HC Deb 02 August 1926 vol 198 cc2721-51

I would like to direct the attention of the House to the question of the new Treaty which has been contracted between ourselves and the Italian Government in reference to Abyssinia. Abyssinia is one part of the African Continent which, so far, has not been divided between the great Powers of Europe. The right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary will forgive me if I say that the very idea of any advance, economic or otherwise, made by any great European Powers in any part of the African Continent, naturally excites, from the beginning, the suspicion and alarm of those who remember what has happened as a result of the partition of other parts of Africa between European Powers. When we hear that Abyssinia is the subject of representations to the greatest Powers in the world, we cannot help thinking of Egypt, of Tripoli, and of Morocco. There is a strange similarity—I am not saying in reality but in appearance—between the Moroccan situation and the Abyssinian situation. You have two Powers—in that case Spain and France, in this case Great Britain and Italy—and a third Power—in this case France, in that case Germany—watching, with, perhaps, not always very friendly intent. We must remember that, connected with our own occupation of Egypt and with the Franco-Spanish occupation of Morocco, there were moments and names which brought us to the very verge of war. In 1898 for some months we were on the brink of war with France arising from the quarrel about the partition of that part of the Nile Valley. Agadir, Tangier —these are names in Morocco which remind us that the Great War can he traced by those qualified to do so in detail, and by the general observer in reality to the European policy of the partition of Africa. Tripoli is another such name; and in every case we had the same assurances that the sovereignty of the particular country concerned was to be fully respected. Look at the Egyptian and the Moroccan documents, and you will always find the phrase that the sovereignty of the State affected was not in any way to he infringed by the now arrangement proposed. When we find the same sort of documents on the present situation in Abyssinia using the same language, then it is natural that we should feel suspicious and should demand full information. I notice it stated in " Le Temps " that in their opinion the action of the Italians was a stroke against German ambition, and they rejoice in the idea that the Anglo Italian Treaty is going.. to advance the Latin idea. They say: There is de factosolidarity in the Mediterranean, between France and Italy, to assure throughout the world the future of the Latin idea. That is exactly the sort of language which was used by the Germans when they were pursuing a policy of world power in order to secure what they called the German idea. Signor Davanzati, who can be regarded as au Italian spokesman, says: France's behaviour in the present circumstances shows a small sense of loyalty to the Powers who have vital interests in North Africa. That is the same idea again—the idea of great Powers uniting to exploit an African State. In this case we are under a treaty agreement with Italy, and the Italian record in their dealings with the sovereignty of Abyssinia is a bad record. They succeeded at one time—in 1887 I think—in making a treaty by virtue of which they secured a protectorate over Abyssinia, and if it had not been for the ghastly defeat at Adowa, about eight years later, there would have been established an Italian protectorate over the Abyssinia State. In 1915 again we had the Treaty of. London. I am not going to criticise the Treaty of London, because we were hard put to it to secure friends in the War, but the wording of the treaty speaks about territorial compensation for the Italians as a reward for their intervention on behalf of the Allies in the War. I dare say the right hon. Gentleman will reply that we never regarded any territorial compensation as in the least affecting Abyssinia. Italy has had part of Jubaland, has had an adjustment of the boundary with Tripoli, which fulfils, as we think, this obligation. We should like to know if it is the Italian standpoint that the territorial compensation promised in the treaty of 1915 affects in any way the territory of Abyssinia. As regards ourselves, with the exception of the expedition in 1868, I do not think we have had any hostile relations with Abyssinia. In fact, we had some friendly assistance from them at the time of the Mahdist rebellion.

It is proper that we should make commercial arrangements or agreements with them and that for value received they ought to give us the rights to construct the necessary works at Lake Tsana for the purpose of securing more water for Egypt and the Sudan. There is nothing improper in that and, in fact a long time ago they agreed that they would not themselves construct any works which would be hurtful to such a scheme when it became ripe. In 1906 there was the famous Tripartite Treaty on which the present Treaty is based. The strange thing about the Tripartite Treaty of 1906 is that it affects Abyssinia but Abyssinia is not one of the three signatories. It is signed by three foreign States about Abyssinia, and the Abyssinians were not, in its initiation, parties to this Treaty. It is a Treaty which, as far as one can sum it up generally, says that the three parties will not get in one another's way in their economic enterprises in Abyssinia. Article II of that Treaty deals with this point and, if that be the Article on which the present Treaty is based, there is nothing at all in it about any exclusive exploitation.

The SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir Austen Chamberlain)

Which Treaty?

Captain BENN

The Treaty of 1906.


It may only be a question of language, but the hon. and gallant Gentleman is constantly speaking of the " present treaty." There is no present treaty. I take it he means the exchange of Notes.

Captain BENN

I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. I am not versed in diplomatic language. I am speaking about an effective agreement and I call it a treaty, but in the nomenclature of the Foreign Office it is an exchange of Notes. In the Tripartite Agreement of 1906 I do not find in Article II, which deals with the grants of concessions, anything which applies to any undertaking on our part to secure the exclusive exploitation of any part of Abyssinia to any power. Article II, which, imagine, is the basis of the new exchange of Notes, says that as regards demands for agricultural, commercial and industrial concessions in Ethiopia the three parties undertake to instruct their representatives to act in such a way that any representation which may be made in the interest of one of the three States, may not be injurious to the interests of the two others. There is nothing about exclusive rights for anybody in the Treaty of 1906.

A very great thing happened in 1919. The League of Nations wail formed and the great Powers announced that they were going to reshape the whole of their foreign policy, which of course includes such things as the partition of Africa, with a view to avoiding in the future the causes of conflict which produced the Great War. In 1923 Abyssinia became a member of the League of Nations. I think I am right in saying that Abyssinia did so in face of the opposition of Great Britain and Italy. That fact itself is worth noting, in passing, in view of the exchange of Notes which has taken place between the two Powers. In 1925, comes this new agreement. We are to have the right to construct some waterworks at Lake Tsana and a motor road into the Sudan. I do not know who is to guard the motor road. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman in his reply will say whether we are to have the right to put any military posts along the motor road to safeguard it against brigandage or any sort of interference. That is a matter of substance, because if we were to put soldiers on the road and if anyone were to kill one of those soldiers it would immediately create a demand for some action on our part. It is no use treating the matter with derision because that is the sort of thing which creates ill-feeling and before we know where we are, we find that some sort of expedition is considered necessary for the honour of the country.


