Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £1,115,716 (including a Supplementary Sum of £105,000), 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, 1932, for sundry Colonial and Middle Eastern Services under His Majesty's Secretary of State for the Colonies, including certain Non-effective Services and Grants-in-Aid."—[NOTE: £600,000 has been voted on account.]
§ Sir SAMUEL HOARE
I make no apology for raising again certain questions that I discussed almost exactly 12 months ago. I then drew the attention of the Committee to certain points of great importance in the treaty which the British Government were making with the Iraq Government, and it is to those points that I wish now to return. I cannot help saying, at the beginning of my speech, that I think it is a great pity that the House of Commons has not been given the opportunity of saying whether or not they wish the treaty between Great Britain and Iraq ratified. My own view is that it is a treaty that should be ratified, and at the same time I think that in a matter of this kind, particularly with the Government's record and all that they have said in the past about the ratification of treaties by the House o£ Commons, an opportunity should have been given to this House during the past 12 months. The treaty is now ratified, and all that we can do this evening is to draw attention to certain points that arise out of it.
There are two points in particular that arise out of it. There is, first of all, the very important question connected with the treatment of minorities in Iraq, and, secondly, there is the very important question as to what will be the position 1785 of the Imperial forces that are still to remain in Iraq after we have laid down the Mandate and Iraq becomes, to all intents and purposes, a sovereign Power. I begin with the question of minorities, and I should like, in a sentence or two, to emphasise, first of all, the great importance of the question and, secondly, the very interesting character of the minorities with which we are dealing when we come to discuss the future of Iraq. Twelve months ago we were all agreed that in the East the question of minorities is one of the most difficult and complicated questions with which any country or any Government is faced. Since that time, the question has become much more difficult, complicated, and urgent than it was then.
I need not do more than draw attention to the importance that the question, during these 12 months, has reached in almost every part of the East. There, as we Members of the Round Table Conference know only too well, the minorities question is at the centre of almost all the questions that we are discussing in connection with a new constitution for India. Again, as we know only too well, the minority question has led to a very serious outbreak during the last 12 months in Palestine between the Arab majority and the Jew minority. Again, if we look further afield, we have seen how, during the last 12 months, the minority question of the Indians in Kenya has become more and more urgent and more and more important.
In the case of Iraq, speaking generally, there are three minority communities, each of them a very interesting community. There are, first of all, the Kurds, who inhabit the hilly country in the north-east of Iraq. The Kurds, a community now numbering about 1,500,000, at present inhabit three different countries. A portion of them live under the Turks in Turkey, a second portion live in Persia, and a third portion live in Iraq; and the fact that they are divided between three separate countries makes the Kurdish problem obviously all the more difficult and dangerous with which to deal. The Kurds claim to be the survivors of the Medes of the Old Testament, and they are a very interesting community. They have many of the characteristics for which the Highlanders of Scotland were some 1786 what notorious in earlier centuries. They are adepts at guerilla warfare, and they are a very difficult community to dominate.
I come to the next of these minority communities, a community that, for different reasons, is just as interesting as the Kurdish community. I come to the Assyrians, a small Christian minority that at present inhabits the neighbourhood of Mosul, in the north of Iraq. Just as the Kurds claim to be survivors of the Empire of the Medes, so the Assyrians claim to be the representatives of the Assyrian Empire of the Old Testament. They are a very interesting community on historical grounds, and they are also very interesting upon religious grounds. They represent one of the oldest and purest forms of Christianity, and during many centuries, in the face of almost continuous persecution, they have maintained their Christian faith, their Christian practices and their Christian ritual. To-day, owing to many persecutions and vicissitudes, they are reduced to the very small number of quite a few thousands. I hope I have said enough to show how interesting a community they are and how disastrous it would be, from every point of view, if in the future their peculiar national, religious and racial characteristics were blotted out and eliminated.
I now come to the last of these three minorities, and again it is a minority for other reasons just as interesting as the two that I have already mentioned. I come to the Yezidis, or devil-worshippers. My right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) and I a few years ago, in a flying tour that we made of these districts, visited all these communities, and we had the great privilege of being presented to the chief of the devil-worshippers. Let hon. Members make no mistake. Let them not think, because this small community has as its chief doctrine the worship of the devil, that it compares badly, either for morals or for ethical practices, with any similar community in the world. On the whole, they are a very wise people. They take this view of the world—a view that I am afraid is very often borne out by what actually happens—that the power for evil is a very serious power, and that therefore you had better conciliate it. Accordingly, the whole of their religious practices are based upon a series of attempts 1787 to propitiate this power of evil, and one of the ways in which they do this is never to mention the power of evil by his real name. They think that it might hurt his susceptibilities if they call him by his real name of Satan. Accordingly, they always describe him as the "Peacock Angel," thinking, no doubt, that a picturesque title of that kind will please him. Upon the whole they live a very reputable life, inhabiting a mountain country upon which they claim that Noah's Ark ran aground. They are described, in the best work of its kind on their tribal customs, in this sentence. I ask hon. Members to take it to heart, because we might well follow their example.Their demeanour and conversation are tranquil, and even dignified, and a lost temper and bad language are against the tenets of their religion.It would be a great loss, not only to Iraq but to the world at large, if this very interesting little community were in any way blotted out.
What is the Iraq Government and what is the British Government doing to ensure that in the future, when we have laid down our mandate, there will be no unfair discrimination against any of these communities? Last year I asked the Under-Secretary what the Government were going to do, and I cannot say I received a very satisfactory answer. He told me, first of all, that it would never do to interfere with the discretion of a sovereign Government in dealing with minorities of this kind and that there never was any interference of that kind. That is not correct. Time after time in recent years—I would quote one or two of the Treaties that emerged at the end of the War—steps have been taken, where territory has been transferred from one Power to another, to insert Clauses under which a very definite protection is given to minorities, and it is actually guaranteed by the League of Nations. I do not suggest, now that the Treaty is ratified, that he can insist upon a Clause of that kind being added to it. But, when the admission of Iraq into the League comes up for discussion and possible confirmation at the Assembly next September, the British Government on its part, and the Iraq Government on its part also, ought to make categorical statements that, under the future system 1788 of government in Iraq, there is going to be no unfair discrimination of any kind against any of these three communities.
I believe a declaration of that kind made categorically before the Assembly of the League would not only make it much easier for the Assembly to accept the admission of Iraq but would provide some assurance to these three communities, each of which I know from my own personal knowledge is extremely anxious about the future. Further, I would ask the hon. Gentleman to tell us what the Government has actually done upon the subject in the Mandates Commission. What line has it taken? I have seen that there have been meetings of the Commission recently. Have they made it quite clear that as between themselves and Iraq there is a tacit understanding, even though it is not included in its Treaty, that there is to be no discrimination against any of these minorities. I hope the Under-Secretary will be able to give a categorical answer to each of these questions.
I now come to the no less important question in my view of the use of Imperial troops in Iraq when that country ceases to be a mandated power and becomes a sovereign Government. At present there is a garrison of Imperial troops, consisting for the most part of squadrons of the Air Force, acting under the orders of the High Commissioner, representing the mandatory Power. Under the Treaty which has now been ratified this situation will be materially changed. In the first place, we shall cease to be the mandatory Power and we shall no longer have a High Commissioner. His place will be taken by a diplomatic representative, but for five years the Imperial Garrison is, none the less, to be allowed to remain in the country with the two main bases which at present exist, namely, Hinaidi, near Bagdad, and Mosul, in the north, as the principal Imperial cantonments. After five years there will be another period of 20 years in which we shall evacuate those two bases. We shall then have a right to have two other bases for the Imperial garrison, one on the west of the Euphrates and one in the neighbourhood of Basra. It is contemplated that in this 20 years period a permanent treaty should be made between the 1789 British Government and Iraq under which the lines of Imperial communication, that is to say for the most part the air line that now passes over Iraq to the east, would be permanently guaranteed.
I wish to ask in what conditions are the Imperial troops to be used when we have ceased to be a mandatory Power. I imagine he will at once accept my two first answers to that question. I imagine he will at once accept the answer that British troops can nowhere be ordered about by any but a British Government. That is the very basis of our defence policy overseas and, if we once admitted the possibility of British troops being ordered about by any Government but a British Government, we should land ourselves in endless complication. We might in the future—I take the case of India as a case in point—make the position of the Imperial forces almost impossible. I cannot, therefore, stress too strongly the necessity of insisting that British troops, wherever they may be, are solely and exclusively under the orders of the British Government. Secondly, I suggest that British troops cannot be used for maintaining internal order in the country for whose government we are not responsible, unless under the specific orders of the British Government. There was a case in the last century, in the years before the Indian Mutiny, when we were drawn into using British troops for supporting the Government of the Nawab of Oudh. I am not suggesting that the Government of Iraq will go the way of the Government of the Nawab of Oudh, but it is worth quoting the case, because in the case of Oudh we were not responsible for the government when we were drawn into supporting it by British troops. The result of it was that a great measure of odium descended, not only upon the British Army, but upon the British Raj generally in India on the ground that we were supporting an unpopular and incompetent Government. The result of the events which then took place was that we were driven, whether we willed it or not, into annexing Oudh as part of the Indian Empire. I am very anxious that in this new chapter 1790 of Iraq history there should be no risk whatever of a similar state of affairs taking place there in the future.
