HL Deb 15 July 1935 vol 98 cc374-80

LORD LAMINGTON rose to ask His Majesty's Government for information as to the affairs of the Aden Protectorate, also as to our relations with the Imam of the Yemen subsequent to the signing of the Treaty; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, for several years I have from time to time raised questions in regard to the Aden Protectorate. Since the signing of the Treaty, I really have had no information as to what has taken place in Aden or the hinterland, and I have, therefore, put this Question down in order to elicit information. I shall be glad to know whether since the signing of the Treaty the Audali tribe, to which I have repeatedly called your Lordships' attention, are free from all usurpation by the Imam of the Yemen.

I have privately given notice to my noble friend who I understand will reply to this Question, that I should like to know what will be the effect upon Aden of Clause 287 of the Government of India Bill, which removes Aden from the jurisdiction of India altogether, I understand. In the past it has always been a problem how Aden would get on should India in its new state impose heavy duties against the import of salt from Aden. The salt business in Aden is one of the greatest sources of revenue for Aden itself. There is another interesting point. I understand that it is now believed that the demand for Aden salt is so very strong in India, particularly in Bengal, that there will be still a very important export of salt from Aden to India. In the past the Government of India, the Government of Bombay, the War Office and the Colonial Office have all had their fingers in the pie.

I do not know whether it has been contemplated in this re-settlement of the administration that there should be a separate Department dealing entirely with the Arab-speaking people in that part of the Near East. I will not go into detail further than to say that to the North of Iraq, down to Aden, on the east Persian Gulf and west of the Egyptian frontier you find practically one set of people who speak the same language, Arabic, and are of one religious creed. It seems to me, therefore, very desirable that there should be a separate Department dealing entirely with these Arabic-speaking States. By that means you would be able to set up a cadre of officials who could be posted to that large area. At present each Department which has dealings with any of these Arabic-speaking States has to find some special official; there is no service from which they can draw people who know Arabic and have experience of the area. I will not say more at the present moment, but will content myself by putting the Question standing in my name.


My Lords, your Lordships all know what a very strong interest my noble friend Lord Lamington has taken in the question of Aden in the past and its relationship with the King of the Yemen. I am therefore very glad that I am in a position to give him what I hope he will consider a more satisfactory reply than I have been able to give on some past occasions. A Treaty of Friendship and Mutual Cooperation was signed with the King of the Yemen on 11th February, 1934. This Treaty was ratified on the 4th September in the same year. The noble Lord will, I am sure, have seen and read that Treaty. Before the Treaty was signed the King evacuated those parts of the Aden Protectorate including the Audali Territory which for some years previously he had occupied. He returned the hostages which he had held, and he 'agreed to lift the embargo which had previously existed upon trade between the Yemen and the Aden Protectorate. Since the signature of the Treaty relations with the King of the Yemen have been cordial and are better than they have been for a long time past. A Frontier Officer was appointed to the staff of the Aden Residency after the signature of the Treaty and this officer co-operates with the Yemeni frontier officials, and questions of frontier relations have been amicably adjusted in this way. The Frontier Officer also pays periodical visits to Sanaa and discusses with the Yemeni officials there any questions that need adjustment. Every effort is being made to make the trade routes in the Protectorate secure so that trade between the two countries may develop.

As regards the present working of the administration in the Aden Protectorate, the noble Lord will probably be aware that there is no direct administration in the Protectorate. The various Sultans are in treaty relations with His Majesty's Government and the Political Officers on the Staff of the Aden Residency maintain contact with the Chiefs and tribes and assist in the settlement of disputes. Communication with the outlying parts of the Protectorate is becoming easier year by year owing to the greater ease with which the more distant areas can now be reached by air. Efforts are also being made to develop more progressive ideas amongst the tribes. A college for the education of the sons of the Chiefs of the Protectorate or their near relatives has been established at Aden. Moreover, a system which already exists of training certain natives of the Protectorate in elementary hygiene and health services is being extended. This training has resulted in the setting up of what may be termed native dispensaries, which are necessarily of a somewhat elementary nature but which are able to do very valuable work, and these dispensaries are supervised by the Political Officers. Besides that, communication by wireless is being developed as far as possible.

