HL Deb 14 May 1924 vol 57 cc396-413

LORD LAMINGTON had given Notice to ask His Majesty's Government whether they will make a statement as to the present position of affairs in Persia; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, it is now almost three years since we had any information in this House regarding affairs in Persia. I think that the last occasion on which that country came under review here was in July,1921. As your Lordships will agree, little information is now given in the Press about what takes place in Persia and it is very difficult to follow events there. I obtained some information from a society which was formed with the idea of creating a better understanding between ourselves and Persia. I have also obtained information by attending lectures and from conversations in commercial and literary circles, but on the whole the information is very vague and sometimes, in regard to its authority, dubious. Therefore, it would be well if the Government could give us some enlightenment.

When the Question was last raised in July,1921,there had been in Persia a succession of Ministries. I think there were five changes of Ministry in twelve months. But that has been outrivalled in the last few months, during which various forms of constitution have been in existence in Persia. When the Shah left Persia, some two or three months ago, it was declared that he would never return as Shah and a very strong movement for the establishment of a Republic arose in the country. The Mejliss was going to deal with this question, but a large demonstration headed by the ecclesiastical authorities in Tehran went to the Mejliss and so intimidated its members that they declared that a Republic was contrary to the religious principles of Persia and therefore could not be set up. What the position is to-day I really do not know, and I hope the noble Lord who will answer me—I understand it will be the Lord President—will be able to give me some precise information as to what is at the present moment the constituted authority in Persia.

Through all these kaleidoscopic changes there has been one very notable figure and that is a person known by the name of Sardar Sepah, the Commander-in-Chief, who I think might literally be called the dictator in Persia. Under his régime Persia has no doubt attained to a very fair administration; at least, so far as my information goes, that is so. Certainly in Southern Persia good order prevails, trade has been resumed, and the revenue is collected. I understand that revenue is collected even from the chieftains who inhabit the wild country and, going still farther south and even more remote from Tehran, I believe revenue has also been collected from the Bakhtiari chiefs and from the Sheik of Mohammerah. That, at any rate, is the opinion that I have got; whether it is accurate, or not I cannot say, but certainly revenue has been collected. This is due not only to the activities of Sardar Sepah but also to his working in collaboration with Dr. Millspaugh, the American financier, who was asked for by the Persian Government and who apparently is superintending the reorganisation of the finances of the country with great ability. For the reasons I have just given there is every probability that the Budget this year will be balanced. No doubt, Sardar Sepah, in his position as Commander-in-Chief, has been able, by reason of the financial resources afforded to him by Dr. Millspaugh, to set up a strong military force and has therefore secured good order. He has certainly done so in Southern Persia and I imagine also in Northern Persia. One reason for this, I understand, is that the Army is now regularly paid, as also are the State officials. Moreover, a great check has been imposed upon the misuse of squandering of money, and this is all very satisfactory.

As regards our own relations with Persia, the picture, apparently, is not quite so pleasing. I think everybody is agreed that this country is now viewed with great suspicion, and indeed almost with hostility, by the Persian Government and Persians generally. The reason for this dates back to that unfortunate, and as I think ill-conceived, Anglo-Russian Convention. It was subsequently clearly proved that under that Convention Russia had intended to establish a very strong Russian hold over Northern Persia. Whilst the Persians would naturally not be inclined to accuse us of doing anything similar in our sphere of influence, yet the mere fact that we assented to, and approved of, that Convention weakened our prestige with the Persians. They felt that we lacked confidence and had not sufficient strength to refuse such a Convention, which is distinctly prejudicial to the interests of Persia. That, I think, was the commencement of the feeling of suspicion against us. Then came the war. Although Persia was not a combatant in the war, the country was subjected to many of the evils of war. There were German intrigues and Turkish inroads, and these had to he met by sending troops into the country.

