§ 3.45 P.m.
§ Viscount BRUCE of MELBOURNE rose to move to resolve, That this House is of the opinion that the closest relations within the Commonwealth and Empire are essential. The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I have placed on the Order Paper the Motion that stands in my name, because I feel that there is no question of greater importance in the difficult and even perilous times through which we are passing than the question of relations within the Commonwealth and Empire. I think it is the general feeling throughout all British countries that Commonwealth and Empire relations, cooperation and consultation, are of the greatest importance. We have got to clear our minds, however—and clear them very definitely—on these three issues: Why are those relations so vitally important to all British people? What is the present position with regard to consultation and co-operation between the various British countries? And if the position at the present moment is not really a satisfactory one, what should we do in order to put the matter right? I propose to deal with those three points separately.
§ I will take first the question: Why is the closest possible consultation and cooperation between all the great British countries so essential? To see the picture clearly, we have to cast our minds into the future and try and visualize what sort of a world we are likely to live in. So far as I can see, there are three broad possibilities. The first is that we are going to live in a world in which there will be full international co-operation in dealing with all the great political and economic problems that confront us, a world in which the ideals of the United Nations will be achieved and all its 1103 specialized agencies will operate effectively and play their respective parts. The second world that I visualize, if we cannot obtain that full co-operation, is one in which there will be groupings of nations on a regional or other basis, in which the United Nations organization will operate to some extent but will not achieve all that we hoped of it, and in which the specialized agencies will play a limited part. The third and most disastrous world I visualize is one in which it is impossible to get any real co-operation, in which all attempts to achieve it break down and all our present ideals disappear—a world dominated by power politics and by the ruthless ideals that some nations seem now to hold.
§ If we are going to achieve that first and best world of real international cooperation, surely it is vital that we, the British peoples, should unitedly make our great contribution to it. If it is going to be the second world, in which there will be the grouping of nations, then surely there is no more natural group than that of all the great British nations scattered throughout the world. If it is going to be the third world, where there will be no real international co-operation, then we shall need each other in order to maintain our individual integrity and safeguard our existing position. We shall need to co-operate together if we are to save our whole economic life and maintain the standards of living of our people. I venture to suggest that we should project our minds into the future. But whatever sort of world we are going to get, I suggest that it is imperative that we, the British people, with our ideals and all the things we stand for, should consult, co-operate and work together.
§ I come now to my second point. What is the present position? Have we the machinery necessary for that consultation and co-operation? Are we to-day really consulting and co-operating? I venture to say that we are not, and I will give my reasons for it. Before I do that, however, I think we should arrive at some exact definition of what we mean by consultation and co-operation. I suggest that what it should mean is consultation between all the great self-governing nations of the Empire and Commonwealth during the period while policy is in formulation, and then, if 1104 agreement as to what that policy should be is achieved, full co-operation in its implementation. That is the objective for which we ought to be aiming.
§ I now turn to examine how far we have got along the road towards that goal. There are some people who believe we have been progressing so well that we are now getting very much more consultation; that we have devised a machine for effective and adequate Empire consultation and co-operation and that the machine is functioning effectively. Out of a long experience, now extending over some twenty-five years, during which I have been closely associated with this question of Empire and Commonwealth co-operation, I say that this is not so. We have not achieved that position. The past twenty-five years have been years of advance and progress. We have improved our methods of co-operation and consultation. But the stage which we have now reached leaves a great deal to be desired.
§ There is one possible exception to that somewhat general statement, and that is in respect of defence. Prior to the war we had a Committee of Imperial Defence—a very great conception for which, I think, the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, is entitled to the greatest measure of praise. That Committee did good work. On it sat the representatives of the Dominions. When war came, naturally, owing to the exigencies of the war, a really close military co-operation—in the widest sense of the word "military"—was established and continued throughout hostilities. Up to October, 1945, when I ceased to be High Commissioner for Australia, I did everything in my power to ensure that that co-operation with regard to defence, established in war, would continue in peace. In the autumn of 1945, when I left, the plans were moving forward well, and my hope to-day is that what one anticipated in 1945 was going to happen has continued and has improved, and that we are really getting full co-operation with regard to defence. Of that matter I have no knowledge, but I hope that His Majesty's Government during this discussion will give us some indication of the present position.
§ There are, however, many other vitally important subjects, apart from defence, on which we should have consultation and co-operation. As all noble Lords may not be completely familiar with the stage 1105 which we have now attained, I would] ike to indicate what is happening at the present time. What I have to say will, I think, be relatively up to date, though I cannot speak with any authority with regard to the last year or so. I can, however, speak with some authority as to what happened up to 1945. At the present time a vast mass of information is available to the Governments of the Dominions and an almost unlimited flow of cables—dealing mainly with international affairs—is going to the Dominions. There are also masses of despatches and cables passing to and from United Kingdom representatives abroad, all of which are available to the Dominions and their representatives. In addition there is a considerable flow of reports, despatches and other documents going out from the Commonwealth Relations Office—the Department which has now taken the place of the Dominions Office—to the Dominions. All the Dominions and the United Kingdom now exchange High Commissioners and the flow of information is increased thereby, the extent of the addition made by the High Commissioners depending almost entirely upon the personalities of the individual High Commissioners concerned.
§ But this is a point which has to be borne in mind. Nearly all the information is going from the United Kingdom to the Dominions. I would put the proportion as high as 90 per cent. All that information originates in the United Kingdom and goes out to the Dominions. The flow from the Dominions to the United Kingdom is very small and fragmentary, and the exchanges between the Dominions themselves are practically negligible. That is the broad position. But there is one matter which we have to recognize—namely, that practically all the information supplied is purely factual. I can say from bitter experience how impossible it is to get any official indication of policy—the United Kingdom's policy on any great question—during the formulative period when that policy is being created. It is only after it is finalized, agreed and almost unalterable that one can find out anything. Information which is of such a character that it does not give an opportunity for consultation and consideration during the period of the formulation of the policy is really of very little value.
§ I think we must all be agreed that it is essential that there should be that con- 1106 sultation. But would anyone suggest that early, adequate consultation takes place or is taking place on any of these subjects—the Peace Treaties, Palestine, the Marshall Plan, the financial and economic situation, overseas development and many other important problems? I venture to suggest to your Lordships that that consultation is not taking place and has not been taking place. Yet it is imperative that it should do so.
§ The Lord PRIVY SEAL (Viscount Addison)
Would the noble Viscount mind giving me that list of subjects again.
§ Viscount BRUCE of MELBOURNE
Certainly—the Peace Treaties, Palestine, the Marshall Plan, the financial and economic situation and overseas development. I want to make it clear that I am not suggesting that there has been No information given about most of these subjects. What I am saying is that there is no opportunity for full consultation with regard to them. I will indicate some small measure of consultation on some of them in a minute or so. What generally happens is that there is what I would describe as last-minute consultation, which generally means that after weeks—in one case which I have in mind, almost years—of consideration of policy, His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom suddenly reconcile their ideas and get agreement upon the matter. Then a cable is sent to the Dominions, or a meeting of Dominion representatives with United Kingdom representatives at an international conference is held, the decision is announced and probably action has to be taken the next day. I suggest that that is not very satisfactory, and I also suggest that a number of unfortunate situations have arisen as a consequence of it, but I do not think there is any point in dwelling on those things. It seems to me that what is needed to put the position right is some method by which we shall have consultation based on adequate information during the period of the formulation of a policy, so that if we are all agreed on that policy we can co-operate in implementing it; or, in certain cases, that those who are agreed can co-operate. But we must have the consultation while the policy is being formed.
In 1943, Mr. Curtin, the then Prime Minister of Australia, put forward certain proposals which, I suggest, would have met that requirement. I was very closely 1107 associated with Mr. Curtin in the formulation of these proposals, as was Mr. Shedden—who might be described as the Lord Hankey of Australia—in his old capacity as Secretary of the Cabinet, and of the Imperial War Committee of Australia. The proposals Mr. Curtin put forward were rejected, but I want to make it quite clear that while I propose to put in my own language the suggestions I wish to make, they do not differ in conception very greatly from what was put forward by Mr. Curtin in 1943. The suggestion I make is that we require a Council of British Nations—and I quite deliberately leave out any "Imperial Council" or anything of that sort. In the evolution of this marvellous thing, the British Empire, we have reached the stage when what we really require is a Council of British Nations, a meeting of Governments which are self-governing inside the great British Commonwealth. That Council should be based on the Prime Ministers of the great self-governing parts of the Empire, and should be known as the Council of British Nations.
I also suggest that that Council must have a secretariat with picked personnel drawn from all over the different countries which are members of the Council. The tasks of that secretariat would be to keep all major questions under constant review, to furnish information and reports to all Governments who are members, and to prepare the documents and agendas for meetings of the Council. Meetings of the Council, in what I would call plenary session, with the Prime Ministers themselves, should be held as and when required. They would take the place of the old Imperial Conferences. In addition, I suggest that meetings of the Council, to be known as special meetings, could be held at any time to consider special questions as they arise—finance, transport, communications, or whatever the issue might be. A special meeting could be held in whatever part of the Empire was most convenient, but representation would probably be by the Ministers primarily concerned with the particular subject. The final thing needed is what I would call the ordinary meeting, which I suggest should be held in London once a month, under the presidency of the Prime Minister of this United Kingdom. In the ordinary way the representatives of the Dominions would be their High 1108 Commissioners, but no doubt from time to time the High Commissioners would be supplemented by Ministers who were over in this country on a special mission. In addition, the secretariat could arrange for meetings of experts of the Empire on particular problems, and could also take over the responsibilities for arranging meetings held at the non-ministerial level. I understand that in the past two years, since I left—and they were being held before that—quite a number of meetings have been held at the non-ministerial level. Senior civil servants have met to discuss their special subjects, and I believe that very satisfactory results have accrued. But ad hoc meetings are not enough. Where they break down is that there is no follow-up for the individual meetings on special subjects. There must be some sort of secretariat to give continuity to the whole picture.
I have tried to put forward what I think are practical suggestions as to the method of consultation, but the thing I want to press—and to press as deeply as I can—is that we should also allow for flexibility in the method and extent of co-operation. We have to draw a clear distinction between consultation and co-operation, and we must have the maximum flexibility with regard to co-operation. There are such differing circumstances in the different Dominions. We have to recognize that in some cases we are going to get bilateral decisions. Do not get the idea that everybody is to be in on everything and that we are going to get complete agreement on every subject. We may have a bilateral decision or a multilateral decision—all that will work itself out in the process. I am trying to indicate the absolute necessity for action; but for Heaven's sake do not get the impression that I am suggesting we should now prepare a blue-print for a magnificent secretariat of the Empire or try to indicate a sealed pattern for consultation and cooperation. I am doing nothing of the sort. I am trying to suggest that we recognize the necessity for action; we should then progressively try to create the machinery which will enable that action to he effective.
The ways and means of doing that will suggest themselves to us as we go along. In these days we have a new problem almost every day and there is hardly one of these problems which is not of vital interest to every one of the British com- 1109 munity of nations. We must not imagine that we can build anything of this sort over-night. We have to appreciate that quite possibly there will be much more rapid progress on the economic side than on the political side. To my mind that is immaterial, provided that we are going forward all the time to our objective. I suggest that we have not made a complete job in the past. We might have done better. A very natural question to ask, if I am right in that contention, is: Why has this not been put straight long ago? To find the answer, we have to delve a little bit into past history, and we must always keep in mind that as a political organism this British Commonwealth and Empire is unique.
In 1914, when the war broke out, the four great Dominions—Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa—had all reached the stage of development where theoretically there was no possible question that they were self-governing peoples, subject to no interference from anybody. In practice, however, that was not completely recognized in this country at that time, and there were quite a number of people—and quite a number of people concerned with Whitehall—who still regarded them as Colonies. That created in the Dominions a degree of resentment, the depth of which few people appreciated. There grew up the idea, very pronounced in some Dominions, that the one thing they would never put up with was "Whitehall dominance." That became almost a fetish in some Dominions. I go so far as to say that it is still there, though there is not the slightest reason for it. In the 1914-18 war the unparalleled efforts of the great Dominions convinced everybody that they had reached the point where self-government, without interference from anybody, was obviously their portion.
