§ Motion made, and Question proposed. "That this House do now adjourn."—[Sir J. Blindell.]93
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Eden)
It is perhaps symptomatic both of the state of international relations at this time and of the wide public interest taken in international affairs, that both our last Debate before Christmas, on our last Parliamentary day, and part of our Parliamentary day when we meet again, should be taken up with a discussion of foreign affairs. No one who remembers the House of Commons 15 or even 10 years ago, can be other than surprised at this phenomenon, which is not, I think, wholly explicable by the anxieties of the international situation. There is in this country, and in a great many other countries, a greater desire to understand the vexed problems of international relations than there was in those years. There is, if I may put it shortly, a greater popular interest in peace. Whatever the reasons for that, it is due in part, I think, to a realisation of the fact that whereas in bygone days wars were fought by professionals, to-day war would affect every section of every nation. But whatever the reason, that tendency is all to the good.
Unfortunately, it is not universally unfettered. By that I do not mean to say that certain nations desire peace less than others, but the absence of complete freedom in international expression and intercourse between all lands prevents the full play of world opinion. That is a state of affairs that we deplore, because we are convinced that so overwhelming is the desire of the people of the world for peace, that were all barriers to freedom of intercourse and freedom of speech broken down everywhere, threats to peace would be largely allayed. Many of our overworked Departments at the Foreign Office could then be eased down, and many of our over-choked files could be put away. Unhappily that is not the situation, and I refer to this aspect of affairs to-night only because it is one which is inevitably ever-present in the minds of anyone working in the Foreign Office, although it may not be generally appreciated elsewhere.
When the House rose before Christmas, I told hon. Members that the Government did not wish them to disperse for their Christmas holidays in an atmosphere of inspissated gloom. That gave some of the newspapers something to write about, 94 but I think that the whole House will agree with me that that modified element of optimism was justified. That is not to say at the moment that reasons for anxiety do not still exist, or that we can be other than ceaselessly watchful to preserve peace. Yet in the midst of these difficulties lie perhaps further opportunities for those whose aim it is to work for international collaboration. If 1937 must be a year of acutely difficult international problems—and of that there can be no doubt—it is also a year of international opportunities.
Every moment gained for peace is a reckoning on the right side. It must be increasingly evident to all how great a part this country is likely to be called on to play in world affairs this year, and how immense, therefore, is our responsibility. We must all be conscious of that. In no sphere more than in the international is there need for Parliament to be a council of state in which we all of us contribute to our utmost—not in secrecy as in some countries, but before the world—to the wise guidance of our foreign policy. I truly believe that the display of wise statesmanship by Parliament this year in foreign affairs can have an immense influence on their course, not only as instancing the deep-seated strength of Parliamentary institutions, which is in itself extremely important, but also as a constructive contribution to the tasks that confront us all. If we are to contribute of our best it is imperative that we should do all that is humanly possible to divest ourselves of the passions and prejudices to which, naturally, we are all subject, and with as little partisanship as may be to give the wisest counsel that we can. It is in that spirit that I wish to say a few words to the House to-night.
Overshadowing all other events in the international situation is the present situation in Spain. Though the conflict continues with unabated bitterness, the risk of its involving Europe in a war, though not yet wholly removed, has been definitely diminished. Intervention in the Spanish Civil War may, and I am afraid will, prolong the horrors of that war and increase the sufferings of the unhappy Spanish people. For that reason, and others, we have been from the first opposed to it, and are so still. But if any hon. Member believes that as the outcome of this civil war in Spain any 95 single foreign Power, or pair of foreign Powers, is going to dominate Spain for a generation, to rule its life, to direct its foreign policies, then I am convinced he is mistaken in his judgment, and I would reply to him that of all the possible outcomes of this civil war that is the most unlikely. I will tell the House why.
We should be strongly opposed to any such happening, and I have no doubt that we should not be alone in our opposition, for there would be all the 24,000,000 of Spanish people themselves. Almost the only thing that can unite Spain—profoundly, bitterly divided as she is—would be a common hatred of the foreigner. That strong partisans on one side or the other will feel gratitude for those who have helped them in the civil strife is likely enough, but, unless the whole past history of Spain is belied in this conflict, the great mass of the proud Spanish people will feel the least ill-will to those nations which have intervened the least. If we take the long view—and in an issue of this kind it is the long view that counts—intervention in Spain is not only bad humanity, it is bad politics.
None the less, we have our own national interests. What are they in this conflict? They are not that Spain should have a particular form of government, whether of the Right or Left. For us to indulge in a championship of that kind would be to enter into the war of rival ideologies which we have condemned. The form of government in Spain should be a matter for the Spanish people, and no one else. It is for that reason that we have discouraged, and shall continue to discourage, outside intervention in her internal affairs. In this connection I want to make plain something in answer to a supplementary question asked in the House to-day. There is no word, no line, no comma, in the Anglo-Italian Declaration which could give any foreign Power a right to intervene in Spain, whatever the complexion of the Government in any part of that country. Yet there are British interests in this Spanish conflict, and they are two-fold. First, that the conflict shall not spread beyond the boundaries of Spain; and second, that the political independence and the territorial integrity of Spain shall be preserved.
96 Ever since M. Blum took the initiative last August, all sections of opinion in this country have supported that principle. Criticism only began to make itself felt when non-intervention was found to be incomplete. Yet it is true, in the 'Government's view—though, of course, non-intervention has not worked as we would have wished it, though breaches of the agreement have caused much bitterness and have robbed the policy of much of its effectiveness in shortening the war in Spain—that none the less there can be no doubt that the policy was, and remains, the right policy for Europe to pursue. More recently we have been engaged in this problem of volunteers which has raised the whole issue of nonintervention in a still more acute form. Our own efforts have been consistently bent to stop the flow of these volunteers from every source. It is true that this question of volunteers was not dealt with in the early days of this dispute, and to that extent certain Powers, we must recognise, have a case when they complain that this was not done. Certain nations have taken unilateral action.
On Christmas Eve we and the French Government jointly addressed a Note to the other four Governments asking them to agree to take joint action to put a stop to the flow of volunteers from their countries. Replies were eventually received, after some further diplomatic activity some 10 days ago. Although these replies could not be regarded as satisfactory in all respects, they did contain certain elements of agreement on which we thought it our duty to seize and turn to advantage, if we could, without delay. So, 48 hours after receiving these answers, we addressed further communications to the five Governments, the French Government having been informed of our intention, pointing out the elements of agreement there were and asking them to fix a date with us on which we should all jointly agree to stop the flow of volunteers in advance of the system of control, of the necessity of which we were all convinced. Since then a Bill has been passed by the French Legislature in wide terms to prohibit the enlistment in French territory, or the departure from or transit through French territory, of any person of whatever nationality for service in Spain or 97 Spanish possessions, as well as the enlistment of French nationals outside French territory. I have no hesitation in saying that if all Governments would place themselves equally in that position we should be nearer to agreement than we are to-day.
The Portuguese Government have told us that a similar measure can be enacted at short notice under their constitutional procedure, and they are prepared to put such a measure into force on any date agreed on by the others. The Soviet Government point out that they have already expressed themselves in favour of an early general agreement, on the understanding that effective control be organised. They argue—and I think other Governments agree with them; certainly we do—that this control must be such as can, if necessary, be applied without the consent of the two parties in Spain, and they appear to accept our suggestion that the prohibition should be put into force as soon as general agreement can be reached, without necessarily waiting for the actual organisation of the control, which may take some little time. No replies have yet been received from the German and Italian Governments, but I am told that these will reach us within the next few days.
Meanwhile, there is this problem of control, and a system has been worked out under the auspices of the Non-Intervention Committee. Such a system would not present any very great difficulties if the two parties in Spain would agree, but we cannot count on that, so it has been our duty to work out a scheme which will be operative under the more difficult conditions of the two parties in Spain not agreeing. An immense amount of technical work has been done upon this matter. As the House will clearly perceive, it is a difficult matter to ensure definite control when the two parties in Spain do not agree to your operating in their country. But an immense amount of work has been done by the experts of all nations, and I hope the House will allow me to pay a tribute to the Chairman of the Committee, Lord Plymouth, who, in the face of as much discouragement as any man could have in a task, has persevered in the attempt to work out such a scheme.
Having said that, I come to what we ourselves have been doing and I would 98 like to say a word about the notice which was issued, as the House will remember, on the 11th January, calling attention to the fact that the Foreign Enlistment Act was applicable in the case of the Spanish civil war. There appears to he some misapprehension as to the reasons which induced the Government to take that action. Within the last few weeks the attention of the Government has been called to the development of recruiting activities in this country. I deliberately say "recruiting," and not "volunteering," because it is the activities of recruiting agents to which our attention has been directed, rather than the purely voluntary enlistment of individual supporters of one side or the other wishing to go to fight in Spain. Recruitment has begun to be carried out in this country in various forms, and I want the House to know about it, so that it may see the situation in which we were placed. There have been agents seeking to recruit young men to go and fight in Spain, and particularly young men capable of piloting aeroplanes. The Government have been informed, for instance, of a case where a recruit was offered £40 a week, with expenses paid, to serve as a pilot in the civil war, with a bonus of £500 for every enemy aeroplane shot to the ground.
§ Mr. Eden
It does not matter for whom it is; it is wrong that a system of this kind should be employed. I would ask the House to observe that it is not a question here of someone going to fight in Spain for their political principles; it is a question of recruiting going on, of offering individuals money to go and take part—
§ Mr. Gallacher
I want to challenge the Home Secretary to give us one case of a man who has gone to support the Madrid Government for money, and who has not gone for his principle.
§ Mr. Eden
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will hear the rest of what I have to say, when he will find himself answered. The position we had to face was that this kind of inducement was being offered to young men in our country to risk their lives in Spain. That was the issue with which we were faced, and I want the House to appreciate it. We were bound to be asked, not whether it was right or wrong that they should go, but whether it was 99 legal or not that they should go, and that is exactly what happened. Parents and relatives, and sometimes the recruits themselves, made application to the Foreign Office, the Home Office, or other authorities to know whether this recruiting was within the law or not.
The case I have mentioned is not the only kind of case which has been brought to our notice. A short while ago application was made to the Foreign Office by a parent complaining that her boy of 17 had been recruited by an agent in London and had left for Spain without her knowledge. We were appealed to to get into touch with our Consul-General in Paris, or with some Consul on the way, and try to persuade this boy to come back. The House will see that at once the question arose whether our consular authorities should merely try to persuade the boy to come back, or whether they should tell him that his action was illegal, and, naturally, the consular authorities had to know what the position was. I have also here a statement sworn by an unemployed miner before the British Vice-Consul in Marseilles, in which he complains that he was induced, while drunk, to join up with several others for Spain. Before he got to Spain, however, he succeeded in leaving the party—whether because he was sober again, or for what reason, I do not know. He appealed to the French authorities, who, very rightly, put him in touch with our consular authorities in Marseilles. Here is his statement, and I understand that he has been repatriated. We have had similar requests for repatriation of British subjects from British consuls in several parts of Southern France. I think the House will understand that in these conditions it was impossible for the Government to consider these questions without at the same time considering whether or not it was legal for British subjects to leave this country for the purpose of fighting in Spain. The problem therefore, was not merely one of a number of enthusiastic volunteers wishing to go to Spain to fight for a principle in which they believed, but that these attempts to recruit men were being made—
§ Mr. Eden
Faced with these circumstances, is there any Member of the House who will say that it was not the duty of the Government to ascertain the legal position, and, having ascertained it with the advice of the Attorney-General, to make the law known? I beg the House to believe that there is no question of our having thrown away some useful international lever in advance. We had not, in truth, got the lever, but what we did attempt to do was to make use of the position of our own law and try to induce others to follow our example. I want to get this position quite clear. What we have done is to make known the existing law and to declare our intention of seeing it observed. My hope, whether it be justified or not, is that this will be an example to other nations. But that was not the point of our decision. The point was that, once recruiting had begun in this country, the Government were bound to be asked whether it was legal or not; and, the legal position having been ascertained, it was no less clear that it was the duty of the Government to make it plain. Admittedly we are in this respect in a different position from other countries which have no Foreign Enlistment Act. We are in a different position from the French, who have had to pass this Bill in order to enable them to act at all. What we have done, and surely this is the elementary duty of every Government, is to make plain the operation of our own law. I hope that that explanation, which is as fair a statement as I can give of the position as we found it, will have done something to remove what I believe to be a genuine misconception on this subject.
§ Mr. Maxton
Will the right hon. Gentleman allow me to intervene for a moment? He has said that the illegality arises when somebody starts recruiting for a war. Am I to understand from that statement that young men who support the principle and go voluntarily of their own free will to Spain are still within their legal rights?
§ Mr. Eden
I would not like the hon. Member to understand that. I think the declaration is quite clear under the Foreign Enlistment Act. The point I was making was that it was the recruiting which resulted in people coming to us and asking, "Is this legal or not?" 101 Recruits, and parents of recruits, came to us and asked, "Is this legal or not?" and we had to examine the position and announce the illegality. The legal position is clear, and, if necessary, my Noble Friend who will wind up the Debate tonight can quote to the hon. Member the text of the Act.
There is another matter to which I should like to refer, and that is the interest which the House has always shown in the humanitarian side of what we have been trying to do in Spain. The House will learn with regret, and particularly those hon. Members who have been to Spain lately, that the prolonged negotiations for the exchange of prisoners on a large scale, to which I referred just before the House rose, have still not resulted in their release. Both in the North of Spain and in other areas, hitches have unfortunately occurred, and, although our information on the subject is necessarily incomplete, I must admit that neither side appears to us to be altogether free from responsibility for the failure. In any event our warships and our consular officers continue to be available to bring about these exchanges. Negotiations are still going on in many parts of Spain, and we still hope for further progress in this work. Perhaps I can present one more encouraging aspect of this picture to the House. The House may perhaps remember that, as a reprisal for the capture of the German steamship "Palos," the Spanish steamer "Aragon" was seized by a German warship. A few days ago the crew of the "Aragon" were brought, by the German man-of-war that captured them, to the neighbourhood of Malaga, where the officer in command intimated he was prepared to land the men, but he would not enter Spanish territorial waters. In view of the difficulty, communication was made, first with a British destroyer, and then, through the Foreign Office, with the Spanish Government, and with the approval His Majesty's ship "Achates" collected over 30 men from this German warship and landed them at Malaga. I instance that to show the sentiment which there is towards the work which our British consular officers and the Navy are doing on the spot.