Then, after the Russian Revolution, there came the Bolshevist advance into Northern Persia and we had to send more troops to Northern Persia to secure the country against this advance. That again no doubt created further suspicion in the minds of Persia that we intended to remain a military power in Persia. Although, indirectly, Persia suffered from all this warfare, on the other hand she must have gained a good deal by the fact that a large sum of money had been spent by us in safeguarding her real independence, in making roads, and, generally, in establishing good order, particularly in Southern and Eastern Persia. After the war my noble friend the Marquess Curzon of Kedleston framed, and we discussed in this House, the Anglo-Persian Convention, by which, no doubt, he intended to set Persia on her feet and make her independent. Unluckily, national feeling was so much aroused in Persia, and there was so much suspicion of our desire to see an independent Persia, that that Agreement was never ratified. The feeling in Persia was still more embittered. Latterly there came the expulsion from Iraq of the Sheik-el-Kalise which was attributed to British influence. Great hostility indeed was excited amongst the Mohammedan world against us because of this action, but quite wrongly, because Great Britain had nothing whatever to do with it. It was entirely owing to the action of King Feisal.

The strength of the hostility against this country is proved by this one feature. Your Lordships know that negotiations were going on with regard to oil concessions in Northern Persia. I do not wish to go into the details of these transactions, but, roughly speaking, a concession was given—the Khostaria concession—some years ago, and then by agreement with the Standard Oil Company an understanding was reached with the Persian Standard Oil Company that it should be worked jointly. The Persian Government became so hostile in their attitude that they said the concession did not hold good because it had not been ratified by the Mejliss. They broke it, and they are now on the point of giving the concession to a group called the Sinclair group, one of the conditions of which is that there must be no British money or British participation at all. That is one of the conditions, so strong is the anti-British feeling in Persia. Some years ago, at the request of the Persian Government, a Persian railway syndicate was formed and invited to make a survey for a railway from the Gulf of Mohammerah to Northern Persia. About £180,000 has been spent in making that survey, but now the Persian Government repudiate the concession, saying it was never ratified by the Mejliss, and they are negotiating with American financiers for the construction of this and other railways. It is unfortunate that we should incur this extreme animosity on the part of Persia.

Another factor may also partly account for it. At the end of the war His Majesty's Government took a large holding in the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, on the plea that it was desirable to secure a supply of oil for naval purposes. I think the policy was an absolute mistake; but that is not my point. It is quite natural that a country, when it finds that a strong company is closely allied to the Government of a foreign Power, should rather resent it. We should not hail with satisfaction the idea that a large coal syndicate, dominating perhaps half the coalfields in Great Britain, was closely allied, say, to the French Government. There would naturally be considerable suspicion with regard to such a transaction. This was felt to be so undesirable that the last Government in Great Britain negotiated for the sale of those shares, and it was about to be carried through. But after the disastrous General Election, a change of Government came about, and the Labour Government refused to proceed with the proposal. If that is so, it is really very strange that a Labour Government should be so shortsighted and should wish to carry out a policy which is detrimental to our own interest and absolutely displeasing to the national feeling of the country interested. I hope the noble and learned Lord will be able to give us some indication that this policy will be reconsidered.

Those are the main points which I desire to bring before your Lordships this afternoon. I am asking my Question chiefly for the purpose of obtaining information as to the real position of affairs. I do not think any apology is needed for troubling your Lordships. Years ago the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, said that it would be regarded as an unfriendly act for any Power to attempt to obtain a position in the Persian Gulf, and my noble friend the Marquess Curzon of Kedleston has described Persia as the glacis of the defences of India. For hundreds of years we have spent much money and exposed our soldiers and sailors to one of the worst climates in the world, but we have secured and made those seas absolutely free from danger. We have lighted some parts of the coast and encouraged traffic for the benefit not only of Persia but the whole world. I hope that the Persian Government may look back a little and try to forego their present resentment, remembering that in doing this great work in the Persian Gulf we have never acquired a single acre of land for ourselves. We have never had any desire to aggrandise our position at the expense of Persia. I hope His Majesty's Government will be able to give us some information about the present position of affairs and some indication that there will be an improvement in the relations between ourselves and Persia. I beg to move.


