Motion made, and question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £2,919,000, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1925. for sundry Middle Eastern Services under His Majesty's Secretary of State for the Colonies, including a Grant-in-Aid."—[Note: £2,800,000 has been voted on account.]
The object of asking that this Vote should be taken this afternoon was to enable the Government to make some statement regarding the situation in Iraq in case they wished, before Parliament meets in the autumn, to ratify the Treaty that has now been accepted by the Constituent Assembly in Iraq. It will be remembered that Mr. Churchill, when Secretary of State for the Colonies under the Coalition Government, gave an undertaking that, before the Treaty was finally ratified by the Government, an opportunity should be afforded, to Parliament to review the situation. Again, last year, when the party on these benches were responsible for the Government we gave an undertaking that the matter should not be disposed of, first, until the Constituent Assembly at Bagdad had had a say as to the Treaty and the new Protocol—often called the Subsidiary Agreements—which were initiated when we first came into office. And this Government has also given a pledge that it will not ratify the Treaty till Parliament has been given an opportunity of discussing it—both the Treaty and the Protocol—thereby carrying out identically the same pledge as given by the two previous Governments.
Since we last debated this matter there have been two outstanding facts. The first was the acceptance by the Con- 1920 stituent Assembly in Iraq of the Treaty and the Protocol. Secondly there was the failure of the British representative to come to any direct settlement with the Turkish Government in regard to the Northern frontier of the Arab State of Iraq. I wish first to ascertain from the Minister in charge what is the present. position in regard to the Mosul negotiations, that is to say, if the Turks agree to abide by the reference to the League of Nations under the Treaty of Lausanne, and if the League of Nations proceed, as I understand they will proceed, to deal forthwith with this disputed Northern frontier, has the Turkish Government given any indication as to whether it will agree to whatever determination the League of Nations may come? That is, after all, a vital question, far exceeding any other in importance with regard to the future of this territory. If the State of Iraq felt that its case for the inclusion of the City of Mosul and the region of the Tigris between Mosul and Bagdad was not going to be given a fair chance, but that Turkey was going to be enabled to re-enter the lower Euphrates Valley then good-bye to any hopes of a really separate independent political and economic entity in Mesopotamia.
The whole region, from the Persian Gulf up to and including Mosul, is absolutely unanimous on that point, and it is not surprising, because it is vitally essential to the security and economic development of Iraq. The one fear there has been in the mind of the population has been lest we, in our anxiety to liquidate the responsibilities which we undertook after the War to the people whom we liberated from Turkish rule under great pressure, financial or otherwise, should not see them through the difficult diplomatic negotiations which are necessary to secure the legitimate ethnical and economic frontiers or this country. That is the first question I must address to the right hon. Gentleman. I want to know what the exact position of the frontier negotiations, because almost everything hangs on that.
My second question is, what has been happening in the Constituent Assembly in recent months? On the whole, the news that has been received by the Press from the Middle East during the past six months has been extremely scanty, which means that it is good news. In the East the appearance of incidents and news in 1921 newspapers usually indicates that things are not going altogether smoothly. But we have observed within the last six months that there has been a remarkable absence of news and incidents of any kind from the Near and Middle East, and particularly from Iraq, which is, on the whole, a good sign. It is a good sign because it means that the country is settling down to handing over the administration to the Arab Government, and the general liquidation of our commitments has not produced, with very few exceptions, any difficult incidents or difficult conditions. When one knows anything of that country, one realises what a difficult, task it is. The Government of Iraq was always a pretty hard job for the Turks, but virtually the Turks never attempted to make effective any settled Government in the more disturbed areas, and each tribe was more or less a law unto itself. Raids were constant, and the Government practically consisted of military garrisons in the principal towns, and there was some order in the principal market centres, and this was coupled with the Turkish tax gatherer who got what he could, and usually got more than he was entitled to get.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
That is certainly true. Iraq in the past has been governed on the basis of a Constituent Assembly endeavouring to fashion for itself a new constitution. I understand that in the coming few weeks that Constituent Assembly comes to an end and will be wound up, and in its place there will be a regular, newly drafted constitution to succeed it. We have no information as to the character of the new constitution. I understand that at this very moment the Constituent. Assembly is engaged on the new electoral law, and I think we ought to know what, in the opinion of the Colonial Secretary, is likely to be the character of the new constitution, which is to be the governing authority in the future in Iraq.
My third question deals with the international position which we have now reached—I mean not so much as regards the boundary, but the status of Iraq in the world as a whole. On paper, as far as the European Powers are concerned and the world at large, Iraq is technically 1922 mandated territory. Technically the three Turkish vilayets—Mosul, Bagdad, and Basra—are mandated territory, to be administered under a mandate on behalf of the League of Nations. It has been perfectly clear for some time past that that is never going to be the status of Iraq, and the League was informed by the right hon. Gentleman who represents the English Universities (Mr. Fisher) when he represented this country on the Council of the League that although Great Britain had been given the mandate under the San Remo Treaty in the spring of 1920, we did not intend to undertake that obligation, but that Iraq was to be governed in an entirely different manner. The first step we informed the League we proposed to take, having established an Arab kingdom in that country, was to regulate our relations with that State which we were protecting pro tem by means of a treaty. The question now arises, is the Treaty in such a form that it is ready for presentation to the League of Nations, and are they going to be invited to recognise, once and for all, that this territory is not to have the status of a mandated territory, but is to become at the earliest possible date a completely independent self-governing State, only modified by the terms of a special treaty of alliance between His Britannic Majesty and this independent State? It is very important that that should be cleared up, not only because of the correspondence which passed between our Government and the American Government on this matter, but also from the point of view of the local inhabitants in the country. The, conception of "mandates" and the very word and title "mandate" became very obnoxious to the people of the country. It acquired, in the course of use, a connotation very similar to the connotation of the word Himayat, the Arabic word for "protectorate," which seemed to he the one thing which the people of Egypt wanted to get rid of; and I am quite sure that there will not be a satisfactory local feeling until the Arab State of Iraq arid its position in the world as a whole has been finally determined by the Council of the League. Obviously, having been designated as a mandated territory, until that status is definitely at an end and the Council of the League have definitely recognised the new State that is proposed; 1923 there will be some doubt and uncertainty in their minds, and it is vitally important that that uncertainty should be cleared up.
The next question which I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman is what has been done and what is being done during the period that we are responsible for advice and for finding technical officers and assistants and during the time that we are in process of handing over from what was the British military regime to the new Arab Government towards the economic development of the country. One hears extremely little as to what has been done. One knows that the military expenditure was perfectly gigantic, and one does want to know whether foundations have been laid which will enable that country to pay its way, to defend itself, and to find the wherewithal to defend itself in the future. It seems to me that that is vital. I have all along taken the view that, given a satisfactory peace between Turkey and her neigh-bours, it will not be the ambition of Turkey to sweep down from the mountains in the North of Iraq to the plains of Iraq and once more conquer that country. It would be a great deal of trouble to the Turk to enter that Arab world, but, being a much more numerous and warlike Power, he could sweep down from the mountains and no doubt march to Basra, unless something stood in his way, and everything depends for the future security of the independent Arab State upon their being able to maintain some sort of local Arab army and being able to pay it. They cannot do that unless there is the potentiality of a considerably increased revenue, and one of the moral duties which lay upon us as the conquerors of that country, having driven out the Turks, was to give a chance to that which once was one of the richest countries of the world again to enter production after the devastation of something like five centuries. The whole of the irrigation system of the country of ancient days is known. Its potentialities are known, and the whole question is what has been done and what is being done, and by what means, to lay the foundations of that development without which the country cannot stand.
In this connection of the future defence of Iraq by Iraq itself, there is one further 1924 question about which I should like the right hon. Gentleman to tell us something. In my view, the very best of the native troops in that country are drawn from a small community in the neighbourhood of Mosul, namely, the Assyrians. They are, if I may say so without reflection on the rest of the community, the stoutest fellows in the country. Their home is right upon the disputed frontier. They have stood loyally by Iraq and have loyally co-operated with Iraq, and they furnish at the present moment the major part of the personnel of the levies in that area. I have a very anxious feeling for the future of that small and most interesting community. They are different from the Arabs on the one hand and the Turks on the other hand in racial origin. They are Christians belonging to a small Church of their own. They have co-religionists in the South of India, but, otherwise, they are a Church to themselves. They are extremely fine people, and it behoves us, before we finally liquidate our responsibilities in Iraq, to do our best for them, and to endeavour to ensure, so far as we can, that no ill happens to them either from Turk or Arab, but that they are given a chance in their own little national enclave, as it were, to carry on their lives. I am perfectly certain, if they are given a chance, they will be one of the most stable elements in that part of the world, making for the defence of Iraq and for peace.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
I do not know, because they are considerably scattered, but perhaps the hon. Member can tell us how many there are in the actual levies. I have not the recent figures. I have interviewed several of them here in London, and as a matter of fact they are in process of collecting in the area between Lake Urumiah and Mosul in the country that was always their home. My impression is that they are considerably more numerous than was at first thought. They get on very well with another lot of people who are their neighbours, and who are very distinguished, the Tezidis, and with the Tezidis and certain of the Kurdish tribes there they could form a fairly homogeneous community which could, I believe, survive. The real trouble, of course, is the nomadic tribes.
1925 The Kurdish nomadic tribes, especially -on the Persian frontier, are, above all, the most unsettled of those people, and there is no doubt that one of the difficulties of the situation all along has been the fear on the part of Turkey that, unless all these Kurdish tribes are included within the Turkish frontier, they N' ill become a centre of a Kurdish national movement which will be extremely inconvenient to Turkey. As a matter of fact, I do not share their fear. I believe that the great mass of the Kurdish population will remain loyal to Turkey and will be incorporated in Turkey, and that the Kurdish nomadic tribes in Persia and in Mesopotamia do not seek for any cohesion with their ethnical compatriots over the Turkish border, because the character of the Kurd is still based on the local tribe and local leader, and there is nothing like the national side as we have running through the Arab and Turkish world. That is a side bound up with this question of the Assyrians.
I now pass to another question, namely, the form of this vote as you have put it from the Chair. I think it is very unsatisfactory that we should have in the Middle Eastern Estimate, for which the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary is responsible, very large sums for the Air Force, and certain sums for the Army, which, anyhow, would appear in the Air Estimates. It gives an absolutely false impression of our Air Estimates, and an equally false impression of what the temporary administration of Iraq is costing. I know when I took the matter up, just before the change of Governments, that it was stated that it was too late this year to change. The Estimates had been prepared, and we could not change. But I know that the Air Force and the War Office will go on fighting to get as much as possible of their expenditure put on the Colonial Office Vote. That is only natural. Really, the only thing that ought to be in this Vote is the excess cost of those air squadrons, which are part of our air establishment, anyhow, clue to the fact that they are now stationed in Iraq and not stationed here at home. It is a question whether there is any excess cost.
It is an ill wind that blows nobody any good, and undoubtedly the presence of such a very large proportion of the 1926 air defences of this country in Iraq during the last few years has been a tremendous asset to the Air Force. It has provided them, under climatic and other conditions, with an opportunity such as they never could have had in this country. They are in a climate where you can fly every day and all day, whereas here you cannot. They are living, more or less, under semi-active service conditions, with all that means with regard to discipline and control of men. I say all this because I do think that next year we ought to make quite sure that the Middle Eastern Services Vote is only for the Middle Eastern Services, and does not include several millions of money for squadrons of the Air Force, which we have to maintain anyhow, and which ought to be shown on the Air Estimates.
