HL Deb 04 February 1942 vol 121 cc646-80

LORD NOEL-BUXTON rose to ask His Majesty's Government whether they can make a statement on Abyssinia; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, His Majesty's Government have indeed generously responded to my request for information regarding the situation in Abyssinia, and it is very appropriate that your Lordships' House should debate the Agreement which has been announced in the White Paper today. Full as much of that information is, I hope the noble Viscount who represents the Government will add to it in the course of his speech. I desire to express a view which is held by large numbers of people interested in the welfare of the Abyssinian population. I do not claim to speak for the Labour Party, but to be giving my own views.

Public anxiety has been great in regard to this Agreement, so long delayed, and I am very glad that that anxiety is now relieved. I should like to welcome the fact of the Agreement having been achieved, though I doubt whether some of its provisions are fully adequate. I think the period is too short, and I hope the noble Lord will be able to tell us what security we are to look to for good government in the future. As for the main provision for assistance to Abyssinia—namely, the advisers who are proposed—what is to happen if their advice is ignored years hence? Then we find a very generous financial contribution, which is surely on the right lines for such a backward country, but it is in the form of a grant not on the lines such as were used in the case of Austria, for instance, in regard to League loans, involving supervision or control of expenditure. So far as one can see that is not embodied in the terms of the Agreement, and one does not see how the financial aid given can be used as a lever to exercise pressure in the direction of reform. On these points I am sure the noble Viscount will be able to tell us more, but certainly the situation in that in many ways unfortunate country will be greatly improved by the achievement of the Agreement.

Our own conduct of the war will be greatly assisted, because in the absence of a separate Government, and owing to the disordered state of the country, our troops at this day are largely occupied in guarding communications. So far as they can be relieved that will be a great point to the good. Up to now the War Office has been the main factor in the Abyssinian situation. The political factor has been represented by District Commissioners, largely borrowed from the Sudan Government. Some of the very best of the Sudan officials have been combed out for service in Abyssinia. Disorder has not altogether been removed by the departure of the Italians. We must always remember that the normal condition of Abyssinia was a semi-feudal one, in which the Chiefs maintained a very large degree of independence of the Emperor's authority. Now that condition has been rather deteriorated as against the pre-Italian invasion period, because many of the Chiefs—and others who became successful guerilla leaders have now been exercising the functions of Chiefs—are difficult to remove. Even if in the Emperor's opinion they are not ideal as administrators, they are still in the exercise of power, and there is a large amount of disorder in the country largely connected with the stores of munitions which are still not under the control of the Central Government.

The Agreement, I hope, provides for the future more than it appears to do on the face of it. We must recall the conditions which existed before the Italian invasion as an indication of what they would return to if outside influence and help were not provided. Abyssinia was a country of forced labour, of serfdom. It had no efficient police; it had practically no roads, great as the country was; there were even Governors whose administration was more destructive than beneficial; and above all, there was an immense prevalance of slavery. Worse than that, there was kidnapping for slavery together with a slave trade. It would not be unfair to call the conditions chaotic. There was no Budget and there was not a Government in the modern sense of the term. To take another point, I wish the Agreement had some international aspects attached to it, because surely our main duty is to plan for the future order of Africa. International stability is the greatest interest of all, and we must not prejudice the future of Africa by what we do now. We must not prejudice the settlement which, after the war, His Majesty's Government may want to aid. I am very glad that the Agreement indicates the rejection of an Imperial policy. That is very timely, because in South Africa and in East Africa there has been a body of opinion talking about annexation and using such phrases as a "useful addition to the Empire." The Atlantic Declaration ought to have disposed of that, but now the Agreement makes it clear that we are not waging a war of annexation, and that will relieve many minds.

We must always bear in mind that the future African order is of paramount importance. We must trust that whatever is done now will lead to a system in which Africa does not become an incentive to war in the future. The feud of the "haves" and "have-nots" has been a main cause of strife, and I wish that the international factor could find a place in the Abyssinian settlement. The Times expert on Africa, Miss Perham, made an interesting suggestion the other day that a certain part of Abyssinia which is not in any sense Abyssinian—the Danakil country on the eastern side—might be separately constituted under an international regime. Then, of course, the appointment of officials might embody some international element, and it would be a step if we made it easy for many of these officials to be non-British, drawn from Allied countries, international on lines which Lord Lugard, for instance, has advocated in the past.

Some will criticize the Agreement on the ground that it does not merely and com- pletely restore the authority of the Emperor. But in my view that would not be possible. We were faced with a dilemma. On general principles we should wish to withdraw from all participation in the government of the country whatever we might have to do militarily during the war, but particular and definite duties compel us to stay. If Abyssinia were constituted like Norway, or like Greece, it would be a very happy task to retire altogether from concern with its internal government and have the Emperor to resume sovereignty in full. But surety the difficulties of that would have been insuperable. The Emperor is helpless without our protection. We are responsible for his restoration and consequently for the welfare, up to a point, of the population. We must remember that more than half the population of the country is not Abyssinian, but consists of tribes conquered in the past, who have no voice whatever as to the Government and cannot express their wishes—to use the words of the Atlantic Charter.

And there was, above all, this unique factor of slavery. It is provided in connexion with the Agreement that the Emperor shall issue decrees abolishing slavery. I hope that the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, will tell us something of the means by which a real termination of slavery will be secured. The Italians issued a decree abolishing slavery, but we have heard extremely little of any progress having been achieved as a result of that decree. Being responsible for the restoration of the Emperor, we surely must not be responsible in any way for the prolongation of this gigantic evil. We could not ignore the question of slavery without real dereliction. Your Lordships know that this has long been a preoccupation of the Foreign Office in a degree which has not been present in regard to our relations with other countries at all, and I shall be excused if I dwell for a moment on the extent and importance of this factor in the Abyssinian situation. Abyssinian slavery constitutes a unique case. It is supported by long tradition, by religious beliefs and, prominently, by the Abyssinian Church. Lord Lugard who knows the situation well, held it as his view that the Church furnished the strongest opposition of any element to the abolition of the institution of slavery. I equally recall that when I was in Abyssinia the head of the Abyssinian Church, the Abuna, told me that he himself was opposed to the institution, but it is perfectly well known that the vast numbers of priests feel that their position and rights are bound up with it.

It seems, on the face of it, that we are looking to the Emperor, as the power which will bring this scandal, as we rightly call it, to an end. He has shown himself active towards reform, but so were some of his predecessors. The Emperor Theodore abolished slavery, but he was followed by Menelik who greatly extended it. We cannot rely wholly on the factor of the Emperor's personality. While he is on the throne Abyssinia is fortunate—it is a stroke of luck for Abyssinia—because he, among Abyssinians, has quite a unique personality so far as I have seen and have been informed. We are planning now for a long future, and, the Emperor being alone, we must envisage a time when he is not there. Happily he is a youngish man, but we must look upon what may be the normal state of things in the future. I desire to pay my tribute to the work that he has done. In 1932 he invited the Anti-Slavery Society to send out two people to confer with him, and Lord Polwarth and I represented the Society. At the close of our discussions with him, and also with two of his Ministers whom he designated for the purpose of subsidiary discussions, he promised among other things that slavery would be terminated at the most in twenty years. But little progress, unhappily, followed, and it was only two or three years later that the Italian trouble began. We do need some guarantee that abolition will be real. It is not enough to issue a decree, which probably very few slaves would hear of or understand. It is a rather difficult operation to arrive at real manumission, and abolition of slavery means something like a system that we have in the Sudan, where a man before he takes out his evidences of freedom is definitely furnished with papers which prevent his recapture. The same thing applies to Nigeria and to our other African Colonies.

