§ VISCOUNT GREY OF FALLODON had given Notice to ask the Lord President of the Council whether he can supplement his statement of the 14th instant with information as to progress made with the scheme for arresting the growth of armaments; and to move for Papers. The noble Viscount said: My Lords, the Question and the Motion which stand in my name upon the Paper have been, to a certain extent, anticipated by the action of the Government in publishing the letter which has been presented to Parliament dealing with the proposed Treaty of Mutual Assistance, but that letter leaves us face 956 to face with a very serious situation. I do not propose to discuss the merits of the Treaty of Mutual Assistance, or to examine the reasons which have led the Government unreservedly to say that they cannot assent to a Treaty of that kind. But I must observe that behind the proposal for a Treaty of Mutual Assistance there is a great deal of earnest thought and of very hard work, and the fact that the Government have, from their point of view, found it necessary to reject that proposal entirely is a very serious matter. It means that one more attempt to pro mote security in Europe has met with a refusal from the British Government. This does not make the question of security and armaments in Europe less urgent than it was before, but it leaves us face to face with the fact that one more proposed solution has been rejected and condemned as impracticable. That is a very serious situation.
§ The proposition which I hold to be true, and about which I would say something this afternoon, is this: Unless you can produce in Europe some sense of security, such as did not exist before 1914, you will again have that same competition in armaments which brought Europe to the crisis of 1914; and, if you have that competition in armaments, you will not have security. That is the proposition which I believe is going to determine the future of Europe. It is not necessary for me to say anything about the Conference which is now sitting. That Conference, as I understand, deals, and I think rightly, not with security at all but with the problem of Reparation.
§ VISCOUNT GREY OF FALLODON
It does not deal with political security at all, but with financial problems. It is, in fact, an attempt to settle the problem of Reparation without touching the problem of security. I earnestly hope it will succeed, because if it succeeds it will then enable Europe to approach the question of security with more promise and more hope, and on a more favourable footing, than it is possible to approach It so long as the question of Reparation remains unsettled. I therefore earnestly hope that it will succeed, and much of what I have to say is based on the assumption that it will succeed; but let us recog- 957 nice that if the Conference now sitting on the Dawes Report does not succeed, it will really be a demonstration that it is impossible to settle the question of Reparation until you have settled the question of security. That is what failure of the present Conference would mean, and it would mean that the question of security in Europe was even more urgent and more menacing to-day, and at the same time more difficult and less hopeful. That is why I do most earnestly desire the success of the Conference which is now sitting. It will clear the way for a possible solution of the question of security.
In order to realise what, to my mind, is the urgency of the question of armaments in Europe, public opinion ought to be quite clear about the main lesson of the war that bears on the question of future peace. I am one of those who hold that if Germany and Austria, after the murder of the Archduke in 1914, had been determined to avoid a European War, there would have been no European War in 1914—no mobilisation, even in Russia, and no war. But that is not the point on which I wish public opinion to concentrate its attention. I believe all the propaganda and counter-propaganda about the guilt of a particular country for the outbreak in 1914 is really time wasted as regards the lesson of the war for the future. I believe the broader and deeper and more comprehensive truth about the cause of the war is that what made that war possible, if not inevitable, was the state of feeling which the growth of armaments had produced in Europe. Those armaments were intended to produce a sense of security. Every country building up those armaments justified its expenditure on them to its own people on the ground that unless its armaments were increased their country could not feel secure. Security was the object of the increase of armaments.
As a matter of fact, that was not the result. The result of the increase of armaments was not an increased feeling of security, but a feeling of fear. When we came to 1914 the state of things in Europe was roughly this: Practically every nation in Europe was afraid of the armed strength of Germany, and the use which Germany might make of its armaments. Germany was not afraid, because she believed her Army to be invincible, but 958 she was afraid that a few years hence she might become afraid. Of course, it is impossible in one single sentence to give, an adequate definiton of the cause of the war, but I think the sentence which gives the best account of it is roughly this: In 1914 Europe had arrived at a point in which every country except Germany was afraid of the present, and Germany was afraid of the future. I think that one sentence, though it has not got the whole truth about the cause of the war, has in it more truth about the cause of the war than can be put into any sentence of the same length. If that be the result of reflection upon the past, is not the inference clear, that if we again go! this competition in armaments in Europe, and again get that situation produced, the result will be again fear on all sides, and eventually War?
How do we stand to-day? We are making no progress towards the sense of security in Europe, and we are making some progress towards the growth of armaments. Look at the position of France. I am going to speak of the policy of France, as I understand it, with sympathy, but at the same time I must speak of it as a policy which it seems to me is doomed in the long run to failure, however satisfactory it may be at present. The policy of France to-day is roughly this: She is anxious about the future. She stands to-day where Germany stood in 1914. She has no need to fear for the present, but she is very anxious about the future, and she hopes to secure herself by a system of separate alliances, by making her armaments strong, by keeping German armaments weak, and by reserving to herself the right to separate action and forcible action, whenever she considers that necessary in the interests of France. That is a point of view which it seems to me it is very natural, and perfectly intelligible, that Frenchmen should hold at the present time.
What is their position? They have said, in effect, that Germany, though disarmed now, has twice the population of France, and it is increasing. They have practically, through the course of the Peace negotiations, asked the United States whether, in the event of future aggression by Germany upon France, the United States would be prepared to undertake any engagement with regard to 959 the future. The answer of the United States is that they are not prepared to undertake anything. We have been asked the same question, and our answer is, "No, we are not prepared to undertake any engagement with regard to the future." France has been thrown back upon claiming for herself the right to separate action. It is natural and intelligible, but in the long run it is bound to fail. Germany is disarmed now. Her armament is limited by the Treaty of Versailles. You cannot really make that limitation permanent. The Allies have tried to do it by a Military Mission of Control, examining permanently German armaments. Already that examination has broken down once. It is, in form, to be resumed, I understand, but you cannot make control of a great nation's armaments permanent in that way, and sooner or later, unless there be some reduction of armaments in other countries, you will find it impossible to prevent Germany from beginning again to increase her armaments.
That is one thing. Another thing, a more conclusive argument drawn from the lesson of history, is this. The whole lesson of history proves that these attempts, at one time on the part of France, at another on the part of Germany, after a victory, each to make itself secure at the expense of the other, constantly fail and lead to future war. The last experiment was that of Bismarck after 1870—a separate Alliance, the Triple Alliance, and armaments to attempt to keep France down. That failed and led eventually to the war of 1914. It is quite certain that for France to repeat the policy of Bismarck, and, by separate Alliances, make herself strong by increased armaments so as to keep ahead of Germany, and so to keep Germany down, would, in the long run, lead to the same result as that to which the policy of Germany led after 1870. In the long run it must fail. If that be so—and the attitude of France is natural and intelligible after she has been denied the Franco-British and the Franco-American Treaties, on which she counted as part of the peace—we must really try to find some other policy which can satisfy France with regard to her future security.
How do we stand ourselves with regard to this? I think we were an exception in 1914 to the statement that every country in Europe was in fear. I do not think 960 we were in fear, but it was because we believed that, being an island, so long as we kept our Navy strong enough we should not suffer vitally, whatever might happen on the Continent of Europe. That belief was based on the assumption that the advantages of being an island to-day are the same as the advantages were in the last century. The war showed that that was to a great extent an illusion, and the expenditure that we are to-day incurring, not only on our Navy but on our Air Force, shows that we ourselves know that our position as an island is not the same as it was in previous generations. It was based largely on an illusion as regards to-day. If that be so, what can the British Government do to produce some state of things in Europe which shall prevent this competition in armaments growing up again? It is not enough to say we are in favour of the League of Nations, and that that is the security for Europe, and to say to other Powers: "Join with us in supporting the League of Nations as it is to-day, and find your security there." Let us apply-that in practice.
Suppose that the present Conference results in an agreement between the Allies as to the execution of the Dawes Report on Reparation; suppose that Germany accepts that agreement in good will and with good faith; and suppose that the Allies then say to Germany: "Now come and enter the League of Nations as a full Member, with a seat on the Council." I think it is probable that the German reply to that invitation would be: "What security shall we get if we enter the League of Nations? Supposing another dispute arises between France and Germany, what guarantee will the League of Nations afford that France will not use her, at present, much greater strength as she has used it lately against Germany?" I think the German question will be, if she enters the League of Nations, and if France, the stronger Power, proposes to use force in a dispute against her: "Will the League of Nations do any better for Germany than it did for Greece in the dispute between Greece and Italy?" You will have to answer that question.
Then, supposing you go to France, and say: "France is now secure at the moment, but we ask you to think of the future. Think of the much greater potential strength of Germany, which 961 must materialise in the course of time. Come into some agreement, and rely upon the League of Nations, in order to protect, you in future, ten or twenty years hence, against the much stronger Germany, if that Germany tries to force a quarrel upon you." France's reply with regard to the future would be the same as Germany's with regard to the present. She will ask: How is she to be sure that, if she gets into trouble in the future, or aggression is made upon her in the future by a stronger Power, she is going to find security in the League of Nations? We have to be prepared with an answer to that question. The League of Nations has been most valuable machinery in settling many disputes, so far; but unless you give it more reality than it has at present, it will not produce that sense of security for the Future of Europe which will prevent the growth of armaments.
The very tentative contribution that I would make to this problem is this. We in this country cannot hold out the hope of any engagement unless it be one that the Dominions and public opinion will support. But is there nothing for which this country and the Dominions are prepared to say they will stand in the future? Is there no engagement which they would undertake? I would like the Dominions to be consulted and public opinion sounded here as to whether it is not prepared to undertake an engagement, in common with other Powers, that it will in future interpret Article 10, and I think it is Article 16, of the Covenant in such a way as to make it clear that in future disputes we shall be prepared to use all our strength, not on the merits of any dispute, but to uphold the Covenant of the League. It would mean something of this kind—that, we will say, Prance, Germany (having entered the League), Italy, Belgium and other Powers if they wished to join, but I take those four as a necessary starting point, are prepared to sign with each other an engagement that if any of them are engaged in a dispute, and one of them refuses to use the machinery of the League for the purpose of settling that dispute, the others will all actively and definitely, with their full strength, side against that particular Power; and that, having entered into such an engagement with each other, they will make the beginning, each on its own part, by a reduction or a limitation of armaments.