There is no derision.

Captain BENN

I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon. He is an expert in these matters and 1 am not, but it is not a question for experts; it is a question for the decision of the people of this country. In the treaty, or the exchange of Notes, of 1925 we find an entirely new feature. The letter to Senor Mussolini states that the British Government are prepared to recognise an exclusive Italian economic influence in the west, of Abyssinia. The Italian reply emphasises this and states that the Royal Italian Government note that in the event of His Britannic Majesty's Government, with the effective support of the Italian Government, obtaining from the Abyssinian Government the concession asked for, they will recognise the exclusive character of the Italian economic influence in the west of Abyssinia. I can find nothing in the Agreement of 1906 which promises that we will support exclusive economic influence for Italy or any other Power in Abyssinia, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will devote a few sentences of his reply to an explanation of the word " exclusive." It appears to me that by this exchange of Notes we pledge ourselves and another Power, demanding concessions in this part of Africa, to resist the demands of other Powers with obvious danger to our good relations with those other Powers, whoever they may be.

All through 1925 this exchange of Notes was being concocted. In December it was actually effected. We knew nothing about it. I do not know whether it came to light by accident or whether it was intended to publish it, but at any rate it did not reach the public Press until the middle or late spring of the present year. It appears that on the 15th June, when the contents of the Note became known to the Regent of Abyssinia, he sent a strong letter of protest to the British and Italian Governments, and this was a matter of surprise to many people, because the right hon. Gentleman, in his reply on the 30th June, rather gave one to understand—at least, I understood from his answer—that the Notes had been exchanged, but that any sort of interchange of Notes with the Abyssinian Government had not yet taken place. On the 29th July the Abyssinian Government sent a Note to the League, a very dignified Note, which would appeal to disinterested people as being a Note couched in the spirit of justice. These are the facts concerning the exchange of Notes dealing with Abyssinia. I would like to say again that, as regards a real, commercial agreement for the supply of water in the Sudan, no objection can he taken, but this is a different thing. This is the joint Agreement of two great Powers to present joint demands to a very weak Power, a very small Power, the latest and the weakest member of the League of Nations, and I think that they are right in protesting that they are not given that full commercial liberty of decision which they should have when they find themselves faced with identical demands made by two Powers whose influence, economic or military, they are quite unable to resist.

I understand further that the question of Abyssinian membership of the League may be raised, because I believe that when they became a member of the League of Nations they gave certain undertakings in reference to the suppression of slavery. No doubt there are many misdeeds in the government of Abyssinia—there is no doubt about that —but I would like to know whether there is any question, at the forthcoming meeting of the League, of anyone attempting to remove them from membership of the League, on the ground that they have not fulfilled their obligations in reference to slavery. Everyone would desire that slavery should be suppressed, and that the League of Nations should require members of the League to suppress slavery, but if, at the very moment that you are working jointly with the Italian Government, who have never been particularly enthusiastic about the League and who have never been very squeamish in dealing with weaker Powers, you are also going to start an inquiry as to whether Abyssinia ought to be in the League at all, I say that you lay yourselves open to the suspicion that the inquiry or demand as to the membership of the League is not bona fide,but motived by your ambitions in other directions.

Then, again, I understand that in fact Abyssinia's political integrity is protected under Article 10 of the Covenant. The fact that the 1906 Agreement was pre-War has nothing whatever to do with it. The Covenant itself, in Article 10, says that any agreement hostile to the Covenant is automatically abrogated by the signature of the Covenant itself. Abyssinia stands protected by Article 10 of the Covenant. She has asked for an inquiry into this matter, I understand from this letter from the Regent, by the League of Nations. I would like the right hon. Gentleman to say what form that inquiry will take, whether it. will be an inquiry before the Council of the League, if so, who will represent Abyssinia's interests in the inquiry, whether she will be made a temporary member of the Council for the purpose of the inquiry, or what form the inquiry will take, because I believe that there is a volume of opinion in this country which sees a possible danger in this form of negotiations, and dislikes extremely joint Notes concocted privately by great Powers and presented to weaker Powers.

These matters of Foreign Office affairs may involve a great deal of experience and a great deal of knowledge, but at root they affect particularly the whole mass of the population, because if, in fact, they are possible causes of War, it is not only the diplomats and the people who make these agreements and the concessionaires who have to suffer; it is the people who have to find the money and the men to conduct the war. The people of the world really believed that in the signature of the Covenant of the League of Nations a new spirit was to inform the whole diplomacy of this country and the other great Powers, and they are very anxious that, in reference to this particular Agreement, some reassurance should be given by the Government that in fact the policy which is to be pursued will not be the old policy of the great Powers partitioning the weak States of Africa, but the new policy, in which we regard ourselves as trustees for the weak, and in which we pursue legitimate commercial aims in a spirit of disinterestedness and in strict accord with the instinct of the League of Nations.


I am very glad that the hon. and gallant Member for Leith (Captain Benn) has taken this opportunity to make inquiries with regard to a question which is undoubtedly of very great importance and which should be brought before the House before we adjourn for the holidays. The document that was issued giving the exchange of Notes between His Majesty's Government and the Italian Government certainly was of such a nature as to make us anxious as to the negotiations that were being carried on, but when, recently, the Regent of Abyssinia. addressed a Note to the League of Nations protesting against these negotiations between this country and -Italy, the whole matter assumed a gravity of which we must take notice very carefully. This method of conducting diplomatic negotiations with another Government about a third Power is doubtful in the extreme, and when that third Power is a comparatively weak Power, that has not got the same prestige or voice in the Council of Nations, it is no wonder that people regard that form of negotiations with some suspicion.

