§ LORD WILLOUGHBY DE BROKE
My Lords, I rise to move that an humble Address be presented to His Majesty thanking Him for His gracious Speech from the Throne. In doing so, I may remind your Lordships that this is not my maiden speech in the House of Lords. Possibly that is an additional reason why I should ask for your Lordships' indulgence, because I have been chosen for this duty in spite of my having addressed your Lordships in previous debates. It is a great privilege to be chosen on this very important occasion to move the Address in your Lordships' House. You will agree with me that His Majesty's Government have succeeded to, and have to handle, a position of unusual embarrassment and trouble. Without wishing to indulge in any undue recrimination with regard to their predecessors in office, I may be allowed to say that if my coachman had handed over to me my team in the same state of nervousness and unrest as were public affairs at home and abroad when they were handed over to His Majesty's Ministers, I should have 5 said that my coachman had not got first-rate hands, although he might lay claim a monopoly of first-rate brains.
In public affairs the two subjects which naturally occupy first place in the gracious Speech from the Throne are the position of the French in the valley of the Ruhr and the Lausanne Conference. I believe that that mysterious person called the man in the street will support me when I say that he thinks, and rightly thinks, that our foreign policy should be dictated by the main motive of securing the social welfare, comfort and security of our own people at home. It is for this reason, I take it, that we find it impossible to follow the French in their policy of the occupation of the Ruhr valley. I believe your Lordships will agree with me when I say that the attitude of His Majesty's Government is inspired by sympathetic caution and by what is called a benevolent neutrality. I am perfectly well aware that that does not sound a particularly virile attitude, but it is the only attitude which it is possible for His Majesty's Ministers to have taken up.
Those who think that the Entente between ourselves and France is weakening, and who may possibly think that they see the end of it, should ask themselves two questions. The first question is whether we are able to stand alone, and whether it is wise to dabble in that most fatal of all fatal policies, the policy of trying to conciliate our certain enemies by throwing over those who are our potential, and more than that our actual, friends. All who look at the position of Europe from a sane point of view must realise that the solidarity of the West and of the Entente between ourselves and France is the one coherent thing in European politics today, and that if it breaks it will result in every man being for himself and the devil taking the hindmost, which is not a satisfactory position for European politics, nor a satisfactory spectacle for the new world. With respect to any possible change in the orientation of our position in European politics, I think we should remember that our own people in this country have not yet forgotten the great war, and that the worst disservice which anybody can render to this country at the present moment is to encourage the Germans to believe that 6 there is any pro-German party in this country which really counts for anything in the counsels of the nation.
May I turn for a moment to the Lausanne Conference? With regard to that Conference it is very refreshing to note that a Conservative Government has followed the old-fashioned English plan of choosing the best man to represent us, sending him out there, giving him full powers of responsibility, and trusting the man on the spot. In selecting the man to represent us we were fortunate indeed to have ready to our hand one who has devoted his whole life to the public service of this country and of whom it is not an impertinence to say that so far as the management of public affairs at home and abroad is concerned he is an all-round expert of the very first grade. I hope I shall not be considered impertinent in making this reference to the noble Marquess the Leader of the House. Parliament and the nation are proud of the noble Marquess. We in this House are proud of him and we all hope that he will have health and strength for many years to come to represent Great Britain in the counsels of Europe.
It is a matter of common knowledge, and I will not dwell upon it, that his conduct of the Lausanne Conference has been marked by patience, conciliation and skill, by wisdom and firmness, coupled with a capacity for hard work which has perhaps never been equalled, certainly never excelled, by any other Secretary of State. It is obvious that he has not had a particularly easy person to deal with in the Turk. The attitude of the Turk has been nothing short of amazing. It reminds one of the attitude of Sir Anthony Absolute in "The Rivals," who announced that he was always compliance itself when he was not thwarted and that nobody was more easily satisfied when he got his own way. But such was the patience and skill with which the noble Marquess conducted the negotiations that he has certainly brought back to us honour. He has not brought back war, and there is a good hope, as is stated in the gracious Speech, that in a short time the Turks will realise their position and that the Treaty will be signed. Then we shall have to thank the noble Marquess for bringing back to us both peace and honour.
The question of the occupation of Mosul by the Turks has been referred to the 7 League of Nations and it will be inappropriate to state the arguments for or against our continued occupation of Mosul. I believe I shall not be going beyond the mark if I say one word to those who appear to think that by a stroke of the pen we can cut off a certain amount of expenditure in this quarter of the globe or in that, and retire from it. Any proposal of that kind must be viewed in the light of British prestige in the East; from Suez to Calcutta. I am well aware that there are some people who think that British prestige is only a phrase; that it really does not matter; that it is a convenient phrase to include in a peroration. But to those who have been in the East it is not, a mere phrase; it is a definite concrete thing which you can almost feel and touch, and it is the touchstone by which all our actions in that quarter of the globe must be judged and carefully guarded.
Let me now pass on to the next paragraph in the gracious Speech from the Throne—the announcement of the prospective funding of our Debt to America. Going back once more to what the average citizen of this country is thinking it will not be very much beside the mark if I say that in any financial operation involving debtor and creditor there are always people who are prepared to take cash and let credit go. I for one am pleased that His Majesty's Ministers have decided to keep British credit and that the result of this financial arrangement will be that British credit and the name of this country will be absolutely untarnished. Depend upon it posterity will not suffer for the action we are taking to-day. We have to look forward to a very heavy financial burden for many years to come. In 1846 Mr. Disraeli asked Sir Robert Peel, when they were talking about posterity, whether he really meant posterity or the next quarter day. There are those who, with regard to this Debt to America, may be thinking of the next quarter day. I am not so sure that I am not thinking about it myself, but it will not be at the next quarter day, or the one after that, that we shall cease to feel the burden. Let us hope, however, that posterity at least will be grateful to the Government for the action they have taken.
There are other matters in the gracious Speech from the Throne, domestic 8 matters, which will be dealt with in detail by my noble friend Lord Hastings who is to follow I am not going to inflict upon you any detail with regard to these questions, but I would remind those people out of doors who are so impatient for remedies that there is no empirical remedy for the state of affairs in which we are to-day. The Armistice was signed only a little more than four years ago, after the most devastating war the world has ever seen, and it is beyond the wit of any body of men, even of a Coalition Government, to set everything right in the course of three or four years after such a war. The social welfare of our working classes is not likely to be restored until we see the economic recovery of Europe, but in the meantime it is very gratifying to note that His Majesty's Government are prepared to make a beginning in a place which is sometimes absolutely forgotten in public speeches, a place called the British Empire. It is by sensible, wise and well-thought-out organisation of emigration, together with a judicious use of British capital in Canada, that we may look forward to some kind of recovery in the social welfare of our people at home.
There is another question, which is even more difficult than that of unemployment—and with this also my noble friend Lord Hastings will deal after I have resumed my seat—I refer to the position of agriculture. It is very difficult to know what to say about agriculture, but I always think that the truest thing that was ever said in that connection was said by the late Lord Salisbury, while he was Prime Minister, I think. He said that the only two things which really affect agriculture are the weather and prices, and that the Government could not alter the weather even if they wished, and would not alter the prices even if they could. I do not know what His Majesty's Ministers will have to say to that proposition, but let nobody think that Parliament is going to be able to cure the present difficulties of agriculture merely by passing legislation. We agriculturists will have to begin again upon the ground floor; we shall have to find our feet again gradually. The significant point about the position of agriculture is that so much that was hoped for by those who advocated that the farmer should become the owner of the land which he occupied, so much that was expected 9 from the splitting up of large estates into smaller areas, each owned by the occupier, has not proved, so far as the policy has been tried, to be justified by success. If you go into rural districts to-day, you will find a general desire on the part of occupiers of land who have bought their farms to return to the old system of large estates.
At the same time it is very comforting to those of us who have to pay so many rates to see that something is said in the gracious Speech with regard to agricultural rating. In this regard I submit to His Majesty's Ministers that one of the worst burdens that we have to bear in agricultural districts is the upkeep of the roads. It seems to me, without going into details, that it would be only fair if those who used the roads most were made to pay for them, and if something like a tax upon petrol were to take the place of the present incidence of taxation whereby the cost of maintaining the roads is made good. For the moment we may leave it at that.
For the first time for a very great number of years we have in office, I am thankful to say, a Conservative Government, and your Lordships will agree with me that this Government has before it a task of unusual difficulty. I am quite sure that His Majesty's Ministers would be the last people in the world to deprecate anything like well-reasoned, responsible, well-informed and patriotic criticism. That has always been the tradition of this country; that is how the government of the country is carried on. The extremest critics of political affairs fall into two classes. There is the mandarin class—about which I for one do not know anything, because I have never belonged to it—those who bold that whatever the Government says must be right. This, of course, saves people the trouble of thinking, and is, in a certain sense, more or less patriotic.
