§ LORD ARNOLD had given Notice that he would call attention to British foreign policy and to the need for a change therein which will bring it more into accord with the realities of the existing situation; and move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, despite many debates on foreign affairs, both in your Lordships' House and in another place, and despite numerous speeches by the Foreign Secretary, there is still considerable doubt, especially on the Continent, about what our foreign policy is, and it is certain that in some vital respects it is not in accord with the realities of the situation. It is true that the Government's policy purports to be based upon the League of Nations, but for practical purposes that means very little. Apart from League enthusiasts very few people now have much faith in the League. When a country states that it will be faithful to the obligations of the League it is well known that that means 292 little or nothing. It is a phrase. Not a little of British foreign policy to-day appears to be based on phrases instead of on realities.
§ His Majesty's Government continue to do lip service to the League and to the Covenant, and did so until recently to collective security, but in fact their policy is not based on collective security and it cannot be based on collective security because there is no collective security. That is merely another phrase. I think the two things which are certain about collective security are that it is not collective and that it is not security. Let me in one or two sentences remind your Lordships of the position. Of the seven great nations of the world, three—the United States, Germany and Japan—are definitely outside the League of Nations. Italy, though still a Member, cannot be counted upon to function as a League partner. Signor Mussolini has said that he does not mind whether the League goes on or not. Russia came into the League for her own purposes, and if in any war Russia was an ally on one side Japan would without doubt come in on the other side, which would counter-balance any help that might come from Russia. For practical purposes, then, the League consists of France and Great Britain, and such being the case it is make-believe to talk about collective security.
§ Indeed, in an important speech delivered by Mr. Eden towards the end of November last, when he defined British foreign policy, he moved far away from the doctrine of collective security. He stated the purposes for which British armaments would be used. He said they would never be used for any purpose inconsistent with the League of Nations or the Treaty of Paris. They would be used in our own defence and in defence of the territory of the British Commonwealth of Nations. They would be used in the case of unprovoked aggression against France and Belgium. Those, he said, together with our Treaty of Alliance with Iraq and our Treaty with Egypt, are our definite obligations. He continued that British arms may be used in bringing help to a victim of aggression in any case where in our judgment it would be proper to do so under the provisions of the Covenant. Mr. Eden explained that he said "may be used" because in this latter case there was no 293 automatic obligation to take military action. He said it was, moreover, right that this should be so, for nations cannot he expected to incur automatic military obligations save for areas where their vital interests are concerned. Whatever else may be said about that statement of the Foreign Secretary it is far removed from collective security.
§ Moreover, our commitment in regard to France and Belgium is not so clear as some people seem to think, because uncertainties lie in the words "unprovoked aggression," more particularly in view of the Franco-Soviet Pact. One of the paramount needs of the present time is to clear doubts which exist in regard to Great Britain's position if France went to war because of her obligations under the Franco-Soviet Pact, and also in regard to Great Britain's position if some other war began in Eastern Europe. If war broke out between Russia and Germany, and because of the Franco-Soviet Pact it spread to France, the Foreign Secretary would have great difficulty in contending that such hostilities constituted "unprovoked aggression" against France. In the event of war between Russia and Germany that war need not, but for the ill-starred Franco-Soviet Pact, spread to France. It is certain that in the case of any war arising out of the Franco-Soviet Pact it would be impossible to get that national unity in Great Britain without which no Government could engage this country in war on the Continent. Beyond dispute Great Britain would not be sufficiently united to be dragged into a war on account of Russia or into any area of hostilities in Eastern Europe.
§ There is another great danger to be taken into account. It is, as the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, pointed out in a powerful speech in your Lordships' House in November, that if the Franco-Soviet Pact remains in being Germany, deeming herself encircled and faced with dangers East and West, may, under the advice of her military staff, feel compelled to attack first in the West. Thus it might come about that, under our commitments to France, Great Britain would be brought into a war with Germany, although we have no real quarrel with Germany and although there would be no real danger to our security except what we have brought upon ourselves by entangling ourselves with France, and 294 through France with Soviet Russia. I repeat that we might be dragged into war if Germany, because of the Franco-Soviet Pact, felt she must attack in the West. The whole prospect is so appalling that it ought to be faced and the real dangers ought to be taken to heart. This is one of the realities of the situation, and yet the British people are for the most part unmindful or unaware of the danger in which they stand.
§ The danger is all the greater because this country will be deeply divided about Great Britain taking part in any future war on the Continent. So far as this country is concerned it will be impossible for any British Government to embark on war on the Continent unless they have behind them in support of the war the overwhelming mass of the British people. When I say "overwhelming mass" I mean at least 90 per cent. I suppose that the late War was supported by 98 or 99 per cent. of British people, but the people have learned a lot since then. Moreover, overwhelming national support must not only be available for the beginning of the war but for the prosecution of the war through perhaps a long time. What prospect is there that 90 per cent. of the people of Great Britain would support a war involving Russia brought about by the Franco-Soviet Pact, or that 90 per cent. of the people of Great Britain would support any war in Eastern Europe? I have listened to every debate on foreign affairs in your Lordships' House in recent years, and it is obvious so far as Russia is concerned that practically the whole of the Conservative Party would be opposed to Great Britain fighting for Russia in any circumstances, and for my part I think they are quite right.
§ Then again, no united British support could be got for a war on behalf of Czechoslovakia. A recent article in The Times dealing with the position of Czechoslovakia quoted the Czechoslovakian Foreign Minister's declared conviction that "England would not hesitate to help Czechoslovakia if she were fallen upon." As a matter of fact, the great majority of the British people do not know where Czechoslovakia is, or what it is, and there is no likelihood that 90 per cent. of the people of this country could be got to support a war for Czechoslovakia.295
§ Now let me come back to the West. So far as France and Belgium are concerned it can no doubt be said that, in pledging British support in the event of unprovoked aggression, the Foreign Secretary was doing no more than restate our obligations under the Locarno Treaty of 1925. But surely, there is much more to be said about the matter than that. Consider the position. The Locarno Treaty was entered into for two purposes: first, to bring Germany into the League of Nations; and secondly, to facilitate disarmament. To-day Germany has gone out of the League of Nations; she has been out for some years; and there has been no disarmament. On the contrary, France paid no attention to the obligations she had undertaken under the Protocol of Locarno about disarmament, but actually increased her armaments, and did so long before Germany left the Disarmament Conference. Furthermore, Italy, which was one of the principal signatories of Locarno, cannot, particularly in view of her rapprochement with Germany, be counted upon to fulfil her obligations under the Treaty. In fact, as regards a new Locarno she has not even replied to the communications regarding it sent by Great Britain in November last—I think there were in fact two: one in November and one in December. She has not replied. Moreover, Italy was not a party to the provisional agreement of last March.
§ As for Belgium, her declaration, made by the King of the Belgians last October, has fundamentally altered the whole position in Western Europe. Belgium in this historic declaration stated that in future her policy must be exclusively and entirely Belgian and that it aimed resolutely at placing Belgium outside any dispute of any of her neighbours. Now that declaration has obviously changed the whole situation and outlook in Western Europe. This is, indeed, one of the most important realities in the present situation, and yet Mr. Eden said practically nothing about it in his review of the European situation made shortly after the Belgian declaration. He only said one sentence about Belgium and that gave the impression that nothing particular had happened.
Let me, on the other hand, call attention to the words of M. van Zeeland in
a speech which he made in the Belgian Chamber about Belgium's new policy. While confirming the agreements reached in London last March, he said that they were of a provisional nature and should be replaced by others; and he added these vitally important words, which I ask your Lordships to mark very carefully:
We no longer intend to give to France and Germany the guarantee which was included in the Locarno Agreements of 1925 and which was at the time necessary and justifiable, but which to-day would be ineffective, dangerous and unjustifiable.
It therefore seems plain, my Lords, that there is limited value, because temporary value, in Belgium's confirmation of the provisional agreement of last March, and that there are no prospects of a new Locarno materialising on the lines of the old Locarno. The long-deferred Belgian reply to the British note of November 18 has at last been received. According to the Brussels correspondent of The Times, the reply reiterates Belgium's intention to remain independent and says that she would not join a pact that would make her a guarantor Power. Her present position, according to The Times, is an affirmation of absolute independence and of freedom to act in all circumstances according to her own interests. This statement in The Times about the Belgian reply is no doubt substantially correct, because it fits in with the previous declarations of the King of the Belgians and of M. van Zeeland.
§ I repeat, my Lords, that all the Powers, except France and Great Britain, have now more or less repudiated the old Locarno, and even if that Treaty is held to be in force de jure, it is not in force de facto. Now when all these circumstances are combined with Mr. Eden's definite pledges to France and with the reciprocal speech of the French Foreign Minister pledging military help to Great Britain, it is manifest that the Government have in effect committed this country to a Franco-British military alliance. That is a commitment about which the British people have never been consulted, and I do not think there is a majority in Great Britain for any such policy; a policy which, by the by, is inconsistent with the principles of the League of Nations, which the Government purport to support. Actually the position is worse than I have indicated, because France is also, through the Franco-Soviet 297 Pact, allied to Russia, and to that extent Great Britain may be held to have a commitment on account of Russia. Therefore it may work out, in the event of a war arising out of the Franco-Soviet Pact, that Great Britain would be expected to become a party to a tripartite alliance of France, Russia and England. In short, we may be faced with our pre-War commitments all over again.
§ There is certainly not a 90 per cent. majority in this country for any such commitment or policy, and there is no such majority for fighting again for France. Leaving Russia out of the question altogether, surely the Government must know that it would be very difficult to get Great Britain to fight for France again in any circumstances. It is rarely that I come across a single man who is willing to fight for France again, and others have told me that they have Lad the same experience.. Moreover, it is quite possible that before the next war comes—if it does come—France will have become either Fascist or Communist. In either event, whether she goes Fascist or Communist, public opinion in this country would be so gravely divided about France that it would be out of the question to think of going to war in her support. I wonder whether these grave considerations were taken into account when we recently renewed our pledge to France.
§ I submit that it becomes more and more clear that the whole policy of commitments on the Continent, even to France, is wrong and that all such commitments ought to be brought to an end, and I urge that due notice should be given to that effect. We ought, I contend, to do what Belgium has done and declare that in future our policy is to place ourselves outside any disputes of our neighbours. Almost since the beginning of the century the foreign policy of this country has been based on what has been, in effect, an alliance with France, and nothing but trouble and disaster have ever come from that policy. Just as nothing succeeds like success, so nothing fails like failure, and this policy has been a failure. It was the French alliance with Russia which was largely responsible for the Great War, and since that War, into which we were dragged, the condition of Europe has been going from bad to worse. The League of Nations, which was supposed to be the great 298 achievement of the Peace Treaty, has been dominated by France, with Great Britain again and again weakly following in the wake of France. It is generally agreed, I think, that the policy of France, which unhappily Great Britain largely supported, of trying to keep Germany down under the unjust clauses of the Treaty of Versailles, led to the rise of Herr Hitler. If wiser counsels had prevailed, Germany would not be the totalitarian State which she has become to-day.
§ It is largely French policy which has dominated Europe for the last eighteen years, and the prospect in Europe could scarcely be worse than it is to-day. Surely, then, it is right to ask what advantage has come to Great Britain from this policy of commitments to France and other Continental entanglements. Certainly not security, because the country has rarely felt more insecure than it does to-day. The time has come in my submission, and is indeed overdue, when Great Britain ought to withdraw from these interminable and insoluble quarrels and feuds on the Continent. We ought to get out and keep out. Not only ought we to do that in our own interests, but we ought to do it in the interests of Europe. I believe it would be a factor making for peace if we withdrew from Europe and were, so to speak, no longer in the market. So long as we are available as a Power to be bid for or allied with, various countries, and particularly France, take up an attitude which makes difficult a peaceful settlement of the problems of Europe. If it had not been that France has had Great Britain behind her she would have adopted an entirely different attitude towards Germany in the years following the Great War, and as a result Europe would not be in the dreadful condition which obtains to-day.
Let me also allude to a recent article on Czechoslovakia in The Times. That article makes it clear that Czechoslovakia is relying on help from Great Britain and other European Powers if attacked; but this article from the Central European Correspondent of The Times states:
that is Czechoslovakia—
knew for certain that she would be left alone in such an event, she would make terms with Germany.
That tends to confirm the argument I am putting that there will be more hope
of peace in Europe if Great Britain withdraws from the Continent. Moreover, if Great Britain is freed from her European commitments and entanglements she will, I maintain, be safer than she has been since the beginning of the century. The last country which Germany wishes to fight is Great Britain, and the overwhelming mass of the British people have not the slightest wish to fight Germany again. In these circumstances it would be the greatest crime in history if these two great nations were to send their young men to kill each other and were to destroy each other's civilisations. There are no outstanding questions between Great Britain and Germany which cannot be settled without resort to war.
