HC Deb 07 February 1945 vol 407 cc2045-7
2. Mr. Keeling

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will issue a White Paper setting out the promises, in respect of Syria and Lebanon, given by His Majesty's Government to France, Syria and the Lebanon, respectively, and still in force.

Mr. Law

The statements of policy, all of which have been published, are four in number, of which two are extracts from speeches made by the Prime Minister in this House. I will gladly have copies of the four documents placed in the Library of the House.

Mr. Keeling

Does my right hon. Friend appreciate that it is necessary to inform public opinion and to remind the public of what the facts are? Would it not, therefore, be very useful to have a White Paper?

Mr. Law

I will certainly consider the point my hon. Friend has raised.

Mr. Stokes

Will the right hon. Gentleman incorporate in the White Paper the declarations made by General Catroux specifically to the Lebanese and the Syrians?

12. Mr. Astor

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he can give any information regarding recent events in the Levant States.

Mr. Law

From accounts which have appeared in the Press, hon. Members will know that there has been tension for some time in the Levant States and that demonstrations have taken place. The occasion for these demonstrations was the Syrian demand for the immediate transfer to the Syrian Government of the so-called troupes spéciales. This, however, is a complicated question, into the history of which I cannot go now. I would only emphasise that the real difficulties are by no means confined to this point, but extend to the wider question of the future relations of France with the Levant States, whose independence she has proclaimed. Just what these relations are to be is primarily a matter for negotiation between France and the States themselves. But they will have to be defined sooner or later by an agreement or settlement of some sort, and it is the view of His Majesty's Government that the sooner discussions to this end are started the better. Difficult as many of the questions at issue are, we believe that there is no reason why they should not be satisfactorily settled, given a fair measure of understanding and restraint on both sides.

Meanwhile we have the right to expect that no action will be countenanced by either side which is likely to create a threat to security in an area under British operational command or to undermine the loyalty and discipline of the troupes spéciales which form part of the Allied Forces in the Middle East.

Mr. Astor

May we have an assurance that there will be free negotiation and that the States will not be subjected to any undue pressure?

Mr. Law

This is a matter for the two States concerned. I have indicated the attitude of His Majesty's Government to the matter, which is one for negotiation between those two States. They have to reach a settlement, and His Majesty's Government hope that they will reach a settlement.

Major-General Sir Edward Spears

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in to-day's paper there is an announcement that the French Minister of Information has said that he hopes for the eventual independence of the Levant States? How is this compatible with the guarantee given by France, and ratified by us when we occupied those countries in 1941, that the Mandate had come to an end, and that the two Republics were from that moment sovereign and independent States?

Mr. Law

I have not in fact seen any such statement and I cannot vouch for its accuracy, and until I have a full report, I prefer not to comment upon it.

Mr. Edgar Granville

Is not this just the sort of question which might usefully be discussed by the "Big Three," and does it not emphasise that General de Gaulle should have been invited to that meeting?

Mr. Stokes

May I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman remembers the declaration of General Catroux in June, 1941, when he said he had come to put an end to the Mandate?

Mr. Law

I do not think I have said anything to indicate that I have forgotten it.

23. Mr. Stokes

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he is aware that demonstrations have taken place in Syria and the Lebanon against the French refusal to hand over the Syrian national Forces; and whether he has considered a copy of a note of protest from the Syrian Foreign Minister to the French authorities.

Mr. Law

As regards the first part of the Question, I would refer my hon. Friend to my reply to the hon. Member for East Fulham (Mr. Astor). As regards the second part, no copy of a note of protest has yet reached me.

Mr. Stokes

Does not my right hon. Friend recollect the declaration made by General Catroux at Beirut on 26th November—

Mr. Speaker

That appears to be a question which has been asked previously, and there is a rule against repetition.

Mr. Stokes

On a point of Order. This is a different declaration, Mr. Speaker. May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he recollects that on 26th November, 1941, General Catroux solemnly declared the Lebanon an independent State, and said they had the right to appoint diplomatic representatives, and the right to control their own Army?