§ Question again proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."
§ 12.12 p.m.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
At the moment of interruption I was saying how, in the course of the consideration of the payment due on the 15th December to the United States, suggestions were made from both sides that no agreement could be come to regarding these debt payments without personal interviews and negotiations. In December those interviews were impossible; there was no effective Government in Washington. It was a very long time to wait until the beginning of March, and I am very happy to say that what might perhaps be described as the very strictest propriety was waived somewhat, and contacts were established with the knowledge and consent of President Hoover. But the month of June is approaching rapidly, and both Governments are still as convinced as they were in November that, preliminary to any action that may be taken on the 15th June, there ought to be a personal and a candid examination of the whole situation. This Debt question is not merely a matter for experts—can gold be transferred, what is the effect of the transfer going to be upon international exchange, and so on? Everyone who has had any responsibility in conducting Anglo-American affairs during the last 10 or 15 years knows perfectly well, and neither Americans nor Englishmen should hide the fact from them, that these payments of Debt have had a very important political effect, and a settlement of the Debt question which was acceptable to both sides would be one of the greatest blessings that could happen. I am not going to discuss on what lines conversations are to take place, but I can say this to the House, that in so far as conversations will take place in America, I shall report what I find with any recommendations that I can make to the Cabinet, and when the Cabinet comes to a decision in the matter, if the House asks for it, a Debate will be provided.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
At this visit, which my right hon. Friend, I am sure, 2751 remembers, is only going to be a prolonged week-end, I propose to come to no agreements. What we want on the matter I have just mentioned of debts and various other matters, to which I shall only refer, and as to which I am going to make no elaborate explanation—what we want with America is an understanding of each other's point of view. That is the first thing. We must sit down together and mutually understand each other, the various points of view that have to be satisfied, the various interests that have to be satisfied, and if that field can be very thoroughly explored in the short space of four days, I think very good work will be done.
Going back to the question of debts, it is certain that there can be no provisional agreements come to. There will be exchanges of views. I expect the President to talk to me with the most friendly candour of his own difficulties. I shall certainly talk to the President with the most friendly candour of the difficulties that would have to be faced in this country if certain proposals were put to this House. Let us understand the requirements of the case, which are that the Cabinet shall be in a position to make up its mind as to how it will propose to deal with the 15th June payment. I regret very much to see a statement in a certain newspaper, a statement that can only put impediments in the way of agreement, that we have come already to some agreement. There is not a word of truth in it, and there is not a shadow of foundation for any such statement. But I shall not go over during those four days merely as Prime Minister. I shall take the opportunity of the visit to speak to President Roosevelt as the Chairman of the International Economic Conference.
I quite agree with what the hon. Gentleman said in opening this Debate, that the biggest problem, the all-comprehending problem, is how to get the riches that are in the world enjoyed by the people who dwell in it, and to put an end to this insane block of exchange, to put an end to this extraordinarily mad state of things, where men desiring work cannot get it, although if markets that are freely available were opened up, and the bars which block them were removed, they would enjoy that wealth and the comforts, peace and happiness of the world 2752 would be enormously increased. I have always taken that view of the matter as the only really successful end of the Economic Conference. I am sure that President Roosevelt will have no objections if I say that I know he most thoroughly shares that view of the work of the International Economic Conference.
Perhaps my right hon. Friend will not quarrel with me if I somewhat modify what I said about agreements, because I think he would applaud it. If I could get an agreement as to an early date that would be suitable to the United States Government for the assembly of that Conference, I will do it if I possibly can. I will do everything I can in order to get it, but I would like just to remind the House that the calling of this Conference is not our business—I mean the British Government's business. It is the business of a committee set up by the League of Nations, and that committee, I think, perhaps, has been a little too democratic in the way that it has consulted the convenience of the 40 or 50 other Powers. But this Conference ought to meet without delay, and the British Government have been pressing for it. Personally, when I was in Geneva the other day, and when I was at Rome a few days later, I pressed that Governments should take immediate steps to co-operate with us and with that committee in getting this Conference called.
Then as to the general views. As regards the lines of approach, the British Government share the views of the Experts' Report. I might, perhaps, go upon a marginal piece of ground. I believe that no great success can result from the International Economic Conference unless a large part of the obstructions which have been raised in the way of international trade have been removed. A large part of those obstructions were necessary for temporary purposes. We were meeting most abnormal conditions of tottering currencies, failure to pay for goods which had been delivered on account of lack of a currency that had any international value, and so on. Whether the hon. Gentleman agrees with me or not, I believe it was quite necessary that temporary measures should be taken to protect countries from being swamped, not by the legitimate competition, not by the sort 2753 of competition which is justifiable because it sharpens the productive capacity of the competitors, but by the superfluous overflow of products which could not find markets by other countries. The whole world must try to get international agreement as to the principles upon which changes are to take place.
For instance, there is the question of tariffs. The tariff position in various countries is very different. Suppose—I advance it purely as a supposition—there is a general agreement that tariff walls should be reduced in order to enable a more voluminous flow of international trade, a flow the volume of which would compensate even those who are pursuing what President Roosevelt has called "nationalist economics," to their own detriment. If those walls are reduced in order to enable a more voluminous international flow which would be more fruitful to the nations which have reduced their tariff walls, that is a problem which obviously may be settled in a temporary and a partial way between two bargaining parties, but, if we are to have the benefit of a general world policy to that end, it can only be as the result of discussions and decisions on the part of conferences such as those that we now contemplate. The problem cannot be faced from the old Free Trade point of view. Make no mistake about that. The doctrines of an individualistic Free Trade are as dead as Queen Anne. But the new policy of systematically studying how certain aids can be used to advance both national and international economic interests can only be carried out successfully by a court representing the great economic nations of the world. I understand that those views are not acceptable in other parts of the world. There is also the question of the levels of wholesale prices. Does anyone mean to say that we have yet discovered a solution of that problem, which must be solved? We have to find a solution of it or we have to go on staggering through the existing unfortunate conditions. I hope we shall have an opportunity of exchanging views upon a rapid start of the International Economic Conference.
But there are other fields than the economic. There is the question of disarmament. There is the question of Geneva. What co-operation can the 2754 nations give to each other at Geneva? In considering that, there is no doubt at all that we cannot be indifferent to certain threatening influences which are active in Europe to-day. We must not allow them to obstruct our progress towards disarmament, but we must consider the conditions and must be very careful at the same time as to how these conditions are to operate. For instance, the hon. Gentleman referred somewhat lightly to the multiplication of declarations for peace, and he included in his list the declaration of no resort to force which emerged from the Five Power Pact. That conference was called for the purpose of getting agreement for the principle of German equality. We are perfectly aware of certain dangers of that declaration, and Germany was asked to declare specifically, as part of that Five Power Conference, that, we agreeing to the declaration of equality in principle, she would solemnly renounce any resort to force which might be possible for her in consequence of the operation of the declaration. [Interruption.] The great difficulty is that, if no one believes it, we had better believe no one. I am bound to say that sometimes I am almost driven into that most uncomfortable position. It is no use talking about disarming by agreement, it is no use talking about treaties, it is no use talking about pacts, it is no use talking about co-operation for peace unless you have had some experience which justifies you in accepting the word of those with whom you are to co-operate.
There is the general position of Europe. The American historical position always been that it will enter upon no European entanglements, and I shall certainly not go now to Washington, nor will I ever go to try to persuade America to do otherwise than carry out that historical policy, the only possible exception being in the event of a world agreement quite clearly defined regarding an aggressor and America having previously been a party to that agreement. Therefore, in the four days there will be the question of our own relations and the question of the calling of the International Economic Conference. There will be an attempt to get an understanding as to how each of us stand regarding, at any rate, the major questions which will have to be discussed and, I hope, settled at the International 2755 Economic Conference itself. There will be an exchange of world views, and the whole purpose will be to get closer and closer together, not in an alliance, but in spirit, to get a relationship between our two countries of the most cordial and co-operative character established, and, if I can do that, then, I think, my mission will be successful. At any rate, in that belief, and with that hope, and to do that work, I accepted the request tendered to me by my colleagues in the Cabinet that I should go to America and that trust I shall carry out.
§ 12.39 p.m.
§ Sir AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
The hon. Gentleman who opened this discussion this afternoon made to the House what was, I think I shall be expressing the opinion of his colleagues apart if I say, a very remarkable speech, and for nothing was it more remarkable than for the unusually wide measure of assent which a great part of it drew from Members seated in all parts of the House. The hon. Gentleman found words to express the feeling which is profound and widespread in this country, and in giving expression to that feeling, though he spoke as the mouthpiece of a party, he expressed the opinions of Members of all parties. In the course of his speech, he covered a very wide field. I do not propose to deal with anything like as many subjects as he. I must say a, word, however, about the statement which the Prime Minister has just made about his mission to Washington. I rejoice that the Prime Minister is going to meet the new President of the United States. I recognise that among the various foreign missions which the Prime Minister has conducted in the course of his official experience none perhaps was more fruitful than his previous visit to another American President, and he will carry on the visit which he is now contemplating, I am sure, the good will of all men and women in this House and in this country in the task which he has set himself of trying to reach a close and cordial understanding with the great American Republic.
My right hon. Friend said that he would not describe to the House conversations which had not yet taken place, and I was prepared to support him in what I thought was a perfectly reasonable atti- 2756 tude. Yet what a curious speech he has made! The major portion of it was devoted to a description of the character to be attached to, and the subjects to be treated in, these conversations which have not taken place; but of the conversations which took place weeks ago and which have been the concern of every nation of Europe, of every Government and of this House ever since, he told us no more to-day than he did on his return from Rome. Although I presume that it is true that there are no papers yet in existence in regard to the visit to Washington except the invitation which he has accepted, yet we know that a paper was handed to the right hon. Gentleman in Rome. We know that the British Government have prepared and communicated to other Governments a paper of their own. We read that the French Government have now made their observations upon the proposal. These documents are the common property of all the chancellories of Europe. They are, I should think, by this time in most of the newspaper offices. The only people who are not allowed to know anything about it are the House of Commons. I hope that when my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary comes to reply he will give us the information which is lacking, for it is useless to pretend that what is public property about something which we are not to call the Pact of Rome has had, as the hon. Gentleman said, a sedative effect on spirits in Europe and has contributed to a more peaceful attitude.
Frankly, with some experience to guide me, I view the present situation with grave anxiety. I think that the position in Europe, the state of public opinion and the actions of Governments are more menacing to-day and threaten peace more directly than anything which we have known since the close of the Great War. I cannot pretend to conceal from my right hon. Friends on that bench that the state of uncertainty in which the world has been left as to what actually was proposed or agreed to at Rome, or as to what has been undertaken in consequence since, has contributed to create that disturbance and unrest. All that we know about the Pact—I call it the Pact of Rome—is that it combines two ideals, renewed assurances on the part of the four great Powers of Europe that they will not have recourse to force for the settle- 2757 ment of international disputes, and seine proposal for the revision of treaties, find myself in agreement with the Prime Minister rather than with the hon. Member who opened the Debate in regard to these renewed assurances. There has been a tendency visible in certain circles, and it has even appeared in this House, I regret to say, to consider that the acts of one Government if done on behalf of a nation are binding only on that Government and may be repudiated by their heirs and successors. It is not, therefore, wholly idle to require of a new Government whose intentions may be doubtful and whose words give rise to anxiety, a renewal of all the assurances by which that nation is bound.
I do not, therefore, criticise that proposal, nor do I wish by any words of mine to feed the jealousy which does exist among the small Powers at the co-operation and agreement among the great Powers. I think that anyone is an enemy of peace who says one word to increase that jealousy. It is of great importance, of first importance, that the great Powers, who have the largest resources at their disposal, upon whom will fall in case of catastrophe the heaviest weight of responsibility and who will be expected to make the largest contribution, should cultivate closer and confidential relations, and that as a means of helping to remove enmity and jealousy among others they should remove enmity and jealousy from their own councils. That kind of consultation, that kind of successful consultation and co-operation, does not need a Pact to make it workable. It does not need the reverberating echo a the conversations of Rome to bring it about. The more quietly it is done, the more simply it is done, the less jealousy it will arouse and the more effective it will be. Go to it as Briand and Stresemann went. That is the real road to success, and not these echoing declarations—vague, unsettling, frightening, alarming to those who are not included in your deliberations.
Revision is a dangerous word. Revision should never appear, I venture to think, in the mouth of a statesman or in the policy of a Government until they are prepared to define very closely the limits within which they think revision should take place. The long history of this country has in one sense been a history of the revision of Treaties. We have re- 2758 vised and revised and what have we got for it? What concession once made has any longer kept the value it had before it was revised? Of which of these concessions can it be said at this present moment that it has tempered feeling in Germany, that it has produced that friendly spirit that those who made it desired to promote? What is passing in Germany seems to me to render this a singularly inopportune moment to talk about the revision of Treaties, and I must say that I think it is little good talking so loudly about the revision of Treaties whilst the originators of the conversations repudiate each on its own behalf any idea that concessions are to come from them. I have yet to learn that the head of the Italian Government has withdrawn his opposition to the Anschluss. I have yet to learn that he thinks that one of the frontiers which ought to be revised to the advantage of the beaten Power is the frontier in the Tyrol. If I come to our own country I find the right hon. Gentleman, when he spoke to us the other day, repudiating with indignation the idea that it was any part of his programme of revision that Tanganyika or some of the German Colonies should be restored.
Must not we go to work more gently, with much more consideration, with much more knowledge of what exactly we mean, within what limits we are prepared to make concessions, and in exchange for what? Is this the time to talk of revision with what has been happening in Germany before our eyes? A good deal is made in Germany of some sensational propaganda and exaggerations which are said to have appeared in other countries. I dare say such have appeared in this or in other countries, but I do not base my case on that. I have not myself read it, because that is not the kind of paper from which I seek to get information. I have not read it and I do not base anything that I say upon it, but I have read the very restrained accounts of some very responsible correspondents. I have noted that the "Manchester Guardian" is not considered a fit paper for the Germans to have access to. I do not base my observations upon what I have read in serious and responsible papers, written by men who carefully sift the information they send home and whose reputations depend upon its impartiality and its accuracy, but I base my case upon the statements of 2759 Germans in authority. I do not need to go outside them.
I am not going to enter into a discussion of the internal happenings of Germany except in so far as they are applicable and pertinent to a Debate on Foreign Affairs. What is this new spirit of German nationalism 4 The worst of the all-Prussian Imperialism, with an added savagery, a racial pride, an exclusiveness which cannot allow to any fellow-subject not of "pure Nordic birth" equality of rights and citizenship within the nation to which he belongs. Are you going to discuss revision with a Government like that? Are you going to discuss with such a Government the Polish Corridor? The Polish Corridor is inhabited by Poles; do you dare to put another Pole under the heel of such a Government? I beg the right hon. Gentleman to beware of what he is doing. After all, we stand for something in this country. Our traditions count, for our own people, for Europe and for the world. Europe is menaced and Germany is afflicted by this narrow, exclusive, aggressive spirit, by which it is a crime to be in favour of peace and a crime to be a Jew. That is not a Germany to which we can afford to make concessions. That is not a Germany to which Europe can afford to give the equality of which the Prime Minister spoke. That is more than he ever promised. I understood that the promise made by the Five Powers was of equality of status, to be reached by stages. Before you can afford to decide or to urge others to decide, you must see a Germany whose mind is turned to peace, who will use her equality of status to secure her own safety but not to menace the safety of others; a Germany which has learnt not only how to live herself but how to let others live inside her and beside her.