962 Something of that kind would give an impression of security, if signed by those Powers I have named, to begin with—and the more Powers that join it the better—and would give an impression of security that the League of Nations has not yet given. It would do something to prevent the prospect of the competition in armaments to which at present I see no end, and it would also have this advantage, that it would get rid of this awkward question about every future dispute—Who is really the aggressor? That is a point on which the Government laid great stress in their objection to the Treaty of Mutual Assistance. An agreement of that kind would solve the question of who is the aggressor. The question as to which Power is the aggressor would be determined, not by the merits of the dispute, or anything that had to do with it; it would be determined simply by who it was that refused to use the machinery of the League to settle the dispute. It would be determined automatically, and by a test which would be irrefutable.
Of course, I am not going to argue at any length for any particular scheme. I suggest that as the most hopeful direction in which some solution may be found. I do not ask the Government to express an opinion on that, or any other particular proposal this afternoon. I do not want them to go over the barren ground of proving that this or that particular proposal, whether it is suggested by me or by any one else, is impossible, I do not want them to go back on the past. I do not want them to explain that we cannot revive the Franco-British and the Franco-American Treaties. I agree that those cannot be revived. The United States has withdrawn, and this country without the United States would not succeed. I do not ask them to express any opinion about the second direction in which a solution was sought—the negotiations, for instance, between Mr. Lloyd George and M. Briand which have formed the subject of Yellow-books and Blue-books, about a separate Military Pact with France. So far as I can judge, public opinion is not now prepared to entertain a separate Military Pact of that kind, and it is no good seeking a solution in that direction. But I press upon the Government and ask them to realise that they can only enter into an engagement of any kind with regard to 963 the future calculated to produce security in Europe, and to give thereby some hope that the competition in armaments will be prevented, if they have public opinion behind them.
It is true that they have no majority in your Lordships' House, or in the House of Commons, and, therefore, their Parliamentary position is not a strong one. But they have great influence with the, electorate in this country. I think that at the present moment the electorate in this country is sensitive and suspicious, and naturally and rightly so, about undertaking any engagements for the future which might require the intervention of this country by force even for such a simple and obvious thing as upholding the Covenant of the League of Nations. That is so. What public opinion in this country does not realise is that, under the modern condition of things, a policy of isolation and drift for this country is a policy of the risk of certain catastrophe. They do not realise that. They see the objections to our undertaking to do anything positive. They do not realise the certainty of catastrophe if we continue a policy of isolation and drift, and that the competition in armaments will certainly begin in Europe again, that we shall be involved in it more deeply than ever before, as we are already involved in competition in the air, and that it will lead to war as certainly as it did before—to another war on a greater scale even and under more appalling conditions than the last one. I would like the Government to tell us this afternoon that they realise this and are prepared to press it upon the public. If public opinion comes to understand the certain catastrophe of a policy of isolation and drift, it will then, and not till then, address its mind seriously to seeing what engagement it is prepared to undertake. At the present moment it does not realise the danger of doing nothing. That is the first thing that I would impress upon the Government.
The next thing is that they should, in their own minds, set to work to consider seriously what kind of engagement they would be prepared to undertake to other Powers in Europe and make it publicly known as an engagement which this country will undertake if other Powers are prepared to join it, and which would pro- 964 duce a sense of security in future and be some foundation for limiting the expenditure on armaments. In their letter the Government talk of a Treaty of Mutual Guarantee and of a future Conference. A Conference on armaments in Europe will be of no use if the Government go into it empty handed. They must go there prepared to make a contribution on the part of the British Government in regard to some engagement which they are prepared to undertake with other Powers to give a greater sense of security.
It may be that the sort of engagement that I have sketched out this afternoon very tentatively and very simply, will not be regarded at the present moment by other Powers as sufficient. I can imagine that France would say: "That is not enough," but unless they have something better themselves to offer I believe they would come round to what we propose. The situation is hopeless so long as we propose nothing and so long as we simply turn down one thing after another as we have turned down the Treaty of Mutual Assistance. I would ask the Lord President to tell us whether, when the Government talks of a future Conference, the Government realises that we must go into that Conference prepared to show the other European Powers that we are addressing our minds to that subject. Unless something of that kind can be done we are getting nearer and nearer to the fatal parting of the ways in which Europe will be committed, not to a League of Nations' policy but to further competition in armaments. If once that competition in armaments gets to a head again, League of Nations or no League of Nations, there is absolutely no security of avoiding another war. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That there be laid before the House Papers as to the progress made with the scheme for arresting the growth of armaments.—(Viscount Grey of Fallodon.)
§ LORD PARMOOR
My Lords, the noble Viscount, than whom no one speaks with greater influence and authority on a matter of this kind, has undoubtedly made a very valuable contribution, at any rate in my view, to the matter which we are discussing to-day—namely, the question of disarmament, from which I think we cannot separate—and I must deal with it at some length in the later part of my speech—the question of the Treaty of Mutual Assistance and the letter which 965 has been published over the name of the Prime Minister. Personally, and I think I may speak also on behalf of the Government, I find myself in almost entire agreement at any rate with the general principle which the noble Viscount has stated. When the question of the League of Nations was first discussed in your Lordships' House I recollect that I was one of those—I brought it forward myself, as the noble Marquess will remember—who stated that unless disarmament was contemporaneous with the formation of the League we could not expect the League to do valuable work in the direction of peace and security. I admit that that was expecting too much. It was pointed out that if we wanted a League starting from the time of the Armistice, it was impossible at that date, and in the state of opinion existing immediately consequent upon the war, that anything serious could be done in the direction of general disarmament.
I think, too, I may say on behalf of the Government that they would accept, in principle, what the noble Viscount has laid down—that the main cause of the great war of 1914 is to be found in the growth of armaments, and that the doctrine which has been held by some that the strong man armed, as it has been put, keeps his house in peace, was entirely falsified by what took place at the outbreak of war in 1914. I might adopt what the noble Viscount has said in his remarkable summary and with all his knowledge—that the war broke out because Germany was in fear of the future (as I think he put it) and that the other countries were in fear of the present. In other words, we got the inevitable result which, he has pointed out, may operate in existing circumstances. I do not want to mention names, particularly having regard to the present Conference, but no country may assume a position that is threatening; the very fact that it is threatening for the present is a cause of unrest and disquiet. The same country may have, very naturally, a fear of the future. There you have the two conditions which, together, brought about, according to the noble Viscount's view, the war of 1914, and may bring about a similarly disastrous, or even a more disastrous, war in future. Therefore, may I say this at the outset? I am quite sure that His Majesty's Government feel the 966 necessity of disarmament to the same extent, in every way, as the noble Viscount himself does, and they also agree, I think—I know many of my colleagues do, although this particular point has not been before us—with what the noble Viscount has said as to the evil influence of fear. It is fear that conduces to war; it is fear that brings about the nervousness and tension such as resulted in the great war of 1914.
The next question the noble Viscount put to me was this—and here I have to come very closely up against the question of the Treaty of Mutual Assistance—Are the Government going to be content with general phrases? Are they prepared to say that the League has been constituted, and, in that the League has been constituted, we can put other matters on one side and take no more care about the great question? I can state most authoritatively that the policy of His Majesty's Government is the exact opposite of a policy of that kind. Not only is it of the essence of our policy that there should be disarmament, but I hope to point out by and by that both in the letter and other directions, not only is it our general policy, but we are seeking in every way to make that general policy effective. The noble Viscount has said, quite rightly, that this is not an occasion on which one can go into what I may call the various alternatives, but let me agree with him, if I may, on one or two points which he has mentioned.
I believe that the difficult problem of the definition of aggressive warfare is to be found by the test of whether the warfare is taken against the provisions settled by the League, or by some similar method. Personally, I am always in favour of the League. Let me give one illustration of what I mean. I only give it by way of illustration. Your Lordships know that under the constitution of the International Court there is a system of arbitration which is not compulsory but optional. Personally, I should like that system made compulsory and not optional. If it were made compulsory, and if any nation, having to bring matters of this kind to compulsory arbitration before the Court, in spite of that obligation commenced aggressive military action, I do not think any one could doubt for a moment that that would be aggressive warfare in this sense of the term. I give 967 that as one very convenient method of definition by which we could arrive at a policy of this kind.
The noble Viscount next asked me in regard to what he called "a policy of drift". I can assure him that that is not the policy of His Majesty's Government. He has indicated in a way so clear that there could be no mistaking it, what he thinks might be a possible way of dealing with this difficult subject. He has referred to the notion of a separate military guarantee with this country or with America which, I believe, was originally contemplated at the time of the Treaty of Versailles, but he said something may be put in its place which will give the security that France is anxious to attain. I am not prepared to join issue with him upon that in any way. I do not desire to close any door which may bring about an effective settlement of these difficulties which threaten warfare in the future. What I do want to say is this. It is the policy of the Government, and I entirely agree with it, that you can have no security, whatever you do, until you have dealt with the growth of armaments and have had a general measure of disarmament. That, as I must point out when I come to deal more closely with the matter, is exactly what the Covenant of the League itself says. It states in Article 8 that if you are to have general peace disarmament is required.
I doubt whether any one who has really studied this question with care—I do not say any one who has studied it as a politician, but any one who has studied it with care—can come to any other conclusion than that which I understand is the conclusion of the noble Viscount, that general disarmament affecting all countries is the only real basis of a lasting security which can protect Europe against the disastrous ruin which would probably be incident to the outbreak of a new European war. No one can regard the possibility of such an outbreak without dismay, and every one who thinks over these matters must feel with the noble Viscount himself when he says that if matters are allowed to drift, and if armaments are allowed to grow, there is likely to be a resurrection of the difficulties of 1914. They feel that every effort must be made to bring about the disarmament to which the noble Viscount has called our attention. I have gone as 968 far as one ventures upon a topic of this kind at this stage.
