HL Deb 02 November 1932 vol 85 cc976-1000

LORD PONSONBY OF SHULBREDE rose to ask His Majesty's Government whether they intend to press for the early consideration by the League of Nations of the Report of the Commission of Inquiry in Manchuria presided over by Lord Lytton, and what is the attitude of the Government to the findings of this Commission; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I do not think I need apologise to your Lordships for putting this Question on the Paper to-day, because I think it would have been unfortunate if this Session had come to an end without any debate being held in either House of Parliament on this very important question of Manchuria. May I very briefly remind your Lordships of a few of the dates of the incidents in connection with the Manchurian question? It was on September 18, 1931, that Mukden was occupied by Japanese troops, and from that date onwards the gradual occupation of the Province was effected by the Japanese. On February 22, 1932, a new autonomous state, Manchukuo, was established, and on September 15 last Japan recognised the autonomy of Manchukuo. Meanwhile, concurrently with these events, I would remind your Lordships of the concern which the League of Nations had with regard to the action on the part of Japan. The matter came forward for a great deal of discussion, and finally on December 10, 1931, the Council of the League of Nations decided to appoint a Commission of five members to study on the spot and to report to the Council on any circumstance which, affecting international relations, threatens to disturb peace between China and Japan, or the good understanding between them upon which peace depends. The Commission was accordingly appointed, consisting of five members of different nationalities, and in February, 1932, the Commission started on its journey.

I will only draw your Lordships' attention at this point to the fact that the League was not precipitate in its action, because the Commission did not start to work until five months after the occupation of Mukden by the Japanese troops. On October 3 last the report was published, but it was already sufficiently advanced before that time for it to have been really drawn up before the recognition of Manchukuo by the Japanese. Now we have the Report before us. May I, in parenthesis, just say a word with which perhaps the noble and learned Viscount, who I understand is replying, may deal? It is only that a report of this character is of just as great an importance as any report issued by His Majesty's Government in the form of a Blue-book. Yet it is only with great difficulty that one can get access to copies of it, and if members of the two Houses of Parliament desire to have copies of it they have got to buy them, or else they must consult the copy or two which are in the Library. I put it to the Government that a report of this kind ought to be just as easily accessible as any Government publication.

Considering the delicacy of the situation, and the grave character of the international issues involved, considering the arduous nature of any investigation on the spot in so large a territory, and the need for unanimity, the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, who was chosen as Chairman of that Commission, and who was subjected for a period to very severe illness, should, I think, be warmly congratulated on the Report that he has issued. It is comprehensive in the way in which it has marshalled all the relevant facts. It is admirably lucid in style, which is not very usual in reports of this kind, and it is simple and direct in its conclusions. Perhaps I may be allowed to say that I consider that the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, and his colleagues on the Commission have rendered a great public service in the way they have discharged this difficult international duty, which, had it been accomplished with less decision and with less discretion, might have added further confusion to the already vexed question of the Far East.

My Lords, we have this Report, and I should like to say just a very few words on it. I do not intend to keep your Lordships, because it is the other speakers in this debate who will be important. We have a Report showing how Chinese Provinces, the size of France and Germany, have come under Japanese protection and have now, since the Report was issued, become autonomous—a sort of independent nation. It is clear, in going over the incidents in this very remarkable series of acts on the part of the Japanese Government, that there is going to be no solution of this very difficult question by a mere restoration of the status quo ante. Things have gone too far, and the difficulties must now be fully recognised.

There is in Part III of the Report an extremely interesting account of the opinions of the inhabitants of Manchuria, which are very carefully gone into—not only the different interests and the officials and the farm workers, but the different races, Mongols, Manchus and Koreans. The Commission sum up their conclusion in a paragraph which I will read: Such are the opinions of the local population, conveyed to us during our tour in Manchuria. After careful study of the evidence presented to us in public and private interviews, in letters and written statements, we have come to the conclusion that there is no general Chinese support for the 'Manchukuo Government,' which is regarded by the local Chinese as an instrument of the Japanese.

On page 125 there is a paragraph which shows how the Commission were anxious to take in all the relevant conditions, and not to go with a biased opinion and try to prove a case on which they had made up their minds before they had started their work. I think I must ask your Lordships to allow me to read this paragraph, because it sums up the general situation from both sides with, I think, admirable lucidity. The Report says: No foreign Power could develop Manchuria or reap any benefit from an attempt to control it without the good will and whole-hearted co-operation of the Chinese masses which form the bulk of the population, tilling its soil, and supplying the labour for practically every enterprise in the country. Neither will China ever be free from anxiety and danger unless these Northern Provinces cease to afford a battle-ground for the conflicting ambitions of neighbouring Powers. It is as necessary, therefore, for China to satisfy the economic interests of Japan in this territory as for Japan to recognise the unalterably Chinese character of its population. I think that really puts the whole case admirably in a nutshell, and shows that on both sides a new outlook must be adopted if any solution of this problem is to be reached. I only desire to quote one more sentence, where the Commission, towards the end, refer to international interests and the obligation which rests on the League of Nations. They say: Any loss of confidence in the application of the principles of the Covenant and of the Pact of Paris in any part of the world diminishes the value and efficacy of those principles everywhere.

