Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £57,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the
31st day of March, 1936, for a contribution towards the expenses of the League of Nations and for other expenses in connection therewith, including United Kingdom Representation before the Permanent Court of International Justice and a Grant-in-Aid of the Expenses of Settlement of Assyrians of Iraq.
§ 5.5 p.m.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Viscount Cranborne)
I rise to recommend to the Committee a Supplementary Estimate in connection with the work of the League of Nations. The question with which we are concerned is one which I should like, without wearying the Committee, to deal with in a certain amount of detail. There is only one large item, and that is the one in connection with the Assyrians, a question on which I think the Committee ought to have full information. I refer to a Grant-in-Aid of £60,000, which represents a first instalment of a maximum contribution of £250,000 to be made by His Majesty's Government towards the League scheme in aid of the Assyrians. The scheme is, as the Committee is probably already aware, a most interesting international innovation. It is an attempt to effect, under the auspices of the League, a final solution of a problem which concerns more than one country, a problem which, apart from its political aspect, has a strong religious and humanitarian interest and can, for a variety of reasons, only be solved by corporate effort.
The Assyrian question has been before Parliament at various times since the War, but it has not been under discussion by the House of Commons for a considerable time, and I should like, therefore, to give the House, very briefly, some account of the historical events which have led up to the present position. Practically the whole of the Assyrian community with which we are to-day concerned came originally from Turkey. It has been, and is still, suggested in certain quarters that this community was brought into the world war by His Majesty's Government and that that Government have therefore a very special responsibility for them. This is in fact not the truth. They were brought into the world war in aid of the forces, not of Great Britain, but of Imperial Russia, and Great Britain had no independent dealings of any kind with this community until two to three years later when the 310 battered remnants of the community who were retiring before a mass attack of Turks, Kurds, and Persians, following the break-up of the Russian front in 1917, were, in 1918, saved from complete annihilation by British forces and brought to safety within the borders of what is now Iraq.
Having rescued the Assyrians in this manner, the British Government continued to help them in Iraq, purely from humanitarian motives, over a long period of time and at very considerable cost. For several years they were housed and fed in camps by the British Government and at the expense of the British Government. I think that point should be stressed, because there seems to be in various quarters an idea that this £250,000 which His Majesty's Government are now being asked to contribute towards the scheme is the only payment that they have ever made in support of the Assyrians. That is not so. After the War the Assyrians themselves were anxious to return to their own homes, and Great Britain felt bound to do, and in fact did do, her very utmost to assist them in that matter. In order to meet their desires, the Government tried to obtain, in the peace settlement with Turkey, the incorporation within Iraqi territory of the Hakkiari district—that is the original home of the Assyrians —so that they might be established there as an autonomous community under the sovereignty of Iraq. The Treaty of Lausanne left the Turco-Iraqi frontier to be settled by friendly agreement between Great Britain and Turkey and, if that were not possible, by the Council of the League. It was precisely on this point of the settlement of the Assyrians in the Hakkiari district that negotiations with Turkey broke down, and the matter therefore came before the Council of the League in 1925.
At the meeting of the Council His Majesty's Government made it perfectly clear that it was their view that unless the Hakkiari territory were included within Iraq, all hopes of a separate homogeneous existence for the Assyrians would be destroyed, for it would be impossible to find in Iraq suitable territory for the settlement of a unified Assyrian community. In spite, however, of the earnest pleadings of the British Government, the decision of the council was that the Hakkiari territory must be included within 311 the frontiers of Turkey. This decision, in the view of His Majesty's Government, is the cause of all the unfortunate events which have happened since. I submit, therefore, that it cannot be argued by anybody that Great Britain can he held responsible for what has happened since 1925, for if our advice had been taken at that time, it is probable that the question might very well have been solved long ago.
The question since that date has, the Committee knows, been very largely one of land settlement. Every effort was made by the British authorities in Iraq, during the exercise of their Mandate in that country, to settle the community as favourably as possible, and when the Mandate ended in 1932, all except some 300 families had found homes. For various reasons, however, the Assyrians were discontented with their lot in Iraq, and this discontent led to those tragic events in 1033 which will be fresh in the memory of Members of the Committee. It has been frequently contended since that date that His Majesty's Government must incur a special responsibility in this matter because it was on their recommendation that Iraq was admitted to membership of the League and that the Mandate was ended, but it has been equally repeatedly made clear that our responsibility in this matter was limited to saying that Iraq was, in our opinion, generally suitable for membership, and I do hope that no further attempts will be made to invest those simple facts with assumptions of continuing responsibility for Iraq's action. His Majesty's Government had no reason to suppose that all would not go well. At any rate, the lamentable events to which I have referred, which we all regretted and continue to regret, made it obvious to the League, which was called upon to deal with this question as a minority problem, that some other solution must be found if the problem was not to be the constant cause of friction in the Middle East.