§ 12.58 p.m.
§ Mr. JANNER
As a member of the Jewish community, and more particularly as one who treasures the honour and responsibility of membership of this House, I feel it my duty to add a word on a subject to which reference has already been made—the tragic situation in which the Jewish people in Germany find themselves to-day. Much has been written of the cruelty and violence to which they have been subjected. Some have suggested— 2760 possibly rightly—that there may have been slight exaggeration, but this exaggeration, if any existed, was caused by the rigid censorship which has been imposed by the German Government. I wish to place it on record with the utmost emphasis that the allegation made in Germany that these exaggerations were inspired or manufactured by German Jews or by their co-religionists in other countries is wholly untrue. No responsible Jewish organisation, news agency or newspaper has lent any credence to or propagated any exaggerated reports, for the unhappy reason that the truth itself was serious and sad enough, and nothing more was necessary.
The fact which is most disturbing to the civilised people of the world is the cruelly deliberate policy of suppression which is now in process of active realisation. It is this fact which is filling the world with the gravest anxiety and moving it to urgent protest. There is no question of any exaggeration here. The policy is openly avowed; it is part and parcel—if not the whole—of the Nazi programme, which seeks to extirpate all non-Aryan influence from the national life. Its operation in practice is manifested in the columns of the Nazi Press, which daily publishes long lists of Jewish doctors driven from hospitals, Jewish lawyers and judges expelled from the courts, and Jewish nurses prevented from carrying on their merciful work. Even Jewish sportsmen like Prenn have been forbidden to play. In fact night after night Nazi spokesmen proclaim on the wireless that Jewry will be destroyed.
I will ask the House to remember that the small community subject to this ferocious attack numbers only some 500,000 or 600,000 people within a population of over 60,000,000—less than one in a hundred—and that the Nazis must be singularly distrustful of their country if they think it capable of being subjugated by so small a minority. I would also remind hon. Members that, small as German Jewry is in numbers, it has contributed men of outstanding eminence to the country in all walks of culture. Whether in music, literature or science, Jews have won distinction and enriched the national life. Jewish doctors, in particular, men like Ehrlich, have achieved international fame, as Lord Horder pointed out in a letter to the "Times," 2761 and have won the affectionate gratitude of the poor among whom they have laboured with unstinted devotion. The plea that these men and their co-religionists have not identified themselves with the German nation is a wild perversion of the truth. German Jewry as a community has been settled in the country for many centuries. As early as the year 321 there was a German community. It has rejoiced in its citizenship, and gave some 12,000 lives to the national cause during the World War. Moreover, the whole argument that Jews have not become part of the nation is a transparently dishonest one, seeing that the Nazi policy is devoted precisely to preventing them from doing so, that policy being a race-pure Teuton Germany.
I would therefore suggest that the plan of Jewish suppression is based upon no moral ground, just as its principle is a ridiculous denial of ethnological facts. As such I feel that this House will understand the emotion to which it has given rise among Jews the world over. In this great hour of trial they have received enormous encouragement from the worldwide support and sympathy that have been so spontaneously shown in every direction and from every party. They believe, in particular, that appeals made by this House and from the British people—ever the guardians of religious liberty—will not go unheeded. They also hold that the sufferings which they are enduring arise from a general call for freedom against tyranny. It is therefore as citizens quite as much as Jews that they are asking for support in this deplorable struggle that has been thrust upon them. This country has a splendid tradition in this regard. It stretches back to the far-off days of Cromwell. England's voice has been raised again and again in the cause of the oppressed, and not least of oppressed Jews. It has been heard with respect, and it will be listened to again. Let me say that in this connecton I am by no means convinced that no appeal lies to the League of Nations in this sad emergency. I believe that it is at least open to discussion whether Article 11 of the Covenant could not be invoked. Certainly the German-Polish Convention would seem to be strictly applicable in respect of the treatment of Jews in the German section of Upper Silesia, and I put it to the Government that it is far better in the 2762 cause of peace that the issue should be raised by Great Britain than by Poland, whose relations with Germany are already sufficiently strained.
I also express the earnest hope that the negotiations for treaty revision will not pass without a definite removal of what is after all a source of grave irritation to the establishment of the peace of the world. It is indeed a serious impediment to the establishment of peace for which the Prime Minister is labouring with devotion, that this terrible condition has arisen not only in respect of the Jewish position but in respect of democracy, as far as Germany is concerned. A great predecessor of the Prime Minister once boasted that he brought back from Berlin "Peace with honour." If the Prime Minister can bring back from his impending negotiations peace with security for a much harassed community, His Majesty's Jewish subjects and, I make bold to say, every friend of liberty and justice in this country which includes the whole nation will have cause to rejoice. I am sure the House will bear with me for having intervened in this Debate, but I felt it my duty and only consistent with the desire of the House that a person representing such an important constituency as mine, where feeling is so tense, where the heartbeat of the Jewish community is so strong and where the feelings of so many of all creeds are being aroused by the terrible treatment of their brethren in Germany, should express the earnest hope that the 500,000 persons in a country which is at present oppressing them and who are living in hourly dread of their lives, will be given the satisfaction of knowing that their case is being attended to.
§ 1.8 p.m.
§ Miss RATHBONE
It is not often that even a free-lance like myself finds herself in almost passionate agreement with almost every word that has fallen from two speakers so different usually in their outlook as the hon. Member for Lime-house (Mr. Attlee) who began this discussion and the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain). But that feeling, I think, was shared by Members in all quarters of the House. Since I have been a Member of the House I have seldom been in a Debate in which feeling seemed to be so unanimous. And no wonder, for blind and 2763 thoughtless indeed must anyone be who does not see in the events that are happening in Germany an omen for the rest of the world. A spirit has come over Germany. One speaker called it a new spirit, but I would rather call it a reemergence of an evil spirit which bodes very ill for the peace and freedom of the world.
Most people in this House are old enough to remember a document which most of us would fain forget, the Bryce Report on the Violation of Belgium, and we well remember the shock of horror which spread over the world on the publication of that report. We had known that we were at war, but not that we were at war with an enemy capable of such excesses at the beginning of the conflict, before the evil passions which war engenders might have been expected to reach their full effect. Now that same disposition to brutal excesses is abroad in the land. One may doubt as to the extent to which the responsible authorities in Germany have organised or merely connived at what is happening, and to what extent the people of Germany in general approve or are merely cowed into submission, but there is one dreadful fact beyond doubt, and that is that the party which was guilty of those excesses is now in uncontrolled power in Germany, and is inflicting cruelties and crushing disabilities on large numbers of law-abiding peaceful German citizens, whose only offence is that they belong to a particular race or religion or profess certain political beliefs. I lay stress on the persecution of the Socialists and Pacifists, because less attention has been drawn to that aspect of the German persecutions than to the persecution of the Jews. The "Times" in a recent article said:A significant fact is the fact that practically every prominent man who has openly professed pacifism in Germany is at present under arrest.The authorities in Germany have been as outspoken as they dared to be regarding their real views and intentions. Con-suffer the announcement made the other day, not by Herr Hitler or any of his Nazi colleagues, but by President Hindenburg himself in announcing the change in the standard of the German Reich.By the changes in the Reich military standard and by introducing the old black- 2764 white-red cockade I have given visible expression to the inward affinity of the fighting forces with the resurgent national forces of the German people. In spite of all its heavy shackles the German Reichswehr has in the difficult post-War years preserved the martial idea in the German people. May this outward sign of an inward affinity ever bring to the eyes of the whole nation the realisation that a better future cannot be achieved without the will to defend the homeland.I think that for "defend the homeland" we might substitute the words "revenge the homeland." Consider the Order recently made by the Nazi Commissioner of Justice, revoking the prohibition against duels amongst students. He said:The joy of the duel derives from the fighting spirit which must not be checked but promoted in our academic youth. It strengthens personal courage, self-control and will power. In a time which demands the education of our young manhood in a martial spirit there can be no public interest in preventing students' duels.Again when Herr Hitler was reproaching the Marxists for "the destruction of the Army and Navy and the dissipation of immense quantities of war materials," he said:His Government will rear the nation to reverence before the old Army, in which the youth of Germany shall once more see the mightiest exertion of the nations strength and the symbol of the greatest achievement in history.We in this country have to ask ourselves what lesson we have to draw from these events. First of all we have to admit frankly our own share of blame for the present mood of Germany. If in the years after the War, when the new Republic had been proclaimed, the victorious Powers had been more magnanimous in their treatment of Germany and had refrained from the infliction of crushing burdens and some unnecessary humiliations, there would have been better hope that the mass of the German people would have continued, as they began, to blame their previous rulers for their misfortunes, and would have been content to devote themselves to the task of peaceful economic development and restoration of their country. But those errors, to which I believe our country contributed less than any other of the Allies, belong to the past, and the question now is as to the present facts. It will be a fatal blunder for ourselves, and it would be no true kindness to Germany 2765 to make any concession now which would allow her rulers to claim that they had won for themselves an influence and place in the councils of Europe which had been denied to their predecessors. It would be disastrous to choose the present moment for a revision of the Treaty in any sense that would strengthen either Germany's power of aggression over other countries, or her control over weak and undeveloped peoples. Herr Hitler and his colleagues have let the world see plainly the feelings which they cherish about questions of blood and race. Their treatment of members of the most highly civilised and gifted of all Oriental races, even those members of it who have been for generations peaceful German citizens, shows what their attitude would be towards weaker and less developed peoples, in places where public opinion could not exercise any control. It would be a crime to allow the present Germany any share in mandates.
As to Disarmament, I have always been a strong advocate of international disarmament by agreement. But great a misfortune as would be the failure of the Disarmament Conference, it would be a greater misfortune if any measure of rearmament were permitted to Germany at present. There is a question which is stirring in the minds of many people to-day, and I am sorry that the Foreign Secretary is no longer in his place, because I should like to put it directly to him. Are we convinced that Germany is not at present re-arming? Are we sure that Germany is not in fact and in effect converting herself into an armed camp. We have a right to ask the Foreign Secretary whether he is satisfied that Germany is not now violating in the letter or the spirit or both the Clause in the Treaty of Versailles which forbids or limits rearmament. I hope the Foreign Secretary if he does not give a full answer to that question to-day will choose an early opportunity after our reassembly to give the House the fullest answer possible. Whether the facts are pleasant or unpleasant Parliament and the country have a right to know them. This is a question which neither the Government nor the League of Nations can afford to shirk and however difficult and delicate it may be, it must be faced boldly.
§ 1.18 p.m.
§ Major NATHAN
The speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain), delivered with all the authority of a former Foreign Secretary; the speech of the hon. Lady the Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone) and other speeches, both within and without this Chamber, and the British Press which is almost unanimous, indeed I think quite unanimous in its expression of opinion, make it clear that it is not necessary to be a Jew in order to feel horror and indignation at the sufferings which are being inflicted on Jews in Germany at this time. On an occasion like this it would be impossible for one like myself, who is a Jew by profession of faith and by blood, not to participate in this Debate by the indulgence of the House. The hon. Member who opened the Debate, taking a wide survey of Europe, pointed out how democracy had suffered during the last few years. In Germany, democracy, born out of the misfortunes of the War, has, for the time, collapsed under the misfortunes of the peace. All the hard and arduous work of Doctor Stresemann—it killed him—and of Doctor Bruening—it broke him—over a period of years to bring Germany back to the comity of nations has, almost in a moment, been destroyed. I believe those who are now in power in Germany, Herr Hitler, Captain Goering, Dr. Goebels and their Nazis, have for the moment, at least dissipated the prospects of Europe being rendered safe for democracy. They have roused the moral conscience of the world against Germany.
There has doubtless been in regard to the lawless outrages in Germany a good deal of exaggeration. That was bound to happen in such circumstances, when the German Government imposed such a strict censorship that only those who escaped could tell the tale to the world outside. But the responsible correspondents of the British Press in Germany have made the facts sufficiently clear and, as far as my information goes, and I have used every effort to seek information and to see that it is accurate, while it may be true that the atrocities have been exaggerated in extent it is not true that they have been exaggerated in intensity. If I wished to harrow feeling or foment passion in this House, I have here material which would enable me to do so. I refrain from doing so but after discounting all exaggeration, 2767 there is no room for doubt that Germany is, at this time, failing to conform to the lowest common denominator of modern civilisation, and the principles which are the pre-requisite to her position of equality of status with the nations of the world. Do not let it be thought that these cruel atrocities and outrages have been perpetrated only upon the Jewish population of Germany. They are, perhaps, the smaller number of those who have suffered. Great bodies of political opponents of the Nazi party have suffered like outrages—imprisonment, exile, to say nothing of personal assault—for no other reason than that they are political opponents.
I am not sure that the most formidable feature of the situation is not that injury, perhaps mortal injury, is being done to the vital principle of freedom of conscience and of speech. No less than liberty herself is at stake in Germany at this moment. Like the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham I do not rely upon the evidence of the victims themselves for what I say about the situation in Germany to-day. I quote from the official programme of the Nazi party. It is not a programme of to-day or yesterday or even a year ago but a programme which is over 10 years old. The Nazis are at present in Germany, deliberately carrying out a carefully planned policy and here are two of its 25 points. First, Jews must be deprived of the rights of citizens. A new class is to be created in Germany, a class of noncitizens. Then, Jews must not hold official or semi-official positions. What does that mean, reduced to plain terms? It means that the Jews are denied the elementary rights of citizenship. They pay their taxes to the State, they obey the laws of the State, but they have none of the elementary rights which membership of the State confers. They have duties, but they have no rights. They have a full claim to citizenship, but they are treated as outlaws. See how that works out in reference to the tales of atrocities. I can quite understand how, in moments of revolutionary excitement, groups of irresponsible youths, maddened by militarist propaganda of the most vicious type, fed on hate and nurtured on lies, may here and there break out into acts of violence. But the serious thing, and what shocks the conscience of 2768 the world is that there is no attempt to control them, still less any attempt to punish them. On the contrary, they are treated as something like heroes who deserve well of the Republic.