I turn now to another grave political subject, that of the position which has arisen in Morocco. On 8th January the French Ambassador informed me that his Government had received news of the 102 impending arrival, in the Spanish zone of Morocco, of a strong contingent of German volunteers. He told me that preparations for their reception, in the form of barracks and food supplies, were being made, and that German engineers were engaged on fortifications near Ceuta. This news naturally caused anxiety to the French Government, in view of their own position in Morocco and in view of the provisions laid down in their Treaties of 1904 and 1912 with Spain. Perhaps, to make the position clearer, I may explain to the House that, by the Franco-Spanish Convention of 1904, Spain was debarred from invoking the assistance of a foreign Power in her sphere of influence in Morocco. At the same time reports of an alarming character were also appearing in the French Press, including allegations that German contingents of more than 1,000 men each had landed at Ceuta and Melilla, the establishment of a German commercial monopoly in the zone and so forth. I should not like the House to think that His Majesty's Government had been either careless or unobservant in this matter. Just before Christmas I had already instructed His Majesty's Consul-General at Tangier to furnish a detailed report covering any non-Spanish activities in the Spanish zone. In view of the French Ambassador's statement to me I asked the Consul-General to report by telegraph such information as he had already obtained, particularly as regards the landing, or preparations for landing of German troops and as regards fortifications in the neighbourhood of Ceuta. The answers that I have received have been of a generally reassuring character.
The House will recall that on 11th January the German Chancellor gave a positive assurance to the French Ambassador at Berlin that no German force, apart perhaps from a few technical experts, were in the Spanish zone of Morocco and that he had no intention of sending German forces there or occupying any place in the zone. The German Foreign Minister gave a similar assurance at the same time to our Ambassador in Berlin. After that, as the House knows, the German Foreign Minister and the French Ambassador drew up a joint communiqué, which has since been published. Within the last few days we have received a further telegram from His Majesty's Consul-General at Tangier to 103 the effect that the Spanish High Commissioner at Tetuan had sent an invitation for British military officers from Gibraltar to visit Ceuta or any point in the Spanish zone, and he himself suggested a visit from a British warship to Ceuta or Melilla. That invitation was accepted and one of His Majesty's ships has now visited both Ceuta and Melilla. The reports that we have received as a result of this visit are generally of a reassuring character so far concerns the alleged landing or preparations for landing of German troops. The House may rest assured, however, that His Majesty's Government will continue carefully to watch the situation in this region, for they are closely concerned in the maintenance of the position in the Spanish zone as laid down by the treaties now in force. I have thought it right to give the House a full statement of the position on this subject in view of the reports which have appeared in the Press and in view of our special interests in the area concernd. [Interruption.] I have not studied the reports. They have just come in. I have given the House the information that I have.
There is one other event during the Recess with which I wish to deal, namely, the joint declaration of His Majesty's Government and the Italian Government in reference to the Mediterranean and the exchange of letters that accompanied it. It is well to recall the origin of this declaration. It would be idle to deny that the course of the Abyssinian conflict left behind it a certain embitterment of relations between this country and Italy. We here know perfectly well that the action that we took in the Abyssinian dispute was not taken from an Imperialist motive. Whether hon. Members think we took too little or too much, there is no doubt anywhere as to our motive. We took that action, as we thought we should, in fulfilment of our obligations under the Covenant of the League of Nations. We must, none the less, realise 'that that view has never been wholly understood in Italy. In any event, the prominent part that our Government took in this dispute had a serious effect on Anglo-Italian relations. In these conditions the House will perhaps recall that Signor Mussolini made a speech at Milan in which he referred to the interests of our two countries in the Mediterranean. 104 We did not ourselves wholly agree with the definition given by the head of the Italian Government of our interests and the House will perhaps recall that in November last I sought, on behalf of the Government, more clearly to define those interests. May I repeat what I said.For us the Mediterranean is not a short cut but a main arterial road … Freedom of communication in these waters is … a vital interest, in the full sense of the word, to the British Commonwealth of Nations.— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th November, 1936; col. 283, Vol. 317.]Subsequent to that, a series of statements were made in both countries, one by the Prime Minister, which indicated a desire to improve relations. To do this it was decided to attempt to seek agreement upon a joint declaration. This declaration is neither a treaty nor a pact but it marks, we hope and believe, the end of a chapter of strained relations. It marks no departure in policy by His Majesty's Government. It neither calls for nor embodies any concession from us, neither of course does it involve any modification of any one of our existing friendships. But that this declaration has been of service to an appeasement in the Mediterranean there can be no manner of doubt. If hon. Members want evidence of that, I do not ask them to take the view of the Government but to take the view of the nations in the Mediterranean and, if they will observe the situation there, they will find not only that the French Foreign Minister himself warmly welcomed the declaration on the very day it was announced in a statement to the Press, but that since then similar welcomes have been given by a number of Mediterranean States with whom we have particularly friendly relations. I refer to Turkey, Jugoslavia and Greece. In accordance with our Treaty obligations, the Egyptian Government also were kept fully informed and looked with favour on what had been done. All that I submit at this moment —I ask for no judgment and no opinion now—is that a good standard by which to judge of this agreement is the opinion of these Mediterranean countries.
I should like to meet in advance a criticism which may perhaps be made of the relation of this declaration to events in Spain. May I remind the House again that this declaration was originally intended to clear up misconceptions which were a legacy of the immediate past? As the Spanish conflict was actually raging at 105 the moment the negotiations were proceeding, and a number of disquieting reports had reached us about the Balearic Islands, we thought it right to make use of this opportunity to clarify the attitude of both our Governments towards the integrity of Spanish territory. While, therefore, the text of the actual declaration completely covers Spain in itself, we thought it desirable to emphasise this fact in an exchange of notes in which the Italian Foreign Secretary, on behalf of the Italian Government, states that so far as Italy is concerned the integrity of the territory of Spain shall in all circumstances remain intact and unmodified.
§ Mr. Eden
If I had not got it the hon. Member would be the first to complain. It might be suggested that while we were discussing these matters the opportunity should have been taken to deal with nonintervention in Spain. In reply to that I say that this matter of non-intervention in Spain was much more than an issue between England and Italy. It was an issue that was then being dealt with by a considerable number of Powers. To have attempted by ourselves to secure a solution of the problem would not only, I am convinced, not have achieved results, but might very well have further complicated an already sufficiently complicated situation.
I should like now to say a few words on the general international situation. I crave the attention of the House because what I have to say is perhaps of rather more gravity than what is ordinarily said by a Foreign Secretary in the course of a Debate. I am leaving to-morrow for Geneva to attend one of the three regular meetings of the Council. We shall there be confronted with a formidable agenda, which is in itself an indication of the important part, whatever its critics may say, that the League plays in international affairs. It will be our objective to try to emphasise and widen that part. But before leaving for that session there are certain remarks that I want to address to the House. In recent speeches I have endeavoured, both in the House and in the country, to outline the objectives of our foreign policy at this time and the means by which those objectives might be realised. I am not going to attempt to repeat those speeches, yet in the first speech made in the New Year there are 106 certain factors that we have to face. His Majesty's Government are at present engaged in the active prosecution of the re-equipment of their three fighting Services. Though we are convinced that this is an indispensable means to our objective, it is not our objective. This remains, as I have previously stated, the negotiation of a European settlement and the strengthening of the authority of the League of Nations. We are prepared to co-operate in the common work of political appeasement and economic cooperation. If this work is to succeed, it needs the collaboration of all and, if that collaboration is forthcoming, there cannot be any doubt in the mind of anyone in this House or elsewhere that we can create a better, saner and more prosperous Europe in a world at peace.
How is that to be done? Not only must the world reduce its expenditure on armaments, because it is already lowering its standard of life, but it has to learn the ways of economic co-operation so that the standard of life can be raised. Let us never forget that our objective in this country must be the prosperity of all, by which I mean the raising of the standard of life in the countries in which it is to-day low as well as its further improvement where it is to-day comparatively high. We are willing to help towards a further advance along the line of increased economic opportunity, but this should be in our view on one condition. Economic collaboration and political appeasement must go hand hi hand. If economic and financial accommodation merely result in more armaments and more political disturbance, the cause of peace will be hindered rather than helped. On the other hand, a new and freer economic and financial collaboration based upon solid and well-conceived political undertakings will be a powerful aid towards the establishment of a unity of purpose in Europe. Ultimately, and fundamentally, the objects of all honest political endeavour, in whatever country, must be the raising of the standard of life. We know well enough from the resources of science to-day that that can be done if it is undertaken in an atmosphere of peace and mutual confidence In engaging upon this task there are certain things which we do not accept. We do not accept that the alternative for Europe lies between dictatorship of the Right and the Left. We do not accept 107 —and let me make this quite clear—that democracies are the breeding ground of Communism. We regard them rather as its antidote. We are not content to see Europe arming feverishly under the contending standards of rival ideologies. There is a better way. We know it, and we wish to enter upon it.
And so I must close this review with a few words about Germany. The future of Germany and the part she is to play in Europe is to-day the main preoccupation of all Europe. Here is a great nation of 65,000,000 people in the very centre of our Continent which has exalted race and nationalism into a creed which is practised with the same fervour as it is preached. All the world is asking at this present time whither these doctrines are to lead Germany, whither they are to lead all of us? Are they to restore to her the position of a great Power in the centre of Europe enjoying the respect of other Powers, both great and small, and using the manifold gifts of her people to restore confidence and prosperity to a world heartily sick of feuds and antagonisms and ardently desiring a return to normal conditions of work and partnership? Or are they to lead her to a sharpening of national antagonisms and to a policy of even greater economic isolation? Europe is to-day seriously asking herself what are the answers to these questions, for Europe cannot go on drifting to a more and more uncertain future. She cannot be torn between acute national rivalries and violently opposed idealogies, and hope to survive, without bearing scars which will last for a generation. Germany has it in her power to influence a choice which will decide not only her fate, but that of Europe. If she chooses co-operation with other nations, full and equal co-operation, there is nobody in this country who will not assist wholeheartedly to remove misunderstandings and to make the way smooth for peace and prosperity.
But it is idle to imagine that we can cure the evils from which we are suffering by mere palliatives; no mere local remedies will suffice. There must be no reserves or evasions on the part of any nation—whatever its ideology, and whatever form of government it prefers itself—in co-operating with others and 108 abandoning any form of interference in the affairs of others. We cannot cure the world by pacts or treaties. We cannot cure it by political creeds no matter what they be. We cannot cure it by speeches, however lofty and peace-breathing they may be. There must be the will to co-operate, which is unmistakable. That will can manifest itself in certain very definite ways—by abandoning the doctrine of national exclusiveness and accepting every European State as a potential partner in a general settlement, by bringing armaments down to a level sufficient for the essential needs of defence and no more, and by accepting such international machinery for the settlement of disputes as will make the League of Nations a benefit to all and a servitude to none.
These things must be stated clearly at this time at the beginning of a new year. We ourselves have no greater desire than to co-operate fully with others, and herein we make no exceptions. We shall respond fully to the same desire, wherever it manifests itself, and we shall work for the greatest possible solidarity in the belief that, in their hearts, that is what the vast majority of people in every nation ardently desire.
§ 7.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Attlee
I am quite sure that everybody in this House will agree with the last words of the right hon. Gentleman, that we all wish for the fullest co-operation between all nations, and that we wish for peace. But the right hon. Gentleman has been speaking and telling us of what is occurring now in the world, and it seemed to me that when he said at the start that he wished to keep free of party, he went so far that he freed himself from any idea of being a partisan of the rule of law against anarchy and of right against might. The right hon. Gentleman invites Germany to join with the other States of the world. He says that there are conditions. What are those conditions? They are that there should be some standard of dealing between State and State as between civilised human beings in a community. That condition, to my mind, cannot be achieved unless there is some reasonable recognition of right. My first complaint against the right hon. Gentleman with regard to the whole of his treatment of the Spanish question is, that he always treats the 109 Government of Spain and that of General Franco side by side, and as governments of equal validity. We cannot agree to that. I have here a quotation from a speech made by M. Blum in the Chamber of Deputies on 5th December. He said:I repeat, after the Minister for Foreign Affairs, that in Spain there is for us only one legal government, or, to express myself better, only one government. The principles of what we might call democratic law coincide in this respect with the indisputable rules of international law. I recognise that the direct interest of France includes and calls for the existence on Spanish soil of a friendly government and of a government independent of other European governments.The point he emphasised was that there was only one legal Government in Spain. That is our feeling here. The Government always seem to take the view that there are two parties in Spain, and that their claims are of equal validity, and to accept that is to throw away the strength of the position of the democratic States in the world to-day, because we are faced—let us be quite frank about it—with the drift of the whole world towards anarchy. You have States which entirely disregard obligations. They tear up treaties that are made, and they carry on making a new treaty while breaking another. We feel that it is very little use to have signatures unless signatures are to be honoured. There was a remarkable cartoon the other day of the right hon. Gentleman as an autograph hunter going with a book before these dictators and getting signatures. It was a bitter cartoon and contained a good deal of truth. When I heard the right hon. Gentleman telling us of the present position with regard to Spain, I was struck by the impotence of his conclusion. I have said again and again in this matter, that the essential element is time, and that, whenever you are thinking of a new agreement, there is always the danger that whatever proposal you make will be anticipated, so that the horse escapes before the stable door can be locked.
