§ LORD SNELL rose to call attention to the statement on foreign affairs made by His Majesty's Government on 24th March; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, the statement to which we listened on Thursday last from the noble Viscount, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, was one of the most serious official declarations that has been made to Parliament in recent years, and when full allowance has been made for its ambiguities and perplexing hesitations, it remains a document of great significance which should not be minimised and which should not be misunderstood. For good or for ill, at home and abroad, for 435 so long as His Majesty's present Government are in office, it will be held as representing the foreign policy of this country. The presence therefore on the Order Paper of the Motion which stands in my name will not be resented and, as many of your Lordships desire to speak this afternoon, I shall endeavour to compress into the fewest possible words what I have to say. I must of necessity therefore confine myself to one or two points in the statement, these points being those which I regard as not being finally settled.
§ First allow me a general word of appraisement of this statement. There are indeed two versions of it, one more extended than the other, one made in another place and one made to your Lordships. I shall assume that the statement that we had the privilege of hearing is a kind of Shorter Catechism than that which we heard in another place—a statement without those rhetorical embellishments which, however appropriate they may be in another place, would, if used here, frighten your Lordships to death. The world Press has given on the whole a favourable reception to the statement that was made. It has said many very courteous things about it. Its verbal adroitness has been admitted, and what we may call the political footwork in it has been generally admired. As an illustration of discerning evasion I, too, cannot withhold from it a passing word of appreciation. But when that has been said let the Government remember this, that it is as true of Governments as it is of individuals that they should beware when most men speak well of them.
§ There is one thing, however, about this statement which no one has said. No one has said that the Government have committed themselves to any immediate programme of appeasement of those political, economic and territorial grievances which, after all, represent the permanent source of trouble between nations. There was indeed a whisper of a restrained hope, but the statement as I read it gives no lead, it contains no concrete proposal for the pacification of Europe at the present time; and the absence from it of that note is, at least to myself, a disappointment and, I believe, a warning. There is, however, one quite definite, clear-cut statement, and that is arms and more arms which, however necessary they may be in the 436 end, settle nothing. There are certain basic differences between what the Government appear to stand for and what I and my friends regard as being right. First of all, the Government appear to live from day to day by political accommodation for the hour. Without any long-range policy they apparently drift unprepared into the dangers of the future. Well, whether we are right or not, we believe that steps should be taken now to examine, and to settle if possible, the grievances which, if they are not settled, will inevitably lead to war.
I do not believe that any problem in the world is solved by merely postponing the consideration of it. My own experience is that no bill of mine has ever been settled by postponing the day of payment: the bitter hour arrives sooner or later. And I believe that, unless we have a policy far-seeing, creative, accommodating, readjusting, we shall not escape the dangers which lie ahead. It has been said that
A little fire is quickly trodden out;
Which, being suffer'd, rivers cannot quench.
§ Therefore what we urge is not temporary and precarious peace, but a sure and an abiding peace, if that can be obtained. And we believe we should try to envisage what the world will be like, not to-day or to-morrow, but the day after to-morrow and in the future through which we may have to live. Sooner or later the bill, if we do the wrong thing, will have to be paid. We have never been believers in making our children pay for the last war, and we are not believers in having a policy which may force them to fight the next war. Our business is, according to our lights, to try to settle it now.
§ The Labour Party, because it has said these things, has been accused of wanting war. My Lords, we want nothing of the kind. I have never in my life said a single word in favour of war, and I never shall. But I like to look where I am going and, politically at least, one step is not enough for me. I should like, if I could, to express quite shortly what I think we stand for. We want conciliation where grievances exist—and that is not war. We want to rebuild the League of Nations if that can be accomplished—and that, too, is not war. We want peace, and we believe that peace is the reward of clear thinking and wise planning which cannot be put off to some un- 437 certain day. We believe, too, that the best security—possibly the only security—is that of an international authority capable of guaranteeing individual nations against attacks, and that such an authority could be built. We believe that the existing League, if it had the support of the nations that give to it lip service, would have succeeded: and in so far as it has failed we believe that His Majesty's Government have some share of responsibility. Part of our faith is that nations so associated for mutual security should submit themselves to the rule of International Law and be willing to admit that no nation is at all times the best judge of its own cause. By any test of honest criticism, that is not a policy of war: it is a policy of peace, and a policy which we believe will have to be followed sooner or later if war is to be ended. We do no: ask for security for a group of nations, but for all nations. We want the authoritarian States to be secure against aggression as well as ourselves. We have nothing to do with the kind of government they prefer for themselves, and the best wish we have for both Germany and Italy is that they should help now to safeguard the civilisation which both of them did so much to build.
§ The Prime Minister in another place spoke of the statement he there made as describing, not a policy, but an attitude. I believe the correct description of an attitude is the disposition of a figure in statuary or in painting. That is so like His Majesty's Government. It stands still. A statue achieves nothing, though the attitude may be pleasing to the eye. The policy in this statement seems to us to be negative where it is not obscure, and it ends at precisely that point where fruitful activity should begin. The two points I shall trouble to put before your Lordships in a very few words relate to the situation in Spain and to the League of Nations. The attitude of the Government is, I understand, that of non-intervention, but, by denying or refusing the right of the loyal Spanish people to have the means to defend themselves, the Government have intervened, and intervened in support of the rebels against those who were loyal to their own Government. I believe that future generations of Spanish people will use words to describe this attitude which will not be pleasant hearing for our children.438
Then the faith of His Majesty's Government really impresses me. They feel satisfied that Italy has no territorial, political, or economic designs in Spain.
His Majesty's Government place full reliance upon the intention of the Italian Government to make good their assurances.
§ Is it impertinent to ask whether the Italian Government kept their word in the past? That was not Mr. Eden's opinion, at any rate, and he at least had access to the facts and I have not. I hope that the faith of the Government is not of that kind which enables them to believe what they know not to be true. Let us try to be realists in the matter. It is said that Mussolini will retire at a given point from a position he had no right to be in at any time. We are entitled to ask why he went to Spain. It was not moral compulsion. Even we never made war for ideas, but for realities. The reason was to secure certain strategical advantages which in the end do not promise peace and good for the British Empire. The alternative may be that Italy has been bought off and, if so, we should like to know at what price. As far as we can pass judgment on this matter, the Government have helped to keep the ring in a battle where most of the strength was on one side and all the honour on the other.
Then, the League of Nations. If indeed, as I hope may be the case, we have got a respite from acute anxieties, let us use these precious days in constructive activity. Recent events have not abolished the need for conciliation. They have increased that need. We want, as a part of our contribution to this debate, to urge that the Assembly of the League should be called together now as a beginning, and that the Government should declare their intention to rebuild the League according to our experience and what will serve the future. We want an attempt to be made to face the grievances that exist, and we believe that if that policy were held aloft it would draw all men to it. But we have little belief that that will be the policy of His Majesty's Government, and in that we are fortified by the declaration of one of their own organs the Evening Standard which, a night or two ago, dealing with this problem, said:
Some may be surprised at Mr. Chamberlain's respectful words about what is left of the League of Nations. Do not be misled by this gesture. Mr. Chamberlain has no
delusions about the importance of the League. But he has no illusions either about the position of the League of Nations Union, which still exerts considerable influence in this country. He must still make his bow to the League on their account.
§ Now, my Lords, that interests us very much. Here we are told by this particular organ that all these protestations about the League are mere political trickery; that the Prime Minister will be allowed to bow to the League of Nations Union as he passes through the Temple of Rimmon but that does not mean anything.
§ Now if that had come from any scurrilous organ we might have passed it by, but when it appears in this dignified oracle of the higher patriotism even we have to take notice of it. The Labour Party has been appealed to to give help in this crisis, and whenever there is a crisis affecting the welfare of the country the Labour Party will do its share but we want to know where we are going, and I want to tell His Majesty's Government that they are not going to have our co-operation at the price there suggested. There is one way, and one way only, by which the Government may disprove statements of that kind, and that way is immediate, strong, continuous action to rebuild the League and to start it once more upon its beneficent career. If they did that then the Government would have behind them not only a united nation but the support of a waiting world. I beg to move for Papers.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
My Lords, I am very glad that the noble Lord, Lord Snell, has placed this Motion on the Paper, because I think that a discussion conducted as we know it will be conducted in your Lordships' House helps us all to clear our minds in the very difficult times through which we are passing, and all the more when it is introduced with the gravity and sense of responsibility which the noble Lord who leads the Opposition has shown to-day. Now I would venture from a somewhat different point of view to touch upon one or two of the subjects that are mentioned in the important statement with which we are dealing. It seems to me that it was altogether wise on the part of His Majesty's Government to say very little about Austria in this statement. All that it is necessary to say on that subject 440 has been said before, and, indeed, the only new development in that relation is that of the forthcoming plebescite on the subject. I do not know that there is very much to say on that, because a plebescite of that sort concludes nothing except the already well-known fact that the National Socialist Government, where it has the power of doing so, puts its foot down and leaves it there; so that it will not, I think, be of great interest to anybody to pay regard to the figures of that plebescite when they are given.
But the statement touched rather more fully on the subject of Czechoslovakia, about which all the world began to think after the Austrian coup had taken place. I think the statement made it altogether clear that if the action taken by the German Government with Austria were repeated in anything like the same form in the case of Czechoslovakia an entirely different situation would be created, the development of which it was impossible to foresee and which might, indeed, involve this country in serious action. That, I take it, will not be contradicted by anybody, and I think it may be regarded as in no sense a threat but as conveying a serious warning. But I think it is worth while to detain your Lordships just for a moment on the subject of Czechoslovakia, because it is not only a complicated story but an old story, dating from years before the War, and, in a form which does not tend to make the present situation easier. In the days of the Austrian Empire the Czechs in the provinces of Bohemia and Moravia had not the best time of it among Austrian subjects. They did not fare even as well as their non-German neighbours the Austrian Poles, because from the Poles of Galicia no less than two Prime Ministers in the last twenty years before the War served in that office in Vienna. Then, when the War came and the wind had one round, and the Czechs were on the winning side and the Germans in those provinces were on the losing side, naturally a difficult situation arose. The great admiration and respect which were inspired by President Masaryk and Mr. Beneš undoubtedly prevented the rest of Europe from trying to deal seriously, on behalf of the League of Nations, with the whole subject.
Certainly, it would have been a great deal to expect that the Czech nation, with their unfavourable experiences before the 441 War, should have treated the whole situation created by the new country of Czechoslovakia with complete lack of bias. As no doubt many of your Lordships know, the Czech population represents just about 50 per cent. of the whole population of Czechoslovakia. There are some 3 or 4 per cent. of Ruthenians, something like the same number of Hungarians, who are not very contented, about 16 per cent. of Slovaks, and rather more than 20 per cent. of Germans. The result of that is that the Czechs and the Slovaks, acting together as a rule, comprise just two-thirds of the whole population. We are told that since the War the Germans have had a bad time of it in the way of representation in the public services—I have no doubt some of your Lordships will have seen the figures—though apparently not at all to the same extent in the matter of education and the provision of schools. Still, they have felt that they have had much to complain of. When the National Socialist system prevailed in Germany obviously the situation became more serious.
