§ 4.1 p.m.
§ Sir Archibald Sinclair
On 26th April, in a debate on conscription, the Prime Minister remarked that we are living in times which are not peace in any sense in which that word can be fairly used. I have never concealed from the House or from this Committee that in my opinion that would be the inevitable result, and perhaps not the worst result, of the foreign policy upon which His Majesty's Government embarked at the beginning of last year; but in this dangerous and menacing situation it seems to me that the best use that can be made of this Debate is not to pursue past controversies, but to obtain as precise information as possible about the principles of the foreign policy of the Government at the present time, and their practical application in the immediate future to the problems which now face us. Accordingly, my speech will consist largely of a series of questions, and in choosing my point of 1993 departure I intend to go no further back than the speech of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs at the Chatham House dinner a month ago. In that speech the Secretary of State summed up the policy of the Government in these words:British policy rests on twin foundations of purpose. One is determination to resist force; the other is our recognition of the world's desire to get on with the constructive work of building peace.And he went on:Our immediate task is—here I end as I began—to resist aggression. I would emphasise that to-night with all the strength at my command, so that nobody may misunderstand it.Earler in the same speech he had said:We know that if international law and order is to be preserved we must be prepared to fight in its defence.The accredited leaders of both the Opposition parties, in language equally plain, clear and downright, have endorsed that speech. The Prime Minister has not yet done so. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I stated a fact—that the Prime Minister has not done so in terms equally firm, clear and downright, and I hope that the opportunity which this Debate will afford him will enable him to make his position equally clear.
Now let me say quite bluntly to the Prime Minister and to hon. Members who have interrupted me that the impression exists that the Prime Minister is still at this time more inclined to appeasement and less resolute in his resistance to aggression than is the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. I have stated it frankly to the Prime Minister and to the Committee because it seems to me to be unfair to the Prime Minister that these things should be whispered in the corridors and suggested in the columns of the Press and not be submitted to the test of open Debate. Moreover I read in this morning's "Times" that if any one expresses distrust of the Prime Minister's determination to resist aggression, either when Parliament is sitting or when it is in recess, the Prime Minister will be ready to make a spirited reply, and it seems to me that such a clear, firm and spirited declaration is exactly what is called for from the Prime Minister at the present time.
So in the first place I ask how His Majesty's Government proposes to discharge what the Secretary of State for 1994 Foreign Affairs has described as its immediate task of resisting aggression. Obviously the first step is our own rearmament, a subject which falls outside the scope of this Debate. The next step must be—indeed certain steps in that direction are already being taken—to revert to the policy of pooled security as His Majesty's Government themselves described it in their White Papers on defence long after Germany and Japan had left the League of Nations and when Italy was already at grips with the League. Now His Majesty's Government call it the Peace Front. I do not quarrel with the phrase; I approve the policy. But I have been astonished in the last few days to discover how many of my own critics, including the writer of a leading article in a Conservative newspaper, think that the construction of a Peace Front is not the policy of the Government but a fad of mine. I can assure the Prime Minister that there is much need for him to make it clear to some of his own supporters that it is in fact the policy of himself and his Government to resist aggression and to construct a Peace Front for the purpose.
So I ask the Prime Minister, how is the construction of the Peace Front progressing? Fortunately we need no reassurance about our relations with France. We rejoice at the recent evidence of close co-operation between our two countries, especially in the air. M. Paul Reynaud may rest assured that we in this country have indeed taken note of the fact that the renaissance of France has begun. We have watched its progress with admiration and thanksgiving. But we do stand in urgent need of reassurance about the negotiations with Russia, and I still think, as I said in the Debate on the restriction of Supply Days, that this House ought not to adjourn, or at any rate ought not to adjourn for a prolonged period, until those negotiations have been completed. My hon. Friends and I have consistently argued that the adherence of Russia was essential to the construction of a Peace Front so strong as to be an effective deterrent against war.
I am not attempting this afternoon to allocate blame for our failure so far to attain success in the negotiations with Russia. We have not yet got sufficient material on which to base a judgment. 1995 It is, however, my contention that a full account of those negotiations ought to have been given to the House of Commons a long time ago. While negotiations are in progress there is sometimes and at some stages an advantage in giving full publicity to the case of each side. There is often and at many stages an advantage in secrecy. But these negotiations are neither in secret nor in public, but in a twilight of inspired newspaper comment—[An Hon. Member: "From where?"]—from almost every quarter, which has stirred up suspicions of British and French policy in Holland and in the Baltic States, and has given Dr. Goebbels a rich opportunity, which he has not been slow to exploit, for intrigue and propaganda in those countries. This twilight is giving us all the disadvantages both of publicity and of secrecy. The Government may contend that the negotiations are their responsibility and that they must decide when Parliament should be consulted. But they are not the only people who are negotiating. The public Press, with its sources of information in the Government Departments and in Embassies here and in other capitals, have been playing a great part in these negotiations, and I cannot help thinking that it would have been healthier, more democratic and might even have helped the conduct of the negotiations if we in Parliament could have played our constitutional part by hearing what the difficulties were and expressing our points of view as the representatives of the people.
For my own part I have always been and am still hopeful that an agreement will be reached with Russia, and for this reason: that agreements between nations do not, fortunately in this case, depend upon sentiment, but upon the existence of common interests, and I have been convinced by a study of the speeches of M. Stalin and other Russian statesmen, and of the resolutions which have been passed by Russian organs of Government, that the Soviet Government believes that such an agreement is in the interests of the Russian people. But if the foundation of such agreement must be common interest, its conclusion and effectiveness must depend upon the growth of mutual co-operation and friendship between the two countries. We want the help of Russia. Therefore, we 1996 must dissipate the fog of suspicion and distrust of Britain which exists there. Therefore we must make friends with Russia, and the first principle of friendship is respect. So we must all of us learn to respect Soviet Russia; and as a gesture of friendship and respect at this critical hour, when the negotiations are entering upon a new and more hopeful and more practical phase, we ought to send to represent us in these political and staff talks in Moscow—I am not going to bandy the names of individuals in this Debate—if only for a short time, a man of the highest standing in this country. Let me say with what pleasure I heard the Prime Minister's answer at Question Time that a military and naval and air delegation is going to Russia this week, and that at the head of the British delegation is to be an officer so distinguished as Admiral Sir Reginald Ernle-Erle-Drax. Nobody who knows the opinion held by officers of the Navy of that distinguished Admiral can be ignorant of the fact that he is a man of resolute character and broad views who can be trusted to take a big line, and he is therefore an admirable representative of the British Navy in these discussions. But I would urge that we ought to send, if only for a few days, to give an impulse to these negotiations at this new stage, a man of the highest political standing in our own country, a man who on account of his personal status and perhaps of the dignity of his office would have access to the most powerful authorities in the Kremlin.
It would not, I think, be useful for me at this stage to offer more than a very few words of comment on the points of difficulty in the negotiations until the Prime Minister has precisely defined them. I would only say two things: first, that none of us would countenance, any encroachment, from whatever quarter, upon the independence of the. Baltic States, whose achievements we admire and whose friendship we enjoy and wish to preserve; and, secondly, that nobody who glances at a map of the Baltic Sea can doubt that the interest of Russia in the independence and the neutrality of the Baltic States is no less than ours in the independence and neutrality of the Low Countries. Events in Czecho-slovakia in Spain and in Danzig, particularly in recent weeks, illustrate the 1997 absolute necessity of finding some practical, workable definition of the phrase "indirect aggression." So the first point on which we seek precise assurances from His Majesty's Government is that their immediate task, as defined by the Secretary of State, to resist aggression is being facilitated by the consolidation of the Peace Front, and especially by the inclusion of Soviet Russia.
The Secretary of State also declared with great emphasis at the Chatham House dinner that while no blow would be struck and no shot fired except in defence against aggression —and here I quote his exact words:what is also now fully and universally accepted in this country, but what may not even yet be as well understood elsewhere, is that, in the event of further aggression we are resolved to use at once the whole of our strength in fulfilment of our pledges to resist it.Further, he said that provocative insults offered to our countrymen further afield do not pass unnoticed here, and he added:I can say at once that Great Britain is not prepared to yield either to calumnies or to force.I ask the Prime Minister how those principles are going to be applied by His Majesty's Government in those quarters of the world where danger exists at the present time, and I propose particularly to draw the attention of the Prime Minister to four quarters of the world—Czecho-Slovakia, Hungary, Danzig and the Far East.
I raise the question of Czecho-Slovakia for two reasons. First, because now that we are committed by the Secretary of State to this hazardous, but in my opinion necessary, enterprise of stopping aggression, it is vital that the moral basis of our action should be sound, and it cannot be sound if we are to condone the annexation of Czecho-Slovakia and the suppression of the democratic liberties of the Czech people. May I say, in passing, that I regretted the decision of His Majesty's Government to accord even de facto recognition to German rule in Czecho-Slovakia by applying for an exequatur for the British Consul. At Question Time I have just been criticising the Government for making that application. I have made my criticism, and let me now say frankly to the Government that I am at least glad that they stood 1998 firm and did not yield to the German demands to recognise the annexation de jure. That is so far satisfactory. But I raise this matter for a practical reason also. The situation in Czecho-Slovakia is now very tense. Terrible incidents, involving in at least one case serious loss of life, have already occurred. A spark might easily be struck in that country which might set all Europe ablaze. We can count upon cool-headed Czech statesmen in that country, and those who are now in exile, doing all they can to restrain their people from action which could only bring disaster on their heads as well as on ours. Surely it would strengthen their hands and lighten the dark and dangerous mood of despair into which the Czech people are falling if His Majesty's Government would plainly declare that the restoration of their freedom and independence is a firmly settled objective of British policy.
Then I come to Hungary, who, although united in a close friendship with Poland, is not a member of the Peace Front, who has, indeed, joined the Anti-Comintern Pact and has received no pledge of British support in maintaining her independence. Nevertheless, it is by no means impossible that while Parliament is in recess Hungary may become the object of aggression and may wish to defend her independence and neutrality. Now, in the whole of the Chatham House speech there is no suggestion that our immediate task of resistance to aggression is limited to those countries to whom we have given explicit pledges of help, and therefore I ask the Prime Minister, If Hungary were the object of unprovoked aggression and decided to defend her independence and neutrality, should we regard it as our duty to help her to resist that aggression?
Then I come to Danzig. There there can be no shadow of doubt about our obligations to help Poland to defend herself against any act of aggression against Danzig. But when does aggression begin? It is many weeks now since arms began to be imported clandestinely and in small quantities, by road, from East Prussia into Danzig. Gradually the consignments of arms became bigger and bigger. They began to be imported by day as well as by night, by sea as well as by land. Large consignments come in by sea, and Polish customs officers are, we are told, for- 1999 bidden to enter certain docks where they have a legal right to go for the sufficient and practical reason that rifles, machine guns, artillery and ammunition are being landed there in ever-increasing quantities. The parties of "tourists" visiting Danzig have increased to the point at which it is estimated by the Warsaw correspondent of the "Sunday Times" that there are now 60,000 German troops and S.S. men in Danzig territory. A quarter of the Danzig frontier with Poland is reported to be fortified; and further sums to complete the fortifications have been voted by the Danzig Senate and are being obtained by confiscating the property of Jews.
Does the statement of the Under-Secretary of State last Wednesday that the Secretary of State does not view the situation in Danzig with "undue concern" still represent the views of His Majesty's Government? Is there any point short of the complete military occupation of Danzig by a well-equipped German army, the expulsion of all Polish officials, and the declaration of Danzig as a part of the Reich—is there any point short of that which His Majesty's Government would regard as constituting aggression? Nobody doubts that we are pledged to resist German aggression in Danzig. The question which I ask the Prime Minister is, Are we going to resist it? If so, at what point? Surely it is vital that the Germans should know? Unless they are told that there is some point at which we should take action why should they stop their present proceedings in Danzig until the territory is completely absorbed into the military system and fortifications of East Prussia? Then, with her economic life under German control, Poland would have to come to terms with Germany, and the Peace Front would crumble into futility. If peace is to be preserved and aggression stopped His Majesty's Government must tell us and tell Germany at what point the line is going to be drawn in Danzig.
I turn now to the Far East. The Committee will remember that I have already quoted from the Chatham House speech of the Secretary of State a passage which shows that he had China in mind when he was laying down the principles of resistance to aggression. How could it be otherwise? In the struggle between the ancient and peaceful civilisation of 2000 China the modern development of which has been to so large an extent fostered and guided by the British consular service in China, whose work and traditions deserve our grateful admiration, and the feudal, imperialistic, totalitarian civilisation of Japan, reaching out for domination not merely over China but over all Asia, we cannot be neutral. Our sympathies must instinctively lie with China. Nor have we the right to be neutral. Japan has been convicted by the League of Nations of the international crime of aggression, and of contravention of the Nine-Power Treaty and of the Pact of Paris. His Majesty's Government have officially concurred in that verdict, and the Prime Minister has informed us that nothing that has recently happened in Tokyo indicates any change in the principles of our Far Eastern policy. Therefore, neutrality, as distinct from non-belligerency, is legally as well as morally impossible for us in the struggle between China and Japan.
Moreover, if we descend to the lowest ground of self-interest, two things are clear: First, that the victory of Japan would mean the obliteration of British interests in China and a serious threat to them further afield and to India, for Japanese aims embrace the whole continent of Asia; and secondly, that our fate would be little better, in the more likely event of a Chinese victory, if we had failed to give to China in her hour of need the help which she is legally and morally entitled to expect.
Let us remember that we are bound by resolutions in which we have concurred, and which were passed by the Council of the League of Nations, beginning in October, 1937, and ending as recently as last May. We are bound, first, to refrain from any action which might have the effect of weakening China's power of resistance. I would ask the Prime Minister to tell us specifically whether that obligation is still binding. Secondly, to consider how far we can help China, and to take into serious and sympathetic consideration any request for help which we may receive from China. Now His Majesty's Government have contracted a new obligation to the Japanese Government, to instruct British nationals and authorities in China to refrain from acts and measures which will obstruct the Japanese or benefit their enemies. No wonder that public opinion 2001 is bewildered. I hope that the Prime Minister will explain how we are to reconcile the Tokyo formula with our League obligations towards China.
If the formula means that His Majesty's Government have said to the Japanese: "We will help you to hold what you have, and we will not hinder you in acquiring more, providing only that you leave us alone," we are dead against it. On the other hand, does it merely mean that British nationals and authorities in the Concession are to do all in their power to maintain law and order and to prevent the Concession from being used as a base for attack upon the Japanese troops in China? Is that all it means? Does it apply only to the Concession or does it mean that wherever the Japanese Government or military authorities consider that British rights and interests are a bar to their plans for the subjugation of China they will have the right to call upon Great Britain to subordinate them to the requirements of the Japanese military situation? Does the signature of the formula leave the Japanese Government and their puppet Chinese Government free to stir up anti-British agitation in the areas of China occupied by the Japanese Army? We read from day to day in the newspapers that these agitations are going on and are being actively fomented, that the Chinese will not take part in them without payment and that the payment they require is increasing. They are being fomented deliberately by the Japanese military authorities. Surely we are not going on negotiating on the basis of the formula if those agitations continue. Do His Majesty's Government intend to insist upon reparation for the losses and indignities inflicted by the Japanese Army upon British nationals in Tientsin and upon the stoppage of this artificial but dangerous anti-British agitation? Do they also intend to insist upon the stoppage of Japanese military encroachments upon the International Settlement of Shanghai? Will not these be the conditions of any understanding which may be reached with the Japanese Government on the basis of the Tokyo formula?
Will not His Majesty's Government give us a definite assurance that this formula will in no way hamper the Government in giving help to China? Will His Majesty's Government refuse to weaken China's power of resistance and 2002 to aid Japan by handing over the 50,000,000dollars in silver which belong to China and which are lying in Chinese banks in the Tientsin Concession? In particular now that the stability of the Chinese dollar is gravely threatened, with serious results to British trade, do His Majesty's Government consider themselves free to give the dollar support and can they give the Committee an assurance that they are making provision for doing so in the immediate future?
Furthermore, are His Majesty's Government making arrangements to extend commercial credits to China and, if so, can the Prime Minister give us any idea of the amount involved or, more broadly, of the scale upon which such help will be offered? I hope that the Prime Minister may feel himself at liberty to give us some further information about the case of Colonel Spear. It seems deplorable that we should be in friendly negotiation with the Japanese Government while they are keeping under arrest for a prolonged period and threatening with trial by court martial an officer in His Majesty's Service who is entitled to claim diplomatic immunity.
I hope also that the Prime Minister will be able to assure us that nothing in the Tokyo formula will prevent us from pursuing a policy of the closest co-operation with the United States of America. The United States Government have just given notice of the denunciation of their commercial treaty with Japan. At Question Time to-day the Prime Minister pointed out that before we could take similar action in regard to our commercial treaty of the same date, which requires 12 months' notice of denunciation as compared with six months' notice by the United States of America, we should have to consult the Dominions. At this stage I do not want to urge the Prime Minister to answer questions on that point, but I ask the Government to undertake this consultation with dispatch so that the appropriate action can be taken as early as possible.
I would say to the Prime Minister: Do not let us lose another chance of cooperation with the United States Government. I am not going to rake up old controversies about our failure to cooperate with that Government in the past, but I would remind the Committee that there is an impression—for the purposes 2003 of this argument I am content to assume that it is a false impression—left upon the minds of the United States people that it is due to the action of British Ministers that the United States of America has not been able to obtain co-operation with us. That may be a false impression, but we shall never be able to remove it if now we fail to make the most of this opportunity, which the United States Government have given us, of co-operation with them in the Far East. It would be deplorable if this formula were to give to the world, and especially to public opinion in the United States of America, the impression that His Majesty's Government were less concerned to defend the great principles of international law and order and to restrain violence and aggression upon a State which is a member of the League of Nations, than to defend the material interests of this country in China; and that the relations of His Majesty's Government with Japan are like those of a rich man with a blackmailer when he is making piece-meal concessions from his wealth to the blackmailer's demands. I am sure that such an impression would be a wholly false and misleading interpretation of the mind and will of the people of this country. I feel equally sure that it would be a false interpretation of the mind and will of this House; and I hope that the Prime Minister will take the opportunity of this Debate to make it clear that His Majesty's Government are still concerned to defend the principles of justice in the Far East, to uphold those of the Nine-Power Treaty and to help the Chinese people to preserve the independence and integrity of their country.
Let me in conclusion offer to the Committee in a few sentences my own suggestions for giving effect to the principles of foreign policy laid down by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in the Chatham House speech. First the consolidation of the Peace Front by pressing forward with the negotiations with Russia and by staff consultations with other countries, We are glad to know that such consultations have been taking place with Poland and Turkey, and we would also press for economic arrangements, such as the purchase of Greek tobacco, designed to strengthen the smaller countries whom we are pledged to support. Secondly, once the peace front is formed 2004 and consolidated, let it be based firmly and openly on the Covenant of the League of Nations and let the members declare their acceptance of the obligations of the Covenant. Thirdly, let the members of the Peace Front establish between themselves and loyal signatories of the Covenant and of the Kellogg Pact renouncing war as an instrument of national policy, the widest possible measure of economic co-operation, including the reduction of tariff and quota barriers to overseas trade and equal access to Colonial markets and raw materials, with guarantees for the principle of trusteeship, both for the natives and for other countries, through an extension of the mandatory system.
Fourthly, let it be made clear that all members of the Peace Front are willing to share with all other nations, including Germany and Italy, all the advantages of this association, provided only that they will also share its obligations. That places the responsibility for the policy of encirclement where the Secretary of State placed it in his Chatham House speech, on German shoulders. It is an encirclement which Germany can break at any time by joining the circle with complete equality of rights and status on the basis of disarmament and the acceptance of the rule of law and third-party judgment in all disputes. At this point, however, I would interpolate one further question to the Prime Minister. Will he give Parliament an assurance that no conversation, either official or unofficial, between His Majesty's Government and the German and Italian Government, will be begun without the knowledge of other States who are associated with us in the Peace Front?
Lastly, as a first step towards encouraging this co-operation from Germany and Italy—but, of course, after the construction of the Peace Front is complete and only in co-operation with the other members of the Peace Front—I would suggest a conference to Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini, not a general conference, on all the political and economic issues of the day—for President Roosevelt has already proposed that to Herr Hitler and he has rejected it—but a conference with an important but limited objective, the success of which would both foster and encourage a spirit of co-operation among all States and would relieve the world of a terrible menace—a conference on the 2005 reduction and limitation of air armaments. If the Governments would bring themselves to relinquish, or at least to limit, the destructive power of the air weapon, mankind would have taken a big step back towards sanity and peace.
The Prime Minister never spares himself in the discharge of his public duties and in the pursuit of peace, but the flower of safety eludes him. His chances of success may well depend on the firmness of his grasp of the nettle danger, and in the measure in which he shows firmness in applying to his foreign policy the principles of the Chatham House speech he will be able to consolidate both in this country and abroad the forces of resistance to aggression.
Do I understand that the right hon. Gentleman is not moving the reduction which he has on the Paper?
May I call the attention of the Committee to the fact that there is another Vote on the Order Paper, relating to Diplomatic and Consular Services, which the Committee might desire to discuss with the Vote that has already been put from the Chair? I take it that the Committee will, as they have done before in these cases, give their assent to that course.
§ 4.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Dalton
It is some time since we had a Debate on foreign affairs, and, if the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends had not put one down for to-day—I am glad that they have—my hon. Friends would have put one down for a later day this week, since this is the last week before Parliament is to be sent upon a summer holiday of still uncertain duration. Let me say at this point, though the matter will, I understand, come up for Debate on Wednesday on the Motion for Adjournment, that my hon. Friends object very strongly to Parliament being sent away for a period of indefinitely long duration. We think that at this time it would be proper we shall develop this argument on Wednesday, and I merely mention it now in passing—that the House should keep in much more constant touch with Ministers and with the international situation. My hon. Friends do not trust the Government—why should we 2006 use ambiguous words? —we do not trust the Government either to do the right thing—[An Hon. Member: "Speak up."] I thought it was the Press Gallery who have told us that they could not hear, but I thought I was reaching my hon. Friend. I was saying that my hon. Friends do not trust the Government either to do the right thing when Parliament's back is turned or to reassemble Parliament if the need should arise. Were member very well that events moved very fast during August and September of last year, but Parliament was not re-summoned, although my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition repeatedly demanded of the Prime Minister that we should gather together again in order to discuss the movement of events, which were then succeeding one another with lightning rapidity, when new decisions were being taken by the Government, when the Prime Minister was flying to and fro between this country and places in Germany, and when the fate of Czecho-Slovakia was being sealed behind the back of this Parliament and behind the backs of the Czech Parliament and people themselves. Recalling these things, we are of the opinion that Parliament should not be allowed to go out of action for any lengthy period now —
I am afraid I cannot allow the hon. Gentleman to pursue that subject further. I understood that he was merely mentioning it in passing; as he knows, it is to be the subject of another Debate this week.