Then there is another frame of mind, to which should like to call your Lordships' attention for a moment, the frame of mind of the professional "crabber," who always thinks and says, no matter what Government is in office, that anything which His Majesty's Ministers do or say or think must be absolutely and entirely wrong. I am a very good judge of this frame of mind; I have not been a Master of Fox Hounds for twenty-five years without exactly understand- 10 ing that particular mentality. Speaking seriously, it seems to me that there is something very unpatriotic and very irritating about the frame of mind of those who seem to take a delight in gloating over what they call the failure of this Minister or that. That frame of mind is not helpful at this time of day; it is not patriotic. We see references to the "failure" of Lord Curzon to come to an agreement with the Turks. I think that is a nasty, narrow, petty way of stating the case, and it would be much better if they talked about the failure of the Turks to come to an agreement with Lord Curzon. That is the point of view from which I suggest we should regard the conduct of public affairs in the future.
Having said that, I am sure His Majesty's Ministers will excuse me if I venture to express the hope, with the most profound respect, that in the conduct of public affairs they will not find their nerves too delicate. If they will follow a piece of advice which Lord Beaconsfield gave to his Party, to rely upon their own energy and the sublime instinct of an ancient people, then I believe that we shall pull through. I beg to thank your Lordships most gratefully for the kind way in which you have listened to the few remarks which I have made. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty as followeth—
§ "Most Gracious Sovereign,—We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."—(Lord Willoughby de Broke.)
§ LORD HASTINGS
My Lords, in seconding the humble Address with which your Lordships desire to reply to the gracious Speech from the Throne, I approach my task with the greatest diffidence, particularly as I follow the noble Lord, whose presence is always so acceptable to your Lordships' House. If I may be permitted to do so, I would desire, at the very outset of my speech, to give voice to the loyal interest which your Lordships feel in an event of recent 11 occurrence within the domestic circle of Their Majesties the King and Queen. The birth of Their Majesties' first grandchild, who incidentally is also the grandchild of a most respected member of your Lordships' House, is an affair on which your Lordships would desire to offer your loyal felicitations. Further, the betrothal of His Royal Highness the Duke of York is a matter in which your Lordships take the keenest interest, and you would desire, I know, to offer your humble duty and felicitations not only to Their Majesties but to His Royal Highness himself in this affair, particularly bearing in mind that the lady to whom His Royal Highness is betrothed is the daughter of yet another most respected member of your Lordships' House. The relations of the Throne to the House of Lords have ever been most close, but these events cannot fail to cement those relations.
My noble friend Lord Willoughby de Broke has dealt very comprehensively with the foreign endeavours of this country. He has done that which, had he not done it, I would have desired to do. He has paid a well-deserved tribute to the noble Marquess who leads this House, whose efforts during the last two and a half months have called forth from every man in this country a meed of praise which seldom can be given to any public man. He has returned from Lausanne knowing that British prestige, which had sunk lower than many of us cared to see, has now risen again to a point which is a matter of pride to every Englishman.
As to the paragraph which follows in the gracious Speech, on the subject of our Debt to America, I would add but one word to what my noble friend has said, and I do so to express my own personal pride, and I think the pride of every member of this House, at the manner in which this proposal has been accepted by the British public as a whole. In these days of absolute freedom of the Press, and of the individual, it might have been expected that so vast a burden as this would have been resented by some, but, so far as I am aware, the British public has unanimously accepted this burden, great though it is, and has expressed its determination that obligations, however onerous, shall always be endorsed by the British people. The endorsement of these obligations, I hope 12 and trust, will in due course bring its own reward, as I feel it cannot fail to do.
In the realm of home affairs, upon which Lord Willoughby de Broke only touched quite lightly, my noble friend placed upon me a burden somewhat heavy; but however heavy the burden placed upon me, I fear that if I were to do as he bade me the burden upon your Lordships would be far heavier. He instructed me to deal in detail with all those matters in the realm of home affairs that are mentioned in the gracious Speech. In the first instance, there is the subject of unemployment. I wish that this great subject might be raised to a higher plane—a plane altogether above that of mere controversy and expectation of Party advantage. It is a vast national problem. It is a problem which has an equal interest for all sections of the population in this country. It is perfectly true, of course, that, more immediately, that great proportion of the population which depends for its daily bread upon a weekly wage must feel the cruel pinch of unemployment most, but in every walk of life at the present time in England the stress of competition is being very gravely felt. The supply is greater than the demand. No matter whether a man's ambition is to excel in a manual trade, or whether his parents have spent upon him very large sums in general and special education, when he comes to seek employment, whether on a higher or lower grade, he finds equal difficulty in obtaining it; and I hope that those who represent the feelings of the manual workers of this country will not forget that there are other classes to whom the lack of employment is also a source of grave anxiety.
Of course, I know that it is absolutely essential that those who do depend upon a weekly wage should have immediate relief found for them up to the very limits of the resources of this country; but it is impossible for this great State to go on paying doles for ever. Not only do they sap the resources of the State, but they sap also the very efficiency of the race itself, and I hope it may be found possible for the best brains in this country to provide some scheme whereby all kinds of Britons, whether highly or less-well educated, whether specialists in mechanics or skilled artisans, shall have found for them opportunities of develop- 13 ing their skill in the Dominions overseas. There are those who say that with a return of trade to this country the question of unemployment will solve itself. I feel that if this country is able within the coming years to recover the position she occupied immediately before the war, or even to do more than that, still the unemployment question will be with us.
The most, superficial study of the figures given annually by the Registrar-General discloses a tale which cannot be gainsaid. The great research work of our surgeons and doctors of medicine, and the work of sanitary officers, are bearing and have borne fruit, and the expectation of life of the ordinary Briton to-day is vastly greater than it was thirty or forty years ago, while infant mortality has dropped by half what it was fifty years ago. That means that year by year the population of this country is increasing by leaps and bounds, and if that population is to be found work when it comes of age to work it follows that our trade must expand also by leaps and bounds. He would be a sanguine man who supposes that the trade of this country can ever expand to a sufficient extent to provide employment for the vast potential host of workers who will soon be requiring work.
Agriculture comes next in His Majesty's Speech. It is true that the well being of agriculture depends upon the weather and prices. It is also true that agriculture is at present in a parlous condition, largely because of the fact that this country is one of the few solvent countries in the world, and that we are therefore made the recipients of the surplus products—perhaps even something more than the surplus products—of other nations. Hut I am not inclined to accept the thesis that agriculture is suffering merely on account of that trade depression which is general throughout the world. I believe that it is suffering from something far more fundamental than that. In the course of the last half century, in particular, social progress in this country has proceeded on an amazing scale. I do not suggest that that progress has been on any greater scale than it ought to be; on the contrary, this great country, with its immense industrial wealth, was fully justified in insisting upon a very high degree of social uplift and progress. But I should like you to bear in mind that all this time agriculture has been dragged hand in hand with industry.
14 Agriculture has been made to go step by step up that steep hill, exactly as if it were doing as well as industry, whereas, as a matter of fact, year by year it has become poorer and poorer. It has never been in a position to pay for the great requirements of an industrial country; it is not in that position now, and it never will be in a position to pay for these social improvements. Do not let it be thought for a moment that I am suggesting that agriculturists would wish to be left out of these social improvements; far from it. Of course, that is not my case. My case is that you have placed upon agriculture burdens which it is totally impossible, and always has been totally impossible, for it to bear. Until the mind of Parliament is applied to that particular aspect of the question, agriculture cannot possibly flourish in this country.
There are at present, as I see the agricultural problem, three ways of dealing with it. The first is the direct way of protective duties. The second is the direct way of subsidy—either subsidy on the lines of the Corn Production Act, now repealed, or subsidy on the lines of grants in aid of wages. The third way, which I believe in the long run would prove just as effective, would be to remove from agriculture all those burdens which experience has proved that it is totally incapable of bearing. But that method will succeed only if Parliament is determined to do it drastically and really to relieve agriculture of burdens which it has been proved it is unable to bear. Before that could be done it seems to me absolutely necessary that the industrial population of this country should be in sympathy with agriculture. To think that agriculture stands on the one hand and industry on the other, and that the two are necessarily antagonistic, strikes me as being fatal to both of them. Industry can no more survive in this country without a reasonably prosperous agriculture than a man can live without air. Nor can agriculture survive without the good will and interest of industry. If Parliament would but make up its mind to relieve agriculture not only of those burdens mentioned in His Majesty's gracious Speech, but of others as well, then I think we might see sonic hope for the future of agriculture.
