§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Captain Margesson.]
§ 3.59 p.m.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Mr. Eden)
In the course of the correspondence which passed between my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition about the reassembly of Parliament, my right hon. Friend made it plain that he was willing to grant facilities for a discussion of the Spanish situation as soon as might be conveniently arranged, and the first available date was this one. We have been informed through the usual channels that it is the desire of the Opposition that the Debate should be opened by a statement of the position from the Government, and, therefore, if the House will bear with me, I propose to give the House the information at my disposal as regards events in Spain, the formulation and execution of the policy of non-intervention, and the present phase of the work of the Committee which deals with that subject.
If we are clearly to understand the sad story of recent events in Spain we have to go back a little further than the actual outbreak of the fighting. For some months previous to the rebellion Spain was profoundly unsettled. The writ of the Government did not run unchallenged throughout the length and breadth of that great country. There were many instances of lawlessness, and these included not only strikes but a succession of political assassinations. No political party and no section of the Spanish people were spared from these tragic happenings. These assassinations culminated on 13th July in the murder of Senor Calvo Sotelo, a former Spanish Finance Minister and a well-known political character. Within a week of that event the rebellion broke out. For the first few days the Government here, as in every other country, were occupied with what is always the first duty of governments on these occasions—the protection of their own nationals. Arrangements for evacuation were made and carried out.
In that connection I would like to be allowed, on behalf of the Government, 40 to pay a tribute to the work of the Royal Navy and of His Majesty's Consular officers throughout Spain for the really splendid services which they have rendered. I would like also, if I may, to make a special reference to the work of the Counsellor of His Majesty's Embassy in Madrid, Mr. Ogilvie Forbes, who gained by his tact and courage the confidence of the Spanish Authorities and has been able to grant assistance not only to British subjects but also to do all that has been possible to lessen the suffering in that country. We have received thanks from a large number of governments for the services of the Navy and of our Consular officers, and I would like to tell the House that those thanks were very much more than the ordinary official expressions which a nation has to give. Several Foreign Secretaries at Geneva recently spoke to me about the matter. One put the matter to me in words such as these: "It is not so much for the official help your services have given that we wish to express thanks, as for the spirit in which they were given." As I have said, during the first few days of the events in Spain this Government, like others, was preoccupied with doing what it could to assist its nationals. It soon became clear, perhaps before the rising of the House at the end of July, that supplies of arms were beginning to go in increasing quantities from foreign sources into Spain, and that the Powers of Europe were beginning to group themselves behind one or other party to tile conflict in Spain in accordance with their own political convictions. It soon became clear how real must be the dangers latent in an unrestricted supply of arms to Spain.
That was the position in the last days of July, when the House dispersed. Then there came the initiative of the French Government, instigated, I have no doubt, by the information they received of the extent of the flow of arms from foreign sources into Spain. It may also, for aught I know, have been prompted by the flight of a number of Italian aeroplanes without permission across French territory towards the insurgent headquarters. For whatever reasons, the French Government took that initiative, and on 2nd August they approached us and the Italian Government with a view to the acceptance of the principle of non-inter- 41 vention as a common rule between us as the three Mediterranean Powers chiefly interested in events in Spain.
The French Government further suggested that the agreement should be extended to cover other Powers. We replied that we would welcome a scheme of non-intervention, but would like it to be between all the Powers who might be likely to send arms to Spain. We suggested that in the first instance an approach might be made by the French Government and ourselves towards the Germans, the Italians and the Portuguese. Our preliminary replies showed that it would be necessary to widen the scope of the proposal, and on 6th August, only four days after the original initiative, the French Government, with our full support and approval, submitted to all the European Powers the text of a Convention laying down definite rules for the effective application of common undertakings for non-intervention. After that for some days there followed difficult diplomatic negotiations, until on the 15th we and the French Government exchanged Notes which have become the basis of the whole non-intervention agreement. We agreed in those Notes that the arrangement was to come into force the moment the German, Italian, and Portuguese Governments and the Government of Soviet Russia had agreed. Then there followed another period of negotiations while we were seeking to obtain the agreement of those four Governments to these proposals. During that negotiation we gave the French Government the fullest support, and on several occasions took the initiative in various capitals in agreement with views which the French Government had expressed. At times it did look as if the non-intervention agreement would never be accepted by a sufficient number of Powers, but finally, on 27th August, the last acceptance was received, that of Germany.
About that time the French Ambassador came to the Foreign Office and asked us whether, an agreement having been reached, we would now give our help in trying to make it as effective as possible. He invited us to agree that a Committee which the French Government thought to be indispensable should be set up, and the French Government suggested that the place for it might well be London. We at once accepted the suggestions of the French Government, 42 and on 9th September the first meeting of this International Committee took place in London, when all the European countries were represented except Portugal. Portugal joined a short while later as the outcome of a number of conversations which I and my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury had with the Portuguese Foreign Minister at Geneva. That was the position.
Before I deal with some of the criticisms current against this policy, I want to dispose of one rumour which has had a rather wide currency. It is this: It is suggested that the French Government took their initiative under strong British pressure. Some even go so far as to say that we threatened the French Government with all sorts of pains and penalties if they did not do this thing. Of course there is not a word of truth in that story. It is pure fabrication. The French Government took this initiative on their own account, and in doing so in our view rendered very material service to European peace. I suggest to the House that it is perhaps worth while to examine why the French Government took this initiative, for their position has been made clear more than once. Recently, at the Assembly at. Geneva, M. Delbos, the French Foreign Minister, spoke after a speech of the Spanish Foreign Minister who strongly denounced the non-intervention Agreement, and this is what M. Delbos said:When the Government of the French Republic recommended non-intervention it did not do so in a spirit of indifference. It had previously gauged the dangers of rival interventions in the supply of arms, the fatal consequences of incidents which must of necessity have occurred.I do not know whether the House has noticed that at a recent meeting of the Radical party in France, at I think Bordeaux—[HON. MEMBERS: "Biarritz."] At Biarritz then, even closer to Spain, the party endorsed this policy once again. Who can be surprised at the French Government or any Government taking that view in view of the knowledge each one of us must have of the contending currents, the clash of political creeds in Europe to-day?
It is easy enough to say now, "Oh, but this arrangement has helped one side more than another." I am going to deal with that in a moment. But our 43 purpose in this was not to help one side or another but to prevent civil war, savage in itself, from passing the boundaries of Spain and involving the whole of Europe in its orbit. I am afraid it is true that when the full story of this civil war is written it will be found, when the veil is lifted, that the tragic incidents have been very numerous, and the loss of life, the loss of wealth, the loss of works of art far more valuable than any wealth, amount to a very large figure. But surely the first task of statesmanship, as the French Government saw it and as we agreed with them, was to do all in our power to ward off the possibility of this state of affairs spreading to other nations. No one can imagine, no one who knows party politics in France or here can imagine, that M. Blum's task, or that of his colleagues, was an easy one. Whatever any hon. Member of this House may feel about this agreement, we must surely be in accord that its initiation was an act of rare courage. [Interruption.] M. Blum is not the sort of man to 'be discouraged. Nor, I think, would any Member of this House, wherever he sat, deny what must have been the consequences of failure to secure this agreement. It must inevitably have increased the risk of a European war.
I want to submit to the House that the real question that we have to decide in relation to this policy is whether there exists at all any other policy more likely than this to restrict the dangers that are clear to every Member of the House. Would anyone in the House deny that the policy of non-intervention is the one most likely to keep peace in Europe? While I am not going to shirk criticism of the working of the agreement, I must emphasise that those criticisms, collectively or individually, seem to pale into insignificance beside the broad decision that we have to take.
I know that it is popularly claimed that this agreement has operated against the Spanish Government. Some critics even go as far as to say that it is so one-sided as to determine the course of the civil war. I would ask the House to consider for a moment the position of the rival parties and of the supplying nations when this civil strife broke out. On the insurgents' side were the majority of the 44 army, and the insurgents possessed, I think, the greater part of the Spanish arsenals. In consequence they began better armed, better equipped and better disciplined. That certainly was the position. What we have to consider is whether, had there been no agreement, the supply of arms from outside would have been sufficient to counterbalance the original disadvantage under which the Spanish Government laboured. Geographically Italy is extremely well placed to supply arms to Spain. Furthermore, previous to the non-intervention agreement there is no dispute anywhere that arms had been going to the insurgents in very large quantities from more than one country.
Let us consider, in relation to that, who are the main arms supplying countries in Europe—Italy, Germany, France, Russia and ourselves. I should like to say a word about ourselves first. Does anyone in the House imagine that at present there is waiting in this country a large surplus of arms ready for immediate exportation? That is not the position at all. We have many times discussed it in the House, and we have been criticised for the slow rate of our rearmament programme. Of course, all sections of the House are well aware that at present the production of our armaments factories is absorbed in this country except in relation to some old contracts which are very difficult to fulfil owing to the demands of our three services. There is not in this country an immediate surplus of arms ready for export and, whatever our policy might have been had there been no non-intervention, a supply from this country could not have had an important bearing on the result.
Take France. It is not for me to speak for the French Government, but it does not, surely, require much imagination on the part of anyone to realise the difficult position in which the Government of a democratic country must have been placed had it been asked to send large supplies of arms to another country at a moment when failure to reach non-intervention had increased the tension of the European situation. I ask hon. Members to bear that in their mind. Russia, Italy and Germany are admittedly in a different category from the democratic countries. Their armaments factories are all State-controlled. They have for a long time past been turning out great quantities 45 of munitions. It, no doubt, would be for them no difficult task at all to supply what was called for with considerable rapidity, but let the House observe that Italy is much better placed than Soviet Russia to make those supplies and I think, if those facts are borne in mind, the House and the public will reconsider their hasty decision that this agreement has worked entirely against the Government of Spain. I do not believe that that view will be found to be held by people in a good position to judge, either in this country or in France.
However that may be, I realise fully that there are charges which it our duty here to attempt to meet. I take the first one, that there has been alleged delay in the working of this non-intervention committee. We have, of course, responsibility in the Committee. We are one member, but we have no more responsibility than anyone else. We have done our utmost not only to support the effective working of the Committee but to hasten its deliberations. Last week there was a certain amount of criticism at what was styled the delay in returning an answer to the complaint of the Spanish Government, I am not sure that these charges were justified. Considering that the evidence brought forward dealt with a large number of separate individual points, I do not consider that it shows delay that the Governments concerned took some 10 days to answer it. But, however that may be, we were active in doing our best to hasten the receipt of those replies, and I am confident that our representations had that effect. But that is not all. The moment that we received from the Spanish Government their first series of charges, we issued instructions to all our consular officers to check, so far as lay in their power, the information given therein.
I want on this point to say something about the position of our consular officers, because I believe there is some misapprehension. I see it suggested that, because we have consular officers in a large number of ports in Spain, we ought therefore to have a mass of information at our disposal as to what is going on in respect to the import of arms. That is not the position. The first duty of our consular officers is to take charge of British subjects and British interests, and it must surely be clear that in a time like this our consular officers, who are few, 46 have more than had their hands full with that particular duty. Besides, consular officers are subject to the ordinary law of the land. They have no right, for instance, to ask for admission to military establishments, or aerodromes or docks in order to see whether or not the material is there, and with that position in mind, as would appear from the communiqué which has been issued at the last meeting of the Committee, we have put forward proposals suggesting that countries should attempt to work out some form of supervision at the ports which can be agreed upon and accepted. But I must repeat that it is not fair to our consular officers nor reasonable, in view of the duties which they have to perform, to expect them to furnish detailed information of this kind. One report that I received in reply to earlier Spanish allegations showed that there was no evidence available to justify the charges that were made. That does not mean that the charges were not true, but merely that we have not the information. Our consular officers cannot be expected to go round spying and trying to find out.
The issue to which I want to bring the attention of the House is this. The chief complainant among the nations against the working of this non-intervention agreement is Soviet Russia. Almost the whole burden of the criticisms of Soviet Russia is addressed against one country, and that the smallest of the three Powers, Portugal. I want to say a, word about the position of Portugal. The Soviet Government even suggested that we and the French should place ships to watch Portuguese harbours to see whether these importations took place. I need hardly say that the Government never for a single second entertained such a proposal, nor have we any information whatever to support the Soviet charges nor, finally, has the Committee, as I understand it, been able to support any single one of the Soviet charges against the Portuguese Government.
It so happens that in this case we made certain inquiries some time ago. In the middle of September we asked our Ambassador at Lisbon whether he had any information in regard to Portugal's attitude towards the agreement. He is in a good position to judge. He replied that he had no reason whatever for thinking that the Portuguese Government was in any way infringing 47 the agreement. A week ago I made further inquiries with the same result, that there is no first-hand evidence available that the Portuguese Government are breaking the agreement. I think that should be said in fairness to the Portuguese Government, the smallest of these Governments and the one singled out by Soviet Russia. It is not at all surprising that there should be this state of affairs. It ought not to be surprising to hon. Members opposite for, if they believe that there are still large supplies of arms going to the insurgents from people who have signed the agreement, it must be clear that it is much more convenient for the insurgents to import them through their own ports in the north, west and south-west of Spain rather than through Portugal, where they may at least be held up, and where they would not arrive at the destination required.
I want to give the House one illustration to show how, with the very best intentions, the very wisest of informants may sometimes be led astray. A short while ago I received a letter from a representative of a very reputable organisation in this country, the name of which is very familiar to all hon. Members sitting opposite. That organisation wrote to me that they had received from an authoritative source information that a British ship, the "Bramhill," had loaded 1,500 tons of ammunition at Hamburg and taken it to the rebels at Alicante. The ship, they added, was back at Leith, and I could verify the matter, and would I therefore inquire into it. The House will observe that the apprehension which was felt was that this ammunition had reached the rebels, or the insurgents or whatever we call them, in a British ship. I was able to indicate at once that these fears were quite unjustified because Alicante was, and remains, in the possession of the Government. The House will therefore perceive that I had in this representation a truly admirable example of impartiality.
But I felt, upon whoever's behalf this leakage was supposed to have occurred that I should at least make inquiries, and the results of them so far obtained will be, I think, of interest to the House. It is quite true that this ship did leave this country in ballast for Hamburg to 48 take on a general cargo for Spain. The House will therefore perceive that so far as the responsibility of this Government is concerned, there is no charge against us in that transaction, nor indeed has any charge been made by anybody. The subsequent movements of the s.s. "Bramhill," both at Hamburg and in Spain, I am not yet in a position to make a full statement about, for there are many technical points at issue, and the investigation is still going on, but it is clear that that ship did on 1st October unload a cargo of munitions for the Government side at Alicante. The National Council of Labour, with full impartiality has caused me to investigate this matter with this result.
As I understand the main burden of complaint by hon. Members opposite, it is this. They say, "Even if the non-intervention policy was right at the start"—I am trying to put the argument which appears in yesterday's resolution as fairly as I can—"it is not working properly; the Committee is ineffective. Therefore we think"—the Opposition think—"that you and the French Government ought to propose to bring this policy to an end." I hope hon. Gentlemen opposite—I am sure they did before coming to this conclusion—weighed very fully the consequences of it, for they have been set out with admirable clarity by many distinguished members of the Front Opposition Bench. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition has not himself denied the greater risks which must ensue were there no nonintervention policy, but the most eloquent and the most effective exponent of all was the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton), who, in a wholly admirable article, if he will allow me to say so, in the "New Statesman," gave effect to these sentiments:On Spain I shall say here only this. It is not sense to call in one breath for the denunciation of the 'non-intervention agreement' and for the supply of British arms to Spain—a course which, right or wrong, would unquestionably, if adopted, increase the immediate risk of a general European war—and in the next breath to oppose British rearmament and to crab recruiting.The hon. Gentleman concludes with his usual force:Whatever else may be defensible, this blend of sentiments is not.We therefore look forward with some measure of satisfaction—satisfaction 49 almost so great as to overcome our regret at the change of policy opposite—to the support we shall now receive for recruiting and for our armaments programme.
I have tried to state the case against this agreement, but I would point out to the House that, despite all the difficulties, and, of course, they are real enough and numerous enough, this agreement is still working. The Committee are still even now engaged in trying to improve it. The French Government made quite plain their position in relation to the Committee yesterday at the meeting of the Committee, and I draw the attention of the House to what was said about that in the communiqué. The French representative stated:The French Government maintained in its entirety their attitude in regard to the non-intervention agreement, and would take all possible steps to secure the effective application of the agreement for the adoption of which they had taken the initiative in the interests of European peace. They would therefore examine any practical scheme of control that might be submitted and would participate in any measure that might be accepted by all the participating Governments.That, I wish to say, remains the position also of His Majesty's Government, and we do not accept, and are not in agreement with, the view of hon. Gentlemen opposite as stated in the Press this morning. No single Government has withdrawn from this Agreement. They are all still on the Committee, even Soviet Russia. Hon. Gentlemen must be careful or they will be out-Sovieting the Soviet. What are they asking us to do? They say to us—the French and ourselves, who worked all through the August and September weeks to try to keep this agreement going—they say to us, "Your Committee is no good. You will now please destroy what you have been trying to create"; and you will destroy it leaving the Soviet Government still on the Committee masters of the field. That is a wholly untenable proposition, and the Government have no intention of lending themselves to anything of this kind. The mere fact that all the nations are still members of the Committee surely shows that Europe—and every country in Europe is upon it—is convinced, despite the difficulties, that this policy is the right policy to pursue.
I had meant to give certain details of the humanitarian work which is being 50 done, but in view of the late hour I think that perhaps the House would rather that I abbreviated them. I would only say this. Our ships have evacuated since this tragic warfare began 6,000 persons, of whom 2,000 have been British subjects. There have been frequent efforts to attempt to secure exchanges of prisoners and to attempt to reduce the sufferings caused by the Civil War. One in particular has been successful. It is an agreement which has been reached between the Basque Government and the insurgents, as a result of which there has been an exchange of prisoners, and all the women have now been released. We owe that very largely to the work of Dr. Junod, of the International Red Cross, who has been helped by our consul at Bilbao and by the British ships who actually effected the exchange. I can only say now that I regret the reply of the Spanish Government very much to the last initiative which we made in Madrid. I explained to the Spanish Ambassador two days ago the regret that I knew the Government would feel. I explained to him that we were riot asking for the indiscriminate release of prisoners; what we intended was to offer our good offices for an exchange were it possible, and, above all, to try to get the women away to some place which might be agreed upon. I still hope that, in view of the tragic death roll there has already been in this ghastly business, the Spanish Government will reconsider their attitude, and perhaps something may yet be done.
Last of all, I wish again to state broadly the situation as we see it. The Government have kept throughout these anxious weeks in the closest touch with the French Government, and we shall continue to do so. I hope that to the end our decisions will be taken together, for I think we all appreciate that the two democratic countries in this affair have perhaps a special responsibility, and a difficult role and a specially difficult work to fulfil. The recent difficulties which have confronted the Committee are surely illustrations enough in themselves of the dangers we should run if this arrangement were to break down altogether. There is no alternative policy except to allow the free export of arms to either side—[An HON. MEMBER: "Why?"]—not by us, but one set of Governments supporting the one side and the other the 51 other. That is the only alternative that confronts us. In that way lies confusion, international recriminations and, may be, war. Therefore, so far as the Government of this country is concerned, we adhere to our policy, and I would ask the House to believe that we are not in this seeking to set a precedent or to establish some unvarying principle. It is a devise—admittedly a devise—by means of which we hope to limit the risks of war. It is an improvised safety-curtain. I am sure that this policy of non-intervention is the only one which the Government of this country at this moment should pursue, and that it has the support of the great mass of the people of this country who, deeply as they deplore—and they do deplore—the causes of this strife in Spain, believe it to be the first duty of their Government to limit that strife to the great but unhappy country where it now takes place.
§ 4.43 p.m.
§ Mr. ARTHUR GREENWOOD
Both sides of the House will, I think, be grateful to the Prime Minister for having allowed this Debate to take place, because it is clearly time that some definite statement should be made by His Majesty's Government on the Spanish situation. Therefore, I think we ought to pay our meed of congratulations to the right hon. Gentleman for arranging this Debate. On all sides of the House, I think, we regard the Spanish situation as a very grave tragedy. The right hon. Gentleman, speaking of the sad story of recent events in Spain, did not, I fear, tell the whole story. It is true that Spain is unsettled, not for the first time. Spain has been in a state of unsettlement almost perpetually for a generation. It is true that there has been lawlessness—and I do not regard strikes as lawlessness—it is true there have been political assassinations in Spain, but that is not an analysis of the Spanish situation as it was in July of this year, and in any case it is no justification for the rebellion. The rebellion, be it noted, did not break out in Spain. It broke out in Morocco, on 17th July, and by 18th July the flag of revolt had spread to Madrid. The Foreign Secretary, speaking in the House on 27th July said:There are certain remarkable features of this revolt. One of them is the suddenness with which it has spread to all parts 52 of the country, and the other is the rapidity with which communication within Spain and from Spain to other countries were cut."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th July, 1936; col. 1126, Vol. 315.]What is the conclusion to be drawn from that? The Spanish revolt was not a spontaneous rising of a suppressed people. It was a carefully engineered conspiracy originating outside Spain and aided and abetted by Powers outside Spain. The leading rebels were traitors to the State to which they had sworn allegiance. They were guilty of the crime of seducing 90 per cent. of the army from their newly sworn allegiance. They have carried on the revolt not with the active assistance of the Spanish people but by the use of Moorish troops and the Foreign Legion. They have envisaged this struggle as a fight by the saviours of Spain against Bolshevism. An attempt has been made to generalise this unhappy civil war as a fight between Fascism and Bolshevism. On these benches we do not accept that diagnosis. That view has been put forward by people with interested motives in this country. Italy and Germany envisage foreign politics as war against Bolshevism, and it is unfortunate that the Press in this country, or a certain section of the Press, has rather followed that line.
It is very unfortunate also that the First Lord of the Admiralty, the only person to speak on this issue during the Recess, should have talked about two factions in Spain, doing his best to reduce the strife between the Government and armed rebellion to a pothouse brawl. It is not a fight between two factions. It is an attempt by forces, inspired from outside, to destroy the elected Government. I realise that Spanish politics are not like a Mayfair tea party. I realise that there are difficulties, but the Spanish Government is the constituted Government of the country. A large number of people in the country do not like it. It is a popular front Government; the kind of Government the right hon. Gentleman would like, but which a large number of people here do not like. It certainly is not a Red Government, and has not had a Red Prime Minister until recent weeks. It is a most heterogeneous Government, even more heterogeneous than the Government opposite. It is composed of Radicals, and Liberals, Socialists and Anarchists and Syndicalists, a very heterogeneous Government 53 bound together by an agreed policy, and which, when assailed, determined to defend the freedom of Spain.
