HC Deb 18 December 1936 vol 318 cc2820-62

When the House was summoned to another place I was about to quote an extract on which my hon. Friend the Member for Derby based a question the other day in reference to Abyssinia, and I was also about to point out that this extract originally referred to affairs in China. It is as follows:— The twelve Members of the Council recall the terms of Article 10 of the Covenant by which all Members of the League have undertaken to respect and preserve the territorial integrity and existing political independence of all other Members. It is their friendly right to direct attention to this provision particularly as it appears to them to follow that no infringement of the territorial integrity and no change in the political independence of any Member of the League brought about in disregard of this Article ought to be recognised as valid and effectual by the Members of the League of Nations. That had reference, as I say, originally to affairs in China, and it still has a bearing upon the problem there. I would like, therefore, to know whether the Government still hold the view that the League of Nations should continue to take an active interest in events in the Far East in the light of the document which I have just read.

I pass from this reference to the Far East to a consideration of the position in Abyssinia in connection with which my hon. Friend put the Question I have just mentioned. What is the present position of the League of Nations vis-a-vis Abyssinia? I take it that there is nothing in contemplation that would in any wise be a recognition of the violation of Abyssinian independency by the Italians in the last year or two. I notice that in answer to the Question to which I have just referred, the right hon. Gentleman said: His Majesty's Government adhere to the principle enunciated in the declaration referred to by the hon. Member"— which I have just quoted. He went on to say— Any such action on their part does not imply approval of the methods by which the situation was brought about"— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th December, 1936; col. 2442, Vol. 318.] That, of course, we may take for granted, but is it not possible for recognition to be given to the existing state of affairs in Abyssinia without formal approval of the methods by which Abyssinia's independence was destroyed? I hope that we shall get an assurance that no such recognition is in contemplation, either overtly or covertly by the Government.

There is another question that I would like to raise in regard to the Abyssinian matter, but I do not wish to dwell unduly upon it. I gather that there are large numbers of Abyssinian refugees crossing the frontiers of contiguous territory, and I would like to know whether the Government are aware of this and whether, if there is a very large number, it is not an appropriate case to which to direct the attention of the League of Nations and to invite the League to do something of its own accord for their sustenance. Whatever our views as to the Abyssinian episode may be now, we all know that the Abyssinians were led to believe that the League would stand behind them, and so we have a moral commitment to them, if nothing else.

I pass to a word or two upon the European situation as I see it, and I would like to recall to the House that two speeches have been delivered in the country this week of some interest to all who study European affairs. The first, of course, in importance and in interest to this House is the speech of the right hon. Gentleman himself at Bradford early in the week. I hope he will forgive me if I say that I thought he made a rather too exaggerated claim as to the unity of this country behind the foreign policy of the Government. That unity might be forthcoming if we knew what their foreign policy was. Anyway, do not let him claim that we are unanimously behind him in all that he does until he can be assured that we really do understand his policy. There are passages in his speech which gave me very great pleasure, and I venture to quote one passage with which I think I can say I am myself, and I believe my hon. Friends are, completely in accord. Here it is: Observance of treaties and willingness to resort to free negotiation in a disagreement constitute together the only basis of international accord. That is assuredly one of the lessons the world should have learned in the last two months. Admittedly treaties in themselves which are made by human hands are not sacrosanct, and they are capable of improvement, as are all human things, but there must be some sanctity about the observance of solemn undertakings, there must be a limit to unilateral denunciation, or we shall reach a point where force, and force alone, is to be the sole arbiter of international relations and where no treaty will be worth the paper on which it is written. I am completely in agreement with that sentiment. I wish the Government themselves had remembered it long before, but I will not be unkind to the Government. I will simply be glad that we have got this observation from the Foreign Secretary, for, after all, it is an undeniable fact that you can multiply covenants, multiply pacts, multiply understandings on paper a thousandfold, and unless you can rely upon the honour of those who have attached their signatures to those agreements and covenants, then they are in fact worthless. Honour, after all, must be the rock upon which the temple of peace is to be founded, and I can only hope that the words of the Foreign Secretary will be hearkened to by nations beyond the seas. But on the assumption that honour will be established and observed among nations, and on the understanding, of course, that the League of Nations can be accepted as the instrument for settling international differences, I venture to assert that there is no dispute in Europe to-day that is incapable of settlement by agreement if there are goodwill and willingness to settle prevalent among the nations. War will not settle anything. Reason can, and reason alone can, and we would like to see the nations recognise that simple and elementary fact.

There is, however, one great impediment to peace in Europe at this moment. It is the ever widening conflict between the two ideologies, that of Communism and of Fascism or Nazism. Europe is in danger, it seems to me, of being ranged behind one or other of these. Why should it be so? Is it impossible for these combatants to realise that the people of any country are the best judges of the best form of government for themselves? Bolshevism, Nazism, or Fascism cannot be destroyed from without. Ideas cannot be annihilated with guns. Why cannot the leaders of all nations—I say "all nations," without exception—accept the simple proposition that the internal affairs of a country are its own? I would say, therefore, to the leaders of Russia, Germany, Italy, and of all other nations, abandon this foolish and mischievous interference in the internal affairs of other nations, for such interference only breeds counter-interference, and the last condition of the country interfered with is worse than its first.

Given that reasonable measure of restraint and order, what is there to prevent the establishment of a real concert of Europe at this moment? I say "a real concert." I would frown upon any attempt to establish separate or conflicting camps in Europe, and I would venture to say to the representatives of certain States in this country that they mislead themselves or allow themselves to be misled if they suppose that the people of this country will contemplate with equanimity any attempt to form a bloc simply to exclude that great country of Russia in Europe. If, on the other hand, there is readiness to have a concert, an accord, with all nations, none will be more willing to give support to it, I feel sure, than my hon. Friends on this side of the House. There are, of course, other issues, economic issues, colonies, raw materials, and so on —very important issues, I know—but none of them is an issue that cannot and ought not to be settled by the arbitrament of reason, and I was glad again to read the reference made by the right hon. Gentleman to this matter in his own speech at Bradford this week. But he is not alone. His predecessor, the present First Lord of the Admiralty, made a pronouncement of some significance in Geneva a year or two ago. We have no objection to pronouncements, but we would to heaven that effect were given to them, that something were done, and not merely words, words, words.

I venture also to cite, in support of this proposition, another very important statement. M. Blum one day this week gave a most interesting and arresting interview to a London newspaper, the "News-Chronicle," and he expressed himself upon a great number of problems that affect Europe at this moment. Among other things he said: France is ready and anxious to help Germany back to a normal, economic life, if Germany, by agreeing to a general level of disarmament, will help Europe back to a normal political life. To achieve those two states, so inextricably bound together, no effort is or shall be too great. There is a gesture of the first significance from the standpoint of European peace.


indicated assent.


I gather that the right hon. Gentleman is in accord with that gesture, and I am sure hon. Members opposite are, [...]as we are too. What is there to prevent the leaders of Germany and of all other countries falling in with this gesture and grasping this opportunity now, in good time, in order to save the world from the catastrophe which menaces us so obviously at this moment?

I pass from that to some observations I want to make about Spain. We have given the right hon. Gentleman notice of some questions on the humanitarian problems presented by the Spanish situation. We are anxious, first, that the question of the evacuation of non-combatants from Madrid shall not only be studied by the League, but shall, if possible, be speedily undertaken by it. It is a humanitarian task of the first importance, and I venture to make a specific observation upon it. There is attached to the League an organisation called the International Relief Union, and I believe that it is presided over by an Italian. I make no unkind reference to that, but it is obvious that an organisation of this kind presided over by nn Italian might not be acceptable to the Spanish Government on that account. I do not know. In any case, I urge that the League, on the initiative of our own Government, should take an active interest in this matter and appoint somebody as representing the League to co-operate with the Spanish Government for the purpose of securing the evacuation of these unfortunate non-combatants as early as possible.

The second thing I wish to ask is, whether the Government are aware of the report of the Members of this House who have been to Spain. We are all deeply indebted to them for having added so substantially to our knowledge of the situation in Spain. They have presented an excellent report on the situation as they found it. They report that there is a great shortage of medical supplies in Madrid and elsewhere. I wonder whether the Government—and here, again, I do not prejudge the issue—will be willing to provide medical supplies and other like supplies to hospitals in Madrid and elsewhere. If the Government could undertake that—and I plead that they should—it would perhaps help the Spanish peoples to feel that, after all, our heart is with them in their distress. The third question I wish to ask is whether there is anything in the Nonintervention Agreement that would preclude the Government or kindly people in this country from sending to the Spanish Government a supply of gas attacks. I gather that there is danger in future, if it has not already happened, of gas attacks on the city. We would all deplore such a wanton attack upon non-combatant people, and it is imperative that something should be done, if it is permissible, to supply gas masks. The fourth point is whether ships are being permitted to carry goods between this country and Spain. Are the Government taking any action to protect vessels that may be carrying coal from South Wales or elsewhere to Spain in exchange for oranges and other produce from Barcelona and Alicante.