The whole situation was cleared up in the Balfour Declaration of 1926, which, in. dealing with the relations between the United Kingdom and the four great Dominions—Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa—declared:They are autonomous Communities within the British Empire, equal in status, in no way subordinate one to another in any aspect of their domestic or external affairs, though united by a common allegiance to the Crown, and freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations.That was supplemented in 1931 by the Statute of Westminster. In that Statute 1110 effect was given to every principle laid down in the Balfour Declaration. The Statute went further, and provision was made for the removal of all restrictions on the legislative autonomy of the Dominions. One would imagine that the Balfour Declaration and the Statute of Westminster would have removed all doubts and suspicions in the minds of any of the Dominions, and that it would have been followed by the creation of the necessary machinery to ensure adequate consultation and co-operation. Unfortunately that did not happen. The old mentality, for some reason or another, persisted in some parts of the Empire and, I regret to say, still does.
It is only fair to say with regard to the United Kingdom that, over the long period during which I have been associated with this question, there have been many United Kingdom Governments, and they have come from all the political Parties, but I have found in every one of them a real desire to go forward and to try and complete the necessary machinery to ensure adequate consultation and co-operation. Where I do slightly quarrel with alt United Kingdom Governments, of whatever colour, is that they never showed the necessary leadership for achieving this objective; and the reason with all of them—I say it after having talked, and talked, and talked—was timidity arising from fear of offending the Dominions. I have had a little to do with the Dominions, and I believe that if some British Government had been a little more flat-footed and had said what they really thought, we would have got on a good deal faster. That is an expression of a personal view only as to what the Dominions prefer.
The argument is sometimes used to me that it is no good embarking on this sort of plan: the representatives of some of the Dominions would never co-operate, because of the obligations it would impose upon them. I cannot make any sense of that statement. No conceivable obligation would be imposed on anybody, save an obligation freely undertaken in a discussion amongst equals trying to evolve a policy and to determine whether co-operation is or is not possible. The point that must be remembered is that this would be a meeting of equals. The mentality still persists in some places, despite the Balfour Declaration, that we are not 1111 all equals. We are all equals in these great self-governing British nations. If we meet as equals, then, as is ever the case amongst equals, leadership will come sometimes from one and sometimes from another.
If this Council were ever to operate, I visualize it working on regional lines. In respect of any question concerning Europe, probably the United Kingdom would give the lead. In respect to anything concerning the North American Continent, Canada, with her geographical position and her close links with the United States of America, would probably make the greatest contribution. Australia and New Zealand, the two great outposts of a wide civilization in the Pacific, with their vital interests in the whole of that vast region, would surely make the greatest contribution to questions concerning that area. It seems to me that if we had a Council of that sort all the Dominions could make a tremendous contribution in respect of their own geographical areas. To my mind, however, these times are so fraught with danger and the need for our acting together in a united way, after full consultation, is so urgent, that even if any self-governing part of the Empire is not prepared immediately to participate in the creation of the necessary machinery, those who are should still go forward. I am certain that the results that would flow from that going forward would soon convince any Dominion that was outside as to the desirability and wisdom of coming in and co-operating fully.
It is interesting to contrast the attitude that has been adopted towards any thought of British co-operation with that adopted in regard to international cooperation. All the self-governing members of the Empire were members of the old League of Nations. When the conception of the United Nations was put forward at San Francisco, every self-governing member of the Empire welcomed it; every member of the British Group became a member of the United Nations Organization and all its specialized agencies. All the British nations now accept the Secretariat of the United Nations, and their vast organization; they all contribute towards the very heavy expense of maintaining those organizations and the Secretariats, and they all compete for places on their committees and coun- 1112 cils. Yet the moment one talks of British co-operation, somebody seems to think that there is something mysteriously vicious about it. That cannot be on the ground that such co-operation is opposed to the ideals we all subscribe to in the United Nations.
Throw your minds back to the old League of Nations. Take the case of the Little Entente and the Balkan Confederation—all were welcomed, all were encouraged and regarded as contributing to the great ideals for which the League stood. Look at the present position with regard to the Marshall Plan: sixteen nations have to come closer together and co-operate, even to the point of forming a Customs Union. There are many good and influential friends of the United Nations who are to-day advocating a United States of Europe. It cannot be that by co-operating together we would be doing something contrary to the spirit of the United Nations Charter. Indeed, I say we would be doing something that was completely and absolutely in line with it.
The evolution of the British Empire over the last 150 years is regarded by the world, and rightly regarded, as the greatest expression of political wisdom the world has ever seen. Under that system we have granted to each of the maturing British communities, when they came to the appropriate stage of development, complete self-governing rights. But the genius has not lain in having the enlightened view of granting those self-governing rights; the genius has lain in the fact that we have granted those rights to these diverse peoples across the world and yet have held them all together under a common allegiance to the Throne. I venture to say that unless we take the next step forward, the creation of the machinery required for co-operation and consultation, then that unity will not be maintained and the benefits of this great political achievement will be lost.
If that happened it would be a tragedy, not only to the British peoples but to the world, because we have to recognize to-day that the future of the world and of mankind depends upon three nations, the United States of America, Russia and Britain. The United States has a population of 130,000,000, and Russia has 170,000,000; and both have unlimited natural resources. Britain has 47,000,000 people, with practically no natural 1113 resources, and in two global wars has stripped herself bare, economically and financially, by her unparalleled efforts to save the world. Besides those other two great nations Britain, by herself, is a pigmy. In co-operation with the rest of the Commonwealth and Empire she is their equal and can give unparalleled leadership. It is vital that Britain's voice should be the voice of an equal in the councils of the world, because in the past she has been the bulwark of justice and liberty. She has been the spearhead against tyranny and aggression; she has led the world in the development of all democratic processes; and she has led the world in economic and social progress. I suggest that, with that experience behind her, out of her vast knowledge, through practice of what she has done, reinforced—and, if you like, reinvigorated—with the strength and the outlook of the young virile British peoples overseas, the contribution that Britain can make to the problems confronting mankind to-day is incalculable. Because I so believe, I move this Resolution.
§ Moved to resolve, That this House is of the opinion that the closest relations within the Commonwealth and Empire are essential.—(Viscount Bruce of Melbourne.)
§ 4.24 p.m.
§ Lord ALTRINCHAM
My Lords, I am sure that noble Lords in every quarter of the House will agree that we have listened to a profoundly impressive and inspiring speech. It is well for us, and I think for the Commonwealth, that we should have in this House a man who can speak with the experience, the authority and the wisdom which has been shown by the noble Viscount this afternoon. He is, after all, an ex-Prime Minister; he was a High Commissioner for many years; he was closely associated with the inner councils of the United Kingdom throughout the war, and nobody can speak with greater authority than he. We are fortunate that we in this House can hear the conclusions of a mind so clear, so representative, so experienced and so wise. I agree entirely with the noble Viscount that progress now depends upon leadership from this country, and particularly on the formation of co-operative groups. That, I think, is unquestionably the next stage in Commonwealth development. I could not agree with him more that our present 1114 methods of co-operation are unsatisfactory. What in fact is holding us up? I would venture to suggest, delving a little into history, that we are still being held up by a set of ideas which belong to the past and by a certain rigidity which still circumscribes our ways of thought about the Commonwealth.
For an example I would take the very conception which governs the whole position at the present moment, the conception of Dominion status. That is a very broad conception, as laid down in the Statute of Westminster, but the difficulty about it—a difficulty which has always produced a certain reaction against it—is that it does imply a difference of status between a mother country and its child, even the completely grown-up child. It was originally derived from the Dominion of Canada, because that was the first of the younger nations to achieve complete independence and Sovereign national status. The term, therefore, has 'definite historical associations reflecting an obsolete condition of the past. Its very origin led to over-emphasis upon one aspect—and I am sure the noble Viscount, Lord Addison, will agree with me on this. There was always emphasis on the aspect of the complete independence of the Dominions and far too little emphasis on the obverse of that—namely, the responsibilities appertaining to membership of the Commonwealth. In the whole period between the wars that was the situation. I think the conception contained in Dominion status was unfortunate, particularly in the case of Eire. I am sure the noble Viscount the Leader of the House will agree on this. In Eire, from the moment the Treaty was signed, there was a constant effort to get away from Dominion status, which was never accepted by the Irish and which was regarded as unsuited to a mother country, as Ireland always was.
The influence of Ireland in the Conferences of 1926 and 1930 was undoubtedly very great. The idea of Dominion status was finally replaced by that of external association—with emphasis on the first, rather than the second, word. We made no objection when that final interpretation was given by the Constitution of 1937 to the association of Ireland with the Commonwealth. But the conception has always had its effect—and here I entirely agree with the noble Vis- 1115 count who moved this Motion—in the United Kingdom. We are still sometimes inhibited by the idea that all that the other members of the Commonwealth require is information, and that so long as they receive information that is all they can properly ask of us. In point of fact, they should come in on the formative stage and should take their share in making a policy. That policy, as I well know, is faced in the United Kingdom with the difficulty—which is perhaps inherent in our position—of an unwillingness on the part of the Dominions to take responsibility. One has often felt that that was the case. But I think it was due also to a certain retrograde character in our own thought, and to an unwillingness to give leadership to which the Dominions would undoubtedly have responded.
As an example of that, take the relation of the High Commissioners to the Government of the United Kingdom. A foreign ambassador has always had the right to go straight to the Foreign Secretary, the fountain head of external policy. The High Commissioner of the Dominion has taken it, at second hand, from the Secretary of State for the Dominions.
§ Lord ALTRINCHAM
Yes, exactly; but the High Commissioner of the Dominion gets at second hand what a foreign ambassador gets at first hand from the member of the British Cabinet especially responsible for the formulation of foreign policy. I cite that as an example of the fact that there is something inherent in Dominion status which does not correspond to the realities of the present hour. I am glad that the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce, suggested that future Conferences should be held in this country under the chairmanship of the United Kingdom Prime Minister, because that is undoubtedly what ought to be done. It is essential to break down in the Dominions the fetish which the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce, described—the idea that there is still in Whitehall a desire to dominate. The idea still exists, though more in some Dominions than in others. To eliminate it means some change in our methods here at home.
1116 I suggest that the most important thing is to get rid of the terminology which dates from the past. I am glad indeed that the title of "Secretary of State for the Dominions" has now been changed to "Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations." It corresponds much better, I think, to the nature of his duties at the present time. Let us forget "Dominion status." If, by chance, Australia had been the first great federation to come into being, and to attain nationhood, we might never have had the phrase "Dominion status" and how much happier the phrase "Commonwealth status" would have been—taken as it was, historically, from Canada. I think that that idea is worth emphasizing at the present time, because of the new situation in Asia. India and Pakistan are not grownup Colonies. They would not recognize in any way the historical association connected with the phrase "Dominion status"; and it is quite certain that the idea of Dominion status has never had a special appeal to the Indian mind. I am sure that the noble Earl, Lord Halifax, will agree with that. He was responsible for using the phrase "Dominion status" in relation to India, and the effect on the Indian mind was much less than we hoped at the time. It never has had a strong effect at all. Similarly, Burma has opted for going outside the Commonwealth, rather than for accepting Dominion status. Burma is related to the Commonwealth by treaty, but she is now, in fact, a foreign State—a situation which is unhappy for us, and may be unhappier for her. I think, therefore, that it is desirable that in Asia we should embark on a new line of thought and find some new method of association with the Commonwealth, some via media other than the rigid choice between Dominion status and the status of a completely foreign Power.
In any case, so far as the British nations, properly so-called, are concerned, it is not the Statute of Westminster or definitions of status which have kept us what we are. It was mortal peril and the instinct for unity in peril which constitutional discussion had not destroyed. The first example of getting back to unity, under the pressure of facts, was the economic Agreements at Ottawa. It is well to remember that they enabled us to hold out so effectively in the years before the war. Then came September, 1117 1939, and the terrible events of 1940 which welded us; in united and unbreakable resolve. It is often said that at that time—1940 and 1941—Britain stood alone. That is a dangerous and misleading perversion of fact. It is a phrase which ought not to be used. It was not Britain which stood alone; it was the Commonwealth. Britain could never have stood without the support of the Commonwealth. Everybody recognizes that fact. After all, the three factors which saved us are not in doubt. One was our island position: we could not be overwhelmed unless we were invaded across the sea. The second was, by tradition and character, our capacity for national unity in peril. Fortunate was it for us that there was no sign in this country of the factions which undermined the strength of our great neighbour, France. Yet neither of those things would have saved us if there had not been the same unity and resolve, and a staunch support for us, throughout the Commonwealth.
As an example of that, I ask your Lordships to remember—because it bears very much on the situation—the immense importance of Canada's part, not only in the provision of training grounds for the Forces which were absolutely essential to our survival; and not only by her material and financial assistance on an enormous scale; but by her refusal to consider the alternative of neutrality. From the beginning Canada made neutrality much more difficult in the United States. If Canada had been neutral it would have reinforced the argument for neutrality in the United States. I am glad to see that the noble Earl, Lord Halifax, agrees that that was a decisive part which Canada played. The other Dominions played an equally important rô le in proportion to their strength. Those factors, I think, are worth remembering in peace, because—as the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce, said—our freedom and security depend as much now upon unity of thought and purpose as they did then.
