I do not want to evade
the question. This was a conference for the limitation and restriction of naval armaments, and the agreement made is one made on behalf of the British commonwealth of nations, signed by the component parts limiting themselves to those total needs in the aggregate. The fact that the statement was issued by the United Kingdom loses its significance entirely when we see in the treaty signed by all parts of the British empire that the total stated was the maximum total needs of the members of the British commonwealth of nations.
Then came just at a rather unfortunate time the defeat of the French government with, as I said, the necessity of proceeding without any directly authorized representative of the
Naval Conference-Mr. Ralston
French government. The discussions went on with the French ambassador and with M. Massigli, representative of the French foreign office. I cannot speak too highly of the punctiliousness and the endeavour to cooperate shown by those two gentlemen under very difficult circumstances. Considerable progress was made in discussion, although not as to decision with regard to matters which affected the French republic. At the same time discussions were proceeded with between what we may call the high seas group, that is, Japan, the United States, and the British commonwealth of nations. Those discussions continued during the three weeks when the French were not formally represented by a government representative, with the result that just about the time when the French government were able to send a newly authorized delegation, a despatch was sent to Japan, a compromise proposal, a proposal emerging from the discussions which had been held by the members of the so-called high seas group, and a proposal which is practically the one which is now embodied in the treaty regarding the naval restrictions of the forces of those three nations.
Then came the fourth period. The French delegation was back and conversations were renewed more directly between France, Italy and the United Kingdom with regard to the European situation. It would take some time to go into all the details of those conversations. The inside story of those conferences will, I suppose, never be fully known, but one can indicate what has already been made public with regard to the subjects considered at those conferences. Those subjects were two: first, there was this question with regard to parity as between France and Italy, Italy claiming she should have parity with the strongest European power, meaning France; Italy claiming that owing to her situation on the Mediterranean her position was that of an island in an inland sea, a sea which might be easily blockaded, and therefore desiring that she should have control. France pointed out that she had possessions in Africa and required freedom of the Mediterranean for the purpose of communicating with those possessions. France also reminded those with whom she had conversations that her territory had been the subject of invasion no less than three times in a century. It was realized early that the question between those countries was not one which could be settled by experts, but was one which would have to be solved through the activities and efforts of statecraft.
Coupled with that was the other question as to whether any assurance could be given to
France with regard to her position in Europe. As the house knows, the discussions on that, terminated finally without any decision being made. There were three phases of it. The suggestion was made that there be some sort of a consultative pact, similar to the four power Pacific pact signed at the time of the Washington conference, that the nations would consult each other at a time when there was apprehension of war. I do not know that I am stating these in the order in which they were discussed. Second, there was a suggestion of a Mediterranean Locarno, some agreement whereby one nation would be guaranteed against another, as is done in the case of the Locarno treaty. Third, there was discussion as to whether or not any arrangement could be arrived at or any settlement reached by way of making some interpretative statement concerning the meaning of Article XVI of the covenant of the League of Nations. Those discussions took some three or four weeks. Along towards the end of them a suggestion was made that the conference should adjourn for six months in order to give those representing particularly France, Italy and the United Kingdom, an opportunity of going home and consulting their people and carrying on further negotiations after those consultations had been had, retaining the chairmanship and good office of the Prime Minister of Great Britain. The decision was reached that it was not desirable to adjourn at that time particularly in view of the fact that the conference was still waiting for a reply from the Japanese government respecting the compromise proposal which had been sent some weeks before. Finally, about the first of April, the reply of the Japanese government was received. That reply, as hon. members and the country know, was generally favourable to the compromise proposal which had been suggested. After that more attention was directed to an endeavour to reach some conclusion with regard to the European group, and finally the treaty which is now on the table of the house, was signed, with this in mind and with this understanding, that the conference was not terminating its labours; that, as the Prime Minister has stated, it was only writing the first chapter of the book and that the end had not been reached, but that another chapter was to be written in the negotiations which are still being continued and regarding which newspaper reports are appearing from time to time. That in barest outline is the history of the proceedings with regard to the conference.
Just one or two outstanding features may I bring to the attention of the house? First,
it seemed to me that one of the great factors in the conference was that it was opened by His Gracious Majesty the King, that he himself saw fit to go there on the first official occasion after his long illness to meet not only with his own subjects but with the representatives of other nations-he, the Commander-in-Chief of the army and the Commander-inChief of the navy-and to put before them reasons why there should be a continuation of the spirit of the Washington conference and a further limitation of armaments. There were millions of his subjects all over the world who joined with His Majesty and said Amen to the hope he expressed, that the
Results of this conference will lead to the immediate alleviation of the heavy Durden or armaments now weighing on the peoples of the world, and also by facilitating the future "work of the league preparatory commission on disarmament hasten the time when a general disarmament conference can deal with this problem in an even more comprehensive manner.
Subtopic: APPROVAL OF TREATY FOR LIMITATION OF ARMAMENT