I rise to call attention to some of the recent aspects of the attitude of our representatives at Geneva to the tenure of our mandated territories. We hold certain territories which are called mandated territories. We did not secure them by conquest, or as the spoils of war; we hold these territories merely as trustees. I observe that some members of the Government, particularly the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, in his speeches—although I cannot say that the phraseology that he uses is not capable of correct interpretation—appear to lay an emphasis where it should not be laid, and to conceal what certainly should be shown. These mandated territories are territories held by various parts of the British Empire in trust. Great Britain has some, Australia has some, New Zealand has some and South Africa bas some. These territories did not come to us by any treaty or right of conquest. We hold them as trustees. I would draw the attention of the Under-Secretary of State for Colonial Affairs to a speech which was delivered by his own chief this year, in which he said:
We hold Tanganyika under our obligations to the League of Nations.
That is perfectly true. But he goes on to say:
But we hold it in our own right under the Treaty of Versailles.
That, I venture to say, although it is susceptible of correct interpretation, because of its emphasis is wrong. We do not hold Tanganyika in our own right under the Treaty of Versailles. If you search the Treaty of Versailles from one end to the other you will find that no clause allots Tanganyika to the British Empire. The fact is that Germany ceded its overseas possessions to the Allied and Associated Powers; they did not cede them to us, and to say that we hold Tanganyika under the Treaty of Versailles is a wrong way to put it. Were chosen by the Allied and Associated Powers to be trustees of certain territories, and we are responsible for our trust to the League of Nations. That, I think, is the correct interpretation. The Council of the League of Nations is advised in its work of supervising the trustees of those territories by a body which is called the Permanent Mandates Commission. The Permanent Mandates Commission is not a Committee called into being by the Council of the League of Nations. I think it is the only body that is set up in addition to the Assembly and Council in the Covenant itself. Article 22 of the Covenant sets up this body, which is intended to be a permanent advisory body deriving its right from the instrument which created the League itself. It is a very important body, because it is the only impartial body dealing with these matters. I am not in the least bringing any charge against the Council of the League, but it is the fact that in the Council of the League the predominant influence is held by the great Powers, who are themselves mandatories, but in the Permanent Mandates Commission it is laid down by rules that the majority of the Commission shall consist of representatives appointed by non-Mandatory Powers. It differs in its character from the Council of the League and Assembly and gains an added dignity and importance from that circumstance.
The duty of this Mandates Commission is to receive and examine the reports which are made annually under the terms of the Covenant by the Mandatory Powers of the League. There is a Report, which was made to the Council of the League by M. Hymans, in 1920, which sets out the nature of the Report and
the duty laid on the Mandatory Powers to report to the Permanent Mandates Commission. He says:
The Annual Report stipulated for in Article 7 should certainly include a statement as to the whole moral and material situation of the peoples under the Mandate. It is clear, therefore, that the Council should also examine the question of the whole administration.
I want to emphasise this. The criticism we are making to-night against the representative of the British Government on this occasion in Geneva is that the views and wishes and desires of the Permanent Mandates Commission in the carrying out of their high duties have not been treated as they should have been by our own representative. The Permanent Mandates Commission made two proposals, or two suggestions. The first suggestion was that petitioners, desiring to petition against a Mandatory Power, should have direct access to the Permanent Mandates Commission. They also drafted a questionnaire. I do not think it was sent out; it was only a short questionnaire of about 21 questions. The longer questionnaire they desired to circulate. Let me say this about that questionnaire. I would first of all call attention to the passage from the instructions to the Mandates Commission in 1920:
The Annual Report shook certainly include a statement as to the whole moral and material situation of the peoples under the Mandate £ should examine the question of the whole administration.
To this end the Permanent Mandates Commission prepared their questionnaire, and I draw attention to a fact mentioned at the meeting of the Permanent Mandates Commission that the questionnaire, so far from being an instruction to harass local administration, may well be a very helpful thing. It was stated at that meeting by one of the members of the Commission that in 1923 our own representative at Iraq actually said that he was unable to make his report on the territory until he had received the questionnaire, meaning that from the questionnaire he was going to get the necessary guidance. There is therefore nothing necessarily tiresome or harassing about the questionnaire. It must be remembered that it has been the practice of the British Empire to send to the Permanent Mandates Commission the most distinguished men we have at the head of the admini-
stration to answer questions. The Under-Secretary himself has attended and replied. Sir Herbert Samuel has attended and replied to questions concerning Palestine, and Sir Henry Dobbs, attended this year and replied for Iraq. The Mandates Commission is compelled to rely on the written report and the cross-examination of representatives, because it has no local machinery by which it can gather information for itself. That it should have prepared the questionnaire is no offence in itself, and the "Times" correspondent, writing at the time when the matter was first raised in September last, said this:
It is difficult to see how the Permanent Mandates Commission is really to carry out its duties of control if it does not, ask every sort of question and lend an ear to any report which reaches it, but an interview between one member of the Commission and the petitioner would seem a more suitable method than a reception by the Commission itself.