The Motion is, therefore, a timely one, and I regret only that we no longer have in this House to speak on such a theme the noble Viscount, Lord Bennett, another ex-Prime Minister, whose death was a very great loss to us. As the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce, said, the situation manifestly calls now for more close and frequent conference. Major 1118 decisions lie ahead, both in foreign and economic policy, which imperatively demand discussion in conference. I hope that Ministers will be prepared to go to other Commonwealth capitals for discussion and will not merely invite Commonwealth Ministers to come here. The recent visit which the noble Viscount the Leader of the House paid to Australia was a most welcome demonstration that Ministers in this country are ready to give their time to go overseas. What I hope most is chat the rigidity of thought to which I have called attention will be abandoned, not only in regard to status but in the matter of function. And here I would like to refer to what the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce, said about national sovereignty within the Commonwealth. The key to our free system, our Empire democratic system, is Parliament. Manifestly Parliaments must always have the last word. They have the sovereign and supreme responsibility. But they have different preoccupations and responsibilities in different parts of the world.
As the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce, said, Canada, in the North American Continent, must enjoy very special relations with the United States of America and must look eastwards and northwards when considering the question of security. Obviously, the voice of Canada should have especial weight in all matters relating to British policy in that part of the globe. South Africa is concerned in the security and development of the whole African Continent and of the Middle East. Australia and New Zealand are concerned with the Pacific, Asia and also the Middle East. I am sure that your Lordships would all like to send a message of good will this week to Ceylon, wishing her prosperity in every way. The three new Asiatic Dominions—India, Pakistan and Ceylon—are also deeply interested in the Pacific and the Middle East. It may very well be that, while arrangements are made for every consideration of Commonwealth policy, special arrangements may be desirable in regard to special regions. Therefore, regional organization does seem to me vital at the present time.
The machinery of co-operation which is set up may differ from one region to another. Britain herself has a special regional problem at the present moment. She must play a part of leadership in the unity of Western Europe. Everyone is agreed that that is absolutely indispen- 1119 sable. Britain is essential to the strength and recovery of Western Europe, but her own strength and value now, as in 1940-41, depend on the support of the Commonwealth. Therefore, the Commonwealth should be brought into all discussions that we have in Europe, and the United Kingdom must, in all things, even if associated with a regional union in Europe, put the Commonwealth first. I believe that that principle is equally true with every member of the Commonwealth. In each case, their security, their value to others and their power for freedom and peace, are immeasurably enhanced by the strength of the great political system of which they are part.
Therefore, I submit that, in this dangerous age, when all our freedoms are still at stake, four established principles should govern our Commonwealth relationship. The first is the absolute sovereignty and supremacy of national Parliaments. Their Ministers may and must confer and consult together, but Parliaments must control the machinery of consultation and see that it corresponds with their views, for, in the last resort, they themselves must decide upon their own course of action. The second principle is unity of purpose and policy on main world issues, and especially on those issues which govern the future of freedom and peace and the future of the United Nations organization. It is indeed true that the Commonwealth, by holding together, may assure the future of that larger world organization. I do not believe it would have any hope of survival if the Commonwealth itself failed. In the years before the Second World War we were inclined to think, as the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce, has said, that we could rely upon the League of Nations rather than upon the Commonwealth. It was the Commonwealth which held, and not the League of Nations. The Commonwealth is now one essential element in that world organization and one of the pillars upon which it rests, and I do not believe that the organization has any hope of survival without the support of the Commonwealth.
The third principle—and here I only echo what was said by the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce—is regional responsibility and the building up by regions of the Commonwealth's strength. 1120 That is a matter of economic policy, migration, and systems of defence, all of which might be discussed in detail. In regard to defence, I believe that a great deal is being done—I doubt if as much is being done in the economic or the political field. Let us make all the progress we can in the economic field but let us develop regional responsibility and grouping as one of our main constructive ideas. Finally, I would re-emphasize what the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce, said about flexibility of method to suit the needs and the character of the different member-States of the Commonwealth.
It is a mistaken idea that the same machinery necessarily corresponds to the needs of every member of the Commonwealth. If one wants machinery for closer organization than does another, let us set it up. I believe that if that machinery were found to work, it would in due course be welcomed and adopted by the rest of the Commonwealth. In particular, those who want to see some sort of common secretariat set up should not be denied their wish and their need because others are unwilling to take that step at the present moment. If we base ourselves upon these principles, we can disperse responsibility so far as possible and, if we set ourselves now to create a machine which suits the different groups and helps them to play their part, not only in defending the Commonwealth when the Commonwealth is in danger but in creating and shaping the policy by which the Commonwealth is to live, I believe that this great political system, about which the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce, spoke so eloquently at the end of his speech, will prove of inestimable service to the world in the future as it has done in the past.
§ 4.48 p.m.
My Lords, the magnificent speech made by the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce, is one that any person in the Empire would have been glad to make, but few other than he could have made it. He has drawn attention not only to one or two difficulties, but also to something which I think is especially important in this country. We are always too prone to say that because a thing has worked up to date it requires no modification or improvement. That is a confession of deadness. It is the confession of one who cannot see any further ahead. It is well for us that a man like 1121 the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce, should remind us, in whatever condition we are, that we must continue to look ahead, as everyone in your Lordships' House agrees that he does. The particular difficulty to which he referred seems to me one that touches us perhaps more than most of the members of the Commonwealth. The point I have in mind is, of course, that of consultation. The noble Viscount made a. distinction between consultation and cooperation. It is clear that co-operation without consultation becomes difficult, and consultation becomes useless if it is limited—he suggested has been too much the case—merely to passing on facts.
In discussing the relations between the constituent parts of the Commonwealth we are faced, especially in your Lordships' House, with the great difficulty of knowing what we can say and what we ought to do in regard to other people's affairs. The noble Lord who has just sat down spoke very rightly of the absolute sovereignty of the Parliaments of the several parts of this Commonwealth. It is, therefore, difficult for your Lordships' House, as part of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, not to make suggestions which may be misinterpreted, or which may even lead to misunderstanding or cause offence in other Parliaments in constituent parts of the Commonwealth. Therefore, if there is a suggestion to be made from your Lordships' House, it seems to me that that suggestion should, in the first place, bear upon what we can do in the United Kingdom to remedy any faults which may have arisen or to produce the development and progress which are inherent in any live community. From what Lord Bruce has said we are clearly at fault in failing to communicate facts and documents. Then if we are at fault in failing to discuss the consequences of those facts and documents, let us remedy that error in the first place, and leave to others the remedying of the fault of failing to pass on to us facts to which we also are entitled.
But when we come to the machinery for doing this, I have doubts about even the proposal which Lord Bruce made. The real difficulty seems to be that, in dealing with Commonwealth affairs, we ought to know what we are talking about. The noble Lord spoke of the Balfour Declaration and the consequences of it in the Statute of Westminster. At that time 1122 it seemed fairly clear—or at any rate it was more clear than it had been for many years—what the Commonwealth was. But since 1930 or 1931 a good deal has happened. The Commonwealth itself, being a living and growing organism which is self-developed, is clearly to-day no longer what it was in the days of the Statute of Westminster. Indeed, one of the real difficulties in discussing the whole problem, whether here or elsewhere, is, as I have said, to know exactly what it is we are discussing. The expression "the Commonwealth of British Nations" is virtually indefinable to-day. I think we all know what it means, but it is extremely difficult to put into words what it means, either as a political entity, an economic entity, or even—if it matters—a racial entity.
No one to-day can say where the Commonwealth begins and where it ends. There are parts within the Commonwealth that are in less close relationship with this country than are countries which are obviously not within the Commonwealth. Economically there are parts of the Commonwealth that are extraneous to the major part of the rest. I will take one instance on the economic side alone. The sterling area is not co-terminous with the Commonwealth; the Commonwealth is not a sterling area. The single connexion which was reputed to exist between the several parts of the Commonwealth is not wholly accepted everywhere within the Commonwealth. Why is it that we can feel what the Commonwealth is and yet cannot describe it? I think the explanation is fairly clear. The Commonwealth is like all the great conceptions of the world that live; it is an idea, it is not a material thing. True, it was born out of a material thing. The British people went to the four corners of the earth and settled it, and they ruled themselves and others, and they did so, in most cases, with a material object in view.
But, with all that material side, there grew up an idea which, in the course of a hundred years, has developed into something that the world has never seen. Can you, my Lords, harness an idea to a machine? No, on the contrary; you must harness a machine to an idea. You cannot reduce an idea to something visible; if you try to do so, you kill it. That has been the history of all dogma and all heresy. Whenever there has 1123 been an idea that people have tried to define and relate into a machine of government or of discipline that could be reduced to writing, there have come heresies and division. I suggest that it is because we have never tried to harness the idea of the Commonwealth to a machine that the Commonwealth, with its indefinable border, is still a living and a growing thing. How much it has grown since 1931 is clear, because the definitions of 1931 are to-day already matters of history and are no longer applicable.
If that be right, should any one part create a machine and risk destroying an idea which is so real that it has survived two wars without any machine (except perhaps the Committee of Imperial Defence), and certainly without any semblance of the machine to which Lord Bruce referred? That is not to say that something has not to take the place of the Committee of Imperial Defence. That is not to say that progress is not required. But I think it does mean that it is only with grave danger that we, in your Lordships' House, can suggest a machine to others who may not be ready for it. If it be true that we have done our best, but have not completed our part in disseminating information and providing the facts, if we have failed to consult in the formative stages of policy, let us remedy the fault which lies at our own door; but let us wait for other parts of the Commonwealth to make those proposals to us which will best suit their needs. Those proposals may very likely take the form, as Lord Altrincham has suggested, of a different type of mechanism for each part of the Commonwealth, without producing the rigidity of a central secretariat, which, even if some members joined and others did not, would inevitably produce among those who did not wish to join a feeling of being outside; and that would tend to disintegrate, instead of integrating, and impede progress. In the last two or three years Commonwealth relations have been immensely complicated, if one may so put it, by such events as the accession to independent status in the Commonwealth of Cevlon, India and Pakistan, by the growth of self-government in other parts of the world and, indeed, by the coming closer to us of countries which are not within the Commonwealth but which, believing as they do in the same ideas that 1124 we have, might almost be considered to be related members of the Commonwealth. But with the growth at the same time of communications which have made personal exchanges of views easier, is it not better to keep those ideas fresh and young in our minds, to let machinery of contact and consultation develop separately along different channels and not through the same channels?
There is another reason. Channels of communication and methods of corresponding and meeting and talking to one another are very fine on paper; but, as we all know only too well, they do not always work out in practice if the individuals involved are not sympathetic to them. On the other hand, where there is no recognized channel but where there are individuals who by their personal contacts are able to exchange ideas on the same level, we find more fruitful consultation than will ever come out of a machine, however ingeniously devised and however much support it may have. It seems to me, therefore, that while the unanimous desire in your Lordships' House is clearly to see inter-Commonwealth relations grow closer and easier, and while it is certainly our wish to remedy any faults of which we may be guilty, I would not like it to be thought that we have made suggestions which others in the Commonwealth would feel obliged either to accept or not to accept, so creating divisions. If we can keep this one thing before us, that the Commonwealth is an idea born primarily of the British people, and that that idea is a living thing, I believe that we shall do better than by trying to devise a machine for general closer consultation.
The world in general, and all great thinkers, have always made this distinction between what may be called the material and the spiritual things. I believe that here we are talking about a great and deep spiritual reality which must not be injured or set back by having a material appendix hung on to it. I think that no people in the world are more capable than the British in the Commonwealth, and those other races who have assimilated these ideas, of making an idea fruitful and making it great. I believe they also think as I do in this, and I would like them to feel that we will do whatever they wish, that we will seek to set our house in order 1125 and hope that through our doing so they may, in our regard, do the same thing. In this connexion, I would conclude by quoting something that seems to me to be appropriate to this idea which I have tried to develop. Almost without altering a word, I would refer to two of the greatest verses ever written. They appear in the First Epistle to the Corinthians:It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.The first … is of the earth earthy, the second … is of the spirit.That, my Lords, I believe to be the British Commonwealth.
§ 5.8 p.m.
