Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £175,660,000, be granted to His Majesty, on account, for or towards defraying the charges for the following Civil and Revenue Departments (including Pensions, Education, Insurance, and other Grants, and Exchequer Contributions to Local Revenues) for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1938, namely:
|House of Lords Offices||25,000|
|House of Commons||110,000|
|Expenses under the Representation of the People Acts||50,000|
|Treasury and Subordinate Departments||130,000|
|Privy Council Office||4,500|
|Privy Seal Office||1,300|
|Civil Service Commission||7,500|
|Exchequer and Audit Department||52,000|
|Import Duties Advisory Committee||20,100|
|National Debt Office||500|
|National Savings Committee||36,000|
|Public Record Office||13,000|
|Public Works Loan Commission||10|
|Repayments to the Local Loans Fund||28,000|
|Royal Commissions, etc.||12,500|
|Coronation of His Majesty||250,000|
|Tithe Redemption Commission||10|
|Diplomatic and Consular Services||650,000|
|League of Nations||70,000|
|Irish Free State Services||1,110,000|
|Colonial and Middle Eastern Services||327,000|
|Colonial Development Fund||150,000|
|India and Burma Services||412,000|
|Imperial War Graves Commission||70,000|
|Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum||24,400|
|Police, England and Wales||6,145,000|
|Prisons, England and Wales||560,000|
|Approved Schools, etc., England and Wales||97,000|
|Supreme Court of Judicature, etc.||10|
|Miscellaneous Legal Expenses||34,000|
|Approved Schools, etc.||22,700|
|Scottish Land Court||3,700|
|Law Charges and Courts of Law||16,000|
|Register House, Edinburgh||10|
|Northern Ireland Services||4,500|
|Supreme Court of Judicature, etc., Northern Ireland||17,600|
|Irish Land Purchase Services||1,190,000|
|Board of Education||18,000,000|
|British Museum (Natural History)||45,000|
|Imperial War Museum||4,000|
|National Maritime Museum||3,000|
|National Portrait Gallery||3,000|
|Scientific Investigation, etc.||120,000|
|Universities and Colleges, Great Britain||900,000|
|Ministry of Health||6,000,000|
|Grants to Public Assistance Authorities, England and Wales||180,000|
|Board of Control||62,000|
|Registrar General's Office||32,300|
|National Insurance Audit Department||55,000|
|Friendly Societies Registry||15,000|
|Old Age Pensions||16,600,000|
|Widows', Orphans', and Old Age Contributory Pensions||6,000,000|
|Ministry of Labour||9,500,000|
|Grants in respect of Employment Schemes||1,150,000|
|Art and Science Buildings, Great Britain||108,000|
|Houses of Parliament Buildings||43,000|
|Labour and Health Buildings, Great Britain||130,000|
|Miscellaneous Legal Buildings, Great Britain||54,000|
|Office of Works and Public Buildings||155,000|
|Public Buildings, Great Britain||564,000|
|Public Buildings, Overseas||60,000|
|Royal Parks and Pleasure Gardens||75,000|
|Rates on Government Property||1,500,000|
|Stationery and Printing||850,000|
|Works and Buildings in Ireland||11,000|
|Merchant Seamen's War Pensions||91,000|
|Ministry of Pensions||15,000,000|
|Royal Irish Constabulary Pensions, etc.||610,ooo|
|Superannuation and Retired Allowances||845,000|
|Exchequer Contributions to Local Revenues, England and Wales||18,500,000|
|Exchequer Contributions to Local Revenues, Scotland||2,300,000|
|Total for Civil Estimates||£144,960,000|
|Customs and Excise||2,100,000|
|Total for Revenue Departments||£30,700,000|
|Total for Civil Estimates and Estimates for Revenue Departments||£175,660,000"|
§ 3.55 p.m.
§ Mr. David Grenfell
I beg to move, "That Item Class II, Vote 1 (Foreign Office), be reduced by £100."
I move this reduction in order that we may get one more opportunity of discussing in this Chamber the policy of the Government in regard to the international situation and particular aspects of that situation. We have had Debates and discussions on many occasions with a view to eliciting the fullest information for the benefit of Members and of the people in the country in general, and questions have been put across the Floor of the House; but we find that the information supplied to us is very scant. Nothing has really been said, nothing more is known as the result of the Debates which have taken place in this Chamber time and again in recent months, and we are endeavouring again on this occasion to elicit from the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what the Government's policy is in regard to several of the outstanding features of the dangerous foreign situation that has been reached.
Every Government in Europe is deeply involved in secret diplomacy, more secret and more profound than Europe has known for many years. We have lapsed right back to the old condition of international intercourse which was so strongly denounced and which was so largely held 197 responsible for the catastrophe which occurred in Europe in the period from 1914 to 1918. The situation is that, while we have relied for many years upon the League of Nations, while our people in this country, perhaps more than those of any European country, have been taught to rely upon a system of collective security guaranteed by the League of Nations itself, we now find, strangely, that in the House of Commons hardly a reference to it' comes from the Government side. It is true that we see occasional distant references to the problems of collective security and the guarantees of collective security, and to our own desire to maintain collective security, but there is no indication that any Member in any part of the House is convinced by these professions that collective security through the League is now attainable. Therefore, we ask the Government to tell us exactly where we stand with regard to collective security, with regard to our membership of the League, with regard to our adherence to the League and our confidence in the League.
Europe is now being over-run by a system of Government propaganda unequalled in the history of the world. Never have Governments carried on such intense propaganda, such insidious propaganda, such bold and dangerous propaganda for the undermining, not only of existing political alliances and bonds, but for the undermining of the sovereign condition of various States themselves. Europe is overwhelmed with this kind of dangerous propaganda; intrigue and subterranean methods of all kinds are in daily use. I saw some time ago an estimate of the sum of money that is being spent on international propaganda at the present time. I do not think that anyone has any but the vaguest idea of the amount of money that is spent or of the number of persons involved in this very dangerous business of destroying international confidence and internal confidence State by State. I do not think that anyone in this country knows the extent of the propaganda that is being carried on here. I hope that the Government will have something to say in public on the matter, so that the world may hear our view in condemnation of this very dangerous and insidious method of attack.
It is war by imputation, by internal corruption, which is taking place in 198 Europe to-day. It is the mining and counter-mining of confidence. Not only do we find plots being hatched and positions for destructive action being taken, but we witness occasionally the acts of the diplomatic dynamitards who wish to blow up these positions, disturbing the whole world with a shock from which it is very difficult indeed to recover. The great Powers which were the backbone of the League system, the great Powers which always have assumed a greater responsibility because of their greater political influence and their greater strength, are falling back; they are not now determined to collaborate; they are not professing joint obligations within the League. They are dividing, and I do not know how the line of demarcation in Europe is being drawn. It is quite clear that there is a line of division in Europe. The lesser Powers, merely satellites of the larger Powers, move within the orbits of the larger States, and their position therefore does not matter as much, but the position of Germany, of Russia, of France, of Italy and of Great Britain, in regard to the outstanding dangers which beset us, should be made clear.
There are very dangerous centres in Europe. All the large nations are arming against some danger, though the danger is not specified. It is an amazing fact that in this year 1937 Europe will probably spend more than three times as much as was spent on armaments five or six years ago. Our own country is not exempt, for in the next five years we shall spend three times the amount of our normal expenditure on armaments, that is £300,000,000 a year instead of the aggregate of about £100,000,000 which was formerly deemed to be adequate for the purposes of our defence within the League system. Now that the League system is more or less discredited and we ourselves have almost discarded the League—I ask for an assurance to-day on that point—we are compelled to spend three times as much as we did when we trusted the League and believed that there was security within the League.
No one knows the exact figure of armaments expenditure by Germany, but it is safe to say that out of the total of £2,200,000,000 or £2,500,000,000, which Europe is to spend in 1937 on armaments, Germany and Russia alone account for two-thirds of the whole. They are not spending these large amounts to face a 199 common danger. The expenditure is largely direct competition in armaments, in which these two nations lead. They lead in expenditure, in the number of men and of machines. It is a colossal aggregate expenditure. Men of the fighting forces are being numbered by millions, tanks and aeroplanes by tens of thousands. In this arms race we find ourselves involved, and not one word of guidance has been given by the Foreign Office as to the extent to which we are committed in the prosecution of this highly dangerous competition. A tremendous effort, almost the maximum effort is being put forward by almost every country in Europe, and some time or other there will certainly come a breaking point. In some countries the breaking point is very much closer than they imagine.
This programme is not only an attempt to achieve individual strength or comparative strength. It is an ostentatious programme of rivalry. The intention of the Government, though that is not specifically stated, is in the next five years partly to impress our neighbours in Europe and partly to attract within our orbit other nations which see our greater strength and preparations for any conflict that may ensue. I am sure it is demoralising. If we are to complete in a display of strength for the purpose of winning hesitant or timorous friends, it will be a complete demoralisation of diplomacy in every way. We hear a good deal about gestures in this House. In recent times we have heard of gestures which have become notorious throughout the world—the coarse and brutal gestures of certain individuals in international discussions. These armaments are a kind of gesturing which is highly dangerous indeed, and highly provocative.
We wish to know whether the Government are really compelled, in the interests of national safety, to spend this money, whether this large programme is absolutely necessary or whether it is part of a diplomatic manoeuvre that is being pursued. The expenditure alarms every thinking person in this House. There is no guarantee in it. This £1,500,000,000 is to be spent in the next five years, and no one can say that that is the last word. The expenditure may easily be double that amount before the five years are over. Once we are in the race our interests, our pride, our diplomatic 200 effectiveness are all involved. The piling up of armaments is quite useless for all purposes except the purposes of war itself. Thousands of tons of steel and munitions are being turned out every week now. They will perish in the rust and decay which must follow unless they are brought into the purpose of destruction.
One is compelled to ponder over the spectacle of Europe proceeding along these lines. One is compelled to ask, in the terms of the Old Book, "What shall it be in the end thereof?" Where shall we stop this kind of madness? The Chancellor of the Exchequer the other day said something which has been very much quoted in the country but not quoted correctly. His words were, "There is no justification for the fear of imminent war." I saw a newspaper placard the same evening, which gave the Chancellor's words as "No fear of war." I wish the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said that, but he did not say it. I would like him to state now what he meant by the use of the word "imminent" Who is in charge of the time-table? Who controls the time-table? Where is the authority for deciding how near war may be to us? I do not think it matters so much whether this war is to come next week or next year; the urgent thing is for this House to ask, Can we do something; what is the chance of the Government preventing war? That is the point; that is the thing that people want to know.
When one views the preparations for war in Europe one is compelled to recognise that there are certain definite danger points. There is Spain, which has been referred to in Debate after Debate. We have all kinds of attempts made to evade the real issue, diplomatic attempts made in this House. I say that without meaning offence. I suppose that diplomacy is carried into this House, for some of the replies given to Members savour of a diplomatic character. But I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary has never admitted what is palpably clear to all, that what is taking place in Spain to-day is not a civil war. There is an international war in Spain. Spain has been invaded by three foreign Governments definitely, by the trained soldiers and the equipment of two very powerful Governments indeed. From the beginning German and Italian troops have taken 201 part in this battle against the Spanish Government. There can be no doubt at all about that. It is true that there are volunteers on the other side. I do not suppose it possible to stop volunteers going to the one side or the other, out of excess of religious zeal, misplaced zeal, under the impression that the Catholic faith was being attacked on the one side and defended on the other. I do not believe that that is true at all. Does anyone imagine that Herr Hitler would be sending his troops to Spain to defend the Catholic faith? All that is part of the pretence; it is part of the attempt to enlist the political and military interests of various countries.
There is a struggle in Spain which can be understood only by taking a long retrospective view. The clash is there, but it has been produced and intensified and the weight of impact has been added to by the appearance of enormous numbers of German and Italian troops. I see that newspapers estimate the number of Germans and Italians at 90,000. I am assured by people who have fair ground for judgment that no fewer than 50,000 Italians and Germans are actually on the spot, trained men representing military units of Germany and Italy. There are a few volunteers helping from other countries. In this condition, with the troops of Germany and Italy there, can we pretend that this is not an international war? Is there any use in pretending that it is purely a civil war, whether certain individuals have joined in the fighting without authority on the one side or the other? We are not assured one bit by the latest declarations in regard to non-intervention. What is the use of pretending now that you have successful and efficient non-intervention, if there are 60,000 Germans and Italians fighting on one side against the Spanish Government? It is folly indeed and a great disservice to this House and to the cause of peace to allow this development to take place and to ignore the evidence which comes to us from Spain itself.
But that is not the only danger spot. What about Soviet Russia? Some time ago there was a suggestion that the Germans, the Poles and Japan had a joint pact for an attack upon Russia, which was to take place without warning, in order to destroy her independence. That appears to have faded into the background, but the apprehension still remains 202 in Russia. They believe that Germany is preparing. It is not very easy for the Germans to assume that responsibility, for Russia has been compelled to build up an enormous system of defence which is, perhaps, as disturbing to the balance of Europe as is the great German preparation itself. Nothing is said about the danger of an outbreak of hostilities between those two countries. The House should note that Germans and Russians cannot come into conflict except after crossing the territories of neutral countries whose only interest it is to prevent an outbreak between Germany and Russia, and to see peace preserved on both sides of their frontiers. In that category we put Lithuania, Poland and Czechoslovakia, which is in daily apprehension of an attack from Germany. There is no suggestion that aggression can come upon Czechoslovakia from any other quarter than Germany. It is not enough for His Majesty's Government to report German statements of reassurance to Switzerland and Belgium, which do not reassure. But there is no such statement at all emanating from Germany in regard to Czechoslovakia. The Committee would be mistaking indications in Europe unless it had very close regard to the prospects of retaining unimpaired the sovereignty of that small nation of 15,000,000 people.
I do not wish to appear here as a violent critic of Germany. I have expressed my views in the past regarding the situation of Germany following the collapse of 1918. But it is true to-day that all Germany's neighbours are apprehensive and nervous about her alone. There is no other element of danger. There is no one else causing anxiety or giving a hint of aggression. There is no fear of aggression in Middle Europe except from Germany with its 70,000,000 people, with its great tradition of knowledge and scientific power, with its wonderful capacity for organisation, a nation which has taken the wrong turning, we believe, and has assumed a kind of claim of national superiority which impinges upon the rights of everyone and causes great fear. Everyone of the neighbours of that country is nervous and apprehensive.
I should like to ask whether the Foreign Minister has spoken as plainly to Germany as the circumstances warrant? Germany should be asked de- 203 finitely whether she wants peace. What kind of peace does she want? Does she stand for peace all round? Cannot we find out from Germany directly? [An HON. MEMBER: "We have missed the boat"] It is not yet too late, but it may be too late very shortly indeed. We must ask aloud, so that all Europe may hear, how, and upon what terms, peace can come to Europe. Will the Foreign Secretary to-day make a declaration which will be heard everywhere, which will give a sense of security and a new confidence to the whole of Middle Europe and to Western Europe, which is almost as apprehensive as the East itself? There is a new Europe. It is not the Europe even of five years ago. The situation has been deteriorating every day. After the Great War, when the Austro-Hungarian Government broke down as the result of the strain of the War itself, when Russia collapsed and Germany was defeated after fighting on her neighbours' territory East and West for four years, a great territorial redistribution had to take place.
There are people who say that Germany was unjustly treated. I think Germany was stupidly treated in 1918, but when we remember that Germany had fought her battles on her neighbours' territory, and when we remember the feelings of all the people who stood in defence of their rights and of their homes, we can excuse a great many things. After all, what was intended to be done was partly to prevent Germany from being strong again to repeat the aggression. It may not have been the most wise feeling, but it was a very natural feeling due to the knowledge of inferiority possessed by a large number of Germany's neighbours. A large number of new States simply had to come into existence and, when we examine the situation and assume that Germany is intent upon expansion, we must try to put ourselves in the place, for example, of the Czechs. Are they to believe and to accept German superiority? Those smaller States will not tolerate an invasion of their countries if they can possibly help it. The Little Entente is, perhaps, the best example of a number of nations who have come together, not for aggressive but for defensive purposes, within the scope of the League itself.
204 We shall have to take Europe just as it is. It is very important that we should recognise the economic disabilities which beset every single country in Europe. The treaties were responsible for the great conomic disorganisation which has existed ever since, and from which there does not appear to be any escape. It would be a very bad thing if we shut our eyes entirely to this problem, in which Germany is involved as well as the rest of Europe. I should like to know what is the reply to Germany's demand for the return of her colonies. Before that question is answered, I should like to ask, Is that all that the Germans want? If a bargain were struck—I am not suggesting that there should be a bargain—and Germany were given any or all of her colonies, would she promise not to disturb her neighbours? Is there any further ambition? Is she content to arrive at peace exactly on the ground that she occupied in 1914? That is a question that should be put to her.
If she wants to be given a superior position to that which she enjoyed in 1914, her complaint is not against the Treaty of Versailles and the other treaties. Her complaint is made in the demand for superior rights, because she believes in her superior virtue—the right to trespass over her neighbour's land. The world will not accept that too readily. Will Germany give guarantees? What are we prepared to do? After all, we cannot go forward with equanimity to this daily degradation of international relations. We cannot go forward to the risks which drive people down on the French frontier 200 feet below the surface, and which compel us to put a network 30,000 feet high to protect London—down and down like moles to seek cover, and up in the air to prevent an attack which may come upon us. That is not the way to security. I should like to know what the Government are prepared to offer. Are they prepared to take a bold initiative now? The initiative that I suggest they should take is to invite all the nations to join in a world peace convention at once before the war, which may come upon us like a thief in the night. We should work for a world economic settlement before the forces of destruction on land and sea and in the air begin their deadly work—before it is too late. The Government have a solemn 205 responsibility as well as influence in the councils of the Nations. We have a solemn responsibility towards our own people. We cannot wait complacently for that with the satisfaction provided in the Chancellor's hint that war may not come this year. Can we look forward with complacency to a war which may come next year? If it is still a year or two off, it still gives us time to provide the one alternative to war. That alternative is to strive to build up a world understanding which will enable all the nations to find satisfaction for their economic wants and for world co-operation in the development of raw materials and trade facilities for all the world on equal terms.
§ 4.29 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Eden)
We have just listened to a speech of characteristic sincerity and moderation on behalf of His Majesty's Opposition. I have no desire in what I say to attempt anything in the nature of partisan polemics. I appreciate the difficulty of the path that one has to tread on these occasions if one is not to be charged, like the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with enjoying party controversy; or if, on the other hand, I must avoid the charge of attempting what is known, I believe, as the "Baldwin confidence trick." There was one comment with which the hon. Gentleman opened which, I thought, was just a little surprising. He complained that in these days there was too much secret diplomacy. There may be some secret diplomacy, but I confess that from time to time in recent weeks I have had cause to wonder whether there was not too much open diplomacy.
I would like to seek to give to the hon. Gentleman some information on the points which he raised, and let me take, first of all, the situation in Spain. The hon. Gentleman complained that we had diplomatically closed our eyes to realities in this dispute. I do not accept that charge. From the first we have supported, deliberately supported, the policy of non-intervention. We have taken initiative after initiative on its behalf. That policy admittedly has had a checkered career, but it has, I submit to the Committee, proved the right one. We have never wavered in our own allegiance to it and in attempts to make it operative. It is no exaggeration to say that, but for the patience and perseverance of Lord Ply- 206 mouth, who has shown notably the characteristics which foreigners like to associate with our race, we should never possibly have reached this agreement.
It is all very well to complain, as hon. Members can do, that it has taken months to get this agreement and that meanwhile there has been much intervention. That is perfectly true, but the very existence of this non-intervention agreement and the work which has been done have reduced the international significance of this intervention and, therefore, the international danger arising from it. The Committee will recall that I reminded it once before that M. Blum told us that in his view Europe was on the brink of wan last August and that the Non-intervention Committee saved it. He would be a bold man who would contradict that judgment, for the French Prime Minister was in a good position to judge, but certainly, if that was the case last August, to-day that danger has been infinitely reduced. It has been our chief concern, as we thought it our chief duty, to seek to reduce the risks of the conflict spreading beyond Spain, and the agreement reached a few days ago should go far completely to remove that danger. To that extent it has contributed to the peace of Europe, and beside that achievement I submit to the Committee that minor matters of criticism, important though they may be, sink into comparative insignificance. Hon. Members may still be opposed to the policy of nonintervention—it is a perfectly possible attitude to take up—but those who take it up must produce an alternative, and they have never done so; and I think the reason why they have never done so is a very simple one. There is only one alternative to non-intervention, and that is intervention, and intervention by this country would obviously largely increase the dangers of a European conflagration.
I want to deal with just one point in that connection. I have often heard it said that France, for instance, would have taken a much more active policy in respect of the Spanish dispute, had it not been for the fact that we, His Majesty's Government, were always pulling at their coat tails. There is not a word of truth in that. I have never had a single approach from the French 207 Government at any time during this dispute, either direct or indirect, except in support of the policy of non-intervention, and I think that deserves to be said in fairness to all concerned. Equally it would be foolish to belittle the work which has been done by this Non-intervention Committee. Organising a system of international control of this kind is no small work, and when one considers the partisan passions which have been aroused then I think we do owe a special debt of gratitude to those who have worked for it.
I wish to say one word about the position of one particular country, Portugal. Those who know the recent history of Portugal will be aware of the very strong feeling which there is in that country against any form of international supervision. That feeling has nothing whatever to do with the present dispute, but dates back to certain events some 10 years ago, which had important repercussions on internal Portuguese politics. I need not go into that matter at the present time, but even making every allowance for that, it was clear that if this control scheme was to work at all, there must be some supervision of the Spanish-Portuguese frontier comparable with that which was being carried out on the Franco-Spanish frontier. In those conditions we have been active in an attempt to secure a solution of this problem, with the result that the Portuguese Government have now intimated that they agree to the appointment of British officers to supervise the Spanish-Portuguese frontier. They have explained that their consent is due to their long-standing friendship with this country and to their confidence in His Majesty's Government. I feel sure that the Committee will appreciate the attitude of the Portuguese Government and welcome the fact that a solution of this difficult problem has been found possible; and no less will the Committee appreciate the comments of the French Foreign Minister on this matter, in a speech which he made in the Senate last week, from which I should like to quote one or two sentences. M. Delbos said:In order to meet Portuguese susceptibilities, His Majesty's Government, thereby making a new contribution to the cause of peace, proposed that British officers should be substituted for the officers of other countries in working a control system on the 208 frontiers of this country (Portugal). British loyalty (he continued) is, in our view, the best guarantee for the effective carrying out of this control. In drawing attention to these various achievements, important as well as opportune (he continued). I admit that they are belated, but what would have happened if we had lost our patience and our sang froid, if we had engaged in a policy of intervention? In acting as it has done, the Government, supported by Parliament, has well served the cause of France and of peace.I do not think the Committee as a whole will quarrel with a single one of those words.
What next? As soon as this control scheme is in operation, which we trust it will be next week, then the next task that awaits us is what I believe is called, in the jargon which has sprung up around this matter, indirect intervention, the most important part of which is the question of securing the withdrawal of those nationals who are at present fighting in Spain. If that can be accomplished—and I understand that the Committee will start on that task very shortly—we shall have taken another step towards the final settlement of this civil strife in Spain. I maintain that the Government are justified in saying that their policy towards the Spanish conflict has proved the right policy and that after many anxious months it is beginning to bear fruit; and they intend to persist in it.
Meanwhile, we have continued to do what we can in respect of humanitarian work. I do not suggest, of course, that anybody in this country thinks that we are doing that work for other than wholly humanitarian purposes. At the same time, I cannot help feeling that when this trouble is finally over, many people in Spain will feel perhaps a special gratitude towards the country which concentrated on this work. Our consular officers have continued their efforts to try to obtain facilities for the evacuation, from various ports, of Spanish refugees, and where these efforts have been successful transport has been afforded in His Majesty's ships. At the Foreign Office we have been in close touch with the various organisations in this country which have been trying to bring help to the Spanish population, and we have offered such advice and such assistance as we can. I give two examples. A cargo of provisions, provided by the General Relief Fund and other organisations, was recently transported from 209 Gibraltar to Malaga on one of His Majesty's ships, and a cargo of food was similarly transported from Alicante to Almeria, on the Government side, at the request of the Spanish Government.
That, for the moment, is all that I wish to say on the Spanish situation, but I would like to endeavour to meet the hon. Member's request for more information upon the Government's policy as a whole, and more particularly in reference to the League. The hon. Gentleman was extremely gloomy about the future of the League, and though I am far from belittling the setback of the Abyssinian dispute, I think it is perhaps rather a pity that it is precisely those who care most for the League who seem to revel in being the most gloomy about it. Admittedly the League has been in difficulties, but it is very far from being entombed yet, and in that connection I should like to draw the Committee's attention to what was done at Geneva at the last meeting of the Council.
Among the matters which we had before us at that time was a dispute, which threatened to have very grave consequences, between France and Turkey about Alexandretta. That dispute is just the kind of dispute which the Council can handle with success. There had been Long negotiations previous to the Council meeting, both through diplomatic channels and directly between the principals of the two countries, and they had failed to reach agreement. At Geneva, thanks in a very large measure to the services of an admirable rapporteur, the Foreign Secretary of Sweden, M. Sandler, whom we are happy that we shall have the opportunity of welcoming to this country very shortly on an official visit—thanks largely to his efforts, this question was resolved. It is particularly gratifying to His Majesty's Government that that dispute between two countries with whom we have very friendly relations should have been placed in a fair way to settlement. The British delegation was glad to be able to play some small part in this settlement, and I would like, if I might, to quote to the Committee the words which were used by the Turkish Prime Minister. Speaking in the Turkish Parliament after the agreement had been reached at Geneva, he said this:From the beginning the attitude of His Majesty's Government was marked by a real anxiety to find a settlement capable of satisfying these two countries who were her friends.210 He continued:His Majesty's Government will be entitled, not only to feel satisfaction that their efforts to facilitate a Franco-Turkish settlement have succeeded, but also in seeing the confidence of the Turkish nation in British policy justified.I am glad to be able to tell the Committee that, from information which we have had, the local feeling at Alexandretta and in the Sanjak, which is itself most intimately concerned, is also very well satisfied with the settlement. From these events we can surely draw some encouragement for the League's work in the future. It is quite true that the solution of this dispute created very little stir in the world. It was almost unperceived, but such is, and must always be, the essence of any diplomatic success. When we succeed the world perhaps gives us half a smile of gratitude and passes on, because the moment the crisis is resolved, it ceases to have any news value at all. But if, on the other hand, we fail and that failure has important consequences, then, accumulatively, we hear more and more about it.
