HC Deb 10 February 1937 vol 320 cc373-6
2. Captain Ramsay

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether his attention has been drawn to the action last Tuesday of the Soviet representative to the Spain Non-Intervention Committee in refusing even to represent to his Government the view of the other countries that the question of the gold belonging to the Bank of Spain must be considered in regard to any plan to withhold financial assistance from both sides in the civil war; and will he make direct representations to the Russian Government on the matter?

The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Viscount Cranborne)

The proceedings of the committee, as is well known, are confidential, and, since no mention of any such matter was made in the communiqué reporting the meeting in question, I am unaware upon what evidence my hon. and gallant Friend bases the suggestion made in the first part of his question. The second part does not, therefore, arise.

Captain Ramsay

Are we to assume from the reply of my Noble Friend that the Russian representative is raising no difficulties in the consideration of this matter of the gold belonging to the Bank of Spain?

Viscount Cranborne

No, Sir. My hon. and gallant Friend must only assume what is in the answer.

Captain Ramsay

While perfectly well understanding the answer, may I ask my Noble Friend whether he can assure this House that in such an important affair as these conversations the question of bringing this matter to the notice of the Russian Government in some way or another will not be allowed to go by default so far as he is concerned?

Mr. Mander

Would not such action be a wholly unwarranted interference in the private affairs of a friendly Government?

Sir Nairne Stewart Sandeman

Is it not a fact that the whole of our trading with Spain is going to be jeopardised by the Reds having looted all the gold?

3. Mr. Mander

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether consideration has been given to the practicability of a naval blockade on the Spanish coasts to prevent the supplies of munitions or men reaching that country?

Viscount Cranborne

All the various possibilities for a system of supervising the application of the Non-Intervention Agreement have been under careful consideration by the technical advisers of the International Committee during the last few weeks, and, as a result of their recommendations, a comprehensive plan of supervision is now before the various Governments. I am not, however, in a position to disclose the nature of these proposals which, like the other work of the committee, are confidential.

Mr. Mander

In view of the failure up to the present to arrive at any definite decision, would not the best course be for the Government to fix a date at which they are willing to put the blockade into operation with the assistance of all other Governments willing loyally to co-operate?

Mr. Radford

Would that include a blockade of the frontier between France and Spain?

Mr. Mander


Mr. H. G. Williams

Will the hon. Member explain how we can have a blockade until we have first got a Navy?

Viscount Cranborne

I have already said that the proceedings of the Committee are confidential, and also that all the various possibilities have been under consideration, and I cannot say any more.

Mr. R. Acland

Will there ever be a time when we can get to know?

9. Vice-Admiral Taylor

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will have the necessary inquiries made so as to ascertain the approximate numbers and nationalities of foreigners taking part in the Spanish civil war, on the Government side and on that of General Franco?

Viscount Cranborne

Such reports as can be obtained regarding the arrival of foreigners in Spain are already being received but, as has been explained to the House on several occasions, the material available is not sufficiently complete to enable His Majesty's Government to make any accurate estimates of the numbers of men involved.

Vice-Admiral Taylor

My Noble Friend has already stated in the House that the numbers are about equal on the two sides. If he has that information will he pursue those inquiries a little further, and show the composition as regards nationalities and numbers?

Viscount Cranborne

I stated that I had no accurate information, but that to the best of my knowledge they were about equal.

Vice-Admiral Taylor

Quite apart from their being about equal, will my Noble Friend ascertain what is the composition of these equal forces?

Viscount Cranborne

That information we have not got.

Mr. Shinwell

Can we have the figures based on the Noble Lord's best knowledge?

Viscount Cranborne

No, Sir, I could not give any figures to the House that were not accurate.

Mr. Thorne

Is it not true to say that all those who have supplied the information are all perverters of the truth?

10. Lieut.-Commander Fletcher

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what is the latest computation of the number of Italian regular forces landed in Spain; whether His Majesty's Ambassador in Rome has been instructed to inform the Italian Government that the presence of these forces in Spain is incompatible with the purposes of the Non-Intervention Committee; and what, if any, action the Government propose to take to secure their withdrawal?

Viscount Cranborne

According to my information, there are large numbers of Italian personnel in Spain. I cannot, however, give any accurate estimate of the numbers of men involved. The hon. and gallant Member will be aware that His Majesty's Government recently addressed the principal European Powers with a view to putting a stop to the despatch of volunteers to Spain. The Italian Government, in common with the other Governments concerned, have undertaken to prohibit these movements as soon as others do so, but they have declined to take such steps in advance of other countries. His Majesty's Government are now exercising their utmost efforts to secure agreement in the Non-Intervention Committee on a date on which the prohibition could be put into force simultaneously by all Powers. As regards the last part of the question, I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to the reply which I gave on 8th February to a question by my hon. Friend the Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Sir N. Stewart Sandernan).

Lieut.-Commander Fletcher

Does the Noble Lord consider that the Italian armed forces have been sent to Spain to preserve the status quo in the Mediterranean referred to in the Anglo-Italian Agreement?

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