§ Sir D. MACLEAN
On a point of Order. It might be for the convenience of the Committee, in view of the fact that this, I think, is the first occasion on which these Estimates have been presented in their new form, if you could give us some guidance as to how you think that the Debate should proceed. As a rule, of course, we can select our Votes and get our issues on the separate Votes, but there is no intimation on the Order Paper how the Votes are to be taken. Hon. Members have to go to the White Paper for information as to what heads are to be taken. It is desired to-day, certainly on two occasions, to have the decision of the Committee. Perhaps you would inform the Committee 2224 what is your view as to the new procedure.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The right hon. Gentleman will recollect that in December last year, when the Votes were first presented in this new form, I drew the attention of the Committee to them, and particularly said that I was most anxious that the new form of Estimates should not take away from the Committee any of its rights to move and take a decision upon the reduction of any item. It is for that reason that I myself requested the War Office, in the presentation of this Vote, to put down the details which appear and which, if desired, I will read to the Committee. The sum of £10,000,000, which is the Vote before the Committee, is divided under the following heads:
|"Head I.—Maintenance of Standing Army||3,000,000|
|Head V.—Capital Accounts||1,000,000|
|Head IV.—War Office, Staff of Commands, &c.||1,000,000|
|Head II.—Territorial and Reserve Forces||1,000,000|
|Head III.—Educational, &c., Establishments and Working Expenses of Hospitals, Depôts, &c.||1,000,000|
|Head VI.—Terminal and Miscellaneous Charges and Receipts||2,000,000|
|Head VII.—Half - pay, Retired pay, Pensions and Civil Superannuation||1,000,000"|
§ That has been done in order to enable Members of the Committee to move reductions under the various heads, and the order of them has been arranged in accordance with the request of the Opposition, so that they may bring forward first the points which they desire to raise. With regard to to-day's proceedings in particular, I propose, first of all, to take an Amendment dealing with the expenditure in Mesopotamia, having been informed that is the first thing that the Committee desires to discuss. I understand that may be disposed of about 8 o'clock. If that be the case, I propose, following that, to take an Amendment for the reduction of the head dealing with the question of the scarlet uniform. If those two be disposed of, then any other matter will be open up till 11 o'clock.2225
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
Do you not think that it would be for the convenience of hon. Members if there appeared on the Order Paper to-day, instead of simply Vote on Account, the heads 1, 5, 4, 2, 3, 6 and 7, then we should have the whole of the information under one heading.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think that would be misleading. Every Member of the House has had circulated to him this Vote with the details, and, in accordance with custom, the Order Paper to-day refers to that statement.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
Could you inform us in what way you are going to put the question? Will it be the whole £10,000,000, or will you run through these headings? If you put the question of the whole £10,000,000, will you take the various reductions under the various heads which you have just mentioned?
§ The CHAIRMAN
Yes, that is what I intended to say. Although I put the question of the whole £10,000,000 to the Committee, I shall take, first, an Amendment for a reduction in respect of the expenditure in Mesopotamia.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
Do you intend to confine the Debate strictly to the question of Mesopotamia, or will you permit us, for example, to refer to Persia, which I think is brought in, and, if so, what other areas in Asia will it be admissible to discuss?
§ The CHAIRMAN
It would be to the advantage of the Committee, I think, to take a definite issue as far as possible and not to be too discursive. I do not say that there may not be analogies and references to other parts of the Near East—I must be guided in that matter by the way in which the Debate proceeds—but I understand that it is the desire to concentrate in the first place on the question of Mesopotamia.
If Mesopotamia is to be taken first, would it not be convenient if we could have read to us the telegram alleged to have been receivd this morning from Baghdad? Several hon. Members have searched the "Times" and the Daily Chronicle" for this telegram and can find no trace of it. 2226 I do not know what was the newspaper in which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for India said that it appeared this morning, but it would probably shorten the Debate and save a good deal of unnecessary discussion if we could have it read to us now.
§ The CHAIRMAN
That is not a point of Order. It is open to any Minister to rise if he desires in the first place to put certain information before the Committee.
§ Lord R. CECIL
I do not know whether I might venture to appeal to my right hon. Friend, but in view of what took place at question time, would it not be courteous to the Committee to read the statement to us?
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for INDIA (Mr. Montagu)
The Prime Minister intended to read the telegram, and, if hon. Members wish me to read it, I shall be very glad to do so. It is as follows:Acting Civil Commissioner made on 20th June following further announcement in regard to policy of His Majesty's Government in Mesopotamia:—His Majesty's Government having been entrusted with the mandate of Mesopotamia anticipate that the mandate will constitute Mesopotamia as independent State under guarantee of the League of Nations and subject to the mandate of Great Britain, that it will lay on them the responsibility for the maintenance of internal peace and external security, and will require them to formulate an organic law framed in consultation with the people of Mesopotamia and with due regard to the rights, wishes, and interests of all the communities of the country. The mandate will contain provisions to facilitate development of Mesopotamia as a self-governing State until such time as it can stand by itself, when the mandate will come to an end. The inception of this task His Majesty's Government have decided to entrust to Sir P. Cox, who will accordingly return to Baghdad in the autumn, and will resume his position on the termination of the existing military administration as Chief British Representative in Mesopotamia. Sir P. Cox will be authorised to call into being as provisional bodies a Council of State tinder an Arab President and a General Elective Assembly representative of, and freely elected by, the population of Mesopotamia. And it will be his duty to prepare, in consultation with the General Elective Assembly, the permanent organic law.'
§ Lord R. CECIL
May I ask whether, merely as a matter of form, there has been any communication to the Council of 2227 the League of Nations, or whether this has been arranged without that having been done?
§ The CHAIRMAN
As that is a matter of information, had it not better be pursued in the Debate which is to follow?
§ Mr. ASQUITH
I beg to move, "That Item Head I., Sub-head C [Forces in other Territories, £33,358,630] be reduced by £1,000,000."
The telegram which has just been read by the Secretary of State for India comes as a complete surprise to me, and probably to the majority of the Members of the Committee. I confess that, without further consideration, I should not like even to attempt to interpret what is its precise intention and effect, and I think we should be wise to initiate and carry on this Debate with the materials already before us, having regard to the Estimates which we are now asked to pass. One of the most striking features in the Army Estimates is that the total number of men it is proposed to take, exclusive, of course, of India, to constitute what I see is described in the White Paper as our Standing Army, is 338,000 men. Of these, no fewer than 167,000—that is, about a half—are to be stationed and employed to carry on their operations in territories outside the British Empire—over 16,000 on the Rhine, 32,000 in Egypt, 23,000 in Palestine, 22,700 in what is called "Constantinople"—as I understand, the Constantinople Command—and 70,500 in Mesopotamia. Although I am not going to travel beyond your ruling—that our immediate discussion must be concentrated on Mesopotamia—it is not irrelevant to point out that the total cost of these forces to be employed outside the Empire is put down under Head I. as £33,358,630. If you add the expenditure upon these forces which comes under other heads, then I think you must add at least another £11,000,000, as far as I can make out, which brings the aggregate total to £44,000,000. Further, in regard to that £44,000,000, the Estimates are based on the assumption that in three cases—the cases of Egypt, Palestine and Mesopotamia—the forces will be reduced by one-half in the course of the year. That appears on the face of the Estimates, and, in the case of Constantinople, provision is definitely made for six months only.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
The first six months of the financial year. If that assumption turns out to be incorrect, we must have in view, in respect of these various commitments, a far larger sum than £44,000,000, and £44,000,000, be it remembered—because I am afraid everyone does not remember it—which we are asked to vote for this extra-Imperial, or outside-the-Empire army, is something like £16,000,000 in excess of the total sum which was voted for the Army in all parts of the world in the year 1913–14. I must, I suppose, not ask—as if the issue had been rather wider I should certainly have been disposed to ask—one or two questions about the force in Constantinople. If the discussion is to be concentrated, and concentrated entirely on Mesopotamia, we must leave that—although I think it is very desirable to have information upon it—to a later stage. I am sure the Government will be willing to give us the information, which, I think, everybody desires on that point, and if they are, and the Committee agree, I should like to put two or three questions. Let me, therefore, with the permission of the Committee, put those questions. The whole force of what is called "Constantinople"—which I understand to mean the Constantinople Command—will include forces in Anatolia and Batum, and is 22,800, and the total sum asked for in the Estimates is £3,894,000. We are told…I am not sure we had it in answer to questions in the House, but since the Estimates were presented—that a substantial addition has been made.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
In the last fortnight it has been necessary to send troops, and troops are now on the way there. But those troops are not additional troops from the point of view of the Estimates. They are moved from other garrisons—some from Palestine and some from Egypt. For the purpose of accountancy, they do not increase the total.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
I only want to know. I am told they amount to something like four battalions. They are moved from other places. They are an additional force, as far as that area is concerned. What I think the Committee would like to know, and what the country would like to know, with regard to this force, what- 2229 ever be its precise composition, is what is it doing, what are its functions, and, above all, what will be its relation to the Greek force, which, we gather from the reports in the public press to-day, M. Venizelos has been authorised to put into active operation from Smyrna against the so-called Turkish Nationalists? We should very much like to know what the relation between our force and that force is going to be.
I should wish further to know whether there is any prospect, assuming this so-called Constantinople force becomes unnecessary, of it disappearing for accounting purposes from the public charge at the end of the first six months of the present financial year, which will be the 1st October next? No provision has been made for its maintenance in the Estimates, at any later date than that, and, of course, one would like to know, also, whether any further additions to it are at present in contemplation? Those questions I think it would be very desirable to have answered, in the general interest, at the earliest possible moment.
I pass to the subject which, as you have said, has been selected as the main, special issue of this preliminary part of our discussion, namely, Mesopotamia. I indicated my own view as to our proper policy in Mesopotamia in a speech which I made in the House on 25th March on the Third Reading of the Consolidated Fund Bill. I am not going to repeat what I said then. I strongly urged a policy of withdrawal and concentration—concentration, if possible, within—I will not say the Vilayet of Basra, but the zone of the Vilayet of Basra. During the three months which have since elapsed, as always happens in these cases, new troubles have arisen, encounters have taken place—a deplorable affair recently at Tel Afar, which led to the loss of gallant British officers and soldiers—and new obligations may have been incurred which make the execution of a clean-cut policy of withdrawal and concentration more difficult to-day. I still believe it to be a sound policy, both on financial and on political grounds, because what is the situation? Mesopotamia is a vague geographical expression. We have a land frontier there, as far as I can make out, of something like 2,000 miles. There are no definite boundaries. On the south you have a 2230 desert, which is peopled by a loose congeries of Arab nomads. On the north side you have the mountains, which are occupied by an equally loose, incoherent, indefinite body of Kurds, who descend from time to time from the mountain passes, and make a sweep of the surrounding country. There are no definite boundaries; in fact, you will never get them, if you are to treat Mesopotamia as an entity for administrative and strategic purposes you will never get definite boundaries. I pointed out three months ago, unless you take the Black Sea and the Caspian at one extremity, and the Persian Gulf at the other. There is nothing in between them which offers a real strategic frontier either from the North or the South. That is the country with which you have to deal. It is of enormous extent, and very sparsely inhabited, containing a population of certainly not more, and I should be inclined to think rather less, than 2,000,000 people. What are we doing? Our main force, I understand—I speak subject to the correction of the Secretary of State—to be at Mosul—the larger part of it.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
Not the larger part? At any rate, the chief part. There is also a considerable portion at Baghdad.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
There is a larger force at Baghdad, I understand, a smaller force, but still a considerable one, at or about Mosul, and there are scattered detachments dotted over the whole area. Further, there is a force under the command of General Malleson—because, as has already been pointed out, in Mesopotamia we are including North-West Persia for the purpose of this discussion—of something like, I suppose, 9,000 or 10,000 men.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
Then that has been substantially reduced. There is a force, at any rate, and a substantial force under General Malleson at Meshed. These forces, particularly those parts of the whole force stationed at Mosul, which is many hundreds of miles from the sea, are at Meshed, through which supplies have to be taken, as I understand, along a very extended and devious route constructed 2231 in the course of the War. Those forces, for the purposes of transport and supply, are in a dangerous position. That is the general distribution of the forces, as I understand. Now I come to the question—an all-important question for the purpose of these Estimates—what are the actual dimensions of the forces in Mesopotamia and North-West Persia? In the Estimates, page 5, I notice the figure of 70,600. It appears, from answers given by the Secretary of State in the course of the last few weeks, that since the Estimates were prepared and presented those forces have been increased by 9,000.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I do not know whether my right hon. Friend would like me to explain the matter now, but it is obviously a case of misconception. The Estimates were introduced by me in February. The figures had been prepared in the month previous, and the estimate which was then taken was an estimate of the number of troops that would be in the country on the 1st April of this year. As a matter of fact, owing to the disturbed state of affairs, the reduction did not proceed at the rate we had hoped. We started the year with a larger number of native troops in Mesopotamia than we had budgeted for. In consequence, although there has been a continued diminution in the troops in Mesopotamia, there are actually at this moment more than we expected to have there at the present date. It is not a case of reinforcement, but of reduction proceeding much more slowly than we expected.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
At any rate there is a larger number there than appears in the Estimates—that is the point! The number, I gather from the right hon. Gentleman, is something like 9,000. I am not at all sure that I am not right, but, at any rate, there has been a substantial increase in the force actually there, compared with the figures presented in the estimate to this House. I want to put a question which I think has been put—I do not know whether it has been put in the House, but so far as I know it has not been answered. That is as to the force now stationed in that part of the world—the force presented in these Estimates, the force which Parliament has to vote and maintain; does it include any, and if so what, contingents of the Air Force?