I cannot say more directly in answer to the noble Viscount, but we have to consider this. We are really here on an occasion when one scheme of disarmament has been rejected as wrong in principle and not practical in application, and we have to see on what that criticism is based, and what are the chances of a better scheme in the future. Curiously enough, the chief criticism that I have heard of the letter of His Majesty's Government has been directed against the last paragraph—paragraph 15—and it has been directed against the last paragraph on the ground that His Majesty's Government are seeking in some way to curtail the powers of the League, and are not giving full weight to the authority of the League on this question of peace and disarmament. That is said, no doubt, because a reference is made to a world Conference—a world Conference which is thought to be necessary because some of the Great Powers, such as Germany for instance, are not Members of the League at the present time, and, therefore, the League cannot exercise its full representative authority.
I do not suppose any one who has any know-ledge of the League would do otherwise than regret that its structure has not been strengthened by the inclusion of all countries, notably, Germany and the United States. But it is not so at the present time, and the Government have pointed out that if you are in earnest on the question of disarmament, if you desire it intensely as the only guarantee of permanent peace, you must include those countries which are not at present within the League of Nations. So far from there being any idea of belittling the League, this Government has stated, through its Prime Minister, that its foreign policy is a League Policy. It has been stated on behalf of this Government that, for the first time I believe, at any rate so far as this country is concerned, the Prime Minister has promised to attend the meeting of the Assembly in September. Therefore, you are in this position: that a Government which has expressed on every occasion not only its adherence to the principles of the League but its desire to utilise the League in every way and in the most effective manner, yet puts in this last paragraph 969 (which, I think, is undoubtedly true at the present moment), that until the League itself is strengthened by the incorporation of these countries, you must bring into your counsels, if you want to have real disarmament, those countries which at the moment are unfortunately not Members of the League.
I do not know whether the noble Viscount has studied in any detail the further suggestions in this paragraph 15. There are various constructive proposals in it, though I cannot go into them in detail. It is stated specifically that they are not intended to be exclusive, and it is stated in distinct language that, in order that this matter may have the fullest discussion and in order that there may be the best chance of a true solution, even the Treaty of Mutual Assistance, with which I must deal later, amongst other schemes should have the fullest consideration when the Conference is brought about. I want to repudiate in the strongest way the notion that paragraph 15 is in any way intended to belittle the power, influence and authority of the League in connection with the great question of disarmament. I claim that it points in the same direction as that for which the noble Viscount has pleaded—namely, not to allow this matter to drift but to appreciate the reality of its importance and bring it to a practical and successful conclusion as early as possible.
The next point I think has been overlooked somewhat in the criticisms which have been made on the letter of the Government, and I am not sure that it was fully appreciated in the speech of the noble Viscount. It is impossible for any Government in this country to carry on a successful polidy of disarmament without the united loyalty of all the Dominions. That is absolutely a first principle in a question of this kind. The Empire must go together as a whole. Unity and loyalty in foreign policy is the great source of our strength, and it is really unthinkable that a Government of this country should pledge itself to any measure to which the Dominions, after full consideration, are themselves opposed. That is the case with the Treaty of Mutual Assistance. Every single Dominion has expressed its opposition to it, with the exception of the Irish Free State; and the Irish Free 970 State has not expressed concurrence but only said that they are not prepared to give an answer either way. In other words, there has been no answer from the Irish Free State.
And the importance of this—I will say a word as to the nature of their objections later—may be seen from a passage in the letter itself. You will find it on page 13 of the White Paper. It is a very important passage because it goes to the whole basis of our Imperial position. We are not merely a Power in Europe, we are a Power in all portions of the globe, and that is a very material factor indeed in considering the question of disarmament, and particularly the question of what is called the Treaty of Mutual Assistance. I will read the passage—it is dealing with a suggested limitation in Viscount Cecil of Chelwood's draft, which is really quite inapplicable to the conditions of the British Empire.
§ LORD PARMOOR
I will not call it your draft, although it is generally associated with the name of the noble Viscount. This is the passage, which is an extract from a letter to the secretary-general of the Hague from the Government of Canada:—It is intended that the obligation to render assistance shall be limited in principle to those countries situated in the same part of the globe.That was the suggested limitation because it was seen that it was quite absurd to call on countries in other portions of the globe to assist—shall I say—in Europe:While Canada is situated in the North-American Continent, she is a nation forming part of the British Empire, and it seems difficult to devise a scheme which would give due effect to those conflicting considerations. In any case, it seems very unlikely that the Canadian people in the present circumstances would be prepared to consent to any agreement binding Canada to give assistance as proposed to other nations, and the Government therefore does not see its way to a participation in the Treaty of Mutual Guarantee.Consider the strength of the opposition which Canada brings forward.
It is part of the basis of the principles of the Treaty of Mutual Assistance that Governments, or countries, should only be asked to interfere in the portion of the globe where the particular nation is 971 situated. But we are situated in every part of the globe. It is utterly impossible to say to Great Britain, as the head of our great Empire, that she cannot interfere if the matter takes place in some distant spot in America, or Africa, or Asia, because, forsooth, we should have some of our Dominions directly and immediately interested; and in the same way, suppose the difficulty takes place in Europe, can we dissociate ourselves from our Dominions? Of course, we are one for this purpose, united and loyal each to the other, and I can see no answer whatever to the Canadian argument. Whatever words you may put into a Treaty of this sort the reality is that the whole Empire is one for the purpose of foreign affairs and that the Dominions are affected by what takes place in other parts of the world. That appears to me to be a destructive argument—it is only one—as regards this proposed Treaty of Mutual Assistance.
Although I have not the actual words here, nor could I quote them, I think, without having the special authority of the Dominions to do so—and there has not been time to secure that—it is possible for me to give the effect of their communications to us. I have already referred to Canada, and Canada has written a subsequent letter on the particular communication to her containing the terms of our objection to the proposed Treaty of Mutual Assistance, concurring with the views which we express. South Africa does not consider the draft Treaty a practical solution. Australia concurs in our reply; New Zealand concurs in our reply; India concurs: and, as I stated before, the Irish Free State have not had time to give adequate consideration. Is it possible to conceive the idea of separating Dominion opinion from that of the Mother Country on a matter of this kind? So long as we work together as one great people under one great Imperial system in many directions, as I believe, for the good of mankind and the peace of the world, it would be impossible for us in this country to think of adopting a scheme in which our great Dominions could not concur.
I might say in addition, as showing the difficulty, that we know that if a Treaty of this kind were sanctioned it would render practically impossible the adherence of the United States of 972 America to the League. We know that only the other day an answer, if I may so call it, from the United States Government was published in the Press—your Lordships will have seen it—to the effect that they could not assent to any such terms as those contained in the Treaty of Mutual Assistance on the very ground, I think, which the noble Viscount pointed out, that, even as the Treaty stands, their objection is very much based on the terms of Article 10 and Article 16. I am bound to point out to your Lordships that every objection which the United States of America have taken to entering into the League of Nations would be emphasised and strengthened if this Treaty of Mutual Assistance were sanctioned and adopted.
Before I come to one or two matters regarding the Treaty itself in comparison with the Covenant, as it is called, let me say as shortly as I can that there has been a great misapprehension—I cannot use any other word—of the attitude of the Council and the Assembly of the League towards this so-called draft Treaty of Mutual Assistance. I have seen it stated, though, of course, I do not say that the noble Viscount conduced to this—he would not do so for a moment—that in throwing over this Treaty of Mutual Assistance the Government were in some way going counter to an opinion expressed by the League itself. No such opinion in favour of this draft has ever been given by the League on any occasion. I will say a word or two as to the history of the matter in a moment. All that has been done is that the proposal has been sent round to the various Governments in order that their opinion might be asked, without any opinion being expressed by the Assembly itself as to whether it is a practicable proposal or not.
But I want to go a little further than that. The matter is generally referred to in the letter, and I will try to summarise it as shortly as I can. It is true that it has been considered by a Committee, particularly by what is called the Temporary Mixed Commission. What has emerged from that? I will try to put it as clearly as I can. Originally, the scheme was for a general Treaty, as it is called, of Mutual Assistance. That was the first scheme. I will not connect it with the noble Viscount's name, but he will recognise very well what I am 973 saying. It was certainly attributed to his initiative, and most honourably so, for no one has done more loyal work in this direction than the, noble Viscount. Immediately it was considered, a Committee called a Permanent Advisory Committee, that is, a Military, Naval and Air Committee formed of the experts of all countries, said with one voice and acclaim: "This is no good unless, in the event of an attack by one country on another, you have a pre-arranged military plan." To have a pre-arranged military plan on a matter of this kind is the destruction of the whole sense of peace and good will. You at once turn yourself to relying upon coercion and force and upon the very powers which the noble Viscount, Lord Grey, thought conduced, under the influence of fear, to the last great war. Though it is not exactly clear upon the face of the proposed draft Treaty itself, I think it was assented to by all parties that if a pre-arranged plan was necessary it was wholly impossible.
You would have to have a pre-arranged plan on the supposition that the whole world might be at war in different combinations or permutations. It was wholly impossible, and the Permanent Advisory Committee not only reported that it was essential that there should be these prearranged plans but also reported that this was impracticable and impossible. At once the whole basis of the general Treaty of Mutual Assistance was undermined. In those circumstances there was attached to it a system of what may be called special guarantees, under the general guarantee. Its origin came from the French representative. Everyone knows that. Your Lordships will know, if you have read the draft Treaty, that when you come to the special guarantees you have an absolute instruction on the face of the Treaty itself that you must have pre-arranged military plans, and the military advisers, perhaps the greatest military body that has ever met, say that unless you have pre-arranged military plans the whole security suggested under this Treaty is a mere farce and a delusion, because all the mischief would be done long before you could get your forces into operation in any conditions that might arise. They laid it down that you must have a pre-arranged military plan.
The question which I put to your Lordships is this: Do you think that this 974 country—or, I might add, any country; certainly it would apply to the majority of them—can pledge itself to enter in with other countries to bring about these pre-arranged military plans, which would put aside, in my view, all the spirit of good will and neighbourliness which we want to encourage, and which would really divide Europe into a series of hostile camps? I am not for the moment-stating the other dangers, because I am coming to them in a little more detail later, and I am obliged to be rather long. But I am taking the nettle at the head. Is any one prepared to say that these pre-arranged military plans ought to have been adopted? Naval officers in this country pointed out that they would necessarily mean an increase of naval armaments. And so they would, because, instead of reducing your armaments, merely to the level of your requirements, you would have to have additional force in order to deal with these pre-arranged plans, to carry out your obligations should they arise.
