoke last (Mr. Gray) in the sentence in which he said that our memories are short. I would explain the meaning I attach to that. The Noble Lord the Member for Hastings (Lord E. Percy), speaking earlier in the Debate, warned Members on this side of the House against the great danger of throwing the whole Treaty of Versailles into the melting pot. I think he might also have remembered the danger arising from these infractions of the Treaty of Versailles which are taking place from day to day.
I agree with him that the whole thing ought not to be thrown into the melting pot. Perhaps the best thing you can say of a bad Peace Treaty like that of Versailles, is that, unlike other Peace Treaties, it does contain within itself machinery for its own revision. There are several Clauses in the Treaty which deliberately provided for a revision within the actual machinery of the Treaty, and it is those Clauses and that machinery which I think we ought to use. One of the signatories of the Treaty of Versailles—I well remember at the time—General Smuts, signed it with the definite statement that he had done so only because it contained within itself the machinery for its own revision. He said that the figures of the indemnity and reparations were far too high: that there were territorial settlements which would have to be revised, and that there were many sanctions contemplated at that moment which cooler judgment and wiser experience would lead us to forego. It is in that spirit we ought to contemplate the revision of the Treaty in certain respects.
The hon. Member said that our memories were short. I agree. What is 1381 happening to-day is what has happened more than once in Europe. It happened after the Peace of 1870. Moltke then said that he must take Lorraine, because it he did not it would mean the loss of an army corps. What he did not see, but what events have proved, is that the taking of Lorraine meant a new war, in which he would lose his army corps. I think it is a better precedent to remember what happened in 1815, if that is not too great a strain upon our memories. Almost exactly the same thing happened. There was the same desire to dismember our prostrate enemy. At that time Prussia wished to do with France what France is now manifestly wishing to do with Germany. What happened then? Then there were statesmen at the helm of English affairs who did not adopt the policy of inertia—the Duke of Wellington, and Castlereagh—those are names that ought to appeal to the Government Bench. We were able to stop Prussia from the unwise policy of the dismemberment of France, which she was pressing. I am afraid I have revised many of my historical judgments, but I cannot help thinking that the Duke of Wellington, and Castlereagh were wiser than the men of 1918 with regard to the Treaty of Versailles. They demanded a fixed indemnity, high according to the opinion of that time. They occupied territory for a limited period, but the occupation was over in comparatively short time. In fact, by refusing to dismember France they made a peace which has lasted up to the present time, in spite of all these strains. We have taken an unwise course, a course which certainly does not shine by comparison; but at least the statesmen of those days, when they were faced by the attempt to dismember their enemy, did not adopt this policy of inertia or allow themselves merely to be dragged at the heels of their Allies. They found means, in their time, to prevent what would have been an international crime, and what would again have led to a great war. We are sitting still; we are folding our hands while the irrevocable steps are being taken, the ultimate result of which can only be to bring about in future that great international war which, in my view, will mean the downfall of civilisation, nothing short of that, and the relapse of European civilisation into chaos and barbarism.
§ Sir WILLIAM DAVISON
I had no intention until a few minutes ago of taking part in this Debate, and I only rise now for two reasons. One is that it should not be thought by our Allies, the French, that the volume of oratory we have heard to-day, in criticism of the action of France and largely in support of the action of Germany, is a true indication of the sympathies of this country with our French Allies. The second reason why I rose is to answer the challenge made a few moments ago by the right hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas), in which he said that no one had ever yet been able to ascertain what was the real object of France's occupation of the Ruhr. Quoting words which were used by an hon. Gentleman on the same side of the House, the right hon. Member said: "What does it mean if France succeeds?" That is a question that has been asked again and again, not only in this House, but throughout the country. We have been told that France is not getting as much coal now as she received before the occupation; that she has stopped the payment of reparations and caused other troubles which have not benefited herself. The reason, of course, is that which was given with such force in the House on 5th May, 1921, by the late Prime Minister, in words which are very much more forcible and better than any I could frame myself. It is only one sentence, and I venture to remind the House once again what it was. The late Prime Minister said:When we talk about compelling Germany to pay,' and about using coercive measures, it is really compelling the German people to face disagreeable facts, and they will not do that unless the alternative is more disagreeable."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th May, 1921; col. 1288, Vol. 141.]Therefore, it is idle for us to say that this action of the French is wrong because they are not immediately getting more coal or the payment of reparations. The whole object is the object as stated to the French by the present Prime Minister in Paris, when he told them that if in six months the Germans showed they were not going to comply with the British demands, Great Britain, too, would be standing side by side with France in occupying further territory. It is the same point which was urged by the late Prime Minister, supported by the right hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) and the right hon. Member for 1383 Platting (Mr. Clynes); that of making Germany realise her responsibilities by occupying more of her territory if she failed in the indemnities which she had agreed to pay.
I see the right hon. and learned Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) in his place. As I ventured to ask him to quote specific words from the Treaty, there is one other point I would like to make. In his opening remarks, the right hon. Gentleman commented on the fact that the Government had not taken the advice of the law officers on the meaning of the Treaty. I am not so skilled in the law as the right hon. Gentleman, but if words have any meaning this Clause in the Treaty seems to me to be plain. The right hon. Gentleman read the Clause, but he did not place the emphasis as I would venture to place it. He put the emphasis on the first words; I venture to place it on the later. If the right hon. Gentleman and the House will forgive me, I will read the Clause again. I cannot see how there can be any doubt whatever, whether we think it desirable or not, as to the right of France to take the action she has done. Paragraph 18, Annex II, Part VIII of the Treaty says:The measures which the Allied and Associated Powers shall have the right to take, in case of voluntary default by Germany, and which Germany agrees not to regard as acts of war, may include economic and financial prohibitions and reprisals and in general such other measures as the respective Governments "—Those are the words I desire to emphasise—may determine to be necessary in the circumstances.I cannot for the life of me sec, if it were not intended that the respective Governments should have the right under the Treaty to take action, if they saw fit to do so, by reason of Germany being in voluntary default, why that right should have been expressly provided for. If it were intended that action could only be taken by the Allied and Associated Powers if they were in agreement, surely those words would have been used again in that paragraph of the Treaty.