Now this important publication is before the world. It has been reviewed in the Press, but we have not yet had the opinion of His Majesty's Government upon it. The weeks are passing before it will come before the Council of the League of Nations, and it is of very, very great importance in the deliberations at Geneva that a lead should be given by this country in the solution of this very difficult problem. Leadership is wanted. I am not one of those who spend time in laughing at the League of Nations. The League of Nations has come in for a great deal of attack over the Far Eastern problem during the last eighteen months, and no doubt it did not act on occasions with the promptitude that a great many of us would have desired. But, hostilities having broken out, it is really absurd to suppose that you can stop a war as you can turn off a tap. Yet, with all the bad feeling there was, with the double attack that was made in Manchuria and at Shanghai concurrently and the tremendous complications that were involved, although there was fighting, although there was loss of life, although there was a serious combat between the Japanese and the Chinese, a war such as we feared did not ensue, and the parties have been willing to be called to the council table. Whatever may be said about the League of Nations I consider that to be a very great triumph, although it is not spectacular. But the League's work is never going to be spectacular, it is going to be quiet.

The force of the League and the efficacy of the League, however, do depend on leadership, and of late the lack of leadership has been discussed very freely in all the capitals of Europe. And, therefore, I have brought this question forward, because I wanted to ascertain from the Government what their lead is going to be. Your Lordships will have borne in mind the various instruments that govern the actions of the Powers in a question of this sort. We have got the Covenant of the League of Nations—two important clauses—we have got the Pact of Paris, and we have got the paragraph in the Washington Nine-Power Treaty. I will not trouble your Lordships with quoting them. Everybody knows exactly what they mean, and that they are extremely relevant in dealing with a problem of this character. But a great deal will depend on what Great Britain says and what lead is given at Geneva. I want to know to-day whether Sir John Simon has received his brief, and, if so, what that brief is. I am afraid I do not place much confidence in him without any brief.

I feel glad that we have raised the matter in this House first, as, whether we agree with the noble and learned Viscount who will reply for the Government or disagree with him, we always understand what he means, and he makes his meaning perfectly clear. Therefore, it is a good thing that we have raised this matter in your Lordships' House first and avoided the equivocal, ambiguous and elusive statement which would have proceeded from the Prime Minister in another place. I often wonder whether the noble and learned Viscount who leads this House does not sometimes feel a little bit impatient, and would not like to see in these high places colleagues of his own whom he understands and whom he can trust, instead of bogus Labour men and spurious Liberals. But, at any rate, whatever His Majesty's Government say is going to have a very great effect.

Opinion in Japan is moving and I have reason to believe that there is not any very enthusiastic support for these outbursts of Japanese militarist feeling. I believe that, throughout the world, there will be a desire that League of Nations shall assert the new International Law which the League itself represents and, without any violent language, without making any nation put on the white sheet, I feel confident that the Great Powers joining together could solve this question, more especially as they have behind them the backing and the support of a Report by a Commission which has gone into the matter so closely, which has given such careful attention to it, has carried out a prolonged investigation and has laid down the lines upon which the Council of the League can run, if only the representatives of the Powers at the League will start the movement. I believe the League is to consider the question a few weeks hence, and I hope therefore that we may, in the course of this debate, hear from His Majesty's Government what their view of the matters is. I beg to move.


My Lords, I should like to add my word of testimony to that which has already been expressed to the work which has been done on the Lytton Commission by the noble Earl who sits on those Benches. No greater testimony could be given to the value of the League of Nations than the publication of the Lytton Report. So far as I know, in no other way than through the League of Nations, certainly not under the conditions which obtained in the world before the War, would it have been possible to secure an examination of the facts, with the co-operation of both the principal parties, leading to a Report so fair, so accurate and so thorough as that which is under consideration to-day. My own feeling in reading the Report was one of regret that it had not been possible for the League to take cognisance of this dispute two years ago. If that had happened the nations of the world would have been more alert to what was going on in the Far East; the situation would have been far more easy to handle to-day than it is.

I do not propose to discuss in any way the recommendations of the Lytton Report. Their value stands on the face of the document, and we have still to hear the comments both of Japan and of China upon it. But there is an aspect of this dispute which I venture to think is worth bringing before your Lordships' attention to-day before the discussions take place at Geneva—discussions which will be undertaken by the British Government and in which I have perhaps more confidence than has the noble Lord who has just sat down. The Lytton Report raises, as I see it, issues of far greater moment than those which concern Manchuria alone. It raises the whole question of whether the settlement of international disputes by pacific means instead of by war is going to prevail, or whether we are going to drift back into that international anarchy which preceded the War of 1914 and which, if it returns, cannot fail to lead us into a war far more terrible than that from which we have only just emerged.