§ Mr. Dalton
I accept your Ruling, of course, though it seemed to me that I had merely given certain historical recollections which in my submission are perfectly in order in a Debate upon foreign affairs. Had I not linked them with an observation about the Debate of next Wednesday, I doubt whether you would have thought it necessary to intervene, but I have finished what I have to say on that point, and I attach importance to the reflections to which I have drawn the attention of the Committee.
If I may go back a month or two behind the point from which the right hon. Gentleman started—he started from Lord Halifax's important speech at Chatham House—I will go back no further now than the events of last March, when Herr Hitler swooped upon Prague after having bluffed, fooled, and lied to 2007 the Prime Minister of this country, when he swooped upon Prague without warning and in violation of solemn undertakings given both to the Prime Minister at Munich and to the world— I would ask this question: In the 4½months that have elapsed since the swoop upon Prague, what have the Government succeeded in doing to build up a Peace Front strong enough to prevent a repetition of these intolerable aggressions? What have they done? Whom have they collected? Who are our allies? France—she has been our ally, I am glad to think, for a long while. Poland and Turkey—with them we have bilateral pacts, but not as yet any definite treaties; perhaps we shall be told in the course of the Debate when definite treaties, which can be published to the world in proper form, will take the place of the existing bilateral pacts of mutual assistance, which we welcome as far as they go. Greece and Rumania, to both of whom we have given unilateral undertakings; there is no pledge either by Rumania or Greece to come to our aid if a war should arise elsewhere than in Rumania or Greece. Finally Russia, and I shall have a word to say in a moment on these negotiations.
If the question is asked: Is Russia yet a member of this Peace Front and of this grand alliance against aggression? the answer is "Not yet." Indeed, during these 4½months, much the worst feature, as it seems to me, and the feature which is the most open to criticism, is the Government's very long delay in these negotiations with the Soviet Union. My hon. Friend the Member for Plaistow (Mr. Thorne), with his shrewd wit, a day or two ago asked in the House, as a supplementary question, "Does the Prime Minister not realise that ' A.R.P.' stands for 'Anglo-Russian Pact'?" Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that, could we be quite sure that Russia was all-in with us, and France and we all-in with her, with a pact that was signed and would hold firm, and that plans had been matured by soldiers, sailors and airmen from the three countries—could we be quite sure of that, and could Herr Hitler be quite sure of that, there would be no war this year at least, and perhaps for a long time further into the future.
The right hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate said that all the newspapers and all the purveyors of rumour, more 2008 or less official, were fed with tales in detail of the successive steps in these negotiations. He was, of course, perfectly right. It is never necessary to do more, if one desires to see how the thing is going on, than to read over the weekend say three Sunday newspapers and three morning papers on Monday morning, and you have the whole thing. Therefore, I make no apology for asking the Prime Minister to make it plain whether or not— [Interruption]. The hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. Baxter) is one of the contributors to the gossip columns. We all know "Atticus." I was asking the Prime Minister whether he would think it worth while this afternoon to deny the statement which I am now going to make, designed to show that in the early stages of these Anglo-Russian negotiations the British Government, were, to put it mildly, taking their time, and plenty of it.
Starting from the swoop upon Prague, the Russians, when approached by His Majesty's Government to ask what they were prepared to do, proposed a six-Power conference in Bucharest. That may or may not have been a good proposal, but the answer of His Majesty's Government was clearly a very bad answer, because they rejected the proposal on the ground that they wanted something that would give quicker results. In view of later developments, that was clearly a very bad answer. They would have done much better to allow Lord Halifax to get away from the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Home Secretary and be a Foreign Secretary for once in his life and go to Bucharest. His Majesty's Government rejected the proposal, and then, having desired high-speed results, spent some three weeks in a diplomatic exchange of views regarding the possibility of a consultation pact—merely a consultation pact—with France, Poland, and the Soviet Union as to whether, if Herr Hitler attacked any of them or anyone else, consultation could be speedily arranged, whether at Bucharest or elsewhere. The Poles promptly rejected that proposal, because they said that they wanted, not consultation, but help if they were attacked, and it is a little unfair that the Poles have been somewhat misrepresented in this regard. I have complete sympathy with the Poles, who having observed some of 2009 the processes of consultation at work in the past, desired something rather firmer and harder than that.
The next stage in the affair appears to have been that His Majesty's Government, round about 15th April, asked the Soviet Government to promise unilateral support to Poland and Rumania, to which, one has read in the Press, the Soviet Government replied very promptly, rejecting this proposal but substituting for it a very much wider scheme, which would have involved support for Poland and Rumania, as one of its incidents. They proposed also a triple alliance of the three major Powers to deal with direct aggression against any one of them, and the simultaneous conclusion of a military convention and joint guarantees by the three great Powers of all the States lying between the Baltic and the Black Sea. That, at any rate, was a proposal worthy of consideration, but it was surely not necessary that 22 days should have been taken by the Government, as we are told was the case. For 22 days they sat upon it, and then sent a proposal merely re-repeating their last suggestion, with hardly any amendments at all. That was not high-speed diplomacy by any means.
Further, when the Russians later on rejected for the second time the British proposals, and somewhat simplified their previous suggestions in the hope that these might be more acceptable, surely it was not necessary that two whole weeks should have passed, between 14th and 28th May, with no sign of life from London in reply. And so the time was spun out, principally by long periods, during which no doubt there were consultations with Paris—one cannot complain of that—but during which the negotiations were kept hanging, sometimes for a fortnight and sometimes longer, between the receipt of the Russian proposal and the sending of the next reply. I am sorry to say that, reading the time-table, if it be correct—if the Prime Minister can deny it, one will, of course, form a different view—if the widely published time-table is even approximately correct, it is surely diplomatic dawdling without record and without precedent. In face of very great danger to us, to the Russians and to the whole of civilisation, surely those who have been responsible for this gross procrastination have also been responsible for gravely endangering 2010 peace in Europe during these weeks and months that have passed.
It was partly because my hon. Friends were so conscious of these intolerable delays that we started the practice of asking the Prime Minister twice a week an almost invariable question, namely, whether he had anything further to tell the House regarding these negotiations; and indeed, if ever I, on behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends, abstained from putting this bi-weekly question, supporters of the Prime Minister themselves rushed in where we had hesitated to tread, and put the same question down. That illustrates, I think, the great perturbation of public opinion outside this House at these delays. Everyone was anxious to know where we were getting to, and how rapidly we were getting there. Long indeed have been these discussions. I will say a word in a moment about one issue which I understand was involved, but let me first say that the answer which the Prime Minister gave to-day, informing us that staff talks are to begin—I gather that he said, in reply to a supplementary question, that our mission is to leave probably on Wednesday or Thursday of this week—
§ Mr. Dalton
What does it matter, as between Wednesday and Thursday, when we have been waiting months already? I only hope that, when they get there, they will set the politicians a good example and, where the politicians have taken four and a half months to agree to the opening of the staff conversations, the soldiers and the airmen and the sailors will be more practical, and will very much more quickly get down to brass tacks and hammer out joint schemes, and finish them perhaps long before these interminable discussions about indirect aggression end. That, we understand from the Press, is the principal outstanding point on the political side. I am not going to take any polemical view about how we should define indirect aggression. There is no doubt that indirect aggression has become a Nazi habit. We have watched it at one place after another. One form of indirect aggression is when the Home Secretary tells us that a foreign Power—who can doubt which foreign Power? —has 2011 been paying for these I.R.A. bombs. It is very proper that we should take an interest in it, and very proper that the Home Secretary should have hustled through a Bill to strengthen his hands. We cannot pretend not to understand what indirect aggression is or what forms it may take. We had the Sudeten Deutsch agitation last year. That was another form of it. The faked Spanish Rebellion, with its tragic ending, was another form of it. What is going on at Danzig to-day is another form of it.
There are some unhealthy rumours about two of the three Baltic States. I make an exception of Finland. Finland is a genuine democracy. They have hunted out and discomfited their Fascists. Those people have been badly beaten in the recent election. There are Socialist Ministers in a Coalition Government, and I believe the desire of Finland to be neutral is genuine and perfectly sincere and above suspicion, And there is no German minority. I except Finland from anything I am now saying. But when you come to the smaller States, Estonia and Latvia—[Interruption.] I was not speaking of Lithuania, because the discussions in Moscow have concerned only States bordering on the Soviet Union. Lithuania has no common frontier with the Soviet Union. The Poles will take care of Lithuania if there is indirect aggression there. At any rate, I hope they will. There have been disagreeable symptoms in Estonia and Latvia. Some Baltic Barons have been dreaming dreams. There have been rather abusive articles against the Western Democracies in their Press. I am not surprised that M. Molotov has his eye on Estonia and Latvia. I am sure that His Majesty's Government realise that the things that might be done nearer to us might also be done near to the Soviet Union. Therefore, I say that the Russians are perfectly right to keep their weather eye on Estonia and Latvia and perfectly right, if a watertight treaty is to be constructed between us and them, to get some safeguard for immediate and swift action to prevent the flowering of any nasty little bud of indirect aggression. And we on our side are also perfectly right to watch carefully whither any wide formula may lead us and to seek a formula which shall not commit us beyond what 2012 is reasonable in the circumstances that may arise, but, none the less, not refusing to the Russians a formula which would suffice to deal with a direct danger to them. The case of the Low Countries has been mentioned, but we have not got a land frontier with the Low Countries, as the Russians have with Estonia and Latvia.
I should like to support most warmly what the right hon. Baronet said about the importance of direct personal contact, at the proper level of hierarchical importance, between this country and Russia. I know Mr. Strang. He is a very able Foreign Office official, able and devoted, with no axe to grind except that of the public interest. But he is not exactly the opposite number of M. Molotov. Russians are not less proud than the people of other countries and it is a little infra dig for M. Molotov to have been left to talk for weeks with Mr. Strang without any attempt ever having been made, so far as we understand, for a Cabinet Minister from this country to make a personal contact, since the rather awkward incident at Geneva when M. Potemkin was to have met Lord Halifax, but failed to catch his train and did not arrive. We have often heard about that, but that is a long time ago, and the Government cannot live on that grievance for ever. Surely now the time has come when an attempt should be made, and the natural person would be Lord Halifax. He is the Foreign Secretary. That at least is the title he bears. The proper course would be for him to go to Moscow and see M. Molotov, or alternatively invite M. Molotov to come to London. Surely now we are at a stage when a personal contact ought to be made. The Prime Minister used to believe in diplomacy by personal contact. Three times in a month he flew into the embracing arms of Herr Hitler, and shortly afterwards he took Lord Halifax with him to Rome and they interviewed Signor Mussolini. Has he lost all faith now in the desirability of opposite numbers meeting? I hope not. It would, indeed, be an admirable thing if Lord Halifax were to meet M. Molotov, and the Prime Minister were to exchange views with M. Stalin. That would be the most admirable extension of the scheme of personal contacts hitherto attempted. I suggested it before Whitsuntide. It was ruled out then, but I hope it is not ruled out in the 2013 coming weeks and months. The Parliamentary vacation would be an excellent time when such a contact should be made.
May I turn to Poland and say a word or two about the loan. Many of us are very much concerned about the failure of the loan negotiations with Poland. Here again stories have appeared in the Press which may or may not be completely accurate. Surely, the whole purpose of these negotiations is to arm Poland, and arm her quickly, because she is a member of our Peace Front. We have a bilateral arrangement with her, and it is to our interest that she should be strong, and should be quickly made strong. Yet, although export credits have been arranged for some £8,000,000 for purchases in this country, nothing has been arranged whereby Poland can obtain purchasing power to obtain from other countries, including the United States and the Scandinavian countries, arms and equipment which she cannot obtain from us, not because we cannot supply them, but because all that we are producing we require ourselves. We cannot supply them, and the French cannot supply them, and Poland asks for a loan to enable her to buy them elsewhere. It passes my comprehension why it was impossible to arrive at a conclusion in time for legislation to be put through this week. We are told that she wanted a loan from us of £5,000,000 in gold, and the Treasury said there was no precedent for that, or it might be a precedent for something else. Anyhow, they did not think it ought to be agreed to, for reasons which are completely trivial and trumpery in face of the world situation. Suppose, the balloon goes up this month, or next month, or the month after. I can imagine some self-satisfied Treasury official seated in a bomb-proof shelter saying, "Yes, it might have made some difference to the campaign if we had let the Poles have that gold, but it was contrary to our principles. It was never done since Gladstone's time."
It appears to me ridiculous, even if you think that the Polish claim might better have been put in another form, that you should refuse it for some obstructive, pedantic reason. Five million pounds is less than 1 per cent. of the gold stock of this country—we have 2014 £550,000,000—and you will not even give them £5,000,000 in order that they can buy stuff to defined themselves and you, if Hitler should attack either of us. It is fantastic, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer must take the responsibility, as the Minister concerned, for these Treasury officials. If it were not so fantastic, such boggling and straining at the gnat of financial procedure, one would perhaps be led to ask, as some are asking, whether there is not something behind this refusal. Is it, perhaps, feared that, if the Poles get too many arms too quickly, they will get above themselves? Is there any such fear as that in the minds of those who carried on the negotiations? Is there some plan in the background, by which history may repeat itself and the same kind of pressure be put upon Poland in regard to Danzig as was put on Czecho-Slovakia in regard to the Sudeten Germans? I ask this because, unless there is such an intention somewhere at the back of the Government's mind—I hope it is too fantastic—why have we boggled at letting the Poles buy these arms?
That is the choice which Ministers have to explain. Have they some sinister and unrevealed purpose to try to keep Poland weak and irresolute? If not, why do they not let them have the money to buy the arms? I shall be glad if we can have a straightforward answer. We all know there are dark forces at work in this country when Parliament is on holiday. The Geoffrey Dawsons and the "Scrutators" will take no such long holiday. They will continue their habitual task of weakening the national will and poisoning the public mind, and putting up this and that plausible sophistry—" Shall we fight for Danzig? "—and so forth. We shall be away and unable to answer except sporadically and from the platform. Parliament will be silenced. The "Times" and "Scrutator" in his Sunday organ will have the ear of the people to an extent which may well be against the public interest. That is another reason why I regret that this is perhaps the last Debate we shall have on foreign affairs for some months. Five million pounds is too much to lend to Poland to arm herself, but a Minister not at the moment on that bench has been bandying sums running up to £1,000,000,000–200 times as much as Polandasks—for an international loan 2015 for super-appeasement. When I read this, I was reminded of one of the most beautiful cartoons of Low's in which he represented a large body of persons with donkeys' faces and long donkeys' ears marching past in a procession. The Prime Minister was taking the salute and they were all putting forward various proposals for appeasement. One old lady, looking hopefully up to the Prime Minister, said: "Do you think Hitler would let us pay him?" I wonder whether he would. The Prime Minister said that Sir Horace Wilson had seen Herr Wohltat and that the right hon. Gentleman had seen Herr Wohltat, and that both had talked to him. The right hon. Gentleman had mentioned these large figures and large plans, and the only difference between him and Sir Horace Wilson was that Sir Horace Wilson had not mentioned these large figures and large plans.
These talks, and even these talks about talks, are quite out of place until we have a real Peace Front. Until then, such talks may lead to very dangerous misconceptions. If we have a real Peace Front, in the aggregate very much stronger than Herr Hitler can muster, I would be all for talks. But there should still be two preliminary conditions. The right hon. Gentleman did mention them. They are, first of all, a halt to the arms race, and, next, a quick march out of Prague. If we can get those two conditions agreed to, and we have a greater force available than Herr Hitler, then we can safety talk about money, or about anything else. But it seems to me that a loan to Nazi Germany, economically speaking, is nonsense. They do not want a loan. They have a planned economy of a kind. Theirs is a form of the classless society. It is not a form that hon. Members on this side approve of any more than hon. Members opposite approve of it, although their disapproval is based on different reasons. Germany has a classless society, in which all are sent to the concentration camp alike, regardless of class distinctions, if they do not obey. Quite clearly, a society of that kind can very rapidly be switched from a peace economy to a war economy, because people are given orders to go somewhere else or to do somebody else, and they have to obey. Therefore, their internal economic system is such that it 2016 is very much easier for them to switch over from one economy to another. What they would want is not an external loan but external markets. That, I suggest, could be discussed, given all these conditions: that we have a stronger alliance than they and that the arms race is abandoned and the stolen territory given up. Until those conditions exist I greatly fear the result of carrying on such talks.
The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer always repudiates the actions of Mr. Montagu Norman when he goes to Basle. Therefore, he will no doubt plead lack of knowledge of what I am about to mention. I am told by a man I can trust, who is associated with the "Financial News," that at the last meeting of the Bank for International Settlements at Basle, Mr. Norman and Sir Otto Niemeyer suggested to Dr. Funk that if Germany devalued the reichsmark and also abolished a number of her exchange restrictions they would do their best to get a loan for her in this country. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman knows nothing about this. The difference between his relations with Mr. Norman and Herr Hitler's relations with Dr. Funk is that the Chancellor of the Exchequer never meets Mr. Norman, whereas Herr Hitler and Dr. Funk have a very close connection. Mr. Norman may not have mentioned this matter to the Chancellor, but if the Chancellor does know anything about it we should be glad to hear whether there is any truth in this story. If there is it is another example of the surreptitious appeasement, like the Czech gold. If this is going on, the sooner the Bank for International Settlements is wound up, the better.
Finally, I wish to say a word or two on the Far East. The right hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate referred to what was happening there. I want to be assured that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he spoke about the Chinese dollar last week, meant just what he said, neither more nor less. He said that we cannot raise any more money to support the Chinese dollar because that would require new legislation, and there is no time for that. I observe, from the heavy slump of the Chinese dollar, that the stabilisation fund, if it is not quite exhausted, is as good as gone. Therefore, I infer that the fall in the Chinese dollar 2017 is likely to continue during the Parliamentary Recess. Is it quite clear that the Government now have given up as a bad job financially, or as a bad job politically vis-a-vis Japan, all attempts to maintain the Chinese dollar It is to be allowed to find its own level, which is likely to be a very low one. How I wish, when I read President Roosevelt's speeches, and when I read about his swift action—for instance, as regards the Japanese treaty—that he and the Prime Minister could change places, if only for a few months. Six months hence the United States Government will have the power to stop all trade with Japan. I regret to say—and I am sure most decent Americans regret it too— that the Americans have sent the Japanese more than 50 per cent. of their war materials. If that could be stopped, and if we could take action, by consultation with the Dominions and directly in the Crown Colonies, to stop the more than 20 per cent. that comes from the British Empire the Japanese would be cut off from 75 per cent. of their war material. Even if we give in to them in the concession areas, I do not think there is any chance of the Japanese winning in China within six months. If we could assist America in that way, therefore, we should be well on the path to checking Japanese aggression in China.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, as Foreign Secretary in 1931, had it in his power to nip this Japanese aggression in the bud. He little thought, when he made agreeable speeches from the Japanese point of view at Geneva, how that aggression, beginning in Manchukuo, would go on, from stage to more ambitious stage, until the present position was reached, in which British nationals in China are being grossly insulted in a fashion without precedent in our time. He little thought that he would be a member of a Government, somewhat changed in personnel but fundamentally the same, which eight years later would be seriously considering whether we dared still to fly the Union Jack in China for fear of offending Japan. He little thought this when he won the praise of Mr. Matsuoka of Japan, who was reported to have said:Sir John Simon has said in half an hour and in a few well-chosen phrases what I, with my bad English, have been trying to say in the last 10 days.2018 He little thought this would happen. We told him it would, but he would not listen to us. We are having the last Debate on foreign affairs that we shall have for some time unless Parliament reassembles earlier than is intended. I should be lacking in candour if I did not say that to ask whether we have confidence in Lord Halifax is to ask a question devoid of all significance. Lord Halifax's colleagues keep him in chains. They keep him in chains tighter than any other Foreign Secretary has had to wear since the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) chained up Lord Curzon after the War. They have a standing Foreign Affairs Committee, we are told in the Press; and there Lord Halifax sits, with the Prime Minister on one side of him and the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the other—the man of Munich and the man of Manchukuo. They sit there with these faded laurels on their brows, and there hovers in the background the fourth member of the Inner Cabinet, whose name is associated with the Hoare-Laval Plan—taking some part in the discussion and managing the Press behind the scenes. In the midst of them there sits this dignified, serene, lay figure, Lord Halifax. It is quite beside the point to ask whether we have confidence in him, but it is not beside the point to say that, taking them collectively, we have no confidence in them—that, taking the other three individually, we have no confidence in any of them. Nor do we believe that, if their case and record were put fairly to the people of this country, the people of this country would have confidence in them either.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister
I think that, perhaps, it will be for the convenience of the Committee if I intervene at this stage and make what contribution I can to the Debate this afternoon. It has been observed that this is the last occasion on which we shall have a Debate upon foreign affairs before hon. Members go away for the Recess, and certainly one cannot deny that at the present moment there is more than one centre of unrest, and no doubt the House would like to have some information from me. In the position like that at the present time when we are conducting a number of negotiations with foreign Powers, some of them of a highly delicate character, I feel, at 2019 any rate, that it is an occasion when one should be careful what one says, and, in particular, that one should not seek to exaggerate any differences that there might be between us. I cannot say that I think that either of the two speeches to which we have just listened are very successful illustrations of that national unity to which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) is never tired of repeating that I am the only obstacle. There is a curious difference of view between the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton). The right hon. Gentleman thinks that unless I endorse in firm and unmistakable terms a speech made by the Foreign Secretary, it must be assumed that I do not agree with him. On the other hand, the hon. Member opposite paints a picture of a Foreign Secretary in chains; he has no mind of his own, but can only say what is put into his mouth by the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. These two views may be said to cancel each other out.
Let me say to the right hon. Gentleman opposite that he is not doing a good service to his country in continually suggesting that the Government are divided in opinion upon the main policy which they have laid down. Nothing could be more agreeable to our potential enemies than the suggestion that the Prime Minister was weaker than the Foreign Secretary in his determination to carry out the policy which the Foreign Secretary announced on behalf of the Government. I cannot imagine his object unless it be the mischievous attempt of the hon. Member opposite to sow suspicion in the minds of all our allies by suggesting sinister explanations of everything which he says he finds in a newspaper, or which is whispered into his ear by some gossiping journalist. The task of carrying on negotiations on foreign affairs is not an easy one in these days, but I think that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who have held responsible positions in the past, and who hope, perhaps, to hold responsible positions again in the future, ought to exercise a little more sense of what is fitting and what is likely to help the cause which they profess to have at heart before they give voice to such observations as we have heard this afternoon.
2020 The hon. Member opposite asks what we have done since March to build up the Peace Front. I should have thought it was hardly necessary to ask that question when the results are apparent on every side. The hon. Member truly said that the first thing we had to do was to continue our own rearmament; and while this is not a time to enter upon any dissertation upon that subject, I think the House is very well aware that we have made good use of the time since last March, and our defences are now indeed of a formidable character.