15 May I here refer to one burden upon agriculture which, I believe, presses upon it more severely than any other? That is the abstraction of capital from it which has been going on by means of the Death Duties for a number of years. Agriculture can only thrive upon the possession of capital. The constant flow of capital into the land is a necessity; yet Parliament has deliberately robbed the land of that which is necessary for it if it is to live. It is very easy to say that to relieve agricultural land of the Succession Duties is merely to make a present to the owners of that land, but, in practice, that is not the case. More than nine-tenths of those millions which have been taken out of the land would now, if they had been left there, he represented in farmhouses and cottages, roads, farm buildings, drainage, and all the many improvements which it is necessary that the land should have. The burden of Death Duties is one of the most severe under which agriculture suffers. It is well known also how heavy is the burden of local rates, and agriculture, if it is to prosper, requires preferential treatment on the railways of Great Britain.
The Increase of Rent and Mortgage (Restrictions) Acts raise one of the most difficult questions with which, I suppose, His Majesty's Government will have immediately to deal. May I treat the matter from the standpoint of a dweller in rural England? I have said that agriculture must receive preferential treatment in the conduct of the affairs of the State. Here is a case ready to hand. It is doubtful whether the rural districts of England ever required a Rent Restrictions Act, and it is quite certain that they do not require it now. Rent restriction as it is usually understood means, of course, being unable to raise the rent. The raising of rent in the rural districts of England to-day is an impossibility. You cannot raise the rents beyond the power of people to pay, and rent restriction has no application to the rural districts
I see that the Departmental Committee has suggested—it has not done more than suggest—a progressive repeal of these Acts, or a repeal by grades. I deeply regretted to read that suggestion in the Report. If that were put into operation it might savour of class legislation, and class legislation, always bad, would be worse still when it came from a Con- 16 servative Government. If I might throw out a suggestion, I believe that, as progressive repeal has in itself much to commend it, we should begin by repealing the Acts as they apply to the rural districts, following that in time by repealing them as they apply to the urban dwellings, and later as they apply to the boroughs. I believe that to be the better scheme; at any rate, I make bold to offer that suggestion.
I have already passed the time when it is usual for the seconder of the Address to resume his seat. I apologise to your Lordships for having spoken for so long; but I cannot close without endorsing what my noble friend has said in the matter of the support of the Conservative Government. The country as a whole, I believe, has acquired a new confidence by virtue of the fact that a Conservative Government is in power. It knows that its needs will be treated sympathetically. It knows that a Conservative Government has no ambitions other than to proceed as fast as it can to remove from the shoulders of the people the burdens under which they now labour. The Conservative Party has certain principles which it has always held. It has but to hold to those principles now in order not only to justify itself but to give to the people the continued confidence which they so earnestly desire. I thank your Lordships for your very great kindness in allowing me to speak at such length.
§ VISCOUNT GREY OF FALLODON
My Lords, I would begin by associating myself with the sentiments expressed by the noble. Lord who seconded the Address with regard to the two auspicious events which have lately occurred in the Royal Family. I would join with him in respectful congratulations to their Majesties on these two happy events, and in expressing our sincere and earnest hope that they may increase more and more the happiness of their Majesties and the Royal Family. I would add further what I think is also the case, that the birth of a grandson and the betrothal of His Royal Highness the Duke of York will also do something to quicken the feelings already so strong not only of loyalty but of sympathy and affection which the people of this country feel towards their Majesties and the Royal Family.
17 I would congratulate the noble Lords who moved and seconded the Address on the way in which they have performed that duty. I enjoyed listening to their speeches. It seemed to me that they dealt with the materials of the Address with a freshness and point which, I think, your Lordships must have much appreciated. They distributed the subject-matter of the Address between them in a way which gave an impression of happy collaboration. With the respective parts they had selected, each dealt with knowledge and ability.
I will not proceed to make any lengthy comment on the part of the Address which deals with home affairs. The Address foreshadows that an unusual amount of matter requiring great legal ability will come before Parliament this year, and we may congratulate ourselves that nowhere is so much of the highest competent legal ability and experience concentrated as in your Lordships' House for the matters which are referred to at the end of the Address. The other subjects mentioned in the Address—agriculture and unemployment—are, I am sure, those which the country realises are urgently in need of attention, and it is gratifying to us to be able to reflect that there is more than one member of your Lordships' House who is not only a great authority on agriculture, but who, by long study of the question and by contribution to the public discussion of it, has made it evident that he is competent to deal with it, not from the point of view of any class interest, but from the Point of view of one who has studied it as one of the greatest of national interests.
Unemployment, of course, is a most serious question at the present time. The condition of this country can never be really sound and healthy, or, indeed, stable, with the amount of unemployment which at present exists. We believe and hope that that amount of unemployment is abnormal. All that is possible must be done to palliate this crisis in unemployment by relieving distress. I will not go into the measures that may be possible. I will only say that I am sure that whatever measures the Government put forward for that purpose will receive the most sympathetic consideration of Parliament. But beyond that lies the question not merely of abnormal unemployment but of the normal unemploy- 18 ment which must recur from time to time owing to the ordinary oscillations of trade. Those, or some of those at any rate, who are in most intimate touch with the thoughts and feelings of the wage-earning classes in this country tell us that one of the things which press upon them most is the sense of insecurity—the feeling that, even while they are in full employment, the day may come when they may be out of work. If some really well-thought-out scheme of insurance can be devised for the purpose of dealing with normal unemployment, which would give throughout the country a general sense of security against the recurrence of seasonal unemployment, I believe that sense of security would do a great deal to promote both stability contentment. But whatever may be done in an interim way to improve conditions of employment—and we are all Anxious to see as much done as possible in that direction; as much as can be done in a way which will be in accordance with the general prosperity of trade—I am sure that the only thing which will really restore our trade is that the condition of the world should be restored, that there should be reconstruction and stability in the world at large, especially in Europe. Never before, I think, has the country more intimately realised how close is the connection, though it has always existed, between a favourable course in foreign affairs and trade prosperity in this country.
Now I would proceed to the two most difficult but also the two most important paragraphs in His Majesty's gracious Speech—the first two paragraphs. There is one function which it is absolutely necessary should be performed, however able and excellent a Government may be, and it is one which, however able and excellent they may be, Ministers cannot perform for themselves—that is the function of criticism. We have just had a General Election. Nobody wants another General Election immediately. We recognise that the situation abroad is exceedingly dark and difficult, and whatever criticisms I may have to offer they will be offered in the spirit of one who is anxious to see the Government succeed to the utmost that is possible in the difficulties that are before them. I think I can promise your Lordships that I will take the hint of the noble Lord who 19 moved the Address, and that I will avoid the attitude of a mandarin, the attitude of a professional crabber, and even that of undue recrimination upon His Majesty's Government's predecessors.
First of all, I must say a word about this question of inter-Allied Debts and the Debt to the United States. I regard these inter-Allied Debts as something which, so long as they remain, will be a cause of certain apprehension. There is an old saying that a man who lends money to a friend ends by losing both his money and his friend, and I shall always feel a certain sense of insecurity about our relations with our European Allies so long as that question of inter-Allied Debts remains unsettled. I would gladly have seen it settled in the way which the Government proposed in connection with the complete settlement of the question of Reparations, but the action which the French Government have taken, pursuing an entirely different policy, has made is really almost irrelevant to develop that matter at the present moment. It cannot be done now, at any rate.
With regard to the Debt to the United States, I approach that question in the same spirit as the noble Lord who moved the Address. I would not propose to examine the particular terms, but would simply take notice of the fact that His Majesty's Government have come to an agreement with the Government of the United States for the payment of that Debt. I regard the fact of the agreement having been come to as one so important that I should not propose to examine the nicely calculated less or more which may have been considered in the course of the negotiations. All I hope is that what will be remembered in the future is that this country, having undertaken voluntarily, under the stress of war, a pecuniary obligation to the United States, when the time came for that Debt to be paid, though we ourselves were under a very heavy burden of taxation, though we had lent much money to others which there was no prospect then of recovering, yet had such respect for the credit of this country that we undertook frankly the moment we were in a position to do so to say that we would discharge that obligation, and, having said that, we came to an agreement as to the terms on which the obligation was to be discharged. It is our intention to go on discharging it in the belief that the arrangement we 20 have made is one which will conduce not only to the financial credit but to the honourable reputation of this country.
Now I come to the question of the Conference at Lausanne. The Speech from the Throne claims, I think, for His Majesty's Government that they have exhibited, in the negotiations at Lausanne, both patience and sincerity. I think that is absolutely true. The noble Marquess opposite, I am sure, must have made everyone at Lausanne feel—and I am sure that is the impression conveyed in this country—that he was animated both by patience and sincerity. It has been a long and most laborious time, and I hope that the very great labours which he has undertaken have not diminished his health or strength. We have watched them with sympathy, and we have been in support of the policy which he was advocating—the policy, I mean, of preserving union with our Allies and in that way reaching, by peaceful negotiation, a settlement with Turkey. That was the policy, and no thing could have put the merits of the case which he had to put at Lausanne on various points with greater clearness and force than the speeches made by the noble Marquess. I still hope it may be possible that Turkey will sign the Agreement drawn up there. As to what chance there is of that I know no more than may be gathered from the public Press.
