§ LORD LAMINGTON had the following Question on the Paper—
§ To ask His Majesty's Government whether they can give any further information as to the recent fighting in the Aden hinterland.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, since the publication of Sir Charles Munro's Despatch at the end of October dealing with the fighting that had taken place in various areas in the Near East, there appeared in the Press about ten days ago a reference 61 to further fighting in the Aden hinterland. In July last, I think it was, I addressed a Question about the fighting in the Aden hinterland to the noble Earl the Leader of the House and in the course of his reply he dealt with the question of the behaviour of those tribes who are under our suzerainty in that district. He then gave an assurance that those tribes had remained favourable to us, and I trust that in the course of his reply this afternoon he will be able to repeat that assurance.
§ There is one particular point, of which I have given private notice, on which I would ask a question namely, in connection with the position of the Turkish force in the Aden hinterland. About a fortnight ago there appeared in The Times a very interesting article as to the establishment of the new Kingdom of Hejaz. That article narrated how the King of the Hejaz had succeeded in securing order in his dominions and how the pilgrims could now go to Mecca in safety without fear of having money extorted from them, or of being robbed, or even of being murdered. That, if true, shows that the Hej Kingdom is now in a fairly well-settled state. That being the case, I do not quite understand how it is that the Turks in the Aden hinterland are able to obtain their supplies and reinforcements. The Turkish force is obviously hummed in by the King of the Hejaz on the north and by our position at Aden in the south, and as we have command of the Red Sea—at least I presume we have—I do not understand how it is that the. Turkish force is able to put up so very prolonged a fight in that country, which ought to be under our own governing.
§ Since I put the Question on the Paper another matter has been brought to my notice—namely, that the administration of Aden has been transferred from the Government; of Bombay to the Foreign Office. That is a proposal which has been made for some time past, but it is one which I have always regarded with some misgiving, I am not aware of anything in the record of the administration by the Foreign Office of any of our Possessions that is calculated to give one confidence that the Foreign Office can successfully administer a very important outpost like Aden. On the other hand, the noble Earl the Leader of the House, with his consummate knowledge of Indian administration, is not likely to have allowed a transfer of this character to take place without having every guarantee that the administration 62 would be successfully carried out in the future. I do not think it has been publicly made known that this change of administration has taken place, and I therefore invite the noble Earl, in reply, to say really what has occurred in this matter.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
My Lords, I will reply to my noble friend's Question to the best of my ability, although there is not really very much to say about what is going on in this minor, but, as he knows quite well, not altogether unimportant theatre of war. The line which has been held by our troops at some distance from Aden is the same line as that which they have held since July, 1915. The line consists of the defensive posts of Imad and Sheikh Othman, and includes Robat, and it describes an are of about eleven miles from Aden. Throughout this period since 1915 there have been constant patrol skirmishes and small outpost actions, and the Turkish posts and camps have been continually bombarded by our guns. Quite a short time ago—on November 22—the latest and most successful of these local actions occurred on a somewhat larger scale than any of its predecessors. This was at Jabir, a Turkish post which the British forces attacked and captured, and the defences of which they destroyed. The Turks are based at Lahej, which they took from a chief who was friendly to us, in the early stages of the war. Between their lines and ours is a strip of desolate and waterless country. Their troops are distributed over a wide area, and a portion of their force directly fronts ours outside our lines at a slight distance from Aden.
The noble Lord asked me three questions. The first is as to the attitude of the tribes with whom we were on friendly relations before the war began. I have no definite information, but I have no reason to doubt that what I said on the last occasion still holds good. The second point is one which has occurred to many of us—namely, how is it that the Turks, in their position in the south-west corner of Arabia, are able to maintain their communication with Turkey and secure their ammunition and supplies. So far as we know they have no direct communication with Turkey at all, and no reinforcements or supplies of ammunition and other war material have reached them. They have only the resources—perhaps I had better not give them to the House—in men and material which they had at that time.
63 The last question which the noble Lord asked was as to the administration of Aden. No absolute and final transference has been made, because this is a matter which should not, I think, be finally determined during the period of the war. It raises important considerations of administration and policy which His Majesty's Government have not yet had an opportunity of examining. I myself am, and always have been, in favour of some such transfer. But the reason why a modified transfer has taken place now has arisen out of the exigencies of the war. It became necessary some time ago to place the troops at Aden under the War Office, just as the troops in Mesopotamia were so placed; and there then ensued certain dislocation of action because, while military operations were under one Department, political action was under another. Therefore it was decided, with the concurrence of the Government of India, to transfer the political charge of Aden to the Home Government, and our adviser upon the matter now is Sir Reginald Wingate, the High Commissioner at Cairo. When the war comes to an end the, future of these areas—Arabia, Mesopotamia, and other neighbouring countries—will have to be reconsidered, and the form of administration that will then be set up is one which no action now taken need in the least degree prejudice.
As regards the whole situation at Aden, I may say, in conclusion, that of course the position is one which we should like to clear up. Undoubtedly it would strengthen our position in Arabia and against the Turks if we succeeded in clearing it, up, but nobody knows better than the noble Lord the great calls which have been made upon our forces in that part of the world. Therefore we have not been able to fake all the action desired, and for the time being the Aden situation has, I am afraid, had to wait.
As regards the next Question on the Paper in Lord Lamington's name relating to Persia, * I am sorry to say that I saw it
§ * Lord LAMINGTON'S Question on the Paper was in the following terms: To ask His Majesty's Government whether information can be given as regards Sir Percy Sykes's force, and as to where it is now operating in Persia; whether the Government have had brought to their notice the large losses that the Imperial Bank of Persia and the Anglo-Persia Oil Company have incurred owing to the action of Persian subjects instigated by German influences; and whether a statement can be made as to the condition of affairs generally in Persia.64
§ on the Order Paper this morning for the first time, and I have not had an opportunity of obtaining the information which is desired. If, however, my noble friend will be kind enough to ask the Question on a future occasion I will undertake to answer it.
§ LORD LAMINGTON
I sent a communication to the noble Earl on Saturday. I think it was, stating that I was going to ask the Question.