HC Deb 06 March 1933 vol 275 cc793-7
34. Captain HUNTER

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what indications there are of universal agreement, on the part of the foreign countries concerned, with the decision of His Majesty's Government to ban the export of arms to China or Japan?


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will state what progress has been made with the negotiations set on foot by the League of Nations for the establishment of an embargo prohibiting the sale by members of the League of arms and other munitions of war to Japan?


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he can state the number and names of those countries which equally with ourselves have agreed to an embargo on the export of arms and munitions to the belligerents in the Far East, and the number and names of those countries which are not adopting this policy?

39. Mr. HANNON

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether any European Government has yet instituted an embargo upon the export of arms to the belligerent countries in the Far East; if any conference between European countries on this subject is contemplated; and, it no such conference is contemplated, when does he expect European Governments to declare their policy in this respect?


There is no indication of universal agreement. This leaves this country in a situation which cannot be allowed to continue, and this is the first matter which will be taken up by the Prime Minister and myself at Geneva this week.


Do we understand the right hon. Gentleman to imply by his answer that the Prime Minister and himself are going to press the question at Geneva in the hope that they may secure general agreement among all the nations?


The Prime Minister, I am sure, will deal with the matter with the greatest discretion, and, naturally, we shall want to know, when we reach Geneva, what the representatives of other Powers have to propose. I intend to communicate with the principal Powers before we start for Geneva in order that we may be informed in advance.


Has the right hon. Gentleman's attention been called to the intensified activity of the Creusot Works in France and the Skoda Works at Pilsen in Czechoslovakia?


Is the Foreign Minister satisfied that other countries are in a. position to be able to enforce this embargo as we are?


If the Government decide to reverse the decision taken last week, will this House have an opportunity both to discuss it and to vote on it?


I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that the decision announced last week was a provisional decision in order to give an opportunity of finding out what was the attitude taken up by other Powers. If, unfortunately, it turned out that the attitude taken up by other countries did not permit of universal agreement, there would be no reversal of the decision if we had to make a fresh announcement.


I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman if he is aware that the decision that was arrived at was welcomed by a very large proportion of the people of the country, and if it is to be reversed this House ought to have an opportunity of discussing and voting upon it, because it will be a reversal, despite what the right hon. Gentleman has said.


Can the right hon. Gentleman state whether the Government of any country in the world has expressed unqualified approval of our action with regard to this embargo—any country in the world?


Before the right hon. Gentleman answers that question, may I ask him whether it is necessary to have the approval and concurrence of foreign countries when we do the right thing?


I have already said that there is no indication of universal agreement, and it has been stated from this Box by the Prime Minister as well as by myself that, of course, we have always contemplated that the only permanent arrangement was one which would be universally accepted.


Can the right hon. Gentleman say if any other country in the world insists upon issuing Government licences for the export of munitions besides ourselves?


As far as I am aware, the system existing in this country, which requires a licence issued by the Government before arms and munitions are exported, is a system which does not obtain elsewhere.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this is giving serious offence both to Japan and China?


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his attention has been drawn to the ultimatum delivered by the Japanese Government to the Chinese Government on 23rd February, and communicated to the League of Nations on 24th February, to the effect that if the Chinese troops resist the Japanese invasion of the province of Jehol the Japanese Government will find it difficult to guarantee that fighting will not spread to North China; and whether, as the unanimous report of the Assembly of 24th February states that no question of Chinese responsibility can arise for the development of events since 18th September, 1931, he will inform the Japanese Government that it will be held responsible for any damage to British property or danger to British subjects resulting from the continuance and extension of the present hostilities?


The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. Before this, on the 12th January, His Majesty's Ambassador at Tokyo had already reminded the Japanese Government of the magnitude of British national interests in North China and warned them that damage to those interests would give rise to claims for compensation. On the outbreak of hostilities in Jehol, His Majesty's Consul-General at Mukden gave to the Japanese authorities a list of British subjects in Jehol, and His Majesty's Ambassador at Tokyo has requested the Japanese Government to take measures for their protection.


Has any response been received from the Japanese Government? Has there been any undertaking?


I should require notice of that question; I am not quite sure.

83. Mr. LUNN

asked the President of the Board of Trade what will be the position of arms and munition factories abroad owned by British firms; and whether such firms will still have facilities for selling arms and munitions to China and Japan from these factories abroad?

Lieut.-Colonel COLVILLE

The control exercised by this country applies only to exports shipped from United Kingdom ports.

84. Mr. LUNN

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether any existing arms contract between any British firms and the Chinese or Japanese Governments contains a renewable clause the fulfilment of which can defeat the aims of the arms embargo; and, if so, what is the nature of such a clause?

Lieut.-Colonel COLVILLE

I am not aware of the existence of any such clause.


Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman make inquiries to see whether there is anything of that nature being done by those who are exporting arms to China or Japan?

Lieut.-Colonel COLVILLE

I will bear in mind the point of my hon. Friend, but my answer is the result of inquiries.


What right has the Board of Trade to make inquiries unless the law is being broken? What is their locus standi in the matter?

Lieut.-Colonel COLVILLE

I have indicated that, as far as I am aware, there are no such clauses operating.


I understood my hon. Friend to say that he was going to ask for information? I ask him what locus standi he has for asking? None.