There are really only two alternatives before us. On the one hand the old system whereby each nation relied upon its own strength to promote its own in- terests and defend itself, a system which inevitably produced competitive armaments, competitive alliances, war and peace settlements which were inherently unstable because they were imposed by force; and, on the other hand, the system whereby international disputes are dealt with as far as possible in the same way as domestic disputes, whereby resort to war is renounced as the primary instrument of national policy, machinery is created for settlement by arbitration, by judicial decision or by the mediation of the rest of the world, and armaments are reduced to defensive levels because nations can rely upon some kind of international action to support them against an aggressor. Those are the two alternatives which stand before the world to-day. The greatest question which underlies the Manchurian dispute is whether in the settlement of it we take a further step towards establishing a sane international system or whether we take a step back towards anarchy and inevitable war.

The second system is embodied not only in the Covenant of the League of Nations and in the Kellogg Pact, but also in the Washington Treaties. Let me recall to your Lordships the facts about the Washington Treaties. The Peace Conference of Paris, at which I was present in an obscure capacity, failed to deal effectively with the Far East. It transferred the ex-German possessions in the Pacific to Japan and to the British Empire—those north of the equator to Japan and those south of the equator to the British Empire, under Mandate. Those Treaties were repudiated by China. The United States failed to ratify them and failed to enter the League. In 1921 what was in effect a new Peace Conference was summoned in Washington to deal with the Pacific, because already the war cloud of 1914 had begun to appear above it. Our principal representative there was, as you all remember, Lord Balfour.

As I see it the Washington Treaties produced a settlement in the Far East based on three fundamental principles. The first is embodied in Article 1 of the Nine-Power Treaty, the essence of which is that: The Contracting Powers, other than China, agree:

  1. (1) To respect the sovereignty, the independence, and the territorial and administrative integrity of China;
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  3. (2) To provide the fullest and most unembarrassed opportunity to China to develop and maintain for herself an effective and stable Government;
  4. (3) To use their influence for the purpose of effectually establishing and maintaining the principle of equal opportunity for the commerce and industry of all nations throughout the territory of China;
  5. (4) To refrain from taking advantage of conditions in China in order to seek special rights or privileges which would abridge the rights of subjects or citizens of the friendly States and from countenancing action inimical to the security of such States."
It was universally agreed that in the word "China" was included Manchuria. As the result of the return of Shantung to China as a result of the provisions in regard to the integrity of China contained in the Article I have just read, a Naval Agreement was arrived at which was in effect a disarmament treaty as it affects the Pacific. The three principal Pacific Powers, the British Empire, the United States and Japan agreed on the one hand that the Anglo-Japanese Alliance, which had been the pillar of peace in the Far East for more than twenty years, should be discontinued, and, on the other hand, to make a limitation of their Navies and to refrain from making fortifications, the effect of which would be that none of those Navies could effectively fight an offensive action against any of the others. That relative disarmament treaty was part and parcel of the arrangement under which the integrity of China was to be respected under the Article that I have already read, and that Treaty was signed not only by the three Powers I have mentioned, but also by Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, and was accepted by them as being a pillar of their security in the Far East.

The third element in the Washington settlement was an agreement to confer in the event of dispute, and the actual terms of the agreement are worth remembering at this time. They are: The High Contracting Parties agree as between themselves to respect their rights in relation to their insular possessions and insular dominions in the region of the Pacific Ocean. If there should develop between any of the High Contracting Parties a controversy arising out of any Pacific question and involving their said rights which is not satisfactorily settled by diplomacy and is likely to affect the harmonious accord now happily subsisting between them, they shall invite the other High Contracting Parties to a joint conference to which the whole subject will be referred for consideration and adjustment. This Article, of course, only reaffirms the more stringent obligations of conference as affecting Japan, ourselves, and the Dominions contained in the Covenant of the League of Nations. They were reaffirmed once more by the Kellogg Pact, and still more by the declarations repeatedly made by Mr. Stimson in recent years that the Kellogg Pact implies consultation in the event of any threat to it appearing, and that it ends the old system of neutrality which had been one of America's main doctrines before the War.

There is, I venture to think, in these fundamental Agreements an extraordinarily powerful weapon for dealing with this old question if they are wisely and firmly handled, for unless the situation is wisely and firmly handled two things, as I see it, must happen. In the first place, there will be the certainty of chaos and war in the Far East for a long period of time. The war temper in Japan is rising, and many of Japan's best friends are wondering whether, in the very formidable difficulties which confront her, she may not turn aside from that temperate and sagacious policy which has raised her from mediævalism to the position of a first-class Power in less than a generation. But the war temper is also rising in China, a great country, which will sooner or later get upon its feet, and in which the younger generation may turn aside from the endeavour to make a constitutional government on western lines into preparing themselves for a policy of revenge and war. Unless the canker of Manchuria is cut out, in the next few years it may affect the whole body politic of the Far East, and if that happens it will not stop there. It will inevitably lead to the tearing up of the whole of the Washington settlement, which I have just described, with incalculable consequences for the whole world, for not only would the signatories of those Treaties be involved but Russia also. Once those Treaties are torn up, once the limitation of naval armaments is abandoned, what is going to happen to disarmament, what is going to happen to the Kellogg Pact and the Covenant of the League, and what is going to be the position of those outlying portions of the British Empire which are situated in the Pacific?