In response to the request of the Iraqi Government, and influenced by petitions from the Assyrians themselves, the Council of the League made strenuous efforts to find some other area in which the Assyrians could be finally and peacefully settled as a community. Various parts of the world were explored. It was 312 suggested that they should be emigrated to Brazil, but though at first the chances seemed good, eventually difficulties came in the way which made that project impossible. There was a further proposal that they should be emigrated to British Guiana, but there again it turned out that the scheme was not practicable. Finally, after negotiations with the French Government, a place was found for their settlement within the State of Lattakia among the territories under French Mandate in the Levant. The district selected for permanent settlement is a plain known as the Ghab in the middle course of the River Orontes, and the Grant-in-Aid which is now before the Committee forms part of the machinery for putting this proposal into practice.
It is calculated that, the transfer of the Assyrians to the Ghab area will cost the sum of £1,146,000, of which sum £826,000 will be spent on the reclamation of the area and £320,000 on settlement. I should perhaps explain why the provision for reclamation work takes up such a large part of the Estimate. The Committee of the League Council which is responsible for dealing with this subject decided to concentrate on settlement in the Ghab area, since, despite its relatively high initial cost, it represents the only satisfactory scheme, both from the political point of view and from the point of view of the security and the ultimate economic prosperity of the Assyrians. The Ghab area was in antiquity a fertile region of great prosperity, but owing to its present marshy condition expensive reclamation works have been necessary to make it suitable for settlement. The collection of a sum of £1,146,000, as the Committee will realise, is not a very easy matter. The French mandated territories in the Levant offer a sum of £380,000—
§ Viscount CRANBORNE
They have been under French mandate since the War. This is the largest individual contribution on account of their interest in the scheme, which when completed will affect not only the Assyrians but to some extent the prosperity of the existing population. The League is giving a sum of £86,000. In addition two nations are making independent contributions. They 313 are Iraq and Great Britain. The interest if the Iraq Government in the problem will be obvious to everyone. It must be to their interest to find a solution to this problem which has for years been a source of great trouble to them. I now come to our own contribution of £250,000, equal to the contribution of the Iraq Government. The account which I have given of the history of this question will have shown its complexity, its international character and the special concern of the League as a whole. For the reasons which I have stated His Majesty's Government cannot accept the view that we have a special responsibility.
§ Mr. DALTON
As the Under-Secretary is dealing with statistics may I ask whether there is not a residuary sum, some part of the estimated cost, which is not covered by the various sums paid by Governments and the League? Can he tell us what that sum is and whether it is to be raised by private charity, or in what fashion?
§ Viscount CRANBORNE
There is a residuary sum of £180,000 which remains after these contributions have been paid, and it is hoped to collect some portion of this sum by private subscription. The amount which will be collected depends on the success of those who are collecting, and it is hoped that the remainder of the sum may be raised by temporary credits and repaid, when the Assyrians are settled, by the community themselves. That is the present intention of the League in dealing with this subject.
§ Viscount CRANBORNE
I understand that that is so. I was saying that His Majesty's Government cannot accept responsibility, but we do not and should not attempt to disguise our special interest in a satisfactory solution of this problem. It is natural that we should wish to do our best for a community with whom we have been connected, even if it 314 is only by chance, for a number of years, and in addition there are certain valuable military services which have been performed by the Assyrians in Iraq, and they are still performing these duties. These services, therefore, make it incumbent upon us to do all we can to assist in assuring their future safety.