§ Mr. ASQUITH
Do the figures appear in the Air Estimates? Apparently not! Diligent search has been made by various expert persons, and they have not discovered any trace, so far as I know, in the Air Estimates of the Air Force in Mesopotamia. There is certainly no trace of it here. Are units of the Air Force being employed in Mesopotamia? If so, how many? What is their cost? How can this Committee understand what are our commitments unless we know? In addition to the various units and items set out here, how much of the Air Force is being employed, at what cost, for the same purpose and in the same area? This is a question, I think, to which we are clearly entitled to have an answer. So much for numbers.
Now I come to what is said here about costs. The total figure given in the Estimates, page 17, under (e), is £21,605,000, which of course is preceded—as I have already pointed out—by the precautionary and encouraging heading thatIt is in contemplation to reduce the force … by approximately one-half in the course of the year, and the net sum provided has been arrived at on this assumption.Therefore, we have to take it that the Estimates here are based on the assumption that there will be a reduction of half the total number of troops employed in the course of the twelve months of the present financial year. My right hon. Friend has recently, in answer to a question, stated that his latest estimate is a figure per weeks which works out, I think, for the year at about nearly £25,000,000. By the latest figures given us by the War Office, the figure ought to be, not £21,605,000, but nearer £25,000,000, an addition of very nearly £3,500,000 on the figures which appear in the Estimates.
While I am still on this subject of cost, I should like to say a word as to the allocation of this cost as between the different items. The maintenance of troops—that is a simple matter. Under Head V—we are still on page 17—we see: works, £1,667,000; land, £1,000,000. Some of my hon. Friends and myself were puzzled by these figures. £1,667,000 is a very precise and minute figure. This appears to be arrived at by adding some- 2233 thing accurate and concrete and in the region of arithmetic. But £1,000,000 for land is a very round figure. This looks as it it might be speculative or conjectural. Accordingly my friends and I, having gone through these Estimates with great care, at last have got at facts, or something which seems to throw light upon the matter. What do we find? We find on page 90—a long way on—at the bottom of that page—and I ask the attention of the Committee to this—coming after numerous heads of capital expenditure for buildings at home, the Colonies, Egypt, and so on, there comes last of all: Mesopotamia and Persia, cantonments, etc., £1,064,000; military railways, £603,000. Add these two sums together, and they make £1,667,000, just the sum which appears on page 17. So far so good. But I then turn to the explanatory note on page 91—and the item "military railways" seems to suggest that we are making provision for a some what extended stay in this part of the world. Let me read the explanatory note to the Committee—The extent to which building and other works are to be undertaken for the armies of occupation in Egypt, Palestine, Mesopotamia and Persia has not yet been decided.What then does this very precise figure represent? I want that information.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
Even then, if we get the information, we have still got the item of £1,000,000 for land. What is that? Is it land which has been bought, or intended to be bought, or land that even peradventure may sometime hereafter be bought? What is it? It is a very large figure. Nobody, so far as I know, can make out what it is, where it is, or what is its purpose. I should like a little further light.
I now come to the next item—still on page 17. I am very sorry to weary the Committee with these details, but they are all-important for an understanding of the case. Miscellaneous sea transport and land transport—two very large figures—are: Sea transport, £829,000; land transport, £1,415,000. There, again, one has to go a long way to try to prove what we are endeavouring to prove. Look again at page 97, Sub-head K, and the point I want particularly to ask about is—I am not going to deal with K—Indian miscellaneous charges, £7,350,000. That is explained in the note— 2234Expenditure by the Indian Government, in respect of troops on Imperial Service, which cannot be allocated to the particular forces. (See Head I.C.)In other words, "see Mesopotamia." Out of that large sum of £7,350,000 Indian charges, what part of that, how much, ought to be added for Mesopotamia charges, before we arrive at the final estimate of what the army of occupation in Mesopotamia will cost?
Finally, there is a small point to which I would ask the attention of the Committee. It is a very modest item, and lurks almost in obscurity. It is at the head of page 96, Sub-head E—Administration of Occupied Enemy Territories, £100 The explanatory note says thatthe £100 is a token sum taken by direction of the Treasury to provide for a possible charge on army funds in respect of any deficit that may arise on the civil administration of Palestine or Mesopotamia.So that we have got a token vote, by direction of the Treasury, of £100 for an absolutely undefined responsibility in regard to the civil administration of Mesopotamia. That leads me to ask: What is now the civil administration of Mesopotamia? Where does it come from? Whence is it recruited? Of what numbers does it consist? Under whose direction or control does it act? What Department here is responsible?
There is no trace, throughout the whole of these Estimates, so far as I can find, of a penny to be expended in the civil administration of the whole of Mesopotamia. Yet we know, and everybody knows, that a strenuous attempt is being made there by a pioneer or advance guard of the Indian civil administration—whether the telegram which my right hon. Friend read a few minutes ago represents abandonment or substitution, I do not know, but up to the present time, as far as we know, the tendency has been to employ Anglo-Indian methods—I do not want to say Anglo-Indian officials—for the administration of the whole of this vast territory. I should like to know about that—how much has it cost? Why have we not got something more than this token vote for £100 to guide the House of Commons in the matter? I will not hazard an estimate until we have a little more information from the Government as to what is the real cost of these operations. But, from the military point of view, you have to take it at over £20,000,000. 2235 There is no chance of a substantial reduction in the course of the next six, nine, or, possibly, twelve months. I should think, on a very conservative estimate, we are likely to expend on Mesopotamia in the course of the coming twelve months something like £35,000,000. Many people put it a great deal higher than that. For what are we spending it? When I raised this question in the Debate of 25th March the Prime Minister replied, and he said, among other things:Mosul is a country with great possibilities. It has rich oil deposits, and if you are going to undertake the expense of administering Mesopotamia it is right at any rate that the country should bear that expense. … It contains some of the richest natural resources of any country in the world. It maintains a population now of a little over 2,000,000. It was at one time one of the great empires of the world. Is it not for the benefit of the people of that country that it should be governed so as to enable them to develop this land, which has been withered and shrivelled up by oppression? What would happen if we withdrew? Does anyone imagine that if we withdrew there would be any improvement at all? If we did not undertake the task probably some other country would.There you get at the root of the whole thing, "some other country would." There are potential, contingent, speculative, uncertain, and wholly indefinite possibilities. There are oil-bearing strata, and possibly other mineral resources, in Mesopotamia. It seems to me that this is not only totally inconsistent, but is a fundamental violation of the principles upon which we entered into a covenant with other nations of the world in the League of Nations that those should be considerations which are determining British or any other policy. We have no legal footing in Mesopotamia whatsoever, and the only power that can give us a legal footing, according to the solemn covenant we have entered into with all the other powers in the world, is the League of Nations. It is their mandatory, and by this only, that we have any right to deal with Mesopotamia, either from a military, political, or economic point of view. It is for them to decide the terms and the limits of the mandate to be given. Has any such mandate been given? So far as I know it has not. It seems to me that we are maintaining a large military force, building military railways, appropriating land, and developing civil administration on the Anglo-Indian model, and that is, as it were, forestalling the ground and acting in advance of any legal or 2236 moral authority that this country or any other country can possess. This is being done at an enormous cost. I put it at £35,000,000, and I should be very much surprised if it was not more. This sum is largely in excess of the total cost of our army before the War broke out.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
I make allowance for all that. We are spending this money in order to maintain territory to which you have no moral or legal title, with possibilities and potentialities, whether economic or otherwise, which are of the most uncertain and indefinite character; and surely, in the judgment of the great mass of the people of this country, in the present state of our territorial commitments and financial necessity, it is wholly beyond our power as a nation to add to the burdens under which we are already suffering. It is true that in days gone by Mesopotamia was a rich country, but it has suffered for centuries from devastation and misgovernment, as also probably from climatic and possibly geological changes, which make it a very different place from the Mesopotamia of which we read in the history of the past. Whatever may be its possibilities of resurrection, reconstruction, or revitalisation, it is certainly not a duty which it is incumbent upon us to take upon our already overburdened shoulders. If the League of Nations so desire and prescribe, let us be willing to consider—and it may be to accept—any mandate they impose upon us. You may be inclined to say that this is purely destructive criticism, but let me make a constructive point. I quite realise that we are the natural persons to whom that mandate should be assigned.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
The mandate, in my opinion, ought to be confined, as far as our direct administration and responsibility is concerned, to those parts of Mesopotamia which are within reach of the Persian Gulf, and which roughly correspond to what I describe as the "zone of Basra."
§ Mr. ASQUITH
No, I do not think it would. I will not say what the precise 2237 boundary would be because it is difficult to assign. The remainder of Mesopotamia, and certainly Mosul, ought to be placed under native, indigenous administration, with assistance and advice. We have a good precedent in the case of some of the countries on the Anglo-Indian frontier. Take, for example, Beluchistan, where we maintain no military force, but with the assistance and advice of British agents and British officers there is a force raised, levied, and maintained by themselves, with the operations of which we have no direct concern. That, I believe, would be a statesmanlike settlement of the mandate of Mesopotamia. It would certainly cut down both the responsibility and cost, as far as this country is concerned, within reasonable and even moderate dimensions, and we should no longer have to contemplate such possibilities as are before us now of contributing £30,000,000, or perhaps £40,000,000, out of our own taxation in a country of 2,000,000 inhabitants, with speculative and doubtful resources. At any rate, we should have a clear conscience in regard to the mandatory of the League of Nations in the discharge of such duties as that mandate may impose upon us.
I believe that to be a right and a wise solution of this difficult and thorny problem, and I could not possibly assent to a Vote such as this which, on the admission of the Secretary of State for War, would amount to £24,000,000, with other items that are necessary and consequential to it, which will certainly come to £30,000,000, and may rise to £40,000,000. This sum is to be spent upon a venture of this kind, as to which we have not, at the moment, received any moral or legal authority, and which is in no way imposed upon us either by our obligations or by the promises we have made in the past. In these circumstances, I feel it my duty to move a reduction of this Vote by £1,000,000.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
I have listened with great attention to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, and I am somewhat surprised that he advocates the heroic policy of withdrawal from Mesopotamia and concentration. I believe if that policy were carried out you would be no more forward in dealing with the settlement of what ought to replace Turkish rule in Mesopotamia than you have been in the past. I am perfectly certain if his policy were carried out, and 2238 we withdrew to Basra, it would only be a few months before we should have to re-embark on military operations up to Mosul in order to bring the country to something like law and order. I do not think our expenditure in Mesopotamia can be reduced by the simple policy of withdrawal, and our expenditure there can only be reduced by establishing such political conditions in the country from the outset as will enable that country to become self-supporting in the very near future. I believe that can be done. That anything in this direction has been done during the last six months, I very much doubt. My regret is that the telegram that has been read out by the Secretary of State for India was not read out six months ago. I regret that we have not from the very beginning, from the time of the Armistice, adopted the policy which the Government have now been driven by public opinion in this country to adopt, and not only by public opinion, but by the visible effects of recent Anglo-Indian administration in Mesopotamia. I believe that the announcement that was read out in the House this afternoon will go far to enable a reduction in our expenditure in Mesopotamia. But the framing of an organic law and to set up an Arab Administration in the able hands and under the guidance of Sir Percy Cox is not enough. If we are to reduce expenditure in Mesopotamia we have to get rid of this enormous Indian garrison.
The point, above all others, which I desire to make in this Debate this afternoon is that the continued maintenance of a large force of Inlian troops in Mesopotamia is the main cause of the political difficulties in that country to-day. It is notorious—indeed, it is historic—that the Arab and the Indian do not get on well together because neither of them have got that mutual regard the one for the other which people who do not know the Arab think might be the case. I am perfectly certain that the system of the Indian Army, with its large number of followers and with the entire equipment of an Indian Army dumped down upon the fellaheen and the towns of Mesopotamia, is a fundamental cause of racial and religious friction, and the cause of difficulty to those Englishmen who are struggling to create law, order, and progress in that country. I 2239 ask the right hon. Gentleman to get ask the right hon. Gentleman to get rid of this enormous and expensive Indian force at the earliest possible moment. Naturally, he will ask "What are you to do if you get rid of it? You must have the country protected." I quite agree, and the best way of protecting Mesopotamia from the invasion of Kurdish robbers, and of raiders from the Southern Desert, is to enlist the Mesopotamians themselves, and to train them for their own defence. If the information we have had given us this afternoon—that the mandate is to come to an end as soon as Mesopotamia can stand alone on its own national footing—is to be realised, it can only be realised when Mesopotamia is responsible for its own defence. You have in Mesopotamia some extremely good military material—many of the very best fighters in the Arab Army brought together by Colonel Joyce and Colonel Lawrence—Baghdadis and other Mesopotamians. Many of the best men in the Arab forces of the Emir Feisal to-day are Mesopotamians, and a great deal of trouble in Mesopotamia will come if you do not provide an outlet for the martial energies of men of this sort. If you are going to have the organic law, you must have at the earliest possible moment a local Arab Army, and you must call in the aid of a man like Colonel Joyce who knows how to raise and train an Arab Army, and give him a free hand. Then I believe when you have trained a certain number of Mesopotamians to defend their own country from frontier raids, a sort of local gendarmerie for the maintenance of order, you will be able to withdraw these awfully expensive Indian garrisons, for which you now talk of building cantonments and barracks at such gigantic expense to the British taxpayer.
To my mind the most interesting item in this Vote is the Token Vote for £100, which is, of course, simply inserted in order that there shall be some check by this Parliament, and very rightly so, on the expenditure upon civil administration in Mesopotamia. On that Vote for £100 we have to bear in mind that behind it, and on top of it, there is the expenditure of moneys which we collect in Mesopotamia as taxes and revenue for the extension of our administration. I have not seen the local Mesopotamian 2240 Budget for the next year, but I have seen those for civil administration for 1919–20 and for 1918–19. They were published in Baghdad, and the striking fact is that in 1918–19, when we were not in full possession of the whole country, we raised appoximately, by local revenue, towards the defrayment of the expenses of civil administration in Mesopotamia, 10,000,000 rupees, which, taking rupees at 10 to the £, represent roughly £1,000,000. In the following year we collected five times as much. We raised, in fact, over £5,000,000, and now we already run a country inhabited by an extremely poor people—the population numbers not more than 2,000,000—on a basis of annual taxation of £5,000,000 When you compare that with Lord Cromer's Budgets in Egypt, you will realise the enormously heavy taxation we are putting on the Mesopotamians.