§ Lord HANKEY
My Lords, I must say that the speech of the noble Viscount has made me feel a trifle pedestrian and it has so completely dislocated the notes of what I had intended to say that I have to take advantage of my privilege to speak from this Bench instead of from the Cross Benches, in order to find my way about. I am sure that your Lordships must all have been tremendously impressed by the very high note which was struck by the noble Viscount and by the deep earnestness with which he addressed us on this difficult subject. It is difficult to reach that note. I happened yesterday to be walking through a Paris street, and in the window of a bookseller's shop there I saw the title of a French book which I think has recently appeared. It seemed to me to be singularly appropriate to this debate. Translated into English it means: "History of the British Empire: Extraordinary lesson of the tenacity of a. people down the centuries." I note that the author credits us with the great quality of tenacity. It was that tenacity which, in spite of defective machinery—certainly it was defective in the First World War and it was not perfected in the Second—saw us through two great wars as the last speaker has mentioned.
Another point I note is that the friendly foreign writer speaks of the British Empire. He does not speak of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, nor does he even speak of the Commonwealth of Nations—that term, I fancy, is almost untranslatable as a striking phrase. What impresses the foreign nations, and what impressed the author of that book, was the British Empire. I 1126 see that there is a tendency in some quarters to run away from the good old words, "Empire" and "Imperial." In the councils of the world we are known by only one title—the British Empire.
I come to the noble Viscount's proposals. I take a higher view than he did of the pre-war machinery. I think it was not half so bad as he seems to feel. The Imperial Conferences got together, sometimes the Prime Ministers sat amongst themselves and they discussed all these questions of policy. The broad lines of policy were known; information (as the noble Viscount said) was passed in a great stream, and views—perhaps not enough views, but there could have been views—were given. It often happened that His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom had to give very short notice to ask whether the Dominions agreed. That will always happen. A crisis arises, and action has to be taken at once. An ultimatum is received and has to be answered immediately. We always did give notice, or nearly always—I believe there is one case where we did not. From where did we get the quickest answers? I say without hesitation, and it has been said publicly before, that the quickest answers came from Australia and New Zealand. In the case of Australia, that was because the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce, had in his time appointed a special liaison officer, Major Casey, known to nearly all of your Lordships, who was in my office and who had access to the whole of the information. Major Casey always kept the noble Viscount and his successors as Prime Minister of Australia completely informed. That gave a more personal touch than the stream of information which the Dominions Office were sending out. That is the system we have now and it is the system from which we have to start.
I should like to ask, what are the main differences between the pre-war system and the noble Viscount's system, which is almost the same as Mr. Chifley's proposals?
§ Lord HANKEY
Mr. Curtin's proposals which were adopted by Mr. Chifley—the Council of British Nations. That is a new and very important body, but I do not quite know exactly what is intended by that. To my mind, perhaps 1127 because of my own former profession, the big change that is proposed is the secretariat. That has never frightened me at all. After the Imperial War Cabinet, of which I had been the Secretary, the Dominions members went with their own delegations to the Paris Peace Conferences, and the Imperial War Cabinet was continued under the name of the British Empire Delegation. I was to have been the Secretary, but almost as soon as I reached Paris I was given great responsibilities in connexion with the Conference and I had to ask for help. Where could I turn? Everybody was as busy as they could be. I turned to the Prime Ministers of the Dominions, and with Mr. Lloyd George's permission went round to see each of them and asked if he could give help to form an Imperial secretariat for the conferences which took place daily before the meetings of the Peace Conference. They lent me their own private secretaries, some of whom became very famous men.
We worked it out so that there was a United Kingdom day—Sir Clement Jones, who still works with me, took that—a Canadian day, an Australian day, and so on, through the week. That worked extremely well. The Dominions secretaries came to my office, took charge of all arrangements, agenda papers, minutes, and all the minute details that the secretariat had to carry out in order to run the Conference successfully. I always thought that when the Conference came to an end we should get the secretariat permanently reproduced in London. We were always dining together and I talked of it again and again with all the Dominions Prime Ministers. All were favourable to it. But, of course, when the Conference dispersed everybody wanted to go home, and I could not get anybody allotted. Then there were elections; Governments began to change, and the chance was lost. I do not think it was my fault: it was just the cussedness of the times.
We revived the secretariat at the Imperial Conference in 1921 and we revived the Dominions secretariat at every Imperial Conference right up to 1937. We revived it very successfully at the Washington Conference, where the Canadian Secretary became the British Secretary at the Conference as a result. But owing to 1128 changes in personalities, internal politics and one thing and another, I never could pull off this Imperial secretariat. I never had a single doubt, and I have not one single doubt now, that an Imperial secretariat could be worked perfectly well, on one condition: that there is somebody to control it. My suggestion is that it should be linked with the meetings between the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations and the Dominions High Commissioners which have taken place for a great many years, and that, broadly speaking, it should be in their charge. I suggest this because there is just the risk, if you get a very powerful personality in charge of a body like that, that the tail may wag the dog; but that difficulty is easily controlled. Look how I have been controlled, my Lords—many of you have controlled me! I am quite sure that this is a feasible part of the proposals if the Dominions can be induced to see it in that way.
As I said just now, we have got to take off from the present position. I have defended the other scheme, but I am in favour of something on the lines of the plan of the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce. I would not, however, commit myself to detail, and neither, I suppose, would anybody else without further examination of the position. But it seems to me that there is a very strong case for an Imperial Conference of some sort—an Imperial meeting of Prime Ministers, or whatever is the right form. As was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Rennell, it is a little complicated by the fact that there are different kinds of Dominions, and it might have to be achieved by some special method. The noble Viscount, Lord Bruce, gave a list of some seven questions that could be considered. I myself made a list of twelve on foreign policy alone (I will not burden your Lordships with them, as most of them are contained in the list of the noble Viscount) to say nothing of modern weapons—atomic bombs, rockets, and so forth—and economic policy. I must interpolate something here. The word "economic" has put it into my mind. I do not think that we have thanked the Dominions enough for the wonderful help they have been giving us in these post-war days. The spontaneous flow of presents, for which the ladies are so much responsible, is the best example of the powerful intangibles which I believe are the strongest 1129 link we have. I have said that, and I hope that other speakers will echo it.
I come back for a moment to a possible Imperial Conference. I believe that more progress would be made by not necessarily putting on the agenda en bloc the whole of the Curtin-Chifley-Bruce proposals. I think it would be better if they were brought up piecemeal in the course of the discussions that would take place. It is true that we have fought two wars, successfully and with great tenacity, but in both nothing was proved so strongly as that the whole Empire hangs together, and that we are all dependent on outside supplies. I think everybody agrees that while war may not be imminent, the situation is menacing. I believe that it will be found necessary to have a certain amount of organization in order that each one of us may get the best out of the others, and a good start may be made by an examination of the admirable proposals which have been put forward by the noble Viscount, Lord Brace.
§ 5.24 p.m.
§ The Earl of GOWRIE
My Lords, I am sure we are all very grateful indeed to the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce, for putting down his Motion this afternoon. He has not only reminded us of the vital importance of the strength and unity of the British Commonwealth of Nations, but has also suggested a plan as to how that strength and unity can be maintained. I think we all realize when we look about the world to-day that the chief barrier against anarchy and chaos is the British Commonwealth of Nations, and that on the strength and unity of that Commonwealth the future of our civilization and, to a great extent, the peace of the world will depend. So it is obviously very important indeed that we should consider these problems carefully. In their earlier days the problems of the young Dominions and Colonies were not very difficult or complicated; they were local problems, domestic problems and economic problems which they could settle themselves. But the problems of the British Commonwealth of Nations to-day are tremendous problems—international problems. They can be considered and decided upon only after close consultation and after arrangements have been made with all the component parts of the Empire. I cannot help thinking, as the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce, has suggested, that the time has now come when we should take stock and over- 1130 haul our machinery to make sure that we are not wandering off in the wrong direction.
There is one point which, in my humble opinion, is perhaps the most urgent of all and on which other things will mainly depend—namely, the better distribution of the British race. After all, if our outposts are weak, the citadel may fall; and the strength of the chain depends upon the strength of its weakest link. I think that in any consultations that take place the question of the distribution of the British race is one that should receive urgent consideration. If we have any doubts on the importance of that question we have only to remind ourselves of the narrow escape that Australia had during the last war. I do not think it is quite realized how narrow that escape was. After the fall of Singapore and Java, Australia had very little left; nearly all her trained men were still fighting in the Middle East or were stranded at Singapore. The Japanese had command of the sea and air, and Australia had 10,000 miles of coast line to defend. In my own mind, I have no doubt whatever that if Japan had chosen to land and form a base of operations on the Australian coast, we could not possibly have stopped her. I do not think it requires a great stretch of imagination to appreciate what a Japanese base in Australia would have meant to the war operations in the Pacific.
Fortunately, Japan made a great mistake. She thought it would be easy and convenient to land in New Guinea, and to attack Australia from there. So she landed on the northern coast of New Guinea. That entailed for her a march of several hundred miles across the most appalling country you can possibly imagine. There are no roads in New Guinea; there are unscalable mountains and impenetrable jungles, and diseases such as malaria are rife. That is the task which Japan set herself. When that became evident we raised all the men we could—oldish men, and young partly-trained soldiers—and pushed them into Port Moresby, which was the key of the whole situation. There they hung on, lighting under most appalling conditions. Eighty per cent. of them were down with malaria at one time, but they managed to hold the fort until the Americans came in force. Then, under the brilliant leadership of General Douglas MacArthur, 1131 they pushed the enemy back and recovered most of the lost ground.
Here I would like to mention the attitude of the natives of New Guinea during those days. They were loyal to us, they took enormous risks, they gave us most valuable information and they acted as carriers for our sick, our wounded and our supplies. I think the attitude of the natives at that time was due, to a great extent, to the wonderfully tactful administration of the late Sir Hubert Murray. He handled those men in a wonderful way and we owe him a deep debt of gratitude. I think there is no doubt whatever that Australia survived by the mistakes of her enemy. But we cannot always rely on those mistakes being repeated in the future. At any rate, it has brought home to Australia the realization that she cannot hope to hold indefinitely a vast Continent of 3,000,000 square miles with a handful of 7,000,000 people. Unless she opens her doors far wider in the future than she has in the past, the day will come when she will find herself compelled to entertain uninvited and unwelcome guests.
I think the time has come when we have to reconsider this question of the better distribution of the British race without unduly denuding the Mother country. The best solution we can make to the world to-day is to set our house in order and strengthen our weakest spots. A British Commonwealth of Nations as a united Commonwealth, with a strongly developed Commonwealth spirit, Commonwealth outlook and Commonwealth sentiment, will achieve much, and will be in a position to make her influence felt in the councils of the great nations of the world. But a British Commonwealth of Nations which is merely a collection of communities working in water-tight compartments, with a narrow and parochial outlook and lacking the Commonwealth spirit, will achieve little, and will remain indefinitely in the "B" grade of the nations of the world.
I hope very much that the plan which the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce, has put forward to-day will prevent that situation occurring. Of course, from time to time there will be differences of opinion among the component parts of this Commonwealth; there will be economic questions, domestic questions and so on. The various countries may even go so far as 1132 to have divergent views on absolutely vital and fundamental issues, like body-line bowling, leg theory cricket, and things such as those! But I am quite sure that if those questions are handled properly, the sentimental factor will always be the dominating factor and the one which, in the end, will turn the scale and decide the issue. We have to recognize the fact that the eyes of the world are on the British Commonwealth of Nations to-day. A great deal is expected from us, and I do not think we shall fail.
§ 5.34 p.m.
§ Lord MILVERTON
My Lords, I have listened with the deepest admiration to the eloquent speech of the noble Viscount who moved this Motion, and my admiration is none the less in that I have the temerity to differ from him and to agree with the noble Lord, Lord Rennell, in his approach to this important question. There are many ways of looking at a question like this, political, economic and cultural, and I have noticed that although the terms of the Motion are that "the closest relations between the Commonwealth and Empire are essential," practically nothing has yet been said about the Colonial Empire. It is, perhaps, permissible for me to represent that "still small voice" from the Colonies, because I think it has to be listened to, just as has the "still small voice" of conscience.