My Lords, the noble Lord, who is fully justified in bringing this Question forward, has shown that he has himself a very accurate knowledge of most of the questions which are involved. There are one or two outside matters to which he referred, on which I should like to say a word or two before giving any connected story of what has happened in Persia during the last two years and how matters stand at the present time. Towards the end of his address he referred to the Persian Gulf. I do not think it has ever been suggested that there has been any weakening of the position by the present Government, or any other Government, in reference to our strength in the Persian Gulf. He seems to have referred to it on the ground that the Government of Persia ought to feel gratitude for what we had done in the Persian Gulf. I think that is a fair paraphrase of what he said.


And what we had done not for our own special benefit.


That may be quite true, but I wished to say that I think it would be a great mistake to mix up this question of Persia with any question of our position in the Persian Gulf, which I am told is at the present time absolutely untouched and unassailable. I do not desire it to be thought for a moment that the question of the Persian Gulf is involved in any of the references which I am about to make to the position in Persia. I want to make that clear at the outset, because not only that which we have done in the Persian Gulf, but our position there, as the noble Lord has rightly said, are matters of importance far beyond Persia, and involve some very critical questions regarding our whole position in the East and in India.

The noble Lord referred to another point upon which I should like to say a few words before I come to the general question. He spoke, I think, of the oil policy, and, if I followed him aright, he referred to the policy regarding oil from Mosul. Is that right, or was he referring to Northern Persia?


The Persian shares.


I am much obliged. I did not quite appreciate what the noble Lord meant. As regards the policy of the late Government, I see that the noble-Marquess, Lord Curzon of Kedleston, is present, and he will correct me if I am wrong, but I do not understand that they ever came to the conclusion that the interest of the Government in the Anglo Persian shares should be surrendered, because, amongst other reasons, it was important from the point of view of the Admiralty that the position should be maintained. I do not desire to go further into that question, because it has already been discussed in the other House, and in answer to a question there the policy of the present Government was, I think, clearly indicated. It is not their view that these shares should be surrendered at the present time. There are various grounds upon which they have come to that con elusion, which I do not understand to be in any way in opposition to the policy of the late Government.


I referred to what I understood to be their policy.


I thought the noble Lord wished me to state quite clearly what the position was. The position is that the present Government have determined, under all the various conditions, and having regard to the interests affected, that they are not in a position to make the surrender of these shares that has been suggested.

Our real position in Persia is this. It is to the interest of this country that there should be as stable a form of Government in Persia as possible, so far as matters of law and order are concerned, and, on the other hand, that the financial position of Persia should be placed on as sound a basis as possible. During the last two years great progress has been made in both these directions. No doubt there have been incidents, such as those to which the noble Lord referred, and to which I shall refer Presently, regarding the Republican and anti-Republican movements, but on the whole Persia during the last two years, both in the stability of its Government and in the greater soundness of its finances, has advanced in a direction which is entirely favourable to the views of His Majesty's Government.

The noble Lord also said—if I may deal with this point before I come to the general question—that our prestige in Persia had been imperilled or endangered, or had become less marked than it should be, having regard to what we had done and to our veal position there. Undoubtedly, certain attacks have been made upon the position which we hold in Persia, but according to my instructions and to the information which I have obtained, it need not be feared, as I think the noble Lord indicated, that our prestige there may not be adequate to support our real interests, which, as I have said, are that the country should be governed in a stable way and that its finances should be put upon the best foundation possible.

The noble Lord referred, first of all, to the political position in Persia. This has undergone considerable change during the last two years, owing to the appearance in that country of what he, I think rightly, called the military dictatorship of Reza Khan (Sardar Sepah), who possesses qualities which have been somewhat rare amongst Persians. These have enabled him to form a disciplined Army composed of 22,000 Infantry, 8,000 Cavalry, 94 guns and 200 machine guns, together with a number of aeroplanes and armoured cars. The result is that he has succeeded in establishing his own personal authority and that of the Persian Government throughout the whole Persian country, and he has introduced conditions of stability in political matters which the country had for a long time no opportunity of enjoying. He has also, since October last, added to his former post of Minister of War that of Prime Minister, and I may here mention that as late as April 13 he formed a new Ministry in Persia of which he is the head. In fact, he seems to be establishing the same sort of position in Persia as Kemal has established in Turkey.

