HC Deb 08 March 1911 vol 22 cc1267-300
Class II.
Foreign Office 20,000
Class I.
Royal Palaces 20,000
Osborne 4,000
Royal Parks and Pleasure Gardens 40,000
Houses of Parliament Buildings 15,000
Campbell-Bannerman Memorial
Miscellaneous Legal Buildings, Great Britain 27,000
Art and Science Buildings, Great Britain 25,000
Diplomatic and Consular Buildings 25,000
Revenue Buildings 150,000
Labour Exchange Buildings, Great Britain 40,000
Public Buildings, Great Britain 200,000
Surveys of the United Kingdom 50,000
Harbours under the Board of Trade 20,000
Peterhead Harbour 8,000
Rates on Government Property 150,000
Public Works and Buildings, Ireland 75,000
Railways, Ireland 10,000
The Palace of Peace, The Hague
Class II.
United Kingdom and England:—
House of Lords Offices 7,000
House of Commons Offices 13,000
Treasury and Subordinate Departments 26,000
Home Office 60,000
Colonial Office 16,000
Privy Council Office 3,000
Board of Trade 140,000
Mercantile Marine Services 30,000
Bankruptcy Department of the Board of Trade 3
Board of Agriculture and Fisheries 60,000
Charity Commission 9,000
Government Chemist 5,000
Civil Service Commission 12,000
Exchequer and Audit Department 18,000
Friendly Societies Registry 3,000
Local Government Board 75,000
Lunacy Commission 4,500
Mint, including Coinage 7
National Debt Office 4,200
Public Record Office 7,000
Public Works Loan Commission 5
Registrar General's Office 132,000
United Kingdom—continued £
Stationery and Printing 235,000
Woods, Forests, etc., Office of 6,000
Works and Public Buildings, Office of 31,000
Secret Service 17,000
Secretary for Scotland, Office of 25,000
Fishery Board 7,000
Lunacy Commission 2,000
Registrar General's Office 28,000
Local Government Board 5,500
Lord Lieutenant's Household 1,500
Chief Secretary's Offices and Subordinate Departments 8,000
Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction 115,000
Charitable Donations and Bequests Office 600
Local Government Board 30,000
Public Record Office 2,000
Public Works Office 12,000
Registrar General's Office 20,000
Valuation and Boundary Survey 12,000
Class III.
United Kingdom and England:—
Law Charges 25,000
Miscellaneous Legal Expenses 19,000
Supreme Court of Judicature 86,000
Land Registry 10,000
Public Trustee 3
County Courts 2
Police, England and Wales 30,000
Prisons, England and the Colonies 220,000
Reformatory and Industrial Schools, Great Britain 65,000
Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum 22,000
Law Charges and Courts of Law 23,000
Register House, Edinburgh 11,000
Crofters Commission 1,500
Prisons 26,000
Law Charges and Criminal Prosecutions 18,000
Supreme Court of Judicature and other Legal Departments 30,000
Land Commission 232,000
County Court Officers, etc. 30,000
Dublin Metropolitan Police 36,000
Royal Irish Constabulary 500,000
Prisons 30,000
Reformatory and Industrial Schools 60,000
Dundrum Criminal Lunatic Asylum 2,000
Class IV.
United Kingdom and England:—
Board of Education 3,750,000
British Museum 48,000
National Gallery 5,000
National Portrait Gallery 2,500
Wallace Collection 2,000
Scientific Investigation, etc. 20,000
Universities and Colleges, Great Britain, and Intermediate Education, Wales 70,000
Public Education 600,000
National Galleries 2,000
Public Education 600,000
Endowed Schools Commissioners 300
National Gallery 1,500
Universities and Colleges, Ireland 54,000
Class V.
Diplomatic and Consular Services 170,000
Colonial Services 530,000
Telegraph Subsidies and Pacific Cable 16,000
Cyprus (Grant in Aid)
Class VI.
Superannuation and Retired Allowances 240,000
Miscellaneous Charitable and other Allowances 800
Hospitals and Charities, Ireland 15,000
Savings Banks and Friendly Societies Deficiencies
Old Age Pensions 3,100,000
Class VII.
Temporary Commissions 10,000
Miscellaneous Expenses 3,580
Repayments to the Local Loans Fund
Ireland Development Grant 100,000
Government Hospitality 2,500
International Exhibitions 25,000
Development Fund
Coronation of His Majesty
Duke of Connaught (Visit to South Africa)
Repayments to the Civil Contingencies Fund
Expenses under the Unemployed Workmen Act, 1905
Expenses of the Funeral of His late Majesty
Total for Civil Services 12,906,000
Customs and Excise 600,000
Inland Revenue 445,000
Post Office 5,400,000
Total for Civil Services and Revenue Departments 19,351,000

[Note.—The sum taken represents a provision for about three months' expenditure.]