I hope, in fact I am sure, that the Government realises the gravity of the issues which underlie the Manchurian question. As I have said, I am not going to venture any suggestions as to how they should grapple with it, except once more to say that it requires both wisdom and firmness, wisdom in recognising the tremendous difficulties which confront both China and Japan, and wisdom in not inflaming an already dangerous public opinion in the Far East to reckless action; firmness in never losing sight of the central fact that only by insisting on the principles of the Washington Treaties which I have described and of the procedure of the Covenant of the League of Nations and the Kellogg Pact will it be possible to arrive at a just, a lasting and a peaceful settlement. I venture to repeat what I said at the beginning, that what is fundamentally at stake is not merely the question of Manchuria, but whether the system of settling international disputes by pacific means and not by war, as embodied in the Covenant and the Kellogg Pact, is to rise to greater authority and strength, or is to give place to a renewal of international anarchy and war.


My Lords, I think every speaker in this debate must unite in paying a common tribute to the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, and his colleagues for the work they have done in producing this Report. It is a Report which is distinguished by two characteristics: partly by its realistic handling of practical detail and partly by the sensitive manner in which it has met the feelings of two great Powers. I should like to refer for a moment to something that the Leader of the Opposition, the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, has said with regard to this Commission. I wish the noble Lord opposite could have omitted some of those angular Party references which fell from his lips, as they so often do, but I none the less feel glad that he did strike a note of hopefulness about this new experiment in world government which is represented by this International Commission on the Far East. In 1914 a spark in the Near East led to a conflagration in the whole world in a very few weeks. In 1931 a spark in the Far East did not lead to a, world conflagration, and we have had the remarkable experiment in world government which is represented by a Commission of Inquiry into the behaviour of two Powers being sent to the respective countries and received there with their consent. That seems to me to be quite one of the most hopeful events that have happened in our life time. It is the beginning of international government in practice.

I wondered when I was listening to the noble Marquess who has just sat down whether it was really worth my while to get up and speak, because what he has said, and said so very ably, I think must be held in common sentiment by almost every member of this House. But just because it is a common sentiment it is worth while members of all groups in this House underlining that common sentiment. I doubt whether it is possible for His Majesty's Government to make any pronouncement upon the findings of the Lytton Commission in advance of the meeting of the Assembly of the League of Nations. That would seem to be a very difficult procedure when an Assembly has been called to pronounce judgment. But there is one aspect of the Lytton Report that I want to bring to the attention of the noble and learned Viscount before he replies. It is the one that has been mentioned in the last speech to which we have listened. I want to strengthen that speech, if I may, by asking the noble Viscount whether it is not possible even now for His Majesty's Government to make one unqualified pronouncement with regard to this question. That pronouncement is that, without dealing with the details of the Lytton Report, they wish to make it perfectly clear before attending the League Assembly that they will not be content with any agreement on this question which does not reaffirm the intention of all the Powers to respect in future the international obligations into which they enter. That surely is a statement which could be made now, which could be made clearly, and which could be made in advance of the meeting of the League Assembly.

I venture to ask for that statement to be made now because I think it is legitimate to say that the troubles which face us in Manchuria to-day may be partly attributable to lack of clarity of policy in the earlier stages of that dispute. I think it is possible to say that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs struggled, and struggled ably, to bring some solution out of chaos last November and December. But I do believe—and I think a great section of public opinion now believes—that had British policy been made clear with regard to international obligations, Japan might not have felt it possible to go as far as she did in the difficulties that were made on that occasion. When America made her pronouncement on non-recognition an immediately good result came about. I think it ought to be conceded that the confusion of policy was partly attributable to America and had a direct consequence in the delay of that statement. But when at last America took a lead and pronounced without qualification that she would accept no alteration of the status quo which was arrived at other than according to the international obligations of the Powers, the position was immediately lightened and some kind of public action was taken by the League.

As one who supports His Majesty's Government and believes in His Majesty's Government, I want to make this clear. We have acted for many months as arbitrators and conciliators between Powers who have differed profoundly one from the other. You can carry the process of mediation and conciliation too far. It is necessary that this country should make a pronouncement of leadership as well as give its attention to the art of mediation and the art of conciliation. It is particularly necessary that His Majesty's Government should make clear to the world where we stand with regard to international security. If we make clear, both with regard to this dispute in the Far East and with regard to disarmament in general, where we stand, we shall be doing good in two respects. There is, first, the question of America, who would become more closely allied with us in sentiment if we pronounced our adherence to her attitude of non-recognition. Then there is the question of France, whose policy is largely determined and largely disturbed by her need to know where the world is going to stand on the question of security.

Surely, then, some pronouncement from His Majesty's Government is called for both from the point of view of America and from the point of view of France, and no less also from the point of view of leading the world before the Manchurian dispute comes before the League Assembly. Therefore, I venture to think that the Government, though they may feel that it is impossible to commit themselves on the details of the Lytton Report, should not hesitate now to make a public statement indicating where this country stands on that question which is the most difficult and the most important—the question of world security, world respect for international obligations, and the means by which we intend to implement those obligations.


