HL Deb 20 May 1931 vol 80 cc1296-314

LORD TRENCHARD rose to ask His Majesty's Government whether they will make a statement concerning an inquiry into the unification of control and policy in the Middle East; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Motion standing in my name is, I admit, very vague. It was meant to be vague, as I had thought at one time that it might be unnecessary to bring this matter before your Lordships, but I hope when you have heard the few words I want to say that you will consider it is a subject of such great importance that it should come before this House. I look upon it as a subject of the greatest importance in the development of this Commonwealth of ours. My Motion really deals with the question of control and policy in and around Arabia. I would ask your Lordships for a moment to picture in your minds' eye Arabia, a country some of you may know. It is bounded on the east and south-east by the Persian Gulf. With regard to the Persian Gulf I am dealing with the west side, the Arabian side. Then, on the south it is bounded by the Indian Ocean, on the west by the Red Sea, on the southwest by Aden, and on the north by two new commitments of the British Empire—namely, Iraq and Transjordania and Palestine.

Ibn Saud, which is a name familiar to all your Lordships, is the great potentate who reigns in the greatest part of Arabia, and his country borders on seas and countries in which we have definite commitments and responsibilities, some major and some minor, but they are responsibilities. Ibn Saud's country borders on Iraq on the north, the Sheik of Koweit's territory, the Trucial Chief's, a little further the Persian Gulf, then a little further down Muscat. Then again his country runs close up to that great fortress, Aden. I do not think that it will surprise all your Lordships, but it may surprise some if you realise that this comparatively small part of the world is dealt with by no less than three Governments—the Government of India, the Government of Bombay and the Government here at home. It is also dealt with by six Departments. There are the War Office, the Admiralty and the Air Ministry, which are combined by that excellent body the Chief of the Staffs Sub-Committee and the Committee of Imperial Defence. Therefore, really the Services are one. It is also dealt with by the India Office, the Foreign Office and the Colonial Office.

Every little raid—and I regret to say that for many years yet there will be continually raids by rival tribesmen—has to be dealt with by all these Governments and Departments. There are many other points that crop up daily and all these Departments and three Governments have to deal with them. I would like, if I may, to point out how I think this came about. Originally Arabia was an impenetrable country from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf. There was no Suez Canal, so that all orders that had to go to the Persian Gulf had to go through India, and all information or reports from the Persian Gulf had to go to India before they could get home to England. Even after the Suez Canal was built—it was opened in 1860 or thereabouts—the reports had still to go via India, and that took 27 days, and more sometimes. Now motor cars run from the Mediterranean to Baghdad and Basra in hours and aeroplanes fly continually in a matter of a few hours to the Persian Gulf. But it is still several days from the Persian Gulf to India. In other words, the Mediterranean, we may say, is now within eight or nine hours of the Persian Gulf, and it is still by sea about seven days from India.

There is another point that I would like to mention in order to show what change has taken place in the situation. In the days I am speaking of we had no responsibility in Iraq or Transjordania or Palestine. Those places have been added to the responsibilities of the British Empire, and they lay right across the North of the Arabian Continent. We shall see great developments—we see mention of them in to-day's paper—such as pipe lines and railways across the desert. Motor cars go now and aeroplanes continually go across and out to Australia, etc We can see that that desert is going to be opened more and more, and transport will go more and more across this country. Therefore, there have been great changes since the days when the Persian Gulf and Aden were dealt with by some of the Depart-meats. It may be said that Departmental Committees, upon which all Departments interested are represented, would meet the difficulties, but I feel certain they would not meet the position to-day. I do not think I need labour that point here. I know too well it misses the main point, and that is the one man or the one office that should be responsible on the many minor points. I know quite well that it is necessary to consult the Departments on many matters. That will be done when the one man is responsible just as much as now. A Departmental Committee has no power of decision of its own, but I would rather, with regard to this particular point, ask that the administration troubles should be left over for consideration in the future.