Faced with armed rebellion Spain was entitled to purchase arms wherever she could get them. That is a right which has always been admitted. Subsequently, within a few days, by the suggestion of non-intervention the Spanish Government was deprived of that right. Why was that? I have no doubt it was because the French and British Governments had regard to the wider aspects of the situation. The right hon. Gentleman has told us, and I accept his word, that the initiative for this non-intervention policy came from the French Government, but it is common talk in Paris to-day that if France was the mother of the agreement Great Britain was the father. It was quite natural that the French Government should want to have regard to British Government opinion, and I think, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, that France and Britain must travel the same path through the course of this problem.
But there have been very serious delays. The position of the Spanish Government was very serious. It had to face an army in revolt and it had to face a situation where the arsenals were in the hands of the rebels. Time was vital, and every day's delay in sending arms obviously prejudiced the position of the elected Government of the Spanish Republic. The right hon. Gentleman has referred to the diary of events. I have worked out even in more detail a diary of events. On 26th July the French Government announced that they were going to abide by a policy of non-intervention. The British Government agreed. Other Governments began to agree, but with qualifications, and it is interesting to note that the Governments which introduced modifications and qualifications were Germany, Italy, and Portugal. Time ambled on, and days and weeks went by. Without doubt a large amount of munitions and many men were pouring into Spain on the rebel side. The last people to agree on a policy of non-intervention were the people who had most to gain by delay, the Governments whose interests were the interests of the rebels. It took nearly four weeks to get the approval of Italy, Germany and Portugal, and during that time irreparable damage was done to the Spanish Government. Then the 54 French Government said, "We must have some machinery to carry out the policy of non-intervention." That went on with slow and stately tread, regardless of the increasing difficulties of a friendly Power, not a faction; but at long last the committee was set up, again not without difficulties and not without criticisms, and it has gone on majestically from day to day doing virtually nothing. Whilst the committee has been like the schoolboy "creeping like snail unwillingly to school," the rebels have been creeping nearer to Madrid every day and the Spanish Government is in greater danger to-day than ever.
I had hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would have said something about the extent of the violation of the agreement for non-intervention, but he said virtually nothing. He will not deny that the agreement has been violated. I divide the case into two parts. First, before 28th August, the period when the wishes of the French and British Governments were known, the period when the nations in Europe were invited to participate in this policy; that first period when, before they assented, certain States did their best to fortify the rebels, and the period after that. Clearly, in sending arms to Spain before the nations had agreed to non-intervention was not a breach of the nonintervention agreement though it was really illegal which makes the crime even worse. At any rate, arms might have gone to Spain, but arms ought not to have gone to Spain from Governments who do not allow the export of arms by private manufacturers but are themselves responsible for everything which goes out of the country. Then there is the period after 28th August. How far have there been violations of the non-intervention agreement? Will the Prime Minister say that the agreement has been honourably fulfilled by all the States which promised to agree to it? He will not. It has been violated, and the slow-motion picture of the nonintervention committee which moves more and more slowly as time goes on means more delay, but public opinion will make up its mind on the question.
I know it is very difficult to prove that there has been violation of the agreement, but are we to disbelieve every story of responsible journalists of this and other countries during the last few weeks? Not 55 journalists representing papers of the Left, but representing such highly respectable papers as "The Times" the "Morning Post," and the "Daily Telegraph." The evidence from them, even if 5 per cent. of it is true—I put it no higher than that—proves that since the beginning of September the agreement has been seriously violated. I could quote from letters I have received, and give the names of responsible journalists and their newspapers. From all the statements it is quite clear that there has been relatively a larger accession of strength on the part of the rebels than in the case of the Spanish Government. I wonder at the silence of the British Government on this matter. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the duties of consular agents. Consular agents in Spain, although they may have been busy with protecting British subjects and their interests, have ears to hear and eyes to see. There are consular agents not within Spain who may have observed what was happening. There are other agents of His Majesty's Government who are not consular officials. Have their eyes and lips been sealed during all these weeks? Has no information come to His Majesty's Government from official sources? Have they to rely on statements made by the Spanish and other Governments? Will the Prime Minister say that there is no information whatever in the Foreign Office?
Do the Government know nothing about what has been happening in Gibraltar? I have information from widely different sources which goes to show that Gibraltar smiles upon the Fascists and treats with very little respect the Spanish loyalists who are refugees in Gibraltar. Do the Government know nothing of what is happening in the Balearic Isles? Is is not true that they now seem to be passing under Italian control? Have they no information as to whether Majorca and other places have been used as a base of supplies for the rebels? Have they no information that arms and aeroplanes have been sent from Morocco to help the Spanish rebels? They must have this information, yet they have been very slow to take advantage of it. Whilst I am on this point I should like to refer to another matter. I think it was beneath the dignity of the British Government to leave the Embassy in 56 Madrid in charge of a junior officer, or at any rate a relatively junior officer. I think the Ambassador ought to have been in Madrid. I will assert that had the British and French and other Ambassadors been in Madrid many of the excesses which are said to have taken place would never have taken place, and it is very unfortunate that the Government of this country has removed its base from the capital.
If it be that the non-intervention agreement has been violated, what is to be done now? The right hon. Gentleman passed over the question of violation completely, but if the agreement has been seriously violated, as many people believe not only here but abroad, then clearly a new situation has arisen. We on these benches have never agreed with the policy of non-intervention. From the very beginning every declaration made by us has been in favour of maintaining the right of the Spanish Government to purchase arms, and we still believe that had that right been accorded, wholeheartedly from the start, the situation would not be as grave as it has become subsequently. The truth is that, although the policy of non-intervention was adopted and an attempt made to stop munitions and warlike supplies going to Spain, a large amount of munitions has gone there.
The real problem is that this fight is not one about Spain. Spain has become a pawn in the game of power politics, and no doubt that is one reason for the decision in favour of non-intervention. But had the boot been on the other foot, had there been a Fascist Government faced with a popular revolt from a popular front of the Left, would anybody have suggested the policy of non-intervention? It would never have been suggested. It is within the memory of some hon. Members that the British Government intervened with arms and men on the side of the legally constituted government against the wicked Bolsheviks in Russia. That is the other side of the question. I do not know whether that was the motive—fear of Communism; but I noticed that the Foreign Secretary was very careful to say that the present policy does not constitute a precedent. If the weak dictatorship in Portugal were faced by a popular revolt from the Left, the right hon. Gentleman would have a loophole; he would not be for non-intervention in that case. 57 The Portuguese Government, according to tradition, custom and habit, would be able to provide itself with arms from this country, and even pressure on our armaments manufacturers might not be sufficient to prevent arms going to Portugal in such a case.
I have said that we did not agree with the policy of non-intervention, but faced with the agreement and having regard to the situation, we said that such a policy, in order to be of the slightest value, must be effective. There is no difference in principle between a full supply of arms from all quarters and an agreement which pretends that no supplies are being sent when, in fact, they are. Effectiveness was the essence of the value of such an agreement. We thought nonintervention was a doubtful policy. It established a new and far-reaching precedent, for the prohibition of the right of a government to receive arms in the case of a rebellion places governments and rebels on the same footing. That is a very far-reaching principle to adopt, for it means that aggression can "get away with it" if it can rely upon outside aid. Non-intervention has not meant the application of the British principle of fair play, but has meant intervention in a way which has made it harder for the Spanish Government to get arms, although the rebels have been able to continue to get them.
The Spanish revolt is a modern form of aggression. It is the method of working through the cell, which my hon. Friend will understand. It is a form of aggression which may occur in other countries. It may well be that a Left Government in Europe may find itself faced, through propaganda, with a revolt that is fed, inflamed and encouraged by outside forces. What has happened in Spain may well happen elsewhere, and if this revolt succeeds it is almost certain to happen elsewhere. Aggression always grows and grows; its appetite is never satisfied; the more it eats the hungrier it is. A rebel victory in Spain might well lead to a similar situation arising in other countries. We on these benches are non-interventionists in the broad sense of the word. Certainly. We have preached it from these benches many times in the case of Russia. But is this new policy of non-intervention, as we now understand it, to become a generally-accepted policy in Europe? If a similar situation arises, 58 will the great Powers come to some agreement concerning non-intervention? If so, it would not be merely condoning rebellion, but would actually be aiding and abetting underground aggression inspired from outside. Are revolts of this kind, some of them inspired, to be given a chance of success by the refusal to supply the Governments concerned with the arms necessary for their defence?
The policy of non-intervention might be justified on the ground that it might possibly prevent a widening of the area of disturbance. That is an arguable position to take up, but whether it is an arguable position or not really depends upon the effectiveness of non-intervention. We are no more sure now than we were when the Non-Intervention Committee was established that in future the supply of arms will be prevented. In our view, there are grave risks either way. I suggest that had the Spanish Government not been prevented from getting a supply of arms, it is an open question whether difficulties would have arisen; but now that arms have been supplied and non-intervention is not 90 per cent. effective, the dangers of this policy of non-intervention are much greater than would have been the dangers if the supply of arms had been permitted at first.
I do not deny the gravity of the situation. Nobody but a fool would pretend that the Spanish civil war is not a menace to the peace of Europe. That is accepted on all sides of the House. Nobody wishes to play with fire; nobody wishes to see this dispute spread over Europe. In face of danger either way, the question is, which is now the best policy to follow? It was after, and not before, the policy of non-intervention was adopted that the "Kamerun" incident occurred, and incidents will continue to occur if there is an ineffective operation of the policy of non-intervention. In those circumstances, is it not best for this country to recover its self-respect and return to a policy of standing for the fulfilment of international law, which has been set aside in this dispute, largely because of fears of trouble? If this agreement is a sham in any degree, it is best that it should go; it is best—especially in view of the possibilities of the future—that we should reassert the principles of international law, those established international customs, whereby governments are entitled to receive, if they can purchase 59 them, the arms which they need. That seems to us to be not a provocative policy, not a policy calculated to embitter disturb international relations, but a policy which will mean that Europe is coming back to the dead centre of international law as the thing which governs its actions.
After the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, I imagine that the Government will not listen to any arguments from this side. At any rate, I want the House to understand that we on these benches are as greatly concerned for the peace of Europe as any Members in this House. But we are also concerned with the fate of a democratic people. I have said nothing in this Debate to suggest that I am neutral in this struggle. The whole of my sympathies are on the side of the Spanish Government and people. Hon. Members opposite, judging by their cheers in the Debate, probably take an entirely different view. [HON. MEMBERS: "No‡"] In any case, some hon. Members do. If I thought that the continuance of the policy of non-intervention would be to the advantage of the Spanish Government, I would still stand by that policy. I think that in the interests not merely of democracy in Spain, but of the moral authority of international law in Europe and the world, we should return to the policy of taking international law as our basis and restore to the Spanish people the rights of which they were unfairly robbed.
§ 5.19 p.m.
§ Sir ARCHIBALD SINCLAIR
There is so much with which I disagree in the speeches of both the right hon. Gentlemen who have preceded me that I am afraid I shall have to put a wholly different view, but in doing so I shall certainly remain conscious of the fact that both the right hon. Gentlemen, and probably the great majority of hon. Members and the bulk of public opinion outside, really want the same thing. We want peace, real peace, not merely the absence of war, but a lasting peace based upon justice and freedom. The whole political life of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has been spent in advocating those causes. As for the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, while a leopard may be compelled to perform all kinds of undignified tricks 60 by his circus proprietors, he cannot change his spots, and I cannot believe that the Secretary of State is false to his repeated professions of faith in the League of Nations and in the possibility of constructing a system of peace based upon law and collective security under the aegis of the League.
To reproduce in this House the tragic situation in Europe, for one side to accuse the other of Fascism and crypto-Fascism or Communism, would make this Debate barren, and would weaken the healing influence which Britain might exercise at this critical juncture in the affairs of Europe. In considering what has been happening in Spain, I have tried to get behind these labels of Fascism and Communism and democracy, and down to the realities of the situation. It seems to me that there have been two fundamental causes of this tragedy which we are now witnessing. One of them undoubtedly is the weakness of the youthful democracy in Spain. The new politicians who came into power with the creation of the Republic were inexperienced, and inquiries undertaken by the Cortes have shown that unfortunately there was serious corruption. Moreover, there is a very bad electoral system in Spain under which constituencies are grouped, and a large majority is given to the successful party in each group of constituencies. They are under the spell of the dangerous doctrine that it is more important to have what is called a strong government—that is to say, a government with a big majority—than to have a fair representation of political opinion in the country. The result of that has been that in successive general elections big majorities have been given to the extremists on each side in turn, and the extremists in both camps drove each other to extremes.
The second cause is that, just as a human body with a weakened resistance invites the attack of poisonous microbes, so the feeble body of democratic government in Spain was assailed by Fascist and Communist propagandists. Evidence has been adduced of the existence of National-Socialist and Fascist organisations in Spain, of their activities and the contacts which they maintained with the official representatives in Spain of the German and Italian Governments, while, on the other hand, even before the civil 61 war broke out, Bolshevik propagandists were openly boasting that Spain was to be the next Soviet republic.
Those were the circumstances in which a progressive and entirely non-Communist, and indeed non-Socialist, Government took office after the last Spanish elections. It was a constitutional Government supported by a freely-elected Cortes, and it made a courageous effort to get Spain out of the vortex into which she had been drawn—the struggle between Bolshevism and Fascism. The right hon. Gentleman who preceded me said that there were attempts by forces outside to destroy the elected Government. Yes, there were attempts both by Bolshevik and by Fascist forces outside, and the Government in Spain had to struggle against both. What a valuable advantage it would have been if at that time the Government could have had, outside its own borders, the support of a great international organisation which stood for justice and freedom and law in the world, if the League of Nations had not been stricken by the actions of this Government, paralysed and incapable of giving to that young Government the help which it might otherwise have given by warding off the propaganda of partisans on both sides and by giving that Government the moral support of which it stood in need.
§ Brigadier-General Sir HENRY CROFT
Would the right hon. Gentleman explain how the League of Nations could have warded off that propaganda?
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
Those aggressions committed on the constitutional Government in Spain by outside forces could have been stopped by a powerful League of Nations. I do not wish to be diverted too much from my speech, but I would ask the hon. and gallant Baronet to exercise his imagination, and then he will understand the moral support which could have been given to a Liberal and democratic Government in Spain by an outside body which stood for principles of order and freedom. Meanwhile, the Fascists had outstripped the Communists and had fastened upon the Spanish army and navy. The generals who had sworn to defend the Republic turned their weapons against it and led native troops from Africa in an invasion of their own country. Their adventure 62 could never have succeeded without military assistance from Italy and that assistance must have been arranged beforehand with the Italian Government. [An HON. MEMBER: "And Germany."] I have no clear proof of that, but there is certainly a great deal of evidence to show that that is the fact. Aeroplanes and other military supplies have been furnished to them by these foreign Powers. I was surprised to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that it was not illegal. I believe it to be a gross breach of the provisions of the Covenant and a flagrant act of aggression against the people of Spain.
The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) interrupted the Secretary of State and asked what about the League of Nations? Yes, indeed, this is where the League of Nations ought to have been in a position to intervene. The hon. Member, however, did not give us very much help himself when the League of Nations was struggling against Italy in the Abyssinian dispute. If the League of Nations had asserted its authority as it could have done in that dispute, then, indeed, it would have been in a position to prevent this aggression now. As it is, I say frankly to the House that the League, in its present position, is not able to take the action which we should all wish it to take to restore respect for international law in Europe.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
Inevitably the treachery and disloyalty of the military leaders in Spain have forced the Government to arm the people on whom it can depend and to reach out more and more to the extreme and revolutionary elements for support. So, the civil war has been marked on both sides by hideous and ruthless cruelties. I see to-day that the "News-Chronicle" correspondent in Madrid, who was captured by the insurgents and whose whole sympathies are with the constitutional Government of Spain, refers in his article to the barbarous daily executions which take place in Madrid. The circumstances of civil war always give it an atrocious character. In every town, in every village, in every street and even under every roof, people are divided in their sympathies. Spies are everywhere. Only a week or two ago General Franco made 63 that sinister boast which must have cost the lives of many of his own friends when he said that he could dispose of five columns in his attack on Madrid, four of which were advancing from outside and one of which lay hidden inside Madrid ready to rise and strike the defenders in the back when the right moment came.
Meanwhile in Catalonia and Madrid the Spanish people as a whole are enthusiastically supporting the Government. Except in Navarre there is little sign of any popular support for the insurgents. The Basques are setting up a Government of their own. But the picture which is sometimes drawn of a small professional army beating down the resistance of a whole people does not seem to me to square with the facts. I remember the advance of the White Russians into Russia in the early days of the Bolshevik regime. They too at first had a great series of successes in which they overthrew the regular Bolshevik army, but they were beaten by popular risings and attacks on their lines of communication. We know ourselves in Ireland the difficulty of suppressing a whole people even when they are quite inadequately equipped with military force. The only reason why a comparatively small but highly equipped army is able to make headway against the Government in Spain, without detailing such numbers of troops to guard their lines of communication as to weaken their position in the field is, I believe, that the mass of the Spanish people are standing aloof in horror and despair at this squalid and hideous conflict in their midst between rival dictatorships and terrorisms. None of us can want to feed the flames in which the treasures of their civilisation, the lives of their children and their guarantees of order and freedom are perishing. It is not more engines of destruction that we ought to send them. First, we must prevent the flames of war from spreading into Europe. Then we must endeavour by every means in our power to bring peace to Spain.
That is why I have consistently applauded the initiative of M. Blum in proposing a policy of non-intervention and our own Government for resisting the Russian proposal that our Fleet should be used to blockade the coast of Portugal. Nevertheless, I agree with the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down that 64 the policy of non-intervention has not fulfilled my expectations, nor, I think, has it altogether fulfilled those of its authors. In fact it is admitted by the Government that intervention has continued, and it does not make matters any better that the agreement has been violated by Powers in sympathy with both sides in the Spanish struggle. Nor have the Government to-day given us, I think, as much information as we were entitled to expect. What truth is there, for instance, in the allegations that have been so widely made? The right hon. Gentleman must have seen the report of a committee which was presided over by the hon. Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone), which investigated a series of allegations. One or two of those allegations were supported on the authority of British officials—of consuls.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
I was not mentioning any names, but, frankly, I think it a pity when accusations are going round as to taking one side or the other in this war, that the Government do not take every possible step to convince people that they are not actuated by any sympathy for one side or the other and that they are not desirous of hushing up any information which may be available. I know that it is a delicate situation, and the last thing I want to do is to embarrass the Secretary of State, but with great respect to the right hon. Gentleman, I submit that these are public documents. It is not as though I were dragging out some secret thing. These documents have been in the hands of every Member of this House. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that they have been in my hands, and I think they have been in the hands of every other Member of this House. The accusations have been made publicly and ought to be answered publicly, and if there is no truth in them the House ought to be told so on the authority of the Government.
Again, what is the truth about the situation in the Balearic Islands? Is it true that in at least one of those islands, Iviza, and it may be in others, there are 65 Italian troops now in occupation? Is it true that those islands were captured by Italian troops? Surely the right hon. Gentleman must have information on subjects as big as that. I agree that we cannot expect Consuls to be creeping round docks investigating every cargo brought into every port to see if there are any arms in it. But when it is a question of whether a. foreign Power is actually occupying Spanish territory surely we should have a decisive answer from the Government. Nor am I satisfied that the Government have done all that they might have done to make the agreement effective. Only this morning we read in our papers that the Government had just put forward a proposal for international control at Spanish ports and on Spanish frontiers. Such control ought to have been instituted long ago, and we ought now to have an assurance that the Government will press their proposal and make it effective. The right hon. Gentleman just mentioned it. He merely said that there was such a proposal, but he did not give us the assurance, for which we press, that he will use every resource of the Government to make it effective. I do not believe that people want to go to war about Spain, but they expect the Government to act with energy and decision in suppressing the activities of those on both sides who are adding fuel to the flames.
I listened with great respect and attention to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. I hope I am not misinterpreting his policy when I say that I understood it to be that there is merely to be free trade in arms and that the Spanish Government are to be enabled to buy arms here if they have the money to pay for them. It does not seem to me that that is likely to be more effective in frustrating the designs of the Fascist Powers, and it is certainly far more dangerous to the peace of Europe, than the policy of non-intervention. The righ hon. Gentleman said he was always opposed to non-intervention and that the situation would not have been as grave now in Spain—that is, I believe he means, that the rebels would not have been as successful in their war as they have been—if the policy of non-intervention had not been embarked upon. Yet the right hon. Gentleman said at Edinburgh only three 66 weeks ago that if there was to be freedom to send arms into Spain, Germany and Italy would send 50 guns and 50 aeroplanes to every one that came from other countries. If that be the truth, I cannot see how the position of the Spanish Government would have been better than it is now if there had been free trade in arms. This statement of the right hon. Gentleman was greeted by some of the delegates at the Edinburgh conference with cries of "No."
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood). To the cries of "No" the right hon. Gentleman retorted that perhaps he had a little more information than certain other members of the Conference. I am not quoting the right hon. Gentleman in order to criticise him. I think what he said was true and that it remains true to-day three weeks later. The right hon. Gentleman in the course of his speech said, and I often hear it said by those who are in favour of abandoning the policy of non-intervention, that the agreement has been broken by the Fascist Powers and that we have the right to claim to be able to supply the Spanish Government. Of course we have. But what is lawful is not always expedient, and it is the expediency of abandoning the policy of non-intervention that I doubt. I think the right hon. Gentleman was perfectly right when he said that for every gun supplied by France and ourselves the Germans and the Italians would supply 50. It is for that reason that I do not want to see this policy abandoned.
On 6th October the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton), who is now chairman of the Labour Party, described German rearmament as the central root fact in Europe, and addedI say to you that I cannot exclude from among the many most dreadful possibilities which to-day concern us, the possibility of a direct attack on this country.That is a dreadful possibility and it does concern us. I do not want to see the flames of this war spreading from Spain and bringing that possibility nearer. At the same conference speaking in favour of non-intervention, only three weeks ago the Leader of the Opposition observed that the risk of a European war was not 67 one lightly to be envisaged. If that risk existed on the 5th day of this month, it has not grown less in the last 24 days. If war broke out, who would be our enemies? Certainly Italy and Germany—a formidable combination. Who would be our friends, who would share the risks of a conflict with us? Well, who? Russia? How is she going to reach either Germany or Italy? She has no common frontier with Germany, and there is only the passage through the Dardanelles to Italy. France? Again the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield said, three weeks ago that:You could only establish free trade in arms over the body of Leon Blum and his Popular Front Government. It would mean in France a Government of the Right, and that Government would send arms to the rebels.Who are our friends going to be if we follow the right hon. Gentleman into this conflict? Before we abandon the policy of non-intervention, let us be quite certain that the alternative policy is going to be not merely the expression of our righteous anger and indignation at Fascist help to Spanish rebels, but is also going to be a practical and effective policy which will strengthen the cause of democracy and preserve the peace of Europe.
