HL Deb 05 March 1925 vol 60 cc417-20

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, this Bill arises under Article 13 of the Agreement of April 26, 1915, between this country, Russia, France and Italy. It took place just before Italy came into the war on the side of the Allies. That Article reads as follows:— In the event of France and Great Britain increasing their Colonial territories at the expense of Germany, those two Powers agree in principle that Italy may claim some equitable compensation particularly as regards the settlement in her favour of the questions relative to the frontiers of the Italian Colonies of Eritrea, Somaliland and Libya and the neighbouring Colonies belonging to France and Great Britain. After the war negotiations took place during the years 1919 and 1920, and an Agreement was reached for the cession of the territory which is mentioned in this Treaty to Italy.

This territory covers about 33,000 or 34,000 square miles and comprises all that land east of the Juba River (which now forms the boundary between Kenya, and Italian territory) bounded by a line drawn from the confluence of the rivers Ganale and Daua on the Abyssinian frontier to a point near El Bern on the main caravan route to Abyssinia. This line goes straight due south to a point where the Jubaland and Tanaland boundary meets about three-quarters of a degree south of the equator and then turns eastward and terminates at the coast at Dick's Head. I may say that the whole of this country is inhabited by a small population of nomad Somalis, and the line has been drawn as closely as possible in accordance with racial divisions. It is, however, subject to final adjustment after examination by the International Commission which, is to be set up. Of the total area of this territory about 157 square miles form part of the mainland territory of Zanzibar, leased by the Zanzibar Government to the Government of Kenya. The rights of the Sultan of Zanzibar in this territory have been preserved as fully as possible by the Treaty, and his concurrence in the arrangement has been signified. As regards the rest of the territory which falls within the present boundaries of the Kenya Colony, arrangements have been made under the Treaty that the Colony shall not have any burden placed upon it in connection with the transfer, and I am sure your Lordships will recognise that that is fair, since the transfer is a commitment of the Imperial Government, under the quadrilateral Agreement of 1915.

It will be seen, turning to the other Articles of the Treaty, that provision is made for the indemnification of the Government of Zanzibar by the Italian Government for any loss of revenue, and for the recognition as valid of all concessions or rights to properties which were recognised as valid by the former Government. Also, under Article 6, the rights of British subjects who opt to remain British, and also those of the natives, are carefully safeguarded. There is also a provision in Article 11, that the two Governments should consult together to frame and put into force reciprocal measures for the control of the illicit ivory traffic. About twenty years ago there were very large herds of elephants in East Africa, and, owing to the illicit traffic in ivory, or, at any rate, to the destruction of the elephants, these, herds dwindled very considerably. It is hoped that opportunity may be taken under this Article to preserve such of the herds as remain. I do not think I need go any further into detail on the subject of this Treaty, which was concluded when noble Lords opposite sat upon this side of the House, but if any question is raised I shall be very glad to answer it.


Do we get anything for this land which is surrendered, or is it a free gift?


I think I explained that. It is ceded under Article 13 of the quadrilateral Agreement of 1915, made between Italy. Great Britain, France, and Russia, before Italy came into the war.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Earl of Onslow.)


My Lords, I should like to say a few words in support of the Second Reading of this Bill. The noble Earl, who moved the Second Reading with his customary lucidity and completeness, has put the main facts before your Lordships. As he indicated, the Bill really is the outcome of a Treaty, or Draft Treaty, which was made last year by Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, and I think Mr. MacDonald did good work in bringing this long outstanding question to a settlement. In regard to the point which the noble Lord, Lord Banbury, raised, perhaps I might further explain that under the Anglo-Italian Pact of 1915 various things were promised to Italy, some of which, for certain reasons, have not materialised. This undertaking with regard to the cession of Jubaland could materialise, and I submit that it ought to materialise under the terms of the Pact. I believe that this Treaty can be ratified without any real injustice being done to anybody. The whole matter was most carefully considered last summer in all its aspects, and I remember that, in order that certain boundary questions might be fully discussed, representatives of the Italian Government came over to London, and were here for some days in conference with representatives of His Majesty's Government.

It is quite true that various questions have been raised about the Treaty, and one or two criticisms have been passed upon it, but not, I think, criticisms of any great substance. I will deal with one or two of the points. First of all, the interests of the natives are a matter which, I am sure your Lordships will agree, ought always to receive the fullest possible consideration. I think that, under this Treaty their interests are completely safeguarded. The number of natives concerned is not great. That, it is true, has nothing to do with the matter, because, whether they are many or few, they ought to have proper treatment. But in this wide territory I believe the number is only 15,000 or 16,000, and, as the noble Earl explained, they are nomadic tribes who wander about from place to place between the water and the grazing land. I honestly believe that their life, when this Treaty is in force, will go on practically the same as it did before, virtually unaffected. Probably, indeed, many of them will scarcely know that there is any change. I do feel, therefore, that the interests of the natives are fully safeguarded.

As regards the Government of Zanzibar, the noble Earl explained the position. Part of this territory is really the territory of the Government of Zanzibar, but, as they have signified their full consent and concurrence, I do not think that is a matter that we need take any further into account. There is also one last point upon which I will touch—namely, the question of the economic rights of British subjects, or other subjects, in this territory in the future. There, again, there is complete assurance, because the total area which is being ceded to Italy comes within the international basin of the Congo, and the trade and other economic rights of British and other subjects are fully protected. There can, as I understand, be no discrimination. I think, then, that there will be agreement, certainly as regards these three matters on which I have touched, that there is little or no ground left for criticism. I will not speak longer, but I will add that I regard this Bill as the fulfilment of an honourable obligation, and I think that when this Treaty is ratified it will forge another link in the long chain of Anglo-Italian friendship.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.