When I raised the question last year, the Under-Secretary of State gave me to understand—I have his speech here—that British troops would never under any conditions be used for the maintenance of internal order in Iraq. He quoted to mo Arteile 5 of the Treaty, the article in which it is specifically stated that the Iraqi forces are to be responsible for internal order and that the King of Iraq has no right to call upon British forces for the purpose. As a matter of fact, the Under-Secretary of State went even further than I went myself, and certainly implied that British troops would not even be used for dealing with the kind of nomadic invasions that have frequently taken place in the south west deserts of Iraq where hordes of Bedouin Wahabis have from time to time drifted over the Iraq frontier. Since then the hon. Gentleman has been questioned upon the subject in the House of Commons. The other day when my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Captain Eden) asked a question on the subject, the Under-Secretary of State gave this answer:If the hon. and gallant Member will refer to Article 5 of the Treaty, he will find that the assumption that Iraq will have the right to call upon British forces to maintain internal order is without foundation. The second part of the question therefore does not arise. It is not contemplated that British forces retained in Iraq shall be at the disposal of any but British authority who will be fully able to judge whether their use is justified in any particular emergency."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th July, 1931; col. 14, Vol. 255.]That answer sounds satisfactory as far as it goes, but there is one point upon which it leaves me still in considerable doubt. The Under-Secretary of State says that the British representative will be fully able to judge whether the use of the Imperial forces is justified or not in any particular emergency. The question about which I am concerned is whether the British representative really will be able fully to judge, when he ceases to be High Commissioner and the representative of the Mandatory Power, whether such a situation has or has not arisen. At present, the British High Commissioner has under him a number of extremely efficient British officials scattered over every part of the country.
1791 He has in his hands an intelligence service which keeps him informed as to what is happening in every part of the country. When he ceases to be High Commissioner and becomes merely the diplomatic representative of this country, even though he is the senior diplomatic representative and has the rank of ambassador, I am doubtful whether he will still have at his command the intelligence and information without which it will be impossible for him to arrive at a wise and quick decision as to whether such a situation has or has not arisen.
Let me put to the hon. Gentleman the kind of situation that might arise. I know something of this country, and I know the kind of way in which trouble begins. Trouble does not begin with a formal declaration of war or with some great and easily definable movement. It begins with some small affair, it may be a quarrel in a bazaar, it may be a fight between the two sections of Islam in one of the Holy Cities, and it may, again, be a dispute—and this very often happens in the East—between the taxgatherer and the taxpayer. I do not suggest that the taxgatherer need always be in the right. When small trouble begins, a demand is almost invariably made for an air demonstration at once over the district in which the trouble takes place, and as things are at present the High Commissioner, with his Intelligence Service, knows whether it is the kind of situation in which he ought to intervene and in which he ought to send British aeroplanes to make a demonstration. The trouble will be when he no longer has these officials to report to him. He will have none of that kind of information left at his disposal unless it is made quite clear at the very start that the British High Commissioner, or as I should say, the British Ambassador is in a position quite different from any other diplomatic representative, I will go so far as to say in almost any part of the world, and that he is given, by one means or another, full information from day to day, without which it will be quite impossible or him to decide whether Imperial troops ought or ought not to intervene.
I cannot emphasise too much the importance of this question and the importance of getting it clear from the very 1792 start. The last thing in the world that we wish to see is that the British Air Force should be implicated in what are really internal disputes. It would be unfair upon the British Air Force, and it would be unjust to the British Empire as a whole. The Under-Secretary of State, I hope, therefore, will be able to make it clear to the Committee that the Iraq Government have admitted the difficulty of this position and accept the fact that the British Ambassador will be in a position totally different from any other diplomatic representative, and that he will have at his disposal from start to finish the information, without which it will be impossible for him to judge whether Imperial forces should intervene or not.
There is one further subject upon which I will touch. It may be thought from what I have said that I am suspicious of the Iraq Government and that I am hostile to the Treaty. I am neither one nor the other. I have many friends in and out of the Iraq Government, and I am glad to think that in so short a space of time they have been able so far to develop and stabilise their country as to make their acceptance likely when they demand admission to the League of Nations. Their progress has been really remarkable in the few years that have elapsed since the War. I am particularly glad to pay a tribute to the progress that has been made with the Iraq army. This bears directly upon the point which I have been emphasising. It stands to reason that if the Iraq army is capable of maintaining internal order for itself, there will be no possible justification for calling in Imperial troops.
It is satisfactory to note that, during the last few years, great progress has been made with the Iraq Army. Let me take a single instance. When I was responsible for the defence of Iraq, some years ago, and we had trouble with the Kurdish tribes in the north east, it was necessary to operate almost entirely with the British Air Force. In the last few months similar operations have been necessary against the same tribal leader who made trouble years ago, but the difference between the operations in recent months and the operations of five or six years ago is, is that whereas the operations of five or six years ago had to be undertaken by the British Air Force, the operations of the last few 1793 months have been undertaken almost entirety by the Iraq Army, and I understand that they have been carried through most satisfactorily.
There is another matter on which we can congratulate the Iraq Government as showing the progress that has been made with its defence force. I have been delighted to see that in the last few weeks the first flight of Iraq pilots in Iraq aeroplanes from Cranwell, the Air Force training College, where the Iraq cadets have been in training, out to Iraq, has taken place, and that a start has already been made with the Iraq Air Force. I wish every success to that Air Force, and I am glad to think that it was when I was in office that we welcomed the first Iraq cadets to Cranwell. I hope that that Force will be developed and will become efficient, because the more efficient it becomes, the less likely will it be in future that the British Air Force will be called upon to intervene.
My last point deals with the British officials now serving in Iraq. My right hon. Friends on these benches will support me when I say that no British officials have done better work during the last few years than the small company of British officials in Iraq have done in creating and stabilising this new State. I should like the Under-Secretary to give the Committee a categorical assurance that the interests of these officials will be safeguarded, both in the letter and in the spirit, when Iraq becomes a Sovereign State. I am aware that correspondence has passed between the British Government and the Iraq Government on the subject. I should like the Under-Secretary to tell the Committee that definite arrangements have already been made under which the rights of the British officials are safeguarded in the letter and in the spirit. I am afraid that I have taken up a considerable amount of time, but I think that the questions to which I have drawn attention are well worthy of consideration.
Sir HILTON YOUNG
There is nothing that has been said by my right hon. Friend on the subject of the Iraq Government with which I in any measure disagree. He has dwelt upon the need for the protection of minorities, viewing the matter from the angle of the minorities. I would dwell upon the same need but rather from the angle of the 1794 Government of Iraq and the need that there is for sympathy and comprehension of the general situation in Iraq, in order to understand the true interests of minorities there as well as of majorities. By a combination of those two angles of vision, the angle of vision of my right hon. Friend and the other angle of vision, consideration of the difficulties of the Iraq Government, we can arrive at a just attitude towards the future of Iraq. It is important that we should do that at this particular moment because of the impending event when Iraq will cease to be in any respect dependant upon the British Empire and will become in all senses a sovereign and independent State. When one begins a relation well, it is easy to continue it well, but when the relations are begun in a mistaken manner, the position is very difficult to put right.
I would ask the Committee to consider the very difficult task which the Government of Iraq has before it, as the inheritor of a fragment of a broken-up Empire—the Turkish Empire; as the inheritor of a fragment only, provided with none of the complete apparatus of a State, compelled to provide the whole of that apparatus for itself, compelled to provide the whole of the headquarter and district organisation, and without the capital plant of a civilised State. It is a formidable task. How formidable the task must be in the safe establishment of civil order in this turbulent and difficult part of the world, the Committee would do well to appreciate. The Government of Iraq is confronted with these two hard tasks, and it has no complete capital plant. Its whole railway system is imperfect; it is foreign-owned by the British Government. For the completion of the very minimum of plant to establish government, it has not yet been able to acquire that firmly based credit which must be the basis for the obtaining of the capital which is essential.
Accumulated upon these natural difficulties in the position of the Iraq Government there comes this period of phenomenal depression, a period which afflicts all the world but which afflicts the infant state of Iraq far more severely than any other. The economic position of Iraq is based solely upon the agricultural produce of its peasantry. That produce is necessarily of a very backward sort— 1795 it consists of the cheapest form of grain. The revenue of Iraq is based on the revenue from grain. That market has been reduced to a state of absolute paralysis by the sudden flood of cheap surplus barley and cheap wheat from Russia. In these conditions the economic situation is full of difficulties; and it is particularly pertinent to our discussion this evening to note that this economic setback to the State, falling revenue and a budgetary deficit instead of a surplus, has necessarily involved the abandonment of many legitimate expectations for the improvement of the apparatus of government, of social services, and other functions of civilised government in Iraq. They have had to be postponed on account of this economic setback.
I would like to draw the moral, if I may, which is relevant to the question of minorities. I have heard, and no doubt many of those interested in the treatment of minorities have heard, complaints of, what shall I call it, discrimination in the treatment by the Iraq Government of these minorities? We have heard from the Kurds that there has been discrimination against their interests in the measures of the Iraq Government. On investigating these complaints, I have often found that the discrimination complained of as against the Kurds was in trying to impose some measure of limitation on Government outlay which has been necessitated by bad times as a general measure for all. Last year I had the honour of advising the Government of Iraq in its Budget proposals, and I am sorry to say that I know that some of the matters complained of by the Kurds as a discrimination against them were nothing whatever but a general restriction on Government outlay, which the Government accepted on my advice.
I should like to mention one other circumstance which I think illustrates how very careful one has to be before one concludes under strange conditions and with strange communities in remote places, that there has been any unfair treatment or discriminations. My hon. Friend referred to the interesting community of the Yezidis. May I add my testimony to his as to the false impression that is given of these worthy folk by the common description that they are devil worshippers. 1796 Their religion is philosophical with ethical and moral aspects, and is by no means one of degradation or mere savagery. This community, which has about the same status in civilisation otherwise, is subject to one slight disadvantage. The great complaint made at times by the Yezidis is that they are not allowed to take their full share in local government by their own officials. But it is contrary to the principles of the Yezidis religion that any Yezidis should ever have any education. Under modern conditions, that imposes a certain limitation on the utility of the finer type of Yezidi in taking part in the machinery of modern government.