An hon. Gentleman opposite a few days ago asked me a question about the number of disputes which had been settled by the League of Nations since 1931. I had no idea when this question arose. We found that there were ten, and on looking through that list several of them were definitely of major international importance—the Saar, for instance, and the trouble between Hungary and Yugoslavia after King Alexander was murdered, and a number of other disputes of considerable political significance. Of course, the two failures—they must be admitted as failures—Manchuria and Abyssinia, completely dominated in the public mind the success which we achieved in other spheres. That is inevitable. I am not complaining, but I say that that being the case, we can surely hope that we may yet be able to achieve some more results like the recent one between France and Turkey.
I am sorry that I can give no similar happy account of the progress of our negotiations for a new Western agreement. Many matters, including, no doubt, the complications created by the Spanish civil conflict, have militated against our progress, and now that this conflict seems less likely to spread beyond the borders of Spain, we have to make another effort to make progress. I appre- 211 ciate that, even if we can do that, we shall have made only the first step towards a general settlement, which is our aim and our resolve. Yet a start must be made somewhere. While admitting the difficulties, we are not prepared to despair yet of the possibility of getting the nations concerned round the table on this issue and achieving some results. The hon. Gentleman put to me just now a very fair question on the subject of colonies. I had not intended to mention this subject, but since the question has been asked I think it is desirable that I should answer it, lest there should be any misunderstanding anywhere. A few days ago a question was put by the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Leeds (Mr. V. Adams) to this effect:Whether, to dispel ill-founded German expectancy, he will state in unmistakable terms that His Majesty's Government cannot contemplate the cession to Nazi Germany of any territory whatsoever under British political control.My Noble Friend answered:As has been previously stated, His Majesty's Government have not considered and are not considering such a transfer."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th February, 1937; col. 817, Vol. 320.]That statement of my Noble Friend remains the policy of His Majesty's Government, and I have nothing whatever to add to that reply.
May I be allowed to say a word or two on the subject of general foreign policy, as to which the hon. Gentleman also put to me some questions, and more particularly in respect of our own position and our own commitments? In the course of the Debate on rearmament, all of which I was not privileged to hear but all of which I have read since my return, many questions were asked about our commitments, and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was good enough to read a passage from a speech which I had made in the country not very long ago; and in the last Debate my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer quoted that statement again and asked the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) whether he quarrelled with that statement. The Chancellor of the Exchequer asked two questions—and I beg the Committee to believe that I am not raising this in order to score any kind of de- 212 bating point, because I want us to understand where the divergence is, if indeed there be divergence.
My right hon. Friend asked two questions: Do the Opposition consider that our arms should not be used for any of the purposes I had described; or, do they consider that our arms should be used for any purposes in addition to those which I had described? The right hon. Gentleman answered that speech, and in answering it he made two observations, which, I confess, seemed to me in that context to be somewhat strange observations. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley said:I quite admit that vagueness has some advantage in foreign affairs, but I believe that they (the Government) will find that the dangers of vagueness and obscurity at this moment are greater than their advantages. A great many people would now say that if in 1914 it had been clearly understood, if we had not been vague and obscure, that if Germany attacked Belgium or France, we should come in, perhaps the risk might not have been taken."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th February, 1937; cols. 2227–38, Vol. 320.]That is the right hon. Gentleman's answer. I am not prepared to say, nor do I feel qualified to judge whether his comment on 1914 is justified or not; but it was precisely to meet that line of thought that I sought, in the speech at Leamington which my right hon. Friend quoted, to make our position clear. He said that our arms might, and if the occasion arose would be used in defence of France and Belgium against unprovoked aggression in accordance with our treaty obligations. Let me repeat that, if a new treaty could be negotiated, we should be ready and willing to extend a similar understanding towards Germany. The mutuality of the Locarno Treaty was always particularly welcome to the spirit of the people of this country.
§ Mr. Eden
Perhaps the hon. Lady will allow me to make my speech in my own way. I am dealing with the first of the observations made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley to show that the 1914 parallel really does not stand at all. It does not stand in the sense that we have not made our position clear. We have made it as clear as words can make it. The right hon. Gentleman went on to complain—this is, of 213 course, a different and also a most important point—that we were not so definite about our general Covenant obligations. It is quite true that, in the speech to which my right hon. Friend referred, I drew a distinction between our obligations towards France and Belgium, and, it may be, towards Germany, and our general Covenant obligations. If I did that, it was not because the Government were seeking to deny their general Covenant obligations, but because, so far as military action is concerned, the obligations of the Covenant are less far-reaching, less specific and less precise than were and are our obligations under Locarno. Let me put this point. If the Covenant obligation had been as precise as the obligations we undertook under Locarno, then, if that had been the case, there would have been no need for a Locarno Treaty at all once Germany became a Member of the League.
It may be argued—a.nd now I come to the hon. Gentleman's point—that the Covernant obligations should be as precise in respect of military action as are those of the Locarno Treaty. It may be argued that all nations ought to undertake in advance to have recourse to military sanctions. That is arguable, but this is the point—that is not the present Covenant. Such a commitment would not only go beyond the Covenant, but it would go beyond the Geneva Protocol of 1924, and that at a time when the League is relatively in a weaker position. It may be that in the view of hon. Gentlemen opposite a policy of universal military commitment, at any rate for Europe, is the policy which should be worked for. That may be their view, but I do not know; they have never told us. But to advocate that policy is to go beyond the Covenant—let us have no doubt about that—and to favour a course to which no Government should set its name, unless it is absolutely convinced that it can carry it through, and also that certainly cannot even be approached with our armaments at their present level and with the membership of the League what it is at the present time. Nothing—and I think that all Members in the House of Commons will agree with this—can be more illogical than to say that we wish this policy of universal military commitment worked for by the League to-day and not provide the necessary armaments. If we cannot endorse this 214 policy of universal military commitment—and we do not endorse it—we are, of course, bound by the Covenant and shall continue to base our foreign policy upon that instrument. In the circumstances, I submit that the statement which the Chancellor of the Exchequer made is fully in accord with our obligations as they stand to-day and is fully in accord with national opinion in this country. In the light of what I have said, I would respectfully like to repeat the Chancellor of the Exchequer's two questions and to ask, do the Opposition consider that our arms should not be used for any of the purposes described in that quotation, or do they consider that our arms should be used for any purposes in addition to those which were there described?
May I reply to one observation of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway. From time to time they complain that we make speeches about the League of Nations but we do nothing to restore its authority. I do not accept that.
§ Mr. Eden
I said that I stand by the Covenant, and the description which I have given is one with which no one who knows the Covenant will quarrel. The hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway have said that we would take no action. I do not believe that the League will be served—and I do not suppose that they advocate it—by the sudden taking of some heroic pose at Geneva, but by seeking to aid it, as we did in the Franco-Turkish dispute, to solve disputes by peaceful means. When I hear that criticism I sometimes wonder whether what is in the minds of hon. Members is, that we are not pressing forward with the reform of the League. Let us be perfectly frank about that. There are at present among the members of the League extremely widely divergent views on the subject of reform, and there are widely divergent views also within the members of the British Commonwealth. We have at one end of the scale those who would not be sorry to see all sanctions taken out of the Covenant altogether, and we have at the other end of the scale those who would like to make military sanctions automatic. These schools of thought are represented and there are shades in between like those who say that sanctions should always be worked out in each case, before deciding 215 what should be done, and each case judged on its merits. I submit that if we were to attempt, at this moment, whatever our individual views, to force an individual view through, we should run the gravest risk of smashing the League to bits.
§ Mr. Eden
I have said already what my view is. The League is at present in a state of convalescence and when a person is in a state of convalescence that is not the moment to offer the patient a choice between two dangerous operations. It is surely wiser to give him time to regain his strength. Before I conclude, I wish to make one observation in connection with the speech made a few days ago by the hon. and gallant Member for Pembroke (Major Lloyd George). Perhaps without offence and without wishing to cause rivalry within the family leadership, I may be allowed to say that many of us would like to hear the hon. and gallant Member more often. In that speech he spoke as one who had been through the last War, and who was horrified and amazed to find us using the language and working upon the objectives, which those of us who were in the last War thought had gone for all time, and to rid the world of which we thought we were serving. In that respect I am in absolute agreement with the hon. and gallant Member, but yet if hon. Members of this Committee study the reactions abroad of our own rearmament programme, they will find that that programme has been almost universally welcomed. Countries with as widely divergent political views and systems as France and Hungary we find using very much the same language, and the Radical party in France, if I may say so, are taking a very different view from the right hon. Gentleman and his friends below the Gangway.
§ Sir Archibald Sinclair
Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that we supported all the rearmament Estimates?
§ Sir A. Sinclair
Not against the Estimates, I did not vote against rearmament, but against the policy of raising the money by loan.
§ Mr. Eden
The point which I wished to make was that almost throughout the world this rearmament has been welcomed. The reason is simple. It is because there is nobody abroad who does not realise that this country is not going to engage in a war contrary to our own undertakings under the Covenant. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. A. V. Alexander) said the other day that he would not vote for armaments for what he called a national capitalist policy. I am not sure that I understand what that means. A national policy could be quite a good policy, if it is a policy of peace, and a capitalist policy could be a good one, provided, no doubt, that all the capitalists were cooperators. But if by that statement the right hon. Gentleman meant, as I think he did, that he was not prepared to vote for arms to allow this nation to indulge in a war of Imperial aggrandisement for selfish ends, we absolutely agree with it. Nobody has ever asked for arms for that purpose, and nobody in Europe or in the world imagines that this country would employ her arms in that way.
I conclude by saying that we must all regret the necessity for this arms programme, but it is our conviction, and I believe in their hearts the conviction of nearly every Member of the House, that with Europe and the world as they are to-day, for this country to have greater power will aid the forces of peace—on this condition, that we never forget that this rearmament is a means to an end and not an end in itself. There may be fresh opportunities to reach agreement on limitation under our programme and I agree that those opportunities must not be missed. It is even possible that by this route, which none of us wish to take, we shall reach the goal which we all desire to attain, and this at least I claim, that His Majesty's Government in the policy which they are now pursuing, in their statement of their commitments and in their rearmament, are making the best contribution in their power to the preservation of world peace.
§ 5.7 P.m.
The right hon. Gentleman in the happier and sunnier position which he has been occupying during the last few weeks, has naturally not been closely in touch with the Debates in the House of Commons, and I think he unintentionally did those of us who sit on these benches some injustice. We have voted throughout for the whole of the Government's rearmament programme. We opposed the Loans Measure the other day because we are opposed to the method by which the Government propose to raise the money. It was for that reason and for that reason only that we voted against it, but the Government will find that we shall again support them when the Estimates come forward, if those Estimates are suitable for the purpose.
Before passing to the wider questions dealt with by the Foreign Secretary, I would like to refer to the position in Danzig, about which I hope the Noble Lord, the Under-Secretary, will tell us something when he replies. I am sure nothing will help the unfortunate 400,000 people who live in that great city more than the knowledge that Members of this House are keenly interested in all that is going on there. There is a lamentable situation in Danzig. It represents, I fear, a League failure of the first order, and the responsibility is with the League. I have had the privilege of visiting Danzig on various occasions, the last being in October, 1936, and the deterioration in the situation then was striking. I am afraid there is no doubt about the fact that Germans living there, who are in opposition to the Nazi Government, are being treated in exactly the same way as Germans in the Reich in similar circumstances. They are in concentration camps; they have been tortured in many cases, and I am informed, on reliable authority, that large numbers of the inhabitants of Danzig are in danger of being put to death as a result of the unchecked terrorism which is being exercised there, owing to the failure of League authority. I agree that it is a very difficult situation and it is hard to know how we are to help, and I am sure the Foreign Secretary desires to do all he can. The one sure remedy, of course, would be to make the whole League system function. Short of that, the best thing is for the Foreign Secretary to watch the situation, and to 218 exercise privately what pressure he can through the League Council, through the Polish representatives and others, and for Members of this House to show themselves keenly interested in the fate of those for whom they have, to some extent, a trusteeship.
During part of his speech the Foreign Secretary kept repeating dramatically the words "We stand by the Covenant." I do not wish to go into past controversies, but I must be permitted to ask the Foreign Secretary whether he thinks that that remark would sound very impressive to an Abyssinian. That alone shows the weakness of such a statement. After that episode I am afraid the assurance that we stand by the Covenant is not very helpful to countries threatened by aggressive neighbours. The Foreign Secretary did his best to bring out various League successes in recent years, and made a reference to the settlement of the Alexandretta question in which he naturally did himself less than justice. I propose to try to remedy that omission. While the Foreign Secretary of Sweden rendered useful service in that matter, I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman himself by his skill, so often shown, as a negotiator, played a very big part in bringing about a solution of the troubles between the two countries concerned. The Foreign Secretary asked whether we were worried by the fact that no progress had been made in the reform of the League. I do not think we are, because the League in its present form, to my mind, if you have the will to make it work, is capable of functioning and dealing with most of the situations which arise. Amendments require to be carried out in Article 11 and in various other respects. But it is not the League itself which requires reform; it is the representatives of the different States who require reform, and I am inclined to think that those remarks are not wholly inapplicable to the representatives of this country. A little more vigour and determination, more evidence to the world that these great armaments are going to be used for League purposes, would be far more effective than any mechanical change in the constitution of the League.
The right hon. Gentleman took again the two very relevant and valuable questions which the Chancellor of the Exchequer posed in the Debate of last 219 Thursday, and I shall endeavour to the best of my ability to give specific answers to those questions. The first was "Do the Opposition consider that our arms should not be used for any of the purposes described by the right hon. Gentleman?" The answer is: "No." We think they would be properly used for those purposes. The second question was "Do the Opposition consider that our arms should be used for any purposes in addition to those described by the right hon. Gentleman?" The answer to that again is "No." But that is not the whole answer. The whole point is that the arms are available to be used for those purposes, and are to be used for no others, but will they be used for those purposes? That is where the difference between us lies. There is a lack of certainty in various parts of Europe as to whether we are going to use our arms for those purposes, and I hope to go into that question a little further. If the Foreign Secretary's speech were before us in the form of a Bill, I should like to move certain Amendments to it, to the effect that the word "may" should be omitted, and the word "will" inserted in its place. There is one passage to which I would refer and that is where he said, speaking of our arms:They may, and if the occasion arose they would, be used in the defence of France and Belgium against unprovoked aggression in accordance with our existing obligations.I should like to amend that sentence, leaving it unchanged down to the word "Belgium," and then substituting the words:and any victim of unprovoked aggression in accordance with our existing obligations under the Covenant of the League of Nations and our Treaties.Why not include them all in one round phrase like that? There is another sentence to which I should like specifically to refer. He said:In addition, our armaments may be used in bringing help to the victim of aggression in any case where, in our judgment, it would be proper under the provisions of the Covenant to do so.I suggest that the word "may" should he deleted and the word "will" be inserted. What objection could there be to that? Does the right hon. Gentleman suggest that it would be improper to say—In addition, our armaments will be used in bringing help to the victim of aggression 220 in any case where, in our judgment, it would be proper under the provisions of the Covenant to do so.What are our obligations under the Covenant? The right hon. Gentleman suggested that they are vague. They are not as definite as our obligations under Locarno, but they have been interpreted, as he well knows, in the famous Annex F. of the Treaty of Locarno. That explains the way in which in our opinion and that of the signatories of the Treaty, Article 16 of the Covenant, the Military Sanctions Clause, should be carried out. This is what it says:In accordance with the interpretation of the obligations resulting from the said Article on the members of the League, it must be understood to mean that each such member of the League is bound to co-operate loyally and effectively in support of the Covenant and in resistance to any act of aggression to an extent which is compatible with its military circumstances and which takes its geographical circumstances into account.'I take it that that represents the policy of the British Government at the present time, that they are prepared to stand by that interpretation, that in considering whether we should go to the help of any particular country under the Covenant we should have regard to our geographical position and our military circumstances, and that we should feel bound to co-operate loyally and effectively in resistance to any act of aggression. It is perfectly obvious that that is the policy of the British Government and must be its policy until it has been repudiated.
How would that work out in practice? Let me take two cases. Would that mean that in the event of some dispute in South America we should be obliged to take military action there? I am only giving my own interpretation of what it means, and I should say "Certainly not." South America is a very long way off. We might be asked loyally to co-operate in carrying out any economic sanctions that might be agreed upon to be applied to certain countries, but if you are going to put on any economic sanctions you must be prepared, as the Abyssinian crisis showed, in the long run to hit back if you are hit. To that extent we might be involved from the military point of view. It is no good pretending that you can have economic sanctions without the possibility of having to use military sanctions to defend yourself if the aggressor objects to what you are doing.
221 Let me come to another very relevant case, the case which I was going to say is in the minds of all the statesmen of Europe at the present time. What about Czechoslovakia? Under the present interpretation of the Government's policy nobody quite knows in Europe what would happen if Germany or any other State—obviously it would be Germany, if anybody—made an aggressive attack on Czechoslovakia. Should we be there under the Covenant, or not? On the answer to that question depends whether that attack will ever be made. If it is believed that we should not be there the attack will be made, but if it is known for certain that we shall be there the attack will not be made. I should have thought that if in accordance with some closely integrated and co-ordinated scheme it were known that we were prepared to co-operate—let us be plain about it—with our Air Force and our Navy, we should arrive at a situation in which peace would be absolutely secure. I do not think it is any good attempting to deal with the specific questions which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has put without facing right up to them in detail and saying whether we are prepared to stand up to this aggression or not. If there is one country which we ought to support in the interests of world peace it is one of the few remaining democratic States which exist in Europe, Czechoslovakia. It is very interesting to note that even in the last few days they have made wise and generous concessions to their German minorities, which show that as far as they can they are willing to play the game and to conciliate any reasonable criticism that may come from within their own borders.
What is the result of the present uncertainty? I hoped that the Foreign Secretary could have been more definite. The present uncertainty is that nobody knows what we are to do in the East of Europe. The German menace is developing from day to day. No one knows where they may go next. We know that there is a long list of possible countries that may come under the lash. We know that the British colonies are on the list, and it is very interesting to read in the Press to-day a statement made by the German Ambassador, who is making one of his frequent journeys to his own country and is carrying on political work there of a very valuable nature, I have 222 no doubt. As far as I understand his remarks, he says that there are only two alternatives in regard to the German colonies or some of them, and that is that they must be returned voluntarily or else they will be taken by force. There can be no other meaning of the words which he spoke at Leipzig yesterday, and I am glad that the Foreign Secretary has been equally plain in what he said, to the extent, at any rate, that the question had not been considered and was not under consideration at all.
The one test we have to apply to any country that says it is in favour of peace is this: "If there is a dispute between your country and another, are you prepared to submit it to a third party's judgment, and to abide by the result?" If they are not prepared to do that, they are not in favour of peace. If they are not prepared to do that, they are in favour of war. It is no use asking the German Chancellor to give assurances that he will be satisfied with this, that or the other thing, because we have learned from experience that his assurances are not worth the paper they are written on. I hope there will be no more waiting for the Saturday orations, no more waiting to hear the wonderful new peace declarations of Herr Hitler. It is always the same. It is perfectly useless. There is only one language which is understood by Germany at the present time, and until that language is used and made clear with the utmost firmness on behalf of the world, or the greater part of the world, we shall make no progress in the hopes and aspirations for peaceful development which I know the right hon. Gentleman has as much at heart as anybody else.
The reply may be made to me: "Do you want to fight for Austria, for Czechoslovakia, for Memel, or for all these different places?" If the question is to be put in that way, the answer is: "Of course, not"; but if it were put in this way: "Are the people of this country prepared to apply themselves to the only known and effective action which can in the long run keep their country out of war and themselves from being killed?" which I maintain is the situation to-day, then, surely, the only answer can be "Yes." If it were known that we were going to act on these lines it would be quite unnecessary for any action to be taken. It is no good unless you have 223 concerted action. There may be difficulties in negotiation with different countries who may act alternatively against each other, and it might well be that the most effective method would be to set up some form of commission under the League of Nations which would have as its permanent full-time task the collecting of information and the studying of the possible action that might have to be taken from time to time in certain eventualities.
It may be suggested that that is an armed alliance. There is no alternative to an armed alliance with the world as it is at the present time. The League of Nations itself is an armed alliance against an aggressor, whoever he may be, and if any particular country by its policy, Germany for example, deliberately decides to stay out of the collective system of security, whether it be the Franco-Soviet Pact or any system that might be built up on the same lines, I should like to say that they will be encircled and rightly encircled. I want to see the aggressors encircled, whoever and wherever they may be. I am certain that until we have some certainty upon these lines any prospect of a general settlement is hopeless. Until we get order as a result of a general settlement there is no hope for peaceful change. As long as aggressive nations feel that there is a chance of getting what they want by force they are naturally not going to turn their attention to accepting something else which they can get as the result of peaceful, conciliatory action.
Let me say a few words with regard to what the Foreign Secretary said concerning Spain. It may be that he is on the verge of a great success for his policy of non-intervention. I sincerely hope that it may be so, but I cannot help thinking that if a different policy had been shown during the last few months, we might have been much nearer to settlement than we are at the present time. If the same kind of firmness as was shown by France and by us in connection with the proposed German military occupation of Spanish Morocco had been shown on various other occasions, we should be very much nearer the end of the troubles than we are. Let us be quite frank about what happened in Spanish Morocco. I understand that German troops were going to land in Morocco and they were told that if they 224 did they would be turned out by force, and the whole thing came to an end. If a little more firmness in regard to the sending of troops to Spain, whether they be 60,000 or 90,000, had been used at an earlier stage, probably they never would have been sent. We do not know whether this agreement is going to work, but it may be that if it does work it will be because the Fascist States feel that they have now such immense superiority in trained men that they are bound to win.
If that really is the position, surely my right hon. Friend would not claim it as a success for his policy. It would be a terrible failure for his policy. I hope he is going to succeed in persuading these people to go out. How he will do it I do not know. But what is going to be the position on the coasts which are being watched now by Germany and Italy? My information is that in certain recent incidents the German and Italian Fleets have co-operated in attacking the Spanish Government, as in the case of Malaga. Quis custodiet ipos custodes? Who is going to watch the watchers? That is a real point, and perhaps we can have some information upon it. Are there going to be British ships in Valencia and other ports? If so, it will be some assistance, but to leave the whole thing to these two fleets would be really asking for trouble.
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consider, as I am sure he will, using the good offices of the League of Nations at any time that may seem appropriate. If, for example, it seems that the Spanish Government are willing to welcome a commission to make inquiries and give advice in a purely friendly way, or if they are willing to welcome a development of the present inspectorial system, something in the nature of an international force to maintain order during a plebiscite, I think we should be ready to offer it. I am sure that the Foreign Secretary is watching the situation, and will act if he sees an opportunity, but, obviously, it cannot be done unless there is good will on the part of those we desire to help. I hope the Government will make it much clearer than they have up to the moment that they will, not may, use the whole of our resources in accordance with the Treaty of Locarno against any aggressor. Only in that way shall we get a situation when we shall not have to use these forces, 225 because no aggressor dog will ever dare to bark.
§ 5.33 P.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Wickham
May I crave your indulgence, Captain Bourne, and that of hon. Members, on rising to address the House for the first time? In the first place, I should like to congratulate the Government on the arrangements, already so far advanced, to prevent the further dispatch of volunteers and munitions to Spain, and though other nations are entitled to their share of the credit I think it is satisfactory to know that in no small measure this has been due to the tact and tenacity of the Foreign Secretary and to the monumental patience of the Noble Lord who sits in another place. Time and again I have heard the Non-Intervention Committee over which Lord Plymouth presides referred to in contemptuous terms and described as a farce. I have defended it, not on the ground that it has succeeded in preventing intervention, but rather on the ground that it has afforded a very useful safety-valve, and has helped materially to prevent the spread of the Spanish conflagration. I confess that I little expected, after months of sterile discussion, that they would suddenly produce so comprehensive a scheme, which appears to have a large measure of support behind it.
I think the question which many hon. Members must be asking themselves is, will this system be reasonably effective, does a common determination to make it effective exist, or is it just another paper scheme, another pretty picture? We shall not readily forget another picture which greatly disappointed us, the picture of 52 nations banded together in defence of the freedom and independence of a fellow member of the League. That picture proved an illusion, a mere mirage, which floated rapidly away, disclosing a drab prospect of disillusionment. I do not wish to make any controversial statements on this occasion, but I should like to say that that unhappy result was in no way due to any act or omission on the part of His Majesty's Government. This plan to isolate the Spanish conflict is conceived on an infinitely smaller scale, but if the will to make it effective is there, I suggest that it is one of the most hopeful signs we have seen for 226 many a long day. This scheme which could only be arrived at by international agreement has involved considerable sacrifices on the part of the nations who are parties to it. We know that the Soviet Government exercises a very firm control over its citizens. When we hear of mass meetings all over Russia, calling for volunteers, demanding active intervention in Spain, when we read of voluntary subscriptions which have been contributed by the Russian workers from their hard earnings and, no doubt, extremely exiguous pay, we know perfectly well that these demonstrations and demands have not only been actually encouraged, but indeed, initiated and inspired by the Russian Government. Now that Government has seen its way to take up a new attitude, to issue fresh directions, to execute what amounts to a political volte face, in order to combine with other nations, with Germany and with Italy, in concerting measures to reduce this Spanish quarrel to what it ought to be, an affair of Spain alone.
