§ [REPORT, 1ST MARCH.]
§ MIDDLE EASTERN SERVICES.
Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [7th March],
That this House doth agree with the Committee in the Resolution, ' That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £813,000, 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, 1923, for sundry Middle Eastern Services under His Majesty's Secretary of State for the Colonies, including certain Grants-in-Aid.'
§ Question again proposed.
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
On 7th March this Vote came up somewhat unexpectedly before the House, and on that occasion I wished to offer some general observations upon it, but time did not permit. It is appropriate, however, that before the House agrees to this Vote, the large issues involved in it should be further considered and that the House should have an opportunity of ascertaining what further developments in policy the Government have in view. I desire to remind the House of the very large sum involved in this Vote. In the Question read from the Chair, the House is asked to vote £813,000 for various Middle Eastern Services. Part of that is represented as being necessary for the purposes of defence. That accounts for £350,000 and, secondly, there is a further charge in regard to railways of £153,000, which raises the original Vote for capital expenditure on the Iraq railways from £70,000 to £223,000. In the third place there is a totally new Vote amounting to £310,000 for the maintenance of these same railways. In previous discussions on this Vote there has been a vagueness in Ministerial statements which it is our duty to clear up, not only as regards the details, but also as regards the general policy. The Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies in his speech during the Committee stage made some statements regarding the railways, upon which the House will desire further information. I first draw attention to his statement 2400 regarding the value of these railways and their future. He painted a very rosy picture of their future. They are now, he asserts, practically on a paying basis. Indeed, he suggested that in past years they would have been solvent had it not been for the demands of military traffic. He suggests that in the coming year there will be no further change upon the Imperial Exchequer in relation to the railways. The suggestion is that next year the Iraq Government will become entirely responsible for their working, and, being responsible for their working, that any deficiency will fall upon that Government. I am anxious to know on what basis the hon. Gentleman arrives at such a result. Is there any anticipation that the traffic borne by the railways is going to expand to such an extent that they will be in this fortunate position, and is it on the basis of an expansion of traffic that the valuation he quoted of £3,500,000 which was placed upon these railways by an engineering expert was made? He did not himself seem to place any great faith upon that valuation, because he told us that it would be treated as a book debt of the Iraq Government which was to be recovered in the remote future, probably about the same time as German reparation.
There was another interesting statement in regard to the railways upon which further light ought to be shown. He has assured us that a syndicate had considered the purchase of the railways, but that the Government had refused the offer. The House is entitled to know what that offer was. It is entitled to know what a commercial company thought that this railway was worth, as it is only on the basis of what a commercial company thought that this railway was worth that we can really put a value upon the undertaking. He made a statement in parentheses, about this company requiring a guarantee of its interest. Of course, if this company required a guarantee of its interest, it clearly shows that it had little faith in the dividend-earning capacity of the railways. We may therefore draw the conclusion that, whether this railway be directly in the hands of the Colonial Office or in the hands of the Iraq Government, which means that the Colonial Office will still be indirectly responsible, there is on a 2401 commercial basis a serious risk that it will still continue to be a charge upon the taxpayers of this country.
I should like to put a further question to the hon. Gentleman. Are we at the end of the expenditure, both in respect of capital and of maintenance, for which we are likely to be chargeable? I think I put two questions either to himself or to the Prime Minister regarding the results of the Cairo Conference. I am glad to see that my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) is here, because probably he will be in a better position to enlighten the House on these points than even the hon. Gentleman opposite. I believe that at the Cairo Conference the whole question of the railways was discussed, and that there is on record, if not in the decisions of the Conference, at least in the minutes of the Conference, an estimate as to the charges which would be involved in placing this railway on a permanent commercial basis. The information I have is that the charge ran into millions, is far in excess of anything that has been expended since the Conference, and that the estimate put down in the current year does not by any means exhaust our liability if what was regarded at Cairo as necessary be carried out. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be able to enlighten us on these various questions.
We are told that the military expenditure for defence is due mainly to the expenditure in Iraq having exceeded expectations owing to the delay in the conclusion of the Treaty of Peace with Turkey. In Committee, the hon. Gentleman said that the word "mainly" was inaccurate, and he indicated that it was solely due to that cause. In other words, the crisis of last Autumn in our relations with Turkey arising out of the Greek defeat in Asia Minor, was entirely the cause of greater defensive forces being required in Iraq than had been contemplated when the original Estimate was framed. An effort has been made to ascertain exactly how this money has been expended and in what proportion the expenditure is due to the employment of forces directly under our control and of forces which are in the nature of Arab levies. The question was answered by the Secretary of State for Air, who indicated that it was not in the public interest to give any detailed reply. It is unfortunate that the House cannot 2402 be put into possession of the relative strength of the different military forces in Iraq, because undoubtedly, if we had that information, it would throw light upon the question as to the probability of the Iraq Government becoming at any early moment responsible for its own defence and carrying on the whole business of the Government of that country, unaided by any assistance from Great Britain.
It seems to me that these Estimates, the second of which is an entirely new service, in the first place, strengthened very much the position of those who have always held that the occupation of Mesopotamia was not justifiable on financial grounds, and, further, that it was a source of weakness to us from the military point of view. I think it also indicates that the Government have in contemplation a policy somewhat wider than that which they have up to the present publicly avowed. I believe that no such expenditure as is included in this Supplementary Estimate would ever have been contemplated or incurred if the early termination of our responsibility in Mesopotamia had been anticipated. If, in other words, we were likely to go, no Government would have made itself responsible for such large sums in addition to the money which has already been spent. It is quite true that up till the present the Government have given no clear definition of their policy. The Prime Minister, when he was questioned in the Debate on the Address, gave an answer which threw no light at all upon the intentions of the Government. It was an answer so vague and indefinite that one section of his supporters who had given pledges to support evacuation found themselves able to vote for the Government in the belief that these pledges were going to be carried out, and another section of his supporters who were in favour of the continued and permanent occupation of Mesopotamia also found themselves able to vote for the Government in the belief that that was the policy to which the Government would adhere. One gentleman no longer a member of the Government, in the stress of a by-election—it is perhaps unfair to refer to these painful incidents—pledged himself in favour of the evacuation of Mesopotamia, while at the same time the Noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs protested against what he called the policy of "universal 2403 skedaddle." I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs will thank him for the new word; whether it be an improvement on the old phrase "scuttle" I leave it to more classical tastes to determine.
We understand that this is a matter which has been before a Committee of the Cabinet. I should not have referred to this Cabinet Committee had not a forecast of its decisions appeared in the Press. It is important, when forecasts of such decisions appear in the Press, that the first statement as to the Government's policy should be made in the House of Commons. It used to be a general cause of complaint in the days of the late Government that all important communications were made in the first place through the Press and not through the House of Commons. We thought, when the new Government came into power, that in regard to that matter at least we were going to live in a new era, that all these bad precedents would be scrapped, and that the Government would cut off all associations with the Press and follow the old constitutional path of making declarations of policy in the House of Commons. It is therefore a matter of great surprise to me that a very full forecast as to the Government's policy in Mesopotamia should have been made in the columns of an evening newspaper.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the COLONIES (Mr. Ormsby-Gore)
Does the hon. Member suggest that the Government sent this ill-informed communication to the Press?
§ Mr. PRINGLE
It is not the habit of Governments to do that. How can a Government communicate? A Government consists of something up to 20 men, and, of course, 20 men do not go down to a newspaper office and sit on the editor's doorstep to make a communication to him. There are other methods by which these communications can be made.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
The garden suburb no longer exists, I believe, but possibly the tradition still remains. We talk about the usual channels in this House. There has grown up a system in Downing Street which might be called the usual channels. 2404 I only suggest that this may have come to this newspaper through the usual channels, and I am all the more impressed with the probability of this explanation when I reflect that this newspaper belongs to a very important supporter of His Majesty's Government. In these circumstances, it is not an unnatural suspicion to entertain. The hon. Member said that it was very ill-informed. It certainly was very circumstantial and detailed, and it told exactly all the Departments involved in this Cabinet Committee. It also indicated the respective lines which the different Departments have taken, and the result at which the Committee had arrived, namely, that we were to be in Iraq for at least five years after peace is made with Turkey. It is important, when statements appear in the Press, that the House of Commons should know at once whether that is the policy in contemplation, and it is also worth our while to consider the probability of such a policy being carried out. I can understand a policy of immediate evacuation; I can understand a policy of permanent occupation;, but this policy fixing a term of five years under very uncertain conditions is one which probably has the largest possible number of disadvantages. The real question we have to consider, as to the likelihood of the occupation coming to an end at the termination of the five years, is whether at the present moment the Government are taking steps which are likely to contribute to this end.
Are they at the moment carrying out a policy there which is likely to bring about the termination of our responsibiities at the end of five years 1 There are a number of things which, to my mind, show that this is not being done, and I hope the hon. and gallant Gentleman will be able to show that I am wrong in this matter when I mention the things which seem to indicate that we are not likely to get quit of our responsibilities. In the first place, deportation is a weapon which is being employed in Iraq, not simply deportation of the man in the street, as it were, of ordinary private individuals, as has happened in London only a fortnight ago in relation to Ireland, but deportation of people so important as Cabinet Ministers. I observe that the two Ministers on the Treasury Bench regard that as a matter of some amusement. They apparently think that in the days of the present Govern- 2405 meat the dignity, importance, weight, and authority of Cabinet Ministers have fallen in the scale, and it is therefore a joke to think of persons of such consequence as Cabinet Ministers, but still they are understood, or were understood, to have had some responsibility for the Government of that country, and they would not have become responsible, they would not have attained that position, had it not been believed, either by King Feisal or by the High Commissioner, that they were representative persons, that they were persons of such consequence, authority, and capacity in that community that they were able to take a share in directing the Government of the country. I say it is a serious thing when men who have risen to that height are deported in this way.
One of these gentlemen was deported, I think, two years ago, and he is still prevented from returning to Iraq. I believe he is somewhere on the Continent at the present time. More recently, another gentleman, who also, I think, held Cabinet rank—I think he was at one time Minister of Commerce in one of the Provisional Cabinets, but they all seem to be very provisional, these Cabinets of King Feisal—was waylaid in the High Commissioner's residence. He had an invitation to tea, and when he was leaving after tea he found a motor lorry across the carriage drive, and he was then taken by motor car, deposited on a vessel in the Tigris, and since then he has been languishing on an island in the Persian Gulf. That does not seem to me to be the way to set up an independent State in Iraq. I understand the chief offence of this gentleman was that he refused to have anything to do with the Treaty which has been negotiated between King Feisal and His Majesty's Government. He is understood to have made a speech against it, and having done that, he is accused of sedition and of attacks upon the Government. I think the answer given by the hon. and gallant Gentleman to a question in regard to this deportation was to the effect that this gentleman had been deported because he had been guilty of sedition and of attacks upon the Government. The only overt act of which he is known to have been guilty is that he disapproved of this Treaty and refused to take any responsibility for it. We are also informed that the Cabinet of King Feisal, the Cabinet 2406 which advised him up to the month of September, was brought to an end simply and solely because it could not accept responsibility for this Treaty. These methods of dealing with the local Government do not indicate that our Government are following a path which is likely to lead to self-government in that country.
That is not the only matter. We would like to know what sort of a Cabinet at the present moment is in existence there. Is it selected by the High Commissioner, or has the King of Iraq himself any independent authority in selecting the members of his Cabinet? If he has not, it is a farce to suggest that we are taking steps to pave the way for the independence of Iraq. There is a further matter, which is of equal importance in this connection. One of the main factors to the independence of the country for the future must be that it is able to maintain a military force of its own, that it is able to provide for its own defence. Now what is the situation in regard to defence in Iraq at the present moment? You have really three forces there. The main force for the purpose of keeping order is the Air Force, for which the Minister for Air is responsible. That is the effective force. I think the right hon. Gentleman said that there were practically as many machines in Iraq as we have for the defence of the United Kingdom. I am not going to enter into the question of bombing which is taking place. The right hon. Gentleman has replied to that, and I prefer to deal mainly with the general question of policy. That is the main force for defence. Were that force not there to-day, there would be no safeguard, either for the external defence, or for the internal order, of that country. There is no doubt of that. There is, secondly, a force under the control of, and recruited by, the late High Commissioner, Sir Percy Cox. That is a force consisting of Arabs and Assyrians, but it is not a force that is under the control of the Iraq Government. It is not paid by that Government. There is, in the third place, a native Army, an Arab Army, recruited by King Feisal, but it is a very small body.
We have endeavoured, by questions in this House, to ascertain the relative strengths of these two forces, that is, of the Arab levies which are controlled and enlisted by the High Commissioner and 2407 the Arab army of King Feisal, but that information has been denied on grounds of the public interest. I do not believe that there is any public interest involved at all. It is not going to be of any use to anybody, to the Turks or anybody else, to know the exact proportions of the armies of King Feisal and of the High Commissioner. There is nothing in it. The real force is quite apart from that, namely, the Air Force, and I think the right hen. Gentleman the Minister for Air gave particulars of the Air Force, so that if he could, consistently with the public interest, tell us the strength of the Air Force in Iraq, there can be no justification for refusing us figures regarding the respective strengths of these two other forces. I ask, therefore, that before this Debate comes to a conclusion we should know, first of all, how many Arab troops are controlled by the High Commissioner, and, secondly, how many are controlled by King Feisal. The reason I ask that is that my information is that King Feisal's troops are a very small body, that, in fact, there Las been a practically complete failure of recruitment among them, and the reason is simple. The soldiers recruited by the High Commissioner get a higher rate of pay than do King Feisal's, and the consequence is that all the men who want to join the army join the higher paid force, and there is only the dregs left to this titular King. If you pursue a policy of this kind, it is obvious that you cannot create an army which can provide for the independent defence of that country for the future. If you are going to have fair terms for recruitment for both forces, the rate of pay should be the same for both. Otherwise, if you are going to recruit a cheaper force, obviously that cheaper force is going to be an inferior force, both in material and in numbers. While these conditions continue, it indicates that you are not encouraging the ideal of enabling the King to become independent, and to be responsible for the defence and order of the country.
But there is a further thing, which is of far greater importance, and that is the calling of a Constituent Assembly. This is an old friend. A Constituent Assembly was promised by Mr. Churchill, I think, more than two years ago, before King Feisal's election. He at that time said 2408 that within a very short time, I think within two months, this Constituent Assembly would be called together and that the election of King Feisal would be ratified by that Assembly. It was put off on one pretext or another from time to time. A further pledge was made about a year ago, that this Constituent Assembly was to come into existence, but it has not yet been summoned, and so far as one can ascertain from answers given by Ministers, there is no immediate intention of summoning that Assembly. I say that, in the absence of some such Assembly, we can have no real evidence, in the first place, that the existing ré gime meets with The approval of the people of Iraq, nor can we have any indication that effective steps are being taken to create an independent State. In these circumstances, I think there is the strongest ground for doubting whether any such policy is intended to be effectively carried out, or whether, if it be intended, it can in fact be carried out.
