HL Deb 21 December 1925 vol 62 cc1680-706

LORD PARMOOR rose to call attention to the Council meeting at Geneva, and to move for Papers. The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, I have indicated to the noble Viscount who is going to reply to my Question that I want to call attention to two specific matters. So much is now being done at each meeting of the Council of the League of Nations that it really is impossible on one occasion even briefly to consider all the points which may arise. The two matters to which I have given him notice that it is my intention to call his attention are the questions of Mosul and disarmament, and I have also given him an indication of the class of points that I am likely to raise, so that he may be fortified in giving the reply of the Government.

The first, question that I want to deal with is that of Mosul. This is a question of extreme immediate importance. There is a suggestion that we may come under an obligation that will be in operation for a period of twenty-five years regarding the frontier between Iraq and Turkey. We have to recollect in this matter—and I shall have to call your Lordships' attention to one or two phrases in the Covenant of the League of Nations—that Great Britain is not acting on her own behalf or for her own advantage, but as a Mandatory, as a representative of the League of Nations under Article 22 of the Covenant. Her first duty as a Mandatory is to provide as far as possible for the good government, security and peace of the people who are placed under her charge—in this case the people of Iraq, who live to the south of the frontier line which is now being laid down as the proper boundary between Iraq and Turkey, by the Council of the League.

The first point that I wish to make is this. I do not think that this good government and security can be attained in a district of this character unless there is good will and friendliness between this country and Turkey. I shall have to call attention later to the Report of General Laidoner, who has shown quite conclusively that some of the evils of which he specially complains have taken place north of the line, and therefore in the territory which will be left within the sovereignty of Turkey. I shall have to come back to this point a little later and a little more in detail, but it appears to me that no protection can be given to the people called the Nestorian or Assyrian Christians that can really be effective unless Turkey and Great Britain can co-operate together in a kindly and friendly spirit.

The second point to which I wish to call attention in connection with Mosul is that, as I understand the suggestion contained in the decision of the Council, which I gather that we have intimated our willingness to accept, the settlement., whatever it may be, may and probably will endure for a period of twenty-five years. I think that this is altogether too long. I think it is a mistake which is likely to lead to endless trouble in the future to lay clown such conditions upon such a frontier and in such E. region as that of the boundary between Iraq and Turkey, and to attempt to foresee even what is likely to be practicable for so long a time as twenty-five years. No one knows how conditions may have been changed within that period. No one knows how, twenty-five years hence, we may regard obligations of this character and, more particularly, no one, I think, will be able to say that such an obligation, undertaken for such a length of time, can be foretold to be of advantage to the Iraq people. That, as I have said before, is the main consideration and point of view from which this question ought to be approached.

When this matter first came forward at Geneva, I occupied the position of British Delegate to the Council and it fell to my lot to recommend to the Council the Mandate which is now in operation. It was accepted unanimously in September, 1924, after considerable discussion. The only objections came from Persia and those objections were arranged to the satisfaction of the Council of the League. Everyone was agreed at that time as to the proper terms of the Mandate that ought to be accepted as regards the Iraq people. I should like particularly to call attention to one matter upon which I had to insist in bringing the Mandate before the League of Nations. I had to insist that we should come under the obligation of this Mandate for four years only. The Mandate was provisional and was to endure only for that period, and it was suggested that at the end of that time Iraq might be in a position to ask for entry into the League as one of the constituent countries. The further provision was indicated that, if that condition had not arisen when the four years' Mandate came to an end, the matter would have to be reconsidered and thought out again under the new conditions which might then have arisen In other words, not only was no such term as twenty-five years laid down but there was a special provision that the Mandate was not to be in force for a longer period than four years, and that after four years, if it was to be reinforced or re-enacted, it was at the same time to be reconsidered.

I should like to say one or two words in order to emphasise what I have said as to the position of Great Britain as a Mandatory in this district. What are the conditions of a Mandate under Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations? In the first place, it was laid down in terms that a Mandatory Power was not to act on its own behalf but as a trustee for the League of Nations; in other words, it was not to use the position of a. Mandatory in order to push forward its own Imperialistic or other views, whatever they may be. In the second place, its duty is—and it is very important that this should be remembered in connection with the relationship between Lillie country and Mosul—provisionally to render administrative advice and assistance to the mandated territory until such time as it can stand alone. I would call your Lordships' special attention to the word "provisionally." Your Lordships will see hat the duty is to render administrative assistance, and mandated countries are not, therefore, to be regarded as if they were in the position of being under the sovereignty of the Mandatory.

A word is used in a subsequent part of the Article which, I think, adequately explains the position. The word is "tutelage," the idea being that during a period of tutelage the mandatory authority will educate and assist in the administrative development of the mandated country, until it is able to take an independent position of its own. Then, annually, a Report, is to be made to the League of Nations, and there is a special—what we should call a statutory—Commission, to which all these Reports are referred. Lastly, perhaps I might call your attention to these words, because they indicate the whole spirit in which these Mandates ought to be considered: The Mandatory is asked to apply the principle "that the well-being and development of such (mandated) peoples form a sacred trust of civilisation, and that securities for the performance of this trust should be embodied" in the necessary instrument. That is our position. It is not for us, as Mandatories, to consider what advantage we can get out of our position. It is our duty as Mandatories to consider how we can perform the duty placed upon us, and the responsibility which we have under- taken of educating, provisionally, by administrative development, a backward people, in order that ultimately they may take their place under conditions of full independence.

