Postponed Proceeding resumed on Question:
That a sum, not exceeding £116,700, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1929, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Department of His Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
§ Mr. RENNIE SMITH
When I was interrupted, I was speaking of the reception of the Kellogg proposals in this country. The three parties in this House have made very clear and definite declarations on the subject, and practically the whole of those voluntary societies in the country which are concerned with the consideration of international affairs have lined themselves up in asking the Government to give an unqualified welcome to those proposals. I need only mention that bodies like the League of Nations Union, the newly constituted Women's British-American Crusade, which is holding meetings in all parts of the country on this special subject, the Society of Friends, and the whole of the societies affiliated with the National Council for the Prevention of War have taken up practically a common attitude in pressing upon the Government the advisability of taking hold of this remarkable offer of the American Government without reserve. Therefore, I want to assure the Foreign Secretary that, in taking up the position that he has done this afternoon, not merely is he expressing the point of view of his own party, but he has behind him the considered national judgment of the country. We who have been considering these proposals over the last two months feel that their most important aspect is that they say, without cavil, that the American Government and the other five Governments concerned, and 498 all the other Governments in the world if they follow suit, agree that the time has come completely to renounce war as an instrument of national policy.
The Foreign Secretary has emphasised that the important position now taken up in international affairs carries with it no conflict with the spirit of the Covenant of the League of Nations, nor anything that is contrary to the principles underlying the Pact of Locarno. Indeed, if we understand these proposals aright, they would lead to an amplifying and clearing up of all those parts of the Covenant of the League of Nations which have to do with the question of war, if these proposals were accepted without reserve. All the members of the League of Nations would then be in the position where they would say to one another that under no circumstances would they resort to war as an instrument of national policy; that is to say, that if the machinery of the Council of the League of Nations broke down and the three months' respite which is provided for under the Covenant had expired, we should not feel ourselves free, as a contracting party, to use the method of war for the settlement of a national dispute. Not only do the American proposals not conflict with the spirit of the Covenant and the principles of the Pact of Locarno, but, on the contrary, they carry the most important reinforcement of those principles that we have had since 1919.
I know there is the criticism that these proposals carry with them no kind of machinery for dealing with a deadlock which may conceivably arise, that there is no suggestion either for the increased use of the World Court, the further development of conciliation machinery, the increased use of the method of arbitration, or the further extension of the habit and practice of international conference. It has been a complaint that the American Government prefer to stand in the position of deadlock in the event of a breakdown and do not contemplate any kind of machinery for handling the situation at that point, but it seems to me to be of importance for us in Great Britain to remember what very great strides the American Government have made in these positive directions of building up the machinery. With regard to the method of arbitration, for example, it is clear that in the recent Pan-American Conference the United 499 States Government gave very great evidence of a desire to apply methods of arbitration for dealing with what is, roughly speaking, an American League of Nations, and they have shown through that Pan-American Conference the steady purpose, with detailed points of application, of using arbitral machinery for the settlement of Pan-American disputes. We had, too, in America last year the very remarkable development of arbitration arrangements as between Mexico and the Government of the United States.
The Under-Secretary will know that he is at the present time assisting in negotiations for a new Anglo-American Arbitration Treaty, and that there are very great possibilities of building up between America and Great Britain further stages in the use of arbitral and conciliation machinery. indeed, I would like to say that it would he a very happy development if His Majesty's Government would, in relation to the Anglo-American Treaty, which we hope will come into operation after the 4th June next, make the suggestion in words that, if the Bryan conciliation machinery should break down and the 12 months' cooling-off period should lead to no fruitful settlement, there should be inserted a Clause in the new Treaty laying down clearly and definitely that Great Britain and America will not under any circumstances resort to the method of war for the settlement of an Anglo-American dispute. It is well known that the American nation, in the last two years particularly, have taken up with increasing seriousness the question of the World Court, and while they are not participating in that Court, there has been a very steady growth of opinion in that direction.
So far as the method of international conference is concerned, nothing, I think, has been more impressive than to witness the steady way in which American foreign policy has associated itself with the practice of international conference that has been growing up in Europe since 1919. I was told a few weeks ago that the American Government have taken part in no fewer than 40 of the Commissions of the League of Nations, and I think we may be quite sure that, although these proposals carry with them no suggestion of machinery for the 500 handling of disputes, we have a very large and growing amount of evidence that the American people have made up their minds that the best way in which to contribute to the peace of the world is to have a definite share in the processes of international government. Perhaps the most important part of this proposal of the American Government is the open confession that American public life has now definitely reached the stage where, if only from the point of view of their business interests and their own rapid industrial development, they have no alternative but to come out frankly and take an open and positive share in the business of building up international government.
A few months ago the situation with regard to American public opinion was very precarious, from a British point of view. Immediately following the breakdown of the Coolidge Naval Conference, there was a proposal put forward in the United States to construct 71 new warships, with a very large expenditure of money, as the immediate reply to the worsened relations created as a result of that breakdown. Anyone who has followed American public opinion since that time knows that to-day that whole programme for 71 warships has been reduced to 17, thanks to the remarkable reaction of American public opinion. I have had a considerable correspondence which makes it clear that there have been few occasions indeed when Senators and Congressmen have been so inundated with letters, telegrams and resolutions from all parts of America, asking them to do nothing, at this critical stage in the development of Anglo-American affairs, which would give the slightest colour to the view that they were setting up anything like competition with us in regard to naval affairs; and the modification of this American naval programme from 71 vessels to 17, spread out over three years, is the clearest possible proof that Mr. Kellogg, in putting forward these proposals, is not a voice crying in the wilderness, but that he has behind him the solid backing of the best and most deeply concerned body of American opinion.
I, therefore, rose to express my deep satisfaction at the statement of the Foreign Secretary this afternoon, and, along with other speakers, I hope that 501 he will follow this up, not with a spirit of exploring in a niggling way all kinds of possible reservations, but that he will use this occasion for further developing the principles of the renunciation of war which were adumbrated in the Covenant of 1919. Let him make it clear that the British people realise that this co-operation of America is the most important step. that has been taken since 1919, and that we will do everything that lies in our power to lay, firm and deep, those foundations of Anglo-American cooperation which will give the League of Nations a new spirit and a new vitality, and make it what a great but now departed American President once believed it would become, namely, an instrument of complete world organisation, an international organisation of all the States in the world pursuing the great cause, negatively, of the prevention of war and, positively, of the organisation of all the possibilities of peace.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Rear-Admiral BEAMISH
I do not take any exception to, but, on the contrary, agree with a great deal of what we have just heard from the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Rennie Smith). There is a great deal to be said for the point of view which he has expressed. But I rise for a special object, and that is to draw attention to the suggestion which was made by the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy). I particularly hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary and his representative on the Front Bench, the Under-Secretary for the Foreign Office (Mr. Locker-Lampson) will take particular notice of the fact that the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull made a special request, and I trust most sincerely that it will not be acceded to. There is a risk, and it may be a serious risk, that the views he put forward may appear in the foreign Press, and even in our own Press, as being the views of the whole of the Labour party, and I am under the impression that that is not the case, at any rate in this particular matter. The hon. and gallant Member, while accepting in the main the suggestions put forward by Mr. Kellogg for the multilateral pact, proposes to complicate and undermine the prospect of this pact by introducing a thorny and 502 complicated subject before a conference with the representatives of the United States concerning, as he said, the necessary revision of international law at sea.
No greater disservice could possibly be done to the prospects of this multilateral pact than to introduce a juridical question such as the alteration, or bringing up to date, call it what you will, of international law at sea. It is particularly concerned with blockade and with belligerent and neutral rights during war. But Article 16 of the Covenant of the League of Nations accedes to and accepts the principle of blockade, and that brings into its ambit everything that is concerned with what is called the freedom of the seas. It includes the rights of belligerents during war. We are definitely pledged in certain respects, under Article 16 of that Covenant. I do not hesitate to say that, if we were to give up our maritime rights, of which I have just spoken, we should be delivering a real blow at the League of Nations, which has accepted the principle that, in certain serious circumstances, nations are justified in using their power to bring a recalcitrant nation to its senses by means of blockade. In that connection, may I quote from the "Manchester Guardian" weekly of 3rd February. The "Manchester Guardian" has for some considerable time recently been publishing articles on this particular subject. I quote this as showing that that journal recognises, as indeed every thoughtful journal does, that there are two sides to such a question. This is what it says on the subject of blockade and of one nation bringing pressure to bear upon another nation in war—I am particularly thinking of naval war:All through those melancholy months, the War was certainly being won, but it was being won at sea, where our blockade was breaking down Germany's power and will to endure and strike, not on land, where the combatant nations did little more in fact than bleed each other whiter and whiter and lay deeper and more surely the foundation of their post-War poverty and discontent.I quote that only as showing that the "Manchester Guardian," or whoever wrote in that journal, realises to the full the necessity, in certain serious eventualities, of using maritime rights. It may be said, and no doubt the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Central Hull would say—and there is 503 something in it—that there is an idea to be thought about, and that possibly in the future, but certainly not now, we might have some other conference and produce something in the nature of the Declaration of London or the Declaration of Paris. If anything of that sort were brought into existence, we should be deceiving ourselves, we should be deceiving our friends, and we should be acting dishonestly by and with any nation with whom we made any pact of that kind. We found it quite impossible during the last war to adhere to the Declaration of London.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I did not propose anything so circumscribed as the Declaration of Paris or the Declaration of London. I want the right of private blockade to go the way of private war. There should be international action for the enforcing of covenants.