§ But when the principle is propounded that Great Britain should keep out of Continental entanglements and feuds and should not go to war until she herself is attacked, cries go up from various quarters, and particularly from League of Nations quarters, that this is a policy of isolation. For my part I do not mind what you call it. It is in fact the policy of non-intervention, which served Great Britain well in the nineteenth century. And it is not easy to understand how it has come about that the policy of last century, which was then counted the height of wisdom, has now become—so we are told—the height of folly; or is it the depth of folly? I ask what is the fundamental change which we are told now makes almost untenable a policy which for nearly a hundred years served Great Britain well, and, except for the Crimean war, which is now acknowledged to have been a mistake, kept her out of war. What is it that has happened to cause and justify such an alteration of view—an alteration which, if it be wrong, may well mean the end of the British Empire? Surely it is of supreme and overwhelming importance to have clear views about the contending arguments in this tremendous matter.
§ There are in general two objections urged in these days against the policy of isolation. The first is the danger to Great Britain from air warfare. This is a new development since the nineteenth century. It is this menace which has led the Prime Minister and others to talk of the Rhine being our frontier. Much is made in some quarters of the point that, with a Rhine frontier, Great Britain would 300 have the advantage of longer notice of the coming of aeroplanes. It seems to me that the common-sense view, however, particularly having regard to the uncertainties of our murky climate, indicates that any such advantage is at the best largely speculative, and that probably it would not make any material difference whether the frontier was on the Rhine or on the coast of Kent. Furthermore, the whole position in Western Europe—and that means also with regard to the Rhine frontier—has been fundamentally altered by Belgium's declaration of complete independence. This great change in Belgium's policy obviously affects theories about the Rhine being Great Britain's frontier.
§ And let me further contend that the argument which is often advanced, that because of the great danger from air warfare it is necessary for Great Britain to be allied to certain Continental Powers, really works the other way. This new danger of air warfare is an overwhelming reason for keeping out of the next war and for adopting a policy of non-intervention. That is all the more true because there is little value in the recent declaration by the French Foreign Minister that French help would be at the service of Great Britain if this country were attacked. If Great Britain is attacked France will be at war also, and she will be fighting for her life. She will need all her aeroplanes herself, and there will be few, if any, to spare for Great Britain. Thus, the reciprocal pledge by the French Foreign Minister is of small consequence as regards aeroplanes; and, as I will argue in a moment, it is not of great consequence in naval matters. This, the more the situation is examined, the more it becomes plain that Great Britain ought to keep out of the next war. In Elizabethan days and in the Napoleonic wars, Great Britain could enrage in war without running the risk of devastating the whole fabric of her national life. But that is not the position to-day. Mr. Baldwin has said that when the next war comes European civilisation will be wiped out. It would therefore be madness, I submit, to go into a war unless Great Britain were herself attacked.
§ Now the second main objection urged against isolation is that Great Britain by herself cannot defend herself and the 301 Empire, and that without the help of allies both Great Britain and the Empire would be in grave danger. In my submission one of the fundamental needs of the present time is to submit to close scrutiny and analysis many of the statements and claims made in regard to international affairs and in regard to future wars. This vital problem of the help for the defence of herself and her Empire which Great Britain would be supposed to get from Continental alliances is a case in point. What assistance in reality could we count on from alliances for the defence of Great Britain and the Empire? I have spoken about aeroplanes, and if the whole of the circumstances and possibilities are reviewed it will be realised that no aid of material importance is likely to be forthcoming, except perhaps from the French Navy. We must, however, I repeat, constantly bear in mind that if the British Empire were at war, France would be at war also. She would have her hands full, and more than full, fighting for herself and her own Empire—which is not a small one.
§ However, the French Navy would have to be somewhere, and perhaps most of it would be in the Mediterranean. To that extent Great Britain might get some assistance from France. The French Navy might help to keep the Mediterranean clear. But there is one most important consideration which must not be overlooked. In the event of another big war the Mediterranean would probably be closed to ordinary sea-borne traffic. Therefore any help which might be forthcoming from the French Navy would be of less account than would at first sight appear. Moreover, even if the Mediterranean were shut altogether there is still the Cape and, to take one point, it is in the last degree unlikely that the few days difference between going, say, to Singapore round by the Cape and going through the Mediterranean would make a vital difference. No doubt there will be naval views to the contrary, but, having regard to the experiences of the last War and the revelations still being made about the last War, it would appear that the opinion of the civilian, which in general is the common-sense view, is quite as likely to be right as that of the Service authority, who naturally tends to rate high—I think too high—the importance of his own particular activity.302
§ So far as direct naval help is concerned, the British Empire might in particular need it at Singapore or for Australia. The noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, in a debate in your Lordships' House last November, when opposing isolation, suggested we could not defend Singapore without allies. I ask what prospect is there of any material help being available from France or anybody else to assist us at Singapore more especially as—I say it again—France would herself be at war and would have to defend her own possessions, Indo-China and so forth? What help would be or could be got by Great Britain for the defence of Canada, Newfoundland, South Africa, New Zealand or India? The answer is, none, or practically none. Therefore, this theory that Great Britain must have alliances to help her to defend herself and the Empire proves devoid of foundation when it is subjected to scrutiny and analysis. The noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, has suggested that there is little support in this country for a policy of isolation. In my belief there is a considerable body of opinion in the country and, since the failure of the League of Nations, a rapidly growing body of opinion which is strongly in favour of what is called isolation. Furthermore, there can be no question that nothing approaching active support for war in this country could be got by any Government unless Great Britain were herself attacked. In practice there is not very much difference betwen that attitude and isolation, which really means standing aloof and only fighting in self-defence.
§ Before proceeding further, may I say, as I have said before in this House, that I support the pacifist position? I hold that there would be less risk to this country in a policy of pacifism than in this present policy of bigger and bigger armaments. But the purpose of my Motion is not to discuss pacifism, and in the case I am making I am basing my arguments on other grounds. May I also say—which is perhaps obvious—that I am not making a Party attack on the Government? Times are too grave for that. Moreover, if it is any satisfaction to the Government, I may say I am not wholly a critic of their management of foreign affairs. At any rate, they have kept the country out of war, and so long 303 as they go on doing that they can be forgiven a great deal. I should also interpolate—which is also perhaps obvious—that I am not speaking for my colleagues on these Benches, though I think some of them are largely in agreement with what I am saying.
§ I wish next to deal with another accepted theory of British foreign policy which, I contend, can also be shown to have no sufficient basis. A principle which has done much in the past to shape British foreign policy has been that Great Britain must not allow a preponderating Power—in recent years that has meant Germany—to grow up on the Continent. Fears of this kind regarding a Continental Power have been sufficient to take this country into war. That might have been understandable when, owing to our island position and the comparatively limited character of war generally, this country could take part in hostilities without risking the life of the great mass of the people. But everything now is vitally and fundamentally changed by the development of air warfare, and as we are told that the next war may mean the end of civilisation for those countries engaging in it, I say that there is not a strong enough case for Great Britain going to war in order to prevent Germany becoming more powerful and because of fears that she might afterwards attack Great Britain. Surely, it is a mistake to incur present risks and evils of the most appalling nature, which may well mean the end of the British Empire, in order to guard against a hypothetical danger which it is unlikely will ever materialise. To do that is like a man committing suicide because he fears he is going to die. To fight Germany because of the apprehension that she may one day become more powerful is not merely to meet trouble half-way; it is going all the way to meet a trouble which is not likely to happen.
§ Consider the position. If there is another war on the Continent, and Great Britain stands aside, we are not likely to be in danger whether Germany is amongst the victorious Powers or the defeated Powers. Obviously, Great Britain would not be in danger if Germany were again defeated, and if Germany were amongst the victorious Powers she would get the additional territory which she wants, and she would also have her hands 304 full of difficult problems for the next twenty-five or fifty years. There is all the more reason for keeping out of war against Germany because the next war, if it comes, is more likely to be the last war than the last War was. Mr. Baldwin has said that another war in Europe might lead to the revolt of the peoples against all their leaders, and that there might be in Europe a state of completely barbarous anarchy from end to end. Therefore, whatever risks there may be in staying out of a war against Germany they are much less than the risks incurred in going into a war, whether to prevent German expansion or for any other reason. Indeed, it seems little short of lunacy to contemplate taking part in another war unless Great Britain herself is attacked. Moreover, the Government know that the vast majority of the people of this country—I am not speaking now of League of Nations enthusiasts—will only support war if Great Britain is attacked. That is one of the basic realities of the situation, and the Government, I submit, ought to change and frame its policy accordingly. It is the only honest thing to do.
§ It used to be the object of British statesmen to keep Great Britain out of war at all costs, but in these strange days some people seem determined to have this country in the next war at all costs. The bare idea of a war in Europe and Great Britain not in it rouses some of the supporters of the League of Nations to fury. Personally, I am aghast at the almost light-hearted way in which some people contemplate Great Britain going to war for this, that, and the other, and are wont to quote dangerous slogans like "Peace is indivisible." If that were true it would mean that war anywhere would mean war everywhere. Even in these days of increasing pessimism that is a theory for which there is no warrant either in history or in human probabilities or in physical possibilities. The simple truth is that, so far as can be seen, almost any fate would be better for this country than entering into another Continental war, whatever the result of that war, even though we were amongst the victorious Powers—that is, the nominally victorious Powers.
§ As I have said, I give the Government credit for having, up to the present, kept Great Britain out of war. They are very much more likely to keep Great Britain 305 out of war in future if they will make their foreign policy more in accord with the realities of the situation. If they will not break free from France and from Continental entanglements, surely the minimum required is that Great Britain's position regarding the Franco-Soviet Pact, and also regarding any war in Eastern Europe, should be made clear. It is of supreme importance that the Foreign Secretary should pay more attention than he has done hitherto to Germany's legitimate objections to the Franco-Soviet Pact. That Pact is the chief reality of the situation to-day, and there will be no European settlement so long as it exists, at any rate in its present form. The British Government have throughout failed to understand Germany's well-founded objections to the Franco-Soviet Pact, and that in itself has not unnaturally caused resentment in Germany.
If an improvement is to be effected in the European situation, it is essential that there should be a better understanding between Great Britain and Germany. We really must try to put ourselves in the position of the Germans and endeavour to understand their point of view. If, to take the chief difficulty, Germany considers Russia is a great danger to her, and if Germany is not prepared to enter into a European settlement which comprises Russia, surely that attitude has got to be recognised. It is no good going on as if it did not exist. Above all, it is idle to suppose that Germany's fears of Russia and objections to Bolshevism will be dispelled or modified by the half-lecturing speeches, however well intentioned, which Mr. Eden has been making. Why are Mr. Eden's exhortations in his speeches always addressed to Germany? Why is not France asked to do something sometimes for a European settlement? In particular, why is not France asked to change her policy in respect of the Franco-Soviet Pact? The Times said a little while ago:
No Englishman in German shoes would consent to accept the commitments of a new Treaty while the Franco-Soviet Pact and the Russian Pact with Czechoslovakia were still in force.
Very well. Quite apart from France, why are neither Russia nor Czechoslovakia asked to do something regarding the Russo-Czechoslovakian Pact?
§ It would be well if Mr. Eden's psychological—to use that over-worked 306 Word—approach to these great problems was altered. The Foreign Secretary is too inclined to treat Germany as a potential enemy instead of a potential friend. Why does the Foreign Secretary so often put the worst interpretation on Germany's intentions and the best interpretations on France's intentions? I suggest that this attitude should be changed, and that no European settlement can be got on those lines. The Foreign Secretary, I submit, should endeavour to hold the scales more evenly and give more weight to the difficulties of Germany's position than hitherto. Let me again emphasise that the Franco-Soviet Pact is the chief reality of the situation. Whatever legalistic opinion may say, that Pact is inconsistent with the spirit of the League of Nations and with the spirit of Locarno. The Franco-Soviet Pact, combined with the Czechoslovakia-Russian Pact, established a partial encirclement of Germany.
§ If, instead of constantly making speeches which please France, Mr. Eden were to tell her she ought to end the Franco-Soviet Pact and that Great Britain will not take part in any war brought about because of that Pact, three things would be accomplished. First, there would be an enormous improvement in Anglo-German relations; secondly, there would be a good prospect of peace, at any rate in Western Europe, for at least twenty-five to fifty years; and thirdly, a big contribution would have been made towards reality and honesty in European affairs. I say this because it is folly for France and Russia to think that they can rely on British aid in a war brought about be cause of the Franco-Soviet Pact. It is certain that there would not be sufficient unity in this country to send an army to the Continent in eventualities arising out of the Franco-Soviet Pact. Similarly, it should be made clear to Czechoslovakia and countries in Eastern Europe that they cannot rely on British help in the event of hostilities breaking out in that area. I urge that the position in regard to these grave matters ought to be made clear and that countries in Eastern Europe should take warning from the tragedy of Abyssinia.