In this connection, let me say that one should pay a very great tribute to the way in which the officers and men of the Air Force have taken over their duties in what you might call the first independent command in both Palestine and Mesopotamia, and particularly in Iraq. For the first time; the officer commanding the troops of the whole country is not a War Office man but an Air Force man. There is common agreement even in the Army itself that Sir John Salmond and the other officers have acquitted themselves in that task, the first of the kind the Air Force has undertaken, with very remarkable success. It was very largely the magnificent way in which the Army troops under Sir Berkeley Vincent co-operated with the Air Force which enabled the Air Force to discharge its role. From my experience of the Colonial Office last year, I would say that on all questions of policy and of administration referred to Sir John Salmond, the Air Officer commanding, we had the very best and most skilled advice, which was quite up to the very best standard of the General Staff officer of the Army or of the Navy. That is a great thing for the Air Force.
Having made my complaint about. the form of this Estimate, my next object is to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he can tell us anything at all definite with regard to the probable Estimates for next year. Is there likely to be any further reduction in both the Air Force and the garrison of the country, and any reduction of any contribution, direct or 1927 indirect, that we have to make to the revenues of Iraq to make up the local budget? There has been a constant diminution during the last few years, and the point has come when one should ask how far the local levies, both the Arab Army and the levies, are financed out of local revenue and how far out of grants-in-aid from this country.
The next point in that connection is to ascertain what has been the final settlement in regard to the railways. The railways were laid down by us as part of the military necessities of the War. They were conceived on strategic lines rather than on commercial lines. Since I first entered the field of Iraqian politics I have taken great interest in this matter, especially during my term at the Colonial Office. One of the greatest drains on the country was the enormous cost of maintaining these railways, owing to the gigantic Indian personnel which introduced into the country political complications of a very undesirable character. I believe that the Indians have now gone hack to India, and the personnel of the railways is almost entirely drawn from the natives of the country, which is a good thing economically. As I understand it, the railways have been definitely handed over to the Iraq Government, which has taken charge of them, and we have no further responsibility in connection with them. I should like to know from the right hon. Gentleman whether these railways are charged up in the general account against Iraq, whether they have become revenue-producing, and whether any revenue obtained from them will go to the general revenues of Iraq and into the ordinary Budget, or whether such revenue will be set aside as a special Sinking Fund to pay some interest on the capital value of the railways. That is as far as the railway position is concerned.
There is the further question of the harbour and port of Basra. The port of Basra is really a magnificent port. I know there have been continual delays in disposing of certain portions of the port, and up to a year ago the Disposal Board had not succeeded in getting rid of the actual dock or in getting anything established there in regard to the future of the dock. As our policy is one of liquidation, it is important to know what 1928 final settlement has been reached in regard to the control of the harbour and ownership and utilisation of the docks.
I would like further to know how the Treaty with Iraq has been accepted by the Constituent Assembly? What is the general attitude of the King and Government and the people to their British allies, and what further steps are now required to give full effect to the Protocol and subsidiary agreements connected with that Treaty The must important of them, from the point of view of this House, perhaps is the one which is to regulate the future status and services of such British officers as may continue in the service of the Iraq Government after our four years' mandate has come to an end. It is definitely understood that it is both the wish and the need of the Iraq Government that, after that period, and when our responsibility for the military or air protection of the country conies to an end, certain technical officers should remain behind for the purpose of development and for assisting the Iraq Government. It is absolutely essential, therefore, we should have a clear understanding as to the terms of service and the treatment which the British officers undertaking that service will receive. Many of them have been seconded from the Egyptian or Indian service. They have been allowed to take service under the Iraq Government, and the question of their pension rights and status is a very important matter which rightly deserves the watchfulness and protection of this House. I think I have covered most of the ground. I am quite sure that before the right hon. Gentleman and the Government advise ratification of the Treaty it will be agreed that Parliament should be informed what the intentions of the Government are. It has been admitted that it may be possible both to ratify the Treaty and to clear up the relations between Iraq and ourselves during this autumn. I hope before Parliament meets again it will have been found possible to do that, and I trust, too, that the right hon. Gentleman will take the necessary authority to do if forthwith. The great thing is to get things done in these countries. We have been drifting through a series of negotiations, and now we have arrived at the point when there is a chance that the thing may be put on a proper footing for the future, and this Government be 1929 enabled to exchange ratifications and to put the whole matter on a permanent international basis.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I beg to move that the Vote be reduced by £100.
I will shortly explain my reason for so doing. I am rather surprised at the Opposition asking that this Vote should be taken to-day, especially in view of the speech we have just had, although on reflection I suppose it was rather difficult for the hon. Gentleman who had the great honour of representing the Colonial Office in this House to criticise his own policy, which the present Government are carrying out. The policy of the present Government is apparently the same as that of its predecessors. It is for that reason I propose to move the reduction of the Vote. Before we go any further, may I express the hope that this discussion in Supply is not going to take the place of a proper Debate on the Treaty, to give the House a chance of voting against its ratification. Most of the Treaties arising out of the War, including the Treaty of Lausanne, have been brought before this House in the form of Bills which have had to go through their various stages on which discussion was possible. That policy started with the Treaty of Versailles, for which the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) was responsible. After the present Government took office, the Tinder-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs made a very satisfactory pronouncement to the effect that in future all instruments, treaties and agreements would be laid before Parliament before ratification. I do not think it is implementing this satisfactory pledge to simply allow a discussion in Committee of Supply on a day chosen by the Opposition in order to support their own policy. Because the largest party in the House, through the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Ormsby-Gore) has approved everything done by this Government, I do not think it should be accepted as a mandate, instruction or injunction to the Colonial Minister to advise ratification of this Treaty.
I should like to know whether the present Government are entirely carrying out the policy of their predecessors in Iran. If they are not, what is the 1930 difference? if they are not following it out faithfully, may we be informed in what respect they are differing from it As far as I can tell, they are following out the self-same policy. The Estimates which my right hon. Friend has presented were, I believe, prepared partly under the direction of the hon. Member for Stafford. The action of the Air Force in preserving order in Iraq, which was very strongly criticised by many leading members of the Labour party when hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite were in power—the same methods of quelling disturbances or teaching lessons to turbulent chiefs in Iraq by minor air action are being pursued with the same vigour. Furthermore, the right hon. Gentleman apparently takes a very curious view, if I may be allowed to say so, as to the constitutional character of our proceedings in Bagdad. The Constituent Assembly showed itself somewhat hostile to this Treaty when the hon. Member for Stafford fathered it in this House. They, apparently, did not wish to ratify it, and when they had ratified it they added a very curious rider that it should be null and void if Mosul were not included within the borders of Iraq. I want to know what is the effect of that rider, and whether, if we ratify this Treaty, we are taking responsibility for that rider and all its implications.
Apparently, if left to themselves, the Constituent Assembly would have refused to ratify the Treaty, and I venture to say that that was a Heaven-sent opportunity for us finally to get rid of this incubus of Mesopotamia and get out of the country once and for all. Instead of that, the Prime Minister sent a curious telegram, in which he, apparently, warned the Government of King Feisal of the terrible things that would happen if this Treaty were not ratified. We have not had a very clear description of what happened, but I should like, if I may, to quote the correspondent of the "Times" newspaper, who, writing from Bagdad, gave, in the issue of that paper of the 25th June, a very full account of what occurred. In the part of his communication which is relevant to what I am now going to say, he said:It looked as though the old curse of internal quarrelling and want of cooperation was again going to wreck an Arab State. The public Session which followed was futile. At 1.30 p.m., General Jafar Pasha el Askari, the Prime Minister, 1931 Moved that the House adjourn till Wednesday, 'for political reasons.' It was at once made clear to the Iraqi Government that Great Britain required an answer by Tuesday, midnight, at latest; otherwise the Treaty would be considered rejected. An attempt was made to convene a meeting in the afternoon, but there was no quorum The situation looked desperate at sunset. As a final effort the President summoned all the members to attend at 10 p.m. Palace officials and police officers were to be seen going round to deputies' houses and taking them to the House. Seventy members assembled. Ten or fifteen would not venture out after dark"—Apparently the Whips' Office is not quite so efficient. in Bagdad as it might be.A motion that was equivalent to rejection was defeated by 42 votes to 24, and the Resolution for ratification was then passed. Of the deputies who were absent a majority are known to favour the Treaty, but to have been afraid to vote publicly in accordance with their convictions. One cannot blame them. They are new to politics; and they knew the dangers they would incur from the terrorists.Of course, there has been a very disgraceful campaign of political terrorism in Bagdad, and my right hon. Friend (Mr. Thomas) has my complete sympathy in being faced with that difficulty. But that is not the point.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the COLONIES (Mr. J. H. Thomas)
I do not need sympathy.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
The right hon. Gentleman does not need sympathy. As he truly said in the House the other day, he is not a member of the Constituent Assembly of Bagdad. Three of the leading Deputies have already been murdered, and I daresay the right hon. Gentleman knows that they were murdered because they were known to be pro-Treaty. The right hon. Gentleman does not need sympathy, but I venture to say that they need his sympathy. My information is that the three Deputies who were murdered were known to be pro-Treaty, and a reign of terror has been initiated in Bagdad by pan-Arab extremists. These are very terrible things, but I am asking for further information, and if the "Times" correspondent is wrong, perhaps we shall have the right hon. Gentleman's denial.
I asked a question a fortnight ago of my right hon. Friend on this very matter. I wanted to know how many Deputies there were in the Iraq Constituent 1932 Assembly, and the reply was that there were 110, that 69 were present when the vote on the Treaty was taken, and that 36 voted for acceptance, while nine abstained from voting. That very nearly corresponds with the figures given by the "Times" correspondent. The right hon. Gentleman further stated that the Assembly attached a rider in the following terms to its acceptance of the Treaty:This Treaty and its subsidiary agreements shall become null and void if the British Government fail to safeguard the rights of Iraq in the Mosul Vilayet in their entirety.That was the answer of the right hon. Gentleman. I then asked him why so few deputies were present. during a discussion of this important matter, and the right hon. Gentleman replied, "I was not there." I really think that that is treating the matter rather lightly. We are asked to ratify this Treaty, or, at least, I hope we are going to be asked to ratify it. The right hon. Gentleman is, apparently, going to invite the House to ratify the Treaty, and Treaty, and yet a clear minority of the Constituent Assembly were present, and only a still smaller minority voted for its ratification. I then asked the right hon. Gentleman whether he was seized of the facts, and his reply was that he was seized of the facts, and that it was impossible to give an explanation. I dare say, in answer to a question, it is impossible to give an explanation but I invite the right hon. Gentleman to give some explanation now. Are we to understand that the ratification of the Treaty by the Constituent Assembly at Bagdad was brought about by scouring the streets of Bagdad in the middle of the night by police officers and paeace officials, and that then an actual minority was brought into the Assembly to ratify the Treaty, and a still smaller minority voted for it? In these circumstances, are we to commit this country to the support of King Feisal's Government in Iraq for, as I understand, 20 years, with all the commitments—
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I know; I will deal with that in a moment -or until that Government has applied for admission, and been accepted into the League of Nations?
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
if the hon. Member will forgive me. While I understand that the intention of the present Government is that it shall be for four years at the outside, yet I venture to say that if at the end of four years there are dangers threatening our forces in Iraq—if there are external dangers, either from the Idrissi or from the Turks in the north-west—it may be necessary for the British Government to come to this House and say that this country is committed in honour to remain there so that we shall be still further committed in those regions. I think it is a very serious step to ask this House to take, and I hope that, before we are invited to take it there will be a proper constitutional opportunity of voting on the Treaty in the form of a Bill, as was done in the case of the other treaties arising out of the War. In the meantime, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give us some facts on which we can reflect between now and that time. I should like to ask him, also, whether he will give us some enlightenment on the question of oil in the Mosul Vilayet. I have taken part in one or two of the debates on Iraq, and have been treated to some indignant rebukes from Members of the Coalition Government and from Members of the late Government for suggesting that oil had anything to do with our policy, and, apparently, I am about to be rebuked again by the hon. Member for Stafford. The only person who has been frank on this matter is the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs. He, on one occasion in this House, I will not say blurted out the truth, but boldly faced the facts, in answer, I think, to a speech of mine, when he was Prime Minister and I was in Opposition, before the happy days when we were reunited. The right hon. Gentleman then said—he will not deny it, but will remember it very well—"Yes, there is oil in Mosul, and that is a very good reason why we should stay there. Why should we not try and get this oil?"
