§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a Supplementary gum, not exceeding £465,868, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1922, for the Cost of certain Miscellaneous War Services."
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Mr. Cecil Harmsworth)
I think that some further explanation than that which appears on the printed Estimate itself is necessary in regard to the items comprised in this Vote. I can assure the Committee that it is not with any feelings of complete satisfaction that I introduce these items for their consideration. The Committee will have noticed that they are described as "Miscellaneous War Services," and I think it is possible to say that none of them, except perhaps one, comes within the ordinary routine of the Foreign Office. With one exception, every one of them may fairly be described as arising out of the War or out of warlike conditions, and I am glad to think that there are not many of them that are likely to be brought before the Committee again in the future. The Committee will remember, in respect of the first of the two items, under "(a) Advances to Persia," that at the time the Anglo-Persian Agreement was still in being, a military mission was sent to Teheran with a view to making elaborate arrangements for the formation of a uniform military force in Persia. That mission was sent, as many members of the Committee know, in advance of any immediate prospect of the acceptance of the Anglo - Persian Agreement. The mission was presided over by Brigadier-General Dickinson and he did a great deal of pioneer work, but, owing to the 1112 fact that the Anglo-Persian Agreement fell through, nothing has come of their labours. The Committee will notice that the item is one of £7,500, another moiety being paid by the Indian Government.
§ Mr. HARMSWORTH
I shall be very much obliged if my hon. and gallant Friend will ask me questions afterwards
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir S. HOARE
Might I ask, for our guidance, whether we are going to have a general Debate on the first Vote, or what is going to happen? I only want to safeguard myself against losing the opportunity of criticising one of the items. The hon. Gentleman seems to be making a general speech on the whole thing.
The hon. Gentleman is making a general statement. A subsequent Amendment might raise a point of Order as to what questions could be raised afterwards. Nothing but an explanation of the Supplementary Estimate is now being made.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I would like to raise a point about these Estimates. I have here the original Estimates which show the amount as £225,000. In this Supplementary Estimate the sum is £299,000. There seems to be some mistake, and, as the hon. Gentleman declines to give way, I would like to know if you can give me any guidance.
I think the better course would be to hear first what the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs has to say. If, after he has made his explanation, the Committee want any further information, they can then seek it, but it is quite irregular to interrupt a Minister who is giving information to the Committee with regard to a Vote. I do not see, until he has made his explanation, what further information I can give.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
May I submit that when there is an apparent discrepancy between the original and the Supplementary Estimate, and it is a question of figures and has nothing to do with policy, we should be able to ask for some enlightenment?
How does the hon. and gallant Member know that the Minister is not going to explain the figures?
§ Mr. HARMSWORTH
There is nothing to prevent my speaking again, and, if there be any further enlightenment that any hon. Member desires to have in regard to any one of these items, I shall be very glad to give such further information as is in my possession. With regard to the second item under the heading "A," there is a charge of £30,000. Those Members of the Committee who are familiar with recent events in Persia will not, I think, need much enlightenment as to what this item means. There was among the forces of the Persian Empire one known as the Cossack Division, a body of troops which had been in existence for some 30 or 40 years, consisting of Persian soldiers under Russian officers. When General Ironside took over the command of the British forces in Northern Persia at the end of 1920, he formed the opinion that this body of Persian Cossacks was doubtful in its allegiance and a possible danger to the British forces in Persia. He therefore entirely concurred in the action taken by the Shah when he proposed to disband that force. It was necessary, however, that these Russian officers and their families should be removed from Persia. Accordingly, they were taken in the first instance to Bagdad and were subsequently dispersed, mainly to Vladivostok, others to Constantinople, some to America, and some to South Africa. The expenditure to which this charge relates was incurred during their stay in Iraq and in transporting them to their several destinations. The War Office defrayed the charge in the first instance, and now the Foreign Office is called upon to reimburse the War Office.
I come now to the second item "B," which is one of far greater interest to the Members of the Committee. I am sorry that I have once more to come to the Committee for money in this connection. I have, on more than one occasion, explained how His Majesty's Government came to incur this grave and expensive obligation. It was at the time when General Denikin's movement in South Russia was failing The British High Commissioner in the Black Sea gave an undertaking, as to the wisdom of which I will say nothing to-day, that 1114 His Majesty's Government would become responsible for the officers and families of General Denikin's force, then undoubtedly in imminent danger of destruction if captured by the Bolshevist forces.
§ Mr. HARMSWORTH
My hon. Friend the Member for Camlachie (Sir H. Mackinder). Originally we were responsible for 10,000 people, and after being kept for some time in the Prinkipo Islands and elsewhere they were transferred to permanent camps in Egypt, Cyprus, and Malta, There were, I say, 10,000 of them at first, but they now number some 5,000, a great proportion of them having left our charge, on account of having, I understand, joined Wrangel's movement before the subsequent failure of that movement. The annual cost—I do not want to hide any one of these unpalatable considerations from the Committee—is at the rate of £145,000 at the present time, and altogether His Majesty's Government will have spent, if the Committee grant the sum in the Estimate to-day, a sum of £1,100,000.
§ Mr. HARMSWORTH
If the Committee sanctions the grant to-day it will be £1,100,000. I need not assure the Committee that this matter has been one of the most earnest and most urgent consideration to the Foreign Office and myself ever since we found ourselves saddled with it, and the Committee does not need, I am sure, any assurance from me that we have turned over in our minds and explored every possible expedient for bringing an end to this grave obligation. It has been felt by His Majesty's Government—and this view, I think, will commend itself to the Committee—that it was impossible abruptly and without consideration to rid ourselves of this obligation. Here are 5,000 people in camps in Egypt, Cyprus, and Serbia, people of all ages and of both sexes, and it is impossible to say that at a certain moment, on and after such and such a 1115 day, we will not pay another penny in support of these refugees. Having accepted the obligation, my view has always been, and the view of the Government has always been, that we must honourably discharge ourselves, of it, and in a practical and businesslike way. An arrangement was concluded—I am not sure of the actual date; a year and a half ago, I think—with the Serbian Government, by which that Government undertook to receive some 2,000 of these refugees on payment, and these refugees are now costing us—I can give the complete figures later—6s. a week each. That is a very low charge, but the Committee is aware how advantageous the exchange is to us in Serbia. We had hoped that the Serbian Government would have seen its way to taking the whole of these refugees, but unhappily—I am sorry there is not a bright spot in any part of the picture—when we looked forward with some confidence to a completion of that transference, although it would not rid us of the whole of our financial liability, there came the collapse of that other Russian general, General Wrangel, and immediately, as Members of the Committee are aware, the whole of Eastern Europe became inundated with what I may call Wrangel refugees. [An HON. MEMBEE: "Where are they now?"] Many of them are in the Balkan States, but I should say this—and I am sure the hon. and gallant Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare) will bear me out—that General Wrangel has been instrumental in disposing of a great number of these people and has laboured unceasingly to that end, and that it is largely on account of the difficulty of accommodating this vast number of Wrangel refugees, and it is because of the inundation of possible outlets by Wrangel refugees, that our difficulties have been so greatly increased.
We explored the expedient of seeking for these unhappy people an amnesty from the Soviet Government. There was some correspondence, and the Soviet Government in the end said they would send a Commission to these various camps, and they indicated that they would pick and choose amongst the refugees those whom they would receive back into Russia. That scheme did not commend itself to the Government. It did not promise much in the way of 1116 limiting our liability, and, as a matter of fact, it never took concrete shape or form at all, because at the end of the correspondence M. Tchitcherin informed our agent in Moscow, Mr. Hodgson, that they had in no circumstances any intention of taking back any of our refugees in Egypt, Cyprus or Serbia. There is a further provision which is at present under the consideration of the League of Nations. I think my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chelsea would like to speak, and if he is fortunate enough to catch your eye, Mr. Chairman, he is in a much better position than. I am to describe exactly what this proposal is. It would be of the greatest advantage if the League of Nations could see its way, receiving, of course, adequate financial support from the countries interested, to take in hand the whole of this problem—not only our 5,000 refugees, who are but a small proportion of the number of Russian refugees in different parts of Europe—and by a comprehensive scheme put them out, among those Balkan countries, chiefly, which are in need of population and which are sympathetic to the people of the Slav race. We are asking for £300,000, and, as I say, I deeply regret having to come to the Committee to ask for this sum. I cannot promise the Committee that this is the last occasion on which a Minister standing at this box will make a similar request, but if we could conclude an arrangement with the Serbian Government under which they would take the whole of our refugees on payment of a lump sum—
§ Mr. HARMSWORTH
If, under one of these arrangements or the other, we could discharge ourselves of the whole liability, and do it honourably, I think it would be a most satisfactory conclusion to a chapter in our financial history which I am unable to regard with much satisfaction. I pass from that question—and I must apologise to the Committee for the discursive nature of my remarks; they must be discursive, because the Estimate itself is 1117 discursive—to a very small item in relation to some of the others, namely, Item J, and I will only say, in regard to that, that when the Armenian Republic, now so unhappily extinguished, seemed to have some prospect of maintaining itself against the forces attacking it both by sea and land, and at a time when many Members of this House were urging His Majesty's Government to render every kind of assistance to the Armenians, they were furnished by His Majesty's Navy with a large quantity of oil fuel, the cost of which, as the Committee observes, is estimated at £16,368. That sum has been discharged, of course, by the Admiralty, and we are now asked to reimburse the Admiralty. At the end of the note in the printed Estimate it says:The claim has been noted for presentation to any future stable Government of Armenia—but I cannot confidently advise the Committee to look forward in the near future to a repayment of this sum.
§ Mr. HARMSWORTH
It was for the purposes of transport. I now come to Subhead L, "Turks in Malta." In 1919 there were in Constantinople some 120 Turks who were in custody on account of alleged cruelties to British prisoners and on account of massacres during the War. The cases relating to these prisoners dragged in the Constantinople courts, as other cases have dragged in other courts, and there seemed to be no prospect of justice, and a pretty certain prospect of the prisoners being released or escaping. They were, therefore, removed to Malta. Later on, in the early part of last year, took place, as the Committee will remember, the London Conference, at which Bekir Sami Bey was the Kemalist envoy. Unfortunately, the Kemalists held at that time some 30 British prisoners, and negotiations were entered into with Bekir Sami Bey with a view to a partial exchange, or rather, I should say, to an exchange of all British prisoners for a certain number of Turkish prisoners, and it was, indeed, agreed by the Kemalist envoy that, in return for the release of 64 of the Turkish prisoners in Malta, all the British prisoners in Anatolia should be released, and His Majesty's Government proceeded to im- 1118 plement the bargain by immediately releasing 40 of the Turkish prisoners in Malta.
§ Mr. HARMSWORTH
I am not quite sure of that, but when Bekir Sami Bey returned to Anatolia, the Kemalist Assembly repudiated the contract altogether. Concurrently with all this, we were receiving a serious account of the hardships that were being endured by the British prisoners in Kemalist hands. Members of the Committee will probably remember the accounts that appeared at that time in the Press and the questions which at that time were asked in this House. To cut this story short, His Majesty's Government agreed in the end to return all the Turkish prisoners from Malta, no matter what the charges were hanging over their heads, in exchange for the 30 British prisoners, and there can be no doubt, in this Assembly at least, that we got the best of the bargain.
I come to Item M—Repatriation of Turks from the Yemen. I see in the Committee several Members who are very familiar with the extremely tangled politics of Arabia. Next door to the Protectorate of Aden is the territory of the Imam of Sana'a, one of those picturesque potentates whom my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies has described, and made familiar in the House of Commons. This dignitary was animated by hostility to the Entente and to this country throughout the War, and continued his hostility long after the Armistice. Indeed, as recently as the spring of 1920, he invaded the Aden Protectorate. The cause of his hostility was attributed chiefly to the fact that he had with him all this time the late Turkish Vali, or Governor, and a large number of Turkish officials and soldiers, and it was considered that the influence of these people on the Imam was entirely disadvantageous to him, and certainly disadvantageous to us. So, at the very pressing request—the repeated request—of the Resident at Aden, it was decided to repatriate these troublesome Turkish elements, and that is the reason why I am inviting the Committee to furnish the sum of £10,000.
I do not think I need dwell on Item N—Liquidation of the Restriction of Enemy Supplies Department. It is a satisfactory 1119 item. The reason why the liquidation of the Restriction of Enemy Supplies Department has only just ceased to exist was because certain States, and notably Norway, were late in presenting final accounts. It is satisfactory to note that, although the cost of this liquidation is £2,000, during the time of the liquidation the Department was successful in bringing into the Exchequer a sum of £40,000.
The next item, "Relief in Russia," is a rather misleading title, as one might associate with it something quite different, and of vastly greater import than the matter to which this item relates. The Committee will be aware that, prior to the return of the British colony there, as the result of what are known as the O'Grady-Litvinoff conversations, the Rev. Mr. North, Chaplain in Moscow, and other ladies and gentlemen, devoted themselves whole-heartedly to succouring and helping the British colony. In doing so, they were obliged to borrow money on their note of hand alone, and they borrowed this money of British subjects in Russia, and more largely of foreign subjects in Russia. I have already presented the Committee with Estimates amounting to £95,000 for the reimbursement of these sums, and I am now asking for a further sum of £15,000. Here, again, I will be perfectly frank with the Committee. I am not able to state that this item will never come up again for consideration in this House, because some of the accounts relating to this matter have not yet been presented.
I have only one other subject to mention to the Committee. It is that described as "Advances to Bessarabian Co-operative Societies." The Committee will realise that their astonishment was nothing like equal to mine when this item of expenditure was presented to my consideration. I do not think I can do better, and I am sure I might do very much worse, than, with your indulgence and with that of the Committee, read, or at least consult, the statement in my notes on this difficult matter. In the winter of 1917–18 Rumania had been forced to sign an armistice with the Central Powers. The Russian army was non-existent. The Allied representatives at Jassy were practically cut off from the world, and even telegraphic communication with their Governments became precarious. They 1120 were in such a position that they could only hope to minimise the advantages which the enemy might obtain from the situation in that part of the world. Early in 1918 a proposal was made to the French and British Ministers to advance money for the purpose of purchasing foodstuffs in Bessarabia and the Ukraine, where large hidden stocks existed which might at any moment have fallen into the hands of the enemy. The Ministers wired to their Governments for authority to advance a sum of 3,000,000 lei for this purpose, but the telegram never arrived. Being forced to take a decision, they agreed to authorise the expenditure, the British Legation advancing the funds, as the French had none available at that moment. The two Governments were, however, jointly responsible for the money.
The 3,000,000 lei were employed as follows: (1) 1,100,000 lei were advanced to the Bessarabian Co-operative Societies, partly to enable them to assist in the purchase of food-stuffs, etc, and partly to prevent their appealing to the Central Powers for assistance. Half this sum has been repaid, but the financial position of the societies was so shaken by the fall of the rouble, that it was considered advisable to accord them a longer period for the payment of the remainder. (2) Roughly, 1,000,000 lei were used to purchase 500,000 roubles, which were then handed over to the Rumanian Red Cross, for the purchase of surgical instruments, medical stores, etc., which would otherwise have fallen into the hands of the enemy. This advance has been repaid. (3) The remaining 900,000 lei were expended for similar purposes through different channels, and nearly half this has been repaid. The position, therefore, is, that of the original advance of 3,000,000 lei guaranteed by the two Governments, more than two-thirds have been repaid, and it is hoped that it may be found possible to recover nearly half the amount still owing. I will add that I have good reason to believe that the French Government will reimburse us as to one-half of the £60,000 appearing on the Paper.
§ Mr. HARMSWORTH
I have said that I have every reason to hope, and good 1121 reason to believe, that she will pay. I do not think my hon. and gallant Friend need be under any misapprehension.