§ Rear-Admiral BEAMISH
Anything that would have the effect of tying our hands in regard to maritime rights would have the most serious and far-reaching effects, so far as we are concerned, and we would not be justified in doing anything in that direction which would tie the hands of any Government that might follow, if we had the misfortune to have to carry out our duties in regard to the Covenant of the League of Nations, or if we got involved in war of any kind with any other country. So far as I am concerned, I have nothing but delight in, and, if I may say so, praise for those who are concerned in pushing forward by all possible means the prospects of this multilateral pact. Nothing could he better. I think it is, so to speak, a psychological advance in regard to the study of the methods of preventing war, and nothing could possibly be better. I only hope that we shall not complicate it by anything in the nature of any round-table conference that most certainly would imperil its success.
§ Captain CAZALET
When experts disagree, it is always difficult for an amateur to know which side to take. We have heard the pros and cons of the naval situation which may be created by this new American treaty discussed, on the one hand by an Admiral, and on the 504 other band by a, Commander of the Navy, and they apparently are not quite agreed as to what the result may be. I should like to say a word with regard to what the last speaker from the Socialist benches said, namely, as to the extraordinary difference in public opinion which has taken place during the last six months in America with reference to the building of the American Navy. Anyone who has followed, even casually as I have done, the Americant Press, must have noticed this difference. The great commercial Middle West has made its influence and its opinion felt. The people there are beginning to ask the same question as we want to ask in this country: Is not the Admiralty slightly excessive in its demands, and may it not be that they are slightly extravagant? After all, it has been one of the main cries of the Republican party, which has to face the electorate at the end of this year, that they are the party of economy, and are they prepared now to throw away all the advantages of their economy in building a fleet at the cost of some thousand million dollars?
There is very much less inclination to-day in the American Press to indulge what is called in America "twisting the lion's tail" and "baiting John Bull," and I think we in this country have corresponded to a certain degree by cancelling the two cruisers. I was delighted to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs accept with so much hope the proposals put forward by Mr. Kellogg. Of course, there must always be difficulties in a question of this kind when you are dealing with a country that is not a member of the League of Nations. No doubt the influence of the United States will be more of a negative than of a positive character. But suppose that a situation arose in which there was a demand being made to enforce certain economic sanctions against an aggressive State in Europe. Our whole problem in the past has been, what could we do in regard to a blockade if the Americans refused to take the same side as we did? If, however, such a situation arose to-day, and we could be certain that America would be not only neutral but sympathetic towards these economic sanctions which were being applied, then I do believe we would have removed to a very 505 great degree all those obstacles which have existed both in this country and in America to the cause of the reduction of armaments. If some arrangement could be made along those lines, and if the Dominions endorse the opinions stated by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to-day, I believe we shall have taken an important step forward in disarmament.
It is of the first importance that America should definitely take an interest in European affairs, and she will have to do so very shortly, whether she likes it or not. Under the present debt settlement, the United States of America will soon be receiving 67 per cent., or nearly three-quarters, of all the reparations that are paid by Germany. If, as has been suggested, the Dawes payments are reduced by one-third, she will not be receiving 67 per cent., but 100 per cent. Every single penny that Germany pays in reparations will be sent straight across to the United States of America. Therefore, it is of vital importance and interest to her to preserve peace in Europe. There is one other point in regard to Germany which I should like to put before the hon. Gentleman who represents the Foreign Office. Is it not possible now to remove those few remaining British troops from the occupied territory of Germany? We say to-day that Germany is our equal and that we are the best friends of Germany in Europe to-day. She is equal with us and a member of the League of Nations. If foreign troops were quartered in Kent or Cornwall, we would not feel the same towards the nation which had put those troops there, as we would if our country were free from such occupation.
In regard to Egypt, I think everybody on these benches would agree that the Leader of the Opposition, when he was conducting the affairs of this country, dealt with the Egyptian crisis which arose during his tenure of office with tact, patience, firmness and efficiency. Having listened to his speech to-day and heard the comments and criticisms upon it by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), I think we have little fault to find with what the Leader of the Opposition said. It is apparent, however, that some of his followers are as far removed 506 from his point of view as from ours, and it is to them that I should like to address some remarks. It is some years ago since the late President Roosevelt exploded a bomb in the City of London by saying, in reference to our presence in Egypt, that we should either govern or get out. Years have intervened and circumstances have changed, and we still have very definite responsibilities in that country, not only towards our own people and foreigners there, but also towards the Egyptian people. Certain people in this country, particularly certain politicians, seem to think that the only people who matter in Egypt are the Egyptian politicians. I ask them to remember that in any of these Middle East countries, for £10 you can raise a riot at any time of day or night, on behalf of or against any cause you wish. I do not imagine it costs much more to turn the votes at the elections which take place there.
What would be the result if the Government decided to follow the dictates of certain Members of the Opposition? Supposing we gave in to all the demands of the Egyptian Nationalists, what would be the result? Does anybody imagine that if the British influence were to depart, Egypt would be left alone and independent? Her geographical position makes such a possibility extremely remote. Some few years ago—I think in 1924—there was a question as to whether we should not return our mandate in respect of Iraq to the League of Nations, and while that question was in abeyance Italy made known that if we did so she was prepared to take up the mandate. [An HON. MEMBER: "I wish she would!"] Circumstances arose which, fortunately, or unfortunately, for ourselves and the people of Iraq, prevented that issue from arising. If we were to leave Egypt, it is inconceivable that either France or Italy—I do not wish to say that it would be the one or the other—would not immediately take up the position that we occupy to-day. Who can argue that such a situation would lead to harmony among the great Powers of Europe, or to increased prosperity and happiness among the Egyptian people?
I turn now to a different sphere, namely the Balkans, and I want to refer to that little-known Republic of Albania. It is obvious to anyone who has followed the course of Balkan politics in the past two 507 years that it will never be possible again to isolate Balkan incidents. The pact of Tirana, followed by the Treaty between France and Yugoslavia, has made it quite definite that if and when trouble arises here, all the great Powers of Europe will be immediately concerned. The situation in Albania to-day appears to be better than it was a few months ago. There is political peace, and a degree of economic prosperity, but there is one vital question which may at any moment explode into flames, namely, the question of the Greco-Albanian minorities. I raise this question now because it is coming up for discussion at the League of Nations in a few days' time, but I do not ask the Under-Secretary to give me an answer on this occasion because I did not give him notice.
The facts of the situation are that on either side of the southern frontier of Albania there are 20,000 to 30,000 Greeks living in Albania and Albanians living in Greece. In 1926 Albania and Greece gave certain pledges to the Council of the League that they would carry out certain stipulations in regard to the minorities in each country. Up to the present, Albania has carried out all her pledges. There are no fewer than 65 schools in Albania devoted to the Greeks and costing the Albanian Government 70,000 gold francs a year. There are two Greek deputies in the Albanian Parliament and the Greeks have not been molested in their houses or their territory. When we turn to the other side of the picture we find that the Greeks have done absolutely nothing to carry out the pledges which they gave. They have molested the Albanians in their midst, and expropriated them, the compensation offered being one-fifteenth of the value of the land to be paid 30 years hence. There are no schools for the Albanians, their cases are not allowed to come up in the law courts and they are refused passports to leave the country. The Albanians have asked the League of Nations to take the matter up and either to put in a Commission to see that the Greeks carry out their pledges or make some arrangement for the transfer of the populations. I hope the Secretary of State will give his assistance to the plea of the Albanians in this matter.