We have been accustomed before now to hear of economic spheres of influence being assigned to this Power and to that Power, and we can all remember, just before 1914, the very grave predicament into which we had been brought by the partition of Persia in that very same way between the Czarist Government of Russia and ourselves, with a territory that was left to the Persians in between. It was becoming increasingly embarrassing for us. We know that economic spheres of influence are a preliminary to a partitioning of political spheres of influence. We find that this exchange of Notes between this Government and the Italian Government took place in December, 1925, but that the Abyssinian Government was not informed until June of this year. The Regent of Abyssinia, in sending his covering Note to the League of Nations, says: The arrangement was arrived at without our being consulted or informed. That, I venture to say, is a most serious charge to make, and it naturally arouses a great deal of suspicion. Why should not the party chiefly concerned, in whose territory all the work projected was to take place, he consulted at every stage of the proceedings? Then we find that the Regent of Abyssinia, in acknowledging the Note which was sent by His Majesty's Minister in Abyssinia, makes the following comment: The fact that you have come to an Agreement, and the fact that you thought it necessary to give us a joint notification of that Agreement, make it clear that your intention is to exert pressure, and this, in our view, at once raises a previous question. The British Government had already entered into negotiations with the Abyssinian Government with reference to its proposal, and we had imagined that, whether that proposal was carried into effect or not, the negotiations would have been concluded with us; we should never have suspected that the British Government would come to an Agreement with another Government regarding the lake. Therefore, the Regent of Abyssinia regards this method of negotiation as exercising pressure, and that was what my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition feared when he asked the Foreign Secretary, on the 5th July: " Is it quite clear that this Agreement between Italy and ourselves is not to be used for the purpose of coercing Abyssinia into granting Italian claims and our own later on? " The right hon. Gentleman replied: It certainly is not to he used and cannot be used for the purpose of coercing the Abyssinian Government. I believe the Agreement to be in the interests of all three parties, but of course the Abyssinian Govern- ment have a perfect right to judge of what is in the interest of Abyssinia."—[OFFICIAL. REPORT, 5th July, 1926; col. 1614, Vol. 197.] I should like to examine this question of pressure and coercion. Our desire, and a perfectly laudable desire, is to get sufficient water for the Sudan by the construction of a barrage in Lake Tsana, and by the further construction of a motor road from the lake up to the frontier. We consider that that is a necessity to the Sudan, and that we are perfectly justified in asking the Abyssinian Government to concede our request on this point, but, failing in our negotiations with Abyssinia, which have been protracted and have gone on for sonic years, admittedly, we have linked up our demand with a demand that Italy has for a railway from the frontier of Eritrea in the North, through Western Abyssinia, into Italian Somaliland. Anyone who understands that Abyssinia is the same size as Germany, France and Spain put together fully realises the enormous extent of territory involved. Coupled with this railway concession is this demand, which my hon. and gallant Friend has already quoted, for an exclusive sphere of economic influence for Italy.

What is going to happen? If we fail in our request with regard to Lake Tsang, then the Italians cannot go on with their railway, and the whole thing falls to the ground. If the Italians fail in their claim to the railway, we have to throw up this scheme that we want to link up the waters to the Sudan. The two things hang together. Now it is perfectly clear that we have linked ourselves on to the Italian claim and are not content to continue our negotiations alone, because we want to exert pressure against Abyssinia. Otherwise, what is the exact meaning of this double claim? We are now compelled to with-draw this claim to get water from Lake Tsana if the Italians fail to get this further immense railway traversing the whole of Abyssinia. It is the strangest form of diplomacy that we have ever had in modern times. It has some very disagreeable features, because all this is going on behind the backs, so to speak, of the chief parties concerned, who are protesting against it in an extremely dignified and well-grounded way to the League of Nations. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Leith asked in what form the Abyssinian protest will come up before the League. notice in the correspondence that the Secretariat of the League, on the 22nd July, have acknowledged the Abyssinian protest and have asked the Abyssinian Government in what form they desire this matter to come before the Council of the League. They asked for a telegraphic answer, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman, in replying, will be able to inform us what the Abyssinian Government has said and in what form this matter will come before the League of Nations; whether it will come before the Council, and, if it does, whether the Abyssinians will be represented on the Council. We have a traditional friendship with Abyssinia. It is the last independent Kingdom left in Africa. The Abyssinians see the great Powers gradually creeping round and exerting pressure on them, and they very naturally feel that their integrity and independence are threatened.

We found during the period that we were in office that the negotiations were being carried on with regard to Lake Tsana. It was in 1924 that the Regent of Abyssinia Came over to this country, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. It. MacDonald) who was then Foreign Secretary, had conversations with him on this very point. He was not agreeable to any of the projects that were put before him. Negotiations, no doubt, have been protracted and difficult. He is naturally suspicious and jealous of the encroachments on the integrity of his country by economic exploitation of any sort or kind; but I do not think it would have ever occurred to my right hon. Friend, after the Regent had left the country, to say, " I cannot get on with you, but I can get on with Signor Mussolini behind your back, and the two of us will be strong enough to make you toe the line." It has come as a shock to us to find that the old diplomacy, the old ideas of exercising pressure on two sides against these small, less developed, I will not say less civilised countries, still existed. We thought that that kind of diplomacy had gone, but here we have a very flagrant and very dangerous instance of it. I can only hope that the one solution of this difficulty rests in the existence of the League of Nations. The League of Nations is in being, and we all hope it is strengthening its authority and its position. Abyssinia is a member of the League of Nations, and has very properly and correctly brought its cause of complaint before the League. I hope that we shall abide by the decision of the League and help Abyssinia to see that its case is properly put before them, and not, along with our partner, Signor Mussolini, exercise any outside pressure, but use the authority which our strength and our prestige can bring to help so small and ill-developed a country as Abyssinia. It is a tradition of this country that we are proud to help small and undeveloped countries in their difficulties and strengthen them in their weakness. It will be a very bad day when that tradition is broken, and I am sorry that this correspondence and this course of diplomacy has given us so much cause for anxiety. I hope the right hon. Gentleman, when he replies, will be able to dispel some of our fears.


I would like to present to the House an entirely different view from that put before it by the two previous speakers. I do not intend to deal with the question as to the desirability of entering into a commercial treaty concerning a territory which is free and independent. What I would like to draw the attention of the House to is that it is quite possible that these Notes may result in too dear a purchase, apart altogether from the question of their desirability. The ostensible reason for the Notes is in order that the British Government or the Sudan Government may be able to control the waters issuing from Lake Tsana. If control over these waters can he easily and cheaply got, undoubtedly it would be a very excellent thing for the Sudan, but, in my view, it is not an absolute necessity. These waters are not so great a factor in the Nile problem that they alone should be made a necessity for the Sudan, and I do not think they are a necessity. There are alternative proposals which could be carried out, which would have the same effect as the control of Lake Tsana, and over which we or the Sudan Government have control without interfering with Abyssinia. There is an impression in the Abyssinian minds, as well as in the minds of a great number of our own countrymen, that the control of the lake will in some way interfere with the tombs or temples which are known to be on the small islands in the lake itself. There need be no interference whatsoever, even if the Sudan Government does get control of this lake. There is no need to increase the levels so that the temples will be prejudicially affected.