That position, I think, is emphasised in this case by the Report which was made by General Laidoner which was lately laid before the Council of the League at Geneva. He dealt with four matters. In the first place he pointed out that this was a wild region where there were constant tribal wars, where everyone went about armed and the different tribal or village chiefs were in a condition of almost constant warfare. He said that those conditions would probably be more or less continuous, and he threw no blame for them upon either Turkey or Great Britain. He then referred to the question of the occupation of certain villages by Turkish military posts and patrols, and also to the allegation that flights had been made over the frontier line by British aircraft. Neither of those matters did he consider of importance. He said that at present the frontier line was undefined and not. marked out, and that instances of that kind might he expected but the fourth point to which he called attention was a point of extreme importance in his view.

That was the deportation of Christians from points north of the proposed line to the south of the proposed line, within the territory to be adjudicated to Iraq. The history of those deportations is very terrible to read. No one doubts the horrors to which General Laidoner refers. They are further emphasised by the report of his own staff, who personally investigated the condition of these deported Christians, and I may take it—I am sure I should not make any other statement—that it is of extreme importance to our national honour, and the responsibilities that we have undertaken, that we should do all in our power to prevent such horrors from being enacted in the future. But then comes the question, How is that to be done? After all, those Christians, who I see were denounced as "traitorous brigands" from the Turkish point of view, cannot be immediately under our jurisdiction and sovereignty. They are outside the line which from the end of this year, or whatever the date may be, would be the frontier line between Iraq and Turkey.

How can we deal with a difficulty of this kind? I said at the outset, and I want to emphasise it again, that it can only be dealt with satisfactorily by friendly arrangement between Great Britain and Turkey. The alternative is really to consign these Christians on the north side of the line to Turkish horrors, probably aggravated because they are regarded as a traitorous element in the Turkish Republic. I do not know what the noble Viscount will say on this point. but I urge the Government, in the strongest terms, not to allow language to be used which is likely to excite extra friction and trouble, but, on the contrary, to encourage in every possible way a friendly settlement of this real difficulty. which cannot be settled unless there is a friendly arrangement between the two Powers. The next point, which I think your Lordships will appreciate from what I have said, is with regard to the condition of this frontier district. It may become, unless there is a friendly feeling between Turkey and England, a real danger-spot in the future—a danger-spot not only locally, but a danger-spot from which difficulties may spread over a very-wide area, and even ultimately lead to an outbreak of war, involving many countries in the East and West.

I do not, myself, of course, believe for a moment that that is likely to take place at once—I am not suggesting that—but we have to look forward to the future, and in doing that is there any way in which the conditions of this frontier line can be satisfactorily settled, unless there is friendly relationship between Great Britain and Turkey? Of course, it is our interest in a matter of this kind to be friendly. I deprecate very much some of the statements that I have heard, some of them, I think, attributed to the Colonial Secretary, in which he suggests that the giving way, even on a friendly line, of Great Britain might affect what is called the prestige of this country as regards her position in the East. I do not believe that for a moment. This was a matter originally undertaken by us as Mandatories. It is a matter which has passed out of our hands into the authority of the League of Nat ions, it is a question as to which matters of difference have now been adjudicated upon by the Council of the League of Nations, and I suggest that it is only worthy of our position as a great Power to show that we appreciate and understand the difficulties of Turkey as well as our own difficulties, with a view to bringing about satisfactory adjustments between the two countries.

If we do not, what will the result be? We shall not be able to push forward the people of Iraq into being a self-governing community, because they could never become that with severe friction on the Turkish frontier. We ourselves would be put to a long period of cost, because if there was really friction on this frontier line I do not, and cannot, believe it would not be a heavy source of expenditure to us in future years. Lastly, should war ensue by any mischance in this central district of Asia, I think it would be a great calamity to this country, to Iraq, and to Turkey, and it might spread over wide areas in other countries.

There is one other consideration which I would like to urge before I leave the question of Mosul. The difficulty in connection with Mosul did not arise at Geneva. So far as Geneva is concerned, it was settled in September, 1924, under the conditions which I have mentioned. The difficulty arose from a clause of the Treaty of Lausanne, under which a most difficult question was put off in order that, if possible, it might he determined by the Council of the League. When this question was first considered at Geneva I happened to be the Delegate for Great Britain, and I had to argue on behalf of Great Britain that this question had been sent from Lausanne to Geneva and afterwards to Brussels, not for the purpose, of consideration, but for the purpose of decision. As your Lordships are aware, that attitude has now been confirmed by the decision of the International Court.

At the same time, I want to make another aspect of the matter quite clear. The Turkish representative at that time at Geneva and afterwards at Brussels was Fethi Bey. I had very frank and friendly relationships with Fethi Bey. He always said that in his view the matter might be settled, and settled in an amicable way. It has not been altogether understood, I think, that: he did argue that from the Turkish point of view the reference under Article 13 of the Covenant was for the purposes of investigation and inquiry, and not for the purpose of settlement. In that respect he was held to be wrong, but I do not think it is out of place to say that that argument was held by him. It was an argument for which, undoubtedly, something was to be said, although in the long run it has been held by the decision of the International Court at The Hague to be wrong. Your Lordships know what the decision is. The decision is to accept as the frontier line what was practically the line laid down at Brussels, after careful inquiry, by that great statesman in the international world of almost unequalled authority, the late M. Branting, who was then Prime Minister of Sweden. But the decision has new been given, and that decision must be obeyed.