I want to say ore further word upon this point. It has been stated, I suppose by those who desire this Treaty of Mutual Assistance, that the whole criticism has come from the Committee of Imperial Defence. That is an entire delusion. I can say without hesitation that the criticism against this Treaty of Mutual Assistance has come from every official body in this country, including the Cabinet, after very careful consideration on several occasions. As regards the history of this matter I do not wish to speak too certainly—probably the noble Marquess opposite can speak with greater certainty—but I have searched all the records, so far as I have access to them, in order to see whether any argument in favour of the Treaty could be derived from any Report which any official body in this country ever made, and I could not find a single one which was not adverse. As I mentioned the other day, I think this is one of the cases in which you have continuity of outlook between one Government and its predecessors. I cannot find a single Report by any official body in this country, of any kind, in favour of this Treaty of Mutual Assistance.
Now may I speak a little more closely upon the terms themselves for one moment? First of all, I want to remind your Lordships what the Covenant of the 975 League of Nations is, because in comparing the suggested Treaty with the Covenant it will emerge that in every direction where the Treaty of Mutual Assistance really differs from the Covenant of the League of Nations, as it does in principle and in detail, it is always in the wrong direction. Now the clause which has been already referred to by the noble Viscount is quite clear. The Members of the League, not the Council of the League—which is a very different thing altogether—recognise that the maintenance of peace requires a limitation of national armaments. When this reduction was first considered a proposal was brought forward in the name, and under the influence, of Lord Esher, and his proposal was in direct compliance with Article 8. He brought forward a proposal for disarmament which, under the subsequent clause of the same Article, would have to be sent round by the Council for the assent and action of the several Governments.
There was no power in the League to take action. They had to formulate a plan and that plan had to be sent round for the observations of the several Governments. The proposal was turned down on a technical point—namely, that it was difficult to find a unit of comparison between different armaments in different countries. I do not wish to rely on technicalities, but, if that is so, exactly the same objection exists now as did then. The objection raised against his proposal was not one of security or not—it was a difficulty of finding a unit of comparison, in order to see that a reduction was carried out to the same extent in all countries. That difficulty has not been got over, although I believe it is an exaggerated difficulty and that the real objection to Lord Esher's scheme was political; in other words, that a scheme brought forward in 1921, as his was, was brought forward too near to the war period and when the excitement of the war spirit had not been sufficiently allayed. Then Article 10, to which the noble Viscount referred, does not confer any powers upon the Council such as are suggested in the Treaty of Mutual Assistance at all. It is the Members of the League who undertake to respect and preserve each other as regards external aggression.
§ LORD PARMOOR
I will come to that later. It is the Members and not the Council. The Council is not an executive authority at all. It is the Members who undertake. All the Council can do is to advise upon the means by which the obligation should be fulfilled. I have been to the Council only twice, but I say without any hesitation, and with the greatest respect to my fellow members on the Council, that they are not in any sense an executive body which could be employed as an executive authority for putting in force warlike procedure, really as between one Government and another. They would be not only a most hopeless body, but they are not intended for the purpose. They are intended to meet together and talk peace; to meet together and promote friendliness. It is utterly inconsistent with the whole constitution that they should be made, as they are under the Treaty of Mutual Assistance, a body to carry on warlike operations. It is not the principle which is laid down in the Covenant of the League itself. In the same way, with regard to what are called the sanctions of the League, under Article 16 it is not the Council who are the executive authority but it is the Members of the League, and they are the only-people who can be relied upon in questions of this kind.
All the Council can do is to recommend to the various Members of the League, that is, the various Governments concerned, what they think would be their proper contribution to the armed force to be used to protect the Covenant of the League. They have not power over one single individual, nor is it ever suggested that they should have. Not only so, but it would be absolutely inconsistent with the whole framework that the powers proposed by this Treaty should be put upon the Council of the League as so constituted. I see that the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, shakes his head, and I should like at once to show him I am perfectly correct in what I have stated. Will your Lordships look at Article 5 of the proposed Treaty of Mutual Assistance? Every one of the powers there proposed are inconsistent with the terms of the Covenant itself and would be introducing an entirely wrong principle.
These are the provisions in Article 5. Certain powers are to be given to the 977 Council and in particular these. The Council may:—Decide to apply immediately to the aggressor State the economic sanctions contemplated by Article 16 of the Covenant.What is that but giving to the Councilor apparently giving to the Council, because I do not think it could be exercised—a power to introduce the economic sanctions, under Article 16, directly? It is a tremendously serious power to give them. Take this country if we happened to be in default. It would place in the power of the Council a right really to starve us, to starve out our industrial life, to starve out our social existence. I am a very strong advocate of the League, but the strength of my advocacy makes me feel how wrong it is, and what a wrong direction it is, to suggest giving executive powers of this kind to the Council.
What is the second measure?Invoke by name the High Contracting Parties whose assistance it requires,Again, an entirely executive principle, and they have no power to do that at the present time. I will take the case of our Dominions. Are the Council of the League to have the power to call upon Canada in one case, Australia in another, India in another, and the home country in another, according to the place where the difficulty has arisen? Why, of course, it is wholly impossible to sanction such an idea as that if we are to preserve our Imperial unity and our Imperial loyalty. What is the next measure?Determine the forces which each State furnishing assistance shall place at its disposal".That means that the Council of the League may, for example, determine the forces which we should place at its disposal. Are we going to do that? Why, it might necessitate a largely increased armament compared with what we have now.
We are one of the countries which have really reduced armaments to what I consider nearly the right point of reduction. We have enormous responsibilities over all parts of the globe I do not mean to say that we cannot make reductions here and there, bur in substance we have tried to meet this matter and we have gone a long way towards it. In these circumstances, I will suppose that all our available forces are taken up for our own 978 purposes, and yet are we going to give power to an outside authority, on some matter in which we may be only very indirectly interested, to determine the forces which we are to furnish and place at the disposal of the Council of the League? Then look at the next measure:Prescribe all necessary measures for securing priority for the communications and transport connected with the operations.You can upset the whole system of communication and transport in every State, you can over-rule State authorities, and the Council can step in—— The noble Viscount. Lord Cecil, shakes his head. I do not want to have a controversy with him.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
The noble Lord forgets that none of these powers can be exercised except by the consent of the Power affected.
§ LORD PARMOOR
However, that is only a partial answer to what I am saying, if it is an answer at all. The obligation remains. I think it is so, but I will leave that to the noble and learned Viscount to answer. Then, the High Contracting Parties have got toPrepare a plan for financial co-operation ߪ.that is to say, they have to interfere with our finances. And lastly (I cannot see any answer to this):Appoint the Higher Command and establish the object and the nature of his duties.As is pointed out in the letter of the Government, the appointment of the Higher Command, that is, of one general to command over the forces of another State, is a very delicate procedure. And yet all this is to be done, according to the terms of the Treaty itself, with such celerity that you may be able to stop an aggressive war at the outset. If you do not, what is the good of it? Once arouse passions and let the dogs of war loose, are you likely, under any provision of this kind, either to give security or prevent the continuance of the dispute? Of course you are not. It becomes at once a mere paper provision.
979 And that is the reason why it is pointed out in the letter—and I think quite rightly—that these two tests should be taken:Are the guarantees contained therein [the proposed Treaty] sufficient to justify a State in reducing its armaments?Well, the answer, I think, must be in the negative as regards these cumbrous provisions. Secondly:Are the obligations to be undertaken towards other States of such a nature that the nations of the world can conscientiously engage to carry them out?The answer must be in the negative, because you would undertake duties, with your eyes open, which you would feel and know were impossible of practical application for the purpose of security.
There is one other matter to which I should like to call attention in the draft Treaty, because I think it is very important. It is Article 6, which is the first Article dealing, with what are called special agreements. The same principle was sought to be applied to the general agreement, and I think that that failed on that account. They are to enter into this Treaty, to facilitate the carrying out of the measures described in the Treaty—determining in advance the assistance which they would give to each other in the event of any act of aggression.That is to say, we should have to come under an obligation in advance as to the assistance which we should give in the event of its being called for. Military people say that unless you have a provision of that kind you are certain to be too late: in other words, that the security is not worth having. The security required by the country which has been mentioned by the noble Viscount is stated to be not in accordance with their requirements unless you have these military arrangements in advance. Is it conceivable that when aggressive action is taken you should only bring your forces into operation, perhaps after a period of six months—long after war had really begun, and when all the passions of war had broken loose?
On the other side let me call your Lordships' attention to Article 11, because what I am going to say is this, that, although these obligations are undertaken, there is no guarantee that there will be any really effective diminution of armaments at all. Article 11 says:The High Contracting Parties, in view of the security furnished them by this 980 Treaty and the limitations to which they have consented in other international treaties, undertake to inform the Council of the League of the reduction or limitation of armaments which they consider proportionate to the security furnished by the general treaty or by the defensive agreements complementary to the general treaty.What is the good of that—the whole difficulty being the extent to which and the way in which disarmament is to be carried out? We have all this impossible and most complicated system of security—a system of security only brought forward in order to ensure a proper measure of disarmament—and when we come to the disarmament clause we find nothing of the kind at all. It is simply that they undertake to inform the Council of the League of the reduction or limitation of armaments "which they consider proportionate to the security furnished by the general treaty or by the defensive agreement complementary to the general treaty."
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
Does the noble and learned Lord really suggest that is all there is on the subject? I do not think he has read the Treaty at all.
§ LORD PARMOOR
Not only have I read it, but I have read it through and through. There are certain general statements I know, that in return for the Treaty you agree to a measure of disarmament. The noble Viscount may find more than I can in it and I have read it very carefully. But when we come to the actual measure, the actual obligation of disarmament, I do not find it before Article 11. I really do not, and I have studied it very carefully. I do not in the least want to exaggerate these matters, but that is the indication which you find in the letter which has been written by the Government. You have all these complex arrangements. You have any number of general propositions that disarmament is necessary, that they are not to have security without disarmament, and matters of that kind. I know there are any number of such provisions. But when you come to the actual Article. Article 11, which places the obligation, you find that they undertake "to inform the Council of the League of the reduction or limitation of armaments which they consider pro- 981 portionate to the security furnished by the general treaty or by the defensive agreements complementary to the general treaty." I find no other obligation than that, though I find plenty of general statements under various provisions.