I may on some future occasion, if your Lordships will allow me, raise this question, but I am not really dealing with that point to-day. My point to-day is the Persian Gulf and Aden. I would ask your Lordships to picture that part of the world, thirty or forty years hence, composed as I have described it at the opening of my speech, with irrigation, with cotton, with railways, with increases of population. That part of the world will develop greatly. Is it too much to say that it may become as prosperous as the Sudan? Surely I may say, therefore, that the Persian Gulf is vital to our trade if Arabia develops as I have said. Surely it would be to the interests of the Empire as a whole to make that trade go East and West not North and South. Surely we should try to be able to trade with that country in the future. I would like to say also that it is vital not only as regards trade but as regards communication. I do not think "vital" is too strong a word. It is not only vital to one particular part of the British Empire; it is vital to the whole. It is on the direct road, the short road, from England through the Mediterranean to Egypt, India, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong and our interests in China. This is where the greatest saving in time could be made with railways, with motor cars and aeroplanes.

I would have liked to ask the noble Lord, the Secretary of State for Air, if the Persian Gulf is not vital from the point of view of air communication in future development as he sees it, and I feel certain he would say "Yes." It is vital not only to India but to Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and our great interests in China. Surely in the interests of efficiency and economy alike this should be run from one place here at the heart of the Empire. It is also vital to defence. The noble Viscount who will speak after me, Lord Plumer, will be able to point this out better than I can, but I would like to ask this question: What made us go to Mesopotamia in the Great War? Surely one of the reasons was the fear of Germany coming down the Persian Gulf and being on the flank of our communications. That menace has gone, but there is still a very great menace that must be dealt with. I do press very much the question of the control of this area. It is one of immediate importance to the Empire as a whole, and should be given consideration now rather than later. I feel it is essential that one Government and one Department should deal with this.

With regard to Aden—if I may detain your Lordships a few minutes longer—we all know that Aden is an important fortress at the south corner of the Red Sea. It is of vital importance to the Eastern commerce of this country. I wish the noble Earl, Lord Beatty, could have been present here to-day to speak on this matter of the Persian Gulf and Aden. Through unforeseen circumstances he cannot be here, but although sometimes I have not always quite agreed with him, I believe that in this matter he would have supported the views I am trying to put forward. To return to the control of Aden. At present military control is run from Downing Street but there is another side of the picture, the civil side. As to the trade point of view, it may be that in the future in the development of this Empire coastal trade will be dealt with, and laws will be made which will make coastal trade in any ships except Dominion ships impossible. I believe that in the interests of their own Eastern trade they might pass Acts that would practically close Aden to export trade in British or Empire ships. There is another point of importance in regard to trade both in the Persian Gulf and in Aden. I read many reports that tariffs are being put on from the local point of view. Surely therefore it is necessary as far as we can to keep the control of this trade from the Empire point of view on the broadest possible basis. Others can put that point much better than I can.

Finally, I would say one word with regard to the inhabitants of this country. Arabia is inhabited by Arabians. They look for their religion to the West and not to the East. They look to Mecca and Medina; they do not look to the East. They speak Arabic and they go up to the shores of the Mediterranean. I have not brought up this point to add difficulties to a situation which I know is already difficult enough, but I feel that if this matter is not dealt with now the difficulties will increase a thousand times in the next twenty years, and that it really will be simplification if the question is dealt with early. I have tried to be careful and guarded in my utterances and I am not attempting to make this in any way a Party question, but I do feel that it is of such vital importance to the future smooth running of the Empire and its communications as a whole that it is right that I should lay it before your Lordships. I would ask His Majesty's Government if they would not at once institute an inquiry to report upon how, with the least disturbance politically, the control of policy in Arabia and the Persian Gulf and Aden, under Downing Street, could be brought about. I beg to move.


My Lords, I beg to support the Motion which my noble friend Lord Trenchard has just put before you so ably, and I wish to endorse the recommendations he has made for the unification of Aden and the stations on the Persian Gulf. I should like, if I may be permitted, to emphasise two points in connection with his recommendation—first, that it is a gravely important matter and that that importance will certainly increase as time goes on; and secondly, that it is a matter which should be dealt with now. The noble Lord, Lord Trenchard, has not raised any question as to military control as between the Admiralty, the War Office and the Air Ministry. That is a matter which must come up later when the main issue is decided. But although he has not emphasised it, I know that he feels very strongly the embarrassment and difficulties in connection with the movements and disposition of units of the Air Force under the present complicated arrangements. The same thing applies, in my opinion, as regards the Army, and it is from the Army point of view alone that I wish to make a few remarks to-day.