Many years ago I made a suggestion to Lord Kitchener on this same subject, which was that, instead of storing the flood waters by making the flood still higher in the lake, we should lower the outlet to such an extent that, the lake being a deep one, a lower part of the lake would be made available rather than the top as a storage place for water in the flood season. There would then be no difficulty regarding the temples or tombs. But the whole scheme might be conceivably purchased too dearly from the point of view of negotiations with Italy, or it might be purchased too dearly from the cash point of view. In the latter case, it is possible, I believe, to build a dam at Roseires and store with it for the benefit of the Sudan. You could not there impound as much water as would be impounded at Lake Tsana, but there is no demand now or likely to be in the immediate future for any great volume of water. I understand a Commission has reported on the division of water between Egypt and the Sudan. Their Report has not been issued yet, but I think it is fairly well known that they were willing to give rather more water to the Sudan than it has at present. It is also well known that the quantity of water which the Sudan has could go over a much greater area of land than it is at present being restricted to. If the existing water could go over a greater area, then the Sudan will be provided for quite a long time ahead even under present circumstances. If new works were at Roseires rather than outwith the territory of the Sudan, it is possible that water supply could be carried on for many years ahead without the necessity of going to Lake Tsana during it.

The whole matter is complicated by the further difficulty that, at the present moment, the Egyptian Government have decided not to build a reservoir at Gebel Audia. It is perfectly obvious that it is political reasons which have been lead- ing the Egyptian Government not to carry out that work, and it is not quite so much a technical problem. The Egyptian Government are afraid, apparently, of building works in the Sudan in case these works should be controlled by the Sudan in the years to come to their prejudice. I regret that they should have that feeling, because my advice to them in bygone years was that the more works the Egyptians had in the Sudan the more rights they would have there. They are particularly anxious to have rights in the Sudan, and, in my opinion, the only way is to build works there, so that they could say, "These are works for which we must have some rights le these territories." If the Egyptian Government, therefore, do not build the Gebel Aulia Dam, which I see by the reports in the Press is to be suspended in favour of raising the Assuan Dam, so as to be able to store more water there, it is possible that more water could be stored at Assuan, though, in my opinion, no great additional volume of water could be stored. Egypt, however, wants far more water than she could conceivably store even at Gebel Aulia. She has a great area of territory in the lower part of the country not yet developed, and for that area she requires water. The only real solution is to go to Lake Albert, and what I would like to suggest to the Government would be this: Has consideration ever been given to the inter-relation between the various works, apart from the order of building, as to their probable cost? In this case we are, apparently, going to incur something beyond the cash cast. We are going to make the Treaty cost, which may have influence over the trade of our nationals in Abyssinia in the years to come.

If the British Government authorised the building of a dam at Lake Albert with sufficient training works, then, undoubtedly, the problem for many years ahead would be solved for both Egypt and the Sudan, because if Egypt gets more water from Lake Albert, she need not restrict the Sudan, as now, on the Blue Nile. I would, therefore, suggest that consideration should be given to the question of whether the building by the Sudan Government of a dam at Lake Albert would not be a thing which would satisfy not only the Sudan but Egypt, even if Egypt does not care to come in to help to find the money. As much water as Egypt could possibly require for 30, 40 or, may be, 50 years ahead, would be provided. I believe the Egyptian Government have been considering training the river through the sudd, and are contemplating the building of huge dredgers. I hope that particular scheme will not he abandoned, because it will really form part of a Lake Albert Reservoir scheme, and it will have an extraordinary effect. It will have this effect that, from Malakal southward, in the vast swampy region where the river is just at the level of the land, or, in a great number of places, slightly over it, the land being thoroughly waterlogged, and in the wet season the marshes almost turn it into a lake, if this training were done the whole level of the sudd would be lowered, and something like 40,000,000 acres of land would be made available for the cultivation of cotton.

At the present moment Lake Tsana reservoir is asked for by the Sudan Government because she desires—and rightly desires—to continue the cultivation of long staple cotton in the Gezira. But if it is really found to be true that the Egyptian Government is willing to give more water between July and the 1st January, then, undoubtedly, a very much greater area could be developed in the Sudan under long staple cotton. I think Manchester will agree that there is a limit to the quantity of long staple cotton which is really required, and what they are asking for is short staple cotton, and if the river through the marshes of the Sudan were lowered, there is no doubt whatever that a vast area of land would he made available for short staple cotton production. It is inside the rainy belt. It would not require irrigation water in the same way as the long staple cotton. As a consequence, the building of Lake Albert reservoir, and the lowering of the river through the sudd would be probably a better scheme for the British Government and Egyptian Government to carry out than the Lake Tsana scheme at present.


I am glad that this subject has been raised by the hon. and gallant Gentleman, and I am much obliged to him for having given me notice in the course of last week of his intention to raise it. I think our discussion will have been useful, because if we have occasioned so much anxiety to the hon. and gallant Gentleman, and even shocked the late Under-Secretary of State, it is quite clear that a great deal of misconception must prevail as to the intentions both the British Government and of the Italian Government. The hon. Gentleman, who has just spoken, made a very interesting contribution to this Debate. He is a very high authority upon these questions, an expert authority, which I am not, and I should hesitate to bandy expert opinions with him. He admits the immense importance of an efficient and expanding water supply both to the Sudan and Egypt. He compares, with an expert knowledge, the different schemes and possibilities which they offer, and he seemed to favour, perhaps not unnaturally, the largest scheme which came within his purview, the draining of the Sudd, and all that follows on the use of the waters from Lake Albert. But the hon. Gentleman himself, I think, published a book not very long ago, and estimated that before this scheme could mature, at least 35 years must pass.

Thirty-five years is a long time to which to look forward in regard to the supply of water both to the Sudan and to Egypt, and I confess that I saw with profound regret and with some anxiety as to its effect upon the future prosperity of Egypt, and, in particular, the probable effect upon the Fellaheen, the decision, reported in the Press, of the Egyptian Government to postpone any credit for the Gebal Aulia, Dam. I think it will he found that the alternative which they suggest, that is, the raising of the Assuan Dam, has been fully examined by their predecessors, and by authorities whose efficiency and judgment they themselves would hardly dispute. The problem is a pressing one. The population of Egypt numbers 15,000,000. The land at present available for agriculture is about 7,500,000 acres, and it cannot be increased without further supplies of water being made available, whereas the population is increasing at the rate of something like 300,000 a year. There is a grave problem there, which in the interests, above all, of the Fellaheen of Egypt, ought to be taken into the earliest consideration, and I hope that, though these Estimates have been postponed for the present, we will see the project resumed and the work carried out as expeditiously as possible, so that no great disaster may befall.