It is unfortunate that we should be so meticulous in looking at what France has done. She has only done what the Prime Minister, the lath Prime Minister, and the previous Prime Minister have agreed 1384 was the proper course to take in the event of Germany making voluntary default. I cannot see why so many hon. Members in the present House of Commons should join in criticising action, to which this House, as a body, agreed only a short time ago. They should remember, when criticising the action of France, that we definitely agreed in advocating that action ourselves, and they should concentrate on what is far more important, the default of Germany. Germany has defaulted in many ways; notably, in regard to the deliveries of timber. I do not think there could be a more scandalous instance of default than that. One-fourth of the whole of the German Empire is under timber. Germany during the War, used the timber of the Allies whose countries she occupied. We, in this country, during the last three years have imported something like £180,000.000 of timber. For Germany to have made default. above everything else, in the delivery of timber, is one of the most flagrant abuses of which she could have been guilty.
Again, when we are criticising France, and saying she has prevented Germany from paying Reparations due to us, we seem to have forgotten altogether about the wilful inflation of the currency which Germany has caused through the use of her printing press. The whole plan of Germany, from first to last, has been to evade her obligations. Naturally, now, when she sees speech after speech delivered in the British House of Commons supporting the view she has taken, she is only too willing to go forward on her plan of passive or possibly active resistance to the occupation by France; an occupation which with our help might long ago have resulted in getting Germany to realise her responsibilities and to put forward a proposal which the Allies could accept. I do hope that the Government will stand by what the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs told the people of this country, and also the people of France, in the first speech that was made after the breakdown of the Conference in Paris, namely, that we are still united to the French in principle, however we may differ from them as to method; and, as I have pointed out in this House before, I think we cannot very well say that we substantially differ from them in regard to method either.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
I will not follow the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, in his examination of the legal construction of the Treaty of Versailles, but perhaps I may be allowed to say that, when you are approaching the construction of a legal instrument, it is not a question of emphasis. It does not depend upon vocal inflection or rotund elocution. The intention is to be gathered from careful study of the context in which the words occur, and of the instrument as a whole; and the interpretation which seems to the hon. Member so easy and so obvious is one which I can assure him is not shared by a very large number of the most distinguished lawyers in Europe. However, that is by the way. I have only risen in order to make a complaint—a good-humoured complaint, I hope—of the manner in which the Government have allowed this Debate to be conducted. I have really nothing to add to the interrogatories which were put or to the arguments which were used in opening the Debate by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon), but the whole point of his speech was this, that, since we last debated this matter—and I agree that we have debated it more than once, and, indeed, more than twice, in the course of the last Session—since we last debated it, new facts of great importance, and new considerations, have entered into the case which make it extremely desirable, for the information, not only of the House of Commons, but of the country, that we should know whether, in view of what is in some respects a transformation, the Government still adhere to the policy of passivity which they announced on the first night of the Session.
I should have thought it was proper, and in accordance with precedent and with convenience, that at an early stage in the Debate we should have learned from the Government Bench what the policy of the Government was, and what reply, if any, was to be given to the questions which were put by my right hon. and learned Friend. I confess I was looking forward to that, in the hope that I might have some opportunity of commenting upon any declarations that the Government might make; but we are now approaching the compulsory termination of the Debate, and have still to hear, as I understand, from the Under-Secretary what the Government policy is. I have 1386 no more idea at this moment than I had when I entered the House what they are going to tell us, or in what direction they are now directing our international efforts.
This is not a mere captious criticism. Let me repeat the grounds upon which we allege, and I believe the whole House recognises, that there has been a vital change in the situation. The first is the new development which has been given to this Ruhr adventure by the extension of the French sphere of military activity beyond the Ruhr, beyond the left bank of the Rhine and over the right bank. I was refreshing my memory this morning by looking at the very concise and excellent Blue-book which describes what took place at the two Conferences, the one held in. London last December, and the other in Paris in the first week of the present year. I looked particularly at the statements made by M. Poincaré here in London in December, because I want the House to realise how complete is the change that has come over the original French policy. M. Poincaré said this:He would now imagine himself, in company with all the Allies, to he in occupation of Essen and Bochum, and would give an idea what he would say to the Germans. He must, however, prelude this by saying he was quite at ease with regard to the execution of the operation, and did not anticipate any difficulty. In three hours, without any mobilisation, without any offensive militarism or Imperialism, the Allied forces now in certain occupied areas would be established in the heart of the German industrial region, in the centre of the mines and manufactures.Then, in pointing out the circumscribed, and, indeed, restricted character of the operations, he used the words which have already been quoted by my right hon. and learned Friend, and which I will quote again, namely:M. Poincaré explained that time whole of his proposals referred only to the parts of the Ruhr in the neutral zone, as fixed under the Treaty of Versailles, and that he contemplated no action outside the neutral zone.All that has gone by the board. I will not say anything about the illusory anticipations as to the ease with which even the limited operations would be conducted; but the whole scope of the operation itself has been, as we now know, enormously extended, and, as my right hon. and learned Friend said, there really does not seem to be any reason, in the nature of things, why the French should 1387 not go on to Munich, and possibly even to Berlin. That is a new element in the case, never contemplated or dreamed of in any of the proceedings at these Conferences, and expressly repudiated by M. Poincaré when he was in London as lately as last December. The House is entitled to know, and I am sure the Government are ready to give us, their views as to what modification that makes in their conception of their own duties.