The arrangements which we have already made with Poland and with Turkey, in conjunction with our ally France, are they not of transcend ant importance in the building up of a Peace Front? Are those two countries themselves not so situated, are they not so constituted that they are vital and essential factors in any Peace Front that is being built up? As for Rumania and Greece, to whom we have given guarantees, the hon. Member suggests that apparently these guarantees are to be counted as nothing in the building up of the Peace Front because we have not had reciprocal guarantees from those two countries. Anybody who looks at realities must see through such a fallacy as that. How could those two countries help build up the Peace Front by guaranteeing this country? They are not in a position to do so. But by guaranteeing them, by the guarantees which we give them, we have at any rate given them the assurance that they are not without friends in the world, and that they are not without those who recognise that they might possibly be the objects of attack, and who promise to come to their assistance if they are. Is that not likely to have the effect of stiffening their resistance to any attack which might be made upon them? The very people—the hon. Member himself who makes this a charge against us that we had not got guarantees from Rumania and Greece is the very one who wants to know why we did not give similar assurances to Czecho-Slovakia. The real fact is—and it became perfectly obvious in the course of the hon. Member's speech—that for him the Peace Front includes one Power and one Power only of any account, and that is Russia. He is interested in Russia, and he is interested in no other country.
§ Mr. Dalton
I do not want to intervene, but it is quite within the Prime Minister's recollection that before he gave the guarantee either to Rumania or to Poland I urged him to do so in this House. Was not that the case?
§ The Prime Minister
Why is the hon. Member now making it the subject of his complaint? I cannot follow the hon. Member in all his inconsistencies. The hon. Member and the right hon. Gentleman opposite both devoted a large part of their speeches to the negotiations with Russia. Both of them suggested, though they did not actually say so, that the delay in coming to an agreement was entirely the fault of this Government. I do not know whether the French Government were also included. Both of them said that they had been kept in the dark, although the hon. Member opposite afterwards professed to give a time-table, I think he called it, of the negotiations to illustrate his thesis that the delay had all been on the side of the British Government.
§ Sir A. Sinclair
I deliberately and specifically said that I did not complain but that we had not sufficient data on which to base a judgment.
§ The Prime Minister
I know that the right hon. Gentleman said that, but he said it in such a way as to convey the impression, the deliberate impression, that though he did not seek to allocate the blame, meaning to say that he could not prove it, he wished the House to understand that the blame did lie, and lie entirely, with the Government. The hon. Member opposite has been very proud of his persistence in asking questions about the course of these negotiations for a long period of time, and, in fact, he has tried for a long time to goad me into recriminations against the Soviet Government by seeking to put the blame for the delay upon this Government. If I have restrained myself, if I have refused to enter into discussion as to the differences which prevented the completion of the agreement between ourselves and the Soviet Government, if I have done that all this time, that is the measure of the sincerity of my desire to come to an agreement. I can assure the Committee that it has required some self-control to abstain from refuting the false impressions which the hon. Gentleman has sought to convey.
2022 No, Sir, I am not going to-day to give a historical summary of the negotiations between the British and the French Governments, on the one hand, and the Soviet Government on the other, for that very reason. I know perfectly well that there are people in other countries who are watching very jealously the progress of these negotiations, and who would be exceedingly glad for any ammunition which they could use in order to divide the Soviet Government and ourselves I do not propose to give them that ammunition. Of course, there is no secret about the fact that the Soviet Government and the British and French Governments combined have not hitherto been able to agree upon a definition satisfactory to all parties of the term "indirect aggression," although all three of us realise that indirect aggression may be just as dangerous as direct aggression, and all three of us desire to find a satisfactory method of providing against it. At the same time—I have the agreement of the right hon. Gentleman—we are extremely anxious not even to appear to be desirous of encroaching upon the independence of other States. And if we have not agreed so far with the Soviet Government upon this definition of indirect aggression, it is because the formula which they favoured appeared to us to carry that precise signification.
I have not the slightest doubt that if you were to make out an accurate time table you would find that much more time had been consumed by the British Government and the French Government in making their answers to the Soviet Government than has been consumed by the Soviet Government in making their answers to us. Is not that natural and, indeed, inevitable? Mr. Molotov was conducting these negotiations on the spot. If he wished to refer to his own Government he had only to drive a short distance through the City and he was in their presence. The British and French Ambassadors had to refer to their respective Governments and to report on each stage of the negotiations. We had to communicate with one another and agree upon the answer before we could reply. Therefore, when the hon. Member opposite talks about this dawdling diplomacy, without precedent, I wonder whether he has looked up the precedents or whether it was just one of those phrases that he 2023 throws off in order to denigrate the Government.
I have looked up one or two precedents, just to see whether, in fact, these negotiations provide an outrageous exception to the general rule of expedition in conducting negotiations which involve more than two parties. The Anglo-Japanese Alliance, which was a bi-lateral arrangement, took six months to negotiate. The Anglo-French Entente of 1904 took nine months. The Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907 took 15 months, and the negotiations which led. Up to the Treaty of Locarno took eight months before they arrived at a conclusion. It would have been possible, perhaps, to make a provisional agreement at an early date with the Soviet Government, referring to a later date the conclusion of a detailed treaty. That was the course that we pursued with Poland and with Turkey, and we and the French Government would have been quite ready to have followed that course in this case, but the Soviet Government thought other wise. They preferred to sign nothing, to initial nothing until we had got to a complete agreement, and as a result of that we were not able to present the world, as I would have liked to do, with even a provisional agreement at an earlier stage.
The announcement which I made to day at Question Time shows that we have done something that must, I think, be almost without precedent in history in negotiations of this kind. We have agreed and the French Government have agreed to send military missions to Moscow to engage upon staff conversations with the corresponding officers appointed by the Russian Government, before we have come to a political agreement.
§ The Prime Minister
Yes, but the conditions were very different. Here is a country which is a long way off and with which we had not had close relations for a very long time. We are showing a great amount of trust and a really strong intention to bring these negotiations to a successful issue when we can agree to send our sailors, soldiers and airmen to Russia to discuss how we can make our military plans together before we have an 2024 assurance that we shall yet be able to come to an agreement upon political matters. The Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs, in the course of conversation, expressed the view that if we once begun these military conversations, to which he attached very great importance, the political difficulties should not prove insuperable. It was that expression of view which weighed with us in taking this very unusual decision, and it certainly is the sincere hope of the French Government and ourselves that this anticipation of M. Molotov will be realised and that we shall find it possible to agree not only in substance but also in form upon the remaining outstanding political difficulties.
I said that there was more than one area of unrest in Europe and elsewhere. In Europe anxiety at the present time tends to centre around the City of Danzig. It was, I think, on the 10th of this month that I made a statement in this House — a statement which I may tell the right hon. Gentleman has not, as far as I can remember, yet been endorsed by the Foreign Secretary, but with which I have every reason to believe he entirely concurs. That was a statement which in clear and unmistakable terms expressed the determination of His Majesty's Government. I feel that to add to that statement to-day could do nothing to strengthen it, and I do not wish to do anything to weaken it. The local situation in Danzig is one which has been causing a considerable amount of public apprehension, and it is obviously one which requires very careful watching; but some of the reports, at any rate, which I have been in the Press about the extent of the militarisation which has taken place have undoubtedly been exaggerated. Therefore, while we shall continue to watch this situation, I think my Noble Friend was justified recently in saying that he does not feel undue concern about it. There have been some frontier incidents which have rather increased than decreased the tension, but the Polish Government, which has shown the most admirable calm, may, I think, be trusted to continue to exercise a wise and states manlike restraint.
Another centre of unrest in the world is, of course, the Far East. There, as the Committee is aware, discussions are going on at the present time in Tokyo on the position in the Tients in concession. Those 2025 negotiations were preceded by an agreement on what is known as the formula, which dealt with the general background against which the later negotiations would proceed. Here, again, I venture to suggest that it does not help our cause, the cause that I believe all of us desire to see advanced, to suggest that there should be read into that formula interpretations which the Government have already denied, which are calculated to give rise to anxiety and distrust in China, and which are not borne out by any careful and impartial examination of the formula itself. The formula was a statement of fact. It did not denote any change of policy. It did not denote the recognition of any belligerent rights on the part of Japan. It did not betray any British interests in China, and it did not purport or intend to surrender any rights belonging to third 'parties.
The right hon. Gentleman put tome a number of specific questions in connection with the subject of the Far East. He asked whether the formula meant that we would help Japan to hold what they had and would not stand in the way of their getting more. Why suggest such a fantastic statement as that? Why give ammunition to those who do not wish us well? Is the pleasure of representing the Prime Minister as an obstacle to national unity so great that the right hon. Gentleman cannot remember that other people read other things into his speeches. His attacks upon the Government suggesting that they are playing false, that they are liable to betray their friends are not merely injurious to our good name but are calculated to weaken our influence in the world, if they are believed. They are, therefore, the very last thing that he should attempt to do in these critical times.
§ Sir A. Sinclair
As the right hon. Gentleman attacks me, may I say that I did not suggest that that was the only interpretation of the formula? I said that that was one of two possible interpretations. I submitted both interpretations to the Committee and asked the Government to say which was correct. The right hon. Gentleman must know that I did not invent that interpretation. It is one that is being whispered all around us. It may be found in the newspapers, and I believe that it is a service to bring it out into open debate and let it be answered.
§ The Prime Minister
The right hon. Gentleman says that I made an attack on him. I did not begin the attack. As he has attempted to excuse himself, may I say that he seems to me to take up every rumour which is damaging to the Government, without committing himself specifically to it, and to give it as much publicity as he possibly can. It encourages foreigners to repeat it without its qualifications.
Let me say once again — I think it is quite unnecessary — that this Government will not reverse its policy in the Far East at the request of another Power, and I wish to add that we have not been asked by Japan to do so. There are, no doubt, plenty of difficulties in front of us in the delicate negotiations which are being carried on by our Ambassador, and not the least of these is the persistence of the anti-British agitation in North China carried on by people who are influenced, instigated and controlled, by Japanese, and I am bound to say that if this agitation continues, if these attacks upon British interests and British rights in North China are to go on unchecked, the British Government would be obliged to take a very serious view of the situation. It is quite clear that it would make a successful outcome of our negotiations, an outcome which is quite as much in the interests of Japan as in the interests of this country, extremely difficult, if not impossible.
May we not bear this in mind, that in spite of irritating and injurious incidents, the real goal we have in mind is to find some just and equitable settlement of the struggle which is going on in China? I have been asked a number of questions about particular items, such as the handing over of silver in the Concession and support for the Chinese currency. These are questions which are not confined to Tientsin, they are larger questions, and they are questions which do not affect only this country. It is perfectly certain, therefore, that we could not discuss questions of that character without the fullest communication with other countries whose interests are equally involved with our own. Allusion has been made, not unnaturally, to recent action on the part of the American Government. As I have said earlier, I believe that the general objects and aims of the Government of the United States 2027 and the British Government are closely similar, but it does not follow that each of us must necessarily do exactly the same thing as the other. We may find that different methods are appropriate in different cases. The Committee may rest assured that this Government places the utmost importance upon collaboration where collaboration is possible and desirable with the United States Government, and that we never fail to keep that Government informed of all that we are doing or are about to do.
I want to say a word or two about the Polish negotiations. The hon. Member for Bishop Auckland, as usual, found in the failure of the Polish Government and ourselves to come to final agreement upon one item of those we were discussing, an occasion for blaming His Majesty's Government, and he indulged in singularly violent language about members of the Civil Service against whom he seems to have a perpetual grievance, ascribing to them the most completely imaginary motives for actions in regard to which he gave a totally inaccurate account. There, again, the object of the hon. Member appeared to be to instil into the mind of the Polish Government a suspicion that we had something sinister behind this difficulty and that we were trying to use it as a lever to prevent the Poles from arming and carrying out their full share in the Peace Front. I do not believe that any hon. Member, with perhaps the one exception, believes that story. I am not going to add to what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said the other day when he declared that the reasons which had made it difficult for us were technical, and that it was not in the public interest to discuss them. I am not going to add to that except this, that the difficulty did not arise in connection with the purchase of arms from other countries than this one; it was a difficulty connected with the request of the Polish Government for a loan in gold. I am not going to say any more about that; indeed, I do not think there is much else I need say.
One must admit that the situation in which the accumulation of the weapons of war is going on on so many sides and at such a pace is one which cannot but be regarded with anxiety; indeed, it is difficult to see what the resolution of this problem can be unless it is to be resolved 2028 by war itself. Unhappily, bad feeling between nations is fomented daily by poisonous propaganda in the Press and by other means, and I cannot help feeling that if only we could halt this war of words and if, in addition to that, some action could be taken which would tend to restore the confidence of the peoples of the peaceful intentions of all States in Europe —if that could be done, then I still think that there is no question that could not and should not be solved by peaceful discussion. If that could be done the gains for all concerned would be incalculable, and we could look forward, I am firmly convinced, to a period of increasing and unexampled prosperity in inter national industry and agriculture which would result in a general improvement in the conditions of the people. On the other hand, if war should come, which ever side might claim the ultimate victory, nothing is more certain than this: that victor and vanquished alike would glean a grusome harvest of human suffering and misery. I do believe that this great and fundamental truth is beginning to get down to the minds of rulers and peoples alike, and it is on that belief that I base my hope that we may yet find a way of escape from the present night mare, and come once against into the sun light of peace.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Horabin
I would much prefer not to have spoken in this House until I had completely absorbed its atmosphere. I have yet to learn the art of substituting the rapier of Parliamentary debate for the sledge-hammer of the hustings. For that reason, much as I would like to attempt to reply to the points made by the Prime Minister, I am too much of a novice to do so, and I am sure that the Committee will appreciate that. I think hon. Members will also sympathise with me when I say that that up to six months ago I had never spoken in public in my life. I beg the indulgence of the House for another reason. I am handicapped in dealing with this subject be cause it has deeply engaged my heart and my head, but I hope that I shall exercise that restraint upon my words which may be expected in response to the courtesy which hon. Members extend to a new Member in making his first speech in the House. To me the Czechs were not an unknown people. The 2029 Munich agreement was such a shock to me that it made me physically ill, and since then I made up my mind to take an active part in the fight for those principles which in my opinion were then abandoned. Munich was such a shock to me because in my view it meant the defeat of everything that I and other hon. Members had fought for during the last War. In the last War we fought to make the world safe for democracy, to make the world a safer place for the smaller nations. We fought and suffered in "a war to end war," but now all these things have gone with the wind which blew Czecho-Slovakia out of evistence.
But the past must bury itself and I would like for a moment to consider the future. One thing is certain. Every hon. Member, it does not matter whether he is a Liberal, Labour or a Conservative, is striving to reach the same objective; every single one is fighting to lead the world to a lasting peace. But to day, I think, everyone realises also that peace is not to be gained by allowing more and more people to fall under the horrors of Nazi rule, with its concentration camps, tyranny, torture and cruelty. Lasting peace is to be gained only when the whole of Europe is restored to government based on the broad Liberal principles of individual freedom, tolerance, mercy and justice. That is why I feel that the ends of peace would be best served if we made it clear to the Nazis and the German people that it is our settled policy to encircle Germany, not to impair the national existence of the German people, not to carry out an offensive action, but in order to protect the rest of the world from the horrors of Nazi rule, and in order to ensure that the rest of the world shall continue to enjoy government based on those principles which distinguish the civilised man from the beast. From what I know of the masses of the German people, they, too, yearn for civilised government within the Reich.
I cannot disguise from the Committee my view that at this time, and during the weeks that lie immediately ahead, we are about to enter upon a most critical time in our history — in my view a time far more critical even than March, 1918, when the fifth Army was destroyed and we were fighting with our backs to the wall in France. War may perhaps break 2030 out at any moment, and I suggest to the Committee that the danger of war would be considerably lessened if those in whose power it lies to let loose another war on the world could be convinced that this country and its Government stand in flexible in resistance to any further acts of aggression. Many people in this country, and many people in neutral and allied countries, and certainly, I believe, the leaders of the Axis Powers, see in our Government at the present time an infirmity of purpose in this respect. This doubt of the real intentions of our Government may or may not be justified — I do not propose to go into that question to-day — but whether or not it is justified, the doubt exists and is strongly entrenched throughout the world.
In all humility, I ask the Prime Minister whether the greatest service he could render to peace at the present time would not be to destroy that serious doubt. If he announced, for instance, that no negotiations would be entered into with Germany until Germany had returned to the frontiers agreed at the time of Munich, that at any rate would repay the debt we owe to the Czechs, and it would destroy the widespread fear at the present moment that we are about to be faced by a far more serious Munich. Personally, I believe Munich to have been disastrous and demoralising. Nevertheless, the British Prime Minister then gave his word to Herr Hitler, and the British people must see to it that their Prime Minister's word is honoured; but at the same time, it is reasonable for us to ask that the Nazis also should re turn to that agreement. Such an announcement must, in my view, be accompanied by a clear statement of British peace aims for an agreed settlement in Europe. Those aims must be founded upon equity and common sense, and upon the recognition of our closely-knit interdependence. This would not only give real stamina to the Peace Front which we are struggling to build up at the present time, but it might also cause the German people to tear off the Nazi muzzle and raise their voice also in the cause of European co-operation and peace.
Again, if war does break out, I suggest that one thing that would immediately happen would be that the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) would be included in the 2031 Government. To me, it is a national tragedy that, while the nation would insist on utilising his services in time of war, the nation is deprived of his strong moral purpose, his judgment and energy at this time when we are perhaps putting up the last desperate fight for peace. To me, it is also a tragedy that the nation is deprived at the present time of the judgment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. LloydGeorge). That judgment came from his great experience in leading this country successfully through the trials and dangers of the last War. From my close touch with the people of this country during the last six months, it seems to me that there is one outstanding need, and that is for national leadership which will give a clear resounding lead on the moral issues that are inherent in the situation now facing us. To save our skins is not enough. If we are to save our civilisation, we must fight, if necessary, to preserve our ancient liberties, our principles and our ideals. Peace on any other terms than those means our ultimate destruction, and that at no far-distant time. In my view, the shadows are pressing ever more closely around us; the path that lies immediately ahead is sombre and unexplored; and with considerable hesitation, and in all humility, I beg the Prime Minister and his advisers to ponder before they reach a decision on the question of the Adjournment, and to ponder deeply the words that were used by Cromwell in this House, when he said:I beseech you, by the bowels of Christ, to believe that you may sometimes be a little wrong.
§ 6.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Eden
I am happy that it falls to my lot to express the congratulations of all hon. Members to the hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Horabin) on his maiden speech. I am sure that is no mere empty and formal compliment. We all appreciate the modesty and sincerity with which the hon. Member spoke, and we all hope that in the months and years to come we shall have the privilege of hearing him often in our Debates.
This is the first Debate we have had on foreign affairs for a very considerable period, and I think no one in any part of the Committee has taken exception to the Debate taking place. I feel that it 2032 has been worth while if only to obtain from my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister the very direct and forthright statement of policy to which we listened. I think that the observations which he made, by their very frankness, particularly in connection with the Russian negotiations, cannot but do good. I shall have a few words to say about Russia in a moment, but I should like now to say that I do not think it was quite fair —and I do not think my right hon. Friend in tended to do this —to blame hon. Members in connection with the Russian negotiations, for in truth the rumours that have appeared from day to day were not statements made by any of us, or even to us, but were made in various sections of the Press. However, I think that the terms which my right hon. Friend used with regard to the Russian negotiations and with regard to the Far East will render a definite service in an extremely delicate international situation.
We have been reminded of the delicacy of that situation. It is difficult, anxious and, in my judgment, menacing. There is no improvement and no relaxation of the tension; nor, I think, can any of us expect such a relaxation in the coming weeks. False optimism would be as unjustified to-day as anything in the nature of jitters, which is not existent among the British people. My right hon. Friend has appealed to us that we should not in these delicate conditions say anything to make the existing problems sharper still, and for my part, I need hardly say that I shall do myut most to respond to that appeal. Indeed, in what I shall say, I shall seek only to put to my right hon. Friend and the Government certain concrete suggestions which in the present international situation have been brought to my mind. If the situation is— as we admit it is — one of unrelieved gravity, that does not mean that there are not actions which the Government could perhaps take which would assist to better it. I will begin with an observation or two about the Far East.
What are the realities of the Far Eastern situation? Amid all the conflicting evidence and the conflicting claims, there is one reality which is surely abundantly plain to all of us, and that is that Japan has failed to conquer China. The end of that war is now even more remote than it was when the war began 2033 some two years ago. Indeed, since the fall, last October, of Hankow and Canton, Japan has made no progress, not even in the narrowest military sense of the term "progress." On the contrary, since those events last autumn, from all the information which comes to us — I expect the Government will be able to confirm this — the Chinese morale and power of organisation have made a most remarkable recovery. In the territory which remains to them, they have not only reorganised their armies, but they are even reconstructing their industry. China has adjusted herself to new conditions in a manner which calls for a warm tribute of admiration from all of us. I cannot help feeling that there are many in Japan who thought in the early days that the war would be profitable and soon over, who must now be deeply regretting their error of judgment. There fore, I repeat that in the Far Eastern situation the first reality is that Japan can never wholly conquer China.
The second reality is that Japan, having failed to complete her military victory, is seeking for some other way to obtain the same or similar results, and in seeking for that way, she is now attempting to bring about the collapse of the Chinese currency. The aim of Japan is to secure the assistance or connivance of this country in that attempt. I was delighted to hear the categoric terms in which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister dealt with that situation this afternoon. There is very little doubt in my mind that the demand for the silver in Tientsin, which is held by our banks and the French banks in the Concession, and the demand that we should substitute the Japanese currency for the Chinese dollar in use in the Concession, are aimed at trying to weaken the Chinese currency and to obtain by that means the results which Japan has failed to achieve by military action. It is obvious that this country could have no lot or part in such an endeavour. To modify our policy at the dictates of a foreign Power is exactly what my right hon. Friend said he was not prepared to do, and to agree to join in such a movement as that would be gravely injurious to our interests not only in China, but throughout the East, India, Malaya, and everywhere.
There is one question I should like to put to whoever is going to reply to the 2034 Debate for the Government The Prime Minister has made it quite plain that we stand firm in our intention not to assist in any attempt to weaken the Chinese currency. I hope the Government will go a little further than that and make it plain, perhaps when the Debate is wound up, that not only will we not connive in any attempt to weaken the Chinese currency, but we shall continue the policy on which we have hitherto been engaged of doing all we can to support the Chinese currency itself.
Something has been said about the negotiations which have been going on in Tokyo. I shall not attempt to examine the formula or discuss those negotiations in detail. Frankly, I do not think it particularly helpful to do so while they are taking place. In the end, that formula and any other negotiation will be judged by what has happened and the first condition, it seems to me, of any improvement in relations between this country and Japan, is the cessation of the anti-British activities which are at present being stimulated by Japan in China. If Japan truly wants our friendship she cannot expect — no country can expect — to have it, while she is engaged in activities of that kind. So far, the conversations have not had that result. The blockade at Tientsin continues and apparently food supplies, even to Hong Kong, are being interfered with.