What, then, should our policy be? Undoubtedly the success of the rebel cause in Spain would be another triumph for Fascist aggression and a sinister portent for the peace of Europe. Spain is not the only country where the same technique of aggression might be practised. For one country or even two countries to embark on a policy of arming one of the parties in the Spanish war in competition with other European countries would merely prolong the agony of Spain and almost certainly involve this country in the conflict. I can understand and sympathise with the point of view of hon. Members of the Labour party. I hear them very often impatiently interject when one uses the word faction. They rightly say that these parties in Spain are not on the same level. One is a constitutional Government and the other is a rebel, but, what we have to realise is that, as the right hon. Member for Wakefield realised so clearly in Edinburgh, if we support the constitutional Government, the other Powers are going 68 to give 50 times, as he rates it, the support to the rebels, and we shall then be in a general European conflict, the two sides of which will be very evenly matched.
There is, I believe, only one means of substituting law for anarchy in international relationships and of preventing aggression, and that is to re-establish and to strengthen the League of Nations, because there you have a bloc of nations standing for law, there you have a great alliance of democratic nations with its doors open to any nation which will come in on the basis of disarmament and of accepting third-party judgment. That puts irresistible force behind the rule of law; it establishes the relationships between nations on the basis of the moral law. But you cannot do it by entering into an evenly matched conflict between Fascist and Communist States in Europe. If the League had asserted its authority against Italy in the Abyssinian dispute, as it could have done a year ago, when it had the economic life of Italy in its grip, when the League Powers were united, and when the dictatorship Powers were divided, neither Italy nor Germany would have dared to flout the League and break the law of nations in Danzig and in Spain.
Meanwhile intervention in European countries is a perilous policy for Britain, except on the basis of collective security and a constructive policy for removing the economic causes of war and the pressure of poverty and unemployment on the people of Europe. We must rebuild the League with fresh power and prestige, and until then we must walk very cautiously. We must refuse to accept the doctrine of the inevitable war; we must avoid all risk of embroiling our own people in the squalid and hideous conflict between the rival heresies of Fascism and Communism; we must strengthen the defences of democracy against both forms of dictatorship, in case the conflict which we wish to avoid should break out in spite of all that we can do. But let us also be prepared to work with France, Germany, Russia, Italy, and any other Government which will adopt the principles of the Covenant and offer as a test of sincerity an effective measure of disarmament and the acceptance of third-party judgment in all disputes.
Meanwhile, too, we are entitled to ask from the Government here an assurance 69 that it will do all in its power—more than it has done hitherto, notably in regard to the control of the ports and frontiers of Spain—to make non-intervention effective. Above all, let the Government do all it can to mitigate the horrors of the war in Spain. I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman abbreviated, as he told us he deliberately did, that part of his speech in which he was going to deal with the efforts of the Government to mitigate those horrors. I applaud his efforts to bring about an exchange of hostages, and I applaud also the response which he has received from the Basque Government, for which all lovers of peace and justice must be profoundly grateful. I deplore the rejection of the Government's proposals by the Government in Madrid and the failure of the representatives of the rebels in Burgos to answer the Government's appeal. I hope the Government will persevere in that course and will be vigilant to take any opportunity which may present itself of proposing an armistice, of stopping the bloodshed, and of restoring peace to the ravaged land and distracted people of Spain.
§ 5.53 p.m.
§ Sir ROBERT HORNE
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair), who has just sat down, touched on the dangers of intervention so much more eloquently than I could that I shall not detain the House for more than a very few minutes in presenting what seems to me to be a very simple point of view. It is entirely unnecessary for us to enter into a consideration of what are the circumstances out of which this conflict arose. We may do that some other time, but so far as our immediate purpose is concerned—the question of deciding whether we are to adopt a policy of intervention or of nonintervention—these topics are entirely irrelevant. The right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) himself, towards the close of his speech, said that the real question before us was, What are we to do now? That seems to be the problem which confronts the House. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to me to be plying a labouring oar to-day in the course of his speech, and I think he was in great danger and in imminent fear of catching a crab. And no wonder. When you consider the state of confusion, inconsistency, contradiction, and clash that the Labour party has exhibited on 70 this topic in the last month, the right hon. Gentleman must have had great difficulty in presenting any kind of coherent view. He himself seemed to be unable to avoid inconsistencies between the speech which he made in Edinburgh and his speech to-day, and in fact, in the course of his oration, he did not seem even now to be completely unanimous with himself.
The right hon. Gentleman ended his speech with an appeal to international law, and I have no doubt he was referring to the same idea which was presented in the Resolution which we found in the newspapers this morning, to the effect that what is called the constitutionally elected Government of Spain should be entitled to renew its purchases of arms. I shall not question whether that Government was constitutionally elected or not; I shall not dwell upon the fact that there was a majority vote in Spain against the Government, nor shall I refer at any length to the fact that the Government which has been holding office now for some time is entirely different in creed and in performance from what the people of Spain thought they were voting for. I shall assume that it is the constitutionally elected Government and that it is entitled to all the rights and privileges which such a Government ought to enjoy in the comity of nations.
But what I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues on those benches is, How far do they wish to apply that doctrine? It is obvious that the party opposite support the present Government in Spain and that all their sympathies are with them. They are eager to help them, and they are certainly perfectly entitled to that point of view. Personally, I prefer silence on the question, but I should like to see how far this constitutional doctrine of theirs is to be applied. The Government in Germany to-day is undoubtedly the constitutionally elected Government. Let us suppose that there was a revolutionary rising among the people of Germany—the Socialist and religious people in Germany against the Hitler regime. Would the right hon. Gentleman opposite be prepared to allow the purchase of arms from us by Hitler to defend himself?
§ Sir R. HORNE
That was because the German people chose that way, and we have no more right to criticise the constitutionally elected Government of Germany than we have to criticise the constitutionally elected Government of Soviet Russia. In each case you must accept the Government of the country as it exists. That being so, I venture to put my riposte to the right hon. Gentleman and to say that if similar circumstances existed in Germany, the policy of the Labour party would be entirely inconsistent with what it is advocating to-day. The question really comes to this—what are we to do now? That question to my right hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland is one of expediency and not of law; it is a question of results and risks and consequences. That is the question with which we are confronted. We have the advice of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield upon that score. My right hon. Friend has referred to a speech which the right hon. Gentleman made at Edinburgh, but he did not refer to a passage which he delivered with that poignant eloquence to which we are accustomed, in which he expressed the condition of his mind. He said, "The fear that gnaws at my heart is the fear of a general European war." The gnawing seems to have ceased to-day. From my point of view that seems to be an instance of back-sliding. I remember a letter that was once received with a sum of money sent to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The letter said, "This is the result of the gnawings of conscience; when it gnaws again I will send you some more." I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will allow the gnawing of that fear to afflict his heart again and to continue to do so until he arrives at a more reasonable opinion.
The hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Grenfell), at the same meeting, said, "You ought not to vote for intervention unless you are prepared to fight." That is the real issue. Are you prepared to fight in this cause? I do not believe that any group of people in this country would be prepared to enter into a European campaign for any such purpose. I am afraid that I take the cynical view that if the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield were in office with the responsibility of 72 government he would never put forward the course which his party is asking us to-day to pursue. It is said that nonintervention has been ineffective, that it has been a great failure and a disappointment to us all. It has been a disappointment to everybody, but, on the other hand, the question is whether it would have been better to have had free intervention and the sale of arms. You do not cease to have a system of customs round the coast because there is some leakage and smuggling going on. You do not disband your police force because there is a certain amount of crime. What you have to do is to attempt to make your system more effective and not to withdraw the system you have.
Non-intervention may have been ineffective to a certain extent. There has been, no doubt, a certain amount of arms going into Spain from both sides. It is obvious that the Soviet Government has been supporting the Communist Government in Spain and that Germany and Italy have been supporting to some extent the insurrectionists. These things are obvious, but they have not gone on to any great extent. Otherwise we should have had far more instances brought before the non-intervention Committee. British ships have been round the coast of Spain all through these weeks, and the instances in which any evidence of the supply of arms has been afforded are very few. It is obvious that if there had been a free importation of arms into Spain an overwhelming amount would have been going there. As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wake field said at Edinburgh, it would have been 50 times as much from the dictatorship countries as from the other countries that might be supporting the Spanish Government. Whichever is the side which would benefit from the free sale of arms, I care not. All I am anxious about is that this conflict should not spread. The danger which confronts us is of a character so grave as to be almost beyond imagination. What was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland was not exaggerated. For my part, simply facing the real practical issue, I am prepared, even though non-intervention proves more ineffective than it is to-day, to support that policy 73 in order to prevent the spread of a conflict which would be disastrous to the whole civilisation of Europe.
§ 6.6 p.m.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I rise to intervene in this Debate with similar apologies to those of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne), in that I find it tremendously difficult to understand exactly where this country stands in the matter. I am not so well prepared to participate as I would have been if the Home Office had not seen fit to prevent the landing in this country of a representative Spaniard who was coming here to meet me and some of my colleagues and to give us first-hand information from his point of view of the happenings in Spain. I feel a very strong personal resentment that Spaniards of all walks of life have been allowed to come and go freely in this country during the whole course of the conflict and the weeks preceding it, and that when this man comes honestly and openly to associate publicly—there was nothing underhand about it—with me and the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps), he is stopped at Croydon, handled by the police, and treated like a member of the criminal classes as if he were some international pickpocket or dope smuggler. He is turned back before he has an opportunity of putting information before me and others who are Members of this House and who wish to be adequately informed of the various tendencies and forces in Spain, while another individual with other political view-points seems to be permitted to land here, to associate quite freely and to spread his particular ideas and propaganda through different social sets in this country.
I am sorry that my right hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) took up my satiric reference to the League of Nations during his speech as meaning that I considered that there could have been effective League of Nations intervention in this situation. I think that the League of Nations has been just as futile in the circumstances of the Spanish situation as it was in the Abyssinian circumstances and in practically every set of circumstances it has had to face. I want him to contemplate this fact. If the present progress of events continues in Europe, 74 the League of Nations will be one great big Fascist assembly—an assembly of the Fascist countries in which Great Britain and others will be an insignificant and helpless minority.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
The hon. Member forgets that I said that an essential test of the sincerity of the Members of the League would be that they should undertake effective measures of disarmament as well as accept the principle of third party judgment in international disputes.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I admit that the right hon. Gentleman made that qualification, but he is assuming that the democratic countries at present existing will have a permanent majority and be able to dictate the conditions of membership of the League of Nations. He is assuming that the League of Nations, with the Covenant basis and the rest of it, will remain precisely the same if Europe becomes Fascist, and he has no right to assume anything of the kind. Therefore, we have to confront this situation not as one in which the League of Nations might have been an aid to us in deciding a wise policy; we have to decide now whether the British Government has pursued during these weeks a wise and intelligent policy. I am as anxious to prevent a wholesale conflagration as anybody. I am as little bellicose as anyone in this House in the matter of international relations. I am as pacifist as anyone, but I do not propose to walk on eggs and keep my mouth shut because of that. Even supposing that the ultimate consequence of expressing my point of view means that I am going to be smashed to bits, I am not going to tremble all the time because there are one or two bullies in Europe. If Hitler or Mussolini or somebody else kills me, it will be regrettable for this House, but I shall not worry about it. Therefore, I am going to state my point of view on this situation irrespective of what Messrs. Hitler and Mussolini might do in some other circumstances.
I cannot understand the attitude of the Government. I am certain that if a Conservative Government, following the best traditions of Conservatism had, at the beginning of this dispute, said clearly and definitely "After all, Spain's Government is Spain's Government, and, in accordance with all our Conservative precedents and principles, we are bound to stand by it in every proper way, having regard, 75 of course, to the general interest of this country," the whole course of events would have been entirely different. That was not said. Therefore, our Conservative Foreign Minister, our Conservative Prime Minister and the others have to that extent given moral support to the insurgents and their attack on the properly constituted Government of Spain. They have encouraged the insurgents to go on and have encouraged the intervention of Italy and Germany. I was rather ashamed of the Foreign Secretary's explanation to-day that the consuls could not tell us about these important things because they were so busy evacuating British people. I understood from the newspapers that that had been done in the very early stages and that British citizens were now in places of safety, except for those who had definitely chosen to stay where they were. I understood that that was the position and the Foreign Secretary should have had precise information.
When a civil war is on, arms are not slipped through in the middle of the night. The people know what is going on, just as people in this country knew what was going on down at the docks at the time of the General Strike. It is not a situation in which a British Consul needs to be sneaking round, as the hon. Member said, with a lantern, in the middle of the night, to find out movements of goods through particular ports. Easily we could have known precisely what was being done and could have had it stated in this House. What we are prepared to believe, from the various sources of information, which are not generally denied, outside this House, is that both Germany and Italy have been pouring—[An HON. MEMBER: "What about Russia?"] Let me say frankly that I regret that Russia has not been pouring in arms to the extent that I should have wished. That is I a perfectly honest point of view. I will make it clearer before I have finished.
The position is that the British Government has departed from its ordinary procedure—its statement of support for the constituted Government of a country in the face of the possibility of tyranny. Talk about doing its best to reduce the worst terrors of the conquered. Why, it could have poured into Spain Red Cross ambulances and medical supplies of every description, if it was the object to 76 alleviate suffering and to reduce it to a minimum. After a statement that it was standing by the Spanish Government there would have been a huge response from volunteers in this country ready to go over there to reduce suffering. But the Government did not do that. In every way it encouraged the rebels to go on, in every way it encouraged Italy to go on. I am not going into this, because it is the Government's funeral, but what it is going to do is to make Spain an advanced outpost of Fascists on the Mediterranean. It will be the Government's job to clear that up a little later on. Undoubtedly the Mediterranean is going to be the Fascist sea. Hon. Members say, "We would rather have Spanish Fascism than Russian Communism." [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] That gets a loud response at once. I would point out to hon. Members who cheer that so lightly a point which the Foreign Secretary made in the course of his speech. Russia is a long way away and Spain is very close, and closer still to our allies, the allies on whom this country has been accustomed to rely, to our Gibraltars and all the rest of it. But this is a problem for the Government. It may sit back to-day with arms folded, and say, "It is nothing to us who rules in Spain; we have a detached, independent position. We regret it, and we wring our hands, like Pilate. We have got neither part nor lot in this." But we shall have part and lot in it later.
I told an hon. Member who interrupted me that I would make clearer still the position which I had stated earlier, and I do so now. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Home) asked in the course of his speech whether, if it had been the German Government which was involved, we should have advocated representatives of the German Government buying arms here. Take it from me that if there had been a revolt of the German people against the power of Hitler in Germany all my sympathies and support would have been given to the rebels. Similarly, I say quite honestly that on this occasion all my sympathies and support, for what they are worth, are with the Spanish Government.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I do not know what justification the hon. Lady has for that statement. Who said I would not fight
§ Mr. MAXTON
I said I was one of the most pacific Members in this House. All my feeling is against war, but the hon. Lady has no right to say that I will not fight. I will fight for the causes I believe in—every time—no doubt about it. But I shall not fight for all the things the hon. Lady would like me to fight for.
§ Mr. MAXTON
Because that was one of the hon. Lady's hobbies. It was not one of mine. I will fight for the causes in which I am interested, but I absolutely refuse to fight for the other causes, whoever tells me to do it. The basic principle that guides me in the matter is this: If there were a revolt in Germany it would be a revolt of the common people trying to struggle their way out of poverty, trying to get their heads from under the heels of tyranny, trying to get a share of life, and I should support them, and, given the opportunity, would go and fight with them. The Spanish Government represent the same point of view, represent to common minds, to the simple peasant and the industrial worker, their hope of getting something more than the poverty which has been meted out to them in the past. I say the hope of the common people of Spain—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why not fight for them?"] No, they have not asked for volunteers; but already I and my party have associated ourselves with the Spanish Government in every possible way, beyond doubt. We are going over, my hon. Friend and myself, to-morrow to see them again in Paris, and to discuss with them what further we can do, and if they ask me to go to Spain and fight I will go to Spain. There is no dubiety about it. In my view it is a struggle of the working people to get rid of their poverty, the struggle which I have tried to wage in this country, in the ways that offer themselves and ways that are approved; and when other men are carrying on the same struggle in other parts of the world I will try to give them help. That is my attitude—frankly. I do not expect this Government to accept it. I have given 78 my reasons here why I think our Government should have acted differently. These are the reasons that I give for my point of view, and I hope the House will realise that they are important and serious reasons.
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I am glad we have had the speech of the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton). It seems to me that he spoke not only in the interests of the common people but in the interests of England as well. Some of us are old enough to remember the part played by England in the last century, when we supported the common people against their rulers in Italy, Poland, and Hungary. Then the predecessors of the hon. Member for Bridgeton did go out and fight for the common people, and I think it would have been better for England if we had done the same on this occasion. Certainly, the case to-day is a-s strong as it was 100 years ago. As the right hon. Gentleman has told us, the Spanish Government started with everything against them. The rebellious officers had got the army and the arsenals, all the Colonial troops—Moors and foreign legionaries—and all the machinery of power with which to attack the Government they had sworn to defend. What does it matter whether that Government was elected by a majority or by a minority? What does it matter whether that Government had changed its character, or had not been strong enough in its preservation of order? It was the established Government. Those men were sworn to defend it; it was the Government by whom they were paid. They rose, as the army has risen over and over again in Spain, up till now always victorious through the weakness of the Government against which it rose.
On this occasion, for the first time in Spain for over 1,000 years, the people, through their Government, resisted. The common people went down in Germany when Hitler arose. The common people, to a man, went down in Italy when Mussolini marched on Rome. In Austria they put up a better fight than they did elsewhere, but even there they were swept away in a week. In Spain, ignorant, traditional Spain, they fought with a courage which we cannot emulate. Just as in the Peninsular War they defended 79 Saragossa, so they are defending their liberty and their rights to-day. The sympathies of England—there is no doubt where they are. We have had propaganda in plenty from the other side. We have had to-day their book of atrocities, modelled on the book of atrocities that the same authority produced at the time of the Abyssinian war, atrocities which bear the stamp of their mean mendacity on the face of them. We have had propaganda from the rich, we have had propaganda from the Church—from the Catholic Church. This is a crusade against the poor—a crusade carried on by Moors, carried on by legionaries and by the off-scourings of Europe against people ill-armed, ill-defended and fighting only for their liberty, their families and their country. And we in this country are supposed to be indifferent. I do not think the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs is in the least indifferent. I do not think there is any Member of this House who has not got his heart in the right place. But we are all afraid.
Why was this policy of non-intervention put forward? They call it non-intervention, but it means preventing people who can buy arms to save their lives from getting them. Why are we all supporting that policy to-day? Because of fear. It started, quite reasonably, by M. Blum being afraid. If I had been in M. Blum's position I should have been afraid. There is nothing to prevent M. Blum from being to-morrow in the position of Senor Azaña. If the French army rose against him, M. Blum's position would be impossible. That is not an excuse for the right hon. Gentleman, because he is perfectly safe in this country, in any circumstances. No army would ever rise against him. He had not to face the risks that M. Blum had to face. His reason was another. He said—I do not think I shall be mistranslating him—"I must go in with France; Blum is in a tight place. He has played his game very well and I am going to back him through this business." If it had come off it would have been a combination acquiring immense force.
The real difficulty is that the right hon. Gentleman and we in this House have not yet grasped the change that has come over the whole of international relations. Anything that we or that France says, we are bound by. Criticism is public, and public opinion is brought 80 to bear; the Government dare not give a promise that they will send no munitions to Spain and at the same time allow the sending of munitions to go on. France, being a democratic country, is in the same position. A hundred eyes are upon every transaction, and it would be impossible in France to allow munitions to go over the frontier without the world knowing that France had broken her word and was no longer an honoured party to an agreement. These old rules, which we accept naturally, and have always carried out, no longer hold good with the dictatorship countries. I suppose that no military supplies are now going to the insurgents in Spain, to the crusaders in Spain, because they have all that they want, but there is no doubt that if they wanted more they could get them; whereas we have shut down supplies to the other side.
It is obvious that this change in the attitude of great States is one that we shall have to consider in nearly every transaction that comes forward. Germany re-armed without saying so, and then said so. Germany acts first and exposes her hand afterwards. In the same way, when they strike they will strike first and tell us afterwards. All our considerations of the present political situation in Europe must be modified completely by our new conception of the irresponsibility of dictatorships. It has been explained that the Spanish generals, with the support of Germany and of Italy, are overthrowing the constitutional Government, and may—I hope they will not—get control of that country. What pay is Germany or Italy going to demand for the services of saving those general's lives? We must realise that they are not likely to demand territorial concessions, because that would wreck the chances of the generals living very long in Spain.
It will not be necessary to have a formal surrender of the Balearic Islands to Italy, or of the Canary Islands or Rio d'Oro or the Moorish coast to Germany, in order that those Powers may be established in those colonies and territories. A concession of the right to put an aerodrome, with petrol tanks, in Minorca would be far more valuable to the Italians and far more dangerous to us than the surrender of Fort Mahon to the English in the Eighteenth Century. There you would have bombing planes comfortably within the range of Gibraltar, which 81 would become untenable, and of our trade through the Mediterranean, as well as our trade with France, and all France's transport between France and Algeria. In the same way you would have aeroplanes hopping from Cape Trafalgar or from the Canary Islands. That would be a good deal more dangerous than submarines coming out from Cadiz, as they did during the War. All our trade with South America and South Africa, and all our trade in war with the East and with India, would all be going just alongside the aeroplane base of the German Government.
The reason given for taking the German colonies at the end of the War was that it would deprive them of bases to attack our commerce in any future war, but here we are providing opportunities in Spain, and not only in conquered Spain but in all those other satellite countries which are now collecting, one after another, into the German orbit. Austria and Roumania have gone, Poland—well, I am not quite certain about Poland, but Greece has also gone. Now Spain, and, last of all, Belgium. All are now looking for salvation, not to the League of Nations and not to this country; they are looking for safety to placating Germany. Each of them sees safety based on German good will. They like us all right, but they say: "You cannot deliver the goods. This other neighbour of ours will strike first and talk about it afterwards."