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
The right hon. Gentleman said that at the Box, and I remember it, and the hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones) remembers it too.
§ Lieut-Commander KENWORTHY
I should like to ask my right hon. Friend, when he replies, to say what is his opinion on this matter, and in particular what is his opinion, advice and information with regard to the position of the Turkish Petroleum Company—which I understand claims the oil-drilling rights in the Vilayet of Mosul—and does the present Government of Angora show any signs of recognising and ratifying those rights? It is a very complicated matter. The question of the civil list of the late Sultan comes into it. I understand that before the War the oil royalties or the oil lands were replaced on the civil list of the Sultan, and an American company, dominated, I believe, by British interests, has acquired those rights in the civil list. As I have said, it is a very curious history. The most authoritative statement on the matter is contained in the letters of Marquess Curzon to the American Secretary of State on this very question, and I should like to hear the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman on the matter. Furthermore, I. should like to know whether any oil has been discovered. Are oil operations going on, and has anything more been heard of the grandiose scheme of a pipe-line from Mosul to the Levant? I should very much like, to have information on that point, and I think the House, is entitled to know it. This I do know, that oil was, found in Persia before the War, and that we got a great deal after the War, without any negotiations, protectorates or mandates or anything of that kind. We got the oil by arrangement with the local notables, who received a royalty on the amount of oil extracted. I believe we can get oil at Mosul now in that way, and in no other way—certainly not by trampling on Arab nationalism and outraging Arab feelings in this matter.
The hon. and gallant Member for Skipton (Lieut.-Colonel Roundell) seems to express some dissent from what I am saying, but, if he does not agree, will he read the Treaty and the Protocols? The hon. Member for Stafford talks about the nationalistic feeling among the Arabs, but under these Protocols no official can be appointed without the approval of the British Government, and 25 per cent, of the expenditure of the country is to be expended on military equipment and 1935 armaments. That, I think, is a disgraceful thing to put into any Treaty drawn up by a representative of His Majesty's Government. In fact, from first to last there is no sort of independence at all. When the hon. Member for Stafford talks about a separate independent political entity, he must have an extraordinary idea of what is independence and what is separation. There is no independence at all. King Feisal's Government, by this Treaty, is put into leading-strings. There is a strong party in Iraq that is opposed to ratification, although, naturally, I condemn their extremist terrorist methods. With regard to the question of the actual election of King Feisal, that, after all, is ancient history, though I certainly think some reply should be made by the Colonial Secretary to the extraordinary article which appeared in the "Westminster Gazette" of yesterday. I think that that calls for some reply. I do not endorse the statements made in it at all, but certainly I think something should be said about them.
The whole policy of our remaining in Iraq after the Armistice with Turkey was wrong. We advanced into Mosul after the Turks had laid down their arms for no adequate military reason, but for, I am afraid, very adequate economic reasons which are not creditable to this country. We remained in that country when we could easily have left, when Turkey was weak, before Mustapha Kemal's movement had started, and before we had seen the resurrection of Turkish military power. We could have left then, allowing the Arabs to set up their own form of Government and to invite our help, instead of forcing our assistance upon them. Even Dow it is not too late to reverse our policy. The strategical position is dangerous. The late Sir Henry Wilson is well known to have been very strongly against the questionable policy of trying to defend a frontier several thousand miles away from the sea. It is the only part of the world in which the British are committed to trying to defend a territory many thousand miles from the sea, except in the case of India, which has a naturally strong frontier on the north. In Iraq, as the hon. Member for Stafford has said, the northern plains are open to raiders from the north, and with a strong military power in Turkey, 1936 there will always be that danger in Mosul, which, apparently, we are to be committed in the dark to defend indefinitely.
§ Mr. GREENE
Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman infer that we broke the terms of the Armistice by marching into Mosul?
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
What I said was that it was not necessary for us to occupy Mosul, after the Turkish surrender, and after the terms of the Armistice. Speaking from memory—the hon. Member will correct me if I am wrong—I understand that we were entitled by the terms of the Armistice to occupy areas which were necessary for military safety, or words to that effect, but I say we did it, not for military reasons, but for economic reasons—in order, perhaps, to hold more territory for future bargaining, or, perhaps, for the purpose of safeguarding territories to which British interests had a claim for the purpose of extracting oil; but I do not think there was any clear military reason for that advance. If the hon. Member corrects me I will accept the correction, but in any case it is quite irrelevant to my main argument. My main argument is that we are in a strategically impossible position in trying to hold that country, and, with a reviving military strength in Turkey, our position will become increasingly dangerous there.
There are two other matters I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman to deal with. One is with regard to the question of cotton. We were promised that there would be great cotton growing areas. What has happened there? Was that a dream, like the great oil deposits which were going to be discovered? Secondly, is there any possibility of railway communications being established leading from the Persian Gulf to the Levant or Constantinople? The original project of the railway to Bagdad and beyond was a British project. It was taken up by the Germans because the British pioneers were not encouraged. It is a matter of tremendous importance to the true British Empire, quite outside the mandated areas, that the means of communication with India should be shortened up, and I hope it will be possible to have the railway completed. I do not believe the Turks have any intention whatever of venturing again 1937 into the Mesopotamian plains. I have talked to many leading Turks who hold high positions in the present administration in Turkey. They are what I suppose hon. Members opposite would call little Turks—people who object to dissipating their strength in distant regions. They say the former Empire of the Sultans was weakened by adventures in the Yemen and Iraq and they want to consolidate the Turkish race within its own present boundaries, and they are opposed to adventures in Iraq and elsewhere. I believe there would be an immediate outcry in Turkey if any attempt were made to re-annex those regions, but I know that we are not wanted there, except perhaps as milch cows from whom golden milk may be drawn. We are having comparative peace in that country, supported by the white wings of the air squadrons of the Under-Secretary, but there are dangers threatening the country, internal and external, and British interests are negligible. I have mentioned the only three possible ones. As for our alleged pledge to the Arabs, surely our greatest pledge was to give them freedom, and while you hive British forces assisting to hold up the Government of a King who apparently cannot stand without that assistance, whatever else we have done we have not brought freedom to the people on whom we spent so much blood and treasure.
§ Mr. THOMAS
My difficulty at the moment is that, in the ordinary course, this Vote would have given an opportunity of a survey of the general situation. I should have preferred it not being taken to-day, so that the various Commissions I have appointed to consider the whole situation might have an opportunity of reporting to me, and I might have. availed myself of the opportunity to state a broad general policy dealing with the whole Colonial situation. But, this bring the Middle Eastern Vote, I am in duty bound to reply to the criticisms which have been made. I hope the opportunity will also he taken of this Vote to refer to a question which is equally important, in my judgment, namely, the position of our Dominions in International Conferences. I am disturbed over the situation, and I hope the Committee will give me an opportunity at a later stage to say something on that aspect of the question. Therefore, I am 1938 rising at this stage, as it were, to deal with the question of Iraq, and L hope not ruling out the opportunity of saying something on the other matter.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Does the right hon. Gentleman propose to make a statement later on this important issue?
§ Earl WINTERTON
In order to get this clear, I understand the question the right hon. Gentleman refers to—no one on this side has any objection to it being raised; indeed, I understand one of my right hon. Friends intended to raise it—will have to be on another Vote. What the right hon. Gentleman wants is that this Vote should come to an end at some period during the evening, if the Committee be willing, when the second question may be raised.
§ Mr. THOMAS
Yes, because this is cleanly a Vote on the Middle East, and it will not be in Order to raise the question at this stage. I understand the hon. and gallant Gentleman has moved his reduction, not because of any particular sin applicable to myself or to the Government, but because he seizes this opportunity to have a general fling at all Governments which have been responsible for Iraq. His speech and his action today can be summarised something like this: "All Governments in the past, including the Government with which I was associated when it was in power, were responsible for all manner of blunders. The reason for that is that they never availed themselves of my advice, and I am the only individual in a position to seize this opportunity to blame everybody in power, and the present Government is merely a side issue."
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
Nothing of the sort. I voted against the other Governments, and I am consistent in this, that I shall probably vote against this Government as well.
§ Mr. THOMAS
I know the hon. and gallant Gentleman is explaining his consistency and everyone else's inconsistency.
1939 That is the fact to which I was drawing attention. I do not blame him in the least. But whatever may be the complaint, let us not make debating points on this issue, because things said in the present position of Iraq may not be understood in the same sense there as we understand them in this House. Whatever may have been the reasons for going into Iraq—I know there are differences of opinion; I have heard the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) argue that we never ought to have gone beyond Basra. I have heard the argument against him that it would be absurd, having gone to Basra, to remain there, and not go beyond it. I have heard it argued that the one and only reason was the protection of the Persian Gulf. What I want to make clear is that, whatever may have been the reason, it was a war reason. It was a military necessity and justifiable, under the circumstances, in the view of those who were responsible at that time. That shortly is the situation.
In giving effect to that, certain clear and definite pledges were made, and the position we find ourselves in to-day is precisely that in which any other Government would find itself, and they would he brought right up against this fact. Never mind whether you agree with the original policy. Never mind whether it was good or bad. Whatever may have been said on that aspect of the question, if pledges were given to the Arab population, can any Government, however much they may not be responsible. for the initial policy, take the responsibility of repudiating it? That, in a few words, is a summary of the situation, and that is exactly the position that we found ourselves in as a Government. if that be the fact, if those were the promises genuinely made in the name of the British people, I put it to the Committee that what we have to do is to say how far we can honourably give effect to our pledged word, without taking an unreasonable unconstitutional line or inflicting injustice upon anyone else. I come immediately to the charge made by the hon. and gallant Gentleman. Why he should have given a kind of preference to the "West-minister Gazette" I do not know, because on reading the "Westminster Gazette" 1940 yesterday I took that as being the key to the Debate to-day. I could almost name the writer of the article. I read it very carefully. In substance, the statement is this: When the Treaty was up for ratification, all manner of intimidation was brought to bear, it is implied at the instance of the Government, in order to ensure its ratification. Without going into details, I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman will accept that as the general statement of the article, and of what he said to-day.
§ Mr. THOMAS
The hon. and gallant Gentleman went a bit beyond it. He said, "I have barely stated what the article said, and I have understated what I said would happen." I can only state the action of the present Government. We knew there were going to be difficulties about the ratification of the Treaty. We knew of the opposition to the Treaty. We knew the agitation that was being worked up. With the support of every one of my colleagues, I gave clear and specific instructions that no threats of any sort were to be used to these people that we did not intend to carry out, because I was convinced that there had been too many threats made, with no intention of carrying them out, with the result that no notice was taken of our word. My clear and specific instructions, given acted upon throughout, were these: "Here is the Treaty. It is fulfilling an obligation. It is carrying out the promises made by the British people. It is carrying out the mandate of the League of Nations. It is open to you to ratify or otherwise. If you do not ratify it, we merely go to the League of Nations, and say, We have discharged our obligations, and it is for you to say what is to happen.' ". Those were the exact instructions given from first to last, and not only given, but anticipated by me, because I even went the length of warning the League of Nations in advance, so that the matter would be on the Agenda for the very next meeting, of the possibility of the rejection of the Treaty, and telling them clearly what the policy of the Government was to be.
