HC Deb 12 May 1939 vol 347 cc952-6

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Captain Margesson.]

The Prime Minister (Mr. Chamberlain)

The right hon. Gentleman opposite asked me this morning whether I had any statement to make on the progress of the discussions between His Majesty's Government and the Turkish Government, and I promised to make a statement in reply to that question this afternoon, and the statement is as follows:

His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom and the Turkish Government have entered into close consultation, and the discussions which have taken place between them and which are still continuing have revealed their customary identity of view.

2. It is agreed that the two countries will conclude a definite long-term agreement of a reciprocal character in the interest of their national security.

3. Pending the completion of the definitive agreement, His Majesty's Government and the Turkish Government declare that in the event of an act of aggression leading to war in the Mediterranean area they would be prepared to co-operate effectively and to lend each other all aid and assistance in their power.

4. This declaration, like the proposed agreement, is not directed against any country, but is designed to assure Great Britain and Turkey of mutual aid and assistance should the necessity arise.

5. It is recognised by the two Governments that certain matters, including the more precise definition of the various conditions which would bring the reciprocal engagements into operation, will require closer examination before the definitive agreement can be completed. This examination is proceeding.

6. The two Governments recognise that it is also necessary to ensure the establishment of security in the Balkans and they are consulting together with the object of achieving this purpose as speedily as possible.

7. It is understood that the arrangements above mentioned do not preclude either Government from making agreements with other countries in the general interest of the consolidation of peace.

8. A similar declaration is being made in Angora this evening.

Mr. Attlee

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman, while expressing the satisfaction that I am sure we all feel at this Agreement, whether the Agreement will be followed up by staff talks?

The Prime Minister

That does not arise until the definitive agreement is concluded.

Mr. Arthur Henderson

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether this declaration is covered by Article 19 of the Montreux Convention, which deals with the passage of British ships into the Black Sea, so as to permit of the passage of British warships to the assistance of Rumania in the event of that country being attacked by another?

The Prime Minister

The statement which I read out obviously does not cover specific points of that kind, but it is agreed that the two countries will conclude a definitive long-term agreement, and matters of that kind would no doubt be considered then.

Mr. Benn

Does that mean that the limit which at present exists on the entry of ships into the Black Sea is now waived?

The Prime Minister

It does not mean anything more than what I have said.

Lieut.-Commander Fletcher

May I ask whether the use of the term "Mediterranean area" was employed in order to exclude the Dardanelles and the Black Sea?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir.

Mr. Cocks

I do not want to press the Prime Minister if he does not want to answer, but can he define more clearly what is meant by "Mediterranean area"? Does it include other seas leading into the Mediterannean, such as the Adriatic and the Black Sea?

The Prime Minister

I would prefer not to give a definition.

Mr. Mander

Does the Prime Minister consider that, if this potentially valuable Agreement is to come into effective force at once, it is essential that staff conversations should take place now and not possibly after many months?

Mr. Stephen

Can the Prime Minister give us an assurance that it is no part of this Agreement that the conscription of young men of this country shall be added to beyond the class 20–21, as is already proposed?

Mr. Benjamin Smith

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether, in view of the fact that an agreement already exists between Turkey and Russia for the passage of Russian ships into the Black Sea, such an agreement will be embodied in the terms of the definitive agreement?

The Prime Minister

I cannot say what will be included in the terms of the definitive agreement at this stage.

Mr. Silverman

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the words an act of aggression leading to war in the Mediterranean area means an act of aggression anywhere or an act of aggression in the Mediterranean area?

The Prime Minister

It means an act of aggression that leads to war in the Mediterranean.

Adjourned accordingly at Four Minutes before four o'clock, until Monday next, 15th May.