I am sure that when my right hon. Friend replies he will make it plain, as I think the Prime Minister made it plain just now, if I understood him aright, that any friendship with us depends on the cessation of those activities and a reversal of the present attitude of Japan. If that does not take place we in this country do not lack action that we can take. The United States have shown us what form that action might take. There are some of us who wish that the action which the United States has taken had been taken on our part when the Tientsin blockade began. That is a matter for argument but what is certain is that the Government will receive the support of every section of opinion in this country, if they find it necessary to speak in those plain terms to the Japanese Government.
I turn from that subject to say a word about Russia. I do so with some temerity, because I know of no subject which is more prickly and more productive of controversy in all quarters of the House. But 2035 we have not this afternoon to discuss whether we want an agreement with Russia or not. That has been decided some time ago. It is the Government's declared policy that they do wish for such an agreement. My right hon. Friend has reiterated that with considerable vehemence this afternoon and what I desire to concern myself with now is the question of machinery. Accepting the position that we do want this agreement with Russia, is there anything further we can do which will enable us to bring it about? It must be admitted that these negotiations have pursued a somewhat strange course. I was delighted to hear my right hon. Friend speak of the decision to send this military mission — military in the widest sense — to Moscow. I agree that it is an unusual proceeding. I agree also that it is calculated to help to remove mistrust and that is why I, for my part, most warmly welcome it.
These negotiations with Russia are always being forecast either in this country or in Paris as just about to finish but they never seem quite to reach their end. Indeed in this connection I am reminded of La Roche foucauld's definition of love and ghosts— everybody talks of it but nobody has ever seen it. We hope despite that, that we very soon shall see the happy end of the negotiations in this case. For my part, I wish that two months ago the Government had made up their mind to send the most authoritative mission possible to Moscow and that they had put at the head of that mission some political personality who could negotiate directly with the remarkable man who is head of the Russian Government to-day in every thing except name. If that mission could then have been accompanied by military, naval and air advisers so much the better, but where doubts and suspicions have to be allayed —and everybody knows that they exist —personal contact can be more effective than the exchange of diplomatic notes however skilfully drafted. There are times when an hour's talk may be worth a month of writing. I wish that step could have been taken.
I have long believed, as the Committee know, that there are no fundamental divergencies of interest between us and the Russian Government, I am speaking of exterior political circumstances and not at all of our internal politics with which 2036 we are not, as I see it, concerned in this connection. There is nowhere on the earth's surface any reason why those interests should conflict, but there is this long legacy of suspicion which, particularly in the case of Russians, is by no means easily removed. in conclusion, on this subject I would ask the Government, since they are now going to send a military mission to Moscow, if there are still political difficulties and if the Government still feel those difficulties to be formidable even now, that they should enlarge this military mission and make it a political mission as well. Why should we not arrange it so that not only will our generals talk to the Russian generals but that there will also be someone who can talk to M. Stalin and see if we cannot finish the whole thing in one week? I know that that is asking much, but I cannot help feeling that a direct approach to the men concerned is more likely to produce results than other methods. I know how difficult it is, but I would beg of the Government, at this time, that they should give consideration to that proposal.
May I say something now about the situation in Danzig? My right hon. Friend said he stood by the declaration which he made the other day. That declaration received the endorsement of every section of this House, and, if I may say so, I thought it could not have been improved by one word or comma. The truth is that there is no Danzig issue in the narrow sense of the term. What does exist is an issue concerned with the future independence of Poland. Germans in Danzig to-day do not undergo any servitude, except that servitude which they care to impose upon themselves. The city is ruled by the Nazis; they have suppressed all other political parties and all other newspapers, they have expelled the Jews and they do exactly as they like, as regards internal affairs.
As to the actual system which now exists I would like to say this. There have been many critics of the Versailles settlement in respect of Danzig. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and I have had, perhaps, rather more to do with the working of that system than anybody else. I have no particular reason to defend the Treaty of Versailles. I have been accused of many misdeeds but nobody has ever said that I drafted that Treaty. But I can say, and 2037 I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer will bear me out in this, that that system, though not ideal, is definitely workable, if there be the will to work it. We have to remember that at Versailles the Powers were faced by two conflicting demands which could not be wholly reconciled. Poland wished Danzig to be included in her territory and Germany wished to retain Danzig in her territory.
All through the centuries there has been this problem of Danzig's special position, and it seems to me that the solution which the Powers, when they made the Peace Treaty, sought to work out, was by no means unreasonable. It gave Danzig its own life and it gave Poland its own port. Let us not forget that with out that port Poland's life could hardly be maintained. The Fourteen Points of President Wilson, which Germany her self is so fond of acclaiming, recognised Poland's right to a secure outlet to the sea. Therefore I say that there is no narrow Danzig issue. If you like there is the issue of the so-called Corridor. Dr. Goebbels has tried to link it up with Danzig but in point of fact the Corridor has always been Polish in population and if you were to deprive Poland of the Corridor and of the use of Danzig, then, I repeat, that country's life would be placed in jeopardy.
As we watch these manoeuvres is it possible to escape the conclusion that we are being confronted with exactly the same technique as that which was used last year? The object is exactly the same. Nobody can foretell precisely what the tactics will be in the next few weeks. No doubt there will be many moves. We shall be lulled and soothed, we shall be threatened and provoked, but in essence the Nazis' purpose remains the same —to impose upon Poland this year the fate which they imposed upon Czechoslovakia last year. To counter this, the Government have embarked upon their policy of the Peace Front and are seeking to build up that Front. It is useless to argue now whether that is the rig ht line to take or not. The decision was taken last March after the German troops entered Prague and, for my part, I am convinced that no other policy stands a chance of averting war under present conditions. That has been confirmed by the Foreign Secretary in his recent speech and by my right hon. Friend to-day.
2038 There cannot be any turning back and there will be no turning back. My right hon. Friend's speech made that clear. What then is the best contribution that we can make? I come back to the statement that the purpose of the Government's policy is not to win a war but to avert it. Therefore the best contribution that we can make is to complete this Peace Front at the earliest possible moment. On that basis we shall be in a position to act, to speak, to negotiate with greater freedom. Once every would-be aggressor in Europe can be compelled to recognise that aggression cannot for the future pay, it may be that then, at last, we shall enter upon the long and difficult road to enduring peace.
§ 6.42 p.m.
§ Sir Arnold Wilson
It is two years since I spoke on foreign affairs in this House, but I have spoken and written much out side and I think it right to express here some of the convictions which I have voiced. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) referred to "the lowest level of self-interest." I suggest that en lightened self-interest is the highest practical level that can be properly adopted by a representative Parliament in dealing with international affairs. We are asking our people to make great sacrifices for principle, and unless self-interest is at stake, it is scarcely possible, in practice, to do so. Towards the end of the 14th Chapter of St. Luke there is the query:For which of you intending to build a tower sitteth not down first and counteth the; cost whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest hap'ly after he hath laid the foundation and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him."We have to cut our coat according to our cloth. To take the line which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness and Sutherland would have us take, at every danger point in the universe, simultaneously, may be beyond our strength. As regards China, I have only condemnation for what the Japanese have done in the past 2½ years, but I doubt whether anything that we can do, even if we go as far as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden), has just suggested, can ensure that China should win there. All we can do is to ensure a stalemate and I question whether, on the long view, we should not do better to retain 2039 our credits until the time comes —I hope before long —when far greater credits will be demanded by the needs of peace. Meanwhile, I support wholeheartedly the action which President Roosevelt has taken. I only wish he had taken it long ago. It has been a tardy decision on his part.
The Prime Minister's speech points to the futility of continuing to arm our selves and others with the purely negative object of discouraging Germany and Italy from committing suicide. I disagree with the speakers who preceded the Prime Minister in believing that a fresh attempt at a detente is possible. The most discouraging feature of the past 10 days has been the hostility which the mere talk of a comprehensive agreed settlement between Germany and this country aroused in the newspapers both of Germany and of this country. I can understand German resentment at one-sided communications with the Press on purely financial conversations. If any thing had to be said, it should have been in the form of an agreed communiqué but apart from considerations of etiquette, it is increasingly clear that the temper of the Press of both sides, makes any useful conversations impossible.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister referred to the poisoning of the atmosphere by the Press. The Press in Germany and Italy is controlled and could be stopped to-morrow by agreement. To control the Press in France, the French Government have already taken the strongest powers and could in a moment turn the tap in any direction that they desired; I seriously suggest that the time has come for us here to consider whether we should not take steps to enable the Press to exercise voluntary control over itself or, at least, its head-lines. [Hon. Members: "Oh!"] We should do so without the smallest hesitation at the outbreak of war. Is it not better, when a war of a sort has been already in progress for the past two years, ourselves to confer or exercise such powers as would enable us at least to be able to reach an agreement for a few months to control the shameful excesses in the Press on both sides of the North Sea? [Interruption] When I see the puny fists of the Popular Front raised by way of a jeer, it is well to remember that 2040 the Press of almost every country in Europe to-day is under pretty effective control.
§ Sir A. Wilson
So far as the genuinely neutral Powers are concerned, with good results. I refer to the Low Countries and Scandinavia.
I hope we shall not be required to sign the Anglo-Russian Agreement on the dotted line merely in order to get an agreement. We know from the Finnish Press and other sources that if we do what Russia requires of us, we shall be required to induce Poland and Rumania to cancel their anti-Soviet Agreement of 1935–36. Russia requires her forces to have access to and to march through the territories of both Poland and Rumania, who are likely to find such a prospect quite intolerable. The Rumanians know that Bessarabia is still claimed by Russia, and the Poles have not forgotten the events of 1920 and they know that Russia demands the right to use their harbours and their territory. There is little doubt that Finland, Latvia, and Estonia would be thrown into the arms of Germany were we to do what Russia expects of us; the instability of Europe would be increased and not lessened.
I believe that on other matters as well there is still a substantial difference of opinion between Russia and ourselves and France, and I much hope that the Government will not be driven by speeches in this House to conclude an agreement with Russia which would be interpreted in the Baltic States, Poland, and Rumania, as a betrayal of their interests in the interests of Britain and France. I have full confidence in the policy that is being pursued by the Prime Minister, and I am certain that the delay which has been caused during the past few months in the discussions is not due to any unreasonable obstinacy on our part. I will not attempt to deal with the problems which arise with regard to Turkey, but when we are asked why we do no tat once conclude an agreement with Russia, it is pertinent to remark that there are other Powers besides France and Britain concerned in the matter, and that we must keep in touch with Poland and Rumania and perhaps also with Turkey before we finally bring Russia into an agreement.
2041 Last Friday in this House we had repeated suggestions from the Front Opposition Bench that we should proclaim that we intend to encircle Germany and to do it still more closely, that we should cease to pretend, in the words of the right hon. Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) that we are not encircling her, and that we should make the encirclement unbreakable. Encirclement, even if effective, is not a policy; it is merely a manoeuvre in support of a policy, and that policy we have not yet enunciated in specific terms. So far as concerns Italy, it is primarily a matter for France to reach a new equilibrium, and that would follow hard upon any agreement that we could make with Germany.
Four main problems await treatment in any Anglo-Franco-German Agreement, apart from that of the Press to which I have referred. First, there is the Jewish problem, which is tainting the atmosphere in which alone negotiation is possible, and for that the responsibilty of Germany is primary and, I might almost say, exclusive. Secondly, there is Germany's need for a privileged export area comparable with those enjoyed by Japan, Soviet Russia, the United States of America, and the Dutch, Belgian, French, and British Empires. Until she gets it, she is bound to be a disturbing factor. Until she gets in Eastern Europe a privileged economic area, which is the best translation of which I know of Lebensraum, she must continue to be a disturbing factor. Next is the demand for colonies, which arises entirely from the sense of inferiority which was created in Germany by the terms and conditions of the Treaty of Versailles.
§ Mr. Bracken
In that case, why did Hitler say in "Mein-Kampf" that colonies are of no use to Germany?
§ Sir A. Wilson
I have read "Mein-Kampf" and am aware that Herr Hitler said they were of no use to Germany, but that is not the view that he or the great majority of his people are taking to-day. The present demand is due to an inferiority complex. Fourthly, there is the question of financial rehabilitation on the gold basis. Germany's responsibility for each of these problems is great, but is not exclusive. Whether it is great or small, they have to be faced, remember- 2042 ing that the consequence of failure to solve problems is war, and that once war begins the question of responsibility is a matter for historians and for nobody else. Britain and France say to Germany, "Deeds, not words; till you prove by-deeds that we can trust you, we cannot negotiate," and in view of what has happened, I agree. Germany and Italy reply, "Deeds, not words. We are new comers, with growing populations and needs and strength. You have both reached a point of territorial expansion beyond your needs and your strength. We had no sympathy from you when we were weak, and we want to negotiate, but we dare not go into conference unless we know in advance that you will concede to argument something that you refuse to concede to force."
In a sane world Germany would take the first step, but Germany is not sane. Her leaders lack courage to take the lead. It is a ludicrous inhibition in a nation, that men who declare that their system of government has this advantage over democracy, that they can act swiftly and independently of public opinion when the situation requires it — that such men cannot make suggestions for a peaceful solution. Are we then to await events, to go on arming until some incident plunges the people on both sides, pathetically anxious for peace, into a war which will destroy much that we all hold dearer than our lives? Can nothing more constructive be done than to go on arming, to show Italy and Germany that we are more resolute and stronger than they are? Surely the reply should be in Ruskin's words, that England is still honoured among the nations of Europe for her "strange valour of good will towards men" and for a relative detachment from the sectional quarrels and hatreds of Europe. We ought not to allow the bad manners of the plaintiff to blind us, as judges in our own cause, to the elements of justice and reason in his claim.
We are bound, as beneficiaries of 200 years of expansion, in any future settlement, to be in some measure the givers, just as Germany and Italy are bound, as a result of the events of the past 25 years, to be in some measure the askers. We can afford to give much and be far stronger as a result. My submission is that our destiny will be greater by far if 2043 we, in a fresh effort to achieve a settlement, are prepared to give something from a sense of justice, and that our destiny will be not enviable if we stand still now merely because we have not the courage to move.
§ Sir A. Wilson
Czecho-Slovakia has ceased to exist, and no one regrets it more than I do. I mention Italy because her population is increasing as rapidly as that of certain other countries is decreasing.
§ Sir A. Wilson
I would not give a single colony to Germany to-day. What practical steps can we take? I suggest the publication of a formal declaration of policy announcing that if Germany and Italy will cease to rely solely on force — if they will not, we will meet force with the same weapon and defeat it — we are prepared to sponsor, in collaboration with other Powers, a scheme for Jewish settlement on a large scale, beginning in British Guiana. Even Dr. Weizmann does not think that Palestine will hold more than 100,000 extra Jews, and there are another 4,000,000 or 5,000,000 awaiting settlement. Secondly, to recognise the special economic position of Germany and Italy in the Danube Valley and to forgo most-favoured-nation or treaty rights, provided the political independence of the Danube nations be effectively guaranteed and recognised. Germany and Italy, in return, to recognise that the Mediterranean is our Lebensraum, that we have the vital need, and therefore the right, of complete access at all times to the Mediterranean, and that we have a particular interest in, and must guarantee, all countries south of the Danube.
Thirdly, the only suggestion that I can make for a solution of the colonial problem would be the progressive inter-nationalisation of colonies in Equatorial Africa on lines with which I will not detain the Committee now, but which I have outlined in some detail elsewhere. I believe that in the long run Equatorial Africa must be treated as a whole, upon lines which cannot be purely national and must eventually be international. 2044 Equatorial Africa stands apart from North and South Africa, and might benefit from assistance and collaboration with Europe on an international basis. Equatorial Africa cannot remain as at present parcelled out among half a dozen different countries. There is nothing unreasonable in a loan on the lines that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Department of Overseas Trade is understood to have unofficially discussed, provided that Germany is prepared to return to the paths of peace. Ninety percent, of all the gold in the world is either owned, or controlled, or produced in the territories of the British Empire, Russia and the United States of America, and will be produced in future on a larger and yet larger scale. There are limits to the amount of gold that we can usefully employ our-selves, and unless the totalitarian States undertake to go back to gold, and we give them facilities to go back to gold, the world will be split permanently into two camps — those who work on a gold basis and believe in gold, and those who do not.
Such a statement might be an agreed basis for negotiation and would translate into concrete sentences and paragraphs the general statement, made by every Foreign Secretary for the past five years, of our willingness to see peaceful changes made. The right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) has said again and again that the world is not static. We all recognise that changes must come, but it seems impossible for anybody to make any suggestion for such change except ourselves. I think we have to take the responsibility. The first reactions would be unfavourable.
§ Mr. Crossley
May I ask the hon. Member: Did not we take the responsibility last autumn for certain changes for the benefit of Germany? Did not Germany agree to those changes, and give her pledged word, and did not she only this spring utterly break that pledge? How can we now go and offer again other changes for her benefit, and believe she will keep her word next time?
§ Sir A. Wilson
I recognise the dilemma, which I would put in precisely the same words as my hon. Friend. The dilemma exists, but the only way out a dilemma is to take one course or the other. If Germany has not the courage to approach 2045 us we as the older, the senior and the wiser Power must again take the initiative. Because we failed once it does not follow that we may not succeed a second time. It is difficult — and nobody realises it more than I — to speak of appeasement or to make suggestions for further negotiations. If these proposals which I have suggested were to be rejected I would fight myself, and I would urge others to fight to the utmost limit. I am no pacifist. The record of my own life and my own instincts are entirely in the opposite direction. But the situation is such that we ought to be prepared to take the risk to approach Germany once more, and to make specific suggestions, on the clear understanding — which, indeed, the Prime Minister made perfectly clear at the end of his speech — that the alternative to agreement to confer on the proposals we make specifically is in the long run war —war à outrance—war to the end, and that we are well prepared to meet any challenges that may come on a military basis. But we ought to make one more effort.
§ 7.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Bellenger
There is one quality which the hon. Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson) does not lack, and that is the courage of his convictions, if such they be, but as he was attempting to out line his proposals for a voluntary control of the British Press I thought that he hedged somewhat when he heard the expressions of disapproval which fell from all parts of the House. If the hon. Member does think that the British Press ought to be controlled, on what grounds does he advance that argument, because it seemed to me he implied that in countries where they have a controlled Press, like Germany and Italy, everything in the garden is lovely, and if only we could have a similar control, with the same amount of voluntary effort as is applied in the control of the German and Italian Press, then we might have the same beautiful system grafted on to our institutions?
§ Sir A. Wilson
Perhaps I might explain. In Germany and Italy the Press is controlled, and the poisonous nonsense which they are now talking can be stopped by the Governments of those countries if they so desire, but to do that by mutual agreement there must be effective machinery on both sides.
§ Mr. Bellenger
Let me take up the hon. Gentleman's own argument. He says that the Press in Germany and Italy can be controlled, and if necessary the volume of vilification turned out in that Press, day in day out, can be stopped. But it has not stopped. On the contrary, every day in Germany the Press is turning out abuse of this country, and not only the Press; even the leaders of Germany do not hesitate to use the same expressions with regard to this country and our own Prime Minister —
§ Mr. Bellenger
— who with all his faults is our Prime Minister — they do not hesitate to use expressions which no hon. Member in this House, even if he sits on the Government benches, even if he represents Hitchin, can seek for one moment to justify. I should have thought the arguments the hon. Gentleman has used for the voluntary control of the Press in this country would hardly be very successful in convincing the Press here. I am certain that, although he may have a very good Press in Germany to-morrow, the suggestions he has made to-night are not likely to have a very sympathetic reception in this country. The fact of the matter is that the Press in this country is possibly the only democratic organ that we have got — not excluding this House of Commons — that can criticise the Prime Minister quite freely and not be subject to pressure, such as that imposed on hon. Members who call themselves supporters of the Government. It may be that supporters of the Government do not always respond to pressure.
§ Mr. Bellenger
The hon. Member is one of the very few independent supporters of the Government who express their opinions at all costs. The hon. Member for Hitchin quoted some words from Ruskin which suggested, as I understood them, that we in this country are held in high esteem, and that the power of our good will predominates even over our strong right arm. But what are the actual facts? Has the hon. Member been reading the German Press consistently in recent months, because anybody who did that with intelligence would understand that the German Press in recent months has been doing nothing but cast doubt 2047 on the good intentions of this country and of the Prime Minister. I certainly agree with the hon. Member that the whole world cannot continue the policy of rearming indefinitely, because, even if it does not produce war, it is likely to produce financial ruin, and that will probably have the same effect as war itself. Nevertheless, I hold as a realist — which evidently the hon. Member is not, at any rate for the moment — that we have to place against the German Press, as he himself admitted, something more than words or peaceful resolutions. Hon. Members on this side of the Committee since the last War have been agitating for the Covenant of the League of Nations. When we come to consider the effect that the Covenant of the League of Nations has had on the actions of the aggressor countries, we realise at long last, perhaps too long last, that something more is required than the words, however estimable they may be, which are embodied in the Covenant.
It is obvious that those who take part in this Debate to-day must be careful of the words they use. We are critical of the Prime Minister, and have been consistently critical of him for a considerable time, and the fault does not lie in us, it lies in the Prime Minister. When the Prime Minister asks for unity, as he does, I do not think he can complain of the actions of the Opposition. It is part of our duty to criticism, and I think we have done that in a constructive manner; but at the same time I think we have shown the Prime Minister and the Government that we of the Opposition are ready to support all efforts to build up a peace front and to stop aggression. We have done that sometimes in face of strong criticism in our own party ranks, but nevertheless, because we are concerned with the same objectives, the same ends, as I take it hon. Members opposite are concerned with, namely, the promotion of peace, we realise that peace, which has been in jeopardy on more than one occasion in past months, has now to be sought by methods different from those adopted on occasions in recent months, and particularly the methods adopted when the Prime Minister flew to Germany.
I would only say this on the two out standing features in Europe and the Far East to-day, that, as far as Danzig is 2048 concerned, we on this side of the Committee quite understand that we shall not be asked to fight and die for Danzig. We know that if the young men of this country are urged to stand up in defence of something in the near future it will not be for Danzig, and if we are, I for one would reject Danzig as a cause of war. We know that if there is any threat to the peace of Europe it will not be occasioned by Danzig only, it will be the first blow in a war waged for the same ends as the War of 1914–18; and because many of us not realising all the implications of the last War, went and fought for the belief which we had in our country and its ideals, I believe the young men would go to-day in the same fashion, although I sincerely hope that, if war is to come, the outcome of the next war will be somewhat different from that of the last War.
As far as Japan is concerned, we have questioned the Government, not because we want to cause them any more serious troubles in the Far East, but because we have been alarmed and shocked at the way in which British citizens, to say nothing of British interests, are treated in China. We may have just cause, or un-just cause, to be there, but the fact remains that our citizens are there, engaged in peaceful avocations. Therefore it is the duty of any Government in this country to see that they are protected from the indignities of Japanese soldiers; and because we know that the Government have not protected our own citizens and our own interests in the Far East, we are very critical and doubtful of the Prime Minister. After all we cannot forget the events which have led up to the present situation both in the Far East and in Europe, and we cannot forget the Government's responsibility in that matter. We cannot forget the personal part the Prime Minister has played, nor the part which the Chancellor of the Exchequer played in years gone by, a part which we consider has contributed very largely to the manner in which British interests and British citizens are treated — with ignominy and almost contempt — by the Japanese to-day.