There is a real necessity for us to take the greatest possible care in avoiding the imputation of the old proverb, "Give a dog a bad name and hang him." When one is contemplating the future as between the Arab Government and minorities it would be the biggest mistake to presume any intention to do a wrong or unfair action on the part of the Arab Government. Surely the Arab Government is entitled by its past record that no presumption should be made which is hostile to it. I should say that the whole Arab race were entitled by their place and position in history to the strong presumption that any government they might form would act with tolerance. It is a race which by its great tolerance of civilisation in the early days did much to keep alive the flower of culture in the Bagdad Caliphate when it had almost ceased to bloom in other parts of the civilised world.
The history of the Arabs, except for a few fanatical sects in Arabia, which do not come into contact with civilising influences, is a history of tolerance as regards minorities; very contrary to the history of the Turks. Much confusion and danger will result if we confound Turkish history and Arab history in that respect. As a matter of fact, there is a great safeguard for the future of minorities in Iraq. The principal minority, the Kurd minority, is much too numerous and vigorous ever to be oppressed by any other section in the territory. Indeed, one's sympathy should be extended towards the majority rather than towards the minority, because the relation is the same as that which exists between the Highlander and the Lowlander, familiar 1797 to us in other parts of the world. There is one other consideration if we are to consider the right attitude towards this very important question. I claim that we have a special obligation towards the protection of minorities in Iraq based upon our association as comrades in arms during the War, if for no other reason. We must maintain the interests of these communities in the most steadfast manner. But is there not this consideration always to be borne in mind? The Arab, the Kurd, the Assyrian Christian, the Yezidis, in Iraq have to live together. They have to shake down together and make out their own ways of life.
I believe that no great difficulty is presented by the future. I believe that the intentions are those of perfect good will; that the Arabs recognise the necessity to them and to their economic interests of the mountaineers, and the mountaineers realise the necessity of the Arabs of the delta. There is nothing in the modern Arab mind which is jealous, antagonistic, oppressive, or tyrannical, towards other communities in the country. But, however that may be, the fact remains that they have to live together, and I am sure it will be agreed that nothing could be more dangerous to the interests of minorities than to teach them to try to rest their fortunes upon external interference. Surely in this community, as in all others, the minorities have to recognise that it is their Government as much as the Government of the majority and that they must bring their influence and knowledge into the common 'Stock, to exert their influence on their own Government, to work out their own salvation by common efforts in a joint state. The State in Iraq must be a joint State, and we must surely beware of any action, any attitude, any propaganda, which would have the effect of teaching the minorities in Iraq hostility towards the majority, or teaching them that it is better for them to get their ends by agitation abroad than by taking a healthy normal part in their own local government.
To that extent, we can all cordially support the contention that there should be some definite pronouncement, at the outset of the Iraqi Government, of the conviction on the part of the majority of an obligation to "play the game" by the minorities. It would be a great 1798 error, in view of the admirable re-cord of the Arab Government, to expect any exceptional declaration from the Arab Government as regards its minorities—to impose upon the Arab Government any declaration of pronouncement unlike that expected from any other Government. That Government is entitled not to have such a claim or demand made upon it. On the other hand, in the interests of the future State, in the interest of the discharge of those obligations to which I have referred, and which are so strong, there is certainly nothing unnatural, nothing that should be wounding to the susceptibilities of the Arab Government, if, on the occasion of its admission into the League, there is accorded to it the privilege—because it is a privilege rather than an exaction—of making a declaration, such as has been made by other nations, recognising its special obligations to the minorities included in its territory.
Precedents can be found and one would venture to urge that very careful search should be made, and that the precedents for a declaration of this sort in the original Mandates and Treaties, in the cases, for instance, of Poland, Rumania, Hungary and Czechoslovakia should be examined. There should be a careful reference to those precedents, in formulating any statement or any declaration which it is proposed that the Arab Government should make on its entry into the League. On such a basis as this it would appear that we can face in a spirit of cordial co-operation and good will our future relations with the State which has been for some years under our tutelage, and is now to embark upon the fuller and freer life to which it is entitled.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. HORRABIN
I am sure I shall express the feelings of many Members on this side if I say that we are grateful to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare) for his very lucid exposition of the Iraq minorities' problem. I may be permitted to add that the right hon. Gentleman's enthusiasm for the Yezidis almost made one wonder how far he himself had become a convert, because he mentioned that their general demeanour was "tranquil and dignified," and I can think of no words which more accurately 1799 describe the right hon. Gentleman himself. I do not rise, however, to continue the discussion on this problem, but to raise a general point which I think comes under the heading of this Vote and to make an appeal to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary upon it. It is a matter which affects vitally territories in various parts of the Empire, including some of those listed under this Vote. It is the general subject of indirect rule, and I wish to direct attention to one or two of its implications. I need hardly remind hon. Members of what is meant by the general method and principle of indirect rule, but I may be allowed to quote a couple of sentences from an authoritative work on the subject. The system of indirect rule in the British Colonies is described in these words:Under this system the British administrator endeavours to govern the people committed to his charge not directly but through the medium of their own tribal or local institutions.The second sentence which I would quote is:Every effort is made to train the native authority in executive responsibility and in sound principles of Government, and pro-pressively to extend its sphere.It is on those two definitions of indirect rule that I wish to make some remarks, and the particular point on which I appeal to my hon. Friend is that due care should Be exercised to see that indirect rule in all British territories fulfils those definitions, and is not any sort of camouflage for other and different ends. I refer, from memory, to a letter which I received recently from a missionary. I do so from memory because my hon. Friend has the letter in his possession at the moment, but be will correct me if I give a wrong impression of it. That missionary describes a meeting of a local native council at which no fewer than five European officials were present. The missionary makes a point that any freedom in the expression of views was obviously impossible at that council, in the presence of such an overpowering number of official representatives. In face of the definition which I have just read, it appears almost comic that a representative meeting of natives should be attended by five of the rulers and governors. The presence of so many 1800 at a single local native council indicates to the ordinary observer something very much more like direct rule than indirect rule.
I take this opportunity of pleading with my hon. Friend that greater care should be exercised in this matter, and greater opportunities given for the growth and development of native institutions, even in new directions, than are sometimes accorded at present under the assumed name of indirect rule. I wish to ask him if it is possible to guarantee that this will be done in certain territories like Nyasaland and some other territories which are, I suppose, at the lower end of the scale of constitutional Government since by their constitutions their native councils have official chairmen. In those territories greater opportunities should be given to the natives to become articulate, to express themselves, and to develop even new and fresh institutions. There is an obvious danger otherwise that indirect rule, so far from being used as means of encouraging native growth and progress, will in actual practice be a means of definitely stabilising reaction by encouraging only the more conservative elements in native life, and will definitely be used as a means of checking the growth of any sort of new institutions and of new points of view among native people. We know that these dangers exist, because dissatisfaction with indirect rule in actual practice has reached these shores. I want to take this opportunity of urging on my hon. Friend that every encouragement should be given to realising in practice the declared and nominal aims of indirect rule, and that the sort of danger to which I have alluded should as far as possible, and to a greater extent than hitherto, be avoided.
Even the most bitter enemies of His Majesty's present advisers will hardly deny that the Government have had their fair share of troubles, both external and domestic, and it must be some satisfaction to them to feel to-night that we are discussing a subject into which large party controversy does not enter. The question of our relations with Iraq has involved us in the past in a certain amount of domestic agitation. Indeed, the difficulties which we encountered and the expenditure 1801 which we incurred in implementing the promises made to the Arabs during the War, were seized upon not many years ago by certain newspapers as a convenient stick with which to belabour Parliament in general, and the Conservative party in particular. Fortunately for us and for Iraq, that stick has some time since been discarded for other weapons, presumably more effective and up-to-date. I am sure therefore that the Under-Secretary for the Colonies will not be surprised to hear that the observations which I intend to address to him to-night are made in no captious or critical spirit, but simply because I and many of my hon. Friends would like to have some light and leading from him on certain aspects of the problem, which, if they are not faced in plenty of time, may contain the germs of future difficulties and embarrassments.
We recognise in every quarter of the House the very remarkable progress which has been made by Iraq of recent years, and I should like to join my tribute to the many which have been paid to-night and on previous occasions to those British officers and officials whose ability, tact, and devotion to duty have made this progress possible. The very fact that Great Britain is about to sponsor the application of Iraq to enter the League of Nations is in itself a striking testimony to the capacity of those administrators, and no less indeed to the Arab statesmen who have shown themselves capable of assuming the responsibility for governing their own country so soon after it has become a nation. The Treaty concluded between Great Britain and Iraq, which is to come into force as soon as the latter is admitted a member of the League of Nations, contains a number of general provisions clearly to the advantage of both countries, with which nobody on any side of the Committee will desire to quarrel.
The most important clause appears to me to deal with the future of our Air Force in Iraq. This is the first occasion upon which any mandatory Power has completed its task and is to lay down the mandate entrusted to it by the League of Nations. Such a relinquishment must therefore create an entirely novel situation, and we cannot expect to find well-established precedents for 1802 the measures which have to be taken to give effect to what is really a handing over of our stewardship. The Committee has been reminded by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea (Sir 8. Hoare) that we have the right to maintain forces in Iraq at Hinaidi and Mosul for five years from the entry into force of the Treaty, and subsequently for a further period of 20 years we can keep an air force at or about Basra and at some base to be selected by mutual agreement west of the Euphrates. It appears that the functions of this air force will be twofold. Firstly, they will be there to enable us to implement our obligations under Article 4 of the Treaty to come to the aid of Iraq in the capacity of an ally in the event of that country becoming engaged in war. Secondly, this force will be there to secure, in the words of the annexure to the Treaty:the permanent maintenance and protection in all circumstances of the essential communications of His Britannic Majesty.Although it is clearly laid down in Article 5 that the responsibility for the maintenance of internal order rests upon the shoulders of the King of Iraq and his Government, it must not be forgotten that the British Air Force has played an absolutely vital part in the defence of Iraq, both against external aggression and internal unrest, and that air action has been proved to be not only much the most effective, but the most humane method of dealing with disturbances in certain localities which are only accessible to military forces, after long and vexatious delays, at a very considerably increased expenditure. Therefore, we must recognise that every member of any future Iraq Government will be perfectly well aware of the immense value of the British Air Force units which are to be stationed in their country. It may be that occasions will arise upon which the temptation to seek their very powerful aid will prove to be almost irresistible. It will be difficult to define precisely, in a country like Iraq, the line which separates external aggression from internal disorder. Certainly up in the frontiers, in the Mosul vilayet, this definition will be a matter of great uncertainty.
