§ SPEECHES OF MR. LLOYD GEORGE AND MR. MACDONALD.
§ SIR A. CHAMBERLAIN'S REPLY.
§ SUPPLY [4th ALLOTTED DAY]
§ Resolution [18th March] reported,
CIVIL SERVICES AND REVENUE DEPARTMENTS ESTIMATES, 1926–27 (VOTE ON ACCOUNT).
That a sum, not exceeding £117,810,000, be granted to His Majesty, on account, for or towards defraying the Charges for the following Civil Services and Revenue Departments (including Pensions, Education, Insurance, and other Grants) for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1927, namely:
§ [For details of Vote on Account, see OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th March, 1926, cols.. 617–20.]
§ Resolution read a Second time.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I beg to move to leave out "£117,840,000," and to insert instead thereof "£117,839,900."
I move this reduction in order to call attention to the- proceedings at Geneva, and the action of the representatives of this country at the Conference of the League of Nations. There can be no more important question for discussion thru what has taken place in the past fortnight at Geneva. The future of European peace may depend upon it. It is not a question so much of a review of the past, though that is an element of the line which is to be taken with regard to the future. The Ides of March ended, according to the right hon. Gentleman, in a tragedy. We have yet to weather the gales of September, and everything will depend upon the course which this House directs to be steered by the Government upon that occasion and between now and then. Everybody in the House would have preferred to hear from the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary what actually took place, but we have no papers, and therefore we are confined to the communications which have appeared in the Press. Of course we cannot assume that everything we have seen in the Press 1058 accurately and faithfully represents all that was transacted there. I express my regret, for that reason, that the right hon. Gentleman has not seen fit to pursue the course which he himself has adopted up to the present. When he came back from Locarno he took the floor at once and explained the character of the success which, amid general rejoicings, he had achieved and how it was brought about. I think, if I may very respectfully say so. that it would have been better if he had also explained how it came about that. Locarno was checked at Geneva, because then the House would have been in a better position to proceed either to criticise, or, if the statement cleared up something which was obscure, to accept what happened.
I have seen paragraphs in the newspapers suggesting that any criticisms which may be directed to the action of the Foreign Secretary have necessarily been inspired by a partisan spirit. There is no Minister in this House who is less entitled—the right hon. Gentleman himself has not made that suggestion—to say that he has been treated in a partisan spirit by any section of the House since he has been Foreign Secretary, and he knows perfectly well how his success at Locarno was acclaimed without distinction of party. Speaking for myself, when I rose to congratulate him, I did it with a much better heart than now, when I am getting up to cast a doubt upon what he has done. The Liberal Press gave him prompt, unequivocal and unreserved praise for his action on that occasion, and he could not have been acclaimed with greater unanimity or warmth had he been one of our leaders. [An HON. MEMBER: "Which one?"] I think, therefore the right hon. Gentleman if he were responsible for those paragraphs would feel that they were not just or fair. The moment his speech at Birmingham indicated that he was de parting from the spirit of his great achievements those who supported him, whether on this side or the other side of the House, protested against it. There was no difference of party. They predicted disaster if he proceeded on those lines. It has ended, according to himself, in a tragedy. All I want to point out is that if anybody gets up in this House on this occasion to cast doubt or to suggest criticism, it is because they feel that there 1059 is something that transcends personal considerations and that the peace of the world hangs on the action which the House of Commons takes and directs the Government to take in the future.
Let there be no mistake as to the nature of the complaint which is made or the doubts which exist. No one is so foolish or unjust as to say to the right hon. Gentleman "You triumphed at Locarno, but you did not repeat that triumph at Geneva, and you had to adjourn." Before the peace of Europe is established there must be hundreds of conferences. I remember how conferences were jeered at by people who have since taken part in many of them. I have always said you must hold conference after conference—sometimes failing sometimes succeeding, but still persevering. These are all stepping stones for Europe to walk through a morass to firm ground. Nobody has ever censured or condemned the right hon. Gentleman because he did not this time succeed in carrying through the Treaty of Locarno and had to adjourn it until September. In regard to conferences in the past and in the future, some of them will end in agreement, some of them will only achieve partial agreement, and some will fail altogether. But that is not the point.
The suggestion has been made in the Press that Cannes failed and Genoa failed. So they did; and if the responsibility be mine, then my responsibility is indeed a dark one. That is all. History will answer that. That was an effort to secure pacification in Europe, East and West, by bringing Russia within the comity of nations. M. Briand pledged himself to do his best, and he did, but but he did not succeed. We obtained a pact of non-aggression which has been faithfully kept by Russia up to the present moment, but it did not succeed in its primary purpose. There was one significant incident that happened there which has its bearing, and that is the fact of a secret arrangement entered into behind the backs of others between Germany and Russia which bad a great deal to do with the failure of the conference. It is that kind of defect that marks Geneva at the present moment.
The criticism, in so far as it goes upon the information which has come to hand, contains two things. First of all, that the 1060 Locarno Powers were responsible for the failure. The second was that it was a failure that damaged the machinery to such an extent that many of its best friends are despairing of the effect of it.
Let us come to the question of the responsibility. I can speak only of the Locarno Powers, because there are two or three questions which I should like to put to the Foreign Secretary before I could say the extent to which he is responsible for their action. But there is no doubt at all that it was the action of these Powers which was responsible for the failure. I will take the speech of the Foreign Secretary at the very last meeting of the Assembly. What did he say?…Owing to a regrettable misunderstanding, I ought even to say a regrettable failure on either side to mention a point which was of critical importance.That is his explanation why the Pact was not carried through.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir Austen Chamberlain)
No; that was not my explanation.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
The right hon. Gentleman quotes certain words apart from their context. That was not the explanation which I offered why the Pact was not carried through.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I am not in the least desirous of misrepresenting the Foreign Secretary, not in the least. That is why I was anxious to hear his explanation first. Without qualification, I accept what he says now. But he calls attention—I can put it in this way if he thinks the other is unfair—to "a regrettable misunderstanding, he ought even to say a regrettable failure on either side to mention a point which was of critical importance." [An HON. MEMBERS: "What is the point?"] I am coming to the point. Those are the actual words. What is the point that was overlooked? The point that was overlooked and about which, according to him, there was a misunderstanding turned out to be a vital one, and the whole of the public opinion of this country realised that it was a vital one the moment it was mentioned, except the right hon. Gentleman. What was it? It was part of the Looarno 1061 Agreement that Germany should enter the League of Nations. It was one of the obligations cast upon it. The right hon. Gentleman, in explaining the Locarno Agreement to the House, said: "The greatest difficulty we experienced was not in settling the Pact between Poland and Germany. The House might have imagined that. The greatest difficulty we experienced was over the entry of Germany into the League. Germany had certain difficulties, certain objections." What does that mean? That the attentioa of the Locarno signatories was concentrated upon that point to a greater extent than even upon issues which seemed to loom larger to the outside public, and yet, although they discussed it, although it seemed to be the most important point, the one point that afterwards wrecked the Conference was never mentioned.
I think we are entitled to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he knew at that time that it was the intention of France and Poland or anybody else to insist upon the simultaneous entry of Poland into the League with Germany. I think we are entitled to ask that, because, if it is so, it is inconceivable that it should not have been mentioned. Take it from any point of view. There is no doubt that it was the intention of Poland. There is no doubt that it was the intention of France. Did the right hon. Gentleman know? If they did, this is the dilemma. If they thought that it was a matter so trivial, or if they thought that it. was something to which they could fairly assume that Germany would not object, every consideration of prudence required that they should tell Germany, instead of leaving Germany to find it out from articles in the French Press putting the point in its most offensive form—as a makeweight to Germany, as an antidote to Germany, because that is one of the phrases which was used, or as a counterpoise to Germany. Supposing Germany were prepared at Locarno to accept it, it was difficult for Germany to de it after public opinion had been roused and suspicion and apprehension stirred up by articles of that kind. It was therefore nothing but common prudence that Germany should have been told at the time if the Powers thought they would accept it. Supposing, on the other hand, they thought that. Germany would not accept it, supposing they thought if it were mentioned that 1062 Germany would not agree, then every consideration of honour demanded that they should be told before signing the Pact. That is the position. It left an impression somehow or other that Germany had been induced to sign the Pact without telling her all the conditions.
I do not know whether Members of the House have read the Report in the "Times" to-day of the discussion in the Senate at Washington. It is a very unpleasant one. Its significance comes from the fact that we were all hoping that America sooner or later would come into the League of Nations, that it is only the advent of America that will make the League of Nations the perfect success that we all hope for. There is no doubt at all that what has happened here has put off America and antagonised her in a way nothing else has for some time. I am mentioning this in. order to show the impression created abroad by the fact that. this essential condition was withheld from Germany. This is what Senator Borah said. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] What is the good of scoffing at one of the ablest men in America? Hon. Gentlemen do not know him. He is one of the ablest men in America. He is one of the most influential men. He is the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate, and he is relating a conversation which he had with the Ambassador, and this is the impression left on his mind:A situation, as he saw it, dominated by the fact that those who had charge of the programme at Locarno entered into a secret agreement, and that they were practically intriguing against those for whom they were profressing friendship.That is the impression created on a section of opinion abroad. It was unfortunate, to say the least, that this fact should have been withheld. It has created a bad impression in Germany. It has created a bad impression in Great Britain. What is the use of suggesting that this is merely Senator Borah or somebody hon. Members do not like. Over 200 of their own colleagues sitting on those benches, the moment they discovered that a new condition was to be introduced into the bargain with Germany, protested. and it is to their honour that they did.
Now the question is to what extent we are responsible. The obvious procedure 1063 was the one which was indicated in the communique of the Foreign Office to the Press announcing the Pact of Locarno, that a special meeting of the League should be summoned for the purpose of ratifying the Pact and for the purpose of electing Germany as a member of the League of Nations and putting her on the Council. If the Locarno Powers had stood by that and had insisted on the postponement of all other claims, who doubts that it would have gone through without any difficulty? No one. I thought, and I think most people thought, that that is what the words used by the Prime Minister in his speech in the House meant was to be done at Geneva. I think his words were: "That is the primary purpose, the dominant purpose." Everything else was subordinate. It was not a question whether Spain ought to be elected, or Brazil, or Poland, or Holland, or Sweden, or Czechoslovakia, but the moment the question was introduced you were bound to have a conflict between the nations that imperilled the Pact of Locarno.
What happened? Instead of the Locarnist Powers going there and using their influence to confine the question to this one issue, they raised the other issue themselves. France said, "You must elect Spain, Brazil, and Poland." The right hon. Gentleman pledged himself to Spain. A great agitation raged from the Equator to the Pole in every Press throughout the nations concerned in the League. There were debates in Parliaments. The lives of Ministries depended upon it. All these people came there pledged by their Parliaments to put up a fight for their own country, and they had to go back, if nothing were done, saying. "We were beaten." If they had been told in a straightforward, firm manner from the start, "these things will never arise," you would have had none of this agitation. Instead of that, the Locarnist Powers, including Great Britain,negotiated, conferred, manŒuvred, cajoled—I am usinsg the words in the "Times "—indulged in international browbeating with a view to carrying their nominees. Instead of saying, "It is Germany, and Germany alone this time," they themselves began to intrigue, to propose, to press, to threaten in order to carry somebody else as well as Ger 1064 many. How can you blame Brazil under these conditions? She had her own public opinion to consider. She was a larger Power than Poland in area, in population, and in riches; it is a gigantic country. I am not discussing her claims, but, the moment you begin putting up other claimants than. Germany, you are bound to get difficulties.
The right hon. Gentleman, or, rather, his friends, indicate that all this is a sort of partisan ramp against himself. Has he read some of the Press which has given him very faithful support? There are Conservative papers that have not given very consistent support to the Government, but I am not quoting them; I am quoting the papers that have been faithful, through good and evil report, to the Government—papers, some of them, edited by men who are great personal friends of the Foreign Secretary, and who are most reluctant to disagree with him or to hurt him—papers like the "Observer "—[Interruption,] Well, there has been no better friend of the Foreign Secretary than the "Observer," and there is no more devoted admirer of his than the distinguished publicist who is the editor of that paper. I will take the "Times." The "Times" has consistently supported the Government through good and evil report, and I will quote them. This is what they say, in their leading article of the 12th March:It is not agreeable to reflect that, if our own Government had taken three weeks ago a firm stand in accordance with what was later revealed as the definite view of the country, this humiliating spectacle of national discord might have been avoided. Spain and Brazil had previously giver a formal promise to place no obstacle in the way of the admission of Germany to the League.Again, I could quote the "Spectator," which was one of those which certainly acclaimed Locarno and gave very warm praise to the Foreign Secretary at the time. This is what they say:Sir Austen Chamberlain's failure has been as great as was his success at Locarno. Everyone knows that he has worked himself to a standstill at Geneva trying to bring about an agreement, and we are all sensible of the pains he 'has taken "—No doubt he made great efforts at Geneva—but the mistake was made, not at Geneva, but weeks ago in Paris. It was a mistake of such magnitude that it could not he redeemed.1065 I am quoting, not merely impartial witnesses, but witnesses friendly to the right hon. Gentleman, by way of showing that he is not the victim of a kind of partisan conspiracy against hits achievements. Here he has men criticising him who are among his best friends, and the best friends of the Government of which he is a distinguished member.
Sweden took the right and the courageous course, and there is no doubt in the minds of the vast majority of people in this country of all parties, that Sweden represented public opinion in Great Britain as well as in her own country. She was treated, as M. Unden was treated, as a stubborn and irreconcilable pro-German, thwarting the beneficent spirit of Locarno. I remember that during the War the Swedish Socialists were pro-Ally. M. Branting, that great statesman whose loss was a real loss to Europe, was one of the best friends we had in our darkest hour of trial, and M. Unden is his distinguished disciple. He took a memorable part at Geneva, not, for Germany, but for the League; not against the spirit of Locarno, but for the spirit of the great Covenant of Nations. Sweden played an illustrious, yen, and an immortal part, and the reception given to its representative in the Assembly is a bright spot which shows what the view of the Assembly was with regard to what had happened. The Assembly was only called on the last day to register a decision. If the League was saved, M. Unden has done more to save it than anyone else by his struggle and his sacrifice.
The record of Sweden with regard to the League is without blemish. They accepted its decision in connection with the Aland Islands, although it went against them, without demur, and rendered consistent support to the League that took away territory which they thought was their own. Their representative was squeezed out of the Council of the League in favour of a country that has consistently defied the League. It is no use ignoring these facts because -they are unpleasant. The nearest approach which they made to an agreement was when Sweden went out, or offered to go out, of the Council of the League to make room for Poland. Poland behaved well, according to all testimony at Geneva. M. Skrzyneky, as 1066 would have been expected of him, behaved with tact, restraint, and great dignity. That seems to me to be the universal testimony of all I have heard. But that does not prevent me from calling attention to the fact that high up in office in his Government is a man who defied the League of Nations by conquering Vilna and annexing it, in spite of the direct orders of the League.
There is no Power that owes so much to the Allies as Poland. It was her misfortune that more than half her sons were fighting against the lands that were making sacrifices to win her liberation. I make no comment on that; it adds to her tragedy; but the fact remains that her liberation was achieved by lands against which she was forced to fight. In the last act of the emancipation, what happened? The League ordered Poland to keep within a certain line of limitation, Vilna being on the Lithuanian side. General Zeligowski marched with a division in defiance of that—it is only within the last few years—and annexed Vilna with a Polish division; and they said he was a mutinous general. The League of Nations, on the motion of a distinguished Frenchman who was a genuine friend of the League, M. Bourgeois, carried unanimously a resolution condemning the act, and we joined in the protest. The Polish Government sent back a message repudiating the action of their general, and said they were not responsible; but the President of the Polish Republic shortly afterwards owned that General Zeligowski invaded under his orders, and, in a year or two, in 1923, this general was given the highest honours that Poland could confer upon him as the saviour of Vilna, and he is now Secretary of State for War in Count Skrzynsky's Government.
That is the triumph of Geneva. Sweden, that has been loyal in word and deed, and, more, in submission, to the great Covenant of the League of Nations, finds herself, in order to save the League, bound to give up her seat. Poland, that defied the League, that made a mock and a laughing-stock of the League, is by the action of the Powers of Locarno, put in the place of Sweden. How can you expect the League of Nations to thrive on action of that kind? But there is a special anxiety for Great Britain in what happened at Geneva at this time. We 1067 are bound by the Pact of Locarno the moment Germany enters. That communiqué suggested that we are bound now, but, of course, we are not. What have we done by the Pact of Locarno? By the Pact of Locarno we have guaranteed to protect the frontiers of France against Germany, to protect the frontiers of Germany against France. If France is an aggressor, we are bound to enter into the war on the side of Germany with all our strength, and likewise if Germany is an aggressor. It is a one-sided guarantee at best—there is no guarantee for our shores, there is no guarantee of our debts. A similar guarantee cost us, a few years ago, £8,000,000,000. I heard what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said the other day when he gave that very striking account of the finances of this country. He pointed out that the bulk of our burdens came from the War, in interest and pensions. That is what a guarantee cost us, and it was worth the risk if it gave us peace in Europe. But just see what this means. If there is a dispute, we shall be no party to the negotiations—they will be in the hands of the disputants. There might be an incident which would take it out of the hands of all the parties. There is only one rampart between us and war—the League of Nations. We can appeal to the League. What manner of League is it? The League on the morning after Locarno—how is it described? Here again I take the description from a perfectly friendly source to the Government—a "Times" leading article!The intrigues carried on for many days in conditions of unexampled publicity were of a nature to disgust and revolt both the supporters and the opponents of the League of Nations. Geneva, the home of an institution designed to prevent war, was suddenly transformed into a scene of the crudest manifestations of those very intrigues that drove desperate nations into the blind arbitrament of war. The depths of national rivalries, suspicions and jealousies were revealed in full measure. The spectacle was revolting.That is Geneva on the morning after Locarno, when the spirit of Locarno was passing over the waters, creating a new era of brotherhood—when the loving cup was circulating. That is Locarno. That is the League of Nations now. What will happen when passions have been roused to frenzy by quarrels on the 1068 borders, when nations are disputing, when they are angry, when wrath is fermenting the waters, when armies are assembling, when there may be incidents and tragic blunders? If this happens in the green tree at Geneva now, what will happen in the dry, when Europe is tinder? That is the serious meaning of this—the effect upon the League of Nations.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberavon (.Mr. Ramsay MacDonald) in a very powerful speech on Saturday criticising this, went so far as to express the fear that it had destroyed the League. I hope his fears are not true, and so does he, but it is a fear that is shared by many. The Government have a. majority. It will be for them to put this right, and I beg them to do it. I beg them to concentrate on saving the League. It is no use talking about the spirit of Locarno any longer. One of the best friends of the right hon. Gentleman in the Press said:Locarno was a blessed word, but it is now a by-word.Let us concentrate on saving the League. Britain alone can do it. We are free of these entanglements and past feuds. We have had our fight. We saved Europe from the threat of a great despotism and, as is our habit, we harbour no resentment. We have done the work that Providence called upon us to discharge—[Interruption]—in our judgment and in the judgment of the majority of the people of this country, and we have no anger. We have no hatred. We are the only people in Europe who have been placed in a position where we can be like that. Apart from temperament, here we are in the deep, circled round by a moat. We can afford to be calm. France for a whole generation—God forbid that I should criticise her!—will have bitter memories of invasion. We have not got that. M. Briand is too broadminded a man, and too genial a temper to be vindictive. He is too wise a man to believe he can keep Germany down. It is very significant that the courageous speech he delivered at the Assembly—a very courageous speech, having regard to his public opinion—has been denounced by almost every paper in France as going too far in the direction of friendship for Germany. We are free from these entangling feuds. I hope, when the Foreign Secretary goes again to 1069 Geneva, he will go really with a free hand, freed from any promise he has given, freed from any pledge, freed above ah from the entanglement of these ancient fends in Europe—that he will go there to save the League and make it a place, not to foment, not to excite quarrels and discussions and rivalries amongst nations but to settle them, and make it not a battle ground for diplomatists but what it ought to be, the great council chamber of the covenant of peace amongst nations.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
Before I enter or what is properly the subject matter of this Debate, I should like to pay a debt that presses strongly upon me. The House knows that, as the Assembly was meeting at the same time as the Council, there were present at Geneva during the aiduous and anxious fortnight I passed there representatives of the other Dominions of the Empire and of India. It was my good fortune throughout to be in the closest touch and consultation with them. The whole seven nations met almost daily in my room and communications of the most confidential character passed among us more than once a day. I desire, now that I am back here in my place in the House of Commons, to express the debt I owe to them for the sympathy and support which they accorded me in the most difficult task it has even been my lot to Confront.
The right ton. Gentleman expressed some regret that I did not open this Debate, as has been buy practice on previous occasions. If he and others had suspended judgment until later, I should have thought that the natural and necessary course to pursue, but the first observation which will have occurred to anyone who has listened to the right hon. Gentleman is the extraordinary difference between his indictment in the House and his condemnation in the country. He comes here as an open-minded but distressed inquirer. He did not wait for my arrival at Geneva before he telegraphed to the American Press his condemnation of my action and his suspicion of my honour. It is quite true he did not suggest that I was a knave. He was good enough to say only that I was a fool. When these condemnations hive been passed before any explanations are sought, it was perhaps not unreasonable that I should ask the right hon. Gentleman to frame his indictment 1070 here in order that on the Floor of this House I could meet such charges as he has made, and know before I had to speak exactly what it was I had to answer.
The right hon. Gentleman has not brought on the Floor of the House the charges which he and his Press—he is very fond of quoting the Press—have formulated day after day. Last week they were handing me the bow strings. There was nothing for me but immediate suicide. Now the right hon. Gentleman is only waiting for my explanation and regretful that my silence forces him to move a reduction of the Vote. I have never known a campaign conducted as this has been over the whole time of my absence when I could make no reply followed by so mild a performance when the right hon. Gentleman finds himself at last in a position to receive an answer to any charges he may make. My right hon. Friend was a great War Minister. He and I, following old Parliamentary practice, when we differ call each other in this House right hon. Gentlemen, and yet habit is too strong for us, and I do not mean to allow anything to be said by him or by me which will interfere with our personal friendship. That is in our old House of Commons tradition. The right hon. Gentleman was a great War Minister. He was not equally successful as a peace Minister, and I think the House may have some perception, even in the speech which he has just delivered, why he failed. He is too volatile to secure confidence; he is too disregardful of the view of the other party to inspire sympathy or promote understanding, and he has never been able to conceive of any way of making friends with your enemies except by making enemies of your friends. That, in a sentence, is wherein he and I differ, and where our methods differ, and why the results are different.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
Yes, I will show the right hon. Gentleman, if he will wait. He hinted suspicion, hesitated doubt, but formulated no direct charge. I go, therefore, to the sources of information to which, in those circumstances, I can go to find out exactly what are the charges' I am called upon to answer. I will try to state them and the House will 1071 say whether those are the questions they want me to answer or whether they are not.
I understand the first charge is that, when I passed through Paris in December, I entered into some secret and unavowed agreement with M. Briand about the Polish claim. The second charge is that I acted with disloyalty to Germany.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
Then there is no suggestion that I made an agreement with Poland or with anybody about Poland?
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
I do not want my right hon. Friend to quote. I want him to say what charge he has to make.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I will do so without any hesitation. The suggestion which I make is that the right hon. Gentleman, during his passage through Paris, entered into an arrangement with Spain, to support the case of Spain. Spain was to be given a permanent place on the League of Nations Council. Then M. Briand was to press the claims of Poland.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
Oh! It was part of an arrangement with M. Briand? The arrangement with M. Briand was that I would press the claim of Spain, and that he would press the claim of Poland?
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
The agreement was between the right hon. Gentleman and Spain. The suggestion is that he saw the Spanish Ambassador in Paris and that he promised there to support the case of Spain. M. Briand had. already promised to press the claim of Poland. It is only in regard to Spain that I suggest a promise was made in Paris.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
—from that presented elsewhere. The third charge is, if I understand it lightly—and this was repeated in the House by the right hon. Gentleman—that if I had put my foot down at some time previous to Geneva, not exactly defined, no other country would have raised a claim, and that the whole matter would have passed off without any difficulty. Lastly, the charge is that when at Geneva I engaged in secret discussions, instead of carrying on all the discussions in public sitting in the Assembly. Those are the four charges which, if the right hon. Gentleman has not wholly fathered them today, have yet been brought against me in the Press which support him. I propose to deal with them seriatim. After Geneva, I can talk with a freedom and frankness which I thought contrary to the public interest before.
What passed between M. Briand and me in Paris? I would remind the House that I had left this country to attend an ordinary Council meeting of the League in Geneva. I stayed there a fortnight. I then proceeded to Italy for a holiday. I had been very nearly seven weeks absent from this country, five weeks of which was holiday, when I was not discharging the duties of Secretary of State, when I met M. Briand in Paris. I took the opportunity of learning his views on a number of subjects. I began the conversation by telling him that on no matter whatever could I take any engagement until I had returned to my own country and got in touch with the Foreign Office, and consulted my colleagues, if necessary. We spoke about the Saar. I listened to his views, but I refused to come to any arrangement.