I am not at all sure that the most serious feature of the present situation is not this, that Germany is so cowed that at the moment not a single responsible voice has been raised in Germany itself against the terror that has been existing there. After the physical terror comes what is far more formidable, far more lasting, and that is the economic terror. That is an outrage upon a race that in peace and war has served Germany well. I am going to give to the House examples of the sort of thing that is happening, and these are cases for which I can vouch, for they come within my own knowledge. I know a family of Jews that has lived in a great German city since the year 1604. Its ancestry can be traced back in that city for more than 300 years. They are Jews by birth, Jews by faith and Jews by race. The man of whom I am thinking is a lawyer. He served in the German Army as a private, and he served on the Russian front. At this moment, that Jew, with 300 years of German history behind him, is a refugee in this country, deprived of the means of livelihood. Let me take another friend of mine, also a lawyer, with perhaps the leading practice in one of the great German cities. Of his four grandparents, three were non-Jewish and one alone was Jewish. He himself is a Christian. He served in the German Army as an officer, and he was awarded the Iron Cross and some distinction, the name of which I forget, for valour. One grandfather was a Jew. To-day that man is a refugee in Scandinavia.
In the city of London the other day there was a telephone message sent to Leipsic, and the man sending the message was speaking to his brother. He asked his brother what the situation was in Germany, as he was very much alarmed. This is the answer that he got: "Oh, everything is beautiful here. Don't worry about us in the least. All these tales of atrocities are all nonsense. We are carrying on our business just as usual. Don't waste your money on telephoning all the way from London to me here in Leipsic." The man in London, within 24 hours from that telephone conversation, received a telegram from his 2769 brother, to whom he had spoken at Leipsic, but who was then in Holland, and the telegram said: "Happy to say arrived safely in Holland." The terrorism in Germany at present is something that we in happy, free England cannot really understand at all.
There is a short time only for the Debate, and there are others who desire to take part in it. I have no desire to prolong unnecessarily anything that I have to say, and therefore I bring myself at once to the point of asking what, in these circumstances, is the appropriate action for the British Government to take. I understand, and I fully subscribe to, the view that one sovereign State cannot interfere with the internal affairs of another, but I am not quite sure whether even those who subscribe most firmly to that view would also consider that questions of racial and religious persecution are entirely matters of internal policy. Humanity has no frontiers, and freedom has no boundaries. There have been precedents for the action of Great Britain in such circumstances as those which now prevail in Germany. I believe I am accurate in saying that in a, situation some 20 years ago in which persecution of the Jews was taking place in Russia, the late King Edward, on the advice of his Ministers, held language with the Tsar of Russia upon this subject, with a view to obtaining a modification of the conditions in Russia, and with the result of obtaining a modification of the conditions relating to Jews in Russia.
Therefore, the suggestion that the British Government should make representations to a foreign Power upon such a subject is by no means one for which there is no precedent, and I ask, as I should have asked my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary had he been present—I fully understand the reasons why he is not—whether he will not make representations to the German Government that British public opinion is so much affected by the occurrences in Germany, and not in relation to the Jews alone, that the effect may well be to make most difficult the re-entry of Germany into the community of nations with the equality of status which she claims. I do not think it would be out of the way if the Foreign Secretary were to point out to Germany the old English 2770 adage that "He who seeks equity must do equity." It is only equity that is desired from the German Government in relation to its citizens, both Jews and otherwise, who are now suffering from the terror, both physical and economic.
There is also the question of whether the British Government can initiate action before the League of Nations. There is a German-Polish Convention of 1922, under the terms of which it is stated, I believe I am right in saying, that the position of minorities in Germany is a matter of international concern. Great Britain has long been the mouthpiece of the world when questions of liberty are involved, and for the protection of minorities against racial and religious persecution ought not the voice of this country to be raised in the halls of the League of Nations? I also add my voice to that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham in suggesting that the Foreign Secretary should make it clear to Germany that she cannot expect that treaties will be revised, even to secure to her what many of us believe to be her just demands, unless she makes liberty and justice secure within her own borders. Let Germany show a response to the public opinion of the world, and let her enshrine liberty firmly in her own country. It may not then be long before she is restored to that equality of status which she seeks.
§ 1.36 p.m.
There will be a chorus of approval of the remarkable speech of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain). There can be no question in any quarter of the House as to the opinion of the people of this country on recent events in Germany, and I cannot imagine anything more effective than the appeal of the right hon. Gentleman who has been for the last 15 years the best friend that Germany ever had. I cannot imagine an appeal which will do more to mitigate, alter and relieve the conditions of that country than the speech that he has made to-day. I happen to come of Huguenot origin and I am cognisant of what they owe to the hospitality which was meted out to them by this country in days gone by; and I only hope and trust that this country will once again open its doors to many of those who are being persecuted and who find no happiness in living on the Continent to-day.
2771 One of the difficulties of the position is that, whatever the Government may feel in regard to this matter, they have to continue negotiations with the de facto Government in Germany. I know that whenever one takes a point of view in regard to foreign affairs or to any specific aspect of them, one is bound to be labelled at once pro-German or anti-French or pro-Polish. I appreciate the fact that if you live on the Continent it is almost impossible not to be prejudiced in regard to these questions. We in our island security, however, can view these particular problems with a certain amount of dispassion. Therefore, I believe that the Government of this country have a peculiarly important part to play in revising, if it be necessary, the map of Europe. I take the traditional English point of view that if only some of those foreigners who get so excited and talk so much and GO fast, would allow their affairs to be settled by a small group of sensible, sane Englishmen round a table, it would be better for all concerned. I confess that the more I travel in Europe the more confirmed I am in that belief. It seemed to me in the last few months that Europe was getting down to facing the realities of the situation, and it is particularly unfortunate that, just at the moment when there was some hope of a revision of conditions, we should be faced with the present Government in Germany, which, I believe, has set back all hopes of revision for months, perhaps for years.
I have visited all the plague spots of Europe, from Lithuania to Albania, and whenever one suggested some alteration, one was always told, "Leave it alone; it will work itself out. You cannot begin to alter the Treaty of Versailles, for it has been working 10, 12 or 15 years, as the case may be." Although for the individual or the Government leaving problems to find their own solution may be a satisfactory policy, it has not worked as regards Europe. It is certain that unless Europe can at the same time revise certain aspects of the Treaty of Versailles and other treaties, the treaties themselves will be torn up. Revision of treaties is no new factor in the history of Europe. It is 15 years since the end of the Great War, and it was 15 years after Waterloo and after the Congress of Europe had imposed a peace upon Europe, that the 2772 first measure of revision of that treaty came in the partition of Holland into two separate countries. I am certain that to the legitimist, Conservative, orthodox view of that time, the solution of that problem was considered no more impossible and difficult than many of the problems of to-day.
I think it is true that the economic depression which has existed during the past 10 years has exacerbated, increased and deepened the political problems of Europe. Had trade prospered and commercial treaties and lowering of tariffs been the order of the day, instead of restrictions and the erection of barriers, the atmosphere would have been very different indeed. For instance, take the case of the Balkans. It is clear from the various conferences that have been held recently, that the only hope of salvation and the solution of the problems in that part of the world is some form of economic unit rather on the lines of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire. The German and Polish question has been exacerbated by the fact that even to-day there is no commercial treaty between Germany and Poland, and along the whole of that long frontier there is practically no trade operating to-day. Again, I believe that no diplomatic relations are yet established between Poland and Lithuania, and yet Lithuania ought to be the highway for much of the export trade of Poland. These situations have not really been faced, and there has been no open discussion. There has, however, been intense propaganda, and false expectations have been aroused both by the victors and by the vanquished in the late War. As the right hon. Gentleman said, if there is to be revision the victors, no less than the vanquished, have to make concessions.
May I refer to the recent visit of the Prime Minister to Italy? The real trouble about the so-called Pact of Rome, or the Four-Power Pact, or whatever it may be called, was its publicity. I know that it is rather the fashion these days to criticise and abuse the Prime Minister. I feel that he is perhaps the fit and proper target for criticism, and I have myself made some criticisms of him in the past. We were, however, approaching a condition similar to the pre-War situation. Europe was being divided into armed camps—on the one band, Germany, Italy and the small entente of Austria, Hun- 2773 gary and Bulgaria, and on the other side France and Poland and the little entente. The situation was dangerous, war was in the air, and on the Continent everybody was talking about it. There is this further difficulty, that if we are agreed upon the fact that certain revisions in Europe are necessary, then in order to get those revisions the assistance and co-operation of France are essential. With good will, I believe, we could effect certain changes; without good will those changes are absolutely impossible now or at any other time, and I do believe that the Prime Minister's visit to Rome did, at any rate temporarily, break up, or do something to break up, those sharp divisions in Europe, and did definitely contribute something towards making Europe realise that the solution of European problems does not lie along the old pathway of pre-War conditions and the pre-War balance of power.
The Prime Minister does things and says things in his own way, but as long as he achieves the end which we all desire, I have no fault to find with that. Call is the Pact of Rome, or whatever you like, I must admit that I call it common sense, from this point of view, that we have not yet reached that stage of international Utopia in which the great Powers are prepared to have their individuality swamped by the votes of small Powers. However excellent the advice of Peru may be, or however deserved may be the criticisms of Paraguay, I do not think we have yet reached the state of international co-operation where these considerations can be a deciding factor in world affairs. Of course the League of Nations has its place and its work, and I hope and trust that all these revisions, if and when they come, can be accomplished within the framework of the League of Nations, for unless the League of Nations continues to have the united support of the so-called great Powers, it ceases to be an effective force in world politics.
One final word as regards the Prime Minister's visit to the United States of America. I confess that I have always been one of those who thought that, however important may be our duty and our policy in regard to Europe, it is as nothing compared to the necessity for co-operation between this country and the United States of America. I have always wished to 2774 say this, and I will do so to-day. I have always hoped that so intimate would be the association between ourselves and the United States of America that, in regard to naval matters, for instance, we might allocate at the Admiralty a floor or suite of rooms to officials of the American Navy, that nothing should be hid behind us, that everything should be done to proclaim publicly the complete unity of action between this country and the United States of America; and I, for one, have always regarded every battleship or cruiser which the United States may have and may build as au addition to the English Navy. I recognise that in the past the United States of America has not always been either an easy or a willing collaborator. It seems to me that she has found it difficult, sometimes, to know exactly what she really wants. She has never been able to make up her mind whether to play a part in international affairs or to remain in prosperous and splendid isolation.
To-day all that is changed. Anyone who visited the United States during the past year would recognise the tremendous change which has come over public opinion in regard to America's attitude to the rest of the world, and in particular to this country. All is changed. What was impossible five years ago is not only possible to-day but would, I believe, be welcomed both by the executive and by the public in the United States. The Prime Minister will find the position in the United States an exceptional one. There is a new President and public opinion has completely altered, and I hope and trust he may be able, while the right hon. Gentleman is in conversation with President Roosevelt, to lay those foundations which, in their turn, will ensure the success of the World Economic Conference, which in its turn will bring some measure of security, hope and comfort to the struggling masses of mankind, and I, for one, wish him a successful journey.
§ 1.50 p.m.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
The speech which I had prepared for to-day is torn up. Everything I wished to say has been said far better than I could say it by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain), and by the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee), 2775 in speeches which, I believe, have been the finest of their career. They have voiced not only the true English sentiment, but they have voiced, I believe, the views of the whole of this House and of the country. The revision of the treaties is dead—killed by two speeches, or, rather, killed not so much by those two speeches as by that which caused them. All here to-day realise that all that they have said and done in European politics during the last 13 years has to be scrapped. The views which we expressed we must now regret, and we have to-day, in the face of Europe, to formulate a new position, a position which, I think, has been admirably expressed in those two speeches. The Prime Minister is going to America. With the last speaker I hope that he is going to America to lay the foundations of a slew foreign policy of the closest co-operation between ourselves and America. I hope that that will be the result of the visit. The question of the settlement of the American debt, the question of the date of the Economic Conference, the question, even, of the restoration of the Gold Standard, are small compared with the vital importance of securing real co-operation in future between the only two liberal countries, liberal great Powers, left in the world.
I could have wished that it had been the right hon. Member for Bewdley (Mr. Baldwin) who was going to America instead of the Prime Minister. I think that he realises perhaps better even than does the Prime Minister that the settlement of the debt is a question which does not matter in comparison with the settlement of sources of difficulty between the two nations, and that it would be infinitely better to pay, and go on paying for ever, every penny of that debt rather than that we should be accused of dishonourable conduct by those people who have trusted us in the past and whom we trust in the future. But I do not think there is now much danger of difficulty over that. We have realised that the settlement of the debt is a settlement of a merely financial difficulty which was obstructing the good relations of two peoples.
I wish to say one or two words on what has gone on in Germany. The corner boys of Germany have disgraced their country, and in the language of Italy I 2776 would say: Non ragionam di for ma guarda e passes. [HON. MEMBERS: "Translate!"] It means: "You need not talk about those people, but watch for what they are and pass by on the other side." As a result of what has gone on in Germany, I would like to see the strengthening of this country and of the British race by the admission freely into this country of those elements which are now suffering from persecution. The hon. and gallant Member for Chippenham (Captain Cazalet) who has just spoken is a Huguenot of distinguished Huguenot ancestry. Does not everybody to-day realise the enormous strengthening of the Anglo-Saxon race that has come from the admission of those Huguenot migrants into this country? They were flying from a persecution that was, I suppose, as bad as that which reigns in Germany to-day. The dragonnades of Louis XIV sent to this country an element of religion and of independence, and a commercial and intellectual element which has been of inestimable service to this country in war and in peace. I would beg the Government not to miss this opportunity of so benefiting England to-day and in the future. There we have, driven out of Germany, flying, when they can fly, to all the neighbouring countries, the thinkers, the intellectually-independent people, scientists, doctors, civil servants, artists and musicians.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
Yes, all those people are asking for a home. I wish we had the Home Secretary present. To-day those people are being turned back at Harwich, while nations like France, Belgium, Spain—rejuvenated Spain—are welcoming this new intellectual element. Those scientists would be our business men of the future, just as the Huguenots brought us the silk trade, made Norwich and made Leek in my own county of Staffordshire. The Huguenot element built up a great export trade for this country. We are now anxious to import foreign capital into this country; how much better is it to import foreign brains and amalgamate them. I do not speak from the obvious humanitarian point of view, but from the point of view of the material advantage of this country. Get those people in.
The House will remember that at the beginning of the War we threw our homes 2777 open in this country to the people who were flying from Belgium. That was one of the finest effects of the early enthusiasm for our cause. It was humane, and it was also materially advantageous. They produced munitions and helped us in the War. We showed a great sign of international friendship. I wish to-day that we could do the same. Do not leave it to the Jews. Let English people see whether they, too, cannot receive these people into their family to make a home here, and to show that whatever the Prussian Aryan may feel about the Jews, or the peace-mongers or even the Socialists, we in this country realise the value of brains and the duty of hospitality to the oppressed. The position at the present time is almost humiliating for an Englishman. Those people are being welcomed in every foreign country, but here nothing is being done. Speeches are made in this House and the subject is given a good run in the Press of all parties, but still the door remains closed. I wish that one result of this Debate to-day might be the opening of those doors, and the welcoming here not merely of the scientists who make the trade of the future, not merely of the doctors whom in the past all the world has gone to seek in Germany, but of those political exiles about whose fate we hear less, and who are now under preventive arrest in a dozen concentration camps throughout Germany. I wish that we might welcome those men, the free spirits of a free people, who decline to live in a land where liberty is no longer allowed, and get them here to strengthen our home and our love of liberty.