And why? To me it seems we are in too much of a hurry. We have been trying to bring into existence in Mesopotamia a fully-fledged Anglo-Indian Civil Service, occupying every inch of the country, a service of political officers, irrigation works, and with all the concomitants of a fully organised State. I maintain that, in addition to your Indian troops, a cause of your political difficulties in Mesopotamia is to be found in these activities, and that is one reason why the British taxpayer is asked this afternoon to vote £25,000,000, or whatever the total may be, to maintain these enormous garrisons to keep the country quiet meanwhile. It seems to me that in Mesopotamia, above all places, you have to take into account the psychology and the history of the inhabitants. If you attempt to put too heavy taxation upon them in order to carry out projects, however desirable, you may merely produce reaction. When we entered Baghdad we were welcomed by the population, but if you attempt to force their development too rapidly, they will say of us, "These people are too fast for us. They wish to develop our country in a minute, and we do not want to be ruled in that way. We would far rather go back into the old, slipshod Eastern methods."
If we want to make a success in Mesopotamia, and I hold it is our moral duty to create an Arab civilisation and an Arab State there, a moral duty, made incumbent upon us after the Turk had gone, 2241 it is absolutely essential we should go slow and not promote too rapid schemes of development. Above all, we must be prepared to sacrifice a certain degree of efficiency for the sake of ensuring that civilisation shall be so developed in Mesopotamia as to induce the Mesopotamians to participate fully and freely in it. The whole keynote to the aims which we said we were fighting for in the middle East, the whole keynote of our propaganda, and I conducted some of it myself, among the Arabs during the War, was that we should give them a chance to develop their own institutions, their own ideas, their own army and their own policy. Let us do that, and then, I believe, we shall be able to cut down the Imperial expenditure in Mesopotamia in the very near future, we shall see once more springing up from the soil of Mesopotamia a civilisation which will attract all the best elements of Arabia, and we shall once more bring forward that civilisation which Baghdad possessed before the Turks came there and which made it a centre of culture, wealth and political development to a degree which was remarkable in the history even of Eastern countries. These are my views. I press them on the Government at this time. I sincerely hope that the whole spirit of their policy well be actuated by the professions which we gave out during the War and at the time of the Armistice, namely, that in Mesopotamia, Palestine and Syria—in the Turkish Empire, in fact—our policy was not to secure oil for ourselves, but to liberate the people in order to develop their own autonomous institutions. The twelfth point of the famous fourteen points dealt with this matter and laid down an extremely wise policy. It will be recognised by anybody who knows the East and cares for the East, as an extremely wise policy, and I am perfectly certain that to-day religious sentiment in the Near East—religious fanaticism, can only be limited, and is being limited, by the new national sentiment which is developing throughout Asia.
If the British Empire will encourage that national sentiment, if it will help to build it up, to guide it, and to indoctrinate it with all the best of British civilisation, we shall build up another chapter in our relations with Asia even more brilliant than the chapter of the 19th Century. You cannot encourage 2242 and develop national sentiment in Mesopotamia so long as you maintain alien military garrisons there, and so long as Indian troops are present. I am not speaking so much of British officers and troops—they are perhaps less alien to the Arab than the Indian. The British officer, in the old-fashioned phrase, treats the Arab as a gentleman, and the Arab Sheikh treats him in the same way. That was how Colonel Lawrence treated the Arabs during the War. He had no authoritative position over the Arab; he was there as an Englishman who understood the Arab, and had sympathy with him, and as such he obtained great authority in the Arab army. It was a moral, personal authority. That is all we want in Mesopotamia. It is no use talking of building up an Anglo-Indian Civil Service in miniature in Mesopotamia, and going in for all kinds of works if they are merely to turn to Dead Sea fruit because thereby we have forfeited the goodwill of the country. If we are going to reduce our expenditure in Mesopotamia, and to retain the goodwill of the Arabs and the people of that country, I earnestly hope that there will be no more talk of withdrawal, but that the Government will carry out, in the letter and in the spirit, every word of that important declaration which we heard read by the Secretary for India this afternoon, and if over and above all that they are going to carry that out, they must, apart from all political machinery, at once start raising an Arab local army and get the Indian troops out of the country.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I propose to trouble the Committee for a few minutes only, especially as my hon. and gallant Friend (Mr. Ormsby-Gore), in his very eloquent speech, has expressed the views of a school of thought, to which he and I belong, on the subject of the Middle East. He, like myself, served with the Arabs and took part in the organisation of the Arab people against the Turks, and as be had longer experience of it than I had I cannot add much to the authoritative statement he has made. I would, however, like to make one observation as a somewhat independent supporter of the Coalition. I think the Secretary of State and his Department have been subjected in many respects to extremely unfair criticism for the size of the Armies, which in my opinion are necessitated by the con- 2243 ditions with which the world was faced after the War; and although it would not be in order to do more than refer to the cost of other Departments, I hope the Committee will draw a considerable distinction between the Estimates presented by a great number of Departments in this House, Estimates which it appears to me are grandiose and in regard to which entirely unnecessary schemes are put forward, and the inevitable effect of the aftermath of the War—an inevitable effect which, I am bound to say, the right hon. Gentleman who initiated this Debate (Mr. Asquith) seemed singularly to fail to grasp—that when we so singularly defeated our enemies we were necessarily driven far beyond the original objective we had in view. If I wished to be discourteous and brutal I might say to the right hon. Gentleman, who referred in rather scathing terms to those small bodies of troops scattered about the world, that had the operations been conducted by the Government of which he was the head we should never have got to these places at all, because we should never have defeated the enemy. It was inevitable that such a crushing defeat of the Turks and the way our enemies were scattered to the four winds of heaven should necessitate our troops being sent far beyond their original objective. It is all very well for hon. Members opposite to laugh, but I can say more of what happened on the Eastern Front than any of them.
Unless you were going to say, "Now we have defeated the enemy we will go home and forget all about it, and leave the country in chaos and anarchy," we were bound to keep these troops there for a time. Although I hold no particular brief for the War Office, I am bound to say that I think my right hon. Friend the Secretary for War has been subjected in many cases to most unfair criticism on the ground of the extravagance of the Department—criticisms which in many cases proceed, though not in the case of the right hon. Gentleman or of Members of this House, from utter ignorance of the conditions. There is another point. It is all very well to, blame His Majesty's Government. His Majesty's Government are not the only Government represented at the Peace Conference. There are other Governments, whose names may not be men- 2244 tioned, from whom we expected a measure of assistance in overcoming the anarchy and chaos in those countries, and from whom we have received not a single soldier and not a single bit of assistance of any kind. It is not for any of us to interfere in the domestic politics of any of our Allies, but if we do not say much, we can think a good deal about the way we have had to bear the burden. At the same time, no one can feel more strongly than I feel that it is desirable at the earliest possible moment to reduce these forces. Equally with my hon. and gallant Friend who spoke last I view with alarm the arrangements that apparently are in contemplation, or are in fact being made, to house and train enormous numbers of Indian troops in Mesopotamia. Unpleasant as this point of view or this fact may be to the average Indian statesman or soldier, it is the case, and has been the case for generations, that the Arab has a colour prejudice against the Indian. Very few Arabs are able to distinguish one Indian race from another, and in the majority of cases they are wholly ignorant of the conditions in India, but they have this colour prejudice, and so long as there are Indian troops in Mesopotamia, there is bound to be feeling or friction against the Indian garrison. The fact remains true, however, that the one soldier who is popular with these people is the British soldier and the British officer. Unfortunately, we cannot spare either the money or the soldiers necessary to garrison that country. We have to use Indian troops, unless at the earliest possible moment we create a local force.
There is one aspect of the formation of that force which has not been brought out as strongly as it might have been. In considering our military policy and what is to be the future defence scheme of the country, we are faced in Mesopotamia with the difficulty of reconciling three distinct objects. First of all, we have, if we assume a mandate, to protect that country in a military sense while it is adolescent. Secondly, we have to carry out the policy in a military sense of self-determination in accordance with the League of Nations, that is to say, that the force which is to be kept in the country must be a force to which the inhabitants of the country are friendly. Thirdly, and this is also very important, 2245 we have both on behalf of ourselves and on behalf of our Allies to prevent that country becoming a jumping-off place for any Power, whether they be Bolshevists, Kurds, or any Power hostile to the Allies and ourselves. We have in some way to reconcile all those three objects. I say it is possible to do so, and in the way sketched by my hon. and gallant Friend, by the formation of a local defence corps composed of Arabs. My hon. and gallant Friend emphasised the fact that the majority of the Arab Army with which we were associated in the last stages of the War were recruited from Mesopotamia. One or two of the British officers my hon. and gallant Friend has mentioned. I would like to mention an Arab officer who is perhaps not very well known in this country—General Neuri. He is a Baghdadi officer, and formerly served in the Turkish Army. During the campaign against the Turks he proved himself to be a soldier of no mean capacity and of great intelligence. He has recently been representing Prince Feisul at San Remo, and is in every sense a man of the world. He is a Baghdadi Arab born of a well-known Baghdad family, but is only typical of many of those who may be called the intelligentia of the Arabs, who are well educated, and, in the case of the soldiers, have a thorough knowledge of their trade. There are many such men who, in conjunction with military officers such as Colonel Joyce, could form within a comparatively short time an efficient defence force for the country.
We had an example of what can be done in that way in what was done by this country when the Sudan had been taken in 1908. We then proceeded immediately to organise a local Sudan Army, with a minimum of British officers and no British N.C.O.'s. The British officers, I believe, numbered only three to a battalion, but the achievements of the Army were wonderful. From 1908 right down to the outbreak of War there was in the Sudan not more than one British battalion, and, I think, only two British guns, and that was in a country which had been torn by internal disturbances, a country in which plunder, rapine, murder, and anarchy of every kind were far more rife than they were in Mesopotamia before we conquered it. This native army, with British influence and ideals, succeeded, with this tiny moiety of white regular 2246 troops, in keeping the country in a state of peace and prosperity which had never been equalled in the history of the administration of a native country. During the War, instead of having to increase the garrison in the Sudan as in other parts of the Empire, the garrison remained the same, and for two years at least the whole of the white troops consisted of 500 men of a British battalion, of whom the majority were over forty years of age and the youngest subaltern was aged 62. It is on those lines that a native Mesopotamian Army could be raised. It would be used only for defence. I think the Committee, instead of directing its criticism along the lines of what has happened in Mesopotamia in the past, should urge the organisation of a native defence force based on the ideals that we are supposed to support under the covenant of the League of Nations. I agree fully that it is not possible to evacuate the whole of Mesopotamia with the exception of the Basra vilayet. I entirely dissent from one thing he said. He sugested that we were under no sort of obligation to the people of Mesopotamia. As there seems to be tremendous ignorance on that subject in this country, I should like to say a word about it, because I have read the criticisms in the Press and elsewhere as to our situation in Mesopotamia, and one of the arguments which is most frequently used is, "What interest have we in the people of Mesopotamia, and what interest have they in us? We are under no obligation to them. We promised them nothing." We are under this obligation, that we took the country from the Turks. A great number of the inhabitants of the country, possibly the majority, have faithfully and loyally supported our provisional rule in that country. We have obtained administrators in the small posts. We have been training them to get big positions. We have recruited police. We have been in close touch with all the native organisations of the country. It would be a most retrograde step, it would be going back to the very worst days of little Englandism, it would be a return to the Majuba days, the days when we put a stigma upon our name which it took many years to eradicate, if we deserted those who supported us, if we were to say, "We cannot afford any longer to look after you. The Press will not allow us to do so. The oil barons 2247 have made trouble about the country. We are going to leave you to the mercy of the Kurds, the Bolsheviks or anyone else who likes to cut your throats because you supported us."
It is not for me to give any answer to the present attack on the Government, but one answer is that the policy which is advocated by many organs of the Press is one of complete dishonour for this country and a negation of what we fought for in the War. To desert these people and leave them at the mercy of every cut-throat who comes into the country without putting anything in the place of the existing administration would be a criminal act, and while I quite think the Government has got to consider very carefully its ways and means in Mesopotamia, I trust that irresponsible criticism on the lines of immediately leaving the country, to which I was sorry to hear the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Asquith) apparently give his adherence, with no thought as to what the position of these unfortunate inhabitants would be if we went away to-morrow, at the mercy of these cut-throats, will be forthwith abandoned. It is easy to overestimate the importance of Mesopotamia to the Empire, but it is equally easy to under-estimate its importance. It represents more than a bit of territory. It represents really very largely our whole relationship to our native people throughout the world. We have to do two things. We have to show these native people that we are determined to carry out to the best of our ability this policy of self-determination, which is now accepted by the Government, and we have equally to show to our native Allies and fellow-subjects all over the world, that when this country has undertaken to defend a country until it is in a position to defend itself we shall never, however great the screams from any portion of the Press, or criticism in this House or another place, give it up because it would be contrary to all our traditions, to the whole history of our native Empire, and above all contrary to everything we fought for in the War.