We have in Spain the putting down, all along the borders of our trade routes, of new German and Italian aeroplane bases. I understand that Belgium is being asked whether she will allow our aeroplanes to cross Belgium; I expect they will allow us to cross, but the Germans will cross without permission. The Germans will refuel at Knocke and at Ostend—and who will stop them? Will Belgium dare to stop them? Why should they? We can make it a casus belli if we like, but we do not want to add to our enemies, with every one of those satellite States drifting away from our' orbit, making the League of Nations a contemptible symbol in Europe and all collecting around the great new Power. What are we doing to restore confidence and safety to Great Britain? Washing our hands, like Pilate, and allowing the last free country to be smashed, to be pruned by crusaders armed in Germany, and taking no thought for the morrow; 82 only hoping feebly that the Germans will be good enough not to attack us for the next five years.
§ 6.39 p.m.
§ Viscount WOLMER
I should not have ventured to trouble the House with a speech if it had not been for the two very charming but intemperate speeches to which we have just listened. The policy which the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) and the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) advocate would plunge not only this country but the whole of Europe into war in a very short time indeed.
§ Viscount WOLMER
I do not think anything could do it more quickly than the policy advocated by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. If both those Members were sitting on the Government Bench and were in a position of responsibility, they certainly would not have made those two speeches; but because they occupy a position of great distinction but no responsibility they can give vent to their innermost feelings. I have no doubt that they will sleep better for it to-night, but that is the only contribution they will have made to the discussion. They have got it off their chests, but they have made no contribution towards solving the great problems with which the Government are faced.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I am sure we are both very grateful for the lecture on indiscretion from the Noble Lord, whose record in that matter is well known.
§ Viscount WOLMER
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not regard me as an expert in indiscretion. I recognise that Europe is divided into three camps at present, the democratic States, the Communist States and the Fascist States. The democratic States are becoming fewer, and Europe is threatened with the appalling prospect of being divided into two camps, one Fascist and the other Communist. That process would be only accelerated if effect were given to the policy of the hon. Member for Bridgeton. The Leader of the Labour party has recognised, as have other responsible speakers of the Labour party, that in the state of tension which has been created by the Spanish civil war the passions, 83 exactly the same as those to which we have listened from the hon. Member for Bridgeton, are also exactly the same as have been aroused in nearly every country in Europe.
As I listened to those speeches, I could not help thinking of the story which has been told that there are a great many places in Ireland where you have only to stand in the market place at the right time and shout out: "To Hell with the Pope," to have the whole town in a riot in half an hour. That is the attitude of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. He wants us to crusade in favour of a government which he calls constitutional. He ought to be careful how he attaches that label to the Spanish Government. There is such a thing as being constitutional in form without being constitutional in fact. It is easy to mask under the cloak or mantle of Democracy and yet pursue a policy and carry out a régime which is the antithesis of democracy. The last thing I wish to do is to enter into the merits of the Spanish controversy, but I want to say that, in my view, His Majesty's Government have pursued the only possible course consistent with the safety of this country and, indeed, with the safety of Europe. I agree with what was said by the leader of the Liberal party just now, that the real task before European statesmanship is to rebuild the League of Nations and to rebuild the idea of collective security, which can be the only permanent safeguard for peace. At the present moment the League of Nations is lying in a crippled condition.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
Surely the Noble Lord recognises that such a League of Nations cannot exist among Fascist States.
§ Viscount WOLMER
No, I do not agree with that suggestion at all. Furthermore, I disagree with the right hon. and gallant Gentleman that Fascist governments are without popular support. On the contrary, all the evidence points to the conclusion that Herr Hitler represents the present will of the overwhelming majority of the German people.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I did not say that they were without popular support. What I said was that they were without popular criticism.
§ Viscount WOLMER
Yes, that is because the Germans have decided to approve that system, which I dislike as much as does the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. No one can sit in the House of Commons for 25 years without becoming a bit of a democrat.Democracy, with all thy faults, I love thee still,we may all say. But I cannot exclude Fascist countries from a reconstituted League of Nations. You will not have a League of Nations if you exclude Fascist countries from it. On the contrary, a League of Nations, to be effective, must obviously include all the great countries of the world; that is the only basis on which a reconstituted League of Nations can exist. In the exceedingly difficult circumstances of the case it seems to me that the only two things that our Government could do were, first, to try to limit the area of conflagration to the frontiers of Spain; and, secondly, to try to promote the idea of collective action, because it is only out of collective action that collective security will ultimately grow again. Therefore, it seems to me that the Government have pursued the only possible right course in associating themselves with the Government of France in trying to bring about this non-intervention organisation. It is no criticism of that policy to say that the organisation is defective; we are entitled to ask the critics of the Government to point to a policy which would have been more effective and which would not have resulted in a general European war, and that, I submit, they have entirely failed to do.
§ 6.48 p.m.
§ Mr. GALLACHER
I have listened very carefully to the arguments which have been submitted here to-day, especially to those presented by the Foreign Secretary, and I have never in all my experience listened to a case that was put with less heart or less argument than this case for non-intervention. I hope that in the course of my remarks I shall be able to satisfy the House that not one of the arguments that have been put forward on behalf of non-intervention can in any way be held to be tenable. Let me start with the remark made by the previous speaker that Europe is being divided into two hostile camps, Communism and Fascism. It is quite clear that he has fallen a victim already to 85 Herr von Ribbentrop and the other agents of German monopoly capital. Europe is not divided into two camps, Communism and Fascism; Europe at the present time is divided into nations who for one reason or another desire peace, and a nation which, because of the very character of the constitution in its country, must be aggressive and must make war. Ninety per cent. of the European war bloc is German and it is very much to the interest of Germany to get the nations who have no particular interest at the moment in war divided, and so far it is meeting with very great success. The issue in Spain, therefore, is not an issue of Communism versus Fascism. The issue in Spain can quite well be decisive for the whole future of Europe. It is a question of peace and progress or war and destruction.
All the arguments about limiting the struggle to Spain are beside the point, because either the forces that are making for peace and progress are going to be victorious in Spain, which would be to the benefit of the whole of Europe, or the forces of Fascism and war are going to be victorious, and they do not stop. Nobody in this House is child enough to believe that, if the Fascist forces are successful in Spain, they are going to stop. All the things that may be said about the Government in Spain cannot get away from the fact that that Government had to consider moving forward towards a better and higher life for the masses of impoverished peasants and workers in Spain. They had to deal with the land problem, they had to deal with the question of control in industry and profits in industry. It was those who were interested in land, who were against the peasant getting land, and those who were interested in industry and the profits of industry who, supported by outside agents in Germany and Italy, were prepared to override the Spanish Government. It is incidental what the numbers of the forces were, but already, prior to the election, the various agents from the Fascist countries were there carrying on their work, and the military chiefs were making their preparations for turning Spain into a Fascist State. This was going on, not since the election, but prior to the election, and the Foreign Secretary knows it well enough. The forces representing the landed interests and the big industries were not prepared 86 to allow the Government to move forward to raise and better the conditions of the peasants and workers; they would rather have war. Rather than have a new life for the Spanish people, they were prepared to paralyse and destroy Spain; and you will find that the Fascists, rather than have a new life for Europe, will paralyse it and destroy it. But the landlords and the big capitalists could not have started the revolt had they not had the Moorish troops and the Foreign Legion, and even with the Moors and the Foreign Legion they could not have carried forward the revolt as they have had it not been for the policy of nonintervention—the policy of the National Government and of the Foreign Secretary.
I tell this House that I do not believe, and if the Foreign Secretary swore it on a stack of Bibles I would not believe it, that M. Blum took the initiative without any interference from this country. I have here a quotation from the "Manchester Guardian." [HON. MEMBERS "Oh‡"] It is not infallible, but nevertheless it is very interesting, and when it appeared in the "Manchester Guardian" right back in the month of August, we did not find anybody prepared to come out, in the "Manchester Guardian" or any other paper, and take exception to it. When the Spanish war broke out, the French Government were sharply split. This is true; we know it. We know that at the beginning M. Cot, the Air Minister, was in favour of supplying the Spanish Government with whatever was required. With the French Government split in that way, arid not knowing whether or not to allow the Spanish Government to have its full legal rights, the British Government urged non-intervention. I put a question in this House before M. Blum made any suggestion of non-intervention. Did the Foreign Secretary answer it in any positive form? I asked him whether the Government were prepared to afford to the Government of Spain the same friendly relations and the same friendly rights that obtained before the revolt broke out, and the Foreign Secretary gave an answer that was obviously a preparation for non-intervention. His answer was that whatever might be decided by the nations as a whole, the Government would abide by it.
§ Mr. GALLACHER
I did not bring the answer along, but this is the gist of it. The Foreign Secretary cannot get up in this House and say that his answer was "Yes," that the same rights would be accorded the Spanish Government as they had enjoyed prior to the revolt. The answer was not "Yes"; the answer was that they would abide by whatever international position might be taken on the matter. The Chancellor of the Exchequer in a speech put it in this way, that if it had not been for the courageous initiative of the French Prime Minister, M. Blum, supported by the influence which His Majesty's Government could bring to bear, we might have seen all Europe drawn into opposing camps, and so on and so forth. Of course, the responsibility is thrown on M. Blum, but the Chancellor of the Exchequer is concerned about the fact that the National Government were anxious to have this policy operating. Is this something separate from the policy they have been pursuing all along? Will the Foreign Secretary, will the Chancellor of the Exchequer, tell me that this policy is any different from the policy adopted by the National Government when Japan entered Manchuria? The Foreign Secretary at the League of Nations made a speech justifying Japan.
Is there any difference in this policy towards the Spanish Government? Is there any difference in the policy pursued by the Government of this country when there was a Social Democratic Government in Germany, and when they imposed in the most vicious manner the Treaty of Versailles, a treaty that should condemn its authors to perdition? That treaty was imposed with the utmost rigidity when there was a Social Democratic Government in Germany, but when Hitler and Fascism came to Germany there was no more Treaty of Versailles. On every occasion the National Government has expressed itself for the Fascists, for reaction in Europe, and against the progressive and peace forces of Europe. But the people of this country are for peace, as has been demonstrated time and again. We must see that this nonintervention policy which the Government are so anxious to sponsor, and their 88 general foreign policy, are not a case of blundering. This is not a case of wobbling, but is a very cunning and very deliberately conceived policy. How does it come about that on every issue where there has been aggression, whether in the case of Japan in Manchuria, or Italy in Abyssinia, or the entry into the Rhineland that Hitler has made, the National Government somehow or other manages to get in the way of the peace forces and trip them all up and spread confusion and disorganisation among them, never taking decided action to unite them together?
It is said that, if we decided on lifting the embargo, the Fascist States would supply 50 times the armaments that the other nations would supply to Spain, and this point has been seized upon. But, supposing it were true, how would it affect the situation? Let them supply 50 times the armaments; the rebels have not got the men to handle 50 times the armaments. Will the Government please note this and give an answer; the rebels have not got the men to handle 50 times the armaments. The rebels have all the armaments now and the People's Front Government have the men, brave, heroic men who are dying in the streets without armaments. If the Government had the necessary armaments to arm their men the revolt would be wiped out in no time, but non-intervention has ensured that the rebels would have all the arms they wanted and the Government would be without them. The hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Dobbie) was over there among them, and saw them struggling against all the devilish, organised methods of butchery with sticks and spikes. The whole policy is one that is directed to such a situation as that. Are we seriously expected to believe that the Fascist Government in Germany loaded a ship with arms and sent them to the People's Front Government in Spain? And the innuendo against the Soviet Union—what a change has taken place in the right hon. Gentleman from the days when he recognised that the Soviet was working for peace. Maybe he will get a medal before long from Herr Hitler. He comes here and screens Portugal, directing his innuendo against the Soviet. He will be asking next for a bill of lading when Germany or Italy is sending armaments to the rebels. Then we have this argument presented by the 89 hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) who, with others, reflects the policy of the Government—that if we supply armaments from this country to the Government of Spain then we have to support the armaments policy of the National Government, but if we are in support of arms for the Government of Spain it is in order to defeat the forces of Fascism and assist peace and progress. The armaments of the National Government are not for this purpose but for reaction and war.
§ Mr. DENVILLE
Does the hon. Member mean by peace and progress the murdering of 15,000 Christians because of their faith, and the burning down of their churches? If so I should like him to justify that action.
§ Mr. GALLACHER
We will come to that in a minute. I want to deal with the statement of the Home Secretary in connection with the individual who was stopped coming into this country. I cannot understand why responsible Ministers get up in this House and present such excuses as they do. This man was corning in to speak and put the case for the Peoples' Front Government. We are not taking sides, says the Parliamentary Secretary, so we kept him out. I have here a book. It is the propaganda for the rebels. How is it that the Home Office allows the propaganda to be spread throughout the country but prevents someone who represents the Peoples' Front Government from coming into the country? They say this man was not searched. I do not believe that. When I come in from the Continent I am searched. There is no legality in it, but they do it. They search not only my bags but my pockets, and when they do that I am certain that they will have gone through this Spaniard's pockets—not because they think they will find anything, but to make things unpleasant. I have in my possession a pamphlet which describes the murder of a child aged two years by a soldier who thrust his bayonet into the child while his companions marched on laughing. I have another one which states: "Thirty-two civilians were killed on that clay"; and a witness states that this was followed by the rape in open day of 15 or 20 women on tables in the Square itself.
§ Mr. GALLACHER
Yes, but it is all lies, and everybody will know that this also is lies. It is from the "Universe" of 11th September, 1936, and the owner of the "Universe" is a member of the Carlton Club—a progressive and democratic institution and the home of aristocratic reaction. Listen to this:Mgr. Felix Bilbao, Bishop of Tortosa, is imprisoned with his secretary in a Red warship in the port of Tarragona, states a priest-refugee who escaped from Valence and who has arrived in France.But the lie department has got out of contact with the news department, and so we get this news item in the same paper on the same day:Mgr. Miguel de los Santos Diaz, Bishop of Cartagena, and Mgr. Felice Bilbao, Bishop of Tortosa, have arrived in Rome.I will read you another about the Reds:Grim court-martial scenes when batches of Communists captured by the insurgents are condemned to death are described by a correspondent of the 'Diario de Lisboa.''They are all young men,' he writes, equally gallant on both sides and all thinking that they are doing the right thing for the good of Spain.'In certain places the court-martial sits twice a day, passing sentence of death on prisoners who are found to have carried arms. They die the same night or the next morning.'Most of them ask to be confessed by a priest, but show no fear of death. Thereupon a priest belonging to the insurgent militia drops his gun and speaks words of comfort to the condemned.'That is from the "Catholic Herald." It is young Catholics they are shooting. Would you like another? Here is a vicious attack on the Reds:'Rebels' are the people in Spain—peers and peasants, industrialists and workers—who have risen against the destruction of their national freedom and independence and culture.'Then there is the Foreign Legion, Italian support and German support. Who is there left to fight? It goes on to say:For a couple of hundred years the Church in Spain has been repeatedly robbed and persecuted by Spaniards, just as it has been treated in France.Who have been ruining Spain for a couple of hundred years? The peers and industrialists. Who have been robbing the Church? The peers and the industrialists. Who have been maintaining the Church while it has been robbed for 200 years? The workers, and now all of a sudden we 91 get this strange transformation, that the people who have been robbing and looting the Church for 200 years have become the saviours of the Church. This country is coming to a very sorry stage under the leadership of this Government. How often have we heard the proud boast that this England never did and never shall bow to the proud foot of the conqueror? Would Shakespeare write the same to-day? I do not think so. Bow‡ We are cringing. You talk of murder. An alleged Ambassador comes into the country. Everyone knows that, as far as the real meaning of the term is concerned, he is no Ambassador. His first words to the assembled pressmen; his message to the people of England is, "The leader says we have only one common enemy—Communism." What a position for England to get into when you have someone coming here whose hands are red with murder making such a statement. Did you ever hear of General Von Schleicher; how the Nazis went to his home and shot him dead; how his wife stepped out of the room to see what had happened, and they shot her too? It was cold-blooded murder. There was another man, Herr Ernst, at whose wedding a month before Herr Hitler had been best man, who was shot as he was going off for his honeymoon. Was that murder? A murderer comes into this country and says to the people of the country, "The leader tells you that there is only one common enemy."
I want to see this country moving forward. I want to see peace and progress in every country. I want to see peace in. Spain, but you cannot obtain peace by submitting to every aggressor on the part of Fascism. As soon as they succeed in Spain, as the result of her weakness, they will move elsewhere. Monopoly capitalism in this country is destructive. It has given us the derelict areas. In the same way monopoly capitalism will destroy Europe. The machinery of production has now become so complex, so powerful, so extensive that it is impossible to limit it within the sphere of private ownership or private profit. It ought to become co-operative common property so that new life and new movement can arise. But you will not bring peace by submission to the forces that are attacking in Spain. You will not 92 bring peace by trying to provide a screen for those forces and attacking the Soviet Union, the only country where great problems are being solved. There is no such thing as unemployment in Soviet Russia. There are jobs for all at good wages. I am prepared to meet any representative of the House on any public platform in the country and demonstrate from facts that life in Russia is far in advance of the general life of the working classes in this country.
§ Mr. GALLACHER
I know he says that in certain respects the meals are not as good as those that the best paid worker gets here. We have fine theatres and clubs and museums and places of culture, but what opportunities do the workers have? There they have opportunities for culture of every kind. Every day the bread problem is easing and it will go on improving. They are solving problems. In the Fascist countries no problem of any kind is solved. You cannot solve them because the great basic problem is that of changing the character of the ownership and control of this great machine which grows from day to day. I want to make an appeal through this House to the men and women of Great Britain against this crime that is being perpetrated, which not only affects the people of Spain but the people of this country. You cannot escape from war unless you make a firm stand against the aggression that is going on from day to day. Now is the opportunity- to make that stand. Put an end to non-intervention and give an opportunity to the people's Government to get arms from those who have them and the untrained armies of the people's Government kill drive the rebel generals out of Spain. Do not believe these lying atrocity stories. They have been told in every war. They were told in the Crimean War, the Boer War and the Great War. They are lies from beginning to end.
§ Mr. DENVILLE
Is it a lie that there is sitting in a certain quarter of this House a man 40 years of age whose daughter, aged 17, was in Spain during the outbreak and she has not been heard of from that day to this? Answer that question.
§ Mr. GALLACHER
That is possible. I know that Miss Felicia Brown, the artist, was in the ranks of the Government army and she was killed, but do not believe the lies that are peddled about about the People's Front Government and the men and women of the working class. Let us face up to this question, which is of significance to the whole of Europe, and make sure that victory goes to the people's Government. If you demand that in no circumstances shall there be any encouragement or any recognition of Franco and give all your attention to saving the People's Front Government, it will be best for yourselves and for Europe.
§ 7.27 p.m.
Mr. VYVYAN ADAMS
I agree with the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) that there has been a serious lack of restraint on the part of certain organs of our Press in describing atrocities on both sides in the Spanish civil war. I have heard many things said of the foreign policy of His Majesty's Government, but never before tonight have I heard it described in the words of the hon. Member for West Fife as "cunning and deliberately conceived." I am sure the Government will be grateful for that new class of medal with which their reputation has been decorated. The hon. Member also complained of rebel propaganda in this country. Government propaganda is fairly vocal, but perhaps not quite so articulate as rebel propaganda. If the hon. Member doubts that, let him re-read with closer attentiveness the columns of the "Daily Worker."
§ Mr. GALLACHER
I was not making a point about the propaganda but about the Home Secretary stopping a representative of the People's Front from coming in on the ground that he was coming to make propaganda and that they were not prepared to allow propaganda on either side.
I complain, equally with the hon. Member, about the particular publication which he has in his hand. It is precisely the same as the ridiculous anti-Ethiopian propaganda scattered about in the early stages of the Abyssinian dispute from Italian sources. That was disgusting and this is equally disgusting. I am merely saying that the Government side in Spain is not com- 94 pletely unrepresented in the Press of this country, and a good instance of that representation is to be found in its extreme form in the columns of the "Daily Worker."
A majority of Members who have spoken, and I believe a vast majority of the House, would declare themselves loyal friends of democracy. I have observed that that sentiment has resounded through five or six speeches that we have heard to-night on several sides of the House. Whichever side prevails in this dispute in Spain, the outlook for democracy in that country, and, indeed, in Europe, is to-day dark indeed. My right hon. Friend the Member for Hill-head (Sir R. Home) propounded the question, "What are we to do now?" I do not think, frankly, that the Government could do anything else, things being as they are, than that which they have decided to do. But I should like to ask another question. What has the future in store for us in the British Empire? I wish very seriously to pursue the inquiry suggested, somewhat facetiously perhaps, by the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton). I am not, in what I am saying now, so much concerned with the bad present or the evil past. I am thinking about the worse future. It seems safely predictable that military success in Spain is going to that novel type of patriot who rebels against his own Government with the help of Moorish mercenaries and foreign arms. Ruling out the district of Catalonia, I foresee quite soon the holding down of a majority of the Spanish people by yet another Fascist tyranny. The ruthless and resolute armed minority is going in yet another country to gain the victory. From the first in this dispute the dice have not been evenly loaded. They have been heavily loaded against the Government. Equipment and organisation—both those vital factors in any military dispute—have been upon the side of the rebels, and, whatever may be the inevitable course of our own policy, the Spanish Government has not even enjoyed the elementary right in international law of purchasing arms from abroad.
No doubt the Fascist Government of Spain, which, I believe, will be an established fact quite soon, will begin, like Germany and Italy, to build imperial 95 castles in the air; it is an essential feature, I believe, of a Fascist Government that it needs to excite public support for itself from time to time by bringing home some fresh trophy in the international sphere as evidence of its power among the nations. I should not be at all surprised if one of the earliest impulses of that new Government is to treat our possession of Gibraltar as a geographical and a political anomaly. We have allowed the Italian power to wax when it ought to have been destroyed anyhow in the imperial expansionist sense at the end of 1935. To-day we are about to see our Mediterranean communications menaced by yet another Fascist state. Worse perhaps than that feature is the circumstance that France, our inevitable comrade in any possible future trouble with Germany, will be bordered upon three sides by populations which have surrendered those ideals of liberty in which all true Englishmen and all true Frenchmen rejoice.
There is one great citadel of stable freedom in the world to-day and that is the British Empire. I hope that, whatever may be the policy of this new and, I believe, inevitable Government in Spain, we are not going to cringe before that Government. A year ago the pontifical utterances of Signor Mussolini proved in the international sphere extraordinarily effective; but it is not in the British tradition to fear the ravings of foreign tyrants.
The Opposition in this Debate perplex me. I am going to propound and pursue an analogy which was propounded earlier to-day by my right hon. Friend the Member for Hillhead, and had indeed occurred to me before. It may be that in the near or remoter future there will be in Germany some internal disturbance against the Nazi Government, and candidly I hope that that disturbance will come some day. For I do not believe that European peace can be assured, at all events for a long period of time, when you have such a Government as the Nazi Government ruling in Germany. I want some official pronouncement to-night from whoever replies officially for the Labour Opposition whether they would in those circumstances wish Great Britain to arm the de facto Nazi Government? I sincerely wish to know the Labour answer to that question.