Surely that is no small thing. I do not suppose for a moment that in Russia abrupt changes of direction in policy are fraught with the difficulties and embarrassments which are sometimes experienced here. Doubtless in Russia things are not the same, but, at the same time, it must be admitted that the Russian contribution to this scheme has involved definite concessions, and sacrifices in varying degrees have been likewise demanded from Germany and Italy. In Germany the National Socialist Government have destroyed the kind of Socialism which commends itself to hon. Members opposite. Herr Hitler has frequently proclaimed himself the implacable foe of Communism. The overwhelming majority of the Spanish Government supporters are the protagonists of either Communism or Socialism. In these circumstances it is no easy matter for Germany to withdraw the helping hand which she has been extending to General Franco. I trust that there is some significance in the fact that for the first time, as far as I am aware, since the advent of Herr Hitler to power Germany has entered into an agreement to which Russia is also a party. In the case of Italy, in addition to a hatred of Communism and Socialism, we have also the religious element. Although I must differ from the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. 227 D. Grenfell) I would say that they have a common bond of religion between themselves and the Spanish forces of the right, and I am one of those who believe that the religious bond is still very strong and that even in these modern times its strength can very easily be under-estimated. To-day we see these States, which frankly many of us regard as being in the ranks of the potential aggressors, coming together with us in order to isolate the Spanish conflict.
I do not want to be too optimistic, or to get too far from realities, but surely it is definitely a move in the right direction. Now that we have roused ourselves from our lethargy, now that John Bull is doing his daily dozen, getting fit and strong, it is becoming increasingly apparent that our prestige is growing and that the nations in Europe are looking to us for a lead. Happily, although we may differ as to the avenues of approach, I believe that this House is almost in complete agreement as to what the ultimate objective of our foreign policy should be. Though Press reports from Rome may not be of a reassuring character, I have by no means abandoned hope that, as time goes on and as the intolerable pressure of competitive and unproductive expenditure on armaments makes itself felt, as the futility of it all begins to sink into the nations, they may in due course approach the matter on the right lines and combine with us in a wider sphere in establishing a permanent basis for peace. In conclusion, I thank you Captain Bourne, and hon. Members of this House for the patience and consideration shown to me.
§ 5.43 P.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Henderson
May I be allowed on behalf of the House to express our congratulations to the hon. and gallant Member who has just addressed us. I am sure we all hope that it will not be very long before he addresses us again. The Foreign Secretary in his speech said that he wished to avoid party polemics, but I am afraid that he strayed from the straight and narrow path before he sat down. He reiterated the challenge that has been put from the Government Benches several times during recent Debates on Defence, and in particular he asked us to answer the two questions based on his Leamington speech ad- 228 dressed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the right hon. Gentleman for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith). I have had some experience, not so much as the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps), in the practice of cross-examination, and I am wondering whether these two questions were not drafted by the Home Secretary. They appear to be perfectly innocuous on the face of them, but, like many other questions put in the law courts, they are questions which it is dangerous to answer by either "Yes" or "No." There are some questions, such as "What time is it?" that cannot be answered by "Yes" or "No," and the second question is one of that character. The first question is perfectly innocent:Do the Opposition consider that our arms should not be used for any of the purposes described by my right hon. Friend?I do not wish to take up the time of the Committee by referring again to the Foreign Secretary's speech at Learnington, for it has been referred to many times and hon. Members will remember it. The right hon. Gentleman said that we are under a definite obligation to go to the assistance of France and Belgium, and, in the event of a Western Pact, Germany, should she be a victim of unprovoked aggression, and there was also a reference to Iraq and Egypt. Those are called our definite obligations. The Foreign Secretary then went on to say:Our armaments may be used in bringing help to the victim of aggression in any case where, in our judgment, it would be proper under the provisions of the Covenant to do so. I use the word 'may' deliberately, since in such an instance there is no automatic obligation to take military action.The Chancellor of the Exchequer then asked:Do they consider that our arms should be used for any purposes in addition to those which have been described by my right hon. Friend?".—OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th February, 1937; col. 2227, Vol. 320.]At first glance it would appear that the obligations to which the Chancellor of the Exchequer was referring were what he called our definite obligations, but at second glance the question also includes what I may call the discretionary obligations in regard to the larger area. If we were to answer that question by a simple "Yes," the Government would have a debating point, although there would be no basis of reality in that point, for I cannot conceive of any other case, 229 beyond the sets of circumstances to which the Foreign Secretary referred, where this country might be called upon to take military action. But I cannot give a plain and simple answer of "Yes" to that question because I do not accept the interpretation of the Foreign Secretary that in every case, except in the cases of France, Belgium, and Germany—in the event of a Western Pact—Iraq and Egypt, we have the right to-day merely to exercise our discretion as to whether we should take military action.
May I remind hon. Members that our existing obligations were not undertaken by the Labour party? The Treaty of Versailles, which included the Covenant of the League of Nations, was the work of a Coalition Government composed of Liberals and Conservatives. Be that as it may, for good or for bad, we have existing obligations under the Covenant of the League of Nations, and the difference between the Government Benches and hon. Members on this side is as to what are our obligations under the Covenant. May I remind the Committee of the provisions of Article To of the Covenant? There is, first of all, an undertaking:To respect and preserve as against external aggression the territorial integrity and existing political independence of all members of the League.Article 16 provides that:It shall be the duty of the Council in such case"—that is to say, a case of aggression—to recommend to the several Governments concerned what effective military, naval or air force the members of the League shall severally contribute to the armed forces to be used to protect the covenants of the League.I wonder what Czechoslovakia, and any other country not included in the short list, if I may so call it, of the Foreign Secretary, will say when they become the victim of unprovoked aggression, and the British Government say, "We will exercise our discretion as to whether or not we shall render them assistance." The famous 1921 Resolutions provided thatthe fulfilment of their duties under Article 16 is required from members of the League by the express terms of the Covenant and they cannot neglect them without breach of their treaty obligations.I agree that under the 1921 Resolutions it was, and is, understood that first of all economic and financial sanctions shall be applied, and I agree with the Foreign Secretary that there is no provision in the 230 Covenant for automatic military sanctions immediately a country has been declared to be an aggressor, but I suggest that the effect of the Articles which I have read to the Committee must be that ultimately, if it becomes necessary to defend and protect the Covenants of the League and thereby to protect and defend the victim of aggression, military sanctions must be enforced. The responsibility is not placed upon each State member, for, as is stated in the Articles I have read, it is the duty of the Council; but provided the Council determines that in a given case military force must be used against a given aggressor country, we have no escape unless we are going to break our treaty obligations under the Covenant.
Therefore, I cannot possibly agree with that part of the statement of the Foreign Secretary in which he said that outside certain countries—France, Belgium, Germany, Iraq and Egypt—we have a discretion in the matter. I agree with the appeal of the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) when he asked the Foreign Secretary to make it plain where this country stands by substituting the word "shall" for the word "may" in the statement of policy to which I have been referring. Frankly, speaking for myself, I welcome the statement of the Foreign Secretary as far as it goes, but as far as I am concerned, it does not go far enough. I do not believe you can have a pick-and-choose collective system of security, accepting the obligations of the Covenant only when it suits your particular interests. Moreover, I believe it is contrary to the obligations which we have already incurred under the Covenant.
At the same time, I fully realise the difficulty of undertaking specific obligations in all the four corners of the earth in present circumstances. It is idle to deny the fact that the League of Nations, has suffered a severe setback in recent years. At this juncture, it is not for me to apportion responsibility, but that is the present position, and consequently there may be something to be said for regional pacts; but I cannot conceive that a Western pact, restricting our obligations to France, Belgium and Germany will have any substantial effect in stabilising peace throughout Europe. I do not believe you will ever secure peace in Europe 231 based upon an effective system of collective security if our specific obligations are to be restricted to those three countries. I would like to know where the Government stand in this matter. In his speech in the House on 26th March, 1936, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said:I agree with hon. Gentlemen opposite that you cannot divide peace in Europe. Under the League we are interested just as much in the preservation of peace in the East of Europe as we are in the West, and our obligations under the League will apply equally whether aggression takes place in the Eastern or Western parts of Europe."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th March, 1936; col. 1541, Vol. 310.]
§ Mr. Eden indicated assent.
§ Mr. Henderson
The Foreign Secretary agrees, but I should have thought that that statement of policy was a little inconsistent with his Leamington speech, for, in the view of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, we are obliged to play our part, under the Covenant of the League, in respect to Eastern Europe, and therefore there can be no question of discretion in going to the assistance of a country in the East of Europe in the event of unprovoked aggression. I hope the Foreign Secretary will reconsider his statement of policy and will go just a little further, and base that policy on the statement, as far as Europe is concerned, which I have just quoted, that peace is indivisible. May I ask the Foreign Secretary whether there has been any change of policy on the question of a pact for Europe? Some time ago I asked the right hon. Gentleman whether there had been any change of policy as far as an Eastern pact was concerned, and whether the Government still regarded an Eastern pact as a cardinal factor in a general European settlement. What is required to-day, however, is not an Eastern pact and a Western pact, but a European pact, including all the countries of Europe, and including Germany on a full basis of equality. But if Germany will not come into the European pact, let us get on without her. Why should Germany be allowed to impede the organisation of European peace and security?
I do not believe there is any hon. Member who is not anxious to give Germany a square deal; but I must confess that when I read the speeches of German statesmen in regard to colonies and when 232 I then look at the terms of the Brest-Litovsk Treaty, under which the old Germany was seeking to dismember Russia, by taking away Lithuania, Poland, the Ukraine and the Caucasus—and was seeking, in the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), to acquire a complete economic and political domination of Greater Russia—I feel that we are entitled to be somewhat suspicious of German intentions. Speaking for myself, provided that Germany were to come within the comity of nations, were to play her part in establishing an effective system of collective security in Europe and throughout the world and were prepared to accept all the obligations that membership of the League of Nations involves, then, and not before then, would be the time to discuss with Germany her grievances in regard to the necessity for her commercial and political expansion.
The other day the Chancellor of the Exchequer asked what he called two honest-to-God questions. I would like to ask the Government an ordinary simple question, and perhaps they will give me an honest-to-God answer. Where do the Government really stand to-day on the question of collective security? We have had speeches from the Foreign Secretary breathing the spirit of international idealism. The right hon. Gentleman knows that, as far as I am concerned, there is very little in a good many of his speeches with which I would disagree. But other Members of the Government speak in an entirely different key. The Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence, speaking in Glasgow on 6th January, 1937, interpreted the obligation of this country under a collective system in this way:We are not to be caught in any net of European intrigue. We will fight, if the necessity comes upon us, to defend our vital interests, and only our vital interests. It is our vital interests that have led us to make certain engagements in Western Europe on which our Foreign Secretary has spoken on more than one occasion.Last week-end he spoke of the obligations to France, Belgium and Germany. How are we to have a system of collective security that is worth the paper on which it is written if each member of that system is to decide for itself what are its own vital interests, and only if they can do that are they prepared to accept their obligations? I hope that the Foreign 233 Secretary will agree with me when I say that the most vital interest of this country is the preservation of world peace. Then the Secretary of State for War spoke on 18th October last in London, and said:Every man who joins the Army to-day is contributing his mite towards bringing the fact into the minds of those who might be preparing for war that Britain is strong, that her will must prevail, and that disturbers of the peace must be punished.Was there ever a better example of prewar mentality and of the spirit of rank nationalism? Why should the will of this country prevail rather than the will of any other nation? The only will that is going to maintain peace is the will of all those nations represented in the collective system. What is the reaction of a German or a Frenchman or American to such words? Hon. Members have travelled as much as I have, and they must have come across a good many foreigners who do not take the same view of us as we take of ourselves, and when a responsible Cabinet Minister talks about enforcing the British will on other countries there immediately comes a reaction against that point of view. That sort of speech is inconsistent with a system based upon international co-operation; it is consistent with the domination of one particular nation like our own, however peacefully inclined we may be.
Then I come to the Home Secretary. I am sorry that he is not in his place to-night; he was very anxious to find out whether I was in my place the other night when he spoke. What did he say? After 19 years he discovers that the League is not universal. He also discovers that some of the constituent States in the League are not to be depended upon. May I ask for another honest-to-God answer to this question? The Home Secretary expressed his view the other night in a very clever critical speech which I was very sorry to hear from a Member of the British Government. There may be imperfections in the League of Nations, but I was sorry that he should have made this statement, especially in a Defence Debate when the Government were seeking to justify their huge armaments expenditure as being for the purpose of carrying out their obligations under the collective system. This is the question I would ask. Do the criticisms made by the Home Secretary mean that the Government take the view to-day 234 that the collective system is not in present circumstances to be depended upon as a practical system? If the Government take that view will they say so, so as to let the country and the world know where they stand on this all important question; or are we still to take the view that the Government accept the view of the Prime Minister when he said in November, 1934, at Glasgow, thatthe collective peace system is, in my view, perfectly impracticable in view of the facts to-day. It is hardly worth considering when these be the facts whether a collective peace system should be undertaken.Is that the view of the Government? Was that their view 18 months ago when Italy invaded Abyssinia? I hope the Government will be frank with the House and the country.
The Home Secretary in the same speech accused the Opposition of being prepared to arm for collective security but not for national Defence. There is not a word of truth in that statement. Those who understand the collective system know perfectly well that in supplying arms for the purpose of carrying out our obligations under the collective system we are at the same time providing for our own national Defence. What some of us remember is that in the years that preceded the outbreak of the Great War there was no collective system and that there was only a system of national Defence with or without alliances. Those who read the Debates of pre-war days will be able to recall the stress that was laid in those days on the necessity for providing this country with adequate Defence forces. We had in 1914 the most powerful naval armada the world has ever known. The same thing was going on in America, France, Germany, Russia, Japan and Italy; all these countries were arming to the teeth and not one of them would have admitted that it was for the purpose of aggression.
In 1937 we are back where we were in 1914, except that we have one bulwark against war that we had not in those days, namely, the collective peace system. I am left untouched by the sneers of the Home Secretary at the derivation of the term "collective security." What does it matter? We all know what it means and what it implies. It implies the system whereby the security of each nation shall be the concern of every other nation belonging to that system. Do not 235 let us quibble about legal or non-legal definitions. The basic idea which that term represents is known to us all. Pleas are often made from the other side for unity. If there were an invasion of these islands there would be no need to talk of unity. We on this side of the House love our country just as much as hon. Members on the other side. That is not the question which divides us.
If the Government want the co-operation of Members on this side of the House they will have to do some things which they have not done heretofore. They will have to give zoo per cent. loyalty to the League of Nations. That applies not only to the Foreign Secretary, but to his colleagues. I am not going to throw bouquets at the Foreign Secretary, but I am afraid that I have not the same trust in some of his colleagues as I have in the Foreign Secretary himself. Therefore, I say that we must have zoo per cent. loyalty to the League of Nations from the Government. That does not mean merely speeches; it means action. It means that the Government will have to make it plain to the House, to the country, and to the world that they will pursue a peace policy just as actively as they are pursuing their armament policy, and that they will leave nothing undone to bring about some measure of disarmament. I know that it is unfashionable these days to talk about disarmament. Four or five years ago it was very fashionable. Signor Mussolini says to-day that disarmament is dead. All I can say in reply is, "Long live disarmament!"
I hope that the Government will carry on with their efforts to bring about some sort of convention for the limitation and regulation of armaments. I hope that they will do something effective so far as economic problems are concerned. My hon. Friend who opened the Debate asked the Government whether it was not possible to resuscitate or have some sort of world economic conference. The Prime Minister said the other day that this was not an appropriate time to have a world economic conference. I should have thought that there never was a more appropriate time. The international situation is deteriorating day by day, and our Government and the other Governments in the world must be prepared, instead of making speeches in support of the policy of co-operation, to get together 236 and get round the council table—for they will have to get round the table either this side of a great war or the other side. I should have thought that in the interests of our civilisation the Government would try to do all they can to bring the nations together in the near future. By doing that the Government will show that they are sincere in their determination to pursue just as active a peace policy on the lines I have suggested as an armaments policy. Then, not until then, will be the time to ask for the co-operation of hon. Members on this side of the House.
§ 6.12 p.m.
§ Sir Austen Chamberlain
I should like, if I may, to associate myself with the tribute which the hon. Member for Kingswinford (Mr. A. Henderson) paid to the hon. and gallant Gentleman who a few moments ago made his maiden speech, and to repeat what the hon. Member said, that we hope it will not be his only contribution to our Debates. I should like also to express my appreciation, if the hon. Member will accept it, of the very interesting, very moderate and very fair speech with which the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell) opened the Debate. Although it was necessarily cast somewhat in a critical mood, although he asked a good many questions, the net result was to show how wide is the basis of agreement between the two sides of the House as to the present European situation and as to the part which this country should play, and how comparatively small are the differences that exist between us. The hon. Member made only one constructive suggestion, which was taken up by the hon. Member for Kingswinford. The hon. Member spoke of another international peace conference in the first part of his speech, but whether he meant a political conference, or, as in the next division of his speech, he meant an economic conference, I was not clear.
§ Mr. Grenfell
I suggested an international peace conference to prepare the way for a world economic conference.
§ Sir A. Chamberlain
I venture to suggest that we do not want a new conference or a new agreement. The agreements that exist between all the nations are quite sufficient for the purpose if the nations intend to observe them. The difficulty is not that enough treaties have not been signed, but that enough treaties are 237 not kept. The Kellogg Pact excludes, if you keep your obligations faithfully, war in pursuit of national policy. It only admits war in defence of your own country or of a nation which has been wantonly attacked. No new political treaty signed by 52 or more nations, as I think the Kellogg Pact was, can strengthen the obligations. What is wanted is the will to keep obligations when national strength seems sufficient, or is sufficient, to obtain a purpose which cannot be won without force. Is the proposal for another world economic conference at the present time more hopeful? A few years ago we had one which achieved nothing. There was no such basis of agreement among the nations that met in London as, even from the beginning, gave any prospect of a successful result. A great world conference on which all attention is centred and which leads to no beneficial result had better never have been held. It does not leave things as they were; it leaves them worse. Unless you have prepared the ground sufficiently, got a sufficient measure of agreement to make a conference fruitful, it is the wrong way to go about it. Has anything happened since the London conference to make us think that a conference so summoned at this time would be more fruitful? I thought I heard a right hon. Gentleman opposite say "Yes."
§ Sir A. Chamberlain
For myself, I do not know what has happened. For the success of such a conference, obviously the co-operation of the United States is essential. All the utterances of the American Government which I have read are in favour of pursuing their object, which is the same as ours, by bilateral agreements, and, in fact, they are not prepared to enter into general obligations. Germany has complained of her particular need of raw materials drawn from tropical possessions, and the League of Nations, under whose aegis, I presume, both hon. Members opposite would wish this new conference to meet, have appointed a committee to examine the supply of raw materials from tropical countries to Powers which have no such possessions. They invited the complainant, Germany, to nominate a representative, but Germany has refused. I take just those two instances, and I ask 238 what would be the good of summoning a great international conference of 5o or 6o nations, and flinging on the table economic problems which exist to-day, when clearly the result which is foreseen or hoped for by the hon. Members opposite is negatived by the attitude of the United States, a perfectly reasonable and arguable attitude, which I do not criticise, and when Germany, even when you choose the point which she has made specially her own, refuses to co-operate? I do not think that is a direction along which we should make progress, and I prefer the less demonstrative but quiet and persistent effort of His Majesty's Government.
Before I leave the speech of the hon. Member who moved this Amendment may I say how entirely I agree about the dangers of international propaganda? It is a new feature in the world. It is true that in old days you sometimes had a kind of Press warfare between the journalists, and occasionally you had speeches of a perhaps threatening or menacing character shouted, as it were, across the border, but systematic propaganda and interference in the affairs of neighbouring or other States is a new feature, and a very dangerous one. The only comfort I find is that I do not believe that it will be successful. This attempt to create what in the phrase of the day—which I am bound to use, though I dislike it—is a kind of ideological division of the world, is, I think, bound to fail. The ex-Emperor of Germany constantly appealed to the common interests of emperors, and suggested a resurrection of the old Dreikaiserbund, proposing that in the dangerous democratic days in which they were living before the War emperors and kings should stand together, but even emperors and kings, even dictators in the long run, are not governed by sympathy for brother emperors and kings or brother dictators, but by the national interests and the national feelings of their own country, and I do not believe that a permanent basis can be found in a supposed resemblance of internal politics. The political theory of either Bolshevik Russia or Nazi Germany, when it is translated into the terms of more liberal nations like our own, becomes wholly unmeaning, and, indeed, actively misleading.
I want to say a few words about the League of Nations and about the speeches 239 of the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) and the hon. Member for Kingswinford which were directed particularly to it. I find myself in complete agreement with the terms of the Foreign Secretary's Leamington speech. He has defined, in my view quite clearly and unmistakably, the definite obligations which lie upon this country to go to war immediately the casus foederis arises, and the only difference, as far as I can see, between the attitude of the spokesman of the Liberals and the hon. Member for Kingswinford and the attitude of the Government is that they contend that under the terms of the Covenant we are bound to undertake the same obligations towards every country which may become at any time a subject of aggression as we have taken in respect of France and Belgium, and did take under Locarno in respect of Germany.
§ Mr. A. Henderson
I do not want the right hon. Gentleman to misrepresent my position. I made it clear that I agree with the Foreign Secretary that there was no automatic military sanction binding under the Covenant, but I said there would have to be an ultimate military sanction if economic and financial sanctions were not sufficient to protect the Covenants of the League.
§ Sir A. Chamberlain
That, I think, is not exactly the line taken by the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton, and it is certainly not the line taken by other Members of the Labour party.
§ Mr. Mander
May I remind the right hon. Gentleman that I based our obligations wholly upon the Annex F of the Treaty of Locarno, which he himself drafted?
§ Sir A. Chamberlain
I had a share in drafting it. I do not want to take all of it to myself. It expressed what were our obligations and expressed them accurately, and I do not depart from them, but I say that in any case the views expressed by those two hon. Members do not express the views of all the Opposition. There is the right hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury), who was lately the leader of the Labour party. He retired from that leadership and went to the third bench below the Gangway opposite because he was not prepared to employ any sanctions at all.
§ Sir A. Chamberlain
Yes, he retired because the bulk of his party did not agree, but he retired in company with the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps). He was here a little time ago, and I am sorry that he has found it necessary to leave, but, of course, no notice could be given to him, because it is an accidental allusion arising out of this discussion. At the time of the Japanese invasion of Manchuria the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol demanded sanctions from the Government, when the Government and the League were not applying them. I challenged him across the House to say whether he was prepared to go to the length of war and he said, "Yes." Now the hon. and learned Member has accompanied the right hon. Member for Bow and Bromley to the third bench opposite because he, too, is not prepared, and was not prepared in the case of Abyssinia, to vote those sanctions. When the hon. Member for Kingswinford asks the Government to say that in any case when called upon by the Council of the League to supply armed force it is our bounden duty to do it, does he think that this country is prepared to accept that obligation?
§ Sir A. Chamberlain
I think the hon. Member is mistaken. I agree that Article 10, which defines in general terms the duties, goes very wide and very far, but it is in my view incompatible with other Articles, and notably with Article 19, to which special importance appears to be attached. But he has referred to the interpretative Resolutions of the Assembly, and the Assembly defined the duty of members of the League in regard to sanctions very much in the language of Annex F, which commends itself to the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton. That Annex was drafted as an expression of the obligations of members of the League as defined by the Resolutions of the Assembly. In other words, in regard to the amount of military assistance given, or whether military assistance should be given, though it lay with the Council to make a recommendation it rested with the nation concerned as to whether it should accept the recommendation or not. It is not therefore a binding obligation.
241 Do not hon. Members agree with the Foreign Secretary that the most deplorable thing of all is that any Government should pledge themselves to action of that gravity unless they were certain that, if the occasion arose, the country would give them that general, not to say universal, support which is necessary in such cases? Do they think, when they ask the Government to say what exactly at this stage they would do in the event of Austrian independence being menaced, if Czechoslovakia were invaded, if something happened at Danzig or something else in one of the Baltic States, and to say here and now: "We will march with all the Forces of the Empire available for the occasion," that the country would endorse that?
§ Sir A. Chamberlain
There I differ. I watched the public during the Abyssinian crisis. It was never unanimous or nearly so. A very considerable body of opinion, the great majority, were quite prepared to apply economic sanctions, and the case seemed suitable for them. But then it became plain that economic sanctions might easily lead to war. I am glad to note the expression of opinion by the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton to-day that it is no use putting on economic sanctions unless you are prepared to accept the consequences. As I have said before, the moment you put on economic sanctions, the issue of peace and war passes from your hands into those of the State against which you have acted.
If you had said to the people of this country, "This is going to be a big matter, not to be settled merely by your serving soldiers and sailors, and the first step which we shall ask you to take will be to reimpose conscription," would they have been prepared to do so in such a quarrel? Were they prepared for that, on behalf of such a cause? I think they were not. You would have had a very rude shock if you had taken that step, and you would have found it impossible to carry it through. Nothing could be worse than any British Government pledging this country, or asking Parliament to pledge this country, when they could not for-see the circumstances or the occasion, and when neither the Government nor this 242 House can be sure that the case is such that, if it did arise, the people would gladly make and maintain the necessary sacrifices.
I am sure that the Foreign Secretary will maintain the distinction between cases in which we are pledged to immediate action and those in which we shall play our part in the attempt of the League to secure a peaceful settlement, and where we shall very likely, when the time comes, play a part not dissimilar from that which we should play if Belgium or France were invaded to-morrow. But it is not safe in such cases to pledge our country long beforehand to take that course, because it is not certain that, in the circumstances of the time, if the danger arose, the people would arise and would respond to and honour the pledges that you had given. But it would be a great mistake for anybody to think that because we do not pledge ourselves to take action in that case we never shall do so. I hope no Government will make that mistake. What we will do then will be within the discretion of the people and the Parliament of the time, but the spirit of the country will be what it has always been, and its contribution, if it feels that it ought to and can make one, will be one that no enemy will find negligible.
§ 6.37 p.m.