Although Article 5 of the Treaty undoubtedly lays the responsility for the 1803 defence of the country from external aggression as well as internal disorder upon the shoulders of the King of Iraq, except in the event of a formal declaration of war, when we are bound to come to his assistance, it still appears to me as if there might well arise occasions upon which the aid of our Air Force units might be sought at very short notice. I think precisely the same situation was in the mind of my right hon. Friend who opened this Debate. Up to the present the responsibility for the use of these forces has always rested, and I think in. the view of everybody in the House very properly rested, not upon the Air Officer Commanding, but upon the shoulders of the British High Commissioner. The Air Officer Commanding has been absolved from the very fateful decision as to whether his forces are to be used, and been left only with the decision, perfectly proper to a senior service officer, as to how and when.
After the Treaty comes into force the High Commissioner is to be replaced by an ordinary diplomatic representative, and although it is expressly laid down that the precedence which our High Commissioner in Bagdad enjoys over the representatives of other nations is to descend to his successor, it still leaves him vis-à-vis our military or air forces in a totally different position from the High Commissioner. I do not for one moment suppose that this vitally important question of the responsibility for ordering into action our air forces which are to be stationed in Iraq after the conclusion of this Treaty has been overlooked either in the Colonial Office or the Air Ministry. I have been lucky enough to have had a little experience of both those Departments, and I am perfectly certain that full consideration has been given to this point; but I would ask the right hon. Gentleman, if he can do so without detriment to the public interest, to give us something rather more precise than is available to us in the Treaty as to the exact responsibility which will rest in future upon the Senior Air Officer in Iraq. In my view it is only fair that this responsibility should be more closely defined than it is at present, and I would like to 1804 associate myself with my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea in saying that I think that the specific consent of His Majesty's Ambassador in Bagdad should be an essential condition precedent to the employment of any single one of our air units.
The other matter upon which I wish to touch very briefly is one which has already been dealt with in so very adequate and interesting a fashion by my right hon. Friend who opened this Debate, and that is the question of minorities. Their numbers in relation to the population of Iraq are by no means negligible, and their services to the British cause in the War were by no means unimportant. In point of fact, they form the greater part of the population of the northern province of Iraq, the Mosul vilayet, that part which is most remote from the capital both in a geographical and in an ethnological sense. There is no doubt that we have very special responsibilities in regard to these minorities, the Kurds, the Assyrian Christians, the Chaldeans, and the Yezidis. We assumed these responsibilities when we accepted the mandate for Iraq, and even though it might be argued that the handing back of this mandate to the League of Nations absolves us from any further legal liability towards these minorities, most Members of the House will agree that a considerable moral obligation must remain.
I would like to remind the Committee of the precise circumstances under which the Mosul vilayet came to be incorporated into Iraq at all. This province, in many respects the most valuable in the whole of Iraq, was claimed by Turkey. The British Government, as a good member of the League of Nations, referred the question to the League, and a commission was sent out by the League in 1925 to decide whether the Mosul vilayet should be handed over to Turkey or incorporated in the mandatory territory of Iraq. After a very careful survey of the whole situation the commission decided to give Mosul to Iraq, but on the distinct understanding that Great Britain was to hold the mandate for 25 years; and, therefore, if we are going to give up the mandate when only a quarter of that period has expired, I 1805 think the right hon. Gentleman will agree that we have a peculiar and a special responsibility.
Nothing whatever is said in the Treaty about minorities, and I fully appreciate the point which was made by the right hon. Gentleman in the Debate a year ago about doing nothing to offend the susceptibilities of the Iraq Government, but I am sure he will understand that those of us who have seen these minorities, and who take an interest in them, would like, if possible, some further information, and, indeed, if we could have it, some further assurances, as to the precise methods by which it is proposed to safeguard their interests in the future. Of course it is perfectly open to the hon. Gentleman to reply that the mandate is being handed back to the League of Nations, and that the League will look after the minorities in Iraq exactly as they have looked after minorities in other parts of the world, but I am certain he will agree with me that the history of minorities is by no means the happiest part of the history of the League of Nations. If the League have found it difficult to discharge these peculiar responsibilities in Eastern Europe, so much more difficult will they find it to discharge them properly in a remote part of Asia.
Here, again, we come up against precisely the same difficulty in regard to the altered status of the senior British repre-presentative in Iraq. The High Commissioner, as my right hon. Friend pointed out, has at his disposal a number of very efficient subordinates, and, indeed, the whole paraphernalia of a proper intelligence service. I have a vivid recollection of Mr. Lloyd, the Civil Commissioner in Mosul in 1925. There was a man, a compatriot of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), and I believe a constituent of my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea, who had an intimate knowledge of these minorities from constant personal contact. That knowledge was invariably at the disposal of the High Commissioner, and it was the sort of knowledge that even Sir Henry Dobbs, wonderful man that he was, could not possibly have, because he did not live entirely in Mosul. It is this point which seems to us to be very important—that our future Ambassador is 1806 going to be deprived of his intelligence service, and, indeed, to be deprived of the sort of eyes and feelers which are at present such a very essential part of the High Commissioner's equipment. I am, perfectly certain this point also has not escaped the notice of the Department, and I am only asking that the hon. Gentleman will on this question give us such assurance as he can.
I hope, in conclusion, that nothing which I have said will be taken as any reflection either upon the bona fides or upon the capacity of those Arab statesmen who are soon to guide the destinies of Iraq as an independent nation. I should like to associate myself with the very fine appreciation of their difficulties which has been expressed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Seven-oaks (Sir H. Young). It is the sort of appreciation which could only be given by somebody who knows their difficulties and understands their aspirations from A to Z. I have attempted to raise these points to-night because they are the kind of difficulties which will disappear if we face up to them now but which, if we ignore them, may later on grow to alarming proportions. What I am really attempting to do is to ask the Under-Secretary to grasp the nettle—not, I assure him, in the hope that he will be stung, but because I believe that the nettle will behave as it is always supposed to do in the proverb.
§ Mr. MANDER
In the interesting Debate we have had to-night, we are dealing with, perhaps, one of the most valuable things which arose out of the settlement at the close of the War, namely, the mandate system, when we got the new ideal admitted into the law of the world, that nations shall act as trustees for the inhabitants of countries of a low state of development, politically, with whom they may be associated. I am glad to think that in actual practice the British Empire has not had to alter to any very considerable extent, or perhaps not at all, the long practice which we have adopted, but that certainly has not been the fact as regards certain other nations who have set up a very much higher standard of administration than existed before. I agree with the remarks made by the right hon. Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare), when he said it might have been better if the Treaty 1807 had been brought before this House before ratification, because, after all, that is the declared policy of the present Government. I can only think that there is one rule for the Foreign Office and another for the Colonial Office. I must say, from the experience of the last few years, I have taken the view that the Foreign Office way of dealing with matters is a very much more happy one, on the whole, than that adopted by the Colonial Office. I hope that if any treaties of this kind are signed in future they will be brought to this House for ratification in accordance with the declared policy of the Government. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will be able to say why that practice has not been followed in this case.
We are dealing with an entirely new situation which has not arisen before, because there has been no case of a mandatory country surrendering the mandate back to the League. Whatever is done now will set a precedent for the future, and I think the situation from every point of view requires very close consideration and investigation, particularly as regards the minorities. I quite agree with the idea that it is not for this country to make statements, promulgate policies and carry on a great agitation for the protection of minorities in Iraq. That is the duty of the Council of the League. We should leave that to them in the main, exercising on the Council such influence as we have. I can see that the Iraq Government is naturally very sensitive on matters of this kind, and it would be better to leave the question entirely to the Council, advised, as they are sure to be by the Mandates Commission which has recently been considering the very problems that will arise when a mandatory State surrenders its charge. Some very definite proposal ought to be put forward by the Council before Iraq is admitted to the League, because however good the record of the Arabs may be—and I have no doubt it is all that we have been told to-night—they are being asked to shoulder a task of enormous difficulty in the proper care and satisfaction of the minorities within their borders.
There are States with a very much higher degree of political development and with very much longer experience than Iraq, and very close to the shores 1808 of this country, who have not succeeded in dealing with their minorities in a way that has given satisfaction either to the minorities or to the public opinion of the world. In fact, it may be said that there are only two countries that have really succeeded—the British Empire and Switzerland. I do not think Iraq need feel that any undue safeguarding measures are being taken if such steps are adopted as are possible for seeing that proper protection is given to the minorities there. When it is suggested that the Arabs have such a very good record—which I do not challenge for a moment—one cannot help asking, would it really be suggested that the Arabs should be entrusted with looking after minorities, let us say, in Palestine at present? The consideration of that problem only snows the very great difficulties that will be presented to Iraq in their new task. We have been told that the Treaty having been ratified, nothing further can be done as regards that. I must say I do not think the Treaty is in all respects a very happy one, because, in the first place, I do not think the idea of having an alliance between one country and another, between this country and Iraq, is really consistent with the purest League doctrine.
