(by Private Notice) asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he has seen reports referring to certain Fleet movements in the Mediterranean, and to the fast that the shore leave of naval personnel at Malta had been stopped, and attributing these circumstances to developments in the international situation connected with events in Spain; and whether he has any statement to make.
§ Sir S. HOARE
Yes, Sir. I am glad to be able to contradict a most misleading report which was circulated yesterday by a news agency to the effect that, following the increasing threats of a blockade of Barcelona by the ships of General Franco and the reported interference of Spanish insurgent warships with both a Greek and a Norwegian merchant vessel, all British naval leave had been stopped in Malta. The report immediately went on to say that at the same time the Flagship of the First Submarine Flotilla, Mediterranean Fleet, His Majesty's Ship "Cyclops," left Malta yesterday for Spanish waters, that she was accompanied out of the harbour by the submarines of her Flotilla, eight in number, and that though no official information was given as to the destina- 406 tion of these submarines, it was reliably understood in Malta that they too were bound for Spanish waters.
The true facts are that His Majesty's Ship "Cyclops," which left Malta yesterday, and His Majesty's Ship "Galatea" and the Third Destroyer Flotilla, which will sail to-morrow, are relieving other ships in accordance with a programme arranged some weeks ago. The suspension of leave in Malta was due to the violent gale which struck the island yesterday, and which made communication between ships and shore impossible. The action taken is a normal routine on the Mediterranean Station in such circumstances. If submarines left Malta harbour yesterday it could only have been for a short routine exercise, which would not, of course, be reported to the Admiralty.
§ Sir JOSEPH LAMB
Is it not possible to take some action against agencies which deliberately circulate these reports, causing international danger?
§ Sir S. HOARE
I hope the answer I have given to this question will be a warning that agencies should not circulate irresponsible reports of this kind in the future.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
The First Lord of the Admiralty, in his original reply, referred to the warships belonging to General Franco. I would like to ask him if these are ships that General Franco stole from the Spanish Government, or where did he get them?