We are glad that the Government have initiated, in concert with the French Government, this mediation movement. We are all horrified—and that is an understatement—at the barbarism of the struggle in Spain. It seems to me that Spain has slid back in the course of six months to the barbarianism of the Middle Ages, and anything that can be done by the Government to bring this conflict to a speedy conclusion will merit the support of every decent minded citizen everywhere. I hope that the movement in the direction of mediation will not be allowed to be seized by anybody as an excuse for slowing down the Non-intervention Agreement. Let it be fulfilled completely; 100 per cent. will suit us best, because it is a monstrous thing that other nations should be poking their noses into this internal affair in Spain. We wish to say once more that we shall view with the greatest possible objection any attempt to grant General Franco belligerent rights. Whatever may be said in his favour or against him, General Franco is a Spanish citizen and he is in rebellion against his own Government. He has no right, in our judgment, to be accorded anything approaching belligerent rights, and I hope the Government are not contemplating according them at any time.

On the question of volunteers, there has been no public pronouncement of the Government, but there have been hints in the Press that there is some talk of introducing legislation for putting a ban upon volunteers from Britain. I should be glad to see volunteers and all instruments of warfare stopped, so long as they are stopped all round. The right hon. Gentleman will find from us the strongest possible opposition to the imposition of any ban upon volunteers unless that ban is applied all round and accepted by all nations. The trouble that led up to the Non-intervention Agreement was a mistake that was made —well intentioned as it was—when France and this country imposed a restraint upon themselves without making it conditional upon a similar restraint on the part of other nations. If there is to be a ban on volunteers therefore, let it not he unilateral, but multilateral, all nations taking part in it. In that way the ban would be effective. The right hon. Gentleman answered a question the other day from the hon. Member for Derby with reference to the Balearic Isles, and he said that he had received assurance—it was affirmed and reaffirmed. We are told that the people who have gone to the Balearic Isles, to Majorca and Minorca, are volunteers. If they are volunteers, what need is there for assurances? It is because we know that they are not volunteers that assurances are necessary, and I can only hope that those assurances will be effective not only as to prospective action, but as to past action as well.

These are the problems that confront us. They are extremely grave and none of us dare under-rate their importance. For us their danger is in their repercussions. We have launched upon a campaign of armaments on a most colossal scale, and if there is one criticism I would offer to the Government more than another it is that they seem to have abandoned all hope of any alternative except a big armament campaign. No Minister speaks now in the country on peace except the Foreign Secretary. No one speaks of the League of Nations being used. Everyone pleads for the effectiveness of the armaments campaign.

From the point of view of the poor people whom we try to represent in this House, that is a most menacing and significant fact. By these armaments, we are creating fatal obstacles to the social progress which we hoped to achieve in the coming generation. We have no right to deprive future generations of that social upliftment and advance because of the disastrous international relations which now confront us. It is the task of His Majesty's Government, and of all governments, to pursue, in season and out of season, the path of peace and reconciliation, for only in peace and reconciliation lies the hope of the world.

12.6 p.m.


We have listened to a very eloquent speech, most of which will have the general approval of the House. I rarely intervene in these foreign Debates, but, unfortunately, my right hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) who was to have spoken, is prevented—I understand for similar reasons as in the case of Mr. Speaker—from being in his place this morning. Some reference should be made in all parts of the House to the very important speech which was made at Bradford by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. I would wish he had made that speech in this House where it would have been more appropriate, because it was of great importance and significance. I realise, however, that speeches have to be made in the country, even by Foreign Secretaries, and the right hon. Gentleman not unnaturally took advantage of the opportunity to make his speech in the breezy and stimulating atmosphere of Yorkshire. One passage of that speech has been quoted by the hon. Gentleman who preceded me; I shall now embarrass the Foreign Secretary by quoting another passage, which is so excellent that it might very well be made the theme of our discussion this afternoon. He said: We have attempted a fresh initiative with the dual object of making the Nonintervention Agreement really effective, and of offering mediation to bring hostilities to an end. A little later he said: If we, the nations of Europe, cannot collaborate to deal with the Spanish problem, then we shall be moving into deeper and more dangerous waters. Those are pregnant words. The word "mediation" is easy to use, but much can be interpreted into it. It can be regarded as of great importance, or watered down to be a mere expression of good will. We want to see those good words translated into action, but obviously the character of the mediation must be left to the great responsibility of His Majesty's Government. I understand, especially from speeches which have been made in France, that it is going to mean the closest co-operation with France. The one healthy thing that has been happening in the last few weeks is the close and intimate contact between the right hon. Gentleman and M. Blum.

The right hon. Gentleman has consistently supported the policy of nonintervention. He did so, and so did we, because we felt that it would make it easier for us to use our good offices when the time came to bring this horrible conflict to an end. It will certainly redound to the credit of the two great democracies of Western Europe if, as a result of their restraint and their policy of non-intervention, they are able to exercise real power in stopping the war. That will be in marked contrast to the ineffectiveness of the policies adopted by the various dictator systems—I will not specify any particular system—in other parts of Europe. The only result of their intervention has been to intensify and to prolong the war. I agree that it is right to speed up the machinery of nonintervention and to make it a reality, but I am afraid that it has become something of a farce. The hon. Gentleman spoke from the Front Opposition bench about a concert of Europe. The work of the Non-intervention Committee reminds me very much of the old Concert of Europe which we remember in operation many years before the Great War, and which we used to regard as a prelude to inactivity and inertia, apparently every member suspicious of the others, and merely using the organisation as a cloak to evade responsibility.

The machinery of non-intervention might be put into operation about the so-called volunteers. We understand from the statements made at various- times by the right hon. Gentleman that it has been discussed. I suppose it is very difficult, and I have no doubt that each representative upon the Committee disclaims responsibility for any volunteers who manage to arrive on the shores of Spain. It is hard to believe, from one's knowledge and experience of the totalitarian States, that any of their nationals could get passports without having to say why, and where they were going. I should think a camel might as easily go through the eye of a needle as a volunteer go out of Russia or Germany. Hundreds of volunteers are in Spain. A figure which I have heard mentioned, and have seen in some newspapers, is 60,000, as having left the shores of one country. It is impossible to believe that they can leave their countries without their Governments being aware of their destination or purpose. It is not unreasonable to say that most of the so-called volunteers carry hidden under their cloaks or packed away in their baggage some form of munition, rifle or other weapon of destruction in order to stimulate the war which is going on.

At the present time there is every evidence of stalemate. It is now many weeks since we were told that the fall of Madrid was merely a matter of days. We were told that the arrival of troops outside the area would mean the surrender of the city. All that has happened has been that the slaughter has been intensified. Hon. Members who have returned from their visit will be able to tell the House about the untold misery of the citizens of that great city, of every political complexion. It is quite a mistake to think that the people affected are confined to any one political party. My main purpose in speaking this morning is to support the Foreign Secretary in the application of the principle of mediation. I believe that, if he can get a formula with France to bring this horrible conflict to an end, he will have the good will of every section of political opinion in Spain—which has many sections, exceeding in number even our political divisions in this House—that is concerned in this terrible civil war. I do not under-estimate the difficulty of the undertaking; it will need great skill and great tact; and, of course, the difficulty will be to get the sincere co-operation of other Powers. All war is horrible; civil war is ten times worse. Everyone in the House of Commons realises that it is not possible to confine the war spirit: it is bound to infect other countries. It is the common interest of this country and of mankind as a whole for the Government to endeavour to bring what has now become a stalemate, and offers a great opportunity, to a peaceful conclusion, even if it means a good deal of ingenuity and a little application of unorthodox methods.

12.17 p.m.