My Lords, I do not desire to stand between your Lordships and other speakers to whom you would much rather listen, for more than a few moments, but since it was my fortune to be concerned with this question a good deal in the earlier stages of the dispute, I should like to say one or two words. In the first place, I join with other noble Lords in expressing the deep debt of gratitude which we all owe to the Commission over which my noble friend the Earl of Lytton presided and to the noble Earl himself for the really very remarkable document which they have produced. I have heard it described as one of the ablest, if not the ablest, State Paper we have seen in our lifetime. I do not think that praise is excessive. Quite apart from its merits the fact of the Report being made at all seems to me to be an event of the utmost international importance.

I do not recall myself any precedent for anything of this kind ever having been done before. In the middle of a very serious dispute between two of the greatest Powers in the world both agreed to the appointment of an International Commission drawn from five different nations, the members being selected entirely for the reputation and position which each of them hold in their own country as men of impartiality and experience. That they should be appointed and should succeed in producing an absolutely dispassionate account of the whole of the facts of the dispute without passing any judgment on either party, merely laying the facts before the world and concluding with certain suggestions as to a possible settlement, is, to use a very hackneyed expression but one which in this case is literally true, an epoch-making event.

Of all the merits of that Report probably not the least is that it was unanimous. That roust have been due to the very great tact and judgment with which the Commission's deliberations were conducted. Of course, it gains prodigiously in authority and effect by the fact that all five members were agreed absolutely on the terms in which it was made. In that connection, and in connection with the authority which it ought to have in the world, it is worth recalling that the Commission was actually appointed at the suggestion of Japan. The appointment was assented to by all the other Powers represented on the Council of the League, but at any rate in the first stage it was the suggestion of the Japanese that the Commission should be appointed. They, therefore, in a sense appealed to this method of inquiry, and that is a matter which I think is of very great importance in estimating the authority of the Report.

I agree with what has fallen from my noble friend who has just sat down, that it would not be reasonable to expect a detailed statement of policy from His Majesty's Government at this stage. After ail, they will be represented on the Council of the League, they will have to consider the Report and the observations made upon it by Japan—which we understand are to be very elaborate—and no doubt observations made by China and by others. They will naturally desire to keep themselves free to give any opinion which they think on those facts ought to be given. At the same time, I also very strongly agree with what was said by my noble friend that it is of the utmost importance that the British Government should make it clear as early as they possibly can that they are determined to stand by the authority of the League of Nations in this matter, and to do their utmost to support this Report which has been made for the League, assuming it receives, as I have no doubt it will receive, the approval of the Members of the Council of the. League.

This question, as my noble friend Lord Lothian pointed out, is not only a question of Manchuria. That in itself is a tremendously serious question—this enormous territory disputed over more or less three of the greatest Powers in the world, a possible source of controversy and difficulty and dispute, and even worse than dispute, which might involve the whole of Asia and probably the world. It is in itself a matter of great importance and it is particularly of importance to us in this country because, as has been often observed, we are the greatest Asiatic Power in the world and this is a question which affects the well-being of the whole of Asia and in which the whole of Asia is profoundly interested. But that is not all. It affects very closely America, as we all know, and it necessarily affects our relations with that great country. It is a matter of the utmost possible importance that our policy should be so conducted as to win the support and approval of the Government of that country. Therefore there are enormous issues involved in this question, issues local and general, besides the great fundamental issue to which the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, has alluded—the question whether the world is going to make an effort to settle these great matters by some other arbitrament than that of fighting; and that depends entirely, as far as I can see, on the earnest and effective support which the Government of this and other countries will give to the instrument of the League of Nations.


My Lords, I am very grateful to my noble friend Viscount Cecil and the other noble Lords who have preceded me in this discussion, for the all too generous terms in which they have referred to the work in which I have recently been engaged, and I am sure it will give to my colleagues on the Commission as much satisfaction as it has given to me when they learn that their work, for it was as much theirs as mine, has received approval in such authoritative quarters. When I first saw the terms of the Motion I thought that the noble Lord must have found some difficulty in choosing relevant ground for bringing this subject of Far Eastern controversy before your Lordships' House. The noble Lord's Question begins by asking His Majesty's Government to press for an early consideration by the League of Nations of this Manchurian problem and then it goes on to press His Majesty's Government to disclose the policy which they intend to adopt towards it. I thought the first part of this Question was unnecessary because in a fortnight from now there will be a discussion of the matter at Geneva, without any pressure from His Majesty's Government; and the second part of the Question seems to be unlikely of fulfilment because in the circumstances of the moment it is improbable that His Majesty's Government will be able to make a definite pronouncement of their policy.