The difficulty of non-intervention agreements all through has been that agreements have been anticipated by the Fascist Powers. I think that that is what is going on at the present time. Nonintervention was adopted because it was believed that there was a danger of war. The right hon. Gentleman says that that danger is not wholly removed. I am glad that he says that it is less. The Non-Intervention Agreement has definitely 110 failed in preventing a situation in which there are possibilities of war. I do not believe that there have been any genuine intentions to make the Non-Intervention Agreement effective on the part of the Fascist Powers. I consider that there is abundant evidence that the Fascist Powers planned the revolution in Spain long before it broke out. There is documentary evidence, and you have the same thing right from the start. You have had a continual support of the rebels against the Spanish Government, and, in effect, if we were living in a world where international law was respected, those actions would amount to aggression. We have slipped so far in anarchy that we practically shake hands in the middle of proceedings while aggression is still going on. We have the piling up of munitions, then a very tardy agreement for non-intervention, and then a breach of non-intervention.
Now we have the question of volunteers. You cannot call the German and Italian troops in Spain and Morocco volunteers. You cannot volunteer, if you belong to a Fascist State, unless you manage to escape from it. They are in no sense volunteers; they are instruments of dictatorship. You have a steady piling up in Spain now of immensely powerful forces. The right hon. Gentleman tried to give us some comfort with regard to Morocco. He did not give me very much comfort. It does not appear that our officers were allowed to go to the essential points in Morocco where they could see something. The report of the "Times" correspondent of last Monday was a very disturbing document. You can always deny that there are troops there, but because you dress them differently and say that they are not troops is no proof that they are not troops. There can be no doubt that very considerable forces are in Morocco.
Let me deal for a moment with the question of the volunteers. On the 4th December the volunteer question was raised at the Non-Intervention Committee, and on the 9th December a report was sent round. On the 14th December Italy "agrees in principle." I should like to know exactly what "agrees in principle" means. On the 24th December, according to well-founded reports, 6,000 Italian troops were landed. On the 1st January 4,000 Italian troops were landed, and on the 2nd January the Mediterranean 111 agreement was signed. I suggest in all seriousness that that action, at the very time when the agreement was being signed by the right hon. Gentleman, ought to cause him a good deal of indignation. It is all very well to say that these are two quite separate things, but the fact is that the right hon. Gentleman signed that agreement and at the very time that he signed it troops were being sent in. Surely, he must have known about that. If not, we ought to get better information than we do. The landing of troops is a very disturbing thing when just at that point this agreement is signed.
There seems to be a habit on the part of the Government to make pacts with Fascist States just when they are committing acts of aggression. This last agreement is a kind of parallel with the hurried naval agreement with Germany which was made during the Hitler aggression. Let us note what has been done by the Government in regard to the ban on volunteers. I think the right hon. Gentleman's explanation was extraordinarily lame. He said that action had to be taken now because volunteers were going out, and the Government had no option but to put the law into force, Surely, he knew that volunteers have been going from this country for weeks and weeks. Why did he have to wait until, he says, recruiting stations have been opened? If there is an obligation on the right hon. Gentleman to enforce the law, surely that obligation existed as soon as it was known that any volunteer was going. The Government have put the ban into operation at this particular moment and have used that ban as a sop to Mussolini and Hitler. I do not believe in throwing sops to Dictators. The Foreign Enlistment Act is an extremely doubtful law. The Law Officers of the Crown have been consulted, but I have known law officers in this House wrong before now.
§ Mr. Attlee
The hon. Member for Bridgton (Mr. Maxton) will remember what occurred in regard to the deportees from the Irish Free State. We have to consider the different circumstances today compared with the time when the Foreign Enlistment Act was passed. It 112 is extraordinarily difficult to say that General Franco is a friendly Power. The whole matter ought to have been very carefully considered by the courts before this warning under that Act was issued. Why was it not done before? Why wait till this moment? The right hon. Gentleman says that certain cases have arisen. He has put this ban on volunteers and he makes it as a sort of gesture to the Fascist Powers in the hope that they will follow his example. We know the mistake that was made before in regard to munitions, in imagining that by taking action of that kind you will induce the Fascist Powers to fall into line.
There are other undesirable things that the Government are doing. One of them is that they do not recognise which is the legal Government of Spain. They are now falling in with the suggestion: that the legitimate Government of Spain must not be allowed to use its own money. The Government of Spain has certain funds and yet the people who believe in non-intervention want to put a ban on the Spanish Government using its own money. The fact is that through all this business the Government have favoured General Franco. Right the way through in the proceedings of the Non-Intervention Committee the tendency always has been to say to the Fascist Powers: "We will put the best construction on every one of your actions and the worst construction on everything that is done by the Spanish Government." I think there is a definite bias in favour of General Franco because he is regarded as representing the governing classes, the privileged classes of Spain.
The Government are on this account disregarding justice in this matter, acquiescing in breaches of international law by the Fascist Powers, and ignoring the interests of this country. When I have to speak on foreign affairs I always find myself looking below the Gangway and seeing the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft), and then I recognise that there is someone who will probably get up and mention that there is such a thing as the British Empire. This Government always seems entirely to ignore the Imperial interests that used to belong to the Conservative party. I notice that M. Blum in his speech spoke of the interests of France and his anxiety as to what the position 113 would be beyond the Pyrenees. I should have thought that this country had some concern with our position in the Mediterranean. The right hon. Gentleman said so. He said that the Mediterranean was one of our main routes. But who are the masters of Spanish waters at the present time? The Germans and the Italians. They become bolder and bolder. What is the good of the right hon. Gentleman saying that he stands up for democracies, when Mussolini tells him that democracies are rotten? The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the strength of Parliamentary institutions, but it seems to me that all the time he bows down to every whim of the Dictators. The reports of what is happening in regard to shipping around the Spanish Coast are extraordinarily disturbing. I should like to know how far we are even looking after our commercial interests. It is time that we had a change of attitude on the part of the Government if this country is to have any influence in world affairs.
§ Mr. Attlee
Every scheme that is suggested is always made futile by the fact that the Fascist Powers prevaricate, hang about and send notes and reservations backwards and forwards until they have done all that they want to do to suit General Franco. So the war goes on. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that non-intervention had not entirely shortened the war. I suggest that it is one-sided intervention that has caused the war to continue all this time. We ought to realise that non-intervention of this kind is a farce and that the Spanish Government should be given its undoubted right to obtain arms for its defence. It is time that the non-intervention Powers got together to end this farce and that our Government took the lead. The Government have played a leading part against non-intervention, but it has been mainly a leading part in retreat. Those Powers that are genuinely anxious to sec this struggle brought to an end and genuinely anxious that the Spanish people should manage their own affairs 114 would welcome a stand by our Government, a statement that they will restore to the Spanish Government its right, that they will see that British shipping going to the Spanish Government will be protected and that General Franco and his friends, if they take any steps against those ships, will be treated as pirates. It is about time that we ceased to accept the dictates of Berlin and Rome.
§ Mr. Attlee
I should be glad if the right hon. Gentleman would give me any evidence of that. I know that there are a certain number of technicians, only a few, but I think that there are no Russian troops in Spain. The real trouble is that we are proceeding on the basis that the Fascist Powers are prepared to honour their word. I hope that in time they will honour their word, but throughout these proceedings we find that they are laughing in their sleeves. I want to see the scheme of control definitely accepted and worked, and that there shall be a definite time limit during which it shall be accepted. Failing that, we should do away with the farce of non-intervention. If it be true that there is danger of war, then that is not a matter for the Non-Intervention Committee but for the League of Nations. Intervention in Spain by Powers who are intervening against the legitimate Government of that country is an act of aggression under the Covenant of the League and the matter should be dealt with by the League.
I agree entirely with the right hon. Gentleman when he says that there should be a political as well as an economic settlement, but you cannot get your economic settlement unless you have some basis on which you can trust the people with whom you are dealing. I agree with his suggestion, and we should be only too glad if these countries would say that they will come into the comity of nations and try to build up prosperity for all, but at the present time it seems to me that under the pretence of non-intervention we have a one-sided intervention, which is a mockery to the Spanish people, in the interests of the ambitions of dictators. The right hon. Gentleman says that we do not believe in these ideologists either 115 of the Right or the extreme Left. I agree. We believe in democracy, but if democracy is to survive it must be prepared to stand up to the dictators.
§ 8.16 p.m.
§ Sir Archibald Sinclair
I am sure that the whole House listened with attention and with a large measure of approval to the eloquent speech which the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs delivered at the beginning of this Debate. It is, I am afraid, a not infrequent experience for those of us who sit on this side of the House to listen to the speeches of the Secretary of State with the liveliest approval and hope, and to be gravely disappointed by the action of the Government which follows the speeches. The right hon. Gentleman has said truly that the remarks which he had to address to the House in this the first Debate of the new year, were of a grave character. He spoke of the importance of financial and economic co-operation between all the nations of the world, and I was glad to hear him say, that the Government would be no party to giving financial or other concessions to other Powers unless they were prepared to co-operate not only in the financial and economic but also in the political field. The Leader of the Opposition joined issue with the right hon. Gentleman on that point, and said that he did not think the Secretary of State had made the position of the Government sufficiently clear. I rather agree with the Leader of the Opposition, and I think there is one point which the Under-Secretary of State should make clear although it seemed to me that it was implied if not explicitly stated in the speech. It was this. A condition of co-operation between ourselves and other European Powers must be not only, as the Secretary of State said, economic disarmament and military disarmament as well—I was glad to hear him say that—but also that foreign Powers must be prepared to accept third-party judgments in international disputes. If I may respectfully say so, I think the Leader of the Opposition was justified in calling attention to the omission of that statement in the speech of the Secretary of State, and I am sure that the House will be glad if the Under-Secretary of State can supply the omission.
For the rest I say that while the Secretary of State is still, as he has been in the past, a firm advocate of economic as well 116 as military disarmament, that while he realises the fundamental importance of the economic question to the problem of peace, we remember that only two months ago there was a financial agreement between ourselves, the French Government and the United States of America which was to lead to economic arrangements at least between friends. Whatever may be the difficulties in making economic arrangements with countries whose policy you distrust, there should be no difficulty in making economic arrangements with your friends. Yet while France and Italy, the Scandinavian countries, Belgium and Holland and Latvia, are making definite reductions in their tariff barriers, are advancing on the lines of economic disarmament, the only economic action which His Majesty's Government have taken has been to increase tariff barriers. The Secretary of State shakes his head. He cannot be aware that there have been Import Duty Orders issued since these declarations were made, and that there has been only one reduction of a tariff duty, and that is on second-hand typewriters.
It is, I am afraid, of somewhat grim significance that when the right hon. Gentleman makes a speech on these grave questions in his first address in the New Year and asks for the support of all quarters of the House, when he tells us what an advantage it would be not merely to this Government but to the peace of the world if we could give him our support in his constructive proposals, on the Government Front Bench there should be only two of his colleagues in the Cabinet to support him when he makes that speech. It only strengthens the suspicion which many of us have felt for some time, that while the right hon. Gentleman himself is on the right lines, and is striving to keep the policy of this country on the right lines, he is being ill-supported by his colleagues in the Cabinet. I hope that we shall have speeches from other Members of the Cabinet supporting the right hon. Gentleman in this House; supporting his plea for disarmament, for economic disarmament, and then we may be able to believe in the sincerity of the Cabinet's foreign policy and in the authority with which the Secretary of State ought to speak in this House.
The right hon. Gentleman went on to refer to the joint declaration of the 117 Italian and British Governments and said that it marked the end of a chapter of strained relations between the two peoples. In so far as it does that I am sure that we shall all welcome it. It must appear to the Italian people as somewhat of a paradox that while there is nothing but feelings of the deepest friendship in this country for the Italian people, we should have so strenuously opposed their Government's policy in Abyssinia. We have no desire to hinder them in their search for prosperity. On the contrary, we have nothing but feelings of friendship for them. The stand which we took on the Abyssinian dispute was a stand on what we felt to be a vital issue of principle, vital to the future peace of the world. For my part I only regret that the stand taken by the Government was not firmer, but at the same time I have the most sincere feelings of friendship for the Italian people, and if, without departing from the firm ground of principle based on the Covenant of the League, we can restore friendly relations with the Italian people, and if I was convinced that this agreement would indeed work to that end, I should warmly support it; but when the right hon. Gentleman assured us that it is, as it would certainly appear on the face of it, an agreement to maintain the status quo in the Mediterranean and to respect the territorial integrity of Spain, I cannot help feeling not entirely convinced that it will be successful in those objects, and my doubts are very largely due to the somewhat grimly significant fact, to which the Leader of the Opposition has already referred, that on the very day before it was signed, no fewer than 1,500 Italian soldiers were landed at Cadiz. It seems to me extraordinary that during the negotiations no undertakings appeared to have been sought or given about the continuance of Italian intervention in Spain.
The Secretary of State said that the Declaration was welcomed by other countries. I do not think we can be very much surprised by or gain very much encouragement from that. What is the natural reaction when two countries make an agreement which would seem satisfactory to them? Naturally, all good neighbours must be pleased and must formally express that pleasure. I am afraid I do not see anything remarkable in that, and I cannot agree with the 118 Secretary of State that that is a good criterion by which to judge the value of this agreement. What is the effect of the Declaration? I have studied an interview which was given by Signor Mussolini to a friendly German journalist —and I emphasise the word "friendly" because very often journalists who are less friendly fail to understand the precise meaning which their interlocutor is endeavouring to convey to them—and in the course of that interview Signor Mussolini treats the democracies with derision. He said democracies are done for. I do not know from where he got that idea. When I look at the record of democracy in this country, in the United States of America and in France in recent years, I think that record can well bear comparison with that of the dictatorship countries, and the condition of the people in the democratic countries can well bear comparison with the condition of the people in the dictatorship countries.