One who has lived in various parts of the distant and remoter outskirts of the Empire gets an impression of the relationship of the component parts of the Commonwealth and Empire, not only with London, but also with one another. The relationship between the full partners of the Commonwealth—if I may call them that—is obviously in a very different category from that between the still adolescent nations of the Commonwealth Empire. I would only say in regard to the first that I should view with great apprehension any attempt to tie down to formal channels the fluid relationship of the full partners. I feel deeply with the noble Lord, Lord Rennell, that there is a risk in tampering with a great and a vital idea which is growing steadily, and I am afraid that the impious hands of a secretariat may do damage to that great idea. After all, secretariats—most of us have known them—once formed, have a way of growing and of extending their tentacles in all directions in their search for more power and for a wider scope. It is true, as the 1133 noble Viscount said, that we do not want a blue-print Commonwealth, but, if I may say so with great respect, I fear that the scheme which be sketched would be precisely that. I would urge that we do not need a secretariat to emphasize a relationship which is based on kindred interests and common ideals. I suggest, with respect, that the closest relationship can be maintained to-day, and is in fact being maintained, not in all perfection but in vital points, without any permanent specific machinery for that purpose.
If your Lordships will permit me, I will now attempt to deal for one moment in. this connexion with the Colonies which are in various stages of adolescence and are still specifically tied to London. Our aim with the Colonial Empire from the political angle is surely precisely the reverse of that which is indicated in this Motion. Our aim is the gradual loosening and the ultimate elimination of those ties which at present bind them to London, until the time comes when, with their ability to manage their own affairs and stand on their own feet, they will be free to exercise the adult choice of voluntary partnership in the Commonwealth. There is, I suggest, only one way in which closer relationship may be achieved in the Colonial Empire, and that is by the federation of small groups of smaller Colonies whose common interests are sufficiently great to warrant their federating in order that they may speak in the Councils of the Commonwealth and Empire with a louder voice.
May I now turn to the economic side for one moment? I think that everything possible should be done to foster the idea of the Commonwealth and Empire as one economic family. Trade within the family and economic self-sufficiency within that family should certainly, I suggest, be planned for and worked for. Speaking particularly of the Colonies, I feel that the term "closest relations" requires a more restricted interpretation. Whether or not the Dominions should or could do more to establish closer direct relations with each other is a matter for them to decide. Much has already been done by them economically, as I know. When I was in Fiji, I was able to see the delegations, trade and otherwise, going to and fro between Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and I had the opportunity of noticing that their relations were quietly 1134 developing with each other. But of one thing I am quite certain, and that is that much more might be done—and in my view ought to be done—to encourage and to improve closer direct relationship between the Colonies and the Dominions.
Most of the Colonies are so placed that one or other of the Dominions is its natural foster-mother. Examples spring to one's mind: the West Indies and Canada; Malaya and Australia, and Canada too; and the greatest group of them all, Australia and New Zealand, with their own Colonial dependencies, and Fiji and the whole group or groups of islands in the Western Pacific, right the way clown to Australia, as well as Borneo and Malaya. I feel that economically everything possible should be done to increase their joint interests. Economically, the Colonies are still tied to London. Indeed, the Crown Agents for the Colonies represent the apex of one of the greatest examples of the system of "tied houses" that the world has ever seen. I am well aware of the advantages which might accrue through having the business of Colonial government dealt with solely through the Crown Agents; but need this bond be so tight and so all-sufficing? Is it really necessary that if the Government of Fiji want a tooth brush they should order it through London? Would it not be ultimately to the benefit of the Empire if closer economic relationships were encouraged between the Dominions and the Colonies?
In the course of my Colonial residence I have travelled in all the Dominions except one. I have talked to officials and non-officials, and I have found universally an anxiety to know more about the Colonies, and a very surprising lack of knowledge about them. It would be so easy to encourage that knowledge. I am not, of course, overlooking the present abnormal conditions, both of currency and of supply, which obviously necessitate a great deal of regulation and a great deal of direction of trade and relationships of that sort through approved channels; but I am looking forward to a greater and freer future, when trade within the Commonwealth and Empire will be as free as culture is. May I say, in passing, that I attach the very greatest importance to the encouragement and fostering of a mutual knowledge of each other in that way by the spread of what is known (for 1135 want of a better phrase) as "British culture"? I think the education of West Indians in Canada, and of Fijians in Australia and New Zealand can do nothing but good. If one looks at a map of the world, or turns the globe in your Lordships' library, one cannot help being struck by the fact, which has been mentioned already this afternoon, that the Colonies and the Dominions fall naturally into certain defence groups: Canada and the West Indies; South Africa and certain African Colonies. Malaya, Australia, New Zealand and Borneo, and the groups of the Western Pacific, are all tied up. I feel that the calls of trade and commerce and defence are all in favour of a closer relationship of that kind.
May I conclude with one other point? That is, that we hear a great deal to-day of the Four Freedoms. I think we do not hear half enough of the Four Fallacies. They are, as I understand them: that political independence and individual freedom are synonymous terms; that Colonial administration necessarily implies exploitation, in the bad sense of that word; and that sovereign status is a sovereign remedy for all ills. I will not deal with these three fallacies, for it would take too long, and they are not strictly relevant to this debate. But the fourth fallacy is very relevant. It is what I would call "the salt water fallacy." I have never been able to understand why it is that if a nation extends overland and occupies large territories with other races of peoples in them, so long as the extension is overland it is a very laudable and praiseworthy extension of jurisdiction; but if the jurisdiction is extended over sea, then it is the worst form of Imperialism and oppression of subject peoples. I feel that we should never at any time, in private or in public, subscribe to this fallacy. I have never understood how it could possibly be argued that the British Colonial Empire, for instance, is any less of an international entity than, shall we say, the Soviet Union. So far as I understand it, one of the things said is that there are different races. That is very true. Yet I understand that the people of Moscow are not the same race as the people, shall we say, of Vladivostok. Of course, if I were able to place an area of sea between Moscow and Vladivostok, the whole position would be altered. For these reasons, with the reservations which I 1136 have made—which are, in my view, very important reservations—and to that extent, I support the Motion moved by the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce.
§ 5.48 p.m.
§ Lord TWEEDSMUIR
My Lords, the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce, has raised a matter that we all agree is of prime importance. He brings to it a rich experience which has been supplemented by the experience of other noble Lords who have spoken. He has stated three courses, as he sees them, for the nations of the world. They are that free and frank co-operation will come to extend, nation by nation, the world over; that the nations of the world will resolve themselves into groups and we shall have cooperation as between groups; or that there will come about the utter failure of cooperation between nations. As the noble Viscount rightly pointed out, whichever of these courses is followed, the British Commonwealth and Empire, covering as it does more than a quarter of the world's surface, will have a decisive part and a special role to play. The noble Viscount went on to say that our present modus operandi, adequate as it may have been in the past, is now no longer adequate for the present time; and he made what I consider the very interesting suggestion of a British Council of the Nations. Before I say a word or two on that specific suggestion, I would like to try to analyze our present relations within the British Commonwealth as I see them. We are a collection of nations to whom government by consent is as precious as life itself. We are a collection of nations who possess complete independence of decision, thought and government, blended with a strong admixture of interdependence in many material things. As the more formal Imperial ties have loosened, the closer have become our ties in strategic and economic matters. Above all, we have evolved—and have been the pioneers in evolving—such a degree of co-operation as the rest of the world has never before seen. What is it that makes such co-operation possible? It is this: that we are a group of nations who have absolute confidence in each other, nations whose interests are compatible, nations who all fully realize that hurt to one is hurt to all; and thus, where a clash of interest is likely to arise, it is our first instinct to approach the other nations concerned and in free and friendly dis- 1137 cussion to try to obviate that clash or, if we cannot obviate it, to mitigate its effects.
As I have said, it is a relationship without precedent in the annals of the world, because it is a form of service—a service which implies no servitude but which is almost perfect freedom. The world is just discovering the potentialities of what we discovered long ago, and is trying to take cuttings from this hardy tree that took root so many centuries ago. The point has been brought up most persuasively by the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce, to-day, that we are in need of drastic revision in our methods of consultation to implement and extend our co-operation. I have heard it argued that our present system has won two wars in this century, but has at the same time failed to prevent them; and that though it has won two wars it has won them by a rather slim margin.
That small band of people, who once maintained the idea of a formal and rigid federal hierarchy of Commonwealth, has now dwindled into almost complete insignificance. The few who are left are huddled together to escape from the very bleak weakness of their own doctrine. But they have based their ideas upon the entirely wrong premise that we could separate the internal economy and policy of a nation from its external functioning, and take those external functions and pool them into one entity. That may have been possible once, but it is no longer possible. There is another much more cogent reason, that a hierarchy of that kind would not be acceptable to any substantial number of citizens bred in our tradition. The other day I was reading an excerpt from a speech on Commonwealth affairs made by the grandfather of the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury. I have not the exact wording with me but it ran something like this: "The justification of any association is that the bundle is stronger than the sticks that compose it, and if that is not the case, then this bundle is not truly and rightly bound." If the bundle is not truly and rightly bound at this moment how can we set about improving it?
I am convinced that it would be by no formal commitment or machinery. I believe that one of the principal reasons for our sturdy survival is that we have always refused to commit ourselves to any 1138 paper solution of a problem, however attractive it might appear at the time. People search in vain, not only in this country but also in the Commonwealth, for a written Constitution. By far the most important and binding of our understandings and agreements within the Commonwealth are unwritten. The written part is much less important. We have always shied away from what is formal and rigid, and however untidy the picture has been, we have always resisted those who would have tidied it up, lest we should lose the substance for the form. I confess that I find the idea of the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce, a most interesting one, though it seems to me to smack rather dangerously, if I may say so, of that same tidying-up process. Our strength and unique arrangements have been an eternal puzzle to other nations, both friend and foe alike. Twice in this century we have overthrown an aggressor who was quite confident of beating us, because he could not see that one can have unity without formality—a unity which goes far deeper than the ink on any document, an anvil that has worn out many hammers, and will wear out many more, a unity which perhaps might be greatly endangered by any attempt to add to its formality.
The formal documents that we have are few. Even the Balfour Report and the Statute of Westminster, which the noble Earl quoted, were only recognition of what had long been an established fact. They did not give the Dominions their freedom, as some people appear to think. Freedom is not a thing that one can give in that sense; it is something that one party achieves and another recognizes. The Commonwealth countries had for long past been strong, powerful and independent peoples. This document, the Statute of Westminster, merely gave that written acknowledgment. We have had in the past, and we have at the present time, joint committees and joint councils of many sorts. They are committees and councils brought together in order to discuss or deal with some specific purpose. It has always been our practice that when that purpose came to an end those same councils would be dissolved. Some have been dissolved because the terms of their operation grew somewhat out of date. The noble Lord, Lord Hankey, spoke so interestingly about his experience on the 1139 Committee of Imperial Defence, as did the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce. I think I am right in saying that the Committee on Imperial Defence really lost the substance which its name implied and, once that substance was lost, it would have been unreal to maintain the form.
I am not in the habit of reading long extracts, and I will not read one now, but I have here an extract from a speech made by Mr. Mackenzie King, when in 1944 he addressed both Houses of this Parliament. He said:From time to time it is suggested that we should seek new methods of communication and consultation. I believe very strongly in close consultation, close co-operation and the effective co-ordination of policies. What more effective means of co-operation could have been found than those which, despite all the handicaps of war, have worked with such complete success?Then, omitting two paragraphs:Let us by all means seek to improve where we can, but in considering the new methods of organization we cannot be too careful to see that to our own people the new methods will not appear as an attempt to limit their freedom of decision.Those words are well worth noting.
I listened with the greatest interest to Lord Bruce's sketch of the Council which he suggested. Three times in this century the nations of the Commonwealth have come together to plan, and to take counsel at all levels—twice to fight world wars and once to fight economic chaos. They came with an absolutely clear mandate from their peoples. I submit that on such a Council as Lord Bruce has suggested the representatives of the different Commonwealth countries would feel tied and constrained by the knowledge that any decision they took, or any action to which they committed themselves, would have to be justified, through their own Parliaments, to their own people when they returned.
Can you then, in those circumstances, have the real substance that such a Council ought to have? I quite understand and entirely appreciate what the noble Viscount said when he suggested that what was wanted was not a sealed pattern, and not a blue-print. I rather question—in fact I strongly question—whether this is an approach to the subject from the right angle. About two years ago I put down a Motion on Commonwealth affairs, in which I pressed very 1140 strongly for something not unlike the secretariat that Lord Bruce has mentioned. Looking back on it, I have considerable misgivings about what I then spoke so hotly in favour of. I cannot help feeling that a secretariat like this would labour under a terrible handicap, in that it would not be specifically responsible to any specific authority. The noble Lord, Lord Hankey, said that if such an authority could be found, this secretariat could be made to function properly. Well, that may be, but I think you would have difficulty in finding it. Also, my Lords, one is really putting under one roof in London what at the moment exists in its components under the several roofs of the offices of the Dominions High Commissioners and the Department of State in a square mile in this city. It is with the greatest deference that I disagree with the noble Lord on this matter.