That is how it stands now. Although for a time many of the Germans in Czechoslovakia were doing their best to make friends with the Czech Government, now they are practically unanimous, as I understand, in becoming National Socialists. Some of your Lordships may have seen reports of a broadcast delivered yesterday by the Prime Minister of Czechoslovakia, Mr. Hodza. In that he shows a strong desire to meet, as far as he possibly can, such grievances as the German inhabitants of his country may be able to prove. He would not, I take it, agree to the solution proposed at the time of the Peace Treaty but then scouted by his friends, that of the creation of a kind of Bohemian Switzerland, that is to say, a federation of provinces acting together with no domination of one race over another. My only object in troubling your Lordships with these details is to impress upon His Majesty's Government the hope that they will do everything they can to encourage the Czechoslovak Government to develop as far as possible the idea of giving some form of Home Rule to the Germans within their borders. I do not believe that it would be possible to carry out a plebiscite in that country. I confess I am no great admirer of plebiscites at any time, and the circumstances in which Germans are dotted about in what 442 they describe as islands and peninsulas make an expedient of that kind very difficult to carry out. At the same time I trust that everything will be done to encourage the Czech Government to remove any sort of plausible pretext for violent agitation in the country which might give an excuse to their German neighbours for some kind of forcible interference.
I pass on to the subject with which the noble Lord, Lord Snell, dealt more fully, to say a few words about Spain. As the noble Lord said, the Government policy from the first has been founded on the principle of non-intervention, which I gather he thought was a very dubious policy to undertake from the very start. I hope I am not in any way misrepresenting him. That very sensible person Gallio, the pro-Consul of Achaia, a Roman official, has become almost a proverb for refusing to interfere in other people's disputes if you are not specially concerned. Be, I believe, was himself a Spaniard by origin, but I am afraid that that fact has not caused other people to follow in his footsteps. The result is that the principle of non-intervention, if it has not actually broken down, has, at any rate, suffered some severe wounds, though I am quite certain that the noble Earl, Lord Plymouth, did everything in the world that a man could do to keep his Committee of Non-Intervention up to the mark and able to do something really useful; but at the same time there have been these lamentable infractions of the principle of non-intervention.
I do not desire to go in any way into the merits of the Spanish contest, or to dilate in any way on the particulars of the ghastly horrors with which the newspapers have been so crowded during these last weeks. I am afraid it is true that the traditions of contests in Spain are merciless. We all know the story of the Spanish statesman of the last century who in his last illness was asked by the priest if he had forgiven all his enemies. He replied that he had none, because he had shot them all. That example has been followed freely not only in his own country but also, in the hope of a happy deathbed of that kind, by a number of very eminent rulers in Europe. All I wish to do is to touch on the condition in which we in this country stand—selfishly, if you like—according to the outcome of the Spanish civil war.
443 One is struck by the almost incredible amount of exaggeration and over-statement which has accompanied almost all the reports which we have received of what happens on both sides of the contest. We are told on the one hand that if the Spanish Government get the best of it—as indeed they seemed at one time to be on the point of doing—the result would be that all the interests in Spain would fall directly into the hands of Moscow and that the whole country would before very long become a miniature Russia, on the borders of France and facing us across the sea. I cannot believe that there was any real truth in that expectation. In the first place, as everybody knows, the Spanish revolutionaries are by no means all Communists. There is a considerable proportion of Anarchists, who follow the singular creed of Bakunin. There is a considerable proportion of Syndicalists, whom I take to be trade unionists raised to the highest possible power but for that reason, like the Anarchists, opposed to most of the fundamental beliefs of Socialism pure and simple. Is it to be supposed, therefore, in that case that a revolutionary Government in Spain could form anything like a real danger to this country? Of whom a Government of that kind would be composed I have no idea. I do not imagine that they would be very much like noble Lords sitting on the Front Opposition Bench—at any rate most of them. I do not, however, suppose for a moment that their principles would constitute a serious danger to us, or that they would begin a campaign of attempting to raise a mutiny in the British Navy or the British Army.
But when you come to the other side, is there not also a considerable degree of exaggeration and over-statement there? We are told that the victory of the insurgents—or rebels, or Nationalists, or whatever you like to call them, because, like Gallio, I do not care very much about names—would mean that Spain would become the obedient servitors of the Italian Government. I confess that I take leave to doubt that proposition. In the first place, I question if there is any country in the world, including the Netherlands, which can show a more perfect record of maintained independence than can Spain, and I do not see Spain parting with that record at the bidding of another Mediter- 444 ranean Power. Then there are three reasons for which General Franco, or whoever may at the end of a victorious war be in control, might consent to complete subservience to Italy. The first would be a sentiment of gratitude; the second that it would be to the direct interest of Spain to do so; and the third compulsion, or being terrorised into such a condition. I dismiss at once the notion of a sentiment of gratitude. I do not believe that anybody can adduce from history an instance in which one country, out of gratitude to another which might have given it certain assistance in a war, has undertaken a course of policy in opposition to its own interest. Therefore I leave gratitude out altogether. But would it be, even at first—certainly it would not after a year or two—to the interest of a newly-formed Spanish Government—and there again, what form that Government might take and who would conduct it, whether it would be mainly founded on a provincial federation or not, I do not know—in a country which is bound for a long time to remain distracted after this conflict, to become the henchman of the Italian Government? I should have thought that on the face of it their interests would be far better served by a friendship with France and a friendship with ourselves. I cannot see what a Spanish Government would have to gain, in a material sense, by sacrificing the friendship of its nearest neighbour for that of Italy.
Then the third possibility is that Spain might be terrified into compliance. There, again, is not that a mere dream? Is it to be supposed, for one thing, that Signor Mussolini and his Government would, even if they should desire, send troops to Spain when they are engaged in what I believe is still a very hazardous campaign in Abyssinia, at the risk of a definite quarrel with France and with ourselves? I have been interested in reading some of the animated articles that have been written, about how Italy is going to get the control of the Mediterranean and only allow us to slip occasionally through the Straits of Gibraltar and the Suez Canal. I have been interested to notice that in most of those articles the word "France" is never mentioned. It appears to be forgotten that there are such places as Toulon and Bizerta, and that Corsica is a French island. How can anyone suppose that the French, who, after all, do 445 not let us forget it, are at the moment far the most powerful nation on the Continent of Europe—that I take it is an unquestionable fact—would calmly consent, even if we were timorous enough to give in, to see the leadership of the Mediterranean pass into other hands, and their road to North Africa (which after all, you must remember, must be considered as part of the French nation) to be cut off by the threat of a Spanish armada? It is quite impossible to understand.
Therefore, when I was listening the other day to the very animated speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, about the terrible danger threatening us from the possibility of this splendid harbour of Vigo being turned into a place of arms against us—for all I know he may be going to speak later on, and if he does perhaps he will tell us what fleet it is supposed to be that is going to threaten us there. Some of your Lordships may remember the play in which the Spanish fleet is not seen, the reason being that it was not yet in sight. I cannot imagine how it can be supposed, unless of course the French and we both cease to exist as powerful countries, either that we should allow, or that France should allow, a fleet to exist at Vigo which could threaten Bordeaux by slipping half across the Bay of Biscay. I cannot help thinking that on this side, too, there has been so much exaggeration and overstatement that some calmer thinking will make people ask more questions than they have intended to ask so far.
At the same time, I by no means deny that all the circumstances do explain, and possibly also justify, the extreme anxiety which is being shown to accelerate the measure of armament that is being undertaken. I quite see that it may be the situation in the Mediterranean, and the Spanish conflict, even more than the situation in Central Europe, which has caused His Majesty's Government to make this almost dramatic appeal to the country to accelerate the measure of armament. To conclude, there is a very well-known Spaniard, who is still alive, because he belongs to the class that never dies—I mean Sancho Panza, the attendant of Don Quixote. In a moment of difficulty his advice was "Patience, and shuffle the cards." I hope I am not very wrong in thinking that His Majesty's Government found their policy on some such dictum as that. If they do, I only 446 hope that they will combine with that keeping a very wary and watchful eye upon some of the players with whom they are sitting round the table.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords, I rise with considerable diffidence to take some part in this discussion. I certainly cannot rival the knowledge, born of long experience, shown in the most interesting speech of the noble Marquess to which we have just listened, but it may be that you will be willing to listen for a short time to one whose office precludes him from belonging to any Party, and who therefore approaches these grave issues with such measure of detachment as that position may involve. I have also personal reasons for venturing to speak for a short time. I am continually being asked to support or sign all sorts of resolutions and declarations, and it might be well that I should take this opportunity of saying publicly what my position is. Let me say at once that, not at first without some difficulty, the policy of the Government as declared by the Prime Minister—not I think as interpreted in a picturesque way by the noble Lord opposite, but as stated in his speech—appears to me the wisest course which the country at the present time may follow in the interests, not of itself only, but of peace in general.
I will only say two things about that policy. The first is that as regards the earlier policy of promoting better understandings with Germany and Italy, I have long watched with increasing anxiety the possibility of Europe being divided into two blocs, viewing each other with jealousy and suspicion, moving further and further apart; and we know that jealousy and suspicion are the parents of fear, and that fear is one of the most potent causes of war. It seemed to me, therefore, most reasonable to attempt to make bridges across the division before it has become an ever-widening chasm. In the second place, I find it difficult to believe that anyone can suppose that it would be otherwise than most dangerous for this country to commit itself now to action in any definite way which might involve war in circumstances which have not arisen. It seems obvious that this would be to tie the hands of any Government and to deprive it of its freedom of action and of judgment when the need of decision came.
447 I have tried, rather anxiously, to consider what were the alternative policies. Long years of devotion to the cause of the League of Nations would naturally have made me wish that at this present juncture the League should be brought into operation, and that some effort should be made to arrange some plan of what is called collective security; but most reluctantly I have come to the conclusion that that seems in present circumstances to be impossible. It is here, if I may say so once again, that I regret more than I can say to be in seeming difference from my noble friend Lord Cecil. But I have already indicated in this House in a previous discussion my conviction that we are doing a disservice to the League to impose upon it at the present juncture and in present circumstances a task which it is impossible for the League to attempt with any prospect of success. Those of us who are convinced of the rightness of the principles of the League, those of us who desire that its Covenant should be retained as a permanent standard of what international relations should be, have no wish to bring any possible discredit to the League by inflicting any further blow upon its prestige. The League would not give proof of its ultimate value by being compelled to give proof of its present impotence.