That view has been endorsed by Sir F. Lugard. The questionnaire was prepared and approved by the Assembly.
Yes. I understand that at the meeting on the 24th September, the Resolution put forward by the Permanent Mandates Commission received the approval of the Assembly. My information is derived from Press reports and other sources of information, but if I am not correct then perhaps the Under-Secretary will correct me. It has been the subject of examination by every Mandatory Power. Outside the British Empire there are three Mandatory Powers—France, Belgium and Japan—and I have here extracts from the replies made by these Powers. The gist of the reply of the Japanese Government is that the questionnaire is somewhat too detailed. The French Government says:
Although the French Government has no objection in principle to the adoption of the new questionnaire, it desires to state that it does not regard this questionnaire as necessary.
The Belgian Government says:
The Mandates Commission cannot give the Council effective assistance in its work of supervision unless the Council accords it wide powers of discretion as to the questions which it may think fit to ask the
Mandatory States.… It would simply note that the Belgian local authorities may possibly raise practical objections to one or other of the questions
Therefore, we find that as regards the other Mandatory Powers no serious objection is raised, but, it is left to our own representative, our own Foreign. Secretary, to go to the Council of the League and make a vigorous onslaught on the questionnaire—at least certain representatives of the Press who were present at Geneva, regarded it as a vigorous onslaught on the Permanent Mandates Commission for issuing the questionnaire. Why on earth should the representative of the British Empire take such action when we have nothing to fear? Our own Dependencies have been administered always in the spirit of trusteeship and our own Mandated territories are administered according to the highest ideals. We have had evidence of this in the House this week, for the Secretary of State moved an Amendment into a Bill giving a charter of native rights. Why, therefore, should our representative go to Geneva and be the first to complain against the action of the Permanent Mandates Commission in issuing this questionnaire? Some may say that it is amateurish and inquisitorial and that it is time practical people put a stop to it, but the Permanent Mandates Commission contains one of our most distinguished Colonial administrators in Sir Frederick Lugard.
Therefore, it certainly came as a surprise to most people to find no less distinguished a representative of this country than the Foreign Secretary himself taking the lead in an attack upon the authority of the Permanent Mandates Commission. Let me examine for a moment what this questionnaire is. Great play has been made with the fact that the questionnaire contains 230 questions. That number is secured by counting every note of interrogation as a separate question. I will mention some of the questions. There is a request for particulars as to public loans raised—
20. Is compulsory labour exacted in default of the payment of taxes?
27. Are the products of the mandated territory given preferential treatment?
34. Does the law inflict the penalty of corporal punishment, forced residence, and deportation?
4l. Importation of arms and ammunition?
44. Total expenditure upon the welfare of the natives?
46. Does the slave trade exist in any form?
53. Have they applied the Conventions of the International Labour Office?
This last is an extremely important question for an industrial country like this. We had a Debate on the subject the other day. We may be subject to the competition of products from native areas with badly paid labour and bad conditions, with which we cannot compete. The Permanent Mandates Commission asks a number of detailed questions about the labour conditions in the territory—
What is the character of the labour contracts?
What are the rates of wages?
What are the hours of work?
What disciplinary power is possessed by employers?
Are trade unions allowed in the territory?
The general policy relating to the education of the native?
Legal measures to suppress the liquor traffic?
Particulars as to public health?
And most important of all, as I think, Section (S), the Government's policy in reference to native land.
What proportion of the whole territory is native land and is granted to non-natives?
What control is exercised with a view to safeguarding the customary rights of the natives to such land?
and so on.
Will anyone who reads the questionnaire say that these are improper questions to be asked by a court which is charged with seeing that a trust is faithfully fulfilled? I think not. Certainly there is nothing that we can have to fear in answering any of these questions. It may be said that if we were the only mandatory Power it would be a mere formality to ask whether the interests of the natives were being protected. But this mandatory system does not necessarily begin and end with the seven mandatory Powers of to-day. It may well be that in future other Governments will be given mandates. I will refer to that later in another aspect. Suppose that the mandatory system is adopted as a way of tarrying what is called "the white man's burden." It is extremely important that at the outset we should lay down the proper scope for the work of the Permanent Mandates Commission, which has to deal with the fulfilment of these trusts. In short, not to base the case upon detail, because, although detail is relevant, it is not really the gravamen of our criticism to-night—what we object to is that the mandatories should come together and present demands or suggestions, backed by the opinion of the Council, asking this court, which is there to see that the trust is fulfilled, not to modify the terms of the trust—that they cannot do—but to restrict their investigations of the method in which the trust is being discharged. That, indeed, is the criticism that we are making.