There is one other matter that I ought, perhaps, to have referred to before. It arises under Article 8. It is a matter to which considerable attention is given in the terms of the letter and it shows a very difficult position. Under Article 8, under the special treaties or special pacts, without obtaining the consent of the Council of the League, the Statesparties to complementary agreements may undertake in any such agreements to put into immediate execution, in the cases of aggression contemplated in them, the plan of assistance agreed upon.That is to say, whether the action in the particular case is aggressive or not is left to the decision of the States themselves. It is true that at some subsequent date it may come before the Council; but as is pointed out, and truly pointed out in the letter of the Government, how can you expect a subsequent reference to the Council to be effective when the parties themselves merely on their own initiative have begun warlike action? I do not want to exaggerate any of these points, but you will find that, first of all, the letter discusses the extreme difficulty of deciding who is the aggressor. I think the noble Viscount has pointed out another method by which you may arrive at that result, although that is not contemplated here. It is also pointed out that there is an absolute inconsistency between the notion that these matters are decided by the Council and these, provisions in Article 8 which allow the nations affected to make their own decision and to begin their own warlike operations.
It is not a pleasant duty, nor is it a grateful one, to occupy so much the position of a critics; but I do not think I have said a word that has not been noted and said in the letter itself. I do not see how any one can come to any other possible conclusion than that, so far from this being an effective system of disarmament based on security, you do not get security, and you will not get disarmament. In those circumstances it is surely the duty of a Government which believe in the League, which think with the noble Viscount that the whole basis of a peace- 982 ful future depends upon a proper scheme of disarmament—it is their duty and their responsibility—to make that opinion known when they have arrived at that conclusion. A certain amount of criticism has been levelled at the Government in that they have not given their decision earlier. The answer is that they desired to consider from every point of view and with every advice they could obtain, fairly and impartially, the suggested Treaty of Mutual Assistance. Being in favour of disarmament they naturally had a bias in its favour, they desired to find a solution, and they would have been thankful had they found a solution which they really could have recommended in accordance with the terms of the proposed Treaty of Mutual Assistance. They found that was impossible, and, in their view, they were bound to express their opinion.
I want to say only one other word in conclusion. After all, the whole object of the League is to promote international co-operation and to achieve international peace and security. It is the machinery by which you can give expression to that great ideal, if there is a sufficient amount of good will and of what I heard Senator Hughes the other night describe as neighbourliness, which will make people desire to be friendly one with the other. I hope that side of the League will be encouraged in every possible way. I may be wrong and I certainly do not want to be dogmatic on a point of this kind, but the Treaty of Mutual Assistance seems to me to point in a directly contrary direction. It is based on the theory that you must have force before you can have friendliness or security. I wholly deny that. I say that the introduction of force in those circumstances is a fatal mistake. It would be the introduction of a new era of fear such as led to the war of 1914, and I feel sure that the attitude the Government have taken up is the right one. They hope to rely on the promotion of good will and friendliness and they cannot assent, much as they would have desired to adopt it, to the terms of the Treaty of Mutual Assistance.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
My Lords, I ought perhaps to explain that in one respect I stand in a difficult position. It is now two or three years since, in the course of my work in connection with the League of Nations, I began to consider these subjects 983 closely and committed myself more or less to certain principles—I never went further than that so far as I am concerned—for their solution. Therefore, in speaking at this Table I cannot pretend to speak for anybody except myself. These opinions which I shall express are my opinions, and no one except myself is responsible for them. The noble and learned Lord concluded with vehement phrases against force. I do not know how far he carries that. I do not see how any one can be a supporter of the Covenant of the League of Nations who rejects the possibility of the use of force in all circumstances and in all conditions.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
The noble and learned Lord says that he does not do that. I do not know what his phrases meant if they did not mean that. I rather think he does do that as a matter of fact. He had forgotten, perhaps, when he spoke, the existence of the principle in the Covenant which is really essential in my judgment to its success—namely, that when a particular country breaks its Covenant and decides to break the peace of the world and makes an aggression on its neighbour, then it must be restrained, if necessary by force, just as you use policemen to restrain a criminal in private life. That is the basis of Article 16 and it is, and must be, the basis ultimately of any attempt to organise the nations of the world. I do not say that this is the thing of which you contemplate the common use. On the contrary, most of the operations of the League must be by discussion and agreement, and have been by discussion and agreement. My noble friends near me, Lord Balfour, for instance, know quite well that on a particular occasion it became necessary to threaten the use of force against a particular country which was committing an aggression upon its neighbour. The threat was completely successful, put an end to the aggression instantly, and did not create ill-will in the country which bowed to the threat.
So far as this question is concerned I wish, in the rather elaborate observations which the noble Lord made, that he had dealt a little more fully with the Question put by my noble friend, Lord Grey, because the Question really is this: "Whether the Government can give 984 information as to the progress made with the scheme for arresting the growth of armaments?" That is the Question put to the noble Lord, and he made no answer whatever to it. I can only assume that the Government has made no progress in any scheme for arresting the growth of armaments. Yet no one said with more vigour than he, and no one, I am sure, with more conviction than he, that the arrest of armaments, and the reduction of armaments, or, at any rate, the limitation of armaments, was absolutely necessary for the peace of the world. He said he agreed on that point with my noble friend Lord Grey, and accepted everything that he had said upon it. Other members of the Government, including the Prime, Minister, have used language equally strong. Therefore, there is no dispute between us as to the necessity for disarmament, or rather the reduction of armaments, but the question is: How is that to be carried out?
I cannot doubt myself that it is the duty of the Government to do their utmost to proceed in that endeavour through the instrumentality of the League of Nations. They are bound to do so indeed, having accepted Article 8 of the Covenant, and having accepted the Article of the Treaty of Versailles which promised to Germany that the disarmament imposed upon her should only be the first step to general disarmament. The noble Lord will not forget that when Germany made observations about the disarmament clause she was told quite specifically that it was only the first step, and that it would be the duty of the League of Nations immediately to proceed with schemes of disarmament as soon as the Treaty was signed. Therefore there can be no dispute between us on these points—first, that disarmament is necessary; secondly, that it ought to proceed through the instrumentality of the League of Nations. Those are common ground.
That was the view taken by every organ of the League from the days of the first meeting at the beginning of 920, and at the first meeting of the Assembly steps were taken to see what could be done in that direction. For two years those who were concerned with it tried to find some channel or avenue by which they could make some kind of progress in that direction, and they found none. The noble Lord referred to the scheme of Lord Esher—a valuable and 985 interesting scheme—but that scheme proceeded simply on this proposition: "Have a proportionate reduction of all forces; let us agree on that." That was turned down, not only on the merely technical ground, though that was one of the grounds put forward. I was in Pans very shortly after it happened, attending the next meeting of the Armaments Commission, and undoubtedly the main ground which made it utterly unacceptable was that it was said: "You are asking us to reduce armaments on a perfectly arbitrary scale, and you are not giving to us in exchange any security. Supposing our neighbours do not, in fact, reduce their armaments, or supposing there is a combination of them who will attack us? 'That seemed to me—I may have been wrong—the fundamental objection.
You would never get continental countries which had been the victims of aggression, and the victims of invasion, which knew what occupation of their territory by foreign troops really meant, to abandon their armaments, reduce them, or limit them, unless you gave to them some kind of alternative security. And that still seems to me to be the only line on which you can possibly hope to get success. I was very glad to hear from my noble friend Viscount Grey that apparently he has arrived at exactly the same conclusion. He stated, with his usual fairness, the case of the French for some kind of solution of this question of security. I am not sure that I may not state it even more strongly than he stated it. It is quite well known that the French first asked—quite wrongly, it may be—for the Rhine frontier. That was refused to them, and one of the reasons on which they agreed to abandon their claim to the Rhine frontier was the Triple Pact of England, America and France for the protection of France against attack. That fell through. But there were two schemes—my noble friend said one scheme, but there were actually two schemes—which were proposed by France for her security, and were rejected, as he justly said.
There then comes along this third scheme. This is not only to protect her security, but—what, I agree, is absolutely essential to any scheme of security—to provide for a general reduction of armaments as well. The Government have now entirely rejected that, and they put 986 forward no alternative policy whatever, cither to produce disarmament or to give security to the countries of Europe. The noble Lord gave some history of this question. He will forgive me if I am unable to accept the history which he gave as accurate. But I do not propose to go into it, because I do not really think it material. I prefer to start at a different period of the history. I prefer to start from the summer of 1921, when this matter was first really seriously considered. At that time certain Resolutions were put forward, and were adopted by the Assembly at a meeting in 1922 without dissent, and with the warm support of almost everyone, and there were a great number who addressed the Assembly on that occasion.
I think that the real question to which the Government ought to direct their minds is not whether they are in agreement with this or that detail of the proposed Treaty—that is a matter on which there is a very wide field for difference of opinion—but whether or not they accept or reject the principles which were laid down by the Assembly on that occasion. The noble Lord is quite mistaken in thinking that they only forwarded those Resolutions for the opinion of the Governments. That is what they did last year with regard to this Treaty. The House ought not to forget with respect to the Resolutions on which the Treaty was founded, and which the Treaty was designed to carry into effect, that on those Resolutions there was a very wide measure of agreement amongst the countries represented at the Assembly. And not only so but those Resolutions were afterwards forwarded to the Governments for their opinions. Twenty-six of them replied, including all the considerable States of Europe, I think, except Great Britain, and of those, twenty-three were, generally speaking, favourable to the Resolutions. Therefore, there was a very general acceptance of those Resolutions as the basis on which an effective disarmament scheme could proceed.
May I state briefly what those Resolutions were? The first principle laid down was this—that reduction of armaments, in order to be effective, must be of a general character. Whether you called it a "gesture" or anything else you could not hope usefully to reduce the armaments of a single country and pro- 987 duce anything like a real general disarmament. Therefore, it must be a general disarmament. That was the first principle. Secondly, that in the present condition of affairs it was useless to expect that there would be a general acceptance of a policy of reduction of armaments unless you gave to the countries some alternative security. Thirdly, the converse was laid down and constantly insisted upon—that you could not ask any country to join in any scheme to give security unless there was disarmament. Those were the elementary principles, and each was equally accepted.