We objected strongly to the policy that has been adopted by France and other countries in Europe in having alliances with Little Entente countries, with Poland and countries of that kind. I think exactly the same objection on an entirely different range applies in this case, because any country that is a member of the League of Nations, as Iraq in due course will be, is entitled to look not simply to Great Britain, but for the fullest support of every one of the 55 members of the League, as the number will then be. I cannot help thinking it would have been very much sounder international law, and in accordance with the practice of the present day, if exactly the same duties that we shall be carrying out in future in accordance with the Treaty were carried out by us as an agent acting on behalf of the League of Nations. If, under Article IV of the Treaty, we were called upon to resist outside aggression, we should do it not in virtue of the Treaty, but in virtue of the Covenant of the League of Nations.
1809 If any possibility arises in future, I hope the Government will consider if it is not possible to incorporate something on those lines. I agree with the doubts and anxieties expressed here to-night regarding the future use of the Royal Air Force in Iraq. It is difficult to see how the responsible authorities are to find out what is going on in the remote parts of the country, and how far any demand that may be put up to them may be justified. Sir Henry Dobbs, the very distinguished late High Commissioner, has expressed that view, and has expressed disapproval of the position in which the Air Force will be placed. I hope the Under-Secretary, when he replies, will be able to satisfy the views that have been expressed by every Member who has spoken on that most difficult point.
The main point that I want to put before the Committee is one which has not been expressed so far in the Debate, and that is the actual steps that might be taken to deal with minorities for their protection at the end of the Mandate when Iraq comes into the League. I am not asking the Government to push this policy. I am asking them to support it in so far as we are represented on the League, and to accede to it in so far as we have any influence with Iraq. I think it would be a wise course for the Council of the League to arrange, by agreement, that there should be in Iraq in future a representative of the League of Nations to act as a sort of conciliation officer to whom the minorities could bring their difficulties and their troubles. I believe that this would have the effect of allaying a great deal of unrest and anxiety in that country and the minorities would feel that they were not dealing with some remote body situated at Geneva. They would feel that they would be able to deal with someone on the spot, a friendly person who would be able to use his influence as representing the League to allay any trouble that might arise.
It has always been found, in practice, that where this policy has been adopted far better results have been obtained for the protection of minorities. When the appeal is only to the League direct very little satisfaction is obtained. In Upper Silesia arrangements were made for a permanent representative, and a great many petitions were attended to and it 1810 was not found necessary to send them to Geneva at all. I suggest that some proposal of that kind might be adopted, not in order to watch the Iraq Government, or to spy upon them, but to support them in the extremely difficult task which has been imposed upon them. It is rather interesting and important to note that this very proposal was one put forward by the League Commission of Inquiry which reported in 1925 and I would like to quote one paragraph which is relevant to the situation which we are now discussing. It is as follows:The status of minorities would necessarily have to be adapted to the special conditions of the country; we think, however, that the arrangements made for the benefit of minorities might remain a dead letter if no effective supervision were exercised locally. A League of Nations representative on the spot might be entrusted with this supervision.When the League Council came to deal with that matter they did not think it necessary to adopt a proposal of that kind. The situation is different now and much more difficult, but I think there is still a very strong case for a proposal of that sort. I understand that already the pressure is relaxing, and the mere suggestion that Great Britain is going to withdraw is having an unhappy effect on the position of minorities in certain parts of Iraq. I understand that such a proposal was recently submitted and then withdrawn by the League of Nations Union. This matter has become well known through correspondence in "The Times," and what has been suggested is very much on the lines of the proposal which I have quoted from the Commission of Inquiry in 1925. I hope that before Iraq or any other country is admitted to the high privilege and responsibility of membership of the League of Nations it will be laid down that there shall be put into force guarantees for fair play in regard to the minorities, and I hope those guarantees will be carried out in the daily lives of the minorities resident within the borders of Iraq.
§ Mr. ANNESLEY SOMERVILLE
I hope the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies when he replies will give us unreservedly an assurance that the British forces to be retained in Iraq will remain under British control. The position of the minorities may depend very largely upon the British Air Force. I was struck by the speech of the right 1811 hon. Gentleman the Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare) when he was dealing with the control of our force in Iraq, and I hope the Under-Secretary when he speaks will give us an assurance that that force will remain under British control. That is a point of the greatest importance at the present time, especially in reference to India. We have had recently published the report of this country to the League of Nations at Geneva on the progress of Iraq during the last decade, and we have no reason to be ashamed of that report. The only doubt is whether it is not a little too optimistic in its conclusion. The work of Sir Percy Cox in that country is a very important object lesson at the present time, because he is a man who sees clearly and governs firmly the Eastern races. I think one must pay tribute to Sir Percy Cox for the good work which he has done in Iraq. There is no doubt that there is considerable apprehension among the minorities in Iraq with regard to our withdrawal, and I should be glad if the Under-Secretary will give us some assurances on those points.
I hope that the assurances given to the Kurds with regard to the use of their language and to teaching in schools and with regard to the appointment of officials of Kurd nationality will be carried out. I should also like a statement that the assurances which have been given to the Assyrians are being carried out. With reference to other small minorities, I should like a similar assurance. They are not particularly small minorities, because the total population of 3,000,000 includes 75,000 Christians and 89,000 Jews. In this connection, I would like to quote Article 13 of the Iraq Constitution, which reads as follows:Islam is the official religion of the State. Freedom to practise the rights of the different sects of that religion, as observed in Iraq, is guaranteed. Complete freedom of conscience and freedom to practise the various forms of warship, in conformity with accepted customs, is guaranteed to all inhabitants of the country, provided that such forms of worship do not conflict with the maintenance of order and discipline or public morality.One would be glad to have an assurance from the Under-Secretary with regard to the control of the British forces in Iraq 1812 and that the terms of the agreement with the Kurds and Assyrians and other minorities are being carried out.
§ Dr. BURGIN
The expression "East of Suez' used to convey the Orient proper, far away; but the growth of aircraft of recent years now means that Iraq can be reached in a very few days from London. I think that, if anything, the discussion that we have had to-night has underestimated the importance of the whole problem of Iraq. I can conceive of few countries in the East which are destined, in my humble judgment, to play so important a role as the country we are now discussing. When you consider the way in which Iraq stretches to the North, almost to the region of the Caspian Sea; when you consider its proximity to India on the East; and when you consider what lies between Iraq and Suez on the West, you have a situation which, from all points of view connected with the League of Nations—such as international transit, communications with countries far beyond, aircraft, minorities—in regard to all these points Iraq is really an international centre of international law in the making such as can rarely be found on the surface of the globe.
That makes this whole subject one of very great importance. When we are discussing minorities in Iraq—and we are all very grateful for the picturesque details of the minorities that were given by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare) in his opening speech—we must focus our attention on a rather wider horizon. As has been said already, we have very much the same problems with the Kurds in Persia and in Turkey proper, and, broadly speaking, in all those countries east of the Suez Canal, right up to the frontier of Afghanistan, we have substantially the same problem. In Iraq, which is now about to be linked by various great public works of enormous importance with the Mediterranean Sea, in Transjordania, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria and Arabia, we have this same problem of an enormous number of different races, with different languages and different customs, all in some geographical unit under some more or less recognised majority rule. I am pleading, not in any way for diminishing the importance of the minority problem in Iraq, but for seeing that, when it is 1813 brought before the League of Nations at the moment of the entry of Iraq into the League, which we hope will occur, some opportunity may be afforded for a review of these native problems on a rather larger scale, because it will be a pity if a great deal of attention is focused on the Kurds, Assyrians and Yezidis on the Iraq border, when portions of these same tribes and races flow over into other territorial areas.
I think we might well, as the Mandatory Power, with a peculiar knowledge of the hopes of these peoples, take the opportunity, when the matter comes up at Geneva, of trying to set something in motion on rather a broader scale. The fight hon. Gentleman the Member for Sevenoaks (Sir Hilton Young) mentioned some of the difficulties that British officials in Iraq have experienced, and some of the difficulties which the infant Iraq State will also experience. He mentioned that it was a fragment of the old Empire of Turkey, and, that of course, is profoundly true, but we must push the argument still further. It is a fragment of the old Turkish Empire, And the greater part of the Turkish Empire, since the fragment split off from it, has undergone a complete change. Modern Turkey and old Turkey are not recognisable.
That brings me to the point that one of the difficulties of all our British civil servants working in Iraq at the present time is the complete uncertainty as to the legal system in Iraq. There is hardly any code of law to which any definite reference can be made, because there is no longer the old Turkish law, which admittedly has passed;, and no new Constitution or new law has been introduced. I can assure the Under-Secretary that the position of a British servant in Iraq at the present time, in the event of any conflict with his Department or of any conflict with higher authority, is one of extreme difficulty, because of the utter uncertainty of the extent of the law.
I merely wish to plead that, in the attitude of Great Britain towards Iraq, the greatest consideration will be given to the enormous possibilities of this State in the future. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sevenoaks said that the whole of the revenue of Iraq appeared to him to come from rather cheap grain, but there is another commodity from 1814 which a great deal of revenue is likely to come. I refer, of course, to oil, and that subject has hardly been touched upon in this Debate. I do not wish to introduce any controversial note. I think that the importance of Iraq cannot be over-estimated, and I ask Great Britain, in the remaining short period of her mandatory powers, to be wise and generous in helping this coming country, and, when she applies for membership of the League of Nations, to try to put the whole thing on a very broad scale—to think of the possibility, not only of one Suez Canal, but of some international transit entry from the Mediterranean to Mosul in the North and Bagdad in the South being possibly a matter in which many States may wish to have a hand.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
I should not have intervened had not the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) said one or two things upon which I think it behoves someone else to say something from this bench before the Under-Secretary replies on behalf of the Government. The hon. Member prefaced his speech by praise of the mandatory system. I am entirely in agreement with him in so far as it affects Africa, but from the very beginning the mandatory system in Iraq has been resented by the Iraqis, as putting them, they say, in somewhat the same category as the African peoples, and they have sought from the very first to minimise the mandatory system and all the consequences of the system in so far as they are concerned. Consequently, Great Britain induced the League to accept a direct treaty between Iraq and ourselves in lieu of a Mandate, and we have acted upon that and there never has been a Mandate for Iraq. I think that that ought to be made perfectly clear before we approach this question of minorities at the moment when Iraq is applying for membership of the League as an independent State member.
