HC Deb 26 April 1937 vol 323 cc6-12
13. Brigadier-General Sir Henry Croft

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he can state the number of civilians exterminated on political and religious grounds in Malaga during the occupation of that town by the forces of the Madrid Government since the outbreak of civil war in Spain?

Viscount Cranborne

No, Sir.

Sir H. Croft

Has the Noble Lord had no information from the British Consul there, either at the time or since, and is he not aware that British citizens and people of British origin in Malaga have estimated the number as between 8,000 and 10,000?

Viscount Cranborne

As I have already explained in the House on various occasions, it is not possible for the Acting Consul to give anything in the nature of an accurate account to the House, and we would not wish to give any figures which are not accurate.

Miss Rathbone

If our Vice-Consuls are able to give any information will the Noble Lord ask them to extend it to some estimate of the number of civilian non-combatants who were exterminated by the rebels at and since their entry into the town?

14. Sir H. Croft

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the independent Basque Republic has declared its independence from the Government of Spain which existed at the outbreak of civil war; and whether the Basque Government is therefore in the same diplomatic position as the Government of General Franco as having severed its connection with the erstwhile Government of Spain?

Viscount Cranborne

No, Sir. By a decree dated 29th September, 1936, the Spanish Government constituted the Basque Provinces of Alava, Guipuzcoa, and Vizcaya an autonomous region within the Spanish State.

Sir H. Croft

In order that misapprehension may be cleared away, supposing the position was reversed and General Franco lost command of the seas—

Mr. Speaker

That begins to be hypothetical.

Sir H. Croft

Would the same facilities be given to General Franco if he were in the same position?

Viscount Cranborne

His Majesty's Government have said that there is to be no interference with British shipping on the high seas, and that applies all round.

22. Mr. Thorne

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he can give the House any information in connection with the strength of the rival navies in Spain and whether he can say what dockyards are under the control of the rival forces?

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty (Lord Stanley)

I have been asked to reply. As the answer includes a number of names and figures I will, with the hon. Member's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the answer:

According to the information available to the Admiralty, the position is as shown below:—

Government. Insurgents.
Jaime I. Espana.
Libertad. Canarias.
Mendez Nunez. Baleares.
Cervantes. Cervera.
Republica (non-effective).
Sixteen (3 non- One. effective).
Torpedo Boats.
Seven. Five.
One. Five.
Eight. Number unknown.
Nil. Three.
Armed Trawlers and Armed Merchant Cruisers.
Some on each side.
Naval Dockyards.
Cartagena. Cadiz.
Port Mahon. Ferrol.

24. Mr. Vyvyan Adams

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what progress is being made in securing an agreement for the withdrawal of the external personnel which at present sustains the loyalist and rebel factions in Spain?

Viscount Cranborne

I would refer my hon. Friend to the communiqué issued at the conclusion of the 45th meeting of the Chairman's sub-committee of the Non-Intervention Committee on 15th April, in which it was announced that a technical sub-committee had been appointed to prepare a scheme for the withdrawal of non-Spanish combatants from Spain. I understand that this subcommittee held its first meeting at the Foreign Office this morning.

Mr. Adams

Is my Noble Friend aware that the German Press has recently presumed to describe the proper activities of the "Hood" as intervention?

Mr. Thurtle

Do the non-Spanish elements include Moors?

Viscount Cranborne

I should certainly require notice of that.

26. Mr. White

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he can make any further statement with regard 10 the present position of the cargoes of the steamship "Fernando L. de Ybarra" and steamship "Mar Baltico"; and whether the representations he has made to General Franco include a claim for loss arising from transhipment and delay?

Viscount Cranborne

The answer to the first part of the question is no, Sir. As regards the second part, the insurgent authorities have been informed that His Majesty's Government reserve the right, if necessary, to claim damages.

Mr. White

Are the Government taking steps to claim in respect of damages which have already been incurred?

Viscount Cranborne

That would come into the claim. Such a claim might properly include loss arising from transhipment.

Miss Wilkinson

Have His Majesty's Government any hope whatever that these claims are likely to be met?

Viscount Cranborne

Yes, His Majesty's Government have that hope.