Besides, there is always the consideration that the League is not at present what we always hoped it would have been and we still hope it may become. You cannot avoid its appearance as one alliance of nations as against another alliance, and that brings about just the situation of rival alliances which we most deplore. It is all very well for the noble Lord opposite in his admirable speech to say that the task should be to rebuild the League. I should hope that everyone would eagerly devote himself to that task. But you cannot build upon broken foundations and, with the membership of the League as it is, the foundations are broken. The first thing to do is to endeavour, patiently and steadily, to restore them rather than to attempt to build upon them as they at present are. Again, at first in the tension of these last weeks I was disposed to favour the proposal that this country should inaugurate understandings or undertakings with those nations who are known to be averse from any aggressive policy, and that proposal 448 has been advocated with great power in another place. But here again there is the difficulty of creating the danger of rival alliances; and, moreover, any such action would quite certainly prejudice the chances of success of any endeavour to establish better relations with Germany or Italy.
Then there is the alternative policy advocated by the Party which the noble Lord opposite so ably represents in this House. But I found, I confess, very great difficulty in discerning or understanding precisely what that policy is. What he said this afternoon about the ultimate ideals of the policy for which he stands I should have thought would have been accepted by almost every member of your Lordships' House. The ultimate ideals of restoring the League of Nations, of making it the basis of international policy and the security of International Law and so forth—I most heartily associate myself with everything that the noble Lord said. But I find it very difficult to understand precisely what that Party would do if it were called to assume government to-morrow. Is it prepared to-morrow to enter into binding commitments with regard to Czechoslovakia at the present time? Is it prepared tomorrow fundamentally to alter our policy with regard to Spain, and thereby to run the risk of prolonging that unhappy contest and of possibly involving other nations? Therefore, while I find myself in entire agreement with the ultimate objectives of policy as so eloquently put before us by the noble Lord, I have not been able to find what precisely the immediate practical policy of his Party was.
I would like to say one word about the position created by the recent action of Germany in the forcible annexation of Austria, and I hope that what I say may not be imprudent. We all know the shock that action gave to international confidence, and yet even here, I venture to think, there are some considerations which make for calmness and balance of judgment. In the first place, it has long been recognised that the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles were vindictive and arbitrary, and could not possibly be permanent. The union of Germany and Austria sooner or later was inevitable. If the division had continued much longer it might have been a continuing sore which would have spread infection to other nations. However reprehensible 449 may be the manner in which the thing was done, the fact that the thing has been done, and done filially, may bring some measure of stability to Europe.
I think it is claimed also that: the union does receive the support of the great majority of the Austrian people. I have only just received a private letter from a very eminent artist in Vienna, who is entirely unconnected with any political Party in Austria, and perhaps your Lordships will allow me to quote a few sentences from it. It was written ten clays ago:During the last weeks tension from day to day in Vienna had grown more acute till on the Friday it had become unbearable. Then on Friday evening came this sudden salvation, which seemed to us like a dream. At once the streets were black with people, and it was joy without parallel. On the next day, when the Leader came, of course there was no quiet moment. We are very happy and proud now also to be part of the great German Reich, and if among your friends there are people who judge the circumstances differently, please let them read my letter. When a man like me who has never bothered about politics, and only occupied himself with his work, allows himself such an outburst of happiness, that will enable you to understand what in this country we really feel.These words may be exaggerated—I think they are sincere—but they have some significance as coming from one who I know has no sort of connection with any political Party in Austria. If this be so, then we have some reason to quiet ourselves.
Remember also that the Roman Catholic hierarchy in Austria, no doubt with their own reservations, have completely and fully accepted the union. Cardinal Innitzer, in his circular letter read in all the churches of Austria on Sunday, instructed the priests and the faithful to accept the great German State and its Leader unconditionally. I cannot but hope, if this be so, that the attitude of the Roman Church and of the Government towards it in Austria may have some influence on conditions in Germany itself, and mitigate the oppression that is there dealt out both to Roman Catholics and to Protestants. Certainly, if this union sooner or later had to take place, it is something for which to be thankful that it took place without any bloodshed whatever. In the third place, is it wholly unreasonable and merely quixotic to think that Herr Hitler, having 450 now achieved the one great ambition of his life, may be less disposed, especially in view of his great internal difficulties, to embark on other adventures? If he is so disposed, I venture to hope he will pay heed to the very grave warnings which were contained in the Prime Minister's speech.
Therefore I hope that, so far as immediate policy is concerned, that which has been indicated by the Prime Minister may now be generally accepted. We have a very heavy task laid upon us which will need all the cohesion and unity of the nation. It is indeed most lamentable—lamentable beyond words—that we should be called upon to expend all this energy and money on these armaments. I suppose there is no stronger hope in the hearts of most of us than that the time may soon come when this insensate competition in armaments may be abated and ultimately cease; and assuredly I would associate myself with what the noble Lord opposite said that the mere, so to say, negative policy of piling up armaments cannot be a substitute for a positive policy of endeavouring all the while to be eager to see whether steps may not be taken at least to inaugurate some full and frank discussion of whatever economic difficulties may be causing restlessness and tension throughout the world. But the necessity is laid upon us, and we must face it with calmness and with unity.
As far as the general public is concerned—this is one of the reasons I venture to speak—I do hope that we may be now set free from further resolutions, declarations, and statements. They only agitate and confuse the public mind. Neither nations nor individuals can do their work well when their temperature is abnormally high. What we need seems to me is a time of quietness and determination, free from alarmist rumours and from nervous tension and excitement, and such a temper of mind in the public generally would itself be a great contribution towards that basis of confidence and stability on which any hopes of a future peace must rest.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Snell, who initiated this debate urged some further effort towards appeasement, and in that direction I desire to say a very few words in order to put before your Lordships a view of 451 this subject which has not previously been expressed in your Lordships' House, but which is, I believe, very generally held throughout the country. Was it possible for Austria to remain independent? It certainly was not. The noble Lord, Lord Snell, when he began his speech on the same subject the other day, said that what had come to pass was perhaps in the end inevitable, and at this very moment of time the most reverend Primate has repeated that view. He; too, says it was inevitable. I have yet to hear any single person express the opposite view. It was universally agreed that, sooner or later, Austria had to relinquish her independence in favour of joining up with Germany.
I am, personally, absolutely convinced that such a change was the sincere desire of the large majority of the Austrian people. The demonstrations in Austria on the arrival of Herr Hitler seemed to me to prove this beyond all reasonable doubt. It would be quite childish to contend that the reception accorded to Herr Hitler could possibly have been in any way staged; even allowing for German efficiency it would have been impossible in the time available either by force or by any other means. It was not a welcome of the nature that would be given to an unwanted tyrant. It was a welcome that came straight from the hearts of a people for the man they looked upon as their saviour. I am, of course, perfectly well aware that there are plenty of people in Austria who had no desire whatever to see the National Socialist régime in force there. These would, of course, include all those people who had taken part in the long continued persecution and maltreatment of those Austrians with Nazi tendencies. It would also include Monarchists, Communists, and Jews. But although these people were in power, they were in fact in a minority. There can be no doubt in my opinion that the only outcome was the union of the two great German-speaking countries. It was, as the noble Lord, Lord Snell, has said, and as I think almost every one must agree, inevitable.
Then, if all are agreed as to the natural end, the means is the only remaining question. Now I come to my point. There was one, and only one, alternative, and that was a bloody civil war, as bloody perhaps as that which we have 452 been witnessing in Spain. The announcement of Herr Schuschnigg's plebiscite had already been the signal for the outbreak of sporadic fighting in various parts of the country, and after Herr Schuschnigg's resignation the Austrian Government appealed to Herr Hitler for troops to keep order, and it was the arrival of those troops that averted a ghastly catastrophe. Delay of any sort at this juncture would have been absolutely fatal. However difficult it has been to prevent the affair in Spain from developing into a European conflagration, these difficulties would have been as nothing compared to the effect of similar conditions in Austria. With a civil war raging in the heart of Europe it would have been difficult indeed for the great Powers to avoid being drawn in, and who shall say where that might have ended? If there is any single element of truth in what I have said, the gratitude of Europe and the gratitude of the whole world are due at this time, in my opinion, to Herr Hitler for averting a catastrophe of such staggering magnitude without spilling one drop of blood. I have ventured to trouble your Lordships with these few observations in the earnest hope that when the present excitement has died down His Majesty's Government may see fit to curtail the period which must elapse in their opinion before holding the friendly conversations with the German Government from which so much is hoped.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
My Lords, I do not propose, if my noble friend will forgive me, to follow his argument, which is, of course, an argument that has been disseminated through Europe by Herr Hitler's admirable system of propaganda. I will only make this one observation. If he happened to be a Liberal or a Jew or a Roman Catholic in Austria I doubt very much whether he would talk about a bloodless operation. The most reverend Primate, in the very important speech which he made just now, and with which, as he anticipated, I do not find myself altogether in agreement, made an appeal at the end for sanity and calm very suitable to his office. I agree with him that the less violent speaking there is at this moment the better; but the situation is not made easier by the fact that the spokesmen of Germany appear to recognise no such obligation. I have here a speech, quoted in The Times, made by 453 Herr Goebbels, the Minister of Propaganda—I will not read more than a very short passage—in which he calls attention to the fact that over and over again Germany has been enabled to defy all the obligations of International Law without suffering any evil result. He is reported as saying:There was no question of 'promenades to Berlin' now. The Führer had not paid a penny more in reparations and there was no war. He had left the League of Nations, introduced conscription, remilitarised the Rhineland, torn up the Treaty of Versailles—and there was still no war.I am very glad there was no war, but it is quite evident that that is a defence of the whole policy of the German Government of ignoring all international obligations as soon as ever they appear to the rulers to be inconvenient.
And that was followed by a speech of Field-Marshal Goering in which he called attention to the fact that there were now 75,000,000 Germans, that they had the largest and most effective Air Force in Europe, and that if it were necessary, though he hoped it would not be necessary, they were prepared to use that Air Force to its full extent. Lastly, there is in this morning's paper a speech by Herr Hitler himself in which he repeats his observation that it is part of the policy of the Nazi Government to bring within the Reich all the Germans, all the lost Germans, the ten millions—that is six-and-a-half millions in Austria and three-and-a-half millions in Czechoslovakia; at least that is how I imagine he gets his ten millions—to bring them all into the Reich and thereby free them from the horrible servitude which they have recently been undergoing, and, as far as some of them are concerned, are undergoing from Governments which he describes in very strong language that I will not repeat. It is quite plain, therefore, that we are in the presence of a determined militarist policy. That does not mean that the German Government desire war. They would much rather get what they want without it, but they are determined to have what they want sooner or later whether it involves war or not. We are asked continually by the Government to face realities, and that is one of the realities which it seems to me we are bound to face if we are going to preserve the peace of the world.