The Emperor has immense forces to contend with, and we cannot hope that there will always be men of the peculiar personality of the Emperor Hailé Selassié. He is opposed by the Church, he is opposed by tradition and by the Kings—because they really are Kings, almost, in their own country, some of them—and the Chiefs in general. He therefore needs very real help, and it will not be enough if advisers are furnished and are no more than the advisers of the past. He asked years ago for a British official and an official of the British Service, Mr. Halpert, was appointed, but so far was the Emperor from carrying out his advice that he felt compelled to resign about the year 1934. Therefore admiration for the Emperor must not be allowed to distract us from the real interests of the slaves and serfs, who are a vast population. And, to remind your Lordships of the magnitude of this obstruction which will confront the Emperor unless we can very vigorously help him, let me recall that the catching of slaves was not only prevalent in Abyssinia, but in default of further tribes to raid, it extended into British territory both in the Sudan and in Kenya. In 1927 a White Paper gave particulars of no fewer than 139 raids into British territory during thirteen years, and Sir John Maffey, who was then Governor-General of the Sudan, said there were no doubt other raids of which he had no definite particulars.

Another fact to remind us what the situation was is this. We have for a very long period maintained two naval vessels in the Red Sea for the purpose of preventing the export of these Abyssinian slaves, kidnapped in Abyssinia, to the markets of Arabia. They very seldom caught the slave-carrying vessels because the dhows, very small dhows as a rule, sneaked out of ports in French territorial waters—generally French territorial waters, but sometimes Italian—and it was extemely difficult to catch them. But we maintained the vessels up to the war. Later on the Emperor had the suggestion made to him that a League Commissioner would be a good guarantee and a help to him, but that proposition was very strongly objected to.

Your Lordships will remember that we opposed the entry of Abyssinia into the League of Nations in view of the magnitude of this factor of slavery. The well-known book of Lady Simon estimated the number of slaves at a minimum of 2,000,000, in a population which may have been 10,000,000, though nobody knows what it was; and more than half that population had been subjected to the rules of the Amhara by the Emperor Menelik with the aid of rifles supplied by France. It is true that slavery is not generally of the industrial kind that we abolished in the West Indies: it is mostly domestic slavery; but any form of slavery is inseparable from atrocious cruelties when the master is an ill-tempered or vicious person. And, more than that, experts have pointed out that the condition of slavery means a total absence of moral sense, because the slave is debarred from the exercise of any free will or responsibility. The world has really been lenient to Abyssinia on account of slavery, and I think there can be no doubt that if the country had been a Mahomedan country a great deal more would have been heard of it.

How are we to be sure—I hope we shall hear this afternoon—that the termination of slavery is real? The main factors in that direction will be the advisers and the financial grants. We must ensure that the advisers are not ignored. Are they to be advisers such as the adviser so-called in Egypt who, under Lord Cromer, could make sure of his advice being carried out, or are they to be no more than the advisers hitherto known in Abyssinia? There is one condition which I very much hope will be attached to them, and that is the right to travel about the country, which was not given in the past, and the right to report to the British Minister as well as to the Abyssinian Government. I do not see how effective pressure can be applied unless financial assistance can be made dependent upon compliance with reasonable suggestions. The lever of finance seems to be difficult to apply in view of the fact that the financial aid is to take the form of grants definitely handed over from quarter to quarter.

I have taken enough of your Lordships' time. We are responsible for the situation. Success will depend very largely on the personal force of the British Minister. We shall need to exercise influence continuously and actively, and to apply the spirit of trusteeship which we have so often proclaimed in regard to our control of native races. Let us hope we shall be able to use Imperial Government experts now in a new manner—use them in aiding a non-British country so that Abyssinia will be put really forward in the path of reform. I beg to move.


My Lords, we have listened to a most interesting speech from my noble friend Lord Noel-Buxton. He has very naturally and very rightly availed himself of what may perhaps be called a hereditary claim to address your Lordships on the question of slavery. All the same, deeply as I sympathize with him and having often, I am glad to think, collaborated with him in measures for forwarding the abolition of slavery, I cannot help feeling that he has a little forgotten the circumstances which have given rise to the present situation. May I therefore venture to remind your Lordships of what, I am sure, many of you are quite familiar with—namely, the statement made on November 26, 1940, by the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, who was at that time Mr. Butler, on the policy of the Government with regard to Abyssinia?

I would remind your Lordships that a statement made by a Minister in answer to a question is in some ways the most authoritative declaration of policy that can be made, because it is not made on the spur of the moment. It is reduced to writing before it is delivered, it is approved always by the head of the Office, by the Secretary of State, as in this case, or by a Minister in a similar position, and if there is any doubt he may take the view of the Cabinet or of the Prime Minister. This was the statement of Mr. Butler, was made at the beginning of the Abyssinian campaign just before the Emperor re-entered Abyssinia, when we were only just beginning to give assistance to the tribes who were rebelling against Italian authority. The statement is very short, and it reads, as follows: His Majesty's Government are anxious to see Ethiopia liberated from Italian aggression. They have no territorial ambition in that country, which they would wish to be free and independent. They are, therefore, affording every assistance possible to those Ethiopians who have taken up arms against the common enemy. It is very important to remember that it was on the faith of that declaration, or a similar declaration made to him, that the Emperor re-entered his country and led his people in the very gallant efforts they made to overthrew the Italian domination.

It seems to me in this matter that our first duty, overriding all other duties, is to see that that obligation and that pledge are fully complied with both in the spirit and in the letter. That seems to me to be the case. When you come to see what has actually happened your Lordships will, I think, agree with me that that has been very successfully accomplished. We have had this White Paper. It consists, as your Lordships are aware, of an Agreement and two Conventions. The Agreement sets out the main constitutional system which is to be established as the result of the present state of affairs. There are two lines in it which seem to me to embody the keynote of the whole policy. It says that the Government of the United Kingdom recognize that Ethiopia is now a free and independent State and His Majesty the Emperor, Hailé Selassié I, is its lawful Ruler… That is the essential part of the policy of the Government, and I must say, as far as I am individually concerned, that I desire to tender respectfully my warmest congratulations to the Foreign Secretary for the perfectly honourable, straightforward, and effective way in which he has carried out the obligations that rested upon him. It has been my misfortune occasionally, though rarely, to criticize the Government, but in this matter I can do nothing but offer my warmest praise.

It seems to me that this Agreement with Ethiopia is a fitting climax to the policy that was pursued in Syria and in Persia and now again in Ethiopia. We were told yesterday that the Foreign Office had been making incursions into the India Office, for which I was somehow or other held indirectly responsible. I wish I could claim it. For my part I can only hope that the matter will not be only one of bricks and mortar, but that some part of the spirit which has guided the Foreign Office in these matters will extend to the operations of the India Office. Apart from that, which is a matter of minor importance, I do feel most strongly that this Agreement, coming on top of the two other operations, makes a very remarkable and extremely admirable contrast with the policy of the German Government and their New Order. Wherever the Germans have proceeded to occupy a country they have left a trail of outrage and slaughter. I cannot help thinking that all impartial people, who look at the contrast between what we did in Persia and are now doing in Ethiopia, will see that our New Order, at any rate, is founded upon liberty and respect for the populations who are involved. I hope and believe that this will be a great thing for the righteous and legitimate propaganda which we may be issuing to other nations.