§ 2.2 p.m.
§ Brigadier-General SPEARS
I will not detain the House more than a very few moments, because I, like the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) believe that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) has expressed not only my feeling and the feelings of the majority of the House, but the feelings of the country as a whole. I hope that the Government will take the warning, which came from one who has supported them, who is an ardent advocate of peace and of the League of Nations and who would not have spoken as he spoke if he did not think that there was real danger. The Prime Minister said, and I noted it 2778 as he spoke, that what had taken place at Rome was a "revision for peace and that that had been clear from the beginning." All I can say is that I listened with the utmost care to every word of his speech when he came back from Rome, and that I did not understand his meaning. Attributing my lack of understanding to my own stupidity, I looked about me, and I found that any neighbours and colleagues in the House were in exactly the same position as I was. I would add that what has been said by the right hon. Gentleman to-day has not added one scrap of light to his previous utterances.
How can it be said that the matter is clear from the beginning, in view of the impression made on the small nations concerned and what they have said on the subject? It is public knowledge that Ministers from these different countries have come here and used very strong language indeed on the subject. It certainly has not been clear from the beginning what the intentions of the Government were, nor has it been clear that those intentions were likely to promote peace. In view of the lack of clarity in regard to the whole situation, I make a specific demand of the Government, and that is that they should publish a White Paper. We have no idea what was the starting point of all this. There have been utterances of all kinds; there have been communiques, the best informed of which seems to have been one published in the French newspaper "Le Matin"; but none of us know what was the wording of the proposed Four Power Pact that started this very serious trouble, and, therefore, I request that we should be furnished with a White Paper containing the major negotiations and correspondence that have taken place.
I should not, perhaps, have intervened even to put that question if I did not consider that the action taken at Rome has raised yet a new danger in Europe, on the top of so many others already existing. What occurred in Rome has done nothing less than make preventive war a possibility. On the top of the grave anxieties raised by Germany itself, to a good many nations it looks as if the very foundations of the League of Nations were being undermined, and a kind of consortium of four nations was to rule the roost; and what sort of organisa- 2779 tion of four Powers? What sort of unity would there be within that Pact of four nations? The only two nations united within it would be Germany and Italy. France would have stood anxiously outside, watching these two, and we should have gone on, I suppose, standing now on one leg and then on another, quite unable to make up our mind who to support. When it became evident, or, at least, it appeared likely, that there was a possibility of the Four Power Pact being implemented, the idea arose among some nations that, after all, perhaps, it would be better to fall upon Germany before she developed her full strength, rather than wait and be devoured piecemeal, or be bludgeoned by the Central Powers if they were allowed to consolidate their strength uncontrolled. That possibility is not yet a real danger, perhaps, but it is one that will materialise unless we strengthen the idea of security at the centre.
This idea of security has been raised by certain speakers to-day, and I am very glad of it, because it has so often appeared to me that the essential importance of security escaped the general sense of this House. I saw in the papers this morning that M. Herriot made a speech of the very highest interest, which ought to be studied with great care by us here. M. Herriot said that, once Germany has obtained equality in armaments on land, she is going to ask for naval equality as well, and colonial equality too. There was a time when Germany, being so entirely occupied with her Army, could not possibly attain naval equality with ourselves; but in the future that will not be so. Germany's entire energies will not be taken up with her Army; she will be able also to build up a navy equal to our own. I dare say it has got to come, but I say that, when that day does come, we shall be very glad if there is somewhere an organisation to which we can look for security and for the protection of our frontiers should they ever be invaded.
One last point. It was referred to by the hon. Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone). The hon. Lady asked whether Germany was rearming or not. I ask the Government again a specific question on this point. In their view, is Article 162 of the 2780 Treaty of Versailles being violated, or is it not; and, if they consider that it is being violated, what are they going to do about it? I know that in the view of many it has been violated; in fact, I do not see how anybody can deny this. That Article provides for limiting the police forces allowed to Germany. We know that there have been enormous additions to those forces. Stahlhelm, Nazis, and storm troops have been more or less officially, but in some cases by decree, embodied in the armed police forces of Germany; they are being drilled in barracks; and, if all the armed and partially armed forces of Germany were taken into consideration, she has more drilled men to-day than any other country in Europe. Are we going to tolerate that because they are called something else? Because they are not actually police, but are called auxiliary police, are we going to tolerate the recruiting of all these armed men outside and beyond what is permitted by the Treaty of Versailles? Are we going to allow ourselves to be put off by words? If we allow the Treaty to be infringed in this respect to-day we will not have a leg to stand upon later on should major infringements occur. I do ask the Government most respectfully if they will be kind enough to give us their views on this extremely important subject upon which, I consider, the House is entitled to be enlightened.
§ 2.16 p.m.
§ Mr. MALLALIEU
There are possibly very few things which we in this House can do actively to put an end to the oppression which we feel is going on in Germany to-day. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) has suggested one small amelioration of the lot of the victims of that oppression who manage to escape, and with which I would humbly and cordially agree. I think the unanimity with which feeling has been expressed in this House and in this country may, in some degree, bring consolation, if not active help, to those who are being oppressed in Germany now. There is only one thing which I would like to point out with regard to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain). His father before him 2781 had, and now the right hon. Gentleman has an immense influence in France. If only the right hon. Gentleman would use that influence in France, and be as frank with the French as he has been to-day with the Germans, there might be a much greater chance of peace in Europe in the years to come.
I would like to go back to the economic position which has been touched upon in the earlier part of the Debate. We have been accustomed to hear from leading politicians and industrialists for the last three or four years that the moment has now arrived, that the tide is going to turn, that normal activities and prosperity will return to industry and agriculture. But we have had painfully to realise so often that this was merely well-meaning aspiration on their part, based largely upon ignorance, or upon woolly thought as to the real causes of the depression. It does seem to me that at this time there has been a remarkable waking up, not only in this country but in other countries, as to the root causes of this evil which has been weighing down the world. Responsible politicians, and almost all the reputable economists, have been pointing out the fact that, in spite of the forceful fulminations of the Minister of Agriculture about glut, lie position is not one of glut but of hindrance to the distribution of the plenty we have in the world. This hindrance this time has worked such havoc upon the distributive system of the world that people are prepared to listen to reason about it.
It is really the imminent collapse of the system of world trade which has driven the countries to meet together at the forthcoming Economic Conference, and which is taking the Prime Minister across to America shortly. The signs of change of view with reference to hindrance to trade have been most conspicuous in America, which was formerly a stronghold of the doctrine of isolation and economic nationalism. In this country, too, we have had most powerful pleas by such respected persons as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tamworth (Sir A. Steel-Maitland). But it is more particularly the signs in America to which I would like to draw the attention of the Government. From the word "Go" in the term of office of President Roosevelt, he indicated which way he was going to try to lead his own country; to- 2782 wards being a better neighbour than it had hitherto been. Only two days ago his Secretary of State, Senator Hull, made a most remarkable declaration on fiscal policy when he said that the chief aim of the United States in the forthcoming economic discussion will be to lead the world out of the morass of economic nationalism. He went on to add that the United States had been one of the nations chiefly responsible for the disastrous tariff race, and also one of the hardest hit.
In yesterday's "Financial News" the need for the complete reversal of the United States fiscal policy was again urged by Mr. Roper, the Secretary for Commerce. Discussing the preparations for the World Economic Conference he stated that trade barriers must be lowered if the movement of goods between nations was to be restored. The United States, according to Mr. Roper, should lead, in what should be done by nations throughout the world; and he said that the United States was now definitely committed to an international economic policy of fair play. That is precisely what I would urge our Government to do also. Our Government have not, in the past, been so wedded to the isolationist theories which have dominated the United States. If, at the same time, it were possible for our Government to secure support for a policy of eliminating from international trade such uneconomic interferences as export subsidies and subsidies to shipping, then, indeed, it would be a great day for fair trade, which is, apparently, the avowed object of this Government, and certainly of those who sit upon these benches.
I am not suggesting that tariffs, and so forth, are the only obstacles to world recovery. I do, however, say most emphatically that the abolition, or substantial lowering of world tariffs, is by far the most likely line of policy at the present time. In view of the changed attitude in the United States, and in other countries, too, it is the most likely policy to succeed, and it has by far the greatest possibility of any one stroke of policy for world recovery. Now the last word on this subject, apart from the pleasing generalities which the Prime Minister gave us this morning, was a speech by the President of the Board of Trade on 15th March. There are two 2783 passages to which I would like to refer, and which, I hope, I have misinterpreted. The right hon. Gentleman was referring to the proposition that there should be established a low tariff group. He said:If there is to be anything in the nature of a low tariff group, we must examine how far it is likely to affect our own manufacturers and exporters and importers. That will be our first duty. When we have examined that we shall be better able to know how to deal with proposals that are placed before us.He went on to indicate certain limits which he thought would have to be in operation, and he said:Within those limits we are ready to consider any proposals that may be put forward."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th March, 1933; col. 2023–4, Vol. 275.]That is all right as far as it goes, but there is no indication in that speech of any lead to the world. Are the Government in this respect merely going to adorn the conference with their dignified silence, and possibly pass judgment upon proposals which will be put before it? Are they merely going to be passengers in the world economic omnibus and leave all the constructive proposals to the Portuguese and the Greeks, or are they really going to take a lead and make definite proposals and use their influence actively to create the formation of such a group, a Free Trade group if it can be obtained, and, if not, a low tariff group? Such influence actively exerted would commit the Government to nothing until a treaty had been signed. I appreciate the point of the President of the Board of Trade, who said that it would be unwise to throw up our existing rights under existing treaties if the area of the new low tariff group were to be highly restricted; but surely it is no argument against actively pursuing a policy of forming such a group and attempting to secure for it the widest possible acceptance?
I do not suppose that hon. Members either know or are in the least interested in the particular views that I hold upon the fiscal question, and I would not parade those views before the House were it not in order to make clear what I shall subsequently say. I am one of the last ditchers of Free Trade. The Government have adopted a policy with which I could scarcely be in agreement. Their object, however, is apparently my object, to free world trade. I may dis- 2784 agree with their method, but the question of who is right, whether to use the big stick or not to use it, is now on trial, and it may very well be that by the end of this year, after the World Economic Conference has finished, I may be found wrong, and I very sincerely hope that I shall be. If I am found wrong, I shall be the very first to go upon a pilgrimage to Cleckheaton, or even to St. Ives, to worship at the shrine of the big stick. I implore the Government to make that pilgrimage incumbent upon me by so carrying on at the conference, and by the Prime Minister so carrying on at the deliberations that are about to take place, that they shall really seize this gift which is being offered to them—the changed situation in the United States—and pull off the one big stroke which is within their power, to bring back prosperity to international trade.
§ 2.30 p.m.
§ Mr. J. P. MORRIS
I never felt more proud of being a Member of this House than when listening to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain). It was a speech of superb statesmanship. It breathed tolerance and justice. I am only sorry that among the leaders of German political thought there is not such a representative as the Member for West Birmingham. I wish to refer to the persecution of the Jews. I have on the Order Paper a Motion which states that this House, while not desirous of interfering with the domestic government of any nation, deplores the continued persecution of the Jews in Germany and requests His Majesty's Government to make friendly representations to the German Government to respect the numerical weakness and the defenceless position of the Jews in that country. Unfortunately, owing to the pressure of public business, I was informed by the Prime Minister that it was not possible to have a day for the discussion of my Motion.
The whole of the people of this country are definitely opposed to the policy of the Jewish persecution in Germany, a persecution which is depriving the Jews of that country of the elementary rights of citizenship. Public opinion throughout the world sympathises with German Jewry, and it is only owing to the existence of that world public opinion that 2785 there has been a mitigation of the persecution. Already the boycott has been abandoned and the German Minister of Justice has increased the number of German lawyers who will be allowed to practise in the courts in Berlin. It is just as well that Germany should know that in place she cannot succeed with world opinion ranged against her, just as she found in the Great War.
A few days ago a question was addressed to the Foreign Minister asking whether it was possible that anything could be done through the League of Nations to help the German Jews, but more particularly the Jews in Upper Silesia. The reply was that it was doubtful whether Article 11 of the Covenant could be invoked, because it should only be applied in grave cases which might effectually menace the peace of nations. Such a guarded statement leaves the ground open for further examination as to whether the League, if it desires to act, can do so legally. In so far as the Jews in Upper Silesia are concerned, there is no doubt in my mind that they are protected by the Geneva Convention of 1922 which still has another five years to run. In this Convention Germany recognises the Jews in Upper Silesia as a minority and undertakes that German subjects belonging to racial, religious or linguistic minorities shall enjoy the same treatment and the same guarantees both in law and fact as other German subjects. It also recognises that all German subjects, Jews included, are entitled to admission to public employment and to the exercise of professions and industries, and it further recognises that these undertakings are obligations of international concern and shall be placed under the guarantee of the League of Nations. Furthermore, Article 72 reads:Germany agrees that any member of the council of the League of Nations shall have the right to draw the attention of the council to any infraction of any of its obligations, and that the council may proceed in such a manner and give instructions as may appear to it appropriate and effectual in the circumstances.Therefore, I submit that if the Jews in Upper Silesia have been subjected to persecution because they are Jews, then, by Germany's admission, any member of the League Council is entitled to raise this question. I agree that the Jews in Germany in general are not covered by the Convention of 1922, but if the Jews in one 2786 part of the jurisdiction of the country are protected by international obligations, surely the Government of that country cannot escape the moral responsibility of extending the same guarantee to the Jews of its own nationality. There are two further points to which I wish to call the attention of the Foreign Secretary. Article 4 of the Covenant says:The council may deal at its meetings with any matter within the sphere of action of the League for effecting the peace of the world.Article 11 reads:It is also declared to be the friendly right of each member of the League to bring to the attention of the Assembly or of the council any circumstance whatever affecting international relations which threatens to disturb international peace or the good understanding between nations upon which peace depends.It is reported by Reuter that there is now dangerous tension between Poland and Germany and that relations are severely strained. Anti-German demonstrations have taken place in Poland, and the Anti-German boycott is extending. The German Minister in Warsaw has protested, and on four occasions the Polish Minister has made protests in Berlin. A German paper has had the headline "Poland incites to war." In my opinion, nothing for many years has been so well calculated to disturb the peace of the world than the German persecution of the Jews. In the interests of world peace, the question of Jewish persecution ought to be brought before the League of Nations. His Majesty's Government are better fitted than any other Government in the world to perform that duty, and, in accordance with our ancient traditions and precedents, I implore His Majesty's Government to perform that noble duty, and thereby convey to the Jews of this country a message of hope, that in the near future their co-religionists in Germany will have restored to them their rights of citizenship as Germans.