96 It seems to me that the Opposition in this and in another question are assuming a quite impossible position. I do not know, I cannot discover, whether they are standing on their feet, their hands, or their heads. "Abroad," they tell us, "Tyrannies pullulate and proliferate." "Let us at least," they continue, "unleash our vocabularies." No one knows whether the Labour party when the Estimates are submitted will support rearmament. The other day on this vital issue there was revealed at the Edinburgh conference a deep cleavage of opinion. It would not have mattered so much if that conference was a mere academic assembly but it was much more than that. It was the conference of the party to which the country must inevitably look for His Majesty's Opposition and alternative Government. In the resolution about armaments there was evident a huge minority which was manifestly hostile to our re-armament. There seem in the Opposition to be two quite distinct sections of opinion. The first say that re-armament is necessary to defend treaties, democracy, and freedom. With respect I agree with that section; and so' I believe do three-quarters of the citizens of this country. The other section tell us that they are unwilling to support the re-armament of this country because they disapprove of the foreign policy of the Government. They tell us—we should naturally expect them to tell us—that the Opposition should be charged with the Government and the foreign policy of this country.
May I ask the House to observe for one moment where that argument leads? Suppose the Government and the country take the advice of the Labour Opposition. Suppose to-day His Majesty's Government suspend re-armament and that the country a year hence returns a Labour Government to power. How, I wonder, would a Labour party in office like the task of meeting some international crisis and perhaps of championing freedom and of preserving the sanctity of treaties with a hopelessly weakened Great Britain? And even that fancy makes a very big assumption. It assumes that in the Labour party, in any future Labour Government, the League-minded section gains the ascendancy, that is to say, the section in the Labour party which believes in the proper use of force as implied in Articles 10 and 16 of the 97 Covenant of the League of Nations. It is true that it seems that a majority of the Labour party are in favour to-day of re-armament. I wish it would become the absolute and unmistakable majority, because that large minority at Edinburgh seem to imply that in the country there is an even larger proportion of supporters of the Labour Opposition who would not support the rearmament of Great Britain to-day. I feel in this moment of acute international crisis that upon this one issue there is a good chance of securing national unity; that issue is the degree of strength which Great Britain should present to the world outside. Surely today, if Great Britain is to survive triumphantly in this world, she must be riot only democratic but dynamic as well.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ Mr. COCKS
As one who, with my colleague the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Dobbie), recently returned from Madrid, I should like to echo the tribute which the Foreign Secretary paid to the work Mr. Ogilvie Forbes is doing in the Spanish capital. In very difficult circumstances and in the regrettable absence of the Ambassador he has acted with great tact, circumspection and efficiency. He has adopted a very correct attitude all through, and I have heard nothing but the highest praise for him both from Spanish and English people. Apart from saying that, I am afraid there is very little in the speech of the Foreign Secretary with which I agree. We are discussing to-night the position of the non-intervention Committee, and to begin with, I wish to object to the phrase "non-intervention." The use of the phrase "non-intervention" seems to beg the whole question. Nobody in this House wants this country to intervene in the war in Spain in the sense of sending our Army and Navy to take part in the conflict. All we say is that the legitimate Spanish Government should have its constitutional and legal rights, enjoyed by all Governments, to purchase arms with which to defend itself, to restore order in the country and to put down the rebellion—a rebellion which is none the less a rebellion because it has been fomented and is supported by two of the deadliest enemies of this country in the world—Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. 98 That was the normal course of things which we expected the Government were going to pursue when the House rose at the end of July, because on 31st July the Noble Lord the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs made this statement:I was asked. … what would be the policy of the Government with regard to the purchase of armaments? No application from Spain has been received. If it were received, it would be dealt with by means of the ordinary procedure with regard to such applications laid down by law and dealt with by the Departments concerned,. … I want to make it quite clear that in this very difficult situation the Government want and mean to act all the time in strict accordance with the existing law. They believe that is the only line of action for them to take, and they mean to stand by it. If anyone wishes them to adopt any other attitude, they will be unable to accede to it."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st July, 1936; cols. 1974–75, Vol. 315.]If the Government had intended to act "in strict accordance with the existing law," the procedure would have been very simple. They would have simply put an embargo upon all arms sent to the rebels, and they would have allowed the Spanish Government to purchase with its own money arms from private armament firms in this country. That would have been in accordance with existing practice and international law. I seem to think, despite what the Foreign Secretary said, that if there had been a monarchist Government in Spain trying to put down a rebellion fomented by the working people, this is the attitude the British Government would have taken up, but for some reason or other, whether from fear of the Fascist Powers or a desire to support France in her very difficult position, or to preserve the peace of the world, or because they may have social sympathies with the aristocracy of Spain, which for years has been anti-British and pro-German, they have adopted a policy which in its effects has encouraged and supported the rebels and hampered and handicapped the Spanish Government. The Spanish Government were not even allowed to obtain delivery of 11 aeroplanes which they had ordered in this country and paid for before the rebellion occurred.
We have heard a good deal about the initiative in this matter taken by the French Government. The Foreign Secretary has stated that the rumour is quite untrue that it was taken under pressure from this country. There is something 99 mysterious about this matter which has not yet been disclosed. The "Times" of 24th October in its leading page had a long article on foreign policy from its own Paris correspondent, who said that although it was true that the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister of France took the initiative in imposing the embargo yetstrong British pressure was an important factor in deciding their attitude.I should imagine that the Paris correspondent of a paper like the "Times" would have some reasons to support a statement of that kind. I am not doubting at all the denial of the Foreign Secretary, but there is something which happened at that time of which we have not yet heard.
The position is rather a curious one as between France and Spain. Spain had a treaty with France by which Spain agreed to purchase all the arms she needed from France, and yet when the rebellion took place, and before the general embargo was put on, France refused to carry out the terms of that treaty and stopped the export of arms of any kind to Spain. It has been suggested that what really happened was this, that although the French Government took the initiative in proposing a general all-round embargo it did not intend that embargo to start until all the other nations, the Fascist nations as well, had agreed to the embargo, but that Britain put pressure upon France to stop the supply of arms to Spain before the non-intervention committee was set up and the general agreement was arrived at. I put that forward as a statement of what I have heard, and perhaps the Prime Minister when he replies will deal with that point.
On 1st August the French Government proposed an embargo and on the following day this country supported it. On 19th August, without waiting for the other countries to agree, the British Government placed an embargo on the exportation of arms from this country to Spain, although it was notorious at that time that, against all international law and the Covenant of the League of Nations, Germany, Italy and Portugal were supplying the rebels with everything they required. They have done that ever since, since the agreement was set up, and they are doing it now. I cannot understand why the British Government 100 plead ignorance on a point which is well known to everybody who has been in Spain, including British war correspondents and British officials out there. The effect of this embargo has been to strangle and betray the Government and people of Spain and to give the utmost assistance to the rebels. In spite of the ridiculous statements which have been issued by what I can only call the pro-Franco non-intervention committee, it is obvious that the agreement is not being kept. The armies now attacking Madrid are supplied with Italian whippet tanks. According to the correspondent of the "News Chronicle," who has been captured, those tanks are manned by Italian soldiers, and there is good reason to believe that they were only landed at Cadiz a few days ago.
I have been asked for the evidence which we have of the help given to the rebels by Italy, Germany and Portugal. I have in my possession a few items which I have collected from various sources from the beginning of the rebellion up to the present time, and they show that the rebels have been continuously supplied with arms from these Fascist countries. Although it will take a little time for me to go through the list, I think it well that the facts should be put on record. On 29th July it was reported in the "Intransigeant" that a three-engine Junker bombing plane had arrived at Tetuan, that 19 more were expected from Germany and also 20 Caproni bombers from Italy. On 31st July the "Times" Paris correspondent stated that two Italian planes on their way to join the rebels made forced landings in French Algeria. They had flown straight from Sardinia, and were manned by Italian officers who as recently as 20th July had belonged to the Italian Regular Air Force. On 1st August, Reuter said that 14 more of these planes—Savoia Marchette—had reached Morocco. On 2nd August, the Havas correspondent at Tetuan said he had seen seven Junker planes and one Marchetti. On 4th August the "Times" stated that the German pocket battleship "Deutschland" had put in at Ceuta and that the German admiral went to Tetuan and lunched with General Franco. On 6th August the "Manchester Guardian "diplomatic correspondent stated that five German planes, including three bombers, had reached Ceuta and more were expected. I might here remark that on 101 9th August the Press reported that the German Embassy had informed the Foreign Office:(1) That no war materials, including planes, had been sent to the rebels, either by the German Government or private individuals;(2) That no war material would be sent to the rebels from Germany.Comment on that statement is unnecessary. On 13th August the Berlin correspondent of the "Times "stated that there was no denial of the reports that on 11th August 25 German aircraft landed at Cadiz and a number of Lufthausas at Tetuan. On 13th August the British United Press reported that at Seville there were Italian Caproni bombers and Savoias, German Junkers and Heinkels scouts and bombers. The German officers wore white uniforms and the Italians the uniform of the Foreign Legion. On 13th August Sir Percival Phillips, correspondent of the "Daily Telegraph," said that General Franco had 20 Junker transport planes transporting Moors, five German pursuit planes, with the original markings erased with black paint, and seven Capronis. Fascist and Nazi airmen were instructing the rebels.
On 15th August the "New Statesman "said that the "New York Times" correspondent had seen at Seville a further 19 German bombers, manned by pilots of the Regular German Army, and that French witnesses reported the arrival of a score of German planes at General Molas' headquarters in the North. On 19th August the British Government banned the exportation of arms to Spain without waiting for the adhesion of other nations. On 24th August the "Times" correspondent at Hendaye stated that the Burgos insurgents claimed that they had received 21 new Junker planes on 23rd August. On 24th August the "News Chronicle" stated that two German ships, one being the "Kamerun," were unloading tanks, planes, bombs and grenades at Lisbon. The cargo was placed in box cars. On 22nd August 23 left for Badajoz and Salamanca and 30 more on the following day. I would point out that on 20th August the "Times" reported that it was stated in Berlin that the "Kamerun" had no munitions on board. On 26th August Mr. Pembroke Stevens, a well-known war correspondent, stated that a German from Hamburg had said that his 102 battalion had flown across the Straits in 15 Junker planes, piloted by Germans, and that Badajoz was bombarded by former Italian Air Force planes. The pilots were ex-Italian officers in Spanish Legionaire uniforms. Between 28th and 31st August it is stated that 28 Italian planes were landed from an Italian ship at Vigo. I understand that this was seen by the British Vice-Consul there and that the information was sent to the British Government.
This brings me to the beginning of September, by which time all the nations concerned had agreed to place an embargo on the export of arms to Spain. At the beginning of September, according to the Spanish Foreign Secretary, a ship arrived at Melila with two Capronis, bombs and shells, escorted by an Italian destroyer. In early September an Italian plane was shot down. The, pilot was killed, but his papers showed that he was Ernesto Monico, under the orders of a General Kinderlin, who commanded two squadrons of planes, one composed of Junkers and the other of Fiats. On 6th September, according to the "Morning Post" correspondent, 14 Italian planes arrived at Palma in Majorca, and on 7th September, on the: authority of the Foreign Minister of Spain, 14 planes from Hamburg arrived. at Seville in a train from Portugal. On 12th September on the same authority an Italian cargo boat landed gas bombs, planes and arms near Tetuan. On 13th September an Italian Fiat was shot down at Telavera. The pilot escaped by means of a parachute—which my colleague and I have brought back to England—and he made a statement showing that he had fought in the Abyssinian war and that at various centres there were. 24 German planes and 27 Italian planes.
On 20th September, according to the Spanish Foreign Minister 12 German aeroplanes arrived at Tetuan to transport troops, and on the same date the British Vice-Consul saw more Italian planes landed at Vigo. This is reported by Mr. William Dodd, son of the American Ambassador to Berlin, who said that it was told him by the British Vice-Consul himself. Mr. Dodd further said that the Vice-Consul had told him that the Pact had no meaning and was being openly violated. On 29th September, so the Spanish Foreign 103 Minister says poison gas from Italy was sent from Lisbon across the Spanish Frontier to the rebels. Although poison gas has not yet been used, everyone in Madrid thinks that the rebels intend to use it if they cannot win in any other way as every rebel soldier captured is provided with a gas mask—although the Spanish Government has no gas. On about the same date the French Consul at Algeciras reported that he had seen 200 Italian airmen at Seville and that half the crew of the rebel warship "Canarias" were Germans. On 5th October the "Times" reported that 30 foreign war planes had arrived in Spain from Morocco and the "News Chronicle" the following day stated that these planes were Italian or German, painted black. On 7th October, according to the British Government, three Italian aeroplanes are alleged to have landed at Palma and an Italian ship is alleged to have landed cases of munitions. Between 8th and 18th October, according to the Spanish Government, 160 Germans, apparently specialised troops, arrived at Seville with 12 anti-aircraft guns and left by train for the front. On 15th October, according to the Spanish Government, a large number of tanks and a, consignment of 100 flame-throwers from Italy were landed at Cadiz. On 17th October, according to the Spanish Government, a, German ship believed to be a destroyer, landed antiaircraft guns at Algeciras.
I am sorry to have detained the House so long with this detailed statement, but it has been said that there is no proof that the agreement has been violated and, therefore, I had to give these details. I have not included in the above items the well authenticated reports of Italian activities in Majorca and the many open breaches of neutrality on the part of Portugal, including the handing over to the rebels for summary execution of Spanish loyalists who, either in flight from Badajoz or as a result of forced landing from the air, have found themselves in Portuguese territory. I should like to relate something which I saw myself. In the civil airport at Madrid there is a German Junker aeroplane. The German Government made a great fuss about this aeroplane and stated that it was a civil plane sent to evacuate German civilians to Stuttgart. I examined the plane myself, very 104 thoroughly. It had been a civil plane once, but had been converted for war purposes. There were no seats for passengers and the cabin was partly filled by two large tanks for extra gasolene. The windows, except one on each side, were all armour plated. Forward, there was a well for dropping bombs and there was another one amidships. On the roof there was a machine gun emplacement, with an arrangement so that the machine guns could fire from all directions of the compass. Underneath the plane there was another emplacement for machine guns so constructed that the guns could be fired in every direction except straight ahead. There was a German inscription on the plane stating that only four people were to be the complement. However, the German Government stated that this particular plane was for civil purposes only, and for that reason they demanded its release.
The fact is that the present Italian and German Governments have elevated perjury into a policy and use falsehood as a means of propaganda, and it is impossible to place any reliance on anything they say. But the most striking example of all in my view is the way in which the position in the air has changed. At the beginning of the rebellion the Spanish Government had a superiority in the air because 75 per cent. of the air force remained loyal. At the middle of last month when I was in Madrid I was informed that superiority in the air had passed to the rebels, and that they now had a superiority of 15 planes to one in the air. From what we can read from the newspapers that superiority is now greater still; the rebels have almost a monopoly in the air. When a Government plane is shot down it is a dead loss because they cannot replace it, whereas the rebels are continually receiving supplies of the latest bombers and pursuer planes from Italy and Germany.
It has been suggested this evening that if the non-intervention policy was abandoned it would aid the rebels rather than the Spanish Government. Apart from the fact that any aid given to rebels is against all international law, that is not the view of the Spanish Government, who surely are in the best position to judge. I asked the question myself of the Prime Minister, Senor Caballero, and this is what he said: 105What the Spanish Government needs is arms. We have the men and if we could get the equipment for an army of 200,000 men we would win the war quickly, even though the rebels have better war materials. Especially do we want to purchase aircraft and machine guns. Even if as a result of allowing the Spanish Government to purchase war materials the German and Italian Governments intensified their help, the rebels had not the men.This was confirmed by Señor Prieto, the Minister of Air and Marine, who said to me:The policy of non-intervention is bringing the Spanish Government fatally to disaster.That is the view of everybody to whom I spoke in Spain, British residents and Spaniards themselves. Don Fernando de los Rios, who has recently been appointed Ambassador at Washington, whom I saw in Paris, put the matter very clearly. He said that the word non-intervention was really an elegant form of intervention. At the beginning they were hampered because the rebels had the principal arsenals on their side, but that they had the men and the spirit of victory, and what they wanted was arms. If the embargo had been placed on the first day it might have been acceptable to the Spanish Government but now that the rebels had received such large quantities of arms that was not the case. If the Government got arms it would win. That was also the impression I gained. It has been said in some quarters that the rebels are supported by a majority of the people of Spain. Such statements are quite absurd. I cannot pretend to be able to form a reliable estimate from my journey to Spain, but in going by road from the frontier of Spain, through Catalonia and Valencia and up through Cuenca and New Castile to Madrid, I formed the impression that 80 or 90 per cent. of the population were solidly behind the Government, and I was told by a very high British authority in Madrid that I should find the same conditions in the rest of Spain, with the possible exception of Navarre, even in the territories held down by the rebels.
It is not sufficiently well known that the rebel army is but a small one, consisting of Moors, Foreign Legionaries, the Officer Corps, a few Fascists, some Carlists and a number of Italian and German aviators, artillerists and men drawn from the German and Italian 106 Armies. But it is heavily armed with heavy artillery, machine guns, flame-throwers and tanks and aeroplanes of the latest type. It is because of the armaments it possesses that it is winning the victory. The Talavera front was broken up because their aeroplanes were able to fly low and machine gun the Government forces, who were practically unprotected from machine gun fire from the air as they were unable to dig deep trenches owing to the rocky nature of the soil. Against this small mechanised army is practically the whole population of Spain. They are poorly equipped; and most of them have only a few arms, a few fowling pieces, double-barrelled sporting guns, with which to fight these well-equipped modern troops. But the spirit of the people is marvellous. A distinguished British Conservative resident of Madrid when he saw some of these semi-armed militia going out to fight for the defence of Madrid said to me, "It is the spirit of Valmy all over again." But at Valmy the French levies had the guns. These people are fighting to the death; in fact, they will have to fight to the death because they will be killed if they lose. But the rebels are not going to have an easy victory even if the Government get no assistance. If by reason of their better equipment the rebels secure the victory they will not, in the opinion of competent British authorities, be able to hold the country down for more than two years. The cost of that short victory in bloodshed will be terrible. The rebels themselves admit that in order to obtain order after they have secured the victory they will have to shoot 300,000 people.
There are whispers—I can hardly believe they are true—that if the rebels succeed in capturing Madrid His Majesty's Government may recognise the Junta at Burgos as the Government of Spain. That would be a crime against justice, and certainly provocative of social unrest in this country. In addition it would be strongly inimical to British interests, because in place of the Spanish Republic, which is animated by the friendliest feeling towards the British people, you will have a military tyranny, in alliance with Germany and Italy, hostile to this country and to France. It has been suggested that the reason for carrying on the present policy is the desire to preserve peace. If the rebels win and we have a 107 Fascist Spain it will bring war much nearer, whereas if you were to allow the Spanish Government to purchase arms for their defence they would win the war very quickly, because it would mean they would be able to equip an army of say 200,000 men which would defeat the rebels very speedily.
For my part I think it is absolutely necessary for the democratic forces of this country to demand the removal of the embargo and allow Spain to have the arms with which to defend herself. If we do not do that we shall deserve to be drowned in the blood of our Spanish comrades. If the Government itself do not remove the embargo it will be much better in the long run for any Englishman who loves liberty and freedom to lie dead on the plains of Castile with a Fascist bullet in his heart than to live on in this country for a short time longer, disgraced and humiliated, until the evil forces which are threatening the peace of Europe, which have overwhelmed Abyssinia and are overwhelming Spain, are launched against us in our turn. The last word which a distinguished Englishman in Spain said to me was, "When you get back to England ask for fair play for the Spanish Government and the Spanish people." It is in the spirit of that request that I have addressed the House to-night.
§ 8.12 p.m.
§ Mr. De CHAIR
I have listened with great interest to the sincere and reasoned speech of the hon. Member. He has made a very eloquent and telling case for the contention that arms have been supplied to the insurgent forces in Spain, but I hope he does not make the mistake in thinking that we on this side of the House are more sympathetic with the insurgent forces than we are with the Government forces. We wish to preserve a policy of complete impartiality. There can be no more melancholy spectacle than that a country which has so great a civilisation to its credit as Spain should be in the throes of civil war, with loss and devastation on both sides. We have no sympathy with either side in the atrocities which have been committed, and it is simply, as the Foreign Secretary has said, to prevent a spread of this conflict to the rest of Europe that we wish to maintain a policy of non-intervention. I think that 108 policy has the complete support of the country.
It is most pathetic to witness the way in which the Opposition seem to back the wrong horse. Over armaments they persisted for some time in the futile policy of denying us armaments in the face of growing dangers, until they realised that their own supporters were determined that the country should be made safe. Now they are asking us to bring grave dangers to the country by supplying arms to the Government forces in Spain. I do not think that policy has the support of even 10 per cent. of the people of this country. I do not intend to make a long speech. I remember a speaker on one occasion who said, "I divide my speech into three parts. In the first part I tell them what I am going to tell them, in the second part I tell them; and in the last part I tell them what I have told them." I am going to leave out Parts I and III and concentrate on Part II. The question of non-intervention in Spain has brought to the forefront the question of our commitments in Europe generally; whether or not we are to be committed in Europe to a policy of intervention in the quarrels of other countries. The civil war in Spain has brought the international situation into much clearer perspective and Europe is now degenerating into two hostile armed camps, Fascists and Communists. We have to decide how much longer we wish to be tied to either side or to bolster up either position. In his speech to-day the Foreign Secretary revealed himself as a disillusioned man. I think he realised that Russia had been leading us by the nose, but has now revealed herself in her true colours by violating the neutrality pact, for, whatever others may have done, Russia has undoubtedly violated it and sent arms to Spain, thus revealing herself as anxious to stir up trouble throughout Europe and pave the way for world revolution. I think the Foreign Secretary is rather like a man who has drained the wine of life to the lees, only to find a dead mouse at the bottom of the glass. There is no doubt that those who held the belief that Russia was sincere in her efforts to maintain peace in Europe have been sadly disillusioned.
