HC Deb 21 August 1916 vol 85 cc2281-2
Sir P. MAGNUS (by Private Notice)

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he could make any statement on his recent mission to Italy?

The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Runciman)

rose amid general cheers, on his return after illness. In reply to the question, the right hon. Gentleman said:

For some time past questions affecting supplies in Italy have been the subject of communications between His Majesty's Government and the Italian Government, and the Italian Government invited me to visit Italy in order to discuss and deal with these questions.

On the authority of the Prime Minister and the War Committee I accepted the invitation, and a Conference was held at Pallanza from the 9th to the 14th August, at which His Majesty's Government was represented by the British Ambassador at Rome and myself, and the Italian Government by the Minister of Commerce and the Minister for Maritime and Railway Transports.

Consideration was given to the question of the supply and price of coal for Italy, a matter which has for long been a serious preoccupation to the Italian Government. I am hopeful that, as the result of the dis- cussions, Italy will be assured of her essential supplies of coal. With the assistance of the organisation which is being set up by the Italian Government, and with the co-operation of the British coal and shipping interests, the arrangements made at the Conference will have a beneficial effect upon the cost of the carriage of coal to Italy, and will prevent the recurrence of the high prices from which Italy suffered so severely last winter and spring.

The question of the restriction of enemy trading was also discussed, and the representatives of the Italian Government were able to inform me of the issue of two Decrees during the sittings of the Conference, one of which prohibits all Italian subjects from trading with subjects of enemy States, and of countries allied to enemy States, while the other places under Government control and renders liable to sequestration or liquidation commercial undertakings in Italy belonging to, or controlled by, subjects of enemy States or their allies.

The problems of supply of other important products essential for the conduct of the War, and for the Italian mercantile marine, have also been taken into serious consideration.

The House will realise that it would not be expedient to make public those measures for the more efficient and effective prosecution of the War which were dealt with, and I hope that the House will rest content with the brevity of the notice to which the two Governments thought it necessary to restrict their announcement of the results of the Conference.

No formal Convention was signed at the Conference, and no document was drawn up except a record of the proceedings.

I should like to take this opportunity of reaffirming my warm appreciation of the cordial welcome which was given to me, as the representative of this country, by the Prime Minister of Italy and of his colleagues, and of the feeling of affectionate friendship to England which was shown by the enthusiastic and unmistakable character of public demonstrations. I felt justified in assuring the representatives of the Italian Government that this feeling was warmly reciprocated by the Government and people of Great Britain.


Arising out of that reply, did the right hon. Gentleman discover, when he was in Italy, why the Italian Government did not declare war upon Germany?