Finally, there was the principle that there were certain countries which, for historical and geographical reasons, would require special treatment; that you could not deal with these countries by a general undertaking; that when you came to certain countries which had historical quarrels with their neighbours you would never induce a feeling of security unless you provided some special method for dealing with their case. These were the principles which were accepted, and I am entitled to quote what was said about them by the representatives of the British Government at that time. I was not the representative of the British Government then. The representatives were the Earl of Balfour and Mr. Herbert Fisher, and Mr. Fisher stated the view of the British Government on the subject. The matter had been considered in a Committee of the League and a Report had been brought up from the Committee which I was asked to present to the Assembly on behalf of the Committee.
My right hon. friend Mr. Fisher said this:I listened to the speech of Lord Robert Cecil with very great attention in the faint hope that in the course of it I might perhaps come across some sentence, some sentiment, some aspiration from which I might be entitled to dissent. But although I watched him carefully, I am bound to confess that I am in complete agreement with the whole tenor and substance of [the] speech.Later on, Mr. Fisher said this:I for one welcome the bold and comprehensive scheme outlined by Lord Robert Cecil, not because I am blind to its difficulties, not because I do not think it requires a great deal of further consideration, but because it does appear to me to be a logical and comprehensive scheme for 988 the reduction of armaments, which only requires a little good will, energy, and self-sacrifice to make effective.I quote this in order to show the amount of agreement with which the general principles were accepted by the Assembly of the League and by the British Government, after full consideration, as I am sure they received at the time.
The Assembly decided that a Commission should draw up the Treaty. That wa6 done, and the Treaty as drawn up is the one which has now been rejected by the Government. I do not say, and I never have wished to say, that there is no possibility of an amendment to that Treaty. On the contrary, I am quite sure that any one of your Lordships would find many points of criticism in it and many points on which amendment might well be made. The point is this: Is it, or is not, the right line on which to proceed? Are we, generally speaking, going on that broad principle—namely, that if you are to induce nations to disarm you must, in the present state of the world, and in any state of the world that is likely to supervene during the life of the youngest amongst us, give them some alternative security? You cannot ask them to throw away their arms, or even reduce them or limit them, unless you give them that security. The Government take an entirely different view; at least, they appear to do so in their reply as sent to Geneva. They reject the idea of a general guarantee, and the noble and learned Lord has elaborated it this afternoon. He has said that a general guarantee is absurd and could not possibly be worked.
§ LORD PARMOOR
The French General Staff do not take that view. I said that it was impracticable because it necessitated pre-arranged plans.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
The noble and learned Lord's information is a little belated; it is eighteen months too late. That was the view taken at that time, but since then there has been a complete examination of the proposal. Their present view is this: Although a general guarantee Treaty would not be 989 enough to give them absolute security, they say, with great truth, that it would give them a large measure of security, not because such a general guarantee of security could necessarily be put into operation in time to repel a sudden attack—that, of course, is true—but because the moral effect c1 the existence of the Treaty would be so enormous as to make it certain that the aggressor, sooner or later, would be defeated and that no country which was not absolutely reckless would venture an attack which must end in disaster to itself. For that reason the French General Staff, and a large number of military authorities, have come round to the view that a general guarantee Treaty is of the first possible importance. It would have to be supplemented by special arrangements to protect particular countries.
But of all the allegations in the Government reply which seem to me astonishing the most astonishing is that this proposed Treaty would increase armaments. The noble and learned Lord repeated it and emphasised it by saying that the only provision for the reduction of armaments was that contained in Article 11 If he had only read the rest of Article 11 he would have found how entirely mistaken he is. The second paragraph says:—The High Contracting Parties undertake to co-operate in the preparation of any general plan of reduction of armaments which the Council of the League of Nations, taking into account the information provided by the High Contracting Parties, may propose under the terms of article 3 of the Covenant.This plan should be submitted for consideration and approved by the Governments and, when approved by them, will be the basis of the reduction contemplated in article 2 of this treaty.And later on it says that the High Contracting Parties undertake to carry out this reduction within a period of two years.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
It is the provision of Article 8 of the Covenant that no reduction can be carried out until it has been approved by the parties. Then you will find not only in Article 2 that the whole of the Treaty depends on the existence and carrying out of disarmament plans--that is the foundation of the Treaty—but if you read 990 Article 18 you will find a distinct provision that none of the obligations for guarantee are to come into operation until the agreed reduction is carried out. Why the noble and learned Lord should say that there is no specific provision for reduction in the Treaty simply passes my comprehension.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
Then we take an entirely different view as to the meaning of the English language. I cannot see how it can be expressed more clearly. But that was the intention of every Committee and every Commission of the League of Nations which sat upon it, and if it is a question of drafting in order to make it absolutely clear, there is not a, single member of the Assembly who world hesitate to accept the necessary amendments if there is any doubt about it. Then the Government proceed to make a great objection to the special agreement. Here again the noble and learned Lord appears to have wholly misunderstood the provision. He said that the Parties are to be required to enter info these special agreements. That is not so? If he did not mean that, of course, I accept correction. He represents this as a kind of obligation that we should be compelled to undertake—the obligation of these special agreements. That is not so at all. The thing is perfectly clear. All that it says is that, where parties are not satisfied with the protection given to them by the general agreement, then they may, if they please, enter into a special agreement which shall define the assistance which they will give to one another in the case of particular, stated dangers accruing to either one of them.
§ LORD PARMOOR
To prevent misconception, may I say that I certainly never intended to say anything except that? I do not think that I did.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
Then appearenly I completely misunderstood the noble Lord. I am very glad to hear that he did not mean it. What does that mean? It means that it is not to take a country out of the protection of the general agreement if it enters into a special agreement as well, but there is this condition—that the special agree- 991 ment must be made under the supervision of the League; that the Council of the League must be satisfied that it really is a defensive agreement and not a camouflaged agreement of aggression; and finally, that if any attempt is made to use its powers for the purpose of aggression, then the provisions of the general agreement are none the less to apply and the aggressor is to be an aggressor, even if he is acting under what he claims to be the terms of his special agreement. In other words, you are going to submit these agreements to the closest possible supervision and control of the League with the object of seeing that they are really defensive and supplementary to the general agreement, and not aggressive alliances of the old-fashioned type.
Both the Government, in their reply, and the noble Lord speak as if the authors of this draft for the first time suggested to the nations of the world that they might make special defensive alliances. It is perfectly well known, of course, that such alliances already exist in Europe. There is the Little Entente and there are many others. They exist, and they show a tendency to increase, and one of the great difficulties, in my judgment, which any large contemplation of the affairs of Europe will have to meet is how to deal with the tendency to re-form these groups, which, as the experience of history shows, very generally end in a splitting up of the nations of Europe into rival and hostile camps, and consequently promote the danger of war.
It was to me a matter of the greatest possible satisfaction when Dr. Benes, the very well known Foreign Minister of Czecho-Slovakia, who is, as everyone knows, one of the leading spirits in the Little Entente, not only advocated a provision of this kind in the general Treaty but said that he was anxious that his Treaties—and he is a party to several of them—should be brought under the control of the League, because he desires that they should be strictly defensive and should be examined and approved by the League as strictly defensive. I think that, if there were nothing else in this proposal, that provision alone is one which ought to receive the most careful consideration of the Government as the only proposal that I have ever heard for dealing with that which is un- 992 doubtedly the great possible danger for the future peace of Europe—namely, the recrudescence of special alliances, not of a directly defensive character, and likely to be used for offensive purposes.
The next objection to which the noble Lord referred, and which is also in the reply of the Government, is that large executive powers would be conferred upon the Council of the League. He drew a picture for which I was really astounded at the noble Lord making himself responsible—a picture of that old bogey of the Council of the League sitting despotically and giving orders to this, that or the other country as to what they should do. The noble Lord must know that it is quite impossible for the Council to do this under the provisions of the Covenant and under the provisions of this Treaty. It is perfectly clear that, before any decision of the Council is arrived at which affects the interests of any country, that country must be summoned to the Council and given a place at the Board of the Council with full powers to vote against it, and, as the noble Lord, I imagine, knows, all the decisions in cases of that kind have to be taken unanimously by the Council. Therefore, there is absolute security, and there is no danger whatever of any country being ordered about, or being told to provide these forces, or to do anything else, except with its consent.
The only criticism that I have ever heard made at the League itself is, not that this is likely to be a tyrannical power conferred upon the Council, but that the Council will have to act with such consideration for all the interests concerned that this may be an ineffective method of guaranteeing the safety of any country. I admit that this is a much stronger case than the other, and the only answer to it is that experience shows that where the case is really clear—and you would not wish the Council to act unless the case were really clear—the difficulty of obtaining unanimity is not nearly so great as, on paper, you might fear that it would be.
I do not pretend that these provisions are satisfactory in all respects, but I do say that the suggestion that this Treaty contemplates the Council acting as a kind of general staff and directing military 993 operations is not one to which the noble Lord ought to have given any currency by his speech. There is not a shadow of ground for any such suggestion. The most that can be done is for the General Council, with the assent of all the parties concerned, in the first place to suggest—because it does not amount to more than that—that economic pressure should be tried against the aggressor, and secondly, to decide which country can most serviccably be asked to fulfil their guarantee, and what kind of forces they may be asked to furnish. Having done that, they are to appoint a Commander-in-Chief, and obviously they must leave the direction of the war to him and his General Staff. I do not say for a moment that the technical details of this provision might not be improved, but to say that it confers upon the Council an executive power to direct the war is really to misunderstand the whole basis of the provision. If, however, the Government mean really to suggest that no executive power should be conferred upon the Council, then they really must have forgotten the many duties of an executive character which have already been put upon the Council—all the Saar, all the Danzig duties, all the duties which, as I understand, the noble Lord is anxious to put upon the Council, such as the duty of seeing whether the enemy countries are disarmed. These are executive duties, and very difficult executive duties.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
They are not the same, of course, but they are executive duties. If the noble Lord will read again the Government's reply, he will see that any one who reads it cursorily would conclude that the Government was against any executive powers being given to the Council of the League. I am sure that this cannot be their real intention. If it were, it would be a very serious blow to the League.