§ Mr. AUBREY HERBERT
Like all who have travelled in the East, I most heartily welcome that telegram which was read out before this Debate began, because it shows that after a long time and much vacillation we are returning 2248 to the straight course and being true to our word. Half our trouble in Mesopotamia and half of our trouble throughout the whole of the Near East is that people no longer trust us. Why we were able to rule before was not only because we materially contributed to the prosperity of the country we governed, but because our word was our bond. I agree with nine-tenths of what my hon. Friend (Mr. Ormsby-Gore) has said and with a great deal of what my Noble Friend (Earl Winterton) has said, and I also agree to a certain extent with what the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Asquith) has said. When he talked of there being no defensive frontier beyond Baghdad, I think the frontier he must have meant to indicate was the Nasaiyeh-Kurnah-Ahwaz frontier. When I was in that country the general military opinion was that that was the only true military frontier in Mesopotamia. My belief is that with very little trouble you can redeem your word by setting up an Arab Parliament in Baghdad, that our position in Baghdad ought to be what it was before, but that there ought to be no fetters on the autonomy of the Arabs. We have a right to say, "We have policed that country, we have dredged those rivers, we have put up lighthouses, we have spent blood and we have spent money for the last 100 years, and we have a right to claim a special position." That, outside those military frontiers we have indicated, is as far as I would be prepared to see us go. I am only sorry about one thing. I am sorry this question of now giving autonomy and setting up a Parliament was done very long ago. If it had been done long ago, if the Government had done it spontaneously and not after a Press campaign, you would have had a very different situation in Syria from the situation you have to-day, because, as a matter of fact, once you begin in the East you really cannot separate units. The whole question is bound up, and there is no real frontier between Syria and Mesopotamia. With regard to the question of withdrawing our troops, I should really be the last to advocate anything that was dishonourable to this country or that repudiated pledges we have given to the people, but I think to a large extent we can withdraw safely. There is, as far as I know, no one at present who is going to attack those 2249 people. It will doubtless be said that to do so would be to inflict a blow upon our prestige. I have been a good deal in the East, and after years there I have come to the conclusion that there is nothing like the amount in prestige that people very often believe in this country. Prestige is a word invented by the French, borrowed absentmindedly by the Foreign Office, and annexed by the profiteers in order that we may hold half the world. A thing that is more important than prestige is our good faith.
I have traced all our evils in the East to the fact that we are not trusted, and that fact comes from one statement made by the Prime Minister on 5th January, 1918, which he subsequently confirmed, I think, on 26th February of this year. In that statement he said we were not fighting for Constantinople, for Thrace, or for the homelands of the Turks. He confirmed that on 26th February. What has happened since then? Those lands are in the occupation of the Greeks. That means first of all that the pledge has been definitely violated. Hence your trouble in India, Egypt, and elsewhere. Secondly, it means that we have sent in the Greeks as our standard bearers. What are we going to do if our standard is captured? Are we going to support the Greeks or are we not? I hope the Prime Minister will treat this question as one unit, and tell us what he proposes on that. From my point of view, and I think from that of nearly every man who has travelled in the East, this last thing is one of the most fantastic and cruel pieces of policy that has ever been pursued. What you have actually done is this. You have raised a host of enemies round Greece. You have ringed Greece with hostility. It will need even more than genius, it will need immortality on the part of Venizelos if he is to save his country. I should like the Prime Minister to answer quite definitely what is to happen if the Greeks are beaten. Are we to go in or are we not to go in? I should also like to ask him quite definitely how he is going to explain out attitude to the Moslems of India.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I am not sure that I should be in order in entering into a discussion of the Turkish Peace Treaty upon this occasion. It would open up a Debate of a formidable character, where there is a good deal to be said on both 2250 sides, by hon. Members who feel very strongly on both sides, and it might, I think, divert and distract the House from the subject matter of the discussion which has been arranged, I believe, between the Government and its critics. I could give a very complete answer to my hon. Friend with regard to Thrace, but it would involve the quotation of statistics, and many other considerations which I think would not be quite germane to the subject matter of the discussion this afternoon. I come to another part of his speech which is strictly relevant to the discussion to-day. He suggests that the Government has at last returned to its original intentions with regard to Mesopotamia. We never departed from them. A declaration was made in November, 1918 from which we have not departed. But at that time we were simply in military occupation. We had no power to define or decide or organise the final form of government in Mesopotamia until we were entrusted with a mandate. We have been entrusted with a mandate by the action of the Allied Powers. The moment we were entrusted and equipped with that authority we took action. It was only at San Remo that it was finally decided. That is a very few weeks ago. We at once made a declaration as designate mandatory of the Powers. It is open to my hon. Friend to say, "You ought to have settled the Turkish Treaty long ago." That is another point which I am quite willing to explain. The Government are not entirely responsible for the delay. I do not want to shift the responsibility on to anybody else, but it is thoroughly well known that when the discussions on the Turkish Treaty took place we hoped that America would come in. We are very sorry to have been disappointed. If America had come in it would have been worth all the delay. Everybody thinks so. If we had not consented to the request made to us that we should put off the discussion of the Turkish Treaty until America could decide, it would have been suggested in America that Great Britain was anxious to manœuvre the United States of America out of having any lot or part in the Turkish settlement. There are plenty of ill-natured people even in America—they are not all confined to this country—who would have been prepared to make suggestions of that character. Although the course which we took has been costly to us, and although 2251 undoubtedly it has been costly to Mesopotamia, still, looking back upon it, I feel convinced that it was the only course open to France, Italy, and ourselves when a request of that kind was made. The delay has been entirely attributable to that cause. The moment the terms of the Turkish Treaty were settled and the moment those terms were sent to Turkey, and it was decided definitely who the mandatory power should be, we immediately acted upon the declaration of November, 1918. There has been no change in our policy in the course of these several months.
I come now to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith). I am rather disappointed with it. I have heard a great deal about that speech. Even in France it had been advertised that the great attack was coming at last. I am rather disappointed. I am not quite sure, after listening most carefully to the speech, what our offence is. At first I thought that our offence was that we had 97 pages of Army Estimates, and that we had entered into rather too elaborate explanations; but in the end my right hon. Friend explained what the offence was. It is not that we are taking the mandate for Baghdad and Mesopotamia. It is that we did not clear out long ago, on the ground that we could not afford it, and go to Basra, which is not a very sanitary neighbourhood. The right hon. Gentleman suggests that we should leave Baghdad and come right down to the marshes of Basra, on the ground that we could not afford to remain in Baghdad: but that if the League of Nations asked us, then we were to go back at once, whether we could afford it or not, because the League of Nations asked us. Let me follow that process. It is very interesting. We should have cleared out. Who or what would have taken our place? Chaos, in some form or other. There was no government. We had destroyed the Turkish government. You might have had some Arab chief, but then another Arab chief would have contested his claim. You would have had civil war, and probably Mustapha Kemal would have come down and occupied the country. The League of Nations under these conditions would have said, "We make you mandatory." And we should have gone back to re-conquer the country. We 2252 should have had to organise another great expeditionary force, because we should have had to do it thoroughly. We could not have taken chances of another Kut, and the capture of British forces. It would have had to be done carefully and thoroughly and with overwhelming forces. Twenty-five millions! The cost of re-conquering the whole country from Basra up to Mosul would have been much nearer £150,000,000 or £200,000,000. What a policy! I could understand anyone getting up and saying, "Do not touch the country. It is none of your business. Leave it alone. The moment you had defeated the Turks you ought to have cleared out." That is a clear policy. But to say that you should only clear out to Basra and stick there, and then, when the League of Nations asks you to advance, you should organise another military expedition to re-conquer the country, is about as preposterous a suggestion as could be made.
My right hon. Friend would take responsibility for the vilayet of Basra. He might even go a little further. He was not quite clear as to the boundary. But at the beginning of his speech he said, "You really cannot stop between the Black Sea and the Persian Gulf." But is not Basra between the Black Sea and the Persian Gulf? Is not Nasariah between the Black Sea and the Persian Gulf?
Whether you go to Basra, or Nasariah, or Mosul, you are up against the same problem: you must have a boundary or a frontier somewhere. The point is, where are you going to fix that frontier? My right hon. Friend seems to forget that he is responsible for the Sykes-Picot Agreement. Under the Sykes-Picot Agreement the British were to become responsible for the whole vilayet of Baghdad as well as Basra. That was the policy at that time. In view of the criticisms about the selfishness of our views about oil and grain, may I point out that under that agreement we claimed that Great Britain should have priority of right to enterprise and local loans, not merely in that area, but in the whole of that sphere of influence? That was the purpose of the authors of that agreement.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I am answering my right hon. Friend. That was his view at that time. His view at that time 2253 was that we should accept responsibility for the whole of Mesopotamia, but now he retires to Basra. What possible defence can there be for that? Clear out altogether is an intelligible policy, but not to take this marshy end of Mesopotamia, garrison it, administer it, with no definite boundary, and so divide the population. Would you do it with the consent or without the consent of the Arabs? If the Arabs said, "We want a unit of Mosul, Baghdad, and Basra," are we to say, "No, this part is to be ours"? Mosul is in a peculiar position. The total forces in Mosul at the present time come to one-eighth of the total in Mesopotamia. My right hon. Friend's policy, as dictated by the Sykes-Picot Agreement, would have involved, unless it had been abandoned, a garrison of seven-eighths, at any rate, of the present garrison. We think that it is essential to the proper administration of Mesopotamia that the vilayet of Mosul should be part of it. My right hon. Friend attacks us because we have added Mosul. He does not regard it as worth our while. It is very odd. There is a debate probably at this very hour in the French Parliament where an attack is being made upon the French Government because they have handed over Mosul to the British sphere of influence.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I have not such a poor opinion of my neighbours as my hon. and gallant Friend. He has not the monopoly of honourable dealings. I do not take that view of M. Briand and other men who are pleading that it should have been added to their territory. It is because they take a different view upon the organisation of that sphere from the one that we have taken. That is all. Take the position in regard to Mosul. The population of Mosul, the leading people of Mosul, have petitioned the British Government in favour of the unit of Mosul with the vilayet of Baghdad and Basra, and I have no doubt that if you leave it to the Arabs they would prefer that it should be treated as a unit. It is essential. To begin with, it is a trading unit. Most of the trade of Mosul comes down from Baghdad to Basra. It is on the same river. The position is more or less that in Egypt, where you find that in order to command the head waters of the Nile it is essential that you should get the 2254 Soudan. It is the same political unit. It has the same population, the same race, the same religion. The intercourse between them is complete. There is no desert between them. There is nothing between their territory and Baghdad. There is not even a range of hills. Strategically it is a unit. Lord Kitchener did not take the view which my right hon. Friend takes, that there is nothing between the Persian Gulf and the Black Sea. He believed that the mountains north of Mosul were the natural boundary from a strategical point of view for the defence of Mesopotamia, and he expressed that view. It seems to be considered an argument against Mosul that there is oil there. Why? The administration of Mesopotamia will be an expensive one for some years. Is it not desirable that any natural product of that kind should be developed for the benefit of the whole of Mesopotamia? It is the most obvious course. By the Treaty and the arrangements we made, the whole of those resources will belong to the Arab State we set up. There are all sorts of suggestions that arrangements have been made with private companies There is no arrangement of any sort made with any company.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
You are to assume that most of the statements in the "Times" are wrong unless you have got very good reason for the contrary.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
There is no question of any individual. There is a document which is signed. No company has any lot or part. The whole of the property will belong to the Arab State, subject to any arrangements which were made before the War with Turkey. There you have got to safeguard the interests of America. If the Americans claim that they got some interest, they have got the same legal rights as anybody else. If there was any document signed before the War by the Turkish Government, we must safeguard any interest of that kind. But, in so far as any arrangement made between the Governments at San Remo or any other time are concerned, the 2255 whole of the property will be vested in the Arab State and will not belong to any company.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
There is no objection so far as I am concerned. I was hoping to be able to get it here to-day, but I only came back this morning, and therefore I had not time to get it before this Debate took place. If the Debate had taken place to-morrow, I should have had more time to get the documents here. I think that would be a good thing. I must, of course, get the consent of the French and Italian Governments to laying the document on the Table. We have no objection. I thought it very undesirable that in any arrangement made, the freedom of the Arab State, should be fettered in this respect, except in so far as there were any contracts in existence before the War. We are bound to respect those, whatever they are. Here, at any rate, you have got, according to all the evidence which is available, certain deposits. I agree that it has not been examined as to whether these deposits are of great or small value. That is something that no man can dogmatise upon, but the general opinion is that they are valuable. If that is so, I think it essential for the development of its territory, that the Arab State should have these oil wells and deposits at Mosul, not merely for the development of Mosul, but for the development of Mesopotamia. As to the quotation which my right hon. Friend made from my speech, I do not know what he is complaining of. I still say that those oil wells will be of great value to any State which is set up there for the purpose of paying its current expenses. What is there in that to complain of or to attack?
My right hon. Friend made great play about the cost of civil administration, and said that there is a Token Vote of £100. "Why £100? Why is it not more?" Because it is not more—not to the British Treasury. There is no deficit at the present moment in the cost of civil administration. Civil administration is paying its way both in Palestine and Mesopotamia. £100 is put down as a Token Vote to enable the House of Commons to discuss the civil administra- 2256 tion if it wishes to do so. We might have put £10 down and it would have had exactly the same object. That was the point of it. The civil administration is not costing anything at the present moment.
Then I would like at once to challenge the claim made by my right hon. Friend that the League of Nations has got to dispose of these mandates. I do not accept that. It is not the view that was taken by any of the signatories to the Treaty of Versailles. It is not the view which was taken by President Wilson, who was the champion of the League, who had no interest—I do not, of course, mean personal interest—but who had no particular interest even as representative of the United States in the distribution of the German mandates. At Versailles we laid down the terms of the German Treaty. We then met for the purpose of distributing the mandates for the German territory with President Wilson there. Under the German Treaty the German colonies are handed over, not to the League of Nations, but to the Allied and Associated Powers. By the cry terms of the Treaty it is for them to decide who are the mandatories. After all, the expense of emancipating these colonies fell upon the Allies. We took exactly the same line with regard to the Turkish Treaty. Article 94 says:The determination of the other frontiers of the said States, and the selection of the Mandatories, will be made by the principal Allied Powers.The principal Allied Powers met after that document had been prepared and decided what the mandates were. I repudiate entirely the suggestion that it is for the League of Nations to determine who shall be the mandatories of those countries.