That is one point. There is another which is equally important, and in which we here in this country have a very direct national interest—I mean the complete encirclement of that part of German territory which is occupied by British forces. That, as was pointed out with chapter and verse by my right hon. and learned Friend in opening the Debate, and by several other speakers, has already resulted, not only in injury and detriment, but practically in the strangulation of the very important British trade, export, and import, in that part of the world. It is not an academic question; it is not a question even of the construction of the Treaty; it is a question in which the direct material interests of our own traders, manufacturers and merchants are vitally concerned. I hope the Government will tell us about that.
Further, in relation to, and, indeed, to some extent consequential upon, this new method of encirclement, we should like to know what, is the railway position. We know that negotiations have been going on between the two Governments, but I do not know, and I doubt whether anyone in the House knows, whether any final agreement has been arrived at, and, in particular, whether the British trader—because it is not a mere question of passenger facilities, but quite as much of trade facilities—now has a railway service at his disposal which will enable him, both by way of import and export, to deal freely with the unoccupied parts of Germany. Have we received any quid pro quo for the concession which we made to the French in allowing the transport of troops and military stores across our area, and, if so, what have we got? The position, as my right hon. and learned Friend pointed Out, is perfectly intolerable. In regard to water-borne goods, we pay an import 1388 duty to the French at Düsseldorf, or wherever it may be, and then we pay an export duty, or, at least, so I understand, because you have to pay an import duty in Germany as well. All that requires to be elucidated, and it would have been very desirable that we should have had some information on these points earlier in the Debates.
I do not want to abridge the time which my hon. Friend will be entitled to take, and ought to take, in explaining these matters, but that brings me to the practical point of what the Government ought to do. The French are avowedly pursuing this adventure, for such I must call it, with a double purpose—to obtain reparations and to safeguard security. Those are both objects which they are absolutely within their rights in pursuing, and are entitled to pursue. No one in any quarter of the House will deny that they are entitled to pursue those objects, provided that they pursue them by means which are sanctioned by the Treaty, and which are reasonably likely to be efficacious for the purpose. I venture to ask, does anyone in France now consider the method which has been chosen to be well advised, felicitious, or likely to be fruitful? It is, as I have said, far in advance of anything that was, I will not say promised, but was even contemplated by M. Poincaré. It is inflicting very great injury upon ourselves, it is not bringing in reparations, and it is not, so far as I can make out, promoting security. On the contrary, it is inflaming passions, embittering animosity, and giving rise, as we have seen in the course of the last few days, to bloodshed and reprisals. Surely, if ever there was a case in which it was the duty of the British Government to have a policy, and to pursue that policy with vigour and with resolution, this is that case.
I return again to the suggestion that I made on the first night of the Session. In that respect I have no hostile criticism to make upon the speech of my Noble Friend the Member for Hitchin (Lord B. Cecil). I quite agree that the precise moment for particular action is a matter which must, to some extent, at any rate, be left in the discretion of the Executive. Surely there can no longer be any doubt that this matter is urgent in the very highest possible degree. Whatever doubts there may have been, its urgency now is 1389 manifest, and speaks for itself. Let me once more repeat the material part of the article which my right hon. and learned Friend quoted in the earlier part of the Debate, namely, Article II of the Covenant of the League of Nations, which stands in the forefront of the Treaty of Versailles, as well as all the other international obligations into which we have entered during the last four years. The second paragraph says:It is declared to be the friendly right "—I lay stress upon the word "friendly" there is nothing hostile in intention or in spirit meant by thatof each member of the League to bring to the attention of the Assembly or of the Council any circumstance whatever affection international relations which threatens to disturb international peace or the good understanding between nations upon which peace depends.Could the present situation be described more accurately than in those words? The conditions prescribed by that Article have been brought into existence. It would be a friendly act, as I conceive it, and as such I urge it upon the Government to bring the matter in both its aspects, both in the aspect of reparation and in the aspect of security, before the League of Nations. I do not know what relative proportion of importance the French Government attach to the two aspects of the matter, but I suspect that, as regards the people, the general body of public opinion in France, much more importance is attached, and I think rightly attached, to the question of security than to the question of reparation. That is why I attach so much importance myself to bringing the matter before the Council of the League, because the League ought to be able, and I believe it is within the power of the League, without any offence to France—indeed, on the contrary, with a solicitous regard for French interests—to devise a pact of defence between its constituent members which will secure France against the dangers which are not wholly imaginary. If I were a Frenchman I should feel that they were very real dangers—dangers which every Frenchman has always looming upon the horizon of his imagination, which arise from that unprotected boundary of the river Rhine. I do not say, because it would be foolishness to say, what precise form that pact of defence and security ought to take, 1390 and what precise area it ought to cover. It is a matter which would require the most careful consideration. It is the only way—the Anglo-American guarantee has gone and through no fault of ours—and the only real substitute that we can give to France, the only one which will allay the fears and susceptibilities which dominate the French mind, and the only one which would provide complete international security and peace in the years to come. Here is a sovereign opportunity to bring the League of Nations into operation, not in a small matter, not in a matter of adjusting boundaries between this country and that country, but in a matter which affects the whole future security of Europe. So far from being a hostile act to France, I should regard it as an act in the spirit of purest friendship for our Ally, at whose side we fought, and for whom we have not lost in any degree a sense of obligation, gratitude, and comradeship, to refer this matter without delay to the Council of the League of Nations. I press that policy strongly upon the Government, and I believe that they will be rendering as great a service as it is possible to render to Europe and the world if they would take action in the sense that. I have suggested.
§ Mr. RONALD McNEILL
The right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken complained twice that the view of the Government had not been placed before the House earlier in the afternoon. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear !"] I very much regret if I have given any cause of offence. I can assure the House that it was with the intention of doing what we thought would be satisfactory, because as it was known that there was only going to he half a Parliamentary day for this Debate, one speech from this bench would be as much, probably, as the House would care to put up with, If I had spoken oaf behalf of the Foreign Office earlier, it would have involved either the Prime Minister or some other Member of the Government in speaking later. Therefore, perhaps mistakenly, out of consideration as we thought for the House, I reserved what. I have to say until now.