I put it to my right hon. Friend, or any other Member of the House, could any Government act fairer than that? That 1941 was straight and honest to the Iraq people. That was saying to them, "We are going to be loyal, and discharge our obligations." That was saying to the League of Nations, "We have done our duty; it is for you to say what is to be the position in the future"; and it was saying to the whole of the world, " We are loyal to our pledge given by the British people." That is the answer I give to all this charge of intimidation. It is said that people did not turn up. People do not turn up to this House, but it is not always that they cannot turn up. It is sometimes not desirable that they should, and, therefore, I can only conclude that Members of Parliament there were no different from Members of Parliament here; and without any intimidation of any sort or kind, they did not find it desirable to turn up on that particular day. But the most significant fact is that at least a number of those who bitterly opposed the Treaty, who led the opposition to the Treaty—the principal leader at this moment is the Prime Minister, who, judging by my correspondence, shows every desire to be loyal, and I am quite sure believes the Treaty was the best thing that ever happened, and feels that he made a mistake when he opposed it. [An HON. MEMBER: "What is the price?"] I should say in his case it was the price of being Prime Minister. I do not know. I am stating the facts, and I am merely contenting myself with meeting the charge that we, the Government, were responsible. That is the charge made, and that is all I have got to answer. I answer it by saying that no kind of intimidation of any sort was brought. to bear so far as His Majesty's Government were concerned.
I come to the next question raised by my hon. Friend, and that was, what do I know about the oil? My answer is that I know about as much as he does, and that is nothing. I will tell him what I have endeavoured to ascertain with regard to the promise made to the Turkish Petroleum Company. As I understand the position, it is shortly this Originally, this was a concession between the Germans and ourselves. Then the War came the French took over the German part of the bargain, and it became a French and British 50–50 deal. The next stage, as I understand, was that America came in, and there was 1942 another division of a third each to America, France and ourselves. The next stage was that Italy came in, and it became 25 per cent. each. That was the position when last I ascertained it. I do. not know what it is at this moment, but we cannot get away from the fact that a promise of concession was made to thin company, that is the original company of two, which is now a company of four. That promise was repeated at Lausanne by Lord Curzon. As far as I understand, that has been made clear to the Iraq Government. If my hon. Friend puts the question to me, I do not think it is a good thing—and I say it. quite deliberately—that a concession should have been recognised to any one body. I have no hesitation in saying it ought to be left free to all. That is my own personal view of the situation, but I am dealing with the facts as they were.
That aspect of the question brings me at once to the question put by my hon. Friend as to what is the Government's position with regard to the frontier negotiations. Of course, I suppose it is true to say that the boring for oil in Mosul has some bearing, apparently, on that question, and the difficulty that we found ourselves in was shortly this: We attempted to settle the frontier, by direct negotiations, and failed. The next negotiations at Constantinople, when Sir Percy Cox represented us, came to nothing. Under the Treaty the question is now referred to the League of Nations, and the Foreign Office is dealing with the matter at this moment. It would be unwise, and, indeed, it would he dangerous for me to express a view at this stage of the negotiations. All I can say is that, as far as we are concerned, we hope to settle this matter amicably with the Turks. We believe it is capable of adjustment, and we are working in that direction. It is quite true, as my hon. Friend says, that as far as the cost of this Vote is concerned, it is unfairly borne by the Colonial Office.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
May I ask a question with regard to the subject of oil? Surely these negotiations were simply with regard to nationalities in the Mosul Vilayet, and oil did not figure in them at all?
§ Mr. THOMAS
What I explained very carefully was that the latest commitment 1943 was at Lausanne, when a promise was given to the Turkish Petroleum Company. As far as His Majesty's Government are concerned, we are negotiating on the question of the frontier, not on the basis of oil at all, but on the basis of trying to secure justice to everybody in that particular quarter, regardless of any oil interests. It is quite true, as I have already indicated, that this Vote was unfairly borne by the Colonial Office, but it is only fair to say that a tremendous reduction has taken place. For instance, when Mr. Churchill first introduced the Estimates in 1920, the total was £75,000,000 for 1919–20. It was £40,000,000 for 1920–21. For 1921–22, £29,000,000 was provided, and the actual expenditure was £27,000,000. In 1922–23, £11,000,000 was provided and £10,000,000 spent. In 1923–24, £8,673,000 was provided. The figures of the actual expenditure are not yet available, but we are satisfied there will be a saving. Please observe the difference between £75,000,000 in 1920, and £5,700,000 for the current year. Of this figure Palestine is responsible for nearly £1,000,000, and Iraq for £24,714,000.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
Can the right hon. Gentleman give us the figures of the total British expenditure in Iraq since the Armistice?
§ Mr. THOMAS
No: the right hon. Gentleman must total them up as I give them out. I have called attention to the main reduction. The only other point with which I want to deal is the question of the four years. I do not think anyone speaking from this bench can give any guarantee. I am quite sure my right hon. Friend would say, "Wait and see." We are committed to clearing out in four years. In the interval we are developing a situation there which all tends to show that we can get out in four years, but it would be equally dangerous for me to say that we could get out in four years, and then something should arise which would alter the whole situation. Therefore, I am not going to say it. We hope to get. out, and we intend to get out, if we are here, and if you will keep us here we will get out. It is only if you make the mistake of not keeping us here that you will be responsible. We hope to get out, but we want to leave the country honourably. We are making provision for the officers to whom we are under an obliga 1944 tion. There is a number of British officers who are taking service under the Iraq Government. We must accept the responsibility for them should anything go wrong. We do not think there is a liability, but, if there be, it is a liability we ought to take, and not throw upon the individuals. I have not pretended to know the history of Iraq, or pretended to know very much about it. I have merely given to the Committee a general statement as I understand it. I am satisfied my hon. Friends will say we are carrying on their policy, that my hon. Friends here will say we are doing better than they did, and that my hon. Friend who moved the reduction will say, "I am glad I moved the reduction, because I have now got all the information I want."
§ Mr. WARDLAW MILNE
Although I entirely support the right hon. Gentleman's desire, as I am sure the whole Committee do, to give time for the important matters which require to be discussed to-day, I think if he had seen fit to wait a little longer he would possibly have been able to answer one or two other questions by Members who are interested in that part of the world. The right hon. Gentleman did not reply entirely to the very important questions raised by my hon. Friend, in regard to railways and other matters of that kind. In view of what the right hon. Gentleman said, I do not in the least want to press him for any very definite statement at the present moment with regard to the question of frontiers, nor do I want to follow him in regard to the suggestion that if the Labour Government are in power, or in office, there is a certainty that we shall clear out of Iraq in four years. It will be noticed that the right hon. Gentleman made two statements which, if I may say so without offence, rather contradicted each other. He began by saying—very wisely, I think—that no one could state definitely when it was possible for us to get out, but that everyone hoped to get out in four years. He went on to say that if the House would guarantee that the Labour Government would be in power four years hence, they would get out of Iraq—two very different statements.
The responsible members of the Constituent Assembly of Bagdad place enormous importance upon the question of Mosul. It is no use our wasting time 1945 talking about it from the standpoint of oil. It has nothing whatever to do with oil. I do not think there. is any difference of opinion in this House that we went to Mesopotamia for reasons utterly different from and utterly opposed to any question of oil or anything of that sort. [HON. MEMBERS: "Question!"] Hon. Members opposite are entitled to their own opinions, but if they will read the history of the times they will realise that there can be no question of our having gone there for such an ulterior purpose. The. position to-day is this, that Mosul is entirely dependent upon Bagdad and Bagdad is entirely dependent upon Mosul. The hon. Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) said that it was possible that raids might be made upon Mosul and that there was no possibility of any protection. That is con trary to facts. There is an impassable barrier, but that does not mean that it is impossible for raids to be made, because even across a so-called impassable barrier raids can be made. We speak of an impassable barrier in the North of India, but we know that raids have been made there from time immemorial.
If Mosul is to remain part of Iraq, then immediately we are faced with the important question as to the possibility of the Government of that country in the future protecting its own frontier. The whole question of the frontier and of Mosul belonging to Iraq depends entirely upon what the Government of King Feisal can do in the future to maintain an army capable of protecting their own frontier. I do not want to enter into the question of negotiations. I have no doubt that the Turks will put forward many imaginary claims regarding Mosul, as in fact they have already done. Certainly 40 percent. at least of the normal population of Mosul are non-Turkish. That 40 percent. will, in my opinion, if the country is to be handed over to the Turks, be driven out. There is no doubt about it that the non-Turkish population will be forced out if Mosul is to be returned to the Turkish Government. That population wishes to remain in its own villayet.
The Treaty terminates upon the entry of Iraq into the League of Nations. I do not know when that may take place, but there is no reason why it should be long delayed. The military agreement between this country and Iraq does not, however, 1946 depend upon the period of our occupation. That is a matter which is not always recognised. The question of the military agreement between this country and Iraq continues after the period of four years. It is on that point that I would have liked to press the right hon. Gentleman to give us sonic information, and, if he has an opportunity before the Debate ends, I should like him to tell us his view as to what is going to happen in that connection.
This is not in any sense a party matter. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman when he said that it is not a question of the present Government having carried out the policy of their predecessors, or the late Government having carried out the policy of their predecessors. We went into Mesopotamia, as the right hon. Gentleman said, for definite war reasons, and we have to stay there until we can ensure that the Government of King Feisal can carry on safely and satisfactorily and hold its own among the nations of the world. That is not a thing that can be done in a moment. It is ridiculous to expect an assembly like that at Bagdad to function, satisfactorily in a moment. Some of its members are people who, as they say themselves, have not the ability to read or write. It was stated by one of the most eminent of the Bedouin chiefs, who bears one of the most famous names in Eastern Arabia, that he was more than anxious to work amicably for the future of this most wonderful land. It is not only a question of these particular people from the outlying districts, but there are vast numbers of people in the towns, highly educated communities, Jews, Christians, and others, who are also vitally interested in the future of Iraq.
We have to take up this position, that until we are satisfied that the future peace of Arabia can be maintained without our troops, and without our support, we have to remain there sufficiently long to support the Government of that country for our own sake, as well as theirs. It is not only for the sake of Iraq but it is for our own sake. The whole peace of the world depends, in my opinion, largely upon peace in the Near East. That peace, again, depends largely upon whether in Mesopotamia we have a settled peaceful country, and not a country in a state of continual unrest.
1947 It is no use looking at the position from the point of view of what would have happened if we had remained there permanently. That is not now the question. A practical Government, such as the British Government would set up, working efficiently, is not likely ever to be popular in the East. Reference has been made to the collection of taxes to-day. In the old days the collection of taxes in Mesopotamia was a case of bargaining and haggling with the Government official. He was sent there to collect taxes by a system of asking for 12 or 100 times the amount to which the Government were really entitled, and goodness knows how many times more than he ever expected to get. It was a delightful system of bargaining and haggling, which went on for a couple of weeks or so, and in which the great sheiks, even, were accustomed to take part bargaining and haggling well on into the night, as to what they were to pay. In the end they paid a small fraction of what was asked of them, but probably all that the Government was entitled to get. Everybody was entirely happy under that system. It was a system which they liked and understood. Therefore, a system by which the Government demands exactly the amount to which it is entitled is not understood and is not appreciated.
A great deal has been made of this question of oil. Personally, I am not the least interested whether there is or is not oil in Iraq. We did not go there for oil, and I do not suggest that we should stay there a day longer than is necessary for all the oil there is. There are, however, marvellous possibilities in that country. It is well not to exaggerate the position, but certainly it is a country of great possibilities. It is a country where an enormous population was supported on the land in days gone by, and there can be no doubt that that could be done again. There are wonderful traces of great irrigation works there which show what has been done in the past, but Turkish misrule for nearly 1,000 years has utterly destroyed its prosperity. There is a possibility that the salt which was the great drawback in Sind and in other parts of India where great irrigation works were in progress may also have had some effect in Mesopotamia. No doubt great crops of cotton and other things could be grown there.
1948 The interest I have in the country is simply and solely to ensure peace in the East. It is essential that we should have a peaceful country in Eastern Arabia. It is not essential that it should be British, but it is essential that it should be peaceful, and we can only get that by supporting the Government of King Feisal until be can stand alone. That is not, I hope, going to be a long process. The progress so far has been wonderful, considering the conditions. We cannot leave the country until the position arises that we feel that it is safe to stand apart and leave King Feisal to manage affairs for himself.