In the interesting speech which Lord Noel-Buxton has made, he said over and over again that we were responsible for the government of Ethiopia in some degree. With great respect to him, I really do not think that is right. We have undertaken to make Abyssinia free and independent. If we are going to try and constrain the Government of Abyssinia, she will not be free and independent, and if we meant to do that we ought to have told the Emperor candidly that we could only engage in operations to restore him to the throne if he were prepared to submit to guidance and direction by us. We never said anything of the kind, and personally I should have been very much opposed to any attempt of that description. The greater part of my noble friend's speech was devoted to the question of slavery. There, I quite agree, he is on strong ground when he says that the slavery which has persisted in Abyssinia up to now is a great scandal, a great disgrace, to that country and ought to be removed as soon as possible. I entirely agree. I am also very confidently of opinion that if we made it a condition of the restoration of the Emperor that he was to carry out our wishes with regard to slavery, it would be most improbable that we should succeed in doing anything to diminish slavery, and it is quite certain we should gravely interfere with the authority of the Emperor. In my view by all means let us, when the Emperor is re-established and has become an independent sovereign, make whatever representations we like to him on this question of slavery, but let us in the meantime do everything we can to restore and increase his authority so that when he carries out not only our wishes, but what we know to be his wishes with regard to slavery, he will have the fullest power to do so. The best way of getting rid of slavery is to increase the power of the Emperor in the government of his country.

It seems to me some general propositions arise from this Agreement and on the details of the Agreement itself. I will say a word about the Conventions in a moment, but on the Agreement itself I really have no criticism to make. It seems to me to be an admirable document, and one which is likely to carry out the policy which His Majesty's Government are pledged to in the fullest extent. I would like to put one other question—it is not a criticism—on a minor point. In Article VI it is said: His Majesty the Emperor accepts full responsibility for seeing that private enemy property is dealt with in accordance with International Law. His Majesty agrees to consult with the British Diplomatic Representative as to the measures to be taken to this end. I admit that I do not quite understand what that means. I do not know why we are taking these pains to protect enemy property. It is quite right that enemy property should be protected, and will no doubt be protected by the Emperor so far as it is entitled to be protected by International Law, but why is it a matter of British interest to insist that that should be done? I have a great difficulty in following that, and I hope we shall be told why it is that we have thought it necessary to interfere in the matter at all.

I do not know, but I presume it refers to Italian property created in Abyssinia during the period when, very unhappily I think, we had acknowledged the conquest of Abyssinia by Italy. That, as far as we are concerned, may possibly preclude us from objecting to the existence of such property, but whatever acknowledgment we made, how can that bind the Emperor? The Emperor never made any acknowledgment of the legitimacy or the effectiveness of the conquest by Italy. On the contrary, he always resisted, and as far as he is concerned no such conquest ever took place. There was an engagement, a lawless invasion, and that was all. I do not quite follow, I confess, what that paragraph means, and I hope that my noble friend when he comes to reply will be able to give some explanation of it.

There is another matter to which ray noble friend Lord Noel-Buxton referred, and that is the limits of the territory involved. Not only does he desire to put the Emperor in leading strings, as I understand him, but he wishes to bind him to accept whatever advice any of the British advisers may give him. He proposes that certain territory which belonged to Abyssinia before the Italian invasion should be taken from him and put under some kind of international body. I do not believe that a. policy of that kind would be a good policy on its merits, and I do not think such a policy is open to the British Government in the circumstances in. which it is suggested.

Just one word about the Military Convention which is attached to this Agreement. There is a Judicial Convention about which I do not desire to say anything, but in regard to the Military Convention I confess I should like to ask my noble friend whether really the very stiff provisions that are made in it are necessary from a military point of view. Of course if they are necessary from a military point of view that is the end of it, at any rate as long as this war lasts. But in the first place I should like to know what is the limit of time during which this Military Convention is to last. Is it really necessary to go as far as some of these provisions go? I will not trouble the House with any detailed examination of them. Let me take one of them by way of illustration. Unless I misread the Convention it frees all over Abyssinia all British military officers from Ethiopian law, and it includes among British military officers any British civilians who are in any way attached to the military, and all their wives and children.

If certain conditions are accepted as to the composition of the Judicial Bench, and if we are to accept the authority of the Ethiopian Government generally speaking in the enforcement of Ethiopian law, I cannot at present see why so very drastic a provision is made as to take all people, however indirectly connected with military officers, outside that provision, not in military zones, which would be reasonable enough, but, as I read the Convention, all over Abyssinia, which, as your Lordships know, is an immense place. If it is quite clear that that provision, and other provisions, are only to be enforced during the progress of the war, I should not myself be disposed to make any great objection, because we all suffer, and rightly suffer, considerable limitations of our ordinary rights during the war. How far that ought to be carried in a country like Abyssinia must, I quite agree, be left to the military authorities to say.

But I am a little doubtful as to what is the period in which it is supposed that these provisions are to go on. The preamble of the Military Convention says that they are to last so long as may be necessary for mutual assistance as Allies in the struggle against the common enemy. That means, I suppose, for the duration of the war. That is all right, but then at the end of the Convention there comes a curious provision which says that: This Convention shall come into effect with the Agreement signed this day … and shall, subject to any other Agreement between the Parties, continue in force so long as the said Agreement continues in force. The said Agreement is to continue in force absolutely for two years, and almost certainly for another two years, because the subsidy to be given to the Emperor is to last for four years. It means, so far as I can see, that this Convention is to last for four years. It is a pessimistic view to suppose that that means that the war will go on for at least four more years, and that therefore it will certainly be within the period of the war even if it lasts for four years. I hoped for something better than that myself, and I should like very much to be assured that, whatever may be the actual wording of the Convention, the intention is that it should last only during the period of hostilities.

I have ventured to make these few observations because this is an important document, and it is right for us to criticize anything that is capable of being criticized. But, broadly speaking, leaving aside these matters which compared with the general purpose of the Agreement are minor matters, I can only say that I warmly approve of this Agreement and that I think it is a brilliant close to the somewhat chequered history of our international relations with Abyssinia. Your Lordships will remember how the original aggression of Italy began. I think you may describe it as the Axis at its worst. Some year or more before they actually invaded the country they had been making preparations for it. At that time there was no serious grievance they could possibly allege against the Abyssinian Government, but there was the manufacture of incidents like the one that used to be known as the Walwal incident, which when they came to be examined by impartial authorities—as often as the Italians allowed examination—turned out to be at least as much the fault of the Italians as of the Abyssinians. Nevertheless, the Italians went on and they invaded the country.