508 On the question of Hungary, I realise that it is almost impossible to get any official statement from this Government or any other, but in view of the disturbances which are occurring in Rumania the question of Hungary may arise at any moment. Hungary has two friends in this country, the House of Lords and the "Daily Mail"—or, perhaps, I should say, the "Daily Mail" and the House of Lords. There is a traditional friendship between Hungary and this country which was augmented by the extremely good treatment meted out to the British interned in Hungary during the War. There has been, for many years, a mutual sympathy between our nation and the Hungarians. On several occasions since the War I have visited Hungary and Transylvania and have seen what maladministration can accomplish in a few years. Transylvania, for its size, should be one of the richest countries in the world and certainly one of the greatest grain exporting countries in Europe. What is her situation to-day? She has to import wheat, and I have seen what were the finest farms in Europe, which people came from all over the world to inspect, ruined through maladministration and idiotic laws.
It is difficult to blame those who framed the Treaties in the atmosphere which existed immediately after the War. No one, I imagine, in this country or elsewhere, is prepared to go to war, or to pay anybody else to go to war, to alter existing frontiers. One cannot imagine that Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia would stand idly by and watch Rumania being despoiled of any territory. But the grievance of Hungary is so real and obvious, it is such a case of glaring injustice, that until it is settled it must constitute a danger to the peace of Europe; and I feel that it cannot be very long before it is reconsidered by the Powers of Europe. I realise that there is only one real solution which will bring about peace in the Balkans, and that is the creation of a Balkan Locarno, political and economic. Free Trade on both sides has always been, or should be, the first step towards breaking down the barriers of nationalism. Hon. Gentlemen opposite will note that I say "Free Trade on both sides," and I trust the Secretary of State in his continual visits to Geneva will impress on the representatives of the Balkan States the necessity for some kind 509 of federation on this lines. I do not believe that permanent peace in the Balkans can be established on any other basis than that of a local Locarno, founded on the same ideals and principles as those which were the foundation of the other Locarno Treaties, for which the Secretary of State was so largely responsible.
§ Mr. SCRYMGEOUR
I am sorry that I was not able to be present, when the Secretary of State and the Leaders of the Opposition parties opened this Debate. It is also a great regret to me that this Debate should, strangely enough, have been arranged to take place on the day of a meeting in the City concerning the Egyptian question, to which a considerable number of Members of the House and particularly of the Labour Opposition were invited. From the appearance of the benches at present, it does not seem that much interest is being taken in this stage of the Debate. Speaking for myself, I must express a sense of disappointment that there does not seem to be very much, if any, disagreement, between the Leaders of the Government and the Opposition, according to a summarised statement of the Debate which has been given to me. [Interruption]. I have it from a well-known Member of the House that there is little or no disagreement in regard to the position in Egypt.
§ Mr. SCRYMGEOUR
Is there any Amendment by the Opposition expressing disagreement? There is none. Silence. Well, that is enough for me. We had an opportunity this afternoon of hearing the case of the Egyptians. I think it right to hear the views of people who are directly representative of that country. But before I went to that meeting I had read in the Press that his Lordship, Lord Birkenhead, had in this connection, as in the case of the Indian Commission, been exchanging bouquets with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberavon (Mr. R. MacDonald). To me that is disappointing. The trouble which arose recently appears to me to concern a subsidiary issue. It should not have been necessary to send warships from Britain to deal with a small country which has little or no army, and cer- 510 tainly no means of combating a navy, over a mere question of police administration. That is preposterous. The real crux of this trouble is that we are still maintaining in Egypt a British army, although our Government have repeatedly given an undertaking that evacuation would take place. That undertaking has never been fulfilled, and there is no promise that it will be fulfilled. In Article 7 of the draft Treaty it is stated:In order to facilitate and secure to His Britannic Majesty the protection of the lines of communication of the British Empire, and pending the conclusion at some future date of an agreement, by which His Britannic Majesty entrusts His Majesty the King of Egypt with the task of ensuring this protection, His Majesty the King of Egypt authorises His Britannic Majesty to maintain upon Egyptian territory such armed forces as His Britannic Majesty's Government consider necessary for this purpose. The presence of these forces shall not constitute in any manner an occupation and will in no way prejudice the sovereign rights of Egypt. After a period of ten years from the coming into force of the present Treaty the high contracting parties will reconsider, in the light of their experience of the operations of the provisions of the present Treaty, the question of the localities in which the said forces are to be stationed.The comment made by the Egyptian representatives in their official report is that the occupation is the question regarding which Egyptians are most sensitive. During the last 46 years Egyptians have constantly protested against the occupation, and the British Government repeatedly pledged itself to an early evacuation. That has not taken place.
Article 10 states:His Britannic Majesty will use his good offices for the admission of Egypt to the League of Nations.Egypt welcomes its inclusion in the League of Nations, but it must be noted that whereas the admission of Iraq to the League of Nations would automatically terminate the British mandate, that of Egypt, according to Article 7, would merely perpetuate and render permanent the British army of occupation of Egypt, for the Treaty concedes to the League, not the power to arbitrate as to whether after 10 years the British army should remain or be removed, but whether it should be stationed in Cairo on the Suez Canal or elsewhere. Egypt will not gain by its admission to the League while there is a British army 511 quartered on its soil. I submit that here is an unfortunate situation confronting the League of Nations. If we cannot through the League of Nations adjust a matter of this kind, it must have a very damaging effect upon the influence of the League of Nations in our country.
Some few years ago when we were discussing this matter I had occasion to make similar references, speaking on that occasion from the other side of the House. On that occasion it was the decision of the Leader of the Government, the Labour Government, that he could not see his way to place the matter unreservedly in the hands of the League of Nations. Therefore I have to-day again to express my very distinct feelings of discouragement and disappointment regarding the situation. We have given the Egyptians the semblance of a democratic Parliament, we have given them opportunities to try to manage their own affairs, and to say that on a simple matter of police supervision in the case of public meetings, an occasion has arisen for us to act in the peremptory and aggressive fashion we did is an appalling confession.
Leaving this question, I wish to express a feeling of great satisfaction that the Government are favourable to the American proposals. That is generally recognised as an encouraging feature of the international situation. It was a deep satisfaction to me to have the privilege of listening to Earl Grey speaking in favour of this proposal about a week ago in one of the Committee rooms upstairs. I recognise, however, as his Lordship did, that there is a feeling of uncertainty growing up as to whether this plan will be altogether effective, by reason of emergencies which may arise. There is no doubt about the advantage of bringing the nations together on a basis of this kind, but it is necessary to get things so tightened up as to secure the confidence of the nations concerned. Certain factors are at work, financial factors and commercial factors and the questions raised from the opposite side as to our maritime rights is another indication of difficulties which are being brought forward. Under the present system, in which there is no co-operation, in which there is conflict, in which there is competition and in which there is the 512 cutting-out policy of peoples against peoples, our nations will, from their own standpoint, feel gravely concerned about this plan, or any other plan. Some speak of enterprise, others term it exploitation, but whatever it is called, it is the conflict of the forces of nationality even in what is called peacetime. I submit that that is where the danger lies. Under any such plan as that which is now under review, and which we certainly want to support in every possible way, there will still be underlying forces, electrifying forces, which may lead to that upheaval which we all, theoretically, at any rate, deplore in advance.
That brings us to the essentials, and I think it is right that we should emphasise these essentials, because we hear from many platforms that there is no possibility of peace in reality while the factors which I have indicated are in operation. Only by the force of spiritual, moral and intellectual reasoning power, exercised through the League of Nations, can the plans and schemes for getting rid of armaments be made effectual and can we deal with the causes which are responsible for the difficulties which are envisaged. From this vantage ground of Parliament I wish to say that speakers on pacifist platforms are urging the necessity for us to make it plain to our Governments that we must not go to war and that on no account are we going to have war. But our people in the mass—without taking into account the people of other countries—are not giving serious attention to the great issues which are presented to us in this House. The attention of certain sections of the people are being directed to them, because the Churches and other bodies are concerning themselves with these issues, but the mass of the people, unfortunately, while agreeing with the general attitude that nobody wants war, are themselves giving little attention to spiritual and moral principles. They are occupying themselves with recreations and amusements, with anything of a trivial and, easy-going character, and the Press are encouraging it and making money out of it. The big things, the great issues, the mighty things that concern humanity at large, are being treated very lightly by the mass of the people, as though they were insignificant affairs.
513 Personally, I deplore that we should make attacks upon statesmen and politicians generally about what is felt to be their compromising tendencies and their great readiness to adopt expedients. When people from many platforms demand that sort of thing, the answer is that our statesmen, politicians and public representatives largely take their cue from the great body of the people. Our statesmen in these matters should be the leaders and the exemplary men of our country, and they should not seek to square the vicious circle. Those who have the influence ought to stand for the things that are right, irrespective of what may be the temporal results; and they should lead in the narrow path that leads to righteousness and peace.