Does my right hon. Friend mean to say that the League of Nations could meet and hand over the mandate for countries that cost us hundreds of millions to emancipate, like Mesopotamia and Palestine, to Germany? It would be an intolerable position, and we certainly could not accept it. No one ever contemplated it. I never heard that contention put forward by anyone until I heard it in this House, to my amazement, the other night. President Wilson certainly never put it forward. He was present at the meeting where the Allied 2257 and Associated Powers distributed the mandates under the German Treaty. I take the same view about the Turkish mandates, that the Allied and Associated Powers should determine who should be the mandatories. The terms of the mandate will be submitted to the League of Nations. That is another matter. The way in which the mandates are carried out will be discussed by the League of Nations. That is another matter. If there is any abuse of those terms it will be for the League of Nations to consider it. If the natives are oppressed by a mandatory, if an unfair use is made of the powers of a particular mandatory, then the League of Nations may operate, but it is for the Allied and Associated Powers, who have emancipated these territories, to determine who the mandatory should be, and that has been done.
My right hon. Friend said that he did not know of any moral or legal doctrine by which we could claim the mandate for this district. Moral, certainly. The whole cost of emancipation in money and in blood fell upon this country and no country has got a greater or higher or better moral claim, if we wish to be the mandatory for these territories, than the country which endured and suffered so much to rid them of their oppressor. As far as the legal doctrine is concerned, the legal document will be the Turkish Treaty. Under the Turkish Treaty we shall be receiving the mandate from the Allied and Associated Powers. We shall have both a moral and a legal right to this position.
I again repeat that I do not quite know what the case against us is. I can understand the case of those who say, "clear out altogether." I cannot understand the case of those who say, "take the mandate if the League of Nations wants you." What is the grievance against the Government? Does the right hon. Gentleman imagine that we could have cleared out if we intended to take the mandate and leave this country in chaos and confusion? How could we have done that? You may say there are too many troops there for that purpose. Who says so?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
My right hon. and gallant Friend would be the first man in the Debate to say so.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
The right hon. Gentleman says he would have more. He had better settle that point with his neighbour (Mr. Asquith) who says that there are too many there already. Having occupied the country, having decided to take the mandate, you have to hold it until you set up a Government. What have we done? The moment the mandate was given to us, we instantly took action. We sent for Sir Percy Cox, who is far and away the greatest authority in that part of the world, who exercises great sway and influence and has great knowledge and is one of the ablest servants of this Empire, and we hope that he will be here in the course of the next fortnight or three weeks. Before we take definite steps we propose to consult him as to the best method of procedure. We propose to take the views of the leaders of the Arab population as to the best method of setting up a Government. What the procedure will be, I would not embarrass Sir Percy Cox by attempting to lay down, even in outline, at this stage. I believe he is there now. He is conferring, and he will come here and give us the best advice available. He will then return, in order to carry out the definite pledge given in November, 1918, and repeated with his authority in that proclamation. He will then take the necessary steps to redeem that pledge to the Arab population. Whatever Government is set up there, it will be under the mandate of Great Britain—it will act with the advice and assistance of Great Britain. We shall have the responsibility to the League of Nations for that State. Until some steps are taken for the purpose of setting it up, we must accept the responsibility for keeping order in that quarter of the world. It would be idle for us to consult Sir Percy Cox about the best methods of setting up Arab States, if we left that country to chaos, confusion, anarchy and civil war. Such a consultation would be a sham. But, as soon as the State is set up, I have no doubt at all, in spite of the rather gloomy predictions of my right hon. Friend, that the expenditure will decrease, that the forces that will be necessary will diminish, and that, in course of time—I am not going to say how soon—this State will be a self-supporting and prosperous community. No one imagines that we are going to keep a great force like this in 2259 Mesopotamia indefinitely. The total population is only 2,000,000, and, when the responsible Arab leaders are brought into association with whatever Government is set up, I have no doubt at all that they will be able to run the State at much less expense than any foreign Government possibly could. That is the position at the present moment.
My right hon. Friend (Mr. Asquith) asked me a question about Constantinople and the Straits. We had a considerable Debate here on that subject earlier in the year, and I then made it quite clear that the policy of the Government and of the Allies was that the freedom of the Straits must be guaranteed by the Allied Powers. I do not know whether that is challenged, but that is what we are doing. It is perfectly true that we are undertaking more—I will not say than our fair share, but than our anticipated or arranged share—of the, guarding of the Straits at the present moment. France has her difficulties elsewhere, and Italy has had two or three ministerial crises which are not conducive to immediate action in that neighbourhood. But I have no reason to believe that France and Italy will not contribute their equal share to the burden in course of time. My right hon. Friend asks what are the relations between the British force and the Greeks. It is a little difficult to say that without saying exactly what the operations are, and I am sure my right hon. Friend would be the last man to press me with regard to that. Certain operations are being undertaken independently by the Greeks; certain other operations may be undertaken conjointly by the Greek and the British forces, under British command, if they are necessary; but the news from that quarter is very much better than the alarmist telegrams which appeared at the latter end of last week. May I just say at once, in answer to certain statements which I saw in the Press to the effect that the plan of campaign was something which I had forced upon the military, and that Marshal Foch and Sir Henry Wilson are against it, that, as a matter of fact, it was all planned by Marshal Foch and Sir Henry Wilson, and was only submitted to M. Millerand and myself for our approval, and we approved.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
No. The Greeks generally pay their way. We have no financial responsibility for the action of the Greek forces, and we are not increasing our own forces. We are moving certain troops from other quarters, but that is not increasing our forces, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War pointed out.
I understand that whatever expenditure our forces are put to is included in this Estimate.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Certainly. There may be cost of transport—moving the troops from other quarters—and that will involve a certain addition to the expenditure, but there is no increase in the number of troops even in that quarter of the world. I am including the Mediterranean. That is the position there. I hope to be able to give more information to the House later on with regard to this without doing any particular harm. I think that the action taken is quite necessary. I do not think it is possible to have any peace in that quarter of the world unless we make it quite clear that the policy which we have laid down there must be carried through. The policy has been stated over and over again, not merely outside but in this House. Clearly, it is a policy of releasing all non-Turkish populations from Turkish sway. That has been accepted by everybody, in the House and outside. There has been a dispute about Constantinople. There the Turk is in possession. Outside, the claim is that he is in a minority; in Thrace and in Smyrna he is in a minority; the Arab States have been taken from under his dominion. The one difficulty that remains is Armenia, and I wish that that could be as easily solved. That is the policy. If we allowed Mustapha Kemal, or any man of his type, to organise forces in order to break down that policy, Europe would have failed dismally in its duty. I believe—I say so after full consultation with the ablest soldier in Europe—that we shall be able to establish authority over these areas. When it is quite clear that Europe is not going to be bullied, is not going to be hustled, is not going to be frightened, even by newspaper articles, out of the deliberate policy which it has solemnly proclaimed and which it has incurred enormous obligations in order to establish and vindicate, it will then be much 2261 easier to make arrangements. If it is made quite clear to those forces that Europe is determined, it will be easier to settle matters than it will be if, the moment there is the beginning of a little trouble there, it allows itself to scuttle and run away before any bandit who appears on the scene.
I should like to say one word of a general character in conclusion. It is very easy to point to expenditure here and expenditure there and blame my right hon. Friend the Secretary for War, who is not in the least responsible for the expenditure in Mesopotamia. He is carrying out the policy, upon which the Government and the Allies are agreed, with such forces as he has at his disposal. He may be responsible for a good deal, but for this he has not the slightest responsibility. There is no man who would be better pleased to get his forces away from Mesopotamia and from Persia, if he could do so without dishonour, than my right hon. Friend. He is carrying out a definite policy which has been decided by others. It is no use complaining, whether against my right hon. Friend or against the Government, "Look at your expenditure there and your expenditure here—£20,000,000 or £25,000,000 in Mesopotamia, and so many millions in Constantinople." The whole point is this: Are we, after all that we have done, all that we have achieved, really going to give it up through weariness of the burden? There was a moment when many of us thought the War would last another year—many well advised men. The collapse came suddenly; it came with a crack, when it might have gone on. We can see now, reading those very remarkable books written by German generals, how it might have gone on. If it had gone on, we would have gone on. This country would never have given up except with victory. But if it had gone on for another year—and we would not have shirked it—it would have added another two or three thousand millions to the burdens of this country. Victory came. Is the country, that would have been prepared to face even that gigantic addition to its burdens, going to throw away all the fruits of that great labour, that great sacrifice and burden, because it cannot keep its heart until the situation is cleared up? You cannot, the moment war is over, suddenly say, "That is over, let us clear up, let us go home, let us drop our rifles, 2262 let us shut down the War Office and the Admiralty," and here I may say I think my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is very unfairly blamed for something for which he is not responsible. You cannot do that after this terrific disturbance. I know it is said that things are getting worse. They are not; they are getting better. Just let anyone rub his eyes and look straight on. The moment a great war is over there is of course a false tranquillity, a kind of paralysis. Nations are stunned, and there is an appearance of complete submission and quiet. It is like water at the bottom of a great fall which looks quiet, but the surging waters only come up afterwards. That is what has happened. Humanity has been dashing over precipices. Let us do our best to steer through the rapids and not crash on the rocks, even though excitable people on the banks shout all sorts of contradictory advice. If you had followed the advice of one of them you would have had a smash, and that would have suited them because that would have made good copy anyway. Then they would have started shouting at the next boat. I believe we are working our way out of the whirlpool, but let us keep steady. The nation that kept its head and kept its heart in the most trying period that has ever strained the endurance and fibre of our people can still be patient, can still be enduring, can still be courageous. We will not spend a farthing on these countries except to carry out our mission, but let us go through with it. If we do, these countries will bless us and we shall have done something which will add to the lustre and glory of this great Empire.
§ Major-General SEELY
I am sure that the whole House and the whole country will agree with the Prime Minister that it is our bounden duty to protect all those races who have been subject to Turkish misrule. There are no two opinions about that in any quarter of the House. That was one of the things we fought for, and that is one of the greatest reasons for rejoicing at our victory, and at whatever cost we must free those unfortunate peoples from Turkish misrule. But I join issue with the Prime Minister, not on what he has done in accepting the mandate of Mesopotamia, but as to the way it is being done. I say that public money has been wasted in Mesopotamia, 2263 because you have employed the wrong sort of forces in the wrong way both from the political and military point of view, and you have adopted a wrong policy. I agree with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Stratford (Mr. Ormsby-Gore) that when we went to Baghdad we were received with open arms by the Arabs, and had we then adopted a different policy from that adopted, we might have saved ourselves millions of pounds. It is all very well for the Prime Minister to make a very eloquent peroration with which we all sympathise, but the point is that we have got to spend out of the taxpayers' money anything from twenty-five to forty million pounds in administering a country which many of us claim could have been administered fox millions of pounds less, and what is being done we claim to be unfair to the British taxpayer and unfair to the soldiers who are employed there. I have seen a good many people who have come back from Mesopotamia recently, and I find that they all agree with this view. If you say to the expert now, "We want to occupy this country in the old-fashioned way, tell us what garrisons you want," and they will prepare for you the astonishing document which we see here. In order that I may make good the statement that it is an "astonishing document," I would ask the Secretary of State for War whether it is the fact that we still have 52,000 Indian troops in Mesopotamia. Is that so? I assume it is.
See where we are led to by this extraordinary policy. We know that the population of Mesopotamia is about two millions, so that the able-bodied and adult males in that country must be not more than about 400,000. We have, therefore, actually one Indian infantry soldier to control every eight Mesopotamians, and we have it on the best authority that the Mesopotamians are our friends. If we were to garrison India on the same figures we would require millions of troops, and this country would be bankrupt. Our policy in Mesopotamia, in the view of many of our ablest administrators, is madness. We have just said in a vague way, "You see all these places, the main centres, like Mosul, Baghdad, and Basra, and a number of minor places, and the League of Nations will no doubt endorse the mandate we receive, and we must keep it safe." Therefore, the expert 2264 produces this amazing picture. Has the right hon. Gentleman ever taken the care to consider what it would cost to administer other parts of the world on the Mesopotamian basis? I invite him to do it, and I know that when he has done it he will be the first to come down to this House, and I venture to make the confident prophecy when he sees the cost that he will own up that the administration was grossly extravagant, and if he does not do that, I shall beg his pardon, though I do not think I am likely to have to do so. On my information, which is, I believe, accurate, the whole position is unjustifiable. It may be said, what ought we to do. We ought to do what Sir Percy Cox is to be ultimately asked to do, and get into touch with the Arab Chiefs who are more friendly to us than to other people, and many of whom are frankly devoted to us through Colonel Lawrence, and ask them to form their own infantry forces, and confine our own forces to those wonderful things which science has given us instead of having 52,000 infantry soldiers stuck down in cantonments. You have spent a great deal of money putting up hutments there, and that is not fair to the troops themselves.
From the information before me I believe that what has already happened is very liable to happen again all over this widely scattered region. The last thing in the world we ought to have done was to dump down Indian infantry soldiers all over Mesopotamia in hutments, and I say that quite apart from the expense. Anybody looking at this document would not imagine that it referred to 1920. You do not want to conduct war on the principles of many years ago when modern science has provided you with the means of conducting it on the principles of 1920. I said on a previous occasion that by the policy the Government were pursuing they were shutting their eyes to the necessity of combining science with war, and that that was going to cost this country millions of money and thousands of lives. It has cost the millions already, and if we do not take care it is going to cost thousands of lives as well. The kind of force which, I am informed, would cost half of this, or less, and which would be far more formidable and which would work in conjunction with the political officer, would be a powerful and well-equipped air force and a series of powerful mobile columns, 2265 and of infantry practically none at all. Instead of that, you put down these little infantry garrisons in remote parts of Mesopotamia.