I will not go back on all the controversies as to whether we did everything we could to stop it. The fact was that the Italians were not stopped. They went on to the full accomplishment of what can only be described as their perfidy, and the means they used were the means of cruelty. Some of us have not forgotten the horrible gloating of one of the sons of Mussolini over the bombs which he dropped from his aeroplane on the absolutely defenceless villages of the Abyssinians, and his description of the beautiful affecting colour of the blood of the Abyssinians spurting out. Nor have we forgotten the ferocity with which Graziani suppressed any kind of opposition to the Italian Government. Through all that time the courage of the Abyssinian patriots never gave way. They went on fighting, many of them up in the mountains, denying the use of a very large part of the territory of Abyssinia to the Italians. In all that fighting the Emperor, whether he was in the country or outside it, remained as their leader and their ruler, even when he was apparently deserted by his friends and the Ministers of this country drank to the King of Italy as the Emperor of Abyssinia. It must have been a terribly trying and depressing time for him, but he never flinched, he never abandoned his rights, he maintained his fight for freedom. Then came the turn of the tide, the declaration of the general war, the splendid victories of the British troops with the assistance of the Abyssinians, and the complete restoration of the Emperor to his throne in Addis Ababa with, as far as one can learn, the support and approval of the great mass of the population. The Government have surely done well not to injure or in any way tarnish the splendour of the restoration of the Emperor by putting him under some kind of protectorate of this country when we have promised to create again for him a free and independent State.


My Lords, I wish my noble friend and comrade Lord Noel-Buxton would recollect that his family has been immortalised not merely by their abolition of slavery but by the protection of aborigines. The Society over which he presides is the Anti-Slavery and Aborigines Protection Society. I think he emphasizes over-much the slavery side of the question and has been unduly impressed by the slavery question in Abyssinia for, even when Abyssinia was attacked by the Italians, he has consistently drawn attention to that side of the issue. Slavery is of many kinds. The worst is slave trading, and I would have your Lordships remember that the people who buy the slaves are nearly as as bad as those who sell them. This trade has been going on across the Red Sea and even through British territory, for slaves have been sold to people in the Sudan, to the west of Abyssinia.

I would have your Lordships remember, too, that slavery of the domestic sort is by no means extinct in the British Empire. You can go into any Sheikh's tent in the Jordan Valley and have your coffee served by a black slave. The abolition of domestic slavery is nothing to boast of or to use as an example for criticism of what goes on in Abyssinia under the present Emperor—I am not going back to the time of King Theodore. There was the mui-tsai system in Hong Kong, which is going on no longer, for the latest news in a telegram from Chungking in this morning's papers says the Japanese have rounded up successfully 2,000 dancing girls at Hong Kong, all mui-tsai. So do not let us be too virtuous about these things. Domestic slavery is unpleasant, but it occurs even in free countries. There is a slavery which locks up men's bodies and there is a so-called freedom which sets indeed men's bodies free but locks up all they need for subsistence. I do not think the condition of the ordinary peasant labourer in Abyssinia is much worse than the condition of the black peasant labourer in South Africa or even in our own Colony of Kenya.

The noble Lord said he wanted good government in Abyssinia. It has always been an old Liberal maxim dear to him and to me, that self-government is better than good government. I think that if we had had in this White Paper a real establishment of self-government under the Emperor Hailé Selassié we should have produced a better document than this. There is one point about which I wish to ask a question which the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, did not mention. I want to know what is the area, what is the eastern boundary of this Abyssinia which we are handing over by this Agreement. When the Italians started to invade Abyssinia we knew where the frontier was; it was at Eritrea. It was so no longer after they bad conquered Abyssinia by the methods described by Lord Cecil. They then proceeded to change the boundary of Eritrea. They took from Abyssinia a population, which is I think entirely Abyssinian, in the Tigre Province.

Does this Agreement restore to Hailé Selassié, except for the area specially mentioned, that territory up to the old frontier? I am glad to know that it does. That is all right then. So far as the territory is concerned, it is restored to the Emperor except for the fact that throughout the duration of this Agreement the very sinews of Abyssinia are taken away. Abyssinia has no sea port, it has one solitary railway, and that railway is to be reserved for British direction and management and order during the duration of the Agreement. I hope that the Agreement will come to an end at the end of four years; but I remember so many other cases. Was not it Egypt which we had to evacuate under an Agreement, and yet we remained there to our own disadvantage for a great many years? I would sooner have seen no territories cut out, least of all these territories which are the most civilized and developed.

My view of this document is that it is a victory for the pro-Italian-Roman clique in Cairo, which has always been against Hailé Selassié. They did their best to stop him going back to Abyssinia. It was not until that declaration which Lord Cecil read out was made in 1940 that he was allowed to go back. Even then there was very little assistance given him to get back. They were actually stopping him going into Addis Ababa until South African troops had got there. As I say, very little assistance was given. This is a document which exactly carries out, not the views of the Foreign Office which made that famous declaration in 1940, but the views of the clique in Cairo who have persuaded the Foreign Office to force through the Emperor's hand almost with a colossal bribe an Agreement which saves for the Italians all then property rights, perhaps not all their privileges, but their investments in that country, all the concessions that were made by the Italians during the Italian occupation That, I think, is a fatal blunder.

We have been discussing in another place over and over again whether the Italian civilian prisoners in Abyssinia, were to be evacuated or not. We were always told by the Foreign Office that they were going to be evacuated to Italy, that Italy was going to send ships to evacuate all these Italian inhabitants of Abyssinia. Nobody who knew Mussolini would dream for one moment that he would ever evacuate one of them from Abyssinia. Naturally, he wants them all there at the end of the war to stake out a claim, if not for Abyssinia at least for Eritrea. Naturally, he cannot spare ships, and equally naturally' for the last six months therefore the British taxpayer has been keeping these people. They have not even been compelled to work, but they have been fed and looked after in the same way as refugees have been looked after in this country. Under this Agreement they stay in Abyssinia; under this Agreement they are still supported by the British taxpayer who will get no compensation, and under this Agreement they will still be there when the war comes to an end, and they will then automatically form a civilized Italian community—yes, I suppose you can call Italians civilized! Well, I would much sooner they were not left in that country. I had hoped that after the war we might have an international adviser; that we might have Americans helping the Emperor in the administration of the country. As I see it at present when we do step out we shall leave the Italians with all their bad traditions to take our place as the whites of Abyssinia in the years to come.

Now, my Lords, on this occasion I have the greatest possible pleasure in speaking for my Party. It is a pleasure which I have not enjoyed very often. I say they are not satisfied with any sort of solution of the Abyssinian problem which does not follow precisely the declaration made when we sent Hailé Selassié back to Abyssinia or issued the Atlantic Charter which was drawn up at the Conference between Mr. Churchill and President Roosevelt. If this paper is meant to fall in with that solution I think it is a very helpful idea, but we should not look at the question in any other way save how far does it implement absolutely the establishment of a free country uncontrolled by this land. I am not thinking of Abyssinia only; I am thinking of the effect on the whole world if, so soon after the signing of the Atlantic Charter, we go back on the principles laid down in that Charter. We want out of this war nothing except the destruction of Hitlerism. If you are going to import into this war the old Imperial spirit, grabbing a bit here and a bit there to colour red, and governing the areas probably better than they are governed at the present time, you are giving the lie to what we are standing for in the present war, you are injuring the repute of this country, and injuring its good name at the very moment when we ought to sacrifice everything to preserve that good name.