One or two criticisms I would make on the actual terms of the Agreement. The first would be this, that on the particular point of the Capitulations, upon which the Turks apparently in the last stage found most difficulty, I think the Allies went to the very limit of the concessions which could be made. It is most important, not only in our interests, but in the interests of Turkey, if the new Turkey is to revive and prosper, that foreign trade should have security in Turkey. You cannot have that security unless there is a feeling that justice will be impartially and competently administered. Some years ago—thirty years or so—we had a similar question with Japan. Japan had precisely the same aspirations in this matter as Turkey has now—that is, to get rid of all the old guarantees. Japan spent a long time in close discussion with foreign Powers in building up the Law Courts, elaborating procedure, and drawing up a system of law before she claimed that she was in a position to have 21 those guarantees dispensed with. Turkey is at the beginning of everything, and it is essential, if there is to be security, that there should remain, at any rate for some considerable time—certainly now—guarantees of justice which will make foreign trade in Turkey safe and attractive.
On one or two other points I think that perhaps too much importance was attached by the Allies to what was really more shadow than substance, and that rights were contended for which, however good on paper, would in actual practice have had comparatively little value. I will not mention any of those things now. I will only say that if the Turks are so unwise as to refuse to sign the Treaty, though on one or two points other concessions might be made, taking it as a whole, especially on the question of the Capitulations, I do not think Turkey could possibly expect at the present moment to receive from the Allies better terms than they have been offered.
I must say that I am glad, as far as I understand from the Press, that the question of Mosul has been removed from the actual discussions at Lausanne. The noble Marquess, I understand, proposed that it should be referred for settlement to the League of Nations. The proposal of the Turks was that it should be removed from immediate discussion for settlement within a year. I regret that Mosul was ever brought so prominently forward in the discussions at Lausanne. It, was a question in which the other Allies were not interested, and it would have been better if it could have been arranged from the beginning that this was a question affecting primarily the Turks and King Feisal, and that owing to our relations with King Feisal we were an interested party in the discussions to promote a settlement but that it was a matter which we did not desire should assume the great importance it did assume by being brought so prominently forward at Lausanne.
I am not going into the arguments put forward so ably by the noble Marquess that Mosul ought to belong to the Baghdad Government and not to the Turks, because that is not really the question which interests this country. The question which interests this country is how far is it in British interests and how far is it imposed upon us by British obligations, to make 22 those arguments prevail. I see great danger to _British prestige in this matter. The noble Lord who moved the reply to the gracious Speech from the Throne spoke of our prestige in connection with Mosul. The greatest danger to our prestige would be that any British Government should enter into commitments which public opinion in this country was not prepared to fulfil. I press this point upon His Majesty's Government; that these commitments in Mesopotamia are a real danger to our prestige and a real danger to the Government of the day. The Government of the day, if it does not liquidate these commitments or reduce them to the utmost possible limit, may some day find itself in a position which may be absolutely untenable. I should like the Government to take stock some day and tell us what our commitments actually are.
According to my recollection we went to Mesopotamia for purely strategic reasons during the war. If those strategic reasons were right then it was right to go there; if those strategic reasons were wrong then it was wrong. But when peace came there were no strategic reasons for remaining, and the reasons for which we went there entirely disappeared. My recollection is that up to the time when the first Coalition Government left office, and I believe up to the time of the Armistice, we had entered into no obligations in Mesopotamia except an obligation to the Arabs to give them self-government. At any rate, after the war was over the Arabs to whom an obligation had been undertaken regarded it as an obligation that we should not continue in occupation of the country but should immediately give them self-government, and the trouble in Mesopotamia arose not because the Arabs thought we had to stay there and were going away but because they thought we were not fulfilling our obligations in ceasing our military occupation and giving them self-government immediately. That, so far as my recollection goes, was the situation after the war as regards the question of obligation.
What has happened since? There is the Treaty made with King Feisal. I should like to ask whether that Treaty has been ratified. I do not want the noble Marquess to reply to this question to-day. If it has been ratified then I should like to ask what really are the obligations en- 23 tailed upon us by that Treaty; and, if it has not been ratified, whether His Majesty's Government will follow the precedent set by their predecessors in the ease of the Anglo-French Treaty and give Parliament an opportunity of discussing the Treaty before it is actually ratified.
There is a further obligation—the Mandate from the League of Nations. It is referred to sometimes in the Press as if the League of Nations had imposed that Mandate on His Majesty's Government. That, of course, is not so. The Mandate was not imposed upon us; it was sought by us, and there is no reason why the League of Nations should not be applied to at any future time for a modification of the terms of the Mandate or a transfer of the Mandate to the native Government. I am sure that the commitments in Mesopotamia constitute one of the greatest dangers with which the British Government has to deal, and if they are allowed to drift, still more, if they are allowed to be increased and emphasised, they may find themselves not only in a dangerous but an impossible position.
One thing I hope has resulted from the Lausanne Conference; and that is that the other Allies have felt the rightness of the policy of the noble Marquess in preserving a united front. I do not want to go back upon the question as to how we came into this sad position in the Near East. It will be enough to say that it really was an international scandal that at one time the British Government should have been supporting the Greeks and the French Government supporting the Turks. Partisans would argue for ever as to which was to blame, but the fact that in the Near East one of the Allies was supporting one party and the other Ally supporting another was bound to lead to something like the disastrous consequences with which His Majesty's Government have lately had to deal.
One thing I ought to say. I was very outspoken in criticising the late Government when the statement was made—I was never able to investigate the truth of it—that at one period His Majesty's Government, while having agreed with the French Government to observe an attitude of neutrality to the Greeks, had encouraged the Greeks. I am not bringing this up now for the purpose of investigating the truth or for the purpose of recrimination; but I was very out- 24 spoken with regard to that sort of thing. Lately statements have appeared in the Press that towards the close of the negotiations at Lausanne the French Government, while their delegates were supporting the settlement proposed, gave the Turks to understand that if they did not sign the general settlement the French Government would be prepared to enter upon separate negotiations with them. The newspapers became somewhat confused as to exactly how many telegrams were sent by the French Government and to whom they were sent. I regard that as something incredible.
I could understand the French Government saying to His Majesty's Government that their interests, supposing the Turks did not sign, would not allow them to leave the matter there and that they would have to continue negotiations. But that they should support the signing of the general agreement, and then let the Turks know that if they did not sign they would be prepared to enter upon separate negotiations, is something which, I really think, must be incredible. I am only sorry that, the statement having appeared in the newspapers, the French Government have not made a more explicit statement to clear it up, because it must be apparent that, if that sort of thing takes place—I was very frank in saying that, if it took place on the part of our own Government, it would make things impossible, and I will be equally frank in saying that, if it takes place on the part of any Government with which we are dealing, it will make international co-operation absolutely impossible.
May I say one word more with regard to the Turks? I think that after the war the Allies made a great mistake in the Treaty of Sévres. It was perhaps a natural mistake. They assumed that there would be no renascence of the Turks. The Allies had been victorious, they felt themselves all-powerful, and they made a Treaty which proved to be in excess of what could hold. The Turks have just had a victorious war, and I think they are making the same mistake. I think they will be very unwise if they do not take the terms which are now offered to them or if they suppose that because they have been victorious in this war they can insist upon excessive terms now, terms which will later on be found not to hold. I do believe that, in 25 the interests of Turkey as well as of the Allies, it is most desirable that this Treaty should be signed.
I come now to a still more important and difficult question, the question raised by the French occupation of the Ruhr. I hold that the maintenance of cordial relations and co-operation with France becomes not less but more necessary every year. Front the sentimental point of view it really is a most poignant stirring of one's deepest human feelings that, after all our comradeship in France, after all we have been through together, anything should come between the two peoples. From the national point of view, I do not believe that either France or this country is safe if they are divided. We were brought up to regard this country as an island. It is not an island in the sense of a generation ago. I heard Mr. Goschen speak for splendid isolation some years ago in the House of Commons. There will never be a splendid isolation for us again. Isolation will always be insecure and, I think, dangerous. The Channel is little more of an obstacle than a river used to be in old days. Now that aircraft has developed, now that big guns have developed, we are really more a part of the Continent than an island. And look at France. Look at the map, look at the prospect of German and Russian pressure in future. She cannot possibly stand alone. She can stand alone for the moment, but she cannot stand alone in the long run, any more than we can. The interests of the two countries, from the point of view of national safety, are really bound up together, and from the point of view of Europe, division between the French Government and ourselves is bound to lead to disaster. Co-operation between us is essential to reconstruction, to securing peace and to making Europe stable. That co-operation does not exist now.
