§ LORD LAMINGTON rose to ask His Majesty's Government whether they will make a statement with reference to the present position of affairs in Persia, having special reference (1) to the granting of a loan; (2) to the financial administration; and (3) to the strengthening of the Gendarmerie.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, ever since the time of Mr. Shuster's recall, when Russia presented one or two Ultimatums to Persia, there has been a question of giving a large loan to Persia to help her in her regeneration, but a year and a quarter has elapsed and no money has been advanced, at least not any considerable sum. A statement has recently appeared in the Press, I do not know with what 1440 truth, that a loan of £400,000 was going to be made to Persia jointly by ourselves and Russia. I hope that is true. I understand that negotiations have been in progress concerning railway concessions. No doubt it is desirable that the terms of those concessions should be finally agreed upon before money is advanced, but when once those terms have been settled I trust that there will be no delay in granting the loan of £400,000, if that is the correct amount. At the same time one would like to know whether any undertaking has been given by the Persian Government as to the allocation of the money, and whether His Majesty's Government are going to see whether it is not possible to set up some better form of financial administration than at present exists in Teheran. M. Mornard is not regarded with great favour by a considerable section of the public in Persia irrespective of nationality, and my own view is that it would be very desirable to set up there a Treasury Board or an Advisory Council, or whatever it may be termed, consisting, for example, of a Russian, a Britisher, and either a Persian or a representative of some neutral Power, so as to see that the money was properly allocated and properly spent.
§ Mr. Shuster estimated that Persia could well give security for a loan of £3,000,000, and I think about three months ago M. Mornard said the revenue of Persia, properly looked after, would afford a loan of £5,000,000; so that there is ample margin, taking these two statements, for the safety of the advance. In my opinion a considerable portion of the loan should be ear-marked for the purposes of the Gendarmerie; and whilst mentioning that I wish to again express my admiration of the work which has been done by the Swedish officers who are in command of the Gendarmerie. They are most zealous and most anxious to perfect that force and make it efficient, and they have done wonders in a very brief space of time; but I think most authorities are agreed that there must be a large augmentation of that force. I question whether it would be possible to get a sufficient number of Swedish officers who would be capable of working the force up to a proper state of efficiency. I therefore ask His Majesty's Government to consider the desirability of introducing some British officers. It must be remembered that the Swedes, however good and painstaking they are, have no 1441 knowledge of Orientals, and do not know the language, whereas in India we have a large number of officers who are experienced in dealing with natives and in leading native troops, and who are also more or less acquainted with the language.
§ In the past I have never advocated this, nor have I ever desired that we should send a military expedition to Persia. I have never done so because, first of all, I did not wish to irritate the Persians or make them think that we had any idea of acquiring any of their territory; nor did I wish to give the Russian Government any excuse for retaining or increasing their force in Northern Persia. Therefore it cannot be said that I have ever been desirous of seeing us establish any military position in Persia; but I do think that the crucial moment has come when the Persian Gendarmerie might well be strengthened by lending a number of British officers from the Indian Army. At all events I should like to know whether His Majesty's Government have considered this point, because no delay is excusable at the present time. Already we have that unfortunate Cavalry regiment, the Central Indian Horse, up at Shiraz in a very unpleasant predicament, and nobody knows exactly how they are going to get back to India. Our prestige has suffered enormously, and the whole of Southern Persia is in that state of anarchy which has been described more than once in this House. Therefore I think it is essential for the well-being of Persia that the Gendarmerie should be made more efficient, and, the best way to accomplish this would be by lending a certain number of British officers, not to displace but to assist the Swedish officers in increasing the Gendarmerie and making it more efficient.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY
My Lords, I am very glad that the noble Lord sees the problem on the whole in much the same light as does His Majesty's Government. What be has said about the Persian Gendarmerie with Swedish officers is perfectly true, and it is very valuable to have the recognition of an undisputed friend of Persian nationality like the noble Lord taking that view. Not further back than December last one of our leading agents had a long conversation with the Commandant of the Swedish officers, who said that he had now a very considerable staff 1442 of Persian officers and non-commissioned officers at his disposal in an efficient state of preparation; but he would like to have 300 or 400 more men if the necessary funds were forthcoming. He has at hand ample material for an instructor class, which would create a larger force if the funds needed were obtained. The noble Lord was not quite accurate when he said that nothing has been advanced to Persia.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY
Surely my noble friend has forgotten the £400,000 jointly advanced by Great Britain and Russia, and which the Persians have had, and, I suppose, have expended. Now there is a question, first of all, of an immediate advance; and here I must refer for a moment to the miserable incident of the murder of Captain Eckford, an officer of great ability and promise. That murder was a terrible and lamentable incident in the great road problem which it is incumbent upon us to solve because we are more interested than any other Power in the trade and so forth on the great Southern road. What were we to do after that incident happened? We could no doubt have sent a punitive expedition and have undertaken the duty of policing the road and restoring at least a superficial semblance of order. But there were enormous objections to sending a punitive expedition, and it was not a course for which the Government could make themselves responsible. Experience has shown only too abundantly that it is very easy to take the first step in a movement of that kind, but very hard to end it; and the noble Lord has told the House that he is fully alive to that and feels the force of that difficulty. The noble Lord will see that for us to undertake the complete pacification of the Southern road and its regeneration from its present abominable disorder would be really to impair the authority of the Persian Government. And it is with the view of giving the Persian Government the best chance we can that we abstain from any move of a military or semi-military kind which would involve us in obligations not only burdensome to ourselves but extremely disadvantageous to the Persian Government in whom we are interested.