In Iraq and the countries surrounding you have, in view of the rapid development of communications in the future, the most wonderful point. in the whole surface of the globe—a point at which it, is more than likely all the great air routes of the future across the world will cross each other. From the point of view of the development of the East and the security of our own Empire in the East we cannot afford to forget that across that district between Bagdad and Damascus there will practically cross all the great air routes of the world, from Petrograd in the North to Cape Town in the South, and from Great Britain or Hamburg right across to Singapore. Mesopotamia was the place where history began, and it may well be the place where history will end. It is going to hold the same place of importance in the future that it held in the past.
Large numbers of nations have penetrated into Mesopotamia in past centuries, o and it is a curious thing that none of them have lasted unless they have had hold of each end of the chain, the Persian Gulf at one end argil the Mediterranean at the other end. I do not know what may happen in the future when we are splitting up the country as is being done at the present time, but of one thing I am certain, and that is that we must hold on there, not only for the sake of Iraq itself, and not only for the sake of the People of that country, but for the sake of our own pledges and for the sake of peace in the East.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
From what I could gather from the speech of the Colonial Secretary, the politicians in Iraq seem to have a very elastic political conscience. A gentleman, who fought very much 1949 against the ratification of the Treaty, has changed his mind, and has now become a. fervid admirer of the Treaty. I want to be perfectly certain that the elastic conscience does not extend to the Treasury Bench. I remember that the Labour party voted en bloc for the Amendment which I moved that we should come away from Iraq as soon as possible. Are they going back on their word? Do they propose to remain in Iraq for some indefinite time? I do net want in the least to press the right hen. Gentleman or the Government, but I do press for some kind of settled policy. The Colonial Secretary was good enough to tell me to tot up the tens of millions of pounds that has been spent in Iraq. I have done so, and as far as I can make out, the total comes to about £150,000,000.
How long is that expenditure to go on? We are told that it may go on for an indefinite time. No one knows the time. I want to get a more clear idea of what are to he the British commitments in Iraq. The right hon. Gentleman talked airily and with a considerable amount of -rhetoric about our pledged word. What is our pledged word? What are our responsibilities in Iraq? The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down said that we must stay there until King Feisal is firmly established, but is he firmly established? Is he likely to be firmly established? Has he to-day the goodwill of the people, of Iraq? I do not know. The right hon. Gentleman has not told us. I ask that we should have some idea of what we are doing. Our responsibilities in Iraq at the present moment are very great. As I understand, we are there to defend the Mosul vilayet against any district. Mosul is 800 miles from the Persian Gulf. Do we realise what that means for the British taxpayer? I read an article some time ago by a distinguished military expert, General Sir William Robertson, who pointed out clearly the responsibilities which the British were undertaking in pledging themselves to defend the Mosul vilayet against any enemy. He said:Most people condemn the Mesopotamian commitment on the ground of expense, but it is equally to ho condemned on the ground of Imperial security.That is what I am thinking about. Hon. Gentlemen opposite are always pressing the Government to spend more money upon these far away enterprises. You 1950 cannot have a reduction of taxation unless you have a reduction of expenditure, and if you are going to throw your money away on Iraq, and on all these wild schemes, then you cannot have a reduction of taxation in this country. We know that our industry is being crippled by the terrific amount of taxation, and that being so, why not limit our responsibilities in these places?
The right hon. Gentleman gave the figures showing that there is a continuous reduction in the amount of our expenditure.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
I know that, but the point is, when is the expenditure going to end? My hon. Friend must believe me that I am genuinely anxious as to what may happen 800 miles from the Persian Gulf. If you have to defend Mosul by British arms, what is going to be the end of it? One knows that the whole Bagdad expedition was one long blunder. It was a blunder to go there. It was condemned by the greatest military experts of the day. The Government. went there against their advice. General Sir William Robertson stated that he was against the advance to Bagdad. But political considerations entered into the matter and we had the advance to Bagdad. When is all this going to end? What is the position in Bagdad? It is stated plainly that King Feisal is not supported by his people, and he is there simply through the support of British armed forces. Do they collect taxes by dropping bombs? The hon. Gentleman who represents the Air Ministry said explicity the other day that they had not changed the policy of the late Government.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that he said that they were dropping bombs in Iraq. He said,whether there are any casualties, I do not know.I do not suppose that the airmen can know. They drop their bombs, but they do not drop them in the sand. If they did, they would not have any moral effect in the collection of taxes. But the hon. Gentleman stated frankly that the Government are not reversing the policy 1951 of the late Government with regard to Iraq. If that be so, they have an elastic conscience, for when they are in office they say one thing, and when they are out of office they say another. I do not want to embarrass the Government, but I do ask that we shall know where we are. What is the position to-day between King Feisal and his subjects? Is he there because the British are there with their armed forces? When are we to get out of this country? I have not the smallest doubt as to what I should do. I should clear out as soon as possible. I do not believe that the British ought to under take this great commitment. It is seriously menacing the security of India. Our Indian frontier is north of Mosul, instead of being on the Himalayas. Therefore I want a clear definition from the Government as to what is their policy. If they are going on with a policy of staying in Iraq indefinitely, they will break the pledge which they made to the House of Commons, and which they made to their own constituents in the country.
Lieut.-Colonel T. WILLIAMS
I have listened with a certain amount of depression to the Debate this afternoon. I had thought that every party more or less in this country had decided that we ought to get, out of Iraq as soon as we possibly could. My experience in Iraq dates back many years. I only mentioned this point so as to give some reason for thinking that my opinion may be worth while. I went to Iraq first, to Bagdad, in 1904. I was one of four who were sent. by Lord Curzon to that part of Asia to carry out. propaganda against the Russians. For two years I travelled up and down the Turkish frontier and in Kurdistan and Armenia. Altogether, I have spent from 1904 to 1909 in that part. of the world in very intimate touch with those people, and I was there again during the War. I can assure the House that this Debate has been very unreal. We have been discussing things without any real appreciation of the situation in Iraq. The fact is that we have an absolutely artificial position. I think that the policy of staying there, adopted after the War, was a great mistake. I said so at the time in the light of my previous expreience, and I think our whole policy has been a mistake.
Everyone who knows about the situation in Iraq at the present moment and the 1952 history of the putting of King Feisal on the throne, knows that the position is a purely artificial one which is supported by British arms. It might be argued that you could in a certain time develop there a Government that could stand by itself. In four years I think that it is impossible. In 20 years I believe it to equally impossible. Anyone who knows anything about the Arab Government. and the tribal government which exists—there are only two towns of any size in Iraq—and the sort of government which these people have had, will agree with me that it is impossible to expect that you are going to establish a government there which will remain a steady government and which will give adequate protection to all the people. My own opinion is—people may say that I am pro-Turk when I say this—that two years and more under the Turks gave Iraq a very reasonable government which Iraq could support financially, and my opinion is that the Turks should come back to Iraq, and that in the inevitable march of events something of that sort will occur.
But I have not risen to discuss this question of Iraq. This little Eastern Vote covers a fairly wide area, and all the various countries concerned are intimately connected. You cannot separate any particular country. I realise the difficulty of the Colonial Secretary. I realise that he has had to take over the inheritance of past Governments. We know that he has been trying very largely to clear up some of the results which have been forced upon us by the Coalition Government, of which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) was the head. Therefore, I wish to say that I appreciate the difficulties of the Colonial Secretary and of the Government. But it is very necessary that those of us who have intimate knowledge of that part of the world should not lose any occasion of bringing the facts before the Government, and urging upon them the necessity of reconsidering the attitude which they have adopred.
As far as Iraq, Trans-Jordania and Arabia are concerned. I believe that the Government are honestly trying to get out of our responsibilities there. But there is one part of the world where they have accepted the policy of past. Governments, and are as definitely committed to the policy of past Governments as they could well be, and that is in Palestine, 1953 and I wish on this Vote to raise the question of Palestine and to ask the Colonial Secretary—I do not expect to convince him—to reconsider the whole situation. If you look at the Near and Middle East one may truthfully say that in general we have now come round to a policy of consulting, and trying to pursue a policy in accordance with the wishes of, the inhabitants of those countries, but there is one exception, and that exception is Palestine.
In Palestine we are definitely ignoring the wishes of the people of the country and the policy which we are pursuing is a policy designed to carry out the desires of international jewry, and you are up against the definite proposition that you have in Palestine a policy pursued contrary to the desires of the inhabitants. I hope that the House will alow me to recapitulate very briefly the facts about Palestine. Everyone knows that the population of Palestine is predominantly Mahommedan. The population is about 750,000. Of these 650,000 are Mahommedans. About 50,000 or 60,000 are Christians, and the balance are Jews. There is no doubt that the Mahommedans and Christians are intensely hostile to the whole Zionist policy in Palestine. A considerable number of orthodox Jews in Palestine are also hostile to the policy. Over 90 percent. of the people of Palestine are hostile to the policy which we are pursuing.
We must remember that these people in Palestine, whether Jews, Moslem or Christian, are very largely the original inhabitants of Palestine. Events changed their religion. The original inhabitants, who had become Jews, under the Roman Empire became Christians, and under the Arab Empire became Mahommedans. The large majority of these people are in their national home. Outside Palestine you have a population of Jews of from 11,000,000 to 14,000,000. The policy that is being pursued in Palestine is in the interests of those 11,000,000 to 14,000,000. That policy is based on a Declaration, the Balfour Declaration of 1917. It is one of those declarations which one. would rather expect from the Government of that day, because it can be read several ways. It is quite possible, indeed, for the present Government to alter its policy, and I do not think that anyone could take exception 1954 to it under that Declaration. This is what the Declaration says:His Majesty's Government views with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for Jewish people and will use its best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, …Here a qualification is introduced. The declaration goes on:…. it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.It is common knowledge to everyone that the speeches of the Zionists and the actions which were taken in Palestine did justify the inhabitants of Palestine in assuming that the policy to be pursued was to control Palestine in the interest of the Jews until the Jews became a majority in the country, when the Government could be handed over to them for Jewish control. It is in the recollection of the House that various events occurred as a reaction to that policy. It is quite true that, seeing the impossibility of forcing that policy upon the people of the country without an enormous exhibition of force, we have latterly been pursuing a policy which is much more moderate. That is admitted. But still we will not change our policy and admit that we made a mistake, and that we are definitely going to run the country in the interests of the Arab inhabitants, whether Christian, Jew or Moslem. We have brought the country to such, a state, that I am assured by friends whose opinion I value, who have had great experience in the East, that the people of Palestine are now so fed up that they would welcome the Turks back. I can well believe it.
The issue really is, shall Palestine be run in the interest of its present inhabitants or in the interests of international Jewry? I submit that we should have no hesitation in saying that the idea behind political Zionism is unsound, unworkable and against the best interests of the Jews themselves. There is no doubt that many Jews realise that fact. Mr. Morgenthau, the American Ambassador at Constantinople, characterised the Zionist desires as a disaster for the Jews. That statement is certain to turn out to be the case. The present policy is obviously a policy of controlling the country in the interest of 1955 a privileged minority. I put it to the Minister that, at any rate, that is a policy contrary to the principles of our party. If it is to be supported there must be some very strong overriding arguments to justify it. When you press the supporters of Zionism into a corner on this question they generally fall back on two lines of argument. One is that the Jews are a Palestinian race who were exiled from Palestine and have been persecuted ever since, and that they ought to be allowed to return. The second is that the return of these Western Jews, with their ideas of progress, will cause such great improvement and raise the standard of the people of Palestine so much, that the policy will be of great benefit to the people of Palestine themselves.