I pass from that matter. There has been a strong point made in various discussions regarding the continuance of our occupation and the pledge which has been given that we should remain in Iraq, but I am not going to go into the numerous pledges which have been given from time to time by different Ministers, and by different persons on behalf of different Ministers, as to the future of Iraq. We are told that we have given a solemn pledge to the people of Iraq to remain there, and that if that pledge be not carried out a stain will rest upon the national honour. I am very glad to find Ministers fastidious about the national honour. If the same care had been shown about other pledges in the past, it would have been better for the national honour. I think that pledges as binding and as solemn were given on behalf of the Armenians in order to obtain their participation in the War, but they have been abandoned. There are other people, not only in the Near East, but on the Continent of Europe, who are also able to look to this country for the fulfilment of pledges, and I think that what is going on at the present time in various parts of the Continent, not only on the Western frontier, but also in the East of Europe, in regard to Eastern Galicia and in regard to Lithuania, indicates that there is some failure in the carrying out of pledges. I therefore wonder, when such insistence is made upon the fulfilment of 2409 this pledge, whether it is really the pledge that they are anxious about, or whether there is not something else in it.
My right hon. Friend the Member for the Carnarvon Boroughs was perfectly frank about it in 1920. He, of course, did lay stress upon the pledge, as he was entitled to do, but he said there was a great deal more; there was oil there. It was the main justification he then offered, or one of the most important arguments which he offered, in answer to my right hon. Friend the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith). There you have, of course, an obligation with an interest. I know that the present Prime Minister has denied that oil has anything to do with it. He made that denial very specifically, in answer to the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) in a former Debate. I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman on the Front Bench told us that we have come to the conclusion now that there is no oil. We are told that the Admiralty are very anxious about oil, and it is because of oil that the Admiralty are anxious that we should stay in Iraq, and should not immediately abandon it. They say it is not only the question of our defence of the oil fields of the existing oil companies, which could be easily effected from Basra, but the prospective supplies of oil in Mosul. I am anxious to know whether this is a factor which is entering into the decision of the Government at the present time. I think the House is entitled to have a specific statement, and not a general denial of what appears in the newspapers. We are entitled to have a specific statement on behalf of the Ministry, that this factor is not entering at all into the decision which is now on the point of being taken.
There is a further reason why I ask this question. In the course of past Debates, we have had speeches from hon. Gentlemen opposite from various points of view. Some of those hon. Members made very well-informed and instructive speeches about Mesopotamia, notably the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Milne), who, knowing the country, represented that it was worth our while to remain in the country from the point of view of the prospective oil supplies of Mosul. If the people who are in favour of staying, advocate it quite openly and candidly in this House on the ground 2410 that there are potential supplies of oil, I think the Government could make a perfectly specific statement so that we might know exactly where we are. Of course, I am not one of those who suggest that there is nothing at all in Mesopotamia. I do not suggest there are not rich natural resources in that country, or that there are not great possibilities in the production of wheat, cotton and many other things, and that in the future Mesopotamia under well-regulated government might not become a great source of supply of all these things. I quite agree. The question which this House has to consider is, whether, in view of the present position of the country, we are entitled, first of all, to incur the financial liability; secondly, to run the military risk, and, thirdly, to be exposed to the political weakness—all these on the ground that some time in the future, after running all these risks, and incurring all the expenditure, these vast natural resources may be made available and contribute to the commonwealth of the world, and, in particular, to the benefit of this country? These are the questions that call for an answer, and the case I am now endeavouring to put is that in our present financial position in this country, we have no right to spend this money. When, as was said yesterday, the Chancellor of the Exchequer is going to stand hat in hand, taking the sixpences at the door of the British Museum from poor people who want to go in there, we have no right to spend millions in Mesopotamia.
There is a further question, apart altogether from the actual expenditure. It is true the actual expenditure in the current year is not high. It is true the estimated expenditure for next year is comparatively light. But nobody can give us any guarantee that at any moment that expenditure may not have to be very largely increased, and undefined liabilities incurred. The hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite could not promise that, owing to disturbances in that area, we might not be compelled to spend a great deal more in the new year than he has actually estimated. The fact is, there is no doubt that, from a military point of view, Mesopotamia is a source of weakness to the Empire. That is agreed, I think, by practically every military authority. We have two very distinguished military authorities in this House, the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member 2411 for Kirkcaldy (Major-General Sir R. Hutchison), who in the last Debate made a very interesting and well-informed speech upon this subject, and the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for one of the Divisions of Ayrshire. From the military point of view, those two hon. Members are agreed that Mesopotamia is a source of weakness to us. We know that two of the most distinguished soldiers that this country has recently produced, two Generals who have held the high office of Chief of the Imperial General Staff in succession—Sir William Robertson and the late Sir Henry Wilson—are alike agreed that you are really creating a danger to the Empire by maintaining a military force away in that remote region 750 miles from the sea, with difficult communications, and, furthermore, that maintaining that force there is weakening the general defence of the Empire. There was a statement made in one of these Debates, or in one of the notes to the recent Estimates, that if the troops were not there, they would be somewhere else, and that they would cost as much. I wonder if anybody at the War Office was responsible for that. I doubt if anybody on the General Staff would make himself responsible for a statement of that kind.
One of the difficulties at the present moment is that, owing to the scattered obligations, there is a difficulty in making the British Army effective for any emergencies. There has never been a time in recent history in which so small a part of the British Army could be made available for any purpose. I say that in these circumstances it is our duty to see that these commitments are reduced, so that, as far as possible, in the difficult times that lie ahead, the military strength of Great Britain may be conserved. I think everyone in this House will agree that we have difficult times ahead. Nobody cares to look with equanimity on the present conditions in Europe, and I think everybody will agree that one reason for our comparative helplessness is that, from a military point of view, at the present time we are impotent. One factor which has contributed largely to that impotence is the dissipation of our resources in these remote places. It has also a political aspect. We have been asked not to deal with this, because of the difficult negotiations. I think it is common 2412 ground that our hand has been weakened in these negotiations by the fact that we were in Mosul. If we had not exposed, as it were, a vulnerable side, there is no doubt that the British negotiators in the recent proceedings at Lausanne would have been able to speak with much more effect.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member has now gone all round the world twice. I think if he will look at the Estimate, it is rather difficult to bring in the whole policy of the country on all these matters.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I would call your attention, Sir, to page 12, where it says:DEFENCE.—The excess is due mainly to expenditure in Iraq having exceeded expectations. Owing to the delay in the conclusion of a Treaty of Peace with Turkey, it has not been found possible to complete the reductions in the Iraq garrison that were contemplated when the original Estimate was framed.It may be true that, in some of my earlier observations, I did go some way, but I would humbly and respectfully submit to you that I had just come to the point at which I was coming into order.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I must thank you for your indulgence. Undoubtedly this expenditure for defence is entirely due to our relations with Turkey. Had we been at peace with Turkey, had the crisis of September last not arisen, this expenditure would not have been incurred, and, as this expenditure has been incurred for that purpose, I submit that I am entitled to draw the conclusion, first of all, that our presence there is a weakness from the military point of view, and secondly, because of the difficulties of our position, it is weakening us in that region. It is for that reason, among others, that I am asking the House to withhold its assent to this Vote. I regret that there should be any talk of scuttling or any of those things. The real question is, what responsibility is this Government entitled to undertake in view of all its necessary commitments and its financial resources? We have evacuated the City of Dublin. I think it is much more necessary for us to be in touch with Dublin than the Middle East. It is because of the complete loss of perspective as to values with regard to the 2413 British Empire, that I ask the House to disapprove of this policy and on this occasion to withhold its assent to the Vote.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I am sure I may be allowed, without being accused of party bias, to congratulate my hon. Friend who has just sat down, on the very forceful case he has made, and I will endeavour, in a very few words, to fill in the gaps he may possibly have left, and not traverse the ground he has so fully covered. I want particularly to deal with this question of pledges. Let me, first of all, detail the five separate and distinct reasons that have been given for the necessity of our remaining in Mesopotamia—a word which I prefer to its newer one of Iraq, because it is better known by that name to the people, and to many thousands of returned officers and men who are able, at first-hand, to assure their relatives and friends of its utter worthlessness now and in the future to the British Empire. The first reason we were given during the War—it was for the strategical defence of India. That reason was also repeated later as an argument for our staying in that country. The next reason was the more honest but not quite so defensible one of pure, simple, and naked Imperialism. We were told that this was another vast area which was to be added to the British Empire. Of course, there were a few amiable references to the future purpose of training up the inhabitants to govern themselves, and other hypocritical statements of that kind. The form of government which we imposed after the capture of the territory, which was simply taken holus-bolus on the Indian system, bore out that, as I say, honest but not altogether admirable reason for seizing hold of, and remaining in Mesopotamia. The third reason was the one which has been referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. Pringle), on which I will only touch in passing, namely, the fabulous and visionary oil resources of the country, and of Mosul in particular. That is rather a dangerous topic nowadays.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
Because we are accused of exploiting a mandate for the purpose of developing, to our exclusive benefit, certain oil fields, 2414 and it is a dangerous thing to talk about. It is dangerous to suggest that we are attempting to remain in this country because of its mineral resources, in that it causes our good faith to be assailed throughout the world. Then oil became rather unpopular, and we were told that corn and cotton were the attractive things.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
It has been said again and again from the Front Bench by the former Government— by my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). The hon. Baronet voted with him on those occasions, and supported him again and again. We were told that cotton, equal to the best Egyptian cotton, could be grown in Mesopotamia. An attempt was made to bamboozle the electors of Lancashire by talk of that sort. I come to the last reason given, namely, that we have certain pledges to the Chaldeans. This last pledge, which is the most modern one produced to justify our policy in Mesopotamia, is the one I wish to deal with in a very few words. Again and again in the last Parliament, and in fact in this, this excuse of pledges to the local notables, and so on, has been trotted out. It was given as a reason, in the last Parliament, for remaining in North Russia, by Mr. Churchill and other apologists of the Government policy. We were told we had entered into certain arrangements with the local people there. That was given as a reason for remaining for many months, at enormous cost and at great risk, in the Caucasus. We kept an army in Persia for very nearly two years after the Armistice for exactly the same alleged reason. The same argument has been used in connection with places much nearer home.
I want to put it to the House that this excuse is a hollow one. We are told that the Chaldeans are fine fighting stock. At the same time we are told they are in imminent peril unless we are there to defend them. Yet the Government assures us that, as soon as they safely can, they are going to hand over the entire responsibility for those regions to an Arab Government. The Chaldeans have existed in those regions for countless generations. I do not know how many hundreds of years they have been there, upholders in the Far East of the Christian faith, and they have managed 2415 to survive. I want to know what difference five or 10 years of British rule is going to make to their relative immunity. Because of these people we are to go on pouring out our millions, at great risk to the Empire, when our own people are being stinted of the houses and the other amenities which they were promised during the War. I think it is an excuse which is very hollow and very improper, and that it is quite time the Government thought of something else.
I want to hark back for one moment to the strategical question. The question of the strategical defence of India has been raised again and again in another place by the Noble Lord who is at the head of the Foreign Office. It has been well said that the military mind, if it could conquer the planet of Mars, would fit out an expedition to attack Venus in order to safeguard our communications. We have a very good example of that with regard to Mesopotamia. First, we had to push our Indian frontiers right up to the Himalayas. Then we had to take Mesopotamia. When we were there we had to keep a force in Persia in order to guard the northern frontiers, and quite recently in the negotiations at Lausanne, we were told the reason why it was necessary for us to insist on the right to send warships into the Black Sea was in order to safeguard our position in Mesopotamia. Apparently we were asked to believe that, because we were in Mesopotamia and held Mosul, it was necessary to be able to control, by naval force, the sea routes in the Black Sea. Then I suppose we will have to hold the forts of the Black Sea, and so the story will go on without end, except, possibly, for the complete bankruptcy and ruin of our finances for a very long period ahead.
I wish to say one word about another bogey which is put up before us. We are told that if we walk out of Mesopotamia to-day, the Turk will walk into it. I want to choose my words carefully. I do not want to say anything of which it can be said that it will embarrass the Government in the forthcoming negotiations. The dominant party in Turkey to-day is preaching the doctrine that the weakness of Turkey in the past was the fact that it allowed its resources to be sucked and exhausted in Arabia and Mesopotamia, and other non-Turkish lands. The present 2416 dominant party in Turkey is preaching the doctrine of Turkey for the Turks. All the leaders I have had the privilege of speaking to from Turkey assure me that they wish to consolidate themselves within their natural frontiers, and that they are not going to follow again the policy which cost them so dearly in the past with regard to Mesopotamia. It is true that they claim Mosul, but I think that is very largely for bargaining purposes. At any rate, it would have been possible some time ago, and I believe it would be possible now, in spite of the altered relative position, to come to an agreement with the Turks, which the Turks would keep, partly because it would be in their own self-interest, that they would respect the integrity and independence of Mesopotamia as long as we requested them to do so. I will make a present of this to the Government; they can attack me on it, if they think it worth while, when they reply; but circumstances might arise when we, perhaps, would be rather relieved to see Turkish rule keeping order in that part of the world, or, at any rate, in the northern region thereof.
I wish now to address one or two questions to the hon. and gallant Member who represents the Air Ministry in this House. I want particularly to ask him about this camp in Mesopotamia, for which part of this Vote is required.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for AIR (Lieut.-Colonel Sir S. Hoare)
I do not want to interrupt my hon. Friend, but may I point out that the camp to which he alludes is not on this Vote. It is on the Air Vote for to-morrow. I am quite ready to deal with the matter either to-day or to-morrow, whenever the discussion may take place.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The Rule of the House is, that where a matter Concerns a specific Vote, it can only be raised upon that Vote, and not upon a more general Vote.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
I do not wish to raise it now if it is going to be dealt with to-morrow. I saw the hon. and gallant Member present, and I thought I might raise it on the plea of defence; but I will not go further into it now. I wish to support my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone in pointing 2417 out the very great danger which we must incur as long as we are in these regions. It may be possible to cut down the expenditure to £10,000,000 a year, but at any moment we may find ourselves faced with the necessity of reinforcing our posts, which are over 700 miles from the sea, in attempting to defend the frontier, with no natural bounds, over 1,200 miles in length. The natural frontiers of Mesopotamia are the mountains of Turkistan, which we make no attempt to hold.
I also say that the Government must really face the question whether the time has not come to state that there shall be a short time limit after which our troops will be definitely withdrawn. I think that time has been reached, and in that I am reinforced by the opinion of a very distinguished soldier and savant on all Arabic questions: namely, Colonel Lawrence. If I may, I will quote to the House a few sentences from a letter written by Colonel Lawrence to the "Times" as long ago as July, 1921. Colonel Lawrence then said, after dealing with the whole question of Mesopotamia very fully, that he advocated the following counsel. This is what he suggested very nearly two years ago, and I venture to say that this advice is still good and that it is nearly two years overdue. Colonel Lawrence said:I would make Arabic the Government language. This would impose a reduction of the British staff, and a return to employment of qualified Arabs. I would raise two divisions of local volunteer troops of Arabs with a senior general in command.He goes on to say that trained officers and non-commissioned officers exist in thousands. Why are we still told that the Arab levies are not ready, that they cannot be filled up, and so on?I would entrust to these new units the maintenance of order, and I would cause to leave the country every single British soldier and every single Indian soldier.That is what Colonel Lawrence says—probably the greatest authority on this question—writing in July, 1921. [An HON. MEMBER: "How long was he in Mesopotamia?"]These changes will take 12 months, and we should then hold Mesopotamia exactly as much or as little as we hold South Africa or Canada. I believe the Arabs in those conditions would be as loyal as anyone in the Empire, and they would not cost us a cent.At any rate, Colonel Lawrence has been in Mesopotamia longer than I have, and 2418 I am quite content to base myself on that statement of his. The fact of the matter is that the Government and its predecessors, have never really been able to make up their minds. It has been a policy of wobble, as in so many other parts of the world. I may quote a few lines of poetry from Kipling, summed up in the lines of the soldier who said that a certain position had arisen,All because of muddle, all because of mess,All because of doing things rather more than less.We have never been able to make up our minds to do the bold thing with regard to Mesopotamia. We cannot afford to stay there; that is perfectly obvious. The finance of the country will not stand it. We cannot afford, from the military point of view, to stay there, because we are always liable to find ourselves compelled to reinforce our garrison in that country. We certainly cannot afford the Air Forces that we have to keep there. All the efficient air machines and men which are available should be in this country ready for the defence of London. That is where the danger lies, thanks to the result of the policy of this Government and its predecessors. That is where the defence is needed, and every machine and pilot in Mesopotamia is enforcing an unwilling allegiance on reluctant Arabs at the cost of the safety, defence, and diplomatic power of the inhabitants of this country. It may be difficult at this moment to say that we will leave before we have peace with the Turks, but that has been said for the last four years, and the fact is that we are incurring in those deserts a source of weakness in our negotiations with the Turks.