§ Sir A. Sinclair
I wonder, because, as a matter of fact, Signor Mussolini went on to say something else which I cannot help thinking he got from the source which my hon. Friend suggests. He went on to say that the democracies are like sand, like shifting sand. From where did he get that? Had he perhaps some faint recollection of a speech made at Geneva by the present First Lord of the Admiralty about 18 months ago? Had he some recollection of conversations which that same right hon. Gentleman had with the French Prime Minister a few months later? Had he some recollection of what happened to that right hon. Gentleman as a result of those conversations, and had he then some further recollection of a fourth volte face which was made by this very Government on the vital issue of the Abyssinian dispute? Had he some recollection, too, of the way in which the dictatorship countries, not only in Abyssinia but in Spain, have steadily and ruthlessly forged ahead in defiance of the opposition of the democratic Governments?
What did Signor Mussolini say in that interview about the Declaration itself? He said that it strengthens the Berlin-Rome axis. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs 119 told us that the Declaration was welcomed by Greece. Perhaps it was, but it is relevant to observe that since its conclusion, the Greek Government have given a contract for the supply of new munitions to German firms. I am afraid that the conclusion of this agreement will convey to the country and to the world the feeling that our Government is not standing up to these Fascist and Nazi dictatorships as they ought to do, and are not giving the support that they ought to give to the French Government in the grave perils which are facing them at the present time. The Secretary of State also told us that Signor Mussolini undertook to observe the status quo in the Mediterranean. How far does that guarantee carry us in face of this interview which has been given since the Declaration was signed? In the course of the interview, the friendly German journalist, Herr Strunk, asked Signor Mussolini whether the erection of a Soviet State in Spain, or in part of Spain—in Catalonia for example—would signify a threat to the status quo in the Mediterranean, as guaranteed in the Anglo-Italian agreement, and the Duce replied shortly, "Of course." Consequently, if, in fact, the Catalonian people, in the exercise of their sovereign rights, choose to set up a Soviet state, Signor Mussolini would feel himself released from the obligations of this Declaration as regards the Balearic Islands or, presumably, any Spanish territory in the Mediterranean. In view of these facts, it seems to me that there has been grave weakness on the part of the Government to sign this agreement without having any undertaking from the Italian Government about intervention in Spain.
Let me pass on to consider the problem of non-intervention. Of course, nonintervention, as the Secretary of State said, is the right policy. I have advocated it from the beginning and I advocate it still, but always on the assumption which I have explicitly stated and state again to-day, that non-intervention must be made effective. Even as it is, as the Secretary of State truly said, it has enabled the peace of Europe to be maintained, in spite of the war in Spain, for six months. If others had co-operated and fulfilled their obligations as members of the Non-Intervention Committee, it would probably have brought peace to 120 Spain by now. But as long as it is imperfectly and partially applied, while keeping the peace of Europe at present, it involves grave dangers for the future. The Secretary of State said that every month gained for peace is a reckoning on the right side. In so far as it is a month of peace and not a month of war, I agree with the Secretary of State; I would agree with him still more if he had said that every month gained for peace and which strengthened the foundations of peace for the future, was a reckoning on the right side; but if it is merely a month gained for peace by weakness in the face of Fascist encroachments, it is not a month to be reckoned on the right side. Intervention has not been stopped; intervention has increased under this agreement and is still increasing. Why, it is little more than two months since we first started to discuss in this House the question of intervention. I remember that then I had to be very careful in talking about intervention. I remember the first speech I made at the end of October. At that time, I felt that the intervention of Italy was proved, but even then hon. Members in some parts of the House disputed it. I felt that it was proved that the Italian Government had intervened, but I did not consider that, on the information which I had, German intervention was proved. Intervention was then surreptitious and one had to be very careful about such allegations.
Now, two months later, Germany and Italy openly boast of the help which they are giving to the Spanish insurgents. They have sent out not only tanks and aeroplanes and munitions but also men—these totalitarian volunteers of whom the hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) spoke in his last speech on this subject. Volunteers are going there too from France and Britain, and I see, according to this morning's "Times" that the number of volunteers fighting on the two sides is estimated at the colossal figure of between 70,000 and 80,000 men. It is an extraordinary fact and a feature of this civil war on which I commented in my first speech on the question—and what I said then has been borne out by subsequent happenings—that the will of the Spaniards themselves is for peace. They are not forming up and fighting en masse in their own war. There is no guerilla war, although that 121 kind of warfare was formerly regarded as characteristically Spanish, but as the "Times" correspondent in Madrid said the other day, as many foreigners as Spaniards have died in the defence of Madrid. The Spanish will, as I say, is for peace, and I believe that if the Spaniards were left alone they would find a way out. I agree with what the Secretary of State said the other day, that they would find a Spanish way out which would be neither Fascist nor Bolshevist. They would find a Spanish method of governing themselves.
Meanwhile, the Italians are in virtual occupation of Majorca and the Germans are penetrating into Spanish Morocco, Rio De Oro and the Canaries. The Leader of the Opposition asked for information, which I hope will be given, about the visit of one of His Majesty's ships to Morocco. British naval officers were asked to go there to find out whether it was true that German troops had been landed and aerodromes occupied by German airmen. The "Times" correspondent in Morocco says that they did not go to the Melilla aerodrome. He says he does not know whether that was because they refused to go there or because permission was withheld and the House would like to know from the Under-Secretary what explanation there is of the failure of these officers to visit the Melilla aerodrome.
The Secretary of State said that, taking the long view, intervention in Spain was not only bad humanity but bad politics, and he went on to say that Spain would react against foreign control, and, therefore, that in the long run we need not fear what the result of the war might be. Yes, "if we take the long view," and it is very important to take long views. At the same time we have also to take short views and we must not get our perspective wrong. We have to view the next four or five years. Does the Secretary of State say that it would not matter if a Government supported by German and Italian troops was in control in Spain during the next critical four or five years? I cannot believe that he holds that view and I shall be interested to hear whether the Under-Secretary is prepared to support it. I believe, and I am confident that the Secretary of State shares this belief, that a victory for General Franco with the support of German and Italian troops, and the occupation of parts of Spanish territory during the next three or four 122 years by German and Italian troops would be a grave weakening of the position of France and Britain in the Mediterranean and a real threat to European peace. It is time, therefore, it seems to me, that the Government heeded the warning of Signor Mussolini and stopped drifting like sand before the wind of Fascist violence and intrigue.
The Secretary of State referred to the Foreign Enlistment Act. I, of course, accept his statement. I have not the audacity of the Leader of the Opposition to challenge the opinion of the Law Officers of the Crown and I feel inclined to accept the statement of the Government that the Act applies to the present situation in Spain. But if so, action ought to have been taken long ago. Why did the Government wait? My hon. Friend the Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts), who has been out in Spain, says that 750 British volunteers are fighting in Spain now. Surely, the Government must have known months ago that these recruits were going to Spain. It was their duty to see that the law was administered. A week ago the Government seemed to be contemplating some bold and far-reaching policy. There were premonitory paragraphs in the newspapers. Active discussions about possible naval blockades were carried on in the newspapers, in London and Paris. A special Cabinet Committee was summoned. It seemed that the initiative was to be seized by France and Britain. It all petered out, however, in a request to the five other governments to agree to a date on which to stop sending volunteers and in this warning as to the Foreign Enlistment Act.
I do not know what larger policy the Government or at least the Foreign Office may have contemplated, but I would suggest a policy which might be undertaken in three stages. The first stage would be to co-operate with France in calling upon Germany, Russia, Italy, and Portugal to agree to an early date on which the dispatch of volunteers or troops to Spain or Spanish territories would stop. The next stage would be to name a date, not much more distant, on which the export of munitions of war to Spain would be effectively controlled. I was very glad to hear the Secretary of State say that the chairman of the Non-Intervention Committee had worked out a scheme which could be operated, even without the 123 approval either of the Spanish Government or the insurgents. I would like the Government to announce definitely that that scheme must in their view be approved at no distant date. I hope—I cannot say that I also believe, because my information is not sufficient to enable me to use so strong a word—that the foreign governments concerned will agree to that proposal. If indeed the Secretary of State can get agreement without going any further than that, no one would be more glad than I would be to avoid the perils of a naval blockade. But it is no good averting our gaze from the facts and from such reliable information as comes to our notice and I see in to-day's "Times" that the Berlin correspondent of that paper says that everything points to intervention continuing.
I would say, if prompt agreement cannot be reached on those lines, let the League of Nations be summoned. Let all the Powers who are prepared to put a stop to this illegal intervention in Spain against the authority of the constitutional government in Spain be invited to co-operate in exerting effective control, whatever the obstacles. I am inclined to believe, from a careful perusal of the French Note, that it is some such action as this that the French Government want the British Government to support. I see, in the last sentence of the French Note, these words:If, therefore, after a reasonable lapse of time from the application of the restrictive measures"—that is, the restrictive measures on the despatch of volunteers—the impossibility of putting an effective plan of control into effect with general consent becomes apparent, the Government of the Republic must reserve its entire liberty of action, whether to denounce the agreement contracted or to organise, in spite of the difficulties encountered, the international co-operation which will allow of effective control.It would be of some comfort to a good many of us if the Under-Secretary of State could use language of equal strength in replying to this Debate, if he could make it clear that the patience of the Government is not inexhaustible, that if the Italian and the German Governments refuse to co-operate on the lines which the Government have suggested to them in their recent Note, if they refuse to stop the despatch of volunteers, if they refuse to agree to a plan of effective control and 124 to stop the import of munitions to Spain, the Government will then be prepared, in co-operation with the French Government, to employ such measures as will bring intervention by foreign Powers in this deplorable and tragic Spanish struggle to an end promptly, and will convince Signor Mussolini that the great democracies are not drifting sands, but that there is a point at which they will make an effective stand for the principles in which they believe, principles which must be the foundation of a lasting peace.
§ 8.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Crossley
After the most eloquent speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal party and after the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, I feel myself somewhat confused, both by the policies which they have advocated and by the criticisms which they have passed upon the Government. I cannot help recalling that when I saw General Franco a little time ago I made him one promise. I said that I would tell the truth about what I had seen and what I had heard in the part of the country which he ruled, and it is in that simpler sense that I hope to address myself to the House this evening. I want at the outset to say that there were certain phrases in, the speech of the Leader of the Opposition which I could not help feeling were, if I may use a rude word, cant phrases. He said, "We recognise only one legitimate Government," "we expect the Spanish people to manage their own affairs," "we believe in democracy." In a sense I can agree with him in all those sentences. Certainly I believe in democracy just as strongly as he believes in it, but if I might in my turn pass one criticism on the Spanish Government, it would be this, that it has never been, in the British sense, a democratically elected Government. Some of the machine guns now being used in the defence of Madrid were employed during that election; not to fire, but they were there. Forty nuns in Malaga went to a polling station, and not a single vote for the Right issued out of that polling booth. That is a little example. These people who are following General Franco, whether you agree with them or not, are fighting for their principles and for what they believe.
125 When the Spanish Government was elected, it did not govern. In so far as it did govern, its government in its first principles was unfair. If, for example, a Government supporter was murdered and a criminal was arrested, he was sentenced to the maximum, life imprisonment, but if a supporter of the Opposition was murdered—and there were many political murders in Spain—and a man was arrested at all, he got a fortnight's imprisonment. Churches were being burned all over the country. Everybody knew that sooner or later there was going to be a revolution of the Left, and it was just a question of which revolution came first. To-day that Government is a mockery. It is not a Government any longer, and nobody on its own side pretends that it is. In the Basque country they have autonomy, and they are fighting for Basque independence. In Catalonia they again have autonomy, and there is hardly a Catalonian soldier defending Madrid at the present time, and certainly the writ of the Valencia Government does not run at all in Catalonia.
In Madrid what Government there is is carried on by a series of unions and party organisations. The P.O.U.M. — the workers' party of Marxist unification, the federation of Iberian Anarchists, the C.N.T., another anarchist body, the Syndicalists and the General Workers' Union. The flag of all these people is the red flag; their salute is the clenched fist. They do not pretend to be a democracy any longer at all. They pride themselves on being a Government of Communists and anarchists, and supposing that eventually a Government of the whole of Spain issued out of this, does anyone suppose there could be any coherent Government at all? As for the people who are most powerful on the Government side, undoubtedly the two most powerful individuals are the Russian Ambassador, Rosenberg, and the general at present in command of the Madrid defences, also, I believe, a Russian, though possibly a German Russian, called General Klebir.
Now if I may turn to General Franco's side, I have seen with my own eyes the religion to which I happen to belong being virtually destroyed. Everywhere where the Red forces have retreated, images have been rooted out of the churches, pictures have been slashed, or in some 126 cases removed, altars have been hacked down, organs have been removed, and even the churches themselves have been burned. In one church I saw that tombs had been desecrated. That is your Government. Then, there are the massacred priests. Out of 136 priests in Toledo, six are now alive; five escaped, and one hid. Toledo is, as it were, the Canterbury of Spain. They were, as it were, the Cathedral clergy, the minor canons, and so on. Will anybody pretend that many of these innocent old priests were, in fact, helping the enemy? Of course, some priests in some parts of Spain may have been shot, and perhaps rightly shot, for helping the enemy or for using their churches for observation purposes, but does anyone suppose that these old priests were murdered for helping the enemy? I have here a quotation from a speech that I read in yesterday's "Manchester Guardian":Most of the Roman Catholic Churches have been burned down and priests and monks shot. There are a number of churches still left intact and they are being preserved by the Government, but there are no Roman Catholic services in the whole of Catalonian territory.That is not, as one might think, a quotation from an ardent supporter of General Franco, but a quotation from a speech of the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern), and it was quoted in a letter which appeared in the "Manchester Guardian." In coming to a conclusion about religion in Spain, I was perfectly prepared to take a charitable view of the Government, and I dm prepared to accept even the statement of the hon. and gallant Member for Chelmsford (Captain Macnamara) that there is no fundamental anti-God feeling in Spain. I do not suppose that there was in Russia in 1917. There are, however, a sufficient number of people in Spain quite determined to present the Deity as a stumbling block to Communism and to progress and civilisation, to render the Catholic Church in Spain impossible of action either as an established church or, what I believe is much more important, as a tolerated dis-established church, and to prevent the children of Spain being educated in the beliefs of that Church with the approval of any Left Government that is likely to rule in Spain for some years to come.