I want to begin by supporting the plea for any help when we as a nation, or the League of Nations in general, may be able to give to Spain, and particularly to those people in Spain who have no interest in the war, in politics, or in anything but getting on with their daily job in their own ordinary way. I may be saying, in the course of my remarks this morning, one or two things which will be unpopular perhaps on both sides of the House, but I intend, if I can, to speak very fairly and without prejudice, and if possible to make a plea for impartiality in this country. I have found, both before I went to Spain and since I came back, that the Spanish question is very difficult to talk about, because people make up their minds in a hurry on preconceived clichés, and are very largely affected by the kind of newspapers that they read; and I think that from our own point of view particularly, and from the Spanish point of view as well, it would be wise if we in this country were more ready to sift the evidence and look at the facts as they are, instead of running off wildly at a tangent in one direction or another because of these clichés to which we are so used.

I intend to make a few remarks on Spain, but I must lead up to them by some references to one or two other countries in Europe. There is, I know, a great international spirit abroad. It is shown in many different ways. There-is the League of Nations; there are various ideas about a United States of Europe; there are also international creeds, such as Communism, or Nazi-ism; and generally speaking we are noticing a growth of, if I may say so, a spirit of either interference or co-operation, whichever way we like to put it, which is making people more internationally minded. Eventualy we may be able to turn that only to good, but in the meantime, during the next 10 years, our foreign policy will have to be to steer this country through a very difficult turmoil, for these ideas may, unless we are very careful, mix us and other people up in some sort of war.

The chief factors affecting peace are undoubtedly the two countries of Italy and Germany. It is no use mincing words on the subject; the two countries which are likely to affect the peace of Europe during the next 10 years are these two countries of Italy and Germany. We in this country, therefore, during the next 10 years or so, besides recognising the League of Nations and working for our ultimate ideals, must also take into consideration, in particular, those countries which are likely to help us keep the peace, partly because they have no desire for war themselves, and partly because, geographically, they very much affect this country, our Empire, and the trade routes between the two. One of those countries needless to say, is France, and, if nothing else has come out of the Spanish conflict, it is very welcome to us in England to see the great accord which there is between France and ourselves at the present moment. I hope that that accord will continue, and that any little petty differences between France and ourselves in character or outlook will never affect the great friendship and solidarity between the two countries.

Another country in which we must take more interest is Yugoslavia, though I will not touch upon that now; and a third country which geographically will affect us in future, and in which, therefore, we must take an interest now, whether we like it or not, is Spain. We have seen certain things happening in Spain from a political point of view which should be extremely alarming to the public of this country. I sometimes wonder why it is that people in this country are not more alarmed at what is happening in Spain, and why they are not more prepared to be fair and to judge the situation from our own point of view. I am leaving out the humanitarian side of the question for the time being, and am speaking purely from the political point of view. Why are not the people of this country prepared to study the facts as they are and as they are likely to be in the future, so that we may be able to evolve a policy which will be beneficial to us?

We all know that various countries have been interfering in the internal affairs of Spain. One of those countries is Russia. Most of us know that nowadays there are two Russias; there is Russia the State, and there is Russia the Third International. Most of us know that these two do not necessarily always see eye to eye, and that there has been a certain atempt on the part of Russia as a State to settle down into a petite bourgeoisie and to liquidate the Third International as far as it is concerned with the State. That may be so, but at the same time I do not think we can altogether excuse the Russian State for not having jumped a bit more firmly on the Third International for interfering in Spain before the revolt started. I know that there are two sides to this question—that since the elections and the time when the Spanish Government in Madrid began to be a weak government there has been a side which says that certain Fascists and Right Wing elements got out of hand and caused terrorism in the streets, used churches for the storage of arms, and so on. I am not denying for a moment that some of that is riot true. I am not denying that, on the other hand, the communist elements are interfering and trying to cause trouble. It is a very great pity that the Russian Government should not have been firmer.

General Franco's military revolt started in Morocco. We will give it for the sake of argument the highest praise we can. It may have started with the very genuine motive of putting right the rather chaotic state of affairs in the Government of the country and of substituting something better than the Government of the day. The Spanish General may have wished to do his best for his own country. But there is also no doubt that, the moment the revolt started, two foreign countries said this was an opportunity too good for them to miss. Italy and Germany almost immediately took part, supplied General Franco with arms, ammunition, men and material of every sort. Two responsible States of Europe have been interfering in a civil war in a way abso- lutely unheard of in history before. It is no secret that Germany is now very actively engaged in the civil war. I want to state one or two things which I have heard are happening in Germany now. I do not say that they are necessarily true. They are nothing more than rumour, but it is my information. I do not pretend to possess such exact information about Germany as my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), who always knows so well what is happening there, but this is what one hears. In German barrack rooms there are notices asking for volunteers for Spain. German soldiers are taken in before their colonels one after the other and asked whether they will volunteer to go to Spain as tourists, and these lads naturally have to agree to go. Whole divisions are thus volunteering and are put into some form of khaki uniform and shipped off. I have also heard that the German people are not at all happy about this volunteering for Spain. The German soldiers are not over-anxious to volunteer, their families are very much against it, and internally there is a great deal of grumbling on the subject, which means that there is a very good opportunity for us, and that a little firm pressure from us would get them to call off the venture altogether, because there is a growing feeling in both Italy and Germany that they may have bitten off more than they can chew.

I now want to say a word on the military situation as I see it at the moment. You have, roughly, the Western half of Spain in the hands of the insurgents and the Eastern half in the hands of the Government, with isolated posts here and there. The chief battle is undoubtedly the battle for Madrid. Outside Madrid you have General Franco's army of some 20,000 or 30,000 men hanging on to the western outskirts of the city, with both flanks exposed and suffering very greatly from the wintry conditions. Inside the city you have some 80,000 to 200,000 defenders—it is very hard to get the exact figures—mainly half-trained militia, and an international column consisting of volunteers from various other countries. The international column in Madrid is, I think, about 3,000 to 4,000 strong. It consists of Frenchmen, Italians, German—people who have fled from Germany and Italy—Poles, Czechs, etc. and a few Britons. Although we have good evidence that the Russian aeroplanes and tanks that are being supplied to the Government are driven by Russian aviators or worked by Russian mechanics, we did not see any evidence of Russian soldiers fighting in Madrid. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, Hear."] I want no cheers. I am trying to be absolutely fair. Outside Madrid you have the Moors, the militia, Fascists and other troops, and also an international force of trained German and Italians actually fighting for General Franco. Behind General Franco's lines, from what evidence we can get, there does not seem to be much spontaneity or much desire to join his colours, for the very reason that these Germans and others have entered Spanish territory and are fighting there. The revolt may have started for a very genuine reason, and possibly in its initial stages may have been exceedingly popular among certain sections of the people, but I am certain, if I know anything of Spain—I have known Spain for many years before this civil war—that Spaniards resent all foreign interference from whatever side it comes and, the more the foreigner interferes, the less will the Spaniards show any spontaneity for the side which makes most use of foreigners.

With regard to horrors, I do not think there is twopence to choose between the two sides. Both sides are fighting brutally and ruthlessly. There is no morality and no respect for the Red Cross. Prisoners are shot, hostages are murdered and the wounded are murdered in the hospitals when they are captured. Unfortunately we were not in the lines behind General Franco. I should very much like to have gone. Both the Madrid and the Valencia Governments are doing their best, from a governmental point of view, to put an end to these horrors.


Did the hon. and gallant Gentleman hear of any actions on the Government side to compare with the cruelty of the shootings at Badajoz and the massacre of wounded by the Franco troops in the hospital at Toledo?


I do not think I will amplify my statement. I know the allegations that the hon. Lady mentions, and they are almost certainly true, but, as I have already said, there is not much to choose between the two sides in this connection. At the same time, I do not think that I will amplify which I have said, which was that the horrors are just about as bad on both sides, and it is very hard to say which is the greater offender. I should like to clear up one or two misapprehensions. One hears sometimes in this country cries against the danger of Communism on the one hand, or the wickedness of Fascism on the other. As to General Franco's side, we have had no evidence whatever that he would have attempted to set up a corporate or Fascist State had he won the battle in Spain. We do not know what his ideas were. He has made a great many pronouncements and, as I have said many times, that no doubt, perfectly genuinely, what he wanted to do, was to set up a stronger government. We do not know what ultimate government he will set up, if he wins the war. His forces are made up of many different elements, only some of them Fascist, and, if he wins, he will have a great deal of difficulty in settling among all these different elements what kind of government is to be set up in Spain, and it may not be a Fascist Government at all. Now that Germany and Italy have intervened, and Germany so very much, if Franco wins, it is possible that he may not be in a position to say what government he wants to set up.

