HC Deb 13 February 1934 vol 285 cc1759-62
Captain CUNNINGHAM-REID (by Private Notice)

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has now received from the Austrian Government a statement of the evidence on which their recent complaint to the German Government was based, and whether he can make any statement regarding the present situation in Austria?


The Austrian Minister communicated to me on the 8th February a collection of documents, constituting the material on which the Austrian Government propose to base their appeal to the League of Nations. On the following day I handed to Baron Franckenstein an aide memoire of which I will read the text: His Majesty's Government note that the Austrian Government have decided in principle to bring the matters of which they complain before the League under Article 11, paragraph 2, of the Covenant. His Majesty's Government have publicly stated that they do not seek to discourage Austria in bringing this appeal. The integrity and independence of Austria are an object of British policy, and while His Majesty's Government have no intention whatever of interfering in the internal affairs of another country, they fully recognise the right of Austria to demand that there should be no interference with her internal affairs from any other quarter. On entertaining Austria's appeal, the Council would presumably endeavour to ascertain what Germany may have to say as to the facts alleged, before reaching its recommendations. His Majesty's Government therefore think that the proper course is not to pronounce a view on the Austrian material in advance of its consideration by the Council. That was in reply to the first part of the hon. and gallant Gentleman's question. In reply to the second part of the question, Sir Walford Selby, His Majesty's Minister at Vienna, has been informed by the Political Director of the Austrian Ministry for Foreign Affairs, that the sequence of the principal events of yesterday was as follows: The Socialist headquarters at Linz were visited yesterday morning by the police in search of arms. There was armed resistance by members of the Socialist "Schutzbund" and one policeman was shot. The troops then intervened, and martial law was declared at Linz. Following these events, the Socialist party declared a general strike in Vienna, and this was answered by the Government with a declaration of martial law. The town hall was occupied in the evening by regular troops and the Mayor and principal officials were confined to their quarters. Sir Walford Selby also reports that the municipal council has been dissolved and the Minister of Social Welfare has been appointed Federal Commissioner for Vienna. There appears to have been intermittent street fighting with some loss of life, the extent of which cannot yet be estimated. The streets were in darkness last night—that is, the streets of Vienna—but otherwise essential services had not been interfered with. Martial law has been proclaimed in Carinthia and Styria, and disturbances appear to have taken place in the latter province. The rest of Austria is believed to be quiet.


Will the right hon. Gentleman make it clear to the Austrian Government that any suppression of representative institutions in Austria is not going to help their case with public opinion in this country?


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is for the Austrian citizens to decide between the Austrians and the Germans, now that the Austrians are doing the same thing that the Germans did?


May I ask if and when the League of Nations will be able to discuss the difficulties of Austria?


I believe the situation is that, though the Austrian Government have decided in principle to present their appeal to the League, it was left to Dr. Dolfuss to decide at what moment that should be done. As soon as that appeal is presented, I apprehend that there will be a special meeting of the Council.


Will the League take no notice of these disturbing events unless the matter is brought before them by Dr. Dolfuss?


I do not at the moment see how the League could of its own motion enter upon the matter of a dispute under an Article which gives to Austria the friendly right, to raise such questions, if Austria wishes to do so, as she says she does.


Is there not something, if not in that Article then in some other Article, which gives the League a certain responsibility where conditions in one nation are threatening the peace of Europe?


I must have notice of that question.


Will the Government make their support of Austria in the League of Nations Council dependent upon decent treatment of that Government's own citizens?


Can the right hon. Gentleman get for us any information as to the whereabouts of ex-Chancellor Renner, Mayor Seitz, and Herr Bauer, about whose fate the "Times" newspaper seems to be in doubt?


I have already asked for information, and I cannot give any answer to that question at present.


Can the right hon. Gentleman tell the House whether there was a number of provocative incidents towards the trade unions and co-operative societies—




I have some doubt in my mind as to whether a question dealing with the policy of another country is in order. It may be, if it only asks for information, but it certainly cannot be debated.