The League has addressed itself for funds not only to various Governments but to private individuals and organisations and the religious and humanitarian aspects which appeal to these particular organisations will I trust ensure a substantial response from these private sources. But it is also from the political point of view, or what the right hon. Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare) called at Geneva the point of view of enlightened self-interest, that I now ask the Committee to consider the matter. We have always had, and we still have, a special interest in the peace and tranquillity of the Middle East. Troubles and disturbances in that part of the world are bound to have serious reactions not only in the world as a whole but in territories in which we are greatly concerned. A solution of this problem which has always been thorny and which may at any time become very dangerous, deserves the most earnest attention and serious effort. I hope, therefore, that the Committee will be willing to vote the contribution which it is my duty to propose. This difficult question has been before the League too long and if it is not settled now it may be the cause of anxiety and difficulty in international affairs for many years to come. If this scheme fails it may be difficult to get another scheme started. We believe in the League and in an international settlement of international problems. We believe in playing our part as a country in that international settlement. It is in the confident belief that the contribution which is now being proposed is in the truest traditions of this country that I ask the Committee to give it its support.
§ Mr. LOFTUS
The Under-Secretary has not mentioned the numbers of the community which it is proposed to settle in this area.
§ Viscount CRANBORNE
The total number is estimated to be about 30,000 although it is not actually certain what is the number which will take advantage of the scheme.
§ 5. 24 p.m.
§ Mr. DALTON
I do not rise to oppose this proposal but to make certain comments on the affair. It is not quite worthy of the British Government to protest too much that they have no responsibility in this matter. I have a feeling that the Foreign Office has not stood up to the Treasury in the past and is not standing up to the Treasury now. This contribution is much too small, has been too long delayed and is being too slowly doled out. On the last point I would ask the Under-Secretary to give us a little more information as to how far the public works necessary for the drainage of the Orontes River have been carried and I express the hope that this work is being pushed forward with vigour. The view that His Majesty's Government have no special obligation towards these unfortunate people has frequently been proclaimed by Government spokesmen, but it is not shared by students of the matter in the Labour party nor by students of such diverse types as the Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Lloyd. There is an imposing and heterogeneous body of opinion on this subject which does not accept the rather easy evasion of responsibility which the Noble Lord has again declared to-day. I want to quote to the Committee a statement by Sir Francis Humphrys in 1932 before the Mandates Commission when the question of the liquidation of the Iraq Mandate was under consideration. Some members of the Mandates Commission expressed concern on behalf of the minorities which would be left in Iraq, and Sir Francis Humphrys said:His Majesty's Government fully realises its responsibility in recommending that Iraq should be admitted to the League. Should Iraq prove herself unworthy of the confidence which has been placed in her the moral responsibility must rest with His Majesty's Government.In the view of all decent people—I make an exception for the Treasury point of view of these matters—with moral responsibility financial responsibility goes also. In our youth we learned a poem beginning:The Assyrian came down like a wolf on the foldBut it was the Iraqi who came down like a wolf on the fold in 1932 and massacred, raped, looted and destroyed those hapless Assyrian settlements. 316 Any hon. Member who wishes to read in detail that shocking story should consult a book entitled "The Tragedy of the Assyrians" by Lieut.-Colonel Stafford, a British regular officer who won the Distinguished Service Order and the Military Cross in the War and who acted as administrative inspector in Iraq for a number of years, including the years of these disgusting atrocities. If only a small part of what he says is true, it is evident that a moral responsibility falls upon the British Government, as Sir Francis Humphrys clearly foretold, in not having made adequate provision to safeguard these unfortunate people. This is bloodstained history, and for nearly three years after this massacre His Majesty's Government go to Geneva, armed with a pedantic Treasury brief, and endeavour to shift the responsibility for not succouring these people all round the globe and to reduce their own contribution to the minimum. It is unworthy and it is discreditable; and my complaint is that much more money was not given, much more promptly and with a better spirit long ago. Now at last a. place has been found in the Orontes Valley where it is hoped that the remnants of this unhappy and ancient Christian race will find at last a secure and prosperous home. My question to the Noble Lord is, are the Government going on with the necessary work to settle these people there? Are the engineering works being pushed forward, and how soon does the Under-Secretary expect to come to the House and ask for a further instalment of this sum of money up to £250,000 which His Majesty's Government have at last screwed themselves up to provide for this humane work.