§ Sir A. Sinclair
I have often listened to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain), sometimes with agreement and sometimes with disagreement, but I do not think I have ever listened to him before with a sense of bewilderment. That was the feeling I had when he sat down. The Secretary of State told us in his opening speech that this country stood by the Covenant. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham told us that he agreed with the Secretary of State. He then told us that the interpretation of the Covenant was perhaps a little obscure. He traced it from the interpretative resolutions of the Assembly down to the Locarno Conference, and to Annex F of the Locarno Treaty for which, he tells us, he was not solely responsible, but for which he said he accepted his full share of responsibility as a fair, just and accurate definition of the responsibilities of this country under the League. He then told us that he was very doubtful whether this country would act up to the responsibilities involved. I understood him to 243 say that he was very doubtful whether, when the time came, we should in fact act up to them. Here are the words of Annex F:In accordance with that interpretation, the obligations resulting from the said Article on the members of the League must be understood to mean that each State member of the League is bound to co-operate loyally and effectively in support of the Covenant and in resistance to any act of agression"—it is not confined to Western Europe—to an extent which is compatible with its military situation and takes its geographical position into account.There can be no question that we are perfectly capable of acting, for example in the case of Czechoslovakia. There would be no difficulty whatever in using our Fleet on the coasts of Germany or sending aeroplanes to that country. It can be done, and according to this Annex of the Treaty of Locarno, the obligation rests upon this country to do it. It is exactly that obligation which the right hon. Gentleman questions whether this country is willing to carry out or not.
The right hon. Gentleman asked whether we were prepared to fight for Austria or for Czechoslovakia, or whatever the case might be. It depends so much upon how the question is framed. If it is framed in that crude way, the answer obviously would be in the negative. Nobody here wants to fight for Austria as such, or for Czechoslovakia as Czechoslovakia, but we are prepared to bend the whole energy of the country, so far as we can influence it and we believe it to be the will of the people, to build up a system in which the reign of law will be effectively maintained and buttressed by a system of collective security. We believe that the people are prepared to take the risk involved in doing it.
§ Sir A. Chamberlain
Are you prepared to tell them what you did not tell them before, what those risks are?
§ Sir A. Sinclair
I am only a humble Member of the House, but I certainly have always denounced, from the first speech I made on the Abyssinian situation, the opinion which I know was sincerely held by many people, that you can have economic and financial sanctions without the risk of military sanctions.
§ Sir A. Sinclair
Its meaning was clear. It meant that the people of this country were prepared to support collective action up to the point of using armaments if that was necessary. I am told that 72.4 per cent. of the voters in the Ballot declared themselves willing to use military measures in support of the Covenant.
§ Sir A. Sinclair
I believe a far greater number than voted in the Peace Ballot. It is quite a different thing to ask for a vote in cold blood for the use of armaments which we all abhor. All progressive opinion in this country abhors armaments, but it was the representatives of progressive opinion who very largely signed that Peace Ballot. They were men and women who abhor the use of force. It was a very different thing to ask them in cold blood to put their signatures to the declaration that they would be prepared to use force from what it would have been to ask them, when the case had actually happened, and when some country with whom they were in active sympathy was a victim of aggression.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to Abyssinia. I do not think that a worse illustration could have been chosen. Why should we have been interested in Abyssinia? What proportion of the Members of the House, let alone of the country, had ever taken the slightest interest in Abyssinia until Italian aggression? We almost disliked Abyssinian rule, because progressive opinion had little if any sympathy for autocratic emperors, or with the institution of slavery, which was undoubtedly one of the institutions of that country. You could not have had, from the point of view of those who support the League of Nations, a worse case on which to appeal to public opinion. In spite of those disadvantages, public opinion saw at once the main issue in Abyssinia.
§ Sir A. Sinclair
Yes, I would say it was honour and the rule of law, and the effort to buttress the rule of law by a system of collective security. There was no doubt of the response. All over the coun- 245 try great meetings were held, attended by masses of people far greater than even many distinguished Cabinet Ministers were able to command when they were talking about the policy of the Government at the time. Then came the General Election, a general election fought on loyalty to the Covenant; and it was on that appeal, I venture to say, that the Government got their great majority at the Election. Then came the Hoare-Laval conversations in Paris, and the Prime Minister, after he had come down here to support the line which the present First Lord of the Admiralty, as Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, had taken, and after he had told us that unfortunately his lips were sealed but that if we only knew the facts we should all troop into the Lobby after him, told us three days later that the then Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs had resigned.
The Prime Minister had changed his view on the action taken in Paris because, between the receipt of the then Secretary of State's report and the second debate in the House of Commons, he had realised that an issue had emerged which affected the sense of honour of the British people to an extent which he had not previously understood. That is what he told the House of Commons. The fact is that, on the question of the possibility of building up a rule of law in Europe, of substituting order for anarchy in international relationships, the people of this country feel with an intensity which the right hon. Gentleman does not now appreciate, which the Prime Minister last autumn did not appreciate, and which, I am sorry to say, I do not believe the majority of this Cabinet and of the elder statesmen in this country appreciate to this day. I hope that as a result of this Debate the Government may pluck up a little courage to take the line which I believe will command the support of the people of this country. If they face the opposition which they will find in their own ranks at first, I believe they will be able to overcome it and will be able to carry the country with them. How necessary it is to show how vacillating is the policy of this Government has been indicated by the speeches to which we have listened this afternoon; the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down himself admitted that he does not feel sure, any more than 246 the Government as a whole feel sure, that they would have the country behind them in this matter.
There is one other thing to which I wanted to refer, if the Committee will forgive me for going back to the question of Abyssinia. If there was any misgiving in some quarters—and I do not say that the country was united to the extent of 100 per cent.—about the expediency of a strong policy, it was very largely due to the fact that the Government were spreading tales, or, at any rate, tales were spread, presumably emanating from Government quarters—people used to come and tell you on good authority—that the Fleet had no ammunition, that it was in a position of trembling weakness in the face of the Italian Navy. We all know that the sailors themselves were indignant at these unfounded suggestions, but these stories were spreading through the House of Commons and in the newspapers of the country, and, of course, that undermined to some extent the confidence of the people in a forward policy. But if the Government had had the courage to give a strong lead, I believe that we should have carried that League action in the Abyssinian dispute through to success, and that we should not now be faced with the situation with which we are faced to-night, when we see the reports of the speech made by the head of the Italian Government.
I am very sorry to have taken up so much of the time of the Committee. I never intended to rise at all, but the speech of the right hon. Gentleman brought me to my feet, and, as I am standing, I would like to refer very briefly to the attack—not a very serious attack, but rather an unfair attack—which the Secretary of State made upon me and my party, after the encouraging opening, to which the hon. Member for Kingswinford (Mr. A. Henderson) referred, in which he said he was not going to take a partisan line. He made out that, whereas all the progressive countries in Europe had been in favour of the Government's measure of rearmament, we on this bench opposed it. He did not attempt to include hon. Members above the Gangway in that charge; he did not dare to represent to foreign countries the House of Commons divided into two, with the whole of the Opposition parties opposed to the Government's policy of rearmament. That would rather have 247 spoiled the political effect. But he thought that my party was small enough not to matter, was small enough for him to be able to make a partisan score at our expense. It was a very unfair score.
He said he had read all the speeches in the Debate, but I do not think he can have read mine very closely. If he had, he would have seen that I said that rearmament was an evil and dangerous but inescapable necessity, for reasons which I gave to the House at that time. I explained the reasons why we had no confidence in the foreign policy of the Government, either with regard to their past performances, to which, we hold, is largely due the pass to which this country has been led, or with regard to their future policy. But I pointed out that it was not a rearmament Measure that we were discussing, but a defence loan Measure, and I criticised the whole financial arrangements which the Government were making. I am afraid that the right hon. Gentleman, even if he had read the speeches, could not have read the Financial Resolution which we were discussing, or he would have seen that it had nothing to do with the merits or demerits of a rearmament policy, but had only to do with a loan policy, and that was the reason why we voted against it. I wanted to make that clear.
In conclusion, I would make this appeal to the Government. Let them come down fairly and squarely for firm action to create—none of us pretends that it exists at the moment—an effective system of collective security. The right hon. Gentleman represented the League as being in fragments, after the Abyssinian dispute, fragments which were so loosely held together that he did not dare to raise awkward questions like the reform of the League, for fear that it would shake to pieces. Let him take his courage in both hands and re-create the League in a more effective form, as a stronger structure than it has been hitherto. But, even more important than that, or at any rate as important, is the pursuit of a constructive policy. I do not want to go too far into that; I know that in speaking like that to the right hon. Gentleman I am preaching to the converted. Nobody has said more clearly than he that "the central problem which we have to face is the possibility of securing an 248 increase in the volume of world trade, which will involve an increase in German exports as in those of other countries." I want to see the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues taking vigorous action on those lines. When we see that, if we ever do see it, we shall realise that there is a new spirit in the Government, and we shall then know that the Government are really basing their policy on loyalty to the Covenant of the League.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Sandys
I do not think that the Committee can have been much impressed by the arguments advanced by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal party about his attitude towards armaments. He says that armaments are an inescapable necessity, but he is not prepared to accept the only method available for paying for them—
§ Mr. Sandys
I think it is generally accepted that a loan is the only method by which we can meet the vast expenditure at the present time without crippling industry and placing the country in a position of extreme economic embarrassment. Apart from the fact that the right hon. Gentleman is not prepared to vote the money, I am sure that his fiery speech would have made Signor Mussolini considerably afraid. I propose this evening, in the few remarks which I wish to make, to confine myself to answering two specific accusations which were made by the hop. Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell) against the Government in regard to their foreign policy. Much the same accusations were made by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition a few days ago, and I think he made them with rather less moderation than the hon. Member for Gower.
In the first place, they accused the Government, and so did the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal party, of infidelity to the principle of collective security; and, secondly, they accused the Government of pursuing a policy which is calculated to lead to war. Those are two very serious charges. In regard to the first, the Opposition's case has been put by various Members of the Labour party, and it was in particular put very concisely by the hon. Member for 249 Kingswinford (Mr. A. Henderson) the other day in an interruption which was much commented upon later on. In support of this argument the Opposition allege that the magnitude of the Government's rearmament plans is a proof that they have abandoned the policy of collective security. It is argued that, if the Government really believed in collective security, they would, in reckoning the extent of our defence needs, have counted in as an asset—I think this was the point put by the hon. Member for Kingswinford —the armaments of other League countries, and would have made a corresponding reduction in their estimate of our requirements. That was the point put by the Opposition. Judging by the way in which they speak, and by the way in which they have spoken this afternoon, it would seem that many hon. Members opposite are altogether unfamiliar with the text of the Covenant. The hon. Member for Kingswinford is, perhaps, an exception; he goes about with a copy of the Covenant permanently in his pocket. In particular I would ask them to read Article 8 which contains recommendations regarding the level of armaments to be maintained by members of the League. Article 8 recommends the reduction of national armaments—this is the actual wording of the Article—to the lowest point consistent with national safety and with the enforcement by common action of international obligations.I think the Covenant itself provides the answer to the accusations of the Opposition. Article 8 lays down, as the ideal level of armaments to be aimed at, a level which is not merely sufficient for national safety, but which is also sufficient for the enforcement by common action of international obligations. It is plainly evident that the Covenant was never intended to provide nations with an excuse for shirking their individual defence responsibilities. It is clear that the framers of the Covenant regarded membership of the League not as absolving nations from their primary duty to protect themselves, but as imposing on them further liabilities arising out of their obligations under the Covenant.
I ask hon. Members opposite to come down for a moment out of the clouds. I ask them to examine the practical implications of their theory that it is safe for a country in reviewing the strength of its defences to reckon in as an asset 250 the armaments possessed by other League Powers. Let us, as an example, apply their theory to Abyssinia during the last few years before the Italian invasion. According to hon. Members opposite Abysisnia should have congratulated herself upon her rare good fortune in having as a neighbour in Eritrea and in Italian Somaliland, nice and near and handy to protect her, a fellow-member of the League who possessed a powerful army and a powerful air force, the strength and numbers of which were happily being augmented by reinforcements month by month. In fact, according to the calculations of hon. Members opposite, Abyssinia's defence requirements would actually have diminished in proportion to the growth of the Italian armies along the banks of the Red Sea.
I utterly fail to follow the tortuous train of thought of hon. Members opposite when they speak about collective security. Whenever other countries, other League members, build armaments, hon. Members opposite ask us to reckon these armaments as an asset and as a contribution to collective security. If, on the other hand, Britain builds armaments they allege that that is clear proof that the Government have abandoned the policy of collective security. They cannot have it both ways. Hon. Members opposite are putting the cart before the horse. Collective security is not a substitute for national defence. Quite the reverse. National defence is the basic pre-condition, the foundation itself of collective security. A country which is too weak to protect its own people is hardly likely to be in a position to go to the help of others. A Power whose defences have fallen below the minimum commeasurate with its geographical responsibilities, is a liability and not an asset to the system of collective security. Let there be no mistake. Collective security, if it is to be security at all, must be collective force, and not merely collective impotence.
§ Mr. Sandys
The Opposition never seem to tire of accusing the Government of infidelity to the League of Nations and to the principle of collective security. We on this side might for a change examine the attitude of the Opposition towards the League. In a recent newspaper article the right hon. Member for South Hackney 251 (Mr. H. Morrison)—no doubt busy elsewhere to-day—gave a very frank and lucid explanation of the Labour party's attitude towards collective security. This is what he wrote:If it were deemed right that British armament expenditure should increase in order that we should make our contribution to collective security, Labour would have to share the responsibility for the increase.So far I do not quarrel with the right hon. Gentleman. I would agree with every word. However, he went on to say:But we must first ask the Government against whom will these arms be used. Will it be against Germany or against Russia? Will it be against Fascism or against Socialism? The Government flatly refuses to tell us. We must therefore flatly refuse to support their armaments policy.
§ Mr. Sandys
The hon. Gentleman says "Hear, hear," but we on this side of the House have always understood collective security to consist in a general undertaking by all League members to come to each other's assistance if attacked regardless of whom the aggressor might be, and most certainly regardless of the aggressor's internal politics.
§ Mr. Sandys
The conception of collective security of the right hon. Member for South Hackney evidently differs materially from ours. According to him there should be one rule for the Fascists and another for the Socialists. If the aggressor should be a Fascist nation, then of course we should go to the assistance of the country which is attacked. On the other hand, the right hon. Gentleman is apparently prepared to condone aggression if the aggressor happens to be a Socialist State.
§ Mr. Grenfell
The hon. Member is putting his own interpretation on the document from which he professes to have quoted.
§ Mr. Sandys
I do not know. I am told it is a very reputable newspaper very much read by hon. Members in the north.
§ Mr. Sandys
If it were a Socialist State the right hon. Gentleman would be prepared to condone aggression. If I am inferring something inaccurate from what the right hon. Gentleman said, it is open to any Member of the Opposition to put another complexion on it. That is the purpose of debate. In other words, the fulfilment or not by Britain of her solemn obligations under the Covenant should, according to the right hon. Gentleman and his friends, be made dependent on the internal political complexion of the aggressor. From that, at any rate, we on this side can judge for ourselves whether the Opposition in their attitude towards collective security are always inspired by that impeccable impartiality which they would have us believe.
Let me pass on to the second accusation made by the Opposition against the Government. The hon. Member for Gower accused the Government of stimulating an international race in armaments and of pursuing a policy which would lead to war. He spoke with the greatest possible moderation, but his leader a few days ago said much the same thing with much less moderation. Hon. Members opposite, who are such lovers of international arbitration, would not wish to be judges in their own case. They would, doubtless, be ready to listen to the opinions of foreign countries. The Foreign Secretary referred to the manner in which our rearmament policy had been welcomed on all sides abroad. I would invite hon. Members opposite to observe what the foreign Press has been saying. I would like to read one or two extracts.
§ Mr. Sandys
They do not seem to have created much impression, and I am sure hon. Members on this side would be glad to hear these statements read out once again. Hon. Members opposite never like anything to be read which does not coincide with the point which they are trying to put. In Norway the Liberal newspaper "Tidens Tegen" writes:None of the great Powers has shown its good will in the reduction of armaments and support of the League more than Britain. In the interests of democracy and peace Britain must be strong and invulnerable.A newspaper of Czechoslovakia, the "Prager Presse," says that our rearmament is creating a bulwark of democracy 253 and peace. In Hungary—the "Pesti Hirlap" writes:We firmly believe that Britain wishes to prevent and is able to prevent war.In Poland the Government organ "Gazeta Polska" declares:A strong Britain is a guarantee of peace.In Sweden the leading newspaper "Nya Tidning" writes:England is arming to fulfil her responsibilities as the chief guardian of international order.In France the Press of all parties without exception welcome British rearmament. The following extract from the "Intransigeant" is typical. It says:Nothing is better calculated than British rearmament to assure the peace of the world to inspire the small countries with confidence and with courage and certain powerful nations with prudence. Britain is saving civilisation.In fact, the only countries that share the Opposition's misgivings in regard to British rearmament are Germany, Italy and Japan. Is it a mere coincidence that the only countries that are uneasy about our rearmament are the militarist nations, the dictatorships, three highly armed Powers, two of which have left the League and the other of which has flouted it? Is it a mere coincidence that all the loyal members of the League, all the democracies, and all the little Powers welcome British rearmament as a guarantee of peace? The verdict of the world provides the answer to the accusations of the Opposition. The world has shown that it trusts Britain to use her strength for peace.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I am afraid that some of my hon. Friends have been a little impatient while the hon. Member has been speaking, but I do not share their views at all. I have listened to his quotations from the foreign Press with considerable interest, even if only to hear his impeccable pronunciation of their titles. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) threw a shaft of light on this question which the whole Committee will welcome, even from the point of view of showing us where the right hon. Gentleman himself stands. He seems to suggest that this country would not be prepared to face up to the facts, even the facts of war in cer- 254 tain circumstances, those circumstances being such to which we have given our word and our bond. It would be interesting to ask him whether he himself took the opportunity in 1925 of explaining to the country the implications of the Locarno Treaty. Did he tell the country at that time that, as the result of Britain's guarantee of her word and her bond, the Locarno Treaty in certain circumstances might lead to war? Did he explain to the country then that those engagements which Britain entered into might have meant, in certain circumstances, conscription? I suggest that he did not. I am thinking, as the result of listening to him to-day, that Locarno itself, before the ink was dry' on the Treaty, became another scrap of paper. The whole Committee I think will agree that what we should aim at in these discussions on foreign affairs is the greatest common measure of agreement between all sides of the House in arriving at a policy which will have one end only, and that is peace. I am prepared in those circumstances, if the Government are prepared to lead, to support them if they will give us a policy which I am convinced will mean universal peace.
§ Notice taken that 40 Members were not present; House counted; and, 40 Members being present—
§ Mr. Bellenger
I am convinced that my hon. Friends on this side would willingly support a policy of rearmament if it was to take its place in that system of collective security which I am certain the majority of Members believe is the only safe measure of peace that this sadly troubled world can provide. Let me go back in retrospect and remind the Committee of the different instruments that have been made by the elder statesmen themselves, most of whom did not fight in the last War, which was a war to ensure peace and to make the world safe for democracy. These various instruments were made for one purpose alone, if we are to believe in the sincerity of their authors. First of all, we had the Peace Treaties of 1918 and 1919 and the Covenant of the League of Nations, which was a series of engagements not entered into freely by certain of the contracting parties. Those who were defeated in the War had to sign these treaties under duress.
§ Mr. Bellenger
As far as my memory serves me, Germany, at any rate, signed one of those treaties under protest.
§ Sir A. Chamberlain
Of course she signed the Treaty of Versailles, but her entry into the League was a subsequent voluntary act.
§ Mr. Bellenger
Quite, but I am suggesting that the Treaties of Versailles and Trianon and other similar engagements were signed by certain contracting parties under duress. The Kellogg Pact which came later, and which was to outlaw war, was entered into freely by all the nations who signed it, and the contracting parties who signed the Locarno Treaty also signed freely. But those treaties have been thrown overboard by many of the contracting parties. We are entitled to ask what is the Government's policy in view of the realities of the situation that face us. Our criticism of the Government is that they have no complete policy for peace. We suggest that the only policy for peace is that of collective security. I know that the subject bristles with difficulties, which I am not going entirely to neglect, but we suggest that the Government's foreign policy is a collection of bits and pieces not forming one cohesive whole or a complete picture. When it came to a question of one member State of the League of Nations being declared the aggressor by 5o odd other nations, what was the Government's policy? We know it quite well. They first of all attempted to buy off that nation with a little piece of the British Empire. The Secretary of State for the Dominions, who was then Secretary of State for the Colonies, suggested offering Ethiopia an outlet to the sea if she would agree to some of Italy's terms.
If the Government are determined to protect British interests wherever they may lie, and want to rearm for that purpose only, let them say so. Let them say they do not believe in the League of Nations. But they do not say that. They say, "We are as sincere as you are for the League of Nations and all that it stands for, and collective security." The Versailles Treaty and the Covenant of the League of Nations provide for the rectification of frontiers. Is it going to be suggested that Germany to-day has 256 no cause for grievance? That cannot be said because the late Foreign Secretary admitted that Germany must have had some just complaint and he went to Geneva and suggested a remedy for it. We have to consider whether we can keep a nation like Germany in the position that she was in in 1918, when she was forced to sign an unjust Treaty and, if you say that Germany has just grievances, you have to provide a way of settling them. In case it may be suggested that I hold pro-Nazi views, I deny it straight away. I look upon the system of government in that country with intense disgust. But is it suggested that we are not ready to concede certain things to a Hitler Germany to-day and that, if Hitler went to-morrow, we should not have to concede the same things to a more liberal and progressive Government? This demand for the return of some of her colonies is not merely a Hitler or a Nazi demand. It is made by the whole German nation. It is impossible for Britain to say that she will for ever deny to Germany access to some of those colonies of which we stripped her in 1919.
I am prepared to agree with the definition of British interests that the Foreign Secretary laid down in his Leamington speech, interests which we in this country would, if necessary, go to war for, but the significant part of that speech was not in what he said but in what he left out. What has he to say with regard to the mandated territories? Will the Government under any circumstances return Tanganyika to Germany? There are other mandated territories that we hold which I think we could very well return to Germany, under suitable guarantees, of course, and I know, from my contacts with German people, that they would be quite prepared to enter into binding engagements to keep the peace of the world for a long term if only England would listen to some of their just grievances, which I suggest they undoubtedly have. As I said last week, it is futile for us simply to go on as we did in the nineteenth century believing that we can hold this Empire that we won by right of conquest. It is impossible for us to do that and to say to nations like Germany and Italy, "You shall not have any of those parts of the world that the British may hold." I know it is not a popular policy to suggest that, but I do suggest that when 257 the Foreign Secretary leaves these important points out of his speech, other nations begin to wonder what we really mean.
I do not think Germany is concerned for a moment about the frontiers of Belgium or France, but she is concerned with the Eastern part of Europe, and that particular part has been left out of the Foreign Secretary's pronouncements. We have to come to a decision sooner or later, and we on these benches suggest that the Government should come out clearly and say what they are prepared to do if, as is quite possible, Germany does violate the frontiers of Czechoslovakia. Are there no British interests in that part of Europe? We know very well that we have considerable interests there. What is our reaction to the suggestion that the Hapsburg monarchy should come back to Austria? What about the Anschluss between Austria and Germany? What about Memel, Danzig, and all those other explosive spots in Europe? The Foreign Secretary glides over them, but they are the spots that will cause the explosion which the President of the Reichsbank referred to in his speech when he said that if certain things were not done, there would be an explosion in Germany.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I do not want Germany to get them all, but I want justice for Germany, just as for any other country, and she has not had it so far.
§ Mr. Morgan
Is the hon. Member advocating an extension of the German regime at the expense of British Colonies or not?
§ Mr. Bellenger
I suggest that some of the mandated territories that we now hold will go back sooner or later to Germany, and the Government, when they say they are not considering that question, are not quite accurate. It has been under the consideration of this Government.
§ Mr. Bellenger
That is not the point. Were they consulted when they were handed over to British control? Of course they were not. All this talk about the native inhabitants deciding for them- 258 selves which country they would like to rule them is all rot, and we know it. None of our Colonies were ever consulted when we took them over. When the Secretary of State says that intervention in Spanish affairs means war, that is the argument that is always thrown at these benches, whenever we advocate a forward policy or a policy with some vigour and energy in it. I feel that under certain circumstances, as the right hon. Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) said to-day, if aggressor nations push their policy too far, we cannot avoid war, and I believe that that is the motive that has actuated the Government in their rearmament policy. They see the danger spots. I do not suggest that this country would want to be an aggressor. Why should we be? We have all we desire. When we talk about collective security, certainly some of my hon. Friends on these benches ought to consider the question of collective security for capitalism. Capitalism is not asking for any more conquests. It is concerned to rest on its oars and to keep what it has, but my hon. Friends never lose an opportunity of seeing that our grievances are pressed against the capitalist forces, and we are endeavouring to get as much off them as we can.
The only difference between that analogy and the realities which exist in Germany and elsewhere is this, that we are prepared to get what we demand by constitutional and peaceful means, and I fear that to-day there are certain countries in Europe which, although they may have just grievances, are adopting the wrong policy to get them righted. What we ask of the Government is this: What are you going to do if those nations press their grievances in too bellicose a manner? Is rearmament, unilateral rearmament, your answer? It may stave off war for a time, but it will not result in that peace which you say you so keenly desire. We on these benches say that if you want to ensure peace, rearmament is not the right policy. It must be this system of collective security, which I know may be difficult to define, but which is undoubtedly a reality, and this system of collective security envisages nations, including Germany, Italy, and Japan, which are prepared to come to some arrangement to ensure a settlement of the just grievances of any nation, not by force of arms, but by conference and 259 argument. I would hope that, if the Government are really sincere in their protestations about peace, although perhaps some of this rearmament may have been forced upon them by the acts of certain other nations, they will endeavour to do their best to bring about in those countries a measure of disarmament, because while armament or rearmament is there, it cannot lead to peace, but, in my opinion, can only lead to one end, and that end is war.