I do not think that the House has had full opportunities in the last year or so of obtaining any general statement on foreign policy from the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. I do not suppose it would be practicable, even if it were desirable, to ask the right hon. Gentleman (Sir Edward Grey) to survey the whole of that great and varied field, when we are in the position of beginning our Debate on the Vote on Account, only when the most important hours of the afternoon have already been expended on a very different subject. But there are two points upon which I should like to say a few words and ask a few questions, and which are in one respect connected. Such criticisms as I shall offer upon the Government are based upon what I consider to be the manner in which they are inclined to ignore the close relation which exists between policy, diplomacy, and Imperial interests. The first of those subjects relates to the Baghdad Railway. Two or three of my hon. Friends have a far intimate acquaintance with the country, knowing it by personal experience, as well as by study, and can give the House information which is beyond my power. But there are broad lines of policy upon which I can, perhaps, initiate the Debate. The Baghdad Railway had been a sort of preoccupation of Governments and Ministers before the right hon. Gentleman held his present place, and when we on these benches were in office, and I do not suppose that the right hon. Gentleman has had an easier time than we had. But I confess that at the present moment we cannot help looking forward with considerable anxiety to the developments which are in process of occurring in connection with European diplomacy and railway enterprise in Asia Minor, and in Mesopotamia. I myself was anxious at one time to see if some arrangement could not be arrived at by which equal rights could be given to the great commercial nations of the world for an equal share of the sacrifices made by them. If that had been practicable I think it would have been a good solution. It was not practicable. Whose fault that was it is not worth inquiring at this stage. At a time which counts in our Parliamentary history as ancient, as far back to the year 1904—perhaps even earlier—even at that stage, Germany and Turkey were, I understand, preparing to carry out, as they liked, the stages of that railway construction which are now in process of development. We are coming in sight—are we not—of further developments which do touch very nearly the immediate interests of this country; the commercial, political, and strategic interests, in the way those interests are not touched, while the railway is merely going through Asia Minor, or penetrating the defiles of the Caucasus. I want to ask the Government what course they intend to take especially with regard to the two possible, the two contemplated, developments of the railway branch line which is to join Baghdad and Khanikan, and the continuation of the line from Baghdad southward? The first of these is more commercial than strategical. It has more to do with the interests of traders in this country perhaps than the immediate balance of power either in the region which it traverses or in other connected regions. From that point of view surely its importance is as great and the menace to our trade is so serious that those interested in the trade cannot afford to ignore it. We used to have—we have still, I believe—but I have not investigated the figures recently—an overwhelming proportion of the trade which goes up the river, and then crosses by road to the frontier of Persia. That trade, I believe, is ten times as great as that of any other nation, if it is not ten times as great as all the other nations put together. What safeguard is that trade going to have when that branch or junction is made between Baghdad on the west and the frontier of Persia on the East? I remember that the right hon. Gentleman, in the early days of his office, was responsible for the Anglo-Russian Agreement. The late Lord Percy criticised that Agreement from the point of view of its effect on British commerce. He expressed his opinion that in the partition of zones of interest in Persia it would be found that the results were very inimical to the development of British commerce, would be inimical even to the commerce that we already possessed—let alone its development! I am afraid that Lord Percy's prophecies have proved only too true. I say nothing against the right hon. Gentleman as to the general aspect of that Agreement. I welcome now, as I have always welcomed, anything which can bring us into closer and more friendly relations with the Russian Empire. But the particular point of that Agreement which has to be borne in mind by the Committee at the present time is this: That while the Germans appear to have got concessions to construct that line from Baghdad to the Persian frontier, the Russians have got the concession of the line within the frontier of Persia. I do not think the Russians are actually making a line, but it lies with them to make that line, because they have within their sphere of influence the great railway terminus which must be in the hands of the Power which makes the railway; at all events it gives a great advantage to the Power that protects the railway. The result of these forces taken together is that along the route where we have ten times the commerce of the other nations of the world, and in substitution for the existing route for which we are responsible, and which our enterprise has largely created, you are going to have a line which is partly German and partly Russian. That is a matter which can—and probably does—cause considerable anxiety to the mind of the right hon. Gentleman, and I want to know, if I am right in my diagnosis of the disease and the forecast of the danger, what remedy he and his colleagues propose for that state of things? I understand that in answer to a question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire yesterday, the right hon. Gentleman practically assured him that equality of treatment to British and other goods was secured by an article in the Convention which he read to the House, and which, I may add, I think he read to the House in a somewhat truncated shape without introducing some very relevant qualifications which occurred in the Article, and which I think it would have been well if he had dealt with. But I leave it to my hon. Friend to develop that point. The point I want to develop is a different one. It is this. I do not believe that these equalities of rating are necessarily of more value than the most-favoured-nation clause. Both of them have the same weakness, namely, that you can grade goods and divide commodities up in such a way that rates which appear equal and are equal on the face of them, nevertheless press with quite an unequal severity upon the manufacturing interests of one of two countries. Alternative clauses on goods provide that one shall go at one rate and another at another. Then you may announce to the world that anybody who produces goods of quality A goes at such a rate, and anybody who produces goods of quality B—no matter what his nationality—goes at another rate, and that therefore everyone is on the same level. As a matter of fact the one country which produces article A and the other that produces article B may find that the trade rates, formally equal, press with quite an unequal severity upon one or other of the manufacturing countries. That, I believe, has actually happened in railway rates under the control of nations who do not share the view of the Government that politics and commerce should be kept in water-tight compartments, and not allowed to mix the one with the other! There are nations who take a different view of what can be done by an active policy; in consequence their manufacturers, in certain ases, are better served than their commercial or manufacturing rivals. That is the chief question which I wish to put to the right hon. Gentleman. With regard to the commercial aspect of the Baghdad Railway—especially that part of it which is to join the Persian frontier at Baghdad. The continuation of the railway to the Persian Gulf is also a commercial subject. We cannot in this House mention the commercial development without remembering that, quite apart from Britain's preponderance of commercial interests in that part of the world, we have strategic interests, and interests, which cannot be forgotten or ignored, connected with our prestige in India and Afghanistan, and all those adjacent countries. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman does not wish to forget or ignore them. Equally undoubtedly they are threatened—if we may judge the ordinary signs of the times—by certain projects of railway construction to a large extent far into regions which we have always regarded as under our protection and into territories which are not part of the Turkish Empire. I am sure the Government are prepared to give us every assurance with regard to Koweit and as to the policy of the Government. The right hon. Gentleman has made declarations in this House in previous years which, so far as I am concerned, seemed to me at the time to be perfectly satisfactory, and from which I do not believe he will recede. Nevertheless, I think he will regard our anxiety on this side of the House as not without its justification. He will feel that our interests, not merely our commercial interests, but our political, imperial, diplomatic, and national interests are being threatened by some schemers, and require the special and arduous care of the Foreign Office if they are to remain wholly unimpaired. These are the two main questions I wish to ask. How do the Government propose to deal with the extensions either towards Persia from Baghdad, towards Persia on the one side, and towards the Gulf on the other?

I leave these two questions of the Baghdad Railway. I leave the homes of ancient and half-forgotten civilisations, and I turn to a very different sphere, the New World, and the great communities who are building up vast commercial empires in North America, and whose proceedings we are watching with anxiety—that is, we on this side are watching with anxiety—partly with a view to more strictly commercial considerations, but even more connected with those general views of empire on which perhaps we differ—certainly do differ in some respects from hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman exactly what instructions he sent to our Ambassador at Washington in connection with the reciprocity arrangement which is in negotiation between Canada and North America. I do not intend to say a word against Mr. Bryce; he is not only a personal friend of mine, but he is a very eminent and distinguished author; he was long an eminent and distinguished Member of this House, and he is now an eminent and distinguished Member of the Diplomatic Service, and, though I have not access to the same information or official documents, I believe it is a matter of common knowledge that Mr. Bryce's tact and popularity in the United States have greatly smoothed such slight friction as there may have been between the two great kindred communities with regard to a few outstanding questions, which I believe have been settled, or many of which have been settled, since the Government came into office, to the immense advantage of everybody concerned, and largely settled through the skill of Mr. Bryce, as well as the goodwill of the two great Governments concerned. Therefore, I make no charge against Mr. Bryce, on the contrary. I do not understand what the Government have been doing in this matter. It is the Government whom I want to criticise, and certainly not their Ambassador.

Let me say at once, I think from the very nature of the case there is a certain difficulty in the position of our Ambassador at Washington, when one of our great sister States, which has an undoubted right to-separate financial negotiations, calls in his aid to carry out some reciprocity scheme, because it is quite clear, and it is not denied, that the interest of the home manufacturer may be different from the interest of the Canadian manufacturer. It is not only not denied, but it is admitted on all sides. It was admitted by the Prime Minister in this House, as well as by experts on the other side of the Atlantic. That is a position which perhaps is inherently and necessarily difficult. I think it is quite right the British Ambassador should help any self-governing Colony that calls upon him for his assistance, but it is equally clear that the British Ambassador is bound to do everything he can on such occasions to help the British manufacturer. It is a duty certainly not less obvious, than the other, to which I have referred. Here is a commercial negotiation going on, which directly affects the interests of British traders. Why have not British traders been informed upon this as they would have been informed, had it been an ordinary fiscal scheme proposed by some wholly independent foreign Power. Take Japan. Japan proposes a treaty by which British manufacturers believe, and I am afraid rightly believe, that they will greatly suffer, if it remains unmodified. Our diplomatic Representative at Tokiosends home at once full particulars. The Foreign Office and Board of Trade take care that these particulars shall be brought to the notice of all British manufacturers concerned. The British manufacturers consider the whole case; they come with deputations to the Foreign Office, and they inform the Foreign Office how they are likely to be pinched by this or that provision of the treaty, and the Foreign Office sets its whole machinery at at work to modify the terms of it. If that is done, when the negotiations are between Japan and England, why was it not equally done when negotiations were going on in which the British manufacturer is also interested, although no doubt it is true that these negotiations were more or less of an exceptional character and were taking place between one of our great Dominions and the United States of America. If this reciprocity arrangement between Canada and the United States goes through, about which it is impossible to prophesy, if it goes through, we shall have the extraordinary spectacle of differentiation by a British Dominion against the British manufacturer.