On the other hand, we have heard of the dangers of Communism, and I refer again to the beginning of my speech, when I said that I regretted very much the work of the Third International by putting in all the Communist elements among the Spanish people before the revolt started. But I will also say that the Frente Popular is made up not of one party, but, like Franco's side, of a great number of elements, most of whom are trade unionists, republicans. Socialists or the like. On the extreme Left in this grouping in the Frente Popular are two groups both of whom are in a minority. One is the Communists and the other is the Anarchists, and I think that we ought to realise that fact. It is no good shirking the facts; we must see the facts as they are. They are made up of all these groups, two of which—and they are the smallest, and both hate each other like poison and would murder each other if they won the war—are the Communists, who believe in collectivisation, and the Anarchists who believe in no sort of government at all. It is equally untrue to say that one side is Fascist and the other side is Communist.

The groups in the Frente Popular seem to be gaining prestige and strength every day. General Franco may win against the Spanish Government and may capture Madrid, but even after he has done that, he will still have to settle with his own people as to what kind of government he wants to set up—that is to say, if Germany is going to allow him to have any choice—and he will still have to fight two other wars. One is with the Basque Province in the north-west, which has still to be captured, and the other with Catalonia on the north-east. Catalonia will be a very tough proposition. She is arming strongly. She is an industrial country and it will be a very long time, even if he defeats the Valencia Government, before these other wars are settled. Should the Government side win, they will not have to fight a war between Catalonia and themselves or the Basque Province and themselves, as they are co-operating together. They may have to adjust what form of relationship they may have between them in the future, and they will, of course, like General Franco, have to settle for themselves which of their parties is to come out on top, and what sort of government they are to have themselves. Instead of tearing at each other's throats as in the Frente Popular, someone will have to come out on top. As every day goes by in the war, it becomes easier for the Government in this respect, because force of circumstances and very dire straits are making them work together and produce a dominant factor.

What are the courses which are open to us? There is that of sitting back and piously hoping for non-intervention, and perhaps deluding ourselves and our own public that non-intervention is working, and washing our hands of the whole concern. To delude our public, or ourselves in particular, is certainly dishonest. We must face the facts. It is no good just sitting back and saying that we have this policy and hoping that it is working all right, when it is not working at all. I know in my own mind that France is definitely not going to allow German soldiers in any numbers to go to Spain. I think that we can take that to be absolutely definite. France fears a war against Germany at any time about six months from now, when Germany will have caught up with France in armaments and, naturally, France is not going to allow a German army to hang about on her southern frontier waiting to attack her on that frontier. This should be obvious to us, and we must take it that France will not allow German troops to go to Spain in any large numbers. I think the French are right when they assume that Germany and Italy are both feeling that perhaps they have bitten off more than they can chew, and a little bit of firmness en her part and on our part at the moment may get them to call off their venture altogether.

I ask and hope that our Government will do everything in their power to make non-intervention effective. I also hope that Russia will not only agree in principle, but will actually in practice make non-intervention effective from her point of view. From the other side, from Italy and Germany, we may have to do more possibly than ask, but I still think that we have got to make non-intervention effective. Our prestige is at stake in the whole world, and there is an attitude of mind in many countries that we are running away from Italy and Germany. We have to regain our prestige and make non-intervention effective, because if we do not, we shall only store up much more trouble for ourselves in the future. Having made non-intervention effective absolutely all round, then, either the Spaniards will fight out their own civil war in their own way, which they are entitled to do, or else they will listen to our efforts for mediation. I hope that they will listen to our efforts for mediation, but I would remind all concerned that, when talking about mediation from one point of view or the other, they are dealing with a race who are very proud indeed, and one must be very careful not to tread upon their corns.

12.44 p.m.


I should like, first of all, to congratulate the hon. and gallant Member for Chelmsford (Captain Macnamara) and his five colleagues upon doing well a very good piece of work for this country and for humanity, and upon setting an example such as we would have England set to the world at the present time. No other country has sent out to Spain any Members of any Parliament or of any body to try to carry out a similar mission. If they had, they would not have been deemed to be a disinterested and impartial body. There were Members of all three parties in this mission. They have given not only to this House but to the world at large an example and a line to follow. For I wish that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and every Member of this House, when they are dealing with foreign affairs, would try to imagine that they are not speaking as Englishmen but speaking as citizens of the world. Over and over again the best speeches made by the right hon. Gentleman opposite and by his predecessors have been when they were speaking, not for England, but for the future aspirations of the human race. I believe that our influence in international politics goes up when those speeches are made, and down whenever we look at these international problems from a narrow British point of view. It sounds almost irrational to say so, but the overwhelming majority of this House look forward ideally towards the Parliament of man and the federation of the world. We can say that of Great Britain. We cannot say it as yet of all other countries.

But if only we could get into the heads of other countries that that is what Great Britain stood for—that what we want is to end all sovereignties and to create a union of peace, of justice and of safety. There is no doubt that that idea, which has come to us here gradually in these post-War years, has not yet spread through the vast bulk of the population of this country; but throughout Great Britain and increasingly throughout other lands we have seen developing already certain common fundamental desires. The passionate desire for peace in this country and throughout the greater part of the civilised world has been growing and growing every year since the War. It fills the columns of our newspapers; it fills the speeches made in church and chapel; it is everywhere present in men's minds, this passion for peace. That we are anxious for peace is not always believed elsewhere, but everyone in this House knows that this passionate desire to avoid war has been the mainspring of an apparently weak foreign policy during these last months. We have seen ourselves losing allies and friends one after another, and have objected to a policy which has produced this loss of confidence in Great Britain. Yet we recognise that if we were responsible for the conduct of Imperial affairs to-day we too might act in a similar manner simply through fear of war.

You have, therefore, vocal to-day this love of peace. You have equally vocal throughout the same countries a passionate desire for freedom and for justice. Too often up to now these two main springs of human emotion have been regarded as rival and antipathetic. Those who put peace first are accused of disregarding the desire for individual freedom, for justice, for the old-fashioned rights of man, and those of us who put first the words of Patrick Henry are regarded as being in favour of war and hostile to peace. There is, and there ought to be, no antagonism between these two. Peace and liberty are bound together, and both these emotions are in the background of all our minds as the ultimate aim of world policy—peace, safety and union. This is all rather off the line, perhaps, but it is so important in dealing with this Spanish problem that we should envisage it as part of a much larger and longer struggle that is going on throughout the world. We on these benches have been wedded throughout to the principle of collective security and using the League as the nucleus and framework for this Federation of the world. If the League had been used throughout the last three years we should be in a much better position than we are to-day, but each concession made by the League, each obvious lack of unity in the basic ideas of the League, has weakened its power, and we are being driven back on something not so all embracing as the League but something which is capable of acting, capable of giving that security, which the League is not.

My hon. Friend who opened this debate said that we in this country would do anything on earth to stop the war in Spain. There is one way in which we could stop the war in Spain, certainly and promptly, and that would be by occupying Spain with British troops. It may be impossible and impracticable, but that would stop it. After all, nobody interferes with us in Malta. Nobody interferes with the British Empire anywhere. The British Empire is the sole symbol of security left in an insecure world. But it is not necessary, fortunately, to use the British policeman alone as the guarantee of security. There are certain nations within the League who would work together. We could—I am glad to see that the Foreign Office is moving in that direction—through the use of the League, bring that war to a conclusion by the occupation of those parts of Spain which the Spanish Government desired us to occupy. The hon. and gallant Member who has just sat down said that the Spaniards were a proud people. He knows and I know that they would not tolerate for one moment the occupation of Spain by a British Army, but can he and can we be so sure that they would not welcome the occupation of Catalonia, Valencia, and even Madrid, by the forces of the League if that were practicable? If it becomes practicable, cannot we by that action lay the foundation stone of a firm, reliable federation of free peoples throughout Europe?

I remember hearing, not so long ago, that the Foreign Minister of Latvia, after listening to one of our excellent Geneva speeches, said that there was nothing for Latvia to do except join the British Empire. I do not think Latvia is alone in feeling that safety and progress can only come by joining the British Empire. I admit that by Latvia or Spain or France joining the British Empire we should also gain in security, but we should unfortunately increase our responsibilities. Yet are we not being driven to just exactly that position? We are trying desparately to collect allies in case of war. I am thankful that we have now pledged ourselves to fight for France and that France has pledged herself to fight for England. We have taken on an additional responsibility. Why? Because we know that we have got by that declaration an additional security for ourselves where we need it. It is not such a far step to extend that principle to other countries that want to come in—call it into the British Empire or call it into the band of free people. We do not now know what are our responsibilities. No one dare ask what are our responsibilities in case what is happening in Spain is extended tomorrow, not to Danzig or Memel, but to Schleswig-Holstein. It is perfectly possible nowadays to make war without any declaration of war. It is done so easily, as we have seen in Spain. Volunteers go out, the sinews of war are supplied, war is never declared, but it goes on. The same thing may happen in Denmark. What would our position be then?