All the speakers in this Debate, whatever point of view they have taken, have agreed on one thing, and that is in 1391 recognising that we are dealing with an extremely serious situation. No one recognises that more than the Government. If I may respectfully say so with regard to the speeches of the right hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith)—and I only wish some of those who sit on the same side of the House would follow his example—I do not think I have ever heard the right hon. Gentleman make a speech on these difficult topics without expressing a very generous appreciation of the difficulties of our French Allies, and a very genuine desire to be fair and generous to them. It has struck me, in listening to the debate, that the remark of one of my hon. Friends behind me was well justified, namely, that our memories are short. There are certain fundamentals of the whole situation that one would have thought had slipped out of our minds as one listened to the debate. The first fundamental is that Germany is a defaulter. Germany has set her hand to a Treaty which she has not carried out. I am not now discussing how far and how serious those defaults were, or whether or not she could have avoided them. The fact remains, that Germany has made a Treaty and that she has defaulted from the carrying out of that Treaty.
Do not let us forget what Germany did in the War. The right hon. Member for Paisley certainly did not mince his words on that subject in denouncing the criminal responsibility of Germany. I can well remember, in fact, I think, the exact words he used were that Germany had been guilty of one of the greatest crimes perpetrated in the history of the world. It is too soon to forget that. Speaking quite generally and broadly, I think we ought to bear in mind, in discussing the very serious difficulties which have undoubtedly arisen, and with which we have to deal, that underlying fact, and the correlative fact that this Government, this House, and, I am convinced, this country, are still friendly to France, and that they desire, as far as it is possible to do so, consistently with what is right and with the observance Of the definite interests of ourselves and the rest of Europe, to remain friends and Allies of France. That being so, I am inclined to complain of the tone of censoriousness in which this debate has been conducted.
1392 My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) opened the Debate, and anyone coming into the House in the middle of his very eloquent and very well-reasoned speech would naturally have inferred that he was making one of his characteristic assaults upon the Government. That would have been a very natural and very proper thing for him to do, and no one could do it better. The visitor would have been rather surprised if ho had learned that the—I will not say invective—the very strong attack of the right hon. Gentleman was not against a Government to which he was opposed, but against the French Government with which we are in alliance. That was the tone not only of the right hon. Gentleman hut of a great many of those who have spoken.
I should like to protest against our giving ourselves any airs of superiority. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear !"] I am glad that that sentiment meets with such general acceptance. Probably it is because in this House there is no attitude in any quarter of the House which is more resented by the House than when any hon. Member gives himself airs of superiority. Surely, what is true of Members of this House among ourselves is also true of nations among themselves, and I can imagine nothing which must he more offensive to our French friends and Allies than that we in this Reuse should, time after time, be giving ourselves airs of superiority over them for what they have done. I agree with the hon. Member for South Kensington (Sir W. Davison) that our difference with France is a difference not really of principle hut a difference of method. This country cannot say that to occupy the Ruhr with a military force, as a sanction for a default of the Treaty, is a thing wrong in itself, because we prepared to do it. Only two years ago the late Prime Minister informed the House that he had that morning given notice to the German Government that if they did not comply within a week with the demands he was then making, we should join with the French in occupying the Ruhr. [Interruption.] Anyone can look at the OFFICIAL REPORT. [HON. MEMBERS: "Bluff !"] I will not do the right hon. Gentleman the injustice of saying it was really bluff. [HON. MEMBERS: "He said so!"] If it was bluff, it certainly does 1393 not exonerate him or the House or the country in any way from acting upon it, and it remains equally true that it does not lie with us to take up that superior attitude.
The right hon. Gentleman put a very serious question, which he drove home by a quotation from an answer I gave to a question, which to a certain extent no doubt lies behind the more immediate difficulties with which we are confronted. He says, does this Government think the French are acting in violation of the Treaty of Versailles in occupying the Ruhr? I do not see why I should answer that question. I do not see why the Government should answer it. The right hon. Gentleman quoted my answer and commented very caustically upon it, that I had said there was no object in asking our Law Officers whether or not a violation of the Treaty had taken place, because, of course, their answer would be based upon English methods of interpretation. He went on to show that am, was ignoring the common functions of the Attorney-General with regard to any public matters. I quite recognise that. All I meant by that was that except in relation to some few Clauses there is no interpretation Clause in the Treaty itself and that if our Law Officers gave an opinion it could not bind anyone. It would only be an expression of their opinion and advice for our Government from our point of view as to the legal significance of what the French had done. I submit that this is a very similar case to that which he was speaking of last night, when we were also dealing with a matter which had both its legal and political aspects. He pointed out that although the legal point could net be ignored it really was much more a matter of expediency than of law. So I submit to him here. There may be many different opinions as to whether or not anything the French have done could be justified within the four corners of the Treaty, but what good purpose does he think would be served by our expressing, publicly it might be, through the mouth of our Law Officers that our Allies had violated the Treaty, if that, was the opinion? Does he think any good purpose would be served by doing that?
§ Sir J. SIMON
The hon. Gentleman the other day told us His Majesty's Government were advised that there had been a breach of the Agreement in respect of the 1394 Rhineland Convention. That was after a consultation with the Law Officers. The difficulty is that they are consulted in one case and not in another. It is a grave question whether or not a Treaty to which different countries are parties is being strictly observed, and there is such a thing as an international High Court, which exists for the express purpose of seeing that Treaties are properly applied and properly interpreted.
§ Mr. McNEILL
I am taking up rather more time than I had intended, and I will not labour that. I will merely point out that, at all events, the French and the Italian and the Belgian Governments presumably think and hold, and their jurists have presumably advised, that they are acting within the Treaty.
