HC Deb 16 February 1920 vol 125 cc519-22
Lord ROBERT CECIL (by Private Notice)

asked the Prime Minister whether (1) it is true as stated in the press that the Allies have abandoned their demand for the surrender of German war criminals: (2) it is true that a Note has been received from the United States Government expressing dissent from the last Allied proposals made for the settlement of the Adriatic question and complaining that they were not consulted before such proposals were made; (3) it is true that the Allies have decided to leave the Turks in possession of Constantinople and a large part of Armenia including Cilicia?


I must ask my noble Friend and the House not to expect an answer at the present stage to any questions which are under the consideration of the Peace Conference from day to day. The premature publication or discussion of parts of a settlement dealing with peace with Turkey as a whole can have no other effect than to make the work of the Peace Conference much more difficult. As regards the demand for the surrender of war criminals a communication has been addressed to the German Government and this will be published as soon as we know that it has been put into the hands of the German Government.


Can my right hon. Friend not give us any information, particularly on the last part of the question? I would not have put the question except that it has been stated very positively in telegrams which appear in the Press this morning from Paris and Berlin.


Yes. I saw the communications in the Press. The Government and the Conference regret it, and could not understand it. But there is a great difference between absolutely unauthorised statements, which may or may not be true, which appear in the Press. and discussions in the House of Commons. As regards the last question, obviously till the whole of the Turkish Treaty is finished that is the last question I could possibly answer.


In view of these rumours, which alarm and shock public opinion, will the Government adhere to the policy several times announced by the Head of the Government, and I think by the right hon. Gentleman himself, that he does not intend to return to the barbarous rule of the Turk, Christian peoples who have been massacred?


I am sure the hon. I Member and the House will realise that we would gladly answer any questions which we can answer without endangering the public interest. A Treaty cannot be made by the House of Commons, it can only be made by representatives entrusted with the task by the House.


Is there any presumption that the statement is true because it appears in the Press?


I quite recognise the difficulty in which my right hon. Friend is placed and I am sure he will believe me that I do not wish to press him unduly, but may I ask him to take into consideration the very great public anxiety there is in certain quarters on the question raised in the last Question I put to him, and whether he will take the earliest opportunity of giving information to the House which will allay that anxiety?


I do not think it is possible for me to say more than I have said. Nobody knows better than my noble Friend that we must make a Treaty as a whole. I cannot imagine anything worse than to state publicly that arrangements have been made on a particular part of it before the Turkish people themselves know what the total arrangement is.


Is it not a fact that only last week in this particular area fifteen hundred people were killed by the Young Turks, and unless we know where we are more people will be massacred?


All that is very deplorable, but I cannot see how a discussion on a possible Treaty is going to help them.


Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind, as regards the surrender of German criminals, that when the discussion came on last week in the House there was universal agreement that the German criminals should be given up subject only to questions of detail as to how they were to be treated?


I have said we have sent a formal Note to the German Government. I would gladly read it to the House now, but in our opinion it would not be courteous to do so until we knew that it was in the hands of the German Govern- ment. I believe that will be the case tonight, and the document itself, in that case, will probably be published in the Press to-morrow morning.


When these negotiations are finally completed, will the right hon. Gentleman be willing to issue a White Paper setting out in parallel columns on one side the final terms and on the other side the election pledges given by the Government?


The Prime Minister himself recommended some enterprising newspapers to take that course. I make the same recommendation now.

Lieut.-Colonel A. MURRAY

Will the Government publish, as soon as possible, the Note of the United States Government and the Government's reply?


My hon. and gallant Friend must know that nothing could be more discourteous than to publish one document when an exchange of Notes is taking place. We must wait until they are all completed.