The right hon. Gentleman said, all this is a very small matter. I think he said that, in the early days of the Debate on the Address. I am not sure his figures were right. I rather think they were wrong, but that is not really the point. The point is, that British commercial interests are involved, that they are affected, that they are threatened, and so far as I know, nothing has been done under the instructions of the Government by our Ambassador at Washington to keep British manufacture in the same condition as fully acquainted with all the facts, as he would have been had it been a case of Roumania or Japan, or any other foreign Power whose fiscal arrangements were affecting the interest of the British manufacturer. I think the whole of that matter is really rather serious from the point of view of our diplomacy, and I am afraid I am one of those who look forward to even greater difficulties in the diplomatic future if these reciprocal arrangements are to go on. I do not wish to dwell at this moment too much upon the Imperial side of the question. I have spoken of it already this Session, and I shall no doubt speak of it again, and I do not wish to dwell upon it at the present time.

But observe what must inevitably happen, as it seems to me, if a reciprocal arrangement is made with the United States of America which produces, or tends to produce, Free Trade along the lines of route along that border between Canada and America, while leaving high tariffs on the American coast, and other tariffs less high, but still high, upon the Canadian coast. You must have as relations between Canada and the United States develop, as the policy which Canada is pursuing, and has been pursuing for years past, of promoting an East and West, as against a North and South flow of commerce, as the policy develops, you will find the utmost difficulty in maintaining, or at any rate North America will find the utmost difficulty in maintaining different rates of duty along the United States coastline as compared with the Canadian coastline. Goods are brought in at low duty or perhaps no duty at all, but at low duty we will say, over the Canadian sea- board; they are kept out by very high duties upon the American seaboard, and the temptation to smuggle across the frontier of the two countries when they have been landed is evidently great in itself, and will be a source of great embarrassment to the Governments concerned, and it seems to me perfectly obvious, as time goes on, that the relations between the American commerce and the Canadian commerce will become, under this system, so inextricably entwined that the larger partner in this new commercial confederation will have every interest in inducing the smaller partner to frame his tariff in accordance with the United States interest rather than in accordance with the Canadian or British interest, and that tendency will perhaps be found ultimately impossible to resist. Even now, do observe what diplomatic difficulty you may get into over this reciprocity arrangement.

The Americans and Canadians both have a most-favoured-nation clause. It affects the whole Empire, because Canada is part of our Empire. The Americans have their own most-favoured-nation clause, but they mean different things, and the fact that they mean different things has a very pressing bearing upon this reciprocity arrangement. The Americans adhere to the old British view, to what used to be our view fifty years ago, of what most-favoured-nation treatment meant. They say, they may make what arrangements they like with any other country, and that no other country is to benefit from this arrangement unless it can offer benefits to the United States. That is the American interpretation of the doctrine. The Canadian interpretation of the doctrine is ours, and must be ours. That is the present view of the Foreign Office, and the result is that Canada gives to the United States some advantage, and that advantage is shared by a large number of other Powers. When the United States gives to Canada an advantage that advantage is shared with nobody else, unless the United States say, this Power or that have given us advantages which makes it worth while to extend to them the advantages we have already given to Canada. In other words, the Canadian most-favoured- nation clause works automatically; the American most-favoured-nation clause works according to the view of the American Foreign Office or authorities who have to settle tariff relations with other countries.

I am not at all sure that the American system has not much to be said for it. The British system, I believe, is largely Mr. Cobden's system, and he was under the very natural impression that if you once began negotiations like those which we had with France in 1860, and if you worked your most-favoured-nation clause upon the system which we have adopted, and other nations following our example have adopted, you gradually would spread over a whole world a network of arrangements that would be strongly conducive to Free Trade. I do not think it has really had that result. The result is so difficult and mixed that I would not venture to pronounce a final opinion upon it, but of this I am certain, that our interpretation followed as it has been by other nations, is the immediate cause of the extraordinary complication of all continental and other tariffs. They have, as I explained in the earlier part of my speech, to cut up their categories into such small and minute fractions that their tables of duties present an almost appaling appearance to those who attempt to study them. I believe that is not the less due to the fact that they have tariffs and try to make them of such a character as to elude the meshes of the most-favoured-nation clause.

7.0 P.M.

What I want to point out to the Government is, that if Canada and America are going to have these very close and increasingly close commercial arrangements, this dual interpretation of the most-favoured-nation clause must end in very great embarrassment indeed. I do not see how it can go on, and yet I do not see how it can be altered. I do not ask the right hon. Gentleman to provide any solution for difficulties which have not met us yet in a practical sense, but I do think the right hon. Gentleman and the Government would do well to consider how greatly we may be embarrassed in the future concerning a part of the Empire already of enormous importance—of growing importance—destined to increase by leaps and bounds, and bound, as I hope and believe, by ties of affection and loyalty which no commercial arrangements can destroy, in spite of what some rather reckless American statesmen have been pleased to say—I want to point out the difficulty that will occur when that community, bound to us only by those ties of loyalty and those feelings of unity has all its commercial interests directed towards another State, however friendly that other State may be to us, however near it may be in kinship, however close it may be in its common ideals and laws. I am afraid that if this policy goes on—and you have done a great deal to encourage it—it cannot but produce very embarrassing diplomatic problems connected with the ever-growing network of commercial treaties by which modern civilised commercial nations are connected—embarassments which I at all events, cannot look at with equanimity—and which I think even the Prime Minister, who is so sanguine about the whole of this new departure, must look at with some disquiet. There is only one bright spot in this picture, and that is the declaration which—though I only speak from the telegraphic reports—I understand that the Canadian Prime Minister has made in favour of Preference. My right hon. Friend the Member for East Worcestershire (Mr. Austen Chamberlain) was taken to task rather severely by the Prime Minister at the beginning of the Session because he quoted Sir Wilfrid Laurier on the authority of a newspaper report. We have not the Canadian Hansard here, which I understand, has to be consulted before a Canadian speech is quoted. I can only give my information for what it is worth, but I have no doubt that "The Times" report is accurate and that the emphatic declaration made by Sir Wilfrid Laurier that he desired to see the policy of Preference carried through was accurate, and, for my part, I most gladly and heartily welcome it.