I am sure that nothing will be gained in Iraq, either for the minorities or for the smooth working of the Constitution, if too much emphasis is laid upon what the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton later in his speech called the purest League doctrine. The truth is that the purest League doctrine does not go down in Iraq. I always had the greatest difficulty in persuading ail the delegations 1815 that I ever met of statesmen from Iraq of all creeds, to pay any attention whatever to the League of Nations. They said that they wanted to deal with the British Government; that they wanted an alliance and nothing else; that they did not want League of Nations Commissions or international bodies of that kind, but that they wanted a perfectly straight arrangement with the British Government; and that has always been the attitude that they have taken. I think it is only fair to all concerned that that should be made clear in dealing with these matters.
The specific suggestion of the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton was that the right way to secure the protection of minorities is that the British Government should wash its hands of the question, that we should not look to any declaration by the Iraq Government in regard to these minorities, but that we should trust to the Council of the League of Nations, and that the Council of the League of Nations, acting, apparently, directly, should be responsible for the minorities in Iraq; and he further recommended that the League should appoint its own agent, as it were, in Iraq, to look after the interests of the minorities. May I say at once that, in my personal view, that idea is, quite frankly, a bad one. I do not think that that is the best method by which the League of Nations could assist the minorities in Iraq. I fear that if you had a League representative permanently in an Oriental country like that, he would merely become the focus for complaints against the Government of that country. Anyone who has followed the work of the League of Nations for long knows what a difficulty the whole question of minorities has proved in Eastern Europe and in all countries where that idea is augmented or encouraged. Minorities have their rights, but so have majorities. The great thing is to minimise the causes of complaint. After all, it is a question of autonomy and protection and the give and take of government, which the intervention of a third party at every stage really prevents being settled. I hope that the British Government, in response to the representation of the Liberal party, will not here and now commit themselves to this particular form of machinery for protecting minorities.
1816 Now as to what I personally regard as all-important. I believe that the Iraq Government will not only long have a sense of gratitude to the British Government for all that has been done during the 12 or more past years, but that if the Treaty is accepted and worked with good will on both sides, that will be probably the best means of ensuring that the British representative in Bagdad will be welcomed by the Iraq Government as the best person with whom the difficulties that might arise in connection with the minorities can be discussed frankly and freely, and that the minorities, who have in the last few years looked to us and to British officers there, will still feel, though the formal situation may be changed, that the presence of a British force there, and the like, is some moral security for them. I agree that it is no use leaving it too vague, from the point of view of how the actual voting may go at the Assembly of the League. When Iraq comes to be considered for membership of the League we shall support Iraq and have declared our intention to do so. But we cannot guarantee Iraq's entry. That requires the vote of two-thirds of the members of the Assembly. These things will have to be cleared up, and I am sure that the British Government when it sponsors and supports Iraq's application, has everything to gain by complete frankness, and by explicit faith in what the British Government is or is not prepared to do in future, both in regard to the use of this force, as to the diplomatic powers which will be used, and as to how far Great Britain will do what she can to secure the position of those minorities, particularly the minorities who have a right, in view of past services from the British Government, to look to us for future interest and support.
There was another point raised by the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton. It is, of course, incorrect to suggest that this House should ratify the Treaty. I do not think that has ever been done. The Crown ratifies a Treaty. It is the increasing practice, not only of the Foreign Office but of the Colonial Office— it certainly was the practice of my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery)—that when a new Treaty is negotiated and signed, ratification by the Crown shall not take place until there 1817 has been a discussion in Parliament, and until the representative of the Colonial Office or the Foreign Office here has informed Parliament that that discussion will be taken by the Government as expressing the approval of the House. That is the true doctrine of ratification, and I should not like to go by default the suggestion of the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton that there is any distinction in practice between successive Governments or between different Departments as to the proper constitutional doctrine, which has now been carried out by all parties and by successive Governments and all Departments.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
Not in this case. I ask the Under-Secretary of State to tell us quite specifically something of what has been going on at the recent meeting of the Permanent Mandates Commission in regard to Iraq. One gathers from the newspapers that the Permanent Mandates Commission have been invited to advise the Council of the League of Nations on certain matters in connection with Iraq, with an eye to the future. The Committee ought to be informed what representations have been made by the accredited representatives of the Government of the United Kingdom to the Permanent Mandates Commission in that connection. In fact a little more light should be thrown upon the doings of the Colonial Office at this moment, in regard to the action and the discussions before the Permanent Mandates Commission at Geneva on this Iraq question. I hope that the hon. Gentleman in his reply will allude to that, as well as to the two major points which the Opposition desire to raise, namely, precisely what His Majesty's Government are doing in regard to the minorities, and particularly the Christian minorities; and secondly, what representations they are making to the Iraq Government; and would the hon. Gentleman make abundantly clear what will be the future position under the new Treaty of the British Air Force, and what will be its use?
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the COLONIES (Dr. Drummond Shiels)
I am sure that the Committee has listened with interest and appreciation to the various speeches which have 1818 been made on this subject of the Iraq minorities and other cognate matters. I appreciate very much the spirit of the speeches and the obvious desire in all quarters to be helpful. Just about a year ago the right hon. Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare) brought this matter before us, and it is only natural and proper that he and other right hon. and hon. Members should wish to afford the House another opportunity of learning something of the matter as it stands now. Some complaint was made by the right hon. Gentleman, and also by the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander), in regard to discussion before ratification, but the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken gave a very proper account of the normal procedure in these matters, and I think it will be found that that has been observed in this case.
§ Dr. SHIELS
The Treaty was signed in June last year and soon afterwards presented to the House. We had a discussion in July, which the right Hon. Gentleman himself initiated, and the treaty was not ratified until January of this year. Had there been in that interval any obvious desire for another discussion, I am sure it would have been given. But I am glad, at any rate, that as in the discussion last year satisfaction has been expressed that development in Iraq has proceeded to such an extent as to justify His Majesty's Government in proposing that a date should now be fixed for the termination of the mandatory relations between them and Iraq. It is a result which should be, and is, a matter of pride and satisfaction to us, and I was glad that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Chelsea paid a tribute to our civil and military administrators, who have been so successful, not only as regards their own achievements, but also in their ability to win the co-operation of the Iraq Government and people.
The main subject of discussion to-night has been the question of minorities in Iraq and the probable position after the mandatory connection has terminated, and I agree that the subject is a very important one. Its importance has been realised by His Majesty's Government 1819 and by the Iraq Government, and the position taken up by His Majesty's Government, in concluding the Treaty and in recommending Iraq for admission to the League of Nations, was taken after a full and careful consideration of the possibilities and the apprehensions, some of which have been expressed here to-night. I would like to say a word or two to supplement the references to minorities which have been made by the various speakers.
The Kurds are the largest of the minorities in Iraq, and, as has been pointed out, as a race they are split up between Turkey, Persia, Iraq, and Syria, and out of a total of about 3,000,000, about 500,000 are in Iraq. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Chelsea made a comparison between the Kurds and the Scottish Highlanders. I was not quite clear whether he was complimenting the Kurds or the Highlanders, but I hope it was a compliment to both. At any rate, he was quite true in suggesting that they have certain characteristics of our Scottish forefathers which make them a little difficult at times. The Iraq Government and the British High Commissioner have taken a considerable interest in the position and conditions of this important minority, and the Permanent Mandates Commission, to which the right hon. Gentleman has just referred, has also interested itself and has taken note from year to year of the reports as to the various measures taken for their advantage and to satisfy their natural and proper aspirations.
The hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. A. Somerville) asked something about what had been done to carry out the proposals which had been suggested for the benefit of the Kurds. The most important of these, I think, was one to which he referred, namely, the local language law, and the position in regard to that is that it has been applied in a number of districts, and a further application is likely to take place in a comparatively short time. The real, practical difficulty there was the surprising number of different dialects. It was very difficult to decide which of these dialects was the proper Kurdish language, and, after discussion and consultation with the 1820 heads of the Kurdish community, the difficulty was eventually solved by providing that the form of Kurdish to be employed should be that at present in use in the majority of the districts, and that in certain others the inhabitants should choose, within the period of one year, the form of Kurdish they desired. So they have an interesting problem in front of them. This decision has, I understand, given considerable satisfaction to the Kurds, as it is now laid down by an Act of the Iraq Parliament that the Kurdish language shall be used in the law courts and in the schools and will indeed practically become the official language of Kurdestan.
Then the hon. Member also referred to the question of the officials. The idea is that as many as possible of the officials should be Kurds and that those who are not actually Kurds should at any rate be able to speak the Kurdish language. Somebody has referred to the fact that educationally the Kurds are not very far advanced, and that certainly makes a difficulty in finding sufficient qualified people to fill these official posts. Steps are now being taken to find as many Kurdish officials as possible and to see that the others are familiar with the language. I would like to say that during the months of April and May of this year the British High Commissioner, Sir Francis Humphrys, paid five separate visits to a large number of towns and villages in the Kurdish districts and interviewed in private nearly all the leading Kurds. He was able to confer with them in regard to the future and to hear what they regarded as their reasonable demands, and he found a unanimous desire among all responsible Kurds for more educational facilities. They are clearly awakening to the fact that unless they can speed up their own educational development, they will in a few years, in spite of any statutory safeguards which may be provided, drop into the position of a backward and ignorant minority.
The High Commissioner was satisfied that the Kurds have few specific grievances to urge against the Iraq Government, but he thought that a better understanding was required between the two peoples. Efforts to bring this about have been made by the recent tour of Ministers and notably by King Feisal in the 1821 northern districts, and there is every reason to believe that the Kurds have been increasingly realising the good will of the Iraq Government and people and their desire to have the Kurds as a contented constituent of the Iraq nation.