I would like to end by putting forward one or two of my own ideas. Just after hostilities ceased we had an Imperial Conference in London, and the paucity of results, so far as the public could discern any, was striking, if not downright disappointing, to most people. It was not, of course, a Conference to take binding decisions; it was a Conference for the exchange of views and, no doubt, was extremely successful in that respect. It came at rather a difficult time, perhaps, when the United Nations Organization had just started, and I think a lot of people felt that the two bodies might be conflicting in allegiance, whereas, in actual fact, if you perfect a court of appeal you in no way abrogate the dignity or the powers of a court of first instance. I heard many people at that time say: "What will the Dominions view be?" Of course, to say that is to show a deep misunderstanding of the whole relationship. There is no Dominions view. They each have their own views. Sometimes they coincide, sometimes they do not. But I would strongly urge that, so far as we have initiative in this matter, the next Conference should be held, not in London, but in the capitals of the Commonwealth countries, with the Prime Minister of that country in the chair; and then I believe such meetings may be productive of a great deal of good.
My next point is this. The noble Lord, Lord Altrincham, and one or two other noble Lords, have spoken of the concept 1141 of regionalization. One of the things that the First World War showed clearly, and this Second World War has underlined, is that Europe is no longer the sole maker and unmaker of human destiny. London is the capital of Britain, the capital of the metropolitan Dominion; but the Commonwealth is scattered over the length and breadth of the world, and issues often arise which touch only one nation or perhaps not more than two. I believe the whole future strength of the Commonwealth must depend on something which embodies this idea of regional grouping, where those countries which are grouped by position and are warmed by the same suns and washed by the same seas, can bring the powerful forces of common interest to bear on common problems. So we may one day see a great maritime community falling into those natural groups, with Britain acting, not as a controlling, but as a unifying force. I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Altrincham, and others who have stressed the need of leadership. Because not only the nations of the Commonwealth, but other nations of the world as well, have always looked to us for one thing, and that is leadership in ideas.
My Lords, there is a third point. We must be ever mindful to do all in our power to promote a true understanding. Let us have all the arguments and all the disputes which firm friends will always have amongst themselves, but let us take every step within our power to avoid misunderstanding. Many, I think, are apt to imagine that the justice of a just cause is still evident on its merits. We have now entered an era in which if you do not make a case it is assumed you have no case to make. Some noble Lords to-day have mentioned the extraordinary difficulties and prejudices that still exist within the Commonwealth of Nations, which are, of course, as nothing to the ones that exist outside. There is bitter criticism of the Commonwealth by ignorant but otherwise well-meaning people. There is evil calumny from people who do not wish us well; and those who think that vicious propaganda against the Commonwealth was buried amongst the rubble of Fascism delude themselves.
If the closest of friends take up their abode several thousands of miles apart, they will inevitably become strangers and 1142 fall out of sympathy. We must, by our free flow of ideas, a free flow of our peoples, and, I think, by a re-destribution of the British race, which has been mentioned to-day, see that we keep these links of understanding bright, so that we maintain true friendship based on true understanding; which is not a passive state, but an ever-active force. Now let us take this question of the technique of consultation. There is, of course, no excuse for sitting back and saying that it requires no improvement. We must see that this technique keeps up with the baffling speed of world events as they are to-day. As the noble Lord, Lord Altrincham, said, this is not just a question of making one's views known; it is a question of consultation while policy is being made, so that time will allow for steps to be taken. On one or two recent occasions which I can think of this system has broken down. I do not believe it was the fault of the system; I believe it was the fault of those who operated it.
This concept of co-operation is spreading throughout the world. Unless we can help it to spread beyond the borders of the Commonwealth and to embrace those nations of Western Europe who are the co-trustees of Western civilization, and to our friends of the United States and beyond, I see little hope of stability for the world. Let us, at all costs, be a shining example by improving it wherever we can. My Lords, in sitting down I would say this: the twentieth century is sometimes said to be a century of this and that. Looking back on the history of the Commonwealth since 1900, I would say that we have put in no mean half-hundred years of service to mankind as a whole. Among all nations of the Commonwealth you will find a feeling that our joint efforts are likely to increase in significance, rather than to diminish, in the years that come. If we can spread this doctrine of co-operation by our example, I think we may claim to have earned, perhaps, the same epithet as was applied to a certain young Royalist in the Civil War:Whose singular praise it was, to have done the best things in the worst times, and hoped them in the most calamitous.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Lord WAKEHURST
My Lords, like everyone else who has taken part in this debate this afternoon, I join in thanking the noble Viscount for introducing this 1143 Motion. There is not a noble Lord in this House, I am sure, who will not give his support to its intent. The only matter upon which we might find a difference of opinion is that of the means whereby the object of developing closer relations within the British Commonwealth is to be attained. Certainly, one thing seems to have emerged from the debate this afternoon, for I do not think that anyone has expressed complete satisfaction with the way in which the affairs of the Commonwealth are ordered at the present time. I hope, however, that this subject will not take on a similarity to that of the reform of your Lordships' House. It is almost a case of plus ç a change, plus c'est la m^me chose; or, rather, the more we discuss change, the more we seem to be inclined to let well alone.
Certainly we have had some valuable and constructive suggestions made to-day, but it seems almost as difficult for us, by taking thought, to remodel these curious institutions of ours as it is to add a cubit to our stature—and perhaps for the very same reason. That reason was, I think, the one referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Rennell—namely, that we are not dealing here with a bit of machinery which we can take to pieces and put together again at will but with an organism each one of whose components has a will of its own. No one could speak with greater knowledge and with greater authority than the noble Viscount who introduced this Motion and the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, who also took part in the debate. If their experience has led them to the conclusions which they have placed before your Lordships, then it is because they have very practical grounds for the justification of those conclusions. But it is, I think, the extent to which the methods of co-operation that have been suggested are generally applicable which comes into question. I feel that in the speech of the noble Viscount, and in that of Lord Hankey, certain very significant limitations were placed upon their suggestions.
I presume that everyone knows that there is no general willingness to submit to the judgment of some central organ of policy. I took it that the noble Viscount did not mean to imply that there should be any question of the Council which he mentioned being able to come to binding decisions but that, as Lord 1144 Altrincham said, the final decision must rest with each Parliament. But need this worry us? Need the relations with one part of the Commonwealth be exactly the same as with every other part? It has never been so in the past, and I am sure that in these days no one would contemplate trying to fit this complex organism—I prefer to call it organism rather than organisation—into the strait-jacket of any particular constitutional framework. The terms on which each part of the Commonwealth is associated with another are, in practice, a matter of arrangement between them; we have even got to the stage when Dominions are making arrangements of that kind between themselves. There was, for instance, an arrangement made between Australia and New Zealand at some time during the war which was of very great importance. If there are people who say that an association as loose as this hardly deserves the name of "Commonwealth," I think that one's only answer is to point to the actual results which have beeen achieved—si monumentum requiris, circumspice.
I believe that there is one thing we can build on which few other associations possess—that is, contact on the administrative level which can go a long way to bridging the difficulty in establishing any formal machinery of co-operation on the policy level. The noble Viscount mentioned the enormous amount of information that was made available to the Dominions. That information, so far as it is purely factual, needs interpretation, needs humanizing; and it is now becoming more and more the practice for representatives of various Government Departments to be associated with their opposite numbers from a Dominion, or attached to the staff of a High Commissioner. Representatives of such Government Departments as the Foreign Office the Treasury, the Board of Trade, the Ministry of Information, the Ministry of Food, the Service Departments, and so on have all been used in that way. This, I think, produces very valuable personal contact. It also makes possible the use of common methods and common equipment, and prepares the way for joint action.
I do not want to say much about the question of regional co-operation, because that is a subject which has already been pretty well covered, but I 1145 think it is something to which a great deal more attention ought to be paid than has been paid hitherto, particularly from the United Kingdom point of view. It always struck me, in the only part of the world of which I have had recent experience, the Pacific, that it must have been very difficult for the United Kingdom Government to get any information about the area as a whole. We have United Kingdom High Commissioners in Australia and New Zealand who report through the Commonwealth Relations Office. We have also the Governor of Fiji. That is a position which, as we know, was most ably filled by the noble Lord, Lord Milverton. He did not mention in his speech, an additional appointment which must have been very exacting—that of High Commissioner for the Western Pacific. That post must have led him into many tortuous bypaths. The responsible Government Department here is the Colonial Office. Then there are Dutch and French possessions in that part of the world, which bring in the Foreign Office; yet the United Kingdom Government have no single local source of advice and information which covers the whole of that region. I cannot help thinking there is something to be said for giving someone, either an existing officer or someone appointed, a sort of all-over commission to act with the representatives of the Dominions on the spot as the United Kingdom representative for Commonwealth—and indeed United Nations—affairs in that particular region. I do not know whether that is what is happening in South-east Asia, but the Governor-General of Malaya, I understand, is taking over the duties of Special Commissioner and it rather looks as if something of that sort was in the Government's mind in that region. Perhaps that is a precedent which may apply to other regions.
One more point on this regional question. There is a tendency, and a very proper one—it has been mentioned today—to suggest that the part of the Commonwealth which has the closest connexion with a particular region should have the principal say, or at any rate should take the lead, in that region, particularly in the overseeing of subordinate territories and in its problems generally. I am not at all sure that the question is quite as simple as it appears. I think it is doubtful whether the United Kingdom should divest itself of its direct responsi- 1146 bilities in any part of the globe. For one thing, these direct responsibilities bring home to people in this country the fact that we have interests in the more remote regions of the globe. Without them, I am afraid, public opinion is rather too prone to neglect the administrative and defence services in distant parts of the world where there are no obvious commitments. I think that those territories offer valuable opportunities of a real working partnership between different members of the Commonwealth, opportunities which have not yet been utilized to the full.
There is one more aspect of Commonwealth co-operation I should like to bring forward. There are certain common problems which the whole Commonwealth ought to join together to study. Take a question like the Tropics. The noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, very rightly stressed the importance of the redistribution of population; and nowhere is that more important than in Australia's northern tropical territories, one of the regions in which "uninvited and unwelcome guests" are most likely to arrive. The question whether Europeans can make their homes from generation to generation in this area is one of vital importance to the Commonwealth as a whole. And there, in Northern Australia, we have one place where we can make the experiments necessary without any outside factor to complicate things. The indigenous population, for all practical purposes, play very little part. There we can find out whether building with air conditioning can make housing tolerable for Europeans, and so on, without any other extraneous factors.
These are all examples of the various aspects of consultation and co-operation which illustrate the multifarious ways in which the different components of the Commonwealth can and ought to get together much more closely than they do now, to see whether we cannot devise a closer system permeating the whole Commonwealth. I am quite sure that the only wise thing to do is to build up from the bottom, and I think the noble Viscount who introduced this Motion also had that ides. He specifically dissociated himself from any idea of a blue print or any attempt to impose a hard and fast scheme from the top. I am sure that he would be the first to think these developments should come slowly, step by step, as practical opportunities offer.
1147 He would certainly be a bold man who would predict what form the British Commonwealth might take in time to come, although we would all agree that it has not only a part but a major part to play in the difficult times through which the world is at present passing. We may, however, be wise to remember some words of Disraeli to which my attention was called the other day. With these words I shall conclude. He said:The day is coming, if it has not yet already come, when the question of the balance of power cannot be confined to Europe alone … You have on the other side of the Atlantic vigorous and powerful communities … The Australian colonies, though now in their youth, but in the youth of giants, have already, as it were, thrown their colossal shadow over Europe … England, though she is bound to Europe by tradition, by affection, by great similarity of habits, and all those ties which time alone can create and consecrate, is not a mere power of the Old World. Her geographical position, her laws, her language and religion, connect her as much with the New World as with the Old. And although she has occupied an eminent position among European nations for ages, still, if ever Europe by her short-sightedness falls into an inferior and exhausted state, for England there will remain an illustrious future. We are bound to the communities of the New World, and those great States which our own planting and colonizing energies have created, by ties and interests which will sustain our power and enable us to play as great a part in the times yet to come as we do in these days and we have done in the past.
§ 6.28 p.m.
§ The Marquess of SALISBURY
My Lords, to intervene in a debate on so delicate a subject as this requires, as I know well from past experience, not only courage but a measure of temerity. One has such an uneasy feeling all the time that one is likely to do more harm than good. I would, however, like to say a few words. As the noble Lord, Lord Tweedsmuir, said, in the admirable speech which he delivered to your Lordships, the problem which has been raised by Lord Bruce in the impressive utterance with which he opened the debate, has led to a valuable and extremely authoritative debate by men who, without exception, are recognized authorities on the subject on which they speak. And indeed there is no subject more worthy of thought than this problem of Commonwealth relations.