§ Sir ALFRED HOPKINSON
The hon. and gallant Member for Chippenham (Captain Cazalet), who speaks with direct. personal knowledge on certain subjects, dealt with four main points. There are four points in the hon. and gallant Gentleman's speech which ought to be emphasised, and I hope that the representative of the Government will take care to see that those points are not lost sight of. The first point is the desirability at the earliest possible moment of evacuating British troops from the Rhineland. Those who know anything about the conditions which exist on the borderland between France and Germany will be anxious to see that evacuation carried out as soon as possible. I also hope that what has been said about Egypt will not be forgotten. In Egypt the Government has shown its determination to carry out the treaties by which we are bound, even if those treaties are in some respects detrimental. The great work done in Egypt by Lord Cromer was not so much for the benefit of this country as for the benefit of the labouring population of Egypt. It ought not to be forgotten that the Government are bound by the treaties since made, and have shown how entirely their policy aims at carrying out the engagements made, both as regards the Egyptian Government and our duties to nationals of other countries resident in Egypt.
A third important point is raised by what the hon. and gallant Member said about Albania. We all recognise the danger of any condition of unrest in any 514 of the Balkan and Central European States. In parts of Greece there is an Albanian minority speaking a different language and of a different race, and it is of vital importance as between the Greeks and the Albanian population that justice should be done. The grievances of the Albanians should be carefully considered by the League of Nations. This may seem a small matter, but the consequences of neglecting it may be most serious, and might have far-reaching effects. Fourthly, the hon. and gallant Member mentioned the case of Hungary. Hungary was deprived, after the War, of a part of its territory, and the treaties are binding. The present position, however, is unstable. There is a line of policy which may be indicated and which may lead to a better state of things. The barriers created by tariffs stopping trade between countries divided by no natural frontiers might be removed, and there might be something in the nature of a Zollverein. In that way it might be possible to bring clown some of the partitions which are now so mutually injurious to those contiguous States. Between Jugo-Slavia and Hungary, Rumania and Hungary, and Czechoslovakia and Hungary, there might be agreements for open doors and joint action, especially as regards transport, which would be of great benefit to trade and industry in all those countries. If a policy of confederating some at least of these States had been followed before the War, there might have been no war at all. It is known that the Archduke might have carried out such a. policy before the War. He had a definite policy, which he pursued to the best of his ability, but it was prevented by sinister influences of one kind and another, and it could not be inaugurated before the fatal event which immediately preceded the outbreak of war. That policy was, in effect, to have a kind of confederation of various countries in Central Europe and in the Balkans, in which even Serbia, and possibly other Balkan States, might have been included. Events prevented the carrying out of such a policy, and Heaven knows what exactly were the influences which prevented it. That policy cannot be revived in its entirety, but some common agreement as regards tariffs, transport, and other matters affecting trade and commerce might even now be possible.
515 I think there is almost general agreement throughout the House that the policy pursued by His Majesty's Government having regard to the conditions under which they are working at the present time and the Treaties by which they are bound, is a wise policy both as regards Egypt and also as to the peace proposals made by America. We were very glad to hear from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) that he was in agreement with the policy of the Government in this respect, and almost all have the same ultimate object in view, that is to say, the peace of the world. It is difficult for anyone who does not know exactly all the special circumstances of the moment to form a correct judgment as to the details of the steps to be taken immediately, but there are certain things with regard to general principles and policy upon which it is possible for those who stand outside official circles to form sound opinions, provided always that they have given some careful study to them during and since the War, and have devoted some attention to the questions of international law and policy which are involved. We must realise that we are bound by certain agreements, that we shall honour our bond, and that the Government must carry them out, even when they are injurious; but it is quite possible that outsiders may give words of warning as to the future which are worth consideration, and which may, if heeded, prevent trouble hereafter.
There are certain warnings which it is right that we should express in the clearest language that we can possibly use, in view of the fact that there are a number of very excellent benevolent people going about at present urging us to enter into new commitments. The first principle that we ought to lay down is that all these agreements to go to war to prevent war, except under known or defined conditions, are things from which we ought to keep ourselves free. The best friends of peace realise that to enter into general bargains to go to war, it may be at the instance of other people and under unforeseen circumstances, is one of the worst ways of promoting peace. Let us keep free from these entangling engagements as to the employment of our armed forces. That principle was pointed out before the 516 League of Nations came into existence, and before any Covenant was made. Lord Bryce pointed out the difficulties in the House of Lords, when the necessity for sanctions such as the employment of troops and ships was urged again and again as necessary in order to enforce peace. The speech that he made in the House of Lords when the question of the League of Nations was first mooted in the summer of 1914, and the warning he then gave should be remembered. Unfortunately, such warning was disregarded, and we undertook a very serious and dangerous engagement in the Covenant of the League of Nations.
By entering into that Covenant we are under a moral obligation, possibly, to go to war under conditions which we could not foresee. It was such engagements, more than anything else, that kept America out of the League of Nations. We know that as a fact. In Mr. Page's Memoirs it will be found distinctly stated that, of the causes which kept America out, the most potent was the fact that America refused to be bound by anything of the nature of this part of the Covenant of the League of Nations They were right. We, unfortunately, are hound by that Covenant, and we shall adhere to it, because we always perform our agreements, but let us go into no more of such commitments. I do not wish to take up the time of the Committee in discussing the dangers of commitments at length, but let me take a practical case. Bolivia and Peru are both members of the League of Nations. Suppose that there is a dispute between them. Peru, perhaps, takes some Bolivian citizen and ill-treats him. Bolivia sends forces at once. They may know that if delay occurs some of their subjects may be killed, and send armed forces for their protection. Who is to say which is the aggressor? Would it be the one which first sent troops, and should not we, under the Covenant, be obliged to send ships over to South America in order to fulfil the Covenant. Would the Americans stand by in spite of their Monroe doctrine? It may be doubted whether any ships that we sent out to enforce the views of the League in the Western Continent would ever come back again.
517 9.0 p.m.
These commitments to go to war under conditions not foreseen are things that we ought to bar in the future. The speech that was made not very long ago by the Foreign Secretary, showing that at all events we were thinking carefully before we went into any more of these commitments ought to be heartily welcomed. That is the first and the most important point—let us avoid these engagements to go to war in order to promote peace. The second point is that we should never look upon the League of Nations as a super-State which can dictate to us or any other member of the League. We have entered into our definite bond, and will carry it out, but we should not impair our national freedom of action, except so far as we are bound by definite and limited engagements. Does that in any way make it appear that the League of Nations can do nothing? Not for a moment. What the League of Nations can do effectively is to enable the nations to learn to co-operate together in doing some useful work. Directly that is done, we may be certain that a spirit of good will and friendship will spring up. Wherever two sets of people are working together, whether they be two nations or two bodies of people of any character acting together and doing some useful work, they will become friends in a way that nothing else can secure.
By the League of Nations such work can be done. It can deal with questions like those of the law affecting international commerce, extradition and shipping, with the white slave traffic, with questions of scientific investigation of all kinds, in which the nations can help each other and get into the habit of helping each other. In that way they can accomplish far more than by all the sanctions that can possibly be put forward, and it will be found that people who have been enemies will become fast friends by working together. Let us also be careful, when we are dealing with any question of dispute, that we provide a means by which that dispute can be settled judicially, if it cannot be settled by mutual agreement, and let the judicial tribunals he kept distinct from political influences. That is necessary at home. There have been lately, unfortunately, indications that that principle may be interfered with here in England. While the League 518 of Nations itself and its Council may be a body of conciliation, a body doing various kinds of useful work, it is not a judicial tribunal, and cannot properly be made into one. We want a strong Court free from political influences, like the Hague Tribunal, keeping the judicial side distinct from the political.
Above all, if we do have agreements for deciding disputes that cannot be settled by negotiation between the parties, let us have it clear in any such agreement that those disputes shall be settled by a judicial tribunal, whether it be the Court at the Hague or whether it be one of the mixed tribunals set up under the Treaties of Versailles and of Trianon. Any policy that interferes with the action of such tribunals is a fatally unfortunate policy. We have seen what the mixed tribunals can do in deciding disputes day after day. Hundreds of disputes have been settled by the various Mixed Arbitral Tribunals. Let us make sure that, wherever such tribunals are provided for under any Treaty, they shall function as freely and as completely as possible. Although we approve heartily of the action that they are now taking under existing Treaties, and under present conditions, we may express the hope that those general lines of policy which I have ventured to indicate will not be forgotten when new events arise and new steps have to be taken.
