HC Deb 18 February 1920 vol 125 cc867-70

asked the Prime Minister if the Inter-Allied Council has decided to maintain Turkish rule at Constantinople, and whether he will arrange that the British public shall receive as much and as prompt information as the French public?

54. Lieut.-Colonel Sir S. HOARE

asked the Prime Minister whether he can make any statement to reassure the Armenian and Christian people of the Turkish Empire that the pledges and promises given to them will be strictly carried out?

56. Colonel P. WILLIAMS

asked the Prime Minister whether His Majesty's Government stand to the pledges they gave during the War, and repeated recently in both Houses of Parliament, that the Armenian and other subject races should be delivered from the dominion of Turkey?

57. Mr. O'CONNOR

asked the Prime Minister what part of Armenian territory it is proposed to leave under the domination of Turkey; whether the recent massacres and expulsions of Armenians are sufficient reasons for so leaving those territories; and, if not, whether he will say why the promises made by His Majesty's Government during the War are not to be carried out?


asked the Prime Minister whether, as part of the treaty with Turkey, he will see that the Christian races which are still loft in subjection are secured the right of carrying arms to protect themselves if their allies in the late War fail to secure them protection?

Mr. BONAR LAW (Leader of the House)

I do not think that it is necessary to assure my hon. Friends and the House that the protection of the races referred to in the questions is one of the most vital subjects to be decided in the Turkish Treaty, and the steps necessary to secure that protection are being considered at the Conference, but it is not possible to report from day to day the progress of the discussions now-proceeding. In consequence, however, of the massacres in Armenia, and with the view of putting a stop to them, our representative in Constantinople was authorised to announce that the Peace Conference did propose to leave the Turks in Constantinople, but that, unless the massacres ceased, the decision of the Peace Conference would probably be modified, to the detriment of Turkey.

Lieut.-Colonel A. MURRAY

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this leakage of information, which emanated from London, is constantly occurring, and can he take steps to put a stop to it?


At the very beginning of the Conference that subject was taken up by the representatives of all the Allied countries, who recognised that nothing could be worse for the Peace Conference than that leakage, and we have done our best to prevent it.


Will the right hon. Gentleman explain how he reconciles the answer he has just given with the reply which he gave to the Noble Lord (Lord E. Cecil) last Thursday, in which he stated that an inquiry with regard to the fate of Constantinople was about the last question he could answer until the whole Turkish Treaty was finished?


I do not think it is very difficult to reconcile. My own view, and I believe the view of the delegates at the Peace Conference, is that it would be undesirable to make public any part of a Treaty which has been arranged until the whole has been completed. It is very undesirable, for instance, that the Turks should learn one part of it without knowing what the whole is. But, on the other hand, this breaking out of these massacres in Armenia raises another question. We then had to decide whether or not this announcement, coupled with the statement I have made, might not be useful in preventing these massacres.


Is the Government satisfied that any pressure put upon Constantinople is likely to be effective, seeing that the massacres are being carried out by Mustapha Kamil, a Nationalist leader, and his troops, who do not acknowledge the authority of the Sultan?


We recognise that it may not be as effective as we desire, but we think it will have some effect, because, to put it mildly, there is some connection between the Nationalist movement and the Turkish Government, and our statement ought to have effect with anyone who desires the continuance of Turkish nationality.


Does not my right hon. Friend think it would be more consonant with the traditions of the House it the announcement as to the fate of Constantinople could have been made in answer to a question in this House rather than communicated to Admiral de Robeck, and through him to the papers, and reached hon. Members in that way?


I think there is no ground for any suggestion that there is want either of precedent or of courtesy to the House. The decision to send this message to Admiral de Robeck was taken with a view to preventing these massacres. It was at Constantinople alone that it could have any effect.

Sir J. D. REES

If the massacres are committed, as is now stated, independently of the Central Government at Constantinople, why is the Sultan to be threatened with punishment by expulsion from his capital?


I think my hon. Friend misunderstands. It is not a case of expulsion. It is a case of the whole Turkish nationality. Our view is that there is a hope that this statement might influence the Turks.


Is my right hon. Friend aware that the news that the Turks are to be left in possession of Constantinople will be received with very grave disappointment and resentment by many thousands of people in the United Kingdom?


That is a matter for argument.

53. Mr. N. MACLEAN

asked the Prime Minister whether he will invite the League of Nations to assume the duty of delivering the subject races of Turkey, and of protecting and guiding them until they are in a position to be wholly responsible for their own government and safety?


I do not think the hon. Member's suggestion is practicable.