§ LORD PARMOOR
I do not wish that there should be any misunderstanding on this point. What they referred to was the difference between the executive powers which the proposed Treaty would confer in these matters and the powers, which are not executive, in Article 10 and Article 16.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
I do not, think that there is really any very great difference, except that the powers in the Treaty are rather more precise. There is no difference in kind. In both cases it is the duty of the Council to meet and to make recommendations as to how the Covenant can be protected and peace maintained. There was one argument, and one argument only, of the noble Lord which, I must say, I think is entitled to great respect and undoubtedly raises a very great difficulty, and that is the attitude of the Dominions with regard to this proposal. I do not deny the great difficulty that is raised, not only in this case but in many other cases, with regard to our foreign policy by the fact that we are, if I may so put it, a composite State. It is a very difficult question, but it has got to be faced. I do not think the present arrangement is satisfactory.
I noticed the other day that the Irish Free State, which is one of the Dominions, had declined to attend or have anything to do with the present London Conference, because it declined to be bound by the decision which that Conference might take, and it is quite evident that if you are to take the view that no obligation is to be entered into by the Empire unless it has been already accepted and agreed to by every one of the Dominions, you are going to create a condition for the management of the foreign affairs of this country which will be one of great difficulty. The subject is a delicate one, and I would not have touched upon it but for the noble Lord's very proper citation of the objections of the Dominions.
All I say is that I think that there is a difficulty about it which extends far beyond this proposal and extends to all our foreign relations, and that it is a matter which will have to be discussed with the Dominions. No doubt we shall find a solution of the problem, as we have found solutions of other difficulties which have arisen. To tell me, however, that because, following the lead of His Majesty's Government and accepting their advice—for that is the real truth—the Dominions have at first sight expressed dissent from this proposal, we ought to strike it out immediately and altogether, seems to me to be a doctrine to which I for one cannot subscribe. I should say rather that it led to this conclusion, that if the Government are satisfied that some 995 such policy is desirable, then it is necessary to discuss it with the Dominions and try to find some solution which will be agreeable to them and to the policy which the Government think to be necessary for the Empire.
Except for that objection, I do not see in the Government's reply any objection to the principles which I have ventured to lay down. If they were to be taken literally, the words of the noble and learned Lord would appear to be against all forms of guaranteed security. He said, it is true, that he did not find any fault with the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Grey, but he passed on to other arguments which were entirely opposed to the proposals of the noble Viscount. If the noble and learned Lord did not mean to reject all guarantees then the greater part of his argument is gone. If that is not his meaning—and it would be inconsistent with some of the utterances of the Prime Minister—and the Government do not mean to reject something in the nature of guarantee, then I do not see on what broad question of principle the Government have expressed themselves hostile to some such proposal as that contained in this Treaty.
What I would venture to press upon the noble and learned Lord is that it is not the duty of a Government merely to criticise other people's proposals. That is the duty of an Opposition. The duty of a Government is to have a policy, and I venture to ask His Majesty's Government what their policy is in this matter. The noble and learned Lord refers us to the last paragraph of the letter to Geneva. It means simply this, that the Government say that at some future time—not the present—under conditions which they do not define, and at some place which is not determined, a Conference may be summoned to consider generally the question of disarmament, about which a number of proposals may be made. That is the whole of the suggestion. There is no single constructive proposal made. There is nothing to indicate what is the real policy of the Government. The other day Mr. Asquith made a speech in the House of Commons in which he advocated very much the same kind of proposal, within limits, of a general guarantee, and the Prime Minister, as I understood it, said he was in complete 996 agreement with Mr. Asquith. Lord Grey makes proposals to-day in which he advocates something in the nature of a guarantee. The noble and learned Lord said he had not heard his noble friend say anything with which he disagreed, and then the whole of his argument shows that he is fundamentally opposed to the principle on which Lord Grey's proposal is based.
Have the Government got a definite Conference in their minds at all? Who is to call if? Is it to be called by some other Power? Is it to be called by us? Is it to be called by France? Is it to be called by the League of Nations? That would be a very proper proposal, because the League has constantly done such things. As soon as they have got a question into a position which gives hope for a definite conclusion and a definite decision, then it is the common practice for the League to summon not only their own Members, but all the countries. There have been several such Conferences held to see whether they will accept the proposals made, or whether there are any modifications which they would like to suggest. If that is what the Government; mean, that is quite right. It is quite right we should have a Conference, sooner or later, at which these proposals should be made, but that must be after some scheme has been formulated—I do not say necessarily agreed to by everybody, but some scheme in which the Government have sufficient confidence—to put it before the Conference and to support it.
If we are to believe in the sincerity of the Government on this question of disarmament, I say deliberately that what we have got a right to know is what is the line they intend to pursue. What are they going to say when they get to Geneva next month? This will come up. The questions are being sent out by the last Assembly and the opinions of the countries are being asked upon this particular proposal. Some have approved, some have expressed doubt, and same have rejected it. The matter will have to be considered, and the Government will have to have a policy. They really cannot say: "We think all you have been doing for the last two and a half years is quite useless, and we propose to put it upon the scrap heap. We will go back to where the League stood in 1921, and we propose to summon a Conference or to ask 997 somebody to summon a Conference." Unless the Government are far more definite and precise and, at any rate before the Assembly, have determined upon a real, practical policy in their own minds, it will be not only a great blow to the Government—which I care little about—but a great blow to the prestige of this country, which is already not so high as it was, and in my judgment it will be a worse disappointment to the people of the world who are looking to the League for some solution of this very grave and urgent problem.
§ THE EARL OF BALFOUR
My Lords, reference has more than once been made in the course of this debate to opinions which I have expressed and the part which I have taken in the earlier history of the League, and it would perhaps not be correct that I should maintain silence on the present occasion. It is not my good fortune wholly to agree with any of the speakers who have preceded me this afternoon. I feel, as my noble friend who has just sat down feels, that the proposal contained in the last paragraph of the Prime Minister's letter, for an assembly of all the nations to devise a scheme or schemes by which armaments should be diminished, is really an illusory one, unless it be dealt with in a spirit of which at present I see no signs. The idea of bringing together representatives of all the nations of the world until the leading nations of the world, or some of them, or one of them, has got a plan already more or less matured, which is likely to be accepted, will end in a wrangle which is sure to last for weeks, which may last for months, and which, quite frankly, I believe would end in no solution being arrived at at all.
Conferences in favourable circumstances can, and often have, produced admirable results, but it depends on the circumstances, it depends on the number of people who take part in them, it depends on the spirit in which those people meet together in council, and, above all, it depends upon the leading members having clear ideas in their own minds, and starting with something in the nature of a concrete and constructive policy. If, therefore, we are merely to rest content with the vague aspirations contained in the last paragraph of the Prime Minister's letter, I am obliged to confess my disappointment with the Government attitude, and my agreement, so far, with 998 my two noble friends, Viscount Grey of Fallodon and Viscount Cecil of Chelwood. But I am not quite sure that my noble friend who has just sat down should feel that all has been done when an attempt has been made, most honestly and sincerely made, to find a solution of this question which really it is not very easy to defend. I am not sure that I quite apprehend what has been gained by the two years of arduous work which my noble friend and his colleagues have undertaken, and the results of which lie embodied in this draft Treaty. On the contrary, it almost seems to me, on looking at the draft Treaty and considering what has already been done in the direction of subordinate treaties to the Covenant, that no progress has been made by the discussion of these able, learned, and devoted experts.
What is, broadly speaking, the scheme of the draft Treaty? The draft Treaty, if carried out, is an attempt to buttress up one treaty by another. If all the signatories to the Covenant of the League of Nations acted in the full spirit of that Covenant, if they had an absolutely sincere desire governing all their policies to be guided by the principles embodied in the Covenant, I cannot see why you should add to it at all. There would be no war, there would be no danger of a war, every quarrel would at once be brought to the arbitrament of the League, or of the Court of International Justice; every country would aid the Council of the League in coming to an arrangement, and disarmament would follow as a natural consequence. No country, at any rate none of the great countries, wishes to keep up an Army for the pleasure of overweighting its Budgets by incredible sums spent on armaments. They do it because they think it is necessary for their safety.
But if all the nations of the world subscribed to the Covenant, in the full spirit which that Covenant embodies, of course each nation would feel that its security would gradually be increased by the neighbourly feeling to which reference has been made and by the general spirit which animated international relations, and a diminution of armaments would follow as a matter of course. Every nation which accepts the Pact accepts the principle that it is not going to interfere with its neighbour's affairs; it is not going to war for aggressive purposes, it is going 999 to accept the new spirit which the League was intended to embody. And what are these subsidiary treaties, of which one has been the subject of discussion tonight? You are calling in one treaty in order to protect nations against the non-observation of other treaties into which they have all entered—a rather paradoxical but, I am afraid, not wholly unnecessary procedure.
That difficulty and that danger are already guarded against in certain cases by arrangements entirely outside the Pact of the League of Nations. The Little Entente, animated, I imagine, precisely by the motives which I have described, and partly, no doubt, by fear of a great country which is not a Member of the League, have entered into a Pact for mutual defence, although they all belong to the larger company of nations who have accepted the Pact. Well, how does the proposed Pact differ from that which has been accepted as a defensive alliance by the League, which no doubt does tend, so far as it goes, to diminish armaments in those countries? Each of the countries which has joined the Little Entente would, I presume, feel itself obliged to have a larger defensive force if it did not feel that its defensive force, such as it was, would, in case of necessity, be supplemented by the forces of their partners in the Little Entente. That, I understand, is the principle of the draft Treaty which is now under consideration. I quite agree that it might be worth while, in future, for the League to come to an arrangement among all its Members that, when they enter into one of these subsidiary treaties for defensive purposes, its terms should be submitted to the League. It should be considered how far it really was defensive, its true character should be considered and defended, and its provisions, if necessary under the advice of the League, might perhaps be amended. But the broad principle of supplementing the main Pact by a subsidiary pact has already been earned out, and I see no reason why it should not be extended by those who want to extend it.