§ Mr. McNEILL
I am not making the assertion that they have, I am only presuming. But I do not think it is really a matter of such very great importance as the right hon. Gentleman made out. I want to deal with another matter, because I quite agree that the position is changing from time to time, and so far from getting more serious, in some ways it is getting less serious, and from that point of view, of course, we ought to congratulate ourselves. The right hon. Gentleman pointed out, as one of the illegal things that are done, that the Rhineland Commission has asserted its authority over the territory between the bridge heads, which has been taken into new occupation. They did so, of course, but they are not doing so now, and that, I think, is entirely in response to a representation that we made to them, and they have now made other arrangements that the Rhineland Commission as such exercises no authority whatever.
The right hon. Gentleman bases his justification for raising the fifth debate that we have had recently on this subject on three new facts, as he said. The first was that the British Army is now surrounded and has no contact with unoccupied Germany. That is not so. [An HON. MEMBER "Since when?"1 It is not so now. It is all very well to laugh, but the situation is changing and it is no use hon. Members saying to the Government: "You ought to be making representations 1395 to the French Government in order to get improvements made when they jeer if I am in a position to say, "We have made representations and those improvements are taking place." But I want to go on to what is a much more important matter and that is the effect upon British trade, because that is a matter which very vitally concerns us. Here again I am in this difficulty, that we have been making representations from time to time. Hon. Members have been putting down questions and bringing individual cases, as a right hon. Gentleman did about the vessel which was stopped in the river, to the War Office and the Board of Trade and we have day by day been making representations with a view to getting a more tolerable state of affairs. Throughout I am bound to say the French and Belgian authorities have shown themselves extremely anxious, quite recognising that a state of affairs has unavoidably been brought about which we regard as intolerable, to remove those difficulties. In view of what has been done, I think I ought to say exactly what the present position is with regard to trade. First of all I take goods consigned to places within the occupied territory. I must here draw a distinction between goods entering the occupied territory over the Western Frontier or by the Rhine and those which enter the occupied territory through unoccupied Germany. The first category, those consigned to places within the occupied territory by way of the Western Frontier or the Rhine, are subject to a duty at the rate of 10 per cent. ad valorem. That 10 per cent. has been substituted for the German Customs tariff which was in existence before. The German Customs tariff was a very complicated and varying tariff, and the 10 per cent. ad valorem duty now has been a simplification and substitution for that tariff. Goods which were admitted free of duty under the German tariff are still exempt from duty. That is the state of affairs at present as regards the old occupied territory. We are pressing as strongly as we can to have the same arrangement made in the Ruhr itself, and we have every expectation that it will be made, but I am not able to say at present that it has been concluded.
§ Mr. McNEILL
I have not time to be drawn off. Secondly, goods consigned from a country other than Germany to the occupied territory through Germany outside the occupation are exempt from import duty on their entry into the occupied territory on production of a certificate of origin and a receipt for payment of Customs duty issued by the German authorities at Ems and Essen. That means that, having paid the ordinary duty to the German authorities, they have not to pay a second time, and I think the right hon. Gentleman, in the account he gave of the present situation, did not appreciate that fact and, perhaps, was not aware that that arrangement had been made.
May I say a word about the licensing of imports. The list of goods which come in free from import duties remains in operation. There are -certain other goods which are not allowed to be imported into occupied territory unless they are covered by an import licence issued at Ems or Essen. Much more important, apparently, is exportation to countries other than Germany, because that is what mainly concerns us. The list of goods which under the previous régime were exempt from export licence requirements remains in force but other goods may not be exported from the occupied territories to countries other than Germany except under licence issued by the officer at Ems or Essen. Goods consigned from the occupied territory to a country other than Germany by way of non-occupied Germany require an export licence from Essen or Ems but are exempt from export duty in the occupied territory except in certain cases. Then export to unoccupied Germany of goods from both the old and the new occupied territory is forbidden without special permit. The export of certain products to unoccupied Germany is absolutely forbidden, permit or no permit, and only in exceptional cases will permits be granted. For other products permits can be obtained, but I do not think that is a matter which mainly concerns ourselves. The right hon. Gentleman dealt with goods in transit and there I think he was not fully informed of the present position. Goods consigned from countries other than Germany through to the occupied territory to a country other 1397 than Germany enjoy the usual transit facilities. In other words, they are exempt from duty both on entry into and departure from the occupied territory if the transit regulations are complied with. Secondly, goods consigned from a country other than Germany through the occupied territory either by way of the western frontier or the Rhine to non-occupied Germany must pay import duty at the first office in the occupied territory competent to collect the duty as if the goods were consigned to the occupied territory, that is to say a duty of 10 per cent. ad valorem. There is no further duty. That is where the right hon. Gentleman made a mistake. He said there was a further duty on leaving. That is not so.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I realise the difficulty, but this is the important point. The hon. Gentleman is dealing with goods which are passing into occupied territory and passing from there into unoccupied Germany. In addition to the 10 per cent. duty imposed upon them at their first entry, and collected by the French Custom officials, is not there also a duty imposed by Germany when the goods enter unoccupied Germany?
§ Mr. McNEILL
No, I do not think so. They pay import duty at the Customs office in the occupied territory, and there is no further duty.
§ Sir J. SIMON
There is no further duty paid to the French authorities, but surely there is a duty charged by Germany when the goods enter unoccupied territory?
§ Mr. McNEILL
When they pass into unoccupied Germany, I think that is so. There, is one other category to which I ought to refer. Goods consigned from unoccupied Germany in transit through the occupied territory to a country other than Germany pay an export duty of 10 per cent. ad valorem, and no licence is required. One hon. Gentleman asked me a special question about reparation dyes. I will tell him the position in regard to reparation dyes. In the case of dyes coming from occupied territory, and delivered to Britain as reparations, export licences are issued without charge, so that, so far as these particular goods are concerned, I do not think any special difficulty arises.
