May 26, 1930

LIB

James Layton Ralston (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. RALSTON:

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

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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.

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Subtopic:   APPROVAL OF TREATY FOR LIMITATION OF ARMAMENT
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UFA

William Irvine

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. IRVINE:

As the minister is dealing

with the outstanding features now, would he state what was the ultimate object of the conference? I do not mean to be jocular at all; I am sincere.

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LIB

James Layton Ralston (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. RALSTON:

The ultimate object which filled the mind of every man who was there was the object of limiting and, if possible, reducing naval armaments in the world.

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UFA

William Irvine

United Farmers of Alberta

Mr. IRVINE:

But for what purpose? What was the ultimate object of that reducing?

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LIB

James Layton Ralston (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. RALSTON:

As one of the means

towards the end of attaining the peaceful settlement of international disputes.

The second feature, which I just mention in passing, and which relates to the question which has just been asked by my hon. friend from Wetaskiwin (Mr. Irvine), is that those present at the conference were I believe filled with a sense of their duty to endeavour to achieve the objects for which the conference had been called. If hon. members can picture the meetings which were held, they were not meetings of those who were to be controlled by a majority vote. There must be the unanimous and willing concurrence of those who were present there. No man could be inveigled into making some decision or snap judgment which would be of any benefit to those who endeavoured to get it from him; an apparent advantage gained in that way would be short-lived. The result was that there was carried on straightforwardly and in low voice, and without heat and without rancor, discussions by men who were sincerely

26, 1930

Naval Conference-Mr. Ralston

impressed with their responsibility and with the anxiety of those who sent them there; and I believe that that was one of the things which helped to achieve the success which I think this house will agree was achieved in the document which is before us.

Another feature is that the three greatest naval powers in the world have agreed on a matter affecting national sovereignty, have agreed to restrict the rights which they had to taking such means as seemed to them best in their own interest, and have agreed to consult others with regard to that right which is essentially theirs if they wish to exercise it; and three powers who could not reach agreement on all points have not turned their backs on one another but have agreed to keep on trying. One could not fail to acknowledge 1he tact and resourcefulness and patience and courage of the chairman, the Right Hon. J. Ramsay MacDonald, whose shoulders bore so largely the brunt and burden of the labours of the conference at the same time that he was carrying on the heavy responsibility of Prime Minister of Great Britain, attending not only discussions but even divisions in the House of Commons, and bringing at the same time all the resourcefulness and humanity of his nature to bear upon problems exceedingly dear to his heart and concerning which he has spent so much energy in the early stages, in his visit to America and in the conversations and negotiations that preceded that visit.

The results are, first, that nine battleships are being scrapped within eighteen months or two years. Under the Washington treaty the}' would not necessarily have been scrapped before 1936.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

They are due to be

scrapped in any event, as I read the Washington treaty.

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LIB

James Layton Ralston (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. RALSTON:

Yes, before 1936. But they will be effectively scrapped within eighteen months, and completely scrapped within two years. That means that nine of these floating fortresses will be off the seas within two years instead of by 1936.

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CON

Arthur Edward Ross

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. ROSS (Kingston):

What is the age of these nine vessels? -

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LIB

James Layton Ralston (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. RALSTON:

In 1936 they would be getting up to the age of twenty years.

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CON

George Reginald Geary

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. GEARY:

Pretty well obsolescent.

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LIB

James Layton Ralston (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. RALSTON:

At the same time we must remember that one of the objects of the conference, and one which was the subject, of serious discussion, was whether battleships could not be given a longer age, thereby ob-

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Naval Conference-Mr. Ralston

viating the necessity for replacement sooner. If all the nations agree to the same age for replacement the degree of obsolescence at that age makes no difference.

Next with regard to auxiliary craft. The Washington conference provided no limit for the total tonnage of cruisers. Hon. members will remember that at Washington the total tonnage was limited of air craft carriers of over ten thousand tons and of battleships, but no limit was achieved for cruisers except the maximum unit tonnage of ten thousand tons. The Geneva conference was called for the purpose of endeavouring to do what Washington had failed to do and go a step further and bring about an agreement for a maximum total tonnage limitation for cruisers. Geneva, as we know, failed in that respect-London has succeeded. I have figured roughly, and I think I am correct, that as a result of the London conference something like 550,000 tons of auxiliary craft, cruisers, destroyers and submarines provided for in the built, building and authorized program, will be done away with by the terms of this treaty. Now

550.000 tons of auxiliary craft is a substantial amount. Somebody may say that of that

550.000 tons, 278,000 tons have yet to be built. That is so, but it had already been authorized and the money for it voted. Judging by the attitude immediately after Geneva, the great thing which has been achieved is to get a definite limitation. Without this treaty there is no limit but national resources and public opinion.

