HC Deb 16 July 1936 vol 314 cc2232-4
49. Captain McEWEN

asked the Prime Minister whether His Majesty's Government in their consultations with the South African Minister of Defence, during his recent visit to this country, officially discussed the question of Germany's claim to territories in Africa; and whether they gave him any reason to believe that the putting forward of such claims would be sympathetically entertained by His Majesty's Government?


I think that my hon. Friend's question is based on a misapprehension. I understand that, in the interview with the Press on his return to South Africa, Mr. Pirow himself made it clear that the impressions which he was then giving were "the result of personal observation, of talks with individuals and groups, and were not the outcome of specific discussions with members of the British Government." So far as the attitude of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom is concerned, I have nothing to add to the previous statements which have been made in this House on their behalf.

Brigadier-General Sir HENRY CROFT

Does not my right hon. Friend consider that there are likely to be further complications and misunderstandings unless some explicit assurance can be given on behalf of the Government? Is it not desirable, in view of the agitation in Germany, that at an early date there should be something more tangible.


I think that the statements of the Government were perfectly clear. I myself regret, of course, Press interviews on matters that are of some considerable delicacy, but I have little jurisdiction in this country and none in South Africa. I would just add this, and I am quite sure my hon. and gallant Friend will agree with me, that conversations with Dominion Ministers who come over here are naturally extremely confidential, and I should never reveal anything that took place, but it must be remembered that Mr. Pirow came over as Minister of Defence on some specific work. When he was dealing with other matters than that he was expressing, as I understand it, his personal opinion. He had no authority that I am aware of for expressing the opinion of the Government of South Africa, and whatever views he may have expressed in this interview—and we have been at some pains to get all the particulars we can of it—they do represent entirely his personal views and not necessarily the views of the South African Government. What relation his views may bear to those of the South African Government is not for me but is a matter for that Government.


While thanking the Prime Minister for his answer, may I ask him whether he could not reply to the question of my hon. and gallant Friend and choose some occasion for making it perfectly clear that there is no question at the present moment of any transfer of our Mandated Territories?


I think that the answer which has been given by the Government is perfectly specific, and my answer to the latter part of the question whether they gave him any reason to believe that the putting forward of such claims would be sympathetically entertained by His Majesty's Government is in the negative.


Is the Prime Minister aware that the statement to which he refers which was made by the Government differs very materially from the previous statements made last year by the Government, particularly by the Home Secretary in Berlin, and will he not make it quite clear at an early date where the Government stand?