1398 Two hon. Members asked me about the railway position—the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) and some other hon. Member. The position as regards railways is this—that, speaking generally, railways in the occupied territory are now managed by the French and Belgian authorities, but in response to our representations, they have made no change of that sort—they do not exercise any management in the British zone, and the railways in the British zone continue to be worked by a German personnel and under their management. So far as the use of the railways for military purposes through our zone is concerned, an arrangement has been come to and accepted by the German Government that the French shall have for military use in our zone a number of trains equal to the average of that which they enjoyed before the occupation of the Ruhr, and that arrangement apparently gives satisfaction—at all events, it has been accepted by all the parties concerned, and I hope it will tend to avoid friction and difficulties as time goes on.
§ Mr. McNEILL
So far as I am aware—I am speaking from memory—I do not think there has been any change in the arrangement. I must make this comment upon the Debate as a whole. We have had a great deal of denunciation of the French action and of the things that they have done being so very illegal, so very immoral, so disastrous to our trade, and so forth, but whenever any hon. or right hon. Gentleman has at the end of his speech come to make a practical suggestion—I have listened very anxiously for it and I have found very little practical suggestion as to what this Government can practically do in the situation in which they have been placed. Great stress has been laid upon Article 11 of the Covenant of the League of Nations. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the English Universities (Mr. Fisher) spoke about our policy of continued inertia, and the right hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate asked how long this passivity is to remain. But how are we to break into the inertia complained of? The one and only suggestion is that the League of Nations should be asked to intervene. 1399 Great stress was laid by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the English Universities on Article 11. He pointed out that it was the friendly right of each member of the League to move the Council of the League in any matter of this sort. Of course it is. Everybody admits it is the friendly right of any member of the League to move that its machinery be applied to cases of this sort, but surely the question we have to decide is not whether the right exists or not under the clause of the Covenant, but whether, under all the circumstances of the case at this moment, it would be wise for this Government to make use of that particular right in the particular way suggested. I venture very respectfully to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that the League of Nations, with all the hopes of the world that it carries with it, is not yet an institution deeply rooted in the minds of the people of the world, and I can perfectly see circumstances under which, if you are to attempt to put into operation the machinery of the League of Nations, the first effect would be that you would smash the League. And, having regard to what we know of the temper at the present moment of France, in perhaps a lesser degree of Italy and of Belgium, I can quite understand that if we were to try to force the pace by bringing in the League of Nations as a roundabout form of intervention, it would not have any effect whatever so far as the particular problem with which we are dealing is concerned, but that its repercussion on the League of Nations would have very deplorable consequences I have the strongest ground for believing. I do not think we can go in for anything of that sort. I would like to inform hon. Members that only three days ago M. Poincaré, addressing the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Chamber in France, stated that the French Government would accept no offer of mediation and would enter into no indirect negotiations with the German Government, and when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the English Universities and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley suggested that if not the League of Nations there might be some other form of international Conference—and both of them naturally and rightly laid great stress on the importance of bringing America into 1400 It—we have not been encouraged by the result of certain endeavours that have been made since this problem became acute to interest the American Government, and to see if we could not enlist their support and assistance in solving this problem. The right hon. Gentleman knows himself that the intimations which have come from America that if their assistance in the matter would be welcome they would be able and willing to offer it—that that sort of offer coming from America has met with no response whatever, and therefore it remains to me for the present moment to say first of all that hope through moving the League of Nations to take a part—as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the English Universities urged us to-day, of course speaking with very exceptional authority—would be an absolutely useless step and that, for the reasons I have given, it might almost be dangerous to an institution from which we hope for a good deal in the future.
§ Mr. FISHER
May I ask the hon. Gentleman whether he has considered taking up the question of security along with the question of reparations, and whether the French Government would be unwilling to consider the question of reparations in that way? There was a suggestion that the two questions should be remitted to the League of Nations.
§ Mr. McNEILL
My tether is nearly at an end, and that question would rather draw me into a new line. I must conclude by saying that while the Government fully recognise the terrible seriousness of the position; while they recognise that the difficulties in some respects have certainly increased, and that they must be prepared to deal with them from time to time, they are still as anxious as ever to maintain, if possible, the friendship which has subsisted between us and France. We want, if possible, to avoid a final break, and we do not see any hope at the present moment either through the machinery of the League or by any special international Conference called for the purpose of striking out. a new policy which would meet the criticism which has been made to-night, and we remain therefore exactly in the same position to-day as when my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister spoke on this subject, after all, only a few days ago, and when he 1401 reminded the House that you cannot have a now policy every time you have a new Debate.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I think something should be said in the very short time remaining to us in regard to the unsatisfactory speech to which we have listened. It is a clear illustration of the practice which is now becoming common among Ministers in this House not to reply to a case after the case is opened. They take no opportunity of exploring the large question that has been opened. The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has had to deal with the interruptions of which he has complained, but as a result of his speech the House of Commons at the present moment has had really no light
§ thrown on the situation, the terrible seriousness of which he has himself admitted, and I hope we shall have an assurance from the Prime Minister that on any further Debate on this question, when a case is opened on the Front. Bench, either on behalf of the Official Opposition or the Liberal Opposition, there will be an immediate reply from the Government, and that hon. Members with the material in their hands will be in a position to deal with it in an intelligent way.