I do not differ from the line which His Majesty's Government have thought it necessary to pursue in refusing to participate in the action which the French Government are now taking in the Ruhr. But let us be quite sure as to why we differ from the French in regard to that action. The more we feel that we cannot participate in that action, the more essential is it that we should make it clear how imperative are the reasons which have made it impossible for us to do so. 26 It is not, so far as I am concerned, want of sympathy. I do not feel moral indignation, and I would ask noble Lords, or anybody who wishes to judge the action of the French, to put to themselves two questions. Supposing that in 1871 the French had failed to pay the indemnity which Germany had imposed, does anybody believe that the Germans would have acted otherwise than as the French are acting now? I would put one other question. Is everyone quite sure that Germany has, since the Treaty, been really doing her best to pay the utmost in Reparations? Has she done what she could to prevent the collapse of the mark, to prevent her credits being placed abroad? Has she done all she could really to pay everything she could pay in Reparations? I know, of course, that the Reparations claimed were far beyond what she could pay. But has she really done her best to pay what she could? The financial position of France is even more difficult than our own, and she has hitherto, I believe, had to pay for the restoration of her own devastated regions. If we put those questions to ourselves, and give an honest answer as to what we really think about them, I cannot feel that the action which the French Government have taken is one for which they had motives which cannot be appreciated.
If then we do not co-operate in that action, what are the reasons? Frankly, the reasons, so far as I am concerned, are that I believe, from the economic and financial point of view, front the point of view of getting cash, the action which France has taken in the Ruhr is not merely not wise but will be disastrous. We have not yet seen the end of that action. As I understand it, the idea of that action is to put pressure upon Germany, to make her have a will to pay Reparations such as the French do not believe she has hitherto felt. That pressure means suffering, deprivation, starvation. The worst of embarking upon a course of that kind is that it is not the first step which matters so much as the steps to which you may be forced. It is a struggle now to discover at what point of suffering and pressure Germany will be reduced to a state of mind which will make France believe that she has the will to pay. It may be possible by those means to produce the will to pay, but, when the will to pay has been produced, in the process of applying that pressure 27 and by its consequences the power to pay will have been greatly reduced or gone. I cannot believe that from the point of view of getting cash for Reparations the French action is wise.
As to the foreign securities abroad, which it was said ought to be made available for Reparations, if Germany is forced to purchase the necessaries of life abroad then those foreign securities will disappear, and at the end of the process of pressure these foreign securities of Germany will not be there and will not be available for Reparations. The demand has been that the German Government should have the securities abroad brought home and made available for Reparations. The policy now being pursued, it scorns to me, will probably destroy these securities, and there will be no chance of making them available for Reparations. So much from the point of view of economics and finance.
There is another point of view, and I now come to it. I believe that the root cause of these difficulties, which has been making them go from worse to worse, is the sense of insecurity with regard to the future in France. A very well informed man, closely connected with the peace negotiations, who is not a British subject, so that I am not putting an English point of view, said to me after he came back from Paris—the phrase is not mine—"The problem which the French have set us is how in future to make one Frenchman go as far as two Germans." Was that problem dealt with in the Peace negotiations? My Lords, it was. It was dealt with by President Wilson. I understand that it was at his instance that two Treaties were signed—one by our own Government, the Franco-British Treaty, and the other by the United States Government, the Franco-American Treaty—guaranteeing France in future years, against aggression, the whole support of the British Empire and of the United States. That was a solution, on the political side, of the question of security for France in the future.
If those two Treaties had held with the United States and ourselves, giving political security for the future, France would, I believe, have looked upon this question of Reparations in common with us as a purely economic and financial question. Years ago, looking at it as a purely economic and financial question, 28 steps would have been taken by those three Governments—the Italian and Belgian Governments no doubt joining with them—to stabilise the mark in Germany, and to promote commercial relations, and France would have got much more cash than she has, and would have had a sense of political security. These Treaties fell through, not by our fault, and I am sure that the lapse of those Treaties has really been responsible for a great deal of the unrest, the impatience, and what seems to many people the aggressiveness, of France. I believe that we should not have had that experience if those Treaties had remained. We do not criticise or even examine the reasons why that Franco-American Treaty was not ratified in the United States, but I think it is fair that we should say to the people of the United States: Although we have no criticism of what you do, and although if you tell us your reasons were good for not ratifying the Treaty we, of course, accept your statement, yet it is only fair that the people of the United States should bear in mind that the fact that that Treaty was made and then fell through, and was not ratified, really has made things worse in Europe than if there never had been any Treaty made at all." If the people of the United States think that Europe is not conducting affairs well, they ought to allow for this, that although we make no complaint of what they did with regard to the Treaty, the fact that it disappeared (and with it disappeared our Treaty also) has really been responsible for a great many of the difficulties which have occurred in Europe since, and which are occurring still.
Those Treaties having gone, the problem of the future security of France still remains. How is it to be solved? I do not believe it can be solved by the French action in the Ruhr. Temporarily, yes; but the result of that action eventually must be to consolidate more and more Germany and Russia. Although they may not be powerful now, because Germany is disarmed and Russia is in the state in which she is, yet they are two nations so potentially powerful that they cannot possibly be kept weak. They will become strong in future years, and I do not believe that any country is in the long run other than weakened by occupying territory which belongs to a popula- 29 tion not of its own race and hostile, to it. In the long run I believe that France must be politically weakened by the occupation of German territory, if it is continued, and I do not think the question of future security can be solved in that, way. How can it be solved? I have no solution that I can put forward which would be accepted at the present moment, but has anybody got a solution to put forward which would be accepted at the present moment? I do see one solution, but I know that the French would not accept it. It has been so obvious that they would not that we have never put it forward in connection with Reparations before; but the failure of every other means of settling these questions of Reparations and security makes it absolutely necessary that we should have in our minds the question whether there is any possible settlement.
If there is no possible settlement at the moment, is there any possible settlement for which we may work in the future? You cannot re-establish the Franco-American and Franco-British Treaties. So far as I know, the United States are not prepared to consider that. If that method is gone, what is there? I am driven back in my own thoughts more and more to the League of Nations as the only possible means of a permanent solution. In many ways things have been going from bad to worse since the Armistice, but there stand out a few brilliant exceptions—questions like Upper Silesia, Austria, and some others which have been referred to and dealt with by the League of Nations; one or two that appeared to be absolutely insoluble. Of course, they are far smaller questions than this big one, but it does seem to me that the only solution that can be arrived at, if the result of the French action turns out to be what I fear it will be, is that, through the League of Nations you should deal with this question of Reparations as a financial and economic question, and in that way arrange, as I think that His Majesty's Government have been trying to arrange, that Germany should be put upon her feet, in order that she may be able to pay something. That is only what was advocated by Mr. Hughes, Secretary of State in the United States, a little time ago. Of course, he did not advocate doing it through the League of Nations, but it was on the same lines. It was the policy of the International Bankers' Com- 30 mission sitting at Paris last June, and it really might have done something if the French Government had been prepared for that solution.
And when you come to the question of security, I see more and more that the only security which nations are going to get is to be obtained by coming into the League of Nations and signing the Covenant. The Covenant binds them not to go to war in any respect without going to the League of Nations. Supposing France and Germany are both in the League of Nations. Supposing Germany, in a dispute with France a few years hence, refuses to refer the dispute to the League of Nations, then I think we and other members of the League of Nations who in such a case support France would not be supporting France merely, we should be supporting the Covenant of the League. In that way, by making the League more all-embracing, by strengthening the Covenant in this sense, that nations shall agree that if one breaks the Covenant the others shall stand by the one against whom the Covenant has been broken, I see that we may work towards some security.
Anyhow, I am sure that the road we are now going is towards the old order of things which existed before the war, and if the old order of things is reestablished—different groups, different al./fled camps—the result will be the same as it was before. So there are two lessons of the war. One is that the old state of things which preceded the war led inevitably to that war; and the other is that we now know what modern war is, and what it will mean for us and other nations if there be a future war still more terrible than this. That is the peril. The peril, I believe, can only be averted if nations will rise to some higher and better conception of international relations and future security than they had before the war. The League of Nations, I believe, can be developed into something of that kind.
The question is, have other nations, as well as ourselves, learned those lessons of the war Do they realise that, if we are simply content to go on along the old path that nations followed before the war, catastrophe will come again, and catastrophe worse than ever? Everything depends upon whether they have learned those lessons. I believe there is really great public opinion in the world, 31 more perhaps than we are aware of, which has learnt those lessons, and which is anxious to see statesmen develop the League of Nations into something like that which we believe that League can become. If His Majesty's Government would take that line, and say that, though at the present moment it cannot affect what is going on in the Ruhr, they believe that is the solution to which nations ought to come, I believe they would find more public opinion rallying to them in the world than they know.