As regards Lake Tsana, let me begin by saying that this, of course, is no new problem. As long ago as 1901 it was placed by Sir William Garstin in the forefront of the works to be executed—in order of urgency it was placed first. So Lord Cromer observed arid reported in his Summary of that year. In 1902 the Emperor Menelik exchanged Notes dealing with this very matter. It is perhaps better that I should read the exact terms of the assurances which were exchanged: That there is to he no interference with the waters of the Blue Nile and Lake Tsana, except in consultation with His Britannic Majesty's Government and the Government of the Sudan. That in case of any such interference; all other conditions being equal, preference will be given to the proposals of H is Majesty's Government and the Government of the Sudan, and that His Majesty the Emperor Menelik has no intention of giving any concession with regard to the Blue Nile and Lake Tsana except to His Britannic Majesty and the Government of the Sudan. or one of their subjects. Then I come to the Tripartite Agreement of 1906, to which the hon. and gallant Gentleman who opened the discussion alluded. I think he ought to have made it. clear that the whole purpose and desire of the three Powers concerned was to maintain the integrity and the independence of Abyssinia, and that they put that in the forefront of their agreement arid their object. In this connection I would venture to observe that it is not always to the advantage of a small Power or a weak one that big Powers should be quarrelling about their interests in that small Power's territory. The rivalries of big Powers may be dangerous, and are much more likely to be dangerous to small Powers than are friendly agreements based on a common desire to preserve the integrity of the country in question.

Coming down the years, in 1914 I think it was, or a little earlier, negotiations tad been begun under the auspices of Lord Kitchener—I think the hon. Member for Inverness (Sir M. Macdonald) alluded to it—and I am not sure that the whole matter might not have been settled at that time had it not been for the outbreak of the Great War and the interruption it brought to the negotiations. Lastly, when His Imperial Highness Ras Taffari was here during the late administration in this country, conversations and Notes were exchanged by my 'predecessor and the Regent. The last of the series of Notes then exchanged was one from my predecessor to which the Abyssinian Government have never sent any reply.

As years pass the urgency of an increased water supply becomes more pressing to those who are directly responsible for the welfare of the Sudan—indirectly interested in, perhaps. but not able to disregard the responsibility for the welfare and safety of Egypt—and we have to take up these negotiations again. I was anxious to secure that exterior opposition should not intervene to prevent a friendly arrangement such as the Notes exchanged and the assurances given by the Emperor Menelik 24 years ago authorised us to expect in dealing with the Abyssinian Government. The initiative in respect of the Notes which were ultimately exchanged between the Italian Government and ourselves came from the British Government. I should say that I dealt first with the Italian Government, and as soon as we agreed with them and the Notes had been received here and printed they were communicated to the French Government and dispatched to Abyssinia, but as the post to Abyssinia is a long one the substance of them was at once telegraphed to our Minister in Abyssinia. He informed the Abyssinian Government of their character and contents. That information reached Ras Taffari and the Abyssinia Government before the end of January, the notes themselves having actually been sent in the month of December. Some correspondence—or some communication, I am not sure whether there was correspondonce—followed with the French Government, some slight alterations, suggested for the purpose of making nor meaning plainer, were adopted, some correspondence followed with our Minister in Abyssinia, and I think it: was not till June that the actual text of the Notes were presented to the Abyssinian Government.

Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY

Did the French agree?


The French were perfectly satisfied. I think I am entitled to say the French were entirely satisfied by the explanations we gave of our part in it, and they published their own communique, the text of which I have not before me. A communique also appeared in the French Press which showed, I think, they were equally satisfied by the explanations which they had received from the Italian Government.

Captain BENN

Was the letter of protest dated 15th of June received from the Regent?


I do not think I have received any letter of protest from the Regent. No, Sir, I have not. Explanations were offered to him when he showed some disquiet about the Note. Further explanations were offered to him, partaking of the character of those which I gave in this House, and a part only of which was quoted by the hon. Gentleman opposite. Let me repeat explicity that these things constitute a Bilateral Agreement between Italy and ourselves. They do not pretend to bind, and they cannot possibly bind, any other Government, whether the Government of Abyssinia or any other. They suggest and imply no attack on the independence of Abyssinia, and no limitation on the right of the Abyssinian Government to decide freely whether or not to grant us the concession which we ask. What they do is to secure us against Italian opposition to the grant by Abyssinia of a concession for the construction of the Tsana works by the Government of the Sudan, and to protect Italy against opposition through us for a concession for the construction of the railway. One railway has already been constructed as foreseen in the Tripartite Agreement of 1906 up to Addis Ababa. It is the French one, and I have no doubt it will serve the interests of the French Protectorate, and I am sure it will serve also the development and prosperity of Abyssinia. I repeat that the works contemplated by the Italians and ourselves will be equally to the advantage of Abyssinia, will not threaten her independence or integrity, and should cause little alarm to her government and little anxiety to her friends or to her people.

Hon. Members opposite seem to be very much troubled by this word "exclusive," and ask if we recognise the exclusive right of Italy. That can only be exclusive as against our own concessionaires. It cannot and does not pretend to be exclusive against any third party. What it does mean is that we undertake not to support in opposition to Italy or the Italian concessionaire the claims of British concession hunters. Hon. Members have asked to be assured that in coming to this agreement with Italy we were not attempting to interfere with the discretion of the Abyssinian Government, or to impose our rule upon them. I have already said in answers to questions, one of which has already been quoted, that there is no desire to bring pressure to bear upon the Abyssinian Government. We have no desire to hurry them. We have approached them in a proper way and we have made our proposals in a friendly way. The hon. and gallant Member for Leith said something about. a suggestion of using some pretext to exclude Abyssinia from the League in order to get a favourable decision, but I have not heard of such a suggestion from any source.

Captain BENN

The right hon. Gentleman is rather straining what I intended to say. There has been some talk about some examination before the League of the propriety of Abyssinia remaining in the League, or at any rate of the fulfilment by Abyssinia of her obligations in respect of the slave trade. What I said was that any such inquiry at this juncture would be looked upon with a certain amount of mistrust by those who might think there might be an economic motive behind it.