It is, I think, an accepted truth of military, operations or preparations for them, that the smaller the force the more important it is that there should be concentration, central control and every pos- sible facility for arriving at a quick decision to be followed by prompt action. As compared with our responsibilities in all parts of the Empire, our Army must certainly be described as a very small force. For financial reasons the numbers are now reduced to what may practically be called bedrock. We have no striking force and no general reserves, and I think I am within the mark if I say that, without calling up reserves, it would be practically impossible to put even one Division in the field from the home troops. Abroad our commitments and our protective responsibilities are so great and so varied that it is quite out of the question to concentrate the troops any closer than they are at present. That being so, we are dependent for the fulfilment of our responsibilities on mobility. Now mobility must, I think, depend on there being central control. From that alone can follow facilities for rapid action and prompt decisions.

Aden and the stations in the Persian Gulf are not mere localities. They are vital strategic points of communication, as Lord Trenchard has said, not only with India, but with the Far East, and even still further afield. They are a matter of concern to the whole Empire. It has been found that present arrangements in connection with those places are cumbersome and unsatisfactory. In the future they are likely to be dangerous, for whatever may be the upshot of the present developments with regard to the government of India, it is quite possible that we may be at some future time confronted with a Government which, to say the least of it, is apathetic with regard to Imperial interests. I hope the Government will realise that the time is opportune for making a change. I know that there are arguments both for and against control being vested either in the Foreign Office or in the Colonial Office, but the main point is that there should be real unification of control, that the unification should be centralised and that, with that central authority, the threads should be held where they ought to be held, in the heart of the Empire.


My Lords, I think we shall all feel much indebted to my noble friend Lord Trenchard for bringing to our notice the very important issues connected with the Persian Gulf and Aden areas and their administration, and I desire only to say a very few words in support of his plea that a less cumbersome machinery and more direct control should be substituted for the rather unsatisfactory methods of direction and administration of to-day. I need not remind your Lordships that ever since we started our factories at Jask in 1618, after the fall of Portuguese power, under a charter from Shah Abbas, the Persian Gulf has been an area of vital commercial and strategic interest to Great Britain. The adventurous energy of the East India Company in opening up factories all up the coast, the work of the Navy in lighting and buoying the Gulf, in stopping the gun-running from Muscat and in giving peace to the Pirate Coast and the Trucial Coast, the general persuasive interest that has been exerted by our forces on the policy of central Arabia—all these have amply justified our claim to a special position in the Persian Gulf: a claim which, as your Lordships will remember, was affirmed in 1903 by Lord Lansdowne's declaration and by many subsequent declarations from Lord Curzon and other members of His Majesty's Government at various times.

I was turning up this morning Sir Valentine Chirol's wonderful book on Middle Eastern policy, and there I stumbled across a quotation, which is apposite, I think, to our discussions to-day, from the writings of Captain Mahan who said that the "concession"—we might substitute for the word concession "maladministration"— in the Persian Gulf, whether by general arrangement with other Powers or by neglect of the local commercial interests which now underlay political and military control, will imperil Great Britain's naval situation in the Farther East, the political position in India, the commercial interests in both, and the imperial tie between ourselves and Australasia. So definite a pronouncement by perhaps the greatest authority on sea power will, I think, be respected even by the staunchest advocates of a policy of self-effacement.

If such has been the importance of the Persian Gulf in the past, its importance to-day is much greater when not only the land and sea route to India is concerned but the air route as well. As the noble Lord has said, it is of far greater im- portance to-day because since those days we have acquired an oil interest of supreme importance to us as a naval power. Indeed, I believe I am right in saying that Abadan is the only purely British oil supply available for our Navy. I will not attempt to discuss here what would be our position in war time if America at any moment felt indisposed to continue to supply us with oil, or what would happen to our security whilst some question of neutrality in this connection was being discussed at The Hague under that Optional Clause by which His Majesty's present Government have so endangered the maritime security of this country.