As the noble Lord must be aware, the representatives of the various Governments go to Geneva as delegates and not as agents. Nothing can be done effectively by the League unless unanimity is secured and it would be impossible to secure unanimity if all the countries that sent delegates to Geneva were to commit themselves in advance by definite statements of policy. Obviously it is desirable that they should know when they go what they desire to achieve, but it would be only embarrassing if, before hearing what other countries may say, they committed themselves to a definite line of action. But if the object of the noble Lord was to call the attention of your Lordships to the urgency of this matter and to point out the danger of further delay, then I should like to give him my wholehearted support. As he pointed out, it is now more than a year since the conflict broke out and, as the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, has rightly reminded us, before the outbreak itself the situation had been developing for years, and it is now high time that the League of Nations should at any rate come to grips with it. The discussion of the matter should begin. It would be a matter of the utmost danger if the situation in Manchuria were allowed to drift any longer. I am grateful to the noble Lord for bringing up this matter since it affords me an opportunity of saying a very few words about the Report of my Commission and about the situation in which it has been published.

The first thing I should like to say about the Report is that, although it is associated with my name, any value which it may have is due to the fact that it is an international document. In addition to the five Commissioners, who were drawn from five different countries, we were assisted in our work by experts drawn from France, the United States, Holland and Canada, and since our conclusions were unanimous this Report may be regarded as the joint work of the nationals of at least seven different countries. I think the Report gains in value when we remember that it is the work of the nationals of many different countries. I would like to say secondly that we did not regard ourselves as a judicial authority, but rather as explorers in the fields of peace. It is quite true we had to investigate a series of very complicated facts and to endeavour to find out the truth, but much more important than seeking after the truth of these facts was our effort to find, if we could, what were the conditions that would ensure peace in the future. Although the members of the Commission had been selected by five different Governments, we did not represent our respective Governments, but we one and all felt ourselves to be representatives of the League of Nations by which we were appointed, and as both the disputants in this controversy were themselves Members of the League, and in fact Members of the Council, we sought to find out in what way the League could be helpful to each of them. At the time of our appointment the Governments of both China and Japan undertook at the Council to afford every facility for the work of the Commission, and I should like, therefore, to take this opportunity to state publicly that that undertaking was loyally and thoroughly carried out by both the Governments. We received from both of them very valuable help.

The next thing which I would like to say about this Report is that our proposals were meant to be suggestive rather than categorical. The League has still got to come to its own conclusion, both upon the findings of the Commission, which referred to the past, and upon its suggestions, which referred to the future. In some quarters the suggestions have been criticised as being vague and possibly idealistic. My Lords, if they were vague they were purposely so. It would have been quite possible for the Commission to have entered into much more detailed recommendations. At one time we had thought of doing so, but we came to the conclusion that if we adopted that course we should be running the risk of arousing controversy upon comparatively unimportant matters of detail, and possibly avoiding the concentration of attention upon the more important questions of principle. There were two main ques- tions of principle which we kept before us throughout. One was that any solution of this controversy must be in conformity with the principle of collective responsibility for the maintenance of peace, to which my noble friend Lord Lothian has referred. The second was that it must be consistent with existing international treaties, a matter also mentioned by Lord Lothian; and our objection to the Japanese solution, in so far as we did object to it, was not so much to its objects, or the intentions of the Japanese Government, but rather to the methods by which they had thought to accomplish them. We have tried to indicate how, by different methods, the same objects may be achieved in conformity with the two principles which I have mentioned.

One word now with regard to the situation which this Report has created. I would like to support, as strongly as possible, everything which Lord Lothian has said about the gravity of the issues and the importance of handling wisely the delicate situation which confronts the League. In this controversy, as in others, it is inevitable that there should be partisanship, and the partisans on each side have looked to our Report to see in what way it strengthens their case. If I may judge by newspaper comments, I am happy to think that both sides have found something in the Report to support their standpoint. That should be an indication of the impartial attitude taken up by the Commissioners, for this very delicate, difficult and complicated question is not one which is going to be settled by partisanship. We were ourselves in no way pro-Japanese or pro-Chinese. If we were "pro" anything we were pro-League. In both countries that we visited we made many good friends, and it is our wish to retain them all. The reason why I say we were pro-League is that we thought that the League of Nations alone could enable these friends of ours in both countries to be reconciled with each other.

It is, of course, extremely difficult for individual countries, as it is for individual persons, to discuss a matter of this sort in an entirely impartial manner, because every country has its traditional prejudices and traditional interests, which modify its opinions; but the League has the advantage that it embraces all the countries which are members of it, and in consequence has developed a technique of conciliation which is a new thing in international politics. Therefore, what may seem difficult, and what may seem actually impossible for us, or for the two countries alone if left unaided, is not impossible for the League to accomplish. I suggest, therefore, that the greatest hope of success at this moment lies in giving a free hand to the League, and in maintaining our confidence in its ability to carry out the work which confronts it. I hope, therefore, that the noble Lord who has brought this matter forward will not be disappointed if he does not elicit a very definite pronouncement from the Government on the subject. It is a very delicate situation, in which it is much easier to do harm by saying too much than by saying too little.