If the Government of a great country like ours loses no opportunity of saying that that is the solution to be looked to, I think in time first one nation and then another will begin to see the wisdom of it, and that, in the long run, solution and hope may be found in that way. The noble Marquess will, of course, say if he sees any better solution of the difficulties of the present moment, but the great question which is now agitating my mind, at any rate, seeing the way things are going, is: Are things in Europe going to proceed with the relentless force of tragedy to an inexorable catastrophe or are they going to proceed by the experience of the past, and will international relations be put on a plane more wise and more secure than has yet been the case in the history of Europe?
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (THE MARQUESS CURZON OF KEDLESTON)
My Lords, I should like to associate myself in a sentence with the remarks that have been made by two previous speakers with regard to the happy events that have recently occurred in the Royal House. I once before observed in your Lordships' House that the sorrows of the Royal Family are our sorrows, and their joys our joys, and we may be sure that the incidents to which reference has been made are a source of gratification, not only to the Royal Family itself but to the nation at large.
I should like also at the beginning, if I may, to strike for a moment a personal note. I am frankly glad to be back in my place on this bench in your Lordships' House. The last time I had the honour of speaking from this Table was in April of last year. In the course of the summer I was incapacitated for a time by rather serious illness, and I am grateful for the leniency and the con- 32 sideration which I received at your Lordships' hands. A little later I was called on more than one occasion abroad, and it is rather a significant comment upon a remark which fell from the noble Viscount, to which I shall presently allude, that the Foreign Secretary of this country has had in the last twelve months, since the period when we debated the Address in February of last year, to spend nearer four months than three of his time out of this country and upon the Continent.
As your Lordships may know, during the last year I have had to go, no fewer than five times, to Paris, in order to assist in measures for the maintenance of that unity of the Allies on which the noble Viscount laid such becoming stress, and in some cases to endeavour to avert, the perils of a possible war. Then I have had to be at Lausanne for the period that has been mentioned. And nothing could, I think, illustrate more emphatically how closely, how inextricably, the foreign affairs of this country are interwoven with those of the Continent, and how impossible it is to consider them apart. Just think of such a thing having happened in the days of my predecessors, in the days of the father of the noble Marquess who sits behind me (Lord Salisbury) or even in the long years during which the noble Viscount himself was Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. I doubt if he was called upon on a single occasion to leave this country. No greater proof could be given of the principle laid down by the noble Viscount just now, that the insular position of Great Britain and the oceanic position of the British Empire are not in the least identical with, they are not even compatible with, a policy of isolation. On the contrary, the very reverse is the case.
As the noble Viscount was speaking just now I could not help thinking of the way in which the matter has developed within the time of my own experience. I see the world drawing closer together every day, not merely because of the great improvement in the mechanical means of communication, but also by community of interests and identity of aim. National policies become, in process of development, world policies, and have to be shaped in harmony with these larger conceptions. The noble Viscount ended by referring to the League of Nations. That is not the only example of new instruments of international co-operation—new Courts, new tribunals are growing up 33 on every side—to which these matters are referred. Even the old-fashioned telegrams and Despatches of Foreign Ministers are now replaced by meetings between Foreign Ministers and statesmen. And thus you see that the world, at the same time that, from one point of view, it appears to be expanding in the multiplicity of political interests that are being excited in every quarter under the impulse of the national self-consciousness that is growing in the world, is, at the other end of the scale, contracting in the inter-relation of those interests, and in the impossibility of considering them apart.
It is from this point of view that I welcome so cordially the intention of the noble Viscount who has just spoken to take an increasing and a prominent part in the debates of your Lordships' House. There is not one of us hero who does not feel the loss upon that bench of the figure of the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, who for so many years, on one side of the House or the other, has devoted his exceptional abilities, courtesy and charm of manner to the conduct of our proceedings. And although he has gone from here, we feel that he has only been translated to a sphere where, quite as much as here, perhaps even more, those abilities and services may be placed at the disposal of his country. But if he were to be taken away, for my own part, and I think I speak for the whole House, there is no one whom we would more cordially welcome as his successor than the noble Viscount. It is a quarter of a century since he and I on different sides of the House of Commons, in which we had both represented the same office, stood opposite each other and took part in debate. I am glad indeed that there is going to be a reproduction of those experiences here, and I take heart from the speech which he has just delivered and in which he told us that while sometimes we might receive from him, as no doubt we shall justifiably deserve, criticism, yet on the broad field of foreign policy he is more likely to be in agreement with us or we with him than the opposite, while if ever he is good enough to give us his support as he has broadly done in his remarks this afternoon, we shall feel an additional increase of moral authority which probably the support of no other man in this country could give us.
34 The noble Viscount paid the customary and in this case never better deserved compliments to the mover and seconder of the Address in reply to His Majesty's gracious Speech. Lord Willoughby de Broke had no occasion to remind us that this was no maiden effort on his part; indeed, he is, as most of us will remember, a veteran hind in your Lordships' House, and I consider myself fortunate in having persuaded him after too long a silence to return to the proceedings which he has so often assisted and entertained. I am sure your Lordships will realise from his speech this afternoon that neither the gaiety of his humour, more especially when associated with his own sporting experiences in the past, nor the shrewdness of his judgment has been impaired by his absence during the last few years from our proceedings, and I hope that he will in future, as he often did in the past, continue to shed the light of his countenance upon us.
The noble Lord who seconded made a very thoughtful and suggestive speech. For my own part I am always rather pleased and relieved if a mover or a seconder of the Address in reply to the gracious Speech from the Throne departs some-what from the dull texture of the Speech and favours us with reflections or observations of his own. Such was the case with my noble friend Lord Hastings, and his observations on unemployment and agriculture, upon which subjects he has more than once spoken before with great authority in this House, were, I am sure, very acceptable to us and led us to hope that his speech of to-day may be followed by many others in the near future.
My task has been very much lightened this afternoon by the nature and limitations of the speech to which I am replying. My noble friend Lord Crewe, when he was Leader of the Opposition, used to gallop lightly over the whole of the King's Speech and put to me a number of ingenious posers upon almost every point; so much so that, before I came down here on these occasions, I had to take an immense amount of trouble in getting up the details about all the various measures, of which otherwise I knew little, in order to satisfy the curiosity of my noble friend I was similarly prepared this afternoon; but 35 one advantage of the succession of my noble friend opposite has been that he treated all these matters with a lordly indifference and confined himself, most happily as I think, to the subjects of which he is an acknowledged master. I will, therefore, in replying only refer to the points to which he has called your Lordships' attention.
The first of these was the American Debt, and here I was very glad to note that, without going into details as to the character or weight of the financial burden which we have accepted, he looked at the case from the largest international point of view and defended it on the score of national good faith and national honour. The burden, my Lords, will be very heavy indeed. We have undertaken, at the present rate of exchange and calculating the dollar at par, to find the sum of £33,000,000 per annum for the first ten years, and £38,000,000 per annum afterwards for interest and sinking fund, the whole debt to be paid off in a period of 62 years. This is a terrific burden. It is a burden which any Government imposing it upon a country, or accepting it on behalf of a country, would have no right to complain if it were made the subject of grave criticism. Yet it is a remarkable fact that I have not seen in any quarter in this country any substantial criticism of the decision that was arrived at. Rather has it been a matter of almost universal satisfaction that His Majesty's Government were the first to give a lead in the meeting of these obligations of national honour incurred during the war, and that they have been the first to take a definite step, hard, cruel, and even bitter as it will be in its effect upon the nation at large, the first step in an effort to restore international equilibrium and stabilisation. Those, I believe, are the general reflections of the community at large, and I was glad to note that they were endorsed in the few remarks that were devoted to the subject by the noble Viscount.
The next subject with which he dealt was the question of the events at Lausanne. There will shortly be published, as soon as we can get them ready, very full Papers about the proceedings of the Conference. There will be published in a Blue-book the whole of the proceedings of every day during which the Conference sat during this period of 36 nearly three months, so that your Lordships will be able to judge, better then than now, of the manner in which your interests were sustained and of the steps by which we advanced towards the conclusion of peace. I am more than grateful for the observations that were made this afternoon on the subject, and more particularly for the compliment which more than one noble Lord was good enough to pay to the British Delegation as regards the patience and the sincerity with which they pursued their very difficult task. I will not now go into the history of the case, but if any of your Lordships like to raise the matter later when the Papers are published I shall he only too glad to give the fullest information in my power. All that I would like to add this afternoon would be to state the objects with which I went to Lausanne, and with which the British Delegation worked there during those long and weary weeks. They can easily be summed up.
