HC Deb 22 May 1933 vol 278 cc747-9
18. Mr. LUNN

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that the report adopted by the Council of the League of Nations on 18th March, 1933, concerning the dispute between Peru and Colombia, recommended the evacuation by the Peruvian forces of the territory contained in the Leticia Trapezium and the withdrawal of all support from the Peruvians, who have occupied that area; that the Council expressed confidence that the members of the League would refrain from any act that might prejudice the execution of the Council's recommendations; that, in a communication to the Government of Peru, dated 9th May, 1933, the Advisory Committee requested that the Peruvian Government should refrain from sending to the Amazon warships which would have to pass south of the Leticia Trapezium; that the Advisory Committee, on 8th May and 10th May, 1933, decided that facilities for provisioning these vessels should not be granted; that the Netherlands Govern- ment, therefore, refused to give to these Peruvian warships the facilities which they requested at Curacao; that these ships were subsequently given supplies at Trinidad; whether he has any explanations to give to the House on this matter; and whether His Majesty's Government will in future comply with the recommendations of the Advisory Committee of the Council?


As there are various inaccuracies in the recital of events contained in the hon. Member's question, it will be convenient to record the facts as follows.

At a meeting of the Advisory Committee on the 6th May a draft recommendation was put forward in which the proposal was made that Governments should undertake to refuse facilities to Peruvian warships proceeding to the Amazon basin. While the principle expressed in this recommendation was provisioNaily accepted by the Committee, its text was regarded as too vague, and it was decided to consider the matter further at a later meeting. I must emphasise that this was merely a draft recommendation, not as yet textually adopted by the Committee, and in no sense binding upon Governments unless and until specifically accepted by them. On the 8th and 9th May further meetings of the Committee were held, at which it was decided to inform the Peruvian Government that the Advisory Committee considered it to be undesirable that these ships should be sent up the Amazon. Pending the receipt of the Peruvian Government's reply no final decision was taken by the Advisory Committee with regard to the draft recommendation of the 8th May.

On the 11th May a request was received from the Peruvian Government for permission for the three ships in question to visit Trinidad on the 12th or 13th May. On the same day instructions were sent by telegraph to the Governor of Trinidad not to grant facilities pending the receipt of instructions, for which he was to ask immediately on the arrival of the ships. It should be remarked that these precautionary instructions were despatched, despite the fact that the draft recommendation had still not been fiNaily adopted by the Advisory Committee.

On the same day, the 11th May, the ships arrived at Port of Spain, a day or two days ahead of their scheduled time and before the instructions mentioned above had reached the Governor, and as a result were able to take on board supplies sufficient to take them to their next port of call. This was, I understand, the same treatment as that accorded by the Dutch authorities at Curacao.

With regard to the last part of this question, the United Kingdom delegate at Geneva has, under instructions, made the following statement: His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom view with misgivings the taking of any steps which are not in conformity with recognised international practice in dealing with the warships of a friendly Power which is not a belligerent. The United Kingdom delegate added that such a measure would, in effect, be a form of sanction not taken under Article 16 of the Covenant, and apparently without any precedent. He specifically declared, however, that nevertheless, His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom are prepared to accept this particular draft recommendation subject to (a) certain minor modifications, (b) the reservation that it is clearly understood that no precedent is being created for future eases of a similar nature, and (c) its acceptance by the Governments of all the Powers represented on the Advisory Committee, and by the Governments of the Netherlands and Venezuela.