§ I say, lastly, that the British Government ought frankly to state that they can no longer purport to base their policy upon collective security. There is not 307 now, and there is no prospect of achieving, what is called collective security. It would be more in accordance with the realities of the position if the Government would follow up, by a definite change in their policy, the frank declaration about collective security made last week in another place by the Prime Minister, to say nothing of the speech made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. And then again, after what happened in the case of Abyssinia, and that was the first real test, it is unreasonable to suppose that Article 16, which is the vital clause of the League of Nations Covenant, will ever be operated as was originally intended. In all these circumstances I ask: Is it not indefensible to continue to assert that British foreign policy is based upon something which, as a matter of fact, has no reality? On the other hand, a League of Nations not based on force would be a reality and it would probably be in time joined by all the Powers. It would, as some noble Lords opposite have argued, come to have great mot al authority and be an effective instrument for peace.
§ Although I have spoken plainly, I can honestly say that I have done so as a matter of duty. Moreover, I believe that I have, though no doubt imperfectly, been voicing the views of a considerable section of the community. I do not think it can be disputed that not only is there a wide divergence between British foreign policy and the realities of the existing situation, but there is also a wide divergence between the views on these vital matters held by large numbers of people in the country and those which generally find expression in Parliament both on the Government and the Opposition Benches. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty for Papers relating to British Foreign Policy and to the need for a change therein which will bring it more into accord with the realities of the existing situation.—(Lord Arnold.)
§ LORD MOUNT TEMPLE
My Lords, I am sure the whole House will be joining with me in congratulating the noble Lord on the clearness of his views and the common sense of his arguments. Though normally I do not agree with his political pronouncements, yet on this occasion I 308 find myself happily in almost complete accord with all his arguments. Let me deal for one moment with the Franco-Soviet Pact. It is no use the Foreign Secretary stating in another place that we should not come in if there was a quarrel under that Pact, because we should be compelled to come in very likely for our own self-defence. Let us suppose for one moment that Russia had a quarrel with Germany. France then goes to help Russia and fights Germany. It is quite possible, nay, it is likely, I think, that Germany would be able to defeat them both and march on Paris. Then, obviously, for our own sake, for the safety of the Channel ports, we should be obliged to come in and help the French. Thus, owing to this Soviet-French Pact, we might inevitably be dragged into a war in which we had no interest at all. I quite agree with the noble Lord that the Foreign Secretary would do well, in his confidential talks and conversations with the French Government, to impress on them that nine-tenths of the people in this country abhor that Pact and wish it would come to an end.
May I deal briefly with two aspects of foreign policy which the noble Lord, Lord Arnold, has not dealt with, at any rate at any length? One is the rise of Russia to be the most formidable, certainly the second most formidable Power in the world, and the next point is the absolute change from the position of Germany in the world before the Nazis came into power. Take Russia. It is a pitiful story, the story of the relations between this country and Russia since the War. No Ministry can take any credit for it. All Parties have been committed to a humiliating plea to Russia to be good boys and not send money here to foment local troubles and strikes. We have in Russia a nation of immense wealth. She is at the present moment the second oil-producing country in the world, and the second gold-producing country in the world, with enormous timber resources, handicapped no doubt by her stupid political organisation and rule but still an enormously rich country. Yet this Government of all Governments have quite lately given a subvention or loan of £10,000,000 in order to improve trade between this country and Russia. What has been the result? The former trade credits have only resulted in less exports 309 from this country to Russia and more exports from Russia to this country.
We have done nothing in all the conversations that have taken place to compel the Russians to pay back some of the £400,000,000 which they stole from our nationals when the revolution took place. No Government and no Party has done anything to try to get back some of the thousands of millions we lent Russia during the Great War. We have calmly submitted year in and year out to Communist propaganda which is much more widespread in this country than perhaps noble Lords know. This propaganda is financed entirely by the Russians and is directed against our peaceful homes and ordered work. What have we done? We have got them to promise that they will be good boys and not do it again, but they have done it time after time, and at last our foreign Ministers have given it up as a bad job. You would think that at any rate if you had a good cause, as you have here, you would have done something effective to bring your arguments to fruition, but nothing at all is done, and at the present moment we have a largely increased amount of money coming into this country month by month, much more than was corning two or three years ago when Russia was poor. Now she is well off she is spending money right and left, in this country and in other countries, in order to bolster up Communist propaganda. What are we to do? It is very difficult to see what we can do, but at any rate we ought to cease giving these loans of £10,000,000 to promote trade which do not promote trade but simply go into the coffers of the Soviet State.
I would like in the few minutes more I shall detain your Lordships to say something about the position of Germany. I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Arnold, that our Foreign Office attitude to Germany is not cordial. It is correct, but it is not cordial. Why should not it be cordial? Why should we be intimate with France and only correct with Germany? What has Germany done? Why should the French always be right and the Germans always wrong? Why should we always do what the French ask us to do and never do anything to placate and to help the Germans? After all, they are of the same stock as ourselves. We have a great 310 admiration for the way in which they waged the War, and endured the privations that they underwent in the War, and for the gallant fight they put up. Surely by now, I should think, the Versailles spirit might have been clone away with, might have been forgotten, and Germany might now be treated in the same way as you would treat any other country, with, perhaps, added courtesy and help, as the newest comer into the ranks of the first Powers of the world.
If your Lordships will allow me to quote, I should like You to listen for two or three minutes to extracts from a speech of the Fuhrer at the end of last month when he addressed the Reichstag, because they put, I think very clearly and very moderately, the claim of Germany to have not only our respect but our esteem and our friendship. In my opinion Germany has in the past and is now doing what she can to promote good relations between other countries and herself. She has been the spearhead of the proposals for disarmament, and whenever the Germans have put forward a proposal for disarmament the French have always backed out of it. Why was the Franco-Russian Pact made? It was made because about a year ago the Germans made offers of disarmament which did not please the French, and they went and made a Pact with Russia at once in answer to the disarmament programme.
Here is an extract from what Herr Hitler said on January 30 last:If I may state my views on those general questions that are of actual importance to-day, the most effective way of doing so will be to refer to the statements that were recently made by Mr. Eden in the British House of Commons. … In doing this, I shall first try to correct what seems to be a most regrettable error. This error lay in assuming"—that is in Mr. Eden's remarks—that somehow or other Germany wishes to isolate herself and to allow the events which happen in the rest of the world to pass by without participating in them, or that she does not wish to take any' account whatsoever of the general necessities of the time.… Now, in the first place, I should like to assure Mr. Eden that we Germans do not in the least want to be isolated, and that we do not at all feel ourselves isolated.I think those of your Lordships who have been in Germany in the last year or two must know that the desire of the Germans to be good friends with us and to have cordial relations is almost pathetic. They 311 bear us no ill will for the War, and all they want is to resume the old relationship which existed betwen our two countries before the War in 1914.
Herr Hitler went on to say:Through a number of treaties which we have made, we have relieved many strained relations and thereby made a substantial contribution towards an improvement in European conditions. I need remind you only of our agreement with Poland "—that was a very important agreement, a non-aggression Pact between Poland and Germany, which practically assured for ten years at least that there should be no armed conflict between those two nations—which has turned out advantageous for both countries, our agreement with Austria, and the excellent and close relations which we have established with Italy. Further, I may refer to our friendly relations with Hungary, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Greece, Portugal, Spain, etc. Finally, I may mention our cordial relations with a whole series of nations outside of Europe.The agreement which Germany has made with Japan for combating the movement directed by the Comintern is a vital proof of how little the German Government thinks of isolating itself, and how little we feel ourselves actually isolated. Furthermore, I have on several occasions declared that it is our wish and hope to arrive at good cordial relations with all our neighbours.The next paragraph is an interesting one:Germany has steadily given its assurance, and I solemnly repeat this assurance here, that between ourselves and France, for example, there are no grounds for quarrels that are humanly thinkable. Furthermore, the German Government has assured Belgium and Holland that it is ready to recognise and guarantee these States as neutral regions in perpetuity.When people say that Germany has done nothing for peace I think that catalogue of what she has done is very impressive and speaks for itself.
Next he dealt with the economic standpoint, and he said:From the economic standpoint there are no grounds for asserting that Germany is withdrawing from international co-operation. …For many years the German people have been trying to make better commercial treaties with their neighbours, and thus to bring about a more active exchange of goods. And these efforts have not been in vain; for, as a matter of fact, German foreign trade has increased since 1932, both in volume and in value. This is the clearest refutation of the assertion that Germany is pursuing a policy of economic isolation. I do not believe, however, that there can be a lasting economic collaboration amongst the nations 312 on any other basis than that of a mutual exchange of commercial wares and industrial products.Then he went on to deal more particularly with disarmament, and he said:Three times I have made concrete offers for armament restriction, or at least armament limitation. These offers were rejected. In this connection I may recall the fact that the greatest offer which I then made was that Germany and France together should reduce their standing Armies to 300,000 men—That was a very great offer when you consider the disparity of populations. If that offer had been accepted France would have been enabled to fill up her ranks to 300,000 men, while many hundreds of thousands of Germans, although quite fit to go into the battle line, would have been left out because there were more than 300,000 of them. Herr Hitler went on:that Germany, Great Britain and France should bring down their Air Forces to parity, and that Germany and Great Britain should conclude a naval agreement. Only the last offer was accepted and it was the only contribution in the world to a real limitation of armaments.I think we ought to be grateful—I say that advisedly—to the German Government for having given us the opportunity of making that naval agreement which was come to between Germany and this country the year before last. It is a very great thing. It is the only real step towards disarmament that has been made. It was made on the proposal of Germany. We accepted her proposal and carried it through in two or three months.
I do beg and pray that those who speak should, if they can—and I am sure they all can—press home this point, that it is no use treating a nation like Germany as if she were still under the displeasure of the Treaty of Versailles. You must bring your ideas into line with real facts, and the real facts are that Germany is now a proud and powerful nation, and that she is trying to be friends with everybody. She has proved that by her proposals for disarmament. She does not wish to have such an Army as will be a danger to her neighbours, but if this country and others go on treating her in the way she has been treated in the past the peace party in Germany—and that party is in the majority—will be swept away. It will not be Germany's fault if there is war, but the fault of other Powers who have not treated her as she should be treated.
§ LORD NEWTON
My Lords, the speeches which have been delivered to-day have ranged over a considerable field, but I propose to confine my observations, which will be few, to one particular subject. I desire to make the most emphatic protest within my power against the continual subservience and servility shown not only by this Government but by other Governments to the League of Nations, with every prospect of its continuance. It is obviously considered bad form on the part of any public man in this country not to embellish his speech by sonorous phrases in praise of the Covenant and of collective security. It occasionally happens—not very often, but occasionally—that Ministers talk quite sensibly about the League of Nations. For instance, Mr. Baldwin not very long ago—I think it was in the course of last summer—made a speech which was really a very important speech, though most people have by now probably completely forgotten it. Mr. Baldwin said we had a number of people who were firmly convinced that the League of Nations was a semi-divine institution which was incapable of committing any fault, but he looked upon it in quite a different light. He considered it to be composed largely of fallible representatives who on their part represented fallible Governments. I do not think you could get a better definition than that.
Unfortunately, Ministers do not always act up to these plain statements and I observe that they usually find it necessary to qualify these observations. I rather think that Mr. Baldwin was forced to explain this particular utterance. I think that the Chancellor of the Exchequer also has been found fault with for plain speaking and has been forced to imitate his chief. I observe that the other day Sir Thomas Inskip, when challenged with regard to the question of national defence, said that national defence and collective security were the same thing. I absolutely refuse to accept that as being correct. National defence, I understand, means the defence of the British Empire. Collective security means that you pledge yourself to go to assist, say, Guatemala, and leave the defence of the British Empire to the Covenant and collective security. Nevertheless, these fatuous—if I may use that word—protestations about the League in the League of Nations continue to be made.
314 I would like to ask any impartial noble Lord opposite—like myself, for instance—whether if he examines his conscience he can deny that all our troubles during recent years have proceeded directly from our close connection with the League of Nations. I will go back five or six years to the time when trouble started with regard to Manchuria. We had no interest in Manchuria at all. Japan had been our Ally, and a very good Ally, and there was every reason for our remaining on good terms with her. We had no more call to interfere in the matter than any other signatory to various treaties, but we took upon ourselves the onus of the whole business, and, as everybody will remember, the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, was sent out as Chairman of a Mission to report upon the circumstances. I have been in the Far East myself and I have never come across any impartial person who for a moment thought that that Mission could be a success. As a matter of fact it turned out to be an abject failure, and not only was it an abject failure but it entirely ruined our position in the Far East. Before we took this unfortunate step we could rely upon the friendship of Japan. We have now turned Japan into a more or less unfriendly country and our whole position in the Far East is undermined.