I note with the deepest satisfaction that Sir Wilfrid Laurier is not content with a mere declaration in the Canadian Parliament. He has announced his intention of bringing forward the question again before the Colonial Conference. We hail that declaration with the utmost satisfaction, though I fail to understand how it is consistent with the statement of the Prime Minister that three weeks ago—or whatever it was—he was attending the obsequies of preference. I think he went on to explain in his peroration that not merely were we celebrating the obsequies of preference, but it was a great, and now exposed, fiscal imposture. That "imposture" is going to be brought forward again by the Prime Minister of the greatest of our Dominions, and he will be supported, I doubt not, by the Prime Ministers of the other great self-governing Dominions. I most earnestly hope that the temper in which the Government are going to receive those overtures will neither resemble the temper in which they received them in 1907 nor will accord with the amazing declaration which the right hon. Gentleman made in the first blush of this reciprocity proposal, when we brought this subject before the House earlier in the Session. If the Canadian Prime Minister is correctly reported—and I doubt not he is—it is clear that the question is not dead in Canada, and I can assure the right hon. Gentleman it is not dead here.


The right hon. Gentleman, at the beginning of his speech, remarked, very naturally, that the hour was somewhat late, and that he would not ask from me a general statement upon foreign policy. That is to say, as I understood him to mean, that at this late hour the subject of foreign policy by itself was so large that I could not be expected to travel over the whole field. He also intimated that there were other hon. Members on his side of the House who desired to speak. Well, Sir, I feel it so strongly that I shall compress my remarks as shortly as I can in order that there may be as much time as possible for others who follow me. I thought it a little remarkable after the right hon. Gentleman began by saying that the hour was somewhat late that he should, for the last five minutes, have induced me to forget that it was the Foreign Office Vote at all under consideration. I therefore propose to bring the Committee back to the points on which the right hon. Gentleman specially asked for information. I will confine myself, as far as possible, to answering him on the particular points which he raised. He dealt first of all with the Baghdad Railway. I have no complaint to make whatever of his introducing that subject into the Debate, nor have I any complaint to make of the tone or substance of the remarks which he made about it, but I would observe generally with regard to what he said about the Baghdad Railway, that it is always possible and easy to fix on certain parts of the world which are not under our control, which are not likely to be under our control, and in which events may not be altogether moving according to our minds. That is always the case in some parts of the world, and that always offers a field for comment and observation. I have no complaint to make of the right hon. Gentleman's comment with regard to the importance of our trade interests in that part of the world, but where, I think, his speech stopped short was at the point where he might have shown what lever we had, what position we occupy, what powers we have by which we should be enabled to control the course of events in that part of the world. He has admitted himself that the Baghdad Railway question was one with which he had been familiar when he was in office. He said that an opportunity arose at that time of taking part in the Baghdad Railway or coming to some terms about it, an opportunity which he regretted to say had not resulted in its being found practicable to secure equal rights with regard to that railway. That happened while he was in office. When that opportunity had passed, surely it was not easy for us to create the opportunity again or to take advantage of it. I should like the right hon. Gentleman to be quite clear about this. I am not reflecting upon anything that he did while he was in office. I do not say it was an opportunity of which more could be made than his Government made of it. I only want to emphasise this fact, the Baghdad Railway concession having come into existence, I think while they were in office—they did not find it practicable, though they were quite as conscious of British interests as they are now—to arrange British participation in the enterprise. So it was not likely, when the Baghdad Railway had made some further progress, that we should find it easier than they did, and in all the comment of the right hon. Gentleman there was nothing to show that we had ever been in a more favourable position than his own Government was for arranging terms with regard to British interests in the Baghdad Railway. On the contrary, if there is any difference, it is that the undertaking being more solidly established when we came into office, it was less likely that we should be able to get as favourable terms as might have been obtained in earlier days.

The time to oppose the Baghdad Railway, if it it was to be opposed in British interests was before the concession was granted. The concession once granted was a German concession in Turkish territory, and that concession remains to-day as we found it when we first came into office. The concession has not been extended, and it is within the rights of the German Concessionaires and of the Turkish Government to carry out the terms of that concession as they please in Turkish territory. Now, the right hon. Gentleman says, "Yes, but there is a branch going to be made from Baghdad to Khanikin, and that will affect an important artery of British trade." The concession for that branch was contained in the original concession of the Baghdad Railway, and that remains as it was. Then said the right hon. Gentleman, "Yes, but now when you go beyond Turkish territory there is going to be a branch made from Khanikin to Teheran, and that is not going to be under British control." Well, whether there had been the Anglo-Russian Agreement or not, anyone who looks at the map and sees that the branch from Khanikin to Teheran is going to proceed not south, but north into Persian territory, will know that under no conditions in recent years would it have been possible for us to have secured a concession for railways in the north of Persia.

If we are to have a concession for railways it must be in the south of Persia, and that must always be so. The north of Persia is out of our reach. If we had had a concession for railways there we could not have protected it—we could not have secured the concession, and we could not have protected it if we had secured it. For years passed, before the Anglo-Russian Agreement was made, it has been known to everybody that, if we were to protect British commercial interests, they must be protected in the south and not in the north of Persia. That remains unaffected by anything we have done since we came into office.

The right hon. Gentleman says it is important British trade should be protected. As far as it can be protected by guaranteeing equal rights for trade on these railways it will be protected, but more than that we cannot do with regard to these railways. The right hon. Gentleman said that those guarantees of equal right might be so worked as to be in practice unfavourable to British trade. Your only guarantee against that is to make other routes of your own for British trade. You cannot possibly take away the concession which the Germans have got from the Turks, and which is in Turkish territory. You cannot stop them making the railway. You could never under any circumstaances have got a concession or carried out a concession for a railway in the north of Persia itself. If the guarantees you can get, and which I think we have got, and which, indeed, we are entitled to demand—that there should not be preferential rates and so forth—are not sufficient, you have no option ex- cept to get other concessions which will be under your own control. The right hon. Gentleman did not go so far as to suggest that. He commented upon the weakness of our position with regard to these particular railways. He made no suggestion whatever to show what we could do. He suggested no lever that we could use and no means whatever by which we could bring pressure to bear to secure British trade interests with regard to these railways, railways in the north of Persia and in Turkish territory, for which a concession has already been granted. That is not very helpful.

We are not quite so helpless in the matter as might be gathered from the speech the right hon. Gentleman has made. These railways in Turkish territory are going to cost money. The Turkish Government two years ago received consent for a limited period for a 3 per cent. increase of the Customs Duty. The Turkish Government have since applied for a 4 per cent. increase of the Customs Duty. That cannot be levied without our consent. I wish to see the new regime in Turkey strengthened. I wash to see them supplied with resources which will enable them to establish strong and just Government in all parts of the Turkish Empire. I am aware money is needed for those purposes, and I would willingly ask British trade to make a sacrifice, so far as it is a sacrifice to British trade, for those purposes, but, if the money is to be used to promote railways which may be a source of doubtful advantage to British trade, and still more if the money is to be used to make railways which will take the place of means of communication which have been in the hands so far of British Concessionaires, then I say it will be impossible for us to agree to that 4 per cent. increase of the Customs Duty until we are satisfied that British trade interests will be satisfactorily guarded. I would like the House to be quite clear on this point. The Baghdad Railway is a German concession in Turkish territory, and as such we have no right or title to object to the German Concessionaires and the Turks carrying it out in accordance with the concession in Turkish territory; but, when we are asked to give our consent to provide further sources of revenue to the Turkish Government, then we do come in, and come in naturally, because they are asking us to agree to certain increased burdens, and we have a right to demand that before we agree to those in- creased burdens the Turkish Government should make it clear that the revenue is going to be applied to the purposes to which we wish to see it applied, namely, the good Government and strengthening of the Turkish Empire, and is not going to be used to construct railways which for strategical or other reasons the Turkish Government may be very anxious to have, but which may incidentally prejudice the interests of British trade. That is our position with regard to the Baghdad Railway.