Would it not be better that Germany and Italy should know, as they know in the case of France, that there are certain things which we cannot allow and that there are certain responsibilities which we must shoulder? As we increase our friends so we increase our liabilities. By increasing friends and liabilities we forward union. We have heard in the last three years the arguments of those people who say that we should cut ourselves from Europe and from all responsibilities and liabilities. They say we should keep out of all. We have seen as that campaign has gone on the increasing futility and impossibility of any such attitude. We cannot divest ourselves of responsibility and liability. Thereby we lose safety. What we can do is to state clearly as soon as possible to the dangerous Powers where we do draw the line with friends.


Is there any place where we do not draw the line?


There is no case where I would draw the line, but there are plenty of obvious places and cases. The main thing is that both Germany and our friends should be clear as to what we and they can say and what we cannot say. If your drew such a line or bond then we should have all those countries who stand to benefit bound to us, contributing to us the same help that we give to them. There should be the closest continuous contact between the staffs and between the governments and between the peoples of those countries. We should realise that in building thus we should not be building up a war machine, but building up a peace machine. We should be laying the foundation for that Parliament of the world and federation of mankind which is the true aspiration of all decent people.

1 p.m.


I hope the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) will forgive me if I do not follow him in the points raised in the interesting speech which he has just delivered. I think that no one in the House—if I may say so—can give a happier or more eloquent definition of the abstract principles of Peace and Justice. I think the House is indebted to the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) for baying prefaced his remarks by a reference to the Far East. We sometimes seem to think so much of events in Spain or Germany that we fail to take note of the vast opposing forces now taking shape in the Far East. Speaking at a dinner in London last year on Far Eastern problems, General Smuts uttered these significant words: Even measured by the gigantic scale of events to which we have become accustomed since the Great War we are face to face with one of the major conflicts of history. By the side of this fateful situation the troubles of Europe, which now loom so large to us are intrinsically more like petty family squabbles, in comparison. We all of us know the cause of tension in the Far East. The cause is the rapid expansion in Japan's population, a population expanding at the alarming rate of something like 900,000 a year, and which will not be stabilised until the year 1970. As someone has said, Japan is like a steam boiler within which the pressure is rising every minute. How can the Japanese Government solve this great problem? It can find only two possible means of solution. Japan can send her subjects in vast numbers overseas, or alternatively she can try to industrialise the country and find food for an ever-increasing number of people by increasing exports overseas. In China, Japan has close to hand sources of raw material. In the soya bean crop of Manchukuo, and the potential cotton crops of the Northern Provinces of China, she hopes to find valuable raw materials. She hopes to find also, among the teeming millions of China, a ready market for manufactured goods. But pressure in one direction inevitably creates counter pressure in another direction. The result is that at the present moment, vast forces, both political and economic, are aligning themselves to resist this pressure from Japan.

The first and most obvious example of this is in China, where all parties, whether they own allegiance to the Nanking Government or to local Communist governments, are more and more agreeing that they should ally themselves in one common front against Japan. The second obvious instance exists in Soviet Russia. Soviet Russia looks with distrust across her Siberian frontier at Japan's increasing power in Manchukuo. Soviet Russia has turned Vladivostok and the maritime provinces into a, veritable fortress along the whole frontier, from Lake Baikal to the sea, enormous armies are massed. In fact, the whole of Western Siberia from the defence point of view, is a huge self-contained, self-supporting economic unit. Aeroplane factories, mines, textile factories, and there is a large population settled on the land which can all be called upon in case of emergency for army reserves.

These vast political alignments are not the only ones. During recent years many countries have tried to defend themselves economically against Japanese penetration of their markets. No fewer than 40 countries have taken defensive fiscal measures against Japan, among them, in particular, this country. After the failure of negotiations some little time ago we were compelled to place quotas on Japanese goods entering our Colonial market, but if we examine the actual figures of those quotas we realise that the damage to Japanese trade was relatively small. Japan lost only 80,000,000 square yards or £1,000,000 worth of goods by the quotas, but the friction caused was considerable. We ought to make one point very plain, that neither this country, nor anyone in the country, denies to Japan the right to live. I have the honour to represent a great constituency in Lancashire which, perhaps more than any other, has suffered from the effects of Japanese competition, but I do not hesitate to say that not one of my constituents would deny to his Japanese competitor the essential right to live.

What they have objected to in the past has been the suddenness and the violence of Japan's attack upon world markets. Signs are, however, becoming evident that informed and moderate Japanese opinion is beginning to realise the somewhat unfavourable effect of this sudden attack on world markets. Speaking at the Pacific Conference last year Mr. Yoshi Zawa, the Foreign Minister of Japan in 1932, used the following important words. I am sure that he will not mind my quoting him, seeing that he has given permission to another colleague to quote these words in an article in the "Manchester Guardian": Japan has no intention or ambition to monopolise world trade or to divide the world's markets with this or that Power. Japan's desire is to promote her trade interests in a peaceful way, and Japan is free to conclude trade agreements on the basis of reciprocity and fair play. Part of the trouble caused in the past by this too rapid attack on world markets has been due, in some respects, to the peculiar organisation of Japanese industry, over which the Japanese Government has had no control. I believe I am right in saying that no less than 52 per cent. of the commercial undertakings in Japan comprise small industries employing not more than five people. Those industries are probably family concerns comprising father and son. They enjoy relatively low production costs and no overhead charges. The Central Japanese Organisation have made considerable efforts to organise this type of competition, and in the last few years 600 trading associations have been formed.

A most useful principle has been embarked upon, and one, which I hope, will receive some measure of recognition from the British Government. On several important occasions Japanese interests have voluntarily restricted their exports. In 1933 Sir Horace Wilson, then at the Board of Trade, informed the Japanese Commercial Attaché that producers in this country were anxious to have the tariff increased against Japanese electric lamps, and be asked him whether the Japanese exporters would be willing voluntarily to limit the volume of their exports to this country. The result was that a federation of electric lamp producers was organised in Japan, and the arrangement was entirely satisfactory. Consequently the volume of exports was controlled from the source. A similar agreement has been negotiated with the United States with equal success—an agreement controlling the export of pencils, cotton rugs, and knitted woollen goods. Japan has similarly made an arrangement with the United States and the Philippines with regard to cotton textiles. In the last few weeks, also, a general voluntary agreement covering hosiery goods entering this country has been entered into by Japan. These agreements have two very solid advantages. First, they promote a certain amount of good-will and confidence, and, secondly, and more important, they prevent the continual raising of tariffs against Japanese goods, which is bound to lead to friction. An appreciation and encouragement by the British Government of these efforts on the part of Japanese exporters would be of considerable influence in removing much of the ill-feeling which at present exists between the two nations.

I should like to say a few words upon the status quo Clause of the Five-Power Treaty. Under that Clause the respective signatories undertook not to fortify any further their bases and possessions within a certain specified area in the Pacific. The signatories further undertook not to provide increased naval facilities in any of those territories. The provisions of the Treaty lapse on the 31st December, 1936, and I understand that His Majesty's Government has been making inquiries to see whether this particular Clause of the Five-Power Treaty cannot remain in existence. From our point of view, it is an extremely important Clause, as likewise it is from the American point of view. From our point of view it covers the Island of Hong Kong, the oil territory of Sarawak and the coal port of Labuan. From the American point of view it covers Juam, the Alentian Islands, but exempts Pearl Harbour. From the Japanese point of view it covers Formosa, the Caroline Islands and the Marshall Islands. If this area can be preserved permanently free from naval bases or air bases it will be a great help towards peace in the far Pacific. The distance to be traversed by rival fleets and transports will be so great as to add relative protection to the various countries.