I will turn from that subject to say only a word about atrocities, because I 127 believe that both sides have been guilty in the past. Civil war is inexorable. There is such irrevocable cruelty. When brother fights brother it is much more bitter than when one country fights another and probably fraternises at Christmas time. All the independent evidence I got was that the great preponderance of cruelty and bestial cruelty was with the Government. I will compare what has happened in Badajoz with what is happening in Madrid. This is, I believe, the true story of Badajoz and it was confirmed for me by the "Times" correspondent in that area. To Badajoz the army of General Franco advanced some 30 miles. It captured a number of villages and in every village found 20 or 100 or 150 bodies of people who were supposed to have sympathised with the Right. The perpetrators of those massacres were caught in Badajoz itself, and another ghastly massacre followed. In Madrid, on the other hand, night after night people are brought—it may be 50 or 100—out of the prisons by Anarchists and shot in cold blood. It may be that they had been tried, and it may be that they had not. It was like the French Revolution in its worst days. We have that on the evidence of some of those hon. Members who have been to Madrid. If I had to choose between the guilt of those two massacres, I should unhesitatingly say that what is going on in Madrid is the worst of all.
Is it not the case that the Members who visited Madrid testified that the present junta in control and the Government at Valencia were doing their utmost to prevent such atrocities, whereas the massacre at Badajoz were the direct orders of the Burgos Government, and that orders to commit similar atrocities are shouted night after night from the Seville radio?
§ Mr. Crossley
The first part of the hon. Lady's question shows what an extraordinarily ineffective Government it is in Spain. I have tried to show that there were a number of massacres in a whole series of villages by the Government and I believe that it is totally untrue to say that there is any incitement to murder on the Seville radio. If there is ever to be any possibility of mediation, it would be a step forward, I believe, if the great countries of the world could join together 128 to prevent the Spanish forces on both sides killing their prisoners. I have no evidence, but I have no doubt, that the forces of General Franco kill a large proportion of their prisoners. It is true that these Reds belong to organisations which are shooting White hostages in Madrid. Certainly the Madrid forces kill the great bulk of their prisoners. The killing of prisoners in war is in itself a bestial business. If the great nations of the world could only agree on that score and make representations to both sides, at least one great good will have come out of the efforts of this country.
With regard to the question of foreign intervention, we have had it all on one side from the two right hon. Gentlemen who have just spoken. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal party talked about Germans, Italians and so on. At the time I was in Spain there were undoubtedly a very large number of foreigners in the lines in the defence of Madrid. I would not dare to say what the numbers were, not having been on that side. On General Franco's side there had been at that time no foreign soldiers serving, apart from a few pilots of aeroplanes. I was in Toledo for two days and saw two German civilians. There were plenty of German civilians and soldiers in Salamanca. We walked behind a considerable proportion of the front line, and we saw troops in every colour of uniform, but we did not see German troops. We saw any amount of German munitions, tanks and aeroplanes, but no German troops. We had that absolutely borne out by the correspondents of the respective newspapers at the time. They said that there were German troops going into Seville. There were at that time probably about 10,000 Germans in Seville and Cadiz alone. There were not at that time any German troops serving on the Madrid front, and I do not believe that any German troops have as yet appeared on that front. Nor, I think, were there any Italians either. Italians have landed since then. On the Government side there were people of every country in the world fighting—Englishmen, Poles, Mexicans, French—very large numbers of Frenchmen—a few Germans and a largish number of Russians. In one action over too Russians were killed. That was in the capture of Bobadilla.
§ Mr. Crossley
Various correspondents saw them. [Interruption.] I believe that I am entitled to take the evidence of British newspaper correspondents as that of fairly accurate, impartial people. They are sent there by their newspapers, whatever their political views are, to ascertain what is going on. Some of them have the political views of the Left. They were observers, and they were independent observers, and we had to take what evidence we could on that score, just the same as the hon. Members who went to Madrid also relied for a good deal of their evidence on newspaper correspondents.
§ Mr. Crossley
Well, a few of them did. I am usually willing to take the evidence of the "Times" correspondent in most places. I should think he would be a person likely to be an impartial observer. As to munitions of war, I do not know which country is most guilty of sending them. On both sides there are large quantities of munitions. Almost all the rifle ammunition being used on the Government side comes from France. I saw barrels of it, and more than three-quarters of it was French; there was some Mexican and some Polish and a little Russian. There were Russian tanks, and also Russian bombing aeroplanes, which were extremely good and which bombed civilian towns every night. There are Russian fighting aeroplanes. They are fast but not so good. On General Franco's side there are an extremely large number of very good Italian fighting aeroplanes, some very slow German bombers—surprisingly slow, much slower, I am sure, than their best bombers. From the very beginning of the war France has undoubtedly been sending large quantities of war material over the French border. After all the evidence I heard there was, to my mind, no doubt that from the first day up to this France—perhaps she regrets it to-day—has been sending war material into Spain. On the other side, Italy was next, Germany was next after her and Russia was last, but is now providing war material on a very large scale indeed. On the Government side there is a certain type of Czechoslovakian rifle that is regarded by anybody who can get hold of one as the most perfect rifle ever handled.
If I may detain the House for just three minutes more I would like to answer 130 one question which has often been put to me, Is the country behind General Franco and is he employing Spanish troops? He has a few Moors left, not very many. He has his foreign legion, probably about 40,000 strong, of whom up to 90 per cent. are Spanish troops. It is open for any foreigners who care to enlist, but as regards 90 per cent. they are Spanish long-service troops. He has something like 150,000 Requété troops, sometimes called wrongly Carlists—extremely good material. He could multiply that number, I believe, at any time by three if he could arm them and train them. To do him justice—and I want the House to do him justice—he does try to carry on life behind the lines in a perfectly normal civil way. Factories are working, agriculture is going on and there is no curfew. It is all perfectly peaceful, orderly and quiet behind his lines. Up to now he has, I suppose, called up something like 150,000 of these Requétés who voluntarily join the organisation, in which they are at any time liable for service. Then he has very large numbers of Fascists who are, if I may express the opinion, altogether a meaner type of troops—nothing like such good material as the so-called Carlists or Requété troops.
I was allowed to go about everywhere quite unattended, to go into any cafe and so on, and the impression I got was that General Franco quite definitely did have behind him that part of Spain which I saw. I was in a great many of the big towns, though I was not in the South. My hon. Friend the Member for Brent-ford (Mr. H. Mitchell) was in the South, and perhaps he will testify about conditions there; but wherever I was I could wander about the towns. You can make a man decorate himself with a little Spanish flag for the sake of protection, but you cannot make people come out for fiestas and on Sundays and make them and all the children display the enthusiasm—the genuine enthusiasm—for a cause such as these people displayed unless they are behind the man who is governing that part of their country. I was quite convinced that General Franco's Spain was in fact behind him, and that those people who are counting on the break up of his rule are living in a false paradise.
May I, in conclusion, make one remark on the foreign politics of this situation? 131 Of course Germany wants to get something out of her intervention. What is it? I do not believe for a moment that it is territory she wants. Spain is one of the great sources of raw materials in the world. In addition to that she is so placed geographically as to be in an extremely useful position to provide re-fuelling stations for the German Navy. In addition to that there is always the possibility of an alliance. I wholly endorse, if I may so dare, the words the Foreign Secretary used; General Franco is not going to tolerate foreign influence in Spain after this war is over. The longer it goes on the more that influence is likely to be, but if there is an independently-minded race in the world it is the Spanish race. What General Franco will want after this war is over—and I do not mind saying so now—is help and friendship, perhaps financial help, in the humane task of the reconstruction of his country. And it will be a humane task; and if it is not, humane conditions may be attached to the granting of help by a country like our own country, an independent country which cannot be accused of having any ulterior motives inside his dominion. That is what General Franco will want after the war, when he has finally won this war. I am quite convinced that he will win it. I have got the definite impression that in the end he will be bound to win this war; but it will take a very long time. After all, he does not want to encircle Madrid. It would cost the life of every one of his supporters inside the city if he were to encircle it.
§ Mr. Crossley
Well, probably not more than the other side in their bombing operations against civilian towns. I was in one bombing raid, and I must say that I did not know it until it was all over.
At the same time, even if it would be expedient, as the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal Opposition put it, in the next four years for this country to have a Spain at one end of the Mediterranean composed of a series of small, Red, perhaps quarrelling, essentially weak Governments, rather than a military dictatorship, I do not see how any lasting 132 foreign policy, any honourable lasting foreign policy, for this Government, can ever be founded upon expediency like that. There are certain first principles. I do not believe that there is any more Democracy in Communism than there is Democracy in Fascism. There is no Democracy in either, but I do definitely believe at this moment that the Spanish people would be better cared for by General Franco than they would be by the series of Soviets and little Red Governments which now rule in different parts on the other side of Spain. When we continue our efforts to achieve nonintervention, let us carry them out to the end. I am glad that the Foreign Secretary has entirely avoided the temptation, which seems to be such an easy one to slide into, and yet such a wrong one, of being unfair and rude to people who are fighting for what they believe to be their country, their church and everything that they hold sacred. I grant both sides their bona fides, and I ask hon. Members opposite only that they should do the same.
§ 9.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Maxton
I do not want to deal in detail with the speech which the hon. Member has just made, but obviously that speech ought to be answered by some other hon. Member who has had an opportunity of visiting Spain. I regret that my hon. Friend the Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) is unable to be here to-night and to follow immediately the hon. Member. I am sure he would deal with that speech in a trenchant and effective fashion. I have had a very detailed account from my hon. Friend of his experiences in Spain, and it is extraordinary that two hon. Members, both of a fair standard of intelligence, should return from the same country with such diametrically opposite impressions. The hon. Member made one or two points just now which I wish to take up at once. His description of the Catalonian Government was so grotesque and unlike the reality that I am inclined to be sceptical of his other descriptions of things in Spain. I want to mention one organisation which he says is playing a prominent part in Catalonian Government, namely, the P.O.U.M.
§ Mr. Crossley
I apologise to the hon. Gentleman for the impression I gave. That is the Government which is now in 133 Madrid. I did not mention it in connection with Catalonia at all.
§ Mr. Maxton
That organisation is one of the elements in Spanish politics that I know something about. Its position is not that of a trade union at all. It is a political party, of the same viewpoint as my own party in this country, and it is not a part of the Catalonian or of the Madrid Government any more than we should be part of a Government in this country. That is one point. The second is that the hon. Member told some story about the objection to the Government in Spain, which was elected at the General Election, being that it did not govern, and that was why General Franco and the others had to take steps to remove it by unconstitutional methods. That is not the only Government in the world which has failed to govern after it was elected. The hon. Member cast doubts upon the fairness of the electoral methods which returned that Government to power, and the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) hear, hear'd him at that. It was suggested that there was something unfair—
§ Sir H. Croft
I never would like to suggest that there was anything unfair, although it is clear that the Government was not actually returned by a majority vote.
§ Mr. Maxton
I do not know, but there is, to me, something unfair in the presentation of the statistics. All the figures which I have seen give the Spanish Government, as elected at the last general election in Spain, a clear majority of the electorate in Spain. The suggestion was that the electorate was terrorised in going to the poll, and that it was a Red Government which was in control at the election. It was, in fact, a Government of the Right. The hon. Gentleman talked about machine guns in the hands of the Opposition of the Left being displayed upon the public squares when the Government of the Right was in control. Surely the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth, who sits in such close proximity to me—[An HON. MEMBER: On the left."]—yes, on my left—would think there was something very weak if I came into the House, after a General Election in which his Government had been in control, and said that they did not get fair play to cast their votes freely as they desired. That is the position. It 134 has been claimed that a government of the Right in Spain will be a strong government and the kind of government that Spain needs. The hon. Gentleman talked of the humane things that General Franco would do if he only got into power; Franco and his kind have been in power in Spain for hundreds of years. His backers have owned the soil of Spain for hundreds of years, and the people of Spain, particularly the peasantry, have been down into depths of poverty unparalleled in any other country in Europe. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about Russia?"]—I am not specially the spokesman for Russia in this House, but it is true that the condition of the Spanish peasantry under governments of the Right was as low, and is as low, as the condition of the peasantry in Russia under Tsarist governments. It is also true that under governments of the Left in Russia there has been a steady rise in the standard of life of the Russian people so that their conditions compare favourably with the conditions in the best countries of the world. That is unarguable and undeniable.
§ Mr. Maxton
I am perfectly certain that the statistics of the International Labour Office bear out the fact that the condition of the Russian workers has advanced during these recent years at a speed and a rate unparalleled in any other country of the world. But that, after all, tempting as it is, is not the subject of the Debate to-night. If Governments of the Right in Spain had had the desire or intention to bring a new era of peace, security and comfort to the people of Spain they have had hundreds of years to do it, and they have not done it. I want to turn to the speech of the Foreign Secretary. His conception of the foreign policy of Great Britain in this particular situation is based on his reading of the psychology of the Spanish people and he says that the proud Spanish people after this is over will turn to the people who have not interfered with them rather than to those who have given assistance to one side or the other. Again, the hon. Member who spoke last also made the point that the Spanish people would not tolerate any foreigner on their soil holding strategic positions or inter- 135 fering with the country. But they do not realise that the proud Spanish people have tolerated Gibraltar. They have had to tolerate that just as they would have to tolerate foreign interference or the occupation of the Balearic Islands. If one or other of the Fascist States gets a footing all the pride of the Spanish people will not be able to dislodge them. When the Foreign Secretary bases Britain's attitude to this dispute on his knowledge of the psychology of the Spanish people, he is basing it on something that has not been proved in the past to be sufficient to prevent foreigners having some say in the disposition and direction of Spanish affairs or the holding of particular bases in Spain.
