HC Deb 03 February 1932 vol 261 cc127-9

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

May I say, in putting this question, that it was in deference to a special request made to us by the Prime Minister on public grounds that we refrained from raising this matter on the Adjournment last night?


I acknowledge the right hon. Gentleman's public spirit in that course. Since I made my statement to the House yesterday, a number of messages have been received from the Far East. His Majesty's Ship "Berwick" has arrived at Shanghai and the disembarkation of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and of the Mountain Battery of the Royal Artillery took place to-day.

The situation in Shanghai remains very delicate. The latest information indicates that the international commanders are cordially co-operating in the work of maintaining order within the settlement and the position in this respect appears to be more satisfactory. His Majesty's Consul-General reports that the municipal police are beginning again to function in, at any rate, parts of the Japanese sector of the International Settlement. On the other hand, I regret to have to confirm the fact that there was further fighting in Shanghai yester- day. Japanese reconnoitring aeroplanes were fired upon, and thereafter the Chinese position was subjected to heavy gunfire, but, as far as my information goes, the Japanese lines have not been advanced.

The Japanese Consul-General in Shanghai has informed the other Consular representatives that a destroyer squadron passing the Woosung forts at the mouth of the river, 10 or 13 miles below Shanghai, had been fired upon this morning and returned the fire, and that it was intended to occupy Woosung. We still await full authoritative answers to the representations made by the four Powers to the Japanese and Chinese Governments, and, in the meantime, I am convinced that it is highly desirable to. give time for these good offices to have their undisturbed effect. I may say that there are grounds for hope that these are having a good result.

If I may, I venture to add that in these circumstances I deprecate discussion at the moment.


May I be allowed to say just this. In a matter of this kind, obviously the responsibility must rest with His Majesty's Government, but we feel that the very earliest opportunity ought to be given to the House for a full and complete discussion of the whole of the questions involved in the Chinese-Japanese dispute. Having said that, we certainly shall not try to raise a discussion.


While one naturally would listen to an appeal of this sort from the Secretary of State with very great respect, I want to put it to him that a regiment of soldiers has been moved out there—the gallant Sutherland Highlanders. They happen to be the Territorial Regiment from my neighbourhood. They are the sons of working men. This matter is being discussed in Geneva by representatives of Great Britain. It is being discussed in Shanghai by Consuls-General. It is being discussed everywhere, and we, the House of Commons, who are responsible for sending these men out there to risk their lives—because we are ultimately responsible, not the Consuls-General—are asked to abstain from discussion, or to refrain from asking for information, until such time as it is all settled one way or another. I say that the request of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs that this House should give up its rights of discussing an important issue of this sort is the most preposterous of all the preposterous demands that the present Government have made upon this House.


With regard to the matter of information, I think the hon. Member will agree with me what I am sure is the general opinion of the House, that I have given information of the fullest possible kind; and there is no more information that I could lay before the House. As regards a discussion, I am not in the least seeking—it would be no part of my duty—to obstruct the House in the exercise of its undoubted rights. I merely said that I deprecate it. The present delicate situation can hardly be improved by discussion.

Back to
Forward to