This question of the status quo Clause brings me to the subject of the Philippine Islands. The United States has entered into a recent treaty with the Philippine people in which she has undertaken to evacuate the Philippine Islands within the space of 10 years after the signing of the Treaty. The only right which the United States maintain for themselves is the right to maintain naval bases. What actually does that mean? If the United States maintains naval bases in the Philippines is she still willing to undertake the defence of the Philippine Islands. On the other hand, if she is going to liquidate all her interests in the Pacific, is it not a temptation to any great Power to step in and occupy those rich islands? The attitude of the United States on this issue is extremely important. If she is willing to maintain her interests and obligations in the Pacific it may be possible to obtain agreement between Great Britain, Japan and the United States to guarantee the neutrality of the Philippine Islands. This would tend to give a feeling of confidence and to advance the cause of peace, for any occupation of the Philippine Islands by a great foreign Power would naturally alarm this country. For the Islands are half way to Australia, and such an occupation might be the cause of another terrible explosion.

I should like to say a few words about Anglo-Japanese co-operation. It will be remembered that a year ago Sir Frederick Leith Ross went on a financial mission to China. Nanking welcomed him, but Tokyo, apparently, viewed his arrival with suspicion. We may ask ourselves why that was so. At the present time China needs nothing so much as capital and capital goods. She wants capital with which to build railways and roads and telegraph systems. She needs capital goods such as trucks and steel rails for her railways, and agricultural implements with which to develop her agriculture. Japan does not possess the financial resources to carry out the development of China by herself. She must therefore face the questions whether she wishes to have China as her neighbour impoverished and unwilling to purchase her goods, a China which she claims is within her sole sphere of influence, or whether she will co-operate with other nations in the development of that great country. Is she willing to co-operate in China? If she were willing to try to regulate her entry into world markets by agreements, Japan would be showing signs of very great good will indeed.

We have to ask ourselves what return we should have to give for that good will. I am going to make what I know will be a very unpopular suggestion in many quarters of the House. I suggest that Japan might demand the recognition of Manchukuo. Whilst no one is more eager to support an effective peace system than myself, we must ask ourselves whether our present attitude really leads to peace. Is our present policy able to affect, by one jot, the fact that Japan's population is rising at the rate of 900,000 per year and that sooner or later it must find an outlet, perhaps by violent means. Do we take into account that Japan's isolated position is driving her more and more into the arms of Germany? We must really take these factors into consideration. And, for my part, if we could obtain Japanese cooperation in the Far East, and thereby ensure peace; and, better still, if we could feel certain that the Oldham spinner could return home more confident that his job will give him greater security for the future than has been the case for the last 10 years, I say that recognition of Manchukuo would not be too great a price.

1.17 p.m.


I desire to associate myself with many of the remarks made by the hon. and gallant Member for Chelmsford (Captain Macnamara) with whom, in company with others, I recently found myself in Spain. I do not agree with every word he said, but I should like to congratulate him on a real attempt at a fair presentation of the internal facts as we ascertained them and of the external implications of the war which is in progress in Spain. The value of our visit is perhaps twofold. I hope that we achieved some little effect from the humanitarian point of view, the point of view on which we set out to Spain, and in that connection I should like to ask the Foreign Secretary to tell us what decisions were recently come to at the meeting of the League Council. I am anxious also to associate myself with the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. M. Jones) in urging that every effort should be made under the auspices of the League to alleviate the position of the civil population in Madrid. It is a truly terrible situation; and while I am not going to detain the House now by going further into that matter, it is one which, on humanitarian grounds, should receive the sympathy of every Briton.

Something has been said of the horrors of this war, and the suggestion has been made that as the Spaniards are a hot-tempered people the civil war in which they are now taking part may be expected to be more than usually cruel and ferocious. It is only fair to point out, on behalf of the Spanish people, that much of the war is now in the hands of other Europeans, and that some of the cruel features of the war are being carried out by other Europeans. The war in the air is largely out of the control of Spanish hands, and there are certain features of that war in which cruelties are practised which did not take place even in the Great War. I believe that if there were another European War the good manners of European nations would not stand the strain and bitterness which would be engendered. War in the future will be far more horrible and the Red Cross and other mitigating interventions will be increasingly disregarded.

It was natural that in addition to our humanitarian mission we should make some observations on the political situation in Spain, and form some conclusions which are perhaps of importance. At the outset I should like to pay a tribute on behalf of my colleagues and myself to the British representative in Madrid. In a position of some danger and very great difficulty, the British representative has won the affections, as we know, of many Spaniards of different political outlook, and I should like to express, as we have already done to the Foreign Secretary himself, our appreciation in this House of the work that he is carrying out. The hon. Member for Caerphilly seemed to suggest that the war in Spain is one between rival ideas, Communism and Fascism, but I think that the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Chelmsford did much to dispel that view. I should like to add one other consideration, and that is that the individualism of the Spanish character, the love of individual liberty, has sunk very deep into the people and I do not believe that the rigid type of Soviet Communism can ever fasten itself upon the people of Spain.

In our possibly superficial examination —our visit was necessarily short—of the political situation in that part of Spain under the control of the Government of Valencia, we did not see any signs of that rigid type of government by dictatorship which one associates with the ideas of Communism and Fascism.

I am confident that a majority of the Spanish people support the Spanish Government, and I would offer to the House evidence under two heads on that point. In the first place impartial witnesses suggested to us that the check which General Franco's forces had received at the gates of Madrid was partly due to the insufficient number of troops that he had for the purpose of capturing that city. General Franco controls, in the military sense, nearly half of Spain. There was no sign of any shortage of troops on the Government side. The information which we were given, and which seemed to come from reliable and impartial sources, suggested that perhaps the troops attacking Madrid numbered not more than 30,000. If the insurgent forces had the confidence of a large part of the population which they control, I wonder why it is that General Franco had to call in Germans and Italians. We also saw fairly widespread apparent enthusiasm for the Spanish Government, and. I am convinced that the Spanish Government wishes that all its actions shall be those of a democratically-elected and supported Government.

There is one point I would like to make with regard to propaganda in Spain before the outbreak of the trouble, and it is that while one can accuse the Com-intern of conducting propaganda in Spain, there is also equal evidence that Fascists were doing so with apparently equal success. It appears to me, however, that there is a more important feature of the violation of the Non-Intervention Agreement. I do not believe the German or Italian people are prepared to spend as much money as they are spending in Spain to-day for the sake of an ideal alone. Some people are prepared to fight and give their lives for ideals, but there is frequently a more tangible reason as well. I do not believe that the German and Italian expeditionary forces—for one may call them that—are taking part in the Spanish conflict for the sake of Fascist ideals alone. Much has been said with regard to the strategic importance of Spain, and Spain has a political significance as well. There is also an economic significance. I believe I am correct in saying that of European countries Spain is by far the largest exporter of copper and zinc. There are in Spain valuable deposits of iron, coal, and some other minerals. Some of these minerals are of great importance to all European countries, but perhaps especially important to Germany at the present time. It has been suggested that should General Franco be able to establish his control over the whole of the country, he will require finance and the wherewithal to develop the country. In these days, an empire is not necessarily an empire which is established under a country's flag.

On these Benches we welcome the Foreign Minister's statement with regard to the importance that he and this country attach to the integrity of Spain and Spanish possessions; but there are more ways than one of establishing an empire to-day. By exchange control and other means, it is possible that in the event of General Franco establishing complete control over Spain, those very important raw materials which are to be found in that country will find their way in increasing quantities, and on more favourable terms, into the Fascist countries to assist their development. I do not wish to deal at any further length with the strategic importance of Spain, but I wish to make one further point with regard to non-intervention. The evidence I received appeared to me fairly conclusive that the intervention on the side of the insurgents had been more pronounced, had come earlier, and had been more effective than the contraventions of the Non-Intervention Agreement on the other side, until very recently. I think I am reproducing an impartial opinion when I say that one of the more important factors of the insurgent advance on Madrid was the complete inadequacy of the armaments in the possession of the Government. It was not until a little over a month ago that that great inadequacy was to some extent remedied. I think it is an important consideration to bear in mind. There may have been breaches of the Non-Intervention Agreement on both sides previously to that, but that the effective breaches were committed on the side of the insurgents is to me clear.

There is one other consideration I would like to put to the House. It is sometimes a good thing to put oneself in the place of other people and try to imagine what conclusions they will be drawing from your actions about your motives. I would ask the House to consider what informed opinion in Germany to-day concludes is the real meaning of British policy at the present time. I think informed opinion in Germany would come to the conclusion at once that there is a very real and essential difference between our attitude in the Spanish conflict and that of the French Government. While we both agree to non-intervention, no one would suspect that M. Leon Blum was neutral in this conflict. He may think that the wisest policy for the French people at the present time is to adopt nonintervention, but no one doubts the fact that he wishes the Spanish Government to win. I do not think that the same can be said of the pronouncements made by Ministers and by influential members of the Conservative party in this country.