I want to turn to the question of the policy of the Government on volunteers going to Spain, in which I am particularly and specially interested. I disagreed when the British Government took the line that the Spanish Government should not have all the rights in their difficulties which any normal government would have. I have said repeatedly—I say it again—that the fact that the Spanish Government was not treated as other Governments would have been treated was due entirely to the class prejudice of the Government that presently ruled in this country. If there had been a Government of the Right in Spain it would have been accorded all the rights normally accorded to Governments, including the right to purchase arms, to import what goods they required for the prosecution of the war in the ships of the various countries, including this country. It was to discriminate against the Spanish people's Government that the Government said there should be non-intervention. To say that the Spanish Government should not be allowed to buy arms, to say that British ships would not be allowed to be used for the importation of particular things into Spain, were acts of discrimination against the Spanish people's Government which had no precedent whatever in previous British practice and were dictated on this occasion, not because the British Government was so anxious to keep absolutely free from association, but because its prejudices were against the Spanish Government rather than with that Government. There was left the one little bit of assistance 136 that was going from this country to Spain, an assistance which was going freely. Young men in this country were offering themselves to go and fight in the Spanish forces, and again the Government in my view—and I am not so modest as the right hon. Member for Caithness (Sir A Sinclair), who does not dare to challenge the word of a Foreign Secretary when it is backed up by the Attorney-General—
§ Sir A. Sinclair
Who does not challenge the opinion of a Law Officer of the Crown on a point of law.
§ Mr. Maxton
He knows—and I know—he has been in the House when he has seen two Attorney-Generals, one of them broken and the other transferred to other spheres of influence, which is a nice way of doing the same thing, who were both put into their difficulties because they gave a reading of the law or judicial procedure which the Law Courts subsequently would not accept. The right hon. Gentleman knows that. When I came into the House first, young, innocent, I would have taken the same view as the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Sir A. Sinclair
But even with the added experience which the hon. Member has since gained I rather doubt his great capacity in exposing any fallacies of which the Attorney-General may be guilty.
§ Mr. Maxton
I do not imagine that the present occupant of the post is any more infallible than his predecessors. He and I have one thing in common. I do not know whether I should mention it, but he and I have both been convicted in this land for the same offence, the same breach of the law, exceeding the speed limit; and if the right hon. Gentleman is capable of breaking the law on a matter which affects himself, or misinterpreting it—because I am quite sure that he did not break it deliberately—then he is capable of making a mistake in the reading of the law. I, personally, have had what I have never had before in my experience of this House—a substantial number of letters from persons engaged in the legal profession pointing out to me in plain, simple language how the Foreign Enlistment Act, 1870, cannot possibly apply to the existing situation. On a plain reading of the terms of the 137 clauses I could not see how they applied to the situation, and I only wish that I and my party were in the financial position to challenge a test case on this matter in the courts of law. I cannot believe that the highest courts in the land would support the Government in the action they are now taking. I would ask the Attorney-General to have another look at it, and to remember that the Cabinet, on the precedents set by previous Cabinets, while they are glad to have his legal opinions when they run their way, will throw him overboard in two minutes if the Law Courts do not uphold the opinions that he gives. That has happened twice in the last 10 years, and it can happen again. Therefore, I would ask him to have another look at it, and, if necessary, to call in somebody else who can look at this Government in a more detached and more realistic way than he possibly can, living among them as he does every day.
To me, however, these are relatively minor matters. I agree with what is the avowed intention of the Foreign Secretary and the policy of Great Britain—to try to bring this terrible struggle to an end at the earliest possible moment. I agree with what the Foreign Secretary said is their intention, namely, to minimise the amount of suffering and death that is involved. These are good objectives, which everyone in the House will be ready to share. But we cannot agree that the experience of the last five months has shown that the policy of the British Government is the effective, practical way of achieving these desirable ends. We believe that the shilly-shallying, the vagueness, which the Government have shown during these months, has prolonged and intensified the struggle, and has encouraged the interventions of other people in the belief that they could go gaily into this contest largely in the spirit of military experiment, to see how their military machine will work. It has encouraged them to go in, believing that they had nobody to meet but an enfeebled Spanish Government, without even the diplomatic support of the great nations like Great Britain and others throughout Europe. That prolonged the struggle. It created the impression that the Spanish Government forces were isolated and without help, and that the Franco forces had powerful friends outside the borders of Spain. Obviously, the 138 experience of these months shows that, without the external support he has had, Franco would have been swept back into the sea with his Moorish army. That is obvious to anyone who reads the intelligence impartially, and Great Britain must take the responsibility for not having, at the earliest stage of these hostilities, offered to the Spanish Government the rights that any properly constituted Government has.
I believe that in the beginning Great Britain made a vital error, and that every step the Foreign Secretary has taken since has added to the gravity of the error; and I believe he is going away to Geneva to-night to increase that error. He seems to think that if Great Britain takes up an attitude of vague friendship to all nations in the world, some day all the nations will gather round and say, "Good old Great Britain; we are all going to be friends with you and be one happy family, with Anthony Eden as our great benevolent power that made us love one another." That, as far as I can understand, is the possibility that he sees in his mind—that some day our attitude of never taking a side, of never standing up for a friend, will be recognised as being evidence of our great superior wisdom in international affairs. I believe that nothing of the kind will be the case.
What the nations of the world are being told to-day, and what the Spanish Government is being told, is that Great Britain will never take sides in any dispute, will never raise a finger in any serious way, unless Great Britain herself is going to make some substantial gain. People may be slaughtered, people may be brutalised, people may be driven into the deepest degradation of poverty, but it is of no interest to Great Britain as long as her own power and prestige remain untouched; and that has now reached a point at which Great Britain's power and prestige have dropped to a lower ebb than has ever been the case before. One of the charges made by Mussolini is that the right hon. Gentleman's policies are like a shifting sand, and that is a charge against democracy. It is no crime or fault in political activity for a nation to change its ground if the ground that it is occupying has become untenable. It has been completely demonstrated that the ground that Great Britain has 139 occupied during these months on the Spanish issue, in the light of the attitude of Germany, in the light of the attitude of Italy, in the light of subsequent happenings, has become untenable, and that a new ground of genuinely standing up for the Government of Spain is the only possible ground that this nation can genuinely occupy.
§ 9.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Mitchell
The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) referred to the fact that the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) and my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford (Mr. Crossley) had returned from Spain with diametrically opposed views. He seemed rather surprised at that, but it is probably to some extent due to the fact that they visited different sides in Spain. I must say that I find myself in disagreement with the Leader of the Opposition when he complained that the Foreign Secretary admitted that there were two governments in existence in Spain at the present time.
My reason for intervening for a few moments in the Debate is that recently I had the opportunity of visiting a large area of that part of Spain which is now occupied by General Franco. During that time I travelled some 2,000 miles, visiting, part of the time with my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford, nearly all the principal towns in General Franco's part of Spain. I think that one thing the House should know is that in that part of Spain the people, so far as an observer can judge, are behind General Franco. It is a complete misconception to think that he simply represents the Army, and that the population is only waiting to rise against him. I think that rightly or wrongly, he has a very large body of opinion behind him, and is in a position to get a very large number of recruits. Obviously, as my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford has explained, these recruits have to be trained, and that work is in progress. Anyone who merely thinks of this war, so far as General Franco is concerned, as being a rebellion of the Army, is making a grave mistake, for I believe that General Franco has an immense section of the population of the country behind him.
140 I think, also, that we ought to recognise that in this territory to-day there is absolute law and order. During the whole time that I was visiting these different towns and villages, one was able to go about perfectly freely as one liked, and absolute law and order prevailed. A few minutes ago we heard a discussion as to the relative amount of progress that has been made as regards the workers in Russia and in Spain. I have visited both countries recently and, in so far as the elementary question of food is concerned, I certainly saw far more evidence of plentiful food supplies in Spain to-day than in Russia not so very long ago.
On this question of intervention, it is, surely, by now perfectly obvious that intervention on both sides is taking place on a very large scale. It is useless for some people to blame Germany and Italy, and others entirely to blame Russia and France. Unfortunately the Spanish war is being prolonged by foreign countries. I was very surprised to hear the hon. Member for Bridgeton complain that the British Government was not helping the Valencia Government to buy arms. I always thought that the party opposite were against the export trade in arms. I have heard it called "traffic in death" and things like that. I was surprised to hear him advocate that we should export arms to Spain. Having recently seen the effect of some of these foreign arms makes me feel still more strongly that it would not be a wise policy for us to allow arms to be shipped to Spain. I have seen towns being bombed by these very arms which it is suggested that we should send out and I have seen the results of the destruction caused by them, and it all makes one feel that the Government are absolutely right in doing all they can to stop the appalling effects of foreign arms being introduced into Spain.
We have heard a great deal about the so-called elections. I had the opportunity of talking to many people on the subject of the last election there. It may be said that Spaniards would probably be prejudiced, so I particularly asked British residents how the last election was conducted. I remember one who had lived all his life in an important Spanish city describing how it took place. He went to a polling booth with an old friend 141 who wished to vote and, as soon as he got in, objections were made that his friend's papers were not in order. When the latter protested, the agent of the party of the Left in the polling booth made it plain that he was armed. The would-be voter recognised that discretion was the better part of valour and did not vote. I was told that that happened on a large scale. If I were allowed to employ those methods I believe I might stand for Bridgeton with a sporting chance of being elected. I deplore revolution of all kinds, but it is most unwise to urge intervention on the part of the British Government. After all, if we are going to supply arms to the Spanish Government just because it is the Spanish Government, supposing by some chance a revolution broke out in Italy or Germany, is it to be urged that we should supply munitions to the Fascist or to the Hitler Government? If we did, I am sure the hon. Member opposite would be the first person to rise in his place and protest. We should do all we can to preserve our present efforts for neutrality and still further try to close the frontiers to arms going in. Anything that could be done to localise the trouble and confine it to Spain and remove some of the foreigners at present fighting there must tend to shorten the struggle and prevent it extending to other European countries.
§ 9.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Logan
In what I am going to say I do not pretend to be voicing the orthodox opinion of the Labour party or to be speaking on its behalf, but as a member of the Labour party and a Catholic associated and entitled to be in the Labour movement speaking my mind on the subject. It should be made plain to those who read history that they are getting real facts and not what some would-be historians would say are the facts of the case. History is composed of all kinds of statements. We are living in an age when a visit of a day or two to a particular country seems to make people believe that they have a knowledge of everything that happens there. The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) said that, if his hon. Friend the Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) had been there to-night, he would have been able to give first-hand information in regard to the atrocities that are going on. I was asked to go 142 out, but I refused because I felt that the difficulty not only of the Government but of the Labour party in regard to the position was so critical that it was far better that no garbled account should come to the House of Commons in regard to the difficulties that beset our Government and our own people. I am not one of those who are not anxious to fight. I am always anxious to fight. I have never been a pacifist, but I cannot understand the anomaly of those who have been in prison as pacifists being so anxious in the cause of liberty to go out now and fight. These are anomalies which do not appear right to the logical mind.
§ Mr. Maxton
The hon. Member has no reason whatever to be afraid of me in any matter, but I have always resented the suggestion that I have been in prison as a pacifist.
§ Mr. Logan
I do not wish to rob the hon. Member of what he takes unto himself, but what I am arguing is the right of a Member not to sit silently and allow any statement to be made which must go out to the public as being the voice of the British House of Commons. I owe no allegiance to the Tory party or to the National Government, but I owe allegiance to truth, to whatever party I may belong in this House. Public opinion can only be influenced and built up on the true situation presented to the people.
What is the situation that I am asked to face to-night? I come from a well-known division of Liverpool honestly to support my party in regard to the economic position of the day, to defeat whatever Government it may be considered necessary to defeat, and to see that our people get the best possible treatment in this world of ours. I do not fail to understand from that position that I am also a Britisher, and that any liberty and rights we may gain on the Floor of the British House of Commons will certainly benefit the people I represent. When the day of power comes to 143 this party, as it must, we shall require all the stability that lies behind the power of the British Government in the initiation of the policy we may wish to advocate. It has been mentioned to-night that we have been apathetic and that we should have more force. What does that mean? If I understand the English language correctly, it means that, if you want to compel a dictator to listen to your voice, you have to go to war. There is no other way in which to do it. I understand only one way. Get the blow in first and knock the man down, and knock him up afterwards. That is the successful way. It is said that when you want to get rid of an opponent, whether in the ring or in political life, you should knock him out and talk to him afterwards when he gets sense.
What have we been told to-night? We have been told that the Foreign Secretary is going everywhere as an English ambassador. I take it—and I hope that I am right—that he is going everywhere as an ambassador not on behalf of a section of the people, but as the representative of Great Britain, voicing the opinion of Great Britain, which ought, in the ordinary ways of life, to lead in the van of progress among the nations of the world. I am not a Little Englander, but believe that there is a great and mighty power, if Ministers would use it, a compelling force to bring about unity in the disruptive forces to-day. The position in this House to-night is that the Minister has made a speech, some points of which are not satisfactory, but when all is said and done, he is going on a delicate mission. He is going as an ambassador to try and reconcile, if that be possible, the conflicts of all the Fascist elements of the world. Great Britain is supposed to be able to keep an even keel and to bring liberty and prestige to the British nation, which many statesmen in the past have failed to achieve.