§ Mr. PONSONBY
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has given expression to sentiments with which I am in hearty agreement. In fact, his speech might have been made from these benches. There was one point he particularly emphasised, which was also emphasised by the hon. and gallant Member for Chippenham (Captain Cazalet) in a very interesting speech, with which I should like to deal for a moment. Both these hon. Members pressed for the evacuation of the Rhineland by the troops now quartered there, and I should like on behalf of my friends on this side of the House to support that plea. We have always felt that Germany being now a member of the League of Nations, should be on a footing of complete equality with other Powers. There are two conditions which prevent that at present. The first is that Germany is disarmed ever since 1919 down to a certain standard of dis- 519 armament, and the other is that German territory is occupied by foreign troops. I will not dwell now upon the first of these conditions, which puts Germany on a different footing, because the considerations connected with it are too large. But the second is really a perfectly simple matter. It is a matter of the withdrawal from the Rhine of a force which is of no sort of use, which is serving no purpose whatever that can help in good relations between the countries, which is an expense in itself, which is demoralising to the soldiers who have to serve in this force, and which ceases to be of any value.
We had expected, after the French elections, that possibly the policy of the French Government with regard to this matter might have taken a step in advance. The time is coming, I think in two years, when the period during which the troops are by Treaty to remain there will terminate; but surely we need not wait for other Powers when our troops are involved? Cannot the Government take a lead in this matter, and make advances to the French Government, which is now formed, and say that the time has come to terminate this arrangement before its actual term? I should like to ask the Under-Secretary whether any steps are being taken in that direction and, if not, whether he will communicate these views to the Secretary of State. With regard to the two most important questions which have occupied the attention of the Committee to-day, a great deal has been said and little remains perhaps for me to say. But there are one or two points which require consideration.
I should like to say a few words with regard to our attitude towards Oriental nations. We go on, year in, year out, pursuing little policies here and there, without really tackling the problem from a very much larger point of view. The East and the West meet in these countries, and we have adopted a certain line of policy, be it in India, in Turkey, in Persia, or in Egypt, which has become a sort of British tradition. That policy is to show these Oriental countries that in order to become civilised like we are they should adopt a Parliamentary and representative form of government, and we proceed to transplant this very tender growth of Parliamentary government, 520 which has thriven in this country because now it is some 700 years old, into a perfectly different soil, in perfectly different conditions, and we blame the Orientals if their Parliamentary system does not succeed. I have always agreed with the sentiment expressed by a former Prime Minister in this House that good government is no substitute for self-government. I think we have made a mistake in these Oriental countries in trying to force on them Western methods and Western ideas.
The right hon. Member for Marylebone (Sir R. Rodd) who made an interesting maiden speech and has had a very rich diplomatic experience, stated that we very often look upon Parliaments and Government offices in Egypt, and things which we have the same name as we give them here, very much in the light of our own Parliament and Government offices. Their tradition is absolutely different. Their method is different. They do not understand that form of Government. Their students read of it in books, and we teach them that it is the right thing to adopt, and I really believe the time has come, in the 20th century, when we should revise our methods and allow these Orientals to govern their country in their own way, even if they make a mess of it. I am not advocating a bag and baggage policy in Egypt. Of course, we cannot do that. I know perfectly well that in the last 40 years there have grown up great obligations which we are obliged to discharge. But I know more than that. I know that if you went to the present or to any Egyptian Government and said "We will clear out all our troops; we leave to you the protection of the foreigner: we let the Suez Canal go: and we hand over to you the Sudan in the next month"; there is no Egyptian Government that would accept that proposal.
That brings us to the Orient method of diplomacy, which I do not think we understand. Sarwat Pasha came over here and negotiated with the Foreign Secretary. As it turned out, he did not represent his Government. I should have thought a well-informed British High Commissioner in Cairo would have known that and would have informed the Foreign Secretary. That Oriental method has been adopted before. I think it will be within the recollection of the Com- 521 mittee that the negotiations that went on previous to the entry of Turkey into the War were conducted precisely in that way. Sarwat Pasha came over here friendly towards the views of the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary, and when he got back he found that his Government did not agree with him. I think that Lord Lloyd, the British High Commissioner in Cairo, ought to have known perfectly well that Sarwat Pasha would not be able to carry that Treaty through with his Government in that country, and ought to have given a proper warning to the right hon. Gentleman here in London. Negotiations which are opened and then fail make eventual settlement more and more difficult. The right hon. Gentleman read out the complimentary letter of Nahas Pasha, the present Prime Minister. He also said that Sarwat Pasha parted from him after the negotiations had broken down in the friendliest possible spirit. My right hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Ramsay MacDonald) parted from Zaghloul Pasha in 1924 after their negotiations had broken down in the friendliest possible spirit.
The Oriental is very friendly. He is clever. The Oriental has this particular method that we do not in the very least understand, and because we fail to understand we always blame him, when really the clumsiness rests with us. Then because negotiations stopped and because the Egyptian Parliament wanted to pass a certain Measure of legislation, and because we warned them that we did not want them to do that, we had not the patience to go on, and we sent out battleships. I do not think that in the course of the Debate to-day it has been made sufficiently clear to the Government how very strongly we disagree with that blundering method of threatening force. With the orders for the ships from the pen of the Foreign Secretary hardly yet dry, he comes down to the House and says that this country has never used war as an instrument of policy. Really, one does regret the opportunities that are given to the foreigner to point to us as hypocrites.
The right hon. Gentleman, in dealing with the outlawry proposal of Mr. Kellogg, made the statement that this country has never used war as an instrument of national policy. This 522 country has never been the aggressor. It was the French, it was the Russians, it was the Turks, the Germans, the Austrians, the Zulus, the Afghans, the Boers during the last 100 years who always attacked us, and we were always on the defensive. Anybody speaking in any other Parliament of the world would say exactly the same thing. No country has ever confessed that it was the aggressor, and every country will declare with a perfectly clear conscience in its Parliament that it has never used war as an instrument of national policy. That is exactly where the trouble is. We do it from our point of view, and we forget that other people are doing the same thing in their own country. I am sure we are glad that the Foreign Secretary has given what must be for the moment, until he gets confirmation from the Dominions, a reserved but nevertheless a cordial welcome to the Kellogg proposals. I hope that the dangers and difficulties to which he refers Null not stand in the way of a wholehearted acceptance of this very important move in the direction of peace.
His Majesty's Government have, up to now, been inclined to cast shadows and throw doubts on the attempts of other nations in the direction of peace. His Majesty's Government have not had the imagination to contribute any sort of suggestion of their own. Let us hope, anyhow, that on this occasion there will be a really cordial and sincere response to this suggestion. Of course, in the League of Nations it is always extremely difficult to make any advance. We do not expect too much of the League of Nations. We know not only of the different points of view, as represented by the different individuals and different States, but that the individuals who go to the League of Nations very often do not know whether their Government is sufficiently stable to send them there on future occasions. Therefore, you get at Geneva, necessarily, very slow progress. I agree with what an hon. Member said with regard to America's reluctance to hind herself by the sanctions of the Covenant of the League. I heartily endorse what was said with regard to those sanctions.
Here we have something that comes from outside Geneva, something that introduces the fresh air of a nation that 523 has been anxious to help but has—and very rightly has—doubted the sincerity of the European nations. The moment has come when this has been launched, and I think that we ought to remember, that while we give Mr. Kellogg and the Government of the United States of America every possible credit for having brought forward the proposal in its present form of a multilateral treaty, 1 do not think we ought to forget that it was M. Briand who first of all said to the American Government, "France is willing publicly to engage itself with the United States to put war as between the two countries outside the pale of the law." I do not think we ought to be too hasty in condemning France and in thinking that France is to be a spoke in the wheel which will bring this to a fruitful conclusion. I hope very much that M. Briand will be restored to health, because I believe he is the real friend of peace. I am perfectly certain that when he has an opportunity to speak he will, as he always has, up to now, move in the direction of making the acceptance of the American proposals free and unhampered and not overloaded with reservations and restrictions.