The next case, of course, was Abyssinia. Here again we had no real interest at stake at all. We were not in the least interested in Abyssinia. The Abyssinians were very bad clients, such unsatisfactory people, in fact, that we had opposed their inclusion in the League. Yet here again, with no call whatever to do it, we took practically the whole work upon ourselves and brought things to such a pass that we were actually on the verge of war with Italy. Here, as in the case of Manchuria, we suffered ignominious defeat which has had probably a lasting effect upon our prestige, and at all events has seriously damaged our relations with Italy. The definite result of the Abyssinian business is that Abyssinia has ceased to exist as a country. If anybody's opinion is worth having upon the subject of Abyssinia it ought to be the opinion of the ex-Emperor of that country, and perhaps if he ever visits this country he will give us the benefit of his views upon the subject.
315 Now I come to the present moment. At the present moment we are occupied and a good deal concerned at the prospect of having to find something like£1,500,000,000 for defence—and it will probably be a good deal more. What is the cause of that? The reason of that, though probably it would not be admitted, is that Ministers—not only the present Ministers but previous Ministers and Socialist Ministers—had persuaded themselves, and persuaded the country, that all we had to do was to rely upon the League of Nations and the League of Nations would see us through our difficulties. I have never been to Geneva; I am never likely to go, and I have no desire to go; but I think I can form a very correct picture in my mind's eye of what Geneva is like and one which more or less explains these various misfortunes that have overtaken us. The League of Nations is obviously a mutual admiration society manned by well-meaning busybodies who find extreme difficulty in distinguishing what is real and what is unreal, who have never grasped the fact that all nations are not equal, nor the fact that membership of the League in itself constitutes an abnegation of nationalism for which the world is not yet ready. Added to this you have an incredible belief there in the force of words.
When an English representative goes there, whether he is a Socialist or a Conservative, whether it is Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, or Sir Samuel Hoare, or Sir John Simon, or any other Liberal, he is perfectly certain to meet with a warm, I might almost say a gushing, reception, for the simple reason that Great Britain is the only country which believes in the League. The League is bound to receive him with pleasure, and the visit of an English Minister to Geneva must be very like the visit of a Conservative M.P. to the local habitation of the Primrose League in his constituency. He is sure of a welcome beforehand, he is treated almost like a royal personage and received with almost royal honours, and every word he utters is looked upon as being almost divinely inspired. I am sure that the House must well remember the prodigious impression caused by the speech made by Sir Samuel Hoare, if I am not mistaken, last spring. In that speech he modestly put forward a plan 316 which was going to satisfy the Abyssinians, the League and the Italians themselves, and the world was transformed with astonishment and delight at his genius. That speech created more sensation than any speech that I can remember of recent years. When a short time afterwards Sir Samuel Hoare endeavoured to put his ideas into practice, he immediately collapsed and was got rid of by the Government.
I have another case in mind, of an a most equally eloquent speech which was made by M. Laval—so eloquent that I think the British representative was with difficulty restrained from embracing him on the spot. This speech, again, was pronounced to be an almost unprecedented effort, and people were almost incapable of sufficiently expressing their admiration. A short time afterwards, however, it "transpired"—to use the language of the newspapers—that M. Laval had all the time made his bargain with the Italians and that he had no intention of giving us any effective assistance at all. That is the history of what took place at Geneva, and I attribute it to the fact that the atmosphere at Geneva produces a sort of intellectual intoxication which prevents even distinguished men from seeing the difference between what is real and what is unreal. These things sometimes remind me of what used to take place at the beginning of the War, when the leading men of this country used to go to France and meet the leading men in that country and both parties would return to their respective homes and assure their countrymen that everything was now all right, all difficulties had been removed, every path was clear and victory in the near future was certain. Then it used to turn out, or did turn out, that neither side had understood what the other was talking about because they were not provided with competent interpreters.
So far I have not said anything, I am afraid, of a complimentary nature about the League of Nations, but as I do not want to be classed as an ignoramus I should like to admit at once that in some respects we owe a good deal to the League of Nations in other spheres. I have in mind, for instance, the transfer of populations, the prevention of war in the Balkans, the successful efforts which were made to establish some form of economic stability amongst the 317 Central States of Europe, and valuable services in connection with the drug traffic and other matters. Perhaps the League's partisans will add a number of of other good deeds which stand to its name. But I confess that my admiration for the League of Nations would be very much greater if it had adopted a somewhat different policy from that which it has actually favoured. I do not suppose that the most fanatical admirer of the League of Nations would refuse to admit that at the present moment we are back in the 1914 period. Europe is divided into two sections: the section which is satisfied and, so to speak, replete, and the section which is dissatisfied and shows no signs of being contented. One side is determined to keep all it has got, the other is determined to get back what it has lost if possible. So long as that state of things lasts, how can you expect to have a representative League of Nations? The division of which I have spoken is due not, as some noble Lords would probably contend, to the growth of armaments, but to the injustices done under the Peace Treaties, and until those injustices are dealt with, how can you expect to have a united or a complete League?
Now, what has the League of Nations ever done to deal with this difficulty? What steps has it ever taken to put into operation Article 19, and what has it ever done on behalf of the minorities? It is owing to the League's failure to act in those matters that the idea has grown up in Europe—and I am not in the least surprised at it—that there is no such thing as international justice. If you break a treaty at the present day, whether you are punished or not is determined solely by your own force. Japan, Italy, Germany, Poland have all broken treaties, and Turkey, although she has not technically broken a treaty, has forced the breach of a treaty, and nothing whatever has happened to them. But suppose that one of the minor exenemy States were to infringe any of the Paris Treaties; they would be set upon at once and annihilated, obliterated in the same way as Abyssinia has been obliterated—probably by the Little Entente, assisted by the French. Of course Ministers cannot say these things, but the truth is that the League has comported itself in such 318 a way as to make the world believe that it is an instrument of French policy and nothing else, and it is not surprising that in the circumstances confidence has been lost in it. Confidence has been lost in its moral influence, and everybody knows that its capacity for force no longer exists. I said that we were the only people who believed in the League at the present moment, but we seem to be the only people who are incapable of seeing that it is in a state of decrepitude and decay. The longer we persist in this attitude and close our eyes to the facts, the more we shall present ourselves as objects of ridicule to the rest of the civilised world.
My Lords, I listened with such a very large measure of agreement and pleasure to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Arnold, that I might almost have contented myself with agreement and have said nothing myself, but there was one point on which I think he did not touch, and on which I should like to say something. In common with the rest of the general public, I have had some difficulty in criticising the foreign policy of the Government hitherto, through not knowing what that policy was. But at any rate we do know one very definite thing about the foreign policy of His Majesty's Government, and that is that it is such as to necessitate in their opinion this enormous rearmament programme which has been launched upon the world. Now that must mean that their policy is in some way such as to cause in their opinion a danger of war. I am quite sure that His Majesty's Government do not desire war: I am sure they most earnestly desire that there should not be war. But in some way or another they do foresee a very considerable possibility, or even likelihood, of it. That must be so in view of their rearmament programme.
Now that rearmament programme, it seems to me, has been criticised rather less than I should have thought it deserved. Some have found fault with it because it was to be partly financed by loans, and some because it was not coupled with a clear statement of foreign policy. I do not think that, however it were financed or with whatever foreign policy it were connected, I could myself view it with equanimity. I cannot believe that it is in any degree wise or in any 319 degree likely to promote peace, nor even that, if it fails to preserve peace, it will preserve the civilian population in this country from very appalling disasters. I think if you go to the plain man and say, "Now this programme is going to demand about £35 per head from every man, woman and child throughout the country," he will naturally want to know two things. He will want to know whether the programme is going to prevent war and, if it does not prevent war, whether it is going to prevent some part of the evils which this country, in common with others, has to fear if war does occur. Now I cannot see that he can be given a reassuring answer upon either of those two points.
First, as to the likelihood of war. I do not profess to know what Power or group of Powers are the potential enemies against which this programme is designed, but evidently there must be such a group of Powers, and I cannot think that the way to preserve peace is to announce to those Powers, whichever they be, in the most emphatic and dramatic manner that we are at present dangerously weak but that we hope in another five years to be dangerously strong. It seems to me that that is, of all imaginable policies, the one most likely to stimulate people, who are in any case inclined to think of war, to go to war soon rather than late. For if we were to say, "We are strong now, "they might fear to go to war; if we were to say, "We are weak now and we intend to remain weak, "they might think that delay would be prudent; but if we say, "We are weak now, but we shall be strong "the whole motive for postponing war is gone. There was once upon a time, I believe, an Irishman who half woke up in the middle of the night and thought he saw a burglar coming in at the window, and he said, "Would you mind waiting there while I go to fetch my revolver? "Well, he woke up a little later and found there was no burglar there at all. That seems to me to be very much the situation we are in at the present moment. I do not know who the people are who are supposed to be the burglar, but we are asking them to wait while we go to fetch our revolver. And I do not quite see why, if there are these people, they should wait. If our policy were wise, if our policy were such as the noble Lord, Lord 320 Arnold, was advocating, I do not think the danger of our being involved in war in any near future would be at all considerable.
But the Government are of course persuaded that this is a measure which is designed to preserve the peace. In the White Paper it is stated:It is the firm belief of His Majesty's Government that, in the form here presented, the programme is a contribution indispensable to peace.Those words are very ominous. Almost those exact words have been uttered by every one of the Great Powers of Europe with every increase of armaments they have made. When we hear of a contribution to peace by a foreign Power taking the form of armaments we all think the same of it; then why should we not think the same of it when it is ourselves? That, I am sure, is not the road to peace. The road to peace is not to develop vast and threatening armaments in a dramatic manner, which is what is being done. On the other hand, the plain man, when he is not reassured about the preservation of peace, may anyway think, "If we have sufficiently large armaments, they will protect us when the war comes, and it will not be quite so bad. "Of course they may perhaps contribute to our side, whichever it may be, getting what is called victory. But what is going to be called victory in the next war will be something so horrible and so appalling that it will be only a trifle worse than what would be called defeat.
I do not think that any increase of armaments that is open to us in the present state of the art of war is going to protect the civilian population. I say that with very little fear of contradiction. It has been said by the Prime Minister. It is said every week in the United Services Review, which represents the view of the armed forces. It is, I think, a commonplace that you cannot protect the civilian population in a great war in the present state of the art of war. If we have sufficient Air Force we can inflict damage on the enemy equal to the damage which he can inflict upon us, but we cannot prevent that damage falling upon our own civilians. I know there are things that have been said by the Home Office in regard to gas-proof rooms and all the rest of it. The Home Office seems to think that most people in Landon possess a spare room, which they 321 can make gas-proof and keep empty, whereas as a matter of fact about 30 per cent. of the population would be breaking the law against overcrowding if they did such a thing. In fact, it would be extraordinarily difficult to set apart a room. But, apart from that, the whole idea that you can make rooms gas-proof is challenged—challenged not only on the ground that there will be fires from incendiary bombs and breaking down of walls through high explosive bombs and so forth, but on more technical grounds also.
I notice that in another place the views of a certain group of Cambridge scientists were, as I think, much too cavalierly dismissed. They have been making very careful investigations into this question of the penetration of gas into what are called gas-proof rooms and through gas masks; but unfortunately they call themselves an anti-war group and, because they advertise that they are against war, it is held that they must not have any attention paid to them. It is a very remarkable revelation of the state of mind of certain people in this country that if a group of scientists, eminent men holding academic posts because of their skill, announce that they dislike war, that means that their views do not count. For my part I think it is extremely doubtful whether the views that the Home Office takes on the question of making rooms gas-proof or the views which it takes on the question of gas masks are, in fact, scientifically sound. I do not suppose anybody can deny that even if the Home Office is in the right, the next war is going to be something far worse than we have ever known before. We know that the Home Office itself intends to evacuate a very large part of the population of London, not after the outbreak of war, but before it, and therefore clearly shows that in its own precautions it is very moderate. I do not see how one can justify, in that state of affairs, the adoption of a foreign policy which necessitates this enormous increase of armaments, not to protect ourselves, but merely to threaten others, for that is what it comes to. We say we cannot protect our own civilian population, but we can cause the civilian population of other countries to suffer equally.
We know of course about these gas masks. We know that they cannot be applied to young children. Young 322 children cannot be induced to wear them. The Home Office has various other plans for them. I notice that Major Blackmore, in the Lancet two months ago, said that a gas-proof box had been designed for children under two, but babies objected strongly to wear it. The sight of a mottled face through a yellow celluloid window always convinced the mother that the child was being suffocated, and she took the mask off. That is very amusing. That means to say, if you try to think it out in the concrete, that when you get your poor family in a gas-proof room, the young children will be gradually gassed because they will not be able to wear masks. The gas will seep in. It is reckoned that if you die outside in six minutes, you will die inside your gas-proof room in a few hours, if you do not have a mask. I do not see the parents standing still while their children are gradually gassed.
