HC Deb 28 June 1920 vol 131 cc14-6

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that a Committee, under the chairmanship of the Lord Provost of Glasgow, has been formed for the purpose of relieving distress among the destitute and starving population of Montenegro, to which considerable sums of money have been subscribed in Glasgow and elsewhere; that this Committee recently despatched a mission to Montenegro to administer the relief under a British officer properly authorised and carrying full credentials for the purpose indicated; and that the mission has been forcibly prevented by the Serbians from entering Montenegro, whereby thousands of pounds' worth of stores and transport have been detained at the coast; whether all the facts connected with this outrage have been known for some time to the Secretary of State; and if he will say what steps have been taken by the Government to protect the material provided by the Glasgow Committee and to overcome the refusal of the Serbians to allow the remnant of starving Montenegrins to be saved by British charity?


The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative; as regards the second and third parts of the question, I understand that the representative of this Relief Fund arrived at Antivari without the necessary visas to his passport, and that the local authorities requested him to proceed to Belgrade in order to comply with the necessary formalities. The attitude of the Jugo-Slav authorities appears, so far as my information goes, to have been correct, and no force or violence was used against the members of the mission. The answer to the fourth part of the question is in the negative. As regards the last part of the question, I understand that the stores are in the custody of the Italian authorities at Antivari. Seeing that the difficulty which has arisen is admittedly due to the passport arrangements of the mission not having been in order, the first step to be taken would appear to be for the mission to see that the regulations under this head are properly complied with. If thereafter further difficulties should arise, the Secretary of State will be ready to consider what action, if any, it may be open to him to take.


Will my hon. Friend say whether he was aware that the head of this mission had a passport properly viséd in London, not only by our own Foreign Office, but by the Serbian authorities in London, and that it was counter-viséd by the Serbian authorities at Trieste? Under the circumstances, from whom does my hon. Friend derive his information, which is quite inaccurate?


I gave the hon. Member the best information at my dis- posal. The hon. Member is aware that there are many points about this mission which are very much disputed.


Will the hon. Gentleman take steps to find out whether he is correctly informed or not?


To the best of my ability I have taken steps, but I will take further steps if the hon. Member desires.


Would my hon. Friend say whether it would not be possible for those interested in this mission, namely, the Glasgow Committee, to be allowed proper information by the Foreign Office with regard to the necessary verification of passports; that they endeavoured to fulfil all the conditions, but did not obtain proper information?