We spoke about Poland. I asked M. Briand to tell me what were the reasons for which the French Government proposed to support the admission of Poland to the Council and, more particularly, the claim of Poland to a permanent seat on the Council. I told him that I could take no engagement, that I could give no assurance as to the attitude of my 1073 Government, but that I should like to know his reasons in order that I might report them faithfully to the Government of which I was a member. There was ho engagement of any kind taken by me with M. Briand during that interview. Every suggestion that I undertook, in that interview, any kind of obligation to support the Polish claim, whether for a permanent seat or for a temporary seat on the Council, is without the least foundation. I denied it before I went to Geneva, and I desire my denial to be as categoric as possible. I had already, I think, before that, renewed to Spain the assurance that we would, in suitable circumstances, support the renewal of her claim. I had told the Spanish representative that we would renew the support which, four years ago, under the right hon. Gentleman, when we championed the Spanish claim and moved its acceptance, the British Government had accorded to it.
With respect to Poland, Brazil and the other Powers, I adopted the attitude which has been adopted by the British Government universally in similar circumstances. I refused to give any pledge. I said that the attitude of the British Government would be declared at Geneva and that we were not prepared to tie our hands beforehand without listening to the discussion which might take place. There is, therefore, not the slightest foundation for all the suggestions which the right hon. Gentleman has fathered outside the House, though he has not fathered them here, that I instigated M. Briand or encouraged M. Briand by any sort of pledge or undertaking during my Paris visit to bring forward or to press the Polish claim.
The second charge and the third charge must, I think, be dealt with more or less together. The charge is that I acted with disloyalty to Germany and that had I put my foot down—it must be a large foot to have such a big effect—no other nation would have ventured to put forward her claim. That is wholly untrue. As regards the charge of disloyalty to Germany, is it not rather odd that while my own countrymen make it, the Germans with whom I have dealt have never made it? The right hon. Gentleman quotes a speech of Senator Borah, and he draws attention to the painful suspicions which have been created in America. He had his share by his articles in creating that suspicion. 1074 He insinuated in his articles what he dared not say to-day. Why did he not quote the speech of Dr. Stresemann? I would take the judgment of Dr. Stresemann as against that of the right hon. Gentleman as to whether I acted in any degree with any lack of candour or loyalty to the German Government. I have made no secret of the attitude I took. I did my best to persuade other nations not to raise this question at this time. It was not, when first I had to deal with it, a matter of Poland at all; it was the claims of Spain and Brazil with which I was concerned. To everyone I said the same thing. I said, "Let us get Germany into the League and not complicate the discussion of that problem by introducing any other issue." If personal influence would have carried it, if national influence would have carried it, there would have been no difficulty. It was because other nations said, "We have been put off again and again; we have been put off year after year, and this moment when the constitution of the Council will be automatically open by the admission of Germany was pointed out as our opportunity to raise our claim." It was because that was the situation that no words of mine and no influence that I could bring to bear would have prevented the case from being raised.
The right hon. Gentleman is one of those who believe themselves to be the profoundest adherents and warmest supporters of the League of Nations. They seem to me to forget what the League is. It is an association of equal nations. It is a place where nations having conflicting claims which they are unable to reconcile by direct negotiations are to try whether, under the influence of the League, by mutual concessions, some solution can be reached. To point to the representative of this country as some great dictator who can order these nations about, who can order them not to use their covenanted rights, and dictate a policy to them, is to misunderstand the whole position of the League, and if ever any British representative attempts to play that role in Geneva he will have the reprobation of the whole League,
I want to state the case, not as an advocate of any particular view but quite objectively as it appeared to one side and the other. I can do it the more easily 1075 because, as often happens, the position of Great Britain was detached from the extreme view of both parties, and she seemed once more in the position, perhaps, to play her accustomed part of moderator and conciliator. What was the view of the conflicting parties? On the one hand, Germany said, "It never entered our mind that any change was contemplated in the Council at this moment, except the addition of a permanent seat for ourselves. No hint of that was given to us during our discussions at Locarno. If you had that in mind, you ought to have told us. As you did not tell us, and as it never occurred to us to suppose that there was such a prospect, we based our whole case for the Locarno policy and, above all, for entering into the League, among our own people upon the assumption that the Council would remain unchanged and be unchanged at the moment we entered, and we cannot now alter what was the basis of our whole domestic campaign."
I hope, and I think I have stated the German point of view fairly. I want to state the point of view of other countries equally fairly. Let me take first the point of view of Brazil. It is hardly necessary for me to say that I am not a defender of the position which Brazil took. I am not an apologist for her, nor can I for one moment say she acted in her own best interests or with due regard to the greater international interests involved. But I want to state her point of view. It was assumed by us all that all nations represented on the Council had sent similar replies to the German inquiry, which was made on 24th September, 1924, as to whether she could count upon a permanent seat in the League and on proportionate and suitable representation in the League organs, and as to certain matters arising out of Article 16 and other Articles in the Covenant. I believe every Power but one said that they would be happy to support Germany's admission to a permanent seat on the Council, but Brazil sent an entirely different reply. She, indeed, indicated that she was willing to see Germany a member, but she gave no promise, and she expressly said that this was not a matter to be treated between Government and Government but a matter to be decided in the 1076 League itself at Geneva, as the result of discussions there with due regard to international law and the spirit of the League, and some other large general considerations.
The terms of that communication were, I believe, unknown to any Government except the Brazilian Government which sent it and the German Government which received it until others of us heard them read out at Geneva. Might not that answer have put Germany on her guard? Ought not that answer to have put Germany on her guard? At least it was the contention of Brazil that she had served Germany with proper notice, then and there, that Brazil's own claim would be brought to discussion at Geneva at the same time. I will try to state equally as fairly as Brazil's point of view, the point of view of France and other countries. France in her reply said that she was ready to support Germany's claim to a permanent seat on the Council, and her claim to proportional representation in the other organs of the League, like the Secretariat. But she continued:As to the other considerations developed in the Memorandum of the German Government, Germany's request for admission cannot be receivable unless it carries with it neither conditions nor reserves, nor additions.In the answer which our Government sent there was a similar phrase. Perhaps I had better quote the exact words. After in the same way agreeing that we would support Germany's claim to a seat in the Council and a place in the Secretariat, the right hon. Gentleman, then Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister said:I find some difficulty, however, in replying to the other three points raised in your Memorandum. The German Government will doubtless realise that they can only expect the Assembly to vote by the necessary two-thirds majority for the admission of Germany if that country applies on the-same footing as other Powers and in conformity with the terms of the Covenant. The latter contains no provision for an applicant being allowed to claim admission to the League on special conditions or with special reservations.I make no charge of bad faith against Germany, I make no charge of any kind against Germany, but I say that there is no ground for a charge of bad faith against anybody else. The fact of the matter is that the Germans were not 1077 thinking of this particular point. They did not offer to enter without conditions. They put forward the only conditions which then seemed to them important, and when the Powers had answered accepting the proposals for a permanent seat and rejecting all other conditions, they believed that no other conditions were in the German mind. That is what I mean by saying that it was a misunderstanding, and there was very nearly a quarrel. Again, when the German Government, after these replies had been received from the Powers, addressed the Council itself, the Council replied in similar terms rejecting the conditions. The Council did not mention the condition that there should be no change in the Council, for that condition had not been put forward;. but they rejected all conditions extraneous to the one that Germany should have her seat in the Council and her proper position in the Secretariat.
Again, the subject of the conditions on which Germany would enter the League was raised, as the right hon. Gentleman said, and debated for long hours at Locarno. Never once was it suggested or hinted that Germany attached any importance at that moment to her entry being sole and unaccompanied by any other Power. If it had been the matter would have been cleared up at once, and I have no doubt we should have reached an agreement. Neither one side nor the other was thinking of that matter at that time, and whilst it had not occurred to the Germans as a possibility, they assumed it was an impossibility, the Allies, in ruling out all conditions except the one in which they specifically accepted, assumed that no new subject of difference could arise to mar the process of Germany's entry.
We all regret it, I blame no one. That was the state of facts, and we had to deal with it as best we might. In the face of this letter from Brazil, and the one from Spain, which was, I believe, a letter very much in the terms of the French reply, how, in the face of that, could I say, "You have no right to have your claim discussed. You have no right even to put your reasons for urging it before the League." To do that would have been preposterous arrogance even on the part of so great a Power as that which I had the honour of representing. How could I hold binding on them con 1078 ditions of which they had no notice? And when they had rejected all the conditions of which they had notice, how could I say, "Ah, it was implied that there was another condition," which would be produced at the proper time. It was not practical politics, and anyone who thinks that a single word from the British representative could have imposed that silence and that reticence on all the other Powers concerned, greatly misunderstands the atmosphere of Geneva.
Even then, even with this unhappy misunderstanding, I do not doubt that if we could have met at once, before public opinion had taken charge in so many countries, we could have reached an agreement with much less difficulty, and probably at a far lower cost. Unfortunately, the controversy became public. For the method in which the Polish claim was presented in certain quarters I can have nothing but reprobation. I need not say that I agree with every word of the tribute which the right hon. Gentleman paid, and which I was glad to hear, to the attitude of the Polish representative at Geneva. The honours at Geneva were shared by the Poles, the Germans, the Swedes, and the Czechs. The Poles and the Germans, whose case was peculiarly the subject of controversy, distinguished themselves by the dignity and reticence of their representatives under most trying conditions and won the admiration and sympathy of us all. If we could have met at once and talked the matter out, I think we could without great difficulty have come to an understanding. Last Sunday, trying to rest my mind a little, I was turning over Colonel House's papers, and I came on this sentence:It would be better if we could get what we are after without taking such a positive-stand in public. It is the publicity of these things that always does harm, and to which they object.They," in that case, were more particularly ourselves. That was the trouble, the publicity that was given to these discussions, the emphasising in each country of its own national point of view, the stirring up of national pride, and raising a point of honour. It is for that reason that I pleaded with this House, as I pleaded with the representatives of other Governments, that all of us should do what we could to go there with; 1079 sufficient liberty to reconcile our differences, and not so tied to opposite standpoints that, even before we got there, our efforts would be condemned to futility and failure.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
That was the whole object of the Birmingham speech. My object was to show that the Polish claim or the Spanish claim were not, as they were being represented, a mere afterthought to provide a counterpoise to Germany, but to say that they were claims which ought to be discussed on their merits, and which the Council ought to hear before we all definitely took our position. It was not to prejudge in favour of this claim or that, but to secure that we should not be so fixed to contradictory positions that no reconciliation would be possible. May I add that, unless in future the nations who are members of the League, and, above all, the nations represented on the Council, are prepared to take that attitude, the League cannot work; its whole purpose will be destroyed. If we could always settle things from nation to nation, from capital to capital, the League would not have been necessary. Because the differences are so shouted across the frontier as to be sometimes irreconcilable, the machinery of the League has been devised to find a solution, and the machinery of the League requires a certain freedom of play and action if it is to work effectively for that purpose. Of course I never pretended, when I pleaded for a free hand, that I was to go there without directions from, or without the control of, my own Government, or that I or my Government could neglect British public opinion. What I wanted was that we should not all arrive there with our position publicly taken and with no possibility of reconciliation. I can, however, now tell the House what my actual instructions were, and 1 will read them:Subject to my discretion to make the best arrangements I could, in accordance with the development of the situation, our policy should be based on the following principles:No change in the Council can be admitted which would have the effect of preventing or delaying the entry of Germany. It would be best that Germany should, as a member of the Council, have 1080 full responsibility for any further change in the Council beyond her own admission.The rule that only Great Powers should be permanent members of the Council should, in principle, be maintained. Spain is in a special position, and may require exceptional treatment.Neither Poland nor Brazil should be made permanent members at present, but Poland should be given a non-permanent seat as soon as possible.Those were the instructions which were given to me and which, I need scarcely say, I fully concurred in.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
Those, I say, wore my instructions. How did I carry them out? I saw M. Briand in Paris. I told him what my instructions were. I said that I could give no vote which would impede Germany's entry into the League; that I could under no circumstances support a permanent seat for Poland at the present time, though we would gladly see her admitted to a temporary seat. I saw the Spanish Ambassador, on the train, as a matter of fact, and I at once told him, as I had told M. Briand, in order that neither Spain nor France should make a mistake in policy because they misunderstood the British position—I told the Spanish Ambassador, who represents Spain so ably on the League, that I could give him no hope, however much I may have wished to do so, if voting for him would impede the entry of Germany, and that if the candidature of Spain were put forward under those conditions, not only would I not vote for Spain, but I would vote against her.
On the day of my arrival at Geneva I told Count Skrzynsky that important part of my instructions which concerned him. I told him that I should oppose, as well as others, the claim of Poland at that sitting to a permanent seat, though I should be glad if Poland could be accorded a temporary seat. Those parties all knew, before we entered into our discussion at Geneva, the exact attitude of this Government, and took their course with that knowledge. It was 1081 hardly necessary to tell the Germans that, because this House had made it abundantly plain. But I did a little later tell the Germans exactly how I stood. Our first efforts at conciliation had broken down, and I remember saying to Dr. Luther and Herr Stresemann: "You know my position as well as I know it myself. I am in your pocket. What I ask you is, are these the best conditions which will secure the entry of Germany, and is this the wisest policy and the one most in Germany's interest? "
You may talk about a free hand. Everybody knew, when they read the Debate, what the limitations imposed on me were, and that I. went there with no freedom, except the freedom in the governing sentence of my instructions, that I was to use my discretion in any case of doubt. That, of course, involved consultation with my colleagues in the Cabinet at home as to the particular course, if some particular and unexpected solution appeared to offer a chance of success. My first act when I got to Geneva was in accordance with the suggestion which I had made more than a fortnight before, which had been adopted and repeated to me by the German Government on the very day of our last Debate here, to convoke the Locarno Powers to a discussion. We. sought long and earnestly for a solution among ourselves. We failed to find one without other help. If it had not been for our Allies, there would have been indeed a catastrophe for Europe and for the prospects of the world's peace.
We reported our conversations to the Council, and it was out, of those Council discussions that there arose spontaneously the Swedish offer to resign her seat in older to get over the difficulty. There was no pressure put by anyone on Sweden to take that course. There had been suggestions from the side of the Locarno Powers that one of them might resign in older to make room for Poland, but it was not from us that that suggestion, that Sweden should retire, did come, nor would we have ever made such a proposition to them. When, thanks to the action of Sweden and Czechoslovakia, the difficulties among the Locarno Powers had been removed, I hoped that all would go well. I confess that I did not anticipate that when all others were agreed 1082 Brazil, far removed from the dangers which we were seeking to avert from Europe, would step in in behalf of a claim individual to herself, to prevent the consummation of the universal desire. But when that became an imminent danger, what did we do? M. Briand was with me. I proposed to him that he and I should go across at once and consult with Dr. Luther and Herr Stresemann, and ask them what they thought best to be done in the circumstances. We made an appointment at the earliest hour convenient to the Germans. We there and then settled with them our subsequent procedure, and the procedure which was followed was the result of our conversation and was in accordance with their wishes.
There is one point which I have reserved to the last. Underlying the right hon. Gentleman's speech is the charge of secrecy. It is the charge that we conducted in private discussions that ought to have been conducted in public and would have been more fruitfully conducted in public. It is a very natural view to take, but it overlooks one not unimportant feature of the problem. It takes no account of German feeling. While the difference was among the Locarno Powers, we could not discuss that with the Germans in Council, because they were not members of the Council. We must discuss it outside and with them. When, later, that had been overcome, and when Brazil maintained her attitude, when the Brazilian Ambassador at last informed us that his instructions were final and irrevocable, and that he was precluded from even asking for their reconsideration, what else could we have done but that which we did?
I always held that if these conversations broke down, each of us must sooner or later assume his responsibility in public and be prepared to defend his action, That was done at the Assembly. You may ask, "Why did not the Council meet in public and discuss it earlier?" I am not sure that hon. Gentleman are aware of the Constitution of the League of Nations or the provisions of the Covenant. The Assembly do not consider a proposal to attribute a permanent seat to anyone or add a permanent seat to the Council, except on a proposition emanating from the Council and naming 1083 the country for which the permanent seat is intended. It is not true to say, it is a mistake to suppose, as has been so widely supposed, that the agenda of this Conference, of this Assembly, was merely the entry of Germany into the League. The first Order on the Paper was the request of Germany for admission to the League. The second Order was the amendment of Article 4 of the Covenant. It could be put in no other way. It had to be put, the amendment of Article 4, which limited the number of permanent seats on the Council.
Observe the position in which we were put. Germany had made it clear that her application to the League was dependent upon her receiving a permanent scat when she entered. We went through the preliminaries in the first Commission, which did me the honour to make me President and Reporter. We found that the German request was acceptable, and we recommended it for acceptance. In ordinary circumstances, if it had been the case of Hungary or Bulgaria or Austria, which similarly joined but in whose case no one talked of any conditions, I should have gone to the Tribunal to make that Report and to ask the Assembly by adopting it to admit Germany. But Germany, once in, could not have got out in less than two years, by the provisions of the Covenant. I should have been accused at once, and rightly accused, of trapping Germany into the League, unless I could have the assurance that when I made the motion which made her a member of the League, her request for a permanent seat would be automatically and consequentially granted.
It was the endeavour to get that assurance which delayed the proceedings of the Council. When it was evident that we could not get it, you may still say, and some people do say, that the Council should have been summoned to meet publicly, that the proposition should have been put before it and any other proposition, and that each of the Powers represented should have voted. I do not dwell upon the technical objections which were raised by the authorities of the League to that procedure, but I say, and I say with knowledge, that that procedure would not have been acceptable to Ger 1084 many. If you had had these public discussions continued day after day of the German claims and the others, I ask you whether you think a proud nation, a great nation, a sensitive nation, would have continued to sit and wait while these public discussions went on? I speak with authority when I say that if we had invited the Council to take a vote, and if that vote had been adverse, it would have been impossible, in face of what they would have felt to be a rebuff, to maintain the application of Germany. We chose, therefore, another course. Brazil was called to the tribune of the Assembly to state publicly her attitude. I then explained, what was obvious, that I could not make the Motion which I had desired to make, and M. Briand followed me with a Motion which gave the whole Assembly the opportunity to express its regret at the obstacle which had arisen, and its confident hope that this obstacle and all other obstacles would be removed in September.
I went to Geneva to face three great dangers. The first was that the entry of Germany should be made under conditions which caused a breach in the work of reconciliation begun at Locarno and impeded its continuance and development. The second was that the entry of Germany should be impeded by differences between the Locarno Powers. Both these dangers were averted by common agreement. The Germans and ourselves hold fast to Locarno—so warmly welcomed by my right hon. Friend when its glamour was fresh and a little less warmly approved by him to-day. If he thinks it of less importance, if he thinks its spirit is gone, he will find no confirmation of that view in the utterances of the German Government or the French Government or the Polish Government or this Government. We are resolved to maintain the agreement and maintain its spirit. The danger that that newly begun work of reconciliation should be interrupted or broken down has been averted. The very fact that this newly made Locarno accord was so soon submitted to so great a strain and yet withstood it, shows how firmly and how wisely it had been laid, and instead of being a cause for discouragement should authorise us to have greater hope and confidence in its future development.
The last danger was this. One Power interposed her veto, one Power 1085 who holds her seat by election from the Assembly, and I cannot think that she served either her own interest or the claim which she wished to put forth, when she thus set herself counter to the wishes and hopes of every other member of the Council and every member of the Assembly. But the greater danger was averted. The work of reconciliation between the enemies of yesterday goes on. The spirit of Locarno, whatever you may say of it, persists and inspires the policy of the seven nations who signed the Treaties.
Sir, I have done. The House knows what my mission was. They know how I sought to carry it out. The decision is in their hands. If it goes against me, I shall neither complain nor repine. I shall wait for a moment of calmer judgment and truer historical perspective and, in my retirement, I shall have some consolation. I have held this high office for almost exactly fifteen months. I found, when I entered upon my duties, France and Great Britain still suspicious and estranged, the work of reconciliation with Germany barely commenced and that in only one corner of the field of our international relations. My consolation will be that I leave things better than I found them. I have restored the old confidence and intimacy between the French and British Governments, and upon this basis we have built broad and deep the foundations of our common reconcilation with Germany. We have secured the co-operation of Italy, which stands as the other guarantor of the great Pact of Western peace. If these were to be my last words as Foreign Secretary, I would add that the influence of Great Britain stands higher than it has stood at any time since the War. While I have been spokesman of my country in foreign relations, no man with whom I have dealt in that capacity has questioned the honesty of our policy or doubted our good faith and our word.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MacDONALD
I am very much inclined to allow the laurels which the right hon. Gentleman has just placed upon his own head to remain without question from me. If he imagines that the name and influence of Great Britain just now is higher, as he said, or if he would be a little more modest and say it is even equal to what it was a any time since the War, the most 1086 charitable thing I can say about it is that he evidently reads no newspapers and does not know the opinions of other nations. To-day we have a great Debate on high policy which affects not only the honour of this country but the prospects of peace and war in Europe and the very existence of the League of Nations itself, and the chief organ of public opinion in this country the "Times" shows its great approval of the Foreign Secretary who has done so much to raise the name of this country, so much to establish the League of Nations, so much to secure peace by—instead of doing what would be the proper and natural thing and devoting its first leading article to the discussion of the issues before us this afternoon — very conveniently and equally discreetly, writing about London University. [HON. MEMBERS:" Special article! "] It publishes a special article for which it takes no responsibility and that special article is far more damaging to the attitude of the Government at Geneva than it is praising. I wondered as I listened to the right hon. Gentleman, whether he had been rightly reported at Geneva when he said a great tragedy had taken place. I never heard a more self-complacent speech in all my life. One would have thought from beginning to end that the right hon. Gentleman was doing something which was not ending in failure. Really the position he takes up draws a little too liberally upon our generosity. I was prepared either to precede him or come after him. I was prepared either to state the case before he replied, or to re-state it after he had sat down, but to-day he seemed to show the same unwillingness to make up his mind that he did at Geneva because, although he knew perfectly well that this was the case he could not even make up his mind whether he would follow my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) or whether he was going to allow me to follow my right, hon. Friend.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that the first message I had from him was that he desired to follow me and he asked me if I would fall in with that arrangement. I said I would let him know in the course of the Debate.
§ Mr. MacDONALD
I am afraid the information which has just been given is 1087 equal to the information which was given previously. It was the right hon. Gentleman who approached me and asked me what I would prefer to do. I said I was willing to do either, but I was quite willing to follow him. Then when I asked, later on, what was to be the arrangement I was told the right hon. Gentleman could not make up his mind, and until the moment he got up I did not know what he was going to do. What I want to point out is this, that the statement, the explanation, made by the right hon. Gentleman, point after point, is so detached from what has been going on at Geneva and from discussions in every newspaper of the effect of Geneva, that unless we knew by our Order Paper and by shots that went across the Floor from both sides, we should think he was talking about something else altogether. What we want to do is to go back and see where this failure arose, how it happened, and why.
In one of these many attempts that he made to defend himself, he described with a great deal of pride his conversation with M. Briand. What did he say? He was under the impression that he was clearing the field. He was not engaging in a friendly conversation between man and man, but in a conversation which was to make it perfectly clear to M. Briand that certain things could be done and that certain things could not be done. We know that these conversations that have got muffed and blunted edges are the very worst forms of commitments. What did he say? He said he made it perfectly clear that he was going to give no vote for impeding the entrance of Germany into the League. What does that mean? The Resolution was not put down in the form of a resolution in favour of voting for or against impeding Germany. That was not the question. If that had been how it had been put, it would have been put as an abstract resolution and a resolution declaring intentions, and the right hon. Gentleman's position would have been above reproach, but that was not what he was facing. He was facing an extraordinarily intricate entanglement of claims and counterclaims, of advances, and suggestions, and proposals, and wire pullings, and it was with reference to them that he had to take up his position, because it was only 1088 in reference to them that he could carry out his policy, which he declared was quite clear in his mind, that he was not going to impede the entry of Germany into the League of Nations.
Let us get to his second point. He says he was in favour of a permanent seat for Spain, but not in favour of a permanent seat for Poland, or he put it that way once, but in the positive form a minute afterwards: "I was in favour of giving Poland a temporary seat." What is the meaning of that? Does the right hon. Gentleman really mean to come to this House and say that that simple statement of the situation tells us all that was happening? Of course, it is not all that was happening. What was involved in these two statements was not only the two statements themselves, a permanent seat for Spain and a temporary seat for Poland, but there was a whole series of moves on the League of Nations chess board that was involved in these two moves, and those moves composed their policy, and the policy was a policy of which this country. according to the Prime Minister's speech, was not in favour. It was a policy which was created for the purpose of readjusting balances. of readjusting representation, of readjusting authority, of readjusting the relative and comparative weights on certain sides of the League of Nations, and, in so far as the Prime Minister made anything clear to us in the last Debate he made this clear, that he was not in favour of that. He took for granted that what the Council of the League had to do and what the Assembly had to do was to bring Germany in, and yet, apparently, quite innocently, the Foreign Secretary goes and commits himself to two moves that in their result and in their effective action destroy the pledge that the Prime Minister gave to this House on the last occasion.
