HC Deb 30 April 1937 vol 323 cc683-5
Mr. Dalton

(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his attention has been directed to a declaration by General Mola that he intends to raze Bilbao to the ground; and whether His Majesty's Government will at once consult with the other principal Powers who are parties to the Non-Intervention Agreement with a view to securing the abandonment of such a project?

The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Eden)

I have seen a report to the effect mentioned in the first part of the question, and I have instructed His Majesty's Ambassador to report urgently whether there is any foundation for believing that such action is in fact contemplated by the insurgent authorities. It will be clear, from the answers which I gave in the House on Wednesday last, how deeply His Majesty's Government deplore the bombardment of the civilian population in Spain, wherever it may occur and whoever may be responsible. His Majesty's Government have been anxiously considering what action could be taken to prevent the recurrence of such deplorable events. They recognise the desirability of co-operating in this matter as far as possible with other Governments and have under their urgent examination the question of the appropriate method of ensuring such co-operation. I cannot say more at this moment, but I can assure the House that His Majesty's Government are fully alive to the urgency of the matters involved, and I hope to be in a position to make a further statement shortly.

Sir Archibald Sinclair

Has the right hon. Gentleman noticed in to-day's newspapers signed despatches from correspondents on the Basque front describing the destruction of another town and the pursuit again of unarmed civilian fugitives by aeroplanes and machine guns; and will the right hon. Gentleman bring to the notice of the other members of the Non-Intervention Committee the serious threat which the continuation of operations of this kind will constitute to the very existence of the Non-Intervention Agreement?

Mr. Eden

The right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that I have given a carefully considered answer, and at the moment I do not want to go beyond it. I say that we are very conscious of the seriousness of the situation, but I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree that we must be given a little time to decide the method by which we shall approach the problem.

Mr. Arthur Henderson

While appreciating the difficulty of the right hon. Gentleman at the moment, may I ask whether, in view of the repudiation by General Franco of any responsibility for what took place, he will bear in mind the desirability of ascertaining the actual facts, and for that purpose the desirability of sending an independent commission to inquire into them?

Mr. Noel-Baker

Will the right hon. Gentleman convey to General Franco the fact that public opinion in this country is perhaps more deeply stirred by this matter than it has been by anything for many years?