§ Question put, "That '£126,600,000 ' stand part of the Resolution."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 249; Noes, 201.1405
|Division No. 35.]||AYES.||[8.15 p.m.|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Colvin, Brig. General Richard Beale||Hewett, Sir J. P.|
|Ainsworth, Captain Charles||Conway, Sir W. Martin||Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel Frank|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton, East)||Cope, Major William||Hiley, Sir Ernest|
|Apsley, Lord||Cory, Sir J. H. (Cardiff. South)||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G|
|Archer-Shee, Lieut.-Colonel Martin||Courthope, Lieut.-Col. George L.||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Wilfrid W.||Craig, Captain C. C. (Antrim, South)||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy|
|Baird, Rt. Hon. Sir John Lawrence||Cralk. Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Croft, Lieut.-Colonel Henry Page||Hood, Sir Joseph|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Crook, C. W. (East Ham, North)||Hopkins, John W. W.|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.||Curzon, Captain Viscount||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)|
|Banner, Sir John S. Harmood.||Dalziel, Sir D. (Lambeth, Brixton)||Houfton, John Plowright|
|Barlow, Rt. Hon. Sir Montague||Davidson, J. C. C. (Hemel Hempstead)||Howard, Capt. D. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Howard-Bury, Lieut.-Col. C. K.|
|Becker, Harry||Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||Hudson, Capt. A.|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Hughes, Collingwood|
|Bennett, Sir T. J. (Sevenoaks)||Dixon, C. H. (Rutland)||Hume, G. H.|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Doyle, N. Grattan||Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Du Pre, Colonel William Baring||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer|
|Blundell, F. N.||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Hurd, Percy A.|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)||Hurst, Lieut.-Colonel Gerald B.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major A.||Ellis, R. G.||Hutchison, G. A. C. (Midlothian, N.)|
|Brass, Captain W.||Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith||Hutchison, W. (Kelvingrove)|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F, S.|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Erskine-Bolst, Captain C.||Jephcott, A. R.|
|Brown, Major D- C. (Hexham)||Eyres-Monsell, Com. Bolton M.||Jodrell, Sir Neville Paul|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. Clifton (Newbury)||Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray||Kelrey, Major Fred (Rotherham)|
|Bruford, R.||Fermor-Hesketh, Major T.||Kennedy, Captain M. S. Nigel|
|Bruton, Sir James||Ford, Patrick Johnston||King, Captain Henry Douglas|
|Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Foreman, Sir Henry||Lane-Fox, Lieut.-Colonel G. R.|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Forestier-Walker, L.||Law, Rt. Hon. A. B. (Glasgow, C.)|
|Burn, Colonel Sir Charles Rosdew||Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot||Lloyd-Greame, Rt. Hon. Sir P.|
|Burney, Cam. (Middx., Uxbridge)||Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (Handsw'th)|
|Butcher, Sir John George||Frece, Sir Waiter de||Lorlmer, H, D.|
|Butler, H. M. (Leeds, North)||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Lort-Williams, J.|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Furness, G. J.||Lougher, L.|
|Button, H. S.||Galbraith, J. F. W.||Loyd, Arthur Thomas (Abingdon)|
|Cadogan, Major Edward||Ganzonl, Sir John||Lumley, L. R.|
|Camplon, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.||Gaunt, Rear-Admiral Sir Guy R.||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Goff, Sir R. Park||McNeill, Ronald (Kent, Canterbury)|
|Cayzer, sir C. (Chester, City)||Gould, James C.||Margesson, H. D. R.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Gray, Harold (Cambridge)||Martin, A. E. (Essex, Romford)|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Greaves-Lord, Walter||Mason, Lieut.-Col. C. K.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord R. (Hitchin)||Guinness, Lieut.-Col. Hon. W. E.||Mercer, Colonel H.|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Gwynne, Rupert S.||Milne, J, S. Wardlaw|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Mitchell, W. F. (Saffron Walden)|
|Chapman, Sir S.||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)|
|Chilcott, Sir Warden||Hall, Rr-Adml Sir W.(Llv'p'I.W.D'by)||Molloy, Major L. G. S.|
|Churchman, Sir Arthur||Halstead, Major D.||Molson, Major John Elsdale|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Hamilton, Sir George C. (Altrincham)||Moore, Major-General Sir Newton J.|
|Clayton, G. C.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Morrison, Hugh (Wilts, Salisbury)|
|Coates, Lt.-Col. Norman||Harmsworth, Hon. E. C (Kent)||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C. (Honiton)|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Harvey, Major S. E.||Murchison, C. K.|
|Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Hay, Major T. W. (Norfolk, South)||Nall, Major Joseph|
|Cohen, Major J. Brunet||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Nesbitt, Robert C.|
|Collox, Major Wm. Phillips||Herbert, S. (Scarborough)||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Newson, Sir Percy Wilson||Richardson, Lt.-Col. Sir P. (Chertsey)||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-|
|Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)||Robertson, J. D. (Islington, W.)||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid H.|
|Nield, Sir Herbert||Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs., Stretford)||Sutcliffe, T.|
|Norman, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Rogerson, Capt, J. E.||Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.|
|Norton-Griffiths, Lieut.-Col. Sir John||Roundell, Colonel R. F.||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Ruggles-Brise, Major E.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||Russell, William (Bolton)||Thorpe, Captain John Henry|
|Paget, T. G.||Russell-Wells, Sir Sydney||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Parker, Owen (Kettering)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Tubbs, S. W.|
|Pease, William Edwin||Samuel, Samuel (W'dswsrth, Putney)||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Pennefather, De Fonblanque||Sanders, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert A.||Wallace, Captain E.|
|Penny, Frederick George||Sanderson, Sir Frank B.||Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)|
|Perkins, Colonel E. K.||Sandon, Lord||Watts, Dr. T, (Man., Withington)|
|Peto, Basil E.||Shipwright, Captain D,||Weston, Colonel John Wakefield|
|Pielou, D. P.||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)||Wheler, Col. Granville C. H.|