But what was never referred to the Council, or any other body, was the question of the length of time for which the mandatory settlement was to be maintained. The period of twenty-five years was first mentioned in the Report of the Commission of Inquiry which, on a suggestion made by me on behalf of Great Britain, was appointed to go out and examine the conditions on the spot. One can see quite clearly why this period of time alters the position from the Turkish point of view as against the previous period of time, which was limited to four years, and which would have come to an end in September, 1928. I think it is radically unsound from every point of view to acquiesce, until a far more friendly settlement has been made, and until the conditions are far more clearly ascertained, to a mandatory responsibility for twenty-five years—a responsibility which is likely, in my opinion, to endure for that period. I sincerely hope that it is not too late for this portion at any late of the Mosul settlement to be reconsidered, and I believe that the reconsideration of this point would have a great effect in producing friendly relations with the new Turkish Republic.

Before leaving this matter, I should like to refer to the speech the Foreign Secretary made when the decision was given at Geneva. He indicated his desire to approach Turkey in the most friendly spirit, and invited the Turks in a very friendly way to make such communications and suggestions as they thought might bring about a real settlement. So far I am entirely in accord with the attitude that Sir Austen Chamberlain adopted on that occasion. I hope that such a friendly arrangement can be made. It is the only way of dealing with the duties and responsibilities of a Mandatory in this country, and I hope that, if necessary, in making this arrangement there will be no stiff adherence to this prolonged period of twenty-five years. At the same time the Colonial Secretary made a statement which appeared to me to be of a much less friendly character, but I presume that the negotiations with Turkey will be in the hands of the Foreign Minister, and if he can carry out the indications of policy which he made at that time I, for one, would support him to the utmost of my power.

The other matter which I want to raise is disarmament. It is not necessary to come to an immediate determination on that question, as it is on the question of Mosul. But I want to impress again on the noble Viscount opposite a view with which I know he is sympathetic, namely, that it is quite impossible, if we are to fulfil the obligations which we have undertaken as signatories of the Covenant of the League, or which we undertook before the signature of the Treaty of Versailles with the Germans, to allow the conditions of unilateral disarmament in Europe to continue. It was never intended that there should be a prolonged period of unilateral disarmament; on the contrary, it was intended that the disarmament of Germany should be as an example for the reduction of armaments in other countries. So long as you have one disarmed country among armed neighbours I can see no security or certainty of permanent peace.

The Treaty of Locarno referred to disarmament, but I do not think any one can say that it carried the matter farther than it had gone before. But this year at Geneva a Resolution was adopted by the Assembly—the noble Viscount will tell me if I understand it aright—that a Committee or Sub-Committee should be appointed to consider the conditions under which projects of disarmament might be brought forward. Some appointments, perhaps all, have been made to that Sub-Committee. But what I want to ask the noble Viscount is whether any of the real difficulties have been met and solved by the appointment of that Sub-Committee. It was rumoured that the old discussions which had arisen between France and England on this subject were being raised again, I think by Paul-Boncour and others, on behalf of France. I thought they had been settled in the Fifth Assembly in 1924. But is there any prospect of this Sub-Committee really bringing about a practical scheme of disarmament in the near future? On this point I ask for information from the noble Viscount. Formally—I suppose it gives me a right of reply if necessary—I ask for Papers in my Motion. I ask for that Resolution to be put, although I certainly shall not press it if I get a satisfactory answer upon the points I have raised from the noble Viscount opposite.


My Lords, may I say a word on this subject? I am one of those who some time ago—in August or September—signed a memorial deprecating the then decision, so far as it had gone, that this country should hold a Mandate for twenty-five years. At that time those with whom I associate were very anxious, if possible, to come to an arrangement with Turkey on friendly lines. My noble friend opposite has very carefully gone into the whole scope of what a Mandate is, and also the position of a Mandatory Power under the League of Nations. He also referred to the Foreign Minister's welcome statement to the effect that now a decision has been arrived at by the League of Nations a friendly understanding might be come to with Turkey for a settlement of this very vexed boundary question. I think that is a feature that is extremely satisfactory, and I hope that now we may be able to make an arrangement with Turkey on friendly lines. The Turkish Government itself is confronted with great difficulties. We know that there are extremists in Turkey, backed by the Russian Soviet, who want to embroil Turkey in a quarrel with us, or, for the matter of that, with any other country. Therefore, if we can show that we are sympathetic to the more reasonable Turkish section, I think that will give good promise for the future.

The other point that I feel very strongly about is that we should become a Mandatory Power for from twelve to twenty-five years. I think the noble Lord termed it a tutelage, but even a tutelage for twenty-five years means that you will take very deep root, and that it will be very difficult to sever the connection at the end of that period of twenty-five years. It would almost inevitably mean that you would have to carry on for a further period. I was talking privately to someone who is fully entitled to give his views on this subject—an Arab—and, while he fully favoured the prolongation of the period of four years, which Lord Parmoor has referred to as the original agreement, he strongly dissented from the view that it was either necessary or desirable for this country to carry on as the Mandatory Power for a period of twenty-five years. He suggested that there should be only such a prolongation us would enable the Iraq Government to Ian their administration on a firm basis. I trust, therefore, that His Majesty's Government will do nothing to plant an administrative system upon the country which would entail this country staying there after a period of from live to ten years. The Government should do everything it can to set the Government of Iraq on an independent basis If peace is then preserved in that quarter of the world, we shall not have to continue in the country for this period of twenty-five years, but, having set up a Government there on a firm and independent basis, shall feel ourselves quite free to withdraw.