§ 7.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys-Evans
The hon. Member who has spoken and the right hon. Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair), who spoke for the Liberal Opposition, both passed strictures on my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain). The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness waxed particularly eloquent about public opinion in this country and referred to great public meetings which took place up and down the land in order to protest against the Italian action in Abyssinia, and he said those meetings were attended by great audiences. That is true, but the right hon. Gentleman forgot that in the middle of the Abyssinian crisis there arose a greater and much more critical situation as a result of the German reoccupation of the Rhineland, when the Treaty of Locarno was broken and when agreements which bound Germany much more tightly than did the Covenant were broken. We saw no protest from the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal Opposition or from hon. or right hon. Members opposite, but my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham spoke in the country and did stand by the Locarno Treaty. Is it surprising that when he saw such an exhibition of running away as occurred when hon. and right hon. Members opposite deserted the ship at that critical moment, the right hon. Member for West Birmingham should have been a little bit doubtful with regard to public opinion in this country and have taken the right course in warning us of the dangers of committing ourselves when he saw an agreement which he himself had made destroyed? Hon. Members forget that episode.
As soon as it had passed away, they began talking about our word and our 260 bond so far as Abyssinia was concerned, but they spoke with a very hollow voice when they spoke about our honour after having run away over the Rhineland episode. The whole question turns on that particular problem. Where was collective security then? That was the moment to urge upon the country the necessity for collective security, when we were really threatened and when there was a pistol at the heart of this country. We did not hear anything about collective security at that time, and it is humbug on the part of hon. and right hon. Members to make charges against the right hon. Member for West Birmingham so far as the observance of international obligations is concerned.
§ Mr. Emrys-Evans
I am sorry that the hon. Member does not realise that the Locarno Treaty was binding even after Germany had left the League, and that does not affect our position. We were signatories, and we were bound under the Treaty of Locarno, and, if indeed hon. and right hon. Members opposite are correct, under the Covenant as well, to go to the assistance of the Powers being attacked. The violation of the demilitarised zone placed on us and on the French and on the Germans as well an automatic obligation that practically amounted to the same thing.
§ Mr. Emrys-Evans
It is the same thing. We were bound tightly under the Locarno Pact. The hon. Member and his friends say we were bound under the Covenant, but we were more bound under the Treaty of Locarno. That argument will not do. This Debate is to a large extent an extension of the debates which have taken place in this House during the last fortnight, and the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell) opened it to-day, as everyone has admitted in a most charming manner. I think the Opposition were wise in putting up the hon. Member to open the Debate, as he was able to smooth out the path of the Opposition. Efforts have been made to-day, for the first time, to answer the questions which were put by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Home Secretary, and by my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Lumley). 261 Those questions have not yet been replied to by the Leaders of the Labour party, and I trust that they will not fail to answer if they can, this evening, because they are, after all, the alternative Government, and the country is entitled to know what line they would follow, what policy they would pursue, what would be the obligations which they would undertake, if they were called upon to form a Government. They are in a position different from that of the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) and other hon. Members below the Gangway opposite, who may, of course, some day form a Government, though it looks at the moment as if it would be rather a distant date.
Hon. Gentlemen opposite, however, are putting themselves forward as the alternative Government, and we are entitled to know, and the country is entitled to know what is their foreign policy, and in what way they differ from the policy laid down by the Foreign Secretary? We are entitled to know, moreover, whether we are likely to be committed to any form of automatic military action, because some of the speeches made by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite bring us perilously near to that position. As far as I can see they tried to cover up the position by speaking of a conference. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham showed how impossible it was to bring the nations of the world together in present circumstances. I wish with hon. Members that it was possible, and that there was some hope, but it is clear that to-day a conference would only make matters worse. I trust that the party opposite will cease the meaningless incantations which we hear up and down the country, which have no other object than to hide the deep divisions in their party and to conceal the fact that they have no policy whatever.
During the course of this Debate the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) referred to the past. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have a habit of going into past history rather than discussing the present. I think that the question of Manchuria is important for this reason. There was a question in which, apart from China, the nearest Member of the League of Nations was thousands of miles away. America and Russia were not Members of the League 262 of Nations then, and of course America is not a Member of the League to-day. The only way of bringing pressure upon Japan was to send an expedition to the Far East. Did hon. and right hon. Members opposite tell the country of the dangers that would be involved and did they point out that the forces of this country would be sent far away from Europe, leaving these shores unprotected, in order to enforce the decisions of the League? If we had gone to the country and told the people that their sons were to be killed because Manchuria was to remain a part of China, would the Government have received the support of the people?
These are the sort of questions which should be put frankly to the country when we are discussing these questions. Collective security is talked about a great deal by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, but it does not, as some hon. Gentlemen frankly admit, exist at the present time. It is an aim to be achieved and certainly not a weapon on which to rely. It is a military question; it is not a question with which you can deal by vague phrases and saying, "If we have collective security it will be all right." We have to think of it in terms of navies, armies, air forces, and to relate it to the area in which we live, to our geographical and territorial position, and to correlate our plans with the various general staffs. Those are the sort of questions you have to go into, and you have to decide how far it is practicable to go, but it is quite useless merely to go round phrase-making. That, is full of danger.
§ Mr. Emrys-Evans
We faced the facts, and told the people at the same time that, if we had to go into collective security, we should have to have forces to support it. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite did nothing of the kind. They said it was unnecessary to have further forces.
§ Mr. Emrys-Evans
The hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) had a cer- 263 tain amount to say with regard to Germany. I think that he misunderstands the present attitude of the Nazi Government. Herr Hitler, it is true, the other day, repudiated war guilt, but he said nothing which would wipe out the fact that Belgium was the object of a perfidious and infamous attack. The German people at the present time are indulging in a pursuit which they followed before and which, I am afraid, is having some effect on the hon. Gentleman. There is a great deal of distortion of history going on at the present moment. The Germans are trying to persuade themselves that they won the War, and that they were only brought to their knees by a blockade. They forget that they themselves tried to carry out a blockade and failed; but we, on the other hand, succeeded. They seem to forget many things with regard to those four terrible years, but the difficulty in dealing with Germany at the present time is that from this distortion of history arises their claims for colonies. They are trying to persuade the world that they are the innocent victims of great Imperial Powers. The hon. Gentleman said that we had to give them up and that the matter had been under consideration. I would like him to give me his authority for that statement. I do not know whether he can give me any authority for that statement. It is an important point.
§ Mr. Bellenger
Obviously, I have not the actual occasion. Nevertheless, I say that the Government have had it under consideration. They could not have done anything else, otherwise what answer could they give to the several demands for these colonies? They must have discussed it in some way.
§ Mr. Emrys-Evans
I will come to that point. I am glad to hear that the hon. Gentleman has not any definite information. It is clear that we have really not been contemplating the return of the colonies. But I would ask the Committee to consider whether the surrender of colonies and submission to threats—that 264 is what it is—would really solve for one moment the question of Czechoslovakia, as the hon. Member who opened the Debate pointed out, or in any way solve the Eastern problem of Germany in which she is much more interested than in colonies. Dr. Schacht threatened us with an explosion if the colonies are not given up. All I can say is that I hope that this country will never submit to blackmail of that kind. All we can do, if he is threatening us with an explosion, is to make sure that the explosion is inwards and not outwards. The Government are doing all that they can do through the rearmament programme to make sure that that is done. Does the hon. Member really think that, placed as we are at the present time, and facing a Government such as the present German Government, which is militarist through and through, and which is the protagonist of a policy and of a faith entirely antagonistic towards that held in this country, and which has broken agreement after agreement—does he really want to allow them to have ports from which submarines can operate and aerodromes from which aircraft can prey upon the commerce of the British Empire, and, indeed, not of the British Empire only, but upon the commerce of all nations? To surrender the colonies in present circumstances would be an act of strategic madness, quite apart from being a political error of the first magnitude.
§ Mr. Bellenger
The hon. Member should not misrepresent me. I am not suggesting that Britain should hand over any of her Colonies to Germany. I did not suggest anything of the kind. The only question which I raised was that of the previous German Colonies, which are mandated territories, either under our control or under the control of France or somebody else.
§ Mr. Emrys-Evans
I quite understand what the hon. Member said, but my remarks apply equally to the mandated territories, and it was to the mandated territories that I was referring. I wish that the Government had been more definite earlier on with regard to this question. I do not think that the question would have been so prominent in Germany as it has been. The only possible way of dealing with the present Government in Germany is to be firm and resolute. It is an integral part of policy, espe- 265 cially in dealing with this particular question, to do all we can to preserve the League of Nations as it at present exists. I see no reason why we should adopt the defeatist attitude towards this question. It is true that weaknesses have been shown in the structure. Any institution which is being built up, especially such a grand scheme as the League of Nations, will show some weaknesses, and what we should do is to repair those weaknesses rather than throw up our hands in despair. Whatever else it does, the League makes the world alive to the dangers which surround peace-loving nations.
The hon. Member who opened the Debate said something with regard to German propaganda. I think that the present attitude in Germany is a very dangerous one. They are believing only that which they wish to believe, with the result that they are drawing a lot of very inaccurate conclusions, especially with regard to this country. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs is being attacked in a paper called the "Anglo-German Review," which, I think, rather wishes that he will disappear from his present office. These attacks will, of course, only establish the Foreign Secretary more firmly in the confidence and in the hearts of his countrymen, but they are a sign of the kind of insidious attacks which are being made throughout not only this country but the world. I do not know what grounds the Germans have for supposing that we are going to give way on any question in the future, and why they think the public opinion here so weak. I can only assume that certain noble and nervous marquesses give them ground for supposing that they really represent the opinion in this country.
As a result of the action taken by the Government and their determination to carry out this rearmament programme, we are actually becoming the leaders of a great combination in the world, a combination of all the peace-loving nations. It seems to me that we have many friends, and that those who are likely to be the aggressors may find that the surprises will come from us and our friends in the future rather than from the dictatorships. Democracies, I believe, when once roused have a tenacity and resolution which is irresistible. It was the democracies which 266 won in the last War, and the autocracies which collapsed. For that reason I do not for a moment believe war to be inevitable. I think that as every week we grow stronger, so every week peace becomes more established. But it will require firmness, decision and unity in this country if we are to come successfully through the difficult year which lies ahead of us. We all share the Chancellor's disgust at the fact that we have to spend these vast sums on instruments of destruction. It seems to be madness, but we have been forced into this race against our will, and I think we should show the dictatorships that we are out to win, and that we have the golden bullet which will enable us to win, if they do not come to terms.
In the meantime we shall do what we can to come to an arrangement with the dictatorships, if possible. I am sure that the Foreign Secretary will spare no effort to come to an arrangement by which we shall gain a measure of disarmament, if such an arrangement is possible. The right hon. Gentleman has said so again and again, and I hope that hon. Members opposite will support him on that question. He has stated repeatedly that he is trying to find a basis of negotiation, and if such a basis has not been found, the fault does not lie either with Members on this side of the Committee, or on this country at all. That is a misconception and misapprehension on the part of the hon. Member opposite who seems to be infected to some extent by German propaganda. That is the only conclusion at which one can arrive from his speech. As I say, we are trying to come to some arrangement, and in the meantime it seems to me that we must translate a large part of our vast resources into armaments as is necessary, in order that liberty and peace may be preserved from the dangers which surround them at the present time.
§ 8.3 p.m.
§ Mr. T. Williams
I would not have intervened in this Debate but for the speech of the hon. Member for South Derbyshire (Mr. Emrys-Evans). In 1932, I listened to scores of speeches from hon. Members opposite on the Sino-Japanese dispute, and on the attitude of my hon. Friends and myself towards the incidents of that time. I expect if one remained 267 a Member here for another 10 or, 15 years one would continue to hear Conservative Members making speeches in the same tone as those to which we have listened ever since 1932. The hon. Member who has just spoken fell into the same error as many of his colleagues in imputing to hon. Members on this side a desire to go to war with Japan in 1932 and to send British husbands and British sons to fight for Chinese territory. No hon. Member on this side ever suggested anything of the kind. No hon. Member sitting here ever asked the Government to send British soldiers to China or Japan.
What we said was that the moment the then Foreign Secretary, the present Home Secretary, declared that he had made up his mind that sanctions should be ruled out and that conciliation alone should be used in that case, disarmament was made well-nigh impossible. That was the date on which a deadly blow was made at the League of Nations as an effective force for peace. I can understand the hon. Member saying that the League has failed because the nations within it were not united, and had never worked out what sort of effective force would be required to subdue Germany, or Italy, or Japan or any other aggressor nation which broke the peace. I can appreciate that argument, and I recognise that the nations which were members of the League failed in that respect. But in my view the commencement of the weakening of the League was in 1932.
I am sure the right hon. Gentleman, the present Home Secretary, recalls the statements which he made in the House at that time. He said we were friends of Japan and friends of China and that we were not going to interfere in that dispute. As I view it, we at that moment abrogated our obligations to the League and Japan, having been given a free hand in China, declared subsequently to the Disarmament Conference that she would not be governed by any decision reached at that conference. As a result of Japan's statement, the United States declared that if Japan were to be permitted to do as she liked in regard to rearmament, her signature to the Nine Power Pact must be regarded as invalid. No matter how long the Disarmament Conference continued after that there was little or no hope of its success. Whatever hon. and right hon. Gentleman may say about the National 268 Government's efforts to secure disarmament, after 1932 the situation made it well-nigh impossible. I suggest to the hon. Member who has just spoken that when next he speaks on foreign affairs he should vary the tone of his remarks and try to get nearer the facts as regards the attitude of my hon. Friends and myself. Our view is that if the League had effectively applied sanctions, Japan could have been defeated in her enterprise, and the League could not only have preserved itself, but made itself an effective force for the preservation of international peace, without sending a solitary soldier to Chinese or Japanese territory.
§ Mr. Emrys-Evans
That is the point. The hon. Member's opinion is that sanctions could have been enforced without sending a soldier to Japan. We do not share that view. The Abyssinian experience, which I am sure should convince hon. Members opposite, and the Rhineland experience too, show that unless you are prepared to back up your word with troops, sanctions will not be effective. Unless you speak to the public in this country and tell them that they must be prepared to fight for sanctions, I do not think that sanctions will ever be effective. Bear in mind too, that when you speak to the people of this country the people abroad listen to you. You must tell your own people in the first place, and then it will be heard abroad.
§ Mr. Williams
The hon. Member has not helped his case by that intervention. No hon. Member on this side has declared that this country ought to go to war for Abyssinia as such, or China as such, or Czechoslovakia as such, or for any other nation as such. The maximum that we have said is that as loyal members of the League we should join in utilising such machinery as does exist. Improve the machinery if you can, and as you ought to, by all means, but use such machinery as exists at any given moment for the application of economic sanctions or other sanctions, not as an individual nation but in association with all the other members of the League, and in that way apply sanctions in the most rigorous fashion.
§ Mr. Emrys-Evans
The hon. Member talks about applying "economic or other sanctions," in conjunction with other nations. Does not that include military sanctions? Would not the closing of the Suez Canal have been a military sanction? 269 Would he tell the people of the country that if the other sanctions were applied, it would mean that they would have to fight?
§ Mr. Williams
The hon. Member remains in the Dark Ages and is still thinking in terms of one nation. I am speaking of effective action by the League of Nations.
§ Mr. Williams
If the hon. Member carries the argument to its logical conclusion he will find that it comes to this. When all the loyal members of the League have agreed to apply economic, diplomatic or other sanctions to an aggressor nation, and it is found that the nation in question is stronger than all the loyal members of the League, in so far as these economic, diplomatic or other sanctions are concerned, then, in the last resort, the League would have to use force. But the League as a League using force is a very different proposition from that suggested by the hon. Member and many of his hon. Friends. They constantly repeat that hon. Members on this side want to go to war for China, for Abyssinia, or for Spain, when they know in their hearts that there is not an atom of truth in those statements.
§ Mr. Emrys-Evans
I never said that hon. Members opposite wanted to go to war, and I think that is a wrong way of putting it. But they are in favour of taking action which would lead to war, and, therefore, they should be frank with the country, and tell the people "If we go to Spain or if we go to Abyssinia it is possible that there will be a European war." But, of course, they do not want and none of us want to go to war.
§ Mr. Williams
The hon. Member does not get much further with these successive interjections. I am not concerned about the interjections themselves, and if they helped to clear the air they would be well worth while. But the hon. Member must bear in mind that we are not to be moved by such statements from the point we have always maintained—that as long as this country is a member of a League, whose object and whose duty it is to preserve the peace of the world, we must think in terms not of one nation but of a combination of nations. Whatever 270 action may be taken, should a League State become an aggressor, it would not be a question of one nation dealing with that aggressor State but all the nations, so long as the loyal States fulfil their obligations, and when the appropriate moment arrived then we should determine whether or not economic sanctions were sufficient to make war a non-paying proposition.
My point is simply this. In the repeated statements made from these benches during the last five years we have said that if the loyal States, including this country, had admitted their obligations in full in 1932 we should not have been in our present position of having to borrow £400,000,000 for rearming, on the top of our normal expenditure. Assuming that the hon. Member's point were carried to its logical conclusion, and that the whole of the League States had combined to go to war with japan—a very remote possibility—to establish once and for all the real power and prestige of the League, would the sacrifice then have been greater than the sacrifice we are now making? Is it not the case that because the League—the League is not this country, but 53 States—had made one-tenth of the sacrifices for peace and the establishment of an effective League, we should have been saved the sacrifices which we are now making, and which ire leading us to war.
Therefore, I hope the hon. Member will not repeat the statement that he has made this evening about our position. He made no definite charges but he did put up dolls so that he could knock them down. He talked about sending British soldiers to Japan to fight for Chinese territory. We have never suggested that anything of the kind should take place. The dolls that he erected were his own dolls, and I have no objection to his action in knocking them down. In his later point he referred to the question of colonies. He said that we ought not to relinquish one square yard of any colonies to Germany. He was anti-Nazi and very pro-democracy.
§ Mr. Emrys-Evans
That is not a fair charge. It is a very improper charge. What I said was that I was a supporter of democracy. When I said I am a believer in liberty and constitutional Government, I meant it.
§ Mr. Williams
If I have misrepresented the hon. Member, I apologise. To misrepresent him is the last thing I wish to do. I do not see any point in misrepresenting any hon. Member, but when he referred to colonies he coupled them with Germany, and spoke of the men in Germany and their mentality. Then he went on to refer to certain mandated territories. I hope that I am not misrepresenting him, and if so perhaps he will correct me, but I understood him to say that he would not object to sending British soldiers to stand by our mandated territories and Colonies. Is that a fair interpretation of what he said?
§ Mr. Williams
The hon. Member would not object to sending British soldiers, husbands and sons, to safeguard mandated territories against would-be aggression from Germany. The hon. Member has a curious mind on this subject. Mandated territory is not British territory. It is not part of our Colonies. It is territory administered by us under the authority of the League of Nations. It is part and parcel of League responsibility. The hon. Member is prepared to send British soldiers alone to fight for mandated territory, which is not British territory.
§ Mr. Williams
Surely, the hon. Member would not argue that Tanganyika and Palestine are British territories. They are mandated territories, mandated to this country by the League of Nations.
§ Mr. Emrys-Evans
The sovereignty is vested in us. We have certain obligations towards the League, but the sovereignty resides in us.
§ Mr. Williams
Would the hon. Member agree that if the League of Nations desired so to do, they could withdraw the mandate?
§ Mr. Williams
The point that I want to make with the hon. Member, and I think I shall be right in the end, is that the territory handed over by the League of Nations is territory mandated to this country, to be administered by us.
§ Mr. Williams
It was handed over to this country by the League to be administered by this country on behalf of the League, and the hon. Member suggested that he was prepared to fight for that territory, not as a combination of nations who are members of the League but as one nation. If he is prepared to stand by the League of Nations in one respect where territory is involved, which we at the moment are administering, why is he unwilling in other circumstances to be as loyal to the League in association with other member States? That seems to be the fog which the hon. Member is in.
§ Mr. Emrys-Evans
I am not in a fog. I have said that the sovereignty resides in us. The sovereignty was never handed over to us by the League. We have certain obligations to the League, but the sovereignty resides in us; it is part of our territory.
§ Mr. Williams
The hon. Member wants to go beyond the point. He is a sort of two-headed political donkey. I do not mean that in an offensive sense. He argues both ways. He first of all refuses to be loyal to the League when we are called upon to fulfil an obligation, but in the second place where certain territory is concerned he is prepared not only to stand by the League but to stand by this country and to fight for territory of that description. That is a very weak argument, and it would lead this country into all sorts of difficulties if it were pursued. I am satisfied that the Foreign Secretary would not feel disposed to follow the line of the hon. Member.
When the League of Nations, collective security and allied questions are referred to in this House in future, I hope that hon. Members will no longer declare that hon. Members sitting on these benches wanted to go to war with Japan, or wanted to go to war over Abyssinia, or wanted to go to war over Spain. We have declared from the first that if the machinery had been built up so that the League could have been as effective as it ought to have been, we would gladly have shared our full responsibility for dealing with Japan when they broke the law of the League by entering Chinese territory. We repeated the same thing 273 with regard to Abyssinia. If the whole of the States had been willing to fulfil their obligations we should not have shirked our responsibilities as a member of the League of Nations. Economic sanctions were only partially applied to Italy. We did not apply oil sanctions, because the Foreign Secretary, the Home Secretary and other Ministers said that it would have led us into war.
I do not want to go to war. I hope that this country will not have to go to war again, but if we do and I had the choice, I would much prefer going into war with 49 nations beside me than to stand alone. We have failed the League of Nations, in association with other States. Probably we are not entirely to blame for the complete collapse of the League, but we have a tremendous amount of responsibility if we stand for as much in the councils of the world as some hon. Members think we do. We have been wobbling here and there, nobody has quite known where we have stood, everybody has lost confidence in us, we have lost confidence in ourselves, and we have now to resort to the ancient policy of rearming so that we may be as strong as any would-be aggressor. For that situation the Opposition accepts no responsibility at all. Until we get back to a League policy and a League state of mind, until we do our best to make the League the effective force it should be for peace, there will be no confidence, security or stability in international affairs. We have no power to prevent the Government proceeding with their rearmament policy, but I hope the armaments which will be produced may never be used in war. I am convinced that should we ever be called upon to use the weapons we are now producing in any kind of war it would be largely due to the failure of the National Government between the years 1931 and 1937.
§ 8.28 p.m.
I am sorry to intervene even for a few moments in the sparkling and witty dialogue between the hon. Member for South Derbyshire (Mr. Emrys-Evans) and the hon. Member for the Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams), but I have a point of view which is not perhaps universally held in the House or even on these benches, and I should like very briefly to express it. The hon. Member for the Don Valley is always interesting, and although he once called me, and 274 probably will do so again, the Devil's Advocate, he makes speeches which are particularly interesting to me. When he accuses hon. Members on this side of the Committee of making the same speech on the same theme in the same terms on every occasion, I am lost in amazement at his failure to apply that rather sweeping criticism to his own speeches. I have heard the hon. Member for the last five years on at least five occasions in every year make the same speech, and one result of his request is that I shall never again accuse him of wanting to fight Japan, Italy and General Franco single-handed, but shall confine my strictures to the fact that he wants to engage these three enemies in a maritime war in conjunction with 49 other nations, only three of whom have more than six gunboats between them.
On the subject of the Japanese invasion of Manchuria I would ask him to cast his mind back to the remarks which were made by Mr. Stimson in America and realise that effective action against Japan, which I myself should have deplored, could never have been successful but with the whole-hearted concurrence of the American Republic. One thing I think stands clear from the speech of the hon. Member, and that is that when the history of these times comes to be written the most curious feature of this strange and amazing period will be the readiness with which the hon. Member and his colleagues, who have done their utmost to disarm this country on the seven seas, yet are anxious to rush the country into war; not alone, I agree, but with 49 other nations whose succour would be little less than useless. I am not going to send presents to the hon. Member but I would urge him to get a copy of two books, one "Left Wings over Europe" with a sub-title, "How to Make War About Nothing," and the other an American book "How to get into other people's wars."
Let me make one brief reference to the speech of the right hon. Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair), who drew a most engaging picture of 8,000,000 of people who were ready to take part in some European conflict. I represent a constituency where I suppose the Left Wing forces have been particularly busy. I took an active part in opposing the Peace Ballot, but for which I think the 275 Emperor of Abyssinia would still be at Addis Ababa. I believe that over 70 per cent. of the people in my constituency recorded their vote in favour of military action against the aggressor. Within one month I had trebled my majority and was returned to this House, although I had consistently said that I should vote against His Majesty's Government if they engaged in any measure which was likely to lead to war with Italy. I cite that recollection to suggest to the Committee something of the muddle-headedness with which the signatures of millions of people who signed that declaration were obtained, without realising to what they were committing themselves. I would ask hon. Members whether they are satisfied that they would get an equally overwhelming majority now if they had another Peace Ballot in favour of automatic obligations—with the personal and unpleasant consequences of an affirmative signature—which have been ruthlessly brought home to a disillusioned people. When the Emperor of Abyssinia was here, the object of universal sympathy, a most distressing and sad figure, I do not believe that more than a tithe of the signatories to that Peace Ballot would have joined any army to restore him to his dominion. Speaking for myself and for other hon. Members, the pledge which was given by the Prime Minister at the last election which was most warmly applauded was the undertaking not 10 lead this country into war.
The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) made an interesting contribution to the Debate, and he made a confession which I hope will not be lost sight of, that it was impossible to envisage economic sanctions which did not run the risk of war. That is a very different attitude from that which his party took up at the last election. When we challenged Independent Liberal opponents that this was the dilemma—are you prepared to run the risk of fighting Italy, and if so why do you oppose our proposed rearmament programme?—they had a satisfactory answer that war would not arise. The hon. Member said that it would be a good thing if His Majesty's Government would say, in regard to Czechoslovakia, that if Germany or any other aggressor attacked her the whole strength of the British Empire 276 would be banded together to protect Czechoslovakia if she was invaded. Why the Czechs alone? Where is this universal automatic obligation to police the world going to stop?
I believe that the speech of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, and still more the speech he made at Leamington, which I whole-heartedly approve, mirrored the policy which is acceptable to the great mass of the British people, which believes that we should limit our obligations. Under the Covenant of the League of Nations, to which we are pledged at the moment, we have certain universal peaceful obligations to use our best endeavours to bring about conciliation, but our only automatic military obligations are to protect our own Dominions and the territories of France and Belgium, which, for over three centuries, have been indistinguishable from our own from the point of view of national security.