The Foreign Secretary is always telling us that he is in favour of continuity of foreign policy. Well, I wish he had been —perhaps things would have been better if he had—but he cannot use that argument in favour of his attitude on Spain. Why does he not go back to 1924? There has been a Government since 1921 and 1922. He knows perfectly well that the attitude of Spain, exactly the same as the attitude of Brazil the other day, only in 1089 a smaller matter, refusing to sanction certain suggested changes in the constitution, was prompted by the fact that she then wanted a permanent seat on the Council. Spain was not promised it. Spain was informed that our hands were free. The right hon. Gentleman may say —I do not object at all, not the least— "I go back to 1921," but in doing that he cannot say "because I am in favour of the continuity of foreign policy." He can stand as he likes, but he cannot stand on that.
What was the effect of this? It was perfectly evident after Locarno—I do not know, but it is sometimes said at Locarno; I rather gathered by the way that the right hon. Gentleman put it that so far as he is informed it was after Lecarno—but it is said that after Locarno or during Locarno there were certain Locarno Powers signing this Pact with Germany who had a reservation, who did not regard this Pact as the precious thing that it was supposed to be but said: "If and when and as soon as this Pact is signed, we must make certain changes in the League of Nations to accommodate our national policy to our position in the League of Nations." That happened either at Locarno or after Locarno, and the question, I repeat, came to this: How is it going to be arranged? The right hon. Gentleman had a conversation, and he boasted that he did not say anything else. It is all very well. Of course, he was away seven weeks, and not only that, but I will say something which he could not very well have said. He was not only away seven weeks, but the right hon. Gentleman was suffering from a very severe attack, which ought to draw from us, as it does, every consideration. Let us give him all that he can ask of sympathy, of consideration, and of fair play. We will give him all that, but will this House consider the position in which he was?
He is coming back, and he goes to Paris. He has got Locarno in his hands, the signature of the Pact, the Agreement with Germany. It is no use not emphasising that, because that is a point that ought to be emphasised, that, here they had a gentlemen's Agreement with Germany, not merely covering the points that actually were signed and put down in black and white but the agreement that reasonable assumptions associated with the Agreement should be regarded 1090 by gentlemen as part of the Agreement. He says it was never raised at Locarno whether somebody else was going to get into the League. Was the opposite raised? He cannot exploit that without our turning round and asking if the opposite was raised. If he had been signing the Pact and had been in the position of Dr. Luther or Herr Stresemann, would he have assumed that, in accordance with that Agreement, it was possible that when Germany came to the door of the League they found that there were claimants there, that there were people demanding entrance supported by the large Powers that had signed the Pact, not raising their claims from the blue and on their own merits or demerits —not at all? If that had been the position, if they were there making new claims, Germany would have a perfect right to say: "That is not the Agreement," and with that in his mind, M. Briand, according to his statement, says: "Will you support this or that?" and he says: "I cannot say anything about it, but I must consult my Government, my Cabinet, on the subject."
I notice that the right hon. Gentleman used a word three or four times with a very narrow and a very specific meaning. Did he select it of intention? He said. "I entered into no engagements." Did he express views? Did he indicate what his own mind was? I think we might have that, and if he had allowed me to speak first, I should have specifically put that question to him, quite apart from his own speech. We want to know. Did he express his views, and did he express them in such a way that M. Briand might feel himself justified in saying to the Poles that on the whole the British Government would support their claim? It has been said that, that is what happened. Now, then, the French policy was to get Poland in. The whole of the plan which was going to counterweight Locarno was going to be satisfied for the time being if Poland went in. Now, says the right hon. Gentleman, "I stood apart; I did not express any opinion, but I did say that we had committed ourselves to Spain, and I have no objection to Poland receiving a temporary seat." Can he imagine that he did not encourage Poland to demand a seat, even to demand a permanent seat.? Of course, they demanded a permanent seat for bargaining purposes.
1091 6.0 P.M.
He does not seem to be aware that he was leaving the door open. It is not a question of England putting down a big foot. We are dealing with the real facts of the evolution of the situation, how they come inevitably and naturally. It was not a question of England's big foot. It was not a question of England acting as a dictator, but it was a question of England knowing its own mind. I have never found that if there is a certain thing that you are determined you ought not to do, unless you are forced to do it, that you do not want to do, that you believe if it is done is going to be for bad, then to say so is not hampering you in negotiations. But in keeping it back, and thereby deceiving the people with whom you are negotiating, because they do not understand you, they assume that if you talk in this way, "Well, my mind is not made up; my personal view is so-and-so, but I must get my Government to sanction it before it becomes official "—I say if you talk that way to people with whom you are negotiating, then you are deceiving them if you do not mean that the door really is open, and they are entitled to assume that your opinion is not a very strong one, and if they themselves are strong in their opinion, they will secure what they desire.
This is exactly what is happening all the time, and this is the real explanation. The simile. as I say—and I repeat it, it is so important—of the big foot, and the tyrant and so on, is absolutely a false simile. The simile the House must keep in mind is that of two or three men negotiating an important point, and one man not showing his hand, but allowing his other two friends to judge his hand and he bluffing them all the time. That is not the way to get to a definite end and a specific and good conclusion in diplomatic undertakings. What was the result? The result was that when the right hon. Gentleman went to Geneva, he found that the object which his Prime Minister declared was the object of the Government, the admission of Germany into the League of Nations, had been so wrapped round about, was so entangled, by assumptions and false assumptions for which the right hon. Gentleman is not responsible, though he is responsible for them in the indirect sense that he never did the right thing 1092 to dispel them, so that when he got to Geneva the road was not clear, the German issue was not straightened out. It was wrapped round with an intense system of barbed wire which he tried to cut down.
In the last Debate we had here, there was very considerable apprehension. Again, let us get at the substantial realities of the case. Hon. Members opposite know quite well that the majority of 100 in the last Division on this subject represented not merely the warnings which we wished to give on this subject to the House but the apprehensions they were feeling on the other side. Some hon. Members on the other side of the House spoke and explained their views and did not vote—the correct position for them to take up; I am not reflecting upon them at all. But everybody knows that the right hon. Gentleman's handling of affairs up to then did not give us a sense of security, that his speech had also failed to do the same thing, and that it was only the simple, straightforward statement of the Prime Minister who had not been into the business at all—I have read it again to refresh my memory; it is so delightful and beautiful a piece of refreshing, straightforward innocence, one of those soothing pieces of literature that I always like to take to bed with me to induce sleep in the half hour that precedes that happy event. There it is. The right hon. Gentleman, by making that statement, that brief, simple, decent sort of statement gave assurance where the right hon. Gentleman had given none, and the result of the combination, the positive influence of the Prime Minister against the negative influence of the Foreign Secretary, was to reduce the majority to 100.
We were informed by the right hon. Gentleman then that he was only committed to Spain. When did he find himself committed to Poland? We were informed in that Debate that the right hon. Gentleman was not committed to Poland. He said he was in favour of it. Really, I am very doubtful about a breach of promise action taken on that very risky form of courtship.
§ Mr. MacDONALD
; The right hon. Gentleman said he committed himself to Spain, but not to Poland. Now he says he did not encourage Poland. I do not know what the Polish representative says, but I know the Polish newspapers say they were encouraged by the attitude of the British Foreign Secretary to make their claim, and they put it forward as a grievance that the Foreign Secretary does not fulfil his promise. Now he explains that he did not give a promise, but only an unofficial promise, and not even that—he gave encouragement. He gave encouragement under the impression that that would not affect the situation of Poland, and his attitude when Germany applied for admission to the League of Nations' Council. He flew in the teeth of his Prime Minister's speech. He flew in the teeth of public opinion in this country. He said, "I believe I can handle it better." He was perfectly justified in saying that, provided he brought it off. He has not done so. It has resulted in the most lamentable failure that British diplomacy has had to face for a great many years. It is not merely a question of failure. Nobody can pull off things always, but when one fails, one can fail with the consciousness that he did his very Best to remove the causes of failure. The right hon. Gentleman did nothing of the kind. He helped to raise expectations that confused the German issue. He went from stage to stage, and at every point when it was possible for him to recover himself he did not do it.
What is the position of affairs? The right hon. Gentleman first of all entertained the idea that others should be admitted to the Council of the League at the same time as Germany. He knew perfectly well that was not in the interest of this country. Let us put it perfectly bluntly. He knew perfectly well that the admission of further Powers at the present time to a permanent seat or to a temporary seat was not in the interest of this country. Moreover, he. knew it was not in the interest of the League, because the more one 1094 desires a, reformation of the League on its machinery side, the more one is impressed with the fact that a temporary change in order to meet a passing convenience is the very worst thing to do with the League, because it will stereotype all the evils. He must have known that. One clear thing arising out of that discussion—and it shows such a magnificent contrast—is the part of Mr. Unden. Mr. Unden, standing for the simple doctrine of the word, like the Prime Minister, braved all the bullying, all the influences, all the pressure, all the threats, and received at the end of the day a well-deserved tribute of the assembled nations in the League. He is supposed to be a new representative of the League, and he is. Everybody who knew the late Mr. Branting knows how he was inspired, how he was guided, and with whom he consulted, and knows perfectly well, that although Mr. Unden appears almost for the first time in the Council of the League, his hand has written many a wise paragraph, and his head has drafted many a wise resolution before he appeared there in person. We ought to pay our tribute to him for the magnificent way that he stood for the spirit, of the League of Nations and faced all the difficulties he had to meet in consequence.
That is the right hon. Gentleman's first share in the diplomacy which led to such bad results. The second is this. If we are not very careful we shall hear too much about Locarno. Locarno as a spirit and gesture is admirable. I described it once—and I venture to throw my mind back on it—as one of the best examples of Coucism that has been practised in Europe in this generation. From that point of view, Locarno was a great achievement; but the method of Locarno was fundamentally wrong. I know this is a case where a man who has to make a rapid decision seizes the opportunity, and does not bother very much about the methods for the time being. He takes the opportunity and does what he desires to do. But that method must not be applied further on. I remember perfectly well—I was on the Continent at the time—just immediately after the Locarno Treaty was signed, that the only newspapers which gave a reasoned consideration to the matter, which made some of us pause and wonder, were the 1095 newspapers published in France. One point that was made in those newspapers was—I think I am giving an accurate idea of what I read at the time: "The League of Nations; we cannot trust it; the securities are not good enough. Locarno re-establishes the old European Alliances." What was the justification for that? The justification was this, that however good the results may be—and I do not dispute them—we had already gone back. What happened was that a group of Powers, apart from the League and outside the League, met and came to an agreement, and part of that agreement was that the League of Nations should do a certain thing—a fatal blunder.
I do not believe it was intrigue. I refuse to believe it was intrigue. It was just one of those blunders that sometimes occur, and nothing but a blunder; because what is the fact? Sweden, Brazil, Spain, Poland, either non-represented or temporary represented countries, having an effect upon the opinion of the represented countries. It was much worse than that; for what everyone feels is this: Is the League a self-governing body or not? Is the League a sort of kept mistress of a few Powers? Is it possible for a few Powers—it does not matter whether it is Great Britain, France or Germany, or Great Britain without France and without Germany; the principle is not affected by the status of the Powers at all; it is a principle which stands upon its own feet—is it going to be admitted that three or four Powers, met for the most beneficent purposes under Heaven, carrying out that purpose in the most effective way, can, by agreeing among themselves, secure what the decision of the League of Nations is going to be upon any particular thing? I cannot understand how the right hon Gentleman never saw that objection, so that instead of going from here to Geneva with that objection clearly in his own mind, and extricating himself from it, as he could quite easily have done, he goes on with his conferences, his bargains, all behind the scenes, and he then says: "How could we do this in public?" It was done in public, but it was not the right sort of publicity. The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that he never made an agreement, 1096 suggestion, or proposal in private, but that the next morning, or the morning after, it was in the newspapers. What is the use of talking the way he does, or of saying that you can really now have great negotiations in private? The right hon. Gentleman knows that the best form of publicity is the direct publicity of the work of the Council and of the Assembly !
The Foreign Secretary said that Germany would not have liked publicity. It would, have injured her feelings, and so on. I decline to believe that the leading Powers of Europe, the best men that the Parliaments could send to Geneva, have not the ingenuity, have not the good sense, have not the capacity to get these questions debated in public without any untoward consequences. The matter could have been safeguarded. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us: Did they safeguard anything about the Assembly and the League? The fact of the matter is that there is no reason whatever for the plea that has been made. Why, the Council as a Council had to wait day after day at Geneva. The Assembly as an Assembly had to wait day after day at Geneva while they went from hotel to hotel, while they bargained and bargained, until at last in despair, finding that the resignations of two nations that offered their resignations were only going to cause further trouble—no doubt about it—they seized upon the Brazil objection like a drowning man grasping at a straw, because they supposed that it enabled them to come back and say, "Locarno is untouched."
There is one point I would like parenthetically to touch upon, and that is the attitude Brazil actually did take up. I believe that anybody reading the Brazilian letter, so far as it has been made public, would hold that it justified the description given of it. Anyone who reads that letter can see that Brazil used words which did justify the nation that received the letter assuming that, while it had certain things in its mind, in relation to the business that it was asked to pronounce upon, it could have no objection to follow the main clauses which have been made public. If that interpretation be wrong, then it is advisable that we should have the whole letter published. While we think, or some of us do, that Brazil has made a mistake, that Brazil used its power in 1097 mistake, I cannot understand how Brazil acted as it did unless there was an explanation which has not yet appeared. This Power, however strong and powerful it is—and hon. Members opposite questioned the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George)—who this State was and however powerful it may be, I do not believe for a moment that Brazil, standing alone, without any prompting, did what she did. But I. say this, that Brazil was perfectly entitled to say and to act as she did. Yes, it is all very well, but let us be very careful. Do not let us at the moment when we are very angry with Brazil, in the moment when we have a demonstration that the power given to every single State in the League of Nations may be abused, go on like foolish people and take that experience as a reason for changing the power of the League of Nations. Remember, if you do that, you have got Spain as well as Brazil—if you change the League from being a consultative Assembly in essence to be a sovereign State. Years ago from below the gangway in this House I raised that point, and did not get very much thanks from those who were in power at the time, because it was suggested that it would be foolish and most improper to suggest otherwise than that a State would use its power quite legitimately so far as the actual existence of the power was concerned.
My third point—and I am afraid I have been led away from it—is that the private conferences which went on were degrading to the League and bringing it down to a series of pettifogging, small-minded kind of occasions. The running from hotel to hotel, and having talks after dinner—it was just exactly like one of those affairs in the Last, where one goes into an Egyptian or Oriental bazaar and over coffee and cigarettes haggles for a week over the price of a carpet. We do that all with good humour and in the right spirit, and with plenty of by-play. Here there was no good humour, but otherwise. There you have it. There you have this degradation of the League, and on account of this going on it is bound to lower the prestige of the League in the eyes of the world. Where do we stand? First of all, after the first whisper was made from Poland and Spain, the right hon. Gentleman should have said, "I will have none of it." 1098 Secondly, everyone knew what was going on, but it never, apparently, occurred to him to tell Germany, and Germany learned it from the newspapers. Then the right hon. Gentleman got his opportunity to extricate himself, with the consequence of a Debate here. Instead, however, of doing so, he goes back to Geneva and repeats this conception of British policy, and, just floating upon every current that the morning happens to make strong as a result of forces that have been in operation overnight.
He got entangled in the machinery at Geneva, and most completely forgot the League procedure, taking his League diplomacy, taking everybody into consideration, separating himself into different categories, and beginning again to practise the old methods of diplomacy, haggling, bargaining, huckstering, and browbeating. He did not insist upon taking the counsel in the Council or the Assembly. During the whole of the negotiations he never had a clear view of his own objective. He was never guided by anything but the daily currents that arose independently of himself. When the Prime Minister finished his speech, to which I have already referred, by a very touching and very hopeful sentence, none of us knew what a terrible end there was to be. He said:I am convinced that when theythat is, the Foreign Secretary and Lord Cecil—return, the Members of this House who, perhaps, are inclined to be too suspicious and critical of their good faith and ability, will be the first to acknowledge once more that they have held high the honour of the country, and have built one more stone in the Temple of the Peace of Europe."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th March, 1926; col. 1698, Vol. 192.][HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I understand that cheer—the cheer of loyalty; they are standing by their Executive. The situation now is that this country occupies in Europe a very much lower position, so far as influence is concerned. It has almost got to this, that none is so poor as to do us reverence. [Laughter.] Well, one has only got to take up the French newspapers and to read the articles that appear from day to day in Paris. [An HON. MEMBER: "The newspapers are not at all representative of French public opinion."] Perhaps not, but that is the 1099 attitude of self-sufficiency—the attitude of always shutting one's eyes to things. What have we done at Geneva to increase our power and our authority? This nation has got itself mixed up in that diplomacy Which is hostile to the League of Nations itself. We have left the League of Nations, and all the elements that were gathering round the League of Nations, in confusion and in sadness. A cynicism is spreading over Europe that is new since the War. A feeling of hopelessness has grown up suddenly as the result of the Geneva failure that has a moral grip of an ugly character. Men and women who had begun to believe that at last we had discovered a means of ensuring peace are doubting to-day. Nations that were beginning to feel there was something more trustworthy than armaments as a security of peace are beginning to doubt it, and in the midst of this attempt to get them together and to bring organic unity into the councils of Europe and the world, the doings at Geneva have come as a disrupting, as a destroying, as an immoral influence. It is our duty to see to it that the negotiations to take place about next September are not vitiated by any agreements which may have been come to behind doors in Geneva the other day, but that the League of Nations shall be served by nations which have got the League of Nations' spirit and which are pursuing the League of Nations' diplomacy. Only in that way is Great Britain going to take the place it once held, and the League of Nations going to secure for itself the allegiance and the confidence of the nations of the world.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
I have listened with great interest to the speeches delivered in this very important discussion, and I am not surprised that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition felt a passing vexation that he had not spoken before my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. He had prepared an account of what took place in the negotiations at Geneva which was a work of imagination, and a work of imagination always sounds rather flat after the facts have been told. He gave, as he was assuredly most entitled to do, a lecture on the art of negotiation, because, of course, he is an expert negotiator. I am not referring to those negotiations with Russia when an hon. Member of 1100 his party, then Under - Secretary, rushed to and fro after dinner—I think it was after midnight, or even at two o'clock in the morning—carrying messages from one person to another very much as, I gather the right hon. Gentleman thinks, happened in Geneva. I am not very specially thinking of that. Rather, I am thinking of how the various disagreements in the Labour party are adjusted. We now know, and it is very interesting. It is done by the avoidance of bluff, by never exciting hopes by half-concessions, by always telling everybody quite frankly from the outset what you are going to do and what you are not going to do. We hear the method, and we see the result. If the right hon. Gentleman sticks to his plan, then, judging by results, I am not sure that the prize will not be given to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary—at any rate if the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition is the only competitor at the show at which the prizes are given.
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary explained with most admirable candour, and in the most interesting way, exactly what had taken place. The criticism made both before his speech by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), and after his speech by the Leader of the Opposition, concentrated entirely upon what is supposed to have passed in respect to Poland and the position of Poland and the League. In an interruption, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs said he was concerned rather about Spain, but that was not actually the drift of his argument or the argument in his speech. He spoke almost entirely about Poland, and dwelt on the evil conduct of Poland, and how badly Poland has behaved about Vilna. I do not know whether his dwelling on the episode of Vilna was animated a little by the desire which is sometimes manifested by ladies to discuss the past of another lady and, by professing to find no fault, to draw out those old stories against her. He spoke of the dear League, and how good it was, and how many achievements it had to its credit, and yet there was this episode of Vilna, which perhaps diminished its credit.
I am, myself, looking broadly at what has happened at Geneva. All these 1101 criticisms that centre around the position of Poland and the position of Spain, and what passed between my right hon. Friend and M. Briand at Paris, seem to take no amount of the two great capital features in what has happened. In the first place, if you are going to conciliate people, you must do it by making a reasonable effort to meet their wishes. It was my right hon. Friend's business to consult everybody concerned. In the second place, you cannot hope to conduct negotiations in future if what passes in private conversation is to be the subject of minute Parliamentary scrutiny afterwards. These private conversations are distinctly valuable; they oil the wheels of more formal diplomacy. But if everything that is said in private conversation is afterwards to be brought up as if it were a treaty, sealed, signed and delivered, then, I am quite sure, they will be found to be impossible, and a great deal of the good that is done by them will be hindered. Above all, no account has been taken of the plain fact that the settlement at Geneva broke down, not upon what concerned Poland or Spain, but about what concerned Brazil. My right hon. Friend was entirely successful in smoothing over whatever other difficulties there were in his path. The only point on which ultimate failure arose was in respect to Brazil, but it is not even suggested that any assurances were given, or statements made, at Paris or anywhere else, about Brazil.
I am mainly concerned with what has boon said by several, speakers on the aspect of how far what has taken place at Geneva throws discredit on the League, or how far the policy of my right hon. Friend is inconsistent with the well-being of the League. I believe there is a great misconception hanging round the League of Nations. Indeed, it was manifest in something that fell from the Leader of the Opposition. The League of Nations is constantly represented, both by its opponents and by its friends, as resting purely and simply on what are called idealist considerations, that is, considerations drawn from moral and altruistic principles, humanitarian or religious, which raise it above the ordinary and old-fashioned methods by which the disputes of nations were adjusted. I do not deny that there are such considerations at work, and they may have great value, but 1102 it must be remembered that those considerations were always at work in old days and yet, by themselves, they were ineffectual to maintain peace, and that what is new, what is different as compared with before the war, is not any new moral element but a material and practical element, that is, the increasing mutual dependence of all the great civilised countries upon one another. That is what makes the League of Nations so much more possible and so much more powerful than any previous organisation for maintaining the peace of the world.
It is also supposed that the League of Nations exists—or language is used as though it were supposed—to put everything right in every direction, for the purpose of doing justice between nations, and, in short, fulfilling the functions of a super State, supervising and correcting all the States in the world. The League is nothing of the kind. As the right hon. Gentleman himself said a little later, the League is a consultative body of Sovereign States, amongst other things, and you must have, even after dinner, all these things which are thought to be so unworthy—these private discussions, this log-rolling and wire-pulling and all the rest of it, because that is the only way of influencing nations which are perfectly independent and can be influenced only by persuasion. Sometimes public discussion is useful and sometimes private negotiation, either method being suited to particular circumstances; but the essence of the thing to remember is that if these are all Sovereign States, if they are bound together only by the common mutual interests that hold them together, you cannot dictate, you cannot lay it down, you cannot "put your foot down"—a phrase which has been used—to force any particular Sovereign State to behave reasonably or wisely. You are obliged to accept the basis of persuasion, and persuasion is only successful by mutual conciliation.
The League also exists for a purpose of a very limited kind. Its first purpose is conducting the common business of the world that arises in matters of health, morals and conditions of labour, and also the maintenance of peace, and that is the great purpose. The supreme object of the League being the maintenance of peace, I think it can only he said to have failed if it fails to maintain peace, and 1103 any particular episode must be judged as to whether it makes for the maintenance of peace or not. Personally, I see nothing which has happened at Geneva which is not encouraging from the point of view of the maintenance of peace, and, so far from any harm having been done to the cause of peace, the discussions seem to have brought Germany and France into a rather more friendly position than they were at the beginning.
The Leader of the Opposition said that alliances or pacts such as were made at Locarno are alien to the spirit of the League, but that could only be so if they were dangerous to the cause of peace. It is true that there might be alliances quite contrary to the spirit of the League, but they would only be those which group Powers together on the lines of a possible war. If there were any signs that the Powers were going one into one camp and another into another camp in order to make alliances subversive of the purpose for which the League was designed, then there might be something to be said for such a criticism. But the Locarno pact far from being hostile to the purpose for which the League exists it is faithfully carrying out its object of trying to maintain peace amongst the communities of the civilised world. Science, transport, finance, commerce, and industry have linked together the peoples of the world so closely that now they cannot fight with one another or be at issue without doing harm to all. It is a plain fact, and not a visionary dream, that there cannot be hostility between the civilised nations of the world without all of them suffering. Whatever influence has the effect of making nations realise the truth, and which puts forward the purposes for which the League exists must tend to bring the nations of the world to a perpetual bond of peace.
What has happened at Geneva shows no disloyalty or shrinking back from those ideals. What was the dispute about? It was simply a question of who was to sit upon the Council of the League. So far from that being a sign of decay surely it is the highest tribute that could be paid to its importance. Who wants to sit on the council of a dying body? Perhaps I am wrong because there are people who want to lead the Liberal party even now. The complaint made in regard to Geneva is in regard to the machinery of 1104 the League as to who is to sit on the Council, and who is to have a permanent seat, and I think that fact shows its vitality, and demonstrates that at any rate some prestige attaches to a seat on the Council. It seems to me that the League is doing very well.