Nevertheless, I am bound to say that we on this side would combine our efforts in co-operation with the Government to try to alter that system in the Far East and in Europe if it were possible, but is it possible? Something more is required of Germany than an agreement to come 2049 into a conference, although I would say to the hon. Member for Hitchin that as far as I know the German mind and German people they exclude entirely the possibility of entering into a conference with this country. As he said, they lay down certain claims for colonies and the like, but they lay them down with far more insistence than the hon. Member for Hitchin has done this afternoon; and when it comes to a consideration of these questions, which I quite agree with him will have to be considered at some time, the question is, Will the German Government and the German leaders consider those questions with us and with others in a right and proper manner? It is because I believe they are not willing to do that, and because they want all these things, as the hon. Member says, for the asking, on their own terms, that I say "No." This country and the Government cannot agree to discuss those matters, however important they may be to Germany, however necessary, however just, perhaps, in the conditions which Germany herself has laid down and illustrated by her acts in Central Europe.
I did not intend to take any part in the Debate, because I realise how serious things are, and I do not want to say any word that might exacerbate the feelings of the Prime Minister, although I have been a critic of his in the past and still am. The whole trouble is this, as it appears to my mind: I wonder whether the leopard can change its spots. If I were certain that the Prime Minister and the Government intended to carry out the policy which they have laid down — in words which I admit are fairly definite — in a determined and resolute fashion, not being swayed by interests which we on this side of the Committee say are not just, then I would be prepared to criticize a little less, the Prime Minister and the Government. I feel that we are not far short now of events which will test the genuineness of the Prime Minister's declarations. All I can say in conclusion is that I hope the Prime Minister stands fast to those declarations which he has given us. If he does, then I am certain that the country and all sections in this House will give a support which hitherto has been lacking for reasons which I hope I have convinced the Committee are not unjustifiable. We still have our doubts, and although hon. Members may think 2050 some of us require a lot of convincing, we cannot forget past events, and it will be a long time before they can be eradicated from our minds.
§ 7.20 p.m.
Sir John Ward law-Milne
With much of what has been said in this Debate I find myself in agreement. One thing with which I entirely agree is the statement just made by the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) when, in referring to the speech of the hon. Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson), he said that he was sure there would be no difficulty in treating with Germany if there was any sign of a change of heart on the part of that country. I think that was also the basis of the argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin. There were some things the latter ohn. Gentle man suggested with which I do not agree, but some of the negotiations to which he referred could come about if there were any signs of that change of heart. I am afraid, however, that my hon. Friend stands very nearly alone — or is one of a very few — in believing there are any such signs. All published statements, all Germany's recent history, shows the contrary. At any rate if we are to come to terms with Germany it is perfectly simple for Germany to show that she is willing to treat with us and with other peace-loving nations.
I rise to ask the Committee to allow me to address them for a short time on the situation in the Far East. I am equally interested with other Members in matters in Europe, but I want specially to deal with the Far East, because I feel that for some time past the situation there has been possibly the most dangerous we have to face at the present time. In the early days of this conflict Japan was very confident. She was anxious to avoid trouble with us and other European nations. She made statements that she was particularly anxious to avoid any interference with European trading interests. I think it is sometimes for gotten that in these early days she did take a great deal of care to avoid conflict with foreign trading interests. I do not know that that phase lasted very long, but it is only fair to say that she carried out her pledges in those days, when it might have been easy to make difficulties for the foreigner. Unfortunately for her, 2051 she also made promises at home. She promised that the war would be over in six months, and it has now run for two years. It is the promises she made to her own people which are weighing most heavily upon her at the present time. She made the great mistake not only of trying to conquer —I do not quite like that word, but at any rate to control — North China, but to carry the war into Central and even Southern China, and she certainly was not prepared for the measures which the Chinese Government have taken in the last 18 months — the "scorched earth" policy the plan of continual retreat —a retreat which has made the conquest of China quite impossible if, indeed, it was ever possible by any military force at all.
I do not know that the Committee really appreciate the extent to which China has removed not only her Government and her forces to a part of South-West China, hitherto very little opened up, but also removed the factories and industries upon which she is dependent. The result of this is that Japan's campaign has been a failure, with an ever increasing burden upon the Japanese people, until to-day I firmly believe the Japanese Government do not know which way to turn. As Members of the Committee know, there never has been any real unity in China hitherto. I very much doubt whether the ordinary Chinese merchant, shopkeeper, trader or small agriculturist in many parts of that widespread land has cared very much in the past how he was governed. He was not unacquainted with demands upon him by feudal lords and of extortions by bandit hordes crossing the borders of his fields; he was not at all unaccustomed to pay tribute to one party or another. I very much doubt whether, if the Japanese had behaved as they might well have done, as people who were to bring benefits and increasing trade to China, there would have been a very great deal of real antagonism or unity in opposition. But the Japanese behaved very differently. They have not only behaved as conquerors but they have carried out a policy of antagonising by brutality the whole of the Chinese people with whom the armies have come into contact until, perhaps for the first time, they have brought about unity in China and made the people a nation.
2052 I said that in the early days of the war the Japanese had endeavoured to avoid conflicts with us and other European nations, but that attitude has now and for some time past entirely changed, and it is clear that there has been directed against us, in view of our supposed difficulties in Europe, possibly and for all I know fostered by advice and pressure from Continental quarters, a policy to drive us out of China altogether. Special efforts have been made, in the last few months particularly, to avoid giving offence to the United States of America. These efforts have not been very fully carried out by the Japanese military on the spot, who, I have no doubt, had great difficulty in confining their arrogant tactics to one class of Europeans. It is true that in face of these attacks against our interests our nationals at home have not been entirely quiet. They have put for ward their case over and over again, not only by questions in this House, but in the Press and in other ways, and I think it is probable that in some cases their natural annoyance at the interference with legitimate British trade in China has caused them rather to shut their eyes to the real difficulty which exists in carrying on trade between two opposing parties in what is really, of course, a war.
Japan, on the other hand, has not been able to carry out her pledges of non-interference. The Japanese think, no doubt, that to-day we are not in a position to retaliate, and also that by action against us they can bring the people of Japan to believe that we are really responsible for the failure of the operations of their Army. Public opinion in Japan is very nearly as well drilled as in Germany I fancy, and it is not perhaps a bad idea from their point of view to put forward the plea that, but for British action, Japanese arms would have been crowned with success and all would have gone well. The restrictions which they have put upon British trade in many cases are quite unnecessary for military reasons. I do not say that they do not help some of their military operations, but they are not necessary from a military point of view. They are now definitely intended to secure a Japanese economic bloc in North China, and possibly in Central China as well. They want to control the whole of Chinese trade now and after the war. The whole of their more recent moves and 2053 actions are directed against any equality of trading opportunities and, of course, they have entirely gone back upon the open-door policy. Indeed, there is no open door in China to-day.
It is sometimes not very popular in this House to deal with questions of the danger to British capital and the amount of it engaged in foreign countries. There have been many estimates of how much British capital is locked up in China. I do not pretend to be able to give an accurate figure, but I do not think the estimate which has been given of there being something like £400,000,000 of our capital locked up in China and Chinese trade is likely to be far out. Perhaps I may once again remind the Committee of the importance of this matter. Some years ago an estimate was given by a Minister of the Crown about the effect on our home industries of the Shanghai troubles of that time. The question had been asked how many people in this country were affected by the troubles in Shanghai and the estimate was then given that the welfare and livelihood of about 60,000 people in this country were affected by the trade of Shanghai alone. I wonder how many would be affected if the whole of our trade with China came to an end. I wish the Committee to realise that the China trade is very vital for many people of all classes in this country.
The attacks upon British trade have taken definite form, firstly by the continued closing of the Yangtse on the plea of military necessity, although Japanese vessels are continually trading on the river. Again, by the continued occupation of Hongkew and Yangtzepoo at Shanghai and the interference with British property and interests there. Then there has been the closing of the Pearl River and of Swatow and other ports. Instructions have recently been given to the Shanghai customs authorities to refuse clearance of our ships for the Delta ports, a device which is clearly aimed at stopping trade in ports which the Japanese Navy cannot possibly blockade. A monopoly has been given to Japanese merchants in many commodities; anti-British outbursts and strikes have been fomented, and there has been payment of agitators to produce the mass demonstrations to which reference has already been made.
2054 The last matter of many which I could mention, but probably the most important action which the Japanese military authorities and Government have taken is the persistent effort to force a new currency on China and so to destroy in the end foreign trade altogether. I was delighted at the very clear statement which we had from the Prime Minister this afternoon on this point. It was extremely satisfactory. Nobody could ask for anything clearer or more definite, but I want to emphasise this attempt to demand for our support of the Japanese sponsored currency —the yuan. This currency is to be interlocked with the yen but the yen is to-day not freely inter changeable with foreign currencies. It would be a death blow to the Chinese cause and to their attempt to retain their independence. Nothing could do them more harm. I ask my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to reconsider whether he cannot go even a little further than his statement to-day. It is not only that we should do nothing to support the Japanese in this attempt, but that we should do something to prevent them from bringing it about. In other words, we cannot avoid an obligation to support the Chinese and maintain the national Chinese dollar because on that their trade and existence very largely depend.
The situation in Tientsin has, of course, been seized upon by the Japanese as an excuse to raise all kinds of other questions. The attitude of the United States in the recent denunciation of their trade agreement is one which should be welcomed by everybody in this country. I see no reason why we should not follow that example. I suggested at one time that we might anticipate that action. I know that denunciation takes 12 months in our case as compared with six months by the United States, and I appreciate that it would require consultation with the Dominions, but the rest of the world —or most of it —would fully understand and approve our action. We are entitled to take it, in view of the provocation which we have received, and perhaps more so than anybody else.
§ Sir J, Wardlaw-Milne
It was clear and definite. Action of the kind I am referring to would bring the position home to the Japanese perhaps more than any 2055 other course we could take. A great mistake made by many of us — I suppose we are all to blame occasionally — is to speak so often of the necessity of acting in consultation with the United States of America. We all know that that is desirable and we all want to act with the United States, and we have had a declaration to-day that with everything we do in connection with the Far East the United States are made well acquainted. That is all to the good, but I believe that nothing does more harm in the United States than our continually and openly seeking their co-operation. We shall get it the less we ask for it. That is the American mentality as I see it. I have not the slightest doubt that America will act in concert with us and will be at our side in any reasonable action we take, but the more we ask for it, the more we seem to them to be anxious that the United States should pull our chestnuts out of the fire and the more she will hold back, and not only in the Far East. We sometimes make this mistake, although we mean well, but I believe that we are by no means always understood on the other side of the water when we press so constantly for American co-operation. A strong line of our own is likely to be more appreciated.
I do not know whether hon. Members have seen a report of the interesting fact that the American Government had instructed their officials in China to make a census of the attacks that have been made against American interests in recent months by the Japanese, including any action from perhaps face-slapping to the bombing of a mission station. It may interest the Committee to know that there have been no fewer than 600 such incidents. I wonder what the number has been directed against British subjects; yet we have taken no action. I do not wish to say anything to prejudice the negotiations in Tokyo, and I want to congratulate the Government upon having negotiated an agreement which, if the Japanese read no more into it than the words imply —
§ Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne
— will be a diplomatic success of considerable importance. The whole question will depend upon what results from that agreement and whether further and new demands 2056 will be made upon us. If the Japanese read no more into the agreement than they are entitled to do we shall be fortunate in having made great progress towards a settlement. Should the Japanese desire to raise matters which are far beyond the terms of that formula, as it has been called, especially should they raise the demand for support of the currency which they want to impose upon China, a very different situation will arise. We are bound by treaty and by long friendship to support the integrity of a free and independent China.
This country will not countenance any measures to assist in drawing Japan out of the impossible position in which the mistakes and arrogance of her military leaders have led her. On the other hand, I do not think there is any antagonism to Japan in this country. There is, on the contrary, a full realisation of the benefits to both countries from the long and friendly association of the past and of the closeness of our interest in the future. Many of us regret the termination of the valued alliance between our two countries. We all recognise that Japan has special interests in China and that geo graphically that must continue to be so. Japan has had difficulties with China in the past and the fault has not always been on one side.
We also know of Japan's need for expansion and of the continual increase in her population. The way for Japan to secure her aims, however, is not the way she is at the present following. We have ample means, if necessary, by economic and financial reprisals, to force from the Japanese different treatment of British interests. We have ample means to do so, but I earnestly hope that no further action will be necessary and that we shall rather rely upon co-operation and friendly discussion, and that these matters can be settled at some early date. It may, I hope, be possible for China and Japan to come together before long and bring to an end a conflict which is destroying all that is best in both countries and which must result in stalemate from the military point of view. That is the position, as I see it, in the Far East and our services are available to help towards peace at any time.
I will say only one word in conclusion. Delay in coming to a settlement will mean that the position will become worse and 2057 not better. If we abandon China and fall in with any of the demands which it is reported — I emphasise the word — that Japan intends to make that we should abandon our position as supporter of the integrity of China, we should earn the contempt of the whole world and, what is equally bad, we should earn the undying hatred of every Chinaman.
§ 7.42 p.m.
§ Dr. Haden Guest
I will not attempt to follow the arguments which have been presented to the Committee by the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken. He made an extremely interesting speech, with which I found myself very largely in agreement. I would, however, like to take up one phrase he used, as a footnote or illustration to what I wish to say about what I cannot help thinking is the central feature of the foreign situation at the present time. I refer to the state of our relations and negotiations with the Soviet Union. The hon. Gentleman pointed out certain difficulties of understanding between our selves and the people of the United States, who are closely akin to our selves. A great many of them are one in blood with us, and yet those difficulties undoubtedly exist. How much more are difficulties likely to exist between our selves and the people of the Soviet Union — or rather, the peoples of the Soviet Union? What is really most urgent at the present time is that we should make an effort, not only by means of a military mission but perhaps by adding to and strengthening that mission, and by getting, or attempting to get, a greater understanding of the peoples of the Soviet Union in order to bring the negotiations with this country to a successful conclusion.
Perhaps I have a good claim for saying that I have some special knowledge of the Soviet Union because I was a member of the first Labour delegation that ever left this country to go to Soviet Russia. That was in 1920, and it was my business to make arrangements for the delegation with the heads of the different departments in the Soviet State, that is to say, with different commissars and with many well-known figures, such as Lenin, Trotsky, whose names are now linked with history and have already passed on by one means or another. We all found it extremely difficult to put our- 2058 selves in the shoes of our opposite numbers in the Soviet Union and I am sure that these people found it equally difficult to understand our point of view. Since that time I have published a book on the subject. As the book is entirely out of print I do not think I can be accused of trying to advertise it. Everybody who has been to Russia knows how very difficult the people are to understand. From an intimate knowledge of many Russians I suggest that nothing but good could come from the addition to the military mission of a number of representatives of all parties in this House.
It may be foreign to the idea of a military mission — I am using that term, of course, in the widest possible sense — from our point of view, but it is by no means foreign to the idea of a military mission from the Soviet Government's point of view. In the Soviet Army, and in all the Soviet armed forces, the political commissar is an extremely important person. I am not suggesting that the Minister of Health, who is now on the Front Bench, should be one of the political commissars from this country, though I am sure he would discharge the duty extremely well; but I do suggest that we might very well strengthen the military side of the delegation — Army, Navy, Air Force, and, I hope, also Civil Defence —by adding to it representatives of political life who would be able to speak for the different political grades which they represent, and, in consequence, for large bodies of opinion in this country.
The Soviet citizens, even those who are in the highest and most influential positions and have access to foreign papers and so forth, have perhaps as little knowledge of us as we have of them, and it would really be of great assistance to send with the military delegation representatives, as I have said, of the various political parties in the House. I would not like to go further than that at this moment with regard to actual representatives of Departments, but political representatives would certainly help. They would help towards a real and a human understanding between ourselves and the Soviet Government, and that human understanding would be a firm foundation for an alliance which I believe can be regarded as the actual 2059 keystone of the arch of the Peace Front at the present time.
If we can get a thorough and complete understanding with the Soviet Union, I, for my part, shall feel that peace is comparatively speaking secure; at any rate I shall feel quite certain that we have done all that lies in the power of those directing this country at the present time to secure the possibility of a real and en during peace. If we can get that real understanding, I think it will help very much to ensure that the final arrangements with the Soviet Union are arrived at in the least possible time. I feel, and I have felt since the beginning of these negotiations, that a lack of under standing on both sides was one of the obstacles — perhaps not an obstacle that is discussed very much, but one of the obstacles; and, while I welcome very cordially the sending of this military mission, I believe it would be strengthened very greatly indeed if there were added to it political personages who could speak for the political side of things as well as the purely military.
§ 7.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Crossley
I do not know that I really welcome the political suggestion of the hon. Member for North Islington (Dr. Guest). I cannot help thinking that, when any Government conducts any negotiations with a foreign Power, it is always best that they should be conducted right apart from parties. The idea of selecting various members from various parties to go out with a military mission would, I should have thought, be doubly suspicious even to the Russians. I was very grateful for the Prime Minister's news of Russia to-day. I cannot help feeling that this military mission is a real, tangible earnest of success to be achieved in the negotiations with Russia at long last; and I cannot help feeling that these negotiations will be a real background in the possible keeping of peace. If I might make one other criticism of the speech of the hon. Member for North Islington, it does not make me any the less dislike the word "peace," which we hear so often. I think that, if we do have a war, it will be very largely brought about by the excessive use of the word "peace."
We are going to disperse next Friday, I should think in no very good heart. The situation in the world is dark enough. 2060 In Germany the armies cover the earth, and the aeroplanes cover the sky. In Japan, delicate and difficult negotiations are taking place, and probably the Army is in fact in control. In China, a long and arduous struggle is taking place; it is almost in its third year now; it may be entering on a decisive phase or not, but certainly it is an anxious problem altogether in the Far East. In Spain, nobody knows whether our friends or others are in control, or whether, if they are in control, they are going to remain in control. In America, the enlightened policy of the President has had a most serious set-back. This is the moment when the British House of Commons is going to part for an automatic Recess of two months.
I should like to point out, strictly in relation to foreign policy, because I know the matter is going to be debated on Wednesday next, that almost every good thing which this Government has done, and it has done many, has been forced upon it in the last three years by Parliament. Really, Parliament to-day is wholly behind the foreign policy of the Government. All parties, with the possible exception of my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson), are behind that foreign policy, and we are more and more certain, especially after the utterance of the Prime Minister to-day, that the Government are absolutely sincere in the foreign policy which they have declared. But surely, at this time, we ought to give to foreign countries, to the vigilant world to-day, no excuse to believe that we are going to sleep on our vigil. We ought to-day to recognise the fact that, whereas in America the President counts for most, whereas in Germany the Fuhrer is the word, whereas in Italy the Duce is the leader and in France the Conseil des Ministres is the important thing, in England it is not the Cabinet, it is not the Prime Minister, it is the Parliament of Great Britain that is important, and at this time the Parliament of Great Britain ought to have at least one automatic meeting before the end of this dangerous holiday.
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Colonel Clifton Brown)
I am afraid that the hon. Member is going too far. I cannot allow the hon. Member to continue to discuss this matter, which has already been ruled out of order.
§ Mr. Crossley
I apologise. I wanted to say one word about Danzig. I suppose it is axiomatic that, if Danzig goes, Poland goes, and the Eastern Front goes. The speech of the Foreign Secretary recently, and that of the Prime Minister to-day, have not led to us believe that there will be any weakening in the policy of the Government, but what the German Government really wants to-day is not Prague, is not Danzig, is not Upper Silesia, is not colonies, is not a general settlement; it is certainly not the benefits of mutual trade and the enlightenment of mutual intercourse. Quite clearly, what the German Government wants to-day is nothing short of world domination, and it is on that assumption, and in the know ledge that we are going to part for a very long time, that I would like to say to the Government, before we do part, that our motto to-day should be a perfectly simple motto: "Not an inch further, and no discussion with the German Government except on our own terms." On every ground we are entitled to take for our motto that basis: "Not an inch." On the ground of justice, all reason for the German claim for Danzig disappeared on the day when they entered Prague. What is true of the Danzigers is doubly true of the Czechs in Prague. On the ground of security, if we give way one inch further there can be no doubt at all, to my mind, that no peace-loving country will ever trust this country again. I hope that the Government will stand absolutely resolute, whatever the threats, throughout this long automatic holiday.
May I say just one word about the Far East? I thought the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Kidder- minster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne) was a fine speech. All of us must be intensely worried, not only about our loss of prestige, which, indeed, is bad enough, but in case the Chinese generalissimo should in any way suffer in his gallant, heroic and stoic struggle by any action we may take; indeed, it is hard enough to explain, to those Englishmen who come back from the Far East, why we have taken, apparently, so little interest in what they regard as their vital concerns. I do not want to embarrass the Government on the question of the Far East, and I fully realise that we cannot have a Syracuse expedition to-day. That, surely, must be obvious to everybody. But there are two or three things that I 2062 would like to say. I think the people of this country would regard it as unforgiveable if, by any action we took, General Chiang kai-Shek were to be prejudiced in his defence of China. I think, too, that we make a mistake about Japan in thinking she is strong. I do not believe she is strong; I believe we are regarded simply as a scapegoat for her military mistakes. The figures of the British Empire's trade with Japan are in them selves lamentable, but, lamentable as they are, they provide an extraordinarily good bargaining counter for the negotiations which are now going on in Tokyo. They make our position vis-a-vis Japan an extremely strong and not a weak position.
Finally — I think this was mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate — I hope most sincerely that something will be done about Colonel Speir, who has been illegally arrested and detained, though he is entitled to some form of diplomatic immunity, and the British Government on his behalf have not yet received any satisfaction. I know that many of his colleagues arc intensely worried about what is happening to Colonel Speir. There is one general thing that 1 would say about Japan. Fabian tactics may be right; in fact, I think they probably are right; but, at the same time, I hope that the Government's policy is definitely Reculer pour mieux sauter, and I feel that, even if they are right at the moment, these Fabian tactics are capable of misconstruction, and are being misconstrued in Germany and in Italy, and by Germany and Italy in other foreign countries. We know that our country is not old and weary and degenerate; we know it is young and determined and strong; but our Fabian tactics in the Far East are being put across all over Europe as signs that England is a degenerate country. I will end with a quotation from some verses that I came across the other day which described, to begin with, the years that had passed and, having finished with these lines, they then went on to the passage which is my main quotation. They finished with these lines:And even Punch beneath his merry arch Fell from his pedestal on the Ides of March.These lines, although they may not be poetry, I cannot help thinking are absolutely apt with our present position before we go away on holidays. 2063Those years are gone. Now England stops to think.Fear of this war has brought us to its brink.The climax comes. The silly speeches cease.Within a month we shall have war or peace.Let Hitler choose. But ours it is to show Not one yard further shall this tyrant go. That way lies peace, perhaps. The other wayLies shame, disintegration and decay.