I believe it would be possible even now to make suitable arrangements with the Turks whereby they would agree not to interfere with, at any rate, the lower part of Mesopotamia. For those reasons I do beg the House to give a decisive vote against this expenditure in Mesopotamia.
§ Sir PARK GOFF
The last time I had the privilege of addressing the House on this subject was on the 15th of December, 1920, just after my return from the East. I have had several opportunities since of visiting the East, and I am of the same opinion to-day as I was two years ago. At the General Election I stated 2419 perfectly plainly on all my platforms that it was my profound and convinced belief that we should remain in Mesopotamia until such time as we had established sound and stable government there. I am, as I always have been, pro-French and pro-Turk. I will put forward three reasons why I think we should at the present time retain Mesopotamia. There are very many people in this country who are determined that all our sacrifices there shall not be in vain and that we ought not to be robbed of the fruits of victory, and we are all fully aware that there are many other countries who are as fully aware as we are of the importance of Mesopotamia financially, commercially, and strategically. I know full well that we cannot expect to reap any benefit immediately, but to my mind these are minor points. What I do wish to impress on the House from my own experience of that country is the geographical and strategical position of Mesopotamia as far as the British Empire is concerned. It is in my humble judgment of paramount importance to the British Empire and to the safety of Europe and also of the East. We are often asked for a definition of a great statesman. I venture to suggest that a great statesman is a man who can anticipate events and have foresight to look forward to the future, and to legislate 25 or 50 years ahead. One of the greatest acts of diplomacy in this country was in November, 1875, when in this House, against enormous opposition both in this House, outside this House, and in the Press, Mr. Disraeli insisted on buying the Suez Canal shares. By that means he established a high water way to the East and a link between England and the Indian Empire. Now history may be repeating itself to-day. There is no doubt, as far as our Empire is concerned, that by possessing strategic points throughout the whole world we have been able to maintain the British Empire in the position in which it is to-day. Imagine the jaundiced eye of a German skipper going from Hamburg to Shanghai when he beholds the Union Jack floating at Dover, at Gibraltar, at Suez, at Aden, at Colombo, at Singapore, and Hong Kong. He would feel inclined to say, like the man who saw a giraffe for the first time at the Zoo, "it simply ain't 2420 true." It is an eye-opener to the man who goes out there for the first time.
The first time I visited Turkey was 27 years ago, and I watched there with the very keenest interest, and also with the deepest concern the rising ascendancy of German influence and power and the corresponding set-back of British prestige in that country. For 15 years prior to 1914 the Germans were working and negotiating every day for the concession of the Bagdad railway. Berlin to Bagdad was part, and I think the greatest part, of their dream of world-wide dominion. I believe their ultimate goal was India at that time. Look at the importance of that concession; they knew what they were about. If they were working for that concession, surely it is worth our while to take note and to see that we should take a hand. Whereas they could get from Hamburg to Berlin, from Berlin to Vienna and on to Constantinople and Aleppo—which in future will be the great Clapham Junction of the East—where porters could soon be shouting "Change here for India, Abyssinia, and Cape Town." If they laid such great stress on that, we would be foolish if we did not take a hint from them. Not only does it affect us because Aleppo is the junction there, but it is next to the most important seaport of the eastern Mediterranean, Alexandretta. I agree that no one who is even occasionally threatened with intelligence would accuse the Germans of losing any opportunity for want of foresight. They are essentially a race whose bump of acquisitiveness has always been enormously developed. A great French statesman, Mirabeau, said a hundred years ago "the national industry of Prussia is war." The Germans were taking no chances. They wanted an alternative route, a route by water. Directly they got the concession for the Bagdad railway, bills were passed in the Reichstag for linking up by canals the Elbe, the Oder, the Rhine and the Danube, so that they could be able to send their destroyers straight from the Baltic and the North Sea to the Black Sea. At present there is a connecting canal from Aschaffenberg through Bavaria to Passau above Vienna. That was, in 1914, widened and deepened to allow vessels of 2,000 tons to pass through at that time, so we cannot complain of the Germans not having foresight and not paying a great deal 2421 of attention to Mesopotamia and the East. After the peace with Russia, the Reichstag passed another Bill for a canal from the Gulf of Riga to the Dnieper, thereby giving them another alternative route. If they had had the Bagdad railway and these canals linked up they would have been on the high road to the East; they would have had a waterway to the East, and their fleet behind the Dardanelles forts could have commanded our Mediterranean trade.
I have heard some people say that as Russia let us down it would serve Russia right to be ruled by Germany and that we should not interfere. That" is a most dangerous doctrine, especially when we consider that 80 per cent, of the Russian peasants are absolutely illiterate and helpless. I put two points before the House. Giving us the Bagdad Railway, we have a land route to the East, and by the Suez Canal we have an alternative waterway to the East. If there were danger in Egypt and that canal were blown up, we could rely on the high road through Mesopotamia to the East. Apart from the importance to us of Mesopotamia as the high road to India and the East, it is all-important in my humble judgment as a buffer State for the peace of Europe. To the south you have Egypt; on the east the persian Gulf and India; on the north-east Armenia, Persia and Georgia; and on the north-west the volcanic Balkan States and Bessarabia, which is likely to give us trouble at any time. I lay great stress on our situation at Mesopotamia as a buffer State for the peace of Europe, and I believe that if we remain there until we have that stable government established, we will be the messengers of peace in that part of the world.
We have heard a good deal about economy so far as Mesopotamia is concerned. We are all economical, or we try to be, but I am sure there is no patriot who is ever out for economy at the expense of British prestige. It is all very easy for us to give popular votes to please constituents, but this is not a passing phase of that sort at all. When we vote now we are voting to maintain the strength and dignity of the Empire, not for ourselves, but for many generations yet unborn. Many may not have had the opportunity of studying this subject; many may not have cared to do so, and many have not 2422 had the opportunity to go there. That is not their fault or our fault; it is the fault of our insular position. There are some people whose only knowledge of Mesopotamia is gleaned from the Book of Genesis. May I say most respectfully that some of us are far too apt to be too parochial? We think far too little of these great and powerful nations which surround us, and far too much of our own particular parish at home. Now, there are two ways of holding Mesopotamia. We can hold it by battalions or without them. We all wish to hold Mesopotamia without them, but there is one condition precedent to that, and that is a strong, lasting peace with our old friend the Turk. I believe sincerely, and I hope, that that alliance will come about at the earliest possible moment. I believe that Mosul is essential to Mesopotamia, is part and parcel of that province. I feel sure that when we have this alliance with the Turk that he will see it in the same light; he will recognise that it can only be part and parcel of the province of Mesopotamia. I have always taken the very keenest interest in all Eastern questions. I am profoundly convinced that we should not at any cost let go our grip and hold upon Mesopotamia for reasons I have already given. I believe that commercially, financially, strategically and geographically this is one of the most important spots in the whole British Empire at the present time, and also for the peace of Europe, which ultimately will moan the peace of the world. I maintain on this ground that we should support our occupation of Mesopotamia, on patriotic grounds, and also on the ground of peace—on both these grounds. In that way we will still keep our Empire solid and intact and in the forefront of every nation of the world, a position it has held for centuries in the past, and, with God's help, will hold for centuries to come.
§ Mr. G. LAMBERT
May I congratulate the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down on his very full-blooded oration? It carries us back into history and forward into the future. I feel specially touched myself that he taunted some of us on this side with being parochial. I honestly confess that I should prefer the British taxpayers' money being spent in Britain than in Mesopotamia. My hon. Friend has stated that we could not give up the 2423 fruits of victory. The fruits of victory have been very bitter indeed. We have spent £150,000,000 in Mesopotamia since the War, on perhaps a moderate computation, and our returns have been small indeed. May I ask the hon. Gentleman opposite when he forces the strategic value of Mesopotamia to our Empire, to study the opinions of two of our distinguished chiefs of the General Staff, General Sir William Robertson and Sir Henry Wilson?
§ Mr. LAMBERT
I prefer to look to British Chiefs of the Staff than to officers of the Turks. However, I really am more interested in asking some questions of the Government as to their policy in Mesopotamia. They have stated—with I admit some reason—that they cannot say for certain what their policy will be until the Treaty with Turkey is completed. I feel that is reasonable, but I want to make perfectly sure that the local people in Mesopotamia, at Bagdad, are not entrenching themselves, and making the British occupation more certain and the British evacuation more difficult. I did not propose to intervene, and I do not wish to intervene for very long, but simply and solely to draw attention to a message which is being given to the public in the "Times" of Saturday from the correspondent of that journal at Bagdad. Long before 6th March we seemed to be in process of being committed to the future policy of the officials in Bagdad. I will give one or two quotations. The article is headed "New Era in Iraq." It is dated 2nd March, and it says:This week has seen the publication of the Administrative Inspectorate Regulations.What are they? That is a question which I think we have a right to ask. Then the correspondent goes on to say:These Regulations will form one of the principal supplements to the Anglo-Iraq Treaty ….That Treaty binds the British Government to advise and to defend Mesopotamia for King Feisal for a period of 20 years. The Prime Minister has very rightly said that he will give the House of Commons the opportunity of discussing this matter 2424 before we rise. But I ask him, why are Regulations now being issued in Bagdad by the local people which are an accompaniment of the Treaty? I much doubt if the Government can get the House to ratify that Treaty. I do not believe the House of Commons will ratify it—for 20 years, anyhow. But it is the Regulations which have come forward which have instigated me to take a part in the Debate. Whilst hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite are saying, with a good deal of reason, that they cannot give a decision until the Turkish matter is settled, I do want to be perfectly certain that these gentlemen over there shall not take this thing in hand and so make evacuation more difficult. Then the communication continues:Relations with Sultan Ibn Saud and Central Arabia have been defined by Treaty.What is that Treaty? What responsibilities does it impose? The only Treaty, as I understand it, with this potentate— whose name I have a difficulty in pronouncing—is that we pay him £5,000 monthly, and a lump sum of £30,000. That is what happened last year. What is this Treaty, I ask again? Has my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary to the Colonies any knowledge of it? I am asking this in no polemical spirit, but simply and solely because I want to know what these local people are doing, and whether or not the Government can really control their local officials, and what, in fact, they have done. Then, again, it is stated in this article that there is ahuge area of splendid land in Iraq thirsting for a proper flow of water.Does that mean that the British officials intend to go in for a very large scheme of irrigation work there? We are told again in this very selfsame article that directly the Mesopotamian Budget is balanced, and they are making a very strenuous effort to balance it this year, they will apply for a loan in the British market. I cannot believe that any British financier would grant a loan to Mesopotamia without a British Government guarantee. It is obvious, I think, that to go into the City of London with the security only of the Arab Government and ask for a loan would make it certain to be refused. It seems to me that the course that these officials are pursuing is a policy which 2425 tends to the continued occupation of Mesopotamia. I hope that is not so, but I am asking for information. If it is so, we must have a good deal more to say about it. Again, the article says:As regards the policing of the territory it is done by the Arabs "—which my right hon. Friend knows. In any criticism that I make, it will never be of the men on the spot. They are carrying what there believe to be their instructions. It is the man here who has imposed this responsibility upon them. I have never been one in the least degree to run down my country abroad, but what is said here about the policing of the country, and about its hundred thousand wild tribesmen, makes one pause. We are told that these tribes men are the principal taxpayers. There fore, my right hon. Friend the head of the Air Force will have to use his force as a tax-collecting force in Mesopotamia. How are the taxes to be collected with these 100,000 well-armed tribesmen? If they refuse to pay, how is the money going to be collected? It will mean, unless my right hon. Friend with his Air Force collects them—
§ Mr. LAMBERT
I thank my right hon. Friend very much that he has had the kindness to reply at once to me, but then this Article says:When local trouble occurs, the ultimate sanction for restoring order is the Air arm, the local police "—upon which my right hon. Friend depends—not being strong enough to deal with the tribes unaided.That is the very point my right hon. Friend has just replied to. The local police are not strong enough to deal with the tribes, and, therefore, the Air Force must be the ultimate authority for these tribesmen to pay their taxes. The job of the Air Force will be to collect the taxes. They will be a tax collecting body. I do not think my right hon. Friend realises at all their position. This is an article that comes from Bagdad, published in the "Times" of Saturday, which says the local police are not strong enough, and therefore, when you want to collect taxes from the taxpayer—and none of us like 2426 very much to pay taxes—there will be difficulty. I do not think the Government really know what is going on. My point is this—and I will not elaborate it further—and especially not to go into the matter since Mr. Speaker's ruling—but I do ask that we should have an assurance here this afternoon that nothing shall be done to prejudice the final evacuation of Mesopotamia by the British authorities. While recognising the difficulty of the Government of giving a reply, as I have said, I do not press the matter in view of that, I do think we are entitled to ask that nothing shall be done to prejudice our position. I believe the British taxpayer will not tolerate spending more millions of money in Mesopotamia. I believe that that country will be, instead of a strength, a strategic weakness to our Indian Empire.
§ Mr. MOSLEY
The hon. Gentleman who last spoke from the Government Benches said, in the course of his remarks, that the Turks saw matters in much the same light as he did himself; and that, as it appears to me, can very easily be believed, because the idea which he advanced belonged properly to exactly that period of history when the modern Turks would have been quite up to date. The hon. Gentleman had, indeed, the courage of his convictions, and I shall be interested to hear if the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, when he comes to reply, will endorse all the opinions of his more ardent supporter. At last we have cast to the winds all this milk-and-water talk about pledges to the Arabs and sacred trusts on behalf of humanity and on behalf of mankind. All these things have been cast away at length, and, instead, the hon. Gentleman comes down and declaims upon the virtues of a Disraelian policy which would secure for this country strategic points and commercial and financial advantages of an exclusive character. Has he never devoted any study at all to the conditions under which we are occupying Mesopotamia? Is he really unaware that we are only in that country under the mandatory system, by which it is specifically laid down that the mandatory Power can derive no exclusive advantage of any kind for its own nationals? If he has studied the conditions under which we are in Mesopotamia, and the provisions of the Covenant of the League of Nations, what is the 2427 purpose of urging the continued occupation of Mesopotamia upon the ground of strategic and commercial advantages of an exclusive character to this country?
