HC Deb 10 December 1935 vol 307 cc716-9
23. Miss CAZALET

asked the President of the Board of Trade what action, whether any, the Government are taking to safeguard the position of individuals in this country whose work and livelihood are being affected by the imposition of sanctions against Italy?


It is realised that the collective action in which His Majesty's Government are taking part must affect in various ways the position of individuals in this country. While, as my hon. Friend will appreciate, the Government cannot undertake to ask Parliament to provide funds for the grant of pecuniary compensation to those who may be adversely affected, they will take every opportunity to safeguard the position of United Kingdom trade interests.


Can my hon. and gallant Friend give an estimate of the number of coal miners whose employment has been adversely affected?


Certainly not without notice.


Does not my hon. and gallant Friend consider that sanctions are a form of insurance against war and that those who suffer by such insurance should receive compensation?


(by Private Notice) asked the Prime Minister whether, before any further action is taken, this House will be informed of the nature of the proposals for the settlement of the Italo-Abyssinian war to which His Majesty's Government are committed?

The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Baldwin)

The House is aware that the Committee of Co-ordination at Geneva has approved negotiations by the French and United Kingdom Governments in an attempt to find a basis for the settlement of the Italo-Abyssinian dispute. Such a basis would, of course, have to be submitted for the views of the parties. The Foreign Secretary, in passing through Paris, had conversations on this subject on Saturday and Sunday with M. Laval, and certain proposals, both as to substance and procedure, were discussed between them. No suggested basis has at present been submitted for the views of either Italy or Abyssinia, and it would clearly he premature to make a statement on the subject at present.


May I ask whether the proposals which have been approved by the Foreign Secretary are substantially those which have already appeared in the foreign Press and in our own Press, and whether they are considered to be in line with the Covenant of the League of Nations?


I have not myself examined the Press reports. There has obviously been a leakage in France which has made a very difficult and delicate matter incomparably more difficult and more delicate, but I am told by those who have studied the original proposals and the Press reports that there are considerable differences in the matter of substance. Perhaps that answers the right hon. Gentleman's question.


In view of the fact that we have had some kind of account and publication, is it not fair that this House should be put in possession of the proposals?


I can perfectly well understand that question, and I am not complaining about it at all. I want to put this to the House. I have spent the whole of this morning in consultation on messages which have been coming through on this matter, and I am not at all sure that finality has yet been reached. I think that any discussion in this House before the question can possibly have been considered by the parties interested and concerned could do no good, and might do a great deal of harm. I recognise the natural desire of the House for all the information it can have, but I cannot myself see—I will put it in this way in my view a discussion at this moment might do very serious harm—I am not thinking of the Government but of the whole cause we have at heart—and I will undertake to the House that the moment that proposals are agreed upon and have been submitted, and we are in a position to lay all the relevant papers, which we cannot do on our own account alone and in the middle of the negotiations, I will lay them before the House and undertake to give a day for discussion at the earliest moment I can, in any case before the House rises for the Christmas Recess.


The right hon. Gentleman will see the difficulty in which we are placed. It is this. We are concerned as to what kind of proposals have been accepted by this Government, and have been submitted to the League in the name of the people of this country. We are not in a position to wait, because here, in a crisis like this, is a matter which has been the subject of a General Election, and we understand that proposals which, in our view, overthrow the whole basis of the League system, are being put forward in order to settle this question. We have no desire to embarrass the Government, but we are obliged to press for information and discussion.


I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that these proposals are merely a basis for discussion, and there is no precedent that I am aware of for having such basis placed before Parliament and discussed before they have been reached or have been considered by the parties who are to consider them, according to the procedure of the League of Nations.


Can the right hon. Gentleman give the House an assurance that it is still the firm policy of the Government not to agree to any terms which go further than what has been approved by the Committee of Five of the League of Nations?


What I think has always been said by the Government is that a necessary condition is approval by the three parties, that is the League and the two countries concerned.


In view of the importance of this matter, we feel obliged to discuss what is the proper basis of any proposals and we will take the opportunity, after the Liberal Amendment to the Address has been disposed of, of raising the matter of what is the basis of a satisfactory settlement, according to the principles of the League of Nations.


Can the Prime Minister give the House an assurance that the principle that the aggressor shall not be rewarded for his aggression will be upheld by the British Government?

Brigadier-General Sir HENRY CROFT

May I urge the Prime Minister and His Majesty's Government not to allow any party in this House to arrogate to themselves the duties of the League of Nations as a whole and to intervene in this matter before this question again comes before the League?


May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to remember that the only party in this connection is the English people and that the British Government is not the honest broker between two rivals, considering their policy and their honour?

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