My Lords, before I deal with the main question that the noble Lord has raised, the question of Mosul, I should like to say a word on the question of disarmament, to which he referred at the end of his speech He is quite right in saying that that is not an urgent matter in this sense, that we are still at a preparatory stage in dealing with disarmament. What happened at the Assembly was this. The Council were asked to appoint a Committee, the name of which was not given but which has now been called the Preparatory Committee for a Conference an Disarmament, which should investigate all the many technical questions. The noble and learned Lord will, I am sure, agree with me that very great and difficult questions are involved in any scheme of disarmament, and that the Committee should, in fact, explore the basis of a future Conference on disarmament. I think your Lordships will agree with me that that was a very necessary and essential step to be taken before any Conference on the subject could be summoned with any hope of reaching a successful and fruitful issue. And that is what we were doing at Geneva the other day.

The Council, acting as a Committee—that is to say, the same State—Members of the Council, bat represented in some cases by different persons—drew up in the first place a scheme for the procedure and composition of such a preparatory Committee. It is to consist of the representatives of some eighteen or nineteen States, one representative from each, and is to have two Standing Committees, one a Military Standing Committee, which will be the existing Permanent Advisory Committee on Military Affairs, and the other an Economic Committee, which will be formed out of the other technical organisations of the League. It is hoped that this Committee, which is to meet for the first time on February 15, will be able to set on foot a searching examination into the whole basis of disarmament. It was thought that it was impossible to deal with one part of the subject without dealing with the whole of it, but this is, as your Lordships will understand, not the drawing up of a scheme of disarmament, but merely investigating the possibilities of disarmament, and dealing with the technical aspects of it.

We were also charged to draw up a programme of investigation. When your Lordships come to read that programme I think you will agree with me that if it errs at all it errs on the side of being rather too comprehensive. It is evident, as your Lordships will easily understand, that it was very difficult to reject any subject of inquiry that was at all plausible if any members of the Committee desired to have that subject investigated. I do not think it makes a very great deal of difference. The substance of the inquiry will always have to be under what conditions and in what way is disarmament or reduction of armaments possible, and I do not know that the number of questions, or their exact statement, makes a very great deal of difference to the subject to be inquired into.

The noble Lord suggested that there were still differences of opinion between the British and the French representatives on the Committee and the Council in this respect. I do not think that is so. It is true that, as is set out in the Proceedings of the Committee which the noble and learned Lord will no doubt have an opportunity of reading, there was a discussion—as there must be, otherwise it would be useless to meet—as to the exact subjects which we were to investigate. The French representatives, and not only those, but others, were very anxious that in investigating the amount of armaments that theoretically one State might have as compared with another State, we must take into consideration the guarantees of security which that. State has whether by Treaty, by geographical circumstances or by anything else. I do not think any one could fairly object to that. But the way it was stated gave us at first some anxiety, I admit, as to whether it was proposed to embark upon an inquiry which did not seem to us to have any great bearing on disarmament itself. On the terms as finally settled, however, I do not think there is any reason to object to it as an element of the inquiry.

The noble Lord asked me what I thought of the prospects of success of the disarmament cause. I have never concealed from myself the enormous difficulties that lie in the way of any general scheme of disarmament. They are prodigious. There is the great difficulty of even finding a means of comparing one land armament with another, and when you come to set up a scale of armaments, allowing so much for this nation and so much for that, you are evidently faced with enormous difficulties. But I am bound to say that in my judgment they are none of them insuperable. The whole question, and there is nothing else in it, is this: How determined are the peoples of Europe, because it is substantially a European question, to bring about disarmament? If I may say so without being misunderstood, it is not even a question of Governments; it is a question of the peoples themselves. If they are really in earnest, if they really desire disarmament, then I am satisfied that there are no technical difficulties, great as they are, which cannot be overcome. On the other hand, if they are really indifferent, if they are not going really to press for disarmament, if they are not going to insist that it shall be done, then I admit that the difficulties are so great that the prospects of success become materially less bright. I do not think there was any other question ea disarmament which the noble and learned Lord asked me. If there is any, of course I shall be very glad to do my best to answer it.

Coming now to Mosul, I do not gather that the noble and learned Lord thinks that we ought to reject the decision of the Council of the League. Indeed, when I reflect on the immense care that has been shown by the League in arriving at that decision I think it would be an impossible policy to press upon the Government that we should reject it. May I remind your Lordships of the immense care that has been taken? In the first place, acting, as we have been reminded to-night. on the suggestion of the representative of the British Government, a highly qualified Commission, certainly in no way unfavourable to or prejudiced against the Turks or the Turkish cause, was sent to the place. That Commission consisted of three gentlemen, a Swede, a Hungarian and a Belgian, of considerable eminence in their own countries. They made a most searching investigation. They produced a most elaborate and comprehensive Report. Indeed, if I were to criticise it at all, I should say it was so elaborate and so comprehensive that it was easy for those who were either pressed for time or not very impartially disposed to lose sight of the final and essential recommendations which that Commission made.