My Lords, to me at any rate it is somewhat of an improvement to be discussing the Abyssinian solution in a much easier atmosphere than one has been wont to encounter in the past, in the very numerous meetings, study circles and the like which one has had to attend in order to deal with this subject. For there it was a common experience that something of a controversial attitude and atmosphere speedily developed, with a fervour and a partisanship which at times recalled the theological controversies in days when, if I may say so, people took their theology a little more seriously than they do today.

There were, in my experience at all events, several currents of opinion that led to this controversial attitude. There was first of all a section of opinion which, deeply impressed with the strong nationalistic spirit of Abyssinia, deeply impressed with the long independence of the past, and also perhaps feeling strong sympathy with the present Emperor, could think of no solution whatever but the restoration of the fullest, the amplest independence to the Emperor. They were confident that if that were done all these difficult questions of slavery and all the difficult problems of slave raiding that we have had in the Sudan, in Kenya, and elsewhere would speedily find their settlement. Their confidence was as absolute as that which the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil of Chelwood, has expressed to-day—such confidence not only in the good will but in the power of the Emperor that he is prepared to leave to the Abyssinian Courts and to that very curious thing the Abyssinian Law, the cases, criminal cases and the like, of a British Army of occupation. They had confidence as complete as that which Lord Wedgwood has just expressed. He would regard any derogation whatever from the authority of the Emperor as giving evidence of the influence of a pro-Italian clique. If there is slavery, and if slavery is not successfully abolished by the Emperor, he can feel that slavery is not the worst evil in life, and that in any case there are very unfavourable conditions of native labour in Kenya, as in South Africa. We have had this afternoon almost a perfect expression of the confidence that that section of opinion has felt in the Emperor and of its very strong determination that there should be no derogation whatever from his full authority.

And there was a second section, rather strongly opposed to the first perhaps; the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Buxton, is a representative of it. The members of this section realized that the Emperor Menelik was one of those who joined in the scramble for Africa, and his methods were certainly as forcible as those of the worst of the other scramblers. The Abyssinian Empire of course consists not only of what I may call the old administered districts under the Emperor, but of a very large number of outlying provinces held by his Generals, and held in a form of degradation and serfdom certainly far greater than that which you could find anywhere in other parts of Africa. That section hoped that an opportunity might now be taken of relieving those people from the serfdom from which they have suffered, of ameliorating their condition, and perhaps most of all they hoped that something might now be done to introduce civilization in that one remaining part of Africa where civilization is practically unknown even in name.

Let me take also a third party. I spare your Lordships a long catalogue of them, but there are many currents of thought on this subject. I noticed this particularly when meeting my friends coming from South Africa. They themselves have had a considerable part in reconquering Abyssinia for the Emperor. They were very reluctant to think that a large area should be given back to purely native rule which in their view was capable of European occupation, thus extending that long and narrow belt of civilized occupation, so dear to South African ideas, which runs through Africa. Then there were other people who used to take part in these discussions, people who have had experience in Sudan and Kenya, experience of slave raiding, and of the most unneighbourly behaviour of every kind. They hoped that something at least might be done to deal with that in the future.

Finally, there was a section of opinion which on a more general view, and without taking perhaps quite a partisan attitude on the subject, did realize that our intervention now in Abyssinia and the steps we have taken towards its reconquest, though the do not give us a political responsibility, it is true, do place us in a position in which maladministration in Abyssinia will undoubtedly redound to our disrepute. The world will hold us, in other words, responsible for it. If the handing back of Abyssinia on terms of full liberty to the Emperor remains an accomplished fact, and if as a result that part of Africa docs not come under any form of civilized rule, then undoubtedly there will be many people throughout the world who will say that we ourselves have been a stumbling block in the way of the progress of civilization in Africa. That is a fact that undoubtedly one has to bear in mind in this connexion.

To come to an Agreement in circumstances such as these, was undoubtedly difficult, and I think that considering the influences there are in England on the subject the Foreign Office is to be congratulated on having come to an Agreement at all with the Emperor, for I know how very difficult the task of negotiation did happen to be And if we discuss it here to-day, it can I think only be, not with any idea of any change in that Agreement, any alteration in the terms of the Treaty, certainly any alterations in disfavour of the Emperor himself—that would be unthinkable, and a breach of faith—but from a practical point of view to see what its disadvantages to us may be, and what steps may have to be taken by His Majesty's Government further to implement it. To do anything less, to suggest here that it needs radical amendment, would be most disturbing to those who have to carry the Agreement out, and would breed distrust throughout Africa itself. It leaves Abyssinia in the position not of a Protectorate, of course—that is very clear—but of what used to be called in old International Law a "temporarily protected State."

Clearly the success of the Agreement in achieving some of the objects we hope to see—namely, the improvement of civilization, the end of slavery, the end of serfdom in the outlying districts—must depend entirely on the extent, as Lord Noel-Buxton has said, to which the advice tendered to the Emperor is accepted by him. We know that the previous position of these advisers was sometimes one of influence, at other times of complete impotence. What are the sanctions we have that this advice will be accepted by him? There are two. The first is the continuance of military occupation. That in itself would be something like a breach of the understanding on which the Agreement is based. It must continue during the war, it must continue as long as Abyssinia—and this is a point we sometimes forget—is full of guerilla bands using arms left by the Italians and likely, if previous history is repeated, to stand in strong opposition to the Emperor's central rule. But we must all feel that military occupation must end when peace is really restored.

The second sanction is, of course, the withdrawal or withholding of part of the subsidy. I want to point out that, in the opinion of many of us who have taken some interest in examining into the resources of Abyssinia, the subsidy is already inadequate, particularly in the vanishing form in which it is put. May I give your Lordships a figure or two which would illustrate my point? Take the immediate neighbours of Abyssinia and their yearly expenditure. They are territories which have been administered for a long time; a good deal of capital has been put into them, and they are, so to speak, going concerns. Abyssinia is disorganized and undeveloped in every way, and its expenditure must, in the first instance, be much greater. Its next-door neighbour, Uganda, already spends £1,750,000; Tanganyika rather more than £1,750,000; Kenya, £2,250,000; and the Sudan, which has a population of 6,250,000 and in general characteristics comes closer to large tracts of Abyssinia, spends £4,750,000 a year. Far larger resources are required by the Emperor if he is really to develop the country on anything like modern lines or even to secure law and order and decent administration.

Its own income is very small. It is difficult to calculate what it has been in the past, but if your Lordships divide in your own minds Abyssinia into two parts, one the administered part, difficult as it is to ascertain what is the income of a country that has never had a Budget, it is perhaps possible that the Emperor had from Customs duties and railway dividends something like £200,000 a year. Of the second part, the large area which was handed over to his Generals and fief-holders, you can say nothing whatever as they simply lived on the country. It has to be remembered that Abyssinia is a country without any minerals. One thing Italian scientific exploration of the country has proved is that its resources are very small. How are they to find for themselves an income that would be adequate for restoring order, establishing good administration, and, what is more, keeping up the very numerous and very expensive capital works that the Italians have introduced into the country? We may think what we like of the Italian invasion and its methods, but the fact remains that they have left in the country capital assets alive which cannot be valued at less than £80,000,000 or £90,000,000 after making all deductions.