Many interesting points have been made to-day. There was the point made, I think, by the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, 1148 of the importance of the exchange of populations within the Empire. That is of the utmost importance. I remember it once being said that what we wanted to create between the Empire countries was a relationship not so much like a breastplate as a coat of mail, formed with innumerable small links, flexible and strong. That is the real importance of migration, and the more we can foster it the better I believe it will be for all the Empire countries. Then there was the point of a closer relationship between His Majesty's Dominions and Colonies in certain regions, which was mentioned, I think, by the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, and also by the noble Lord, Lord Wakchurst. That is a subject we used to study very much when I was at the Dominions Office, and I have no doubt the noble Viscount the Leader of the House has had the same experience. There was also Lord Milverton's admirable phrase about "the salt-water fallacy." That came home very much to me; I suffered under that fallacy during the San Francisco Conference.
But the main debate has circled, as the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce, intended that it should, round devising some machinery to ensure that there shall be the closest consultation and co-operation between the nations of the British Commonwealth. That I believe to be vital, not only to the Commonwealth itself, but to the world, for, as I think Lord Bruce himself indicated, the British Commonwealth is one of the three legs of the tripod upon which the main weight of the United Nations stands. With the United States and Soviet Russia, it holds the keys of peace and war. Though materially, I suppose, it is not nearly so strong as the United States or Soviet Russia, in some respects I believe it is the most important of the three legs; for territorially it sprawls right across the globe. Whatever happens anywhere affects the British Commonwealth somewhere. Therefore, it is particularly sensitive to all developments in the international sphere, even at the earliest stage before they begin to affect other countries. Isolationism, which has in its time been a feature of United States policy, and is now, I am afraid, a feature of Soviet Russia's policy, would be quite impossible for the British Commonwealth.
Moreover, as a result, perhaps, of our extremely wide interests, we have a ripe 1149 experience which enables us to look ahead and exert an influence in the councils of the world on international problems at an early stage, before they become acute, and when possibly something can be done to find a peaceful solution. But at present I think the fact must be faced (and here I am in agreement with what the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce, said this afternoon) that this immense potential influence is, to a certain extent, impaired by the absence of any adequate machinery to enable the nations of the Commonwealth to discuss their attitude to world problems together; not only on specified occasions, but to keep a running discussion going, so that they may be able to agree on a common line of approach to the solution of these problems.
The great nations of the Commonwealth, of course, are all sovereign States; we all know that. No one for a moment would suggest here, or I hope anywhere else, that any one of them, or, indeed, a majority of them, should impose their will on the others. That is entirely opposed to the whole spirit of the British Commonwealth, as it has grown up. But that is realty no reason why we should not have some more effective machinery, on a purely consultative basis, to enable the views of the various Empire countries, where possible, to be harmonized. There is no reason why we should not get the best machinery we can get for that purpose. It is not a question—as I think the noble Lord, Lord Tweedsmuir, feared—of a written Constitution. Nobody wants a written Constitution. Lord Bruce himself never suggested a written Constitution. As I see it, it is a question of a gradual evolution of the existing structure of consultation, in accordance with our own British tradition by which we accommodate ourselves to changing needs and changing conditions.
The noble Lord, Lord Rennell, spoke of the spiritual aspect, to which he attached great importance. In that I would respectfully agree with him; but I think he went a little too far. The impression he made upon me was that he thought there was no practical machinery of consultation at present in existence, except possibly the Committee of Imperial Defence, and the whole of the rest of the relationship between the Commonwealth nations was a pure matter of spirit. That, 1150 surely, is not correct or reasonable. If I may respectfully say so, even St. Paul, whom the noble Lord quoted with great effect at the end of his speech, did not suggest that the importance of a spiritual body entirely eliminated the necessity for a material body. In fact, there is already within the Commonwealth a most elaborate system of international consultation. As I think Lord Bruce pointed out, there are constant meetings between Ministers, and, at a lower level, between officials. There is a steady flow of telegrams going to and fro between all parts of the Commonwealth. That is apart altogether from more spectacular links like Imperial Conferences.
The actual question before us is really this: Can that machinery which already exists be in any way improved? It is a purely practical problem. I would say this. From the little experience I have had of this subject, I am conscious that the absence of prior understanding between the nations of the Commonwealth before, say, international conferences or international meetings, is deleterious in its effect on the influence which they can exert. Undoubtedly that is so, for it often leads to an impression in other countries, who do not know us so well as we know ourselves, that we differ fundamentally on some issues, whereas, as a matter of fact, we are only exercising our right to come to our own decisions, and perhaps rather unduly underlining that fact.
My Lords, it is not, perhaps, surprising that this machinery of consultation and co-operation has been so slow in coming into existence, for we are all aware that during the last century the movement was in the other direction. The Daughter countries, which had many generations ago been mere Colonies, were all growing up and, like all children as they grew up they were engaged in emancipating themselves from their parents. During that period the complaint all the time was that too paternal an attitude was adopted by the Government in London. But that phase has now ended and, I should think, has ended once and for all. The Daughter countries to-day are as adult as we are; they might be regarded as becoming almost middle-aged. They have—and we all recognize it—exactly the same status as we have, so far as the Commonwealth is concerned.
1151 It is for that reason, if I may differ for one moment from the noble Lord, Lord Altrincham, who spoke earlier (I do not know if he is still here) that I was a little disturbed at one thing which he said. I agreed with the greater part of his speech most heartily, but there was a portion of his remarks which dealt with Dominion status which worried me a little, for I was afraid it might tend to perpetuate an error which is already prevalent in some quarters. There is an impression—which do doubt unintentionally the noble Lord, Lord Altrincham, may have seemed to foster—that there is an element of inferiority inherent in the expression "Dominion status." Now I personally do not agree with that view at all, and I believe it comes from a misconception as to the nature of the word "Dominion." There are some, I am sorry to say—not, of course, the noble Lord himself—who have the impression that these Dominions are the Dominions of Great Britain. That would indeed be an inferior position. But of course they are not the Dominions of Great Britain at all. They are the Dominions of His Majesty the King. We are the Metropolitan Dominion of His Majesty and they are the Overseas Dominions of His Majesty.
When you get that in its proper perspective, it will be seen that our status is exactly the same as that of the other Empire countries. I do not myself at present quite see what other status we can devise which will preserve our family relationship, for the main link between us is the Crown, and the word "Dominion" is the recognition of the fact that we are all subjects of the King. There may be some better word than "Dominion." I know that it has rather lost caste, and there are people who feel that it has lost its former prestige. But I do not think it should, and I feel that our job here ought to be to explain what the word really does mean, and that we should concentrate on raising the standard of currency rather than allowing it to become debased.
§ Lord ALTRINCHAM
I hesitate to interrupt my Leader, but since he has referred to what I said, I feel I should. I agree entirely with him about the actual meaning of the condition of Dominion status, but I do not think anything we can say here is going to alter the belief 1152 in the Dominions that there is still something parental in the relation of a Mother Country to a Dominion. If that exists even in the British nations, it exists much more in the others.
§ The Marquess of SALISBURY
I was anxious only that we should not lend ourselves to that fallacy, and that is why I wanted to make the position clear. I am not meaning that the fallacy was enunciated by the noble Lord himself, but I thought that his remarks might perhaps tend to give that impression to people outside this House. Nor do I agree with him on one other point, when he said that the Empire countries, under our present system, get their information "at second-hand." I think that was the phrase he used. I do not think they do. After all, the information which High Commissioners get here, as the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce, knows as well as I do, is information as to the decisions of the United Kingdom Government, just as they give to the Dominions Secretary here information as to the decisions of the Governments of the other Empire countries. The decisions of the British Government have to be transmitted both to the other Empire countries and to our Allies. There are two channels. To the members of the family, they are transmitted by the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations; and by the Foreign Secretary to foreign countries. I do not feel that the fact that information on a question of foreign policy is transmitted to the Dominions by the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, instead of by the Foreign Secretary, means that it is transmitted at second-hand. It is merely that a different channel is used.
Indeed, the High Commissioners are told far more of our policy than ambassadors are ever told. I know—and I expect the noble Viscount the Leader of the House had the same experience—that when I was Dominions Secretary, as the office was then called, I used to take the most elaborate notes at the Cabinet of matters which might be of interest to the High Commissioners, and I would tell them after the meeting what had transpired on questions of foreign and Imperial policy. Everything that I could tell them, I did tell them. Equally, the most secret telegrams which came in from 1153 our envoys in foreign countries were read out to the High Commissioners, so that they might know for background exactly what the position was. That is not quite the same attitude as is adopted by the Foreign Secretary to foreign Powers, however friendly those Powers may be.
I am sure that if the Commonwealth Relations Office were to be done away with, as is sometimes suggested, and its functions relegated to the Foreign Office, the Empire countries would undeniably be the losers. To-day, they are regarded as members of the family, and the object is to take them into our confidence to the fullest possible degree. It seems to me that what we have to drum into everybody concerned is the fact that the nations of the Commonwealth—our kinsmen—are, in all respects, equal to ourselves. And we must get this thing on a right basis: that the Commonwealth is an association of free and equal nations, with each of those nations working out its own destiny.
The essential question for the Empire countries, as for us, is whether we can exert more influence together or in isolation, and whether a more continuous system of consultation, at all levels, would make our joint efforts in the international sphere more effective. To that, I should have thought there was only one answer. Whether the specific proposals put forward by the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce, this afternoon—extremely interesting as they are—provide an ideal solution, or whether they are susceptible—as I expect he himself would say—to amendment and improvement; whether in particular the idea of a secretariat will be acceptable or not to all the countries of the Empire, or, finally, whether it is in fact possible to get complete uniformity in our relationship with each other, I really do not know. But what I do know is this: that the noble Viscount has done a notable service by raising this question this afternoon, and that his general thesis is undeniable. I hope, if I may say so with all deference, that what he has said will be widely considered, not only in this House but throughout the Commonwealth, for it is only by discarding our prejudices and examining new ideas objectively that we shall move forward, by a smooth evolution, to the better organization to which we are all looking.
§ 6.48 p.m.
§ Viscount ADDISON
My Lords, I would like in the first place to associate myself with what the noble Marquess said in emphasizing the exceptional character of this debate. I have been looking at the list of speakers we have had to-day, and it really is a remarkable list. I do not think any other Assembly in the world could beat it. We have a former Prime Minister, a Minister Resident in the Middle East, another in Africa, the Secretary of the Imperial War Cabinet for many years, a Governor-General of Australia, one of our most distinguished Colonial Governors, another Australian Governor, a citizen of one of our Colonies, one who knows Canada from end to end, and two former Secretaries of State. That seems to me a very remarkable list. If we cannot hammer out something sensible between us, it must be very unusual.
I should like to pay a tribute, if I may, to the very unusual speech of the noble Lord, Lord Tweedsmuir, which impressed me exceedingly. As the noble Marquess and I know, he could not have understood some of our vicissitudes better if he had had the job of presiding over a meeting. He spoke as if he must have been there. I myself would be the last to suggest that we cannot improve upon our methods. None of us would be backward, I should hope, in admitting that, and any improvement that we can make we should desire to promote.
I shall have a word to say later on what I think is rather a reactionary suggestion by the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce, because it does to some extent straitjacket the arrangements, which I do not think would be altogether good. For all that, I am conscious—as is every one of your Lordships who has had anything to do with this business—that sometimes the method of consultation, or at all events of communicating information with a view to eliciting another opinion, is not perhaps as good as we should like it to be. I frankly recognize that sometimes, in practice, on these occasions we are impelled by the force of circumstances to which the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, referred, to take decisions at short notice. One cannot avoid it, though we do our best to give the fullest possible information; but it does happen sometimes unavoidably that one has to take a decision one way or the other before one 1155 has an opportunity of getting the responses as fully as could be wished. I am afraid that sometimes that is inevitable; but I think that we are gradually improving the machinery, and perhaps far more rapidly than the noble Viscount realizes.
I took down the list of instances which the noble Viscount mentioned. I am not saying that the machinery could not be improved, but I am just correcting him in something which he thought had not been dealt with. He thought that the machinery of consultation had not been adequate, and he mentioned certain cases. The first was the Peace Treaties which we hope will be completed one day. I have for very many hours, over several weeks, presided at meetings of Dominion representatives, where long beforehand we discussed the issues before going on to form a point of view. These were reported on regularly by the representatives from the Commonwealth, and I can assure the noble Viscount that even quite lately, in the case of the Commission that is now visiting the Italian colonies—which was appointed by the Deputies—the Dominions representatives have been informed and week by week their reactions solicited to the very difficult issues which arise. That is one good case. I assure the noble Viscount that they were fully consulted. I was one of those who did the consulting over a long period of time, and it is still going on. With regard to Palestine, the same thing applies. We are all painfully aware of the long period of difficulties over that issue, but I assure the noble Viscount that the opinions of the different Dominions have been taken into account on the great issues connected with that question time after time.