There is an interesting precedent, and perhaps it will not bore the House if I give it. It is to be found in the constitution which existed for a long time in the United Provinces of Holland, which contained an inconvenient provision for an absolute veto. It contained this very peculiar feature that all the seven Provinces of Holland had to agree to every act of the Confederation, and every township in each Province had to agree to get the consent of that Province. It happened sometimes in one case that although six out of the seven Provinces agreed, the Province of Holland did not agree because the town of Amsterdam alone of the townships of Holland was in opposition. Nevertheless the Confederation existed for more than 200 years, and it is an example of how with a little good will you can make even the most inconvenient politics work. In regard to this refusal of citizenship representatives of all the other consenting bodies used to go and remain in the town which refused its consent, and were entertained at the expense of the town until that town gave its consent. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend is willing to form an expedition to go to Rio Janeiro in order to see if it produces the same effect. You can work any constitution with a little good will, but one with a veto is very difficult to work. Therefore, we must expect sometimes that there will be disappointments and apparent want of success, and if the League depended on nothing but diplomatic success and journalistic triumphs I should not hope for much from it. We do not base the success of the League on its aspirations or on idealistic considerations however valuable they may be as an addition to its strength, but we base its success on the plain practical common sense of the world.
I feel persuaded that the League of Nations will go on in the future as in the past as the maintainer of the peace of the world, and that everything that has happened at Geneva or in the previous history of the League goes to show that really it does operate effectively in 1105 its main purpose of maintaining European peace. At any rate, it succeeds in drawing all these countries closer together in a combination of common interests, and that is its real underlying principle. I think we may look forward in future discussions to overcoming the trifling setbacks which have occurred at Geneva, because the tendency of things is towards a common agreement. Mr. Gladstone said in another connection, "The flowing tide is with us." I think we may say the same thing of the League of Nations, which is drawing the nations of Europe together, and no one can argue that the Locarno Treaty is hostile or destructive of the common good. I think we owe a debt of gratitude to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary both for what he did at Geneva and Locarno, and, if I may say so, with respect for the manly and convincing candour with which he has defended his policy and placed it before the House.
§ Captain EDEN
The House, I am sure, will be very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down for the very refreshing clarity he has brought to bear upon this Debate, and he has done so with that brilliancy which is always associated with him. I think the Noble Lord has succeeded in placing his finger on the truth of the position. I only want for a few moments to try to put before the House a reply to one or two of the criticisms which have been made in this Debate. After listening to the speeches made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) and the Leader of the Opposition, I find a very real difficulty in discovering exactly what was the thread of their criticisms. We heard a certain number of innuendoes, and we had a very generous measure of newspaper quotations, but precisely formulated charges have been almost as rare as newspaper quotations have been abundant. But the main criticism would seem to be this. That is before Geneva or at Geneva or at both there had been on the part of this country some hesitation about declaring our policy and in making it plain to the whole world. It has been said that we should have put our foot down and it is only right that we should endeavour to see where that policy which has so many advocates 1106 in this House would have led us. It is no good indulging in general arguments. If we had put our foot down in this matter as has been suggested, then it is perfectly clear we should have been going to Geneva not only to secure the entry of Germany, because that was known to be the intention of the Government, but also to blackball any other candidate under any circumstances whatever. That is the only logical effect of putting your foot down. That I agree was a possible course to pursue, but it would have been a very arrogant and dictatorial course and I ask hon. Members to consider whether it is likely that such a policy would have succeeded in an assembly where unanimity is essential.
When you issue an edict of any kind you soon reach a position from which it is very difficult to withdraw without injury to your prestige. Two can play at blackballing, and they usually do, and sometimes more than two. I think every hon. Member of this House feels a sense of gratitude for the very noble gesture which Sweden made. But Sweden at the outset pursued a policy which it has been said this country should have pursued. She issued an edict, but is there any reason to suppose that if we had issued an edict it would have been any more effective with regard to Brazil. Had we issued such an edict might not some other State have taken the same line of action as Brazil, and that other State, perhaps even a European State, have added its veto? It is impossible for this country to go to Geneva with a declared and immovable edict. It is absolutely contrary to the whole purpose for which the Council of the League exists. What is the use of having a Council if everybody issues an edict before they get to it? The purpose of the Council is to conciliate. I would suggest to the House that we could not have adopted that attitude in the face of our known desires. We could say, and we did say, "Our first object is to get Germany into the League." That was said over and over again, but we could not shut the door to any possible secondary eventuality. My right hon. Friend could not take the agenda of the League and cut out what he liked or circumscribe and limit it. 1107 He could not prevent a subject being raised. This country could not say "Thou shalt not" in face of the obvious right of every member of the Council to raise the subject of membership which had been before every meeting of the Council. I would suggest to the House that if such a policy had been followed we would have been running a real risk of endangering the whole fabric of the League.
The last Member of this House who has any right to suggest that this policy of putting your foot down should be carried out is the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). He has watched that policy and seen it fail. He carried out that policy himself year after year after the War. He was always putting his foot down. Did that result in the friendship of France, the confidence of Germany or in the goodwill of Turkey? To-day in the Near East it is a heritage of the right hon. Gentleman's policy which is making it so difficult for us to obtain the good-will of Turkey. He was always putting his foot down and always trying to take it up again. It is exactly what you cannot do. And as a result he was always putting his foot into it.
I am convinced, as the Noble Lord has just said, that if the League is to function, and if the work of Locarno is not to be lost, there must be a policy of give and take on all sides. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition was not quite so gloomy this evening as he was in the country on Saturday night. There, hardly any words could describe the state of gloom. The League seemed to be doomed, and we were living in an atmosphere of inspissated gloom. We were all to be mutes at the funeral while the right hon. Gentleman pronounced a funeral oration over my right hon. Friend. There was not so much melancholy this afternoon. I wonder whether that melancholy with all that mourning was justified? I am sure that it was not. The League has suffered a rebuff and a jolt to which any human institution is liable. For my part, I never expected in its earliest years the League would be called upon to give heavensent judgments to formulate impeccable decisions. That is to ask too much What I had hoped. of the League, and do hope 1108 still, is that its greatest benefit will be by the opportunities it will create for statesmen of different nationalities and opinion to meet and exchange those opinions.
I suggest that if anybody expected the League to change human nature in a year or two, it was an extravagant expectation and one not fair to the League. We were all disappointed, naturally. They were not very palatable reading, those descriptions of some of the intrigues which took place. Surely, then, even here there was a lesson to be learned. You will not change by one instrument or in one day the passions of nations. It must take time. Far more harm has been done to the League by people with their heads in the clouds and their brains in their slippers than by the most inveterate enemy the League ever had. I should be sorry to have it thought that I had so little faith in the League as the Leader of the Opposition had. He was fearing last Saturday that the League might die. I should be very sorry if my faith was so slender as that.
Whatever the outcome of events at Geneva, my right hon. Friend endeavoured to secure that the work which he did at Locarno should not be lost. He was successful in that. task. The work of Locarno was not lost. The Powers which came to an agreement at Locarno are in agreement still, and no work could be put to a more severe strain than was the work of Locarno at Geneva. Since the War we have sometimes been rejoicing prematurely at pacific efforts made by this country. Locarno has proved itself, by the test which it has stood, to be a real and true agreement arising from a desire of the nations to make that agreement real. If there was nothing else to be learnt from this unfortunate business. I should be more comforted by the strength which the agreement of Locarno has shown than I could be despondent at the result of events at Geneva. If there had been, as there might have been, a rift between the actual signatories at Locarno, the position of the League would have been serious. No such results have taken place, and we need not be so pessimistic.
The results of Geneva were not so entirely sordid as some imagine. We had the offers of Sweden, and of Czechoslovakia, and we had the dignified behaviour in very trying circumstances of the German representatives. We 1109 had also a very glowing tribute paid by the French Prime Minister to the attitude of Germany. Was it not almost worth while to have gone through all this to have heard such words uttered by a French Prime Minister? It is to the future, and to the result of those words, and the result of the proved value of Locarno, that we have to look. We were all glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman's reference to the extent to which the Dominions had worked with him throughout this difficult time. We were glad to hear that. It was very satisfactory. The day is coming near when we in this House in conjunction with the Dominions will have to provide some machinery whereby our Imperial policy can be more completely and successfully co-ordinated. Meanwhile, we have to see to it that in our very natural, and I suppose inevitable absorption in European problems, we do not lose our Imperial sensibility. We should be on the watch that we are not shackled by our geographical position, an appendage to Europe.
The League has suffered in some senses a rebuff, but the work of Locarno;is there. It is safe; it is secure; it is strengthened by the ordeal through which it has passed, and the work of Locarno was to secure that those countries which previously had been enemies should arbitrate by conference instead of arbitrating by the sword. That was the value of Locarno. It was that that made the Treaties possible. It was that we called the "spirit of Locarno." That work is not destroyed. That spirit is not dead, and that wine is not corked. That wine has only been delayed in delivery, and has not suffered in quality through the delay. On the contrary, it is maturing I can assure the right hon. Gentleman, and it will still prove to be a source of strength and a stimulant, not only to the brain, but to the heart of man.
§ Sir JOHN SIMON
The hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite has, I think, put a much more reasonable point of view than the view with which the Foreign Secretary concluded. The Foreign Secretary told us that if, indeed, he ceased to hold his high office, he would leave it at the moment when British foreign policy had reached its highest point of influence and success 1110 since the War. The hon. and gallant Gentleman uses more moderate language when he comforts the House by saying things are not so deplorable as they seem. I agree there is a tendency to dwell upon events of the recent past, and, perhaps, in some quarters a tendency to speak in the language of extravagance about them. Like the hon. and gallant Gentleman, I am much more interested in what is likely to be the immediate future of the League of Nations than I am concerned in discussing in minute detail why it is that the tragedy of Geneva—I use the Foreign Secretary's words—came about. If I may be allowed to say so, I think even so experienced a man as the Foreign Secretary was himself guilty of exaggeration in using such a phrase. He never ought to have called what happened at Geneva a tragedy, as though it was something that had struck a mortal blow at the League of Nations. it is, I venture to think, a misfortune.
I am sure it does not carry any conviction either in the House or the country for the Foreign Secretary to begin by saying that the charge he had to meet was a charge against his honour, whereas he knows perfectly well that the criticism is reasonable criticism as to the judgment and method he has shown, and to finish his speech as though this was his swan song, and proceed to write an epitaph for himself which would really be excessive even if he were at this moment the welcomed hero of Locarno. As regards the immediate past, there are two or three quite practical matters which now emerge. The Foreign Secretary's speech has made them perfectly clear, and in view of the possibility of similar difficulties arising in the future, I would ask the House to consider what the facts are which do now emerge. It is really quite clear that what the Foreign Secretary calls the tragedy of Geneva is not due to what happened at Geneva at all. It is due to certain things which happened between Locarno and Geneva. Though the Foreign Secretary deserves, and obtains on all hands, the reputation of the most devoted, honourable, public-spirited, of men, it does not follow that the course which he steered between Locarno and Geneva was really, at any rate when one looks back on it, the wise one.
That is how the matter appears to one who, at any rate, can claim, I think, to 1111 know the contents of the Locarno Treaties and the Covenant of the League, two qualifications which it is very desirable to secure before one expresses a very confident opinion on this subject. The Locarno Treaties, may I remind the House —I am speaking, for instance, of the Treaty between Germany and France, or the Treaty between Germany and Belgium—were treaties which provided for the settlement of all future disputes, within certain limits of definition, by methods other than methods of war, and which secured, supposing that a Conciliation Commission failed in the last event, that the matter in dispute between the two Powers, say between France and Germany, should be decided by a body of arbitrators who are called the Council of the League. I find it impossible to believe that anybody seriously supposes that, when you negotiate such a treaty as that, it is not implied and understood and intended that that board of arbitrators, to which you refer as the Council of the League, is a body that is constituted in the way in which it was constituted at the time when that contract was made, with the specific addition of Germany as a permanent member of the Council. Let me point out to the House that there never has been, since the League was founded, any addition of other permanent members to the Council. From the very beginning it has been a clear understanding on the part of all who have taken any interest in the subject, that the Council was formed on the basis that some of its members were permanent, representing the Great Powers, and that others of them were non-permanent, and were the result of election from time to time by the Assembly.
I am much obliged to the Foreign Secretary for coming in; I wanted to put the point to him, and I hope it will be reported to him that I have not been attempting simply to indulge in strong language, but am trying to ask the House to consider what is likely to be the immediate future of the League. That was the system which was set up by the Covenant of the League, and, therefore, when at Locarno a series of treaties were negotiated, to which Germany was invited to be a party, and when the Council of the League—this body of arbitrators—was put in the position of a final authority to settle disputes, say between Germany 1112 and France, or between Germany and Belgium, if disputes could not otherwise be settled, I cannot bring myself to believe that the people who did that on either side had any other intention, when they spoke of the Council of the League, than that it should be the Council as then constituted, with the addition, which was known and intended, of Germany as a further permanent member.
I am confirmed in that by the way in which everybody behaved. The Foreign Secretary did not, in the course of his speech, in terms say whether he had any suspicions to the contrary, but here is a man, who is greatly master of his subject, who has at his elbow, I suppose, some of the most qualified and competent advisers on this subject that. the whole Civil Service can secure, and he tells us, from his side at any rate, that nothing of the sort to suggest the contrary was said at Locarno or after. Iin the same way, nothing, certainly, was said to Germany or by Germany, and, indeed, I understand that, when Germany sent her circular of inquiry to the 10 members, both permanent and non-permanent, of the Council, to ascertain, as she was entitled to ascertain, in advance, whether, if she applied to be a member of the League, she could count on being made a permanent member of the Council—I understand that not a single one of the 10 answers specifically raised this point at all. The answer from Brazil, with great respect to the Foreign Secretary, does not raise this point at all. The answer from Brazil is an answer which says that they themselves are quite agreeable, but, after all, this is a matter that has to be decided by the machinery of the League. Not a single one of the 10 members of the Council, when they were challenged as to their willingness to see Germany in this new position, ever hinted that, as a matter of fact, other additions to the permanent members of the Council were to be contemporaneous with that suggestion.
The reason, if I may venture to say so, was that plain, good sense really made it clear from the beginning that that was the nature of the understanding that was involved in the. Locarno Treaty. I cannot understand how you could call upon Germany to engage in a Treaty of that sort, and put Germany and France in the position of the two parties to one 1113 of the Treaties, with the knowledge that this Board of Arbitrators is to be the final body to decide their disputes, and then say, "Of course, when I say that, that is not inconsistent with altering the arbitrators, adding to their number, putting another permanent arbitrator on the Board before you have a chance to say No.'" To my way of thinking, these results follow necessarily from a fair consideration of what happened at Locarno. It is not a question of the Foreign Secretary's honour at all. I do not say that I should be the last man in the House, because I believe everyone in the House would be of one mind, but the Foreign Secretary knows very well that I would never make the smallest reflection on either his honour or his good 'faith; but the, question is, how is it that, between Locarno and Geneva, he should have allowed, uncorrected, the impression to arise in various parts of the world that there would be nothing very surprising, that there would be nothing contrary to the spirit of Locarno if at Geneva, on an occasion when there was to be an extraordinary meeting of the Assembly, called specially for this purpose, you were to find that, before Germany was actually made a member of this Board of Arbitrators, other persons were to be put on as permanent members, too?
How has that come about? It seems to me, after listening to the Foreign Secretary, not only to-day but the other day, as clear as crystal how it has come about. It is because the Foreign Secretary has never said, even in private, to those with whom he has been carrying on these Locarno conversations, that that really is contrary to the fundamental idea of the Locarno Treaties themselves. That was the judgment of the whole country, which took an interest in this matter and which had a far sounder view of it than the Foreign Secretary, with all his upright conduct and with all his devotion to public duty. I cannot understand how it is that he, the author of Locarno, did not say, "Nobody knows the meaning of Locarno better than I do, and the meaning of Locarno is this: It is a great symbolic act, for which we are summoning the Assembly specially this spring, in order that we may sweep a sponge over the past, and in order that we may put Germany, as a Great Power, alongside these other Great Powers on this Board of Arbitrators, and start a better world."
1114 He was entitled to every credit for the part he played in Locarno, and he certainly cannot complain that I or anyone else has ever criticised that in the least. But, instead of that, the Foreign Secretary allows himself, I cannot imagine why or how, to be bemused into a situation where he allowed this kind of thing to be dwelt upon. I listened to him saying, and I accept every word that he said, "It is not true that in December at Paris, in meeting M. Briand, I entered into any engagement or any contract about Poland." I accept that, but what I should like to know, as the Foreign Secretary is here now, is whether, in December or at any other time, in Paris or anywhere else, he, after Locarno and before Geneva, conveyed to M. Briand, however informally, the information that he personally was not unfavourable to the idea of Poland, or whatever Power it might be, becoming an additional member. If he did that, it is not a reflection on his honour or his good faith, but it is a reflection on his judgment or his acumen. If he had taken the line of saying, "No, the meaning of this approaching meeting at Geneva is really that we are going to do this one big thing; do not let us belittle or complicate or confuse it by encouraging all sorts of other people to put in their rival claims," I could understand it. He says, "How could I prevent people from putting in rival claims?" I agree that he could not. But he could either make it easier for them to do it or he could make it more difficult for them to do it, and our complaint is that. he so conducted himself that he has made it easier for them to do it.
Let me take a second example. He said, as I understood him, that between Locarno and Geneva there was some communication on his part to Spain, and that that did take the form of an assurance, though he described it in a curious phrase—he said it was renewing an assurance to Spain that she would have our support on a suitable occasion. That is not what the Prime Minister said in the Debate before he went to Geneva; it is a different phrase altogether. I wish someone, before the Debate is over, would tell us what it means. Does it mean that the Foreign Secretary has said to Spain, or to the Spanish Ambassador, "Yes, I shall continue to support your 1115 proposal at this coming meeting at Geneva"; or does it mean that the Foreign Secretary said," I would agree to your proposal or help you at some other time, but this meeting at Geneva is really for a special purpose, and it ought not to be complicated by this other question "? Which is it? It seems to me that it is a fair question to ask the Foreign Secretary, and I hope he will not think me unduly impertinent if I press it. Which did he do? He refuses to answer, and that is only another illustration of the fact that he has really so conducted this business between Locarno and Geneva as to create exactly the wrong atmosphere for carrying Geneva successfully through.
The Foreign Secretary, in his speech just now, said that he did not want people to arrive at Geneva with their positions publicly taken as to this or that. There is a great deal of good sense, of course, in that. I have had a great deal to do, in my professional life, with negotiating all sorts of things of a much less important order, and I know very well that it is quite true that, if you want to produce a settlement, it is very undesirable for everyone to turn up in the conference room with a publicly proclaimed point of view before they start. But it is even more important that, if you want to produce agreement at Geneva, you should not go to Geneva having taken up certain positions privately and behind the backs of other people. It appears now that, when the Foreign Secretary came to the House of Commons before he went to Geneva, and made his speech asking for a free hand, what he really meant was this: "I do not want to have to make any statement in the House of Commons; I want, between myself and the British people, to go with no sort of restraint upon me;" but in truth and in fact his hands were not free, and, until the Cabinet gave him instructions Which certainly to some extent narrowed his latitude of action, he was free to do what he liked as far as this country was concerned, although really, as it seems to me, he had bound himself by these injudicious declarations, amounting, apparently, to a pledge in the case of Spain, and amounting, I take leave to infer, to private indications of his personal view in the case of Poland or some other country.
1116 That is the real criticism as regards the past which we have to make. Now that the Foreign Secretary is here, I say it is ridiculous for him to begin his defence by pretending that he is defending his honour, and to end his defence by saying that British foreign policy since Locarno has never reached such a height of splendour as at the present time. I do not know which is the more absurd. The truth is that, most unhappily, this matter has been very unfortunately handled, and, while I quite agree that it is very much easier to criticise than to do it, and very much easier to criticise after the event than to be wise before the event, it is quite hopeless for the Government or their supporters to pretend in this House or to the country that this is one of those successes which count to the credit of the Conservative party, and that there is no reason for anyone to complain. My answer, therefore, to the Foreign Secretary with regard to the past is that it is no good waving his hand and saying; "How can I prevent Poland or Spain, or whoever it may be, putting up her claim? How can I put down my foot and stop it?" Of course you cannot entirely prevent it, but you should either act in a way which encourages, or in a way which discourages it, and if I may presume to try to use a language I understand the right hon. Gentleman prefers to use in his diplomatic conversations I would say to him in the words of Moliere:Vous l'avez voulu, Georges Dandin.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I would suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should look it up. Quoting it with a "tu" is a very common error.
Let me deal with one other point as regards the past. The other criticism as regards the past, which I think is a fair one, is that the Foreign Secretary is so much obsessed with what he regards as the superior method of the Locarno conversations that he has really forgotten to give the League itself—the machinery of the League—the opportunity of full action, Consider what the diary of this unhappy fortnight at Geneva is. I am certain the right hon. Gentleman worked night and day. No one, I am convinced, could have been more single-minded and 1117 devoted. He has worn himself out and he is entitled in that sense to the sympathy—and he has it—of everyone. But what was he doing? He was not using the machinery of the League at all. The Assembly of the League never met except for the purpose of passing Resolutions prepared for them by certain Locarno Powers, and already announced to the world by a communiqué in the Press, to the effect that they should adjourn till September. These Locarno Powers, if I am not mistaken, on the evening before the Assembly met for the first and last time said, "It is all up. We cannot do anything." They actually inserted in the newspapers a Press communique before they went to the Assembly next day and the Assembly was told—some 55 nations who had been kicking their heels for a fortnight past—" Thank you for waiting so long, but the only business you have to conduct is to resolve to adjourn till Sep member."
That is not using the League machinery at all. Not only that, but let us take the Council of the League. If I am not mistaken, the Council of the League, as a Council, never met on the subject of this attitude of Brazil at all. I am told there are not even any Minutes of the meeting. Instead of using the machinery of the League, whether Council or Assembly, the right hon. Gentleman has been spending all his time in a well-meaning but, as it has turned out, most unhappy effort to continue what he calls the Locarno conversations. He made one point in his speech which is, to some extent, a justification. He pointed out that, after all, it was necessary to get Germany into these things. That is quite right, and I can quite see that there may be many occasions when it is necessary for him to have conversations in which Germany could take part, and as Germany was not a member of the League, some use of that method was inevitable. But that does not in the least excuse the failure to use the machinery of the League, Council or Assembly, when you found yourself opposed by Brazil, or whatever the obstacle might be, who were members of the League, and my respectful criticism on this point is that it is not the League of Nations that has broken down at Geneva. It has never been used in the way it should be used.
No effort has ever been made to concentrate and apply the public opinion of 1118 the world as expressed in the Assembly—no method has ever been employed at Geneva to bring the obstructive party face to face with his colleagues on the Council at the Council and have it out, but from beginning to end the right hon. Gentleman has been conducting the whole business by the method of what are called Locarno conversations, which really mean a series of private secret discussions between selected Allies and Germany. I have not gone mad on the subject of secret diplomacy. I have no doubt there are many occasions when it is absolutely necessary to have such confidential discussions. I hope the Foreign Secretary will see it is quite a real point that I am making. The real fact is that that fortnight at Geneva from first to last, so far from being an illustration of the working of the League of Nations is an illustration of what an awful mess you get into if you summon nations from all over the world to attend a meeting of the League and never allow the League machinery to work.
So much for the past, because really, though these things are most vital matters, in which I think criticism is very well founded, after all, the past is over and the really important thing is what is going to happen now. I wish the Prime Minister were here. I shall be greatly obliged if the Foreign Secretary will communicate to him, at his leisure, these three questions. First of all, I want to know what is going to be the attitude of our Government—I do not mean in detail but in principle—between now and next September on this point? Is the British Government going to stand by the declaration that the rule of unanimity is, as things are, a fundamental principle of the operation of the Council? I remember the right hon. Gentleman pointing out in a very powerful passage of his speech at the beginning of this month how this rule of unanimity was so fundamentally important, as things were, and I think on that subject he delivered himself of an argument which no one can resist. It is very important, because I cannot help suspecting that when our friends in France are going to attend discussions between now and September as to what modifications in the structure or constitution of the Council may be desirable, this question of unanimity may turn up, and it seems to me of first-class 1119 importance that we should make it plain publicly, and make it plain now, to Germany that whatever may have been the fluctuations in detail of British policy on this subject, we stand firmly by the view that the Council of the League, as things are, must decide on the principle of unanimity. If you do not do that, it seems to me that the right hon. Gentleman's plan of getting Germany in will be in a, very dangerous position indeed, and I would ask whether or not we might have a public statement on that subject, because otherwise a very serious misunderstanding may arise.