I ask the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister to give his personal attention to this, because in vain we appeal to the Secretary of State for War, whose fault it is. It is no good for the Prime Minister to stand up and say that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War has lots of faults to his credit, implying that though it may be his fault about other matters, it is not his fault here. It is his fault here. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State will not bend his mind to the real problem to which he ought to bend his mind, and he does not put the problem to the expert fairly, and if he wishes to ask the experts anything they will tell him something. That is the gravamen of the charge I make against the Government. I have said it has been very costly in money, and to a certain extent in life. I should be glad if Sir Percy Cox and the experts of the Army were called together and asked whether the view that has been put forward be not the just and right view, and whether it would not be wise to abandon the cantonments. It would save, undoubtedly, millions of money, and, what is more important, save the lives of thousands of the unfortunate Indian troops who by this futile policy are spread over the country, and who, unless steps are taken quickly, will be doomed to the disaster which has already befallen some of them.
Sir J. D. REES
My right hon. Friend (Major-General Seely) in his speech has overlooked the fact that there is really no such person as a Mesopotamian. He spoke of Mesopotamians as if they were a nationality and were united. I venture to submit that they are, in point of fact, composed of the inhabitants of three cities which have very little affinity, and certain loosely connected tribes. Those tribes are said to be very friendly to us, partly owing to the services, which I am sure I do not under-estimate, of Colonel Lawrence, but I can remember that they were extremely friendly towards another colonel on a former occasion until they took his life. It is true that my right hon. Friend and others have counted to a considerable extent on the friendship of the Arabs because of their hostility to the Turks. Their hostility to 2266 the Turks simply comes from the fact that the Turks were their governors. The Turks governed them easily, loosely, spasmodically. It was the easiest yoke in the world, but the Arabs hated them, because they hate any yoke. They are the same people now as they were when I knew them, and as they were in the days of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and they are only dwellers in Mesopotamia now as they were then. They are in no sense Mesopotamians, and we cannot count at all upon their friendship in the manner which has been suggested in this Debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Ormsby-Gore) made a most excellent speech, and there was one thing in it which really brought me up, and that was the statement that, just in proportion as government is good government, so far will it be hateful to the Arabs. What we consider good government is exactly what they abhor, and they will hate us if we impose upon them anything like civilised Western administration far more than they hated the Turk. In point of fact, their hatred of the Turk was purely of a professional character, in the same way as an Irishman will write himself down against the Government, wherever he is, and whatever the government. The same is the case with the Arab nomads, and they are, I think, the majority of the population of this region which we roughly call Mesopotamia. They will the more dislike us the more of our money we spend in imposing upon them a civilised administration.
The Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) spoke of the hardship of imposing upon them the Indian Civil Service as well as Indian troops, and as an Indian Civil Servant I might perhaps be expected to object to that, but, on the contrary, I heartily agree. They do not want that class of administration which we have created in India. In India it is a matter of education. We threw every kind of modern learning at the Hindus, and created in them a love of advanced democratic administration; but there is nothing of the sort amongst the Arabs, and I hope we shall not add to our embarrassments by wasting our money in the vague, foolish, and, as I think, odious effort to impose our own views of what is good administration on nomad tribes and on the inhabitants of these three cities in Meso- 2267 potamia. Let us give them material advantages, but let us not endeavour to interfere with the psychology of the Arab people, which is still what it was in the days of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and of Sinbad the Sailor, and let me say that in Sinbad the Sailor those who read Arabic will know there is a very strong confirmation of the theory of the Prime Minister's that these three cities on the river have a common tie and should not be separated.
Leaving my right hon. Friend for the moment—and I always hear him with great pleasure—may I say with what intense satisfaction I heard the Prime Minister repudiate the doctrine that the League of Nations has anything whatever to do with giving mandates to anybody for anything, and also with what satisfaction I heard his statement that there was no cost for the civil administration. I confess I do not quite understand that, but at any rate the Prime Minister said, and I accept the statement, that there is no cost at present for civil administration and that the receipts are equal to the expendiutre. Is it quite clear that under the administration sketched in the telegram, which I was so unfortunate as not to hear, Mesopotamia in future is to be under the India and not under the Foreign Office? I sincerely hope that it will be under the India Office, with which it is far more closely connected and by which it is far more likely to be satisfactorily managed than by the Foreign Office. My hon. Friend the Member for Stafford said we should train the Mesopotamians in order to be able to withdraw the Indian troops, but again I do not understand what he meant by Mesopotamians. Who are the Mesopotamians that he suggests should be regulated and made into disciplined soldiers? Is it the desert tribes, who hate one another and unite in nothing else but in disliking one another until somebody else tries to govern them all, when they hate him more than they hate one another? Is there any good military material in these cities? If there is, it was not palpable at the time when I knew something about them. My hon. Friend took a lofty view of indifference to oil, but I was glad to hear what the Prime Minister said on that subject, and that he does not endorse the view that 2268 whatever is to happen as the result of the expenditure of British blood and treasure, no advantage must on any account ensue to any British subjects or trade. The repudiation by the Prime Minister of that doctrine gave me the profoundest satisfaction.
My hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. A. Herbert), whom I always hear with such pleasure, laid down the doctrine that prestige as a factor in Eastern administration was over represented in this House and that it mattered far less than was generally supposed. I cannot sit here and let that pass without lifting up my voice to a totally contrary effect and to say that it is impossible for the British to continue to govern India or to rule any nations in the East if they do not maintain their prestige at that high level at which it has been maintained hitherto. The Prime Minister avoided, and therefore I suppose I should avoid, the question of the Turkish mandate, and he only referred incidentally to Armenia as being one of those countries of which we are to dispose in accordance with the mandate under the Turkish Treaty. I hope that does not mean—I do not suppose it does—that we are to have any voice in disposing of what was Russian Armenia, or the Armenian Republic in Georgia, because if so we shall never be quit of these responsibilities, and we shall never cease having troops in various places engaged in carrying out this scattered policy all over the world. The one characteristic of the Armenian is that he never can get on with any of his neighbours. He is always at variance with all his neighbours, and I will only say this about the Armenian question, that it is the only question since I have been in Parliament which is not admitted by anybody to have two sides, and in regard to which it is taken for granted that the Turk is a bad man and a Mohammedan and the Armenian is a good man and a Christian, and anybody who is satisfied with that rough definition and believes there is anything in it must know very little indeed of either Turks, Mohammedans, or Eastern Christians. However, the Prime Minister kept off that, and Heaven knows when the Prime Minister keeps off a subject it would become a private Member to do the same, anxious as I should be to deal with it, because this question is practically boycotted, and it is very difficult 2269 for a Member to speak the truth about the Turkish and Armenian question and to lift up his voice for one moment in this House unless he adopts the attitude which has been gained by gold and intrigue far more than by the merits of the question.
Before I sit down I want to say one more word on the extreme danger of imposing anything like Western administration upon the Arabs. The Turkish collection of taxes was extraordinarily agreeable in its character to the dwellers in Mesopotamia. They did not come out except now and again, in a kind of sporting state, in which they had a drive and drove the people whom they wanted to tax; when they had got them under their hands they taxed them, and when they did not come they were not taxed. That is infinitely agreeable to nomads, and if it seems that that is very extraordinary, I would point out that there is a great deal of that sporting spirit, both in the Turks and in the Arabs, and that I think both thoroughly enjoy that method of tax gathering. I repeat it because it is necessary that the House should take to heart what the hon. Member for Stafford said, that you must above all avoid imposing a sort of Indian high-class administration on these people. I do not know if I should weary the House if I ventured to give an illustration of what I mean from what actually happened once in India. There was once an Indian prince, a gang of whose subjects took to robbery, and he said, "I will stop these fellows," and he went out with a gang of his friends with guns. When he came up to the robbers they opened fire on him from behind rocks, and he returned the fire, and none of his people were hit. After this had gone on for about half-an-hour he could contain himself no longer, but jumped on the highest rock, shook his hands at the robbers, and said, "I will have all you rascals hanged; such bad shots are a disgrace to my dominions,"—because they had not killed himself or any of his followers. That shows the spirit which obtains in regard to tax gathering amongst Orientals, which is totally alien from anything we understand in the West. I ventured to repeat that little anecdote because I think it will bring home to the Committee far more than a laboured and serious statement of mine what really is the kind of attitude of the wild, nomad, 2270 free dwellers in the desert towards government, and I want to protest that no sooner shall we be installed as governors of the Arabs than, unless we draw government very mild, we shall be far more unpopular with them than ever the Turks were, whose yoke was light, although occasionally they came out with guns and swords to collect their taxes. I hope what I have said about the extreme advisability and absolute necessity of avoiding anything like what we call good government, and letting these people go on managing their own affairs, will be acted upon by the Government. The more we take that to heart, the cheaper we make our administration, the more we leave it to Sir Percy Cox, who is known and honoured all over the East, the more popular we shall be, and the better we shall carry out in fact the objects of the mandate.
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Major-General Sir J. DAVIDSON
I wish to ask one or two questions of the right hon. Gentleman representing the War Office. First of all, is the Government satisfied, and are the military authorities satisfied, that our military resources are equal to our commitments in that great stretch of country which lies between India and the Mediterranean, including, Persia, Mesopotamia, and Turkey? One hears rumours of all sorts as to demands for British troops all over the world. One hears of demands for troops for Ireland, Constantinople, Teheran, and India. I should like to receive some answer from the Government whether they are fully satisfied that we have resources equal to our commitments. There is another point. I do not know what this British force at Meshed is doing under General Malleson. I heard a rumour that it was being withdrawn. Will my right hon. Friend tell us whether it is being withdrawn?
§ Sir J. DAVIDSON
I am not criticising the War Office in the least, but I think the more these commitments in Persia can be reduced the better. There is another point I should like to have cleared up. Were the War Office consulted by the Foreign Office when the Persian Treaty was brought into force? I do not believe they were. I believe 2271 constant demands have been made on the War Office without reference to whether they can carry out the policy of the Foreign Office. There is no proper co-ordination between the India Office, the War Office, and the Foreign Office. I sincerely hope there will be in the future. I trust we are not going to cut down expenditure to such an extent as to jeopardise our forces in Mesopotamia. I do not think we ought to put our forces into disposition so far from our bases.
§ Lieut.-Colonel MEYSEY-THOMPSON
I listened with very great interest to the speeches which were made this afternoon, and especially to the speech of the Prime Minister, and I am glad to say that, on this occasion, I was able to agree with almost every word he said. I am not always in entire agreement with him, but I think his speech this afternoon was very much to the point. I also listened with very great interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Ormsby-Gore) with regard to the Mesopotamian forces. I have a great respect for the achievements of our native troops, and I hope the force of which the hon. Member spoke may be raised, and may do very great service to the Empire. The reason I have risen is to appeal to the Prime Minister not to be misled by adverse criticism, such as emanated from the Leader of the Opposition, or by the vision of reducing the expenditure at once, or even by the prospect of forming a large force of native troops in Mesopotamia, into risking the security of our white troops there, by false economy, or by a withdrawal of so much of our force there as to endanger the position of those of our white troops who remain. I quite agree we ought to hold Mesopotamia now we are at Basra and Mosul. I do appeal most strongly to the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for War to maintain our troops in that part of the world at a strength, which will insure the security of our white troops there. I am perfectly certain the majority of Members of this House, and certainly a large majority of people in the country, will support him in maintaining the security of our white troops in Mesopotamia. I do trust the Prime Minister will act up to the words he spoke this afternoon, and that the Secretary of State for War, in whose 2272 patriotism and anxiety to support our troops in every part of the world I have great confidence, will be firm, and not be led by any criticism into risking our gallant troops in Mesopotamia.
§ Mr. SWAN
We on these Benches cannot at all appreciate the policy which is being pursued, and we think that these Estimates are launching the nation into a greater debt than ever, and that we are not in a position to pay for them. The Government is undertaking liabilities and responsibilities in Mesopotamia which, we believe, are not at all in harmony with their promises and pledges. We think, too, the policy which the Government is pursuing is a repudiation of the policy which inspired many of our men to join the colours, and is directed and guided, not from the purest motives, but it is due to the financial influences outside the House of Commons, and perhaps inside as well. It seems to us as if they have not gathered any experience as a result of the War. Instead of the War and all it has cost having a sobering influence upon the mind of the War Office, they are launching into new schemes and new responsibilities which will add to the debt of the nation. I interrupted the Prime Minister when he suggested that the motives were entirely pure. According to a leading article in the "Times" of 20th May:The whole atmosphere of our proceedings in Mesopotamia and Persia appears to savour more of syndicates than sense.On February 16th last the "Times" said,The Persian Government has granted an option to a powerful British syndicate for the survey of a railway, from Mesopotamia railhead at Kuretu via Kerman-shop, Hemadan and Kasvin to Teheran, with a branch from Kasvin to Enzeli.We believe that these are the influences which have led us into huge financial liabilities and responsibilities, which we think the Government have no right to undertake in the light of the promises that were made to those who served and made sacrifices in the War. Instead of the development of Mesopotamia, we say the Government are under an obligation to develop our own country. We see that one of the items of expenditure for Mesopotamia is £1,667,000 for Works? What are these Works for?
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
When they are undertaken they will be for the purpose of affording shelter to the troops billeted in Mesopotamia.