I would like to conclude by making a personal appeal for sympathy to the right hon gentleman who is our Foreign Minister. We have both given our names to a Report. The right hon gentleman knows the difficulty. He knows what it means to give the whole of your mind to a difficult and complicated problem. In our case it was a work of eight months. In his case his work occupied a period of two years. The right hon gentleman knows, too, all the difficulty of obtaining unanimity among your colleagues—almost as great as the difficulty of solving the problem in hand. He, too, has had the problem of achieving that result and presenting to the world a unanimous Report. He, unfortunately, also knows the disappointment of finding that work rendered fruitless by exasperating delays, and dissension among those to whom the Report is made. In the early stages we had a common experience, but I hope the analogy will not also be complete in the last stage. Whether it is or not is very largely in the right hon gentleman's own hands. He has all the qualifications required to bring this matter to a successful issue. He is one of the greatest living advocates, and the noble Lord who brought this matter forward has asked whether he has received his brief. I should like to think that the right hon gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs would accept our Report as his brief, but I am confident that, if he would do that, he would very much improve on our work, and he would convert our tentative suggestions into a very significant achievement in the cause of peace.


My Lords, my first words must be to add my own congratulations and those of His Majesty's Government to the authors of the Report for the very remarkable document which has been the subject of discussion in your Lordships' House this afternoon. It is no empty compliment when I say how great the achievement is, and how sincerely we admire the work which their labours have brought about. I think, too, that it must be a matter of satisfaction to the country that it should have provided the Chairman of this Commission, and we in your Lordships' House may take a particular pride to ourselves that one of our own number should have been the person principally responsible for the work of the Commission.

I say that with the more sincerity because it so happens that some three years ago it was my lot to go to the Far East and in Tokyo to preside over certain discussions in which some of the most prominent statesmen in Japan and in China were jointly concerned, as well as the representatives of various parts of the British Empire, in which this whole problem of Manchuria was threshed out between the contending parties. And, although that does not enable me to reach a solution of the problem, at any rate it does, I think, enable me perhaps more completely to appreciate the difficulties which the problem presents, and also how very much there is to be said in favour of the case of each side. The noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, pointed out what I had intended to call attention to—namely, that not the least part of the merit of this Report is the fact that it should be unreservedly a unanimous Report. That representatives of a number of different great nations should all have agreed in finding the facts and in making the recommendations must, as my noble friend said, add enormously to its value and to its authority; and that, at least, is a matter for which the Chairman does deserve a special share of praise.

The Report, as has been said, skilfully elucidates the facts of a very complicated situation, and it does not rest content with stating those facts in the very clearest language, but it goes on constructively to propose a solution of the difficulties that have arisen between China and Japan in Manchuria. No one who reads the Report can fail to be conscious that every effort has been made to be fair to both sides and to take fully into account the point of view of both countries. As regards the pro-posed solution, the Commission have attempted the difficult, but I hope not impossible, task of inaugurating between those two great nations, with each of which we desire to remain—we hope we always shall remain—on the most friendly terms, a new era of harmonious relations within the framework of the obligations which they share with other Members of the League of Nations. The noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition was good enough to pay me a compliment and to suggest that I could generally make my meaning plain. My gratitude was a little tempered when I noticed that he seemed more anxious to use that compliment to make an attack on some of my colleagues than merely to offer a bouquet to myself. I would only like to say with regard to those colleagues, that they are statesmen with whom I have found myself more than once in acute controversy in the past, but as the result of twelve months of co-operation, I find that they are men of both of whom I can say that I have learned to esteem and to trust them.

But the noble Lord said that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs would no doubt have to speak from his brief. The noble Lord will realise that I in this House, speaking for a Department which I do not represent, am obliged to speak from a brief, and that it would be very unwise, as I am sure he would himself acknowledge, and indeed improper for me to go outside the four corners of my brief, and to venture on statements of policy for which I have no express authority from my colleague the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. Quite obviously, any attempt to do anything of that kind might seriously embarrass the Government, and might defeat the very object which the noble Lord, I am sure, has in mind equally with myself; that is, of arriving at a satisfactory solution of the difficulties of the Manchurian problem.

The Report is one that has been made, not to His Majesty's Government, but to the Council of the League of Nations. That incidentally affords the explanation of any difficulty that the noble Lord has experienced in obtaining copies of the Report. I am sure that His Majesty's Government share the noble Lord's anxiety that the Report should be widely studied, but it is a document which is not published by the Government, which is published by the League of Nations itself, for which organisation there is a special department at Geneva, with authorised agents in London. And your Lordships will all realise that to purchase any large number of copies of this document, which contains incidentally no fewer than fourteen maps, and to circulate them gratis among members of Parliament of the two Houses, would involve an expenditure which I do not think would be justified in the present state of the public finances. But we have, I think, already placed copies of the Report in the Library of each House, and naturally if there be any difficulty in obtaining copies, we shall be most anxious to facilitate the furnishing of them as far as possible.