§ Sir J. SIMON
Whatever this Committee or Conference is going to do, so that we understand that the British Government is committed to the view that there is going to be no change, as things are, in the constitution of the Council of the League in the direction of securing any different test than the test of unanimity. That being so, may I point out that it appears to be at least rather a reckless proceeding to multiply members. If one blackball can exclude, I should have thought the fewer people with blackballs the better. I recollect in one of the earlier stories of Charles Dickens, I think in "Sketches by Boz," there is a very amusing sketch about two gentlemen who decided that they would have a water picnic. They hired a paddle boat for the purpose, and they met to draw up the rules under which they were going to invite their guests. They decided that the rule should be that they would have a ballot, and one blackball should exclude. At the end of the afternoon they had no guests at all. I should have thought, other things being equal, if you are going to stick to the rule of unanimity, it is not a very desirable thing to go adding to the Council Powers, not obviously Powers of the first importance, whatever may be their status in the world, who would only add to the probability of a difference of view.
The second question I wish to ask is this. Is it intended in future to give the methods of the League their full chance, instead of relying on secret arrangements, or secret assurances, or secret explanations made between the Locarno Powers? Locarno conversations are all very well 1120 if they produce a good result, but recent experience shows that they do not always do it, and I think in view of the fact that on all sides in the House of Commons there is so much sincere interest in the working of the League of Nations, it is not unreasonable to ask for a public assurance that in the future, and in dealing with this matter from now on the machinery of the League is going to be given its full opportunity of operating and it is not going to be held up or delayed or in some cases, I think, actually obstructed by some notion that Locarno conversation or secret discussion between selected Powers is a preferable means of arriving at the result. I quite see that there are occasions when secret methods must be employed, but if we believe in a future for the League of Nations, surely we ought to see to it that its machinery gets an opportunity of properly operating.
The third question I want to ask is this. I think it is implied in the instructions the Foreign Secretary read just now as being the instructions he took from the Government when he went to Geneva.. May we have a public statement before the Debate ends, whether it is the view of the Government that the permanent seats on the Council of the League should be in the future, as they have been in the past, strictly confined to the great Powers. I know it may be asked what is a great Power. Perhaps the best answer is the familiar answer given by the man who was asked, "What is an elephant?" He said I cannot define an elephant, but I know one when I see one. As a matter of fact the great Powers, as understood by those who framed the Covenant, are perfectly well known. It was always intended that the four who now have permanent seats, together with Germany, Russia and the United States, should constitute the great Powers, because they have after all the biggest burden to bear 'and the greatest responsibility if the decisions of the League have to be carried out, and the whole structure of the Covenant is that while in a sense everyone is equal, 'still there are certain great States which ought to be put in a permanent position of authority.
It seems to me that nothing but trouble could arise if the idea is encouraged—and my complaint of the Foreign Secretary is that he has encouraged the idea—that these places are open as the result 1121 of a little bargaining, a little conversation, a little negotiation, to people who are not really qualified as great Powers. I can imagine the day may come when China may be a great Power. Changes may take place. But as things are, if you arc once going to admit that some of the Powers who have been mentioned in this connection are great Powers, there is no end to it. May I point out one very curious feature about the construction of the Council of the League. In the knowledge I have of constitutions of a different kind, I do not recall a parallel case. The Covenant is a very completely drawn instrument, but it has this very strange feature. Once the Assembly of the League, at any meeting, has passed the necessary vote in order to put a given State on the Council as a permanent member, there is no machinery of any sort or kind by which you can ever get it out again.
It is permanent in that sense. Therefore, to allow discussions as to whether Poland or Spain should be among the great Powers, and to allow that kind of discussion to take place, as if you were merely negotiating a settlement for this year or next year, is completely to misunderstand what is involved. The whole future of the world may depend upon the restraint and the wisdom with which people at the League of Nations control their very natural ambitions to rank among great Powers when, really, they are not of that status in the world. I observe that in the instructions read by the Foreign Secretary he does appear to have been instructed by his Government that his object should be not to enlarge the list of permanent Powers on the Council. So far, so good. I invite anyone who speaks from the Government bench to make it absolutely clear as the policy for the future, and between now and next September, that there is no question of this country at any rate allowing this distortion of the real principle of the League.
I am sorry that I should have been critical, because I know very well that the Foreign Secretary has strained himself to the utmost, and that the whole country is grateful to him for the undivided assiduous devotion which he has given to this matter. But that is not the question. We are more concerned to secure that what has happened does not happen again. Though he never meant 1122 it, if I may say so without insulting him, though I think he never realised it, the whole conduct of the Foreign Secretary before he went to Geneva encouraged the very thing that happened. He actually went to Birmingham and made a speech, about ten days before he started for Geneva, in which he advertised to the world that, in principle, the sort of argument which ultimately brought shipwreck to Geneva was one which did not cause any great revolt in his mind or consternation to his temperament. What lie ought to have said was this, "Do not let us spoil what may be the most significant step forward in the history of Europe and the world, by allowing these wretched petty things to crop up." He could not, perhaps, have avoided what happened, but if he is the real author of Locarno, he might have used his authority to that end instead of unintentionally and most unfortunately being the cause of so much of this confusion.
§ Sir ALFRED HOPKINSON
It may be considered strange that a new Member should so soon take advantage of the privilege which is usually given, and to speak on a question of such importance as the one before the House. I have listened to the moving speeches that have been made by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) and the reply by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. I have heard many speeches in this House, but I have never heard within these walls two speeches which affected me more than those delivered to-day by those two right hon. Gentlemen. I am one of those people who by their nature cannot, however hard one tries, look at a. question through the eyes of a partisan. I have often tried to do so, but I have never been able to succeed. Having listened to the speeches to-night, I am satisfied of one thing; that we owe a great debt of gratitude to the Foreign Secretary, not only for his assiduity but for what he has accomplished in the work that he has done at Locarno and since. Looking at the matter as dispassionately as I can, I feel that the position of this country stands higher than ever and that, from our day there are two names that will go down to posterity as great Foreign Secretaries who have raised the tone of negotiation and of international relationships. Those names arc the names of Grey and Chamberlain.
1123 I will not say more about the past. The past has been discussed fully. What of the future? I agree entirely with something that was said by the right hon. and learned Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon). As to the past—we have made up our minds one way or the other, and it is our duty now to consider the future. What is going to happen and what policy shall we pursue On that point some things have been said and said sometimes in a tone of despair and I am afraid sometimes almost in a tone of exultation. It has been said, first of all, that the League of Nations has been killed, and, secondly, that if it is killed, the hopes of humanity are gone. I believe that both those propositions are profoundly false. The League of Nations is not in a moribund condition, but there are certain features in the constitution of the League which require revision. I would not have ventured to address the House on this matter had I not thought a good deal about it when the idea of the League of Nations was first conceived, and also during the period of gestation before its birth. I then formed the opinion which subsequent events have confirmed as to two or three matters which ought to be laid clown as fundamental principles as regards a League of Nations. The first principle is, that we must never look on the League of Nations to be a super-State. The second is, that the surest hope of the League of Nations at the present time is more and more co-operation, working together in a number of practical matters which are outside the range of the prevention of war, but which are for the benefit of all. That kind of co-operation should go on, and it is that which will be most useful in the future. The third proposition, stated long before the Covenant of the League was framed, was that until you admit to the League, those nations that were enemies of ours during the War you have not got a real League of Nations, but something very far different. It would amount to a 'form of defensive alliance, but you have not a real League of Nations. The The fourth and most important proposition is that the agreements that have been made in the Covenant of the 1124 League with regard to our going to war, or other nations going to war, to preserve peace, is the worst possible course that could be adopted, arid it will lead, possibly, to evils greater than those it was intended to cure. When the matter was first discussed in another place and it was suggested that a League of Nations would be no good unless it had the sanction of physical force to execute its decisions, the man who knew perhaps more than any other person in our time about the conditions of foreign nations, I mean the late Lord Bryce, suggested that they should omit the words respecting warlike sanctions which had been proposed in the original resolution in the summer of 1918 and carried his point then. Unfortunately, that warning and others were forgotten. The real root of our worst troubles now is to be found in the two fatal Clauses 10 and 16. They are ambiguous. Their ambiguity attracted the attention of Germany. The Germans naturally said, in effect, "What do these Clauses actually mean?" We had to give an answer, and it was given in Annexe F to the Locarno Pact. Unfortunately, that answer was only too correct. If w e want the main reason why the United States of America have stayed out from the League, it is to he found in these two Clauses. It has been stated on the. highest American authority that it was Clause 10 more than anything else that kept America out of the League. You will never have a complete League of Nations so long as the United States of America do not join the League. This, I think, is the greatest danger which threatens us now. It is from questions which may in the immediate future arise in the West with regard to the League of Nations. I do not wish to pursue this subject further, but I do urge it as a matter of the gravest consideration as to whether, if the League of Nations is sick at the present time, the real thing that is required is not a surgical operation—an operation which some of us thought would be necessary even before the League was born—in order to stop the policy which led to the insertion of these fatal Clauses. At the same time a number of ambiguities which are to be found on the face of the document might be corrected. Revision of the Covenant is essential in a quieter atmosphere than that which existed when it was framed at Versailles. It is clear 1125 that ambiguities will arise from time to time. They have become apparent from time to time when the Covenant has been discussed, and we shall have them again and again.
It is time we revised the Covenant. When we are revising and discussing the question of policy, let us look at the way in which the Covenant is framed with regard to the very matter now under discussion, namely, how to admit any new member to the League and to a seat on the Council. The Clause in the Covenant is pretty clear on that point as to the Assembly, but far from clear as to the Council. If you are going to act upon a document, look at the actual terms of the document on which you are going to act. That is a good legal rule. The Clause (No. 4 of the Covenant) respecting the admission of a new member says that it mils:, be with the approval of the majority of the Assembly. My belief is that in future the wisest course will be to get that assent first. Then, the majority of the Assembly would clearly decide the matter whatever the minority thought. It is important to get the vote of the majority of the more popular body first. Whether or not you want unanimity on the Council is a very grave question. I submit to those who are in authority that they should consider whether, reading these two Clauses of the Covenant (No. 4 and No. 5) together, the true construction is not this, that you may pass a resolution on this special matter by a majority of the Council if you have had the approval of majority of the Assembly, but I admit this point is very doubtful.
But supposing the League were to break down for any reason and supposing we are never able to get the United Stat.3s of America into the League. Supposing the United States go on feeling, as they do now, that the Clause 10, as it is construed by the annexe of the Locarno Pact, means that the numbers would be bound to come in in case of disputes between any two States and to exercise arm force. If such force were used on the American continent at the instance of the League, the United States of America might say: "We want more than a verbal recognition of our Monroe doctrine." Supposing there were a dispute between Chile and Peru. Supposing one of these countries is ill-treating the subjects of the other and it is suddenly 1126 told if they take overt action to protect them that it is an aggressor within the meaning of the Covenant and that we must go in and intervene with armed force. What would happen to a British naval force if, on the recommendation of the League, we were to send it out to operate against Chile or Peru or any other South American State? The American Navy might have something to say. Our force might never come back.
Let us get rid of the idea that the League of Nations should enter into bargains to go to war. Lord Bryce saw that danger. The United States of America have recognised that danger. Let us get rid of the dangerous parts of these two fatal Clauses. Finally, supposing the League of Nations were to break up. Are the hopes of humanity gone? Not one bit of it. I suppose I have lived longer than almost anyone now in this House. I have known persons of all classes and all ages, of all the ranks in life and of many different nations, and the longer I live the more firmly am I convinced of the essential goodness of human nature if you take it in the right way. Whether the League of Nations exists or not, even if it is swept away, I believe there is a possibility of cultivating the feeling of good will which we may find everywhere and which the right hon. Gentleman has done so much to maintain, and that, that being so, I do not give up hope, even if the League itself were to disappear. If it was subjected to the proper surgical operation I have indicated then I believe it would go on perfectly healthy for many years to come and be a benefit to the whole world. But, if not, though at the present moment we are not happy about what has happened since Locarno may I commend an old saying to those who have these difficult matters in hand:If hopes were dupes, fears may be liars.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I have never heard a speech from the benches opposite with which I agreed so much as the speech to which I have just listened. The House may congratulate itself on the reappearance in this Assembly of the father of its most popular Member. With him, I think, the possibility of improving the League of Nations depends on a revision of Clauses 10 and 16 of the Covenant, and of Annex 5, which went 1127 to make up the Treaty of Locarno. More than that, the real. prospect of the League of Nations becoming what we would have it, a real League for peace, depends on the accession of the great American nation. I only disagree with the hon. Member when he says that he is grateful to the Foreign Secretary. I feel that the Foreign Secretary has let down the good name of England and has handed over to the representative of Sweden the task of voicing the views, not only of those who sit on these benches, but the views of the mass of the population of Great Britain. Our common sense was right. Why should these views, which are those, not only of Members of this side of the House but even of the Government Front Bench, be left to Sweden to expound, and our own representative take up the inferior position of a jackal for another nation?
The hon. Member for the Combined English Universities (Sir A. Hopkinson) said that the two great names of British Foreign Secretaries which would go down to history would be Lord Grey of Fallodon and Sir Austen Chamberlain. I could wish that the Foreign Secretary had read Lord Grey's book "Twenty-five Years." If he did, he would usefully learn two lessons. First, he would discover that the nations of Europe, very jealous of each other, are very liable to be misled as to the attitude of this country towards their rivals; that whenever we attempted to be on good terms with France, Germany suspected more than was there; and that when we attempted to be on good terms with Germany, France was ready to believe the worst of this country. He would find also that the only way to meet this difficulty is to be equally frank and candid with both parties who might be interested. He would have learnt, that after be had seen M. Briand and the Spanish Ambassador in Paris, it was essential, if good terms were to be maintained, to communicate the result of those conservations to Germany, in order to show that there was no ground for any suspicion of any kind directly the news of these conversations leaked out.
He would have learnt also from that book the disadvantages of being able to speak a little French. It is always difficult when you are speaking in a foreign 1128 language to give your whole attention to the subject matter of your conversation—you are distracted by the necessity of translating it into a foreign language. Lord Grey's inability to talk French, or to talk it in conversation with the French Ambassador, gave him an opportunity of thinking considerably, while his colleague was being translated, on what he would say in reply, and a great deal of the misfortunes which have arisen from these conversations in Paris has been due to the fact that the anxiety of our Foreign Secretary to talk the language of his friend has led him hastily to commit himself and his country to a policy which has turned out to be a disaster to this country and to the world.
For the first time since the War we have seen the opinion of this country almost unanimously, with the exception of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carmarthen (Sir A. Mond), in favour of a certain policy. We know now that that policy was right. We know that if the instructions of the Foreign Secretary had told him to confine his attention to getting Germany on to the Council of the League, and if he had carried out those instructions, we should have been in the proud position of a nation that had stuck to the straight line, knew what it wanted and had not waivered from it at. all. We should then have been, indeed, in the position of Sweden, and, more than that, we should have been looked up to, as Sweden is being looked up to now. It is a thousand tragedies that this has not happened. I do not blame the Foreign Secretary. I think he was extraordinarily stupid and rash in committing himself to the opinions to which he gave vent when he was in Paris. Everybody knew that he was committed to these opinions. He did not conceal them from this House. I blame the Prime Minister who, in spite of knowing to what the Foreign Secretary was committed, allowed him to go to Geneva and attempt to put before the Powers two contradictory policies; the policy dictated by his commitments in Paris and the policy dictated by this House and this country. They are not consistent policies, and his instructions allowed him to go there with a free hand, so far as we were concerned, but with bound hands so far as France and Spain were concerned, and, possibly, Brazil. The Prime Minister secured his 1129 majority on the 4th March by his speech in this House. Speaking after the Foreign Secretary, he told us what the Foreign. Secretary was going to do at Geneva. He said:The first thing, the paramount thing, to which they "—That is Lord Cecil and Sir Austen Chamberlain, our representatives—will devote their attention is to see that Germany becomes a member of the League, with a seat on the Council. That is the primary business. That is what they hope to achieve. It is quite true that there is a solid public opinion in this country."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th March, 1926; col. 1694 Vol. 192.]That was the declaration on which that Vote was taken. No wonder the Prime Minister got a majority of 100 in spite of the fact that everybody who spoke criticised the Foreign Secretary's speeches. The Government got a majority on that speech, and after making that speech we see not only the instructions given to the Foreign Secretary, but also the lamentable use he made of those instructions. England now, instead of being a leader in the development of the League of Nations has become the satelite of another, and our good name is left in Swedish charge.
§ Sir ELLIS HUME-WILLIAMS
I would like to join with the last speaker in offering my congratulations to the hon. Member for the Combined English Universities (Sir A. Hopkinson) who has addressed us, and to say how glad we are to see 'him back in his old haunts and with his old force quite undiminished. I hope it will be many years before we shall lose him again. if am deeply interested in the League of Nations. Underlying all the speeches which have been made this afternoon, there has been a consensus of opinion to the effect that, although what has recently happened may be looked upon as, a small set back to the League, yet its future is assured, that it will continue to do what it has so conspicuously accomplished recently, and that it will merge from the ideal into the practical and become one of the great factors for peace in the world. We have had a good deal of criticism this afternoon, and it appears to me that the real crux of the matter is this. When the Locarno Treaty was being discussed, there was such a general consensus of opinion throughout the world that it would be a 1130 good thing for Germany to come in. We had tried so long to get Germany into the League and she had been hesitating for so long, and there was so much general satisfaction at the prospect of Germany coming in, that those who were interested in the matter overlooked the fact that there might be a slip between the cup and the lip, that there was this slip which might upset the whole scheme.
There does not seem to have been any discussion at the Locarno negotiations as to whether or not the entry of Germany would be uncontested, as to whether any other Power would seize that opportunity to try to get in at the same time. It is the unexpected that always happens, and in this case it certainly was the unexpected that happened when Brazil took up the attitude which she did take. What part had the Foreign Secretary in the matter? The original suggestion which surprised, and I think alarmed, the world, was that Poland was to come in simultaneously with Germany. But that did not come from England, and there can be no responsibility on the Foreign Secretary for that.
§ Sir E. HUME-WILLIAMS
Exactly the contrary. We have the assurance that in his conversation with M. Briand he had no agreement to that effect.
§ Sir E. HUME-WILLIAMS
He said so specifically in terms, when the proposition was made that there was some doubt in the country as to whether it was the result of an agreement arrived at between M. Briand and the Foreign Secretary; we were assured, and have been assured again to-day, that there was no agreement of any sort or kind to that effect. Spain stands on a. different footing altogether. There has never been the least disguise of the fact that England has for long been desirous that Spain should take her place on the Council, Mr. Balfour when representing this country at the meetings of the League himself made that proposal. It is common knowledge. But the only complaint that could be made against the Foreign Secretary was involved in the suggestion that either he had suggested himself, or had consented, that the entry of Spain should be again 1131 pressed contemporaneously with that of Germany, and that he has told us in terms he did not do. What he has said is that the only suggestion which he made was, that if the question was raised at all, some day the question of Spain joining the League would again come forward for consideration.
Up to the time that the Foreign Secretary went out to Geneva, what possible complaint is there to be made against him? He was not responsible for the suggestions that were made. Probably they appeared as disastrous to him as to us here. He was 'made aware of the absolute consensus of public opinion in this country, to the effect that Germany should come in alone. It was made obvious by a great meeting of Members of this House, and it was clear that the Foreign Secretary understood it. He went with the specific instructions of his Government, and these he has read to the House, to the effect that all his efforts must be directed towards obtaining the entry of Germany, and of Germany alone. At that time he knew, and we knew that the suggestions to utilise the opportunity to bring in Poland and Spain had been made, and that something of the kind might occur when he reached Geneva. So he went. He went with the determination, as he has told us, and indeed it is obvious—he went with one purpose and one purpose only—by negotiation, by the use of every art that he knew to try to get Germany in, and Germany in alone. Those were his instructions, and for that purpose he went out.
What happened when he got there '? It is no good saying that he went out as a sort of representative of a Government with one fixed answer to give to everything that was said, to sit down and say: "I will not consent to anything at all; I will not discuss it. Those are my instructions, and I cannot budge an inch to the right or to the left." As he has very properly said, what is the good of having a League of Nations and meeting at Geneva if he has simply to go there and to say what his Government could perfectly well have said in England without sending him at all—" This is the determination at which we have arrived, and we will not alter it to the right or to the left "? That is not the ideal of the League; that is not the way the busi- 1132 ness of the League can be carried on. It would be no good sending representatives to the League if every representative went as the spokesman of a nation which had already expressed its opinion upon the subject for discussion. So the Foreign Secretary went out with these instructions.
That seems to me to be the gist of the thing. The importance of the discussion was such, and the desire of the modern Press to keep the public in touch with every detail of what happens is such, that every step which he took and which everybody else took was telegraphed back to London, and immense capital was made out of it in the morning and evening newspapers. He could not go out to tea or to lunch, every informal meeting, every person he saw with reference to the object for which. he was despatched, was immediately put into writing and sent over here for reproduction in the English newspapers. In my opinion far too much fuss was made about it. It was a newspaper excitement. All the comings and goings were reported—things of which the Leader of the Opposition to-day has quite legitimately made a certain amount of fun. But these things were natural, it was necessary that they should take place if the Foreign Secretary was to try to carry out the job for which he was sent there. It is idle to say that great importance is to be attached to them because they were telegraphed home to be published. It was this passionate desire for publicity, and the equally passionate desire of the newspapers to sell their morning and evening editions that are at the bottom of all the excitement created by these negotiations, natural and necessary negotiations, which were going on while this conference was beginning.
Did the Foreign Secretary do that which this country expected? It is common ground that he gave all his energies and time to his task, that he did not spare his health for a moment, and that he did everything of which he was capable in carrying out properly the work for which he had been sent. His reward when he returns is this vote of censure, moved, I presume, by the Liberal party to justify what remains of their anæmic existence. The interest that they show in the Vote which they have moved may well be gauged by the empty benches opposite.
§ Sir E. HUME-WILLIAMS
There is not one Liberal who has taken sufficient interest in the matter to remain during the sacred half hour from 8 o'clock to 8.30, or whatever time it takes a Liberal Member to eat and digest his dinner. What I want to impress upon the House is this. The real danger that the Foreign Secretary had to face at Geneva was that Germany might have said, This veto of Brazil, this unexpected happening, has released us from our obligations at Locarno. It was part of the understanding that we should enter the League of Nations and enter it now. It has been stopped, and we are going to leave Geneva; we are going to throw up the whole thing. There shall be an end of the Locarno Treaty.
The application has failed, we are free, we shall go home—and it is none too easy for us to explain the matter to our own people in our own House—and that will be the end of Locarno ! That would indeed have been a tragedy. To whom is it due that Germany has not taken up that attitude? Let us be just. Is it not obvious that to the personal influence, hard work and untiring energy of the Foreign Secretary we owe the fact that, whatever may have happened in Geneva, whatever the debacle may have been, Germany remains an applicant for a seat on the Council? After all, that is an achievement of which the right hon. Gentleman may well be proud, and we in this House and in this country may congratulate ourselves on the fact that Germany has not taken up that attitude, which would have been justified, however disastrous it would have been in its effect for her and for us. If that be so, can anybody say that there is a single action of the Foreign Secretary's concerning which blame can rest upon him? He gave no pledge before he went. He welt out with definite instructions to do his best to get Germany in, and those instructions he fulfilled in the letter and the: spirit.
When he was there, he, at any rate, secured that no harm should come to the League of Nations except that which may come from unfriendly public criticism. Even those who moved this Vote of censure, and certainly the right hon. Gentleman who supported it, are among 1134 the League's most ardent supporters and most powerful friends, and they remain so. Nobody, except perhaps the right hon. Gentleman who moved this reduction in a few hard-hearted sentences, has suggested that the League of Nations has failed or is weakening in its influence in the world. If I am right in saying so, I submit there is no single point upon which one can put a finger and say, "That is a fault on the part of the Foreign Secretary, and to that fault the action of Brazil is attributable." I have heard all this Debate up to now, and I have not heard any suggestion that the action of Brazil can be traced to any influence of that kind. It appears to have been, as far as we know, an independent action on the part of Brazil, not dictated by anyone, but, at any rate, whether that be right or wrong, whether it was an individual action by Brazil or not, nobody has attributed it to the Foreign Secretary.
§ Sir E. HUME-WILLIAMS
Everybody has ! Really the right hon. and gallant Gentleman should have more regard for accuracy.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
If the Foreign Secretary had not gone to Paris and talked in Paris, we should not have been committed to any of these increases in the Council.
§ Sir E. HUME-WILLIAMS
That is a bold statement and its boldness is only equalled by its complete inaccuracy. If we take the. Foreign Secretary's account of the conversations, such conversations as took place in Paris had no influence at all. Even in Paris the only two countries mentioned were Poland and Spain, neither of whom obstructed and neither of whom have come in. Spain and Poland disappeared from the discussion entirely, and the debacle, such as it was, was brought about by the action of Brazil. Nobody has suggested that that action was ever mentioned before the discussions at Geneva. I am speaking as a back bencher, and I am expressing as any hon. Member is entitled to do my personal views only. That will be understood, because I happen to be connected with mm of the great organisations in this House concerned with the League. Speaking for myself, I suggest that in this matter a distinguished public servant has been hardly treated. Considering the thanks with which he was over- 1135 whelmed when he came back after accomplishing the Locarno agreement, it is a little ungenerous to say now that because a Power over which he has no control has postponed the fulfilment of his work at Locarno, therefore we are to have something in the nature of a Vote of Censure moved in this House and are to spend hours discussing whether he, as a public servant, is blameworthy or whether it is simply a series of accidents which has led to the result we all deplore, namely the postponement of the fruition of the Locarno Treaty. I think instead of criticising the right hon. Gentleman we ought to express our gratitude to him for an arduous task admirably performed. It seems to me that he has carried out his instructions, as I have said, both in the letter and the spirit and I, for one, not only support him in this Debate, but I feel as a Member of this House and as a member of the community that we owe him a debt of gratitude which is indeed badly expressed by an Amendment of the description which is now before the House.