In these circumstances it is obviously essential that the machinery of direction should be of a character enabling prompt action and quick decisions to be made in case of need. No one can say that the present system answers this description. All the more important is it during the present phase of Indian constitutional development, when the question of the degree of intimacy of India's relationships with England will be unsettled, that any area so vital to us strategically as the Persian Gulf should be under the direct control of Whitehall. Nor should the Government of India, who seem to be quite willing to contemplate the abandonment of a far more integral area—namely, Burma—object to relinquishing on the western flank control of the Persian Gulf. The fact is that the Persian Gulf has only in the past been administered by the Government of India because originally it was the East India Company that had created our interests in the Gulf, for the Indian marine performed valuable functions there: or, more particularly, because no one has ever bothered to alter the system once it was begun. Those who remember the long battles over the Baghdad Railway for ten years would be happier if they saw the culmination of those efforts centred in more direct and more efficient administration.

I can speak with some little experience about Aden, because when I was in India Aden was under my administration, though I shared it with at least two and perhaps three other Departments. For general administrative and Budget pur- poses the Government of Bombay was responsible; the Army authorities at Whitehall were responsible for military control the Colonial Office was responsible for Arab affairs in the Aden hinterland. This trinity of control was the greatest handicap to Aden's development, with the result that I recommended its transfer from the hands of my Government in Bombay to another authority. I venture to suggest that it is clear that Aden, which is in its nature really a fortress, should be administered very much under the same system as Gibraltar, with a military Governor, and under the control of the Colonial Office or another Department.

As the noble Lord has said, it is the question of principle which we desire to get established. We seek that the Government should recognise that the present system is unsatisfactory, and if we can gain that admission it will then remain a matter of discussion what is the appropriate Department of Government under which the Persian Gulf and Aden should be administered. No doubt a Whitehall battle among the Departments with regard to that matter must he fought. I would only discuss that to this extent. I would suggest that is is fairly obvious that none of these Service Departments could properly direct those areas because none of them are administrative in the particular sense of the term. Again, if the Persian Gulf and Aden were removed from the control of the Government of India, it would seem inappropriate that they should go under the India Office in London. Equally it would seem probably unsuitable that the Foreign Office should attempt to control great administrative areas, because they have no administrative section, and have already shown a very comprehensible embarrassment at times in their understanding of administrative duties with respect to the Sudan and Egypt, inasmuch as they are not fully accustomed to such duties.

I could not properly discuss the matter to-day, but I should think that the Colonial Office, with its wide administrative experience in every part of the world, would be able to devote itself to the administrative affairs of the Gulf and Aden, with less dislocation than any other Department. I have only this to put before your Lordships. We do desire, without attempting to embarrass His Majesty's Government, to bring to their notice the enormous importance of this question, and to suggest that it might easily happen that undue delay in dealing with this question might cause us at a later date most bitterly to rue our neglect and want of foresight.


My Lords, four years ago I brought up this question, and therefore perhaps I may be allowed to say a few words upon it. As Lord Trenchard has said, it is a, very important question indeed, and I only wish I had known beforehand that he was going to take the line he has, because I would have looked up the debate of four years ago to see what the Government reply then was. I pointed out then that Arabia was a great block of country, self-contained, inhabited by a homogenous people, having one religion and one language. Therefore, if there was one area which could be dealt with properly by one Department it would be Arabia. Lord Trenchard has shown how very difficult the present system of administration is. There is one feature in particular which has not been referred to and that is the question of providing officials who speak the language. From time to time we have had to pitchfork into official positions any one who could be obtained. I wonder that Lord Lloyd, having served so brilliantly in Egypt, did not make particular reference to that difficulty.