§ 8.3 p.m.
Mr. V. Adams
I remember a speech delivered a year ago by my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford (Mr. Crossley). It was pregnant, prophetic and exact. In my opinion no one has a better claim than my hon. Friend to address the House just before we rise for the summer Recess. I have told the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) that I should comment on his speech. He made a characteristic allusion to my questions about Russia. Let me inform him that there was no question at any time of my "rushing in." My questions started as early as his own, they have been maintained as anxiously and as consistently, and let be add that my supplementary questions have been a great deal more courteous than his. May I further remind him and the Opposition that the safety of the British Common wealth of Nations, which is directly involved in the success of these negotiations with the Soviet Union, is not the monopoly of His Majesty's Opposition.
We had to-day from the Prime Minister the best debating speech that I have ever heard from his lips. Just as valuable as the speech that he made to-day was the answer that he gave to my question, I think No. 16 on the Order Paper. We have to-day seen a move towards the one chance of stopping a European war, which is physical co-operation between the Soviet Union on the one hand and France and the United Kingdom on the other. The Prime Minister mentioned former delays which had occurred in other bilateral negotiations between our selves and other Powers. But I would remind him that, when those delays occurred, there was not, as there is to day, any immediate danger of war, when we were negotiating with Russia in 1907, with Japan in 1905, and with France in 1904. Our delegation, headed as it is by 2064 a sailor and an airman as well as a soldier must mean business. If we had sent out a soldier as the sole chief figure, we might have seemed to have the intention of saying, "We cannot reach Poland or Lithuania. Germany is in the way." It was just that kind of nonsense which was one of the least plausible reasons alleged last October in defence of our policy at Munich, but the Government has remembered, and remembered in time in this instance, that our Navy can blockade and our Air Force can bomb. For this realistic move on the part of the Government I am grateful. This triple pact is already growing teeth. I hope they will be long and sharp and I hope that their growth will be swift. I believe that a loose declaration, such as we seemed at one stage to be in danger of getting, between the Soviet Union and the Western democracies would be worse than useless. You cannot face or resist Hitler by using the technique of Mr. Heath Robinson.
But while I am grateful for the slow realisation of a policy which I have always done my best to urge —I hope I can be acquitted of being wise after the event —like my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford I must to-night emphatic ally reject optimism. While my emotion says to me, as I expect is true with all Members of the Committee, "Hope on," my reason obliges me to recognise the terrible likelihood of war at some not very distant date. We see circumstances-assembling which might produce a war almost at any moment. As we have been debating to-night, indirect aggression in Danzig is proceeding without intermission. It has not been denied by the Government — the nearest approach to denial was when the Prime Minister said that the reports had been exaggerated — that the Nazis have anti-aircraft guns there. The statement of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) that there are no fewer than 60,000 armed Nazi troops in Danzig to-day also passed without denial. I will add something of which every hon. Member is fully aware, that nothing separates the Danzig territory from East Prussia except a river, and that the Germans have between these two territories not only a bridge but a number of fast boats, which can ply between the left and the right banks. Indeed, it 2065 need only be a matter of minutes on any day before 1,000 additional Nazi troops are; transported into Danzig. That process, of course, can be repeated indefinitely. At some moment I apprehend we shall have to tell both Hitler and the Danzig senate "this must stop," that indirect aggression has merged into direct aggression. Then the question will arise, will Berlin accept what we tell them or shall we have to fight? My right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leaming-ton (Mr. Eden) said that our object was to prevent war. True, but I think our object is twofold, and not singular. We wish to prevent a war breaking out, but we wish to be certain that, if a war does break out, we shall not be defeated.
I go back to the first of those objectives, that we wish to prevent a war. We can only prevent a war by making it quite certain to the Germans that we are going to intervene in the event of their aggression, and I am bound to say this, that I believe one method of convincing the German Government would be to broaden the basis of our Government in the United Kingdom. I do not believe that Hitler wants to fight Great Britain in the immediate future. He wishes at some future date to destroy the British Commonwealth when he has succeeded in destroying our foreign friends in detail, but at this moment I do not believe he wishes to incur our certain hostility. One way of convincing him of our will to resist his next aggression would be, I believe, to include in His Majesty's Government my right hon. Friends the Members for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery), Leamington (Mr. Eden), Epping (Mr. Churchill), and St. George's (Mr. Duff Cooper). The Minister of Supply looks surprised and laughs. May I remind him and his colleagues that, at all events the right, hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping has never wavered for the last five or six years in the very policy which the Minister of Supply and his colleagues in the Cabinet are now pursuing. He has always stood on the side of the collective front in the cause of peace, and in resistance to aggression. If this broadening of the basis of the Government were to come about I should contemplate a short interval — I say. deliberately "a short interval" —for physical and mental refreshment in August with more equanimity than I do to-night.
2066 I cannot forget the catastrophic and precipitate course of events last year when this House was up. Whether or no we were bound to the defence of Czechoslovakia — I believe we were, according to the terms of the Covenant of the League of Nations — a fact which is commonly forgotten — France was so bound beyond question, and Munich opened the door to Prague. The defences of the Western Democracies were deeply, though we hope not irreparably, breached by what was done when Parliament had not the opportunity to control and to influence the actions of the Executive. As things are, I fear that Hitler may not be so fully aware as we are in Great Britain of the steel of resolution within the character of our own Prime Minister. I use that phrase seriously, and in no sense ironically. I think everyone will agree with me that the Prime Minister has one of the strongest characters in our public life. I wish him, for his grim and anxious task — perhaps the Minister of Supply will supply him with these good wishes from me — strength of health and strength of will, but I see no reason why that strength of will should not be recruited and sustained by right hon. Gentlemen at present outside the Government.
§ 8.14 p.m.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
We have just listened to three remarkable speeches from Conservative Members of the House, all of them speeches with which we on these benches should find ourselves largely in agreement, all critical of the Government's foreign policy as carried out to-day, all inspired with equal anxiety as to what is likely to happen during the next three months. Of all those speeches the one that struck me as the most remarkable was that of the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Crossley). I always regarded him as one of the worst of the appeasers. I welcome him as a Daniel come to judgment. We are all united — and it is right that people abroad should realise this — in our anxiety for the safety and honour of our country. We are anxious for peace, not at any price, but at any price except the loss of honour. It is because we think that our country's honour is in danger that we feel such exceptional anxiety at the present time. We are anxious, not because we think we shall be beaten, but because we think that in the absence of the House of Commons some further blow. 2067 may be dealt at our honour and our position.
The hon. Member spoke of the Prime Minister's speech in the Debate as a fine speech. I think it was a most deplorable speech in such a circumstance as this, and for this reason. We are all united on one other point — rearmament. But what we need to-day is not so much the physical rearmament of our Army, Navy and Air Force as a moral rearmament of the people, moral leadership given by the only man who can give it, the Prime Minister. I think that the speech the Prime Minister made to-day was just the sort of speech that was not wanted in the circumstances, and it must have struck many other people in the same way. He was trying to show up differences between himself and the Opposition parties. He was hair splitting, scoring debating points, trifling with criticism which was directed, not against himself, but against what hon. Members think is a dangerous dishonouring of this country that might come about during the Recess. If you ask anybody in this country what is needed, he will say, moral leadership. The country is best defended by the free spirit and devotion of its free citizens, not by its armed forces. We have not been well led during the past year. The panic of last September was a disgrace to the country and to the Government. The fuss that was made about digging funk-holes and giving everybody gas masks turned a nation of brave people into a nation of cowards. We have heard a great deal about how strong our Army, our Navy and our Air Force are now, but it will take more than that to correct the terror that was created by Ministers preaching on the horror of war. In 1914 under Asquith we had nothing of that. I beg the Government to remember that if a crisis comes they will want to speak with very different voices from those which they used nine months ago.
If we are to have any moral recovery in this country they must base their arguments, not on expediency, not on safety first, but on some principles worth fighting for. We have had principles worth risking war for over and over again. There could have been nothing more disgraceful to our country than the attitude adopted towards the heroic struggle of the people of Spain. That was a disgrace that will 2068 be remembered hundreds of years hence. It was the cowardly abandonment of the Spanish people. What was preached then was that if we could not prevent the Spanish Government from getting arms, we should be dragged into war. Expediency! Exactly the same thing is now being preached about China. I could not have conceived, even six months ago, that the Government after our nationals had been insulted as they have been recently in China would have sat down amicably with the people who have taken the trousers off our men and stripped our women naked, in order to discuss a settlement of our claims at the expense of the Chinese. It is not only national prestige which goes to the devil under such circumstances. Honour goes. By sitting down and discussing, you tell Hitler and Mussolini and all our prospective enemies that we are a nation of huxtering cowards. That sort of thing has destroyed our prestige in the Far East and in Palestine, and it will destroy this country's morale if it is continued.
There is one point in connection with the negotiations that are now going on in Tokyo to which I want to draw the attention of the Government and of this Committee. The trouble in Tientsin began because we refused to surrender four Chinese who had been accused of the murder of a traitor Chinese. I do not know whether those people are guilty or not. I do not think that arises. They were entitled to shelter in the British Legation, and we refused to hand them over. Whether they are guilty or not, we know that directly they are handed over to the Japanese they will be killed, probably horribly. I hope that we are not going to bargain with the lives of those men in return for consideration at Tientsin or Hankow. If the Government surrender on that they will be doing more to destroy the good name of Great Britain than by lending £ 1,000,000,000 to Germany or by making concessions in respect of trade to the Japanese. It is little things like that that are remembered in the book.
When the Greek Government, nearly 100 years ago, treated with injustice a Jew who had had the good fortune to be born in Gibraltar the British Government said, "No, he is a British subject, and he shall have the some justice as any other 2069 British subject." They threatened the Greek Monarchy with war, and saved that man. That action of Lord Palmerston nearly a hundred years ago did more to establish the prestige and the good name of Great Britain than anything else that happened during the middle of the nineteenth century. It is little things like that which are recorded in history, and I beg the Government, whatever else they do, not to surrender these four men to certain death because we are afraid or want to curry favour with the Japanese.
There is one other thing I want to say before I sit down, and that is in connection with the Russian Treaty and the visit to Moscow of representatives of our Army, Navy and Air Services. I am certain that one of the chief obstacles in the way of the signing of that treaty is that all our governing class find it "extremely difficult to be civil or polite to the Russians; having familiarised the most frightful language about them for 20 years, it is too big a strain to expect them suddenly to change their tone and attitude of mind. They are meeting these people on friendly terms, or terms which might be friendly. The whole prospect of these staff talks can be damned by the first exhibition of incivility on the part of our naval leaders. It all depends upon whether they really want to get Russian support or not. I am perfectly certain that every sane Member of this Committee wants to get Russian support. We all know not merely that it means victory in case of war, but that it is a vast insurance against war in the future. We all want it, but do not let us shut our eyes to the fact that there are a great many people in this country who do not want an alliance with Russia whatever the risks may be to this country.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
Here are the trade unions represented on the benches above the Gangway. Their principal desire is to get this agreement with Russia signed and operative. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman had attended the Trade Union 2070 Congress the other day, he would have found out that at least. The whole of the working classes know perfectly well on which side their bread is buttered. They see safety in this alliance, but in spite of that fact we have in this country, as in other countries, Franco's Fifth Army, and they are in disagreement with Russia. Let us be perfectly frank, the Fifth Army are the people who are against this alliance with Russia and are very largely to be found in the officer ranks of the fighting services. It is, there fore, of vital importance to select for our envoys from the three Services to Russia people who genuinely want to be friendly with the Russians, who are genuinely anxious to get this agreement signed, and who want to help Russia. It is all very well to go to this conference at Moscow seeing what you can get from Russia to help us. That is not the important thing. The important thing is to remember what help we can give to Russia. Unless we can show that we have something to give to Russia, why should we expect Russia to help us? It must be a mutual matter.
The best way to prove to the Russians that we really want their help and mean to help them, is that all plans should be pooled and everything put upon the table. We should say, "Here are our latest designs for aeroplanes, and here are our latest designs for guns. What can we do for you? Can we help you with machines. Can we help you in any way? "The Russians then will say, "What can we do for you? Can we help you in any way? "I am inclined to think that we would be able to get more assistance from Russian plans than they would get from ours. At any rate, it is the outward and visible sign of confidence and co-operation that you should pool your plans and designs, and there should be perfect frankness and nothing concealed. That is one of the things.
The next thing is that the greatest way in which we can help Russia is by sending part of our Fleet to the Baltic to prevent them from being blockaded and to enable the Baltic Sea to be kept open in time of war, or at least not turned into a German lake. I cannot imagine any better pledge of good fellowship and co operation than that a squadron of the British Fleet should be stationed in the Baltic, based upon Leningrad, and able to help, if help is wanted, in that sea in 2071 case of war. I am glad to see that in that respect the Government have put at the head of the mission to Moscow an admiral rather than a military man or an airman. That is an outward and visible sign that they means business and are going to see what the Navy can do as well as the Army and the Air Force.
I want to emphasise what has been said by two or three speakers this after noon. When you are sending a military and naval mission to Moscow to carry on these extremely delicate discussions, when everything depends on the Russians not losing their temper with us — I will not say anything about our not losing our temper with the Russians — and upon the nature of the approach towards getting together, then it is extremely unfortunate that there is no civilian being sent from this House or from the Government in order to make the contacts and soothe away the difficulties. We understand these things perfectly here. We have heard both sides thrashed out in every Debate on every subject concerning Russia for the last 20 years. To the people who have been climbing up the promotion ladder of the Army, Navy and Air Forces all these problems are quite new. They are not educated in all the political contacts and questions that have come up during these last 20 years. I do not suppose that any of them know the names of Maxim Gorky and Dostoievsky. All that matters so much to the new Russians will be a completely blank page as far as the ordinary military man is concerned.
We do want to avoid a horrible failure. If this staff go out to Russia and do not hit it off with the Russians, or if the Russians do not hit it off with them, we shall have that staff coming home and talking all the nonsense that was talked by Lindbergh when he came back nine months ago. They must go there wanting to succeed, wanting to help the Russians, wanting Russian help and wanting it for one purpose only, and that is to prevent Germany from breaking the peace. The next three months will be critical. I do not think there will be war. I think the Prime Minister to-day may have done something, if not to lead the spirit of this country, at any rate to give an impression to Hitler that we cannot afford not to keep our word, that we cannot afford any 2072 more appeasement, that we are deter mined to standby our allies, determined to stand fast, whatever comes of it. I think he may have given that impression; I hope he has. Whether that be so or not, let us on both sides of the Committee be quite sure that we know where we stand. We may not be called back here, but as representing the people of the country in this House we say that we will not tolerate another Munich before we are called together again.
§ 8.37 p.m.
Commander Sir Archibald South by
Although I do not often agree with the right hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just spoken, I always pay a tribute to the burning patriotism which consumes him. I may not agree with most of what he has been saying, but there is one thing on which I am in entire agreement with him, and that is that during the last year or so there has been far too much concentration upon the horrors of aerial bombardment which this country might suffer and far too little stress laid upon the fact that the best means of preventing yourself from being bombed from the air is to possess and to use an adequate Air Force in order that you may be protected. The Leader of the Liberal Opposition, who opened the Debate, said, among other things, that the situation was both dangerous and menacing, yet he has done nothing recently but stump the country criticising, and I would almost say, abusing the Prime Minister. It seemed rather to me as if he were on board a ship where the captain was with difficulty navigating through dangerous pilotage waters, and while the captain was engaged with the pilotage he was stalking him with a sandbag.
The hon. Member who spoke first from the Front Opposition Bench and also the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal Opposition were adequately dealt with by the Prime Minister. They both seemed to me to be blaming the Prime Minister for having gone to Munich and in the next breath blaming 1he Foreign Secretary for not having gone to Bucharest. They seemed to desire direct contact with M. Stalin, but deprecated any direct contact with Herr Hitler. The best results can be achieved, if one is sincerely desirous of world peace, by making contact with the statesmen of all countries. I do not believe in ruling out 2073 one country, because one does not like its ideology. I do not believe in ruling out Russia because there are some things in its regime which some people do not like. It is desirable to have contact with any and every nation which stands up against aggression.
If the last few months have taught us anything they have taught us to be realists. There is a great difference in the atmosphere of the Committee to-day and the atmosphere of the House before the Adjournment last year. If in September, 1938, most people thought that war was inevitable; —I confess that I did not believe war was inevitable, and I do not believe it is inevitable now —and since then we have had peace, the question, in all fairness, which we ought to put is this: why are we not at war to-day? The answer is, and must be, because of the coolness, the courage and the commonsense of the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary. It is easy to say that Munich was a failure, without analysing and differentiating between Munich and what Munich was intended to be. Munich was intended to lay the foundations of peace. Munich was not a failure. It was a success in that respect. The fact that we are not at war to-day is because Munich averted war. Munich was to have been the foundation stone of a lasting and sure peace, and it should have led immediately to better understanding between the nations. Unfortunately, it did not.
The Leader of the Liberal Opposition criticizes the Prime Minister about Munich, but he has in his own party those who take a different view. Here is what a very distinguished Member of the Liberal party said:Mr. Chamberlain stands for the name and ideal of peace all over the Continent — effective peace, achieved by hard work and sweat and not the mere name of peace.
Sir A. South by
Professor Ernest Barker, Professor of political science at Cambridge, a very distinguished member of the Liberal party. There are those who belong to the Socialist party who pay sincere tribute to what the Prime Minister has done. Here is the opinion of one of them:Mr.Chamberlain did the right thing at Munich. The alternative was to bomb Berlin 2074 and to have London bombarded next day We have never given in to the dictators.Those are the views of people who are sincere in what they say about the Prime Minister. I received, as no doubt other hon. Members did, a large number of letters from young people at the time the Militia was introduced. I had one letter from a young man who was up to that time entirely unknown to me, and he said something in his letter which, with the indulgence of the Committee, I should like to read:As I am a young man in his late 20's with his life ahead of him, the future naturally looms large on his horizon. Yet with people like our great Premier, Mr. Chamberlain, in the direction of national affairs, I preserve a spirit of quiet and confident hope, feeling that things will ultimately pan out all right."That is the spirit that we ought to have in the House, a spirit of quiet, confident hope. There is too much belief that war is immediately round the corner, and not enough faith in our efforts to avert it. The Prime Minister laid the foundation stone at Munich of a system of peace on which he and most of us hoped there would one day be built a real edifice of peace throughout the world. Surely, it should not be beyond the wit and ability of statesmen here and in Europe to build upon those foundations the temple of a lasting peace.
Many of us, probably all of us, have wondered what went wrong after Munich. I believe that there exists in Germany to day a strong desire for peace, but at the same time there exist in Germany many who desire world domination and who believe it is a case of now or never. Is it unreasonable to suggest that the individuals who hold the view that world domination is a possibility, viewed that anger the movement towards peace which was originated at Munich, and which had the obvious approval of the German people, who paid their tribute to the Prime Minister's honesty, sincerity and good will? Almost before the ink was try on the document signed at Munich, propaganda started in Germany in order to render the settlement abortive.
Are we entirely guiltless in this country? Are there not those who the moment the settlement was arrived at heaped ridicule, scorn, distrust and contempt upon it, and have criticised, slanged and blackguarded 2075 statesmen in this country and on the Continent, without pausing to think, apparently, that in doing so they were playing the very game of those propagandists on the Continent who wish to discredit the hopes of a peaceful settlement of world affairs? Propaganda is mostly untrue. What a godsend, there fore, it must have been to those in charge of propaganda in Germany to be given the writings and the utterances of the right hon. Member for St. Georges (Mr. Duff Cooper), the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) and the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leaming ton (Mr. Eden). They do no good ser vice to the cause of peace, they do not make a settlement of the world's difficulties any more easy. It seems to me that after Munich there was a neglect of the vital need for restraint in the spoken and written word, which has gone far to make non-effective the policy of Munich. The critics of the Prime Minister in this country have no small share of responsibility for the failure of the good work which he tried to do.
I believe there are in Germany those who are bent upon war, and I believe there are also those who are striving even now to get a peaceful solution of the difficulties between Germany and the rest of the world. Those who read the propaganda in the Press, on the newsreels and from the B.B.C. —and it is just as well that we should face the fact —must admit that there are in this country propagandist elements which desire more the destruction of the Nazi regime than the achievement of the peace of the world. They seem to me, by their actions, to be more intense in their hatred of dictators than they are on the preservation of the peace of the world, and in this way they are playing the game of the warmongers on the Continent. I believe the German people want peace, but it is equally true, unfortunately, that so great has been the effect of the propaganda in Germany during the last six months that the friendship between the two peoples, as distinct from the feeling between their rulers, has greatly deteriorated. I do not believe that you can get a settlement with Germany unless there is a change of heart in her rulers. That is essential.
But what of those who ceaselessly criticise the Prime Minister and his policy? 2076 Indeed, sometimes to hear the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington, who made a speech in support of the Prime Minister this evening, you would think that he had no responsibility at all for the position in which the world finds itself to-day. Many people thought and still think that friendship between this country and Italy — this feeling is not con fined to this side of the Committee — was essential if the peace of the world was to be preserved. Rightly or wrongly, the handling of the situation some few years ago, when Italy embarked on her ad venture in Abyssinia, resulted in the breaking of the old friendship between the Italian people and the people of this country. I do not suppose there is an hon. Member who if he searches his heart and looks back — I know that it is an un profitable job to look backwards — on the events which have happened since the abortive Hoare-Laval proposals, does not agree that if those proposals had been adopted we should not be in the position we are in to-day. Italy would not have gone into the arms of Germany, the Axis would never have existed. I do not believe that the invasion of Czecho- slovakia would have ever taken place, or Austria have been dismembered. It is unprofitable to look back but, however wrong at the time, I think our policy did make a breach between us and the Italian people.
Mr. V. Adams
May I interrupt the hon. and gallant Member? Would not the best policy at that time have been to defeat the Italian adventure at all costs?
§ Sir A. Southby
The hon. Member knows that if we had imposed sanctions at that time on Italy we were the only nation that was prepared to go the whole way.
§ Sir A. Southby
The French made it abundantly clear that they would not follow us the whole way, and we should have been left alone to prosecute a war with Italy.