§ Mr. HARMSWORTH
When one is dealing with an item of this kind, one can only wish that it had disappeared with many other well-intentioned War efforts under the form of Votes of Credit in the old days when this House disbursed immense sums of money, and was not very particular as to what the expenditure was upon. Far be it from me to criticise, as, indeed, I do not, any action His Majesty's representatives took on this occasion. Many such steps had to be taken, as my Noble Friend opposite well knows, during the War, well-intentioned, sometimes brilliantly successful, often without result at all. Therefore, I would invite the Committee to regard this last item merely as a War item, and one in regard to which it is impossible to apply the ordinary canons of prudent finance. I have gone over these items as it seemed to me necessary, but I have by no means developed each and every one of them as some Members of the Committee might wish. I have, in regard to all of them, except the minor ones, dealt, as I suppose, sufficiently for the moment. Following the discussion, I shall be glad to expand any explanation which I have given on any point, if desired to do so by any Member of the Committee.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
We can agree, I think, as to the commendable brevity of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. In regard to the last item which he mentioned, I cannot pretend to any clear recollection of it at this distance of time. If, as my hon. Friend said, it was one of the many measures taken as part of the blockade operations, then there was a sub-Department of the Ministry whose business, if my memory serves me rightly, was to hinder the purchase of valuable supplies by the enemy by purchasing them over the heads of the enemy, and this no doubt is one of the transactions of the time. A commercial transaction carried out under those conditions is not always very successful from the point of view of the profit to be made, but I think those who were concerned with these transactions may say without any exaggeration that of all the operations of the 1122 War, operations of this kind were the cheapest for the military results produced of any of the military operations carried out in any quarter. On the whole, I have no criticism as to this particular item, nor have I anything to say about the three Items near—M, N and O. I do not propose to make any lengthy observations on the other items, but they do constitute a somewhat melancholy story taken together. Let me take them in the order of my hon. Friend.
In the first place there is A, Advances to Persia. There is £37,500 additional required, part of amount of the revised Estimate here of £337,000, which money has been absolutely thrown away as much as if we had pitched it into the sea. We have no kind of result of that payment so far as I know. This £37,000 is part of the price of the abortive agreement with Persia. It would not be in order for me to go into the policy of that agreement, and I shall not do so, but this Vote raises it in a secondary way. In one sentence, however, one may say that no diplomatic transaction was ever more lightly undertaken without the least hope of ultimate success or more unfortunately carried through than the transaction with which this item is concerned. I pass that, and come to Item B—the Maintenance of Russian Refugees. Here, again, is a melancholy story. I should be the last to say anything to indicate any want of appreciation of the terrible sufferings which these refugees have undergone. They had to leave their country with no prospect of immediate return, or perhaps for many years. Their condition must have been a terrible one. Still, I cannot think the Government have come very well out of the transaction. My hon. Friend tells us that there already has been spent £1,100,000, including this £300,000 additional sum required. Now he is asking leave to spend another £300,000. I understand that these refugees have been just dumped down in camps, some in Egypt, some in Cyprus, and the remainder in Serbia. It would appear that very few of these refugees have been put to work, even now. What steps have the Government taken from the very outset to arrive at a permanent settlement of this question? It is really no kindness to the refugees themselves merely to put them down into a camp and keep them there paying them only 1123 enough to keep them alive. It is an extremely harsh life and destructive of morale to keep these people doing absolutely nothing, and crowded together in a camp, and paying them just enough, as I say, to keep them alive in that condition.
What steps, I would like to ask the Government, have they really taken, or have they attempted to take to provide some kind of permanent settlement for these people? Have they considered the question whether they could not be settled on some land. There are, unfortunately, many deserted or semi-deserted lands in that part of Europe. Have they considered it? The camps alone are a very unsatisfactory way of dealing with this matter. Some of us are wondering whether this was not a mistake in the early policy of the Government in relation to these thousands of people. I should like to ask how many have been put to profitable employment during all these years they have been under the charge of the Government? My hon. Friend says he hopes the League of Nations will undertake this matter and that later a complete and world-wide settlement of the refugees will take place. Nobody will welcome that more than I if it can be done, but it is a very large job indeed. I am not going to deal with it. I trust my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare) will enlighten us on this matter.
I do, however, venture respectfully to protest against the attitude our Government take up with regard to these matters in relation to the League of Nations. They seem to regard the League of Nations as a kind of entity altogether apart from themselves. That really is not right. You cannot make the system of the League of Nations work along those lines. The League of Nations is a league of nations of which this nation is one, and this Government is responsible to this House for action they take in the League of Nations; unless they can show that the action taken by the League is contrary to their wish and against their protest, they are responsible to this House for the action which the League itself is taking. I say to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary that it is not enough merely to say: "We propose to hand this matter over to the League," with the 1124 hope that they will find out some system under which it can be dealt with. I say it is part of their duty to have a plan which they will press upon the League and be prepared to back it up with finance and diplomatic assistance so as to enable the League to carry out the policy which it has been suggested they should carry out.
It is perfectly foolish, as has been done more than once with regard to important matters, to pass a Resolution handing over some troublesome matter to the League of Nations and then to say: "Now we have got rid of that and we can go on with some other matter." That is no use at all. The League does not exist except in so far as the States composing it are prepared to give it the means of life. I ask the right hon. Gentleman some time or other to tell us more in detail what he thinks the League ought to do, and what assistance the Government propose to give it to enable it to do its work. Item J—Oil for Armenia—brings up painful memories to those Members of the Committee who have looked into the subject. This is part of the sum of money which was spent in sending material to assist the Armenians in their struggle for national existence against the Kemalist Turks.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Lord R. CECIL
I do not think the money was sent for that purpose, but in this matter, whoever it may have been they were fighting, it is not a question of whether you have more sympathy with the Turks than with the Armenians; this is a question of what we have done to discharge an obligation of honour which we undertook during the War on behalf of the Armenians. There is no doubt about that at all. It is as clear as possible. These people were told officially and unofficially by us and the French—for the French are quite as much in it as we are—they were told in effect: "If you will assist us in our war against the Turks, we will take care that you will have your national independence, and be protected." I must honestly say, partly from one cause and another, partly because we did not appreciate the importance of that obligation at the time when we really could have effectively discharged it, we have, in fact, done almost nothing. 1125 It is quite true that this sum and other sums have been sent to Armenia. We also supplied the Armenians with a number of Ross rifles without the slightest instruction to them how to use them, nor were they furnished with an instructor or instructors. These weapons, I understand, are not very easy to use, though they are very good when you know how to manage them. I confess that this item of £16,000 will bring some unhappy memories of one of the most discreditable and unfortunate chapters in our recent history. I will not say very much on the last item—that referring to the maintenance of Turks at Malta. It appears to me an extraordinary series of transactions. First, in a somewhat high-handed way, 120 Turks are taken from Constantinople. I daresay many deserved to be carried off. However, we seem to have held them there and even seem to have made an agreement with an envoy—who apparently had no power given by his principals—and allowed 40 of them to go, for which we got nothing at all. Then we had another shot. Why we let them go without providing for an exchange in some neutral place, or one of the many devices usually adopted in exchanging prisoners with an enemy or ex-enemy, I do not know, but apparently, we did that, and perhaps my hon. Friend will be able to give further explanations. But ultimately the Turks, by simply holding out, succeeded in getting the release of the whole of the 120, many of them charged with the most appalling kind of crimes, to which the Germans appeared to be saints and angels, and those men were released and returned to their homes, no doubt loaded with honours and wealth—and we have got absolutely nothing out of this. I must say these four items taken together—advances to Persia, the Russian refugees, the Armenians, and the Turks at Malta, are reminders of diplomatic and administrative failure which are really not creditable to the British Government. I do not propose to move a reduction myself at this stage. I think they are matters which require some later stage of discussion and ampler defence than my hon. Friend has been able to give. He has shown a very wise discretion in dealing with the matters in the way he did.
§ Sir S. HOARE
I quite agree with my hon. Friend that these Votes are very depressing indeed. If they had been brought before the Committee in normal times, I can imagine every kind of criticism being legitimately urged against them. But they are war obligations. I think, in every case, we are carrying out obligations which are the direct result of the War, or the events immediately following the War, and however much we may object to paying the bill to-day, we have got to pay it, because we entered into definite obligations on each of these questions. I could criticise several of them. I could criticise, for instance, the last item, which concerns the purchase of corn in Rumania. I was in Rumania at the time that the corn was being purchased, and it was obvious to me that we were not getting our money's worth. We were buying corn at a fantastic price. We were not getting delivery of it, and eventually practically all the corn for which we had paid at this exorbitant price got into the hands of the Germans. At any ordinary times I can imagine a Committee of this House raising a unanimous opposition to a Vote of that kind, but the answer is the answer given just now by the Noble Lord. It was one of those actions that we had to take at a most critical moment—perhaps the most critical moment of all during the War. It was a failure, but even though it was a failure, even though I criticised it at the time very strongly, I say now that we have to pay the bill and to accept it as one of the unsuccessful things that we did at a very difficult moment in the country's history.
I come to another item upon which I wish to say a word or two—the question of Russian refugees. It so happens that for the last three or four months I have been engaged in a mission of the League of Nations with reference to the Russian refugees in Eastern Europe, and I have had an opportunity of seeing the problem at first hand. It is one of the most depressing problems of the moment in the whole world—the fact that there should be in Europe these hundreds of thousands of men and women driven from their own country, torn up from their own surroundings and dumped down in all kinds of unsuitable places. The refugees about whom we are talking in Malta and Cyprus and Egypt are one part of the 1127 great problem of refugees in Eastern and Central Europe. It cannot be isolated from the big general problem. These particular Russians we undertook to take away from Russia as the result of an undertaking made by an hon. Member of this House. I do not say that that undertaking was a wise or unwise one, but we did make it, and we have to carry it out. It means that we are responsible for some ten thousand Russians now living in Malta, Cyprus and Egypt. The question for this Committee to consider is not whether we were wise in undertaking this obligation, but how best to carry it out. The Vote has been before the Committee before, and the Committee has had an opportunity of discussing the general question as to whether or not the obligation was right.
The only question before the Committee to-day is how best to carry it out. Let me give the Committee one or two suggestions drawn from the experience I have gained in examining the refugee problem in Constantinople and the Balkans. As I say, first of all, what one hopes will eventually happen, is that a large number of these refugees will return to Russia. The problem can only really be solved by their eventual return. But I am afraid that it is idle to talk, at the moment, of any possibility of repatriation on a large scale. As the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has already pointed out, the Bolshevik Government has, for some reason or another, given us no encouragement, when we discussed with them the possibility of repatriating those of the refugees who wish to return to Russia. I say, "Those who wish to return to Russia," because there can be no question of making any of those men return to Russia against their will. So far, for some reason or another, the Bolshevik Government have obstructed even the repatriation of those refugees who wish to return. I do not know whether it is for political or what reasons, but the fact is so. Moreover, the Committee should also remember that, quite apart from political considerations, it is an almost hopeless moment now to repatriate many thousands of refugees when Russia is in the throes of the terrible famine.
In dealing with this question to-day you must put from your minds the possibility 1128 of an immediate return to Russia of the refugees in any considerable numbers, but I should like to say in this connection that I think the Foreign Office would be well advised to bring this question before the Genoa Conference. It is a question that they should discuss with the representatives of the Bolshevik Government. They should find out from the Bolshevist Government whether they are prepared now to admit back any of the refugees who wish to go, and, if so, on what terms; and, if they are prepared to admit them back, what safeguards they are prepared to give to ensure their proper treatment when they return. I very much hope that the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, when he speaks further on this question, will be able to tell the Committee that this is one of the questions which will be discussed at the instigation of the British Government at the Genoa Conference. Let me pass from that to a side of the question which, for the moment, is even more important. The Noble Lord just now asked certain very pertinent questions as to what had been the policy of the British Government towards these refugees since they had been under our care. He asked, very rightly, whether we had attempted to obtain work for them, and what steps we had taken to put them into conditions where they could be self-supporting. That should be a very important and urgent question. My chief experience has been gained from an examination of the refugee problem in the Balkans, but I know something of the problem in Cyprus and Egypt and Malta as well, and I am inclined to think that we have not done so much as we could in that respect. We have taken these thousands of refugees and dumped them down altogether into certain concentration camps and have attempted to transfer them in big amorphous blocks into other countries. I do not believe you can deal with the problem in that way at all. First of all, you have got to divide the refugees into a number of categories. You will never get a Balkan country, or any other country, at the present moment, to accept from Egypt, Cyprus or Malta any big, indeterminate block of refugees. You have first to divide them into categories, and you will then have a chance, when you negotiate with the Governments, of being able to take in a certain class, for instance, agricultural labourers, or students, or doctors.
1129 Looking back, it seems to me that the Government have not been active enough in that respect. As a matter of fact, I do not believe that there has been a census taken of these people. By the policy we are pursuing we shall be making things worse, because every month these people become more and more dependent upon charity, and they are becoming demoralised. I saw that result in Constantinople, where I met thousands of Russians who were dependent upon charity, and side by side with them were a number of other Russians doling out charity of the most demoralising kind. It is most important that these refugees should be moved out of Malta, Cyprus and Egypt, where they are now dumped together, and they should be sent to countries where they are no longer dependent upon private charity, and where, at any rate, they have some chance of finding work.
I know that it is a very difficult thing at this moment to get any country to accept refugees of any kind. I know that the Balkan countries have accepted a large number; Serbia has more than 100,000 of these refugees at the present time, and in Bulgaria there are something like 50,000; in Czecho-Slovakia there are also several thousand, and I think we ought to be grateful to those countries for what they have done in this respect, because they have done a great deal. I know it is a great thing to ask them to do more, especially at a moment when their financies are in a bad way, and whore with some of them we know there is a good deal of unemployment. In view of the obvious difficulty of getting these countries to accept a further number of refugees, I have come to the conclusion that the only possibility of success is to bring together all the various Governments concerned in the problem at a meeting of the Council of the League of Nations, in order to see whether the problem could not be liquidated by each of these Governments undertaking to deal with some limited and definite share of the problem.
That means, first of all, that the British Government should press for an immediate meeting of the Council of the League. It means also that the British Government should persist in its offer to make over its obligation in regard to the 1130 Denikin refugees to the League of Nations upon a satisfactory payment. Having done that, I believe that if the Council came together, and it was shown that by each of the Balkan Governments taking over certain categories of refugees, and putting up a limited amount of money at the same time, by this common effort being made, not in the distant future, but immediately, these 10,000 British-aided refugees, together with a larger number of other refugees in Constantinople, could be settled in the various Slav countries. There they would have a Slav atmosphere; the Russians learn the various Slav languages very quickly in two or three weeks, and they find themselves in more or less familiar surroundings. What is more, they are there in large units, and although obviously they would be much happier if they could live peacefully in Russia, those in Serbia and Bulgaria are living under respectable conditions. That is a great thing, for they are not for the most part dependent upon charity.
In view of that fact, I should feel much happier over this Vote which we are about to pass, because it is a war obligation, if the Under-Secretary could tell us before the end of the Debate that he accepts this suggestion which I venture to make, that the British Government should press for a meeting of the Council of the League of Nations at which the whole of this problem should be considered as a whole. Let me remind the Committee that it would be a very natural thing to do, because the League has undertaken an obligation to the Russian refugees. A year ago it formed a department to deal with the Russian refugees and appointed Dr. Nansen as High Commissioner. Therefore you have an obligation on the part of the League to deal with this problem. I want the Council of the League to meet, and I wish the representatives of the various Governments to have the situation put before them quite definitely and clearly. I know that a certain amount of money will have to be found, but if the Great Powers are not prepared to find the money, and if the Slav Governments are not prepared to help, I say that it would be much better that the League should clearly say that owing to the want of support from the various Governments, it cannot continue this obligation. The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs would, I know, be taking most 1131 useful action if he could bring the weight of our Foreign Office to bear in favour of having an immediate meeting of the Council for this purpose. If the Council meets, we shall then know whether this problem can be liquidated or not. I believe that it can be liquidated and if that is so, then this Committee will be spared the constant recurrence of a Vote of this kind all the more unsatisfactory from the fact that we know that the longer the question is allowed to drift, the more difficult becomes its solution and the more demoralised the refugees become.