A Republican movement, to which the noble Lord has referred, began early this year, but owing to the opposition of the clergy, the plan was abandoned in March last. Upon that point I may perhaps read a passage from the latest Despatch dealing with this matter which we have from Persia, and which, I think, puts the position very clearly. It says: The matter"— that is, the Republican movement—— now bore a religious aspect, and the priests came out into the open as the champions of the anti-Republican movement. Henceforth all anti-Republican demonstrations had a religious foundation, and the speeches made were based on Islam. The people are ignorant but show considerable fervour in matters of religion. The slogan used by the anti-Republicans brought the silent and half-hearted to their side, and the result is a solid feeling amongst the masses of Tehran against a Republican form of government. My information shows, therefore, that although there is a strong movement in favour of Republican government, there has recently been a set-back, owing to the action of religious feeling in Persia, and there is no immediate further movement in that direction.


Does the noble Lord propose to lay that Despatch before Parliament?


It could be laid—


But it surely ought to be.


—if necessary.


If asked for?


If asked for.


I ask for it.


So far as I know, there is no objection whatever. It is very often convenient, in order to make the position quite clear, to use the actual words, in order that there may be no misunderstanding. The Shah and his immediate entourage have, as the noble Lord knows, left Tehran, fearing that his personal freedom or even his life might be in danger if he remained, but since he left the Republican movement is not of the same strength as it was at that time.

I wish to refer next to the financial side of the Question which the noble Lord has asked. In November of 1922 an American financial expert of the name of Dr. Millspaugh, to whom the noble Lord referred, arrived at Tehran and lost no time in taking over the task of reforming the Persian financial administration. Wide powers were conferred upon Dr. Millspaugh and his associates by the Persian Parliament, and they have succeeded in introducing a large measure of reform and stability into the financial and fiscal branches of the administration, with the result that, in spite of the fact that the requirements of the Minister of War have absorbed the sum of about £2,000,000 a year for the upkeep of the new Army, they have also succeeded in balancing the Budget estimate for the current year, a task which has never before been achieved in Persia. Then is no doubt, as the noble Lord has pointed out, that the local Press unfortunately did for some time keep up a constant attack upon Great Britain, thereby endangering our relations with the. Persian Government, but the recent advent to supreme power of Reza Khan, the military dictator, who is greatly feared by the people, has brought about the temporary cessation of this form of propaganda, and the anti-British propaganda is not being carried on at the present time.

The importance of the financial stability and improvement in Persia may be gauged by the extent of their debt to the British Government at the present time, and I will give your Lordships the figures. During the war His Majesty's Government advanced considerable sums of money to the Persian Government of the day, and the claims of His Majesty's Exchequer and of the Government of India, who together advanced these sums, amount to over £4,000,000 in equal sums


For what exact purpose would these advances be made?


I am afraid I have not got that information, or I would give it to the noble Lord. Added to this sum, His Majesty's Government have a claim upon the Persian Government amounting to about £315,000, for military stores supplied to the Persian Government after the withdrawal of the British forces operating in that country. To this must be added a further claim which we have, amounting to the sum of £576,000, representing the claims of British subjects against the Persian Government. These figures show, of course, that the British Government and the British people are interested in the stability of Persian finance.

There has been very little progress as regards railway construction. During the war the Indian railway system from Quetta was extended to Nushki and eventually to the Persian eastern frontier at Mirjawa. This line was eventually extended to a distance of about 52 miles within Persian territory to Duzdap. On the western side again there has been very slight development, although in 1919 a survey was actually made, but the present Prime Minister of Persia, Reza Khan, is now reported to be directing earnest attention to the question of railway construction, and, as the noble Lord pointed out, has invited American groups to send representatives to Tehran to study the question.

