HC Deb 20 December 1937 vol 330 cc1581-5
6. Mr. Day

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs particulars of the decision and/or agreement that was arrived at by the sub-committee of the Non-intervention Committee at their meeting held on Tuesday, 7th December; and whether it was considered that both parties in Spain had now accepted the principle of the London plan?

Mr. Eden

I have nothing to add to the statement which I made on 8th December, in answer to a question on this subject by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, East (Mr. Mander).

Mr. Day

Has any decision been come to to send a visiting commission to Spain?

Mr. Eden

I understand that the committee decided that the answers were such as would enable them to continue their task. Part of their task is the appointment of a commission.

7. Mr. W. Roberts

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the number of British ships that have been sunk or damaged by mine, torpedo, bomb, gun or machine-gun fire during 1937 by the Spanish insurgents, by the Spanish Government, and by unidentified aeroplanes?

Mr. Eden

Of the two British ships sunk during 1937, one was torpedoed by an unidentified submarine, and the other bombed by aircraft belonging to the Salamanca authorities. Three British ships were damaged on the high seas during the same period, and His Majesty's Government consider that the damage caused to these ships was due to action taken by the Salamanca authorities. In addition, a certain number of ships have been damaged during bombardments when in Spanish ports, but I regret that I have not full details of all these incidents.

Mr. Thurtle

Is it not a fact that the unidentified submarine to which the right hon. Gentleman refers was, in fact, identified by the British intelligence service as an Italian submarine?

Mr. W. Roberts

Can the Foreign Secretary say that no damage has been caused to British ships by Spanish Government ships or aeroplanes, as far as he is aware?

Mr. Eden

I think that that can be inferred from my answer.

18. Mr. Thurtle

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is now in a position to say what zone is being patrolled by the Italian naval forces under the Nyon Agreement?

Mr. Eden

No, Sir. His Majesty's Government have initiated inquiries, but I am not to-day in a position to add to the answer which I gave to the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) on 1st December.

Mr. Attlee (by Private Notice)

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his attention has been called to a statement by Sir Robert Hodgson made to a member of the State Delegation for Press and Propaganda at Salamanca in which he described the aim of his mission as the re-establishment of normal relations, confidence and friendship between Spain and this country; and whether he will make a statement on the matter in view of the announcement of Government policy made before Sir Robert Hodgson's appointment?

Mr. Eden

I am unable to confirm the report of the statement to which the right hon. Gentleman refers, the text of which has not yet reached me. I would add, however, that if the statement attributed to Sir Robert Hodgson is correct, it does not appear to be in any way inconsistent with the policy of His Majesty's Government which this House has approved. The aim of Sir Robert Hodgson's mission is to protect British interests in that part of Spain under the control of General Franco. An essential preliminary to the satisfactory protection of these interests is the establishment of friendly personal relations with the authorities concerned.

Mr. Attlee

Does not the establishment of normal relations imply the recognition of a government which His Majesty's Government do not recognise at the present time?

Mr. Eden

No, Sir, I really do not think that that appears from the context. If you do not have normal relations, you have arbormal relations, and I prefer normal to abnormal relations.

Mr. Attlee

Surely the position of a trade agent sent to a government which is not recognised is necessary abnormal, as contrasted with ordinary diplomatic relations with a government which is recognised?

Mr. Eden

If the right hon. Gentleman will read the context as I have seen it in the Press, he will see that it is not quite as he has said. Perhaps I ought to read it to the House. The words are these: If we meet with a friendly disposition on the part of the authorities—and I do not doubt that such will be the case—we shall consider our mission crowned with success and that we shall have achieved something leading to the re-establishment of the normal relations, confidence and friendship which have existed for so many centuries between Spain and my country.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Is it the usual practice of consular agents, on appointment, to make general statements of that kind on relations?

Mr. Eden

Sir Robert Hodgson is the head of the mission, and I think it quite natural that he should have made this announcement. It appears when the whole context is read that he had in mind the past friendship between the two countries.

Mr. Alexander

Was Sir Robert Hodgson asked to sign the same kind of nonintervention declaration as that which has to be signed by every other person who leaves this country for Spain?

Sir Archibald Sinclair

Is not the use of the phrase "friendly relations between Spain and this country" inconsistent with the interpretation which the Secretary of State put upon Sir Robert Hodgson's speech, when he spoke of the personal relations between Sir Robert Hodgson and General Franco?

Mr. Eden

I think the right hon. Gentleman will see that that is not the case if the whole context is read. Sir Robert Hodgson was referring to the re-establishment of the normal relations, confidence and friendship which have existed for so many centuries between Spain and my country.

Mr. Jagger

Does not that imply that he is accepting General Franco as the successor of those with whom those relations existed?

Mr. Maxton

Did not this House receive from the Foreign Secretary, when the Bill was being considered by us, a specific assurance that these men's duties were to be entirely of a commercial and a trading nature; and is not what we have heard the language of diplomacy such as is used by Ambassadors and Foreign Secretaries and not by trade commissioners?

Mr. Eden

I cannot think that there is anything in what Sir Robert Hodgson said which is not calculated to facilitate his task of protecting British interests in that part of Spain.

Sir A. Sinclair

Will the right hon. Gentleman make it clear that this statement by Sir Robert Hodgson will only be approved in so far as it is consistent with the declaration which the Foreign Secretary has just made?

Mr. Eden

Certainly, Sir, I am defending the statement because it seems to me, on the facts before me, to be entirely consistent with what I have said and with what this House has approved.

Mr. De la Bère

Would hon. Members allow their questions to be tinged with caution and common sense?

Several hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Hon. Members seem to be repeating the same thing over and over again.