§ Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR
(by Private Notice)asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what reports have been received with regard to the recent executions of 67 Greek and Armenian notables of Samsoun and Bafra by Kemalist bands; and with regard to the massacres and violation and deportation of women by the same bands at Marsovan; what steps the Government intend to take, in case of the departure of the French troops from Cilicia, to protect the Armenian and Greek population in that province from the alternatives of flight or massacre?
The Turkish press has admitted the execution of Greeks in the Samsoun and Bafra districts. As regards massacres at Marsovan, I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer given to the hon. Member for Consett on 26th October. Since then His Majesty's Government have received information that 950 Greeks and Armenians perished there in circumstances of barbarity. France is, under the Treaty of Sèvres and the Tripartite Agreement, the Power specially concerned with the protection of minorities in Cilicia, and His Majesty's Government are now discussing with the French Government the new Franco-Kemalist agreement. As these discussions are still proceeding, I cannot make any further statement at present in this House.
§ Mr. A. WILLIAMS
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that 100,000 people are preparing to fly from Cilicia if this is put back under the Turkish Government, and were not many of these people sent there by the authority of the British Government?
§ Lord R. CECIL
Is it possible to lay on the Table of this House a copy of the agreement between the Kemalists and France?
I hope that it will be possible, but, obviously, that cannot be done without conference with the French Government.
§ Earl WINTERTON
Will the hon. Gentleman approach the Leader of the House with a view to having a statement on the question raised by the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. O'Connor) and the whole of the Near East question on the Consolidated Fund Bill, and is he aware that there is a desire for such a Debate in all quarters of the House?
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
I was just going to ask the question suggested by the Noble Lord opposite, and that is whether, in view of the change in the situation in the Near East by the Treaty concluded at 45 Angora between the Kemalist and the French Governments, and especially to the possible effects of this Treaty on the lives of the Greek, Armenian, and other Christian inhabitants of those regions, the Government will find a day for its discussion?
It is not possible for me to find a day—a question has already been put on the same subject—within the limits of the time to which we hope to keep the present Session. I would venture to point out to hon. Gentlemen that, as stated by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, discussions are still proceeding with the French Government, and it is obvious, therefore, that we cannot answer fully or really satisfy the purpose for which this Debate is desired if we have the Debate before this discussion has concluded.
§ Lord R. CECIL
Does not the right hon. Gentleman think it would be a very serious stigma on Parliamentary institutions if this House were to separate after a question of this gravity has been raised without any discussion on it at all, and would it not be possible for the right hon. Gentleman to consult the authorities of the House to see whether it would be possible to raise the question on the Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund Bill?
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
Before the right hon. Gentleman answers, may I put it to him, that with a full desire to respect the feelings and susceptibilities of France, and with a full desire to maintain the Entente between the two countries in the greatest interests of both, as to whether it would not be desirable to let the French people, as well as the French Government, know the feelings of apprehension which this Treaty has aroused among the people of this country, and especially amongst those for whom I have a right to speak, in regard to the absence of the guarantees for the saving of Christian lives, the destruction of which quite recently by the Turkish authorities has just been confirmed by the Under-Secretary?
The hon. Member will realise the reserve imposed upon a Government when conversations—I was going to say were still proceeding, but, I should say, have just begun—between 46 that Government and another Government in a matter of this kind. The anxiety with which this country must view sufferings of the kind is plainly manifest, and I certainly say that His Majesty's Government are fully alive to the considerations which my hon. Friends desire to bring before us. I hope that that will be sufficient to satisfiy hon. Members for the present. The anxiety of the House will have been shown by the questions which have been put to-day. I cannot help thinking that my Noble Friend opposite (Lord R. Cecil) was not quite right in his suggestion, and that the authority of Parliamentary institutions in this country is of a more robust kind than he sometimes thinks.
§ Lord R. CECIL
Is it not common knowledge—has it not been asserted from the Treasury Bench—that Parliamentary institutions are not in such a strong position as they were, and can the right hon. Gentleman give a single instance where any question of this kind has been seriously prejudiced by discussion in this House?
Parliamentary institutions have lost something of their hold upon the public. That may be due in part to a certain incontinence of Parliament as well as to the needless Parliamentary participation in discussions of this kind. I do not for the moment remember any particular occasion where Parliamentary discussion in this House has prejudiced a matter of foreign affairs. On the other hand, I do not remember a Member of the House having refused to refrain from such a discussion where the Government of the day was in negotiation in a matter which was still incomplete.
§ Earl WINTERTON
Will my right hon. Friend, at any rate, on the Consolidated Fund discussion, make a statement of our position, the position of this country in the Near East, and is he aware that the anxiety on this side of the House is of a rather different nature to that on the other side—that is the serious, the most serious, military danger of our position in Irak—if the Treaty between the French and the Kemalists is as alleged? Can we, at any rate, have a statement?
I will, of course, consult the two authorities, first of all the authorities of the House to find out 47 whether such a statement will be in order, and also, secondly, I must consult my Noble Friend the Foreign Secretary as to whether he thinks it would be in the public interest to make such a statement at the moment. The terms of the agreement have only been communicated to the British Government within the last few days, and a discussion has just been begun between the two Governments. I very much doubt whether we can put the House in possession of further information at this stage of the conversations.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
Can we have an assurance from the Government that the Treaty, as it appears in the Press, has no secret Clauses in addition, and, in particular, a secret clause authorising the French to hand over certain munitions of war to the Kemalist Government?
I answered a question about secret Clauses, of which notice was given, the other day. My hon. and gallant Friend might be so good as to refer to that answer.
Lieut.-Colonel SPENDER CLAY
Were the Government not aware that a Treaty of this nature was imminent so far back as June last?
We were informed that negotiations were proceeding, but we were given an assurance as to the scope of those negotiations. That is all, I think, that can be properly stated at this moment.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
I do not want to press my right hon. Friend in this situation—not in the least. But I think I am entitled to ask this question: Have we any reason to believe that the policy of the Government with regard to the liberation of the Christians under Turkish rule, and the determination of the Government never to allow them back under that rule—which has been made several times by Ministers, and in an eloquent speech by the Prime Minister—from which declarations the Government has never receded—still stands the policy of the Government?
I do not know that I can go into specific declarations or exact terms, but I think I can say in general language that the purpose of the Government remains the same. Whether it has the capacity to carry through that 48 purpose to fulfilment may be more of an open question. The object of British policy has not changed.