As regards the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, I have this information that I can give. It has a pipe line in Persian territory about 140 miles long, and it continues to carry on its operations in complete security. There is no difficulty whatever about it, and the royalties which the Persian Government are receiving amount to £700,000 a year. There has been no difficulty and it has been carried on with complete security. As regards the concession recently made to an American group, I do not know what is to be said about the Sinclair group at the present time, but this concession, whatever it is worth, has not yet been ratified by the Persian Parliament. I think that gives all the information with which I have been supplied, subject only to this, that I think there should be no mistake as regards the position of Reza Khan, the military dictator. I do not think he has ever shown anything like hostility towards this country. So far as he is concerned we are interested in the political stability that he has brought about, and on the other hand, in whosesoever hands the financial question may be placed, we are interested that financial conditions in Persia should be as good as possible. I have now given all the information which I have, and I have answered so far as I can the Question which the noble Lord has asked me.


My Lords, the noble and learned Lord has made a comprehensive statement about the position in Persia from the information, no doubt, which has been supplied to him from the Foreign Office. It was comprehensive, but it was not in all respects precisely exact. For instance, my noble friend was rather shaky in his history of the Persian railways—the extension of the railways from the British to the Persian frontier—and he attributed to quite recent years, and during the course of the war, a railway which I had the honour of constructing quite twenty-five years ago. But let that pass.

On another point the noble and learned Lord showed some innocence, not for the first time, of the regular procedure in this House as regards the quotation of Papers in Parliament. He read out a very pertinent extract from a Despatch received, presumably, from His Majesty's Minister at Tehran, and was at once challenged by Lord Birkenhead to lay it upon the Table. The passage which he read was pertinent, and there was nothing in the Despatch which ought not to be made public, but, of course, in practice, you cannot lay a single Despatch out of a long series, and if it is thought desirable to lay a Blue Book upon Persia that is a matter for His Majesty's Government to decide. I hope the noble and learned Lord will not take it amiss if I suggest to him that he should be a little more particular in following the regular procedure, and not drop into these traps which he creates for himself.

I do not know that it is necessary for me to say much upon the topics that have been raised. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Parmoor, was, I think, right in saying that there is nothing in recent events to indicate any change of attitude or policy, either on the part of His Majesty's Government, or on the part of the Persian Government, with regard to the Persian Gulf. The phrase he used was that our position there is untouched and unassailable. And I myself regard the statement of our policy that was first made by Lord Lansdowne, and which I have had occasion, as other Foreign Ministers have had, to repeat, as still the fundamental tenet of British foreign policy. From time to time the Persian Government, to an extent which perhaps he was not aware of, has challenged and impugned our position there in small particulars, but I take the statement of the noble and learned Lord to mean that His Majesty's present advisers will be just as resolute as their predecessors have been in vindicating that which I have described as a cardinal feature of British policy.

The noble and learned Lord then went on to speak of the position as regards the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, and there I think he was right in removing a misapprehension from the mind of my noble friend behind me (Lord Lamington). My noble friend was evidently of opinion that there had been a definite reversal of policy on the part of His Majesty's present advisers—that the late Government had decided to part with their interest in the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, and that the present Government came in and reversed that decision, for whatever reasons might have seemed to them to be pertinent. Lord Parmoor pointed out that that is not the history of the case. The proposal that the Government should divest itself of its interest in the Anglo-Persian Oil Company never came before the recent Government in any form which admitted of a decision by it. As a matter of fact, it appeared for the first time in the newspapers, and no doubt was introduced there for interested reasons, and I remember myself raising the question at a meeting of His Majesty's then advisers, to know what had been done, or what was in course of being done, and I was informed, quite rightly, that nothing had been done, and nothing could be done without the matter being brought before the Cabinet. It never was so brought, because the General Election took place, and the Government fell before the matter had been brought before us. And it is only fair to the noble and learned Lord and to his colleagues to say that, in acting as they have done, they have in no sense reversed the policy of their predecessors, but they have continued the course of action which was adopted by us, and which, for all I know, we should have continued to adopt.

