HC Deb 06 April 1937 vol 322 cc23-8
41. Lieut.-Commander Fletcher

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has any statement to make regarding the work of the Non-Intervention Committee, especially as regards the removal of foreign armies and armed personnel from Spain; and whether the control arrangements are now in force and working satisfactorily?

42. Mr. Graham White

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he can make any statement with regard to the work of the Non-Intervention Committee, particularly with regard to the working of the control of the Spanish coasts?

37. Mr. Mander

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the position with regard to the working of the Non-Intervention Agreement in Spain; what ships have been reported as carrying troops or munitions of war; and what foreign troops have recently landed in Spain?

Mr. Eden

The International Board which is in charge of the scheme of observation has, I understand, now completed the first stage of its arrangements for the establishment of the scheme, and the first groups of officials have already left for their posts. I am not in a position at present to give the House any fresh information as to the consideration by the Non-Intervention Committee of the question of the evacuation of foreign nationals from Spain. As has previously been stated, His Majesty's Government attach, however, great importance to progress being made with this problem also. No reports have recently been received of the landing of any foreign troops in Spain.

Mr. Thurtle

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether to the best of his knowledge all the countries concerned are doing their best to make this nonintervention scheme a success?

Mr. Eden

I hope the hon. Member will not ask me to answer for other Govern- ments too much but the answer makes it clear that there have been no recent reports of infringement.

Sir W. Davison

May I ask whether representations will be made to both sides that British citizens who have enlisted on either side and desire to return to this country shall be freed and allowed to return?

Mr. Eden

My hon. Friend has put another extremely difficult question, and I should be obliged if he would put it on the Order Paper.

Mr. Bellenger

The right hon. Gentleman says that he has had no recent additional information as to the landing of foreign troops. Has his attention been drawn to the reports circulated in the last few days of Italian troops landing there? Has he inquired into that?

Mr. Eden

I am not aware of the reports to which the hon. Member refers, but quite clearly the essential thing is to get the scheme working as soon as possible and then we shall have observation which will act as a check.

Sir Archibald Sinclair

Can the right hon. Gentleman say on what date the scheme will actually come into operation?

Mr. Eden

I am rather reluctant to do so because there are certain technical matters to be arranged, and I do not want to disappoint the House, but I hope it will be very soon now.

Mr. Macquisten

Will the right hon. Gentleman note that if there are any British citizens so foolish as to have interfered in this quarrel on either side, we do not want them back in this country at all?

39. Mr. Morgan Jones (for Mr. Grenfell)

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has any information to give the House as to the position of affairs in Spain?

Mr. Eden

Apart from the information which I have just given to the House regarding matters falling within the sphere of the Non-Intervention Committee, the following is a summary of the humanitarian activities carried out by His Majesty's representatives in Spain during the last few weeks:

450 children have been evacuated to St. Jean-de-Luz from Bilbao by two British destroyers, and the Spanish Government have conveyed to His Majesty's representative at Valencia their thanks for this action. Since the outbreak of the war, as the result of the untiring activities of His Majesty's Diplomatic and Consular representatives, His Majesty's ships have evacuated about 17,000 Spanish and other foreign nationals from ports on the North coast of Spain alone. This evacuation has been conducted on a basis of strict impartiality regardless of the political or other views held by those evacuated. 300 refugees, mostly from the Chilean Embassy at Madrid, were evacuated from Valencia to Marseilles in His Majesty's Hospital ship "Maine" on 30th March. Following the efforts of His Majesty's Ambassador at Hendaye and the British Consul at Santander, the hostages held in the prison ship "Alfonso Periz" at Santander have been removed to more suitable quarters on land. His Majesty's representatives at Hendaye and Valencia are continuing their efforts to effect exchanges of individual political prisoners.

43. Mr. R. Acland

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has any information as to the use of gas by either side in the Spanish civil war?

Mr. Eden

No, Sir.

Sir A. Sinclair

Is the right hon. Gentleman taking steps to obtain information at the earliest possible moment as to whether gas is likely to be used; and has he seen the report that Italian prisoners captured by the Spanish Government say that there are chemical companies among the Italian troops?

