HC Deb 23 February 1920 vol 125 cc1277-81
29. Major GLYN

asked the Prime Minister whether the general policy outlined in the late General Maude's proclamation, issued on the occupation of Baghdad on the 19th March, 1917, still remains the policy of the Government at the present time when the Turkish Treaty is under consideration, since that policy received international sanction by virtue of the Anglo-French Declaration of the 8th November, 1918; and whether, if this policy has undergone any modification, an opportunity will be given to this House to discuss the question before the Treaty is signed?


The policy of His Majesty's Government remains as it was described in the Anglo-French declaration of November, 1918, which was designed to give effect to the principles proclaimed by Sir Stanley Maude in March, 1917.

41. Sir F. HALL

asked the Prime Minister if, in view of the difficulty which has occurred in the case of Germany in securing the surrender of war criminals owing to the conclusion of peace without obtaining the necessary guarantees in the matter, arrangements will be made for the surrender of war criminals of Turkish nationality before the terms of peace with that country are finally settled?


I know of no means by which the suggestion of my hon. and gallant Friend could be carried out except as a condition of the Peace Treaty.


Are we to understand that the Government, having been under the impression that action could be taken against these war criminals, yet, on the other hand, are not, before ratifying the Peace Treaty with Turkey, going to take the necessary precautions to see that the fiasco with regard to Germany is not repeated with regard to Turkey?


I can only repeat what I say, that I know of no means by which such provision can be made except as part of the Treaty.


Surely the Government ought to be able to find out some way of dealing with this matter.


Will the right hon. Gentleman lay on the Table the three interim Reports and the final Report of the Government Committee on the breach of laws of war, in order that the House may see the accusations that have been brought against the Germans and the Turks?


That suggestion is deserving of consideration, and I will have it considered.


Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the propriety of putting the curfew law into operation in Constantinople?


asked the Prime Minister what are the terms of the announcement which has been made by the Viceroy of India on behalf of His Majesty's Government to the people of India regarding Constantinople; when was the publication of this announcement authorised; and whether the Viceroy has been instructed to modify the announcement in the event of the Turkish Government failing to put a stop to the Armenian massacres, and to punish those responsible in accordance with the policy declared by the Leader of the House?


The Secretary of State for India cabled to the Viceroy the exact terms of the reply given in the House of Commons on the 18th February, and on the 21st a message was sent by the Government of India to the Secretary of State announcing that the following communique had been issued in India:—"An official statement was made in the House of Commons that Admiral de Robeck, British High Commissioner at Constantinople, has been authorised to publish the news that it is proposed by Peace Conference to leave the Turks in Constantinople, but this decision might have to be modified if further massacres occurred."


Does the right hon. Gentleman consider it consistent with the rights and dignity of this House that that intimation should be made to the Viceroy, the right hon. Gentleman having stated this day week that such an intimation as that was about the last thing to which he could give publicity in connection with the Turkish treaty?


I do not quite understand the point of my right hon. Friend's question. Does he suggest that it is either desirable or possible that statements made in the House of Commons should be confined to Great Britain and should not be circulated in India?


As the right hon. Gentleman asks me a question my answer is that a statement of that kind should be made in the House of Commons in the first instance.


In view of the keen interest which is being taken in this matter could the right hon. Gentleman not see his way to have a discussion earlier than was stated by the Prime Minister in answer to a question last week?


I recognise the force of that question. Obviously it must be a disadvantage to have an agitation proceeding without the full knowledge of the facts that will be obtained even from a discussion. On the other hand I am sure that the House will feel that it would not be fair for the Prime Minister, after having had the assistance of the Prime Ministers of other countries, to leave them for a day in order to attend a discussion here, but if it is possible on further consideration we should be quite ready to have a discussion, say on Thursday, and I could make an announcement on that subject to-morrow.

Major-General SEELY

In view of the fact that further massacres have taken place, and that it may be presumed that the decision may be modified, will no further decision be taken without this House having an opportunity of expressing its judgment?


That has been most clearly stated already. The decision reached by the Peace Conference was announced by the Prime Minister in answer to a question. He said that no steps would be taken by the Peace Conference or by the Government to alter the decision until a discussion took place. That pledge has been fulfilled.


May I ask whether the House may feel quite sure that nothing will have been done in India or elsewhere which will preclude the House from expressing a perfectly unbiased opinion on Monday next?


Nothing can be done by anyone that will preclude the House of Commons from expressing its opinion. I wish my Noble Friend and the House to realise that the Prime Minister and the Government took steps to make quite sure that the pledge given could be carried out; so much so that the Secretary of State for India, in addition to telegraphing, as he did earlier, the answer given by me, telegraphed also to the Viceroy the pledge given to the House of Commons.


May I ask whether we may take it that the Debate will take place on Thursday next?


I am sorry I did not make it plain. I do not think the House could expect us to ask the Peace Conference to stop its work while the Prime Minister attended here in order that we may have a discussion; hut if it looks as if the proceedings at the Peace Conference may make it possible to have a discussion on Thursday, we shall have it then, and I shall make an announcement to-morrow.


How does the right hon. Gentleman propose to introduce the discussion?


I have not considered that. It must be either on a Motion for the Adjournment or on a specific Motion. If the latter, a Motion will be put down, no doubt, by one of my right hon. Friends opposite.


Is it not a fact that the French Chamber, through its Foreign Affairs Committee, got an opportunity of discussing the policy of the French Government with regard to Constantinople? Is that Parliament to be the only one precluded from expressing its opinion on such a proposal until, by commitments of the Government, all freedom of action and all freedom of judgment have been taken away?


My hon. Friend is entirely in error. No discussion took place in the French Chamber until an announcement had been made by the French Prime Minister. The discussion here will take place under such circumstances as will give this House at least equal power with the French Chamber.

Lieut.-Colonel W. GUINNESS

Is it not; a fact that the British Government announced its intention to leave the Turks at Constantinople and to nationalise the Bosphorus and Dardanelles as long ago as the beginning of 1918, and has not this House had ample opportunity since then to discuss the question?

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