Hon. members will remember that immediately after Geneva the tendency seemed to be to launch upon vast building programs without limits, and that would have been sure to precipitate the very thing which this conference was most anxious to avoid-competitive armaments. Add to these achievements which have been made by three powers, the fact that not only three-but five powers have agreed definitely to delay the replacement of some fourteen battleships which would otherwise have been built before 1936, and a further agreement by the three powers that a small aircraft carrier shall be included in and charged to the aircraft category. Let me state here, because I think Canada was particularly interested in this, that the Washington agreement had provided that aircraft earners of over ten thousand tons should be charged to the aircraft category. I believe that 35,000 tons was the total. There was no provision in regard to aircraft carriers smaller than that; nations might build these craft of 10,000 tons or less and treat them simply as cruisers, but these smaller craft were capable

of a great deal of destructive and terrorizing effect. It was felt that this new and most destructive weapon should have more restrictions put upon it than had been achieved at Washington, and the result of the discussions was that an aircraft carrier of ten thousand tons and less has been put in the aircraft category, and any nation which builds these small craft has to take them out of the total charged to that category, instead of charging them as might otherwise be done to the cruiser category.

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CON

Peter McGibbon

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. McGIBBON:

Does the minister consider Canada's aircraft a military weapon?

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LIB

James Layton Ralston (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. RALSTON:

That is a matter of

opinion. My hon. friend knows exactly the position. I would suggest that 'he permit me to answer his question when the estimates are before the house. We are talking of aircraft carriers.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

We have not any.

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LIB

James Layton Ralston (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. RALSTON:

No, we have not any. Another agreement which was arrived at between the five powers was with regard to the unit size of submarines. The unit size of submarines was a difficult question to settle. It was brought up by France particularly. France claimed the necessity for some large submarines. The United States, Great Britain, and, I think, Japan as well had one or two large submarines. An agreement was arrived at which reduced France's request for large submarines from six to three, the unit size to be not more than 2,000 tons with 5-inch guns, except that each nation was to be allowed three submarines of a unit size of not more than 2,800 tons with 6-inch guns.

Another agreement was arrived1 at with regard to submarines which took the place of what is known as the Root clause. Under the Root clause the Washington conference had endeavoured to provide that submarines should be subject to the same rules as surface vessels in attacking merchant ships. That treaty was not adopted by one of the nations, with the result that it never came into effect. This conference practically achieved the object of that treaty by getting an agreement between all five powers that submarines should be subject to the rules applicable to surface vessels in attacking merchant ships, and a definite declaration of international law in that respect was agreed to.

Then there was an agreement as to what would constitute vessels exempt from the treaty. It took the experts a good many weeks to prepare definitions for vessels which were to be exempted, these are adopted and

Naval Conference-Mr. Ralston

appended to the treaty. The rules with regard to the scrapping of vessels were also settled.

The result was that the hopes expressed by His Gracious Majesty the King at the outset of the conference were substantially achieved and the " high mission begun at Washington was continued with outstanding success at London.

Now, with regard to Canada's interest in the conference. My hon. friend the leader of the opposition mentioned it a few minutes ago. Canada has a very modest naval force. She makes no apology for it at all. The very fact that Canada has a modest naval force was one reason why it was considered essential that she should be present with 'her sister dominions to present the views of those nations who do not desire a large naval armament if they .possibly can avoid iti. I believe that it was for the benefit of the conference that those nations were there to present that point of view, which is the point of view of not only the dominions of the British commonwealth but of a great many of the smaller nations of the world.

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

Would the minister state what our " modest naval force " is?

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LIB

James Layton Ralston (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. RALSTON:

There are two destroyers-

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CON

Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. BENNETT:

They are not built.

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LIB

James Layton Ralston (Minister of National Defence)

Liberal

Mr. RALSTON:

There are two destroyers, the Vancouver and the Champlain; there are two building, the Saguenay and the Skeena; and three mine sweepers.

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CON

Thomas Erlin Kaiser

Conservative (1867-1942)

Mr. KAISER:

Do those two vessels belong to Canada?

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May 26, 1930