I was very glad indeed to hear the remarks of the right hon. Memebr for Sevenoaks (Sir H. Young), and I entirely agree with what he suggested as the best way of dealing with minorities, if it is possible. But it is not always possible. The beet way is not to isolate and segregate them in the midst of the community, but to try to make them part of the community, preserving their customs and language, but enabling them to give their contribution to the commonweal, which is better for the whole country and better for them. I hope that is a position which the Kurds will increasingly find themselves willing to take in Iraq, and I think the signs are promising in that direction.
The Assyrians are the other large minority in Iraq. I am not sure whether all Members who have spoken have had a copy of the special ten years' report which has been issued on Iraq for the Council of the League of Nations. There are some very interesting chapters on the whole question of minorities, and especially interesting in regard to the Assyrians. It gives much more detail than I am able to give to-night. Many Members have pointed out the Assyrians are a very interesting people to whom we are under some special obligations. They number about 40,000, of whom only about 10,000 can be said to be natives of Iraq, the remainder having become refugees during and after the Great War. There are often associated with them, though they have not been much referred to tonight, the Chaldeans, another body of Christians about the same in number. They have lived mainly in and around Mosul and Bagdad for six or seven centuries. It is interesting to mention that for this reason. They are a Christian community in the midst of this great Moslem area. That in itself is one of the best answers to the apprehensions which some feel, because there is undoubtedly in this territory a toleration of different races and religions which is found in no other part of the East. Moslems, Christians and Jews have lived together there peaceably for centuries. 1822 [Interruption.] I think the right hon. Gentleman will find that the best authorities on this subject agree with what I have just said. I was glad indeed that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sevenoaks emphasised that the Arab community in these territories has been known for tolerance. It is a point which we would do well to keep in mind as it is one of great reassurance.
I do not think it is necessary to deal with the history of the Assyrians since the War. One of the main difficulties was settlement. Many of them were not natives of Iraq. They came as refugees into Iraq. There was plenty of land available for them in the plains, but they were accustomed to living in the mountains and refused the plains, and the question of finding suitable areas for them has been one of great concern. They have now been settled in the Mosul district and at the end of 1930 it was said that about 1,500 individuals still remained to be settled, their present places of abode being unsuitable. The Iraq Government has gone to considerable trouble and has granted special exemption from taxation in consideration of their developing and tilling their lands. The Acting High Commissioner reported in 1930 that the Assyrians were a little difficult. With all our love for them for various reasons, we must admit that in many instances minorities are a little difficult at times. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I knew that that would be appreciated. At any rate, great efforts have been made to meet the claims of the Assyrians. The attitude of the Turkish Government—I think the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sevenoaks made some reference to this—towards the Assyrians has throughout greatly complicated the Assyrian problem. The Assyrians fought against the Turks in the War, and not only has the Turkish Government denied the Assyrians access to their former homes which are now in Turkish territory, but they have constantly resisted the establishment of Assyrian settlements near the Turkish frontier, and have demanded the disarmament of all Assyrians and their removal from the frontier zone. Here, again, I say that the Assyrians will best serve their own interest by resolving to become good citizens of Iraq, keeping their own religion and culture, but giving 1823 their special contribution to the welfare of the whole country.
There is little doubt that certain influences have been at work to make trouble between the Assyrians and the Kurds. In regard to the whole problem of the grievances of the Assyrians, however, it must be emphasised how great the difficulty has been in acquiring land suitable for their needs. In the opinion of the High Commissioner of Iraq the Assyrians have, apart from the settlement question, little cause now for complaint. The Patriarch, who, in spite of his title, is only 22 years of age, has a hankering after some autonomous system for his community, but it is very doubtful if that wish is shared by any but a small section of his people. The Council of the League of Nations did not favour an autonomous arrangement for the Kurds, and I should think it was not likely that they would look with favour upon a similar suggestion for the Assyrians.
The Jews are another minority community who have not been mentioned tonight, but there is rather an interesting point about them which I should like to mention to support the case I am putting to the Committee. They are a minority of about 88,000, and they are spread all over the country. They appear to be contented and happy, and are fully recognised by the Arabs and general population wherever they live. I think it is of some significance that, whereas in countries where the Jews are badly treated there is a great desire to go to Palestine, there has been no evidence at all of any desire among the Jews of Iraq to go from Iraq to Palestine. That is another illustration of the obvious tolerance of the Iraq people.
The Yezidis are the other minority. They number 25,000 and are commonly described as devil worshippers. I was much interested to hear the right hon. Member for Chelsea refer to the fact that he and the right hon. Member for Spark-brook (Mr. Amery) had established actual contact with this community. I have not had that privilege, and I was interested to gather from the description given by the right hon. Gentleman that ho regarded them as good Conservatives. Up to the present they have not been a great source of trouble or of difficulty to the 1824 central government, though there has been a little trouble among them because of the behaviour of their spiritual head, whose conduct has been such as to cause dissentions among his followers. That appears to have been since the visit of the right hon. Gentlemen!
The broad consideration which I understand is in the minds of hon. and right hon. Members is whether the relationship between the Iraq Government and the Iraq people and the minorities in the country have been such as to give reasonable assurance that when Iraq becomes an independent country the minorities will not suffer. I do not suggest that the minorities in Iraq are in all respects in a satisfactory condition, or that their lot could not be considerably improved. I have no doubt that the same could be said of the majority of the Arab inhabitants of the country. Iraq is supposed to be the site of the Garden of Eden, but there have been many changes since those early days and there are many natural, geographical and economic factors which make life difficult for many and which call out the full resources of the Government. I was very glad to hear that point well brought out by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sevenoaks. There are many things which the Iraq Government will require to do for the benefit both of the majority and the minorities as the country advances along the lines on which it has so well begun. "We are advised, however, that the Iraq Government have their Arab people behind them in their desire to make a free and independent Iraq nation, where majority and minorities alike will contribute to the common weal and have equal rights of nationality and citizenship.
What, then, is to be the position in future as regards the Treaty and the League of Nations? The late Government, in July, 1927, authorised the High Commissioner to tell the Iraq Government that His Majesty's Government would be prepared to propose Iraq for membership of the League of Nations in 1932, provided that the then rate of progress was maintained and that all went well in the interval. Our position simply is that, the condition having been fulfilled, we are now carrying out the bond of the late Government. The declaration emphasised the fact that Iraq is in 1825 a different position from other mandated territories, a point brought out by the right hon. Member for Stafford. It was always recognised that Iraq might soon be expected to be able to stand alone, and the relations with other countries have been regulated by successive Treaties with the Iraq Government, the first being signed in 1922. That Treaty anticipated the late Government's declaration, because it contained an Article under which His Majesty's Government undertook to use their good offices to secure the admission of Iraq to membership of the League of Nations as soon as possible. That policy was reaffirmed in 1926 and again in 1929, and has been implemented by the Treaty of 1930, under which His Majesty's Government are obliged to recommend Iraq for admission to the League in 1932, with the automatic involvement of the termination of the Mandate.
It is true that there is nothing in the Treaty about minorities. It was considered that any such mention would be out of place in a Treaty between two independent States. In a previous Debate I stated that any assurances which Iraq would have to give with regard to the treatment of minorities would be formulated by and given to the League of Nations. This procedure has already been carried out in the case of other countries like Rumania and Albania. I had thought of quoting something from the guarantees given by Albania in this connection; they are very interesting, but in view of the lack of time I do not propose to read them now. The assurances given are as to the treatment of the various races and religions and the kind of commitments that one would expect in cases of this kind. While it is not my province to advise what the League of Nations should or should not do, I trust, at any rate, that the guarantees in one of the existing models will be found suitable for the case of Iraq. I have no reason to suppose that Iraq would hesitate to undertake such international obligations to safeguard the rights of minorities in her territory. The Permanent Mandates Commission of the League is familiar with the details of the whole position in Iraq, and I shall be surprised if ways and means are not found of dealing with this minorities question without suggesting 1826 doubt as to Iraq's good faith or as to her ability to carry out her sincere intentions. Father Walsh, Vice-President of the Georgetown University of the United States, who recently visited the minority districts of Iraq, has stated that he could discover no evidence tending to lessen his faith in the good intentions of the Iraq Government towards the Assyrian and other minorities.
Statements are frequently made and it was partly suggested to-night that the Christian in a Moslem country is at a disadvantage in that the courts only apply Moslem law. This is not true in Iraq, and it is considered that the judicial system now established sufficiently safeguards all sections of the community. In the Iraq constitution provisions exist for complete freedom of conscience, the establishment of schools where the various communities can instruct pupils in their own language, for equality of status in every respect, and for the maintenance of the whole Ottoman regime of spiritual council to deal with matters as to personal status amongst Jews and Christians. The right hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Ormsby-Gore) has already dealt with the suggestion of a Special Commissioner made by the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton and I must say that I agree with what the right hon. Gentleman said. Although it was well-meant it is not really in the true interests of minorities. It would only breed suspicion between the central Government and minorities and would tend to keep alive the minority question. That is a point of some consideration.
Sometimes one has to adopt methods in dealing with minorities which one does not wish to take, but undoubtedly it is desirable, if possible, that minorities should become part of the general community, and should look towards the central Government itself for the protection and sympathy which they require. There will always be a tendency for disgruntled persons to retard minorities settling down as part of the general population. The Copts in Egypt who are Christians in a Moslem territory with nobody specially looking after them have equality of treatment.
There is one reason which has not been mentioned to-night which has influenced 1827 me personally very much in regard to this question of minorities, and that is the expressed belief of our High Commissioner, Sir Francis Humphrys, that we could safely proceed with the step which has been proposed. Those who know our High Commissioner in Iraq will appreciate the fact that we attach weight to his view.