§ Mr. RENNIE SMITH
I was glad when the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord H, Cecil) reminded us that however much Foreign Secretaries may blunder, we cannot avoid coming back to the problem of building up an effective League of Nations. The Noble Lord underlined the fact that modern civilisation is so interdependent that we are driven back again and again to the consideration of what is now the only practical problem of the larger politics of the world—the need for establishing a more effective League of Nations. That, I suppose, is the chief consolation to be derived from the very bad setback which the League has received in the last two or three weeks. The League has to deal with big problems and little problems, and in the last three weeks it has been handling one of the biggest problems with which it has had to deal since 1919. Civilisation was forced to create the League by the necessity and under the shadow of the world War. The League, therefore, took on the characteristics impressed upon it by victorious military Powers. We have striven since 1919 to broaden and make more inclusive the character of the League, and one Government after another have asked themselves 1136 three questions. How can we get the United States into the League? How can we get Russia into the League'? How can we get Germany into the League? These have been the three major problems in the conversion of a nominal and limited League into a real and effective League in the government of the world.
We have had now some years of anxious, difficult, protracted discussions, not only by this Government, but by all who have been really casing for the progressive development of the League, and we had got so far a few months ago, in the Locarno Agreement, that we were within sight for the first time of building a real bridge between the military victors and the vanquished Powers in the world War, so that it was possible for the Foreign Secretary himself to say that during the Locarno discussions the phrase "the Allied Powers" had never once been used. We were getting within sight of the possibility of practical co-operation in the League between those Powers which were so fatally divided in 1319. Therefore, I want to emphasise, in trying to express the point of view of Members on the Labour benches, that the issue with which we are dealing is not an ordinary League issue, but one of first-class importance, one of bringing into the orbit of the League of Nations the chief of the defeated military Powers in the late world War, and from that point of view I think it can be well understood why the whole nation, irrespective of party, rejoiced about the Treaty of Locarno. They rejoiced fundamentally because they realised that at last, after these protracted and difficult negotiations, we were in sight of being able to welcome into the polity of the League of Nations the major military Power of the late War, and I think it is from that point of view that the sense of disappointment has been so profound in all the developments that have since taken place.
I think it is fair to take the point of view that Germany did look forward to a permanent seat on the Council of the League, and I think, in view of the fact that ever since 1919 the permanent seats have been reserved exclusively for great Powers, it was a fair and obvious commentary that, when this great event did take place, when the reconciliation of Germany to the work of the League in 1137 the world was publicly effected, not only from the point of view of Germany, but of the common sense of all thoughtful persons in all countries, Germany would be accorded a permanent seat when she came into the League. Further, I think it is a fair commentary on the situation to say that not only so, but the whole of the thoughtful citizens in this country took the view that this was an event of such great and outstanding importance that it was right and proper that a special meeting of the League should be summoned for that one particular purpcse. Thus it is that the whole common sense, practical attitude of the British people has been from the first, one of looking forward to this meeting of the League of Nations, because it would publicly announce the reconciliation of a deep and bitter military feud and the coning in of Germany to a permanent seat on the Council of the League.
When we were rejoicing in this point of view and enjoying the fact of this substantial development in the progress of the League of Nations, there began to appear in the Press, about four weeks ay, notices, which could only have emanated from the Foreign Offices either of Paris or of Warsaw, suggesting that this solemn event of the coming in of a late enemy Power to the League was to be qualified by possible discussions and admissions of other Powers, and we in this country witnessed with great and growing alarm the whole solemn and elevated idea of Locarno being brought down into the market place for relatively pa try discussions as to which other Powers should be brought into the League at the same time. When that point of view was emphasised in the unfortunate speech of the Foreign Secretary at Birmingham, we had let loose upon the world a flood of new ideas and new points of view, until every progressive body in the country was driven to convene special meetings and ask that the Government should return to the original Locarno point of view; that is to say, that the coming League of Nations meeting should be a special occasion for the sole admission of Germany to the League, and for the according to Germany of a permanent seat upon the Council of the League.
The House will remember how the League of Nation Union branches, from one end of the country to the other—and 1138 they are not as a rule guilty of acts of imprudence or of any radical criticism of Government policy—sent in resolution after resolution asking that the commonsense interpretation of the Locarno Treaty and the discussions should be adhered to by the Government, and that Germany, and Germany only, should be admitted to a permanent seat upon the Council. They House will remember how bodies like the Women's International League, the National Council for the Prevention of War, and the whole of the Labour parties and the Liberal parties throughout the country poured in hundreds and thousands of resolutions, all pointing in this same direction. Not only that, but we in this House were so concerned that we convened a special meeting of the League of Nations Union in order that we might, immediately prior to the departure of the Foreign Secretary, emphasise what we felt to be a non-party and unanimous point of view with regard to the interpretation of the real significance of the forthcoming meeting of the League. We had, in a very crowded meeting of the League of Nations Union, at. least three-fourths of the Members who were members of the party opposite, and there was an entirely unanimous declaration at that meeting asking the Foreign Secretary again to make it his only concern at the forthcoming meeting of the League that Germany, aria Germany only, should be admitted. We had, following that, a full day's discussion in this House, and I think nobody could have been under any misapprehensions as to what was the general opinion of this House, and, therefore, the representative opinion of the country, as to what the Foreign Minister should do if he was to carry out the democratic policy and the understood policy in relation to the forthcoming meeting at Geneva.
The Foreign Secretary has admitted, in the speech that. he made this afternoon, that he had from the Prime Minister, as a primary rule for his guidance, that the main object of this meeting at Geneva was to secure the admission of Germany to the League of Nations and to secure her automatically, therefore, a permanent seat on the Council. He also said that he had several other less important regulations to guide him, and I think it is a fair commentary on those five instructions 1139 to say that the one of outstanding importance, the one that determined the use that should be made of the other four, was again the fact that the whole nation understood, and that he was to understand, that the primary object of this meeting at Geneva was that Germany should be brought into the League, and Germany only. We have seen in practice that the Foreign Secretary has devoted an extraordinary amount of his time in following up the substance of those conversations into which he entered, as be reminded the House this afternoon, when he was passing through Paris some weeks ago. Instead of having on all and every occasion our own Foreign Secretary saying to all whom it might concern: "The primary object of this meeting of the League of Nations is the fulfilment of the central and cardinal feature of the Locarno Pact; the one and only object at bottom that we meet for is to bring Germany into the League," he has been spending almost the whole of his time advocating and canvassing the claims of other Powers for temporary or non-permanent seats upon the Council of the League.
I think that we are perfectly justified in taking the view that the Foreign Secretary has not interpreted either the spirit and the expressed purpose of this House, or the spirit and the expressed purpose of those five regulations which he received from the Prime Minister. He has, in practice, allowed all the nations to believe that he really was profoundly concerned either to get Spain on to the Council, or to get Poland on to the Council, and he has again and again devoted his time to that secondary issue, until the whole public opinion of this country has become profoundly dismayed by his neglect of the major premise, which alone justified his activity in Geneva. The whole of that movement culminated in the humiliating spectacle on Friday of the meeting of the Locarno representatives with M. Unden, who represents, as I think all parties in this House will agree, the real incarnation of the spirit of the League. He was brought to the humiliation of being insulted and assailed by our own Foreign Secretary for his tenacious attitude in trying to sustain the principles of the League. [HON. MEMBERS: "No !"] I am quoting now from the actual report of the 1140 " Manchester Guardian," and, until it can be disproved, I am bound to accept that, along with reports in The Times" and other papers, as being the most reliable and the nearest approach to the facts that we, as Members of the House of Commons, can have at present on that subject.
I want, therefore, to state very definitely why we think we have the strongest grounds for taking exception to the policy pursued by the Foreign Secretary. In the first place, we feel strongly that the Foreign Secretary was under a definite moral obligation, if he wanted to raise the question of nations other than Germany coming on the League, to go straight to Germany at the beginning, and put the case to Germany. The Foreign Secretary took enormous pride, and, as I think, justifiable pride in that he had inaugurated a, new policy in bringing about the Locarno Pact, and he went out -of his way to say that the secret of his success had been that- he had gone to Germany and invited suggestions from Germany, and that this was the- foundation of the new hope that had come into European politics. I think we are morally justified in taking the view that Germany, naturally and logically, and as a matter of common sense, should assume that she, and she alone, was coming into the Council at the last meeting, and if the Foreign Secretary wanted to draw any other conclusion than that, he was morally bound to consult with Germany, not after the thing had be-en done, not after the Prime Minister's speech, not after the flood-gates of the Press had been let loose for a fortnight, but before all this he ought to have entered into definite and direct negotiations with Germany on that issue.
The second point we feel concerned to make is that pust as here at home, from the Birmingham speech right up to the last Debate in the House, the Foreign Secretary tried to ride two horses, when the House was definitely saying there was only one horse which could legitimately be ridden on that occasion, so at Geneva he has endeavoured to ride two horses, with the result that was foreseen by all thoughtful persons, namely, the breakdown of the negotiations. I should like to say further, in concluding the protest that I, for my part, want to make, that I view with very great concern the re- 1141 action of the Foreign Secretary's policy not only in Europe but throughout the rest of the world. For example, America, which, with increasing sympathy, has been drawing towards the League, which has only recently expressed its determination to come into the world court and also to take part in the preparatory conference for the consideration of world disarmament, has reacted in an extraordinarily strong, definite, bitter and even cynical way towards the whole negotiations going on in Geneva. I do not need to repeat the substance of the criticism of Mr. Houghton, the American Ambassador, in a Report just recently presented to the President of the United States. He went so far, in this Report, as to compare the League with the bad work of the Holy Alliance of 100 years ago. He stated that the nations of Europe have learned nothing from what happened between 1214–1918 and that, however we may try, England cannot save Europe from a further catastrophe.
In other words, we are having the best men and women in the United States saying that Europe in effect is hopeless. This sort of attitude has received an enormous stimulus at a time when new hopes and new confidences were being built up on the American side from a League point of view. Not only is this so, but I would suggest, finally, that the be st thing with regard to the Locarno Pact was the suggestion that military alliances were falling into the background, that discussions about militarism and reliance on military power were going to be less and less a feature in political discussions in Europe, but in view of the open blatancy of the Italian Press as to reliance upon armaments as the only way out, in view of the smug satisfaction of militarists in Europe with the progress of this breakdown in Geneva, I venture to suggest that not only have we fallen away from the position we occupied 12, 15 and 18 months ago, in our European politics, but we have brought ourselves very near to all those awful forces which rushed out upon the world in 1914. Therefore, in the name of the League of Nations, and in the name of all those countless numbers of men and women here and abroad who want to see a real League of Nations built up, I want to protest against the whole method in which the Foreign Secretary has conducted these negotiations, and to express the hope that he will receive much 1142 more definite and more carefully considered instructions before he embarks further on his work of negotiating.
§ Lord COLUM CRICHTON-STUART
I accept some of the statements of fact which have been made by the hon. Member who spoke last, but I must judge them from a different point of view. Hp has taken pride in the part taken by him in bringing pressure to bear on the Government to induce them to associate themselves exclusively with Germany and with the German point of view at Geneva. On the contrary, I must beg to differ from him, and I must say I deprecate that line of action by the Opposition, and by certain leaders of the League of Nations' Union. Certain charges have been made against the Government in regard to what happened in December last at Paris, and have still to be answered by the Front Bench, even though I believe the answer will be a complete answer. Even if it was not a complete answer, we are still faced with the fact that a couple of months ago, owing to certain statements made in the French Press that it was necessary aria desirable that there should be fresh entrants into the Council for the purpose of counterbalancing the entry of Germany —from that very fact that those statements were made in the French Press, it became clear there was a strong tendency for two groups of nations to be formed in the League, one group of nations in favour of new entrants and the other nations rather favouring the German point of view. The very fact that there was in process of formation those two groups created the greatest danger that could exist for the existence and for the permanence of the League of Nations.
At that time all the Powers had already expressed an opinion as to which group they preferred to belong to, and which group they would be dissociated from. The Secretary of State at that time had not publicly compromised himself. There was an opportunity for him to come forward as a conciliant, to bring about the union of those two groups, which by their very existence constituted a real danger to the League of Nations. The opposition and certain sections of the Press brought to bear on the Government a very strong pressure to induce them to compromise themselves with one of the two sides. Of necessity that destroyed a part of the liberty of the 1143 Foreign Secretary; that liberty which a conciliator must have if he is to be successful. If the Italian Press, the French Press, and the Press of Europe in general were examined, it would be found the fact that pressure was being brought to bear upon His Majesty's Government in favour of Germany, was used to induce foreign nations to believe that we were in fact associated rather with Germany than with the other side. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have suggested that if once Great Britain allied itself strongly and exclusively with Germany and against the other Powers, the other Powers would withdraw from the attitude they had taken up of favour of other entrants coming into the League besides Germany.
But take the case of Brazil in that connection. She was confronted with the opinion of Sweden, Germany, Britain, but with that of all the nations of Geneva, and it was not sufficient to make Brazil for one moment change her determination or the position she had taken up. There is very little doubt that that was a hopeless policy to suggest, that if we took up our position exclusively on the German side, that would have the effect of inducing the other Powers to withdraw from the attitude they had taken up. The tendency would have been, if the Government had yielded to the pressure, to make the Powers opposed to Germany and in favour of new entrants besides Germany, to coalesce and harden their attitude towards the German group of Powers. For my part, therefore, I would suggest that whatever the charges may be that still have to be answered by the Government, there is a certain responsibility resting upon the Opposition for increasing the difficulties with which the Secretary of State had to deal with at Geneva. I would remind the House that the Secretary of State and his colleagues were able to overcome a great number of those difficulties. In the end a difficulty unforeseen by any of the nations present brought the discussions to a close. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will make up his mind in future upon what must be the very essence of agreement in the League —that is compromise that is the real Locarno spirit. The true spirit of the 1144 League really can be compressed into that one word "compromise "—a desire and a, determination to understand the point of view of other nations beside our own.
§ Major Sir ARCHIBALD SINCLAIR
I think the Noble Lord who has just spoken is quite under a misapprehension as to the arguments which have been adduced on this side of the House. Nobody for one moment suggested that we should have allied ourselves with Germany, or anyone else. The argument on these benches has been that if we had taken from the first the straightforward line, the line of instruction which, apparently, the Cabinet gave to the Secretary of State, if such a line had been taken publicly and openly, it is our belief — a belief shared by most sections and parties in the country who have expressed their view, not only sections hostile to the Government, but in almost every reputable newspaper in this country—that such a line would have undoubtedly led to final success. That line was taken by that plucky little nation, Sweden, by the mouth of M. Unden; if we had taken it we might have successfully brought the negotiations to a final and successful issue.
There is more than one issue in this debate, there is the criticism of the Secretary for Foreign Affairs for his handling of the negotiations. For my part, I feel dispensed from entering into that, for I would rather leave it to those who have had experience of these heavy responsibilities and wider sources of information than 1 possess. When, however, the hon. and learned Member for Bassetlaw (Sir E. Hume-Williams) expresses his surprise that we on these benches have brought forward this Motion, I really myself stand surprised at the moderation and restraint with which the criticisms have been made. It is not only from one group or party that this criticism has come. It has come, as I said in reply to the Noble Lord, from every section of the country, and from almost every well-informed and reputable publicist and newspaper.
But I want to look rather to the future, and to inquire what is going to happen between now and September. I do not agree with the Noble Lord that there is any chance of the League of Nations be- 1145 ing killed or crumbling into ruins. associate myself far more with the view Of the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord H. Cecil), that the League of Nations is not the work of the lands of a few statesmen, it is the child of circumstance, brought into the world o meet a need which is felt increasingly by every civilised nation. If the League of Nations broke up in confusion on some occasion, men in every country of the, world would set to work to build it up again, because the world has now reached;such a stage of civilisation that we cannot afford to do without it. Therefore, I would assume that the task of statesmanship in regard to the League is rather to strengthen its constitution and to devise a technique, a method, of expressing the views and the needs which all civilised nations feel for conciliation and agreement, to encourage those forces which are making for peace and which desire that disputes should be nettled in an atmosphere of reason, to encourage those who desire, in the phrase used at the beginning of the War by the then Prime Minister, to see the enthronement of public right in Europe, and to check those forces which make for war, rivalry, international jealousy and competitive armaments. The task of statesmanship is to do this as quickly as t can be done. It cannot be done in a day. The task of statesmanship is to set to work to build up its constitution, so that in the hour of need it may be ready.
Therefore, I would say that the constitution of the League is a vital, a fundamental point. When the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs was explaining three weeks ago what his policy was going to be at Geneva, he referred mainly to the primary task devolving upon him of getting Germany into the League, and lie referred to the constitution of the Council of the League, and the question whether there is to be any increase in the permanent or non-permanent members, as "a minor point." He qualified it. a little more by saying a minor or a subsidiary point, or words to that effect—but "a minor point" were the words he used. This point of the constitution of the League is absolutely vital and fundamental, and it is not one which the peoples of the world can suffer to be left to their statesmen. The League of Nations is the property of the civilised 1146 nations of the world, and if you are going to alter the constitution of the League you must carry with you the public opinion of the civilised nations of the world. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs referred this afternoon to public opinion having been excited in various countries—I think the words he used were "expressed prematurely" in various countries—on a question which had to be decided at Geneva. The statesmen who represent the nations on the League Council must regard public opinion as the foundation and buttress of the League. The League of Nations is not their property, it is the property of the peoples of the world, and if you are going to alter and modify the constitution of the League you must carry with you the public opinion of all civilised countries.
For the purposes of this argument I am. not concerned as to whether Germany was consulted or not when this question of the alteration in the membership of the Council was raised, or whether she ought to have been 'consulted; whether the onus was upon Germany to raise the question of the constitution of the League, or whether the onus was upon the other Locarno Powers to tell Germany that it was intended to alter the constitution. If it ought not to have been sprung upon Germany, I'say it ought not to have been sprung upon public opinion in this country. Public opinion here ought to have been warned that this question was going to be raised, and ought to have been given an opportunity of expressing itself. Here we have one of the most democratic constitutions, if not the most democratic Constitution, of any country in the world. Parliament is sovereign—to all intents and purposes this House is sovereign. If this House chose, when it met first after a General' Election, to abolish the House of Lords and to abolish the Monarchy, the necessary Measures could be passed through under the Parliament Act within three years; but we know that in point of practice no Measure affecting the Constitution, not even an extension of the franchise, would be allowed to pass until it 'had been approved at a General Election and until all the issues had been widely canvassed in the country and public opinion had fully expressed itself. In the United States of America, which. has the finest and noblest example of a 1147 written Constitution, it is necessary before they can make any amendment to it to carry those amendments by a vote of two-thirds of Congress and vote of two-thirds of the States in the Union. Therefore, if you are going to alter the constitution of the League you must see that the statesmen who represent the nations on the Council are carrying with them public opinion in all the civilised countries of the world.
For my own part I admit that I am not convinced by the arguments in favour of the enlargement of the Council. I do not feel there ought to be added to the permanent members of the Council any States other than the great Powers. But I am not going into that argument; the argument is well known, and the case against it has been expressed in very powerful speeches in this House and in letters to the "Times" by Lord Phillimore and others. As to the non-permanent members of the League, surely this is a matter in which the voice of the Assembly rather than the voice of the Council must he decisive. This is a matter which affects them, and is essentially a matter which must be thoroughly canvassed, and the public opinion of all countries known, before any attempt is made to increase the number of non-permanent members. Certainly it cannot be clone as the result of a compact between the Locarno or any other group of powers. To that extent, undoubtedly, the representative of Brazil was right when he said that the League was not made for Locarno but that Locarno must be brought into the framework of the League. It could only be done if public opinion is convinced not merely of the necessity of the changes, but that the changes proposed have been considered, not in relation to the affairs of a particular group of Powers, but solely on their merits and in relation to the better and smoother working of the League in the future. Our task is not to kill or to save the League of Nations, not merely to use it as an adjunct to old-world diplomacy, and, above all, not to belittle or patronise it; but so to shape and mould and strengthen its constitution and procedure as to make it more responsive to public opinion, more powerful to resist the forces of jealousy 1148 and nationalism and distractions of all sort. which interfere with and confuse the work of the League; make it less a, Council of the diplomatists and more the open forum of the nations of the world.
§ Major HILLS
On this question I refuse to be a pessimist and I refuse to believe that the League of Nations has not been strengthened by what has happened. It seems to me that throughout the whole of the speeches which have been made by hon. Members opposite they have fallen into an error. Of course, the Foreign Secretary has made great efforts to secure peace, and yet he is said by those efforts to be endangering the peace of Europe. When one examines the basis of this charge we are always brought back to a talk which the Foreign Secretary had in Paris in January last., and from the conversation which took place then, a huge structure of suspicion has been built up largely by innuendoes and the Foreign Secretary has been represented as a Malign figure moving from Paris to London and London to Geneva, spreading suspicion and carrying out a crusade of ill-doing and ill-will, and doing all he can to wreck the peace of Europe.
The Leader of the Opposition based his case on this conversation that took place in Paris in January last. The argument is that, at Locarno, in the mind of some Locarno Powers, there was an undisclosed clause that Poland should be added as a member of the Council. The second stage is that the Foreign Secretary met M. Briand in Paris and agreed to bring in Poland. Then we have the proceedings at Geneva, which were said to be inspired by the same feeling, but before he got to Geneva we were told that the Foreign Secretary deceived the House of Commons, the country and the Prime Minister, and went to Geneva and maintained arguments in flat contradiction to the instructions given to him by the British Government. What does all this amount to? It all rests upon a conversation which was not heard at all by the Leader of the Opposition, and from this the right hon. Gentleman has made out all his charges.
The basis of British policy was laid down by the Prime Minister s speech some time ago, and he then told us that we were under an obligation to Spain, but there was no condition as to time or 1149 occasion, and beyond that we were pledged to no Power whatever. The Leader of the Opposition quoted from a French newspaper a statement to the effect that the Treaty of Locarno reestablishes the old European alliances. I do not know whether the right lion. Gentleman agrees with that statement. I do not think he does, but at any rate he should bear in mind the authority he gives to that statement by the mere fact of quoting it. I think myself that it is a very dangerous thing for a man in the position of the right hon. Gentleman opposite to allow a misleading statement of that sort to go forth. With regard to what has been said about the future peace of the world, it seems to me that the most fruitful thing we can do is to consider that future and see what we ought to do, and how we ought to secure peace.
I think all parties will be agreed that the first thing we ought to do is to get Germany into the League of Nations, and I hope that will be done next September. Some hon. Members, have been arguing that the machinery of the League has broken down and that the constitution of the Council should be amended. They also advocate that the procedure should he changed, but I want to utter a word of caution on that point. I hope that we shall not encourage the enlargement of the Council beyond the representatives of the Great Powers, because when you depart from that principle I know of no line you can draw. If you decide to admit Spain, why not Poland; if you admit Poland why not Yugo-Slavia or Brazil. There is no rule by which you can discriminate between those countries. Another point is that I think it would be a very dangerous thing to change the system of voting by adopting the decision of a majority. At present the Council adopt the procedure of unanimity, and I am perfectly certain that that procedure is the only one which should be used in such an organisation as the Council of the League.
I have said that I was not a pessimist. I believe that the true way to look at what has happened is this. The League is a new institution and has new ideas behind it, but the League has come into the old world, and the old world diplomacy and the balance of power remains. We cannot expect the League to shape 1150 that old world at once. What occurred at Geneva was the first clash of the old and the new. Some people think the old diplomacy won and damaged the League so severely that the League cannot count. I do not see it. I think the balance of victory remains on the side of the League and that that balance will grow greater and greater as time goes on, So long as you vote by unanimity, it is open to any one Power to block, and that you must accept. So you will in the future often get occurrences such as this. Even after the world is educated you will get the conflict of will on the Council. You will get some Power which, for some reason or another will, and does, stand out against the wish of the majority. To say that is a reason for pessimism seems to me to be going very much off the track.
The result of the recent conflict is that the League has won and the old diplomacy has lost. Brazil has vetoed the election of Germany to a permanent seat on the Council. I should think that Brazil has done an action which she will regret very much indeed. The consequences of that action will come on to Brazil and not on to the League. Things like this are bound to happen. No one who has seen anything of the League can doubt its real vitality, and the tremendous force of public opinion all over Europe that is behind it. Though you may have a check here and feel that what you want to do is not being done, still this old Europe of ours is moving forward. ft is getting on to a better and higher level than before, and slowly the spirit of common action is winning in Europe. I believe that the effect of what was done at Geneva, instead of checking, will increase and hasten the League force in Europe.