Let me summarise what I suggest to the hon. Gentleman. First of all he should carry through the negotiations with the League under which the League should take over upon a fixed payment the obligation of the Denikin refugees. More important than that, he should press for a meeting of the Council of the League at which all the countries concerned should be put in a position of having this question set definitely and clearly before them. We shall then be taking a really valuable step towards liquidating a problem in relation to which at the present moment every kind of objection can be raised.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I beg to move to reduce Item A (Advances to Persia) by £10.
I do not propose now to deal with the question which is at present exercising the minds of the Members of the Committee, and I shall not go into the interesting details and ramifications of the White Internationale because we can consider that question later. I am moving this Amendment in order to indicate the attitude of the Opposition towards the Persian Vote.
§ Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR
I would like to ask you, Mr. Deputy-Chairman, if a reduction proposed in this form will confine the discussion to this particular item. If so, may I suggest, in the interests of a general Debate, that the purpose of the hon. and gallant Member would be served by removing a reduction of the whole Vote?
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
With all due deference, I think we had better dispose of the Persian question first, and get a Division upon it in order to indicate our position, and then we can move a further 1132 Amendment on Item B which is the question which has been discussed here to-day. We can move a second reduction on that Vote, and I am sure we shall not take very long in settling the Persian question.
§ Mr. A. WILLIAMS
Is it not essential that a reduction should be moved of the whole Vote, and not of any one particular item?
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I wish to indicate what we think in relation to this squandering of money in Persia.
The hon. and gallant Member is quite in order in moving his Amendment. I called upon him because I saw that he had an Amendment on the Paper to reduce another Vote by £100, and I thought he was going to move that Amendment. He is, however, quite in order in moving this Amendment.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I want to get a definite vote on this particular item. The Committee want to feel that this is the winding-up of the squandering of our money in Persia. Before we take a vote on it we ought to know from the right hon. Gentleman what is the sum total that has been spent in Persia. Our Persian policy has been par excellence the policy of the Foreign Office in connection with the Anglo-Persian Agreement, which anyone who knew Persia would have been well aware that Persia would never agree to. They sent a Mission to Teheran before the Agreement was signed and in advance of any need for such a Mission. They spent money on the gigantic road to Meshed. They spent money on making roads in various parts of Persia, and I should imagine that this Persian adventure has cost us over £100,000,000 from first to last. We had the occupation of Erivan and the expedition to Baku, and all this has been the result of miscalculation on the part of our Foreign Office.
What has that miscalculation cost us altogether? What have the Foreign Office to say as to the complete collapse of the plans which they proposed? We know that one result, unaccountable from the Foreign Office point of view, has been that Persia has suddenly turned round and is preferring the Bolsheviks to the British. That was brought about by the 1133 policy which we are now bewailing from a financial point of view. That policy was not only bad for our pockets but it was ruinous for our prestige in Persia and to the general interest of the British Empire. By that policy you set the Persians against us, and threw them into the arms of the Bolsheviks. You wasted unknown millions of money upon it and have probably spent £20,000,000 sterling on it since the War ended. What return have we got? What is the position we see in Persia to-day? The English people are suspected at a time when the English prestige is at its nadir, and we are in a worse position in Persia than we were before the War. We on these Benches suspected that the Foreign Office under the rulership of Lord Curzon wished to bring in Persia as one of the protected States within the British Empire. We suspected that policy just as the Persians suspected it. The gamble was not worth it. It has resulted in the loss of our money and of our reputation in the East, and our prestige and position are now far lower than they were before the policy was undertaken.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I should like to ask a question on the figures which are rather bewildering. On this Item A the original Estimate shows a sum of £225,000, but the Supplementary Estimate brings it up to £299,599. There has apparently been an extra expenditure of £72,599, of which I cannot find any account. There has been no Supplementary Vote, and I cannot trace the sum in any Estimate. Is the figure a misprint? I think the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Vote should be in a position to give information on this point. At any rate, I do not intend to let this matter of £75,000 rest at this stage of the proceedings. I want to get some explanation in regard to it. I also want to support what my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) has just said. This Vote represents the wreckage of one of the most disastrous shipwrecks of British policy which we have had the misfortune to deal with. We have been refused opportunity to discuss in this House the Persian problem; we have been deprived of explanations of what has been done, and the veil of censorship has been drawn over the Persian landscape. The democracy of this country has been hoodwinked 1134 and robbed, and now we are paying the cost. Hon. Members will observe that we are now Voting a total of over £300,000. Last year we were forced to vote under the guillotine no less than £1,590,000.
The hon. and gallant Member is not in order in discussing the original Vote, or the Vote of last year. At the present time the Committee has before it a Vote of £7,500 for expenditure incurred in connection with the Anglo-Persian Military Commission and a sum of £30,000 for expenditure incurred in connection with the maintenance of ex-members of the Cossack Division and the transporting them to Siberia. On those two items a reduction of £10 has been moved and that is the only question now before the Committee.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I thought I would be in order in drawing attention to the fact that there have been big Votes previously to this one, but I do not wish to pursue that subject. The sum we are now asked for, £7,500, is a relic, apparently, of the policy of attempting to absorb an independent Asiatic people against their will, and secondly, of the policy of continually trying to extend the strategic defences of India. We have got a good frontier in India, but the strategists of the War Office and of the Foreign Office want to take in Persia. The next demand is to take in the Caucasus, and that has been part of a deliberate Foreign Office policy. There was a Treaty signed, as I understand, between ourselves and our French Allies under the terms of which we were to have the Caucasus and they were to have the Ukraine. I quite expect that the hon. Gentleman will deny that.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
No, that was not my meaning. The hon. Member may not have known of this secret Treaty, but it is whispered to-day in Europe that such a Treaty exists, and I myself believe there is something in it. I do know this, that when we were negotiating the Trade Agreement with the Russian Government, one of our spheres of influence which we asked the Russians not to interfere with was the Caucasus, which never belonged to us, but which was for so many years a part of the 1135 Russian Empire. All this, as I have said, is a part of the insane and hopeless policy of continually extending our strategic frontier. Before I leave this item may I make one further remark. In connection with this strategic political policy, if I may so describe it, running right through is the slimy parti-coloured trail of oil. First of all it was said we wanted oil for our Navy, and therefore we were to develop the oilfields in Southern Persia. Then it was proposed to take over other oilfields further on. The Persian oilfields were to be fully exploited by Engish capitalists, but the expropriation of them was to be paid for by the British taxpayer instead of by the dividend receivers who surely could have made financial arrangements with the Persian sheiks and the Persian Government. I think we may consider that in that matter we have been let off lightly in not being let in for a first-class war.
My hon. and gallant Friend did not refer to the second portion of this Item A, but, as I presume the whole Debate will be disposed of on this Amendment, it will be difficult to return to it later on, and, therefore, I should like to ask for information about the expenditure incurred in connection with the maintenance of ex-members of the Cossack division, and to meet the cost of transporting them and their families to Siberia. The hon. and gallant Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare) mentioned this as a solution of the refugee problem, and I want to get some information as to the transportation of these fighting men to Siberia. The Government picked out the active and fighting members of the refugees and sent them to Vladivostok, where they were disembarked and placed under the orders of the Government set up there by the Japanese. In answer to the questions which have been addressed to them, the Government have said that these men were sent to Vladivostok in our ships and at our expense, but they did not take any arms with them. Possibly that was a wise provision. I would not like to have had them on my ship had they been armed. I would have kept the arms under my own eye. When they got there they were incorporated in the White Revolutionary Army, a pin-pricking army, and as great an irritant to Russia as the armies of Wrangel and Denikin, and other fleeting adventurers who marched across 1136 the stage with bloodstained steps. This army in which they are being incorporated is being clothed and provided with motor transport by the Japanese, who are holding on to that province for purposes which have never been explained, which are very obscure, and which I doubt not are reprehensible. We are lending ourselves to this policy by sending ex-officers of the Cossack division to Vladivostok, and we are supplying material for this Japanese policy of encroaching on Siberia. We shall no doubt have to pay for it in years to come, as we have had to pay for other failures of policy, and I am afraid we are not going to succeed in our treatment of Siberia which, when it is strong enough, will overthrow, no doubt, the results of the Anglo-Japanese policy there.
I wish to ask a question on this expenditure of £30,000. Have we any assurance that these ex-members of the Cossack division will settle down peaceably out there, or are they going to join the counter-revolutionary army? Have we any guarantees for their good behaviour? The Russian Bolshevist Government asked for guarantees that the refugees sent from Constantinople to the Crimea should not take part in any uprisings. That was quite reasonable. Did we ask for any sort of undertaking, either from the Japanese Government or from the Government in Vladivostock, that these ex-officers would not be used for fighting the Russian people, with whom we have just concluded a Trade Agreement? Secondly, are these the last of the Russian Cossacks that we are going to transport to Vladivostock? Is this the last expenditure for transporting these people all the way round to Eastern Siberia—a very expensive matter? The next thing that will happen will be that, if Japanese support is finally withdrawn—and there is a continual agitation on the part of the Japanese democrats for the withdrawal of these troops—they will become refugees once more, and it will be said that, as the English sent these men and their families to Siberia, they must send ships and take them away and pay for them. Then the whole trouble will be on our hands once more, and some future Government—in the near future, I hope—will be faced with an obligation to pay out further money for these ex-officers. I do not expect that the hon. Gentleman will reply to some of 1137 my more caustic remarks as to the policy in Persia, for which I certainly do not hold him responsible, although I do hold the Government responsible, but I hope that hon. Members who have any regard for British prestige in the East will join with my hon. Friends of the Labour party in voting for this modest reduction. I remember that years ago, when I was in the Persian Gulf, Englishmen stood the highest among all nations in Persian opinion, and the respect, and almost reverence, in which the English were held, was something of which we might be proud. To-day, however, an Englishman can hardly show his face in Persia. That also affects our position in Afghanistan and elsewhere, and we lose trade, and unemployment is caused in this country. The Government is responsible for that state of affairs, and it is for them to remedy it.
Colonel L. WARD
I do not know if I shall be in order, but I should like to ask the hon. Gentleman if he can give us any idea of the number of people in Europe and Asia whom the taxpayers of this country are at present supporting. There are some half-dozen cases in which we are keeping a large proportion of the population of this or that part of the world, and finding them a livelihood. To begin with, we have this £30,000 which is to be voted for this Cossack division. A little further on in the Estimate we find another item of £300,000 for maintenance of Russian refugees. Later there is> £25,000 for maintenance of Turks at Malta, and another £10,000 for the repatriation of Turks from the Yemen. Then there is £15,000 for relief in Russia, including relief to neutral subjects, and there is also an item of £60,000 for advances to Bessarabian co-operative societies. All of these items are on this particular Vote. In addition, we are making enormous grants to Austria, £12,000,000 having already been given. I should like, therefore, to ask if the hon. Gentleman can give us any idea of the number of these pensioners whom this country is at present supporting. It is important that we should know that before we vote this particular sum of £30,000.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
As far as I am concerned, I have no objection to the item of £30,000 in connection with the maintenance of ex-members of the Cossack Division. I think it is a proper item, and 1138 I am glad that the Government have agreed to carry out the movement of the members of this division. On the other hand, I am strongly against the spending of money on military expeditions in Persia. We have quite enough to do to look after ourselves at home, without going into Persia. My idea is that we should hold on to what we have got, and not try to get things that we have not got. It appears to me, however, that the Government are doing the exact contrary. I am rather in a difficulty as to how to vote in this matter. I should like to vote with the Government on the one part, and against them on the other. As it is all on one Vote, and as I hold very strong opinions against the waste of money in these foreign military expeditions, I think that, in the circumstances, I shall have to vote against the Government; but it must be understood that I am in no way against the provision of the money for the cost of the maintenance of ex members of the Cossack division.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
I find myself in a somewhat similar position to the right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) Consistently, ever since the War, I have spoken and voted in the House of Commons against the Persian policy of the Government. I believe that this item of £7,500 does not really arise out of the War, but out of the post-war policy of the present Foreign Secretary in Persia. I believe, and always have believed, that that policy was based upon the Foreign Secretary's personal knowledge of Persia 25 years ago, and upon a complete misapprehension of the change that has come over public opinion and public feeling in Persia during the interval. I am sure that the whole Anglo-Persian Agreement, as it is called, has done us irreparable damage in Persia.
I am afraid I cannot allow the discussion to proceed along that line. The hon. Member was referring to the item of £7,500, but he is going now a good deal beyond that.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
This £7,500 is the third or fourth Vote that we had to give in connection with this Anglo-Persian business, and I profoundly hope that it is the last money that we are going to throw away on that policy. Every penny of it is good money thrown after 1139 bad. I should not have taken part in the Debate but for the fact that the Under-Secretary did not reply on that point, and has not told us frankly how far we are still committed in Persia for items like this. I agree with the right hon. Baronet that the £30,000 for the Russian Cossack division, which we advised should be disbanded in pursuit of our policy in Persia, is in a somewhat different category, but when items like this £7,500 come up here again and again it does seem to me to call for the strongest possible protest on the part of all Members who are interested in the Middle East, The whole story has been most unfortunate, as the Foreign Secretary is bound to admit in another place. Therefore, if I am called upon to give a vote on that individual item of £7,500, I shall continue to vote, as I have done in the past, against the expenditure of any such money in Persia.
Lieut.-Colonel J. WARD
There are two questions that I should like to ask the Under-Secretary. If I understand this Vote aright, the criticism of my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Ormsby-Gore), as to the Government's policy in Persia, has really nothing to do with this item of £7,500, which is for the maintenance of some military Mission in Persia. I take it that it was a sort of post of observation for the time being, largely for military purposes, and that it has nothing whatever to do with the actual policy of this country in Persia. If that be the case, I should most certainly vote for it, and I think that everyone would be in favour of doing so. Immediately after the War, this frontier was in an extremely disturbed state, and if any collection of hostile forces had taken place there, and there had been no military representative or Commission of ours to watch developments, the House of Commons would have been entitled to censure both the Military authorities and the Foreign Office for neglecting our interests in such a regard. Now that the policy of this country with reference to Persia has become more settled, I think the Committee would be neglecting one of its duties if it refused to vote this money.
With reference to the expenditure in connection with the maintenance of ex-members of the Cossack Division, and 1140 their transport with their families to. Siberia, if it is the maintenance that has accrued as the result of our request to them during the time they have been in Persia, and during their transportation from Persia to Vladivostok, I should also vote in favour of it, and I think the Committee is entitled to do so. Therefore, I would ask whether this Vote has anything to do with the maintenance of the Cossack Division and their families after their arrival at Vladivostock. That would be undertaking a responsibility which, in the first place, I do not think the country ought to undertake, and for which, secondly, there is no necessity, seeing that it is to Siberia that they are going. The Committee may take it for granted that Siberia is a great centre of Cossack power, and that neither the Bolshevists nor the Far Eastern Republic has had the slightest effect upon them. Nobody has attempted to nationalise their land or steal their horses, because anyone who did so would very soon lose their heads, whether they were Bolshevist Commissars or anyone else. It is only the poor isolated peasant of Siberia who has had his farm robbed by Bolshevist Commissars> and who has suffered by the ordinary Bolshevist regime. The Cossack has never been interfered with; he reigns supreme, as he did under the Czars. His lands are inviolate, for the simple reason that probably even the whole Soviet Army would not be able to dispossess him of his property. Therefore, the Soviet rule and Communism and all that sort of stuff does not at all affect the Cossacks in Siberia. The moment these Cossacks arrive there, no matter to what part of the country they may belong, or how many there are of them, they will be immediately absorbed in the circles to which they belong, and there will be no difficulty as to their maintenance afterwards. Therefore, I am sure that, if a farthing of this money were being spent for, their maintenance—and I have the honour to be one of them, by-the-by—it would be money uselessly spent, because the land is illimitable. The Cossack farms have never been interfered with. Not a single Cossack child has died as the result of starvation, because they have tilled their own land and prevented the Soviets from stealing—
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
On a point of Order. As we have been told by the hon. Gentleman opposite that the money 1141 was simply for maintaining them while in Persia and sending them to Vladivostok, is it in order to discuss at this length the possibility of having money spent on them after they have been there when we know that such money has not been spent upon them?
