HC Deb 27 April 1936 vol 311 cc552-4
45. Mr. H. G. WILLIAMS

asked the Prime Minister whether, in order to prevent the development of an agitation inimical to the interests of peace, he will make a declaration that His Majesty's Government will not at any time consent to a transfer of the mandated territories?


As there may be some misapprehension as to the conditions under which mandates are held and the circumstances in which their transfer could take place, I should like to make a short statement on the subject.

The mandated territories were allocated at the end of the War by the Principal Allied and Associated Powers. The mandatories thus chosen accepted mandates from the League of Nations and undertook the specific obligations contained in Article 22 of the League Covenant and in the mandates themselves. These include the primary obligation to promote to the utmost the moral and material welfare and social progress of the inhabitants of the territories themselves. There are no provisions, either in the Covenant, or in the Peace Treaties, or in the Mandates, relating to the transfer of a mandate from one Power to another Power, and no such transfer has ever been made. I am advised that before any such transfer could be effected, it would be necessary that the consent at any rate of the present Mandatory Power and of the Power to whom the territory was to be transferred, and also the unanimous consent of the League Council, should be secured. I hope that what I have said will make it clear to hon. Members that the question of the transfer of a mandate is one which, were it to be contemplated, would require the most careful consideration and which would be subjected to a procedure of a very elaborate nature. It is not a matter which could in any circumstances be the subject of a sudden and hasty decision.

As regards the policy of His Majesty's Government, I repeat once more in the most categorical terms that we have not considered and are not considering the transfer of any mandated territories to any other Power. I think that a great deal of the apprehension which hon. Members claim exists on this subject must be due to a belief that His Majesty's Government have already been considering such a possibility, notwithstanding the denials which have been given, and that the House might at some stage be faced with a decision on the subject. This apprehension is unfounded. Hon. Members may rest assured that His Majesty's Government have no intention whatever of raising the question themselves and that, in the event of any question arising regarding the future status of mandated territories, they would not commit themselves to any settlement of the problems at issue without giving the fullest opportunity for discussion in the House.


Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the people who live in mandated territories will have no voice in the matter as to whether they want to stay where they are or to go back again?


If my memory serves me correctly, a completely reassuring reply was given by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies on that point, and from a part of my answer, if the hon. Member will look at it when it appears in the OFFICIAL REPORT, where I refer to the primary obligation to promote to the utmost the moral and material welfare and social progress of the inhabitants of the territories themselves, it is perfectly obvious that if the question ever did Arise with any country, that would be a primary consideration.


Is it not a fact that when the mandates were originally given to the Powers concerned, the people in the respective territories were not consulted at all in any case?


I do not think anybody was consulted at that time.


May I take it from the right hon. Gentleman's reply that there is nothing in that reply which would preclude this country from taking part in any international conference called for the rearrangement of mandated territories, if such was felt to be necessary for the maintenance of world peace?


I would rather not enter at this moment into any very hypothetical questions.