§ Mr. THURTLE
I would like to congratulate the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just sat down and the hon. and learned Member for Bassetlaw (Sir E. Hume-Williams), who is no longer in his place, on the complete way they have made up their peace with the Treasury Bench. Two or three weeks ago they were involved in a kind of incipient rebellion against the Government on this very issue. Now they have covered the Foreign Secretary, without any justification whatever, with the most slavish adulation. I cannot help thinking of a story Macaulay tells about the great Commoner, Pitt. His Back Bench Mem- 1151 bers at one time were severely critical of him; at least when they were in the coffee houses of the town. But reports show that when they came to the House of Commons they dared not lift their eyes higher than the buckle of his shoe. It seems to me that the moral courage of the Back Bench Conservative Members is of the same quality. They quail before the monocle of the Foreign Secretary. The reason why I believe we are going into the Lobby against the Government this evening may be put briefly in a few words. We contend that the Foreign Secretary misled the House of Commons and the people of this country, and we contend that when he got to Geneva he failed to carry out the wishes of the people of this country. I can establish that point. May I ask the House to allow me to quote this from the speech of the Foreign Secretary before he went to Geneva:We share the regret that is so widely felt here that the large issues as to the composition of the League should arise on this occasion and should have to be discussed now. We did not raise them; we did not instigate anybody to raise them at this time, and since I have been attending these meetings I have sought, as far as was in my own power in such conversations—and there have been many conversations—to postpone those larger issues to a later date." — [OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th March, 1926; col. 1657, Vol. 192.]We take that point about the conversations. The Foreign Secretary told us earlier this evening that he had had conversations in Paris with M. Briand and also the Spanish Ambassador, and at that conversation with M. Briand the question of the admission of Poland was considered. Now the Foreign Secretary says he has never encouraged the idea of enlarging the Council. What attitude did he take up on that occasion? Did he say definitely and categorically, "Under no circumstances can I consider the addition of Poland to the Council until Germany has been admitted "? No, he adopted a much more equivocal attitude than that. He said," I cannot give you any pledge now. I must wait till I have consulted my Cabinet." As far as Poland is concerned, he failed to carry out the terms of the statement he made to the House of Commons two weeks ago. In regard to Spain, the case is even more damning. The right hon. Gentleman met the Spanish Ambassador 1152 and he renewed his assurances—these are his own words—to the Spanish Ambassador, that Britain would support her claim to a permanent seat on the Council of the League. He made no reservation, no qualification to the effect that this would not take place till after Germany had been admitted as a permanent member of the Council. If he was really speaking the truth in saying he would never encourage the idea of enlarging the Council at the present time, he would have told the Spanish Ambassador in the most unequivocal language that he did not intend to support her claim on this occasion. On that point his case falls to the ground. There is the other point as to whether he represented the wishes of the people of this country. He said this in the Debate:The one thing, the one solution the British Government will not lend itself to under any circumstances whatever, is that it will be no party to trying to recreate in the Council o: the League camps of opposing forces which were the curse of Europe before the War."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th March, 1925; col. 1660, Vol. 192.]Can the Foreign Secretary really seriously come before this House of Commons tonight and say that while he was at Geneva he faithfully followed the principle enunciated there? What about all these plots and counter-plots, all these intrigues and bargainings? What about his most shameful bullying of Sweden because Sweden stood firm by the policy which this country wanted carried out? Have not we every right., in view of the shabby record of what took place at Geneva last week, to say that the Foreign Secretary, by his lack of courage, if you will, did deliberately countenance the creation, within the framework of the League itself, of this very balancing of power which he condemned so strenuously only two or three weeks ago?
I have not time to say all that I wanted to say on this point, but I cannot sit down without protesting in the strongest terms against the way in which the Foreign Secretary treated Sweden. He has given Sweden a great eulogy to-day, and he did it also at the general Assembly of the League, but, when the moment was critical, our Foreign Secretary became so hysterical, he. became so unbalanced in his judgment, that he actually accused Sweden of being an agent of Germany.
1153 Someone challenged the statement just now, though I do not think that challenge could be maintained. This report in the "Manchester Guardian" is corroborated In, the "Daily Telegraph" and all the other newspaper correspondents who were at Geneva. He saw the British Press representatives, and he told them in. plain English, and they were horrified at the suggestion—even the Conservative representatives were horrified at the suggestion —he told them in plain English that Sweden was acting the part of an agent of Germany; and now he comes here and [...]vers Sweden with praise.
I have no more time to develop the few points that I wish to develop, but let me say this final word. I gather that, in endeavouring to indict the Foreign Secretary to-night, we are also indicting the Government. The Government is going to stand by its Foreign Secretary. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear ! "] Very well. The Government in this House is in a very powerful position. It has a tremendous majority, and, by reason of its strength, it may be al le to support the liability of a weak Foreign Secretary, but it is another matter when you come to the country. I do not. question the honesty and the integrity of the Foreign Secretary, but what I do question is his judgment, and, even if the Prime Minister is content to have in the Foreign Office a man of most amiable intuitions, a man of the most upright character, but a man who is enviously no match for the other diplomats or Europe—if he is content to have such a man in the Foreign Office, I am quite certain that the people of this country, because of the tremendous issues that are involved for them in questions of foreign policy to-day, cannot afford to have such a mart at the Foreign Office. I believe that, so long as we have the present Foreign Secretary in charge of tin. Foreign Office, with the weakness which he has made so apparent in the course of these negotiations, the happiness and safety of the people of this country are going to. be continually in jeopardy. Therefore, although I hate to make an individual seem to be a scapegoat, I shall go into the Lobby to-night and record a vote of censure against the Foreign Secretary, because I want to protect the future happiness and wellbeing of the people of this country.
§ Mr. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
This Government, during the last 15 months, has had such an almost perfect record in all questions of social life, that I assume the Opposition, whether they be Liberals or the Labour party, think it necessary to attack the Foreign Minister over the question of what has happened at. Geneva. But in doing so, I think they belittle the question, and miss the point altogether, because it is perfectly absurd. to try to put on to a single individual the responsibility for what is happening in Europe at the present. time. I think that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs was the one honest man who went to Geneva with disinterested motives. On the other hand, I am not going to admit that he met everyone there in exactly the same mood as himself. There are a. terrible number of secret intrigues taking place in Europe at the present. time, and a number of parties were quite determined to make a failure of the present meeting at Geneva, and, if possible, to break up the constitution of the League or throw discredit on the League; but to say that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State. for Foreign Affairs was responsible for that is, I think, not only a cruel, but an absolutely inaccurate accusation. The causes lie much more beneath the surface.
I have a fair knowledge of various countries in Europe, and the one thing that always strikes me as strange is that we, who should be the country which is least interested in the League, because we are on an island, and we are naturally defended by our water frontier; and yet you find that we take the League far more seriously than any Continental country does. The French, although they have great hopes that something may arise out of the League which will enable them to live ill the future in greater security, have none of that extraordinary faith in what the League can do as have a very large number of people within our own shores. I can never understand why that is the case, hut I am inclined to think it is because Continental countries have for so long been up against real facts in Europe, while we have not been up against the same facts until we fought in the Great War.
1155 The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition approached a very dangerous subject, but—I suppose owing to the fact that he has been, not only Prime Minister of this country, but also Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs—stopped short at the most interesting part of his story. He asked a very pertinent question when he said, "Are we really prepared to believe that it was Brazil that broke up the final settlement that might have been arrived at at the eleventh hour?" He did not name any nation; he said nothing more after that at all, but left the rest to our own conjectures. On the Continent of Europe, however, if you are in Paris, if you are in Rome, if you are in Berlin, if you are in Madrid, there is only one name mentioned in connection with this affair. Although the voice was the voice of Senhor Mello-Franco, and the monkey-wrench was thrown by Brazil, it is perfectly well known that the final effort to stop the settlement was made by the Signor Mussolini and by him alone.
I am not letting any cat out of the bag, because every single Italian on the Continent of Europe at the present time is bragging and boasting that his country has stopped this settlement which was proposed and nearly arrived at by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. Yet, in face of this fact, the Opposition deliberately blame our own Foreign Secretary for what has happened at Geneva. I think that no man has greater reason to be proud of his record of really serious endeavour to obtain permanent peace in Europe than the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, because he did something that no one else has done. He got a definite Pact signed at Locarno, which, to my humble mind, is of far greater value, because it is signed between Germany, France, England, and Italy, than the whole of your League of Nations. As long as the Pact of Locarno stands, whether the League of Nations disappears or not, you are not going to have war in Europe. The only thing that worries me at present is that I do not know whether, owing to the failure to admit Germany into the League of Nations, the Pact of Locarno still stands 1156 or not. I should like to hear that question answered to-night, because as long as it stands it is comparatively unimportant what happens to the League.
Another point in regard to which we have every reason to be grateful is that this tremendous breakdown in the working of the League has occurred over a question of procedure and of its constitution, rather than at a moment when it had to settle some great question which might have led to peace or war. Because had there been a great issue before the League before its constitution has been arranged on a definite and permanent basis—had we had this same state of affairs arise then as has arisen now—not only would it have been a disservice to Europe in the cause of peace, but it might very likely have led to a war which might. otherwise have been avoidable. But there seems to be a very great difficulty ahead of the League in the future, unless you can get it on a permanent working basis. The great mistake we have made is that we have forgotten the early lessons of the Bible. If you read the history of the Tower of Babel, which was really the first attempt to found a League of Nations of the world, they had one great advantage over us, that at that time they all spoke the same language. It was only after attempting to build the tower which was to lead up to this wonderful heaven of peace and prosperity that the nations of the world, according to Biblical history, acquired different languages. In our own efforts to arrive at this millennium of world peace, we already find that the whole Council of the nations assembled at Geneva speak in different languages, exactly as they did during the epoch of the Tower of Babel two or three thousand years age, if it ever occurred at all. Although the outlook is not perhaps particularly healthy from the point of view of the League at the present minute, I think it has enormously strengthened the Pact arrived at at Locarno.
There is one other point for which i am extremely grateful to circumstances —and I think the Leader of the Opposition will agree with me also—that the scheme known as the Protocol never came into force. Because had it come into force you might have had this same trouble at Geneva as we have seen at 1157 present, but there would have been contingents of troops marching from all over Europe, and they might have come into open collision over the settlement even of a question like the constitution of the League. But I am certain that every serious-minded person in the House is working for permanent peace, and therefore we all have a common end in view. Then why attack the Foreign Secretary in the way he has been attacked to-day? He is the one man who has really stood for peace in Europe. He has done more than anyone to uphold the British tradition of fair play, and as long as the Pact of Locarno holds, as long as you have this: agreement between the really great Powers of Europe, I do not think it really matters very much whether Brazil or any other of the minor Powers endeavours to stop the entry of Germany into the League for reasons which may seem obscure at present, bat which are clear when you make a minute examination of all the intrigues which have been taking plane at Geneva during the last three weeks. We have a splendid record in the cause of peace, and I sincerely hope the House will to-night give an enormous majority to the Government, and to our Foreign Minister to pursue a course of policy which, if carried out, if it cannot ensure peace in the future, will go a very long way towards guaranteeing it for many years to come.
I am not sure whether the Foreign Secretary will thank the last speaker for his support. It is true that he opened out with a clear declaration that there was at least one honest states-mar. in Europe. That happens to be the present Foreign Secretary.
That is so. He is the only disinterested statesman, and all the other people are not only interested, but intriguing for their own interests.
That is a contribution to foreign politics which I am sure the Foreign Secretary will appreciate from one of his supporters. But, curiously enough, the hon. and gallant Gentleman 1158 could not have heard the Foreign Secretary.
Then, having heard him, he wanted to say in the most diplomatic words possible how far from the truth he was when he was talking about Italy. It was left to you, an honest and disinterested back bencher, to say what apparently the right hon. Gentleman dare not say. We heard from the Foreign Secretary that one of the triumphs of Geneva, one of the things he was most grateful for, one of the memories he cherished, was the loyal, consistent, disinterested support of Italy. In diplomatic language the hon. and gallant Gentleman says the right hon. Gentleman is not speaking the truth. I leave the Foreign Secretary to take the consolation that, however different his views may be, the hon. and gallant Gentleman is going to trot into the Lobby and reconcile his vote with his speech. As a matter of fact, the difference between this side and that on this vote was, again, equally innocently stated in a sentence by the hon. and gallant Gentleman that a number of people on that side did not quite have the courage to say. He said, "Never mind what happened at Geneva. Never mind the failure of Geneva. Never mind the possible breakdown of the League of Nations. Thank God, Locarno is safe!" That is the tribute we are to pay to the right hon. Gentleman. Just imagine what we are going to vote on! We have to go into the Lobby and by our vote let it be known to the world that the one thing we are to hand down as a success is that an agreement made in December is certainly not broken in March. Not only the last speech but speech after speech to-night from the other side has been to this effect: "What have you to complain about? It may be perfectly true what you have said about Geneva and the consequences that are expected to follow, but, thank God, Locarno is still safe !" That is the memento of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. That is what he is going to hand to posterity —a three months Treaty not yet broken But it has been badly punctured.
A few years ago, I was called upon to defend an engine driver who ran by a signal. There was a serious collision, and 1159 a large number of people were killed. it was a very serious accident. In defence of the unfortunate driver, I pleaded that it was foggy weather, that it was true the signals were against him, and that it was true he had not seen the danger signal, but although he had run past the signal he had done his best. The chairman, who, incidentally, was a very prominent Conservative, said: "The damage has already been done. He failed to see the signal that was- there for everybody to see. It was a warning that he ought to have noticed. The consequences were so disastrous, that I cannot trust him with such a responsibility again." And he sacked him. It was a terrible punishment, but in the view of that Conservative chairman it fitted the crime.
I am going to say to my right hon. Friend to-night, "Not one danger signal but a score of danger signals were there, staring you in the face. You ought to have seen where you were going. You ought to have known that the track you were following was not the track that the people of this country wanted you to follow hut the track about which they had warned you in advance." I am not concerned with arguing, however important it may be, as to whether Brazil, Poland or Spain were responsible for the mishap. These things in their particular place may he argued and may be important but I am content to submit that the Prime Minister himself brought the indictment against ripe Foreign Secretary, a fortnight ago, in a debate which was brought about not by the Opposition but by the revolt of a large number of hon. Members opposite, who have been apologising all to-day. They felt so keenly that they thought it necessary to invite the Prime Minister to try to square them up. The Prime Minister, seeing that things were going wrong, and satisfied that the Foreign Secretaty had made a hopeless muck of it, and having heard the whispers of his disgruntled supporters, said to himself, "I had better step into the breach. They will, at least, treat me as an honest man, if nothing else. After all, that is worth votes in the Lobby." [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear ! "] Exactly. Just as it will mean votes in the Lobby later on. They will say, "Never mind what the 1160 Foreign Secretary said or did. The Prime Minister will put us into the Lobby." The Prime Minister uttered these words in the debate a fortnight ago:I myself have every confidence that my right hon. Friend, in spite of these difficulties, these aggravated difficulties, will be able to achieve the primary object of his visit to Geneva, that is to get Germany into the League and into the Council."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th March, 1926; col. 1697, Vol. 192.]That was the Prime Minister's testimony. That was the Prime Minister's invitation to his supporters to go into the Lobby. It is true they do not want much persuading. They welcomed the excuse. The Prime Minister, having found the excuse, they trotted into the Lobby. [HON. MEMBERS: "And will to-night !"] Yes, to-night and to-morrow night, and they will continue to do it until near the Election, when they will begin to think. The Prime Minister, having intimated clearly that he was asking the House to vote because he was satisfied that the Foreign Secretary was going to succeed in bringing Germany into the League, we shall go into the Division Lobby to-night to intimate to the Prime Minister what he himself ought to know, namely, that it did not come off. If there had been some justifiable excuse for the Foreign Secretary we would be the people to look for it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh"] Yes, our respect, our toleration, our regard for the right hon. Gentleman is such that it would not have been left for hon. Members opposite to find an excuse for him. We would have done it. It is impossible. You have not only let us down, you have let the Prime Minister down badly, and that is something we cannot tolerate. Therefore, having deceived us and let him down, we are determined to let you go.
I put it quite seriously to the House that, whatever may have been said of Locarno and the Locarno spirit, it will not be denied that the country was led to believe—this House believed and the whole world was told—that the one thing behind the spirit of Locarno was that the entry of Germany into the League of Nations would be the public expression of a real reconciliation. That is why we attached importance to it. Brazil, Poland or Spain, are all secondary to 1161 the fact that this great enemy Power was to be admitted into the League on equal terms with us. Therefore, the charge we make against the right hon. Gentleman is a very simple but a very serious one. He himself admitted this afternoon that Germany left Locarno with the idea, to put it no higher, that when the Conference took place at Geneva the only question to be discussed was her entry into the League. Those are his own words. I put it to the House that, if Germany was left with the impression, she had grounds for that belief; and her belief was that no other question was involved.
What was the first cause of suspicion? What wais it that happened to cause Members on the other side of the House, not on this side, to be suspicious? It was the Birmingham speech. That speech was the first ground of suspicion, and it created all the intrigues that ultimately resulted in the disaster at Geneva. The right hon. Gentleman this afternoon said, "I did not commit myself to Brazil, I did not commit myself to Spain, I did not commit myself to Poland." That is an easy way of saying," I did not commit my Government," because that is the real point which he emphasised. He said, "I had not consulted my colleagues; I made that quite clear. I made it perfectly clear that I would have to consult my Cabinet." What we are entitled to ask is: Did he, although he did make it clear that he was not committing his Government or his Cabinet colleagues —I believe that may be perfectly true, and I would not challenge it—did he leave the impression on the minds of the se who conversed with him that his own views were in accord with theirs? That is an entirely different matter. He car be perfectly honest and legitimately say to this House, "I made it clear that I was not committing my Cabinet," but it is equally true that he could have left on the minds of those he was dealing with the impression that at least his own views were in a different direction. And that is in evidence. It is evidenced by the last Debate. Why all this talk about the free hand? Why did this House feel suspicions about the free hand? It was because we wanted to know what the right hon. Gentleman was going to say in advance, because we felt that France and other countries had already had an intimation as to what his views were, and 1162 that we were committed in advance; in fact, that there was no free hand.
As far as we are concerned we join issue first on the ground that a serious, I hope not a mortal, blow has been struck at the prestige of the League of Nations, I heard the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford University (Lord H. Cecil) describe his conception of the League of Nations. He said it was a creation, an instrument, due to high idealism and material considerations. I do not believe it is due to either. I believe that why there is support for and belief in the League of Nations, why we on these benches and the workers support the principle of the League of Nations, a League of all nations and of all peoples, is not on the grounds given by the right hon. Member for Oxford University but because the hell and horrors of war have been brought home to the people of this country and we arc seized with the idea that this is the one instrument that opens the way for peace. We believe the right hon. Gentleman has struck a mortal blow at it, and we want to say to him, and to the House, that if the League of Nations falls, if he has succeeded in killing it, we will forge an instrument to take its place. The workers will not stand by and allow the nations to go to war as they have in the past. If the League of Nations or Governments allow intrigues and suspicions to provide the germs of a future war, then the workers will substitute for it some other body that will bring about international peace. We shall go into the. Lobby to-night with regret, regret that we have to give a personal vote, but at the same time we feel that it is a duty and an obligation upon us. Just as any humble individual would be punished for a failure, we say deliberately to the right hon. Gentleman "You were given one chance; you missed it. The House of Commons tried to give you another; you failed to take it. We refuse to give you a third."
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
My right hon. Friend who has just spoken, in his closing words, has expressed a regret which I fully share, and share on two grounds. I regret that it should be necessary to impugn the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary. I regret also that it should be necessary to conduct a foreign affairs Debate in this House with such sharply marked division of opinion as appears in the House 1163 to-night. It has been our tradition for many generations to keep foreign policy as far as possible out of the arena of party controversy. It was in that spirit that the League of Nations Union Committee of this House, an informal body, but one of the most important in the House, on which all parties are represented, passed a Resolution on 22nd February expressing a view from which no one dissented in any quarter. It expressedapprehension that the meeting of the League Assembly, convened specially for electing Germany to membership and to a permanent seat on the Council, should be made the occasion for further fundamental changes in the constitution of the Council, and urged the Government to offer the most strenuous opposition to any further enlargement of the Council.After that Resolution, on the very next day, the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary made his speech at Birmingham. It was that which at once made this subject highly controversial. It was not the House itself; it was the right hon. Gentleman. His speech at Birmingham was received with consternation in almost every part of the country, for it showed quite clearly that the tight hon. Gentleman had in the course of his negotiations, in the conduct of affairs abroad as well as here, contemplated additions to the Council at the very meeting in March at which Germany was to be admitted a member of the League. It was not so much that the people of this country feared an enlargement of the League. It was that they wished to see the smooth passage of Germany into the League, and that smooth passage was certainly imperilled if all the old rivalries of the world were to be aroused at that very meeting—controversies between Brazil and Spain, Poland and Holland and Sweden, and lesser Powers. If all that was to be mixed up with the entry of Germany into the League, her entry was bound to be impeded.
The ordinary man, with the plainest possible view and the most meagre knowledge of foreign affairs, out of that plain common sense that the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord Hugh Cecil) commended this afternoon, knew more apparently than was known by the Foreign Secretary. For be knew that that meant danger and possibly shipwreck. Now the right hon. Gentle- 1164 man comes back to this country describing not a shipwreck nor a danger, but a tragedy. That was not the description given by the Noble Lord. He said that all was well. He said that the Foreign Secretary had returned from Geneva with a very good record, and that all was well. [Interruption.] Yes, but that was not the description given by the 'Foreign Secretary himself. The Foreign Secretary said it was a tragedy. The right hon. Gentleman added that it was a bitter disappointment. [Interruption.] If the House will only be patient, it will see that I am not going to misrepresent the right hon. Gentleman. Here is the concluding speech on the last scenes at Geneva. The right hon. Gentleman's speech is reported verbatim in the "Times" of 18th March last. I take the paragraph which says:It is indeed a tragedy,and further on he uses the wordsa bitter disappointment.What is true in regard to this is that it has in it all the elements of a tragedy and one could see from the beginning—the ordinary Englishman saw from the beginning—that we were heading for disaster. The disaster has come, and it is a most deplorable thing that we in this House should have to take any action of this kind. But the question is of great importance, and we should be failing in our duty if we did not take such action. May I give a very short account of what has taken place? The gathering in March was to be an ad hoc gathering, and if nothing else had been done then except the entry of Germany, Locarno would have been crowned, and we should have started on a new era in Europe. The very moment anything else was interpolated into the agenda, and especially when this was done on encouragement given behind closed doors and by secret communications and conversations, at that very moment the whole prospect of Germany entering was put in jeopardy. I fully appreciate, as everybody who has been in office does, the enormous advantage which comes from personal contact and personal conversations, but I hope I may be forgiven for making one observation. In all negotiations which are carried on with foreign Ministers it is a very dangerous thing to negotiate with them in their own tongue.
1165 The right hon. Gentleman has the very peat advantage of being a life-long French scholar, and, owing to the good fortune of having a far-sighted father, he scent a great deal of his youth in Paris. He certainly had that great advantage over some of his predecessors, but it may also be a limitation. If the negotiations were carried on in French, it is quite possible that some of the niceties of that language may have been missed by the, right hon. Gentleman. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Yes, it is quite possible, and I have no doubt. that is the real explanation of the right hon. Gentleman saying, quite honestly and straightforwardly at that Box, that he entered into no obligation, no promise, and no engagement. It is quite possible that the turn of a sentence may have given an impression which led to the unfortunate misunderstanding—as he put it.. I am quite entitled to express that view. I have seen a good deal of negotiation with foreigners in various capacities, and I know how dangerous it is to depart from One's own language. That has been the experience of many before me, and if the right hon. Gentleman had conducted the whole of these conversations in England, if he had kept a record of everything that was said, and if he had made a clean breast of it at the Box ton g-ht, he would no doubt have been able to produce a far stronger case than the statement he made.
Let me proceed with the narrative. The Council met in March, but Germany was told for the first time officially on 10th February that rival claims were to be considered. Herr Stresemann said that when they were invited to Geneva, they were invited to a discussion with the signatories to the Rhineland Pact, at which a desire was expressed to Germany that for her entry into the League she should declare her agreement in principle with the granting of other permanent seats on the Council in addition to that given to Germany. Herr Stresemann said:The German delegation can make no such declaration, and it would regard it in; a serious violation of its obligations as a future member of the League and the Council to do so.That exactly fulfilled the anticipation which we had in this country. The right hon. Gentleman has never told us whether he participated in pressing Germany to 1166 depart from that view and to agree to an extension of the League. He has never told us whether he participated in exercising pressure upon Mr. linden, but it is quite certain that Germany stood firm, and the right hon. Gentleman stated to the Press that private conversations were useless, and that it was necessary to leave everything to the Council.