Finally, £180,000 is to be raised by private charity or on credit. I do not find that statement very uplifting. The Archbishop of Canterbury, who has long pleaded the cause of these unhappy folk, has been told to go round with the hat amongst his friends and collect what he can and, if he cannot collect it all, then some moneylender will lend the balance at interest. Would it not be far better for His Majesty's Government to come forward and say that they will straightforwardly meet this bill for which in my submission they have a moral responsibility. My final question, therefore, is whether this £250,000 is a fixed limit 317 to our expenditure for doing our duty, or can the Under-Secretary give some undertaking that, if the efforts of the Archbishop of Canterbury and his friends should fail to realise the full £180,000, he will go back to the Treasury and say that, having regard to the state of feeling in this country amongst all decent-minded people who are acquainted with this question, he must ask them to look at this matter again, not from a narrow-minded standard of economy to be pursued along the line of least resistance at the expense of a helpless and defenceless people, who have no representatives in this House, but to meet our moral obligations by a further grant from British revenue.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Miss HORSBRUGH
I have listened with interest to the Debate on this subject, but in listening to the speech of the hon. Member who has just sat down, I did not think he was doing full justice to the British Government in this affair. I think that in this particular case we ought; to realise that, while we have tried to help the Assyrians, the work of the League of Nations has in many ways been a hindrance. I think we ought to realise that the situation would have been very different if the suggestion of the British Government had been taken by the Boundary Commission. If the Assyrians had remained under the rule of the British Government, I think that, as in the past, this country would have shouldered both the moral and the financial burden. The difficulty arose when Iraq was admitted a State member of the League of Nations. I sometimes wonder, if the British Government had declared that Iraq ought not to obtain that status, how many people in this country and in this House would have expressed the opinion that the Government were not working in full support of the League. I believe that the Assyrian problem is one in which the work of the League has hindered rather than helped. I would remind hon. Members that in addition to the contribution of £250,000—and I would like to bear from my hon. Friend who is going to reply whether this is correct—we shall also be taking our share in the contribution that is to be made by the League.
Since the League took the responsibility for this matter the work has been slow, and the blame for this must to a great 318 extent be placed on the League. I am one of those who support the League of Nations and its work, but I think that when difficulties arise in connection with the work of the League, it is of no use simply blaming the British Government and saying that the League's work is always perfect. It has been suggested that the British Government could have done more than it has done, that it could have collected larger sums of money, that it could have worked independently and have realised the moral responsibility; but I would ask hon. Members whether, if the British Government had done that, it would not have been said that they were working outside the League and that the matter was one which concerned the League. Would it not have been said that it was impossible outside the League of Nations to negotiate with other countries concerning the places to which the Assyrians should be sent and concerning the collection of funds to carry out the plan?
We all regret the terrible tragedy that has occurred, but I do not think that it can be shown that the British Government has not played its part in an extraordinarily difficult situation. I feet that one of the big mistakes was that the boundary was fixed as it was, and I think it is a mistake for which the League bears the responsibility. I do not consider that the British Government can be blamed for those mistakes, which arose rather because the League was in its infancy so far as arrangements of this sort are concerned. The attempt has been made, and if the work has so far been carried out not as we would have wished it to be, I can only hope that experience has been gained by the League which will enable work of this nature, which probably should be carried out by such a body, to be done better in the future.
§ 5.34 p.m.
§ Mr. MANDER
Before dealing with the question of the Assyrians, I would like to ask the Noble Lord whether in replying he would be good enough to give some explanation of the first Vote, which is a grant of £3,000 for a gift to the League of Nations. I would like him to explain precisely what is the gift, because in the past many gifts have been given—some of them of a rather embarrassing nature—which were not par- 319 titularly appropriate, and it is, of course, extremely important that the gifts sent by every country should be capable of being usefully employed. I feel sure that the Government have made their choice wisely, but I would like to have some more information concerning the gift.
The hon. Lady the Member for Dundee (Miss Horsbrugh) criticised the action of the League in this matter. In doing so she was criticising the States members of the League, and everybody knows that there is a great deal that can be said in criticism of various States members. I am very glad that the Government have now abandoned the position which they at one time took up with regard to the Assyrians, when they said that they had no special liability and were not willing to make any substantial contribution apart from the same contribution which other Governments might make. The Noble Lord tried to emphasise that we have no special liability. By that I suppose he meant that we have no legal liability, for it is obvious that we have a great moral liability. The fact that the Government have handsomely contributed £250,000, and have possibly given something towards the £250,000 which Iraq has to contribute, is a very plain admission of our great moral responsibility.