In the first place, of course, we wanted to conclude peace between Greece and Turkey. There can be no doubt that the war, unhappily so long protracted, between those two peoples, so unfortunate in its origin just as it was calamitous in its results, had greatly exceeded the resources of a small country like Greece, and along with her downfall came the jeopardy of interests much greater than those of Greece alone. Next, what we desired to do was to conclude a peace between Turkey and all the Allied Powers who were still technically at war with her. During the last four years since the Armistice we have made repeated efforts in this direction. One of them, the Treaty of Sèvres, was visited with condemnation by the noble Viscount, but there have been other meetings, other attempts at Paris or elsewhere, in the majority of which I have taken part, but which for one reason or another, either owing to a want of unity between the Allies or to the increasing intransigeance of the Turks, proved abortive. Here at last, when we were all assembled together, was an opportunity of bringing to an end this deplorable condition of affairs.
Our second object, my Lords, was of a more constructive character. I was strongly of the opinion that it was desirable at this stage to give to Turkey an opportunity of reconstructing herself as a sound and stable State. I put behind 37 me the memories of the war, afflicting as they were. I remembered only that Turkey bad, by the common consent of the Allies, been recalled to Europe, that she had been given back her ancient capital, and I said to myself, stripped as she has been of the Arab fringes which she never was capable of administering, restored as she has been to her position in Anatolia, placed again as she has been in ownership of her capital, Thrace restored to her as it has been, the security of the Straits assured—Is it not, desirable that this country shall be given an opportunity of taking her place again in the comity of nations, and vindicating the position to which she has been allowed to revert? It was for that reason that I pressed so strongly and successfully for the admission of Turkey to the League of Nations, and it was for that reason that at every stage, when the Turks were talking to me about the sovereignty and independence of their country, I said to them: "I am as anxious as anybody to give you the full guarantees for that, and to give you a chance of starting again in a great position in the world."
The third object was this, and it was the direct sequel of that which I have just stated. If Turkey was thus to resume her place among the nations, she could only do it by contact and co-operation with the West. Had she been content to remain in Asia Minor, her capital at Angora, no possessions or territories outside, she might very well have been left to make her future in Asia, an Asiatic country surrounded by other Asiatic kingdoms. But as that was not the case, once you had admitted her back to Europe, I was always arguing and saying, "You Turks, now you have come hack, can you not see it is no good for you to look in the future to Moscow, to Persia, or to Afghanistan? You have to turn your eyes to the West." And just as Peter the Great built Petersburg, now called Petrograd, in order that his great, amorphous, chaotic country should have an outlook, a window, on the European world, so was I always arguing to the Turks that, having come back as they have, they must assimilate their standards of government and administration to those of the West; and that. Europe would be willing to help them.
The fourth was that on which the noble Viscount, Lord Grey, laid such becoming and weighty stress, and that was the 38 principle of the unbroken unity and solidarity of the Allies. The Eastern problem, and, for the matter of that, the European problem, in any one of its aspects is not a problem which any one nation can solve by itself. France, as the noble Viscount more than once pointed out, will be unable to solve the problem of Germany and the Ruhr by herself, and equally so it is, or would be found, quite impossible for France or Great Britain or any other State to solve this Eastern problem alone. That that is so is clear from the failure of the attempts that were made from time to time by individual action, to some of which the noble Viscount referred. The overwhelming necessity of Allied unity of action does not arise merely from the fact that a people with the mentality of the Turks never lose any opportunity of playing off one Power against another and of extracting advantage from the slightest symptom of disunion, but from the much broader, larger fact that the interests of all European countries in the pacific solution of the question are identical. There is no French interest as apart from British interest in the satisfactory settlement of the Turkish problem. Therefore, for my own part, I laboured strenuously and earnestly for the maintenance of that Allied front.
Incidentally, in doing so, we were confronted with a remarkable spectacle, which few of those who attended the Conference could really have anticipated. It was this, that the unity of the great Powers—France, Great Britain, Italy and Japan—upon which we had some reason to rely in advance, was supplemented as we went on by a similar union and a most powerful support given to us on the part of the whole of the other States assembled at the Council Chamber. And the situation was presently reached when you had not only the four Powers I have named, but Greece, Serbia, Rumania, Bulgaria, always acting with us, so that Turkey was presently—greatly to her surprise, and that of everybody else—presented with a solid block of united Allied opinion and advice, and it was this surprising but unbroken union that really was the most startling phenomenon produced at the Conference. If anybody had suggested in advance that the Balkan States would pursue a single policy by 39 themselves, or that that single policy would be one of absolute identity with the policy being pursued by the great Powers, I think that suggestion would have been denied.
The only other object that I had in view—and I merely allude to it in a sentence because of something which fell from the noble seconder of the Address—was this. The British Delegation certainly thought a good deal of the honour and credit and prestige of our own country. We hoped when we went away from Lausanne that wenothing common did, or mean,Upon that memorable scene;and that, in whatever terms you express it, the power, prestige and authority of England did not stand lower, indeed I lave they stood higher, at the end of the Conference than they did at the beginning.
You may ask in these circumstances how was it that the Conference failed to come to a conclusion? I find the utmost difficulty in answering that question. We had proposed terms lavish in their generosity, terms far beyond those which have ever been offered to a beaten Power before, terms which I should have thought it impossible for the Turks to refuse: the chief Plenipotentiary told me that he had authority to sign, the date of our departure was perfectly well known, and suddenly at the last moment some malignant spirit intervened and brought the whole thing to the ground. Whether it was that an unfavourable Atmosphere prevailed at Angora, whether it was that the Turks were still counting upon a possible rift in the Allied lute, or owing to some misunderstanding of which I know nothing, I cannot say; but that it was a great mistake I cordially agree with the noble Viscount—a mistake which I think will shortly be realised by the Turks themselves.
The noble Viscount expressed some hope that the Treaty would still he signed. I share that hope because it appears to me that peace is just as essential to the Turks as it is to ourselves, if not more so. With a country devastated by eight years of war, impoverished, its resources almost destroyed or in many cases nonexistent, what hope can there be, what chance can there he, what advantage to the Turks can there be in a continuance of war? We sea in the newspapers un- 40 favourable rumours from Smyrna and elsewhere. I hope too much importance will not be attached to them. We for our part are quite willing to conclude to-morrow, or next week, the Treaty so nearly signed at Lausanne.
I was glad to hear what the noble Viscount said about the Capitulations, or rather the guarantees as regards a proper system of justice to be set up in the future for those of our nationals who will have to continue to live and work and trade in Turkey. When you use the word "Capitulations" people hardly understand what it means, and, indeed, the Capitulations themselves were to be abolished. But what we did propose to do was to devise some system by which guarantees for elementary justice in the Courts and in the police administration of Turkish towns should be secured to foreigners in the future. We went to the extremity of concession in the matter, and had we given up the interests of our nationals in that respect we should have deserved censure just as much as any praise that had been given to us for our efforts in other directions.
The noble Viscount, whilst speaking on this aspect of the case, asked me one or two questions. He expressed some regret that the question of Mosul had been brought forward and given so much prominence at Lausanne. He is under a misapprehension on that point. The question of Mosul arose in this way. We had in the Treaty, which, as he will understand, is a revision of and a substitute for the Treaty of Sèvres, to determine the frontiers of Turkey in Asia as well as in Europe. Just as we had to lay down the Thracian frontier of Turkey in Europe, so we had to lay down the Syrian and Mesopotamian frontier of Turkey in Asia. Therefore, there had to be included in the Treaty some definition of the northern frontier of Iraq and the southern frontier of Turkey in Asia.
When we were about to take that discussion the principal Turkish delegate asked me not to put it on the Paper but to deal with it by personal negotiation with himself. I was only too pleased to do so because I loathe the prominence which has been attached to the question, more particularly in connection with oil, and I thought that dragging in the question of Mosul at Lausanne would tend to exaggerate its importance in the eyes of the world. It was only because 41 the personal negotiations with the principal Turkish delegate led to nothing and broke down and because he insisted on having my arguments on paper that in the last resort, in order to settle what was to be put in the Treaty, we had to have a public debate on the matter. When the debate took place I made, with the fullest authority of His Majesty's Government, the reference to the League of Nations.
The noble Viscount went on to a much larger field in which I know he will not expect me to follow him this afternoon. He touched on the question of our commitments with regard to Mesopotamia and he looks for some occasion when the Government will have an opportunity of telling the full tale. I should like such an opportunity myself, and it is likely before long to arise. He may be quite sure that the Treaty to which he has referred with King Feisal, which has been signed but not ratified, is not likely to be ratified by the Government until full opportunity has been given to Parliament to express its opinion. Those are all the observations that are called for from me with regard to the Turkish negotiations.
I pass for a few moments to the question of the French action in the Ruhr. I might, had it not been so late in the evening, have endeavoured to show your Lordships point by point and stage by stage how the present situation has arisen, but I think I had better reserve that for some future occasion when the matter will be debated at full length by your Lordships. I will only, therefore, deal with the situation as it now stands. It is a month ago since the French and Belgians marched into the Ruhr, with the sympathy, but not much more than the sympathy, of Italy. The reasons for which we declined to enter with them are well known. They are identical with those which were summed up by the noble Viscount. During the month that has passed, so far as the direct object for which the French advance was made is concerned—namely, to procure Reparations or the delivery of the various commodities which Germany has been bound to deliver—the result has been practically nil. There has been a complete stoppage in the payment of all deliveries from Germany. No coal, or practically no coal, has reached France, Belgium or 42 Italy; there has been no payment in cash, and the total of the receipts which France has received from every quarter is only a fraction of those she was receiving before her troops marched into the country.
