When I moved to report progress on this matter last night I was discussing the wisdom and practicability of the Saorstát policy in respect of non-intervention in Spain. I was endeavouring then to convince Deputy Belton that, in all the circumstances of the case, non-intervention was the only practical policy which the people of this country could pursue.
Widows' and Orphans' Pensions Bill, 1936—Money Resolution. - Central Fund Bill, 1937—Second Stage (Resumed).
I may remind the Deputy that Deputy Belton did not oppose non-intervention.
Did the Deputy raise a point of order?
Yes. I did not oppose non-intervention.
I am glad, Sir, if the various speeches which have been made on this matter have made a non-interventionist out of Deputy Belton, but I think his speeches in the House and outside—whatever meaning Deputy Belton intends them to convey—clearly indicated to all intelligent persons that Deputy Belton has been most belligerent in his desire that this country should not adhere to the non-intervention policy which it has adopted.
Give a quotation.
Could we have the division lists on the Second and Fifth Stages of the Non-Intervention Bill examined?
I have not got those myself.
Well, I suggest that the Deputy will reinforce his argument if he looks at them.
It is quite immaterial, because those are only silent votes given by Deputy Belton. I prefer to rely on the rather muscular language which the Deputy uses when he discusses the subject of Spain. I think it will be clear to everybody that Deputy Belton's whole line of policy in regard to Spain has been one of urging that the policy of non-intervention was not one which ought to commend itself to our people.
The Deputy is aware that the House has passed a measure of non-intervention?
Yes, Sir, but the whole question of non-intervention in Spain was raised yesterday, and many of those who participated in that discussion yesterday had already participated in the non-intervention debate which took place previously. Unfortunately, Sir, as you know, I was prohibited from participating in the debate on that occasion, and I want now to express views on the matter— seeing that the issue has been raised— in order to make the position of the Labour Party clear.
I wanted to say that, in my view, a non-intervention policy was the only practical policy which the Government could have adopted in respect to Spain; that any other policy for this country—a policy of participation —would have brought the same disastrous consequences as active intervention by other countries would have brought. After all, intervention in Spain would mean adherence to a policy of making Spain the cockpit of Europe, but, of course, that would not be for the benefit of Spain, and we could never be sure that the ambit of the field of battle in Spain would not be widened. If we were to make Spain the cockpit of Europe, and if every nation felt itself free to participate in Spain's civil war, then all kinds of possible international conflicts might arise. Those international conflicts might have disastrous effects, not merely on the present position of European affairs, but disastrous consequences on the civilisation of Europe itself.
Those who are in any way in touch with the conditions in Europe, those who endeavour to follow Europe through its troublous paths, must be aware that at the present time the tension on the Continent is extremely acute. Even a country such as Switzerland, which has been traditionally peaceful, has found it necessary to ask its Parliament for substantial credits in order to protect its frontiers. Wherever one goes throughout Europe the same feeling of tension is manifest on all sides. Active intervention by all countries in the Spanish conflict would inevitably heighten that tension, and it would require very little indeed to set Europe aflame to-day. After all, an incident in Sarajevo in 1914 produced a world war which lasted four years. The possibilities of a spark in Spain setting Europe on fire are much greater than the possibilities surrounding the spark which was kindled in Sarajevo. In a choice between intervention in Spain in deciding the conflict there, or avoiding a war which would bring about a destruction of European civilisation, I think every sensible person will be on the side of any policy which limits the civil war to Spain and saves Europe from that disastrous catastrophe.
We read in the Press recently a declaration by Russia that children over eight years of age were to be instructed in the methods of warfare. I myself saw children parading through Italy with wooden guns on their shoulders, performing military evolutions, all for the purpose of teaching them the latest tricks of war. We saw that in Germany the youth of the country are being taught to take up arms in the coming struggle which they all regard as inevitable. Amongst the big military nations of Europe, therefore, we find gigantic preparations for war, a perversion of the people's minds from peaceful to war purposes. When that catastrophe takes place it will be impossible to foreshadow the consequences; but we ought not to increase the possibility of its taking place at an early date by pursuing in Spain a policy that would only tend to hasten a European conflict which would be disastrous to European and world civilisation. It is for those reasons that we supported the policy of non-intervention, and believed that the policy of non-intervention was desirable. I think that, on mature consideration of the matter, Deputy Belton and those who may share his views that non-intervention should not commend itself to us, ought to realise that no matter what their personal views may be as to the ultimate result of the Spanish conflict, the only safe policy for this and every other country to pursue in the interests of European and world peace is one of allowing this contest in Spain to be settled by Spaniards, to be settled free from intervention by other countries, because, as I said, intervention would prevent the war being localised in Spain and possibly might give the world in 1937 a repetition of the terrible inferno which the world witnessed from 1914 to 1918.
I move the adjournment of the debate.