That responsibility comes under two heads. The Noble Lord said that during the War the Assyrians fought on our side, although in association with the Russians. When the Russians departed from the scene, the Assyrians were urged by our authorities, as I understand it, to continue as our allies, and they were given assurances—not official, but sufficient assurances—that we would in some way look after them. Secondly, there is the special responsibility that arises from the mandate. My hon. Friend who spoke just now referred to what was said in the Mandates Commission of the League of Nations. He said that there was no doubt whatever that it was solely because of the assurances we gave that Iraq could be trusted—which turned out to be quite unfounded—that the Assyrians were handed over to Iraq. I understand that one of the members of the Mandates Commission has since said that it was only because of his belief that the British Government were going to accept responsibility for the 320 Assyrians that he corsented to allow the entry of Iraq to the League of Nations.
Therefore, I do not think it can be contended—and I do not think the Government do contend—that we have not a great responsibility. Indeed, the Government have acknowledged that responsibility handsomely by the contribution which they have made. But I do wish they could have gone further, and I still hope that it may be possible for them to reconsider the matter. An appeal was made by Lord Cecil is another place the other day when this question was being discussed. I should be glad to know whether that appeal has been considered and whether it is proposed to make any response to it. It has been mentioned that £180,000 has to he raised by charity, but I think that £50,000 is the amount for which an appeal is to be made, and that the remainder is to be obtained by loans. If the Government were able on reconsideration to say that. they would close the whole matter by making an additional grant of —50,000, I cannot help thinking that their action would meet with a great deal of approval from all quarters interested in the question in this country.
The Noble Lord explained in a very interesting way the various efforts that have been made by the League from time to time to settle the Assyrians. The place which has now been selected seems to be far more appropriate than any that was previously considered. It will certainly be cheaper to transfer the Assyrians such a short distance rather than overseas. From the physical and climatic point of view the place would seem to be thoroughly suitable, as it is not far from the place to which the Assyrians have been accustomed, and at the same time it is sufficiently distant from the frontiers of Turkey and Iraq to prevent any troubles arising from incursions on the one side or the other.
I would, however, ask the Noble Lord whether he could give some information on one point. The transfer of the Assyrians will take four years, but what is going to happen to the people who, during that time, are left behind? What steps are to be taken during that prolonged period to see that they are properly protected and looked after? It is obvious that as long as they remain there they will be in danger of the same things which have happened in the past. 321 I think we have a right to ask for some assurance that this matter has not been overlooked. Moreover, there will apparently be a residue of Assyrians content to live in their present place permanently. I do not know whether the Noble Lord could explain why they arc content to remain and why they have different views from their relatives who are going away. But if they choose to stay, when they have a chance of going, I suppose that is really their affair.
I would like to congratulate the Government on the way in which they have now dealt with this matter. They have not done all they might have done, but they have undoubtedly done very well. I hope the scheme will be successful and that at long last the debt of honour which we owe to that long-suffering and industrious people will filially be paid.
§ 5.43 p.m.
§ Captain HAROLD BALFOUR
I would like to ask the Noble Lord two questions on this Vote. In the first place, what are the other members of the League doing as regards individual contributions? The hon. Lady the Member for Dundee (Miss Horsbrugh) rather implied that the League was fulfilling its obligations by the contribution it was giving. Actually the League contribution is one-fiftieth of the total cost. I would like to ask the Noble Lord what the Government is doing as regards pressing other members to give individual contributions. It is understandable that the League as an entity may not, with the limited amount of money it has in its coffers, be able to give more than one-fiftieth, but surely the other members of the League could make individual contributions in the same way as France and this country. I base my question on the premise of the Noble Lord himself. I made a note of several of the sentences which he used. He said that the scheme is an international settlement and that it is under the auspices of the League. He said that it concerns other countries, that it has a religious and a humanitarian aspect, that it is an international problem in character, that we are only connected with it by chance, and have no special responsibility.
In view of all that, do not think that any of us would like to see private 322 charity brought into the matter. Surely religious and humanitarian aspects are common grounds for all the other members of the League, as well as this country and France. Consequently, I would ask the Noble Lord whether the Government have made representations to other members of the League that they should in their individual capacities dip their hands into their pockets and come to the rescue so as to prevent private charity being brought in. I entirely agree with the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) that this country has acted handsomely. If we accept those sentences of the Noble Lord to which I refer, I think there is not a Government supporter in the House who does not think that this country has acted generously and fulfilled all its obligations, particularly as it really has no obligations at all, as was said by the Noble Lord. It is because the principle of collective security which we have been discussing in other Debates raises also the principle of collective responsibility, that I would ask the Noble Lord to say whether the Government, if they have not already done so, will ask other individual members of the League to put their hands into their pockets and respond to the humanitarian and religious appeal involved in this matter, in the same way as this country has done.