Of course, she has been confronted with enormous difficulties. She has to deal with a very delicate commercial machine. She has met with the open ill will and even worse of the whole German population. She has to provide substitutes for a population of 400,000 miners, who are either on strike or decline to assist her, and she is engaged at the moment in the difficult attempt to set up a new organisation of her own. It is an immense task, it is a tremendous strain, and if you judge it by the standard which France herself set—namely, the necessity of procuring the Reparations which were her due and which we sympathise with her desire to obtain—judged by that standard, there is no doubt that the result has so far not been successful.
On the other hand, France will tell you that it is too early as yet to pronounce that the efforts which she is making, the turn of the screw increasing every day, the steadily augmenting pressure which she is insisting upon I applying, will not eventually bring the Germans to reason. I cannot say whether that will be the case. It is very hard to dragoon an entire country. It is very hard to cope with the kind of spirit of sullen, stubborn resistance which is being aroused in Germany, and there is a fear lurking in the minds of all of us that what begins by being an, economic movement, legitimate in itself, may end by being a political movement with far-reaching and possibly disastrous results. How these affairs will go on, what will happen in another month's time, whether the German resistance will be broken down and crumble into nothing, or whether, on the other hand, you will find yourself face to face with a system little short, of anarchy in Germany with movements of internal disruption which will destroy all internal authority whatsoever, I cannot say, but nobody who sees what is going on can fail to regard these proceedings with very great misgiving. For the moment it is a test of endurance between the two parties. There is being enacted before our eyes in this sphere a condition which is that, not of a, war, 43 but of a pacific war—there is being enacted something like the trench warfare with which we used to be familiar only a few years ago, and in this spirit of stubborn, obstinate resistance the fate of Central Europe is now being worked out.
I will say only one word about the attitude of His Majesty's Government. It was perfectly fairly defined by the noble Viscount. Lord Willoughby de Broke in his remarks spoke of our attitude as one of benevolent neutrality, and if two words could be found to cover the matter, those are as good as any others. What were our sentiments when this question began? There is not one of us, I suppose, whatever our views—and I share those of Lord Grey about the essential identity of interest between France and ourselves, and the absolute necessity for the sake of world peace of those relations remaining on an intimate basis—there is not one of us who did not feel great sympathy with the French, a feeling of sympathy with their just and indignant resentment at their failure to obtain the Reparations to which they were entitled, and who did not feel that if, even by the means they choose to adopt, they could get that which they deserved, we should most of us be very glad at bottom. We therefore took the line of saying that we ought to do nothing to impede their action or to compromise its success. We declined to associate ourselves with it because we thought that the objects could not be attained by those methods, and that the methods, therefore, were in themselves mistaken. Further, we thought that if they were pursued, as they are being pursued, to such perilous extremes, the result might be fatal to larger groups, larger aggregates of humanity than France or Germany herself.
Our position in that portion of the occupied zone where our troops are is one of extreme delicacy and difficulty. Difficulties arise about the levying of Customs, about the demand for transit of coal upon the railways that run through this occupied zone, about the transport of troops. At any moment we may find ourselves in a situation of almost intolerable friction, and the delicacy and the skill with which our representatives in this occupied zone have hitherto poised themselves on this narrow edge has been beyond praise. But I cannot conceal from the House and 44 from the public that the strain is very great, and that the thought sometimes occurs to one: How long can it be pursued?
There may be some who say: "Take away your troops, clear out, wash your hands of the whole thing, and see what happens." Good arguments can be advanced in favour of that course, but better arguments, at any rate for the present, against it. The balance of argument is decidedly in favour of our remaining, and I will tell your Lordships why. In the first place, neither the French nor the Germans want us to go. It would be a great blow to both, and would be seriously misinterpreted by both, if we proposed to go. On the one hand, it would be looked upon by France as a direct condemnation of her action, and even more as an abandonment of the Entente, and if, after all, her efforts failed, there would be many people in that country who would turn round upon us and say that it was to our running away that the failure was due. The same sentiment, I believe, in an inverse aspect, applies to Germany, and the broadest considerations of international policy and right compel us therefore, at any rate for the present, to remain. There is another aspect of the case which I should like to mention. There is no doubt that the presence of our troops there exercises a pacifying and a, moderating influence, and that if we went away things might happen on either side which would be more likely to push matters to a critical issue than if we remained. These considerations, which are perpetually under the eyes and in the mind of His Majesty's Government, lead us to think that for the present we are justified in pursuing the policy which I have described, but of course the situation will have to be reviewed from time to time, and fresh decisions may have to be taken.
The noble Viscount concluded that portion of his speech which referred to this question with some general reflections upon the position of affairs in Europe and upon the way out of the fatal road which we all seem to be treading, and I see in the papers from day to day suggestions analogous to his own, although in rather a narrower sphere of action. They say: "Why do you not mediate? Why does not somebody intervene?" There is no good intervening, my Lords, or mediating, unless the services of the mediator are 45 wanted. You merely provoke a rebuff for yourself, while you do no good to the other parties concerned. A little time ago Italy essayed mediation, or intervention, without success, and at the present moment nothing is more certain than this, that if intervention were suggested Germany, on the one hand, would lay it down that she would decline even to consider it except upon the condition that the Ruhr was evacuated, and France, on the other hand, would decline to approach the matter at all as long as that aspect was brought into the question. Therefore I think that intervention now would only result in failure.
But the time may come when a different answer will have to be given. The noble Viscount's view was quite clearly expressed in the latter part of his speech. He said, sooner or later bring this matter to the League of Nations. An effort was made, as he may have heard, to bring it before the League of Nations only a fortnight ago at Paris. It failed because under the terms of the pact a question of this sort can only be brought to the attention of the League by those Governments or States directly interested, and the suggestion emanated from an independent outside quarter, and therefore was ruled out. Now nobody can suspect His Majesty's Government of any lack of sympathy with the idea of bringing in the intervention of the League. Certainly I can point to my own experience at the Foreign Office to demonstrate that position. I referred, on my own authority, the Aalands Islands question to the League of Nations, with the successful results that everybody knows. I made a good fight at Lausanne to get the Turks to enter the League of Nations, and it was from the British quarter at the same place that the reference of the Mosul question to the League of Nations emanated.
Now, if the League of Nations had the all round representative character and full authority to which that representative character entitles it, I can conceive nothing better than a reference to it of this matter, but the noble Viscount himself spoke of the necessity of Germany being a member at the period of reference. Here again our shield is unsullied, because on every occasion when the question of Germany joining the League has come up we have signified our willingness to 46 support it., and it has only been, as everybody knows, to opposition in other quarters that the failure of those attempts up to date has been due. In time I hope that these obstacles will be removed, but, as your Lordships can readily imagine, as long as things remain as they are now between France and Germany, any chance of France welcoming Germany to the League of Nations is hardly to be considered.
But there is another great nation still holding aloof from the League, whose cooperation in the settlement of these very issues is, if not vital, at any rate of great importance. Nobody knows that better than the noble Viscount. The few references which he himself made to America this afternoon showed it, and if you had the League of Nations with Ger many and America in it I can conceive nothing more natural than that the League should take this matter in hand. America, as we know, holds strong views about intervention in European matters, but she is also strongly interested in this question, and we have indications from time to time that she may move. I should be hopeful as regards the result of her intervention if at any moment it took place, and if that intervention does not or cannot take place through the League of Nations, or if it be impossible to invoke the League of Nations at this stage, do not let the noble Viscount think that I deprecate the idea of international action to solve this question. On the contrary I think it can only be solved by international action, sooner or later. No doubt there will be many opportunities of discussing this question as the Session proceeds.
I have said that I do not propose to refer to the other parts of the King's Speech. The Speech may be divided into two portions, domestic and foreign. These domestic affairs raise issues that no doubt will be difficult and contentious, but are not perhaps in the first order of the political issues that usually divide Parties. That part of the programme is not spectacular or dramatic. It is an attempt to deal with admitted social, industrial, and economic needs, by remedies which have long been investigated, and which are going to be incorporated into Bills. The rest of the gracious Speech relates to foreign affairs. Upon that aspect of public life I have no 47 doubt that we shall have may debates in the course of the forthcoming Session, and I look forward confidently to the help which we shall receive in the solution of those matters, not merely from the great authority and experience of the noble Viscount who leads the Opposition, but from the collective wisdom and counsel of your Lordships'. House.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to nemine dissentiente, and Address ordered to be presented to His Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.