He did so, but he did so at the last moment, and to suggest now that the whole of the breakdown is due to Brazilian action is, I am afraid, to take a very meagre, partial, and trivial view of the tragedy which we have unfortunately witnessed. The position of Brazil itself is worth considering. The Brazilians thought they were entitled to a seat on the Council. They wished to go in as permanent members. They were proud of their position in South America as the largest State, very probably the most populous, and apparently one of the most wealthy. Brazil had, however, given indications before the meeting of the Council in March—indeed, early in the year—to Germany that she was not likely to object to Germany finding a permanent seat there. The Brazilian threat made at Geneva, was only taken seriously in the last two days of the Geneva meeting. Thereupon, Britain and France appeared to have made representations at Rio, that is to say, on Tuesday, 15th March, almost the last day.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
My representations were made- long before that date, and before I went to Geneva.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
No. I repeated them as long as I had any chance, any possible hope that they might be successful.
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
Am I to gather from that that the right hon. Gentleman repeated them on 15th March, at the last moment., just before the breakdown?
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
Yes. I repeated them up to the last moment, and if there had been any chance of the Brazilian delegate receiving fresh instructions, I should have asked the Council to adjourn any decision until those instructions had been received. The Brazilian 1167 envoy said his instructions were imperative and final, and prevented him from receiving any new instructions.
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
It was a most deplorable thing that the advice of the right hon. Gentleman was not taken. [HON. MEMBERS: "Agreed !"] The right hon. Gentleman is entitled to every credit he can get out of his activities at Geneva, but certainly, if he did so on 15th March, he only joined hands with the other representatives of the Latin-American States, for they also made representations to Brazil on 15th March. But before any reply could be received to the telegram which they sent out, the right hon. Gentleman had, I think, communicated to the Germans the fact that Brazil was standing firm, and that there was no possibility of their giving way.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
I do not want to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but if he attaches any particular importance to the date of 15th March, my last representations were made earlier.
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
Then it was left to the Latin-American States, and the Latin-American States intervened at the last moment, and the right hon. Gentleman did not do so. So far from the Brazilian ease being strengthened by association with the Latin-American States, it is clear that they severed themselves from Brazil at this moment. On 15th March, and before any reply could have been received from Brazil or from the Latin-American States, I understand M. Briand and the right hon. Gentleman told the Germans finally that nothing more would be done. I wonder whether it would not have been as well to have waited to see whether the Latin-American pressure would have produced anything from Brazil.
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
They were told then that the last stage in the transaction had been reached, and nothing could be done because the Brazilians had received their final instructions.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
I am very reluctant to interrupt, but in these international matters it is a little difficult to 1168 sit quite silent while views or statements are attributed to me which I have not held. I made my last and final appeal on Sunday, the 14th. On Monday, the 15th I had every reason to believe from the declarations of the Brazilian Ambassador that further appeal was futile, and would have no result. And on Tuesday morning— I think I am right in my date—M. Briand and I went to the Germans to consult as to what was to be done in the then probable contingency of Brazil maintaining her veto, and our communiqué as published in the Press was the communiqué contingent on that veto.
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for the account of what took place at the last stages. The whole of the proceedings there lead to only one conclusion, and that is that the advice given by public opinion in this country was sound advice—to follow the simple rule, that in diplomacy you should attempt only one thing at a time. Every departure from that rule has led us into the entanglements which have culminated in the tragedy at Geneva. The second point upon which I would wish to lay some stress is that the proceedings at Geneva and immediately before Geneva have undoubtedly led to the new grouping in Europe which is similar to, or not very different from, the grouping of Powers before the War. It has become more and more customary to speak of one group as the Allies—throughout the whole of the European Press the tendency has been to speak of one, group as counterbalancing another—the desire to reach a counterpoise, the neutralising of German influence within the Council itself—all these are tendencies greatly to be deplored, and tendencies so contrary to the spirit of the League of Nations itself, that I need hardly say it does endanger all future possibility of the League operating with success in large and important matters. If the League is based on anything at all, it is certainly based on the idea that the further we depart from the old doctrine of the balance of power the better—the old doctrine which led to competition in armaments, which, with the balance of power, led to the Great War. Now, if we return once more to the balance of power within the League of Nations, we shall just as much imperil the peace of Europe as if we had no League of Nations at all.
1169 I have no hesitation in saying, that throughout all these proceedings, every step which has been taken away from the original spirit with which the League was initiated, and which has been its main support in the European countries, has led us from one trouble into another. What we are now anxious about is the future. The unfortunate past is on record. What has been done has been done. We want to know how far in the future, operating within the limits of the League, the British Government are likely to make that League effective, and avoid further entanglements. Three questions were put to the Foreign Secretary, and through him to the Prime Minister, by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon). To one of the questions there was given an emphatic answer—namely, with regard to unanimity in the Council. The other two questions, which I will repeat for the benefit of the Prime Minister, were as follow: Is it intended in future to give the methods of the League their full chance, instead of relying upon secret arrangements between the Locarno Powers? That is the second question. The third question was: Is it the view of the Government that the permanent seats on the, Council of the League should be in the future, as in the past, reserved for the Great Powers only? if the Prime Minister will answer these questions when he takes part in this Debate he will certainly exercise a sooshing and stabilising influence in the country.
So long as the affairs of the League are conducted as they were at Geneva, first of all by the group of Locarno Powers behind closed doors and not in the Council, all is not well, and it will certainly be a relief to Europe to find that the opposite obtains. Once the Assembly operates, it is like changing from a mephitic atmosphere to the fresh air. To attempt diplomacy on the house tops no one for a moment would think of asking. To return to the old methods of secret diplomacy, and to bring with that the balance of power in a new form and within the League itself, is certainly endangering the possibility of the League functioning with success, and will lead us headlong to disaster. There is only one way practically—to change this policy, which was leading us away from disarmament 1170 and to competition in armaments. You can measure the Locarno policy, the Geneva policy, the League of Nation's policy in terms of disarmament. It if leads to disarmament, there is nothing the right hon. Gentleman has done which will not be forgiven, and we will be grateful to him. We must hope that he himself will be able to wipe out the effect of this tragedy
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Baldwin)
It is my intention to speak for only a short time. I hope I shall not be considered a blackleg to my class if I express the view that Ministers and ex-Ministers take up a great deal too much time. We have been looking forward to this Debate, because of the interest which has been stimulated in it, not only by various articles in the Press, which have appeared during the last week or fortnight, and to which allusion has been made, but owing to certain speeches made by the Leaders of the Opposition in the country. It is not quite clear whether or not the Leader of the Liberal party was going to send the Leader of the Labour party as a picador or as a matador into the arena to slay the wild bull of our party. At the last moment, however, the whole scene has been changed, the right hon. Gentleman has come down clothed in a spirit of spiritual lugubriocity, well fitted for the occasion. We feel that when his time has come and his voice is silent, that the word "Geneva" will be found written on his heart. Yet we cannot help remembering that he never visited the League of Nations when he was in office, and never attended, so far as I know, a single meeting of it.
As to the Leader of the Opposition, I wish to acknowledge the graceful compliment he paid me in alluding to my simplicity. I am glad to find that opinion I have always had of myself has been confirmed by so good a judge. I am quite sure, however, he will not make the mistake of thinking that simplicity is the same thing as being simple. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Swansea (Mr. Runciman) made some observations, as did also the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood), on the dangers of an Englishman conducting negotiations in French. He will doubtless remember that Dr. Johnson himself 1171 said he never spoke French to a Frenchman; it was putting the rascal at too great an advantage, and he always addressed him in Latin.
Now, Sir, what do we see here to-day? We see this—there has been, shall we say, a temporary set-back, no mortal blow, but, shall we say, a temporary setback to the progress of the League of Nations. And two parties out of three in. the British House of Commons leap to the conclusion that the whole fault of what has happened must be laid on the shoulders, not of the representatives of any one of the other 40 nations at Geneva, but on the back of the Englishman who represents his country there. They do that largely on the ground of what they imagine was said in the course of conversation with M. Briand. I should advise no one ever to have any further conversations with M. Briand. It has been the cause, apparently, of all that has happened in the last two months. Is it the case that that conversation is responsible for whatever happened subsequently to it? I remember that my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) had conversations once with M. Briand, and after that M. Briand fell from. power, and France went from bad to worse for 12 months. But does anyone pretend for a moment that that was the result of a conversation with M. Briand?
I was almost going to say there is no cheaper way of finding fault with any man who is negotiating an important affair than to take some conversation, when you have not got a full record before you, and to assume that he was either bamboozled himself, or that he misled the other man. I am not going to give any instances, but any one who has tried to conduct business in public affairs can think of many instances where accusations of that kind have been made, and often with very slender foundation.
Let us just see exactly what has happened. I was very glad to hear my hon. and gallant Friend whom we welcome back into this House, the hon. and gallant Member for Ripon (Major Hills)—a very ardent League of Nations man if there be one in this House—deny entirely that the League had received a mortal blow. He said, and I have felt this all through, 1172 that what has happened in this last fortnight may have the effect, though hon. Members opposite do not believe it, of strengthening the League, by exposing to the world some of the weak points of the League. After all, the League is a very human institution, and it has not yet succeeded in changing human nature.
What has happened is that there has been a manifestation of human nature not wholly of a happy kind, and I think it is quite possible that some of those who manifested that human nature with the greater vigour are by this time a little ashamed of themselves. You can see how human the League is because, before they parted, they morally bound themselves to meet in September, and they decided that they would set up a Commission for the examination of certain subjects to which I will allude in a moment. In other words, they confessed that there had been a regrettable time through which they had passed and they wanted to wipe out the remembrance of ii, and start again. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has been attacked because it is said that he brought nothing back during the last fortnight. I know he has not brought back what he sought and strove for with all his might and main, but he has secured that the efforts at conciliation which he has been making during the last 12 months have not been frustrated by this check, and that the Powers, including an enemy Power, have been brought closer together than they have ever been since the War, and they have publicly proclaimed the fact that nothing which has occurred has driven a wedge into that new friendly relation, and they have given a pledge themselves to go forward in that way.
The Commission to which I have alluded was set up by the League of Nations. It is a Commission, as the House knows, consisting of 15 members, ten of them members of the Council and five others. Their business will be to confront the new situation which has arisen free of all engagements of any kind, to consider the future composition of the Council, and Germany has been invited to take a seat on equal terms, with equal rights of speech and voting on that Commission, which I hope she will accept. Whoever may represent the Government on that Commission, I ask the House to remember that he is only one member on a. large Commission, and 1173 he cannot, however desirable he may think it, impose his own will. He will have to work with others, but he will work in the same spirit in a single-minded endeavour to arrive at a conclusion most in the interests of the League and of European peace.
I would observe once more what I observed a fortnight ago as to the risk of the representative of a country going to conferences with too rigid and closely bound instructions, because often agreements by compromise are the only agreements to be reached where a number of people are concerned; and therefore, it may be fatally prejudicial to give too strict instructions. There is no doubt that in this recent case there was nothing that caused greater difficulty at the end than the rigid instructions of Brazil; and nothing has caused more difficulty than this, that the state of public opinion in that country, largely by the influence of speeches and the press, had become so inflamed that any other position than that taken up by M. Mello-Franco took up would probably have been quite impossible. Here I will deal with the questions which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) put about the constitution of this Commission.
The first question was: "Does the Government accept the principle that the decision of the Council can only be taken by unanimity?" The answer is "Yes." "Will the Government use the League machinery?" "Yes, certainly, every time it is appropriate." I do not use that in any hedging sense. There has been a great deal said to-day about secret intrigues and secret conversations. I want to be perfectly frank with the House. It is obvious that in discussions that take place points may arise which will affect, until Germany is definitely a member of the League, those Powers who were acting together at Locarno and before that Agreement. For such points to be settled by themselves, is not to go behind the League. In all cases where the League is effective, and we act as a League Power, we use the machinery. "Does the Government think permanent seats should be reserved for only great Powers?" The answer to that is in the instructions given to the Foreign Secretary which he read out: 1174The rule that only Great Powers should be permanent members of the Council should in principle be maintained.Now what I said five minutes ago has some bearing on this. There is no undertaking now so far as the work of this Commission is concerned to try to put any particular Power in a permanent scat on the Council. It is equally open to the Commission to recommend that the number of seats shall remain as they are. It is perfectly open to the Commission to report to the League of Nations that the constitution of the Council shall remain as it is now, or that it shall be increased by whatever they suggest. It is a perfectly open question. I hope that Germany will be taking part in that discussion. A new situation has to be met and judged in the light of past events, and I hope what I have said on that point will satisfy the House. I should, only like to say, as there has been so much criticism of my right hon. Friend, that in regard to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Spen. Valley my right hon. Friend (the Foreign Secretary) confessed to me that he was in grave error in this quotation from Molière. One or two hon. Members, and I think the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas), and I am not sure about the right hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Runciman), said, "We are sorry to be voting against a Government on a matter of foreign affairs. 'Their sorrow is their own, and I sympathise with them to the extent of their feelings. I may say that I too regret it. I would like to make this appeal to the House, that we try to follow the example which the League of Nations itself has set. Let us try to regard this Debate and the Division which will take place as an unfortunate aside that will be over by a quarter past eleven to-night, and then try and unite on the policy which I have described to the House, of supporting this Commission in this very difficult work it is undertaking for the League of Nations. Let us hope that it may be some time before we see the House, as it is to-night, divided on strictly party lines—a bad thing for foreign policy and a bad thing for the League of Nations.
One last word. I should like, at the end of this Debate, to express to the House the confidence that I and His 1175 Majesty's Government feel in the Foreign Secretary. He has had a very difficult and a very thankless task. I say deliberately that I have never known a worse kind of abuse heaped on a man than has been heaped on the Foreign Secretary in a certain section of the Press within the last fortnight. But it has not lowered him in the estimation of the House of Commons. I think that his whole party will show to-night that they share the view of the Government as to
§ the way in which he has come through this difficult and trying time. Although he has not accomplished what he set out for, yet they think he has done the best he could in the circumstances, and they feel every confidence that, before many months are over, he will have brought to completion and fruition the efforts upon which he has been so long engaged.
§ Question put, "That '£117,840,000' stand part of the Resolution."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 325; Noes, 136.1179
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Christie, J. A.||Hall, Capt. W. D.A. (Brecon & Rad.)|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Hammersley, S. S.|
|Ainsworth, Major Charles||Churchman, Sir Arthur C.||Hanbury, C.|
|Albery, Irving James||Clarry, Reginald George||Hannon. Patrick Joseph Henry|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Harland, A.|
|Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool.W. Derby)||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Harrison, G. J. C.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Hartington, Marquess of|
|Ashley, Lt. Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennlngton)|
|Ashmead-Bartlett, E.||Cooper, A. Duff||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Commander F. W.||Cope, Major William||Haslam, Henry c.|
|Astor, Viscountess||Courthope, Lieut.-Col. Sir George L.||Hawke, John Anthony|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islington, N.)||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Craig, Ernest (Chester, Crewe)||Henderson. Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootie)|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Cralk, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Heneage. Lieut.-Col. Arthur P.|
|Balnlel, Lord||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Henn, Sir Sydney H.|
|Banks, Reginald Mitchell||Crooke, J. Smedley (Derltend)||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.|
|Barclay-Harvey, C, M.||Crookahank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)|
|Barnett, Major Sir Richard||Crookshank,Cpt.H.(Lindsey,Gainsbro)||Herbert, S. (York, N. R.,'Scar.&Wh'by)|
|Barnston, Major Sir Marry||Cunliffe, Sir Herbert||Hills, Major John Waller|
|Belialrs, Commander Carlyon W.||Curtis-Bennett, Sir Henry||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Dreks)||Curzon, Captain Viscount||Hohler, Sir Gerald Fitzroy|
|Bennett, A. J.||Dalkeith, Earl of||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Davidson,J.(Herti'd.Hemel Hempst'd)||Holland, Sir Arthur|
|Blrchali, Major J. Dearman||Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H||Holt, Captain H. P|
|Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)||Davies, Dr. Vernon||Homan, C. W. J.|
|Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Davies, MaJ. Geo. F. (Somerset.Yeovil)||Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.)|
|Blades, Sir George Rowland||Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)||Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)|
|Blundell, F. N.||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Hopkins, J. W. W.|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Dawson, Sir Philip||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster. Mossley)|
|Bowater, Sir T. Vansittart||Eden, Captain Anthony||Hopkinson, Sir A. (Eng. Universities)|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Horlick. Lieut.-Colonel J. N.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major A,||Eiveden, Viscount||Howard, Captain Hon. Donald|
|Brass, Captain W.||Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)|
|Brassey, Sir Leonard||Evans, Captain A. (Cardiff, South)||Hudson, R. S (Cumberl'nd, Whiteh'n,|
|Briggs, J. Harold||Everard, W. Lindsay||Hume. Sir G. H.|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis|
|Brittaln, Sir Harry||Falls. Sir Charles F.||Huntingfield, Lord|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Fanshawe, Commander G. D.||Hurst, Gerald B.|
|Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Fermoy, Lord||Iliffe, Sir Edward M.|
|Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Fielden, E. B.||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'I'd., Hexham)||Ford, Sir P. J.||Jackson, Lieut. Col. Rt. Hon. F. S.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C.(Berks,Newb'y)||Forrest, W.||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Foster, Sir Harry S.||Jacob, A. E.|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Fraser, Captain Ian||James. Lieut-Colonel Hon. Cuthbort|
|Bullock, Captain M.||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)|
|Burgoyne, Lieut. Colonel Sir Alan||Galbralth, J. F. W.||Joynson-Hicks, Rt. Hon. Sir William|
|Burney, Lieut.-Com. Charles D.||Ganzoni, Sir John||Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)|
|Burton, Colonel H. W.||Gates, Percy||Kidd, J. (Linlithgow)|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton||Kindersley, Major G. M.|
|Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||King, Captain Henry Douglas|
|Calne. Gordon Hall||Glyn, Major R. G. C.||Kinloch-Cookc, Sir Clement|
|Campbell. E. T.||Gower, Sir Robert||Knox, Sir Alfred|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Grant, J. A.||Lamb, J. Q.|
|Cayzer, Sir c. (Chester, City)||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.|
|Cayzer, MaJ. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth. S.)||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)|
|Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Gretton, Colonel John||Little, Dr. E. Graham|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Grotrlan, H. Brent||Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)|
|Chadwick. Sir Robert Burton||Guest, Capt. Rt.Hon.F.E.(Bristrol,N.)||Locker-Lampson. G. (Wood Green)|
|Chamberlain, Rt.Hn.SirJ.A (Birm.,W.)||Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Locker-Lampson. com. O.(Handsw'th)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Gunston. Captain D. W.||Loder, J. de V.|
|Chapman, Sir S.||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Looker, Herbert William|
|Charlerls, Brigadier-General J.||Hail, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Lord, Walter Greaves-|
|Lougher, L.||Phillipson, Mabel||Strickland, Sir Gerald|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Pleiou, D. P.||Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.|
|Luce, Maj.-Gen. sir Richard Harman||Pilcher, G.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Lumley, L. R||Power, Sir John Cecil||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid|
|Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Price, Major C. W. M.||Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.|
|Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)||Radford. E. A.||Tasker, Major R. Inlgo|
|Maclntyre, Ian||Raine, W.||Thom, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)|
|McLean, Major A.||Rawson, Sir Alfred Cooper||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Macmillan, Captain H.||Reid, D. D. (County Down)||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm||Remer, J. R.||Tlnne. J. A.|
|McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John||Rentoul, G. S.||Titchfleld, Major the Marquess of|
|Macquisten, F. A.||Rice, Sir Frederick||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)||Turton, Sir Edmund Russhorough|
|Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Malone, Major P. B.||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford. Hereford)||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Manningham-Buller, sir Mervyn||Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs., Stretford)||Ward, Lt.col.A.L.(Kingslon-on-Hull)|
|Margesson, Capt. D.||Ropner, Major L.||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Ruggles-Brise, Major E. A.||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Mason, Lieut.-Colonel Glyn K.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Watson, Sir F. (Pudscy and Otley)|
|Meller, R. J.||Rya. F G.||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Merriman. F. B.||Salmon, Major L||Watts, Dr. T.|
|Meyer, Sir Frank||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Wells. S. R.|
|Milne, J. S. Wardlaw-||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth. Putney)||Wheler, Major Sir Granvillc C. H.|
|Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Sandeman, A. Stewart||White, Lieut.-Colonel G. Dalrymple|
|Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)||Sanders, Sir Robert A.||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Sanderson, Sir Frank||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Moore, Lieut-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)||Sandon, Lord||Wilson, Sir C. H. (Leeds, Centr. I)|
|Moore, Sir Newton J.||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.||Wilson, M. J. (York, N. R., Rlchm'd)|
|Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Savery, S. S.||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Morden, Colonel Walter Grant||Scott, Sir Leslie (Liverp'l, Exchange)||Winby, Colonel L. p.|
|Moreing, Captain A. H.||Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W.R., Sowerby)||Windsor-Cilve. Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Morrison, H. (Wilts, Sailsbury)||Shaw. Capt. W W. (Wilts, Westb'y)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley||Wise. Sir Fredric|
|Morchison, C. K.||Shepperson, E. W.||Withers, John James|
|Nail. Lieut.-Colonel Sir Joseph||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Nevlile, R. J.||Skelton, A. N.||Womersley, W. J.|
|Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)||Wood, E.(Chest'r.Stalyb'drje & Hyde)|
|Newton, Sir D. G C. (Cambridge)||Smith-Carington. Neville W.||Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.)|
|Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn.W.G. (Ptrst'ld.)||Smithers, Waldron||Wood, Sir S. Hill- (High Peak)|
|Nuttall, Ellis||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Oakley. T.||Sprot, Sir Alexander||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|O'Connor, T, J. (Bedford, Luton)||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)||Wragg, Herbert|
|Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Starley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Steel, Major Samuel Strang||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Perkins. Colonel E. K.||Storry-Deans, R.||Commander B. Eyres Monsell and|
|Peto, Basli E. (Devon. Barnstaple)||Stott. Lieut.-Colonel W. H.||Colonel Gibbs.|
|Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)||Streatfeild, Captain S. R.|
|Acamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Dunnico, H.||Lansbury, George|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Lawson, John James|
|Ammon, Charles George||Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Unlver.)||Lee. F.|
|Attlee. Clement Richard||Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.||Lindley, F. W.|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd||Livingstone, A. M.|
|Barnes, A.||Gibbins, Joseph||Lowth, T.|
|Barnett, Major Sir Richard||Glllett. George M.||Lunn, William|
|Barr, J.||Gosling, Harry||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R.(Aberavon)|
|Batey, Joseph||Graham, Rt. Hon.Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Macklnder, W.|
|Beckett, John (Gateshead)||Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||March, S.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Maxton, James|
|Briant, Frank||Griffiths, T, (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Mitchell, E. Rosslyn (Paisley)|
|Broad, F. A.||Groves, T.||Montague, Frederick|
|Bromfleld, William||Grundy, T. W.||Morris. R. H.|
|Bromley, J.||Guest, J. (York, Hemsworth)||Naylor, T. E.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Hamilton, Sir R, (Orkney & Shetland)||Oliver, George Harold|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||Harris, Percy A.||Owen, Major G.|
|Cape. Thomas||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Palln, John Henry|
|Charleton, H. C.||Hayday. Arthur||Paling, W.|
|Clowes, S.||Hayes, John Henry||Pethick-Lawrence, F. w.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)||Potts, John S.|
|Compton, Joseph||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Purcell, A. A.|
|Connolly, M.||Hirst, G. H.||Richardson, R, (Houghton-re-Spring)|
|Cowan, 0. M. (Scottish Universities)||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Rlley. Ben|
|Crawfurd, H. E.||Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Ritson, J.|
|Dalton, Hugh||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Robinson, W. C. (Yorks,W.R., Elland)|
|Davies, David (Montgomery)||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Rose, Frank H.|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Davies, Ellis (Denbigh, Denbigh)||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Sllvertown)||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Davies, Rhys John (Wesihoughton)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Scurr, John|
|Day, Colonel Harry||Kelly. W. T.||Sexton, James|
|Dennison, R.||Kennedy, T.||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Duncan, C.||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Shiels, Dr. Drummond||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)||Whiteley, W.|
|Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)||Thomson, Trevelyan (Middlesbro.. W.)||Wiggins, William Martin|
|Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)||Williams, David (Swansea, E.)|
|Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness)||Thurtle, E.||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Sitch, Charles H.||Tinker, John Joseph||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Slesser, Sir Henry H.||Townend, A. E.||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Smith, H. B. Lees- (Kelghley)||Viant, S. P.||Windsor, Walter|
|Smith, Rennie (Penistone)||Wallhead, Richard C.||Wright, W.|
|Snell, Harry||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip||Warne. G. H.|
|Spencer, G. A. (Broxtowe)||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney||Sir Godfrey Collins and Sir Robert|
|Taylor, R. A.||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Joslah||Hutchison,|
Resolutions agreed to.
§ It being after Eleven of the Clock, Mr. SPEAKER proceeded, pursuant to Standing Order No. 15, to put forthwith the Question necessary to dispose of the Vote.