I hope I may be allowed to put in a brief plea on the general subject of sanctions. I have never found any escape from this difficulty, and if my right hon. Friend could give me some escape I would be deeply grateful to him. I have always been opposed to military sanctions, and I am almost equally strongly opposed to economic sanctions, for the reason that if they are employed against a powerful enemy, and are successful or show any risk of being successful, that enemy will take military action to get out of what would otherwise be an inescapable difficulty, and if economic sanctions are not going to be successful they will merely act as pinpricks and, without adding anything to the pacification of the world, will exacerbate the feelings of the nations.
My hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell) inaugurated this Debate. I hope I may be allowed to call him by hon. Friend, despite the etiquette of this House, because I once fought against him in a General Election. I think it is to the advantage of this House and the country that I was unsuccessful. I am always glad to hear the hon. Member's speeches, which are inspired by a clear head and a warm heart, not always frequent occurrences on the benches of the House of Commons. I join with the hon. Member in deploring the arms expenditure of every Government in the world, and I very much wish that this 277 gigantic sum could be devoted to the instruments of peace; but I am wholeheartedly behind the Government in the absolute necessity of a rearmament programme at the present time.
I would like to put one question to the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton, who spoke on behalf of his party. Are hon. Members in his party definitely in favour of this programme or not, in the light of present circumstances? They have so long tried to shelter behind a series of quibbles that people who are anxious to discover the truth have not the remotest idea. Their votes and their speeches are frequently completely at variance. I believe there used to he in the dim ages a tradition in the House that if a Member spoke one way and voted the other, his speech counted. I think it would be an excellent thing if the same principle could be revived for the benefit of the Liberal party, who would find that their historical position would not suffer from that clarification of their actions.
To return to the remarks of the hon. Member for Gower, his speech was a moderate one, and I join with him in hoping that His Majesty's Government will make an emphatic declaration to the German Government, not at Geneva, but through the ordinary diplomatic channels, to the effect that there is "nothing doing" on the colonial question. I do not intend to go into the different arguments in this matter, but there were more Germans in Paris before the War than in the whole of the German Empire. If Germany had the complete trade of Tanganyika, which she would not be allowed to have under the Mandate, it would represent only one-half of one per cent. of all the raw materials and two per cent of the total trade—
§ Mr. G. Griffiths
I would like the hon. Member to clear up one point. Did he say that there were more Germans in Paris before the War than there were in the whole of Germany?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I should have said that there were more Germans in Paris than in the German overseas Empire. I am grateful to the hon. Member for calling my attention to that slip. The hon. Member for Gower sketched a brief outline of the conditions in Spain, and I hope the Committee will forgive me if I close my speech by making one or two 278 references to that turbulent country. The hon. Member for Gower avoided the note of controversy in what was indeed a wise and statesmanlike speech, but many people who hold the same political views as he does are not so restrained as he was when they are making speeches in the country. Foreign commentators do not altogether realise the relative importance of different people who make speeches in England on foreign affairs. I think it is important that something should be said to express the other point of view, perhaps couched in terms of some political bitterness, as an offset, not to what the hon. Member for Gower said, but to what some less instructed colleagues of his have said in the country.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
One cancels out the other. The hon. Member for Gower, when speaking in Edinburgh on this subject a few months ago, said:If you are in favour of intervention in this Spanish situation, you must be prepared for war and must take the responsibility for it.I very much hope that when the hon. Member goes round instructing his own followers, he will repeat that very sensible observation. The policy of his party is based on a number of assumptions with which I would like to deal. They say that the Government should have been ready to weigh the scales in favour of the legitimate Government of Spain because it is a constitutional Government. I am not sure on what they base that argument. Is it on the ex parte statements of such men as Sir Peter Chalmers Mitchell who, having done their very best to minimise the importance of the national flag and having tried to diminish the strength of the national Fleet, find the first vital for protection against air raids, and the second, a useful avenue of escape from Spain? Or is it on the actual facts of the election? If they base their argument on the election, let me deal with it. An election was held in 1936: 47 per cent. of the Spanish people voted for the "Left" and 49 per cent. voted for the "Right." Those hon. Members who, like the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton, are bewailing the absence of proportional representation, will be able to understand something of the anger of General Franco now.
§ Mr. McGovern
Will the hon. Member tell us the number of people over 21 years in Spain who have no vote?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I do not know the number, but it seems to me to be irrelevant to the present argument. The Government have had plenty of opportunities of altering the franchise, and have not done so. Before dealing with the situation that developed after 1936, I would like to deal with the revolution that took place in 1934. At that time, two years before the General Election, there was a legitimate and equally constitutional Government of the "Right." There was a bloody revolt, and the streets of Oviedo swam with blood as they do to-day. At least 4,000 people were killed. Hon. Members opposite did not at that time display the least distress that the constitutional Government of Spain was being attacked by rebels, and I am forced to believe that their opposition is limited to attacks by the forces of the "Right" on the so-called legitimate Government.
§ Mr. T. Williams
Without agreeing with either of the revolutions, will the hon. Member also refer to the revolution caused by monarchists and militarists in 1932, when the first Republican Government was in power?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
That was suppressed, with the approval of the hon. Member, and I am not aware that anybody on this side of the House applauded the action of the monarchists in that revolution. I certainly did not defend them, and I do not see why I should apologise for them now. Having given the figures of the 1936 election, may I proceed with my argument? One would have thought that, as the forces of the "Left" were elected by that very meagre vote of 47 per cent. of the whole, they would have gone very carefully about their business and governed the country in a moderate way, paying some respect to the opinion of the majority which had actually voted against them. I have no doubt that the Spanish Government meant to do that; it is perfectly conceivable that that was their intention. Their broadcasts, to which I have listened, in common with others, may well have been—
§ Mr. Silverman
On a point of Order. How far have the rights and wrongs of 280 the various Governments in Spain in the early 30's anything to do with the subject now before the Committee?
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I do not doubt that the Spanish Government intended to do that, but what happened, as everybody knows, is that power was taken out of their hands and passed almost immediately into the hands of extremists, the main body of which had as its watchword "extermination." Then those of us who are loyal Christians and who believe in progressive development and social reform, and not in wild Communism, saw those people holding our point of view gradually and ruthlessly liquidated in Spain. Then Senor Sotelo, who made speeches in the Cortes giving the names of people who had been murdered and the list of churches which had been destroyed, was howled down by the opposition party, and, unlike what happens in this country, instead of being answered like the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) would answer a Member in this House, he was murdered outside the Parliament House. When he was murdered no action was taken to find or arrest his murderers, and what was true of this leader was true of a great many other people who were respectable people of the Right in Spain before the Revolution. I would earnestly ask my hon. Friend who, I know, is a fair-minded person—
§ Mr. Grenfell
Is the hon. Member going to exhaust the catalogue of crimes on both sides in this unhappy conflict? If he does not know, perhaps it will interest him to learn that 5,000 people were murdered in Valladolid because they were workmen and members of trade unions.
§ Mr. Lennox-Boyd
I do not palliate the murders on either side, and both sides have a great deal to answer for on the final judgment day, but while the people who murdered citizens of the Left were brought to trial and punished, those who murdered citizens of the Right were not, because the Government were not powerful enough to do it. I would like to refer my hon. Friend to a letter in the "Times" to-day from the Bishop of Gibraltar, who says that after visiting Spain each year for four years he had 281 seen a progressive deterioration in the organs of government and hadwitnessed the burning of the historic church of Niebla in April, 1936, one of several hundreds of buildings wantonly destroyed under the eyes of authority.Certainly the stories of the intellectual clerics of the Left do not give the whole picture.
The second argument used by hon. Gentlemen opposite is that the policy of non-intervention which the Government has so successfully followed has helped General Franco. I would like to refer to what the right hon. Gentleman said a few weeks ago, when he stated that Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Russia were the main producers of armaments, but that Great Britain has no armaments surplus of home requirements, and that, being democracies, Great Britain and France would have to allow equal sales to both sides. Germany, Italy and Russia would be tree to go to the sides they preferred, but Germany and Italy, being closer to Spain, would have been able to give more, and so the Government of Valencia might, in fact, have suffered more if the policy of non-intervention had been dropped. Hon. Members on the other side of the Committee also say that the scales had been weighted by Italy and Germany, but they make no reference to the incredible activities of the Russian Ambassador to Madrid in the course of the last few months, or to the elaborate preparations made in Russia for this particular trouble. If my hon. Friend is inclined to doubt what I am going to say, I would refer him to a book published in Paris in 1933 and written by the present Foreign Secretary of France, who says that when he was in Moscow,I saw a room specially consecrated to the future Spanish Communist Revolution, with its newspapers, the Red Flag, La Paldera, etc., its portraits of Castilian Bolsheviks, its scenes of strikes and tumults. From which it appears that the Soviet count that its first successful contagion will be among our friends south of the Pyrenees.I will send my hon. Friend a copy of that book, which I earnestly commend to his attention. Finally, we are told that it is to our interest to stop General Franco from winning. For the life of me I cannot see why. It must not be assumed that if General Franco wins Spain will be antagonistic to us. A great many strong 282 States have been built up in the past, but the strength of Britain has been greater than theirs. This will not be a new Fascist State and this is not, as is said by the enemies of General Franco, a Fascist revolution at all. My hon. Friends say that we should intervene. I have a great respect for the military records of a number of Members on the other side. The Leader of the Labour party and the hon. Member for Kingswinford (Mr. A. Henderson) need not hesitate to be proud of what they have done for the defence of our common heritage, but I would like to ask them whether they are satisfied that we should really, intervene without the aid of our Dominions, and whether they have made up their minds whether our Dominions agree with them. Mr. Menzies, the Attorney-General in Australia, made a speech a few months ago to Members of the House. He cut through all the constitutional talk that has been going on, and said of Australia's attitude to a war in which we were engaged—these are not his actual words:Of course, we should be in it, because if the King of England is at war all the King's subjects are at war too.Is it not, therefore, only common sense as well as an act of loyalty to our Empire to act in a united fashion if we are to take action likely to lead to war? If the hon. Member has information to the other effect it would very much surprise me. Hon. Gentlemen on the other side have not always held the point of view that they seem to hold now, judging from some of the remarks made by them at their party conferences and in the country. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Labour party, when speaking last September in Cornwall, said:There were those whose impulse was to say we must rush to help our Spanish comrades, but on these matters they must consult their heads as well as their hearts.At Edinburgh he said:It was all very well to say that they must insist on international law being carried out, but how were they going to insist? The danger of European war could not lightly be brushed aside.The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood), after saying that it almost broke his heart, indulged in this picturesque sentence:Is this conference prepared to have a battle between democracy and dictatorship over the bleeding body of Spain?283 Well might the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton), in an article on the labour attitude which he wrote recently in the Press, refer to their plea for the abolition of non-intervention and say that it was nonsense to cry "Away with non-intervention," and then to crab recruiting at home. Whatever was defensible, he said, this blend of sentiment was not. The coup de grace was applied by the leader of the Labour party on the County Council when he said in explanation of these changes of view:Our party is passing through an intellectual crisis.When we reflect that they took up a different attitude at Edinburgh until two Socialist speakers from Spain had made eloquent speeches, I think that the country will be glad that men who are ruled by their hearts and not by their heads are not in control of our destinies to-day.
§ 8.53 P.m.
§ Mr. McGovern
I have been very interested in the various points of view that have been put across the Floor of the House to-day. I felt amazed when I listened to the speech of the Foreign Secretary, because there was no clear indication as to the road this country was travelling other than that we were arming to the teeth in order to prepare for all eventualities and to take on any aggressor that may be in the field. I listened to the right hon. Gentleman's speech very carefully, and I have listened to him time and again, and I always feel that there is something which he holds in the background that he is afraid to disclose to the House as to the real aims and objects of his policy in relation to the foreign situation. In relation to the Spanish situation, he and the Government have proved themselves the friends of General Franco and have shown that the policy of non-intervention is a fallacy. There never has been a policy of nonintervention. There has been such a policy so far as the Spanish Government are concerned, which has assisted Franco and the bestial hordes of Fascists that have been pouring from Italy and Germany with their machine guns and aeroplanes into that unhappy country to deal death and destruction.
I want to ask the Foreign Secretary whether if, for example, Australia had 284 been invaded by a foreign Power in the way that Spain has been invaded, he would have stood aside and said that a policy of non-intervention was the policy that ought to be pursued, and would have allowed forces to be poured in that part of the world? In relation to the struggle in Spain, have the Spanish Government no rights? They have been assailed by the forces of Franco, Mussolini and Hitler. We all realise that if it were a war between the Spanish Government and the people of Spain who had attacked them under Franco that the war would not have lasted one week. Had it not been for the fact that Moors, Legionaries, Italians and Germans were poured into that country, the war would have been over long ago, and Europe could have settled down to a policy of contentment with a Government able to bring security, progress and reforms in Spain.
I am not urging that our Government ought to go to war with Franco; I am saying that the Spanish Government were entitled to enter the market to buy arms with which to arm the population to repel the invaders—the Moors, the Legionaries, the Italians and Germans and those sections of the landed nobility and officer class who broke their pledges to the Spanish Government on 19th July. All I claim is that they were justly entitled to expect that this Government, which had sat with them at the League of Nations, and which boasts of being proud to share in the troubles of other countries, should have allowed them to come to this country for arms with which to defend themselves against those who began this civil war.
We are told from time to time that this is a war between Communist forces and those who are backing Christianity. Is Mussolini one of the Christian forces? In a pamphlet, called "Man and God," Mussolini wrote:God does not exist; religion is scientifically absurd, an absurdity; in practice it is an immorality. It is a disease of the mind among men.That is the man who is helping to restore Christianity in Spain. And listen to what his assistant said on the wireless:Butcher the Marxists as you would butcher pigs.Those are the Christians who have invaded that country and whom the right 285 hon. Gentleman opposite has been assisting from the beginning of this civil war in Spain. I claim that our Government cannot say "We must stand aside" and then, if Franco should be successful and join forces with Hitler and Mussolini in order to form a triple alliance to oppose the interests of this country, appeal to our working classes to help to beat back the bestial hordes of Hitler, Mussolini and Franco. If Fascism and dictatorship on the Continent had to be defeated, the way to defeat them was to give the Spanish people the opportunity to defend themselves against this dictatorship.
People talk with their tongues in their cheeks when they say that the Government of Spain was a communist government which was preparing for revolution and that Franco and his officers had stolen a march on it and prevented that revolution from taking place. Everyone who has inquired into the situation knows that the revolutions in that country have always come from the working class, who have been ground in the depths of poverty and despair not only by feudal landlords, not only by the agents of the aspiring capitalists, small as they were in numbers, but by the very Church itself, steeped in greedy, selfish soulless materialism. The Church used the pulpit for political purposes, to repress the aims and aspirations of the working classes, and called for days of prayer prior to a general election in order to assist the forces of the Right and to prevent the Left from winning through. Do not let us have any more hypocrisy such as we had from the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) about the great struggle which is taking place in Spain, how the Right have always acted nobly and the Left always behaved monstrously.
The workers of Spain have been cruelly maltreated, as scarcely any other peasants or working class in the world have been maltreated. They have been ground down into poverty and tears, but even in their hour of agony they, have struck out against the combined forces of reaction in Spain, and they ought to have been encouraged by the Governments of the world which pretend to be democratic and say they are interested in preserving democracy. We talk about men like Hitler and Mussolini restoring Christianity in Spain, but they are not Christian in their outlook at all. There is always this difference 286 between the capitalist atheist and the Communist atheist, that the Communist atheist is always used to feather the economic nests of the ruling class and to keep the working class in subjection. These people in Spain have been denied munitions. They have gone out with their bare bodies in order to beat back the forces of reaction, and their children have been bombed and terrorised, and our Government, which pretends to be the saviour of humanity, has stood aside and allowed this to go on without giving the legitimate Government of Spain and the people of Spain the opportunity to defend themselves.
I also say frankly that in relation to the Spanish problem the whole working class movement has failed, and failed in a most horrible and crude manner. The leaders of it have been afraid of this nightmare, or this ghost or religious bogy which has been thrown up. They have been afraid to face up to the Roman Catholic-hierarchy in this country. Every man who has a Roman Catholic population in his division has succumbed to that overwhelming power, that electoral force in his division, and failed to stand up for that which he believes to be right. [HON. MEMBERS: "That is not so."] I did not say all had done so, but I said that was the position in the main, and I can prove it if seriously challenged. I say it is the duty of a working class movement to defend the workers of every country when they are attacked by the ruling class, and if there is a reactionary element it is their duty even to swim against the tide for a period and instruct the people as to the road along which they ought to travel in repelling this insidious monster. We ought to have been able to demand from this Government action on behalf of the Spanish working class. How can we pretend to be the friends of democracy and the friends of the working class, in all parts of the world if we stand aside-and allow this mass murder to go on without seeing that the Spanish people have proper means of defending themselves in their own country?
I have never called for war. I have never called for this country to go to war. If this were a working class Government I should expect them to assist the Spanish people; but I will never ask a capitalist Government to go to war to assist the working class, because I know such a thing would be an anomaly that 287 would never come about. Pretending to be the friends of democracy, the Government ought to have said to the legitimate Spanish Government: "You are attacked by officers who broke their word, who broke their oath to the State, you have been attacked by a section of the people in Spain, and we will give you, according to international law, arms with which to defend yourselves and to beat back this monster that is in your midst." Germany and Italy may march on to triumph in Spain, although I cannot see them doing so. When I was in Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia and elsewhere, I saw man-power that amazed me, imbued with grim, dogged determination that they were never going back to the poverty from which they were emerging. Having been given the power to defend themselves, they were determined to die rather than go back to that poverty. We should remember that, when assessing the man-power of that country.
Everywhere that Franco has moved forward, the male population has moved backward, and although the Spanish Government control only about a half of the territory of Spain, they have almost two-thirds of the man-power of that country. In Madrid I met scores of young men who had crept over the hills every night for two and three quarter miles, burrowing on their stomachs, to get into the forces of the Spanish Government and to fight Franco's forces. One young man's brother was starved to death by the Moors because when he was going to be shot he cried: "Long live the International proletariat." He was set aside for special treatment. In front of his mother and this young boy of 18, II of them were shot but he was set aside. Then the Moors were set upon him, and in front of the mother and brother he was hacked to death because he wore a trade union badge. These beasts of the jungle who are controlling this territory speak in the name of Christianity. Christianity has never been prostituted to such depths as it is in Spain, in the Catholic Press of this country and by the bishops and clergymen of that territory. Fancy Moors coming out and having sacred badges placed upon their rifles by the bishops before they went into action. If that be religion, the sooner the world is cleansed of it the better. I believe that religion 288 can be high and idealistic, and that it can be an inspiring thing in the lives of men, women and children, if it is used to the best advantage, but when it becomes a sordid, soul-destroying thing allied to the economic machine for the suppression of the ideals of man, it is deadly.
The Foreign Secretary may take no notice of my words here, but I would say to him with all the power at my command: "Remember that time is moving fast in this country, and that even in a year, or two years at the most, Fascism may be knocking at your doors here." You cannot distinguish between Franco, Hitler and Mussolini, because they are a triple alliance. Franco is in the pockets of the others. He is being financed, and man-power is being supplied to him. The army is holding a complete stranglehold over Franco and his forces. Franco may win, and if you have to meet them all within two years do not come to the working class of this country and say: "We are fighting the battle of Democracy. We are fighting against dictatorship," after you have denied to the working class of Spain the right to defend themselves. They are going down in a bloody struggle in that country. After close scrutiny, I say that Spain is the nearest approach that I have ever seen to a miracle. I saw how men have welded together a machine of a military character, imperfect as it may be, out of nothing. They have created it since 19th July. I say: "All honour to the Spanish working class," who are struggling to-night. If I cannot be depended upon to defend them in their hour of trial, I could not be depended upon to do the same for the British working class if their hour of trial should come.
I make no bones about it. I am with them in their struggle against Franco. If the Government will not assist them in the military fashion they ought to have allowed those weapons to go, while weapons have been pouring in from Hitler and Mussolini. The Foreign Secretary seems to be turning a blind eye to that situation. He seems to have one eye open against the Spanish Government and the other eye closed, so far as Franco, Hitler and Mussolini are concerned. As to whether this country is moving towards war, I content myself by saying that we are marching remorselessly towards war. War will take place. I am confident that 289 the forces of Italy and Germany are marching towards the abyss. They are in danger of destruction in their own countries, and they will go to war in order to seek to build up their Empires.
I should have liked to have made a reply to the hon. Member upon the Labour benches who put across a policy which I was astounded to hear. He advocated the return of colonies to Germany. This country is not all that I would wish it to be, nor is the rule of this country, but I will never be a party to handing over any man into the hands of the German Hitler or Mussolini. I will never willingly say to them: "You must go to the dictator." Do you think I want to hand over Palestine to Hitler or to put any of the African States into the arms of Hitler? Hand over the colonies to Hitler, and they will make him more aggressive. It will put the people of Germany more behind him. They will say, "We must back this policy of aggression. Hitler has laid it down that colonies must be returned, and the others, hearing him, have surrendered the colonies to him." I stand, as a Socialist, for every colony belonging to the people themselves. It is the policy of Socialism that the people should rule themselves, but, not having a government or a people in favour of that policy just now, I say that rather than hand over the colonies to Germany I would rather see them under the -Mandate as they are at the present moment. I have no time for any argument of that kind being used in this House.
With regard to the League of Nations, I am willing to say that it is a fine conception of an effort of settling disputes and of arranging things throughout the world. It is a splendid ideal to struggle for, but let us be practical men and women in a country in which we are asked to give some contribution as to what ought to be done. The Peace Ballot has been argued about to-night. I had some of the people at my door. I saw them going round, and the essence of the thing that was put to the people was: "Are you in favour of peace?" Everybody says he is in favour of peace, and the Tory, the Liberal, the Nationalist, the Socialist, and the Communist could sign such a declaration, as subscribing to peace. At public meetings people said to me: "There is no need for war. 290 Economic sanctions are sufficient." I said, "Let us take this a little further. As a gamble, are you prepared to argue that economic sanctions may not be successful and that we may require to go to war? Are you prepared to back war?" I always found them invariably to say, "We will deal with that situation when it arises." I want to deal with it now.
If I am to demand the application of sanctions in a so-called collective way by a few nations, I want to know what is the next step. I do not want to advance one step and discover that a fatal mistake has been made; I want to think out my policy to its logical conclusion. Sanctions under a League of Nations are a splendid ideal, but I say that there never was and never will be a League of Nations so long as capitalism exists, because the nations are split up into different camps with different economic conceptions and different economic interests. Germany was not in the League; America was not in the League; Italy was not in the League; Japan was not in the League; who was in? Holland, Switzerland and a few States that mean nothing in a military sense. Let us get down to brass tacks. Had war taken place, France and Britain were the two countries that would have been required to bear the brunt of the whole situation. If hon. Members wish to argue along those lines, they are entitled to do so, but let us have honest discussion, let us have the ultimate aim in view, and let us have the steps thought out beforehand. I would put this question to hon. Members, independently of political parties: If war had taken place over Abyssinia, and France and Britain and even Russia had joined in the struggle, and if Japan and Italy and Germany had resisted, seeing opportunities of colonising and taking territory, would not that have been a first-class war? Am I to go down to people in Glasgow or in the country and say, "We have got to fight for Manchuria; we have got to fight in the Chaco war; we have got to fight because the Rhineland has been invaded; we have got to fight for Abyssinia; we have got to fight in every quarter"? My reply is, "No." I measure these things in terms of myself. I have a boy of 21, and I am not prepared to encourage him to go and fight for Abyssinia, or China, or the Rhineland, or any other part of the world.
291 If hon. Members are willing to do that, let us be sure that they know what they mean. Do they mean that they are prepared to join the Army? There are plenty of people in this House who talk glibly of sanctions and going to war in a collective sense. Will they join the Army? If they are going to join the Army, let them get on to the recruiting platform. I agree with the hon. Member who said that the basis of collective security must be individual armament, because there can be no collective security unless you have powerful armaments to resist if it comes to war. Why shirk the issue? Why not say, "We will go on encouraging, devising, building, stimulating collective security, but we will provide the gunboats, the bombing planes, the chasing planes, the destroyers, the submarines; we will provide the gas; we will provide all the modern means of war"? That to my mind, is the conclusion. If I believe in collective security, I believe in individual rearmament of the States that are going to supply the collective security against Hitler, against Mussolini, against Japan if necessary. In order to beat any combination that may be displayed in a war, you have to have armaments to deal with it. We are marching towards that abyss to-day.
The Government of this country are not facing the situation in a realistic manner. Germany and Italy are arming; the contradictions of capitalism are there; the rival imperialist interests are there; and we have no policy of a working-class kind in this country to oppose them. We could rouse this country at the present moment if the Labour party, united with every section of working-class progressive thought, could go to the country and say, "War is the outcome of the rivalries of capitalism, and we have to return a working-class Government here that will use the opportunity to establish, not democracy in its Tory sense, but democracy in its Socialist sense." In that way we could return a Government that would change the face of history, and, instead of marching to death and destruction, as we are to-day, we could march forward to peace, progress and prosperity. You may try from without to crush those countries and to repel them, but in the end salvation can only come from within the country. The German working class, the 292 Italian working class, can overthrow the rulers when they are determined to do so. After hearing the words on Spain that roused me to proceed along these channels, I say that I look to the future with hope and courage and determination. A working-class Spain, a working-class France, a working-class Britain is the solution of the problem, and not capitalist government with its rearmament policy.
§ 9.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
I felt sure that, before the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) had finished his speech, he would make an appeal for the United Front, and would offer his accustomed blandishments to the Labour party to join in that concentration. He has told us repeatedly, and with great sincerity I am sure, that we are marching to war. If that be so, surely there never was a better or more powerful justification for the policy which the Government are now pursuing of keeping out of trouble and rearming our forces so that we may properly defend our shores. The hon. Member's speech, and especially the first part of it, surely shows the danger that would have come upon us had we followed his advice and intervened in the Spanish dispute. He painted a dreadful picture of conditions in Spain, and the atrocities of the anti-Government forces. But I have heard the same kind of impassioned attack upon the Spanish Government by an emissary of Franco. The truth is that here in this country we cannot possibly take sides in that conflict, even on the evidence of a Member of the House of Commons; the only conclusion is that we had better remain out of it. The hon. Member urged that the Spanish Government should have had the right to enter the arms market. The question has been put before, and I repeat it again to the hon. Member now: Would he give the same right of entry into the arms market to Hitler if he were attacked by some subversive movement, or to Mussolini if his Government were being undermined? If that indeed be the hon. Member's argument, he is throwing himself open to the charge of arming by this country of the very men whom he would oppose—Fascist rulers in all parts of the world.