The Abyssinians themselves, owing to the action of the Italians who murdered so many of their young and educated men, have not got a single man capable of looking after their roads, their electrical installations or the other capital works the Italians have left. I maintain that in these conditions what we have provided for is already inadequate, and if it decreases in the manner proposed year by year it will be more than inadequate. It is certain that if we are to give real assistance to the Emperor these sums must be increased. It is certain that if we wish to keep any real hold on him by the use of these sanctions, then we shall find ourselves quite unable to withdraw the subsidies. In the end we come to this, that there are no sanctions that we can prescribe in that direction, and that we depend therefore entirely on the personality, influence, and character of those whom we send as advisers. I know some of the officers already working there. I know the class of officer we can send from the Sudan and the Colonies. I have every confidence that they will fulfil their mission. Their influence will count for much, but we must realize that by this measure of restoration—a measure which some of your Lordships consider inadequate in itself—we are running grave hazards of a continuance of difficulties and maladministration in Abyssinia which may redound to our discredit.

I do not wish to go into the further questions that were raised on the actual terms of the Agreement, because I am sure that Lord Cranborne will be able to answer these; but I may say on one point, with regard to the respect to be paid to Italian property under International Law, that I hope some care will be exercised to maintain, as far as possible, the prescriptions of International Law in this respect, for we should be unwilling to set a bad example to other people who are now taking over considerable areas of our own in which there is considerable private property. We must be careful not to exhibit a flagrant and complete disregard of what has always been the conventions in this respect.


Surely not. I am very anxious to have the assistance of anybody on this matter, still more of the noble Lord, but surely at the end of the last war we took the whole of the German private property in this country and told the Germans they must look for compensation to their own Government.


The usual procedure, if I may say so, is to set off one claim with regard to private property against another claim. You have your process under which you establish your debits and credits on account of private property. That was the process we ourselves applied in the last war, and I have no doubt we shall apply it in this war. It should apply equally to Abyssinia.

One last point. It was suggested that there might be some improvement, some greater security for the future of Abyssinia, if there were some element of international management introduced into the treaty arrangements. It was even suggested that part of this territory should be made subject to an experiment in international management. It would, no doubt, be interesting to have an experiment of that nature. Hitherto we have had to depend for our experience on the somewhat narrow basis of what we have seen in the New Hebrides—hardly an adequate field, I think, for judging the value of international management. But it is said that it should now be tried in perhaps one of the most difficult places of the world, and in some of the most difficult conditions. I do not wish to argue here the case for international management in regard to Colonial possessions, but I am hoping that some day or other one of your Lordships may bring this matter forward when we can discuss it on its own merits. Some of us have very strong feelings on the subject, and we should like an opportunity of arguing the whole matter out and expressing our feelings upon it. Let me only say now, that the art of managing Colonies, the practice of Colonial administration, is not just merely a question of pure mathematics or of philosophy; it is a question of actual experience; it is an art that has to be acquired in itself, and I am not one of those who believe that we should quit ourselves of our responsibilities any the better if we brought into a share of them others whose methods of colonization and of administration most of us do not believe to be any better than our own.


My Lords, I do not wish to follow the noble Lord in the interesting speech to which we have just listened upon a subject on which he speaks with so much authority, but may I venture to remind the House that this Agreement and our relationship with Abyssinia has a background going back a great many years? I believe it was in 1885 that Lord Napier made a speech in this House, just after we had connived at the Italian occupation of Massowah, in which he pleaded with the House and with the Government of that day to give Abyssinia what he described as a square deal. Then coming down to a later period there was the Tripartite Agreement of 1906, under which that part of Africa was divided up into zones, followed by the Agreement with Italy in 1924, when the Italians were supposed to have special authority and special influence in the affairs of Abyssinia. Then, of course, we all remember the abandonment of Abyssinia in 1936 to which my noble friend Lord Cecil has already alluded. We can hardly be surprised, therefore, that many of the Abyssinians are extremely suspicious of us and of our methods, and I think the great problem really is as to how those suspicions can be allayed and entirely eliminated.

I was speaking to a friend of mine the other day who has occupied one of the most important positions in Abysssinia, and he said that in his opinion the first essential was to obtain the confidence of the Emperor and his people, and up to date it may be said we have hardly missed an opportunity of undermining that confidence. Once confidence has been reestablished the movement towards the abolition of slavery can be resumed to ultimate success. The question before your Lordships to-day is, it appears to me, how far this new Agreement will promote that mutual confidence. We know that as far as the Emperor himself is concerned he will do his best to carry out the terms which he has already made. We also know that in the State of Abyssinia he is beset with grave difficulties in endeavouring to carry out this policy, and the question is whether we are really, through this Agreement, assisting and helping him to overcome these difficulties, or whether we are creating greater difficulties than he has to face even at the moment.

May I ask the noble Viscount who is to reply on behalf of the Government to assure us that no pressure of any kind has been brought upon the Emperor to sign all the clauses of this Agreement? Is it a purely voluntary act on his part? That is the first assurance I hope he will be able to give us. The second one is this. I think my noble friend suggested that this is a temporary measure, that the military occupation clauses are inserted owing to the exigencies of the war, and that when the war has come to an end then the procedure in regard to Abyssinia will not necessarily be founded upon this particular Agreement. Those of us who have read the Agreement without knowing all that has gone on, without knowing about all the negotiations which have taken place, must have come to the conclusion that it is a very hard bargain. My noble friend Lord Cecil of Chelwood said Ethiopia is to be a free and independent State with a free and independent Government. I can hardly believe that so long as Abyssinia is bowed down by all the clauses in this Agreement we can really describe that country and its people as a free and independent country and people.

I would venture to make one or two criticisms in regard to certain clauses. The military clauses contemplate first of all a Military Mission. I am sure that is heartily welcomed by the Emperor, and by all the friends of Abyssinia, but there is also to be apparently a force of occupation which is to guard the railway and other parts of the country. Could the noble Viscount tell us broadly what this force will consist of? I do not imagine that we can afford at the present time to employ a considerable force in policing a country which belongs to our friends and at the same time fight our battles against the enemy. After all we have limited man-power. Why have not the Government in this document welcomed the offer which the Emperor made some months ago, when he said that he would reciprocate the benefits he had received from us by supplying armed forces wherever they might be needed in order to release Imperial troops for warfare on other fronts? There is not a word in this Agreement, so far as I can make out, in which the Emperor is asked to undertake the organization of forces to assist us against a common enemy. On the other hand, as far as the Senussi are concerned, we have succeeded in securing their support, and I believe one Division at least of that tribe is fighting alongside our forces in Libya.

The other point I want to mention is about Italian prisoners. In Article VII it is proposed so far as Italian prisoners are concerned to hand them over to the custody of the British military authorities, who will evacuate them from Ethiopia. Then Article VIII says that "the Government of the United Kingdom will use their best endeavours"—whatever that may mean—" to secure the return of Ethiopians in Italian hands, and to secure the return of artistic works, religious property and the like," which have been removed to Italy. May I suggest that that surely is a matter in which the Emperor should deal direct with the Italian Government? There should be reciprocity. Perhaps the noble Lord will tell us what is meant by "our best endeavours." I cannot help feeling that that position ought to be made plain.