§ 2.42 p.m.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
This has not only been a deeply interesting but a memorable Debate. We had in the opening speech of the spokesman of the Opposition the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) a most weighty and helpful contribution to this discussion, and one which, I am sure, will have an influence far beyond the limits of this country. We 2787 had the very fine speech of my right hon. Friend the former Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain). These two speeches taken together, and the obvious attitude of the House, in all parties, will, I believe, do something to steady the situation, and will be more helpful than many far more flowery utterances which have dealt only with the smoother side of things. Naturally, both those speeches were very agreeable to me, and I shall venture this afternoon to follow up the course which I have adopted for some time now of pressing a view upon foreign affairs based, first of all, upon a study of the realities of the European situation and aiming throughout at increasing the detachment of Great Britain from the more serious dangers which may arise there.
I have heard, as everyone has of late years, a great deal of denunciation of the treaties of peace, of the Treaties of Versailles and of Trianon. I believe that that denunciation has been very much exaggerated, and, in its effect, harmful. These treaties, at any rate, were founded upon the strongest principle alive in the world to-day, the principle of nationalism, or, as President Wilson called it, self-determination. That was the principle which governed the making of those two treaties. The principle of self-determination or of nationalism applied to all the big Powers. Over the whole area of Middle and Eastern Europe this principle of nationalism has been applied. Europe to-day corresponds in its ethnological groupings in a manner that it has never corresponded before. You may think that nationalism has been excessively manifested in modern times. That may well be so. It may well be that it has a very dangerous side, but we must not fail to recognise that it is the strongest force now at work.
I remember, many years ago, hearing the late Mr. Tim Healy replying to a question that he put to himself, "What is nationalism?" and he said: "Something that men will die for." There is the foundation upon which we must examine the state of Europe and by which we should be guided in picking our way through the very serious dangers which concern us there. Of course, in applying this principle of nationalism to the defeated States after the War it was 2788 inevitable that mistakes and some injustices should occur. There are places where the populations are inextricably intermingled. There are some countries where an island of one race is surrounded by an area inhabited by another. There were all kinds of anomalies, and it would have defied the wit of man to make an absolutely perfect solution. In fact no complete solution on ethnographical lines would have been possible unless you had done what was done in the case of Greece and Turkey, that is, the physical disentangling of the population, the sending of the Turks back to Turkey and of the Greeks back to Greece.
I recognise the anomalies and I recognise the injustices, but they are only a tiny proportion of the great work of consolidation and appeasement which has been achieved and is represented by the Treaties that ended the War. Europe has never rested so securely in its beds in accordance with the heart's desires of the nationalities and races of which it is composed. It would be a blessed thing if we could mitigate these anomalies and grievances, but we can only do that if and when there has been established a strong confidence that the Treaties themselves are not going to be deranged. So long as the Treaties are in any way challenged as a whole it will be impossible to procure a patient consideration for the redress of the anomalies. The more you wish to remove the anomalies and grievances the more you should emphasise respect for the Treaties. I think it is the first rule of British foreign policy to emphasise respect for these great Treaties, and to make those nations, whose national existence depends upon and arises from the Treaties feel that no challenge is levelled at their security. Instead of that I am bound to say that for a good many years a lot of vague and general abuse has been levelled at the Treaties with the result that these powerful States, some of them very powerful States, comprising enormous numbers of citizens—the Little Entente and Poland together represent 80,000,000, strongly armed—have felt that their position has been challenged and endangered by the movement to alter the Treaties. In consequence, you do not get the consideration which in other circumstances you might get for the undoubted 2789 improvements which are required in various directions.
The Prime Minister last year, in a speech at Geneva, used a very striking phrase when he described Europe as a house inhabited by ghosts. I think that is to misinterpret the situation. Europe is a house inhabited by fierce, strong, living entities. Poland is not a ghost. Poland is a reincarnation. I think it a wonderful thing that Polish unity should have re-emerged from long hideous eclipse and bondage, when the Poles were divided between three empires and made to fight one another in all the wars that took place. I rejoice that Poland has been reconstituted. I cannot think of any event arising out of the Great War which can be considered to be a more thoroughly righteous result of the struggle than the reunion of this people, who have preserved their national soul through all the years of oppression and division anal whose reconstitution of their nationhood is one of the most striking facts in European history. Do not let us be led, because there are many aspects of Polish policy that we do not like or agree with, into dwelling upon the small points of disagreement, and then forget what a very great work has been achieved, a work of liberation and of justice, in the reconstitution of Poland. I trust she will live long to enjoy the freedom of the lands which belong to her, a freedom which was gained by the swords of the victorious Allies.
We may look elsewhere. There is Bohemia, the land of Good King Wenceslas, which has emerged with its own identity re-established. There are all the small countries on the Baltic, all holding tenaciously to their principles of nationhood. There are all those countries from the Baltic to the Black Sea, small individually compared to the greatest Powers but comprising an enormous proportion of the European family. All these countries are armed and determined to defend the lands of their fathers and their new gained independence, and it is most unwise to pursue any foreign policy which does not take account of these facts, which are not, as I have said, ghosts or memories of the past but which are the living forces with which we have to cope at the present time.
New discord has arisen in Europe of late years from the fact that Germany 2790 is not satisfied with the result of the late War. I have indicated several times that Germany got off lightly after the Great War. I know that that is not always a fashionable opinion, but the facts repudiate the idea that a Carthaginian peace was in fact imposed upon Germany. No division was made of the great masses of the German people. No portion of Germany inhabited by Germans was detached, except where there was the difficulty of disentangling the population of the Silesian border. No attempt was made to divide Germany as between the northern and southern portions which might well have tempted the conquerors at that time. No State was carved out of Germany. She underwent no serious territorial loss, except the loss of Alsace and Lorraine, which she herself had seized only 50 years before. The great mass of the Germans remained united after all that Europe had passed through, and they are more vehemently united to-day than ever before. You may talk of the War indemnity; what has happened there? I suppose that the Germans paid, in round terms, £1,000,000,000. But they had borrowed £2,000,000,000 at the same time, and there are no signs of their paying back. They have lost their colonies, it is true; but these were not of the greatest value to them, and it is not at all true for them to say that these colonies could ever have afforded any appreciable outlet for their working-class population. They are not colonies which are suited for white colonisation.
On the other hand, when we think of what would have happened to us, to France or to Belgium if the Germans had won; when we think of the terms which they exacted from Rumania, or of the terms of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk: when we remember that up to a few months of the end of the War German authorities refused to consider that Belgium could ever be liberated, but said that she should be kept in thrall for military purposes for ever, I do not think that we need break our hearts in deploring the treatment that Germany is receiving now. Germany is not satisfied; but, as my right hon. Friend says, no concession which has been made has produced any very marked appearance of gratitude. Once it has been conceded it has seemed less valuable than when it was demanded. Many people would like 2791 to see, or would have liked to see a little while ago—I was one of them, and I daresay that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite are in the same position—the question of the Polish Corridor adjusted. For my part, I should certainly have considered that to be one of the greatest practical objectives of European peace-seeking diplomacy. There again, however, hon. Members must think of the rights of Poland. The Polish Corridor is inhabited almost entirely by Poles, and it was Polish territory before the Partition Treaty of 1772. This is a matter which, in quiet times with increasing good will, Europe should have set itself—and might well some day set itself—to solve.
The question of the Germans regaining their colonies is being pressed by them, and the question of their rearmament—which, personally, I consider more grave than any other question—is being brought to the front. They demand equality in weapons and equality in the organisation of armies and fleets, and we have been told, "You cannot keep so great a nation in an inferior position. What others have, they must have." I lave never agreed. I think it is a most dangerous demand to make. Nothing in life is eternal, of course, but as surely as Germany acquires full military equality with her neighbours while her own grievances are still unredressed and while she is in the temper which we have unhappily seen, so surely should we see ourselves within a measurable distance of the renewal of general European war. If this process of rearmament or of equalisation were actually to take place while the present conditions prevail, undoubtedly the nations who are neighbours of Germany and who fear Germany would ask themselves whether they would be well advised to postpone coming to a conclusion until the process of German rearmament has been completed. It is extremely dangerous for people to talk lightly about German rearmament and say that, if the Germans choose to do it, no one can stop them. I am very doubtful if Germany would rearm in defiance of the treaty if there were a solidarity of European and world opinion that the Treaty could only be altered by discussion, and could not be altered by a violent one-sided breach. I therefore do not subscribe to the doctrine that we 2792 should throw up our hands and recognise the fact that Germany is going to be armed up to an equality with the neighbouring States in any period which we can immediately foresee. There may be other periods, but certainly we ought not to admit it at the moment.
I am not going to use harsh words about Germany and about the conditions there. I am addressing myself to the problem in a severely practical manner. Nevertheless, one of the things which we were told after the Great War would be a security for us was Parliamentary institutions in Germany; that she would be a democracy with Parliamentary institutions. All that has been swept away. You have dictatorship—most grim dictatorship. You have militarism and appeals to every form of fighting spirit, from the reintroduction of duelling in the colleges to the Minister of Education advising the plentiful use of the cane in the elementary schools. You have these martial or pugnacious manifestations, and also this persecution of the Jews, of which so many hon. Members have spoken and which appeals to everyone who feels that men and women have a right to live in the world where they are born, and have a right to pursue a livelihood which has hitherto been guaranteed them under the public laws of the land of their birth.
When I read of what is going on in Germany—I feel in complete agreement in this matter with hon. Gentlemen opposite—when I see the temper displayed there and read the speeches to which my right hon. Friend referred, the speeches of the leading Ministers—because those are quite enough—I cannot help rejoicing that the Germans have not got the heavy cannon, the thousands of military aeroplanes and the tanks of various sizes for which they have been pressing in order that their status may be equal to that of other countries. I listened to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham with the greatest satisfaction, and it occurred to me that the House has not always done justice to his conduct of foreign affairs. He was very much scolded and condemned at the close of the late Conservative Administration, but the Locarno Treaty and all that followed from it were models of skilful peace-seeking diplomacy. Although other difficulties have come in other times, I 2793 cannot see that the handling of the Foreign Office since he left it should fill him with any particular feeling of humiliation.
I will leave Germany and turn to France. France is not only the sole great surviving democracy in Europe; she is also the strongest military power, I am glad to say, and she is the head of a system of States and nations. France is the guarantor and protector of all these small States I mentioned a few moments ago; the whole crescent which runs right round from Belgium to Yugoslavia and Rumania. They all look to France. When any step is taken, by England or any other Power, to try to weaken the diplomatic or military security of France, all these small nations tremble with fear and anger. They fear that the central pro tective force will be weakened, and that then they will be at the mercy of the great Teutonic power.
I have described the situation to lead up to the conclusion that we should be very careful not to mix ourselves up too deeply in this European scene. We have expressed our opinions to-day, and they will, I, am sure, be of value, but our desire to promote peace must not lead us to press our views beyond a point where those views are no longer compatible with the actual facts of the situation. It may be very virtuous and high-minded to press disarmament upon nations situated as these nations are, but if not done in the right way and in due season, and in moderation, with regard for other people's point of view as well as our own sentiments, it may bring war nearer than peace, and may lead us to be suspected and hated instead of being honoured and thanked as we should wish to be. Even more vain is it for the United States to press indiscriminate disarmament upon the European States, unless, of course, the United States is prepared to say that those nations which take her advice will receive her aid if trouble should arise, and is prepared to envisage the prospect of sending millions of soldiers again across the ocean.
I sincerely believe that our country has a very important part to play in Europe, but it is not so large a part as we have been attempting to play, and I advocate for us in future a more modest role than many of our peace preservers and peace 2794 lovers have sought to impose upon us. I remember when I was very young before I came into this House a denunciation by Dr. Spence Watson of what he called "the filthy Tory rag of a spirited foreign policy." In those days the feelings of all those who sat opposite, their forerunners, were directed against jingo policies of bombast, with Palmerstonian vigour. But you may have another kind of spirited foreign policy which may also lead you into danger, and that is a policy in which, without duly considering the circumstances in which others are placed, you endeavour to press upon them disarmament or to weaken their security, perhaps with a view to gaining a measure of approbation, very natural approbation, from good people here who are not aware of the dangerous state of affairs in Europe. There you could have a peace policy which may be too spirited.
It is easy to talk about the moral leadership of Europe. That great prize still stands before the statesmen of all countries, but it is not to be achieved merely by making speeches of unexceptional sentiments. If it is to be won by any nation it will only be by an immense amount of wise restraint and timely discreet action which, over a period of years, has created a situation where speeches are not merely fine exhortations but record the achievements of unity and conciliation which have sprung up. There is the moral leadership of Europe. It is not to be won by such each methods as merely making speeches which will arouse the applause of every good-hearted person in this country.
The Prime Minister spread on the table at Geneva a few weeks ago a vast plan for bringing all armaments down and consequently improving relatively the military strength of Germany. The right hon. Gentleman made an extraordinary admission. He said he had not gone through the figures himself. But he took responsibility for them. It was a very grave responsibility. This proposal which was put forward with the highest motives and with many good reasons behind it, touches all the most delicate and dangerous spots in Europe. If ever there was a document upon which its author ought to have consumed his personal thought and energy, it was this tableau, this scheme of disarmament, prescribing for every country great and small what its military, air and naval forces should 2795 be. I have not heard it said with any assurance by the Government that the Committee of Imperial Defence were consulted upon these figures. I have not heard it said that the chiefs of the Fighting Services here have been consulted upon these figures. Unknown hands have prepared these figures and the author of the document has admitted to us that he had not himself mastered them, either in scope or in detail.
Here in this country we know that no dark designs are harboured by our Government against the peace or wellbeing of any country. There may be mistakes; there may be muddles, but no dark designs of that kind areharboured by any British Prime Minister or Foreign Secretary. He could not live under the conditions of British Cabinet Government if it were otherwise. But foreign countries do not always attribute to us this innocence. I have been reading some of the comments in foreign newspapers lately and in a Liberal newspaper of good standing in Switzerland I was surprised to see the interpretation that was put upon the proposals, innocently and precipitately put forward, by the Prime Minister. In that paper all is calculated out and worked up to give the impression that the Prime Minister was deliberately indulging pro-German sympathies and deliberately endeavouring to weaken France, and, seeing the detail with which the argument is set out, one could not help being impressed. On the one hand, the reader is told that the military and naval clauses must be read together; and there were elaborate arguments to show that, owing to the arrangement of the naval forces, it would not be possible for the French to bring their 200,000 Colonial troops across the Mediterranean in certain contingencies. I do not repeat that because I think such an idea has animated His Majesty's Government. Not at all. I repeat it only in order to show how extremely delicate and dangerous these matters are, and what care should be taken before they are thrust upon the council board of Europe.