On that point of Order. The hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Ken-worthy) referred to what these Cossacks were going to do when they got to Vladivostok.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman is addressing me on a point of Order. Had he not better let me, rule, and then get on? I think the hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) is partly right and the hon. and gallant Member for Stoke (Lieut.-Colonel Ward) is partly right and partly wrong. He is transgressing slightly. If he will keep to the question of transporting the Cossack Division to Siberia, he will be more in order than in dealing with what they are going to do when they get there.
The result of allowing one hon. Member to trespass is that others claim the right to trespass as well. It may be the fault of the Chair for not calling Members to order sooner.
It was suggested really that what the Government were doing in transporting these Cossacks to Vladivostok is that they should be absorbed into the Cossack community in Siberia, that they were really a sort of White Army and that the Government were really transferring them there for that purpose. There is no necessity to suggest anything of the kind. I am sure that could not be. The Cossack has not fought much, except in some cases like Denikin and one or two others, in the south. They have not fought much against the Bolsheviks because they have not been interfered with, and there is no prospect that they will take up the position that is suggested when they arrive at Vladivostok. They will not interfere in any way, so far as I know, and I am in constant communication with 1142 the authorities at Vladivostok and also in Central Siberia. I am sure these men will be welcomed there. They will not stop in Vladivostok and become the tools of the Japanese, as has been suggested, and therefore the money should be voted for their transport.
§ Mr. HARMSWORTH
The hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut. -Commander Kenworthy) asked me to explain the Estimate as it is printed on the Paper. The original Estimate for 1921–22 was £225,000, and we had a Supplementary Estimate last July for £74,599. We are now asking for £37,500, and that makes up the total of £337,099. If this were the right occasion I should be disposed to take very serious exception to some of the criticisms which have been passed on the Persian policy of the Government. It is the habit of some Members of the House to treat the policy of the Secretary of State as if it were his particular private policy, based on information somewhat out of date. The policy in Persia has been the policy of this country for at least 100 years under some of the most illustrious Secretaries of State this country has ever had. The suggestion made by one hon. Member, that there was a trail of oil over the policy of the Secretary of State, is perfectly ludicrous. Every hon. Member of the House knows that nothing could possibly be further from the character of the Secretary of State or of the Government than to pursue a policy in a foreign country merely in the interests of oil kings or any other magnates. As regards the Cossacks, who have been sent mainly to Vladivostok, the hon. and gallant Member for Stoke (Lieut.-Colonel Ward) is anxious lest we should be spending money needlessly on their maintenance in Eastern Siberia. I understand that we are not spending any more on them, and that our obligations ceased when they landed at Vladivostok and elsewhere. The hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull is anxious to know whether we had any guarantee from these Cossacks that they would behave like good boys when they got to Vladivostok.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
No. I do not think the hon. Gentleman is quite as fair as he usually is. I asked whether we had any guarantee that they would not engage in counter-revolutionary adventures and try to upset the Russian Government.
§ Mr. HARMSWORTH
That is just a paraphrase. Our object was to find some part of Russian soil to which presumably certain people could be sent with any safety to their lives, and Eastern Siberia happened to be the only place within our knowledge where the Cossacks could be sent with any prospect of their surviving the adventure. The other point mentioned by the hon. and gallant Member for Stoke was as to the Military Mission in Persia. We have no Military outposts in Persia now. I mentioned in my opening remarks that this Military Mission was sent to Persia, in anticipation of the passing of the Anglo-Persian Agreement, in order to prepare the ground for a larger and more permanent mission.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
Can the hon. Gentleman answer my question whether this is the last expenditure in connection with the Persian policy in Persia and what the total expenditure in connection with that policy has been?
§ Mr. HARMSWORTH
I cannot give the figure. Perhaps the hon. and gallant Gentleman will put a question down.
§ Mr. HARMSWORTH
The hon. and gallant Gentleman is asking for the total amount of money which has been spent in recent times. That involves the very large military operations which were going on in Persia at one time.
§ Mr. HARMSWORTH
I hope I may say with confidence that these are the last payments to be made in respect of these two matters, that is to say, the Anglo-Persian Military Mission and the transport of the Cossacks. I shall be very happy, if the figures are forthcoming, to give the hon. and gallant Gentleman something like an approximate estimate of all our expenditure in Persia in recent years.
§ Question put, "That Item A be reduced by £10."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 87; Noes, 249.1145
|Division No. 37.]||AYES.||[6.12 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis D.||Gillis, William||Murray, Hon. A. C. (Aberdeen)|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Myers, Thomas|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Graham, R. (Nelson and Colne)||Naylor, Thomas Ellis|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.||Gretton, Colonel John||O'Connor, Thomas P.|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Grundy, T. W.||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. G. (Glas., Gorbals)||Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hemsworth)||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
|Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E,)||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Barton, Sir William (Oldham)||Halls, Walter||Roberts, Frederick O. (W. Bromwich)|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Hancock, John George||Robertson, John|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish-||Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)||Rose, Frank H.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hayday, Arthur||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Bramsdon, Sir Thomas||Hayward, Evan||Shaw, Thomas (Preston)|
|Briant, Frank||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Widnes)||Smith, W. R. (Wellingborough)|
|Bromfield, William||Herbert, Col. Hon. A. (Yeovil)||Spencer, George A.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Hirst, G. H.||Sutton, John Edward|
|Cairns, John||Hodge, Rt. Hon. John||Swan, J. E.|
|Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield)||Hogge, James Myles||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord R. (Hitchin)||Irving, Dan||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)|
|Coote, Colin Reith (Isle of Ely)||Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M.||Waterson, A. E.|
|Davies, A. (Lancaster, Clitheroe)||Kenyon, Barnet||Watts-Morgan, Lieut.-Col. D.|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Wedgwood, Colonel Josiah C.|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Lunn, William||Wignall, James|
|Donald, Thompson||Lyle-Samuel, Alexander||Wilson, James (Dudley)|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. w. (Stourbridge)|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)||Maclean, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (Midlothian)||Wintringham, Margaret|
|Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith||M'Neill, Ronald (Kent, Canterbury)||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Finney, Samuel||Mallalieu, Frederick William|
|Foot, Isaac||Malone, C. L. (Leyton, E.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Galbraith, Samuel||Mosley, Oswald||Mr. T. Griffiths and Mr. Allen Parkinson.|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Goff, Sir R. Park||Norman, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Henry|
|Allen, Lieut.-Col. Sir William James||Grant, James Augustus||Norton-Griffiths, Lieut.-Col. Sir John|
|Armstrong, Henry Bruce||Green, Albert (Derby)||Oman, Sir Charles William C.|
|Ashley, Colonel Wilfrid W.||Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)||Palmer, Brigadier-General G. L.|
|Astor, Viscountess||Greenwood, William (Stockport)||Parker, James|
|Atkey, A. R.||Greer, Sir Harry||Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry|
|Bagley, Captain E. Ashton||Greig, Colonel Sir James William||Pearce, Sir William|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Gwynne, Rupert S.||Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)|
|Banner, Sir John S. Harmood-||Hallwood, Augustine||Perkins, Walter Frank|
|Barnett, Major Richard W.||Hail, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Phillpps, Sir Owen C. (Chester, City)|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Hambro, Angus Valdemar||Pollock, Rt. Hon. Sir Ernest Murray|
|Barrand, A. R.||Hamilton, Major C. G. C.||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar (Banff)||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Pratt, John William|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Harmsworth, C. B. (Bedford, Luton)||Prescott, Major Sir W. H.|
|Bell, Lieut. Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Haslam, Lewis||Purchase, H. G.|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel Frank||Rae, H. Norman|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Hills, Major John Waller||Ramsden, G. T.|
|Benn, Capt. Sir I. H., Bart. (Gr'nw'h)||Hinds, John||Randies, Sir John Scurrah|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Hoare, Lieut.-Colonel Sir S. J. G.||Ratcliffe, Henry Butler|
|Bigland, Alfred||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Raw, Lieutenant-Colonel Dr. N.|
|Birchall, J. Dearman||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Rees, Capt. J. Tudor- (Barnstaple)|
|Borwick, Major G. O.||Hood, Sir Joseph||Reid, D. D.|
|Boscawen, Rt. Hon. Sir A. Griffith-||Hope, Sir H.(Stirling & Cl'ckm'nn, W.)||Remer, J. R.|
|Bowyer, Captain G. W. E.||Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. A. (Midlothian)||Remnant, Sir James|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major A.||Hopkins, John W. W.||Richardson, Sir Alex. (Gravesend)|
|Brassey, H. L. C.||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)|
|Breese, Major Charles E.||Hunter, General Sir A. (Lancaster)||Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Rodger, A. K.|
|Brittain, sir Harry||Hurst, Lieut.-Colonel Gerald B.||Roundell, Colonel R. F.|
|Bruton, Sir James||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Rutherford, Sir W. W. (Edge Hill)|
|Buchanan, Lieut.-Colonel A. L. H.||Jesson, C.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Johnstone, Joseph||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Jones, Sir Evan (Pembroke)||Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert Arthur|
|Burgoyne, Lt.-Col. Alan Hughes||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Scott, Sir Samuel (St. Marylebone)|
|Burn, Col. C. R. (Devon, Torquay)||Kellaway, Rt. Hon. Fredk. George||Seager, Sir William|
|Campbell, J. D. G.||Kelley, Major Fred (Rotherham)||Seely, Major-General Rt. Hon. John|
|Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Sharman-Crawford, Robert G.|
|Carew, Charles Robert S.||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Shaw, Hon. Alex. (Kilmarnock)|
|Casey, T. W.||Lane-Fox, G. R.||Shaw, William T. (Forfar)|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Larmor, Sir Joseph||Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Birm. W.)||Law, Alfred J. (Rochdale)||Smith, Sir Malcolm (Orkney)|
|Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood)||Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ., Wales)||Smithers, Sir Alfred W.|
|Cheyne, Sir William Watson||Lewis, T. A. (Glam., Pontypridd)||Sprot, Colonel Sir Alexander|
|Chilcot, Lieut.-Com. Harry W.||Lindsay, William Arthur||Stanley, Major Hon. G. (Preston)|
|Clay, Lieut. Colonel H. H. Spender||Lloyd, George Butler||Stanton, Charles Butt|
|Clough, Sir Robert||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (H'tingd'n)||Steel, Major S. Strang|
|Coats, Sir Stuart||Lorden, John William||Stephenson, Lieut.-Colonel H. K.|
|Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Loseby, Captain C. E.||Stewart, Gershom|
|Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale||Lowe, Sir Francis William||Strauss, Edward Anthony|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Lowther, Maj.-Gen. Sir C. (Penrith)||Surtees, Brigadier-General H. C.|
|Cope, Major William||Loyd, Arthur Thomas (Abingdon)||Taylor, J.|
|Courthope, Lieut.-Col. George L.||M'Connell, Thomas Edward||Thomas, Sir Robert J. (Wrexham)|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Macdonald, Rt. Hon. John Murray||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Davies, Alfred Thomas (Lincoln)||Mackinder, Sir H. J. (Camlachie)||Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell- (Maryhill)|
|Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||McLaren, Robert (Lanark, Northern)||Tickler, Thomas George|
|Davies, Sir William H. (Bristol, S.)||M'Lean, Lieut.-Col. Charles W. W.||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||McMicking, Major Gilbert||Waddington, R.|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Walters, Rt. Hon. Sir John Tudor|
|Dennis, J. W. (Birmingham, Deritend)||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Walton, J. (York, W. R., Don Valley)|
|Dewhurst, Lieut.-Commander Harry||Macquisten, F. A.||Ward, Col. J. (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Doyle, N. Grattan||Magnus, Sir Philip||Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)|
|Edwards, Hugh (Glam., Neath)||Malone, Major P. B. (Tottenham, S.)||Waring, Major Walter|
|Falcon, Captain Michael||Manville, Edward||Warren, Sir Alfred H.|
|Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray||Marriott, John Arthur Ransome||Watson, Captain John Bertrand|
|Farquharson, Major A. C.||Middlebrook, Sir William||White, Col. G. D. (Southport)|
|Fell, Sir Arthur||Mildmay, Colonel Rt. Hon. F. B.||Wild, Sir Ernest Edward|
|FitzRoy, Captain Hon. Edward A.||Mitchell, Sir William Lane||Williams, C. (Tavistock)|
|Flannery, Sir James Fortescue||Moles, Thomas||Willoughby, Lieut.-Col. Hon. Claud|
|Ford, Patrick Johnston||Molson, Major John Elsdale||Wilson, Col. M. J. (Richmond)|
|Forestier-Walker, L.||Montagu, Rt. Hon. E. S.||Windsor, Viscount|
|Forrest, Walter||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Winfrey, Sir Richard|
|France, Gerald Ashburner||Morris, Richard||Wise, Frederick|
|Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Morrison, Hugh||Wood, Hon. Edward F. L. (Ripon)|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C.||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)|
|Gange, E. Stanley||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Worsfold, T. Cato|
|Ganzoni, Sir John||Murchison, C. K.||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Gardiner, James||Neal, Arthur||Yate, Colonel Sir Charles Edward|
|Gardner, Ernest||Newman, Colonel J. R. P. (Finchley)||Young, E. H. (Norwich)|
|Gee, Captain Robert||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Young, W, (Perth & Kinross, Perth)|
|Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Newson, Sir Percy Wilson||Younger, Sir George|
|Gilbert, James Daniel||Nicholl, Commander Sir Edward||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel sir John||Nicholson, Reginald (Doncaster)||Colonel Leslie Wilson and Mr. Dudley Ward.|
|Glyn, Major Ralph||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)|
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ Captain W. BENN
I beg to move to reduce Item "B" (Maintenance of Russian Refugees) by £50.
This is one of the residuary obligations, not the last, that we have to meet on account of what may be called the Churchill policy in Russia. It is very significant that the Secretary for the Colonies, whose policy has let us in for this money, and for the enormous increase of the original Estimate of £165,000 to £300,000, put in only a furtive appearance in the Debate, and then beat a hasty retreat. It seems hardly fair to the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs that he, who was only a consenting party in a minor way to the policy of 1919–20, should have alone in this House to defend one of the heavy and continuing obligations which that policy involved. That often happens in this House. The great men make mistakes, and others are put up to defend the debris when that policy, as most policies of the Government do, comes to a failure. The Committee should be reminded of what we were told when this policy was initiated, and compare those statements with the facts as we know them to-day. This enterprise, for the pitiable remnants of which we are now asked to pay—everybody sympathises with the poor victims of this enterprise—was commended to the House at the time by the Prime Minister and the Colonial Secretary. It is fair to remind the Committee that on one occasion the Prime Minister told us, with great pride, that General Denikin had swept the Bolshevist armies from all these fertile regions.
§ The CHAIRMAN (Mr. James Hope)
I would remind the hon. Member that this is a Supplementary Estimate. The only question that can be debated is whether these sums ought to have been spent on these refugees. It is out of order to discuss the original policy.