The right hon. Gentleman asked a further question as to Koweit and the Turkish Government. That is quite a different question to the mere question of the Baghdad Railway. I have been careful to emphasise that the Baghdad Railway is a German concession in Turkish territory, but, if the Baghdad Railway is to proceed further than Turkish territory, then of course our diplomatic position in the matter becomes very different from what it is so long as it remains purely in Turkish territory. We are not anxious to disturb the status quo in the Persian Gulf. To a great extent that status quo has been built up by us in previous generations. We have practically opened the Persian Gulf to trade and kept it open. That has been a matter of historical knowledge for years past. We are not anxious to have a forward policy in the Persian Gulf to acquire new territory, or to disturb the status quo, but if the status quo is going to be disturbed by others then we must undoubtedly use our resources to maintain the position we have in the Persian Gulf. Part of the status quo is that we have entered into treaty obligations with the Sheikh of Koweit, and in any negotiations which there may be or in any changes which may take place it is an obligation upon us to see our treaty obligations towards the Sheikh of Koweit in maintaining his position are fulfilled. That is what I would say on the two points the right hon. Gentleman has raised, and I hope, at any rate, that what I have said has made clear, not only what the limits of our position are, not only what the limits of our action must be, but also the limits within which we think we can do something to maintain British trade interests, and to maintain what hitherto has been regarded as the status quo in the Persian Gulf.

From that I would pass to a very different question which the right hon. Gentleman raised—that of the Canadian reciprocity negotiations. He asked what instructions we had sent or what instruc- tions we intended to send to Mr. Bryce at Washington. We have not so far sent instructions, and we do not propose to send any instructions to Mr. Bryce, except to approve most cordially and entirely of everything he has done. Here again the right hon. Gentleman commented upon certain disadvantages which he thought might arise from the course of things which have taken place between Canada and the United States. I did not gather what conclusions he himself meant to draw from his own comments as to what diplomatic action we ought to have taken—I am speaking strictly with reference to the Foreign Office—through our Ambassador at Washington in the course of these negotiations. Canada was acting within her statutory rights in dealing with her own tariff.


I thought more information ought to have been given through the diplomatic channels to our manufacturers as to what the effect of these negotiations was, but they knew nothing about them.


I will say exactly what Mr. Bryce did. The Canadian Ministers—Mr. Fielding and Mr. Paterson—arrived at Washington on 6th January, and they were introduced by Mr. Bryce to the President on the following day. That was the action Mr. Bryce took when they arrived. It was an action which obviously Mr. Bryce was right in taking. Canadian Ministers went to negotiate on something which was entirely within their own competence, and Mr. Bryce, as the British Ambassador, introduced them, as British subjects. [MR. BALFOUR: "Hear, hear."] In that, at any rate, the right hon. Gentleman agrees with what Mr. Bryce did. What did he do subsequently? Mr. Bryce kept closely in touch with the Canadian Ministers during the course of the negotiations. He did not take part actually in the negotiations as between the Canadian Ministers and the United States Ministers, but he kept in close touch with the Canadian Ministers, who kept him informed as far as it was possible in negotiations of such complexity of detail of what passed. Mr. Bryce, in his discussion with them, says:— No opportunity was lost in the course of the negotiations of reminding the Canadian Ministers of the regard which it was right and fitting they should have to Imperial interests, while also it was their obvious duty to do their best for Canadian interests, and such reminders found on every occasion a frank and cordial response. I think Mr. Bryce was fulfilling in that the duties of a British Ambassador. We have to bear in mind there were both Canadian and British interests. He kept in close touch with the Canadian Ministers, bearing in mind that they had to have regard to Canadian interests, but from time to time and in the course of negotiations practically saying, "British trade may be affected in such and such a way by what you are doing; are you sure in helping Canadian interests you are not doing an injury to British interests?" And the Canadian Ministers invariably received what he said in a sympathetic spirit. That practically is what Mr. Bryce's action was, and what we propose to approve.


The right hon. Gentleman has not answered my question. I think I said I agreed that of course assistance should be offered to Canadian Ministers by the British Ambassador, but I said the British Ambassador ought to have kept the Home Government, and the Home Government ought to have kept the Home manufacturers, informed of all the details of the arrangements—at any rate, at the earliest possible moment—by which their interests might be affected.


I ought to have said—it was my intention—that I cordially recognise the way in which the right hon. Gentleman spoke of Mr. Bryce. He made no attack or criticism on him. I should like to cordially recognise that, all the more so because, although I think so far as his own bench is concerned either here or elsewhere, that has been the tone adopted in regard to Mr. Bryce, there have been attacks made on Mr. Bryce. I therefore recognise cordially that he himself makes no attack on Mr. Bryce. It was the desire, I think, by both parties to the negotiations—the Canadian Ministers and the United States Ministers—that the negotiations should be kept secret while they were taking place. It would have been impossible while they were taking place, even if Mr. Bryce had telegraphed the whole of the details, for us to have consulted British manufacturers; but the Embassy did all through make an examination as far as it could—the time was exceeding short—of what was likely to be the principal effect upon British trade, an examination not for the purpose of delaying the negotiations, but for the purpose of pointing out to the Canadians from time to time what were the points which might be regarded by them. The right hon. Gentleman says we did not consult British manufacturers. At what stage were we to consult them? We could not do it while the negotiations were going on, and I understand that the Board of Trade, since the details have been received, has been engaged in examining them from the point of view of British trade. The Embassy did the utmost in its power in that direction while the negotiations were taking place. There was only one other things we could have done, and that I would not have done under any circumstances. On this matter Canada was acting entirely within her own statutory rights. We could have forbidden her to conclude an arrangement with the United States, which was entirely in her statutory rights, until we had had the whole thing over here, and until British manufacturers had considered it; but that was a thing we certainly would not have done. Yet, unless we had done it, I do not see what more possibly we could have done. The commercial experts at the Embassy were in touch with the Canadian Ministers and kept their eye on British trade interests, commenting on them with the Ministers as the negotiations were taking place, and these comments were received very sympathetically. I do not see what more could have been done. Unless the conclusion which the right hon. Gentleman would have us draw from his criticism is that we ought to have done our best to prohibit the negotiations being concluded until we had made them public and considered them over here, I do not see what inference he wishes us to draw from the criticism he made on the action of the Government on this point.