I think the state of public feeling of all countries in the next war will be something of which most people have very little idea. I believe—I may say I hope—that in all the countries engaged in the next war, the civil populations, after they have had some experience, will refuse to continue the fighting and will show thereby that they have more sense than their rulers. For after all, modern war is an atrocity, and not merely an atrocity, but a mad atrocity, because it is not one that can do any good to anybody. Nobody is going to be any the better for the next war, neither the victors nor the vanquished. Therefore, it is an insane atrocity. I should like, myself, to see our own country standing outside that atrocity and saying that, whatever cost there may be to be paid, we will be neutral, we will stand outside this horrible network of threatenings of war. I should like us to say, "No, we would rather suffer some loss, some damage, some inconvenience, from neutrality, than come in to form a part of this abominable shameful thing that modern war has become."
If you consider not only the physical damage but the moral damage, if you consider not only the large number who will perish and who will be disabled in one way or another in the next war, but what manner of men the survivors amongst us will have become as the result of witnessing these horrors—if you consider the moral harm that is bound to 323 happen to all the people in all the countries engaged in the next war, I think you will say, "There is nothing that is worse, it is impossible that good should come out of a thing like that, and it would be better for us to resolve to be neutral and to stand out. "I know there are difficulties. I do not think those difficulties are anything like so grave as the objections there are now to coming in. The noble Lord, Lord Arnold, has argued in detail about the foreign policy that is possible to keep us out of war, and I concur in every word that he said.
It is a dreadful thing to notice that in all the progress that has been made in modern times in this matter, nothing has happened except to increase the magnitude of the disaster to be feared. There has been no other form of progress except more multiplication of possible disaster. Nearly one hundred years ago Thomas Carlyle wrote:Is it not scandalous to consider that a Prime Minister could raise within the year, as I have seen it done, 120 millions sterling to shoot the French; and we are stopt short for want of the one-hundredth part of that amount to keep the English living? The bodies of the English living and the souls of the English living.Carlyle wrote that nearly one hundred years ago, and, as I say, the only change that has happened since is that the figures are larger, the number of people to be killed is greater, and the manner of their killing more cruel and more horrible. That is the only progress that has been made in these hundred years. And when one thinks of what could be done with a very small portion of this £1,500,000,000 if you devote it to other things; if instead of its being devoted to purposes of death it were devoted to purposes of life—for example, to health and education—a tiny fraction of that sum would do the most incredible amount of good. We are told that the time has come for sacrifice. Sacrifice for what? Sacrifice for death. Is it not possible to make equal sacrifices, or a tenth part of these sacrifices, for the purposes of life and not for the purposes of death?
§ LORD STONEHAVEN
My Lords, I deem myself fortunate in that I am vouchsafed the luxury of expressing to the noble Earl, on behalf of all your Lordships I am sure, how much we appreciate having him with us and having the 324 opportunity of hearing a point of view which perhaps is not widely shared, but which at any rate the noble Earl does expound in the most charming and lucid and obviously sincere manner. When I listened to the noble Earl's story of the Irishman, I could not help feeling that that is rather the key to this position. As I understood it, the Irishman went away before his opponent was able to come back with his revolver. I rather think that is what the noble Earl recommends we should do in this country and in the Empire. Unfortunately, we cannot, as it seems to me. We have got to remain and, that being so, I take it the best thing we can do is to take such steps as would discourage the Irishman from returning with his revolver or indeed coming with his revolver at all, because he will know we are better armed than he is himself. I think that is the fundamental difference between those who share the noble Earl's views and the majority.
These monthly debates on foreign affairs do put anyone who speaks in rather a difficult position. I suppose it is part of the new order of open agreements openly arrived at. This kind of discussion is useful—at least we hope so—but necessarily we cannot know what is the state of negotiations that are constantly going on between our country and the other countries of the world. We may say things which are indiscreet and might be troublesome if exaggerated importance were attached to them. Generally, I am afraid that foreign affairs—perhaps I am prejudiced as having been brought up under the old régime—are not subjects which you can pull up constantly and see how they are growing; but we have to trust the Government to carry out the desires and intentions of the country in the way considered best to achieve that object.
We have had a great many speeches about foreign affairs from foreign countries, and the noble Lord, Lord Mount Temple, quoted part of the speech recently made by the German Chancellor. He deduced from that speech an intention and a desire on the part of Germany to live on good terms with us. We hope it is so, but the noble Lord omitted to quote what was really from our point of view by far the most important section of that speech—the part in which the Chancellor referred to Germany's demand 325 for Colonies—and perhaps your Lordships will bear with me if I follow the example of my noble friend and, for greater accuracy, quote exactly what it was he said. The Führer said:The German people built up a Colonial Empire without robbing anyone and without any war. This was taken away from us.I do not think that is the whole story. We had no desire for the German Colonies. We were perfectly content with our own Colonies, but Germany did not conceal the fact that she would have liked our Colonies very much and if she had won the war she would have taken our Colonies. I will quote again what the Führer said:It was said that the natives did not want to belong to Germany, that the Colonies were not administered properly by the Germans and that these Colonies had no true value.These things have been said and I think it was very unwise to give this as the main objection to the return of the German Colonies. That is not the reason why I for one would be opposed to handing back the Colonies of Germany. The Führer went on:If this is true, this valuelessness would also apply to the other nations and there is no reason why they should wish to keep them from us. Germany has never demanded Colonies for military purposes, but exclusively for economic ones.These Colonies have such a strategic value that, having regard to the security of our own people and in view of the sacrifices that were made by all the members of the Empire during the War, it seems to me quite intolerable—it is a strong word but I think it is the right one—to consider for a moment handing back to Germany the countries which would give her the opportunity of occupying strategic positions, which would place other countries in a position of danger and involve them in heavy expenditure on defence services. If these Colonies are not handed back to Germany every available farthing can be spent on developing their natural resources and above all on improving the conditions of their inhabitants. That is, I venture to suggest, how the money ought to be spent. It is no use Germany saying that she does not require Colonies for military purposes. Take Tanganyika. She may not require it for military purposes, but any one who possesses it is in a position to bomb Northern Rhodesia, Portuguese East and Portuguese West Africa, the Belgian Congo, Uganda and Kenya, any 326 day before breakfast. So long as we are there, there is no danger of that, and what justification have we got for exposing these Colonies and these territories, both our own and those belonging to our Portuguese and Belgian friends, to something to which at present there is no danger of exposing them?
The Führer went on to say:To-day Germany lives in a time of fierce struggle for foodstuffs and raw materials. Sufficient imports are only conceivable if there is a continued increase in our exports. Therefore the demand for Colonies for our densely populated country will again and again be raised as a matter of course.The German population of all their former Colonies was rather over 16,000 in 1934. When the Germans had these Colonies, which they occupied for a matter of thirty years, the population was only some 3,000 more. It is fair to say that the great bulk of the additional 3,000 were either officials or soldiers or sailors. Therefore Tanganyika and the other African Colonies do not provide an answer from the point of view of finding an outlet for Germany's surplus population. As to foodstuffs, you have only got to examine the exports to see that this is negligible. The figures for pre-War trade between Germany and her Colonies have frequently been quoted. They are a decimal of a decimal. I do not bow to any one in my desire to see far better relations with Germany, but I think it would be helpful if Germany can be induced to realise that we cannot give back these Colonies. I am not sure that we can in any case in accordance with our tenure. I cannot help thinking that in these days of open diplomacy people must be prepared to accept home truths; and this is nothing but a home truth, and I think a very important one.
But there is one aspect of the question which I am bound to say fills me with alarm. It is fair to say that the attitude of Germany now is represented by Mein Kampf. I do not think, when a whole generation has been brought up on Mein Kampf, which is the masterpiece of the German Chancellor, that you can ignore it; all the more as in July, 1935, Herr Alford Rosenberg, the head of the Nazi Party's foreign department and the leader of culture for the Reich, declared in the Völkischer Beobachter, that Mein Kampfrepresents for all future days the unshakable basis of National Socialist feeling and 327 that for to-day, to-morrow and the days beyond.That is a formidable recommendation for this book and one is tempted to see what it says. With regard to Colonies it is perfectly outspoken. This is what it says:State boundaries are created by men and altered by men. The fact of success by a people in excessive acquisition of territory carries no higher guarantee of eternal approval. It proves at the most the power of the conqueror and the weakness of the victim. It is from this power also that right is derived. If the German people to-day are cramped in impossible space and look to a wretched future, this is not a decree of destiny, but is simply a refusal to stand and offer challenge.That is rather a formidable attitude to adopt for us who are anxious to come to an arrangement. What it amounts to is that Germany is prepared to fight for her Colonies as soon as she feels herself strong enough to do so, and that must be taken into account.
The idea of the League of Nations as the basis of our policy is indeed, I think, a source of danger, and I hope that my noble friend will be able to explain the extent to which we do now rely upon the League of Nations. The trouble about the League of Nations seems to me to be that it has never been what it was intended to be. The earliest reference that I can find to it was made by the late President Theodore Roosevelt, in a manifesto which he issued in America in 1915. This manifesto was characteristically headed "Utopia or Hell," and it said this:The only alternative to war, that is to hell "—and I entirely agree with the noble Earl opposite, it is an adequate and proper description of war—is the adoption of some plan substantially like that which I have advocated. …What I propose is a working and realisable Utopia. My proposal is"—and this is the important thing to which I would invite the attention of all out-and-out supporters of the League of Nations—that the efficient civilised nations—those that are efficient in war as well as in peace—should join in a world league for the peace of righteousness. This means that they shall by solemn covenant agree as to their respective rights, which shall not be questioned; that they shall agree that all other questions arising between them shall be submitted to a court of arbitration; and that they shall also 328 Agree—and here comes the vital and essential part of the whole system—to act with the combined military strength of all of them against any recalcitrant nation.If such an organisation had been set up after the War I do not suppose there is a single man or woman who would not have relied upon it, but what seems to me to be unwise, to use no stronger word, is to treat the existing organisation as if it corresponded in any sort or shape to this description of Mr. Roosevelt's of what a League of Nations should be. The other day the Chancellor of the Exchequer suggested that we should be better off if the Members of the League, instead of being behind us, were beside us, the idea being, I suppose, that if they were in line they would look more formidable than if they were in column of half sections. But if you reproduced that formation on paper I think you would quickly realise that you had much better put them back in half sections again, because their weaknesses are much more apparent when they are drawn up in line. Constant withdrawals are taking place, and I see that Paraguay now has left the League. I do think it is not too much to ask of the Government that they should make it clear to us that they realise that the League of Nations is by no means what it was—it never has been what people hoped it would be—and consequently that it is not safe for us to put the same reliance upon it as we were quite ready to do in the past.
After all, the whole essence of foreign affairs is to adopt the policy most likely to preserve peace. The noble Earl said that a promising organisation had come to an end through lack of support because it labelled itself an anti-war organisation. I cannot believe that any single one of your Lordships would not gladly join any organisation that would really be calculated to prevent war. The only difference between any of us is as to what are the best steps to take to prevent war. When the noble Lord in his most interesting speech, with the greater part of which I confess I was in full agreement, started the debate to-night by saying we would not fight in certain circumstances in the future, I wondered whether it was possible for us to say that. We have only got to carry our minds back to the early days of August, 1914. Mercifully the idea that history repeats itself is a complete myth, and it is inconceivable that 329 the days of 1914 should be reproduced; but the noble Lord will remember that the feeling which, I think, most of us had then was that if we did not go to war we should be so disgraced that we could not show our faces on the Continent. I think that fairly represents the views of the vast majority of people in those days. If such a situation occurred again, you would find a repetition of the extraordinary thing that you see to-day, when young men, after having explained at great length and secured great publicity, most unnecessary publicity I think, for a declaration that in no circumstances would they fight for their King and country, are yet now fighting in Spain in a matter which is no concern of theirs whatsoever.
I suggest that it is unsafe to say when or how people will go to war, but it is the business of the Government—and I am perfectly certain the Government realise it to the full—so to conduct our foreign affairs that we are not confronted with war. I was rather surprised that the noble Earl, Lord Russell, seemed to look upon war as inevitable. I may have misunderstood him, but the impression I got from his speech was that he rather looked upon war as inevitable. I am delighted now to see that I was mistaken in that view. I refuse to accept the idea that bombing is now such a terrible thing that there is no possibility of finding an answer to it. Every month during the last War the Germans produced something new to which in the following month we found an answer. And if you look back upon other wars, if you cast your minds back to the days of the Sudan campaign, what do you see? A Sudanese armed with spears did not stand much of a chance against machine guns, and they must have thought, if they thought at all, that war was one of those things that would completely wipe out populations. What has happened? Go to the Sudan to-day and you will find that the population has multiplied tenfold compared to what it was in the days when that war took place for which we were largely responsible. Therefore I suggest that until somebody has found some better means of procuring peace than the knowledge that you are so strong that anybody who tries to interfere with you is likely to be defeated, we should congratulate the Government on having taken the most sensible line.