§ Captain BENN
I will put myself in order by pointing out that these sums are being paid in consideration of an undertaking which was given by a Commissioner sent out by the Government to Russia. The hon. Gentleman said that he could not speak for the wisdom of the undertaking given by our Commissioner. What I urge is that, in view of the honourable obligations entered into by 1148 the Government, it was very difficult for the hon. Member for Camlachie (Sir Holford Mackinder), when he went to Southern Russia, to do otherwise than give the undertaking. I do not suggest whether it was wise or not to give that undertaking, but when a man finds himself in a district with a defeated army, retreating, and with all the horrors of defeat around them—
§ The CHAIRMAN
Obviously, the hon. Member is out of order. It may have been in order to discuss this on the original Estimate, but the point now is what are the causes of the Supplementary Estimate, and why was the former sum underestimated. The Debate must be confined to the question why the original Estimate fell short of what is now asked for, and what are the causes. It has been ruled over and over again on Supplementary Estimates that the original policy cannot be discussed.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
I submit that in the case of Supplementary Estimates, where the sum is not very large in comparison with the original sum, obviously you are limited to the reasons for the additional sum asked for, but where the new sum asked for is of such large dimensions as to justify a challenge of the original policy, then the original policy is open, within limits, of course, to discussion in Committee. If I am right in my submission so far, I would point out that the original sum asked for was £160,000, and the sum now asked for is no less than £300,000, That, I respectfully submit, does not limit us strictly to debating the reason for the additional sum. So large is the sum involved that some reference to the policy on which the sum was originally asked for should be allowed.
§ The CHAIRMAN
It is in order to criticise statements made by the Government last year on the Estimate put forward last year, in view of the fact that a very large additional sum is required, but it is certainly not in order to discuss the circumstances under which the hon. Member for Camlachie, long before the beginning of this financial year, gave a certain undertaking.
§ Captain BENN
I was under the impression that the reference to his undertaking would most likely commend itself to you as being strictly within your ruling, because it had been referred to by the 1149 Under-Secretary in opening the Debate. I will make no further reference to his undertaking, but merely direct attention to the fact that the original Estimate was for nine months, which we understood would conclude the whole item, so that although not in terms, but certainly in spirit, to ask for that new supply really comes within the category of a new service. I will deal briefly with some of the undertakings with which we as a Committee have to deal. The Colonial Secretary said:Do not let us have a lot of exaggerated talk about pouring out the blood of this country and draining away its treasure on vague and wild Russian expeditions. What we are doing has been most carefully and precisely limited and has been definitely explained to the House.I was under the impression that the Estimates put forward in connection with this enterprise in accordance with the undertaking of the Colonial Secretary was, "Definitely explained, and precisely limited," instead of which we find ourselves with a Supplementary Estimate this year exceeding by almost 100 per cent, the original Estimate, and we find from the statement by the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, who is the soul of candour, that he cannot pretend that this is the last sum he will ask for on this account. When are we to see the end of the financial commitments to which this unfortunate and universally unsuccessful warrior has committed this country? He always backs the wrong horse. He said on one occasion:We hope that Russia will become self-supporting before the end of the year.On another occasion he spoke of the unfortunate General, whose refugees we now have to support, as being on the eve of success. Repeatedly we were told that from the Government Benches, and from the beginning of 1919, from the election of this House, we on this side protested vigorously against what was in fact a new war.
§ The CHAIRMAN
We cannot possibly go into the question of original policy on this Supplementary Estimate.
§ Captain BENN
I realise how difficult it is to deal with a sum, which is a continuing sum, of which this is not the last amount, which does arise from causes outside the present financial year. I do not 1150 know whether I shall be more in order in referring to the case of the position of General Wrangel. He was a later edition of these adventures.
§ The CHAIRMAN
Certainly not. The hon. Member can discuss why the original Estimate has been exceeded, and comment on why the amount of increase is so great, and ask the Government the reason for it.
§ Captain BENN
I suggest that one of the reasons is the fourth expedition of this same General Wrangel. I see that money is being taken for sending these refugees to Serbia. General Wrangel is in Serbia, I understand, at Belgrade. The Under-Secretary said that he thought he was in Constantinople, but there was a telegram in the newspapers a few days ago saying he was in Serbia. From other sources, on which I would not like to found a definite conviction, but, at any rate, they are sources on information, it was stated that a new offensive was to be organised by General Wrangel. Is there any risk of any of this money being used for the sending back of the Russian White Army into Serbia to be organised in any way for a second offensive?
§ Mr. HARMSWORTH
There is not the remotest prospect of that happening. This money is merely for the maintenance of 5,000 refugees in Serbia, Egypt and elsewhere, followers of Denikin, and has nothing whatever to do with General Wrangel.
§ Captain BENN
The hon. Gentleman does less than justice to our intelligence. He says that they are followers of General Denikin. Did not General Wrangel take them from Denikin? Was he not his successor after Denikin had failed? He says that 5,000 men are to be sent to Serbia.
§ Captain BENN
In view of the statement that this money is to cover the expense of the removal of these people to Serbia, and that it was announced in the Press on 3rd March thatGeneral Wrangel arrived in Belgrad last night from Constantinople,and in view of the information of credible papers, including the "Daily News," whose correspondent in Nish states—I am 1151 not committing myself to this statement, but am taking it from a leading organ of public news—The idea is to mobilise an army under General Wrangel. The men behind this project are confident of the project. There is a loan—we are justified in asking for information. The Under-Secretary says that he knows nothing of this, but this has been the history of all these ill-starred expeditions. I can only refer inferentially to the others because I must stick to the Estimate, but we were told the same about all the other expeditions. It was always denied from that Bench that we were supporting General Denikin, and yet we find we have an honourable obligation to his refugees. Is there the least likelihood of these men who are being sent from their refuge in Egypt, Cyprus and elsewhere, to Serbia, where their General is, being used in any way for another unfortunate and fore-doomed-to-failure attack upon the established Government in Russia? These are questions, etc., which I ask for information, and before the Vote is passed we might have from the Under-Secretary a categorical statement, because we know that there are two influences working with the Government. One half would like to go to Genoa and grasp murder by the hand, and the other half is convinced that at all costs we must fight against the Bolshevists, and information is given to the House sometimes from one side of the Government and sometimes from the other. It is important that the matter should be cleared up. Is there the least possibility of the money being used in this way? That is a question to which we ought to have an answer, and we can only lament that an enterprise which was advertised as about to be a great success, and was costly beyond all words, is so great a failure.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I desire to refer to what the Under-Secretary said with regard to the negotiations which we had with the Soviet Government with a view to repatriating these unfortunate men and their dependents to Russian soil. I wonder if the hon. Gentleman would consider laying the correspondence on the Table, if it has not been already published, because a very large sum of money is involved, and it is not unreasonable that we should see 1152 that correspondence. I gather that the Soviet Government wished to send a Commission to examine these refugees and, as the hon. Gentleman says, to make their choice. That was putting it rather badly, but they reserved the right of refusing to allow certain of these refugees back into Russia. When we consider the past history of these men, the men who fought in various counter-revolutionary wars, and that there has been a very extensive espionage and sabotage organisation set up for injuring Russia by underhand and underground methods, we see that any reasonable Government would have insisted on the right of excluding known agitators against their rule. I am not very well informed on this matter. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will give some information. I believe that it is a fact that the Soviet Government did ask for some guarantee from these men that they would accept the Government and laws of Russia to-day and settle down peacefully, which was, after all, not unnatural, and it should not be taken by others as an excuse for not sending these men back, simply that the Soviet Government reserve the right to refuse admission to certain notorious renegades and fire-caters. It is a very great pity if that was the only reason why the negotiations broke down.
The hon. Gentleman swept aside the idea of the Soviet Government refusing to those people admission to their soil, but I think that we might have stretched a point and continued negotiations. We cannot know about that until we see the correspondence. It is a great pity that we have not had the side of the hon. Member for Camlachie (Sir H. Mackinder) in this case. We heard the hon. Gentleman who represents the Foreign Office. He rather hinted that if he had been in the place of the hon. Member for Camlachie he might have done otherwise. The action of the hon. Member, as representing the Government, has cost us a great deal of money, but he is not here to give his side of the story. The hon. Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare) has given his experiences, and the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs rather took refuge behind the hon. Member for Chelsea as being a first-hand observer. I would ask the hon. Member for Chelsea if he can give us any information about the Wrangel activities. He spoke of Wrangel's hard work, self-devotion and 1153 sacrifices for the prosperity and comfort of his followers. Is there any truth in these, perhaps libellous, statements, that Wrangel is once more on the war path and that he is recruiting armies at Belgrade? The Under-Secretary tells us, I think, that there are 100,000 Russians in Serbia.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
Even 10,000 men would make a respectable army, if they all came together. Wrangel has been going backwards and forwards between Constantinople and Belgrade. We are told that we can control the goings and comings of men to and from Constantinople. Do we visa Wrangel's passports? Have the Foreign Office seen what the "Daily News" has got to say on this matter?
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
If we pay this money for the removal of these men to Serbia, then if there is any truth in these statements, we are acting as a recruiting agent for Wrangel's army. I have heard that Wrangel is raising an army, and that tentative arrangements are being made with a certain great Power, not ourselves, to provide shipping for him to a Black Sea port in certain eventualities—the breakdown of negotiations with the Soviet Government in which that great Power is engaged—and these troops will then be landed on the northern shores of the Black Sea, and anyone who knows what can be done with sea transport on a long line like that knows that the threat is very serious, and that this precious plan may be used when other plans have failed, to wreck the economic conference at Genoa. I would remind the hon. Gentleman of what happened to these refugees before. When Denikin broke down they were taken by our ships across to the Crimea. They were supplied with munitions and helped by us. When I asked Lord Long, who was then representing the Admiralty, why we were holding, the narrow neck of land and preventing the Beds coming down, he said that we had all these people huddled together in the Crimea and were simply protecting them until arrangements could be made for their peaceful progress to their own country. The next thing 1154 that we heard, within a few days, was that General Wrangel had got together—
§ The CHAIRMAN
These things happened long before the matters with which this Estimate is connected, arose, and I would ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman to confine himself to the Estimate under discussion.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I was not going into the question of policy now, except to point out that if Wrangel had not taken the offensive against Russia on this occasion we should not have these men on our hands in Constantinople. I would ask, is Wrangel once more on the war path? If we are to vote money for transporting recruits to his army in Serbia for making mischief in South-Eastern Europe, then any hon. Member who votes money for that purpose is-doing a great disservice to the British people and is increasing unemployment in this country.
Lieut.-Colonel J. WARD
If the last suggestion of my hon. and gallant Friend were true, or had the least foundation in fact, I should certainly support him, but it would be a sorry mistake, and opposed to the opinion of the majority of Members of this Committee, if the sinister suggestions which fall from my hon. and gallant Friend prevented us from performing what, after all, is a humanitarian duty in this case. The greater-part of the able-bodied men, those who are capable of looking after themselves, have already disappeared, and the overwhelming proportion of these people are women and the families of the men who were in Denikin's army. The suggestion has already been made by the League of Nations, and by the hon. Member for Chelsea, that these people should be allocated somewhere in a Slav country, where they can acquire the Slav atmosphere, so that they may be in a position to avail of the opportunity, should it ever offer, of going to their own country as citizens of Russia again. That is the object of voting this money just at this-moment. I say most emphatically that if there was the slightest truth behind the suggestion of the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy), if I had the slightest suspicion that the British Government had any intention, ulterior or otherwise, of 1155 getting men back into Serbia, that they might become recruits for Wrangel's army—if there is such an army—I would support my hon. and gallant Friend.
I suspect, however, that this is only newspaper chatter. I do not believe there is the slightest foundation in fact for the statement we have heard. If there was, as I say, even the slightest suspicion, I should certainly raise my voice in warning to the British Government against having anything whatever to do with such a proposition. In no circumstances ought we to lend the slightest countenance to it. Once having altered our policy on these matters, we ought to leave it entirely to the Russians themselves, in Russia, to decide what the Government of that country shall be. This is no new view of mine. I was opposed to withdrawing, but once having withdrawn, it would be simple madness in the guise of a vote for refugees, to assist an experiment of the description suggested by my hon. and gallant Friend. I am sure, however, there is no such intention. I cannot, of course, say what the Serbian Government may not be doing, but if I had any influence with them, and if there were any suspicion that anything of the kind is on, and that General Wrangel is getting an army together in Belgrade or anywhere else in the Balkan States, with the idea of attacking the Soviet Government, or becoming the tool of some European Government to do so, I should raise my voice against it. If the British Government have any influence in advising them, then instead of helping in the recruiting of such an army, they should advise the Servian Government that any such attempt would be madness.
I come back to the real object of this Vote which is to assist people who are, owing to the fortunes of war, and the terrible distresses and difficulties of their own country not merely refugees but refugees to a certain extent under our protection. To a certain extent we are responsible for them. Of course we could wipe our hands of them. No doubt Parliament is powerful enough to refuse even to honour its bond to these poor derelicts of the Russian débâcle. There is no doubt we could refuse to vote a farthing for the purpose, but I think it would be such a breach of faith to people who are entirely defenceless and largely in their present 1156 position because of the policy which we advised, and the action which we advised, that the House would not do so. In these circles the British Government are bound to do everything they can to render assistance to these people. When it is suggested that these refugees should return to Serbia, are we doing that with the sanction of the Serbian Government, and are we still making ourselves responsible to a certain extent for these people? If so, a considerable amount of caution ought to be observed as to the way in which the finances of such a scheme are controlled.
So far as the administration and spending of money are concerned, nay even in the organisation necessary for such an object as this, I say most frankly after two or three years of close experience, that I prefer to have British administration and British organisation. British money should not be merely handed over to these people or to anyone connected with them to be managed by them. All the time there should be British guidance. I think that is absolutely essential if we are going to have security and confidence that what we are voting for the refugees is being properly devoted to that purpose. I do not know what is the sum involved per head, but I do know that the Russian Relief and Reconstruction Society has established schools for these people in Constantinople, and I know the amount for which we have been able to cloth, educate, feed and house them, with the cost of the administrative staff attached to the schools. We were obliged to take a certain proportion of women to look after the children, and accordingly this applies to both women and children, but we have been able to do all that at something between £20 to £25 per head per annum.
If you are going to spend this big sum of £300,000 I should like to know how many refugees are to be dealt with and how much it works out per head. The population with which we are dealing in the Russian Relief and Reconstruction Society, is a population whose members cannot earn anything for themselves. They are entirely hopeless so far as earning capacity is concerned, whereas there must be many of these refugees who, if there is proper organisation, and if they arte established in a friendly Slav community, should certainly be able to get their living and reduce this sum by a great 1157 percentage. I should like to know whether there has been any financial arrangement with the Serbian Government as to the amount per head to be devoted to these refugees, and whether that amount per head is to last only so long as the person concerned is incapable of providing for himself. Our object should be not merely to dump these refugees down in some place, and support them in idleness, without making any attempt to fit the young to become citizens of the new Russian State, or even to keep the old in a condition of efficiency. That would be a great mistake. The object should be, by educating the young and by giving opportunities for labour on the part of those capable of performing labour, to make them self-supporting as quickly as possible. Otherwise one can quite see that you will have many such escapades as that which has been suggested here this evening, and in the spending of this money considering the finances of our country, great care should be exercised.