There are other matters upon which I would like to have spoken but the time is growing short, and I wish to leave a few minutes for the next speaker. I think it was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Chelsea who asked about the officials, and in that connection I would like to echo the tribute which has been paid to the officials, both civil and military, in Iraq who have produced the result which is the occasion of our Debate to-night. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that it was important that we should see that the interests of these officials did not suffer as a result of this change. I would like to say in regard to that matter, that these officials are employed on definite contracts approved by the Secretary of State for the Colonies and it is stated in Note III annexed to the treaty, that nothing in the treaty shall affect the validity of the contracts concluded and in existence between the Iraq Government and British officials. I share the right hon. Gentleman's hope that there will be no difficulty in the way of carrying out this agreement.
I must now pass on to the question of the use of the British forces which was the other main point raised, although I do not propose to deal with it at length. It was mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Chelsea, and also by the hon. and gallant Member for Hornsey (Captain Wallace) in a very interesting speech. It has been suggested that the effect of the treaty of 1930 will be to place the use of the British troops at the disposal of the Iraq Government for the purpose of putting down internal disturbances. That is not correct. Article 5 of the treaty, as has been pointed out, lays down that the responsibility for the maintenance of internal order rests with Iraq alone. British forces will be stationed in Iraq for the purpose of facilitating the discharge of obligations under the treaty of alliance 1828 and for the maintenance of communications, but there can be no question of their employment without the consent of His Majesty's Government through our own Ambassador at Bagdad.
A situation where the British Ambassador will not be able to keep himself acquainted with current events has been suggested as likely to arise, as a result of the change and the loss of the intelligence staff and so on. But such a situation is one which I do not think we need contemplate. I can assure the Committee that the British Ambassador will not act without reliable information, and, I may say further, that the steps to be taken in various circumstances which may arise are now being carefully considered. We realise the necessity of clear knowledge of all that is involved.
§ Sir S. HOARE
Will the hon. Gentleman tell us how the British representative is going to obtain his information? It is upon that that the whole position depends.
§ Dr. SHIELS
There will be a number of officials of different kinds. A long dispatch has recently been received from the High Commissioner on this subject going very comprehensively into it all. That is now being examined by the proper authorities, so I would like to assure the right hon. Gentleman and others that the matter has been before us, and. is by no means being lost sight of. Every point which has been made to-night will certainly be taken into account. There is no doubt, of course, that situations may arise of some delicacy and complexity in the future, as they have done in the past, but there is no reason to suppose that they will not be satisfactorily settled in the spirit of mutual goodwill and confidence which may be supposed to exist between friends and allies.
I hope that I have been able to show a proper appreciation of all the points which have been raised, and to give satisfactory assurances on matters on which some Members may have had doubts. I am anxious that the Iraq Government which has its own special difficulties and problems, but whose numbers are eager for the opportunity to justify their country as a nation in the eyes of the world, should) feel that our cordial 1829 goodwill goes with them in their quest to the League of Nations. We have no intention of taking away with our left hand what we give with our right. We are prepared to trust the Iraq Government, and we look forward in the new relations to a strengthening of the already strong bonds of friendship which bind our peoples.
§ Mr. AMERY
I have listened with the keenest interest, indeed with rather an intimate personal interest, to the course of the Debate, because I cannot help recalling other Debates on the Iraq question which took place five or six years ago. It was my privilege on those occasions to defend before this House the policy that I had already defended on behalf of the Government before the League of Nations—I mean the policy of vindicating for Iraq her rightful and subsequently admitted, claim to her territories, and to undertake, in order to secure the recognition of that claim from the League of Nations, the responsibilities involved in the Treaties of 1926, and in our declaration to the League that we were prepared to continue our quasi-mandatory responsibility for Iraq until Iraq was ready to enter the League of Nations, or, if necessary, for 25 years. In those days that policy was not viewed with great approval in many quarters of this House. It was not a Garden of Eden for which the hon. Gentleman's friends thought we were making ourselves responsible. On the contrary, the picture they drew of the responsibilities and risks which we were incurring was a very terrible one.
I ventured to refresh my memory just before this Debate by looking at what was said by responsible Members of the Front Bench opposite of the risks we were running. The Prime Minister described that Treaty, the Treaty of 1926, as "the beginning of endless troubles for this country" and as an act of sheer folly. Another hen. Member who now adorns the Treasury Bench declared that we were "putting our heads into a most dangerous noose." The Postmaster-General said that our policy was "pregnant with the dangers of future war." The present Secretary of State for India asked what prospect could there be that we should be able to shake ourselves free from those obligations in 25 years' time. The criticism was not confined entirely to the 1830 then Opposition, I admit. There were not a few Members of my own party in the House, and still more in the Press outside, who had no little misgivings as to what they thought was the over-ambitious policy of an Imperialistically-minded Secretary of State. The view I took before the League of Nations and the view I took before this House was that the more definitely we undertook our responsibilities, the more ready we were to undertake them for as long as might be necessary, the sooner we should be able with honour and credit to divest ourselves of those responsibilities.
If I may quote a phrase from the admirable speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hornsey (Captain Wallace), I believed that the policy of grasping the nettle was the right one. I claim that it has proved the right one. In a period far shorter than any one dreamed, though not much shorter than I hoped for myself, we have found Iraq advancing by really remarkable strides. The Iraq Army, then in its infancy, as my right hon. Friend told the House, advances in efficiency and capacity in every direction, and is now far more competent to maintain peace and security within that country than it was five years ago. Like Kim, I wish every success to the young Iraq Air Force, a weapon, naturally suited to the conditions of their country. Together with that development we have seen, not an immense growth of British military responsibilities or expenditure, but a steady restriction and reduction of that expenditure, till to-day it may fairly be said that we are not spending anything in Iraq that is really spent on Iraq, that is not spent for the general security of the Empire and the most efficient training of our Air Force.
At the same time, in spite of very great difficulties, of the immense natural difficulties to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Sir H. Young) referred, Iraq has built up a stable and effectual system of administration and maintained its solvency, and, more than that, done no little in repaying its share of the Ottoman Debt. So far from being confronted with a vengeful and restless Turkey, from the moment the decision was clearly made, and our purpose behind it was evident, relations have improved, 1831 and only the other day His Majesty King Feisal was the honoured guest of the Government of Turkey at the capital at Angora. Similarly the relationship with the King of the Hejaz has been adjusted, and difficulties with Persia are well ill train towards a satisfactory settlement. The striking thing when I contrast this Debate to-night with the Debates of five years ago is that in not a single speech to-night is there a suggestion that Iraq has not advanced sufficiently to justify this country in recommending her with confidence to the League of Nations as a nation capable of maintaining a system of government which makes her worthy of admission to the company of free nations.
Our whole discussion has turned round one or two points, important in themselves but yet very minor points compared with all the terrors that were conjured up in Debate when last we dealt with this problem. There is, of course, this very important question of minorities. I quite understand the reasons why the treaty which is to consecrate the post-mandatory relationship between this country and Iraq should not import into it conditions and stipulations of a mandatory or quasi-mandatory kind. I equally agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks that we ought not to expect Iraq to accept, or be pressed to accept, conditions from the League of Nations which would mark it as of inferior status or less capable of doing justice to these minorities than other countries who are members of the League.
It is clear, I think, and I am glad to have it from the Under-Secretary of State, that our advice will be given to Iraq and, I hope, readily accepted, that Iraq should, on entry into the League, make clear its readiness to accept whatever declaration has been in fact accepted by other nations. He quoted Albania as a possible model. I think it is on those lines that, as far as any form of assurances is concerned, one would wish Iraq to place itself in the same position, at least as definitely obligated, as other members of the League, but not in any position which could convey any reflection on the character of its Government. In the main, however, I believe that the best safeguard for the minorities 1832 lies in an intelligent appreciation by the Government of Iraq of its own responsibility, and in the most intimate and frank consultation between the British representatives and the Iraq Government. Our whole relationship in future ought to be based on that mutual trust and good will which, I think, we have built up by the splendid co-operation which has existed during the past 12 years, in spite of occasional demonstrations of impatience—not unnatural impatience—on the part of Arab nationalist politicians, and by the genuine comradeship and co-operation between British officials and Iraq statesmen and officials in the tremendous task of building up a new nation out of nothing.
I should like to pay tribute alike to the splendid work done by British officials—and I am glad to hear the assurance the Under-Secretary has given as to their future position—as well as to the statesmen and officials of Iraq, coming, some of them, with very little experience to an immensely difficult task. I am glad also to have from the Under-Secretary of State the assurance that there can be no question of any use of Imperial forces in Iraq, except with the definite permission of the Government, through the Ambassador, and I hope the Under-Secretary will also make certain that our Ambassador should have reasonable knowledge of the conditions before he is called upon to act. The Under-Secretary referred to an important dispatch which is on its way to the Colonial Office, and when he has had time to master that dispatch, and come to a conclusion upon it, I hope he will be able to give the House more precise information of the exact machinery by which it will be possible for the Ambassador in the future to have proper channels of information for his guidance.
Here again I attach even more importance to securing a real spirit of cooperation between the two Governments than to this machinery. Ours should be an association not merely for the purpose of securing the defence or protection of minorities, but even more for general development, education, and health, and everything that will promote the future welfare of Iraq. I hope assistance of that kind will be given in no grudging spirit, and that the desire of Iraq to be linked by railway to the 1833 western world in order to find an easier market for many of her products will be met. We are in this matter embarking upon a new experiment and a new form of association in the history of this Empire. It has been my fortune in recent years to travel round the British Dominions and point out to them how the new freedom of association within the Empire constituted for them a form of independence at least as free and secure as the mere independence of an isolated individual nation with the world outside. There are nations outside the Empire who have come into close and, I believe, permanent relationship with ourselves which are gradually coming to realise that free and voluntary association and co-operation with the greatest 1834 commonwealth in the world is not an impairment of their freedom, but an enhancement of their status, their security and their prosperity.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolutions to be reported To-morrow; Committee to sit again To-morrow.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.