I sympathise very much with Deputies like Deputy Costello, who have shown themselves in the past to be, and who are obviously still interested in our activities abroad, in speaking as they have spoken here, about getting our people to take a keen interest in what is happening abroad. I wonder whether the Deputy is not wrong in thinking that they do not already take a very keen interest. I think that is the difference between us—that I believe the people of our country read the newspapers very carefully and keep in touch in the main with external affairs. We might have in our Department certain confidential information from day to day as to present tendencies, and so on, but these, as a rule, develop in a very short time; and though we might have a certain amount of advance information, the fact is that in a very short time it becomes information which everybody has. The position in connection with a Vote like this is that the majority of our people, and certainly Deputies, know very nearly as much about what has happened abroad over a period. We may know what is just about to happen, or what is just happening at the moment, but the fact is that things reveal themselves in a very short time, with the result that the information we may have a little in advance becomes information which everybody has. That is really one of the difficulties about making any useful statement in introducing this Vote.
We are asked to publish a report of what we have done at the League of Nations during the year. The fact is that the League's publications are in the Library and are available for Deputies who want to study them; and whenever there is any major activity in the League it is very fully reported in the Press. Does the Deputy want me to go back and publish a special report of the speeches I have made? That would be simply a waste of money and they would not be read by anybody except somebody who wants to refer to them for the purpose of quoting or misquoting them. If that is the position, they have the report of the League itself to which they can refer. So that I do not think any useful purpose would be served in presenting a report here containing the activities of the League, which are already published in the League's own publications and are available to Deputies, and the major part of which is published to the community at large through the Press.
As to our general attitude there, the difference between Deputy Costello and myself in the matter is clearly that I am somewhat more of a realist than he is. I have measured the amount of influence that we can exercise in the League. I do not want to minimise it in any way. I think that we have been playing our part and that there is a certain amount that we can do in conjunction with other States, which are similarly detached and have not special axes to grind, in preserving the peace of the world; that we have done and are doing a great deal. But I am not so foolish as to imagine that, when you have practices against air-raids to-day on the Continent and to-morrow in Great Britain, and so on, when Governments are in a mood like that, there is much use in a smaller nation trying to counsel them to peace. The only way I can see in which peace can be preserved at the moment is by having such a feeling against war that Governments before seeking the way of war will try genuinely the way of peace, realising what war under the new conditions will mean.
As to collective security, I have always felt that, unless the League of Nations has some sanctions by which its decisions can be somehow enforced, it is not going to be permanently of any use. It is of value in minor ways. It helps to bring people together who would not otherwise come together; and to that extent it helps to bring about an atmosphere of peace. But until there is some system by which the League will have effective sanctions to enforce its decisions, then it seems to me that the League will not be a real instrument for the preservation of peace. I felt that the whole time. Deputies on the opposite benches are as much aware as I am of how extremely difficult it is, when you get down to try to devise a system of sanctions, to get agreement upon it. I agree that if we had an agreed system of collective security it would be far more preferable and cheaper. But you have the old difficulty with sovereign States as to what extent they are prepared to surrender any portion of their sovereignty in order to bring about a situation which will amount to collective security. I do not think there is any nation at the present time, certainly none of the bigger Powers, prepared to rely on the collective sanctions which seem possible to the League. As everybody can see, all of them are working as rapidly as they can to build up armaments to defend themselves, whether that defence is merely what I might call of a passive kind or a very active defence, which is almost indistinguishable from aggression. So that the Deputy can only get from me what our desires and wishes are.
There is no basis upon which a definite policy can be framed or formed at the moment. There was a time at which I thought there were possibilities in certain Protocols of getting a development in that direction, but that was stopped. It seems to me that for the last few years there has been a retrograde movement rather than a forward movement in that direction. The League has received a few shattering blows within the last few years as regards its ability to prevent war. When one great Power snaps its fingers at the League it is not likely that another great Power is going to pay much attention to what the League says, except in so far as what the League says might affect the moral position of the great Power concerned. If it is prepared to sacrifice its moral position, then it is not going to bother much about what is thought by the Council of the League. That was the importance, from the League's point of view, in the case of a decision a few years ago: that, if it became clear that one big Power could defy the wishes of the majority of the members of the League and defy the wishes of the League, then it would be only a short time until every Power would act in a similar fashion. We have not yet got to a position in which the moral effect of a decision is going to deter a big Power, when it has special interests to serve, from following its own course. Of course, that means, in the long run, getting back to the old pre-1914 position, and that is what is happening in Europe at the moment, as far as I can judge at any rate; that we seem to have learned little from the last war and that there will be another war, and another war still, to end war.
It is well that the peoples of the nations should realise that, and I am sure that responsible people in every nation are bringing to the attention of their people the desperate situation into which we are rapidly drifting. The only way, I think, that you can avoid wars in the future is by giving to the League sanctions by which the League will be able to enforce its decisions. When we get to that stage, then I think we will have gone a good distance, but that is very far in the future. Instead of that, there might be some form of federation of the States of Europe, for a specific purpose at any rate. When we look back on history, however, we must come to the conclusion that where there has been agreement by groops of, shall we say, small States, or even of individuals, to submit to law, it has been for the most part by some one Power imposing its will upon the others. The United States, perhaps, would be regarded as an example where people came together and where a group of states came together and formed a Union without one state impressing itself or imposing its will upon the rest. I am sorry to think, however, that history indicates to us that the usual way in which people surrender rights which they regard as of a sovereign character is, as a rule, in the first instance, as a result of pressure by another Power which takes their rights from them, and later by beginning to consent to it. That is, I hope, not going to be the way in which the nations of Europe or the nations of the world will learn to obey some some system of law which they will make for themselves.
We were asked about the codification of international law. That is, more or less, at a stand-still, and I think that Deputies opposite will agree with me that it is very hard to speak about international law in the way in which we speak of national or domestic law. If certain principles were accepted it would be different, but law is law, for the most part, only where there is some power to enforce it, and except there is power for the enforcement of law, there is not much value in international law, because it is not going to be a protection. Law ought to be a protection for the rights of those who submit to it—to protect them against aggression. International law will become important and effective, to my mind at any rate, only when there will be some power which will give effect to and enforce its decrees. That brings us back to the original question of collective security, or the question which, in my opinion, is closely related to it—the question of sanctions to the League of Nations. I do not know whether there is any other particular point.