§ Lord R. CECIL
I only intervene for a moment to say two things. In the first place, I trust the hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary will be able to give the most complete assurances that this money is in no danger whatever of being diverted to military operations against Russia. We have had quite enough of that sort of thing. I imagine however that no Government, of any sort or kind, would venture to engage in any mad scheme of trying to establish a different Government in Russia to that which prevails there to-day. I ask my hon. Friend whether, in his reply, he can give some hope that the request of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare) will be complied with. I think the Committee view with a great deal of dislike the perpetual demand year after year for money for this purpose. I believe everyone feels that some definite term should be put to the amount of assistance we are required to give, even to this object, which in itself is admirable. I welcomed very much the announcement that this matter was going to be taken up by the League of Nations, and a final and complete scheme was to be established, and I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Chelsea that if this is to be done, it should be done immediately. The Council of the League should be summoned forth- 1158 with. There is no excuse for delay. There are other matters, which I should not be in order in going into, and which make it desirable that the Council should be summoned immediately, apart from this, but if only on this account we ought to have a meeting of the Council. I beg and pray my hon. Friend, who knows the mechanism of the League thoroughly, to remember that the Secretariat of the League have no initiative in this matter at all. It rests with the members of the Council themselves, and if the British Government express a desire that there should be a meeting of the Council within a fortnight or within whatever time they think right, such a meeting of the Council will be held as a matter of course. It entirely rests with the British Government whether such a meeting should take place, and I beseech my hon. Friend to use his influence with the Government to see that such a meeting is brought about.
§ Mr. T. GRIFFITHS
I want to congratulate the hon. and gallant Member for Stoke (Lieut.-Colonel J. Ward) on coming round to our point of view.
§ Mr. GRIFFITHS
If the hon. and gallant Member had only followed the advice which we gave, we would not be here today discussing this Vote. I must also congratulate the hon. and gallant Member for Chelsea on the very interesting remarks he made in the course of his speech. Perhaps he will be able to help the Committee if he is going to speak again on this matter. I happened to be in the same district myself last September, and I discovered in Constantinople that Wrangel's and Denikin's people were then being trained as soldiers. I do not know whether he discovered such a state of things in Serbia or not, but I discovered many things in Serbia which I did not like, and I am, therefore, all the more ready to believe the newspaper report which has been read out by the hon. and gallant Member for Leith (Captain W. Benn) that Wrangel is in Belgrade today with a view to trying to get up reinforcements to attack the Russian people. Things may have changed since then, and I hope they have changed for the better. I should like to ask the Under-Secretary whether the sum of £1,100,000 already 1159 spent on refugees, includes the Wrangel refugees, or has this sum been spent alone on the Denikin refugees.
§ Mr. GRIFFITHS
I think we ought to look at this question from the human standpoint. We have entered into an obligation and something should be done on behalf of these people, but I must say this, that I protest against this money being spent on Russian refugees when we read in the evening papers that the Government are proposing to reduce even the unemployed benefit in this country. Charity ought to commence at home, and before spending the hundreds of thousands which we are now going to spend on these refugees of Denikin and Wrangel, the Government first of all should look after the starving men and women of this country. To support a policy of this kind is a great disservice to the people of this country. The Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil) said he had listened to a melancholy recital from the Under-Secretary. I think we have had a lot of "Churchilarity" on this matter also. If it had not been for the Colonial Secretary we would not have been in the mess and muddle we are in to-day.
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Sir S. HOARE
I will endeavour to answer some of the questions which have been put to me during the discussion. I do not propose to follow the hon. Member who has just spoken in all the directions he has taken, but may I point out that what he has just said cuts directly across the proposal to make a grant for famine relief in Russia. I am sorry he should have followed that argument, but that is the effect of what he said. He asked me a question on the matter already referred to by the hon. and gallant Member for Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy), as to whether any of this Vote goes to encourage military operations from Serbia, and whether when I was in Constantinople I found Russian troops actually in training. Let me re-assure the hon. Member, and tell him that that is no longer the case. The whole of the Army of General Wrangel, with the exception of a few hundreds—and I hope even they are now removed—has been demobilised and dispersed in the 1160 neighbouring country, and certainly it was the impression I gained from what I heard and saw that these men were not being used for the kind of military training suggested by the hon. and gallant Member for Hull. Many of them were in ordinary employment or working in labour battalions, and it seems to me quite fantastic to suggest that any military operations could be attempted from Serbia of the kind suggested by the hon. and gallant Gentleman, and more fantastic than words can say to suggest that any of this money we are asked to take for his heterogeneous collection of refugees, many of them women and children, old men or wounded and disabled, could possibly give any support to any action against the Bolshevist Government in Russia. I ask the hon. Gentlemen opposite, therefore, to rest assured that none of this Vote could possibly go to encourage a military operation of that kind.
The only other observation I wish to make is in development of the suggestion I made earlier in the discussion as to a meeting of the Council of the League of Nations. That is the only possible way of dealing satisfactorily with a problem of the kind covered, by this Vote. Unless we can get the problem looked at as a whole, and unless we can get all the Governments concerned each to take some small part in its liquidation, we shall go on having Votes of this kind brought up year after year. I am afraid in what I said earlier in the Debate I may have given the impression that I was critical of the administration of the Foreign Office in this respect. I did not intend to do that. I think the Foreign Office have done what they could, but that they have done it in perfectly impossible conditions. As long as you have these refugees in places like Malta, Cyprus, and Egypt, you cannot deal satisfactorily with them. Again, therefore, let me emphasise what I tried to say earlier in the Debate, that the crux of the whole matter is to have an immediate meeting of the Council of the League. It will then be seen whether the Governments concerned are prepared to support the League in this matter. If the Governments are not prepared to support the League, then there is no solution of this question, and it should be known that the League cannot continue to carry out the obligations of 12 months ago. I hope 1161 the Under-Secretary will be able to tell us, therefore, before the Vote is taken, that he is going, here and now on behalf of the British Government, definitely to press for a meeting of the Council.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
It has been suggested that it is impossible to vote against this money without at the same time registering a vote against credit being given to the Russian Government to help the starving people in Russia. I submit there is no analogy whatever between those two votes. It is monstrous that we should have always to be asked to supply money for refugees of the White Army and then be told that there is no money available for the starving population in Russia. In the one case you are asking for money from the British tax payer. In the other case you are asking for credits from the British taxpayer; but the real source of the difference is this. So far as relations with Russia are concerned, we on these Benches can no longer trust hon. Members opposite. We have been told too often of the innocent nature of the White Armies, of the refugees, of the Government transactions with them. Over and over again we have had denied in this House that there was any connection between the British Government and Yudenitch, Wrangel, and Denikin. We have had denials as to our responsibility for these adventures in Russia, and over and over again it has been proved, I will not say that the Government, but that their emissaries abroad have had relations with these adventurers, and have given their support, open or veiled, to their adventures. We do not know to-day whether there is or there is not a new adventure brewing, whether Wrangel, who is in receipt of our money, is or is not now in Serbia or Bucharest—
§ Mr. HARMSWORTH
General Wrangel is receiving no money from the British Government and never has, so far as I know.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
In any case, as I imagine that a good deal of this relief money goes through the hands of administrators, I should be glad to learn that it all goes to those for whom it is intended. A lot of it goes through the Serbian Government's hands, and I wonder how much of it sticks to their hands in the process—
§ Mr. HARMSWORTH
The hon. and gallant Gentleman has no right to say that. I repudiate again the whole of this cock-and-bull story about the building up of a Wrangel Army in Serbia.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
Yes, but the hon. Gentleman repudiated all connection with Yudenitch's Army two years ago, and we have had exactly the same denials before. It seems to be thought that in dealing with the Bolshevist Government in Russia all the old principles of diplomacy are to be thrown into the back ground, and that we are to acquiesce in anything carried on by our representatives on the spot. We have full confidence in the hon. Gentleman, but is he aware of what goes on in Warsaw, Bucharest, Constantinople, and other places where machinations are constantly going on between the refugees and the Whites in this country. The White organisations and the White schemes go on, and we have no confidence any longer that this £1,100,000 we are voting is all really going for that charitable work upon which we are told to believe it is spent. I agree that, with unemployment as it is in this country, with 2,000,000 unemployed, we are not justified in spending £1,100,000 on this small section of alien unemployed abroad—
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
Yes, but we have been told by the hon. Gentleman before you, Sir, were in the Chair, that altogether we were paying £1,100,000 for the Denikin refugees, and the Wrangel refugees, I understand, are not included.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
May we understand, then, that £1,100,000 is the limit of our charitable obligations for refugees in the Balkans?
§ Mr. HARMSWORTH
I said that the total figure, including the £300,000, for the maintenance of these refugees from the time we undertook the obligation until now was £1,100,000. That is not the cost for the year.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
In that case, then, can we be told what is the annual expenditure to be expected for these 1163 refugees? We have not been told at all in what liabilities we are involved for next year. We do not know whether we are wiping up the business now, or whether we are going to spend £500,000 or £1,000,000 next year. With things as they are, we are not in a position to find this money on such a liberal scale. If there was any proof that we might get the money back from any future Russian Government it would be a very different thing, but if this sum is to be thrown away while we have 2,000,000 unemployed in this country we are bound to consider that it is inadvisably spent and that it would be much better that these people should see that charitable assistance must come to an end and that they must find work for themselves. At present you have these vast camps continuing to hope that we or the League of Nations will continue to find money for their assistance.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
So long as you object to a grant for the Russian Famine Fund, why do you support this? We are to have no grants for the Whites if we are to have no grants for the starving people in Russia.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
Then why do you oppose a grant for relief? We are not going to vote for this because we are not certain where the money will go, or that this wild-cat expedition may not come off.
§ Mr. HARMSWORTH
I am sorry to intervene in this Debate again, but a line of argument is being developed that I consider must be met. It started, I think, with the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite (Captain W. Benn), who developed a picturesque story and pointed to the possibility of General Wrangel raising an army in Serbia for the purpose, as I understand, of attacking Soviet Russia. I have been in the closest possible touch with this particular problem with which we are dealing, for 1164 I have been anxious about it ever since we incurred this liability, but the hon. and gallant Gentleman—and those who speak in the same strain—will be astonished to hear that this is the very first time I have ever heard this suggestion made, and I have had the opportunity of consulting those who have studied these matters even more closely than I have, and they have never heard it before.
§ Captain BENN
I have no sources of information except the Press, and they, of course, are open to everyone, and is it a fact that the Foreign Office has never seen the despatch from the special correspondent of the "Daily News" at Nish three days ago stating this specifically?
§ Mr. HARMSWORTH
My hon. and gallant Friend knows that that is purely a debating point. I myself do study that well-known journal, but it is purely a debating point to ask me whether the Foreign Office has read the article in question.
§ Captain BENN
The hon. Gentleman said it was the first he had heard of the suggestion. I point his attention to this despatch, and I ask in all sincerity if there is anything in it or not.
§ Mr. HARMSWORTH
The hon. and gallant Member knows quite sufficient about a Government Department to know that it is quite impossible for a Minister to know whether there is any individual in that Department who has ever heard this cock-and-bull story before or not. I have not heard it, and such advisers as I have been able to consult, men who are intimately acquainted with these questions, have never heard it either. The suggestion has been made—and I do not know that I was not included in the responsibility—that the Serbian Government is implicated in this matter. I think that is a very serious statement to make, and I think hon. Gentlemen occupying responsible positions of leaders of parties ought to be a little more careful before making any such statement as that in this House.
§ Captain BENN
I made no suggestion about the Serbian Government at all, if the hon. Gentleman was referring to me.
§ Mr. HARMSWORTH
The suggestion has been made, and it was made by my 1165 hon. and gallant Friend, that there is a possibility of building up a counter-revolutionary army in Serbia based on Wrangel and Denikin refugees. I say that that is a statement that ought not to be made in this House at all, and I repudiate it, from every source of knowledge which I have. I have never heard it before, and incidentally I may say that I fear irreparable damage may have been done to the whole cause of the Russian refugees by that statement. To have chance ideas, picked up from a newspaper, thrown into the midst of this very difficult matter may do irreparable damage. There is no question whatever of any of this money that the Committee is asked to vote being used for any military or counter-revolutionary projects whatever. It is merely for the support of a number of Russian refugees for whom we have made ourselves responsible. Does my hon. and gallant Friend (Captain Benn) or the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) suppose that I should undertake this unpalatable task once or twice a year of asking for money for these refugees if I had the slightest suspicion that one farthing of it would be allocated in any other way? How is it conceivable? In point of fact, our interests in this matter are watched over by a gentleman representing the Foreign Office in Serbia, who surveys and superintends the expenditure of every part of this money, and my hon. and gallant Friend may remember that I informed him earlier in the Debate that the expense of these refugees in Serbia has been reduced to 6s. per head per week. That should satisfy my hon. (and gallant Friend that every kind of economy, so far as the refugees are concerned, is being studied.
§ Mr. HARMSWORTH
I cannot say, but it can only be done, of course, with the advantage of the exchange. I do again, from my own knowledge and from that of others better informed than I am, most emphatically repudiate the suggestion that any part of the money which this Committee is asked to vote is, has been, or by any possibility could be, used for military purposes. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare) and my Noble Friend the 1166 Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil) have both urged the importance of an early meeting of the Council of the League of Nations. I can only say that I have great sympathy with that suggestion and that I will use what influence I possess to bring about that result. An hon. Member spoke about thrusting responsibilities on the League of Nations without furnishing them with the sinews of war. It would be preposterous, in my judgment, to ask the League of Nations to take on a pledge involving a large expenditure of money without providing them with funds for the purpose.
§ Sir D. MACLEAN
I am certain that not a single Member of this Committee will for one moment dispute, but indeed will gladly maintain, the bona fides of the Under-Secretary for the Foreign Office in discharging his difficult duties with so much good temper and so much capacity, but I hope he will not take very much to heart what my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Leith (Captain W. Benn) has said. I think, on reflection, he will see that all that my hon. and gallant Friend did was to bring to public attention in this Committee a statement made in the "Daily News," and perhaps some other journal—I do not know—with regard to Serbia. The advantage of that is this, that the Minister, speaking with official responsibility, has denied that, and I cannot imagine that a better service could be rendered, because, after all, this is the place in which to bring up statements which are issued in the Press in order to get answers to them, and now the public will know that the Minister responsible says there is no danger at all of any part of this sum being handled otherwise than for the relief of these distressed people, who are mainly not military men, but women and children. That position has been cleared up, and my hon. and gallant Friend has denied that he had in his mind any suggestion of any aspersion on the Serbian Government of any kind. I was very much impressed by what the hon. and gallant Member for Chelsea said in his second speech. Of course, he speaks with very special knowledge of the whole matter, and, notwithstanding what my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) has said, there is undoubtedly a danger that 1167 a Division on this particular Amendment might be misunderstood in the country. I think the great majority of Members of this House, and certainly a very large and influential section of the nation, is very desirous that something should be done to relieve the terrible conditions in the famine-stricken areas of Russia, and it would be a great pity if this Amendment were pressed to a Division and if there were any chance of misrepresentation as a result. Under these circumstances, after having had a Debate which, I think, has certainly been useful in clearing up many obscure points, I would express the hope that the Amendment will be withdrawn.
§ Mr. G. BARKER
This has been nearly a Front Bench Debate, and I feared the back benchers were not going to have a say in the matter. I do not remember, since I have sat in this House, a Vote-being proposed in Committee of a more provocative—I do not think I should be exaggerating if I said of a more enraging—nature than this Vote. I should like to know what the British taxpayer has got to do with the results of Denikin's adventure. I know this much, that if it had not been for the organised opposition of the workers of this country, we should be engaged now in voting a very much larger sum than is actually the case. The Prime Minister has said that we are the most heavily taxed nation in the world, and it seems to me that we have to pay taxes for all manner of things that happen throughout the whole of the civilised and uncivilised world. I do not know what the taxpayers have got to do with furnishing funds to succour the refugees of Denikin's expedition. This is, I suppose, some of the fruits of the ill-starred adventures of the Colonial Secretary. At the present moment we have over 2,000,000 unemployed, we have the people taxed as they have never been taxed before in their history, and we have British working men who are unemployed actually being taken to prison because they cannot pay taxes that arise out of Votes like the one we have before is this evening. I protest, as a humble Member of this House, in the strongest possible manner against this Vote. I hear there has been some suggestion that the Amendment should be withdrawn, but, so far as I am concerned, I shall 1168 oppose that, if I have to go into the Division Lobby by myself. I do not believe that British working men should pay a penny of this money. These ill-starred adventures, condemned in their initiation by the working classes of this country, should be opposed by every Member who believes in fair play for the British taxpayer, and therefore I shall oppose this Vote.
