§ 14. Colonel WEDGWOOD
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what has now been done concerning the bombing of the British ambulance by Italian airmen?
§ Viscount CRANBORNE
Since the statement which I made on this subject on Monday last, the Italian Government have communicated a written reply to the representations made by His Majesty's Ambassador in Rome, a telegraphic summary of which has been communicated by Sir Eric Drummond to my right hon. Friend. So far as can be judged from this summary, the Italian Government admit the bombing on 4th March of an encampment furnished with at least one Red Cross sign, but claim that this bombing was in retaliation for the opening of fire upon the aircraft both on 3rd March and on 4th March. It is claimed that the Italian aircraft were fired on yet again on 5th March from the same locality, but the summary does not show that the Italians admit having bombed the encampment again on that day. The Italian note apparently states that the coincidence of the locality and of the 10 facts permits the identification of this alleged incident with that of which His Majesty's Government had complained. As to this I can only say that my right hon. Friend has noticed considerable discrepancies between the account given in the Italian communication and the report previously communicated by the leader of the British Red Cross unit concerned, particularly as regards the number of lorries and of Red Cross insignia as well as the location of the encampment. The Italian official statement does not apparently specify who is supposed to have fired on the aircraft, but the Italian Press of 12th March explain that it was done by at least a thousand armed men in khaki uniform who emerged from the tents on the approach of the aircraft. Dr. Melly has already denied that there was any firing upon Italian aircraft from the neighbourhood of his camp, but further detailed information is being sought from him. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman may he assured that His Majesty's Government will pursue this matter with the utmost energy with the Italian Government as soon as my right hon. Friend has obtained Dr. Melly's further comments.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
Apart altogether from what His Majesty's Government propose to do in the future, may we understand that a claim for damages will be made, and that, if it is not met, His Majesty's Ambassador in Rome will be withdrawn?
§ Viscount CRANBORNE
My hon. Friend will recall that as a result of the discussions held at Geneva early this month, a message was addressed by the Committee of Thirteen to the Italian and Ethiopian Governments appealing for the immediate opening of negotiations in the framework of the League of Nations and the spirit of the Covenant with a view to the prompt cessation of hostilities and the definite restoration of peace. The message added that the Committee of Thirteen would neet on 10th March to 11 take cognisance of the replies of the two Governments, both of whom have since expressed their readiness, in principle, to take part in negotiations. Owing, however, to the discussions arising out of the recent action of the German Government, it has proved necessary to postpone temporarily the meeting of the Committee of Thirteen, which will however take place at the earliest practicable moment.