Mr. Eden

No, Sir, I have not seen that report. I have given the right hon. Gentleman the information we have.

Miss Rathbone

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a telegram reached this country within the last few days stating that a ship had arrived at Hamburg with tubes containing poison gas; and has any inquiry been made as to the truth of that statement?

Mr. Eden

I have seen that statement and a denial.

Mr. Arthur Henderson

(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware of the refusal of the Passport Office to grant passport facilities to the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher), to proceed to Spain as special correspondent of the "Daily Worker" unless he signed an undertaking in specified terms not to intervene in Spanish affairs during his stay in that country; whether he directed such procedure; and whether such procedure was followed in other cases during that period?

Mr. Eden

Yes, Sir. All persons to whom the special endorsement for Spain has been issued have recently been required to sign the declaration to which the hon. Member refers.

Mr. Henderson

Is it not a fact that on the day prior to that on which the hon. Member for West Fife made his application a journalist's visa was granted to Mr. Philip Jordan, special correspondent of the "News-Chronicle" without his being required to sign any such undertaking?

Mr. Eden

I did not know about that. Naturally I do not know about every visa granted, but I know that this rule has now been established, and that many journalists have signed the declaration, which seems to me a very reasonable declaration.

Mr. Morgan Jones

Will the right hon. Gentleman say what he means by the word "now." Does it mean since the incident to which my hon. Friend refers?

Mr. Eden

Since the rule was made. The position, as I understand it, was that a large number of applications have been made by journalists to go to Spain recently. It was difficult for the passport authorities to decide on the bona fides of each case, so they decided to establish the rule that everybody should sign this declaration which enabled them to allow more journalists to go than would otherwise have been possible.

Mr. Henderson

Can the right hon. Gentleman state the date on which the rule was first made?

Mr. Eden

I am afraid I cannot do so without notice.

Mr. Macquisten

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the more journalists we export the better?

Mr. Gallacher

Is it not the case that when the application was made for the visa, we were informed that it would have to be taken up with the Foreign Office, and that we were then informed that the Foreign Office had made a decision that I would have to sign a declaration? Is it not also the case that when I asked why I should have to sign a declaration, when no one else had to sign such a declaration, I was informed that the declaration would now and for the future be made obligatory on all those who were going to Spain? Is it not the case that that declaration was first presented when I applied for a visa?

Mr. Eden

That may be so, but even if it were so—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh"]—I would ask the House to allow me to read the declaration which has been signed by a large number of people. It is in these words: In connection with my application for a special endorsement to Spain, I am proceeding to……… for the purpose of……… I undertake that nothing will take place in the course of my visit that could be construed as implying any intervention by me on behalf of either side in the present dispute in Spain. I understand that I travel at my own risk, and that His Majesty's Government cannot take any responsibility for my protection or for my evacuation in case of need.

Mr. Bellenger

Are we to assume that if the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) is now prepared to sign that undertaking, the visa will be granted?

Mr. Eden indicated assent.

Mr. Shinwell

If so much importance was attached to this condition by His Majesty's Government, why was it not put into operation before?

Mr. Eden

That is a reasonable question. We found ourselves faced with this difficulty and the Foreign Office, I think quite rightly, considered that this was the best means of dealing with it.

Mr. Shinwell

Was the difficulty only discovered by His Majesty's Government and the Foreign Office when the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) made his application?

Mr. Eden

There have been a number of these applications, and no fewer than two dozen persons including journalists have signed this form.

Mr. Attlee

The right hon. Gentleman is not answering the question. The question is, why does this matter arise at this particular time, and why was this condition not put into force before?

Mr. Eden

Because at this time we at the Foreign Office were asked whether a ruling could be given, and it seems to me that the ruling which has been given is extremely reasonable.

Mr. Sandys

Is it not a fact that somebody must be first?

Mr. A. Henderson

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the Minister's reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter on the Motion for the Adjournment.