I know well the interest of the Under-Secretary in this matter, and, I think, his sympathy with the work of the League—in fact, the distinguished part which he has played on the Permanent Mandates Commission. I am not desiring to make any forceful attack on him. But it is a fact that there is a tendency in this. country to forget altogether that these territories are not part of Great Britain's estate, but that they are merely trust territories. You might have a rich man who has a large estate of his own, and he may be appointed guardian of a smaller estate. He may administer that small estate as well as he administers his own estate: he may administer it on the same lines and according to the same rules as he administers his own estate. But he has no right to say that it is part of his own estate, because it is not. He is the trustee merely. In our fiscal system, in our preferential system of taxes, we have done something which most people believe will divert the current of trade between ourselves and the mandated territories, exactly as some desire to divert it artificially between ourselves and the Dominions and dependencies. In that extremely ridiculous Measure called the Merchandise Marks Act we have required the natives in these trust territories to stamp their goods "British Empire made," which simply would not be true. The Secretary of State for the Dominions and Colonies is himself always trying in spirit, though he never oversteps the mark verbally, to
twist this conception of trusteeship into a mere sordid conception of Empire. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Yes; a sordid conception. Let me read what he said at the Imperial Conference. He was speaking of the dependencies as a whole, and he said:
The whole thing is a trusteeship, or a mandate, though the mandate is, in the main, not to an international Commission sitting at Geneva, but to what I believe is an even more effective body, the Parliaments and public opinion of this country and the Empire.
It is all very well to speak about a more effective body, but the fact is that we hold these mandated territories as trustees, and we have to answer as such to the League, and although any Minister must answer to this Parliament, the trust is a trust under the League of Nations. The right hon. Gentleman a year ago spoke words which were much criticised. It was at an East African dinner at which he said:
The German territories now incorporated in the British Empire.
That is simply not true. They are not incorporated, any more than a man might say that a trustee estate is incorporated in his own estate. No doubt, having been advised that these words were unwise, the right hon. Gentleman modified them this year, but without much effect. He spoke of "the incorporation of Tanganyika in the frame of the Empire." That little change was intended to get over the difficulty. If you are going to pervert the idea of trusteeship you put into jeopardy a great ideal. In the past the partition of backward countries has been a fruitful source of wars and dangers of wars. I need only mention the Fashoda incident, the Agadir incident and the Tangier incident. After the War we did declare a higher ideal. We said "No spoliation." It was laid down that the era of Imperial expansions was over, that what was taken was taken not as loot but as a trusteeship in the interests only of the backward peoples. It is our duty to see that this ideal is maintained. Unless we can maintain it, we lose the hope of a limitation of the causes of future wars. Because we think that the drift of the Government's policy, the speeches of the Secretary for the Dominions and the action of the Foreign Secretary at
Geneva, throw a shadow over that bright ideal, we raise this criticism to-night.
Mr. HILTON YOUNG:
I do not know with whom my hon. and gallant Friend is quarrelling when he so vigorously maintains the principle of trusteeship as regards mandated territories. I certainly should not quarrel with him about it, because I accept the principle as he enunciates it, both in the letter and the spirit. We must all approach this most interesting matter which he has raised from the same point of view as he does, and that is with an earnest desire to promote the prosperity and the dignity of the League, and with the most firm determination that we shall observe our own obligations towards the League in respect of the mandated territories. But if he will forgive me for saying so, in the matter of this controversy—for controversy there has been between the mandatory Powers and the Mandates Commission—I do not think lie has put his finger on the real point. All the objects which we would serve, the prosperity and dignity of the League and the future of the great causes which it has to advance, must, after all, be viewed in the light of another great object, and that is the good government of the peoples of the mandated territories. I am sure there will be no difference of opinion if I suggest that there is an important condition in establishing the good government of these peoples, and that is that there should be no division of executive power. If there is one thing which leads more directly and inevitably than another to failure in government, it is any doubt as to the place of residence of the executive authority.