§ Sir A. Southby
I do not desire to intro duce any heat into the Debate, but I do not think anyone who is impartial will deny that under the regime of the right 2077 hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington our relations with the Italian Government did deteriorate, matters went from bad to worse until it was necessary that there should be some change in policy. I know that hon. Members opposite very often refer to my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington as being a sort of arch apostle of League of Nations policy, but yet there are occasions upon which they deny that suggestion. In the election address of the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) the following appeared:Ever since Mr. Eden took office we have drifted farther away from the League along the road to another world war."I think it is true that the mismanagement if the foreign policy of the country at that time, the mistakes which were made in all good faith, have resulted in Italy being no longer our friend but the friend of Germany. It strikes me as rather curious to hear the Leader of the Liberal party berating the Government and accusing the foreign policy of the Prime Minister for the position in which we find ourselves at the present time. His party has not been very happy in its foreign policy. I am sure he has not forgotten that a very distinguished Member of the Liberal party, the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), said in January, 1914:Our relations with Germany are in finitely more friendly now than they have been for years."When I read his most interesting articles in the Press I am inclined to go back to what he said in January, 1914, and to realise that as he was a bad prophet then he may be a bad prophet now in the other direction. I have never heard it suggested that the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), now so vociferous in warning the people, ever said a word at that time in contradiction of the statement made by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs that never had our friendship with Germany been so good.
§ Mr. K. Griffith
What possible bearing can remarks made in 1914 have on the situation to-day; on a completely different situation? Perhaps the hon. and gallant Member will tell us.
§ Sir A. Southby
The hon. Member and his friends on those benches arrogate to themselves a position of infallibility as 2078 regards foreign affairs, and criticise the Government continually. I am showing that they have never been infallible at any time. In 1914 the Liberal party was in office and the foreign policy of this country was in the hands of a great Liberal Foreign Secretary, yet, in spite of that, we were involved in war from 1914 to 1918. It is no good going back to the past, we have to remember that it is the present, July, 1939, which matters, and hon. Members opposite who criticise the Government have to remember that every government, every successive government, have been in difficulty with foreign affairs.
There is one point upon which I should like to say a word. There has been criticism to-day upon what I understand is referred to as the Hudson-Wohltat disclosure, and in connection with that there is something which, I think, every Member of the House and everyone in the country should realise. Surely this country has rearmed, firstly, in its own defence, and secondly, in the hope that the contemplation of our security and strength might cause those abroad who have ideas of world domination by force to think twice, and that it might effect, if possible, a change of heart so that they might assist us within the family of nations to find a peaceful solution of the world's difficulties. If that be so —and I do not think it is denied —surely we must hope that some day, under proper guarantees of sincerity and proper guarantees that a change of policy has taken place, we shall be able to sit round a table and discuss the outstanding questions that are vexing the world. If that day should come, as ultimately, I suppose, every hon. Member hopes and desires, the economic conditions of all the nations at the conferee w will have to be taken into consideration. Those nations whose whole economic life has been adjusted to the production of armaments will find it very difficult to turn back to ordinary trade. If we learned anything from the last War, surely we learned this: that as the world is organised economically to-day, it cannot afford to have one or two large bankrupt and distressed nations within its economy. Somehow we have to get them into the family and help them on to their feet.
After 1918, Germany and Austria were wrongly kept in a state of economic misery, and it is that fact which I think 2079 has largely resulted in the difficulties from which we are now suffering. [An Hon. Member: "Who made the treaty?"] I always said that the Treaty of Versailles was wrong, and it is because we never honestly tried to put it right, after 1918, that we are in the present situation. That being so, there are certain things which have to be considered. Firstly, I entirely agree with those who say that there must be a change of heart, and I hope and pray that will come throughout the world; but let us be careful that when it comes we do not miss the opportunity of getting a round-table conference which will be the beginning of a settlement of the difficulties from which the whole of the civilised world is now suffering. One must remember that if there are — as there are in some countries — men bent upon world domination, they would be the first to attempt to torpedo any sign of a change of heart in those countries. There are also those who, in their blind hatred of dictatorships, would sooner see the first overtures which would lead to peace brought to nought than see the establishment of negotiations with the Nazi regime or the Fascist regime which might keep those two regimes in power. I detest the totalitarian form of government, but it is more important to get an honest peace, which has proper guarantees behind it, than to destroy even the Nazi and Fascist regimes. I do not believe that any hon. Member thinks differently from that. I submit that it is wise to consider that the time must come when overtures will be made, and that then we must not be slow to take advantage of them.
§ Mr. A. Edwards
When the hon. and gallant Baronet speaks of "proper guarantees," what has he in mind?
§ Sir A. Southby
Obviously, there will have to be proper guarantees — disarmament, possibly the evacuation of places under discussion, and other obvious guarantees which must jump to the minds of hon. Members.
§ Sir A. Southby
Ultimately, a return to a rebuilt League. Everybody in the Committee will admit that the League, as originally conceived, has failed, and it must be the first endeavour in such a settlement to rebuild a family of nations 2080 which will not have the weaknesses which the League embodied.
Mr. V. Adams
The League was gravely injured by the Hoare-Laval proposals which the hon. and gallant Member has been praising.
§ Sir A. Southby
There is much more that I could say, but as there are other hon. Members who wish to speak, I will conclude by making this appeal to the Committee. This is a time of great danger. Surely, it is a time when all of us, whatever our party differences may be, should unite behind the Prime Minister in a policy which I believe meets with general approval on both sides of the Committee. Our influence in the world will be infinitely strengthened if there are no rifts in the ranks behind the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary. Our influence will be greatly weakened if those abroad who are anxious to see and to take advantage of any breach in our unity are able to point to some breach and to say that it is there, that although it is not very patently disclosed, nevertheless it exists. I should like to end by quoting the words of a very great Statesman, perhaps one of the most human and greatest men the world has ever seen —Abraham Lincoln. After his election as President of the United States at the outbreak of the Civil War, he said something which is apposite to the position in which the Prime Minster now finds himself:Gentlemen, suppose all the property you were worth was in gold, and you had put it in the hands of Blondin to carry across the Niagara River on a rope, would you shake the cable or keep shouting at him — Blondin, stand up a little straighter; Blondin, stoop a little more, go a little faster,, lean a little more to the north, lean a little more to the south? No, you would hold your breath. as well as your tongue, and keep your hands off till he was safe over. The Government is carrying an enormous weight. Untold treasures are in their hands. They are doing the very best they can. Don't badger them, keep silent, and we will get you safe across.
§ 9.3 p.m.
Mr. Harold Nicolsorn
It is always a pleasure to follow the hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for Epsom (Sir A. Southby), because I much admire the assurance and the ease with which he talks upon every variety of subject, and the loyalty, and indeed the vehemence, with which he attacks those Members of his own party who are not in power. I must, however, object to one particular 2081 form of attack which he made this evening, namely, his reference to my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden). He implied that the speeches that my right hon. Friend had made since his retirement had damaged the cause of this country and had in fact weakened the position of the Government. That is not so. The Committee will agree with me that seldom in the history of any political controversy, any political disagreement, has such moderation been shown, such extreme consideration been displayed, such reticence, almost, been exercised, as has been shown by my right hon. Friend in the unhappy controversy that arose after his retirement. I do not think I could allow that accusation to pass uncontradicted.
The hon. and gallant Baronet referred to propaganda, and he referred specifically to the use made by German propagandists of statements made in this House. I do not know whether he has read an admirable book on recent German propaganda, illustrated and prepared by Dr. Knop, which has just been published, in which he can find a sample of the exact nature of the German propaganda which has been put out against this country during the last six months. The hon. and gallant Baronet will see that the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's (Mr. Duff Cooper) are not the exhibits that figure in it. They have to go right back to the Indian Mutiny, to the concentration camps of the South African War—
§ Sir A. Southby
Is the hon. Member suggesting that I condoned German propaganda? I did not do so. On the contrary I think it disgraceful. What I said was that the unrestrained utterances of certain Members of Parliament could be used as material by German propagandists.
§ Mr. Nicolson
I was quite aware of what the hon. Baronet said. I suggested that what he said was a misstatement, due to want of special study of the subject of which he is speaking. As a matter of fact, the speeches to which he referred have not been used as propaganda. What has been used is old dug-out propaganda 2082 material from the period of the last War. If it comes to a question of propaganda the dangerous propaganda that is being done to-day is that very subtle and in deed often admirable form of it which is represented by German propaganda in this country. I hope the Government are aware —and I would ask the Under secretary to give us some assurance on that point —of the damage which is being done by certain organisations and publications, such as the "Link" and the "Anglo-German Review," which are very skilfully used as propaganda and which are doing great damage in this country.
I do not wish to detain the Committee long, but there is one point which I wish to make, because it seems to me to have hovered in the background of this discussion. I have heard from both sides references to that most unfortunate indiscretion committed by Dr. Wohltat after he had spoken with my right hon. Friend the Secretary to the Department of Overseas Trade. It has been represented that my right hon. Friend — with whom I have not discussed the matter at all — was acting in some egotistic and in discreet manner; was behaving as a sort of missionary of appeasement in this matter; and went far beyond what any reasonable or responsible person would have considered proper subjects of discussion with a man in Dr. Wohltat's position. I do not think that is a fair or correct estimate of the part played by my right hon. Friend in this unhappy incident. What is unhappy about it is that, owing to some appalling indiscretion, the whole story came out; but anybody who knows my right hon. Friend knows that he is not merely a man of great experience, of remarkable intelligence and will-power, but also a person of great discretion. To those who know him, it is unbelievable that he could have committed what would appear to me, if I may put it rather crudely, an act of ineptitude. The indiscretion did not come from him; it came from the other side. Who among us discussing this issue, perhaps the most important issue of any in our lives, the issue of what is to happen afterwards, would not, if he were an intelligent and informed person, have discussed the question of how Germany, if she disarms eventually, is to get out of the vicious circle in which she is enclosed to-day?
2083 Members of the Committee know that one of the greatest difficulties — not in the way of appeasement because that is dead but in the way of peace which we are beginning to see in a more proper focus — one of the greatest difficulties is that war has become a vested interest in Germany. Imagine Hitler faced with the nightmare of closing down some of the armament factories. Imagine the appalling problem which would confront him of reopening his frontiers so that the substitute factories, the ersatz factories, would have to be closed down. To Hitler that is an almost insoluble problem, and if we are to talk to him of peace we must show him, first, that a successful war is a physical impossibility, and, secondly, that a successful peace is not a physical impossibility. That is what we have to show him. When people talk about resistance and appeasement as two conflicting theories, they are making a mistake. All reasonable people who know and understand the situation realise that the essence of the problem is the necessity of making it clear to Hitler that victory is a physical impossibility and that peace is a physical possibility. If we start to think about making peace a physical possibility the very first thing that we have to consider is how to get out of this vicious circle, this dead hand, which is the vested interest of the armament industry. Surely, any reason able man talking to another expert on the subject would naturally say, "I think if you ever get to the point of evacuating Czecho-Slovakia, which means the admission that you were wrong; if you ever get to the point of accepting disarmament, which means the admission that you are willing to put yourself under equality of inspection thereafter; then, I believe, we would consider giving you a loan to help you out of your vicious circle." I should have said exactly the same if I had been in that position. If Dr. Wohltat had repeated what I said, I should have very much regretted that those who admired and trusted me took the view that I had been guilty of an in discretion. It is, I admit, foolish to be wise two years in advance, but in this case the wisdom was whispered and was not spoken.
If from this Debate (which has, I think, been a useful, moderate and wise Debate) it can emerge before we go off for those holidays, which are being imposed upon 2084 us, that we have gone a little way further towards abolishing this ridiculous duality between appeasers and resisters, a good purpose will have been served. If it can be shown that this Committee is more or less in agreement that there must be the maximum of resistance first, and thereafter the maximum of conciliation, then, I think, during these holidays we shall be able to think more clearly of what the eventual peace terms must be, instead of venturing upon rather sketchy peace terms like those upon which the hon. Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson) tried to embark. We should not venture upon those peace terms before we are quite certain that we have thought them out.
§ 9.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher
There are three points on which I wish to touch. The first is the effort of the Prime Minister to make a cheap debating score at the expense of the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton). The right hon. Gentleman said the hon. Member had referred to the dawdling negotiations with Russia as unprecedented and went on to suggest that the hon. Member had not looked up the precedents because the Anglo-Japanese Alliance, the Anglo-French Entente and the Kellogg Pact had all taken a certain length of time to conclude. Later the Prime Minister provided the reply to his own argument when he said that to send a staff mission to Moscow prior to signing a political agreement, was an unprecedented step. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) then chipped in with the query, "What about France?" and the Prime Minister replied that the circumstances were altogether different.
That is the answer to the Prime Minister's argument. The circum stances in this case are entirely different and I guarantee that if hon. Members look up the precedents referred to, they will not find in connection with any of those three agreements, that a civil servant was sent out from this country to do the job. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) has described that action as an insult to the Soviet Union. What is the use of the Prime Minister working himself into a passion and trying to get us to believe that he is in earnest, when he refuses to send a representative of the Cabinet to Moscow? He said that M. Molotov was in touch with his Gov- 2085 ernment and that our representative had to communicate with his at a distance, but if the Prime Minister had been in earnest in the beginning, he would either have sent the Foreign Secretary or a Cabinet Minister to Moscow or he would have invited M. Molotov to come to London. I do not accept the genuineness of the Prime Minister's desire for a pact with Russia. If there had been a sincere desire for such a pact, it could have been obtained long ago. The right hon. Member for Epping, in a Debate a long while ago, drew attention to the fact that the proposals made by the Soviet Union were simple, clear, and easily understood and could easily be accepted.
The Prime Minister made reference to Danzig and Poland, and he said in connection with Danzig that the Polish Government have shown an admirable restraint. That statement was received with great favour by hon. Members opposite. The Government of Poland, said the Prime Minister, had shown admirable restraint, and he hoped and was sure that they would continue to do so. Why should the Polish Government show admirable restraint? This is exactly what we were told about the Government of Czecho slovakia. The Prime Minister at that Box a year ago said that the Government of Czecho-Slovakia were showing admirable restraint. Why is it that it is always those who are being attacked who have to show admirable restraint and that we allow the aggressors to go on from one stage to another? I suggest that it is about time that we encouraged Poland to adopt a different attitude towards the aggression that is going on in Danzig, and I am certain that if Poland got the en couragement that she deserves and adopted a firm attitude, then the aggression would soon stop. Make no mistake about it. Herr Hitler, Goering, and the unspeakable Goebbels understand that if war were to come, no matter what would happen to the others, they would be finished completely. But they are trading on the Fifth Column in this country, and they are trading on the Fifth Column in France. They have played a clever tune with the bogy of Bolshevism.
The hon. and gallant Member for Epsom (Sir A. Southby) spoke about the enmity towards Nazism that affects some Members, who, he said, are more concerned with getting rid of the Nazi dicta- 2086 tors than with getting peace. I am concerned about getting peace firmly established, because that would check aggression and get rid of the Nazi dictators. But there never was any feeling against the Nazi dictators on the part of any members of the working class to compare with the ferocious hatred of such as the hon. and gallant Member towards the working class of the Soviet Union. It is that feeling that Goebbels and company have played upon. If we are' going to stop aggression and want to make a stand against it, that stand should be made by a change of policy now, not by showing admirable restraint, but by showing a firm opposition to any further encroachment.
The other point is in connection with Japan. The Prime Minister said that it was deplorable that these demonstrations should be going on against Britain. It is the same tactics as are pursued by Goebbels, Hitler, and the rest. They slap you in the face and then ask you to discuss terms on which they will stop the slapping. The Prime Minister says that it is deplorable that there should be these demonstrations and that if they continue, they can easily affect the negotiations that are going on, negotiations which, if they are allowed to be carried to a conclusion, can be beneficial to Japan and to us. The Prime Minister said that. Where does China come in? If these negotiations are beneficial to Japan and to us, what will happen to China? Are they going to be beneficial to China too? No. Here again, right before us, we have an example of the policy of submission to aggression which encourages aggression and makes the menace of war the more terrible for the people of this country and of other countries. In connection with the Russian negotiations and the attitude towards Danzig, and in connection with the situation in the Far East, what we want is a definite, clear stand by this country and the other countries with which we are associated against aggression. When a stand is made against aggression, we shall be finished with aggression for good and all, and there will be an opportunity of laying a new and a sure foundation for peace.
§ 9.22 p.m.
§ Mr. K. Griffith
I think this Debate will be agreed by most hon. Members to have served a useful purpose, because we have 2087 not had a Debate on foreign affairs for a considerable time, and this House could hardly have separated for the holidays — I am not allowed to discuss whether or not they are premature —without devoting a few more hours to the most urgent of all the problems which confront us. I felt it necessary to begin my speech by suggesting that the Debate served a useful purpose, because the Prime Minister in his speech seemed rather to take another view. I could not discern in the two speeches which preceded his any unusual provocation. Indeed, I think both speeches had been designed as far as possible to concentrate, without any kind of recrimination, upon the immediate problems which are before the country at the present time. But it did seem to me that the Prime Minister's speech displayed an unusual degree of resentment at criticism of any kind being made, and that, I am bound to say, rather surprised me.
I think the Prime Minister — I say it with all respect — should realise that in this case criticism of the Government is almost bound to be criticism of him. It cannot be otherwise, because he has, with great energy and with great devotion, taken upon himself personally so many of the functions of the State that wherever criticism of any important event has to be found, it necessarily comes to his door. In that way he contrasts rather with his predecessor, who left his Departments more or less to work according to their own ideas. They were allowed to take their own course; they were allowed to make their own blunders. The Prime Minister takes all these things upon him self, and therefore, at every point, when we are criticising the Government's foreign policy, we find, not the Foreign Secretary, but the Prime Minister himself.
That was particularly brought home to me by the last foreign affairs Debate in which I personally took part, and it was a long time ago, on 22nd February, 1938. It was a Debate of very considerable importance; it was on the occasion of the resignation of the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden), but it was even more important because the Prime Minister chose that occasion to announce a formal departure from the foreign policy which had been common to nearly all his predecessors, to which 2088 he and all his colleagues on that side owed their election, the denunciation of the system of collective security which was put in the election manifesto upon which the Government were elected, not merely as being the keystone of their policy, but as that by which alone we could save ourselves, from a return to the old system which resulted in the Great War. I am bound to call attention to this particular speech of the Prime Minister's because I regard it as the point after which the international situation, which had been deteriorating progressively for a very long time, accelerated its collapse. The words used by the Prime Minister are these:At the last election it was possible to hope that the' League might afford collective security. I believed it myself. I do not believe it now. I would say more. If I am right, as I am confident I am, that the League, as constituted to-day, is unable to provide collective security for anybody then I say we must not try to delude ourselves…" —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd February, 1938; col. 227, Vol. 332.]I am not sure what the Prime Minister said there was true before his speech was made — the lamentable thing is that it became true afterwards; because once the leaders of one of the great nations of Europe supporting collective security stated publicly that he no longer believed in it, the effect on the whole of the rest of the world was quite incalculable. As he himself later in the same speech said, the power of the League depends upon the conviction of its Members that it can carry out its functions, and he, by his speech on that occasion, did as much as any man could to destroy the possibility of that conviction. After that another policy was followed, the policy of appeasement, the policy that has had its day, rather a short day, and which is now being left behind us. With regard to that, I would only ask the Prime Minister himself, or anybody else here, are not the words which the Prime Minister him self then applied to the abandonment of the policy of collective security applicable, with even still more cruel force, to the policy which he substituted for it? The words are these:Can anybody say that we have approached nearer to peace by pursuing a policy of that kind? Can anybody say that we have taken fear out of the hearts of men? Can anybody say that we have lightened the menace hanging over us? Must not everybody admit that month after month we have seemed to 2089 be getting nearer and nearer to war?" — [OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd February, 1938; cols. 228-229, Vol. 332.]Those words which the Prime Minister applied to collective security, we must all recognise, even if we have played with or favoured the idea at any time, are applicable to that policy of appeasement which has now been abandoned. It is for that reason that I must ask the Prime Minister not to take it in ill part if, when criticisms are made of the foreign policy of the Government, they do centre very largely round himself. Now another policy has been adopted, and another change, and after the rape of Prague we have a return to a kind of collective security, building it up slowly, piece by piece, building a raft out of the timbers of the wreck, and, even so, some of the most important and vital timbers in the raft have not yet been put into place. We have to agree that, whatever the causes for the delay in coming to an agreement with Russia, all the time while the negotiations have been going on has been a period of the very greatest gravity. I, like my right hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) am not seeking, and have not the knowledge, to assign exactly the reasons for the delay, and I hope that I shall not be accused, as he was, of saying something which I never even suggested, because until the history of these negotiations is known none of us can know exactly to what the delay is due. We can all realise that it has been a period of great anxiety and great danger to this country.
But it may be said, "Why did you worry about that; now after the Chatham House speech the raft is being built, and it is your policy that is being adopted? "Well, I am bound to say that I think that the considerations put forward by my right hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland this afternoon, and the questions he asked, many of which I think are not yet satisfactorily answered, give sufficient material for doubt. I have one doubt which I am bound to put. Who exactly is going to be carrying into effect this reconstructed programme of collective security? It is almost in every case the very people who abandoned collective security with such precipitous haste not so very long ago — the very people who put their whole trust in the policy of appeasement — to whom, 2090 without any addition to their strength, is to be entrusted the task of carrying out the new policy, whilst we are all away on our holidays, and have not whatever power we ever had to control foreign affairs from this House. They are exactly the same Ministers, exactly the same expert advisers. There has been, it is true, some small reconstruction among the Under-Secretaries, but I do not suppose, however much we welcome it on personal grounds the appointment of the hon. Lady to the Ministry of Health was made as an international gesture. It stands upon its own merits.
As regards the foreign situation, we have exactly the same people as we had before, and it is impossible to suppress a certain amount of doubt as to whether, although appeasement lies behind us, there may not be lingering and regretful looks behind. We are going away for a holiday, leaving the cat on guard over the cream jug, without having been able to convince ourselves as to whether the animal has really got tired of cream and may not go back to its old taste, and whilst we are away we can say nothing at all. I do think these doubts might in some measure be very easily dispelled. After all, when the policy changed from collective security to appeasement, there were resignations, there were reconstructions of the Government. Now that it is going back to collective security again, it would only be natural to expect that there would be another reconstruction in the other direction of bringing back some of those who have gone, and adding others whose wisdom and counsel, I think, the nation has lacked too long. As long as appeasement was the order of the day, I can quite see it was a matter of commonsense that these gentlemen should not be admitted, because you can only play one policy at a time, and if the policy, in the words of Edmund Lear is:To sit on the stile and continue to smile.Till we soften the heart of the cow,"it might be as well that certain provocative figures should be admitted. But now that it is realised that the cow is a bull after all I do not see why we should not enlist the services of a few matadors. We cannot possibly annoy the bull any more, the animal is already completely furious, and we may as well defend ourselves against its attack. I therefore do suggest that the doubts. 2091 which are at the present moment not a matter of party feeling here and above the Gangway, could be very largely dissolved, and at the same time a good impression in the direction which we desire could be made in those countries which are principally concerned, if the Government were strengthened in the way which I have suggested.
of course the doubts which I have referred to have undoubtedly been increased by the protracted nature of the Russian negotiations. As I say, I do not know exactly how that came about. The only information I have on the subject is that given to me by the Prime Minister this afternoon, and he, I presume, is in a position to say. He said that naturally the French and English delegations took a longer time in preparing their part of the case and in delivering it than M. Molotov, because M. Molotov was at home, he was on the spot, and did not need to be constantly consulting a Government at a distance. That seems to me a perfectly reasonable and natural explanation, but is not that also a reason for sending to Moscow somebody who would be able to negotiate with more direct authority? Take the way in which the Prime Minister negotiated with Herr Hitler at Berchtes-gaden, at Godesberg and at Munich. There was no reason to complain of delay then. Matters were concluded with almost precipitate haste, because the Prime Minister, a responsible person, was on the spot — in all senses of the word: I took the words used by himself as regards M. Molotov. It therefore seems to me that he has, in a sense, answered his own Temark, because if delay has been caused only in the way he described, it is a delay which could have been avoided if some person with more decisive authority, somebody like Lord Halifax, had been sent, instead of a civil servant, to conduct negotiations on the spot.