We are told that non-intervention is fatal and that we should have intervention. Where are we getting? Surely, if there is any place in this land where language ought to have its true value and the meaning of words ought to be definitely understood, it is the British House of Commons. What is it we are presenting to the people outside? You cannot have mock heroics in the House of Commons or play to the hustings. I am prepared 144 to go the whole hog in anything I advocate. The rank and file have understood where they were going and I hope that they will understand and get rid of the National Government as soon as possible, but that is no reason why, speaking deliberately and voicing the opinion of at least 90 per cent. of my co-religionists in Great Britain upon this important question, I should not say what I think is the right and proper thing to do.
I believe that if the hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston had been here he would have been able to put what in his opinion was an honest and sincere point of view. I am fortified with an opposite point of view. I have it from a Spanish authority which is indisputable that the outrages which have happened in Spain are scandalous. I am not concerned with Franco bringing Moroccan troops to fight his own natives. It is scandalous, but it is six of one and half a dozen of the other and is a matter that must be weighed and balanced by the British Government before they even listen to the hon. Member for one of the Scottish Divisions or to the fanaticism or wisdom and logic of another hon. Member who has spoken previously. We have too many well-meaning quidnuncs in this House. I would ask the Minister whether he or any other Member of this House thinks that it is a civilised state of society in any land when 50 or 60 nuns can be killed, and ten bishops, who had no fight in them except to fight for the Vatican, which, of course, is abhorent these days, or some monk saying a paternoster that they had to be wiped out in the wonderful cause of freedom.
§ Mr. Logan
What is the use of talking to me in the House of Commons of the purity of the Communist party. I am dealing with the position that faces the British Government. There are plain simple questions before us, whether we shall fight or whether we shall abstain, whether we shall be peace-makers, ruling our own Empire and looking after the prosperity of our own peoples, or whether we shall poke our nose into every corner of the world, where we have a right to expect to be snubbed if the nationals think fit. We hear much talk about the Mediterranean and a course to the East, and about British gunboats to shoot and 145 blow everybody up. Surely we had enough blowing up in the late War. I want to see no more wars. I want more sanity.
Let us have a regime of peace in 1937, and let us, instead of talking so much about the other nations of the world and their liberty, look a little more to our own land, and make Britain a worthy place for Britons to live in. The Government have a great task before them and, although they have many blemishes, they certainly have a right to call for support and co-operation for world peace. I do not give bouquets. I am speaking with a full knowledge that my words will be resented in many quarters, but I am convinced in my soul of souls that it is necessary that the British House of Commons shall not only be a place where speeches are made to be reported in the Press but a place where sometimes the truth is told on national problems.
§ 10.7 p.m.
§ Sir H. Croft
I think I may say on behalf of other hon. Members as well as myself that we recognise the sincerity of the hon. Member who has just spoken. I do not, however, wish to deal with the religious issue, except to say, as one who is fundamentally divided from the hon. Member in regard to his religious opinions, that I believe the vast number of those who call themselves Christians deplore the most frightful happenings in Spain, and we offer to the hon. Member and those who think with him our deepest sympathy in the atrocities which have taken place.
§ Sir H. Croft
I was speaking purely on the subject of religion. I did not know that there was any question of the slaughter of religious people by General Franco. If there has been any such slaughter, it is equally disgraceful, and it is for the civilised nations to state their views on the subject if this world is not to be reduced to an absolute jungle.
May I say a few words in regard to what was said by the hon. Member about Moorish troops? There have been from the benches above the Gangway several references to Moorish troops. We need to be a little careful of what we say on that subject, especially in these days when we are taught that the colour bar no 146 longer exists. We were told that right through the long Debates on the Government of India Bill. We were told that the people of India must not be treated differently from the white peoples. We must also remember that we have used Indian soldiers in our wars in days gone by. More especially must we remember that a very large part of the Spanish army was disbanded and that the trained forces eligible to General Franco were very largely in Morocco. We must remember also that there are many Spaniards who deeply resent the idea that the Moroccans should be spoken of as if they were something quite different from the Spanish population. Let it not be forgotten that the occupation of such a large part of Spain by the Moors in days gone by was so marked that there are very large numbers of people in Spain to-day who are largely of Moroccan origin. Let us face these facts and not throw insults at the Spanish people on that account.
The Leader of the Opposition rather invited me to take part in the Debate by chiding me for not urging His Majesty's Government to take a stronger Imperial view in regard to the situation in Spain. From the start of this question, as one who is concerned with the fortunes of the British Empire, I have tried to keep in the closest contact with the position in the Mediterranean. I have had the privilege of meeting very large numbers of people from Spain who hold different views, and I have collected all the evidence that I could. I should like to tell the Leader of the Opposition that in regard to the British Empire I am convinced that he is not serving the purpose of the statesman of the self-governing Dominions if he is endeavouring to persuade His Majesty's Government to get embroiled in this affair, which has nothing directly to do with the British Empire. I am absolutely convinced that the policy which the Government have been adopting is one most conducive to preserving the peace of the world.
We ought to get rid of the idea, which we hear expressed so frequently in various quarters, that we are presenting to the world the spectacle of thanking God that we are not quite as other people are. Whenever international questions arise, we should make it quite clear that by any advice and counsel we can give 147 we are only too glad to help other nations to get over the difficulties which confront them, if they choose to take our advice, but that we are not going to butt in unless we find that the position of quarters of the earth for which we are responsible is in any way threatened. Not until then, or in keeping with any definite international obligation, are we prepared to be embroiled.
The Leader of the Opposition also insisted that the farce of non-intervention should be ended. Let us understand what that statement means. It means that he is insisting that we should intervene. If he is doing that, where comes all the story of his party for the past 10 or 15 years? Again and again through the years we have listened to impassioned speeches saying that Britain should do everything possible to keep out of war, that we should not allow munitions to go anywhere, that we should not allow our industries in this country to produce weapons for the slaughter of people, in other countries, and now that party are saying "intervene."
§ Sir H. Croft
In spite of the intervention of the hon. Member I assert that the Leader of the Opposition made that statement earlier in the Debate.
§ Sir H. Croft
The right hon. Gentleman's exact words were "Let us end the farce of non-intervention."
§ Mr. Gallacher rose—
§ Sir H. Croft
I will not give way. The hon. Member must not think that he is going to dominate and tyrannise this House. The right hon. Gentleman's colleagues are able to defend him without the assistance of the hon. Member who is now posing as the champion of those whom he deserted during the week-end. In urging hon. Members to support the Government in keeping out of this affair as far as we can and to restrict and localise its effects, I think we should consider the order of events. Until recently we have heard a very eloquent story almost entirely from one side, and many of us have kept quiet because we do not want to add to the difficulties of the 148 Government and the country in their efforts to try to confine the conflagration. But I feel it is time we should recognise the fact—the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), who is a very pleasant companion, will, I know, not agree with me—that although as a result of the General Election the Government was the duly constituted Government, undoubtedly, of the country, yet it so happened that it was returned by a minority vote. That might happen in this country. My contention is that the voting was so close that it did not justify a complete revolution of ideas in that country.
From the moment the election took place terrorism began. I was informed at the time by numerous friends of mine in business in Spain, Englishmen, that churches were being destroyed, that law and order were no longer running, and that people with any form of property were being absolutely terrorised, with the Government taking no steps whatever to protect them. For some mysterious reason the British Broadcasting Corporation did not announce to this country that thousands of people were fleeing from Spain. At Gibraltar by the end of March there was not a single room in any hotel to be had because of the thousands of refugees who were leaving the country. It was only a question of weeks before the Communists were going to make a coup d'état in Spain.
§ Sir H. Croft
At that time 77 trained terrorists had just arrived in the country from Moscow, and when the murder of Signor Calvo Sotelo took place General Franco—who can blame him?—said it was quite clear that the lives of eminent citizens in Spain were no longer safe and that if they were to save anything they must revolt. And the revolution was brought about. What happened then? Civil war took place. General Franco was sweeping everything before him, that cannot be denied, until he was checked at Madrid, a very difficult proposition unless he was prepared to destroy the place, which he did not want to do. [Interruption.] If what I am saying is not a correct description of the situation then we shall have to revise our ideas about the power of air destruction. We shall be able to throw out our chests a little 149 and say that we need not be afraid of this country being wiped out in two or three hours—a view, I may say, which I do not share. I am merely stating the facts, because I want the House to be properly informed. Franco's advance had succeeded all the time, but he was suddenly brought up against a well-armed and well-defended Madrid. Everybody knows that while in this House we were saying that there was to be no intervention, and a Non-Intervention Committee was being set up, a stream of armaments was going into Spain from other countries. One does not want to mention these facts, but how are we to get understanding in the world if we are not honest? If we are honest brokers, let us state the real facts.
It is a fact that train-loads of arms were pouring across the French frontier to Spain night after night and week after week. It is true that there was no law against it, and no non-intervention committee had been set up. It is also a fact—and we all deplore it—that forces of Germans and Italians are going into Spain. It is wicked to send young Englishmen there to die—it is wicked for any country to allow people to go to Spain to take part in a quarrel which has nothing to do with them. But let us be absolutely frank—there was a very large number of French defending Madrid. [An HON. MEMBER: "And Russians!"] Not so many Russians, perhaps a thousand. I am sorry to say there were about 250 Englishmen sent there by misguided people, who encouraged them to go. They were sent there by men who all their lives have been telling us in this country that whatever we do we must disarm and that there must be no defence of our own country. Those are the men who sent those poor deluded lads to fight in Spain. A few days ago I saw in a newspaper a photograph of a group of those young men, and I confess that I felt very sad that they had been encouraged to take that action. When I took out a big magnifying glass and examined their faces, I came to the conclusion that they were not quite as British as they were supposed to be. The fact remains, however, that they were encouraged to go.
Therefore, let us admit that there were very large international forces on the side of the Madrid Government before the forces from Italy and Germany arrived 150 in Spain. That cannot be denied. I have met people who have just returned from Spain and who have met those in a position to be able to quote numbers going in. I venture to think that when the history of this war is written, probably it will be found that there were something like 11,000 Frenchmen. in Spain—let me make it clear that neither they nor the munitions were there at the instance of their Government—before any recognised force of Germans or Italians went there. All these actions may be equally wrong, but if we are to tell the world what we think ought to be done, let us, at least, he honest in this Spanish affair.
I believe the Government would make the greatest blunder if they were to depart from the policy which they have so clearly set before the country and which they have done so much to maintain. Nothing would be better than an immediate stoppage of armaments and men of all exterior nationalities going to Spain; and more important than that, if it were possible to devise measures, difficult though they might be, would be to see that all foreign nationals who are at the present moment slaughtering Spaniards, although they have no part in the quarrel on one side or the other, are restored to their own countries by their Governments. I, for one, am rejoiced to see that certain of the numerous Governments who support the Red side in Spain have decided that volunteers going to Spain are to be nationalised there. This may make it a little more difficult to arrive at a general plan of dealing with the matter but perhaps a solution may be found if all those people who go to Spain are nationalised there and kept there for good. If they are not allowed to return from Spain to their own countries it may prove a deterrent to others. I thank the Foreign Secretary for his speech to-day. I think the House will agree that it was a detached statement, which reached the highest standard and that it was a fair message to the world. If we are anxious to help the cause of peace and end this awful bloodshed in a country so near to us, then I submit we must all support the policy of His Majesty's Government.
§ 10.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Grenfell
I am sure the House will re-echo the last sentence of the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft), but I wish to dissent most 151 strongly from some of the other statements which he made in the course of his speech. He declared that he was against intervention in Spain and he went on to emphasise the necessity for being honest in this matter. I would remind him that there is another essential in dealing with this question and that is consistency and the hon. and gallant Member must pardon us for recalling the fact that he was a very strong interventionist in regard to affairs in Russia in 1920. The hon. and gallant Gentleman then was one of the worst enemies in this House of the Russian people in their efforts to find freedom. Nobody intervened more frequently in debates in the House than he did with malicious attacks upon Russia. I think that is within the memory of many Members in the House and it hardly lies with the hon. and gallant Gentleman to make some of the statements which he made in regard to Spain.
He said that there had been a general election in Spain but that it had not been decisive. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman had listened to the statements made by other Members of the House to-day he must have known that there was interference with the course of that election by the Government which was then in power in Spain and that was not the Government which ultimately came into office as a result of the election. It was a wonderful thing in the circumstances that the new Government obtained power in Spain by such a majority as a result of that election. It secured an overwhelming parliamentary majority as a result of that election and if constitutional government means anything it means that that Government has the right to govern. The Spanish Government which was thus elected proceeded to exercise the authority given to it by the people of Spain. It is true that there were dissentients. It is true that the Government was faced by irreconcilable opponents. It is true that Spain has been living in a condition of great strain and turmoil for many years. That is ancient history and I do not think that the interests of this House will be served by trying to present partial views of the history of the last five years or the last 50 years in Spain.
152 The fact remains that that Government was properly constituted and I do not think it wise to base a Debate of this kind upon partial statements even of Englishmen. Englishmen have been known to err in their estimates of political conditions and I submit that the hon. and gallant Gentleman really did a disservice to the House by his reference to the murder of Calvo Sotelo in Madrid. The fact is that that followed within 24 hours of the murder of Lieutenant Castello who was a very influential Socialist in Madrid. First a Socialist was murdered, and then a Fascist was murdered. Then came the trouble in Spain. The hon. and gallant Member has given us a very hurried résumé of the military activities there. He said that General Franco was stopped at the gates of Madrid, or in Madrid itself, and that since that time General Franco has not been able to make any military progress. I ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman, who is a soldier himself, and other hon. and gallant Members opposite—I am not a soldier—whether they will explain to me and to the House why, if General Franco really had the Spanish people behind him and if he really managed to seduce 80 per cent. of the Spanish Army, which is not denied, he has not won the battle long ago. I think there is sufficient circumstantial evidence to show either that General Franco has not got a large proportion of the Spanish people behind him or that the Spanish Government have had much more devotion, enthusiasm, and courage on their side. If the figures given by the hon. and gallant Gentleman are to be relied upon, the numbers should count in Franco's favour, but he has made no military progress at all, and I think the explanation must be found in some other direction.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman said that men and armaments were pouring into Spain through the French frontiers day and night, but he knows very well that even though trains ran along that long and tortuous railway from France to the South of Spain, one or two shiploads a week would carry far more than the capacity of the railway, and he knows that many ships went in direct from Germany and from Italy in the very first weeks of the war and that General Franc found himself with an overwhelming superiority in arms, which accounted for his initial successes and did not represent 153 the political situation, the balance of political forces, in Spain. Therefore, I do not think we should attach too much importance to the hurried history which has been given by the hon. and gallant Gentleman to-night.