The noble Lord asked me whether we intend "to press for the early consideration by the League of Nations of the Report of the Commission of Inquiry in Manchuria presided over by Lord Lytton." The answer, I think, has been given by my noble friend Lord Lytton already. It is not necessary for us to press for the early consideration of that Report, because at the last meeting of the Council of the League of Nations the 14th of November, which is now twelve days off, was fixed by the Council as the date for taking this matter into their consideration. The date was chosen, as your Lordships may be aware, as being the earliest possible date, having regard to the desirability of affording an opportunity to the Governments immediately concerned to prepare and to submit their comments upon the Report. Your Lordships will remember that the Report itself was published only a very few weeks ago. Tokyo and Nanking are both a long way from Geneva and I do not think that there was anything unreasonable in the request which was put forward that an opportunity should be furnished to the two Governments to consider this document and, in the light of this document, to prepare comments for submission to the Council at Geneva. That fact, that the matter is to be considered by the Council in twelve days' time, as some of your Lordships have already anticipated in the speeches which have been delivered, is real1y the only answer that I can give to the noble Lord.

With regard to the second part of the noble Lord's Question: "What is the attitude of the Government to the findings of this Commission?" I may say that we shall be present at the meeting of the Council of the League. We shall hear there the comments and criticisms which the Governments of China and of Japan may respectively put forward. We shall engage, I hope, in perfectly frank discussion with the other Members of the Council upon the facts as found in this document, upon the suggested solutions which this document contains, and upon the observations which China and Japan may see fit to furnish both on the facts and on the solution. I am not, of course, suggesting that before the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs goes to Geneva he will not have had the opportunity of discussing this document with the Cabinet, and of forming certain preliminary and tentative views as to the course which may seem to us the most promising for adoption by the Council as a whole; but I should like to say quite definitely that our object when we go to Geneva will not he so much to make some dramatic move which will focus attention upon our leadership and initiative; our aim rather will be, not to have a separate policy of our own, but to unite with the other Powers in finding a single policy which may fairly be described as the policy of the League itself. In attempting to ascertain that policy it will be our object especially to persuade the two Governments of China and Japan to associate themselves with the policy which is so ascertained.

I am the more anxious not to make any statement which might seem to commit His Majesty's Government to any point of view upon this Report or upon the merits of the dispute which gave rise to the Report, because I am myself very deeply conscious of the truth of what the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, said, that underlying this Manchurian dispute are issues far graver than the mere difference of opinion or the mere clash between the two nations whose interests are immediately involved. There may well arise out of this dispute issues which will test the whole foundations of the League. There may even arise issues which, if unwisely handled, might throw civilisation back towards the welter of the old methods of forcible determination of disputes from which we hoped we had permanently emerged after the terrible experiences of the Great War. I think it would be unwise and unfair to our fellow Members of the League of Nations if we were to do anything which could in any way prejudice our usefulness when it comes to discussion of this delicate and difficult problem at Geneva in less than a fortnight's time. For these reasons, as I think has already been stated by my right hon friend the Foreign Secretary in another place, until the Report has been considered by the Council of the League of Nations it is not desirable that His Majesty's Government should define their attitude either towards the Report as a whole or towards particular proposals contained in the Report.

The noble Lord who sits behind me, although he rather anticipated and I think agreed with the attitude which His Majesty's Government have instructed me to adopt as to pronouncing upon their policy with regard to the Report, suggested that none the less this might be a suitable opportunity to make a pronouncement upon the bigger issues which he rightly saw might be bound up in the consideration of the Report. With regard to that matter I would only say that it is not from any lack of appreciation of the importance and the magnitude of the issues involved, but rather because I do appreciate their importance and their magnitude, that I do not think I should be justified in accepting his invitation and in making any statement which had not been previously considered and prepared by those who are immediately charged with the conduct of our foreign affairs, upon whose shoulders would fall the more immediate results of any mistaken language which I might use and who might find themselves embarrassed by anything which could be interpreted as a pledge or as a commitment to which they had not given their previous consent.

I am sorry if the noble Lord may feel disappointed that I have not been able to give him a more definite answer, but I do hope that my failure to do so will not be interpreted as any lack of courtesy to him or of desire to give to this House the fullest information in our possession. It arises not from a failure to appreciate how important these issues are, but from a feeling that their importance is so tremendous that they ought to be dealt with at the proper time and place and without any embarassment which might be created by a previous statement as to any preliminary view about their merits. I hope that this very interesting debate, which has produced some very weighty statements from all sides of the House, will at least indicate to our own public and to the world at large that this country is not oblivious of the responsibility which rests upon us and upon other Members of the League, and that we are not ungrateful to one of our own fellow citizens for the labours which he has devoted to this international task.


My Lords, it is because I think this debate has effected the purpose which the noble and learned Viscount expressed in the last sentence of his speech that I feel justified in having put the Question down and gratified at the result. However clumsy and imperfect the wording of my Question may have been, I did feel that it was important that some sort of pronouncement from noble Lords interested in the question should be given before the date of the discussion of this matter at Geneva. I think that the half-dozen speeches which have been delivered this afternoon are of importance because they will show anyhow that there are men like the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, who has a great international reputation, who do consider that this bit of work has been well done, and I am amply repaid by the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, himself suggesting that the Foreign Secretary's brief when he goes to Geneva should be this Report itself. I beg to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

House adjourned at ten minutes before six o'clock.