I now turn to the present position and the future position at Aden as discussed by my noble friend. As your Lordships know, His Majesty's Government have been responsible since 1927 for the defence of Aden and for political relations with the Protectorate. The Aden Settlement is part of British India and is administered by the Government of India. There is, however, as your Lordships know, in the Government of India Bill at present before Parliament a clause providing that the Chief Commissioner's Province of Aden—that is, in effect, the Aden Settlement—shall be separated from India and that His Majesty may by Order in Council provide for the future administration of the Aden Settlement. If this clause becomes law, fie intention is that the Secretary of State for the Colonies should assume responsibility for the administration of the Aden Settlement. His Majesty's Government would then be entirely responsible for the whole of the Aden area. They are already, as I have explained, responsible for the defence of Aden and relations with the Protectorate, and they would take over from the Government of India the administration of the Settlement. So far as it is possible to judge at present this should not affect in any way our position in the Protectorate which should continue much as heretofore. The noble Lord made no reference to the Abyssinian crisis but I think lie would like some information about that.


I gave notice of that to the noble Earl, although I forgot to mention it when I was speaking.


I noticed that the noble Lord did not mention that matter but I know he would like some information on the subject. I am afraid I am not in a position give very much. As far as we are able to judge the Abyssinian crisis has not reacted much upon the position in Aden. There was a question of recruitment which was raised. In the past there has been in operation a system, which has lasted for many years, whereby the Italians were permitted to recruit a certain number of natives from certain parts of the Aden Protectorate and also Yemenis through Aden for service with the Italian Forces in Eritrea and Italian Somaliland. Some months ago the Italians made a request for permission to recruit in excess of the numbers formerly permitted, but in view of the position between Abyssinia and Italy it was decided that this request could not be acceded to. Beyond this, as I have said, as far as we are able to judge we do not think that the crisis in that part of the world has reacted in any way upon Aden affairs.

There is one other point which the noble Lord raised, and that was in connection with the proposed transfer of the Aden Settlement to His Majesty's Government, whether any move has been made to bring all the Arabic-speaking countries with which His Majesty's Government are concerned in the Middle East under one Department—namely, either the Foreign Office or the Colonial Office. That is a matter which has been under discussion on a number of occasions previously in your Lordships' House and it has been discussed pretty thoroughly. On those occasions explanation was given of the difficulties which obviously exist in the way of adopting any such arrangement. But I should like to inform your Lordships that there has been in existence, for some years, machinery amongst the various Departments of His Majesty's Government with the purpose in view of co-ordinating policy in the Middle East. This was an arrangement which was set up, I think, by the noble Lord, Lord Passfield, when he was Secretary of State for the Colonies in 1931. This machinery is working quite satisfactorily, and in the circumstances I do not think there is any occasion to make any alteration in the system by which this co-ordination is maintained.


My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for what I term a very satisfactory reply as to the condition of affairs in the Aden Protectorate since the signing of the Treaty with the Yemen, which I hope will produce beneficial results. I am also glad that the unfortunate tribe the Audali have now been freed from oppression by the Imam. It is satisfactory to know that a college is going to be started in Aden for Chiefs' sons coming from the Protectorate. I only wish that some kind and humane people would also start a hospital on the Isthmus there: it would have a tremendous effect in drawing people from the far interior to have medical treatment. Even now they sometimes come from the Yemen right down to Aden. It would have a most beneficial effect, not only in doing good by giving medical treatment, but also in maintaining satisfactory relations with various tribes.

Referring to that other point about having a special Department concerned with the Arabic-speaking people, I am glad to hear that this co-ordinating body between the Foreign Office and the Colonial Office—


All Departments that may be concerned.


It seems rather anomalous—I have often drawn your Lordships' attention to it—that the Colonial Office should be concerned with a vast number of questions that arise with foreign countries. Taking Palestine, for example, I do not know whether the Colonial Office deal with Saudi Arabia, or whether that has been handed over to the Foreign Office, but certainly Ibn Saud objected very strongly to having anything to do with the Colonial Office. He called himself an independent monarch, and therefore wished to have relations with the Foreign Office. I should have thought that in the same port there might be a cargo of officers who could be posted anywhere in these great Arabic-speaking countries. It would be worth anything to get one Department to deal with that subject. It 1920 it was proposed that the Foreign Office should have a special Department to deal with the matter, but for some reason or other that fell through. I believe Lord Curzon was, at one time, very strongly in favour of the idea that the Foreign Office should have the matter in hand. It does seem anomalous that only in the case of Aden, and, I suppose, of Palestine, the Colonial Office should have its officers there. I should have thought that it would have been better for the whole administration of our relations with foreign countries had it been placed under one Department of State, but it is very good news to hear that there is a co-ordinating authority now to meet together to deal with these questions. I beg to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.