HC Deb 17 December 1925 vol 189 cc1624-8
49. Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

asked the Prime Minister what is the present position of the negotiations with regard to Iraq and Mosul; and what additional responsibilities beyond the year 1928 we are assuming in those countries, respectively?


As the answer to this question is a very long one, I propose to read it at the end of Questions.

Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY

Does that mean that we shall have a chance of elucidating any points that are not clear?


I think it would give a better opportunity if we take it at the end of Questions, because I understand it is of some length.

Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY later

May I now ask Question 49?


I will read out the following text of the decision taken by the Council unanimously yesterday afternoon. The frontier between Turkey and Iraq shall be as follows": Here follows a geographical description of the Brussels line. Hon. Members will find it given in Command Paper 2333/1925.

"British Government is invited to submit to Council a new treaty with Iraq ensuring continuance for 25 years of mandatory regime defined by Treaty of Alliance between Great Britain and Iraq and by British Government's undertaking approved by Council on 27th September, 1921, unless Iraq is in conformity with Article 1 of Covenant admitted as a member of League before expiry of this period.

As soon as—within a period of six months from present date—execution of this stipulation has been brought to the knowledge of the Council, the Council shall declare that present decision has become definitive and shall indicate measures required to ensure delimitation on the ground of frontier lines.

British Government as mandatory Power is invited to lay before the Council the administrative measures which will be taken with a view to securing for Kurdish populations guarantees regarding local administration recommended by Commission in its final conclusions.

British Government as mandatory Power is invited to act as far as possible in accordance with other suggestions of Commission of Inquiry as regards measures likely to ensure pacification and to afford equal pro- tection to all elements of population and also as regards commercial measures indicated in special recommendations of Commission's Report."

That ends the communique I have as regards the Award.

It will be observed that the frontier line laid down by the League is only to become definitive if Great Britain within six months assumes responsibility for Iraq for such further period as may be necessary to qualify Iraq for membership of the League, but not to exceed a maximum of 25 years in any event.

It is our belief—as my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary informed the Council in September last—that the actual period will fall far short of the maximum of 25 years. The assumption of this responsibility does not involve an undertaking to spend money, or to keep troops in Iraq either for maintenance of internal order, or for its defence against external aggression, but merely to continue our co-operation and advice in maintaining a stable system of government.

As hon. Members are aware, it has always been contemplated, under the terms of the Protocol of April, 1923— which I read out to the House in May of that year—that a new agreement would be concluded with the Iraq Government before the termination of the present Treaty. It follows that the award of the Council involves no departure from the policy adopted and announced two-and-a-half years ago.

I should add that Parliament will be given every opportunity of discussing the new Treaty before it enters into force.


Apparently there is a great deal of assumption as to what is going to happen. Would it not he better to enable this House before it rises to ask a far more exhaustive series of questions than is possible under present circumstances? If we part and leave this statement as it is, the House will be held to it.


I admit that it. would be desirable to have an opportunity of hearing from the Colonial Secretary who is, I think, on his way home now, exactly what has taken place, and that questions should be asked in this House. I have not yet had a full report of what happened yesterday in Geneva. I have given to the House all the information I have at the moment, with what seemed to me necessary commentary. I think it would be desirable that there should be come consultation in the course of this afternoon as to what would be the best way of giving effect to what the right hon. Gentleman desires.


Would it be possible to have it to-morrow?


I cannot say about to-morrow, because I understand that hon. Members below the Gangway opposite have a Motion down for tomorrow. That is a point which can be discussed between the parties this afternoon.

Lieut. Commander KENWORTHY

There is one point on which I am not quite clear as to what the Prime Minister said. Am I to understand that we are at present not committed to accepting this award and making this Treaty, and that in any case the House of Commons will have to ratify any instrument which is entered into before we commit ourselves to it?


The House of Commons will certainly have to ratify it. That is what I tried to make plain in the statement I made.

Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY

We are not committed now?


No. There can be no ultimate commitment without the authority of Parliament.


What did the Prime Minister mean last week when he said that the idea that the House of Commons would be consulted was in the region of romance?


It may be that I misunderstood my hon. Friend. What I understood him to ask was whether we would be committed to any form of agreement without the authority of Parliament.


May I ask what direct advantage is the British taxpayer to obtain—[HON. MEMBERS: " Oh!"]— by remaining in Iraq 25 years after the time that was agreed on, and will the Prime Minister undertake that there shall be no cost to the British taxpayer after the period in 1928, and that no military shall be employed in Iraq?


I think that is an instance of the sort of question which would lend itself very much better to debate. There are in the question itself matters of controversy, just a; there may be in the answer.


May I ask the Prime Minister whether the supplementary Report by the two Commissioner: under General Laidoner will also be included in the White Paper? The first Report of the Esthonian Commissioner has been published in a White Paper but . there has been a supplementary report by two of his assistants with regard to recent butcheries. Will they also be in the White Paper?


I will see whether that is possible. I am not aware from my information whether that report has yet been received.

Captain BENN

When the Colonial Secretary returns, will he be able to place before Parliament the terms of the new Treaty, which, according to the newspapers yesterday, appear to be already in existence?


I will communicate with my right hon. Friend on his return. The Treaty itself will be of a simple nature. I do not know whether what my hon. and gallant Friend desires will be possible.