I will deal with the second argument first. Those who know the East will agree that one of the great troubles between us and the East is our thinking that our ideas of progress must be suitable for the East. Eastern peoples do not appreciate our ideas of progress. I am satisfied to let the inhabitants of Palestine remain in the agricultural and pastoral conditions in which they live. I have lived in those conditions myself, and I think they are just as pleasant to live in as our Western conditions. If the people like them, it is no argument to say that they ought to he glad to benefit by some other system to which they have never been accustomed. Now I come to my strongest argument against the whole policy. That is the question, Are the Jews a race exiled from Palestine? If they are not, I submit that the whole case for Zionism falls to the ground. I want to bring forward some arguments, mainly from Jewish sources, that they are not a race. The first evidence I would give is my own. I am a doctor. I have spent 23 years in all the countries concerned—in Russia, the Balkans, Turkey, Persia, India and Arabia—and I have examined Jews from an anthropological point of view, and I have always been struck by the very great differences of race that obviously occur. Last year I went to the Near East specially to look at the Spanish Jews of Salonika and the Jews in Galatz. Anyone who saw them would agree that they obviously are different races. A study of other religions shows that it is extremely unlikely that 1956 a religion could have spread in this way by migration of peoples, and then that there should have been such great increase in their population. The evidence of other religions supported the assumption that probably this great spread of Judaism in all these countries was due to Proselytism, as it had been in the case of all other great religions—Christianity, Mohammedanism, Bhuddism and the rest. But when one comes to history also, one finds that it is so. It is not generally believed to be so.
Of course, I cannot bore the House with a great deal of evidence, but I want to give evidence for each statement from Jewish sources. This is a short extract from a History of the Jews by Paul Goodman, a strong Zionist:While Judaism was, on the one side, suffering from losses occasioned by the absorption of a number of its members among their pagan neighbours, and, on the other, by the ultimate secession of the adherents of Jesus of Nazareth, large accessions to the ranks were taking place by numerous conversions to the faith of Israel. It is an old and still current misconception that Judaism is averse to the incorporation of strangers within its midst. But it is an entirely erroneous idea that the Jews are opposed to proselytism out of sheer tribal exclusiveness. Apart from the assimilation of the autochthonous population of Palestine and the forced conversion of the Edomites, Judaism acquired numerous adherents from among the various nations with which it came into contact from the time of the Babylonian captivity till the rise of the Christian Empire of Rome …. you find Jewish proselytes all over the Roman Empire and in neighbouring Parthica.If any Member wishes to pursue this subject he will find any amount of evidence, from Jewish authors themselves, that the Jews know this fact, that their adherents all over the world are the descendants of proselytes. They will be able to confirm my various statements. Being convinced that the Jews are the descendants of proselytes, when you come to examine the position of Jews in the world you find that tine-tenths of them outside Palestine are in Russia and Central Europe. You naturally ask how they came there. Again history gives an indication. It is a known historical fact that there was a very large Empire in Southern Russia, the Empire of Khazar, which was converted wholly to judaism. The Emperor of the Khazar, the grandees and the various large masses of the population were converted to Judaism 1957 The Khazar Empire stretched through Bulgaria to the Caspian, from the Black Sea right up into Russia. I will give a small extract from a Jewish Encyclopaedia on this point:It was probably about that time that the Emperor of the Khazar and his grandees, together with a large number of his heathen people, embraced the Jewish religion.That is not all the evidence. There is more that will help; there is the anthropological evidence. If you turn to the science of anthropology and examine what the results show you will find" that the real Jew, the Jew of Palestine, who is an Arab, belongs to one of the longest headed races in the world. The Jews of Russia, are one of the broadest headed races in the world. Anyone wishing to pursue this subject can get the evidence.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
On a point of Order. May I ask whether this discussion regarding the anthropological aspect of the question would not be more appropriate on the Vote for the Ministry of Health, and the reference to Russia more appropriate on the Foreign Office Vote than on the Vote of the Colonial Office?
§ The DEPUTY - CHAIRMAN (Mr. Entwistle)
The hon. and gallant Member is giving a rather detailed history of the race, but I understand that he is giving reasons why the policy of the Government should be altered. I hope that he will not go into too great detail.
§ 6.0 P. M.
I am sorry if I have gone into too great detail. It is obvious that my case rests upon this—that the Jews outside Palestine are not a Palestinian race. Therefore, it is necessary for me to give some evidence that I am not merely expressing a pious opinion. I will give the Committee only one further extract to show that there is anthropological evidence in favour of what I say. This is from a book on "The Races of Europe" by a distinguished anthropologist:The original Semitic stock must have been in origin strongly dolichocephalic, that is to say African as the Arabs are to-day; from which it follows naturally that about nine-tenths of the living Jews are as widely different in head form from the parent stock as they well could be. The boasted purity of descent of the Jews is, then, a myth. Renan is right after ali 1958 in his assertion that the ethnographic significance of the word 'Jew,' for the Russian and Danubian branch at least, long ago ceased to exist.That concludes my evidence. I am sorry if I have bored the Committee, but I considered it necessary to support my statements by some evidence, and if any hon. Member wishes to pursue the subject further I shall be very glad to show him a great deal of further evidence. The case against Zionism rests on the fact that in Palestine you find a people who are in their national home, and it does not matter whether they are Christians, Jews or Mahommedans. Outside Palestine you have 11,000,000 people who claim Palestine as their national home and who are ready to go back there, whatever the people of Palestine may think at the present moment. My point is that, historically and generally, all the evidence goes to show that the Jews outside Palestine are not the descendants of people who ever came out of Palestine; that Palestine is not their national home, but that their national home is in Southern Russia and Central Asia. If I am right in my contention, it is obvious you are acting most, unjustly in subordinating the wishes of these poeple who are in their national home to the wishes of people whose national home it never was.
§ Earl WINTERTON
The speech which the hon. and gallant Gentleman has just delivered is the sort of speech which is exceedingly grateful to a party anxious to keep off the decision on any particular Vote, and as I am sure the hon. and gallant Gentleman has not made the speech for that reason, I can only congratulate him, in the name of the Committee, on being such an enthusiastic and expert anthropologist. At the same time, he will not think it out of place if I observe that his references to the Jewish race and to his dislike for their racial characteristics, belong to the class of speech in regard to which one ought to exercise great care.
I am not aware that in my speech I expressed any dislike of the Jewish race. I am an anti-Zionist, but large numbers of Jews themselves are anti-Zionists.
§ Earl WINTERTON
Let me put it differently. When the hon. and gallant Gentleman observes—as he did, because 1959 it was the whole basis of his argument—that the Jews are not a race, I should, if I may do so without impertinence, advise him to use that argument with considerable care in some circles in this country, because I do not think it would be very popularly received. What struck me about the hon. and gallant Gentleman's speech was that he delivered what I can only describe as a very elaborate attack upon Zionism in Palestine on the ground of the impossibility of reconciling the aspirations of Zionism with the aspirations of Arab and Christian nationalism in that territory, and yet neither the hon. and gallant Gentleman nor any one who Spoke from those benches either above or below the Gangway, except the Secretary of State for the Colonies, has put the case which I propose to put to the Committee for Arab nationalism or nationality—whichever you like to call it—in Iraq itself.
I hope the Committee will accept from me the assurance, which is perfectly sincere, that I speak solely from the point of view of a supporter of Arab nationalism and nationality, not only because as it happens, I am a close personal friend of King Feisal and members of his former and present Governments, but because I had the privilege and advantage of serving as a comrade-in-arms with him during the campaign in 1918. From those years onwards I have been a strong adherent of Arab nationalism both in the House of Commons and on platforms in the country, and I have advocated giving a chance to Arab nationalism to find a home for itself in some part of the Middle East. It is from that point of view I propose to address myself to the Committee now. In the first place, while I am quite prepared to say that opponents of the Arabs are, or were, to be found in all parties, I challenge anyone in the Committee to deny that this country as a whole, and not merely any party in this country, is deeply pledged to provide a national home for the Arabs, and that when one speaks of providing a national home for the Arabs the main location must be in the historic Mesopotamian territory. There can surely be no difference of opinion about that. All parties are pledged to it, and when the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) makes a speech which in some parts seems anti-Turk and 1960 in others anti-Arab, in some parts anti-Conservative and in other parts—if I may use the expression—anti-the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), let me say that to my mind all these matters are of very small importance compared with the central fact that we are pledged as much as any people could be pledged, not one party but the whole nation, to set up an Arab nation under our auspices.
If we are all agreed upon that point let me go to my next point. I agree fully with the hon. and gallant Gentleman—I know his opinion of the matter from previous speeches—that great mistakes were made by the Coalition Government in the year of the Armistice and the years immediately following. There was an attempt to graft upon Iraq a form of government wholly alien to that country, the sort of government which existed in India before the days of the reforms, a Government which the Arabs certainly did not want, for which they could not pay and which cost more than this country could possibly afford. Then better counsels prevailed and it was decided that our support of the youthful Arab nation in Iraq must be as slender as circumstances permitted or, in other words, that as soon as the nation could stand upon its own feet we mint withdraw military and financial aid. The result of that policy is to be seen in the state of affairs to-day and in the very striking decrease in expenditure for the present year compared with the year 1919–20 or even the year 1920–21. To listen to a speech such as that made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Molten (Mr. Lambert) one would suppose this country had no commitment of any kind. The right hon. Gentleman said if he were dictator he would clear out of that country as soon as possible. That may be his view, and to do him justice it has been his view since the Armistice, but he ignores the fact that not only the Members of the party on this side but Members of his own party, and at any rate some Members of the Glove-nil-tent party were committed to the policy in the later stages of the War of setting up a national Arab state in Iraq. It is absurd for the right hon. Gentleman to say that he would clear out as soon as possible. Does the right hon. Gentleman and his party believe in the importance of a pledge given on behalf of the whole people of this 1961 country or not? Do they say that while it is true this country gave a pledge, yet if we find it inconvenient to carry out the pledge because it may cost more money than we anticipated, we should then get—out? Is that their attitude?
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
Surely our pledge was to free the Arabs from the rule of the Turks. How are we doing that by keeping a bureaucracy and an army of our own?
§ Earl WINTERTON
I am very glad the hon. and gallant Member has intervened, because that is the kind of interruption which I welcome. I was going on to deal with that very matter. Does any sane person, who has any knowledge of the Near East, either from being on the spot or from reading what has occurred there in the last six years, say that if we, at the time of the Armistice, had withdrawn our military and air forces from Iraq, the Arabs alone would have been able to maintain that country against the Turks.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
We withdrew from the Hedjaz and left a government there in being. Why could not we withdraw from Iraq?
§ Earl WINTERTON
Perhaps, as I was with the Northern Arab Army during the War, the hon. and gallant Member will allow me to correct his history. We have never been in the Hedjaz. Except for seven or eight British officers, of whom I was one, and an armoured car company which went, largely, to protect those officers, there was never a single British soldier in the Hedjaz. The hon. and gallant Gentleman should not betray his complete ignorance of the course of events in the Near East in that way. Does he really draw any military comparison between conditions in Iraq and conditions in the Hedjaz? What were the conditions of Iraq? By a series of exploits almost unparalleled even in the last War, as regards sacrifice and heroism on the part of the troops of this country, we succeeded in bringing that country, which is 90 per cent. Arab or Kurdish, from beneath the yoke of the Turk under which it had groaned for so many years. After we had done that the Arabs, through their accredited representatives, asked us to allow them to set up a national government in that country. While it is true 1962 that certain events occurred immediately after the Armistice, due I think to mistakes in policy and to the belief that we were going to annex Iraq to the British Empire, there is no single Arab of any importance in Iraq who holds the view that without British assistance it would have been possible for the Arabs to have prevented the Turks from coming back to that country immediately after we had withdrawn. Nobody could take such a view on the plain military facts of the situation.