§ Captain BENN
I moved the reduction of this Vote because I wished to have an opportunity of protesting against the vacillating, expensive, and miserable Russian policy of the Government. I have not the least desire to stop money going to these poverty-stricken people. Oh the contrary, I wish the Government would make a grant to the famine-stricken people of Russia, and, in view of that, I ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ Mr. T. O'CONNOR
It will perhaps facilitate the Debate if I speak on the two items to which I wish to draw attention, and the first is Item J, which is £16,368 for meeting the expense of fuel oil supplied to Armenia. The second item is for £25,000 for the maintenance of Turks at Malta. With regard to the first of these items, I have nothing but praise to offer to the Government. I think it is a sign, perhaps, of better things on the part of the Government that they have in this particular grant given an indication of their sense of the duty they owe to the Armenian people. If I were to raise any objection in regard to this particular item, it would be that it was so small. My hon. Friend, answering an interruption, said, I think, that this money was given to the Armenians to help them to fight the Bolshevists. I do not hold any brief for the Bolshevists, but I must say I think money spent in enabling the Armenians to fight the Bolshevists would be much better spent in enabling the Armenians to fight the Turks. The Armenians, or a large body of them, have lived under Russian rule for many years, and although under the Tzarist Government they had no more liberty than any other portion of the Tzar's subjects, at least they were free from butchery, and many not only lived there, but prospered. I think the complaint we have to make against the 1169 Government is that, in spite of their pledges, and, as the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil) said, the pledges of France, to help these Armenians and to save these Armenians, and the efforts of the Armenians to help us fight our battles in the War, they have been very imperfectly realised either by the Government of England or the Government of France.
With regard to the second item, if I did not know my hon. Friend, and if I did not know all the conditions, I would say this represents one of the most flagitious transactions in history. What does it mean? £25,000to meet the cost of maintenance in Malta of certain Turkish subjects who were arrested at the instance of the British High Commissioner at Constantinople for violations of the Turkish Armistice.And the reason given for voting the sum of money isthe laxity with which they were guarded by Turkish authorities at Constantinople made it necessary to remove them to Malta—and so on. Just fancy this ironical position! Here are a number of Turkish soldiers. They are accused of the most atrocious crimes against Armenians. But that is not all. They are accused of the most atrocious crimes against our own soldiers—crimes, some of them, too abominable even to mention, or even to hint at. The Turkish Government is-asked to bring these men to justice. I have heard some of my hon. Friends almost every day for the last three years badgering the late Attorney-General and badgering other Members of the Government because they have not brought to justice some of the alleged criminals in the German Army, and nothing could ex-teed the burning and boiling indignation with which these Gentlemen have denounced the alleged supineness of the Government in bringing these alleged criminals to justice. But the worst offence of the worst German soldier pales into insignificance.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
I say the worst offence of the worst German soldier pates into insignificance compared with some of the crimes of these Turkish criminals whom our Government failed to bring to justice. Some gentlemen think we ought to make the Turkish Government our allies. The Turkish Government so 1170 grossly neglected to bring these hideous criminals to justice that we had to resort to what I will euphemistically call extralegal methods, and arrest and deport these men ourselves. Having in that way got hold of these atrocious criminals, we gave them at once the advantage of being under the guardianship of the English authorities in Malta, of receiving the humane treatment, as, I am glad to say, can always be expected in such circumstances from the English authorities inMalta—I do not say in all parts of the world, although I do not want to go into extraneous subjects—and we housed and fed them there, and treated them well. Then comes the additional fact in the situation, that we have a number of prisoners in the hands of the Kemalists. Now what does the Government do? The Government tries to make an exchange of prisoners. Was there a single one of these British prisoners against whom the Kemalist commanders dared to bring one charge of criminal cruelty? Not one of them. They were simply prisoners of war. Now what kind of prisoners were those in Malta? They were not prisoners of war merely. They were men who were charged with the violation of women and the murder, and the organisation of the murder, of women and children and men of the Armenian race, by the hundred thousand. Some of them were men who were partly responsible for that hideous massacre, by the most cruel means, of some of our own soldiers. I do not think my hon. Friend will contradict the statement that has been made clearly, and confirmed, I think, by Colonel Rawlinson that 50 per cent, of the British prisoners who fell into the hands of the Turks died under most horrible conditions. What did the Government do? I said I would qualify the word "flagitious," because, to be quite right, I doubt whether the Govvernment could have done anything else. Their anxiety to release from such a body as the Kemalist authorities 25 of out-gallant soldiers would have justified almost anything.
I understand that this was the form of the transaction. Forty of the Turkish prisoners were released, and then the emissary of the Kemalist Government was repudiated, and the Turks got back their 40 prisoners without a single one of ours being released. Then we tried our hand a second time. I am not blaming my hon. Friend, or the Government, or the 1171 authorities on the spot for exhausting every effort to get these men from the Kemalists. We tried a second time, and we got the release of our 25 prisoners by the release of 120 Turkish prisoners. Let me call attention to what the Turkish prisoners were who were released. Their names were published in the "Daily Telegraph." I cut out the paragraph at the time, but I have mislaid it. I remember distinctly, if not the names, what these men had done. I think there were at least five who were the main agents, the inspiring force, that organised and carried out the massacre of three-quarters of a million of Armenians during the War. I remember one case in particular. One of the Turkish prisoners released was the man who organised the massacre at Trebizond. If any man is familiar, as I am, and my hon. Friend below me is, with this affair, he will know that of all the massacres, that was one of the most ghastly and cruel. For instance, in the very same paper in which I read of the liberation of the miscreants, I read an account, I think it was of a Frenchman, or a Frenchwoman—I forget which—who was in Trebizond during the massacre. The massacre there took the form of putting people into a ship, taking them out to sea, and dropping them, and one's blood almost ran cold in reading how every day in going along the shore the writer saw the dead bodies of babies coming to the shore. And the man who organised that is one of the prisoners released in exchange for our soldiers.
Is it not a curious commentary on the policy and traditions of this country that such things should occur? And yet there is nothing like a unanimous and an irresistible protest against putting a body of Christians again under the control of men like these. What happened? I have not yet told the end of this ghastly story. Some of these organisers of butcheries—not the butcheries which are, perhaps, in that part of the world committed by disbanded soldiers fleeing from their villages and murdering and violating women, but a butchery organised by a Government as part of the Government policy. What has happened to some of these gentlemen? According to my information, they have been appointed to high commands in the Kemalist army, and there are men in this House who actually vindicate the policy 1172 which will drive a Christian army out of Asia Minor and leave all the Christians of Smyrna and all the Armenians around to the mercy of the Kemalist gentlemen who organised the massacre of the Armenians by hundreds of thousands. If that is not enough to condemn any policy, I do not know what is. For these reasons, although I do not wish to criticise too severely the Government. I think it my duty to bring these realities before the Committee.
§ Mr. A. HERBERT
I am not going to follow my hon. Friend (Mr. O'Connor) into a long political discussion, but I should like to answer one or two questions which I heard him put. I am sorry I did not have the advantage of hearing the whole of his speech. I only heard the latter part of it. He asked, first of all, who were these prisoners in Malta, and he then told us the thing that they had done. I am not here to defend massacre, by whomsoever it is committed. I should like to see all criminals punished; but I will only say, in answer to my hon. Friend, that we were never told what those people had done, or, at least, it was never proved what they had done. We have all had a number of things said about ourselves in this House, but until you are brought to trial and convicted, there is no certainty that you have done the thing of which you are accused We took a number of these men away after the Armistice, not as prisoners of war, and we kept them for three years without any trial. I will tell the Committee who one of them was. He was Rahmy Pasha. I suppose he had an experience very few men have had in wartime. He was officially thanked by Sir Francis Elliott, our Minister at Athens, for his kind treatment of the British community in Smyrna. After that he was seized under some pretext—no offence whatever being alleged—and was transported to Malta and kept there for three years. To-night I shall support the Government in this Vote which is for the upkeep of a number of Turks who have been imprisoned in peace time without trial. Let me add that this is the smallest part of the debt we are paying for our action; the larger part is in the hostility that we see at present throughout. Turkey.
We are asked to-night to vote for a number of small Votes which 1173 are in reality the remnants of a jumble sale which the present Colonial Secretary has been trying to erect in different parts of Eastern Europe. I am not going to follow the various Members of the Committee into the different Votes; but I think that the answers given by the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs will not be regarded as conclusive in this matter. We have had a good many assurances with regard to other matters in the last three years, and our experience has shown that what has been said in this House has invariably been contradicted by actions outside. In passing, let me say that this is rather the bitter irony of the case, that these Russian refugees should have been sent to spend so much time at Prinkipo Island. The place has rather strange memories. If the Prime Minister had carried out his Prinkipo policy there would never have been any necessity for these refugees to go there.
I want particularly to deal with Item O—Relief in Russia—and I hope that the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs will be able to reply to the few questions I am going to ask. This matter has not yet been raised in discussion. The Item reads:Further sum to provide for the repayment of the grants and advances made to necessitous British, Allied, and Neutral subjects in Russia, and raised by the British Chaplain in Moscow and others. The advances are partly recoverable.The amount is £15,000. I hope we shall be able to be told that these advances are recoverable. If my information is correct these people are practically destitute. I will say, before I finish, a little more of what I know as to their present condition. The British Chaplain in Moscow, I presume, is the Reverend E. North. The Under-Secretary has told us to-night that £95,000 has already been given for these purposes. I understood him to say at first that £50,000 had been paid to the British Chaplain in Moscow. The hon. Gentleman says it is £95,000. Perhaps that includes all the charges, not only to the Chaplain, but to other people. Say that £50,000 has been paid to the British Chaplain in Moscow. This additional £15,000 makes a total of £65,000. That is the first point on which I want some further information from the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs. It is a point about which we have a right to ask.
1174 How is this £65,000 arrived at? Nearly two years ago when the original sum of £50,000 was brought up here, I tried to elucidate from the hon. Gentleman how this sum of £50,000 was made up. May I now press him to tell us whether he has any definite statement at all as to how this total sum he is asking for, this £15,000, is arrived at? Has he any claims, any receipts, any statement at all? If he has the latter, are the statements in sterling or roubles? If they are in roubles, this £65,000 would amount to nearly sixty-five thousand million roubles. Does the hon. Gentleman really mean to tell us that the British Chaplain in Moscow has borrowed sixty-five thousand million roubles from other British subjects in that place? I am sure he does not. What has happened is this: This £65,000 is a purely arbitrary sum arrived at by the British Chaplain in consultation with the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs.
I should also like an answer from the Under-Secretary as to what has happened to these refugees, and what is happening, and whether my version is or is not correct. I believe there are less than 700 of these so-called necessitous persons. They arrived in London in March, 1920. They were taken to the Holborn Union Workhouse at Mitcham. There they were housed under quite comfortable conditions, receiving full maintenance and a small allowance for personal expenses. In November, 1920, the lease of Mitcham Workhouse, which had been used as a military hospital, ran out, and the Government asked these people to find accommodation outside, giving them a small but quite sufficient allowance. In February, 1921, notice was sent to them telling them to quit by 28th March, 1921, and after that date it was left to them, being necessitous persons in this country, to apply for relief to the Guardians. What is the most iniquitous thing about these Russian refugees which were brought to this country? We were told they were English subjects, but they are only that technically, for the majority could not even speak English. They were brought over here because the British chaplain in Russia found out that they had grandfathers or great-grandfathers or great-uncles who happened to be English. He brought them over to this country—I hope the Under-Secretary will deny this if I am wrong—solely for 1175 propagandist purposes against the Russian Government. They were brought over here in order that they might be taken about the country, North, South, East and West to spread fabulous tales amongst us as to the position of affairs in that country.
These people who could not speak English were brought over as necessitous British refugees. What happened? They were handed over to the Central Committee for the Training of Women in England, and an endeavour was made to teach them English, with more or less success, and an endeavour was also made to find some employment for them. Of course it was very difficult. I do not suppose this £15,000 really represents any 6f the money spent by that Committee on the training of these people. We might be told about that. There is sad irony in these Russian so-called British refugees in this country. They could not get work. No one would engage them in this country. If you bring 800 persons from another country to this country at this time of trade depression, how can you expect them to get work? What we further know of this anti-Bolshevist propaganda was that these people, or some of them, went to Soviet House, the headquarters of the Russian delegation, to seek work. Some of them have got work. They were turned out of the workhouse on to the streets literally to starve, and even these refugees have been so mishandled by the British Government that to-day they are turning against that Government, and why? Because a short time ago, after they had been brought out of Russia and left to starve on the London streets, Lord Curzon sent to inquire whether they were now in a position to pay their fare from Moscow to London. That is the bitter irony of that which had gone before.
Why were these people brought here at all? Let us hear that before we vote. Let us hear why the Government ever approved of the bringing of these men and women from Moscow to this country. The Under-Secretary has told us that the Soviet authorities have been approached with regard to the repatriation of Russian refugees in this country. I do not believe that they have really been approached properly. I can quite understand the Soviet Government raising objections against many of the ragtag and 1176 bobtail of the white armies going back to Russia, but I am quite sure, if they are approached again properly, they will raise no objection—they have not done it in the past—to people going back to Russia if they are prepared to work. That is the real trouble. Most of these refugees do not want to work. Having lived in Russia all these years idle lives on the backs of the people, they only want to go back to Russia to overturn the Government so that their lives may be continued at the expense of the working classes. Let us hear something about the so-called Anglo-Russian refugees.
Why were they brought here? Was it for propagandist purposes, or for any other reason? I have told the House that they were brought here solely for propagandist purposes, so that this British Chaplain in Russia could make anti-Bolshevist propaganda against the Russian Government. Let us have the full, strong light of publicity upon this matter. Let us know all we can in dealing with these leaders—I might use that term—of the English colony in Moscow. The British public ought to know more about these matters. The British Chaplain in Russia has been used, and used mainly by the British Government, as a centre of counter-revolutionary intrigue in Russia. Before he went to Russia, Mr. (now Sir Paul) Dukes had a great deal to do with the Russian Chaplain on behalf of the British Government. Has this £15,000 additional been spent on counter-revolutionary propaganda? Sir Paul Dukes when he left Russia was rewarded by a knighthood. Is this sum another means of simply rewarding the Reverend E. North? Let us know all about it. We have not had a clear definition. I shall be forced to vote against the Government, though, if money were spent on real relief for those who were starving in Russia, I should not hesitate to vote in favour of it. I would vote for four times that amount, but as it stands I shall certainly vote against it. What we are asked to vote for is a most iniquitous and outrageous scandal.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. G. BARNES
This is a crazy sort of debate. We are going from one subject to another, and, therefore, I may be excused if I try to get the attention of the Committee back to what I think has been the most important topic yet raised. I 1177 refer to the topic raised by the hon. Member for the Scotland Division (Mr. O'Connor). A great deal has been said about the relief of the Russian refugees, with which I am perfectly in favour. No good service has been done to the working people of this country by suggesting that, because we have 2,000,000 of people in this country unemployed, we cannot afford to do a little towards relieving these distressed people. But that is not the point I wish to put. The hon. Member for the Scotland Division has raised a question first as to the Turk and his atrocities, and the ease with which we let men off from Malta who, it was true, had not been convicted, but were held in prison charged, and were therefore let off without trial when they might have been tried, because they were in our custody. I think that was wrong. I also want to raise my voice in support of the plea of the hon. Member for Scotland Division in regard to the occupation of the Province of Smyrna.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I am afraid the right hon. Gentleman is not in order. The items are the Maintenance of Turks at Malta and Oil for Armenia, which was ordered and paid for. I am afraid that the occupation of Smyrna could not be brought into order.