330 Having tried to the utmost by example to induce other nations to disarm, having failed to secure support for that policy which, as they have said quite truly, they carried to the edge of risk, the knowledge that foreigners are impressed—whether favourably or unfavourably is a secondary consideration—with the magnitude and thoroughness of our rearmament proposals is at the moment the one bright spot in the foreign situation. But to say that you can rely only on arms does seem to me a negation of any progress in civilisation. I think the Government were driven to take the action which very rightly they have taken, but just as by adopting tariffs we were able to obtain some reductions of tariffs in other countries so I hope that the rest of the world may be brought—I cannot say and nobody can say how they may be brought—to recognise the folly of devoting these vast sums of the people's money to armaments. I hope that somehow or other we shall again have set an example which will result, not in the world being permanently armed to the teeth, but in some real, sensible form of disarmament.
My Lords, this is an important debate which my noble friend Lord Arnold has initiated, and it is necessary that someone from this side should express the official view of the Opposition which my noble friend, as he was very careful to say, does not represent. I am the unworthy instrument of that purpose. At any rate I have the very great pleasure of being the first speaker on this side of the House to add my congratulations to those which the noble Lord, Lord Stonehaven, has offered to my noble friend Earl Russell. I am sure that we on these Benches are to be congratulated on the reinforcement he brings to our ranks, and, as one who many times has sat at his feet as a humble disciple, I am very glad to have sat literally at his feet during his felicitous speech this afternoon. It is not usual to criticise a maiden speech and in what I am about to say I do not intend to be critical but rather complimentary.
The noble Earl expounded the faith of the 100 per cent. Christian pacifist, that nothing can be worse than war and that therefore at all costs one should not fight. Perhaps I may be allowed to say that if all the people in this country were con- 331 verts of the noble Earl that would be a possible policy—and I am not sure that it would not be the best—but meanwhile I think I may say that 75 per cent. of those who normally vote Labour in this country feel that there are certain things which we should have to fight to prevent happening here. It may be the frailty of human nature, but I am here speaking for myself, and I am speaking for myself with some purpose because I cannot avoid serving in the next war: I should be automatically called up as an officer on the Emergency List. Even if I were not, rather than live under a régime which would lock up the noble Earl in a concentration camp and treat him as others are treated in certain countries, rather than tolerate such a régime, rather than tolerate a system of government under which one cannot expose abuses, I would certainly fight. And, of course, there are literally millions of working men in this country who would fight rather than tolerate such a government being forced upon this country, whether initiated by some native movement or imposed on us from outside.
May I say that I agree with one sentence in particular in Lord Stone-haven's speech? The noble Lord said he did not think war inevitable. May I humbly agree with him? I think that is a very good line to take. There are two very strong reasons, I venture to suggest, why there will not be another great war in the next two years. The first is that history shows that world upheavals occur about every hundred years. The World War of 1914–18 was about one hundred years after the Napoleonic wars, which were about one hundred years after the wars of Marlborough, and the wars of Marlborough were about one hundred years after the great religious wars. I am afraid we are coming back into the same kind of atmosphere which produced the great religious wars, but if we can get through the next three years—and I do not see why we should not—we should escape an upheaval. The second and more solid reason why I do not believe in the inevitability of war is that if noble Lords will cast their minds back to the days before 1914 they will remember that very few people were thinking or talking about war. Those who were doing so were a few Staff officers, a few diplomats 332 and a few statesmen in the inner circles—only the inner circles—of Cabinets.
I know that some noble Lords were, but I am speaking of the general public. They were not talking about war. I am sure that the noble Earl would have had prevision of what would happen and would have warned the Government accordingly, as I am sure he is doing now. That is a third reason, the prescience of the noble Earl and his presence—belated, as I have said before—in the Cabinet. But if I may go back to my second reason, the general public were not thinking or talking about war before 1914. There were all kinds of other distractions. Now, in every country, not only are the youth of the nation thinking and talking of war but they are afraid of it, not because they are afraid for their own skins but because they are afraid of what will happen to their families. That is a very strong bull point, if I may use the expression, for peace.
My noble friend Lord Arnold gave expression to a policy which found favour on the other side of the House, as is very usual if he will allow me to say so. He got the whole-hearted support of the noble Lord, Lord Mount Temple, and I hope he will think about that and search his conscience about it. I am bound to say that the Party for which I speak officially opposes his proposals. He himself says he does not speak for the majority of the Labour Party. He speaks about the Anglo-French Alliance and complains that France has used the League of Nations for her own purposes. The French have been whole-hearted supporters of the League of Nations from the very beginning. No doubt that was because they saw in the League a means of safety, but I cannot see anything despicable in that. They were clever enough to use the machinery of the League. I wish His Majesty's Government were as clever. The League, if only it could be made effective again, would be a godsend to the British Empire. We were very glad to ask the French people for guarantees in the Mediterranean during the 1935–36 crisis and those guarantees were given although much French sentiment was on the side of Italy. The 333 sentiment of the grande bourgeoisie was favourable to Italy, but the naval guarantees for which we asked were forthcoming from a French Government of the Right. I think, with all respect to my noble friend, that we must not be too ready to overlook these things. We would have been very glad of French help in the Mediterranean if we had got into trouble, whatever the cause.
Then my noble friend says that Czechoslovakia is relying upon the English. Of course she is. There is something to be said for keeping one's signed bond, and we did agree to support the Covenant of the League of Nations. It may have been wrong, it may have been right; I am not arguing that, but there is Britain's pledged word, and Czechoslovakia has a right to rely upon us. My complaint about His Majesty's Government is that they do not make it perfectly clear that we are going to keep our pledges east of the Rhine. Apparently they seem to think that if we can guarantee Belgium, Holland and France, according to a recent pronouncement of the Foreign Secretary, Mr. Eden, that is all we have to do. I have more than once suggested to His Majesty's Government that their policy is dangerous in this respect, that nobody knows what we are going to do if there is real trouble in Eastern Europe. Czechoslovakia has a right to rely upon us, and I hope she can rely upon us, if she is the victim of unprovoked aggression. She is a democratic State and we are one of the guarantors of that State under the Covenant of the League of Nations. This does not mean any hostility to Germany at all, but I think that the peace of Europe is just as important in the East as in the West. That is the view of the Labour Party, and we hold it much more strongly than most of His Majesty's present advisers hold it.
When my noble friend Lord Arnold talks of the "golden years" of the nineteenth century, when we were able to indulge in splendid isolation, he should remember that the reason was that we then had an overwhelmingly strong Navy. At the time of the South African war the actual statistical figures of our naval strength were such that we could literally and actually have opposed successfully in the oceans of the world the whole of the Fleets of the world. Not only that, but our naval prestige was extraordinarily high at that time. We cannot do that 334 now. Japan was then a small weak nation, but Japan is now a very strong nation in the Pacific and, I am afraid, an aggressive nation, and you have the rising might of several countries in Europe following a Fascist philosophy.
I do not want to develop this argument at any length because there are many other speakers in this important debate, but I do venture to say this: that the truth is that a very difficult strategic problem would face the British Empire in the event of a simultaneous threat of hostile action by Fascist or near-Fascist States—Japan, Italy, Germany. Such a threat would be most difficult to counter with any force that we can hope to maintain at the present moment—most difficult. The triple threat—in the Mediterranean, the North Sea and the Eastern Pacific—from those three potential allies, without any guaranteed assistance from our potential allies, which means all the Members of the League of Nations who are prepared to keep their word, would put us in a most critical situation. Everyone knows that is true. The noble Lord, Lord Trenchard, and any of the other great captains of war who adorn your Lordships' Benches, would, I think, agree with that statement, and I believe that His Majesty's Government would not deny it. That is really, I venture to say to my noble friend, the argument against his policy of splendid isolation. But I do most heartily agree with him, if he will allow me to, in one matter, and that is that I do agree that we should, once and for all, give up any idea of preparing a great Army to go to the Continent. I think that is utterly impossible if we are to be sufficiently strong at sea and in the air at the same time.
Now I come to the Labour Party policy with regard to armaments, which I must repeat, because we do not seem able to persuade members of the Party opposite that we have a distinct policy, by which we are prepared to stand. For our part in this collective security which we suggest is the only possible policy to-day in the world as it is, and for this League of Nations which we hope will be revived, reinvigorated and stimulated by His Majesty's advisers, we are prepared to supply the necessary armaments. I do not believe it is possible to provide a great Army, a great Navy and 335 a great Air Force at the same time. I think we should concentrate on making ourselves sufficiently strong in the air and at sea to fulfil our obligations, and I think the War Office should devote their talent to providing the necessary overseas garrisons and to looking after the question of defence against air attack on this country. I should like to see the whole Territorial Army given over to that purpose, and the idea of sending numerous military divisions to the Continent given up altogether. There, if I may be allowed to say so, I entirely agree with my noble friend Lord Arnold.
I have once more expounded the Labour policy with regard to the League, collective security and armaments, but with that we want the Government to tell us—and I invite the noble Earl, Lord Plymouth, or the Leader of the House when he replies on Tuesday to my noble friend Lord Snell, to tell us on behalf of the Government—whether they have any policy that they hope to implement in the near future with regard to an agreed limitation of armaments. We cannot go on with this armaments race indefinitely. The situation is really getting intolerable, and will presently be intolerable financially. In that respect I do not know if the noble Lord, Lord Mount Temple, is still in the House, but I agree with what he said about the German offer with regard to equality of armaments in 1932. I think it was a fatal mistake that we did not accept it at that time. It gave the then German Government an excuse to leave the League, and it gave the then German Government an excuse immensely to strengthen and enlarge their armaments. I think that a very grave responsibility lies on the then Foreign Secretary, Sir John Simon, for not taking more vigorous action at that time to see that? the German offer was properly accepted and agreed to.
I just want to make one other comment with regard to the policy of the Labour Party in these great questions which we are discussing this afternoon in your Lordships' House. I know that I am speaking here for the great bulk of the Labour Party, and I hope my noble friends will not mind me saying this. We do not pick out any country as a potential enemy to be armed against and against whom our armaments are directed. We have no quarrel with the 336 German people, and the Government and the form of government in Germany is not our concern; it is the concern of the German people themselves. We are only too glad to have a friendly Germany, and the fact that there is a Nazi Government in Berlin does not sway Labour policy to any special hostility to Germany as Germany. We are afraid of possible aggression from several States in Europe, and that is why we say that there should be a system of collective security between the democratic and peace-loving States to oppose that possible aggression.
I would ask leave to refer to a statement made by the Prime Minister on February 18 in another place which I think completely answers the arguments of the isolationists. I have not always seen eye to eye in every way with the present Prime Minister in great political matters, but, after all, he has the advantage of all the official information from every source. He also has a very great responsibility, and I do not think he speaks lightly on these matters. May I quote his words? This is from The Times report: I have not had time to get the OFFICIAL REPORT:If any war breaks out in Europe now it is not going to be a localised war. It will run through Europe and be the most terrible thing you can conceive.Then I leave out a few words which do not affect the context, and the report continues:Were there a pact of mutual defence against aggression between the nations of Western Europe he believed that such a pact would maintain the peace.Those are the words of the Prime Minister only a few days ago.
May I ask why that is confined to Western Europe? The first sentences nuke perfectly clear what I think most of us feel, that you cannot localise a war in this crowded nervous Continent to-day. Then why do you localise your means of preserving the peace? My noble friend, and I suppose the Marquess of Lothian once more when he speaks, for he is a great opponent of the Franco-Soviet Pact, will say that it is a legitimate grievance of Germany. I must again say that Germany was invited to enter into the same arrangement of the Franco-Soviet Pact, but apparently because Germany does not like the form of government in Russia she says that is impossible. Well, I should like to see the Franco-Soviet Pact enlarged to 337 include Germany and this country and all other nations who are prepared to adhere to it. I believe that it would have the effect of strengthening the Covenant of the League of Nations which I venture to say would give a chance of preserving the peace of Europe in these next few critical years.
Now may I offer one or two remarks on some other questions in the few minutes that are left? Once again may I ask the noble Earl, Lord Plymouth, as I asked the Leader of the House on a previous occasion, have we any policy in contemplation or in preparation for ending the appalling slaughter in Spain? Is it proposed simply to draw a cordon of warships round the coast of Spain and to blockade that country and leave the combatants to fight it out, because, if so, I think that is a bankrupt policy. Now that the Government have got their Non-Intervention Pact into some sort of shape and some kind of operation, what is the next step? Are they going to sit back and allow this awful bloodshed and suffering to go on in that beautiful country? Did the noble Earl and other members of His Majesty's Government read the accounts—and I suppose they have official accounts also—of what happened at Malaga when the refugees, thousands of harmless people, mothers with their families, and old people were bombed from the air and bombarded from the sea by hostile warships, some of which are stated to be the warships of our dear friends the Italians (and I believe the Germans were there also)? It is one of the most horrible stories that I have read, even looking back on what happened in the last Great War in Europe. Are we prepared to allow all that sort of thing to continue without making any further effort to stop it? In other words is there any hope of any kind of intervention, and if not, why not?