What is the problem with which the Coalition and subsequent Governments have been faced? Knowing the feeling in this country, which is undoubtedly strong against entangling commitments in Iraq; realising that we have neither the money nor the men to maintain ourselves in that country except as a support of the young Arab Government until such time as that Government can stand upon its own legs, we entered into a treaty or arrangement or endeavoured to enter into a treaty or arrangement with the Government of that country through its accredited representatives. I, personally, as a sincere. well-wisher of the Arabs and a great friend of many Arab statesmen, resent as much as anyone can resent, the sneering and slighting references made by the hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull to the action of their assembly in discussing the treaty. I think those references will be very ill received in that country. Wherever else the hon. and gallant Gentlemen's name is honoured as a supporter of small nationalities it will not be in Iraq. His general attitude is that of a protector of all young nationalities and I understand that people travel from the farthest quarters of Russia in order to have the great privilege and advantage of interviewing the hon. and gallant Gentleman.
§ Earl WINTERTON
On the contrary, there were a great many small nationalities in Russia who have been entirely wiped out by the hon. and gallant Gentleman's friends the Bolsheviks. Whatever may be his attitude to small nationalities generally, I do not think the people of Iraq will be grateful for his intervention this afternoon. I defy anyone in this Committee to suggest any other line than that 1963 which the late Government and the present Government have taken and are taking in the matter of Iraq. We are reducing our commitments there as quickly as we can. We have been, and we are, urging the Arab Government in that country to fit themselves, not only to govern their country from an internal point of view, but to protect it from external aggression. I hope and believe—I believe there are many things which are hopeful, even in that country, where so many hopes have been blighted—that that country will, in a very few years, be in a position to protect and defend itself, and I believe that., when that day is reached, the chance of trouble over the Mosul Vilayet, or any other part of the Northern frontier, will be very much less than it is to-day. There is that danger to-day, and I do not. want to say anything about that, because I think it is far better that the question of the arrangements to be made with regard to Mosul should be left where they were left by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman.
I have only one other word to say, and that is that I think it is very desirable that we should at the earliest opportunity have from the Government an authoritative statement as to their attitude with regard to the ratification of the Treaty, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman, ignoring certain aspects of the Debate this afternoon, will accept. as the expression of this Committee and, I believe, of an overwhelming majority of the country outside, the opinion that the Treaty should be ratified, and that we should continue to hold out the hand of friendship that we have always held out to the people of Mesopotamia. I feel very deeply on this subject, in which I have been interested for many years, and if we can, as I believe we can, help this young Arab State to take its part in the comity of nations, we shall, at any rate in one part of the world since the War, have done an act which will not only be of great benefit to our own prestige, but will show that, not for the first time, the attitude of this great country towards countries in other parts of the world, and especially towards young countries, is one of help and assistance, and not of aggression and defiance, and, further, we shall have obtained for ourselves the 1964 friendship of a Power in the Middle East which may be of great value to us in years to come.
§ Mr. THOMAS
The Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) has asked, Does the Government intend to treat this Vote and this discussion as being sufficient in itself to warrant them in ratifying the Treaty Certainly. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) referred to a promise made by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs. That promise meant, and could only mean, that before a Treaty was ratified, an opportunity such as this would be given to the House to discuss it. I would put to my hon. and gallant Friend two points on that. This is the only opportunity that the House could have during this Session.
§ Mr. THOMAS
Because the House will be rising at the end of next week, and no opportunity, so far as Government business is concerned, could be given.
§ Mr. THOMAS
My hon. and gallant Friend knows very well that the other day would be Saturday or Monday, and that there would be serious objections to either. Besides, I cannot conceive of my hon. and gallant Friend making an abler speech on this matter than he has made to-day, and if we take that as being the measure of his criticism, I ask him, in common fairness, whether this does not present the opportunity without the need for another. At all events, as far as the Government are concerned, they intend to treat this as giving the necessary authority for ratifying the Treaty. I want to refer to one other point. The interests in the Turkish Petroleum Company are 25 per cent. Anglo-Persian, 25 per cent. Royal Dutch-Shell, 25 per cent. French, and 25 per cent. American promised. There are no Italian interests at present.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
There is a much more important matter. Will the right hon. Gentleman answer the question of the position of this Rider added by the Constituent Assembly and also what our position, will be if we accept 1965 the Rider, which says we have to incorporate Mosul within the boundaries of Iraq, if the League of Nations, to which this matter has been referred, decide against them that Mosul shall go to the Turk? What is the position of the Government then? We really do not know the situation at all as regards that point.
§ Mr. THOMAS
In answer to a question put by my hon. and gallant Friend a few weeks ago, I made it perfectly clear that the Government were not bound by the Rider, and he now follows that up by saying: What will the Government do if the League of Nations decide against us? Our answer to the League of Nations is that we have discharged our mandate. That is clear, as far as we are concerned. I do not anticipate difficulties with the League, but I do anticipate difficulties if this matter be held up, because, if my suggestion be not given effect to, that would he interpreted by all the enemies, both of the Treaty and of this country, as expressing the House of Commons opposition to it. It will not he correct, it will not he true, for any such interpretation to be made, and that is the reason why I ask the Committee clearly to understand that the passing of this Vote will be accepted by the Government as giving them the necessary authority to ratify.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
Does the King of Iraq accept this Rider? Does he consider himself bound by it? Here we have a Constituent Assembly adding a Rider, and my right hon. Friend says he does not accept the Rider. If Mosul is given, not to Iraq, as I suggest might well happen, the Constituent Assembly of Iraq will say, "That is all right, we have no obligation under the Treaty." I say that that is a difficult position, and it has not been clarified by the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. T. JOHNSTON
With what was stated by the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) at the conclusion of his speech about the purpose for which the British Empire interferes with small nationalities, I have no quarrel. I have no quarrel with the ideal which the sentence expressed. But some of my friends and I would like very much if, in a Debate of this kind, we could have 1966 the real truth told us as to why the British Government should spend almost £100,000,000 in such a State as Iraq. What are we there for? The hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Wardlaw Milne), who spoke earlier, specifically denied that there was any question of oil ownership or oil exploitation in our interference with Iraq at all. I hold in my hand a cutting from a paper called the "Financial Times," which I understand is edited by a Gentleman who sits on the Front Opposition Bench. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] It is dated 4th June, 1924, and this article stretches, across two columns with a headline, and is stated to be written "by one who was present throughout the Lausanne Conference and has studied the whole question of post-War Turkey, Mesopotamia and Mosul." This is what he says:There is at the present time a tendency to ridicule, the stress which has been laid on oil in the various conferences and negotiations since the Armistice .… The Mosul oilfield stands in a unique position, in that it has always been vested with a political significance, and the Great Powers have for nearly 20 years been struggling for a preponderating influence in its development. It is no secret that considerations of its future have played a decisive role in more than one international Conference.Further, he says—and I ask attention to this—No more courageous fight for the retention of Mosul could have been made than by Lord Curzon at the first Lausanne Conference, and it will be remembered that he was ready to see the Conference break down rather than give way.That was the important subject at the Lausanne Conference. Further, he says that in a letter written from Lord Curzon to the United States Ambassador in London, dated 28th February, 1921, the following paragraph occurs:The Civil List in 1906, considering the agreement with the Anatolean Company at an end, entered into negotiations with a British group with a. view to the development of the oilfields. These negotiations, which had the full support of His Majesty's Ambassador at Constantinople, continued during the year 1907; they were suspended during the political crisis which broke out in 1908.… These negotiations, in which the British and German Governments took an active interest, terminated in the early part of 1914 when an agreement was reached for the fusion of the interests of the original Turkish Petroleum Company, and of the original British group in the new Turkish Petroleum Company. This agreement was signed not only by the 1967 parties immediately interested, but also on behalf of the British and German Governments respectively.It is no earthly use saying that oil has not entered into this question in face of that statement. The trail of oil is all over it. The article goes on:Unfortunately the position of the Turkish Petroleum Company is not as strong as would appear from this statement, because the consideration which Turkey was to have received never materialised.Poor Turkey never got the consideration. but the British Government backing the Petroleum Company insist upon the British Company having its share of oil in Mosul, and all the millions, probably nearly £100,000,000, that this company has spent since the Armistice in bolstering up these concessionaires and their interests in Mosul ought to he frankly explained to the Committee. We should not have these financial arrangements hidden from the people of this country under the guise of phrases about our going out to Mesopotamia to do good to the poor Arabs.
There is nothing in what the hon. Member has road in the least incompatible with my statement that we did not go to Mesopotamia in connection with oil at all. As to the fact that he has read extracts pointing out that concessionaires in different countries have tried to work the oilfields, I have not any doubt about that, and I hope that British enterprise will go on doing that sort of thing. If the statement is correct that this Government has been spending money in backing up concessionaires and that this £100,000,000 has gone in that way, I trust, with the hon. Member, that the right hon. Gentleman will give him the figures, because there are no figures.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
I have been reading out for the last 10 minutes, and I have been showing that for nearly 20 years—
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
Of course, it was before we went to Mesopotamia with an Army, but the British Government through the British Ambassador at Constantinople—it is specifically stated here—have been interfering in Turkish affairs in order to bolster up this particular financial syndicate. If after the Armistice 1968 we spent millions—I do not know how many—probably anything up to one hundred millions—on our Army, and on our Diplomatic Service, well—
§ Earl WINTERTON
This is really a very important matter, and I should like to put a question. In a charge of this kind we ought to know quite what is meant. Is the suggestion of the hon. Gentleman that successive British Governments, including his own, have, for a financial consideration, gone to Mesopotamia in order to get oil for certain financial groups, or what is the suggestion?
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
That is a perfectly reasonable question. I never said that members of any Government have taken any financial consideration. I never hinted at it. I have never accused anybody, and I am surprised that the Noble Lord should endeavour to drag a red herring of that kind into the discussion.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I am merely endeavouring to arrive at the truth. I honestly do not understand what is the accusation—how it is suggested this money has been spent, and what has gene on between the financial groups to which the hon. Gentleman has referred and successive British Governments.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
I wish I knew that. What I submit I have proved is the statement—and that hon. Members on the opposite side have so far not disputed it—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Well, hon. Members hare not done it so far. If they are so prepared, let them get up, and do it. I have quoted from the official report sent by Lord Curzon to the American Ambassador in London, and nobody has disputed that. One statement was thatWe have been interested in oil. British Governments have been interested in oil, and the time and attention of the British Foreign Secretary at the Lausanne Conference and elsewhere has been actively taken up in the furtherance of oil interests.I think I have proved it. Let me go further. The writer of this article says:The only thing definitely concluded by the 1914 negotiations was that the financial groups interested, agreed upon the division of the Turkish Petroleum. Company's shares and the basis of financial participation in exploiting the concesson when obtained.1969 But they were never obtained and nothing ever came of the arrangement, because the consideration which was to he paid to the Turkish Government as a matter of fact, was never paid. Then says the article:The great fight made by Lord Curzon"—Note, "The great fight made by Lord Curzon—to secure the oil concessions was beset with difficulties which have not been overcome. With the death of Abdul Hamid in 1915 the rights of his property, including the free concession of the oil of Mosul and Bagdad passed to his heirs. Early in 1922 the rights to Abdul Hamid's properties and concession were acquired by an American company, and it appears that the control of this company is being acquired by British interests.Nothing could be more specific and more definite than this statement of fact or alleged statement of facts, made in a financial paper published in the City of London, a paper of high standing and an article never disputed, never denied, so far as I know, by any Member of this House. If any hon. Member opposite is prepared to deny that Lord Curzon spent a considerable portion of his time at Lausanne lighting on behalf of oil interests, alleged to be British national oil interests, now is the time for him to get up and deny it.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
Very well, I suggest to the hon. Gentleman, if he does not believe it, that he should forthwith write to the "Financial Times" denying this statement and giving reasons for his denial.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
Hon. Gentlemen who wave their hands in objection to what I am saying apparently know nothing about it. What I am saying on behalf of some hon. Members of this House is that when we come to Debates of this kind, when we are asked to vote public money foe which the people of this country are paying taxes, we are entitled to know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. I have no quarrel with the Noble Lord opposite as to what political officers have done in Mesopotamia. I believe probably that what he said was perfectly true, that we have done a considerable 1970 amount of good to the Arab people, but I do not want to be fobbed off with stuff of that kind. I want to know on whose behalf we are spending or have spent £100,000,000. I do not believe we went into Iraq and spent £100,000,000 for our health or to do good to the Arabs. I do not believe it.