I would like to deal with some of the evidence given by people who claim to be eye-witnesses. I was an eye-witness on one side only in Spain, and I speak in the presence of hon. Members with whom I went to Spain. We made our investigations with a complete desire to arrive at the truth. Before I left this country I was imbued with the desire to learn the truth, and I came back believing that we had made earnest and diligent search for the truth all the time we were there. I came to certain conclusions about certain facts. I had been told a story, before I left this House, which moved me to go to Spain. If nothing else would have taken me to Spain, that story of an incident at Toledo would have done so. One hon. Member opposite spoke of Toledo to-night, but not one word did he say about the incident at the hospital there. He said he had been there, but had he made inquiries?
We heard the same story upstairs, when a war correspondent came back from Spain to tell Members of this House of certain incidents in this war in Spain and requested Members of this House to send a delegation, a representative body, a mixed commission—call it what you like—an unofficial body, to go to Spain to see for themselves. His story set out the conditions in Toledo and told how, when the Spanish Government militia was retreating from Toledo, there were three hospitals there. They evacuated two, but the third hospital they failed to evacuate, though they withdrew the female nurses. They left that third hospital in the care of a doctor, with between 400 and 500 sick and wounded people. The Moors came up to the hospital and the doctor came to the door and defied them. He was shot dead. The Moors entered the hospital, and with hand grenades and revolver shots killed every orderly and patient. That has not been denied. It has been said over and over again. It was said by the newspaper correspondent upstairs and it has been stated over and over again in the Press. It has not been denied. Why did not the hon. Member refer to the 154 correspondents? He took his evidence from war correspondents. Did they mention that to him in Spain? If not, why did he not ask them about it, having already heard of the incident upstairs?
The hon. Member has convinced me that, although I respect him very much as a Member of this House, he is the worst investigator I would send anywhere after his speech to-night. He has convinced me that he has accepted the word of people whose business it was to confuse his mind. Time and again in his speech he said that he knew all about the conditions in Madrid, where he was not. He knew the kind of rifle ammunition and based that judgment on a few barrels of ammunition that he had seen somewhere. The hon. Gentleman knew the number and nationality of the soldiers and mentioned that they were using a certain type of rifle. Did he know that from officers on Franco's side? What kind of investigation did he conduct to ascertain whether all the information supplied to him could be relied upon at all?
§ Mr. Crossley
The hon. Member is referring to me as an investigator, and perhaps I may give him the basis of my investigations. I do not speak Spanish, but I met a number of English people. I also met one or two representatives of foreign organisations, one of whom was from the League of Nations on a charitable mission. I was able to talk to these people. I have certainly put nothing before the House which is uncorroborated evidence on the part of my Spanish friends, and I believe that I am justified in taking as prima facie sound evidence the evidence of the newspaper reporters who were sent by reputable newspapers.
§ Mr. Grenfell
That seems to confirm what I have said. The hon. Member says that he is entitled to rely upon the evidence of war correspondents. Why, then, did he go to Spain? Why did he not read in the newspapers in a language which he understands the reports of the war correspondents on which he relies so much? Everything else has been wasted on him. He has not been able to read the Spanish newspapers or converse with any Spaniard. He has taken information from English people who were biased, and expects the House to take second and third-hand testimony which is not 155 to be relied upon at all. The hon. Member said that he saw any amount of German ammunition, tanks and aeroplanes. He must have been told that they were German munitions and have taken the word of some people who led him about knowing that they could tell him anything with the assurance that he would later report it in the House.
§ Mr. Crossley
I can see with my own eyes what a thing is, and I can read German writing. I am not, as the Germans say, "dumm."
§ Mr. Grenfell
I do not deny his eyesight, but it must have been very good if he saw all this. He was on the wrong side of the line. If he had been on the Government side he would have had a chance with his eyes, but he was miles away on another front, and how could he see what was happening on the Government side? I was on the Madrid front and I challenge hon. Members who were there with me to tell the House what we saw on the other front. And my eyesight is quite good. I do not dare to speak of the details of Franco's army, because I do not know them, and I do not know of the conditions of the civilian population under Franco. I only speak of what I saw and if the hon. Member had confined himself to telling us what he had seen I should not have spent so much time examining his speech. He said there were certain troops who were very good, the so-called Carlists were good and that the Fascists were not so good, and I am not surprised at that. Do the Fascist troops belong to Spain? I do not know. The hon. Member said there were no volunteers on Franco's side. I can assure him that I saw some men who were said to be prisoners. I spoke to them in very bad Italian. There was an Italian prisoner in Madrid who gave full details of his experience on the Franco front. This man had come from the 156th Artillery regiment at Rome, with six guns, embarked at Geneva, spent five or six days at sea, and found himself on the front at Madrid. He drove his motor bicycle carelessly over his own lines and into the Government lines and was taken prisoner. He admitted all this.
We saw an Italian airman who told me that he came for adventure and that it had been a very great sadness to him, because he had lost his leg and was in 156 hospital. He said that he was not a regular soldier but a flyer who had been serving and had met with this mishap and had suffered seriously. Those are instances of two Italians to whom I spoke. They were Italian soldiers captured on the Madrid front by the Government forces. I do not know how many others there are and it would be folly on my part to suggest that I do. Then the hon. Member spoke about Franco's future. He is not only able to describe what he has not seen but is also able to give the world the benefit of his prophetic vision. That ought not to pass muster in this House. The hon. Member must try again and next time go somewhere else not so important. To come home with a report of this kind after a visit to Spain is not the right way to treat the House of Commons. The hon. Member for Brentford (Mr. Mitchell) also went to Spain. I understand he has had some military training. He spoke of the conditions behind General Franco's line and said, "There is absolute law and order." Those are very strong words; he could not have chosen stronger. I simply cannot believe it. I have read history. There must be some discontented people on the other side, some who ought to be restrained—unless they are all dead. If there is absolute law and order on the Franco side will he explain how it has been established in such a short time, under the conditions of civil war? Is the Toledo incident true? If it is true, then are we to assume that all the killings which the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Crossley) admitted had taken place on General Franco's side took place upon orders from General Franco? Yes, that would be the position. If there is absolute law and order, any killings must have taken place in accordance with instructions.
§ Mr. Mitchell
When I used the expression "absolute law and order" I naturally applied it to the country behind the lines. I never suggested there was absolute law and order on the battlefield, or that incidents may not have taken place at Toledo. He said a lot about Toledo. May I ask him whether he was ever in Toledo and has first hand evidence of what took place, or whether he has spoken to anyone actually in the hospital when what he described occurred?
§ Mr. Grenfell
Does the hon. Member deny that story? Can he find any authority which will support him in a denial?
§ Mr. Mitchell
I certainly deny that story. As my hon. Friend knows, that story has been denied publicly in the Press of this country. It has been said that that particular hospital was filled with cowardly militiamen who, rather than fight or surrender, took refuge in the hospital, and that is the reason why the massacre took place. If that is true it is a very different thing from what the hon. Member has told us.
§ Mr. Grenfell
There are two hon. Members who have been to Toledo, and they did not take the House into their confidence about an incident of such importance as that. They gave so much praise to General Franco; why did they not remove this charge?
§ Mr. Grenfell
The hon. Member stated that there was law and order behind the lines in the country. It does not apply to the country but to the people, and if the people behind the lines obey law and order there must be some tremendous authority and all dissentients must have been removed. I am convinced that there have been terrible atrocities on both sides. Charges have been made by two hon. Members. Having been to Madrid I should say that the greatest atrocity I could conceive would be bringing up guns within that city and sending as many as 16 bombing aeroplanes at a time, twice a day or by night, to bomb defenceless people. That is atrocity enough. If hon. Members have seen that elsewhere, I say that it is atrocity wherever it is.
I believe that this is not a civil war in Spain; that would not be a right description. I heard a lot of charges when I was in Madrid. We saw damaged churches in Barcelona and Valencia. On the first day that I went to Madrid I was asked to receive a Protestant parson who talked to us for about an hour and Left a large pile of documents giving details about the murder of Protestant priests. I do not deny that. A gentleman told me that the Catholics had behaved as they did at the time of the Inquisition. He said that the Inquisition was 158 back again in all its intolerance, violence and cruelty. There are the two sides. I tried to be as impartial as I could. Such religious issues will be raised in this country on the slightest provocation. It is part of our trouble in this country that we have religious rivalries and hatreds, I am sorry to say, and that sort of thing must arise in Spain.
It is not a class war; that is not a complete description. There are elements of class struggle in Spain, but I met Spaniards of the aristocracy and the governing classes who were devoted to the cause of the Government. It is not a struggle between classes of people or between the intelligentsia and the workers. I think the cause of the struggle is that the overwhelming majority of the people to whom I tried to speak are fighting for what we enjoy in this House, freedom and constitutional liberty, which has been won. The Spanish people believe that they have come within reach of that, and they want to hold on to it. They are fighting and dying, and suffering much, in the hope that in the end they will attain liberty. It is true that Spaniards are fighting Spaniards, but on both sides foreigners are fighting also. The largest number of the international brigade in front of Madrid are Germans. The English folk are few. These foreigners in the international brigade are fighting for an ideal. I went one night through the hotel where we were staying, and saw a crowd of people from the international brigade resting there. Germans and French spoke to me, and I answered them in bad German or French.
Then a coloured man rose from a table and said, "Can you speak English?" He said he spoke every language—"You cannot name a single language I cannot speak." I spoke a sentence in Welsh to him, and knocked him out. That black man, 62 years of age, who had no business to be in Spain, made me think of George Bernard Shaw's "Black Girl in Search of God." I thought that here was a black man in search of his god—liberty. I shall always retain a warm affection for him, for he believed that he was fighting for the liberty of the black man as well as of the white. It is said that the Russians took charge in Spain soon after the election. I do not know. I am sure there is not one Russian fighting on the Madrid front. I 159 made inquiries, I spoke to war correspondents, I read every Spanish newspaper I could, I spoke to all sorts of people. The nephew of the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) is the best known Englishman in Spain. There is not one word in the Spanish Press about Russians. I did not hear a word of Russian spoken. I asked an English airman, and other people whom I could trust, and they said there were Russian aviators flying aeroplanes over Madrid, but there were no other Russians fighting near Madrid.
If we are going to teach the Spaniards, or the world, to believe that Spanish liberty has been won by Germans or Russians, is that going to be a good thing for Spain? The thing that must be good for Spain is for the Spanish people to believe that they are without assistance or interference from other countries. I should have been for non-intervention if it had been fully carried out from the beginning; I am for it now if it is fully carried out; but I agree with my hon. Friends that it is no use carrying on a farce, and, really, it is a farce. Let me say why I believe that we must do something very much stronger than we have done before we can rid ourselves of this farce, which is bringing mockery on Europe, on the League of Nations, on everyone associated with international affairs. The House will remember that in July, iii, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) was put up by a Liberal administration, in an attempt to preserve European peace, to tell the German Reich of that time that they must withdraw a small third-class cruiser, the "Panther," which had put into Agadir, or there would immediately be a European war. Morocco was important to German imperialism in 1911; it is infinitely more valuable to the Germany of to-day, which, having been thwarted in its adventure in the East, is going to take advantage of the internal confusion in Spain to send her troops and her surplus material to Spain in order to secure the richest imperialistic prize of the last few decades at a bargain price. She is there on an imperial mission, and will stay there until she has found that people object to it.
Does anyone believe that the Germans would hold on so tenaciously unless there 160 was something to be gained at the end? It has been said by one hon. Member that in due time they will all clear away and go back nicely, but does he really believe that? Does anyone believe it? Is there any statesman in Europe who believes that they will go willingly, if they go at all? I would say to the right hon. Gentleman and those who want to safeguard the peace of Europe that you cannot keep the peace of Europe if you give ground all the way to the Nazis and Fascists. You cannot have it on those terms; it is not the kind of thing that they understand. I do not want to speak in terms of war, but I am sure that what remains in Europe of peace-loving forces must be got together again. If the League is to attract them together the intimation must be given that there is within the League of Nations a body, a nucleus, strong enough to hold the peace-loving nations together in opposition to those who will risk all, even a European war, in an attempt to win conquest in this way. I believe the time has come for that, and I am sure that no other remedy will serve.
The right hon. Gentleman himself said something to the House to which I must refer, and which the Noble Lord who is to follow me might make clear. The right hon. Gentleman said that we were going to stop recruitment because it had been found to be illegal. If no anxious mother had written a letter, if no disappointed or deluded boy had complained, Englishmen might go out in as large numbers as they chose, but, the right hon. Gentleman's attention having been called to it, and he having consulted his still more careful legal friend, they had to apply the law. We cannot accept that; really, it is too thin a case to put before this House; they must think of something else, because both the legal representative of the Government and the Foreign Secretary himself must know that they have ignored the fundamental law which gave the Spanish Government its rights. They have overlooked that, and they go on boggling over the smaller law. This influx of trained men from Germany and Italy into Spain must be stopped, but it cannot be right to stop volunteers from one side only. That would mean stopping volunteers from France and elsewhere while the Germans are sending their trained divisions to win victory over the Spanish people.
§ It being Eleven of the Clock, the Motion for the Adjournment lapsed, without Question put.
§ The Orders of the Day were read, and postponed.