Lord Lloyd suggested that probably the Colonial Office would be the best Department to deal with the special Department that ought to be created. He has had more experience than I, but I should have thought rather to the contrary, because so many of the questions which arise with regard to Arabia are political and Foreign Office questions. I should have thought that the essential Department would have been the Foreign Office. With regard to Aden I have repeatedly wearied your Lordships by drawing attention to the difficulties there, and there again, to my mind, the Foreign Office would be the right Department. It is, however, really a question of having one office dealing with the Middle East. Lord Lloyd has referred to the Government of India. Many Committees have from time to time reported upon the expense contingent upon the presence of our representatives in the Persian Gulf and Arabia. The Welby Commission in 1900, and also the Geddes Report and the Inchcape Committee have dealt with this subject, and the Inchcape Committee, which last reported on the question, said: We are strongly of opinion that the present arrangement should be revised without delay and that the Government of India should take over the whole cost of certain consulates, etc., which abut on India and leave the others to the Home Government, possibly paying some share in one or two cases in which the two Governments have a mutual interest. It is in our opinion, very lesirable to ensure that India's liabilities in Persia should be strictly limited and defined. We recommend, therefore, that a revision of the existing arrangements be considered, and also that the possibility be examined of making a charge to shipping for lighting and buoying the Persian Gulf the cost of which is at present shared by India and the United Kingdom on the half and half basis. But all the way through it is recognised that both Persia and our own country have both great responsibilities. The late Lord Curzon regarded the Persian Gulf and Persia as the glacis of the defences of India. He considered that the Persian Gulf and Persia were absolutely essential to the proper defence of India. I do not think, therefore, that we could leave out the Indian Government from a share of the responsibility, and also of the expense, of maintaining our position in that part of the Middle East. I hope that His Majesty's Government will see their way to making this change and having some co-ordinated authority, but I do not think you could eliminate the Government of India. I should think also it would be very unfortunate to do so. In these days we want to do everything possible to show that we recognise our interests and our joint responsibilities, and even the Simon Report, though it suggests that India possibly pays rather too much of the expense, does not at all favour the idea that India should cease to have some joint responsibility. However, I am glad indeed that the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Trenchard, has raised this matter, because for many years I have regarded it as of very great importance, and the present position is extremely unsatisfactory.


My Lords, the two noble and gallant Lords on the Cross Benches have, with all the authority that attaches to the high responsibilities that they have carried, drawn the attention of your Lordships' House to the very unsatisfactory state of affairs in a most important part of the Empire, and their statements and arguments have been reinforced by the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, who himself has had close association with the region in question, and who also speaks with great authority. May I be allowed to approach the question from a different angle? It was, indeed, a point that was touched upon, but would like to expand it somewhat.

The Persian Gulf and Aden are essentially a part of the Empire, which the rest of the Empire looks to Great Britain to administer. As we develop the system of delegating greater authority to the different portions of the Empire it necessarily follows that there is a degree of authority which we cannot delegate, and our responsibility to that extent becomes greater. I think, therefore, that the moment is opportune to raise this question, because it is of interest not merely to this country, not merely to India, but equally to Australia and to the rest of the Empire, that the Persian Gulf and Aden should be administered in a manner which is not open to the criticisms brought against the present system of administration by noble Lords who are so well qualified to express that criticism. I hope that the noble Lord who represents the Government will be able to give satisfactory assurances to your Lordships' House that this matter is engaging his attention, and that reforms are contemplated that will satisfy the criticisms that have been brought forward.


My Lords, I certainly do not complain of this Question having been raised, and raised so ably as it has been, by the noble Lords who have spoken. Indeed I think they have rendered a service in bringing the matter so forcibly before your Lordships' House, and calling the Government's attention to the difficulties which have arisen, and which may arise, from the situation in these parts. But let me say at once that this subject has engaged the attention of the present Government, and is still engaging the attention of the present Government, and I am not going to contend that the present arrangements are either perfectly satisfactory or that they will necessarily escape reform as things happen. But I think it would only be candid to explain to your Lordships that, so far as the dealing with these different parts of the world is concerned, I think we cannot escape the conclusion that the difficulties arise from the nature of the case and not wholly or, as I venture to think, even chiefly, from the froward intention of past Governments or the present Government to maintain an unnecessary multiplicity in the organisation.