§ Earl WINTERTON
This is a matter which ought to be put right. I am a great admirer of the sincerity of the hon. Member for Stirling and Clackmannan (Mr. Johnston), and I ask him to accept what I say with a like sincerity. I do not believe for one moment that we spent £100,000,000 in the interests of British oil-producing companies. I hope he will accept that statement with the same frankness and in the same sincerity for which we give hon. Members opposite credit. Equally, I certainly resent the suggestion that the British Government spent this money for that purpose.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
What I suggest ought to be done then is that hon. Gentlemen opposite, who are interested in financial affairs in the City of London and who run financial papers in London—papers which do not circulate frequently among Members on this side of the House, but circulate, presumably, among the classes represented by hon. Gentlemen opposite and by hon. Members below the Gangway, should take action accordingly. These financial papers make specific charges of this kind. In this article they give what purports to be actual quotations from Government documents, from documents sent by Lord Curzon to the American Ambassador in London. If these things are not true, why are they not denied in the columns of the paper which makes them? Why remain for a month or six weeks after they are made, and then have them denied in airy fashion by hon. Members opposite and by the noble Lord on the Front Bench who seeks to controvert those charges by suggesting that I have attacked a, British Government as being personally interested. I do not blame these men. I never did. I am sure nobody ever did, but what I say is that the money spent in Iraq was not spent in order to make the desert blossom like the rose. It was not spent to benefit the Arab population. It was spent there in the interests of financial groups. I suggest that before this Debate finishes hon. Gentlemen who can speak with 1971 authority on the subject should get up and give us a specific answer to these charges in the "Financial Times."
§ Mr. GREENE
I have listened to some hon. Members of this House who are in favour of withdrawing from Iraq. So far I have not heard a single cogent reason for such withdrawal. I prefer reasons which are cogent. One reason is that we are spending the taxpayers' money there. Another reason, so far as I can see, is that this country may possibly benefit from our occupation of that country. Personally, I have no objection to this country benefiting at all, providing it does not do it at the expense of other people. I like to see my country benefiting if it does it in such a manner that the people of the mandated countries benefit also.
In a few words, I propose, having considerable knowledge of so called "dry-farming" and sheep-raising, and having been three years in Iraq, to show how this country may benefit directly and indirectly, and how the Arabs themselves may benefit directly by our remaining in the country sufficiently long to enable a stable Government to be set on its feet, to be able to protect itself, and look after the other interests that may be there. That country, as is well known, was at one time the granary of the world. It was at that time the most prosperous country in the world. I see absolutely no reason why it should not become so again. I think it can become so under a stable Government of Arabs themselves, and I also feel certain it never will become so if it is given back to the Turks. To begin with, in that country there is no limit to the possibilities of the growing of cereals, cotton, mutton, and wool, and this at extremely cheap rates, which would bring wealth to the country, and which would benefit the people of this country, because it would reduce the prices of those commodities.
Furthermore, it would give employment in that country and also in this country by the demand for the material and machinery necessary for the purposes of irrigation. Hon. Members opposite might feel rather shy of this course considering the cost and that British financiers might place money there and make a profit. I should like to see them do it, because such income would he drawn to this country, and spent in this 1972 country, would benefit also the Exchequer, and give employment in this country. If we leave that country at the present time as some hon. Members would have us do, it will still remain a desert, will simply lie waste, whereas if we stay there, and with our help that country is enabled to settle down, and perhaps a certain amount of our capital placed there, cereal growing can be made a very great industry and at extraordinarily little cost.
It may not be known to many hon. Members opposite that there is no such thing as the Valley of the Tigris. The Tigris itself is actually higher than the surrounding country as the river overflows every year and deposits silt and mud on the area close to the. river, so naturally the ground on either side of the river is higher than it is further away. The result is that irrigation can be carried out very cheaply. You have only to raise the water to the top of the bank and gravitation takes it to the required spot. There is another matter which makes farming very cheap. You only need to plough one and a half inches deep and plough up the silt deposit. This soil is extremely rich and full of nitrogen, and you have only to "tickle the surface and it smiles a crop." Another important matter is the extraordinary cheapness of transport in that country. If you have land some distance up the Tigris, or the tributaries of the Tigris, you can grow timber there, and, when you want to send your produce down the river, you make rafts and convey the produce at practically en cost except that of the man on the raft, and even the raft can be sold when it arrives at its destination at a high price.
The farming of cereals is not the only thing. There is some wonderful land in the surrounding country near Mosul. It is a most perfect grass country, and, from my knowledge of land in Australia and the growing of merinos, I should say this land would he a perfect merino country. If one could be certain that the Government in Iraq was going to be made a suitable Government it would be worth while to import merino rams. In six years' time you could very much improve the flocks, and a new industry could be started, not only for the benefit of the people of Iraq, but also for the benefit of the people of this country. Of 1973 course, that can never be brought about while there is all this talk about leaving the country to fend for itself when it is not in a position to govern itself.
§ Mr. GREENE
Well, that is better than nothing, and if we stay on we shall be. able to give a guarantee of some kind in that country. I have often spoken to hon. Members privately oh this subject, and I have heard their objections. I have heard them say that we shall have to have aeroplanes to defend the country against the Kurds, who will come along and drive off the sheep. May I point out that sheep travel about six miles a day, and consequently you can imagine they would not get very far away before their whereabouts would be discovered and the raiders would have to go off without their sheep. I hope the Committee will not think I have wandered from the point, but I feel most strongly that unless we stand by the Government of Iraq and protect it and put it on its feet, Iraq will go back to a condition even worse than it is in at the present time, and we shall lose the benefits in this country that we ought to have, and the people in Iraq will lose the benefits they ought to have. If the Turks come back, there will be the same misgovernment. as in past years. The hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Milne) said that the Turkish population in Mosul represented about 60 per cent., but I am astonished to hear that statement, because I was under the impression that it was only between 5 and 10 per cent. At any rate, I know that there is a very large non-Turkish population there, consisting of Christians, Armenians, Chaldeans, Jews, Assyrians and Kurds, and I know from personal contact with them that not one of them would like to see the Turks back again. There are certain people who have been on good terms with the Turks who, upon religious grounds, might want to see them back again, but the moment they got them back they would wish they had never come there. In conclusion, I merely want to say that Turkish rule means destruction, and that for every acre given back to the Turk there will be one acre taken from progress, and one acre given to chaos.
§ Colonel Sir CHARLES YATE
I do not think I can add anything to the very interesting account of the possibilities of 1974 Iraq which has been given to the Committee by the hon. Member who has just sat down. I listened with great surprise to the speech delivered by the hon. Member opposite (Mr. T. Johnston), and I quite fail to see the point of his speech. It is not a fact that we went into Iraq and spent £100,000,000 in order to protect the oil interests there. As a matter of fact, no oil has been found there yet, and we do not know whether any will be found or not. I only hope that the British companies will find oil there. and he able to make something out of it. The whole question of Iraq is a very difficult one, and there is not the slightest doubt that if we go out of that country the Turks will come in, and our interest is to support the Arab Government and try to prevent the Turks coming in. Whether the present Government in Iraq will stand or not we cannot say. I do not think that there is a single tribe out there or Arab chief who would admit the over-lordship of any other tribe or chief, and all the chiefs and tribes of Iraq are equally averse to the over-lordship of any outside chief or tribe. To give our support to the Arab Government, is the only hope that it will succeed.
With regard to Mosul, I think we ought to support the Assyrians and the Chaldeans who, as the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Ormsby-Gore) said, were the backbone of the country. They supported us all through the War and stood by us, and they form the best part of the Iraq levies at the present time. Therefore, I hope Mosul will be held and protected, and that the people there will not come under the Turkish rule again in any possible way. The question of Transjordania, was raised by an hon. Member opposite (Colonel T. Williams). I quite agree with what has been said about the inhabitants of Palestine and Transjordania, but I cannot agree that it is practical to have in such a small country one rule on one side of the River Jordan and another rule on the other side—the whole country should be under one rule. I quite agree that the Russians under the name of the Zionists are a danger to the country. I hope they time will come when we shall see both Transjordania. and Palestine Under one rule.
§ Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR
My hon. Friend the Member for Stirling (Mr. T. John 1975 ston) has made a very serious indictment in regard to our policy in Iraq on the ground that it has been dictated by financial interests. I am not concerned at all about the oil interests, but the point I am interested in is in regard to what is to become of the 200,000 Christians in Mosul. Honestly, my interest is mainly concentrated on that point. These Christians have fled to Mosul. They have stood by us in the War, and have suffered butchery at the hands of one of our enemies in the War. It seems to me that now two things are inevitable. One is that we shall retain possession of Mosul and give the protection of the British Government to these Christians. The other is that if the necessity should compel it, we may have to abandon Mosul, and in that case I hope the Government will pledge themselves to take the necessary remedies to get these people away from the bayonets of the Turks. That is all I want to ask, and if the Prime Minister will reply to these questions I shall be satisfied.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
want to make my last protest on this question in the presence of the Prime Minister. It is not quite fair to the Committee to tell us that this is our only opportunity of approving the ratification of this Treaty with the Kingdom of Iraq. This is a Supply Vote asked for by members of the Opposition, and we were not told that this was going to be our only opportunity for discussing this subject. I do not think any Member on these benches was aware that this would be our last and only opportunity, and that after this a mandate would be given to the Colonial Secretary to ratify this Treaty. The Colonial Secretary has not been able to tell us that our commitments will be limited even to four years. All the speeches from the other side talking about this infant Arab State and the speech of the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Greene), who spoke of the wonderful sheep rearing and corn growing possibilities of Iraq. show that. we shall have to keep propping up this Kingdom in Mesopotamia.
7.0 P. M.
The matter is highly unsatisfactory, not only from the point of view of the Arabs, but from the point of view of that much harassed person, the British taxpayer, who is asked to vote over £5,000,000 this year 1976 partly as the result of the mistakes made by previous Governments. The Labour Government which came in, pledged to wind up those commitments and to drop those policies, is continuing the self-same policy, and the Colonial Secretary is unable even to put a four years' limit upon it. We are hard put to it for money in every direction. Social reform is held up, widows' pensions and housing are being held up by money stringency in this country, and yet we are cheerfully committing ourselves, and that is all the right hon. Gentleman can hold out to us. It is highly unsatisfactory, and I move the reduction as a protest. I make this protest now. I know it is no good dividing the Committee, because there is an unholy alliance between the Conservative benches and the Labour party.
I must say one word with regard to the remarks of my right hon. Friend behind me (Mr. O'Connor). I agree with him about the position of the Christians, but, at the same time, we ourselves referred this question to the League of Nations. If they decide against us, what is going to happen to these 200,000 people? In the event of the case being against us, I do not see how we can help them in a matter that has been already dealt with by the League of Nations. Unless we are going to abide by the decision, it would be fatal to us. We had an opportunity of getting out of that country by rejecting the Treaty, but the Prime Minister, in his wisdom, decreed otherwise. We lost. the opportunity of getting honourably out of the country. We have the position now that one member of the Sheriffian family can rule over one Arab State, but another member of the same family, not certainly inferior in ability, is not to be allowed to manage his own house and rule over another State. I do not make this protest against Arab nationalism. We owe much to the Arab, and there is a great future for the Arab race, which lies in its own hand. It is batter to let them work out their own salvation by putting responsibilities upon them, and I object strongly to the policy of continuing the tutelage, the mandate, call it what you will, over Iraq at this. heavy expense, which we certainly cannot afford in the state of our finances, in view of the danger of future hostilities, whereby we might be involved in the case of war.
§ Question, "That a sum, not exceeding £2,918,900, be granted for the said Service," put, and negatived.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.