Here let me say that the one matter on which I was inclined to disagree with the excellent speech of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for New-castle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) was his suggestion that the representatives of our Services who are sent out there would find it difficult to come to terms with and to talk a common language with their "opposite numbers" on the Russian side. I should not suggest that 2092 myself. I think that the average Admiral, or General or Air-Marshal would be very quick to pick up and to appreciate the point of view of those with whom he was dealing, and I do not expect any difficulty in that respect, but I do ask the Prime Minister to realise that if there are suspicions that negotiations with Russia have gone slowly because the Government did not really want them to succeed —and I am not saying that that is so —that suggestion has been contributed to enormously by the speeches of Members of his own party up and down the country in which reluctance about Russia has been shown. I think that most of them have been coming to the conclusion that this alliance is necessary and that they have got to play in the same team as these Russians, but they seem also to think that the procedure at Lords' should be followed and that the professionals should come out by a different gate from the gentlemen, and we shall never get a proper understanding with any other nation on those lines. As the right hon. Baronet said, there must be respect as the basis of any proper alliance.
I shall not detain the Committee long, but the Under-Secretary has been good enough to intimate to me that he does not want more than a quarter of an hour, and therefore I have a few minutes more. With regard to the Far East, I think the right hon. Baronet the Member for Caithness and Sutherland has put the essential questions, and I want to make only this general reflection. I can quite understand the anxiety of the Government not to become embroiled in the Far East while they have so many preoccupations in Europe; but in a matter where our good name and our future in the East are so intimately concerned we have to look rather farther ahead than the immediate moment. I believe that the Chinese nation are ultimately indestructible, that they will survive all these trials, that even if the Japanese achieve the most brilliant military victory none the less in no long time China will once again be guiding her own destiny; and when that time comes it may be a far more serious thing for us if we have lost the confidence of the Chinese people than if we incurred the temporary-hostility of Japan. I think, therefore, that in this as in so many other matters, the best course for us in the long run is to be true to our obligations, not to forget every thing we learnt under the League, and to 2093 continue to give what assistance we can to China in her gallant struggle.
There is only one more thing I want to say. Several hon. Members, and conspicuously the hon. and gallant Member for Epsom (Sir A. Southby), seemed to suggest that there was some kind of treason, something improper, in their view, in any kind of criticism of the Prime Minister and his policy in this House. I think it would be very regret table if anything like that went forth from this Debate. We intend at the conclusion of the speech of the Under-Secretary to move a reduction of the Vote which is upon the Paper. Let no one say that that is dividing the country in the face of the enemy. It is nothing of the kind. Free criticism is the life-blood of democracy, and it would indeed be a sorry thing if, whilst we are summoning our young men to resist the threats of a totalitarian State abroad, we installed one here at home. Supposing that at any moment of anxiety every voice of criticism must be hushed. The Prime Minister said what seemed to me a very serious thing when he said of the two speeches which preceded his own that they were doing an ill service to the cause. [Interruption.] Perhaps the Committee will listen to the end of the Prime Minister's sentence, if they will not listen to the end of mine — that they profess to have at heart. I say that no man, if he be ten times Prime Minister, has any right to say that to the Leaders of the Opposition.
§ Mr. Griffith
My hon. Friend seeks to retaliate by saying that criticism is the life-blood of democracy, but criticism is not often laid upon the sincerity of hon. Members. When this Division takes place to-night there will be some in the Aye Lobby and some in the No Lobby, but those who vote for the Opposition will be every bit as staunch patriots as any Conservatives that ever came out of Birmingham, and all in both Lobbies will be animated by a similar determination, I hope, to resist aggression. And behind that there will be the rising spirit of the nation, slowly challenged and not quick to move, not demonstrating itself by the waving of banners or by trained marching demonstrators, but of a temper which, if it is pushed too far, those who encounter it will learn to know its qualities.
§ 9.44 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Butler)
The hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. K. Griffith) paid a great honour to our party when he said the Prime Minister showed as good patriotism as ever came out of Burke.
§ Mr. Butler
I understood the hon. Gentleman to say Burke. But the honour is the same in the case of Birmingham. The genius of one of our greatest writers and statesmen has a practical application in one of our greatest industrial cities. To link Burke with Birmingham may be doing a service to the future history of my own party. The hon. Member said that he trusted that we should not regard the Leader of the Opposition as insincere. Perhaps I can prove that we have no such intention when I turn to the first of the very modest notes which I have made for my speech to-night, because there I find a reference to the fact that there has been general agreement about the direction of our foreign policy in the Debate this evening. The Government are the first to recognise this fact and to recognise the motives that have inspired hon. Members opposite in making their speeches. There has been, as the hon. Member for West Leicester (Mr. H. Nicolson) has said, an agreement between what he described as the appeasers and the resisters. There has been agreement on all sides of the Committee about the direction of our policy, but there has been a certain criticism because some wish to go faster, some wish to go more slowly, and some have not understood some of the action that has been taken.
One fact is absolutely clear, and that is that this country must be acknowledged as the leader and organiser of the Peace Front and that Great Britain has had considerable success in her determined diplomatic efforts over the last few busy months. If hon. Members will reflect for a moment they will realise that the office which I represent here has been engaged in two sets of major negotiations, in Tokyo and in Moscow, has also been engaged in bringing to a perfected end the under standings that we initiated with Poland and Turkey, has been in close contact and collaboration with our friend and ally, France, and has, I believe, worked on 2095 parallel lines with the United States That is, indeed, a full programme for a short time. I can assure hon. Members that it has kept the Government and all connected with the work extremely occupied and — I think rightly — busy.
Perhaps the most remarkable feature has been our close collaboration with France during this difficult period. Here I should like to pay a tribute to the economic and spiritual effort of our close friend and ally. At the present moment, manifestations of a practical nature are the most up to date. If we examine the recent manifestations, we shall find that the demonstration of our Air Force on two occasions over French territory and the first occasion that our own armed units have taken part in the parade on 14th July in France, were a practical, and as the French public found, a most moving demonstration of that solidarity which is the keystone of the arch to the Peace Front at the present time.
The fact that this leadership has been so marked is depicted in the increased spirit and resolution shown by the smaller nations. I think that is one of the arguments in favour of the great peace drive which has been made by His Majesty's Government. The hon. Member who spoke for the official Opposition referred to certain writers in the Sunday papers. He referred to writers on both sides, with some of whom he agreed and with some he did not agree. There was a particularly remarkable article by Mr. Spender and perhaps I may be permitted to quote one or two sentences from it. He said:It is unnecessarily damaging to our good name" —the name of Great Britain —that we alone should be singled out as moral defaulters, and that we should have to sit in silence while other nations" —and I would here add "other critics"—which have either wholly or in large part detached themselves from the obligations of the League Covenant, upbraid us as cowards and backsliders because we are unable to discharge them single-handed.He goes on to refer to the achievements of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and of the Government in these words:This British achievement has been a splendid one which entirely disposes of the idea, so sedulously circulated by our enemies, that we are a spiritless and decadent people.2096 That, I think, is the spirit to-day, thanks to the great peace drive which has been made in the last few months by His Majesty's Government. This moral lead is regarded as all the more remarkable when, as foreign critics have noticed, it is bound up with our great economic, material and Defence efforts. This fact illustrates that we, and our friends and allies, form a powerful force and a most valuable influence when looking to the immediate future of international foreign policy. This combined action with France has been reflected in our attitude to our Far Eastern policy.
Many different interpretations have been placed upon the formula which we have agreed to with the Japanese. On the one side there is the extreme view that we seem to be expected to help Japan in establishing a new order in the Far East. At the other extreme are those who would make out that there is no war going on and that there is no dislocation and no occupation of certain areas by Japanese troops, as well as no alteration of life, trade or normal conditions. It is some where between those two extremes that His Majesty's Government's policy stands. At this stage the Committee may be interested to know the present condition of the negotiations with respect to Tientsin. I am glad to say that the negotiations are continuing. Agreement is nearing completion on certain points connected with police matters, and those matters have now been reported home for further consideration by His Majesty's Government. Further economic and other considerations are, of course, part of the future programme.
In referring to these police matters perhaps I can best explain what we have done in accepting this formula by saying that we have recognised a situation of fact. We have agreed to maintain an attitude of impartiality in certain day-to day contacts in a definite area and in certain circumstances. That is an attitude of recognising a situation of fact in the areas occupied by Japanese troops. I thin kit is the wisest policy in the interests of our nationals and of British policy in the Far East in the future. It is difficult to reach agreement in these complicated negotiations and tribute should here be paid to the work of our Ambassador. Constructions of a harmful nature ought not to be placed upon the fromula we 2097 have accepted. Hon. Members have referred to the formula and to agitation I north China. There is a certain agitation in North China, most of it organised, we believe, by the Japanese. There have been demonstrations at Tsingtao and damage has been done particularly to missionary property in the Shansi province. His Majesty's Ships "Cormwall" and "Sandwich" have been sent to Tsingtao and Tangku and strong representations have been made to the Japanese Government.
I say here to-night that the Japanese must appreciate the force of the feeling that is expressed in this Committee and in the House of Commons on this matter. Even speaking as I do as a member of the Government I must acknowledge that it is valuable to notice from the interpolations of hon. and right hon. Gentle men the interest that is taken in this matter. I trust that the Japanese Government will realise that no negotiations or discussion can prevent relations between our countries growing steadily more difficult unless that type of agitation and these manifestations are brought to an end. Hon. Members on both sides of the Committee have asked whether His Majesty's Government stand by the principles of the Nine-Power Treaty. I refer the Committee to our Note of 14th January. They will realise that we stand upon that Note. In that Note we deliberately drew the attention of the Japanese to the fact that we were not prepared to accept or to recognise changes brought about by force involving the surrender of political, economic and cultural life in China to Japanese control and the indefinite maintenance there of a considerable garrison. I think that indicates that we stand by the Nine-Power Treaty in this matter. In the matter of the Chinese currency, which has been raised notably by my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne), we are continuing our interest. I would remind the Committee that His Majesty's Government have done more, I think I can safely say, for the Chinese currency, which is a matter of international interest and of interest to the Japanese Government as well, than any other Government that I can think of.
I have not at my disposal the time to go into various other matters relating to the Far East, but I should like for a 2098 moment to deal with the question of Poland and the question of Turkey. Reference has been made to negotiations for a loan to Poland. We greatly regret that it has not yet been found possible to come to a satisfactory agreement with Poland on the subject of a loan, but I would deprecate criticisms which make out that there is anything sinister behind the policy of His Majesty's Government in this regard. I would remind the Committee that £8,000,000 of credits have been given to Poland, and that the Polish Press, the Polish public and the Polish Government have appreciated the action we have taken.
I would also draw the attention of the Committee to the recent successful visit of General Iron side as an indication of the close and understanding collaboration bet wee our two Governments. The Inspector-General of Overseas Forces, as he is called, has just paid a visit to Warsaw. We are much gratified at the frank and friendly manner in which Sir Edmund Iron side was received, and the conversations he had with Marshal Smygly-Rydz, M. Beck, and other Polish leaders. This collaboration has added a fresh contribution to mutual understanding on the part of the two Governments in the common problem which faces them. I would add here, on the subject of Poland, that it is hoped shortly to embody in a formal agreement the understanding which we reached in the early stages. The negotiations are proceeding, and we are at present awaiting the further views of the Polish Government before reaching a final conclusion. I have the same report to make about our collaboration with Turkey. The French and Turkish Governments made on 23rd June a declaration identical with that which we made with the Turkish Government at an earlier date, and conversations on a tripartite basis are now proceeding between the French, Turkish and British Governments with a view to bringing into a final form the agreement thus so happily initiated between the three Governments.
It would be wrong if, in the last minute or two at my disposal, I did not make some reference to Russia. I can add very little to what the Prime Minister has said on this subject. My right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) said that the agreement was rather like Roche foucauld's reference to 2099 ghosts and love; everyone had heard of them, but no one had seen them. All I would say is, instead of ghosts and love, do not let us have bogies and suspicions about Russia. There is no reason what ever for the sort of remarks that were made by the hon. Gentleman opposite. We have proceeded with the utmost vigour to discuss with Russia our out standing difficulties, and, as was rightly observed by the right hon. Baronet, the main question has been whether we should encroach on the independence of the Baltic States. We are in agreement with the right hon. Baronet that we should not do so, and the difficulty of reaching a formula on this point is one of the main
§ reasons why there has been delay in these negotiations. We are, therefore, in agreement with him on this point, and I trust that now, with what we have achieved over the last few months, with the growing strength of this country, with the determination we have shown, and with the success of our diplomatic efforts, we can at any rate face the summer ready for anything.
§ Question put, "That a sum, not exceeding £145,056, be granted for the said Service."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 130;Noes, 266.2101
|Division No. 290.]||AYES.||[10.1 p.m.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Hall, J. H. (Whiteehapel)||Prilt, D. N.|
|Adamson, Jennie L. (Dartfard)||Hardio, Agnes||Rtathbone, Eleanor (English Univ's.)|
|Adamson, W. M.||Hayday, A.||Riohards, R. (Wrexham)|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Ridley, G.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Riley, B.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Barnes, A. J.||Hicks, E. G.||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Barr, J.||Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Sexton, T. M.|
|Batey, J.||Horabin, T. L.||Silkin, L.|
|Beaumont, H. (Batley)||Jagaer, J.||Silverman, S. S.|
|Beltenger, F. J.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W.||John, W.||Sloan, A.|
|Benson, G.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Broad, F. A.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon T.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Kirby, B. V.||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. LeesK'ly)|
|Burke, W. A.||Lathan, G.||Smith, T. (Narmanton)|
|Cape, T.||Lawson, J. J.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Charieton, H. C.||Lee, F.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-p'ng)|
|Chater, D.||Leslie, J. R.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Logan, D. G.||Summerskill, Dr. Edith|
|Cocks, F. S.||Lunn, W.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Collindridge, F.||Maedonald, G. (Inee)||Thurtle, E.|
|Cove, W. G.||McEntee, V. La T.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Dalton, H.||MaGhee, H. G.||Tomlinson, G.|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Maclean, N.||Viant, S. P.|
|Day, H.||MacMitlan, M. (Western Isles)||Walkden, A. G.|
|Dobbie, W.||Mainwaring, W. H.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Mander, G. le M.||Watson, W. MoL.|
|Ede, J. C.||Marshall, F.||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. J. C.|
|Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||Mathers, G.||Welsh, J C.|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedweltty)||Maxton, J.||White, H. Graham|
|Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)||Messer, F.||Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)|
|Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Milner, Major J.||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Foot, D. M.||Montague, F.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Frankel, D.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Williams, T. (Den Valley)|
|Garlaoher, W.||Nathan, Colonel H. L.||Wilmot, John|
|Gardner, B. W.||Nayler, T. E.||Wilson, C. H. (Attarcliffe)|
|Garro Jones, G. M.||Noel-Baker, P. J.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Oliver, G. H.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Owen, Major G,||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Paling, W.|
|Griffith. F. Kingiley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Parkinson, J. A.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES. —|
|Griffiths, G. A. (Hemiworth)||Pearson, A.||Sir Percy Harris and|
|Groves. T. E.||Pethick-Lawrenee, Rt. Hon. F. W.||Sir R. Acland.|
|Guest, Dr. L. H. (Islington, N.)||Price, M. P.|
|Acland-Troyle, Lt.-Col. G, J,||Apsley, Lord||Balfour, capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)|
|Adamt, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Aske, Sir R. W.||Balniel, Lord|
|Agnew, Lleut.-Comdr. P. G.||Asshston, R.||Barrie, Sir C. C.|
|Albery. Sir Irving||Baillie. Sir A. W. M.||Beechman, N. A.|
|Allen, Col. J. Sandeman (B'knhead)||Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.||Beit, Sir A. L.|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)||Balfour, G. (Hampstead)||Bossom, A. C.|
|Boullon, W. W.||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Sir D. H.||Perkins, W. R. D.|
|Brabner, R. A.||Hambro, A. V.||Peters, Dr. S. j.|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N. (Baokrose)||Hammersley, S,. S.||Petherick, M.|
|Braithwaite, J. Gurney (Holderness)||Hannah, I. C.||Piokthorn, K. W. M.|
|Brass, Sir W.||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Pilkington, R.|
|Broadbridge, Sir G. T.||Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.|
|Brocklebank, Sir Edmund||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Porritt, R. W.|
|Brooks, H. (Lewisham, W.)||Hety-Hutohlnson, M. R.||Procter, Major H. A.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Pym, L. R.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Hepburn, P. G. T. Buohan-||Radlord, E. A.|
|Browns, A. C. (Belfast, W.)||Hepworth, J.||Ramsbotham, Rt. Hon. H.|
|Bull, B. B.||Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S.||Ramsden, Sir E.|
|Burgin, Rt. Hon. E. L.||Hogg, Hon. Q. MtG.||Rankin, Sir R.|
|Burton, Col. H. W.||Holdsworth, H.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)|
|Butcher, H. W.||Holmes, J. S.||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)|
|Butler, Rt. Hon. R A.||Hopkinston, A.||Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)|
|Cartland, J. R. H.||Hore-Balisha, Rt. Hon. L.||Reid, J. S. C. (Hillhead)|
|Cary, R. A.||Horsbrugh, Florenoe||Remer, J. R.|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n)||Hume, Sir G. H.||Rosbotham, Sir T.|
|Channon, H.||Hurd, Sir P.' A.||Rowlands, G.|
|Chapman, A. (Rulherglen)||Hutchinson, G. C.||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.|
|Christie, J. A.||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H.||Russell, Sir Alexander|
|Clarke, Colonet R. S. (E. Grlmlead)||James, Wing-commander A. W. H.||Salmon, Sir I.|
|Clarry, Sir Reginald||Jarvis. Sir J. J.||Salt, E. W.|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)||Samuel, M. R. A.|
|Colville, Rt. Hon. John||Keeling, E. H.||Sandeman. Sir N. S.|
|Conant, Captain R. J. E.||Kellett, Major E. O.||Schuster, Sir G. E.|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)||Scott, Lord William|
|Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L.||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Selley, H. R.|
|Cox, H. B. Trevor||Kerr, Sir John Graham (Soo'sh Univs.)||Shakespeare, G. H.|
|Craven-Ellis, W.||KeyeS, Admiral of Fleet Sir R.||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Critohley, A.||Knox, Major-General Sir A. W. F.||Shepperson, Sir E. W.|
|Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Simmonds, O. E.|
|Crooks, Sir J. Smedley||Lambert, Rt. Hon. G.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Lancaster, Lieut.-Colonel C. G.||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Cross, R. H||Latham, Sir P.||Smithers, Sir W|
|Crossloy, A. C.||Lees-Jones, J.||Snadden, W. McN.|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Leech, Sir J. W.||Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir donald|
|Culverweit, C. T.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Somerville, Sir A. A. (Windsor)|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.||Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.|
|Davies, C. (Montgomery)||Levy, T.||Spens, W. P.|
|Davison, Sir W. H.||Liddall, W. S.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'mId)|
|De Chair, S. S.||Lindsay, K. M.||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|De la Bère, R.||Lipson, D. L.||Stewart, William J. (Belfast, S.)|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Little, Sir E. Graham||Strauss, H. G. (Norwleh)|
|Dodd, J. S.||Llewellin, Colonel J. J.||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Conner, P. W.||Lloyd, G. W.||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw'h)|
|Dower, Lieut.-Col. A. V. G.||Looker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Drewe, C.||Loftus, P. C.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||Lucas, Major Sir J. M.||Sutoliffe, H.|
|Dugdale, Captain T. L.||Lyons, A. M.||Tasker, Sir R. I.|
|Duggan, H. J.||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)||Tate, Mavis C.|
|Duncan, J. A. L.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.||Thomas, J. P. L|
|Dunglass, Lord||MoCorquodale, M. S.||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.|
|Eastwood, J. F.||MaeDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross)||Thorneycroft, G. E. P.|
|Eokenley, P. T.||MoKie, J. H.||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.|
|Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||Maonamara, Lieut.-Colonel J. R. J.||Touohe, G. C.|
|Edge, Sir W.||Magnay, T.||Turton, R. H.|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Maitland, Sir Adam||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Elliston, Capt. G. S.||Makins, Brigadier-General Sir Ernest||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Emmolt. C. E. G. C.||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Entwistle, Sir C. F.||Markham, S. F.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Erskine-Hill, A. G.||Medliootl, F.||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.|
|Everard, Sir William Lindsay||Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitham)||Warrtnder, Sir V.|
|Fildes, Sir H.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Fleming, E. L.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Webb., Sir W. Harold|
|Fox, Sir G. W. G.||Mltoheson, Sir G. G.||Wadderburn, H. J. S.|
|Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Moreing, A. C.||Wells, Sir Sydney|
|Furness, S. N.||Morgan, R. H. (Woroester, Stourbridge)||Williams, Sir H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Fyfe, D. P. M.||Morris, J. P. (Salford, N.)||Willouahby dt Erasby, Lord|
|Gledhill, G.||Morris-Jones, Sir Henry||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Gluckttein, L. H.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Goldle, N. B.||Nall, Sir J.||Wood, Hon. C. J. C.|
|Gower, Sir R. V.||Neven-Spenee, Major B. H. H.||Wragf, H.|
|Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)||Nicholsen, C. (Famham)||Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C.|
|Granvillt, E. L.||Nicolson, Hen. H. G.||York, C.|
|Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh|
|Gridley, Sir A. B.||Palmer, G. E. H.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES —|
|Grimston, R. V.||Patrick, C. M.||Major Sir James Edmondson and|
|Gritten, W. G. Howard||Peake,O.||Captain McEwen.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ It being after Ten of the Clock, The Chairman proceeded, pursuant to Standing Order No. 14, to put forthwith the Question necessary to dispose of the Vote under consideration.
§ THE CHAIRMAN then proceeded, pursuant to Standing Order No. 14, to put severally the Questions, That the total amounts of the Votes outstanding in the several Classes of the Civil Estimates, including Supplementary Estimates and the total amounts of the Votes outstanding in the Estimates for the Revenue Departments, including a Supplementary Estimate, the Navy, Army and Air, be granted for the Services defined in those Classes and Estimates.