You may have several legislatures without doing much harm. You may have any number of judiciaries, and yet avoid confusion, but you cannot have any division of the central executive power without the gravest confusion, and if that be true in general, it is especially true in regard to such backward peoples as those who inhabit for the most part these mandated territories. It is elementary political wisdom that when you are dealing with backward peoples, particularly if they a-re Oriental or African peoples it is absolutely essential that there should he a clear authority. The hand holding the sceptre should be visible, and there should be only one hand. If it be true that you can have no division of executive power if you are to have good government, I think there is another thing which is equally true, and it is that the League as an institution is quite incapable of exercising any continuous executive power at all. It is not, and cannot be an established executive body. It has not the necessary organs. The relations even between its two essential organs, the Assembly and the Council, are still too vague and ill-defined for it to be able to function in the manner which is necessary for continuous executive authority. It has no pretence to be an executive organisation, and one can think of no instance in which it ever has exercised continuously executive powers.
I suppose the instance in which it conies nearest to exercising any executive power is in the case of Danzig where it has a permanent High Commissioner, but on closer examination one discovers that the High Commissioner of Danzig is not an executive officer at all. He does not govern the city. It is governed by its own corporation and he merely acts as a moderator between the disputing powers the Poles and the Germans. If the League itself is incapable of exercising executive authority, still more so is the Mandates Commission of the League. I am not going to say a word in derogation of the admirable discharge of its duty by this most distinguished body in its own sphere, but it does not follow that it can successfully trench into other spheres which are not its own. It is a consultative committee representing many and various points of view which is quite incapable of exercising executive power.
Now we come to the application of these few observations to the proposals of the Mandates Commission in this questionnaire and the extending of its power to hearing parties on petition. I will not say much about the first point as to the questionnaire, in regard to which my hon. and gallant Friend has gone into some detail. In my view that is a comparatively trivial matter. I believe the questionnaire to be unreasonably elaborate, but I do not think there is any deep principle contained in the mere putting and answering of questions, however detailed. You may suspect that there is something behind these questions, but that suspicion may not be justified. I do, however, find a very deep question of principle involved in the proposition on the part of the Mandates Commission that they should hear petitioners against the mandatory Powers. I cannot but think that the British representative was not only wise, but was following the course of direct necessity as the representative of a mandatory Power, in strenuously resisting a proposal to that effect.
See what would be the result. The result would be that the Mandates Commission would hale before it in the position of au accused party the Power which was exercising executive control over the mandated territory. There would be a litigation or rather a prosecution in which the petitioner, the subject, would be the prosecutor, and in which the mandatory Power, the governor, might be found guilty. It appears to me to be absolutely clear that you could not have a procedure of that sort without swiftly and inevitably destroying the whole executive authority of the mandatory Power in the mandated territory. Remember that in most of these cases we are dealing with Oriental or African peoples, and with their ideas of what sovereignity and of what a sovereign is. They will consider no nice division of powers between the mandatory Power and the Mandates Commission. They will attribute power and sovereignty to where they find it, and that will be, in the case of such petitions being heard, in the Mandates Commission. You will inevitably undermine the whole authority of the executive power in the mandated territory.
Would the right hon. Gentleman permit me to say that in the letter of the Foreign Office of 8th November there is no mention of this question which he is raising and disposing of so effectively. That letter is solely concerned with the questionnaire.
A letter may have been written by the Foreign Office which is not concerned with this point, but this is the point, with which the House of Commons is concerned. You would effectively destroy the authority of the executive power in the mandated territory, inevitably and swiftly. Picture the scenes which would take place if petitioners were summoned from mandated territories to prosecute their cases against their own governors, in the atmosphere of Geneva! I am a great admirer of that wonderful atmosphere, which has so many admirers, but I cannot think it would be a wholesome atmosphere for proceedings of the sort.
I contemplate another and even more dangerous possibility. Supposing there were some ill-conditioned Power—and one must contemplate such a possibility —which desired to give trouble to a mandatory Power in its mandated territories. What has it to do in these circumstances, but to spend its money and send its agents to the mandated territory to get up a petition against the unfortunate mandatory Power, which might find itself being prosecuted by mandated subjects from all parts of the world at the same time? These are possibilities we may not like to contemplate, if we have a good opinion of human nature. Nevertheless they are possibilities. It was and is essential to make a stand against any suggestion which would lead to a division of executive authority between the Mandates Commission and the mandatory Power. It appears to me to be quite clear from practical experience that this particular proposal by the Mandates Commission would lead to such a mischievous division.