§ 5.46 p.m.
§ Mr. TINKER
I cannot speak on this subject with the knowledge displayed by other hon. Members. Until to-day I was unacquainted with the facts of this case and I must thank the Noble Lord for the very full and lucid explanation which he has given of it. I think it has been a lesson to us all to hear of what has happened to these people as a result of the War. I am very glad that the League of Nations has taken up their case, because I think it is the duty of the League to look after cases of this kind and to show an example to the world. I did not gather the number of people who were involved or the number who are expected to go back. Perhaps the Noble Lord will give the Committee some information on that point when he replies. May I also ask who will have control of these people when they have settled down? Will they be under the League or under the French; and how long will it be before the League finally says it is finished with them and that 323 some nation will have to take charge of them?
I would also like some further explanation of the sum in the Estimate. I gather than the League of Nations is contributing 1,300,000 gold francs. I do not know exactly what that amounts to in sterling. The Iraqi Government are contributing five-twelfths of die total cost subject to a maximum of £250,000 and His Majesty's Government are contributing five-twelfths subject to a similar maximum. Obviously, somebody will have to make up the remaining one-sixth, but there is no mention in the Estimate of who is to contribute that balance. If that sum does not come from the anticipated direction, who will ultimately have to find it? On the general aspect of the scheme, I was very pleased to hear what he said, especially as I have always taken a great interest in the East and particularly in the countries affected by this proposal.
§ 5.48 p.m.
§ Mr. RILEY
I wish to reinforce the plea which has been made by the two hon. Members below the Gangway with regard to the raising of the sum of £189,000 which is not guaranteed by the League, as set forth in the Estimate. It appears to be expected that this money will be raised by private charity. My information on the subject differs somewhat from that of the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander). As I understand it, the whole of that sum is expected to be raised by an appeal to private charity. Congratulations have been offered from these benches as well as from the other side to the Government on the spirit which has been displayed in dealing with this distressing situation arising out of the War. On the whole, the Government have "come down" fairly handsomely, in rescuing these 30,000 people from the disaster which seemed to be impending in their case. I only wish to say that the example given in this case might be followed, both by this country and the League of Nations, in regard to many thousands of Europeans who, to-day, are, more or less, in the same condition as the Assyrians, or at any rate in a hardly less serious condition, relatively speaking, in various parts of Europe. If the same responsi- 324 bility were exercised in regard to these Europeans, it would redound to the credit of our own Government and other Governments which are supposed to adopt a humane attitude on these questions. However that may be, I feel that the Government are none the less entitled to congratulations. I wish to ask whether the sum of £180,000, if not raised by private charity, will be raised by the Governments concerned. It would seem to be a cheese-paring policy to allow a great piece of humanitarian work to suffer because of dependence on charity in the last resort for a sum of £100,000 or £180,000. If private charity does not rise to the occasion, the Governments concerned ought themselves to complete the job.
§ 5.53 p.m.
§ Viscount CRANBORNE
The main point raised in this Debate was that made by the hon. Members for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) and East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander). The hon. Member for Bishop Auckland thought I had protested too much about the Government having no responsibility in this matter and that all the Government speakers had protested too much. I do not think the hon. Member was quite fair in that respect. I merely stated that I did not believe that we had a special responsibility.
§ Viscount CRANBORNE
In spite of what Sir Francis Humphrys said. I simply mentioned the fact that we did not bring the Assyrians into the war and that if the Council of the League had accepted our advice i his difficulty would not have arisen. To my mind those facts indicate that the chief burden of responsibility does rest on the League. This is an international problem. I know that the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland referred to a select band of those whom he called decent people, apparently consisting of himself, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Lord Cecil.
§ Viscount CRANBORNE
But there are, I submit to him, other decent people who do not take the same view. It seems to me that we are in the position of a man who has rescued somebody from drowning. One obviously has a special inter- 325 est in the man, but one is not thereby made responsible for keeping him for the rest of his life. That is the position of the Government with regard to the Assyrians. I confess I was surprised at the charge that the British Government have acted meanly in this matter. I have already said that the British Government after the War spent a considerable sum on the Assyrians and I can now tell the Committee that the sum which they spent was upwards of £4,000,000. That was spent on the upkeep of these Assyrians after the War. Having spent that large sum, we are now offering to spend an additional —250,000 and I do not think it can be contended in those circumstances that we are acting in a mean or unworthy manner. After all, this is not the only place where there are poor and unhappy people. We have many other calls upon our public purse. I think while we are ready to give this assistance in arriving at a final settlement of this matter, it cannot be said that we have any special responsibility.