The right hon. Gentleman said he foresaw difficulties—difficulties under the dual interpretation of the most-favoured-nation clause, the interpretation by the United States of that clause being different to the wider interpretation placed upon it by us. But there had been difficulties long before the Canadian reciprocity negotiations had taken place about the interpretation of that clause. There may be difficulties again, and I do not wish to underrate the fact that the interpretation of that clause may give rise to diplomatic difficulties. But the Canadian reciprocity negotiations will not be the origin of those difficulties. We have had these difficulties before with regard to the United States treaties with Cuba and South American republics. They may come again. The Canadian reciprocity negotiations therefore are not their cause or their origin. I do not know whether they will even constitute a serious contri- bution to the difficulties. Anyhow, they are a mere incident in possible difficulties with regard to interpretation that have existed for some time past, and with which we may again be confronted. They are difficulties which concern other nations besides ourselves in their trade relations with the United States—difficulties which arise between the United States and other nations, but they are not difficulties specially germane or peculiar to or caused by the Canadian reciprocity negotiations. The right hon. Gentleman, towards the end of his speech, spoke strongly on the subject of Preference, and commented with great satisfaction on the fact that Sir Wilfrid Laurier had, in his most recent speech, declared that he adhered to the policy of Canadian Preference. By that I understood him to mean the Preference which Canada now gives in her own tariff to British trade. That is one side of it, and that is a side which is within his power; the side on which I understood him to speak.


Clearly not, if I may say so, because what I especially dwelt on was that he was going to bring up this question before the Imperial Conference. That clearly implies what we were going to do, and not what they are going to do.


My recollection is that Canadian Ministers have in recent days more than once declared their adherence to the policy of Preference, and said that they gave that Canadian Preference irrespective of what we might do. I think I am right in saying that Mr. Fielding, in commenting on the Canadian reciprocity negotiations with the United States, declared, without any reference to the Imperial Conference, that they intended to preserve the British Preference, and that in the reciprocity negotiations they retained full liberty to do what they pleased with regard to that Preference.


The existing Preference.


The existing British Preference. There is no party in Canada which is against the existing Preference which Canada now gives to British goods. There is no such party at the present moment, but if we had embarked so far on the policy of Preference that Preference had been made an obstacle to the reciprocity negotiations with the United States, does anybody believe there would not have already been a powerful party in Canada which would have been opposed to the policy of Preference? The worst service we could have done to this country and to the relations between ourselves and Canada would have been to attempt to impede the policy of reciprocity, and if the declarations which have been made with regard to Preference are satisfactory to right hon. Gentlemen opposite you may depend upon it it is simply because we have been careful not to interfere with the fiscal independence of Canada, and not to put forward any policy of Preference between Great Britain and Canada which would be an obstacle to reciprocity negotiations between Canada and the United States. Diplomatic difficulties the right hon. Gentleman sees to be ahead, but he cannot really, without having followed Canadian affairs very closely in the Canadian Parliament in recent years, be aware of the diplomatic difficulties which are, happily, now not ahead but behind. Had it not been for the devotion and tact of Mr. Bryce, and the attention he has given to Canadian affairs, we might have been face to face any time within the last few years with a demand from Canada for a diplomatic representative of her own at the Embassy at Washington, and that would have been a diplomatic difficulty in comparison with which everything the right hon. Gentleman has forecast to-day would be insignificant. I think more than once, but, certainly, once, in the last few years Sir Wilfrid Laurier has been confronted in the Canadian Parliament with a demand for more diplomatic independence, and even with a definite demand for providing a direct medium whereby the Government in Canada might advise the British Ambassador at Washington. That would mean a Canadian representative at the Embassy at Washington. Sir Wilfrid Laurier resisted that demand successfully in the Canadian Parliament, and he has done it because he has been able to emphasise the point to the assistance which Mr. Bryce has given to Canadian representatives, and to show that under no possible diplomatic conditions could Canada be better served than at present. I would like to quote to the House what Sir Wilfrid Laurier said about a year ago on this point, in reply to one of the many requests on this matter. He said:— There was a time, perhaps twenty years ago, when if my hon. Friend had made the motion he has now made— —that was for a separate representative in the Embassy— I would have been strongly inclined to vote for it That shows at any rate that in saying there are certain difficulties behind us in this matter I am not conjuring up something which never existed, because Sir Wilfrid Laurier himself says there was a time, twenty years ago, when he might have been strongly inclined to vote for separate representation at the Embassy. Sir Wilfrid went on to say:— But I may say, in the present condition of things, that my ideas on this subject have been very much modified. If we had an attaché at Washington, I do not know that it would be possible for more attention to be paid to the business of Canada than if paid to it by the present occupant of the office. Mr. Bryce has taken unsparing pains to give Canadian affairs as much attention as could been given to them by a native Canadian. First of all he did one thing that was not done by any of his predecessors. As soon as he became Ambassador he visited Canada, going to Ottawa and some of the other large cities and to the country to familiarise himself with all the issues between Canada and the United states. The result has been that in all our relations with that country, if anything has not turned out well, no blame can be attached to Mr. Bryce, because he has taken no action with regard to Canada, except after ample conference, and with the full sanction of the Canadian authorities. I do not believe that if we had an attaché at Washington, we could improve very much the conditions that exist at the present moment. I do not know that it will always be so; perhaps a time will come when we shall think it advantageous to have somebody to take charge of our diplomatic business at Washington, but so long as the conditions continue to be what they are at this moment, I do not think that this want will be seriously felt. I think it is impossible to exaggerate the services which Mr. Bryce has rendered and which induced Sir Wilfrid Laurier to meet that demand in the Canadian Parliament in that way. When the right hon. Gentleman was speaking of diplomatic difficulties ahead I could not help thinking that we had escaped diplomatic difficulties far greater than any which he indicated. The services of Mr. Bryce with regard to Canada have been such that most of the questions—nearly all the questions—between Canada and the United States which might have caused friction have been satisfactorily settled, and he has done it in a way which has not only earned the gratitude of Canada, but which has been appreciated in the United States. His action with regard to the Protection and Preservation of Food Fishes Agreement, 1908, the Demarcation of International Boundaries between the United States and Canada Agreement in 1909, and other Agreements, including the Boundary Waters and questions arising along the Boundary between Canada and the United States, and now, lastly, the Reciprocity Agreement. Bearing in mind his action in regard to all these matters surely I was justified in saying the other day it has become an understood thing that when Canadian Ministers go to Washington they should receive assistance from Mr. Bryce. On every occasion, including this last, I believe that assistance has been given in a way which has been in both British and Canadian interests, and the result has been that during recent years, especially since Mr. Bryce has been at Washington, not merely have our relations with the United States been increasingly friendly and cordial, but I believe the relations between the great Dominion of Canada and ourselves were never better than they are to-day. If I am asked what instructions we have to send to Mr. Bryce, I say we have nothing to send except to say that we entirely approve of what he has done, and I believe in all that he has done throughout this, as well as in what we have done and what we have abstained from doing, and some of the things which speakers on the other side seem to infer we ought to have abstained from doing, we have served in the best and highest sense Imperial interests and Imperial unity.

Colonel YATE

moved, "That Item Class II., Vote 5 (Foreign Office), be reduced by £100."