The message that has gone out to-day from the House of Commons is one that is already vibrating in all the capitals of the world. Great Britain has spoken—not yet enthusiastically, except in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. The Dominions had to be consulted, and I would like to ask this question. I hope that the consultation with the Dominions is being effected by telegram, and that it will be a matter of days and not weeks before their reply is received. But this news has gone out and the voice of Great Britain in this matter is an important voice. What we say does matter. I think the world has been watching these last 10 years for a British lead, and that British lead has not come. The lead has come from the United States of America. Let us, as cousins, give it the warmest possible welcome. Germany has spoken, and our welcome ought not only to be an acceptance, but at the same time a willingness, expressed with friendliness and affection, to bring this matter a stage further, to ease the steps which may yet be rather difficult imme- 524 diately in advance, and so to invite the other great Powers and the smaller nations who will be only too ready to follow the lead, into a path which, as the second quarter of the 20th century dawns, may at last lead the nations to real peace.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Mr. Godfrey Locker-Lampson)
The difficulty which anyone has to meet in winding up a Debate is to try to find replies for the various questions which have been put to him, but my difficulty this evening is that there is very little to answer in the speeches which hon. Gentlemen opposite have made. In fact, I do not think I have ever witnessed such practical unanimity as has been shown in the House this evening. It is true that certain hon. Gentlemen opposite have made certain rather vague complaints in regard to past actions of ours, but on the whole really the voice of controversy has practically been hushed this evening. I do hope that the voice of controversy will be hushed in regard to this American proposal until the matter has been settled. The Government welcome the proposal which has been made by the United States of America, and we are whole-heartedly going to do our best to make it a success. The hon. Gentleman asked just now a specific question as to whether our communications with the Dominions were going to be by telegram and whether we should know the result of their answers within a few days. Our communications, so far as I know, are being made by telegram, and I very much hope that the result will be known within a very few days. Anyhow, we shall not be lacking in every possible endeavour to get the answers as soon as we can and let the House know the results.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy), who is not here in his place now, made what to my mind was an interesting contribution to the Debate. He said that we ought to negotiate with the United States with regard to maritime rights at sea in time of war, and he thought that if we did so, and could come to some successful issue on that point, the United States would probably do their best to prevent their nationals from breaking a blockade insti- 525 tuted by the League. That is an interesting suggestion which deserves consideration, but, after all, we have got enough on our hands at the moment. We have one negotiation, and a very big negotiation, on our hands, and if this Treaty develops, as we hope it will, and has the immense effect which we hope it will have, I believe it will go a long way towards solving very many of the problems which have proved so difficult of solution in the past.
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down asked one other specific question, and that question was also raised by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Chippenham (Captain Cazalet) and by the hon. Member for the English Universities (Sir A. Hopkinson), in regard to the evacuation of the Rhineland. I agree that this is a very important question, but the hon. Gentlemen must remember that we have very considerably reduced our military forces in the Rhineland during the last year or two. I have not got the figures here at the moment, because I did not know the question was to be raised, but we have reduced our forces by several thousands during the last year. This occupation, after all, is under the Treaty of Versailles, and until the period under that Treaty comes to an end, we are, under the Treaty, legally entitled to keep our troops there. But I agree with the hon. Gentleman that nothing would be better, if it were possible, than to withdraw our troops altogether from the Rhineland. You have to remember two things. One is that we act in concert with our former Allies, Belgium and France, and the other is that the question of occupation is very largely bound up with the question of reparations. It is very difficult to separate these two questions altogether. The problem of reparations, I hope, is much nearer some kind of practical solution than it was a years ago. All I will say is this: We are watching this question of the occupation of the Rhineland very carefully, and nobody will be more pleased than we shall be, as a Government, if the occupation of the Rhineland comes to an end sooner than a few years ago it was thought to be possible.
The hon. Gentleman asked me one other definite question, relating to the visit of Sarwat Pasha to this country at the time of the negotiations with my 526 right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, and he was very surprised that Lord Lloyd had not warned us—he asked whether Lord Lloyd had warned us—that there was no chance of that Treaty passing the Egyptian Parliament. As a matter of fact, Sarwat Pasha himself was almost certain that on his return to Egypt he would be able to get the Treaty through the Egyptian Parliament. Therefore, if Sarwat Pasha, who was the Prime Minister of Egypt, thought that this Treaty had that good chance, I think that anyhow we cannot be blamed for having thought also that it would have a good chance. I was very disappointed, and I am sure all Members of the House were, that that Treaty did not go through. It very nearly did go through in the last resort, before Sarwat Pasha found that it would be definitely rejected, there were only two minor points outstanding, the question of the police and that of certain English officers functioning in the Egyptian army. Those were the only two outstanding points. They had practically been settled when the leaders of Wafd made up their minds that they could not accept the Treaty. I still hope that one of these days we shall see the resurrection of that Treaty, or something very like it. If we can get that kind of understanding, we shall be able to go forward to a period of continued peace.
I have nothing to add to what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs said with regard to Egypt and the American Note. I listened very carefully to the Debate for any specific points to which I might have to reply, but I failed to note any, except one. It would, therefore, not be worth while keeping the House by covering the old ground once more. There was, however, one specific point in the speech of the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord Hugh Cecil) to which I should like to reply. The Noble Lord is not in his place but he will probably look in the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow to see whether his question has been answered. He expressed the hope that the Government would do something to contribute to the Armenian Refugees Settlement Fund. Questions have been put to the Foreign Office on this subject during the last year, and I think my Noble Friend had not in his mind the fact that we have already contributed 527 over £1,000,000 to the Armenians in Iraq. At the present time I believe there is a scheme promoted by Dr. Nansen for the benefit of the Armenians in Armenia, and there is another scheme promoted by the French for the Armenians in Syria and a third scheme for the Armenians in South America. In the case of Syria, I think it is for the French to look after the Armenians in that part of the world, because they have a mandate for Syria. As we have already contributed over £1,000,000 towards the Armenians in Iraq, I do not feel that in our present state of national finance we can at the moment do more.
The Debate this evening has been an example for us to follow in future Debates, and as near as possible to treat foreign questions from a non-controversial point of view. As far as the Foreign Office are concerned they have no complaints whatever to make about the tone which has been exhibited in the Debate to-day, and I can say, so far as my right hon. Friend and myself are concerned, that we are very anxious that foreign affairs should not be treated as party politics. There can be no doubt that directly foreign affairs are treated from the point of view of party politics they are apt to engender dangerous questions, which may have very serious repercussions abroad. Therefore, I am delighted to think that in our Parliament these foreign questions are treated in a nonpartisan spirit, and on their own merits.
§ Mr. SAKLATVALA
I agree that up to now the Committee has been, more or less, like a prayer meeting, with hon. Members pronouncing mutual benedictions upon one another. I hope the Committee will permit me to carry on the usual function of discussion in my own way, without feeling offended. With regard to Egypt, the very fact that our relations with that country are conducted through the Foreign Office means that that country is as much a foreign country as France and America, and not a colony or dependency; and yet Great Britain in her relations with that foreign country, through the British Foreign Office, maintains her own Army, her own hired police officers and her own rights of insistence upon her wishes being observed, even in the conduct of Parliamentary Government in that country. That, in itself, ex- 528 poses the methods of Great Britain in running imperialism in disguise. The Committee ought to be perfectly fair and honest. If we do not mean Egypt to be an independent country and a free country, why leave Egypt under the Foreign Office? Why not place Egypt under the Colonial Minister, or create another Secretary of State, like the Secretary of State for India, or adopt some other method to show the type of Egyptian independence in the eyes of this country as compared with the independence of other countries with whom the Foreign Office deals.
I am not surprised, but a little puzzled in trying to differentiate between the two policies of the Government and the Labour party. If my hon. Friends in the Committee will allow me the indulgence to explain my difficulty, without getting offended, I should like to say that the Government policy, so far as I understand it, is a warship diplomacy, while the policy of the British Labour party, as I understand it, I may be wrong, is the policy of telling the people of Great Britain that we shall remain the undoubted masters, with the last word, in Egypt, and at the same time attempting to tell the Egyptians that we are going to keep Egypt in subjection, but without warships. I appeal to my Friends of the Labour party to explain the position to the Egyptians much more clearly. The hon. Member for Shoreditch (Mr. Thurtle) explained that the, policy of the Labour party was not akin to the policy of the Government, and I understood that clearly: but I felt rather puzzled as to whether the policy which he enunciated was the policy of the Labour party in Shoreditch or the policy of the Labour party in Aberavon. That in itself would show that probably there are contradictory policies in foreign affairs and in colonial affairs which pass under the name of Labour party policy.
I am not saying these things in any spirit of sectional controversy in this country but I am merely trying to impress upon the Committee the necessity of making these points clear from the viewpoint of the Oriental countries about which so much has been said of sympathy and pathos. If the Labour party are agreed that a British Commissioner must be in Egypt, and if they are agreed that even under democratic Parliamentary 529 machinery, that even a Parliament like that in Egypt has no right to pass a law because Great Britain objects to it, and if, on the other hand, the Egyptian people say, "We are going to pass this law, and you have no right to interfere in our internal affairs," how is a British administration to be maintained in Egypt I How is the right of Britain to be in Egypt to be exercised and maintained 1 It is no use trying either to bamboozle yourselves or the people of Egypt and say that we have got some method in a silk hat which we will produce to control Egypt without warships or armaments. These two things are impossible, whether it be in Egypt, China, Iraq, India, or anywhere where foreign control has to be maintained. If you agree that it is to be maintained, then it is no use saying that warships will not be used, or aeroplanes or armaments will not be used. I believe that the experience of Iraqians in 1924 is that armaments are sometimes used to exercise the right of a foreign Power in another country. These things ought to be explained, and if anybody has a prescription of how one Power can dominate in the country of another Power without using forces or warships or police officers, the world would be the richer for the discovery of such a method. But the Egyptian people and we all believe that there is not such a method. There is no foreign Power which can hold a dominating sway in another country which can come out in pubic and pretend that it does not want to use the army.