As the hon. and gallant Member has said with great truth, it is most necessary to elucidate now, at the beginning, the respective powers of the Permanent Mandates Commission and the mandatory authority. I do not think that that is quite consistent with his own other proposition, if I did not misunderstand it, that there should be no criticism by the mandatory Powers of the Mandates Commission. Surely, if we are going to arrive at common-sense arrangements in this matter, we must be free to express our opinions. If we are to work out a common-sense basis for the relations between the Commission and the nations with the mandates, we must recognise, first of all, that the Commission cannot an are executive authority; secondly, that it cannot he a court of appeal against the executive Power; and, thirdly, that what it ought to be is something which may best be described as an invigilator, a watchman on behalf of the Council of the League whose weapon it is. In order to discharge their function as watchers, they must, of course, have all the means of knowledge, among which there must be the receipt of petitions, but to pass on from the receipt of a petition to the hearing of that petition in a litigation between the petitioner and the mandatory Power is crossing that fatal border line which would had to a weakening of the authority of the mandatory Power and to the bad government of the territory in question.
This is a question of the most absorbing interest and the very greatest difficulty. Nobody can pretend that we have yet been able to work out precisely what the best relations between the Council, the Commission, and the mandatory Power are. The future has still got to show what these shall be through a long process of "cut and try," accompanied by a great deal of mutual forbearance between the three parties. The position is absolutely unprecedented in history. I do not think history bears any example of that responsibility of an Executive, not to its own sovereign, but to an international body. Of course, it must be new, because the international body is new. The nearest instance that occurs to me in history is that of the Commissaries of the people who used to accompany the Generals of the first French Republic in their campaigns and, report upon their proceedings to the various executives at Paris. Students of history will remember that those Commissaries may have discharged most admirable functions as long as they confined themselves to an advisory capacity, to admonishing, warning, and representing, but when they interfered with the actual conduct of the campaign they produced the most disastrous results. That instance contains a lesson for us.
I am sure we shall all agree with the dictum of the right hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. Hilton Young), who has just sat down, that there must be no division of executive powers, but, if I may respectfully say so, I think he has been largely engaged in trying to knock down a bogey which he himself has set up. It was certainly not suggested by my hon and gallant Friend the Member for Leith (Captain Benn) that there should be anything in the nature of a division of executive powers. His criticism was directed to the importance
of keeping in the forefront of any discussion with regard to mandates the idea of trusteeship, and not allowing that to be pushed in any respect into the background. As the right hon. Gentleman has just said, we are only engaged now in clarifying a novel position, which the creation of mandates has brought into the world. I am afraid there is a great deal of misconception abroad as to the actual position, and, with the permission of the House, I should like to quote shortly from a recent article by Sir Frederick Lugard, which sets out so clearly and so briefly what the position really is, that that must be my excuse for quoting it. He says:
Mandates were granted to the various countries which hold them, not by the League of Nations as is often erroneously asserted, but by the Allied and Associated powers as victors in the War. The League of Nations became their agent, and was charged in the first instance with the responsibility of seeing that the terms of the Draft Mandates were such as to give full effect to Article 22 of the Covenant which formed part of the Treaty of Versailles. The conditions laid down in the several Mandates thenceforth became the conditions of its acceptance by the. Mandatory, which was responsible to the League of Nations for the fulfilment of its contract.
That, I think, clearly sets out what the real position is, and the main object which is common to all the mandatories is, of course, that the mandatory should administer the country as a sacred trust, in the interest of the inhabitants, and not for its own individual profit. That is the new idea and the high ideal that was brought into the world when these mandates were created, the object being to get, away from the spirit that had previously pervaded the world, to get away from any idea of making a profit out of the War, and to insist that what may have been the spoils of war were in future not to be treated as means of profit to the parties victorious in the war, but were to be administered by them as trustees for the whole of the world. The machinery that was devised for putting this into practice was the creation of the Permanent Mandates Commission under Article 22 of the Covenant. The Commission—I am quoting from the Covenant—was
to receive and examine the annual reports of the mandatories and to advise the Council on all matters relating to the observance of the mandates.
I draw particular attention to those last words, which mean that the Permanent Mandates, Commission was set up to enable the Council to see that the trusts which had been placed in the hands of the various mandatory Powers were carried out in the spirit and with the intention of the Covenant. Now, I think, we come to what is really the difficulty that we have to face at present, and that we shall have to face in the future, and that is this: If the mandatory Powers were not on the Council, the position would be different from what it is, but, in fact, the chief mandatory Powers are members of the Council, with this result that when any questions come before the Council affecting the way in which mandates have been administered by a mandatory Power which is a member of the Council, that Power becomes placed in the position of both judge and counsel in its own cause. That is a very awkward and a very delicate position, and, therefore, it behoves us all the more to see that the powers and functions of the advisory body, that is, the Permanent Mandates Commission, are not in any wise circumscribed. They should be rather widened than circumscribed.