I think we are, indeed, entitled to ask from the Government a very specific declaration of policy. As I see it, there are, roughly, five inferences which may be drawn by the people of this country from the statements of Government spokesmen regarding their policy and their position. To begin with, we were told that this country was committed to a Treaty with King Feisal which bound us to the occupation of that country for 20 years. Then, during the Election and subsequently, we were told by the Prime Minister that he wanted to go at the earliest possible moment; and Major Hills, in the course of his by-election, reiterated that policy. Then we were told by the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies during the last Debate that we could not possibly consider evacuating Mesopotamia untl we had made peace with Turkey. Now we see in our morning Press that we cannot leave that country until a period of five years has elapsed, and that that is the decision of the Cabinet Committee. These are four distinct policies, and there is yet a fifth, which has been adumbrated in the speeches of some of the most distinguished members of the Government, and which seems to advance the doctrine that never can this country, by any possible chance, evacuate any district, whether held by Mandate or otherwise, where the British flag has once been flown. There are some five possible policies which the Government have laid before the country, five distinct inferences which can be drawn from the statements of Government spokesmen. Is it not time, in view of the popular excitement upon this question, that the Government undertook to give a clear, definite, and decisive statement of what their policy really is?
With regard to the argument that we cannot evacuate Mesopotamia until we have concluded final peace with Turkey, it is argued that, if we now evacuated Mesopotamia, we should appear to yield to a threat of force from Turkey, and that, consequently, we cannot evacuate that country without a grave derogation from our national prestige. There is, however, no point at issue between Turkey and Great Britain regarding 2428 Mesopotamia at the moment. That is precisely one of those points upon which we carried our case at the Lausanne Conference. It was agreed at the Lausanne Conference that an interval of a year should be allowed to elapse for friendly negotiations between the two Governments, and that, if no agreement were reached, it should be referred to the arbitration of the League of Nations. And I observe, from the summary issued by the Foreign Office, I think last Saturday, of a communication from Ismet Pasha, that Ismet Pasha, after the discussion at the Angora Assembly, stands by that arrangement, and in no way attempts to go back upon it, and that, consequently, an amicable arrangement has been reached between the two Governments regarding the question of Mesopotamia. If that be so, how can it be argued that, if the Government now decide to evacuate Mesopotamia, we are doing so in face of a threat of violence from Turkey? If the matter has been settled, how can anyone say we cannot evacuate that country without loss of national prestige?
In regard to the new policy which has been adumbrated in the Press, the policy of remaining in Mesopotamia for a period of five years, the hon. Gentleman said that this report was highly inaccurate. If that be so, I think the House is entitled to some accurate information, if the Cabinet Committee have, indeed, arrived at a decision. Perhaps, as my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. Pringle) says, some of the old habits still survive. Perhaps, automatically, Ministers and Secretaries and others find their feet wandering in the direction of Press correspondents at the conclusion of confidential and secret discussions. Lifelong habits cannot be broken in the course of a few days or a few months, and, once the habit of confidential correspondence with the Press has been cultivated, even when you are serving honest, sincere and truthful masters, who are no friends to intrigue, even then the old vicious automatic habits continue like those of some drug fiend, and these people automatically find themselves yearning to go to the Press and divulge confidential information. It is only on some such hypothesis that we can understand how this highly secret and confidential information was all published in the Press this morning. In any case I trust that the 2429 hon. Gentleman, when he comes to reply, will be able to give us some specific information on this point.
If it has been decided to continue in occupation of Mesopotamia for a period of five years and then to evactuate the country, I venture to suggest that such a policy in no way meets the case that is advanced. I would even say that, if you stay there for five years, you may as well stay there altogether. It is the next five years that will impose the heaviest strain on the finance and on the resources of this country, because it is in those five years that we shall have to undergo the full stress and strain of our present economic circumstances. In those five years we shall be faced with all the great burden of unemployment, the difficulty of balancing our Budget, and all the manifold perplexities with which we are now beset. At the end of five years we might be able to undertake this great obligation without any of the risks or dangers which now accompany the undertaking of so grave a burden. More than that, at the end of five years the East may be in a peaceful and settled condition, if ever that can come about. But in the immediate future, during the course of these next five years, we shall be threatened with every menace and every danger in that troubled district. It is precisely in those years that are to come that the danger of a great conflagration in those districts is most imminent, and when it is most desirable that this country should immediately evacuate Mesopotamia and rid itself for ever of this tiresome burden.
It can be urged with some confidence that the longer we remain in Mesopotamia the more difficult it will be for us ultimately to evacuate that country. It is not so much the original pledges that make it difficult now for us to leave. There is nothing in our original pledges that prevents us from leaving to-morrow. That, at least, has emerged during the course of these discussions. It is the obligations that we have entered into during the course of our administration that make it difficult for us to leave. If we stay for yet another five years, what a further opportunity will be given to our friends the crank Imperialists to manufacture yet further obligations and further excuses to prevent us from leaving that unfortunate country. In our first mani- 2430 festo, issued by General Maude, we said that we came as liberators only, that there was no question of our staying for ever in the country. We came as liberators and we stayed as wet nurses for some years, and, as a result of these benignant but superfluous attentions, we are now informed that the infant cannot possibly be weaned for a period of five years. If we go on staying, we make these unfortunate Arabs still more dependent upon us and still more helpless. We shall have turned them from their original habits of life, and yet will not remain long enough to allow them to adopt a Western model of civilisation, for who can argue that five years is long enough for that? At the end of live years they will be more helpless and dependent even than they are to-day. It is like a human body which, having become accustomed to wearing stays, or some such support, grows quite incapable of supporting itself.
At the end of a certain period, if we stay, imposing this semi-Indian administration that we have still in Mesopotamia, upon these wretched people, getting them accustomed to our support and our advice and protection on every conceivable question, it is going to be far more difficult for us to evacuate the country at the end of five years than it is to-day. We shall find every excuse being put forward, every conceivable pledge and obligation being manufactured. The same people who to-day are putting forward this case will come forward armed with a far stronger case, and will be able to induce the people of this country to remain in Mesopotamia in perpetuity. I know that strong arguments are advanced on the contrary side. Those of us who advocate a policy of immediate evacuation are accused of being the advocates of "scuttle," or, as it is now more elegantly phrased, "skedaddle," and I may remark parenthetically how encouraging it is to observe in another place a recrudescence of the classic tradition. There is a certain lightness of touch in this new substituted phrase, but it will weigh heavily on the hearts of those who to-day are in distress and suffering, because money is being torn from the productive industries of this country and squandered on these futile adventures. But what of this argument of "scuttle"? I venture to submit that the light of recent experience has shown that we are all in favour of "scuttle" in 2431 the end. It is a case of when to scuttle. The difference between us and hon. Gentlemen opposite seems to be that we advocate a policy of "scuttle" before the row begins, and they pursue a policy of "scuttle" after the row has begun. If I may be permitted, by way of illustration only, to refer to our immediate experience, we on these benches advocated Dominion Home Rule for Ireland before lives had been lost, money had been spent—
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. James Hope)
If the hon. Member pursues a controversial illustration of that sort, it is obviously open to Ministers to say that his illustration is inaccurate, and, therefore, we should find ourselves involved in a Debate on Ireland.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
Are we to understand that, on a controversial topic, it is out of order to introduce anything but a non-controversial illustration? Is there any precedent for such a ruling in this House?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
Supposing that one hon. Member said, with regard to another, that that hon. Member had a passion for destruction, and wished to kill the Bill under discussion even as he slew his grandmother, that would be an illustration, but it would give an entirely new trend to the Debate.
§ Mr. MOSLEY
I was not going to enter at all into the sphere of controversy, but was merely going to state the fact, which no one would dispute, that we on these benches advocated Dominion Home Rule, which those opposite will not dispute, before outrages had begun on a grand scale in that country, and hon. Members opposite had refused to grant Dominion Home Rule— which, again, they will not dispute; but, after the loss of many lives and the expenditure of millions of money, those hon. Members and that Government passed the very Measure which a year before they had refused to consider. Therefore I say we are the advocates of scuttle before the row begins and hon. Members opposite become advocates of scuttle after the row has begun. I submit there is nothing in the world so detrimental to national prestige as being 2432 full of bluff and bluster until you get into a difficulty and then quietly climbing down. After all, it is possible to walk downstairs will some grace and dignity of one's own free will, but it is impossible to be kicked downstairs with grace or with dignity. Hon. Members opposite always wait to be kicked down. We ask them to walk down. Surely that is not a very unreasonable proposition, and I hope it is one which they will consider.
I ask the Government seriously to consider, supposing we are involved in great trouble in Iraq, which involves the sending of men, money, and arms to that country, are we in a position to undertake it? Have we the resources, and would the people of this country support it? The answer, surely, to these questions must be in the negative. Does any Government conceive that they can induce the people of this country to enter into a long and expensive war for the preservation of Iraq? Unless they think they could carry the people of this country in such a policy they are committing an act that is almost criminal in hanging on to that country, in face of grave menaces, knowing that the moment real trouble breaks out we shall have to evacuate it with enormous loss of prestige. That is a position which must be considered by the Government when they have warnings from soldiers as eminent as Sir Henry Wilson and such warnings as that from General Robertson in that remarkable article which he wrote in the "Morning Post" a few weeks ago pointing out the grave military danger in which we are placed. Surely that is some case for reconsideration. When they regard the innumerable warnings which history brings to the support of this case, when they reflect upon the condition and the fate of those Empires which have endeavoured in the past to maintain enormous commitments in far-flung territories with an inadequate force, when they reflect on those lessons, surely they cannot survey with any equanimity the position of our small and scattered forces in Iraq and throughout the world. It is really on the merest grounds of military strategy not too much to ask the Government to reconsider their position in Iraq. But on broader grounds, when we consider the burden which this commitment is now placing on the people of the country, when we are told that 2433 children will have to pay for their entry into the British Museum and the Chancellor of the Exchequer is at his wits end to scrape together sources from which to levy taxation, when we are having to cut down in the most dangerous way not only our social reform, not only matters like education, not only matters of health and housing, matters which interest hon. Members on this side, but even have to take the very gravest risk in the matter of our air defence, and then when we think that our squadrons are at present being squandered in Iraq which might make this country invulnerable from attack in the air, can we regard the position of the Government with any other emotion than that of hostility?
I put it to the House that there is a certain lack of perspective and a lack of judgment in the present attitude of the Government, which is fraught with the very gravest danger to this country. What are we to think of the myopic vision of statesmen whose eyes are averted from the destruction which their blunders since the War have caused in their own country, who can regard with tranquil gaze the seething cauldron of European politics, but who get enormously excited over the latest freak experiment in Indian administration, men whose eyes are not open to the seething miseries of their cities, but are fixed upon the spectacle of Eastern deserts? It may be a pleasant pastime for a well-educated man to educate Arabs in the art of government, but the pastime is purchased at the expense of the continued ignorance of his fellow countrymen in the art of life. It is all very well to elaborate these grandiose schemes of Imperial domain, such as we heard from the hon. Gentleman opposite, but those schemes are founded upon the degradation of Englishmen. They show but scant sympathy with those who in these harsh times have to live with starvation, who are familiar with sorrow and anguish. Far remote, I fear, are the thoughts of statesmen who go forward with such proposals, who resist with such indignation any suggestion of withdrawal from these far-flung territories and refuse to devote our remaining resources to the maintenance of a proper standard of life among our own people. After all, the alternatives in this matter are very clear. You may have some disorder, you may have some suffering, you 2434 may even have bloodshed in Iraq, but if we have to choose between two evils, it is better to risk disorder in Iraq than in a city like Manchester, and if you go on squandering the resources of this country and burdening industry with these colossal commitments, you are running some risk, if not a great risk, of a collapse of the finances of the country, bringing in its train infinite suffering and despair to millions of our fellow men. If we have to choose, it is better to have some disorder, to have chaos, if you like, among the nomadic tribes of the desert than to risk the final destruction of the finances of the country.
Lieut.-Colonel A. MURRAY
I wish to draw attention to the railways in Iraq, to which considerable reference was made in the Debate a. short time ago. My hon. and gallant Friend attempted in Committee on this Vote to justify the retention of the railways on the ground that they were a paying proposition. Considerable doubt was expressed at the time whether or not that was actually the case. Since that Debate took place I have addressed to the hon. Gentleman certain questions which were not reached and the answers have been handed to me a few minutes ago. One of the questions I asked was, how many trains a day are run on the average between Basra and Hillah and between Hillah and Basra. That is the line to which the hon. Gentleman alluded as a commercial proposition which was paying its way. The answer I have received is:The printed time-table provides for one passenger train daily in each direction. I have no information as to goods trains or any extra trains, but I will inquire.I ask the House whether a line which provides for one passenger train daily in each direction and perhaps a few goods trains, probably not more than two or three at the outside, can be said to be a commercial, paying proposition? Whatever decision the Cabinet may have come to with regard to the general position, so far as this railway is concerned, it would be in the interests of the taxpayers of this country if the Government would make up their minds to cut their losses right away. I take it my hon. and gallant Friend suggested that this railway was to be offered to the Government of Iraq at the price, of its original cost of construction. If we are to wait to obtain £3,000,000 or £4,000,000, 2435 or whatever it was, from the Government of Iraq, we shall be waiting until doomsday. Not only shall we never obtain it, but it would not be in the interest of the Government of Iraq to give any such sum as that. I therefore urge on the hon. Gentleman that he should again review the whole position of this line in the interest of the British taxpayer, having in mind that the best thing the Government could do would be to cut its losses right away. I also asked the hon. Gentleman whether he would publish a balance sheet showing the annual expenditure and revenue for each year since 1918 of the railway from Basra to Hillah. These figures are, of course, eminently necessary if the House is to form any clear judgment at all on the question of this railway and its finance. The hon. Gentleman said in reply to my question:I doubt whether separate figures for each year will be available for the Basra-Hillah section, which is a part only of the Basra-Bagdad line, but the High Commissioner will be asked to report and I will communicate with the hon. Member as soon as we receive his reply.I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for acceding to my request to that extent, and as soon as these figures are available I hope he will publish them for the information of the House.
There is another aspect of his question to which attention should be drawn, and that is with regard to the navigation of the River Tigris. That, of course, is inextricably bound up with the question of the continuance of the Basra and Bagdad line. I asked the hon. Gentlemanwhether as the mandatory power the Government have maintained a monopoly for navigation on the River Tigris since 1918 and, if so, whether the monopoly agreement concluded with the Turkish Government in 1914 was ever formally ratified, and if not ratified, what is the existing position with regard to river navigation rights?The hon. Gentleman replied:The answer to the first part, of the question is in the negative.That is, the Government have not maintained a monopoly of the River Tigris. That is to say, that the navigation rights on the River Tigris are in direct competition with the railway line from Basra to Bagdad. He then says:." When permission was given to a British steamship company in 1918 to resume busi-2436ness in Iraq it was made a clear condition, which was accepted by the company, that nothing in the nature of a monopoly of navigational or other rights could be granted to them either then or hereafter. That is the position as it stands at present. I regret that language used by me in the Debate on the 1st March should have given rise to misapprehension on this point.The whole House knew that my hon. Friend in that Debate, in using the language that he did, was not attempting to mislead the House. The House is grateful for the position being cleared up as he has cleared it up in the answer which he has given. That does not alter the fact, however, that the answer shows more clearly than ever that the task of making the Basra to Bagdad line a paying proposition is not only difficult but impossible. That brings me back to the suggestion which I made at the outset, that it would be much the best course from every point of view if the Government reviewed the whole position and made up their minds, here and now, to cut their losses.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
Will the hon. and gallant Member explain what he means by the suggestion, "cutting our losses"? What does he suggest that we should do?