Several other points have been raised. The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton and I think the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) raised points with regard to this sum of £180,000. I was asked whether the whole of this sum was to be met by private charity and I think the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton suggested that only £50,000 was to be met in that way. The residuary amount to which the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland referred is £180,000 as can be ascertained by a very simple sum in arithmetic. The idea was that private charity and private interests of various kinds would subscribe all they could and the present estimate is that they will manage to find about £50,000, leaving £130,000 still to be found. The hope has been expressed that a loan might be raised to cover that amount on the basis of repayment later on, when the new area of settlement was in a flourishing condition. The hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Riley) asked what would happen if private charity did not raise the sum. I hope we need not anticipate that eventuality. After the interest which has been shown in the matter this afternoon I hope that money will be forthcoming. If it is not forthcoming the question will no doubt be further considered by the League. The hon. Member for Bishop Auckland also asked whether the scheme had started.
§ Mr. DALTON
I was anxious to know how far these engineering works which have been enumerated as being necessary have progressed. A list of engineering works has been mentioned on another occasion and I wish to know whether these works have been started and how they are getting on.
§ Viscount CRANBORNE
The works include the construction of a dam and a reservoir and a tunnel. Various operations of a preliminary character have been started or are to be started as soon as possible.
§ Mr. DALTON
Do I understand that there has not yet been any beginning in the actual works such as the driving of the tunnel?
§ Viscount CRANBORNE
My information is that what is called preliminary work has begun, but I could not give any further information.
§ Viscount CRANBORNE
Yes. I understand the intention is that all the Assyrians should go from Iraq, that is all who are willing to go, as soon as possible. Pending their permanent settlement in the Ghab plain, a small area will be provided where they will reside temporarily. They will all move from Iraq as soon as possible.
§ Viscount CRANBORNE
As soon as the area can be got ready for them. Certain of these people do not, I am told, want to go. As to what is to happen to them I am afraid they will have to stay where they are. The question was also asked what contribution had there been by other members of the League. Except for the collective contribution of the League to which I have referred there were no other contributions. As I have said, although we do not accept a special responsibility in this case, we recognise that we have a certain interest in the matter and, obviously, the same remark applies to the Iraqi Government and the French Mandated Territories.
§ Viscount CRANBORNE
A sum of £380,000 is being given by the French mandated territories; £250,000 by the Iraqi Government, £250,000 by the British Government, and £86,000 by the League as a whole. If the total of those items is taken from £1,146,000 it leaves —180,000.
§ Mr. TINKER
I hope that the League account can be put into English figures because it is difficult to understand when put in golden francs.
§ Viscount CRANBORNE
I have now given the figures in sterling. I think that I have now answered the main questions which were put to me.
§ Sir P. HANNON
I do not think my Noble Friend has answered a question put by an hon. Member opposite under what administration this settlement will be carried on, and how long the League of Nations will be responsible for administration for the first and second group. When will the French administration come in, and are any arrangements being made for the economic development of the settlement in order to develop the community from the agricultural and horticultural point of view?
§ Viscount CRANBORNE
A Trustee board has been set up by the League and it will take charge of the administration of the settlement. The community will be under its administration until such time as the settlement has been completed when it is hoped that the Assyrians will be assimilated as subjects of the mandated territories. A separate minority inside a territory is not a permanent solution and if they become assimilated it will be the best solution for all concerned.
§ Viscount CRANBORNE
I did not think it was a matter in which the Committee would be very anxious because a rebate is rather satisfactory in any Estimate. This £3,000 relates to a gift which is to be made by the British Government to the new League of Nations building. It is a great piece of sculpture which is to be made by Mr. Eric Gill, one of the most 328 eminent of British sculptors. It was provided in the League of Nations Vote for 1935–36 and it was expected that the money would be spent this year, but owing to the difficulties of placing it and obtaining the approval of the Secretary-General of the League, there has been delay in completing the sculpture. Its cost will, therefore, come in the Estimates next year, and there is a saving this year.