With regard to foreign commitments, I would like the Foreign Secretary to reply to one question. There is grave 109 anxiety in this country as to what our foreign commitments under the Locarno Treaty—or what is left of it—really involve, and I would like the right hon. Gentleman to assure the House that the Government will never interpret our commitments in Europe in such a way as to involve this country in a Franco-German dispute which has its origins in Russia. There is grave uncertainty as to how far our pledges to France would involve us if there were a dispute between Germany and Russia, which is allied to France. For my own part, contemplating this melancholy spectacle of Europe to-day, I would like to see this country turn its back on Europe and turn its face towards the Empire. We have done very little to secure any pacification in Europe as the result of all our comings and goings there, and if half the energy which has been used in trying to reconcile incompatible interests and foes in Europe had been devoted to the planned development of the Empire, a great deal more statesmanship would have been shown. As it is, we have got very little further, and Europe seems rapidly to be drifting into a war between two clearly defined camps. The question which arises is whether we ought not to get out of Europe while the going is good. The argument used previously was that we could not afford to dispense with allies, and had to depend upon France and give pledges to France in return, because we had not the arms with which to defend ourselves in case of emergency. but now that the Government have undertaken a programme of arming which will make us second to none in oar defence forces, I think it is no longer necessary for us to be tied to the nations of Europe, and we should break our commitments as early as possible.
I am not suggesting that we should leave the League of Nations, because everybody recognises that the League will undergo a great change. As a great protagonist of the League, Lord Lothian, said, the League will become a league in and out of war, an engine to centralise diplomacy, an organ for attempting pacification wherever possible, and to such a league America, and naturally this country, could belong. But we ought to make it clear that in such a league we would not undertake commitments to fight except in defence of the Empire. We 110 ought to have our own Monroe doctrine for the Empire. In the Empire we have, at a time of great trouble, a quarter of the world at peace, and we must maintain it in peace. People are inclined to think that since the advent of the aeroplane England is no longer an island, but England is still an island, because if you have a strong enough air force the air is as uncrossable as the sea. We are now building up an air force, so that we ought not necessarily to be tied to the nations of Europe in the way that we are. At a time such as the present, when millions of people in this country, who do not want to intervene in foreign disputes or be dragged into war, are, asking that we should not pledge ours selves to unlimited liabilities abroad, I would say that we should quit the cockpit of Europe and turn to the fertile plains of our own Empire, and try to secure their development.
§ 8.23 p.m.
§ Mr. D0BBIE
The hon. Member who has just spoken has very definitely charged Russia with breaking the nonintervention agreement, and I hope that the Government spokesman, when he replies, will at least give some shreds of evidence to justify that statement. I would like to endorse the remarks made by the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks) because, along with him, I had many opportunities of seeing the things he has described. I hope that the Government will consider seriously whether or not they are rendering a disservice not only to the democracy of Spain but to the democracy of the world by continuing what they call the non-intervention pact, a name which I think is a misnomer.
I generally listen with a good deal of pleasure to the speeches of the Foreign Secretary, but I must admit that to-day I was rather staggered by seine of the statements he made. He said, in the first instance, that the Government are endeavouring to prevent the extension of the war to Europe, and in his closing statement he said that they would endeavour to limit the strife to the unhappy country of Spain. From all the information obtained in Madrid and Barcelona, I believe that the rebels are not in a position to pay in hard cash for the material which we all know they have obtained from Germany and Italy, and 111 that parts of the country are in pawn to Germany and Italy.
I would like to ask the Foreign Secretary and those who champion the nonintervention agreement whether they believe that the creation of another Fascist State in Europe is likely to lessen the chances of war. I believe it will make for the breaking up of the peace of Europe, and I would like to ask the Government whether, in that eventuality, they would have made any contribution to the maintenance of peace. I would ask them to consider the possibility of Ceuta, standing opposite Gibraltar, becoming the property of Germany, the Balearic Islands becoming the property of Italy, and the Mediterranean becoming an Italian lake, and then to tell us whether they can justify the refusal to apply international law to a democratically-elected Government which is struggling against rebels. I would ask them to say whether they are doing the right thing to a Government which was peaceable and had friendly inclinations to us in extending to the rebels the same status as they are extending to that Government—because that is what they are doing by applying what is known as the non-intervention pact.
I remember being informed at Toledo by an important military officer of the Spanish Government that above us that day there were more aeroplanes flying on behalf of the rebels than the Spanish Government ever had. I myself picked up in Toledo a couple of bombs with German marks upon them. They were of very recent make and had the Dusseldorf mark upon them. There can be no question as to whether or not Germany and Italy have been supplying the rebels with war materials. The Foreign Secretary said that the insurgents are better armed, better trained, and better disciplined, and that freedom to purchase would have been to the advantage of the insurgents. I do not think that that is what has actuated the Government, and it would be a good thing if the Government were to tell us what really actuated them in denying this very elementary right of the application of international law to the Spanish Government. Those of us who had the opportunity of being in Madrid on that Sunday night when the call came for the militia, saw thousands of the Government militia marching to the 112 defence of Madrid without rifles, some of them armed only with clubs and sticks. The answer to the Foreign Secretary and to the Government is this—that the rebels had as many guns and as much munitions and as many aeroplanes as they could use, and to have given the Spanish Government an opportunity of buying the things that were needed for the defence of the state, would, at least, have put them in such a position that their soldiers would have had means to defend their country, in line with the means which were available to the attackers.
Therefore, I ask whoever is to reply for the Government to tell us, plainly and definitely, the reasons for their action. Up to the moment no spokesman of the Government has justified the application of the embargo. The hon. Member for Broxtowe referred to an order placed in this country for aeroplanes. When that order was placed here the money was paid down and that Spanish money is still in the hands of the people who built the aeroplanes. The order was given before the rebellion broke out. The aeroplanes are still in this country but cannot be delivered because the Government refuse to give an export licence, but the money is retained in this country. Perhaps the Foreign Secretary would also tell us whether he knows of the agreement arrived at last year between Spain and France whereby Spain agreed to buy her war materials from France alone. It was only with the agreement of France that the order for aeroplanes to which I refer was placed in this country. Therefore, Spain in this matter is tied up with France and Great Britain—two countries with democratically-elected Governments—and not only those of us who have had an opportunity of witnessing the situation in Spain but all who believe in the application of international law on terms of equality, are convinced in our hearts that if the Spanish democracy goes down, this country and this Government will have been parties to the assassination of democratic Spain and that is a consequence the effects of which must be felt by the people of this country.
§ 8.31 p.m.
§ Mr. EMMOTT
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) in my opinion, and I 113 think in the opinion of many Members, demolished the arguments which had been presented earlier in the Debate by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood). In fact it was easy to confute the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield, and I do not propose to dwell upon the inconsistencies and contradictions of the position in which he unfortunately found himself. I say, briefly and frankly, that for my part I am satisfied, and I am sure all Members of the party to which I belong are satisfied, that the policy pursued by His Majesty's Government is the right and indeed the only policy to pursue, and that simply on account of the dangerous consequences which would follow from any contrary policy. But I have not intervened in this Debate in order to make that statement. I came here without any intention of intervening in the Debate, but as I have listened to the speeches which have been made, a strong impression has been made upon my mind which I shall make some attempt to express. I think the Debate would be incomplete without the expression of a view which I am certain is held with great force arid conviction by many Members on this side of the House. I am much surprised that that view has not hitherto found expression this evening, but it does after all happen sometimes that for one reason or other hon. Members, although they may strongly disagree with the trend and balance of a Debate, are not prepared to rise and express a contrary view.
The assumption which has underlain almost every speech in this Debate has been that if the policy of non-intervention were abandoned, and if the supply of arms were consequently to be directed according to our sympathies, then the sympathies of the greater part of this House and of the people of this country would be shown to be be with the so-called Madrid Government. The right hon. Member for Caithness supported the policy of the Government, but he proved to us that if non-intervention were to be abandoned, his sympathies would be on the side of the Government of Madrid. He used such a phrase as "If we support the constitutional Government," and he used the expression "our friends" in reference to the Madrid 114 Government. I believe that that assumption, that the sympathies of the greater part of the people of this country would be on the side of the Government of Madrid, is wholly false, and here I must join issue with the hon. Member for South-West Norfolk (Mr. De Chair), who spoke a few moments ago. I quite appreciate the point of view from which he addressed the House, and indeed it is clear that, from the point of view of this Debate, from the point of view of the House of Commons, which has to determine whether non-intervention is right or not, the attitude of neutrality as between the two sides in Spain is reasonable and proper. But if that policy were to be abandoned, then the direction of the armaments and materials that would be supplied to Spain would be determined by the sympathies of the British people.
Now where do those sympathies lie? As I have conceded, the balance of the Debate so far has been strongly against the point of view that I am going to attempt to express, but in that respect I believe it has been, at least to a large extent, false and unrepresentative. The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) made no secret where his sympathies would lie. He was perfectly fair and candid with the House and said that if the supply of arms to Spain were agreed to, his sympathies would be entirely upon the side of the Government at Madrid or Barcelona. I think that this view derives very much of its force from the traditional support which Englishmen naturally give to a constituted Government, and indeed not only in this House but on many platforms throughout the country arguments have been used which really rest solely on that basis, that our attitude is determined by the fact that the Government of Madrid is the constituted Government. The right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood), in replying to-night to a point made by the right hon. Member for Hillhead, asked, "What does it matter that the Government was elected by a minority vote or has changed its character in the interval since it was elected?" But does it not matter at all whether the Government which is asserted to be the constitutional Government is a Government at all, and does in fact exercise the functions of government? Surely that 115 is a vital question which we have to consider. Does it not matter at all whether it is really and in fact a Government, or whether it is a mere committee of men, who are actually at the mercy of a mob Surely one must look not only at the fact of constitution, whatever that may be, or at the formal nature of a Government: one must consider the manner in which a Government exercises its functions, whether it is in fact a Government or not.
Then we have heard very much, to-night and on other occasions, of the Liberal and democratic Government of Spain, and indeed that was a phrase which was actually used by the right hon. Member for Caithness. I hope the House will bear with me if, upon this aspect of the matter, I quote to it certain observations which were written in a great English newspaper, only a very few weeks ago, by one whose authority on this matter I think no one will question. Many people in this country have themselves listened to Senor de Madariaga. No one who has done so or who knows anything of him will question the liberality of his principles or his devotion to the League of Nations. Now Senor de Madariaga wrote in the "Observer," on 11th October last, an article upon the present position in Spain; and let me preface what I have to say to the House by a sentence which shows very clearly the political orientation of this gentleman. He is no Fascist, no man of the Right at all. He says, more or less at the end of his article:Substantially, the Left is right.I do not myself agree with that view, but that is his view and I give it to the House to show from what point of view he regards this question. He says:Substantially, the Left is right. Spain must change her system.But what he says upon this matter of liberalism or liberty and democracy is this:Above all, let us not drag in liberty and democracy. Those poor old twin sisters are not much at home in our century, and no doubt regret the good old nineteenth, when they were young and pretty and everybody courted them, particularly the smart sons of the well-to-do. No. The issue in Spain has nothing to do with either democracy or liberty. Liberals and democrats 116 are either dead or 'on the run' and the parties in the conflict are determined to handle the country by strict dictatorial methods—whether of so-called Left or of so-called Right.Where then is the truth or appositeness of all these arguments founded upon the imagined Liberal, democratic nature of the Spanish Government? He goes on, in this extremely interesting article, to point out that in fact the Spanish constitution of 1931 has never worked, and he goes through the events of a series of years to show how in practice the constitution was always being infringed and was breaking down under the pressure of events. He shows how the Parliamentary system worked in all these years, and, coming to recent months, he says:During the several months that elapsed between the general election of 16th February, 1936, and the military rising, it"—that is, the Constitution—was simply ignored by the masses and a subject of torment for a conscientious but powerless Government, unable to exact respect for it from the rank and file.Surely that is evidence, and the best evidence that can be obtained, coming from the quarter that it does, that arguments founded upon the Liberal, democratic character of the Government in Madrid are entirely out of place in this discussion. Indeed, the present Prime Minister, Senor Largo Caballero himself, before the last election issued a declaration in which he stated that the formation of the Popular Front was only a stepping stone to the dictatorship of the proletariat.
§ Mr. EMMOTT
I can understand that hon. Members contemplate that prospect not only with equanimity but with pleasure. The hon. Member for Bridgeton finds nothing with which to quarrel in that, but there is nothing Liberal or democratic in that position.
Then in order to rally support to the Government of Spain and to create prejudice against those who have led this movement against it, it is asserted that what is called the rebellion is a Fascist movement, and arguments have been repeated again and again to-night based on the assumption that the whole movement of the Right is a Fascist movement. I believe that those arguments are based 117 on a complete misunderstanding of the position. We all know that it is an old trick of policy of the Third International to describe all movements hostile to itself as Fascist movements. The hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher), if he were here, would, I am sure, agree with that. The Third International always attempts to excite prejudice against all movements of the Right by describing them as Fascist movements. But none of the most eminent leaders of the Right in Spain are Fascists. At the elections which took place in February of this year the Fascist party did not gain a single seat on the representation that they had as a result of the elections in 1933. Their parliamentary representation is minute and their strength in Spain is also very small. They come into the Right movement, but it is really playing with truth to suggest that it is in any real sense a Fascist movement. The Fascists are with them certainly, but it is not at all in essence a Fascist movement. Why should it be thought to be a Fascist movement? People seem to think that because General Franco has used words suggesting that when he has succeeded he does not intend to restore the parliamentary system as it existed before, therefore he is a Fascist. Well, on that issue again I may rely upon the testimony of Senor de Madariaga. He not only showed in the article which I have quoted that the parliamentary system has no real foundation in the life of Spain, but in a book published last year in Madrid he expressed plainly the view that Spain must abolish the parliamentary system as we know it, and that the only system that can be devised for Spain is one founded upon direct suffrage only in the municipal sphere. Surely it is not truly describing the nature of this movement to describe it as a Fascist movement. After all, what is Fascism? I am not prepared to-night to suggest an analysis or a description of Fascism, but an essential feature of it is the strength of the central control by the State—a strong executive. But that is not a feature of government to which hon. Members on the other side of the House would object.
If the movement is not a Fascist movement, why does the hon. Member think that Italy and Germany are doing so much to help General Franco; and is he, as an Imperialist, quite 118 pleased with the prospect of a Power on the Southern border of France and at the gateway of the Mediterranean which will owe its existence to and be held in its existence by Italy and Germany? Does the hon. Member think that safe for British Imperial interests?
§ Mr. EMMOTT
I agree that both questions, and particularly the second, are extremely important. In reply to the first, I should say that the reason of the support of Italy and Germany, if it is established—[Laughter] it has not been established to the satisfaction of the non-intervention Committee—the reason of their attitude is very plain. It is simply a determination not to permit the establishment of a Communist State in the Iberian Peninsula. In reply to the second question of the hon. Lady, I see no reason whatever to anticipate any danger from the establishment of a State inspired by these ideological principles, provided we are in friendly relationship with it; and I see no reason why our foreign policy should assume a twist or a character which necessarily brings it into conflict with Italy, a great Mediterranean Power. At least, I can imagine no greater danger to Imperial interests than the establishment in the Iberian Peninsula of a government whose whole ideology and purpose is inspired by a bitter hostility to Imperialism and to the British Empire as the greatest example of modern Imperialism. Regard this matter, if you will, on this basis, and I say that the balance of Imperial advantage is on the side of the establishment of a Fascist state in preference to the establishment of a Communist state. I would have neither, but if the choice is between a Communist state and a Fascist state, I say that the balance of our Imperial advantage would be on the side of the establishment of the Fascist state.
Mr. V. ADAMS
Does my hon. Friend suggest that Russia is a greater danger than Germany to our Imperial interests?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Captain Bourne)
We really cannot carry on a debate if hon. Members interrupt to ask questions.
§ Mr. EMMOTT
I thank you for your protection, Sir. I hope that my inter- 119 vention has done something to redress the balance of the Debate. Other statements have been made by hon. Members on the other side of the House with which many of us strongly disagree. The argument which I have been attempting to combat I believe to be false. Then there was the argument of the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks). I do not refer to that part of it which was concerned with the alleged incidents of the supply of arms to one side, but to another part in which he suggested that this movement of the Right does not command the support of the greater part of the people of Spain. I believe that argument to be perfectly false. It is not surprising that the hon. Member arrived at that conclusion, considering that he appears to have visited only Catalonia, and went only a certain distance down the east coast; if he were to visit some of the other parts of the Iberian Peninsula I think he would return with a very different impression. I know that he reads the newspapers very carefully: I wonder if he remembers an interesting letter published in the "Times," which at least at the beginning of this matter was by no means favourable to General Franco's movement. It was a letter, published in that journal some weeks ago, from a Castilian gentleman described by the "Times" as a man of liberal views who narrowly escaped imprisonment for his hostility to the last military dictatorship. That letter shows the reason why Castile, which is only one part of Spain, but a very great and important part, is with the movement of the Right. He sums up the whole matter in his last paragraph in this way:The rising in Castile is no insurrection against Spain nor against the Republic. It has risen to safeguard the unity of Spain against a Government which it believes to have betrayed the nation, dragged it into civil war, proclaimed its intention to establish Communism, and armed Basque and Catalonian separatists, who seek to profit by revolution to attain their aims. After five years of endurance Castile found herself driven to join the rising to liberate Spain from anarchy and separatism and fight for the very existence of the nation.I should have thought it deplorable if this Debate had come to an end without at least the expression by one Member of this House of the point of view that if the policy of non-intervention were to be abandoned and arms were allowed to be supplied to Spain, the direction of 120 our supplies being determined by our sympathies, our sympathies would not be on the side of the so-called Government in Madrid. I believe, on the contrary, that enormous numbers of people in this country, and a great number of the Members of this House, have their sympathies not on the side of the Government in Madrid but on the side of the forces of the Right.
§ 8.58 p.m.
§ Mr. W. ROBERTS
We have just listened to an exceedingly interesting and, if I may say so, well-argued speech. I am glad that we have had the opportunity of listening to the point of view which the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Emmott) put forward. I do not find myself in agreement with very much that he said, but it is easy for him to find that this policy of non-intervention has been satisfactory, because not only has that, in his judgment, prevented the danger of a wider conflagration, but it has also clearly assisted the party in Spain which he wishes to see win.
§ Mr. ROBERTS
Well, that is my view, and the view of a great many people concerned, and the view of the Spanish Government, who are probably the people most likely to know.
§ Mr. EMMOTT
If the hon. Member gives that as my reason for my argument then he is in error. That is not at all the reason. On the contrary, I am of opinion that on the whole the policy of non-intervention has benefited the Government of Madrid.
§ Mr. ROBERTS
I do not think there is any occasion to go into that point. There certainly are a great many supporters of the British Government who have welcomed this policy because it did appear to favour what they would call the insurgents but what I call the rebels. Of course, if one wishes to see the rebels win it is easy to support the policy of non-intervention. I do not suggest that, because the Spanish Government was the established Government, therefore we ought to have supplied arms. I am not wishing to argue that point at the moment. What I want to examine is this new method of Fascist aggression. If I can try, for a moment, to be impartial, 121 I would say this: The outbreak in Spain is, in a sense, more dangerous than the invasion by one country of another's frontiers; it is more subtle, more likely to provoke international confusion and chaos. The reason why some of us wish to see the Spanish Government win is not because the Spanish Government was the established Government, but because we do not wish to see the Fascist countries of Europe further perfecting this instrument of aggression. The hon. Member for East Surrey asked whether Franco was a Fascist. All I can answer is that apparently Mussolini thinks so, apparently Hitler thinks so, and apparently other people think so. I would draw his attention to the sympathies which the Spanish generals were expressing with Italy during last winter. I think he will find, if he inquires into this, that the Spanish Army and the Spanish right wing parties were very freely expressing the hope that Italy would succeed in winning her struggle against the League of Nations, and that there was very considerable jubilation among those parties who are now supporting the insurgents when the League of Nations was defeated in that struggle. General Franco did, in one broadcast, not so long ago, make it quite clear that he could not be a friend of France, which was governed by a Popular Front. I think those evidences that General Franco, even if he does not call himself a Fascist, is a sympathiser with Fascist dictators and an open enemy of democratic Government, are fairly conclusive. I would remind some of the Government supporters how they welcomed Hitler when he came to power in Germany. It was the same argument then: that Hitler saved Germany from Communism, Communism which, as Members of Parliament on the Government side pointed out, never actually polled more than 20 per cent. of the votes in Germany. The Communist party in Spain was a negligible factor. It numbered 50,000 before the rebellion broke out. The Conservative party, or members of it, welcomed Herr Hitler to power. I wonder whether they still welcome him to-day. I wonder whether those who encouraged him in those days realised then, as they realise to-day, the danger that Fascist Powers mean to the peace of Europe, and whether, in that case, they would not perhaps have hesitated.
122 It is natural for anybody speaking from these benches to find it difficult to be quite impartial about Spain. I am informed that the word "Liberal" was invented in Spain, and that the Government against which the generals revolted was a Liberal government pure and simple, with the support of Socialists and other elements of the Popular Front. I wish that some little measure of impartiality had been shown by Conservative newspapers and speakers in the present conflict. The "Times" which, in the past, has had a reputation for fair-mindedness, has printed what may be quite fair accounts of the happenings within the territory controlled by the Spanish Government; I just wish that the "Times" had published equally fair-minded reports of what is happening behind the lines controlled by the Spanish generals. That would have completed the picture, and I do not think there would have been so many enthusiastic supporters of General Franco, even in this House, had it been possible to obtain impartial accounts of the atrocities which have been committed, not by irresponsible elements, but under the orders of the generals themselves, in the territories controlled by them.
I said that it was difficult for a Liberal to speak impartially on this question. I still have the firm belief that democratic forms of government and methods are the only final safeguards against the cataclysm of another world war. I believe that if it were not for the dictatorships in Europe to-day—this seems a perfectly obvious statement to make—there would be little fear that the world would be engaged in the most furious arms race ever known. Therefore, looking at this issue in as wide a spirit as possible, the result of the events of the last few months will probably mean that another Fascist government is added to those already existing in Europe. It may be that His Majesty's Government were right in saying that nothing that they could have done would have prevented it. I am not arguing that at the moment. All I know is, as has been pointed out by many other speakers, that another Fascist government is in process of being forced upon an unwilling people, another government which is avowedly hostile to the League of Nations, and to British interests in the Mediterranean and elsewhere, is in process of formation in Europe, which 123 will bring the disaster of a European war nearer.
The question is whether the action which the British Government have taken could have been directed in such a way as to prevent that. I believe that the British Government have again been outmanoeuvred by the Fascists, diplomatically. It may be that temporarily the conflict has been isolated, but I fear that, in the long run, the conflict, if it comes, may be worse. Temporarily, General Franco may be able to establish some order in Spain, with his Moors from Morrocco and his aeroplanes, hired or bought from the Fascists and the Nazis, but I do not believe that he can permanently hold down that country, or that a military dictatorship is a solution of Spain's difficulties. I fear that events in Spain in the last few months are another humiliation for British foreign policy. We apparently followed the policy of nonintervention by example. The Front Bench of the Government do not hesitate to tell us that disarmament by example has been a conspicuous failure; we applied non-intervention to Spain before the Fascist Powers had agreed to that policy. Was that non-intervention by example? If so, it appears singularly effective, because, whether before or after the signing of the non-intervention agreement, the Fascist Powers succeeded in pouring sufficient arms, aeroplanes and other munitions into Spain to effect the victory of Franco.