What I suggest that we should do, is to remove everything that is removable from the railways and hand it over to anyone who will take it, if anyone can be found to take it and work it, which I very much doubt, thereby relieving the taxpayer of this country of all expenditure from this date on that railway line. I make the suggestion because I can see no possible advantage either to the Government of Iraq or to this country. If there be any advantage to the Government of Iraq, then it is for the Government of Iraq to pay. I can see no possible advantage to the Government of Iraq or to this country in spending a further single sou on this line from Basra to Bagdad. I hope the Government will review the whole situation in the light of the remarks that I have made.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I looked forward to this Debate with very great interest, but the House has been disappointed at the course of the Debate. It has not been as we anticipated, a duel between the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) 2437 and the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Pringle). Between the National and the Free Liberals we are not having the duel to which we have been looking forward. I think it is regrettable that the case for Iraq and the case for the occupation of the oil fields has been left entirely to the hon. Member for Cleveland (Sir Park Goff) and that the House has been deprived of one side of the case which has not been stated properly. It is with the deepest regret that we on these benches see that the due" has been put off, and that the case against the Mosul oil fields has gone by the board. It was perhaps, almost cruel of my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. Pringle) to bring this Debate on now, just at a time when reunion is in the air. Alas, another postponement must inevitably follow this critical and crucial Debate.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
Do I understand the hon. and gallant Member to be referring to the dissensions in the Emir Feisal's Cabinet?
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
An apt illustration, Sir, but I trust that the dissensions in this prospective Cabinet will not be met in the same regrettable manner as were the dissensions in the Emir's Cabinet. Deportations in this country are confined to persons of Irish nationality. This Amendment has a bearing vital to the people of this country. The right hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith), as long ago as 1921, told the House of Commons that, since the Armistice, we had already spent £137,000,000 on Mesopotamia. Since then two more years have gone by, and in one year we spent £26,000,000 on Mesopotamia, and in this year we are spending £10,000,000 on Mesopotamia, plus an unknown liability for additional sums owing to the recent occupation of Mosul in order to meet the Turkish menace. This money has come out of the pockets of the taxpayers in this country. It is all very well for the hon. Member for Cleveland to say: "Do not mind my pocket, spend the money. It is all for the good of the British Empire." It is not the people who find the money in the first place who are really paying for this game. The people who are paying are the unemployed in this country. If you take money from industry in this country, if you deprive the taxpayers in this country of the possibility of buying 2438 the goods they want, by taking their money from them, naturally they cannot buy them. That is not the end of the story. The end of the story is that the men who should be making these goods for the people who want the goods, but who are no longer able to afford to buy them, are thrown out of work. When we see to-day, not £137,000,000, but £174,000,000, being spent on Mesopotamia in order to make the Garden of Eden bloom again like the rose, what strikes me is not the futility of this waste of money, but the terrible results of such waste.
This is a question which affects the working classes of this country more directly than much of the legislation which comes before us. Every time we spend money in this way, unemployment is increased and the condition of trade in this country is made worse. This is about the last chance the taxpayer will have of protesting against this waste of money. We do not know what the Government's policy is. The only light that we get on the subject is given in this morning's papers, where we learn that, having consulted Sir Percy Cox, the Government has finally decided to carry on, on the old wait and see policy, for another five years. I do not know whether that is true. The Under-Secretary for the Colonies shakes his head. How are we to judge of the results of the consultation with Sir Percy Cox? Shall we know before we vote to-night 1 Shall we have some information as to what Sir Percy Cox's views are, and as to the views of the Cabinet upon Sir Percy Cox's views? Sir Percy Cox has been here for three weeks. The Committee been been sitting daily and he has been reporting to them. Shall we be told before we come to a decision to-night something of what appears in the paragraph in the newspapers, the inspiration of which, apparently, is doubtful? Whether that paragraph is inspired or uninspired, it states that the Cabinet have decided to put off evacuation and to continue the waste of money in Mesopotamia for another five years. We are entitled to be put in possession of the real facts of the case.
The right hon. Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) pointed out, very justly, that articles appearing in "The Times" are evidently written in the interests of the continued occupation of Iraq. Those articles show what the role 2439 of the British in Iraq is to be, and gives a spectacle of this country in a steel frame within the administration of that country, which is being reorganised just when we thought, from the speeches of the Under-Secretary and of the Prime Minister, that the occupation was coming to an end as soon as the Turks would let us get out with dignity. This is our last opportunity for protest, because if the administration in Iraq digs itself in it will be increasingly difficult year by year to tear the roots of the occupation up and to get out. I want them to stop this leak of £10,000,000 a year, which is coupled with an indefinite liability. We want to know Sir Percy Cox's views and the Cabinet's views, and we are entitled to ask how the Under-Secretary squares this policy with the speeches which he has recently made in this House. When we have had Debates on Mesopotamia, and we have had about three a year since the Armistice, the hon. Member has taken part in all of them, and in every one of them his views have been identical with my own. We have been partners either in iniquity or in common sense. Now the Colonial Office, I presume against his wishes, is being committed to continued extravagant expenditure in the occupation of Mesopotamia. Five years more of it will mean a perpetuity of it, and the hon. Member must explain how it is that he continues to carry on that administration in view of his previously expressed views, and in view of the fact that no case has yet been made out for the financial side of the Mosul adventure. With respect to the railway question, we were given to understand that we were not going to spend another penny on that railway; that the expenditure had come to a sharp end.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
We were told that only the railways that were paying were going on working, that the whole thing was to be leased to the Iraq Government, and that we had a reversionary lien upon the undertaking to the tune of £5,000,000. If that be so, that would be more satisfactory than the proposal of the hon. and gallant Member for Kincardine (Lieut.-Colonel A. Murray), because we are in this position, that the only access to Bagdad is either by water or by rail. Some of our interesting friends out there might control the whole of the water 2440 transport, and, if so, they would make it hot for Bagdad. It is just as well that we should have a rival means of access, in order to keep the freight rates down.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
Did not the hon. Gentleman to-day, in answer to a question, correct himself and say that there was no monopoly on the river?
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
There is not very much difference between a legal monoply and an actual monoply. If somebody owns all the steamers there is not much chance of competition. If there was a real monopoly before, without there being a legal monopoly, let us preserve the railway if we can do so without its being any expense to us, in the interests of the people of Mesopotamia and of British trade in Mesopotamia. This railway is being handed over to Iraq. Are we handing over to Iraq all the other results of the wild oat Cabinet expenditure of the last five years? For instance, three years ago we spent one million pounds on buying land in Mesopotamia. We were never even told where the land was, and apparently the hon. Gentleman never heard of it until now. Whose land is that now? We spent at the same time about £1,300,000 on the military defences of Iraq barracks, and so on. Who takes over those things? Do they become the property of the Iraq Government? Who is taking over the Government buildings, and all the other results of our wasteful expenditure? Are they all being handed over to the Iraq Government? Or do we retain any lien on these capital assets—wasting though they are, that might mean something in future for the British taxpayer? I notice in the "Daily Herald" this morning a Keuter's telegram—[Laughter], I do not know the cause of this laughter. If it is in the "Herald" it is more likely to be true than if it is in any other paper. It is the only paper which we read. It states:Five hundred cavalry supported by aeroplanes, presumably British, attacked the tribesmen in the Derband region of Northern Mesopotamia and inflicted heavy loss. Airmen are bombing villages and the people are flying to the hills.We have been told over and over again by the Minister for Air that aeroplanes are never used in Mesopotamia for 2441 collecting taxes. What are they used for? Here they are being used against tribesmen. We have heard, so far, of no Turkish trouble up there. Apparently they are the ordinary tribesmen of the country. What are the grounds on which aeroplanes and cavalry are used against these people? I cannot make out what they are used for. The suspicion (remains in my mind that they are used for punishing people who pay no taxes. Has the hon. Gentleman any information about this particular raid, and can he lay down any broad principles to guide, not only this House, but also these people who are using the aeroplanes in Mesopotamia, as to when they are to be used and not to be used, and what notice is to be given? It would be deplorable if our continued occupation of Mesopotamia or of the Mosul vilayet meant not only a financial loss to this country, but also a loss of honour in dealing with people who are not our subjects, but our allies, by having our airmen bombing them from the air.
It is bad enough in countries where we are the ordinary legitimate ministers of order, but in Iraq we are not in that position; we are allies of King Feisal; he is an independent monarch; we are working in conjunction with him. We have read of the horror with which England viewed the conduct of Warren Hastings in India in the eighteenth century. We do not want a repitition of that sort of thing; we do not want rival Mussulmans dealt with by our aeroplanes, under our soldiers' orders, in the interests of any native monarch in that country. For those reasons the hon. Gentleman should lay down clearly rules for the guidance of our soldiers in these bombing raids. Now that Mesopotamia is being run as an independent State this sort of business should stop altogther so far as British aeroplanes are concerned, and we should keep the Air Force for its legitimate purpose of fighting an enemy, and not use it for the illegitimate purpose of cowing a civilian population.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
As no hon. Member wishes to take part in this Debate and I have the right to make only one speech on the Report stage, I trust that the House will be able to come shortly to a decision on the Report stage of this Vote. We had a full day's discussion on the Committee stage of this Vote. That 2442 discussion covered a very wide area, almost as wide as that which is covered this afternoon. Consequently I trust that the Division on the Report stage will be similar to the Division on the Committee stage. The main part of these particular Supplementary Estimates is for this railway. The larger amount of the money is, I want to make it clear, a final payment in connection with this railway. We are now cutting our losses. That is to say, we have made it clear to the Iraq Government that we are not going to provide one single penny of British taxpayers' money for continued maintenance or capital expenditure on this railway. We are handing over this railway to the Iraq Government. That is to say, we are handing over the working of it.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
Yes, and they are going to continue to work it, and they are of opinion, and we are of opinion from the experience of this year, that the receipts from that railway can pay the ordinary working expenses, that is to say, the actual running costs, but that does not mean that they pay any interest on the capital.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
Is there any agreement between His Majesty's Government and the Iraq Government as to the terms on which the railway is to be handed over?
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
I will make inquiries, but it is understood clearly that the Iraq Government from the 31st March this year undertake full liability for any capital expenditure or any working expenses of this railway, and that the British taxpayer has finished as regards the railway. Then comes the question as to the possible sale of the railway. There is nothing about it on this Vote, but we are willing to sell the railway to the Iraq Government, or to consider an offer from anybody else, but we want to make it clear that neither to the Iraq Government nor to any syndicate shall we pay out of the British taxpayers' pocket, as was suggested by one concern which approached us, any guaranteed interest on capital.
Does the British Government, after having handed 2443 over the railway to the Iraq Government on the 31st March, still reserve to itself the right to sell that railway to someone else?
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
Yes. Obviously the syndicate would have, to make its own arrangements with the Iraq Government. It could only take over the working or allow the Iraq Government to work it. The capital invested in this railway is a different thing from the ordinary running. This is a bad moment to sell. If we sold now we should be selling at the very bottom of the market. This railway was built during the War. It was built for military purposes. A certain amount of adaptation has been done for commercial purposes; that is finished. We are of opinion that until we see what is going to happen in Mesopotamia, until we know what the future of the country is going to be, this is not the moment to press for the sale of the capital invested in the actual line, and the Iraq Government are taking over the working of the railway, and we shall have no further expenditure on that head.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
May I ask who would buy something which was handed over to somebody else on condition that they work it, with the natural sequence that any profit would go to the Iraq Government?
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
I presume that if anybody goes to buy this railway, he would only buy it on such terms as would enable him to get the profit.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
We are not handing over the capital concern. It will continue to be our railway, and the Iraq Government are to work it.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
It is not an unknown thing in England to hand over a railway to a company on consideration of their working it. This is practically hand- 2444 ing over the railway to them, and they will take the profit, so that there will be nothing to sell to anyone else.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
I agree that if there is any profit at the end of the next financial year the Iraq Government will take it, and that if there is a loss on it they will have to pay for it.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
Are we not liable for any deficiency of the Iraq Government? Consequently, if there is a deficiency on the Iraq Government arising from a deficiency on the railway, are we not liable?
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
In future that is to be made perfectly clear. On this Estimate I cannot be drawn into a discussion of that question.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
I cannot give way. I did not interrupt hon. Members when they were speaking. I will make the thing as clear as I can make it. We are not going to spend any more money on this railway. We are going to dispose of the railway as best we can. The other element of the Estimate is the element of defence. I must confess that I failed entirely to follow the argument of the hon. Member for Harrow (Mr. Mosley), who suggested that, because Lord Curzon at Lausanne got all that we wanted from the Turks, we should immediately withdraw all our troops from Constantinople and Palestine and Mesopotamia, and should say: "Oh, we have got all the points for which we stood out. We can quit the area, quit the negotiations, and allow the Allies to fight their own battles by themselves. "That would be an impossible position; it would be absolutely contrary to the whole spirit in which the negotiations with Turkey have been conducted by the British Government. I think it would be impossible and improper, while the Turkish negotiations are still continuing or being resumed, and while we have every hope that they will be resumed with success, immediately to begin evacuating troops and the rest of it from the area.
§ Mr. MOSLEY
If the hon. Gentleman challenges me, may I point out to him that I did not in any way say that we should let down the French or abandon the general position in the Lausanne negotiations? I was only giving away our own position. I suggested that we, hav- 2445 ing carried our point in regard to Mosul, were at liberty to withdraw from Mesopotamia.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
The hon. Gentleman clearly has not read the Agreement with the Turks with regard to Mosul. The whole position is that the status quo there shall be preserved until either Turkey and Great Britain come to an agreement about it, or until the Council of the League of Nations has done so. That is in the Agreement. In addition to that, you cannot begin moving troops about an area directly you have won the particular point for which you have been contending in negotiations. The Italians and the French would have very just cause for complaint if we immediately did what the hon. Member demanded, namely, that we began immediately to withdraw our aeroplanes and the rest from Mosul. That was the constructive proposal which the hon. Gentleman put before us this afternoon. Frequently, in taking part in Debates in the past, I have criticised hon. Gentlemen and even Ministers who put up a nine-pin merely for the sake of knocking it down again. That is exactly what the hon. Member for Harrow did this afternoon. In spite of what the Prime Minister said in the Debate on the Address, certainly in spite of what I said on the Committee stage of this Vote, he assumes a decision by the Cabinet of this country to stay for all time in Mesopotamia for Imperialistic reasons. The whole of his speech was based on the assumption that a decision had been come to permanently to occupy Mesopotamia and to continue what he called an Anglo-Indian administration there. No such decision has been reached The Cabinet Committee has not yet reported to the Cabinet, and the statements which appeared in the "Pall Mall Gazette" yesterday caused considerable amusement at the meeting of the Iraq Committee, at which I was present yesterday afternoon.
