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 Major Sir Albert Edmondson Major Sir Albert Edmondson , Banbury

(in the uniform of the Honourable Artillery Company, Royal Horse Artillery): I beg to move, That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, as followeth:MOST GRACIOUS SOVEREIGN,We, your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament. The honour which has fallen to me to-day and which confers so great a distinction upon my constituency, reminds me that some men are born great while others have greatness thrust upon them; and while I, for a few brief moments, discard the more humble role of the stage hand for that of the Prologue, I trust, that like the chameleon, I have assumed such a cloak of protective colouration that when I revert once more to my own humble position, those who would charge me with some precocity or inefficiency will have difficulty in discovering the object of their criticism. The part of the Prologue is to touch upon some of the outstanding features of the programme, which I shall shortly proceed to do; and, when my hon. Friend the Member for Yardley (Mr. Jephcott) has seconded this Motion, and you, Sir, 'have put the Question from the Chair, the curtain will have been rung up upon the final scenes of this Parliament in which we have all played our various parts. Our cast, Sir, is an ever-changing one, and any one of us who had the opportunity that I have to-day, and who failed to say how deeply we regret the passing of a familiar figure would be lacking, not only in appreciation of length of service ungrudgingly given, but in that instinct which binds all Members of this House in a common brotherhood. The late Member for Cheltenham (Sir J. Agg-Gardner), apart from his many laudable and lovable qualities, in the assiduous performance of his Parliamentary duties and his constant attendance in this House, set a shining example to many of us who carry only half his years.

Although it is customary for the Gracious Speech to open with the familiar words My relations with foreign Powers continue to be friendly, those words are only possible as a result of the successful prosecution of the most vital work upon which any Government can be engaged, and in them we perceive no empty form but the realisation of our most cherished hopes and the falsifying of our darkest fears. If other words than these were the prelude to the Gracious Speech, little else would stand out as of any importance, and no words other than these would be more conspicuous by their absence. Therefore, any reference in the Gracious Speech which reinforces their meaning or which holds out further hope of the permanence of those happy relations should be welcomed, not only by all sections of this House, but by all those who have the peace of the world at heart. We find such references here to-day. The Treaty for the Renunciation of War and its signature by no less than nine great Powers is surely a long step in the right direction, and, although we may find it sometimes easy to obtain agreement on questions of principle and more difficult when questions of detailed method are involved, we must, nevertheless, congratulate all those who have been responsible for the success of this effort so far. We look forward to an early extension of the signatories and to that ultimate good which must surely crystallise out of so great a conception.

The Gracious Speech refers to the question of the evacuation of the Rhineland, and in this, as in most other matters connected with foreign policy, it must be recognised that we are only one of the many parties concerned. We have not the power, even if we had the wish, to act alone, and any step we may ultimately take in this matter must be taken with the full co-operation of all those who were parties to the original occupation. It is unthinkable that in our endeavour to create an atmosphere of confidence or conciliation with one nation, we should run the risk of impairing those cordial relations which exist between us and others. I sincerely hope that as a result of this first agreement to negotiate, a. happy issue out of all our difficulties in that matter may not be long delayed. With this question is linked up the question of Reparations. None more than the people of this country would desire to see achieved a final settlement of this problem which would react to the benefit of all the parties interested. Nevertheless, it must be remembered that Great Britain has already made many sacrifices, and it would not be reasonable, nor indeed practicable, to ask her to give up the principle embodied in the Balfour Note.

Reference is made to the Coronation of the Emperor of Japan, and the people of this country will, in view of our cordial relations with the Japanese people, whole-heartedly endorse the Royal wish which has been expressed in the Gracious Speech. A great factor of world-wide importance in the question of peace is this happy relationship which has so long existed between Great Britain and Japan, and so long as these two great naval Powers remain united in their historic friendship the waters of the Pacific will be pacific indeed and a formidable barrier will be presented to any elements of discord which may seek to disturb its calm. The Coronation of the Emperor of Japan reminds us that he is a personal friend of this country, as he visited us in 1921 when he was Crown Prince, and he then evinced a very real interest in our country and in its people.

Perhaps one of the great causes for satisfaction is to be found in the steady improvement that has taken place in that vast and distressed country of China. This should be welcomed, not only in the great cause of peace, but in view of the enormous commercial interests involved, many of which reflect directly upon the industries of this country and consequently affect the question of employment. Class and civil war have rapidly abated and a central Government is being evolved from that recent mass of chaos and discord. Our country has come through her difficulties, so recently acute, with enhanced prestige, and that vast cloud of misrepresentation and mistrust in which the unscrupulous agitator enveloped the Briton and everything British is being steadily dispelled before the eyes of the Chinese people. This country stands, where she has always stood, by the Declaration of December, 1926, by which we acknowledged—nay, even encouraged—the legitimate national aspirations of the Chinese people, and subsequent events have proved that we were right, not only in our attitude to the Chinese, but in the steps that were taken to protect the lives of our own people and their properties.

No Government programme since the War has been complete unless it stated what part the League of Nations has played in the efforts of that Government to maintain peace. I firmly believe that our Government are second to none in their support of and co-operation with the League. Our Foreign Secretary, whom I hope we shall shortly see with us again with health restored, and those who work with him, very faithfully reflect the attitude of the Government towards the League's work, and I doubt if in any country we should find competent critics in any number who would not ungrudgingly accord to the right hon. Gentleman the highest and most unqualified praise for his determination to make the League the greatest possible factor in our international relations. We are accustomed to hear one of our Officers of State referred to as Secretary of State for War, and, if I might presume to make a suggestion, I think a well-earned and comprehensive title for the light hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary would be that of the Secretary of State for Peace.

The activities of the League are so many and varied, and some of its functions so technical in character, that I feel certain the House will agree with me when I say that it does not fall to my lot this afternoon to enter into the many ramifications that present themselves upon this subject, but rather to leave to more able hands than mine that detailed examination which will certainly form part of the Debates in this Parliament. We have had our disappointments in the past, we shall have further difficulties, doubtless, to face in the future, and in the working of so vast and complicated a machine, that combines such a vast diversion of interests, it is inevitable that we should have to face some questions many times before they are surmounted. In these days, when we are groping for something that has hitherto throughout the ages been unattainable, the greatest hope lies, not in that vaulting ambition, which o'er-leaps itself, but in a steady and determined will to overcome those obstacles that bar the way to confidence and peace.