HC Deb 04 May 1915 vol 71 cc980-5

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in the interests of Lancashire trade which is prejudicially affected by the uncertainty, he can yet make any statement regarding the progress of the Chino-Japanese negotiations on the subject of the demands presented by Japan to China?

10 and 11. Sir WILLIAM BULL

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (1) whether he has any official information showing that Japan has sent an ultimatum to China in connection with the revised statement of her demands, or that force may be used to ensure the acceptance of those demands; whether the time has now arrived that friendly British diplomacy may be usefully employed; and (2) whether, in view of the official publication at Tokio of the text of the original Japanese demands, he can now state whether the request for exclusive spheres of commercial influence is compatible with the preamble of the Anglo-Japanese Treaty?

15. Mr. YEO

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has yet received the text of the revised Japanese demands to China; and whether, seeing that the original text has now been officially issued in Japan, he can lay both upon the Table of the House, so that Members may judge if any of the demands conflict with British interests?


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he has received from the Japanese Government a communication conveying full particulars of the new and revised demands which Japan has made upon China; if he is aware that Japan has brought the menace of military force to support its demands; if the demands as set forth in the latest form are consonant with the terms of the treaty obligations to which this country is bound; if these demands propose conditions which would take away the independence of China and also threaten British interests; and if he proposes to take no action but to allow Japan to enforce these demands on China if she is able to do so?


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he can give any information as to the new terms alleged to be demanded by Japan from China; whether some of them are of an exclusive character; and whether, if a time limit of a week, as is alleged, has been imposed for a reply, he will make friendly representations to Japan in favour of the withdrawal of so drastic a time limit?


I must refer the hon. Members in whose names these questions appear to-day in regard to the negotiations now proceeding at Peking to the collective answer which I gave to several similar questions on 20th April, to the effect that so long as the negotiations are not concluded His Majesty's Government are not in a position to make a statement. I may again remind the House that the communications made to me by the Japanese Government on the subject are of a confidential nature, and that I am therefore not at liberty to discuss their terms, and I am not aware that any official or accurate version of the demands has yet been published.


Are we to understand from that reply that the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to do nothing until Japan by military force, having already 60,000 troops in China, has imposed her authority upon China? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we are bound by treaty obligations to maintain the integrity of China? Is he prepared to regard that simply as "a scrap of paper" and do nothing at all?


I do not think that there is anything in my answer to give rise to that issue. The position I am placed in is this: The Japanese Government have given information confidentially to us and, I think, also to some other Governments, as to their actual demands upon China. They have given that information confidentially. I am, therefore, in the position either of having to say, when a Government offers me information confidentially, that I will not receive it and will not know; or, if I do receive it, of being unable to disclose it. I have throughout regarded this matter as one of the greatest importance, and, although I am not in a position to make a disclosure in regard to it, we have been in communication with the Japanese Government, both on the question of the objects of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance in general and as to British commercial interests in particular which might be affected by the Japanese demands.


Is the right hon. Gentleman in a position to state to the House whether His Majesty's Government are working in harmony with the United States in this matter?


A question of that character ought to be put on the Paper.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he can inform Parliament if any communications have passed between the United States Government and the British Government in connection with the demands made upon the Chinese Government by the Japanese Government; and, if so, whether I he will lay them before Parliament?


Beyond a brief informal conversation with the United States Ambassador in February, no communications have passed between the United States Government and His Majesty's Government on the subject of these demands.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he can now state the number of Japanese troops at Hankow; whether contingents are likewise retained there by other Powers interested in China; and, if so, of what strength they are?


According to our latest information, the number of Japanese troops at Hankow is stated to be 39 officers, 633 men, with 30 machine guns. We are not aware that any other Power retains a contingent there.

13. Mr. LYNCH

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has received official information of any Note sent by the United States Government to China regarding the Japanese demands; and whether he will consider the advisability, if such a Note, has been sent, of the British Government putting on record its view regarding certain of the demands, which will, it is believed, materially affect British trade?


The answer to the first part of the question is in the negative.

14. Mr. LYNCH

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he can inform the House of the nature of the railway concessions in South-Eastern China granted to British firms which now form part of the Japanese demands put forward to China; whether these concessions are still regarded as valid by the British Government; and whether the British Government has made any representations at Tokyo on the subject?


I would refer the hon. Member to the answer which I gave to the hon. Member for Maldon on the 22nd ultimo in regard to British railway concessions in this district. His Majesty's Government unquestionably regard them as valid, but I do not consider that any useful purpose would be served by giving details in regard to them to the House. As I stated on 22nd April, the Japanese Government have been informed of them. I must point out that it is not a question of concessions actually given to British subjects being cancelled and granted to Japanese as would appear from the terms of the question on the Paper, but of new concessions being demanded from China which might or would unfairly compete with existing British concessions.


May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if the Japanese Government, in addition to the confidential communication, are keeping him informed of important operations, or reported operations, in China?


I do not quite know to what the hon. Member refers. If he means that the Japanese Government are keeping us, or any other Government, informed of everything they are doing in China, of course no such practice exists.


The question was not directed to small operations, but to operations really of a strategic character.


Perhaps the hon. Member had better put down a definite question on the Paper.

16. Mr. LYNCH

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether official support of a demand by one of its own nationals for a commercial concession in China is regarded as requiring prior official sanction of any subsequent sort for disposal of such concession to a national or to nationals of another country; and, if so, whether such a view will be insisted upon in the present discussions affecting commercial interests in China?


I am not sure that I quite grasp the exact meaning of the hon. Member's question. But, if I understand it correctly, no concession granted by the Chinese Government to the subject of any foreign Power could be transferred to any other person, whether a countryman of the original concessionaire or not, without previously obtaining the consent of the Chinese Government, and similarly no concession obtained by the subject of any Power, and registered in the ordinary course at the Legation of that Power in China, could be disposed of to the subject of another Power without the previous consent of the Government of the original concessionaire. This view will certainly prevail if there appears to be any likelihood of the principle stated above being infringed in the course of the present discussions.

73. Mr. LYNCH

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he has received from the Government of Hong Kong any expression of opinion regarding the possible effect on the trade and railway of that Colony of the Japanese demands affecting South-Eastern China; and, if not, will he obtain one in order either to allay the anxiety in the Colony or to protect its interests?

The SECRETARY Of STATE for the COLONIES (Mr. Harcourt)

I would refer the hon. Member to the answer given by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on the 20th of April. It is not possible for me to add anything to the statement made by my right hon. Friend.