The reports of Cabinet Committees are not communicated to the Press and are not published. I believe it is the invariable custom not to publish such reports. Obviously, the only thing that will be published will be the Cabinet decision on the report of that Committee, when it has been received and considered by the Cabinet. I shall not state it; the Prime Minister will state it. I am not a Mem- 2446 ber of the Cabinet, and it is clear that I cannot respond to the demand made by hon. Members this afternoon by saying what the final decision of the Government is. It cannot be published until the final stage of the peace negotiations with Turkey. The right hon. Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) was perfectly fair in what he said. I wish that the hon. Member for Harrow had adopted the same line, instead of appealing to passion and prejudice about the myopic vision of statesmen in neglecting the poor children and the unemployed of this country and thinking only of the desert. That is all a ninepin which anyone could knock down. I am surprised that anyone possessed of the eloquence and gifts of the hon. Member for Harrow should demean himself by indulging in that sort of rhodomontade. The right hon. Gentleman for South Molton said, "Are you quite sure that nothing is being done now in Iraq which is going to make it more difficult to clear out in the event of the decision of the Government?" Nothing of that kind is being done. The extract which the right hon. Gentleman quoted merely defines for quite temporary purposes, and defines in a direction which he will approve of, the relations between British officials employed in Iraq and the Arab Government of Iraq. I know that in this House I have criticised those relations in the past. I have criticised the virtually executive authorities which British officials have exercised in duality with Arab officials of the Arab Government. That has come to an end. The extract referred to defines clearly the respective spheres in which the British officials employed by the Iraq Government and the Arab officials employed by that Government are to work. It is in the direction of giving more authority and responsibility to the native officials of Iraq. That is the policy and it will be pursued.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
For the moment everything is dependent on the Treaty, because the Treaty was signed by the late Government and by King Feisal. Therefore, we have to proceed on the basis of the Treaty. But that Treaty is not ratified, and, as the Prime Minister said, it will not be ratified until this House has had a full opportunity of discussing it 2447 and any subsidiary agreements and any alternative that may commend itself to the Cabinet; and even so, this House cannot be asked to ratify it until a Constituent Assembly has been formed in Iraq, and that cannot take place until after the Turkish Question is settled. So it is purely an interim arrangement that we have to carry on, pending the final issue of peace with Turkey and the final decision of the Government on their future policy in Iraq. In that connection I ask right hon. and hon. Members to remember that, even if we decide to evacuate Mesopotamia, let us do it with a proper appreciation of the point of view of King Feisal and the Arab Government. It would be very improper to come to this House and say, "We are going to clear out at once." You have to enter into negotiations; you have to consider the financial position of this Government, after exploring the military side and the international side of it—you have to put the British Government's appreciation of the situation before King Feisal. It is only fair to him and to his Government. We are reducing our commitments very substantially every day. I think that the Prime Minister has made that perfectly clear. Both financially and militarily our object is to reduce our commitments in every way that is possible and consistent with our honour. So we have to carry the Iraq Government with us.
The hon. Member for Penistone (Mr Pringle) raised the question of defence. He said in effect, "This independent State cannot stand alone until it can provide for its own defence." I agree entirely. Our policy is that it should be an independent Arab State as a member of the League of Nations, and that the mandate should be wound up as soon as it is an independent Arab State. That is our policy. It is necessary that Iraq should as soon as possible provide for its own defence. Consequently we have to enter into a series of negotiations to insure that it has a fair chance of providing for its own defence. There are two forces—the so-called Arab levies and the Arab Army. The hon. Member raised a point of importance to which I should reply, as the Arab levies are included in some element of this Supplementary Estimate. The so-called Arab levies, 2448 which have been and are being maintaned under British officers, are an Imperial charge—a charge on us and not on Iraq. They are for the most part not Arabs; they are mainly Assyrians, and the reason why more energy and I think more money has been expended upon them is to be found in the special circumstances of the northern frontier of Mosul, where these people live. They are recruited in their own homes, they are a local force and they are admittedly, in the main, a Christian force under British officers. The Minister for Air will bear me out when I say they have been brought to a high pitch of efficiency in a remarkably short time, which is most commendable not only to the British officers who have trained them but also to the Assyrians and other local populations concerned. The reason why that effort was made was because of possible threats to the Mosul frontier. There might have been an invasion and it was therefore necessary to provide the Air Force up there with local support as efficient and as capable of being rapidly collected as possible. When there is peace with Turkey and when that menace is removed, it is obviously in the interests of everybody that the whole relationship of this Christian force living up in the north of Mosul, with the growing Arab army should be reviewed and reconsidered, and that will be done. As I say even at this moment it is being done.
I must go back to say something more on the broad question. Some hon. Members like to search round for various imaginary reasons as to why we went to Iraq, and why we are there to-day. Most of the reasons produced this afternoon are quite imaginary. The reason we went to Mesopotamia was to defeat Turkey in the War. That is perfectly plain. Do hon. Members who have spoken not admit that the Arab representations at Lausanne—which I think convinced the world—are perfectly overwhelming; that the Arab claim to Mosul and the district around is not answerable; that Mosul is ethnically, geographically and economically an essential part of Mesopotamia. If Iraq is to be an Arab national State, Mosul will be in it. That is the view which the Arab Government takes, and the view which they urged His Majesty's Government to represent at the Lausanne Conference, supported by France and by all our 2449 Allies. I do not think any hon. Member of the House would say that we should go back upon the Arabs in a matter of this kind. We went to Mesopotamia to attack the enemy, just as we went to Gallipoli. That is why we went to Mesopotamia.
We fought the Turks, and we defeated them, and in the process we, with our Allies, entered into obligations, and the point at issue is whether you can, when the War is over, say, "We honour this obligation, but we will not honour that obligation." You cannot do that sort of thing. You have got to endeavour, to the best of your ability and as long as you possibly can, to carry out the pledges which you have made. One hon. Member said, "Why do you not let down the Arabs now, because you let down the Armenians?" Two blacks do not make a white, and we do want if we can to carry out the obligations we have entered into. What is the main obligation? The main obligation into which we entered goes back further than the late Coalition Government. The main obligation was undertaken by the Government of which the right hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) was Prime Minister and Viscount Grey was Foreign Secretary. I think it is perfectly clear from the whole course of the negotiations with King Hussein and the agreement with the French and the then Russian Government which dealt with the whole of this Arab question—it is perfectly clear that those obligations were entered into by the Liberal Government of that day, and I suspect that some members of the Liberal party—I must except the right hon. Member for South Molton—but some hon. Members, such as the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy), regard Mesopotamia as a good thing out of which to make party capital. With that attitude I must confess I have very little sympathy.
I believe we shall be able to reduce the burden that has fallen on our people, on account of Mesopotamia, to vanishing point within a very reasonable distance of time, if we get peace with Turkey and friendship with Turkey. Everything turns on that. If we can get friendship with Turkey then the whole question of our Eastern commitments assumes quite a different aspect. I ask the House to support the decision come to by a very 2450 substantial majority during the Committee stage of this Vote, on the ground that to refuse to support the decision then arrived at, would be to say, in effect, "Here and now, whatever may be the interest of the Arab Government and the Arab population of Mesopotamia, whatever may be the desirability now that peace negotiations with Turkey are being resumed, of maintaining a solid front with our Allies, we are determined that you should clear out, bag and baggage, from Mesopotamia now." I do not believe the House is willing to do that, but that is all a vote undoing the decision of last week would amount to. I appeal with confidence to the House to give the Government a fair chance of considering in full detail their future policy in Mesopotamia and announcing it when peace is signed with the Turkish representatives. We hope that peace will be signed. It is very important to the British Empire. People are apt to think there are no British interests in the Middle East. There are. It is vital to our communications, not only with India, but with Australia. The East is across our path. The line Port Said to Aden is the neck of the British Empire. Anything that happens to affect the situation in the Middle East vitally affects the future of the whole British Empire, and we cannot look at it from an outside point of view.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
I think it is a question of Russia not making friends with us. They have definitely stated that they will not make friends with any capitalistic State. That, however, is obviously outside the subject. I urge the House to remember that we cannot discuss the Middle East as if it were purely a question of the Arabs and the Turks. Take the French position in Smyrna. The whole thing must hang together, and we have no right to put ourselves bag and baggage out of Mesopotamia at this moment. I appeal with confidence to the House to support the Vote which the Committee gave the other night.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I had not intended to take any part in the discussion of this question, but the course of the Debate has been different from the line pursued previously. There is nothing more barren and futile than to answer 2451 arguments which were advanced three weeks ago, and I shall certainly not take up the time of the House in doing so. I rise for a totally different purpose. I rise to press the Government to give us information which will enable the House of Commons to express an intelligent judgment with a full knowledge of the facts. The hon. Member who has just spoken told us that at the present moment the Government are not in a position to declare their policy with regard to Mesopotamia, and that it is under consideration by a Cabinet Committee. As far as I am concerned, I accept that answer fully. It is a very important matter in reference to the British Empire and to our relations with other countries. It is a very important matter so far as our position in the East is concerned, and I think they are entitled to ask for all the time that is necessary in order to determine what their attitude is going to be. They have also asked for a postponement of the discussion on the whole issue on the ground that the Turkish Treaty is still sub judice.
I understand that there is a meeting in London this week to consider some very important problems. In these circumstances, I do not propose to take any part in the discussion on the general question of Mesopotamia. That is no reason why we should not press the Government to give us information. The Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies said we were in Mesopotamia in pursuance of obligations entered into by preceding Governments. That is true, but how is the House of Commons to decide the issues finally without knowing what those obligations are. The time will come when the Prime Minister will announce to the House the policy of the Government. Then, undoubtedly, there must be a Debate upon that decision. But how can the House of Commons discuss the merits of that decision without knowing what are the pledges and the obligations? These obligations have been published in Russia. The present Russian Government published the whole of the papers. Some of these papers have been published in the newspapers in this country. They were published, I believe by the "Daily Herald,"
§ 7.0 P.M.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I think the "Manchester Guardian" gave publicity to most of them. They have been published in Paris; I think they have been published in Italy, but upon that subject I am not certain. But they have been published in Paris, they have been published in this country, and they were published in Russia in full detail. I think if anyone cares to look at the back numbers either of the "Daily Herald" or of the "Manchester Guardian," he will find that the Papers have been summarised, at any rate, there. Why should the House of Commons have withheld from it information upon something which is vital to enable it to come to a conclusion on this important question? Obligations are an element. I do not mean to say there might not be conditions under which the House of Commons should come to the conclusion that this country could not afford to carry out obligations that it had undertaken through previous Governments—a very serious decision for a country to take; a very serious decision for a country to announce, that it could not afford to discharge its pledges—but, at any rate, let us know what those pledges are. The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken said that they were obligations entered into by the Liberal Government, of which my right hon. Friend the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) was the head. They were, as a matter of fact, initiated by that Government, and were concluded by the first Coalition Government, of which my right hon. Friend was also the head. They were concluded, I think, in 1916. I have got the full details: I have checked the information from the "Manchester Guardian" by information which I have, and that is the case.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
If anybody had pressed us to publish them, we certainly should not have had the slightest objection; quite the reverse. Why should we? We were carrying out those pledges; in fact, everything contained in those papers would have fortified the policy we were adopting. We certainly had no objection, but I never heard anyone press us to publish the documents. I think my right hon. Friend said that, the only pledge given was a pledge to found an inde- 2453 pendent Arab State. That is not quite so. The pledge given was to found and uphold an independent Arab State—a very different thing. It was given, originally, in May, 1915, just before the formation of the first Coalition Government. The negotiations were afterwards concluded by the first Coalition Government, and the actual words are these:That Prance and Great Britain are prepared to recognise and uphold an independent Arub State or a confederation of Arab States in the areas A and B."A" was, I think, French, and "B" was British. These documents went far beyond that. There was an undertaking given that Acre and Haifa should become British. There was an undertaking given that we were to have priority of the right of enterprise and of loans in Mesopotamia. There was an undertaking given that we were to be allowed to make a railway between Haifa and Bagdad, and that we were to have special tariff rights for ourselves in Mesopotamia. All these things indicated, and I could give a good deal more which make it quite clear, that the intention at that time was not merely to conquer Mesopotamia and hand it over to the Arabs, but to conquer Mesopotamia, found an Arab State, uphold it by British support, and have predominant rights of exploitation there—that was the document.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Certainly. It is the document of 16th May, 1916, signed by Sir Edward Grey, as he then was. It is Sir Edward Grey's document. Before the House of Commons can adjudicate on that, we really ought to have the whole of these documents. What conceivable objection can there be to their production?
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I am glad my right hon. Friend agrees. There was a good deal of correspondence between Sir Edward Grey—I am using his name at that particular time—who was then Foreign Secretary, and the French Government; between Sir Edward Grey and the Russian Government; and between. Sir Edward Grey and the Italian Government. The whole thing was a plan for the partition of Turkey.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I am coming to the obligation to the Arabs. The obligation to the Arabs was an obligation to found a State for thorn, and to uphold it. If my hon. Friend examines the Papers— I hope he will see them—he will find that the reason given by Sir Edward Grey was that it was desirable, for strategic reasons, to detach the Arabs from the Turks. The Arabs, upon the strength of the pledges we gave them, upon the strength of the obligations we entered into, put their forces into the field. It is all very well to despise that now; at that time it was vital. It is all very well, after the event, to say, "What are these pledges!" as if a pledge given by a great Empire were a scrap of paper. It was a pledge given, in return for which we received invaluable military services. I remember perfectly well at that time how invaluable it was. The Arabs attacked the lines of communication. They embarrassed the Turks; they engaged in military operations in which, owing to their very light and mobile formation, it would have been quite impossible for us to have engaged. They cut in behind the lines and vanished into the desert. Our heavier formations could not have done that. The ultimate overthrow of the Turks was very largely attributable to the fact that the Arabs co-operated with Lord Allenby in the final attack, and made it almost impossible for the Turks to bring up reinforcements at the crucial moment. This was part of the arrangement with the Arabs. I say that these documents show that. I do not ask the House of Commons to accept my account; I ask the Government to print and publish them. Is it really conceivable—when you come to debate a matter of this moment, which undoubtedly affects obligations entered into by us; which affects our interest, because, undoubtedly, there is money being expended upon them—that we should not have information which the Soviet representatives have, which the readers of the "Daily Herald" have got, and which the readers of the "Manchester Guardian" have got?