In addition, of course, we have this vast expenditure on arms in this country and 454 elsewhere, and we have the very sinister fact that since the events in Austria our Government have declared that they must increase their armament programme, certainly not for aggressive purposes—nobody imagines that for a moment—therefore it must be for defensive purposes. In other words, they think the danger of attack has become greater than it was before. If that is all true—and I submit to your Lordships that there is really no disputing it—I cannot help feeling that it is not possible to suggest that the declaration made by the Government is altogether adequate to the present situation. The Government prefaced that declaration with a statement that they accepted the well-known maxim that peace was the greatest of British interests. I agree. The question is, is their policy adequate to defend peace? So far as France and Belgium are concerned they say that they are prepared to accept the obligation to take whatever action may be necessary to prevent or arrest any attack on France or Belgium, including, if necessary, military measures. That is not an aggressive proposal. It is purely defensive. They desire to stop that particular form of aggression and they think that the safest way of doing it is to say plainly and openly what they are prepared to do before the event takes place. That is the ground on which they make that statement.
I know that they say, later on, that there are special interests in France and Belgium, but what are the special interests? I need not, I am sure, develop that. It comes simply to this, that unless we do, in this way, preserve France and Belgium the Powers that make for peace will be so seriously weakened as to cause even greater danger of war. That is the whole point, and nothing else, as I submit to your Lordships. If that is the right policy in order to prevent a particular breach in Europe, I confess I feel it very difficult to understand why it is not also the right policy in any other case where there is a serious danger of a breach of the peace. Of course they say we do not say we will not intervene by military measures, but we do not say we will. That is simply to say that we do not enter into obligations either one way or the other. I cannot think that that would be regarded, even by the Government, as an adequate policy in dealing with France and Belgium. Indeed, they say they do not think so. 455 What puzzles me is why the policy which they think so necessary for preserving peace in the case of France and Belgium is not equally necessary wherever they think it important to preserve peace.
I know they say that we have given a warning about Czechoslovakia, and let me say immediately that I do protest most strongly against the repetition of the view that those who advocate vigorous action in the present crisis are doing it for the protection of Czechoslovakia. That is not the purpose. The purpose is this: we believe that only action of that kind would be adequate to preserve the peace of the world. That is the sole purpose of the policy. If it is said that the geographical position of Czechoslovakia is such that military operations are very difficult, if not impossible, then I do not see the point of giving a warning. If you cannot carry out that warning, you had much better be quiet. But if, as is obviously the case, you can carry it out, not necessarily by sending troops to Czechoslovakia but by taking whatever means your advisers recommend in order to effect your purpose, then I venture to think that applies equally one way or another, to a policy of warning or to a policy of definite statement as to what you intend to do or do not intend to do.
Let me say one word only, because I am anxious to take as little time as I can, about the doctrine that the policy of the Government is clearly in accordance with Article 16 of the Covenant. That was said very strongly, I think, in this House, but certainly it was said elsewhere. I want very strongly to submit to the Government that that really is not so. Reference, I think, was made in this House, and certainly elsewhere, to a speech of Mr. Eden in which he said that there was nothing in the League Covenant which bound us to military action. I am not sure that I agree, in fact to be perfectly frank I do not agree, with that proposition, but at any rate it is arguable. What is not arguable, it seems to me, is that you are entitled to take no action at all with regard to aggression, provided there is some action which you can take which would be effective. That is what I submit very strongly to the Government, and I think it is enormously important that they should be clear in their statement on the subject.
456 I submit strongly that the obligation they have entered into is to take whatever measures are possible to stop aggression on a Member of the League. I cannot read Article 16 in any other way. I will not trouble your Lordships by reading it now, although I have it here, but it is perfectly plain that this Article absolutely binds those who have accepted it to every action of a diplomatic character, of an economic character or a political character immediately—that is, to take that action immediately on the breach, subject only as I see it to the one condition, which seems to me to cover the whole of this provision—namely, that since your object is to stop aggression you are not bound to do anything which will not in fact stop aggression. What you are bound to do is to do whatever is necessary to stop aggression. If you can stop it, you are bound to do it, and if you cannot stop it, well, you cannot. That seems to me the position. What I regret very much is the way the Government state the obligation. They seem to ignore any obligation to take action unless they in their own minds without consulting, without making an effort to find what support they would be able to get, think that they would receive adequate support. That means in effect that they do not recognise any obligation in the matter at all, and it will be so construed by the vehement and violent statesmen with whom they have to deal in these matters. I am satisfied that if they could only bring themselves to make a clear statement of what the consequences of aggression would be the chances of aggression would be enormously diminished.
I think it is only fair to say—reading the speeches, if I may be allowed to refer to them, both in this House and elsewhere—that the Government are themselves aware that this leaves the position unsatisfactory. It does nothing to make possible, as far as I can see, any reduction or any limitation of armaments. Armaments exist, as we know, in the hope—I am afraid the rather vain hope—that by themselves they will be able to defend the countries that possess them. Countries will not abandon those armaments unless they are given some alternative security. That seems to me a proposition which you may naturally accept. If I may be allowed to quote from my own experience I am quite satis- 457 fled that if you go into any international body and ask them to accept reduction or limitation of armaments you will immediately receive this reply: "Yes, but what is going to happen if we reduce or limit armaments and other countries do not?" Unless you can reply "We will see that you will be protected" you will never get a reduction of armaments. It is for those reasons that I cannot help feeling that the situation is not satisfactory.
I observe that in part of the Government's statement they say that they earnestly believe in the possibility that the League may be so revivified and so strengthened as to serve as an effective instrument for the preservation of peace. They therefore say—and this is really the main thing which I desire to press upon your Lordships—that it is part of the duty of the Government of this country and of all other countries to revivify and strengthen the League. I entirely agree, and when I consider the position the League occupied six years ago and the position that the League occupies to-day, without going at this moment into an inquiry as to who is to blame, I say that there can be no doubt that its position is very much less satisfactory than it was. I most heartily agree that everything ought to be done to strengthen the League. But what do the Government propose? To my mind that is the weakest part of the statement they make. They have not indicated any practical constructive policy to strengthen the League. That is a fact which nobody can dispute. Nor did my most reverend friend. He made no indication of what his constructive policy was likely to be. He said he loved the League, but he did not give any indication how that love was to be given a practical consequence.
It is really essential that we should deal with these things practically and not by mere words. What is the policy of the Government in this matter? I hope and trust they have a policy. I hope they are going to tell us that they will reverse a good deal of what has been done in the last six years, not only with reference to immediate intervention but generally, in order to make the League a more effective and a more constantly-used instrument. With the greatest respect to the most reverend Primate, I do not agree with him at all that if the League is left alone it will gradually grow in strength. 458 It will not; it will get weaker and weaker. The only thing to do is to use it. That is the only way in which you will strengthen it. I venture to say that as a general proposition, and I venture to say it also from my own personal experience, for I used regularly to attend at Geneva. The more it was used the stronger it became; the less it was used the weaker it became. Therefore I appeal to the Government, even if they reject—and I am afraid they will reject—the views I have tried to express with regard to Czechoslovakia and the crisis that faces it, nevertheless to make the utmost effort to utilise the League if they really want to strengthen it, and I am sure my noble friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs does want to strengthen it. I am certain of that; I am sure that he desires to strengthen it to the utmost of his power.
I beg him to consider taking every possible means of doing so, and not merely to sit down and, like the Virgilian rustic, wait till the flood abates. He has to do something about it. He cannot sit down. If he tells me that nothing can be done until Germany comes in, that is a counsel of despair. Why should you wait for Germany? Why should you make your policy depend solely upon Germany? It cannot be right. We have an immense force behind us, both actual and potential. There is an immense desire for peace, there is an immense belief in the League, all over the world. I am quite sure that if you go to America you will find a great yearning—
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD—for some successful international control of force which would lessen the danger of war. I still submit to the Government that it would be desirable to have a meeting of the League to consider what is to be done to face this new danger to peace, the process which has been carried very far in Spain—and on that I do not desire to add anything to what my noble friend Lord Snell said, because I entirely agree with it—which was to a large extent adopted in Austria, and which is threatened in Czechoslovakia. What are we to do in order to deal with that particular danger to 459 peace, and that particular danger to the smaller nations? I should have thought it was well worth while having a meeting of the League to consider that as a practical proposal, and I hope that this Government will go to the League with practical proposals on the subject. There are other matters of smaller importance at which I will only glance. I hope the Government will be able to restore the use of publicity in the League's proceedings. I think it has been very unfortunately restricted in recent years. I hope they will refer to the League as a matter of course all important international cases without considering whether this or that dictator would like them to be referred or not. Finally, I venture very respectfully to express the hope that Ministers and others will cease to dwell for ever on the weaknesses of the League and its failures, and try occasionally to direct the attention of the country to its strength and its successes.
§ One single topic which shall be very briefly dealt with remains to me. I cannot help feeling that if you are really going to make the League the essential part of your policy, it must colour the whole of your foreign policy. You must consider what has been the practice of the nations with which you are dealing with reference to the League when they come to you for concessions or you go to them with offers of concessions. I cannot think that it really impresses that kind of people if you treat those who have done their best to destroy the League with undiminished cordiality in every other matter. I cannot believe that that is a sound policy. I am afraid I cannot take the view which was put forward by the noble Lord who spoke last, that the occupation of Austria has been an admirable thing. I see that Herr Hitler speaks very bitterly of the tyranny of Herr Schuschnigg. He uses very strong language indeed about it. I am not going to imitate him, with respect to Herr Hitler himself. But when I consider some of the things that have occurred in Germany—the long agony of Hans Litten, terminating after five years' continual torture in a forced suicide; when I consider the treatment of Herr Niemöller; when I consider the treatment which I know is now being meted out in Austria to men whose only crime has been that they took a very strong view as to the independence 460 of their country and did their best to secure it; when I know that some of these men are being submitted to torture—real torture—in the hope that they will betray others who assisted them in what they considered their patriotic duty, I cannot take the calm view which has been enunciated by one or two speakers to-day as to the action which has taken place in Austria.
§ I do not say that Germany has a monopoly of these horrors. We know that there is at least one other country in which horrors perhaps as great, and certainly as well known, have taken place as those which have been taking place in Germany. But do not let us, in the desire to be nice, kind and friendly to people, conceal from ourselves in this House or privately the fact that there are raging in this world, unfortunately, at this time terrible tyrannies which are inflicting the greatest possible sufferings on numbers of people. I do not say that we can ignore these Powers or that we can refuse to have any dealings with them. I do say that with respect to them our attitude should be correct but not cordial.
§ LORD PONSONBY OF SHULBREDE
My Lords, I have seldom listened to a speech from the noble Viscount who has preceded me with which I so fundamentally disagreed. I sometimes wonder whether he is not, after all, part of Herr Hitler's propaganda machine, because he picks out the juiciest quotations from the leaders in Germany, in order to give them full publicity in this country. They must be very grateful to him. But I cannot delay your Lordships by going through the noble Viscount's speech, except for one point, and that is with regard to Czechoslovakia. I myself believe that the Government have made a very wise decision in not making a definite commitment to support France should she find it necessary to defend Czechoslovakia against aggression. The noble Viscount said that we must not run away with the notion that we should fight for Czechoslovakia; that that was not the point. What was the point then? That we should fight for the sanctity of treaties? That we should fight for the sanctity of the Treaty of Versailles?