§ Mr. SWAN
If there were no troops there, these works would not be required. Again, there are £1,000,000 for land and £354,000 for railways, mechanical transport, and inland water transport stores. Surely, if there is any country which wants development, it is our own country. We have men in search of employment, and we want railways, and if there is a surplus capital, why should we send it to Mesopotamia? We have land in our country laden with all kinds of mineral wealth, and everything essential for industry, but we cannot develop our own resources, because we are told we have not the means to do it, and the want of transport. But we can relieve the difficulties of all other countries, instead of utilising our own resources to carry out our pledges and promises to our own people. We on these Benches desire to repudiate the Government policy and shall certainly vote against these Estimates. The Prime Minister said that he could understand the attitude of those who say, "Clear out of Mesopotamia. Well, that is the policy of the Labour party. It seems as if we are still drunk with the spirit of war. We cannot afford to squander our resources, which come out of the British taxpayer, when we have got a debt of £8,000,000,000 and a revenue of £1,000,000,000, and to meet the requirements of the nation we have to sell our stores which were bought out of borrowed money. This policy is leading us into a bigger maze than ever, and is making the possibility of the Government carrying out its pledges and promises more remote than ever. We have embarked upon responsibilities and liabilities which will mean an additional cost to the taxpayers. We say that it is not due to consideration of the national need that that policy is being pursued. The Prime Minister said that we had no 2274 interest in Mesopotamia. We on these Benches suggest that that interest is oil—not very palatable, perhaps, for the British taxpayer. A question was put in the House to the First Lord of the Admiralty on the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, to which the right hon. Gentleman replied that the amount held by the British Government in the company was: Ordinary shares, £22,000,000; Preference shares, £1,000; Debenture shares, £199,000; total, £2,200,000. The value of these shares, he said, had considerably appreciated. But the "Stock Exchange Gazette," some time last year, showed that the ordinary shares were selling at £20 each. There are over £2,000,000 worth of shares held by the Government? We have no right to say that it is high moral motives that have inspired the policy of the British Government. The policy we have advocated from these Benches ought to be pursued still further in this country and other parts where we have interests, not only part-shares. We ridicule the policy of the Government. Is it right to violate pledges and promises made to the electors? If we have got to carry out a policy of reconstruction necessitated by the aftermath of the War, then we suggest we should commence at home. If we have capital to squander—which we have not—we ought to utilise it to build homes for the people and to provide those amenities so much required in this country.
Lieut.-Colonel SPENDER CLAY
I feel so strongly on the subject that I feel bound to say that I was not satisfied in one direction at the Prime Minister's speech this afternoon. I do not think that he put quite sufficient strength into that part of his speech in which he referred to the intention of the Government to set up an Arab Government in Mesopotamia. But the point I am anxious about, and that I think is a real danger to the country is this: To-day we have heard that in Mesopotamia the maximum force of Indian troops is quite inadequate to deal with a rising on the part of the Arabs, a rising which might quite easily occur at any moment. You admittedly have small parties of men in this immense country and there might be irritation on the part of the Arabs against the presence of the Indians, to which allusion has already been made, and there might be an outburst which would be disastrous to the British name 2275 throughout the whole of the East and, indeed throughout the whole of the world. The danger is not, I think, sufficiently realised in this country. There is danger even with small parties of Arabs over which there does not seem to be any great control. They might cut our communications, and that would entail a hugh enterprise and a hugh expedition such as the Prime Minister mentioned. This might cost us into millions of pounds. I do not pretend to have great knowledge of that part of the world. I have not. But it has not been mentioned this afternoon, I think, sufficiently strongly—quite apart from all questions of oil and so on—which I may say with all respect are the matters which are not really important, though they may be so in some instances—the great danger that exists to the prestige of our country in leaving small parties of troops scattered over this great area when we know there are at this moment 200,000 Arabs armed with British rifles who might easily create a disaster. I should like the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War to say definitely whether or not he is satisfied with the situation as he finds it in Mesopotamia to-day, and whether he has received assurances from those who are in command on the spot that they will be able to withstand any rising, whether it is from jealousy, ill-feeling against the Indian troops, or from whatever cause; and that the British troops are in a position to maintain the great name of this country in that wide area. I feel it necessary that the right hon. Gentleman should give some assurance to many who are extremely anxious as to a position which at any moment we may find ourselves in. For these reasons I feel bound to utter a warning as to what may occur in the near future.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
I regret the Prime Minister is not here, because I should like to convey my approval and appreciation of his entirely new peroration, and one which was very suitable indeed to a sultry day. I know him sufficiently well to make this deduction from the very eloquent conclusion of his speech: that he is mainly desirous of drawing the attention of the House away from the charges which have been levelled against his Administration by the leader of the Opposition. The 2276 Prime Minister referred to a declaration which was made in November, 1918. I happen to have the exact words of that declaration. It referred to Mesopotamia. This was a declaration jointly made by this country and France. The words are these:Far from wishing to impose any particular institution on these lands—said France and Great Britain—they have no other care but to assure by their support and their effective aid the normal workings of methods of administration which they shall have adopted by their own free will.The claim of the Prime Minister was that from that declaration they had neither in spirit nor in action departed. But a more extraordinary record of administration on these lines than that of the Government during the past 18 months I have never heard. What is being done? First of all, as to cost. The Estimates for this year runs, on the admitted figures, well up to £25,000,000. From what has been shown already it is very safe to assume that the cost will at least approach £35,000,000. That is by no means the whole of the story. We are entitled to ask what did it cost last year? The figures are here in the Estimate before the Committee. It cost there nearly £33,000,000 for a precisely similar service. The exact figure is £32,890,000 for Mesopotamia, including North-West Persia, exactly the same service as the Government are estimating for to-day.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
I am talking about the total cost. In two years our administration in Mesopotamia and North-west Persia will have cost this country very little short of £60,000,000. I should like to press my right hon. Friend for an answer to one or two points which have been put before him by my right hon. Friend. Will he tell us what is the estimated cost of the operations of the Air Force in addition to the sum given here for the operations of the Army? Will he also relieve our anxiety on a point on pages 96 and 97, under sub-head L, in the Miscellaneous Charges? Is it or is it not the fact that there is expenditure for troops by Indian Government in respect of these Imperial Services which the Indian Government is going to pay in the first instance, but which we shall have to repay?
2277 I ask this further question: Are the forces under General Malleson at Meshed included in the British Estimate or do they fall under the Indian Miscellaneous Charges? In short, what I want to know is this: Does the Estimate of £15,825,000 represent the actual cost of the troops that are there, with probably tens of thousands to follow? Where does that charge come? We are entitled to know what is the actual cost of this great undertaking. The Estimate which has been given is one which, so far as I can see, does not disclose all the facts, although I want to say this at once, that the way in which this Estimate is drawn up has certainly given us more information than any other form in which the Army Estimates have so far been presented. The new system has given us a further amount of information for Debate purposes that otherwise, and on other occasions, we have certainly not been able to obtain. The £100 Token Vote was also dealt with by the Prime Minister. He said that at present it is costing the British taxpayer nothing. That may be so at present. But I think we are certainly responsible for it, and if the estimate given by the right hon. Gentleman is at all correct, this is what has happened: That these 2,000,000 people under the most recent Budget are raising £5,000,000, presumably for civil administration. That is, they are being taxed at the rate of over £2 per head. We have had a speech from my hon. and gallant Friend opposite who has some knowledge of Indian affairs, and he described with all his knowledge the intense irritation caused by the taxation of a nomad people. How long are you likely to raise this £5,000,000? The civil administration of Mesopotamia next year will not be a token vote but a substantial lump sum. The irritation which is spreading rapidly in that country, and the riots which are bound to take place, will leave you with no money at all for the civil administration we are imposing on that country. This is one of the charges we make against the Government. They set out with high ideals as shown in the Declaration of November, 1919. You start with an expenditure of over £32,000,000, and you are going to limit us this year to £25,000,000. You have to-day between 70,000 and 80,000 troops there, and it has been admitted upon expert knowledge to-day that our military forces, large as they are in that country, are in a 2278 dangerous position, and they fear not that we have too many, but that we have not enough troops there. I think that is a very remarkable state of affairs for the Prime Minister to be proud of.
What did the right hon. Gentleman get the wild cheers of this Assembly for? For a record which has landed this country into an expenditure in two years of over £60,000,000. The right hon. Gentleman was wise enough to say that it is a very open question as to when we shall arrive at the passive condition under which the new Arab Government will begin to function with any degree of efficiency. It is only a hope. I think the hon. and gallant Member for Stafford (Mr. Ormsby-Gore) was right when he said that it was the pressure of public opinion which alone had been the means of bringing about the declaration that we are going to revert to the policy of November, 1918, and administer that country in accordance with the ancient traditions of this country in dealing with alien subject races, and that they should be managed not for our benefit, but for the benefit of those who live in them. If this system had been tried in India we know what would have happened. There would have been atrocities, and we should not have been able to hold the Indian Empire. The whole policy has been wrong, and now the country is awake to the fact that their hard-earned millions have been poured out in a ceaseless stream of reckless and irresponsible extravagance, and that is what is happening. The Chancellor of the Exchequer does not know which way to turn to raise the necessary money for our abnormal expenditure under peace conditions in this country, while thousands of miles away millions have been poured out by the score.
It is here and here alone that we can exercise any influence over these matters. It is hard work to check the Estimates, taking a few millions here and there, and £500,000 on another occasion, and find that we are voted down every time. Here you have a case where the Government carry out their policy solemly set down between this country and France in November, 1918, and but for this policy this country would have been the better off by scores of millions to-day, and we should have saved many precious lives, and there would not have been that wastage of life which always goes on even when no actual combats take, place and which is due to 2279 sickness, and devitalisation of the best of our British manhood. Instead of being carried away by the answer of the Prime Minister, I have never felt more confirmed in my view that the House of Commons will not be doing its duty if it does not register its strong, earnest, and sincere condemnation of the policy of His Majesty's Government in Mesopotamia and North-West Persia.
§ Mr. SEDDON
I fail to understand what the object of the last speaker was except to criticise. He did not say whether the policy enunciated in the telegram met with his approval or disapproval.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
The hon. Member could not have been listening to what I said, because I stated more than once that I welcomed the new policy announced today.
§ Mr. SEDDON
The right hon. Gentleman does not suggest that we should evacuate immediately, and he does not deny that the new policy demands the presence of British troops. I wish to call attention to an observation made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ilkeston (Major-General Seely), who said that our present method was more in accordance with 1815 than 1920, and he seemed to base his charge upon the statement that the means we had at our disposal were not the right means, and led to greater dangers than the job we have undertaken would normally lead us into. He also said we were not using all the scientific aids which would help us to complete what we had undertaken. If that is so, it is a very serious charge. The right hon. Gentleman is not the only Member who has emphasised that point, and I ask for a clear statement as to whether that charge is correct or otherwise. If we are not utilising all that science can give to us in the undertaking we are committed to, will there be any assurance given that in the further prosecution of that engagement in this part of the world all that science can do in assisting us will be done, so that we may successfully complete the work to which we have put our hand?
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I only rise to answer the specific questions which have been put, and not with the object of continuing the general Debate. I do not feel that I could in any way add to or improve 2280 upon the impression created by the Prime Minister in his broad general treatment of the subject. My right hon. Friend asked me to state for the benefit of the Committee before proceeding to a Division, what was the expenditure at the present time upon the Air Force there. It is about £450,000 a year, and the total number of men are about 1,000 or 1,100, including natives. Three squadrons are actually there. Then I have been asked a question about the item on page 96 which has come in for an ample share of attention from two right hon. Gentlemen who have spoken. The question was whether that item included anything for the maintenance of General Malleson's force at Meshed. The answer is "yes," and £2,000,000 are included in that figure for the maintenance of that force this year. The force is controlled and administered from India, but the charge for it has been placed upon the Army Estimates. Orders were given some time ago for the withdrawal of this force. That withdrawal is in progress, and I am informed that it will be a matter of four or five months before it is completed, although every effort is being made to accelerate its withdrawal. Therefore it is probable that the expense will not be limited to the £2,000,00 taken in the Estimates.
The hon. Member for Tonbridge (Lieut.-Colonel Spender-Clay), approaching the subject from a directly opposite point of view, asked whether we were certain we had enough troops in Mesopotamia. I do not deny that in this respect the resources at our disposal there are heavily strained at the present moment. When you consider what our commitments are in Cologne, in Ireland, in this country, in Constantinople, Egypt, Palestine, Mesopotamia, and Persia, when you consider that we are discharging all these commitments in countries where there is every variety of disturbance and unrest in different forms and in widely different sphere; when you consider that we are discharging all these responsibilities with a voluntary Army only that we have been able to enlist by voluntary methods since the Armistice, I think that should excite feelings of concern in the breasts of all who have studied these questions, and it should excite feelings, I will not say of gratitude, but at any rate of appreciation, of the efforts and exertions of the military authorities who have been 2281 able to bring these forces into being in such a short time, and who are actually discharging these grave and serious responsibilities in so many different parts of the world.
I have only one more word to say, and it is suggested to me by the curious criticism which my right hon. and gallant Friend, the Member for Ilkeston, has made, and to which my hon. Friend below the Gangway (Mr. Seddon) has drawn particular attention. My right hon. Friend says that we have adopted the method of 1815 in the year 1920, and he makes it a specific charge that I am advocating that course. Nothing can be more unjust, and I should have thought that no one knew better than my right hon. and gallant Friend that nothing could be more unjust. Apparently, this is outside his usually wide sphere of knowledge. As a matter of fact, I think I was the originator of the suggestion that the Air Force should be given a free hand to develop control in Mesopotamia, and no time has been lost since then. The Air Staff have drawn up detailed plans, and Sir Hugh Trenchard has prepared a scheme, and a high officer of the Air Force has been touring about Mesopotamia and has arranged a scheme with the military General on the spot. Therefore, these plans are in readiness and we are in a state when they can be submitted for Cabinet approval. When they have been submitted, however, and approved it will take more than a year to raise and train and develop the Air Force necessary to give effect to them. So far from making such a charge as he did against me, or against the Government, my right hon. Friend ought to have been sufficiently well-informed to know that exactly the contrary to what he suggests is the case.
§ Major-General SEELY
We all know that my right hon. Friend was the apostle of scientific warfare before the Armistice. He has now, however, admitted there are 70,000 men in this small country and an air force only 1,000 strong. How can he justify that?