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I dare say that the "Forward" had the same informa- 2455 tion, but, at any rate, here is the House of Commons, which has to judge upon all these things, and we have not got the Papers. I ask the Prime Minister to give an undertaking that these documents shall be published. I do not ask him to give documents that will interfere in the least with the negotiations between the Turks and ourselves now. The Turks have got those documents. You may depend upon it that their Soviet friends have furnished them with full copies, or even the "Daily Herald" has supplied it. Therefore, they have got it. There is nothing there that can embarrass the Government in their present-day negotiations. If I were pressing the right hon. Gentleman to bring the story down to recent days and the last three or four months, I agree that the time has not come for publishing the documents until the story is complete. I hope that they will be published then, and if anyone presses it, I guarantee to second it when the time comes. There can be no objection to the previous documents being published. I appeal to my right hon. Friend to give an undertaking to publish the documents which constitute the obligations which were entered into with the Arabs, and with our Allies; the obligations which are responsible for our being in Mesopotamia, and which we are attempting to carry out, so that the House of Commons should have an opportunity of judging the policy of the Government in Mesopotamia in the light of the whole of the facts.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
I am not going—I think I should be grossly out of order if I did—to take this opportunity of entering into the historical matters to which my right hon. Friend referred I shall be very glad to have the opportunity, if and when the occasion arises, to go into the thing in detail and with the utmost confidence that every statement I have made, and every recommendation I have offered this House in regard to Mesopotamia during the last four years, is absolutely consistent with the pledges given by the Governments of the past This, however, is not the occasion to do that, and for the very good reason, which my right hon. Friend himself will admit, that we have not got the documents.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
They have never been presented. I am very glad to see that my right hon. Friend is now alive to the inconvenience to which that course of withholding all these documents has exposed the House of Commons, and which has crippled their opportunities of forming an accurate judgment on the situation. I confess I wish he had shown the same sympathy toward the requirements of public duty, and the respect due from the Government to the House of Commons in the years that have since elapsed.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
Never asked for them! It ought to have been the spontaneous act of the Government! They knew the production of those documents was necessary to form a judgment and to satisfy the conscience of the country. Surely, it should have been the spontaneous action of a patriotic Government, anxious not only to receive—as they did receive, in unstinted measure—but to deserve the confidence of the House of Commons.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
I never had the opportunity. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why did you not ask for them?"] It was unnecessary to ask for them. I am very glad to find myself in hearty agreement with my right hon. Friend. It is a good omen for what is called Liberal reunion, and I say, without any arriere pensée of any kind, that I am most anxious to see these documents, and that the public should see them. I join most cordially in the appeal which my right hon. Friend has made to the Prime Minister, that the House of Commons should be put in possession of this most useful and necessary information.
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Bonar Law)
I do not think it is possible for me to add anything to the satisfaction with which the House of Commons has listened to these two most interesting speeches. They are, as my right hon. Friend has said, an obvious pledge of that Liberal reunion which is so much talked about. I think it is quite obvious that the House of Commons should have all 2457 the information possible before dealing with this subject. As regards the Sykes-Picot agreement, in spite of what my right hon. Friend has said, I think we must obtain the sanction of the French Government before we publish it. As regards other communications with the Arabs, my Noble Friend the Colonial Secretary stated in the House of Lords the other day that some of these pledges were contained in documents which it would not be wise to publish. The House knows the question of order in this matter, but he promised to look into them, and I promise now to look carefully into these questions, and to lay before the House of Commons everything that can be laid which materially affects the question.
§ Mr. CHARLES ROBERTS
I would ask the Prime Minister, if he is going to publish these documents, that we should at last have the documents about the relations between our Government and the Greek Government, in reference to the attack on Smyrna, and I want also to ask the Prime Minister, as this Sykes-Picot agreement has been referred to, whether it is not the case that the King of the Hedjaz was fully informed about these documents at the time, even if the House of Commons was not informed. I happen to have with me the actual statement which was made when he inquired about the, matter, when the documents were published by the Bolsheviks in 1917. He applied for an explanation, and he received the following answer from the British Government through the High Commissioner in Cairo. He was told:The Bolsheviks found in Petrograd the Foreign Office record of all the conversations and the provisional understanding—not the formal treaty—between Britain, France, and Russia, made early in the War to prevent difficulties between the Powers in prosecuting the War with Turkey. Either from ignorance or malice, this document was distorted from its original purpose, Its stipulations were omitted regarding the consent of the native populations and safeguarding their interests, and the fact was ignored that the subsequent outbreak and success of the Arab revolt and the withdrawal of Russia had for a long time past created a wholly different situation.Under these circumstances, the King of the Hedjaz, at all events, knew all about these documents. He had his explanation, and he joined in giving us his valued support in spite of these documents, with which he was fully 2458 acquainted. I think that is a material point. May I say how much I welcome the statement of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) in reference to the keeping of pledges, for I am bound to say that this is material? It does bear upon the fact that we have not even to-day, five or six years after the Armistice, obtained peace with Turkey, and that if his pledge of January, 1918, had been kept, if there had not been a distinct infraction of that definite pledge, a pledge which he himself described as a deliberate pledge—for he said:We gave a solemn pledge, and they accepted it, and they are disturbed at the prospect of our not abiding by it.(He was referring to the Indian Mussulmans)—if he had kept that pledge, given in January, 1918, we should have been able to obtain peace with Turkey, and we should long ago have been in a position to have cleared up the whole situation in Mesopotamia.
To-day, if we are still unable to press the Government to give us an exact date, it is very largely because the right hon. Gentleman forgot that solemn pledge and broke it in the negotiations that led up to the Treaty of Sèvres and the Tripartite Agreement. I think that on him, and on his infraction of that deliberate pledge, lies a vast responsibility for the fact that we have not been able to obtain peace with Turkey long ago, and for the disturbance of and the injury to our whole relations with the Islamic world, which knows that that pledge has been broken. They have felt it most deeply, and I think it is impossible for anyone who has seen the documents, as I have, to deny that that infraction of a deliberate pledge, given by him when he was Prime Minister, has had a most deplorable effect on the whole relations of this country with Turkey and the East.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
Are we to understand, that the promise of the Prime Minister in regard to documents includes all pledges, agreements and Ministerial statements in relation to the partition of Turkey? The whole question is bound up together. Are we not to understand that the agreement with France and Russia included more than Mesopotamia, and that there were Asia Minor and Thrace and other interests concerned? Consequently, unless we have the whole 2459 of the documents, we cannot judge of their full importance and effect.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I wish to say one or two words on the question of papers, and I do so with very great deference to the hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who have been discussing this matter, because they know much more about diplomacy than ever I shall know. I want, however, to point out to the House that it is some years ago since these treaties, these secret arrangements, were first published. All of us who had a hand in publishing them in this country were all the time under a threat of going to prison for doing so. Certainly, when I took the responsibility of publishing them in what was then the "Weekly Herald," I expected the next morning after the publication to be hauled off to prison for so doing. I was, however, strengthened in what I did by the fact that the editor of the "Manchester Guardian"—supposed to be a much more respectable paper than I was editing—in a public-spirited manner took the risk of publishing them. [An HON. MEMBER: "Where did you get them from?"] Where they were. I did not get them from anywhere else. They were published by the Bolshevist Government, together with a whole lot of other private documents, and I think the whole world owns a debt of gratitude to the Bolshevist Government for publishing those secret treaties, because we now know that the War was not waged on behalf of little Belgium, but was waged for the purpose of carving up the East. No one who has read these secret documents can get away from that.
That, however, is not what I got up to say—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"]—although if I am going to be taunted, I shall probably say a good many other things, but I have got up to ask that the Prime Minister should publish the whole of those documents. The War is over, years have passed since the conclusion of the War, it is time the people of this country knew officially what it was that this country was engaged in doing, in concert with its Allies, in regard to the War. It ought to be known in the country that one part of the secret arrangement was to give Constantinople to the Russians, 2460 and all this talk about the freedom of the Straits would have been of no effect whatever if the Bolshevist Revolution had not saved you from the Czardom across the Straits. All this talk that we have heard about wanting to keep open that narrow waterway would have gone by the board if the Czardom had remained in Russia, and I think it is time that these facts were put before the general public in a wholehearted sort of way, so that we may know what it was that the British Government was driven to agree to in order successfully to prosecute the War.
The other thing I got up to ask about was the bombing of unarmed villages. The Under-Secretary for the Colonies made a very able defence, if I may say so, of his position, but ho sat down without having said one word about the bombing of these villages. I think somebody in this House ought to stand up and tell us why it is that our country has fallen so low as to use aeroplanes, and all the kind of weapons that are carried by aeroplanes, in order to bomb people who cannot bomb back again. When the War was on I lived in East London, as I live now, and we were visited nearly every night with these infernal machines. When they first came, nobody thought this country ought to use bombs and aeroplanes against open cities and civilians. The Archbishops and the Bishops at last came to the conclusion that you might, in the nature of reprisals, use this kind of weapon against your enemies, but nobody in those days thought it was right to bomb open cities and civilians unless your enemy first attacked your defenceless citizens. You called the Germans Huns because they commenced doing that, and I want to know from the Air Minister whether he and his Department are Huns now. whether we are to look on them instead of the Germans as the lineal descendants of the Huns. No one can stand up and say that the people in those villages are of less value than the people in the East End of London. I know there is a sort of feeling that a coloured person is of less value than a white person, but I do not think so. I think you are baby killers, and inhuman baby killers, whether you kill a black baby or a white baby. I do not see any difference. I think that one is a crime and the other is a crime. I do not know whether I shall ever have a chance of getting a clear vote on a 2461 matter of this kind, but if I went into the Lobby alone, I would go alone against using this kind of weapon against unarmed people.
I am against using weapons of this kind under any circumstances, but I think it is sheer barbarism to be using them as they are admittedly being used in Mesopotamia. When I read that the enterprise was very successful, it reads exactly like the messages which came from Berlin during the War, after the bombardment of the East End of London, and I cannot understand the mental make-up of men and women who cannot see that the War has left us beggared as far as principles are concerned in these matters. If you meant all that you said about the German Kaiser and his army, whatever can those unhappy people in Mesopotamia be thinking of you? As I listened to the hon. Member, apparently we are there partly for oil. He denies that. At any rate, he said we are there for the good of the Arabs, plus keeping the road safe to Australia. We are also to help the Arabs to a higher civilisation. Does he not remember that Feisal stood up at the Conference in Paris and told them that he represented a civilisation which existed long before the civilisation for which we stand had ever been dreamt of? You are going there now, apparently, to take the blessings of our civilisation, and you are taking it with bomb and aeroplane, and all the very latest weapons of destruction. I could not keep my seat to-night, and not get up to protest against that, and say that I think the British House of Commons and the British people ought to be ashamed of any Government or any Department that treats these unhappy people in these out of the way parts of the world in this sort of way.
I rise to support the words of the hon. Member who has just sat down. Like him, I also feel that I could not sit here all the time without entering my protest against the use of the aeroplane in Mesopotamia against unarmed people. To begin with, I would point out that the plane, and the bomb dropped from it, are not instruments of precision. I was never in London during the War while it was being bombed, but I understand that, though the bombing was carried out by efficient German airmen, they did not, so far as I know, on 2462 any single occasion strike the target at which they were aiming. We could imagine that those men, when they came over London, would aim at the War Office, the Admiralty, and the Houses of Parliament, and they were helped by the fact that the features of the city are well marked, particularly by the windings of the river, and yet we know that, in spite of all those helps, they never struck anything they were really trying to strike. In Mesopotamia, where the features are not well marked, it must always be a matter of the highest difficulty for the airmen to find the target, and even if we assume that our airmen are capable of finding a target under those conditions, there is one thing they cannot do, and that is to guarantee that they can strike the thing they wish to strike. That is the inhuman part of all this bombing. Assuming that they are able to pick up their targets—and in a country which is devoid of rivers, or well-marked features, that must always be a matter of the greatest difficulty—then they must be able to strike the target, and I defy the Air Minister, or any airman in the House, to say that it is possible, say, from the height to which a rifle bullet will go, to strike the thing you are aiming at, because the practical difficulties are so great. The airman can never be quite sure of his height from the ground, or if he is rising or falling, and all the instruments that he uses are dependent on the fact that he knows his height and his course, so that when the bomb goes, he has only a very approximate idea where it is going to strike.
I say it is a wrong thing, it is a foul thing for any British man to drop bombs on what are, to him, merely small shadows running across the sand. He knows quite well he will strike something, but whether it is a cow, a baby, or a man who has refused to pay taxes, he does not know. What I want to stress to-night is the moral effect upon our young men. What kind of men must they be; what kind of men must they turn into, after they have played fast at striking helpless things without any chance of being struck back? During the War we said a lot of hard things about the Germans, but we can say at least that the German was a man, that, if he hammered us, he himself stood up to the hammering he got from us, and so there was a real give-and-take, and, no matter who won the War, or who lost 2463 the War, we could always respect each other from the military point of view. But what kind of mind are you generating in young men who drop heavy bombs from absolute safety, not knowing whom they are going to strike? We are piling up for ourselves in the Near East, as well as the Far East, a heavy bill which our children or grandchildren will have to pay. I think I am quite right in saying that one of the results of the War is that the moral prestige of Britain, which has been fairly high in the past, has been lowered all over the Eastern world. I care not from where you go, Shanghai, Singapore or Mesopotamia, I say that our prestige has fallen, because these men of colour see that, while we preached great things during the War, we are not content to carry them out. It is not sufficient that we call out against the Germans for using gas, as they did at Ypres in 1915. Our outcry against the use of gas is only valid and moral so long as we also are unwilling to use gas against people who have no masks. We used gas in the beginning of 1919 in Murmansk, and so our hypocrisy is proved to the world.
I want to ask the House to-night to declare that in Mesopotamia the plane shall not be used at all, unless against people who are able to declare war boldly against us, and that our airmen shall not be allowed to drop a single bomb unless they can guarantee that they can strike the enemy, and not kill helpless women and children. Like the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, I am surprised at the mental make-up of hon. Gentlemen opposite who can discuss with a smile or a sneer, or with absolute satisfaction, the dropping of those terrible instruments of destruction on helpless women and children, forgetting that, after all, murder is murder, and that, whether those things are paid back to us or not, they will certainly be remembered against our children. I would ask to-night, not only for the sake of the inhabitants of Mesopotamia, those people who carried on before we went there, and those people who can carry on after we have gone from there, but for the morale of our young men, that these airmen shall not day in and day out strike helpless beings. What kind of preparation is dropping bombs from a great height on helpless people for warfare against an enemy equally strong and skilful? The idea of the War 2464 Office no doubt, is that those young men are kept in training. They are not. They are taught to be cowards. One day they may have to face an enemy in the field, and not a black woman or a black child, and then their training in striking helpless beings will not stand them in good stead. I stand up to-night to ask this House, Have we sunk so low, after having lost so many brave men in the War, that in 1923 we are compelled to use the bomb, the most terrible instrument of warfare, against unprotected and inoffensive women and children in Mesopotamia?
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
I rise to back up the appeal of the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Pringle) for the full publication of papers relating to the Near and the Middle East. I think that as this Debate has proceeded, the statement made by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) indicates that there is an urgent need for widespread knowledge on these particular questions. There seems to be a slight divergence between the statement of the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies and the statement made by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs. The Under-Secretary, in putting forward his ease, deprecated the idea expressed from these benches that there is some material basis for our present position in Mesopotamia. He wants to deny the implication that we are there for the purpose of exploiting Mesopotamia for its riches in oil or in any other material. I would remind him that the Sykes-Picot agreement was drawn up between this country, France and Russia, and the various documents which have been drawn up expressly specified that we had the exclusive right, of exploitation of those territories. If we are there for exploitation, I take it we are there for the exploitation of the raw material, the hidden riches which are there, whether they are of a mineral, agricultural or liquid, or semi-liquid character in the nature of oil.