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
I did not say anything about treaties in that connection. I said we should fight for peace.
§ LORD PONSONBY OF SHULBREDE
Fight for peace by the maintenance of the status quo, and in order to keep, if I may say so, the ludicrous division of countries which statesmen in their wisdom, in 1919, substituted for the old Austro-Hungarian Empire—small countries with grievances because they have insufficient territory, and other countries with so many minorities that they find it extremely difficult to govern them. The noble Marquess who leads the Liberal patty gave us a very interesting analysis of the composition of Czechoslovakia. Not only is there a German minority, but a Polish minority, a Slovak minority, a Ruthenian minority, and a Bohemian minority, and I think we are a little too fond in this country of telling Czechoslovakia how she ought to adjust her affairs. I think the Prime Minister of Czechoslovakia is quite competent to adjust matters himself, but if the Government had committed us to fight for Czechoslovakia, who in this country would have had any sort of enthusiasm for a war of that description, when there is not one person in a hundred who knows where Czechoslovakia is?
But in making their declaration, the Government added a qualification, and said that it was conceivable that if France had to fight we should be drawn in. I thought that that was a weakening qualification, because the words "drawn in" are very difficult to define, especially in these days. How is France going to defend Czechoslovakia if Czechoslovakia is in danger. By air? That is attack, not defence. Might not France find it necessary to attack on the Western frontier of Germany? Would that be aggression? We do not know. There are possibilities that we cannot foresee, but I do not want always to be pointing to the dangers, any more than I approve of the noble Viscount, who will always point to the misdeeds of other nations. They may commit crimes and have forms of government of which he strongly disapproves, and have very little respect for human life, but the attitude of getting on a pedestal and lecturing other people is not one which is going to bring peace to Europe.
I desire for a few moments to touch on a subject which has not been touched upon, one on which I am going to take an opposite view to any of the noble Lords who are here this evening. That is the 462 question of rearmament. I am not going to lay down the policy for which I stand. I only want, very sincerely, to ask the Government to understand some of the facts as they exist now as a consequence of the policy which they are pursuing—a policy which, in my opinion, may render null and void their endeavours at appeasement and conciliation, which they began with considerable courage and in the face of great opposition. We have talked in recent years of a reduction of armaments and of a limitation of armaments, but I venture to say that the prevailing spirit in this country, and I should say in other countries too, is to stop war. Not the next war, but to stop war, because people are beginning to understand from the little illustrations they have seen recently, that it is a barbarity which ought not to be tolerated, and that it does not accomplish the object which it sets out to achieve. There is a growing feeling that it is towards that object that our endeavours should be led. It is quite obvious that you cannot stop war by war, and that is why I have always disagreed with the punitive clauses of the League of Nations. I think it is through those clauses that the League has got to the unfortunate state of weakness in which it is to-day. Our example in rearmament is being followed even in recent times, and the world is arming to an extent which it has never done before, with weapons which have not yet been tried but the devasting effect of which some of us can hardly conceive.
In this military competition those who visualise it are always talking about aggressor States, who are the danger, the aggressor States being the Totalitarians or Fascists. If you have to compete with them, or regard them as antagonists, you will have to adopt their methods. There is no doubt about that. They have got superior methods to democracies in questions of war, where quick decisions have to be made, and the more you enter into this competition the more you must realise that it is the Fascist method you will have to adopt. And it is going on; slowly and quietly, in our particular way, but it is going on. There is vast expenditure active recruiting, dislocation of industry pressure on labour for more output, and temporary absorption of unemployment, and all this is accepted by the people at the dictation of the Government because 463 they are being inspired by the fear of a coming war. In case anybody should be left out, air-raid precautions are being adopted in every town and village, and the peaceful inhabitants are being told that they must prepare for this terrible onslaught, which they think must be imminent if the Government are supplying all these devices to thwart it. And so gradually the whole population is being inspired by an expectation, and you are stimulating their combative instinct so that when the time comes and you give the signal they will acclaim your decision.
If I may just give an illustration from a different side of life, imagine a grand opera for which the chorus and the soloists are being trained, and the costumes are not only designed but ready, and the scenery is not only designed but set, and the rehearsals are going on and dress rehearsals are frequent: would not you suppose that that company would desire and expect a performance? Of course it would. Nobody who is told to devote the whole of his life, his energies, his abilities, his youth, to some contribution to the making of a great machine can fail to desire the completion of that machine and the test of that machine. The great performance and the great test of the achievement is war; and so, although we are not a warlike people, and people do not want war, it is psychologically necessary and instinctive that the whole people is gradually being forced to believe that this event is coming, to expect it, and to want it. That is the Fascist method; that is the training of every man and woman for this great culmination, and the spirit of the people is exploited and guided into the wrong direction.
Why should the Government listen to this clamour for arms, more arms, from the Press, knowing as they themselves do, that arms are not a complete defence? Nobody has been more eloquent on this subject than members of the Government and of the Conservative Party themselves. I could give quotations from the late Prime Minister and the present Prime Minister, from the late Foreign Secretary and the present Foreign Secretary, and even from Mr. Winston Churchill, describing in language far more eloquent than I can command the 464 calamity, not only to this country but to mankind and to civilisation, which must result from the occurrence of another war. Why is it necessary for us to follow the lead of the Dictators? That is what we are doing. When the Dictators arm we immediately begin to arm in order to counter them. I wonder if there is any danger in doing the right thing when the Government know that armaments are the wrong thing? They say so, they say that war will be a calamity. The most reverend Primate in his speech just now looked forward to it with grave apprehension as a calamity. Is there a risk in doing the right thing? There may be, but it is nothing compared to the certainty of the great catastrophe which you are preparing if you increase the weight which is driving the nations of Europe down into this terrible abyss.
I do not expect the noble Viscount who is replying for the Government to refer to my speech, because it is one which perhaps does not command any sort of support, except from a few of my noble friends, in your Lordships' House, but I am not alone in the country outside, where I know there are many who agree with me. They are not negligible individuals, and I believe that they are sane. I do not want to see the Government's right diplomacy and right policy vitiated. I want them to go on with their conversations with Italy. I want them to initiate again as soon as possible conversations with Germany, and I want them, as these conversations proceed, to be conscious that they represent a Government that is the Government of practically a quarter of the earth's surface, and that there are others who realise that. I agree with my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition, that the weakest part of the Government policy is the absence of a really constructive move. I think that these conversations ought to lead up gradually to a conference. I think that the method adopted by M. van Zeeland in inquiring into the different causes of complaint, whether they are political or economic, is the right method of proceeding. It may be a laborious business, but let us get on with it. Let us get together. Let us find out the major grievances between countries, if necessary by bilateral agreements, and then come to a conference in which the leading nations can take part. I wish I could say that the League of Nations 465 should initiate this, but I feel that the advocates of the League of Nations have made it into such a body that it is definitely in favour of an antagonistic policy between the democracies and the dictatorships of Europe.
Therefore a fresh start must be made. I feel that the Government have gone part of the way, and I want to see them go the whole way. I do not believe that our participation in a competitive armament race can help in their diplomatic move. I disapprove of people going to a conference with a revolver in their hand, and I should feel safer unarmed if I went to a conference, even if my opponents were fully armed. I believe there is no obstacle that cannot be overcome by good will; but as long as there are members of Parliament in both Houses who desire to keep on sowing suspicion, animosity, and enmity our course will be very slow. But I feel that we are at a very critical moment, and I beg the Government to listen, even if they do not reply, to what I have said.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
My Lords, the House in these days is called upon again and again to discuss many formidable problems, and the nation to take grave decisions of policy. There is a new situation in Europe and in the world. The emergence of Germany and Italy and Japan as aggressive military nations, and their withdrawal from the League has created this new situation, and Britain is obliged to consider afresh the very foundations of her international policy. There is before us a choice of four possible courses. There is the policy of collective security and the League; there is the policy of isolation; there is the policy of alliances and the balance of power; and there is the policy to which no name is currently given, and which it is difficult to define, but which might perhaps be described as the policy of armed opportunism. Of these four, most people in this country would agree that the first, if it is practicable, is by far the best—the policy of collective security and the League. It is the most rational, the most civilised. You have this planet divided among some seventy nations, and the sensible thing to do is for the representatives of these nations to meet together to discuss matters of common interest and to solve the difficulties that arise by discussion and agreement.
466 In this country ever since the War that has been the policy advocated by all three of the political Parties. It has been the policy officially declared as that of Great Britain and indeed of the whole British Commonwealth by every Ministry since the War. Nevertheless it is impossible to close our eyes to the fact that the authority of the League at this moment is at a low ebb. I am bound to say that His Majesty's present Ministers must take a share of responsibility for that. The League was put to its test at the time of the invasion of Abyssinia by Italy. Some fifty nations lined up in support of the Covenant, vigorous action was taken at the cost of great risks and sacrifices, and at the crucial moment His Majesty's Government and the French. Government made the Hoare-Laval Agreement which brought the whole of that effort to naught. Since then the authority of the League has been most seriously Unpaired, and indeed its activities have been reduced in major matters to a minimum. No doubt the Government would be very glad to forget that incident. It has been said that the further we get from our good deeds the larger they appear, and the further we get from our bad deeds the smaller they appear. I dare say that the Government would wish that the Hoare-Laval Agreement should gradually dwindle to invisibility in the vista of the past. The fact remains that the present situation of the world is due in large degree to the decline in the authority of the League, and the decline in its authority dates mainly from that moment. Still, whatever the causes may have been, we are bound to admit that at the present moment, and on major issues such as Austria, the League of Nations does not operate and cannot operate.
The second policy is that of isolation, in support of which few voices are heard in this country. In fact, that of Lord Beaverbrook is almost the only one. He is himself an example of the isolation he preaches. Geography is against him. The position of this island in the North Sea and British interests in the Mediterranean, the Middle East, India, and in the Pacific are such that it is impossible for us to adopt a policy of mere isolation. It is a contest between geography and Lord Beaverbrook, and geography is bound to win.
The third policy—that of alliances and the balance of power—has received within 467 the last few days the support of a very important advocate. It is now being urged by the eloquent and powerful voice of Mr. Winston Churchill, who suggested in another place a few days ago that the Government would be well advised now to enter into a definite and formal military alliance with France. In time of war, no doubt, it is necessary for alliances to be made, and, if war is to be regarded as inevitable, no doubt it would be a wise course for us to secure as many friends as we can and to connect them with ourselves in the most intimate fashion possible. But I submit that we should be very slow to come to so grave, so tragic a conclusion as that another European war is, in fact, inevitable and that we must straightway provide against it by uniting with ourselves as many allies as we can.