The Committee will permit me, perhaps, to say a few words regarding the Baghdad Railway and certain of our interests in Persia. I do not intend, on any account, to ask for information the giving of which would be incompatible with the public interests. But we all know that certain negotiations are going on, and we have had no information about those negotiations, as to which there need be no undue secrecy. If Russia, Germany, and Turkey know that the British public is alive to the interests involved, I think it will certainly make them more careful and will strengthen the hands of the British Government. We saw in the papers a day or two ago that there were certain British negotiations going on with Turkey with regard to the last section of the Baghdad Railway line from Baghdad down to the Gulf, but that section is the one section that is of comparatively small interest to us. We are comparatively independent of that section at the present time, as we already have concessions with regard to river steamers by which we can send our British and Indian goods up to Baghdad, and it is about Indian goods that I, as an old Indian officer, am most specially concerned. We can send our goods by another route up to Baghdad, but the section we are abso- lutely dependent upon is that section of the Baghdad Railway running north to a place called Sadijeh, some twenty or thirty miles further up north of Baghdad, and thence by the branch line to. Khanikin. All traffic which is too heavy or too bulky for mule or camel transport must go by sea to Busreh and thence by river steamers to Baghdad, and along the road to Khanikin on the Persian frontier before it can be got into Persia. When the Baghdad Railway is built these goods will have to go by this railway from Baghdad to Khanikin. It is on this section of the railway that all that traffic, now worth a million or more a year, must travel in the future. So far as British and Indian trade is concerned, therefore, it is necessary that there should be some stipulations. In answer to my question yesterday the right hon. Gentleman said:— I would refer the hon. Member to Article 24 of the 'Cahier des Charges' attached to the Baghdad Railway Convention of March, 1903, which stipulates that all tariffs, whether general, special, proportional, or differential, shall be applied to all passengers and consigners of goods without distinction. The Article further provides that all such tariffs must receive the approval of the Ottoman Government, who are hound to prohibit all adverse treatment of British subjects in matters of commerce. His Majesty's Government will, of course, take steps if they are required to claim that the stipulation for fair treatment should be observed."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th March, 1911, cols, 1007–1008]. The right hon. Gentleman was asked if the article in question prevents the imposition of preferential rates, but he was not able to give a definite reply to that. Therefore, with regard to British interests in the Baghdad Railway, I think it will be acknowledged that it is not only in the section from Baghdad town down to the Gulf that our interests lie, but in the province of Baghdad to the north of the town of Baghdad, which includes the branch line to Khanikin.

There is another point which we must always bear in mind, and that is that our interests in the Baghdad province are of far longer standing to those of any other country. Our political Resident is of far older standing and has a far superior position to the Consul-Generals of the other Powers. Our interests, and especially our Indian interests, comprise not only the ancient trade between India and Mesopotamia, but there is also all the Pilgrim traffic between India and the Holy places at Kerbela and Nejef to be considered, as well as the large trade with Persia through Baghdad. Negotiations are going on between Germany and Russia regarding the junction of the German line with the Russian line at Khani- kin We have not only to see that our trade is protected on the German portion of the line, but also on the Russian portion. That brings me to the proposed Russian Railway through Persia. In out arrangement with regard to Persia of August, 1907, the two Governments of Great Britain and Russia recorded their desire for the permanent establishment of equal advantages for the trade and industry of all nations, but we have no information as to whether that recorded desire will really safeguard our trade with Persia. The line is said to be, and is called by its promoters an international line, but it has already met with considerable opposition in Russia itself, from the merchants of Moscow and others who think their trade will be undermined, but so far as one can judge it really looks as if this line was calculated to give access to Russian goods to the markets of Central and Southern Persia rather than to give access to British and Indian goods to Eastern and Northern Persia.

First of all, I understand British goods are not to be allowed to pass through in transit from Batoum, in the Black Sea, into Persia by this proposed line. Secondly, there is at present a considerable trade in British goods with Tabriz and North-East Persia by caravan from the Turkish port of Trebizond on the Black Sea, but Russia, I understand, refuses to permit the building of a railway along this route to join up with the Trans-Persian line, by which this trade might be developed. The question is, What safeguard have we that the same spirit will not be shown towards the entry of British trade into Persia by the Baghdad Khanikin route on the South-West, and on this point I trust we shall be given some reliable information. The whole future of the British and Indian trade with Persia depends largely on this point. As to the proposed junction of this Trans-Persian line with the Indian railways, the question is so much in the clouds at present that I need not pursue it further, but I would just point out that the Russian and Indian railways have different gauges—the Russian gauge is five feet, the Indian five feet six inches, and where is the break of gauge to be? If to the south of Yezd all the advantage will be with Russia; she will have the populous and productive parts of Persia opened up to her, while to India will be left the desert. It looks, therefore, as if the Russian promoters are seeking to make what must be regarded as a Persian State railway subserve Russian ends, and that the so-called International question is only a catchword.

There is one other point that concerns Persia, and that is the Muscat arms traffic. I have here the Muscat Consular Report for last year, 1909–10, just published. In this it is stated that owing to the measures taken by the British and Persian Governments and the Sheikhs on the littoral of the Persian Gulf to restrict the traffic, the export of arms and ammunition has declined to a great extent. This has resulted in a corresponding reduction in the import to Muscat, and the total value of imports for the year was: Belgium £35,000, united Kingdom £23,000; Germany £21,000, France £15,000, Roumania £8,000. Belgium heads the list and Great Britain and Germany come next. France only sent £15,000, or under 15 per cent. of the total imports, and yet I understand that at The Hague Conference, when other European Powers were willing to co-operate in putting a stop to this traffic, France was the only country to hold out, and by this dog-in-the-manger policy, despite the smallness of her interests, is thus largely the cause of the present raiding and plundering and lawlessness throughout south-eastern Persia and the Afghan borderland. It is due to the selfish policy in this matter pursued by France that the British and Indian Governments are put to all the expense of their naval operations for the suppression of gun-running from Muscat to the Persian coast, which Persia by herself is utterly unable to prevent. Every outlaw, both in Persia and on the Afghan border, is now getting armed with modern small-bore rifles of precision to the disturbance of the peace in all the country round. The Persian Government we know are helpless, and yet this traffic in arms is just as disturbing to Persia as it is to our own Indian borderland. Why, therefore, have we done nothing to assist Persia in the matter in some really practical manner? I have here a telegram from "The Times" of 4th March, headed, "Afghans Proceeding to the Coast":— Advices from the south show that Afghans are proceeding to the coast in unusually large numbers, presumably in expectation of the arrival of consignments of arm". Six hundred are in the neighbourhood of Bam, and a much larger force is said to be nearer Baluchistan. In the present temper of the tribesmen the situation gives vise to anxiety, as the Indian Government's central Persian telegraph line runs through this zone. These Afghan raiders are invading Persia against the will of the Persian Government, and yet we all know that the Persian Government have not got a man in the whole of Southern Persia who dares to oppose them. Why do we not, therefore, assist the Persians to stop this invasion instead of waiting till these bands of invaders reach the coast, where our men-of-war have to deal with them at great disadvantage. I remember when I was Chief Commissioner of Baluchistan, a band of raiders invaded Mekran, and captured and occupied a little fort there. We, without delay, assaulted and captured that fort, and killed or took prisoner every raider in it; and the troops then marched on into Persia, and, acting in conjunction with the Persian governor and the Persian troops, reduced the raiders to order, and the Baluchistan frontier has been undisturbed in that way ever since. Why has not the same precedent been followed since? As the Persian local Governor is powerless to act alone, why have we not co-operated with him. If I remember right, an Indian regiment was once sent to Robat, on the Persian frontier, for the very purpose of stopping these Afghan bands of gun-runners, and yet when it got to the frontier that regiment was prohibited from crossing the Persian frontier, and had to sit idle on one side of a boundary pillar, while the Afghan bands marched up with their rifles on the other side.

