HC Deb 02 February 1932 vol 261 cc17-22
23. Mr. MANDER

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will state the present position in Manchuria?


Chinchow, in South Manchuria, was occupied by Japanese troops without fighting on the 3rd of January, the Chinese regular forces having been withdrawn inside the Great Wall. Since then the Japanese appear to be in control of South Manchuria and have been engaged in operations against guerilla forces. North of Mukden the situation is obscure. It appears that, as a result of fighting between rival Chinese Provincial Governments at Kirin and Pinhsien, the troops of the latter were defeated and fled towards Harbin. It is reported that two battalions of Japanese troops are being sent by rail to Harbin in order to protect Japanese life and property.


What steps are the Government taking in China to offer the protection to which they are entitled against further Japanese aggression?


(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has any statement to make on the situation in China?


I regret to state that hostilities of a very serious nature broke out on the night of the 28th of January between the Chinese and Japanese at Shanghai. His Majesty's Government regard these events with grave concern both in the general interests of peace and owing to the proximity of the International Settlement with the consequent danger to the lives and property of British nationals. We have lost no time in making pressing representations, more than once repeated, and have urged the Japanese and Chinese Governments and their commanders on the spot to accept a scheme, which has been put forward as a result of the efforts of the British and United States Consuls-General in Shanghai, for the establishment of a neutral zone between the Chinese and Japanese forces. This zone would have to be occupied by troops of the neutral Powers which have forces in the International Settlement. Instructions have been given for British troops to co-operate if the zone can be established. Owing to the efforts of the Consuls-General a truce was arranged on the evening of the 29th of January, but I regret to see in the latest Press reports that fighting appears to have broken out again. His Majesty's Government have further urged upon both Governments, with the utmost earnestness, to do what lies in and upon them to remedy the existing situation.

As regards the military and naval position, in addition to the three British battalions already at Shanghai, His Majesty's Government decided on Sunday to dispatch His Majesty's Ship "Berwick" from Hong Kong, carrying a battalion of infantry arid a battery of artillery as a reinforcement; she is due to arrive to-night. The naval forces, consisting of His Majesty's Ship "Cornwall" and His Majesty's Ship "Sandwich," together with two gunboats, will shortly be reinforced by His Majesty's Ship "Kent," due to arrive on Friday, while His Majesty's Ship "Suffolk" arrived on Sunday.

His Majesty's Government has throughout acted in closest consultation with the other Powers primarily concerned. This course is being and will be actively maintained. His Majesty's Consul-General is similarly co-operating closely with the representatives of the other Powers at Shanghai.

A word about Nanking, although it is not in the question. About 11 p.m. last night Japanese men-of-war on the river opened fire with several rounds of live shell in the direction of the city of Nanking. Our latest information is that all is quiet for the moment and that all British subjects are safe.

A statement similar to the above is being made this afternoon by the Secretary of State for the Dominions at a specially convened meeting of the Council of the League at Geneva.

I would now add, and this is of great importance, that instructions were sent to His Majesty's representatives at Tokyo and Nanking to deliver this morning to those Governments the following proposals, and press strongly for their acceptance, indicating that they are being simultaneously urged upon the other party. These proposals have been concerted with the United States Government, and the French and Italian Governments are being asked to act similarly. Since this answer was prepared for me, I have received information that both the French and Italian Governments consent to do so.

These proposals are:—

  1. 1. Cessation of all acts of violence on both sides forthwith on the following terms:
  2. 2. No further mobilisation or preparation whatever for further hostilities.
  3. 3. Withdrawal of both Japanese and Chinese combatants from all points of mutual contact in the Shanghai area.
  4. 4. Protection of the International Settlement by the establishment of neutral zones to divide the combatants. These zones to be policed by neutrals; the arrangements to be set up by the Consular authorities on the spot.
  5. 5. Upon acceptance of these conditions prompt advances to be made in negotiation to settle all outstanding controversies between the two nations in the spirit of the Pact of Paris, and the resolution of the League of Nations of the 9th December without prior demand or reservations and with the aid of neutral observers or participants.


I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether, in view of that statement by the Foreign Secretary, at the conclusion of the proceedings to-night on the Bill to be discussed, which is non-controversial, we might have a further discussion on this matter. I do not want to say anything at the moment, but there are considerations which in our judgment and in the judgment of a good many people outside should be dealt with by this House. If we cannot have this discussion by agreement, I shall be obliged to ask Mr. Speaker to allow us to bring the matter up as a matter of urgent public importance; but I would prefer, if possible that we should discuss it by agreement.


I happen to have a very full knowledge of the situation and of the negotiations in progress. For instance, we have had no reply to the representations that have been made by the United States, France, Italy and ourselves, sent out this morning. I venture to advise the House that at the moment it would be most inopportune to have a Debate which might do a great deal of harm and could not possibly do any good.


Everything may be as the Prime Minister says, but on the last occasion when this matter was raised we went away hoping and believing that something was going to be done. I think that the country and the world ought to recognise that up to this point the Japanese Government have been engaging in a piece of international piracy—


Order, Order, and Withdraw!


The right hon. Gentleman must remember that he is talking about a friendly Power.


I am quite conscious of my responsibility in the matter, Mr. Speaker, and the responsibility of any Member of this House.




Whether it is one or 100 makes no difference. A Member of this House has a right, in an international situation such as this, to make his protest, and the thing that I am protesting about—


On a point of Order. Is it in order for the right hon. Gentleman, the Leader of the Opposition, to use the term "piracy" against a friendly Power. I wish, with the greatest respect to point out to you, Mr. Speaker, the serious effect it will have in the foreign countries if the right hon. Gentleman is permitted to make such statements and does not withdraw.


I have already drawn the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the fact that he did make that remark about a friendly Power.




I have not the slightest intention of withdrawing.


Sit down.


I have no intention of sitting down. In this House the Russian Soviet Government, which is as friendly as any otherGovernment— [Interruption]—has been denounced over and over again.


On a point of Order. Is it not an abuse of questions to make a veiled attack, or open attack, on a friendly power under the guise of a question?


I have already said what I have to say on the subject. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not repeat the remark.


I wish to ask the Prime Minister a question so that we may be quite clear on this matter. Does he refuse to give us facilities to debate this question—that is if there is agreement to finish at an early hour discussion on the Bill which is to be before the House to-night?


May I add my demand to that of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition for an early discussion on this question? The Prime Minister, in his reply, only suggests that such a discussion might complicate things very badly, but there has not been a Debate on this issue in the House of Commons for eight weeks, and things have become steadily more complicated, without the interference of the House of Commons. I, for one, want a very early opportunity of knowing just precisely what the Foreign Office have been doing in the interval. We have now arrived at a point where British citizens are seriously in danger. We are asked to postpone a discussion, but the situation is there, and this House has the right, at the very earliest moment, which is to-day, to hear precisely what steps our Foreign Office have been taking in the matter. I urge the right hon. Gentleman in the interests of every one concerned, in the interests of the people in Shanghai, to give us the opportunity which the Opposition is prepared to help in providing.


I am afraid that what is asked for is not the opportunity of getting information. If that point were put to me I would be willing to consider it, but what is wanted is a Debate, and I need not add to what I have already said, especially as the Leader of the Opposition has given such admirable evidence of it.


I beg to give Notice that at the end of Questions I shall ask for leave to move the Adjournment.

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