But, you say, a sufficient number of people may not want to extend it. There is nothing in the draft Treaty to compel or induce other nations to make subsidiary treaties in their turn. They could do that now, if they desired to do it. If they do not desire to do it, how are 1000 you going to make them? I do not see that any answer is given to that by any discussion which has taken place here this afternoon or by any discussions which I have seen in the Press. I am not familiar, of course, with the recent actions of the Council of the League or the Assembly. I have not attended at Geneva for two years and I do not pretend that my knowledge is necessarily up to date in this matter. But I really fail to see why all the benefits which the most sanguine person can expect from this draft Treaty cannot be got without a draft Treaty being constructed at all. Let the nations who feel that they do not get sufficient security under the Pact as it stands devise the kind of treaty among themselves which they think will give that security, and let us make friendly arrangements. Such a treaty, of course, must be public and must be registered in any case by the League of Nations.
If you like to add that the Council of the League of Nations, it is hoped, will be consulted as to whether this Treaty is in its provisions purely defensive, so far as I can see you will get all that this draft Treaty is going to give you, with this enormous advantage—that the subsidiary treaties are carried out by the nations concerned on their own initiative and to preserve their own interests. Therefore they, of all people, are those most likely faithfully to carry out the provisions into which they have voluntarily entered. That is one of the subsidiary arrangements by which the members of the League protect each other or afford protection to each other in addition to the protections which are given by the League itself under the Pact or Covenant.
There is another arrangement which has been referred to to-night, which is far more important and which raises other questions than any of those raised by the Treaty which binds together the members of the Little Entente. Your Lordships will at once understand that I am referring to the arrangement which binds together the separate members of the British Empire. That is unquestionably an arrangement within the broad scope of the great international arrangement embodied in the Pact. It has a different historic origin. It is surrounded by circumstances which differentiate it profoundly from any other arrangement 1001 which the world has ever seen. However you put it, the British Empire is, in fact, among many other things, an arrangement for mutual protection, and it is unlimited in its character. It is wholly different from the elaborate and artificial arrangements which are necessary between different countries when they come to a defensive treaty, because, although, from the point of view of the actual machinery that works at Geneva, the members of the British Empire are separate entities, paying separate subscriptions to the League, each with its own voice in the Assembly of the League, and while from that point of view they are separate communities—separate nations if you like—we nevertheless know quite well that these separate members of the League have a unity outside the League to which history affords no parallel, which undoubtedly carries with it difficulties and new problems, national and international, but which in itself, if (as I do not doubt) we can successfully surmount all the difficulties which surround this great and growing institution, is, and is likely to be, an influence for the peace of the world and for the progress of civilisation which yields precedence to no other.
There you have actually existing within the League not a treaty of mutual defence but a unity which gives mutual defence. Every member of this great Commonwealth of free communities knows that if it is attacked, every other member of the British Empire, without question, without delay, without raising any problems, national or international, will spend its last shilling in its defence. No mutual arrangement, no subsidiary league or treaty under the League of Nations can equal that in strength. The reason I dwell upon it is not that I think it can be imitated, at least not in our time, by any other nation or Empire. I doubt whether it can be imitated by any other Empire. I refer to it because I agree with the Government in thinking that tl s Treaty cuts right across the strongest arrangement of all that you could have. This subsidiary treaty cuts right across that arrangement, and divides the world into continents. As the noble and learned Lord who spoke for the Government pointed out, we have members of our British community in every continent in the world. Therefore, an arrangement which contemplates treaties which in their nature are continental, runs 1002 absolutely across the lines of a much better and more powerful arrangement and one more conducive to peace, which is not only not continental in its character but is characteristically non-continental.
I am unable to see how a system can work which seems to contemplate the possibility that Great Britain can be at war as a member of one of these subsidiary arrangements of nations—an arrangement of nations, for instance, which is interested only in the European continent—while the members of the British Empire in other continents are to remain indifferent, neutral, neither contributing to the result nor bearing the burdens. You cannot work the British Empire on those principles and, as I think the British Empire is of all the conceivable unifications of free and independent communities the most important, the most powerful, the most committed to a policy of peace, I say that anything which runs in any sense across its arrangements must be extremely inimical to the highest interests of the League of Nations. I do not think my noble friend who has just sat down attempted any answer to what seems to me so fundamental an objection.
I cannot even imagine what would be the international position of Canada or Australia if Great Britain, as a member of the European body of nations—I have forgotten the exact expression—were at war when those Dominions desired to remain outside. Even if we were willing that that should be so, would those with whom we were contending be willing? If we were engaged in these hostilities, using our Fleet as by hypothesis we should have to use our Fleet, against some European neighbour, do you think that European neighbour would hesitate to sink a Canadian ship because Great Britain was supposed to be acting alone, independently of Canada? The whole scheme is impossible. The British Empire goes together, or it ceases to go at all, and, therefore, what appears on the forefront is this. It is an arrangement by continents and not an arrangement by communities. It seems to me entirely destroyed at all events from the British point of view. I think the noble Lord opposite dwelt on the same point, I daresay with more force but certainly not with greater conviction than I feel on this matter.
1003 My noble friend who has just sat down challenged the Government—and not this Government alone, but all Governments—not to be content with a procedure which is purely negative. I think we must all sympathise with him. Undoubtedly, in the Pact itself, there was in most explicit terms put forward the provision that some method of creating disarmament must be sought for and found. I think every Government is bound to try to find it. My noble friend said that a Government which simply site still with its hands folded and makes no effort to find a solution is a Government which is not doing its duty as a Member of the League. But it is unhappily true that the desire to do something not infrequently makes people do very foolish things. Mere good intentions save none of us from the consequences of mistaken actions. Therefore, the objection upon which I have just dwelt with regard to this scheme—the objection that it seems to run right across the whole structural fabric of the British Empire—holds good. My objection is not weakened in the least by the reflection that I am rejecting a concrete proposal without being ready, or indeed ready at all, to produce any alternative, except, remember, the one which has been instinctively taken already by the Little Entente.
Why is that not sufficient, or at all events why is it not, so good as the plan before us? Surely freedom to combine, or not to combine as you like, is the very best security for seeing that if combination occurs it shall produce all the good fruits which you expect from it. Freedom to combine exists now. By all means encourage it. Let the Council give to any body of nations which desire to combine for purely defensive purposes all the assistance, all the advice, and all the help in their power. I think you will be just as well off in some respects, much better off in other respects, if you leave matters to take their own course, encouraging them to take a course which has apparently produced, and is likely to produce in the future, good results.
Need we be so very pessimistic about the future, as my noble friend Lord Grey appears to me to be? The League of Nations has been in existence but a very short time. During that short time it has undoubtedly produced a spirit among nations which did not exist before. I 1004 speak with confidence about that, because I have seen it, and very few of your Lordships have seen it. My noble friend has seen it, for he has been at Geneva. He has seen how these nations work together; he has seen the spirit which animates them, a spirit which is not merely an addition of all the separate frames of mind, of all the separate Foreign Offices, of all the countries engaged, but is something quite different. It is a kind of collective sentiment which may in some respects be powerless, which may in some respects run beyond possibilities, but which is undoubtedly something new in the world. And it is not merely a new spirit manifested in one particular locality. The League of Nations is an institution which has done, in the very few years of its existence, and is doing, things which no other institution has done or can do. There is no substitute for it. It very likely will not carry out all the hopes of its most ardent advocates. I am confident it will not produce the ills anticipated by its critical enemies, but nobody can seriously look at the work it has done and say it is an institution which the world could lightly spare.
The world cannot spare it, and, as the spirit which animates it goes on, I really see no reason to doubt that people will feel that armaments may be diminished. The intense fear and jealousy which certain nations, for historic reasons, entertain against one another will, in the course of time, diminish in acuteness and intensity; at least, I hope they will. If they do not it may be—I do not deny it—that civilisation is going to tumble in the dust, as it certainly will tumble in the dust if the fears of my noble friend are realised, and another war greater than the last war is going to destroy the efforts and blast the prospects of modern Western civilisation; The fact that that may come unless some control is put upon these international passions undoubtedly must gradually have an effect. Undoubtedly that effect will be fostered in its growth by such work as the League of Nations is doing, and such as I believe in the future it will be able to do.
Disarmament, which we long for, will come gradually as nations feel that the weight of their armaments, the cost of these huge military establishments throws upon them a burden which is not worth their while to bear. They will realise 1005 that it is not worth their while to bear this burden as the spirit of their neighbours obviously alters, softens, becomes more human and more. Christian. I do not despair of that; it may not happen; perhaps I am too optimistic. But grant that I am too optimistic, I still say that the work of the League of Nations, the work that makes for peace, such negotiations and arrangements as the Little Entente have carried out, might well be increased in its scope should the necessity arise.
In the meanwhile, when you are told that the League of Nations has, on the face of it, professions which it cannot carry out, aspirations which remain unfulfilled, such as disarmament, you must remember that the League of Nations is working under conditions never contemplated by its authors. It is, indeed, in the truest sense a League of Nations, but it is not a League of all nations, and among the nations that are left out are three of the greatest materially, and in two cases spiritually, in the world. Therefore, the League of Nations, as we know it, is not the League of Nations that was drafted in Paris; and until we see it in its completed form do not let us say that the original scheme was wrong, do not let us, in face of what the maimed scheme has been able to accomplish, despair that even in its maimed state it may produce that fuller harvest of peace of which it has already given such favourable anticipations. That is my hope and my belief, and of this I am certain, that until someone has a better reason for despairing of the future than the mood of scepticism which comes over all of us, but which we ought, all to reject. I shall continue to be, as I have always been, an ardent and hopeful advocate of the future of the League.
§ VISCOUNT GREY OF FALLODON
My Lords, your Lordships have other business before you this evening and I therefore do not propose to exercise my right of reply. I understand there are no more Papers to be published, and I ask leave to withdraw the Motion for Papers. As I understand the situation, if no Papers exist, and as the proposal for a Treaty of Mutual Assistance has been rejected, no progress has yet been made with any proposal of a similar kind. The matter should not rest like that and I think the discussion will have to be resumed later. 1006 I think, however, it could be much more usefully resumed after the present Conference of the Allies is over when we shall know the results of that Conference and what are the prospects for future peace in Europe.
§ LORD PARMOOR
The noble Viscount is correct. No further Papers exist. The only possible further Papers would be the answers of the Dominions, and we should have to get their authority to publish them.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.