When the Commission came back the matter was examined by the Council. The Council appointed three of its own members to examine it. No one has accused the members of that. Sub-Committee, so far as I know, of anything but the most extreme desire to arrive at the truth of the case. They investigated it. They heard the representatives of Turkey and the representatives of this country. They sat for some time in September, and it then appeared that there was a doubt raised by the representatives of the Turks as to what was really the function of the Council in the matter. Thereupon, they referred that question to the International Court for the most authoritative International legal advice that could be given. The delay of three months had the additional advantage that all the Governments could be consulted as Governments upon the questions that were being raised before the Council. The Court has now given an advisory opinion that the Council's duty was to give a decision on this matter and not merely to make a recommendation. When that was received the Council, following its universal practice, adopted that advice. It could not have done anything else, I think. After hearing, the Turks at considerable length against adopting it, there was no hesitation on the Council in adopting it. Then they again considered the matter and considered it with the greatest elaboration and care, and very rightly, because it was evidently a decision of a serious character which involved serious obligations on the countries whose representatives took part in it.

The decision of the Council was, as the noble and learned Lord has said, to uphold as the boundary—subject, of course, to delimitation—the broad line laid down at the suggestion of Mr. Branting at the Council to which the noble and learned Lord has referred. But they have attached this observation to it, that it shall not be definitive until the present Mandatories have entered into a fresh treaty with the Iraq Government providing that the Mandate shall be extended to such a period, not exceeding twenty-five years, as shall elapse before the Mandated country is able to stand by itself.

I do not think that, is a very surprising suggestion from the Council if you have in view the terms of Article 22 to which the noble and learned Lord has referred, because this is said in the case with which we have to deal:— Certain communities formerly belonging to the Turkish Empire have reached a stage of development where their existence as independent nations can be provisionally recognised that is where "provisionally" comes in— subject to the rendering of administrative advice and assistance by a Mandatory until such time as they are able to stand alone. All that the Council have really done is to say that, acting on the advice of their Commission which investigated the matter on the spot, we must understand that the. Mandatory is going to give such advice and assistance as is necessary because we are of opinion that at present the provisionally independent nation of Iraq is not able to stand alone.

It is true that the maximum period is fixed at twenty-five years, but, as I shall have occasion to point out in a moment or two, that does not at all mean that twenty-five years is to be the limit of our mandatory duties.


It is a possible limit.


It is the possible limit; it is the outside limit. When that decision was announced the Colonial Secretary, my right hon. friend Mr. Amery, who has really conducted this case with the greatest skill and discretion, as I am sure everybody will admit when they read what he actually said and not what he is reported to have said, which is not always the same thing, stated that he hoped to submit at an early date a new Treaty whose execution will give final effect to the decision of the Council. He also stated that he accepted the decision of the Council and would loyally conform to it. I do not find anything of a hostile or uncompromising character in what the Colonial Secretary said on that occasion as the noble and learned Lord appeared to intimate. That is what happened; that is the position.

The undertaking we have given is not for definite twenty-five years, but for what I believe, as the Secretary of State for the Colonies stated to the Council, will be a far shorter period—namely, until such time as we can make it clear to the League of Nations that Iraq had acquired a stability which justifies its admission to membership of the. League. These are almost the very words which my noble friend desires we should use: that we should only require to be there until Iraq had acquired a stability necessary for her to stand alone. The test that has been adopted at Geneva is one of stability which justifies its admission to membership of the League.

It is not an undertaking to spend money or keep troops in Iraq either for the maintenance of internal order or for its defence against external aggression, but to continue our co-operation and advice in maintaining a stable system of government. It may be asked what will be our responsibility for the defence of Iraq if, after the expiration of the present Treaty, that country should be attacked by any foreign Power. It is obvious that the responsibility which we should have towards Iraq, if as a fellow Member of the League of Nations she were the victim of unprovoked aggression, would certainly not be diminished by any Treaty relationship with us which continued our mandatory position.

But the League itself has a special responsibility towards a State over which it exercises a mandatory supervision, and if the aggression in question were directed to the forcible overthrow of a boundary fixed by the Council of the League itself, the responsibility of the League as the authority directly challenged a affronted, would obviously be the primary and dominant one. Our responsibility in any future situation must necessarily depend on the circumstances of the situation. The action which we should take and the method and extent of any support which we might give in a particular case cannot be fixed in advance or be a matter of prior obligation. They must be determined by the Government of the day if ever the case arises, in the light of the then existing circumstances and the general interests of world peace and of the Empire.

That is the account which the Government gives of the position which now exists. I am not quite sure what the noble and learned Lord really recommends as the policy of the Government. I know there have been very strong criticisms passed upon the action of the Government, notably by a noble Lord who I am glad to see opposite, Lord Beaverbrook, and by another noble Lord who is not present, Lord Rothermere, They have taken a very strong line indeed in hostility and opposition to the policy of the Government. I expect it is my fault, but I am not quite sure what policy either of these noble Lords recommends, but if I have been able to follow their views rightly, and the views of other critics, they may be divided into two schools. One wishes us to withdraw from either the whole or part of Mesopotamia immediately, or as soon as we can; immediately, if possible. Some wish the whole of Mesopotamia to be abandoned in this way. Others wish for the vilayet of Mosul to be abandoned, while others again prefer that some northern fraction of Mosul should be abandoned.

