HC Deb 08 February 1937 vol 320 cc16-7
33. Sir William Davison

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he was able during his recent visit to Geneva to consult with the representatives of foreign Powers as to whether they would be prepared to enter into a solemn covenant that in no circumstances would they permit of cities or towns in time of war being bombed or sprayed with poison gases, and would further agree that in the event of any breach of this covenant all the signatory Powers would jointly undertake to punish the offending nation; and whether steps will be taken by the British Government to secure agreement among the European Powers on the lines suggested?

Viscount Cranborne

This matter did not come under discussion during my right hon. Friend's visit to Geneva for the recent meeting of the League Council. I would remind my hon. Friend that, so far as gas warfare is concerned, all the principal nations are already signatories to the Protocol for the prohibition of the use in war of asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases and of bacteriological warfare, which was signed at Geneva on 17th June, 1925. So far as the bombing of towns is concerned, a provision for the complete abolition of bombing from the air was contained in the draft Disarmament Convention submitted to the Disarmament Conference in March, 1933. The further progress of the Conference, and with it further consideration of the proposal for the abolition of bombing from the air has, as my hon. Friend is aware, been prevented by unfavourable developments in the international political situation. His Majesty's Government would welcome any development which would render practicable a resumption of the consideration of the proposals in the draft Convention, and will continue to do their utmost to bring about an improvement in the international situation which would make this possible.

Sir W. Davison

Does not my Noble Friend think that, at any rate, it would be desirable that an agreement should be arrived at for the prohibition of the discharge of poison gas on towns and cities, and that the nations should agree to outlaw any other Power which adopts this filthy, abominable and barbarous practice? Does he not think that the present members of the League, and also Powers which have left the League, would be prepared to sign such an agreement?

Viscount Cranborne

I have said that all the principal nations are already signatories of the Protocol.

Mr. T. Williams

Do not the Government now regret having preserved bombing at all?

Viscount Cranborne

I do not wish to enter into a debate with the hon. Member, but His Majesty's Government were not responsible for that.

Mr. R. Acland

Does the Noble Lord attach the least significance to the 1925 Protocol against bombing? If so, why are the Government preparing gas masks?

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