A good deal of the discussion this alter-noon has turned on the personality and the achievements of the present Persian Prime Minister, Reza Khan. With what has been said about him on both sides of the House I agree. This soldier-states-man of humble origin—he himself served for a while in the Cossack force in Persia—has built up for himself, by character and public service, a position that has not been known in Persia during the last forty or fifty years. He is Commander-in-Chief and head of the Government, and his achievements in establishing a high state of military discipline, in bringing up the Army to a condition of efficiency, in securing law and order, and in introducing a certain amount of order among the turbulent tribes in the mountains of the South, have been very considerable indeed. Throughout this time his policy, although it has been a purely national one, inspired by a patriot's regard for the interests of his country, has not, so far as I know, shown any mark of antagonism or hostility towards us. I was a little apprehensive when I heard from the noble and learned Lord that Reza Khan was modelling himself on the example of Mustapha Kemal, because I can foresee that if he follows certain lines of policy which have been pursued by Mustapha Kemal in Turkey, he may come to grief at an early stage in his own country. However. I take it that the noble and learned Lord meant nothing more than that he is a strong and self-reliant soldier, who is anxious to put his country into the forefront of civilised strength and progress. Certainly His Majesty's Minister at Tehran, Sir Percy Loraine—who during the last two years has shown great vigour and, I think, great success in defence of our interests there—and his Majesty's Government have shown nothing but sympathy for the efforts of this statesman. I join with the noble and learned Lord in wishing him every success in his endeavours.

The only other points to which I need refer were, first, the position of what has been described as British prestige, British influence, in the country generally at the present time; and, secondly, the part that is being played by America. As regards the former, I think the narrative given by Lord Lamington was substantially correct. He pointed out that a long series of events, beginning with the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907, and very much fomented by the unhappy experiences of the war, when, really in the interests of Persia and in defence of Persia, we were obliged to undertake a military occupation, which was in no respect agreeable to ourselves, but which was regarded, disinterested as it was, with great suspicion by them—that it was those events which largely produced the subsequent feeling. But there were two things to which my noble friend hardly attached sufficient moment. The first is that since the war, and since the reappearance of the Soviet Government of Russia upon the scene, we have been exposed, as everybody knows, in Persia to the most relentless and unscrupulous propaganda, directed against our interests by the representatives of the Soviet Government at Tehran. When I say it is well known, it has been a matter of public protest. I had myself to take part in a controversy upon the point, and, without desiring to raise that issue now, I am alluding to a fact which is notorious and indisputable. That, no doubt, has added to our difficulties.

But the real cause of the setback (if that, be the phrase that you like to apply) to the British position in Persia is not due to any individual act of the British Government, nor any individual display of hostility on the part of the Russian Government, or any other Government: it is due to that spirit of inflated, exaggerated—I do not necessarily say unworthy—nationalism, which is spreading everywhere throughout the East, and which was enormously aggravated and fomented by the whole of the incidents of the war. You find exactly the same thing going on from China in the East to Turkey in the West. The ferment of all these new ideas is at work particularly in the veins of a singularly sensitive and proud people like the Persians, just as it is in other Eastern countries, and you cannot expect in the future—you certainly do not get now—any of that sort of natural, instinctive, automatic deference to Western ideas and Western opinion to which we were accustomed in olden days. And, of course, when that spirit of nationalism takes the form of hostility to the interests of our country, or of any other country, that country is apt to think that it is some special measure of antagonism directed against itself. I do not think it is that. It is really a symptom of a world-wide movement which is going on, which will not be abated, which is causing you enormous difficulty in India at this moment, and the weapons to cope-with which, have not yet been forged by the West. Little by little we shall learn how to meet this sort of insurgent spirit of nationalism of which I speak, and its local manifestations, of which Persia affords one instance, although they may cause us some anxiety, ought not, I think, to cause us very great surprise.