I have heard no suggestion of any proposal to raise the question as to whether Abyssinia ought to remain a member of the League. I should most certainly hope that she would remain a member of the League, and I think even if there be things which we may hope to see altered in her internal economy, and in the domestic side of society that it is probably by giving her a welcome into the League and giving her the assurance which membership of the League gives, and by making her a party to the deliberations of the League that we can best achieve those results.


May we take it that the opposition which the British Government had to the entry of Abyssinia into the League is now definitely withdrawn?


Abyssinia is a member of the League, and there is no question of opposition. She is already a member and I hope she will remain a member.


I would like to point out that in 1922–23 the British representative did raise opposition to the entry of Abyssinia into the League, and has that point of view now been withdrawn?


The hon. Member is now recalling past history. I know that at a. certain point one of my predecessors, representing the British Government, opposed Abyssinia, but there is no intention of raising that question again, and I say on behalf of His Majesty's Government that I trust Abyssinia will continue a member of the League. I have no comment to make on this point, and nothing to withdraw in relation to what a previous Government did at a previous time. I am sorry the point has been raised, because it really takes us off what is important. One hon. Gentleman opposite asked whether the Abyssinian Government had replied to the answer of the Acting Secretary of the League to their first communication. As far as I know they have not, nor have I up to this moment replied to the communication of the Acting Secretary-General of the League, that is to the communication to His Majesty's Government. As the only purpose of making a reply to that communication is to reassure all the Governments who are members of the League, or to whom the communication of the Abyssinian Government was sent, I do not think it will be considered disrespectful of me if I at once inform the House what the reply is which we propose to send. I will not read the whole of it, but I hope it will serve to carry further the assurance which I have given as to the intentions of the two Governments in the Debate this evening.


Is that a reply to a communication received through the Secretariat of the League of Nations


Yes; it will be addressed to the acting Secretary-General of the League of Nations at Geneva. I will read the whole of it. It, is as follows: I am directed by His Britannic Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 22nd July, with which you were good enough to transmit copies of the letter addressed to Sir Eric Drummond by His Imperial Highness Ras Tafari, together with a protest in regard to the Notes exchanged between the British and Italian Governments in December, 1925, undertaking to afford each other mutual support when the consent of the Abyssinian Government is sought for the construction in Abyssinia of certain public works defined in the Notes. 2. His Majesty's Government regret that in spite of the assurances conveyed to the Abyssinian Government by the British and Italian Ministers at Addis Ababa when communicating the text of the AngloItalian Notes, their purport should have been misconstrued and intentions attributed to the British and Italian Governments which they have never entertained. The Abyssinian protest is so worded as to imply that the British and Italian Governments have entered into an agreement to impose their wishes on a fellow member of the League, even if against the latter's interests. Members of the League are asked to state whether it is right that pressure should thus be exerted on Abyssinia which they would doubtless repudiate if applied to them. 3. There is nothing in the Anglo-Italian Notes to suggest coercion or the exercise of pressure on the Abyssinian Government. Sir Austen Chamberlain has stated in Parliament that the agreement was certainly not to be used,' and could not be used, for the purpose of coercing the Abyssinian Government. He believed the agreement to be in the interest of all three parties, but added that ()I' course the Abyssinian Government had a perfect right to judge of what was in the interests of Abyssinia. His Majesty's Chargé d'Affaires was instructed by telegraph on 14th July to bring these statements to the knowledge of Has Tafari. 4. As to the suggestion that the British and Italian Governments are trying to force the Abyssinian Government to yield to their requests in a hurry, and without being afforded time for reflection and study of the requirements of the Abyssinian people, I am to point out that in Notes exchanged between the British Minister in Addis Ababa and the Abyssinian Government on 18th March, 1902, the Emperor Menelik confirmed an oral undertaking given some days previously 'That there is to be' — that is the passage that I have already read, and I need not read it again. The reply goes on: Since the date of this undertaking, which shows that 24 years ago the Emperor Menelik contemplated the construction by the British Government of a barrage at Lake Tsana, His Majesty's Government on several occasions made specific proposals in regard to this work, the full effect of which it is now possible to foretell as the result of the detailed observations which have been carried out by scientific missions dispatched to the lake with the consent and assistance of the Abyssinian Government. In these circumstances His Majesty's Government feel that they cannot fairly be charged with proceeding, in regard to Lake Tsana, with undue precipitancy. 5. In the concluding paragraph of their protest, the Abyssinian Government inquire whether the Anglo-Italian Notes can be regarded as compatible with the independence of Abyssinia, especially when those Notes state that a portion of Abyssinia will be 'reserved' to the economic influence of a particular Power. Sir Austen Chamberlain desires to emphasise that the Anglo-Italian Notes do not 'reserve' any part of Abyssinia to Italian economic influence. His Britannic Majesty's Government, so far as they are concerned, and under certain conditions, 'recognise an exclusive Italian economic influence in the west of Abyssinia and in the whole territory to be crossed by the above-mentioned railway' (joining Eritrea and Italian Somaliland). This recognition cannot affect the rights of third parties or hind the Government of Abyssinia. It imposes no obligation on anyone except the British Government, who, in return for the Italian undertakings in regard to Lake Tsana, engaged not to compete or to support competition with Italian enterprise in the regions specified. 6. Sir Austen Chamberlain will he happy to repeat. these explanations and assurances to Abyssinia in the presence of the Council at its next meeting, when it takes into consideration the Note addressed to you by the Government of Abyssinia, I trust that the House—

Captain BENN

Will Abyssinia he represented?


Most certainly.

Captain BENN

By whom?


By whomsoever she chooses to send. The character of her representation is entirely a matter for herself. If the Council enters on a discussion of the Note of the Abyssinian Government and the reply of His Majesty's Government, and any reply that the Italian Government may think proper to send, if it does send one, then it will be in accordance with the practice and rules of the Council that Abyssinia should be invited to take her seat at the Council for the purposes of that discussion.

It will be seen that His Majesty's Government have no improper purpose to serve, are contemplating no unfriendly act or forcible or improper pressure on the Abyssinian Government, but that we recognise their right to decide about their own territory, and we believe we should be able to convince them that this work is in itself perfectly harmless to them and to the interests they have to protect, that it may be a source of profit to Abyssinia, and that they may find their interest in giving to the Sudan Government the concession we seek. Though I regret that the Abyssinian Government should have felt so suspicious as to think an appeal to the League necessary, and though I had at one time entertained the hope that the explanations which our Ministers had given had removed those suspicions and would render any such appeal unnecessary I say, for my part, that I welcome the opportunity which the League may afford of showing the innocence of British policy and the propriety of the action of the British Government before the Council of the League of Nations.


