Debate on the Address.

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons am ar 6 Tachwedd 1928.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Mr Edwin Scrymgeour Mr Edwin Scrymgeour , Dundee

I wish to express my deep disappointment and dissatisfaction at the attitude the right hon. Gentleman has adopted in response the very incisive analysis by the Leader of the Opposition of the case presented in the White Paper. I have taken pains to go through the statement concerning the negotiations, and the points which have been elaborated and emphasised by the Leader of the Opposition are just those which, I maintain, are bound to cause very grave anxiety in the minds of any who give special attention to our foreign relations. The Seconder of the Address said the question of foreign affairs was subsidiary to that of our social conditions. I have some dubiety, to say the least of it, about that line of argument. From all I can read concerning our foreign relations, with special bearing upon this arrangement made with France, t here is undoubtedly a special reason why the Prime Minister ought at the very first opportunity to have relieved our minds of any anxiety on this score. The American reply not only summarily rejects the proposal, but also gives some indication of what is undoubtedly prevalent throughout America, that we are not playing a straight game with that great country. I had it in mind to take part in this Debate later on, and I am somewhat at a disadvantage as regards the actual wording of an utterance by the right hon. Gentleman the. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) to Colonel House, whose diary has just been published, with reference to peace negotiations, but the right hon. Gentleman put it plainly to the American representative that this country would spend its last guinea and exhaust all its resources in order to he stronger on the seas than the United States. The colonel strongly advised our country not to pursue that course, but rather to adopt plain and reasonable negotiations, and, unless that were done, America had the money and had the resources, and she would pit her strength fully against ours.

When I read that statement I felt keenly antagonistic to the audacity of any representative of this country making such a proposal to a country like the United States, or to any other country for that matter. It is appalling to reflect that, at the very time when we were trying to get that great war brought to a settlement, the right hon. Gentleman was capable of lighting a conflagration, which is now also being accelerated by the present Government. The statement in the White Paper, which the Prime Minister ought to have explained, was that we had been negotiating concerning a purely naval arrangement. Now we find, as the Leader of the Opposition has very definitely pressed home, that a specific arrangement has beers made giving France full scope in regard to her land forces, while we get a concession to suit our purposes on the seas, but on such lines as make our proposal decidedly objectionable to the United States. From a reading of that White Paper, I am gravely concerned about the drifting policy of our Government. We are actually moving on towards war, as same leading authorities in the Press are making clear. The "New Statesman" and the "Nation" are laying it down clearly that the gravest danger is being incurred by the policy followed by our Government in these negotiations. When we discussed this Peace Pact in the House I very strongly urged that such was the position that the reservations were really taking away the strength of the whole case, and it was somewhat disappointing to find afterwards that the Front Bench representative of the Opposition was inclined to say, "Do not let us lay emphasis on the reservations; let us take the purpose of the Pact as the reason for our congratulations." Now we find, from the authorities quoted by the Leader of the Opposition, that in truth, instead of being a peace pact, those reservations all go in the direction of practically insuring war in certain quarters of the world where we have insisted upon our right of declaring ourselves irrespective of the views held by any other nationality.

The White Paper gives us reason to believe that the League of Nations is not being utilised in the sense that its sponsors would earnestly seek to impress upon the public mind. The leading exponents of the League of Nations are pursuing a course which is certainly derogatory to the interests of the peace of the world. Preparations are being made in the study of gases by the Professors of our Universities, one of whom has declared that we must of necessity be paramount in the air, we must also of neces- sity be the strongest in the power of utilising these deadly gases and, further, we must have something more than chivalry, something more than bravery, we must have the grace of God. I would say to bodies of professors who go putting their hands to this business, that it is an impossibility to associate the grace of God with any schemes whereby we are going to obliterate humanity. The Prime Minister's failure to meet the case, and the very fact that the White Paper concludes without an answer to the -United States Government's statement of the case, is significant. The intimation is given that the answer will be sent some time later. Even to-day the Prime. Minister is not in a position to lay down the situation as it ought to be submitted. I feel that in the midst of the conditions that are prevalent to-day perhaps the biggest thing that is taking place is this weakness on the part of the Foreign Office in the handling of these affairs with a view to complete unity, not simply in the matter of negotiating either the total tonnage in the matter of armaments on the sea or in the matter of arranging categories in such a way as our own Government have insisted upon, but that we should have the deliberate purpose of making that Peace Pact a realisable pact in the knowledge of the nations of the world.

At the present time the social conditions of the country are appalling, and there is no excuse whatever for the position that the Prime Minister has taken in defence of the Factories Bill not being introduced. The proposals which are now being submitted or will be submitted, as stated in the Gracious Speech, appertaining to local government and de-rating afford no excuse whatever for the failure to produce the promised Factories Bill, a promise which has been made repeatedly for years. The Prime Minister has said that there has been no pressure put upon him. He has also said that he, as well as the Home Secretary, was thoroughly agreed and definitely set upon the introduction and the passing of such a Bill. If there has been no pressure to keep back the Bill, what is the explanation? The de-rating scheme is practically a new concern. No member of the Ministry is going to tell us that the proposed de-rating scheme and the upheaval of rating reform were on the tapis and were being considered by the Government when these repeated promises were being made concerning the Factories Bill. The de-rating scheme and the upheaval of our local government, this scheme, as the Leader of the Opposition has well said, as far as Scotland in particular is concerned, is damned from the beginning. The Secretary of State for Scotland has had a remarkably unhappy time in his pilgrimage during the Recess in regard to this very question.

It gives me special concern that we should be leaving the House to-day without the Prime Minister having said one word about the serious import of that White Paper, which I have gone through carefully. I submit that there are grave risks and serious responsibilities resting upon the Ministry as a whole if we are going to drift into trouble with America. I am not for one moment minimising the fact that America has her failures and weaknesses to contend with, but we are not dealing straightforwardly with that Power. America is now in the position in which Germany was as our former enemy. That is my reading of the situation. America is now strong commercially. She is the strongest of the nations of the world. She controls the gold power of the world, and there is not a shadow of doubt that, appalling as it is, the gamesters are playing ducks and drakes with the interests of millions of our people. The Prime Minister standing at that Box, after the thing has been examined from beginning to end by the Leader of the Opposition, has had nothing to say about it. He has left it alone; let it drift. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has not been able to be present through indisposition, which we all regret, and the Prime Minister, in the absence of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, or some responsible representative of the Government, ought to have given answers to these serious points. One of the points referred to by the Leader of the Opposition was contained in a sentence which very clearly indicates that France and Britain will act together even irrespective of the position of the United States of America. That in itself is deeply significant, and I certainly could not allow the day to pass without expressing my deep-seated indignation and ventilat- ing my condemnation of the drifting policy of the Government concerning our foreign affairs.