The debate has roamed over more countries than one. We call the whole of the territory for short the Middle East, but of course the circumstances are very different. The noble Lord, Lord Trenchard, laid stress at the beginning on the circumstances of Arabia. That in itself is not one question but several questions. After that we have the special case of Aden, which though it is in Arabia is different from all the rest of Arabia if only on the one technical point—which it is rather necessary to remember—that the fortress of Aden is British territory and in the British Empire, whereas the rest of Arabia is not British territory and is not in the Empire. Then attention was specially directed to the Persian Gulf, which also differs in status as well as in circumstances from the rest of Arabia and again from Aden. And Arabia itself, as we have been reminded, is bounded on the north by Iraq and Transjordania and such places as Koweit, with each of which our circumstances are necessarily different. We cannot take up the same position with regard to Iraq that we can towards Koweit or Arabia or Transjordania. We have still not mentioned Palestine in which we have a very special position, not the least easy to manage of all those that I have already recited.

Of course there is a great deal to be said in theory and from the point of experience for avoiding multiplicity of control, even when it is not accompanied by multiplicity of organisation. But, on the other hand, as we have found in the course of the debate, if you are going to try to put all the organisation and all our communications with these various and very differing parts of the Middle East into the hands of one Government Department, under one Minister, you at once land yourself in certain difficulties. The noble Lord, Lord Trenchard, said there were no fewer than six Departments concerned. That is perfectly true, but he himself went on to say that three of those Departments represented the three fighting Services and that they were necessarily all concerned to a larger or smaller extent in every part of this Middle East. But Lord Trenchard went on to explain, I think with great justice, that there was no great difficulty because these three Departments were united in the Committee of the Chiefs of Staff. For all fighting purposes or defence purposes you could not reduce the number of Defence Departments, but they were actively united and co-ordinated in a single organ—namely, the three Chiefs of Staff representing the three Services. I do riot think we can get any better organisation than that at present so far as these three out of the six Departments are concerned.

Then the other three Departments were the Foreign Office, the India Office and the Colonial Office. As the debate has proceeded, arguments have been brought forward which would seem to indicate that some noble Lords think that the whole of these various countries should be placed under the control of the Foreign Office. Others have suggested the Colonial Office and, indeed, Lord Lamington, I think it was, reminded us that the India Office could not be left out. That is die difficulty. It might be desirable if we could bring the peace administration, apart from the question of defence and the question of war, into one Government Department. But it would not be possible in the circumstances for one Government Department, whichever is the best adapted for the purpose, to deal with all these different countries without almost constant reference to one or other of the two other Departments. It is certain, for instance, that if you placed the whole of the Middle East under the sole control of the Colonial Office, that office could not proceed a step in any serious matter of policy without the Foreign Office coming in. All round the Middle East there are organised countries which are not part of the British Empire and which necessarily must come within the sphere of the foreign relations which are administered under the Foreign Secretary. In the history of our relations, as has been pointed out with great eloquence by Lord Lloyd, the India Office has been prominent in one part of the area, with regard to the Persian Gulf at any rate, and whatever happened it would not be possible for the Colonial Office, if it were told to administer all these countries, to ignore the feelings and desires of the India Office or the real interests of India.

There are, of course, little corners where that problem is somewhat easier. There seems no reason why the Colonial Office, which is already charged with the supervision of the Protectorate all round Aden, should not be equally charged with the fortress of Aden itself, as Lord Lloyd suggested, like Gibraltar. Just as Gibraltar takes its place among the Crown Colonies but under a military Governor with the primary intention of regarding it as a fortress even down to to-day (I do not know how long it will he necessary to regard it as a fortress) so Aden might be treated in the same way. But let us remember that Gibraltar has no Protectorate attached to it. It is separated from Spain only by a few hundred yards of neutral ground, as it is called; whereas Aden is surrounded by a Protectorate which extends into Arabia, which has been the source of a great many difficulties, and touches or joins, if we can say that there is a frontier at all, with the potentate in whom Lord Lamington is interested, the Imam of the Yemen, who is not part of the British Empire and with whom our relations are bound to be of a different character.