Yes, mediation, though of course you could have a possible peace intervention too. But is there any chance of mediation now? For example, I presume there are negotiations going on with several Great Powers in Europe—Germany, France and so on 338 —on general political questions. If we all tried to mediate together, if we could bring the United States into this matter, is there no chance of a truce in Spain? Or is it that the Government are secretly anxious for the fall of the Spanish Government and the final triumph of the rebels? That is what I have always suspected, and nothing happens to remove my suspicions.
The other question that I wished to address to His Majesty's Government through the noble Earl is with regard to the United States of America. Can we be given some information in this House about the result of Mr. Runciman's conversations in Washington, and is it proposed to send any other statesman to attempt to settle several outstanding questions in the capital of the United States? The reason I ask is because I suggest that we have been thinking rather too much about Europe lately and not quite enough about the New World. The American Senate and House of Representatives are about to be invited to discuss legislation of a very far-reaching character connected with American neutrality in case of a war in Europe or elsewhere. As far as I can understand, the extreme view taken by certain Senators and Representatives is that should a war, or civil war for that matter, break out anywhere in the world, the United States is to sever all commerce with both belligerents. That is the extreme view. There are of course more moderate policies, into which I need not enter, but that is the extreme view of neutrality policy in the United States.
Quite frankly I think that policy will be found, if there should be a war, to be utterly impracticable. I cannot see the American business world cutting off the whole of its export trade because there happened to be a war between two nations in Europe. And even if my noble friend Lord Arnold's policy of localising the war and keeping this country out of it were successful, then, as everyone knows, if you want to sever connection with belligerents you have to sever connections with all their neighbours as well. Therefore it means the end of all American Transatlantic trade, and I think it is utterly impossible as a policy. Are we doing anything about that? I should have thought it was the kind of thing that it would be perfectly proper for His Majesty's representative in Washington to 339 be discussing at the present time with the American Government. I am not suggesting that we should interfere with American domestic legislation, but this is a matter which may affect the peace of the whole world. It is a mistake to suppose that the Americans only welcome compliments and flattery. I believe they are glad to have plain speaking, and I think the time has come for some plain speaking with the United States, and that we should get a favourable response.
I understand that Mr. Runciman, the President of the Board of Trade, went out to the United States of America for a holiday, and he took advantage of the occasion for certain conversations in Washington in between the portions of his holiday—quite unofficial apparently. Is nothing in contemplation officially in Washington? I have not consulted my noble friend Lord Snell before raising this point because there was not time, and I am raising it as an individual. But I feel very keenly about the American situation. I believe the interests of the United States are on all fours with ours in most parts of the world, and that we have too long neglected the American people and the American Government because of our preoccupations in Europe.
I have endeavoured, except in these last few sentences, which are individual, to express the view of the Labour Party as it has been thoroughly discussed and decided by our organised representatives and delegates at our various conferences. We are not a war Party, we are a peace Party. We do not believe that armaments by themselves will bring peace, and we do not believe that it is possible for this country to re-adopt the old policy of armed neutrality, or splendid isolation with heavy armaments—because my noble friend Lord Arnold will find, I think, that his temporary allies on this question of splendid isolation want with it the most colossal burden of armaments for many years to come. I do not think the policy of splendid isolation and heavy armaments will bring very much support outside certain small but very valuable elements in our own Party. I have endeavoured, as I have said, to represent what is our official policy as well as I could, and I only want to conclude, if I may, by personally thanking my noble friend Lord Arnold for his most 340 interesting speech and for his service to your Lordships' House in initiating this debate.
§ THE EARL OF PLYMOUTH
My Lords, you will certainly agree that this debate has covered a very wide range of subjects, and I have been frankly alarmed by the volume and nature of the advice which has been hurled at the head of the Government. In those circumstances I hope your Lordships will forgive me if I confine myself to the general trend of the debate, and at the same time attempt to deal with a number of criticisms that wore levelled at the policy of the Government in a number of points that were raised.
It has seemed to me, in following some of the arguments that have been brought forward by various speakers, that they have been based very largely on false premises, and that has led to the conclusions which they have reached being even more false than the premises from which they started. I would, if I may, in the first instance, deal with some of the arguments brought forward by the noble Lord who initiated this debate. The noble Lord has called in question the foreign policy of the Government as a whole. His criticisms have not been of a superficial nature. They have not been criticisms levelled at the day-to-day management of foreign affairs, but they have struck at the very foundations of that policy and at the fundamental principles on which that policy is based. He asks for a complete change of outlook. He says that the Government are living in a world of their own imagination, far removed from the realities of the situation, and he asks for this change of outlook in order to bring policy and realities into closer relationship, in which way he hopes to afford the best guarantee of national and international well-being.
I, on the other hand, hope to convince your Lordships that the foreign policy of the Government which has been clearly enunciated on a number of occasions, and which is being steadily pursued, is better designed to safeguard British interests and, furthermore, to serve the cause of international order than the policies which have been suggested to your Lordships by the noble Lord who initiated this discussion. My reasons for saying that are these. Firstly, our policy follows more closely the line which history and national 341 tradition have marked out for us; and there is also this reason, that, even if it is judged by Lord Arnold's own test, I maintain that actually it is more in harmony with the realities of the international situation than the policy which he has in mind. If I have understood the noble Lord aright, he is frankly an isolationist, as we term those who hold his views. He feels that His Majesty's Government should at the earliest possible moment release themselves from any obligations which they have undertaken and under which they are bound to intervene by force of arms. Not only does he say we should do this, but he adds that we ought to go even further than that, and make it plain that we should not be prepared to use arms except when we ourselves, are the victims of an attack. In this respect I would, in passing, draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that he differs very definitely from some of your Lordships whose views I have often heard expressed both in your Lordships' House and outside. He, on the one hand, would bring all our commitments to an end at the earliest possible moment, and those who hold the views I have just described would, on the other, increase them to a very considerable extent.
The noble Lord, Lord Arnold, feels that our security is best served by our attempting to cut ourselves off from the rest of the world and by our disinteresting ourselves in the affairs of other nations, however close neighbours they may be of this country. The other group of noble Lords go to the other extreme. They say that our security is inseparable from the security of the collectivity of nations. They say that the safety of all can only be guaranteed by all undertaking to go to the assistance of any other country that might be the victim of unprovoked aggression, and they say—and this I want to emphasise—we should do this regardless of whether our vital interests are involved or not. I must emphasise this point because it does very definitely carry us beyond our obligations under the Covenant of the League of Nations. Speaking from a theoretical point of view, if you regard these two policies as ideals, there may be something to be said in their favour, but judged by purely practical standards and the hard logic of facts and the realities of the situation with which we are confronted, 342 I say confidently they rule themselves out as practical and possible policies. We cannot disperse the dangers which surround and beset us, nor indeed can we possibly play our rightful and beneficent rôle in the world, either by hiding our head in the sand or by pretending that the world can be set in order by the mere existence of universal paper pledges which have been undertaken without regard to the possibility, or even the probability, of their being fulfilled.
May I return for a moment to the noble Lord's advocacy of the policy of isolation? This matter has been dealt with during the course of the debate by other speakers, but I want to strengthen the arguments which they have brought forward, and I want your Lordships to ask yourselves whether, in reality, the policy of isolation is practical politics at the present time. There have been very considerable scientific developments in recent years—developments to a large extent in the air—and although the noble Lord has attempted to belittle the effects of these developments, I do say that in spite of everything he has said they have rendered what I term physical isolation an absolute impossibility. We cannot, even if we wish to do so, cut ourselves apart from the rest of Europe in a way which perhaps might have been possible before the era of the last War. But even before the last War this was found undesirable, and indeed on very many occasions quite impossible as well. I venture to say there are few people who would now suggest that we should have kept out of the Great War, or rather that we should have kept out of it at the beginning of the War itself, and even if there are a few who do happen to hold that view, I think there can be none who would maintain that as a result we should have been any better off, or that we should not have had to face a situation far graver than the one that we actually did face, after the War was over. I think these arguments need very little elaboration. It is perfectly clear that if you keep out of one war there is no guarantee that you might not be on the next occasion the Power directly attacked. You cannot have conditions or prophecies about matters of this kind. Therefore, I feel that that policy is one that you could not expect any responsible Government to follow at the present moment. As I have said, it is actually a physical 343 impossibility for us to isolate ourselves from the Continent of Europe in these days.
Turning from that particular subject, I need hardly say to your Lordships that the determination of the policy designed to meet our needs, is quite naturally no simple matter, but we must remember this: that these Islands are situated in the very closest proximity to a very unsettled Europe. We must remember, in addition, that we are responsible not only for our own shores but for the shores of territories scattered throughout a great part of the world. In these circumstances we have not the slightest doubt that our own interests, and those of the world as a whole, would best be served by our adopting a policy at the same time more moderate and more flexible than either of the policies which I have alluded to in the earlier part of my remarks.
My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has in the last few months laid down, with great clarity, the occasions upon which our armaments might be employed. The noble Lord, Lord Arnold, has referred to a number of speeches that my right honourable friend has recently made, and I would, if I may, pursue this matter further, because it is very germane to my present argument. On one point there will be no dispute whatsoever, and that is that whatever we may do in the future, we shall certainly not engage upon a war of aggression. We are now providing ourselves with armaments on a scale commensurate with our interests and responsibilities, but of this your Lordships can be certain: these will never be used for purposes inconsistent with the Covenant of the League or, indeed, the Pact of Paris. With that proposition I feel sure your Lordships will not disagree, and I do not think the noble Lord would disagree that our armaments might and, if occasion arose, should be used in our own defence and in the defence of the territories of the Commonwealth beyond the seas. He would not, as I understand it, deny our right of self-defence or the wisdom of making preparations against such a situation.
Certain reference has been made during the course of the debate to the armaments policy and the armaments programme of His Majesty's Govern- 344 ment. I therefore want, in passing, to make a few observations with regard to this. It has been sometimes, in fact frequently, alleged, both at home and abroad, that His Majesty's Government are leading in a race of armaments. Honestly I find it difficult to believe that such an argument is seriously intended. In any event it is a complete travesty of the actual facts of the situation. May I recall to your Lordships what these are? In fact what has occurred is this. As my noble friend Lord Stonehaven has pointed out, it was in the hope that their efforts might achieve a measure of general disarmament that His Majesty's Government deliberately refrained, for a long period, from increasing their own armaments, their own armed forces. They maintained this attitude until it became evident that unilateral disarmament did not make for peaceful conditions generally. I think that events of recent years have made this abundantly clear. During that period, on the other hand, other nations have been rapidly increasing their armaments, and it has not been possible for His Majesty's Government to close their eyes to that development.
Now, I admit with the greatest reluctance, they have embarked as a national duty upon the re-equipment of our armed forces. How can that be described as taking the lead in an armaments race? In present circumstances this is an absolutely vital necessity, not only in order to enable us to defend our shores and those of other parts of the British Commonwealth, but also to enable us to fulfil our obligations in connection with a system of collective security. These are simply the plain facts of the situation. I want to add that this does not at all mean that we have abandoned the policy of disarmament, but we shall definitely continue with our programme unless and until the nations of the world reach an international agreement for reduction and limitation of armaments. In any attempt to secure such an agreement we shall, of course, give our full co-operation. But there remains one point which I must strongly emphasise, and that is that a standstill in armaments, calculated to give a permanent advantage to nations which had urgently concentrated on achieving the most intensive measure of armaments within their power, would, in the first place, be no service to peace, and, in the 345 second place, could not possibly be accepted by His Majesty's Government.
I have said that I did not think the noble Lord would differ from the two propositions that I made earlier on in my speech, but he will no doubt disagree with what I am going to say, and that is this, that our armaments might, and indeed if occasion arose would, be used in defence of France and Belgium against unprovoked aggression. This is in accordance with our existing obligations. As your Lordships know, the chief of those obligations is the Treaty of Locarno, and though this has been repudiated by Germany, it still binds, as between themselves, the other signatories who were parties, to the proposals of March 19 last after the time of the re-occupation of the Rhineland. I was going to ask it as a. question, but I think it is quite clear that the noble Lord does suggest that we should now withdraw from this obligation and disinterest ourselves from events beyond the Channel. This would be a violent revolution indeed, a violent revolution in policy.
The noble Lord has suggested that a policy of isolation is the traditional policy of this country. The noble Lord who sits beside him, Lord Strabolgi, took that point up. I must demur to that as a general proposition It is perfectly true, I admit, that from time to time, owing very largely, as the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, has pointed out, to the fact that at the time we were in a very strong position through having a very powerful Navy, it has been possible for this country, on occasions, to dissociate itself from events on the Continent, but this has been the exception rather than the rule. Indeed, such a policy has very rapidly been modified as the dangers to this country have become more obvious. To argue as the noble Lord has done is really to take no account of the lessons of history and the realities of these days. For instance, we have never been able to ignore events in the Low Countries, and it seems to me that is still less possible now in view of the results of the modern developments to which I have already referred.