I must remind your Lordships of the position which we hold with reference to this territory. We cannot deal with it as if it were a res integra. At the Peace Conference, rightly or wrongly, we asked for a Mandate, and shortly after the Paris Conference a Mandate for Mesopotamia was allotted to us. At that time we were, in fact, administering exactly the same territory as we are now administering. As your Lordships are aware the first attempts at making peace were abortive, but at the Lausanne Conference we insisted on our position as Mandatory in Mesopotamia, and particularly with reference to this Vilayet of Mosul. As the noble and learned Lord has reminded us, provisions were put in with reference to the fixation of the boundaries of Mesopotamia, but that we should remain in Mesopotamia was part of our declared policy, and before the League itself we have on very many occasions asserted—the noble and learned Lord himself was one of the people who did it—our desire to have the boundaries fixed and to remain as the Mandatory of the League in Mesopotamia. It is therefore true to say that the Coalition Government, the Government of Mr. Bonar Law, the first Government of Mr. Baldwin, the Labour Government, and the second Government of Mr. Baldwin, have all of them insisted that we should occupy the position of Mandatory in Mesopotamia and accept the obligations which were thrown upon us.


The position when I was at Geneva as the representative of the Labour Government was that we had accepted the Mandate and the only question was in what form to make it.


And also what were to be the boundaries. There was no suggestion before the League that you desired to abandon the Mandate. You could have said to the League that you desired to abandon the Mandate, but there was no suggestion of that kind.


The only suggestion which could possibly have been raised was the form of it.


Oh, no. There is no limit to the questions which any Member of the League may raise before the Council of the League. But what are the actual changes, looking at it as an international matter, which would justify a change of policy on the part of the Government? There has been a certain amount of Turkish pressure, and I am not saying a word which could embitter or envenom any controversy we may have with the Government of Turkey. But no doubt there has been pressure.

In addition, we have had the Report of General Laidoner. I do not quite agree with the noble Lord's estimate of the importance of that Report. It is not a question of what is going on in the district from which these unhappy refugees came. That, I agree, is beyond our competence to deal with. It is a question of what may happen if we abandon our trust over the district which we at present administer. The noble Lord referred to certain passages in General Laidoner's Report in which he spoke of the disturbed condition of the district from which these refugees came. I had the advantage of considerable conversation with General Laidoner after he had made his Report, and he was equally strong in praise of the striking difference in the districts over which we exercised a mandatory influence. He reported in the strongest terms that conditions are absolutely stable and peaceful. I remember that he gave me an illustration in the fact that even the highest officials could walk about without any armed guard or police to look after them—a condition of affairs which, he said, was not always to be found even in the more civilised States.

In dealing with the policy of abandonment, if I may so term it, we must recognise and face the fact that, if we go out, we shall inevitably be considered to be going out in obedience to pressure from Turkey and we shall run a grave risk of seeing, when we have gone out, an emigration which the General himself put at tens of thousands—60,000 or 90,000 persons was his estimate of the population that would not be content to remain in the district. That is a very serious state of things to contemplate. And that is not the only thing. The Council's Commission, presided over by the Swedish gentleman, M. de Wirsen, who went out to investigate, reported that the present frontier, the Brussels line, was a perfectly good frontier from the point of view of defence, if defence became necessary, and that, whenever you went back, you would have a frontier that gradually got worse the further back you went, because the slope goes down and becomes more and more deficient in natural obstacles. Accordingly, if you went back, you would have a worse country, that is a more expensive country to defend, if defence became necessary. You would also have less resources, because it happens that normally the territories to the north are some of the richest in production in the whole territory of Iraq. So far, therefore, as we should remain responsible for the defence of Iraq, our position would be more expensive with less resources with which to meet it.

Then we should have to face the refugee problem that might come upon us—that, according to this very competent judge, would come upon us. I do not know whether it is realised how small a proportion of the population of the Vilayet of Mosul is Turkish. The proportion is about five per cent. The majority of the population are Kurdish, and next to them come Arabs—both, it is true, Mussulmans, but not specially acceptable to the strong Nationalist Turkish sentiment which prevails in Turkey at the present moment. Then come the Christians—there are, if I remember rightly, some 60,000 of them—then the Turks, who number, I think, some 40,000, and then smaller bodies of Yesidis, Jews and others. I do not, of course, know how many of those would become refugees, but I cannot reject the strong possibility that a large proportion of them would be refugees under conditions of the greatest horror, if some of the scenes were repeated that have occurred already. I am sure that no one-can have read the Report of General Laidoner's assistants without feeling how terrible has been the lot of the refugees there described. As I have said, we should have less resources and greater demands upon us in meeting whatever responsibility lay upon us with reference to these matters.

I do not want to put the thing too high, but I cannot help feeling that a policy of abandonment of that kind would, in the existing circumstances and after everything that has occurred, be a serious blow to our reputation and one that would have a repercussion in other countries far removed from Mesopotamia. Finally—I do not want to put the thing in a sentimental or excessive statement—it does seem to me a policy which I should have the greatest difficulty in supporting, if we are to desert those who have, at our invitation and at our instigation, declared themselves our friends and, per se, declared themselves as the possible enemies of any of those who might come after us. I do think that a Government that deserts its friends, the subjects who have trusted us, is committing one of the very worst crimes which a Government can possibly commit.