There are also one or two statements bearing on this question which it is germane to remember. I believe it was the right hon. Gentleman for Carnarvon Boroughs who told the country on one occasion that Mosul is a very rich country, that there is oil there, and that, if we did not go there, somebody else would. That seems to me to have some real bearing 2465 on the case at issue, and when we are told with some amount of heat by the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies that we are not there for oil, I would remind him that gentlemen who have occupied even higher positions than he has yet occupied—I hope he may occupy them on some future occasion—have told us upon rare authority that we are there because otherwise others might be there, and that Mosul is rich in oil. There are other questions upon which we also want some information. I think we ought to have the papers relating to the question of Armenia. The question of Armenia is a very important question indeed.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I would remind the hon. Member that this is a Vote for railways in Mesopotamia.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
I will confine myself to this question of the defence of Mesopotamia. I hold, and there are a good number of Members on these benches who hold, that we are in Mesopotamia because there is something to be got in Mesopotamia. My opinion is this. If there are people who desire to exploit the riches of Mesopotamia, if it is true, as the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) has told us it is, that Mosul is rich in oil, and that somebody is there for the purpose of exploiting that oil, those people should be taxed, and heavily taxed, for the protection that they demand, and the taxpayer of this country should escape. I deny the right of international financiers, or groups of international financiers, to make their exploitations a burden upon nations. They should take the same risks in international exploitations that the private trader takes in a national trade. They should not be able to put the cost of their international exploitations on the country. This oil which we are getting from Mesopotamia, whatever its value may be, is the dearest oil that is burned in this country. You have not only to take into account the actual cost of the oil itself, but you must add to every gallon you get a proportion of the cost of the maintenance of an Army in Mesopotamia. You must add to it, as well, the blood that was shed in the obtaining of the power to make the exploitation possible. It is 2466 expensive oil when you look at it from that point of view. I am one of those who say, that before this question is finally settled by the Government, we should have at our disposal all the facts of the case. If there has been despicable work done by international agreements, either by one Government or another, the country has a right to know of it. The country has a right to know to what it has been committed behind its back, and the kind of burden it is called upon to bear. The commitments which have been entered into are being carried on without the knowledge of the people themselves as to what those commitments mean.
§ Sir CHARLES OMAN
I shall not detain the House for more than one minute. I wish just to illustrate the rhetorics of the last speaker but one (Captain Hay) who told us that we must not use bombs against the wild tribes in Mesopotamia when they give trouble, because they have no bombs or aircraft with which to reply. I wish to develop that argument a little further. It means that when we are struggling with the bush tribes in the centre of Africa we shall have to use assagais, because they have nothing but assagais with which to answer us. When we send troops North of Chitral to deal with the remote tribes of Central Asia our troops must be armed with matchlocks, because those tribes have nothing but matchlocks with which to reply. When we are troubled with the Afridis, we must see that our troops are not provided with modern rifles, but with the older types of Martini-Henrys and Lee-Metfords which are many years out of date. The logical effect of my hon. Friend's argument, therefore, is that we must only use those weapons which our enemies themselves possess.
The hon. Member who has just sat down (Sir C. Oman) said he would proceed to develop what he stated was my argument. He has not developed my argument at all. My argument was this. If we condemned the Germans in 1915 for using gas against our troops, or for dropping bombs on open towns—as we, rightly as I believe, did condemn them—we are wrong now in using the same means against the helpless people in this land.
§ Question put, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution. "2468
§ The House divided: Ayes, 258; Noes, 158.2469
|Division No. 55.]||AYES.||[7.5a p.m.|
|Adkins, Sir William Ryland Dent||Fermor-Hesketh, Major T.||Mitchell, W. F. (Saffron Walden)|
|Ainsworth, Captain Charles||Flanagan, W. H,||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton, East)||Foreman, Sir Henry||Molloy, Major L. G. S.|
|Apsley, Lord||Forestier-Walker, L.||Molson, Major John Elsdale|
|Archer-Shee, Lieut-Colonel Martin||Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot||Moore, Major-General Sir Newton J.|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col, Wilfrid W.||Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Moreing, Captain Algernon H.|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick W.||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Morrison, Hugh (Wilts, Salisbury)|
|Astor, J. J. (Kent, Dover)||Furness, G. J.||Nail, Major Joseph|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Galbraith, J. F. W.||Nesbitt, Robert C.|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.||Ganzoni, Sir John||Newman, Colonel J. R. P. (Finchley)|
|Banks, Mitchell||Gardiner, James||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Banner, Sir John S. Harmood||Gates, Percy||Newson, Sir Percy Wilson|
|Barlow, Rt. Hon. Sir Montague||Gaunt, Rear-Admiral Sir Guy R.||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)|
|Barnett, Major Richard W.||Gilbert, James Daniel||Nicholson, Brig.-Gen. J. (Westminster)|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Goff, Sir R. Park||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)|
|Becker, Harry||Gould, James C.||Nield, Sir Herbert|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Grenfell. Edward C. (City of London)||Norton-Griffiths, Lieut.-Col. Sir John|
|Bennett, Sir T. J. (Sevenoaks)||Gretton, Colonel John||Oman, Sir Charles William C.|
|Berry, Sir George||Guest, Hon. C. H. (Bristol, N.)||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Guinness, Lieut.-Col. Hon. W. E.||Parker, Owen (Kettering)|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Gwynne, Rupert S.||Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry|
|Blades, Sir George Rowland||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Pease, William Edwin|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Hall, Rr-Adml Sir W.(Liv'p'I.W.D'by)||Pennefather, De Fonblanque|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major A.||Halstead, Major D.||Penny, Frederick George|
|Brass, Captain W.||Hamilton, Sir George C. (Altrincham)||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Perkins, Colonel E. K.|
|Briggs, Harold||Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)||Perring, William George|
|Brown, Major D. C. (Hexham)||Harvey, Major S. E.||Poto, Basil E.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. Clifton (Newbury)||Hawke, John Anthony||Pielou, D. p.|
|Brown, J. W. (Middlesbrough, E.)||Hay, Major T. W. (Norfolk, South)||Filditch, Sir Philip|
|Bruford, R.||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Pretyman, Rt. Hon. Ernest G.|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Herbert, Col. Hon. A. (Yeovil)||Privett, F. J.|
|Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Rae, Sir Henry N.|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Hewett. Sir J. P.||Raeburn. Sir William H.|
|Burn, Colonel Sir Charles Rosdew||Hiley, Sir Ernest||Ralne, W.|
|Burney, Com. (Middx., Uxbridge)||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Rankin, Captain James Stuart|
|Butler, H. M. (Leeds, North)||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D.(St. Marylebone)||Rawlinson, Rt. Hon. John Fredk. Peel|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Rawson, Lieut.-Com. A. C.|
|Button, H. S.||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Reid, Capt. A. S. C. (Warrington)|
|Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.||Hood, Sir Joseph||Reid, D. D. (County Down)|
|Cassels, J. D.||Hopkins, John W. W,||Rentoul, G. S.|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Reynolds, W. G. W.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Houfton, John Plowright||Richardson, Sir Alex. (Gravesend)|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Howard, Capt. D. (Cumberland, N.)||Richardson, Lt.-Col. Sir p. (Chertsey)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Howard-Bury, Lieut.-Col. C. K.||Robertson, J. D. (Islington, W.)|
|Chapman, Sir S.||Hudson, Capt. A.||Robinson, Sir T. (Lanes., Stretford)|
|Chilcott, Sir Warden||Hughes, Collingwood||Rogerson, Capt. J. E.|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Hume, G. H.||Roundell, Colonel R. F.|
|Clayton, G. C.||Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis||Ruggles-Brise, Major E.|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Hunter-Weston, Lt-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Hurst, Lieut.-Colonel Gerald B.||Russell, William (Bolton)|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Hutchison, G. A. C. (Midlothian, N.)||Russell-Wells, Sir Sydney|
|Collie, Sir John||Hutchison, W. (Kelvingrove)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Cope, Major William||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Sanders, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert A.|
|Cory, Sir J. H. (Cardiff, South)||Jarrett, G. W. S.||Sandon, Lord|
|Craig, Capt. C. C. (Antrim, South)||Jenkins, W A. (Brecon and Radnor)||Scott, Sir Leslie (Liverp'l, Exchange)|
|Cralk, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Joynson-Hicks, Sir William||Shakespeare, G. H.|
|Croft, Lieut.-Colonel Henry Page||Kennedy, Captain M. S. Nigel||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley|
|Crook, C. W. (East Ham, North)||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Crooke, J. S. (Deritend)||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Shipwright, Captain D.|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Lane-Fox, Lieut.-Colonel G. R.||Sinclair, Sir A.|
|Dalziel, Sir D. (Lambeth, Brixton);||Law, Rt. Hon. A. B. (Glasgow, C.):||Singleton, J. E.|
|Davidson, J.C.C.(Hamel Hempstead)||Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)||Skelton A. N.|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Lloyd-Greame, Rt. Hon. Sir P.||Somerville. A. A. (Windsor)|
|Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||Locker-Lampson, Com. (Handsw'th)||Sparkes, H. W.|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Lorden, John William||Spears, Brig.-Gen. E. L.|
|Dixon, C. H. (Rutland)||Lort-Williams, J.||Spender-Clay, Lieut.-Colonel H. H.|
|Doyle, N. Grattan||Lougher, L.||Steel, Major S. Strang|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Loyd, Arthur Thomas (Abingdon)||Stewart, Gershom (Wirral)|
|Ednam, Viscount||Lumley, L. R.||Stockton, Sir Edwin Forsyth|
|England, Lieut.-Colonel A.||McNeill, Ronald (Kent, Canterbury)||Stott, Lt.-Col. W. H.|
|Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||Manville, Edward||Strauss, Edward Anthony|
|Erskine-Bolst, Captain C.||Margesson, H. D. R.||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton.|
|Evans, Ernest (Cardigan) |||Marks, Sir George Croydon||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid H.|
|Falcon, Captain Michael||Mason, Lieut.-Col. C. K.||Sutclitte. T.|
|Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray||Mercer, Colonel H.||Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.|
|Fawkes, Major F. H.||Milne, J. S. Wardlaw||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, S.)||Watts, Dr. T. (Man., Withington)||Wood, Rt. Hn. Edward F. L. (Ripon)|
|Thorpe, Captain John Henry||Wells, S. R.||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)|
|Titchfield, Marquess of||Weston, Colonel John Wakefield||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement||White, Lt.-Col. G. D. (Southport)||Yate, Colonel Sir Charles Edward|
|Tubbs, S. W.||Whitla, Sir William||Yerburgh, R. D. T.|
|Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.||Winfrey, Sir Richard||Young, Rt. Hon. E. H. (Norwich)|
|Wallace, Captain E.||Winterton, Earl|
|Waring, Major Walter||Wise, Frederick||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Warner, Sir T. Courtenay T.||Wolmer, Viscount||Colonel Leslie Wilson and Colonel Gibbs.|
|Adams, D.||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Parker, H. (Hanley)|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Harbord, Arthur||Ponsonby, Arthur|
|Ammon, Charles George||Hardle, George D,||Potts, John S.|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)||Pringle, W. M. R.|
|Attlee, C. R.||Harney, E. A.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Hay, Captain J. P. (Cathcart)||Riley, Ben|
|Barnes, A.||Hayday, Arthur||Ritson, J.|
|Batey, Joseph||Hayes, John Henry (Edge Hill)||Roberts, C. H. (Derby)|
|Bennett. A. J. (Mansfield)||Hemmerde, E. G.||Roberts, Frederick O. (W. Bromwich)|
|Berkeley, Captain Reginald||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Robinson, W. C. (York, Elland)|
|Bonwick, A,||Herriotts, J.||Saklatvala, S.|
|Bowdler, W A.||Hillary, A E.||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hirst, G. H.||Sexton, James|
|Briant, Frank||Hodge, Lieut.-Col. J. P. (Preston)||Shinwell, Emanuel|
|Broad, F. A.||Hogge, James Myles||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Bromfield, William||Jenkins, W, (Glamorgan, Neath)||Simpson, J. Hope|
|Brotherton, J.||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Johnston, Thomas (Stirling)||Smith, T. (Pontefract)|
|Buchanan, G.||Johnstone, Harcourt (Willesden, East)||Snell, Harry|
|Buckle, J.||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Snowden, Philip|
|Burgess, S.||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Spencer, H. H. (Bradford, S.)|
|Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Stephen, Campbell|
|Cairns, John||Jones, R. T. (Carnarvon)||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Cape, Thomas||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Sullivan, J,|
|Chapple, W. A.||Jowett, F. W. (Bradford, East)||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)|
|Carleton, H. C.||Kenyon, Barnet||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)|
|Clarke, Sir E. C.||Kirkwood, D.||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)|
|Collins, Pat (Walsall)||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Thornton, M.|
|Collison, Levi||Lansbury, George||Trevelyan, C. P.|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Lawson, John James||Turner, Ben|
|Darblshire, C. W.||Leach, W.||Wailhead, Richard C.|
|Davies, J. C. (Denbigh, Denbigh)||Lee, F.||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Linfield, F. C.||Warne, G. H.|
|Duffy, T, Gavan||Lowth, T.||Watson, W, M. (Dunfermline)|
|Duncan, C.||Lunn, William||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Dunnico, H.||M'Entee, V. L.||Wedgwood, Colonel Josiah C.|
|Ede, James Chuter||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Weir, L. M.|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||March, S.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Emlyn-Jones, J. E, (Dorset, N.)||Martin F. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, E.)||Westwood, J,|
|Fairbairn, R. R.||Maxton, James||White, H. G. (Birkenhead, E.)|
|Falconer, J.||Middleton, G.||Whiteley, W.|
|Foot, Isaac||Millar, J. D.||Wignall, James|
|Gosling, Harry||Morel, E. D.||Williams, David (Swansea, E.)|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central)||Mosley, Oswald||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Gray, Frank (Oxford)||Muir, John W.||Wintringham, Margaret|
|Greenall, T.||Murnin, H.||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C)|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Murray, R. (Renfrew, Western)||Wright, W.|
|Grenfell, D, R. (Glamorgan)||Newbold, J. T. W.||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Nichol, Robert|
|Groves, T.||O'Grady, Captain James||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Grundy, T. W.||Oliver, George Harold||Mr. Phillipps and Sir A. Marshall.|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Paling, W.|
Question put, and agreed to.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the draft of a Special Order (entitled the East Kent Gas Order, 1923), proposed to be made by the Board of Trade under Section 10 of the Gas Regulation Act, 1920, on the application of Drew-Bear, Perks, and Company, Limited, which was presented on the 14th March, 1923, and published, be approved. "— [Viscount Wolmer.]
§ Mr. W. THORNE
I think the House is entitled to know what these Orders mean. They are slipping through without any explanation being given of them.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of TRADE (Viscount Wolmer)
I would inform the House and the hon. Member that there is no opposition to these Orders. There is opposition 2471 in the case of Harwich and I have not moved it, because I do not think it would be fair to move it.
§ Viscount WOLMER
Under the Gas Regulation Act, 1920, when a new gas works, or extension of a gas works are required, the Board of Trade holds an inquiry. Notice of that inquiry is given. Any opposition to the proposed scheme is heard by the Board of Trade, and then the Board of Trade frames an Order, which lies on the Table of the House, and comes before the House. These are all Orders to which there has been no opposition.
That the draft of a Special Order proposed to be made by the Board of Trade under Section 10 of the Gas Regulation Act, 1920, on the application of the Ryde Gaslight Company and the Brading Harbour District Gas Company, which was presented on the 8th March, 1923, and published, be approved.
That the draft of a Special Order proposed to be made by the Board of Trade under Section 10 of the Gas Regulation Act, 1920, on the application of the Weston-super-Mare Gaslight Company, which was presented on the 8th March, 1923, and published, be approved." — [Viscount Wolmer.]