§ Mr. Gallacher
May I ask the hon. Member to consider the reverse question? 293 Would this Government refuse arms to Hitler if there were a rising in his country?
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
The hon. Member need not put that question; I was answering an argument of the hon. Member for Shettleston, and was putting to him a reasonable reply.
§ Mr. McGovern
Is it not a peculiar thing that this Government, while preventing the Spanish Government from getting arms, have allowed arms to go to Franco?
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
I can only accept the assurances that have been given by the spokesmen of the Government. Those assurances, which have been repeatedly given to the House, are that we have put on the fullest embargo against the export of arms to those forces. We are sending no arms to either side. In another part of his speech the hon. Gentleman urged that this Government should enter with its forces into any part of the world where the working classes are being attacked?
§ Mr. McGovern
I do not want to be misrepresented. I have never suggested that we should send forces. I would never encourage this country to go to war with Franco, but I claim that the Government of Spain, as a legitimate Government, should have access to the armaments market.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
I took down the hon. Member's words. He said that our duty was to go to the defence of the working classes, in whatever part of the world.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
I understand. His case was that this country should go to the defence of a particular section.
§ Mr. McGovern
No, no. Do not misrepresent me. I said that I as a Socialist, and the entire Socialist movement of this country, should be expected to aid working-class people in distress in any part of the world. I do not mean a Government. I mean a working-class movement as distinct from a Government.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon. He meant that had there been a Labour Government in office 294 he would have expected it to take an active part.
§ Mr. McGovern
I must keep the hon. Member right. Had there been a Labour Government in this country I would have expected it to have given the necessary arms to Spain, so that the Spanish Government might have defended itself.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
I am glad the hon. Member now confirms what I am saying. He said that in certain circumstances—the circumstances being that there was a strong left wing Government in this country—he would have had Great Britain intervene by the sending of arms. My own contention has always been, and it is confirmed by reports that I have received from Spain, that had we done as he asks, and opened our markets to the Government side, that would have involved also the supply of arms by the fascist powers to the other side, and the net result would have been that the Government which the hon. Member so eloquently supports would have suffered, because in fact more arms would have gone to the insurgents and that ultimately might have led to European war.
The House at the end of this long Debate has to make up its mind not only what is right for this country but, equally important, what the citizens of this country will regard as being right. I was looking the other night at some of the speeches made by leaders in this House in the years just before the last War. I remember a speech by Mr. Asquith, in which he replied to certain suggestions that this country should arm on a large scale in order to intervene here and there for the preservation of world peace. He said that that would have involved great armaments, that our country might have been able to meet the cost; but he turned it down then, as the Government turn it down to-day, on the ground—and it is vitally important to a democratic country —that the people would never have stood for that kind of armament.
My contention is that the people of this country would not to-day stand for the policy contemplated by the Opposition, and expressed in the words of the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams). The hon. Member said that his party is not anxious to go to war. Nobody has suggested that the hon. Member is a bellicose individual. Our 295 criticism is that the policy of the Labour party by sheer stupidity would have led us into war. I am not an authority on foreign affairs, but I think I am expressing the point of view of the ordinary man —the farmer, fisherman and miner whom I am sent here to represent—when I say that in the view of the ordinary Scotsman, Englishman or Irishman there are three main principles to be observed in the foreign policy of this country at the present time. The first of these principles is that our country must constantly aim at peace. Aggrandisement, desire to extend our authority, our ownership, our possessions—all that must be set aside.
That should be the first principle of British foreign policy to-day, seeking after peace. The second is that while our country should play its proper part in leadership, in great world issues, while it should strive to extend understanding among the peoples of the earth, while it should endeavour to encourage the growth of the rule of law, at the same time our country should to the utmost limits of honour keep out of other people's troubles. That I believe profoundly to be an important principle in the minds of the ordinary people of this country. Thirdly, I think this principle would be suggested by that ordinary citizen—that, in the interests of self-defence and international, prestige, we should resume at the earliest moment our historic role as the most powerfully armed nation in Europe. That is a statement that, as an 'ex-soldier who went through the last War, one makes with regret and despondency. There is almost hopelessness in the thought that we should have at this time to think again of armaments. But what other course is open to us?
I agree largely with the second part of the hon. Member's speech, in which he said that we must face this problem as practical men, and the practical problem to-day is that we are confronted, in a number of points in Europe, with potential aggressors armed as no nations have been armed before. We are faced also with the fact that collective security, magnificent ideal as it is, splendid objective to which we should work, is at present no longer a thing in which we can repose the safety of the realm. I wish it were not 296 so, but it is true. There is not a Member of this House who would place the safety of those who are dear to him in the hands of collective security alone at this time. Other steps must be taken, and they are that we should provide ourselves with adequate arms for our own defence. That is the policy which is now being pursued by the Government, and I am certain—in spite of all that is said from other parts of the House —is a policy which has the support of the vast majority of people in this land. If you ask the ordinary man in the street why the Abyssinian incident was a failure, he will tell you that had this country been as well armed then as it will be in a year or two years' time Mussolini would never have stepped from his own shores. That is the plain man's view which I put to the House. The plain man seeks peace. He seeks no interference in other affairs, but he asks for a solid, sure defence of his native land.
§ 9.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I should like to make a reference to the portentous manner in which the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) delivered himself of a mass of absurdities, inaccuracies and inconsistencies. I have not time to go into the various questions that he raised, except to say that in connection with Spain his facts are wrong, his atrocities are on the wrong side entirely and his suggestion that the insurgents are endeavouring to instal Christianity in Spain against the wishes of the Government will not hold water for five minutes. As has been pointed out, the insurgents are being aided by the Mohammedan Moors, and there is Mussolini, a notorious Atheist. The Nazi Bishop has re-written the Sermon on the Mount to bring it more into harmony with German militarism. [An HON. MEMBER: "What religion does Stalin profess?"] Stalin does not profess any religion other than Communism. He does not profess any religion. You do not find anyone who is supporting the working-class side in the Spanish trouble hoisting the religious banner. When you get the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire hoisting the religious banner in company with the pagan Hitler, the Atheist Mussolini and the Mohammedan Moors, it is a queer combination. You have to look, not to religion, but to something else for a common denominator.
297 In regard to sanctions, the hon. Member said that when they are successful the nation against which they are imposed will make war. Was there ever such an absurdity? The nation against which they are levelled is already at war and, if sanctions are successful, it means that they are making it impossible for the nation that is then at war to continue at war. The First Lord of the Admiralty, who, as Foreign Secretary, made such a good job of it that he had to be thrown out, said that our difficulty arose from the fact that a new situation had arisen in Europe. He said that if oil sanctions had been effectively applied, the war in Abyssinia would have been brought to a speedy termination, but he was afraid that Italy, driven desperate, would make war in Europe. When oil sanctions are applied it is impossible for Italy to continue the war in Abyssinia and so the war comes to a speedy termination. When it is impossible for Italy to continue the war in Abyssinia, Italy will start a new war in Europe. Are we children, that you come out with such nonsense? Even the Foreign Secretary hinted at that absurdity.
As things stand to-day, without another penny on armaments, the peace nations are more powerful than the aggressor nations. Everyone refers to Germany, Italy and Japan as being the aggressors. The strange deposit that has landed on these benches, the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger), is the only one I have heard who comes out representing the Nazi demand for colonies. All the other Members refer to Germany, Italy and Japan as being aggressive. You have aggressive nations in Europe and out of Europe, and you have nations which are not aggressive. It is true that there are peace nations in Europe, and that there are nations that are driving to war. Germany and Italy pile up armaments and the others pile up armaments. The Foreign Secretary, the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer all say, "Look at these great armaments in Europe. They are driving us steadily towards war on the Continent. We will pile up armaments, but while the armaments on the Continent are driving us towards war, the armaments that we will pile up will help us towards peace. Armaments over there are for war. 298 Armaments here are for peace." What sort of humbug is this? Those are for defending Socialism and these are defending Capitalism. We want to defend peace.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer put two questions to us. I remember debating once with an opponent who tried to work this trick off on me. He sat up all night and prepared a few trick questions. While he was talking and I was working out the line of my reply, he suddenly threw these trick questions in order to try to get my mind away from the line of argument. It is an old trick and a shabby one. It has often been played. Anyone who is preparing a line of argument for a discussion cannot allow himself to give his attention to questions directed in that manner, but when you sit back and look at them, what amazes me is the infantile vanity that could produce such questions. The answer is so simple. Are we for using British armaments for any object apart from those mentioned by the Foreign Secretary? No. Are we for using British armaments for the object mentioned by the Foreign Secretary? No. Are we for using British armaments for anything? No, because we know that as soon as they are used it is destruction for civilisation, according to the honest Prime Minister.
Therefore, instead of concerning our minds with how we are going to use armaments, our minds are concerned all the time with how we can unite the forces of peace and prevent armaments being used for anything. Get the peace nations together. Why does not the Foreign Secretary get a clear understanding with France, Soviet Russia, Czechoslovakia, and the other nations in the League for the building up of peace? Let us centre all our attention and energies on building up peace. But no, you pile up armaments and you throttle peace. We are for building up peace and throttling war and all those who stand for war. We want to reverse the process that is being carried through by the Government, and if we do not defeat you here to-night, out in the country we will raise the forces that will defeat you there. I challenge the Government to go to the country with this programme, and if they do, I will guarantee that they will never occupy those benches any more.
§ 9.47 P.m.
I would like to intervene for a moment in order to correct one or two impressions which the last speaker has given in regard to the conflict in Spain. I think I am the latest visitor to that part of the world, and I am afraid that, from the point of view of the Opposition, I visited the wrong side and came back with the wrong view. I realise that Spain is one of those countries to-day in regard to which it does not make the least difference what evidence is produced. Whatever the personal evidence that is produced as to facts, those who believe certain things will continue to believe them. Therefore, I will not weary the Committee with my own views, impressions or experiences, but we have one thing in common at any rate. We both desire one side to win. I desire General Franco to win, and equally passionately hon. Members opposite desire the Goveriment side to win. Where I differ from them is that while they at any rate advocate a policy which would mean intervention on the Government side, I have always felt that intervention by any country in Spain was unwise and foolish, and that intervention by this country would be criminal folly.
I quite appreciate some of the motives which animate hon. Members of the Opposition and that they think they are supporting and wish to support in Spain a constitutionally, legally, democratically elected Government. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am delighted to think that that is their motive, and I can produce, though I do not suppose it will have much influence on them, any amount of evidence to show that that Government is not constitutionally or legally elected. [Interruption.] It is quite clear that hon. Members are conscious that there is evidence to that effect. The President of the Republic at that time, President Zamorra, has made a public statement to the effect, and he himself now says that the election when it took place was entirely unconstitutional. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Well, that is the evidence of the President himself, though hon. Members may not accept that. There is another ground, and that is that hon. Members know, if they want to know, what happened during the five months when that Government was in office, from February to July. They know the number of buildings that were 300 burned and destroyed; they know that over 1,000 people were murdered; they know, and if they do not perhaps they will allow me to tell them, that a Conservative member of the Spanish Parliament, after denouncing the Opposition—a practice they indulged in every day—went to his home and in a few hours was publicly murdered by policemen in uniform, and no effort was made to find the murderers.
It is clear that these facts are unpalatable to hon. Members opposite, and the curious thing is that those hon. Members who are so opposed to Communists in this country always seize every opportunity of embracing them abroad. Apparently, as long as they keep at a distance, they do not mind them. Are hon. Members really content that any Government which would allow the state of affairs to continue in Spain which took place in the early months of last year does deserve the support or loyalty of the masses of the people it was supposed to govern? I quite realise that the opinions of hon. Members opposite are largely influenced by the fact that they are frightened—and perhaps there is some ground for that fear—that if and when General Franco wins—[HON. MEMBERS: "He never will."]—I at any rate am not bold enough to prophecy, but hon. Members opposite are. All I can say is that I confidently believe he will, but hon. Members opposite are afraid that if and when General Franco wins, German and Italian influence will dominate Spain—
I believe they largely exaggerate the danger from those quarters. [Interruption.] I am not a Nazi. I am as anti-Nazi as any hon. Member on those benches. One hon. Member from those benches gave a figure to-day of 90,000 Germans and Italians helping General Franco's side. It is no good saying that one does not believe that figure, but I am convinced that it is overwhelmingly exaggerated. The figure is nothing like that. [Interruption.] The hon. Member who interrupts gave evidence as to what he had seen on the Government side in Spain, and I allowed him to speak without interruption, and if I 301 say what I saw on General Franco's side, I am entitled to have as good eyesight as the hon. Member. I certainly saw Germans there. There is a good number of Germans there. All that I say is that the number has been grossly exaggerated. Furthermore, I wish to make this point: I confess that there are Germans on General Franco's side, and that they have given considerable assistance, but not a word do I hear of the French and Russians on the other side. [Interruption.]
I have plenty more that I can say, and I quite appreciate the interruptions, which show that it is high time that these facts were stated to the Opposition. I say that France and Russia, although having agreed to a policy of neutrality, have sent aeroplanes, men, guns, and ammunition, and then the Opposition hold up their hands in horror because some Germans and Italians are helping the other side.
Duchess of Atholl
Does the hon. and gallant Member mean that the French Government have sent aeroplanes and men to Spain?
That was the interruption that I hoped I should get from the Opposition. I have seen French aeroplanes which have been shot down on General Franco's side. Do hon. Members imagine that over 100 aeroplanes could leave France to help the Government side in Spain without the French Government knowing anything about it? I have no desire to bring that accusation against the French Government. Everybody who is prepared to face facts would not allow himself to be bamboozled by Bolshevists.
Everybody knows perfectly well that the French poured in munitions, aeroplanes and men. I do not deny that the Germans and Italians helped the other side, and it would spoil their case to deny it.
§ Mr. McGovern
On a point of Order. Is it proper for the hon. and gallant Member to make serious reflections upon the French Government by suggesting that they sent aeroplanes? They are our allies.
§ The Chairman
I have listened very carefully to the hon. and gallant Member, and I have not heard him say anything that reflects upon the French Government.
The hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) talked about the enthusiasm and ardour which he saw among those who were supporting and fighting for the so-called Government of Spain. I can also pay equal testimony to the other side as I have also seen hundreds and thousands of men showing equal ardour, enthusiasm and determination. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about the Moors?"] The Moors at the moment form a very small part of General Franco's forces. I have seen these hundreds and thousands of men on General Franco's side fired with just as much enthusiasm as anybody on the other side, and they are determined that never will they allow their country to be dominated by a Government that is intimidated, influenced and assisted by Communist countries. I apologise for the discontinuity of my remarks. Much has been said about these matters, and there are many things I should have liked to have said to-night, but at any rate we can hope that peace will soon come to this distracted country of Spain, and that in the future she will be allowed to govern both her country and her colonies, and that it will be the government of Spain by Spain without the intervention of foreign countries.
§ 9.59 P.m.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I believe that everybody in all quarters of the Committee will agree that we have had to-day a very opportune and valuable Debate. To my mind the great importance of the Debate, as has been agreed in different quarters, is the broad general policy with regard to disarmament and the preservation of peace which the Government have pursued. It is to that part of the subject that I desire to devote the greater part of what I want to say to-night. But I want by way of introduction to say a few words about what is after all the most urgent question in foreign affairs at the present time, namely, the situation in Spain. It would give me a great deal of pleasure to follow the hon. and gallant Member for Chippenham (Captain Cazalet), and I should like to discuss with him the murder of Calvo Sotelo, and to inquire whether he is aware of the 303 dastardly murder of a Republican officer by which the murder of Sotelo was preceded; whether it was not the fact that, after this officer had been given police protection for months, he demanded that it should be taken off, and within a few hours he was found murdered in the street with 40 bullets in his body; and whether the hon. Member is aware that it was this officer's men who on their own initiative went to the headquarters of Calvo Sotelo because they knew that it was his organisation which had committed the murder and they took reprisals. He said that nothing was done to these men. The Government put these policemen on trial for murder, and the procedure was going forward when General Franco's revolt began.
I do not want to follow the hon. and gallant Member into the constitutionality of the present Government. I suppose that he would tell us that the Government had not a majority of votes at the last election. Certain it is that the Government which conducted the election was a Government of the Right and that it was conducted on the basis of the Constitution, and that the Popular Front got within 20,000 votes of those which were cast by all the other parties together. Have we never had a Conservative Government in this country with a minority of votes, and would we for that reason have justified bloody revolution? Perhaps the hon. and gallant Gentleman has not inquired enough into the subject to know that supporting the Government to-day there are many parties who did not support the Popular Front at the last election.
I am fully aware of all these facts. Unlike hon. Members opposite, I wish to hear both sides, and I have ample evidence to answer every question. The only point was that the Government were responsible for finding those murderers and bringing them to trial.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
Which they were in process of doing, as they had done in nearly every other case when reprisals had been made for murders the Fascists had committed.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
Nobody knows. I believe that there were powerful organisations in Spain endeavouring to create disorder. I regret that fact, from whichever side the disorder may have come. I think that some of it was from the Left, but I do not think that that justified the action of the rebels who, instead of supporting their Government to maintain order and to obtain justice for themselves and their parties by constitutional means, threw their country into a terrible civil war. But I want to come to the main facts of the present situation, on which I want to say a few words. The principal fact is that at long last some system of control over the so-called non-intervention agreement is, we hope, about to be introduced. I do not want to say anything to disparage the work of the Foreign Secretary and his colleagues, but that system has taken seven months to obtain, although they assured us throughout that time that there was an urgent danger of international war and although the Government of Madrid very quickly accepted almost every proposal that was made to them. That is not a great credit to the methods of the old diplomacy that agreement has been finally secured. We on this side believe that better results would have been obtained if from the beginning we had treated the Spanish business as what it was, a case of international aggression, and had taken it before the League. In any case control is coming. I beg of the Foreign Secretary and of the Government to see that it is not, as the non-intervention agreements have been up to now, another sham. I beg of the Foreign Secretary not to fall into the error which I venture to think he has fallen into in the past, of doing what my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell) called turning a blind eye to the facts, or, as I should phrase it, allowing himself to believe too easily what he wants to believe.
Just before Christmas the Foreign Secretary made an eloquent speech, of great parts of which I very warmly approved. There was a passage in that speech about Lord Palmerston's policy in Spain in 1836, in which the right hon. Gentleman quoted the fact that the Spanish Ambassador had asked for the help of the British Government then, flattering himself that he was going to receive it, and that Lord Palmerston had refused. As was pointed out later by one 305 who is, perhaps, the greatest living authority on the history of that period, Professor Webster, Lord Palmerston, when the Spanish revolution developed, not only allowed Spain to buy arms in this country, but allowed 10,000 British subjects to enlist, suspending the Foreign Enlistment Act for that purpose. He sent from our own arsenals 250,000 rifles for the Government troops. He even considered placing a British general in charge of the Government forces and he did allow the British Navy to fight for the Government and to hold the ports of the country against the rebels. Why did he do it? Because, as Professor Webster explained, he thought it was to the British interest that constitutional Government should prevail in Western Europe, and he saw that the resistance of the Spanish rebels was being prolonged by the fact that they were being financed to the tune of £50,00 a month by the reactionary Powers. I quote this incident because I think it illustrates the danger that the Government may allow themselves, too easily, to believe what they want to believe. Someone had supplied the Foreign Secretary with some of the facts; and I wish I thought that this was the only occasion on which it had happened.
Let us look at this business of non-intervention and control from the point of view of the Government of Madrid. They say—it is not my view, but what they say—"We have already won this war twice. We won it against Franco's officers in the first fortnight. Then we had to start again because of the Moors whom Mussolini's aircraft brought to Spain. We won it against the Moors after fearful losses because, for several months, we were without arms. Now we are face to face with these tremendous forces of Germans and Italians and we haw still to win against the foreign invasion which is proceeding." How was this result brought about? They say, and I am bound to say that for my part I think they have a strong reason on their side, that on the one side we imposed the embargo, depriving the Government of rights which have always been recognised in international law, knowing all the time that the Fascists were not doing it on the other side, knowing that the Fascists only came in when they thought they had put in enough stuff to win, and that when they did come in they continued to violate the agreement on a large scale.
306 I do not believe that anybody thinks that Russia really violated that agreement on any considerable scale until the middle of October when she came to the Non-Intervention Committee and said she was going to observe it as the other Powers were doing. Those of us who said that our policy was wrong were always taunted with the fact that even the Russians themselves were not supplying arms. The same thing, alas, has happened about the volunteers. On 1st February I asked the Foreign Secretary whether, if he prohibited volunteers without a control there would not be a danger that there would be a one-sided observance of the prohibition and that the Fascists would rush in an enormous number of troops before control had been completed. The Foreign Secretary said, "The hon. Member's reflection has not escaped me," in a tone of voice which made me hope that while the right hon. Gentleman would not mind 5,000 or 10,000 Germans or Italians, 50,000 would be a different thing. Mr. Vernon Bartlett tells us that from a neutral source he has learned that Franco has 60,000 Italians and 30,000 Germans. I happen to know, though I cannot divulge the information which was given to me in confidence, what his source was, and I hope and believe that the Foreign Secretary knows it too.
§ Mr. Eden indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I believe it is serious information. But we do not require to rely upon him. We have the diplomatic correspondent of the "Times" writing on 17th February after the meeting of the Non-Intervention Committee of which he stated that the proceedings had deepened the impression that some of the principal Powers were deliberately playing out time in the hope that the issue of the war would meanwhile be decided in their favour by force of arms, and he went on to say:The inflow of Italians has been extremely rapid in the last eight weeks and it is not impossible that their total number has risen within that period from a figure below 10,000 to one within measurable distance of 50,000.
§ Sir A. Chamberlain
It is very material. My recollection is that the statement was made that there were 40,000 volunteers and 30,000 on the side of the Madrid Government.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
Mr. Vernon Bartlett, who has been on the Madrid side for some time, says that casualties have reduced their international brigade to 7,000. I do not wish to dwell on the matter any further but I think it is admitted that there are volunteers in considerable numbers on the Government side but those who are with the rebels are not volunteers; they are troops—Government troops—and I think it is also admitted that their number is in excess—and greatly in excess—of the number on the Government side, and that they have been going in in great numbers during the last few weeks. My purpose is to beg the Foreign Secretary to see that this control, if it is brought in, is made effective and impartial as between the two sides and that it is not another sham. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to recognise that our honour, as well as our interests are at stake, in seeing that this is done.
Now I admit that we should regard it as disastrous if Fascist aggression were to succeed in Spain, and that for two reasons. First, because we believe that it is a new technique of aggression and that one success leads to another. They began with Austria in 1934. The Foreign Secretary has suffered enormously from the intervention in Danzig. Then there was Palestine. He will be aware of the statement of Sir Ronald Storrs, who was Governor of Jerusalem and of Cyprus, and who said that he had not the least doubt that the Arabs who were making the trouble had the support of foreign Governments and that gold came from foreign countries into Palestine.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I do not care where intervention comes from; I want it stopped. I believe in real non-intervention.
308 The second reason why we deplore what has happened in Spain, the one-sided application of these agreements and the Government's policy of turning a blind eye to patent facts, is because that policy is undermining the law upon which the League of Nations is built. It is undermining the Covenant and the Kellogg Pact. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) said to-day: "Give us no more pacts. Let us apply the pacts we have." I agree, and every time we turn a blind eye to an aggression we destroy the value and restraining power of these pacts.
The Foreign Secretary talked about the prestige of the League of Nations. He begged us not to belittle what it had done. I do not think that we on this side are likely to do that. We say on every platform that the League of Nations is the only hope of the civilisation in which we live. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the League has done good work in recent times. The last 10 disputes which it has settled since 1931 have been worth settling, although they compare with a list of about 100 which were settled in the 10 years before.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
Certainly. Then the right hon. Gentleman went on to say that the two failures which there had been, Manchuria and Abyssinia, dominated the rest, and that people took no notice of the successes because of the failures there had been. He said, or he implied—I do not want to misrepresent him—that it was due to the fact that journalists liked discords and quarrels better than diplomatic successes. I apologise to the right hon. Gentleman if he did not mean that. I should have thought that that statement was rather ungenerous to the Press. I think the significance of the failures is deeper than that. In the first place, there have been four and not two failures, because we must add the war in the Gran Chaco and the war in Spain. The significance of those failures is this, that if you have a law at all you must uphold it, and if you do not uphold it it ceases to be a law. Without a law you cannot have 309 a League of Nations that is worth while. If you are going to uphold the law you must envisage the use of armed force. In our view the purpose of British armed forces is to uphold world law in order that we and the other nations may have peace. We regard that as overwhelmingly the predominant interest of our people, in comparison with which the defence of any given Colony or any other kind of diplomatic interest is of very secondary importance.
The Foreign Secretary asked us, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer asked us the other day, whether we are content with the Foreign Secretary's statement in the country about the Government's policy for the preservation of peace through collective security. We were asked whether we approved of it. I say without hesitation, and I believe that I am in agreement with my hon. Friends on this side, that we do not. I believe that it has almost every disadvantage that you can conceive. Take the famous case of Czechoslovakia. We are always asked whether the British working man would fight for Czechoslovakia. The Government by their plan want to escape the obligation of fighting for Czechoslovakia. As the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) pointed out, if we accepted that obligation, we should probably get a system in Europe under which an attack will never be made; but if we do not, are we going to escape?
Did the Foreign Secretary read a speech by M. Blum, in which he said that France would certainly fight for its allies and would uphold the Covenant if they were attacked? Any French Government would do the same. If France fights for Czechoslovakia, what shall we do? Are we staying out? The Foreign Secretary says that he is going to avoid the difficulties and dangers of 1914. But the danger in 1913 did not come from Belgium but from Serbia. The danger to-day is that something will start in the east and that France, under the alliance system, will be in the same position as in 1914. She cannot afford to allow Germany to win. Shall we fight? We shall have the same choice. Shall we go in or wait to fight another day?