On the question of whether non-intervention has been violated or not, I gathered from what was said by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to-day, although he did not go very fully into the question, that officially the British Government are very ignorant of any contraventions of the non-intervention agreement. I wonder whether that official ignorance raises the prestige of the British Government in the eyes of other countries. I wonder whether the fact that there has been serious and complete intervention by Italy in the Balearic Islands, which appears to be known to everybody except to the British Government, might not be taken note of. There was a time when the British Government were officially ignorant about German rearmament; I wonder whether the maintenance of that official ignorance did the Prime Minister of this country any good. 124 I wonder whether it did not cost the British taxpayer a considerable sum. I wonder whether this official ignorance of intervention by Italy might not again lower the prestige and humiliate Britain in the eyes of the world. There has been violation; that is admitted. I understand that there is a difficulty to some extent for the National Government at the present moment. The Conservative party is rent from top to toe by the division between those who are more frightened of the dictators and those who are more terrified at the possible Communist revolution. That makes it almost impossible for the National Government to combine upon any constructive policy other than that of rearmament and inactivity.
If it is not within the knowledge of the British Government, surely the British Navy, and the officers of the Navy, some of whom have been present in the Balearic Islands, for example, and in the waters around the Spanish coast ever since the beginning of hostilities, must know something of what has been going on, even though the Consular Service does not. I suggest that, if the British Government know that violations have taken place, a very much stronger line to take would be to admit it and face the fact that the violations have occurred. We did not in the first place point out to Italy or Germany that the supply of arms to the rebels was a complete violation of all international usage. If they have again violated their agreement, it is quite clear that it is almost valueless to enter into agreements of that sort. It may be—I am not expressing an opinion at this moment—that to maintain our neutrality is the best policy, but it seems to me only to make this country a laughing-stock to continue a policy if in fact that policy has completely broken down. I only want in one word to draw the Attention of the House to the report of the special correspondent, not of a Liberal paper, but of the "Daily Telegraph." He was captured a day or two ago by the rebels, and lie writes:I talked to others"—this is behind the rebel lines—I talked to others driving and commanding these tanks. They were all Italians, these men and others of the Foreign Legion in the insurgent army, fighting on land and in the air and winning the war for General Franco. The insurgents appear to be a mere handful of men in comparison to the thousands already enrolled or being 125 mustered to defend Madrid, but it is apparently their equipment which is carrying them to victory.I think that that is interesting, coming from a Conservative paper—this very clear declaration that Italians are manning Italian tanks for the rebels, and that the real source of strength of the rebels is that superior equipment which they have received from their friends and allies in Italy and Germany. From other sources I have come to the conclusion that the large majority of the Spanish people desire the legitimate Government. It may be that the policy of non-intervention was the wisest one; it may be that it was not; but as a result of that policy, or in spite of that policy, another hostile dictatorship has been established, and this type of thing cannot go on indefinitely. I want to ask one question: Supposing that the revolt had been within France, should we then have applied the same policy of non-intervention?
§ 9.20 p.m.
§ Mr. DENVILLE
I have listened with great patience to all the speeches that have been made, both from this side and from the opposite side of the House today, and one cannot fail to he impressed by the one-sided nature of the arguments which have been put forward by certain Members of the Opposition, and, indeed, by Members on this side. We have heard from the hon. Member for Broxstowe (Mr. Cocks) a very elaborate list of all the sins and crimes committed by the rebels, and a list of all the munitions of war that have been supplied to the rebels, but nothing at all has been said about the munitions and other instruments of war that have been supplied to the Spanish Government. Again, the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) suggested that it would be a useful thing to appeal to the country and ask the country to give a decision. I might suggest that hon. Members who have been speaking on this subject have been on an excursion from Barcelona to Catalonia, through the Government lines, but there are other Members of the House who have been on both sides. There are certain Members who, by reason of the peculiarity of their profession, can go into many places where a politician would be mistrusted. A list could be given to the House of goods supplied and of breaches of what we may 126 call good faith on both sides, and at the present time it is humbug to say that one country is supplying Spain and another is not. At the present moment throughout Spain both sides are getting supplies from everyone who likes to sell them. It is said that the fact that officers of certain countries happen to be found serving in the ranks of the rebels shows that those countries are taking part in the war, but there are foreign officers working on both sides. Hon. Members who have gone to the district of Catalonia will know that there are foreign officers serving there; it is six of one and half a dozen of the other. [HoN. MEMBERS: "No‡"] It was suggested, and has been suggested in this House, that to-day there is no real reason for this policy of non-intervention—
§ Mr. DENVILLE
Up to a certain date this country, as far as public opinion was concerned, did not care two hoots which side won in Spain, with the exception of those who had political views. The "common or garden" people of this country had no interest in the question at all. It was only when, as the hon. Member for West Fife said, the "lies" came through as to the massacres of people whose only fault was that they were Christians, that the feeling of this country turned. At this moment a large majority in the country is not in favour of the Fascists by any means. If a plebiscite of the country were taken, I do not think they would be found to be in favour of General Franco's Fascist Government at all. All that they are in favour of is anyone that will punish those who have massacred these Christians.
§ Mr. DENVILLE
That is the feeling, as I see it, in the country. I put it to certain hon. Members opposite who have travelled through Spain and have heard one-sided arguments there, One hon. Member went so far as to say that he had travelled all the way through the Government's lines and had found that everyone was in favour of the Government. Naturally. If they knew anything about warfare they would have to be in favour of the Government, just as those in the lines of General Franco have to be in favour of him. If they are not, God 127 help them. But that is not killing people because of their religious convictions. It is said that these are lies. If these are lies, Gaumont-British, Pathé and the various other people who have been out there taking pictures on behalf of the cinemas are fakers and liars; the priests who have gone to Rome after escaping are liars. I spoke to the hon. Member for West Fife and pointed out to him that there was a man sitting in this House whose daughter, an English girl 17 years of age, in school at Malaga, had disappeared and could not be found.
§ Mr. GALLACHER
Did you take note of the quotation I read from the "Universe"? It said that a bishop was a prisoner on a Red warship and added the further news item that he was in Rome. Was that a lie or not? Further, there was the story in the "Catholic Herald" that young Catholics who were being shot by the insurgents asked to have the last offices of the Church before they died and that the priests laid down their rifles and administered the last rites of the Church.
§ Mr. DENVILLE
I am not disputing that there has been exaggeration on both sides. There is just as big exaggeration behind Franco's lines as there is behind the Government's lines. But standing out above it all there are concrete facts against which there can be no gainsaying. Catalonia, Barcelona and Malaga are in the hands of extreme Reds. That is why I regret seeing so many of my friends opposite, for whom I have the greatest respect, mixing with such scum.
§ Mr. DENVILLE
Anyone who perpetrates such deeds as some of the Communist element have done is. It is not the Socialist or Liberal elements; it has been that lot let loose who are similar to those let loose during the Paris Revolution. They are the lowest of the low.
§ Mr. DOBBIE
On a point of Order. Do I take it that the hon. Gentleman is referring to the popularly-elected Government of Spain as scum?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
That is not a point of Order. What the hon. Gentleman may have been referring to the hon. Gentleman can tell as well as I can.
§ Mr. DENVILLE
What I am trying to infer is that what is called the popular Government in Spain is not the popular Government which existed at the outbreak of war. The best elements have disappeared.
§ Mr. SILVERMAN rose—
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
Hon. Members have had the opportunity of expressing their views quite freely and it is only reasonable that other hon. Members should have their opportunity.
§ Mr. DENVILLE
I thank you for intervening. At the same time I do not object to hon. Members butting in. If they feel they should have an answer I wish to give one if I can. I do not think that any Member on this side of the House has more friends on the opposite side than I have, and I grieve to find them in such company. They have thrown Preston to the lions. The answer they will get from Preston is that when it comes to massacring innocent people Christian people will stand up and do all they can to fight the anti-Christs of Spain.
§ 9.31 p.m.
§ Mr. NOEL-BAKER
I want to start by adding my humble tribute to that of the Foreign Secretary to the work of the Royal Navy. I had the privilege of being a guest in one of His Majesty's ships when it was engaged in such work and of seeing how it was done. I would like to express my gratitude that members of the Conservative party have not identified themselves with the Rebels' cause in Spain. It would have been a disaster from every point, of view if that had been done. The hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Emmott) has quoted what Senor de Madariaga said. I have here a statement made by General Quipo de Llano, who said that it was only natural that Powers like Germany and Italy should send munitions to him and his colleagues. I have a great respect for the ability of Senor de Madariaga and have worked with him in the Secretariat of the League of Nations, but I 129 do not think that his voice is more powerful than the unanimity of the statesmen who helped him to set up the Republic in 1931. The combination of General Franco and Senor de Madariaga to my mind could never provide a government for any country in the world.
I also appreciate very much the spirit of the speech which was made by the Foreign Secretary. We all of us on this side of the House agree with him that the only way in which peace can be kept in Europe and the world is by a policy of real non-intervention, by the mutual respect of the government of one regime for the governments of other countries. I do not think that Italy and Germany have been the only countries to intervene in other countries since 1920, and the results have always been disastrous. I think that the purposes of the Government in agreeing to M. Blum's suggestion was right and that they wanted to preserve peace, keep us out of war, and to shorten the conflict in Spain, and they hoped that if no arms went to either side that result would be achieved. But it is an open question whether the mere non-supply of arms will give you a policy of non-intervention. I want to put to the Foreign Secretary this proposition. The non-supply of arms can only be non-intervention if it is effected equally on both sides. I was for some years at Geneva while the Disarmament Conference was in session, and the right hon. Gentleman will remember the reasons that the British delegation gave for refusing the French proposal for the abolition of the private manufacture of arms. The overwhelmingly important reason was that the non-producing States must have the right to buy freely in the markets of the world or else, if they were the victims of aggression by some producing State, they would be massacred without the power of effective resistance.
That is the general principle, but in practice, as in the case of Abyssinia and Spain, we refuse to the side that has not got arms the right to purchase, while the other side can obtain them. What was said by the hon. Member who spoke last, that it was six of one and half a dozen of the other, is in reality very far from the truth. The right hon. Gentleman himself admitted that great quantities of arms had been sent from 130 Germany, Italy and Portugal to the rebels before they came into the agreement on 28th August. He spoke of the Italian aircraft that landed on French territory on 28th July. Those aircraft were units in the Italian Air Force. We know the numbers of the squadrons—56, 57 and 58. We know the character of the machines and we know the orders given to the pilots. It has all been published. There is absolute proof that those aircraft were sent by the Italian Government in accordance with arrangements which must have been made before the rebellion broke out.
That is a flagrant violation of the Covenant of the League. I agree very fully with the Leader of the Liberal party when he says that the only way to deal with such a danger, if it is going to happen again, is a League of Nations which can stop aggression, even in this new form of disguise, aggression in support of a rebellion which may break out. But from the date when those first 21 aircraft were despatched by Signor Mussolini a vast quantity of arms has been sent to the rebels in Spain. I believe—here I want to take up the argument used by the Foreign Secretary—that that proposition is proved by the whole course of the war. He said that the course of the war had proved that the Government had not suffered by the embargo. He said that the insurgents began with the great majority of the army on their side, though the "Times" tells us that the men would not march and that the greater part of those numbers have deserted to the Government cause. He tells us that they had the arsenals in their hands and that there was no available source of supply from outside which could have rectified that original disadvantage. Therefore, even in spite of the arms originally sent by Signor Mussolini, it was better for the Government that the embargo should be imposed. If our Government had not imposed the embargo, some enterprising agency would have been able, according to the evidence that came to the Royal Commission, to turn out at a moment's notice thousands of machine guns, tens of thousands of rifles and millions of cartridges, and they would at certain moments have proved decisive on the side of the Government.
I want, further, to press upon the right hon. Gentleman that he has produced no 131 real evidence for the view that the Government have not suffered. He has given us no evidence—I was very much surprised by it—that the embargo has been observed at all by the Fascist Powers. He just referred us to the course of the war. What was the course of the war? It began in Morocco, it spread to Spain on the following day, and on 18th or 19th July virtually the whole of the country was in the hands of the rebels—Madrid, Barcelona, and all the other great centres. Then what happened? Unarmed militia, unarmed bands of people rose in defence of the Government and with bare hands, with incredible heroism, won victory after victory for the Government cause. Madrid and Barcelona came under Government control, the way to the sea was opened, and within a, fortnight it seemed that the Government was going to sweep on almost without resistance. Then it was checked because of two factors that were introduced, firstly the Moorish troops and secondly the foreign aircraft. It was quite early in August that the "Times" told us that the Italian Capronis had already brought over 7,000 Moorish troops, and from that date onwards the number of foreign aircraft continually increased. My hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks) has told us that at the beginning the Government superiority in aircraft was something like four to one, because three-quarters of the air force remained loyal to the Government. What has happened since then? May I review it in a few quotations from the "Times" Madrid correspondent? I ask the patience of the House for the same reason that my hon. Friend asked it, that it is important that these things should be put on record. Here is a message published on 31st October.In the field the Marxist forces"—"That shows that he is not over-extravagantly in favour of the Government cause—have hitherto been at a great disadvantage in aircraft, modern machine guns and war machinery of all sorts from tanks to telephones. The Caproni bombers, steel protected underneath, fly low over the battlefields, for they know that the few antiaircraft guns the Government possess are concentrated round the aerodromes.On the same day there is another message from the same man: 132The Spanish Air Force has given many proofs of heroism, courting death in ancient machines, in a noble effort to support the militia. The superiority of the insurgents in the air is very real.There is another message on 23rd October, again from the Madrid correspondent of the "Times":Insurgent artillery engages prearranged objectives and battle begins in earnest when the large Caproni aeroplanes, sometimes three or four at a time, appear with their escorts of Fiats.Spain's air force had no Capronis and no Fiats when the war began.Tanks then advance half a dozen at a time, moving with great rapidity and circling with ease. This display might well shake the moral of seasoned troops unable to oppose equality of armaments. The militia are mostly raw levies poorly armed.Finally the same correspondent says, on 21st October:The number of the insurgent forces advancing on Madrid can only be conjectured. The relief force at Toledo was composed mainly of legionaries and Moors. Indeed the Moors are met with on all the fronts, whether on the plain or on the mountain. Their presence is much resented. Only a sprinkling of army battalions have come into action round Madrid. One gains the impression that the campaign on the insurgent side has been carried on mainly by mercenaries and volunteers and in no great numbers.I should like to emphasise that last phrase, "in no great numbers." They have not got much more man power on which they can call. I submit that those quotations taken together, in view of the course of the war as I have tried to trace it, prove that the policy of the non-supply of arms has been decisive against the Government and that it has gone on continuously from the first day until now. I have read every word of the evidence, public and private, submitted to the Committee over which the hon. Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone) presided, and I have formed the impression, knowing some of the witnesses and most of the members, that it was a very serious and important piece of work. I believe that since 27th August the thing has gone on, and that it has been proved that it has gone on. I was amazed to hear the Foreign Secretary say that it was only after Senor del Vayo made a speech in the Assembly that his orders were given to the consular and diplomatic agents.
§ Mr. NOEL-BAKER
I agree that consuls have many things to do, particularly when refugees are surging round. I have seen that too; I have done refugee work. We have 56 of them in Spain, if I am rightly informed, and these consuls are at various towns, in Vigo, Palma and elsewhere, and many of them in small ports where it is virtually impossible for a man not to know what is going on. I suggest to him now, if it has not been possible to get proof from that source up to date—and I feel convinced that he could have got it—can he not now give orders to our consular agents and our diplomatic agents, and to our Secret Service to collect evidence of violation and to inform all the governments in the international committee that we will publish the substance of the report which we receive? I believe that if he wants to prevent the further supply of arms that would unquestionably be the most effective method he could pursue, because coming from us, there is not a country, including Italy and Germany, who would willingly risk publication.
I submit to the right hon. Gentleman and to the House that, even if he could secure real observers, nothing can now put right the wrong which has been done to Madrid, except to allow Madrid to purchase arms. I agree very strongly with the view that has been put by the right hon. Member who spoke from the Liberal Benches that this is, in a very special measure, a struggle between the people and the army—by the army meaning a handful of gentlemen. I would go far beyond what he said. I believe—and it is very relevant to the policy which we ought to pursue—that it has been shown, perhaps more than in any other civil war of modern times, that this is a war between the people as a whole and a handful of adventurers who have secured foreign help from different sources.
A distinguished British journalist whose authority and good faith I am sure the Foreign Secretary would not challenge—I mean Mr. Vernon Bartlett—said after he came back from Spain that he thought Whitehall had been more misled about Spain than about any other question since the days of the Russian 134 revolution at the end of the War. They have been misled, and I think everybody in the country has been largely misled by talk about Communists. How many Communists are there in Spain? What is their strength? How many were there in the last Parliament? An hon. Member on the other side of the House told us that the present electoral system overrates the parties on the Government side, but there were only 15 Communist members in the Cortes out of a personnel of 500. Another hon. Member—I believe it was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne)—said that the government had only behind it a minority of the voters, when in fact it has almost exactly 50 per cent., that is to say 5 per cent. more than Herr Hitler had when he came to office. And, if I am rightly informed, I believe that we have had in office in this country a Conservative Government with a minority of electors behind them, although a considerable majority in the House.
It was said that everybody who did not vote for the Government at the elections in February was now against the Government, but nothing could be more untrue than that. The Basque National Party, definitely hostile to the popular front, has stood for the Government. A great number of Catholic leaders have stood for the Government of Madrid. I have a list of a dozen of them here, including two bishops, who have been imprisoned by the rebels because they would not embrace the rebel doctrine. The truth is that the Spanish Government has a very wide national basis, far wider than the mere popular front on which it came to power. I think that the quotations I have read from the "Times" offer the fullest available proof that the rebels had so little popular support and so little support among the people as a, whole that they could not have carried on the war but for the mercenaries they brought in, while the Government had literally thousands of troops whom they could put into the field, but whom they could not arm. If that is true, it means that we are unwillingly, and, I am very ready to admit, unwittingly, handing over the vast majority of the Spanish people to a junta of generals, supported by outside troops and arms.
What can we do? The Government say that if we allow arms to go to 135 Madrid we shall not help the Spanish Government, and that we shall have the risk of war. They say that a great deal more arms would be sent to the s rebels than to the Government. It is a risk which the Spanish Government themselves are willing to take because they know that the rebels have not men who can use the arms, while they themselves have vast forces who could quickly win the war if they were armed. On the second point—the risk of war—I suggest that a great many people, including, I admit, some members of my own party, have used, as I think, exaggerated language on that point. I do not mean to say that there is no risk, but it is extremely difficult to believe that, if His Majesty's Government decided tomorrow to grant a licence to a British firm to supply arms to Madrid, Herr Hitler would use that as an excuse for making war. It is a proposition which I find it difficult to believe can be seriously put forward.
I think that the only argument which can be used in favour of the policy now adopted is that the rebels are bound to win, and that therefore peace will be hastened if the Madrid Government are deprived of the means of defence. It might then be said that we shall have peace in Europe. I think that there are two sides to that argument. First of all, I do not think that the rebels can win. They may have temporary victory, but I refuse to believe that 25,000,000 people can be held down by mercenaries brought in from abroad. In the second place, and perhaps infinitely more important, I am not sure that it would bring us peace in Europe. The danger is that if this new technique of aggression is successful, it will be used elsewhere, in Rumania, and in Czechoslovakia, and will be the very thing to start the European conflict which the British Government are so passionately anxious to avoid. I believe we are face to face with a sordid attempt by Fascist governments to undermine the public and constitutional law of Europe. That is the greatest danger which we and the world have to face at the present time. I believe that we could have stopped it by the right use of the League of Nations at the very beginning of the dispute, but I think now the only thing we can do is to give back to the Spanish Government the right to defend 136 itself and to defeat those who attack the peace and order of the world.
§ 9.56 p.m.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
My hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) has put with great cogency and great knowledge the broad facts of the situation. No one can deny the gravity of the situation in Europe caused by the Spanish position, and we of the Opposition have dealt with it with a full sense of responsibility. We have realised the difficulties and dangers of the situation and have come to the conclusion that the device of non-intervention has failed and should now be ended. The device of nonintervention is something that is quite abnormal. One reads in the newspapers statements as if we were clamouring for intervention, and that we were asking for interference in the affairs of another country. Quite the contrary. What we are asking is that there should be a restoration of normal international relations, and I put it to the House that an experiment such as the present one can only be justified by its success.
Let me deal with another position that is put very often in the Press and that I have heard in the House to-day, namely, that the trouble in Spain is a fight between Communists and Fascists, that it is all a matter of blacks and reds. The world situation is not as simple as that, and the situation in Spain is certainly not as simple as that. The conception that every trouble in the world is due to a clash of black and red forces is quite incorrect. As a matter of fact, to talk of the Spanish people as being Marxists forces is absurd, because Marxism has never had a great following in Spain. Anyone who knows the international movement knows that the predominant feeling in Spain among the workers has not been Socialist but Anarchist. They are intensely individualist. The fight there is not a fight between reds and blacks. In fact it started with a rebellion against the lawful government, and I think it is rather a terrible commentary of the state of the world to-day that there should be denied the right to a normal government to carry out its function. I do not think that we should ever have had this position arising in pre-war days and I do not think that we should have had it arising up to the last five years.
The situation which has resulted in the non-intervention agreement is simply an 137 example of growing confusion and the breakdown of the whole European situation. The Spanish Government is a government of all parties, mainly of Liberals, with the support of Socialists, a few Communists and Anarchists. No one can say that the forces fighting for the Government of Spain are simply the adherents of one political party. Broadly speaking, there are united behind the Government the vital forces of Spain. It is absurd to suggest that the whole of the people who are fighting against the insurgents are just a mass of reds. It is almost as absurd as to say that General Franco is at the head of crusaders. I wonder what Isabella of Castile would have thought if she had seen General Franco at the head of his Moors leading a crusade.
The position was put to me by a gentleman who has been a long resident of Spain, that the fight that is going on in Spain to-day is a fight for the soul of Europe and a fight for the soul of Spain, that on one side you have a union of reactionary forces and on the other, mixed no doubt as it is with doubtful elements, you have the forces that are likely to make for the future of Spain, if Spain is to live. There is no doubt that behind this attack on the Spanish Government there is foreign money. I think there is no doubt that behind the attack on the Government are vested interests and reactionary forces of every kind. The broad fact is that the insurgents get arms and the Government have very few arms. The insurgents have the technique of modern war. In the technique of modern war one of the most powerful weapons is propaganda, which is very often used for lies. There is no doubt that there has been a tremendous propaganda put up against the Government of Spain and for a long time the Government of Spain ignored it or took very little steps to counter it. The distinguished gentleman to whom I have referred tells me that he was informed that in the place from which he had just come the insurgents who were captured were tied up and put in lines along the street and steam-rollers went over them. He replied, "I have just come from there, and there is nothing of the sort." That was in the town mentioned by the hon. Member for Newcastle, Central (Mr. Denville).