The question of appointing advisers has already been dealt with. As I think my noble friend Lord Wedgwood said, what we want to know, and what we ought to be certain about, is that the Government are going to set up eventually a free and independent Ethiopia, and give the Emperor our benevolent help in reorganizing his country; that in return we expect him to assist us in every possible way in the prosecution of the war; and that this Agreement is not the prelude to some form of protectorate or sphere of influence, or whatever it may be called, but that it is our firm intention to restore the liberty and independence of Ethiopia.


My Lords, I have but one word to say, because the noble Lord, Lord Hailey, made the only criticism that I should make of this Agreement, on which I should like to congratulate His Majesty's Government. I know how exceedingly difficult the negotiations have been. I was much alarmed by the assurance given by the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil of Chelwood, during his speech, that the frontiers of Ethiopia are to be the ancient frontiers. I do not wish to suggest to your Lordships that there should be any carving up of Ethiopia, but I hope that the noble Lord will say that the Government are prepared to consider negotiations over the matter of the frontiers, when the final treaty comes to be drafted. I know, for example, that the Colonial Office will share the view that the Abyssinian-Sudanese frontier is unreasonable. There is also the famous maladjustment of the boundary where the so-called Baro promontory juts out of Abyssinian territory into the Sudan, actually dividing the territory of the Anak tribe.

Similarly I would suggest that it would be completely impracticable to try to restore the old position in regard to the Somalis and the Danakil. I would suggest that this is a splendid opportunity to unite all the Somalis into a single organic State. I myself would like to see the experiment of which the noble Lord, Lord Hailey, spoke in international direction and control, but however that may be I am perfectly convinced that nothing but bloody warfare can possibly follow if the Somalis are forced into subjection to the Ethiopians. I trust that the arrangements made will not supply the Ethiopians with the modern implements of war with which to effect this subjugation.

The noble Lord, Lord Wedgwood, spoke rather easily of slavery. The fact that conditions are not perfect in one place is no reason why imperfections should be tolerated in another. I am in complete agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Buxton, and the noble Lord, Lord Hailey, in their belief that in the future, inevitably, we British people must share some responsibility for what occurs in Abyssinia, and it would not be in accordance with the Atlantic Charter, which was quoted by the noble Lord, Lord Wedgwood, to enable Ethiopians to enslave other peoples. There were peoples in the Ethiopian Empire who were in revolt and semi-independence. It may be better that they should be subject to Addis Ababa, but if so they must have some guarantees of good will.


My Lords,.I think that in the debate which has taken place this afternoon over the Agreement which we have negotiated with the Emperor of Abyssinia, there has been a very general consensus of approval. There have been criticisms and questions on details, but on the main basis of the Agreement I think there has been no criticism. That is very satisfactory because this question of Abyssinia is one which does rouse very great interest and very strong feeling among wide sections of opinion in this country, even at a time when the world is being rocked by yet more important and terrible events than those which happened in Abyssinia in 1935 and 1936. It is natural perhaps that we should take this very strong interest in the country, because after all the invasion of Abyssinia, which took place in 1935, was not only at that time one of the most shocking events of modern times, but also one of the most significant. It was even more. I think it might be described as one of the turning points in modern history, because it really was the rock on which the post-war peace system split and foundered. Therefore I think it is all the more appropriate that Abyssinia, which was the first country to fall beneath the harrow of the aggressor, is the first country to be restored, and that after an interval of only six years since the time when he was driven from his country the Emperor is back upon his throne as an independent sovereign.

It is the more gratifying, I think, for all of us that it is the troops of the British Commonwealth of Nations who have been the instruments by which this restoration has been achieved. Following the destruction of the Italian Armies it was inevitable that there should be what may be described as an interim period. The country was in a very disturbed state and it is so still. The administration of the Italians has been swept away and the administration of the Emperor to take its place has not yet been re-created. Therefore quite naturally it fell to us to carry on a military administration and to maintain law and order. Now at last it is possible for us to proceed to a further stage. As noble Lords know, negotiations have been proceeding for some considerable time and now an Agreement has been signed at Addis Ababa between His Majesty's Government and the Emperor. I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Davies, that it was a perfectly free Agreement and that there was no improper pressure exerted upon His Majesty.

This Agreement, as has already been mentioned in the debate, is to last two years. Under it we resume our normal diplomatic relations with Abyssinia and Mr. Howe is proceeding to Addis Ababa immediately in order to take up the post of His Majesty's Minister at the Emperor's Court. In his opening speech the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Buxton, urged that we in particular had a special responsibility, as I understood him, for the establishment of order in Abyssinia and for providing for the future of the country. That of course primarily—I would emphasize this—is a responsibility of the Emperor himself. As I have tried to explain, Abyssinia is now a sovereign independent State. I think it is necessary to underline this, because I got a slight impression when the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Buxton, was speaking, that he did not quite realize what the position now is. He seemed to have in mind some form of Crown Colony or Protectorate government. He asked how we were going to maintain our control.


My Lords, I am very sorry to interrupt, but may I just say that I took pains to state that I was very gratified that the Agreement did not embody an Imperial policy but the opposite?


Allow me to follow up what I was saying. I understood the noble Lord to speak about advice that is to be given to the Emperor, and to ask who were the advisers who were to be appointed; how were we to be certain that this advice would take effect, and how could it be enforced. These advisers, it is true, are being recommended to the Emperor by us, but they are his servants and not ours, and it is for him to decide whether the advice which they give is taken or not. To me it seems that anything less than that would be a hollow sham and quite unworthy of the steps which we are now taking. I do hope and think that the noble Lord has not too great cause for anxiety. The Emperor has made it perfectly clear that he recognizes the need for assistance to be given to him. He has asked His Majesty's Government to place a number of British advisers at his disposal and to assist him financially in the setting up of his Administration. We have agreed to do our best to provide for a limited duration advisers, and it will be their duty to assist the Emperor with their counsel. Lord Noel-Buxton, I think it was, asked a question about nationality. He wanted to know whether the advisers would always be British. The answer is that at present it is contemplated that they should be British, but there is nothing in the Agreement which prevents His Majesty's Government, if they should so wish, recommending to the Emperor nationals of any other country.

Then there was the question of meeting the Emperor's request for financial aid without inexorably tying him to this country. This has cost His Majesty's Government here very anxious thought. The Emperor asked for financial assistance and we gave it to him, as noble Lords know, on a tapering system, the idea being that his dependence upon a foreign country would become less and less until finally, at the end of two, or maybe four years, Abyssinia would again be standing on her own feet. I think Lord Hailey it was who said that this subsidy would be quite inadequate for the purpose. It is the hope of His Majesty's Government that, as law and order is restored and as the Administration becomes a proper working Administration, the need for the external provision of funds will become less. Clearly it would not be satisfactory to us or to the Emperor if he became permanently dependent on us in this way; that would not be independence in any true sense of the word. Moreover, there is a certain limit beyond which even this country must not go at the present time in the provision of funds to other countries, as I am sure noble Lords will appreciate. But we have tried to put the Emperor properly on his feet, and I hope that noble Lords, and the country, will feel that the contribution which we are making is not unworthy of us.

