asked the the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will lay upon the Table the text of our treaties between 14th July, 1884, and 27th January, 1886, whereunder, on the withdrawal of Egyptian protection from Somali territory, the leading Mohammedan chiefs and inhabitants expressed voluntarily their desire to place their territories under the protection and jurisdiction of Her Majesty the Queen Empress; and whether he will state what negotiations, if any, have taken place between the governor and the inhabitants of those areas which it was proposed to transfer to another sovereignty?
The texts of the treaties in question are contained in Volumes 76 and 77 of the State Papers, but, for the convenience of the House, I have arranged for a memorandum containing the texts to be placed in the Library. As regards the second part of the question, no such negotiations took place having regard to the tentative nature of the suggestion made by my right hon. Friend the Minister for League of Nations Affairs to Signor Mussolini.
Am I to understand from the reply that the powers claimed by the Foreign Secretary for the Executive extend not only to the cession of British territory without the consent of this House, but also to the transfer of peoples, whom by treaty we have undertaken to protect, to another sovereignty, and further, what would happen if these people refused to be transferred?
I have explained that, the special circumstances described were on account of the tentative nature of the suggestion made. With regard to the question of transferring territory, it would not be necessary to have the consent of the tribes concerned, but, of course, we were bound to consult their interests and their interests would have been consulted by us if the suggestion had gone any further.
Is it not a fact that the right hon. Gentleman has acknowledged that these people have not been consulted. Had this proposal gone through, would the British Government have been expected either to have left them to their fate or, by force if necessary, to have driven them out of an agreement voluntarily entered into?
Lieut.-Colonel Sir ARNOLD WILSON:55.
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he took steps to ascertain the views of the Muhammedan inhabitants of Somaliland before assenting to the proposed transfer of territory, including the principal port, to another sovereignty?
May I ask my right hon. Friend whether before giving his assent to this tentative suggestion for and exercise of the Royal prerogative, His Majesty's pleasure on the subject was ascertained?
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the intense feeling which was aroused on a previous occasion when we transferred Somali subjects, this time to the Italian Government, and will he take into very serious account the possible effects on all the native populations in that area if any suggestions are made even tentatively in the future?
All those points were taken into consideration, and I would point out again that there never was any suggestion that any territory should be handed over unconditionally. There were certain conditions on which we would have required satisfaction.
I am advised by a high authority that the position which was suggested by my hon. and gallant Friend with regard to His Majesty's prerogative does not hold to-day as it did in the fairly recent past.
It was contemplated that the Port of Zeila might, subject to certain conditions, be ceded to Ethiopia, together with a corridor of territory roughly 50 miles long by 12 miles wide, linking it to that country. The number of inhabitants fluctuates according to the season; in Zeila itself it varies from about 3,000 in summer to about 7,000 in winter. There are no permanent inhabitants in the hinterland, which is only visited at certain seasons by nomadic tribesmen. As regards the last part of the question, I would refer to my reply a few minutes ago to Question No. 53 put by my hon. Friend the Member for Consett (Mr. Dickie).
Are offers of this sort conditional on numbers of people, and the character of the territory, or is it sufficient to say that it is under the Crown and that therefore certain steps should be taken?
Before making any further tentative suggestions on these lines, will the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues seriously consider the disquieting effects that such suggestions are going to make on the minds of native tribes throughout the British Empire?
I can only repeat what my right hon. Friend the Minister for League of Nations Affairs made clear in his statement the other day, that one of the conditions attaching to this tentative suggestion was that the grazing and watering rights of the tribes throughout British Somaliland where they exist outside our territory should be completely guaranteed.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in order to maintain the principles of the Covenant of the League of Nations, he will in future, in considering the transfer of territory from British to alien sovereignty, provide for the transfer to be made by means of a mandate of the League of Nations, thus ensuring periodical reports and supervision in the interests of the inhabitants?
I can assure my hon. and gallant Friend that in considering any such proposal His Majesty's Government would naturally satisfy themselves that the action contemplated was consistent with the terms of the Covenant.
Is it the view of the right hon. Gentleman that he cannot better serve the principles of the League of Nations than by endeavouring to prevent war between two of its members?
Yes, Sir, I can assure my hon. Friend that it is the consistent policy of His Majesty's Government to keep the House fully informed in such matters. My hon. Friend no doubt has in mind the suggestion recently made by His Majesty's Government to Signor Mussolini as regards the cession to Abyssinia of a small strip of British Somaliland, to which I referred in the House last Monday.
This suggestion represented an effort to reach an agreed settlement of a situation which His Majesty's Government regard with grave concern. It was put forward solely in order to find out from Signor Mussolini whether, should His Majesty's Government make a formal proposal on these lines it would be likely to commend itself to the Italian Government as a constructive contribution to the settlement of the dispute between Italy and Abyssinia. For that reason, as the House will appreciate, it could not be published in advance of its preliminary communication to Signor Mussolini. But, had the suggestion been favourably received, a full explanation of it would at once have been given to the House with opportunity for full discussion.
I would like further to make it clear that, had this tentative suggestion been favourably received, His Majesty's Government would at once have entered into consultation with the French Government as co-signatory of the 1906 Treaty, and with the Ethiopian Government.
In view of the grave danger that this tentative proposal may be taken by certain Foreign Powers as a precedent, will the right hon. Gentleman make it perfectly clear that His Majesty's Government will not try to induce Foreign Powers to keep the peace by the transfer of British territory?
Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether Signor Mussolini was informed that this offer was conditional on the assent of the people in Somaliland, with whom we had entered into treaty? Was it tentative in that sense?
The number of natives of British Somaliland now serving in the Royal Navy is 142. As regards the Royal Indian Navy, I understand from my noble Friend that there is no information available in his Department, but if my hon. and gallant Friend desires, inquiries will be made of the Government of India.