HC Deb 22 December 1937 vol 330 cc1943-6
4. Mr. Arthur Henderson

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is now in a position to make a statement with reference to the negotiations on the question of Customs control in Shanghai?

5. Captain Arthur Evans

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he can make a statement with regard to the position of the Chinese maritime Customs and the tenancy of the posts held by British subjects?

Mr. Eden

I regret that I cannot at present add anything to the answer which I gave to the hon. Member on 8th December. Having received information that the Japanese authorities in Shanghai had not as yet received their instructions in this matter from their Government in Tokyo, I instructed His Majesty's Ambassador at Tokyo to communicate further with the Japanese Government on this point, and I learn that they have promised that the despatch of instructions shall be expedited. So far as I am aware, there has been no change in the tenancy of posts in the service held by British subjects.

Mr. Henderson

In the event of these negotiations being concluded during the Recess, will the Government publish a full statement?

Mr. Eden

The hon. Member can be very sure that during the Recess and while Parliament is sitting the Government will anxiously watch the situation and do all that is possible to protect British interests.

Lieut.-Commander Fletcher

Is it not the case that pending the result of these negotiations the Customs at Shanghai are de facto under the control of the Japanese?

Mr. Eden

No, Sir, I understand not.

12. Captain Alan Graham

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has any information as to the possible extension of Japanese military operations to the province of Kwangtung; and what steps are being taken to protect our traditional trade interests in South China?

Mr. Eden

The situation with regard to a possible spread of hostilities to the province of Kwangtung is being carefully watched, but I have no information that I can properly give to the House. I can assure my hon. Friend that all possible protection is being and will be afforded to our trade interests in South China.

Mr. Noel-Baker

How does the right hon. Gentleman propose to ensure the continuance of British trade if there is a Japanese ring round Canton?

Mr. Eden

There is no such ring.

13. Mr. Moreing

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that the Japanese authorities in the occupied area of the International Settlement in Shanghai promised to relax the restrictions on access to British-owned property as from 15th December, and that those regulations which still remain in force are of so onerous a character as to deprive the promised access of any practical value; and whether he will take immediate steps to secure the cancellation of the regulations referred to?

Mr. Eden

The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. The answer to the second part of the question is that while the position shows some slight improvement it is still unsatisfactory. The British authorities at Shanghai have spared no efforts to secure a relaxation of the conditions imposed but so far without success; in the circumstances and in view of the importance which His Majesty's Government attach to this matter, I am instructing His Majesty's Ambassador at Tokyo to make representations to the Japanese Government on the subject.

14. Mr. Mander

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the number of British subjects who have been killed by Japanese forces in the Far East since the present hostilities between China and Japan commenced; the number of apologies received from the Japanese Government; and what action the Government have taken in each case?

Mr. Eden

The following British subjects have been killed by the action of Japanese forces:

Private MacGowan, on 24th October, by Japanese machine gunning from the air at Shanghai.

Privates O'Toole, Mellon and Howard, on 29th October by Japanese shells bursting inside the defence perimetre at Shanghai.

Able-Seaman Lonergan, a sick bay attendant, by shell fire on His Majesty's ship "Ladybird" by Japanese shore batteries at Wuhu.

In addition, Mr. Pembroke Stephens, the correspondent of the "Daily Telegraph" was killed by machine-gun bullets, while watching hostilities in the neighbourhood of Shanghai on or about 15th November.

Of these, the correspondent of the "Daily Telegraph" was killed during an actual engagement between Chinese and Japanese forces in circumstances which did not seem to render any action by His Majesty's Government possible. In the other cases the Japanese Government offered an apology and compensation either in anticipation of any action by His Majesty's Government or in response to a request, which was coupled, in two cases where the circumstances warranted it, with a request for disciplinary action against those responsible and for measures to be taken to prevent any repetition. Assurances in this respect have been received, but His Majesty's Government are awaiting a further communication, as the House is aware, from the Japanese in connection with the latest incident.

Mr. Mander

Is the right hon. Gentleman able to say whether any of these events, other than the recent ones, have been deliberate actions on the part of the Japanese authorities? Have the Japanese authorities, in any of these cases, apart from what has happened during the last few weeks, deliberately attacked British subjects?

Mr. Gallacher

Is it possible for the Foreign Secretary to get the Japanese to supply him with a number of apologies in advance?

Mr. Day

Can the right hon. Gentleman state what will be the amount of compensation?

Mr. Eden

I understand that is at present being discussed. It is a question of the assessment of the amounts, and the relatives to whom compensation should be paid.

Mr. Noel-Baker

The right hon. Gentleman mentioned disciplinary action. Has disciplinary action been taken in any of these cases?

Mr. Eden

I understand that it has. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would be good enough to ask another question or to let me tell him the results of my inquiries.

Mr. Thorne

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that if the German War Minister had been as reasonable as— [Interruption.]

20. Lieut.-Commander Fletcher

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he has any information concerning Japanese naval movements in waters adjacent to Hong Kong?

The First Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. Duff Cooper)

I can assure the hon. and gallant Member that Japanese naval movements in the vicinity referred to are being carefully watched, but I have no information on the subject that I could usefully give to the House at present.

Lieut.-Commander Fletcher

Is the First Lord satisfied that the British Naval forces in Chinese waters are sufficient in view of any possibilities which may arise?

48. Captain A. Graham

asked the Prime Minister whether, having regard to the critical condition in the Far East, he will immediately strengthen His Majesty's China Fleet?

The Prime Minister (Mr. Chamberlain)

I have nothing to add to the answer which I gave on Wednesday last in reply to a similar question by the hon. and gallant Member for Nuneaton (Lieut.-Commander Fletcher).

Mr. Vyvyan Adams

Are not our primary commitments at sea those under the Nyon Agreement?