Another point was the financial and economic situation. It is a fact—although of course we do not advertise these things in the papers—that for a long time last year important representatives of the Commonwealth countries in London conferred on these anxious problems, and many of our Ministers went abroad to attend Conferences. Last year an exceptional number of Ministers of all the Commonwealth Governments were in London and conferred with us. As to the other point, connected with the Peace Treaties, I cannot refrain from referring 1156 to a Conference for which I myself had a large measure of responsibility—namely, the Conference at Canberra. This was a new departure. I am sure the noble Viscount would and did welcome it. What were we discussing—for, of course, we were discussing, and were not "lining up" against anybody? We discussed the issues that will arise in connexion with the Japanese Peace Treaty. There were many issues. All the Commonwealth countries were most strongly represented. Ministers of the highest rank were there from Canada, New Zealand and South Africa: in one case it was a Prime Minister. For the first time India and Pakistan were also represented—and I should like to pay a tribute to the character of the representatives whom they sent. I believe, if I may say so, that the proceedings of the Canberra Conference had a very valuable effect upon the representatives, both of India and Pakistan. It is difficult for me to imagine a more elaborate and complete system of consultation on the issues that will arise out of a Peace Treaty than that Conference presented. It does indicate a considerable advance.
There is another aspect of the economic question which perhaps I may mention. As your Lordships are aware, the Commonwealth countries are at this time making an exceptional effort to increase their production for the United Kingdom. It is a very exceptional effort. In some cases they are imposing upon themselves rationing of goods which they have in abundance, in order that they may send more to us. It is difficult to imagine a more eloquent and effective occasion of Empire solidarity than action of that kind, with New Zealanders daily depriving themselves of butter in order that we may have it; but that is what is happening. I should like to associate myself with what the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, said about the necessity of developing closer relations and a better scheme of development in many of our Colonial territories. As your Lordships well know, we are surveying, in common with Commonwealth countries, the possibility of developing even more our sources of food supplies in some parts of the Pacific and Africa. As a matter of fact, at this very moment our representatives from the Ministry of Food are in Australia, conferring with the Australians and getting 1157 their advice and help as to how we can make better progress with respect to some of these food production schemes.
I must say that I am a little timid, for the reasons that one noble Lord stated, about the idea of establishing a secretariat. All these things are going on, and I should not like a secretariat to insist on handling them all; I should begin to be rather afraid of the secretariat. Let me mention two or three other things that went on last year. We had in London a Conference of all the Commonwealth countries which discussed for about six weeks the problems affecting common citizenship. Your Lordships will have before you soon a Bill which is the United Kingdom expression of the agreement arrived at in that Conference.
§ Viscount ADDISON
The Bill will be the United Kingdom response. There will shortly be before this Parliament a Bill which will represent the United Kingdom expression of the agreement which was there arrived at, and there will also be Bills of the other Commonwealth partners. I am only mentioning the fact that this Conference of high representatives from all the Commonwealth countries sat in London for several weeks. Almost whilst it was sitting, there was another Conference going on dealing with the problems that would arise over the; tariff negotiations at Geneva. I am glad to say that we tried, and with a very exceptional measure of success, to arrive at a common understanding of the point of view to be put forward at Geneva. After their return from Geneva, the whole body of experienced persons met again before they went further afield. I am not quite sure where their next port of call is.
§ Viscount ADDISON
We have so many of these International Conferences with queer initials that one is apt to become a little mixed. This is my point. There was this collection of Dominion representatives on quite different subjects assembled in London, more or less at the same time last year, with a body of Ministers coming and going. I am rather 1158 shy of arrangements of that kind being in the hands of some sort of secretariat. I confess that I am rather afraid that such a secretariat might follow the habit of other secretariats and attach to itself greater staffs and gradually assume greater authority. Anyhow, I do know this—and here I am speaking from firsthand knowledge—that an organization of that kind would not be acceptable, and would be strongly resented, in some countries of the Commonwealth for the very reason that I have indicated. They would be apprehensive that an organisation of that kind might not in the first place be sufficiently elastic or adaptable to take a share in all these different activities to which I have referred. It is only fair to say that. There is also the reason that it might get into the habit of wanting to exercise authorities which the Commonwealth countries would insist upon exercising through their own Governments. At all events, it would be looked upon shyly.
Another illustration of these developments which are going on is quite in accord with what the noble Lord, Lord Altrincham, and the noble Viscount, Lord Bruce, said with reference to the development of regional relations. The noble Lord, Lord Altrincham, was quite right when he said that in matters of defence considerable progress has been made. There again, the regional influence upon the aspect of defence is becoming inevitable; it finds its expression in the kind of organization which we have to bring into being. Pacific and South-East Pacific problems clearly affect Australia and New Zealand more than they affect others. I am glad to say that we have growing up, by common understanding and mutual arrangement, what I believe will develop into a very useful organization. We have liaison officers between us now in being. I think there has been considerable extension in what might be called the regional field. However, it depends upon the topic. Some things are more readily amenable to regional treatment than are others.
Let me come to another matter which is now the subject of considerable regional development on very successful lines. The activities of the food production Missions and the Missions in Malaya and that part of the world have now clearly become closely related to Governmental problems. It is fair to say that in the new federal system which has been agreed 1159 upon we have, after initial troubles, achieved a useful system which promises well. I put it no higher than that. We are bringing together under one Governor-Generalship, if I may so describe it, a system of both economic and political federalism which represents a very substantial and important regional development. That is the point I make. However, it is because of the character of the place and the character of the products which it yields, and so on. Quite frankly, there are all these things going on to-day in different forms all over the Commonwealth. It makes me shy of agreeing to any sort of semi-rigid secretarial system which might seem to have charge of them. I am quite sure that the Commonwealth countries themselves would not regard such a system as acceptable.
For all that, no one can fail to be conscious of the need for improving, by every practical means, our methods of consultation. I prefer the word "consultation" to the word "communication"; communication is easy. We have to learn as we go along. I feel sure, both from my own experience and from the rapid development that is taking place—because it is very rapid indeed—that it is not right to approach this problem with some preconceived plan. Development in various directions is rapid and, with our strange British adaptability, we invent methods for dealing with it as we go along. Finally, as has been said by every one of your Lordships, the things that bind us together, and that help us to work together, are our belief in the same ideals and our love of the same things and of one another. I accept the Motion.
§ 7.8 p.m.
§ Viscount BRUCE of MELBOURNE
My Lords, whilst I am very appreciative of the discussion that has taken place this afternoon, and certainly of the extremely courteous things that have been said by several noble Lords with regard to my introduction of this Motion, I want to try to remove one or two misconceptions. I think that, broadly speaking, everybody who has spoken has been in favour of the maximum co-operation that we can achieve between the various parts of the British Commonwealth and Empire. I was interested to hear everything that the noble Viscount the Leader of the House has said about how well everything 1160 is progressing, but I just cannot believe that quite such wonderful miracles have happened in the period of a couple of years. Whilst I believe that the position will improve and that all the time we are getting on to a better basis, I suggest that, if the present position were as good as the picture which the noble Viscount drew, then it would he the most marvellous revolution that has ever happened in a period of something like two years. But I pay every tribute to the Leader of the House because I believe he is doing everything in his power to foster ever closer and better and more intimate relations. Above all, we should have a great feeling of gratitude to him for. his odyssey to Australia last year, and the great work he did there, because I believe it was an invaluable visit.
The other point, on which I disagree a little more, is that I really do not want to have fastened on to me the suggestion that I have produced something and said, "There, that is the way to do it. There must be no departure from this admirable suggestion I have made." I do not do anything of the sort. I believe fundamentally that three points arise, and they were the first three that I put forward. You must have meetings now and again between the head men of the different Governments inside the Commonwealth. As to whether you call it an Imperial Conference or a meeting of the Council of British Nations, I am indifferent. I had an idea that in this rapidly moving world, where people get strange ideas, there were some people in revolt against the word "Imperial," just as they rebelled against the word "Empire." Therefore, to try and save their troubled feelings, I thought perhaps we might call it the Council of British Nations. But what in the name of heaven does it matter what you call it if you can get them all to come together?
Another point concerns the holding of special conferences, at whatever place in the Empire is most convenient, to discuss specific questions. The third point, and one to which I attach great importance—and my view is formed entirely as a result of my own experience during nearly fourteen years here—concerns attendance at the admirable meetings we used to have between High Commissioners and the Dominions Secretary, now the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations. 1161 My suggestion was that a meeting with the Prime Minister should be held once a month. I make that suggestion because of what the noble Marquess did to keep us informed when he was at the Dominions Office. It was admirable, and I cannot pay too high a tribute to him for it. But if these meetings are to be held once a month, the Dominions High Commissioners ought to have a chance of posing questions to the Prime Minister. That is the essential thing. We had an arrangement for a period whereby we could ask to see the Prime Minister at any time, and we could ask for a Committee of the Cabinet, but that is not the same thing as having a specific arrangement of a meeting once a month.
The reason why I emphasize that so strongly is because it would give an opportunity to the High Commissioners. If you are here a very long time, you get a very good underground service. Towards the end of my period as High Commissioner, nothing used to happen in the political arena of this great city which I did not hear of. but I could not use the information. If we could have had a meeting with the Prime Minister, I might have used it. I wanted to try to get something done in order that more rapid consultation could be held with the Dominions. The head of the Government here could have tossed any question of mine out and pushed me aside at the first meeting; but he would not have done it more than two or three times.
I have in my mind a specific instance where we wanted to get information to the Dominions so that there could be parallel consideration of the subject. The United Kingdom was in one of the greatest difficulties the world has ever seen, and I wanted to get the matter into the ring of the Empire, so that those who were considering it here could get the reinforcement of the Dominions' point of view. I knew all about it. But nearly two years elapsed before the United Kingdom Government, in desperation, summoned the High Commissioners and almost asked us, "What would you do about it?" We said we had never heard of the matter before. Therefore, I attach some importance to a monthly meeting with the Prime Minister. I do not think anyone need worry very much about those meetings.
What everybody is concerned about is the running of the secretariat. The matter 1162 has been approached from different angles. It is thought that it is going to become such an overwhelming, all-powerful body that everybody will be frightened of it. Get the thing started and put somebody in charge. Previously we have had bodies that were supposed to be responsible to the whole of the Governments of the Dominions, and not just to one. There was the War Graves Commission. If they could not prevent the secretariat from bolting, that was their fault. But we do not want a secretariat in that form. We want something which can be left to develop once it is established, and when we can see what we want. We have heard a good deal about the sort of things that always make an appeal to a British audience—that we never have hard and fast rules, we never have a written Constitution, and that we do these things gradually and progressively and they always work. Nobody can pay greater tribute than I can to that idea. It is perhaps something of the spirit, as Lord Rennell said, and not something entirely material Of course it is not material. It is the spirit that is behind all this. But, as Lord Salisbury remarked, even St. Paul said that there must be a body as well; you must really have both body and spirit.
I do not reel back with the horror that everybody else does when it is suggested that that would be binding and would be something new. I have never suggested that we should put one word on paper; therefore it could not be a written Constitution. But I do suggest that we are going to evolve something more on these lines, something that will make for real security and not merely closer working together. Call it the Economic Chiefs-of-Staff Organization; call it anything you like. What I want to emphasize is that during the period of the war we had this intensive working together and co-operation in the military machine. Nobody complains about that. Because we might lose a war and all become subject to some other nation, we get together; and we work completely and closely together. My opinion is that at the present time we are involved in something just as dangerous as any war in which we ever found ourselves engaged. And I think that at this period in our history we have to adopt very much the same course with regard to the economic question as we did during the 1163 war. That was why I purposely said that I would not be surprised to see the scheme go ahead on the economic side much more rapidly than on the other side, although to my mind that is immaterial.
I am most appreciative of the interest which noble Lords have taken in this Motion. I would emphasize to them that I believe the importance of this subject almost transcends anything we are up against to-day. I beseech noble Lords not to go away with the impression that I am saying that we have to get some rigid unchangeable scheme. I do not mind how it is done, provided that we go on and resolutely recognize the dangers of this hour, taking action (which I am sure the noble Viscount is doing) to get us out of any danger, so that we may weather the very difficult times we have ahead of us.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.