But that is not by any means the whole story. No sooner had this tremendous step been taken of prescribing to every country what its defences should be, than the Prime Minister left Geneva for Rome.
2796 He arrived in Rome one day, and found himself with a new foreign policy the next. Signor Mussolini's proposal for a Four-Power Pact or agreement has many arguments in its favour. I liked very much the language used by my right hon. Friend about the importance of the great Powers who would have to bear the brunt of any serious conflict, establishing good relations between themselves and being in close touch with each other, if only to enable them to spread those satisfactory relations wider among the larger number of smaller Powers. As I say, there are many arguments in favour of co-operation of the four Powers, but one does not always need to advertise the fact so very vigorously. There are many Cabinets in which an inner Cabinet grows up without any of the other members being offended, but it is only under the stress of war that we took the step of forming a War Cabinet, which definitely distinguished between those members and other persons in the Government. So it is in this European field.
As I say, there are arguments in favour of this policy, but at the present time there are two serious arguments against it. The first is this: Of all times, this was not the time to make such a proposal with any prospect of success, and, secondly, nothing could be more unsuitable than to combine this Four-Power Pact with the disarmament proposals which had been laid before Geneva only two days before. By those proposals France was asked—I must not say to halve her army, because the Under-Secretary of State would rebuke me—to reduce her army from 700,000 to 400,000; and at the same moment that this very serious demand was made upon her, she was also invited, as the result of the Rome Conference, to take her seat at a table of four, with Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini, the two dictators, and with the Prime Minister, about whom France, of course, still has memories.
I say that putting this double pressure upon France at this moment, both from Geneva and from Rome, was calculated to court defeat for either or both of the schemes which the Government successively and, ultimately, simultaneously advanced. Such a procedure was to doom them to failure beforehand. It could not fail to exacerbate suspicion, and not only to weaken the influence of our country, 2797 but to involve us more deeply in the Continental situation, for you cannot take the lead in this remarkable manner, presenting these successive policies to Europe with such rapidity, without being entangled to a very large extent as a consequence of the proposals that you have made.
I do not think that plans for disarmament so comprehensive should have been put forward by the Prime Minister without his having studied them most carefully, with all the highest technical experts here, nor do I think the proposals with which Signor Mussolini confronted the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary when they arrived in Rome should have been even entertained on the spur of the moment. There are all sorts of proposals put forward, with great ability, by a very powerful personality, which sound very well and look very attractive at first sight, but in matters affecting the peace of so many countries and the lives and well-being of millions of men, what harm would there have been to have waited till the Cabinet could have examined this proposal, till the trained officials of the Foreign Office could have examined such a proposal in all its aspects? They would not have taken very long to point out what the inevitable reactions would be. It astounds me that the Prime Minister, who has had such considerable opportunities of acquainting himself with European affairs, should not have mastered the real facts of the European situation or the articulation of the different countries which compose the system. At any rate, the results have been quietly apparent. France, confronted with this double, simultaneous demand, was deeply disturbed. But the French have learned to attune their language to the standard forms of phraseology which are highly in favour throughout the English-speaking world. They never on any account make abrupt or sharp contradictions of any proposals that are put to them. They say, "Most interesting, most helpful, and a great move forward," but they leave to their Allies, the small nations—and not so small either—to say what France feels and thinks but which she realises had better be said by others.
What happened? Within one single week, if I may judge from the public 2798 prints, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Rumania at once made their appearance, and every one of them made in concert—no doubt with pre-arrangement—statements in which the danger of war was brutally referred to. Such a warning must never be disregarded. It is quite true that such warnings do not now bear the significance they would have borne in the days before the great struggle. I am very glad that that is so, but, at the same time, it appears to me that the statements made on behalf of these three Powers do constitute a definite and grave warning of the dangers of pursuing this policy. Thus, all the small Powers, including the Scandinavian Powers, are making common cause in the League of Nations in order to defend themselves against what they think is a threatened over-lordship of the four great Powers. What happens then? The Pact or Agreement so incontinently accepted has to be amended, has to be modified to fit the views of the small nations in the League of Nations. It has to be modified again to meet special claims. It has to be modified again to meet the requirements of France, and it very soon reaches the point when it loses the adherence of Germany. It is no good saying it is merely "much ado about nothing." That is not so. Harm has been done, disturbance has been created, suspicion has been spread, and English influence has lost a measure of its virtue and added a measure to its responsibility. There may be days when all our influence will be required to help to keep the peace of Europe, and when all our detachment will be required to enable us to keep clear of being involved in war.
I am asking the Foreign Secretary specifically to lay Papers on the Rome visit. There is no reason at all why we should not have had some Papers by now. My right hon. Friend's case was overwhelming that we should have had proper detailed information and that Papers should have been laid. The Government know perfectly well what is the proper measure of information which can be in the Papers, but the House is not doing its duty if it allows itself to go week after week in ignorance of what actually occurred in matters of prime consequence to all.
I have only one more remark to make, and I address myself particularly to the Conservative party. Under the late 2799 Socialist Government and under the Prime Minister there were three main lines of policy in external affairs which were developed. There were the special trade favours to Russia; we know where that policy has led. There was then the policy of strengthening Germany and raising her more to an equality with France. We all agree that that cannot be pursued any further now. Then there was the policy of giving a federal constitution to India, about which we have so often spoken. I have opposed all those policies from their very inception and at every stage. They all arose, naturally, from the views of an international Socialist administration. I did hope, when the General Election swept the board clear, that a new view would be taken of those external policies. I did hope that in regard to Russia we should say, "We will put ourselves in the same position as the United States has done with so much success, and we will not give trade or money favours to Russia which we do not give to friendly countries, to our own Dominions, or to our own industries or municipalities."
I hoped that in regard to Europe we should not endeavour, on any account, to weaken France, increasingly keep ourselves in reserve, and be not too seriously involved, and that we should put our own defences in good order in view of the increasing danger on the Continent. As to India I had hopes there, too, and I still hope. Those who heard the Foreign Secretary cheered when he spoke on the Russian question the other day could easily see what is the true instinct of this House of Commons. Its true instinct is contrary to the well-established lines of Socialist external policy which were in progress under the late Administration, and I hope and trust that the day will come when not only upon Russia and upon Europe, but also upon India, the same changes of opinion will take place as have already taken place on two out of these three subjects during the course of the present Session.
I will say one word about the Prime Minister's visit to the United States of America. It will be only a word. I do not understand how any Prime Minister could have failed to take up, in the spirit of the highest cordiality, the invitation tendered him in such striking terms by the President of the United States at the 2800 beginning of his tenure of power, and I am very glad indeed that the Government have decided to send the Prime Minister upon this mission, so described and so limited as it has been. For my part, I should not like to have spoken in this Debate in a critical sense without wishing the Prime Minister, who is not here now, a pleasant holiday and an agreeable conversation, a fruitful result for his mission and a safe return to this country.
§ 3.28 p.m.
§ Sir HERBERT SAMUEL
I will not follow my right hon. Friend into those very wide matters of controversy to which he referred towards the close of his speech. The Debate has ranged widely enough without my following him along those paths. As he himself said in his opening remarks, this has been a memorable Debate. It has dealt with great and anxious affairs in which the whole House and the country are keenly interested. We are grateful to the Prime Minister for the information he gave us with regard to his approaching visit to the United States. The intense depression from which the world is suffering has originated mainly in America, and its relief and cure must, I believe, come principally from the action of the President, the Congress, and the people of the United States. We wish the Prime Minister—all of us, in all parts of the House—God speed in the momentous mission he has undertaken. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) in almost all that he said in his speech to-day, one of those interventions in the Debates of the House of Commons, forceful, eloquent and timely, which have helped to make this Parliament particularly memorable.
He has criticised, I think with justification, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) has criticised, the events connected with what has been called the Pact of Rome. I share to the full the regret that that diplomatic arrangement should have been presented to Europe in the form in which it was presented, arousing the very natural and possibly indeed the proper concern of the smaller Powers of Europe. It seemed to show a tendency—although I believe not in any degree so intended—to revert to the pre-War system of arranging international affairs, which 2801 broke down so utterly, since, after a long period of unrest and constant conflict, it resulted finally in the catastrophe of the Great War; a system which centred so largely around the mutual antagonisms between France and Germany. For 200 years the relations between those two countries have served to create unrest and friction and open conflict between States, sometimes due to a Louis XIV, or a Napoleon, and sometimes due to the action of a Frederick the Great, a Bismarck or a William II. The pendulum of great armies swings backwards and forwards, generation by generation, between France and Germany, bringing death and misery to millions, or indeed to tens of millions, of people.
After the War we hoped that by the creation of the League of Nations there would be laid the foundations of a new and better world order and of some really effective means for maintaining international peace. Anything which seems to subordinate, or to place upon one side, the machinery of the League of Nations is strongly to be deprecated. The League of Nations seems to us to be the one great hope of the world. It was unfortunate that there should have been agreed what was named, or misnamed, the Pact of Rome, and that the consequence should have been to evoke the most formal, the serious protests from such leaders of the smaller Powers as Dr. Benes and others who are whole-heartedly the servants of the League of Nations. I agree with all that my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping has said under that head, and I hope that the Foreign Secretary will add to what the Prime Minister has already said, and that he will give reassurance. I hope that this term "the Pact of Rome" will be repudiated, and that it will be clearly stated that there is not, and never has been, any such thing as a Pact of Rome, and that, while there may have been formal or informal consultation between leaders of the great Powers, there has been nothing tending to a formal instrument.
The hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee), who opened this Debate, in a speech the ability of which has earned just tribute from other speakers, said very truly that the political settlement of the world depended upon the economic settlement. The present unrest pre- 2802 vailing almost everywhere is undoubtedly due to economic distress and to the uneasiness, resentment, and revolt of great populations suffering extreme poverty, owing to the collapse of world trade. Military defeat will overturn thrones, but economic collapse overturns whole systems of government.
The Prime Minister has told us to-day very clearly that he recognises that the root cause of these economic distresses is the block in world commerce. We from these benches have been preaching that in the highways and byways for a long time past, and have been denounced for it as being hidebound Cobdenites preaching the shibboleths of a bygone and forgotten day. The Prime Minister now declares that the one thing which is needed above all is to get rid of these restrictions upon international trade. He will find in President Roosevelt one who is, apparently, already converted to that view, but I hope that, when he comes back, he will succeed in converting his own colleagues, for the Chancellor of the Exchequer has told us that, even if all the world abolished their restrictions, we ought to maintain ours, while the Minister of Agriculture has said that the establishment of a general system of quota restrictions upon imports of agricultural products is essential to the present state of the world, and that system has been introduced by the Government with the intention that it should stay.
Painfully slow has been any tendency in the opposite direction, the tendency commended by the Prime Minister. Last night the President of the Board of Trade did make a statement on some agreements that are on the point of being reached with other countries, dealing with these particular matters, as a result of negotiations intended to lessen the obstructions to trade. His statement, however, was only preliminary and provisional, and quite indefinite. He told us nothing of the terms of those agreements, except that the one with Germany would improve the sale of British coal to that country, and would about double the present figures. Yes, but the sale of British coal to Germany has been halved within the last two years, since the tariffs were imposed upon German goods here, and the German Government have declared in a formal Note that they connected the imposition of 2803 restrictions upon British coal to Germany with what they regarded as the unfair treatment of German trade in this country.
Now, it seems, we have been compelled, by these restrictions upon our coal, to agree to the removal of some of the restrictions which we have imposed upon German trade, and, as a consequence, the Germans will be prepared to buy once more what they bought from us in the way of coal two years ago. As a matter of fact, they have retaliated upon our measures against them, and now, as so often happens in these matters, we have withdrawn from our position, and they, consequently, withdraw from theirs, and will purchase from us in the future as much coal as they purchased before. In the meantime, tens of thousands of British miners have for a year or two years been deprived of their employment. With regard to the other agreements, we must wait to hear what their terms are, but I trust that they will prove to be more advantageous to British export trade than the agreements at Ottawa which were heralded as being so great a success for the diplomacy of our administration.
I mention these matters merely by the way, and return to the main course of the Debate this afternoon, which has dealt particularly with foreign relations, and with Germany especially. As a member myself of the Jewish community, I deeply appreciate what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham and by many other Members. There has, indeed, been a spontaneous outburst of public opinion in this country, as well as in America and in many other countries, at what is undoubtedly a piece of religious and racial persecution. Some of the communities of Jews in Germany have been settled in that country ever since the time of the Roman Empire, and individuals among them and their ancestors, have contributed greatly to the enrichment and the glory of German life. I deprecate most strongly any exaggerated accounts of what has befallen them in these days, but established facts are ample to show that very grave events have occurred in many parts of Germany and, particularly, some cases of shocking violence. In addition, there has been insult and degradation to great numbers of worthy 2804 and self-respecting people, and a deliberate system has been adopted by ousting many of them from professional, commercial and industrial positions they have occupied, although sometimes their fathers and ancestors before them for several generations have occupied posts of similar character.
In the Middle Ages when there was a persecution of the Jews, the mob would burn, murder and rob. In these latter days the method is different. It is now not their property which is looted, but their posts. They are robbed not of their goods but of their livelihood, and I am not sure but that is worse. In biology, sometimes in a species, you may get a throw-back to a more primitive type, and so it is occasionally in history. Strangely, we seem to see the 12th century surging up in the middle of the 20th century. It has often been said that history points out that the countries which have oppressed the Jews have declined, and that those which have treated them with kindness have flourished. Some have thought that this is a special example of Divine intervention. It may be that the two are really consequences of the same cause—that a nation which has a broad spirit of tolerance, and respect for liberty, shows in that, a strong moral strength and political wisdom, and that that moral strength and political wisdom bring national success. On the other hand, where there is intolerance, and where there is a narrow spirit of exclusiveness, that is an example of physical power covering and hiding what is essentially moral weakness, and that leads ultimately to national failure. The Jews all through the centuries have occupied the rather uncomfortable position of being the test of character of the nations among whom they live. The Jews have been the touchstone of the nations all through the centuries.
I feel I may speak not only as a member of the community myself but as a representative of the Liberals in this country in protesting against the action taken in Germany. When I say I think I may speak for Liberals, I mean not merely Members of the Liberal party but all who hold liberal ideas. Respect for civil liberty and equal justice is really innate in the British people of all parties. Two or three years ago the Institute of International Law, which is the most authori- 2805 tative body of jurists in the world, drew up a declaration of what they regarded as fundamental principles of the law of nations. One of these provisions is that:it is the duty of every State to allow the individual equal rights of life, liberty and property, and to grant to all on its territory full protection of their rights without distinction of nationality, race, or religion.Those ideas are surely fundamental to the orderly development of the modern world. Recent events in Germany have caused great anxiety to all those who are eager for international good will and are concerned for the comity of nations. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham dwelt upon the fact that it was a cause of grave concern if there was to be a revival of the spirit of pre-War Prussian militarism, and when not long ago there was a great parade of 100,000 members of the Stahl-helm, reviewed by the Hohenzollern Princes, it caused grave anxiety to those in other countries who were eager to see peace and good will prevailing between Germany and her immediate neighbours, and ourselves as well.