The noble Lord asked whether we had considered the expediency of adding to 1443 the Swedish officers of the Gendarmerie a leaven, large or small, of British officers from India. Very little reconsideration will, I think, convince the noble Lord that that would be a very risky proceeding. And why? Because the Swedish officers are undertaking a very unwelcome responsibility—it is very difficult and risky work—and those who are best able to judge on the ground warn us that to add to that force another foreign element would lead inevitably to friction and jealousy. The Governor-General of Fars, I dare say, has his own preferences. He would, perhaps, cause some dissatisfaction by allotting this or that portion of the Persian force to a British officer instead of a Swedish officer, and vice versa. The difficulties which would arise and which it is not necessary to enlarge upon seem to us to justify the rejection of the proposal of the noble Lord.
None of the reforms desired in Persia can take place without money. My noble friend Lord Cromer said something just now about the difficulty of a Moslem community regenerating itself without foreign aid. I think that was a very pregnant remark and full of force coming from him, and not altogether inapplicable to the case of Persia. Now what are the details about money? As I have said they have had £400,000. It is proposed to raise £400,000 more, £200,000 from Great Britain—half of that, by the way, being contributed by India—and £200,000 from Russia. Another £100,000 is to be contributed by Great Britain alone for the special case of the Government of Fars, which contains these disturbed areas. We propose that the budget for the expenditure of that £100,000 should be framed in consultation with the Swedish Commandant, and then it will be submitted to the Governor-General of Fars; and it would be handed over in monthly payments of £8,000 to the Swedish Commandant. That is to deal with a present emergency and would last them for the best part of a year, and it is hoped that in a year the Gendarmerie might have gone on in its present good method of shaping itself and become a force that could be relied upon for the maintenance of order.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY
I am afraid I cannot at the moment. I dare say I have the numbers on a paper here, but it would detain the House too long for me to find them. I will give them to the noble Lord later. The security for these advances is to be looked for in a large loan of £4,000,000, £5,000,000, or £6,000,000. As the noble Lord said, M. Mornard thinks there is security for £4,000,000 or £5,000,000.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY
And some go so far as to say there is security for £6,000,000. At all events, the security is looked for in a large loan of £1,000,000, £5,000,000 or £6,000,000. We must look for such a loan in connection with the negotiations and operations now going on between the Persian Government and the Société d'Etudes. It is believed that a loan of that magnitude or something like that magnitude might be created in connection with the inquiries and the negotiations that are now going on between the Persian Government and the representatives and agents of the Société d'Etudes. We must look forward, and there seems to be some reason for looking forward, to a successful ending by and by to those negotiations. Meantime I have told the House how the case stands. I do not think the noble Lord raised any other question with which I need deal.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY
A Financial Board to supersede M. Mornard, to be composed, as I understand, of a Frenchman, a Russian, and an Englishman—
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY
I am not sure that the proposal has been before His Majesty's Government. We do not share the noble Lord's doubts as to the capacity of M. Mornard.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY
His Majesty's Government do not share the noble Lord's doubts as to either the capacity or goodwill of M. Mornard to make the best he can of the arduous task he has undertaken.
§ LORD NEWTON
My Lords, the policy of the noble Viscount opposite appears to be leading precisely in the direction which he is so anxious to avoid. I cannot imagine anything more likely to bring about a punitive expedition than the present state of things. It is all very fine to talk about the independence of the Persian Government; but the truth is that the Persian Government is absolutely impotent in that part of the world, and it is impossible to re-establish order or to obtain redress. The noble Viscount puts his faith in the Swedish Gendarmerie. I should be sorry to say anything disparagingly of that force. I have seen it myself, and in some respects it is creditable to the officers commanding it, but the officers have had little experience and it is too small a force to deal with disorders on a large scale. What is the noble Viscount going to do if another incident takes place like that of the murder of Captain Eckford the other day The outstanding fact is that nobody has been punished for that, and nobody is likely to be punished because there is no authority there to obtain redress. I cannot imagine any situation more likely to lead to something in the nature of a punitive expedition than what is going on there at the present moment, and I do not feel at all certain us my own mind that either the noble Viscount or his colleagues realise what the situation actually is.
§ LORD LAMINGTON
I should like to say that it is quite a new feature about the Société d'Etudes being connected in any way with this loan. I do not know whether the noble Viscount could throw any further light on that point.
§ No answer was given.