I do not propose to go at any length into the question of the petitions and the questionnaire, which have been dealt with by my hon. and gallant Friend. Exceedingly important questions they may be, but they are questions which are capable of adjustment, and I have no doubt that proper adjustments will be found. The Permanent Mandates Commission is composed of men of wide experience and eminent, ability, and it is not to be supposed that between them they and the Council will not be able to adjust such matters as are in difference between them, but what, to my mind, is far more important is the attitude that is adopted by the Council towards the Commission and the atmosphere that is thereby created, in which the Commission has to carry out its very delicate task. There is no doubt that the Foreign Office letter of 8th November has been fairly universally regarded as a snub to the activities of the Permanent Mandates Commission, and it has raised in the minds of many people great apprehensions as to the power that may be withdrawn from the activities of that Commission in future. As my hon. and gallant Friend said, there is a growing tendency to regard mandates, particularly "B" mandates, as part of the British Empire.
It is true that they are, and may be, properly administered as parts of the British Empire, but that should not allow us to put in the background the fact that they are still trusts which we are administering as trustees. It is true that the duration of the trust may be an indefinite one, and probably will be, but that is always subject to the proviso that the trustee administers his trust properly. My hon. and gallant Friend referred to certain statements that have been made from time to time by the Secretary of State for the Colonies. I know that when he made those statements, particularly with regard to Tanganyika, it was with the object of dissipating the idea that our tenure of Tanganyika might be a precarious one, so as to encourage the inflow of capital into the country. At the same time, I think he went too far in stressing the length of tenure that we may have over a mandated territory, without at the same time bringing into equal prominence the fact that that mandated territory was a trust, and had to be administered by us as a trust, and was not, in fact, part of the British Empire.
It may be thought that we are unduly stressing this matter of trust. Personally, I do not think it can be stressed too highly, because it is on the due weight being given to that fact, that I think, will turn the manner in which the permanent Mandates Commission will be able to exercise its functions in the future. As has been said, Great Britain has nothing to be ashamed of in the way it administers Colonies, or in the way it administers the mandated territories, and we should be the last to hesitate to give the very fullest, information for which the Mandates Commission may ask. I go further and say, that we should take the lead, and show the way to other nations which may be a little backward and hesitating in giving such information. In fact, it will be our great justification in the eyes of the world that we are freely and frankly carrying out our trust in the spirit in which we undertook it. Our attitude should be to give the fullest and freest information to the one completely disinterested body which is charged with inquiring into how our trust is executed. Any other attitude, I am afraid, is very likely to lead to very great difficulty and danger in the future, because we may have in the future mandatory Powers in an attitude of log-rolling towards one another. One Power may have failed in carrying out its trust, and another Power may at the same time be contemplating taking some action which is not strictly in accordance with its trust. If that were the case, it can be realised how easy it will be for those two Powers to combine so as to circumscribe the activities of the Mandates Commission and say, "If you do not want that matter brought forward, I will see that it is put back, if von do the same when our turn comes." We must avoid anything of that nature, and the only way is to give, when asked for, the fullest and freest information to the Permanent, Mandates Commission, and taking from the Permanent Mandates Commission advice, giving full effect to the advice that that one disinterested body is in a position to give.
With regard to the administration of the Mandates in Africa, I look upon them as vital in the future. I look upon the way we administer our trust in Africa as not only likely to key up our own administration, but to key up and improve the administration of all other European nations of African natives, and that is one of the reasons why I consider it of the utmost importance that the question of trust should be kept in the forefront. I should like to hear from the hon. Gentleman this afternoon an assurance that the true position of Mandates will, as far as the British Government are concerned, not be allowed to be in any way obscured in the future, and that the British Government, in their relationship with the Permanent Mandates Commission, will take up the attitude that it should be strengthened, and that its activities should be widened rather than circumscribed.
The hon. and gallant Member for Leith (Captain Benn) and the hon. Member who has just sat down have been inclined in their speeches—with the greater part of which I am in entire agreement—to interpret the action and speeches of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary on this matter unduly harshly. Might I say that my right hon. Friend would have liked to be here to-night to speak him- self on these points, but, owing to a very long-standing undertaking to make a public speech in connection with his duties at the Foreign Office, he has asked me to reply on his behalf. When I discussed the matter with him, he said, "It is remarkable that all that I said at Geneva in very sincere praise of the work of the Permanent Mandates Commission was over-shadowed in the reports by an element of criticism," which he felt it necessary to bring forward not of the Permanent Mandates Commission or its work, but of certain new proposals which came up from the Permanent Mandates Commission to the Council.