The Treaty of Locarno really is in fact In conformity with the policy normally pursued, and very often pursued, by this country in the past. As for our guarantee to Belgium and France I will only say 346 that this, of course, did not create a new situation but rather gave a contractual form to what was an abiding fact. This undertaking of a definite obligation was our contribution to the pacification of Europe at that time, and I say that it helped to create the nucleus of a general security and to lend support to the Covenant of the League in the vital area of Western Europe. The Locarno settlement comprised other elements as well. It must be remembered that the guarantee given to Belgium and France was given equally to Germany. Then, in addition to the Rhineland Treaty, there were treaties between Germany and both Poland and Czechoslovakia, but it was the mutual and comprehensive character of the settlement which gave it its true value as a means of strengthening the foundations of peace and restoring confidence generally.
To achieve this same end the Government have striven for many months to rebuild what was destroyed in March last. We believe that the peace of Western Europe can best be safeguarded by a treaty of mutual guarantees on the lines of the Treaty of Locarno, though not necessarily absolutely identical. We have attempted to bring about a meeting of the live interested Powers, including Germany, at which we hope to negotiate a new agreement to take the place of Locarno, which in turn we hope would be followed by the consideration of other matters affecting European peace which would necessarily come under discussion. The present position is this. We have now received and collated the opinions of the various Powers on the main issues involved. We are now trying to reconcile the various views expressed, and to our latest communication replies have been received from France and Belgium but not, so far, from Germany and Italy.
The noble Lord has raised a number of highly hypothetical cases and asked me what action His Majesty's Government would take if those cases actually eventuated. I do not think that the House can really expect me to say what His Majesty's Government would do as a result, for instance, as the noble Lord suggested, of possible or imagined developments in the internal situation in France. Nor can I be drawn into a detailed discussion of what circumstances would render an attack on France an act of unprovoked aggression. But this at 347 any rate I can say, that so long as the existing Treaty of Locarno is in force, it is of course the Council of the League that has the duty of determining whether circumstances justify the bringing into operation of the guarantee which has been undertaken under that Treaty by various Powers. I also feel it difficult to discuss the merits of the present policy of Belgium to which the noble Lord referred at some considerable length, though, as he has pointed out, I would observe in passing that Belgium has stated to us that she does for the time being stand by her existing obligations. I would like to reply to a specific question which the noble Lord asked me and that was the nature of the Belgium reply, which has just been received.
§ LORD ARNOLD
If the noble Earl will permit me to interrupt I did not ask that question because I saw the answer in The Times and I have no doubt that it is right.
§ THE EARL OF PLYMOUTH
Then as the noble Lord is satisfied I need not pursue that question. The noble Lord knows that we are not in a position to disclose it at the present moment. There is another point to which I should like to refer. The noble Lord made reference to certain pledges that were recently given to this country by the French Government. He referred, no doubt, to a recent statement by the French Foreign Minister that all the French forces, land, sea and air, would immediately be used in defence of Great Britain against unprovoked aggression. The noble Lord seemed to belittle the value of that assurance, but I should like to say that it gave the utmost satisfaction to His Majesty's Government, and in addition to that I would like to say that France as a matter of fact under the Locarno Treaty gave no guarantee to Great Britain. Therefore to that extent this is a new declaration.
I have spoken of the position in Western Europe, where our closest interests lie, but it is perfectly obvious that we have world-wide interests as well. As a Member of the League we have to take part in common international life, and we simply cannot disinterest ourselves in what may be going on elsewhere. We must keep a watchful eye on what occurs 348 in every part of the world. If there is trouble the question of whether we should intervene or not must depend very largely upon the particular circumstances of the case. It must not be entirely ruled out that we might help a victim of aggression in a case where in our judgment it would be proper under the provisions of the Covenant; though I want to point out that in such an instance—and I would emphasise this—there would be no automatic obligation to render military assistance. This is really an important point. I venture to say that nations cannot be expected to incur automatic military obligations except where their vital interests are concerned.
Will the noble Earl make that a little clearer? What is meant by vital interests, and is the noble Earl referring to the present situation or to what His Majesty's Government have in contemplation for the future?
§ THE EARL OF PLYMOUTH
There are no automatic military commitments under the policy of the League, and that is the policy of His Majesty's Government. As to what constitutes vital interests, I think I must leave the noble Lord to judge for himself.
§ THE EARL OF PLYMOUTH
Indeed it is. It is the main object to which His Majesty's Government are always endeavouring to direct their policy. The noble Lord, Lord Arnold, I imagine, means that we ought now to withdraw from the League. I find it difficult to think of anything which would be more destructive of confidence generally throughout the world; and indeed it would do damage to our own good name and to the influence that we certainly have at the present moment in Europe and even beyond the borders of Europe. I therefore need hardly say that His Majesty's Government have no such intention, and that on the other hand they quite firmly intend to maintain their membership of the League.
§ LORD ARNOLD
Would the noble Earl permit me to make my position clear? I am in favour of a League not based on force. If you took Article 16 cut of the Covenant then all the Powers would come into the League.
§ THE EARL OF PLYMOUTH
I shall have something to say about that later, although I hope not to detain your Lordships very much longer. I quite admit that it cannot be denied, for reasons with which your Lordships are familiar that the League in existing circumstances cannot provide a complete guarantee of security for its Members. But in spite of that the League does stand for certain principles which have gained acceptance throughout the world. Amongst others there is this very important consideration, that if unfortunately we are not able to prevent war at any rate a distinction must be drawn between the aggressor and the victim of aggression, and such help as may be found possible by common action should be rendered to the victim of aggression. This principle, however imperfectly it may be applied in practice, ought not to be lightly abandoned, because quite obviously the result would be to give the world ever to the law of the strong.
I know there is a habit in certain quarters to deride the League, a habit in certain quarters not far from where I am actually standing at this moment. To my mind this habit of deriding the League is entirely unjustified by actual experience. Useful criticism is one thing, but an attempt to laugh the League of Nations off the stage altogether is an entirely different thing. I myself deplore it. To put the League at its lowest, it has without the slightest doubt performed technical services of the very greatest value in every sphere, economic, financial and so on. I take the view that that alone would justify its existence. But as a matter of fact it has done a very great deal more than that. It represents the only international machinery which mankind has been able to devise for the treatment of problems which affect more than one country. Other systems have been tried. There were the alliances with which we were familiar before the War. I doubt whether anybody would suggest a reversion to a policy of that kind. There could be nothing more dangerous than the grouping of Powers into blocs and, indeed, nothing more likely to lead the world into war. After the War the world felt very acutely indeed the need of an international order which would replace the arbitrament of war, the need for an international code of behaviour 350 and a permanent machine the work of which would be directed towards the preservation of peace. Nowhere was this feeling stronger than in this country.
I know perfectly well, we all know, that the League is not perfect. Indeed, my view is that no reasonable person could have expected it to be. From the very beginning it has suffered from the lack of universality, and unfortunately this situation has been aggravated in the last few years. I feel that this point cannot possibly be overstressed. To put it in colloquial language, the League has never had a fair chance from the very start. It is perfectly obvious that much more could be expected of, and done by, a universal League than a League which lacks the membership of several of the first-class Powers. I ask myself, can anybody seriously think that, because it has fallen short of our high hopes—which in my view were set too high from the very beginning—we ought therefore to withdraw from the League? All thinking people will, I am sure, take the opposite view, that, on the contrary, we should try to increase its authority and to strengthen it in every possible way. This, I can assure your Lordships, is the policy of His Majesty's Government: to attempt to restore to the League its universality, though it may take a considerable time, and to give it as great an authority as possible.
As a means to that end there are two criticisms which I think should be very carefully examined. One is that the League merely exists to maintain the status quo, and the other is the charge that it forces nations to assume obligations which they are not ready in the present state of the world to accept. Our view is that it is not impossible to devise means whereby the League's machinery can be used to adapt the situation to changing circumstances and at the same time to remedy legitimate grievances. Nor do we think it impossible to take advantage of the fact that every State has some interests which are vital in certain parts of the world. It is for this reason that His Majesty's Government are in favour of what are known as regional pacts. These differ from the Covenant of the League itself in that they are more precise and that they involve parties in automatically rendering military aid to another party to the same agreement which has become the victim of unpro- 351 voked aggression. I want, however, to stress this: that these regional pacts are in no way inconsistent with the Covenant itself, and on the other hand would, in our view, be an important factor in increasing the sense of general security throughout the world.
We feel that this and every other reasonable means should be taken to reinforce the League's authority at the present moment. His Majesty's Government will offer what help they can. In their view it is not necessary to undertake drastic amendments of the Covenant, even if that were possible. After all, the Covenant was a very carefully drafted document and is by no means a rigid one. A Committee has recently been set up by the Assembly to study the application of the principles of the Covenant. His Majesty's Government are participating in this work. They know, of course, that the task is a delicate and indeed a difficult one and that it requires long and careful preparation, but they are hopeful that before long a satisfactory issue will result from the work of this Committee. It is perfectly true that there are people who hold wide differences of opinion on this subject. There are some who, like the noble Lord, take the view that the Covenant should be shorn of all coercive provisions, and there are, on the other hand, those who take the view that the obligation to render military assistance to victims should be automatic and universal. Between these two extremes of opinion there are many different shades of opinion. His Majesty's Government do not favour either of these extreme courses. Their aim is to strengthen the League's authority, and in any case they will do everything they can to preserve its existence in the future.
There are two specific questions which the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, addressed to me towards the end of his speech. He asked me whether the Government had any definite policy for the future with regard to Spain. Your Lordships know quite well the position in regard to the unfortunate state of affairs in that country. Your Lordships are aware that a ban on volunteers has been put into operation by all countries who are parties to the Non-intervention Agreement. Your Lordships also know that it is hoped to put into operation on the sixth of next month a scheme to supervise what occurs 352 on the land frontiers and also at the ports on Spanish territory. Another question is whether it would not be possible to withdraw from Spain those volunteers who have already gone there. His Majesty's Government have already made it quite clear that they will be willing to examine at an early date the possibility of achieving that end, though obviously there are difficulties in the way. With regard to the question of mediation, as the noble Lord knows the question of mediation has been in the minds of the Government and other Governments for a considerable time past. The possibility of mediation will always be kept in view, but I regret to say that so far as we are informed the prospects at the present moment do not appear to be very bright. The matter of first importance is to reduce the war to a Spanish affair, and after that to see if it is possible to attempt any steps in such a direction.
The noble Lord has asked me if I could give him any further information concerning the visit of my right honourable friend the President of the Board of Trade to the United States of America. I am afraid that I am not able, at the present time, to amplify what he has himself said in the House of Commons some little time ago and to which I believe he has not been able to add, but the noble Lord's remarks will be brought to the attention of the proper persons. If there is anything further that we can tell him on the subject, I feel certain that my noble friend the Lord Privy Seal, who is to speak when this debate is resumed, will give him all the information possible.
In conclusion, I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to certain facts which ought greatly to influence judgment generally of His Majesty's Government's foreign policy. To begin with, our own position in Europe and the world is stronger and our authority in the councils of nations has grown. More and more we are looked to from all sides for guidance, and more and more we are establishing relations of confidence with other countries throughout the world. Our influence has the whole time been for peace and appeasement and in favour of the settlement of international questions by discussion and conciliation. At Montreux through my noble friend who sits beside me (Lord Stanhope) we played an important part in the promotion of the Dardanelles settlement. Then at Geneva 353 a month or so ago my right honourable friend the Secretary of State used his friendly influence to help the settlement of the Alexandretta dispute between France and Turkey.
I would also like to mention the Treaty of Alliance with Egypt, the three-Power monetary agreement which was reached in the autumn, and the recent Agreement with Italy, which has undoubtedly brought a great relaxation of tension in the Mediterranean. I would also mention the policy of non-intervention, which has been pursued by this country so far as the Spanish conflict is concerned from the very beginning. The primary object of that policy was to confine that terrible conflict within Spanish frontiers, and to that extent this policy has undoubtedly been successful. All our efforts have been directed towards the promotion of a unity of purpose in Europe, towards the preventing of the array of nations into hostile groups, whether based on race or political creed, or indeed on any other grounds. In this European community Germany, of course, has her due part to play, and I 354 can only say that we desire her full and free co-operation, not only in the new Western agreement, but in European affairs generally, in the economic, the financial and the political spheres as well. In the view of His Majesty's Government the only method of saving Europe from a complete disaster is for the Government to follow out the policy which I have attempted to describe to your Lordships.
§ Moved, That the debate be now adjourned.—(The Marquess of Lothian.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly till Tuesday next.