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
That is a very good specimen of the kind of criticism to which we are subjected. Everybody knows that when the War was over a great mass of the men and mechanics in the Air Force disappeared. We have since been struggling to recreate from the original element a force sufficiently strong to discharge its proper share in the business of 2282 defending the British Empire. We are succeeding, and perhaps we should have more rapidly achieved our ambitious and far-sighted policy had we only enjoyed the great advantage of the continued assistance of my right hon. Friend hope I may appeal to the Committee to take the Vote on this subject without any further delay, because there is another subject to come on this evening which raises matters of keen feeling that excite general interest among Members, and when that subject is disposed of there are other items on the Estimates to which I know a good many hon. Members wish to refer to. I therefore venture to appeal to the Committee to come to a decision.
§ Mr. PEMBERTON BILLING
It is not my intention to say very much, but I want to express my regret at the last statement of the Minister for War. Towards the end of the War we were gradually producing an efficient Aeronautical Department. We had produced the finest and most efficient Air Service in the world, a service which, I respectfully submit, would have done the entire punitive work in which the British Army is now engaged in Mesopotamia at a fraction of the cost which is being incurred. Today, had the War Minister spoken truly, we have practically no Air Service at all, and that is largely due to the hysterical criticisms of the Opposition, such as it is, on the whole war policy of the Government. The unfortunate part is that hon Members of this House seem to think that we are embarking on a new war. That is not the case at all. The state of war has in fact never ceased, and the fact that one of the principal combatants ceased fighting was no justification for this Government to assume that peace had come on this earth. The action which we are taking in the East to-day—and on this I find myself for the third time in four years on the side of the Government—is, I would like to think, only part of the considered policy of the Government for maintaining the prestige of these islands in the East. It is all very well both on platforms and on the floor of this House to echo the popular Press campaign for economy. I have no doubt that a little later on this evening we shall have many references to it in connection with another subject.
The Prime Minister this afternoon made one of the most eloquent speeches 2283 he has ever made in this House. It gave us the impression he was absolutely sincere, but it also made it clear there was an atmosphere of apology in the statement, for the right hon. Gentleman seemed to be excusing the Government for realising that until we do, by the employment of the sword, which is so much jeered at now after eighteen months of supposed peace, establish order it will be impossible for the nations of the world to settle down to peace. I only wish the Government would make it more clear that that is so. I wish, too, that the Prime Minister or the Minister for War had gloried in the work they are doing and not apologised for it. They are doing it in the face of the opposition of this House, such as it is. They are doing it in the face of the Press of this country, which is shrieking for economy. The Prime Minister pointed out that the cost of continuing this war on the old scale of fighting Germany for one year would allow us to continue the administration of constitutional government. That is our task, and those who believe that the nebulous League of Nations is going to produce peace may continue in their belief. I believe the Lord President of the Council is the head of that move-
§ ment. I appeal to hon. Members of this House to realise that I am not speaking in a Jingo spirit when I urge that this country has a mission in this matter to put all its strength into establishing law and order, and, above all, in maintaining our prestige in the East, which so many hon. Members treat as of such little account. No matter how much they may wish to harass the Government for ulterior or party motives, I appeal to them not to do so in this matter of the fulfilment of the work they have started out to do—the work of bringing peace. It has been suggested we have won the War, but it is quite possible, if the Government do not persist in a strong policy, that we may lose the Peace. I gather from their cheers that very many hon. Members agree with me. I hope they will have the courage to support the Government in the Lobby in the face of popular opinion, which is for economy at all costs, and I beg them not to sell for the sake of a few millions what has cost us already many thousands of millions in money and, what is more precious, the best blood of our country.
§ Question put, "That Item Head I, Sub-head C, be reduced by £1,000,000."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 50; Noes, 285.2285
|Division No. 157.]||AYES.||[7.53 P.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. F. D.||Hallas, Eldred||Rees, Capt. J. Tudor- (Barnstaple)|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Hancock, John George||Rendall, Athelstan|
|Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E.)||Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Hayday, Arthur||Robertson, John|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hayward, Major Evan||Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)|
|Bramsdon, Sir Thomas||Holmes, J. Stanley||Seely, Major-General Rt. Hon. John|
|Briant, Frank||Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M.||Swan, J. E.|
|Bromfield, William||Kenyon, Barnet||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Lawson, John J.||Tootill, Robert|
|Child, Brigadier-General Sir Hill||Maclean, Rt. Hn. Sir D. (Midlothian)||White, Charles F. (Derby, Western)|
|Clay, Lieut.-Colonel H. H. Spender||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Mosley, Oswald||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Stourbridge)|
|Davies, A. (Lancaster, Clitheroe)||Murray, Dr. D. (Inverness & Ross)||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Davies, Alfred Thomas (Lincoln)||Myers, Thomas||Wintringham, Thomas|
|Entwistle, Major C. F.||Newbould, Alfred Ernest|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Nicholson, Reginald (Doncaster)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Glanville, Harold James||Palmer, Charles Frederick (Wrekin)||Mr. Hogge and Mr. G. Thorne.|
|Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central)||Rattan, Peter Wilson|
|Adkins, Sir W. Ryland D.||Bell, Lieut.-Col. W C. H. (Devizes)||Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Boyd-Carpenter, Major A.|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Commander F. W.||Bennett, Thomas Jewell||Brittain, Sir Harry|
|Bagley, Captain E. Ashton||Betterton, Henry B.||Brown, Captain D. C.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Bigland, Alfred||Brown, T. W. (Down, North)|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Billing, Noel Pemberton-||Bruton, Sir James|
|Banner, Sir John S. Harmood-||Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.|
|Barker, Major Robert H.||Bird, Sir A. (Wolverhampton, West)||Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James|
|Barrand, A. R.||Blair, Reginald||Butcher, Sir John George|
|Barrie, Rt. Hon. H. T. (Lon'derry, N.)||Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Campbell, J. D. G.|
|Barton, Sir William (Oldham)||Boles, Lieut.-Colonel D. F.||Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Boscawen, Rt. Hon. Sir A. Griffith-||Carew, Charles Robert S.|
|Carr, W. Theodore||Hopkins, John W. W.||Pilditch, Sir Philip|
|Carter, R. A. D. (Man., Withington)||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Pinkham, Lieut.-Colonel Charles|
|Casey, T. W.||Howard, Major S. G.||Pollock, Sir Ernest M.|
|Cayzer, Major Herbert Robin||Hunter-Weston, Lieut.-Gen. Sir A. G.||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Evelyn (Birm., Aston)||Hurd, Percy A.||Pratt, John William|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. Birm., W.)||Hurst, Lieut.-Colonel Gerald B.||Preston, W. R.|
|Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood)||Illingworth, Rt. Hon. A. H.||Prescott, Major W. H.|
|Chilicot, Lieut.-Com. Harry W.||Inskip, Thomas Walker H.||Pulley, Charles Thornton|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Purchase, H. G.|
|Clough, Robert||Johnson, Sir Stanley||Rae, H. Norman|
|Coates, Major Sir Edward F.||Johnstone, Joseph||Raeburn, Sir William H.|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Ratcliffe, Henry Butler|
|Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Lianelly)||Rees, Sir J. D. (Nottingham, East)|
|Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale||Jones, William Kennedy (Hornsey)||Remer, J. R.|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Kellaway, Rt. Hon. Fredk. George||Richardson, Sir Albion (Camberwell)|
|Cooper, Sir Richard Ashmole||Kelley, Major Fred (Rotherham)||Richardson, Alexander (Gravesend)|
|Cope, Major Wm.||Kerr-Smiley, Major Peter Kerr||Roberts, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Norwich)|
|Cory, Sir C. J. (Cornwall, St. Ives)||Kidd, James||Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Courthope, Major George L.||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Rogers, Sir Hallewell|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Knight, Major E. A. (Kidderminster)||Roundell, Colonel R. F.|
|Craig, Colonel Sir J. (Down, Mid)||Knights, Capt. H. N. (C'berwell, N.)||Royden, Sir Thomas|
|Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Lane-Fox, G. R.||Royds, Lieut.-Colonel Edmund|
|Dalziel, Rt. Hon. Sir J. H. (Kirk'dy)||Larmor, Sir Joseph||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Davies, Major D. (Montgomery)||Law, Alfred J. (Rochdale)||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Davies, Sir David Sanders (Denbigh)||Law, Rt. Hon. A. B. (Glasgow, C.)||Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert A.|
|Davies, Sir Joseph (Chester, Crewe)||Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ., Wales)||Scott, A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)|
|Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||Lewis, T. A. (Glam., Pontypridd)||Scott, Leslie (Liverpool, Exchange)|
|Dawes, Commander||Lindsay, William Arthur||Scott, Sir Samuel (St. Marylebone)|
|Dean, Lieut.-Commander P. T.||Lloyd, George Butler||Seager, Sir William|
|Denniss, Edmund R. B. (Oldham)||Lloyd-Greame, Major Sir P.||Seddon, J. A.|
|Dewhurst, Lieut.-Commander Harry||Lort-Williams, J.||Shaw, William T. (Forfar)|
|Doyle, N. Grattan||Loseby, Captain C. E.||Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N-castle-on-T.)|
|Du Pre, Colonel William Baring||Lynn, R. J.||Simm, M. T.|
|Edge, Captain William||M'Donald, Dr. Bouverie F. P.||Smith, Harold (Warrington)|
|Edwards, John H. (Glam., Neath)||Macdonald, Rt. Hon. John Murray||Smithers, Sir Alfred W.|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)||Mackinder, Sir H. J. (Camlachie)||Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander|
|Eyres-Monsell, Commander B. M.||McLaren, Hon. H. D. (Leicester)||Stanier, Captain Sir Beville|
|Falle, Major Sir Bertram G.||McLaren, Robert (Lanark, Northern)||Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. G. F.|
|Farquharson, Major A. C.||M'Lean, Lieut.-Col. Charles W. W.||Stanton, Charles B.|
|Fell, Sir Arthur||Macmaster, Donald||Starkey, Captain John R.|
|Fildes, Henry||M'Micking, Major Gilbert||Steel, Major S. Strang|
|Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert.||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Stephenson, Colonel H. K.|
|FitzRoy, Captain Hon. E. A.||McNeill, Ronald (Kent, Canterbury)||Stewart, Gershom|
|Flannery, Sir James Fortescue||Magnus, Sir Philip||Strauss, Edward Anthony|
|Ford, Patrick Johnston||Malone, Major P. B. (Tottenham, S.)||Sugden, W. H.|
|Foreman, Henry||Marriott, John Arthur Ransome||Surtees, Brigadier-General H. C.|
|Forestier-Walker, L.||Martin, Captain A. E.||Sutherland, Sir William|
|Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot||Matthews, David||Sykes, Colonel Sir A. J. (Knutsford)|
|Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Meysey-Thompson, Lieut.-Col. E. C.||Sykes, Sir Charles (Huddersfield)|
|Freece, Sir Walter de||Middlebrook, Sir William||Taylor, J.|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Mildmay, Colonel Rt. Hon. F. B.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Gange, E. Stanley||Mitchell, William Lane||Tickler, Thomas George|
|Ganzoni, Captain Francis John C.||Moles, Thomas||Townley, Maximilian G.|
|Gardiner, James||Molson, Major John Elsdale||Vickers, Douglas|
|George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred M.||Walton, J. (York, W. R., Don Valley)|
|Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Montagu, Rt. Hon. E. S.||Ward-Jackson, Major C. L.|
|Gilbert, James Daniel||Moore, Major-General Sir Newton J.||Ward, Col. J. (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel John||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Waring, Major Walter|
|Glyn, Major Ralph||Morning, Captain Algernon H.||Watson, Captain John Bertrand|
|Goff, Sir R. Park||Morrison, Hugh||Weston, Colonel John W.|
|Gould, James C.||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C.||White, Lieut.-Col. G. D. (Southport)|
|Gray, Major Ernest (Accrington)||Mount, William Arthur||Whitla, Sir William|
|Green, Albert (Derby)||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Wigan, Brig.-Gen. John Tyson|
|Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)||Murray, Major William (Dumfries)||Willey, Lieut.-Colonel F. V.|
|Greenwood, William (Stockport)||Nall, Major Joseph||Williams, Lt.-Col. Sir R. (Banbury)|
|Greig, Colonel James William||Neal, Arthur||Williams, Col. Sir R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Guinness, Lieut.-Col. Hon. W. E.||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Williamson, Rt. Hon. Sir Archibald|
|Gwynne, Rupert S.||Nicholl, Commander Sir Edward||Willoughby, Lieut.-Col. Hon. Claud|
|Hall, Rr-Adml Sir W. (Liv'p'l, W.D'by)||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)||Wills, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Gilbert|
|Hambro, Captain Angus Valdemar||Norman, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Wilson, Daniel M. (Down, West)|
|Hanna, George Boyle||Norris, Colonel Sir Henry G.||Wilson, Colonel Leslie O. (Reading)|
|Harmsworth, C. B. (Bedford, Luton)||Norton-Griffiths, Lieut.-Col. Sir John||Wilson-Fox, Henry|
|Henderson, Major V. L. (Tradeston)||Parker, James||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)|
|Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry||Wood, Sir J. (Stalybridge & Hyde)|
|Henry, Denis S. (Londonderry, S.)||Pearce, Sir William||Wood, Major S. Hill- (High Peak)|
|Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike||Woolcock, William James U.|
|Hinds, John||Peel, Lieut.-Col. R. F. (Woodbridge)||Yate, Colonel Charles Edward|
|Hoare, Lieut.-Colonel Sir S. J. G.||Peel, Col. Hn. S. (Uxbridge, Mddx.)||Yeo, Sir Alfred William|
|Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Pennefather, De Fonblanque||Young, Lieut.-Com. E. H. (Norwich)|
|Hope, Sir H. (Stirling & Cl'ckm'nn'n,W.)||Percy, Charles||Young, Sir Frederick W. (Swindon)|
|Hope, James F. (Sheffield, Central)||Perkins, Walter Frank|
|Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. A. (Midlothian)||Perring, William George||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Hope, J. D. (Berwick & Haddington)||Pickering, Lieut.-Colonel Emil W||Lord E. Talbot and Mr. Dudley Ward.|
§ Original Question again proposed.