HC Deb 21 January 1937 vol 319 cc323-4
15. Mr. Mander

asked the Home Secretary the reasons why action was not taken under Section 7 of the Foreign Enlistment Act, 1870, to prevent British ports being used for the departure of General O'Duffy's Irish Brigade to fight in Spain?

Sir J. Simon

Before proceedings can be taken for an offence it is necessary, first, that evidence should be available which is likely to satisfy the Court that an offence has in fact been committed, and secondly, that after that evidence has been collected the person to be accused is within the jurisdiction. My information is that these conditions were not satisfied in the particular case referred to.

21. Mr. Mander

asked the Home Secretary when the opinion of the Law Officers of the Crown was first taken and considered with reference to the application of the terms of the Foreign Enlistment Act, 1870, to the civil war in Spain; and under what authority the application of this law has been suspended since July, 1935?

Sir J. Simon

The suggestion that the application of an Act of Parliament has been, or could be, suspended by the Executive Government is, of course, unfounded. I understand that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary was advised not long after the outbreak of the civil war in Spain that it had from the beginning been illegal for any British subject to take service in the combatant forces of either of the parties engaged in that war, or for any person to induce others to take such service. That no proceedings have hitherto been taken for offences against the Foreign Enlistment Act is due, I understand, to the fact that the necessary information and evidence has not been available; but if some offenders have for that reason escaped as yet the legal consequences of their actions, it is important to dispel any idea that such offences can be committed with impunity. For this reason a public notice was issued by the Foreign Office calling attention to the law on the subject.

Mr. Mander

Would it not have been better if the notice had been issued at the outset of the civil war in Spain?