§ Mr. Emrys-Evans
Will the hon. Member explain the attitude of his hon. Friends and himself on the question of 310 the Rhineland. Why did they not take a stronger line at the time?
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I am afraid I do not follow the hon. Member's question. The Government under the policy which the Foreign Secretary has outlined are definitely contemplating the possibility of using our armed forces in war. In the last War we won after immense losses and after we had made alliances, starting with Russia, then very soon bringing in Rumania and Greece, and most of Europe. Then we brought in a large part of Latin America, and then Japan and China. All of them made a contribution to the victory we secured. What is the alliance which the Foreign Secretary is proposing? He is proposing an alliance with France, Belgium, Holland, Egypt and Iraq. He is not facing the prospect that in such a war the Irish Free State may well be neutral, that South Africa may be neutral, and possibly Canada as well. And are the Government quite certain that the British people will fight for the oil wells of Iraq if Turkey goes in with Germany again? And do they really believe that they will win a war of major importance with an alliance such as that? We must come back to fundamentals and recognise that unless we restore the validity and binding force of international law, the Covenant and the Kellogg Pact, there is no hope for mankind.
On that point the policy of this party has always been perfectly clear. [Interruption.] If hon. Members will do us the kindness to read the written declarations adopted by our party conferences over a long period of time they will see that our policy is clear, whereas on many occasions the policy of the Conservative party has not been very clear and the Conservative party has been split from top to bottom. On the general question of pooled security, in our first manifesto on the subject issued in 1917, while the War was going on, we said that the peace of the world could not be secured unless the peace-loving nations were willing to pool their armed strength, and we have always desired that the armed strength of the peace-loving nations of the world should be pooled. We supported the principle laid down by the Phillimore Committee, which drew up the first draft of the Covenant, the draft which, in fact, the British Government put forward in 311 Paris when many Members of the present administration were present. The Phillimore Committee said:Article 2 contains the sanction we have proposed. We have desired to make it as weighty as possible. We have therefore made it unanimous and automatic, and one to which Bch State must contribute its force without waiting for the others.I admit that that was not what the Covenant ultimately said, although I believe that the Covenant contains a general though "imperfect" obligation to use military strength if it is required to uphold the Covenant against attack. But if the Government once accept, as they say they do, the principle of collective security, if they envisage even economic sanctions for the world at large or even for Europe, surely that principle of the Phillimore Committee is only common sense. If you have sanctions, make them as strong as you possibly can, and use all your power to make the combination which you will have, if aggression occurs, overwhelming against the aggressor. We believe that if only His Majesty's Government would accept that principle, and would go to Geneva in the near future and propose a great new policy founded on that principle, they could transform the world situation in a very short time.
I am afraid the Government have come to think of saving peace in terms of war, and some members of the Government, if one is to judge by speeches, are even thinking in terms rather of victory than of preventing war. We believe that if the Government accepted the principle that sanctions, if you have them, shall be strong—as strong as you can make them—then immediately they would get support for that principle, the fullest support, from France, from Russia, from the Little Entente, from Belgium and Holland, from the Scandinavian countries, from Finland, from the Republic of Spain—when it has won its present war—and I would add with some confidence, from Poland as well; in any case, they could make in Europe a combination which would be irresistible if a challenge came. I ask, as my hon. Friend the Member for Gower asked this afternoon, that the Government shall not drift on as they are doing now, with expanding armaments which none of them like. The Foreign Secretary has always said that an increase of armaments is not a policy. The 312 Chancellor of the Exchequer has told us that this programme will mean degrading the standard of living of our people for a generation. The Prime Minister, at the Guildhall, told us that the armaments expansion would increase the dangers of war, and he said that if war comes the whole of our civilisation will be wiped out.
In face of that situation, surely it is time to put forward some policy to stop this drift to war. It must be a big policy, because the situation is of great danger. There must be an economic policy, and for that when can you ever hope to have the United States and France in a better frame of mind than they are today? Make a beginning. Start real work. Organise the machinery of the League of Nations for a prolonged and intensive study, with the full power of the British Government behind it, to find out what can be done to better the international trade and economic conditions of the world. Disarmament—let us go to Geneva and say, not as in 1932 and 1933 what we will not accept, but what we will accept. Let us go back to the programme to which the Government were at last brought by public opinion, the programme of March, 1933, to see if that cannot be made the starting point. Above all, because it is the crux of everything, let us accept real collective security of the kind we discussed in 1933, which would not mean military sanctions only, but would mean control, the definition of aggression, the "preventive boycott," the organisation of civil aviation, and some kind of international air force.
If the Government will accept that programme we believe that they can get immense support throughout the world. Unfortunately, they do not accept it. Their policy, in spite of the speeches of the Foreign Secretary, is based on the statement of the Home Secretary, who said that he was not prepared to lose a single ship in the cause of Abyssinian independence in view of the greater dangers that there were near at home. That seems to us as perfect a repudiation as one can find of the principle of collective security. The issue then was not Abyssinian independence, but the upholding of the Covenant. If the League had triumphed we should have finished with Fascist aggression and we should not have had the great dangers that now press upon us.
313 Is the thing practicable? We believe that it could have been done over the Abyssinian question. I only quote in reply to speeches that have been made the words of Sir Ernie Chatfield, the First Sea Lord, in October last:If the British Fleet had been required to fight during the Italo-Abyssinian war, it could have brought that war to an end in a few months.Can it be done? Are the people ready for it? Will they have it? I venture, in answer to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain), who asked how many people would enlist on behalf of the League, to quote a personal experience. In July of last year there was a by-election in Derby, which was in the same week in which sanctions were taken off Italy. The Government candidate plastered the town of Derby with posters saying that sanctions meant war. I never shirked that issue. At one of my meetings where I had said I believed that military sanctions would be justified if they were required, a working man rose at the back of the hall and said, "I fought in the last War, and I have two sons. We will none of us fight in an Imperialist war of the old kind. We will all of us fight for the Covenant the day that we are asked to do so." The large meeting cheered that man to the echo. I believe that that is the feeling of this people and of the other nations of the world. If the Government propose a real policy founded on the sanctity of the new international law which we have accepted, it is not the peoples who will fail.
§ 10.34 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Viscount Cranborne)
The recent Debates we have had on international policy have all tended, perhaps inevitably, to take something of the same form. A portion of the time has been occupied with what we all admit is the immensely urgent, though rather limited, question of Spanish affairs, and the remainder of the time has been occupied by the other great questions of foreign policy. The present Debate and the speech of the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker), who wound up for the Opposition, have been no exception to that rule, though it is true that there has been, perhaps, rather less concentration to-night upon the affairs of Spain and rather more upon the general 314 situation. With regard to Spain, and the main question of whether non-intervention was right or wrong, I do not think I can usefully add to what has already been said by my right hon. Friend and by the Government in the past. We still believe that the policy which we adopted, the policy of nonintervention, originally initiated by the French Government, was right; we supported it wholeheartedly and we continue to do so. Our object was a simple one; we meant to prevent the trouble from spreading beyond the borders of Spain. We believe that object has been achieved, and we are confirmed in that belief by the agreement which has been reached during the last few days with regard to supervision.
That agreement is a source of the utmost satisfaction to the Government and, I believe, to the vast majority of the people in this country. I got the impression during the last Debate we had on this subject that hon. Members were sceptical that anything ever would be achieved, and honestly I do not blame them. The complications and difficulties and hitches seemed absolutely endless. But now an agreement has been achieved and the next thing is to operate it, and we have no reason to suppose that this agreement will not be properly operated. The hon. Member for Derby said he hoped the agreement would not be a sham, and hoped also, as I understood him, that my right hon. Friend would not let himself think what he wanted to think. I make the same appeal to the hon. Member. I assume from what he has said that he did not like non-intervention and that he thinks that it would have been right for us to intervene on the side of the Government of Spain.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I think we ought to have allowed the Spanish Government to go on buying arms until all Powers had effectually stopped the sale of them. To forbid the sale of arms ourselves while the Fascists were supplying them was, in fact, to intervene against the Government of Spain.
§ Viscount Cranborne
The view which the French Government and we took was that non-intervention was the truest form of impartiality. At any rate it is our view that the agreement is an earnest on the part of the nations that they want to 315 limit their intervention, and we should regret it—I hope we shall not have to regret it—if hon. Members opposite damned the agreement before it was given a chance. I can assure the hon. Member for Derby that we desire as much as he or anybody else that the supervision which forms part of the agreement should be effective and impartial, and whatever His Majesty's Government can do to that end they will do. For the measure of success which has been achieved thanks are due to all those nations who have sunk their individual views in a common compromise, and thanks are especially due, as my right hon. Friend said, to Lord Plymouth, who has had a most unenviable task on the Committee. We have often heard of the patience of Job, I honestly think the patience of my Noble Friend might become equally proverbial. He has achieved a very considerable success, and I am quite certain that all Members of the House, whatever their views on the main question, will wish to express their appreciation of what he has done. So much for Spain.
I now come to the wider aspect of international affairs. We have had during the last few weeks what amounts to two Debates on these general subjects, on the Government's proposals with regard to rearmament. Those Debates have inevitably trespassed on the ground of foreign affairs, as this Debate inevitably trespassed on the ground of armaments, because the Government's proposals are, after all, the main new factor in the international situation since the House last discussed these questions. I must confess that in the earlier Debates last week most of us on this side of the House, I think, were profoundly disappointed by the attitude of hon. Gentlemen opposite. At a very serious moment, it may be a very fateful moment, in the history of Europe, one might have expected helpful and instructive criticism. I do not think we got it in those Debates. We got no recognition of realities, but merely an ordinary attack on party lines.
To-day there has been a completely different atmosphere. We have had an extraordinarily good Debate with very thoughtful and helpful speeches from all sides. The hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell) and the hon. Member for Kingswinford (Mr. A. Henderson) both made contributions which were extremely help- 316 ful in educating the public and the House. It is true that the hon. Member for Gower still says that His Majesty's Government have no foreign policy. I thought that that accusation had been completely demolished on 18th February by the Prime Minister, when he referred to certain speeches at Leamington and Bradford by my right hon. Friend. It is true also that there is still a certain amount of harking back to the Government's wicked past. Mention was made today of Abyssinia, of disarmament and Manchukuo. I will not myself deal with those points, partly because I have only a very short time, but more because, whatever may be true about those incidents in our past, they are irrelevant to the present question before the country.
That question is very simple. The Government have declared their policy and have said that certain armaments are necessary to carry it out, both for the defence of the country and for their international obligations. The Government say that those things are necessary, but it is apparent to us by their votes that hon. Gentlemen opposite think that they are not necessary. Some hon. Gentlemen have made an effort, by what I may call drawing a red herring across the trail, to point out that they are not voting on the merits of the Government's proposals, but on the Government's record. They say they could not support a proposal of a Government whose record has been so bad. I submit to them that that is not a line likely to appeal to the people of this country.
I will give hon. Gentlemen a very simple analogy of what I mean. It is the analogy of a sailing boat crossing a very turbulent sea. In this boat are two seamen, a helmsman, that is, the Government, who is quite ready to take responsibility, and there is another seaman, that is, all hon. Gentlemen opposite. There are also a number of passengers, who are the men, women and children of this country. The helmsman says to the other seaman: "A storm is blowing up. Will you help me to shorten sail?" Suppose that the other seaman—that is, hon. Gentlemen opposite—were to reply: "No, I will not help You. I always said that you were steering a very dangerous course, and now you must deal with the situation as best you may." Would that be likely to command the respect and approval of the passengers?
§ Mr. Attlee
The Noble Lord is not quite right. He is rowing the boat as hard as he can on to the rocks.
§ Viscount Cranborne
I suggest that what the passengers would say would be, "We do not really care who is responsible, and the situation may have been avoidable or it may not. All we care is that the boat may sink. Everybody must do what he can to avoid it." I believe that to be the attitude of the men and women of this country at the present time, and that the attitude of hon. Gentlemen opposite will be very generally and very rightly condemned.
This is the most true, because whatever hon. Members opposite may say, there is not much difference between the policy of hon. Gentlemen here and hon. Gentlemen there. The Prime Minister, as I have already pointed out, has said that British forces will never be used for aggression. Everyone knows that that is true. Hon. Members on the Labour benches take exactly the same view, and so do Members of the Opposition Liberal party. Everyone is agreed that British forces are not to be used for aggression. We stand for collective security; hon. Gentlemen opposite stand for collective security, too. I must confess that, after several days' debate, I am still a little bewildered as to what hon. Members opposite mean by collective security. Each one of them seems to have his own interpretation. Hon. Members who are familiar with Lewis Carroll's "Through the Looking Glass" may remember the incident where Humpty Dumpty used the word "glory," and Alice questioned the meaning. I should like to quote the two following sentences, which appear to me to be relevant to this situation:'When I use a word', Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less'.'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things'.'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master; that is all.'That seems to me to be the principle that animates hon. Gentlemen opposite. To some of them collective security seems to be an automatic obligation to fight everywhere, and to others it seems to be 318 a sort of magic talisman, the possession of which insulates the nation from attack, whether it is armed or not At the same time, it is obviously not fair for me to attempt to criticise hon. Gentlemen opposite unless I am prepared to suggest a definition which would appeal to hon. Gentlemen on this side. The Home Secretary did last week, in his usual very lucid and brilliant manner, deal with the subject, but, since there still seems to be a certain amount of obscurity, I would like to try in a few words to define what collective security means to most of us. I suggest that it means that the forces which stand for a system of international law and order should be stronger than those which are against it. To carry that idea one stage further, what practical application has this principle—because it is no use having a principle unless it can be put into practical application? I suggest to hon. Members opposite that the forces of law and order should not merely be strong enough to win a war. That would not be enough, because, once war broke out, we are all agreed that the world would be plunged into chaos and misery. Hon. Members will recollect that Lord Grey once said that that conception would be merely to light a big fire to put out a little one, and that is an object which none of us have in mind. I suggest that the real object is that the forces of law and order should be so strong that war will not break out at all.
The hon. Member for Derby said that collective security was there to uphold the law. I suggest that we should add to that, "and to maintain order." If we accept this conclusion, obviously it must be an essential duty of any nation that supports collective security to ensure that the forces at its disposal are strong enough for the purpose for which they were created. There must be no doubt at all about it. It is much better that they should be too strong than that they should not be strong enough. If they are not strong enough, obviously you have the worst of both worlds; you have the expenditure and you have the war too. That is a result for which none of us wish. I do not say that the provision for which the Government are now asking is too strong; the Government do not think it is; but, even if it were, it would be better than if it were not strong enough. Unless hon. Gentlemen opposite prove, and they have not done 319 it yet, that the provisions which the Government are making are grossly extravagant, they are not justified in opposing this proposal.
The hon. Member for Kingswinford asked for an "honest-to-God" answer to the question, "Does the Government take the view that the collective system is a reality?" The answer I give him is, "Yes, if it is a reality—that is, if it has sufficient strength behind it." The antithesis is not between collective security and armaments, but between collective security and war. That is the view we take, and I believe it is the view taken in all parts of the House. The armaments necessary to carry out this policy must be conditioned by two considerations. The first is the armaments of other nations, and the second the manner in which the policy of collective security is interpreted. With regard to the first, I do not suppose there is any difference in any part of the House.
We all want the general level of armaments reduced, and we all think it is much too high. We have the case of Italy, which we are told has 8,000,000 bayonets. They are said to be merely to support an olive branch, but we all feel that it might possibly be supported on a slightly less monumental base. Then we have Germany, which has 36 divisions. Though we appreciate that they are merely for self-defence, we all wish that conditions could be agreed in which so vast an accumulation of defensive forces would be unnecessary. We have Russia, which has hundreds of thousands of men and an air force bigger perhaps than that of Germany; and France, which has immensely powerful defensive forces and is straining every nerve to increase them. We all deprecate these armaments, and our aim is to create such conditions as will render them unnecessary.
This brings me to what was said by the hon. Members for Gower and Derby, and the appeal that was made to the Government to call a world conference with the object of avoiding war. Everybody on this side honours their motives, but we know the immense complications in the present situation, and the difficulty of finding any basis of agreement which would be acceptable at the present time. I know that in the heat of Debate many hon. Members opposite say it is this Government which was entirely responsi- 320 ble for the failure of the Disarmament Conference. But they do not really think that. They know just as well as we do that that Conference failed largely because of historical, traditional enmities between various other nations, which bred suspicion. That situation exists still. They know, too, that any failure of a world conference would do a great deal more harm than good. His Majesty's Government are not in principle against such a conference, or against anything that would bring about a settlement, but they do recognise the extreme delicacy of the situation. I assure hon. Members that there is no course of action, including this, which is not constantly in the minds of the Government. If the moment came when such a proposal was practicable they would not hesitate to take that course. They would do anything they could to cut the Gordian knot.
As to the second consideration, the manner of interpretation of the policy of collective security, I had thought, and I still think the Government have made their position absolutely clear. It is there open for everyone to see. It was laid down in speeches at Leamington and Bradford by my right hon. Friend. I sometimes suspect that hon. Members opposite hanker after a rather more interventionist policy—I do not mean in the specialised sense in which it is used in regard to Spain but more generally. The hon. Member for Kingwinford was at issue with my right hon. Friend over the interpretation of our obligations. This is a very difficult and technical point and it has been very fully debated by others far more fitted to deal with it than I am, and at this hour I cannot he expected to go fully into it. But, in any case, if there is a difference between us it is not a difference of principle. It is really a difference of degree; for everyone in the House admits that we have interests in peace which are not limited by our Locarno obligations. May I quote a few words from my right hon. Friend's speech at Bradford:If I were to say that Britain's interests in peace are geographically limited, I should be giving a false impression. If our vital interests are situated in certain clearly definable areas, our interest in peace is world-wide and there is a simple reason for this. The world has now become so small—and every day with the march of science it becomes smaller—that a spark in some sphere comparatively remote from our own interests may 321 become a conflagration sweeping a continent or a hemisphere. We must therefore be watchful at all times and in all places. We cannot disinterest ourselves from this or that part of the world in a vague hope that happenings in that area will not affect us.So, if there is a difference, it is a difference of degree. The main object of British policy is peace. I appeal therefore to hon. Members opposite to moderate their attitude—I think it has been moderated today—towards the steps that the Government are taking to implement this policy. Why give an appearance of disunity which in reality does not exist? It is frequently said that the duty of an Opposition is to oppose. But any doctrine can be carried too far. There are situations where there is only one course, and I suggest that this is one of them. If we took the narrow party view, I think
§ most hon. Members on this side would very much like the Opposition to go on on their present line. It is doing us a great deal of good in the country. But there is a wider view than one of mere party. There is the national and the international view, and it is this that we ought to take. We have three great common principles, the defence of our ancient liberties, the fulfilment of our obligations and, greatest of all, peace. Let us stand strong and united for these and, if we do, I believe we shall yet prevail.
§ Question put, "That Item Class II, Vote I (Foreign Office), be reduced by £100."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 134; Noes, 243.323
|Division No. 97.]||AYES.||[10.59 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir F. Dyke||Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Paling, W.|
|Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple)||Groves, T. E.||Parker, J.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Parkinson, J. A.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Hardie, G. D.||Potts, J.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Harris, Sir P. A.||Price, M. P.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Hayday, A.||Pritt, D. N.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Quibell, D. J. K.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Rathbone, Eleanor (English Univ's.)|
|Barnes, A. J.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Ridley, G.|
|Barr, J.||Holdsworth, H.||Riley, B.|
|Batey, J.||Hollins, A.||Ritson, J.|
|Bellenger, F. J.||dagger, J.||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Benson, G.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Rothschild, J. A. do|
|Bevan, A.||Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.||Rowson, G.|
|Bromfield, W.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Seely, Sir H. M.|
|Brooke, W.||Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Sexton. T. M.|
|Buchanan, G.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Short, A.|
|Burke, W. A.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Silverman, S. S.|
|Cape, T.||Kirby, B. V.||Simpson, F. B.|
|Cassells, T.||Lathan, G.||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Lawson, J. J.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Leach, W.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Cove, W. G.||Lee, F.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||Leonard, W.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Dalton, H.||Leslie, J. R.||Thurtle, E.|
|Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)||Logan, D. G.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Lunn, W.||Viant, S. P.|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||McEntee, V. La T,||Walkden, A. G.|
|Dobbie, W.||McGhee, H. G.||Walker, J.|
|Ede, J. C.||McGovern, J.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||MacLaren, A.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Maclean, N.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||MacNeill, Weir, L.||Westwood, J.|
|Foot, D. M.||Mainwaring, W. H.||White, H. Graham|
|Gallacher, W.||Mander, G. le M.||Wilkinson, Elton|
|Gardner, B. W.||Marshall, F.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Garro Jones, G. M.||Maxton, J.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Messer, F.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Milner, Major J.||Woods, G. S. (Finshury)|
|Gibbins, J.||Muff, G.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Green, W.. H. (Deptford)||Naylor, T. E.|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Noel-Baker, P. J.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Oliver, G. H.||Mr. Whiteleyand Mr. Mathers.|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Owen, Major G.|
|Acland-Treyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Atholl, Duchess of||Barrie, Sir C. C.|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'kn'hd)||Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.||Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. J. (Armagh)||Balfour, G. (Hampstead)||Beit, Sir A. L.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Birchall, Sir J. D.|
|Assheton, R.||Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M.||Bird, Sir R. B.|
|Blindell, Sir J.||Guest, Hon. I. (Brecon and Radnor)||Petheriak, M.|
|Bessom, A. C.||Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N. W.)||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Beulton, W. W.||Hamilton, Sir G. C.||Pilkington, R.|
|Bowatar, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Hannah, I. C.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir G. E. W.||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Procter, Major H. A.|
|Boyce. H. Leslie||Harbord, A.||Radford, E. A.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major Sir A. B.||Hartington, Marquess of||Raikes, H. V. A. M.|
|Bracken, B.||Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)||Ramsbotham, H.|
|Brass, Sir W.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Rankin, Sir R.|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)|
|Brown, Cal. D. C. (Hexham)||Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||Rayner, Major R. H.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon)||Read, A. C. (Exeter)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Nawbury)||Holmes, J. S.||Reid, Captain A. Cunningham|
|Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.)||Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.||Remer, J. R.|
|Burghley, Lord||Hopkinson, A.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Cartland, J. R. H.||Horsbrugh, Florence||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Cary, R. A.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)|
|Castlereagh, Viacount||Hudson, R. S. (Southport)||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Cayzer, Sir H. R. (Portsmouth, S.)||Hulbart, N. J.||Rowlands, G.|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Hunter, T.||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.|
|Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Jonas, L. (Swansea W.)||Russell, A. Wast (Tynemouth)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir A. (Br. W.)||Keeling, E. H.||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)|
|Channon, H.||Kerr, Calonel C. I. (Montrose)||Salmon, Sir I.|
|Christie, J. A.||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Salt, E. W.|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Kimball, L.||Samuel, M. R. A.|
|Clarke, Lt.-Col. R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Knox, Major-Genaral Sir A. W. F.||Sanderson, Sir F. B.|
|Clydesdale, Marquess of||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Sandys, E. D.|
|Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Latham, Sir P.||Scott, Lord William|
|Colfox, Major W. P.||Law, Sir A. J. (High Peak)||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Leckie, J. A.||Shute, Colonel Sir J. J.|
|Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J.||Leech, Dr. J. W.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Lees-Jones, J.||Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff (W'st'r S. G'gs)||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Smith, L. W. (Hallam)|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)||Liddall, W. S.||Somerset, T.|
|Courtauld, Major J. S.||Lindsay, K. M.||Somervell. Sir D. B. (Crewe)|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Liewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.||Southby, Commander A. R. J.|
|Critchley, A.||Loftus, P. C.||Spears, Brigadier-General E. L.|
|Crooke, J. S.||Lumley, Capt. L. R.||Spens, W. P.|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.||Lyons, A. M.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)|
|Cross, R. H.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'l'd)|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||M'Connell, Sir J.||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)||McCorquodale, M. S.||Storey, S.|
|Dawson, Sir P.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Scot. U.)||Stourton, Major Hon. J. J.|
|De Chair, S. S.||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)||Strauss, E. A. (Southwark N.)|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||MeEwen, Capt. J. H. F.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Danville, Alfred||McKie, J. H.||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Dixon, Capt. Rt. Hon. H.||Maclay, Hon. J. P.||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw'h)|
|Dodd, J. S.||Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Donner, P. W.||Macnamara, Capt. J. R. J,||Tate, Mavis C.|
|Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||Macquisten, F. A.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||Magnay, T.||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)|
|Dugdale, Major T. L.||Maitland, A.||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.|
|Duggan, H. J.||Manningham-Bullar, Sir M.||Train, Sir J.|
|Duncan, J. A. L.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.|
|Eckersley, P. T.||Markham, S. F.||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||Maxwell, Hon. S. A.||Turton, R. H.|
|Elliston, Capt. G. S.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Emmott, C. E. G. C||Mailer, Sir R. J. (Mitcham)||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Entwistle, Sir C. F.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Erskine-Hill, A. G.||Moore, Lieut.-Col. T. C. R.||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Findlay, Sir E.||Moore-Brabazon, Lt.-Col. J. T. C.||Watt, G. S. H.|
|Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Morgan, R. H.||Wedderburn, H. J. S.|
|Furness, S. N.||Morris, J. P. (Salford, N.)||Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.|
|Fyfe, D. P. M.||Morris-Jones, Sir Henry||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Ganzoni, Sir J.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Gluckstein, L. H.||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Goldie, N. B.||Munro, P.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Grant-Ferris, R.||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Wright, Squadron-Leader J. A. C.|
|Granville, E. L.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Gridley, Sir A. B.||Palmer, G. E. H.|
|Grimston, R. V.||Patrick, C. M.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Gritten, W. G. Howard||Peat, C. U.||Sir George Penny and Lieut.-|
|Colonel Sir A. Lambert Ward.|
Question, "That this House do now adjourn," put, and agreed to.
§ Resolution to be reported To-morrow; Committee to sit again To-morrow.324
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.