Captain McEWEN

Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that it was M. Blum who initiated the policy of non-intervention?


I do not intend to be drawn into a discussion of that kind because I have, unfortunately, failed to make clear the point which I am trying to put to the House. My point is that while M. Blum may or may not have instigated this policy, nobody in Europe or the world thinks that his sympathies are equally divided or that he is uncertain as to which party in this conflict he wants to win. His sympathies and, as he realises, his country's interests are definitely behind the Spanish Government. The British Government, at any rate until very recently, were at great pains to show that they did not know which side they wanted to win in this conflict. Reference was made earlier to "opposing factions" and we have also heard the statement that on one side there is Communism and on the other side there is Fascism and that we do not wish either side to succeed. I am not going into that question again. What I wish to put before the House is the fact that it is of great importance to this country that the Spanish Government of the future should not be under the control of Fascist Powers. I submit that that is an interest of great Imperial importance, of considerable strategical importance and of some economic importance. I want to make it clear that it would be perfectly possible for us to take the attitude which the French Government has taken and to say "We will not permit our nationals to supply arms to either side, but our sympathies are definitely on one side." I suggest that an impartial observer in Germany may think that we are really neutral, that we have not realised that Imperial interests are at stake, and that if the German Government consider it to be in their interests that one side should win, we are prepared to sit back and allow them to take what steps they think necessary to accomplish that end.

I, therefore, ask the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider this question carefully. While non-intervention may be the right tactical approach to the problem, in the very difficult and dangerous situation arising out of the civil war in Spain, I ask him whether he really considers that we ought not to make it plain that we attach great importance as a democracy to a free Government being left at liberty in Spain to organise Spanish affairs, without dictation from the Governments of Germany and Italy, instead of allowing Spain to become what would be to all intents And purposes a vassal State? I put forward those considerations in all seriousness. I do not accept the suggestion that the Spanish Government are not anxious to restore law and order, but I shall not deal further with that point in view of what has already been said by other hon. Members. I ask again that the British Government should consider what the implications of statement or lack of statement on this question have been, and I ask them to consider what will be the result, on the balance of power, if you like, and on European affairs, of a victory for General Franco and the insurgents.

1.40 p.m.


I think it may suit the convenience of the House if I attempt now to reply to some of the questions which have been put to the Government in the course of this Debate. I wish to assure the hon. Gentleman who opened the discussion of one thing and it is that, as far as the Government are concerned, we have no objection to this subject being raised at a time like this. On the contrary we think there is considerable usefulness in being able to make a review of international affairs at this time so shortly before we all adjourn for a Christmas holiday which some of us hope will be comparatively uninterrupted. I am going to confine my remarks within a limited compass because I know there are other subjects which hon. Members desire to discuss, and I think it is probably the wish of the House that I should deal mainly with the chief subject of this Debate and that is the Spanish situation. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down in the course of a very interesting speech made certain remarks on the subject of non-intervention. He asked the Government to say what form of Government they would like to see in Spain. My answer, as a democrat, to that question is not difficult to give. I should like to see the Government in Spain that Spain wants, and that is the whole motive behind our support of the policy of non-intervention. We think it the duty of all nations to keep out of this Spanish quarrel and to allow the Spanish people to settle their sufficiently tragic difficulties in their own way. If anybody thinks that the fact that we support non-intervention is due to a feeling of sympathy for one side or the other they are mistaken. We are supporting this policy because we believe it to be the best for Europe at this time.

I wish to be frank with the House on this subject. Non-intervention has not realised our expectations. Neither in the speed with which the Agreement was negotiated nor in the manner in which it has been observed since, have we, who joined with the French in initiating it, any cause for satisfaction. What I want the House to consider for a moment is the question of whether that dissatisfaction is a sufficient cause for denouncing the policy of non-intervention. If we were to denounce it one result certainly would be that all nations would be free to pour arms into Spain without hindrance of any kind and that would inevitably, I think, bring the risks of a European war nearer. Would it—and this question I ask hon. Members opposite to consider—profit the Spanish Government? A mere permission given to the Spanish Government to buy arms in this country would have no effect whatever on the course of the War. What would have some effect on the course of the War would be—and the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle - under - Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) referred to this—an active measure of military intervention by this country in the conflict. Obviously that would affect the course of the war, but there is not a single soul who has advocated that course.

It may interest the House if I say that two days ago, by accident, I came across, in the Foreign Office, a note addressed to Lord Palmerston almost exactly 100 years ago by the Ambassador of the then Queen of Spain in connection with a situation which had arisen in a civil war in Spain, the Carlist war, and this is what the Spanish Ambassador 100 years ago asked. He pointed out the terrible nature of the struggle and the various local circumstances, and he spoke of the necessity for meeting open resistance to a legitimate Government. That is a claim which I think we have heard once or twice recently. He went on to say that he felt sure that the Government of his Britannic Majesty would be pleased to authorise him by a special Order of the King in Council to raise in the United Kingdom a body of 10,000 troops, giving His Majesty's permission to British subjects, and particularly to such officers as are desirous, to enlist in the same, for the service of his Catholic Majesty, and furnishing him from the military arsenals with the articles of armament and others which may be necessary for the speedy departure of the said forces for the place where their presence may be most useful. Optimistically, the Ambassador flattered himself that his request would have a happy issue. He flattered himself in vain, because Lord Palmerston, in a very eloquent note, explained that the Government's policy was non-intervention. That was in 1835.


No progress.


Is it not a fact that in 1836 we did supply a great deal of arms to the legitimist Government against the Carlists?


That may be, but the only means, in our view, which might be effective or decisive was military intervention, and that Lord Palmerston would have none of, nor, I believe, would anybody in this House at the present time. With regard to the issue of non-intervention, I believe it to be true to say that this policy, despite its admitted shortcomings, despite the blatant breaches that there have been has on the whole reduced the risk of a European war. M. Blum, speaking in the French Chamber of Deputies in a speech which many hon. Members have no doubt read, expressed his belief that last August Europe was on the brink of war and that the Non-intervention Agreement saved it. I am certainly not going to say that he was wrong, but it is quite true to argue that, despite the fact that arms have gone from Germany, Russia, and Italy—and we know it, I agree—the existence of this Non-intervention Agreement has reduced the significance of those breaches. Anyhow, the risks created by those supplies have definitely been less than they would have been had there been no Non-intervention Agreement.

The House may say that the French Government, with ourselves, in supporting it, exaggerated the risk of war last Autumn. That must be a matter of opinion, but at least I would say to the House that it is better to exaggerate the risks of war than to overlook them, and in that respect I stand in no white sheet for the support of this policy of nonintervention. But I would not have the House or other people outside consider that our support of this policy is due to weakness, because that is not so. That support is due to the fact, as I mentioned in the first sentence of my speech to-day, that we believe the faithful pursuit of such a policy to be the wisest course for ourselves and for Europe, and indeed a duty which Europe owes to Spain at this time.

None the less, the present situation obviously is profoundly unsatisfactory, and we are searching for some means of bettering the Non-intervention Agreement. Obviously, the best method of doing so would be some effective method of control. In order to show the difficulties which meet us at every turn, if the nations of Europe, the principal nations, all of them, really wished to make the Non-intervention Agreement effective, we could have quite a simple system of control, and that would be enough, but if they do not wish to make non-intervention effective, there is virtually no system of control which the wit of man can devise which will make it wholly effective, and that is the fundamental difficulty which we have to face.

The recent Anglo-French initiative has been referred to. That initiative arose out of our dissatisfaction with the present position, and it had a dual objective. The first was to reinforce and improve the effectiveness of the Non-intervention Agreement, and the second was to make an effort towards mediation. I am not going to detain the House by describing the answers which the Governments have given—they have all appeared in the Press—but I would like to say to my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris), in connection with his speech, that neither we nor the French Government have any intention of desisting from our attempt to secure mediation in this conflict. We did not anticipate that at the first attempt of this kind we were going to be immediately received with support from all sides, either in Spain or elsewhere in Europe. But we intend to persist in these efforts, perhaps using slightly different methods of approach, because we believe that ultimately the time will come when those efforts will be rewarded

Now may I be allowed to say a few words to the House on a subject about which many questions have been asked, and that is with regard to what is being done in the humanitarian sphere, because I think it would be of some interest to the House to hear it. I would like to say something of what we have been doing as a Government, through our representatives, since I last spoke on this subject at the end of October. The House will perhaps recall that at that time we had made an offer for the exchange of prisoners, if you call them that, or hostages, on a large scale between the two parties, which had been rejected. I regret that, not only because of the rejection itself, but because it made the task of our diplomatic and consular representatives in various parts of Spain much more delicate and much more laborious in carrying on the work which they had been doing and are still doing in that connection. However, that work has been going on quietly and steadily during the last two months and inevitably with the minimum of publicity, because the less publicity we have, we think, the more effectively we can do this work. I feel sure the House will agree that the results, even if they are not successful, will justify the efforts which have been made and the expense which His Majesty's Government have incurred.