There is a saying that he who makes many afraid of him has himself many to fear. It is a sound maxim and one which the Germans under the present regime would have been well advised to remember. Things here in this country had changed very greatly since the War. We were eager, to forget the animosities and the bitterness which that War inevitably evoked. We wanted to stretch out a friendly hand to Germany, and we did so. We felt that a great State like Germany could not be kept by any Treaties permanently on a lower international status than other countries. We urged strongly that there should be a general measure of disarmament partly in order to achieve that equality of status to which Germany had a legitimate claim. I would remind the House that the Geneva Disarmament Conference still remains with its problems, and that great issue cannot be put aside and must go forward to its solution. Many of us were ready also to consider a revision in some respects of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, though I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping that in no circumstances could that revision be undertaken by unilateral action, but that it could only be achieved by the machinery which the Treaty itself provides, together with the 2806 Covenant of the League of Nations, for revision by general assent. All that movement now has received a setback. I hope it may be only temporary, for it is most desirable that that movement, which has been proceeding for about 10 years, should go forward and should achieve a reconciliation of Europe and a healing of the wounds which have been left by the War.
What action should now be taken with regard to the oppressed Jews of Germany? It has been suggested that Palestine might prove an outlet for a certain number of them. I had the privilege of giving five years to the service of the great experiment that is being made in Palestine, and it is a profound satisfaction to us that at present Palestine is the one country in the world which is prosperous, which has no unemployment and which has a considerable surplus in its national Budget. But even that prosperity does not permit the unlimited immigration of a fresh population which is to be maintained by their labour on the soil, and the principle that has been laid down by the Government and which has regulated admission into Palestine hitherto is sound, that the number of persons to be admitted must depend upon the absorptive capacity of the country. A good deal can be done in that connection in view of the fact that Palestine is at present prosperous, and I think that the local administration is taking steps already to secure that the doors shall be opened as widely to the refugee Jews from Germany as the economic conditions can possibly allow.
When I am speaking of Palestine may I say this one further word? When I remember the type of Jewish population which I found there working on the land—the men ploughing, digging, planting, sowing, sweating in the sun, converting hundreds of miles of wilderness into gardens, when I remember the splendid young women one saw there, with their intelligent faces and their fearless eyes, when I remember the evenings in those colonies, where the young people get together for music or for lectures and interminable discussions on politics, religion, economics and philosophy, and when I see this community growing up showing what Jews can do under conditions of freedom and independence, I am amazed at the travesty of 2807 the national characteristics which is given in some of the anti-Semitic literature of Germany.
Something may he done possibly in Palestine, and perhaps something may be done by a little relaxation of the very severe conditions of admission into this country. Though here again the economic state of things and the widespread unemployment would prevent any action being taken on a large scale. But in France and in Belgium special measures have been taken to assist and to permit the entrance of those who are refugees from Germany, and that might perhaps be done even here to the national advantage. When one remembers the great contribution to craftsmanship and industry which followed from the Huguenots fleeing from religious persecution in France, one may think that perhaps also there may be again here great contributions made to science, medicine, and scholarship, to drama and to music and to other arts by the admission of some of those who are required to leave the country in which they have lived for so long.
But the main solution must come out of Germany itself, and to that end the influence of the opinion of the whole world will contribute. I am not one of those who advocated the boycott of German goods, and such a movement has not been authorised as far as I know by any responsible Jewish organisation in this country, and I would desire nothing to be done which would embroil the relations between the British Government and the German Government. It is rather a matter for public opinion expressed outside this House and within it to bring its powerful influence to bear upon the course of events in Germany. Let the opinion of mankind here and elsewhere declare that to persecute people anywhere, or at any time, on account of their race or religion is an abomination and that all men are entitled to equal civil rights before the law, and let the voices of the Parliaments proclaim it.
§ 3.54 p.m.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir John Simon)
Before I attempt to deal with some of the important matters which have been raised in this Debate, I would ask leave to make a very short statement upon 2808 another matter connected with foreign affairs, the responsibility in regard to which rests heavily upon all of us to-day. It is a statement with reference to the trial proceeding at Moscow. I desire to make this statement. In view of the nature of the charges made against the six British subjects at the Moscow trial I desire to make the following specific statement:None of these men has ever been employed directly or indirectly in connection with any branch of our Intelligence Service. None of them has ever supplied any information to any such branch. None of them has ever been paid or promised any reward for such information, or has been supplied with any money to obtain it. None of them has ever made any report to or on behalf of our Intelligence Service. All the above statements are equally true of the Metropolitan-Vickers Company itself. That is to say, the company has not and never has had any connection with our Intelligence Service whatever.I take the opportunity of making that statement now at this Box, because my doing so adds to the solemnity with which I make it, and because there are no newspapers being published in this country to-morrow. I am making the statement now to give what testimony we can as to this matter for the information of all concerned.
I desire to deal, not at great length, with some of the principal matters that have been mentioned in to-day's interesting Debate. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) said, it has been an interesting and memorable Debate. I think it is a very long time since the discussion on the Motion for the Adjournment has concentrated in so effective a fashion the expression of opinion here and of public opinion outside on immensely important and urgent problems. First, I desire to say a word on a matter which the right hon. Member for Epping dealt with at the end of his very impressive and moving speech, namely, the special concern which we have at the present time with regard to the news as to the treatment of Jews in Germany. This Debate has been especially useful because it has expressed the deep, general and, I might say, universal feeling that is entertained in this country on the recent treatment of Jews and other minorities in Germany.
I do not think it would be out of place if I say now, speaking as a Member of the Government, that it would be a pro- 2809 found mistake for anyone in any country to imagine that this feeling is either limited to or instigated by members of the Jewish community. On the contrary, it is a spontaneous expression and it is an inevitable expression of the attachment which we all feel to the principle of racial toleration. My right hon. Friend the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) said, quite truly, that it was a Liberal principle. So it is. It is a claim which many of us who have great attachment to that general outlook may fairly make. It is one of those principles which in past times has been a subject of controversy in our own political life and in which, in the broadest sense, Liberal opinion has championed the oppressed.
It is also one of those things which have entered into the traditions of the whole of the British people. To-day there is no distinction between any of us, whatever our party affiliations may be, and we cannot conceive that civil liberty, upon which the progress not only of great nations but of neighbourly relations so often depend, are not gravely menaced by the matters to which attention has been called to-day. It is not a Jewish outlook and it is not merely the outlook of a section or of a party; it is what may truly be called the Anglo-Saxon outlook. It is the outlook of those who have inherited traditions which have been common to England and Germany alike. I make these observations knowing well the responsibility which rests upon the Government in such a matter, and I do not believe that we should be expressing the feelings of the country if I did not associate myself with what has been said on this subject to-day.
We all recognise the distinction, the most important distinction, between the functions of a Government such as our own to make direct representations to a foreign State, if citizens of our own in that foreign country are in jeopardy. If large numbers of British subjects of Jewish descent anywhere in the world are exposed to unfair treatment, then it is the duty of the British Government to make direct representations and to call the attention of the foreign Government to the importance of seeing that our own fellow-subjects are dealt with justly. That is quite a different situation of course from this, when you are dealing with the situation in a foreign country of those, 2810 whatever their race may be, who are themselves subjects of that foreign nation.
But while that is so, and while I bear that distinction most fully in mind, I may be permitted to say that these recent events in Germany not only have very gravely troubled universal British opinion, but they have as a matter of fact presented to the Government here some special problems for which the Government have to take responsibility. One effect is that considerable numbers of people who are endeavouring to leave Germany are applying to enter at our ports, and to spend a time, short or long, in our own country. The House will have noticed the terms of the answer that was given by the Home Secretary the other day, when he was asked a question on this subject, and when he assured the House that in accordance with the time-honoured tradition of this country no unnecessary obstacle would be placed in the way of foreigners seeking admission. There are, of course, practical considerations which must be borne in mind. The interests of our own citizens are quite properly put in the forefront of the calculation, but for my part I proclaim myself as belonging to that school which holds, on the whole, and with the long view, that the admission to this country of people of good character who bring their trade and experience with them, is a gain and not a loss to this country. I am sure that at the present time the sentiment of our own people will not wish us to be unfeeling or niggardly in administering that branch of the law.
There is another problem which is presented by the situation directly to the British Government. It has been mentioned in this and previous Debates. It arises because of our special responsibility as holding a mandate for Palestine towards Palestinian Jews and those who wish to move to that part of the world. My right hon. Friend the Member for Darwen referred to his five years of laborious and most useful service as High Commissioner in Palestine, and I was very glad that he did so. He will be specially interested to know what arrangement it has been possible rapidly to make. In view of the hour at which we are debating and the fact that this is the last day before the holiday, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Dominions has been good enough 2811 to give me the facts. Here are the concessions recently authorised by the High Commissioner for Palestine in regard to Jewish immigration from Germany. Immigration to Palestine falls broadly under two categories: first of all, the question of the admission of wage-earners—labouring people—and, secondly, the admission of persons who possess certain defined amounts of capital. As regards wage-earners, the Labour Schedule is fixed half-yearly determining the number of immigration certificates to be issued under this category. The certificates, as hon. Members may know, are handed over to the Jewish Agency for distribution. I am able to announce that the High Commissioner has authorised an advance of 1,000 certificates for distribution to Jewish men and women of the labouring category in Germany on account of the Schedule for the half-year commencing the 1st April, ante-dated in order that certificates may be available. The Schedule as a whole will be determined on the basis of the capacity of the country to absorb new immigrants within the next few days, and will certainly exceed 1,000 certificates. There are so many more people in the category of those able to labour with their hands.
Then comes the other class to which I referred: persons possessing a certain defined amount of capital. The High Commissioner has authorised the following concessions, which cover three points: the allocation to the British Passport Control Officer, Berlin, of blocks of 200 immigration certificates for grant in proper cases, without reference to Jerusalem—for allocation to Jews in Germany with a capital of not less than £1,000. Secondly, a liberal review of applications for immigration certificates made by German Jewish citizens (1) who are members of certain skilled trades or crafts and possess a capital of not less than £250, or (2) who possess a capital of not less than £500, provided that the immigration authorities are satisfied that there is room for them and that they have enough capital for the occupations they propose to follow, and that they are qualified and physically fit for these pursuits. Thirdly, the High Commissioner has given express orders that there should be considerate treatment for applications by German Jews already settled in Palestine for the 2812 admission of parents or other relatives of theirs at present living in Germany.
It seems to me that the High Commissioner has been well advised in making these important concessions. I have already said that I regret that the shortage of time has given me the pleasure of making that announcement, a duty which should normally fall upon my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary.
I have, I hope, indicated with sufficient frankness and fullness the concern that the Government entertain, in common with the rest of the House, towards this very grave matter. I do not think that it will be in the interest of the Jews themselves for His Majesty's Government to conceive themselves clothed with authority to intervene on behalf of foreign citizens in another country. The real effect which we all seek to bring about by friendly but by firm remonstrance is the effect which has been produced by the Debate to-day—the undoubted effect of what has been said here on public opinion outside.
I will pass to the other main subject which has been discussed here this afternoon, though indeed, I am picking it up out of a large number of other and incidental points. My right hon. Friend the Member for Darwen, for example, could not resist the temptation, in the course of his review, of suggesting that the concession—I think the very valuable concession—announced by the President of the Board of Trade to the House yesterday was not all it appeared to be, on the grounds, as I understood them, that it was the tariffs which this country had seen fit to adopt which had produced the decision of the German Government to restrict imports of British coal. Every Mr. Dick must be allowed to have his King Charles's head, but, as a mere matter of historical order, I would remind my right hon. Friend that when he was a Member of the Government and before the Cabinet had taken to these evil courses, in October, 1931, the German restrictions upon the importation of British coal began. Historically, and as a matter of fact they were due to this fact—that in the previous month, September, 1931, we had gone off the Gold Standard. So much for the order of the facts of history.
§ Sir J. SIMON
No, I am sure that every form of variation and embroidery of it will be possible henceforth and for ever more. How ever I now turn to the question of what is called the Four Power Pact. As far as I am concerned, and as far as the Government are concerned, we are not aware of any of the outstanding implications which have been suggested in this discussion. As to the "Pact of Rome," if that phrase becomes popular, I trust that His Majesty's Government may be absolved from using it, for although it has been used by other people, it has never been used as far as I know by any responsible person. I want to give to the House in as plain language as I can command a short history of this matter and an indication of where it now stands. Let me say at once that I agree with the view expressed both by the hon. and gallant Member, who made such a brilliant speech earlier, and by the right hon. Gentleman below the Gangway, that it would be right to lay papers about it. It would not be possible or right however to lay papers until we have the necessary leave from those with whom we have been exchanging communications. There is no reason to think that that leave would be withheld, but there are probably communications still to be made. I intend—and I have the express authority of the Prime Minister to say so—to lay papers as soon as possible.
The House will probably take my description of what has occurred with a better grace since I am not seeking to substitute the spoken for the written word. Here is the story in its simplest form, and I do not think that it will be found to contain any of those tremendously dangerous elements which some people seem to find in it. When the Prime Minister and I were at Geneva an invitation came from Signor Mussolini that we should go to Rome before we returned to this country. It is an elementary observation but one which it is not altogether useless to repeat, that, as a matter of geography, Paris lies on the road between London and Geneva and Rome does not. The consequence is that unless you want to be continually calling upon your friends in Paris and never calling upon your friends in Italy, you must be prepared on some occasion or another to make a journey round about. It was very well known to us—very well known to me in my official 2814 capacity—that the Italian Government had felt a little distressed sometimes that there had been no opportunity for personal contact, such as arises almost as a matter of course, when we pass between this country and Geneva so far as French Ministers are concerned. There was, therefore, a good deal of satisfaction on our part when we got the invitation.
The danger, of course, was that in this world where misunderstanding so easily arises it might be thought that we were rushing off in a new direction to establish some new and special contact, to the prejudice of good relations existing between us and other countries. My own experience is this, that in these matters, whatever else happens, we should not allow that to arise. I therefore communicated through the proper channels with the French Prime Minister, M. Daladier, as well, of course, as having a conversation with M. Paul Boncour, who was the Foreign Minister on the spot at Geneva, and we were very glad indeed, the Prime Minister and I, to get a message from M. Daladier, who had come from Paris expressly to Geneva for the purpose of seeing us before we started our journey to Rome—exactly what I desired—and it seemed to me to be an extremely prudent course to take. When M. Daladier came he showed himself not only interested in the proposed visit but heartily in favour of it. Indeed, he went so far, as the House was informed when the Prime Minister spoke the other day, as to take the opportunity of making a speech at Geneva just before we left, in the afternoon of the day we left, in the course of which he expressed, on behalf of the French Government, his good wishes about our going. I thought, and I still think, that that at any rate was a very useful course of action to prevent possible misunderstandings up to that particular point.