Often before it has been thought that wars were inevitable, and the course of history has shown they were not. In the time of Napoleon III it was currently believed in this country that a war between Britain and France was inevitable. Lord Grey of Fallodon mentions in his memoirs that at a moment of great strain between France and ourselves over Fashoda, when he was Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs in the nineties, it was urged upon him that, a war between France and Britain being inevitable, it was well to get it over as speedily as might be. It is always a mistake to wage war to prevent war. A preventive war is always wrong in principle. History again shows that the nations of Europe, when they armed to make war against the French Revolution, committed a grave blunder. They helped to plunge Europe into bloodshed for twenty years. Again, when after the Great War we sent assistance to the White armies in Russia against the Soviets, we took a step which was intended to prevent and obviate future wars, but which was exceedingly badly devised for that end. Alliances and the balance of power are a policy that does not guarantee peace, and history shows that it has never done so. In the eighteenth century when that policy was dominant in the world, and supported constantly by British statesmen, Britain was at war for one year out of every two. If we were to enter into an alliance with France each would be responsible to the other for every diplo- 468 matic action, since everything done by one party would immediately affect the other. We are now on excellent terms with France. The commitment under the Locarno Agreement is well understood, and questions are settled as they arise. If we were now to engage in a written treaty, every sentence, every word, might be a cause of friction. All of us regard cooperation with France as the keystone of our present policy. Nevertheless I sincerely trust His Majesty's Government will not accept Mr. Winston Churchill's advice.
So also with regard to Czechoslovakia. I believe that the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary could not properly have gone further in the statements that they have recently made. They made it abundantly clear to Germany that if there were any aggression against Czechoslovakia it could not count on our neutrality. In saying that, I believe they had the support of the nation; but if they had gone further, if they had given a formal guarantee, I doubt if that support would have been forthcoming. It would have been difficult to have given such a guarantee without assuming responsibility for the Czech treatment of the German minority, step by step, week by week, month by month; and that is not our business, that is the business of the Czechoslovak Government. Further, the worst policy of all is to give a pledge and find afterwards you have not got the necessary support to enable you to fulfil it. I very much doubt whether the masses of this country would approve of a definite commitment in Eastern Europe. I feel sure that the Dominions and public opinion in India would not do so. The House may remember that at the Imperial Conference held last summer all the representatives of the Commonwealth put on record their view that "nothing would be more damaging to the hopes of international appeasement than the division, real or apparent, of the world into opposing groups." I cannot but feel that any assurance of the kind that had been suggested would strengthen the tendency to divide the world into opposing camps.
If, therefore, we have to come to the conclusion that collective security is at present inadequate, that isolation is impossible, that alliances and attempts to create a balance of power are as likely to cause war as to prevent it, then we 469 come back to the fourth policy, which may be described as armed, pacific opportunism, qualified no doubt by the definite treaty commitments that have been already made; and, as an interim short-range policy, with things as they now are, His Majesty's Government find that is the only course. Perhaps it is, but it is not a good policy in itself, and it is not so far working very well. It involves us in an expenditure of £1,000,000 a day on armaments, with a prospect of a further increase before long. We hear talk of military conscription, advocated no doubt under other names, but I think that after the letters in The Times from Sir Auckland Geddes and their military correspondent Captain Liddell-Hart, and the unanswerable arguments they have given against military conscription, we shall hear no more of that, and I confess I regret that the suggestion should have been made in any quarter.
The opportunist policy has not worked particularly well in Austria. It has been declared again and again that the independence of Austria was one of the objects of British policy, and that aim had been formally declared by a pronouncement of France, Italy and ourselves. Yet we now take it as a matter of course that inevitably and in the nature of things Austria should have been absorbed by Germany. The policy is not working particularly well in Spain. We all of us commiserate the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs upon the work he has been called upon to do at the Non-Intervention Committee, a Committee whose proceedings have caused irritation in London, despair in Madrid, and, I have no doubt, continuous and silent amusement in Rome. It is recorded that a certain Emperor of Austria, having to take part in a conference which he did not much like, dealing with a subject that he considered inconvenient, sent to the conference "his skilled procrastinators," and I think that emissaries of that character have been very much in evidence at the Non-Intervention Committee. Signor Mussolini has kept the democratic Powers in play from August, 1936, till March, 1938, while he has been rendering such assistance to General Franco as apparently is placing him in a military position to achieve a decisive result of the war. After that in agreement with the British Government and as a generous gesture, 470 Signor Mussolini is now apparently prepared to withdraw the troops which would be withdrawn in any case; and he will no doubt expect in return the recognition of the annexation of Abyssinia, which has been from the beginning the main object of his negotiations. The Prime Minister may find that he has been engaged in a kind of salmon fishing in which for the first time he plays the role not of the fisherman but of the fish.
As an interim policy, however, this plan, the opportunist plan, apparently is the only one that can be adopted in the existing situation by His Majesty's Government. But surely we ought not to accept it as the permanent policy for this nation and this Empire. I believe that after the present acute problems are solved it will be our duty to go back as a principle to the policy of collective security, to build up again the League of Nations, with a less ambitious programme of supporting International Law by penalties and force, but with a wider programme of settling just grievances before the use of violence or threats of violence. That policy, I submit, will alone command in the long run the support of the great mass of this peace-loving nation, will enlist the co-operation of the Dominions and India, and will win the endorsement of the other democracies of America and of Europe.
§ LORD STONEHAVEN
My Lords, the noble Viscount who has just spoken demolished all the four policies which he set forth as possible to be adopted, but I think he found the one that the Government are following at least tolerable in the present circumstances. What can be done after that is a matter which doubtless will be frequently debated. But I cannot help feeling that there is an atmosphere of unreality about a great many of the speeches to which we have listened. The Prime Minister a short time ago warned us of the wisdom of recognising the fact that the mentality of foreign nations is not the same as our mentality, and I venture to think that every question that has been dealt with to-day has been approached from the purely British point of view. The noble Viscount opposite made fun, for example, of the Non-Intervention Committee, but the Nonintervention Committee is no different from many similar arrangements that have been made in the past, and invariably 471 they have proved to be self-denying ordinances which we have imposed upon ourselves. I remember very well that was true in regard to the Arms Traffic Convention and the Slavery Convention some thirty years ago. Other nations did not attach the same importance to carrying out their undertakings as we did; but there is nothing new about that, and there is nothing new or unexpected about the situation that we find to-day.
The noble Viscount complained that the policy of the Government had not been successful. At any rate it has kept us out of war, and if we are spending £350,000,000 on armaments to-day, it is surely because we adhered far too long to the policy of disarmament. This was strongly favoured by the noble Viscount and his friends in another place, and in the country. I believe if we had chosen to face facts instead of clinging obstinately to imaginary circumstances, we should surely have been better off today, and safer certainly, than we are. We live still under the spell of phrases which played so terrible a part in the settlement of Versailles. That was commented upon in severe but not too severe terms in the eloquent speech of the most reverend Primate. Your Lordships will remember that when the War was half way through someone discovered that it was a "war to end war," and then that it was a "war to make the world safe for democracy." Then the League of Nations was to bring in a new world order. All frontiers were broken down and redrawn irrespective of economic, ethnographical or geographical limits on the basis of self-determination, and we were invited to pin our faith to a system of collective security which never provided security for anyone. Would it not, now at least, be simpler to admit that all the prophecies and all the forecasts of the statesmen that assembled at Versailles turned out to be mistaken, as indeed they have been?
But there were prophecies to which unfortunately we did not pay sufficient attention which were given to the world by an insignificant German corporal who was undergoing a sentence of imprisonment as a result of participation in an unsuccessful revolt. The prophecies made by Herr Hitler in Mein Kampf have turned out to be correct, every one of them, and the distressing thing is that Mein Kampf cannot be read in this country because it 472 can only be obtained in Germany. I suggest that it would be a very good deed and a very patriotic action if some prosperous man would have Mein Kampf translated word for word from the original edition now being broadcast in Germany and made available at a price of not more than Is. on every bookstall in this country. It is no use deploring the fact and saying that it would be very regrettable if the world were divided into two big antagonistic bodies. Europe is divided to-day into two antagonistic bodies. You have 117 million people, stretching from the North Sea to the Adriatic, all united in a way they have never been united before—armed, organised and obedient to the commands of leaders who have risen, by the services they have incontestably rendered to their two countries, to a position of authority that has never been achieved in the lifetime of any of us. Surely it is better to recognise that as the Government, I think, have recognised it. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, that it is not a bit of use getting up on a pedestal and lecturing these gentlemen and saying that they are not carrying on the government of their countries in the way we should like. Let us accept the fact that they are there and that they are established.
It has not been suggested to-day I think, but the friends of noble Lords opposite are apt to suggest, that we ought to intervene in Spain in the sense of giving the existing Spanish Government an opportunity to buy arms. Is it not forgotten that Germany and Italy do not recognise the existing Spanish Government? They recognise the Government of General Franco. The result of adopting that suggestion would be a first class way of bringing about a clash between two bodies of people who recognise two conflicting Governments. If noble Lords opposite and their friends think there is any prospect of this country agreeing to intervene to save what they call democracy, believe me they are greatly mistaken. If there is one thing more than another that makes life agreeable in this country and which goes to the root of our character, it is the convention that people mind their own business. The enthusiasm of noble Lords opposite and their friends about one side or another is not shared in this country. Ninety-nine out of a hundred people believe that the government of 473 Spain is the business of the Spanish people. You would never get a man to stir a finger or move a yard to go to help either. Noble Lords opposite in their enthusiasm for their comrades look upon the Spaniards from a totally different point of view from the rest of the people in this country. We look upon them as men who differ and are entitled to differ in their politics in their own country. Noble Lords opposite look upon them as part of their Party. They are an international Party and they think that when their Spanish comrades get into difficulties they can enlist the forces and sympathy of this country on their behalf. I am perfectly certain that the Government are perfectly right in not intervening, and that in that they have the support of the whole country.
There are many things which it would be agreeable to submit to your Lordships in reply to suggestions put forward by noble Lords opposite, but I do hope we shall get away from these phrases that have produced so much harm in the past. I regret to say that even the Prime Minister in one of his admirable speeches suggested that in war there was no victor. Is not that rather hard on Marlborough and Nelson and Wellington and other people? What about the United States? The United States, that great peace-loving nation, would never have existed except as the result of a war. Let us accept the fact that you cannot abolish war, but let us make war as unlikely as possible and if war should happen make ourselves strong enough to win.
My Lords, it is not usual for the lecturer to reply to a lecture and therefore I hope the noble Lord will forgive me if I do not reply to his admonitions. As my noble friends initiated this debate I think it is right for a few words to be said from this side before the noble Viscount, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, replies. If I may say so, I was profoundly hurt by the speech of the most reverend Primate. We on these Benches were bitterly disappointed, and I have been asked to say so. I waited hopefully for some word of reproach for the deplorable slaughter that is going on in Spain and particularly the bombing of innocent people in the great Spanish towns.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
I think the noble Lord 474 forgets that I have already publicly protested.