We were told by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition that it was his conviction that it was not possible to get away from Egypt immediately, and to try and give independence to Egypt, because some other Power would go in; and if another Power should not go in, the Egyptians would make a muddle of their own affairs. Why is not some other Power taking Belgium? Belgium is a small Power. Why can Belgium be independent? If the neutrality of Belgium can be held by independence, why cannot the independence of Egypt be equally held? If Denmark can enjoy peace and independence, or Switzerland or Holland, why is it that it is only Oriental countries to which this fictitious Imperialistic argument is going to be used by the Labour party? If it is their honest conviction, they should explain 530 the difference between Egypt and Denmark, Holland, Belgium or Switzerland. If it is the fear that if Great Britain does not occupy a weak Power somebody else will, why does not Great Britain take these small European Powers? With regard to the ability of Egyptians to govern their own country, what are the evidences to show that Egyptians cannot carry on their government? If this Parliament were subject to an outside interference, so that whatever Parliament discussed would not become law unless some Chinaman or Egyptian or Indian approved of it, Parliamentary government in this country would not be able to function smoothly or really successfully. To talk of councils in India or Parliament in Egypt as not functioning successfully, and then to attribute it to an inherent fault of the people, passes all comprehension.
The Leader of the Opposition has said that the policy of the Labour party is to get over the transition period. What is the transition period? Who fixes it? On what does it depend? The Noble Lord the Secretary of State for India told the country quite openly the other day that, even if the Egyptians postponed this Bill, not for a few months, or for a few years, or for 10 years, Great Britain would find it to her interest to interfere. In the opinion of the Noble Lord, the transition period is not even visible. The Foreign Secretary told us that it is the geographical position of Egypt that makes it impossible for Great Britain to withdraw. The Egyptians certainly would like to know what the identification ought to be of this conception of a transition period. Does the Labour party also believe that the transition period means the period while Great Britain is the master of India and must control the Suez Canal Do they also believe that the transition period is not within the next 10 or 20 years, and that it is dependent upon Egypt's geographical position? Will they also wait for some earthquake or ice-age to carry away Egypt to the Pacific Ocean or somewhere else? Does the transition period depend upon all the boys and girls of Egypt going to some school and passing an examination, or does it depend on something that the Egyptians are asked to do and do not do?
531 What is the line of demarcation between Egyptian freedom and British right to interfere in the Egyptian field? I believe, at least, that the people of Egypt, with whom we have this funny sort of foreign relationship, are entitled to know, when somebody fixes a transition period, upon what it is based. Upon what standard is it based, so that the people can make an effort to satisfy the particular standard?
Apart from this position, there is the entire outlook of British politics towards these Asiatic countries. There are many events which happen outside a country for which Great Britain insists upon an unnatural foreign policy with that particular country. Sometimes they are afraid of Russian Bolshevists, and immediately they start bullying Persia or Afghanistan. The poor Afghans or Persians are perfectly innocent, but because the British have some suspicion about Russian Bolshevism, they start bullying them. If they have some fear of something going wrong in India, they want the military routes to India to be kept clear, they want their air service to pass through Persia or their control centred over Egypt, and similarly, depending on their policy in China, several other States in Asia have to suffer for the Foreign Office of Great Britain. These Asiatic countries have a right to know when the British Foreign Office is going to give up its habit of playing the bully and the pirate in Eastern seas. They invent all kinds of excuses about British interests, but there are Egyptian interests in this country, and there are Egyptian citizens living here. Can any Egyptian battalion be posted in Kensington for their protection?
I wish to draw the attention of the Foreign Office to another important feature which has occurred in Germany, and that is the role of a self-appointed Foreign Minister for this country played by the galloper Secretary of State for India. When the Egyptian situation is at its most critical moment, it is not the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs who declares his opinion, but the Secretary of State for India, who pompously says he has decided that even if this particular Bill is postponed for 10 years, Egypt will have no right to pass it. We want to know exactly how 532 far the Secretary of State for India is permitted to act as a sort of kite flyer or deputy for the Foreign Secretary. He went recently to Germany, and we were told by the Prime Minister that he was out on a holiday. It is well known, however, in Germany that he did put forward five specific points to the German Government, on behalf and in the name of the British Government, to break their trading relations with Russia, to give up some of their concessional rights, to stop the, credits to Russia; and not only so, but it is well known all over Germany that he discussed certain military points as between Germany and Great Britain.
I would like to know whether the Noble Lord plays this part as a rival to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, with whom he disagrees, or whether he is just saying things out of a sense of higher diplomacy which he thinks the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs should not say, and that he should take part in an important political intrigue or any kind of a plot in foreign countries, and that he should do so when he is out on holiday. It is really opening up a very serious departure in the foreign relations of this country for a Cabinet Minister, whose job it is to deal with India, to pronounce mischievous opinions publicly and bombastically on foreign affairs generally. Is it done in a spirit of rivalry, and is the Prime Minister not able to put him down?
There has been nothing said in this Debate with regard to the present situation in China. There is still, not only a war atmosphere there, but occasionally irregular warfare is carried on, sometimes by this country, sometimes by another country; and the British policy towards the people of China is not made clear. We quite realise the argument that there is no one specific authority in China with whom the Foreign Office can deal, but events prove that the British Foreign Office has at times a distinct partiality for certain groups and events. Questions have been asked in this House with regard to the handing over of Chinese refugees. When a lot of tears are shed about Armenian refugees, the same British Government has no scruple in handing over Chinese refugees to war generals, who do nothing with them but chop off their heads. It is certainly very economical. There is 533 a sort of hidden policy in China, arid why cannot this country make clear what is her settled policy there? At the present time there is a very significant example that where the Japanese Government have provoked warlike operations the Chinese are retaliating. When the British Government are holding neutrality, the Chinese have not done any harm to British interests, and that is proof that the foreign interests in China are jeopardised when some foreign Power becomes the aggressor and provokes retaliation from the Chinese. Some pronouncement of a clearer character ought, to be made as to what are the real intentions of Great Britain towards the movement in China for the real freedom of the lower masses and not of the few mandarins who can treat with foreign Powers.
There was a question raised about the Eastern Christians, and that reminds me of some of the Eastern non-Christians. The other day I asked a question of the Foreign Office, and I was given hope that after investigation by the India Office I might get some answer. I am not particularly interested in any religious propaganda by one religion into the province of another religion, but this is a matter of foreign policy. Christian missionaries are not only allowed but are helped to go out to China, Africa, India and other countries, and Great Britain has always insisted on freedom for these missionaries to go out and preach and make converts. If the people do not like it, they are not compelled to be converts, but the missionaries are not to be molested. I drew the attention of the Foreign Office the other day to the question of a party of Hindu missionaries having entered the territory of the Portuguese Government in India, where the original Hindu population had been converted by Christian Catholic missionaries to the Christian Catholic religion. The Hindu missionaries went out there, they did not break any law, they created no trouble whatever, and then they started preaching Hinduism; and as a result of it a few hundred men or women were converted to Hinduism.
Where is the responsibility of the Foreign Office? I understand that certain Hindu missionaries entered into Portuguese India, did the hon. Member say?
But how can the British Foreign Office be responsible for what happens in Portuguese territory?
§ Mr. SAKLATVALA
I am putting it to the British Foreign Office that these men were banished and told that if they again entered to preach Hinduism in those Catholic villages, they would be imprisoned for life. They were banished and translated back to British territory, and this was distinctly an occasion where the British Foreign Office ought to make representations to the Portuguese Government. If Christian missionaries were turned away from China or from an African village, would the British Foreign Office make no representations? I would draw the attention of the Foreign Office to that matter not as one which has any religious consequence to me or to anybody else, but as a matter of the same fair and equal protection being extended to Hindu missionaries as would be given to British Christian missionaries. With regard to America, on a previous occasion I made a suggestion which was laughed at, and I will risk being laughed at again. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition said, "If war between America and Great Britain is unthinkable, why not put your pledge on paper and sign it?" That is a very fine and right challenge to give; but we know that the world is full of signed pledges which were accompanied by as many wars. I have been suggesting for the last two or three years that, if you are really serious about no war between your country and America, great economy could le accomplished, and much of the war spirit could be abolished if you had one common navy between America and Great Britain for common purposes, and if the personnel of each ship were half British and half American.