8.0 P.M.

That is neither business for Persia nor for England. If France, in the face of all Europe, continues this dog in the manger policy, and, on the ground of an old commercial treaty with Muscat of fifty years ago, refuses to permit the Sultan of Muscat to put any restriction on the import of arms into his own capital, a stop ought to be put to this traffic, which is so dangerous both to India and Persia, in other ways.

One word as to the hardships and sufferings of our poor sailors engaged in putting down this gun-running. No one who has not been in the Persian Gulf can have the faintest idea of the terrible heat of the summer there. You might as well put 100 men into an iron oven as into an iron gunboat to serve there. There is one good vessel, the "Sphynx," a wooden ship with large portholes, which is the only vessel fitted for this service. A sister vessel belonging to the Indian Marine at one time had guns put into her and was ready for the work, but owing to the Admiralty refusing to allow any Indian Marine ship to carry guns they had to be taken out again. Let the guns be put back into these ships. There should be no jealousy' because one is a naval ship and the other belongs to the Indian Marine. It would be much better if we could have some of our old Indian Navy boats back again in the Persian Gulf—some good, solid wooden vessels which are quite corn-solid wooden vessels which are quite competent to deal with Arab dhows and local tribesmen. Let us have wooden vessels for service on the gun-running blockade in the hot weather. I should say, given these boats and given assistance on land to the Persian Government, I see no reason whatever why we should not be able to put down this dangerous traffic. We have had more than one of our Indo-European telegraph stations and the houses of the resident signallers threatened by these Afghan bands of armed men. This gun-running is a very great danger to us, and it is absolutely necessary that we should take steps in conjunction with Persia to put a stop to it at the earliest possible moment. The Persian Government is helpless in the matter, and it depends on us whether we are to risk the cutting of the Central Persian Telegraph line and the discontinuance of all telegraphic communication with Persia between Europe and India. If we do nothing to put a stop to this we have no one but ourselves to blame. I therefore ask that this question may be taken into consideration and any information which the right hon. Gentleman can give on the subject we shall be very pleased to get.


It is very welcome indeed to me, and I think to many Members on this side of the House, to find on the other side so great a solicitude for the welfare of Persia as has been manifested by the hon. Member. I think we may congratulate ourselves also that the Leader of the Opposition gave us a lead in venturing upon this very delicate field which is now occupied by questions affecting the near East. I feel myself that in venturing on this question we ought to feel a very grave responsibility, and before we do so we ought to make up our minds that we will set before ourselves two conditions at least—first, that we will say nothing which can possibly be taken as offensive to any friendly Power, and, secondly, that we should purify our minds of any desire for making party points in a question of foreign relations. This is the first chance for a very long time that the House has had of expressing to the Foreign Secretary in what way it supports his policy. An opportunity for the expression of opinion is very welcome, and the loss of it to some extent last year was keenly felt, and if this is one of the allotted days of Supply it is very regrettable that the time, all too short, should be encroached upon to so great an extent as it is to-day. I should like to say, not at all by way of criticism but by way of assuring the Foreign Secretary, that he has very active and very keen support for his avowed policy, and that it seems to some of us on this side that there are respects in which that policy is not carried out so fully as we should be prepared to back it and see it carried out. I entirely agree with the framework of that policy, but, if I may quote the cynicism which Talleyrand applied to woman, it is a good idea rather imperfectly carried out—a cynicism which Talleyrand failed to establish, but which I hope I shall not fail to establish, because I speak with a great sense of responsibility in regard to one or two points in connection with the Foreign Secretary's policy. It is, I believe, an axiom that the Foreign Secretary is a trustee for the welfare of the nation, and as such a trustee he cannot go to any extent beyond the views held by the people. I should like to assure him that in this policy, which is a policy of peace and friendliness, he will be well entitled to go further and to act with more vigour in some particular directions.

To come at once to my illustrations. They are drawn from the field that we have been dwelling upon this evening, the Persian question, the Turkish question, and that question which is inextricably bound up with it, the German question. I wish to assure the right hon. Baronet of the feeling which is widely held on this side of the House that the Persian question is in no sense a party question. We have seen in the speech just delivered that there is unanimity upon the main objects of the policy of the present Government. We all have some slight notion, at least, of the strategical aspects of the Persian question, and I am glad to think from that speech that on both sides of the House there is felt a very keen interest also in an ancient civilisation and in the value to the world of preserving, if possible, that civilisation, and seeing it prosper still further. There is no clash whatever to-day, happily, between sentiment and interest in the question either of Persia or of Turkey. There have been unhappy periods in the past when there was a great clash of sentiment and interests, but it is a very happy feature that to-day there is none at all. Two points have given rise to some disquietude on this side, and I daresay upon the other side of the House, namely, the ultimatum, as it was called, last year, and the long negotiations which took place in connection with the Bank of Persia and the City house of Seligmann. There is a very keen desire felt in the House that the principle on which the Government should proceed is a desire to see the prosperity of Persia and a desire to bear in mind the interest and the value of the Persian point of view, and a desire to consider what is first of all for the good and the probable prosperity of Persia. There are objections raised, of course, to the whole idea of perpetuating the state of Persia. There is the argument that Persia cannot govern herself. I do not desire to speak on any occasion without my book. I have never been in Persia, and I offer no opinion on that, but I am very much struck by the fact that some close observers who know Persia very well, and some who are there at present who not very long ago felt entire misgiving as to the capacity of the Persians to revive themselves at all, have within the last year, and on further acquaintance with the Persians, changed their minds, and are very hopeful indeed.

There is the other argument that inevitably, in course of time, there must be encroachment upon Persia by the Russian Empire, but I see no inconsistency at all between friendship for Persian prosperity and friendship for Russia. The interests of the world are increasingly commercial, and in many senses decreasingly military. The free commercial routes which can be established and will be established through Turkey are increasingly satisfying the legitimate ambition of the Great Powers, and make it possible that the interests of our friendship with Russia, as well as with Persia, are perfectly compatible. There is an index that I would suggest for the success of our policy in regard to Persia, and that is the self-respect of Persia. I think there is particular need to be very cautious in conducting negotiations with such a State as that. One needs to be very cautious lest the way in which things are put should do something to injure the prestige and self-respect of the Persians. I know that no one is more capable than Sir George Barclay of putting things in the right way. This House would support a very great care for the self-respect of such a State as Turkey or Persia, and there is some danger that tendencies or prejudices which are in some cases the peculiar quality of Englishmen, may give rise to expressions which are misunderstood by such people as the Persians. I am sure the Foreign Secretary is glad that the House should cordially support a very tender regard for the self-respect of a Power which she desires to see prosper.

To come to Turkey, it suits our book that Turkey should be prosperous, as it does that Persia should be prosperous. If Turkey is a civilised State, we may even readily, as we did in the case of Japan, abandon some of the rights which we hold under the capitulations, and we shall be glad as a nation to do so if and when the proper time arrives. There was a danger to the world arising from the condition of Turkey as the sick man. There is always a danger in every unclaimed inheritance to the amity of the sick man's relations, and there was such a danger in the case of Turkey, and Turkey's recovery is a great boon to the world.

And it being a quarter-past Eight of the clock, and there being Private Business set down by direction of the Chairman of Ways and Means, under Standing Order No. 8, further Proceeding was postponed without Question put.

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