One of the ways, of course, in which we have been able to give this help is by providing facilities for evacuation in His Majesty's warships. The House will realise that in the present state of feeling in that country, which has been so very well described by those who have recently been to Spain, any movements of this kind, of prisoners from one side to the other, have to be preceded by a long and often very delicate negotiation between the two parties, before we can get the permission of the local authorities to carry out these exchanges. Nevertheless, we have made considerable progress, and, to give the House one example, from one port alone in Spain as many as 200 persons have been evacuated weekly for some time past as a result of the activities of our consular officers and the work of our ships.


Will the right hon. Gentleman name the port?


No, I cannot. I cannot yet give the total figures, but I can say that I shall be surpised if, when the reckoning of what has been done in this respect is finally made up, the total of persons exchanged, or hostages, or prisoners, that total does not reach five figures, and I think that that in itself will show the amount of work which has been done. Our diplomatic and consular officers have also been active in drawing the attention of the Government and the local authorities in different parts of Spain to individual cases which come to their notice which seem to them to be based on reliable evidence such as cases of unjust imprisonment, or the flight of a family, or of women and children separated from their men folk, and so on. I am not going to pretend that these representations have in all cases been successful. Unfortunately, they have not, but we have evidence to show that in certain cases they have borne fruit and that in a number of instances as a result of these representations, we have been able to secure the actual release of prisoners. Our diplomatic and consular representatives have also given active assistance to such voluntary organisations as the Scottish Ambulance Unit, which has done such splendid work in Madrid. We have made a point of working in the closest contact with the International Red Cross.

One of the most fruitful results of that co-operation is what we have been able to assist in carrying through in north-west Spain as a result of a series of agreements which have been concluded between the Burgos Government and the Basque Government. There is apparently considerably less bitterness between these two sides than there is between the Burgos Government and the Government of Spain. As a result of these agreements, several hundreds of prisoners have been exchanged, and we hope shortly to effect the exchange of a further 4,000. When it takes place it will be carried out by His Majesty's ships. I have, therefore, every hope that with patience and insistence we shall be able to presuade the local authorities in other parts of Spain to avail themselves of our help to effect the exchange of prisoners. This humanitarian work has been carried out all over Spain in any place where opportunity offered and without any discrimination as to the political sympathies of the persons concerned. We attach considerable importance to this work, not only because of what it means in the saving of life—we know only too well what has so often happened to prisoners —but because of the effect we hope it will have in reducing the bitterness of this strife, and, therefore, in facilitating the opportunities for bringing it to an end.

We have continued to hope that it may be possible to organise some humanitarian work on a large scale with the official blessing of the two parties fighting in Spain. To this end we called a little time ago for a meeting of the International Relief Union. That is not all that we have done. My noble Friend the Under-Secretary has also been active at Geneva. He has made an appeal there for the co-ordination of, international effort and has suggested that the Secretary-General of the League should be empowered to provide technical assistance to Spain at this time. My noble Friend does not return until to-night, so that my information is somewhat incomplete, but, from a late message which I have had, it appears that the view of the Spanish Government at present is that they do not require money or food or transport. They say they can manage even transport. What they do want is a certain amount of technical assistance in the co-ordination of these things. If the League can offer that technical assistance on a purely humanitarian basis, I think they should offer it, and we have expressed this view at Geneva.

Perhaps the House will allow me to answer one or two of the specific questions that were asked on the subject of help being given in Spain. We were asked about medical supplies. We believe that there is a shortage, and the Government will be very ready to do anything they can to facilitate the efforts of any private organisation anxious to forward these supplies to Madrid. As to gas masks, fortunately there has not been any gas used in this conflict, but there is certainly nothing to prevent any private organisation from sending gas masks to Madrid. As a matter of fact, we have been approached by the Spanish Government and we have sold a small consignment direct to them. Of course, we sell them to anybody when we have any to spare. Another question was what happens to the coal going to Spain. As the position is at present, His Majesty's ships protect British shipping on the high seas and, therefore, it is their duty to protect any British ships carrying on commerce with Spain. The only exception is special treatment for ships carrying arms. As I informed the House at Question Time there has during the last three weeks been no case of any kind of interference with British shipping by anybody.

On the question of volunteers from this country, let me assure the House that there is no question of the Government seeking to introduce legislation on the subject. What we are working for is international action on the subject. At the same time, I must remind the House that the Attorney-General explained at Question Time that there are certain Acts already in force in this country, and I am not going to deal with this question any further beyond saying that.


Is it the intention of the Government to take action on this matter in advance and independently of what other countries may do?


There are certain laws in this country already and, of course, the Government have to enforce them. We cannot do anything else. My object is to secure international action on this subject, but I cannot forget that there are already laws on the subject in this country.

Before I leave the question of Spain, there is a further word that the House will perhaps allow me to say. Frequently tributes have been rightly paid in the House to the work of Mr. Ogilvie Forbes and others who have helped him in Spain and to various consular officers in various parts of the country. I would like to add this, although it is perhaps a little irregular. I doubt whether it is fully realised what a severe strain is placed on the staff of a small department of the Foreign Office by the emergencies of so prolonged and critical a situation as that with which we are faced in Spain. In addition to their ordinary activities, the Department has to spend many weary extra hours dealing with such problems as the evacuation of British subjects, letters from people in this country who have friends in Spain and are anxious to trace them, relief work, humanitarian organisation, and so on. It is impossible automatically to increase the staff to cope with this extra work, and the result has been that the staff has had to work for many weeks for very long hours indeed. I hope the House will allow me to pay a tribute to these officials for the work they have done.

Finally, may I say a word on the general situation. I agree with the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken when he describes the difficulties through which we have passed this year. He begged me not to presume too much on unity in foreign affairs, and I waited to hear from him where the disunity exists, but he did not say. If I am not entitled to say that the hon. Gentleman agrees with me, perhaps he will allow me to say that I agree with him, because, so far as I was able to discover in his speech, there was virtually nothing with which I would wish to quarrel. Here we stand at the end of a very difficult year, a year when difficulties have crowded round us, but I would not like the House to adjourn for Christmas in a mood of inspissated gloom about the international situation because, difficult as it is we are by no means prepared to despair. The problems are still acute, but they are not necessarily insoluble. I think it is true to say definitely that our position in Europe is certainly better than it was at this time last year. That is not without its importance in the maintenance of peace.

Another factor which we can note is the close cordiality of the relations which exist at present between us and France, a, cordiality which is all the more important because it is not exclusive, and because both of us have made it clear that our object is to secure a European settlement. I take some comfort from the fact that a semi-official German agency should have said two days ago: It cannot be denied that the recent speeches of M. Blum and, the British Foreign Secretary have represented honest attempts to find a way out of the present situation and to begin a genuine work of reconstruction. Can we, in the New Year, make progress with European peace? I should be the last to belittle the difficulties but, none the less, I am not without hope, for no achievement is impossible to statesmanship if it has faith to act and courage to persevere.


Before the right hon. Gentleman sits down, would he be good enough to answer one or two questions arising out of his speech at Bradford? He spoke of Great Britain's interest in the integrity in Spain and the Spanish possessions, and he said that it was a consideration of great moment to us that, when Spain emerges from her present troubles, that integrity should be preserved. Does that amount to saying that the integrity of Spain in her Spanish possessions is a matter of vital interest to Great Britain? Secondly, can anything be said directly, either to Rome or to Berlin, in order, to put it bluntly, to warn them off the grass and to call their attention to the fact that we are deeply interested in the integrity of Spain and the Spanish possessions?


I would tell the hon. Lady, in answer to her question, and without wishing to be thought discourteous, that I do not think I can improve on my own form of words, and that I do not want to put a gloss on them at the moment. As to the action that can be taken, I think I have already informed the House at Question Time, and I do not think I can add to that.