May I say at once that in regard to one of those proposals—namely, the proposal in regard to the hearing of petitions, I honestly think that the hon. and gallant Member for Leith has been incorrectly informed in saying that the Permanent Mandates Commission asked the Council if they might hear petitions. They asked the Council for a ruling on the matter; they did not give a lead on the matter. The present rules of procedure and present methods adopted by the Permanent Mandates Commission were, when the Permanent Mandates Commission was first formed, submitted by them to the Council and approved by the Council, and the Permanent Mandates Commission themselves felt that before any change was made in those rules of procedure the Council should be informed, and that they should take the instructions of the Council to that effect, because under the specific terms laid down the annual reports have to be made to the satisfaction of the Council, that is the actual wording. Therefore, co-operation between the Council, however composed, and the Permanent Mandates Commission, however composed, is an essential feature of the working of the League of Nations scheme in regard to mandated territories.
Let me take this petition question first. I will not argue its merits. My right hon. Friend the Member for Norwich (Mr. H. Young) has put a point of view that is present to many minds. Let me state what the position is. The Permanent Mandates Commission, when they had their meeting last March in Rome—not at Geneva—found at Rome a self-constituted Syrian delegation demanding to be heard. The delegation were informed that under the rules of procedure, as they at present are, the Permanent Mandates Commission could not hear them, and one or two members of the Permanent Mandates Commission saw those individuals privately quite apart from the Commission. It was then felt by the Commission as a whole that the position must be regularised, and that, the matter having been raised by an event such as took place at Rome, they must seek for the instructions of the Council, and that is what they have done. The Council unanimously decided that before they proceeded further with the question they should hear what all the Mandatory Powers had to say one way or another upon that subject. The replies of the various Mandatory Powers have only just been received, and at the recent meeting of the Council at Geneva last week the Dutch Foreign Minister, the rapporteur on this question, suggested to the Council that the matter was important and should be postponed to the March meeting of the Council next year and that was carried unanimously. So the whole question of petition is still sub judice in the Council of the League, and it will be for the Council as a whole to go further into that matter in the light of the material now before them.
In regard to the questionnaire, I have one or two things to say. There has always been a questionnaire, and we have done our best, and so have all mandatory Powers, to base their reports as far as possible upon what is called the old questionnaire. The old questionnaire was, briefly, a series of questions which arise directly out of the terms of the several mandates. The Permanent Mandates Commission, in examining reports and examining accredited representatives of mandatory Powers, and in the discussion of those reports, have found that various supplementary questions arise, and they came to the conclusion that it might be desirable to set out an entirely new questionnaire. The British Government think that the form in which they submit the now questionnaire does require very careful consideration. Before the questions are detailed there is this paragraph:
Without asking that these questions should he necessarily reproduced in reports,
the Permanent Mandates Commission considers it desirable that the reports should be drawn up in accordance with the general plan of the questionnaire.
I have been both a, member of the Permanent Mandates Commission and an accredited representative taking reports for one territory or another for discussion before my former colleagues every year, including the period when the Labour Government was in office and my experience is that to attempt to base reports on the plan of the questionnaire will lead to very great gaps and very great difficulties; that a great many of these questions are the sort of questions which are much better put verbally to the accredited representatives of the Power rather than that the questionnaire should be adopted and that it should go out to, say, a country like the British Cameroons, going to all the officials who are preparing the reports in those countries, and that they should be compelled to formulate and to draw up their reports on this particular plan, answering question by question in a series.
Quite frankly, if I wanted a report about the government and the moral and material progress of the natives of a country, I would say to the Governor or High Commissioner "Give me a report on the territory—on all aspects of it." That we have endeavoured to do in the past, and to endeavour to draw up a report of any value or interest, that has any relation to actualities and to what is really going on in the territory, by year after year repeating answers to a set of questions, however brilliantly thought out beforehand, will give, I am convinced, a false picture of the country. I quite agree that most of these questions have been answered verbally, if not in previous reports, but there are certain new features in this new questionnaire which are very wide of the trusteeship, very wide of the terms of the mandate and very wide of the kind of questions that have been put hitherto.
Take question 11. It is a very detailed question about the Staff. It asks how many officials there are, how they are divided between central administration, technical services and district administration. It asks what is their origin, and their nationality; it asks what are the conditions of their appointment; what is the status of those officials, and whether they are entitled to pensions, etc. All those are questions which can hardly help the Permanent Mandates Commission to decide whether the terms of the mandate are being carried out or whether we are failing to carry out our trust to the League. It is quite new questions of that kind that cause my right hon. Friend to ask in all seriousness the question whether this new questionnaire was not seeking to substitute, in some measure, an executive control, not over policy, but over the details of administration.