I hope the most reverend Primate will forgive me if I answer him as respectfully and courteously as I can. The most reverend Primate went out of his way to make a similar speech to that delivered by the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, from the Cross Benches in apology for what has happened in Austria. We had thought that on this important occasion, when your Lordships are debating the very momentous declaration of the Government, we should have had one word from the most reverend Primate in condemning what is going on in Austria. It has been said that there has been no bloodshed in Austria, but there have been 1,700 suicides. Suicide may be wrong, but I think it is even more wrong to drive people to suicide. The most reverend Primate referred to a letter from an Austrian artist. I saw a letter last week from an Austrian scientist, a Jew, who described in awful terms what was happening, and then he said this: "Thank God, however, I have escaped into Germany." This Austrian Jew was thanking God that he had escaped into Germany. The right reverend Primate is, however, silent on these matters today. I cannot help thinking of the thousands of the clergy of our Church with whom I have had the honour of pleading for great causes in the country, and I must again express regret on behalf of my noble friends that that speech was made.
I am going to try to condense a certain argument I want to put before your Lordships. The Government's policy is, firstly, not to rely on the League of Nations to get peace—I hope I am not misrepresenting them—and secondly, to rely on armaments. That means that they have accepted what the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, has so often described as the era of power politics. In spite of what the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, said, we are getting back to the old historical policy of the balance of power. Our ancestors in this House again and again, in endeavouring to steer British policy, have been bound to throw their weight diplomatically, and if necessary militarily, against any Power seeking dominance in Europe—against Spain or France, or against Germany as in 475 the last War. That has had the effect, as we must recognise, that although for long periods peace was maintained by that balance of power policy we have had one great war, approximately speaking, every hundred years. That policy eventually led to war, or at any rate it did not prevent war. Therefore we have regarded the hope of the world as resting in the League of Nations. Now to-day, instead of having laboriously to build up by diplomacy and by subsidy your agglomeration of States against the great, overwhelming Power that is threatening to dominate in Europe, you have that ready-made in the machinery of the League of Nations. I cannot understand what has come over the governing class of this country that they cannot see that. That is the amazing mystery of the present time, that they do not see that they have ready-made, not only a system of the kind which they have had in the past to build up in similar circumstances very painfully and often unsuccessfully, but one with the added advantage that it is open to transformation at any time by the re-admission of those Powers who left it, and then you create your ideal, universal system. If our forebears were right, the present policy of His Majesty's Government is wrong. I suggest, when I hear this talk of not dividing Europe into two camps, that the truth is that we have to divide Europe into two camps at the present time in the hope that we can get the equilibrium which will for the time being preserve the peace until men's passions are appeased or until we can come to some arrangement, as my noble friend Lord Snell has said, for bringing about a reduction or stabilisation of armaments by agreement.
May I venture only a sentence or two on the very grave developments that have happened in Spain since we last debated foreign affairs in your Lordships' House? My noble friend Lord Snell quoted the Evening Standard in support of the Party opposite, and some of your Lordships were good enough to take that as a jesting observation—which I am sure my noble friend did not mean it to be. I have here a cutting from what is any rate a thoroughly orthodox Conservative paper, The Times, which is not only orthodox but also, I believe, supports that section of His Majesty's Government, 476 or His Majesty's Cabinet, which is responsible for the present policy. The cutting refers to what they call "The Last Round in Spain." I do not think it will be the last round. I do not think the situation of the Spanish Government is hopeless by any means, and just as the ragged armies of the French Revolution surprised the world when they were apparently in extremis, so I believe that we shall have another surprise like the successful defence of Madrid a year ago. The Times, however, perhaps on the principle of the wish being father to the thought, speaks of this as being the last round—and even if it is, I have often seen an apparent winner knocked out in the last round of a fight. This is what it says:Under the terrible punishment meted out by the newly-arrived German and Italian air units"—"the newly arrived German and Italian air units"! I thought there was a pledge referred to by the Prime Minister on February 21, when the resignation of Mr. Eden was debated, that no new munitions would be sent to Spain.
I see in the Press that the noble Earl, Lord Plymouth, is presiding over the Non-Intervention Committee next Thursday. I do not know if there is any use in raising such a matter there, or whether he would be so impolite as to refer to this, but that is the message from the correspondent at Hendaye, in Franco territory, of The Times newspaper, and I have a dozen cuttings from other newspapers of the complexion of noble Lords opposite, saying the same thing. This is a terrible state of affairs. The noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, asks what hostile fleet could possibly assemble to threaten us in the great harbour of Vigo and the other Spanish ports. I see in the Prime Minister's speech last week that he is accepting at their face value the Italian declarations that they do not want to annex Spanish territory. I must, at the risk of repeating this matter, say once more that it is not necessary to have the Italian flag flying over one inch of Spanish territory for the most terrible danger to be pointed at the heart of the Empire. The harbour of Vigo would be used by the submarines of our enemies in a war in which Spain was against us.
Noble Lords like the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, argue at great length how 477 it may be that in the future a victorious Franco Government, or a victorious Fascist Government, in Spain will not be against us. That, my Lords, is a terrible gamble to take. It is a terrible gamble to rely on the good will of a Government in Spain which I believe would have to have foreign help to hold down the country if it did win, and which has been brought to its present state of temporary success by foreign armies, by foreign help, by foreign diplomatic support and money. It is an awful gamble to take with the very safety of this country, and I must again say that these promises that the Italians, the Germans, or whoever it is will not annex Spanish territory are beside the point. That is not what is at issue. It is the use of those magnificent harbours in Spain, the Canary islands and elsewhere as submarine and seaplane bases against our shipping in another war that may just turn the tables. I see opposite me two members of the Committee of Imperial Defence. I wish the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, would invite the Committee of Imperial Defence to produce the war plan with a hostile Spain. My Lords, what should we do at the present time? End this farce of nonintervention, to begin with; restore the right of the Spanish Government to buy arms; as my noble friend Lord Snell says, summon the League of Nations to deal with the situation. And I would go a little further: I would send foodstuffs, medicines and medical stores to Spain, and I would escort the British ships that took them.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (VISCOUNT HALIFAX)
My Lords, a wide ground has been covered by this debate, and I have no doubt that all your Lordships feel that it has been of advantage to have a few days between the time of the statement being made and this debate being held. That interval, I think, has served on the whole to confirm what was certainly the first favourable impression made in nearly all quarters, both at home and abroad, by the statement of His Majesty's Government last Thursday. I think it also justifies the attempt that was then made by His Majesty's Government to present the policy of this country, as they were responsible for it, in pretty complete and reasoned form. In all the 478 Dominions, as in Prague and in Paris and, I think, in every foreign country from which I have had the opportunity of receiving reports, the Prime Minister's statement has received the same approval as it has received from the bulk of public opinion in this country and as it has also received, on the whole, in the course of this debate. I do not think that the reason is very hard to find, because, as I see it, it speedily became apparent that in that statement His Majesty's Government were expressing with very considerable fidelity the conclusions at which British public opinion itself had instinctively arrived.
Incidentally, I think it is true to say that the formation of that public opinion has been a rather striking example of the fashion in which our people form their judgments on great issues. Here was something presented to the country with great suddenness, sharply, to the accompaniment of loud assertions that no time was to be lost in taking strong action if worse disasters were to be prevented and forestalled. As the most reverend Primate said, for a few days the temperature of the country was abnormally high and every form of alarmist rumour was in free circulation. German divisions were massing on the Czechoslovakian frontier! I myself was brought to the telephone at one o'clock in the morning by a private and patriotic person who told me that Germany, Italy and Japan were on the point of making a joint declaration of war against this country, several parts of whose Dominions were to be distributed according to a plan, and that this was not a question of weeks but of immediate days. It required some resolution on my part to assure him that I did not anticipate that this would start before the next morning, and that I might therefore retire to bed. And in this country reports not less alarming in their own sphere were current of a mutiny in the Cabinet.
In spite of these several shocks from several quarters, British opinion remained steady. It supported the Prime Minister in refusing to be rushed, and it gradually, but very surely, grasped I think the essential elements of the position. It refused to accept, as I refused to accept, prophecy of the ultimate and sinister intentions of Germany as proof, and it was accordingly not convinced that the remedies suggested to meet that prophecy were well conceived. While adhering to 479 all its treaty obligations, and while ready and anxious to reassert its acceptance of the responsibilities of the Covenant, and its determination to the limit of its power to fulfil them, it was not prepared to accept new and uncertain commitments, which would have made the participation of this people in war dependent upon the decision of a Government other than its own. At the same time public opinion also realised that no nation, by cutting as it were a fire line in the forest, could set safe limits for itself against the conflagration should it ever start. With all that in mind, it was not prepared to see this country let go its constructive efforts, by whatever means might from time to time seem most promising, to find solutions for questions which might jeopardise European peace.
The statement made last week was full and comprehensive and, with all respect to the noble Lord opposite, I think it was neither obscure nor ambiguous. It took account of all these several elements of thought, and, with the exception of the National Council of Labour, public opinion has generally endorsed it. If I may say so without offence, the attitude of those who were responsible for the manifesto on behalf of the National Council of Labour seems to be another example of the intellectual gulf which those who speak for labour are perpetually concerned to dig between themselves and other people. I must, nevertheless, say one or two things about that manifesto, on which the noble Lord made the speech with which he delighted us at the outset of this debate. The Labour manifesto considers that the Government's statement contains no constructive policy for the appeasement of Europe or the prevention of war, and it is therefore, I suppose, reasonable to assume that it is to these ends, the appeasement of Europe and the prevention of war, that their own policy would be directed. Perhaps we may bring it to that test.
What other methods do they think most likely to achieve their purpose? I will give them, if I may, in their own words:The British Labour Movement calls for an immediate meeting of the Assembly of the League of Nations, and for special consideration by the European members of the League, particularly France, Great Britain and Russia, of the steps to be taken to bring appeasement in Central Europe and in Spain.480It is British Labour's policy to unite the peace-loving countries in an effort to preserve the peace of Europe, firstly, by a common stand against aggression … and, secondly, by promoting general negotiations among all Powers for the political and the economic appeasement of Europe.It repeats the demand that the embargo upon the supply of arms to the Spanish Government should be immediately raised.Apart from these words, about the desirability of "general negotiations among all Powers for the political and the economic appeasement of Europe," with which everybody, irrespective of Party, would agree, if it could be obtained, the National Council of Labour ask for three things, and the noble Viscount also asked for one of them. They are the immediate summoning of the Assembly of the League, an initiative by France, Great Britain and Russia to bring about appeasement in Central Europe and Spain, and lastly, the cessation of nonintervention in Spain so as to enable arms to be supplied to the Spanish Government.