That is the policy of abandonment. But there is, in terms at any rate, quite a different policy that is sometimes recommended. It is a minor policy, and I am not quite sure whether it is the policy which the noble Lord recommends. I refer to the policy of refusing to undertake to make a Treaty to give the pledge that the Council asks for.


Hear, hear.


You think we ought to do that? That is a Serious suggestion. The noble Lord has said with great truth that, when we accepted the duty of Mandatory over this territory—whether this was right or wrong I express no opinion—we accepted the duty of tutelage of the populations in the district.


For four years.


When we accepted it we accepted it generally. We afterwards asked the leave of the Council to make a Treaty in which we said that we would accept it for four years certainly, and that then we should consider what further extension became necessary. That is what we said, as your Lordships will sec if you will look at the last Article of the Treaty that we made with Turkey. I do not think that, in view of that decision, we should be acting in accordance with the spirit of the Covenant or of the undertaking into which we entered if we said to the Council, when they asked us if we were prepared to go on with this Mandate until these people are able to stand by themselves, that we decline to give any pledge on the subject. I confess that I think, on the noble Lord's own principles of considering the interests of the population and the respect that we owe to the League, that this would have been a very serious step to take.

Consider what would have been the consequences if we had done that. So far as I can see there would have been one of three. It might be that the result would have been a transfer of a portion of this Province, or the whole of it, to the Turkish Government. It seems to me that a transfer in those circumstances and in consequence of our refusal to accept the suggestion of the Council, would have been very much the same thing as abandonment of the Province itself and would have produced all the evil consequences to which I have ventured to call your attention as the result of abandonment. Speaking merely as a speculation, I think it is more probable that you would have had no decision. Some Members of the Council would have thought that even so it was better to leave the line as drawn and to leave it without further decision, whereas others would have said that they were not prepared to do that unless they knew what line we were going to take as Mandatories. The result of that would have been no decision.

From the noble Lord's point of view, and I very much sympathise with him, from the point of view of reaching a decision with the Turks, I think nothing would- have been worse than leaving the matter undecided on a point on which the two Governments took totally different views. The great obstacle to a decision has been that each Government has taken an entirely different view of its international position in the matter. Possibly there might have been an award of the same kind as was given and in that case, no doubt, we should have come in without the express obligation to stay there, to discharge the duties of a Mandatory—because that is all we have undertaken—until the Arab Government can stand by itself. I think that in that case the decision would not have been substantially different from what it is now. It is true that we should have been there without express obligations beyond the four years, but all the obligations to which I have referred—the difficulty of abandonment, the difficulty of leaving your task half done—would have existed just as they do at the present time.

I wish to say, speaking for myself, that to my mind the obligations that rest upon us in this matter are obligations arising far more from our actions than anything that we have said. I think there is a great deal to be said for the view that we ought never to have gone to Mesopotamia. That, however, is past history and we cannot discuss it now. I do not propose to dc so. We went there and we established a government over the whole of this territory. We set up an admirable Administration. We have gradually trained the people to take into their own hands their own fate and we are anxious that that training should go on as rapidly and as completely as possible. It has already made marvellous progress. As the necessary result of these conferences we have induced a number of people to declare themselves as our friends and supporters.

We have undertaken this duty and that is the real difficulty, if it be a difficulty, in which we are placed. It is not the question so much of this phrase or that, phrase in the Mandate. It is a question of what you do, and that is the great principle which I venture to press upon your Lordships as true in all questions of foreign policy and in a great many other questions, possibly. You must be careful in instituting a policy, in beginning it, because it is the consequences of what you do that really binds your action in the future. You cannot, by any ingenious form of words, get out of the general broad proposition that if you have undertaken a duty and induced people to rely upon you to carry it through, you cannot throw that duty aside in the middle and leave those people to shift for themselves. Perhaps it is because I was trained as an English lawyer in the doctrine of assumpsit, with which my noble and learned friend is well acquainted, that I feel so strongly that it is the fundamental principle of justice which underlies so much of the foreign policy of this country.

When I come to what we ought to do I find myself very nearly, if not altogether, in agreement with the noble Lord. I agree most fully that nothing could be more desirable than that we should arrive at an agreement with the Turkish Government. I think we ought to do so if we possibly can. I do not know that I can put it more strongly than it was put by the Foreign Secretary in the passage at the enc of the White Paper. After the decision had been given, the Foreign Secretary said— The British Government have no wish to take up a rigid or uncompromising attitude towards Turkey. If they have pressed for a decision by the Council, it is only because they believed that until the Council had pronounced upon the question submitted to it by the Treaty of Lausanne, it was impossible to find a common basis on which to found the discussion of an agreement with the Turkish Government. The British Government most earnestly desire to live on terms of peace and amity with the Turkish Government. The Council having given its decision, His Majesty's Government will gladly lend itself to conversation with the Government of the Republic of Turkey in order to see whether, while taking due account of the Council's decision, it may not be possible to render the relations between our two countries easier and safer. With this object in view the British Government is ready to take into consideration any proposal made by the Turkish Government which is compatible with their duty as Mandatory to protect the interests of the people of Iraq I think that is the right policy. I believe that the decision of the Council will not in any way interfere with that policy being carried out but, on the contrary, will form a basis which will remove much disputatious matter which might otherwise have hindered agreement being arrived at.