I heard, with considerable pleasure, the letter which the Foreign Secretary has just read. I cannot help regretting, however, that such a letter should have been necessary. I find it difficult to understand that in 1926 it is possible for the Foreign Secretary to approach diplomacy with an independent State in the manner he has been doing, and in the manner that this correspondence with Italy reveals. If this correspondence had been published in 1907, we could have taken the view of historical continnity, because the spirit and the attitude of the Foreign Secretary are quite in harmony to-day with the attitude that was manifested in the Tripartite Agreement of 1906. The right hon. Gentleman accused me of going into history when I went back three years, but I think he will be the first to recognise that in the last 20 years the foreign policy of the great Powers of the world has undergone very great changes, and that we have to deal, in handling the whole Abyssinian question, with a point of view and an attitude entirely new in our history: I cannot understand why the Foreign Secretary should have waited until after he had concluded his arrangements with Italy before, even unofficially, he approached the very Power that is concerned. I cannot understand why the one independent native State of Africa, which, since 1923, has been a member of the League of Nations, and, therefore, is entitled in foreign affairs to be treated in a spirit of friendliness and equality in such a matter as this, which concerns fundamentally and vitally her economic if not her political existence, should not have been approached direct and have been consulted from the very first in an open and friendly way about the project concerned.

So far as this is a matter of economic development, so far as it is a matter of utilising to greater advantage the waters of the Nile, for the benefit ultimately of Abyssinia, the Sudan and Egypt, I do not think we require any assurance from any part of the House that no one would ever dream of opposing it. The greatest need of all parts of Africa is for tremendous and rapid developments in economic life. The fundamental thing that wants to be done in Africa is the rapid—as rapid as may be—expansion of great reconstruction schemes, both with regard to the waterways and railways and other fundamental productive enterprises. But I should have thought that, in 1926, even if Abyssinia had not been a member of the League, even if she had been an independent State without conscious and deliberate relations with the League of Nations, in the light of all we have lived through since 1906, and especially since 1914, if the right hon. Gentleman was really anxious to enter into friendly economic relations of cooperation with that Power, he would have gone to them and consulted with them from the beginning. Suppose, for example, that Germany and France and the United States had entered into some kind of economic arrangement to do something here in Great Britain, there would have been tremendous indignation. We should not only have been talking about economic penetration, we should have been talking about the threat to our very national existence. And when we remember the past history of Abyssinia, how she has been attacked, once by the British, how she has been attacked from the Egyptian side and attacked by the Italians, we can understand at once why they should have the most grave and most reasonably grounded suspicion when a scheme of this kind is suddenly put before them without so much as a moment's consultation.

I thought when I read of the six months official delay in the handing over of the correspondence to Abyssinia, the Foreign Secretary might have had in mind the six months' delay with the late Ruler of Abyssinia was guilty of when the tripartite agreement came into operation. I gathered that he did not quite know how to answer the assurance that there was no intention at all with regard to affecting the integrity or independence of the State. It took him a long time to understand the meaning of that language used in documents of that kind. It is worth while to remind him of the answer he gave after this six months of deliberation 20 years ago. He said: We have received the arrangement. made by the three Powers. Again without their consultation in those days as in these. We thank them for their intentions and their desire to keep and maintain the independence of our Government, but let it be understood that this arrangement in no way limits what we consider our sovereign rights. 9.0 P.M.

It appears that 20 years ago the monarch was very anxious as to what was meant by this question of the unlimited authority which Abyssinia then enjoyed. I want, therefore, to ask the Foreign Secretary, following the valuable letter he has read, that he will, when he goes to the Assembly of the League this year, take every proper occasion to come into direct contact with the Abyssinians on this proposition, and to dispel the very serious and justly grounded feelings which not only they, but thoughtful citizens in this and other countries entertain with regard to the particular method which has been adopted in connection with this water enterprise from the sour4.es of the Nile.

I should like also to stress how seriously the men and women of the country view this method in t he light of the rapidly developing Imperialistic tendencies of the Italian Government. No one, I think, can fail to be impressed with the remarkable similarity of the language used by the Italian Government in the last few years to that which the late German Government used between 1900 and 1914. We are getting almost exactly the same sentences used that the late Kaiser used with regard to Imperial policy. "Oar future lies on the water" is a phrase which has been passed on by the ex-Kaiser to the pre- sent dictator of Italy, and we have had similar statements as to the nature of the rapidly growing Italian Imperialism. I think the Foreign Secretary will understand, knowing the nature of the present Italian claims, knowing how they require an outlet for their population, why it is that people who are anxious as to the future peace of the world should be very gravely concerned that he has linked up a purely economic project, of ultimate benefit to the Abyssinians, to the Sudan and to Egypt, with the larger enterprises of another great Power in the world.

I should like to emphasise the point of view of the Abyssinians themselves. The State of Abyssinia represents the last chance the people of the world have to see what a native State in Africa can do apart from the direct tutelage of Europeans. In every other part of Africa the black race is more or less directly and deliberately subjected to the power of one white race or another.