|Pollock. Rt. Hon. Sir Ernest Murray||Simpson-Hlnchliffe, W. A.||Whitla, Sir William|
|Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton||Singleton, J. E.||Wilson, Col. M. J. (Richmond)|
|Privett, F. J.||Skelton, A. N.||Winterton, Earl|
|Rae, Sir Henry N.||Smith, Sir Allan M. (Croydon, South)||Wise, Frederick|
|Raine, W.||Smith, Sir Harold (Wavertree)||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Rankin, Captain James Stuart||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)||Wood, Rt. Hn. Edward F. L. (Ripon)|
|Rawlinson, Rt. Hon. John Fredk. Peel||Sparkes, H. W.||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Reid, Capt. A. S. C. (Warrington)||Spender-Clay, Lieut.-Colonel H. H.||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Reid, D. D. (County Down)||Stanley, Lord||Yate, Colonel Sir Charles Edward|
|Remer, J. R.||Steel, Major S. Strang||Yerburgh, R. D. T.|
|Rentoul, G. S.||Stewart, Gershom (Wirral)|
|Reynolds, W. G. W.||Stockton, Sir Edwin Forsyth||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Richardson, Sir Alex. (Gravesend)||Stott, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Colonel Leslie Wilson and Colonel Gibbs|
|Adams, D.||Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.||Leach, W.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Foot, Isaac||Lee, F.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd||Lees-Smith, H. B. (Keighley)|
|Adkins, Sir William Ryland Dent||Gilbert, James Daniel||Lewis, Thomas A.|
|Alexander, Col. M. (Southwark)||Gosling, Harry||Linfield, F. C.|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Graham, D. M. (Hamilton)||Lowth, T.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central)||Lunn, William|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Gray, Frank (Oxford)||McCurdy, Rt. Hon. Charles A.|
|Attlee, C. R.||Greenall, T.||MacDonald, J. R. (Aberavon)|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertiliery)||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||M'Entee, V. L.|
|Barnes, A.||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||McLaren, Andrew|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar (Banff)||Groves, T.||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Batey, Joseph||Guest, Hon. C. H. (Bristol, N.)||March, S.|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Guthrie, Thomas Maule||Marks, Sir George Croydon|
|Bennett, A. J. (Mansfield)||Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Martin, F. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, E.)|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish-||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Maxton, James|
|Berkeley, Captain Reginald||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Millar, J. D.|
|Benwick, A.||Harbord, Arthur||Moreing, Captain Algernon H.|
|Bowdler, W. A.||Hardie. George D.||Morel, E. D.|
|Broad. F. A.||Harney, E. A.||Morris, Harold|
|Bromfield, William||Harris, Percy A.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Hay, Captain J. P. (Cathcart)||Mosley, Oswald|
|Buckie, J.||Hayday, Arthur||Muir, John W.|
|Burgess, S.||Hayes, John Henry (Edge Hill)||Murnin, H.|
|Burnie, Major J. (Bootle)||Hemmerde, E. G.||Murray, John (Leeds, West)|
|Butler, J. R. M. (Cambridge Univ.)||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (N'castle, E.)||Murray, R. (Renfrew, Western)|
|Buxton, Charles (Accrington)||Henderson, Sir T. (Roxburgh)||Nichol, Robert|
|Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North)||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||O'Grady, Captain James|
|Cairns, John||Herriotts, J.||Oliver, George Harold|
|Cape, Thomas||Hill, A.||Paling, W.|
|Chapple, W. A.||Hillary, A E.||Parker, H. (Hanley)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Hinds, John||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)|
|Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Hirst, G. H.||Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry|
|Collins, Pat (Walsall)||Hodge, Rt. Hon. John||Pattinson, S. (Horncastle)|
|Cowan. D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Hodge, Lieut.-Col. J. P. (Preston)||Philipson, H. H.|
|Darbishire, C. W.||Hogge, James Myles||Ponsonby, Arthur|
|Davies, J. C, (Denbigh, Denbigh)||Hutchison, Sir R. (Kirkcaldy)||Potts, John S.|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Irving, Dan||Price, E. G.|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Jarrett, G. W. S.||Pringle, W. M. R.|
|Dudgeon, Major C. R.||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Richards, R.|
|Duffy, T. Gavan||Johnston, Thomas (Stirling)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Duncan, C.||Johnstone, Harcourt (Willesden, East)||Riley, Ben|
|Ede, James Chuter||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Ritson, J.|
|Edge, Captain Sir William||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Roberts, C. H. (Derby)|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Jones, R. T. (Carnarvon)||Roberts, Frederick O. (W. Bromwich)|
|Emlyn-Jones, J. E. (Dorset, N)||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Robertson, J. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Entwistle, Major C. F.||Jowett, F. W. (Bradford, East)||Robinson, W. C. (York, Elland)|
|Evans, Ernest (Cardigan)||Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M.||Royce, William Stapleton.|
|Evans, Capt. H. Arthur (Leicester, E.)||Kirkwood, D.||Saklatvala, S.|
|Fairbairn, R. R.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Falconer, J.||Lansbury, George||Sexton, James|
|Fildes, Henry||Lawson, John James||Shaw, Hon. Alex. (Kilmarnock)|
|Shaw. Thomas (Preston)||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)||White, H. G. (Birkenhead, E.)|
|Shinwell, Emanuel||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)||Whiteley, W.|
|Short. Alfred (Wednesbury)||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)||Wignall, James|
|Simon, Rt. Han. Sir John||Thornton, M.||Williams, David (Swansea, E.)|
|Simpson, J. Hope||Tout, W. J.||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Sinclair, Sir A.||Trevelyan, C. P.||Williams, T (York, Don Valley)|
|Sitch, Charles K.||Wallhead, Richard C.||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Smith, T. (Pontefract)||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Snowden, Philip||Warne, G. H.||Wintringham, Margaret|
|Spears, Brig.-Gen. E. L.||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Spencer, George A. (Broxtowe)||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)||Wright, W.|
|Spencer, H. H. (Bradford, S.)||Webb, Sidney||Young, Rt. Hon. E. H. (Norwich)|
|Stephen, Campbell||Wedgwood, Colonel Josiah C.||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Stephenson, Lieut.-Colonel H. K.||Weir, L. M.|
|Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)||Westwood, J.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Sullivan, J.||Wheatley, J.||Mr. Phillips and Sir A. Marshall.|
Resolution agreed to.