§ Mr. BARNES
It seems from my point of view to be a lamentable proposal that the Greeks should be driven out of Smyrna and that the area should be occupied by that sort of people. About the oil for Armenia, it is stated that something is to be done in regard to getting back that money when there is a suitable Government. All I want to say about that is that I hope the Government will not regard that as in any sense an acquittal of our obligation towards these people. They were induced to fight on our side during the War. As a consequence, they not only lost men in the War, but were subjected to these horrible cruelties of which we have heard. I do not think for a moment that the Government stood behind these people as they should have done, and I therefore express the hope that when the Under-Secretary of State gets up to reply he will tell us something which will indicate that the Government have in their mind a serious sense of responsibility in inducing these poor people to come into the War on our side, and that they will not regard their obligation altogether dis- 1178 charged by the mere paltry payment of this sum of money, but will still stand behind these people in their further struggle to escape the clutches of these Turks.
§ Mr. A. WILLIAMS
I want to call attention to the note under the heading "J."—The claim has been noted for presentation to any future stable Government of Armenia.It would appear from this statement that the Government is now telling us that there is no stable Government in Armenia. As a matter of fact, the Government that is in Armenia is the most-stable they have ever had, but it is a Government hostile to this country, and that is the net result of the policy, the poltroon policy, of the Government on this matter. The Government has abandoned these people, with the result that Armenia has fallen into the hands of a few Russian sympathisers and emissaries. You have in Armenia at the present time a Government which is perfectly stable, which is giving that country peace, internal peace and peace with its neighbours, and it is hostile to this country because this country has betrayed every pledge and obligation we have ever had to these people.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
I was glad to hear the confession made by the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs—a confession that appeared to me to be appalling—that so much money has been wasted on ventures that have brought us into disrepute in many parts of the world. I wish to put some pertinent questions. The Under-Secretary has given some very interesting figures of the number of people affected by these Votes. We have, under Subhead L, "Maintenance of Turks at Malta, £25,000." The Under-Secretary told the Committee that the number of persons involved in that sum was 120. £25,000 appears to me to be a very large sum indeed to cover 120 people, and compares strangely with the amount per annum we spend on our own unemployed in this country. We have another item of £10,000 for the repatriation of Turks from the Yemen. I should like to know how many persons are involved in this. We are told under Subhead O—"Relief in Russia"—that this is not the last time an application will be made to the House 1179 for a sum of money to deal with this item, although we have £15,000 now included in this Supplementary Estimate. I think the Under-Secretary should be informed that there is a strong suspicion in this country that money voted in this way is not voted for the purpose stated in these words, "Relief in Russia." A point has already been mentioned by an hon. Member with regard to what might be described as spy work in Russia.
Personally, I object very strongly to any Government in any part of the world sending men to this country to propound political doctrines. We are the people to determine what form of Government is to our liking. I would like to ask whether any of this money is likely to be spent in Russia for propagandist purposes? It has been hinted at already, and we are entitled to a reply. The last-item is one of £60,000 for "Advances to Bessarabian Co-operative Societies." To some of us this is very interesting, and we should like to know whether these co-operative societies are under the wing of any Government, or whether they are voluntary co-operative societies with which we have been doing business. There is another item, and I would like to support the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin on the point that he mentioned, that it is unfair to ask the League of Nations to do what is, in my view, some of the unclean work that should have been done by our own Government. In conclusion, I think we ought to add a note of protest here. Some of this money, undoubtedly, has been spent, and some of the Estimate that is included here for the future will be spent, undoubtedly, in order to maintain the sons and daughters of the wealthy classes of Russia who are opposed to the Bolshevist Government. I want to raise a protest against any money being spent on these people when we are unable, as a State, to find money in order to maintain our own people decently in this country.
§ Colonel Sir CHARLES YATE
I wish to refer to the speech of the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Malone) regarding the British refugees from Russia. It was one of the most heartless speeches I think I ever heard. It was one of the brightest experiences of my life to see the way in which Englishmen have gone to Russia, there to establish their position in factories and other works. No one could 1180 sympathise more than I did with these British people who were brought to ruin when the terrible troubles came to Russia. These men and women and children, who were rescued with difficulty, were brought over with nothing but the clothes that they had on at the time from what appeared to be absolute starvation and massacre. We rescued them with great difficulty, and I am sorry for the way they have been treated in this country since they were brought over. We have heard how they were sent to the workhouse and neglected by everybody. They came under difficulties in Russia through no fault of their own. The Government has done nothing for them. We have heard hon. Members on the Labour Benches objecting to any help being given and ridiculing them. These are our own British people whom we rescued out of Bolshevist hands. I think the speech is one of the most distressing episodes I have heard in my life.
§ Mr. HARMSWORTH
I rise to disabuse the hon. Member opposite of any supposition that the money proposed to be granted under sub-head "O" is to be used for any other purpose than that mentioned. It may be that the hon. Member has not been present at the former discussions on this subject. If he had, he would have been aware that many people took part. For that purpose they had to borrow money from whom they were able to borrow, and under this head all we are proposing to do is to pay back to these people who came to the rescue, the money that they lent then. None of it, as the hon. Member for East Leyton (Mr. Malone) seems to suggest, very unnecessarily and rather wickedly, I thought, concerns Mr. North, and none of it is used for any purpose of propaganda whatsoever. For a member of the Government to come down here and put down a bogus Estimate, asking for money ostensibly for a proper purpose, and then using it for propaganda purposes, I am sure no hon. Member would entertain that suspicion.
§ Lord R. CECIL
Before my hon. Friend concludes his intervention, I hope we shall have some indication of the Government view upon the matter which has been raised by the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. O'Connor) and the hon. Member for the Gorbals Division (Mr. Barnes). 1181 I do not want to disturb the harmony of the proceedings, but I think the Government should make it clear where they stand on the Armenian Question. It has been raised on the item Oil for Armenia. I do not want to go back to the old story, but no one knows better than the hon. Gentleman that the obligations of the Government are precise and binding in regard to the Armenians, and it would be a dishonour to this country if we were to allow these unhappy people to perish without any effort of assistance from us. The least the Government can do is to assure the House that they are using every diplomatic and moral effort short of sending an expedition to do something to repair the grave injustice which has been done to these people.
§ Mr. HARMSWORTH
In answer to the question which has just been put to me by my Noble Friend opposite, I may say that this question of the Armenians in Cilicia has been very much in the mind of the Government, and unquestionably that matter will come up for earnest discussion at the Conference to be held with regard to the settlement of the Turkish Empire. I had no notion that a question of this magnitude would be raised in association with this item in the Vote, otherwise I should have conferred with other Members of the Government on the subject. There is no doubt whatever that whatever can be done will be done by the Government. My hon. Friend asked a question about the Turkish prisoners who had been exchanged from Malta, and no doubt some of them were of the very severe type which he described. I believe some of them were people lying under suspicion of the gravest possible kind.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I wish to assure the hon. Gentleman that I do not think anyone doubts any of his statements, and we all appreciate the difficult task he has of clearing up the mess made by other parties. I do not doubt the hon. Member's word, but I wish to ask him one or two questions. This £15,000 for relief in Russia is in addition to another £95,000 which has already been advanced. I think we ought to have a little more information about it. When the hon. Gentleman introduced his very complicated Vote he said very little about this item. Without having suggested that' the Reverend Mr. North and his friends 1182 were spies, may I ask how is it that two years after this larger sum was voted we are asked for a further £15,000? Surely accounts were kept, and there must be a list of those who subscribed money, and it seems curious that two years later a further sum should be preferred against the Government, and the hon. Gentleman tells us that this is not the last and that there are other sums to come in.
Secondly, I want to ask has there been a careful scrutiny by accountants of all these claims, and have they been gone into in a businesslike manner. I think there is some excuse for the hon. Member for East Leyton (Mr. Malone) asking questions as to the way the money was used. I accept the statement that the money was used partly in charity, but I must say that I think, looking at our whole relation with Russia, there is some excuse for this question being raised in this House, and there is some excuse for curiosity on this point. I think we ought to have some more details as to who these other people are who have been disbursing this money, and we ought to have some assurance that the matter is being looked into from a business, and not simply a sentimental point of view. I understood the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to say very distinctly that the Foreign Office have discovered that the rumours about General Wrangel raising another army in the Balkans is untrue.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
The present High Commissioner in Constantinople is well known as an enemy of Bolshevist Russia, but it is very comforting to hear from the hon. Gentleman that the Foreign Office definitely repudiate any knowledge of any such expedition being prepared. The hon. Gentleman has assured us in this respect, and we take his word. We have been told, however, that some of these soldiers were being drilled in the environments of Constantinople. That was being done in September, and we were then paying for the food and lodgings of the people who were being-drilled. We are now told that that has been stopped, and the hon. Member for Chelsea, (Sir S. Hoare) has borne out that statement, although he admits they 1183 were drilling a few months ago, and that some of the money we voted last year was used for feeding these men who were engaged in military exercises instead of looking for work. It is very gratifying to know that the Foreign Office have definite information that this Wrangel expedition is not to be revived. It will
§ save many questions from this side of the Committee. I thank the hon. Gentleman for the patience and courtesy he has shown, and I think he might now have the Vote.
§ Original Question put.
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 147; Noes, 72.1185
|Division No. 38.]||AYES.||[8.39 p.m.|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel Sir John||Perkins, Walter Frank|
|Amery, Leopold C. M. S.||Green, Albert (Derby)||Pilditch, Sir Philip|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick W.||Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)||Pollock, Rt. Hon. Sir Ernest Murray|
|Atkey, A. R.||Greenwood, William (Stockport)||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton|
|Austin, Sir Herbert||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Pratt, John William|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Hailwood, Augustine||Prescott, Major Sir W. H.|
|Barlow, Sir Montague||Hamilton, Major C. G. C.||Purchase, H. G.|
|Barnes Rt. Hon. G. (Glas., Gorbals)||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Randies, Sir John Scurrah|
|Barnett, Major Richard W.||Harmsworth, C. B. (Bedford, Luton)||Ratcliffe, Henry Butler|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Henderson, Major V. L. (Tradeston)||Raw, Lieutenant-Colonel Dr. N.|
|Bartley-Denniss, Sir Edmund Robert||Herbert, Col. Hon. A. (Yeovil)||Rees, Capt. J. Tudor (Barnstaple)|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel Frank||Remer, J. R.|
|Birchall, J. Dearman||Hinds, John||Richardson, Sir Alex. (Gravesend)|
|Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)|
|Borwick, Major G. O.||Hope, Sir H.(Stirling & Cl'ckm'nn, W.)||Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)|
|Bowyer, Captain G. W. E.||Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. A. (Midlothian)||Rodger, A. K.|
|Breese, Major Charles E.||Hopkins, John W. W.||Roundell, Colonel R. F.|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Rutherford, Sir W. W. (Edge Hill)|
|Broad, Thomas Tucker||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert Arthur|
|Brotherton, Colonel Sir Edward A.||Hurst, Lieut.-Colonel Gerald B.||Seager, Sir William|
|Bruton, Sir James||Johnson, Sir Stanley||Seely, Major-General Rt. Hon. John|
|Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Johnstone, Joseph||Shaw, Hon. Alex. (Kilmarnock)|
|Campbell, J. D. G.||Jones, Sir Evan (Pembroke)||Shaw, William. T. (Forfar)|
|Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)|
|Casey, T. W.||Jones, J. T. (Carmarthen, Llanelly)||Stanton, Charles Butt|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J, A. (Birm. W.)||Kellaway, Rt, Hon. Fredk. George||Stephenson, Lieut.-Colonel H. K.|
|Chamberlain, N. (Birm., Ladywood)||Kidd, James||Strauss, Edward Anthony|
|Cheyne, Sir William Watson||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Surtees, Brigadier-General H. C.|
|Chilcot, Lieut.-Com. Harry W.||Lane-Fox, G. R.||Sutherland, Sir William|
|Clough, Sir Robert||Larmor, Sir Joseph||Taylor, J.|
|Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale||Law, Alfred J. (Rochdale)||Terrell, Captain R. (Oxford, Henley)|
|Coote, Colin Reith (Isle of Ely)||Lewis, T. A. (Glam., Pontypridd)||Thomas, Sir Robert J. (Wrexham)|
|Courthope, Lieut.-Col. George L.||Lloyd, George Butler||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (H'tingd'n)||Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell- (Maryhill)|
|Dalziel, Sir D. (Lambeth, Brixton)||Lorden, John William||Waddington, R.|
|Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||Lort-Williams, J.||Walton, J. (York, W. R., Don Valley)|
|Davies, Sir William H. (Bristol, S.)||Lowe, Sir Francis William||Ward, Col. J. (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Dennis, J. W. (Birmingham, Derltend)||Mackinder, Sir H. J. (Camlachie)||Waring, Major Walter|
|Doyle, N. Grattan||McLaren, Robert (Lanark, Northern)||Warren, Sir Alfred H.|
|Edwards, Hugh (Glam., Neath)||Macquisten, F. A.||Watson, Captain John Bertrand|
|Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray||Mallalieu, Frederick William||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, Consett)|
|Fell, Sir Arthur||Marks, Sir George Croydon||Williams, C. (Tavistock)|
|Forestier-Walker, L.||Middlebrook, Sir William||Wise, Frederick|
|Forrest, Walter||Molson, Major John Eisdale||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)|
|Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot||Moore, Major-General Sir Newton J.||Worsfold, T. Cato|
|Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Neal, Arthur|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Ganzoni, Sir John||Newson, Sir Percy Wilson||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Gardiner, James||Parker, James||Colonel Leslie Wilson and Mr.|
|Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry||Dudley Ward.|
|Gilbert, James Daniel||Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Galbraith, Samuel||Jones, J. J, (West Ham, Silvertown)|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Gillis, William||Kennedy, Thomas|
|Barton, Sir William (Oldham)||Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles w.||Graham, R. (Nelson and Colne)||Kenyon, Barnet|
|Bramsdon, Sir Thomas||Grundy, T. W.||Lunn, William|
|Bromfield, William||Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hemsworth)||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Maclean, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (Midlothian)|
|Cairns, John||Halls, Walter||Malone, C. L. (Leyton, E.)|
|Carter, W. (Nottingham, Mansfield)||Hancock, John George||Mosley, Oswald|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord R. (Hitchin)||Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)||O'Connor, Thomas P.|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Hartshorn, Vernon||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)|
|Davies, A. (Lancaster, Clitheroe)||Hayday, Arthur||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
|Davies, Alfred Thomas (Lincoln)||Hayward, Evan||Rendall, Athelstan|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Hirst, G. H.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Hodge, Rt. Hon. John||Roberts, Frederick O. (W. Bromwich)|
|Edwards, C, (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Hogge, James Myles||Robertson, John|
|Finney, Samuel||Irving, Dan||Rose, Frank H.|
|Foot, Isaac||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Shaw, Thomas (Preston)||Thomas, Brig.-Gen. Sir O. (Anglesey)||Wedgwood, Colonel Josiah C.|
|Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)||Thomson, T. (Middlesborough, West)||Wignall, James|
|Sitch, Charles H.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)||Wilson, James (Dudley)|
|Smith, W. R. (Wellingborough)||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Spencer, George A.||Tillett, Benjamin|
|Sutton, John Edward||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Swan, J. E.||Watts-Morgan, Lieut.-Col. D.||Mr. T. Griffiths and Mr. Myers.|
Question put, and agreed to.