We reached Rome, and our time there was extremely brief. It was inevitably so when the Prime Minister was away from his own country on a matter of importance, however important it was, and we were shown almost immediately—indeed, in the motor car before we reached Rome itself—what was described as a very rough draft which Signor Mussolini had prepared of some ideas which he entertained. He had at the same time given a copy of the draft to the French Ambassador, M. de Jouvenal, and to the 2815 Italian Ambassador from Berlin. Of course, there was no question of having any private or secondary discussion, and I say at once that we did not go to Rome with any knowledge that this was about to occur; and any idea that there had been some preconceived plan which was then ripened and put into form is without the smallest fraction of foundation.
We examined this document, and I hope very soon the House will see it in print. I believe it has been published in some newspapers abroad. The general plan of it was that in Signor Mussolini's view it would be a contribution to world peace and have a steadying effect if an agreement could be entered into between the four principal Western Powers of Europe. I heard what the hon. Gentleman said in opening the Debate about there being other great Powers—America, Russia, and so on—and that is quite true, but this was from the beginning a suggestion which concentrated round these four great Western European Powers. In principle, I think there can be nothing objectionable in that, for, of course, the Locarno Treaty is an example of exactly the same kind. As to the object of it, it was, broadly speaking, that for a period of years, if possible for quite a long period of years, perhaps 10 years, ripening into 20, we should see whether we could not, in the first place, agree that there should be co-operation between these four great Powers in the interests of European peace and, secondly, that some of the classes of questions which undoubtedly present themselves for consideration and for solution in Europe to-day, or might present themselves hereafter, as, for instance, the economic problem, the disarmament problem, and what I will refer to in a moment as the machinery for revision, could not also be provided for.
We got this paper and we examined it, as I am sure any British Minister would, with care and attention, and the whole idea that while we were at Rome we found ourselves hypnotised into agreeing to this, that and the other is complete moonshine. We said, "We are making no commitments. We are expressing no agreement on any point whatever. This matter will have to be considered much more elaborately. But since you are so 2816 courteous as to make this suggestion and desire us to examine it, we point out now that there are certain difficulties that arise in the form of the draft before us which we are quite confident you will have to consider." In particular we mentioned two. In the first place, it was clear to us that if it were expected that our friends in France were going to agree, the document must be in a form which might reasonably secure their concurrence, and, at any rate, not rouse their suspicion. As one article of this document was originally drawn, though it referred to the possibility of a revision of treaties, it made no reference whatever to the corresponding obligations of the Covenant, namely, recognition of the sanctity of treaties.
In the course of the afternoon I drafted—very roughly no doubt—a new form of article, embodying what appeared to us to be a very necessary form of change, in the course of which we put in the proposition, which is in the preamble of the Covenant, namely, that there must be a scrupulous respect for treaties side by side with the other proposition, which is equally in the Covenant, that the Covenant envisages the possibility under certain conditions of Treaty revision. That, however, is not, I think, the foundation of the anxieties which undoubtedly have been raised about this matter. The foundation of those anxieties depends upon a misunderstanding. It may be that one or other of us was responsible for it, and I will do my best to clear out of the way now a misunderstanding as to what is meant in this connection by collaboration and co-operation. The conception of co-operation or collaboration between four great Powers is no doubt capable of more than one meaning. The meaning that we have attached to it throughout, and the meaning, so far as we know, which has been attached to it by the others concerned, is that we should endeavour by consultation, co-operation and communications to secure that there shall not be the formation of two opposing blocks in which one or other of these great Powers shall find themselves opposed to the other.
In the whole of this Debate to-day, though I have heard much that is very wise as to some of the dangers of this proposal, I have heard nothing said of another danger. There are dangers and anxieties no doubt connected with any 2817 form of four-Power arrangement, but after all what is the alternative to there being a common co-operative view entertained by these four Powers? The alternative is that they should go different ways. The alternative is, for example—I will not mention names—that country A could find itself more and more closely allied to country B against country C. If we can devise a plan by which, for a series of years, that risk is minimised I do not think anyone need reproach himself at having secured that result. The sense in which we spoke of collaboration and co-operation between the four Powers was, therefore, this—it was an attempt to secure for at least a series of years that they should not find themselves in an opposing situation one to the other. It was not in the least with the idea of carrying out the other possible means of collaboration, namely, that they should combine together and, by their united force, attempt to impose their will upon other people.
Though I am quite aware that this misunderstanding is general, I really do not reproach myself, for I have explained that situation, with, I believe, complete clearness to some of the other statesmen of the world, at Geneva and here at the Foreign Office, until there can be no doubt at all as to the intention of the British Government. Signor Mussolini's view was that it might be possible first to get a long-term assurance between the four great Powers that they would try to keep on the same line and not take up positions opposed to one another. We thought it might be a possible policy—we were not disposed to deny the possibility and risk a useful suggestion—and we thought it might be possible to select certain very urgent or difficult questions that will arise in Europe and possibly to secure collaboration on them. I think it was the Prime Minister who pointed out that one of the things which would be so valuable at this time, could it be attained, would be some agreement between the four great western Powers that we would really work together for the common achievement of good results at the approaching Economic Conference.
I agree with the right hon. Member for West Birmingham when he said that it is a mistake to suppose that repeating these assurances and putting them into documentary form is useless. As a matter of 2818 fact, it is one of the things which tends to carry public opinion along with the Governments concerned, and I am sure his own experience, and his own great achievements, are quite sufficient to show how valuable it is on a proper occasion to have a formal lead given by those who speak for great countries and great business communities, and how it may sometimes greatly simplify the problem afterwards. When the House sees the papers they will find that one of the articles, which I think we ourselves proposed, in the final form, deals with co-operation at the Economic Conference which one hopes is still approaching.
As to the present position of the disarmament problem, I wish to say in reply to the right hon. Member for Epping, that though he looks with some doubt and suspicion upon the performances at Geneva, if one believes in promoting disarmament the contribution that was made by the British Government and by the Prime Minister on our last visit there is beyond any question at the present time far the most hopeful event which has occurred in the course of the Disarmament Conference. The point of the Prime Minister's remark about figures was this. He did not mean to say for one moment that he recklessly or idly wrote down figures, but he meant to call attention to the fact that all these volumes of talk about international agreement in relation to disarmament is worth nothing until we get down to the point where we consider with one another what are the quantitative limitations which it may be possible to enter upon. I warn the House that if we were to come out of the Conference in this position, that thanks to the existing peace treaties, which stand and bind, we have got quantitative results in respect of certain countries of Europe and a complete refusal on the part of other countries to consider quantities at all, I should find it quite impossible to subscribe to the view that that is the way to promote peace.
Now comes this much misunderstood matter of revision. Will the House allow me to make a very simple distinction? I have listened to the Debate to-day, and the distinction needs to be made that there is all the difference in the world between considering whether you can do anything in co-operation with some of 2819 the great Powers to provide suitable machinery for revision, and the totally distinct question of whether there is anything in particular, any frontier—named frontier—which we agree to revise. From first to last in these conversations during our Rome visit it has not been a question of this frontier or that, as being the topic upon which some agreement should be made. The point is not one which has to do with the premature discussion of this frontier or that; the whole point from beginning to end is a question of machinery. I have heard the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen, and I agree with him that these matters should be dealt with under the machinery of the League of Nations. Nothing will be more clear when the documents are produced that, from first to last, the British Government have not been promoting something which is opposed to the Covenant of the League of Nations. On the contrary. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen spoke as though the Covenant of the League had its machinery all ready and suitable for use, to which everybody could turn without any more ado, with complete assurance to deal with these subjects where they turned up. On the contrary. The Article of the Covenant that deals with these matters is Article 19, which says—and this is all that it says:The Assembly may from time to time advise the reconsideration by members of the League of Treaties which have become inapplicable and the consideration of international conditions whose continuance might endanger the peace of the world.I am not quite sure that my right hon. Friend realises, or whether the House realises, that when that Article 19 says that the Assembly may do this, what is needed is an absolutely unanimous vote in the Assembly. It means, as it stands, that nothing can happen until you have this vast assembly of some 64 States in all parts of the world agreed that revision is to be done. I am afraid that I take the view that you do not remove from Europe the danger of these questions arising merely by treating every possible question relating to revision of treaties as taboo. There are people thinking about these things, planning about these things, and threatening about these things, whether you mention them or not. The whole point of our conversation was: would it be a wise 2820 thing to canalise the method, as a means of securing that irregular and violent methods are not employed, and would it be possible to get a signature for a generation ahead that there shall be no raising of any question of revision, unless it be by a more definite procedure than you find in Article 19? That does not contradict the Covenant and does not do violence to the Covenant's view, but is simply to give some practical machinery for Article 19 which you may find, before we have finished with these things, would as a matter of fact be a security instead of an added danger.
I can understand the view that all you can do is to say: "Here is Article 19, and unless you can get a unanimous vote of the Assembly it is no good talking about it." But there is another view, which is that, unless you show yourselves prepared to consider how Article 19 might hereafter have to be used, you will not thereby secure the peace of Europe, but, on the contrary, will produce the very opposite effect. It is a very nice question of balance, on which I think a great deal may be said on one side or the other, and on which, as far as the British Government are concerned, we have not pronounced. It is a very nice question; on which I can well understand arguments from either side as to whether a well devised plan, which would secure that Article 19, when the time comes, can be used according to a particular procedure, and that all other procedure is barred, would or would not be a buttress to the peace of Europe.
I will put to the House an example. Supposing that there were a provision of this sort, that, if and when a Government raises any particular question involving treaty revision, the situation should be examined in the first place by means of negotiations and agreements to be carried on on an equal footing between not only the four Powers but the Governments directly concerned, and that such negotiations and agreements were to be based on the mutual recognition of all concerned and within the framework of the League of Nations, I do not think that anybody could dismiss a proposal such as that off-hand, either as being a departure from the Covenant of the League or as being nothing more than a contribution to the dangers of war. The question which has to be considered is whether a formula of that sort, 2821 which is not put forward by the four great Powers as opposed to other people—that never entered our heads from beginning to end—but which is designed to secure that any great question of difficulty should be discussed in the first instance between the Powers immediately concerned and the four great Powers, who, whatever may be said, are going to have a great influence on the result—the question is whether that method of handling the matter is not, or may not be, a contribution.
Whatever else I have done, I do hope that I have succeeded in disabusing some minds of what really are some misapprehensions. I would summarise it in this way. It is not true, it never has been true, that the discussion, which is sometimes called the Four-Power discussion, in which we have been concerned, means that we have been aiming at some hegemony of the four Powers which would impose its will on other people. Never. It is not true that we have been negotiating or discussing about changes of boundaries here, there, or anywhere in Europe. What is true is that we have been considering, and are still considering, with the French Government, who have not rejected the proposal, with the Italian Government, and with the German Government, whether or not it would be desirable and possible to enter into a written agreement for a long period of years, which would secure, first of all, a mutual assurance of actual co-operation for preserving the peace of the world, so that we should not find the danger developing of one or other of these great States getting into an opposite bloc from the others; and secondly, whether it would not be desirable to apply this same method to provide for certain of the more intractable problems which face Europe, such as the economic problem, the disarmament problem, and the possibility hereafter that demands may be made under the head of revision with nothing ever worked out as to how the ground may be prepared for the application of Article 19.
I hope that whether I have satisfied the House in that wise or not, which is a matter for some consideration, at any rate I have cleared away some of the misunderstandings which undoubtedly have arisen on the matter. As I have said it may be possible, very shortly, to put before the House some Papers on the sub- 2822 ject, and when these are examined it will be found that the explanation I have given is an explanation which is justified by the documents themselves. I agree with the criticism, very naturally made, that the matter developed in an unfortunate fashion. Those who were suspicious—extremely suspicious—of the whole idea not unnaturally rushed in to make their protests known. I am glad to take the opportunity to give the assurance here in the House of Commons to those most important European States, who have been especially anxious—as I have assured their representatives privately—that it is not, and never has been any conception of the Government at all that they should join with other great Powers for the purpose of imposing upon them charges without their being themselves full and equal partners in any discussion from the beginning to the end of it all. From the beginning to the end I repeat.
In connection with the observation made by the right hon. Gentleman, it is a pity we should get too easily into an atmosphere in which it is supposed that the great Powers stand against the small, and the small stand against the great. I have always protested against that at Geneva. I think co-operation is the only way to proceed. Let us have a sufficient sense of realism to know that great and responsible duties will fall on the backs of the great States of Western Europe. It will, indeed, be something gained if we can make sure over many years to come that Germany, Italy, France and ourselves in the matter of European policy are agreeing upon the same policy of peace.
§ 4.43 p.m.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
We do not desire to continue this Debate. I only rise for the purpose of saying that I understand the right hon. Gentleman does propose to lay a White Paper, and that that White Paper will convey not in general but in particular the statement he has made this afternoon, so that we shall be able to study and debate it with more satisfaction than we can do this afternoon. I do not profess myself, although other hon. Members may have gathered more from the right hon. Gentleman's statement than I have done, that it is quite clear what was done at Rome, and why it was done in that fashion. So far as 2823 we are concerned, we object very much to the arrangement by which pressmen are gathered together by Ministers and given information on particular subjects—not only foreign affairs but other matters—and the House of Commons is left to gather from journalists what the policy of the Government is. That is a custom that has grown up since the beginning of the War. It was perhaps necessary during the War, but it should have been dropped as soon as the War ended. The House of Commons ought to have resumed its tradition of being the place where Governments first make their statements of policy. The right hon. Gentleman has not convinced me, but perhaps the White Paper will, of the wisdom of the four great Powers agreeing on a policy before it is submitted to the League of Nations. We think that, while the League exists, the whole of the League business should be carried on at meetings of the League, or through commissions appointed by the League itself.
I also call the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the fact that he has not said a single word about the Sino-Japanese question. We shall hope to 2824 resume the discussion on these matters very soon after the House re-assembles. With regard to Palestine, I am very glad indeed at the arrangements that have been made, but I hope that, if there are a large number of other refugees who are driven out of Germany because of their inability to belong to trade unions or to the Socialist movement or for any other reason, some arrangements will be made, as my hon. Friend suggested, through the Nansen Commission where, we understand, there are considerable funds available. I think a Socialist is as much entitled to the sympathy of the world as a member of the Jewish faith. To me they are all on one footing. I want the Jews to have protection and help, but I want any other persecuted person, whether a Communist or a Socialist or any other creed that a man may hold, to have protection too.
§ Question, "That this House do now adjourn," put, and agreed to.
§ Adjourned accordingly at Thirteen Minutes before Five o'Clock until Tuesday, 25th April, pursuant to the Resolution of the House this day.