I would remind the hon. Member that the cost of the Navy is not covered by the Foreign Office Vote.
§ Mr. SAKLATVALA
I was not referring to the financial side of the question, but to the peace side. The best foreign policy would be to have a common Navy in partnership with America, and a common Air Force in 535 partnership with France. With regard to Russia, I suppose my words will be wasted, but I again put it to this Committee that your attitude to that country is not one of spiting your face by cutting off your nose by disturbing friendly relations with Russia, but it all arises out of an insidious enmity towards the workers' republic. That spirit is upsetting Great Britain's relations with various other countries. It is making relations with Germany complicated and confused; it is partly an intrigue against France, partly an intrigue against Poland, and partly an intrigue against Belgium, simply because of your Russian nightmare. The policy of Great Britain towards Italy is also involved and confused by the Russian nightmare. It is the same in your policy with Afghanistan. The Amir of Afghanistan was here, and people went on their knees and bowed before him, but the Amir of Afghanistan understands quite well that it was all because of the nightmare of Soviet Russia. Relationships are vitiated and confused and have become mere intriguing and mystery on account of this bogey of the first workers republic. When Great Britain makes up its mind that that workers' republic is to live; that, after mistakes and hardships, it is going to build up a new life for the workers which has not been known hitherto to the world; that it is to be an example of Socialism, then Russia is bound to be studied in all its details. It would be foolish not to study it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] If a new capitalist scheme were launched in America, some of those "hear, hearers" opposite would be gloating over it, and would want to study it in every detail and to go across and find out what was going on. When the workers of Great Britain, of Germany, of France, and of Italy find out that the workers of Russia have done what the British Labour movement taught for 15 years, they are bound to study it, to exchange finance, to exchange delegates, and to exchange literature. There is nothing unnatural about it; there is nothing conspiratory about it. The Liberal party is now imitating us.
§ Mr. SAKLATVALA
I was only giving an example that we are not going to interfere with Russia, and I was pointing out that Liberals have come from various other countries to confer in England with British Liberals and probably to form a world Liberal International. They have made an exchange of finance, of literature and of views; but the British Government are not going to alter their policy of foreign relationships with other countries on account of that Liberal International Federation. I do not see why, because of a Communist International Federation and Communist activities openly carried on, Britain should take her foreign policy out of the right plane and try to suppress anything that happens in a workers' republic. I again appeal to the Committee with very little hope; but I appeal to the Government to give up that angle of vision and to re-establish their foreign relations with all other countries on a natural basis, regardless of any intrigue against the Soviet Republic. Whatever we may try to do, the Soviet Republic and Sovietism as a system will succeed and become a world power.
§ Sir MARTIN CONWAY
After the torrent of words to which we have just listened, it is a little difficult to turn one's attention to practical matters. I am sorry that the Under-Secretary has made his speech in reply, as there are one or two points which I wish to put to him in reference to passports, and I presume it will not be possible to have them answered to-night. Ministers and permanent officials of the Government, when they go abroad have no practical experience of the discomforts which the ordinary man suffers in reference to passports. Hundreds of thousands of people from this country who travel are unnecessarily annoyed by the complications of the passport system. At the Sixth Assembly of the League of Nations, a resolution was unanimously passed to the effect that the abolition of passports should be brought about by gradual stages, with a view to the suppression to the widest possible extent of the pass- 537 port system. There have been various passport conferences. There was one in 1920 at which the representatives of Great Britain led in the direction of an improvement in the passport system, but at the last passport conference, in 1926, every proposal for modification of the system put forward by foreign countries was blocked by the British representatives.
For instance, France proposed that the general control of travellers at frontiers should be gradually discontinued and their representative explained that the purpose of the proposal was to restore pre-War conditions, under which it was the business of the police to watch persons reported as suspects. That proposal was emphatically repudiated by the representatives of Great Britain. I take it, therefore, that passports must be regarded as a permanent institution in this country, and that any desire that may be expressed that compulsory passports should be done away with or any effort in that direction will meet with the opposition of the Government. Therefore, we have to take that as a thing settled. If, then, we are to regard passports as a regular part of our system, the whole business of obtaining and renewing passports should be made as simple and as easy as possible. First of all, what we want more than anything else is to have visas abolished. Visas have been largely abolished but I think they still exist as between this country and the United States. I have a list of the various prices of visas as between the United States and different foreign countries. I will not read them to the Committee, but as far as Great Britain is concerned, the visa costs £2. I understand the United States is willing to abolish the visa and that it is we who are standing in the way.
One of the things we have always tried to do is to promote tourist traffic between foreign countries and Great Britain. If we desire to do that, one of the first things we have to do is to make it easy for citizens of the United States to come to this country. Those who do visit us have to pay a sum, in respect of the visa, corresponding to that which we pay on going to the United States, and not only that, but if they remain here for any length of time there are various regulations which they have to follow. Every- 538 thing done to facilitate the visits of United States citizens to this country and of people from this country to the United States helps to bring together the two peoples on whose co-operation the peace of the word depends. Everybody, I think, is agreed that visas might be done away with, except perhaps in the case of Russia, but coming to passports and regarding them as inevitable, the first thing to do is to make them as cheap as possible.
Nowadays people of relatively small means make short visits to the Continent of a week, 10 days or a fortnight. They travel in groups for a very small price. A matter of £5 will take a man abroad and bring him back again, but the passport costs him 7s. 6d. He must also have himself photographed and pay visits to offices which take up his time. The result is that though his total expenses otherwise are only about £5, he is put to an expense of 10s. or 12s. in England before he can start. That is a considerable matter to people of small means. We want to make our passports as cheap as possible. What is the object of a passport It is simply to say that the person whose photograph is on the card is named so and so and is a British subject. Why should that cost a man 7s. 6d. and be available only for five years; and why should it cost 2s. to renew a passport? Why should there be only one or two places in England—London and Liverpool and one or two other places—at which one can obtain passports? In many foreign countries passports are issued by the head of the police of the district, who surely is more likely to know, or can more easily find out, the character of the person applying than can a Foreign Office official in London. Why should not a passport cost half-a-crown and be obtainable locally anywhere? That would do away with a great deal of the objection there is to passports. Again, in the case of groups of people going abroad together, why should not there be a collective passport for the whole lot of them? Nothing could be safer than to have a group of people travelling together. They cannot very well separate, and they keep an eye upon one another, and one passport for the whole lot would be most suitable.
Then there is another little detail. When you get a passport you are asked to what countries you wish to go, and 539 they are entered on it. On getting abroad you always find that you wish to go to some other country which you have forgotten. I had 25 countries put on my passport, and then I had forgotten Egypt. I was on my way to Palestine. Of course, it did not matter, because nobody ever looks at a passport, and the omission was not found out, and so my passport carried me through; but it might have been troublesome, and if I had wanted to have Egypt added to it, I should have had to send my passport to the Foreign Office and pay 2s. Then it happened that I wanted to go to the Kingdom of Persia, and I had forgotten to include Persia. Why should not passports, as was recommended by the Passport Commission at Geneva, be available universally? It is nothing more than an identity card, and the statement that John Jones is a British subject is just as true in France as in Belgium or Holland or India or the United States. Why should a man he put to the trouble of having entered on his passport every country to which he wishes to go and be charged 2s. if he wishes to add another country, and 2s. apiece if he wishes to add half-a-dozen others? I would intercede with the Foreign Office to try to do something to make it easier for people to come home from abroad. If you are returning by way of Calais and Dover, from the moment you get out of the train at Calais to the moment you get into the train at Dover, it is like a football squash. At Calais you are herded through a passage in order that your passport may be inspected; then you are herded through another too small chamber to have your luggage examined. Why it should be necessary to examine the luggage when you are leaving France I cannot make out. 540 Then the passport has to be examined again at Dover, and, of course, the luggage also. All that makes the journey the most uncomfortable two hours that it is possible to conceive. If anybody had set to work to organise a really uncomfortable entrance to England from France he could not have done better. I beg the Foreign Office to see if something cannot be done to facilitate travelling in this respect. It is terribly hard on invalids, and on old people like myself, to have to go through this football squash. Any success which the Foreign Office can achieve in rendering the passage of people coming home a little easier will be received with satisfaction by hundreds of thousands of passengers who now suffer this great inconvenience.
§ Mr. LOCKER-LAMPSON
I did not know that my hon. Friend was going to raise this subject. I have got a careful note of all he has said, and I will report it to the Passport Office, and we will see what can be done.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again," put, and agreed to.—[Commander Eyres Monsell.]
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.