Let me say a few words about Spain before saying anything on the larger question, if it be larger. The policy of His Majesty's Government, as stated by the Prime Minister in another place, remains unchanged. The noble Lord who spoke last referred to the fact that there had been many cases in which the Non-Intervention Agreement had been more honoured in the breach than in the observance. That is true. He also referred to assertions made of new help supplied by Italy and Germany. I have seen many assertions made with regard to recent help given by Italy, but I have never seen any proof of it, and nothing has occurred to make untrue, so far as I know, the assurance which the Prime Minister gave three days ago in another place, and nothing has occurred, in the view of His Majesty's Government, to make invalid the reasons which led them and the French Government, from the very outset, to adopt the policy of nonintervention in this unhappy civil war.
We have maintained, as we maintain to-day, that if you were to scrap the nonintervention policy you would be doing something very dangerous to European peace. Does anyone for a moment suppose that if you did that it would end by merely increasing the supply of arms to the Spanish Government? It would, of course, mean greatly increased sup- 481 plies to both sides—supplies sent openly and officially by Governments according to their choice. Men would follow material, again openly provided, and you would very soon reach a position of different countries being openly arrayed, with organised forces and material, against one another on the soil of Spain. How long would that struggle be confined to Spain? It would not be a long step from such a position to the point when some Government might feel that its chosen cause would be well served by striking at the home base from which the rival cause was drawing its supplies. I venture, with all respect, to ask the noble Lord opposite how does such a plan as that stand the test of being a constructive policy for the appeasement of Europe and the prevention of war? Therefore in spite of all that there is to be said of the failure of non-intervention on its present basis, I do not believe the fears of worse trouble arising from its abandonment to be exaggerated and—I was glad to see with the support of the noble Marquess the Leader of the Liberal Party—His Majesty's Government will continue to use all their influence that the policy of non-intervention should be adhered to both during the progress of the civil war and, not less important, when the civil war has finished.
There remain the suggestions that His Majesty's Government should join with the French and Soviet Governments in holding an early Conference for the discussion with other Powers of measures by which the European situation may be improved, and that they should bring the matter before the Assembly of the League of Nations. If I was convinced that any useful purpose would be served at the present moment by invoking the League of Nations I can assure the noble Viscount (Lord Cecil) and all your Lordships that I would set the necessary machinery in motion to-morrow. The noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition said that if we did that we could count upon the firm support of all his Party, and the noble Lord who spoke last said that the Government were to be greatly blamed for not relying on the League at this juncture to keep the peace. We used, he said, to rely upon it; if we were once right, as we were right then, he said, we are clearly wrong now. But does not that leave out of account that circumstances change, and that practical 482 people have to have regard to the changed facts?
I should like to ask the noble Viscount, who speaks with a warmth and sincerity that no one questions on these matters, what would in fact be secured by a reference to the League at this particular moment? Is it not true to say that the essential foundation of the League theory of international order was co-operation between all Powers of the world, great and small, and that it was on that basis that it was possible to contemplate coercion so unchallengeable of a would-be aggressor that he would certainly be deterred. And I was interested to see that the noble Viscount in his speech said that he would not think that any Power was bound under Article 16 to take action unless it thought that that action was both possible and effective. Well, can he confidently say that those adjectives can be applied to the sort of action that it might be within the power of the League to take to-day? The effectiveness of coercion depends on general consent to the rule of the Covenant. You cannot enforce that consent, and surely as practical people we have to recognise that to-day that general consent is lacking.
The noble Viscount who spoke from the Liberal Benches said that many of these unhappy results are traceable from the time of the Hoare-Laval Agreement. I think if he had in mind the defections from the principles of the Covenant, his history did not carry him sufficiently far back, because of course the first grave defection from the principles of the Covenant occurred more than six years ago in the Far East. That has been followed by events in Europe which have rudely shaken confidence, and indeed by a more recent development of the situation in the Far East, which only the niceties of juridical thought prevent from being characterised as war. But my main point is, I hope, plain, and I do not believe it is one from which any reasoning person can seriously differ. If some of the more powerful nations, for whatever reasons, are standing outside the League and are hostile to its operation, it is to me obvious that the League can only do one of two things. It can pass resolutions, which can only have the effect of exposing the League to failure and humiliation; or it can endeavour, with the limited resources arising from its restricted membership, to marshal the 483 forces that are loyal to it in something very like a defensive alliance against those who stand outside. That may or may not be a good plan, but let us recognise that it is something essentially different from the Covenant, and do not let us ask support for it on the plea that it is the Covenant in another form. When that is translated into the other practical proposal of the Labour manifesto for a joint conference of France, Russia and ourselves, I must repeat that it does not seem to my mind that that would be a very helpful contribution to the adjustment of European difficulties, and I think the most reverend Primate spoke most truly when he said that his thought had led him to conclude that the only effect of such a policy as that would be still further to harden the lines of a division which are the most dangerous impediment to better understanding.
It is surely significant of the unreal world in which the authors of that manifesto seem to live that not a word was said in it about rearmament. I of course accept—and have never thought the opposite—what was said by the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition, that of course the Labour Party does not want war; but it is also true that they are constantly proclaiming a policy which must exert the maximum effect of provocation on other nations, and they are constantly urging us to accept what would be very like war commitments whenever any principles are infringed, and yet have nothing to say generally about the means by which such a policy as that might be adequately supported. I believe the ordinary man sees these things rather differently. Whatever his attitude on international problems, he knows that he is looking out to-day on a very disordered world, and he is genuinely concerned, however anxious he is to reach conditions where he can see disarmament, to ensure that His Majesty's Government should push forward vigorously with measures, both to make this country secure in its own defence and also to assure it of its rightful influence in world affairs. Those efforts, as your Lordships know, His Majesty's Government are determined to make, and I believe that in them they will have the co-operation of the great bulk of the people in this country.
484 The British people are sometimes thought by those who do not know them to be cold and prudent and reserved. Yet I think that no people in the world is more generous, and at times impulsive, and no people would feel more uneasy if it were ever thought that they were pursuing a purely selfish policy. And, however much they want to keep out of war, as they do, they would not, I think, be well content if they thought that this country was not pulling, or trying to pull, its whole weight in getting the world straight. But the trouble is that some people think one way is the best, and other people think that another way is the best. The Labour Council would like to proceed by the way of what I may call, for brevity's sake, diplomacy by collective ultimatum. I do not happen to think that that is a very good way. We believe in trying to make relations with individual nations better, because we think that, faced as we are with problems which interlock at all points, if you can relieve tension anywhere, you relieve it everywhere. And that, I think, is the justification of the policy of His Majesty's Government.
There is also perhaps this to be said. It is a very good maxim often to see one thing at a time, but it is, I think, essential in the affairs of to-day to see at least two things at a time. I go the whole way with those, like the noble Lord opposite, who feel that the world will never be at rest until it can turn back and found its life on the things through which alone real peace must come. I am not less anxious than the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition and his friends to see established the reign of law and to see justice enthroned above the nations.
I know that I believe in democracy and all that democracy ought to mean not less sincerely than many who speak so loudly in democracy's name. All these things are great causes, and they claim and command our loyalty irrespective of political Parties. But, alongside these things, I cherish other ideals too—the ideal of seeing our people enjoying standards of life, and the opportunity that those standards may give to every citizen to win, in ordered freedom, the achievement of his or her personality. For these things we would spend ourselves and all that we have to save them for our successors. Accordingly, when I am invited in loyalty 485 to high international causes to constitute this country the policeman of the world, I am surely bound—and everyone of you is bound—quite apart from any consideration of material capacity, to weigh the effect that such general readiness to risk war everywhere, in present circumstances and with a restricted League of Nations, must have upon the other purposes not less honourable that you and I are not less bound to try to serve. Therefore, if that argument is true, the decision is not so simple as some people would have us sometimes think.
After my right honourable friend's speech in another place, no one will suppose that this country rates its obligations lightly. Those to whom we have given our word know that if occasion arises we shall keep it faithfully. The noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, referred to some distinction in the obligations that this country had accepted. He will have seen from the statement that this country accepts all its Covenant obligations, but a distinction does undoubtedly exist between those obligations and the direct specific obligations to France and Belgium in cases of unprovoked aggression. There was no more significant passage in the statement made the other day than that wherein it was stated that "the inexorable pressure of facts might well prove more powerful than formal pronouncements." But, ready as this country will always be, I hope, in letter and in spirit to meet the obligations that it has thought right to undertake, we shall not cease to try to point Europe to the more excellent way.
I do not believe there is any short cut, by threats or by exhortations, or by resting on the theory of the balance of power, or isolation or collective security or anything else which has been referred to in this debate, to reach the place where we seek to be. If we are to induce reason in others we must be reasonable ourselves. We maintain all our old friendships, which on every ground are precious to us and which in themselves constitute powerful guarantees for peace. If we can extend the circle of our friends, as I believe we can, through our present 486 conversations with the Italian Government, by resuming old relations, unhappily but, as we hope, only temporarily interrupted, we shall render real service in my judgment to the common good.
It has been more than once said, and rightly said, that arms alone are never enough. The noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, thinks that arms, whether alone or associated with other things, are unmitigated disaster. I would say that arms and the man are both essential, and those who are asked to give their help in the matter of arms have a right to demand that policy should be based upon a moral principle that people can understand. The principle on which I would seek to see British policy based is twofold. At home, as I have hinted, we must preserve our own democracy, our institutions, our individual rights and liberties, through which alone the characteristics of our race are able to make their impact on the world. Abroad, we shall seek to uphold what we believe to be right, using all our influence to prevent the division of Europe into rival camps, and taking every opportunity to use our good offices to promote conciliation.
In looking over the field of foreign affairs I constantly find myself coming back to this country, to the home front. No Government can hope to formulate and to execute a foreign policy without the solid backing of the nation, and no policy is worth much unless the spirit of the nation is behind it, and unless the people of this country are inspired by a resolute determination to accept whatever sacrifice is necessary to make that policy succeed. We shall be judged abroad—make no mistake about this—by foreign nations, not by our policy or by our Government, but by ourselves. If we as a nation can convince others of our purpose, as of our moral and material strength, our policies will succeed. If we cannot do that, no policy, however skilfully devised, will bring salvation. I believe this nation is alive to its responsibilities. I believe that it has an instinctive insight into the things that really matter, and I believe also that once it understands how great a part in shaping the future of the world it may be this nation's destiny to play, it will respond to any effort that is demanded of it.
§ LORD SNELL
My Lords, the noble Viscount has with great courtesy answered the speeches which have been made and particularly the manifesto issued by the National Council of Labour, but I cannot say that he has answered the arguments that I used in your Lordships' 488 House to-day. Will your Lordships permit me to withdraw the Motion?
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.
§ House adjourned at twenty minutes before eight o'clock.