39. Mr. Thurtle

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether, in order to protect British merchant ships on the high seas, he will arrange for a warship or warships to be within call of such ships on the normal route from British ports to Bilbao?

Lord Stanley

I have nothing to add to the very full statements which were made on behalf of His Majesty's Government during the Debate on the Adjournment on 20th April.

Mr. Thurtle

Is the noble Lord aware that it is not yet clear that the Government are maintaining warships within call of the ordinary trade route to Bilbao, and does he not think that if the British Navy were given the proper instructions they would do the job all right?

Lord Stanley

What is perfectly clear is that my right hon. Friend promised that, as far as possible, protection should be given to British ships on the high seas, and it is clear from the events of recent days that adequate protection is being given.

Mr. A. V. Alexander

Is the noble Lord aware that there is great satisfaction in the country that the National Government have at last withdrawn their effective blockade of Bilbao and that events have shown that there was no effective blockade by Franco's ships?

Sir A. Knox

Will the noble Lord see that British ships do not interfere with Spanish ships in territorial waters?

21. Mr. Lennox-Boyd (for Mr. Denville)

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will cause inquiry to be made why Captain G. H. L. F. Pitt-Rivers, late Royal Dragoons, was refused a special endorsement for permission to enter Spain via France on the grounds that he was not on a humanitarian mission, commercial business, or an accredited news reporter?

Viscount Cranborne

I am satisfied that there were not sufficient grounds in this case for making an exception to the regulations at present in force in regard to the issue of endorsements for Spain.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Is my Noble Friend aware that Captain Pitt-Rivers is the accredited representative of the "Universe" newspaper, and is he satisfied that no different grounds are required for permission to enter territory held by General Franco, and extending over two-thirds of Spain, than are required in territory under Government control?

Viscount Cranborne

My information is that Captain Pitt-Rivers is not the accredited representative of a newspaper. That was the information at the time, and it was carefully gone into, and that was the conclusion which was reached.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

If I could furnish my Noble Friend with conclusive proof that the gentleman was accredited, would the decision be withdrawn?

Viscount Cranborne

The question would be reconsidered.

Mr. Emmott

In any case, have not persons been admitted into Spain, in order to report upon events, in spite of the fact that they were not accredited news reporters?

Sir A. Knox

Is it not a fact that some of these so-called humanitarian missions are merely cloaks for political propaganda?

Viscount Cranborne

There have been exceptions in some cases on humanitarian or commercial business or as accredited representatives of newspapers.

27. Mr. W. Joseph Stewart (for Mr. David Adams)

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that the advice tendered to British vessels not to attempt to reach Bilbao is preventing shipowners from obtaining reasonable rates for war-risk insurance, thus holding up their Spanish trade; and will he review the present situation and take steps to end this deadlock?

The President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Runciman)

I have been asked to reply. I understand that facilities for war-risk insurance in the case of vessels intended for Bilbao are limited, and that what business is being done is on a small scale. As regards the second part of the question, the position is, as the House has been informed, constantly under review by the Government.

Mr. A. Henderson

(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware of the fact that three British ships, the steamship "Macgregor," the steamship "Hamsterly," the steamship "Stanbrook," arrived at Bilbao on Friday and two British ships, the steamship "Thurston" and the steamship "Stesso" arrived at Bilbao on Sunday, and whether His Majesty's Government are still of the opinion that the Spanish insurgent authorities have established an effective blockade of the port of Bilbao?

Viscount Cranborne

I am aware of the arrival in Bilbao of the five ships to which the hon. Member refers. The experience of these ships does not, however, indicate that there is any change in the situation since the statement made by my right hon. Friend on 10th April, in which he explained that the Government's present information did not enable them to advise entering Bilbao and that as regards other ports such as Santander and Gijon, there is a degree of risk which may vary from day to day.

Mr. Henderson

Is it not clear that, provided that British ships are protected up to the territorial limits, there is no difficulty in their entering the port of Bilbao?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Would not many of the difficulties with which the Government are now confronted be resolved if belligerent rights were granted to both sides?

Mr. Thurtle

Is it still the opinion of the Government that the harbour of Bilbao is mined after the experience of these five vessels getting through?

Vice-Admiral Taylor

Is it not a fact that a blockade is not dependent merely on the question of mines?