I venture to suggest that these difficulties which are presented by the varying circumstances of the different countries in the Middle East, can easily be exaggerated, and I want to state to your Lordships very definitely that, as a matter of fact, all questions of policy, big and small, are not left to be dealt with by this Department or that, or by the Government of India, but that really the responsibility is undertaken by His Majesty's Government as a whole. Just because of the multiplicity of separate interests which have to be taken into account and the necessary difference between the points of view which have to be borne in mind, it is at the present time—I do not know anything about the past—quite definitely the Cabinet which undertakes the control of all issues of policy in regard to these countries. The Persian Gulf from the point of view of policy is not administered by the Government of India. It is not administered by the Colonial Office. That is quire definitely undertaken by the Cabinet. As to the Departments concerned, we have now an arrangement by which they have an opportunity of day-by-day vigilance over all incidents. Apart from incidents which may be important, it is necessary that they should be watching because in the nature of the case in these countries quite minor incidents might develop into serious crises in a very short time. Consequently, we have to maintain a constant watchfulness on all the various parts of this Middle East territory, from Palestine, which has to be administered definitely as if it were a Crown Colony though under special restrictions and special requirements, to the other extreme such as the independent potentate of Central Arabia, Ibn Saud, and of course the other States bordering on the Persian Gulf.

The machinery by which the Cabinet not only decides the policy but controls the administration so far as this administration is maintained, has been overhauled in consequence of the decision which has been alluded to. The question has been very carefully considered. It is not merely a quarrel between Whitehall Departments. The real difficulties of the situation have compelled the creation of machinery which gives us a united organisation in which all the different interests and all the different points of view have to be taken constantly into account. I do not want to prophesy about the future, but I want to say in general terms which your Lordships will understand because I do not want to particularise, that His Majesty's Government have the fullest intention of maintaining in the hands of His Majesty's Government itself the whole decision of policy with regard to the whole of this Middle East. So far as this Government is concerned there will be no parting with those decisions of policy in any changes which we may expect or foresee on any side of the Middle East. That, at any rate, is the Government policy.

I should like to go back to the ordinary daily administration and to say that we believe we have now got an organisation, with the control in the hands of the Cabinet, which is working satisfactorily so far as so difficult a situation can work satisfactorily. Just as on the one side we have the three Service Departments represented by the Committee of the three Chiefs of Staff—we cannot reduce it to a smaller unit than that—so on the other hand we have the necessary Departments united in an analogous way, and I believe that the organisation is now working reasonably satisfactorily. At any rate, it does not seem possible to arrive at any improvement by turning out the Foreign Office and the India Office and saying the Colonial Office alone shall deal with these matters; or, similarly, turning out the Colonial Office and the India Office and saying the Foreign Office shall deal with them; or—there is still a third alternative—turning out the Colonial Office and the Foreign and saying the India Office shall deal with them. We cannot see any improvement in working in any of those ways, and we have not yet come to believe that the creation of a separate Ministry and a separate Minister, a separate Secretary of State for the Middle East, is at all warranted.

Consequently, I can only repeat that the Government have considered the matter very carefully. They have taken into account the considerations which have been urged in the course of this debate. They have made an organisation which is an improvement on anything that has gone before, and which, we think, secures constant vigilance with regard to minor matters, and the reservation of all issues of policy for the Cabinet as a whole. I do not want to go into the details of that organisation. It would not be proper to do so, for part of it is confidential; but at any rate those are the lines on which the Government have proceeded and on which they intend as at present advised to continue. We do not think that it is practicable to get a single Ministry in charge. Whatever changes may come in any direction the present Government have no intention of parting with the control of policy from the hands of the Cabinet as we know it. That I think would be the answer to the noble Lord, Lord Stonehaven, who suggested that the Empire looks to Great Britain to administer those territories in the Middle East, and, speaking generally, I accept that. The Government, I do not like to say administer, that is a little too detailed and technical, but the Government is responsible for every decision of policy—small policy as well as large policy—in all these territories, and we have no intention, whatever changes are made, of parting with that control of policy from the hands of the Cabinet of the United Kingdom.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Lord Passfield, for his reply, but I will not follow him upon the subject of the departmental squabbles in Whitehall. I purposely, in my opening remarks, said that I was not touching on that question, but was dealing with the Persian Gulf and Aden. The noble Lord, if I understood him rightly, made an announcement of the greatest importance. I understood him to say that the Government have no intention of parting with the control of policy in the changes that are being discussed in Whitehall now.




In those circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

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