That is part of the policy of the Government. We are anxious to arrive at an agreement with Turkey. The other part is also that which my noble friend pressed upon us—namely, that we are anxious to use all our powers to enable the people of Iraq and the Government of Iraq to stand by themselves as early as possible, and to be in a position to apply for membership of the League of Nations. We shall do everything we can to forward that desirable consummation at the earliest possible moment, and I shall be bitterly disappointed if Iraq does not reach that position of responsibility long before the twenty-five years have elapsed. For myself, I see no reason why it should not have reached that position in a very much shorter period of time.


My Lords, I thank the noble Viscount for the answer he has given on both the points which I raised. On the disarmament point I only desire to say this, that presumed comprehensiveness in one sense leads to impracticability, if not impossibility, and that is what I fear from the form of comprehensiveness to which the noble Viscount referred. At the same time I will corroborate his view that technical difficulties are really only obstacles so long as there is not an earnest desire on the part of various peoples to carry out a reduction of armaments, and that so soon as a general desire of that kind is really entertained, these technical objections are likely to disappear.

The more important point I want to say a few words about is what the noble Viscount said with regard to Mosul. I do not think that he at any rate fully understood the point I made, and I want to make it quite clear, so that there may be no misunderstanding. Of course I agree with him that the decision of the Council as an arbitral body must be implemented by the action of the British Government. There is no question between us on that point. But the particular matter to which I called attention—namely, the period of twenty-five years—was not submitted to the arbitral decision and is not dealt with as part of the arbitral decision. The arbitral decision was given as to the direction of the frontier line and that was the only matter which, under the Treaty of Lausanne, was referred to the decision of the Council of the League. The British Government is invited to submit a new treaty for twenty-five years.


They go on to say that their award will not be definitive until that has been done.


That is a condition which in my view cannot be attached to the award as an arbitral decision. The arbitral decision is the decision of the frontier line; the invitation to accept a Mandate of twenty-five years is an invitation only. I do not want, however, to bandy technical points with the noble Viscount. I do think that a new Mandate of twenty-five years is a most serious matter. I agree with him that you cannot accept a Mandate of this kind without creating responsibilities towards the mandated country and under the conditions prevailing in Iraq, if you remain there for twenty-five years you will find that obligations and responsibilities are undertaken that will make it practically impossible for you with national honour to leave Iraq at all. Does the noble Viscount really think that, if we accept this period of twenty-five years as a maximum, there is the remotest chance of Great Britain's resigning the Mandate in a shorter period?


Certainly. I thought I had said in the plainest possible language that it is twenty-five years, or the period within which Iraq shall be in a position to apply for membership in the League of Nations, which we have said we will forward to the utmost of our power. It is quite true that, if Iraq were to remain in exactly the same position as she is in now, and we were to remain in exactly the same position as we are in now, we should evidently be no further advanced at the end of twenty-five years, but our policy is to avoid that happening, by enabling Iraq to stand by herself, and by coming to a friendly arrangement with Turkey, which will render the burdensome nature of our position, such as it is, either nonexistent or very much less.


That is a matter upon which is is possible to have differences of opinion, but it is not the point which I am stressing. In fact, it has nothing to do with it. What I say is that the longer you stay under the conditions of a Mandatory responsible for the administrative Government of Iraq, the stronger will almost certainly be the argument that you cannot leave Iraq, because, in proportion to the length of time that you maintain your administrative position, will be the growth of fresh responsibilities which national honour will compel us to undertake. That is the whole point. The people of Iraq were given notice in the original Mandate that we would only he responsible for four years. Well, apparently we differ upon that. I say it is perfectly clear to any one who reads the original Mandate that we were only to be responsible for four years, and that if, at the end of the four years, Iraq was not sufficiently grown up to be a Member of the League of Nations, then the matter was to be reconsidered. I attach the very greatest importance to the limitation introduced in the original Mandate. If the noble Viscount is right, there ought to be no period now inserted at all. You ought merely to wait until, with the passage of time, Iraq is in a position to stand by itself. No other consideration arises except that—certainly no consideration of time. Immediately you introduce a period such as twenty-five years you come under an obligation which at the end of that time will imply an almost permanent obligation. That has been the history of other places—not under Mandates, because the history of Mandates is a new principle.

You can approach a Mandate from two points of view. One is with the idea of getting rid of it by educating the mandated people as quickly as possible, the other is to take the point of view of saying: "We do not want to leave. We are here promoting interests which we cannot abandon, having regard to our ideas of national honour." That is the wrong way of looking at the position of a mandated territory. And it is for that reason that I think it is a fatal mistake, in dealing with such a vital issue, to come under any obligation which can be construed, and which I think will be construed, as making us responsible for Iraq for at least a period of twenty-five years.

The noble Viscount, I think, hardly realises the nature of the obligation which we are undertaking for this long time. Suppose we cannot come to a friendly arrangement with Turkey—which the noble Viscount knows, perhaps better than I do, is not an easy matter: What is to be the result? How long are we to remain under an obligation if Turkey does not adopt a friendly attitude? What will be the cost of military, naval, and air expenditure? I quite agree that, when you put yourselves into a position of that kind, you cannot leave the people towards whom you have undertaken responsibilities without fulfilling those responsibilities as a matter of national honour and national prestige. I am not at all reassured by what the noble Viscount has said, and I believe that there is a strong feeling in all Parties in this country—we know it prevails in the Conservative Party—that no such obligation, of practically a permanent kind, ought to be undertaken, at least until the feeling of the country has been ascertained.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.