I think, perhaps, there is one other subject about which I ought to say a word: the question of the administration of justice. This question was not emphasized by Lord Noel-Buxton, but this is the third sphere in which the Emperor has asked for assistance and there is, as noble Lords know, a draft administration of justice proclamation annexed to the Agreement. In view of past protection enjoyed by foreigners in Ethiopia in relation to extraterritorial rights, it was necessary to provide some safeguards in this respect not only to restore extra-territoriality but modernizing the whole of the Ethiopian judicial system. This proclamation was drafted by a joint committee of British and Ethiopian jurists and promulgated by the Emperor upon the signature of the Agreement. The Emperor has asked us to recommend some British Judges to assist in the administration of justice and to sit upon the Bench of the High Court in Ethiopia. Here again, His Majesty's Government will do their best to find these Judges, for it will be to our common interest that Ethiopia should have the benefit of British experience if this can be found.

There remains only one other sphere to which I think I need refer and that is the military sphere. The Military Convention attached to the Agreement provides for the Military Mission for which the Emperor has asked us and for the maintenance of the force which His Majesty's Government may require for strategical reasons, for the evacuation of Italian prisoners of war, and also for training the Emperor's Army which will be an essential element in the reorganization on the enlightened lines which it is the Emperor's earnest intention to follow. I should add that this Ethiopian Army which is to be set up is to be equipped entirely from the material captured from the Italians, and thus those weapons which were forged for aggression will be used for the defence of liberty. I feel that there is a certain poetic justice in that. Lord Davies asked what would be the numbers of the troops which were temporarily left in the country. I feel sure that he will not expect me to give him an answer in regard to the numbers. It is not intended to leave those troops there permanently. They will be there for strategic reasons in connexion with the general conduct of the war, and partly to deal with the local position until the Emperor's Armies are constituted, armed and trained. When they have become a proper Army, an Army which can function, there will be no need any longer for our troops to remain there for the maintenance of law and order. The Emperor's Army will take its proper place in the administration of law and order as soon as possible. Those, broadly speaking, are the terms of the Agreement which has been reached. It is an Agreement which I was glad to sec was generally welcomed. It safeguards Abyssinian independence and provides that assistance, the necessity for which the Emperor, equally with Lord Noel-Buxton, recognizes.

There are one or two other points which have been raised in the debate. First of all the question of slavery, which was referred to, I think, by almost every speaker. There is no doubt in this House about what the attitude of His Majesty's Government on slavery is. This country has made it perfectly clear over many decades, and we should clearly wish to see slavery abolished in Abyssinia as in every other country. And I am very glad to be able to tell the House that the Emperor has already declared his intention to issue a decree forthwith abolishing the state of slavery in Abyssinia. He proposes to do that as soon as he is in a position to do so, and that is, of course, as soon as he is in a position to introduce legislation, which will be directly after the signature of the present Agreement; so that we may say that he is now already in a position to take that action.

Then Lord Wedgwood asked what were to be the boundaries of Abyssinia, and whether they were to be the same as before the Abyssinian war. The answer is Yes, they are. Then there was a rather more detailed point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, and I hope he will allow me to put it forward to the responsible authorities.

Two points were made by the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil of Chelwood. The first was about private enemy property. I understand that the objection he takes to Article VI, which deals with this question, is not to the first sentence of paragraph (b) but to the second. He accepts the fact that private enemy property must be dealt with in accordance with International Law. What he does not like is bringing the British Diplomatic Representative into the matter; he thinks it should be done entirely by the Emperor himself. The reason, as I understand it, for this provision is as follows. During our campaign, and during the evacuation of Italian civilians, much private property came into the custody of the invading troops. I understand we are answerable for this at the peace settlement and must be able to account for it. We arc, of course, handing over our responsibility in Abyssinia to the Emperor, and no doubt he would act as we would have acted had we been concerned; in short, he must be able to account for this property at the end of the war. This is not only his, but our obligation. It is a joint obligation, and we cannot repudiate it. Therefore I think it is natural that our representative, in conjunction with the Emepror, should be in close consultation together with a view to seeing that this obligation is carried out. It involves no reflection upon the Emperor, I need hardly say; it is only that we have a joint obligation, and therefore it is natural that we should deal with it together. Then there was one other point he made, arising out of the Military Convention. He took some objection to the drafting of the clause which deals with immunities for British troops. He said it was too widely drawn.


I would not like to say I thought it was too widely drawn, but it seemed to me a matter of legitimate question why, when we recognized Abyssinian authority and Abyssinian administration of justice for ordinary civilians ail over the country, and even for British civilians subject to the presence of a British Judge, we should make a special exception for this particular class.


It really is because they are regarded as being part of a military machine. If the noble Lord will look at the Article he will see it refers to every civilian official of British nationality accompanying or serving with the said forces. You might have a man who was not definitely in uniform but was part of the military machine, and you would not want that military machine to be clogged because he was in a different legal position from that in which the troops themselves would have been. It is based, though I would not say in every detail, on the similar article in the Anglo-Egyptian Convention. So far as the women and children are concerned, I do not think we need worry about them because women and children are not likely to go to Abyssinia in the next two, or perhaps the next four, years. In connexion with this point, I think the noble Viscount raised the question of the currency of the Military Convention. It is intended that it should be for two years, but there is a provision for three months' notice, so that if the situation changed to such a degree that it was no longer necessary for us to keep these troops there, or to keep the Military Mission there, it would always be open to us to go to the Emperor and arrange for the thing to be abrogated.

Finally, there was one question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Buxton, as to what will be the position at the end of the currency of the Agreement. I understood him to say that it was too short. I am afraid I really cannot answer his question. The point really is that we have by this Agreement set up a sovereign independent country with which we are in agreement and this particular Agreement is to run for two years. At the end of those two years we shall no doubt get into further negotiation with the Emperor and discuss whether the Agreement shall be continued for a further period of years. But it is quite impossible for me to say to-day whether the Agreement will be extended, and if so for what period. That must be a matter for the consideration of His Majesty's Government and the Emperor when the time comes. I feel that this Agreement marks a big step forward. I feel that it is the righting of a very great wrong. We are to-day fighting a war of liberation and, however dark the night through which we are at present passing, I feel that in this Agreement we do see the first clear indications of a dawn which is coming.


Before the noble Lord sits down would he say a word about whether the concessions and the grants made by the Italian Government, while de facto but not de jure, are binding upon the present Emperor, or whether this Agreement binds the Emperor to recognize those grants and concessions?


I should very much like notice of that question. I shall be delighted to make inquiries and to communicate with the noble Lord. It is rather a difficult technical point.


May I ask whether it is proposed to avail ourselves of the assistance which the Emperor offered us some time ago?


I think the real need is to assist the Emperor to reorganize this military force. I do not think he is in a position at present to give extended military help in the war. As a result of this Military Mission we hope that he will build up a large, efficient, modern Army. If he does that and is in a position to offer the help we shall be very glad to consider it.


My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord for his full reply and for the additional information he has given us. I can only say that my anxieties are not altogether removed. If, as has occurred before, no progress is recorded in the implementing of a decree which in itself is of very small value, or if there should be another Emperor on the throne, possibly another Menelik, and we are bound to the continued handing over of large grants of money without conditions in regard to internal progress, it will be a melancholy thing. I can only trust that the Foreign Minister, recognizing the great British tradition in regard to native questions, and particularly in regard to slavery, will be active and ensure reform. I beg to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.