HC Deb 12 April 1937 vol 322 cc587-91
8. Sir Nicholas Grattan-Doyle

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is in a position to make a statement respecting the expulsion from Abyssinia of the British-Indian firm of Mohammed Ali?

13. Lieut.-Commander Fletcher

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether any inquiries are being made by His Majesty's Government as to why the Abyssinian branches of the firm of Mohammed Ali have been closed down by order of the Italian Government; and what reasons have been given for this action?

15. Mr. Graham White

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his attention has been called to the compulsory closing down of the firm of Mohammed Ali in Abyssinia on the alleged ground that this firm had been employed by the British secret service; and whether he can make any statement on this matter?

Mr. Arthur Henderson

On a point of Order. Before these questions are answered, may I ask, through you, Mr. Speaker, whether there is any special reason why the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs is not in his place, in view of the fact that there are 28 questions on the Order Paper addressed to his Department?

Mr. Speaker

That, of course, is not a question for me to answer.

Mr. Shinwell

May I say whether the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, as Deputy-Leader of the House, will reply to the question of my hon. Friend?

The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Viscount Cranborne)

I should explain that my right hon. Friend has a very important engagement in the North of England. Otherwise, he would certainly be here.

On 6th March Messrs Mohammed Ali were ordered by the Italian authorities in Addis Ababa to close their premises and cease from all form of commercial activity. A similar order, coupled with an intimation that the firm were being expelled and that their employés must leave the country, was given a week or so later to the branches at Harrar, Diredawa, Jijiga and Jimma. Representations have been made by the Acting British Consul-General at Addis Ababa and, on instructions by His Majesty's Ambassador at Rome, with a view to ascertaining the reason for the action of the Italian authorities and to securing an extension of the period within which the firm had been summoned to leave Abyssinia. The firm, who during the past year have been suffering severely from the effect of the Italian exchange restrictions in Abyssinia, had for some time been contemplating entering into partnership with Italian interests. The representations as to the time limit have already, I am glad to say, resulted in an extension being granted; but this extension cannot be regarded as adequate, and His Majesty's Government are making further representations to ensure that the firm are in fact given a reasonable time in which to arrange their affairs. The result of these representations is awaited. I can state at once that there is no foundation whatever for any suggestion that the firm, or any members of it, have been employed for intelligence purposes by His Majesty's Government.

Mr. T. Williams

In view of the revelations contained in the book written by General De Bono, did not His Majesty's Government anticipate such action as the one embodied in this question, and have the Government any statement to make either accepting the statements of General De Bono as a fact or denying them?

Viscount Cranborne

Perhaps the hon. Member will put that question down.

Mr. A. V. Alexander

Is it not time, in view of the revelations now appearing in cold print in Italy, that His Majesty's Government ceased its policy of vaccilation and running away from Mussolini?

Mr. H. G. Williams

And have a war?

Viscount Cranborne

The right hon. Gentleman misunderstands me. I am quite ready to answer the question asked, but it does not arise on this question. Perhaps he will put it down.

Sir Archibald Sinclair

When the Noble Lord says that the Government are asking for reasonable time for this firm to arrange its affairs, does he mean that the Government acquiesce in the expulsion of this firm?

Viscount Cranborne

The right hon. Gentleman might await the answer which we are now awaiting from Rome and which we are expecting at any moment. The Government do not regard the situation as satisfactory; they regard it as most unsatisfactory.

Mr. Shinwell

Do we understand that His Majesty's Government will not in any circumstances tolerate the removal of any British firm from Abyssinia?

Hon. Members


14. Lieut.-Commander Fletcher

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has received any information concerning the circumstances under which three sons of His Excellency the Ethiopian representative in London were recently executed in Addis Ababa by order of the Italian authorities there, and particularly if any form of trial took place prior to the executions?

Viscount Cranborne

The report received on this subject stated that the two younger sons of Dr. Martin had been arrested and subsequently executed, but contained no further details.

Mr. Shinwell

Can the Noble Lord say whether the British Consul-General in Addis Ababa protested against these executions?

Hon. Members


Mr. Shinwell

Is there any special reason why the Noble Lord is unable to say whether our representative on the spot made any comment on these executions?

Viscount Cranborne

There is no reason except that it is not the same question. If the hon. Member will put it down, I will see whether I can answer it.

Mr. T. Williams

Can the Noble Lord say whether His Majesty's Government approve of these executions?

Viscount Cranborne

No. I think that nobody in this country approves of the executions, and my right hon. Friend has already sent an expression of his deep sympathy to Dr. Martin.

Commander Locker-Lampson

Is there any chance of compensation?

Lieut.-Commander Fletcher

Will the Noble Lord specifically call for a report whether any trial took place before these executions were carried out?

Viscount Cranborne

I will certainly consider that, but I would point out to the hon. and gallant Member that the circumstances are so abnormal that it is very difficult to get accurate information.

Sir Percy Harris

Does the Noble Lord realise that the public conscience of this country is thoroughly shocked?

30. Mr. A. Henderson

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware of the recent expulsion from Abyssinia of six British missionaries; and whether he proposes to take any action in the matter?

35. Commander Locker-Lampson

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his attention has been called to the expulsion of English missionaries from Abyssinia; and what steps will be taken in the matter?

Viscount Cranborne

As soon as His Majesty's Consul-General in Addis Ababa heard that certain British missionaries had been ordered to leave the country, he took the matter up with the local authorities and asked for an extension of the time limit. At the same time, His Majesty's Ambassador at Rome made representations to the Italian Government, inquiring the reasons for expulsion. The missionaries had already left Addis Ababa before a reply had been received. His Majesty's Ambassador has, however, since, on instructions, made further strong representations as to the treatment accorded to these missionaries, a reply to which is expected shortly.

Mr. Bellenger

Are the Government prepared to acquiesce in this fait accompli?

Viscount Cranborne

I have already said that the Government regard the situation as most unsatisfactory, but we had better await the reply of the Italian Government.

Mr. Alexander

If the Government have not recognised the Italian occupation of Abyssinia, are they going to accept the expulsion of British citizens?

Viscount Cranborne

We had better await the answer of the Italian Government.

Mr. Macquisten

Is not the Italian occupation of Abyssinia a fact?

Commander Locker-Lampson

Was the occupation of Belgium by Germany a fact?

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