138 It is no use bandying questions to and fro as to atrocities here and there. What we have to consider is the actual situation and why it was necessary to bring in this non-intervention agreement. There is something which is quite abnormal about it. In normal circumstances an established Government has the right to take such steps as are necessary to maintain itself and to secure law and order. Why did the nations agree to the nonintervention agreement? The answer is because of Fascist intrigues, because of the danger of war. I am not going to suggest that there is not a danger of war. In the situation of the world at present there is so much loose powder up and down the world that there is always this danger. That is a revelation as to the conditions in Europe now. What does it mean? It means that an established Government must be prevented from taking the ordinary steps of a Government to protect itself because of the threats and dangers which come from European dictators. Our Government, the French Government, and other Governments, and the Soviet Government of Russia, agreed to try this non-intervention plan. On our part we thought that the Government of Spain had the right and should be allowed to get arms to defend itself, and we acquiesced in this plan provided it was made effective. It is quite clear that it has not been effective.
The work of the Committee does not strike me as being genuine, as if the Committee really set out to do the work at all. They adopted a procedure which seemed to preclude them from trying to get evidence and to have taken no real effort to find out what has happened. They have depended solely on member States choosing to bring forward reports. When one Government brought forward a report the States said, "Why do you bring this forward? What do you know about it?" You have a dilatory procedure. I am not impressed by the report as to the way in which these investigations have been made. There is no doubt in the minds of most people that there have been gross infringements. Above all, there has been delay. In a matter of this kind justice delayed is justice denied. In fact, the party which has not arms to start with has necessarily lost all the way.
139 The question is, are we to acquiesce in this farce? Because it has become a farce? It is a humiliating position for this country. It is one thing to say, under the stress of great dangers, that we are going to adopt a certain device which will act fairly between the parties, but quite another thing to say that although we know it is not working we are going to keep it on because we do not know what else to do. It is a humiliating position for this country. We have had the humiliation already of sitting down and seeing one country crushed. We sat by and saw Abyssinia crushed; now we are to sit by and see Spain crushed. It is not, however, merely sitting by; we are, in fact, almost accessories before the fact. Then there is the question whether the danger is really averted, the danger that there may be incidents which may give rise to further incidents and war; incidents which are likely to arise by attempts to bring in arms and by attempts to stop arms being brought in. But if the agreement is not effective and arms are being brought in, the danger is not averted. I think it is increased. I see no end to this particular danger.
We want to know what the Government are thinking is likely to be the sequel to this procedure. You cannot take action of this kind without it having very awkward repercussions. I should have thought that the history of the last five years would show the Government how dangerous it is. Once you give way on one point you are driven from point to point, and I think that in the situation in which we are placed to-day the method that has been successful in Spain may be tried elsewhere. You may have a series of revolutions starting in the smaller States of Europe. In every case, if the government want to take action, you may have a threat from some Power or you may have it said that there is a danger of some incident leading to war. In effect, you may have a series of Abyssinias and a series of Spains. I want to know what is going to happen then to the democracies of Europe. It is not true that the world is divided into a fight between Reds and Blacks. We have to consider the position of our Western democracies. The Prime Minister, I know, values British democracy and the British people, and we have to 140 consider how we are going to preserve them in the world. I am against Communist dictators and against Fascist dictators. We want to stand by democracy. But what do we see? We see a steady retreat by democracies, a surrender of liberty and democracy to every threat. That is not the way of safety for this country. Our possessions in other parts of the world were acquiesced in by other countries in the years gone by because we stood for liberty, democracy, and freedom.
We want to see where this policy has taken us in the last few years. There has been a steady falling away from democracy, a steady movement towards the isolation of the two Western Powers. I remember making a speech in this House, several years ago now, when the Fascist menace first came up. I said that you had two attractive forces in the world, one by which we hoped to build up a world of free democracies around and like our Western democracies, and that on the other side you had the attractive forces of fear, dictatorships. In the last few years we have seen democracies waning because they have not stood together. This policy has brought us to the present position, and I want to ask the Government: what is their policy for the future? I want to see the Spanish question in the light of the general European situation. This Spanish affair has resulted from a long course of policy. I think if you had stood firm on Abyssinia you would never have had this trouble in Spain, and you would never have had the Abyssinian affair if you had stood firm earlier. You can trace this right back to a time, before the rearmament of Germany, when the Government took up the line that under no condition would they have any commitments beyond Locarno. We had Locarno, but where is Locarno now? It has gone, because there has been no policy in foreign affairs except the policy of giving way. The result of that is a world in anarchy.
The appeal is made to hon. Members on this side to help the Government. We are asked to help the Government in recruitment and in armaments. On what are they asking us to support them? What is their policy? For what do they want our young men to stand firm? We have taken a clear line in this House— 141 arms to defend our policy; give us that policy and we will agree to the arms. If the Government are standing firm for democracy, they will not find us behind; but if every year they give way on some democratic issue, what is the good of our giving them our support? I am at a loss to know what is the Government's policy. The hon. Member for the South Western Division of Norfolk (Mr. De Chair) made an interesting speech, in which he took the line that we should turn our back on Europe and concentrate on the Empire; but it is too late to do that, because the Imperial defences have been given away by this Government. From the Imperial point of view, the Eastern Mediterranean has been abandoned to Italy, and the Western Mediterranean has been abandoned to a Fascist Spain—possibly to those who are supporting a Fascist Spain. I wonder whether the Prime Minister will tell us what is the position with regard to the Balearic Islands, because my information is that they are pretty fully occupied. The hon. Member for the South Western Division of Norfolk talks about the Empire, but the Far East has been abandoned to Japan. I do not know what there is left of an Imperial policy. The hon. Member has come too late for that.
We really wish to know what the Government think will be the outcome of this policy of drift. I do not think the Spanish question will be settled by General Franco conquering Madrid; I do not think Spain will be pacified by the conquering of Madrid. It will be much the same as after the Carlist Wars. There will be a long period of anarchy and banditry. There will be seen another example of how easy it is for a determined dictator, willing to put up the money and having very little scruple, to bring down the democratic states one by one. If we are going to stand by democracy, let us stand by it, but we have had no sign from the Government that they are willing to stand by it, so that it is rather useless for them to appeal to us on a policy by which they do not stand. Democracy and liberty are being attacked in Spain; they are being attacked throughout Europe.
I do not think for one moment that the majority of hon. Members opposite really want Fascism. I believe the majority realise the great traditions of Britain 142 and will stand by British liberty. We will stand by British liberty, but we have seen all that this country stands for going down. We are afraid that this is another case where the finger of scorn will be pointed at this country, and that it will be said that there was a time when Britain stood for something in the world, but that now anybody who wants something can be pretty sure that when the danger comes we shall be found wanting. We are not seeking for war. We want to prevent war, but we are quite certain that the course which is now being followed is disastrous for world peace and that the policy of the Government has not brought us nearer peace but has brought us closer and closer to the danger of war. We are asking for the restoration to the Spanish Government of the rights which they have under international law. We are asking for justice for a people who are struggling for liberty and for the rights of democracy.
§ 10.21 p.m.
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Baldwin)
When I was asked whether time could be found for this Debate, I felt that it was only right that time should be found and I am glad that we have had it. I appreciate the temper in which it has been carried on, though I regret profoundly the cause for which the Debate was asked. At the same time, it has been a Debate of considerable value. The alteration in the views of hon. Members opposite has been so remarkable and so profound that no time ought to have been lost and no time has been lost in explaining, so far as they were able to explain, what the cause of that alteration was. As we shall have, I hope, plenty of opportunities for debating the wider questions, enormously important, of foreign policy and so forth, I have purposely to-day rather limited myself because I wanted as many Memberrs as possible to take part in this Debate. After all, the subject at issue is not a complicated one. It was summed up in the final words of the right hon. Gentleman. It is, in common language, intervention or non-intervention at this moment in the ways that have been indicated during the Debate.
I do not think I will waste any time in referring to the speeches that were made not long ago in one direction and the speeches that have been made to- 143 day. It is too important a matter for me to make any cheap scores of that kind. The House has heard and has seen what has happened and, quite simply and shortly, I may take for my text an observation made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) in the conference at Edinburgh three weeks ago last Tuesday which really summed up, I assume, his position then and the position of his party, and which sums up my position and our position to-day:Why were the European States reluctant to depart from non-intervention? Because the fear of war was gnawing at the hearts of the Socialist and the non-Socialist Powers. The question which the conference had to face was whether the horrible situation in Spain was to be allowed to develop into a situation involving Europe in a great struggle. Was the conference prepared to have the battle between dictatorship and democracy fought over the bleeding body of Spain?I do not think all the implications drawn from that during the Debate are quite fair implications. I will keep those words before me and I will try to develop them, perhaps, before I have finished, but I should like to deal specifically with some of the points which have been raised to-day, because I think they are points of importance. If I understand the gist of the speeches which I have heard, the main reason for desiring a move from the one position to the other is because it is alleged that there is a complete failure by this joint conference that is to prevent breaches of the agreement. In all these matters it is extraordinarily difficult, much more difficult perhaps than some Members realise, to get at absolute truth—never an easy thing to discover in this world—and while it is quite true, as either the last speaker or the speaker before said, that there has been a great deal of propaganda directed against the Spanish Government, it is equally true that there has been a great deal of propaganda on the other side, and where there is a great deal of propaganda on two sides, there is apt to be, often, confusion of thought and difficulty in arriving at a logical conclusion.
As regards breaches of agreement, we have a certain amount of information, but such information has to be very carefully checked and sifted before it can be regarded as authoritative for the pur- 144 pose of checking the working of the agreement under the procedure of the Committee, and I would like, in answer to what the right hon. Gentleman said about the procedure of the Committee, to say this: There is always an inference, in the speeches of Members opposite, that everything that happens of which they do not approve is the fault of the Government, but the procedure of the Committee is the procedure drawn up by the Committee itself, and however much we may be to blame, do let others share that blame. We have submitted certain evidence to the Committee, but the House will appreciate that this evidence must remain confidential until such time as the Committee releases it, and this applies even though there have been, unhappily, certain reports of the contents of that information.
But the general impression that the Government have formed, the general impression created by the information, is that there have been some breaches and that these have been of arms to both sides, but they have not been of anything like sufficient importance, even up to now, to cause us, even from that aspect, to modify our policy in regard to intervention. I think we might just as well say that a dam is not effective because there are some leaks in it. If there are some leaks in a dam, it may at any rate keep the water out for the time being, and you may stop the leaks. It is a very different thing from sweeping away that dam altogether. The right hon. Member for Wakefield added that Spain had become a pawn in the game of higher politics. I do not know whether that is so or not, but if it is, I am all in favour of keeping that pawn on her own square.
There were one or two criticisms made by the right hon. Gentleman who leads the Liberal party, with which I should like to deal. I have got as much information as I can in the short time there has been. He spoke of the Island of Iviza. I understand that, in the report which he quoted, 700 Italians had landed there and taken possession. I would like to say that we have fairly full information about the position in these islands, and our belief is that the story is not true. I would like to say a word in answer to what he said about the League of Nations. He suggested that, had the League been stronger, it would have intervened at an 145 earlier stage. Well, our ideal League perhaps could have done it. I may say something a little later, if I have time, on certain aspects of the world to-day which I think are worth consideration, but in the League itself to-day there are running those same currents of antagonistic creeds that are causing us so much trouble in the world, and I do not honestly know what the League should have done. You see, the League can only be concerned with the international aspect of the case. Its task would have been to keep the peace and to prevent the trouble from spreading if it were able, and it is difficult to see what else the League could have done. Certainly, with the Powers that are in it it is difficult to see what it could have done beyond what has been done by the Powers in Europe.
The right hon. Gentleman who spoke first made some observations about the appeals that have been made to Spain on humanitarian grounds, and it is right that the House should have a little more information than the Foreign Secretary at that moment was prepared to give. On 30th August the foreign diplomatic representatives at Hendaye communicated to the Spanish Government the text of a proposed appeal to both the belligerents to mitigate on humanitarian grounds the sufferings endured by the Spanish people, and in particular the taking of hostages and non-combatant prisoners, the danger to public health caused by the lack of medicaments, water and light, and the bombardment of undefended towns. This appeal, in the formulation of which His Majesty's Ambassador played a prominent part, was rejected by the Spanish Government, and consequently was not presented to the Burgos authorities. Reference was made in that appeal to the danger of destruction of works of art and historical monuments, and since then isolated initiatives have been taken by His Majesty's Government in that matter with a fair measure of success.
Apart from the last appeal of which my right hon. Friend spoke, early in October representations were made jointly in Madrid by the Diplomatic Corps and privately by His Majesty's Charge d'Affaires with a view to stopping the ever-mounting toll of private assassinations and securing the posting of reliable guards in the prisons. The Minister of State gave an assurance that the murders would be stopped, and the good 146 results of the appeal were, in fact, immediately noticeable. I am sure the House will agree with me, because that kind of vengeance on either side is a most terrible feature of this trouble and one with which we have used our best powers to cope. We shall continue to do so for it is a matter about which we still feel the gravest anxiety.
§ Mr. HERBERT MORRISON
Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us what happened on the rebel side? He has told us what happened on the Government side.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I cannot answer that question with regard to this particular case. This appeal was made by our diplomatic representative in Madrid, as from one Government to another. Then the question arises with regard to Madrid and the Embassy, as to the presence in Madrid, or, rather, the absence, of our Ambassador. I want to say a few words about that, because I think that our Ambassador has had some things which are both hard and unjust said of him. They are unjust for this reason. I am going to state what the position is, but the fact that Sir Henry Chilton is not in Madrid is due to the action of this Government, and not his action. He is not in Madrid because of Government orders. If that is wrong we are responsible—we are responsible in any case. I had the pleasure of knowing Sir Henry Chilton at Washington when I went over about the American Debt. [Interruption.] He was not responsible for that, and this is not the place to defend myself. Sir Henry Chilton was not only an efficient servant of His Majesty in a foreign country, but he was persona grata, and has been, so far as I know, at every place where he has served during a long and distinguished career.
I think it is necessary to bear in mind clearly the facts with regard to the position of the Diplomatic Corps in Madrid. When the revolution broke out the Diplomatic Corps were in the North of Spain, as they always are at that time, because during the hot weather I fancy that all the Embassies move to the North of Spain. Had the revolution taken place in the winter all the Embassies would have been in Madrid. They went to the neighbourhood of San Sebastian, and in that place there was a branch of the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. By 147 and by, owing to the fighting having spread to the San Sebastian neighbourhood, it became necessary that the Diplomatic Corps should move again, and they ultimately moved to Hendaye, which is just over the frontier from Irun. The Spanish Government also appointed a special ambassador to represent them at that place. Why did not the Diplomatic Corps return to Madrid forthwith? The short answer is that at that time great difficulties were being experienced in communication, difficulties not peculiar to our Embassy but peculiar to all the Embassies whose headquarters were at Madrid. At Hendaye communication with England was easy, and it was also easy with most parts of Spain. But in August we sent the Counsellor of the Embassy to Madrid. I heard some hon. Member on the other side of the House speaking as though he was an inferior officer. As I think most hon. Members know, the Counsellor is the second in command at the Embassy, and is always a man of experience and of standing. He is of the class from which Ambassadors are drawn, and among the Counsellors in our service are some of the best men we have. They are all men of the age of discretion, if there be such an age, and the British Counsellor is one in whom we have every confidence and who is doing admirable work with the Spanish Government. A month later, that was in the middle of September, the Spanish Government withdrew their representative from Hendaye, and they requested that the heads of Embassies should return to Madrid. The question was thereupon again considered by the Government in common with other Governments, and it is a matter of fact that there are hardly any Governments represented by their heads at Madrid. The very simple reason why we did not send our Ambassador back was that we had an admirably competent Counsellor doing the work and now accustomed to it, the particular and difficult work which has to be done at these difficult times, and he has an admirable man assisting him, and, after all, Madrid is a post of danger. I do not think it is fair to send any more men, when the work is being done to our satisfaction, where they may have to endure, I will not say only hardships but be in a position of danger. I do not 148 think that is a risk which ought to be extended any more than it is necessary to extend it. That is why we made no change in the representation in Madrid, but that does not affect one iota the work that is done there. I consider that we have acted perfectly rightly. I do beg that any further criticism may be made on His Majesty's Government and not on the Ambassador.
I have purposely to-night said little about the causes of this rebellion or of this struggle. I have confined myself, and shall confine myself, to the issue of intervention or non-intervention. There will be ample opportunities in the course of the coming weeks to debate the question on the wider basis, and occasions will undoubtedly arise when decisions may have to be taken, and they will be debated in due course. There are one or two things which I want to add tonight, the last day of what has been a very long and a very hard session for all those who have taken part in it. I said at the beginning of my speech that I found no fault with the temper of this Debate, considering its gravity and the circumstances of it, and that I think the temper has been good. Such arguments as can be used have been put forward temperately but I did express my regret, and I wish to repeat my regret, that the Opposition, for good reasons of their own, have not thought fit to continue the support which, a few weeks ago, we thought they were willing to give us in this matter.
I want the House, and particularly Members of the Opposition, to realise that I say that not because I am afraid of Parliamentary debates and not because of the difficulty, very often, of Parliamentary debate on foreign affairs. It has nothing to do with that at all. I have been long enough in this House and I hope have so comported myself that hon. Members will not accuse me of using that reason. The reason is this: All Europe is going through extremely difficult times and sailing very rough seas. The failure of the League of Nations—again on that I offer no comment to-night, because it has been debated for a very long time—has not made things in Europe easier. There is one feature in which democracies and autocracies differ, and it is that democracies advertise all their troubles to the world; under the authoritarian 149 system we have to guess at their troubles because they tell nobody. Our system is undoubtedly the more healthy. I would not change it for any other, but it does increase the difficulty of a Foreign Secretary in dealing with nations where no criticism is allowed. The lesson of that is that, in so far as unity on broad lines of policy is not achieved, we are, to that extent, weaker in the councils of the nations because, whatever it may be—I am not complaining, but am putting these things before the House—whether it be criticism of our foreign policy, or criticism from another side that we are neglecting our Defence Forces, whether it be an incident like that which has appeared in the papers recently, about Lord Nuffield and the Government, all those things we tell freely. We try to hide nothing. These are the things that are broadcast to the authoritarian States and exaggerated, and they are made to believe that in these democratic countries, and particularly in this country, there is no unity—that we are all quarrelling among ourselves, and that we do not count. That is the real reason why I profoundly regret what has happened. But, as I said a few minutes ago, this is not the occasion, nor have I the time, to discuss in detail the broad questions of foreign policy. A full statement was made, outlining our position, by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary at Geneva last month, and I was glad to find that that statement received a full measure of support in the country and, I am told, in organs favouring hon. Members opposite. Such criticism as has been expressed, I believe, is based on the ground that the Government were not sincere.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
It is a little difficult at this moment, before this Debate is over, to charge us with not having sincerity. The Government, indeed, intend whole-heartedly to pursue so far as they can the lines of the policy indicated by my right hon. Friend, but the more unity we can attain in our policy the more likely we are to preserve peace.
I should like, on this last day of the Session, to make a few observations perhaps not directly bearing on what we have been discussing. I want to put 150 before the House some thoughts that have been in my own mind as having played my part in directing the policy of this country, and I would beg hon. Members opposite to think about them, because I am quite sure that in these coming years we shall have to think about them. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition spoke about certain things that are happening now as having been impossible five years ago. He is absolutely right. There have been some amazing changes in the world since the War. Those of us who, in however modest a manner, have been students of history, will remember that they used to read about such times as those of the break-up of the Roman Empire, the invasion of the barbarians, and the religious wars. We read about them with enormous interest, and tried to make out what the influence of what happened in those centuries was on modern Europe; but we none of us thought that we should ever see Europe again within measurable distance of breaking up, and we thought that religious wars were gone for good. And then, in recent years, there has come into the world the modern development of Communism. The peculiar feature of that is that its devotees are as fanatical in fighting for a creed and dogma as any men that ever fought in any religious wars at any time in the world's history. And it is a religion that has in it some of the worst features of the old religious wars, because it will brook no opposition to its theories; it will kill rather than brook opposition. There is that tremendous force, and it will not brook, it will not realise, it will not understand or allow, any fact that clashes with what it wants to believe. It was perfectly illustrated when the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) said he would not believe my right hon. Friend if he swore on a mountain of Bibles. Of course he would not. He would not have been a Communist if he had.
Communism has bred something besides itself. It has bred Fascism. You have now on either side large bodies of men who are prepared to fight and to die for an abstract creed. That is a new feature since the War, and, to my mind, far the most dangerous thing in this world to-day. I do not think there was any Fascism in Italy before Communism 151 began. The same thing is true of Germany. Force begat force, as it always does. In this country where, thank God, so far these two forces are not worth together a snap of the fingers, the curious feature is that at this moment we are reversing the process of Italy and Germany, and these petty efforts of the Fascists are making Communists. We have got in this country, with all that we have to preserve, to take jolly good care that neither of them takes possession of it, because I believe that the preservation of our system of democracy is of such value to the world.
The reason why I adhere to this policy is that I have fought as I have believed to be best—I may have made mistakes; we all may have—I have fought for one thing only, that is, for peace, to keep our country out of war, and to make our influence as strong as possible for peace. When we have these two electric currents beating across Europe I believe that the abandonment of the ban that we have put on arms, and the permission for free imports—the right hon. Gentleman spoke of Germany attacking us; that is not the danger—but the clash might begin that would set the whole of Western Europe on fire. When Western Europe 152 is on fire chaos comes. That is the reason I adhere to the line I have taken.
I would say to the right hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) that I never have been one of those who regard war as inevitable. That word never ought to be used. In the world as it is every month gained for peace is a gain on the right side. That is what we are working for. You may criticise our methods. Do not criticise our determination, or our honesty in our efforts to make that determination effective. It may be that at a time like this, when all these kaleidoscopic movements take place day by day, we may have to go now in one way now in another, but that goal remains the same. I believe it to be an attainable goal. I believe equally that, if we made any relaxation in that policy, which we have adopted with other countries and which was supported by hon. Members opposite, the peace of Western Europe would be imperilled, and I could not accept any responsibility for what might follow.
§ Question, "That this House do now adjourn," put, and agreed to.
§ Adjourned accordingly at Five Minutes before Eleven o'Clock.