The last point about which something has been said is the position of the American financial adviser in the country. Upon that I hold very strong views. Knowing what was going on, knowing this nascent feeling in Persia, I always took the view that Persia being a country which stands immensely in need of foreign assistance, financial, military, administrative and otherwise, if she looked with suspicion upon the offers or the efforts either of Great Britain or anybody else, let her turn in her own interest to some quarter which could not be suspected of any interested motive. Therefore, for my part I warmly and entirely encouraged the American appearance upon the scene and, indeed, if my noble friend would go to the Foreign Office he would see that the despatch of Dr. Millspaugh and the active part that America is now taking in Persia—which I view with not the slightest jealousy but with the warmest sympathy—were really due to representations made by myself at Washington encouraging America to take the part she has done. There is no question at all that the financial reorganisation of Persia has been warmly seconded by our Minister there, and for my part I wish him every possible success in the efforts he has taken in hand.

The only other point that remains to be noticed, and that in a sentence, is the question of the Persian debt to us. The noble Lord gave us the figures, amounting, I think, to £4,500,000. It is a debt arising out of many causes: partly to assistance given to Persia in the war, partly to damages incurred by our own subjects, and partly to advances made to the Persian Government to assist them in the task of administering their country. So far as I remember that, in every case, is secured upon substantial assets. That policy of financial assistance to the Persian Government is no new thing. It has been going on for twenty-five years. When I was in India the Government at home and the Government in India, in combination, on more than one occasion made such advances so secured. I dare say the noble Viscount, Lord Chelmsford, when he was head of the Government of India may have done the same. The policy, therefore, is one well established and on the whole very beneficial to Persia. But I do not think the Persian Government should for a moment entertain the idea that the debt is likely to be wiped out. On the contrary, one of the things upon which we have always insisted is that in due and proper time Persia must be reminded of her obligations and she must not look upon Great Britain or upon the Indian Government as a sort of milch cow to which she can turn at any moment when she wants financial help

These are the only observations which it occurs to me, to make. I do not say that the situation in Persia is altogether satisfactory, but the emergence of a strong man is one symptom of a favourable character. The Persian Government may always rely upon the generally friendly attitude of the British Government on whichever side of the House it sits. As regard American assistance, as I have before said, I am sure we all of us wish it the greatest success that it can attain.


My Lords, I am very much obliged to the noble and learned Lord opposite for the answer that he gave me, but I should like to make one thing quite clear. The noble and learned Lord seemed to think that I accused the present Government of being responsible for the lowering of our prestige in Persia quite lately. I did not say that. I said that our prestige was lowered in Persia at the time of the Anglo-Russian Convention, and that the lowering of our prestige had since caused hostility on the part of Persia towards us. The noble and learned Lord did not make much reference to the illustrations I gave him of how very pronounced that hostility was. It was in this connection that I mentioned the Persian Guf; not qua Persian Gulf, but as showing that while our policy there was beneficial to the world at large, we had not done anything for ourselves towards securing a single acre of land. That might be brought to the notice of the Persians in order to disabuse their minds of the idea that we had any intention whatever of aggrandising our position or of safeguarding our interests so far that we wished to impair their integrity.

The noble Marquess, Lord Curzon of Kedleston, referred to the spirit of nationalism that was spreading through the Near East and the East generally. I think that is very largely due not only to the war but to the very idealistic phrases used from time to time by leaders of public thought, by statesmen and politicians here and in America about the ideals connected with that war. We heard something about the self-determination of small nationalities, "a war to end war," and other phrases of the sort which we who are accustomed to hear and to deliver speeches understood and which for a moment were the subject of leading articles in the Press, but they do not affect our feelings or actuate our policy. But that is not the question. To these other countries who are subjected, perhaps, to some form of tyranny or maladministration they do mean a good deal and therefore, I think they have inflamed that spirit of nationalism which was referred to by the noble Marquess. In regard to the Motion which stands in my name on the Paper, I will withdraw it if the noble and learned Lord is not ready to have the Papers laid.


I think I will ask the noble Lord to withdraw his Motion. In regard to the particular Paper to which I ought not perhaps to have referred, as the noble Marquess has pointed out, I do not suppose that the noble Lord would want one document of that kind. I would ask him not to press his general Motion. I have given him all the information that we have at the moment.


I beg to withdraw the Motion. If necessary, I will make a Motion later on when the noble Lord has had time to consider the matter.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.