Another question was, If the territory has no armed forces of its own, what are the arrangements for the defence of the mandated territory? That arises in the case of the Cameroons and Togoland, which are the only mandated territories which have no military forces of their own. When we received this question, which is an entirely novel one in our experience, we were very anxious to ascertain what exactly the Commission meant. Then arose the question, defence against whom? Was it, to be against the French mandated territory in the event of a general war? That was an entirely novel kind of question.
Then take the question in regard to education. I say frankly that I have been puzzling my head about the question relating to education. It asks us to state the general principles adopted in regard to education, and to explain how the methods in use to illustrate the application of the different characteristics of those principles. The more you read that sentence the less "forrader" you get. They want to know the different methods adopted in different native schools, and how they illustrate the application of the different characteristics of these principles. Quite frankly, I do think that the Foreign Secretary was justified, in face of drafting of that kind in suggesting to the Council that this questionnaire should be reconsidered before it is sent out to every mandatory Power as the model upon which all future reports are to be based. Having visited all the mandated territories of Great Britain in Africa at one time or another, t know how difficult it is to compile reports of this kind, and I am convinced that it is essential, if we are to provide the Permanent Mandates Commission with what they have a right to expect, that is the fullest and amplest information about all that is going on is the territory, that the particular plan devised by the questionnaire could be immensely improved, and I will say no more than that.
What has happened? The replies of all the mandatory Powers in regard to this new questionnaire have been received by the Council at Geneva, and last week they unanimously referred these replies to the Permanent Mandates Commission. The Foreign Secretary is most anxious that that should be done. He urged that before the Council takes any decision on this new questionnaire as to whether they shall or shall not accept it as the rule and procedure of the Permanent Mandates Commission, at least let that Commission hear what they have not heard, that is, one or two of the criticisms which I have ventured to put forward as illustrative; and only illustrative, of the general question.
May I make it absolutely clear on behalf of His Majesty's Government that we hope for the fullest co-operation with the Permanent Mandates Commission. We have never refused to give any information asked for and we have always found that the work of the Permanent Mandates Commission in regard to these mandated territories has been most helpful and suggestive. We have always found that it has been a real spur to the Government, and a real check upon anything of the opposite kind. One thing is perfectly certain, that if it is thought that the power is absolutely centred in Geneva then you undermine the sense of local responsibility and the working of the mandates system. It is not only the Colonial Office but every man concerned in the administration of every one of those territories that has to be kept in mind. Therefore, I do think that it would be most unfortunate if there was any contr versy on this subject. We accept absolutely the position, and I never heard it so briefly and so admirably and succinctly put as it is put in the quotation from Sir Frederick Lugard: We mean to carry out our duty to the League by the presentation of reports, sending a representative there to answer any supplementary questions and to co-operate in every way with the Permanent Mandates Commission. It is not the Foreign Secretary's intention to snub them or attack them in any way, but only to suggest before officially adopting this new questionnaire in regard to carrying out their advisory duties that there are considerations which ought to be taken into account and should receive further reconsideration. It would be a real danger if inquiries became too meticulous, and it would also be a real danger if the broad trusteeship of the Government is not kept in mind, and if the Reports do not give a true picture of the general life of the territory, but are lost in a mass of meticulous detail repeated year after year, in many cases in report after report on the same case, without being of permanent value to the world.
In the institution of the Permanent Mandates Commission the whole world has an opportunity of seeing and learning, by expert supervision and review, of a large number of different cases. Consequently it must encourage the support of public opinion, of all parties, and of all schools of thought. It would be most unfortunate if the mandatory system were to become the subject of internal controversy in any country. As to the point with regard to sovereignty, where exactly the sovereignty in a mandate resides, no man has ever clearly defined legally. It is clear that Germany did transfer under Article 213 of the Treaty of Versailles all her rights to those territories to the Allies, who selected a manager who agreed, in acting as manager, to be bound by the terms of a particular trust. As to the relation between those territories administered under that trust and the actual position of the mandatory powers, these are embodied in the terms. Take Togoland and the Cameroons. We have power to administer British Togoland and British Cameroons as integral parts of the Gold Coast and Nigeria respectively. We have no such power in regard to Tanganyika, but in regard to Tanganyika we have power to found Customs Unions with neighbouring territories. I am glad the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Sir R. Hamilton) recognised that it is of the utmost importance for the future of those territories and the welfare of their inhabitants that there should be a sense of security and a sense that the mandatory Power has full executive authority undivided. That executive authority, I believe, is being carried on according to the highest traditions and in accordance with both the spirit and the letter of the several mandates. We do intend, whatever the future form of report that may be decided upon by the Council of the League in consultation with the Permanent Mandates Commission, that Great Britain shall not be behind in doing its duty under Article 22 of the Covenant of the League.