HC Deb 04 May 1936 vol 311 cc1327-32

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that the French Government have refused to permit the importation into Abyssinia, since the commencement of the war, through the Djibouti railway of arms, ammunition, and implements of war; and whether, as this is apparently a breach of the Treaty of 1930 and of the decision of the Council of the League of Nations with regard to the imposition of sanctions, the matter has been considered by the Committee of Eighteen or will now be brought before them?


As regards the first part of the question, I would refer the hon. Member to the statements which I made on 29th April, on this subject, to which I have nothing to add. As regards the remainder of the question, the matter would be one for the Abyssinian Government to raise themselves, should they think fit.


Will the right hon. Gentleman see to it that the French Government aee suitably congratulated on the success of their policy in destroying—




asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has any statement to make with reference to the refusal of the International Red Cross Committee at Geneva to communicate to the League of Nations. Council the evidence in its possession regarding the use of poison gas in Abyssinia, by the Italian forces; and what reason was given by the committee for this failure to co-operate with the League Council, particularly in view of the special position given to Red Cross organisations under Article 25 of the Covenant?


On 24th April the President of the International Red Cross Committee, in reply to a communication addressed to the committee by the Chairman of the Committee of Thirteen, explained in detail why he had not found it possible to communicate to the League copies of the reports in his possession concerning the alleged use of gas and other violations of the laws of war during the present campaign in Abyssinia. As the correspondence is somewhat lengthy, I am arranging to place copies in the Library of the House.


In view of the fact that representation is almost entirely, or very largely, Swiss on the Committee of the International Red Cross, will the right hon. Gentleman consider the question of making it in future rather more representative of the different nations?


I cannot make it anything.


Can you try?


asked the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs whether the arrangement of the South African Government for subsidising the Italian line steamships has been in any way changed since the imposition of sanctions upon Italy; and whether he will make a statement as to the present position with regard to this matter?

The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for DOMINION AFFAIRS (Marquess of Hartington)

I understand that there has been no change in the position.


Should not the benefits of Imperial defence be withdrawn from a Government which persistently encourages foreign shipping at the expense of our own?


May I ask what contribution South Africa has made towards sanctions in support of the League of Nations if she continues to subsidise Italian shipping against British?

Marquess of HARTINGTON

The answer is that it is entirely a matter for the South African Government. I am advised that there is no breach of the position with regard to sanctions; it was a contract for services rendered.


Could I have an answer to my question?

Marquess of HARTINGTON

It does not seem to me to arise.

1. Lieut. - Commander FLETCHER

asked the Secretary for Mines the quantity and value of sales of oil by the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company to Italy since December, 1934?

The SECRETARY for MINES (Captain Crookshank)

No official information about oil shipments to Italy is available later than that for the year 1935, already published in Appendix II of Command Paper 5094.


If these sales had not been made by this company, would they not, probably, have been made by an American company?

Mr. ATTLEE (by Private Notice)

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has any statement to make on the situation in Abyssinia?


Yes, Sir. On the evening of Friday, 1st May, the Emperor of Ethiopia sent his secretary to His Majesty's Minister at Addis Ababa to inform Sir Sidney Barton that His Majesty had renounced the direction of affairs, which he had confided to his Council of Ministers, and that he intended to leave for Jibuti with his family immediately. Before this message was received in London His Majesty had already left Addis Ababa on the morning of 2nd May, accompanied, as I understand, by the Empress, the Crown Prince, and other members of his family, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and a number of others. The party arrived at Jibuti yesterday morning. In communicating his message to His Majesty's Minister the Emperor made it clear that his wish was to proceed with his family to Palestine. His Majesty's Government felt it incumbent upon them to grant this request and, so far as lay in their power, to facilitate the passage of the party to Jerusalem. They therefore placed themselves in communication with the French Government, who for their part expressed their readiness to give effect to whatever wishes His Majesty might express as to his further destination. In these circumstances His Majesty's Government have ordered His Majesty's Ship "Enterprise" to proceed to Jibuti and convey His Majesty and his party direct to Haifa. I have just received a message that the Emperor and his party are expected to go on board at about 6 p.m. local time to-day, that is about 4 p.m. our time. The Emperor, who has renounced the direction of affairs, will naturally be expected, while in Palestine, not to participate in any way in the furtherance of hostilities.

As regards the situation in Addis Ababa itself, His Majesty's Minister has reported that grave disorder broke out shortly after the Emperor's departure, which has, I understand, continued ever since. There has been extensive looting and arms have been freely used. Attacks have been made on certain foreign Legations, though, not I understand, upon His Majesty's Legation, and on foreign property, and the business quarter of the town is said to be largely in ruins. I regret to inform the House that the latest reports from His Majesty's Minister indicate that a certain number of casualties have occurred among the foreign residents, though so far as I am aware only one British subject has been injured. This is Dr. Melly, the medical officer in charge of the British Red Cross Ambulance, who was wounded in the streets by an Ethiopian rioter. He, together with the remainder of the British community and over 2,000 refugees of 23 different nationalities, is at present being cared for in the British Legation. In September, 1935, the Legation Guard was reinforced by a company of Indian infantry for the express purpose of protecting the British community in the event of an emergency. I am glad to think that the presence of these troops has almost certainly enabled a great many lives, which might otherwise have been jeopardised or lost, to be saved. In addition, the House should know that members of the British community have continually at great personal risk formed rescue parties to bring into the protection of His Majesty's Legation Europeans regardless of nationality, from points of danger.

In conclusion I am sure the House will agree that the greatest credit is due to the staff of His Majesty's Legation who have gone through, and doubtless still are going through, a most anxious time, for the way in which they have handled a very difficult and trying situation, and, above all, to Sir Sidney Barton whose conduct of affairs throughout has been beyond all praise.


Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the Emperor has definitely abdicated or not, and who now represents the Abyssinian Government in that country?


I cannot say anything more than I have said.


Has my right hon. Friend any information regarding the British Indians who most gallantly defended the store in which they were employed and their own lives against an overwhelming mob of Abyssinian bandits, and has he any information as to their safety at this moment?


I am afraid that I have no other information than that which I have given.


Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us what is the latest bulletin regarding the condition of Dr. Melly?


The House will appreciate that information is not very easy to get.


Is the fight being carried on by any Abyssinian leaders?


I do not know.

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