There are one or two that I will except, but in a general way the Foreign Secretary will agree that the resources of Abyssinia, both in minerals and from the point of view of agricultural possibilities, represent the one really significant social experiment that is left to the world for the possibility of seeing what can be done by a, native people to develop its own political like. I think not only the late monarch but the present regent have given evidences of a definitely progressive character. They have shown themselves to be deeply desirous of sharing in the life of Western civilisation. The mere fact that the present regent applied to become a member of the League of Nations, the mere fact that he has, out of his own purse, sent quite a number of his own subjects to acquire a West European education, the mere fact that he is working in co-operation with Christian missionaries from all parts of Europe and from the New World—all these things give evidence, whatever their backwardness and whatever their difficulties may be, of a people who are really anxious to make headway. I should like to read to the Foreign Secretary the opinion of an American visitor to Abyssinia with regard to the mental qualities of the average children of Abyssinia. This quotation is taken from the report of the Phelps-Stokes Commission which investigated especially the educational problem of the Eastern States of Africa. This is the judgment which this gentleman formed: I have never met an Abyssinian who was not convinced of the benefits to be derived from education. That this desire for education permeates all classes may be gathered from the remark made by an old Mohammedan Galla of Sayo, near the Sudan border, who said, 'Take my boys and teach them; if they learn Christianity, never mind, so that they learn. As for me, I am too old to change.' I think it is no exaggeration to say that if any sort of poor excuse for a school were put down in any obscure hamlet in Abyssinia, without recommendation of any kind, it would in less than no time attract a multitude of children, very ragged and dirty as to body, but almost without exception possessing minds avid for knowledge to a degree which is little short of remarkable. That this condition exists augurs well for the future. Here is not the dense black Paganism of the White Nile or the fanatic Mohammedism of the Blue Nile or Somaliland, but a people eager to learn. I would impress upon the Foreign Secretary, in something of the spirit if not of the full practice as yet realised by the League of Nations, that we as a British people in the working out not simply of our conception of a mandate but, above all, our conception of a black people associated with the League, do want in our relations with Abyssinia to make them feel in advance that we are going out of our way to remove suspicions, and that we are even prepared to make sacrifices in order that Abyssinia may forget the past of her history, and in order that Abyssinia may learn that when she sends her coffee out she need not have French arms coming in: but that she may rest assured of the best dispositions of the three great Powers, and that she can use her very small resources, not for the purchasing of old-fashioned rifles, but for education and for developing a policy of co-operation with the British Government in economic enterprise.

Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY

Let us get back to the needs of Lancashire. I do not want to be accused of being unsympathetic to the aspirations of small peoples. During tile few years I have sat in this House whenever I have seen a small people attacked and the blame could be brought home to our Government at home—as in the case of Ireland—I have always spoken out. The policy of my party has always been to stand for the benefit of small peoples, especially when some economic advantage accrues to them and benefit can be conferred to our own industries, as in the case of Lancashire. We all know that Lancashire is disturbed at the shortage in the world's cotton supply. From the purely British point of view, if we can by straightforward, honest methods obtain the right to construct this barrage on Lake Tsana, and the other great works lower down on the Blue Nile, it would have been a great advantage to the textile industry in Lancashire. Let us examine the Foreign Office policy from that point of view.

The ridiculous policy which has been pursued is enshrined in the White Paper which was published a few weeks ago, although it contains notes of an agreement dating to December last. We have ended by thoroughly arousing the suspicions of the Abyssinians. They are practically the last free people in Africa; the last independent native State. They are, incidentally, a Christian people, belonging to a. very ancient Christian Church, not the same as ours, and they feel that they have a right to some sympathy from another Christian people. Their suspicions have been thoroughly aroused, and they are people who are not averse to fighting. They are good soldiers, and it would cost many valuable lives to subdue them, as it did in the middle of the last century. The mountaineers especially in Abyssinia, under their native chiefs, have good cause to be proud of their fighting record.

It is regrettable that we have aroused the suspicions of such people. Fortunately, they have applied to the League of Nations. 1 think the application to the Secretary of the League of Nations by Abyssinia is the best thing that has happened for the last few years in the history of the League. It gives an opportunity now for the British Government to reverse this wholly mistaken policy of a secret Agreement with Italy. We have entered into this Agreement without any consultation with Abyssinia, because, forsooth, the Foreign Secretary says that the negotiations for the right to construct the great barrage were making slow progress. Because the negotiations were proceeding too slowly, we thought that we might find a means of bringing pressure on Abyssinia by entering into this Agreement secretly with Italy. The right hon. Gentleman has explained what exclusive economic influence means. He has said that it means that no British subject shall be supported in rivalry with an Italian concession company. That is not how the Italians look at it. The Italian Government take note that the British Government will recognise the exclusive character of Italian economic influence in the west of Abyssinia and in the whole of the territory crossed by the above-mentioned railway. The British Government will further support with the Ethopian Government all Italian requests for economic concessions in the above-mentioned zone. How can the right hon. Gentleman say that that only means that we will not support a rival British concession hunter as against the Italians? We have, thanks to the wisdom of the Abyssinian Government in appealing to the League of Nations, a chance of reversing this policy. I consider that this Agreement, after due notice to Italy, should be denounced. We shall never get any distance with our great scheme for a barrage on Lake Tsana in alliance with Italy. The Italian record is too bad. Her record is one of aggressive Imperialisim towards Abyssinia. The Italian record during the war was only a continuance of this same Imperial policy which has led Italy to one defeat, and if pursued, it will lead her to another defeat in the mountains of Western Abyssinia.

I do not believe that Abyssinia will ever, until Italian policy changes, grant concessions for the building of the railway from Eritrea to Italian Somaliland. I do not believe that railway will ever be built. The cost will be enormous. So long as we are bound by this agreement to Italy, as laid down in the White Paper, we shall never get the right to construct our motor road to the Lake, to construct our barrage or to build other works which could be constructed in the mighty gorges.

We should reverse this policy completely. I hope the Debate in the House to-night will have a good effect on the Abyssinian Government. We have been trying to obtain the property of somebody else without paying for it. That sort. of thing was all right with regard to Morocco or Persia in the days before the War. The same language was used, "Preserve the sovereign independence"—and it is used again. It is always the signal for an encroachment, and if the British and Italian Governments pursue this policy I believe the conscience of the world, acting through the League of Nations, will checkmate us. As regards cotton for Lancashire there will not be an extra gallon of water in Lake Tsana as a result of this policy.

The right hon. Gentleman declared the innocence of the British Government. Yes, innocence, and that is what makes it worse. They have bungled the whole business. Western imperialism is very wicked, but utter stupidity of this sort is a crime. I am glad this Debate has taken place, and that the Abyssinian Government has appealed to the League of Nations. I hope the Foreign Office will now reverse their whole policy, start from the beginning again, satisfy the suspicions of the local inhabitants, who do not want to see their holy places submerged by this barrage scheme, and pay a decent royalty to the Abyssinian Government. I understood that all that stood in the way of the final agreement were two poor batteries of mountain artillery, and yet we were told that we were sending 100,000 Army rifles to Turkey. Above all, we should get clear of this entanglement with the Italian Government where Abyssinia, is concerned. Unless we do that there will be no extra cotton from the Sudan for Lancashire, and we shall have to adopt the other scheme and proceed to dredge the Sudd Valley and barrage the White Nile as an alternative to the Blue. This policy is utterly foolish, and I hope the right lion. Gentleman will have the courage to admit it and the moral courage to go in for a straightforward policy.